I'M SHARING this space for excerpts of the speech of Bro. Karl Gaspar, recipient of this year’s Datu Bago Award:
“We are taking time to celebrate. This time, it is the celebration of Araw ng Dabaw, now usually taking place on March 16. However, historical time tells us it was on March 1, 1937 – or 81 years ago – that the Charter of the city was approved. But we also know that the settlement that would rise to become this city goes back to 1848, or 170 years ago.
Year 1848 is of course the time when Datu Bago would enter the pages of history books. Unfortunately, current mainstream Philippine textbooks would rather mention the colonizer Oyanguren rather than this city’s equivalent of Lapu-lapu and other indigenous warriors who - even if they had not yet imbibed an anti-colonial consciousness - already foresaw the evils that would come with colonization, the impact of which continues to unfold in our midst creating all kinds of social and ecological tragedies.
If I were to speak on behalf of my esteemed co-awardees -- confreres, friends and associates and everyone who have contributed to helping us forge our identities making us worthy of this award, believing that perhaps our lives have been lived in the spirit of Datu Bago.
I am truly proud to be part of this list with six other distinguished Dabawenyos who are being honored today…. As I have not personally known most of those in this esteemed company, it was to my delight that upon reading Carol Arguillas’ MindaNews article on who we are, that there are threads that bind us together through the years. And I guess it is for this reason that the members of the Board made their choices this year.
What are these threads? One seems to be their desire to reach out to the wounded in this city. I use the word – wounds – metaphorically of course.
Wounds can mean what is happening to the disadvantaged children and youth in our midst. Norma Javellana’s work with Tambayan, Aland David Mizeli’s Minority Care International and Nieto Vitto’s commitment to set up special education for the youth are engagements to make sure the children and youth who are victims of our society’s apathy and inequality, will also have a chance at a bright future. Like the eagle, these children can aim to soar high!
Wounds can also refer to being marginalized on account of impoverishment owing to various reasons. Belen Laud’s long engagement in cooperatives is a testament to a movement that helps us see the value of savings, allowing the poor in our midst to rise above their human degradation.
Aland David’s efforts to set up a college course for those in prison is laudable because it debunks the myth that sentenced criminals no longer have a second chance at rebuilding their lives. Like Mt. Apo, they can eventually stand proud to claim their place in the world.
And lastly there are also wounds that are suffered by our Mother Earth now reeling from the impact of humanity’s disregard for the sacredness and integrity of creation.
Ricardo Obenza’s engagement as environmentalist and artist, Beethoven Sur’s work with the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary - the lead organization of volunteers assisting the Philippine Coast Guard - in safeguarding the perilous coast of Southeastern Mindanao, Norma’s and my connection with the Interfacing Development Initiatives, Inc. fuel our passion for ecological advocacy. Norma also advocates for many green open public spaces so that children will be able to enjoy their right to play in a safe and healthy environment.
If there are wounds around us, the call is for healing. We are all called to take part in this great challenge to heal our families, our neighborhoods, our city, our nation and our planet from the wounds that pester in all layers of our body politic – as manifested in corruption and mediocrity, cynicism and populism, fragmentation and a continuing insurgency.
We are all invited to be peacebuilders that will continue to give birth to a city by the bay where we can have a little bit of a glimpse of the promise of justice, equality, solidarity and harmony among peoples.
I leave you with this thought going back to the element of time. In my youth – which by the way was spent in this very spot where we are because our house was located there at the corner of this street - we seemed to have had the luxury of time. There was no urgency to do something really drastic and radical. But today, we are running out of time. Indeed it seems to be so true that “time slips through our hands like grains of sand, never to return again!”
So now is the moment. Carpe diem! Let’s get on with the work of making sure that in this city there is truly the abundance of life, so that we deserve the city’s mantra that LIFE IS HERE! For as Mother Teresa said: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”