Surigao del Norte

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Surigao del Norte is a province in the Philippines located in the Caraga region of Mindanao. The province was formerly under the jurisdiction of Region 10 (Northern Mindanao). Its capital is Surigao City.[1] The province comprises two major islands—Siargao and Bucas Grande—in the Philippine Sea, plus a small area at the northeastern tip of mainland Mindanao and other surrounding minor islands and islets. This mainland portion borders Agusan del Norte - between the Municipality of Alegria, Surigao del Norte and the Municipality of Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte; and Surigao del Sur, to the south.

Surigao del Norte is the second northernmost of the Mindanao provinces and is an important commerce and transportation hub between Visayas and Mindanao. Numerous ferries cross the Surigao Strait between Surigao and the island of Leyte transporting vehicles, cargoes, and passengers between Liloan in Southern Leyte and Surigao City.


There are two presumptions on the original meaning of "Surigao" among linguists, depending on the original root word. If the root word was taken to be sulig ("sprout" or "spring up"), then Surigao may have derived from suligao ("spring water"), likely referring to the Surigao River (known as "Suligaw" in Mandaya) that empties at the northern tip of the island of Mindanao.[2][3] Early historical accounts record the name of the river as Suligao, Surigao, or Zurigan.[4]

Another possibility is that it is derived from Visayan "surogao" or "suyogao," meaning "water current". From suyog (also sulog or surog), "current". Other Visayan words derived from the same root include Sinulog, Sulu, and Tausug (Suluk).[5]


An old map showing the current territories of the province as part of the province of Surigao
Map of the historical province of Surigao in 1918

The explorer Ruy López de Villalobos headed an expedition to Surigao in 1543, an attempt at subjugation which failed because of the resistance of the natives. At that time the island of Mindanao was given the name Caesarea Caroli, in honor of Carlos V of Spain. Jesuit missionaries visited Butuan in 1597 but did not make much progress in Christianizing the people. It was not until 1609, when a full-dress expedition was launched, that Spanish authority was imposed to Tandag. In 1622, the arrival of the Recollect missionaries in Tandag commenced the establishment of permanent mission in Surigao.

The area of Surigao del Norte was once part of an ancient district referred to as "Caraga" during the Spanish colonial period named after its chief inhabitants, the Caraga tribe or Caragans who were largely concentrated in a settlement called Caraga. The ancient district of Caraga, which was established in 1609 comprised all of the present day provinces of Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Sur, the northern part of Davao Oriental and eastern Misamis Oriental. The seat of government was at Tandag until it was transferred to the town of Surigao in 1848. Six Spanish military districts were established in Mindanao in 1860 and the areas of present-day Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur (collectively called Agusan back then), including the territory lying between present day Butuan and Caraga bays, formed the third district called the "East District" which was changed in 1870 to "Distrito de Surigao". By the end of the Spanish rule in 1897, Agusan had been organized as a single politico-military comandancia named "Butuan", within the administrative jurisdiction of Distrito de Surigao.

Distrito de Surigao became a chartered province on May 15, 1901 (Philippine Commission Act 127). The territorial expanse of the Surigao province was further reduced in 1907 when the politico-military commandancia of Butuan, then a sub-province of Surigao, was created into a separate province and officially named it Agusan with present-day Butuan as its capital.[6]

On September 18, 1960, through Republic Act 2786 dated June 19, 1960, the province of Surigao was divided into the present-day provinces of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. Agusan province was later dissolved and divided into the present-day provinces of Agusan del Norte (retains present day Butuan as capital) and Agusan del Sur in 1967 by Republic Act No. 4979.[7] The town of Surigao became a city on August 30, 1970 pursuant to RA 6134.[8]

Dinagat Islands had been a part of the First District of Surigao del Norte until becoming a province on its own on December 2, 2006, with the approval of Republic Act No. 9355,[9] the Charter of the Province of Dinagat Islands, in a plebiscite. Between February 2010 and March 2011, the islands were part again of Surigao del Norte after declaring RA 9355 unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then were reinstated as a separate province.


Surigao del Norte is an archipelago province situated at the rim of the Asian continental shelf. It is located at the northeastern tip of Mindanao and faces the Philippine Trench. The province is bounded by the Dinagat Islands on the north, east by the Philippine Sea, south by the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and on the west by the Surigao Strait.

The province, with an area of Template:Convert,Template:PSGC detail comprises the mainland situated at the northeastern tip of Mindanao and several offshore islands, the largest of which include Siargao and Bucas Grande. The mainland is generally mountainous.[6]

The province has many caves and tunnels in its islands. Some are half-submerged in water most of the time and could be accessed only during low tides like the Sohoton Cove at Bucas Grande Island.

Its biggest islands are usually mountainous and rich in minerals. Nonoc Island has one of the world's largest deposits of nickel. The smaller ones either rest on sand and gravel or have a limestone base bonded by boulders, reefs and sandbars. Some islets which include those in Del Carmen in Siargao Island are a cluster of rock formations jutting out from the sea covered with shrubs and coconut trees.


Surigao del Norte has no pronounced dry season, receiving maximum rainfall from November to January.[6]

Administrative divisions

Surigao del Norte comprises 20 municipalities and 1 component city, organized into two legislative districts and further subdivided into 335 barangays. Surigao City has the most number of Barangays with 54, while the Municipalities of Burgos and San Benito has the least number of Barangays each with six.

City or municipality District Area Density Barangays Coordinates
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Alegria 2nd 65.28 25.20 250 650 12 9°28′06″N 125°34′36″E
Bacuag 2nd 95.85 37.01 150 390 9 9°36′30″N 125°38′18″E
Burgos 1st 19.27 7.44 210 540 6 10°01′05″N 126°04′27″E
Claver 2nd 322.60 124.56 100 260 14 9°34′23″N 125°43′57″E
Dapa 1st 91.90 35.48 260 670 29 9°45′25″N 126°03′05″E
Del Carmen 1st 151.68 58.56 120 310 20 9°52′07″N 125°58′14″E
General Luna 1st 41.30 15.95 410 1,100 19 9°47′00″N 126°09′23″E
Gigaquit 2nd 138.11 53.32 150 390 13 9°35′38″N 125°41′51″E
Mainit 2nd 107.76 41.61 250 650 21 9°32′16″N 125°31′21″E
Malimono 2nd 80.13 30.94 230 600 14 9°37′06″N 125°24′06″E
Pilar 1st 77.11 29.77 130 340 15 9°51′50″N 126°06′01″E
Placer 2nd 61.29 23.66 440 1,100 20 9°39′26″N 125°36′05″E
San Benito 1st 45.63 17.62 120 310 6 9°57′28″N 126°00′24″E
[[San Francisco, Surigao del Norte|San Francisco Template:Small]] 2nd 56.72 21.90 260 670 11 9°46′40″N 125°25′26″E
San Isidro 1st 42.03 16.23 170 440 12 9°56′11″N 126°05′13″E
[[Santa Monica, Surigao del Norte|Santa Monica Template:Small]] 1st 39.19 15.13 220 570 11 10°01′08″N 126°02′11″E
Sison 2nd 54.70 21.12 240 620 12 9°39′32″N 125°31′43″E
Socorro 1st 114.45 44.19 190 490 14 9°37′06″N 125°57′54″E
Surigao City 2nd 245.30 94.71 630 1,600 54 9°47′16″N 125°29′30″E
Tagana-an 2nd 77.29 29.84 210 540 14 9°41′50″N 125°34′57″E
Tubod 2nd 45.34 17.51 310 800 9 9°33′20″N 125°34′08″E
Total 1,972.93 761.75 250 650 335

People and culture

Surigao is home to the Mamanwa ethnic tribe. Their dances are showcased in a local festival called "Bonok-Bonok", held at the feast of San Nicolas de Tolentino which is held annually on September 10. The Bonok-Bonok depicts the native folks' merry-making to show gratitude to God for bountiful harvest and good health.

A collection of ancient archaeological diggings like burial coffins, jars and Chinese ceramics unearthed in Panhutungan, Placer is on public display at the Surigaonon Heritage Mini-Museum located at the Boulevard in Surigao City.


The population of Surigao del Norte in the 2015 census was 485,088 people,  with a density of 250 inhabitants per square kilometre or 650 inhabitants per square mile.

The inhabitants of the province is mostly of pure/mixed Austronesian stock, with some people of Chinese and Arab heritage. Spanish and American ancestries are also evident, albeit a minor percentage.

Some 95.80% of the people speak Surigaonon as a parent language.[citation needed] Cebuano and its dialect Boholano are also present. Waray is spoken by a small percentage. A majority are able to speak Tagalog and English as second languages. A small minority of the population are also speakers of Kamayo and Manobo languages.


The dominant religion is Roman Catholicism with 60 percent adherence.Template:Citation needed Other religions include Iglesia Filipina Independiente with 30 and 10 for Protestant Churches.

Flora and fauna

Coconut trees in the hills west of Tubod

Mangroves are the major vegetation in the coastal areas of the province, which form interminable marine forests covering 175 square kilometres (68 sq mi) along the coasts of the mainland and the islands of Siargao and Bucas Grande. The province is host to a variety of marine ecosystems like the lush seagrass beds and coral reefs which are relatively healthy and intact, supporting a rich diversity of marine flora and fauna.

Over 23 different species are caught the whole year round. Marlin, tuna, lapu-lapu, mollusks, crabs, even squids, stingrays and octopuses can be bought from fish vendors and fishermen.

The unique "magcono" (ironwood) forests of Surigao del Norte are one of the watersheds most productive resources. By its nature, it is slow growing and adapted to a mineralized soil.

Tourist attractions

Surigao City, the provincial capital, is dubbed as the "Gateway to Mindanao". The ferry landing terminal in Lipata links Mindanao to Luzon through Eastern Visayas. It annually showcases its distinct cultural heritage through the Bonok-Bonok Maradjao Karadjao Festival.

On the northern side of the province are Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands, known for their long stretch of sugar-fine beaches, vast mangrove forest, and deep waters teeming with marine life.

The Panhutongan and Amoslog archeological excavations in Placer would give a glimpse of the origins of the province and its people.


  2. Ethnomedical documentation of and community health education for selected Philippine ethnolinguistic groups: the Mandaya people of Davao Oriental, Philippines (2000).Template:Dead link
  3. (1898) La Islas Filipinas. Mindanao, Volume 1. Subinspección de Infantería. 
  4. in Pio A. De Pazos y Vela-Hidalgo: Jolo, Relato Historico-Militar: Desde Su Descubrimiento Por Los Espanoles en 1578 A Nuestros Dias (1879). Imprenta y Estereotipia de Polo. 
  5. (2017) The Monosyllabic root -ao in Mindanao Languages, 8th Annual In-house Review of the Research Office of Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology. Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 (1995) "The Provinces; Surigao del Norte", Fast Facts about Philippine Provinces, The 2000 Millenium, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines: Tahanan Books. ISBN 971-630-037-9. 
  7. Republic Act No. 2786 - An Act to Create the Provinces of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur (19 June 1960).
  8. Republic Act No. 6134 - An Act Creating the City of Surigao (31 August 1970).
  9. Republic Act No. 9355; An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands.