FAST BACKWARD: Markers as historical reminders

According to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), it only has six historical markers in Davao region. Putting up markers, though, is not the exclusive domain of the agency. Local government units and societies also produce signs as tribute to historical individuals, institutions, and events.

In southern Mindanao, the most notable NHCP landmarks include those at Davao City hall, Santa Ana port, the Bonifacio Monument, the Japanese memorial at Mintal, Davao Penal Colony, and the iconic San Salvador del Mundo Church at Caraga, Davao Oriental.

The city hall marker, written in Pilipino, reminds any visitor that the seat of government was built in 1926, adding that President Manuel L. Quezon signed under Commonwealth Act No. 51, which created the charter of the city, on 16 October 1936. It was Secretary Elpidio Quirino who led the inauguration held in front of the edifice on 1 March 1937.

The sign also states that the city hall, the administrative center of Davao in southern Mindanao during the American rule, was destroyed in 1945 during the war but was rebuilt two years later following the original design and plan.

The Santa Ana port marker simply states the pier was the landing site of the first Japanese farm workers, who arrived in My 1903 and helped developed the region’s abaca industry.

Another marker that cites Japanese historical involvement is the Ohta Kyozaburo indicator at Mintal. It states that Ohta was born in February 1876 at Hyogo, Japan, established the Ohta Development Co., the first Japanese abaca plantation, on 3 May 1907; founded Mintal Plantation Co., Riverside Plantation Co., Talomo River Plantation Co. and Guianga Plantation Co., helped cultivate Japanese business in Davao, and died in Kyoto, Japan on 31 Octuber 1917.

Among the national heroes honored with stone busts in Davao, only Andres Bonifacio has a historical marker. The sign says the hero and revolutionary was born in Tondo, Manila on 30 November 1863, joined Masonry and La Liga Filipina in  1892, and founded on 7 July 1892 the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng Mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK), a secret society with a chief aim to unite the Filipinos under a free country through a revolution.

Moreover, the inscription says, Bonifacio led the start of a widespread uprising against the Spaniards in August 1896, and invaded the powder magazine at San Juan del Monte on 30 August 1896. He was killed at Maragondon, Cavite, on 10 May 1897, and is known as the supremo of the Ktipunan and the father of the Revolution.

The marker at the Caraga church, meanwhile, simply states that the old structure was built in 1877 by Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J., with the help of Fr. Juan Terricabras, S.J. using wood, corals, and stone. After its completion, it became the parish of San Salvador del Mundo in 1884.

The church became the mission center of the Jesuits in founding towns and spreading the Gospel in eastern Mindanao during the Spanish times. The house of worship was later turned over to the Foreign Mission of Quebec in 1939; to the Maryknoll Missionaries in 1961; to the Diocese of Tagum in 1978; and to the Dioccese of Mati in 1984.

The wordings of the Davao Penal Colony marker are easier to read. It states that the colony was founded on 21 January 1932 under Act 3732 of the Philippine Legislature on a site reserved by Proclamation No. 414 issued by Governor General Dwight F. Davis on 7 October 1931.

Dapecol, as it is commonly known, is first penal colony founded under the administration of a Director of Prisons, Lt. Col. Paulino Santos, the first Filipino Director of Prisons, and Pablo J. Noroña, the first superintendent and later Assistant Director of Prisons.

The marker also states the officials and inmates of the colony were transferred by Japanese forces to Iwahig Penal Colony 8 November 1942; it served as evacuation center for Davao City residents during the early part of Word War II; used as concentration camp for American prisoners of war; and was reopened only on 2 August 1946.

Two of the non-NHCP markers are The Fort of Davao and The Battle of Ising.

The Davao fort pointer is found inside a children’s playground at Mabini-Quezon junction. Its inscription says the site is where the fortification of Datu Bago, which prevented the advance of the forces of Spanish invader Jose Oyanguren from moving upstream, was built.

Accordingly, the Spanish authorities torn down the fort and replaced it with a stronger structure that housed an armory and power magazine. Later, the building was converted into a tribunal (town hall) and prison before it was demolished to give way to the rise of a Casa de Gobierno in an area where Camp Domingo Leonor now stands.

The Battle of Ising, in contrast, can be seen along the national highway of Carmen, Davao del Norte. The marker states that in November 1944, the Filipino guerrillas beloging to the 10th Infantry regiment of the 107th Division 10th Military District, Mindanao, drove the Japanese under the 100th Infantry Division from Hijo, Liboganon, Bincungan and Tuganay Rivers.

By May 1945, the three battalions of over 1,500 men under the 130th Infantry took over an enemy defense perimeter by seizing a network of pillboxes, trenches, land mines, mortars, machine guns, sniper watchtower and an airfield. Over 2,000 enemy soldiers were entrenched over a 35-km stretch that reached as far south of the national highway towards Davao, southeast of the Davao Gulf in Maco and Kingking,  and southwest along Tibal-og road.

From May 3-10, 1945, the sign reads, the 130th Infantry under Maj. Saturnino R. Silva Sr., attacked the Japanese garrison, stopped the enemy from occupying northern Davao and Agusan and prevented them from escaping via the Davao-Agusan road, which forced the Imperial Army to retreat to the hills. The engagement cost hundreds of lives from both sides.