Nueva Vizcaya Province lies within the heart of Northern Luzon. It is one of the five provinces of Region 2 known as Cagayan Valley. It is geographically located at the Southernmost part of the Region. The province of Ifugao and Isabela bound it on the north and northeast, on the east and southeast by Quirino and Aurora, respectively, on the south by Nueva Ecija and on the west by Benguet and Pangasinan. The province is actually bounded by three mountain ranges covered with forest and grasslands, namely the Sierra Madre on the east, the Cordillera on the west and the Caraballo on the south. The province is 287.0 kilometers north of Metro Manila.
The province was named after the people living in the coast of Mar de Vizcaine in Spain, was a part of the vast “Territorio de Missionares” of the Spanish controlled government of Cagayan. The territory covered the eastern half of Northern Luzon, from Nueva Ecija to Aparri, including the Batanes Islands.
On May 24, 1839, Governor-General Luis Lardizabal, upon the advice of the Alcalde Mayor of Cagayan, issued an order making Nueva Vizcaya a separate politico-military province. The King of Spain through a royal decree approved the order on April 10, 1841. Governor Pedro Menchaca was the first appointed politico-military governor of the new province. However, the Spanish sovereignty ceased upon the arrival of the Philippine revolutionary forces in Bayombong on August 1898.
The province had its first taste of civil government in 1902 when the Philippine Commission organized it. The present territory of Nueva Vizcaya was a result of the changes emanating from the formal creation of the province of Isabela in May 1865, wherein a great portion of its northern territory was ceded to the newly born province. The organization of the Ifugao Province in 1908 further reduced the area of Nueva Vizcaya. The survey executed by the Bureau of Lands and the enactment of the Administrative Code in 1914 and 1917 respectively retrenched the province’s scope. In addition, the Republic Act No. 6394 in 1971 made Quirino a regular province further reducing the territory of the province.
Since its birth as a province, its history could still be reflected from the culture and customs of the early settlers, i.e., Ilongots, Igorots, Ifugaos, Isinais and the Gaddangs. The influx of civilization and the infusion of modern technology to the life stream of the province induced many settlers from adjacent provinces primarily the Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Pangasinenses and the Kapampangans to migrate here.
Ilocano immigration into Nueva Vizcaya during the last fifty years has significantly altered the ethnolinguistic makeup of the province. More than 60% of the people are Ilocanos, while Ifugaos, Ibalois, Gaddangs, Isinais, Ikalahans and Ilongots comprise the greater part of the remaining population. Most of the population is concentrated in the narrow Magat River Valley region, along the main highway that runs through the province. Ilocano is the lingua franca, although English and Filipino are widely spoken.
The Isinais and the Gaddangs used to predominate in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. Both groups have been acculturated into the main body of lowland Christian culture and are thoroughly bilingual in Ilocano. The Isinais are found in the municipalities of Bambang, Aritao and Dupax Sur. The Gaddangs are found in the towns of Bagabag, Solano and Bayombong. Both groups are lowland agriculturists.
The Ikalahans are an Igorot people inhabiting the highlands of Imugan and Kayapa in the southwestern part of the province. The Ikalahans plant taro and sweet potato in low terraced fields along the river valley plains. Their traditional belief system involves ritual sacrifices and prestige feasts, although many members of this community have been converted to Christianity. Baskets and brooms are made by the Ikalahans in the vicinity of Imugan and are sold in the markets of Santa Fe.
The mission churches of Nueva Vizcaya are hidden jewels of the centuries of painstaking evangelical work of Spanish friars. The churches of Bayombong and Dupax are rustic yet durable reminders of this difficult mission work. During the first week of August, Bayombong celebrates its town fiesta, which culminates in the sumbali, a street dance where participants blacken themselves to resemble Negritos.
Today, Nueva Vizcaya stands strong and is proudly transforming into a fast developing province with its fifteen municipalities, viz: Alfonso Castañeda, Ambaguio, Aritao, Bagabag, Bambang, Bayombong, Diadi, Dupax del Sur, Dupax del Norte, Kayapa, Kasibu, Quezon, Solano, Sta. Fe and Villaverde.