Etymology and origins of places

One member suggested we do an origin of places, just so we can at least know how beloved puroks, districts, or places came to be. So, let’s fire away. This is an evolving article, will be adding more to it as we find more.

To start first.

Davao – The region’s name is derived from its Bagobo origins. The Bagobos were indigenous to the Philippines. The word davao came from the phonetic blending of three Bagobo subgroups’ names for the Davao River, a major waterway emptying into the Davao Gulf near the city. The aboriginal Obos, who inhabit the hinterlands of the region, called the river Davah (with a gentle vowel ending, although later pronunciation is with a hard v or b); the Clatta (or Giangan/Diangan) called it Dawaw, and the Tagabawas called it Dabo. To the Obosdavah also means “a place beyond the high grounds” (alluding to settlements at the mouth of the river surrounded by high, rolling hills). After Cruz de Oyanguren defeated Bago, he founded the town of Nueva Vergara, the future Davao, on 29 June 1848[20] in an area of mangrove swamps which is now Bolton Riverside, in honor of his home in Spain and becoming its first governor. Almost two years later in 29 February 1850, the province of Nueva Guipúzcoa was established via a royal decree,[21] with the newly founded town as the capital, once again to honor his homeland in Spain. When he was the governor of the province, however, his plans of fostering a positive economic sway on the region backfired, which resulted in his eventual replacement under orders of the colonial government. The province of Nueva Guipuzcoa was dissolved in 30 July 1860, as it became the Politico-Military Commandery of Davao.[22] By the clamor of its natives, a petition was given to the Spanish government to eventually rename Nueva Vergara into Davao, since they have called the town as the latter long from the time of its founding. It was eventually done in year 1867, and the town Nueva Vergara was officially given its present name Davao. [23]

Davao City places:
Acacia – the place of acacia trees. people who travel to the poblacion would rest under the shade. Acacia also served as a terminal for outgoing for hire vehicles.
Agdao – according to Antonio Figueroa, was named after an ethnomedicine plant in the Boraginaceae family which natives used for convulsion by extracting its juice. The poultice is then placed on the fontanel (alimpulo) of a child until the fever subsides. In Bagobo, agdao means elder.
Bajada – a give away, lower level or going downhill. Going to Buhangin was pa-subida.
Bago Oshiro, Mintal – named after Oshiro Kozo, an Okinawan labor recruiter, who formed a partnership with Ohta Kyozaburo, the Ohta Development Company. Koza, was the vice president of the partnership. Bago means new in the Visayan language.
Bangkerohan – from the word “bangkero”. The place was where rows of bangka to ferry residents to and fro the Matina side.
Calinan – it traces its name to ‘Colina’ which means ‘water that changed direction’ in reference to the creek that runs across the present day Calinan-Wangan Road.
Central Bank of the Philippines (or Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) – originally was the Provincial Jail and Court.
Claveria – original name of C.M. Recto St., was a Spanish army officer who served as the Governor-General of the Philippines from July 16, 1844 to December 26, 1849. Old timers still call the street in its original name. For more:
Davao River – original name was Tagloc.
Gotamco – in real life, was Vicente Gotamco, a native of Amoy (now Xiamen) who was born in 1875. Gotamco and his siblings agreed to engage in lumber and named their new outfit Vicente Gotamco Hermanos, which, decades later, would become the leading lumber houses in the country. In the post-war period, with the opening of Mindanao to logging, the company established a branch in Davao City, making it synonymous with lumber business in years to come. The old lumberyard was nestled on the edge of Agdao Creek which during high tide carried hundreds of logs to a sawmill a few hundred meters upstream. The old creek has since been turned into a concrete road that links the flyover to Francisco Bangoy Street on the other end.
Milan (Buhangin) – corner of Buhangin and Diversion Rds., original location of the Milan general merchandise store. The go-to store for all the needs of Buhangin residents.
Mintal – The barangay was once part of a vast land peopled by the Bagobo under the leadership of Datu Intal, the Bagobo chieftain who died in 1889. The datu left behind the legacy of his name Intal, which was subsequently changed to Mintal. The early Japanese migrants referred to it as Mintaro. Given thus, the name Mintal can be considered as a symbol of the social transformation of Mindanao with migrants, both foreign and local, taking over the island numerically, politically, economically, and culturally. –
Rosemarie St. – near Carpenter where Agdao jeeps takes a u-turn. Got its name from Rosemarie Beauty Salon.
San Pedro St. – named after the patron saint of Davao.
Sitio Balentong – from Calinan going Malabog, cliffy location where people would slip and slide, hence Balentong.
Sito SinalikwayMintal, settlers were resettled a number of times, more of a sarcastic tone to it.
Tibungco – roughly is trabungco, name of a big snake living in this area.
Toril – meaning bullpen in Spanish.
Trading Boulevard – while origins are sketchy, refers to a wharf or a spot where fishermen gather to trade their catch.
UM Embassy Grounds – original location of the Davao Japanese Association and other Japanese buildings.
Uyanguren (or Oyanguren) – original name of R.M. Magsaysay Ave., Spanish conquistador who battled and defeated Datu Bago, and established the Christian settlement on the banks of Tagloc River (later on Davao). Just like Claveria, oldtimers still call the street as Uyanguren.

Davao Provinces:
Lupon – The Municipality of Lupon derived its name from the Kalagan native word “naluponan”. This means a body of land accumulated at the mouth of a river resulting from years of continued accretion. The settlers were said to be responsible in abbreviating the word “naluponan” to what is now known as “Lupon”.
Maco – according to some immigrants (a few still living), the name Maco was originally derived from a word Mamacao, which means a big tree. For the native inhabitants, Maco came from another derivative Maraco, although referring to the same meaning, that is, a big tree found in the sea. Moreover, to some Christian immigrants as the Boholanos, Maco simply means big.
Malita – According to folk etymology, the name “Malita” is derived from the
Spanish word “maleta” which means suitcase. It is said that purportedly Don Mariano Peralta, a retired veteran of the Spanish–American War who ventured to the place, decided to live on the vast, fertile plain across the river. One day while bodily fording the deep and swift river with his suitcase and other belongings in hand, the force of the current overwhelmed his perilous balance and got swept by the water consequently losing his grip on the suitcase. His frantic shouts of “maleta, maleta” attracted the attention of the bathing natives who after realizing the situation promptly responded and retrieved the vanishing to settle as Malita. How it came to its present spelling and usage maybe attributed to the natives’ prevalent use of suitcase. Hardly forgetting the shouts of Peralta, the natives later thought the word referred to the land he intended long ‘e’ sound for the vowels ‘i’ and ‘e’.,_Davao_Occidental
Mati – comes from the Mandayan word Maa-ti which refers to the town’s creek that easily dries up even after heavy rain.
Mawab – originally called by the early tribal group as ‘Ma-awag‘ (wide valley). There are four rivers traversing Mawab, namely: Hijo, Mawab, Galinan, and Gumawan.,_Compostela_Valley
Monkayo – derived from a species of trees that used to thrive along the banks of Agusan river which the natives called as Mondabon kayo (Mondabon tree).
Nabunturan – the origin of the name is from buntod, the Cebuano term for “mountain.” The word “Nabunturan” means “surrounded by mountains” in English.
Panabo – originally the rich lowland was inhabited by a group of stocky-haired natives called
Aetas. These people led nomadic life and lived by hunting. With the use of their most essential tool, the bow and arrow—”pana-sa-boboy” as they call it—they hunted for food which primarily consisted of rootcrops and meat of wild boars.[5] When the Christian settlers came at the beginning of the 20th century, the place was already a thriving trading community; thus, the place was already known as Taboan, which means “trading center”. After the Cristian settlers began pioneering the region, the natives moved further to the hinterlands along with them their “pana-sa-boboy“. This term later evolved into present day name Panabo.[5]
Tagum – Records that date back to the Spanish era state that Tagum derived its name from the river that flows from the confluence of Saug and Liboganon Rivers. The Tagum River, which formed at Pagsabangan, had been cited as the largest river in the western bay of the Davao Gulf (Blair & Robertson, 1906, p. 201). Nothing in the sources from both the Spanish and American era, however, made mention as to why the river that flows from the confluence of the Liboganon and Salug (Saug) Rivers was named Tagum. It was only after more than half a century had already passed that an account surfaced as to how the name Tagum came to be. Datu Aguido Sucnaan, Sr., a Kyalalaysan, the highest priest or leader of the Mansaka tribe, and one of the most respected leaders in present- Tagum, narrated that the etymology of the word “Tagum” came from the word “Tageum”, a kind of tree or plant that was abundant during the olden days and was mainly used as a dye on the fabric used as clothing by the tribe during the olden days

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Richi Gulle says:

    Hello, sir Paul. You may not include the words/sentences after (Blair and Robertson, p.___), in relation to Tagum. The old account in wikipedia is erroneous and this has been corrected by the City Government of Tagum thru their website. Thanks!


    1. edited, please check if it is correct. thanks for the correction.


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