HISTORY OF BISLIG
Bislig, in the annals of Philippine historical heritage is rich in her recorded past dating back since the dawn of civilization in this part of Mindanao. It has had its rich, turbulent and bloody, but dynamic transition that had eventually led to its present social, economic, physical and political structure.
The legendary allusions as to how Bislig got its name dates back to the era prior to the coming of the Spanish conquistadors. The town got its name from a forest vine of the rattan family that grew in abundance along the banks of its rivers. This vine was noted for its strength and became known for saving a royal couple who crossed the swollen river in one of their hunting expeditions and who almost died as they were carried downstream by the rushing current. The legend has it that these hunters had already lost hope of surviving until they were able to cling to a vine which was about ¼” in diameter called “Bislig”. As a sign of thanksgiving, the ruler named this place Bislig.
The first inhabitants of Bislig were believed to have come from the Agusan valley in the hinterlands of Mindanao beyond the Magdiwata mountains. These people used spears, bows and arrows and lived a semi-nomadic life and were called “Manobos”.
They were ruled during the later part of the seventeenth century by a native leader called “Bagani”, meaning a formidable leader. They were very brave, tough and war-like. They also introduced edible crops such as rice, corn and rootcrops to the area.
At the turn of the century, Spanish colonizers and missionaries imposed the rule of Spain and brought with them Tagalogs, Ilongos and Visayans from the north as members of their expeditionary forces.
Long before it came a town on January 1, 1921 per Executive Order No. 62 issued by Governor General Francis Burton Harrison on December 28, 1920 with Primitivo Castillo as its first Municipal President, Bislig was already an established political instrumentality or “Pueblo” in the province of Surigao (now Surigao del sur and Surigao del norte). Earlier, the province was a part of an even bigger territory stretching from northeastern Mindanao down to the island’s southeastern pueblo of Caraga and Man-ay in Davao Oriental. Caraga was originally the seat of of political, military and religious authority. But as the territory extended westward to the Agusan valley at Veruela and Talacogon, Bislig became somewhat a new “Capital” for the rulers of the region. The “Casa Real” had to be built after years of forced labor. A church symbolizing religious authority was also built and the “Politico-Militar” was established. At the time, a dual government existed- that of the crown and that of the church.
The 1938 elections under the Commonwealth Act ended the title of the Municipal President accorded to a town executive when Mr. Domingo Moncayo became the first elected Municipal Mayor of Bislig. In 1948, the town’s population rose to 5,019. By 1960, after a span of 12 years, the population increased to 16, 409. This almost trebled in the 1970’s when the population size leaped to 68,345 in 1977. As of June 30, 1990, Bislig had a total population of 103, 510.
As an offshoot of the disturbingly rapid population growth, the once anemic socio-economic activity rose to a feverish height that involve the neighboring municipalities, provinces and cities. Bislig’s political activity later became heightened in the fifties and the sixties as a result of the vested interest of certain groups.
It was this political struggle that made Bislig rise from its P3,000 annual income in 1921 to a staggering P40.44 M in 1994. This socio-economic growth was brought about by the establishment of major industries in the locality, such as the Bislig Bay Lumber Company, Inc. (BBLCI) in October, 1950 and its sister company, the Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines, Inc. (PICOP) less than 2 decades later. These 2 companies were merged in 1970 to become the largest papermill in Asia. This was renamed the Picop Resources, Inc. (PRI) in 1994. The PNOC Coal Mining Operations which began in 1981 and which is presently undertaken under contract agreements by the David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) has added favorable economic activity to the locality. The presence of these giant industries in the municipality has definitely brought about rapid economic progress to the community and has introduced Bislig’s name in the industrial centers of the world.