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City confers Datu Bago Award to artists, journalist

ONE of the highlights of the Araw ng Dabaw is the conferment of the Datu Bago Award to outstanding Davaoenos by the city government.

This tradition started in 1969 during the administration of Mayor Elias B. Lopez, in honor of Datu Bago, the leader of the local chieftains who repelled the Spanish forces in the 1840s. Datu Bago was declared the city’s local hero on March 20, 2018, recognizing him as  “paramount warrior, ” a “Bawwangin” by the local tribes who “fought long and hard in keeping Davao Gulf free from foreign control.” 

The awardees not only imbue the courage of Datu Bago but have spent their lives serving the community with distinction in their field.

This year, the city bestows the 51st conferment of the award to Antonio Ajero (posthumous), Brenda S. Barba and Elenita C. Dumlao on March 8, 2023 at Royal Mandaya Hotel.

The 2020 Datu Bago Awardees will also be presented during the ceremony.


Antonio M. Ajero


Publisher, editor-in-chief, radio and television broadcaster, Antonio M Ajero, who goes by the moniker Daddy Cool, AMA, or Sir Tony to all, was considered the “Dean of Davao Media” who has built a long and impressive career that spanned six decades. He was the President of the Davao Press Club, Chairman of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Davao, and Trustee for Mindanao of the Philippine Press Institute. 

He is recognized as one of the influential editors and publishers in Mindanao who shaped public policy and public opinion. He holds the distinction of having served as the editor-in-chief of all of the major community newspapers in Davao City at various points in his illustrious career. He published the Annual Davao Yearbook, a publication that chronicled the history and culture of Davao City.

His leadership and contribution went beyond the media industry as he was also a respected socio-civic leader in the Rotary Club of East Davao, the Ambassador Club of Davao International, the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Young Men’s Christian Association, and the Davao Inventors Association.

Throughout his life, he had stood for integrity, truth, fairness, and freedom of the press and had dedicated his life to mentoring young journalists, who are continuing his legacy today. 

Brenda S. Barba

Considered one of the pioneering women visual artists in Davao, a progressive art educator, and a design mentor whose legacy helped produce multi-awarded artists and creators throughout her impressive career that spans five decades. 

She is best known for establishing the first progressive art education program in Davao and Mindanao at the Philippine Women’s College of Davao in the 1970s, which later evolved into the first baccalaureate program for Fine Arts in Mindanao recognized by the Commission on Higher Education. 

Her interdisciplinary approach to art gave birth to another pioneering program, the Bachelor of Science in Interior Design, another first and only in Mindanao. This led to the creation of the Davao Fashion and Design Council Foundation which professionalized the practice and ensured the sustainability of the design industry through a partnership with the academe. 

Her advocacy for creative research in the design process helped promote Davao’s traditional arts and cultural heritage. She championed and supported the Bagobo-Tagabawa Heritage Center, the Mindanao Folk Arts Museum, and the Artisanal Heritage Enterprise Center. 

Her immense contribution to the growth and development of Davao City’s creative industries has helped shape the Davaoeño spirit of diversity, community, entrepreneurship, and creativity. 

Elenita C. Dumlao

An outstanding Davaoeña artist and cultural development worker whose talents encompass visual arts, literary arts, theater arts, music, and dance is being recognized for her groundbreaking work in integrating art and advocacy. 

Founder and artistic director of the renowned Kathara Dance-Theater Collective, a recipient of the prestigious Gador Award in 2022,  she has brought honor to Davao City through her exceptional achievements not only in promoting and developing Mindanao culture and arts but Filipino culture and arts, to the rest of the world. 

Her dedication to conserving and promoting Mindanao indigenous folklore and traditions has resulted in the production of at least 25 original dance theater pieces that blazed new trails for dance and theater approaches in Davao and Mindanao. 

As founder and convener of the BaiHinang Women Artists’ Group, she has helped create a thriving ecosystem and support group for women artists in Davao City. She is known for promoting women’s issues through art, believing that art is a powerful tool for raising awareness as well as a meaningful catalyst for empowering women. 

A true creative soul, her life embodies artistic activism which is the dynamic practice of combining the creative power of the arts to mobilize for social change and help build a better Davao and Mindanao. 



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