Last updated on September 30, 2019
Earliest recorded political history of Dipolog started in 1834 with the re-organization of Spanish Civil Government. At that time, Tulwanan’s political territory was still part of the Municipality of Dapitan with Don Domingo Ruiz, a native, as its capitán or town executive. Sometime that year, a Spanish Recollect missionary arrived in Tulwanan looking for its barrio executive or local chieftain. Upon meeting a native, the missionary asked; “¿Dónde está el capitán?”. The native understanding only the word “capitán” pointed to the west and said in Subanen Di-pag, meaning across the river. Guided by his servant, a Tagalog boy named Antonio Subido, the missionary proceeded down river and upon reaching the Boholano settlement, named the place “Dipag”.
Technically, Dipag and Tulwanan were two different settlements at that time with the former composed of Boholano natives and the latter mostly of Subanen ancestry. When the friar returned to Dapitan, he identified the location of the larger Boholano settlement as Dipag but was not officially written. Frequent conversations by the Spaniards pronounced it in Spanish accent Dipolog which was eventually adopted by the natives. The final political survey surprisingly added the letter ‘L’ written on it after officially becoming a barrio of Dapitan. From that time Tulwanan’s political identity ceased to exist. By the 12th century the Subanen settlers had colonized most of what is now Zamboanga Peninsula region. It was customary for tribes to establish their settlements at the mouth of large river systems due to the abundant food supply. However, due to frequent raids from seafaring Chinese pirates, they decided to move their settlements inland.
In the 14th century, Tulwanan was established 6 kilometers inland, adjoining the river near the present day barangay center of Lugdungan.
In the 15th century, settlers from neighboring Negros and Bohol islands established coastline settlements in Mindanao but suffered the same raids by Chinese pirates, prompting them to also move their settlements away from the coastline. They established another settlement in what is now called Sianib, a barangay of present-day Polanco town, some twenty kilometers from the coast at Barrio Gulayon(Barangay Gulayon).
It was only in 1563 that the first recorded Visayan settlement of some 800 families from Bohol, led by the chieftain Datu Pagbuaya, landed in Mindanao and established a coastal settlement in what is now called Dapitan. This settlement was strong enough to repel the Chinese pirates of the Sulu Sea. As a result, Dapitan Bay was scene of many bloody conflicts between Pagbuaya’s men and Chinese pirates.
In 1565, Don Miguel López de Legazpi who was accompanied by famed navigator Fr. Andrés de Urdaneta, an Augustinian friar, visited the Boholano chieftain Datu Pagbuaya on the invitation of Datu Sikatuna. There they found the place of Datu Pagbuaya to be a thriving settlement. In his chronicle, Fr. Urdaneta named the place Daquepitan. Peter Kaerius (Pieter van den Keere) identified the location as Dapito in his cartographic map of 1598. It was later identified as “Dapite” in Robert Dudley’s map of 1646. Other names ascribed to the location include “Dapyto” in Sanson’s map of 1652 and “Dapitan” which can be found in Moll’s map of the East Indies, 1729 and in Murillo Velarde’s map of 1734. After Legazpi’s visit, the Christianization of Mindanao was officially initiated by the Augustinian friars who arrived with him.
In 1581, members of The Society of Jesus came to the Philippines for the purpose of evangelization. When the country was divided among four religious orders in 1598, the Jesuits were given the Diocese of Cebu which covered the Visayas and Mindanao. Thus Dapitan came to be under the jurisdiction of the courageous men of St. Ignatius and it was Father Pascual de Acuña S.J. who started the Jesuit mission there.
In 1609, the squadron of Juan Juarez Gallinato S.J. defeated the Manguindanau Muslims in a ferocious battle near Dapitan.
Also in 1609, a permanent Dapitan mission was founded and thereafter headed by a Jesuit missionary, Father Pedro Gutierrez, marking Dapitan as the Center of Evangelization in Mindanao. Mission stations were subsequently established later by the Jesuits in Zamboanga, Iligan, Basilan and Butuan. Outside of these areas, however, the whole of Mindanao remained untouched by the Spanish Cross.
By the 18th century, with the Spanish Naval Fleet anchored at Dapitan Bay, much of the piracy—now conducted mainly by moro bandits—was under control within the Sulu Sea. Settlement in coastal areas resumed with new settlers from Negros and Bohol eventually settling in Isab, and Nipaan. The largest settlement, however, was made at the mouth of the Dipolog river by the Boholanos who were not associated with Pagbuaya.
From Ruiz, civil administration changed hands in stable succession, with Martino Belarmino, who was popular by the name Maglinte. Francisco Magallanes, Victorio Gobune; another man whose name history record had as Toribio had his chance, followed by Venancio Narvaez, Francisco Orbita, Bautista Narvaez, Martencio Yebes and Sabino Bengua.
By 1889, administrative designations reverted to Capitanes, and those appointed were Martin Fernandez, Tomas Narvacan, Eustaquio Cajocon, Simplicio Lacaya, Basilio Tabiliran, Maximiano Ruiz and Bruno Ordinaria in 1898.
By February 1894, the Catholic Chapel constructed by the Jesuits was renovated for the first time, on an altar designed by Dr. José Rizal to which now stands the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral.
By 1896, the friars established Dipolog as a regular parish and installed Father Esteban Yepes its first administrator in 1897.
After the transfer of Spanish sovereignty to the United States in 1897, the U.S. occupation forces renamed the Capitan to Presidente Local, with administrative support from a Vice Presidente Local, a Delegado de Justicia and a Delegado de Policia. Martin Fernandez was appointed Presidente Local in the year 1900, followed by Diosdado Mercado, Gaudencio Zorilla and Isidro Patangan as Presidente Municipal between 1901 and March 1904.
By 1900, Dipolog was a thriving commercial community with new settlers arriving from the island of Cebu, outgrowing its principal town of Dapitan which exclusively remained part of Pagbuaya’s clan.
By 1910, John Helper, who was previously appointed Secretary of Zamboanga Province, visited Dipolog for two days and conversed with its principalía and members of the Centro Catolico de Dipolog. He was asked later of the possibility of converting the community to an independent Municipality.
By 1912, Gov. John J. Pershing of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu decreed the separation of Dipolog from Dapitan.
By July 1, 1913, Gov. John J. Pershing declared Dipolog as a Municipality. General Pershing also appointed Pascual T. Martinez as its first Municipal Mayor.
The first public school teachers of Dipolog, during this time, came also from Bohol, particularly Maribojoc and other towns. Most were only elementary graduates. But they were well-educated by the American soldier-teachers in Bohol. One of them was a certain Felisa Ruaya who taught at the American-established schools in Dipolog. She lived first near the beach in Punta Coro. Then she married an Adriatico, a native of Polanco. Because the inhabitants converted to Christianity, it cannot be determined whether or not the residents were of Subanen heritage. Felisa Ruaya was the mother of former Zamboanga del Norte vice governor Concordio Ruaya Adriatico.
In 1942, Japanese Imperial Occupation forces entered in Dipolog and built of the military garrison of the Imperial Japanese Army was stationed in the municipality. In the same year, the seat of government of the historical province of Zamboanga was transferred from Zamboanga City to Dipolog.
In 1942 to 1945, Filipino troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army military units and the local recognized guerrillas began the conflicts in the town municipality of Dipolog against the Japanese Imperial forces during the occupation was until the retreating the local resistance fighters were halted by the Japanese after almost 4 years and before the American liberation forces returned and arrived in the town.
In 1945, the liberation by the Filipino troops under the 6th, 10th, 102nd and 105th Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and 10th Constabulary Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary entered in Dipolog together with local guerrillas.
Governor Matias Castillon Ranillo Sr. noticed that the waters at Punta Coro wharf were choppy for ships to anchor. Governor Ranillo was determined to provide an alternative access to southern Zamboanga peninsula. Governor Ranillo’s jurisdiction was then the entire Zamboanga peninsula prior to its division between del Norte and del Sur. During Governor Ranillo’s term, aviation was a young technology but he made sure that an airfield was established in Dipolog.
He was elected Governor in 1937 and re-elected in 1940 but his term was cut short when Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon urged him to run as the lone Assemblyman of Zamboanga peninsula. President Quezon fondly called him “El Gallo Escondido de Malacanang”. In November 1941, he was elected as Assemblyman but one week before his scheduled departure for Manila, World War II broke out. On October 30, 1944, upon the request of the recognized guerrillas among them the local regular and constable force of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary during the conflicts against the occupation, he mobilized the able-bodied men of Dipolog and Home guards who cheerfully volunteered to clear the airfield of grass and shrubs.
On March 8, 1945, on Dipolog airfield, the first American invasion of Zamboanga peninsula took place. The successful landing at Dipolog airfield established a base for the subsequent recapture of Japanese-held San Roque airfield near Zamboanga City, followed by Sanga Sanga in Sulu, and from there to Borneo and the East Indies. The army then established a general headquarters and military camp base of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Philippine Constabulary were stationed in Dipolog on March 9, 1945 to June 30, 1946 during the aftermath of World War II.