“I went to Zamboanga City and nothing happened.” Well, something has happened now. I have heard people say that about Zamboanga City many times. What happened in Zamboanga city? A war happened and they can call it whatever they like. It was a war complete what almost always precedes a war and that is an ultimatum by one of the parties involved.

The Battle of Zamboanga City started on September 9th and it ended on September 28th, 2013. I’ve read reports that over 10,000 houses were destroyed and 110,000 people were displaced during the battle between the Republic of the Philippines (RP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). People died, there were hostages, housed burned, rockets fired from attack helicopters and planes and heavy mortar fire within the city. The MNLF tried to capture the city and started after it declared its independence and attempt to raise its flag at City Hall. You can find a well written history of the conflict in Zamboanga City here.

There are good people living in the areas I’m about to discuss. Most of the people are good. The problem is there are a lot of very dangerous people in these areas too. If you are one of the good people that live there, I’m not talking about you. I know most of you are great people. It is those people that would like to kidnap me and possibly cut my head off that I’m concerned with.

You may have heard of Abu Sayyaf which is linked to Al-Qaeda that operates in the Zamboanga Peninsula. There are more dangerous in this area than Abu Sayyaf. The ties to Al-Qaeda are downplayed by both the US and Philippines governments. The ties are stronger than they want us to know. It doesn’t take a lot research to find this out.

People that live in these troubled area will often tell you and believe that it is safe. I have found that to be true of any place. I have also heard expats and visitors talk about how a woman’s family keeps a close guard on they while they were there. You should take any assurances that a place is safe from the people that live there with a strong dose of doubt.

Trouble is not Limited to the Zamboanga Peninsula

How many times have I heard “I went to so and so and nothing happened.” What a goofy argument. Personal safety is never a sure thing. There are safer things to do and unsafe things to do. Jumping out of a mountain side with a parachute is not safe. People do it all the time and more and more people are doing those kinds of things. Does that make it safe? If someone does it and nothing bad happens to them, does that make it safe? Of course it is not safe. Try to buy life insurance if you engage in those kinds of activities. It is dangerous and that is part of the reason why thrill seekers do it but I don’t think any of them with half a brain would tell you it is safe.

Going into the projects in Memphis, Tn. isn’t safe. You might go and maybe nothing bad will happen to you but it still not safe. Going to most if not all parts of Mindanao is probably safer. I’m not kidding. Some people can go to those areas but if you don’t look like you fit in, you better have gun strapped on you; chances are your going to need it.

I remember being on a forum and saying I wouldn’t go to Mindanao and being ridiculed for that. I had not been in the Philippines for long and all I knew was Mindanao was dangerous. Would I go to Mindanao after five years? Yes, after about a year I decided there were some places I would go.

Is Davao City Safe?

Davao City is the main place I would easily visit in Mindanao but I don’t consider Davao safe. I wouldn’t want to live there. I wouldn’t say I never would but I’d probably have other places higher on my list. There are two reasons for that. Davao City is safer than most parts of Mindanao.

One reason that I can’t say it is safe is because of the reported death squads that operate there. These death squads appear to be real, I don’t know if they are tied to political families or not. If I did know, I wouldn’t say. They don’t put up with Filipinos challenging them they sure wouldn’t let me get away with it.

I don’t know if the allegations that they are tied to powerful families are true but I’ve seen statements from officials that at least don’t completely shut the door on the possibility. Perhaps they just want the criminal element to believe that these death squads are sanctioned. Some refer to it as extra-judicial punishment. I don’t know.

What I do know is that action was taken against several police personnel due to the high murder rate with almost no arrest. I think there was a less than one percent arrest record. I think they were fired or perhaps suspended. People, that kind of environment is not safe. I know expats that like these groups. I don’t.

The other reason is that it is just too close to the conflict. It is easy to get compelled into compliancy about the place we live. Davao is very close to Cotabato Province. Go Google Cotabato and look down the page. It won’t take long to start seeing words like bomb. At least it didn’t when I searched for the word just now. That area had a full scale war going on since I’ve been here. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) seem very capable of handling these things but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way or that these conflicts couldn’t move into Davao City. For that reason, I think I’d rather live someplace else.

I hear Davao is a really nice city and I do want to visit there. If you love Davao, then I’m glad you love it. I’d rather not live there. I wouldn’t dream of telling you that you shouldn’t. I’m telling you how I feel.

Zamboanga City and Peninsula Dangers

There have been many kidnappings of foreigners in the Zamboanga Peninsula region of the Philippines. It isn’t safe there. It isn’t safe south of there, especially in the eastern part of Mindanao.

Further east of that is the Sulu Region and you’ve got to be out of your mind to go in there. Though, I still think it safer than the projects of Memphis but then I wouldn’t go there either.

There are some fantastically beautiful places and beautiful women in these areas. These areas are not safe. There are places I would go but not right now. I would still go to Zamboanga City but I’d be a bit nervous. I would go to General Santos City (GenSan) but I’d be cautious and the same goes for Cagayan De Oro (CDO). It is not unusual for a bomb to go off in GenSan. I know of none in CDO but there have been bombings in a not so distant city.

My opinion that Mindanao is not safe has not changed over the last five years. I did change my opinion about not going there at all. Jessie, my partner would probably have a “conniption fit” if I want to go but I would. Only if I had a good reason to go, would I go. If I were looking, a pretty and awesome woman would be a good reason to go in my mind. A business deal would be a good reason. Just to see the place? Only after I’ve been every other place I want to go. No, Mindanao and especially Zamboanga city are not safe.

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