Into the Davao Skate Scene

One thing that you need to know about the Davao City skate scene is that it is pretty old. It has planted its roots in the city in the early nineties, the time when the whole skateboarding movement was starting to gain a somehow cult-like popularity all over the world. Let me give you a better picture. If you are in your early twenties and you are reading this article, the time when you were still trying to learn your ABCs, somewhere in the vacant spaces of this city, a bunch of guys were already learning how to pull off a kick flip or a nose grind. Awesome huh? That is something that you don't learn in your history class! Ryan Inson, who has been skating since 1991 told me that this whole movement was founded by three guys (God bless those three guys). Story was, those three guys just got really fascinated with skateboarding and the lifestyle that goes with it and they just started to skate. I guess they never really knew that they would end up creating a whole new subculture in the city  that will attract a lot of young individuals.

The first group of skaters in the city used to skate in front of a place called J Marketing at Ilustre Street. That place was  the first skating spot in Davao and you can pretty much say that that was the place where it all began. You could imagine all of the activity that happened there back in the early years. Skateboarders  from all over the city would gather up there at night and just play. Okay, maybe not just play. There could be some alcohol, good music, and occasionally some jazz cigarettes being passed around while they were skating. You know. The good life. Talking about skate spots, there used to be a skate park in Ecoland Subdivision. Lee Roy Guzman, who is a fixture of the Davao Skate scene since the year 2000 told me that that place was like heaven on earth for them back then. It had all of the essentials that the skaters needed. It had  ramps, rails and the other whatnots that the skaters needed in order to practice and perform the awesome tricks that they got in their heads. Too bad that place didn't really last that long. "The reason why it closed down was because of the lack of budget and the owner lost his interest.", said Lee Roy who surely has a lot of great memories of that place. Knowing that is pretty depressing, especially if you see the place they are skating in right now. The skaters of Davao are now making use of a narrow platform inside of a dilapidated and crumby mini amphitheater which is inside a dilapidated and crumby park here in the city. 

Amidst that fucked up reality, you can see that skateboarders like Lee Roy, Ryan, and the others really love the place. They assemble there almost every day carrying with them their DIY rail and just skate until they get exhausted. When we were with the skateboarders of Davao City, we felt the passion that was reeking out of everyone of them, and I personally think it is something that anyone really can't ignore. The sad fact though is they are being ignored. The scene has existed for more than 20 years which is enough for it to prove that it is not just an ephemeral trend and still, nobody really looked into helping them have a skate park of their own.  This is pretty  funny because there are like a bazzilion basketball courts in the city, some of which are just left to gather mud and get slowly eaten up by the elements (true story). But if they build a single park,even just a single one, right in the middle of the city, then there is no doubt that it will be packed every single day.

One good thing is that there is a lot of promise in this scene. It is  progressing really fast in every aspect. The first thing that proves this is the exponential increase of skateboarders in the city; a phenomenon which was triggered when local skate shops started doing business in the early 2000. Second, local brands like Indio, Stooned, S.A.D, Kloak, and others are now fervently supporting the scene and it is making a significant impact not only the the skateboarders but the the whole local skate community as well. The brands also employ local skaters as their riders in order to have someone to personify their brands and that  is pretty awesome. If they keep on doing the same thing, they can absolutely propel  Davao to become  the legitimate center of the skating culture here in Mindanao.

A lot of people  have this misconception that skaters are just a bunch of delinquents and trouble-makers who have nothing else to do but skate on nook and crannies making this city their playground. Those people are absolutely wrong. It is quite easy to smear a bad reputation over this scene just because of their obvious rebellion to the mainstream type of lifestyle. But let me tell you one truth, I have interacted with a lot of people before who looked pretty squeaky clean on the outside but are totally rotten in the inside.The skaters that I have had a conversation with, particularly Ryan Inson  and Lee Roy Guzman were awesome and very professional. Lee Roy was the shy thoughtful type of person, while Ryan was the serious type that just oozes with conviction that you just can't dare not take him very seriously and both of them were really eager to contribute what they know in order to help me out with this story. Really cool people. One thing that you should know is that most of the skaters here in Davao City are students, some of them have jobs and are also facing the real-life shit that everyone faces each day. In fact it is easy to say that this bunch of people are way better than most of us because of one simple reason- they know who they are. They are now living the "Skate Life" and you can see that, whatever happens, they won't let go of it. As what Lee Roy and Ryan told me, and probably what the rest of them will tell me- "It's a life that we can never leave behind"