Tigaon, officially the Municipality of Tigaon (Central Bicolano: Banwaan kan Tigaon; Tagalog: Bayan ng Tigaon), is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Camarines Sur, Philippines. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 55,272 people.
It is in the eastern part of the province of Camarines Sur, between Mount Isarog and the Lagonoy Gulf, and occupies a total land area of 12,575 ha., 80% of which is flat. Of these, 1,045 hectare are irrigated riceland.
Tigaon’s economy is based on agricultural products like rice, corn, sugar cane, abaca fiber, fish, and pork. It is also known for its cottage industry, especially high quality ships-in-bottles. The main tourist attractions are the Mt. Isarog Jungle Park at Barangay Concocep and several beach resorts.
According to a certain parish priest, Fr. Marcos de Lisboa, the name of the town was attributed to the word “tigaw”, a shrub grew in abundance on the river banks, and whose leaves when pounded produced extracts which were used as poison to catch fish in rivers and swamps.
Spanish Colonial Era
The Bicol Peninsula was first sighted by the Spaniards in August 1543 aboard the San Juan de Letran. In 1574, Captain Juan de Salcedo conquered the Bicol Region. In 1701, Tigaon was considered a sitio of Sagñay. In 1794, Tigaon was given her own parish under Fray Jose de Buensalida who carried the mission of St. Clare of Assisi, marking August 12 as her feastday.
Mayon Volcano’s eruption in 1834 started a wave of migration from the neighboring province of Albay to the rich verdant slopes of Tigaon. As the Sword and the Cross became the bedrock of Spanish colonization in the Philippines, the parish priest symbolized the King of Spain and wielded immense power. This resulted in turmoil and continuous revolts against the atrocities of Spanish rule, thereby leading to the Philippine Revolution of 1898. For $20,000,000.00, Spain ceded the Philippines to the Americans.
In the early years of the 19th century, Camarines Sur was divided into four districts by the Spaniards. This division include the districts of Bikol, Rinconada, Yraya and Mambulao. The mission of Tigaon in the part of Mount Isarog belonged to the Bikol district. The history of this town, according to written accounts, was considered to be confusing as there are conflicting records with regards to its establishment as a municipality.
World War II and Japanese Occupation
In 1941, the Second World War broke. The Japanese entered Tigaon during the term of Mayor Lino Cabaero. The guerrilla movement evolved as an offshoot of Japanese cruelty. Clashes were frequent and the church became a sanctuary of most guerrillas. Fr. Tomas Bernales was parish priest during the period 1941−1942. Fr. Florencio Gonzales took over in 1942. The infamous Death March propelled Doña Leonor Moll to rescue her son, Dr. Heriberto Moll and forty other Bicolanos from the clutches of death. Lt. Salvador Natividad died fighting the Japanese at Mabalodbalod. Captain Edmundo Cea and Majors Salvador and Tomas Garchitorena were at the forefront of battle. Don Pascual Leelin freely disposed his sacks of rice to fellow-Tigaoeños before enemies could confiscate them. In 1945, American forces came back to reclaim the Philippines, thus paving the way for the surrender of the beleaguered Japanese Imperial Army.
With the advent of independence, Tigaoeños found freedom of expression through the arts. A monopoly of painters, poets, and actors emerged from this town. Luisita Venida was the first Tigaoeña child actress while Jesus ‘Og’ Ramos became the Tarzan of local cinema. Bodybuilder Pepito Ramos was acclaimed “Mr. Philippines”. In the late fifties, Batas Pambansa 129 made Tigaon the seat of the CFI in Partido District. Politics thrived. Don Mariano Garchitorena became Governor of Camarines Sur in 1945. Sebastian Caruso Moll was elected Congressman under the Quirino administration. The same administration chose Don Mariano Garchitorena Secretary of Agriculture. Edmundo Cea, the first Asian to be invited as guest speaker to the United Nations, gained fame as a Congressman, then Senator during the sixties, as a delegate to the 1970 Constitutional Convention and as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa. Jose Fuentebella was Ambassador to Indonesia during the Garcia administration. Parish Priest Fr. Florencio Gonzales was succeeded by Fr. Pedro Oliva (1948−1967). Municipal mayors of Tigaon during these years: Heriberto R. Moll (1945-1957); Jose Bosito (1958-1964) and again Heriberto R. Moll (1964−1967).
There was a time when Tigaon was solely owned by 7 hacienderos namely P. Baduria, L. Cea, J. Jacob, M. Estela, A. Garchitorena and S. Moll. Now their lands was distributed to the people through the Agrarian Reform.
The NPA Movement in the Bicol Region started in Tigaon which at best typified a feudal society. Brothers Romulo (Kumander Tangkad) and Ruben (Kumander Benjie) Jallores actively guided the growth of this movement. Agrarian unrest became the legitimate cause for the fuelling of socialist ideology. Tenants forcibly planted rice and corn within abaca lands. Eventually, abaca production declined.
In 1972, martial law was declared. Agrarian Reform was implemented. Felix Fuentebella was appointed governor in 1976, the same year Nelson Baduria Tria was ordained and became the first Tigaoeño priest. The Marcos dictatorship hunted down insurgents and tortured them. Senator Edmundo Cea took the cudgels for Ninoy Aquino’s widow, Corazon. The church played an important role in the series of events that was to lead to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in the EDSA Revolution of 1986. Tigaon’s St. Clare of Assisi Parish became the rallying point of Cory Aquino’s cause in Camarines Sur’s third district. Parish priests in Tigaon were Fr. Jose Rey (1967−1984) and Fr. Felix Barela (1984−1985). In 1986, Gallardo Bombase, Jr. was ordained. He became the first Filipino parish priest of the University of Santo Tomas. Municipal Mayors during this time: Gualberto Cea Manlagñit (1968−1971); Lucio Palaypayon, Jr. (1972); Federico Moll (acting capacity, 1973−1976); and Claudio Francisco (appointed 1976/ elected 1980−1986).
Gradually, order was restored. The Senate and Congress were once again part of the country’s democratic process. Delfin Recto was appointed Mayor of Tigaon. Julian Cea Napal became Vice Governor of Camarines Sur. Francis Garchitorena occupied the position of SandiganBayan Justice. The crusade of the NPA Movement gained recognition from the ruling administration. Continuing peace talks were held to resolve the differences between government and the CPP/NPA.
The democratic form of government once more dominated the political scene. Municipal Mayors were: Roman de Leon, Jr. (OIC, 1987, Transitional Gov’t); and Eleanor R. Lelis (1988−1992). Arnulfo Fuentebella, elected in 1992, held the congressional seat for Camarines Sur’s third district.
Parish priests were Fr. Alfonso Grageda (1985−1991) and Fr. Eutiquio Infante (1991−1997).
Once more, Tigaon is on the move. Municipal Mayor Mariano B. Llaguno (1992−1998) was succeeded by Mayor Elmo L. Bombase while Fr. Danilo Tuason became Parish Priest of Tigaon. The Sword and Cross have never been apart in the Tigaoeño way of life. Hand in hand with the construction of the Parish rectory was Tigaon’s new municipal building. After a nine-year term, Mayor Bombase was succeeded by Mayor Arnulf Bryan B. Fuentebella (2007–2016) then followed by his sister, Mayor Pamela Rinah B. Fuentebella (2016-present). The Rev. Msgr. Juan Celzo, Fr. Rodolfo Sales and incumbent parish priest Fr. Noel Emmanuel Alforte were assigned successively to continue the church’s mission in Tigaon.