Commentary: Adlaw Nan Surigao or Is It ?

In recent years, ‘Adlaw Nan Surigao ‘ (foundation day of Surigao ) has been officially celebrated by the provincial government of Surigao del Norte on June 19 which has been declared as a holiday. Many didn’t bother or care to find out whether or not this is indeed the date during which Surigao was created as a province, thus making it red – letter day in our history. But some, especially those who know and revere the province’s glorious and storied past, have been asking: “Is that so ?” What are, if any, its historical, traditional and legal bases?

There’s bound to be some discussion and not without passion on this matter which is decidedly not a trivial one because it involves no less than the precise moment of the founding of Surigao as a province, functioning thereafter as a political subdivision with working and viable structures of governance. Elsewhere, a significant event like this was determined so that it can be celebrated officially and publicity only after a thorough and exhaustive research. Needless to say, our efforts here in this regard have been barely cursory. But better late than never. We can save ourselves valuable time spent on idle debate by simply reading historical records and accounts. Let the facts therefore speak and not something else that betrays our historical apathy and ignorance.

The basis for the celebration of Adlaw Nan Surigao’ is R.A. 2786 which was authored by the late Congressman Reynaldo P. Honrado, then the lone representative of the undivided province of Surigao. This was passed into law when the President Diosdado Macapagal signed it on June 19,1960. Another law of local application R.A. 7553, authored by Rep. Glenda B. Ecleo, subsequently declared June 19 as a holiday only in Surigao del Norte. i.e. Adlaw Nan Surigao del Norte. R.A. 2786 merely divided however the old Surigao into two provinces, namely: Surigao del Norte and Del Sur. Then as now, the decapitation by legislation of a province is known by the odious name of gerryman-deering after a certain Congressman Gerry in the U.S.A. who split his district for political ends.

From the very names of the new provinces, it is quite obvious that the original, mother province of Surigao was already in existence long before. Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and even Agusan Norte and Del Sur are merely offsprings of Surigao, one of the largest provinces in the country during that era. Otherwise, where would Surigao del Norte and Del Sur get their names? If at all, only Surigao del Norte here and Surigao del Sur over there in the South officially came into being their new set the establishment of the first politico – military government in Mindanao. Six districts or provinces under this new government set – up were created one of which was the Eastern District or Surigao, the others being: Zamboanga, Northern District (Cagayan/Misamis), Davao, Central District and Basilan. A portion of another Royal decree referring to the establishment of this system of governance in Mindanao reads.

“In order to and parts of Gingoog to the West has over the years been slowly and predictably divided through “gerryman-dering “ until it has become almost invisible in the map. After Surigao del Norte and Del Sur, in less than 50 years, we now have the new province of Dinagat. What’s next? Siargao province?

It is worth pointing out that Surigao as we knows it today is a product of a slow and gradual evolution first as a religious and military that time however Surigao was not governed as a political subdivision. The reason why Surigao, now a city, the principal town of the province became its capital is its proximity to Cebu and Ozamiz where the Spanish government had military and naval fortification for its defense. Tandag, the former capital, was located far in the south along the Pacific Ocean and was repeatedly attacked and sacked, by the Moros and could not be defended easily and of local officials on June 19,1960. AS many would point out later, right or wrong, the move was intended to prolong Honrado’s stay in Congress since he expected to be politically dominant in Surigao del Norte this time with a smaller population and area without the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid and Lanuza (CARCANMADLAN) where his hold was said to be tenuous. Quite ironically, it was Governor Constantino C. Navarro who became the first Congressman of Surigao del Norte. Honrado became instead the first Judge of the Court of First Instance of the new province of Surigao del Sur.

So when did the old province of Surigao officially come into being or precisely when was it originally established like for instance Manila which also celebrates every years its ‘Araw ng Maynila’?

Historical accounts show that on June 30,1859, a Royal Decree was issued by the Queen of Spain for forestall any doubt that could possibly arise in connection with the implementation of article 13 of the Royal Decree of June 30, 1859 about the establishment of government in the Island of Mindanao…”

A Royal Decree was the law at that time. Therefore, it is by force of law that Surigao was created on the date mentioned. This being so, the original, undivided Surigao would be some 149 years old now as a province and not barely 48 years old if we reckon her age from 1960 which is actually the birth of Surigao del Norte with very little historical past to look back and many of those who were born here 50 years ago asking in disbelief if they can still call themselves Surigaonons now.

Quite sadly enough, as we have predicted, Surigao whose jurisdiction and land area originally included Agusan del Norte, Del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Del Sur, up to the towns of Caraga. Baganga, Catyeel etc. now under Davao Oriented in the South outpost to what is known as ‘reducciones’ or settlements that have been reduced or Christianized by the missionaries. Earlier, "Surigao was an encomienda in 1571, granted as such by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi to Pedro Navarro and Garcia Sierra Chacon" who were allotted all "the rivers and villages of Surigao and Parasao (Cantilan)”. Thereafter it became a religious military district administered by the clergy and the military. In 1751,we already had a map of the province of Caraga drawn by Francisco Alegre. This would soon be officially known as Distrito del Surigao. In December 6,1792 and May 5,1797 we already find letters to the Governor General from Alcalde M. Rivera and Juan Hipolito Gonzales, Alcalde Mayor, respectively of Surigao, capital of the province of Caraga dealing on the establishment of a military garrison against the moros in Baganga and the Southern part of the distrito or province. At “Ericson de Peublos Caraga/Surigao .” In the end, however, it is our people who will decide which day to celebrate: the birth of the mother province or that of the new- born offspring- Surigao del Norte. If they want Surigao to be a postwar creation of gerrymandering barely 48 years old or one with 149 years of colorful existence and plenty of historical legacies is entirely up to them.

Let it be noted however that in celebrating adlaw nan Surigao reckoned from the issuance of the royal Decree in 1859 we would gain added significance and some measure of pride as a province. It will show our cultural and historical ascendancy in the whole region of modern Caraga since our’s would be the oldest province here having supplanted the old Distirto del Caraga which became Distrito del Surigao with the town of Surigao (now Surigao City) as the Capital of the province which included at that time Butuan, Agusan (del Norte and Del Sur) and Surigao( Del Norte and Del Sur). The regional center of modern-day Caraga is now Butuan City. It defies One’s imagination by what calamity Surigao and the rest of its towns have became much younger than those of the two Agusans all of whom were once part of Surigao. That would indeed be the heinous consequence if we continue to celebrate ‘Adlaw Nan Surigao del Norte” which is generally known and mistaken for ‘Adlaw Nan Surigao.”


(repost from Surfing Surigao Newspaper)

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