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Fear of Japan gave birth to Davao City


Perhaps it's a quirky part of Davao City history not worth remembering, but we couldn’t resist digging up that little fact that a typographical error by a city council clerk and a defective typewriter turned the founding of the city from March 1 to March 16.
If you have the patience of combing the dusty pages of the city council’s archive files, you will find that the city was founded on March 1, 1937, not March 16 which is the day Davao is celebrating Araw Ng Dabaw.

It’s our guess that city officials didn’t really mind this little error as long as it took place 75 years ago. To hide this error, it was a good decision to make the celebration run from March 1 to 16 and to simply keep our mouths shut.
At that time in 1937 when the city was finally declared a city, the city council clerk was probably new at his job and just trying to learn the keys of an Underwood typewriter, trying hard to find where the alphabets and the numbers are located on the typewriter.
So when he tried to type the comma after the number “1”, he typed the number “6” on the document declaring Davao a city and didn’t bother correcting it as the councilors at that time were all in a big hurry to get the document out for signature by President Manuel Quezon who was also in a hurry to get it done.

Why were they in a hurry to sign the declaration?
Well, if you’re curious enough to open the pages of Ernesto Corcino’s book on Davao History, you’ll find out that the presence of a growing Japanese community of workers, investors, traders, was seen as a growing threat to the political and economic control of Davao by local officials.
These erstwhile Davao town officials admitted that they were AFRAID of Japanese domination and won’t allow this to happen by declaring Davao a city -- as fast as possible.

The Japanese was becoming a powerful economic group, taking over every business, trade and industry in the city during the 1930’s. Every hotel, trading firm, restaurant, bar, department stores, etc. were owned and controlled by the Japanese. That was why Davao was known as “Little Tokyo” in those days.

These businesses and stores were located along San Pedro, Anda, Magallanes, and Legaspi streets. In every street corner, you’ll see Japanese traders, abaca workers, bar owners, restaurant owners, all speaking Japanese and trying to learn the early dialects of Tagalog and Bagobo.
If you’ve seen that exhibit of very old photographs of San Pedro Street and other parts of Davao at Abreeza Ayala Mall last week, you’ll see one old photo showing a group of Japanese officers posing in front of a school in Mintal around 1930’s.

There’s a caption on the photo that says “there were more Japanese than Filipinos living in Mintal” because they owned and controlled most of the abaca plantations there. Abaca was then the biggest Davao export to Japan before the Second World War, not bananas which were brought in by the Americans much later in the 1960’s.

It’s nice to know these days that Japan’s soft heart for Davao has remained all these years. They’ve become the biggest buyers of Davao-grown Cavendish bananas grown and exported by their former war foe, Americans, and pouring billions of Yen for the development of Davao, building long-lasting infrastructures and helping fruit farmers earn more money to improve their lives. For all they've done, we doff our hats. Totemo arigato gozaimasu!

By Aurelio A. Pena

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