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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ilocos Region History

Region 1 was first inhabited by the aboriginal Negritos before they were pushed by successive waves of Malay immigrants that penetrated the narrow coast. Tingguians in the interior, Ilocanos in the north, and Pangasinense in the south settled the region.

From the data on the population distribution of Region 1, it is clear that not all the inhabitants are Ilocanos. Around one-third are non-Ilocanos and yet there is a popular misconception that all the inhabitants are Ilocanos. The use of the term Ilocos Region promotes the wrong notion that all the residents of Region 1 are Ilocanos. Before the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, Pangasinan was not a part of the region.

The Spanish arrived in the 16th century and established Christian missions and governmental institutions to control the native population and convert them to the Roman Catholic Church. Present-day Vigan City in Ilocos Sur province became the bishopric seat of Nueva Segovia. Ilocanos in the northern parts were less easily swayed, however, and remained an area filled with deep resentments against Spain. These resentments bubbled to the surface at various points in the Ilocos provinces' history as insurrections, most notably that of Andres Malong and Palaris of Pangasinan, Diego Silang and his wife Gabriela Silang in 1764, and the Basi Revolt in the 19th century. However, it was the Pangasinenses in the south who were the last to be stand against the Spaniards.

In 1901, the region came under American colonial rule, and in 1941, under Japanese occupation.

During 1945, the combined American and the Philippine Commonwealth troops including with the Ilocano and Pangasinese guerillas liberated the Ilocos Region from Japanese forces during the Second World War.

Several modern presidents of the Republic of the Philippines hailed from the Region: Elpidio Quirino, Ferdinand Marcos, and Fidel V. Ramos.

Before the formation of the Cordillera Administrative Region, Region 1 also included the provinces of Abra, Mountain Province, and Benguet. Before Region 1 was modified by Ferdinand Marcos, Pangasinan was not part of the region.

Ilocos Norte

Long before the coming of the Spaniards, there already existed an extensive region (consisting of the present provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union) renowned for its gold mines. Merchants from Japan and China would often visit the area to trade gold with beads, ceramics and silk. The inhabitants of the region, believed to be of Malay origin, called their place "samtoy", from "sao mi toy", which literally meant "our language here"

In 1591, when the Spanish conquistadors had Manila more or less under their control, they began looking for new sites to conquer. Legaspi's grandson, Juan De Salcedo, volunteered to lead one of these expeditions. Together with 8 armed boats and 45 men, the 22 year old voyager headed north. On June 13, 1592, Salcedo and his men landed in Vigan and then proceeded towards Laoag, Currimao and Badoc. As they sailed along the coast, they were surprised to see numerous sheltered coves ("looc") where the locals lived in harmony. As a result, they named the region "Ylocos" and its people "Ylocanos".

As the Christianization of the region grew, so did the landscape of the area. Vast tracks of land were utilized for churches and bell towers in line with the Spanish mission of "bajo las campanas". In the town plaza, it was not uncommon to see garrisons under the church bells. The colonization process was slowly being carried out.

The Spanish colonization of the region, however, was never completely successful. Owing to the abusive practices of many Augustinian friars, a number of Ilocanos revolted against their colonizers. Noteworthy of these were the Dingras uprising (1589) and Pedro Almasan revolt (San Nicolas, 1660). In 1762, Diego Silang led a series of battles aimed at freeing the Ilocanos from the Spanish yoke. When he died from an assassin's bullet, his widow Gabriela continued the cause. Unfortunately, she too was captured and hanged. In 1807, the sugar cane ("basi") brewers of Piddig rose up in arms to protest the government's monopoly of the wine industry. In 1898, the church excommunicated Gregorio Aglipay for refusing to cut off ties with the revolutionary forces of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. Unperturbed, he established the "Iglesia Filipina Independiente". Aglipay’s movement and the nationalist sentiment it espoused helped restore the self-respect of many Filipinos.
In an effort to gain more political control and because of the increasing population of the region, a Royal Decree was signed on February 2, 1818 splitting Ilocos into two provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Soon thereafter, the provinces of La Union and Abra likewise became independent.

Ilocos Sur


Before the coming of the Spaniards, the coastal plains in northwestern Luzon, stretching from Bangui (Ilocos Norte) in the north to Namacpacan (Luna, La Union) in the south, were a region called the Ylokos. This region lies in between the China Sea in the west and Northern Cordilleras on the east. The inhabitants built their villages near the small bays on coves called “looc” in the dialect. These coastal inhabitants were referred to as “Ylocos” which literally meant “from the lowlands”. The entire region was then called by the ancient name “Samtoy” from “sao ditoy” which in Ilokano mean “our dialect”. The region was later called by the Spaniards as “Ylocos” or “Ilocos” and its people “Ilocanos”.

The Ilocos Region was already a thriving, fairly advanced cluster of towns and settlements familiar to Chinese, Japanese and Malay traders when the Spaniard explorer Don Juan de Salcedo and members of his expedition arrived in Vigan on June 13, 1572. Forthwith, they made Cabigbigaan (Bigan), the heart of the Ylokos settlement their headquarters which Salcedo called “Villa Fernandina” and which eventually gained fame as the “Intramuros of Ilocandia”. Salcedo declared the whole Northern Luzon as an "encomienda", or a land grant. Subsequently, he became the encomendero of Vigan and Lieutenant Governor of the Ylokos until his death in July 1574.

Augustinian missionaries came to conquer the region through evangelization. They established parishes and built churches that still stand today. Three centuries later, Vigan became the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia.

A royal decree of February 2, 1818 separated Ilocos Norte from Ilocos Sur, the latter to include the northern part of La Union (as far as Namacpacan, now Luna) and all of what is now the province of Abra. The sub-province of Lepanto and Amburayan in Mt. Province were annexed to Ilocos Sur.

The passage of Act 2683 by the Philippine Legislature in March 1917 defined the present geographical boundary of the province.

There are many writers and statesmen throughout the history of the Philippines. Pedro Bukaneg is the father of Iluko Literature. Isabelo de los Reyes will always be remembered as the Father of the Filipino Labor Movement. His mother, Leona Florentino was the most outstanding Filipino woman writer of the Spanish era. Vicente Singson Encarnacion, an exemplary statesman, was also a noted authority on business and industry.

From the ranks of the barrio schoolteachers, Elpidio Quirino rose to become President of the Republic of the Philippines which is the town's most illustrious and native son of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur. Col. Salvador F. Reyes, a graduate of the Westpoint Military Academy, USA, led an untarnished and brilliant military career.

The Ilocos Sur Story

Ilocos Sur's history reflects that of the Philippine history in its entirety. In Vigan, the Villa Fernandina founded in 1574 by Juan de Salcedo, grandson of the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, markers and inscriptions can be found throughout the city.

Following the exploration and conquest of the Ilocos by the Castillan sword, the evangelization of the inhabitants was pursued with the characteristic zeal of the Augustinian missionaries. The stone churches built over the centuries reflect Spanish power that held sway in union with the Church. It is thus interesting to read the marker found near the door of the Vigan Cathedral, placed there by the Philippine Historical Committee.

Heart of Ilocandia

The Ancient Land of Samtoy
On the northwestern part of Luzon, the Ilocos range restricts a narrow stretch coastal plain throughout its entire length as the home of one of the tribes of the Malay race, the Ilocanos.

Gleanings from ancient chronicles such as that of Fray Andres Carro say that the word “Samtoy” was applied to ancient Ylokos or to the most important town of the region, where the most important dialect was spoken.

The ancient land of Ylokos or Samtoy extended from Bangui in the north to Aringay in the south. Hemmed in between the reefy coast of the China Sea and the rugged mountain ranges of the Cordillera is a long narrow strip of coastal plain. On the western China Sea side, the land is sandy. On the eastern side, near the slopes of the mountains that separates the region from the Mountain Province, the land is rocky, leaving just a narrow strip of plain here and there for cultivation. In places, the mountains come so close to the sea that the public highway has to wind along the steep mountain and sea. The pressure of increasing population and consequent land hunger has made the people of this region thrifty.


The coast of Samtoy, already familiar to Chinese and Japanese traders before Magellan’s time, was known to the Spanish colonizers in 1572 when Juan de Salcedo traveled along Samtoy or what is now known as the Ilocos Provinces. Sent by the “Adelantado”, Miguel Lopez d Legaspi to explore the whole island of Luzon, Salcedo founded Ciudad Fernandina in 1574 in the heart of Yloko settlement in Bigan, in what is now Ilocos Sur. It became the center of Spanish rule and influence, and the evangelization and pacification movements.

The Spaniards, after Salcedo’s exploration, created Samtoy, the whole northwestern region of Luzon into an ‘encomienda” with Villa Fernadina at Tamag (Bigan), as the capital.

Salcedo was made Lieutenant Governor of Ylokos and the “encomendero” of Bigan where he died on March 11, 1576. It was due to his efforts that the settlements in Tagurin, Santa Lucia, Nalbacan, Bantay, Candon and Sinayt were pacified and made to pay tribute to the King of Spain.

Conversion of the Natives

To implement Spain’s policy, missionaries came over to convert the natives to Christianity. A Spanish chronicler wrote: “The Ilocos are all Christians and are the humblest and most tractable.’

The evangelization of Ilocos Sur was allotted to the Augustinians who established parishes in Santa in 1576, Tagurin in 1586, Sta. Lucia in 1586, Nalbacan in 1587, Candon 1591, and Bantay in 1590. In 1641 they built a church in Bigan, which 117 years later, was to become the cathedral of the Episcopal See of Nueva Segovia.

Dismemberment of Ylokos

The Ylokos comprised the present provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Abra, and a part of Mountain Province. When Pangasinan was made a province in 1611, a part of La Union was taken from Ylokos and annexed to Pangasinan.

A royal decree dated February 2, 1818 separated the northern part of Ylokos which became the province of Ilocos Norte. The southern part called Ilocos Sur, included the northern part of La Union and all of what is now the province of Abra. In 1854, the province of La Union was created out of the towns that had heretofore belonged to Ilocos Sur and Pangasinan. Ilocos Sur previously extended as far south as Namacpacan (Luna), and the territory south of this belonged to Pangasinan. It was the union of portions of Ilocos Sur from the Amburayan were taken from the Mountain Province and incorporated with Ilocos Sur.

Abra which was one a part of Ilocos Sur, was created in 1864 with Lepanto as a sub-province to Ilocos Sur, and remained as such until March, 1971 when the passage of Act made it again a separate province.

Vigan, Capital of Ylocos

Vigan is almost four centuries old, and was once known as “Kabigbigaan” from “biga” (Alocasia Indica), a coarse erect and araceous plant with large and ornate leaves with grows on the banks of the rivers. Its name “Bigan” was later changed to Vigan. To the Spaniards it was Villa Fernandina in honor of King Ferdinand, the Spanish ruler then.

Founded in 1574 by Juan de Salcedo as capital of ancient Ylocos, Vigan vied in importance and gentility with the city of Intramuros. Even before Salcedo came to Bigan, the town was already a center of Malayan civilization with a population of 8,000, a population greater than that of Manila then. It was already enjoying some prosperity, trading with the Chinese and Japanese who brought fine jars, silk and crockery through the nearby port of Pandan, Caoayan.

In the 19th century, Vigan also traded with Europe. Ships loaded indigo in its port for the textile mills in the Continent. The invention of chemical dyes in Germany ruined this industry. By then, the affluent citizens of Vigan had stocked their homes with statuettes of brass and iron, dinner wares, other artifacts of European civilization, fine ivory and inlaid furniture and China wares.

The People - Theirs is a Granite that Makes the Ilocano Nation

Ilocos Sur is inhabited mostly by Ilocanos belonging to the third largest ethnic group of Malay origin. A Spanish chronicler wrote that “the people are very simple, domestic and peaceful, large of body and very strong. “They are highly civilized, superior to the most of the tribes in other parts of Luzon. They are a most clean race, especially the women in their homes which they keep very neat and clean.”

Miguel de Loarca records around 1582 that the Ilocanos “are more intelligent than the Zambaleños for they are traders and they traffic with the Chinese, Japanese and Borneans. The main occupation of the people is commerce, but they are also good farmers and sell their articles of good farmers and sell their articles of food and clothing to the Igorots.”

Father Juan de Medina noted in 1630 that the natives are ‘the humblest and most tractable known and lived in nest and large settlements’

Social Institutions

Before Salcedo died in 1576, be bequeathed his encomienda to a selected group who perpetuated the tenancy system from which developed the practice of caciquism and landlordism, and consequently, usury. The aristocracy of the “babaknangs” against whom the “kaillanes” rose in revolt in 1762 is apparent. The two sections of the town – one for the “meztizos” and the other for the “naturales” are still distinct. These practices became prominent during the indigo boom at the middle of the 19th century. Caciquism, together with landlordism and usury, was the greatest obstacle to the progress of the province. Ilocos underwent the throes of these practices to be what it is today.

Agrarian Economy

Ilocos Sur’s economy is agrarian, but its 2,647 square kilometers of unfertile land is not enough to support a population of 338,579.

Such agricultural crops as rice, corn tobacco and fruit trees dominate their farm industries.

Secondary crops are camote and cassava, sugar cane and onions. Gov. Eliseo Quirino in 1952 bolstered the economy of Ilocos Sur by encouraging the planting of coconut trees and citrus.

The rapidly growing population, the decreasing fertility of the soil, and the long period between the planting and harvesting season, have forced the people to turn to manufacture and trade. Many Ilocanos go to the Cagayan valley, Central Plains and Mindanao to sell Ilocano woven cloth.

Weaving is the most extensive handicraft. This is bolstered by the installation of the NDC Textile Mills in Narvacan which supplies the weavers with yarn. Another factor that favors the industry is the deep-seated conservatism of many Ilocanos who attach a great sentiment and fondness for the durable striped cloth in woven the native hand loom. Furthermore, Ex-Gov. Carmeling P. Crisologo encouraged the weaving of native cloth, for which there is a market in the U.S.

Other industries are burnay and slipper making in Vigan, furniture and statue making in San Vicente, mortar and pestle making in San Esteban, and bolo making in Santa.


In the development of Ilocos Sur, the colonizers utilized free labor. Resentment to free labor brought about sporadic revolts, and those who refused to be slaves and tenants left the region and went to Abra and Cagayan Valley. From 1898 to the first decade of the 20th century, covered ox carts moved to the rich plains of Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac.

In these travels, the children were amused by the tales of Lamang, Angalo and Aran, Juan Sadot and other legendary Ilocano characters. Folk songs like “Pamulinawen”, “Manang Biday”, Dungdungwen Kanto Unay, Unay”, and the Iloko “dal-lot”, to the accompaniment of the “kutibeng” were popularized.

The second phase of Ilocano migration was from 1908 to 1946 when surplus labor hands migrated to the plantations of Hawaii and the American West Coast. At the height of this migration, the average density of population in Ilocos Sur was 492 inhabitants per square mile, the most dense in the Philippines then, excluding Manila. The last batch of labor migration of Hawaii was in 1946 when 7,365 men were recruited by the Department of Labor. Vigan was the recruiting center. At present, more than seventy percent of the 63,500 Filipinos in Hawaii are Ilocanos.

A contemporary scholar, commenting on the Ilocano migration wrote: “The Ilocano movement has shown the way to people those vast lands. Without plan, without system, without leadership, without funds, following only the natural law of expansion, the ilocanos have spread over a considerable portion of the Northern Luzon, Central Plain and Mindanao. This is the most important contribution of the Ilocanos to the social and economic development of the Philippines.’

Uneasy peace

The history of Ilocos Sur, from the beginning of the Spanish rule to the first decade of the nineteenth century was characterized by revolts in protest against tributes and forced labor, as well as the monopolies of some industries.

The best known of these revolts was the Ilocos revolt (1762–1763), better known as Silang’s Revolt. This was principally a revolt of the masses aimed at the “Babaknangs” and the “alcalde-mayor” of Vigan. After Silang’s assassination on May 28, 1763, his wife, Josefa Gabriela, continued the fight until she was captured and hanged publicly on September 20, 1763.

On September 16, 1817, another revolt resulted in protest against the government’s monopoly in the manufacture of “basi” the native wine. The rebels under the command of Ambaristo were defeated by a contingent of regular troops and recruits.

On March 25, 1898, Isabelo Abaya started a revolt in Candon and raised a red flag in the town plaza. The historic "Ikkis ti Candon" was the start of the several revolutions in the Ilocos Region.

Ilocos Sur in the Philippine Revolution, Filipino-American War and World War II

Ilocos Sur, like other provinces in the Philippines, was quick to rally behind Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in the Philippine Revolution in 1896. Upon the capture of Vigan, the revolutionists made the Bishop’s Palace, their headquarters. On March 21, 1898, Don Mariano Acosta of Candon established the provincial revolutionary government in that town.

When General Aguinaldo returned from his exile in Hong Kong to begin the Filipino-American War, he sent General Manuel Tinio to carry on the guerilla warfare against the Americans. Vigan served as Tinio’s headquarters until its occupation by the U.S. 45th Infantry under Lt. Col. Parker on Dec. 4, 1899. On the Tirad Pass in Concepcion, east of Candon, General Gregorio del Pilar, covering the retreat of General Aguinaldo to the Cordilleras and ultimate to Palawan, died a heroic death on December 2, 1899 in a battle against the American Forces under Major C. March. With the smoldering embers of the Filipino-American War already dying out, and with the gradual return of peace and order, a civil government under the Americans was established in Ilocos Sur on September 1, 1901 with Don Mena Crisologo, a delegate to the Malolos Congress, as the first provincial governor.

About forty years later, another bloody skirmish took place in Vigan, On December 10, 1941, a contingent of Japanese Imperial Forces landed in Mindoro, Vigan, Santa, and Pandan, Caoayan.

Four years later, the Battle of Bessang Pass in Cervantes, fought between General Yamashita’s forces and the U.S. 21st Infantry was the climax in the fight for liberation. On April 18, 1945, Ilocos Sur was declared liberated from the Japanese.

Economic Prosperity

The first half of the 19th century was a economic boom for Ilocos Sur and other Ilocano provinces. It was during this period when the cotton, tobacco and indigo industries were encouraged by the government. With the operations of the Real Comapaña de Filipinas, the textile industry was developed on a large scale, and the abolition of the tobacco monopoly accelerated economic progress. But the invention of chemical dyes put the indigo industry out of the business scene.

Today, the premier money crop is Virginia leaf tobacco. The windfall was brought about by the Tobacco Subsidy Law which was authored by the late Congressman Floro Crisologo.

Cultural Heritage

The Ilocos Sur Museum, founded on August 22, 1970, has a sizable collection of cultural treasures to be proud of. Here, Ilocos Sur art include paintings, centuries-old sculptures and pieces of carved furniture. Here, too, are found relics of Spanish European and Chinese cultures that had influenced Ilocano life for centuries. These relics show Ilocos arts not only for their intrinsic and artistic worth, but also as part of a culture influenced by foreigners, and in turn influencing other regions of the Philippines.

Chapters of Philippine history and religion are found in the Crisologo collections which includes family heirlooms, centuries –old “santos”, statuettes, ivory images, Vienna furniture, marble-topped tables, ancient-carved beds, rare Chinese porcelains, jars and jarlettes, lamps, Muslim brass wares, and Spanish and Mexican coins.

The Syquia collections, including the late President Quirino’s memorabilla, vies in quality with the Crisologo collections. But in the midst of the fire scare in Vigan last year, the relics in the Syquia Mansion were transferred to Manila for safekeeping.

Recent Trends

Some illustrious Filipino and Ilocanos among whom were Pedro Bukaneg, the Father of Ilocano literature; Diego Silang, the first Filipino emancipator; Josefa Gabriela Silang, the Filipino Joan of Arc; Dr. Jose Burgos, the Father of Filipino nationalism; Leona Florentino, the Ilocano poetess; Ventura de los Reyes, the first Filipino delegate to the Spanish Cortez; Mena Crisologo, the Ilocano Shakespeare; Isabelo de los Reyes, the Father of Filipino socialism and unionism; Msgr. Pedro Brilliantes, the first Bishop of the Filipino Independent Church; Vicente Singson Encarnacion, Ilocano millionaire and industrialist, and one of the “seven wise men” of the first constitutional convention; Benito Soliven, great Ilocano patriot and parliamentarian and Virginia tobacco booster.
The 1960 census list 338,058 people; 64,446 dwelling units of which 2,974 are lighted with electricity; 3227 provided with radio; 7379 served with pipe water; 25,137 served with artesian and pumped water; and 310 using electricity, kerosene and gas for cooking Ilocos Sur has 547 public schools including five general high schools, one university, one agricultural college and 56 private schools, 16 of which are Catholic.

The Provincial Economic Development Council (PEDCO), organized by the first elected lady governor, Hon. Carmeling P. Crisologo, was a step forward in the economic development of the province. Among the projects undertaken were on increasing production of corn, rice, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish; improving health and sanitation through the construction of water-sealed toilets, blind drainage and compost pits; beautifying public plazas and highways; assisting cottage industries; and constructing and/or repairing roads, brides buildings and irrigation systems.

Provincial Milestones

Ilocos Sur was founded by the Spanish conquistador, Juan de Salcedo in 1572. It was formed when the north (now Ilocos Norte) split from the south (Ilocos Sur). At that time it included parts of Abra and the upper half of present-day La Union. The current boundary of the province was permanently defined by virtue of RA 2973, which was signed in March 1917.

In 1763, during the British occupation of the Philippines, Ilocos Sur was ruled by the British appointed governor, Ilocano freedom fighter Diego Silang, until he was shot in the back by Miguel Vicos in Vigan.

On December 2, 1899, the Battle of Tirad Pass happened, where the gallant General Gregorio del Pilar and 60 brave Filipino defenders died covering the escape of General Emilio Aguinaldo from the Americans.

In 1942, the Japanese Imperial forces occupied the province.

In 1945, the province was liberated from the Japanese with the joint efforts of Filipino & American soldiers including Ilocano guerrillas. When the Filipino soldiers of the 1st, 2nd, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, 1st Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary and the 15th, 66th and 121st Infantry Regiment of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines - Northern Luzon or USAFIP-NL was beginning the Battle of Bessang Pass and attacking Japanese forces. It included the bloody Battle of Bessang Pass on June 14, 1945.

The 1970s were dark periods for the province as armed men known as the "saka-saka" (Ilocano, literally "bare-footed") terrorized the province; and this reign of terror resulted in the famous burning of the barangays of Ora East and Ora Centro in the municipality of Bantay. This era ended with the rise of Luis "Chavit" Singson to the governor's seat.

La Union

A year after Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi made Manila the capital of the Philippines on June 24, 1571, the Spaniards started the colonization of Ilokos.  In June, 1572, the conquistadores led by Juan Salcedo (grandson of Legazpi) landed in Agoo, then a part of Pangasinan called “el puerto de Japon” because enterprising Japanese merchants have been trading with the natives through this port.

The Spaniards marched up north without any resistance.  They had their first taste of the Ilokanos’ bravery and fighting heart during a historic battle in Purao (literally, “white” and maybe due to the white sands of the beach) now known as Balaoan. The Spaniards befriended the Ilokanos who reluctantly acceded to be under Spanish rule.

After Cebu became the first provincia in 1565, new provinces have been created by the Spaniards.  Three main functions were considered so: political-civil administration, ecclesiastical governance and geographical considerations.

For more than two and one-half centuries, the original Ilokos province remained intact until 1818 when it split into Ilokos Norte and Ilokos Sur.  In 1846, Abra was created by Governor General Narciso Zaldua Claveria.

Governor General Claveria was a visionary administrator.  He believed that combining three contiguous areas that are far from their respective provincial capitals was a viable solution to the demands of political-civil administration.  He also saw the territory’s agricultural and commercial growth potentials.  And the kicker was the extension of Hispanic civilization and Christianity to the area. Bangar, Namacpacan and Balaoan in the southern portion of Ilokos Sur was quite a distance from the cabezera of Vigan and in almost like manner, Sto. Tomas, Agoo, Aringay, Caba, Bauang, Naguilian, San Fernando, San Juan and Bacnotan were that far from Pangasinan’s capital of Lingayen.  The 40-45 rancherias in the depths of Central Cordillera of the Benguet district bordered by the three Ilokos Sur towns and the nine of Pangasinan have even worse problems.

Thus on October 29, 1849, Governor General Claveria signed the proposal (promovido) to unite the Pangasinan-Ilokos-Cordillera areas into a new province called La Union (the official name designated by Claveria himself).      For 124 days, high and important Spanish colonial officers studied and deliberated on the proposition to create La Union or not.  On March 2, 1850, Governor General Antonio Maria Blanco signed the Superior Decreto that founded La Union – the 34th province since the founding of Cebu in 1565.  It was classified as a political-military government (gobierno politico-militar).  Blanco appointed on March 4, 1850 Captain Toribio Ruiz de la Escalera (Claveria’s former trusted aide de camp) as the first Gobernador Military y Politico.  La Union is the union of lands, people, cultures and resources.  On April 18, 1854, Queen Isabella II of Spain issued the royal decree (real orden) from Madrid confirming Blanco’s Superior Decreto.

By 1860, there was a dramatic progress in commerce and agriculture in the province primarily because of Tobacco.  Spanish authorities banked on the prized leaf for further economic development.  The industry was so lucrative that a Tobacco Monopoly was established.  All Tobacco leaves were strictly monitored and bought exclusively by the government at a fixed price.

By 1896, the people of La Union had enough of the Spanish atrocities.  The torture of the native priests, Padres Adriano Garces of Balaoan, Mariano Gaerlan of San Fernando and Mariano Dacanay of Bacnotan; the execution of Balaoan’s Siete Martires, majority of whom are ancestors of Board Member Joaquin C. Ostrea, Jr.; the persecution of Masons, whose membership included the elite natives; and others have all the more agitated the people to unite and fight their masters for three centuries.  On May 22, 1898, a shot from a revolver killed the much-hated Friar Mariano Garcia of Santo Tomas, it was a shot heard in the whole province which eventually ignited the revolution in what the Spaniards used to call, “Una Provincia Modelo.”

Led by Manuel Bondoc Tinio, a boy general under the command of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the Spaniards were finally defeated in La Union, some of whom escaped and sought refuge in Vigan.  With the help of the Americans, the Filipinos were finally freed from Spain only to find out later that they will be subjected to a new colonial rule. 

A Revolutionary Government was established with Aguinaldo as President.  Tinio acted as “de facto governor” of La Union but was later on replaced by Dr. Lucino Almeida as Presidente Provincial.  During the American occupation, Dr. Almeida was reappointed as provincial chief, only to be convicted and exiled after his revolutionary connections were discovered.  In defense of their hard-fought freedom, the people of La Union resisted American power and maintained their allegiance to Aguinaldo.  Due however to the superior American military firepower, the whole province and the whole archipelago, were finally subdued and pacified.

The Americans prioritized education during their rule.  Schools were massively constructed and public education attracted the Filipinos.  Democracy, which was given equal importance, facilitated the election of La Union’s first Civil Governor in 1901 in the person of Don Joaquin Joaquino Ortega, Grandfather of Governor Manuel C. Ortega.  Nine other equally able governors followed Don Joaquin before the outbreak of World War II:  

Joaquin Luna 1904-1907
Sixto Zandueta  1908-1919
Pio Ancheta 1919-1922, 1931
Thomas De Guzman   1922-1923, 1928-1931
Juan Lucero  1923-1929 
Mauro Ortiz     1931-1934
Juan Rivera  1934-1937 
Francisco Nisce  1937-1940
Bernardo Gapuz   1940 

Just as when the Filipinos were awaiting independence as promised by the Americans under the Tydings-Mcduffie Law, World War II exploded.  The Filipinos gallantly fought side by side with the Americans.  Amidst all the chaos and anarchy, three provincial chieftains rose to the occasion to lead the people of La Union, Gov. Bernardo Gapuz (1940), Gov. Jorge Camacho (1941-1942) and Gov. Bonifacio Tadiar (1942-1944).

On January 4, 1945, the tides of war changed in La Union as Filipino-American soldiers captured Baroro Bridge in Bacnotan, a strategic bridge that connects the rest of Northern Luzon to San Fernando.  The victory ensured the liberation of La Union.  It was followed by the historic Battle of San Fernando and Bacsil Ridge.  Defeated, the Japanese Imperial Army retreated to Baguio City where they joined their comrades and made their last stand.   From the ashes of war, La Union underwent massive reconstruction and rehabilitation.  Patient and hardworking, the people of La Union marched on to progress and development led by a new breed of innovative, highly competent and down to earth governors.  


Pangasinan was among the earliest political and administrative units in the Philippines. It was officially conquered and colonized by D. Martin de Goiti in 1571. On April 5, 1572, Pangasinan was made an encomienda by the Spanish royal crown to receive instruction on the Catholic Faith, which means that Pangasinan was organized under one leadership and has identity before the Spanish royal court. Eight years later, in 1580, Pangasinan was organized into a political unit under an alkalde mayor who at that time has authority as head of the province or provincial government with judicial function indicating that Pangasinan has become a province. To commemorate the day when Pangasinan became an encomienda and the year it became a province, Pangasinan celebrates April 5, 1580 as the official founding day of the Province of Pangasinan. At that time, its territorial jurisdiction included the Province of Zambales and parts of La Union and Tarlac. By the middle of the 19th century however, the northern towns of Agoo to Bacnotan were separated from the province and became parts of La Union. The provincial territory was further diminished in 1875 with the annexation of Paniqui and other towns south of it to Tarlac.

Pangasinan, derived its name from the word “panag asinan”, which means “where salt is made”, owing to the rich and fine salt beds which were the prior source of livelihood of the province’s coastal towns.


Pre-Spanish period – Ancient Malayo-Polynesians of the Austronesian stock arrive by boat and establish settlements along the Lingayen Gulf. They are proficient in salt-making so they call their new home Pangasinan which means “the place where salt is made.” This refers to the coastal area only while the inner areas are collectively called “Caboloan” because the small bamboo species called “bolo” abound there. The inhabitants of Pangasinan traded with India, China and Japan as early as the 8th century A.D.

1572 – Juan de Salcedo, upon the orders of his grandfather Governor General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to explore and pacify northern Luzon, reaches

Pangasinan. A Spanish priest-historian, Fray Juan Ferrando, calls Salcedo the “first discoverer” of Pangasinan. The province is now under the jurisdiction of Spain as an encomienda since April 5.

1574-1575– The Chinese corsair Limahong, after being repulsed by the Spaniards in his bid to found a colony in Manila, goes to Pangasinan and establishes his little kingdom within a fort in Lingayen. His party is composed of men, women and children. He forces the natives to cooperate with him by supplying him provisions and serving him and his people. Juan de Salcedo pursues him and after months of blockade Limahong and his forces escape in August 1575 through a channel that they dug out into the China sea. Many of his men with their families choose to stay behind in Lingayen.

1580 – Pangasinan is organized as an alcaldia mayor , a politico-civil administrative unit or province, by Governor General Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa and receives its first alcalde mayor in the person of Don Pedro Manrique.

1611 – The province of Pangasinan’s territorial limits are set by the superior government, thus completing the requisites for a viable political subdivision: a defined territory, a set of administrators, and law-abiding subjects. The province, as constituted, now include all the coastal villages called “Pangasinan” and the inner areas called “Caboloan.” The boundaries are from San Juan (now in La Union) in the north, to the foothills of the Cordillera and Caraballo mountains in the northeast and east, to Paniqui in the south, to the present area of Sual town in the west plus that area that is the present-day Zambales.

1660 –Malong Revolt. Andres Malong of Binalatongan leads the revolt of the Filipinos against the Spaniards. They were encouraged by the short takeover of Manila by the Dutch. He declares himself as “Ari” but their declaration of independence is short-lived as they are subdued by the Spaniards in less than a month.

1762 – Palaris Revolt – Juan dela Cruz Palaris, also of Binalatongan, leads his people to complain to the Spaniards about paying tributes. Encouraged by the defeat of the Spanish army and capture of Manila by the British, they go on to make more demands and drive away all the Spaniards from the capital town of Lingayen. For two years the rebels and their supporters in the province taste freedom and power over the Spanish government but the capture of Palaris ends the rebellion. To forget this sad episode the Spanish officials give the town “Binalatongan” its new name “San Carlos” in honor of Spain’s reigning monarch Charles III.

1840 – The Casa Real (Royal House) is constructed in Lingayen. This 1,700 sqm building of stone masonry and bricks is the provincial seat of government where the Alcalde Mayor resides and holds office. It would be the venue of many historic events in Pangasinan and was used as the “Juzgado” later on.

1855 – The Spanish government opens Sual as an official port of foreign trade. Rice is exported to China and Macao from this port. It is also one of the country’s centers for shipbuilding, together with Labrador, Lingayen and Dagupan.

December 27, 1897 – General Emilio Aguinaldo, accompanied by Spanish Governor General Primo de Rivera and others, takes the train to the Dagupan terminal and travels on to Sual to board the S.S. Uranus that is to bring him to exile in Hongkong to comply with the Pact of Biak-na-Bato.

July 22, 1898 – Pangasinan is liberated from Spanish rule. The local board of Katipunan that was organized by General Francisco Makabulos of Central Luzon four months earlier and led by Don Daniel Maramba of Sta. Barbara, Vicente del Prado of San Jacinto, Juan Quesada and Eliseo Arzadon of Dagupan, defeat the Spanish forces making a last stand in Dagupan. Thereupon, they reenact the proclamation of independence done at Kawit 40 days earlier.

February 5, 1899 – A day after the start of hostilities of the Philippine-American War, President Aguinaldo directs Pangasinan Governor Quesada to transfer the provincial capital to San Carlos to protect the province from the threat of a coastal invasion by the Americans, as Lingayen is located right by the Gulf. San Carlos thus served as the capital of the province from this day until the fall of the Republican forces in Pangasinan in November of the same year.

August 1899 – In a barrio in Bayambang, Jose Palma, a staff member of the revolutionary government’s newspaper La Independencia, writes a poem that becomes the lyrics for the melody of the “La Marcha Nacional Filipina” composed by Julian Felipe. This poem is translated later to Pilipino and given the title “Lupang Hinirang” which is now the Philippine National Anthem. It was written in the house of Doña Romana G. vda de Favis. This house served as the “Malacañang” of the Aguinaldo Republic momentarily in November 1899. (The said barrio is now part of Baustista.)

Early November 1899 – the Philippine American War reaches Pangasinan. General Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the first Philippine Republic, transfers the seat of his government to Bayambang and it momentarily becomes the capital of the republic. The Council of Government also convenes for the last time in Bayambang, in which meeting it was finally decided to disband the army and resort instead to guerilla warfare. The formal workings of the central government of the first Philippine Republic thus ended in Bayambang.

November 20, 1899 –General MacArthur and General Lawton’s columns successfully link up with General Wheaton’s in Dagupan, marking the end of overt warfare in Pangasinan and completing the American conquest of the province. Shortly, military administrators are installed.

February 16, 1901 – The Taft Commission organizes Pangasinan as a civil province in a general assembly in Dagupan. Don Perfecto Sison of Lingayen is appointed Governor and Lingayen is chosen over Dagupan to remain as the capital because the Casa Real is located there. Judge Taft and his commissioners were given a grand reception at the Casa Real.

September 1902 – The first public secondary school in Pangasinan is opened in Lingayen with some of the US “Thomasites” as educators. The Pangasinan Academic High School is the sole public secondary school in Pangasinan until 1946. Now named the Pangasinan National High School, it has produced many of the most successful personages in the province.

February 10-19, 1919 – Governor Daniel Maramba leads the inaugural festivities for the new Capitol. The revelry features an agricultural and industrial fair, a carnival, parades and a grand coronation ball with a a queen and her court. American Ralph Doane, designed this neo-classical building.

December 22, 1941 – World War II comes to Pangasinan. Bitter fighting between the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) and the Japanese army rages around the towns of Pozorrubio, Binalonan, and Tayug. In due course, the USAFFE forces retreat to Bataan and the Japanese military takes control of Pangasinan and the two-year Japanese invasion starts. This brought enormous hardship to the people.

January 20, 1942 – It being necessary to cooperate with the occupation forces through the Japanese Military Administration, Dr. Santiago Estrada, who earlier evacuated the provincial office to Tayug, reassumes the governorship and reorganizes the provincial government in order to help in the restoration of peace and order and to work for the welfare of the people. Dagupan is chosen as the provincial capital of the new Japanese-sponsored national government.

January 9-13, 1945 – The Allied Forces with the United States Sixth Army under General Walter Krueger lands unopposed on the beaches of Lingayen, Binmaley, Dagupan, Mangaldan, and San Fabian, effecting the start of the liberation of Pangasinan. Four days later Gen. Douglas MacArthur came ashore right behind the ruined Capitol building. He also landed in Dagupan and set up his Luzon headquarters there.

February 1945 – The Americans through the Philippine Civil Affairs Unit (PCAU) reestablish the provincial government and install Sofronio Quimson as Governor, while retaining the wartime capital of Dagupan as such.

June 1945 – The provincial capital is moved back to Lingayen.

1946- Through the Philippine Rehabilation Act, the US government assists the provincial government under Governor Enrique Braganza in reconstructing damaged buildings including the Capitol building.

1953 – Governor Juan de Guzman Rodriguez undertakes the construction of the governor’s official residence and guest house. It is named “Princess Urduja Palace” after the legendary 14th century amazon leader in pre-colonial Pangasinan. (Note: Sometime in the 1990s a national conference of scholars and academicians concluded that the kingdom where Urduja was supposed to rule was not in Pangasinan or anywhere in the Philippines but somewhere in Indochina.)

June 30, 1992 – A full-blooded Pangasinense, Fidel V. Ramos, becomes President of the Republic of the Philippines. Among his many achievements that benefits Pangasinan today was attracting foreign investors to put up the Sual Power Plant to ease the power crisis before and during his term, and the San Roque Dam.

October 1999 – The Sual Power Plant in Sual started operating. With Pangasinan as the host province, this is the largest and most effective coal-fired power plant in the Philippines servicing the Luzon grid with a generating capacity of 1,218 MW. The company has an Energy Conversion Agreement with the National Power Corporation with a 25-year build-operate-transfer scheme (BOT).

1998 – The San Roque Multipurpose Project or SRMP in San Manuel and San Nicolas was built to harness the power of the country’s third largest river, the Agno River, bringing these benefits to several communities in the heart of Luzon if operated and maintained properly: flood control, irrigation, electrical power and improved water quality.

2007- The second half of 2007 marks the commencement of significant changes in the physical appearance and systematic clustering of provincial government buildings, parks, hospitals, and satellite offices. The intensive rehabilitation and repair of the provincial capitol building gained national fame and recognition upon its completion in 2008, earning for it the title “Best Provincial Capitol in the Philippines”. Simultaneous to the renovation o f the physical infrastructure of the province, human resource improvement was implemented through programs which resulted to the restoration of dignity, self-respect and professionalism of provincial government employees as working force partners in Pangasinan’s development. It was during this Term of Governor Amado T. Espino, Jr. that the founding day of Pangasinan was estblished, celebrating its 430th founding

anniversary for the first time on April 5, 2010. Pangasinan’s Golden age took off from this year which saw numerous investments flowing into the province, significant development projects mushrooming in every corner, local, national and international linkages being established, all for Pangasinan’s progress and advancement, and finally breaking ground on a period where Pangasinenses proudly claim that their Province is the best place to invest, live, work and raise a family.

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