The Davides of Argao


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The Davide family rose from being a poor farming family from the mountainous barangay of Argao, Cebu to become one of the most prominent families in the Philippines when one of its members, Hilario G. Davide, Jr., was sworn in as the 14th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines in 1998. The family has once again been put in the limelight when several members of the Philippine House of Representatives tried to impeach the Chief Justice late in 2003. Whatever motives they had, the motion was quashed when a vote was taken whether or not to transmit the articles of impeachment. This amazing turn of event, added with the family’s amazing rise to fame due to their integrity and intellectual capacity, truly makes them a model Filipino family.

The Davide family, as most Filipinos know, started in the mountain barangay of Colawin, Argao, a coastal municipality in the province of Cebu. Yet the family name Davide has traveled farther than just the Visayas. In fact, unlike most Filipino family names, the surname is not Filipino or even Spanish in origin or form. Family historians are unanimous in saying that the family name DAVIDE is an Italian version of the Jewish name David.

The Meaning of David, Davide

The name David is possibly derived from Hebrew dod meaning "beloved", perhaps the word dawid, which means “loved”, or “darling or beloved of God” from Dodavehu. It later became a common first name among the many Jewish communities scattered throughout Europe, until it was adopted by other nationalities especially in Russia, France, England, the Czechs, and Italy. The name took on the forms of Davyd (Russian, Ukrainian), Dawid (Polish and Yiddish), Dewey and Dovydas (Lithuanian), and Taavetti (Finnish).  

The Davide Surname and Coat-of-arms

The Chief Justice’s family name is the Italian version of the name David, and was used in the Italian peninsula way before the formalization of family names. It is said that the family, like many prominent Italian family names, began in Sicily. Although the Italian republic has abolished its nobility and its heraldic institutions following the abolition of the monarchy after the 2nd world war, many Italians have maintained their long and colorful tradition of heraldy and the family name Davide has one listed coat of arms.

The Davides of Argao  

Like most Filipino family histories, the scarcity of resources on genealogical interest hinders modern researchers from digging deep into the recesses of time in order to discover a clearer picture of a family’s history. But the Chief Justice’s family is lucky in terms of safe-keeping their family heritage for two reasons: one, the town from which they hail, Argao, is one of the few towns in the Philippines that has meticulously preserved its church records that go as far as 1842, and two, the patriarch of the Davide clan, Mr. Hilario Panerio Davide, Sr., compiled in the early 80’s a family history book of his family.  His reason for making the “Family Record of Hilario Panerio Davide and Josefa Gelbolingo Davide and their Children” was, in his own words, “to memorialize the roots of their family and to have something that the future Davides will cherish for all eternity.”

The Davide family of Argao traces its roots to Esteban Davide and Nepomucena Ortega, both Argawanon natives who married during the middle of the nineteenth century, in the mountain barangay of Colawin. Esteban, as the records of the elder Davide show, was the son of Miguel Davide and Hilaria Carillo. Beyond this, though, there is no more information known to the family.

A cursory study of the records of the town of Argao would reveal that the Davide family could trace the family to as far as the beginning of the 18th century, to Pablo Alverto and Maria Landayanan. As was common before 1849, native Filipinos did not have a family name and instead used a second Christian name as a sort of surname for most of their lives. This couple gave birth to Francisco Modesto, who married Maria Susana. It was this ancestor who adopted the surname Davide in 1849 by virtue of the decree of the Governor-General Narciso Z. Claveria. All Davides of Argao can be traced to these two. One of their children was Benito Davide, who died in 1864 at the age of 84. He married Maria Norverta Cambare and had at least four children. One of these was Miguel, who was the father of Esteban Davide. 

One of the children of Esteban Davide and Nepomucena Ortega was Pablo O. Davide, born on June 26, 1875. This man is considered by the family of the Chief Justice as the founder of the present Davide line in Colawin. He was said to have been a humble but industrious farmer who was well known in their barrio. His humility and good nature earned him the respect of his neighbors, which ultimately let to his being elected as a teniente del barrio, a position that is roughly equal to that of barangay captain today. Pablo Davide later married another Argwanon by the name of Teodora Panerio. The couple, known as “Tatay Amboy” and “Nanang Doray” by their grandchildren, lived a simply life with strict working codes. Pablo Davide worked on the farm helped by his sons, while his wife and daughters assisted in the preparations for planting and harvesting. Pablo, who many grandchildren remember fondly as being somewhat of a comedian, later on served briefly as municipal councilor during the early twentieth century. He died in 1946 in Argao, Cebu. 

Pablo Davide and his wife had ten children. One of these is Hilario, the father of the CJ. It was Hilario’s sacrifice and exemplary life which prodded his children to succeed in their chosen endeavors. Raised also in the mountain barangay of Colawin, Hilario saw the hardship that one goes through when living in an area as far flung as their hometown. He made a resolve to make his children’s lives better, so early on in life he did well in school in order to chart a better future for himself and his future family. It was also while in school where he strengthened his resolve to improve his family’s lot. During a graduation ball, he was repeatedly turned down by girls when he asked them to dance with him. He overheard one lady telling her friend that the only reason why she didn’t agree to dance with him was because Hilario was “taga-bukid” (from the mountains). This haughty attitude by the “taga-lungsod” (city folks) towards Hilario and his barriomates made him even more determined to succeed.  

After graduating from high school he was assigned as a teacher in another barrio in Argao. It was in the barrio of Talaga where Hilario met his future wife Josefa Gelbolingo, who was also a teacher. Both were ambitious and driven to succeed, and soon, in December of 1925, they decided to tie the knot. Their eldest son, Jose, was born in 1926. When their second child, Jorge, was born in 1928, Hilario decided that his wife better stop from teaching so she could take care of the kids. Pretty soon, five more children followed. The Chief Justice, the sixth in the family, is the youngest son.  

Like his father before him, Hilario Davide raised his family strictly. They had a saying that “each member of the family has a job”. And so, early on, the Davide children helped their parents in tending their farm. The sons helped in weeding the fields, in planting, in rearing the chickens and the other livestock, while the daughters helped in housekeeping chores. The sons also helped in gathering tubo (sugarcane), and Jose Davide, the eldest child, fondly recalls that his younger brother Dodong Jun loved to ride on the sledge with the carabao pulling it whenever they gathered tubo. No one was allowed to play until all schoolwork and housework were completed. If one made a mistake, both Hilario and his wife spanked their kids to discipline them.  

Hilario Davide was later appointed as District School Supervisor, and one of his first contributions to Colawin was the building of an elementary school in the area. Indeed, before this, his own children had to walk several miles everyday just to get to their school. He never forgot his resolve to improve his children’s future, and so all his kids were able to finish their college education, a very big feat considering that the family was not well off and they came from a very far flung area. Indeed, sending all kids to school is perhaps the greatest legacy that Hilario Davide Sr. has given his family. 

It is interesting to point out here that all the Davide children were able to finish school, and become the best in their chosen field. Thus, many of them worked for the government or government institutions, where their skills were honed and their name established. Since the early part of the twentieth century, the Davide family has not only tried to improve their lot, but also the lives of the people of Colawin. Todate, they have been instrumental in many improvements in the area, including the building of a school, the Colawin Basin Health Service Center, irrigation facilities that other barangays, too, have benefited from, the building ofa chapel and a public library. Through the lands that they donated, the money they solicited from patrons, and their continued support and encouragement to the people of Colawin, the once ridiculed people of Colawin, the “taga-bukids”, can now proudly call their barrio as their own. Because of these, the family was awarded the ABS-CBN Bayaning Pamilyang Pilipino of the Year in 1997, in honor of their exemplary lives and dedication to the community. In that same year, they were also honored by the Province of Cebu as one of the awardees for Outstanding Individuals and Institutions.  

Indeed the Davide family has had a long ride in history. One couldn’t even help but relate the history of the family to the history of their family name. Their namesake, David, came from a poor shepherding family who later on became one of the greatest leaders of the Israelites. The Davides, too, originally from a poor farming family from Colawin, have became one of the prime movers for the advancement and improvement of their town. And, in the family’s belief, just as the little poor boy David, the youngest son in family, successfully defeated the giant Goliath, so too will the embattled Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., the youngest boy in the family, eventually put down the humongous task of battling with the impeachment raps and the shadowy forces behind it. As long as the family stays together, all obstacles will be successfully overcome.