Story & photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
BORROWING the sobriquet bestowed by the defunct Asiaweek magazine, Davao City has become “one of the most livable in Asia”.
Today it is one of the country’s top tourist destinations. The de facto capital of Mindanao, the city is one of the largest in the world, with a total land area of 224,000 hectares. Its boundaries encompass commercial areas, as well as beaches, mountains and forests. Approximately, it is 7.8 times the size of Cebu, and three times that of the entire Metro Manila.
Situated beside the Davao Gulf, the city is dominated by the country’s highest peak, the 2,954-meter Mount Apo. The dormant volcano is home to tribes such as Bagobo, Manobo, Mandaya and B’laan. Its fertile rolling foothills are teeming with exotic fruits, like durian, marang, mangosteen, rambutan, and pomelo, as well as the country’s second flower icon, the waling-waling.
Credited for transforming Davao City to its current progressive state is no less than Rodrigo R. Duterte, the current president of the Philippines. After all, he was mayor of the city for almost two decades.
“His fight is for a better Philippines,” replied Klaus Doring, a German who now lives in the Davao capital, when asked what he likes most about Duterte.
Doring knows what he is talking about, and all too well to fall in love with the place. He first came to the Philippines in 1976 and now lives in Davao City, together with his Filipina wife Rossana Balcom, since 1999.
“When my plane was leaving Manila in 1976, I encountered some mixed emotions,” he said. “Maybe my stay then was too short.”
Doring is perhaps one of the very few people who have had the opportunity of traveling all over the world. “I love exploring different cultures and meeting new people,” he said.
When asked among the top 10 countries he had visited, he mentioned the following: Canada (“because of its clean and breathtaking nature”); Japan (“totally very different; very strange at first sight, but interesting”); United States (“the Wild, Wild West, and an easy-going life”); Russia (“the people are not into politicking; only wrong politicians”); and Jamaica (“reggae music and the unforgettable Bob Marley”).
Also on the list are Norway (“the ‘little Canada’, with a sun that never sets during summer”); Switzerland (“amazing mountains, and where I had my honeymoon”); South Africa (“a terrible apartheid regime”); North Africa (“Oriental 1,000 and one nights”); and the Philippines (“its hospitality and very warm people”).
Actually, the Philippines was fourth on his list. “Since 1987, I visited the Philippines on a regular basis annually,” he admitted.
One reason for such was because his wife is a Filipina. “I met her during my first visit in Davao City in 1982,” Doring recalled. “I was very impressed by her personality: she was a teacher and the lead dancer of the former Manisan Dance Troupe. She had her television show and was former Mutya ng Davao. It was love at first sight.”
He pursued her, until she finally agreed to settle down with him. “It was not a surprise for me to marry her and her whole family,” he said. “I learned about it from some foreigners who married Filipinas. Today I am happy about it, since my home, with some family members living with us, is my ‘safe haven’ as I get older.”
The German national did not only catch the apple of his eyes; he also fell in love with the city, which was not yet chaotic then, when heavy traffic and high-rise buildings were still unheard of. “I think, I was one of the few foreigners staying here,” he said. “Today Davao City has changed a lot, and is now one of the most progressive cities in the Philippines.”
Doring sees himself living there for the rest of his life. “I was born in Germany, but I consider the Philippines as my second home country,” he pointed out. On living in Davao City, he added, “I feel safe here. I enjoy life here. I already got my grave ready here.”
As stated earlier, Doring is a German who was born and grew up in Spenge, a province of North Rhine-Westphalia. “My parents were separated because of the former political situation of two Germanys: East and West,” he said. “I used to live in West Berlin, within the communist German Democratic Republic.”
Writing for a living
From 1980 to 1989, he worked as coordinating editor for several law magazines, with publishing houses in Berlin, New York and Amsterdam. “Since many famous German and international lawyers, as well as politicians—including the late German Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker—became our authors, I got the chance of meeting many of them personally,” he revealed.
In 1982 he arrived in Mindanao for the first time as a journalist writing for Tinig ng Bayan, which was published in the province of Abra, and Ang Mabuhay, printed in Berlin under Msgr. Hermogenes E. Bacareza, the chaplain of the Filipino community there.
The very first time he was in the Philippines was in 1976—four years after martial law was declared by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. “Covering Mindanao during the time of martial law became, on one side, challenging, and, on the other side, not so,” he explained, on what it was like for a foreign journalist covering those years.
His reason, “Because earlier, I had visited countries like South Africa, at the height of its apartheid; as well as in Golan Heights in Israel; and even in Russia, during the end of the 1970s.”
Right now, he has been writing a regular column for Mindanao Daily Mirror since February 2011. In the past, he has contributed for the Mindanao Times, Davao Catholic Herald and Edge Davao, among others. Outside the Davao region, he sends his pieces to the Boracay Sun, Mindanao Daily, Businessweek Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro Times and Mindanao Star.
Doring also moonlights as a disc jockey. Nine years ago, he started working as a professor for German language at the University of Southeast Philippines-Obrero campus. “I enjoy teaching my mother tongue to Filipinos,” he claimed. “It is a real challenge and enjoyable at the same time.”
He also works as a translator and interpreter at the Regional Trial Court in Davao, Judicial Region XI, since a judge certified him in 2009 after appearing in the court during several hearings. “I am also listed and accredited at the German, Swiss and Austrian embassies in Manila,” Doring noted.
When he is not working, he loves to play the piano, read books (“my favorite is the Bible; I am Christian and was born in a parish house in Germany”) and relaxes at a lonely beach. His favorite destination is the Island Garden City of Samal. “If you are on that island, you forget Davao for a while,” he told this writer.
By the way, it was not his wife who asked him to stay in Davao City for good, it was he who decided on it. “We were living in Germany for 16 years,” he shared. “One day, I asked her if we could move to Davao City.”
Doring may be a German by birth, but he considers Davao City not only his second home, but also his last. “Because it is the most livable city in the Philippines,” he declared. “I love its people and the multicultural situation. Best, it is the home of President Duterte.”