During Spanish Period
Iligan’s early History
By Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen
HIGAONON: One of Mindanao’s Lumad ethnic groups believed to be the first settlers of Iligan.
The earliest Spanish accounts refer to Iligan(or Yligan/Elegin) as the name of the settlement found at the mouth of the river that bears the same name(also Tambacan to many people).It was this same settlement that the early Jesuits in Mindanao came upon sometime in the 1630s. Around the 18th century, Iligan referred to the large military province or corregimiento, which comprised the present-day provinces of Lanao, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, and portions of Misamis Oriental. When Ferdinand Blumentritt cited the earlier ethnographic accounts pointing to Subanos as the inhabitants of Iligan he must have referred to the corregimientos Misamis-Zamboanga side, concededly Subano territory till the present.
The Padres Recoletos are reported to have introduced Christianity in the area ahead of the Jesuits, the work having been begun by Fray Nicolas de San Juan wh
During the American Period
Iligan During the American Period
By Prof. Patrocenia T. Acut
General John J. Pershing,commander of the American Pacification Campaigns (1903)who destroyed the proud Kotas around Lake Lanao. Despite their defeat, the Maranaos made Pershing an honorary datu when he befriended them. (Saber) Iligan was already a town of the once undivided Misamis Province in 1832.
However, it did not has an independent religious administration because it was part of Cagayan de Oro, the provincial capital. It was one of the biggest municipalities of Misamis Province. During the American colonial regime, Iligan was also one of the biggest towns of the once undivided province of Lanao.
There was very little progress and development that occurred in the town during the Spanish period. This phenomenon can be traced to one of the causes—Moro hostilities. Muslim atrocities in Iligan and nearby places became one of the hindrances to the political and economic progress of the area.
Under the Spanish colonial administration, a few kilometers of roads were opened and a small wooden pier was constructed in the town. This pier could only accommodate small boats or light vessels. By the time the Americans came, all of these infrastructure projects were greatly damage or had already deteriorated badly.
Iligan was originally inhabited by people who were called either taga-baybay(the coastal dwellers), taga-ilaya(the hinterland dwellers), or tagabukid(the highlanders). They were known by their geographical and territorial location. These people might have penetrate into this area using the four rivers of Iligan as highways. These early inhabitants of Iligan are known today as Higaonon.
The American troops under the command of Capitain John Smith arrived in the placid waters of Iligan Bay one sunny morning in April 1900. The sight of the five big American battleships melted the spirit of resistance of the Iliganons. Father Antonio Hercas, the Spanish parish priest of Iligan advised the Captain-Mayor, Captain Hilarion Ramiroto surrender the town immediately. So when Capt. Smith arrived in Iligan, he was welcomed by Capitan Hilarion Ramiro with open arms. Gifts were distributed to the people and on that day 400 sacks of rice and hundreds of boxes of canned goods were given away. Immediately after their arrival in Iligan, Capt. Smith established a government of the new regime and put up a small military detachment a few kilometers south of the town and named it Camp Overton.
The Americans were very friendly to the Iliganons, and the latter understood that no harm was intended on them. In fact, they looked to the Amercans for protection against the attacks of the Moros. Because of this the people willingly recognized the United States sovereignty over them.
Iligan was a very small town when the Americans arrived. The streets were so narrow that they could not accommodate two cars side by side. It had only few principal streets. These streets were Washington Street (now Gen Aguinaldo St.). Commercial Street(now Quezon Avenue), and Iglesia Street. The rest were just trails enough for the passage of people and animals.
In 1903, the Philippine Commission directed the first census of the Philippines Islands. Iligan’s population then was only 3,269 including that of Lugait its lone barrio and now a town of Misamis Oriental. The population of the poblacion was 2,872 and Lugait had 397. In the 1918 census, the population had increased to 4,669. There were 2,459 males and 2,210 females who were categorized as Roman Catholics; Aglipayans, 100 males and 9 females; and Muslims, 100 males and 52 females. This religious census in 1918 showed that Iligan was predominantly inhabited by the Christian and not Muslim Filipinos.
Colonization had greatly influenced the Iliganons in almost all aspects of life–religious, political and socio-economic. American colonization played an important role in the development and progress of Iligan. During the Spanish regime, the people became Hispanized and when the Americans came, the people were Americanized. The American policy of populating Mindanao in order to develop its natural resources, attracted people from the north and central Philippines to come to Iligan. In the census of 1939 Iligan’s population had increased to 28,373. This population increase from 1903 to 1939 could be attributed to the developments that occurred during the American occupation as peace and order conditions improved. Added to this were the opening of more roads and wharves, and the arrival of modern transportation and communication facilities. Thus, more migrants from other places of the country came to Iligan.
Iligan improved rapidly under the American colonial administration. A number of buildings were constructed. Old dilapidated houses were repaired. A few modern and beautiful houses were erected. The small pier was rehabilitated and opened to the public for business. The first school building was constructed at the present site of the Iligan City. Central School in 1903. The post office was also constructed in 1903.
Iligan’s postmaster a certain C.W. Want was authorized to issue and pay money order by the Bureau of Post. In 1905, C.W. Want was replaced by Candido Molo, a Filipino.
There were public investments such as opening of more roads and telephone lines. These were carried on poles from Camp Overton in Iligan to Camp Keithly in Marawi and were installed into metallic circuits in direct line of communication. The Iligan-Lake Lanao road was constructed by the American troops. The Philippine Commission had appropriated three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) for the completion of this road. The old wooden bridges were repaired. The suspension bridge over the Agus River was constructed. In 1919, the Americans constructed woodpile hurdles at the bank of Iligan River to prevent further erosion. This was a 50-meter long hurdle of two rows of woodpile.
Economic development was one of the major concerns of the Americans for the Moro Province. This province established in 1903 was composed of five districts: Zamboanga, Lanao, Cotabato, Holo(Sulu) and Davao. In order to develop its rich natural resources, the people from other parts of the country were encouraged to come to Iligan to acquire the government’s subdivided public lands. The government also encouraged the cultivation of sugar, abaca, and rice on a large scale. Among the many Iliganon farm owners were Mr. Carlos Ong, a Chinese who had a large sugar cane plantation, the Ramiro family which also owned a large tract of sugarland located between Tambo and Barangay Tibanga; the Sabayle family which had a large coconut plantation at the present site of Barangay Saray and Tibanga up to Barangay Santiago. The family of Miguel Sheker, who was himself a Jew, had its sugarcane plantations between Tambo, Bayug and Tibanga.
Aside from the cultivation of export crops on a large scale, the Americans also promoted trade and commerce in Iligan. In 1918, there were already ten big business establishments mostly opened along Commercial Street(now Quezon Avenue). They were owned and operated by American, Chinese, Filipino and Japanese businessmen. These business establishments had a total capitalization of P 776,400 and a total cost of production that amounted to P 45,395 each.
In the 1920s Iligan had already experienced modernization. Mr. Miguel Sheker had put up a land transportation company so did Mr. Constancio Jariol. Hotels, restaurants, big stores, and lodging houses were also opened. A traveling show entertained the viewing public. Most of the restaurants were owned by the Chinese. The Borja’s put up the town’s first electric plant in the 1930s. With the availability of electricity, Mr. Miguel Sheker was able to purchase machinery for his sugar mills. Mr. Zuberri, a Spanish businessman, put up a big store near the pier. It attracted visitors from other places who came to Iligan because of his delicious homemade sardines, which became Iligan’s special delicacy.
Mr. Sy Ponso put up the Century Theater. Local newspaper were also founded in 1929. The first local news paper in circulation was the Lantaca. It was followed by the Agong in 1930, and the Sidlakan in 1931. Mr. Jose Teves was the first editor of these local papers. They were printed in the printing press owned by Mr. Benjamin Andrada. The newspapers were printed in Tagalog, English and Cebuano languages.
In the 1930s Iligan’s economic condition was so stable and prosperous that there were no beggars roaming the streets. Peace and order conditions were very much improved. The Moros were already friendly to the Christians and even in the remotest parts of the town, they were hospitable to strangers.
In 1903, the Moro Province was created. Iligan, because of its Moro residents was taken away from the Misamis Province. Then Iligan became the capital of the Lanao District and seat of the government where the American officials lived and held office. Later in 1907 the capital of the Lanao District was transferred to Dansalan.
The municipal code of the Moro Province provided a government for each municipality with a presidente, vice presidente and a municipal council composed of twelve (12) councilors. The presidente was appointed by the governor of the Moro Province. The vice-presidente and half of the councilors were appointed by the district governor. The presidente was the chief executive of the municipality and supervised the discharge of the official duties of all his subordinates.
Leon Fernandez was appointed first presidente of Iligan when Hilarion Ramiro’s term ended in 1900. He was a Spaniard but his wife was an Iliganon. He was replaced by Capt. John Smith in 1902 who assumed dual responsibilities, civil and military. In 1907, William Murphy replaced Capt. Smith as presidente. After 1907, the district governor of Lanao through the approval of the Legislative Council of the Moro Province appointed all Filipino presidentes and municipal council members of Iligan.
Between 1908 and 1917, seven Iliganons were appointed as presidente of Iligan, to wit:
- Bernabe Duran (1908-1909)
- Regino Abestillas(1909-1910)
- Dionesio Vidal(1910-1911)
- Nicolas Abragan(1911-1914)
- Martiniano Actub(1914-1916)
- Antero Cruz(1916-1917)
- Eustiquio Adeva(1917-1922)
Adeva was allowed to serve until the first general election in 1922 as provided for in the Jones Law of 1916.
Iligan had its first election in 1922 for the office of the presidente. In this election, the candidates for presidente were Jorge Ramiro Sr. and Rafael Villanea. Their political parties were indentified as either Ramiro Party or Villanea Party. On election day, each party fetched their voters from the barrios. Some of these barrios were forty kilometers away from the voting centers. The election day passed without disturbances and Jorge Ramiro Sr. won as Iligan’s presidente over his opponent Rafael Villanea. Jose Nadorra Sr. also won as vice-presidente against his opponent Eusebio Ramos. The winning councilors were Vidal Sade, Segundo Villanea, Gabriel Gabtalan, Silverio Ramos, Eulalio Nasucal and Carlos Leonar.
Another election was held in 1925 and Jorge Ramiro Sr. was reelected as presidente. His vice-presidente was Dioscorro Villaladia. In 1928, Jorge Ramiro Sr. ran for presidenté for the third time but he lost in the election. against Gregorio Nanaman. However, Nanaman served Iligan as presidente for only eight (8) months because he voluntarily relinquished his office. He was so preoccupied with his own business, which took him out of town most of the time that he could no longer attend to his duties as presidente. Mr. Constancio Jariol, the vice-presidente elect was appointed by the governor of Lanao, John H. Heffinton to replace Gregorio Nanaman of February 25, 1929. In 1931, another election was held in Iligan, Miguel Obach was elected as presidente against Silverio Ramos.
Under the Commonwealth Government, election was held in 1935. Jorge Ramiro Sr. was again elected as presidente of Iligan. In 1937, another election took place and Jorge Ramiro Sr. was reelected. The municipal head was no longer called presidente but mayor. This is because the executive officials of the Philippine Commonwealth Government inaugurated in November 1935 were called president and vice-president.
In 1940 the last election before the outbreak of the Second World War held in Iligan. Leo Garcia won against incumbent mayor, Jorge Ramiro. Leo Garcia took his oath of Office on January 1, 1941 and served Iligan as mayor up to the end of the war.
The Japanese invaded Iligan on May 5, 1942. The Japanese occupation force, numbering about 400 to 500 soldiers did not meet any fierce resistance because the demoralized United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) soldiers had already left.
During the Japanese Period
Japanese Occupation in Iligan City
By Prof. Leonor Buhion Enderes
The Japanese invaded Iligan on May 5, 1942. The Japanese occupation force, numbering about 400 to 500 soldiers did not meet any fierce resistance because the demoralized United States Armed Forces in the Far East(USAFFE)soldiers had already left. The Japanese Military Forces stationed themselves in the poblacion since this was the most accessible place, hence, it became the occupied zone. They then occupied and converted the Iligan Central School (now the Iligan City South Central School) as their garrison headquarters. Other schools were soon occupied.The St. Michael’s Academy (now St. Michael’s College) was made as training ground and sleeping quarters. The Gabaldon School (the former Boy Scout Building) was used as Japanese offices, while the Iligan Lumber Office located at the corner of Araneta Street (now the Office of Congressman Badelles) was used as the headquarters of the Bureau of Constabulary.
In occupied Iligan, Leo Garcia, Sr. was appointed Mayor till the end of World War II. Other officials were Antonio Bartolome who acted as one of the municipal councilors. Atty. Guadalupe Villanea served as the municipal judge, Dr. Godofredo Caluen as Municipal Health Officer and Zacarias Orbe as Municipal Treasurer. The local officials, however, did not have real powers. All orders came from the Japanese Garrison Commander named Captain Adachi. The local leaders were only used for espionage, labor recruitment, and food production.
The local officials were concerned about maintaining peace and order in the occupied town, and had saved many lives by establishing good relationships with the Japanese. Many times, the town mayor guaranteed the safety and vouched for the innocence of the civilians captured or suspected by the Japanese.
Aside from their usual functions, local officials maintained underground contacts with the guerrilla leaders, particularly with Pedro Andres. They secretly informed them of the Japanese plans and movements, their strength and activities.
To assist the local officials in their task of maintaining peace and order, a new police system and a self-protecting body composed of civilian inhabitants who would coordinate with the local police were organized. The police system was known as the Bureau of Constabulary (BC) while the self-protecting organization was represented by the District and Neighborhood Association (DANAS). BC posts were then stationed at the site of the Buhanginan Hill, at the pier (the present site of Pier 1), in Camp Overton, and in Tibanga (near the site of the Iligan Square Garden).
The Japanese became interested in Iligan because of the economic potentials of the area. Iligan has abundant natural resources. Added to this is the hydroelectric power potential of the area that could be harnessed from the Agus River at the site near the Maria Cristina Falls. This would make Iligan a good site for processing and manufacturing industries. It is significant to mention here that during the Japanese occupation, the Japanese showed interest to develop the Maria Cristina Falls site. In fact, they prepared an elaborate plan to build a hydroelectric plant in the area. Unfortunately, their plan never materialized owing to the progress of the Pacific War. It was because of the Maria Cristina hydroelectric power potentials that Iligan became the prime target of Japanese economic interest.
Meanwhile, in order to achieve the desired economic growth, the Japanese also looked into the condition of the other aspects of the economy such as the improvement of agriculture and other industries, the stabilization of trade and commerce and the reconstruction of other facilities.
In as much as there was a threat of shortages of food supply, the local government initiated a campaign to increase food production. To remedy the situation, Mayor Garcia exhorted all civilians to utilize every available space to be planted with basic food crops such as rice, corn, camote, vegetables and fruits. He hired civilian workers to plant crops in spaces along the roads and in the public plaza. Other areas of the town were encouraged to produce other crops. Specifically, the area of Bayug was designated to sugar cane plantation intended for the production of sugar for local consumption. A sugar mill owned by Antonio Bartolome was located in that place.
Another concern of the government was the scarcity of meat. To assure a steady supply, the local government sponsored series of dialogues reminding all animal owners of their support to one another. The local government also requested all inhabitants including the Japanese soldiers to refrain from commandeering livestock, poultry and other animals without the consent of the owners. To minimize animal deaths, the office of the municipal veterinarian was reopened. The office was responsible for the dissemination of vital information about the proper care of animals. It monitored animal diseases, at the same time, taught animal raisers some tips to prevent animal diseases, thus reducing the mortality rate. Through these measures the government was able to improve the situation.
The Japanese also tried to resuscitate domestic trade and commerce. The first step undertaken to revive what was once a flourishing trade was the restoration and maintenance of peace and order. It was followed by the reconstruction of facilities, which were blasted off by the retreating USAFFE soldiers to discourage landing of approaching enemies. Some of these were the town’s wharf, roads and bridges, the marketplace and the gas-operated electric plant. Consequently, the situation improved and the local traders started coming back and reactivated their businesses.
The center for business activities was the market place situated in the same place where the present Philippine National Bank is located, along E. Aguinaldo Street. Local traders converged here and brought their agricultural products. Some Maranao farmers also did the same. As expected, the Chinese merchants who owned big stores continued to dominate the business. The Japanese businessmen who took advantage of the time continued in their large-scale enterprises like forestry, fishing, plantation and refreshment parlors and bazaars. One of the most prosperous and successful Japanese merchants was Yamada Shiokchi. His business establishment was located at the former site of Robert Commercial, along E. Aguinaldo Street.
The currency in circulation was the Japanese money known as “Mickey Mouse.” In cases where there was lack of currency, people bartered with one another, exchanging goods that they had for whatever they needed.
On the other hand, the local government assured the people that basic commodities were available to all. Mayor Garcia initiated measures to control prices and banned hoarding of basic commodities. He instituted and ordinance on price control and on food rationing. Only those whose names were listed in the census were given ration tickets. Those with ration tickets were allowed to purchase six gantas of rice a day. To strictly enforce the law, Garcia designated Sgt. Marcos Zalsos, a BC, as Chief Economic Officer primarily to check on the prices and distribution of basic commodities. While the government apparently wanted to ensure that the basic commodities were available to all, the rationing of basic fod commodities also prevented the civilians from assisting the guerrillas.
The Japanese also imposed strict control over radio broadcasts. They required owners to register their radio sets. These radio sets were reconditioned during registration to stations favorable to Japanese interest. Only Japanese broadcasts were allowed to be heard. People with unregistered radio sets were punished severely. Despite this strict imposition, a few were able to retain unregistered radio sets, which enabled them to hear news from international networks.
In the field of transportation there were no public utilities, as most vehicles were commandeered by the USAFFE before the occupation. The few other remaining ones were confiscated by the Japanese at the start of the occupation. People relied mainly on few Japanese cars called ambulancia, calesas(horsedrawn carts) and on animals like carabaos and horses to ferry them and their products to different places. Others travelled on foot. Even women walked ten or more kilometers distance in order to reach their destination.
Water transportation, too was almost non-existent. Shipping was limited to sailboats, bancas and a few Japanese ships, described by the people as bakya because their shape resembled that of a Japanese sandal. These ships frequently visited Iligan.
In the socio-cultural life, the elementary school in the poblacion was reopened and children of school age were required to enroll. Prewar subjects were taught, in addition to Niponggo and vocationalcourses. However,the impact of Japanese – sponsored education in Iligan was insignificant since not all schools were reopened for classes. Besides, only few children were able to enroll. The elementary schools in Sta. Filomena, Kiwalan, and Bayug were closed all throughout the Japanese occupation as the area was the headquarter of the 3rd Battalion, 120 Infantry Regiment, 108th Division, 10th Military District, USAFFE. These schools which were supposedly potent institutions in the cultural reorientation of the Iliganons failed because the basic principles of Japanese indoctrination were not taught and imparted to many pupils.
Meanwhile, the women in the occupied zone, kept themselves busy doing their usual daily chores. Sometimes they attended lessons in vocational courses held at the public plaza since the local government enjoined them to attend. At other occasions, they joined social and civic activities like benefit shows and dances sponsored by the Japanese officials. Their association with the Japanese made them credible sources of information about Japanese activities, which were transmitted to the guerrillas.
However, their situation in the occupied territory exposed them to a possible sexual harassment. But the depositions of some old women revealed that the Japanese soldiers highly respected them. Some informants attested about the Japanese soldiers’ good behavior. So, there were no reported cases of women victims of Japanese sexual abuse. Although some attested to the presence of some prostitutes and a brothel for the Japanese troops situated near the present site of the Rural Transit Terminal. Most of my informants claimed there were no Iliganon comfort women. However, this did not mean that life then was easy and relaxed.
If there was anyone that everyone feared so much, it was the kempetai(the Japanese Military Police). Without warning the kempetai would enter one’s home and arrest anyone. On one occasion, the kempetai soldiers arrested Mr. Fidel Pablo who was suspected to be a guerrilla. All the residents of the town were gathered in the playground of the Iligan Junior High School to witness his execution. Mr.Pablo was hanged from a mango tree on September 28, 1942.
For the ordinary civilian especially the young people, day-to-day life had been altered by Japanese rule. On all public schoolhouses, buildings and even trees, Japanese propaganda posters were a constant reminder of the new order. With schools disrupted, there was very little for the ordinary Iliganon civilians to do at times. There would be a movie at the town plaza, but this would usually be about propaganda on Japanese capabilities. There were basketball tournaments and dances held every now and then. Other than these, there was not much that the young people could do.
While many Iliganons resisted Japanese control, there were also those who collaborated with the new colonial masters. They decided to collaborate with the Japanese for various reasons. Iligan, therefore, was not an ideal society with perfectly patriotic people. There were some who took advantage of the economic ventures and security provided by the Japanese. But willing collaboration was an exception rather than the rule because many Iliganons especially the Iligan guerrillas and their supporter still remained faithful and loyal to the Philippine Commonwealth Government.
PEDRO ANDRES. “On October 24, 1942, taking cover under barbed wire entanglements and coconut-trunks-and-limestone bunker on the southern end of the old Hinaplanon Bridge, five do-or-die guerrillas led by Pedro Andres successfully stopped several truckloads of Japanese troops over the bridge. About 117 Japanese died on this encounter.”(Pedring Timonera)
The guerrilla movement started when Pedro Andres refused to heed orders to surrender. With the help of other patriotic individuals, Andres organized a guerrilla band and established their headquarters at Dawag, Sta. Filomena. Alarmed that the movement could grow into a real threat, the Japanese military force sent its troops to suppress the guerrilla band. On October 24, 1942, the guerrillas had a fierce encounter with the Japanese troops for the first time since the resistance movement was organized. In this encounter, the guerrillas defeated the Japanese forces.
The news of their triumph encouraged other patriots to organize their own guerrilla units. Guerilla groups were organized in Hinaplanon, Pugaan, Panul-iran and Pindugangan. All local guerrilla units were then consolidated into one Iligan guerrilla outfit under the command of Capt. Pedro Andres. The Iligan guerrilla outfit was later incorporated into the provincial guerrilla movement, which in turn was also incorporated into the Mindanao-Sulu guerilla movement. What made local guerrilla resistance movement very effective was the strong support from the civilian population.
The people of Iligan were surprised by the unexpected departure of the Japanese. The Japanese troops left the town on October 7, 1944, Mayor Leo Garcia, gathered all the town officials and ordered them to formally inform the people that the Japanese were no longer around and they were then free to come back to their homes. The Iliganons were so jubilant. They celebrated thanksgiving masses and held street dances to celebrate their freedom.
As soon as the Japanese troops had left, the guerrillas and the civil government officials returned to town. The Free Iligan Civil Government officials stripped off the “puppet” government officials’ authority and influence over the political and economic life of the municipality and reestablished the municipal civil government. In celebration of the restoration of the Commonwealth municipal civil government, a parade was held around the town.
During this time, Ramon Paradela served as mayor but was later succeeded by Bernardo Zosa who was appointed by President Segio Osmeña Sr. to assume as mayor. He served for less than a year, and his administration was concerned with the restoration of peace and order. It shall be noted that upon the departure of the Japanese, the collaboration question was not yet settled. Zosa dealt with this issue by establishing people’s court, in compliance with President Osmeña’s Collaboration Law. The people’s court handled all cases of collaboration and tried the various cases brought before it. Some defendants were found guilty and imprisoned. Others who were not jailed were only required to sweep all the streets around town.
But the collaboration issue did not end here for there were some guerrillas who were out for retribution against Japanese “spies and collaborators.” These Japanese collaborators sought protection from the local officials. Zosa had coordinated with various leaders to conduct negotiations and dialogues among those concerned. And the situation started to calm down.
Iligan recovered from the turmoil of the war from the time the Commonwealth Government was restored until 1950. In this year, the local leaders worked for the elevation of the municipality of Iligan to a status of a chartered city. Senator Tomas Ll. Cabili initiated the move. It was Congressman Mohammad Ali Dimaporo of the undivided Lanao who filed House Bill no.425 during the first session of the Second Philippine Congress on April 28, 1950. This bill was later signed into law as city charter by president Elpidio Quirino on June 16, 1950 as R.A. 525.