Descend or Defend: Iligan as a Toponym and its Relevance to Local Historiography


  • Marjorie S. Almario-Magdadaro MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology
  • Artchil C. Daug Department of History, CASS, MSU-IIT



Iligan , toponym , Higaunon , local history, Spanish


The history of Iligan City in Northern Mindanao, the Philippine Islands, stretches back as far as the beginning of Spanish colonization in the second half of the 17th century. Although its contemporary history ranging from the later American Period during the Second World War to its rise as an industrial city in the following three decades after the war is well- examined, Iligan’s history during the Spanish Period remains a difficult picture to imagine. It is not only because documentary evidence is very limited, its indigenous population relies on oral tradition to tell the story of its past. The difficulty of access to primary sources which are either tucked away in the national archives or that they are written in a language that in contrast to the rest of the then Spanish Empire never became the primary language of the country contributed to local historiography in the Philippines making use of oral accounts by indigenous peoples, and this is similar when it comes to Iligan. Specifically, this paper examines Iligan as a toponym to trace the possible origin and meaning of the term. By looking into both readily available archival sources and the cultural memory of the tribal authorities of one of the city’s indigenous peoples, the Higaunon, this paper shows that they are the first settlers of Iligan and that one of the earliest sites of culture contact was the mouth- river of Iligan, which perhaps one of the reasons why Spaniards chose this area to establish a fort. Most importantly, this paper proves that Iligan as a toponym is not empty in meaning, but rather mirrors past relations and activities, which are relevant in the writing of local history.




How to Cite

S. Almario-Magdadaro, M., & Daug, A. (2022). Descend or Defend: Iligan as a Toponym and its Relevance to Local Historiography. Langkit : Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 11, 13–26.