Long before the year 1900, the pages of the many chapters of history has never been generous to print even a single word about Carmen. Why? Careful scrutiny unfolds and provides not an enigmatic but clear and simple answer. It is because before there was no Carmen but Sitio Cabakhawan of Barrio Lanuza, Municipality of Cantilan then undivided Province of Surigao. It is the Sitio where itik-itik dance originated, performed by a young lady named Kanang in a baptismal party.
During the 19th century, Boholanos were fond of adventure bringing with them pottery products and tobacco for trade, loaded on their bancas and sailed bravely through the blue ocean to reach the island of Mindanao. Accidentally, a group of Boholanos with well-fashioned destiny sailed along the coast of Surigao and happened to pass and stopped-over Sitio Cabakhawan. While on the offshore, sign of certainties and new hope were on their faces seeing the potentials and resources the place could offer.
Momentarily, the leader of the Boholanos convinced the group and they decided to stay for settlement. With drive and enthusiasm to perceive the tranquil and abundant way of life, their utmost efforts were exerted in the clearing strip of land for them to plant and grow various crops.
Later, immigrants from Bohol, Leyte and Cebu came and increased rapidly. The settlers became economically sound that instantly made Sitio Cabakhawan progressive in terms of civic-consciousness, cooperation and population growth.
This eventually prompted the intellectuals of the settlers to move a petition for permission to constitute an independent barangay. Right away, they surveyed the proposed barangay site designating lots for public buildings, plaza and church. Each one of them happily contributed financial and other supports for the immediate completion of the pertinent papers and submitted it to the Cabeza de Barangay of Cantilan, Gregorio Uriarte, Sr. for his strong recommendation to the provincial governor of Surigao, Gaudencio Garcia.
Cognizant of the cultural development of Sitio Cabakhawan, Rev. Father Paulino Garcia of the Municipality of Cantilan visited the settlement and simultaneously assigned a catechist named Maestra Andang de Cubero teaching the people how to read and write.
The struggle of the settlers hastened the government for the eventual opening of a primary grade, where Germinio Arreza was the first teacher.
In the aftermath, Governor Gaudencio Garcia of the undivided Surigao province recognized the petition of the people of Sitio Cabakhawan to function as an independent barangay in the year 1900.The governor was anxious to have a living memento of his incumbency and struggle, so he officially changed the name of Sitio Cabakhawan to Barangay Carmen named after his beloved sweetheart.
In 1919, Barangay Lanuza of the Municipality of Cantilan organized and exercised as an independent municipality and Barangay Carmen was under its territorial jurisdiction.
As such, unwavering support and loyalty were afforded by the barangay people of Carmen to her cradle town of Lanuza for six decades.
Meanwhile having enjoyed freedom in the exercise of being an independent barangay, the intellectuals continue to strive to have identity of their own giving every member of the community a feel and sense of belongingness. They encouraged participation and choose from among themselves capable and committed leaders to lead their quest for further development in various terms.
It was in the year 1965 under the regime of Congressman Vicente T. Pimentel Sr., that President Diosdado Macapagal by virtue of Executive Order No. 197 dated November 17, 1965 created Barangay Carmen into an independent municipality which entirely included Barangays San Vicente, Sta. Cruz, Puyat, Antao, Cancavan, Esperanza and Bunga.
However, after 3 months operation as an independent municipality Executive Order No. 197 was revoked and Carmen was again cradled to her mother Municipality of Lanuza. The gloomy atmosphere made the people of Carmen restless and weary to stride another stops for the immediate restoration.
An area of shattered feelings subsequently challenged the intellectuals of the defunct Municipality of Carmen. In spite of the three months existence as an independent municipality, the appointed officials have done their vital function religiously.
The adverse ruling of the law reverting Carmen back into a barrio did not discourage Carmenanons from finding ways to reverse the ruling. They were confident Carmen was highly qualified to be a full pledge municipality. Instead of sulking in defeat, cause oriented Carmen folks held consultative meetings with residents and local officials, then selected Carmenanons not belonging to any vested interest groups to carry the fight for Carmen, right to the doorstep of Congress.
In spite of financial constraints, the group went into action. Mr. and Mrs. Miguel Dueñas Matildo and Mr. and Mrs. Dionisio Tubasis Bomediano sought the help of sympathetic friends like then Provincial Treasurer Prospero Pichay, Sr. then Provincial Assessor Juan Paqueo, Chief of Hospital Honesimo Ruiz and other provincial officials.
With gathered data, Mr. Miguel D. Matildo and Atty. Victoria Arado Cubero prepared the corresponding petition papers for Congressman Puyat to present to Congress.
Former Vice Mayors Dionisio T. Bomediano and Bernardo C. Tare and other Carmenanons did the follow up works at the Manila office of Congressman Jose “Popit” Puyat Jr., facilitated by Mr. Adalberto Floresca Matildo, then liason officer of Cong. Puyat.
The above-mentioned individuals worked so hard behind the scene without fanfare expecting nothing in return. Although there were some monetary donations from some teachers and other Carmenanons, the same was insufficient to cover incidental expenses of the working group. Sadly in cases when funds fell short, they had to use their own money.
Being able to establish good reputation for self-governance, they were not contented of the air of liberty they breathed but longed for more, hence prominent Carmenanons of the time with the able support of the then Congressman Hon. Jose G. Puyat, Jr. worked hard to push for the creation of Carmen into an independent municipality.
Because finally in 1969, the impaired feelings was healed when Congressman Jose G. Puyat, Jr. passed a bill for the organization of Barangays Carmen, San Vicente, Sta. Cruz, Puyat, Antao, Cancavan and Esperanza into an independent municipality which was expeditiously approved by the lower house.
Eventually on July 16, 1971, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed the bill and became Republic Act No. 6367 and election for local officials was scheduled on January 30, 1980. The elected officials were: Wenceslao R. Arreza as Municipal Mayor; Dionesio T. Bomediano as Municipal Vice Mayor; Councilors: Catalina F. Matildo; Rogelio M. Derigay, Wenefredo S. Tocmo, Sr., Venancia L. Hayagan, Juan S. Banguis, Juan D. Pame, Uldarico T. Garas, Inocentes E. Bigno, Moises L. Tupas as ABC President and Ma. Theresa A. Aspillaga as KB Chairman. They were inducted into office on March 4, 1980.
Today after thirty nine (39) years of existence and operation as an independent municipality, Carmen was able to upgrade its income class status from 6th class at the time of creation to 5th class municipality with a total actual income of ₱75,086,941.49 where 92.82% or ₱69,696,456.00 of it represents Internal Revenue Allotment Shares and 7.18% or ₱5,390,485.49 represents income from local sources for the year 2018.
It has able to put several major infrastructures in place like the construction of new 2-story government center, main health center, the new public market which is already completed and operational, establishment of street lights along the national highway and municipal streets, construction of bus and jeepney terminal, concreting of municipal streets, flood control and drainage system to mention a few. It has also identified and developed tourists’ destinations and provides program projects and activities in agricultural and social sector.