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Retelling history: Davao heritage walk

Businesswoman Charisse Noseñas made her way from the afternoon bustle of San Pedro Street towards the fenced premises of Osmeña Park, a leafy spot of greenery located beside Davao City’s Sangguniang Panlungsod Building. Inside the small park, she spots a group of people gathered at a bench in a rotunda, which contains a marker flanked by antique Spanish cannons.

“Curious ako sa history ng Dabaw kasi hindi siya naituturo sa eskwelahan. Nung nalaman ko may schedule ng heritage walk and nag fit sa schedule ko, kaya ako pumunta dito,” says Noseñas, who hails from Tagum City but relocated to Davao City to attend to her business.

(I am curious about Davao’s history because it is not taught in schools. When I learned there is a schedule for the walk and it fits my schedule, I decided to come here.)

She joined a small group of around 10 participants, eagerly listening to local historical trivia shared by a lively tour guide. Several minutes later, the group would stroll across adjacent locations, which are situated in the oldest area of the Davao población, founded by settlers led by Don Jose Cruz Oyanguren in the mid-1800s.

Guide Davao president Milber Cantiveros beside an old Spanish cannon inside Osmena Park, which used to be the site of a Spanish settlement in Davao.

“The Davao Heritage Walk is intended for visitors and also Dabawenyos so that they will know what Davao City is. Because many of them, if you ask them ano ba ang Davao City (what is Davao City), they do not have any idea,” said Guide Davao president Milber Cantiberos.

Guide Davao, a group of Department of Tourism (DOT)--accredited, City Government-licensed tour guides, is spearheading the heritage walk tour. It aims to create awareness about Davao City’s history, particularly among the younger generation.

The Heritage Walk is done according to schedule and takes around two to three hours. The participants are taken to 

Osmeña Park, the site of the earliest Davao Christian settlement, then to the nearby San Pedro Cathedral, which was established in 1848.

Other destinations of the tour are the Sangguniang Panglungsod (City Council), the site of the old capitol of the undivided Davao Province; Rizal Park, which serves as the city’s oldest plaza; the Davao City Hall, built in 1926; and San Pedro Street, one of the city’s oldest streets.

The free walking tours are usually conducted during major Davao festivities such as the Kadayawan Festival and Araw ng Dabaw.

Cantiberos said they are developing and improving the tour by adding more destinations.

“Marami pa pala pwede puntahan dito sa San Pedro and sa Rizal Street,” Cantiberos said.

Rizal Street, a block away from City Hall, is home to several pre-World War II era houses that have been preserved and repurposed to serve as restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and offices.

Former local journalist and current tour guide Grace Plata said the Davao Heritage Walk lets the participants discover the Dabawenyo identity.

“History is very important in knowing who you are and what you represent. As a Dabawenyo, you can never fully own your identity if you do not know your history,” she said.

Part of their one-month training as accredited tour guides includes history classes with Dabawenyo historians. The walk is assisted by the city government’s Museo Dabawenyo, which provides verified historical facts and trivia that are shared by the guides.

Plata said many local schools have shown interest in the walk, adding that “usually, the walk is done during major events in the city, but we also cater to requests from schools that would like to have a heritage walk with their students.”

Tour Guide Jonathan Engbino with some of the participants during Heritage Walk tour

Dabawenyo Ako

Guide Davao is taking these historical lessons to different schools across Davao City with #DabawenyoAko school tours. The campaign, which began in 2019 but was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be relaunched in time for the 87th Araw ng Dabaw on March 1.

“DepEd (Department of Education) has already  one school for 11 administrative districts and is scheduled for 10 days,” Cantiberos said.

The campaign involves bringing in tour guides alongside visual materials to help share Davao City’s history with a younger audience. The project will be held in partnership with the City Tourism Operations Office.

Cantiberos said they can develop Dabawenyo Ako tours similar to Davao Heritage Walk, catering to a younger crowd.

With the Heritage Walk and Dabawenyo Ako, Cantiberos hopes to inculcate an awareness of Davao’s history among the public. (RGA/PIA Davao)

About the Author

Rudolph Ian Alama

Regional Editor

Region 11

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