Agoo, La Union
Agoo was founded in 1578 by Juan de Salcedo when two Franciscan missionaries. Fray Juan Bautista Lucarelli and Fray Sebastian de Baeza arrived to start evangelization. It was once a part of Pangasinan. When La Union was created in 1850, Agoo was one of the twelve original towns. The town’s introduction to Christianity was signaled by the establishment of nipa and bamboo church in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. It was believed that the first settlement was situated in the present Nagrebcan. They administered their religious and political affairs until 1591 when the order retired from the province.
The two made Agoo their headquarters and center of the general campaign for the conquest of more souls in the surrounding areas. They formally erected and proclaimed Agoo as a civic unit. Agoo was named after the river along whose banks it was built, which at that time was a forest of pine-like trees locally called “agoo” or “aroo”. The town also became the center of pacification and conquest of the mountain tribes in the Cordilleras.
It was note worthy that Agoo was founded against the rule. Fr. Felix Huerta, Franciscan historian, pointed out that the Philippines, no town was founded before 1580, only cities and villas. The reason for the exemption was not only to the number of converts but also to the compactness of the settlement, so that the problem of preaching and protecting the people speeded up the formal erection of the place into a municipality. Another reason could have been the fact that Agoo was an international port and that it was encomienda reserved for the King.
When the Augustinian left Agoo in 1591, the Dominicans took their place in 1598 as the town’s political and religious leaders. The coming of the Augustinians had to withdraw due to a conflict between their superiors and the governor-general in Manila. Because of this, there was a full in the discharge of pastoral ministry in Agoo.
In 1971, Governor Feliz Berenguer de Marquina ordered the reinstatement of the Augustinians until the secular clergy took over in 1898.
It was the Augustinians who began the education and Christianization of the people of Agoo by the establishing a primary school where Catholicism was taught. The people were also taught the art of making bricks, lime, brick-laying, stone- quarrying for the construction of churches and public buildings and bridges. “Moro-moro” and the singing of “pasyon” were also introduced to the people.
The Augustinians planned the streets, the location of public buildings the roads going to the neighboring towns.
Foremost of their construction was the erection of a church after the transfer of the town center. It was constructed by Fr. Satornino Franco while a three layered belfry was made by Fr. Casiniro Melgosa and Fr. Aguiliano Garcia. By the end of the 15th century, the image of Nuestra Señora de Caridad (Our Lady of Charity) was installed in the church.
Agoo also had its share of tribulations during the Japanese occupation. Japanese forces burned part of Macalva and massacred 17 innocent civilians under the Prinsipe bridge. They were accused of being sympathizers of the underground movement.
The liberation of the country signaled the development of this town. Constantino Verceles became the first elected mayor after the war. Together with Representative Manuel Cases, they stirred the town’s development. Through the sponsorship of Cases, the Masalip Irrigation System was established.
Agoo is now a picture of economic, religious, cultural and political development. The town is now an educational center in this part of the province. Agoo has one state university (Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University), two national high schools (President Elpidio Quirino National High School, San Manuel National High School), one private college (Congress College), two private technical schools (PAMETS and Agoo Computer School) and four privately-owned high schools (Agoo Academy, Saint Mary’s Academy, Agoo Kiddie Special School and Agoo Montessori Learning Center) and Eighteen Public Elementary Schools. This was further boosted by the establishment of day care centers in almost all barangays by the establishment of day care centers in almost all barangays of the town.
On the economic side, the municipality was elevated from third to a second class status.
One of the illustrious sons of this town is the late Jose D. Aspiras who was elected to the Philippine Congress in 1969. He also served as Minister of Tourism and Information Secretary during the time of President Marcos. Before he died in November 14, 1999, Aspiras was resident representative and managing director, with the rank of ambassador of the Manila Economic Cultural based in Taiwan.
The 16th century Agoo Parish Church, restored and refurbished (spearheaded by the late Minister Jose Aspiras) has been elevated to the rank of Basilica Minore by Pope John Paul II in 1981, one of the very few in the country today.