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Boomers never get tired of stories about the old Davao. It’s still hard to believe, in the 60s to the 70s, once one has ventured beyond the Redemptorist Church in Bajada, the rest was mostly cogon grass up until one has reached old domestic airport in Sasa. From our young eyes back then, development along the road was still sparse unlike today.

I remember after the church was located the noisy Davao Light station, then there was the Southern Philippines Medical Center which was still known as the Regional Hospital. Onward, as we neared our house in Belisario, a final marker, the Caterpillar tractors building. Thereafter, a swampy area and before one turned left, the Carmelite monastery with its high walls. Beyond that, was filled-in-the-blanks for me. During that time, the concept of flyovers, such as the one at Buhangin junction, and two-lane highways were still a few years off from being reality in old Davao.

When I finally came home from Manila in the early 80s after singing there, my friend right away toured me around Davao and its outskirts, purposely drove by the then-finished diversion road and dared me to guess where we would come out next. I failed each time. Even as I was aware development was going to happen, I never expected it to be so soon. Then and there, I knew the city was growing. Earlier, from the window of the plane as we prepared to land, what used to be greenery and farms, now gave way to a almost-endless stretch of subdivision rooftops until the thin patch of runway gave out a soft thud and indicated that I was home.

I don’t anymore recall from where I heard this quote from: cities are the sunsets of civilization. They are merely monuments of an exhausted landscape. During one time when I again visited Manila, what had long been faraway places, such as Tagaytay, Batangas, Cavite, and Fairview even; they now all felt so conveniently close because of the developed roadways, which were unheard of then during the 70s. From some locals, they were now referring to our old haunts in Ermita as belonging to an old Manila, because the metro had already extended far and wide because of its category as a metropolis. In a way, Davao had undergone a similar unraveling.

Like in the computer Pacman, the city chomps its way through whatever is in its path, never being over-filled or even threatened with the feel of bursting at the seams. It’s only option is to eat at the extending fringes until it has reached the sea and the foot of mountains. Looking at the whole drama unfold; the influx of more people coming in, the worsening traffic, steady increase of vehicles on the road and the offshoot of high-rise condominiums, one wonders for whom is all these really? Are we in need of a pause lest we be erased from the future. One has only to look at detriments in modern metros beyond our shores. As they say, for more details, google reality.


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