Davao City is a city in Mindanao, Philippines which is the center of Metro Davao, the third most populous (as of 2010 Census with a population of 2.26 million, after Metro Manila's 11.86 million and Metro Cebu's 2.55 million). With a total land area of 2,444 square kilometers, the city is the largest in the country in terms of land area. The city serves as the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao and the regional center for Davao Region. As of the 2010 NSO Census, it had a population of 1,449,296, making it the fourth-most-populous city in the Philippines and the most populous in Mindanao. Davao is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines.
The region's name is derived from its Bagobo origins. The word davao came from the phonetic blending of three Bagobo subgroups' names for the Davao River, a major waterway emptying into the Davao Gulf near the city. The aboriginal Obos, who inhabit the hinterlands of the region, called the river Davah (with a gentle vowel ending, although later pronunciation is with a hard v or b); the Clatta (or Giangan/Diangan) called it Dawaw, and the Tagabawa called it Dabo. To the Obos, davah also means "a place beyond the high grounds" (alluding to settlements at the mouth of the river surrounded by high, rolling hills). When asked where they were going, the usual reply was davah (pointing towards the town). Dawaw also refers to a trading settlement, where forest goods are bartered for salt and other commodities.
Spanish conquest and administration
Although Spaniards began to explore the Davao Gulf area as early as 16th century, Spanish influence was negligible in the Davao region until 1844, when the Spanish brigadier general Agustin Bocallan claimed the area in what is now Davao City for the Spanish Crown, despite opposition by the Sultan of Maguindanao. Official colonization of the area, however, began in 1848 when an expedition of 70 men and women led by José Cruz de Uyanguren of Vergara, Spain, established a Christian settlement in an area of mangrove swamps which is now Bolton Riverside. Davao was then ruled by a chieftain, Bago, who had a settlement on the banks of the Davao River (then called the Tagloc River by the Bagobos). Bago was the most powerful datu in the Gulf area at that time. Cruz de Uyanguren met the Mandaya chieftain, Daupan, joining him to help defeat Bago (who collected tribute from the neighboring Mandayas). 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. Several weeks later, Manuel Quesada, Navy Commanding General of Zamboanga, arrived with a company of infantry and joined in an attack on Bago’s settlement.
After Cruz de Uyanguren defeated Bago, he renamed the region Nueva Guipúzcoa, founding the town of Nueva Vergara (the future Davao) in 1848 to honor of his home in Spain and becoming its first governor. He was reported to have peacefully conquered the entire Davao Gulf region by year's end, despite a lack of support from the Spanish government in Manila and his allies. Cruz de Uyanguren attempted to make peace with the neighboring tribes (including the Bagobos, Mansakas, Manobos and Aetas), urging them to help develop the area; his efforts, however, did not succeed.
By 1852, due to intrigues by those in Manila dissatisfied with Cruz de Uyanguren's Davao venture, Marquis de Solana (by Governor General Blanco's order) took over Cruz de Uyanguren's command of the Nueva Guipúzcoa (Davao) region. By that time, the capital, Nueva Vergara (Davao) had a population of 526. While relative peace with the natives prevailed, the population grew very slowly. In the 1855 census, the Christian inhabitants and converts numbered 817 (including 137 who were exempt from taxes).
In 1867, the original settlement on the Davao River (at the end of present Bolton Street), was relocated to its present site with Saint Peter’s Church (now San Pedro Cathedral) as its center at the intersection of San Pedro and Claveria Streets. In the meantime, in response to Davaoeño demands Nueva Vergara was renamed Davao. The pioneer Christian inhabitants of the settlement were the proponents of the 1868 adoption of Davao.
The arrival of three Jesuit missionaries in Davao in 1868 to take over the mission from the sole Recollect priest in the Davao Gulf area marked a concerted effort to convert the natives to Christianity. Through their zeal and field work, the Jesuits gradually succeeded in winning souls to live in reducciones (settlements), which easily allowed instruction in Christian precepts and practices.
By the 1890s, Muslims began to become Christian converts by the efforts of their datus (Timan and Porkan), although many others remained steadfast in Islam. Saturnino Urios, who labored among the Moros of Hijo in 1892, divided the population; those who wanted to live among the Christians left Hijo, and were resettled in Tigatto, Mawab and Agdao under the supervision of Francisco Bangoy and Teodoro Palma Gil. These groups generally refer to themselves today as Kalagans.
Several years after American forces landed in 1900, private farm ownership grew; transportation and communication facilities were improved, 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 its role as a growth center in the Philippines. American settlers (primarily retired soldiers and investors from Zamboanga, Cebu, Manila and the U.S.) recognized the potential of the region for agricultural investment. Forest land was available everywhere. Investors generally staked claims in the hundreds of hectares, planting rubber, abaca, coconuts and tropical plants imported from Ceylon, India, Hawaii, Java and Malaysia. The development of large-scale plantations faced a labor shortage, and workers were contracted from Luzon and the Visayas (including Japanese laborers from the Baguio, Benguet road construction). Many Japanese became landowners, acquiring lands by government lease or buying American plantations. The first two decades of the 20th century found Davao a producer of exports (abacá, copra and lumber). It became a port of call for inter-island shipping, and began commercial links to the U.S., Japan, Australia and elsewhere. About 40 American and 80 Japanese plantations proliferated in the province, along with stores and businesses. Davao experienced a rapid rise in population, and its economic progress improved the country’s economy and foreign trade.
Japanese entrepreneur Kichisaburo Ohta exploited large territories, transforming them into abacá and coconut plantations. The first wave of Japanese plantation workers arrived in 1903, creating "Little Japan". They had their own school, newspapers, an embassy and a Shinto shrine. They established extensive abacá plantations around Davao Gulf and developed large-scale copra, timber, fishing and import-export trade. Filipinos learned cultivation techniques from the Japanese, and agriculture became the lifeblood of the province's economic prosperity.
People from all over Luzon and Visayas settled in Davao in large numbers as early as 1915. As a result, they outnumbered the indigenous Manobo, Tagacaolo, Guongan and B'laan tribes in the area, and consequently bought their lands in exchange for money or other commodities. During this time, these people are living along with the Japanese residents and businessmen in Davao town.
Because of increasing Japanese influence in the region's economy, on March 16, 1936, congressman Romualdo Quimpo from Davao filed Bill 609 (passed as Commonwealth Act 51), creating the City of Davao from the Town of Davao (Mayo) and Guianga District. The bill called for the appointment of local officials by the president.
Davao was inaugurated as a charter city on October 16, 1936 by President Manuel L. Quezon. The City of Davao became provincial capital of a united Davao Province. It was one of the first two towns in Mindanao to be converted into a city (the other was Zamboanga). By that time, the city's population was 68,000.
World War II
On December 8, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the city and the Japanese occupation began in 1942. In 1945, American and Philippine Commonwealth forces liberated Davao City from the Japanese. The longest and bloodiest battle during the Philippine Liberation occurred in the city at the time of the Battle of Mindanao. World War II brought destruction to the new city, and set back the economic and physical strides made before the Japanese occupation. Davao was among the earliest to be occupied by Japanese forces, and the city was immediately fortified as a bastion of Japanese defense. It was subjected to extensive bombing by forces led by Douglas MacArthur before American liberation forces landed in Leyte in October 1944.
After the Second World War, although the Japanese Imperial Army had inflicted a heavy toll on the city, it continued its economic growth. Its population rose to 112,000 in 1946; some Japanese inhabitants (80 percent of the city's population at the time) assimilated with the Filipino population, while others were expelled from the country. The city resumed its role as the agricultural and economic hub of Mindanao. Logs, lumber, plywood, copra and banana products gradually replaced abacá as major exports.
Thirty years later, in 1967, the Province of Davao was divided into three provinces: Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental. The city of Davao became part of Davao del Sur; no longer the capital, it became a commercial center for southern Mindanao. Davao has become an ethnic melting pot; it attracts migrants from throughout the Philippines, lured by prospects for prosperity in the country's second-largest city. During the 1970s, Davao became regional capital of southern Mindanao; with the reorganization, it became regional capital of the Davao Region (Region XI) and a highly urbanized city in the province of Davao del Sur.