Davao City, the second largest city in the world, is shaping to become the central point of development in Southern Philippines. It is a fast growing major city, despite its newness. In 1948 there were only 40,000 people while today it has a population of 1,006,840. It has an area of about 244,000 hectares. Davao City is divided into eleven districts with Barangays.
Davao City is the yardstick of civilization in Mindanao. The rise of this city in Mindanao has been an overnight phenomenon.
The history of Davao is brief but enchanting. It harks back to primeval past and brings to mind tribal wars, drumbeats and ritual fires along riverbanks. That’s perhaps why it was once called Dabadaba meaning “region of fire”. Davao was originally controlled by Sultanate of Mindanao until it was ceded to Spain in 1844. It was a vast wild-land of untamed natural resources populated by pagan natives. The Bagobos and Mandayas are among the leading tribes in the region even to this date.
After the cessation, Jose Oyanguren visited the place and noted the rich natural potential of the area. When he returned to Manila he convinced the governor Narciso Claveria to send an expedition to the newly acquired land. The expedition left in 1847, but Oyanguren had to defeat Datu Bago, leader of the Moros, if he had to take the gulf district of Samal. The joint forces of Oyanguren and Samal leader Datu Daupan failed to subdue Datu Bago who defended his fortified settlement atop the hill where Bankerohan Public Market now stands. He was finally defeated when Manuel Quesada, the Spanish naval commander in Zamboanga, came to assist Oyanguren in the battle. Datu Bago fled and Quesada went on to destroy the Moro stronghold in Hijo, Davao Province. Oyanguren stayed to form the first Christian settlement, which he named Nueva Vergara, after Vergara, his hometown in Spain.
In 1867, Oyanguren was relieved by the Marques de Solano who succeeded Calveria as governor general of the whole archipelago. In 1868, Nueva Vergara was renamed DAVAO. As Christian communities began to sprout due to migrations from the other parts of the country, the pagan inhabitants slowly retreated towards the mountains as the Christian settlers populated the seacoast.
Urbanization is a reality that any mission strategy for the future must take into account. People from the countryside move to the city where there are more opportunities for earning money. The National Statistics Office (NSO) considers as high as 3% growth per year. The national population growth rate is 2.35 percent while Davao City is experiencing a 3.2 percent annual rise. Davao City is now doubling in size and will likely have 1,500,000 people by the year 2000.
Mindanao is next to Luzon in size: a vast island that is at once elusive and a touch scary. In a country often lashed by typhoons and storms, Mindanao is ha haven of calm seas and gentle winds. Agusan, Bukidnon and Surigao, rising from the northern coastline, have towering rain forests as well as deposits of nickel, copper, silver and gold. Farther west and south in Davao and Cotabato, are the broad green fields of Asia’s largest banana, pineapple and abaca plantations. Farther west lies the Zamboanga Peninsula; Here the Sulu Sea yields pearls and corals as well as hundreds of varieties of fish.
The Sulu Arechipelago is like a world set apart from the rest of the country. Its 2,600 volcanic and coral islands are scattered across the Celebes and Sulu Seas like green dots on the broad blue waters, some totally isolated from the others.
The Maguindanaos, a “people from the lake”, has given the name to Mindanao. The Maguindanaos are Mohametan Moros and were the chief obstacle f the Spaniards in conquering Mindanao, but were finally brought under control and their power and importance is now almost gone.
If the spread of Islam in Sulu was slow but sure, its advance in Mindanao was slower and came much later. It was not until the arrival of Sharif Kabungsuwan of Jahore, who landed at the mough of the Cotabato River in 1475, that Islam began to sweep the mainland. He too declared himself a sultan and deployed his men with speed into many parts of Mindanao. Many of the people embraced the faith but there were just as many who did not. They withdrew into the mountains and stuck to their original animistic beliefs and from them came the present-day Manobos, Bilaans, Tagabilis and Subanons who live in the uplands of Zamboanga, the Southwestern highlands of Mindanao and around the Davao Gulf.