8 celebrities you didn't know were from Davao

The pride of Davao: Maris Racal, KZ Tandingan, Bangs Garcia, and more.
by Justine Punzalan
Mar 6, 2022
Maris Racal, KZ Tandingan, Bangs Garcia, Juliana Palermo
The whole province of Davao in the Mindanao island is home to several celebrities, including (L-R) Maris Racal, KZ Tandingan, Bangs Garcia, Juliana Palermo, and many more.
PHOTO/S: @mariestellar / @jasondy / @kztandingan / @valeriebangsgarcia / @itsjulianapalermo on Instagram

Talk about Davao and President Rodrigo Duterte would be top of mind.

Davao region is one of the largest provinces in the Philippines and its capital, Davao City, was ranked eight richest city in the archipelago in 2021.

It is dubbed the orchid capital of the country for its vast plantation of rare orchids, which includes the Waling-Waling or “Queen of Orchids,” and is famous for providing habitat for the monkey-eating Philippine eagle.

Aside from its many attractions, Davao is also the hometown of some local celebrities that PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) rounded up here.


Maris Racal made her debut in showbiz in ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother: All In way back in 2014.

Introduced as the “Singing Sunshine ng Davao,” Maris was born and raised in Davao del Norte to parents Leony and Henry, who is a folk singer in the city.

In the video played during her entrance in PBB, Maris revealed it was her father who kindled her passion for music.


“Noong bata ako, tinuruan ako ni Papa kumunta and mag-play ng guitar,” she said.

With her early training and innate skills, the then 16-year-old singer charmed the audience and was able to finish runner-up to PBB Big Winner, the model-turned-actor Daniel Matsunaga.

Shortly thereafter, Maris signed a management deal with Star Magic. She became a mainstay in the Sunday show ASAP, starred in several films and TV shows, and firmed up her singing career. She released her singlesTanong Mo sa Bituin” and “Langit,” and her debut album Stellar.

Maris Racal



Davao is home not only to Mt. Apo, one of the highest mountains in the Philippines, but also to singing stars at the peak of their career like singer-rapper KZ Tandingan.

KZ was born on March 11, 1992, in Digos City, the capital of Davao del Sur.

She graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science and Biology from the University of Southeastern Philippines prior to joining The X Factor Philippines in 2012.

KZ bagged the first prize in the competition with her unique singing style.

She was fueled by the desire to prove “ang industriya ng musika ng Philippines ay hindi lamang para sa mga magaganda, makiknis ang balat, matatangkad, sa mga biritero’t biritera” as she had said during her audition.

From there, KZ went on to release two albums: KZ Tandingan in 2013 and Soul Supremacy in 2017.

In 2018, the 29-year-old rapper made headlines internationally when she joined the popular Chinese reality contest The Singer.


In one of the episodes, KZ bested British pop star Jessie J with her jazz rendition of Adelle’s “Rolling in the Deep” and rapping in Tagalog.

kz tandingan 11:59


Valerie “Bangs” Garcia didn’t have to go farther than Davao to make her foray into showbiz.

Bangs was a nursing student at the Ateneo de Davao University when she joined the Mindanao-wide talent search, Campus Idols, in 2004.


Her exposure at the talent search led to her stint as co-host of ABS-CBN Davao’s variety show KSP: Kapamilya Sabado Party (2005), which aired throughout Mindanao. In the same year, Bangs joined ABS-CBN’s Close-Up To Fame talent search and won runner-up.

She was cast as one of the main stars of the now-defunct youth-oriented sitcom Let's Go (2005-2006) before appearing in shows that included Kambal Sa Uma (2009), Precious Hearts: My Cheating Heart (2009-2010), and Katorse (2009), as well as films like Shake Rattle and Roll XI (2009), Cinco (2010), The Reunion (2021, Lauriana (2013), and Dukot (2016), among many others.

The former actress is now living in the United Kingdom with her Filipino-British husband Lloyd Birchmore Rand and their two daughters, Amelia and Isabella.

Bangs Garcia



Kapuso star Iwa Moto was born as Aileen Quimapo Iwamoto on August 28, 1988 in Las Piñas City. However, she grew up and studied in Davao, where her mother Percy is based.

Iwa is half-Filipino, half-Japanese, and the eldest of three siblings. Her father, the late Hiroaki Iwamoto, is a Japanese immigrant.

She rose to fame as the first runner-up, or “First Princess,” in the third season of Starstruck and for playing roles like Moshi Moshi Manika in Super Twins (2007), Valentina in Darna (2009), and Magda Evangelista in Marimar (2015).

Iwa and partner Pampi Lacson have two kids: Mimi and Caleb Jiro. Their eldest, Thirdy, is Pampi's son with his former wife Jodi Sta. Maria.

Iwa Moto



Sexy star Juliana Palermo, or Alvi July Juanico, hails from Davao, but the separation of her parents Alexis and Virgilio prompted her and her mother to fly to the States when she was 10 years old.

Seven years later, in 2002, Juliana flew back to her hometown in Davao and won the crown in the city’s annual beauty contest, Hiyas Sa Kadayawan.

She entered showbiz the following year and starred in films, including Panaghoy Sa Suba: The Call of the River (2004), Xerox (2006), and Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo (2006).

Now, Juliana lives in the U.S. with her husband Joel Crabtree and sons Ace Christian and Jack Alexander.

Juliana Palermo



Another notable name on the growing list of famous Davaoeño singers is Juris Fernandez, who was best known as the lead singer of the acoustic group MYMP in the early 2000s.

Juris was born on March 18, 1978 in Davao City. She finished high school at the Ateneo de Davao University and took up a degree in Psychology at Miriam College in Manila.

The singer became the lead vocalist of MYMP from 2003 to 2009 and began pursuing a solo career under Star Records in November 2009.

Her works include songs for ABS-CBN’s primetime shows such as “Di Lang Ikaw” for Rubi (2010), “Sa Aking Pag-iisa” for Ikaw Lamang (2014), and “Puwang sa Puso” for Dyesebel (2014).

Her own renditions of Side A’s “Forevermore” and Alamid’s “Your Love” quickly became a hit for fans of ABS-CBN’s primetime shows Forevermore (2014) and Dolce Amore (2016).

In 2011, Juris married her husband Gavin Lim. They have two children Giddy, 7, and Geordi, 5.


Juris Fernandez


Fil-Indian actress Sharmaine Arnaiz was born as Sharmila Velasco Prihibas-Shahani on November 1, 1974 in Davao City. Her father, the late Jetho Pribhdas, was Indian while her mother is Ilongga.

The 47-year-old star is also the sister of actress Bunny Paras and was part of That’s Entertainment Friday Group from 1986 to 1996.


She portrayed various roles in teleseryes, like Marietta in Saan Ka Man Naroroon (2000), Chato Natividad in Magdalena (2012), and Tina De Jesus Cardeñas in Hanggang Sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko (2019).

Sharmaine Arnaiz


Chokoleit, also known as Jonathan Aguilar Garcia, was born on June 25, 1972, in Davao City and graduated with a degree in mass communications from the Ateneo de Davao University.


He was a regular in comedy bars, namely, Punchline, Laffline, and The Library, during the early stages of his showbiz career.

His breakout role was as Pearly Shells in ABS-CBN’s teleserye Marina (2004). He was also part of several Kapamilya shows such as FPJ's Ang Probinsyano (2016), Mara Clara (2010 to 2011), and Aryana (2012 to 2013). He also starred in several movies such as Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh (2006) and Volta (2004).

Chokoleit died of a heart attack on March 10, 2019, at the age of 48. His remains were cremated and entombed in the columbarium of Davao Memorial Park.





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The whole province of Davao in the Mindanao island is home to several celebrities, including (L-R) Maris Racal, KZ Tandingan, Bangs Garcia, Juliana Palermo, and many more.
PHOTO/S: @mariestellar / @jasondy / @kztandingan / @valeriebangsgarcia / @itsjulianapalermo on Instagram
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