7 residents are this year’s 48th Datu Bago Awardees
THEY have devoted their lives to their respective vocations and persuasions. And this has paid off, as they are the awardees as outstanding city residents in this year’s celebrations of the “81st Araw ng Davao” (Davao Day). They may have different occupations and preoccupations, but all the awardees have worked very hard in pursuit of their passions and to achieve their goals.
This year’s awardees include a historian, a cooperative leader, a social scientist, and environmentalists, who have been cited for their outstanding achievements in their respective fields. These are Carlito Gaspar, Norma Javellana, Belen Laud, Aland David Mizell, Ricardo Obenza, Jr., Beethoven Sur, and Nieto Vitto—all recipients of the “48th Datu Bago Award.”
No other than the mayor of Davao City and presidential daughter, Sara Duterte, commended the seven awardees for their contributions to the city as well as for their remarkable efforts in their respective fields. “I would like to thank you for choosing to devote your lives to the furtherance of your respective causes for the benefit of Davao City and Davaoeños,” she said in a speech during formal ceremonies honoring the awardees at the city’s Royal Mandaya Hotel, on Monday, March 12. “May you continue to blaze the trail in your areas of expertise and inspire countless others to follow your examples.”
The award-giving body, Datu Bago Awardees Organization, Inc. (DBAOI), said in a statement, “The awardees are recognized for their outstanding, exemplary, and selfless contribution to the growth and development of Davao City, and for their invaluable contribution to the preservation of the Davaoeño culture and heritage.” It added that the awardees are true-blooded Davaoeños who have exemplified competence and dedication in contributing to the development of Davao, the country’s biggest city in terms of land area and the most populous outside of Metro Manila.
A champion of the indigenous peoples’ cultural and resource rights, Gaspar is a historian, Redemptorist missionary, theologian, and anthropologist. He has studied about Davao City and its people, culture, and experiences. Gaspar’s extensive research on pre-colonial Davao, DBAOI said, has significantly contributed to the study and appreciation of the city’s history and culture. His grassroots activism and development work were also focused on serving the marginalized and the disadvantaged.
Javellana was given the recognition for her trailblazing contribution to the protection and conservation of Davao City’s natural and human resources. She is an environmentalist noted for her unceasing efforts toward the protection of the Shrine Hills, in Davao City’s Matina village, and the rivers of Pahigan and Tamugan. She’s also a known children’s rights advocate.
A popular destination for meditation and relaxation, Shrine Hills, with its lush greenery and tall trees as well as diverse floras and faunas, has been the centerpiece of Javellana’s quest to protect green open spaces and watersheds.
For 20 years, she served as leader and manager of Tambayan Center for Children’s Rights, which aims to combat child-trafficking in the city and the whole of Davao Region. Formerly called Southern Mindanao, the region (Region XI) comprises the five provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, and Davao Occidental.
Laud, for her part, has remarkably made her contributions in the cooperative movement. She has served in various capacities in nine cooperatives as an excellent leader, consultant, accredited mediator and conciliator, cooperative auditor, and lecturer.
Aland David Mizell
In the meantime, Mizell, an American social scientist, has lived for over 10 years in Davao City, serving the poor and the disadvantaged. He led the establishment of the Minority Care International (MCI), which provides scholarship programs to marginalized youth. An advocate of personal and social transformation through education, Mizell provides the disadvantaged minority students a chance to study in the US.
He also champions college education behind bars, a program initiated with the University of Southeastern Philippines that offers inmates of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) the opportunity to acquire formal education.
Ricardo Obenza Jr.
Obenza, on the other hand, is an environmentalist, teacher, and artist who has devoted more than 40 years of his life to ensure a better environment for Davao City by way of the arts and tree-planting programs. He focuses on the reforestation of the Malagos Watershed and the art education of children in the city. With his love of nature and education, he integrates the planting of native trees in his art classes.
The district director of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), Sur, has paved the way for the promotion of environmental protection, assuring the safety of life and property at sea. He leads some humanitarian and outreach programs, such as the annual coastal cleanups, mangrove planting, reef growing, relief operations, books and school supplies donation, and sports development.
He also created the “Oplan Ligtas Biyahe,” a road safety program for motorists.
Known as the father of special education at the city’s University of Southeastern Philippines, Vitto champions the education of persons with special needs. He initiated the sports for differently-abled children, enabling them to enjoy sports also for healing and well-being.