Although the Spanish explorers started exploring the Davao Gulf region as early as the 16th century CE, Spanish control was close to zero in the Davao region until 1844 CE, when the Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines Narciso Clavería established the forced colonization of the Davao Gulf territory, including what is presently the Davao City, for the then Spanish Crown. Despite objections by the Sultan of Maguindanao, formal colonization of the region, however, started in 1848 CE when an expedition of 70 women and men headed by José Cruz de Uyanguren of Vergara in Spain arrived at the estuary of the Davao River the same year, with the intent on conquering the vicinity. Nearby, a town was situated on the river banks, managed by a Muslim Bagobo chieftain, Datu Bago.
Being the most powerful chieftain in the area, Datu Bago exacted heavy tribute on the Mandaya villages nearby, making him the most disliked chieftain in the neighborhood. Cruz de Uyanguren had orders from the higher officials in Manila to settle the Davao Gulf region, including the Bagobo settlement on the northern riverbank. At this circumstance, a Mandaya chieftain called Datu Daupan, who then managed Samal Island, came to him, seeking an alliance against Datu Bago. The two chieftains were enemies, and Cruz de Uyanguren took benefit of it, initiating a collaboration between the Mandayas of Samal Island and Spain. It was a classic divide and rule strategy by Spain.
Interested in taking the village for Spain, he and his troops accordingly assaulted it. Still, the Bagobo natives strongly resisted the attacks, which resulted in his Samal Mandaya allies to ultimately retreat and not fight again. Thus, a three-month-long indecisive battle for the settlement of the settlement ensued, which was only resolved when an infantry that sailed its way by warships from Zamboanga came in as reserves guaranteeing the takeover of the territory and its surroundings by the Spaniards while the defeated Bagobos retreated further inland.
After Cruz de Oyanguren overpowered Bago, he established the town of Nueva Vergara, the future Davao, on 29 June 1848 CE in mangrove swamps now Bolton Riverside, in honor of his home in Spain and becoming its first administrator. Around two years later, on 29 February 1850 CE, the province of Nueva Guipúzcoa was installed via a royal decree, with the newly established town as the capital, to honor Spain. However, when he was the governor of the territory, his plans of encouraging a positive economic sway on the province backfired, which resulted in his ultimate replacement under orders of the Spanish colonial government.
The province of Nueva Guipuzcoa was terminated on 30 July 1860 CE, as it turned into the Politico-Military Commandery of Davao later that year. By the outcry of its natives, an appeal was given to the Spanish government to rename Nueva Vergara into Davao, since they have called the city as the latter long from the time of its establishment. Spanish colonial governors eventually did it in the year 1867, CE, and the town Nueva Vergara was formally given its present name Davao.
The Spanish administration of the town was wobbly at best, as its Lumad and Moro natives constantly opposed the attempts of the Spanish authorities to resettle them and convert them into Christians forcibly.
Despite all these, however, such were all done to make the area’s governance more accessible, dividing the Christians, native converts, and settlers, and the Muslim Moros into various religion-based communities within the town.
As the famous Philippine Revolution, having been fought for a couple of years, neared its completion in 1898 CE, the anticipated departure of the Spanish authorities in Davao became a reality.