Knowing Davao-A A +A
Saturday, July 14, 2012
THE past weeks were a series of discoveries as I knocked on the doors of people who have seen how Davao was way before many of us even bothered to know about.
It takes time, and a lot of patience. That’s because those who have personal knowledge of these are people who have lived in our city way before we learned out ABCs (some even before our parents met). Long, yes, time-consuming too. But the stories that are slowly unwrapped give color and personality to stories that are only available in books written in a scholarly manner.
In their stories, history that has not yet been written comes to life.
There was national artist Victorio Edades as an avid tennis player even in his retirement years and national artist Ang Kiu Kok as a young basketball player. Men whom you only knew through their works come out as real people who have other existence than their paintings.
Friday night was spent trying to get some sleep. Excitement can hardly been contained as I have set an appointment with yet another person, who has known Davao even before the war, Hiroyuki Mizuguchi.
It was well worth the lack of sleep, he had stories to tell. His English is good, too, and that helped a lot.
I can just grin at my buddy, who so graciously accompanied me to Mr. Hiro-san’s house in Catalunan Grande as the former City High working student turned soldier turned logger turned bar owner regaled us with his stories of the war and beyond.
It takes a lot of patience, yes, we returned to Clark three times before we could return to Davao, and that was a very brief return. In case you’re wondering, Clark was where they were brought to when the war broke out, after being kept at a concentration camp at the Davao Central Elementary School, now the Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Central Elementary School.
He was a man who remains to be a Japanese but has picked up the best of the Filipino, how to “bola-bola”, or win his way into the hearts of everyone, Japanese, Filipinos, and Americans included.
When they were expatriated to Japan after the war, he said, there was nothing left there. It was all flat, and they had to do everything to be able to feed themselves and build their homes. With a little of that “bola-bola” in the form of lipsticks and powder that he gave as gifts to the women who worked the kitchens, he got a lot more food than the others.
“Everyone responds that way, it’s just that in Japan, it’s not done in the open,” he said.
It was also through offering these little things in exchange for something that he helped the Japanese in the concentration camp eat more than the Philippine government could afford to give them. They called in Operation Pan de Sal and they were buying them by the sack, and later a whole truckload, to feed their starving fellowmen.
“You can’t be just Japanese forever, you have to learn some things,” he said.
Leanred he did, as he remains feisty despite his old age, and lucid too, as he carries the claim of the only remaining pre-war Japanese resident from the over 20,000 Japanese who lives in Davao City.
There’s a lot more stories to tell, but that’s all I can spare today. Why not go search your own grandparents and great grandparents to listen to them as well? Promise, with a little patience, you will find a whole new world, the world well lived in the past.
And no, you cannot sit down and listen if you can’t detach yourself from that computer and that tablet and that cellphone. Go unplugged, seek them out, sit down, and listen.
I have an autographed copy of his book as souvenir for that three-hour talk. I bought it, and didn’t snitch it, just in case you’re wondering. Oh, let me re-state that, I bought it with my buddy’s money, because I realized the moment I asked if he still had a copy of his books and that I’d want to buy one, that I came straight from home with just P200 more after the taxi fare in my wallet. Thanks, Carlos! You did get your copy, too, didn’t you? You wouldn’t have had without me. Hoho!
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 15, 2012.