The history of the Municipality of Santa Barbara covers four centuries. The Agustinian Archives Vols. 17-18 which record documents on missionary achievements of the Agustinian missionaries bare the historical note that as early as 1617, missionaries attended to the spiritual ministration of a community or “pueblo” then known as Catmon.
The name was derived from a fruit-bearing tree which served as an imposing landmark in the vicinity. The place was a rich and fertile plain traversed by the Salug River, now Tigum and Aganan Rivers, producing rice, corn, sugar, monggo and tobacco
. During that time Catmon was only a “Visita Catmon” of Jaro vicariate. Lately, in 1760, Catmon was canonically established as an independent parish, whose patroness was Santa Barbara, and the settlement which was constituted into “pueblo” was named after her. Its total population at the time was 15,094 and in 1845, its
inhabitants reached a total of 19,719. It covered an area which now comprises the Municipalities of Zarraga , New Lucena and a part of Leganes and Pavia.
When the Revolution broke out in Luzon in 1896, it did not spread immediately to Iloilo. The Spanish authorities thought that they could keep the Ilongos loyal to Spain; hence Governador-General Basilio Agustin organized the Volunteer Militia in Iloilo to enlist Ilongos to fight the Tagalog rebels. Being a “mestizo” and having occupied the highest office in his town, Martin T. Delgado was appointed commander of the “voluntarios” in Santa Barbara. He and his men were given firearms.
Unknown to the Spaniards, however, Delgado had already become a “revolucionario”. On October 28, 1898 he publicly declared himself for the Revolution and took over the municipal building, The Revolutionary Government of the Visayas was organized and on November 17, 1898, it was formally inaugurated at the town plaza of Santa Barbara. A large crowd of people gathered from many places in Iloilo for the historic occasion. The Filipino flag was raised for the first time outside Luzon. The Revolutionary Government Officials were inducted into office and presented to the people who loudly hailed them.
The officials of the Revolutionary Government were Roque Lopez, President; Vicente Franco, Vice President and Secretary of the Interior; Venancio Concepcion, Secretary of Finance; Ramon Avanceña, Secretary of State; Jovito Yusay, Secretary of Justice; Julio Hernandez, Secretary of War; Fernando Salas, Secretary General. Gen. Martin T. Delgado was chosen General-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Forces.
Sta. Barbara became the base of the Revolutionary Forces and from here Gen. Delgado launched the campaign to liberate the whole province which culminated in the surrender of Iloilo City by Governor-General de los Rios on December 24, 1898.
The victory against Spain was short-lived for the Filipino-American War followed. Gen. Delgado led the same army against Americans from 1899 to 1901. Because of the superiority of the enemy Delgado was forced to surrender on February 2, 1901 at Jaro.
Upon the establishment of the civil government, Martin Delgado was appointed as the first provincial governor of Iloilo and was elected to the same position in the first elections held in 1903. Sta. Barbara became a town under the American regime and was incorporated into a municipality by the Commonwealth Government. The town began to progress. Better roads and bridges that linked Sta. Barbara to the city and other neighboring towns were built. The railway line between Iloilo and Capiz built in 1906 passes thru the poblacion
The Sta. Barbara Golf Course is the first in Asia. It was established in 1907 by a group of Scot, English and American expatriates working in Iloilo.
Elementary education was enhanced with the establishment of the Sta. Barbara Central School. Later, education was made available to the barrio children with the construction of the elementary schools in strategically located barrios.
The Sta. Barbara Reservoir was finished in 1925. The two irrigation systems, the Tigum and Aganan Irrigation Systems boost to rice production. These were constructed in 1926.
World War II brought destruction to whatever progress achieved during the Commonwealth period in Sta. Barbara. Almost all of the buildings in the poblacion, both public and private, were razed and leveled to the ground. Only the Roman Catholic Church and the Convent, the Elementary School, the Public Market and a few residential houses were spared. The Elementary school building was utilized by the Japanese as garrison. Life was hard for the residents of the poblacion. The men were forced to work for the repair and maintenance of the Tiring Air Field at Tiring, Cabatuan and the women and children at the cotton plantations along the river banks. Able-bodied men and youths who escaped the forced-labor joined the Guerilla Movement and engaged in a hit-and-run warfare. The town was finally liberated from the Japanese in 1945 with the help of the Americans. Civil government was restored.
Soon after the war, Sta. Barbaranhons began rebuilding their homes and their lives. Sta. Barbara being an agricultural area, concentration was on rice, corn, monggo, vegetables and tobacco production. Its land area was further reduced to 7,750 hectares with the creation of the Municipalities of Zarraga and New Lucena and the repossession by the Municipalities of Leganes and Pavia of their former territories. Progress was quite slow.
The last decade of the 20th century ushered in anew form of governance for the local government units. Republic Act 7160 took effect in January 1992. As result of its implementation, the municipal government absorbed the devolved personnel of the DA, DOH and DSWD assigned in the municipality an the other devolved functions of other national government agencies. The barangays and the municipality have their individual shares of the Internal Revenue Allotments from the National Government.
In 1998, the Municipal Government forged partnership with Philippine-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP) under the leadership of Mayor Jone P. Sabidong. The partnership developed capacity and alliance-building in Integrated Area Development (IAD) member municipalities.
In 2001, when Mayor Isabelo J. Maquino was elected Local Chief Executive, the LGSP partnership programs were renewed. This partnership identified four (4) areas on local governance developed; Local Government Management (LGM), Service Delivery (SD), Resource Generation and Management (RGM), and Participatory Governance (PG).
In Local Government and Management (LGM), preparation of the Executive Agenda and Capacity Development plans that provided the LGU- Santa Barbara with competencies in comprehensive assessment, development planning, policy development and enforcement, and structural adjustments responding to identified needs. This effort generated support from resource institutions to come in and participate to address critical interventions.
In Service Delivery (SD), participation in Solid Waste Management, Sustainable Integrated Area Development (IAD) and Health service delivery projects resulted to more capable personnel in participatory assessment, planning and implementing innovative projects, improve systems and processes, and adjusting services based feedback and client needs. This effort reaped recognitions and awards capped with winning the Gawad Galing Pook Award on Solid Waste Management and the Most Outstanding Local Health Board Award from the Department of Health where the Rural Health Unit of Sta. Barbara was declared a Sentrong Sigla with the highest score in the province.
In Resource Generation and Management (RGM), tax collection efficiency is intensified thru computerized Real Property Tax Assessment System. This RGM involved the civil society in planning and budgeting, and increased fund allocation to improve services responsive to client needs. This effort was realized in the Revenue Generation and Mobilization Plan, and the updated Local Revenue Code. In 2002-2003, the Municipal Government was adjudged the Top Performer in Real Property Tax Collection in the Province of Iloilo.
In Participatory Governance (PG), all undertakings have representations from the civil society, the private sector and the community.
In October 2006, the Municipality of Santa Barbara, through an Executive Order 559 of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became a member of the Metro Iloilo Economic Development Council (MIGEDC). MIGEDC is an alliance of Municipalities of Oton, San Miguel, Pavia, Leganes and Sta. Barbara, the City of Iloilo, and the Province of Guimaras. this alliance aims to address common problems brought about by rapid urbanization, and tourism and economic development.
Santa Barbara is a premier suburban municipality of Iloilo is strategically located at the centermost of the province. It lies within 122 29’ 15” and 122 36’ 35” East Longitude nd within 10 35’ 15” and 10 35’ 10” North Latitude, with an elevation of 32.083 ft. above sea level. It is bounded on the North by the Municipality of New Lucena, on the Northeast by the Municipality of Zarraga, on the South by the Municipality of Pavia, on the Southeast Leganes, on the Southwest by the Municipality of San Miguel and on the Northwest by the Municipality of Cabatuan.
It is 15.7 kilometers north or a twenty-minute drive from the City of Iloilo, through a well maintained asphalt/concrete national highway. It is accessible by any land transportation with the presence of a national highway, provincial, municipal and barangay road networks cutting and criss-crossing its environs.
It has a land area of 13,196 hectares, ranks 29th as to size among the 43 municipalities of the province and occupies 1.5% of all lands in the Province of Iloilo. While only 25 % of the country and 62.5% of the province is under constant cultivation, almost 100% of Santa Barbara’s land is cultivated and alienable or disposable.