Davao City is blessed to have a hero who courageously defended the land from Spanish colonizers and to this day, we honor his memory as the leader of tribes in the Davao gulf.
In 1969, Mayor Elias Lopez, a Bagobo, initiated an award named after Datu Bago to recognize exemplary Davaoeños who made remarkable accomplishments that contributed to the continuous growth of the city.
The award is the highest recognition the city government renders to its constituents for the past 49 years.
During its first year, one of the six prestigious men to have received the award is a humanitarian advocate, Antonio Uy who was just 29 at that time.
Toñing, as he is called, was awarded together with Msgr. Maurice Michaud, Tomas Monteverde Sr., Atty. Guillermo Torres Sr., Francisco Villa-Abrille, and Engr. Antonio Floirendo. He was the youngest awardee.
In those early years, Toñing had already done so much for the city and achieved a number of awards.
“There were questions on the nomination of a young gentleman to the most prestigious award giving body of the city. But it was the members of media, including Mindanao Times, who knew what humanitarian works I have been doing, who really defended me,” he said in an interview.
“There were still very few publications that time but they were gathered as one,” he added.
Toñing was a businessman but he was more recognized for his selfless humanitarian services to the extent of almost laying his life.
Toñing was born in Davao and at a young age, he saw the city as a war-torn home.
“I saw that I was born in a broken city. We just came out from war. We were not prepared to rebuild ourselves that time. I was young then but I was doing things that nobody was doing,” he said.
Nobody gets left behind
The exemplary leadership of Toñing was further recognized when he became an active Boy Scout leader back when he was just an elementary pupil at the Mindanao Colleges, now University of Mindanao.
“I was an aggressive 12 years old who exerted leadership in my elementary years,” he recalled.
As a young man, Toñing had a sorrowful experience which made him abide by a cardinal rule: “Under my command, nobody is hurt and nobody gets left behind.”
During the first national jamboree he attended in 1954 in Quezon City where he was a patrol leader, Toñing lost a fellow scout who was also his good friend.
“It was an agonizing experience for me because he was supposedly under me,” Toñing narrated.
Such experience did not discourage Toñing to pursue his leadership as a Boy Scout.
He is an Eagle Scout, a leader trainer, a member of the International Training Team, and a member of the Asia-Pacific Regional Task Force.
He was also the past Regional Commissioner for Leader Training, National Commissioner for Emergency Services and the Chief National Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.
Toñing also founded the Emergency Service Corps, an organization which helped during flood, fires, and other disasters in the city.
Aligned with his involvement with the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, he was given various recognitions such as the Bronze Medal of Honor, Gold Medal of Merit, and Gold USA Medal.
He was also given the highest award of BSP which is the Gold Tamaraw Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award as a true-blooded scout.
He also received the Tanglaw ng Kabataan, the most prestigious award conferred to a Filipino Scouter who has rendered outstanding services of an unusual extraordinary nature to the youth of the Philippines through Scouting and usually given to the Presidents of the country.
Apart from BSP, he also actively served at the Philippine National Red Cross where he initiated the establishment of the Davao City Chapter Building in 2007.
Toñing did not rely from the funds of the National Chapter. Instead, he knocked at the hearts of local leaders including then Mayor, now President Rodrigo Duterte, in order to proudly claim it as a true Dabawenyo Legacy.
Toñing received the Gold Humanitarian Award with Senator Richard Gordon and other international officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2007.
He was also an active Rotarian where he became a president of the Rotary Club of Davao on 1995-1996 where some of his projects focused on providing for the needs of the community in the hinterlands, including Marilog and Paquibato districts. He initiated the construction of a water reservoir for safe drinking water and distributed educational materials in these areas.
In 2007, he was awarded the highest recognition of Rotary International, the Service Above Self Award.
The long list of the humanitarian services and awards Toñing contributed to the city could take up a book and indeed, he is expecting to launch a book, authored by University of Mindanao’s Dr. Ronnie Amorado.
On March 8 this year, another set of Datu Bago awardees will be recognized but the legacy of a young boy who exhibited an outstanding spirit of leadership will live on.