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Valenzuela’s long and colorful history dates back to the pre-colonial era, and traces the city’s evolution from a rural provincial town to a vibrant city, as well as its important role in the development of northern Metro Manila.
Prior to Spanish rule, and for centuries before Valenzuela’s urbanization, the city was located in a flourishing agricultural and fishing town, and part of a large land area that included parts of present-day Quezon City, Novaliches, and Obando, Bulacan.
Several bodies of water bound the area—the Tullahan River, which connects to the Pasig River on the south, and a number of connecting rivers, including the Rio Grande de Pampanga on the north. Because of the unique geography of the area, early inhabitants considered it as a separate island or "pulo", which became the area’s namesake until it was changed to the more Hispanic "Polo" during colonial rule.
A call to arms
For a long time, the early settlers of Polo resisted Spanish rule, taking part in a series of epic battles against the Spanish forces of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The Spaniards were dead set on conquering Rajah Sulayman’s Maynila kingdom, which included Polo, Tambobong (now Malabon City), and the mountains of San Mateo.
In the infamous Battle of Bangkusay on June 3, 1571, Sulayaman enlisted local warriors and seafarers from his kingdom and neighboring Bulacan province, and battled the Spaniards. Sulayman's forces were vanquished, with the Maynila king killed in battle. After destroying Sulayman's army and forging friendly ties with Rajah Lakandula, the Spaniards captured Maynila and its neighboring towns, including Polo. The vast sitio was then incorporated into the township of Catangalan (now Meycauayan) in the Bulacan alcaldia.
The first revolution
Seventeen years later, local leaders plotted what was considered as the first Filipino revolution against Spain. In 1587, the Cabeza de Barangay of Catangalan, Tassi Bassi, and Polo Chief Felipe Salonga joined the revolutionary forces of Magat Salamat, in an alliance dubbed as the Tondo Conspiracy of the Maharlikas.
This planned insurrection included kin-related noblemen, or maharlikas, who were based in Tondo, Polo, Pandacan, Candaba, Taguig, Misil, Caranglan, Navotas and other localities in Manila. However, an informant leaked the secret to the Spaniards, unraveling the plot and quelling the uprising.
Interestingly, history would unwittingly repeat itself three centuries later, when Andres Bonifacio established the Katipunan; this revered movement was also discovered and quashed by the Spaniards. And just like the Tondo Conspiracy, the Katipunan revolution was also supported by the local inteligencia and political leaders, including Dr. Pio Valenzuela, whom the present-day Polo is named after.
An independent town
After the Spaniards established the Manila archdiocese on August 14, 1595, the friars who had set up churches in Catangalan called for further division of the vast town, to enhance efforts to convert locals into the Catholic faith.
On November 12, 1623, Spanish Governor-General Alonso Fajardo de Entenza ordered the separation of sitio Polo from Catangalan and its establishment as an independent town (Valenzuela would celebrate its foundation on November 7; until in 2010, when the city council passed a resolution adapting November 12 as its official date of foundation). Both of these towns, however, still fell under the Bulacan alcaldia. From the time of its establishment, the town of Polo served as a Spanish garrison, friar hacienda, and political settlement.
The first Polo Cabeza de Barangay was Don Juan Monsod, who worked with Spanish friar Juan Taranco to make the separation from Catangalan possible. Taranco operated the parish of San Diego de Alcala, and the church stood in what is present-day Barangay Poblacion, the center of the old town of Polo.
The ruins of the church that remain today—the belfry and entrance arch—serve as a reminder of the long and rich history of the town, and a relic of a bygone era.
A narrative of Valenzuela's history would not be complete without an overview of the Philippine Revolution against Spain, because the man whom the city is named after was one of the key players in the uprising. It was, in fact, this man's significant role in the revolution that made him the fitting choice to be the town's namesake.
Pio Valenzuela was born to parents Francisco Valenzuela, a Polo kapitan mayor, and Lorenza Alejandrino. After years under his parents' tutelage, Valenzuela enrolled at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran for his basic education and eventually entered the A La Real Universidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino (University of Sto. Tomas), where he became a Licenciado en Medicina in 1895.
While Valenzuela would go on to become a full-fledged and successful physician, fate had already presented him with a parallel, yet starkly different path to take. In 1892, in only his sophomore year at the UST College of Medicine, Valenzuela joined a secret organization that aimed to put an end to Spanish rule. This covert group eventually transformed into the most significant revolutionary movement in Philippine colonial history: the Katipunan.
A life made revolutionary
Valenzuela played an ever-increasing role in the Katipunan’s operations, being part of the organization’s triumvirate or the dreaded Camara Negra (Black Chamber), together with founder and Supremo Andres Bonifacio and strategist Emilio Jacinto, and serving as the group’s physician-general. This triumvirate, along with the Supremo’s brother Procopio Bonifacio, formed the central Katipunan Council, which decided on strategy and policy for the revolutionary group.
Dr. Valenzuela edited the Katipunan publication Kalayaan, whose maiden issue was published in January 1896. The Kalayaan would only see one more published issue however, after Spanish authorities uncovered the Katipunan’s existence.
Taking up arms
Valenzuela became famous and controversial when he was tasked by the Katipunan to smuggle arms from Japan. During a general meeting on May 1, 1896 in Pasig, Valenzuela proposed to solicit contributions for the cause. The Katipunan approved Valenzuela's proposal, on the condition that Jose Rizal, the foremost figure in the reform movement, endorse their revolt against Spain.
A fateful meeting
With his orders, Valenzuela departed for Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, on board the ship Venus with two other companions to visit the exiled reformist on June 15, 1896. In his memoir, Valenzuela said Rizal told him that no revolution against Spain should commence not until the support of wealthy Filipinos is secured and sufficient arms were acquired.
Upon his return to Manila, many Katipuneros sought Valenzuela for Rizal's reply. As the results of his "secret mission" had become more talked about, the risk of alerting Spanish authorities ran greater and greater. Because of this, Bonifacio advised Valenzuela to stay off the streets and go into hiding. He moved from house to house, continuing to practice his profession under assumed names and disguises.
The Katipunan unmasked
A day after the Spaniards confirmed the existence of the Katipunan on August 19, 1896 and rounded up and imprisoned Filipinos they suspected as members of the revolutionary movement, Valenzuela fled to Balintawak. Because of the Spanish clampdown, Bonifacio declared armed revolution against Spain on August 29, 1896 in the Cry of Pugadlawin in Caloocan.
This led to a series of attacks in Manila, including those in Mandaluyong, Marikina, Makati, Pandacan, Pateros, Sampaloc, Santa Ana, and Taguig, with Bonifacio personally leading the charge in San Juan del Monte. However, due to the lack of arms and local support from influential Filipinos, these battles were lost by the end of August—just as Rizal had feared.
Valenzuela availed an offer of amnesty from the Spanish government and surrendered on September 1, 1896. He was exiled in Spain, where he was tried and imprisoned. For the next two years, Valenzuela found himself detained in several prisons: in Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, and at a Spanish outpost in Africa.
The revolution falls
While Valenzuela was incarcerated, Bonifacio's revolution endured for another nine months. Their noble cause was dealt a severe blow, when Jose Rizal was executed on December 30, 1896 in Bagumbayan, Manila, for his alleged ties to the revolutionary forces.
The already waning strength of the Katipunan was further dampened by infighting between the Filipino leaders themselves, with Bonifacio becoming one of the casualties. The Supremo of the Katipunan was executed on May 10, 1897 after refusing to recognize the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo, whom he accused of conspiring with the Spanish authorities to end the revolution.
Aguinaldo entered into a truce with the Spanish to end the revolution and place his government in exile in Hong Kong, in exchange for general amnesty and monetary indemnity.
A new regime, a new path
Aguinaldo pursued his cause while in exile. On May 1898, when American naval troops defeated the Spanish armada in the Battle of Manila Bay, US Admiral George Dewey brought Aguinaldo back to Manila and re-energized his cause to establish a Philippine republic. But the Americans did not recognize Aguinaldo's government and in turn colonized the Philippines.
During World War II, the Japanese invaded Polo without resistance. And while the period can, from the surface, be considered as prosperous and cooperative with the new rulers, this came about due to immense fear of reprisals from Japanese forces. The area became a place of unfathomable terror, as Japanese soldiers murdered countless Filipino civilians.
From Polo to Valenzuela
On July 21, 1960, President Carlos P. Garcia signed Executive Order No. 401, which divided the town of Polo into two. The eastern side retained the name Polo, while the western side would become a new town, bearing the name of its most famous son--Dr. Pio Valenzuela.
Less than three years later, these two towns would once again merge, as Executive Order No. 46, signed by President Diosdado Macapagal on September 11, 1963, paved the way for Polo being annexed to Valenzuela, now a municipality.
During that time, the reunited towns were still part of the province of Bulacan. But in 1975, owing to the rapid growth of the Greater Manila Area in terms of population, the social and economic requirements of the early seventies, and Valenzuela's proximity to the GMA, Presidential Decree Number 824 was issued on November 7.
P.D. No. 824 created the Metropolitan Manila Commission and led to the separation of the Municipality of Valenzuela from the Province of Bulacan. As part of the Greater Manila Area, Valenzuela's economy flourished and its population swelled significantly.
The Dawn of a Vibrant City
The social and political upheavals of the seventies and early eighties did not dampen the pulsating economy of the Municipality—it was, in fact, a golden age in the History and Culture of Valenzuela when businesses and industries in the Municipality grew rapidly.
In 1986, a new socio-political order swept the entire country. The four days of the EDSA People Power Revolution were marked by an outpouring of love, anger, hysteria and courage by a people fighting for change and renewal. The restoration of democracy in the country also brought about a paradigm shift in national and local government relations.
The passage of the Local Government Code in 1991 unlocked the repressed energies of local communities, as the Code provided genuine and meaningful autonomy to enable local governments to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities. It was during this time that Valenzuela began charting its own destiny and moved the local economy into the direction it chose.
On February 14, 1998, then President Fidel V. Ramos signed the Republic Act No. 8526, converting the Municipality of Valenzuela into a highly-urbanized city, making the once rural fishing town the 12th City in Metro Manila and the 83rd in the Philippines.
The Municipality of Valenzuela, the gateway to the north, is now Valenzuela City—one of the country's premiere business and industrial centers.