PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s Monday schedule will be full, as he is expected to be greeted by well-wishers in Panacan, Davao City, a day before his 72nd birthday in a gathering sans the trappings of pomp and pageantry.
“Traditionally, the President marks his birthday quietly without fanfare,” Ernesto Abella, presidential spokesman, said in a statement. “He spends some quality time with [his]family and close friends. While certain offices may hold parallel celebration, the President usually veers away from public attention on his private and personal affairs.” (see related story on page b7)
In a March 23 news conference upon his arrival from an official trip to Thailand, Duterte said, “Nakuha ko na lahat (I’ve got everything already), no more gifts … except maybe a prayer to God for my country.”
He added, “So my wish really, my prayer to God is that bigyan niya ako ng kaunting lakas na lang (that He give me a bit more strength) to do our overtime work because it is needed.”
Duterte also admitted that he wants to celebrate his first birthday as president with his family, particularly his new grandson Stonefish Carpio, youngest son of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
The top executive’s wish to celebrate his birthday in his hometown may be his way of recognizing the love, respect, and support that the people of Davao have been showering him until now.
Davao is apparently very grateful to its famous son. “We still call him mayor up to now because he was a good mayor to us,” Davao City Councilor Bernard Al-ag said. “We supported him all the way because we knew that the country needed a man like him.”
Al-ag became the acting mayor when Duterte-Carpio and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte took a leave of absence, following Duterte’s first month in Malacanang.
Al-ag also admitted his gratefulness to the former mayor of Davao who had made it as one of the best cities in the Philippines. He also pointed out how the city has developed, especially after Duterte became the country’s chief executive and how Duterte-Carpio now manages the city.
“We are surprised with all the attention being given to Davao,” Al-ag stressed. “A lot of investors are scrambling to go to Davao to invest. All big developers from Manila are now here. It’s good that we already had Comprehensive Land Using Planning or Zoning Ordinance in place way back in the 1990s. We already zoned the residential or commercial land that could help investors in locating which kind of land they want to buy.”
He also added that the city has created an Investment and Promotion System, a “one-stop shop” for investors now headed by Lemuel Ortonio. Al-ag is also happy to report that the city government, in line with the project of Duterte-Carpio, is bringing its services closer to the people by creating mini city halls in all districts of Davao.
“Every district will have a building where all the services are available, so that the people need not go to the main city hall,” Al-ag said. “It’s a one-stop shop building for convenient transactions.”
Tourism Council’s Regina Tecson, on the other hand, reported that tourist arrivals in Davao have flourished since Duterte became president. “Based on hotel-room occupancy alone in 2016, we had 1.84 million guests,” she said. “We’ve noticed an increase in tourism-related establishments like restaurants, accommodations and the like. Davaoeños are stepping up their game by also improving on their services and products. We’re gearing up for more arrivals and events.”
Tecson said her office has since been busy preparing for the summer activities, such as the Visit Davao Fun Sale and the Kadayawan Festival, which is held in August.
She is so proud, she said, of how the private sector has been helping to promote Davao City. Businessmen and civic leaders alike have always been active and have, in fact, spearheaded various tourism programs in the city.
Even before his inauguration on June 30, 2016, a lot of people had been coming to Davao City to have their photos taken at the very unassuming house of the president. The green house, with a Duterte standee in front, has been a backdrop for many selfies. Before and after winning the presidential election, tourists would stay longer to catch a glimpse of the former mayor and, hopefully, have a photo with him.
A bustling city
Davao City serves as the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao as well as the regional center of Davao Region. With a total land area of 2,444 square kilometers, the city is the largest in the country in terms of land area. Geographically, Davao City is grouped with the province of Davao del Sur but is governed independently from it. The city is divided into three congressional districts, which are subdivided into 11 administrative districts with a total of 182 districts called barangays.
Under the watch of Duterte-Carpio, Davao City aims to become the country’s leading and role-model city. By creating the program “Biyaheng Do30,” a slogan that means 30 major projects under the 10 priority programs, the current mayor aims to implement these projects in her city over the next three years.
“Mayor Sara’s priority programs include poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, solid-waste management, health, education, agriculture, tourism, transportation planning and traffic management, peace and order, and disaster risk reduction and mitigation,” Jefrey Tupas, Davao City Information Officer, said in a recent interview in Davao City.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE VALENTE