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History of Laguna

Did you know that the present-day Laguna province was named after the Spanish term for “the lake”? La Laguna de Bay was the original name of the body of water that surrounds the province’s boundaries.

The province was conquered by Captain Juan Salcedo for Spain in 1571 with the help of Spanish-Mexican soldiers and Bisayan allies. It was named Laguna after Laguna de Bay (Spanish terms for Lake of the Bay), the inland water that serves as its northern boundary. The town of Bay was its first provincial capital until 1688.

In 1578 Juan de Plasencia and Diego de Oropesa, two Franciscan friars who arrived the previous year in Manila together with other Franciscan missionaries, started the work of evangelizing the province. The towns of Bay, Caliraya, Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Liliw, Pila, Santa Cruz, Lumban, Pangil and Siniloan were subsequently founded starting in 1580.

San Pablo City was founded originally as San Pablo de los Montes by Fray Hernando Cabrera in 1678.

Definite border lines between Lucban, Majayjay and Cavite were established in 1670 and the seat of provincial government was moved in 1688 from Bay to Pagsanjan. The provincial capital was moved to Santa Cruz in 1858. In 1754 the border line between Laguna and Tayabas was established.

Laguna has been bloody battleground since the early period of Spanish colonization.  On two occasions the Chinese residents of the province revolted against Spain. They made their last stand in the mountains of San Pablo in 1630s, and in 1639 they moved to the highlands of Cavinti and Lumban in 1639 but eventually surrendered in Pagsanjan in 1640.

During the British invasion of 1762 to 1764, the natives of Laguna proved their loyalty to the Spanish crown by rallying to its defense against Captain Thomas Blackhouse and his British troops who were in search of the silver cargo of the galleon Filipino. Francisco de San Juan of the then capital town of Pagsanjan led volunteer fighters and fought the British outside and inside Pagsanjan. When the British managed to plunder the town, San Juan escaped with the treasure to Pampanga where it supported the defense effort of the resistance leader Simon de Anda. San Juan later became brigade commander and alcalde mayor of Tayabas province (now Quezon province).

But the loyalty of the natives eventually turned into growing resentment and bitterness against the Spanish colonizers due to the grave abuses perpetrated, especially by the clergy. Because of religious intolerance, the people of Bay, Biñan, Nagcarlan and Majayjay joined the revolt started by Hermano Pule (Apolinario de la Cruz) of Lucban, Tayabas.

Towards the end of the century, the inspiration of the writings of Dr. Jose Rizal of Calamba and the persecution undergone by his family and their fellow landowners moved thousands of inhabitants of Bay, Los Baños, Magdalena, Nagcarlan, Pagsanjan and Santa Cruz to join the Katipunan revolutionary movement.

Laguna was with the other first seven provinces that revolted against Spanish rule and, with its ill-equipped revolutionaries, fought the well-armed enemy and eventually cleared the province of Spaniards when the last Spanish garrison in Santa Cruz surrendered to the victorious revolutionaries on August 31, 1898. It supported the first Philippine Republic proclaimed at Malolos on January 23, 1899 by sending to the Malolos Congress its two delegates namely, Don Higino Benitez and Don Graciano Cordero, both natives of Pagsanjan.

During the Filipino-American War from 1899 to 1901 Laguna fighters led by Gen. Juan Cailles and Gen. Paciano Rizal defended Laguna until it surrendered on June 30, 1901. Juan Cailles became Laguna’s first Filipino Governor under the American regime. With peace, the Province of Laguna progressed rapidly with roads built and schools established. The Manila Railroad, in 1917, extended its line to the province as far as Pagsanjan.

During World War II, Laguna was a center of resistance against the Japanese occupation of the Philippines which extended from 1942 to 1945 even in the face of widespread Makapili collaborators who spied for the Japanese Imperial Army.

With the liberation from Japanese occupation, establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth and eventually of the Philippine Republic, Laguna progressed rapidly into what it is now.