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Historical Background


The town of Bacnotan was formally founded in 1599 as a part of Ilocos Sur. In 1785, during the administration of the Governor – General Jose Basco, Bacnotan become a part of Pangasinan. When La Union was created in 1850, Bacnotan was one of the 12 towns that formed the province.

In the past, Bacnotan was only a vast expanse of Wilderness inhabited by a band of natives with a crude form of government. There was a time when it was ruled by a despotic chieftain who had absolute control over all his constituents. Disobedience to his directives meant severe flogging of the culprit. After several years under the tyrannic rule of the chieftain, the people successfully overthrew him and gave him a dose of his own medicine. They flogged their chieftain to death. The English word “flog” is bakunutan in the dialect. The word “bakunutan” had become a byword among the inhabitants, hence the name of the town.

During the Spanish period, the name of the town was changed from “Bakunutan” to “Bacnotan” as evidenced by the communications where which are still kept intact at the National Archives, Manila.

The town’s history is linked with the deeds of heroic men who fought blood and died for their own native land. At the turn of the century, during the Spanish- American war, Dumarang (now Quirino) was scene of carnage and plunder. Quirino is now the site of the Bacnotan Cement Corporation (BCC).

In December 1941, the first organized residence against the Japanese invaders that landed in north in their advance southward to Manila was Barrio Baroro and Bacsil. It was a painful and pitiful sight for the inexperienced trainees in their early twenties to be massacred by the Japanese soldiers. Despite the superiority of the Japanese soldier both in numbers and in arms and ammunition, the youthful soldier valiantly defended the Baroro Bridge against the advancing enemy forces. Those who fell died a hero’s death.

The civilian populace suffered much among the Japanese occupation but they never vowed their heads to the arrogant and ruthless invaders. Instead, some of them fled to the mountain and there, joined the underground movement.

After the war in 1945, Bacnotan became the provisional seat of provincial government, San Fernando was then in ruins. As a consequence of this transfer, the La Union High School was also moved to Bacnotan. When things went back to normal, the provincial government was again moved to San Fernando and the La Union School followed afterwards. The transfer of the Provincial High School in Bacnotan resulted in the establishment of the North Provincial High School (now Bacnotan National High School).

In 1949, the vast mineral deposits for cement production were discovered in Barangay Dumarang, now Quirino. Within a year, a huge cement factory, then called CEBU PORTLAND CEMENT (CEPOC) was established. On May 11, 1957, the CEPOC, a government-owned corporation, was turned over to the privately-owned Bacnotan Consolidated, Inc. (BCI). The BCI is the manufacturer of the now famous “Union Cement”. (now HOLCIM CEMENT INC.)

On June 18, 1960, by virtue of RA 2692 which was sponsored by then Congressman Francisco Ortega, the La Union Agricultural School was established. Nestling cozily at the foot of the mountains in Barangay Sapilang, the agriculture school underwent phenomenal progress and was later named Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU).

In 1965, an attempt was made by the Provincial Board of La Union to create a municipality out of the town of Bacnotan. The President of the Philippines, Diosdado Macapagal in turn acted favorably to proposal by issuing an executive order on November 29, 1965 which provided that the new municipality was to exist upon the appointment of a mayor, a vice-mayor and councilors. The new municipality was to include the following barrios: Quirino, Ballogo, Ubbog, Paagan, Carcarmay, Nagatiran, Mabanengbeng 2nd and Narra. The seat of the Government was to be in Quirino. However, no appointment of a municipality was created.

Having survived a possible reduction of territory, Bacnotan has emerged as a peaceful and progressive town. It has since then been the site of multi-million peso projects, namely, the Water Impounding Project in Barangay Bussaoit, the Sow Breeding Project in Baroro, the Agro-Forestry Complex donated by the Japanese Government at DMMMSU, Sapilang and the multi-billion cement plant expansion and the proposed Regional Industrial Center.

At present, Bacnotan is a 1st class municipality composed of 47 barangays.