Victoria was originally called Canarem, after lake canarem. It was a barrio of the town of Tarlac when the latter was still part of Pampanga province. It was renamed La Victoria by governor-general Manuel Gorospe through a decree issued on March 28, 1855, to commemorate the victory of the carlitas, the supporters of Queen Isabela during the Civil War.
The earliest inhabitants of the town came from the Ilocos regions. Between 1849 and 1851, Victoria’s fertile lands lured them. The settlers chose to reside along the lake where fish was abundant. Their first settlement was known as Namitinan, which became barrio San Vicente de Bautista of Tarlac town in 1852.
The other pioneers came from the towns of Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur and from Badoc, Ilocos Norte. They built their homes adjacent to each other. In 1852, with the increasing number of population totaling 4, 600, the Spanish authorities designated Don Andres Rigor and don Vicente Taguinaldo to serve as cabezas de barangay.
On November 25, 1854, the residents led by two cabezas de barangay, filed a petition to the government in Manila and demanded that Canarem (still a barrio then) be separated from its mother town, Tarlac, a town in Pampanga at that time. The petitioners argued that they were already paying more than of 200 tributes, and that the Ilocano settlers called for the separation of Canarem from Tarlac, so they did not need to do community work outside their own. Governor General Gorospe approved the petition to separate Canarem and turn it into a new municipality. He, then, signed the decree making Canarem a civil town on March 28, 1855. As stated earlier, it was renamed Victoria, meaning victory to commemorate the victory of the loyal followers of Queen Isabela of Spain over the moors.
Although it became a municipality, ecclesiastically, Victoria remained under the jurisdiction of Tarlac town. Thus, on December 13, 1865, a group of principales led by Don Nicolas Rigor, Dionisio Marcelo, and Gabriel Valdez petitioned the Spanish authorities to establish Victoria as a parochial town ecclesiastically independent from Tarlac. The requirements for the opening of the new parochial town were already completed including the nearly finished convento and the tribunal house. Despite the scarcity of parish priests at that time, Governor General Jose dela Gandara y Navarro (1866-1869) brought up the matter to the consultative body of the Spanish monarch on November 26, 1866. As a result, the parochial town of Victoria was created on April 27, 1867.
On July 31, 1866, Governor General Fernando de Norzagaray issued a mandate instructing the governors of Pampanga and Pangasinan to establish the boundaries of Victoria and Tarlac. Seven years earlier, prior to this mandate, Fray Saturnino Pinto, the parish priest of Tarlac, ordered the pulling out of the fixed boundaries. This act was supported by some principales of Tarlac who objected to the creation of the municipality of Victoria for this would decrease the number of parishioners under Fray Pinto. As an offshoot of this incident, the boundaries of Sitio Baguia was also removed by Tarlac’s officials, and placed in Sitio Malawit. This reduced the size of Victoria by some two kilometers in width. It would appear that some elites among the Tarlaqueños during that time were against converting canarem into a town. Further, they found an influential ally in the person of the parish priest, Fray Pinto. It is purported that the parish priest gave the final approval to incorporate the sitios of Bulala, Paltoc, Narsigan, Pulong Ganla, Pulong Palico, and Kalamkan into the town of Tarlac, with the assistance of rich and influential landowners who in the course of time became the owners of those lands.
CULTURE AND BELIEFS
There were waves of migration, which formed Victoria: the Kapampangans and the Ilocanos. Being Christianized by the Spanish colonizers, Immaculate Concepcion became the town’s patron saint. The passion during Lenten Season is sung in three dialects. For example, in poblacion area, the Kapampangan version is chanted in San Fernando, Tagalog in San Gavino and Ilocano from the rest of the town proper. While Ilocano and Kapampangan are spoken in most of the town, Tagalog is also widely spoken in public places to facilitate universal understanding.
The presence of the three languages in the same town did not produce a pidgin tongue. Each language retained its integral and basic characteristics. While this continues to be the outstanding feature of the town, Victoria is a town of heritage (pueblo de patrimonio) treasured with beautiful history.
Today, Victoria has come a very long way. Now a third class municipality, it unveils its rich cultural heritage as it preserves its century old dwellings and other Spanish architectural designs of various edifices. As they may be partly ravaged by war or have remained intact and grandiose through the years, they capture the memoirs of the good old past.
Victoria may not be a prominent town but it is gradually becoming one. The magnetism it holds is its people’s smiles and simplicity and the hospitality they behold. The creativity of its people is manifested in their industry and resiliency; patience and perseverance as shown in their ability to stride above all trials, are distinguishing traits that they are very well known for.
Although modernization has influenced the progress and development of the town, the rich Victorian culture is sustained. Evidently, Victoria’s cultural heritage is a reminiscence of its traditional prominence and affluence.
Just like any town in the province, fiestas are still popular traditions, which are pompously celebrated by all. Fiestas are time-honored thanksgiving celebrations in honor of the patron saints that the people revere. Lenten season is observed with holiness and religiousness. Penitents devotedly practice panata by carrying wooden cross and the kalbaryos are also set up along the roadsides where the pasyon or the passion of Christ is sung. Processions are held on the afternoon of Good Friday and the salubong during the early dawn of Easter Sunday.
Come summer season, when flowers are in bloom, young ladies are once again enjoined to wear their gown for the Santa Cruzan as the highlight of May Festival.
Love for arts abound in this town. Talents are found everywhere. Local bands mushroom in almost every corner. Performing artists enthusiastically display their skills and prowess that awe the townspeople to surprises especially during the town fiesta.
Victoria may be a quiet town not imminent, so to speak, but this is an analogue to the humility of the town folks. Victorians would rather act than speak. They are people of performance and achievements rather than pronouncements and empty talks. For once, the sleepy town has finally risen up.