History of San Gabriel
San Gabriel was formerly called “Baka Burnotan” because it is where locals play a game called “Binnornutan” or tug-of-war while grazing their “Baka” or Philippine Buffalo. The games of “Binnurnutan” were usually played between the Igorots mostly from the Kankanaey Tribe who migrated from the Mountain Province to avoid tribal conflicts and the first settlers in the mountainous area and the Christians in the lowland area. Being used to hard work in the mountains, the Kankanaeys emerged as champions most of the time.
Sitio Baka Burnotan is an ideal place for residence because it has a wide plane spacious enough for animal grazing and farming along a river used for irrigation. During the later years, the name “Baka Burnotan” was shortened to Burnotan.
Sometime during the 1980s, a Spanish Priest named Fr. Redondo is said to have made an ocular visit of the place. The Roman Catholic Church through the late Fr. Redondo had seen the need for evangelization. He then constructed a small cogon church where he preached the message of God. He got acquainted with the residents and partnered with them to create projects. As a result, many of the pagan inhabitants were baptized and embraced Christianity.
On April 20, 1896, it was said that Father Redondo brought to the church an image of Saint Gabriel the Archangel and was introduced as the Patron Saint of the place. After a year, on April 19, 1897, San Gabriel was adopted as the name of the place in honor of the Patron Saint.
CREATION OF SAN GABRIEL AS A MUNICIPALITY
During the Spanish Colonial Government, the vast land of San Gabriel was a part of the Administrative Division of the Philippines called Amburayan.
On May 28, 1902, through Act No. 410 of the Philippine Commission the Lepanto-Bontoc Province was created and Amburayan became one of its 4 sub-provinces subsequently making San Gabriel as part of it. On the same day, Act No. 411 of the Philippine Commission was also issued requiring the establishment of Local Civil Government in the Township and settlements in the Province of Lepanto-Bontoc. As per Section 1, the Governor was instructed to adopt Section 68 – 71 entitled Non-Christian Tribes of Act No. 387 on dealing with native settlers who have not progressed to civilization to become a part of a municipal government by appointing officers among themselves, fixing their ranks and prescribing their duties, responsibilities, and powers which should not exceed of a Township President supposed to have. And on, 1906, the first election was conducted with Don Pablo Waggay as the first Township President.
On August 18, 1908, Act No. 1876 was issued demolishing the Province of Lepanto-Bontoc and creating the Mountain Province and the sub-province of Amburayan which San Gabriel is included became a member of said new province.
With the improved local management, in the year 1920, San Gabriel became a Municipal District. In 1922 after the settlement of the boundary dispute between La Union and Mountain Province following Act No. 2877 entitled “An Act to Modify and Establish the Boundary Line Between the Mountain Province and the Provinces of Ilocos Sur and La Union issued on February 04, 1920, San Gabriel officially became a Municipality of La Union.
With the virtue of Executive Order No. 72 issued on July 30, 1947, by then-President Manuel Roxas through the sponsorship of then-Speaker Pro-Tempore Francisco Ortega, San Gabriel became one of the 17 Municipalities of the La Union existing in accordance to the Revised Administrative Code of 1917.