The province is known as one of the archipelago's holiest sites in the Pre-Christian native religion. It is here where the God of Hurricanes was persuaded his attacks on the islands by Da, the God of Peace.Dinagat Islands styles itself as the "Mystical Island Province of Love."

​Little is written about the ancient history of Dinagat Islands. However, the 20th century witnessed the emerging of the islands in the map of the Philippines. Three major events captured national attention and changed the lives of Dinagatnons. These are: 1) the great cholera epidemic of early 1900’s, 2) the Battle of Surigao Strait, and 3) the influx of the members of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) in the island.

The spread of the great cholera epidemic from Manila to Dinagat Islands in July 1902 resulted to an octopus effect in the area threatening to dissipate Dinagat’s sparse population. This epidemic claimed 58 deaths in the towns of Dinagat, Unib, Sabanay, Libjo and Melgar alerting health authorities on end. Their epic quest to contain its spread was very well documented in Philippine medical journals.

Although one of the newest provinces of the country, settlements in Dinagat Islands were already present during the Spanish regime as a result of migration of people from nearby provinces of Bohol, and Leyte. The so-called mystical province played an important role in the country's history, particularly during World War II. Adding to the historical significance of the province is the foundation of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association by Ruben Ecleo, Sr.

The municipality of Dinagat is the oldest community in the province. In the early days, a story was told that a stranger reached the place in search of greener pastures. He approached a native and asked what the inhabitants do for a living. The natives said that they farm and fish to live. The stranger's interest in fishing prompted him to inquire where they fish, and the native replied and pointed to a place saying 'dinhiniininadagat' (here from this bountiful waters). Since then, the place was called Dinagat.

The municipality was formally established in 1855. It occupies the territorial boundaries of the whole island. From 1890 to 1990 its boundaries were gradually reduced giving rise to six municipalities, Loreto, Cagdianao, Libjo, Basilisa, Tubajon and San Jose.

Loreto became a Spanish pueblo on September 4, 1890 under the supervision of Governor General Manuel Sanchez by the virtue of Direccion General No. 30. It was originally called "Mabua" because of the ever-foaming river that runs right into the center of the community. It was named "Loreto" in 1881 by the Spanish priest who frequents the town, in honor of the wife of the Alcalde Mayor of the Province of Surigao.

The province was the site of the historic Battle of Surigao Strait during the Second World War. The Municipality of Loreto became the entry point of the American Liberation Forces on October 17, 1944. It was on this shore that the 6th Ranger Battalion of the 6th U.S. Army under Col. Mucci landed at SitioCampinta of Barangay Panamaon, Loreto. It was during this landing that the first American flag flew on Philippine soil since the Japanese invasion in 1941. The Americans named the place "Black Beach No. 2."

The brave stance of the combined Philippine-American Forces in Loreto helped opened the door of Philippine liberation from the claws of Imperial Japan that culminated in the withdrawal of the Japanese Forces from the Philippine soil.

The northern part of the island served as a refuge for the American soldiers, while the western border was held by Japanese forces. Capsized vessel structures are still found today in the waters of Basilisa.

On December 23, 1959, Cagdianao was created into a municipality under Executive Order No. 367. Its name came from the Spanish word "Cadadialinao" meaning everyday peaceful and calm. However some scholars say that its name came from the Visayan word "TagaDanaw" meaning the lake people.

Libjo was created into a municipality and named Albor on February 29, 1960 under Executive Order No. 381. It was taken from the municipalities of Dinagat and Loreto. "Albor" came from the surname of the mayors of Loreto and Dinagat - Alfaro and Borja. It was renamed as Libjo on June 17, 1967. The name came from the word "Liboo" which is a kind of mussel clam.

In 1965, Ruben EderaEcleo Sr. founded the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) at SitioPuyange, part of Dinagat town. PBMA is a non-sectarian organization bounded by a strong spirit of brotherhood. Not long after that, members from all over the Philippines migrated to the island to be in constant association with their founder.

Dinagat Islands started to rise in popularity in the locality and nearby towns of Surigaodel Norte, because of Ruben EderaEcleo, Sr., who was known to have healing powers of all human illnesses that could not be explained by medical science. He first started his divine healing practice at the islands of Cabilan in the Municipality of Dinagat where he was also born.

Due to the many patients that came to be healed of their sickness and because of the limited area of Cabilan Islands to accommodate people, Ruben Ecleo transferred to Puyangi.

One thing remarkable of Ruben Ecleo was that he was capable of sharing his healing powers to people who were interested to become his followers. Because of this, he was called “Divine Master” by his people. These “missioners” were then sent to the different parts of the country to do divine healing services to people free of charge.

Another remarkable thing about Ruben Ecleo was that he taught his people the value of self-help, or “pahina.”  Pahina is voluntary labor of doing community projects, such as roads, bridges, multi-purpose buildings, and other infrastructures, including establishment of communal livelihood projects.

The establishment of a haven for the members of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association in different barangays of Dinagat Municipality in 1970’s lead by then Mayor Ruben EderaEcleo, Sr. changed the local socio-political dynamics in Dinagat Islands. Their arrival suddenly highlighted the need of more social services in the area and the creation of San Jose Municipality which is now the center of trade, industry, and education in the islands.Mayor Ecleo envisioned to fulfill the dream of becoming a province of Dinagat Islands for all dinagatnons and for future generations yet to come.

Meanwhile, Basilisa became a municipality in June 17, 1967 under Republic Act No. 4986. It was then named as Rizal, after the country's national hero. The municipality was renamed as Basilisa on June 21, 1969 under Republic Act. No. 5775.

Tubajon, which was once a barangay of Loreto, became a municipality in June 21, 1969 under Republic Act No. 5643. According to local folklore, during the Spanish regime, a banca boarded with Guardia Civils landed in the shores of Tubajon in search of a criminal. One of them came across a river and saw a man pounding leaves. Curious, he asked the man, "What will you do with it?" The man answered "Akong Tubajon ang suba aron sayon dakpon ang mga isda" (I will poison the river with Tuba leaves so that the fishes could be easily caught). When the man returned to the group, he narrated everything he saw and heard from the native to his companions. From then on, the place was called Tubajon.

The newest municipality is San Jose, created on November 15, 1989 under Republic Act No. 6769. The town was named in honor of Jose Ecleo who was its pioneer and the father of Mayor Ruben EderaEcleo Sr. The first municipal mayor of San Jose was Ruben Buray Ecleo, Jr.

Dinagat Islands was once part of the First District of the Province of Surigao del Norte under the leadership of Cong. Glenda B. Ecleo. The latter filed a bill making Dinagat Islands into a province; but it was failed. Then she filed House Bill No. 884 for the second time. Under the auspices of Elvis A. dela Merced, held the necessary documents for the creation of a province: First the "Income" or Range to assess at least Php 20,000,000.00 per year over the past consecutive year based on 1991 prices which the Department of Finance (DOF); and the second is the population of not less than 250,000 inhabitants to support the National Statistics Office (NSO), or the Land Area Extent of Land required overarching reach 2,000 square kilometers, to be testified in Land Management Bureau (LMB). Necessary Extent of land use which may province consisting of one (1) or more islands.

Among the documents that supported the creation of the province are the resolutionsfrom theSangguniang Bayan of the seven municipalities and confirmed by Mayor Benglen B. Ecleo of San Jose, Mayor Gwendolyn E. Durano of Dinagat, Mayor Floro F. Baltarof Basilisa, Mayor LambertoLlameraof Libjo, Mayor Ronald E. Luib, Sr. ofTubajon and Mayor DoandrebelleLadaga of Loreto endorsingDinagat Islands to become a province.

The SangguniangPanlalawigan of Surigaodel Norte strongly endorsed the creation of Dinagat Islands into a province under the authorship of board members Edilberto Florendo and Elvis A. dela Merced with the strong support of Board Member Alan I B. Ecleo. Gov. Lyndon S. Barbers confirmed the passage of resolution paving the way to dinagatnons’ desire to have its own province.

The bill was approved in the House of Representatives and is filed and the Senate held by Sen. Alfredo Lim, Chairman of the Committee on Local Government in the Senate. Extensive constantly presented the reasons and evidences according to the law set forth in RA 7160 also known as the Local Government Code of 1991.

The Hearing Committee was attended by representatives of various sectors in the province of Surigao del Norte. One of these is the sector in the region attended by clergymen. Also in attendance were the mayors of the seven petitioners which constitute the province of Dinagat Islands, and with the heads of government of mother province of Surigao del Norte led by Gov. Lyndon S. Barbers, Vice Gov. Rudolfo Navarro, and Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. And, finally the Senate approved the petition of the seven (7) municipalities the province hood of Dinagat Islands.

Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9355 “AN ACT CREATING THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS on October 2, 2006.

A plebiscite was held for all voters in the province of Surigao del Norte on December 2, 2006, as required by law pursuant to RA 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 to determine whether the people will agree that Dinagat Islands becomesan independent province.

Acquired the majority of the voters in favor of R.A. 9355,Yes to Dinagat Province won on the concluded plebiscite despite much opposition fromsome leaders in other towns including the city ofSurigaobecause Dinagat Islands does not deserve to become a province for it did not fit the required land area of 2,000 square kilometers and a population of a total of 250,000. Dinagat Islands has only population numbering 126,000 and the land area of 960 square kilometers.

The 'corporate existence in the province of Dinagat Islands began on February 2, 2007 after the first provincial officials have been appointed and qualified. The Interim Provincial Officials are as follows:

 

Governor

Geraldine EcleoVillaroman

 

Vice Governor

Elvis A. dela Merced

 

Board Members:

  1. Mario P. Menil

  2. Merlinda D. Lagroma

  3. Gracelyn B. Ecleo

  4. Rolizareth T. Ladaga

  5. Zacarias N. Vales

  6. Norberto A. Sarita, Sr.

  7. Dominador L. Torotoro

Dinagat Islands took its independence as separate province from the mother Province of Surigao del Norte. But the passage of such law and the question of constitutionality were raised before the Supreme Court through a petition for certiorari filed by Rudolfo Navarro, et.al.

The province was shaken with great confusion when Supreme Court favored its decision against petitioners and declared Dinagat Islands as defunct province notwithstanding with the termination of IRA releases.

Mommy Glen became Governor and personally fights the plight for Dinagat Islands’ independence. Provincial employees strongly supported her ideals and the PBMA as well. She exhausted all her personal financial resources to cope up financial obligations in legal battle just to regain juridical identity as a province.

On April 12, 2012, the Supreme Court adopted the resolution filed by Gov. FranciscoMatugas also encouraged other officers of the mother province of Surigao del Norte, and the part of the pasaysay are as follows:

From this, the court concluded that:

  1. Allow Urgent Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment by Movants-intervenors dated and filed on October 29, 2010;

  2. Rethinking AGAIN and put away July 10, 2010 Resolution and let's Motion for Leave to Intervene and to File and to Admit intervenors' Motion for Reconsideration dated July 20, 2010; and

  3. Allow the intervenors' Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution dated May 12, 2010 the May 12, 2010 resolution rethinking AGAIN and set aside. The provisions of Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991, saying, "The land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands" declared that there value.

R.A. 9355 (An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands) declared value and in accordance with the Constitution, and the proclamation of the Province of Dinagat Islands and the election of its officials also declared to be worth something.

On October 2, 2012,Dinagat Islands is completelygained its absolute freedomas a regular and distinct province after the final decision of the Supreme Court.

The certification of "Final Entry of Judgment" proved that the province of Dinagat Islands is worthy and the development in accordance with the constitution.

On December 9, 2013, RUBEN EDERA ECLEO, SR., the man who envisioned Dinagat Islands’ province hood was declared by Gov. Glenda B. Ecleo through the SangguniangPanlalawigan approved Provincial Ordinance No. BBE-03 3rd SP Series 2013, known as “AN ORDINANCE DECLARING RUBEN EDERA ECLEO, SR. AS THE LOCAL HERO OF THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS”, authored by Board Member Bernardino F. Alcaria, Jr. and Board Member Joslyn I. Ecleo.

 

Additional Information;

The province in pre-colonial times was much influenced by the Rajahnate of Butuan which was nestled in present-day Agusan del Norte. It was also used as the entry point of the Rahajnate of Ternate, present-day Moluccas of Indonesia, to attack the Rajahnate of Butuan, Rajahnate of Cebu, the indigenous settlements in the Anda Peninsula of Bohol, and the Kingdom of Dapitan (located 'between' Panglao and Bohol), which later moved in northern Zamboanga after the Kingdom of Dapitan was destroyed.

Although one of the newest provinces of the country, settlements in the Dinagat Islands were already present during the Spanish regime as a result of migration of people from nearby provinces of Bohol and Leyte. The so-called mystical province played an important role in the country's history, particularly during World War II.

The municipality of Dinagat is the oldest community in the province. In the early days, a story was told that a stranger reached the place in search of greener pastures. He approached a native and asked what the inhabitants do for a living. The natives said that they farm and fish to live. The stranger's interest in fishing prompted him to inquire where they fish, and the native replied and pointed to a place saying dinhi niini na dagat (here from this bountiful waters). Since then, the place was called "Dinagat".

The municipality was formally established in 1855. It occupies the territorial boundaries of the whole island. From 1890 to 1990 its boundaries were gradually reduced giving rise to six municipalities, LoretoCagdianaoLibjoBasilisaTubajon and San Jose.

Loreto became a Spanish pueblo on September 4, 1890 under the supervision of Governor General Manuel Sanchez by the virtue of Direccion General No. 30. It was originally called Mabua due to the ever-foaming river that runs right into the center of the community. It was named Loreto in 1881 by the Spanish priest who frequents the town, in honor of the wife of the Alcalde Mayor of the Province of Surigao.

The province was the site of the historic Battle of Surigao Strait during the Second World War. The Municipality of Loreto became the entry point of the American Liberation Forces on October 17, 1944. It was on this shore that the 6th Ranger Battalion of the 6th U.S. Army under Col. Mucci landed at Sitio Campintac of Barangay Panamaon in Loreto. It was during this landing that the first American flag flew on Philippine soil since the Japanese invasion in 1941. The Americans named the place "Black Beach No. 2."

The northern part of the island served as a refuge for the American soldiers, while the western border was held by Japanese forces. Capsized vessel structures are still found today in the waters of Basilisa.

On December 23, 1959, Cagdianao was created into a municipality under Executive Order No. 367. Its name came from the Spanish word Cada dia linao meaning "everyday peaceful and calm". However some scholars say that its name came from the Visayan word Taga Danaw meaning "the lake people".

Libjo was created into a municipality and named Albor on February 29, 1960 under Executive Order No. 381. It was taken from the municipalities of Dinagat and Loreto. Albor came from the surname of the mayors of Loreto and Dinagat — Alfaro and Borja. It was renamed as Libjo on June 17, 1967. The name came from the word Liboo, a kind of mussel clam.

In 1965, Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. founded the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) at Sitio Puyange, now Poblacion in San Jose. PBMA is a non-sectarian organization bounded by a strong spirit of brotherhood. Not long after that, members from all over the Philippines migrated to the island to be in constant association with their founder.

Meanwhile, Basilisa became a municipality on June 17, 1967 under Republic Act No. 4986. It was then named as Rizal, after the country's national hero. The municipality was renamed as Basilisa on June 21, 1969 under Republic Act. No. 5775.

Tubajon, which was once a barangay of Loreto, became a municipality on June 21, 1969 under Republic Act No. 5643. According to local folklore, during the Spanish regime, a banca boarded with Guardia Civils landed in the shores of Tubajon in search of a criminal. One of them came across a river and saw a man pounding leaves. Curious, he asked the man, "What will you do with it?" The man answered "Akong Tubajon ang suba aron sayon dakpon ang mga isda" (I will poison the river with Tuba leaves so that the fishes could be easily caught). When the man returned to the group, he narrated everything he saw and heard from the native to his companions. From then on, the place was called Tubajon.

The newest municipality is San Jose, created on November 15, 1989, under Republic Act No. 6769. The town was named in honor of Jose Ecleo who was its pioneer and father of then mayor of the municipality of Dinagat, Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. The town is the seat of the PBMA.

The Dinagat Islands was part of the First District of Surigao del Norte Province until it became a province on December 2, 2006, with the approval of Republic Act No. 9355 (authored by Rep. Glenda B. Ecleo), the Charter of the Province of the Dinagat Islands, in a plebiscite.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed the province's first set of officials on January 26, 2007. Provincial officials were first elected a few months later, in the May 14, 2007 elections; these elected officials took office on July 1, 2007.

On February 11, 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared the creation of the Dinagat Islands Province null and void on grounds of failure to meet land area and population requirements for the creation of local government units. The decision was not yet rendered final and executory before the May 10, 2010 elections; therefore the Commission on Elections still organized the elections for the province's separate congressional representative and provincial officials.

 

Although the original decision was made final and executory on May 18, 2010—thereby reverting the Dinagat Islands to Surigao del Norte—the officials elected in 2010 continued to serve the province, even throughout the legal battles that followed, which eventually saw the Supreme Court reverse its position.

On April 12, 2011, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier ruling, upholding the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9355 and validating the creation of Dinagat Islands as a province. An Entry of Judgment on October 24, 2012 ended the legal battles surrounding the status of the province, and finalized the separation of Dinagat Islands from Surigao del Norte.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinagat_Islands