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Back in the Day | Watery landmarks of the city lost forever

In the 50s, we used to live in a slummy Washington St., Davao City neighborhood, a minute walk to the banks of the Davao River, not far from the area where the Almendras Recreation Center now stands. Boyhood summer days were pretty much spent on swimming, fishing, boating and kite flying (where no trees or electric wires could snag up our home-made newspaper kites).

The river was like a big brother to us, who generously hosted and provided all the excitement of our youthful exuberance. Birds of intricate plumage, colors, and shapes were regular residents of this lush sandy stretch of the river bank. During high tides, the river swells and silently creeps into our backyard with a six-inch deep water and we marvel watching tiny fishes frolic around the edges of the watery invasion. My grandma’s solitary mango tree stood pompously in our yard providing a huge cooling shade across the marshy real estate.

Before the NCCC and S&R stores along MacArthur Hwy were erected, the S&R store where it now stands was a huge living pond, populated by birds of various sizes and colors… the white stilt-legged, dagger-like beaked herons, purple egrets, ducks, the common two-toned blue/white kingfishers (Tinkarol) and some tiny yellow birds (Tamsi). It was a tranquil sanctuary for fishes, birds, frogs, insects. Stunted trees, half- submerged shrubs endemic to fresh water, created an idyllic scene so delightful to one’s eye. It transformed into an aesthetic vista of rustic and urban ensemble.

Sadly, when NCCC Matina was constructed many years ago, the excavated earth and soil from the area were transported across the street where the pond was located, dumping into the heart and soul of the natural fresh water habitat. The earthfill covered and killed the pond and the birds had to abandon their prized home. It was a great loss to a city’s rare watery scenery. Today, we just turn a page and remember one of nature’s gift to us that perished in our quest for urbanization.

The once famous Matina Golf Course, founded in 1950 by the well-heeled sportsmen of the city, was laid out on a 25 hectare Villa Abrille property adjacent to the popular roosters’ gladiatorial arena, the Sabungan/Gallera in Matina.

Unknown to many, the far end of the property was a living and thriving pond. About a shoulder deep of water, it owned rows of nipa palms, Pagatpat trees, shrubs and various mangroves. Fishes, frogs, insects, and water bugs in the pond lured birds, with magnificent colors and shapes. All of these species dwelled for food and habitation on this tiny ecological paradise which, altogether cooled the surrounding area. For almost 70 years, it survived until last year, 2019, when a prominent land developer, the Cebu Landmasters purchased the golf course to convert it into a township. It immediately earthfilled and buried the fish and bird habitat to oblivion. Again, Davaoeños lost forever another environmental friendly piece of property.

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