The Tibetan Temple in Davao City & how to realize you’ve gone too far

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ August 20th, 2010. Updated on September 22nd, 2014. Published in: Travel blog » How to live overseas » Philippines.
The Tibetan Temple Inc in Davao City, The Philippines

The Tibetan Temple Inc in Davao City, The Philippines (click to enlarge)

Getting to the Tibetan Temple in the rising morning heat was quite easy. There was a small Sari Sari store outside and some shelter in the form of some palm tree coverings. Something I needed, as I am not a fan of humidity.

I looked at the large red gates that were firmly closed in front of the Tibetan tower. Behind them and inside the temple I could see a man busy sweeping away. There was life.

Patience is a virtue in Travel

Half a bottle of water later and I ran the bell beside the large red gates and waited. And, waited.  The heat continued to pound down as I wondered why the loud bell was being ignored.

I noticed the sign beside the gate. “Tibetan Temple of Davao Inc”. I had a feeling the Chinese were the ones who’d built the place. Hence the “Inc“.

Looking down the center of the Tibetan Temple in Davao

Looking down the center of the Tibetan Temple in Davao

Okay, I am not very patient today:

Finally with the heat getting to me I stepped over and poked my hand through the railings and gave the bell one more long push and waved up at the man still sweeping …

Success, he waved back. Scuttled down the steps and opened the gate with a smile. Physical waving works well here. Maybe he was deaf.

No silly shoe removal here

We walked up the steps and into the tower. Here I looked at the man’s feet, and then pointed to my shoes.

The caretaker shook his head and brushed aside the notion of having to remove my shoes. I liked the place that bit more already!

A self tour of the temple

I ambled up the spiral staircase to the second floor, and then to the third. Statues of Buddha staring at me as I ascended to the top.

It was a pleasant place. Nothing mind blowing, aside from the fact that it was in Davao city. I stood up on one of the wine colored chairs under a window to see if I could get a glimpse of Davao’s skyline.

From one window I could. But as I tried to open another the metal frame groaned. I thought of the nice caretaker and didn’t push my luck. The Davao skyline could stay behind the frame.

Outside I visited the main prayer hall that had several scrolls on display and sat down in the shade. It was good to see the second temple in Davao. Nothing spectacular. But then again visiting them was worth it for the simple fact that not many people do.

Time to make my own way

I looked at my map and wondered where to next? The fruit market maybe. Downtown Davao? I’d seen it all.

“What do you do in a city when you have seen everything?”

Prayer area of the Tibetan temple in Davao City

Prayer area of the Tibetan temple in Davao City

I even thought about going to SM mall and taking photos of it just to annoy them and their idiotic policy of not taking photos of it.

It must irk them terribly to know that even in the Philippines they can’t do a thing about it if you take a photo of their building from a public road.

How to shock a tourist

On my way back to the guest house I ran into a young American and his local girlfriend who were waiting for the afternoon rain to stop.

We exchanged hello’s and I asked if they were going to see anything around Davao of interest.

The Eagle sanctuary, an island and a crocodile farm was their itinerary.  They then asked the same of me.

I thought briefly for a fleeting moment that this might be the first time outside of El Nido that a tourist might actually meet up with me to see some places. But alas, I was already too far gone in my exploration.

And, I made mention of my other destination within the city.

How to scare someone off in The Philippines

“I’m thinking of going to take some photos at the fishing village near here.”


“The fishing village. Near the dock area?”

The receptionist of our guest house chipped in, “You go the American Village?”

“No!” I dismissed her attempt at saying I wanted to visit an expat housing estate. ” I’m going to the dock area …  where locals fish… By Magsaysay?”

“No!” gasped the receptionist. “Is the squatter area. Dangerous.”

The guy’s girlfriend then added a conclusive statement to her partner. “He’s going to the slums I told you about.”

The young mans eyes widen as he looked at me in confusion. “You seriously want to go there?”

It was enough to make me want to never have set eyes on the man nor any tourist again.

When you know you’ve gone too far:

It was only later in bed listening to the heavy night rains beat down did the conversation, and hindsight, roll over me like a ominous cloud.

I’ve been here a long time. I’ve purposely gone out of my way to push the boundaries of social integration when trying to live in another country. And, failed. At least to the extent of not attaining my original goal.

However, now more shockingly, I find myself recoiling at socializing with foreigners!

Have I pushed my own boundaries in this unexplored territory of psyche too far …

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20 Great responses to The Tibetan Temple in Davao City & how to realize you’ve gone too far

  1. well, sometimes the need to shock people is more satisfying than making pleasant conversation.. haha.. dave?!! is it connected to the need to state that you are a veteran.. and old dog so to speak at navigating the uglier side of the Philippines?

    however, were weren’t exactly being antisocial, you just spoke the truth – you WERE going to the ‘slums’ so too bad if tourists get freaked out. what can u do? LOL

    • Erm, what’s with the “veteran” “old dog” comments these days? Am I showing my age or something? :P

      But yes, this guy was just a 2 week, grab a girl type tourist. That said, the longer you travel, the less interesting tourist become it seems. Seeing the same sights and talking about how hot it is, just doesn’t make for good conversation these days I am afraid!

  2. Earl says:

    That has to be the most non-Tibetan looking Tibetan temple I’ve seen anywhere!

    As far as the socializing goes, I go through something similar whenever I return home after a long period of time away. Just the basic every day conversations are enough to make me want to turn around and return to a place where I find comfort in my pursuit of cultural integration. A long time spent away from your basic socializing definitely changes a person and can be difficult to reverse (if one wishes to do so).

    • Well, it was made by “Inc”!

      Certainly reverse culture shock plays a part. But, I narrow it down a lot to “been there, done that”. Being on the road for so long, and seeing the same old people going to the same old standard guidebook stop overs and not wanting to explore get’s to one. Granted not everyone likes to see the same things. But, it gets to a point when you just loose interest in hearing repeat stories.

      Moreover, the shock of actually wanting to see a place not on a guidebook list. And the frowns of being told one is wrong to go and see a place not listed on it.

  3. Ivy says:

    A Tibetan temple? It seems more like a Lunapark for tourists to me. Did you pay to get in there? ;)

  4. Miss Trudy says:

    I really like the photograph of the Temple in Davao where you are standing above the prayer area. Interesting post. Will be looking forward to your oncoming adventures.

  5. Glad to hear you visited part of my “woods”. I hope you had a great time exploring the non-touristy side of my city. Sunrise is pretty in Sta. Ana wharf, next to Magsaysay where the slums are. I get my kick from waking up at 4am just to capture it. Yes, a female photographer carrying gears, alone. I must talk to that tourist couple and scare them off more.

    Happy traveling.

    • Thanks, yes I enjoyed Davao. Would have been good to meet up. I enjoyed looking at your work. Like I tweeted, you have an edge over your male pinoy counterparts. Most of whom I found profoundly egotistical!

      Keep up the good work!

      • Dave, that was a sweet gesture of shoutout on your Twitter. I just started but that social networking is killing me (I can’t stand character limits!).

        Had I known you were here last year, I would have dragged (sorry, it’s the Amazonian genes in me acting up) you to a more remote tribal village where few of us photojournalists are given access to. Mainly because…you’re right about the egotistical male counterparts. Some of them are heavy on gears and big on words. But it’s the silent ones who create stunning output. (evil grin)

        I have this feeling you may have rubbed elbows (or some have rubbed you the wrong way) with some of these particular pinoys while you were here. (more evil grin)

        Do post more of your Davao and Mindanao travels, and check my site if there are places you may have missed. Then come back so we can take the habal-habal together and make a death ride to the highlands and shoot blissfully away.

        Again, thank you for the sweet tweet. The sad part of it is, when they visit my website and go through my works, they say nice things BUT STILL CALL ME SIR. :-(

        Take good care while on the road,

        • No problems. It takes a while to get into twitter. Try using it with and make some lists of people to follow. It starts to make sense then. Lists of photographers, journalists, artists, pinoy bloggers etc. Makes it easier to touch base then :)

          I’m more or a I don’t care what you shoot with, just make a good photo type of person. Whilst, unfortunately many of the male pinoy photographers I encountered were more into the size of their equipment vs anyone’s … (so many puns there, I won’t try)

          I went through your Agusun Marsh photos and Davao photos, very nice indeed. Would like to see more of your highlight photos (like the ones on your, large, business card), in a gallery. I think you have 3 + sites! Would be nice to see a central best of the best gallery.

          Don’t mind the sir, comments. You’re in the process of educating the masses that there are some great Pinay photographers sans ego out there too :)

  6. I do have Hootsuite but haven’t explored it yet. Guess I was too busy facebooking than blogging and twittering. My sites grew because I wanted to separate my writing from my photo gallery, and there’s the dilemma of a journalist in the publishing world, writing less to accommodate more photos, or write in length and just pick the top images. Some editors want my articles shorter to accommodate more of my photos in a limit of few pages. I used to write long articles, before I gave way to my other passion. And that is, Plants vs. Zombies– oh, am sorry! I was multitasking with both laptop and Ipad and these dead creatures are making way into my garden patch in droves! :-)

    Where were we? Oh yes the need for a central best gallery. Will get around to working on it. :-)

    Anyhow, while you were probably viewing my Agusan Marsh images, I was reading your post on Palawan’s huge crocs. The mayor of Bunawan is inviting me back to Agusan again to witness how they’ve built this special cage just to capture a legendary mammoth croc that’s been lurking in the deep end of the river just like the giant Gustav. My take was, “do they have to?” We were encroaching on reptile territory, for one. Maybe I can update you one day soon. I did sleep overnight in one of those floating houses. Haven’t posted images yet. Lots to tell.

    You got me laughing so hard on your old Sagada adventures 2008. Wish I saw the hanging coffins when I was there. Or that Mount Clitoris sign. I would die ROTFLMAO.

    Okay, going back to killing these zombies now. Left my ego in this game. :-)))))