LIKE many of those who were in Davao in the 1980s, I first came to know him as one of those disc jockeys that dominated the airwaves. Later he parlayed his track record as a member of the local media into a political career that spanned nearly a quarter of a century as part of the Davao City Government.
In the process, his radio handle morphed from being the abbreviation of his name to being an advocacy, from being Happy LA to a Happy Life for All. And all throughout, his public persona radiated amiability and well, happiness.
Councilor Leonardo R. Avila III AKA Happy LA served seven terms as a member of the Davao Sangguniang Panlungsod. He also had a stint as the officer-in-charge of the City Agricultural Office. In addition he had many involvements in civil society groups and endeavors such as the Liwanag Festivals of the Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking (MISSION), and the Flight of the Eagles, an annual biking event focused on environmental themes.
Councilor Avila was credited for championing green issues including the promotion of ecological solid waste management, the management of the city's fisheries and coastal resources, the ban on the use of aerial chemical sprays in banana plantations, the institutionalization of organic agriculture in Davao, and the protection of its watersheds.
All of these diverse concerns he integrated under the banner of sustainability, for indeed, how can a happy life for all be guaranteed when the environment, and consequently the people, are under threat? I came to know him better when, as part of a team tasked to undertake a study on sustainable urban transport reforms for Davao City, we worked with him in 2013. As then head of the SP Committee on Transport, Energy and Communications, Councilor Avila espoused that the study take a participatory approach that entailed orienting and consulting a diverse range of public transport stakeholders. It was not easy engaging both transport providers and users and encouraging discussion to recognize issues and options but his skills as politician and communicator came in handy. He found ways of communicating the study, its findings and recommendations to the other politicians. He also supported efforts to identify amendments to enhance the Comprehensive Transport and Traffic Code of Davao City.
We approached him again for help in the follow-up study but by then the vagaries of local politics had eased him out of the leadership of the SP committee that was concerned with public transport.
He would have run for another term in 2016 had he not succumbed to illness in December 2015.
His leadership and vision will be missed as Dabawenyos continue to deal with the challenges that come with increasing populations, rapid urbanization, and private sector-led development while attempting to create, recreate and sustain the physical, economic, political, social and cultural conditions and interactions that underpin Davao City's claim that "life is here".
Daghang salamat Councilor Avila. Your advocacy for a Happy Life for All will still be continued even though Happy LA has signed off.
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