Philippines: Valenzuela

Valenzuela (/ˌvɒlənzjuˈɛlə/; Tagalog: [ˌbɐlenswelɐ, ˌbɐlensuwelɐʔ]), officially the City of Valenzuela (Filipino: Lungsod ng Valenzuela) (ISO: PH-00; PSGC: 137504000 ) or sometimes Valenzuela City, is one of the cities that comprise the National Capital Region of the Philippines. It is the 119th largest city in the country located at about 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) north of the capital city of Manila. Valenzuela is categorized under Republic Act Nos. 7160 and 8526 as a highly urbanized, first-class city based on income classification and number of population. A landlocked chartered city located on the island of Luzon, it is bordered by the province of Bulacan, and cities of Caloocan, Malabon and Quezon City. Valenzuela shares border and access to Tenejeros-Tullahan River with Malabon. With a total land area of 45.75 square kilometers and a population of 620,422 in August 2015, Valenzuela is the 13th most populous city in the Philippines. The city is composed of about 72% Tagalog people followed by 5% Bicolanos with a small percentage of foreign nationals.

Valenzuela was named after Pío Valenzuela, a physician and a member of the Katipunan, a secret society founded against the colonial government of Spain. The city, as a town, was originally called as Polo, initially formed in 1621 after separation from Meycauayan, Bulacan. The Battle of Malinta of the Philippine–American War was fought in Polo in 1899. In 1960, President Carlos P. Garcia ordered the split of Polo's southern barangays to form another town named as Valenzuela. The split was revoked by President Diosdado Macapagal in 1963 after political disagreements and the new merged town was named Valenzuela. The modern-day Valenzuela with its borders was chartered in 1998.

Owing to the cross migration of people across the country and its location as the northernmost point of Metro Manila, Valenzuela has developed into a multicultural metropolis. A former agricultural rural area, Valenzuela has grown into a major economic and industrial center of the Philippines when a large number of industries relocated to the central parts of the city.

During the Spanish era, present-day Valenzuela, Obando and Novaliches (now in Quezon City) were parts of Bulacan. Areas now covered by Valenzuela included a Spanish friar's hacienda, small political settlements and a Spanish garrison. These areas were known as Polo. The region was bounded by the Tullahan River on the south and streams of branching Río Grande de Pampanga on some areas.

When Manila became an archdiocese in 1595, regular friars who had already established permanent churches in Catanghalan, Bulacan decided that the sitio of Polo be separated from the town and have its own church to cater its increasing spiritual needs. Through successive efforts of Franciscan friar Juan Taranco and Don Juan Monsod, sitio Polo was successfully separated from Catanghalan on November 7, 1621, the feast day of the town's new patron, St. Didacus of Alcalá, known locally as San Diego de Alcalá. The first cabeza de barangay of Polo was Monsod while Taranco run the parish which would become the present-day San Diego de Alcalá parish on a small tavern. The separation was then confirmed by Governor-General Alonso Fajardo de Entenza on November 12, 1623. Later, the date of November 12 is adopted as the foundation day of the city.

From 1627-1629, construction of a parochial church dedicated to St. Didacus of Alcalá started, under the supervision of Fr. José Valencia, aided by Juan Tibay. In 1852, the church was repaired and remodeled under the direction of Fr. Vicente. The church was later rededicated to another patron, the Immaculate Conception, or nuestra señora de la Inmaculada Concepción. A convent was also built followed by a common house (casa tribunal) that had a rectangular prison cell and a school house made of stone. Later on, the small sitio of Obando was separated from Polo and incorporated to Bulacan by the Marquis of Brindisi.

On July 21, 1960, President Carlos P. Garcia signed Executive Order No. 401 which divided Polo into two: Polo and Valenzuela. Polo comprised the northern barangays of Wawang Pulo, Poblacion, Palasan, Arkong Bato, Pariancillo Villa, Balangkas, Mabolo, Coloong, Malanday, Bisig, Tagalag, Rincon, Pasolo, Punturin, Bignay, Viente Reales, and Dalandanan. Valenzuela, on the other hand, comprised the southern barangays of Karuhatan, Marulas, Malinta, Ugong, Mapulang Lupa, Canumay, Maysan, Parada, Paso de Blas, Bagbaguin and Torres Bugallón (now Gen. T. de Leon).

The division soon proved to be detrimental to economic growth in each town, so Bulacan Second district Representative to the Fifth Congress Rogaciano Mercado and Senator Francisco Soc Rodrigo filed a bill which sought the reunification of the two towns. On September 11, 1963, President Diosdado Macapagal signed Executive Order No. 46 which reunified Valenzuela and Polo, adapting Valenzuela as the name of the resulting town.

In 1967, mayor Ignacio Santiago, Sr. bought lots in Karuhatan in which the new municipal hall would be built. Misinterpretation of property surveys and tax appropriation issues sparked the debate on which barangay should the municipal hall be belonged to: Karuhatan, Malinta, or Maysan. To resolve the issue, Santiago ordered the creation of a new barangay which was called Poblacion II, a reference to the old Poblacion barangay.

The vegetation in Valenzuela was originally covered with grasslands suitable for agriculture. Because of rapid development of industries and economy, land use converts grass covers into cemented roads. However, the government put into efforts of preserving vegetation such as constructing community vegetable gardens and techno-demo farms all over the city. In 2003, these gardens numbered up to two functioning farms.

Flora and fauna in Valenzuela includes the common plants and animals found in Luzon, such as domesticated mammals. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau declared a two-hectare mangrove/swampy area in Villa Encarnacion, barangay Malanday as an ecotourism site. Every year, about 100 species of migratory birds such as black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) and other native birds such as moorhen (Gallinula sp.), swamphen (Porphyrio sp.) and Philippine duck (Anas luzonica) flock the area. Wooden view decks are built to facilitate spectators, enthusiasts and visitors while having bird watching and counting activities.

In 2007, ordinary fishing ponds in Tagalag and Coloong were transformed into fishing spots which attracts anglers every year for a prize catch. Fish tournaments are held every year to increase tourism and livelihood in the area.

In 2008, the Supreme Court of the Philippines mandated Regional Trial Court branch 171 as an environmental court handling all environment cases in Valenzuela.

Thomas Hodge-Smith noted in 1939 that Valenzuela is rich of black tektites occurring in spheroidal and cylindrical shapes and are free of bubbles.

In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act number 9428 which sets February 14 every year as a special non-working holiday to commemorate cityhood of Valenzuela in 1998. On the same hand, November 12 each year is declared by the city government as the city's foundation day, looking back the establishment of then-Polo in 1623. There are misunderstandings before regarding the date of the actual foundation of the town, however, this date was decided by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to be the town's creation, since Spanish colonizers adopted a town's patron saint feast day as its date of creation.

Each barangay in Valenzuela have their own feast. Most of them launch celebrations during May and April to honor patron saints and bounty harvest. Every April 26, a santacruzan is performed along with Sta. Cruz Festival in Barangay Isla. A santacruzan is a novena procession commemorating St. Helena's mythical finding of the cross. St. Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great. According to legends, 300 years after the death of Christ, at the age of 75, she went to Calvary to conduct a search for the Cross. After some archeological diggings at the site of the Crucifixion, she unearthed three crosses. She tested each one by making a sick servant lie on all three. The cross where the servant recovered was identified as Christ's. St. Helena's feast day falls on August 8 but the anniversary of the finding of the Cross is on May 3, in the Philippines, this celebration took the form of the Mexican Santa Cruz de Mayo.

Mano Po, San Roque Festival is celebrated every May 12 in Mabolo. In Valenzuela, San Roque is also known as the patron saint of the unmarried. There are countless tales of single girls who danced and prayed in the procession and who claim to have found their husband during the fiesta. The festival is almost similar to Obando Fertility Rites where hopeful romantics dance to San Roque requesting to find their true love. Street dancing and procession along the city’s major thoroughfares in commemoration of the feast of San Roque, highlighting the customs and traditional celebration of the festival. This also commemorates townsfolk victory after the British departed the country following the end of Seven Years' War with Spain.

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