History in the digital age

The challenge of any age group is, how do we keep ourselves relevant in the current age? Most times, those who are quick to adapt to the current age or technologies are deemed to succeed. Darwinian perhaps? But it is. Just over a decade ago when smartphones were almost unheard of, most would be contended browsing on their desktops. Now fast forward a decade, it is the smartphones and tablets that rule, and desktops are almost just gathering dust. In my house at least.

If we are to add the experience of Davao of the Past in promoting Davao history to the millennials (or older, and way more older), it is making history more understandable (or even palatable) and available to the current audience. When most would go to libraries for research, in the current age, knowledge-based social media platforms are becoming the norm.

There was a previous article this writer published on this website, that we need our younger historians. Putting into the more current context, we need to take history out of the box. Meaning, we need to understand the language of today, meaning the keywords should be creative or a creative mix of words when looking something over the net. Meaning, we need to change our way of thinking when it becomes to research and data gathering.

When there is so much metadata floating around in the cyber space, how do we get to find exactly what we are looking for? I remember when I was working for a foundation in Toronto, I was updating its web pages. These pages falls on two things when organizing, one is category, the other is the tag. These two becomes a key component when looking for a certain topic.


This is where you get to look what you are looking for, you have tags and you have keywords. I started my search for old Davao images with three keywords – old, Davao, and history. I have been using the same keywords over and over in so many years. I did found some, only some. Later on, I realized that I have to be creative when using the keywords, later on, I added a lot of other words, like Commonwealth, Japanese, Spanish. Imagine to my horror, old Davao photos or materials that I missed by not being creative with my keywords.

Nothing still beats networking.

When I started posting my finds in my personal Facebook page, my finds were just meagre, a couple of albums worth, then I realized there were like minded people who too had been looking the same things as I did. Soon, the finds doubled, but still not enough.

I realized that I need to reach out to people, broaden my audience.

You know, social media is still the best way, and the fastest to looking for things. And mostly a lot of times, it will be handed to you, with you not looking for it. With that I decided to create a page, hence, Davao of the Past was borne. Well I thought that was easy. The page just sat there without people noticing. Then one day, one noticed and liked and then that started everything, from one, then it became a hundred then in a years time, became two thousand. And till to this day, it is still growing. I realized, to make history, we need to involved everybody, even if the topic is history.

True, traffic is the thing, but not everything.

I started the page to reach people. To educate people. I’d rather reach quality audience and have quality traffic. You will always have two kinds of people, those who will bring anything down, themselves and the rest, and those that are willing to be taught. And I’m always going for the latter. There are people who want to bring out the worst of themselves posting without an iota of sense. And those who heartily embrace the knowing. The “data mining” of existing archives, the finding of rare resource and materials not previously available to the public is now a thing of the past. Lately we have been finding old photos of the city, early maps when the city was just a pueblo, rare books that you cannot find even in your own libraries and other resources.

So what have we learned from our experience with the page? That we can bring history to the forefront, keep it relevant to the future. And that with patience there are resources that needs and just waits to be discovered.

The three purposes of the page: to be a repository of anything old Davao, be an advocate for our remaining heritage sites and lastly, be a tool for people who wants to learn more of their history. To sum, the use of digital technology to make available anything we can find of our history (people, culture, city and the province) for people to learn, enjoy and share.

Credits: Featured image – One of the biggest finds this year: A number of P.U. along a busy downtown street in Davao, 1930. Courtesy of Vincent Garcia. https://docplayer.net/78746685-Abaca-the-socio-economic-and-cultural-transformation-of-frontier-davao.html.  Top photo: Bagobos, circa early 1900s, ebayfind.

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