The town of Tarlac has had a colorful and significant history. Its story may very well be story of Tarlac province itself, which came into being only in 1873-74, eighty six years after Tarlac town was formally founded in 1788.
From Bacolor, Pampanga came intrepid leaders, namely Don Carlos Miguel and Don Narciso Castaneda who, years before 1788, with their families and followers trekked through the forests and hills of Porac and Bamban before finally settling down in what is now known as the town of Tarlac. They cleared the forest and tilled the fertile soil until a settlement emerged along the bank of the river which flowed across the township.
The community grew rapidly with settlers coming from Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and elsewhere. The Pampanga dialect became the lingua franca in the community, as it was part of Pampanga province in those days. The two leaders, Miguel and Castaneda succeeded in carrying out their pioneering venture through benevolent leadership, which elicited the cooperation of their followers. Thus roads were built, barrios were established without monetary expenditure, only through the common efforts of everyone. It also marked the beginnings of Tarlac as a melting pot of Central Luzon, with a mixture of divergent people working mightily for the common good.
Peace, happiness and self-sufficiency reigned during those early days. Enough agricultural and fish products were supplied by a rich soil and a flowing river, waiting for the hands of its hardworking settlers.
Later, it was unanimously agreed by the growing populace to request the authorities in Manila to convert the community into a town. Don Carlos Miguel prepared the needed resolution and forwarded it to the Spanish authorities. In 1788, a decree was issued by Captain General Don Felix Berenguer de Marquina, proclaiming Tarlac as a town under territorial jurisdiction of Pampanga, whose capital then was Bacolor.
The first governadorcillo (later called municipal) was Don Carlos Miguel in 1788 who, together with Don Narciso Castaneda, established the foundation of Tarlac town. He was followed by Don Luis Briones 1789. It was during his term as the second governadorcillo that the legend of San Sebastian started. It is said that sometime that year, an armed band of tulisanes were stopped from marauding the town by a young boy who turned out to be no less than San Sebastian himself.
Tarlac is represented prominently in the eight rays of the Philippine flag because it was among the first provinces to join the revolution in 1896. The K.K.K. of Andres Bonifacio found early adherents among Tarlaquenos, headed by Don Francisco Tanedo, after whom the town's principal thoroughfare is named. Don Francisco Tanedo was killed in an encounter with the Spanish guardia civil at the outset of the revolution. His early death inflamed the citizenry and his relatives and followers were bent on capturing the town by any means, but were dissuaded by Don Eusebio Tanedo Iro, who volunteered to see his friend, General Monet, former politico-military, governor of Tarlac and at the time the highest military official in Pampanga. Denying that Tarlaquenos were involved in the revolution, Don Eusebio was able to obtain orders from General Monet to stop military operations in Tarlac. However, peace did not reign long in Tarlac because Generals Francisco Macabulos and Jose Alejandrino already started their offensive against the Spanish forces. On June 25 1898, Spanish soldiers surrendered in Tarlac.
The Miguels, descendants of one of the pioneers of the town, Don Carlos Miguel, changed their family name to Tanedo in 1872 upon the promulgation of the Claveria decree on surnames. It is said that the Miguels preferred the masculine version of Castaneda, and Tanedo was also in compliance with the designated starting letter for all Tarlac surnames- it is therefore, not surprising that many Tarlaquenos to this day bear such surnames as Taala, Taar, Tabamo, Taban, Tabaquero, Tabasondra, Tamayo, Tamondong, to name a few.
President Emilio Aguinaldo proudly proclaimed the Philippine Republic on January 23, 1899 in Malolos, Bulacan. Assemblance of an independent government was formed, with a lawmaking body, the Malolos Congress, a cabinet headed by Apolinario Mabini ( who was foreign affairs minister), a judiciary, and of course, an army led by General Antonio Luna. A State University, the Universidad Literaria de Filipinas, was also opened.
By July 1899, however, with the tides of war turning against Aguinaldo, Tarlac became the last capital of the short-lived republic then on the run. Among the deputies who were in Tarlac to attend sessions of Congress were Fernando Ma. Guerrero of Manila, representing Leyte; Daniel Tirona of Cavite, representing Batanes; Tomas Mascarado of Batangas, representing Sorsogon; Servillano Aquino of Tarlac, representing Samar and Francisco Macabulos of Tarlac, representing Cebu.
The Aquinos, forebears of the late Benigno Aquino, Jr., came from lower Pampanga like most Tarlac settlers. The family of General Servillano Aquino settled in the town of Concepcion, still then a part of Pampanga. Present day Aquinos trace their Tarlac, Tarlac connections to one of the original families of this capital town, the Tanedo's General Aquino married Dona Lorensa Tanedo Quiambao and later, when he lost his wife in one of the tragic episodes of the revolution, married his wife's widowed elder sister Dona Saturnina Tanedo-Quiambao de Estrada, grandmother of former Senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw. The latter's bloodline is therefore not Aquino but Tanedo Quiambao, which she shares with the late Ninoy Aquino, her second cousin.
It is said, the past is a prologue to the future. This brief account of the town's colorful history is by no means complete. Since 1788, the town has progressed significantly, leading to its becoming the nucleus of Tarlac province. It has encountered countless hardships in the course of its existence, including those precipitated by earthquakes, cholera and other epidemics, great fires, devastating floods and similar calamities. Through the years, Tarlac's ability to survive wars, economic difficulties and political turmoil among others, has been proven by its consistent re-emergence as a stronger and better town, eager to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Tarlac upgrade to cityhood started way back in 1996, with the filing of a bill in Congress to convert the town into a component city. House Bill No. 6863 was passed on November 17, 1997, subsequently; Senate Bill No. 2340 was approved on February 23, 1998. Then, on April 18, 1998, through a plebiscite the citizenry overwhelmingly supported the conversion of Tarlac town into a component city with affirmative votes of 21,378 out of 26,020 votes. It was proclaimed as a component city on April 19, 1998 by virtue of Republic Act No. 8593 to be known as the City of Tarlac.