THE HISTORY OF MERCEDES, CAMARINES NORTE

The first settlement in Mercedes was a small land now called Catandunganon. The early settlers were mostly sea going people who were forced to seek cover in the island when caught by unexpected strong winds while at sea. At first their stay was only temporary, the purpose being to wait better weather for navigation, until there came a time that they made the place their home. The name CATANDUNGANON was taken from CATANDUANES, said to be the original home of settlers. The people of Catandunganon, having became numerous, spread on to Barra proper being a coastal land, ports were established in Barra, foreign traders such as the Chinese and Arabs came to the ports, and intermarried with the inhabitants, thus making Barra a sort of meeting place not only for commerce but also for culture. When the Spaniards came, Barra like all the rest of Philippine territory come under the authority of the conquerors. Spanish sovereignty was extended to the Bicol Region by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, in accordance with the orders of the Spanish King. Barra which had become Mercedes during the Spanish Era continued serving as ports, this time for Spanish ships from Manila, Legazpi and other places. During those years the province of Ambos Camarines was often attacked by Chinese and Muslims pirates, and to protect the province; the Spaniards built fortifications in the barrio of Mercedes. These were massive and concrete walls, like those in “Intramuros” and within these walls were two cannons. We can say therefore, that Mercedes was a formidable line of defense from the seas. Spain’s sovereignty in the Philippines ended in 1898 with the coming of the Americans. American forces were sent to the different parts of the Philippines, including Mercedes. The province of Ambos Camarines was divided into two provinces: Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte. Mercedes became a part of Camarines Norte. Because of the prosperity of Mercedes, the residents felt the barrio more than qualified for the category of the town, so they sent a petition for the conversion of the barrio into a town. The movement was spearheaded by Benito Riel, Aurelio Villarico, Antonio Reyes, Teojenes Evalla and Lucio Saavedra. According to old residents the petition could have met approval had it not been for the opposition of some influential people in Daet. After several years, another petition was made, this time initiated by the Union Obrero Makabayan, a strong labor union in Mercedes, headed by Gabriel Briola and assisted by Eliseo Riel. This petition was sent through Representative Froilan Pimentel, then the favorite statesman of the country. Unfortunately, the petition was not acted upon favorably. World War II came, and after that, liberation. Mercedes remain a barrio. During the term of Congressman Eco, a movement to make Mercedes a town was once more initiated. This time, through the efforts of Congressman Eco, a bill Republic Act No.431 was passed making Mercedes a town. The bill was approved and signed by President Elpidio Quirino and Mercedes was inaugurated as a municipality on August 8, 1947. Alfredo de los Reyes and Agapito Zabala were appointed Mayor and Vice Mayor respectively and they started serving their position upon inauguration. In the 1950 elections, Gideon Reyes Evalla, a former teacher won, as Mayor and Onofre Sulit became the Vice Mayor. Other officials of the municipality then, were; Cipriano Villareal, Municipal Secretary; Atty. Generoso Obusan, Justice of the Peace; Catalino Cajan, Municipal Treasurer ; Santiago Boral, Chief of Police and Luisa Reyes, Postmaster. During the Spanish regime, Mercedes had no road leading to Daet. People had to travel on feet or ride on animals. People then built a narrow trail. When the Americans came they built a more or less concrete road reputedly the first asphalted road in the province. This improvement in land transportation helped in the progress of trade and commerce of the municipality. The people of Mercedes had been working in unity. The church of Mercedes is a living example of unity and cooperation of the inhabitants. The church was erected during the Spanish time and it had survived through the years and through the elements of nature. Construction of the church was started during the early part of Spanish occupation, upon the assumption of Antonio Reyes to the positions as barrio lieutenant. He sought the help of the prominent citizens, and his plea was met with enthusiasms. Among those who helped were wealthy residences, one of whom was Don Estanislao Moreno, an Spaniard. The church, when constructed has not yet procured an image of the patron saints because of the old image of San Antonio de Padua; being cared for by Doña Fermina Urbano remained in Catandunganon. It was only brought to Barra or Mercedes on June 05, the first day of the novena for then grand fiesta on June 13, to be returned after the fiesta. So to have an image for the newly constructed church, contributions were again sought for, until an amount was raised by 15 families, the pioneer residents of Mercedes. The amount was not enough, so Tenyente Antonio Reyes gave the additional amount of P 300.00 and commissioned Doña Agripina Pimentel to procure a big image of St. Anthony from Lucban, Quezon to be used in the procession. Then, Doña Fermina Urbano donated the original image to the church hence; there are two images of St. Anthony in Mercedes to date. During the Japanese occupation, the resistance of the people against the invaders was led by Placido Buenvenuto, an ex – PC Sergeant. When the Japanese came to Camarines Norte, the people of Mercedes evacuated and went to Manguisoc and Gaboc. When the Japanese found Mercedes deserted, they followed but failed to reach the barrios because of the stiff resistance of Buenvenuto and his men. The Japanese wanted to get to Manguisoc and Gaboc to take a certain Mr. Aiton, an American civilian hiding there. When repeatedly repulsed, they launched a massive offensive with a small cannon and heavily armed infantry. The Japanese captured Mr. Aiton. Buenvenuto and his men escaped to Siruma and the people of Mercedes were forced to go back to the town when Japanese burned the barrio to the ground. Researched by: Ms. Erlinda R. Tychingco Atty. Nelia S. Aureus Sources: National Archives and the Old Folks of Mercedes
  • Gideon R. Evalla
  • Onofre Sulit
  • Felisa dela Cruz
  • Luisa Reyes