MANY seem to be confused about the change of the Araw ng Dabaw celebration from March 16 to March 1. Given there is still a pandemic, and there’s no more local ABS-CBN station to announce the changes, the events held online had a limited reach.

But the city government can be credited for course correcting the Araw ng Dabaw to the original date of Davao’s cityhood. But it could not be said of the Davao City history they presented through the video that needs more corrections.

I may be fussing over details, but history is important. It’s not just important about knowing names and dates, but also equally important is the narrative, who we are, and how we move along the struggles and tides of the times.

The video had a sweeping narrative of Davao’s past, starting with recognizing the old Davao was inhabited by Lumad and Moro tribes. Then came the Spanish commander Jose Oyanguren who “defeated” the local chieftain Datu Bago. Then along came plantations and migrants from Luzon and Visayas.

I recalled how my Professor and Davao historian Macario Tiu pointed out in his book Davao: Reconstructing History from Text and Memory, the question of narrative. Whose viewpoint of history is it that showed Datu Bago was defeated? His book uncovered from the narratives of the elderly Lumads how strong Bago’s resistance was that it spread all over Davao and other regions. It was said that Bago escaped with his tribe to settle in Mount Apo, while Tiu’s account said he settled in Tagum.

Also absent from this video is what happened to the tribes in this period? The tribes resisted the plantation economy and went to the uplands. This forced the American colonizers later to bring migrants and even prostitutes from Luzon and Visayas to do the plantation work.

Another interesting aspect was the absence of mentioning the words Martial Law, as the video mentioned “political upheavals”. More puzzling is how the video highlighted instead the “Nicaragdao” experience of New Peoples Army coming down the city in the mid-1980s.

Although that period may be accurate, it doesn’t present the whole narrative of the Martial Law experience in Davao City. We have newspaper archives and books written by historians and Martial Law survivors that recounted more painful accounts of human rights abuses, not by the NPAs, but by state forces. There were of course heroes that stood out, including the late Nanay Soling Soledad Duterte, the late Attorney Larry Ilagan, and the martyred labor leader Alex Orcullo.

The last part of the video jumps into the current situation, where Rodrigo Duterte is presented as a leader that made Davao City prospered, peaceful and modern.

There’s a problem about such narratives that seem to place progress in that framework of infrastructure, investments and innovations. If we go back to the city’s beginnings, where have the Lumad and Moro gone? What is our identity? And how do we connect such a narrative to our current state of crises and pandemic?

Tiu also raised a question in the narration of history: who are our heroes? Is it Uyanguren, MacArthur or Duterte? Or is it the likes of Datu Bago, the Lumad who fought for the tribes or the Martial Law martyrs?

There’s still more to course-correct, but considering that history seem to be scrapped away in schools, the thought that history can be reduced to videos with little research is worrisome. Are we going to build a new tribe of erased and digitized memories?

(tyvelez@gmail.com)