DATU BAGO AWARDEES. This year’s Datu Bago awardees (from left to right) are Nieto L. Vitto; Beethoven N. Sur; Belen C. Laud; Norma T. Javellana; Bro. Carlito M. Gaspar; Ricardo N. Obenza, Jr.; and Dr. Aland David Mizell. The award is the highest honor the local government of Davao City gives to its outstanding constituents. The conferment ceremony was held on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at the Royal Mandaya Hotel. (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Seven Dabawenyos were conferred on Tuesday this year’s Datu Bago Award, the highest honor given by the local government of Davao City to its outstanding constituents.

According to Councilor Pilar Braga, 2011 Datu Bago awardee and chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Datu Bago Awardees Organization, the local government confers this prestigious award to “outstanding Dabawenyos who have greatly contributed to the growth and development” of the city and its people.”

The award is named after Moro chieftain Datu Bago who led other local chieftains in fighting Spanish colonialism and kept areas along the Davao Gulf free from foreign control until he was defeated in 1848 by the combined forces of Don Jose de Oyanguren and Don Manuel Quesada.

READ: Datu Bago: Villain or Hero?

Braga also announced during the event that the City Council last week has passed the ordinance declaring Datu Bago as a local hero of the city “after much research by Davao historians and after clearing certain controversial issues.”

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio during her speech rendered salute to all Dabawenyos who “went above and beyond what is expected of them”.

“A city is more than its natural landscape, it is more than the high rises and the modern amenities, a city at its core is defined by its people. This is the reason why we celebrate the Araw ng Davao every year as a salute to all Dabawenyos from all walks of life who live with integrity, work with passion and interact with one another in the spirit of respect for our cultural diversity,” said Mayor Duterte-Carpio.

Here are this year’s awardees with their citation as read during the awarding ceremony:

Bro. Carlito M. Gaspar, Ph.D.

Bro. Carlito M. Gaspar, Ph.D. (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

As a redemptorist missionary, theologian, and anthropologist, Bro. Karl has dedicated his life in promoting peace through interfaith dialogue and in championing indigenous people’s cultural and resource rights.

As a prolific writer authoring over 20 books, he has promoted a deeper understanding of Davao and Mindanao indigenous cultures. His extensive research on pre-colonial Davao has significantly contributed to the study and appreciation of Davao history and culture.

His grassroots activism and development work have been focused on serving those in the periphery of society, the most abandoned and those who are powerless. He has used his gifts to help empower others and inspire generations of Davaoeños to embrace a life in the service of the poor and the oppressed.

His life’s work has shaped the intellectual, cultural and moral development of Davao City and the conferment of the city’s highest award is in recognition and affirmation of the values and principles Bro. Karl embodies in words and in deeds.

Norma T. Javellana

Norma T. Javellana (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

A passionate environmentalist and children’s rights advocate, Norma is known for leading Davao City’s campaign for more publicly accessible green spaces and parks. She lobbied tirelessly for the protection of the Panigan-Tamugan rivers as well as Shrine Hills, a community she is a part of.

For 20 years, she served as leader and manager of Tambayan Center for Children’s Rights and coordinated efforts to combat child trafficking in the city and the whole of Davao region.

During her time in the Netherlands, she co-founded Stitching Bayanihan, a mutual help organization for Filipino overseas workers and organizations she remained actively involved in until today. Her overseas work helped promote Davao culture and the Davaoeños spirit.

Norma is being recognized for her trailblazing contribution to the protection and conservation of Davao City’s natural and human resources.

Belen C. Laud, CPA

Belen C. Laud (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

Belen is in the cooperative movement. She has served and nurtured several cooperatives in Davao City and has significantly contributed to the growth and development of cooperatives in the Davao region.

Belen is an accountant by profession; she has dedicated her accounting practice as auditor of and mediator-conciliator for cooperatives, non-government and people’s organizations and small social enterprises.

Her more than four decades of service to the economic and professional growth of grassroots organizations in the city greatly contributed to the empowerment of marginalized sectors and the sustainable development of our beloved Davao City.

Aland David Mizell, Ph.D.

Dr. Aland David Mizell (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

Dr. Aland David Mizell is an American social scientist who has made Davao City his home for more than a decade now.

Dr. Mizell has made a difference in the lives of many poor Davaoeños through the scholarship and educational programs of Minority Care International (MCI), a foundation he founded and leads.

A passionate advocate of personal and social transformation through education, he gives opportunities to disadvantaged minority students for international study in the United States and sustains their higher education through partnerships with local universities and colleges.

He is being recognized today for his trailblazing college education behind bars, a program he initiated with the Social Entrepreneurship Technology and Business Institute, the University of Southeastern Philippines and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

He built a new building with modern educational facilities inside the Davao City jail where detainees can continue and finish their college education. The program likewise helps them in rehabilitation and prepares them to rejoin society as productive citizens after their detention. It is the first program of its kind in the Philippines that placed Davao City on the national and international stage.

Ricardo N. Obenza, Jr.

Ricardo N. Obenza, Jr. (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

An environmental activist, teacher, and artist, Ricardo has devoted more than 40 years of his life to the reforestation of the Malagos watershed and the art education of Davao City’s children.

Combining his love for nature and education, he integrates planting of native trees in his art classes for children. He also integrates his passion for art with his environmental advocacy which gave birth to the Kalinan Landscape Painter Training Initiators (KALAPATI) Art Group.

His notable work has been recognized internationally and was featured in the Wochi Kochi Magazine of the Japan Foundation where he was described as a modest local activist who is living and teaching like an art in itself.

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Beethoven N. Sur

Beethoven N. Sur (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

A recognized leader in sports, Beethoven founded the United Bodybuilders Association and is an accomplished martial artist with an international degree of 4th Dan black belt. He is the president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Moo Duk Kwan Soo Bahk Do Karate Association.

His leadership in sports provides opportunities for young Davaoeños to shape their bodies and discipline their minds to be healthy, physically fit and productive citizens of the city.

As District Director of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) he was recognized by the Philippine Coast Guard as the best auxiliary officer of the year, the first Davaoeño and Mindanawon to be given such an honor.

Nieto L. Vitto, Ed.D.

Nieto L. Vitto (Mark Joy G. Basallajes/davaotoday.com)

Known as the father of special education of the University of Southeastern Philippines, Dr. Vitto has dedicated his life in the service of children with special needs.

He led the creation and implementation of two noteworthy programs of the Davao City Council on Disability Affairs – the Pag-asa Games and the Camp Pag-asa. These programs train volunteer mentors in conducting sports clinics for young persons with disability to enable them to participate in sports activities.

Because of these efforts, Davao City was able to send special athletes to the Special Olympics World Games, the Southeast Asian Basketball on Wheels and the International Paralympics Games. All won medals and brought home honor to the city.

He has been recognized for his valuable contribution to the promotion of the rights and welfare of children with disability that led to Davao City’s national recognition as a child-friendly city.

Bro. Carlito Gaspar in his speech in behalf of the awardees challenged other Dabawenyos to be peace builders and to take part in “healing the wounds” caused by societal issues such as climate change due to environmental destruction and corruption among others.

He underscores the urgency “to do something really drastic and radical” adding, “So now is the moment. Carpe diem! Lets get on with the work of making sure that in this city… there is truly the abundance of life, so that we deserve the city’s mantra that LIFE IS HERE!”

A total of 168 personalities have been conferred since 1969 when the local government started the program under the leadership of then Mayor Elias B. Lopez, a Bagobo.

The awarding ceremony was held at the Royal Ballroom of the Royal Mandaya Hotel which is one of the major events during the celebration of the city’s 81st charter day anniversary. (davaotoday.com)

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