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The History of Samal Island

2008 December 17

igacos logo The History of Samal Island

In the early Spanish regime, during the reign of Don Jose Uyanguren of Davao City , a certain Island within the DAVAO Gulf was named “ SAMAL” in recognition to the settlers who migrated from Jolo and Basilan called the “ISLAMIC TRIBAL GROUP” or “ ISAMAL” . Most of the settlers lived along the coastal areas and only few in the hinter lands. Their daily primitive way of acquiring foods is through fishing, farming, and hunting within the vicinity.

The island was created into a municipality named as “ Municipality of Samal” and Barrio Peñaplata was the center for commercial economic and government operation. At that time , the municipal councilors of Samal found its concept of local autonomy and effective delivery of services. They therefore decided to create another municipality in order to be effective and autonomous in governance. Mayor Simplicio Obenza , Sr. made his iniative to the speedy creation of two municipalities.

The Early Years of the Island

In the early years, indigenous people coming from the Northern and Eastern coasts of the undivided Davao Province settled Samal Island. A large mixed population of Mansakas, Mandayas and Muslims composed the identification of the now so-called Sama Tribe.

As these primeval settlers were organized into communities a Datu up to the early part of the American Regime dynastically ruled them.

In the early part of the 18th century governance shifted when Christianization came in. The first mass was celebrated in Barangay San Hose of Samal District in 1928.

As an archipelago, Samal became a District Municipality of Davao Province on June 8, 1948 under executive Order #151, which was sgned by then President Elpidio Quirino. Later, on May 28, 1953 Babak Municipality was created under Executive Order #590 which was also signed by then President Elpidio Quirino. After thirteen years, Municipality of Kaputian was created on June 18,1966 under Executive Order # 184, which was signed by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Each municipal name derived from each different historical tracing.

The second district which is the government center of the city got its name Samal from the early indigenous settlers forming into one tribe called “ISAMA” and its barangay name Peñaplata from the Isama term “MALIBASA” which means a place where honorable people living in perfect harmony who love peace. First district derived its name Babak from an abundant shrubs called “TAGBAK” grown in the area and a big tree which the natives called “BABAK” which were used as landmark for the people’s trade center. White sand in the local dialect “PUTTING BALS” is significantly true to the shoreline of the third district from which is name Kaputian derived.

History of Babak

The historical traces of the name of this developing Island town came to surface from detailed informations through investigations and personal interviews with some native chieftains of how the place got its name. Based on unrecorded history , the place was sparsely populated by few farming natives called ISAMALS who first settled the coastal areas of the Island. There were no known surveyed roads except trails and pathways crisscrossing the lowland areas . Thick forest and green land covered the ISLAND’S virgin soil.

In this isolated unnamed coastal area, there abound green leafy shrubs “ TAGBAK “ which were used by the natives into making baskets and containers for their fish catch , foods and others. The place had been the source of “ TAGBAK “ the main materials for their native handicrafts.

On another account , there was in the said place , a tree which the natives called “ BAKBAK” which used to be the landmark of the place as the trading center of the natives in their trading business , thus , paving the start of the development of commercial business among the inland tribes.

The place then , having been made the center of tribal economic business activities and commercial intercourses, the name “ BABAK” in short was born and became known to be the natives trading center in the island. Babak grew and developed into a native community out of the century old native tradition, old fashioned agricultural farming and antiquated methods of fishing. It became the main commercial center for traders from the mainland “DABA-DABA” , now Davao.

Long before the Christians migrated to this Island , the coastal areas were already populated by natives ruled by a “DATU”. These early settlers were tall, big and /or of giant size “ DINAGATAS”, but these natives , ancestors of the present samal natives became extincts for they were killed and poisoned by the early colonizers. Proof of this can easily be verified by the presence of human bones and remains found in the rocky shoreline caves of liquid Islets and the mainland Samal Island.

The Isamals are by occupation farmers and fisheries using very crude methods. Through the coming of the Christians from different provinces of Luzon and the Visayas , improved methods were introduced , thus increasing production more arable land were cultivated.

History of Kaputian

Before the Second World War Samal was still a virgin forest during that time. Don Vicente Fernandez together with Don Ramon and Don Pepe Fernandez acquired and cultivated the southern part of Samal which was ruled by Datu Budas during the early period of American occupation and founded Hacienda Samal and Compana Maritima.

On June 18, 1966 , the Philippine Congress historically made a landmark legislation through enabling laws passed under “ Republic Act 4754” that dubbed the creation of the municipality of kaputian and separating it from the mother municipality for the purpose. The mandate includes the islets of Malipano and Talicud Island. Under Executive order 184 , Kaputian was legally declared as another municipality of Davao Province.

Since the beginning of its creation the municipality has been ruled by Three (3) political leaders namely ; Hon. Diosdado Alorro , Hon. Dediano E. Rebong and Hon. Aniano P. Antalan . The incumbent took his reign during the revolutionary form of government under the leadership of President Corazon C. Aquino.

Kaputian derived its name from the “ WHITE SAND” that occupies the southern part of the Samal Island long before ruled by Datu Budas.

Creation of the City – IGaCoS

When Samal Island were created into three municipalities, it was perceived that its development would be mobilized being located proximately to the progressive Metropolis of Davao and nearby growth centers in Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur. Yet, after the past decades since its creation as municipalities in 1948, 1953 and 1966 its development lagged far behind from its neighboring local government units. Hence in 1966 the high ranking officials of Davao del Norte led by Congressman Rodolfo del Rosario and Provincial Governor Prospero S. Amatong with other members of Sangguniang Panlalawigan moved on to usher Samal a new vision of hope before its Golden Anniversary in 1998. During this year a new concept of development strategy cropped up which is the creation of an urban center in a rural development that would set a new horizon of modernity and prioritize quality public service delivery.

Congressman Rodolfo P. del Rosario passed the bill that resulted to the passage of Republic Act#8471, which paved the way for the integration of the three municipalities into one local government unit that is now called the Island Garden City of Samal. This was signed on January 30, 1998 by his Excellency, President Fidel V. Ramos and was overwhelming approved by the people of the locality during the plebiscite held on March 7, 1998. Almost four months later, on June 30, 1998, the new city began exercising its corporate powers.

At first, people from all walks of life were resistant on its name for it’s too long. Other simply remarked that with physical attributes of the locality, it does not deserve to be called a city. With due respect to these observations, only few realized that the creation of the city is totally distinct in the sense that it embraces the new dimension of development which hopefully will make things happen for its people.


Related posts:
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  4. ONB Samal Island
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15 Responses leave one →
  1. December 17, 2008

    Hi Randy, do you know who thought of the long name of “island Garden City of Samal”. This is unusual, but when I was asking a German friend of mine to translate my introduction into German, they couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say with the words, “island garden”. I find it strange to name the city with so many words and then shorten it with “Igacos”. No wonder there is a constant identity crisis here.

  2. December 17, 2008

    Hi Ellen – it’s not clear from the article who had the idea for the name, Rodolfo del Rosario, Prospero S. Amatong or Fidel V. Ramos. Regardless of who’s idea it was, it is a mouth full. Even the abbreviation is difficult to remember – I have to think about it every time I write it. I prefer to go with Samal Island or Samal, as everyone knows what you mean. But I try to mix them around, so not to ignore the “official” name.

    I’m sure there were many advantages to the creation of the island as a city. Too bad they couldn’t have come up with a more user friendly name.

    • cyriele permalink
      March 26, 2012

      i know who name Island Garden City of Samal, He Eng.Iluminado Quinto who is one of person made possible the water resouse in samal island few ago>>>>>>>>>>

  3. Gai permalink
    March 11, 2009

    pwd hingi me ng urban land use map of IGACOS

  4. March 12, 2009

    Hi Gai – I noted that you tried to post quite a few comments. Most of those had your email listed, so I elected not to show those. Please contact me via the Contact Me tab on top of my site, and let me know what it is you are looking for, as you seemed to be after several different things. I don’t speak Tagalog, so in English if possible.

  5. Noreenia permalink
    July 10, 2010

    hi randy…uhhhh i was just wondering if u have a translation on the history of samal in tagalog…………could u pls help me?

    • July 10, 2010

      Hi Noreenia – I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that. I don’t speak Tagalog, not even much Bisaya yet. Maybe there is an online translation service that could do most of it?

  6. Mike permalink
    June 1, 2011

    Based on my interview with Gov. del Rosario, the name of the city evolved from
    SAMAL CITY (as proposed by then-COngressman del Rosario) to
    CITY OF SAMAL ISLAND (as suggested by a congressman in one of the House deliberations) then finally to
    ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL (the inclusion of garden was suggested by then-Senator Bert Romulo during one of its Senate committee hearings).

    Hope this answers your question.

    • June 1, 2011

      Thanks for the inside information, Mike.

      Samal Island is a little easier on the tongue and still the popular usage, in spite of the official name.

  7. Nik permalink
    June 10, 2011

    Samal is indeed easier on the tounge, and while the official name evokes a vision of some green tropical paradise, the unofficial name Igacos/IGaCoS sounds like a Visayan word: i-gakos, the root word “gakos” means to embrace.

    Funny how serendipity works…

    • June 10, 2011

      I’m not sure IGaCos will ever catch on, other than in an official capacity.

  8. Juana Paula S. Dumaguing permalink
    October 12, 2011

    i am a new comer here in Samal island.. your psot really helps me a lot in understanding the island..

    • October 12, 2011

      Welcome Juana – I’m happy to hear that you found something of value.

      There is much to admire about Samal Island, that is for sure.

    • Michelle Baladad permalink
      October 20, 2011

      Hello Ms. Dumaging,

      I am researching my family tree and come across my Grandmother’s last name which she used as “Dumaguin” from the Phillipines. Before the change, the original family name was
      “Duma Gxingx”. I was wondering if it is possible or not that we may be related.



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