The term “Mati”is said to have originated from a native word “maa-ti”, which means “dries up quickly”. The expression is used in reference to a creek located in the heart of the town and which is known to dry up easily even after a heavy rain. “Mati” later became associated with the whole town, not merely the creek that is still part of the natural feature of the downtown.
Mati as a community settlement was recorded to have been founded by two intrepid and strong political leaders, Prudencio Garcia and Juan Nazareno in 1861. These two leaders from the east coast had also been acknowledged to be the builders of Bagangga and Cateel, two towns facing the Pacific Ocean.
According to historical accounts, the early residents of the locality are the Mandayans, Kalagans and Maranaos whose indigenous culture carries strong traces of Indo-Maley and Arabic influences. In the latter day periods of their historical evolutions, their culture was mixed by a succession of exogenous influences notably Spanish, American and Chinese. With their interaction with the other native cultures notably the Visayans, Tagalogs and Ilocanos, which came in the wake of subsequent migration, the prevailing culture had been diluted and had now assumed a multi-facial characteristics.
A very familiar name among the early settlers is that Don Luis Rabat who married the daughter of a Spanish Officer named Captain Garcia. He was known to be the first head of the politico-military established in this part of Mindanao.
The settlements of Mati became a regular municipality together with Davao, Cateel, Bagangga, and Caraga in October 29, 1903 by virtue of Act No. 189 in 1907 affirmed further the constitution of the municipality and which sixty years later became the capital town of Davao Oriental. Its first appointed mayor was Francisco Rojas. And Mr. Patricio Cunanan was the first Mayor to be elected in 1923.
After almost 104 years after its creation, Mati has achieved its Citihood Status by virtue of R.A.# 9408 approved by operation of law on March 24,2007 and which was ratified thru a Plebiscite on June 18, 2007.
To all honorable public servants of the City of Mati and of the whole province of Davao Oriental and to the general public who had supposedly been liberated at least five times, madayaw na temprano kamayo hurot.
Today is the celebration of the 116th year after we gained our first independence with a theme “Pagsunod sa Yapak ng mga Dakilang Pilipino, Tungo sa Malawakan at Permanenteng Pagbabago.” My free translation would be – Following the steps of Great Filipinos towards an Inclusive and Substantive Change.
When we raise our flag in today’s celebration, we seek to rememberour past struggles for national liberation, present virtues and identity, and future goals of our nation country and of our people.
But we must not forget the positive role of Freemasonry. With regards to the successful Revolution of 1896, Pres. Aguinaldo claimed it was Masonically-inspired, Masonically-led, and Masonically-executed, and an achievement owed largely to Masonry and the Masons.
On the other hand, we also have to take cognizance of the role of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) apologized through its spokesperson, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, then President of the CBCP for the mistakes some Church leaders committed 100 years ago by collaborating with the Spanish government in thwarting the Philippine revolution.
In that proper context, there is a need to re-imagine the role of sectors in the creating the path for an inclusive and substantive change.
Portuguese Preceded the Spaniards in Preaching Christianity in Mindanao
In 1512, Francisco Serrano was shipwrecked in the shallow waters and coral reefs of Cape of San Agustin (presently part of Davao Oriental). In 1538, Capt. Francisco de Castro, a Portuguese captain was driven by strong winds to the southern coast of Mindanao. He baptized several chieftains.
Around January, 1546, St Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao. St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines. But although this statement is made by some writers of the seventeenth century, and in the Bull of canonization issued in 1623, it is said that he preached the Gospel in Mindanao.
Some tidbits of local history
In 1804, Don Salvador Ximenez, alcalde mayor of Caraga met Datu Ladiamura Pampang in Cateel. The latter offered himself as a mediator of peace between the Spaniards and the Muslims in Davao led by Datu Damuli.
On June 27, 1809, Alcalde Mayor Don Juan Garcia Saenz of Caraga attacked the Muslims in Casauman.
In 1847, Don Jose Uyanguren, former politico-military governor of Caraga organized an expeditionary force to conquer Datu Mama Bago of Davao Gulf.
On September 22, 1862, Don Enrique Garcia organized the barrio of Mati. Domingo Bandigan was named as teniente interimo.
On September 23, 1898, Prudencio Garcia led a revolt against the abuses of the Governor of Davao, Don Bartolome Garcia Sanchez.
Prudencio Garcia and the 1898 Revolution
He was first assigned as lieutenant of the Tercio civil in Surigao town and was married to Nicolasa Fortich. His daughter was married to Benito Corvera. Don Prudencio Garcia was a friend of bagani Manginlaud of Cateel.
In 1898, there was already a strong discontent in the district of Davao. Don Bartolome Garcia Sanchez had started collecting the taxes, which would due in 1899. Severe punishments were meted to delinquent taxpayers. The salaries of the police were not paid on time.
On September 23, 1898, Don Prudencio Garcia, who was then a captain of the civil infantry, led an uprising in Baganga and took over the district government in Caraga without bloodshed. His action was not a revolution against Spain but a protest against the corruption of the governor of Davao.
Don Prudencio Garcia, Col. Manuel Neila Garcia (jefe de policia of Mati) and Don Ricardo Rodriguez (the comandante of Mati) had always been friends before the uprising. Their common enemy was Don Bartolome Garcia Sanchez, the governor of Davao. Don P. Garcia was a mason and at the same time, a friend of Fr. Gisbert. In 1892 Mati Masonic activities were already being conducted by the Diwata triangle [Fajardo 1998:140].
When Col. Manuel Neila Garcia went to Baganga to arrest Don P. Garcia, Fr. Gisbert, the parish priest of Baganga mediated for the amnesty of Don P. Garcia. Don P. Garcia was brought to Mati (Fajardo 1998).
While in Mati, Don P. Garcia learned about the revolutionary activities in Surigao and the arrests made against the Jesuits by the Gonzales family. Don. P. Garcia took power of the comandancia of Mati. Together with twenty five (25) men, he went to Surigao. He arrived on March 24, 1899 and seized power aided by Herminigildo Narciso. He ordered the arrest of brothers Simon and Wenceslao and their father Juan Gonzales. On October 3, 1899, he was appointed by Pres. Aguinaldo as brigadier general, the military commander of the 3rd and 4th districts of Mindanao. Don P. Garcia conditioned the people of Surigao to welcome the Americans – better to save lives rather than fight and die. Thus, he performed a significant role in the smooth transition to American rule in the late 1899.
Likewise, the Jesuits saw the Americans as best for their interest and security. Thus, they also helped and succeeded in neutralizing revolutionary resistance in Mindanao and Christian population, including some tribal communities.
Trailblazers of Davao Oriental
In the book of Salvador Pacis, Davao History and Progress (1965) he considered several trailblazers of undivided Davao, of those he considered, thirty one (31) came from the present day Davao Oriental and out of 31, eight are from Mati, to wit;
Today in the year 2014, I believe that Mati has more than 8 trailblazers. If we base the reckoning in 1862, when Mati was organized as a barrio, we had already been a community for the past 152 years. If we base it in 1903 when it was transformed into a town, we had been a town for 111 eleven years.
If Davao City has a Datu Bago Award to celebrate the achievements and contributions of its great residents, why can’t Mati? The young people of Mati must be given an opportunity to know, that there are people in the city who are significant in trailblazing an inclusive and substantive change. They can be icons for possibilities and transformation.
And I would say that history and our sense of independence is a social construction. It is not a mathematical postulate. There is a need to re-interpret the past in order to face the dynamism of the future.
The predominant dialect of Mati is Cebuano accounting for 68.5% of the total household population in 2000 census. Mandaya ranks second with 12.74% followed by Kalagan and Boholano with 6.87% and 3.05% respectively. According to the historical accounts. Migrants mostly from Visayas came to Mati in search for employment opportunities like logging, mining, farming, fishing, trading and teaching. This certainly explains why Cebuano dialect is prevalent.
Roman Catholic constitutes the largest religious group in the city having a total population of 84,224 or 79.66%. Islam shares some 7.73%; United Church of Christ in the Philippines, 1.76% and Seventh Day Adventist, 1.14%. The rest of the religious sects share the residual 9.71%.
The City of Mati is 165.6 kilometers from Davao City, the regional center of Southern Mindanao (Region XI). It is located in the Southern part of Davao Oriental and of the entire Mindanao Island, lying between 6?56’ north latitude and 126°13’ east longitude. The territorial limits of the locality spread over mountains, hills and a little flat area. On its Northeastern side are the Municipalities of Manay and Tarragona. The Eastern side is bounded by the Great Pacific Ocean and the Southern tip by the Celebes Sea. The lowland portion of the town including the Poblacion hugs almost the entire Pujada Bay, the rich fishing ground of Mati fisher folks. Mati comprises a total land area of 79,109 hectares, representing 12.92% of the total provincial land area, 2.10% and 0.22% of the regional and national total respectively. It is composed of 26 barangays, and the second largest town in terms of area in the entire province of Davao Oriental.