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LET’S WALTZ BACK INTO THE 50s and 60s: Reshaping our city’s topography

Magsaysay Park. Drive up northbound Quezon Boulevard from the old PC Barracks (now Camp Domingo Leonor) toward Magsaysay Park and you’d be lucky if there are 15-20 vehicles lugging the entire length of the narrow two-way asphalt boulevard. Concrete roads were rare in those days and during a searing summer heat wave, the asphalt overlay would melt like icing on the cake, and emit heavy toxic smelly fumes.

As you drive along, take a quick glance to your right side, and you’ll see part of the ocean in some areas where houses are not so densely located. In the 50s, houses and buildings along the boulevard were quite sparse, few and far between, where sea breeze could vent through those openings.
The shoreline was just about 20 meters from road but since the 50s, the uncontrolled and unimpeded construction of houses by informal settlers along the shoreline, resulted in the reclamation of hundreds of square meters of precious land.
About 150 meters before approaching Magsaysay Park (there was no park in the early 50s) the right side of the boulevard was wide open and totally clear of buildings, that one could see an unobstructed breath-taking view of the Davao gulf and Samal island.
On violent stormy days with high winds, breakers would lap and spray sea water on the shoreline at the end of Oyanguren St, lashing the concrete pedestal of the old winged Victory monument at the end of Quezon Blvd and Oyanguren Sts.
Due to continuous and gradual deposit of silt and trash into the city’s busiest pier since the early 30s, the Santa Ana Wharf, reduced its depth and draft to accommodate large vessels for docking and mooring at the pier.
In those days the shore line was the area where the long line of fruit and durian vendors are now located. The entire Magsaysay Park area was still submerged by the sea until a reclamation project in late 50s annexed a huge tract of raw land on the area. In the end, we lost part of the sea but gained a huge tract of land which is now Magsaysay Park. The natural deposit of silt, and dumping of waste materials have also reclaimed land which was taken advantage by colonies of informal settlers along our eastern seaboard.
Bolton Bridge. Originally, the old Davao River course meandered from the higher slopes of Marilog to Bankerohan area snaking around the old Brokenshire Hospital area (gutted down by the 1964 fire). It flowed peacefully along the present Felcris Centrale and the Almendras Sports Center areas. The river’s end was at Bucana Trading where the not- so- fresh water mingled with the sea at the estuary.
Starting in the 50s, thousands of settlers built stilt houses along the Davao river bank close to where Felcris Centrale and the Almendras Sports Center were located. Through decades of earthfilling and the indiscriminate dumping of various materials in the area, the river bed dried up and soon more settlers swooped down to take advantage of the open space which ultimately killed the old river course.
This social housing concern forced the public and private sectors to search for a new channel for the river to change course away from the original course.
The area chosen for a new river channel was the private properties owned by heirs of Tionko and Villa Abrille located in Kabacan, at the back of the present Hall of Justice. A joint effort was conceptualized by the public and private sectors to dredge the new river channel. The implementation of the project changed the course of the river and diverted its flow into these private properties. Thereafter, a bridge was constructed over this new river channel now called the Bolton Bridge which connects Quezon Blvd with Quimpo Blvd. Along the banks of the new river channel, the heirs of Tionko executed a usufruct contract for free with the Davao Football Association to augment the football programs of the association. For the past 20 years, the sport facility with an official dimension football pitch and natural turf has benefited the youth of the city thru training and all year tournaments between schools and sports clubs. To be continued

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