Beginnings of Naval, Biliran Island (A Revisionist Account)

By Rolando O. Borrinaga, Alberto M. Bago, Bienvenido H. Granali, Jose Gahum, and Antonio A. Abilar


Padre Juan Inocentes Manco Garcia: Founder of Naval
Padre Juan Inocentes Manco Garcia: Founder of Naval


In the early years, Padre Inocentes divided the land among the members of three regional migrant groups: the Cebuanos, the Boholanos, and the Hilonggos.28 He also initiated the efforts to build the first church and convento of the new settlement and to dig irrigation canals for the ricefields of Bagasumbol.


The name Bagasumbol, which sounded war-like, was changed to the more peaceful name, Naval, in 1859.


On 26 May 1860 Naval was separated from Biliran, but operated as a separate parish only as of 26 September 1860.31 On 31 July 1861, Msgr. Romualdo Ximeno, Bishop of Cebu, officially declared Naval an independent parish.32 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.


Padre 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 1646.35 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,37 but more probably between 184838 and 1858, the latter being the benchmark year for the cessation of the Moro attacks in the Visayas.


The Town of Biliran


The present-day town of Biliran (as has been mentioned) came into being sometime between 1765 and 1775 when Don Gaspar Ignacio de Guevara transferred the poblacion to a new location on the hilltop, which he called Albacea. The natives referred to Albacea as Manogsok.40 The latter name denotes the act of planting crops using a sharpened stick to dig holes in the soil, into which the seeds of grain (rice, corn, etc.) are dropped.

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