Last updated on September 30, 2019
Cabanatuan was founded as a Barrio of Gapan in 1750 and became a Municipality and capital of La Provincia de Nueva Ecija in 1780. Cabanatuan is the site of the historical “Plaza Lucero” and the Cabanatuan Cathedral, where General Antonio Luna was assassinated by Captain Pedro Janolino and members of the kawit battalion. Cabanatuan lost the title of provincial capital in 1850 when the capital of Nueva Ecija was moved to San Isidro, another historic town. It was only in 1917, when the Administrative code was enacted, that Cabanatuan was restored as capital of the Province. However, in 1965, Congress created Palayan City, which has been the capital ever since.
During World War II, the occupying Japanese built Cabanatuan Prison Camp, where many American soldiers were imprisoned, some of whom had been forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March. In January 1945, elements of the U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion marched 30 miles (48 km) behind enemy lines to rescue the prisoners in what became known as the Raid at Cabanatuan. As a result of the raid on January 30, 1945, victorious Filipino guerrillas and American troops of the U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion celebrated having obtained the freedom of 500 American POWs. Soon thereafter, Philippine and American forces re-established the presence of military general headquarters and military camp bases of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, Philippine Constabulary 2nd Constabulary Regiment, and the United States Army in Cabanatuan from February 1, 1945 to June 30, 1946 during the Allied Liberation. Before long, the combined Philippine Commonwealth and American armed forces, in cooperation with local guerrilla resistance fighters and Hukbalahap Communist guerrillas, had liberated Central Luzon from Japanese Imperial forces, a campaign that lasted from January until August 1945.
In 1957, the barrios of Mataas na Kahoy, Balangkare Norte, Balangkare Sur, Sapang Kawayan, Magasawang Sampaloc, Talabutab Norte, Talabutab Sur, Platero, Belen, Pecaleon, Piñahan, Kabulihan, Pasong-Hari, Balaring, Pulong Singkamas, Panaksak, Bravo, Sapang Bato, Burol, Miller, Tila Patio, Pula, Carinay, and Acacia were separated from Cabanatuan and constituted into a separate and independent municipality known as General Mamerto Natividad.
Cabanatuan was the epicenter of a very strong earthquake, 7.8 on the surface wave magnitude scale, at roughly 3 pm on July 16, 1990. It leveled some buildings, including the Christian College of the Philippines (Liwag Colleges) in the midst of class time, and killed 1,653 people.