In the early part of 16th century, an Aeta known as Agalet founded Bayambang. Agalet organized his own tribe by forming small villages. The town was first located in what is now Barangay Inirangan and Barangay Hermosa. It was later moved to what is now Barangay Telbang, a part of southern Poblacion just at the back of the old Spanish Catholic Cemetery.
Accounts claim that the town got its name from a plant called colibangbang, which grew in abundance in the place, especially in the hilly portions of the southern part.
Before it became Bayambang, however, it was first known as Malunguey when it was still a thriving settlement on the banks of Agno River. Being the place where the river drains made Bayambang’s plains fertile, attracting farmers from the Ilocos region and traders from around the coastal areas of Pangasinan. This eventually evolved into a community that today relies heavily on the production of rice, corn, onion and freshwater catch for a living.
The place became a Spanish pueblo and was granted political recognition by the Spanish government in 1614. During the Spanish conquest, “Bayambang became a center of colonial exploitation,” to quote a historian. “In 1892, the Manila-Dagupan railroad opened and paved the way for commercial progress in this town. Railroad stations were established in many of its barrios…, increasing the cultivation and production of rice and sugar. Many bodegas and sugar and rice mills were established along the railroad stations, among which were the English tradehouse Smith, Bell and Co., and companies owned by the Yuchengcos, Estradas and Galvans.”
Bayambang used to have a big territorial coverage. It included the municipalities of Bautista, Alcala, Sto. Tomas, and Rosales of the province of Pangasinan and the municipalities of Paniqui, Gerona and Camiling of the province of Tarlac.
It was in Bayambang where the first Juez de Cuchillo sowed horror in 1897, during which many of the prominent men in the town were summarily executed and several houses razed.
In November 1899, President Emilio Aguinaldo declared Bayambang the 5th capital of the Philippines, the final seat of the short-lived First Philippine Republic. During that tumultuous time, the lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem was written by Jose Palma in Bautista. On Bayambang grounds walked the likes of Gen. Antonio Luna and Gen. Gregorio del Pilar.
“The Bayambang railroad station served as the publishing house of the newspaper La Independencia, whose editor was Antonio Luna and among whose staff included Rosa Sevilla, Cecilio Apostol and Jose Palma.”
Our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, had for a number of times visited the town of Camiling because of his love for Leonor Rivera, and every time he paid visit in Camiling, he used the route traversing Bayambang.
The town became the first pilot town in the Far East for the famed UNESCO National Community Training Center, making Bayambang an educational show window in the Philippines and in the Far East. Today, Bayambang remains not just the “cornbelt of Pangasinan” and “the onion capital of Pangasinan,” but also a bustling university town.
Reference: Jaime B. Veneracion. A Guide to Gregorio del Pilar, Ilocos Sur, and the Heroes’ Trek (SAMPAKA Inc., 2003)