An American EXPAT Living in Davao

Migrating to Davao

Under Construction - Last Updated:  2018-Feb-22 21:03:28

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Going Where?

It's the year 2010, I've just been divorced from my second wife, my  house has been forclosed, and my life's savings have been plundered in  an attempt to unsuccessfully 'keep the ship afloat'. My health is no longer  that of a young man, as I'm now 64 (in 2010). I am now living on a fixed  income of my retirement and the Social Security. I'm living alone, which has  already presented problems, because if I fall for any reason I can no longer  get myself up off the floor, because of my two previous strokes. Something had  to change.

At the conclusion of our Ham Radio Section #4 I had just met Nenette my Filipino furture next wife.  I was contemplating moving to Davao, Philippines. One of my first reactions  was to say "WHERE!". I had no idea where Davao was located. You may not either.

View Davao, Philippines in a larger map

Davao is the major city located on the island of Mindanao, the southern  most of the major islands of the Philippines. The capitol Manila is located  on Luzon Island in the north. In the center are the Visayas Islands. Fortunatly Mindanao very rarely gets hit with the  Typhoons that frequent Luzon and the Visayas.

Maybe you are a frequent world traveler. I'm not, so a lot of preplanning  was worth my time. There was a flight ever Thursday that left Minneapolis  then stopped in Tokyo's Narita Airport before going on to Manila. The flight  was on Delta Airlines who had recently before bought out Northwest Airlines.

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The Route

Below you will find my route from Minneapolis to Davao.

View Minneapolis-Davao in a larger map

Investigation had shown that the flight time from Minneapolis to  Manila was to be 19 hours. That's a long time on an airplane! And for  someone like me who can't sleep on an airplane it is a long long time.  Our plan was to arrive on a Friday in Manila. We were going to stay at  the CityGarden Suites because of its close proximity to the U.S. Embassy  relatively close by. We were going to see some of Nenettes friends in  Manila over the weekend. Then on Monday to proceed to an appointment I had  made at the Embassy. Then on Tuesday to proceed to Davao.

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The Flight to Tokyo

On November 4, 2010 a friend and I proceeded to the Minneapolis-St. Paul  International Aiport. I had one large suitcase that was overweight. I had left  6 large cardboard boxes of personal things with friends that I would later ship to the  Philippines.

I had all my documents with me. My passport, my certified divorce papers,  and my birth certificate. Copies of the divorce papers I had also sent ahead  to Nenette to ensure we had a copy that we needed to obtain a certificate  that would allow us to marry in the Philippines.

I somewhat reluctantly agreed to use a wheelchair and some assistance  to get around, as my walking was limited, and my walking speed certainly  was limited. In retrosect, the wheelchair was a very smart move, both in  Minneapolis and later in Tokyo and Manila. I had also carefully selected  my seating on the airplane to be on a left facing aisle seat near the restrooms.  I cannot sit for than about 1.5 hours without the need to stand up for a  period a stretch my legs. A left over from my stroke, I beleive.

The flight from Minneapolis was long, but uneventful. As I recall we saw  six complete movies on the flight. At least the movies were boredom reducers.  I stood up frequently, and moved up and down the isles a bit, killing time.  As a 'wheelchair' flyer I got on the airplane among the first passengers, so I  could get settled in my seat. You were wheelchaired up to the aircraft entrance  door, and from there you had to walk to your seat. Not a problem. However,  when the plane landed in Tokyo for our two hour stopover, I was the last off  the plane. Bummer, I thought, I will be the last in a long long of passengers  checking through immigration upon arrival. I couldn't have been more wrong.  When we arived at the immigration counters, which was a long 'walk' from the  plane, all 350 (or so) passengers were checking through. I was surprisingly taken  right to the front of the line to a special counter specifically for the  handicapped. Wow, I thought. I checked right through.

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The Flight to Manila

Once I had cleared customs in Tokyo I then was taken to the gait  to wait for the next leg of my flight. It was a full 15 minute walk  for the airport person who was assisting me. The next gate was in an  entirely different terminal of the airport. I could have never walked  that distance myself. The Narita airport in Tokyo is a very nice and modern  facility.

The flight from Tokyo to Manila takes about 4 hours. Again I was one  of the first on the plane, and the last off. There was nothing significant  about the flight. Again another movie to help kill time. We arrived in Manila  about 5:00 p.m. on Friday. Being last off the plane, I hoped the same  preferences for the 'handicapped' applied in the Philippines. And it did.  I went right to a special counter at immigration and was processed right  through. The Philippines does not require any visas for U.S. citzens. You are  given an 'automatic' 21 day entrance pertmit on your passport. Once having  cleared immigration we proceeded to baggage claim. It took almost a half hour  to obtain my one peice of luggage.

I am used to the kind of inspections we have by U.S. Customs, thorough  and complete. I was anticipating the same kind of inspection in the  Phipippines. I was wrong. I wasn't even asked about what the contents might  be. I wasn't asked to open my luggage. I was asked absolutely nothing. I was  surprised, but I wasn't going to object to anyone.

People who are waiting for arriving passengers are not permitted into  the terminal buildings where the aircraft arrive. My 'assistant' pushed  the wheelchair a fare way, and then down a long ramp, to the area where  The people awaiting passengers, and the very busy street traffic, was  located. The very first thing I noticed was the  Jeepney's by the hundred.


I had heard about them, but had never seen one  before. They are public transportation, and all similar in construction, but  they vary widely in painnting and decoration. As a 'newbee' they take a bit  of getting used to. But they are everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  And then there are the  ' Tricycles', a motorcycle with an attatched sidecar.  Where the Jeepneys do not have a 'route' you can typically obtain a tricycle  to take you there. Again they are public (but privately owned) transporation. 


I swear the Jeepneys plus the Tricycles represent 70% of all the  motorized traffic in the Philippines. And the tricycle drivers seem  to operate by a set of driving rules that are of their oen making.  These were only to of the many items that I would have to get used to.

The people awaiting passengers view TV monitors to determine where  to wait. It was just a few moments after I arrived in the waiting area  when my future wife Nenette came running to meet me. After our exchanges  and greetings, we boarded a taxi and proceeded to our hotel, The City  Garden Suites. I had selected it as moderately priced, and closely located  to the U.S. Emabassy on nearby Roxas Blvd.

View City Garden Hotel & US Embassy in a larger map

Our room was very moderate from a space size. But the food in the  morning buffet breakfast was great.

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A Weekend in Manila

On Saturday we hired a cab for the day and did some sightseeing.  Manila is very very crowded and had traffic that jammed all of the  day and night. Too many vehicles in one place. Not to my liking.  One of the things I do whenever I go a new place is to visit one of  the local fire stations. So I asked the taxi driver to take me to any  fire stations he knew of. I don't recall the name or number of the  station he took me too, but it was just outside of the 'downtown' area. 

The station we arrived at was a smaller station. I went inside and  spoke to the firefghter that was on watch. I announced I was a fire  fighter from the USA and I'd like to see the station anf the apparatus.  He asked me to wait and he went to get several of the officers. What I  was expecting was a few uniformed officers to arrive, as would be the  case for any other fire station I had ever been in from Australia to  the USA to Germany. What arrived was two men in shorts, T-shirts, with  clog sandals on their feet. All were dressed in different colors. They  announced that they were the station officers.

We exchanged information for a while, and I was shown the apparatus.  All of it was old, from the 1950's to the 1970's. It became obvious  that they were operating under severe ecomomic restrictions. Here is  a picture of one of their pieces of apparatus.


They suggested that I should go to the Headquarters station downtown  where I would see much more apparatus. We headed to the  Makati Central  Fire Station. I was expecting a more modern up to date fire station.  I was dissapointed.

That was not me in the video, but he was correct when he mentioned  that you won't find fire hydrants in the Philippines. I've looked  also and I've seen only ONE, yes one! He was also correct about  the ages and the operational state of the apparatus. It's all old  and may or may not actually operate. It's obvious, when they don't have  the money to operate, things will not operate normally.

I've been around the fire service since I was eight years old, but this  was different. This one of only many things making it clear that I was now  in a Third World country.

That Saturday evening we were joined by two of my Nenettes' friends  Eva and Daisy for my first 'dinner out' in the Philippines. I don't  recall the name of the restaurant, but I do recall that the food was  excellent. The restaurant also had a 'show' that consisted of sketches  related to Philippine history. It was very interesting. And another fact  I added to my growing collection was the fact that the Philippoes know  how to eat!

img_eva img_daisy
  Nenette, myself, and Eva   Nenette, myself, and Daisy

On Sunday we decided to do some shopping. The Pgilippinoes are  very proud of their  Mall of Asia located in Manila. Before I left the USA I lived  in Eagan, Minnesota, which is about a 15 minute drive away from  The Mall of America located in Bloomington a nearby suburb. The MAO  is big, really big. The largest mall in North America is the  West Edmonton Mall, located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  The Mall of America is the largest mall in  the United States, at about 4.2 million square feet of floor space.  the Mall of Asia is almost identical in floor space to the MOA. I was  impressed. The Mall of Asia is number 10 on the list of the  largest malls in Asia.

ig_mall_of_asia img_moa img_west_ed_mall
Mall of Asia Mall of America West Edmonton Mall

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Monday - Appoinment at the U.S. Embassy

From the U.S. Embassy site on the web...  "Philippine Law requires non-Filipino citizens to obtain a Certificate  of Legal Capacity to Marry if they wish to marry in the Philippines."  I was very much aware of this law before I proceeded to the Philippines.  The U.S. Embassy cannot make any official certification about the status  or eligibility to marry of persons residing in the United States who propose  to be married abroad. Instead they will provide an  "Affidavit In Lieu of Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry".

In order to obtain one of these Affidavits you must make an appointment  ahead of time in order to obtain your confirmation of your appointment  with you to the appointment. The appointment can be scheduled by using  the embassy's online scheduler. You must then present your evidence  of your freedom to marry (my divorce papers) to the consular officer.

On Monday we proceeded to the embassy. After presenting documentation  indentifying myself we were allowed to enter the embassy grounds. We  proceeded to the office area indicated, and then waited, and waited.  Finally our name was called, and we then met with a counsular officer.  I was asked a number of questions. Our documents were accepted, and we  were told to return the waiting area, and we would then be called to see  an attorney. After about half an hour we were called, and proceeded to  speak with the attorney. She asked more questions. And gave us information  about the U.S.'s position on travel by U.S. citizens to the Island of  Mindanao. I was then swore in, and asked if my information was true  and accurate. That completed, we paid our $50's and we were finished.

We then returned to our hotel and booked our flights for the next day  to Davao.

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Tuesday - On to Davao

On Tuesday afternoon we headed for the Carino Intl. Airport in Manila  to take our flight to Davao. The flight time was to be approximately  1 hour in length. The airport in Manila is a large modern facility. As  usual these days we first had to pass through some security before they  would even allow us into the terminal building. There a lot of armed security  personel. And I do visibly armed with automatic rifles. This type of security  is not unusual in the Philippines I would discover over time.

After our baggage had passed the security and inspection, we proceeded  to the check-in counters so our bags could be tagged and loaded. I was  about to encounter my first example of 'corruption' in the Philippines.  My large piece of baggage was overweight, and I knew it. When they weighed  the bag it of course came up overweight. We were then informed that we would  have to pay an additional 4000 peso (about $100.00 U.S.) in extra fees due  the excess weight. My fiance Nenette then accompanied an airline agent to  process the extravegant fee. Soon she returned and informed me that the excess  fee had been 'taken care of' for about 300 peso (about $7.50 U.S.). She later  when we were alone explained that the airport agent took a bribe and put  the 300 pesos in his own pocket and the overweight baggage charge 'disappeared'.  My first, but not my last example of how the economic situation of the  Philippines leads to corruption. The corruption here is improving, but still  exsists.

We boarded our flight about 4:30 p.m. and headed for Davao. The flight  was nice and we landed about 6:00 o'clock. It was already dark at that  time of day. We then waited about 30 minutes for our luggage. After  boarding a cab we started heading for Nenettes' house in the Peoples  Villiage of Davao.

View Davao - Peoples Village in a larger map

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Arrive Peoples Village

All along our way from the airport to the Peoples Village I was trying  to observe the scenery and the buildings. It was already dark so the viewing  conditions were less than optimal. In retrospect, the lack of clear  viewing was probably a good thing as it reduced my growing realization  that construction and living conditions here were nothing even close to  what I was used to. Only the street lighting and the automobile lights  provided any illumination.

I had already 'searched' Nenettes house on my Google Earth satellite  maps, so I had at least an idea that her living area was different  to the conditions I had previously known all my life. As we arrived one  of the first things I noticed was the number of people on the streets  and roads. Some were walking, some riding bicycles, and some riding in the  everpresent Philippine Tricycles. People, people, and more people. From  kids to older adults, lots and lots of people.

Nenette and I had for some time already been video conferencing on the  internet, so I already had a good sense of what the insides of her home  looked like. What I had no concepet of was what her surroundings were.  As we arrived at the Peoples Village, and made the turn to get to her  street, I realized how narrow the 'streets' here were. And the housing  was typically very conservative. Many homes were constructed out of 'knit'  bamboo and banana leave walls. The most typical roofing was corregated rusting  metal. Other home and businesses were constructed from concrete. Almost all  window areas were covered with steel security gratings. The roll up/down  shutter door was viewable almost everywhere.

As we turned down the street to Nenettes home I noticed it was not a  paved street It was only wide enough for one vehicle, with about 2 feet  or so of clearance on each side. It was not dirt, and not gravel either.  I wasn't sure quite what it was. The cab came to her house and we got out.  The cab then had to back out, being careful to steer straight so as not to  drive into the 'canals' on each side of the road.

We entered the house and I was also greeted by Nenettes two employees,  two young ladies who I had seen a number of times when video conferencing  with Nenette. Home assistant 'worker girls' is an extremely common thing  in the Philippines. Each worker might get paid 1000-2000 ($25-$50 U.S.) peso  per month. And they are happy to get that payment. I was only just beginning  to begin to adjust the economics here. On average 50% of all Philipinoes have  an income of only 5000 peso ($125.00) per month. The next 30% income might  be around 18,000 ($450.00P) per month. That leaves the upper 20%, who earning  anything more than 18,000 peso per month are considered the 'rich'. I had  never considered myself anything even remotely close to beging rich.

We then shortly after sat down for a meal. Nenette was then, and still is,  an excellent cook. We enjoyed our meal. We were both tired from the traveling  and we turned in earl for a nights sleep.

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Peoples Village, My First Day

At 3:30 in the early morning I was suddenly awoken by not one  but three very loud "cock-a-doodle-do's". That was followed by a  series of slightly more remote "cock-a-doodle-do's" apparently  answering the first. Then the originating roosters responded.

I've been a 'city-boy' all my life. I've never ever been close to  a rooster. And I've certainly never hear one crow in my ear seemingly  from a few feet away. It certainly got my attention!

As yet another item on my now growing list of 'your not in the USA  any more' things, roosters were added. I soon found out that rooster  fighting tournaments (cock fights) are a national sport in the Philippines.  The raising of these fighting roosters is more common than I would  ever realize, and the gentleman who lived directly across the street  was raising three roosters that he fought with as a source of income.  Yes, I sure was not in the USA any longer, where such rooster fighting  was very very illegal.

When I say 'right across the street' here is a satelite image of our  house in the Peoples Village, giving you some idea of just what I  mean by 'right across' the street.

View  Our house PV in a larger map

In the Philippines it gets light in the morning about 5:30. And the  neighborhood gets up and moving about the same time. People in the  street, motorcycles moving, pounding hammers, the roosters, and anything else you  might think of. This would take some getting used to! I did, but it  took a while.

We awoke and had breakfast. I then asked if we could go outside and  'see' the neighborhood. At about 7:00 a.m. it was already very warm.  For a lifelong resisdent of Minnesota who was used to ice and snow, it  wasn't warm, it was HOT. Another thing I would have to get used to.  But at least it was not the oppresive humid hot we get in Minnesota.  But it was still hot.

We started to walk out towards the 'main' street. The first thing I  became instantly aware of was the fact that I was a foreigner. It is  quite possible that I may have been the first 'white man' some of  the residents had ever seen. I was stared at by everyone, and I mean  everyone. Especially teen ages girls, who not only stared, but also  smiled and looked, and then smiled even a bigger smile. Now THAT was  different to the world I had come from.

I noticed the very different styles of construction in the neighborhood.  Some of the houses were constructed from concrete with tiled (or so I  thought) roofs. Some were much more modest made from 'knited' panels  of bamboo material, typically with corregated rusty metal roofs. There was  an obvious difference of income present. None were in the 'rich' catagory  though.

There are two very differing types of housing situations in the Philippines.  There are 'high end' guarded and gated titled land areas known as a  subdivision. And there are other 'low cost' untitled and ungaurded area  know as 'squatter' areas. Now these squatter areas I would come to later  realize very in 'quality' widely. The Peoples Village was one of the more  'upper class' squatter areas. There were some paved streets, and city water  and electricity were present also. Some squatter areas did not have even those  services. Cable TV and Internet connections were availble via small satelitte  antennas, because actual wired cables were not available in our area because  there were no 'telephone' poles here to hold the wires.

Nenettes home was very comfortable and extremly clean as she was a  meticulous housekeeper. And she insisted that the helper girls  maintained her standard. For me, I would have to get used to the fact  that your neighbors lived only one automobile width away from you.  That fact I was not used to, and I had never lived like that before.  The home (rented) was all that Nenette could afford at the time. I made  a mental note that 'we' could do better, but I did not know how yet.

Here are a few pictures of our home in Peoples Village.

img_pvhouse_01    img_pvhouse_02

My initial reaction the physical street we lived on was somewhat surprise.  It obviously was not paved. But no gravel, so with the frequent evening rain  the road turned into mud. Not an easy place for a former stroke victim such  as myself to walk. The more 'main' street, un-named, was made of concrete,  but you had to 'get to' it via a less than optimal route.

We continued to walk a bit up and down the main street. It was mostly made  up of small privately owned businesses The people were all very friendy  which was pleasant, but I was unsure whether it was natural, or just their  cusiosity at seeing a foreigner in their midst.

We continued back to our home and just spent the rest of the day chatting.  We later enjoyed a very pleasant dinner that Nenette cooked. This ended my  first full day in the Philippines.

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Conclusions and Whats Next

As a new arrival to the Philippnes I really didn't know what to expect.  I was experencing many things that were totally new or different even for  a the 64 year old man. Here's my list (so far) of the new or different.

  • The longest flight I'd ever taken
  • Seeing Philippine Jeepneys and Tricycles for first time
  • Visiting the un-modern Philippine Fire Service
  • Going to the U.S. Embassy
  • My first encounter with corruption
  • Frequently seeing visibly heavily armed guards
  • Obvious difference of life in a poor country
  • Roosters! Lots and lots of very loud roosters
  • My first encounter with a 'squatter' area
  • Un-named streets, and houses without addresses

My reaction at that time was very similar to what Dorethy said to  her little dog Toto in the "Wizard of Oz"... "We're not in Kansas any more..."

Now my life switched from migrating to Living in Davao, the next  section of this site. Please continue there. And also feel free to  leave any observations, comments, or suggestions on our Blog page.


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Last Edited: 2018-Feb-22 21:03:28
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