Cabadbaran is the capital City of the Province of Agusan del Norte, Philippines.
It has a population of 69,241 according to the NSO Census of 2010. Founded in 1894, the city rose from its Spanish period beginnings to become the premier town of Agusan del Norte. Its rich cultural heritage is evident it its preserved colonial period houses and its archaeological collections. Following its recent declaration as a city, it is also the officially designated capital of the province per Republic Act 8811.
CABADBARAN, as a community, is very old, so old that one could trace its existence back to 1200A.D. Traces of the existence of 12th century villages could be found along ancient waterways dissecting the territory now called Cabadbaran. Along the old creeks of Caasinan, Cambuayon and Capudlusan, pre-Spanish Cabadbaranons once lived, worked and died during the 9th-12th centuries, contemporaneous with the old archaeological sites in Butuan City. Artifacts from these pre-Spanish villages could be found today at the Cabadbaran City Artifacts Gallery now temporarily housed at the City Library.
We have no records of what is in Cabadbaran or what transpired therein during the early years of Spanish colonization except for the solitary site in Sanghan which exhibited Chinese ceramics made during the 15th-16th centuries.
Archival records showed that Cabadbaran was first mentioned in history as a small village chosen by Spanish authorities to become a new reduction which they called “La Reunion de Cabarbaran” in 1867. Added to the existing small population at that time were the inhabitants of Bunawan, Talacogon & Solibao who were coerced by Spanish authorities to migrate to La Reunion. Ten years later, in 1879, La Reunion was disbanded. Those from upper Agusan went back to their places of origin and the remnant population was attached to the town of Tubay.
In 1880-1881, Fr. Saturnino Urios revived the reduction but named it Tolosa in honor of his hometown in Spain. This reduction increased in population with migrants settling in coming from the Visayas. In 1880, its leadership under Teniente del Barrio Don Eduardo Curato, petitioned the Spanish authorities to approve its application for township which was granted in January 31, 1894 as archival documents showed. Separated now from Tubay, the new pueblo, still named Tolosa, increased in population and its economy was propped up by agriculture (rice production) and commerce (abaca trading). This steady growth was disrupted by the events of 1896, the revolution against Spain. But even at that time, no significant turmoil occurred in Cabadbaran until the coming of the American occupation forces in 1901.
Forced by the superiority in arms of the enemy, Filipino forces in Agusan, including those in Cabadbaran under Capt. Andres Atega were forced to surrender. Under American rule and tutelage, Tolosa which was now called again as Cabadbaran (due to Don Andres Atega’s proposal) became a center of growth in Northern Agusan.
Public education system was established in 1903 with George Bohner as the first American teacher. With the appointment of Dr. Pedro Malbas as Public Health Officer in the 1920s, public health was improved upon construction of sanitary toilets, deep wells & drainage canals. The American authorities also embarked in public construction of roads & bridges. Early local leaders who led the struggle but eventually surrendered to the Americans were appointed/elected to different government positions. Don Andres, for one, became Treasurer, Juez de Paz, Inspector of Public Schools and Member of the Provincial Board at one time or another.
New generation of leaders also emerged. Apolonio “Oyok” Curato, a son of Eduardo became a lawyer and represented Agusan in the 1935 Constitutional Convention. He became Governor and Congressman of the undivided province of Agusan.
In economy, Cabadbaran continued producing abaca but started abaca production from the extensive coconut plantations established at the start of the American occupation. Rice remained as staple crop grown in the ricefields of present day areas of Calibunan and Mabini. The Agusan-Surigao road became serviceable in the 1930s. Several Bus lines, among the MASTRANCO, started public service along this route, thus catapulting economic growth. The advent of World War II again disrupted not only the growth of Cabadbaran but the whole province as well. With the entry of Japanese forces in 1944 and the defeat of the fledgling Phil. Army and U.S. forces, it didn’t take long for anti-Japanese forces to get organized. Fil-Am Guerilla forces started resistance first in Buenavista then followed by actions in Cabadbaran. Foremost among these guerilla organizers were Judge Jose Villanueva, Capt. Benjamin Famador, Capt. Plenio Atega, etc. (see “Red Sun Over Agusan” by Florante Mori). These dark years under Japan were years when heroes, villains and traitors made their marks in the annals of history not only in Cabadbaran but the whole of Agusan and Surigao as well.
In July 4, 1946 after liberation, Philippine independence was formally granted by America but economic dependence on America was and still a knot that has yet to be untied until today. In spite of this hindering factor, economic growth continued to advance with gains in agriculture and technology. In Cabadbaran, copra, abaca, rice and corn remain as staple crops. But new sources of wealth were now derived from the forests and mountains of Agusan.
Although small-scale gold mining had already began earlier, the entry of Manila Mining Corp. in the 1960s in the rich gold lode in Pirada, Del Pilar brought in jobs and income to many people of Cabadbaran and even until today gold is still a fabulous source of wealth to many who have gambled their lives and fortune to seek this metal. Logging, a bane to the environment but a boon to those who invested in this industry became also a rich source of income to Cabadbaranons in the 1960s until the 1970s.
Together with economic growth, strides were also made in the field of education as attested by the establishment of different high schools and lately, colleges in Cabadbaran. In politics, the rise and fall of presidents of the republic flow side by side with the rise and fall of political forces in Agusan, most of which are family centered. Among others, the Curatos, Ategas, Rosaleses, Aquinos, Calos and the Plazas have indelibly left their marks in the administration of the province one of which is the division of the lone province of Agusan into two: Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte.
Lately, the political forces that coalesced under the strong leadership of the Amantes contributed a great bearing on the current status of Cabadbaran. With a considerable mass support base all throughout Agusan del Norte and Butuan City, the Amantes have been able to push through their development advocacies over the years. Since then, the Amante clan remained a formidable force in the whole of Agusan del Norte.
But, little is known about how home-grown values have shaped the socio-political landscape of Cabadbaran from the time of its establishment in 1894 and onwards. Fully enmeshed into the consciousness of every proud Cabadbaranon, they served their purpose by acting as moral forces that bind its people together as they fall and rise across time and generation. Nowhere have these ideals been more manifest than in Cabadbaran’s protracted struggle towards cityhood – the defining moment for all Cabadbaranons.
Cabadbaran’s bid for cityhood began in April 12, 2007 by virtue of Republic Act 9434, authored by Representative Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante-Matba which converted Cabadbaran into a component city of Agusan del Norte. The man at the helm of this refurbished strip is Mayor Dale Bokingo Corvera, who had just assumed office after the local election of the same year as Municipal Mayor. The conversion of the then municipality into a component city of Agusan del Norte had opened the doors for more opportunities. At that time, however, Cabadbaran needed a major facelift on all fronts. Having received a fresh mandate, it was Mayor Corvera as the first City Mayor of Cabadbaran, who undertook the bold move of instituting fundamental reforms while at the same time streamlining the local bureaucracy, among others. The development of the fledgling city could have set off earlier during his term were it not for the legal brawl that embroiled the city for the next four years. Despite the insurmountable odds heaped against him, the new mayor was able to rise up from the rubbles of adversity.
It was in early 2007 prior to the conduct of the plebiscite on July 28, 2007 when the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) challenged the cityhood laws as unconstitutional by filing a petition before the Supreme Court for that purpose. They argued that the 16 newly-converted cities (known as the League of 16) failed to qualify the statutory criteria for income requirements as set forth by Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 thereby allegedly reducing the internal revenue allotments of the existing cities nationwide. However, Congress had already expressed an earlier stand that the 16 newly-converted cities were exempted from the income requirements mandated by law. The LCP however refused to accept Congress’ position and even went into great lengths to have the cityhood laws declared unconstitutional.
It must be noted that the cityhood case shook the entire legal community because it exhibited a divided Supreme Court. Since it first declared the cityhood law unconstitutional in November of 2008, the High Court had been receiving quite a number of criticisms from legal luminaries for the flip-flopping of its decision. When it initially declared unconstitutional the law in 2008, no one expected that the Court would overturn its own decision later on. That is why when it did in 2009—after two failed attempts of the League of 16 to move for a reconsideration—the LCP cried foul and itself filed a motion for reconsideration. In August of 2010, the Supreme Court, in the most unusual way, invalidated the 2009 decision of constitutionality and reinstated the 2008 decision of unconstitutionality, only to be reversed again in February of 2011 where the legal cartwheel finally ended. This time, however, the decision to uphold the constitutionality of the city hood law was meant to be final forever. It is worth mentioning that Cabadbaran City was ably represented by legal hawk, Atty. Estilito Mendoza, in its legal fiasco before the Supreme Court.
The resolution of the cityhood controversy is considered one of the liberating episodes in Cabadbaran’s history. For four long years, it was unable to move at the crossroads, the controversy being fraught with so much excitement, frustration, division and total surrender. But because of the innate resiliency, bayanihanattitude and deep religiosity of the people, the insurmountable odds were prevailed over. At the center of all these efforts was the rallying cry of Mayor Corvera against the backdrop of the Cabadbaranons’ belief and faith in God.
During the height of the cityhood controversy, Mayor Corvera stood his ground. Realizing that the issue has already transcended beyond human fallibility, he surrendered the fate of Cabadbaran to God by summoning the help of all the sectors, particularly the spiritual leaders, in a meeting called for the purpose at the Beads Restaurant. Realizing that the matter is already within the realms of divine intervention, he pleaded assistance from pastors and priests for which the latter gladly accepted the challenge. That call for unification was a classic articulation of his leadership skills, his being an International Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines having played a major part in the shaping of his character.
A week after that, the city government in cooperation with the religious leaders organized a prayer meeting dubbed as “Prayer for Justice and Fairness” which event gathered the people representing various offices, schools, barangays and other key sectors in Cabadbaran in a morning of intense prayer and supplication before a jam-packed crowd at the City Gymnasium. The extraordinary prayer gathering was full of emotion with the religious leaders pounding the heavens for divine intercession as the audience broke down into tears. Since then, the religious sector of Cabadbaran City has been very much actively involved in providing spiritual assistance as churches around the city started hanging streamers and banners expressing prayers of heavenly mercy in favor of the cityhood case.
The heavenly supplications continued all throughout the years 2009, 2010 and even until 2011. For the city employee’s part, they wasted no moment everyday by persistently doing their Monday morning convocations. The longer it has been consistently done, the more intense the prayers became. If there was anything good about that controversy, it would be the unity the people had shown in coming together for a unified purpose. For that reason, Mayor Corvera decided to institutionalize the Monday morning convocations until the finality of the cityhood case was sealed in June 28, 2011.
His people-centered and transparent governance having impacted his grass-roots constituents, Mayor Corvera obtained major headways under his leadership since he assumed office in 2007. Hence, in the national and local election of May 2013, he received a fresh mandate – his last term – unopposed. Since then, he had been at the forefront of institutional, economic, social and political reforms in Cabadbaran City by invoking his mantra of people’s participation, transparency and accountability at all levels of local governance.