Sunday, May 6, 2012


City Hall of Davao (Pre-War)


Local historians of Davao claim that the word davao came from the phonetic blending of the word of three Bagobo subgroups when referring to Davao River, an essential waterway which empties itself into Davao Gulf near the city. The aboriginal Obos who inhabit the hinterlands of the region called the river, Davoh; the Clatta or Guiangans called it Duhwow, or Davau, and the Tagabawa Bagobos, Dabu. To the Obos, the word davoh also means a place "beyond the high grounds", alluding to the settlements located at the mouth of Davao River which were surrounded by high rolling hills. When asked where they were going, the usual reply is davoh, while pointing towards the direction of the town. Duhwow also refers to a trading settlement where they barter their forest goods in exchange for salt or other commodities.




After Uyanguren defeated Datu Bago, he renamed the region Nueva Guipúzcoa and founded the town Nueva Vergara, which was Davao, in the year 1848, in honor of his home in Spain, and became its first governor. He himself was reported to have peaceful conquest of the entire Davao Gulf territory at the end of the year, despite lack of support from the Spanish government in Manila and his principals during the venture. He attempted to make peace with the neighboring tribes—the Bagobos, Mansakas, Manobos, Aetas, etc. -- to urge them to help develop the area; his efforts to develop the area, however, did not prosper.


By 1852, due to intrigues by people in Manila dissatisfied with his Davao venture, Marquis de Solana, under Governor General Blanco's order, took over Uyanguren's command of Nueva Guipúzcoa (Davao) Region. By that time, the capital town, Nueva Vergara, which is Davao, had a population of 526 residents and while relative peace with the natives prevailed, population expanded very slowly that even in the census report of 1855, the Christian inhabitants and converts increased to only 817, which included 137 exempted from paying tributes.
In 1867, the original settlement by the side of Davao River (end of present Bolton Street) was relocated to its present site with the Saint Peter’s church (now San Pedro Cathedral) as the center edifice on the intersection of San Pedro and Claveria Streets.
In the meantime, in response to the Davaoeños persistent demands, Nueva Vergara was renamed "Davao". The name is derived from its Bagobo origins: the Tagabawa who called the river "Dabo", the Giangan or Diangan who called it "Dawaw", and the Obo who called it "Davah", with a gentle vowel ending, although later usage pronounce it with a hard "v" as in "b". The pioneer Christian inhabitants of the settlement understandably were the proponents behind the official adoption of the name "Davao" in 1868.
The arrival of a group of three Jesuit missionaries in Davao in 1868 to take over the mission from the lone Recollect priest in the Davao Gulf area, marked a systematic and concerted effort at winning souls over the native inhabitants to the folds of Christian life. Through their zeal and frequent field work, the Jesuit fathers gradually succeeded in winning souls over the different indigenous tribes to live in reducciones, or settlements, thus easily reached for instructions in Christian precepts and practices.
By the 1890s, even the Muslims were starting to become Christian converts, through the efforts of their own datus, Datu Timan and Datu Porkan, although many others remained steadfast in their faith to Islam. Fr. Saturnino Urios who labored among the Moros of Hijo in 1892 further swayed the latter’s faith that led to the splitting of their population. Those who wanted to live among the Christians left Hijo and were resettled in Tigatto, Mawab, and Agdao, under the supervision of Don Francisco Bangoy and Don Teodoro Palma Gil, Sr. respectively. These separatist groups generally refer to themselves today as Kalagans.



American administration

A few years after the American forces landed in 1900, private farm ownership grew and transportation and communication facilities were improved, thus paving the way for the region's economic growth.
During the early years of American rule which began in late December 1898 the town began to mark its role as a new growth center of the Philippines, which it will be a city for the next 38 years. The American settlers, mostly retired soldiers and investor friends from Zamboanga, Cebu, Manila and the U.S. mainland immediately recognized the rich potential of the region for agricultural investment. Primeval forest lands were available everywhere. They staked their claim generally in hundreds of hectares and began planting rubber, abaca and coconuts in addition to different varieties of tropical plants imported from Ceylon, India, Hawaii, Java and Malaysia. In the process of developing large-scale plantations, they were faced with the problem of lack of laborers. Thus, they contracted workers from Luzon and the Visayas, including the Japanese, many of whom were former laborers in the Baguio, Benguet road construction. Most of these Japanese later became land-owners themselves as they acquired lands thru lease from the government or bought out some of the earlier American plantations. The first two decades of the 20th century, found Davao one of the major producers of export products --- abaca, copra and lumber. It became a regular port of call by inter-island shipping and began direct commercial linkages abroad - US, Japan, Australia, and many other countries. Some 40 American and 80 Japanese plantations proliferated throughout the province in addition to numerous stores and business establishments. Davao saw a rapid rise in its population and its economic progress gave considerable importance to the country’s economy and foreign trade.

JapanTown in davao City

A Japanese entrepreneur named Kichisaburo Ohta was granted permission to exploit vast territories which he transformed into abacá and coconut plantations. The first wave of Japanese plantation workers came onto its shores in 1903, creating a Little Japan. They had their own school, newspapers, an embassy, and even a Shinto Shrine. On the whole, they established extensive abaca plantations around the shores of Davao Gulf and developed large-scale commercial interests such as copra, timber, fishing and import-export trading. Filipinos learned the techniques of improved cultivation from the Japanese so that ultimately, agriculture became the lifeblood of the province's economic prosperity.


Manuel L.Quezon 

Davao was formally inaugurated as a chartered city on October 16, 1936, by President Manuel L. Quezon. The City of Davao then became the provincial capital of the then undivided Davao Province. It was one of the first two towns in Mindanao to be converted into a city, the other being Zamboanga. By that time the city's population was 68,000.

On December 8, 1941, the Japanese planes bombed the city, and eventually occupied Davao in 1942. However, in 1945, the American troops and the Philippine Commonwealth forces liberated Davao City from Japanese occupation.



In 1945, American and the Philippine Commonwealth forces liberated Davao City from Japanese forces. The longest and bloodiest battle during the Philippine Liberation occurred in the city; it was during the time of Battle of Mindanao. World War II brought considerable destruction to the new city and numerous setbacks to the earlier economic and physical strides made prior to the Japanese occupation. Davao was among the earliest to be occupied by the invading Japanese Forces, and they immediately fortified the city as the bastion of Japanese defense. It was subjected to constant bombing by the returning forces of Gen. MacArthur, long before the American Liberation Forces landed in Leyte in October 1944.

US Troops in Davao City

The Return of Gen. Douglas McArthur in Palo Leyte

After the Second World War, though the forces of the Empire of Japan inflicted a heavy toll over the city and its citizens during the war, the city still continued on its economic growth. Its population rose to 112,000 in 1946; its Japanese inhabitants, which consist 80% of the population of the city that time, were incorporated to the Filipino population; some of them are totally expelled from the country. The city resumed its role as the premier agricultural and economic hub of Mindanao. Logs, lumber, plywood, copra and banana products gradually replaced abaca as the major export product.
Thirty years later, in 1967, the Province of Davao was subdivided into three independent provinces, namely Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Davao Oriental. The City of Davao was grouped with Davao del Sur and was no longer the capital. However, it became a center of trade for Southern Mindanao. Over the years, Davao has become an ethnic melting pot as it continues to draw migrants from all over the country, lured by the prospects of striking it rich in the country's second largest city.
From the 1970s to present, Davao became the Regional Capital of Southern Mindanao and with the recent reorganization, became the regional capital of the Davao Region (Region XI) and the Highly urbanized city in the Province of Davao del Sur.

Davao City - Gateway to Mindanao














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