Hijos de Davao: Beyond ballroom walls

Published at The Philippine Daily Inquirer

Old and New Hijos de Davao Officers
Old and New Hijos de Davao Officers

In a place dubbed a melting pot of culture, a group of settlers embraced change but sought to preserve their own.

“In order for us to hold on to our identity, we should preserve our culture,” said Hijos de Davao president Jackie Garcia Dizon.

For Marissa Tionko, her group has grown alongside Davao City in the past 50 years. “Hijos de Davao is more than just a social club. It is an organization working in a movement for social change,” she said.

Davao City is hailed as the most populous city in Mindanao and the largest in the country. Its land area of 2,444 square kilometers is home to over 1.4 million residents.

But only seven percent of the population, or 89,000, are Davaoeños or descendants of the original settlers. At least 33 percent or 381,000 of the people in Davao are Cebuanos.

The ever-increasing diversity of peoples and decreasing number of Davaoeños are the main reasons Hijos de Davao was brought into existence. It was founded in 1964 as a sociocivic organization to nurture relationships among Davaoeños. It primarily aims to gather the remaining Davaoeños residing in the city to celebrate the feast of St. Peter every 29th day of June.

“The objectives of Hijos de Davao are to preserve culture and traditions and nurture relationships among them,” Dizon said.

Their existence was seen as “a symbol of unity” in a city overpopulated by migrants. For the Hijos, the old Davao was “whole and undivided.” Thus in the present-day Davao, “Hijos is a semblance of identity in this scattered society,” Tionko said.

It was during the American rule in the late 19th century that more settlers came to Davao, according to the book “Reconstructing History from Text and Memory” by Macario Tiu.

Many migrants were lured by the prosperity offered by Davao’s wide and fertile lands. Its wide abaca and coconut plantations enticed many to come and settle in the city.

World War II veteran Casimero Flores, a 98-year-old migrant from Aklan, came to Davao in 1945 after hearing stories about Mindanao’s fertile land and abundant food that enticed many, like him, to migrate.

“Aklan back then was a difficult place to live in because food was scarce. When the drought came, we had nothing. They (locals) said that in Mindanao, there was plenty of food, especially bananas. My parents, brothers and sisters, we were all starving, so I grabbed the chance to go to Davao,” he said.

Flores acquired a 10-hectare lot in Cotabato, four hectares in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte, and 10 hectares in Davao City. He is now left with 9.1 hectares of land in Davao as he gave the others away to his relatives.

“I wanted them to start a good life. For that, they needed land to till,” he said.

Most of his family, even cousins and aunts, came to reside in Mindanao.

The diversity of race and cultures is among the things that set Davao apart from others. But over time, the mix of cultures made it hard for Davaoeños to distinguish their own.

This sentiment was mirrored by the third generation descendants of Davao’s first Christian settlers of 1848. Among them were Arzenio Suazo and his brother Amadeo, Isidro Bastida, Pantaleon Pelayo Sr. and Ruperto Lizada, who were the forerunners of the Hijos de Mindanao in the late 1920s.

Many other similar organizations sprouted after Hijos de Mindanao, such as the Hijos de Mindanao y Sulu, Tayo-Tayo, and Club Dabawenyo. Their unifying characteristic was that they all gathered and celebrated the feast of Davao’s patron saint, St. Peter.

The clubs were also the foundations that set Hijos de Davao into existence in 1964, founded by Emilio Palma Gil, its first president.

Among its projects, as cited in the book “Davao: Its History and Progress” by Gloria Dabay, were the Osmeña Park, the Generoso Bridge in Bankerohan, the Bagobo statue at the Davao International Airport, and the Hijos de Davao Cultural and Educational Foundation Inc., a nonstock, nonprofit group which seeks to launch programs “dedicated to the promotion, enhancement, preservation, and projection of the cultural heritage of Davao and the educational and social improvement of Dabawenyos.”

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Davao City’s speed limit reduces accidents, but businesses also affected

Published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer

DAVAO CITY — Speeding, overtaking, and racing. These have been rarely seen on the streets here since the implementation of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 39 (EO39), which put a cap on how fast vehicles can run in specified areas of the city.

In the first quarter of 2014, the year the order was implemented, a dramatic 41 percent decrease in vehicular accidents in the city had been noticed, according to Traffic Management Center chief Rodelio Poliquit.

Vehicular accidents, he said, decreased to 4,000 from January to September 2014 alone from 7,000 cases during the same period in 2013.

The speed limit has certainly slowed down the accident rates, but for jeepney and taxi drivers, it slowed down not only their vehicles, but their profits as well.

Taxi driver Rey (not his real name) has four kids and struggles to make ends meet with his average profit of P450 before EO 39’s implementation. With the speed limit, a substantial amount was lost because they can no longer speed up to be able to haul more passengers.

“Sometimes I earn only P200. How will we be able to meet our needs especially when the cost of living is very high? I can’t do anything about it, I can only work hard,” he said.

The recent reduction of the flag-down rate by 10, he said, added to the difficulty of meeting ends meet.

But for Rey, the speed limit was the big culprit. While he sees it as unnecessary, he could do nothing but comply with it.

“If I go against the law, I wouldn’t be able to afford to retrieve my license,” he explained.

Duterte has maintained that imposing the speed limit was timely to curb overspeeding drivers, who contributed to the sharp increase in the number of vehicular accidents here the past years.

He cited the September 2010 accident here, in which two people died and 16 others got injured. Most of the victims were students.

Under EO 39, which was described as “an order setting the speed limits for all kinds of motor vehicles within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City,” all motor vehicles are covered by speed limit. Exempted are legitimate emergency cases such as those involving ambulances and law enforcement agencies.

The EO specified that the fastest that vehicles could run from Sirawan in Toril district to Ulas Crossing is 60 kph. The same rule holds true for those taking the Lasang to Panacan in the north; Calinan to Ulas Crossing and C.P. Garcia Highway-McArthur Highway to Panacan.

From Ulas to Generoso Bridge/Bolton Bridge in Bangkerohan; Panacan Crossing to J.P. Laurel Avenue-Alcantara; and Ma-a Road Diversion to McArthur Highway, vehicles have to slow down to 40 kph already. And within the city proper, vehicles have to travel at 30 kph only.

Jeepney driver Noel Panay says the 30 kph limit in the downtown areas was absurd.

“A bike can run faster,” he explained. “We can’t run fast to pick up more passengers,” he said, adding that the speed cap allowed jeepney drivers like him to make only four round trips per day.

This, Panay said, lowered their take home money.

Mass communication student Aivy Villarba saids that it took her a while to get used to the new routine of leaving home an hour earlier than usual, but believes that EO 39 should still be implemented. “Mayor Duterte’s aim was public welfare over welfare of other sectors,” she explained. “Also, there are no car racers anymore at midnight because if they race, they will get caught”, she added.

Gwena Caubang, who was originally from Baganga, Davao Oriental, thinks that the speed limit was “a great way to discipline drivers, especially in a populous place like Davao City.”

“It decreases the rate of accidents, and hit and run incidents especially along the highways,” she said.

Caubang said she wished a speed limit would also be implemented in her hometown, where many drivers were reckless.

For private car owners Steely Caballero and Prince Canda, the slow pace of travel in the city was “a hassle,” and they prefer that the minimum speed in the downtown areas is upped to 40 kph.

Manila-based entrepreneur Moje Ramos-Aquino, who writes a column for a national broadsheet, recounted her experience in coming to Davao, where she claimed that it took her an hour and a half to travel six kilometers.

“I’ll go back to Davao when they lift the speed limit. Meantime, I will bring my business and my money somewhere else,” Aquino wrote in her column once.

But Poliquit said business shouldn’t be based on the speed by which vehicles can travel in certain areas.

“It would be more inconvenient if people were not safe to walk on the road, such as the elderly, the children who are going to school, and the pedestrians. If the people were not safe here, then who would invest?” he said.

Social strategist Reymond Pepito thinks that even if EO 39 was unappealing to some, for the majority it was important.

“Others may say that it affects their business transactions but I felt like the implementation of speed limits is not a problem. Road widening and well-functioning traffic lights can address the issue of congested roads and traffic in the city. One should not compromise safety. I live in Tagum City where roads are less busy but I still wish for us to have our own vehicular speed policy to avoid road accidents,” Pepito said.

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