Santiago City: History and Tourist Spot

Hey, pals! Ever heard of Santiago City in the Philippines? Nah, not that Spanish Santiago, I’m talking about the city in Isabela. This place is a hoot! Picture this: a city bustling with life and overflowing with vibrant culture, all nestled in the heart of idyllic landscapes. Sounds like a dream, right? But that’s Santiago for ya!

In this city, you’ll find a melting pot of tradition and modernity, just like adobo mixed with a sprinkle of K-pop. Imagine strolling through the busy streets, bursting with energy, and in just a few steps, you’re surrounded by lush, green fields and rice terraces. Isn’t that something?

Still not convinced? Picture this: you’re sipping on some sweet, local sugarcane juice, watching the sun set over the sprawling Sierra Madre. Now, tell me, could it get any better than that?

Aerial view of Santiago City in Isabela province, the Philippines, at night.
By Mr.RightXD – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

History of Santiago City

Spanish missionaries first founded Santiago City in 1752, setting the foundations for a settlement that would grow and evolve over time. They named the budding town after Saint James the Apostle, the patron saint of Spain.

In the early years, Santiago City was nothing more than a small, remote mission post under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the province of Cagayan. It existed as an outpost for the conversion of the indigenous peoples, the Gaddangs, to Christianity.

The late 19th century marked a significant turning point for Santiago City. Due to its strategic location as a gateway to the Cagayan Valley, the town underwent rapid growth. It became a crucial trading post, linking the valley to the rest of the Philippine islands. As a result, more people settled in the area, leading to its recognition as a municipality in 1901 under the American regime.

World War II

Over the next few decades, Santiago City continued to flourish. The city’s economy diversified, with agriculture, trade, and commerce becoming its main industries. The growth and development of Santiago City continued unabated until World War II, which brought destruction and upheaval to the city.

Upon the end of World War II, Santiago City began picking up the pieces. Its citizens worked hard to rebuild their city, displaying a resilience that has come to characterize Santiago City’s history. The city recovered quickly and even experienced a population boom in the post-war years.

The 1990s brought with them a historic moment for Santiago City. On July 4, 1994, the city gained its independence from the province of Isabela. The Philippine Congress passed Republic Act 7720, which converted Santiago into an independent component city. The residents of Santiago voted overwhelmingly in favor of this change during a plebiscite, expressing their desire for greater autonomy.

Today, Santiago City stands as a testament to its rich history and the resilience of its people. It continues to be a bustling center of trade and commerce in the Cagayan Valley, living up to its nickname “Commercial and Trading Center of the North.” From its humble beginnings as a small mission post, Santiago City has grown into one of the most progressive cities in the Philippines.


  1. A Fusion of Traditions: Santiago City boasts a vibrant cultural scene, combining the traditions of various ethnic groups such as the Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Yogads, and Kankana-ey. The harmonious blend of these cultures is evident in the city’s festivities, local cuisine, and traditional crafts.
  2. Festivals that Ignite the Senses: The city comes alive during the Panagdadapun Festival, a colorful celebration held every April. Visitors can witness street dances, and cultural shows, and participate in various activities that showcase the city’s rich heritage and traditions.
  3. Intriguing Historical Landmarks: History enthusiasts will be captivated by Santiago City’s historical landmarks. The Santiago City Museum and Heritage Center offers a glimpse into the city’s past, housing artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that narrate its history and cultural evolution.

Food Cuisines in Santiago City

Beginning with breakfast, Santiago City’s food journey starts with “kakanin,” a collective term for Filipino rice cakes made from glutinous rice. Puto, a type of steamed rice cake, is often enjoyed with hot cocoa or coffee. The local version of this, Puto Maya, is a must-try, with its unique blend of sticky rice, ginger, and coconut milk.

Moving on to lunch, one encounters the rich and savory dishes that define Filipino cuisine. The “Sinigang na Baboy,” a sour pork soup seasoned with tamarind, tomatoes, and a variety of vegetables, provides a tangy and hearty lunch option. Another local favorite is “Pancit Cabagan,” a noodle dish loaded with pork, vegetables, and quail eggs, named after a nearby town in Isabela. This dish is a testament to the local love for noodles and their Chinese influences.

In the afternoon, Santiago City’s snack scene comes alive. Street vendors line the sidewalks, offering delights like “Banana cue” – skewered bananas coated in caramelized sugar. Another popular snack is “Turon,” another banana-based treat wrapped in spring roll wrappers and fried to a golden crisp.

As dusk falls, the culinary exploration continues with dinner. “Inihaw na Tilapia,” or grilled tilapia, is a favorite, usually served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and calamansi, a local citrus fruit. Tilapia thrives in the region’s many rivers, making this dish a showcase of local produce. Another dinner staple is “Adobong Manok,” chicken braised in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices.

Lastly, no culinary journey in Santiago City would be complete without mentioning the famous “Lechon,” a whole roasted pig. Exhibiting crisp, golden skin and tender, flavorful meat, Lechon is often the centerpiece at fiestas and special gatherings. Its rich taste is often accented by “lechon sauce,” made from liver, breadcrumbs, vinegar, and sugar.

Tourist Spots in Santiago City

Start your journey in Santiago City, Isabela with the awe-inspiring Calvary Hills. These hills stretch out over 11 hectares, holding 14 life-sized Stations of the Cross that lead to a three-story-high Giant Cross. As you walk along the path, you’ll experience the serene atmosphere of the location, which provides a unique spiritual experience.

Next, transition to the La Salette Shrine. This popular pilgrimage site features a beautiful church nestled amid lush greenery. Here, you can attend a mass, explore its tranquil surroundings, or simply enjoy the serene ambiance. The shrine is known for its annual celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, which attracts local and foreign tourists.

After a spiritual journey, it’s time to immerse yourself in nature. Head to the Palanan Wilderness Area, one of the last remaining lowland rainforests in the country. Its abundant biodiversity will leave you in awe as you hike through trails, spot rare flora and fauna, and cross the mighty Palanan River. It’s a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

More Tourist Spots

Once you’ve satisfied your thirst for adventure, plan a visit to the breathtaking Queen Isabela Park. This park serves as the city’s main hub for social gatherings and public events. Not only does the park invite relaxation with its beautiful landscape and calm environment, but it also showcases an impressive statue of Queen Isabela, paying tribute to the city’s namesake.

For history buffs, make sure to include Balay na Santiago on your itinerary. This museum houses a rich collection of artifacts and memorabilia that reflect the city’s history and culture. As you wander through the various exhibits, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the local heritage.

Finally, end your journey with a trip to the Santiago City Public Market, where you can taste local delicacies, purchase handmade crafts, and mingle with the locals. This bustling market gives you a true taste of the city’s vibrant culture and lifestyle.

Festivals and Events in Santiago City


  1. Nature Escapades: Immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty surrounding Santiago City. Explore the breathtaking Malanoche Peak and enjoy panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Embark on an adventure to the enchanting Tumauini Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its unique architectural design.
  2. Culinary Delights: Indulge in the gastronomic wonders of Santiago City. Sample local delicacies such as the famous Pancit Cabagan, a mouthwatering noodle dish, or try the savory Bagnet, a crispy deep-fried pork specialty. Don’t forget to visit the city’s vibrant public market, where you can find fresh produce and regional delicacies.
  3. Retail Therapy: Shopaholics will delight in the city’s bustling commercial centers. Santiago City offers various shopping districts, including Robinsons Place Santiago and SM City Santiago, where you can find a wide range of retail outlets, boutiques, and local handicrafts.

How to Get There

  1. By Air: The nearest airport to Santiago City is Cauayan Airport, located approximately 60 kilometers away. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the city center.
  2. By Land: Santiago City is well-connected via land transportation. Buses and vans regularly ply the route from major cities such as Manila and Baguio City. Travel time from Manila is around 8 to 9 hours, depending on traffic conditions.
  3. By Private Vehicle: If you prefer the flexibility of driving, Santiago City is accessible via major highways. From Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and continue onto the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Follow the MacArthur Highway until you reach Santiago City.

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So, my friends, that’s Santiago City in a nutshell – an exciting mishmash of city life and nature, tradition and innovation. Isn’t it fascinating how one place can hold so many contrasts, yet still feel like a harmonious symphony? It’s like a perfect blend of a latte – the urban buzz (that’s your coffee) perfectly mixed with the calm serenity of nature (your creamy milk).

Got plans for the weekend? How about taking a whirlwind trip to Santiago City and experiencing this incredible harmony firsthand? And who knows, you might just fall in love with this city, the way I did. After all, who can resist the allure of the city that has it all, right?

Remember, adventures await where you least expect them. So, when’s your next unexpected adventure to Santiago City?

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