History of Balaoan
More than four centuries ago, the first Augustinian friars stumbled upon a village known only as PURAO which served then as the buffer zone between the Ilokos territory with neighboring Pangasinan.
According to the American historian, William H. Scott, Balaoan pueblo was already known by its old name Purao even way back in 1582. PURAO or PURAW in the Ilocano language means white. According to Scott, Balaoan was already regarded an “emporium” for the barter of Igorot gold during that time so much so that in 1592, Balaoan was reported “to be rich in gold” owing it’s proximity to the gold mines of the Cordillera.
The name BALAOAN was appended to the town in very interesting yet funny stories about guns and bullets that would later punctuate dramatic twist in the shaping of the town’s history and the noble character of its residents. BALAOAN in the Ilocano literally means, NO BULLETS or BULLETS NO MORE. Its name was interchangeably spelled Balauan or Balaoang in the old historical records.
The most widely circulated tale about the origin of the town’s name most historical writers continue to popularize, is an account highlighting the gallantry of its old inhabitants in defense of this land.
This epic story is said to dramatize the defiant war cry of the natives here when they shouted, “Bala” meaning “bullets” and “Aoan” meaning “none” as they were running short of ammunition while deliriously fighting off pirates with their bolos and bare hands against superior armaments of the intruders.
Another version is of a lighter tone. It tells about the history of curious inhabitants who poked fun on patrolling Spanish soldiers by taunting them if their guns had bullets.”Aoan bala?” phrases which in the succeeding twist of events, the soldiers would later fuse into “ Bala oan” words that curiously translate to “no bullets? Or bullets no more?” And as this newly coined word sank well into the minds of the sitio dwellers, the town became known as the place where the Spanish guns had “no bullets” or had “bullets no more”.
SPANISH COLONIAL HERITAGE
Balaoan is one of the oldest municipalities of the old Ilokos Territory, having been established by Augustinian friars in the late 16th century during the early expansion phase of the Spanish rule. The town was once an “encomienda” administered by a certain Christoval Guiral with several Rancherias of “new Christians and catechumens” who inhabited the Igorot Mountains. Namakpakan, now Luna town, was under its original jurisdiction at that time.
La Union historian Adriel Obar Miemban believes that it was in 1587 when the town was founded having cited the findings of early Spanish friars chronicles Julian Martin and Salvador Font who favored the year 1587 against that of another friar historian, Elviro Perez who set the year earlier back to 1586. Historian Alberto Lacsamana places the town’s exact date of establishment at April 25, 1587.
The town’s foundation is greatly interwoven with the activities of the old Spanish friars who ministered their missions here. It was for merely regarded as the ministry of Purao with its administration entrusted to the Augustinians. The patron saint of the town is San Nicolas de Tolentino whose feast day is celebrated on September 10.
The town’s Spanish civil government was probably established in 1704 having been governed under the Maura Law. It is believed that by 1739, its name was changed to Balaoan and according on accounts, sometime in 1762, the Ilocano rebel, Diego Silang, ordered the gobernadorcillo of Balaoan to persuade the Igorots living nearby to support him in his anti-Spanish struggle.
Like in the other Ilokos towns, the old townspeople were divided into two classes, the babaknang or agturturay and the cailaines. The babaknang or agturturay were the principalia who spoke the Castillian language. The cailaines, on the other, were the natives who spoke either Iloko, Kankanai, Ibaloi or Pangasinense. Iloko, however, was the town’s lingua franca or spoken language.
The dominant surnames of the earlier residents of Balaoan started with the letter “O” as was decreed by then Spanish Governor General Claveria in 1849. Its first Capitan was believed to be Ignacio Duldulao.
In Febraury 02, 1818 the Real Cedula sliced the old Iloko Territory into Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur making Balaoan along with Bangar and Namacpacan (Luna) the three southernmost towns of Ilocos Sur.
In March 02, 1850 the Province of la Union was created making Balaoan and its two old neighboringtowns part of the new province.
Under the Spanish local government structure, the governing council was the Tribunal Municipal. The intermediaries between the government and the townspeople are the Cabezas de Barangay who was selected by the Tribunal Municipal and the 12 delegates of the Principalia in joint session.
There was a Justice of the Peace known as Juez de Paz whose primary duty was to attend in both civil and criminal cases.
The Cuadrilleros or rural police acted as civil guards of the town responsible for maintaining peace and order.
THE SIETE MARTIRES
Balaoan is best remembered for being the first among Northern La Union towns to rise up against the Spanish colonial rulers. It is said that during the Spanish colonial rule, there was this secret society of Insurrectos organized in the town whose aim was to revolt against Spain. This society included Luciano Ressureccion , Q. Primo Ostrea, Artemio Ostrea, Fernando Ostrea, Patricio Lopez, Rufino Zambrano and mariano Peralta who are now known collectively in history as the Siete Martires. These seven young men earned a place in history for being the first Ilocanos summarily executed for being sympathetic to the revolutionary movement.
Fernando Ostrea escaped death with just a wound on the thigh to be able to break the news about the tradegy and because of his miraculous” survival he was even pardoned by the authorities following the Spanish custom. At the time of his martyrdom, Don Fernando was a Cabeza de Brangay who later became the town’s vice president. As a major in the revolution, he stirred his people to fight against Spain and the United States.
Balaoan was also one of the last towns in the north where the Spanish troops made their final ground in the north in 1898.
THE FIRST PHILIPPINE REPUBLIC
With the ensuing victory of Filipino revolutionaries in the other major areas of the archipelago, a short lived Philippine Republic was born. The Treaty of Paris sealed the fate of the Spanish Rule in t he Philippines but the proud Spaniards continued to fight and refused to submit to the ill equipped and younger Filipino revolutionary fighters. After a running gun battle through Balaoan and Bangar that drove the Spaniards north cross the Amburayan River, La Union was finally liberated. Gen. Manuel Tinio accepted that would hold for only a few months as the Americans came in to establish their own government.
THE FILIPINO-AMERICAN WAR
During the Filipno American War in the late 1898, the town takes pride in playing host to the First Philippine republic President, Emilio Aguinaldo, during his escape to the north to elude pursuing American troops.
On November 20, Aguinaldo stayed overnight in Balaoan at the house of the Presidente that time, until November 21, his last day in La Union before proceeding to Ilocos Sur. There is a very interesting bit of history here because it was in Balaoan where the President almost got assassinated by people loyal to the then General Antonio Luna of the nearby Namacpacan town planning to exact revenge for the killing of the Ilocano general suspected of having been mastermind by Aguinaldo.
While the Filipino resistance fighters suffered series of defeats and hesitatingly withdrew to the hilly and mountainous areas of the north, the Americans started establishing their footholds in the different towns of the north.
In November 28, 1899, American General Young appointed Don Juan Rodriguez as Municipal President of Balaoan until April 1901.
The establishment of the American civil government hardly restored peace and order in the town because the resistance continued among katipuneros encamped in the mountains of Balaoan thus constantly endangering the fragile peace and order being imposed by American troops stationed then in the municipality.
The known leader of the revolucioneros here was Col. Aniceto Angeles who fought fierce battles with the Americans between June 29 to July 01, 1900 until April 03, 1901 from the mountain vastness of Guilong in southern Balaoanto the lowland sitio Kalungboyan where he routed company of American soldiers without incurring any casualties. Col. Angeles who was among the closest aides of Gen. Manuel Tinio, the Filipino revolutionary conqueror of San Fernando, was later captured and executed with two other revolutionaries at Bangar town.
There was a certain Vicente Orfiano, a native of Balaoan who was believed to have saved the public buildings and houses in the pueblo from being burned during the Filipino American Revolution here. He is also believed to have saved the lives of many residents. There was another, Crispulo Patajo, who was able to subdue the Katipuneros and on whose act led to the eventual pacification of the town and the flight of the revolutionaries to nearby Ilokos Sur.
Balaoan is one of the oldest municipalities in the Province of La Union, having been founded in 1704. The vast land area consists of agricultural lands interspersed with residential, commercial and institutional areas.
This turtle-shape inland municipality is composed of 36 barangays, 4urban, 6 urbanizing and 26 rural. It is famous in its high quality tobacco product, having the biggest share of the tobacco subsidy among all towns of the province.
Balaoan is centrally located among the six northern municipalities of la Union (Balaoan, Bacnotan, Bangar, Luna, Santol and Sudipen). It is located 30 kilometers north of San Fernando City, the provincial capital of La Union and the regional capital of Region I. It is approximately 300 kilometers north of Metro Manila. It is bounded by the town of Bangar on the North, by Santol and Sudipen on the east, by Bacnotan on the south and Luna and China Sea on the west.
The town is agro-fishery based, the reason for its being perennially more than sufficientin rice, cereals, legumes and other crops. It has rich variety of marine fishes along its corraline fishing ground in the west. Being at the center of La Union first congressional district, it is potentially bright to business industry, commerce and tourism and others. With its strategic central location, it serves as an ideal trading post for produce from other surrounding inland and mountain communities.
Now, Balaoan is fast becoming the center of commerce and trade in this part of the province. The unprecedented growth and development of numerous and remarkable infrastructure, agricultural and environmental projects have transformed Balaoan into higher level of development. These projects have given Balaoan a competitive edge with its neighboring towns. The construction of concrete roads in all the 36 barangays has made transportation more accessible even in the remote areas. The rehabilitation and repair of irrigation facilities have improved the agricultural productivity of farmers. The construction and opening of the new Balaoan Commercial Center has also improved the business atmosphere making Balaoan a conducive place for investment. A lot of entrepreneurs come to Balaoan to open up new business. With this trend, we can see Balaoan as the new and fast emerging center of business and commerce in Northern La Union in the next few years.