Davao: Then and Now
BY Jereco O. Paloma
BEFORE Davao became the city as we know it today, it underwent a lot of processes as history unfolds itself creating one of the most dynamic and one of the most-admired cities in the country today.
Based on the book “Davao: An Introduction to its History” by Ernesto I. Corcino, the very first historical account that has been recorded about Davao was in 1948, 50 years before the country has been liberated from the 333 years under Spanish rulers.
When Don Jose Cruz de Oyanguren, a native of Vergara, Guipuzcoa, Spain was allowed by Don Narciso Claveria a Governor-General of the Archipelago, to conquer and explore this side of Mindanao, and to get rid of the Moros or native Muslim people of Davao while establishing a Christian community in the region.
Arriving with a group roughly 70 individuals comprising of warriors and Catholic missionaries, the group was not able to penetrate the whole region easily.
One of the first movements that Oyanguren’s team made was to attack Datu Bago’s camp stationed at the opening of the Davao River.
Datu Bago was the head of all local chieftains in Davao before Spaniards was able to successfully penetrated the region. Some historians consider Datu Bago as a villain while other argue that Oyanguren was an unsung and forgotten hero of Davao.
In his book, Corcino said Oyanguren’s vessel failed to get through the Davao River because of its narrowness prompting Oyanguren’s team to retreat.
True indeed that what had happened between Oyanguren and Datu Bago has made an impact in the history of today’s Davao City.
But, not all historians have the common notion on who was the protagonist or the antagonist between Oyanguren and Datu Bago. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure–both of them played an important role in the creation of Davao City and making the city’s history one of the most colorful across the country.
Many people even to this time are unaware that before Davao was actually called as “Davao” it was initially called during the Spanish occupancy in the region as Nueva Vergara or “New Vergara” because Oyanguren was a native of Vergara, a small town in Spain.
The years 1867 to 1868 were among the most important years in the history of the city. It was in the year 1867 when population beside the old San Pedro Church or at the intersection of then Claveria and San Pedro Streets started to grow rapidly. Claveria Street was later changed to Claro M. Recto Street.
In 1868, locals have started clamoring to change the name of the region from Nueva Vergara to Davao.
Some historians claimed that the word Davao was derived from Bagobo roots when Tagabawa, or dwellers along Davao River called the river “Dabo,” or for the Diangans who called it as “Dawaw,” and to Obo who refer the river as Davah.
The name “Davao” was started to be the accepted and official name of the region when foreign missionaries, according to some records, were the ones who coined the name.
Decades have passed, from a large and undivided region, Davao has been declared as among the most fascinating cities in the whole country, based on various aspects like the region’s governance, economy, and some other considerations.
That was on October 16, 1936 when the Commonwealth Act No. 51 otherwise known as the Charter of the City of Davao was signed by then President of the Republic of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon which gave birth to Davao city from being a Municipality of Davao.
The city’s first history as an independent city began on March 1, 1937 with a population of 68,000 which inflated to 98,000 by 1940. Since then, the city’s development in terms of political and population aspect has started to progress rapidly.
The city’s first mayor was Mayor Santiago Artiaga as appointed by president Quezon along with other appointive members of the City Council.
Artiaga was one of the most-admired mayors that Davao City has ever had for the past 75 years. In fact, a street in Davao City was named after him.
Despite the Second World War erupted in 1940s, the occupancy of the Japanese has left lots of memories to the city. During the war, the Japanese forces made Davao City as their defense camp.
But despite all the destructions and devastation brought by the war, Davao City remained steadfast and was able to regain its glory with the help of the American Military forces.
From Mayor Artiaga, Davao City has been passed on to a total of 21 mayors with some of them served multiple terms.
Among the mayors who ruled the city, former Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is now the city’s vice mayor, was the mayor who served the most number of terms for a total of six full terms (1988-1992, 1992-1995, 1995-1998, 2001-2004, 2004-2007, 2007-2010).
Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte, the incumbent mayor is the first ever lady mayor that the city ever had.
Today, the lady mayor has became one of the most admired city mayors across the country not because of her father’s legacies but because of her individual and independent mind set which is very separate and sometimes opposite to that of her father.
Both economically and politically, Davao City plays a vital role not only to the Davao Region’s economy and sustainability but also to the whole Mindanao in general.
Davao City has become the center of trade and commerce of entire Mindanao businesses abound. Major economic zones, educational institutions, companies, health facilities, and other major aspects that a modern and well-developed city must have.