Historical Background

Historical Development of TUMAUINI, ISABELA
by Dr. Troy Alexander G. Miano

Little is written on local histories. Oral narrations of histories by our ancestors are slowly fading and becoming inaccurate as time pass by. It is believed that to be able to love our country, we must first know the background of our hometown. Having knowledge of our town’s history make us understand the struggle of our pioneers in their quest for a community of their own and their contribution to the growth of our country as well.

La Irraya

Two pre-Spanish settlements already existed in what is now the Municipality of Tumauini, Isabela even before the arrival of the Iberians in the late 16th century. Dominican missionary Pedro V. Salgado was able to translate and compile chronologically the events that transpired in Cagayan Valley and the eastern part of the Cordilleras from the archives of the Order of Preachers which became a valuable source of information for Isabela. The settlements are Pilitan and Lapogan, now barangays of Tumauini both located near the boundary of the neighboring capital-city of Ilagan along the mighty Cagayan River, already existed when Cagayan, from where the future Isabela province would be carved, was recognized as an alcaldia and officially called La Provincia del Valle de Cagayan in 1583. These two hamlets are among the principal villages when the Spaniards arrived on or before 1591 in the region called La Irraya (Addaya and Yrraya in other manuscripts). La Irraya region comprised the vast area from Tuguegarao in Cagayan province up to Gamu town in central Isabela. The natives were called Irraya and spoke a language of their own known as Irraya. The early Irraya-Tumauinians were probably descendants of the three waves of Malay who arrived between 200 BC and 1500AD and built a civilization based on corn agriculture and organized themselves around the fundamental political unit called the barangay.

San Pablo Apostol de Pilitan

In 1594, upon orders of Governor-General (1590-1593) Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, Captain Fernando de Berramontano invaded and conquered the Irrayas. The villages were subdued and the vanquished Irraya chief of the settlement of Pilitan was Sibay.

Upon the invitation of Captain Alonso de Carvajal (encomendero of Pilitan), Fray Angel de Soria (worked in Pilitan from 1598-1600) led the first mission band together with Fray Juan de Anaya (worked in Pilitan from 1598-1600; 1608-1609) and Brother Domingo de San Blas that penetrated the Irraya. He reached a Yogad and Gaddang settlement called Pilitan, now a barangay of Tumauini town and about “five-days distant from Lal-loc” near the convergence of the Siffu River with the Cagayan River near the present Barangay Santa Isabel. The Dominican missionaires established the first mission in the Irrayas and in what is now Isabela province, thus making the locality the farthest of the Spanish controlled territory in Cagayan Valley during that time.

On May 24, 1598, Pilitan was officially accepted as an ecclesiastical mission under the patronage of Saint Paul the Apostle and the locality was officially known as San Pablo Apostol de Pilitan. Other missionaries who labored in the establishment of Pilitan were: Fray Francisco Minaio (worked in Pilitan from 1600-1608) and Fray Luis Flores (1563-1622, now Blessed Flores – martyred in Japan; worked in Pilitan from 1606-1608 & 1610-1612). An outstanding Gaddang chief of Pilitan by the name of Guiab collaborated in the founding of the mission.

In 1607, the provincial chapter of the Holy Rosary Province (Dominicans) ordered Frays Luis Flores and Francisco Minaio to the Irraya speaking Pilitan and to exert all efforts that the natives must learn to speak Ibanag and to minister to them in the said language. The forceful institutionalization of the Ibanag dialect, made the Irraya tongue extinct. The following year, the encomendero Luis Enriquez was assassinated by the Gaddangs of Pilitan because he had treated the Irrayas with so much severity. The natives thrust him through with a lance and out of his shin-bones they made steps to go up the house of their chief.

Pilitan ceased to exist with the Irraya rebellion of 1621, when its inhabitants together with neighboring Abuatan, Bolo and Batavag, rebelled against the Spaniards, burned the village and fled to the mountains. The remaining natives were later gathered by Fray Pedro de Santo Tomas and formed the new town of Maquila downstream. Pilitan stands today in nearly the same place of the old Pilitan. In 1898, according to Fray Jose Brugues, vestiges of the old church built by the first missionaries could still be found in Pilitan; however in modern times no sign of vestige can be found in the area.

San Juan de Lapogan

Lapogan was mentioned in the Spanish report when Captain Fernando de Berramontano invaded and conquered the Irrayas in 1594. But it was only in 1739 that the mission of San Juan de Lapogan was founded by the Dominican missionaries under the patronage of Saint John the Baptist. It was situated some thirteen kilometers south of Tumauini heading for Ilagan town site contiguous to Barangay San Juan of Ilagan. The villages included in the mission were: Palasili, Guinabbual, Banafa, Abugan, Caballangan and Amugan. Frays Francisco Borja, Jose Alpenez and Domingo Forto worked hard to bring down the pagans and apostates to Lapogan. In 1753, Lapogan was made a dependent of the newly created town of Tumauini.  The missionary of Lapogan, Fray Blas Barbero, was transferred to the new town of Tumauini and because of lack of personnel, Lapogan rarely had missionaries of its own. The name Lapogan could have come from the word pog or bamboo which referred to the abundance of bamboos in the locality between Lapogan and Ilagan.

San Matias de Tumauini

In 1704, the mission of San Matias de Tumauini was established by the vicar of Cabagan, Fray Francisco Nuñez, to christianize the big number of Irraya and Gaddang pagans and apostates living in the locality and to have another town between Cabagan and Ilagan which was about fifty kilometers apart and to serve as a resting place and source of provisions. It was located on a plain near the confluence of the Cagayan and Pinacanauan Rivers of Tumauini. Two popular leaders of the settlement were Carrabacan (baptized on May 3, 1707 and christened with the name Matias) who led in 1707 and Quinagoran who led in 1739.

Aside from the Irrayas and Gaddangs, the second inhabitants of Tumauini were the Christian natives coming from the other Christian towns, specifically Cabagan and Tuguegarao. To give solidity to a recently founded town, the Spaniards as a rule induced Christians from other towns to reside in the new town and give them incentives or extra privileges. Natives of Cabagan and Tuguegarao were given privileges of exemption for three years from tribute and polo (forced labor). Some of the original inhabitants; however, left Tumauini because of the punishment inflicted by the Spaniards.

On May 10, 1751, Tumauini was established as a civil town with the seat of government in Talana. The first elections of April 11, 1752 seated Salvador Dangui as gobernadorcillo. The other officials were Juan Tannuad (deputy), Francisco Baccay (peace officer), Domingo Mangulag (juez de palmas) and Tomas Agub (secretary). The town was under the care of Ilagan vicar Fray Luis Martinez, vicar of Ilagan. The poblacion was later transferred to Calamagui then to Maggayu. On August 17, 1752, the town center of Tumauini was transferred to its present site from Maggayu with the boundaries fixed at Balasig in the north and Lapogan in the south. In 1753, Tumauini was accepted as an ecclesiastical mission with Fray Blas Barbero, missionary of Lapogan, as the first vicar.

Name Origin

The name Tumauini was derived from the word mauini referring to the big trees which abounded the town center. When the Spaniards asked a native for the name of the trees; “Come se llama el grande lenia? Sabes tu”. The native did not understand the foreign language but picked up the last word he heard and answered back; “Tu-mauini”.

Tumauini Church

The first church made of nipa and other light materials. The Dominican Provincial Juan de Santo Domingo blessed the first church on February 22, 1707 and dedicated to Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent death. The first Mass was said on February 24 by Fray Santo Domingo. Tumauini became an independent parish from Cabagan in 1751.

The current Church of Tumauini was constructed through the efforts of Fray Domingo Forto (a son of a Spanish engineer) and a certain Castillejos (a master carpenter from Lal-lo pueblo).  Fray Forto hired artisans from as far south as Pampanga. When Fray Forto was transferred to Aparri in 1783, Fray Antonio Herrera continued the constructions and improvements including the unique round belfry of the stone until 1788 followed by Frays Alejandro Sarralde, Manuel Blanco, Jose Brugues, Marcelino Cascos and Romualdo Aguado until it was finished in 1805.  

The Church is an ultra-baroque architecture edifice and is known for its extensive use of baked clay both for wall finishing and ornamentation. Clay bricks came to life in concentric circles on the façade, spiral curves on the finial serpentine relief and many finely molded details – flowers, foliage, surfaces, cherubs and saints. Brick was used due to lack of good quality stones in the area. Its architecture bore Chinese ancestry. A closer look at the brick façade shows numbers and dates for the correct sequence of the bricks in Forto’s design. The façade is flanked by two pseudo-Corinthian columns and niches, one located above the entrance and the two remaining larger niches on each side of the columns. The church’s circular pediment is unique relative to all other churches built during the Spanish Era.

This church of stone featured a unique twenty-five meter cylindrical bell tower, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. It is the only known Spanish colonial era cylindrical tower in the country. The tiered belfry notably resembles a wedding cake. The bell housed within has bullet holes but was never recast. The ruins of the church’s convento (clergy house) are located on the gospel side of the church.

The church was damaged during the Second World War; a faithful reconstruction programme followed, with undamaged parts of the church building retained. The Tumauini Church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on February 24, 1989. It is also being considered for addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines under the Baroque Churches of the Philippines (Extension).

San Matias Apostol

San Matias or Matthias (died c. 80 AD) was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent death. His calling as an apostle is unique, in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus, who had already ascended into heaven, and it was also made before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church. Originally one of the 72 disciples of Jesus, tradition of the Greeks says that Saint Matthias planted the faith about Cappadocia and on the coasts of the Caspian Sea, residing chiefly near the port Issus. Surviving fragments of the lost Gospels of Matthias attribute it to Matthias, but Early Church Fathers attributed it to heretical writings in the 2nd century. After thirty three years of preaching, he died a martyr. Fray Santo Domingo of the Order of Preachers chose Saint Matthias the Apostle as patron of the new mission of Tumauini in 1707. The same Dominican celebrated the first Mass on the Feast of San Matias – February 24.

Tobacco Monopoly & the Division of Cagayan

On December 13, 1781, the Tobacco Monopoly was implemented by Governor-General (1778-1787) José Basco y Vargas but Cagayan Valley was prohibited to plant tobacco from 1785 to 1797 which brought adversity to the natives because the principal profitable product of the valley was tobacco. On June 25, 1880, the tobacco monopoly was abolished all over the islands including that of Isabela. Because of free enterprise, the Chinese came in full force in Cagayan Valley.

On May 24, 1839, Cagayan alcaldia was divided upon the creation of the province of Nueva Vizcaya which comprised all towns from Ilagan to Aritao in Caraballo del Sur including the visita of Palanan (then a part of Nueva Ecija province) and Catalangan. Cabagan and Tumauini remained to be part of Cagayan province. In 1846, Dominican Fray Tomas Alonso erected three bridges in the road that led to Tuguegarao. He also built the road to Tumauini including the three bridges of stone and mortar.

Creation of the Province of Isabela

On May 1, 1856, In order to facilitate the work of the missionaries in the evangelization of the Cagayan Valley and upon the recommendation of Governor-General (1850-1853) Antonio de Urbiztondo y Eguía, a royal decree was issued during the administration of Governor-General (1854-1856) Manuel Crespo y Cebrián which created the province of Isabela. The new alcaldia consisted of the towns of Cabagan, Tumauini, Ilagan, Gamu, Calanusian, Cauayan, Angadanan, Camarag, Carig including Catalangan and Palanan. The new province was named Isabela de Luzon in honor of Her Royal Highness Queen Isabella II of Spain. The old town of Ilagan became the capital of the new province. Existing documents from the National Archives of the Philippines; however, revealed that by virtue of a royal order dated September 26, 1867, the capital of the province was transferred to Tumauini. The capital was returned to Ilagan in 1876 because of geographic reasons.

End of Spanish Rule

On September 1, 1898, Isabela Governor Perez left Ilagan at five o’clock in the morning with P11,368.58 and retired his thirty-five guardia civils to Bayombong upon learning that Tuguegarao was captured by the revolutionary forces led by General Daniel Tria Tirona on August 31. Governor Perez was captured in Bayombong ending the Spanish domination in the valley. Eighteen Dominican missionaries were prisoners of war including the cura parocco of Tumauini, the 38 year old Fray Manuel Blanco.

Towards the end of Spanish rule, Tumauini had a tribunal (town hall) made of wood and two schools for children. It also had notable houses made of wood, a few of which had galvanized iron roofing. It had four camarines (warehouse) for tobacco, also with galvanized roofing, the biggest of which was that of the tabacalera. At the end of Spanish rule, Tumauini’s population was 4,525 living in the poblasyon and in the barrios of Fugu, Malamag, Abbuatan, Anafunan, Camasi, Alcazar, Pilitan, Minanga, Asanto, Balug, Paragu, Fusi, Ragan, Ligayu, Lapogan, Calig, Lingaling and Lannag.


According to existing Dominican records, Don Salvador Dangui was the first gobernadorcillo in 1752. Don Tomas Macutang was also recorded to have served the same office even earlier in 1751. In the succeeding years, no records existed except the term of Don Juan Nepomuceno who served in 1805.

Records for municipal president who served during the American period are intact. Don Juan Amistad (1901-1904) and Don Antonio Paguirigan (1904-1905) were appointed while Don Juan Taccad (1905-1908), Don Vicente Cayaba (1908-1910), Don Patricio Bucad (1910-1912), Don Florencio Bacano (1912-1914) and Don Bernardo Colombano (1914-1916) were elected viva voce. At the implementation of the Jones Law in 1916, municipal presidents were elected by ballot. They were: Don Domingo Sanchez (1916-1919), Don Pedro Laman (1919-1923 & 1926-1928), Don Feliciano Guzman (1923-1925), Don Eliodoro Mallillin (1928-1930), Don Lorenzo Pascaran (1930-1935) and Don Patricio Taccad (1935-1937).

During the Commonwealth, the term municipal president was changed to municipal mayor and this is used up to the present. The municipal mayors of Tumauini during the Commonwealth period, Japanese Occupation and the Third Republic were: Hon. Patricio Taccad (1938-1941), Hon. Casimiro Claravall (1941-1942), Hon. Vicente Ferrer (1942-1944, 1946-1948 & 1951-1957), Hon. Jose L. Hammond (1944-1945), Hon. Pedro Laman (1945-1946). Hon. Cristino Roman Neri (1948-1951), Hon. Josefin de Alban (1957-1959 & 1960-1963), Hon. Escolastica Dela Cruz (1964-1967), Hon. Romarico C. Eugenio (1968-1971, 1972-1980 & 1980-1986), Hon. Ricardo Angobung (1986-1987 OIC, 1988-1992, 1992-1995 & 1995-1998), Hon. Andres Pascaran (1987-1988 OIC), Hon. Ric Justice E. Angobung (1998-2001), Hon. Arnold S. Bautista (2001-2004, 2004-2007, 2007-2010, 2013-2016 & 2016 to present) and Hon. Venus T. Bautista (2010-2013).

On October 6, 1939, a son of Tumauini, Atty. Lino J. Castillejo, an administrative assistant of President Manuel L. Quezon, was appointed governor replacing Governor Agustin A. Pintang. Castillejo did not seek the same position in the following local polls but instead ran and won as congressman of the lone district of Isabela. His term was cut short when the Japanese Imperial Army occupied the Philippines. On September 7, 1943, the Japanese inspired Philippine Constitution was “ratified” by the 117 KALIBAPI (Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas) with Lino J. Castillejos and Atty. Gregorio P. Formoso as the representatives of Isabela in the National Assembly. On September 25, 1943, Doctor Jose P. Laurel was elected as president of the Japanese sponsored Philippine Republic and on February of the following year Castillejo was appointed as governor by President Laurel and served up to August 12, 1945.

Former Territories of Tumauini

On April 8, 1952, by virtue of Republic Act 678, the barrios of Barucbuc, Siempre Viva, Bimmonton, Pasurgong, Manga and Settlement No. 1 were transferred to the newly created town of Mallig.

On October 10, 1957, by virtue of Republic Act 2009, the barrios of San Antonio, San Juan, Ragan Sur, Ragan Norte, Ragan Almacen, San Jose (Bulo), San Patricio, Quibal, San Andres (Lattu), Calinawan Sur, Bayabo, Santor, Sto. Rosario, Andarayan, Aneg, San Isidro, Mawi, San Roque, Carmencita, Aga, Villa Pareda, Villaluz, San Pedro, Concepcion, Sammabario and San Nicolas and the sitios of Turod, Paco, Calamagui and Kim-malabasa, were separated from the municipality of Tumauini to form the town of Magsaysay which was later renamed to Delfin Albano in 1982.

On June 21, 1969, the territory of Tumauini was further trimmed with the creation of the Municipality of Divilacan by virtue of Republic Act 5776. Divilacan, a sitio of Barrio Antagan was extracted from Tumauini.

Brief Profile

Tumauin, a 1st class municipality, is located at 17°16′N 121°48′E and is bounded by the Municipality of Cabagan in the north, the Municipality of Divilacan in the east, the City of Ilagan in the south and the Cagayan River and the Municipality of Delfin Albano in the west. It is subdivided into 46 barangays and has a land area of 467.30 square kilometers with a population of 67,650 in 2015. The town’s economy is in a fast-moving basis. Aside from agriculture being the main backbone of the town’s economy, commerce and trade also became the second economic-based income of the town and its residents with the opening of numerous business establishments, hotels and financial institutions that generated many opportunities and more employment for its residents. 


= “Cagayan Valley and Eastern Cordillera, 1581-1898”. Pedro V. Salgado, O.P. 2002.
= Historical Accounts from Fray Julian Malumbres, O.P.
= Historical Accounts from Fray Antonio del Campo, O.P.
= Historical Accounts from Fray Jose Herrera, O.P.
= Historical Accounts from Fray Buenaventura Campa, O.P.
= National Historical Institute
= “Official City/Municipal 2013 Election Results”. Intramuros, Manila, Philippines: Commission on Elections (COMELEC). 11 September 2013.
= “Province: ISABELA”. PSGC Interactive. Makati City, Philippines: National Statistical Coordination Board.
= “Total Population by Province, City, Municipality and Barangay: as of May 1, 2010” (PDF). 2010 Census of Population and Housing. National Statistics Office.
= “Isabela My Isabela”. Raymund Catindig. 2011.
= “101 Facts You Don’t Know About Isabela”. Sid Lactao, Jr. 2015.
= “Interpreting Spanish Colonialism” Empires, Nations, and Legends”. Christopher Schmidt-Nowara & John M. Nito-Philipps
= Mangubat, Kaye (September 20, 2012). “Five unique churches in the Philippines”.
= Gaspar, Roger (1996). “Flowers in Brick: The Tumauini Church in Isabela”.
= Baroque Churches of the Philippines (Extension). UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
= Villalon, Augusto. “Significant Examples of Church Architecture in the Philippines”.
= National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
= Historical Markers: Regions I–IV and CAR. Manila: National Historical Institute (Philippines). 1993.
= HISTOMIANO Library of Histories
= Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
= Official Website of the Province of Isabela
= www.comelec.gov.ph

Special Thanks to:

= Mayor Arnold S. Bautista
= Provincial Planning & Development Office of Isabela
= Municipal Planning & Development Office of Tumauini, Isabela
= Tourism & Cultural Office of Tumauini
= Department of the Interior and Local Government, Isabela Field Office
= Saint Matthias Parish Church
= Mr. William B. Macapia
= Ms. Pauline Duay