This year, Argao, Cebu, celebrates its 400th anniversary as a pueblo. For a while many people have always been unsure of the exact year of Argao's founding. If the town was founded in 1608, why was it only made into a parish in 1733?
It is unfortunate that the earliest towns established by the Spaniards do not have any record left pertaining to their foundation. However, Argao's celebration of its 400th anniversary is right on track. It was indeed established as a pueblo, or a town, in 1608, but was also settled by people long before the Spaniards came. Archaeological finds in the municipality indicate that the town was already settled as early as 500 A.D.
We know for a fact, based on the writings of early Spanish missionaries, that the early Argawanons, like the early Cebuanos, had a flourishing civilization. Early Spanish observers believed that Cebuanos, Argawanons included, were mostly of the Indo-Malay stock; many wrote that the inhabitants of Cebu, Bohol, and Negros were most probably from the Islands of Macasar (which is now Makassar, a city in central Indonesia and the capital of the Sulawesi Selantan Province, in the southwestern portion of the island of Sulawesi (Celebes), on the Makassar Strait) or from Borneo as they were much closer to them and not far from the Moluccas and in ancient times they had better relations and communications with them.
They traded with their Asian neighbors. Many of the pottery and jewelry found in grave sites around Argao came from the Chinese and the Borneans.
Based on the observations of the missionaries, the early Argawanons were more corpulent than the Tagalogs. They had flat noses and round faces, and looked much like the Chinese and the Japanese. Everyone wore earrings, and children of both sexes from age one or two had their ears pierced.
All men wore bahag, while women wore skirts. The members of the datu class wore their skirts below the knees, while the slaves wore theirs above the knees. They liked to wear ornaments. They buried their dead together with priced possessions like beads and gold.
The early settlements in what is now Argao were scattered and few. In fact, only the barangays of Tulang, Mompeller, Taloot, Bulasa, Bogo, Talaga, Canbantug, Mandalikit, Panadtaran, Capio-an, Colawin, and Lengigon have shown signs of settlements from way before Spanish colonization.
The earliest reference of Argao is on November 3, 1571, when it was assigned to Hernando de Monroy to be part of his encomienda. It became a vicaria, or a vice-parish (an area similar to a parish in size but not yet advanced in its development sufficiently to be elevated to the position of a parish), of Carcar in 1599 and then established as a pueblo in 1608. It, however, remained a visita of Carcar because the town was deserted of people and there were only about eight to ten households in the cabecera or poblacion. Sometimes, the town's population swelled in number, and then the next few years would again see its population drop. This means that, as one of Carcar's visitas, the priests in Carcar would visit Argao from time to time to administer religious ceremonies.
In 1733 the principales of Carcar demanded that the priest the Father Provincial had assigned to Argao be returned to Carcar as it was older and Argao was just a visita. With the recall of the priest stationed in Argao, there seemed to be only one solution to solve this problem. So, on October 16, 1733 the Church of Argao was officially founded with St. Michael the Archangel as its patron saint and administered by the Augustinians.
This year, Argao is already 400 years old from its establishment as a pueblo or town in 1608. It is already 437 years old from the time it became part of Monroy's encomienda in 1571. It is 409 years old since it became a vicaria in 1599. And it is already 275 years old since it became a parish in 1733.
This article is part of the Argao 400 Genealogy Project.