September 29, 2023

History of Surigao del Norte



The  Surigaonon  is  basically of rich Malay  stock  with  a sprinkling of Chinese, Japanese and Arab blood.  Glints of  European  and American culture could also be identified in the  Surigaonon  culture.   The  province  has  a  population  of  roughly 450,000,  and  it  is hard to distinguish  accurately  the  lines between  stocks.  During the later periods, migrants  from  Luzon and  Visayas flocked to the province in a hope for  greener  pastures.  Inspired by the "gold rush", they decided to  permanently settle here.  This resulted to intermarriages with the natives.

The  people  are  peace-loving and  gentle.   The  favorable climate makes them non-temperamental.  They have the humor of the Visayan, the frugality of the Ilocano, and the other traits  that still  surface.  All of which are inherited from their  forebears who ventured into this part of the archipelago.

Some 95 percent speak Surigaonon as a major dialect.

Influences  of the Cebuano and Boholano dialects with a Tausug  accent can  be traced.  A few percentage speak Samar-Leyte and  Tagalog.  Majority are able to speak English.

The people are predominantly Roman Catholic, Spain's lasting legacy.   The rest of the population are Aglipayans,  Protestants and other religions.


The province has one of the Philippines’ ethnic tribes-the Mamanwas. Surigao City’s Bonok-Bonok Festival depicts the merry making of these native folks as sign of gratitude to their pagan gods for a bountiful harvest and good wealth.

The Provincial Government in cooperation with the private sector is working for the preservation of cultural artifacts. A collection of ancient archeological diggings like burial coffins jars and antique Chinese Kitchen wares unearthed in Panhutungan, Placer is on public display at the Surigaonon Heritage Mini-Museum located at the Surigao City Boulevard.


Mangrove is the major theme in the coastal areas of the province. The salt-water loving trees form interminable marine forests covering 14,162 hectares along the coasts of the mainland and the islands of Siargao and Bucas Grande. There are still marine ecosystems like the lush seagrass beds and coral reefs which are relatively healthy and intact, supporting a rich diversity of marine flora and fauna.

Many who are interested in game fishing and spearfishing will enjoy its bountiful seas along the tuna route. Over 23 different species are caught the whole year round. Marlin, tuna, lapu-lapu, mollusks, crabs, even squids, stingrays and octopuses can be bought fresh and cheap from the fish vendors and fishermen.

The province has many caves and tunnels in its islands. Some are half-submerged in water most of the time and can be accessed only during low tides like the Sohoton Cave at Bucas Grande Island.

Its biggest islands are usually mountainous and rich in minerals. Nonoc Island has one of the world’s largest deposits of nickel. The smaller ones either rest on sand and gravel or have a limestone base bonded by boulders, reefs and sandbars. Some islets like those in Del Carmen in Siargao Island are actually nothing more than a cluster of rock formations jutting out from the sea crowned with shrubs and coconut trees. There are also springs, lagoons, caves, waterfalls, mangroves, marshes and whirlpools which are more appealing to all nature lovers.



Surigao del Norte was once a part of an old territory that existed  in  Northeastern  Mindanao  called "Caraga"  named  after  the people  called  "Calagans" who were believed to  be  of  Visayan origin. They were the inhabitants of the province that time.

In 1538, Francisco de Castro, a Portuguese-born Spaniard in the expedition from Ternate in search of Loaisa, landed on  what presently is Surigao del Norte province. Thereupon he baptized the inhabitants to Christianity.

Historically, the early Spanish settlements were established in Tandag. In 1638, the Recollects had a residence in the towns of Tandag, Butuan, Sidargo (Siargao), Bislig and Linao, a town located in the interior of Agusan.

It was  on February  1,  1752, a year after the  town  of  Siargao (Numancia)  was burned by the Moros (Muslim Pirates), when the  Recollects residence was transferred to Surigao.

In 1860, six military districts were established in Mindanao.  Surigao and Agusan, including the territory lying between Butuan and Caraga Bays, formed the third District called the East District which was later changed in 1870 to "Distrito de Surigao".

In 1911, during the American Regime, Agusan was created as a separate province with Butuan as its capital.

It was on June 19,1960, through Republic Act 2786 that Surigao  was  divided  into two provinces :  Surigao  del  Norte  and Surigao del Sur.


Under this set-up in 1750, the census listed Pueblos are reflected in the census of 1750. The lower units of government consisted of the visita and the reduccion. Military components, corregidors, were placed whenever necessary.

Mindanao was subdivided in six (6) Districts, now transformed into a political-military government.

Under this set-up the Distrito de Caraga was established with the capital in Tandag (Surigao del Sur). The capital was moved to the Pueblo de Surigao when the town flourished in 1750, until the district was recreated as Distrito de Surigao, (1859) consisting of 24 towns with Surigao as the capital.

The American colonial government, thru Public Act 947, recognized the local government system and many towns were converted into barrios in 1904. The Province of Surigao retained only the municipalities of Surigao, Placer, Dinagat and Dapa. This could have terminated the corporate existence of many Pueblos – Sapao, Numancia, Cabontog, Tagana-an, Mainit and Claver.

While some municipalities gained or regained their status albeit some had new names during the American period as in the case of General Luna (1929), Bacuag, Gigaquit, Mainit, (1931) subsequently towns were created after Philippines Independence of 1946.



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