The city has a total land area of 2,443.61 km2 (943.48 sq mi), making it the largest city in the Philippines in terms of land area. It is the third-most populous city in the Philippines after Quezon City and Manila, the most populous city in the country outside Metro Manila, and the most populous in Mindanao. As of the 2015 census, the city had a population of 1,632,991.
It is geographically situated in the province of Davao del Sur and grouped under the province by the Philippine Statistics Authority, but the city is governed and administered independently from it. The city is divided into three congressional districts, which are subdivided into 11 administrative districts with a total of 182 barangays.
Davao City is the center of Metro Davao, the third-most populous metropolitan area in the Philippines (as of the 2015 census it had a population of 2.5 million, compared with Metro Manila‘s 12.8 million and Metro Cebu‘s 2.8 million). The city serves as the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao, and the regional center of Davao Region. Davao is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. The city is also nicknamed the “Durian Capital of the Philippines”.
The city has the highest murder rate and the second-highest rape rate in the country according to national police raw data as of 2015. Rodrigo Duterte, mayor for 22 years, boasted that he killed criminals. A vigilante group called the Davao Death Squad killed over 1,400 street children and alleged criminals while he was mayor, according to human rights groups.
The region’s name is derived from its Bagobo origins. The Bagobos were indigenous to the Philippines. The word davaocame 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 Obos, davah also means “a place beyond the high grounds” (alluding to settlements at the mouth of the river surrounded by high, rolling hills).
Although the Spaniards began to explore the Davao Gulf area as early as the 16th century, Spanish influence was negligible in the Davao region until 1844, when the Spanish Governor General of the Philippines Narciso Claveria ordered the Davao Gulf region, including what is now Davao City, to be claimed Davao City for the Spanish Crown, despite protests by the Sultan of Maguindanao. Official colonization of the area, however, began in 1848 when an expedition of 70 men and women led by José Cruz de Uyanguren of Vergara, Spain, made a landing on the estuary of the Davao River the same year, intent on colonizing the vicinity. Nearby, a settlement was situated on the banks of the river, ruled by a Muslim Bagobo chieftain named Datu Bago.
Being the strongest chieftain in the region, Datu Bago imposed heavy tribute on the Mandaya tribes nearby, therefore also making him the most loathed chieftain in the region. Cruz de Uyanguren has orders from the higher authorities in Manila to colonize the Davao Gulf region, which included the Bagobo settlement on the northern riverbank. At this juncture, a Mandaya chieftain named Datu Daupan, who then ruled Samal Island, came to him, seeking for an alliance against Datu Bago. The two chieftains were archrivals, and Cruz de Uyanguren took advantage of it, initiating an alliance between Spain and the Mandayas of Samal Island. Intent on taking the settlement for Spain, he and his men accordingly assaulted it, but the Bagobo natives fiercely resisted the attacks, which resulted in his Samal Mandaya allies to retreat and not fight again. Thus, a three-month long inconclusive battle for the possession of the settlement ensued which was only decided when an infantry company which sailed its way via warships from Zamboanga came in as reinforcements, thus ensuring the takeover of the settlement and its surroundings by the Spaniards while the defeated Bagobos fled further inland.
After Cruz de Oyanguren defeated Bago, he founded the town of Nueva Vergara, the future Davao, on 29 June 1848 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, 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. 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.
The Spanish control of the town was unstable at best, as its Lumad and Moro natives routinely resisted the attempts of the Spanish authorities to forcibly resettle them and convert them into Christians. Despite all these, however, such were all done in the goal of making the governance of the area easier, dividing the Christians both settlers and native converts and the Muslim Moros into several religion-based communities within the town.
During the Philippine Revolution
As the Philippine Revolution, having been fought for two years, neared its end in 1898, the expected departure of the Spanish authorities in Davao became apparent—although they took no part in the war at all, for there were no revolutionary figures in the vicinity save a negligible pro-Filipino separatist rebel movement in the town of Santa Cruz in the south.When the war finally ended, as the Spanish authorities finally left the town, two Davaoeño locals by the names of Pedro Layog and Jose M. Lerma represented the town and the region at the Malolos Congress of 1898, therefore indicating Davao as a part of the nascent First Philippine Republic.
The period of Filipino revolutionary control of Davao did not last long, however, as the Americans landed at the town later the same year. There was no record of locals offering any sort of resistance to the Americans.
At the very instant the Americans began their administration of the town in 1900, economic opportunities quickly arose as huge swathes of its areas, mainly lush forests and fertile grasslands, were declared open for agricultural investment. A result of this, foreign businessmen especially Japanese entrepreneurs started settling the region, staking their claims on the vast lands of Davao and turned them into huge plantations of coconut and banana products. In just a short period, Davao changed from a small and sparsely-inhabited town into a bustling economic center serving mainly the Davao Gulf region, heavily populated alongside natives by tens of thousands of settlers and economic migrants from Luzon, Visayas and Japan. All of this led the Port of Davao to be established and opened the same year, in order to facilitate the international export of agricultural products from Davao.