Our Heritage Structures

They say the character of a city depends on how it treats its heritage structures. And I’d like to ask, how have we fared so far? Where are we now in terms of preserving and conserving our old structures? Do we still have them? I’d like to pose this question so we understand the need to protect those structures. For they are part of our history, our journey.

We had the most beautiful houses on this side of the world then. There was that distinctiveness where a lot of the houses were built by Japanese carpenters. These carpenters have brought in age old building methods. Coupled with that the colonial influences added to the mix. Factor in another thing, the weather, that is why most of our early structures have huge windows, where we allow the wind and breeze to enter and cool the entire house or structure, no need for air condition.


Vicente Hizon-Panlilio house, near the corner of Bolton and Rizal Sts. Thanks to Vicente Tionko for this. Made of no nails, just wooded pegs. A sight to behold.

We have lost a lot so far, and I don’t want it blamed squarely on the government. We can also lay blame on a lot of factors. And that circumstances dictate those factors.

Davao is mainly tropical, and with that was the overabundance of wood in the past. The overabundance of hardwood. When not properly harvest and treated, wood can have a lot of enemies. Two we have experienced through the years, personally. First is fire, like the San Pedro fire in 1964. This wiped out the whole district. Such pain to lose structures that have been built before the war. And second termites. Wood is susceptible to these. And these are not just a few these termites, when you have a colony, it could wipe out your house in a matter of years. Our house in Panorama was a victim. Our own ancestral house in Mati was lost to fire. And this was made out of the finest of wood.

The Hizon-Panlilio house was lost to fire, victim to being a neighbor of Alan’s Commercial where it first started. I would always see that house when passing by Rizal St., it was really a beautiful house. Big windows and all. Majestic, it was like the queen of the block, it was imposing. I remember one house right in front of the Aldevinco building in Claveria, was demolished in the 80s. From the outside it was a beautiful one, tiled floors methinks, the roof was also tiled, correct me if I’m wrong there. Somebody mentioned it was demolished because it was dilapidated. Who could ever forget the Garcia ancestral house at the corner of San Pedro and Ilustre, the grand old dame of that part of the city.

We still quite a few heritage houses like the Oboza in Crooked Road and Rizal St. which now serves as a restaurant, another is the Dakudao house in Calinan. There are probably more in districts like Toril, or scattered around the city and the provinces.


Thanks to Robert Bula, this was taken at the Oboza Heritage House. Credit to the actual owner of the photo.

We had a lot of Gabaldon structures built before the war. One prime example is the Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Elementary School. It is a beautiful building and probably one of the few remaining. Another example was the Davao School of Arts and Trades, only to fall victim to neglect and was demolished to give way to new building. And they may be disappearing before we know it. Susceptible to fire, termites and neglect. We may have the Republic Act 11194 which protects the remaining structures but how do we protect it if those that in this generation doesn’t really know it’s importance? As early as now I am already exasperated that it will just go way of neglect, and the preference for “modern” structures.


Jose Baes, DSAT 78.

A lot of other cities and countries. have taken extraordinary steps to preserve and conserve their heritage structures. And I am hoping our city government would really move to preserve the remaining structures we have.

We must not allow those to just go away by fire, termites and neglect. Or by progress. If we allow them to fall to either of those, what have we to show the younger and the next generation? Or the next generation would be asking us, what have we done to preserve and conserve them?

If we can’t do anything now, then we in effect lost our soul. And our way.

Featured above photo is the Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Elementary School, circa 1950s, courtesy of j&b photos flickr account.

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