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GERONA: Home of Aesthetic Craft

Historically, the original name of Gerona was ‘paontalon’. Old folks claim that Paontalon was probably a Negrito word. This is reinforced by Dominican sources, which recorded the presence of Negritos in the area as early as 1704. The Dominicans reported that they covered a place called Paontalon, whose inhabitants were all Negritos. By 1718, Paontalon was listed as a visita of Paniqui (at that time, a town of the province of Pangasinan). In 1753, Pontalon was relocated and renamed Barug, a Pangasinan word for “little forest.” Sources do not give any explanation why this was done subsequently; settlers from Ilocos were attracted to Barug, especially those from the towns of Bacarra, Badoc, and Sinait. Gradually, the settlers who grew in numbers occupied the forest.

The Dominicans supervised the visita in Barug, which only had some seventy families. The number rose to 461 in 1787. The Dominicans chose St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr as the patron saint of Barug. The parish priest of Paniqui came once a week to say mass in the visita. In 1846, a parish priest was permanently assigned to attend to the spiritual needs of the community. The assignment of a parish priest to Barug coincided with the traditional date of its founding as a civil town. Thus, most town histories record the founding date of Gerona as 1846. However, Jean Mallat, in his travel account, explained that Barug (which he spelled as Baruc) was a town already existing in 1838 with 252 tribute payers and 1, 260 inhabitants. In any case, the name Barug was later changed to Gerona in 1851, after the Spanish hometown of the governor general, Claveria.

A document signed by a certain Father Ciano dated June 13, 1877, described the ethnic groups residing in Gerona as speakers of four languages: Pangasinan, Ilocano, Tagalog, and Pampango. Of these, Ilocano was the most widespread. Similarly, this account still holds true even nowadays. Based on the 1995 census, about 78.09% of the total household population speaks Ilocano, while Tagalog is spoken about 12.59% of the population, followed by the Kapampangans with 8.83%, respectively.

Gerona was officially created as an independent municipality on July 14, 1945. Its first appointed gobernadorcillo was Don Anacleto Melegrito.

Basically, it is an agricultural hamlet. This is why its huge flat rice lands are suitable and attractive to native and migratory birds called great heron. Hence, the Spanish word Gerona.

Considered as the halfway to the northern and southern Luzon areas, it is a fast growing town that teemed with thriving and blooming trade and industry. It prides itself with its aesthetic crafts in Christmas lantern making and the cabiaoan tradition of sugar cane production.

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