The Lost Province of Nueva Cuenca
It is said that the Philippine history we read today is not the complete picture. In fact, some say that Philippine history is simply Manila history, which in a way is true, since it leaves out many events that happened in the other parts of the country, Pampanga included. It is in fact just the tip of the iceberg. And many say that once those old records in National Archives and even overseas, are thoroughly analyzed, Philippine history will most definitely change.
While Prof. Lino Dizon and I were looking at the newly aquired materials form the National Archives, we were able to chance upon a copy of a 19th century map of Central Luzon. It was actually a proposal to redraw the different provincial boundaries.
The province of Nueva Ecija, with its capital in Cabanatuan, was basically going to be divided into two provinces and two districts. The southwestern part of Nueva Ecija, together with parts of Pampanga and Bulacan, was going to be part of of a new province that would retain the name Nueva Ecija. The capital of this new Nueva Ecija would be San Isidro. Looking at the map, this new province was supposed to contain San Miguel de Mayumu and a large part of the Candaba Swamp area, among others.
While the northwestern part of Nueva Ecija, together with parts of Pampanga and Pangasinan, was going to be constituted into another new province, with its capital in Rosales. This province was supposed to be called Nueva Cuenca, and included among others, the towns of Paniqui, Barug (now Gerona), Cuyapo, Guimba, Muņoz, San Jose, Puncan, Lugsit, Umingan and Tayug.
The Pacific coast of Nueva Ecija was going to be divided into two distrcits. The northeastern district would have its capital in Casiguran, and would annex parts of the province of Nueva Viscaya.
The southeastern district would have its capital in Binangonan de Lampon (now Infanta) and would annex parts of the province of La Laguna, which at that time, stretched as far north as Bulacan and as far east as the Pacific Ocean.
In 1701, Spanish Governor-General Fausto Cruzar created the Commandancia Politico-Militar of Nueva Ecija out of the provinces of Pampanga and Kalilaya (later renamed Tayabas in 1749), naming it after his hometown of Ecija in Seville, Spain. Nueva Ecija remained under the jusrisdiction of the province of Pampanga.
Migration was encouraged due to the small population of the province. Those who migrated included the Ilocanos, Pangasinenses and Tagalogs. If there were Kapampangans in the province of Nueva Ecija when the Spaniards arrived, they slowly disappeared due to the influx of Tagalogs, explaning why Tagalog is the main language spoken in Nueva Ecija.
More towns were annexed to this new province in 1818, which included Palanan, as well as Baler, Casiguran, Binangonan de Tampon and Polilio from Tayabas. In 1848, Pampanga ceded the towns of Aliaga, Cabiao, Gapan, San Antonio and San Isidro to Nueva Ecija, to increase the population of the province.
With this overview, we now return to the proposed division of Nueva Ecija. Of the four new divisions planned, only two would materialize. The province of Nueva Ecija would remain intact until the arrival of the Americans who moved several towns to the province of Pangasinan. The northeastern district would later become the Commandancia Politico-Militar of El Principe, the present day Aurora province, created by Governor Manuel Crespo y Cebrian in 1856, with its capital in Baler. It would remain under the jurisdiction of Nueva Ecija until 1902. While the southeastern district would later became the province of Infanta, with its capital Binangonan being renamed Infanta.
Nueva Cuenca would never materialize. In its place, the Commandancia Politico-Militar of Tarlac was created in 1860, which included the Kapampangan towns of Bamban, Capas, Concepcion, Victoria, Tarlac, Mabalacat, Magalang, Porac and Floridablanca. In 1873, the last four towns mentioned were returned to Pampanga. The next year, Tarlac was made into a separate province with towns from Pampanga and Pangasinan.
If this reshuffle happened, we would have had another province on the island of Luzon named after a Spanish city. There would have been Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, and then Nueva Cuenca, right beside each other. However, Nueva Cuenca will simply remain a province lost in the drawing boards.
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above column was published in Sun*Star Pampanga.