When it was announced that Atty. Antonio B. Partoza, Jr. – Ony to his friends and peers – was one of the “Datu Bago” awardees this year, no one howl a protest.  In fact, most people agree that he was a good choice.  “Very deserving,” someone commented.

Currently a trustee of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Atty. Partoza “is a well-rounded leader who have exemplified the Davaoeño values through his various successful engagements as a successful entrepreneur, pioneer agriculturist, civic and religious advocate,” said information form, which the Davao Jaycee Senate submitted to the awards committee.

“He has dedicated his life and times to the propagation and development of Davao City, primarily through his involvement in various levels and sectors of the Davao community,” added the form, which this author obtained.

But that’s going ahead of the story.  Perhaps one of the reasons why people approved of his being a Datu Bago awardee is because of his involvement – for 30 years! – in Balay Pasilungan, a private-funded homeless shelter for street children of Davao City.

“These (street children) boys are housed, fed, clothed, sent to school and mentored until they reach a certain age,” the form stated.  “After a thorough evaluation and having undergone the value formation program, they are released back to society with minimum to no supervision depending on the result of the post release report.” 

This coming May 4, the shelter will celebrate its 30th year, despite all the challenges it has encountered including regular funding.  Thanks to the initiatives of Atty. Partoza as its foundation chairman, it is able to secure the much-needed financial support from like-minded private individuals, local benefactors, donors and friends. 

Thanks to Balay Pasilungan, some of the former “housemates” have become successful individuals.  Several of them have graduated from college, others have taken vocational courses.  One is now an engineer and another one is a Master Baker who is currently working at Annipie,

“These countless success stories have inspired Ony to remain an active citizen of the community and do more in creating genuine positive changes to make Davao City a much better place to live in,” the form said.

Aside from Balay Pasilungan, Atty. Partoza is also associated with durian, the king of tropical fruits.  In fact, he appeared in the cover of the prestigious Agriculture Magazine, which is edited by no less than Zac Sarian, a recipient of Ramon Magsaysay Award (touted to be the Nobel Prize of Asia).

He never thought the fruit that smells like hell but tastes like heaven will bring him some clout and prestige when he ventured into durian farming in 1987.  Being the fruit basket of the Philippines, he thought of durian – particularly the “arancillo” variety – as a way of promoting Davao into the world.

“His perseverance to showcase Davao’s pride through the continued production of homegrown Durian has gained the recognition of the agricultural industry,” the form stated.  Aside from Agriculture magazine, he was featured in various local and national papers and even the in-flight magazine of SilkAir.  

As the Partoza Durian Farm became a byword among durian connoisseurs of Davao City, he also became the toast of television.  He was featured in TV programs such as Living Asia and Balitang Europe.

What makes his durian fruits unique is that they are taken from trees that are grown organically.  As one of the pioneering advocates of natural farming, he uses indigenous materials from the farm as fertilizer instead of relying on expensive commercial chemical fertilizer.  The success of his venture made him to earn the sobriquet, Durian King of Davao.

Being a farmer and entrepreneur, he gets involved in some organizations.  He was elected as president of Mindanao Fruit Industry Development Council, which he served for 12 years.  During his leadership, several conferences on transferring technologies to farmers and market-matching activities for farmers in different provinces in Mindanao were conducted. 

The fruit council has a membership of 35 farmers associations and cooperatives all over Mindanao.  “Ony’s unwavering commitment to promote Davao City thru the continued propagation of Durian and establishment of his other homegrown businesses are prime exemplifications of the value he shares as a true Davaoeño by heart and by deed,” the form said.

As the durian farm zoomed, he and his equally hardworking wife Nelia established Annipie Bakery Café at the entrance of Nova Tierra Subdivision in Lanang.  (Later on, they establish another branch in Tagum City.)  Today, Annipie – with the “Cinnamon Destination Tagline” – has become one of the more frequented coffee shops in Davao City with several branches located in Quimpo Boulevard, Malvar Extension and selected malls. 

Atty. Partoza’s civic mindedness has driven him to become an established leader of the various organizations that he joined in.  He was involved in Davao Jaycees (President, 1982), Davao Jaycee Senate (President, 1997), Philippine Jaycee Senate Foundation (President, 2002), Rotary Club of South Davao (President, 1993), Davao YMCA (President, 2011-2013), Ambassadors Club Davao (President, 2017) and Ambassadors Club Philippines (President, 2018).  He was also a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 5831 and District Deputy of Knights of Columbus District XI.

Atty. Partoza was not born in Davao; he is originally from Pagadian City.  He came to Davao in 1973 as a young bachelor and neophyte licensed attorney-at-law.  It wasn’t until he met and tied the nuptial knot with the former Nelia Domingo that he decided to settle in Davao City.  (The union is blessed with four children, who are all based in Davao and currently handling their own businesses.)

He started his law career as assistant city legal officer in 1976.  After 4 years of service, he decided to venture in newspaper distribution in 1983.  Later on, he widened its network that stretched through 8 provinces in Mindanao, amidst the uncertainties caused by Martial Law.  Through his business, the Davao Print Distributors, he was able to keep a well-informed Davao public attuned to the changing times in the last 35 years.  

Born an optimist, Atty. Partoza believes “the print media industry will continue to play a huge role in developing a more informed public where people of all classes are provided.”  Currently, he serves as chairman of Mindanao Print Media Dealers Association.

He has gone a long, long way since he first arrived in Davao City; he has seen the good times and bad times of the city, which he calls now his home.

“(He) has considered the beautiful City of Davao his home for the last 45 years and counting” the form said.  “His unceasing thirst for active citizenship in the community has produced multiple positive effects that have greatly contributed to the advancement of Davao City.” – ###

Photo courtesy of Atty. Antonio B. Partoza, Jr.