La Trinidad Town, Benguet Province, Cordillera Autonomous Region, Luzon Islands, Philippines

 

 

 

La Trinidad has its own interesting contributions to the colorful history of Benguet and the other mountain provinces. The very name ”Benguet” was once the name of a limited area of what is now the La Trinidad Valley. In the course of time Benguet covered a larger territory to what is at present the Benguet Province. At a certain time in early history, La Trinidad was relatively the most developed settlement in the Benguet area. It was the gateway from the southern lowlands into the mountain region. Due to its relatively more advance development, La Trinidad served as the capital of the administrative territory of Benguet during the Spanish Era, the short lived Philippine Revolutionary government and the early period of the American Rule. The following in a nutshell recounts interesting historical events and incidents about La Trinidad and the Cordilleras as a whole.

Spanish Era

Recorded history about La Trinidad begins with Don Q .M. Quirante, one of the early Spanish explorers who ventured into the mountain region to search and obtain the precious metal of the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras. In 1624, Don Quirante who started up the Amburayan River came to what is now La Trinidad and found a large and prosperous community thriving around a lake. The lake was in the middle of what is now La Trinidad and on account of the ibalois inhabiting the area. Called the place ”Benguet”.

When Quirante reached La Trinidad, the Principal vegetable of the people then consisted of kamoteng kahoy, camote, gabi, beans and tomatoes. Rice was grown only to make “Tapey” or rice wince used for ceremonial purposes in the cañao.

In the course of time, the Spaniards wanted to convert the “heathen” Igorots to Christianity. Around 1755 when Don Arandia was governor-general of the Philippine Islands, the Augustinian friars became active in converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity. Six leading Benguet Igorots apparently hoping to get back their confiscated gold and obtain redress for the grievances agreed to be baptized. They were taken to Manila where they were baptized at the Tondo church during a big celebration. The governor-general kissed the heads of the new Christian Igorots. This kindly act attracted other Igorots to come down from the mountain and they were baptized at Agoo, La Union. They asked for a priest and a Padre Vivar was sent to Benguet. Padre Vivar built a mission in Tanglao (near Tuba, Benguet) and said the first mass in the mountain region at Cruz, La Trinidad. However while the people were glad to be baptized. They refused to give up their own cañao way of worship.

Among other items, the Spaniards brought in corn, coffee and good tobacco. The ibalois raised large quantities of tobacco. Which they traded with the lowlands. This trading nearly broke the lucrative Spanish monopoly in the lowlands. In order to stop this and to bring the ibalois under tribute, governor-general Arandia ordered the Alcalde Mayor of Pangasinan to lead a punitive expedition against the ibalois. The mayor was able to accomplish his mission although he was ably and bravely opposed by a local named Kidit (ancestor of the Cariños of Baguio) until the latter was dismayed. Furthermore, the punitive expedition did not improve the Spanish situation but instead resulted to the cessation of all Christian work and disruption of peace and order.

After several military expeditions in the early 19th century, Commandante Don Guillermo Galvez pacified the Ibalois sometime in 1846 when he returned to La Trinidad and adopted a kindly policy and gave gifts. The people accepted him and he was able to establish the Province of Benguet composed of 31 rancherias (political units) with the “Commandancia” (capital) at Puguis, La Trinidad. He named the area in honor of his wife. The first “Kapitan”of Benguet was Pulito of Kafagway (Baguio City) which was then a minor rancheria of about 20 houses.

Numerous other Spanish commanders succeeded Don Galvez who built trails and started school and churches. Some commanders were kind but the general picture was of forced labor, beatings cruelties and exorbitant taxation.

REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. (1899-1900)

Consequently, the indigenous people were of similar sentiments with other Filipino groups against the Spaniards. The general insurrection of 1896 against the Spaniards reached Benguet by the midyear of 1899. The Katipunan came to Benguet, united the Ibalois, looted and burned Spanish buildings at the Commandancia and established the Benguet Province under the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

In La Trinidad, Miguel Picarte was appointed President. The terms of the appointed local officials however were cut short upon the arrival of the Americans in early 1900. Don Juan Cariño and his officials retreated and later surrendered in May 1900 to Capt. Robert R. Rudd of the 48th Infantry USV.

AMERICAN PERIOD (1900-1941)

Capt. Rudd established his headquarters at the old convent at Poblacion and Clemente Laoyan was made President of La Trinidad. Later in 1901, H.P. Whitmarsh who was appointed Civil Governor of Benguet. He move the capital town from La Trinidad to Baguio. La Trinidad was made capital town again in 1909. This was the first provincial government to be established anywhere in the Philippines under the American auspices.

During this period, the Americans introduced many social changes. In 1905, the Americans built a school at Poblacion. Since agriculture was the main source of livelihood, the school closed due to lack of students. The parents of the students did not comprehend the importance of education and sending them to school meant pulling away their children from the farm.

In 1910, the Americans established an experimental farm school at the site of the present day Benguet State University. American vegetables were introduced into the farming system of the early inhabitants of La Trinidad. The Americans also constructed wider roads from the lowlands to Benguet. The Balili River outlet at Cruz was also widened.

Aside from education, several social changes occurred during the American period. Freedom of religion was granted to the indigenous people of La Trinidad. This enabled them to enjoy their old customs and traditions without any inhibitions. They were granted suffrage and slavery was abolished. Introduction of iron tools improved farming. Private property was introduced. Political organizations among the residents began to be organized. Labor began to be paid wages and money became an important feature in the economic lives of the people.

The Americans ushered in capitalism into the area, which led to many changes in the lifestyles and throughways of the people. These abrupt social changes left the native people confused and uncertain how to confront the new ways of life.

JAPANESE OCCUPATION (1941 – 1945)

The Japanese bombed Camp John Hay in December 8, 1941. On that day and days afterwards there were chaos and fear in La Trinidad. The local officials headed by Herman Chamus evacuated to farther places. Almost immediately upon occupation, the Japanese started their atrocities “Kempetai” where many loyal Filipinos were imprisoned and pitilessly tortured.

In October 6, 1942, the merciless execution of four Igorots and one Ilocano triggered the formation of the guerilla movement. Numerous Japanese were ambushed and killed. As Japanese atrocities increase through the years, guerilla activities intensified. The liberation of La Trinidad occurred in May 4, 1945 when the joint forces of Americans and the 66th infantry, USAFFE entered the valley after a brief battle. La Trinidad after the war was devastated. Roads had craterized hole, houses and forest were burned and farms became burial grounds.

CONTEMPORARY PERIOD (1946 –PRESENT DAY)

Reconstruction efforts started immediately after the war. Cipriano Abalos became the first Municipal District Mayor in 1946. In June 16, 1950, La Trinidad was converted from a municipal district of the sub-province of Benguet, into a regular municipality by the implementation of Republic Act 531. In June 18, 1966, La Trinidad was made the capital town of the Province of Benguet by the implementation of Sec. 6 of House Bill No. 1526.

Large-scale vegetable farming became evident during the 1960’s. La Trinidad became one of the leading vegetable-producing municipalities in the entire country. This earned for its distinction as “ The Salad Bowl of the Philippines” in the 1980’s. Toward the end of the decade, farmers began to shift from vegetable production to strawberry and cutflower production. To this day, La Trinidad is recognized as “The Strawberry Fields of the Philippines”. In 1998, the barangay of Bahong was declared ”the Rose Capital of the Philippines”.

Aside from these distinctions, La Trinidad is also known as a traders’ marketing center if not for the province but also in the Cordilleras. La Trinidad remains to be an agricultural area with urbanization fast creeping in the valley area.

Moreover, La Trinidad performs the role of the educational center in the Cordilleras with the Benguet State University as its center of educational excellence. As the capital town of Benguet, the municipality is the seat of several regional and provincial offices



La Trinidad has its own interesting contributions to the colorful history of the Cordilleras. The very name “Benguet” was once limited to the area of what is now the La Trinidad Valley. Its name La Trinidad is the namesake of her discoverer, Don Q.M. Quirante’s beloved and beautiful wife. At a certain time in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, La Trinidad was relatively the most developed settlement in the Benguet area. It likewise served as the capital of the administrative territory of Benguet during the Spanish era, the short-lived Philippine Revolutionary government and the early part of the American Rule. In June 16, 1950, La Trinidad became a regular municipality by virtue of RA #531.

The commercialization of the vegetable industry of the Province of Benguet rendered La Trinidad as the center of marketing activities during the mid 80’s. This spurred socio-economic growth for the municipality.

Today, with signs of near cityhood, La Trinidad continues to have an agriculturally-based economy boasting of its strawberry and flower gardens.
 

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