Last updated on September 30, 2019
The origin of Santiago City can be drawn from the first native settlement discovered by the early Spanish missionaries at the bank of the old Carig River (now Diadi River) from which its original name, Carig, was derived. The early inhabitants were the Gaddangs and the Ibanags. When the Spanish settled in, the city was named Pueblo of Santiago Apostol de Carig, with Santiago as the Spanish name of Saint James the Apostle. In the early 1950s, the Municipal President Vicente Carreon changed the name to simply Santiago. Santiago remained a municipality for 84 years.
Santiago was originally a part of the province Cagayan (comprising the whole Cagayan Valley region), which was reorganized as a political subdivision in 1583 with Nueva Segovia as its capital. On May 1, 1856, when the Province of Isabela was carved out by a Royal Decree, Santiago was among the towns relinquished to the newly created province. The first five barrios after the Cadastral survey in 1927 were Patul, Batal, Nabbuan, Buenavista and Dubinan.
It was said that there were only about three Filipino-owned sari-sari stores in Santiago in 1917. The settlers acquired most of their merchandise and other provisions from Chinese traders in Echague, the landing zone for products intended for Santiago and other towns, owing to its proximity to the Cagayan River.
It was when the Villa-Verde Trail was opened when things were set in motion. It facilitated the entry of immigrants from various provinces in Luzon to the Cagayan Valley and Santiago absorbed a sizable share of these travelers. The new route served as an impetus for growth and introduced new technologies and business opportunities, and made Santiago a melting pot of different cultures.
In 1942 during World War II, the Japanese forces entered and occupied the town of Santiago. In 1945, the town was liberated by the Filipino soldiers of the 1st, 2nd, 12th, 13th and 15th Infantry Division and the USAFIP-NL 11th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, the 1st Constabulary Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary and the recognized guerrilla fighter units.
Santiago survived through world wars, although badly damaged, and from then on developed to become the leading trading and commercial city in Cagayan Valley.