With the many activities happening in Davao these past days, it came as a surprise when the Honorary Consul of Hungary, Mary Ann “Baby” Maceda-Montemayor, sent me the invitation to the 51st Conferment of Datu Bago Awards 2023. The Datu Bago Award honors an exemplary individual who has contributed to the growth and development of Davao City through one’s passionate dedication in realizing one’s advocacy. He/she serves as a model inspiration to Davaoenos in the preservation of the Davaoenos’ rich cultural heritage. The award is bestowed on a person of any nationality, living or deceased, and who has been a resident of Davao City for at least a decade. The Award is conferred as part of the celebration of the Araw ng Davao.
This year’s 51st Conferment of Datu Bago Awards was the first time it was held face-to-face after the Government imposed restrictions during the Covid pandemic. The ceremony was held last March 8, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. at the newly renovated ballroom of the Escandor family’s The Royal Mandaya Hotel. The ceremonially conferred Datu Bago awardees this year include the late Antonio M. Ajero, Brenda Sofronia Z. Barba and Elenita C. Dumlao. The 2020 Datu Bago awardees were also presented during the special celebration and these included Tita A. Lacambra-Ayala (posthumous), Susan P. Cariaga, Andry K. Lim, Renato R. Lumawag (posthumous), Arturo M. Milan, Ruben G. Robillo, and Leoncio Villa-Abrille.
The opening program, which came after lunch, had the praiseworthy performance of the University of Mindanao chorale singing with much feeling the Doxology, the Philippine National Anthem, and the Tayo ay Dabawenyo paean. Dr. Pilar C. Braga, the Chairperson of the Datu Bago organization, then gave her welcome message, “The pandemic really made us realize the importance of community celebrations and gatherings such as this; and how every opportunity to express our appreciation for one another is a blessing….This year’s awardees are an addition to the 179 past awardees with the hope that our members will continue to increase. As the old saying goes, the worst thing that can happen to our country is when all good men (and women) just sit and do nothing.”
Dr. Braga also requested for special prayers to be offered while mentioning the names of Datu Bago awardees who have passed away namely Nonoy Villa-Abrille, Rene Lumawag, Tita Lacambra-Ayala, Tony Ajero, and Sister Mary Josephine Bacaltos. She also reminded everyone, “Once you become a Datu Bago awardee, your life’s mission takes on a greater meaning. The real work becomes more intense. You are called to greater service—to pass on your legacy to the new generation of Davaoenos, to set an example, to lead, and to guide our next leaders in keeping the Davaoeno spirit alive.”
The presentation and reading of citations of the Datu Bago awardees for 2023 had Amalia B. Cabusao presenting for the late Antonio M. Ajero who was well known and respected as a publisher, editor-in-chief, radio and television broadcaster. Amy Cabusao described Tony Ajero as an influential editor and publisher in Mindanao. It was Marina B. Ruivivar who gave the due recognition owed to Brenda Z. Barba as a pioneering woman of the visual arts in Davao; a well-respected art educator; as well as a design mentor “whose legacy helped produce multi-awarded artists and creators throughout her impressive career which has spanned five decades and counting.” Lastly, Fe B. Arobo heaped praises on the superb artist cum cultural development worker, Elenita C. Dumlao. This psychologist has vast talents in the fields of the visual arts, literary arts, theater arts, music, and dance.
Davao City Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte had Vice Mayor Jay Melchor Quitain, Jr., who is himself a visual artist and a lawyer, deliver an inspirational message, “To our awardees, you have been recognized because at the heart of all your achievements is a genuine passion to serve, a personal quest for excellence, and a desire to make life better for Davaoenos. Service, excellence, altruism—these are the values that all Datu Bago awardees share, and today you join the legion of the highly distinguished and outstanding men and women since 1969 who have devoted their lives to their respective causes and placed Davao City on the map.”
Brenda Sofronia Z. Barba gave a rather lengthy response on behalf of the Datu Bago awardees of 2023. Vice Chairperson, Mary Ann Maceda-Montemayor ended the program with a closing message which included her expression of gratitude to the members of the Board of Trustees who worked hard to make the event a special and memorable one.
My congratulations to the Datu Bago awardees of 2020 and 2023. Thank you, members of the Board of Trustees, for a job very well done.
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