The town Bacarra was founded by the Augustians in 1590 (Medina, 1893 and Nieto, 1970). It is the third oldest town in Ilocos Norte. However, Bacarra was officially recognized as a municipality by the Spanish government in 1778.
The ministry of Bacarra was established by the Augustinians on June 26, 1591 under the patronage of San Andres Apostol (Foronda and Foronda, 1973), with Vintar, Pasuquin, Bangisan, Banbang, Adang and Bera as its visitas in the early part of its foundation (Foronda and Foronda, 1972). However, Bacarra, too, was a visita of Laoag by virtue of an order issued by the Augustinians on October 31, 1603. It again became an independent ministry in 1614.
In 1591, Bacarra was an encomienda, which belonged to Captain Castillo and Andres de Hermosa (Blair and Robertson, 1973).
Origin of its Name
The origin of the town’s name is uncertain. However, attempts to explain this matter are embodied in folk accounts, which are commonly known by the people and are even taught in school to the pupils. The most popular is the following folktale:
“One day, while some inhabitants were catching fish in the river, Spaniards who were then passing by asked them the name of the place. Because the fishermen could not understand them they thought they were asking them the name of the fish they had just caught. So, one of the fishermen answered, “Bacbacarra, Señor,” referring to the fish. From that time on, the place had been called Bacarra.
There are also those who theorize that the name of the town was derived from the term baca (cow). It is said that in the past, there were vast pasture lands in the locality where thousand of cows grazed.
Other point out that the early inhabitants of the place treasured rice baskets called bacar. Hence, they believe that the native name of the basket could be the term from which the name of Bacarra was derived.
These folk accounts, aside from trying to explain how the town got its name, also point out that the original work force of Bacarra consisted of fishermen, ranchers, farmers and weavers.
The early settlers of Bacarra were believed to be the Igorots. They occupied the bank of the river. Note the following folk account:
An Igorot named Baksa-Landok was attracted by the beauty of the Bacarra River when he went out hunting in the hills between Bacarra and Laoag. He settled north of the place. Because of the vast and rich natural resources of the place, Baksa-Landok became prosperous. When other Igorots noticed his prosperous and happy living, more of them occupied different parts of the riverbank. The west central part called Baranio was settled by one tribe and the central part called Parparia was occupied by another tribe and the other tribe established itself in the eastern part called Bira.
The infrastructure under the Roman Catholic Church were built through the leadership of different Augustinian priests. The massive church edifice and the convento were built by Father Felipe Fernandez and later restored by Father Juan Martin; the cemetery, by several Augustinians, particularly Father Juan Perez; and the massive fifty meter high bell tower, by Father Bergier (Nieto, 1970 and Pingol 1970). The Bacarra Bell Tower, which is now in its advanced stage of dilapidation because of the effects of strong earthquakes, serves not only as tourist attraction but also as historical landmark of the painful sacrifices of the ancestors of the Bacarreños who rendered forced labor under the Spanish conquerors.
Since 1778 to the present (1988) or a span of 210 years, Bacarra has been administered by 131 town executives, who were either appointed or elected as gobernadorcillos, capitanes municipal, presidentes and mayors.
Don Manuel Paras became the first town executive of Bacarra in 1778 while Don Marcelo Dacuycuy was the last town executive under the Spanish colonial rule. However, he continued as president in 1899 and was replaced by Don Andres Lazo under the American Civil Government. Don Torcuato Ver was the first mayor under the Commonwealth of the Philippines that was established in 1935. Meanwhile, Hon. Justo A. Pilar was the last mayor the Commonwealth government as well as the first mayor appointed under the Republic of the Philippines.
Atty. Felix A. Rivera who assumed office as mayor in 1948 was the first elected town mayor under the Republic of the Philippines. Hon. Leonardo A. Velasco served as mayor of Bacarra for about 20 years.
Hon. Philip C. Velasco was an OIC mayor in 1987. Hon. Jose Pilar who was elected in the local election on January 18,1988. Hon. Pacifico C. Velasco was elected in the local election on May 1992 and Hon. Philip Corpus Velasco was elected last May 2001.
The hardworking people of Bacarra are predominantly farmers. They raise a variety of crops throughout the year, both for subsistence and cash purposes. Rice, which is planted twice a year, is the principal crop on which the people spend much of their time and attention. Garlic, which is often referred to as “white gold”, is regarded as the most important cash crop.
Besides rice and garlic the people also produce native tobacco, corn, mongo, beans, camote, squash and onion. The people are engaged in fishing when they are not busy in their farm work.
A good number of people are professionals. Many professionals and non-professionals work abroad. In fact, Bacarra won the second prize in a nationwide contest as the home of many balikbayans.