Protecting A Way Of Life

The Other Side Of Paradise – One Community’s Fight For Survival

Samal is the island paradise right across a narrow strait from the city of Davao.

And for many, that’s the end of the story. Below are some pictures of paradise.

The Other Side Of Paradise

If you know anything about me by now it’s that I like to explore the other side of things, questioning the status quo. And Samal has a very un-paradise-like story going on at the moment.

I was invited by a family living among the indigenous community of Samal in Barangay Tambo. Barangay means village. They wanted to share their story with me.

Samal is home to an indigenous community that traces its roots there for generations and generations. Sadly, they are under threat.

Land developers have usurped a lot of land on Samal using some antiquated law meant to protect people living next to the sea. The result has been new beach resorts created often by foreign investors, with the local inhabitants finding themselves homeless and helpless.

The same is true in this community. They have a buffer community next door that is being eyed by developers. That community is currently fighting for its survival, but everyone in Tambo knows that they are on the radar as well – probably next.

And it’s all quite ironic since they live next to a mangrove forest that is protected by the government for environmental reasons. When activists from Tambo went to the government office to report that mangrove trees were being illegally cut down and harmed, the government office replied that there is only one hectare of mangrove forest in that area and it’s not in Tambo.

The activist politely asked the official to go to Google Maps, switch to satellite view, and zoom in on Tambo.. hectares of mangrove trees..


Mangrove trees in their community have been cut down to build this bridge on land owned by a British developer. He hopes to usurp the rest of the community, though it may be difficult since the community has proof he has cut down the mangrove trees, which is illegal.

A Skinned Mangrove Tree

A Skinned Mangrove Tree

Mangroves Cut For This Bridge

Mangroves Cut For This Bridge

Unfortunately, it’s a familiar story. I saw the same thing in Cambodia. The government seized land, gave it to developers, and left the land’s original inhabitants out to dry.

Planting Mangrove Trees

To do something positive, we planted some mangrove trees while I was there. They grow quickly and are instrumental to keep the local ecosystem vibrant. The mangroves shield the community from harsh winds in the windy part of the year, act as a natural filter against garbage washing up into their communities, and stimulate fish and crab breeding.

Where is the line?

I visited two resort beaches on Samal. They were neither fully occupied, nor busy. How many resorts is enough there? At some point, the capacity of the resorts will be too much for the demand, prices will fall, and everyone will lose. But the original inhabitants will have lost from the start.

For me it’s kind of an allegory of where humanity is going – placing the acquisition of wealth above all – even the very existence of the planet. Similarly, operating by a strange definition of progress where destroying a sustainable way of life to provide a place for the parasitic way of life to relax… seems strange.

I don’t think the local people in Davao would patronize a resort built on land stolen from its original inhabitants. But sadly, most people who live in Davao don’t even know that there are indigenous people there or what is happening to them.

So, that’s what I recommended the people of Tambo do. Instead of trying to take their case to the supreme court or UN, which they are doing, they should work on educating their extended community of their existence and their struggle. Davao is an amazing community and I am 100% sure they won’t stand for this.

I won’t either, but I’m a writer not a fighter.

Below some other pictures of the community.

5 replies
  1. Ian Ord - Where Sidewalks End
    Ian Ord - Where Sidewalks End says:

    Your heart is as big as that fruit you’re holding! It’s hard to visit areas where tourism has devastated some of the natural beauty before education could come in to make it sustainable, though more and more people are becoming aware of this, and trying to help the communities rebuild the natural beauty which is of course the main appeal. I’ve seen similar things in southern India’s backwaters. Glad to see you lending a helping hand, mate!

  2. Ash Clark
    Ash Clark says:

    When I was in Davao I heard of quite a few foreign investors who were looking into developing sustainable resorts in the area.

    Hopefully its places like that that take the lead as opposed to these morons. That picture of the skinned mangrove is despicable…


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I prefer to do things like tell the story by pictures if at all, and share more stories like this or […]

  2. […] I saw very few Westerners while in Davao. Many tourists seem to come for the diving on neighboring Samal Island. The city itself offers some sites and some places to visit in nature – namely the amazing […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.