Laoag History, Philippines
The largest city in northern Luzon, Laoag is located in Ilocos Norte. The city’s name was taken from the Ilocano word for “light”. The name originated from pre Spanish times as the closely packed village, that was situated in the north bank of the Laoag River, would shine like a beacon in the night for river travelers to see.
Laoag was a busy trading port where Chinese and Japanese traders came to do business even before the arrival of the Spanish. Spanish colonizers occupied it in 1580 led by Juan de Salceda. Augustinian missionaries also established a parish dedicated to Saint William the Hermit in the same year.
When the Spanish arrived to colonize the city, they noticed that the natives of Laoag were unlike their Tagalog counter parts in both culture and language. Another noticeable difference is that houses in Laoag were built very closely to each other unlike the more common practice of having a farm or garden around the house that was evident in the Visayan and Tagalog communities.
Laoag city also had the greatest concentration of natives before the Spanish colonization period. Upon the arrival of Juan de Salceda, he noted that the houses of the natives numbered no less than a thousand.
During the later parts of the 16th century, Spanish missionaries resettled the natives of Laoag from their previous location in Ermita Hill to the modern day location. This was mainly because the colonizers wanted to improve the living conditions of the Laoag natives. The Spanish friars took over the design of the new city. They planned it using a grid iron pattern with the plaza, church, convent and tower located in the middle. They then instructed the natives to construct their houses in marked off locations while grouping them in barrios that mainly consisted of relatives. Each barrio was then given a patron saint.
Laoag was the site where the Japanese landed in 1942 in Ilocos Norte. They used the province as their base for operations to infiltrate the rest of the province. This was also where the United States and their allies from the Philippine Commonwealth government and Ilocano guerillas staged operations to liberate Ilocos Norte.
Laoag first became a city in 1965 and remained to be the capital of Ilocos Norte. Eulalio Siazon was the first mayor in the city.
Modern day Laoag is now famous for being the old ancestral home province of former President and Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
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