About Isabela

Isabela is the second largest province of the Philippines next to Palawan. It is located in the Cagayan Valley Region in Luzon. Its capital is Ilagan and borders, clockwise from the south, Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Cagayan. This primarily agricultural province is the rice and corn granary of Luzon.

History

Prior to 1856, there were only two provinces in the Cagayan Valley Region: Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. The Province of Cagayan at that time consisted of all towns from Tumauini to the north in Aparri and all other towns from Ilagan southward to Aritao comprised the Province of Nueva Vizcaya. In order to facilitate the work of the missionaries in the evangelization of the Cagayan Valley, a royal decree was issued on May 1, 1856 that created the Province of Isabela consisting of the towns of Gamu, Angadanan, Bindang (now Roxas) and Camarag (now Echague), Carig (now Santiago City) and Palanan. The new province was named in honor of Queen Isabela II of Spain.

Although the province did not play a major role in the revolt against Spain, it was in Palanan that the final pages of the Philippine Revolution were written when the American forces led by General Frederick Funston finally captured General Emilio Aguinaldo on March 23, 1901. Isabela was reorganized as a province under the American regime through Act No. 210, passed August 24, 1901.

Its first provincial governor was Rafael Maramag, a former Municipal President (then a term for Municipal Mayor) of the capital town Ilagan. Rafael Maramag was also the first Municipal President of Ilagan and was succeeded by his brother Gabriel. A son of Gabriel also served as the longest Municipal Treasurer of Ilagan and also served as the Deputy Provincial Treasurer for Isabela. Isabela was ruled by the Dy family for 34 years, from 1969 to 2004. The dynasty started with the patriarch of the family, Faustino Dy, Sr. who served as the Cauayan Mayor from 1965-1969 and as a Governor of Isabela for 22 years (1969-1992). He was replaced by his son, Benjamin G. Dy in the gubernatorial seat from 1992 to 2001. Another Dy took the gubernatorial seat in 2001 when Faustino Dy Jr. won the 2001 elections after having served first as a Representative of the 2nd district of the province from 1992 to 2001.

The Americans built schools and other buildings and instituted changes in the overall political system. The province's economy, however, remained particularly agricultural with rice replacing corn and tobacco as the dominant crop. World War II stagnated the province's economic growth but it recovered dramatically after the war. In 1942, the Japanese Imperial forces occupied Isabela. In 1945, liberation of Isabela commenced with the arrival of the Philippine Commonwealth Troops and guerrillas attacked by the Japanese Imperial forces in World War II. Isabela today is the premier province of the north, one of the most progressive in the country and Santiago, the Commercial Center of Region II, was declared an independent city on July 7, 1994.

In 1995, a bill was passed legislating that Isabela be divided into two new provinces: Isabela del Norte and Isabela del Sur. A referendum was held on the same year with a strong majority voting not to separate the province.

People and Culture

According to the Philippine Census in 2000, Isabela was the most populated province among the five provinces in Cagayan Valley (Region II). It has a population of 1,287,575 people and comprising 45.7 percent of the 2.8 people in the region. At the national level, the province contributed 1.7 percent to the total population of 76.5 million.

For all ages, the sex ratio in Isabela was about 105 with 660,627 males and 626,948 females in the 2000 Census of Population and Housing (Census 2000). There were more males than females below 50 years old.

Ilocano was the most prominent ethnic group in Isabela. Of the total household population, 68.71 percent classified themselves as Ilocanos. The next two prominent ethnic groups were Ibanag (14.05 percent) and Tagalog (10.02 percent). The remaining 7.22 percent were either Gaddang, Paranan, Yogad, or were from other ethnic groups.

Languages

Major languages in Isabela are Ilocano followed by Ibanag, Yogad, Gaddang. People especially in the capital and commercial centers speak and understand English and Tagalog/Pilipino.

Geography

The province is divided into three physiographic areas. The eastern area, straddled by the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, is rugged and thickly forested. A substantial portion is uncharted and the unexplored hinterlands are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna while others are government reservations. The western area is a sprawling fertile valley hemmed by the Central Cordillera and is criss-crossed by the mighty Cagayan, Siffu, and Magat Rivers. It's mountains rise to a peak of about 8,000 feet and is home to one of the world's largest remaining low-altitude rainforests with numerous unknown endemic species of flora and fauna and exceptional biological diversity. The area is popularly known as the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park.

Isabela comprises an aggregate land area of 10,665 square kilometers, representing almost 40 percent of the regional territory. It is the largest province in the region and the second largest province in the country in terms of land area.

Political Subdivision

The province has 35 municipalities and 1,055 barangays and is divided into four congressional districts. Santiago is an independent-component city while Cauayan is a component city. Ilagan is the capital town while Cauayan is the industrial center.

Climate

Generally, the province has two types of climate. The eastern and coastal areas experience moderate rainfall more or less distributed throughout the year while western Isabela has more pronounced wet and dry seasons. The average temperature is recorded at 27.1 degrees Celsius.

Physical

The province is divided into three physiographic areas. The eastern area, straddled by the Sierra Madre mountain range, is rugged and thickly forested. A substantial portion is uncharted. These unexplored hinterlands are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, while others are government reservations. The western area is a sprawling fertile valley hemmed by the Central Cordillera. It is criss-crossed by the mighty Cagayan River, Siffu river, and Magat River. Its mountains rise to a peak of about 8,000 feet, and are home to one of the world's largest remaining low-altitude rainforests, with numerous unknown endemic species of flora and fauna and exceptional biological diversity. The area is popularly known as the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. Isabela has 600,000 hectares of Cagayan Valley's 900,000 hectares of forest cover.

Economy and Tourism

Isabela is a first class in terms of income classification. Agriculture, mainly rice with a relatively large corn crop, is the biggest industry in Isabela. Farming is highly mechanized as most of the agricultural lands are irrigated. With the presence of the Isabela State University, joint ventures, other foreign assisted projects, and the Magat Dam, agriculture has a high level of productivity. It is also the hub of trade, commerce, and other economic activities due to its central location in the region. The wood industry used to be a top earner for the province but due to the logging ban imposed in the Cagayan Valley Region, activities in this industry have considerably declined. However, furniture making using narra and other indigenous forest materials continues.

Some potential investments are in fisheries and tourism. Isabela has a fertile fishing ground on the Pacific Coast. The reservoir of the Magat Dam is utilized for fish cage operations, such as tilapia production for domestic markets. Tourism is relatively a new industry being developed in the province. Support services and accommodation facilities are likewise being developed. Tourism focuses mainly in and around Santiago City and can be noted by the presence of the only McDonalds in the province.

There are 2 airports in the province - Cauayan Airport and in Palanan.

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