Nueva Ecija (PSGC: 034900000; ISO: PH-NUE) is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in theCentral Luzon region. Its capital is Palayan City. Nueva Ecija borders, from the south clockwise, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan,Nueva Vizcaya, and Aurora.
Map of the Philippines with Nueva Ecija highlighted
The sprawling and varied geological features of the land now known as Nueva Ecija, includes plains, mountains and rivers, all the requisites for the birthing and sustenance of life itself. The land's very first settlers came upon three mountain ranges to the East, North and West and vast southern plains. All these were sustained by a great flowing river, one whose earliest name was spoken in a now lost tongue, and which was called the Rio Grande de Pampanga by the Spaniards later on. The Great Pampanga River nourished wild, fruit-bearing trees, served as home to an abundance of fish and made possible lush, teeming woodlands that sheltered animals. All these combined must have been paradise in whatever language for the land's earliest settlers, who were able to not only survive but thrive in the surrounding abundance, all within easy reach.
These first settlers included tribes of Ilongots or Italons, Abaca and Buquids. Settlements were built along the banks following the river's undulations. The Ilongots, meaning people of the forest, were the fierce headhunters and animist tribes who occupied Carranglan and the mountainous terrain of Sierra Madre and Caraballo. The head hunting communities were nestled along the riverbanks of Rio Grande's tributaries in the north. Abaca and Italon were subgroups of Ilongots meaning river settlers. Ilongots survived mainly by fishing and hunting. Food production was a secondary occupation. The agriculture-based community of Caraclans and Buquids were settled in Bongabon and Pantabangan along the riverbanks of Rio Grande's tributaries in the northeast.
When the waves of Malay migrations took place between 300-200 B.C., intrepid travelers and traders set up settlements along Luzon's western coast. These early settlements formed the nucleus of the Pampango Empire that was consolidated by Balagtas. The flatlands of the southern portion of Upper Pampanga was a hospitable place for these new Malay settlers. The indigenous tribes were forced to take to the hills in the face of the Malays' superior technology.
Barter trade flourished among communities that settled along the great river. The constant riverside trading resulted in both a commercial and cultural exchange between the settlements in vast plains upstream of the Rio Grande de Pampanga. Settlements in Carranglan,Pantabangan, Bongabon and Puncan prospered and grew into more stable communities.
When the Pampango Empire fell into the hands of Spanish forces under the command of Martin de Goiti in 1572, the conquistadores began their long upward trek towards Cagayan Valleyand Mountain Province. Their forces passed through the settlement areas of the Upper Pampanga River.
Because of growing territorial domain and evangelical missions, a command outpost or Commandancia in the Upper Pampanga River area was established. Then Governor-General Fausto Cruzat y Góngora (July 25, 1690 to December 8, 1701) had most likely spent much of his time in the northern outpost in Carranglan and Pantabangan and, baking in the fiercely hot climate, probably waxed nostalgic about his hometown in Ecija, Andalusia in Spain. Ecija, Andalusia was also known as eel sarten or the frying pan because of its intensely hot summers. Thus the Governor-General hit upon the notion to name the outpost Nueva (meaning new Ecija).Both the New and Old Ecija were washed by navigable rivers- the former, by Rio Grande de Pampanga and the latter, by the river Genil.
Nueva Ecija is considered the main rice growing province of the Philippines and the leading producer of onions in the Municipality of Bongabon in South East Asia. It is currently the 9th richest province in the country