Karl Gaspar, 6 others are this year’s Datu Bago awardees

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 February) — Redemptorist Brother Carlito “Karl” M. Gaspar — church worker, anthropologist, artist, professor,  and the most prolific Mindanawon book author — is among seven Dabawenyos who will be conferred this year’s Datu Bago Award, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.

On Monday, the Datu Bago Awardees Organization, Inc.through its chair, Dr. Pilar Braga and with the concurrence of Mayor Sara Duterte, released the names of the seven who will be conferred the awards on March 13.

Recognized for their “outstanding, exemplary and selfless contribution to the growth and development of Davao City” and for their “invaluable contribution to the preservation of the Dabawenyo culture heritage” are Gaspar, Norma T. Javellana, Belen C. Laud, Aland David Mizell, Ricardo N. Obenza, Jr., Beethoven N. Sur and Nieto L. Vitto.

Photos courtesy of the Datu Bago Foundation, Inc.

The awards night on March 13 will be held at the Royal Ballroom of The Royal Mandaya Hotel. The conferement is the 48th since 1969 and will be one of the major events during the celebration of the 81st Araw ng Davao.

The Datu Bago Award was established in 1969 under the leadership of then Mayor Elias B. Lopez, a Bagobo.

He named the awards after the hero Datu Bago, to be bestowed on a Dabawenyo who has contributed to the development of the city with exemplary competence and dedication and who best serves as a model of excellence and an inspiration to Dabawenyos.

The profile of the awardees, as released by the Datu Bago Awards Foundation:


Bro. Karl, as he is fondly called, is a champion of the indigenous peoples cultural and resource rights.  During the course of his long career as Redemptorist missionary, theologian, and anthropologist, he has promoted a deeper understanding of the lumad culture among the non-lumad population through teaching, and through his academic and popular writing.

As a staunch advocate of peace, Bro. Karl has engaged in extensive peacebuilding efforts through interfaith dialogues and ecumenical involvements in Mindanao.

He is a prolific writer with over 20 books, and has frequently studied and featured the pre-colonial Davao to provide Davao’s residents, and the rest of the country, with a better understanding of Davao.

He is certainly a giant in the intellectual, cultural, and moral landscape of Davao City.

READ ALSO: Tribute to MIndanao’s Karl Gaspar: 3 awards in one month 


Her concern for her fellow Filipinos found expression early on as teacher in Malalag, as church worker in Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental, as a co-founder and training coordinator for an NGO in the Caraga Region and as a coordinator for an NGO federation. She is also founder of a cultural organization, PARANUBLIUN in Antique.

While in Netherlands for five years, she co-founded and is actively involved until now in Stitching Bayanihan, a mutual help  organization for Filipino overseas workers.

Her life in the recent 20 years in Davao City is an incessant care for the communities, the environment and the disadvantaged children.  Her leadership in the Greenhills Homeowners’ Association  and in the Barangay Ma-a Federation of Homeowners’ Association led her to work feverishly with the city government to protect the Shrine Hills.

She is a Dabawenyo whose vision for the community and environment made her an environmental pioneer and trailblazer and a  long-term advocate for the protection of children’s rights.


Belen C. Laud was nominated for the Datu Bago Award by various cooperative and cooperative-related organizations for her “outstanding leadership and tireless effort,” “exemplary services and dedication,” “outstanding performance, services and leadership” and for being a “model of excellence.”

As a byword in the cooperative world, she has served in the board of nine cooperatives for different terms and has given more than 50 consultation services as an accredited mediator-conciliator, cooperative auditor and lecturer.

While doing her accounting and auditing livelihood, she was also active in PICPA and in church service.  For PICPA, she has garnered numerous national awards specifically for community services.  Being a cancer survivor, she is engaged in SMILES for cancer awareness program.


Dr. Aland David Mizell is an American social scientist who has spent more than a decade of his life here in Davao City serving the disadvantaged and the marginalized.

By establishing the Minority Care International (MCI), he was able to put up many programs beneficial to the marginalized youth. Since 2007, scholarships to the local colleges and universities were given to the disadvantaged minority students.  Those from afar are provided with housing residence.  He also organized the student exchange program that sends two students per year to the United States of America for study and internship.

He organizes the students’ weekly forum and annual retreats, provides free tuition for scholars, and  shares school supplies to Madrasah  and the Ma-a Jail students. He is instrumental in putting up the College Behind Bars, the first of its kind in the Philippines inside the BJMP.

Among his outreach programs are: Vision screening and distribution of eyeglasses to poor communities, soccer tournaments for vulnerable youths from Isla Verda and sponsoring of Out of School Youth in the Alternative Learning System.

He also mounts conferences, partnering with local universities to bring US experts and scholars as resource persons, including a faculty exchange between a college in Texas, USA and the Thompson Christian School. He is also active in the Kairos Housing Project.

He is a columnist of Mindanao Times.


An environmentalist, a teacher and an artist, Ricardo Obenza has devoted more than 40 years of his life to ensure a better environment through arts and planting programs for Davao city’s children.

As a teacher, whenever he supervised outdoor activities, he took his students in tree-planting and gave them art lessons, as well, preferably on landscapes.

More than 3,000 students were guided to plant native trees and plants in Malagos Watershed and in Barangay Lacson and Marahan.

This love for art blossomed into the Kalinan Landscape Painter Training Initiators (KALAPATI) Art Group.

His untiring environmental advocacy with art led to his collaboration with the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the Kinaiyahan Foundation, with schools, with government agencies including the Philippine National Police.

He gained international exposure having been featured in the Wochi Kochi Magazine of the Japan Foundation described by Prabda Yoon as ”a modest, local activist, yet the way he lives and teaches seems to me to be a work of art in itself.”


Commodore Beethoven N. Sur reached the climax of his dedicated work as Philippine Coast Guard Auxilliary (PCGA) District Director when he received three major awards during the 33rd PCGA Annual Convention on May 19-20, 2017 here in Davao City.

The PCGA is the lead organization of volunteers assisting the Philippine Coast Guard in safeguaring the perilous coast of Southeastern Mindanao, assuring the safety of life and property at sea and preserving the environment.  His three advocacies on environmental protection, support to education, and humanitarian outreach program brought him, his family, and the PCGA members to organize programs and activities such as relief operation; tree, mangrove and reef growing; coastal clean-up; books and school supplies donation; sports development; and Oplan Ligtas Biyahe.


For less than a decade of intense service for Davao City, he blazed the trail for education for special education and for the scholars of the Japanese government and sports development of the children with special needs.  For these, he has received numerous awards.

Dr. Vitto is the acknowledged Father of Special Education in USEP, crafting the curriculum for the first graduate program in Mindanao.

At Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku in 2001, he tailored a program for B.S. Social Services major in Care of Older Persons and the B.S. International Studies major in Japanese Language and Studies.

As sports leader for the children with disabilities, he has trained coaches and athletes with disabilities and realized the participation of these athletes who reaped medals international, national and regional competitions.

As an educator, his leadership in educational association is marked with righteousness, honesty and professionalism.  (MindaNews)