Davao Intrepids: The Datu Bago Awardees 2018

It’s not just about fame that urges the story to embrace the status of infinity; it is about communicating a particular message that solicits and stirs a movement from within that elevates a story to a level beyond forgetting.

We admire the countless faceless men and women behind every stories. The anonymity of those who made (the story) even more than interesting echoes beyond the now. And it should. With today’s heightened consciousness in delivering a message beyond the grave, it is but necessary that we give them proper acknowledgment before it’s too late.

The Datu Bago Award is the highest honor the city of Davao confers upon its people. The award recognizes exemplary and selfless contributions of Dabawenyos who has contributed to the growth and development of the city. To put it in perspective, the award is given to individuals who has contributed in the preservation of the city’s culture and heritage.

The announcement for this year’s Datu Bago Awardees was made by City Councilor Pilar Braga last February 27 during a regular session of the City Council. Awards night took place last March 13 at the Royal Ballroom of The Royal Mandaya Hotel where City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, together with the members of the Datu Bago Awardees Organization, presented the Datu Bago Awards 2018 to the seven (7) beneficiaries.

Meet our heroes of today.


Missionary, Historian, Anthropologist, Writer

A champion on the preservation of the city’s indigenous peoples culture and heritage, Bro. Karl, to anyone he meets, is a true advocate of peace.

Engaging in peacebuilding through interfaith dialogues, he has greatly involved himself in promoting the rich lumad culture through intellectual and moral teachings. Bro. Karl’s dedication spans amongst the diverse and multi-ethnic populace in the hopes of imparting a deeper understanding of their culture. The appreciation and acknowledgement of such acts as a tool that encourages him to go further and reach out to a broader audience.

As an historian, he continuously engages himself in interpreting the fascinating facts of the city’s past. Further looking into the lives of the people and dissecting the tradition that helped Davao be the city that it is today. Including the Dabawenyos that contributed to its growth and development.

To date, Bro. Karl has authored over 20 books.



Advocate, Environmentalist

Compassionate and driven with the dedication to make a difference, Norma Javellana’s vision for the environment exemplified her empathy in establishing a beneficial community for the generations to come. Not to mention, her vigorous commitment for the protection of children’s rights allowed her to see beyond the perfection of imperfections.

As a Dabawenyo, Norma has shown concern for the advancement of green open spaces, development of green architecture, protection of watershed and of Davao’s very own, Shrine Hills.

Years back, Norma discovered her knack for helping during her early years as a teacher in Malalag. She was also a church worker in Davao del Norte and Oriental and also served as an NGO training coordinator. Add to that the cultural organization she founded in Antique — the Paranublin. Truly, she finds joy in serving others.

She also spent time in Netherlands where she co-founded an organization for the numerous Overseas Filipino Workers abroad, the Stitching Bayanihan.






Leader, Mediator, Lecturer

Applauded for her various cooperative related work for numerous organizations, Belen Laud exudes exemplary service and leadership in everything that she does.

With years of experience under her name, Belen has been instrumental in giving consultation services as an accredited cooperative auditor and lecturer and has served as board of nine (9) different cooperatives for different terms. All the while extending a helping hand to those around her. The diversity is what made it even more challenging for her.

Aside from her time helping various cooperatives and organizations, she was also active in PICPA where she received numerous national citations and awards for her community services.

Belen Laud is selfless — having spent time with others helping them, she never failed to make others comfortable. Being a cancer survivor herself, she never showed any signs of stopping. Nor was it even an option for her.


American Social Scientist

An American social scientist, Dr. Aland David Mizell has called Davao home for more than a decade.

His passion to help the disadvantaged and marginalized urged him to create various programs that cores upon the growth and development of children who cannot afford to go to school. Of which, he gave scholarships to underprivileged students, introduced alternative schooling to the Ma-a jail inmates and even organized foreign exchange programs which he made available to faculty and students for free.

One of his notable program is the College Behind Bars, a mentoring program that allows prisoners to enhance their skills and teach them how to establish trusting personal relationships — a most needed in all aspects of life.

Dr. Aland Mizell is a columnist of Mindanao Times and is active in the Kairos Housing Project.


Environmentalist, Mentor, Artist

Described by Prabda Yoon on his feature in the Wochi Kochi Magazine of the Japan Foundation as “a modest, local activist”, Ricardo Obenza Jr. uses art as his medium in delivering his message about the environment and nature.

Cored upon his advocacy, he has collaborated with the likes of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Kinaiyahan Foundation, numerous government agencies, academe and even the Philippine National Police.

For him, to be able to live a fulfilled life, a better environment need to be in place. As such, he has had countless programs that encouraged students to join in a tree-planting activity that included planting of native trees and various plants at the Malagos Watershed and Barangay’s Lacson and Marahan.

True enough, his love and passion for the arts enabled him to mentor and reach out to a broader audience. Imparting to them his advocacy, he went beyond just teaching and organized the Kalapati or Kalinan Landscape Painter Training Initiators Art Group.


Sportsman, Environmental Advocate, Humanitarian

Commodore Beethoven N. Sur was the District Director for the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) Southern Command. PCGA is a service oriented and uniformed organization of volunteers that assists the Philippine Coast Guard in making sure of the safety of life and property. He is also a trailblazer in the protection and preservation of the environment.

Under his name are various humanitarian and outreach programs that included an annual coastal cleanup, distribution of relief goods to victims of calamities and the replanting of mangroves and reef growing to name a few. PCGA is the city’s partner during disasters and calamities.

To date, he has received three major awards during the 33rd PCGA Annual Convention last May 2017.

Oplan Ligtas Byahe is one of Dr. Beethoven’s advocacy on environmental protection.


Champion of Special and Differently-abled Children

Through his Special Education Program for the Graduate School of the University of Southern Philippines (USEP), Nieto Vitto has received a number of citations and awards both on a local and global scale.

Today, Dr. Vitto is known as the Father of Special Education in USEP. His extensive knowledge and want to serve paved the way for him to shift his focus on the unprivileged special children (disabled) to embrace sports, not only as a means to perspire and be active, but more so, promote innate healing and holistic development of the well-being.

As a sports leader, he has had the opportunity to reach out to coaches and athletes with disabilities and imparted to them the importance of living life to the fullest. That is not hindering and limiting the self despite one’s disability.

During the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku in 2001, Dr. Vitto organized the Bachelor of Science in Social Services with major concentration in Care of Older Persons and the Bachelor of Science in International Studies with major concentration in Japanese Language and Studies.

Truly, Davao City is one of the world’s most liveable places. Not just of its vast land area but because of the diverse and multi-ethnic group of individuals that calls it home. Adding to that the numerous local and foreign visitors that has since elevated the city’s status to more than just a holiday escapade.

The creation of the Datu Bago Awards was in honor of the hero’s courage and bravery against conquistadors. Established in 1969, then City Mayor Elias Lopez, a Bagobo, was inspired by Datu Bago’s heroism.

The Davao City Council, through an ordinance, has declared Datu Bago as a hero of the city of Davao. At present, a monument in his honor is constructed as a tribute to his intrepidness.