FAST BACKWARD: Historicity of Magallanes area

Despite being renamed, prewar Magallanes Street’s past as a thriving district is slowly crawling back. Amid this reassuring change, Davao’s cosmopolitan populace, now chiefly composed of migrants, has principally forgotten the place’s true historical value. Day in and day out, people traverse the area in transport and only see very few surviving structures.

In the Spanish period, Magallanes, as part of a colonial town, was one of three roads origi-nally opened in the municipality’s administrative, ecclesial, and commercial hub. It was initial-ly set aside for homestead farming but repurposed when the Americans arrived.

Under American rule, the area, an adjunct to the town’s administrative center situated at the end of the street (where the Washington area is found), hosted some of the most significant landmarks, let alone the fact that it was principally titled by discharged US military personnel who transformed it into a mixed-use community.

During its halcyon heydays, it was home to numerous ‘firsts,’ among them the Davao Mis-sion Hospital (now Brokenshire), the first private hospital in Mindanao; the first nurses’ dorm (owned by David Jacobson, an American Jew philanthropist); the first American kindergarten Sunday school; the first ice and electric plant (owned by Capt. James L. Burchfield, the first American hemp planter); the first Rizal monument (where the Bonifacio statue stands); the first post office; the first family residence of Rev. Robert Franklin Black, the first Protestant pastor of Davao; and the City Garden (now Osmeña Park), the first town plaza.

Then and now, Magallanes Street still hosts the legislative building, an area that was initial-ly part of the San Pedro Church estate until it was donated to the city at the prodding of Gov. Eulalio E. Causing (1915-17), Davao’s first Filipino administrator; it also hosted the town hall. At the eastern end, the street used to house lodges for transients, and there were socio-civic clubs frequented by expatriates, in the area once occupied by the burnt Colasa’s BBQ chicken house.

Following the nationwide effort to rehabilitate areas destroyed by the war in the postwar retro, the street was revived from the ruins. Residences owned by prosperous families started to sprout, among them the Villa-Abrille (still extant), Sexton, Carriedo, Palamos, Porras, and Arkoncel houses. Regrettably, the conflagration of February 1964, which gutted down three huge blocks of the city’s central business district, also devoured many of the domiciles.

Later, outfits like Dux Nightclub, Rendezvous Beerhouse, Rizal Memorial Colleges (owned by the Abellera clan), Peter Lou Inn (owned by the family of ex-Davao second district city councilor Pedrito Salvador), Gillamac’s Marketing (an appliance center), the Palamos and Car-riedo buildings, El Gusto Lodge (downsized to ELG Traveler’s Inn), Diamond Lodge, Davao City Tennis Club, and DXRA (a radio station), became conversant fixtures.
Through the decades, more structures altered the street’s landscape. Among the more fa-miliar names are Grand Men Seng Hotel, Jaltan’s, Kuya Ed’s, People’s Daily Forum, GV Hotel, JLF Plaza, Metrobank, Bernardo Clinic, Community Health & Development Cooperative Hospital, Sunny Point Bakery, Wesson, and government entities like the Court of First Instance (later Museo Dabawenyo), Sangguniang Kabataan, City Agriculturist’s Office, Magallanes Elementary School, and Land Registration Authority.

What used to be a two-way street, Magallanes (now Antonio Pichon Sr., in honor of a Phil-ippine Constabulary captain and Davao board member), is now bustling with one-way traffic. So much has changed in the way the area looks today. Though new facades have surfaced to highlight its newfound vitality, it is still far removed from the days when it was a teeming commercial hub.

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