The Port of Davao is on the Philippines’ Mindanao Island at the mouth of the Davao River as it enters the Davao Gulf. Protected by Samal Island, Davao City is a regional center for Davao Region, although it is administratively independent of any province. It contains as many as 50 small commercial ports, and its major seaports are some of the busiest in the southern Philippines.
The Port of Davao is a deep-water facility at Sasa about eight kilometers northeast of Davao City’s port for smaller vessels at Santa Ana. The Port of Davao handles inter-island passengers and cargoes that include copra, maize, and rice. Its international export traffic is primarily abaca, the main agricultural product in the region. Davao City and the Port of Davao are becoming the main center for tourism, business, and investment in the southern Philippines. In 2000, over 1.1 million people lived in Davao City.
Before the Spanish came to Davao, the area was ruled by an Islamic chieftain and hero, Datu Bago, who ruled from a settlement on the banks of the Davao River. Don Jose Uyanguren arrived in 1848 to create a Christian settlement. After Uyanguren defeated Datu Bago, he became the area’s first European governor, and he named the region Nueva Guipuzcoa. Despite his efforts, the settlement languished.
American troops landed on the island at Davao City in 1900. After their arrival, more private farms appeared, and facilities for communication and transportation improved. These improvements helped stimulate new and rapid growth in the region surrounding the Port of Davao.
Japanese businessman Kichisaburo Ohta received permission to work the land, and he established abaca and coconut plantations, importing Japanese to work the fields. The first group of workers arrived at the Port of Davao in 1903, creating a Little Japan neighborhood with its own school, embassy, newspapers, and Shinto Shrine. The Japanese developed not only the plantations, but they introduced big commercial ventures based on copra (the dried meat of the coconut), fishing, timber, and trade. The Filipinos adopted the Japanese cultivation techniques, and agriculture was soon feeding the region’s growing economy.
Davao became a chartered city in 1937, and it was subdivided into three independent provinces in 1967. During the 20th Century, Davao City became a cultural melting pot that still attracts people from all over the Philippines who hope to become rich in the Philippines’ third-biggest city.
In 1941, the Japanese bombed the city, and they occupied Davao in 1942. The city was all but destroyed during the war. Forces from the Philippine Commonwealth and the United States re-took the city in 1945.