Gumaca, one of the oldest towns in Quezon Province and only several years younger than the “Noble and Ever Loyal City of Manila”, was already a well-established community even before the Spaniards came. The community had a barangay government as early as the 14th century, Lakan Bugtali being the earliest ruler according to oral tradition and Lakan Gitingan being the last. The Barangay had for its territory much of the areas now under the territorial jurisdiction of the municipalities of Atimonan, Plaridel, Lopez, Calauag, Alabat, Perez, Quezon, Unisan, Pitogo and Macalelon. Located at the mouth of what is now known as Pipisik River and nestling at the foot of Sierra Madre range, it was-as it is now-also the center of local trade and commerce.
It is perhaps because of this Franciscan friar, Fray Diego de Oropesa, first set foot in the community and introduced Christianity to the people with St. Diego de Alcala being proclaimed as the pueblo’s patron saint. In 1582, the first “visita” was erected and 1686 marked the establishment of a full-pledged town with independent (civil) government, the earlier ones having been headed by the ever-present Spanish friars (the municipality boasts of a still complete line-up of chief executives from 1574 down to the present).
A first class municipality with an income of Php 98,823,211.98 in 2010, Gumaca can rightly claim as the financial, commercial and religious center of Southern Quezon. It is host to 4 commercial banks (Allied Banking Corporation, Land Bank of the Philippines, Metropolitan Banking Corporation & United Coconut Planters Bank) and 2 thrift banks (Cooperative Bank of Quezon Province and Quezon Capital Rural Bank) and 23 financing entities/pawnshops. Not only San Miguel Corporation and Asia Brewery but also the Pepsi Cola Bottling Corporation and Cosmos Bottling Corporation maintain their respective district warehouses here to supply the beer and cola requirements of the town and other 21 municipalities under 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts. In addition, there are 4 industrial (Goldex Oil Mill, Progress Wood, Tita’s Banana Chips & MP Wood), 13 construction/electrical supply stores, 33 computer shops and 616 registered business establishments of various kinds. Last year the combined gross revenues of the top 36 business establishments surpassed the half billion-peso mark. The municipality, moreover, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gumaca with its own college seminary. The Iglesia ni Kristo has the town as its district center. Religious services are also conducted by the Union Espiritista Christiana de Filipinas, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehova’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, Sambahang Christiano Sa Gumaca under the Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines, and several Christian Fundamentalist sects. The Monastery of Mt. Carmel of our Lady in Brgy. Villa Padua opens its doors to daily Mass devotees.
Gumaca is not only a financial and religious center; it is also fast becoming a center for national and provincial government agencies. The National Transmission Corporation (TRANSCO) has a sub-area station in Brgy. Progreso. The 3-storey Tañada Building houses the Quezon II Provincial Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Revenue District 61 Office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Offices of the Quezon II Provincial Office, Office of the Philippine Coconut Authority, and the Social Security System are also located here. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources also maintains a community office; so does the Land Transportation Office. The Quezon Parole & Probation Office #2 and the Second Engineering District Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways arealso located here. Since 1954 and 1973, the municipality has been the site of the Regional Trial Court (now Branches 61 and 62 respectively).
In addition to 7 medical, dental and optical clinics and 2 diagnostic centers, Gumaca has been the site of a government district hospital and 1 private general hospital (San Diego de Alcala General Hospital) and is served by 3 national and 12 local drugstores. There are also 7 pre-need offices catering to the medical, educational, and life insurance requirements of people, including 2 with mortuary facilities.
The educational needs of the youth are served by 3 colleges- the Eastern Quezon College, Mt. St. Aloysius College Seminary, and Holy Child Jesus College. The Gumaca National High School, Bantad National High School, Camohaguin National High School, Inaclagan National High School, Panikihan National High School and Villa Perez National High School cater to public high school education. The Eastern Quezon College and the Holy Child Jesus College cater to private high school education. Public elementary schools are under 2-district supervision (Gumaca West District and Gumaca East District Elementary Schools) while the Eastern Quezon College, Holy Child Jesus College and the St. Didacus Institute provide for private elementary education. The Lamon Bay School of Fisheries provides technical high school education. Four learning centers offer nursery and preparatory education for kids with ages 3 to 6 years old- the Kids Light Educational Foundation, Nuevo Comienzo Christian Integrated School, Linkage South Learning Center and Creative Genius Montessori. Aceba Systems Technology Institute (ASTI) provides 2-year courses and short-term computer trainings with total enrollment of 526 students. Over all there are 897 students; 4,220 high school students; 10,278 elementary students; 479 pre-school students; 1,106 children under the day-care program of the local government; and 208 students from 4 learning centers, or a total student population of 17,714 for the school year 2009–2010.
As of June 2009, the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) Gumaca Branch was established. With a population of 144 student distributed in Bachelor of Secondary Education (BSEd) major in Mathematics, Bachelor of Science in Accountancy, Computer Technology and Mechanical Technology.
With an area of 22,220 hectares, Gumaca is home to 63,778 residents (NSO Survey 2007) in 59 barangays the communication needs of which served by 2 telephone companies (GTS and Digitel with about 1189 and 232 phones respectively) with direct national and international direct dialing facilities and a telegraph office of the Bureu of Telecommunications. Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular cell sites completely link Gumaca to a National network of mobile phones. For door-to-door delivery of letters and parcels, 3 couriers (LBC, JRS, and 2GO) serve the community 7 days a week. Two local cable companies namely; Sea view Cable Company and General Cable Television Company, cater to the TV viewing pleasure of the community and nearby towns. Radyo Natin 107.9 FM station broadcasts daily in the community and surrounding municipalities.
The poblacion with 9 barangays is 196-km southeast of Manila and situated strategically at the crossroads of the Maharlika Highway going to Bicol Region and the Bondoc Peninsula. It can be reached by the rail service of the PNR and the almost 24-hour service of 6 bus lines from metro manila (Philtranco, Superlines, AB Liner, Barney Trans and Raymond Buses) in addition to several air-con buses plying the Manila-Bicol-Visayas-Davao route and several mini-buses from Lucena City. Visitor with no home to stay can at any at the 7 hotels/inn and partake of the specialties of the 32 restaurants/snack bars, including those of Kapitbahay, RM Celebrations, Jollibee and Chowking. There are 7 gasoline service stations where they can gas up and have some minor car repairs.
The scenic highway between Atimonan and Gumaca drawing in the balmy breeze of Lamon Bay and providing a panoramic view of Alabat Island adds to the joy of driving along the asphalt-overlaid Maharlika Highway. Should the travelers become weary, they can drop by for a swim at any beach resort dotting the highway. Gumaca provides a promenade area with its San Diego Park a top limestone hill facing the bay. Down below, sandwiched between the railway and the bay are nipa huts for resting and picnicking. As one enters the poblacion, one cannot but notice San Diego Fort, the only remaining of the 4 that were built in 18th century (1751-1781) to guard the town against sea pirates, including foreign invaders, who made several attempts to overrun the town. The jewel of the town remains to be the centuries-old cathedral (first built in 1582, rebuilt in 1690, completed in 1747, and further improved in 1846 through the direction of the Franciscan friars and with the labor of love by the natives). It is also considered the largest in the province and now undergoing renovation. A must see among Catholics as its Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, which is an architectural gem.
The town celebrates its patronal fiesta every November 12 with the Patron Saint of every barangay joining the religious procession around the town. On the Saturday in September with the highest tide, the town’s Bicolnon community celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the image of whom is taken for a naval procession on Lamon Bay. Every first and last Friday of the month, and most especially on last Friday of April, pilgrims flock to Barangay San Vicente for devotion Masses. Its image of the saint and holy oil are ascribed with miraculous healing. Just as in Lucban, the Feast of San Isidro Labrador is also celebrated on May 15 and this is capped with the Araña at Baluarte festival (celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of May). The highlight of the festival is the Pamasyalan when the guests of the community are welcomed with local delicacy, drinks and dance in every baluarte festooned with fruits, vegetables and other farm produce in addition to finished products which roundly decorate the arenas which in turn up for grabbing by the people immediately after the last batch of the guests under the baluartes.
In addition to wholesale and retail trade of the people of Gumaca live by farming (coconut, rice, fruits and vegetables) and fishing. Among their specialties are atsara (local pickles), tamales, tikoy and banana chips. The first 2 are not commercially available as they are largely homemade but, for those who are into culinary expedition, they are a must-taste for themselves and as pasalubong. The last two are now the favorite among locals to gift their relatives abroad.