About Surigao del Norte Province, Philippines
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Surigao del Norte Province
is a province of the Philippines located in the Caraga region in Mindanao. Its capital is Surigao City. The province consists of two major islands - Siargao Island, and Bucas Grande Island - in the Philippine Sea, and a small region at the northernmost tip of the island of Mindanao. This mainland portion borders Agusan del Norte, and Surigao del Sur to the south.

Surigao del Norte is the second northernmost of the Mindanao provinces and is an important transportation hub between Visayas and Mindanao. Numerous ferries cross the Surigao Strait between Surigao and the island of Leyte carrying vehicles and passengers between Liloan in Southern Leyte and Surigao City.

Capital: Surigao City
Land Area: 1,972.9 km²
Population: 442,588 (2010)
Cities: Surigao
Munacipalities: 20
Barangays: 335
Districts: 1st and 2nd districts of Surigao del Norte
Languages: Cebuano, Surigaonon, Tagalog, English


In 1538, the eastern coast of Mindanao which included the present province of Surigao del Norte was visited by a Portuguese explorer Francisco de Castro, who found the place inhabited by the Caraga tribe who were believed to be of Visayan origin.

Five years later, a Spaniard Ruy Lopez de Villabos landed in the same region, His navigator, Bernardo de la Torre, named it "Cesaria Caroli" in honor of the reigning Spanish Monarch, Carlos V. The name however, never persisted since the Spaniards preferred to name the area "Caraga" after its chief inhabitants.

The Jesuit Missionaries in 1597 tried to evangelize the people of Butuan (Agusan) and Caraga (Surigao), with much difficulty and intermittent success. They were followed in 1622 by the Augustinian Recollects who established parishes in Tandag and Bislig in 1642. The Recollects Stayed until 1875, then secular priests took over, followed by the Benedictine Monks from 1893 to 1908.

The ancient district of Caraga, which was established in 1609 comprised all of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, the Northern part of Davao Oriental and Eastern Misamis Oriental.

In 1860, six military districts were established in Mindanao. Surigao and Agusan, including the territory lying between Butuan and Caraga Bays, formed the third district called the East district which was changed in 1870 to "Distrito de Surigao". There are many versions regarding the meaning of Surigao. Like Sulo, which means current or Sulog, Surigao probably came from the Spanish word Surgir, meaning swift water or current.

By the end of the Spanish rule in 1897, the two Agusan provinces had been organized as a single politico-military comandancia named "Butuan", within the administrative jurisdiction of Surigao. On May 15, 1901, a civil government was established in the province of Surigao. Prudencio Garcia, Sr. was appointed Civil Governor and Roman Vasquez as the Municipal President of the town of Surigao.

The territorial expanse of the Surigao Province was further reduced in 1911 when the politico-military commandancia of Butuan, then a sub-province of Surigao was created into a separate province of Agusan with Butuan as its capital.

On May 23, 1942, the Japanese forces under Colonel Yoshie arrived in Surigao from Butuan. They formally took control of the town on May 28, 1942 under Lt. Ichichara.

Liberation from the Japanese rule dawned on September 9, 1944. American planes started their campaign by bombing the town in the early morning. It was followed by a strafing of all Japanese warships docked at the Surigao wharf, which came to transport fresh troops and supplies to their forces in Leyte. No less than fifty warships were sunk by the raiding American bomber planes. After the attack, not a single Japanese ship was seen afloat.

On April 12, 1945, peace and democracy completely reigned in Surigao and the whole province. It was during the liberation period by the Philippine Commonwealth troops that Surigao experienced an economic boom. This was brought about by the operation of the Mindanao Mother Lode Mines, Inc., extracting gold in Barrio Mabuhay. The operation attracted people from the neighboring towns resulting in the phenomenal growth of population.

Such a transition caused the conversion of some of her barrios into towns. Barrio Malimono, a fishing barrio on the west became a municipality on July 31, 1956 by virtue of Executive Order No. 195. Barrio Anao-aon, another fishing village, became a municipality on May 24, 1957 as per Executive Order No. 249. Likewise, Sison, an agricultural barrio, became a municipality on September 15, 1959 per Executive Order No. 357. Barrios near the newly created municipalities were relinquished respectively.

On September 18, 1960, pursuant to the Republic Act 2736 dated June 19, 1960, the province of Surigao was divided into Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The town of Surigao became a city on August 30, 1970 pursuant to RA 6134. Atty. Pedro R. Espina became the first City Mayor.



Mangrove is the major theme in the coastal areas of the province. The salt-water loving trees form interminable marine forests covering 175 square kilometres along the coasts of the mainland and the islands of Siargao and Bucas Grande. The province also boasts of a variety of marine ecosystems like the lush seagrass beds and coral reefs which are relatively healthy and intact, supporting a rich diversity of marine flora and fauna.

Many who are interested in game fishing and spearfishing will enjoy its bountiful seas along the tuna route. Over 23 different species are caught the whole year round. Marlin, tuna, lapu-lapu, mollusks, crabs, even squids, stingrays and octopuses can be bought fresh and cheap from the fish vendors and fishermen.

The unique "mancono" (ironwood) forests of Surigao del Norte are still one of the watersheds most productive resources. By its nature, it is slow growing and adapted to a mineralized soil. It must be carefully managed for sustained productivity.

The province also has many caves and tunnels in its islands. Some are half-submerged in water most of the time and could be accessed only during low tides like the Suhoton Cave at Bucas Grande Island.

Its biggest islands are usually mountainous and rich in minerals. Nonoc Island has one of the world's largest deposits of nickel. The smaller ones either rest on sand and gravel or have a limestone base bonded by boulders, reefs and sandbars. Some islets like those in Del Carmen in Siargao Island are actually nothing more than a cluster of rock formations jutting out from the sea crowned with shrubs and coconut trees. There are also springs, lagoons, caves, waterfalls, mangroves, marshes and whirlpools which are more appealing to all nature lovers.

Surigao del Norte is a mosaic of islands at the rim of the Asian continental shelf. It is perched at the north-eastern tip of Mindanao and faces that abysmal canyon known as the Philippine Deep. It is bounded by the Dinagat Islands on the north, east by the vast Pacific Ocean, south by the Provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and on the west by the historic Surigao Strait.

The province has an area of 2,740 square kilometers which is roughly equivalent to 9.67 percent of the total land area of Northern Mindanao. It embraces within its domain 27 municipalities and a component city.

Surigao City, the provincial capital is dubbed as the "Gateway to Mindanao". The ferry landing terminal in Lipata links Mindanao to Luzon through Eastern Visayas. It annually showcases in full regalia its distinct cultural heritage through the Bonok-Bonok Maradjao Karadjao" Festival. It is a provincial city that offers a respite from the busting metropolitan life.

On the Northern side of the province is Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands. These island paradises are famous for their long stretch of sugar-fine beaches, perfect surf, vast mangrove forest, and deep waters teeming with a plethora of marine life.

The Panhutongan and Amoslog archeological excavations in Placer would give a glimpse of the origins of the province and its people. Such is the image of Surigao del Norte. It is a montage of history and unspoiled beauty. An untouched eden warmed by smiles of people with unquenching thirst for an exuberant lifestyle.

People and Culture

Surigao is home to the Mamanwa ethnic tribe. Their dances are showcased in a local festival called "Bonok-Bonok", held at the feast of San Nicolas de Tolentino which is held annually on September 10. The Bonok-Bonok depicts the native folks' merry-making to show gratitude to God for bountiful harvest and good health.

A collection of ancient archaeological diggings like burial coffins, jars and antique Chinese kitchen wares unearthed in Panhutungan, Placer is on public display at the Surigaonon Heritage Mini-Museum located at the Boulevard in Surigao City.

Map of Surigao del Norte Province
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