(A Revisionist Account)
By Rolando O. Borrinaga, Alberto M. Bago,
Bienvenido H. Granali, Jose Gahum, and Antonio A. Abilar
The history of Naval on Biliran Island goes much deeper into the past than the "from Bagasumbol to Naval" theme that our folklore, folksongs, the 1961 Naval Centennial Celebration, and the first printed history written by the 1966 Naval Municipal Historical Committee would make us believe to have started around the 1850s.
We claimed that there was already and unclaimed village in the year 1600, the one that had been describes as Jesuit priest Fr. Chirino as the nearby base of the Spanish shipyard in the Philippines on Isla De Panamao(the present Biliran Island, the Panamao referred to an ethnic fishing net), and which was ministered by Jesuit missionaries based in Carigara in 1601, We postulate that the site of this village was located in the present Sitio Ilawod(a Sitio is a cluster of a few houses, Ilawod refers to the seaward portion) of Barangay Caraycaray, along the southern bank near the mouth of the Caraycaray river; In this Village by the Jesuits in 1601; and that the shipyard was located at the nearby Sabang Beach across the Inagawan Point.
On September 10, 1712, having qualified the population and infrastructure requirements, the natives submitted a formal petition for the creation of Panamao Biliran included the settlements in the different areas and islets of Biliran Island, excluding Maripipi. On this regard, we postulate that the Poblacion of Biliran pueblo was located in the present Sitio Ilawod, on the same site that we postulated as the village base of the workers of the Spanish shipyard on Panamao Island in 1600, or 112 year earlier.
To support our clain for Sitio Ilawod as the Poblacion of the Biliran Pueblo, We argue that the lantawan or watch tower on the site was erected along before 1712, as the " a priori -" Spanish requirements for this Pueblo's formation.
On May 14, 1735, a government document published in Manila directed the natives residing in Biliran Pueblo(town) to have "peopled"( han poblado: attained the required number of 500 tributes) its territorial jurisdiction within five years. This document appeared to be the conditional government recognition of the people's petition for a pueblo way back in 1712.
In October 10, 1765, a government document published in Manila appointed Don Gaspar Ignascio De Guevarra as Curate of San Juan Nepomoceno in Biliran pueblo.
Probably early in his tenure as Cura, Padre Gaspar transferred the Poblacion site of Biliran Pueblo(as Sitio Ilawod) to a hilltop site in the present barangay hugpa of Biliran Town, a distance about 15 kms. from Sitio Ilawod. As a result of this Poblacion transfer, the old poblacion site ( in Sitio Ilawod) became known as Binungtoan.
The remaining villagers , of the leader of the old poblacion(in Sitio Ilawod) who did not follow Padre Gaspar, were later described as Bagasumbol "or obstacles who enemies waged territorial border disputes agaisnt their "deserters", and "userpers" in the Poblacion in Albacia which had been established by Padre Gaspar. Bagasumbol refer to "whatever great victory or conquest" that our forebearers might have achieved.
The geographical area that is Naval was reduced to the status of a visita of a biliran pueblo. However, many residents of this visita also transferred thier abodes to more elevated location 2 kms. Northeast of the old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod). They named their new settlement as Caraycaray (repolls produced by river water cascading downstream).
The Naval of folklore and folksongs and of the late 19th century owes its beginnings to Father Juan Inocentes Manco Garcia , who was the assistant parish priest and later parish priest of Biliran pueblo from around 1848 to 1861. By then the pueblo of Biliran had been reduced to the western half of the island, with the creation of Caibiran as a separate pueblo in 1828. And the place that would become Naval (the area around the old poblacion in Sitio Ilawod) was already called Bagasumbol.
Struct by the flatnes and the fertility of the land, Padre Inocentes as Father Garcia was commonly known to folklore, invited his relatives and friends from Dimlao, Bohol and Danao, cebu to come and settle in this place.
The new wave of migrants in an area near "Tubod" (spring), some 200 kms. north from the town plaza of Naval and 3 kms northwest of the village Bagasumbol(Sitio Ilawod) as the old poblacion-turn-visits of Biliran Pueblo. They were followed by other migrants from Panay and Negros.
The name Bagasumbol , which was perceived to sound war-like, was changed to the more peaceful name, Naval, in 1859.
On 26 May 1860 Naval was separated from Biliran, but operated as independent parish only on September 1860. On 31 July 1861, Msgr. Romualdo Ximeno, Bishop of Cebu, officially declared Naval an independent parish . In August 1861 Father Santos de Santa Juana took up formal residence as the first parish priest of Naval, and served the town for 21 years until 1882.
On 23 September 1869, Naval was officially recognized as an independent pueblo.
Fr. Inocentes was known to have named the new pueblo Naval, in honor of its adopted patroness, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, whose miraculous intercession assured the Spanish victory over the Dutch Navy during the historic "La Guerra Naval de Manila" in 1646. The senior author of this paper, however, is of the opinion that Padre Inocentes may have also entertained the idea of commemorating the successful defense of Bagasumbol, which he led as the assistant parish priest of Biliran, against three waves of Moro attacks on this settlement. This was supposed to have occurred in the 1830s, but more probably between 184838 and 1858, the latter being the benchmark year for the cessation of the Moro attacks in the Visayas.