There are many stories about the Davao river but none as grand and mystical as the story of Datu Bago, the city’s hero. He built his stronghold at the mouth of the Davao Gulf and organized a formidable force of valiant men who fought the Spanish colonizers in the early 1800s.
Historians say that Datu Bago and his men were subdued but not conquered. In 1848, Don Jose Oyanguren assisted by the Sama tribe from what is now known as the Island Garden City of Samal, and others warriors from Luzon and the Visayan islands drove Datu Bago out of the Davao Gulf, pushing him and his men inland through the Davao River. The Kagan tribe living along the river helped him evade his enemies as they were in control of the river system.
Close to 200 years later, the Davao river has a different face.
The banks of the river have widened, and what was once home to the Kagans have now become subdivisions or quarry sites.
There is no longer anything whimsical about the Davao River. Its waters no longer frolic around boulders and jutting rocks. There are no whirlpools or mini waterfalls – just a steady, oftentimes muddy flow rushing down to the gulf.
Interfacing Development Interventions (IDIS), an environmental non- government organization, is campaigning for a policy that will “strictly regulate quarrying in the city.” Their recent study show that communities along the riverbanks are vulnerable to disasters, especially when the river swells.
Close to 200 years after Datu Bago’s retreat, the meandering Davao river has changed dramatically. Quarry and sand mining sites have replaced the homes of the tribes. The river that was the source of life, has turned brown and dull in many parts of the river. Soon we can hear the river sigh.