DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Datu Bago Awards, considered one of the most prestigious awards in Davao City, honored three distinguished Dabawenyos for their significant contributions to their respective fields on Wednesday, March 8.
The three who were honored are the late journalist Antonio Ajero, Davao visual arts training pioneer Brenda Sofronia Barba, and Kathara Dance-Theater Collective founder and artistic director Elenita Dumlao.
The annual search has been named in honor of 19th century local hero Datu Bago who defended the present-day Davao against the Spanish colonizers.
The Datu Bago Awards honor individuals who have demonstrated exceptional competence and dedication and serve as models of excellence and inspiration to the residents of Davao City. The awarding ceremony at the Royal Mandaya Hotel coincided with this year’s Araw ng Davao celebration.
Davao Councilor Pilar Braga, the chairperson of the Datu Bago Awards, said the three awardees were recognized for their outstanding contributions to their respective fields and their significant impact on the cultural landscape of Davao City.
Ajero, the only posthumous awardee this year, was a well-known journalist and broadcaster in Davao City. He worked as the publisher, editor-in-chief, and radio and television broadcaster for various media outlets throughout his career.
Ajero’s career started in radio at the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network (UMBN) where he hosted a radio program and later managed two of its stations.
He shifted to print where he served as editor-in-chief of Ang Periodiko Dabaw from 1988 to 1995. The paper was bought by Sunstar (with the paper renamed Sunstar Davao) where he continued serving as editor-in-chief and publisher until 2006.
He established the award-winning newspaper Edge Davao in 2006 and served as its president, publisher, and editor until his death on July 17, 2018.
Fellow journalists and media practitioners remembered Ajero for his dedication to the craft of reportage.
Barba established the first arts education program in Davao and Mindanao at the Philippine Women’s College of Davao in the 1970s, which later developed into the only college program for Fine Arts in Mindanao recognized by the Commission on Higher Education.
Her interdisciplinary approach to arts gave birth to the Bachelor of Science in Interior Design which was the first in Mindanao.
She promoted Davao’s traditional arts and cultural heritage of which she supported the Bagobo-Tagabawa Heritage Center, Mindanao Folk Arts Museum, and the Artisanal Heritage Enterprise Center.
Dumlao, one of the awardees this year, expressed surprise at being honored with a Datu Bago award.
“It’s a big wow. I never had in mind that I would receive the most grandiose award in Davao City. I am a silent worker, not loud about my achievements. My mentors are awardees, too, and it makes me so proud of my heroes. The award humbles me knowing that I need to do more and continue to do my best even in incognito,” she said.
Dumlao is the founder and artistic director of the Kathara Dance-Theater Collective, which received the Gador Award in 2022 from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Kaisa sa Sining Mindanao Network.
She earned the tribal title, “Bia Itulah” in 2005 for her production of at least 25 original dance theater pieces that highlighted the local history and indigenous folktales.
Dumlao is the founder and convenor of the support group for Davao women artists, Bahinang Women Artists Group. (originally posted on rappler.com)
Lucelle Bonzo is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.