Davao Pride

I am writing this while watching the Araw ng Davao parade live coverage on television. And no matter how old and jaded I am, every Araw ng Davao parade still moves me each time. It never fails. Even when I am mad about a city project or frustrated about a city official, I still love my city and am still proud to be a Davaoeño. Because the parade reminds me why.

I always look forward to Araw ng Davao parades ever since I was a little girl. My mom would carry me high up her shoulders so I can see the floats and the colorful marching bands amidst the sea of people. As a schoolgirl, I was part of my elementary school’s drum and bugle corps as a majorette and the Araw ng Davao parade was the ultimate social experience of my young life when I felt I was part of something really big and really important. I also joined one parade as a muse on board my school’s float. So I experienced what it was like to have people wave at you from the side of the streets, taking your picture, calling your name and that made me feel embraced and celebrated.

As I grew older, the parade grew longer, too, as more people wanted to participate. The parade did not become grander in terms of floats and attractions, it became greater because of the sheer number of participants. More people from different sectors wanted to parade their pride and show their love for Davao. The government has repeatedly tried to limit the participants through the years in the interest of time (the parade could go on way beyond noon even if it started as early as five in the morning) but it kept failing. People just want to join the parade and you cannot stop them!

I missed many Araw ng Davao parades when I moved to Metro Manila for work, then later when I became a resident of California. After years of absence, I was excited to come home in time for the Araw ng Davao parade in 2003. But then the deadly bomb attacks on the Davao airport and seaport happened on March 4 that year. There were talks of canceling the parade for security reasons but Davaoeños did not allow it. They wanted to show their unity and strength, most especially after the tragedy.

I watched the Araw ng Davao 2003 parade with my friends from the Rizal Park stage and the fierce Davaoeño spirit was on full display in every face on that parade and on every face watching from the sidewalk. There was grief but there was also defiance. The message was loud and clear: you can bomb the hell out of us but you cannot stop us from having our parade!

And, yes, even the rain could not stop the people of Davao from having their parade. In one particularly heavy downpour, the mayor has ordered to cancel the parade. Still, the people refused and bravely defied the mayor’s order and went on with the parade soaking wet but proudly and happily marching on. Even the little kids continued to perform and play their instruments in the rain while their parents and chaperones held umbrellas, raincoats, and plastic sheets to keep them dry. The song “Don’t Rain On My Parade” takes on a whole new meaning for Davaoeños.

I have witnessed Araw ng Davao parades where the Task Force Davao marched with BAYAN and the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army marched and waved with the MNLF and MILF. For that one day, they were all Davaoeños united in spirit and in love. The next day, they fight again. Not on our streets but somewhere else.

Araw ng Davao parades are also Pride parades for the indigenous peoples, the Moro peoples, the feminists, the radicals, the LGBT community, the religious, the hobbyists, the lobbyists, the marketers, those in the fringes of society and those in the mainstream. It is a showcase of our diversity as a community and how inclusive Davao society is. We are not simply tolerant of our differences, we celebrate them and embrace them. Being different is a source of pride for Davaoeños. You come to Davao to be free to be who you are and who you want to be.

Pride has both negative and positive meanings. There is the negative pride which refers to “an inflated sense of one’s personal status,” the one often associated with ego. Pride is also considered a “sin” by Christians. As Saint Augustine said, “it was pride that changed angels into devils…”

When I talk of Davao Pride, I refer to the positive meaning of having a “satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own choices and actions” and a “fulfilled feeling of belonging.”  Davaoeños are proud because they know they are all part of creating Davao City. That each of their contribution, no matter how small, counts and is acknowledged and recognized by the community.

One thing Davaoeños dislike with a passion is being “hilas.”  There is really no direct English translation for the term but it is like having an inflated sense of one’s personal status – the negative definition of pride. Here in Davao, you cannot really claim to have done everything on your own or accomplished something extraordinary all by yourself. That you are the best and the brightest and have the monopoly of greatness. People who do that are mocked and shamed here. Because Davaoeños know that it takes more than one person to achieve anything worthwhile and meaningful. It takes a village – a very big and diverse one.

That is what we celebrate every Araw ng Davao — our sense of community, our diversity which is also our strength, our fulfilled feeling of belonging to a place we all created together. And we will proudly march and wave on every parade to celebrate that, despite bombs, storms, and heat waves.

First appeared on Mindanao Times, March 17, 2016