La Trinidad, Benguet

La Trinidad CityLa Trinidad is the capital town of the province of Benguet. The municipality is located 3 kilometers north of Baguio City and is 256 kilometers north of Manila. It is bounded on the north by the municipality of Tublay, on the south by Baguio, and on the west by Sablan and Tuba. Major industries include agriculture, trading and tourism making La Trinidad a first class municipality. Generally mountainous, with a vast and fertile valley, La Trinidad grows high value crops like vegetables, cut flowers and strawberries. La Trinidad has its own interesting contributions to the colorful history of Benguet and the rest of Cordillera. The very name “Benguet” was once the name of limited area of what is now the La Trinidad Valley which in the course of time became the name of a larger territory and what is at present the Benguet Province. At a certain time in early history, La Trinidad was relatively the most developed settlement in the Benguet area. In a way, it was the gateway from the southern lowlands into the mountain region. Due to its relatively more advanced development, La Trinidad served as capital of the administrative territory of Benguet during the Spanish era, the short lived Philippine Revolutionary government and the early period of American rule.

Recorded history about La Trinidad begins with Don Q. M. Quirante, one of the early Spanish explorers who ventured into the mountain region to search and obtain the precious metal of the Igorots. In 1624, Don Quirante who started up the Amburayan River came to what is now La Trinidad and found a large and prosperous community thriving around a lake. The lake was in the middle of what is now La Trinidad and on account of the people inhabiting its surroundings called the place “Benguet”.

When La Trinidad was reached by Quirante, the principal vegetable of the people then consisted of camoteng cahoy (cassava), camote (sweet potato), gabi, beans, and tomatoes. Rice was raised only to make wine (“tapey”) used at cañaos. Rice was not yet the staple food of the Igorots then.

After several military expeditions in the early 19th century, Commandante Don Guillermo Galvez pacified the Ibalois for sometime and in 1846 he returned to La Trinidad, adopted friendly policy and gave gifts. The people accepted him and he was able to establish the province of Benguet composed of 31 “rancherias” with the “commandancia” at La Trinidad which he named in honor of his wife (the commandancia was at Puguis). The first capitan of Benguet was Pulito of Kafagway (now Baguio City) which was then a minor rancheria of about 20 houses. Among other items, the Spaniards brought in corn, coffee and good tobacco.

Numerous other Spanish commanders succeeded Don Galvez who built trails and started schools and churches. Some commanders were kind but the general picture was forced labor, beatings, cruelties, and exorbitant taxation.

Consequently, the Igorots were of similar sentiments with other Filipino ethnic groups towards the Spaniards such that the general insurrection of 1896 against the Spaniards spread to Benguet. In the midyear of 1899, the Katipunan came to Benguet. The Katipunan united the Igorots who looted and burned the Spanish buildings at the commandancia and established Benguet Province under the government of the Republic of the Philippines. In La Trinidad, Miguel Picarte was appointed president. The terms of these local officials were however shortlived for early in 1900 the Americans came. Don Juan Cariño and his officials retreated but later surrendered in May 1900 to Captain Robert R. Rudd of the 48th Infantry U.S.V. Rudd established his headquarters at the old convent. Clemente Laoyan was made president of La Trinidad.

Later in 1901, H.P. Whitmarsh who was appointed civil governor of Benguet moved the capital of Benguet from La Trinidad to Baguio. La Trinidad was made the capital town again in 1909. This was the first provincial civil government to be established anywhere in the Philippines under the American auspices.

The Japanese bombed Camp John Hay on December 8, 1941. On that day and days afterwards, there was chaos and fear in La Trinidad. On October 6, 1942, the merciless execution of four Igorots and one Ilocano triggered the guerilla movement. Numerous Japanese were ambushed and killed. As Japanese atrocities increased through the years, guerilla activities intensified. The liberation of La Trinidad occurred on May 4, 1945 when the joint forces of the Americans and the 66th infantry, USAFFE entered the valley after a brief battle. La Trinidad after the war was devastated.

Reconstruction efforts started immediately after the war. Cipriano Abalos became the first municipal mayor in 1946. On June 16, 1950, La Trinidad was converted from a municipal district of the sub-province of Benguet into a regular municipality by the implementation of Republic Act No. 531. On June 18, 1966, La Trinidad was made the capital town of the province of Benguet pursuant to Republic Act No. 4695 sponsored by Congressman Andres Cosalan, Sr.

During the 1980’s, La Trinidad became one of the leading vegetable-producing municipalities in the entire country. This earned for it the distinction as “The Salad Bowl of the Philippines”. Toward the end of the decade, farmers began to shift from vegetable production to strawberry and cutflower production. To this day, La Trinidad is recognized as “The Strawberry Fields of the Philippines”.

After the term of Cipriano Abalos, Hilarion Pawid was mayor from 1980-1986. Pawid was succeeded by Edna Tabanda, who held the position from 1988-1998. At present, the municipality is being headed by Mayor Nestor Fongwan.

La Trinidad has at present 16 barangays, the largest in the province, namely: Alapang, Alno, Ambiong, Bahong, Balili, Beckel, Betag, Bineng, Cruz, Lubas, Pico, Poblacion, Puguis, Shilan, Tawang and Wangal.

The municipality has several radial-circumferential roads that branch out to provide access to interior barangays and sitios most of which are tire-path roads, generally not feasible for commercial traffic. Several public utility vehicles ply around the urban core, majority of which, are public utility jeeps (PUJs). A few taxicabs ply the areas less served by the jeeps while neither buses nor mini-buses ply in the area, except for those buses that pass through the Baguio-Bontoc national road leading to the northern towns of Benguet

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