Paradise, as men throughout the millennia have imagined it, is a garden nourished by a great river. The Judeo-Christian vision of paradise even has two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, flowing through it. Indeed, the vastness and riches of such a garden would dwarf and make for a source of amusement the flowery, decorative gardens that modern folk, particularly city-dwellers, are more familiar with. This is because as a mythic, universal idea, Paradise is all about cradling and sustaining life in all its forms, and in abundant measure. And reflecting on the idea of a place being a Cradle of Life brings us to this book's fascinating subject: Nueva Ecija and its riches, most of which are not so obvious and still untapped.
The sprawling and varied geological features of the land we now know as Nueva Ecija, includes plains, mountains and rivers, all the requisites for the birthing and sustenance of life itself. This must have been obvious to the land's very first settlers, who found themselves nestled by three mountain ranges on the East, North and West and vast southern plains. All these were sustained by a great flowing river, one whose earliest name was spoken in a now lost tongue, and which was called the Rio Grande de Pampanga by the Spaniards later on. The Great Pampanga River nourished wild, fruit-bearing trees, served as home to an abundance of fish and made possible lush, teeming woodlands that sheltered animals. All these combined must have been paradise in whatever language for the land's earliest settlers, who were able to not only survive but thrive in the surrounding abundance, all within easy reach.
These first settlers included tribes of Ilongots or Italons, Abaca and Buquids. Settlements were built along the banks following the river's undulations. The Ilongots, meaning people of the forest, were the fierce headhunters and animist tribes who occupied Carranglan and the mountainous terrain of Sierra Madre and Caraballo. The head hunting communities were nestled along the riverbanks of Rio Grande's tributaries in the north. Abaca and Italon were subgroups of Ilongots meaning river settlers. Ilongots survived mainly by fishing and hunting. Food production was a secondary occupation. The agriculture-based community of Caraclans and Buquids were settled in Bongabon and Pantabangan along the riverbanks of Rio Grande's tributaries in the northeast.
When the waves of Malay migrations took place between 300-200 B.C., intrepid travelers and traders set up settlements along Luzon's western coast. These early settlements formed the nucleus of the Pampango Empire that was consolidated by Balagtas. The flatlands of the southern portion of Upper Pampanga was a hospitable place for these new Malay settlers. The indigenous tribes were forced to take to the hills in the face of the Malays' superior technology.
Barter trade flourished among communities that settled along the great river. The constant riverside trading resulted in both a commercial and cultural exchange between the settlements in vast plains upstream of the Rio Grande de Pampanga. Settlements in Carranglan, Pantabangan, Bongabon and Puncan prospered and grew into more stable communities.
When Pampango Empire fell into the hands of Spanish forces under the command of Martin de Goiti in 1572, the conquistadores began their long upward trek towards Cagayan Valley and Mountain Province. Their forces passed through the settlement areas of the Upper Pampanga River.
In 1705, because of growing territorial domain and evangelical missions, a command outpost or Commandancia in the Upper Pampanga River area was established. Then Governor- General Fausto Cruzat Y Gongora had most likely spent much of his time in the northern outpost in Carranglan and Pantabangan and, baking in the fiercely hot climate, probably waxed nostalgic about his hometown in Ecija, Andalusia in Spain. Ecija, Andalusia was also known as eel sarten or the frying pan because of its intensely hot summers. Thus the Governor-General hit upon the notion to name the outpost Nueva (meaning new Ecija).Both the New and Old Ecija were washed by navigable rivers- the former, by Rio Grande de Pampanga and the latter, by the river Genil.
Seeds of Faith and Civilization
Consistent with the history of civilization in the rest of Philippine archipelago, Nueva Ecija was born from the fires of Catholic faith that spurred missionaries to convert the pagan communities despite of many danger and difficulties.
Augustinian missionaries executed early evangelical missions in Nueva Ecija. Its first founded mission was established in Gapan in 1595. Considered to be a big pueblo, Gapan embraced an area as far as North of Cabanatuan. The succeeding missions progressed slowly due to inaccessible terrain and limited manpower; hence, the Augustinians abandoned their missionary work in 1636, maintaining only the mission in Bongabon.
At the turn of the 18th century, the missionaries resumed their evangelical work and redirected their efforts to the northeast, towards rough, mountainous terrain inhabited by Ilongots. The Augustinians hurdled the difficulties brought about by ferocious headhunting tribes in completing their missions in the North. They successfully laid down the foundation of Christian way of life among ferocious and war like villagers in the province.
In September 1, 1759, King Carlos III of Spain issued a Royal Decree that ended the founding missions of Augustinians and transferred all Augustinian responsibilities in the settlements of Nueva Ecija to Franciscan Friars. This was a milestone in the development of the missions in the province. Through tribute collections and polo y servicio or rendering of force labor, the Franciscans constructed churches, convents, parochial schools and tribunals. They also constructed roads and bridges to connect other settlements. In 1781, a simple irrigation system was constructed in Pantabangan. This new farming technology contributed to the promotion of agriculture in the province.
To make possible the establishment of settlements, military force became necessary to protect the friars and whatever basic settlement structures were beginning to emerge. Thus military outposts were of utmost importance, especially with the friars trying to convert fierce head-hunting tribes with spears and bladed weapons. It was around this time, in 1705, that Governor-General Cruzat established the military outpost he named Nueva Ecija. At this time, however, Nueva Ecija was still part of upper Pampanga.
It was only later in 1848 that Nueva Ecija was established as a separate province independent from Pampanga. This was accompanied by changes in its territorial composition over the next 10 years. The progressive towns of Gapan, San Isidro, Cabiao and Aliaga were all annexed to Nueva Ecija, resulting in an economic as well as population boom for all the inhabitants. While Nueva Ecija only had a population of 9,165 in 1845, the annexation of new territories three years later pegged the population at 69,135.
Other changes in territorial composition happened in the following years until, in 1901, Nueva Ecija's northern municipalities of Balungao, Rosales, San Quintin and Umingan were annexed to Pangasinan. Nueva Ecija's shifting political boundaries in fact, necessitated transferring its provincial capital four times. Still, these changes proved ultimately beneficial to Nueva Ecija, as they resulted in a territory with rich land resources nourished by an excellent river system composed of the Rio Grande de Pampanga, Talavera and Penaranda rivers. This would help lay the foundation for Nueva Ecija's abundant agricultural economy starting with the American Occupation in the early 20th century.
Maintaining the Philippines as a colony was a serious drain on the coffers of the Spanish Empire. Expenses incurred in running the colony were usually paid for by a yearly subsidy (called real situado) sent from the Philippines' sister colony in Mexico. This financial support from the Spanish royal court was often insufficient, especially with expenditures in the Philippine colony growing each year.
This prompted the royal fiscal assigned in Manila to devise a plan to allow the colony itself to raise revenues on its own and thus be able to supplement the Spanish subsidy. This royal fiscal was Francisco Leandro de Vianna, who first proposed creating a tobacco monopoly. De Vianna reasoned, tobacco was a product widely consumed throughout the islands, with a market of roughly one million. He projected earnings of as much as P400,000 from the venture. The first time the proposal was made, however, both King Carlos III of Spain and colonial officials didn't give the idea much importance.
All that would change during the term of Governor-General Basco y Vargas. Basco had plans to develop and promote Philippine agriculture, and de Vianna's proposal seemed attractive to him. After studying the proposal, Basco sent his plan to establish large-scale tobacco production in the colony under complete ownership and management by the colonial government of Spain. What probably perked up the ears of the Spanish king about Basco's plan to make the Philippine colony financially self-sufficient, thus removing a huge financial burden from the Spanish crown. The King of Spain issued a royal decree on February 9, 1780 setting in motion Basco's plan.
Almost two years to the date of that royal decree, Basco ordered local officials and military commanders to prevent unnecessary losses of tobacco revenues. By March 2, 1782 tobacco production was established in Luzon, with La Union, Ilocos, Abra, Cagayan Valley and Nueva Ecija (still part of Pampanga at the time) as the centers for planting, growing, harvesting and processing tobacco.
This made a drastic and extreme change in the lives of all Novo Ecijanos. Where farmland used to bear rice, tobacco was now the only crop allowed to grow. These included the towns of Gapan, San Isidro, Jaen, Cabiao, Cabanatuan, Talavera, Santor and Bongabon. Each farming family was given a quota of tobacco plant to grow.
By 1850 the tobacco monopoly was producing immense financial gain for the colonial government. Some reports at the time pegged the earnings by as much as $500,000. One account in 1866 reported a much higher amount, as earnings rose to $38,418,939 that year. Behind the great financial success of the tobacco monopoly however, was the anger of Filipinos who were exploited by the monopoly.
The injustices suffered by Filipinos in the tobacco growing areas were many. They were fined heavily if they failed to meet the quota. They were not allowed to smoke their own product. The prices were dictated by the government under unfair terms. To make matters worse, government agents often cheated the tobacco growers.
Novo Ecijanos suffered a lot from the system. Nueva Ecija was more often able to meet production quotas compared to the other districts. Despite this, tobacco policy imposed a lower price on tobacco from areas closer to Manila. That meant that first-class tobacco leaf grown and harvested from Nueva Ecija was priced lower by one dollar, compared to those from Ilocos, La Union and Cagayan Valley. Despite the diligence, cooperation and huge earnings given by Novo Ecijanos to the Spanish government, they were deprived of the fruits of their labor.
Remarkably, this abuse in the hands of the tobacco monopoly did not spur Novo Ecijanos to revolt, unlike the Ilocanos who staged an uprising over the injustices in the system. Some tobacco growers in Nueva Ecija resorted to smuggling their own harvests in order to get some profit. But getting caught entailed harsher fines and penalties. Even sympathetic local officials had no choice but to enforce the unjust policies under pain of arrest and hard labor, once laxity on their part resulted in low production.
The flourishing tobacco industry coupled with the rich agricultural lands in central and northeastern Nueva Ecija also attracted migrants from neighboring Pampanga, Ilocos and Tagalog areas. This made Nueva Ecija a melting pot of cultures and influences, the results of which are still evident in present-day Novo Ecijano culture.
As the tobacco monopoly fuelled further unrest, Spain finally abolished the monopoly on December 3, 1882. It was only then that they could all once again grow rice for food. The century of hardship and social injustice brought about by the monopoly had its good consequences, too. It spurred Filipinos in general and Novo Ecijanos in particular, to aspire for freedom from colonial bondage. They had ripened much like their crops, for the Revolution of 1896.
One distinct feature of the 1896 revolution against Spain in Nueva Ecija was that it was led by the elite, ruling class instead of the masses. Leaders of the revolt in Nueva Ecija were municipal officials and prominent citizens, who refused to collaborate with the Spanish authorities when armed struggle broke out. Despite being in the ruling class and enjoying positions in the colonial government, these prominent Novo Ecijanos proved their patriotism and love for fellow Filipinos.
In fact, one of the founding members of the reform movement La Liga Filipina was lawyer and Novo Ecijano Mamerto Natividad By the time the Katipunan, the revolutionary movement against Spain was formed, Novo Ecijanos were actively yet secretly joining it. Even local officials in Nueva Ecija secretly allied with the illustrados and farmers in forming the underground revolutionary society.
Once the Spanish authorities learned of the Katipunan's existence, those perceived as sympathizers of the movement, and even those who were falsely accused of being members of it, were arrested. Mamerto Natividad was among those arrested for sedition, tortured and killed by guardia civil. He was one of the first Novo Ecijano martyrs for freedom. His death however, would result in bigger problems for the Spanish authorities.
Mamerto Natividad's two sons, Mamerto Jr. and Benito, later joined the Katipunan. The Spaniards burned their house and sugar mills in Jaen. Mamerto Jr. was later jailed for shooting a Spanish judge who had slapped his younger brother. As the Revolution gained ground, Mamerto Jr. was released and he was able to join the revolutionary army of General Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite. By August 30, 1896 a state of war was declared by the Spanish colonial government in several Luzon provinces including Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Manila.
Novo Ecijanos immediately proved themselves worthy of the fight for freedom. On September 2, 1896, Novo Ecijanos led by Capt. Mariano Llanera and Capt. Pantaleon Valmonte of Gapan attacked San Isidro, the provincial capital. Their 3,000-strong army attacked San Isidro in distinct Novo Ecijano fashion: accompanied by music played by the Banda de Cabiao or Cabiao band. It seems that in love or war, music is integral to Novo Ecijanos.
Novo Ecijanos like Llanera, Valmonte , Mamerto Natividad, Jr. and Manuel Tinio conducted themselves heroically during the revolution. They were allied with Aguinaldo's Magdalo group. Aguinaldo was in fact so impressed, he appointed Natividad and Llanera to the two highest-ranking posts in the revolutionary army. Natividad became General Mamerto Natividad, commanding general of the revolutionary army, while General Llanera was vice-commander with the rank of Lieutenant-General. General Natividad proved himself worthy of the position by scoring victories against the Spanish in Tayug, Pangasinan and San Rafael, Bulacan.
The saga of General Mamerto Natividad would end on the battlefield, after he was killed in action in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. His death precipitated the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, a peace treaty that sought to end hostilities between Spanish authorities and the Filipino rebels. The treaty provided for a payment of P800,000 to the rebels who would then be exiled to Hong Kong. Five Novo Ecijanos would accompany Aguinaldo's exile. They were General Mariano Llanera, Benito Natividad, General Manuel Tinio, and Joaquin Natividad.
Later on, Novo Ecijanos would continue to participate in the drama of war, revolution and the fight for freedom. They would fight when the revolt against Spain continued after the peace treaty broke down and the United States, after declaring war on Spain, promised to help Filipinos fight for freedom. Then, Novo Ecijanos again joined General Aguinaldo in the Filipino-American War (after it became evident the United States wanted to make the Philippines their own colony).
Then when the Japanese tried to make the Philippines their own colony at the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific, Novo Ecijanos would also make history by participating in guerilla activities. The exploits of the Novo Ecijano guerillas have in fact been made into literature, through the World War II novel “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides and in Hollywood cinema, in the war film “The Great Raid” based on the book.
Nueva Ecija in the American Period
It's peculiar how the importance of something-whether an idea, a place, an object possessed or simply desired-could be expressed by how hard we fight for it. This is a notion that seems applicable to both Novo Ecijanos and Americans during and towards the end of the Filipino-American war.
History records how the Filipino-American war began after American troops killed a Filipino soldier who was crossing the San Juan bridge on February 4, 1899. One could also say however that hostilities and mistrust really began as early as August 13 the previous year. On that day, the Spanish colonial government in Intramuros surrendered to American forces instead of the Filipino soldiers that surrounded the Walled City. Thus began the United States own effort to have her own colonies, with the Philippines served, as it were, on a silver platter by the dying Spanish Empire thanks to the Treaty of Paris.
When the war between Filipinos and Americans finally began, the fate of the infant Republic of the Philippines again lay in the hands of General Aguinaldo and his most trusted men who included Novo Ecijanos like General Llanera and General Tinio. And, as guerilla warfare became an effective tactic for the Filipinos, Novo Ecijanos were among the most feared guerillas around. Both the Novo Ecijanos and Americans were willing to resort to brutal tactics, torture and even atrocious killings in the course of the war.
By the time the war ended on April 1, 1901 with Aguinaldo's surrender to the Americans, Novo Ecijano guerillas who had fought so fiercely and bravely against two sets of foreign invaders reluctantly gave up. Still that was not the end of the association between them and the Americans. The end of the Filipino-American war also signaled a new beginning for Nueva Ecija and its people.
Before the American occupation, Nueva Ecija was alread a hub of trade and commerce. Since Nueva Ecija in the 19th century had neither excellent roads nor the ideal land transport system, trading activities were done mainly through the waterways.
While we moderns consider rivers as obstacles that need to be crossed, people in the 19th century valued rivers not just as sources of food and water but as passages for trading barges and boats. Thus, Nueva Ecijas early trading settlements sprouted along riverbanks.
Commercial, interprovincial trade was carried out using the Rio Grande de Pampanga as main waterway, with trade outposts in San Isidro and Talipapa.Traders from Bulacan, Tondo and Manila regularly came to Nueva Ecija to carry back rice, palay, tobacco, sugar, corn and livestock.
The Americans however wanted to shift from water-borne trade, to a land-based trade system. Their idea for establishing this depended on something they were masters at: building railways. The American colonial government thought a railway could help boost Nueva Ecija's economic growth, in the same way that the US railway system helped unite and develop the economy of the North American continent.
What made the railway project attractive was that it was less expensive than building roads. At first run by a private company, the US colonial government took over the ownership and management of the railway system by 1917.
The Americans were soon proven right: trade conducted through the railways boosted Nueva Ecija's income by 25% while transport costs went down by 25% to as much as 75%. With the train able to transport more goods and more people at a cheaper rate, the railway helped spark a rice boom in Gapan, San Isidro, Cabanatuan, Santa Rosa and Penaranda. Farmers could devote more land to growing rice and even secondary crops like onions and watermelons.
More rice mills, farmers and farmer settlers came to Nueva Ecija. By 1936, there were 42 rice mills in Nueva Ecija, owned mostly by Chinese.
The agriculture-based economic boom brought about by the train's huge load capacity and greater speed (compared to boats) encouraged waves of migrations to Nueva Ecija from places like Ilocos, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Bulacan.
The railway brought other changes to Nueva Ecija. While trade was still being done by waterways, settlements by necessity had to be established close to the rivers, where people's basic necessities came from. When the trains became the main mode of transporting goods and people, and with the influx of migrants, it became not only possible but crucial to build more communities further inland. This meant roads and irrigation systems were needed.
Roads and Irrigation
As communities expanded inward, first along the rivers and then along the railways, the need for roads and irrigation systems leading to communities in the plains became more urgent. These made it possible for the more remote towns--those farther away from both rivers and railroads--to grow crops and participate in trade, ending what was until then a very slow pace of economic development. By 1912 Governor Benito Natividad had appropriated funds to fast-track the building of roads and bridges linking these remote towns and municipalities to then provincial capital Cabanatuan.
The American government also constructed three major irrigation facilities: 1) The Talavera Irrigation System in 1924; 2) Penaranda River Irrigation System in 1930 and 3) Pampanga River Irrigation System in 1939.
By the time these irrigation systems went in full swing, combined with the railway system and the many rice mills, Nueva Ecija had been established as the "Rice Granary of the Philippines." From 1930 to 1939, rice production in Nueva Ecija was averaging more than 9 million cavans of rice.
Homesteading and US-Style Tenancy
Unilike the American pioneers of the Old West, Filipinos were not so willing to occupy remote, unsettled and undeveloped areas. So when the American colonial government introduced homesteading, there were few takers among Filipinos. Essentially, homesteading happens when someone lays claim on, harnesses the resources and develops a parcel of land, even if it's still wilderness and far from population centers, for economic use. Homesteading could be done through a legal process of acquiring a land title, or even without a title at all. In the latter case however, the lack of a title makes the informal homesteader vulnerable to any legal action attempting to take the land away from him.
When the Philippine Bill of 1902 was passed by the US Congress, the US colonial government was formally established in the Philippine islands. This meant the colonial government now had the authority to dispose of public lands on it own, without having to seek the approval of the President of the United States. Based on an earlier survey of public lands by the Philippine Commission, the new American colonial govenment offered public lands to settlers through homesteading, sale, purchase or lease.
Under the American regime's homesteading system, an individual could get up to 16 hectares of land, while a corporation could get as much as 1,024 hectares. This did not result in a wide settlement of lands throughout the country, however. Nueva Ecija was one exception, as more an more settlers opted to homestead its lands. A 1928 Statistical Bulletin records nearly 70,000 hectares were given to more than five thousand homestead applicants.
Among the immigrant-settlers of Nueva Ecija, the Ilocanos were mainly responsible for opening up through their homesteads, the once sparsely populated, remote areas of the province. Much like the early American pioneers, the Ilocanos tamed the land and turned what was once hostile wilderness into habitable and productive land.
However, the homesteading effort under the American regime resulted in a drop in tenancy in 1918, it ultimately failed in succeeding decades. This was due to two major factors. First, the new farmer-settlers did not have enough capital to sustain farming costs. Without any financial assistance available from the government that granted them the land, farmer-settlers accumulated huge debts at very high interest rates from usurious moneylenders. Most of these homesteaders were later forced to sell their land and become tenant farmers instead.
Civil Government in the American Period
The civil governments established in various provinces in the Philippines under the American Occupation were supposed to teach Filipinos the basic principles of democracy, following US military rule. In general, each provincial government presided over local governments in each town or municipality. In turn, each municipality would have a president, vice-president and municipal councillors. These were elected by a select group of qualified electors for two-year terms.
The second Philippine Commission went to what was then Nueva's provincial capital, San Isidro, on June 8 1901 to begin proceedings for establishing the local and provincial governments. 16 out of Nueva Ecija's 19 towns were represented in the meeting. Elections of various representatives from the different towns were carried out successfully.
However, there was still the thorny problem of deciding whether or not to move the provincial capital. The dillemma was caused by events related to the Filipino-American war. First, Nueva Ecija had been a hotbed of resistance against the American Occupation, and was therefore in a state of siege. Four of its towns, Balungao, Rosales, San Quentin and Umingan, which were further away from the capital and already considered pacified by US forces, had been annexed to the province of Pangasinan.
The newly-elected Nueva Ecija representatives were of the view that since a civil government under the Americans was already being established, it was time to return the four towns to Nueva Ecija. This would benefit the province as the four town were rich in natural resources. The fact that the towns were quite far from the capital, one of the representatives suggested, was no obstacle: the provincial capital could simply be moved to Cabanatuan. Other representatives objected to this proposal, pointing out that Cabanatuan had no infrastructures wherein to house the provincial government.
The matter was not resolved until two years later, when the US governor-general signed Act No. 1748, ordering the transfer of the capital to Cabanatuan by 1912.
The civil provincial government of Nueva Ecija was formally established by the Taft Commission on June 11, 1901. The very first governor under this new system was Epifanio Delos Santos. Interestingly, the main artery connecting most of Metro Manila has been named after Governor Delos Santos, which is Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue or simply, Edsa.
Education During the American Period
Say what you will about the United States' motives for colonizing the Philippine islands, and it still won't change the fact that it was the Americans who succeeded in making education widely available to Filipinos. While the Spanish government did, rather belatedly in their rule (in the middle of the 19 century), decide to establish public schools, it was the Americans who set about the task with a sense of mission.
A report of the United States' Philippine Commission in 1900 showed, only 10 out of 23 municipalities in Nueva Ecija had a public school established during the Spanish regime--to think that the Spaniards had already set out their Education Decree back in 1863! Now contrast this with Philippine Commission figures by 1902, by which time there were already 37 public primary schools established, and 63 Novo Ecijano teachers supported by 16 American "Thomasites," part of the larger group of some 500 pioneer American teachers who arrived aboard the USS Thomas in September 1901, to help establish an American public school system in the Philippines.
The Education Act No. 74 approved by the Philippine Commission in 1901 proved to be the catalyst that made Novo Ecijanos rally behind the local and American teachers to make sure as many children as possible benefitted from the public school system.
People contributed in the form of cash, construction materials or labor, and even vacant lots for the building of schools. Community support for the building of schools was such that by 1906, there were already 99 schools in Nueva Ecija. The Novo Ecijanos' high regard for the value of an education is a trait that persists until today.
The public schools system was still hampered by a lot of problems, however. Relying only on local support, Nueva Ecija (and other places in the Philippines as well) could simply not meet the increasing needs of a growing number of schools, teachers and students. Given the high premium placed by Novo Ecijanos on education, it's perhaps no surprise that a legislator from Nueva Ecija took the crucial step to compell the American colonial government to allot funding for public education via a legislative act.
Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija filed an education bill before the 1907 Philippine Assembly, which would later be approved and known as the Gabaldon Education Act. The bill required government to earmark P1,000,000 for public schools throughout the Philippine islands.
Nueva Ecija benefitted tremendously from the new education law. By 1908 Nueva Ecija had 144 primary schools, 11 non-sectarian private schools, 18 sectarian private shools, nine intermediate schools, one vocational school and one agricultural shool, the Central Luzon Agricultural School which still operates today.
American Period 1902 - 1941 to Postwar Era (1945 -1959)
What we know as modern Nueva Ecija today would not exist without civil government and the governors at its helm through the decades. Nueva Ecija, being a large, populous and richly endowed province, has always and will continue to benefit from governors who dedicate themselves to the its welfare.
The very first Filipino governor of Nueva Ecija was Felino Cajucom, who was appointed to the post in 1898 by General Emilio Aguinaldo. Hailing from a rich family in Aliaga, Cajucom was loyal and committed to Filipino independence from Spain. A revolutionary leader, his honesty and integrity rallied Novo Ecijanos behind the revolution against Spanish rule. Cajucom’s term as governor would not last long however, since the Filipino-American War broke out a few years later, with the Americans finally victorious after Aguinaldo’s capture and oath of allegiance to the Americans by 1901.
Novo Ecijanos, staunch freedom fighters against the Spaniards, understandably looked upon the Americans as invaders. The Americans on the other hand, looked at the Philippine islands as their property, following the defeat of Imperial Spain and the Treaty of Paris which essentially ceded the Filipino people and their lands to the United States.
While US forces waged a full military campaign against so-called Filipino rebels, guerillas and insurgents, plans were also being made to co-opt the ruling class and establish civil governments led by Filipinos, beginning at the provincial level. The Americans were convinced that establishing a civil government in Nueva Ecija was crucial in creating peace in the province.
Nueva Ecija’s first two democratically-elected governors, Epifanio de los Santos and Isauro Gabaldon, are hardly known today. Perhaps, the information below can be a kind of small redress for the obscurity they have suffered. As for Manuel Tinio, who was a great general of the revolution against Spain and one of Nueva Ecija’s greatest leaders and most powerful political figures, the man probably deserves a book devoted entirely to his storied, adventurous and fascinating life.
EPIFANIO DE LOS SANTOS (1902-1906)
The very first election for Nueva Ecija’s provincial governor happened on February 1902. The winner of that election was Epifanio de los Santos, who was called “Don Panyong.” De los Santos had previously been appointed civil governor of the province by the US military administration. His election victory made him the first democratically elected provincial governor and head of the Federal Party in Nueva Ecija.
De los Santos had an artistic temperament and studied Latin, Greek, painting, music and philosophy at the Ateneo. He make a reputation as a literary writer in Spanish and later earned a law degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1896. De los Santos also had a brief career as a journalist, first at the La Libertad and later, in the La Independencia, a newspaper founded by General Antonio Luna.
The Filipino-American War at first kept him from pursuing a career in law. In 1900 however, he was appointed district attorney and later provincial secretary of Nueva Ecija under the US colonial government.
De los Santos was elected provincial governor at a time when the most important task was restoring peace and order in the Nueva Ecija. Thus, pacifying and disbanding guerilla and insurgent groups was a priority. By 1905, De los Santos reported to the American colonial government that peace and order in the province “ had never been better” and even took revolutionary General Pablo Padilla on a courtesy call on Acting Governor Luke E. Wright.
De los Santos’ political career did not last too long, however. Although he was re-elected in 1904, he had to go to St. Louis in the United States as a member of the Honorary Commission to the Exposition. Crispulo Sideco took over the provincial governorship.
After his defeat in the 1906 elections to Isauro Gabaldon, De los Santos retired from politics and focused his energies on his term as appointed provincial fiscal in Bataan and Bulacan, collecting art and Filipiniana, and writing literature and history. Some feel that De los Santos has been denied the recognition he deserves in Philippine history. And while the historic avenue in Metro Manila, site of the 1986 People Power Revolution, is named after him, very few know about the leader and man of letters now only remembered by most Filipinos as an acronym: “EDSA.”
ISAURO GABALDON (1906-1907)
Although Isauro Gabaldon lost to De los Santos in the 1904 elections, he defeated the latter in 1906. Well-known as a gentleman, philanthropist and an agriculturist by education, Gabaldon was a lawyer when he was elected in 1906. He was destined for other things, however, and resigned by July 1907 to pursue a seat in the Philippine Assembly , which was a legislative body that shared powers with the United States’ Philippine Commission.
Gabaldon won a seat in the legislature and went on to become a noted lawmaker and politician. Gabaldon, who had joined the Nacionalista party for its aim of Philippine independence from the United States (the opposite of the Federalistas, who wanted to be the country to become part of the US), was a fierce nationalist and patriot who was concerned with the plight of the peasant farmers. He became senator and Resident Commissioner to the United States representing the Philippine Legislature. There, he consistently and emphatically told Americans that Filipinos wanted absolute and immediate independence from foreign rule.
Gabaldon virtually founded the public school system in the country. It was his bill, later on ratified as the Gabaldon Act of 1907, that allocated P1,000,000 (a huge sum at the time) for building public schools around the Philippines. A patriot to the end, he once said, “I consistently believe in the freedom of the Islands as the solution to the Philippine political, economic and national problems.” He ended his career as one of the distinguished political figures of his generation.
MANUEL TINIO (1908-1909)
Some have speculated that even during Gabaldon’s term, the real power in Nueva Ecija lay in the Manuel Tinio, former revolutionary fighter and one of Aguinaldo’s top officers. This is not too far-fetched, since Tinio was certainly one of the province’s most powerful, wealthiest men, a landlord who ruled his own fiefdom. To his critics, Tinio was an exploiter and even a Mafia-type boss. However, such a negative, simplified portrait ignores Tinio’s accomplishments as a general and war hero, as well as his dedication to the goal of achieving independence and dignity for Filipinos.
Even as a teenager, Tinio was already the leader of his own army. By 1897 that army was already inflicting losses on Spanish troops. A natural leader, strategist and guerrilla expert, the then 20-year-old Tinio’s exploits helped earn him an appointment from General Aguinaldo as the youngest general in the revolutionary army and later the youngest general in the armed forces of the First Philippines Republic.
Tinio liberated the entire Ilocos region, which for 300 years was occupied by Spain. At such a young age, he commanded the entire Filipino armed forces in that region. Under Manuel Tinio’s iron leadership , his army became the legendary Tinio Brigade with 3,000 officers and men, and was largely acknowledged as the best army in the First Philippine Republic, for its discipline, logistical superiority and battle-readiness.
Manuel Tinio was appointed provincial governor in 1907, taking over the post that Gabaldon relinquished upon his decision to become a Philippine legislator. He was only 31 years of age and already a war veteran and a legendary general. As owner of a vast hacienda, he cultivated the loyalty of his tenant farmers and plotted his affairs with the same astute strategy he so effectively used against the Spaniards. No matter what his detractors said, he remained beloved by his friends and tenants, and well-respected even by his enemies.
He was elected governor in 1908 and stayed at his post for only a year. Shortly into his appointment as governor replacing Gabaldon, Tinio quickly neutralized the province’s most notorious gang of murderers and robbers, with most of the gang jailed and their weapons seized. His governorship resulted in a state of peace and order never before seen in Nueva Ecija, with criminality at its lowest. Prior to Tinio’s governorship, American authorities had looked at Nueva Ecija as one of the most crime-ridden areas, and a kind of robbery and murder capital.
Tinio was used to having authority and power, and knew how to wield such power efficiently, swiftly and for the benefit of the people. This combination of ruthless efficiency and unassailable leadership, combined with his genuine concern for the people endeared Tinio to his supporters, even though he was a landowner and political kingpin.
Before Tinio could complete his term as governor, he was appointed by the American colonial government as Director of the Bureau of Labor. His toughness and keen, strategic mind was put to use in settling complex and contentious labor problems. Under his watch, the labor situation in the region around Manila vastly improved. He was also appointed Director in the Bureau of Lands. He died at age 46, after living a life richer and more accomplished than most of us even dare hope for.
Other governors followed after Tinio until the Second World War broke out. The succession of governors after that war may not have been as adventurous or exciting as those of Tinio--owing to personal circumstances, temperaments or simply the historical period where they found themselves--they did set the stage for bringing Nueva Ecija into the modern world [See sidebar].
Finished the rest of Tinio’s term as acting governor. His administration engaged in construction projects and strove to maintain the level of peace and order achieved by Tinio.
A veteran of revolutions against Spain and the United States like Tinio. Benito Natividad’s youth and his war wounds failed to stop him from becoming a brigadier-general in Aguinaldo’s army and a guerilla fighter (along with Tinio’s forces) against the Americans. Even though his war wounds made him drag his right leg, he endured the difficulty of guerilla life in the mountains rather than surrender to the Americans after the capture of Aguinaldo. Later, with the United States’ final victory, Natividad surrendered along with Tinio and Tinio’s men to the Americans.
His injuries bothered him all his life, but he still held his own as governor. Under his term, the concrete provincial jail building was built. This structure was strong enough to survive bombardment in the Second World War and housed the Court of First Instance.
Another veteran of the revolution against Spain. His administration undertook a much needed public works program. Later, he was elected to the National Assembly.
He was a former right-hand man of Tinio during the revolutionary wars. He was provincial deputy treasurer before being elected governor. Peace and order was a primary concern during his administration, due to both criminality and tensions related to agricultural problems.
A popular figure among farmers, he helped organize a farmer’s union. His administration focused on public works and utilities for the province.
A former provincial executive of Nueva Ecija.
Governor when provincial capitol was transferred to Cabanatuan. A trade school, high school and hospital were constructed during his term.
MIGUEL LIWAG (1931-1934) and JACINTO TOMACRUZ (1934-1936)
More public works and construction were done during their terms.
(1941 - 1943)
Led Nueva Ecija during the beginning of the Japanese occupation. His administration focused on ensuring the survival of Novo Ecijanos from the ravages of war. Robles’ administration was followed by that of GODOFREDO MONSOD (1943-1944), ALEJANDRO GARCIA (1944) and FELINO VILLASAN (1944-1945), who took their turns caring for the province’s administrative needs and peace and order in the midst of war. No elections were held during the war and all governors in this period were appointees.
HERMINIO ALGAS (1945-1946)
He was appointed governor during the Liberation period. His administration focused on starting the recovery process as the war ended, including restoring civil order and protecting the peace.
MARIANO STA. ROMANA (1946) TO AMADO Q. ALETA (1956-1959)
Governors following the term of Governor Algas had to concentrate on maintaining public order immediately after the war and dealing with a growing communist insurgency. These were Governors Mariano Sta. Romana, ISABELO CASTANEDA, and JUAN O CHIOCO. Chioco was a popular veteran of the recently concluded war and won the first provincial elections held after the war, which was on November 11, 1947. Later, Chioco became general manager of the National Rice and Corn Corporation and appointed National Economic Council coordinator during President Carlos P. Garcia’s term.
LEOPOLDO DIAZ was governor from 1952 to 1955. He began efforts to rebuild many bridges and roads destroyed by both war and neglect, and campaigned against the communists. His successor AMADO ALETA continued the fight against the communist insurgency with support from President Ramon Magsasysay. Before being elected govenor, Aleta was provincial commander of the Philippine constabulary.
The Great Raid
When the Second World War broke out in the Pacific in 1941, successful aerial attacks by Japanese forces on US military installations, particularly air force bases in the Philippines and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, enabled Japanese Imperial Forces to invade and occupy the Philippines. It was in this theater of war that Novo Ecijanos would display amazing feats of courage and strategy, in what would later be known as the most daring and successful US military operation in history: this was the great raid of the Japanese concentration camp in Cabanatuan and the subsequent rescue of American POWs from the hands of the Japanese. Back then Cabanatuan was the provincial capitol of Nueva Ecija.
The story of the Great Cabanatuan Raid began shortly after the infamous Death March of 1942, following the surrender of 36,000 American and Filipino soldiers after the fall of Bataan to invading Japanese forces. As history now records, some 10,000 Filipinos died along with 1,200 Americans during their forced march from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga.
The exact distance travelled by the prisoners varies according to different accounts. Various sources peg the distance travelled by POWs from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga anywhere from 88 kilometers to 102 kilometers.
Ditto for the number of days travelled by the prisoners. Accounts record a march lasting from 4 to 9 days. What is generally agreed upon however, is that the march was an inhuman task forced upon hungry, thirsty soldiers many of whom were also suffering from malaria and dysentery.
The reason for the march was the transfer of POWs to Camp O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, where the Japanese had set up a concentration camp. The Tarlac concentration camp however, was not a big enough facility to house such a large groups of prisoners. Large numbers of Americans were dying so the Japanese decided to move some 7,000 American POWs to their largest concentration camp east of Cabanatuan, in Pangatian. This was in June of 1942.
In violation of international laws on warfare, the Japanese implemented a policy of executing nine prisoners for every one prisoner who escaped. The Japanese strictly enforced the policy, executing the first nine prisoners, the morning after one prisoner was able to flee the camp, on June 6, 1942. Executions were done in full view of the other prisoners.
And yet, more escapes still happened. In June, 503 prisoners were executed. In July, 786. Escapes, and subsequent killings of prisoners, tapered off as the rainy season progressed. The first "Zero Death Day" was recorded on December 15, 1942.
Prisoners worked under slave conditions. Besides the daily chores, they farmed an 800 acre farm, planting camote and mongo beans. They buried dead comrades in a cemetery. They worked to maintain an airstrip.
Triage and culling of prisoners were also done. Still able-bodied prisoners were sent to Manila to work the dockyards, others to work for the maintenance of the Davao Penal Colony. Still others were still shipped to Japan. By early 1945, more than 500 prisoners left at the camp in Cabanatuan. These however, included mostly the sick and practically bedridden prisoners.
As the Second World War ended, with Japan steadily losing the war in 1945, the War Ministry in Tokyo ordered a kill-all policy against all POWs. This was apparently spurred by a US State Department message on Japan's war crimes against Allied POWs. Being the principal witnesses to Japan's treatment of POWs, the last surviving Allied prisoners were in danger of annihilation.
On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur's forces landed in Leyte, to begin the liberation of the Philippines. On December 14, 1944, as the Americans gathered forces in preparation to invade Luzon, around 150 Americans were executed by the Japanese at a concentration camp in Palawan. One prisoner, a Pfc. Eugene Nielsen, managed to survive and escape. He reported the mass killing of POWs to US Army intelligence.
By the time MacArthur's forces landed in Luzon and was advancing to Manila, Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, commander of the US Sixth Army, learned about the POW camp in Cabanatuan thru Major Robert Lapham, the senior USAFFE guerrilla leader in Luzon.
By January 26, the United States' Sixth Army was advancing toward Cabanatuan. Gen. Kreuger became anxious about the fate of the Cabanatuan POWs, knowing they could all be executed once the Japanese learned about the advancing American force.
The next day, Krueger ordered the 6th Ranger Battalion led by Lt. Col. Henry Mucci to raid the Cabanatuan prison camp and rescue the POWs.
The Hollywood war movie "The Great Raid" naturally highlighted the bravery and skill of the 6th Ranger Batallion. However, it's true that without equal bravery and skill from the Filipino guerillas who participated in the raid, the rescue operation for the Cabanatuan POWs would have been impossible.
Filipino guerrila leader Capt. Eduardo Joson and his men met the Alamo Scouts from the US army rangers in Barrio Lobong in Licab. Together they made their way from Guimba to Platero, and then to Cabanatuan. Their mission was to do reconnaissance and gather information essential to planning the raid.
Meanwhile, Mucci and some 127 Rangers under Capt. Robert Prince slipped through Japanese lines, merging with guerrillas in Guimba. They hiked through forests and open grasslands, narrowly avoiding a Japanese tank on the national highway. They did this by traversing a ravine that lay underneath the road.
Finally, Mucci met with USAFFE guerrilla Captain Juan Pajota in Balincarin, five miles north of the camp. Pajota had intimate knowledge of the terrain and enemy activity.
Mucci wanted attack the camp that evening but Pajota warned that doing so would be suicide.
Pajota's warning was confirmed by the Alamo Scouts, who said there was heavy enemy activity in the camp area. Mucci postponed the raid for another 24 hours and the Rangers withdrew back to Platero.
The next morning, around 11:30 of January 30, Alamo Scouts First Lt. Nellist and Pvt. Rufo Vaquilar disguised themselves as locals and were able to slip into an abandoned shack above the camp. With an excellent overview of the prison compound, they prepared a detailed report on the camp's features, including the best attack routes. Later, Nellist and Vaquilar passed on the report to three other Scouts, who delivered it to Mucci.
Lt. Col. Mucci assigned Capt. Prince to create a strategy for and lead the raid. Prince's most serious concern was the flat terrain. His Rangers would have to crawl through a long, open field on their bellies, right under the noses of the Japanese guards.
To make this at all possible, Pajota and Mucci knew a distraction was needed to give cover to the Rangers as they advanced toward the camp. They decided to deploy a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) P-61 Black Widow night fighter aircraft buzz above the camp. The plane would be both a diversion and a bluff, pretending that an air attack was being made on the camp.
As the raid's outcome showed, this ploy was the biggest factor in achieving the element of surprise, and the success of the operation.
Two groups of Filipino guerrilas, one led by Capt. Pajota and another by Capt. Eduardo Joson, were assigned to take control of the main road near the camp.
The U.s. Rangers were split into two groups as well. C Company, led by Capt. Prince, attacked the main camp and rescued the prisoners. Meanwhile, F Company commanded by Lt. John Murphy initiated the attack by firing into various enemy positions.
As the fighting went on, additional Japanese forces were alerted and an enemy force came pouring over the bridge over the Cabu River.
Unknown to the enemy, the Filipino guerrillas were already waiting in ambush. Pajota had already sent a demolitions expert hours earlier to set explosives timed to go off at 7:40 PM.
The resulting blast did not destroy the bridge but blew a hole that made it impassable to Japanese tanks. As waves of Japanese troops rushed the bridge, Filipino guerrillas, now armed American firepower, repulsed all attacks.
One Filipino manged to disable or destroy four Japanese tanks--hidden behind some trees--with a bazooka. More interesting, it was his first time to use such a weapon, having trained for it only a few hours earlier.
More than 500 POWs were rescued that day. Twenty-one Filipino guerrillas were injured while more than 500 Japanese troops were counted among those killed or wounded.
On March 3, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur awarded Distinguished Service Crosses to Lt. Col. Mucci and Capt. Prince.
Other American officers received Silver Stars, while American enlisted men and Filipino guerrilla officers received Bronze Stars.
The Great Raid wasn't only the most successful military operation in US military history, but also one of the most brilliant, inspiring examples of cooperation and brotherhood between Americans and Filipinos.
MODERN NUEVA ECIJA
Following the Second World War, it was under the term of Governor Eduardo L. Joson that the foundation for a modern Nueva Ecija was laid. To be able to steer the entire province out of the many difficulties-economic, social and political-following the Japanese Occupation, it can be said that Joson was both an unlikely, yet the perfect leader, as well.
First of all, Joson was an unusual figure in the realm of politics in Nueva Ecija as well as in the entire country: he did not come from a family that was part of an economic and social elite. Instead, Joson experienced loss and privation early in his life when he and his siblings Ricardo, Victor, Clarita and Consuelo, were orphaned. Their father Glicerio Joson died when Joson was only five years old, while their mother Jacinta also died four years later.
The Joson clan however, was no stranger to politics. In fact, the care of Joson and his brothers and sister passed on to their grandfather Tomas, one of the pioneers and founders of the town of Quezon, Nueva Ecija. Tomas Joson had been presidente of Quezon under the Americans and was a builder of the town hall or munisipyo.
Another relative who helped in the care of the orphaned Eduardo and his siblings was their uncle Sangkong Imong, who had served as a mayor of Quezon during the Japanese Occupation.
However what ultimately propelled Eduardo into politics and the collective memory of Novo Ecijanos as one of their greatest leaders, was his reputation as a guerilla fighter, resistance leader and hero during the Second World War. In the Joson biography Governor Eduardo L. Joson: The Gentle Lion of Nueva Ecija by Isabelo Tinio Crisostomo writes of the war hero's reputation as thus:
The legend of Ding Joson [he was known to folk in Quezon by his nicknamed Ding, and later as Kumander Ding, a title bestowed on him as guerilla leader] continued to grow even after the war had ended. Stories continued to circulate about his virtues, his gift as a leaer, his generosity and love for the poor. He was the idol of the young [who] began to look up to him as a man endowed with tremendous power and strength, nerves of steel and a heart of gold.
He was their all-around, ever-present hero who defended the weak against the Japs, their vicious and savage stooges, robbers and bandits, and the Huks who were forever threatening to invade their town, put it to the torch, rob and violate their mothers and sisters in their farms and homes.
So when time came for local elections in 1947, it was the people themselves who implored Joson to run for mayor. They believed that Joson could help them with the most pressing problems facing them at the time, which were interrelated: the breakdown of law and order following a war, the resurgence of crime and banditry, and the looming threat of the Huks who, despite having been founded as a resistance movement against the Japanese, had been closely identified with the Communist Party of the Philippines and an effort to overthrow the country's democratic government.
The people were convinced that Joson's credentials as a war hero and guerilla leader would help them against invasion by the Huks. Isabelo Tinio Crisostomo in the same book recounts how the people convinced Joson to run for mayor by not just manifesting the urgency of their need to have a leader with enough strength, experience and courage to repel armed threats, but also by assuring him of their all-out support:
The local election was scheduled on November 11, 1947. They urgently pleaded to and pressed him to run as their candidate. All they needed was his assent-they would do the rest. They would take care of the expenses, the food and other items needed in the campaign. They would do the campaigning themselves, visit every household, talk to the people and ask them to vote and campaign for him. Not to be outdone, the youths among the delegations assured him, they would for themselves into an organization to campaign barrio to barrio to helps ensure his victory.
Finally moved by this popular support, Joson agreed to run for mayor despite having no political experience. He pointed out that his only political capital, if ever, would be his reputation and experience as a guerrilla fighter. The delegation replied that that was enough. As history bears it out, it really was enough not only to make Joson mayor but governor of the entire province several times over.
From the ruins of war
It's easy for outsiders to accuse the Josons of fostering a political dynasty. After all, Governor Eduardo L. Joson was elected first in 1959 and stayed at his post for nearly thirty years: he was re-elected six times, with one term lasting 10 years during the Martial Law era under President Marcos when elections were cancelled from 1971 to 1980. However, what the people of Nueva Ecija themselves would probably tell outsiders is this: look at the fruits of Governor Eduardo Joson's stay in office before you judge.
One of the first things that Joson did as governor was establish a motor pool for the provincial government. This consisted mostly of heavy equipment like bulldozers, dump trucks, payloaders and road graders. It was a very expensive undertaking, which was why previous governors had not done it. However, to Joson's mind it was a sound investment, which would enable the provincial government to finally take charge of something that Novo Ecijanos urgently needed: access.
Joson knew that the sheer size of the province-more than half a million acres of agricultural land with far-flung towns as well as mountains and rivers-meant that people needed to be able to travel within and without in speed and relative comfort. After all, most of the population at the time had their livelihoods tied to the land, Nueva Ecija being an agricultural area. So being able to navigate the vast province was (and continues to be) crucial to the lives of Novo Ecijanos.
Having a road network within the province itself and leading to neighboring provinces enabled the people to conduct commercial and trading activities faster and more productively. Farmers especially benefited from these roads, which gave them quicker and safer access to markets.
With its own heavy equipment, Nueva Ecija also became less dependent on the national government when it came to road building and repair. In the long run, the motor pool also proved less expensive, compared to the cost of constantly renting heavy equipment. So it can be said that Governor Joson quite literally began early in his term to rebuild Nueva Ecija from the ruins of war from the ground up, starting with the construction of roads and vital public structures.
Service to society
Public health, social services and livelihood projects were a priority throughout Joson's three-decade-long governorship. With a lot of farmers and ordinary folk not having enough disposable income to spend on health care and other essential needs, Governor Joson focused the provincial government's resources on creating programs that could help ease the burdens of the poor.
One of his greatest legacies is the Nueva Ecija Provincial Hospital in Bitas, Cabanatuan City, without which many Novo Ecijanos would suffer unnecessarily as a result of limited access to medical treatment. Remarkably, the hospital was built without any funding from the national government.
Using provincial funds, the Nueva Ecija Provincial Hospital continues to offer free hospitalization and medical services, including surgeries, for the poorest of the poor. Poor patients can even avail of free medicines.
Medical services were extended even to remote barrios through programs like the Botika sa Barangay. This project was able to establish drug stores in more than 30 villages, each manned by a pharmacist and assistants, all of whom are employed by the provincial government. These drugstores are mandated to dispense free emergency medication and also coordinate the deployment of provincial ambulances for emergency patients who need to be taken to medical facilities outside the province.
It was also Governor Eduardo Joson who introduced and consistently maintained the provincial government's scholarship program. Under this program, the provincial government shoulders the tuition and other expenses including board and lodging, and even a stipend for each scholar. The scholarship program is maintained directly by the Office of the Governor.
Education, infrastructure, health and support services for Novo Ecijanos in need formed the bedrock of Governor Joson's approach to taking care of his loyal constituency. This legacy of public service is being continued, expanded and modified by the present leadership, under his son and incumbent Nueva Ecija Governor Tomas Joson III, according to contemporary needs.
SUBSECTION OF CHAPTER THREE
THE JOSON LEGACY
With more than 200,000 hectares dedicated to agricultural activities, Nueva Ecija has historically been a center for agriculture since Spanish colonial times. Yet, until today, its true potential to become a national center for agriculture is yet to be fully realized. Given the right management and material resources, Nueva Ecija can be a source of produce, livestock and other agricultural products not only to the province but even the entire country. This is why one of the main concerns of the provincial government is to develop Nueva Ecija's agricultural riches in a maximal and sustainable manner.
Nueva Ecija's rich agricultural potential was not lost even to governors in the past. As early as the 1900s, then Gov. Isidro Gabaldon already set aside 658 hectares in Munoz for an agricultural school. By 1907, the Central Luzon Agricultural School (CLAS) was established. It quickly achieved prominence as the premier site for scientific farming, agricultural studies and research.
Over the years, the CLAS was upgraded several times due to the excellence of its output as a center for agricultural research and academic studies. By 1950 it had become the Central Luzon Agricultural College, until it received its present name as the Central Luzon State University in 1964. By then it was a full-fledged academic institution, with a curriculum that included arts and sciences, literature, philosophy and technology. Its main focus remained agricultural research and its advances in that field resulted in its being upgraded to state regional university status in Luzon.
Today, the CLSU is the center of an entire city-sized complex of agricultural and scientific institutions, all geared toward research. The combined activities of all these agencies reached such a scale that the entire complex received a congressional mandate. A bill first sponsored by Rep. Simeon Garcia of Nueva Ecija's Second District was finally passed as Republic Act 8977, creating Science City. Thus, the activities at Science City would have to be supported as ordered by a national law.