The Dynamism of Binalonan, Pangasinan
After considering its limitations and building on its strengths as a convergence hub, Binalonan is transforming itself into a dynamic municipality, one that has built a niche economy as a university town under the leadership of Mayor Ramon V. Guico III.
BY MAIELLE MONTAYRE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROMEO PERALTA, JR.
Marked as a crossroad for cultural and agricultural exchanges of Pangasinan, the Ilocos, and the
Cordilleras, the town of Binalonan, a first-class municipality in the province
of Pangasinan, has transformed from an uninhabited forested area
to a lush agricultural community to a burgeoning rural town. Bordered
by bustling municipalities and cities of eastern Pangasinan, Binalonan
strives to make a name for itself. With growing infrastructures, developing
services, and connecting roads and highways, the town is catching up to
its vision of becoming a progressive university town.
TAKING ROOT The current mayor of Binalonan, Ramon V. Guico III, answered the call to public servicewhen he ran for Vice Mayor in 2007. He was elected later as Mayor in 2010, a position he holds until now. “It’s my hometown,” he simply says. “I wanted to give back to my roots and prove that when you have a clear vision of what you want to do, you can achieve it.” With a doctorate degree in Public Management from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), he set about the task of further improving his hometown.
Founded in November 10, 1834, Binalonan consists of 24 barangays spread over its 8,400-hectare land area. Its name is derived from the Ilokano term balon, in Tagalog baon, which means “packed lunch.” It is said that the workers of a Spanish land-owner would rest and have their lunch underneath the trees located at heart of the land where the municipality stands today. Binalonan is a term in Ilocano and Pangasinan signifying a place where people come to bring and eat their lunch. The town traces its roots to the Ilocano people who migrated due to the drastic effects of colonial policies involving taxes and to find greener pasture in the
uncultivated lands of eastern Pangasinan.
Since then, Binalonan has risen from a poor town to a promising agricultural municipality with rice crops as one of its main products. It continues to produce sugar cane, an ingredient used for basi (sugar cane wine), suka (vinegar), and muscovado (dark brown sugar), which are some of the town’s top products. It was
in 1989 when the third-class municipality of Binalonan graduated into a firstclass municipality, owing to its rising income and population. “But I told myself that we should not stop with just being a first-class municipality,” Mayor Guico says.
Dwarfed by the more progressive and populous City of Urdaneta and Municipality of Pozorrubio, with
its high overseas remittances and high purchasing power, Binalonan fought to compete with her neighbors.
“The challenge was how to make it more progressive, how to invite more establishments and such;
because, before, there were only these mom-and-pop establishments, mga karinderya (small food stores),
and anything you need you just buy from the market,” Mayor Guico says. Inspired by his travels locally and
abroad, and armed with a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of the Philippines (UP),
Mayor Guico dreamt of transforming Binalonan into a university town.