The History of San Enrique, Iloilo
Official history profile of the municipality per SB Resolution No. 2006-53 dated April 19, 2006, written by Hon. Rodrigo P. Ponte
The Early San Enriquenhons
The earliest inhabitants of San Enrique may be traced back to the tribes of the great Datus who had moved up the river Jalaud and settled on a promontory they called “Bontoc” near the eastern banks where they tilled land and practiced farming and animal husbandry for a self-sustaining economy.Following their customs and united by the bonds of kinship they built a community.
Out of that flourishing settlement later rose great men like ManuelPaez, Modesto Palabrica and ApolinarioPalabrica , who had earlier become Capitanes of the mother town of Passi. The names of Santiago Pama, Augusto Palencia, Gregorio Aguilar, BartoloGarrido, Cipriano Gonzales, Vicente Quinzon, and others surnamed Palabrica and Paez, had been elected to the position of Capitanes or Tenientes. Other men Simon Padios and Florencio Villalobos, emerged as leaders and followed the footstep of their forebears in the long journey to progress.
Founding the Pueblo and Ecclesia
The history of San Enrique had been largely set up by geography. High-rise mountains gave origins to the river Asisig and Agutayan whose water meet and collide in confluence with the water of powerful Jala-ud which marks the south eastern boundaries of the town. Torrential rains in the past brought about by erratic atmospheric changes caused heavy flooding that rendered roads impassable. Often it leaves Bontoc isolated for days, even weeks from the Pueblo of Passi, depriving the inhabitants of the much needed civil and ecclesiastical services. Thesituation prompted the leaders of Bontoc to send a seven page petition. Expedientede 1877, urging the politico-militar governor, Don Enrique Fajardo y Garcia to support their bid to establish an independent pueblo from the mother town. After twenty two endorsements from several colonial offices the petition was approved by the Ministro de Ultramar and later confirmed by a royal Order from the Spanish King.
In recognition of the patronizing efforts of the Governor, a grateful people named the town after him and further added a celestial fervor to this act of gratitude by putting the halo of a saint before the name of a benefactor.The founding of the parish was surrounded and shrouded with the aura of conflict and drama. Unlike the pueblo, the parish was born out of protest against the creeping anti-clericalism of liberal Spaniards coming from Spain who was pestering the parishes like flies during the summer months. To defend his flock an equally zealous friar curate rallied them under the protective mantle of catholic tradition and moved his church to Abaca, 1 ½ league away from the town of Passi. With reconciliation coming after, the church in Abaca, remained as a chaplaincy of the mother parish of Passi but when the pueblo de San Enrique was established by virtue of a Real Orden from the King Alfonzo XII (1874-1885) in 1879, the church at Abaca was fused with the town in pursuance to the requisite of one town and one church policy during the colonial times. Thus, the parish of Auxilium Christianorum can tell of its unique origin as an ecclesia that had antedated by more than half a century the founding of its counterpart, the pueblo.
To this day, Catholicism implanted by the early Spanish missionaries remains as the dominant religion of San Enriquenhons. More than ninety percent of the populations are Catholics and there are no reliable statistical indications that their number would lessen in the future.Their faith went through difficult and trying times. During the Japanese occupation the local church was transferred to Cabas-an at the foot of Mt. Puti-an. But after the war there was a revival and renewal of commitment to the faith of their forebears as shown by the emergence of different organizations and councils that like in the past combined the zeal of worship with the energies of civility.Modern evangelizing techniques have largely superseded the role of Catechism in strengthening the faith of the people. Whether it is the imposing majority of Catholic rituals or then real inspiration of its doctrine that drives throngs of church goers during Sunday masses and Lenten services, the high place of Catholism in their hearts and mind can be safely assure.
The American Era
The American occupation of the islands brought numerous changes in the course of the history of san Enrique. The title of capitan was change to President, to suggest a civilian tone to marshal government. The first elected Presidente in 1902 was Quiterio Paez, whose term was cut short when he died a year after. But the growing clamors among Filipino national leaders for immediate independence forced the American civil administration to fuse towns into municipal districts in preparation for the election of deputies to the Philippine Assembly in 1907. San Enrique was fused with Passi along with Duenas and Calinog. However, the creation of all Filipino legislatures as provided by the Jones law of 1916 gave way for individual towns, to breaks away from the fusion and regains their original town hood. Dueňas regained her independence in 1916 and Calinog followed in 1921. San Enrique, whether for lack of hindsight or mere complacency, remained contented with the status of arrabal or suburb of Passi for more than 5 decades in anticipation of a new leader who would provide the impetus for writing another chapter of its contemporary history.