EDs Note: The Davao Historical Society Foundation, Inc. published a special millennium edition of the Davao Historical Journal entitled Davao Historical Progress (2001). We take the liberty in publishing excerpts of the book every Saturday in the run up to March 1, the city’s foundation anniversary. We will first feature the article on the ‘Evolution of Davao’ by historian Gloria P. Dabbay. (p58)
Davao is said to have derived its name from the word, Daba-daba, a region of flames or fire as recorded in the books of the early Jesuit priests. Some sources say this word is of Bagobo origin which is the name of the sacred bush that belonged to the chieftain of the early Bagobos names Datu Duli who lived in the rolling hills of Sandawa Mountain. As was the custom during ancient times, the Bagobos kept the fire burning 24 hours a day throughout the year. And the fire was supposed to be burning at the foot of the Sacred Bush called Daba-daba. It was said that Datu Duli, the Bagobo chieftain was kind and just in his decision over an accused person. Other Bagobos then pronounced the word Daba-daba with the sound of “o” at the end. It was said it has been practiced by Datu Duli when he rendered decisions in settling cases. As time went on the Bagobos of the succeeding generation changed the word Daba-daba to just Daba and added the “o” to justify the actuations of Datu Duli in rendering his decisions. Thus the ancient Bagobo word. Daba-daba is now pronounced Davao by both natives and immigrants.
Some also say that Davao was derived from the name of a Manobo rebel Dabao. Others maintain that the name Dabaw was derived from the word dabahan, a big basin for laundering used by the natives. Still another derivation of the name was from the word daba meaning earthen pot or palayok which the early natives made and sold as their means of livelihood. When mountain dwellers got down to the lowlands the first things they looked for and bought was the daba.
But many native Dabawenyos prefer to believe that Davao derived its name from the great river which the early Tagabawa tribe called Dabu, the Guiangans called Duhwow, and the Obo called Davoh. Later, the three names given to the river by these early natives were incorporated into what is now DAVAO.
By Gloria P. Dabbay