Davao Occidental is geographically located at the southwestern tip of the Davao Region in Mindanao, from which its name was derived. It was originally part of the second District of Davao del Sur. Davao Occidental was created by virtue of R.A. 10360, enacted by the 15th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines on July 23, 2012, signed into Law by President Benigno C. Aquino III on January 14, 2013, and was finally ratified on October 28, 2013 thru a plebiscite conducted with the resounding “yes” result voted by the great majority, thus, the same date was adopted by the province to commemorate Davao Occidental’s founding anniversary. It is the 81st province of the Philippines.
Davao Occidental, carved from its mother province, Davao del Sur, is comprised of five municipalities, namely; Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and the island municipality of Sarangani.
The province is bordered on the northwest by Davao del Sur on the west by Sarangani and northeast by the Davao Gulf. Davao Occidental covers a total area of 2,163.45 square kilometers (835.31 sq mi).
The topography of Davao Occidental is hilly, rugged and sloping, with nearly 80% of the whole province consisting of mountains. Its eastern shoreline is formed with cliffs and beaches with hills immediately on their backs. Coconut trees and hardwood trees mostly dominate the provincial mainland.
Davao Occidental is one of the few provinces in the Philippines where four or more distinct ethnic tribes built their own cultural communities in specific areas of the province. The Tagacaolo tribe which accounts for the greater percentage of the indigenous population, is found in the upland areas of Malita and Sta. Maria, while the B’laans reside in the uplands of Little Baguio, Jose Abad Santos and some areas in the municipality of Sarangani. The Manobo tribe dominates the lowlands of Malita and upland areas of Don Marcelino and Jose Abad Santos. The Muslim communities on the other hand, composed of different Islamic ethnolinguistic groups, settled mostly in the coastal areas of Malita and in the southern part of Jose Abad Santos and Sarangani. It is also important to note that the Sangir who are among the 13 Muslim ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, mostly occupy the areas of Balut and Sarangani islands.
Such ethnic variation existing in Davao Occidental contributes to its rich cultural heritage and the colorful traditions of its people. These are vividly expressed thru the festivals celebrated separately by its five municipalities, the most popular of which is the “Gaginaway” Festival of Malita, celebrated annually every full moon of November, with the belief that the full moon is at its brightest during this period, and carrying the tradition of the indigenous community to gather together for merrymaking, enjoying the full moon in high spirits. Another popular festival is the “Kap’Yaan” festival of Jose Abad Santos, to celebrate the bountiful harvest and blessings received by the local residents of the municipality, and the Masbol Cultural Festival of the Municipality of Sarangani, the gathering of three major tribes of Sarangani namely, B’laan, Sangir and Marure and Indonesian tribe that settled in the island.
Davao Occidental has vast agricultural lands, though mountainous but could grow almost all kinds of crops. It has rich fisheries and marine resources, aside from its lengthy coastlines where beautiful beaches can be found. It is basically blessed by nature that yield sufficient food for its people.
Emerging as an economic growth center in the south, Davao Occidental will soon develop another Industrial Park where 1.5B U.S. dollar investment on Petrochemicals is proposed to be situated. Envisioning the economic growth activities to take place in the province due to the influx of investments, the provincial government of Davao Occidental conceptualized a comprehensive program which aims to generate not only increased of revenues, but will also improve the economic welfare of all its constituents. It embraces the essence of environmental preservation and protection, motivating its people especially those in the upland areas, to preserve the watersheds.
The Provincial Tourism Program of Davao Occidental shall continue to collaborate with agriculture and industry associations, and enhance tourism service delivery, including technology & product innovation, develop and market strategic tourism investment sites, and alongside this, adopt strategic practices to maintain the balance of preserving and protecting the natural resources of the whole province. Also, as part of the long-term program of its Provincial Tourism Office, the establishment of School of Living Tradition for each major ethnic group of Davao Occidental, will be pursued as an integral part of its advocacy of preserving the Culture, Arts and heritage of the indigenous communities, including the celebration of the cultural festivals by each of its five municipalities.
Davao Occidental website (www.davaooccidental.gov.ph)
PSA XI website (http://rsso11.psa.gov.ph/)