Sprawled along the shores of southeastern Mindanao, Davao del Sur is a place of natural wonders and rarities. It boasts of the country's highest peak - Mt. Apo, the most prized Philippines orchid species like the vanda sanderiana, some of the most exotic fruits and the endangered Philippine Eagle.

Davao del Sur is home to a host of ethnic groups whose culture and way of life have been preserved. These are the Bagobos, the Mandayas, the Mansakas, the Atas, the Kalagans, the Tagakaolos and the Mangguangans. Their arts and crafts are on display in museums and shops.

There is a wide choice of white sand beaches and resorts. In the city, there are numerous hotels and inns. Dining is good and varied. Nightlife is fun.

Some of the popular sports activities are golf, watersports and mountain climbing.

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Geography and Topography

Located in the southeastern corner of the country's southernmost island of Mindanao, the province of Davao City in the north to Sarangani Island in the south. It is bounded by the province of Davao (formerly Davao del Norte) to the north; the Celebes Sea to the south; North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and South cotabato to the west ; and Davao Gulf to the east. With a land area of 6,377.6, the province is composed of sandy beaches and outlying islands; agricultural plains and valleys; rainforests; swamps; rolling hills and mountains including the Philippines' highest peak, Mt. Apo (3,144 meters).

Davao City, the premiere city of Mindanao, is located in the northeastern part of the province, at the head of the gulf. In terms of land area, Davao City is the world's largest city (244,000 hectares). The mighty Davao river runs through the city. Davao is divided into eight political district : baguio and Paguibato in the north; Calinan and Tugbok in the central part; Bunawan, Bahangin and Talomo in the east ; and Toril in the south. The capital of Davao del Sur is Digos, found in the central part, 57 kilometers south of Davao City.

Davao enjoys a mild, pleasant climate all year round. Because of its topographical characteristics and geographical location, it is rately visited by typhoons. There is no pronounced wet of dry season. The coolest months are from November to February with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. during the peak summer months from March to May, temperatures average 28 degrees Celsius but may rise as high as 32 degrees.

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Getting There

Davao City is 1,545 km. from Manila. Considered the premier gateway to the south, Davao is serviced by an international airport. Philippine Airlines flies twice daily to Davao from the Philippine capital (one hour and 35 minutes away) and from Cebu (55 minutes away). There are also flights from Zamboanga (daily; one hour and 20 minutes) and cagayan de Oro (Four times a week - MWth. Sat - 35 minutes). From Manado, Indonesia, Bouraq Indonesia Airlines flies to Davao twice weekly and Hongkong to Davao via Cebu and vice versa also twice weekly. major shipping lines service the Davao area from Manila and nearby southern points.

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Davao probably derives its name from the ancient Bagobo word "daba-daba" or fire which they used for their rituals. The tagabaua tribe, on the other hand, called the river bisecting the region "Daba" and the Guiangan tribe "Davoh". The Davao region was already an ethnic melting pot way before the Spaniards arrived. Its eastern shores were occupied by the members of the Manobo, Tagacaolo, Guiangan, Bilaan and Aeta tribes. The western part was inhabited by the Bagabo and Mandaya tribes. Samal and talicud Islands belonged to the Samal tribe.

Davao was first visited by the Spaniards, led by Alvaro de Saavedra, in 1528. Lopez Villalobos explored Manay, Baganga and Sarangani Island later in 1543. The first Spanish settlement was established in 1591 in Caraga (Davao Oriental). However, the entire region remained under the Sultanate of Maguindanao. It was only in 1844 that the ruling Sultan ceded Davao to Spian. Still, the Muslim inhabitants refused to be ruled by Spaniards. So Spanish forces, led by Don Uyanguren, quelled the revolt and killed Muslim leader Datu Bago in 1847. Uyanguren became the first governor of Guipozcoa (an area that now comprises Davao City and environs). In 1900, the Japanese established extensive plantations of abaca around the Davao Gulf and engaged in fishing, logging and trading. The number of Japanese steadily increased such that the area was called Japan kuo (little Japan). It had its own Japanese embassy, school, Shinto shrine, Buddhist temple and newspaper.

The Moro province was organized in 1903 with Davao as its district. In 1914, the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was created and Davao was one of its provinces. Davao City received its charter when Elpidio Quirino formally inaugurated it on March 16, 1937. The post-war years saw an influx of "pioneers" from all over the Philippines trooping to Davao in search of opportunities. In 1967, Davao was subdivided into three independent provinces : Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental.

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Davao del Sur is an ethnic mix of Mindanaons, Visayans, Tagalogs, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish with a number of indigenous tribes scattered in the central plains and the western shores of the Davao Gulf. The city of Davao has a small population of 892,000 inhabitants spread across a vast 244,000-hectare land. Cebuano is the main language although English and Pilipino are widely spoken.

Ata people live in some areas of Davao City all the way to Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. They are related to the Manobos of Cotabato and include sub-groups such as the Talaingod of the Kapalong forests in Davao del Norte and the Matigsalug. Numbering about 222,000, Ata men wear long-sleeved shirts, carry spears, hunt, log and grow crops. Their womenfolk wear native blouses, "malong" skirts and accessories of brass bracelets and bead necklaces.Mandaya and Mansaka are culturally related groups who are highly musical - playing the five string bamboo guitar, two-string lute, violin, flute, gong, drum and bamboo jew's harp. They are also excellent silversmiths crafting breastplates, jewellery, daggers and knives. The Mandayas are famous for their colorful abaca fiber weaves embroidered with tribal motifs.

In both groups, women generally wear handwoven abaca tube skirts, embroidered blue cotton tops and heavy jewellery. Men sport wide blue or white fringed and embroidered trousers and a loose shirt. Red is a color only for a headman ("bagani") and for women of high status.

Bagobos live in an area that extends from Davao del Sur and South Cotabato to the foot of Mt. Apo and Davao City all the way to the land bordered by the Davao and Pulangi rivers and up to northern Cotobato and southeast Bukidnon. Numbering about 80,000, their traditional costume is woven from abaca fiber and heavily ornamented with beads, shells, metal discs, embroidery and brightly-colored geometric applique. Though Bagobos have the most stunning costumes among the Davao ethnic groups, they wear them only on special occasions. Like the Mandayas and Mansakas, they shave their eyebrows to a thin line and file and blacken their teeth. Bagobo smiths cast little bells which are attached to pouches, bracelets, jackets, anklets and inlaid metal boxes.

Tagacaolos number about 23,000 and occupy the area between the western shores of the gulf and the slopes of Mt. Apo. This is one of the tribes which resisted Muslim conversion and maintained a highland animistic culture.

Kalagans are a Muslim group related to the Tagacaolos. Numbering only about 7,000, they live along the shores of the Davao Gulf.

Mangguangans are now only 3,000. They can be found in Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte.

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Art and Culture

The colorful artistic heritage of Davao stems from the rich culture of its tribes. For the Bagobos, aesthetics is the meticulous carving of weapons; the elaborate decoration of inlaid metal boxes with bells; and the ornamentation of their abaca fiber dress with embroidery, shells, beads and metal discs. The Mandayas, on the other hand, have a solid tradition in weaving. To produce their famed coarse textured cloth, abaca fiber is colored with earth dyes and woven on a backstrap loom.

The final product is embroidered with bright-colored threads in geometric patterns. Some elements of tribal folklore are also included in the designs. The Mansakas, together with the Mandayas, are also expert silversmiths. They craft weapons, breastplates and dress accessories. Davao is also a harmonious blend of Christian and Muslim cultures. However, its most stunning cultural aspect is definitely its ethnic art which encompasses music, dance, religious ritual, dress and ornamentation.

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