Davao Region

Davao Region, formerly called Southern Mindanao (Cebuano: Rehiyon sa Davao; Filipino: Rehiyon ng Davao), is an administrative region in the Philippines, designated as Region XI.[4] It is situated at the southeastern portion of Mindanao and comprises five provinces: Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental.

Davao Region
Region XI
Southern Mindanao (formerly)
From top, left to right: Malita, Philippine Eagle Center, Mount Apo, Tagum, Panabo, Davao Gulf, Mati, Samal, Mount Hamiguitan, Digos
Cacao Capital of the Philippines [1]
Anthem: Pinanggang Yuta (Beloved Land)
Location in the Philippines
Coordinates: 7°05′N 125°35′E
Island groupMindanao
Regional centerDavao City
  Total20,357.42 km2 (7,860.04 sq mi)
Highest elevation2,954 m (9,692 ft)
 (2020 census)[2]
  Density260/km2 (670/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+8 (PST)
ISO 3166 codePH-11
Cong. districts11
GDP (2021)967 billion
$19 billion[3]
Growth rate (5.9%)[3]
HDI 0.697 (Medium)
HDI rank10th in Philippines (2019)

The region encloses the Davao Gulf, and its regional center is Davao City. Dávao is the Hispanicized pronunciation of daba-daba, the Bagobo word for "fire".


Many historians believe that the name Davao is the mixture of the three names that three different tribes, the earliest settlers in the region, had for the Davao River. The Manobos, an aboriginal tribe, referred to the Davao Rivers as Davohoho. Another tribe, the Bagobos, referred to the river as Davohaha, which means "fire", while another tribe, the Guiangan tribe, called the river as Duhwow.


The history of the region dates back to the times when various tribes occupied the region. It is believed that the Manobos, Mandayas, Kalagans, Mansakas, and the Bagobos occupied the area. These are the same tribes that created the small settlements and communities that eventually became Mindanao.

Maguindanao era

The Davao Region was once part of Sultanate of Maguindanao. Early settlers of the region were Maguindanaons, Maranaos and the Tausugs under the Sultanate of Sulu. Datu Bago was one of the Datu in Davao Gulf who resisted the Spanish Empire colonization on the region.

First European contact

The Davao Gulf area was the first region in the country that was in contact with the Europeans, with such contacts taking place as early as 16th century. The Portuguese preceded the Spaniards, who were the ones to colonize the region albeit much later, in sighting and visiting the region. In 1512, Francisco Serrano was shipwrecked in the shallow waters and coral reefs of Cape of San Agustín, located in what is now the province of Davao Oriental. In 1538, Francisco de Castro, a Portuguese ship captain, was driven by strong winds to the southeastern coast of Mindanao. He baptized several chieftains in the area.

Around January 1546, Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest, left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, then called the Spice Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, which is confirmed by some writers of the seventeenth century, and in the Bull of canonization issued in 1623. It is also said that he is the one to have preached the Gospel in Mindanao.

Spanish administration

For centuries the tribes lived in relative peace until the Spanish, under the adventurous Spanish businessman Don Jose Oyanguren, arrived in the region in 1847. At that time, the Kalagan Moro chieftain Datu Bago was in control of the area in what is now Davao City. Don Oyanguren attempted to conquer the area which Datu Bago ruled; although he failed at first, the Moro chieftain eventually evacuated his people to live in the areas near Mount Apo. This is the time the town of Davao, then called Nueva Vergara by the Spaniards, was established in the year 1848.

Don Oyanguren attempted to develop the region. Although the Spanish gained the upper hand when they finally controlled the ports of the region, the population of Davao grew very slowly until the arrival of Christian missionaries in the area in 1890.

American administration

After the Spanish–American War in 1898, 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 Ohta and Yoshizo Furokawa, were finding better agricultural lands for building abaca and coconut plantations in the region. The Port of Davao was opened on 1900, becoming the first Philippine international port to be established in the south.

In 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.

Wartime Japanese occupation

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. The Japanese immigrants in Davao acted as a fifth column, welcoming the Japanese invaders during World War II. These Japanese were hated by the Moro Muslims and disliked by the Chinese.[5][6] The Moros were judged as "fully capable of dealing with Japanese fifth columnists and invaders alike."[7] The Moros were to fight the Japanese invaders when they landed at Davao on Mindanao.[8][9][10][11][12][13] The Japanese went back to their ships at night to sleep since the Moros struck so much fear into them, even though the Moros were outnumbered by the Japanese.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] The longest battle of the Allied liberation campaign, the Battle of Davao, took place in 1945. After the war, the region eventually passed to the American hands again for at least almost one year before the formal Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, most of the Japanese living in the region were now integrated in the Filipino population.

Davao province

Prior to Philippine independence in 1946, the entire region was 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 kilometres (7,700 sq mi). It lasted from 1920 until 1967, when the province was split into three provinces in May 1967: Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental.[21] After the division, Davao City was officially named its regional center.

Southern Mindanao and Davao Region

Region XI, then known as Southern Mindanao, originally covered 6 provinces (Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, South Cotabato and Sarangani), and the cities of Davao, Digos, Panabo, Tagum, Samal, General Santos and Koronadal.[22] Surigao del Sur was moved to the newly created region Caraga on February 23, 1995.

In September 2001, Executive Order No. 36 was enacted which reorganized the regions in Mindanao. Region XI, then known as Southern Mindanao, was renamed Davao Region, and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani, and the cities of General Santos and Koronadal were moved to Region XII.[22][23]

On October 12, 2022, the Regional Peace and Order Council declared the entire region "insurgency-free" after decades of being a stronghold for the communist insurgency, barring some scattered members of the New People's Army that are left in the region.[24]

Administrative divisions

Map of Region XI


Davao Region is subdivided into 5 provinces, 1 highly urbanized city, 5 component cities, 43 municipalities and 1,162 barangays.

Province or HUC Capital Population (2015)[25] Area[26][27] Density Cities Muni. Barangay
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Davao de Oro Nabunturan 15.0%736,107 4,479.77 1,729.65 160 410 0 11 237
Davao del Norte Tagum 20.8%1,016,332 3,426.97 1,323.16 300 780 3 8 223
Davao del Sur Digos 12.9%632,588 2,163.98 835.52 290 750 1 9 232
Davao Occidental Malita 6.5%316,342 2,163.45 835.31[28] 150 390 0 5 105
Davao Oriental Mati 11.4%558,958 5,679.64 2,192.92 98 250 1 10 183
Davao City 33.4%1,632,991 2,443.61 943.48 670 1,700 182
Total 4,893,318 20,433.38 7,889.37 240 620 6 43 1,162

   Davao City is a highly-urbanized city; figures are excluded from Davao del Sur.

Governors and vice governors

Province Image Governor Political Partymed Office Vice Governor
Dorothy Gonzaga Reporma Jayvee Tyron Uy
Edwin Jubahib Reporma De Carlo Lim Uy
Yvonne Rhona Cagas Nacionalista Riafe Cagas-Fernandez
Franklin Bautista Lakas Lorna Bautista-Bandigan
Corazon Nuñez Malanyaon Nacionalista Niño Sotero Uy Jr.


  •    Regional center


The region has a generally uniform distribution of rainfall through the year. It lies outside the typhoon belt.


Population census of Davao Region
YearPop.±% p.a.
1903 65,463    
1918 108,222+3.41%
1939 292,600+4.85%
1948 364,854+2.48%
1960 893,023+7.74%
1970 1,475,936+5.15%
1975 1,825,386+4.35%
1980 2,198,683+3.79%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1990 2,933,743+2.93%
1995 3,288,824+2.16%
2000 3,676,163+2.42%
2007 4,159,469+1.72%
2010 4,468,563+2.64%
2015 4,893,318+1.74%
2020 5,243,536+1.37%
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[2][25][29]

Davao Region is the most populous region in Mindanao and the 7th most populous in the country, with a total of 5,243,536 inhabitants in 2020. Davao City, its regional capital, is also the largest city in Mindanao, with an area of 2,444 km2, the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world, and has 1,632,991 inhabitants in 2015, making it the third most populous city in the country and the most populous city proper in the entire Visayas-Mindanao region. Davao Metropolitan Area, the primary economic and urban build-up area in the region, is also the most populous in the island and the third most populous in the country, with about 2,274,913 inhabitants in that year.

Most of the region's inhabitants speak Cebuano. Filipino and English are also spoken and widely used in schools, businesses, commerce, and industry. In the Davao City Metro Area, a linguistic phenomenon has developed whereby locals have either shifted to Filipino or significantly mix Filipino terms and grammar into their Cebuano speech. Minority indigenous groups of the region speak their own languages as well.

Chinese immigrants are widespread in the region, with a considerable population based in Davao City. Davao Chinatown is one of the two defined Chinatowns in the Philippines, alongside Binondo in Manila. A considerable population of Japanese are also found in the region, most of them also located in Davao City. Before World War II, Davao was and still is heavily populated by Japanese immigrants and their descendants, with Davao City being touted at one point in its history as the Little Tokyo of the Philippines.


The majority of the region's population are Christians, mostly Catholics; however, there are also Muslims, Buddhists, and Shintoists living in the region.


A view of Davao City as seen in July 2018

While the region's economy is predominantly agri-based, it is now developing into a center for agro-industrial business, trade and tourism. Its competitive advantage is in agri-industry as its products, papayas, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, fresh asparagus, flowers, and fish products are exported internationally. The region can be a vital link to markets in other parts of Mindanao, Brunei Darussalam and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. There is also a growing call center sector in the region, mostly centered in Davao City.

There is a gradual shift to industrialization as shown with industry's growth rate of 8.1% in 1996. Other economic activities are mining, fishery, forestry and agriculture. Due to the region's rise as the main commercial and industrial hub of Mindanao, many of its workers are oriented to urban services such as putting small-scale businesses and working in commercial industries in thriving urban areas like Davao, Tagum, and Digos. Both private and foreign investors and businessmen are putting up huge business centers in the region, fueling up its commercial growth rate.

The region is also venturing to online business like outsourcing.

Ports and airport

The region's principal ports are the Sasa International Seaport in Sasa and Santa Ana Pier in the Chinatown District, both in Davao City; Panabo Seaport in Davao del Norte; and Mati Seaport in Davao Oriental. The former two, both of which are located in Port of Davao in Davao City, can service both interisland and international shipments. Sasa International Container Port, also located in the Port of Davao, is the busiest in Mindanao.

The international airport in Davao City, Francisco Bangoy International Airport, is the largest and most developed in Mindanao, has the first longest runway in the island, and the third busiest in the country, after Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Mactan–Cebu International Airport. Being the only airport in the island that is currently catering for international destinations, it can handle both domestic and international flights, serving several domestic flights to Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Zamboanga and other major Philippine cities, and international flights to Doha, Hong Kong, Manado, Quanzhou, and Singapore. Its ATC Tower is the most advanced in the country.

The region is accessible by land, air and sea. The region has adequate communications facilities, reliable power, and an abundant water supply.

In December 2016, President Duterte helped enter a contract with Chinese investors to create a new port in the region of Isla Verde in Davao.[37] This involves the creation of three artificial islands by a set of Chinese companies including CCCC Dredging Group Co. Ltd for $200 million.[38]


Legislators to the House of Representatives for Region 11

Davao de Oro 1st Maria Carmen Zamora PDP–Laban 3 Majority
2nd Ruwel Peter Gonzaga PDP–Laban 1 Majority
Davao City 1st Karlo Nograles NUP 3 Majority
2nd Mylene Garcia-Albano Liberal 3 Majority
3rd Alberto Ungab Nacionalista/Hugpong 1 Majority
Davao del Norte 1st Pantaleon Alvarez PDP–Laban 1 Majority
2nd Antonio Floirendo, Jr. PDP–Laban 1 Majority
Davao del Sur Lone Mercedes Cagas Nacionalista 2 Majority
Davao Occidental Lone Lorna Bautista-Bandigan Liberal 1 Majority
Davao Oriental 1st Corazon Malanyaon Nacionalista 1 Majority
2nd Joel Mayo Almario Lakas 1 Majority

Provincial governors and city mayors


The government provides free education at the primary (grade school) and secondary (high school) levels. Some state-run universities in the region are the University of the Philippines Mindanao and the University of Southeastern Philippines. Private colleges / universities in Davao include Ateneo de Davao University, Assumption College of Davao, Holy Cross of Davao College, Holy Child College of Davao, and University of the Immaculate Conception. The literacy rate of the country is 93.9%; Davao City has a literacy rate of 98.05%.


  2. Census of Population (2020). "Region XI (Davao Region)". Total Population by Province, City, Municipality and Barangay. PSA. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  3. "Gross Regional Domestic Product". openstat.psa.gov.ph. Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  4. List of Regions Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, [National Statistical Coordination Board].
  5. Curtis 1942, p. 4.
  6. CURTIS 1942, p. 4.
  7. "80 Japanese Troop Ships Are Sighted Off Luzon" 1941, p. 7.
  8. AP 1941, p. 1.
  11. "Six Japanese Bombers In New Raid On Manila" 1941, p. 13.
  12. THE NEW YORK TIMES 1941, p. 1.
  13. "Large Force Is Attacking" 1941, p. 58.
  14. LEE 1942, p. 8.
  15. LEE 1942, p. 1.
  16. LEE 1942, p. 7.
  17. LEE 1942, p. 9.
  18. Lee 1942, p. 2.
  19. Lee 1942, p. 25.
  20. Lee 1942, p. 4.
  21. "Republic Act No. 4867 - An Act Creating the Provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental". Chan Robles Virtual Law Library. May 8, 1967. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  22. "Southern Mindanao Is Now All Davao Region". RDC XI Bulletin. No. Oct-Dec 2001, Volume 7. National Statistical Coordination Board. January 29, 2002. Archived from the original on January 2, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016. Southern Mindanao or Region XI is now known as Davao Region and comprises of four provinces (Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental) and five cities (Davao, Digos, Panabo, Tagum and the Island Garden City of Samal. Said provinces and cities are situated along the Davao Gulf area. South Cotabato, Sarangani, General Santos City (Socsksargen) and Koronadal City, which were part of the old Region XI) have been transferred to Region XII.
  23. "Executive Order No. 36; Providing for the Reorganization of the Administrative Regions in Mindanao and for Other Purposes". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Malacañang, Manila, Philippines. September 19, 2001. Retrieved March 29, 2016. SECTION 3. Region XI is hereby reorganized to be known as Davao Region and shall be composed of the following provinces and cities: a. Provinces i. Compostela Valley ii. Davao del Norte iii. Davao del Sur iv. Davao Oriental b. Cities i. Davao City ii. Digos City iii. Panabo City iv. Island Garden City of Samal v. Tagum City
  24. Zuasola, Ferdinand (October 13, 2022). "Peace and order council declares Davao Region insurgency-free". Rappler. Davao Oriental, Philippines: Rappler Inc. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
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  33. https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/Table%202.%20%20Annual%20Per%20Capita%20Poverty%20Threshold%2C%20Poverty%20Incidence%20and%20Magnitude%20of%20Poor%20Population%2C%20by%20Region%20and%20Province%20%20-%202006%2C%202009%2C%202012%20and%202015.xlsx; publication date: 27 August 2016; publisher: Philippine Statistics Authority.
  34. https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/Table%202.%20%20Annual%20Per%20Capita%20Poverty%20Threshold%2C%20Poverty%20Incidence%20and%20Magnitude%20of%20Poor%20Population%2C%20by%20Region%20and%20Province%20%20-%202006%2C%202009%2C%202012%20and%202015.xlsx; publication date: 27 August 2016; publisher: Philippine Statistics Authority.
  35. https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/Table%202.%20%20Annual%20Per%20Capita%20Poverty%20Threshold%2C%20Poverty%20Incidence%20and%20Magnitude%20of%20Poor%20Population%2C%20by%20Region%20and%20Province%20%20-%202006%2C%202009%2C%202012%20and%202015.xlsx; publication date: 27 August 2016; publisher: Philippine Statistics Authority.
  36. https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/Table%202.%20%20Updated%20Annual%20Per%20Capita%20Poverty%20Threshold%2C%20Poverty%20Incidence%20and%20Magnitude%20of%20Poor%20Population%20with%20Measures%20of%20Precision%2C%20by%20Region%20and%20Province_2015%20and%202018.xlsx; publication date: 4 June 2020; publisher: Philippine Statistics Authority.
  37. "China uses island building skills to develop Duterte's backyard". Bloomberg news. December 21, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  38. "China's Island-Building Skills Lift Hopes in Duterte's Backyard". Yahoo news. December 21, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
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