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Davao City, Philippines

Tribute to Canada’s legacy in Mindanao

October 04, 2019 - Friday 4:10 AM by Jimmy Laking

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It took half a century but Davao City is finally honoring officially on October 5-6, 2019 the role of Canadian missionaries who set up schools and hospitals that played a pivotal role in education and evangelization in Mindanao.

This was the announcement given by three gentlemen on Wednesday at the Abreeza’s Wednesday media forum.

The three gentlemen were Atty. Jesus Dureza, Nilo Claudio and Roy Sorongon, all products of schools put by Canadian missionaries in Davao in the early 1950s. Dureza needs no introduction. Suffice it to say he is still very much in circulation. Claudio, whose family has been in the publishing business, was the publisher of the defunct San Pedro Express, a weekly newspaper in the early 1980s. Both also were former trustees of the Philippine Press Institute.

Sorongon is the chair of the religious congregations committee for the October 5-6 event and like Dureza and Claudio is an active member of the local chapter of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“We have taken them (the Canadian missionaries) for granted for too long,” said Claudio. “Now we are officially thanking them for helping shape Mindanao for what it is now.”

In Davao City, Claudio said the Canadian missionaries belonging to the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) put up the San Pedro Cathedral, the San Pedro Hospital and the Holy Cross of Davao in the early 1950s.

As Dureza recounted, the Holy Cross of Digos in Davao del Sur was where President Rodrigo R. Duterte as high school student graduated in 1963. Dureza recalled that he was enrolled in the same school as a working student when one day in 1959, then Gov. Vicente Duterte of the undivided Davao province brought his son Rodrigo and enrolled him the school.

As they recounted it, I got the impression that Holy Cross of Digos was the only school “that took the risk of enrolling the young Duterte.”

“He valued his life and education and we graduated together in 1963,” said Dureza. 

Another classmate, Jesus Melchor Quitain, told reporters that Duterte took seven years to finish high school. 

Sorongon credited the Canadian missionaries belonging to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) for putting up schools and churches in Cotabato City and in the province of North Cotabato.

If I got it right, the OMI fathers also founded the Cotabato City-based, the Mindanao Cross, one of the oldest weekly newspapers still in circulation

Sorongon said in the half-century presence of Canadian missionaries in Davao, at least 11 of them were eventually buried at the Catholic cemetery in Davao City.

He said some of Mindanao’s bishops and priests took up schooling at schools established by the missionaries. 

The schools, he said, were known for their competence and quality and taught a lot of people to become grammarians. He said at one time, the number of Filipino priests trained at the missionary schools stood at a total of 186.

He said the Canadian missionaries also pioneered the basic Christian community, or Gagmayong Kristohanang Katilingban concept.

Claudio said the missionary schools and hospitals were bastions of education and health services. 

On a personal note, Dureza credited on Brother Conrad for teaching him how to write news while in high school. 

This included how to do the lay-out and how to do titles or captions. 

The thanksgiving dinner will be hosted by the Holy Cross of Davao College on October 5, in addition to an exhibition of history and memorabilia.