Some say Ligao was derived from the word “ticau”, a once abundant tree which poisonous leaves were used to catch fish in rivers or creeks. It was said that a group of Spaniards chanced upon some natives standing by a ticau tree and asked the name of the place. The natives thought the Spaniards were referring to the tree and promptly answered “tigaw”. The Spaniards mispronounced “tigaw” as “Ligao”. Since then, people referred to the town as LIGAO.
Most Ligaoenos that the name Ligao was originally “licau” which means to take the long way around or turn away from ordinary or usual route.
A variation of the story of visiting Spaniards mishearing or misinterpreting the natives tells how “Ligao” may have come from the Tagalog word “Ligaw”, which means to court or win a woman’s love. The place was famous for its beautiful maidens, prompting eligible young men near and far to come courting. One such group of men crossed paths with Spaniards soldiers who asked what the place was called. The young men thought the foreigners were asking what they are about and answered “Manliligaw” (going courting) . The Spaniards proceeded to refer to the place as “Manliligaw”, which was later shortened to the easier to pronounce “Ligao”.
However the place”name came about, LIGAO started as a small settlement known as Cavasi during the 16th century. Natives from nearby settlements eventually swelled the local populace, attracted as they were to settle in a pwaceful community. Growth and a diverse people eventually brought about a power struggle among ambitious and aggressive leaders, creating division within. Five chieftains or Maginoos: Pagkilatan, Maaban, Sampongan, Makabongay and Hokoman were staunch rivals for power, eventually endangering lives and property. Despite Chieftain Hokoman;s self-proclaimed supremacy over the others, the quest for power begat strife and struck fear in the hearts of the inhabitants. According to historian Felix de Huerta, Spaniards sent a Spanish Corporal to mediate and help the ruling Maginoos come to an understanding and end jurisdictional disputes. The Chieftains also approved the appointment of Chieftain Pagkilatan as the new supreme leader of the entire settlement. Finally, tranquility and peace reigned.
The settlement went on to prosper politically, socially and economically. In 1606, the settlement was founded as a barrio of Polangui and was later ceded to Oas in 1665. Finally. Ligao became an independent municipality in 1666.
From the beginning, Ligao’s economic backbone was primarily agricultural. Until the 1960s, majority of the population settled in rural barangays where farming was the main source of livelihood. Sustained increase in population throughout the years resulted in over-employment in the agriculture sector, which led unemployed farm workers and entire households to migrate, seeking greener pastures and opportunities in urban centers.
To stave migration, the municipal government intensified its effort to develop Ligao’s rural areas and improve economic conditions therein. In 1976, the municipality gained further economic growth with its inclusion in the integrated area development of the Bicol River Basin Development Program.
In the latter part of 1998, then Mayor Fernando V. Gonzalez started efforts to convert the Municipality of Ligao into a Component City of the Province of Albay. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved Republic Act 9008 on February 21, 2001, after the bill passed through both Houses of Congress. Ligao’s conversion into a City was ratified by a plebiscite on March 24, 2001 with a YES vote of 17,754 as against a NO vote of 1,387. On that same day, the Commission on Elections proclaimed Ligao a Component City of the Province of Albay, making it the sixth city in the Bicol Region.
Ligao is geographically located between 13 to 14 degrees latitude and 123 to 124 degrees longitude. It is situated within the central part of the 3rd District of Albay Province and is bounded on the North by the Municipality of Oas, on the South by the Municipality of Guinobatan, on the East by the City of Tabaco and on the West by the Municipality of Pioduran and Panganiran Bay. Its strategic location makes it the converging point of population movement coming from various municipalities. Ligao City is about 27 kms from the Provincial Capitol of Albay, 30 kms. from Legazpi City and 525 kms. from Manila.
Ligao City has a total land area of 24, 640 hectares that accounts for 9.65 percent of the total land area of Albay Province. It is the second largest component LGU in Albay in terms of land area, next only to Oas. The city’s area is spread out in 11 urban barangays which occupy almost 1,269 has. (5.15%), 41 rural barangays with 19,332 has. (78.46%) and 3 coastal barangays with 4,039 has. (16.39%). The biggest barangay is Maonon having an area of 2, 493.57 hectares and the smallest is Barangay Dunao with an area of 29.57 hectares. The municipal waters span an area of about 126 square kilometers with a coastline length of approximately 11 kilometers.
Ligao City’s land is classified into alienable and disposable lands with 91% of the total land area and forest lands with 9% of the land area. This is characterized by topographic profiles ranging from slopes of 0-50%. The urban areas have a 0-3% slopes.
The area of Ligao City belongs to a combination of Types II and IV climate, and these are characterized by rainy season from July to December and dry season from January to June.
The soils are volcanic in origin and these are generally fertile and suited for a wide range of agricultural crops. The soil types found in Ligao are the loam, clay and sandy and the undifferenciated mountain soils
In 2015 Census of Population, the city’s population was placed at 111, 399. It grew at an annual growth rate of 1.24% between 2010 and 2015. The urban population of 30,636 constitutes 27.5% of the total population. The larger share of the population (80,763) is found in the rural areas since the city’s economy is basically agriculture.
The average members in a family in Ligao City is 5 and the total household is 22, 280. Ligao City’s population density is placed at 452 persons per square kilometer.
The dialects varies as the people who came to settle, from Ilacano to Kapampangan to Tagalog, Visayan and even Muslim traders. However, Ligao City has its own distinct dialect which differs in pronunciation, meaning and spelling from other Bicol dialects.
In terms of religious affiliation, Roman Catholic is still the dominant religion in the city. Religious tolerance is observed among the Ligaoeños as indicated by various denominations present in the city such as Iglesia ni Kristo, Seventh Day Adventist, Church of the Latter Day Saints, Jehova’s Witness, Born Again Christians and other religious sects.
Ligao City is part of the 3rd District’s Inter-Local Health Zone called JOLLIPPOGui (Jovellar, Libon, Ligao, Polangui, Pioduran, Oas and Guinobatan), Patients from these areas can avail, among others, the services from the 25-bed Josefiina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital (JBDMDH) located in Barangay Tuburan, this city, in addition to the 3 privately-owned hospitals operating in the city. There are also 6 lying-in facilities and 13 health stations strategically-located in different barangays that assist the City’s main Health Center in the delivery of quality basic health services even to the remotest barangays.
The City is also operating a Dental Mobile Clinic that visits barangays and schools to perform dental services especially to school children.
Ligao was accorded full City Division stature in September 2005. The City’s public elementary school system is divided into 3 districts with 55 schools and thirteen (13) privately-operated schools.
There are also 12 public secondary schools that are directly under the Division Office including the Bicol Regional Science High School that is located in Barangay Tuburan. Four (4) Private Senior High Schools scattered in the poblacion areas are also operating.
There are five (5) higher learning institutions in Ligao City. One of these is the LGU-subsidized Ligao Community College (LiComCo) which had just transferred to its own campus in 2016. Another is the privately-run Infotech Development System Colleges in Barangay Dunao.
Three others are Technical-Vocational Schools, two of which are privately-run – the RENET Technological College and the Computer Arts Technology. The other one – the Information Technology Center is City-operated which provides computer literacy programs for free to Ligao City residents as well as those from nearby towns.
At present, the City has established and is maintaining 81 day care centers and one National Child Development Center. These are spread out in all 55 barangays of the city.
Ligao City is 4th class city whose economy is anchored on agriculture. Majority of its population depends on farming and its related industries. Majority of the population are tenants and only a small portion are landlords/owners of the land they till. Coconut is the most extensively planted perennial crop in the city followed by rice and corn and copra is the prime commodity. Other significant crops planted are vegetables, bananas, root crops and legumes.
Major industries include piggery, poultry, livestock production, manufacturing, feed mill, rice mill, concrete products, handicrafts, noodles making, food processing and coco-based products.
Wholesalers and retailers are the most predominant commercial establishments in the City. There are 3 commercial banks, 3 rural banks, 3 finance cooperatives and 25 other financial institutions such as micro-finance institutions, remittance center and foreign exchange dealers operating in the City.