The town of Echague is a story, which is intricately, interwoven with the early Roman Catholic Clergy, in converting the inhabitants to the folds of Christianity. A mission in 1710 was established by the Dominican Order of the prelates at “CAMARAG” which was then located at the West Bank of the Ganano River, a tributary of the Cagayan River. Ruins of the big church and traces of the road built by the Dominican friars are still found as a witness to the establishment of the mission thereat.
During the Spanish colonization, it has been a pattern that once a mission is established in a place would precede the establishment of a civil government hence “Camarag” was civilly created as a town of Cagayan Province which was then the only province in the Cagayan Valley. In 1776, the seat of the municipal government was established and the town proper was located along the Dominican road.
In 1839, with the turn of events, the province of Nueva Vizcaya was created and Camarag became its capital town. By virtue of a Royal Decree on May 1, 1856, Isabela Province was created; the boundaries of which made “Camarag” a town of Isabela. Years later the site of the Poblacion was transferred to a place along the Cagayan River which was then called “KATURAY” and inhabited by the Yogad originally founded by Mengal Alingot. On March 4, 1863, Governadorcillo Antonio Mangadap petitioned for the creation of a new pueblo which was approved at the Malacañang Palace. The town did not retain its name Camarag but was renamed “Echague” in honor of the Spanish Governor General who served from 1862 – 1865 in the Philippines named General Rafael de Echague.
Originally, Echague covered the vast area now occupied by the municipalities of Cordon, Santiago City, Jones, San Agustin, San Isidro, portion of San Mariano, Dinapigue and upstream as far as Maddela, Quirino Province.
The newly created pueblo consist of Camarag, Sinabbaran, Karulay, Annafunan, Kapitan, Garit and Payak and the town was dubbed as the “QUEEN TOWN OF THE SOUTH” and is located at the southern portion of Isabela. Nestled in the foothills and lowland below the Sierra Madre mountains range and traverse through by the winding Cagayan River, which was then used as a means of transportation and making Echague a hub of trade and commerce. It was also where tobacco was grown (even to this day) which then was a monopoly of the Spanish government.
The American occupation saw the resurgence of this ethnic group (Yogads) which have attained local, provincial and even national prominence and have dominated the local political scene since 1900. To name a few who have made a name in the national scene are Dr. Miguel Gaffud, who rose from the ranks becoming an under secretary of Education during his time, Engr. Mariano Balauag who became Chairman of the Board of Examiners for Civil Engineering, and two prominent scion of the town became past governors of the province of Isabela, the late Dr. Primo Gaffud and Don Agustin Pintang and other hosts of professionals who hailed from Echague.
Aside from the Yogads, immigrants like the Ilocanos also came to settle in Echague and other families from the central plains settling at the Northwestern and Southwestern portion of the municipality and latter immigrants settling at the eastern, northeastern and southern portion across the Cagayan River from the Poblacion. The Ilocanos known for their industriousness, thriftiness and sturdiness, made the fertile lands of the town became productive thus bringing economic progress and development.
The town of Echague is primarily an agricultural municipality. The major agricultural crops grown are Palay and Corn. However, corn or locally known by its Yogad’s term “Bacao” was given more emphasis because it entered into as part of the religious and festive life of the people and now a backbone of Echague’s agriculture. Bacao festival was first celebrated by Echagueños in March 2003. From there on, Bacao Festival was celebrated simultaneously with the celebration of the traditional Town Fiesta which was celebrated from March 16-20 every year.
The municipality of Echague is the seat of the Isabela State University, the first university in region 02 and the Northern Philippine Grains Center (NPGC) of the National Food Authority, the biggest grain storage in northern Luzon. Other important government offices like the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Cagayan Valley Integrated Agricultural Research and Resources Development (CVIARRD) and the Cagayan Valley Agricultural Meteorological Station of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) are holding offices in the municipality.
The commercial area existing in the municipality is the minor central business district wherein the public market serves as the center of commercial activities.
Due to its strategic location being located at the heart of Southern Isabela, Echague is fast becoming an agro-industrial community as evidenced by the prolification of multi-million peso establishments which greatly helped generate income and job opportunities to the residents of the municipality. There is the San Miguel Corporation – B-Meg Feedmill at barangay Soyung, the Magnolia ACES and AYP Dressing plants, five (5) commercial piggery farms and thirty eight (38) contract growing farms of which, eleven (11) have adopted the Centralized Cooling Systems for poultry building, the newest trend in poultry-raising.
The municipality of Echague though not identified as national tourist spot, has its own potential tourist destinations namely the Dipaniong Caves and the Madadamian Falls. The Dipaniong Caves, located at barangay San Miguel, with its clear, cool and verdant water conducive for picnicking and swimming. It is 50 kilometers away from the Centro Poblacion and accessible to any type of vehicle during the dry season through partially gravelled roads. The Madadamian Falls is approximately twenty (20) kilometers from the urban center. It is known by its mighty waterfalls and several pools of clear water as it flows downstream forming rapids that are enjoyable for boating and floating. The waterfalls offer more natural attractions that are pleasing to human life.
The municipality is also rich in mineral resources like gold, silver, zinc, copper, silica, marbles and other resources including sand and gravel. These mineral resources can be found at barangay San Miguel. Sand and gravel are being extracted from barangays traversed and along by the mighty Cagayan River. The gas deposit found at barangay San Antonio Minit by the PNOC-EC has been consumed recently.
Recently, vast uncultivated agricultural land in the municipality which is usually grazing grounds for large cattle are now developed and planted with sugarcane. The ECOFUEL Land Development, Inc. based at San Mariano, Isabela leased a total of 290 hectares in eight (8) barangays in the municipality for the production of sugarcane to be used as feedstock for its bioethanol plant to produce anhydrous alcohol to solve the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuel. The project is in line with the Philippine Renewable Energy Program. The sugarcane plantation is expected to expand for the next planting season.
At present the municipality is administered by Honorable Francis Faustino A. Dy and ably assisted by the Municipal Vice-Mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan. Heads of offices and local officials have continued the legacies of its former officials and were constantly addressed the needs of their constituents. The officialdom, together with other government agencies, non-government organizations and people’s organizations will join hands towards realization of its vision and mission and focus towards the attainment of a progressive, peaceful, self-reliant, responsive and environment-friendly Echague that will give more opportunities for the improvement of the quality of life of its people and aiming to project the municipality as the new center of commerce, trade and industry not only for the province of Isabela but for the whole Cagayan Valley Region.