As usual, if you read the US State Department's travel warnings you will be told how dangerous travel is there and even more so in Mindanano & Davao City. The recent election related violence that occured with the murders of several people was NOT in Davao City, it was specifically motivated by two warring political factions that were competing for the same elected post, and I believe they may have been related to each other. But I'm not certain about that. They were two Muslim groups.
My point is simply this: use common sense and stay away from places, people and situations that could open the door to danger. Certainly here as well as any other major city in the USA or anywhere in the world there could be a random act of violence, but most acts of violence or criminal activity happen because the victim is engaging in some type of illegal activity such as buying or selling drugs, hooking up with prostitutes or associating with criminal elements.
The amount of security in stores, banks and many other public and private places is visible, active and available.
The state department warnings apply to the combat zone in the Catabato area, but not to Davao City. Although Mayor Duterte has taken a lot of flack for allowing or encouraging vigilante justice against drug dealers - the infamous Davao Death Squads, you cannot argue that he has made Davao a safer city than Manila. Even the DDSs are not as active as some would have you believe.
I would nightly walk from Casa Leticia, perhaps the warmest and friendliest hotel in the world, to the Internet cafe to write my articles, and never once had to step over a body of a whacked drug dealer. You might occasionally be asked if you are lonely by some lovely Filipina. Many of these street prostitutes who work near the big hotels really are working their way through college. Filipinos place a high value on education.
The biggest annoyance, and it's only that, are the street Arabs, or Badjao. They are the boat people of Mindanao, not really liked by other Muslims. They are involved with fishing and smuggling, and they hawk their smuggled wares to tourists, sometimes following you for blocks displaying "Omega-Rolex-crocodiles, very nice." When I suggested to one that his Rolex was a knock-off he said, "No sir, very best quality. Smuggled!" Looking out the window one morning I saw this fellow sleeping in the bleachers of the sports complex across the street, took pity on him and bought a "Rolex" which is still keeping perfect time on the same battery, three years later. It cost $12, and is a better watch than the Timex's made in the Philippines.
Be prepared to get patted down by gun-toting guards whenever you enter a mall. Security is tight everywhere. It is to your benefit. Generally Filipinos are friendly, most speak some form of English. There are dozens of good restaurants in Davao. I went there to meet my future wife and we've been married happily for three years.
Just remember, this is a poor country. The average salary is $2a day, if you have a job. Don't needlessly tempt people by leaving expensive toys like cameras, cell phones, cam corders lying around.
Peope in the USA think we have poverty here and that they understand it. Frankly, they don't have a clue of what real poverty is, much less what to do about it.
Something that you will see in Davao and Cebu, as well as other large cities are very visible children that are homeless and without adult supervision. These children are very young. The one girl I remember seeing in Cebu looked to be about 12 or 13 years old was living with several other homeless children on a walkway overpass outside of our hotel. She was the mother of a newborn.
These children like the others in Davao will approach you and ask you for money. Have you ever been to a pond and fed ducks bread? If there are 2-3 as you begin, in a matter of seconds you could have 1-2 dozen ducks competing for your bread. it's sort of the same way here with these kids. My wife frowns on it when I give these kids money. She believes, and probably she's right that we (Americans) stand out and are visually an easily identifiable target. If the wrong person saw you reaching into your pocket to give money to these kids you could be setting yourself up for getting robbed.
What I would do when I would come out of our hotel or the mall and these kids would converge on us asking ofr money I would hae a pocket full of 10-20 1 pesos coins (about the size of a quarter) and if 3-5 kids were asking for money I'd grab several out of my pocket, toss them up in the air and make my get away as they scrambeled for the coins.
Once a little girl approached me in the market and used her hands to communicate she was hungry and wanted money for food. Of couse I gave her money. Another time a little boy asked for money and I gave him a coin and he immediately returned to his gambeling match with fresh money to gambel with. Another tim John & I were walking back to our hotel and this little guy asked us for money. Instead, we were in front of a dunkin doughnuts and took him in and fed him. On the way out 2 of his buddies saw what was happenig and jumped on the bandwagon.
In all of my previous trips toDavao and other parts of the Philippines I have never felt as secure as I did this time. We were traveling with greater responsibilities, that of having a child, but it was NOT dangerous. At least no more so than any large city in the USA.
The key is to use common sense.
Non-smokers will rub their hands in glee, but the smoking fraternity are unhappy at yet another by-law to make their lives miserable: In Davao no smoking is allowed in public areas, on streets and pavements, as well as in public buildings, shopping centres, restaurants, bars etc. A Task Force keeps a sharp eye open to make sure the by-law is respected and will issue a P300 fine for a first offence. Repeat offenders are put in jail.
There is always some degree of concern about the unpredictable and cowardly deeds and autrocities committed by the group of criminals known as Abu Sayyaf. This is a bin Laden splinter group. They share the same values, goals and objectives. They are barely men, and completely cowards through and through because they hide behind masks and womens skirts.
I told my wife that if a problem ever came up and I was kidnapped, she was not to negotiate under any circumstances with terrorists. Although, she could probably get them to surrender and pay her some ransom money!!!
I believe very strongly in the protocols of not negotiating with terrorists. I would never want MY money and resources to be used to further their murderous cause and cowardly acts that prey upon the innocent.
Instead, use my money to hire a mercenary or two to go in and bring me out. That I strongly support.
If you read the US State Department's travel warning page you'd never leave the USA. Actually, if you applied their approach to about any part of life here you'd probably never leave your house or get out from under your bed. Don't buy into their paranoia because it's based on fear NOT reality.
They tell you about all of the dangers there form crime. As a tourist, you're more easily identified as such and could be an easier target. My wife has been in the USA for slightly over 2 years and she works for a bank in a fairly upscale area. She has been robbed at gunpoint IN her bank 3 times, with once having a loaded gun held against her head by the robber. This is FAR more dangerous than anything I saw or experienced in Davao City.
Most recently I was in Davao for 3 weeks in February 2004. This time there were MANY more westerners, both men and women than my last time in June/July 2001. This is still an interesting city and one I would recommend to those with a spirit of adventure.