In 1538, the eastern coast of Mindanao which included the present province of Surigao del Norte was visited by a Portuguese explorer named Francisco de Castro, who found the place inhabited by the Caraga tribe who were believed to be of Visayan origin. Jesuit missionaries arrived in 1597 to evangelize the people of Butuan which was Agusan and Caraga but with much difficulty and intermittent success. Augustinian Recollects followed and established parishes in Tandag and Bislig in 1642, secular priests took over before the Benedictine monks arrived in 1893.
The ancient district of Caraga, which was established in 1609 comprised all of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, the northern part of Davao Oriental and Eastern Misamis Oriental. In 1860, Surigao and Agusan formed the East District as part of the six military districts established in Mindanao. In 1870, this was changed to “Distrito de Surigao.”
By the end of the Spanish rule in 1897, the two Agusan provinces had been organized as a single politico-military comandancia named “Butuan” within the administrative jurisdiction of Surigao. On May 15, 1901, a civil government was established in the province of Surigao. In 1911, the then comandancia of Butuan, which was a sub-province of Surigao, was finally created into a separate province of Agusan, reducing the territorial expanse of Surigao Province.
On June 19, 1960, Republic Act 2766 divided the lone province into Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. And recently, in December of 2006, Dinagat Islands became a separate island province.
There are many versions regarding the meaning of Surigao. Like Sulo, which means current or Sulog, Surigao may have come from the Spanish word surgir meaning swift water or current
The province is teeming with the bounties of the land and the sea. Its biggest islands are mountainous and rich in minerals. Nonoc Island has one of the world’s largest deposits of nickel. Iron, chromite and gold deposits are known in the province‘s municipalities. In the 1940’s, the operation of extracting gold in the town of Sison resulted to an economic boom, causing the conversion of barrios into towns. These gold deposits in the city and province are said to constitute about 18% of the country’s total, with nickel amounting to 83% of the country’s total.
A variety of marine ecosystems support a rich diversity of marine flora and fauna. Game fishing is the newest attraction in the island towns and fast becoming a national event. Over 23 different species are caught the whole year round. Marlin, tuna, grouper, lobsters, crabs mollusks and other bounties from the sea constitute fishermen’s daily catch and are available for local consumption and for export to other cities and abroad. Commercial fishing, fish canning, aqua culture, feedmill and oil mill are among the good areas for investment for the province. Agriculture is likewise a good area for business. Corn, rice, coconut, cassava and others are produced the whole year round. Mangrove is a major theme in the province’s coastlines covering about 175 square kilometers.
Popular tourist destinations include Siargao Island- home of Cloud 9 international surfing competition, with its bewitching 27 kilometer stretch of sugar fine white sand beach, sapphire seas and natural coral barriers that keep inlet water placid.
Caves and tunnels that are half submerged in water most of the time and which can be accessed only during low tides are found in Sohoton Cave at Bucas Grande Island.
Magpupungko Beach in Pilar are limestone and granite pools facing the Pacific Ocean. The Del Carmen swamp, meanwhile, is the much talked about sanctuary of the large species of salt water crocodiles. Lake Mainit, on the other hand, is the pear shaped lake and the fourth largest in the country with 17,000 hectares of freshwater, it is shared by two towns of Surigao – Alegria and Mainit and some parts of Agusan del Norte.
The geographic advantage of Surigao makes business very feasible. The Philippine Japan Friendship Highway which connects the country’s three major islands finds its way in Lipata Port, Surigao City. It provides access by land from Mindanao to Eastern Visayas through Metro Manila.
Transportation has improved as a result of the positive investment opportunities in mining and tourism industries. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air flies the routes between Manila and Cebu to Surigao City and a direct flight to Siargao Island from Cebu. Accommodation facilities, hotels and pension houses have increased in number in recent years. Inter-island fast craft services for various destinations, charter and rental services are also widely available at reasonable rates. The province amplified campaigns on eco-tourism have gained footing and fast attracting local and foreign investors. The relatively peaceful provincial life in Surigao is also a premium, making the province a likely retirement capital.All these and more makes Surigao del Norte shine like a jewel in the Pacific. Its enormous potentials for business, leisure and adventure are all waiting to be explored. The province extends its invitation to all to become partners in trailblazing towards its prosperity and growth.