Surigao del Norte Brief History

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Surigao del Norte

Brief History
The winds of change that swept the province from the four corners of the world has witnessed the meeting of diverse local and foreign influences which nurtured the emergence of a unique and distinct Surigaonon culture.
In 1538, the eastern coast of Mindanao which included the present province of Surigao del Norte was visited by the Portuguese explorer Francisco de Castro, who found the place inhabited by the Caraga tribe who were believed to be Visayan of origin.
Five years later, Ruy Lopez de Villabos landed in the same region. His navigator, Bernardo de la Torre, named it Cesaria Caroli in honor of the reigning Spanish Monarch, Carlos V. The name, however persisted since the Spaniards preferred to call it Caraga after its chief inhabitants.
The Jesuit Missionaries in 1597 tried to evangelize the people of Butuan (Agusan) and Caraga (Surigao), with much difficulty and intermittent success. They were followed in 1622 by the Agustinian Recollects who established parishes in Tandag and Bislig in 1642. The Recollects stayed until 1875, then the secular priest took over followed by the Benedictine Monks from 1893 to 1908.
The ancient district of Caraga, which was established in 1609, comprised all of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, the Northern part of Davao Oriental and Eastern Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.
In 1860, six military districts were established in Mindanao. Surigao and Agusan, including the territory lying between Butuan and Caraga Bays, formed the third district called the East District which was changed in 1870 to Distrito de Surigao.

By the end of the Spanish rule in 1898, the two Agusan provinces were organized as a single politico-military commandancia named Butuan, with the administrative jurisdiction of Surigao. In 1901, this commandancia became a sub-province of Surigao, and in 1907, Agusan became a separate province.

It was on June 19, 1960, through Republic Act 2766 that Surigao province was divided to form Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte.

The Land
With a total of 273,902 hectares or 2,739.02 square kilometers, Surigao del Norte ranks third in the Caraga Region in terms of land area which is equal to 0.99% of the total land area of the Philippines.
Political Subdivision
Surigao del Norte is a group of islands at the rim of the Asian continental shelf. It is located at the northeastern tip of Mindanao facing the Philippine Deep. It is bounded on the north and east by the vast Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and on the west by the historic Surigao Strait.
It is composed of 27 municipalities where Surigao City is the provincial capital.
The Resources
The province boasts of lush virgin forests, a long stretch of white sand beaches with world-class surfing sites, magnificent rock formations, and abundant marine life.
Surigao del Norte has the biggest deposits of nickel, gold, chromite, iron, gravel and sand, limestone and sillica.
The rich and fertile land predominantly produces agricultural crops such as rice, coconut and rootcrops. Livestock and poultry-raising are also the main source of livelihood.
While the Philippine population is growing at 2.32% from 1990-1995, the provinces’ population has been growing at a slower rate of 0.70% per annum during the same period. As of 1995, Surigao del Norte has a population of 337, 294.
Since the capital of the province is Surigao City, access to the entire province is essentially the same as the access to its capital. Please refer to the rate and schedule of air, land and sea transportation.
Distance of Municipalities from the Provincial Capital



DISTANCE (In kms.)















*Del Carmen




*Gen. Luna
















*San Benito


San Francisco


*San Isidro


*San Jose


*Sta. Monica












* Island municipalities with converted distances
Tourist Attractions
GENERAL LUNA (Siargao Island). A bewitching 27 kilometer stretch of sugar-white beaches, sapphire seas and natural coral barrier that keeps the inlet waters placid. At high tide, tube-like waves from the Pacific Ocean can be heard and seen. A perfect destination for surfing during the months of November to January and Island hopping adventure from November to January.

GUYAM ISLAND (Siargao Island). Across the General Luna Beach is an islet with powdery-white sand and a cluster of coconut trees. It can be reached by pump boat in less than 10 minutes. It offers a good view of the incredibly powerful waves of Siargao Island. A few meters away from the island, one can go surfing and do other sports activities.

DAKU ISLAND (Siargao Island). A wonderful island adjacent to Guyam Island which only takes about 5 minutes by pump boat. It is an ideal location for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
DEL CARMEN (Del Carmen). The Crocodile Sanctuary of the Philippines. It is the home of the biggest crocodiles in the country. These crocodiles can be usually found in Del Carmen’s vast and preserved mangrove forest.
SOHUTON CAVE (Bucas Grande Island). This enchanting cave is half-submerged in water most of the time and accessible only during low tide. Inside is a lagoon with countless islets and crystal waters that sparkle with the bright reflection of the sun. Lush vegetation abound in its periphery.
MAGPUPUNGKO BEACH (Siargao Island). Situated in a cove facing the Pacific, the place is surrounded by limestone and granite sculptures. During low tide, its pockmarked limestone floor reveal pools of assorted shapes and sizes resembling basins, barrels, tubs and ponds.
Lake Bababu (Basilisa, Dinagat). Situated between Puerto Princesa and Melgar in Basilisa, this mountain lake is a sight to behold, the steep descent (and ascent) add thrill to an avid adventurer. Surrounded by huge wall of granite, small caves are in great abundance. Lush vegetation dominates the virginal periphery.
Santa Monica Waterfalls (Sta. Monica, Siargao). A gentle burst of falling water amid the tranquillity of a tropical forest - this is an apt description of this waterfalls. The well preserved natural environment is another come-on.
Aling Cayao Island (Claver). A solitary island just 21 km. away from the poblacion of Claver. It stands in the deep blue seas like a sentinel in the southern portion of the province. The corals are well-preserved and the beach is pristine white.

U.S. LANDING AVENUE. A Strategic area in the Municipality of Loreto where U.S. Liberators landed and fought against the Japanese Imperial Army stationed in the place. A few miles from the island is Surigao Strait - the historical landmark where hundreds of Japanese Naval Ships sank due to massive bombardments by the U.S. Air Force during World War II.

PIG-OT HIDE AWAY RESORT. A cluster of islets that look like broken emeralds slapped on the aquamarine surface of the water. The islets are connected with a wooden bridge. As one strolls, he/she will witness the different aquatic species gliding and hiding behind coral reefs. This hideaway is indeed heavenly specially for the adventurous, leisure seekers, and nature lovers.

MINI-DAM PARK (San Jose, Dinagat). Seven dams of graduated elevations are carved out of cliffs. Stones are perfectly laid out and fitted by human hands. The whole mountain is exquisitely landscaped adding beauty to the place.

SURIGAONON HERITAGE MINI-MUSEUM. (PPA-Surigao City). A collection of ancient archaeological diggings like burial coffins jars and antique Chinese kitchen wares are showcased in that mini-museum. Some of these artifacts were unearthed in Panhutungan, Placer.
Other Tourism Attractions
Rock Formations (Pilar and Libjo)

Hot Spring (Mainit and Placer)

Mountain Lake (Tubod)

Waterfalls (Alegria, Bacuag, Tubod, San Francisco and Sison

Lake Mainit (Alegria and Mainit)
Sports Activities / Special Interests
SCUBA DIVING. For adventurous divers, the coasts of Surigao offer interesting dive site while the islands of Sagisi and Corregidor are excellent for snorkeling activities.
SPELUNKING. Guano Cave & Lagoon, Libjo. Situated on a mountain, it has a lagoon within which remains unexplored. Steep climbs are expected on the way to the cave.

SURFING. Lying at the veritable edge of the Philippine archipelago, Siargao is reputed as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines that host the annual international surfing event. Its waves combine the best quality features of top-rated waves of Hawaii’s fabled “ pipeline” and the top-billed wave of Indonesia. The huge and powerful “pacific rollers” has been ranked among the top five breaks in the world, including the “Cloud Nine” which is considered one of the world’s top surfing waves.. For more information about Siargao Island, please refer to ANNEX 6.

SEA KAYAKING. Siargao first became famous for its surf, so kayakers who like big waves have a field day here. There are also mangrove swamps in the island where you can paddle both in the main channel and through narrow passages in the mangroves while seeing some wildlife and enjoying the serenity of the place. The first is just behind the Pansukian Tropical Resort while the other one is in del Carmen, where the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the Philippines is located. The “must see” place in Caraga where you can paddle around spectacular limestone formation to a point where you can enter a narrow channel which soon becomes a cave is in Sohoton Cave and lagoon in Bucas Grande Island, which is more than an hour boat ride from Siargao. Since the sport is new here, only Pansukian Tropical Resort offer kayak tours in several locations around Siargao.
MOUNTAIN BIKING. Great trails run all around Surigao del Norte. There are regular cross- country and downhill competitions done in the area which are participated by local and international bikers. Butuan or Surigao- based bikers regularly tour the rugged terrain of the region and are eager to show their routes to new comers.
Events & Festivals.
SIARGAO INTERNATIONAL SURFING CUP. (Last week of September or First Week of October / General Luna, Siargao Island). Some of the most spectacular surfs in the world are found in Siargao, which hosts this annual international competition.
SIARGAO INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN BIKE COMPETITION. (Every Palm Sunday / General Luna, Siargao Island). The “Surf Island” of Siargao hosts its annual international cross country and downhill mountain biking competition.
LORETO LANDING. (Loreto, Surigao del Norte).
Tourism Facilities

The province has available standard hotels, inns, lodging houses, convention facilities, recreational facilities, shopping centers, souvenir shops, travel agencies, communication facilities, and other support services. Most of the tourism related establishments are found in Surigao City while some are widely distributed in selected towns of Surigao del Norte. Please refer to ANNEX 5 & ANNEX 6 for the list of tourism related establishments

Whom to inquire?
Anybody contemplating a trip to Surigao should contact the Department of Tourism, Caraga Regional Office at the Ground Floor, Grateful Realty Corporation Bldg. at #088 Pili Drive, Butuan City with telephone numbers: (063-85)341-8413 or (085)225-5712 or (telefax) (085) 815-6040. You can send an e-mail to or
You can also coordinate directly with the local tourism offices listed below or with the local officials in a specific locality.
Tourism Assistance Center, Luneta Park, Surigao City, Tel.No. (086) 826-8064 or Telefax at (086) 826-4131.
Provincial Tourism Officer-Surigao del Norte, Provincial Capitol, Surigao City, Tel.No. (086) 231-9271, Fax No. (086) 826-4371.
Brief History
The province of Agusan del Sur once shared one governance with its sister province, Agusan del Norte. However, Republic Act 4969, enacted on June 17, 1967, divided the Agusan province into two: Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte.
Agusan’s pre-hispanic history was greatly influenced by the Madjapahit Empire. This can be attested through the discovery of the Golden Tara in 1960, in one of its towns, which is Maasam, Esperanza. The 8-inches gold image, that was retrieved along the river of Esperanza, originated from the Madjapahit Empire.

The aborigines of Agusan were the ancestors of the present-day Mamanwas who were driven to the hinterlands by the waves of Malay immigrants from nearby Borneo, Celebes and Malaysia. These people, in turn, sought the protection of the interior jungles because of the forays and the constant raids of Moros. Being a sea-faring people, they confined themselves to the coastal areas where they started settlements, leaving the forestall area to the other native tribes.

As of 1995, the population count for Agusan del Sur is 514,736. It is composed of 99, 048 households with an average household size of 5.3. The province population growth is 3.85% with a population density of 59.75.
Based on the records of the National Integration Commission, the Aeta, Mamanwa, Bagobo, Banwaon, and Manobo are the five tribes who are found in Agusan del Sur. However, most of the Agusanon speak Cebuano while some use Boholano and Ilonggo. English is usually spoken in conversations with foreigners, in offices, and educational institutions.
Among the five existing tribes in the province, only Manobo and Banwaon or Higaonon Tribes are distinctly identified since they live along the National Highway and river towns of Davao del Norte while others live in the town of Esperanza towards the boundaries of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.
The Manobo
The Manobos have medium built/stout bodies with light brown-straight hair and brown eyes. This was the result of the inter-marriages among Duyag-Batang, Talaandig and Mamanwa aborigines and the Indonesians during the reign of the Madjapahit Empire, plus the inter-marriages of the natives with the Malay River people during the Sri Visayan Empire and the Chinese traders who came to Agusan in the 11th and 12th Centuries. The coming of the Spaniards had also contributed to this racial and cultural marriages.

The manobos have their own dialect, which is a mixture of a native dialect and an acquired foreign language. The name “Manobo” is influence by the Malay River People. These people are called “Mansuba”, from the word “suba”, the malayan term for river. Therefore, “Mansuba” literally means “people living near or in the river (most of them live on floating houses). Later on, Mansuba is shortened to Manuba, which eventually took its masculine gender which is Manobo.

The Higaonon-Banwaon Tribe
Higaonon-Banwaon Tribe is the second largest indigenous community in Agusan del Sur. Higaonon is derived from the native word “gaon”, which means mountain or literally, it means “The mountain people”. They are somewhat nomadic, traveling from one mountain to another, looking for fertile soil for a better harvest.
The Higaonons have medium built bodies with an average height of 5 ft. & 2 inches tall and a lighter skin complexion as compared with the other tribes in the province. Quite a number of them have a recognizable European features, aqualine nose, deep-set eyes and prominent cheeks, a legacy of the intermarriage between the natives and the spanish conquiestadores. Generally, they are warm and friendly people but when intimidated, they are the fiercest warrior. Higaonons are good hunters and farmers.
The Banwaon is a relative to the Manobo tribe. Banwaon is derived from the word “banwa”, meaning village or country or they are called the village settlers. So, while the Higaonons occupy the mountains of Esperanza, the Banwaons live in the lowlands and upstream of Maasam, Libang and Adgawan Rivers. Just like the Manobos, they are adept in fishing and farming and they have similar features with the Manobos.
Being neighbors, these two tribes were constantly in conflict with each other. In order to resolved the tribal differences, the datus of the two tribes allowed their constituents to intermarry. Eventually, the intermarriages between Higaonon and Banwaon had resolved the conflict, bringing forth the Higaonon-Banwaon Tribe.
The Land
It has a total land area of 896,550 hectares or 8,965.50 square kilometers, with flat and rolling topography crisscrossed with rivers. The Agusan River is the largest and cuts the province into two along North-South direction.
Political Subdivision

Agusan del Sur occupies a portion of the Northern Mindanao Region bounded on the north by Agusan del Norte, on the east by Surigao del Sur, on the South by Davao del Norte and on the west by Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

The entire province has a lone congressional district, which is composed of 14 municipalities and 314 barangays. Its capital town is Prosperidad where the Provincial Government Center is situated.
The Resources
Agusan del Sur is maybe one of the country’s richest gold deposits. It contributes to the estimated 5.5 billion metric tons of metallic and non-metallic ore reserves Caraga region possesses. Other minerals found in the area are limestone, marble, gypsum, manganese, phosphate rock, coal, andesite rock, chromite, quartz, gold, white clay, and sand & gravel.
As part of Caraga region, it is also known to have the largest established timberland hectarage nationwide. In fact, it is envisioned to be the next timber corridor and food bowl in the region. Its major forestry and agricultural products are exotic tree species, rice, corn, coconut, cacao, coffee, banana, palm oil, and other agricultural resources.
The province is landlocked and can be reached only by land transportation through the Davao-Butuan National Highway. Three minor roads also provide access for travelers coming from Tandag, Lianga, Barobo, and Bislig in Surigao del Sur. One road connects the southwestern part of the province and Asuncion, Davao del Norte. Although the Agusan River is a potential highway for travelers to the province, there is no existing ferry facilities regularly servicing passage from Butuan City or Davao del Norte through the river.
The province is adequately linked to its neighboring provinces. Its municipalities are likewise interconnected with paved roads, except for La Paz and Loreto which are accessible through a motorized flat boat from the mini-ports of Bunawan and Talacogon. Most barangays are also connected to the main road arteries.

Since the major entry point of Caraga is Butuan City (74 kilometers away from Prosperidad), access to the province from Cebu or Manila is essentially the same as the access to its regional capital.

Distance of Municipalities from the Provincial Capital



DISTANCE (In kms.)







San Francisco








Sta. Josefa






La Paz




San Luis




Tourist Attractions

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