Peter Laviña

The ABCs (Activities, Beliefs and Campaigns) of City Councilor Peter Tiu Laviña of Davao City, Philippines. This blog started on March 9, 2006.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My first Araw ng Dabaw

I was a young boy when I first witnessed the celebration of the Araw ng Dabaw. You won’t probably believe it, but I was at the very first marking of this week-long celebration way back in 1968. Yes, 38 years ago when Hey Jude was No. 1.

I remember that I was standing almost near the foot of the stage. I was awed by the display of oratory of the new city mayor - Elias B. Lopez. The first lumad mayor of our city captivated the crowd with his eloquence and wit. He delivered a speech which we seldom hear in the breed of politicians today.

I was in front of the stage because I tagged along with my father, Pedro “Pete” Lavina, then the Mindanao Director of the Bureau of Travel and Tourism Industry (BTTI). This pre-martial law era agency is now the Department of Tourism.

My father, Mayor Lopez and City Secretary Cesar “Chuck” Nuñez, my father’s colleague at the Mindanao Times, were close friends. They were barkadas under the wings of then Senator Alejandro “Landring” Almendras, the political kingpin of Davao in those days.

Mayor Lopez has just started his term (pre-martial law elections were held on Novembers and the elected officials start their terms on January) and the Davao Province was broken up the previous July into four parts, the chartered City of Davao and the new provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao Orietal and Davao del Norte. (The latter also split later into Davao Province and Compostela Valley)

The first Araw ng Dabaw was therefore an apt celebration not of its founding in 1936 but rather of an incoming challenge, a new beginning. There were certainly fresh promises and new hopes for the future. The nation was in turmoil during that period of the late 1960s. Davao City somewhat insulated itself from the national tragedies and worked instead for its own local growth.

The parallelism of today’s Araw ng Dabaw celebration is really striking. Under Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, Davao City has somewhat freed itself too from the troubles in “imperial” Manila and achieved progress on its own merits.

I remember that the stage during that first celebration was set up in between the giant acacia trees where the flagpole now stands. The stage faced the old City Council building and the old Davao City mini zoo, which is now occupied by the Centennial Park and Osmeña Park surrounding the new SP building.

Rizal Park was jampacked with Davaoeños during the celebration. A noticeable group was the Bagobo contingent from Baguio District, the mayor’s bailiwick. Many of them wore their colorful lumad garbs. It was during this time that the city’s official song – Tayo’y Dabawenyo - was first sung. The song was inspired by Mayor Lopez, its lyrics were written by then School’s Superintendent Pedro O. Sanvicente, and the music supplied by music teacher Guillermo Anajao.

My colleague at the City Council Rene Elias Lopez remembers that the song was first practiced at their house in Juna Subdivision. The piano is still there, he says.

I remember that each day of the week-long celebration starting on March 10 had a specific theme like Araw ng Kalusugan, Araw ng Kalinisan, Araw ng Kabataan and so forth culminating on March 16 as Araw ng Dabaw. Two of the key thrusts then of Mayor Lopez were to honor city government employees, and encourage citizens’ participation. Thus, at that time there emerged what could be considered as a precursor of an NGO coalition – the CCOD or the Coordinating Council of Organizations in Davao. It promoted government and NGO partnership.

Civic leader Ching Rodriguez; historian Ernie Corcino, then of the US Information Service (USIS) in Davao; then Jaycees president Angie Angliongto; then Press Secretary Gil Abarico, all friends of my father, were among those I know were active in the CCOD.

The main feature of the celebration was of course the civic-military parade. Marching bands were the favorites among us young kids. Today, the must-see ones are our street dancers and floral floats.

I also recall that young student leaders took over the city as youth city officials during the Araw week. I cannot remember who served in 1968. Two years later in 1970, I was one of those young leaders chosen to do this role. I was designated as City Legal Officer. This probably was the reason why many years later people mistook me as a compañero.

For several days I sat at the chair of lawyer-actor Ben Amora. I was totally lost in the goings-on at his office, which was as busy as a campaign HQ. The following year Amora was elected as a City Councilor. I kind of followed his path 30 years later. But before that I worked at the City Mayor’s Office for ten years and I was involved in preparing and running the Araw celebrations. Surely, my first experience in 1968 was helpful.

Preceding us in politics of course was Mayor Lopez. He was first elected in 1949 - fresh from UP-Diliman - as a City Councilor. He would later be elected also as Vice Mayor, another term as Mayor, and post People Power, as Congressman.

Mayor Lopez was a real trailblazer. He has reaped many firsts in his career and for our city. He left not just his historical footprints and legacies such as the Project Hope and appointments of Deputy Mayors. He has achieved what the Chinese consider as the path to immortality – bear a son, plant a tree and write a book.

The Araw ng Dabaw was his baby, his tree and his book!

(Submitted as Signs of the Times column article for Mindanao Times for March 13, 2006)

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