Like most municipalities, Bani has a legend of its own which passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Originally, the name of Bani was San Simon, the site of which was Namagbagan. When the image of the Immaculate Conception, the Patron Saint of the town disappeared from the church altar, the people and Spanish Authorities searched for the same. It was found on top of a tall Bani tree located in the vicinity of the present Roman Catholic Church of Namagbagan. Thereafter, on several occasions, the image would mysteriously disappear only to be found in the same place. With this, the inhabitants were convinced to leave their homes and to settle at the present site. From then on, the town was renamed Bani after the tree where the image of the Patroness was found.
Creation of the Municipality
Historical records reveal that prior to 1762, there were series of revolts in the Ilocos Provinces. The most serious of these uprisings was led by Diego Silang in Vigan who secured a large following and gained control of the region. Inspired by the said rebellion against Spanish domination, the people of Binalatongan (Pangasinan), with Juan de la Cruz Palaris at its helm, followed suit only to be subdued in 1765. To escape persecution through forced labor and excessive tributaries, a large number of Filipinos abandoned their villages and escaped either to the mountains or to regions beyond the control of the Spaniards.
Many of these northern people seeking peace and freedom in “regions beyond control”, took to the sea with small sailboats and sampans. They chanced to come upon the mouth of Bani River and Tambac Bay. Although barred by a shallow sandbar knee-deep at low tide, their daring and bravado pushed them further and farther to a place with a very big tree which fell across on shallow rapids called Don Cayo. These adventurers from the Ilocos Provinces and the Pangasinenses from the strife-torn communities’ bordering the Ilocos region were the first inhabitants of Bani. Their settlements around the banks of Don Cayo became a sitio, the nucleus of the town.
Since at the time Bani was part of the Province of Zambales, the residents who were referred to as “300 souls” by Fr. Mains de Lomboto petitioned its Governor to convert the sitio into a township and evinced their desire to construct a “visita” or chapel in the community. The Governor of Zambales then conducted an ocular inspection of the sitio. Later, on March 18, 1769, the town Bani was founded.
Even before Magellan was supposed to have “discovered” the Philippines for the Occidentals in 1521, the Filipinos were in fact already organized into political and social groups called the “barangays”. The barangay was headed by a datu or chieftain, or by a Council of Elders.
There was even a Code of Kalantiyao containing 18 laws pertaining to the proper conduct of the people. The Code was named after Datu Kalantiyao, said to be descendant of the great Datu Sumakwel, one of the earliest datus in the Philippines. (In the Beginning, A Nation: A President, By Mita Q. Sison Duque). These Filipino datus were of Malay origins.
When the Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521, a native ruler named Kasikis controlled a territory called “Luyag Na Cabaloan” which included all of Pangasinan and a large part of Zambales, La Union and Tarlac. His place was located somewhere within the Municipality of San Carlos (now San Carlos City). Through the intercession of Rajah Lacandula of Tondo, telling Kasikis to honor and receive the Spanish missionaries kindly, all the members of his family and his soldiers were baptized.
The Spanish conquistadores introduced in the Philippines an administrative system whereby the head of a sitio was called “Teniente Absolute” and the town “gobernadorcillo”. In 1843, the title “gobernadorcillo” was changed to “capitan”.
As a sitio in 1762, Bani’s first “teniente absolute” was Don Francisco Baltazar. When Bani earned its township in 1769, the appointed leader was Luis de Jesus. Later, in 1843, Pedro Humilde occupied the top local post.
Year 1899 ushered in the American period in Philippine History. One of the local administrative orders asserted by the Americans was the installation of “ Municipal Presidents” in lieu of “Capitanes”. From 1901-1902, Felomino Orilla was the “Presidente Municipal”. Later successive Municipal Presidents were appointed by the American authorities, the last of whom was Juan Castelo.
In the Province of Pangasinan, civil government under the American Regime was established on February 18, 1901. In 1903, the boundary of the province was changed, the latter acquiring the northern portion of Zambales comprising the towns of Alaminos, Bolinao, Burgos, Mabini, Anda, Bani, Agno and Infanta. (Soil Survey of Pangasinan Province, Philippines, by M.M. Alicante, D.Z. Roselle, R.T. Marfoli and S. Hernandez). The change in the provincial political boundaries was partly due to the distance of these western towns from Iba, the capital of Zambales, and difficulties and scarcity of transportation facilities at the time.
Past Local Chief Executives
For 378 years from 1521 to 1899, local chief executives of the “pueblos” or towns were appointed by the Spanish authorities and from 1901 to 1936 by the Americans. In 1937 to present (2003), the local chief executives were chosen by the town’s people through an election.
Fishing and agriculture are the main sources of livelihood for the majority of Bani residents. Rice, coconuts, fruits and vegetables are the major agricultural products, while “bangus” is the major fish product. Fishponds near the Bani River and its tributaries are expected to contribute a major part in the improvement of the municipality’s economy.
Functional Role of the Municipality
Bani is classified as a third class municipality as of 1996. The municipality is an agricultural town with farming and fishing as the predominant occupation of its residents. The town’s agricultural and aquatic products find their way not only in its public market for the consumption of its inhabitants but likewise to the commercial centers of Alaminos, Dagupan City, Urdaneta and as far as Baguio City. The municipality falls under the Seventh Level Category or Village Center. It is, at present, a Tertiary Urban Center.
Glimpse to the Future
As envisioned in the Provincial Physical Framework Plan (PPFP) of Pangasinan, the Municipality of Bani, while maintaining its being an agricultural and aqua-marine culture town, shall also be an agri-industrial center and a tourist haven in the west. Furthermore, the town is expected to become a first class municipality. As such, the locality shall also have tourist destinations, entertainment outfits and full-range convenience shops with extension services.