History of Pangasinan

The province of Pangasinan dates its actual beginnings as an administrative and judicial district, with Lingayen as the capital, to as early as 1580, but its territorial boundaries were first delineated in 1611. Lingayen has remained the capital of the province except for a brief period during the revolutionary Era when San Carlos served as temporary administrative headquarters, and during the slightly longer Japanese Occupation when Dagupan was the capital. 

The province of Pangasinan was formerly classified as an alcaldia mayor de termino, or first class civil province, during the Spanish regime and has, in fact, remained a first class-A province up to the present. Its territorial jurisdiction once included the entire province of Zambales and portions of what are now Tarlac and La Union provinces.

Around the middle of the eighteenth century, the province of Zambales was created and the Zambales range in the west become the dividing line between the two provinces. In 1850 the province of La Union was created and Pangasinan gave up the area covered by the towns of Rosario, Sto. Tomas, Agoo, Aringay, Caba, San Fernando, and Bacnotan, peopled mainly by an Ilocano-speaking populace. In 1875, the province of Tarlac was created and Pangasinan lost to Tarlac the towns of Camiling, Paniqui, Moncada, and Gerona. More territorial changes would occur in the succeeding American period.

With the Spanish conquest of the province in 1572, the Pangasinenses were converted to Hispanic Catholic Christianity. Under a policy of centralization assiduously pursued by Spain over the Christianized population, the different regions, including Central Luzon, were slowly, in unevenly, integrated over a period of 300 years, under one umbrella. As a consequence of Hispanic cultural imperialism, the native society was slowly, in imperfectly, acculturated to western institutions, and developed social, cultural, and political attitudes that would make it more receptive to the values of modernity.

The Pangasinenses were, therefore, but a part of a developing Filipino society. Their social, cultural and political development reflected the growth of the larger society in the direction of modernism. Unfortunately, Spain failed to recognize the aspirations of the people toward a fuller development of their political and intellectual potentials, as well as their moral capacities. the aspirations of the Filipino people would finally culminate in an assertion of the dignity and worth of the Filipino and find final expression in the revolution of 1896.

The Pangasinenses demonstrated their sense of identity with the developing Filipino nation by joining the common endeavor of throwing off the yoke of Spanish sovereignty.

The province was freed on January 22, 1898, with the surrender of the Spanish officials at Dagupan. Six days later, the proclamation of Philippine Independence first enacted at Kawit, Cavite on June 12 was reenacted in Dagupan. Pangasinan thus came within the sphere of revolutionary government of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and Pangasinan sent delegates to the Malolos Congress which framed the Constitution for the First Philippine Republic. This was the measure of their social and political development. A common cultural and historical experience under Span had forged powerful bonds of brotherhood among inchoate ethno-linguistic groups and given birth to a new nation.

Little did the Pangasinenses, like their fellow Filipinos, foresee that the independence they had proclaimed so joyously would soon have to be defended and this time with even greater loss of blood. The infant republic was immediately threatened by its supposed ally, the United States of America, now and emergent imperial power.

The Filipinos did not easily give up their dream of independence. The Central Plain of Luzon became the main theater of war but the hostilities would not reach its northern fringe in Pangasinan until nine months later.

General Aguinaldo was forced to retreat and move his headquarters northwards and, finally, early in November 1899, to Bayambang. That southern town of Pangasinan would serve as the capital of the Republic for a few days. there, general Aguinaldo help a last conference with the Philippine Army commanders of Northern Luzon. It was finally decided to disband the army and resort to guerrilla warfare.

General Arthur MacArthur’s forces captured Bayambang on the 19th of November. But General Aguinaldo eluded his pursuers. The Americans succeeded in breaking the backbone of the Philippine Army and dispersing it, but they failed to capture Aguinaldo. On the 20th of November, General MacArthur effected a junction with General Lloyd Wheaton at Dagupan. Thus, the American conquest of Pangasinan was effected on the 20th of November 1899.

The American Military Occupation and Period of Guerrilla Warfare

As a territory was fought over, occupied, and finally “pacified,” by the American, it was organized into a military district under the command of the division commander. Pangasinan came under the third district which also covered the provinces of Zambales and Tarlac. A military garrison was stationed in each municipality under the command of the lieutenant or a captain of the U.S. Army. The local governments were organized in the pacified municipalities as provided for under General Order No. 409 issued by General Elwell S. Otis on August 8 1899. Every town elected by the nominal vote of its inhabitants, subject to the approval of the commanding officer of the garrison, a municipal president as chairman. The commander-in-chief of the military forces had to approve the municipal ordinances before these could become effective.

But the Pangasinenses who had lost hundreds of their sons on the beaches of San Fabian and in the trenches of San Jacinto were not easily won over. General Pantaleon Garcia had been designated by General Aguinaldo the head of the politico-militar zone of Central Luzon. Under General Garcia, the uniformed battalions and regiments broke up into small bands and maintained a persistent guerilla warfare for months thereafter. They discarded their uniforms, disappeared, and hid their guns when pursued, and reappeared as peaceful peasants interrupted in agricultural pursuits, claiming to be amigos. The word came to be a bitter byword to Americans. It came to mean an enemy claiming to be a friend.

The obstinate warfare wages by the Pangasinan guerillas surprised the American. They had supposed that by dispersing the Filipino army the resistance would end. But the resistance became even more effective. With the switch to guerrilla warfare, the native forces could choose the time and place of attack. Organized guerrilla resistance in Pangasinan was under the superior chief of operations, Col. Jose Cavestany y Marquita, whose military camp was in Asingan. He ordered the collection of war contributions, entrusting this function to the president of the Katipunan in each town. He also demanded that those presidentes who had been installed by the Americans immediately resign and execute sworn statements stating that they only accepted such sovereignty for the protection of the town but they never submitted to its authority. He also threatened to impose “a proper punishment up the Filipino traitors to our country.”

On the other hand, the Americans had no compunctions about employing the “water cure” to persuade amigos to reveal the whereabouts of the hidden guns or give information as to the movements of guerrilla forces. On 20 December 1900 General MacArthur issued a proclamation explaining to the Filipinos the laws of war and the severities sanctioned by international law under such circumstances. Under the laws of war, the commanding general of the occupying forces owed protection, both life and property, to all persons residing within the territory occupied. He now served notice that he would not countenance violations of the peace and order of the communities under military rule. The object of the proclamation was to put an end to the “executions” made by guerrilla commanders of Filipinos suspected of being traitors because they served under the Americans, and, also, to separate the nationalists from their main reliance, the townspeople. The MacArthur Proclamation of 20 December 1900 promised capital punishment to any “insurgent” who refuse to accept the verdict that American military might had imposed. Those who continued to fight would simply be regarded as enemies of the peace and would be so eliminated.

General MacArthur served notice on the leaders of a hopeless cause that (1) assassinations must stop, (2) the universal practice of the townfolk of sending money, supplies, and information concerning the movements of the Americans to the nationalists in the field my stop, (3) participating in hostilities intermittently in citizen garb followed by return to home and avocation must stop; in short, the war must stop. 

Many Pangasinenses must have reflected seriously over the implications of the MacArthur proclamation and the dilemma it posed: to submit to American sovereignty and incur the ire of the guerrilla commander, or to remain loyal to the Republic and court the death penalty. 

It had been more than a year since President Aguinaldo had gone into hiding. His mother and son, together with Felipe Buencamino had been captured in Pozorrubio. Many of the erstwhile leaders of the Republic, such as Cayetano Arellano, and Ambrosio Flores, had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States.

Another factor, that peace and order, may also be considered. Even while the government of the Republic was still firmly in the saddle, in the period between 12 June 1898 and 12 November 1899, there had been persistent complaints against thefts, robberies, banditry, and other crimes. There had even been complaints against abusive town officials. The stationing of American garrisons in the towns under military rule may have done a great deal towards the restoration of conditions of law and order. This could have had the effect of influencing the people favorably toward an acceptance of American rule. It is well-known principle of government that the maintenance of law and order is one of the most important obligations of government. And the American garrisons were in a better position to carry out this function than the local guerrilla governments. 

The behavior of American soldiers may have been another factor in winning over the people. Commenting on the relations between the American army and the people, the Philippines Commission reported that the American troops were welcome in the towns because “the people desire protection from the robbers and the ladrones”. Also, unlike other invading armies, the Americans did not live off the land. They spent money for their needs and in some manner stimulated the economy, adding to the cash income of the natives.

Thus, as the nineteenth century came to an end, and the twentieth century began, the Pangasinenses gradually acquiesced and tolerated American rule. Not long after military occupation ended civil government under the Americans was established.