Davao City: Then and Now is a story of a community carved out of the wilderness over a period of years. It deals with the community’s early history (even before it was created into a city); government organizations; economic conditions; social organizations; and cultural communities with unique people, having their own peculiar personalities, progressing in all directions and projecting their own identity as Davaoeños.
Davao first loomed in history as a Moro settlement in the banks of the Davao River. But, documentation of history began in 1848 when Don Jose Oyanguren defeated the Moros under Datu Bago, chieftain of the river settlers.
When the Spaniards came in 1848, they saw a community of Bagobos, Mandayas, B’laan, Mansakas, Manobos, Atas, Tagacaolos, Guiangan and the Moros. Oyanguren and his group built a Cristian settlement and a small chapel; which was named Nueva Vergara, in honor of Oyanguren’s hometown in Spain. In 1858, a military government was established in Nueva Vergara and was named the fourth district of Mindanao. Since that time on, Nueva Vergara became known by its native name, Davao. It was recorded in 1890 that Davao had a total number of 30,000 inhabitants, only 30 percent of which were Christians.
The economic condition of the people did not improve at all during the Spanish regime. Although Davao had a great economic potential, no industry was developed. There was no significant economic activity established then.
The American occupation started with the arrival in 1890 of Major Hunter Ligget. This gave birth to a Military administration. It was during the early years of this period that Davao was noticed as having a rich potential in agriculture development.
Even before the outbreak of World War II, Davao was home to a big population of Japanese migrant workers who contributed much to the economic advancement of Davao through the development of vast abaca plantations used in the processing of hemp. Other agricultural crops include coffee, rubber, and cotton.
1936: THE CREATION OF THE CITY
Davao was created as a city when then Assemblyman Romualdo C. Quimpo of Davao sponsored a bill in Congress in March 16, 1936, making Davao a chartered city. The said bill was signed into law by President Manuel L. Quezon on October 16, 1936. the formal inauguration was held on March 1, 1937.
The coming of the Japanese in 1941 brought fear among Davaoeños, and because of which, a big population evacuated to the outskirts of the city. When peace and order was re-establsihed under the terms of Mayors Alfonso Oboza and Donato Endriga, most evacuees came back to the poblacion. Davaoeños were then engaged in “buy and sell”, farming and government employment. Schools in the city were opened and the Nippongo language was taught to the students, side by side with the National Language and English. However, only few students attended classes. Life was not in normal condition due to the atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers.
After the Second World War, Davao staged its march to progress. The principal industries then were logging, copra, banana, corn, abaca, ramie, mining, and fishing. When the logging industry declined, the next industry that flourished was the banana industry. Since then, Davao was recognized as the center of commerce and trade in Mindanao. Industrial and commercial establishments did business domestically and internationally.
The rest of the 80’s and the early part of the 90’s saw a vibrant and dynamic Davao City teeming with economic developments as investments poured into the city due to favorable business climate brought about by its natural advantages and the peace and order condition.
Today, Davao City is caught in the vast sweep of urbanization that it is but proper for all Davaoeños, be they natives or migrants, to be proud of Davao City as one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines.
Source: Davao Historic Society and DCIPC
Photo By: Nonoy Avellanosa a.k.a Honesto C. Avellanosa III