Camarines Norte holds the distinction as the first province in the Philippines to erect a monument in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero. The province forms a half circle above a protrusion of the Bicol Peninsula into the Pacific Ocean. Lamon Bay forms an inlet of the Pacific to the west of Camarines Norte and San Miguel Bay forms another indention towards the province’s east. Quezon and Camarines Sur bound the province to the south. The coastal lowlands give way to rolling hills and mountains towards the interior. There are no distinct seasons in the province although rain falls at its maximum from October to January. Camarines Norte lies along the main typhoon belt and howlers visit the province between the months of August and October.
In 1572, Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo visited Camarines Norte on his way to reduce Bicol and found thriving settlements around gold mines in Paracale and Mambulao (Jose Panganiban) as well as in Daet and Indan. The existence of gold mines in the region encouraged the Spaniards to colonize and Christianize the inhabitants. The region was placed under the jurisdiction of a province of Camarines in 1573. In 1829, the province of Camarines was divided in the first of a series of attempts to separate Camarines Norte from Camarines Sur. The province of Camarines Norte covered the towns of Daet, Talisay, Indan, Labo, Paracale, Mambulao, Capalonga, Ragay, Lupi and Sipocot. In 1846, the towns of Sipocot, Lupi and Ragay were returned to Camarines Sur. In 1854 the two provinces were formed into the province of Ambos Camarines and were once more separated three years later. In 1893, the two provinces were again united into Ambos Camarines and they remained united until March 1919 when the American Governor General approved an act dividing Ambos Camarines into Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.
People, Culture and the Arts
Although Camarines Norte is part of Bicol, a slight majority of the people are Tagalogs. The Bicolanos comprise the rest of the population and are concentrated in the east. They speak a form of Bicol that is different in tone and vocabulary from standard Bicol. Proximity to the Tagalog province of Quezon has allowed the mixing of the two languages in Camarines Norte. Agriculture and fishing are the main preoccupation of the people of Camarines Norte. The main products of farms in the provinces are coconuts, banana, corn, rice abaca and root crops. Fishing is a major industry along the coast. The town of Mercedes is a major fishing center that exports fish and shrimp to Manila. It is also noted for an assortment of dried fish. Paracale is gold country in Camarines Norte. Since the pre-Spanish period, local residents have worked the mines and goldsmiths have turned the metal into finely crafted pieces. The town is a center of the jewelry-making industry and although the art has declined in importance, the town is still regarded as a good place to get fine gold jewelry. Antique styles, like the “agrimon” (also known as the “alakdan”) or the flat necklace chain of the 19th century, continue to be made in Paracale. Camarines Norte residents are also involved in small-scale industries such as handicrafts, furniture-making, metal craft, ceramics manufacture and food processing. The province attracts pilgrims and tourists to the shrine of the Black Nazarene in Capalonga. A festival celebrating the feast day of the Black Nazarene on My 11 and 12 draws people of Chinese descent to this small town to seek favors for a propitious business climate. A series of processions are held around the main streets of the town during the day.