Datu Bago: Villain or Hero?

Dec. 05, 2007

Datu Bago remains a controversial figure in Davao history because different people use different lenses in looking at him. Some dismiss him as a villain, while others hail him as a hero.

The villainous image of Datu Bago is, of course, a creation of the Spaniards. Up until the 1840s, Davao Gulf remained free of Spanish control. This was because the local chieftains, headed by Datu Bago, were united in opposing Spanish land grabbing. They kept the Spaniards at bay for a long time by launching attacks against Spanish-controlled settlements on the Pacific Coast.

Naturally, the Spaniards had the harshest words for this Davao chieftain who refused to bow down to Spanish power. For defending Davao, Datu Bago earned the tag of pirate from the Spaniards who themselves were the biggest pirates engage in the largescale plunder of the islands.

Indeed, anybody who fought the Spaniards was considered a bad guy that should be imprisoned, exiled, or executed. That’s what they did to Rizal.

Since our knowledge of Davao history comes largely from Spanish documents, some of us have adopted the view of the Spaniards and have come to regard Datu Bago from the point of view of the Spaniards.

But from the Filipino point of view, anybody who fought the Spaniards should be considered a hero, and it is only fitting to honor Datu Bago as a hero who valiantly defended Davao from Spanish aggression.

In 1969, the Davao City government, under the leadership of Mayor Elias B. Lopez, took cognizance of this fact and created the Datu Bago Award as the highest award to be bestowed on a resident “who has contributed to the development of the City of Davao with exemplary competence and dedication and who best serves as a model of excellence and as an inspiration to the residents of Davao.”

Since its institution, some 143 individuals from different backgrounds and professions have already received the Datu Bago Award. Pioneer settlers, businessmen, educators, churchmen, artists, doctors, lawyers, journalists, historians, peace advocates, and environmentalists are only some of the Datu Bago awardees.

Qualified for the datu Bago Award is any resident of Davao City of any nationality who has resided in Davao City for at least ten years. Posthumous awards are also possible.

Nominations for the Datu Bago Award 2008 are now being accepted. Nomination forms are available from: Dr. Iris Melliza, Chair, Search Committee, Datu Bago Award Foundation, c/o Office of the President, Holy Cross of Davao College, Sta. Ana Avenue, 8000 Davao City. Tel. no. (082) 221-3008. Deadline of submission of nominations is at 5pm, January 31, 2008.

The awardees will be honored on March 14, 2008, in time with the week-long celebration of the Araw ng Dabaw.

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