History and Government
Bontoc first came into prominence when it was made the headquarters of Commandancia Politico-Militar de Bontoc subordinate to the Politico Militar District of Lepanto in January 1857. A Royal Order issued on June 24, 1858 created the District of Bontoc as a military command independent of Lepanto. The District of Bontoc was one of ten politico-militar commandancias established in the Cordillera between 1847 to 1891. Since its establishment in 1857 to the withdrawal of its last commandant, Commander Xandaro in 1898, the Bontoc-based military command led or participated in at least ten punitive expeditions against Igorot villages unwilling to pay tribute and become vassals of Spain.
The town called Bontoc did not come into existence until 1887, when it was established as the capital town of the district of the same name. Despite its superiority in arms, the garrison in Bontoc was the target of attacks launched by defiant Igorots wanting to maintain their independence and freedom. On May 9,1881, the villagers of Bontoc staged an uprising in reply to Gov. Gen. Primo de Rivera’s ultimatum to all independent tribes to submit to Spain before April 1 of the same year. The Bontoc warriors, armed with only spears, head axes, and shields attacked the garrison, killing nine soldiers and wounding many more. After setting fire to the buildings, the warriors fled to the mountains with enemy heads and other spoils to celebrate their victory despite the loss of some 70 of their own men. A bigger uprising in protest of new tribute regulations was aborted in December 1884 by the commandancia using paid spies among the Bontocs themselves. Finally, on September 3, 1898, the Bontoc garrison which became a refuge for many Spanish troops and missionaries retreating from the Americans that defeated the Spanish forces in Manila earlier, was taken over by the Bontocs aided by the revolutionary troops of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, who himself was seeking refuge in the Cordillera from the American troops. He was able to escape through Bontoc and Ifugao and to the Cagayan Valley and then to Palanan in the Sierra Madre mountains where he established his quarters.
The Philippine forces did not taste the fruit of their long struggle against Spanish rule, and the Philippine Revolutionary Government proclaimed by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898 was shortlived. The Americans immediately set up a military government in the archipelago, and American troops occupied the Cordillera in pursuit of Aguinaldo and his followers. The districts of Bontoc and Lepanto were constituted into one province with Cervantes as the capital. After the establishment of a civil government following Aguinaldo’s capture on March 23, 1901, the Lepanto-Bontoc province was divided into three sub-provinces, namely: Bontoc, Lepanto and Amburayan, each having its own governor. Finally, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 1870 in 1920 organizing the Mountain Province. This new province consisted of seven municipalities which were originally military commandancias during the Spanish regime, with the town of Bontoc chosen as its capital.
Bontoc was occupied by the Japanese invading forces in June 1942 up to the end of the war in 1945. During the Japanese occupation, Dr. Hillary Clapp was appointed governor of the province. Bontoc suffered heavily during the retaking of the Philippines by the Americans in 1945. It took the Philippine Republic a lot to rehabilitate the town after the war. In the succeeding years, the town recovered fully and grew to a first class town as a result of its being the center of the provincial government. However, the town slid back to fifth class after the division of the old Mountain Province into four separate provinces in 1966 pursuant to Republic Act No. 465, namely: Kalinga Apayao, Mountain Province, Benguet and Ifugao. The sub-province of Bontoc took the name of the old province and retained Bontoc as its capital town. The poblacion retained the provincial government buildings but lost many government employees who provided income to the business establishments.
The poblacion suffered three big fires which razed many residential and commercial buildings in 1965, 1968 and on November 7, 1981. Last June 18, 1984, the Mountain Province College was also burned down.
People who headed the municipality were appointed: president Olean Angagka (1918-1920), elected presidents: Frederick Kiat-ong and Sumeg-ang Yedyed from 1921 to 1923 and 1924 to 1925, respectively. Anitor Lafasni was appointed president for 1926 when Lafasni resigned from the position. From year 1927 to 1929, Abraham Falao was elected as president then elected as district municipal mayor from 1930 to 1932 and was succeeded by the elected district municipal mayors Agapito Dacyon (1933-1935) and Martin Cofulan (1936-1938). Abraham Falao again elected as the district municipal mayor from 1939 to 1941, and Ama Yawan and Titeles Calsiman were appointed marshals and at the same time district municipal mayors for 1945 and 1946, respectively. The elected district municipal mayors were the following: Ama Chaking (1947-1949), Thomas Falancy (1953) and Alejandro Changat (1954). When Alejandro Changat resigned as district municipal mayor, Martin Cofulan (1955) was appointed to take charge. Succeeding municipal mayors were Pio Felwa (1955-1963), Henry Gomez (1964-1967), Alfonso Kiat-ong (1968-1980) was elected for two terms then Julius Claver, Jr. (1980-1988). In 1988, John Diaz was elected as municipal mayor followed by David Yawan from 1992 to 1998. The present mayor is Alfonso Kiat-ong who won the 1998 elections.
The municipality’s sixteen barangays are: Alab Oriente, Alab Proper , Balili, Bayyo, Bontoc III, Caluttit, Caneo, Dalican, Gonogon, Guina-ang, Mainit, Maligcong, Poblacion, Samoki, Talubin and Tocucan.
Bontoc has a total land area of about 39,610 hectares occupying some 17.28% of the total land area of the province. It is located at the heart of the province along the Cordillera ranges with coordinates at 17 - 25 degrees latitude and 120-18 degrees longitude.
The municipality is bounded on the north by Sadanga, northeast by Tinglayan, Kalinga, east by Barlig, south by Banaue, Ifugao and Sabangan, west by Sagada and northwest by Tubo, Abra.
The existing land uses are: agricultural lands with 9,124 hectares or 23.04% of the total land area; grassland/shrubland/open lands with an area of 6,259 hectares or 15.80%; wooden area occupy 21,119 hectares or 53.31% and 3,108 hectares or 7.85 % are of miscellaneous uses such as built-up areas and river wash.
As to land classification, 2,498 hectares are classified as alienable and disposable while 37,112 are forest lands.
Bontoc had a total population of 17,214 per actual survey of its Rural Health Unit in 1995 of which, 8,584 are males and 8,622 are females. In the same year, there was a total of 3.663 households and 3,883 families. The average household size is 4.5
Agriculture, being the main source of income and livelihood of the people, is allotted an area of about 8,700 has. or 21.96% of the total land area of the municipality. Only 2,400 has. (27.95%) are irrigated, 4,300 has. (49.42%) are unirrigated and 2,000 has. (22.9%) still to be irrigated.
The main crop planted in irrigated areas is rice, camote, gabi and vegetables planted alternately with rice. The unirrigated areas are planted with fruit trees, root crops like camote and cassava, legumes, corn, millet and other grains.
Two rice croppings are being practiced. The first cropping is from March to August while the second cropping is from September to January.
Tourist Attractions and Places of Interest
By: DILG-CAR, Copyright 1999
Vol. I - Local Government Units