It can be surmised that the Spaniards under the expedition of Legazpi might have come across or if not, at least sighted Salay, a place that was just adjacent to the Island of Camiguin and Butuan. And if by chance that they have extended their route going to Cagayan, it is very possible that they were able to pass or to some extent, landed on the place.
Under the Augustinian Recollects the evangelization took place in Salay earlier 1800. Possibly that sometime in 1650 through the missionary activities of Cagayan comprising its visitas from Tagoloan and extend to Gompot, that the evangelization of Salay started or if not, perhaps in 1726 through Tagoloan mission. By November 12, 1830, Jasaan – a former visita of Cagayan became an independent cabecera with Tagoloan, Balingasag, Salay and Quinoguitan as its visitas. It was during this time that Salay as a visita under Jasaan adopted Saint Joseph as their Patron Saint.
The separation of Jasaan from Cagayan was made possible out of the growing number of missionaries assigned in the area, the reason also that bigger towns were eventually subdivided. In fact, a Spanish document indicated that from 4 partidos, the district of Misamis was subdivided into 6 partidos and their corresponding pueblos. The document served as the earliest available account that quantified Salay as a pueblo in the year 1837 under Jasaan. Salay as a pueblo, therefore was founded in the early part of the 19th century of Spanish period.
Pueblos under Provincia de Misamis. Salay was one of the pueblos under Jasaan.
Source: Estadistica de la Poblacion y Productos Naturales de los Pueblos de decho Provincia en el presente ano de 1837 – Provincia de Misamis.
In the course of time, the parish of Balingasag was established on 3 November 1849 with the title of Santa Rita de Casia and was separated from its mother-parish of Jasaan. Balingasag as additional cabecera in the district of Misamis had five (5) visitas namely Logonglong, Salay, Quinuguitan, Talisayan and Gingoog. The Christian converts of Salay had to make a trip to Balingasag for baptism, weddings, confessions and masses. All religious activities and ceremonies had to be conducted in the parish of Balingasag. In 1877 Salay as one of the visitas under Balingasag was turned over to the Jesuits.
The hispanization of Salay became complete when the last among the Higaunon chieftains, Datu Talata was baptized by Father Gregorio Parache to Christianity and carried the name of Rufino Gonzales. On the other hand, migration from the different parts of the country especially from Visayas and from the island of Camiguin during the first eruptions of Hibok-hibok volcano took part from 1880 to 1900. This eventually led to the increasing number of population and adding more settlements along the coastline from Kiogak, Binuangan, Ampenican, Inobulan, Looc, Dampil. These areas were the early barangays under pueblo de Salay. Families such as Gonzales, Perez, Meneuza, Acosta, Bustamante, Fuentes, Rodriguez, Sacay and Balangiao are said to be descendants of the early Higaunon in the place. The infusion of migrants such as Vallar and Salvaña families into the area not only increased the population but also added vigor into its economic and political life in the town.
Binuangan, one of the barrios under pueblo de Salay, was planned to become a seat of a new municipal government by the Spanish authorities because of its strategic location. However with the discovery of the coastal plain, the missionaries in 1883 erected the mission cross at Casulog, the Spanish officials transferred the proposed municipal government from Daang Lungsod (Binuangan) to Salay.
Accordingly, Kapitan Jacinto Zagado volunteered a parcel of his irrigated land for the use of the public plaza, site of the municipal tribunal and other governmental structures. The early Spaniards did the municipal planning; dividing the poblacion into blocks with wide streets. The poblacion was then subdivided into house lots and those living in Binuangan, Kiogak and Ampenican were encouraged to build their houses in this area.
During American period, Salay as a pueblo was reduced to barrio. The four political units namely Balingasag, Jasaan, Lagonglong and Salay were merged under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Balingasag. As more people clamoured for the creation of Salay into a municipality, which is independent from that of Balingasag, a civic organization known as El Progeso Salayano was formed. This civic organization was under the leadership of Bruno Salvaña. Among its members, it was Macario Dayo who became the sergeant-at-arm of the association. Sr. Nicolas Hebia framed the by-laws on the organization. It was also Sr. Hebia who wrote the petition which was filed by the Salayanos in their desire to have a separate municipality. One of the pertinent provisions of the by-laws (separate municipality) of the association is the contribution of 2 centavos to the organization for every kilo of copra which the people sold to the stores.
In order to establish an independent municipality of Salay, they supported Policarpio Leaño and Ceriaco (Onyong) Olano as the president and vice-president of the municipality of Balingasag during the election of 1919. The petition was forwarded to Mr. Artadi the Congressman – elect at that time that personally brought it to the American governor-general for approval. Said petitioned was promptly approved thus, Salay became one of the first municipalities of the Province of Misamis Oriental on January 1, 1920 where in Quirico Ymut Soldevilla became the first appointed Municipal president.