Santol, as a municipality now being called, derived its name from the fruit called Santol. A story being told from generations, it got its name during the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. It was a day when a small Spanish Military Unit which was heading on the place while on patrol met women carrying on their heads basket full of ripe santol fruits. Santol fruits were ones abundant in this place wherein inhabitants would use it to barter for some clothing and other basic needs in the lowlands.
One of the Spaniards asked the name of the place. Not understanding Spanish, and thinking that the soldiers wanted to know the contents of their baskets, the eldest among the group answered “santol apo” (This is a santol fruit, sir). The patrol leader did not understand the dialect but noted the word “santol”. This stayed on for record and it’s how the place jotted its name Santol.
Originally, Santol was then a mere barrio of Balaoan, La Union. Subsequently in 1908, through the able leadership of a village head named Camilot, it succeeded in organizing into a township to the sub-province of Amburayan, Mountain Province. Eventually, Camilot was appointed Municipal President. The first seat of township building was immediately built in Barrio Tubaday which is one of the easternmost barangay of the municipality today.
Fourteen years later, the Mountain Province relinquished the Township of Amburayan River of which Santol became a Municipal District of the Province of La Union. Pedro Arellano became the first Municipal President. Finally, it was in April 30, 1949 that Santol was reclassified into a regular municipality under Exec. Order No. 214 by late President Elpidio Quirino.
The Municipality was still then composed of ten barrios namely: Corrooy, Lettac Norte, Lettac Sur, Mangaan, Paagan, Poblacion, Puguil, Ramot, Sasaba and Tubaday. It was in 1972 when then Sitio Sapdaan of Barrio Sasaba was then created into barrio because of its increased population and its area factor.
The early settlers of the municipality were from cultural communities of Mountain Province. Most of them include Kankanaey, Bago and Bontoc tribes which are found in the mountain areas of the municipality. One reason that can be deduced on the “Ilocanization” of Santol is the intermarriage made where in younger generations speaks Ilocano and most of them now are adherents of the western culture.
Santol is predominantly agricultural sector. Majority of the population are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Its inhabitants raised crops such as rice, tobacco, corn, root crops, vegetables, and fruits as their primary products. Some raised livestock and poultry.
The municipality is also famous for its forest products. Neighboring municipalities continued to come to Santol to buy their firewood requirements in flue-curing their Virginia Tobacco products. Noted also are light bamboos (called “bolos”) which are usually sold here and even reached as far as Ilocos Sur and Benguet.
But the terrain of the municipality contributed to the slow and inefficient delivery of government services thereby giving limited impact on the welfare of the neediest segments of the population. Notwithstanding these hindrances of development, the municipality gradually developed at par with other municipalities in the region through the initiative of its leaders and the people themselves with the assistance of the government. Public market was established, barangay roads and other major infrastructures were constructed and social infrastructures such as school buildings and health stations were installed, which made the people become development-oriented.
The concrete paving of Santol-Balaoan Provincial road, Poblacion-Mangaan-Ramot-Puguil, and Poblacion-Lettac Sur Farm to-Market-Roads opened the municipality to a brighter development prospect. The Municipality is classified as a fourth (4th) class municipality. Its revenues were derived mostly from national aids and its agricultural production. Banking for higher growth cannot be solely attained without the significant role played by the past and present leaders of the municipality. Without them, Santol could have remained undeveloped community. Listed below are those leaders who become Municipal Presidents and Mayors who have served the people for the last 98 years, to wit: