(Appeared on Davao Today 6 September 2017)
Few Kidapawanons know the official motto of Kidapawan city, much less understand what it means.
‘Nakapangyayari ang sambayanan’ is banderoled on the city’s official seal, just below the escutcheon. The seal, designed by then Tourism Officer Benjamin Mallorca, was adopted by Kidapawan when it became a city in 1998. I have yet to find any official documents pertinent to the motto, but because I cannot find any use of it before 1998 I’m assuming it was also adopted upon cityhood.
The rather lofty Tagalog motto officially translates to ‘the people are sovereign’ (see the first few words of the Constitution’s preamble in Tagalog: ‘Kami, ang nakapangyayaring sambayanang Pilipino…’). It’s a metaphysical statement of nationhood: the word for sovereignty, ‘nakapangyayari,’ is rooted in the word ‘yari,’ ‘composition,’ but the morphology makes it an active state, ‘we who constitute.’ Sovereignty in Tagalog is implied to be active composition, thus making Kidapawan’s motto more literally ‘the people can constitute.’
But ‘nakapangyayari’ has another possible morphological derivation, leading to a more interesting alternative translation to the motto: ‘pangyayari’ also means ‘happening.’
The motto can thus also be translated: ‘The people can make it happen.’
Lovely idealism, you might think, one of those DepEd or DoH mandated themes that far too often are more the stuff of essay-writing contests for public school students that of any actual practice.
Kidapawan, in particular, has often shown that it is not the people but its government – the detached bureaucracy headed by the winning oligarch of the day – which makes things happen. The environment and natural resources are managed by the government. Law and order is the exclusive responsibility of the government. Festivals are organized by the government. The bulk of the education sector is run by the government. We rely, for everything, on the government, and so the government does everything.
But one recent development shows that, when they try, people can and often do make things happen.
This development, quite remarkably, is in another of those hollow principles we so often take for granted: the city’s history.
While Davao celebrated August with the Kadayawan festivities, on the other side of Mt Apo there were two celebrations in my hometown: the annual Timpupo Fruits Festival, and the town’s foundation anniversary.
The fruits festival was muted owing to the meager harvest (Kidapawan’s fruit industry is still picking up from the poor yield of the past decade), but the foundation was specially poignant. Not only was it a celebration of Kidapawan’s seventieth year, it was a celebration made possible by the efforts of its people.
You see, for the past decade or so, Kidapawan’s local government celebrated ‘foundation day’ on February 12. On this date in 1998, Fidel Ramos signed into law Republic Act 8500, declaring the Municipality of Kidapawan into North Cotabato’s first city. Earlier this year, posters from the City government promoting celebrations of the date called the day ‘Kidapawan’s 19th Foundation Anniversary.’
I had heard of negative reactions from Kidapawanons about this years before. Many people (including myself) still remember Kidapawan before it was a city, and so feel that this putting of the town’s foundation on the declarion of cityhood is a form of whitewashing. One friend pointed out that he was born in Kidapawan, and he was already in his thirties, so how could Kidapawan be only nineteen years old?
The more accurate foundation date being advocated is August 18, 1947. On this date Manuel Roxas signed Executive Order No. 82, creating ten different municipalities from existing municipal districts. Among them was Kidapawan, which was then a municipal district of the Cotabato province.
For much of Kidapawan’s history as a city, the only festivities held around that date were Fruit Festivals (which date often changed depending on the caprices of the harvest). During such events there was hardly any mention of the municipality foundation, and if there were no festivities during that month, the date passed unnoticed.
Much of the complaints about the February 12 celebrations were unaired, merely murmured at home among the city’s old timers.
That is until I made a blog post about it. In the post I called for February 12 to be called ‘cityhood day,’ and calling for August 18 to be celebrated as Kidapawan’s real foundation day. I lamented the whitewashing (specially if it was inadvertent), and decried the city’s disregard for its past.
I did not expect the post to go viral, but it did, eliciting rather strong reactions. On social media it was shared and reacted on. There were those who agreed and denounced the LGU for forgetting all those who came before them, but there were also those who called on me and those who agreed with me to move on because the municipality is gone.
But in the end the online sentiment (at least from what I saw) became overwhelmingly one of recognition for August 18. At the very least my post raised awareness about the date, and about its undeniable neglect. Informative posts like mine were easily shared on social media. And this made the neglect of August 18 all the more glaring.
I must have seen right, because by the time this year’s August came nearer, the City Tourism Office proudly declared that preparations for the city’s ‘70th Foundation anniversary’ were underway. The Tourism Office under Mallorca’s successor Joey Recimilla, has been very responsive to public sentiment.
But in this case, at least, the people of Kidapawan made it happen.
The celebrations also showed a strong appreciation for the city’s history – a complete reversal from the apathy I decried.
As early as 2010 (when I was still a student) I had been writing about Kidapawan’s colourful but long ignored local past. In 2010 I published a write-up on the destruction of the Sultan Omar Kiram mansion and the colourful life of its architect. In 2012, I and Vincent Cuzon (who had started being aware of Kidapawan’s history through my work) started the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook page, giving wider public access to old pictures of the town. A bit later I came up with another blog post, one on the obscure World War II martyr Eliseo Dayao Sr.
I received some responses from these efforts, but I never fully appreciated how much impact these efforts were making. I did not know that I and Vince (and later fellow Kidapawan of Past administrators Paul Gumanao and Clyde Vallejo) were slowly creating a demand for more information about Kidapawan’s history.
By the time the August 18 celebrations were held, the City Tourism office opened an exhibit of old pictures of Kidapawan, including portraits of the city’s mayors, of the city landscape in the distant past, and some domestic snippets (like my grandfather’s oathtaking as teniente del barrio of Baranggay Lanao). For the first time ever, historical figures like Siawan Ingkal and Eliseo Dayao was publicly remembered, and Rita Gadi’s poem ‘Kidapawan in my heart’ (which before then was unheard of in Kidapawan) was even displayed prominently.
Again, it was ordinary people who made it happen.
There will be – and in my work promoting more historical awareness there indeed have been – those who will dismiss such efforts as disruptive. I have been accused of ‘twisting history’ simply because I’ve presented versions of it that people are not used to.
But all change will be uncomfortable, specially change that is necessary.
I advocated for August 18, 1947 to be celebrated as Kidapawan’s foundation day, but now I am seeking to further problematize that: Before becoming a municipality, Kidapawan was first a Municipal district during the American colonial period. The question now is when that happened. I have yet to get hold of the law creating the municipal district, but I’ve ascertained it to be somewhere between 1906 (when the Department of Sulu and Mindanao was created, and Kidapawan is not mentioned) and 1917 (when the Cotabato province was created, and Kidapawan is first mentioned as a municipal district).
There will again be change, yes, and many people will again have to adjust. But as the President and his hoarde of devoted minions like chanting, ‘change is coming.’
And I like to believe part of that change will be this empowerment of people to take governance – whether it be something as concrete as the running of a festival or as abstract as local history – into their own hands, to have a country that works bottom-up.
We need to see a smaller government and a bigger society. One where fiestas are organized not by the municipio from the poblacion but, like the neighbourhoods of Gion in Kyoto, by each of the Baranggays altogether. One where local communities play active roles – and even compete with other communities – to keep their public spaces clean and attractive. One where local businesses work together to revitalize the local industries.
Just as locals are used to having the local government do everything, the local governments are used to receiving directive and funding from Imperial Manila. The imminent prospects of a shift to Federalism – essentially breaking apart the top-down unitary state into more localized spheres of administration – will hopefully make change more likely and more lasting.
There are qualms about the shift as it is a fundamental and radical change that is, rather ironically, being imposed on localities from top down. Critics will say that such a top-down introduction will create artifical reform, just another foreign concept introduced to the locals.
But then again, ‘nakapangyayari ang sambayanan’ is a sentence just as foreign to the Kidapawanon as Federalism would be, and yet we have owned its foreignness and, far beyond our own expectations, we are learning to live it. The foreignness of Federalism is the foreignness of self agency to those who are used to having their destinies defined for them.
And it will continue to be foreign if local people do not take an active role for themselves in making it their own. Federalism is a change that must be owned if it is to work.
But if anything, Kidapawan history teaches us to trust the people. With little help from the colonial government the Obo Manobo started the municipal district. With little help from the Commonwealth government the district slowly grew commercially until it had to be declared a municipality. In the 1960s, they were so ambitious that they planned to build an airport, and while that has not yet materialized, nothing is preventing Kidapawan from still realizing that dream. And with little help from Manila, the municipality petitioned (for decades) to be elevated into a city.
Will Federalism happen and work for Kidapawan? Only time will tell. But of one thing I am sure. Its people can definitely make it happen.
If you’re from Kidapawan, please help me by filling up this form!
In a refreshing turn of events, Kidapawan history is suddenly controversial as local attention is focused on the crucial but mysterious historical figure known in documents as Datu Siawan Ingkal.
I say ‘known in documents’ with necessity: the controversy began when the Deputy Mayor for Kidapawan’s Indigenous Peoples, Datu Camillo Icdang, went on the local radio station DXND last July 14 and said the man was named ‘Ingkal Siawan’ (first name Ingkal), and was a full blooded Obo Manobo.
Icdang was making the statement as a response to reports that the Datu was a Meranaw, flatly denying these reports. The local reporter, Malu Cadelina Manar, subsequently reported these pronouncements from Datu Icdang as fact.
This version of the Datu’s background is now being hotly disputed, and I have gathered at least four alternative explanations of the man’s name and heritage.
The only printed source so far that gives a detailed background on Siawan Ingkal is Ferdinand Bergonia’s 2004 history of Kidapawan (commissioned by the city tourism office of the Malaluan administration), which cites him as a Manobo and the first person to be Mayor of Kidapawan, albeit appointed during the Second World War. He is also cited as being instrumental in the founding of Baranggays Manongol (then called Tagbak, his father’s domain) and Lanao. Bergonia gives the name of the Datu’s father as the Manongol chieftain ‘Datu Ugos Ingkal,’ who had been appointed Cabeza de Baranggay of Kidapawan District by the American colonial government in 1901. Bergonia is inconsistent with the Datu’s name, as at some point he mentions ‘Datu Siawan Ingkal,’ but at others ‘Datu Ingkal Siawan,’ and he does not attribute his sources for the information on the Datu.
Another earlier printed source that mentions the Datu, former councilor Lino Madrid’s write up for the Cotabato province guidebook in 1952, only mentions ‘Datu Ingkal Siawan’ as the community leader of Old Kidapawan. Madrid was a contemporary of the Datu and his version of the name holds some weight. He nevertheless makes no mention of the man’s ethnicity.
A third alternative, espoused by Bai Nelly Kelly Austria (widow of the late Vicente Austria, the Sultan Omar Kiram, whose family came to Kidapawan in the 1950s) has it that Siawan Ingkal (as was his name) was a Meranaw (not specifying if part or whole) who married a Manobo and who was appointed mayor of Kidapawan by the Muslim Udtog Matalam, then governor of the Cotabato province (the official FB page of Mayor Joseph Evangelista cites this version in a press release ten days before Icdang’s public statements).
In separate accounts from a related source adding to the above version, Siawan Ingkal named the Baranggay ‘Baranggay Lanao’ after his people’s home country of Lanao.
And yet a fourth version, cited by a Manobo family whose members recall the accounts of the Manobo historian Datu Pinantao, instead says that Siawan Ingkal was half Meranaw, whose father was Meranaw stock but had settled at the foot of Mt Apo and was not a Muslim (and Siawan too consequently did not practice Islam). According to this version, Siawan’s mother was a Manobo named ‘Ingko,’ from which ‘Ingkal’ was taken (making his given name ‘Siawan’), and Siawan chose to identify as Manobo but remained fluent in the Meranaw tongue.
As I do not have permission to cite them, I am not naming my sources here for now, and save for Bergonia’s and Madrid’s, these accounts are not the full and fixed accounts of each source (they may well add to it as they recall their family histories, or even change their minds and decide they were told wrong).
I’ve reached out to one descendant of the Datu, and he acknowledges that his grandfather was a Meranaw (although he did not specify if he had any Manobo blood), and many social media users claiming to be descendants have agreed with this. And yet in an interview with DXND on July 17 Evelyn Ingkal, youngest daughter of the Datu, insists he was pureblooded Manobo, contradicting the statements of other descendants and Evangelista’s press release.
This is a post meant to be dated, and I fully intend to update it once I obtain more information.
What is certain about the man, however, is that he was appointed Mayor of Kidapawan’s Emergency Civil Administration in 1942 as the Second World War reached Cotabato, making him the first man to ever be Mayor of Kidapawan, and he was also the first ever Vice Mayor of Kidapawan when he was elected in 1948 after Kidapawan became an independent municipality, serving during the Mayoralty of Alfonso Angeles Sr. NCIP ethnographer Bai Era Espana confirms that he identified as Manobo, but does not categorically dismiss the possibility that he had Meranaw blood. A street in Kidapawan (created presumably by Provincial Board Resolution) is named ‘Datu Ingkal Street,’ but it is not clear if this is Siawan Ingkal.
Whatever explanation the Kidapawanon chooses for this crucial figure’s heritage, I think this is a very good opportunity for the city’s residents to start going back to their roots and ask questions. For the first time locals are talking about their own local historical figures, and this should not be the last time they do, Kidapawan is full of interesting historical characters!
I am, however, not entirely happy with the definiteness with which the local media are dealing with the matter, the dispute is not being aired and it is being broadcast almost as if the matter is already concluded (This is not the first time DXND reported on local history inaccurately: in 2009 Manar reported that mayor Joseph Evangelista’s father had also served as Mayor, an error of fact as Dr Rustico Evangelista never held any city-wide public office). Worse, they’re making the question of Siawan Ingkal’s ethnicity as a question of the Obo Manobo’s primacy in Kidapawan history, and there is a hint of anti-Meranaw sentiment. Nobody has ever doubted that the Manobo are the original residents of Kidapawan, I do not understand why the issue is going towards that direction.
But it would also only be fair to say that the Municipio office behind the Press Release is equally guilty by stating Ingkal’s being a Meranaw in a way that sounded like it was a pronouncement of fact rather than relating Bai Nelly’s opinion.
I think it would be much healthier for Kidapawan’s people to reevaluate for themselves the things being presented to them as facts, and reaffirm, amend or contradict them after cross examination.
For in the end history will only belong to the people if they themselves take an active role in problematizing and confirming it, because history must not only be taught and curated, it must be discovered and lived.
My hometown of Kidapawan’s Local government is finally paying attention to the town’s history and heritage! Mayor Joseph Evangelista recently set up a Culture and Arts Council, and while still nebulous, one of their first projects is to revisit the historiography of the city.
I had been working on my own for the past two years on rewriting Kidapawan history, slowly building up information to make five books. Kidapawan’s only history book, the 2004 book by Ferdinand Bergonia, is very informative but has severe deficiencies, both in actual information and in source citation (see my review of it in Ateneo de Davao’s Tambara). There was a serious need to build up on what Bergonia had started.
All the while I shared some of the information on the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook Page, hoping to slowly build up interest in the city’s history.
I and Vince Cuzon managed the FB page, and the both of us really started stimulating local interest in Kidapawan heritage with my 2010 write-up in the Davao Writers Guild’s Dagmay (coauthored with Christian Cabagnot) about the Kiram Mansion, which had been demolished that year. Vince, who has a far wider local readership than I do, helped spread word about the building.
By accident I found out about the Culture and Arts Council and the efforts being done by the City Tourism Office (whose head, Mr Joey Recimilla, is a member of the Council). If I am to work with them my progress will be fast-tracked, perhaps by decades, with the help of the city government’s machinery!
The city tourism office has been so serious about getting things started that they actually went on exploratory visits to see where the Council can begin its work.
In one exploratory visit to the National Library, Ms Gillan Lonzaga of the Tourism Office found a 1952 book about Cotabato Province, which contained a write-up about Kidapawan (then only four years old) by the then-municipal councilor Lino Madrid.
Bergonia cited this document, but did not do justice to the information in it. The piece provided fascinating insight into Kidapawan at its early days of independence, and it answered a lot of crucial questions left unanswered by Bergonia. Most crucially it complicates the ‘highland spring’ etymology of the city’s name, as it makes no mention of the ‘tida’ from whence ‘kida’ is supposed to have come from. Madrid also resolved the name of the third Mayor of Kidapawan, Filomeno Blanco, whom Bergonia named ‘Filemon’ and ‘Filomeno’ at various points in his book. It also provides my only clue so far about his identity, as he is cited as owning a rice and corn mill in Baranggay Saguing, now Makilala.
Among the possible directions the City Tourism Office found for the Culture and Arts Council – and one which thrilled me when I learned of it – is to come up with an inventory of cultural properties. One of the five books I was planning to write has actually been a coffee table book of Kidapawan’s heritage structures, including old houses and culturally significant structures and natural landmarks. Although far from complete, this inventory saves me so much time.
On a worrying note, there are rumours that the old house beside the Saint Mary’s Academy – my mother says it belonged to the Rellen family – will be demolished now that the owner of Gaisano Kidapawan has purchased the property. The house is listed in the inventory as belonging to the Mojana family, and at over 50 years old actually qualifies as an Important Cultural Property under R.A. 1066. I’ll be looking into the matter more and will be doing all I can to make sure this does not become another Kiram Mansion tragedy.
But perhaps the biggest plan their eyeing is to set up a museum! Commissioning anthropologists from the University of Southeastern Mindanao in Kabacan, they intended to begin this by initiating a study on the city’s culture and history. It’s a huge undertaking, and if I’ll be working with the ongoing efforts I will probably help here. I will definitely be doing all I can to help make sure this is a success!
Along the way I also finally got a list of the awardees of the Kidapawan Heroes, which the city grants annually during the Cityhood anniversary. I’ll be writing a separate post about it here at a later date!
All these efforts to finally pay attention to Kidapawan’s heritage means the LGU will be dealing with existing National laws. These laws nevertheless have shortcomings, and I strongly think the city needs to make local legislation to complement them.
And if Kidapawan manages to craft local law for its history and heritage, it will be exemplary among the country’s local governments, even bettering nearby Davao (which continues to have poor maintenance of its heritage properties and promotion of local historical appreciation).
I have to say, the present LGU is objectively impressive.
My cousin Jeff scanned some old family pictures for me for the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook Page.Most of them are of my grandfather’s house in Lanao, about which I once made a blogpost here already.
They’re quite intriguing, giving a glimpse into the past of my family, one of the oldest in Kidapawan.
(Since I cannot find this online I decided to make it available here. I cannot ascertain yet if the Kidapawan hymn – this song I’ve known since I was in elementary – predated Kidapawan’s cityhood, or like the seal it was commissioned in 1998. The song was composed, and its lyrics written, by Mary Jane Dizon, with Wilson Dizon providing the arrangement. The third stanza was slightly changed in 2014 after Bae Limpayen Sibug Las pushed for it to recognize Kidapawan’s history as a Manobo settlement. )
Ating Lungsod na pinagpala,
Kidapawan naming mutya,
Sa bawat hagupit ng pagsubok
Ikaw at di nalulugmok
Natatangi ang iyong kasaysayan,
Pati ang iyong mamamayan,
Taglay mo ang yaman ng kalikasan,
mahal naming Kidapawan.
Sama-sama kaming nagpupugay.
Maging buhay man ay iaalay,
Sa ‘yo lungsod naming minamahal,
Kidapawan, o! Kidapawan!
Ika’y sagisag ng pag-asa
Kristyano’t muslim sama-sama,
Mga katutubo ay nakikiisa
sa layuning ika’y mapaganda.*
Simbahan, gobyerno, kasama
Mga tao’y nagkakaisa
Kidapawan, tunay kang pinagpala
translated by Karlo Antonio Galay David
Our blessed city,
Kidapawan our treasure,
As each challenge hits you
You do not crumble
How unique is your history
and your people,
You possess the abundance of nature
our beloved Kidapawan
Together we celebrate you.
Even offering our lives for you,
For you, our beloved city
Kidapawan, oh Kidapawan!
You are a sign of hope
of Christians and Muslims together,
The tribes are one with us
in the desire to make you glorious.
The church, the government together
The people are all united
Kidapawan, how blessed you are.
Ika’y sagisag ng pag-asa
Katutubo ang nagpasimula,
Kristyano, Muslim ay nagkakaisa
sa layuning ika’y mapaganda
You are a sign of hope
That the tribal peoples started,
Christians and Muslims are one
in the desire to make you glorious.
This 12 February, my hometown of Kidapawan will celebrate its 19th anniversary as a city. Festivities begin on the eighth, and many events are being organized to celebrate the occasion.
The city government for the past three administrations has been calling this day ‘Foundation Anniversary,’ with posters and tarpaulins labeling it so.
Make no mistake, the process of cityhood that built up to the 12 February 1998 Executive Order was a very colourful one, several decades in the making.
But to call this day the Foundation Day of Kidapawan would be being grossly inaccurate. Kidapawanons must not make the mistake of thinking their hometown has only existed for 19 years.
Because Kidapawan’s real Foundation Day was on 18 August 1947.
On this date the district of Kidapawan, then part of Pikit, was declared a separate municipality by President Manuel Roxas. It is this date when Kidapawan as a separate entity starting existing – before this date there was no Kidapawan as we know it.
And that would make the city 70 years old this year!
What I think this misuse of term reveals is Kidapawan’s tendency to neglect its past – there is an underlying tension in my hometown between the desire to be a modern, progressive city, and staying true to its roots as a small old town. As early as the moment Kidapawan was declared a city in 1998, there was local opposition. Not everybody wanted Kidapawan to be a city.
Unbridled progress, however, is winning and at the expense of Kidapawan’s soul. This could not be demonstrated better than with the Municipio.
A building dating back to the days of Alfonso Angeles Sr., the Municipal Hall was as old as Kidapawan. In the mid-2000s, it was short of demolished, to be replaced by a pastel yellow faux-Neoclassical dome.
The old Municipio had been the hall not only of local governance, but of Kidapawan’s collective memory as well. It was not a pretty building, but it was our building.
The subsequent local governments’ decision to tear it down and replace it with something completely meaningless to the Kidapawanon was a callous thing to do. What we now have is an empty and fake facade – literally, the dome isn’t even a complete dome, if one looked at the city hall from the Pilot Elementary School, the dome is only half a dome, a facade that almost seems to be made of cardboard. What’s left of the old building is inside, mangled to fit the new design.
There are many other instances that show how little Kidapawan and its authorities care for its history. My own family has seen this – my great grandfather Eugenio Galay Sr. planted a Mango tree in Crossing Lanao, a tree which has stood there for much of Kidapawan’s existence. But because the city is becoming more urbanized – and as a consequence the national highway needed to be further widened – the DPWH had the tree cut.
If Kidapawan is to progress it cannot do so with a fake and shallow identity installed after felling its more established and more authentic roots. Progress need not be at the expense of heritage and historical identity. As a matter of fact progress without heritage is shallow, ultimately you will be building a generic modern city, with nothing more than artefacts of kitschy cultural imitation to showcase as your identity.
Kidapawan is older than 19 years. And if we can forget entire decades of our town’s history, how can we expect future generations to remember the history we are now making?