DAVAO CITY: A GLIMPSE OF THE PAST

On March 16, 1521, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (from which Magallanes Street was named after), working under the auspices of Spain, rediscovered the Philippines (named so in honor of King Philip II).

But it was not until on February 2, 1543 that the first documented arrival of the Spaniards on Davao soil, according to davaoofthepast.com (most of the information contained here came from this website).

Five years later, in 1848, an expedition of 70 men and women headed by Jose Cruz de Uyanguren led to the establishment of a Christian settlement in an area of mangrove swamps (now called Bolton Riverside).  A year earlier, San Pedro Cathedral was built in the same spot where it is located now.

At that time, Davao was ruled by a Muslim-Bagobo chieftain named Bago, who had settlement on the banks of the Tagloc River (today’s Davao River).  For the uninformed, Datu Bago Awards is named after this man.  “Datu Bago was the most powerful datu in the area at that time,” the website noted.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, shared this bit of information: “Being the strongest chieftain in the region, Datu Bago imposed heavy tribute on the Mandaya tribes nearby, therefore also making him the most loathed chieftain in the region.”

What happened next is sort of a script out from a movie.  “Cruz de Uyanguren has orders from the higher authorities in Manila to colonize the Davao Gulf region, which included the Bagobo settlement on the northern riverbank. 

“At this juncture, a Mandaya chieftain named Datu Daupan, who then ruled Samal Island, came to him, seeking for an alliance against Datu Bago,” the Wikipediasaid.  “The two chieftains were archrivals, and Cruz de Uyanguren took advantage of it, initiating an alliance between Spain and the Mandayas of Samal Island.”

Here’s what happened next, according to the website: “They failed to defeat Bago when their ships were outmaneuvered crossing the narrow channel of the Davao River bend (where the Bolton Bridge is located).  Three months after the battle, Cruz de Uyanguren began building a causeway connecting the other side of the river, but Bago’s warriors raided the workers.”

But in the end, Cruz de Uyanguren was able to defeat Datu Bago.  “After Cruz de Uyanguren defeated Bago, he founded the town of Nueva Vergara, the future Davao, on June 29, 1848,” Wikipedia chronicled.

In 1867, the original settlement on the Tagloc River was transferred to the area near the San Pedro Cathedral.  The following year, the place was given a new name, “Davao.”

The website explained: “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 the later usage pronounced it with a hard ‘v’ as ‘b.’  The pioneer Christian inhabitants of the settlement understandably were the proponents behind the official adoption of the name ‘Davao’ in 1868.”

Then, the Americans came in the 1900s.  “Private farm ownership grew, transportation and communication facilities were improved, paving the way for the region’s economic growth,” the website said.

It was at this time that Davao became a producer of exports, particularly abaca, copra and lumber.  “(Davao) became a port of call for inter-island shipping, and began commercial links to the United States, Japan, Australia and elsewhere,” the website said.

From 1903 to 1914, the region was one of the districts of then known was Moro Province in Mindanao.  But before 1914 ended, the American colonial agency replaced the name and called it Department of Mindanao and Sulu, which spanned the entire Mindanao island except Lanao.  It lasted for six years.

With a land area of more than 20,000 square kilometers, the province was one of the largest at that time with Davao City as its capital. 

“Because of the rapidly increasing progress of the town, Congressman Romualdo Quimpo from Davao filed Bill 609 (passed as Commonwealth Act 51), creating the City of Davao from the town of Davao and the municipal district of Guianga,” Wikipedia noted.  “The bill called for the appointment of local officials by the president.”

On October 16. 1936, Davao was inaugurated as a charter city by President Manuel L. Quezon.  The charter came into effect on March 1, 1937. (It was one of the first two towns in Mindanao to be converted into a city; the other one was Zamboanga.)

According to Quezon, the conversion of Davao into a chartered city was “important in international trade” as it “brings to realization one of my long-cherished plans of affording your city every opportunity to make strides in its political, social, and economic development.”

Then, World War II broke out.  “On December 8, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the city and the Japanese occupation began in 1942,” the website said.  During the World War II, Davao was among the regions in the Philippines to be subjected by Japanese occupation.

In 1945, the American and Philippine Commonwealth forces liberated Davao from the Japanese.  “World War II brought destruction to the new city, and set back the economic and physical strides made before the Japanese occupation,” the website claimed.

In 1967, the province was divided into three provinces: Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental.  Davao City remained as the regional center.  Two more provinces were carved out from these provinces: Compostela Valley (soon to be named Davao de Oro) and Davao Occidental.

Today, Davao City is known as one of the biggest cities of the Philippines.  It has a total land area of 2,443.61 square kilometers.