Davao history timeline

The first documented arrival of the Spaniards on Davao soil was as early as February 2, 1543.

San Pedro Cathedral is the oldest church in the city, prominently located at the corner of San Pedro Street and C.M.Recto Avenue.  Named after Saint Peter, the patron saint, it was said to be built in 1847 by Don Jose Oyanguren, the Spanish conquistador who later become the first governor of Davao region.

Spanish influence was negligible in the Davao region until 1848, when an expedition of 70 men and women led by José Cruz de Uyanguren (from Bergara, 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 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.

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 theNueva 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).

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.

In response to the Davaowenos’ clamor, Nueva Vergara was renamed “Davao”. The name is derived from its Bagobo origins: the Tagabawa who called the river “Dabo”, the Giangan or Diangan who called it “Dawaw”, and the Obo who called it “Davah”, with a gentle vowel ending, although later usage pronounce it with a hard “v” as in “b”. The pioneer Christian inhabitants of the settlement understandably were the proponents behind the official adoption of the name “Davao” in 1868.

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.

After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Spanish rule in the region ended. Americans then landed in the region and they subsequently developed the regions communications and transportation systems. During this period, private farm ownership grew in the region. Japanese migration in the region began as two Japanese entrepreneurs, Kyosaburo Otta and Yoshizo Furokawa, were finding better agricultural lands for building abaca and  coconut plantations in the region.

The establishment of the Malolos Republic marked a significant event in Philippine history.  Also known as the First Philippine Republic, the Malolos Republic confirmed the independence of the Philippines from Spain. With the transfer of the seat of government from Bacoor, Cavite to Malolos, Bulacan, the Revolutionary Congress was inaugurated on September 15, 1898.
On the same day, the Congress elected the officers namely Pedro Paterno as President; Benito Legarda as Vice-President; Gregorio Araneta and Pablo Ocampo as secretaries. Pablo Tecson later replaced Araneta. Including the officers, 93 people took part of the Congress representing almost the entire Philippines.
Pedro Layog and Jose M. Lerma were the among the delegates in the Congress representing Davao. Not much has been written about these two men, but they were instrumental for the people of Davao as they took part as history unfolded. They carried Davao on their shoulders to join the rest of the country to be among the constituent assembly of the First Philippine Republic.
References:  Philippine History by Halili; Philippine Star, September 1, 1998 issue page 9 and taken originally from the National Historical Institute.


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.

Davao Evangelical Church was established. The local church can  trace  its  beginnings  to  Rev. Robert Franklin Black who was appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to serve as a missionary  in the Philippines in 1902. It was then known as the Davao Evangelical Church. The small group of converts steadily grew. As a response to the prevalent cholera and malaria epidemic, Rev. Black requested for medical missionaries. Dr. and Mrs. Charles Sibley  arrived in 1908 and established the Davao Mission Hospital which later became the Brokenshire Memorial Hospital.

1903 until 1914
The region was one of the districts of the former Moro Province in Mindanao. After 1914, the province was replaced by an American colonial agency called Department of Mindanao and Sulu, which spanned the entire Mindanao island except Lanao. The agency lasted from 1914 to 1920.

Even before the Philippine independence in 1946, the entire region was already a single province called Davao Province, with Davao City serving as its capital. The province was one of the largest provinces in the Philippines during that time, spanning more than 20,000 square kilometers; it lasted from 1920 until 1967, when the province split into three provinces, namely: Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Davao del Sur. After the division, Davao City was officially named its regional center.

Japan-town, Davao City (circa 1930s). 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.

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.

Santiago Artiaga was mayor.

Agustin Alvarez was mayor.
On December 8, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the city and the Japanese occupation began in 1942. In 1942, during World War II, as the Japanese occupation of the Philippines began, the region was one of the first among the Philippine regions to be subjected by Japanese occupation. After the war, the region eventually passed to the American hands again for at least almost one year before the formal Philippine independence in July 4, 1946; most of the Japanese living in the region were now integrated in the  Filipino population.

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.


At the request of the Most Reverend Luis del Rosario S.J., Bishop of Zamboanga, which then included Davao, the Jesuit Fathers took over St. Peter’s Parochial School and founded the Ateneo de Davao in 1948. The founding Fathers were led by Fr. Theodore E. Daigler S.J., who became the first Rector of the school. The other founding Fathers were Frs. Alfredo Paguia S.J. and Grant Quinn S.J. and Scholastics James Donelan S.J. and Rodolfo Malasmas S.J. On 20 May 1948, Ateneo de Davao was registered with the SEC with SEC Registration No. 3467 as a non-stock, non-profit, education institution.

When the Ateneo de Davao formally opened in 28 June 1948, it offered Grades V and VI and 1st to 3rd year high school. There were 71 elementary students and 131 high school students who started in a wooden building on a six-hectare lot in Matina.


Davao City Foursquare Church was founded on November 26, 1956


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.

A program called “Unlad Proyekto Davao” was initiated by the government which was aimed to unite the Dabawenyos after the turbulent Martial Law era. At that time, the festival was called “Apo Duwaling,” a name created from the famous icons of Davao: Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak; Durian, the king of fruits; and Waling-waling, the queen of orchids.

“Apo Duwaling” was meant to showcase the city as a peaceful destination to visit and to do business after 1986 EDSA Revolution.

City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte renamed the Apo Duwaling festival as “Kadayawan sa Dabaw” to celebrate the bountiful harvest of Davao’s flowers, fruits and other produce as well as the wealth of the city’s cultures. To this day, the festival continues to honor the city’s richness and diverse artistic, cultural and historical heritage in a grand celebration of thanksgiving for all of Davao City’s blessings.

Compostela Valley, the 78th province in the country, was carved out of Davao del Norte Province by virtue of Republic Act No. 8470, signed by President Fidel V. Ramos on January 30, 1998. On March 7 of the same year, the law was ratified through a plebiscite conducted in the twenty-two (22) municipalities of the mother province.

Creation of IGaCoS. When Samal Island were created into three municipalities, it was perceived that its development would be mobilized being located proximately to the progressive Metropolis of Davao and nearby growth centers in Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur. Yet, after the past decades since its creation as municipalities in 1948, 1953 and 1966 its development lagged far behind from its neighboring local government units. Hence in 1966 the high ranking officials of Davao del Norte led by Congressman Rodolfo del Rosario and Provincial Governor Prospero S. Amatong with other members of Sangguniang Panlalawigan moved on to usher Samal a new vision of hope before its Golden Anniversary in 1998. During this year a new concept of development strategy cropped up which is the creation of an urban center in a rural development that would set a new horizon of modernity and prioritize quality public service delivery.

Congressman Rodolfo P. del Rosario passed the bill that resulted to the passage of Republic Act#8471, which paved the way for the integration of the three municipalities into one local government unit that is now called the Island Garden City of Samal. This was signed on January 30, 1998 by his Excellency, President Fidel V. Ramos and was overwhelming approved by the people of the locality during the plebiscite held on March 7, 1998. Almost four months later, on June 30, 1998, the new city began exercising its corporate powers.

At first, people from all walks of life were resistant on its name for it’s too long. Other simply remarked that with physical attributes of the locality, it does not deserve to be called a city. With due respect to these observations, only few realized that the creation of the city is totally distinct in the sense that it embraces the new dimension of development which hopefully will make things happen for its people.

Then Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued an Executive Order declaring portions of Barangay 27-C and Barangay 30-C, where streets are mostly occupied by Filipino-Chinese with their respective businesses, as Davao City Chinatown and constituting the Davao City Chinatown Development Council (DCCDC). The creation of the DCCDC aims to assist in the active formulation and implementation of policies in an area that has great commercial, historical, economic and social significance to the Davao City.

The further development of Chinatown was an initiative of the Davao City Council Tourism Committee Chairperson, Ms. Susan Isabel Reta.

On January 5, 2009, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 01, Series of 2009, “An Order Creating the Executive Committee (Execom) of the 1st Davao Chinese New Year Festival”.

Its whereas(es) provides that “the City Government of Davao, through the Davao City Chinatown Development Council, is committed to promote the development of Chinatown as one of the major historical, economic, and cultural centers of the city.”

“The Davao City Chinatown Development Council saw it fitting to formally launch the city’s own Chinatown during the Chinese New Year, which falls on January 26, 2009, through a week-long festival starting on January 24 to 31, 2009.”


President Aquino has signed into law a measure creating the province of Davao Occidental, formerly Davao del Sur, which consists of five towns.

The capital town and seat of government of Davao Occidental will be the municipality of Malita. Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos and Saranggani also form part of the province.

Republic Act 10360 states that incumbent representatives and other local officials of Davao del Sur shall continue their term of office.

thank you to the following links where we got our information:

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Dane Cubacub says:

    It is spelled as Oyanguren as what I read from a book in the public library.


    1. Either way, both versions are acceptable.


      1. Dane Cubacub says:

        True. I just cannot believe that Datu Bago was a bad guy.


      2. Gyud. Victors write history as they see it.


      3. Dane Cubacub says:

        the sad thing is iyong nabasa ko na book was written by a Filipino. Although hindi sinabi exactly, iyong si Datu T of Samal supplied Oyanguren with men para sa battle nila dahil itong si Oyanguren niransack niya ang villages ni Datu T.


      4. Yes I agree. One more thing, I don’t make judgement as an admin on any links or photos. Whatever I find on the the net, I post it, and let the reader draw conclusions.


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