The name “Iriga” comes from the literal translation of a dialect term “i raga” spoken in the neighboring town of Nabua, which means “there is land”. It was referring to the immense stretch of elevated fertile land in the mountain ranges of Sumagang (translated as Mountains of the Rising Sun) that includes Mount Iriga and the neighboring Mount Isarog.
It is one of the interconnected volcanic “breathers” in Bicol region comprised of at least 12 volcanic vent structures and complexes referred to as the “The Bicol Volcanic Arc”. Mt. Iriga is one of the three historically active, the other two being Mayon and Bulusan, and is considered the least active center of the arc having only two known recorded eruptions in historic times.
In early 1570’s, Fr. Felix de Huertas, the curate of Nabua, coaxed his parishioners to cultivate the higher grounds during the monsoon and typhoon season. The people who went and farmed the land were so happy with the abundance of their crop not only that it was not destroyed by flood but also because of the exceptionally fertile soil.
Mount Asog, a name given by pre-colonial inhabitants, last erupted about 600 years ago that almost flattened a once mighty volcano right in between Mt. Mayon and Mt, Isarog. It catapulted massive boulders and rocks that clogged sorrounding rivers resulting to the formation of lakes, just like the Lake Buhi in this photo, which are homes of the prized smallest edible fish in the world called Sinarapan or Tabios (Mistichthys luzonensis).
So, the good news preached by Fr. Felix de Huertas in 1570’s, “i raga sa Sumagang” – “there’s land in the mountains of the rising sun” rapidly spread among the townsfolk. These people who decided to settle there permanently became the pioneers and the first Irigueños. They became permanent residents together with the early indigenous semi-nomadic Agtas living in the region. It would be interesting to know that while we were doing trekkings recently looking for wildlife wonders in the hinterlands, we came across with indigenous families. We even managed to exchange some brief cordialities in their mixed Rinconada local dialects.
The Spanish authorities changed later the name from I-raga to Iriga, a full-pledged town of the Provincia de Ambos Camarines, which was the former name of the combined provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.
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