DURING THE PRE-SPANISH PERIOD
Early in the 13th century, Datu Balensusa and Dumagsil, two of the ten Bornean Datus led by Datu Puti, went from Panay to Laguna and the Bicol Region. Prehistoric dwellers mostly fishermen and farmers established a barangay on the mouth of Makabulo River called Sawangan (now Legazpi Port) , a small settlement by a mangrove swamp,Its inhabitants were headed by old chieftain, Gat Ibal,a descendant of Datu Dumagsil. The home grown name,Sawangan was another way to say Sabang indicating a” natural wharf created by the water from the sea”. Dwelling in tiny groups of huts which are made from rattan and nipa, small houses occupied this part of swampy and low land and its surrounding areas were known as Ibalon.
DURING THE SPANISH PERIOD
In 1573,under the Spanish expeditionary forces,Capitan Juan de Salcedo (Capitan Esteban de Manchaca) and 120 soldiers reached and explored barangay Sawangan. The natives gallantly fought the invaders but were no match for the conquistadores’ superior arms. Subsequently, the natives were converted to Catholism. In 1587,Franciscan friars of the Doctrina of Cagsawa began to convert the settlement to Christianity. Fr. Francisco de Sta. Ana,it’s first parish priest built the first chapel made of nipa and bamboo to house and established the first Franciscan mission in Sawangan, the “Mission de San Gregorio de Sawangan.
In 1605, Sawañgan was elevated to Visita Regular, having been previously under the spiritual ministry of Cagsaua since 1578. In 1616,Sawangan become an independent town separated from Cagsawa called Albaybay (meaning “by the bay”) finally shortened as Albay. It was declared the capital of the province of Partido de Ibalon (old name of the Province of Albay). The town was renamed Albay, then Legazpi, as Albay went on to refer to the province at present.
Perennially rocked by minor eruptions of the Mayon Volcano for two centuries, compounded by sporadic attacks by Muslim pirates and the Dutch, the capital was partially destroyed by a major eruption on February 1, 1814. The catastrophe buried Cagsaua.The progress of the town was razed to the ground upon the eruption, Fr. Pedro Licup evacuated the community to Makalaya (today’s Barangay Taysan). Some of the people, however, remained in the old town and began anew as a barrio. In lieu of their former patron saint, St. Gregory the Great, which had also been transferred to Albay, they adopted St. Raphael, the Archangel and transformed the ermita into a church.
They finally regained their old status but never changed the name of the place as Albay Viejo or Banwang Daan.Years later in 1856, Sawangan was restored and subsequently renamed Binanuahan (Banuang Gurang) which literally means “Old Town” or “ancient place or town wherein a town was founded” and/or “the former seat of a town”. It was made a Visita Tributaria of Taytay. The combined towns were later named Albay Nuevo (Bagumbayan – meaning “New Town”) with the residents of Binanuahan’s objections to the union. On July 17, 1856, Ramon Montero of the Govierno Superiora de las Islas Filipinas signed a decree which created the Visita of Pueblo Viejo, out of Binanuahan – uniting the barrios (settlement communities) of Lamba, Bigaa and Rawis.
On September 22, 1856, through a subsequent Royal Decree, the name Legazpi was officially adopted to including the visitas of Lamba, Rawis and Bigaa, and declaring it an independent town. It was formally inaugurated on October 23, 1856. Historically, the city was named Legazpi, to perpetuate to the memory of Adelantado Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. This was the agreement made between the original inhabitants of the place and the Spaniards during the former’s quest for autonomy. It took them 21 years, in which they sought the help and support of the Spaniards, then living in the town. As a sign of gratitude, the people readily accepted the name, which was also then proposed by the Spaniards upon fulfillment of their efforts.
Now autonomous, and with a fast paced progress and prosperity,the port of Legazpi served as anchorage of ships sailing for Nuevo España (through Mexico) in the later part of the 16th century until it was elevated a Royal Decree by issued earlier on May 18, 1872 in Madrid and was later promulgated by Governor Juan Alamenos y de Vivar on December 3, 1874 as a port of entry open to world trade .
Legazpi first became a city under the Becerra Law of 1892 promulgated by the Spanish Minister of Ultramar in 1894, which constituted the municipalities of Legazpi, Albay Nuevo and Daraga, into the Ayutamiento de Albay with the resentment of the Daragueños. At the height of the Filipino-Spanish Revolution, the Civil Governor of Albay, Angel Bascaran y Federic and the Spanish residents fled Albay. Subsequently, a revolutionary Junta was organized by Don Anacleto Solano, who later turned over command to General Vicente Lucban, General-in-Chief of Operations of the Philippine Revolutionary Governments in the Southern Region.
DURING THE AMERICAN PERIOD
By January 23, 1900 the American forces outgunned Legazpi defenders, defeating the Sandatahanes led by Vito Belarmino and Jose Ignacio Paua at the Battle of San Rafael Bridge known as the “Battle of Legazpi”. With the American occupation in 1900, the city was dissolved upon reestablished Legazpi, Albay and Daraga as independent towns under a military government. In 1908, the Philippine Assembly, again, merged the three towns creating the Municipio de Albay which became the capital of the province. Giving way to bitter opposition from Daragueños, realizing the merger was doing more harm than good to their interests, the Philippine Assembly finally separated Daraga from the capital town in 1922.
DURING THE JAPANESE PERIOD
Simultaneous with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Japanese Imperial Army’s Kimura Detachment entered Legazpi on December 12, 1941. Yet again, countless accounts of the locals’ ultimate sacrifices, gallantry and heroism against the odds in the ensuing Guerilla warfare abound during that period. Under Japanese military administration for almost 4 years, the capital was finally liberated by American forces on April 1, 1945.
DURING THE REPUBLIC
Legazpi became a city for the second time on July 18, 1948 when Daraga and Legazpi were combined again to constitute its territory, under Republic Act No. 306. Re-Incorporating Daraga, Republic Act No. 306 elevated the town to today’s Legazpi City. However, bitter opposition from the Daragueños ultimately prevailed with the passing of Republic Act No. 993 which repealed R.A. 306 creating the separate Municipalities of Legazpi and Daraga.With the re-creation of the two municipalities, the city was dissolved in June 8, 1954. Finally on June 12, 1959,Republic Act 2232 authored by Senator.Pedro Subido and Congressman.Jusfino Nuyda was signed by Pres.Carlos P.Garcia.
This was later amended by Republic Act 5525. By virtue of this act, Legazpi became a city for the third time. .Legazpi was declared Albay Province’s seat of government as its capital city under Republic Act 2254. On February 27, 1973, With the onset of the Integrated Reorganization Plan of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, the City of Legazpi was declared under Presidential Decree No. 125, to comprise its present territorial jurisdiction and the adjacent Municipality of Daraga. however, the decree was permanently mothballed. This plan also made the city as the regional administrative center of the Bicol Region (Presidential Decree No. 1). At present,the Gateway City of Bicol,Legazpi,is a bustling and very progressive city that is home of more than 180,000 citizens.