Paradise and Pandemonium: Philippine Encounters with the rest
of the World - History of Panay, Capiz, Aklan and Boracay
by Sofia Lamberto
this Article • About
the Author • Bibliography/Sources
IThe wide island of Panay
was originally inhabited by Negritos or locally called Ati.
Their eventual disappearance was due to the innocent pact
they have had with the Sultan of Borneo back in 1250 to give
up their land in exchange of ornaments like bracelets, hats
and gold necklaces. The festival called "Ati-atihan"
of Kalibo commemorates the Negritos traditional dances and
rituals held during the handover of their land.
Early in the 13th century,
Marikudo, a native chieftain, sold the coastal shores and
lowlands to 10 Bornean Datus who escaped from the repression
of Sri Vishayan Empire. One of them named Paiburong received
the area Irong-Irong, which is now called Iloilo City, meaning
nose-like, as its wide river mouth in the narrow Guimaras
Strait appears like a snout.
The island lived peacefully
until the arrival of Juan Miguel de Legazpi in 1566 that discovered
and developed more towns. Inside Iloilo, he established a
government in the town of Ogtong (Oton) and later moved to
Arevalo. In 1566, the Augustinian Fray Martin de Rada had
begun evangelizing Panay Island, where he preached the Gospel
at Pan-ay, Capiz and in Dumangas to the South. Legazpi transferred
the Spanish colony from Cebu to Pan-ay in 1569 because there
was a scarcity of food in Cebu. But by 1571, the Spaniards
had moved their base to Manila. The Augustinians, however,
continued their missionary work and in 1581 evangelized Kalibo
and in 1596, Ibajay. Both were strategic settlements because
they were near the mouth of Aklan's great rivers, a convenient
waterway for penetrating the island's interior.
Aklan lies on the northern part of Panay island, which has
three other provinces: Capiz, Iloilo, and Antique. It is shaped
like a triangle pointing southward, bounded on the west by
Antique, on the east by Capiz and on the North by the Visayan
Sea. Its topography is swampy along the coasts, and rolling
and mountainous inland. Its forest lands are being depleted,
and the open forests and grasslands are expanding.
Archaeological findings indicate
extensive trade with other Asians from the 10th to 15th centuries.
Shipbuilding was an established industry, for the Aklanon
engaged in inter-island trade. Textiles were being woven out
of piña, sinamay, and jusi fibers. Abaca materials were among
the commodities traded.
When the Spaniards came to
Panay from Cebu in 1569, they found people with tattoos, and
so they called the island "isla de los pintados."
They divided it into encomiendas, and this is how Capiz became
a separate encomienda. How the island itself came to be called
Panay is uncertain. The Aeta called it aninipay after a plant,
which was abundant in the island. Or it might have been named
after the first Spanish settlement, called Pan-ay, Legend
has it that Legazpi and his men, in search of food, exclaimed
upon discovering the island, "Pan hay en esta isla"
(There is bread on this island).
The town of Kalibo, whose
name was derived from the native name for pineapple, became
a parish in 1620, and a church of mixed materials was built
on the site now called Laguingbanwa. Aklan participated in
the Revolution against Spain when Gen. Francisco Castillo,
who had donated his fortune to found a national press for
the Katipunan and Candido Iban arrived in Aklan to found a
chapter of the Katipunan. Iban was a native of Malinao, Banga
and had befriended the brother of Andres Bonifacio, Procopio.
Inducted into the Katipunan he returned to Aklan to organize
in the Visayas. Barrio Liloan became the base of the Katipunan.
In 1897, eighty-two Katipuneros rose in arms though unsuccessfully.
Their revolutionary efforts were repaid with the round up
of leaders and the execution of 19 of them in 1897, including
Iban. Their heroic deed is commemorated in the In Memoriam
monument at D. Maagma St., Kalibo. Nineteen steps commemorating
the 19 martyrs of Aklan led to the statue of Gen. Castillo.
Another monument to the revolution is at Malinao.
Of particular pride among
the Aklanons was the bravery of one native of Aklan worthy
of praise and recognition. The name of the family was Ureta.
In those days many rivers were not spanned by bridges. People
had to wade to cross the rivers. The Spaniards were not known
to like it when they get wet and filthy so they go out and
force the "natives" to carry them across.
One day, a ranking Spanish
official wanted to cross a river in Aklan. Accounts differ
as to whether the river was in Tangalan, or in Ibajay. But
to continue the story. As fate would have it, on that day
the "natives" on whom the Spaniards depended to
carry them across that river were not around. Seeing three
other "natives" resting from work in a nearby rice
field with their carabao, soldiers escorting the official
forced one of them to carry the Spaniard on his shoulders
and take him across the river.
were the Ureta brothers, Gabriel and Vicente from the towns
in Aklan, Makato and Tangalan. The one who had to carry the
Spaniard was named Gabriel, while Vicente was made not to
help and just let his brother Gabriel do the carrying. Midway
through the river, Vicente saw Gabriel did something unexpected:
he intentionally threw the Spaniard into the water. It was
as quick as a silver bullet, Vicente recalled. He saw Gabriel
ran as fast as he could, he waded the rest of the way to the
opposite shore - and then fled the scene and Aklan. Knowing
he was now a wanted man, he headed for a port - no one can
tell now which one - and stowed away on a boat.
As escapee, Gabriel sailed
through from country to country, including Asia, Europe and
practically the world. In Austria he saw the Tirol or Tyrol
mountains which even then were renowned for its beauty. He
fell in love with the mountains. He stayed in the Tirol region
for a number of years. It was even told that he had a family
in Austria. This would explain why the Ureta surname reached
as far as Europe, in the four provinces of the Basque Country.
There are also families with this surname in Spain (Burgos),
Mexico, Peru, France, and Argentina.
After some time he became
homesick and wanted to go back. He realized that he was a
wanted man, a fugitive. So he told himself why not change
my name from Ureta to Tirol, in memory of the Tirol Mountains?
That way I can return to Aklan without being arrested and
prosecuted. That he did. He returned home a free man.
Another worthy historical
account attributable to Aklanons is their involvement in the
Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Two
Aklanon, Francisco del Castillo and Candido Iban, who were
in the pearl-fishing business, won in a lottery. They donated
P1,000 to the revolutionary movement for the purchase of a
printing press. As Katipunan members, they were instructed
by Andres Bonifacio to return to Aklan and organize. Members
were secretly enlisted in the barrios of Ochando, Kawayan,
and Tambak in Lagatic (now New Washington) and in Batan; membership
quickly spread to the rest of the province. Del Castillo,
the provincial head, died in battle on 17 Mar 1897. Two days
later, the Spanish commanding general enticed the Katipuneros
(Katipunan members) to surrender with the promise of amnesty.
On 22 March many responded. In Kalibo, 50 Katipuneros surrendered
and were immediately thrown in jail. Twenty of them were chosen
for execution. One of them, however, was released through
his wife’s intercession. At about midnight of 23 March, the
19 Katipuneros were shot and their bodies paraded that morning
around the town plaza. They are now honored as the "19
Martyrs of Aklan".
The revolutionary fervor
of the Aklanon intensified, and the Spaniards finally evacuated
Kalibo in late December 1898. Shortly after the defeat of
the Spaniards, however, American troops arrived and bombarded
Iloilo on 11 Fe 1899. In March 1901, Ben Ananias Diokno, who
had been sent by Gen Emilio Aguinaldo to organize the resistance
against the Spaniards and who subsequently became one of the
leaders of the war against the Americans, surrendered in Kalibo
Civil government was established in Capiz. Aklan on 14 Apr
1901. Victorino Mapa of Kalibo became a member of the Philippine
Commission. He also became the first Panayanon Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. In 1934 six delegates
of the Constitutional Convention came from Capiz/Aklan. When
the Commonwealth period was established, provincial and municipal
leaders agitated for local autonomy. Gabriel K. Hernandez
was elected governor of Capiz/Aklan, and the title of presidente
municipal was replaced by the municipal mayor.
Located as it is as the northwestern
tip of Panay, in the west Visayas region, off the Sibuyan
Sea, Boracay Island is naturally sheltered from the fierce
easterly typhoons. It is seven kilometers long and only one
kilometer across its narrowest point. Its thousand-hectare
entirely is distributed among three villages, namely; Yapak
in the North, Balabag in the middle, and Manoc-Manoc in the
south, and numerous small sitios, all linked together by a
maze of paths. Rolling terrain, with hilly elevations of up
to 100 meters above sea level, characterizes Yapak and Manoc-Manoc.
As far in time as memory
of the natives of Malay and Buruanga can go, the island which
is now known as “Boracay” had no name. Malay then, of which
Boracay was a part, was only a barrio or barangay of the municipality
of Buruanga, and people merely called the place “Ro Isla it
Buruanga”. The name “Boracay” was first given to a very tiny
island off the northern tip of the “Isla”.
Folks have it told that many
years ago, a couple form Antique came to settle at the northern
coast of the “Isla” to engage in planting and selling tobacco
leaves as their means of livelihood. Only a few would name
the couple. But these two people were considered to be among
the original settlers of Buruanga or Boracay.
History books would reveal
that the historic past of Boracay is shaded. However, for
the truth to be told, it was indeed one private island a long
time ago inhabited by few islanders, mostly fishermen, and
one family - Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales.
Sofia Ner Gonzales was born
on April 1, 1879 in Sta. Cruz Manila. Her parents were Dr.
Cipriano Gomez Gonzale, the First Physician and Surgeon of
Panay, and Florentina Quijano Ner of Cavite.
Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol was the son of Solomon Diangson
Tirol and Vivencia Isturis Hontiveros. He was the grandson
of Gabriel Ureta, the Tirol Mountain Lover. Lamberto H. Tirol
studied in San Juan de Letran in Manila and later married
the chinese meztisa Spanish-speaking lady Sofia. He was once
a Political Figure in Aklan and became Mayor for several terms.
He later on was appointed as "Juez de Paz" or Municipal
Judge of Buruanga, Capiz. Their wedding was celebrated at
the Tirol Building formerly called the Gonzales Building which
later on changed its name when the Gonzales family sold the
same to Ciriaco Tirol. It is worthy to note that the marriage
of Lamberto H. Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales was one of an
"arranged marriage" set up by Sofia's father.
Sofia had a small lot in
Buruanga, Malay. When her husband became "Juez de Paz"
in Buruanga, they decided to settle down in the Island, building
a small home in Balabag (now Yapak). They were considered
as among the original settlers of Boracay Island, who peacefully
and simply lived among the natives and islanders. Lamberto
was particularly friendly to the Tuba gatherers, as he love
to drink Tuba so much.
Fishing was the main livelihood
of Boracay. The couple however created one paradise island
out of it. While it was Lamberto who invested on seedlings,
it was Sofia who had the "green thumb". Cultivation
and Agriculture became the second livelihood of the islanders.
One day, the friendly mananggete
or tuba-gatherer went to see Lamberto to sell him some Tuba.
While approaching the area where Lamberto and Sofia lived
he saw the couple taking a dipping and resting on the shore
of the island. He saw Lamberto who was knee-deep in the beach
water calling out Sofia saying “Acay, hanggod ka bora, Acay,”
which when translated can mean: “Darling, there’s plenty of
That is the origin of the
Boracay, derived from “Bora.Acay”. And that name stuck for
the island. Much later, the name was given to the bigger island
instead of calling it “Ro Isla it Buruanga.” Accounts from
government offices would later on affirm that it was also
Lamberto who discovered the name "Yapak" after he
founded that area where he and his wife Sofia lived. Lamberto
died ahead of Sofia. But her work as the greener of Boracay
continued until she became old and gray.
Life was good for the Boracaynons, except occasional moments
of fear due to the ongoing conflict among the world's super
powers. Then, WWII came to Panay on 12 Apr 1942, with Japanese
troops landing simultaneously in Capiz/Aklan, Iloilo, and
Antique. This led to the formation of the Panay resistance
movement, comprising the civil resistance movement and the
Panay guerilla force. The war ended in 1945, and the country
became politically independent the following year.
During the Second World War,
Aklan had a well-established resistance movement against Japanese
occupation. Aklan was formerly a part of Capiz province on
the island of Panay in Western Visayas; hence, its history
is often connected with that of Capiz. It became a separate
province on 8 Nov 1956 under Republic Act No. 1414, with Kalibo
as its capital. The province has 17 municipalities: Altavas,
Balete, Banga, Batan, Buruanga, Kalibo, Ibajay, Lezo, Libacao,
Madalag, Makato, Malay, Malinao, Nabas, New Washington, Numancia,
and Tangalan. The inhabitants of Sapian town, in Capiz, also
speak Aklanon.Although the Aklanon felt that they were culturally
different from the Capiznon, having their own language, attempts
to create a separate province, took more than half a century.
The 1901 Taft commission was presented by petition by a delegation
headed by Natalio B. Acevedo; the Urquiola-Alba Bill of 1920,
Laserna Suñer Bill of 1925 and 1930, the Tumbokon bill of
1934 were presented t
o the legislature all to no avail but finally on 25 April
1956 a law was passed creating Aklan the 50th province of
Manuel Roxas became the first president of the Republic of
the Philippines when independence was granted, as scheduled,
on July 4, 1946. In Mar., 1947, the Philippines and the United
States signed a military assistance pact (since renewed) and
the Philippines gave the United States a 99-year lease on
designated military, naval, and air bases (a later agreement
reduced the period to 25 years beginning 1967). The sudden
death of President Roxas in Apr., 1948, elevated the vice
president, Elpidio Quirino, to the presidency, and in a bitterly
contested election in Nov., 1949, Quirino defeated José Laurel
to win a four-year term of his own.
During the 1950s Rep Godofredo
P. Ramos authored a bill separating Aklan from Capiz. The
bill was approved by Pres. Ramon Magsaysay, and the first
appointive governor was Rose Raz Neñez. In 1959 Ramos became
the first elected governor of Aklan.
Sofia Lamberto has earned a bachelors
degree in Public Administration and Political Science. She
has earned a diploma in History and Culture and is currently
an independent researcher and freelance journalist. She is
currently pursuing the course of international law as further
studies and is in her third year.
*Hijos de Tirol Chronicles,
Journals, Records of Court Cases, Bureau of Lands Inspection
and Investigation Reports in the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines with documented
testimonies of Boracay Locals; documents are part and parcel
of Court Records since the 1900s.
*Herederos de Lamberto Hontiveros
Tirol y Sofia Ner Gonzales Journals, Albums and Records as
furnished by Government agencies involved in Land Administration
and Management. These records can be found in Kalibo Land
Management Office in the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, Regional Trial Court of Capiz and/or Kalibo, Land
Registration Authority, Registries of Deeds and Properties
in Capiz and Kalibo. The digital copies may be found here:
* Heirs of the following
Boracay Settlers: Catalina, Estella, Justo Aguirre, Eugenio
Sacopano, Victorio, Juan Aguirre, Guillermo Ambay, Anselmo
Ambay, Escolastico Vargas, Monico Peroginog, Timoteo Certeza,
Pedro Insierto as far as testimonies, survey data and other
documents in the custody of the same Governmental agencies
*University of the Philippines,
Publication in the Official Gazette on June 1926, Publication
of the Petition of Solicitante Sofia Ner Gonzales in Expediente
No. 118, GLRO Record No. 31156, Petition for Registration
of Land, Court of First Instance, Capiz.
*Testimonies of Heirs of
the following: Catalina, Estella, Justo Aguirre, Eugenio Sacopano,
Victorio, Juan Aguirre, Guillermo Ambay, Anselmo Ambay, Escolastico
Vargas, Monico Peroginog, Timoteo Certeza, Pedro Insierto
as part of the Expediente in the Ordinary Registration Case
before the General Land Registration Office through the Court
of First Intance of Capiz in 1929.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.
"Except for lands already covered by existing titles,
the Court said that Boracay was unclassified land of the public
domain prior to Proc 1064. Such unclassified lands are considered
public forest under PD No. 705."
*Herederos de Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol y
Sofia Ner Gonzales Family Chronicles, Journals, Records of
Court Cases, Bureau of Lands Inspection and Investigation
Reports with testimonies of Boracay Locals. These records
can be found in Kalibo Land Management Office in the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources, Regional Trial Court
of Capiz and/or Kalibo, Land Registration Authority, Registries
of Deeds and Properties in Capiz and Kalibo, and the Heirs
of the following: Catalina, Estella, Justo Aguirre, Eugenio
Sacopano, Victorio, Juan Aguirre, Guillermo Ambay, Anselmo
Ambay, Escolastico Vargas, Monico Peroginog, Timoteo Certeza,