In praise of the Davo River

EVERY YEAR since 2012, the city government has staged the River Float Festival in honor of the Davao River, a body of water that has served generations of Davaoeños in various livelihoods.

In the uplands, farmers use the river water as part of their irrigation for crops, while elsewhere, families gather around its banks and the branches that snake from the main river for their baths, laundry, and other household needs. Hang around either Generoso Bridge or Bolton Bridge if the water is calm, and you will see children leaping off the bridges into the welcoming cool, or fishermen casting their lines in the hope of a bite.

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Businesses have profited from using the river’s rushing current in white-water rafting services and other adrenaline- pumping activities.

It is no wonder then that what proceeds the River Float Fest is the Panagtagbo Ritual, a thanksgiving ceremony held by representatives of the city’s 11 tribes during the Kadayawan season as a symbol of thanks to Manama for a prosperous harvest.

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The Panagtagbo is celebrated with prayer and dancing, and a ritual offering of a white chicken.

While nature is fickle, as sometimes the giving river can be cruel and overflow with the rains, swallowing whatever is in its path; or pull unsuspecting swimmers down into its depths with strong currents, human beings can be even crueler, dumping the wastes of day-to-day life nonchalantly into the water, as if these will magically melt away and do them no harm.

The local government and several civic service groups have initiated movements to try and mitigate the damage already done to parts of the river, especially here in the urban area where families living beside the banks often turn it into their personal toilets and trash bins. Tourism promotion revolving around the river has also been previously initiated.

These ranged from clean-up drives, boat tours of the river, even down to a plan to promote eco-tourism have been brought up.

But ultimately, as advocacy groups promote, change has to come from the people living directly and indirectly with the Davao River.

This means thinking in the long term; that the river is not there for you to use in your lifetime, but also for the lifetime of your children and many other generations to come.

Posted in Community