100 years of Pugo


Renan Flores


Every land has its own story to tell… a history that no one should ever forget..Pugo…a place of beauty… gifted with peace and serenity…a land of perseverance and toiling people…

Pugo…a motherland worthy of respect …a sanctuary of faith… and a haven of love.


2012 marks the 100th year of the town of Pugo. Established in the year 1912 as a town this dainty community has its own story to tell…


There are three versions by which the name Pugo was acquired. The first version is according to the oral traditions of old folks and probably just a folktale since the account is so similar to the stories of nearby towns in La Union.


According to this story, when the Spaniards came to this vast vegetation they asked a native the name of the place. The native did not understand the language and by coincidence, the Spaniard hunter was pointing to a pugo bird; the native then exclaimed “pugo! pugo!” and the name stuck.


The second version evidently strengthens the account that Pugo was once a part of Pangasinan. The name “pogo” has its origin from Pangalatok, a language used in Pangasinan a province south of La Union. Pugo as well as other parts of southern La Union was once part of the ethnoliguistic territory of Pangalatok-speaking people prior to political subdivision during the Spanish regime. Now, only a minority speaks Pangalatok in La Union mainly in Municipalities of Rosario and Sto. Tomas. The term “Pogo” which means Small Islands or Islets does not mean though that Pugo is an Island. The term describes the huge rockbeds in the Tapuakan River. The river also features rockwalls and huge rocks which are now known as the Tapuakan River Resort. The resort is located in Barangay Cares. By geographical location moreover, when somebody is seeing Pugo from afar, a Pangasinense who is used of seeing bodies of water would normally conceptualize that Pugo is an island because of the vast hills where the place is located. This account also explains why the vowel sounds of the word pogo is pronounced in a harder accent- reminiscent of the Old Pangasinan Language.

The third version explains the presence of Bago Tribe members in the town. Subsequently, during the construction of roads going to the Mountain Province, some of the tribal folks from Ilocos Sur migrated and took refuge in the South. The migrants came to a place which is now presently located in the boundaries of Cuenca and Saytan and is attested by census records that most of the genealogical records from these barangay are from ilocos sur.. When they saw the mountainous area, they mistakenly regarded the place to be part of Ifugao, they then named the place “Ipugo” or a place full of earth gradually describing the numerous hills. As time progresses the term “Ipugo” was reduced to “Pugo” an evolution of language by which the letter “I” was removed to denote that “Pugo” is a lesser version of “ifugao” or “ipugo”.

Whichever account is more acceptable, one thing is for sure, these three versions will always remain as the foundation of the origin of the name of Pugo, our beloved town.

The history of Pugo as stated in so many accounts only started during the establishment of the Province of La Union in 1850. But not known to many, Pugo already existed as a part of Agoo and Pangasinan way back the onset of Spanish colonization in the year 1570. But of course in another name- Pugo was then known as Rancheria Tolosa. A part of a town famed to be the center of North Luzon in the late 1500s.

According to Miguel de Loarca in his accounts in the Las Islas Filipinas or the Philippine Islands annotated by Blaire and Robertson- the first residents of the place were called Negrillos (not negritos) which are natives with tawny black in color. They are basically pagans and their faiths rely much on supernatural deities and elements of nature.

Eventually, when migrants from the Malay Peninsula arrived through the migratory boats, the negrillos moved into the mountains and the Malay settlers became the descendants of the Pangasinense. In these years, Pangasinan territory extended up north until the present day San Juan which was then known as Atuley and part of Zambales and Tarlac down in the south.

Pugo was then part of place called El Puerto De Japon (presently Agoo) and was named by Spanish Conquistador Juan De Salcedo. He then named the place because of the flourishing Japanese and Chinese trades. It is customary for Spanish conquest that in the establishment of a civil government alongside is Christianization. The founding fathers who accompanied Salcedo in the establishment of this Spanish settlement were Fathers Juan Baptista de Lucarelli and Fray  Sebastian De Baesa of the Franciscan Orders. Consequently, the place by which Pugo was a part became the center of North Luzon since the entry point is located here long before Sual and Bolinao entrypoint was enhanced. Moreover, the settlement was declared as a royal encomienda– far better than ciudad Fernandina or Vigan City which was only owned by Salcedo. Whereas in a royal encomienda, it is being owned by no less than the King of Spain himself.

Rancheria Tolosa or Pugo continued to be a plantation for Tobacco together with Tubao in which the latter became a Barangay of Agoo and Pugo as a sitio. He growing demands for tobacco export eventually transformed the vast vegetation into rich tobacco fields… an expanding territoty for the Spanish Tobacco Monopoly.

Benguet province by which Baguio City was a part was not yet established. It was only founded in 1846 and Baguio in 1905. The establishment of Benguet as a province resulted from the people of the Ibaloi nation to refuse to pay taxes in the tabacalera or the tobacco monopoly. Mention should be made too of the local hero- Don Andres Malong of Pangasinan when he attempted to snatch the place from Spanish Civil Government in a revolution in the 1800’s.

Barrio Pugo together with the seven original barrios were annexed to Mountain Province as per Executive Order No. 11. When Baguio became a city in the year 1910, barrio Pugo and the other barrios became part of the township of Twin Peaks, Benguet. Twin Peaks was later abolished as a township, instead barrio Pugo and barrio Tuba were created as a township in the sub-province of Benguet. On February 4, 1920, Pugo which was then a municipal district of Benguet, was restored to La Union together with other barrios and sitios previously annexed to Mountain Province. This is in accordance with Section 2 of Act No. 2877 series 1920, enacted by the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives.


Pugo was organized as a township on January 1, 1912 from the sub-province of Benguet, Mountain Province in accordance with Executive Order No.77 dated December 11, 1911, approved by Governor General S. Cameron Forbes. It is originally consisted of the territories comprising of eight barrios (Pugo, Ambangonan, Dagupan, Maoasoas, Enmistampa, San Luis, Cuenca and Saytan) with barrio Pugo as the seat of government. In 1919, Pugo became a municipal district in the sub-province of Benguet. On July 30, 1947, Pugo, together with Sudipen and San Gabriel, became regular municipalities of the Province of La Union, in accordance with Executive Order No. 72 issued by President Manuel A. Roxas.


From this point forward, the civil government of Pugo became a silent guardian in protecting its people. Although the smallest town in La Union with regards to land area, Pugo boosts the warm embrace and hospitality of its people.

In 1970’s The construction of Marcos Highway initiated by the former Ministry of Tourism Secretary and statesman Jose “Sunshine Joe” D. Aspiras and President Ferdinand E. Marcos paved the way for Pugo to boost its economy, although remained as a fifth class municipality, Pugo is well known with its local products- The kinitikitan or wood sculptures became a famous connotation of the town. Tiger grass is made into soft brooms and is being marketed in Baguio city together with the town of Burgos. Other products include rootcrops such as ube, taro, sweet potatoes and ginger. Mangoes are grown in the rich hills especially in Barangay Maoaosoas and San Luis.


Pugo will always be a place to love and to cherish…a town where we spend our years growing up and to nurture our children for generations and generations… Pugo as stated in its town hymn is a “naindaklan a daga” not literally describing the land area but symbolizing the big hearts of its people and its rich cultural heritage that we are going to preserve for the next one hundred years!!!



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