Davao City's history: Vibrant and exciting

(Writer's note: The information in this article were provided by Museo Dabawenyo.)

"He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination." - Dr. Jose Rizal, Philippine National Hero


THE place that we call now as Davao City was used to be inhabited by the lumads and the Moros.

It was colonized by Spaniards in the middle of 1800s led by Don Jose Uyanguren under the orders of Gov. Gen. Narciso Claveria (where some of the city streets' name derived).

However, Spanish rule in Davao was very unstable as the native inhabitants, both the lumads and the Moros, resisted Spanish efforts to resettle them and make them pay tributes. After 50 years of occupation, the Spaniards abandoned Davao in 1899, and the Americans took over (Tiu, M. 2005).

The American settlers immediately recognized Davao’s rich potential for agricultural investment. They succeeded in "befriending" the native inhabitants here and transformed the place into huge abaca and coconut plantations.

It was also during the early American rule where rapid economic progress began. Because of this, migrants from Luzon and the Visayas, as well as from other countries, like China, Japan, and the United States, flocked to Davao.

The Japanese began as imported labor, but they became enterprising as the years went by and managed to own land and increase their hold on the abaca industry by buying out the Americans.

In the 1930s, Japanese already completely controlled the place. The Japanese dictated both the economic and political life of the town. This situation so alarmed the national government that Davao City was established as a chartered city by joining the Guianga Municipal District and the town of Davao. In this way, the local government would be appointed by Manila, thus lessening the political manipulation of the Japanese.

During the Constitutional Convention in 1934, Davao Delegate Pantaleon Pelayo Sr. denounced the control of the Japanese in Davao and their unlimited acquisition of land. The issue became a national concern so that Davao was made into a chartered city with appointed officials instead of elective officials. It was feared that if the officers were to be chosen through elections, the Japanese-supported candidates would win.

During the Commonwealth era in 1936, President Manuel Quezon signed the charter, Commonwealth Act No. 51, creating Davao City. By March 1, 1937, the law took effect and Davao became a city. The invocation during the inauguration of Davao City was given by Rev. Fr. Joseph Reyes, S.J., on March 1, 1937.

The new city was carved out from the Municipality of Davao, having municipal district of Guianga.

The city in its early years, from 1937 to 1941 was governed by its appointed leaders, namely: Agustin Alvarez, Santiago Artiaga, Pantaleon Pelayo Sr., Leon Garcia Sr., and Rodolfo Sarenas.

Then the Japanese landed Davao on December 20, 1941 and the war broke out here in the land. They controlled the city until the coming of the Americans in 1945.

The Davao City government was reestablished after "deliberation" from the Japanese's clasp.

Despite the ravage of war, the city continued to resume its progress.

In 1955, a Republic Act was signed into law which provides for the election of the Davao City officials, namely the mayor, the vice mayor and 10 city councilors.

In November, 1955, the first Davao City mayor was elected in the person of Carmelo Porras and in 1967, the first indigenous person was elected as the highest officer of the city in the person of Elias Lopez, a full-blooded Bagobo.

It is during this year as well when the Davao province was devided into different provinces namely Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Davao Oriental. Davao City then was made independent from the three provinces.

And that's a part and parcel of the history of our beloved Davao City. Our history is worth a visit; it is as colorful as our lives are.
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