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History of Daraga


During the 12th century, the second wave of Malay migration to the Philippines stretched to the Bicol Region at the height of the power of the Sri Visayan Empire. The surge of migrants that included mostly traders and settlers ventured to almost all places in Bicol. One group decided to settle on the southern slopes of Mount Mayon. A village was then created and people began living peacefully and harmoniously.


This village already existed when another group of people, conquistadors in nature came. The Spaniards headed by Juan Salcedo reached this village and found out that life in this little place was already characterized by order and system. Until the Spaniards imposed their own sovereignty, a form of government had long existed in the village. Meanwhile the Spaniards named the village Budiao in honor of one of the councilmen. (Legend tells, however, that Budiao was a bold and brave leader who offered resistance to the conquest in this village). Realizing their ultimate goal, the Spaniards built a stone church at Budiao. For many years the villagers were observed to be good-natured. Occasionally, Mayon Volcano showed signs of activity. Lava flowed from the crater to the direction of the sea causing fear and anxiety to the villagers. It was for this reason that a new settlement farther south was made by the village inhabitants.


Because of the impending threat of Mayon Volcano to their lives, the villagers were persuaded to move a new settlement. Cagsawa was then born. Evangelization of this settlement transpired in 1587. A church was built and around it was laid a village of wide streets. Soon another improvement was brought to this village. The Franciscan missionaries stationed at the Bicol Region put up a temporary chapel made-up of split bamboos and nipa leaves.

In 1595 Cagsawa was raised to the category of a "visita" but attached to the town and parish of Camalig. The spiritual administration of Cagsawa belonged to Camalig, which was the Franciscan center for the evangelization of the whole Albay province.


By dint of sheer willpower of the people of Cagsawa and the untiring leadership of Fr. Domingo Santiago, then the parish priest of Camalig, Cagsawa became easily the most prosperous village by the side of the volcano. Trades flourished between Cagsawa and Camalig. Soon Cagsawa became a very promising town. Prosperity came to a point where even church bell were inlaid with gold and silver famous all over the country. A story went that one-day Moro vintas were seen prowling along the seashores of the village. Thinking that the Moors were interested in the church bells, the villagers dropped the bells hurriedly into Busay Falls, found in Busay, a barrio in Daraga. Today it is believed that the church bells have not been recovered yet. Old folks explained that whenever someone attempted to recover the bells, flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder impeded the venture.


In 1605, Cagsawa finally was assigned its first parish priest, Fr, Alfonso de Jadraque. For a time Cagsawa had a normal pace of growth. In 1535, Dutch pirates sacked Cagsawa and burned the town just as the people were enjoying their town fiesta. Very little was known of what had happened after the pillage. It did not take long before the people of Cagsawa recovered from the Dutch pillage. By 1724, Cagsawa rode high in the progress. At this time it had 4,000 inhabitants and three 'visitas', namely, Burabud, Lacag, and Gapo. In spite of the ease and contentment drummed into them, the villagers grew apprehensive about their safety on the wrath of Mount Mayon. So, the people of Cagsawa requested from the Spanish government transfers of the place and its church to another village believed to be a barrio of Cagsawa.


This settlement was called Daraga, a village farther south of Cagsawa. Spanish governor-general granted the people's request as gleaned from the dispatch sent by him to the Alcalde Mayor of the province of Camarines (Albay was then part of Camarines).


The official communication of Governor-General Simon de Salazar to the natives of the town of Cagsawa regarding the transfer of the town to Daraga was dated June 12,1772, from Manila. It said: "To the Alcalde Mayor of the province of Camarines know: That having the Governor, past Captains, Cabezas de Barangay, Principals and Timawas of the town of Cagsawa, under your jurisdiction, asked this superior government permission to move (transfer) their town and church to the so-called Daraga, because their

town at the foot of volcano of Albay is in worse situation than any other around, due to the floods of sand and stones and in another report that they gave in their information accompanied by another reason the parish priest, Fr. Juan Duarez. That having forwarded such report first to the Fiscal of His Majesty and then to the Accessorial for comments and recommendation, both having favorable comments about the necessity of the transfer of Cagsawa to the place of Daraga that has all the qualities requited by law for the 'reduciones' of towns and recommending that the Alcalde Mayor supervise the transfer so that the town be formed with streets near the church that is to serve as center, on June 2,1772 and June 5, 1772, respectively. That following such recommendations I resolve to grant them their request by my Superior Decree of June 10,1772."


It was not, however ascertained whether the planned of moving out was carried out or not. The people of Budiao were not sold to the idea of resettlement so they seceded from Cagsawa and became autonomous in 1786. Little did the natives of these two places know that they would regret their decision later.


February 1,1814 was Candle Day Mass. The significance of the day was ironical. Instead of light, hope, happiness, a staccato of darkness, nature's fury and people's hysteria loomed the atmosphere. The fateful day was to be the most violent and treacherous eruption of Mount Mayon since its first recorded one in 1616. Budiao and Cagsawa were completely buried.  What remained were their mute witnesses to Mayon's unpredictable wrath. Cagsawa church bell tower or belfry and Budiao church walls. Fragments of this church are still seen today covered with grass and moss.


The eruption laid waste to about five towns and killed almost 2,000 people. Fr. Francisco Aragones, parish priest of Cagsawa went to Manila to solicit relief. Upon his return, local authorities had already relocated the survivors to much safer place. Before the relocation a meeting was held at Ligao to decide on what place would the survivors go to. The chosen place was Daraga. This was then approved by the Governor-General on October 4, 1814 and implemented on November 7,1814.


Fr. Aragones proposed to have the survivors relocated to Putiao for reasons he only knew. The people zealously objected to the proposal and so a request was sent to the Governor General not to move the town to Putiao. (Putiao is a barrio of Pilar, Sorsogon).


In 1815, a government of the town of Daraga was formally organized with Venando Espiritu Salomon as its first appointed captain.


At this time also the survivors were beginning to recover from the devastation of the calamity. It was a long trek towards change, rehabilitation and growth.


After so many years, Daraga became an enterprising town. In fact, it was a well to do town as described by Fedor Jagor, a well-known German scientist-traveler when he came to Daraga in 1870.


Goyena del Prado, an Albay historian called Daraga the "pride and life" of Albay because commerce and industry were centered here.


What happened to Budiao and Cagsawa? Today these two former towns of Albay are mere barrios of Daraga. Barrio Budiao is about 400 meters from its former location while Cagsawa is in kilometer 545 off Daraga. It may be notice that the parish and town were still called Cagsawa in 1851, long before the original town of Cagsawa was buried by the eruption of 1814. Records show that it continued to be called Cagsawa until the 20th century. Thus, the last entry in the Book of Burials in which the parish is called "of Cagsawa" is dated July 11,1905. The last entry in the Baptismal Book under such name is dated April 10, 1907, whereas in the Book of Marriages is dated July 23,1907.


The late Fr. Vicente Rojo, OFM, as the parish priest during that time was the one who signed those entries and it might have been him who finally decided to change the name of the parish from Cagsawa to Daraga without giving any reason.


The outbreak of hostilities between the American and the Filipinos began on February 4, 1899. During this period, all ports in the Philippines not occupied by the Americans were blockaded, thus cutting off the export of products from these ports. Albay suffered the greatest blow. Thus, started the Hemp Rebellion headed by Simeon Ola of Guinobatan.


Daraga played quite a colorful role in that struggle. The revolutionary forces in Albay gave a stiff resistance to me invaders, intercepting their advances in the barrio of Malabog. By March, the Americans took all towns except Jovellar. Bombings came heavy so the soldiers had to flee from Legazpi and sought refuge in Daraga and Malabog. The Americans advanced to Daraga and occupied the place. Bent on driving away the Americans the Daraguenos purposely set the town on fire leaving only the church untouched by flames. The church was used as headquarters of the US Cavalry.


In 1908, the Americans reestablished restoration of peace and order in Daraga. Eight years later, a law was enacted making the three towns of Daraga, Albay, and Legazpi the Municipio de Albay. Thus, Daraga lost her autonomy for the first time. The people of Daraga resented the merger realizing that the move did more harm than good to local separating Daraga from the provincial government.


With the establishment of Legazpi as a city on December 15, 1948, Daraga was again incorporated as one of its districts. Daraguenos vehemently opposed this intrusion once more, until finally, this snowballed into a big political issue. The creating of the city became a burning issue in the congressional election of 1951. The representative Toribio Perez, co-author of the city charter lost to Rep. Justino Nuyda who kept this promise during the election campaign and so filed a bill repealing the city charter of Legazpi, republic Act No. 306. President Ramon Magsaysay signed Republic Act No. 993 on June 8, 1954 as constituted before the creation of Legazpi City, changing the district of Daraga into a municipality and immediately a new set of town officials.


In 1959, Daraga changed her name to Locsin. A bill filed by Rep. Justino Nuyda, lapsed into law without President Carlos P. Garcia's signature changed the name of the town in honor of the late governor Mariano Locsin who had worked hard for Daraga in regaining its autonomy in 1922. The people wanted a nice distinction. So, Daraguenos began grating their teeth again because they wanted the name Daraga and not anything else. Town officials worked hard for the restoration of the name. In 1966, Rep. Carlos P. Imperial filed a bill restoring the name of Daraga (Rep. Act No. 4994) dated June 17,1967.


The tug of war backdrop of Daraga's history after liberation until mid-50's was not for her growth and progress. A seemingly lethargic attitude of the people made her a neglected stepchild of technology and design. Today is another story. Nonetheless, despite the threats of hill fire and damnation, Daraga is by little catching a whiff of the boomtown air.