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Officially the Municipality of Santa Cruz, is a 1st class municipality in the province of Occidental Mindoro, Philippines. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 37,484 people
Santa Cruz is politically subdivided into 11 barangays.
- Pinagturilan (San Pedro)
- Poblacion I (Barangay 1)
- San Vicente
- Poblacion II (Barangay 2)
|Population census of Santa Cruz|
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority
The original name of Sta. Cruz prior to the coming of the Spaniards to the Philippines was Talabasi. In the old map of Mindoro presumably sketched by an unknown Chinese trader, this name appeared in the place where Sta. Cruz is located at present. According to the indigenous people, in their dialect, talabasi was the name of a kind of medicinal plant during the early days.
The name Sta. Cruz was believed to be given by Captain Juan de Salcedo to the small village he found near the area where the mouths of Ramayan, Salagan and Pola Rivers merged. The said Spanish leader found the place when he made his first journey to the western coast of Mindoro, in May 1570. The thick foliage of the trees at the mouth of the river near this village served as protection to the small sailboats of his warriors from Panay.
Another story which up to the present time is being narrated by old residents of Sta. Cruz, traces the origin of the name of their community. Based on the story, the original name of this place was Bugo. It came from the name of a tree. A small community composed of the families of Benedicto Flores, Francisco Bernardo, Felix Gatdula, Eulalio Isidro and Damian Fernandez was formed here. The leader of the group was Francisco Bernardo. The community members drew water for household use from the stream of Timalon.
One day Eulalio Isidro found in the stream a wooden cross, one foot long. He showed it to his companions. The group considered the discovery of the cross as a miracle. Since they were religious by nature, they built a chapel and at the altar of the house of worship, they enthroned the cross. From that time on, Sta. Cruz became the new name of Bugo.
Sta. Cruz was first mentioned in an old Spanish document in 1666, in the report sent by a Jesuit missionary to his superiors. In that report, the priest stated that he visited and baptized many adults in the villages of the Mangyans in Ilin, Dongon, Sta. Cruz, Mamburao and Paluan.
Since 1663, Sta. Cruz officially belonged to the Parish of Calavite which could be found at the north-westernmost part of Mindoro. The ecclesiastical territory was managed by Fr. Martin Diaz, a secular priest. However, it was not mentioned in the document if this priest has gone to Sta. Cruz even once.
Due to the frequent raids of the Moro pirates in Mindoro, the Spanish government decided to assign a group of soldiers to Sta. Cruz to defend West Mindoro against the marauders. Nevertheless, the group composed of twenty five (25) soldiers led by a captain was not able to prevent the nefarious activities of the pirates. As a result, the people in the lowlands, decided to hide in the mountains. The people of Sta. Cruz might have done the same thing because within a period of more than a hundred years, this place was not mentioned as a village. Its name was only indicated in the map, during that time, for its river provided good harbor and shelter to small boats.
From the old documents of 1803 and 1805, we could read how Don Nicolas de Torres, the Spanish governor of Mindoro, captured the pirates who hid in their boats while resting in the river of Sta. Cruz. Although many of the pirates managed to escape to the mountains, the Mangyans armed with bows and arrows shot them.
In connection with the aforementioned incident, a story handed down for generations narrated that in Sitio Naghumbak, Brgy. Carumbac at present, the bloody encounter between the Spanish soldiers and the Moro pirates took place. The pirates escaped and they passed by Sumague which is Brgy. Casague at present. When the Spanish soldiers were about to catch them, some pirates dived at the river of Sitio Timalon but many of their companions were killed by the pursuing government soldiers at Sitio Pula.
It was only in 1876 when Sta. Cruz was again mentioned as a developing community. The people who hid in the mountains went down to the lowlands and lived in their villages. Sablayan was already established during that time and since 1844 has its own parish priest. The priest assigned there managed a very wide territory, for the northern part of West Mindoro, including Sta. Cruz was under the Parish of Sablayan.
The Recollect missionary who was parish priest of Sablayan (1870-1876), Fr. Pedro Muro de San Agustin, noticed in his occasional visit to Sta. Cruz that the number of inhabitants in this place was increasing in number and they were interested to become progressive.
In 1875, Fr. San Agustin wrote the governor of Mindoro who was in Calapan. He explained that it would be advantageous to the church and government if Sta. Cruz would be created as a town. He attached in his petition letter the list of the Mangyans living in Sta. Cruz who requested him to teach and baptize their children.
This petition was strongly recommended by the governor of Mindoro to the higher authorities in Manila. He added that two or three towns should be created in West Mindoro for the development of the Mangyans who were being exploited by the lowlanders.
The central government in Manila was in favor of the petition which was recommended by the governor. It was also supported by the highest official of the church. After numerous communications and meetings, the supporters of the petition agreed that instead of three, six towns should be created in West Mindoro and in each town the Archbishop of Manila would assign one missionary who would give true education to the Mangyans for their development and for a deep understanding of the Catholic religion.
In December 1876, the petition, plans and proposals were sent to the king of Spain for his approval and Royal Decree.
In April 1877, the king of Spain approved the establishment of a new town in Mindoro which would be called Santa Cruz de Mindoro. Due to his successful efforts, we could say that Fr. Pedro Muro de San Agustin was the founder of the town of Sta. Cruz.
After a year, by virtue of Royal Decree No. 103 dated February 25, 1878 the king of Spain approved the establishment of six new mission stations which would be selected by the Recollect Vicar of Calapan. One of the six was Sta. Cruz.
From the 1884 Census record, the population of Sta. Cruz de Mindoro was one hundred thirty nine (139). Tagalog was the common dialect. The villagers used sailboat when going to other places and it usually took them four days to reach Calapan, the capital of the province. Capitan Valeriano Balaong was the capitan del pueblo, during that time.
In February 1887, the first parish priest who stayed in Sta. Cruz was Fr. Domingo Cabrejas del Sto. Cristo dela Columna. With the help of the people he was able to build a chapel made of nipa and cogon.
Fr. Domingo did not stay long in Sta. Cruz. In July 1887 he was transferred to Sablayan. After a year, the position he vacated was entrusted to Fr. Antonio Diego delos Dolores. Fr. Antonio stayed in this town until 1890. He contacted a serious illness and on March 1, 1890 he was brought to Manila where he died.
The successor of Fr. Antonio as parish priest of Sta. Cruz was Fr. Manuel Tarasona del Pilar. He too did not stay long in this town for the Recollect Provincial Superior decided to transfer the mission stations in Lumitaw, Busuanga and Sta. Cruz of West Mindoro to Pola, Bongabong and Bulalacao of East Mindoro. As a result, Sta. Cruz was placed under the jurisdiction of the Parish of Mamburao.
According to the report of Fr. Vicente Soller, the parish priest of Mamburao in 1895, Sta. Cruz was attacked by the bandits on November 28, 1895. They killed Teniente Eusebio Basit, the barangay leader and wounded Ponciano Esguerra, the former teniente. Due to that tragic incident, many inhabitants of Sta. Cruz transferred to Mamburao.
In 1898, the Filipinos revolted against the Spaniards. The Filipino revolutionaries, under the leadership of Capitan Mariano Abeleda and Capitan Agustin Liboro captured the Spanish friars in the different towns of West Mindoro. They temporarily detained the friars in Paluan before sending them to Taysan, Batangas for imprisonment.
During the period when there were no Spanish friars in Mindoro, two secular priests from Batangas tried to keep the faith alive in the island. One of them was Fr. Vicente Romero who visited all the towns in West Mindoro. On June 17, 1900 he visited Sta. Cruz which at that time has a population of 300.people.
The names of four places in Barahan, Sta. Cruz remind the people of the Spanish occupation of Mindoro. The names given to the places by the Tagalog speaking people and their corresponding translation in English are: Tulay Bato (Stone Bridge), Punduhang Kastila (Spanish Port), Pinagbitinang Kanyon (Hanging Place of Cannon) and Pinagpihitang Barko (Turning Area of Ship).
Tulay Bato is a high but not so wide bridge made of stone, across the river of Barahan. The Spaniards ordered the natives to build it in order that the pirates who entered the river aboard their swift vintas would not be able to return to the sea. At present, the makeshift stone bridge is already submerged in the water. Punduhang Kastila is an area in Barahan which was used as port by the Spaniards. Pinagbitinang Kanyon is the place where a big tree with iron rings used as cradle of a cannon, could be found. Pinagpihitang Barko is a portion of the river in Barahan where the Spanish sailors dug its banks, to enable their ship to turn and return to the sea.