What is the first thing that comes to mind to outsiders when ‘Pangasinan’ is mentioned? The 3 Bs – namely, bangus, bocayo, bagoong? Or for pilgrims, the miraculous image of the Our Lady of Manaoag? Or for foreign tourists, either they go see the famous 100 islands in Alaminos or seek the help of the many faithhealers that we have from almost every town or municipality to cure their ailments?
PANGASINAN is all of these and more. But let us not allow only the outsiders to define our sense of identity. Let us not even tolerate Manilacentric negative views about us to predominate and hence emasculate our strong aspirations through state policies that seek only to undermine our selfhood and social location. But how can we let Pangasinan people talk about themselves presupposing we know what we want and where we’re heading when we don’t even know our past, who we are or what we’ve become?
The word Pangasinan is not an ethnic name. It is rather toponymic. According to Amurrio (1970; p. 257), Pangasinenses may have had an ethnic name but was perhaps lost through the centuries.
As a toponymic term, Pangasinan means ‘land of salt’ (panag-asinan/pinag-aasinan) from the root word asin with the prefix ‘pang’ and suffix ‘–an’, denoting place. In the Iluko creation myth Angalo ken Aran, the place has been cited as the land of ‘Thalam-asin’. While salt is also found in the Ilocos Region and in Manila Bay, salt coming from Dasol and Bolinao are superior in quality. And because of salt, Pangasinan is able to produce the best bagoong from the monamon fish that abound along the coast. The town of Bolinao got its name from this fish. In Tagalog, Visayan and in Bicol, ‘bolinao’ means ‘monamon’. Lingayen is popular for its own variety of bagoong which is brandnamed maniboc.
But there is another name that refers to the interior plains of the province, which is not widely known. This place is called Luyag na Caboloan or ‘Place of Caboloan’. Caboloan is from the root word ‘bolo’ (a specie of bamboo) with the prefix ‘ca’ and suffix ‘–an’, meaning place. Caboloan is a place where ‘bolo’ is largely found. In earlier times, settlements which abound in ‘bolo’ include Mangatarem, Binalatongan (San Carlos), Gabon (Calasiao), Mangaldan, Manaoag, Mapandan, Malasiqui, Bayambang, Tolong (Sta. Barbara), Gerona, Camiling, Paniqui and Moncada. Even some parts of La Union province rich in ‘bolo’ were once upon a time within the Luyag na Caboloan matrix, making these towns later under the political jurisdiction of Pangasinan. This explains the thriving bamboo-based industry in the area supported by NACIDA. With the commercial production of bamboo and rattan merchandise, the cattle caravans surfaced as the mercantile outlet for these goods. (We will dwell on the cattle caravans later.)
Another toponymic name, Caboloan first appeared in a grammar book written by Fr. Mariano Pellicer in 1840, entitled, Arte de la Lengua Pangasinana o Caboloan. As Vicar Provincial of Pangasinan and cura parroco of Lingayen, Fr. Pellicer knew the existence of an earlier work on Pangasinan grammar done in 1690 but was no longer in circulation in his time. Based on this earlier work, Fr. Pellicer wrote his own book. In Retaña’s Biblioteca Idiomatica Oriental (1906), Pangasinan was synonymous to Caboloan. The use of Caboloan remained until about the 19th century. The entire region