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Tribes, settlers and administrators on a frontier: Economic development and social change in Davao, Southeastern Mindanao, the Philippines, 1899-1941

Hayase, Shinzo (1984) Tribes, settlers and administrators on a frontier: Economic development and social change in Davao, Southeastern Mindanao, the Philippines, 1899-1941. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The central concern of this study is the process of economic development and social change on an emergent colonial frontier. Davao, the Philippines, between 1899 and 1941. Discussion is focussed on two main themes: firstly, the relationships established between the upland tribal peoples of the Davao Gulf region, Japanese agriculturalists who came as settlers, and the colonial administrators. who provided the settlers with access to the land of the tribal peoples; and secondly, the development of a market economy based on the cultivation of abaca (Manila hemp) as a cash crop, which provided the stimulus to social change among the tribal people in the region.

The Davao frontier was closely linked to the world economy and global affairs. Abaca dominated the cordage market until improvements were made in artificial fibres in the second half of this century. Abaca was considered a strategic war material, and this was a major reason why the United States and Japan became interested in the industry in the first place. It also helps to explain why the American government was prepared to shape colonial policy at the behest of American cordage manufacturers who were concerned to ensure a steady supply of cheap, high quality hemp from the Philippines. The Japanese were to prove the most efficient producers of abaca, succeeding where earlier Europeans had failed. They were also able to enjoy the benefits of favourable colonial legislation designed to protect the interests of the American cordage industry.

In the period prior to World War I, before the main influx of Japanese settlers occurred, tribal responses to the early advance of the colonial frontier into lowland Davao involved rejection, flight and resistance. European planters and other newcomers were systematically murdered and contact with colonial officials was avoided at any cost. During World War I, when the Japanese began to push into the middle and upland regions, the situation became especially critical for tribal peoples. Resistance intensified as they saw their land being taken away from them by these "newcomers". However, by this time, particular tribal groups had already reached accommodation with or succumbed to the outside world. Tribes were forced to recognise the sovereignty of colonial administration. Resistance was no longer directed by the community as a whole against foreigners. The violence stemmed from the spontaneous actions of individuals in defence of their rights to the use of their land. which was threatened by a steady stream of new Japanese settlers.

On the other hand, tribal people were being incorporated into the economy of a developing frontier society as wage labourers seeking cash to pay taxes and buy imported consumer goods. Hesitant to leave home to work on the plantations, and concerned to keep their land and maintain their traditional way of life, they were nevertheless fascinated by many aspects of town and plantation life and attracted by the hope of obtaining some small share of the newcomers' wealth and material culture.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Warren, James and Wake, Christopher
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