The Kidapawan Pine Trees

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The row of Kidapawan Pine Trees is my hometown’s most iconic feature. Its distinct soft and round canopies are what come to mind to anyone who has been to Kidapawan.

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Extending from Pilot Elementary School to the Lady Mediatrix of All Grace Church, the row spans much of downtown Kidapawan.

What few people realize is that the trees are intimately tied up with Kidapawan history. They are the most visible and most lasting legacy of Alfonso Angeles Sr, Kidapawan’s first elected Mayor and one of its founding figures.

 

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Picture of Angeles, from Bergonia’s book on Kidapawan. I will try to upload a better picture in the future.

A school teacher by profession, Angeles, an Ilonggo, was first appointed Mayor of the post war commonwealth government of the then municipality of Kidapawan, the last to be appointed so, before succeeding in remaining in office after being elected in 1948. After stepping down in 1955 He would also go on to win again as mayor in 1964, last serving in 1967. He would also be elected board member, then vice governor of North Cotabato in the 1970s.

It was at some point in his long and intermittent time at the helm of Kidapawan when he had the pine trees planted. They have been there since.

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Maintaining the round shape of the pine trees takes effort. Photo courtesy of Geonarri Solmerano of Mindanews

What his motivations were other than mere beautification could be easy surmised: just after the declaration of the third republic, the country was still feeling very much American, and one hallmark of American public planning is the centrality of trees. Angeles might have envisioned an urbane, western-style town when he was Mayor, and the pine trees (an uncommon variety of tree in this part of the world) might have been part of that vision. In any case, well maintained the trees certainly have that effect, and it is a relic of Kidapawan’s American past.

Along the row you can also find monuments to the city’s history, or at least you would have in the past. One particularly interesting statue, that of a policeman holding a child, used to stand at the juncture between the Main road and Jose Abad Santos Street, has been there since I was a kid but has since been removed. Ateneo de Davao’s fifth SALEM President, Ericka Gadat, tells me it was a monument to her grandfather, a policeman who had attempted to save a young girl injured in an accident and who screamed at the people around the scene in anger at their indifference. It is a fascinating story that obviously needs to be researched further.

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The Trees amidst fog, once common in my childhood but now rare in Kidapawan

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As the center of the city, the trees are witness to Kidapawan’s many changes and events. Here it is backdrop both to the Timpupo Festival (which is not as constant as the trees) and the ongoing road widening.

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In the past the trees had much thicker foliage. In this picture are the trees near the church, which are younger and were still unshaped saplings when I was growing up

 

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In my younger days the local businesses would adopt a tree and decorate it like thisduring Christmas, with the tree in front of Kasapid and the old Sabulao house – the median tree in the row – usually outshining the others. They had that tree cut now. Photo courtesy of Geonarri Solmerano of Mindanews

And it is of this which the pine trees are most emblematic: the very personal, unspoken histories of the Kidapawanons who live Kidapawan’s life. In her poem ‘Mid Year Notes,’ poet Rita Gadi (whose parents Emma and Gil, both Kidapawan mayors themselves, were contemporaries of Alfonso Angeles Sr) writes about rootedness with them: ‘and the pine trees still line the center of the main street, as memory continues describing the confirmation of my thoughts.’ As the very visible and distinct icon of Kidapawan, the pine trees also serve as a signpost of nostalgia for the Kidapawanon, the immutable landmark and ‘portrait of a past that never leaves, never will.’

But as embodiments of historicity and rootedness, the pine trees also suffer the threats those two important but abstract things face in this city that never remembers. Luis Malaluan planned to have the trees cut and replaced with Indian Trees when he was mayor. Fortunately, his vice mayor at the time was Angeles’ son, Alfonso Angeles Jr, who strongly opposed the move to save his father’s legacy.

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The row of pine trees, more Kidapawan than Jollibee will ever be, at the juncture of the Main Road and J.P. Laurel Street. All uncredited photos courtesy of the Kidapawan FB page.

It is a triumph he has won for all of Kidapawan, but one which the Kidapawanon must continue to fight.

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