Davao’s Guardian of Memory

Sep. 09, 2006

In his new book, award-winning writer and historian Macario Tiu attempts to set straight the myths and inaccuracies of Davaos history. Why, he asks, should Datu Bago be depicted as a pirate and not the Basque invader Uyanguren? He remembers the heroic acts of Davaoeos past and present. “The task is to locate more of these heroic men and women who have done a great deed in defense of Davao, of the country and reclaim them from oblivion.”

By Tyrone A. Velez

Macario Tiu in his Ateneo office. Before him is a copy of his book and the National Book Award trophy (davaotoday.com photo by Tyrone Velez)DAVAO CITY — The trophy that Davao writer Macario Tiu won from the National Book Award for his book on Davao history is, of all things, a sculpted camera.

“I’m figuring out why the sculptor designed the trophy this way,” Tiu pondered as he took the award off the shelf in his office in Ateneo de Davao University’s Tambara Office. “Perhaps it suggests that writers want to show the readers a picture of the world.”

That may well describe Tiu’s effort in Davao: Reconstructing History Through Text and Memory, where he presents a vivid narrative of Davao’s growth and identity and its resistance against Spanish and American colonization.

The book provides new insights into Davao’s history gathered from the writer’s research of the oral traditions and histories of Lumad and Moro communities.

Tiu, a professor of literature at the Ateneo de Davao, a detainee during martial law and a two-time Palanca awardee, said the book was about telling history from the view of the Filipino.

“Previous history books started their record of Davao with its conquest by Jose Oyanguren in 1848,” he said in an interview with davaotoday.com. “Not much else was said about Davao before that.” Oyanguren was the Basque conqueror who came and set Spanish rule in the Davao province.

This version of history only reflected the western and elite bias that relied on foreign documents and sources, said Tiu.

For instance, Oyanguren was considered a central figure in Davao’s history, while Datu Bago, a native who fought Oyanguren’s troops, was branded as a pirate.

“Aren’t pirates the invaders of a land? Then, isn’t Oyanguren the pirate in our history?” Tiu quipped.

For that, Tiu sought other sources of information, the oral literature of the elders of the tribes accounts of events, folklores, even myths. These he called “memory documents” as it preserves the communities’ histories.

These “documents” shaped the book’s vast narratives, from the history of the 15 tribes in Davao, the stories of the Davao settlers, the arrival of the Spanish and American colonizers and expansion of American plantations, and the resistance of the Davao people, the heroes, myths and legends.

The book gives in-depth accounts of Davao heroes. For instance there is the story of Mangunlayon, “the only Lumad who succeeded in killing the highest American official of a local government in the Philippines,” Davao’s district governor Lt. Edward C. Bolton.

There is also Datu Bago, the antithesis of Oyanguren, wherein the book accounts of his life and traces his lineage to the Maguindanaoan royalty, contrary to belief that he is of Bagobo lineage.

Interestingly, Tiu included the stories of anti-martial law martyrs in Davao, the likes of labor leader Alex Orcullo of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, who was murdered on Oct. 19, 1984, and of Socorro Par, a youth activist killed in 1985 in South Cotabato.

Tiu explained: “In the Philippine context, wherein the history of the people’s struggle is to become free or to remain free, anybody who fights for that freedom is a hero.”

In his book, he makes this call to remember the heroic acts of Davaoeos past and present: “The task is to locate more of these heroic men and women who have done a great deed in defense of Davao, of the country and reclaim them from oblivion.”

This task has started with the book, which seeks to restore Davao’s past and identity. It is a laudable effort, as cited by Soledad Reyes, panelist of the National Book Award: “Tiu offers an alternative to official history even as he proceeds to demonstrate the wealth of insights such texts from indigenous communities possess as indices to the consciousness of the people of Davao.” (Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)

  • melot petschick

    Dear Mr. Velez,
    I read davao today in most of my free time . I am so happy to know that Mr. Tiu won an award for his book. Very inspiring article. It only shows that we, Davawenyos are really talented. Ipadayon ang maayong pagsulat !


    melot petschick

  • eduardo a. basto

    hi sir tyrone!! i am edong. m.a. journ student po ako from UP diliman. i would just like to ask if i could have you as my interviewee to represent the press in Mindanao. i am currently working po on my thesis on the killings of journalists in Mindanao under the supervision of sir danny arao. I also sent a message kay ma’am cheryll fiel sa davaotoday@gmail.com na address but i am not sure kung makakarating po iyon sa kanya regarding din po sa concern na ito.
    i am hoping na sana po e makarating sa inyo itong message ko. thanks po in advance. please drop me a note at superedongatyourservice@yahoo.com kung okay lang po na mainterview ko kayo kahit sa email lang so i could send the interview questions right away.

    thanks a lot.



  • Herc Lagunay

    Dear Mr. Tiu,

    Now that you are into this, maybe you can also advocate the return of those historical major street names in Davao City and perhaps move Datu Bago street from its obscurity in Bankerohan Public Market to one of prominence, how about the Diversion road?

    While prominent martial law Davaoeos personalities maybe worthwhile mentioning in this your Davao book (I have not read it), I still think that a separate book on Martial Law in Davao City would do justice to the rest of the local actors on those dreaded days. The likes of Bebot Bello and the big Zap of the MIA fame, where are they now?


    The Marshall Isl

  • Lee bee Tiu

    I’m wondering if you are the same Macario Tiu who was in Xavier University on the 60’s? Henrietta Tiu from Naawan before AKA Lee Bee Tiu

  • mae

    hi tyrone,

    its nice that you wrote something about Dr. Tiu..
    i was his student and i admire his knowledge regarding about this..

    keep up the good work Dr. Tiu

  • liezl

    i was having my research on the different literary pieces on davao region and i find it realy hard to find one in our library and even in the internet..my friend in UPdavao suggested ur name..hmm..are you a native of davao?tnx.

  • Jose Mangune


    I recently visited Davao City last December and had the chance to talk to Macario Tiu who happens to be a friend during our days at ADD college. He told me that he wrote two books one being the much discussed book in your article and the other “Conquest and Rebellion…”. I thought I would have the time to llok up the latter but my visit was really short.

    Can you please point me to the right direction in finding the book through the internet. I am very much interested in that book.

    Thank you in advance.

    Jose Mangune

  • Sir, I’m looking for a book such as this…Is it available in the Davao City Library?

  • raul v. tonogbanua


    i knew socorro par quite well as we were classmates in college at the ateneo – ab eco. in fact we made our thesis together. she thought, breathed, lived and died for her conviction – a just society. i might not totally agree with some of her ideas but i believe that if she were alive today she surely would make a big difference in our corrupted society.

    i would like to remember soc as a patient person in her college uniform or in her “patadjong” rather than the enclosed box she came home into. i hope socorro par will be remembered as a person and not just a footnote in the struggle against injustice. there are still times that i miss soc and i pray and hope that she is in a much better place where there is only love, peace and quiet. God bless her soul.

  • Ma. Fiona Stephanie Degamo

    Mr. Velez,


    I would like to ask for your permission since I need a photo of Mr. Macario Tiu for our journalism class under Ms. Gemima Galang.

    One of our requirements in our final grading paper, is to produce a newsletter which includes articles and pictures. And we need to have a copy of Sir Tiu’s picture for our news article.

    I have already copied the picture and recognized you as the source.

    Thank you.

    Your truly,
    Fiona Degamo
    Ateneo de Davao University
    Bachelor of Arts Major in English Literarure, III year

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