MARIA DE CACAO

SKEPTICAL LEGEND OF MARIA DE CACAO

Enrique B. Picardal Jr

Mount Panamao was once thickly forested and abounded with wild deer and wickedly tusked boars. The old hunters and kaingineros with their superstitions would walk warily in the forests since people then believed in mountain spirits. If a nymph like Maria Makiling were known to have haunted Mount Panamao, it would indeed be a most appropriate tale, but there was no such legend, the old hunters would tell of a plateau where hectares of cacao plantations appeared to be diligently cultivated. The cacao trees were full of fruit. Game was also plentiful here. But the hunters never dared to pick the ripe fruit or kill the fat deer and wild boar. But there was something that the inhabitants of the island learned later from distant Manila, which gave rise to the legend of the island of Mount Panamao. It was the story about the arrival of a strange galleon at the port of Manila and of how the Spanish port authorities stared in eye- popping wonderment at the splendidly furnished vessel with its shining sails of costly silk, everything about the galleon was new from the ropes of abaca hemp, the smooth lines and surfaces of the vessel from bow to stern, the elaborate carvings on the polished cabin panels, to the shimmering sails of silk. And crammed-full in the capacious hold of the ship were sacks of dried cacao seeds, the port officials were astonished and visibly impressed when they met the passengers on the deck of the galleon. The men were richly attired and strutted about with the air of grandees; the women beautiful and elegant in fashionable clothes of costly materials. They were as fair-skinned as and even more aristocratic in bearing than the colonials.
When asked where they came from, the passengers of the galleon answered, “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao.” And where was the beautifully carpentered galleon built? The answer: “Isla de Panamao.” After a week, the passengers of the galleon sold all the cargo of cacao and returned to Panamao Island.

And mystery after mystery followed of course, some invented and relished nonetheless by Maynila folk. For certainly, the galleon and its aristocratic passengers and cargo of cacao would be the object of a lot of excited talk and speculations. The authorities themselves were said to be nonplused about their Spanish identity. Did they really come from Spain or any of the colonies? But no one had officially tried to identify these visitors from the records of the port authorities during their stay in Manila. And because of the lethargy of the Spanish bureaucracy, further inquiry was not made at all. Only the stories of the mysterious galleon would reach far and wide in the whole archipelago, for gossip and rumor travel on wings and cannot be stopped by anything but the fates, tongues continued wagging of the Spanish officer who, in the delirium of passionate love, deserted his post to follow his inamorata to Isla de Panamao. The man reportedly went mad because no one in the island knew about the galleon and the shipboard of cacao and lovely Girl Dewata. And Punta de Bulalacao! Not a ship was seen, the port itself just rocks, shrubs and trees, and no one, not a single soul.

Even today there is still enough mystery brooding over the mountain when we see it veiled in mists in the cold and rainy months of the northeast monsoon. There are a lot of things that we would like to know about, such as the plateau with cultivated cacao plantations, and the deer and the wickedly tusked boars. Is the galleon going to sail again from Punta de Bulalacao with its fair passengers, or would it be this time a modern ocean-going vessel with a cargo of cacao, the invisible kingdom of the engkantos, and who would believe this tale, But Mount Panamao is there, in the full glare of sunlight. And when the moon is a bright disk in the sky, when in the silvery sheen of moonlight Mount Panamao looks more mysterious than ever, who knows what not to believe?

There is a Maria story in almost every Region in the Philippines. Almost everywhere, the legend is that she’s a beautiful stately lady with fair skin and long locks who speaks in Spanish. She lives alone on a mountain and lends people her cutlery, gowns, golden combs, etc. She’s harvests cacao and delivers them on her Spanish galleon to different parts of the Philippines. She is known to live in waterfalls and other places, The reality is (in my mind) that she is actually the Queen of a Chocolate Conglomerate, is terribly obsessed with the aesthetic and wants to live in a world full of finery and luxury which is why she lends gowns and cutlery to the natives of the lands she abuses of their free resources, she hopes she gets invited to fine dinners and parties just like back in sweet home mother Spain, She has found out the secret to longevity and to everlasting beauty: Not too much sun and hours and hours of sleep which is why she’s seldom seen, and a top secret chemical that comes from the skin of cacao It’s just came up with that on the fly. She parks her galleon in the crests of Waterfall formations and actually uses super advanced technology (she stole from Lemurian civilization, to make her galleon invisible AND flexible to fit arrow rivers), not to mention umber powerful which explains why it goes upstream to the waterfalls. She’s also a PETA sponsor she has her own Natural sanctuary in Makiling, and she a little too vain for her own good (she sets up “apparitions” in different parts of the world and basks in worship). Folklore of northeastern Biliran mentioned a “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao” Bulalacao Point, Panamao Island. This place is a component of an entire legend- complex that includes a fairy named Maria Benita, which Dr. Rolando O. Borinaga say the Spanish galleons, cargoes of cacao, and even a fabled “city” on top of Mt. Panamao, most of the components are strangely Spanish in label and identification, suggesting that the entire legend evolved during the Spanish era, of course, Isla de Panamao is the ancient name of Biliran Island, which was the site of the first large-scale Spanish shipyard in the Philippines at around 1600. And cacao in this colony was first planted by the Jesuits in Carigara, Leyte, according to the 19th-century French author J. Mallat. The Carigara parish originally included Isla de Panamao, the “city” on the mountaintop probably evolved in the folk mind from the volcanic activity of the eruptive Mt. Panamao, whose peak glowed during dark nights, as described by Jesuit Fr. Francisco Alcina in 1668. The volcano presumably erupted a year later.

Maria Benita (Benighted Maria), the fairy, is associated with the religious controversy involving the towns of Almeria and Kawayan during the early American period at the turn of the 20th century, which saw the diminution of the belligerent town of Almeria into a barrio of Kawayan, a former barrio that was elevated into a town by American officials.

The search then left me with finding the location of Punta de Bulalacao (Bulalacao Point). Natives of Kawayan claim that this geographical point is probably in the vicinity of Barangay Bulalacao, a few kilometers east of the town proper. The place was named after a bird called “bulalacao” in Waray-waray and “buwakaw” in Cebuano, which allegedly glows or sparkles at night, I do not know the bird’s English name, and I have not yet seen one. But it might have also given rise to the “St. Elmo’s Fire” (santelmo) phenomenon in the folk mind; anyway, Barangay Bulalacao does not have a prominent headland that merits to be called a point. Thus, Punta de Bulalacao must be somewhere else, the answer dawned on me a few weeks ago, while I was scanning the Leyte-Samar sections of Spanish-era Philippine maps and trying to firm up additional proofs for my theory on the name of Leyte in an earlier column on the narrow channel under Biliran Bridge, the first detailed map of the Philippines was drawn up by Jesuit Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde in 1744. It was published in Manila in 1749 as part of his “Historia de la Provincia de Filipinas de la Compania de Jesus, the cartographer was apparently confused about where Panamao Island was closest to Leyte. He bent the island and made it appear almost connected to the mainland in two areas – at the center and west of northern Leyte, respectively. He was wrong, earlier, in 1668, Father Alcina, who probably had not traveled through the Biliran Strait on his way to Samar where he served many years as a missionary, was himself confused about the location of Pogot Point (Beheading Point). His narrative placed this on the northwestern point of Leyte, along the western seaboard of the island opposite Cebu. In Alcina’s time, the easternmost part of Cebu across northern Leyte was known to the Spaniards as “Bululaqui.” But the priest, who understood the local language, knew better. He said the word was a corruption of the native phase “buli-lacu” (i.e., buli daku), which is obscene in the Bisayan language. In English, it is “penis [is] big.” In the 1744 map, the northernmost point of Cebu, placed on almost the same latitude directly west of Panamao, was labeled Punta de Bululaqui. Its nearest village, on the vicinity of the present Daanbantayan, was known as Candaya. This village was probably the Cebu extension of the Kan-Daya (of the Big Boat) kingdom in Samar. the basic form of the Maria Cacao legend is that whenever rains flood the river that comes from Mount Lantoy, or a bridge is broken, this is a sign that Maria Cacao and her husband Mangao have either traveled down the river in their golden ship so that they can export their crops, or traveled up the river on their way back. She is supposed to live inside a cave in the mountain and the Cacao plants outside it are supposed to be her plantation.

Contemporary variants of the Maria Cacao legend

One contemporary evolution of the legend is its merger with another common Filipino mythological motif – that of soul-harvesting boats. The new stories suggest that borrowers who fail to pay their loans to the goddess would soon find themselves facing dire consequences, as Maria Cacao’s boat comes to take their souls to the next world, A very specific variant of this new element of the myth was reported in Cagayan de Oro in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong (Tropical Storm Washi), when there were reported sightings of a boat with a woman at the helm traveling along the river and offering to pick up passengers. These rumors were accompanied by a warning not to accept invitations to board the boat, because the woman was supposedly Maria Cacao “collecting souls for the next world.” In his regular newspaper column, anthropologist Michael Tan noted that this “soul harvester” function wasn’t part of the prototypical myth, and associated the evolution of the myth with the social need to invent stories as a means of coping with disaster, creating a context for the sense of despair and, to some degree, offering a scapegoat for the situation. While the story is obviously mythical in nature, it is cited as evidence of how long the production of tableya, has been going on in the area.[1] Tableya is Cebuano for round, unsweetened chocolate tablets made from cacao beans. It is a crucial ingredient in the Filipino delicacies sikwate (hot chocolate) and champorado.

Conclusion:

Astounded cartographer the ask for by then left me with finding the domain of Punta de (Bulalacao Point). Legends of northeastern Biliran said a “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao” Bulalacao Point, Panamao Island. It was scattered in Manila in 1749 as a part of his “Historia de la Provincia de Filipinas de la Compania de Jesus, the cartographer was obviously bewildered about where Panamao Island was nearest to Leyte. Contemporary assortments of the Maria Cacao legend One contemporary progress of the legend is its merger with another customary Filipino unconventional subject – that of soul-gathering watercraft. She’s assembling cacao and passes on them on her Spanish ship to various parts of the Philippines. The fitting response: “Isla de Panamao.” Following seven days, the voyages of the vessel sold all the load of cacao and came back to Panamao Island. Precisely when asked where they began from, the voyages of the ship replied, “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao.” And where was the radiantly carpentered vessel constructed? The man purportedly went irritate in light of the way that nobody in the island contemplated the ship and the shipboard of cacao and stunning Young lady Dewata. The old searchers and kaingineros with their superstitions would walk absolutely in the backwoods of individuals by then had confidence in mountain spirits. His story put this on the northwestern inspiration driving Leyte, near to the western seaboard of the island chat Cebu. Everywhere on, the legend is that she’s a dazzling stately woman with touchy skin and long secures who bestows in Spanish. In any case, there was something that the occupants of the island expanded later from far from Manila, which offered a move to the legend of the island of Mount Panamao. Not a ship was seen, the port itself just shakes, briers and trees, and nobody, not a solitary soul. Notwithstanding, the searchers never set out to pick the readied trademark thing or murder the fat deer and wild accumulate.

Reference/ Cited

Rolando O. Borrinaga The legend of Punta de Bulalacao Tacloban City Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 21, 2004
Ben Granali Legend of Biliran – Isla de Panamao (Isle of Mystery and Magic) this article was originally published in Women’s Journal, May 14, 1991, p. 14.
Maria Cacao: Ang Diwata ng Cebu (Maria Cacao: The Fairy of Cebu) Rene O. Villanueva

About the Author:

I am a member of Iglesia Ni Cristo, and a very interested of writing journal, while I’m home hiding my room whole day, playing my netbook, thinking what a good topic to write, anyway, before I forget, my name is Enrique B. Picardal jr, a native Navalanos, I was born on Aries month of April, a humble person, simple, and most of all, not a good looking is always to be blamed as boastful person, but it is natural to be good always and follow away on what is right, I am teaching General Education at Naval State University, and As of now, taking my M.A-history at the University of San Carlos, Cebu City with the Scholar grant on me under the CHED k-12 Faculty transition program, so much for that, I love freedom, freedom to sway a person whatever to do with no intervention of others that could make one fulfill the destiny on his innocent environment..

Hometown Naval

HOMETOWN NAVAL. My hometown of Naval, Biliran Province will commemorate the 155th Naval Pueblo Day on September 26, 2015. In May 2012, I found the original petition and paper trail for Naval’s pueblo creation while doing research at the Philippine National Archives. I had it photo-copied and later transcribed its text written in Spanish, which I translated to both English and Cebuano-Bisaya. I had the petition paper copied and framed and turned over to the municipal government thru Mayor Susan V. Parilla during the 112th Pueblo Day rites in September 2012. Here is the Cebuano translation of the petition:

“Pinakahalangdon nga Senyor:

“Ang teniente ug mga principales sa visita sa Nasombol, nga sakop sa pueblo sa Biliran sa Provincia sa Leyte, atubangan sa Imong Excelencia sa pamaagi nga labing maayong ipadayon ug ipaabot sa diretsuhay, nagpakita nga puno sa pagka mainalagdon ug pagtahud nga magpahayag: nga kini nga visita makita nga duol kaayo ug hapit makanit sa usa pa nga ginganlan ug Bagombong, ug ang duha [ka visita] nagmugna sumala sa ilang kahimtang nga himoon nga usa ka poblacion o lungsod. Kung itampo, aduna silay sobra upat ka gatos (400) ka tributos, o magbarayad sa buhis, lakip ang walo (8) ka Cabezas de Barangay, upat (4) niini gikan sa Nasombol ug ang laing upat (4) gikan sa Bagombong. Ug nagpuyo kini sila sa habagatan sa ilang sabakan sa Biliran, gikan diin layo sila ug bali upat (4) ka oras pinaagi sa baktasan sa yuta, ug molabang pa sa ubay-ubay nga mga bukid ug muubog sa pila ka mga salug nga lagmit makahatag ug kalisod ug kahadlok sa panahon sa uwan ug baha. Ug bahin sa paglayag sa samang distansiya, nanginahanglan kini ug pagbugsay nga moagi sa usa ka tinuod nga lisod nga agianan [sa dagat] nga makapabalaka sa panahon sa callar [diin linaw kaayo ang dagat ug walay hangin nga muhuyop sa layag sa sakayan], ug diin klaro ang peligro nga masikop sa mga Moros, nga tungod sa ilang nabatasanan nga pamirata kanunay mo-atake sa mga kabaybayonan, ug nga ang mga nabiktima nila dili lamang pipila nga puyde mahitala dinhi niini nga dokumento. Tungod niini nga rason, namiling sila ug paagi nga mahiuna sa pagpamati sa administrasyon sa Hustisya sa Nasud ug nagtudlo ngadto sa pagpalabi sa sagdon ug direksiyon gikan sa [kaugalingon nga] Gobernadorcillo, usa nga puyde o kinahanglan malauman para niini; mao ni ang gilauman. O manligwat sila ug utang nga buot gikan sa sawug [sa imong korte]. Ug sa laktud pa, nangita sila ug kaugalingnan sa pagpahimulos sa tanan mga bintaha ug kahimyang nga, sa tanan nga katarungan, kaangayan lang matagamtaman [dinhi] sa ilang mga visita [nga gipuy-an].

“Ubos sa mao nga panghunahuna, ug sa walay pagtago gikan sa superyor nga paghusay sa Imong Excelencia, ang pagbulag niining visita sa Nasombol gikan sa iyang kaulohan, ang Biliran, ug ang pakighiusa sa Bagombong ug ang pagtiros sa duha ngadto sa usa ka pormal nga pueblo nga adunay Gobernadorcillo nga mangulo niini gawas sa Biliran, magresulta sa paghatag ug dako nga mga bintaha ug labihan nga pag-usbaw sa mga tributos [o buhis] ug sa kinamaayohan nga pagdumala sa ilang lumulupyo, sama sa panguma ug pananom sa kadam-an. Ug ang mga pamalaud alang sa kaayohan sa mga lumad, nga nagagikan sa pangarit ug pag-agma sa usa ka Gobernadorcillo nga naa sa duol, puyde mamugna, nga angay sa napanahon na nga pagbulag gikan sa Biliran ug sa musunod nga pagtukod sa pueblo nga, engkaso ang hangyo sa mga tigpasiugda mahatagan ug labaw nga pagtahud, tawgon kini nga pueblo sa Naval.

“Ang mga naghangyo aduna’y dungog nga ipadayag sa Imong Excelencia ang igo nga legal nga pundasyon nga makasuporta niini nga aplikasyon. Dili kini momenos sa paghangyo, inubanan sa tim-us nga pagpahiubos, nga ang gihinabihan nga visita sa Nasombol, isip nahimutang sa usa ka lapad kaayo ug maanindot nga patag nga duol sa dagat ug igo-igo ang katambok sa yuta, ug anaa na karon sa positibo nga kabuot nga muuswag inubanan sa panahon ngadto sa pagka pueblo nga halangdon [sa uban]. Wala nay lain nga makatarunganon pa niini, ang pagka angayan (sa panahon nga makab-ot ang katuyuan) nga ania dinhi nagpuyo ang Gobernadorcillo, tungod sa bintaha niini nga sitwasyon ug sa uban pang kahimtang nga nakapalibot niini. Labihan lang kini kaangayan ug kamatarung tungod kay ang gitala nga visita aduna nay igo-igo kalu-ag nga simbahan ug inubanan sa Casa Real (o balay sa gobyerno) ug tribunal (o munisipyo), nga adunay balwarte nga hinimo sa kahoy ug igo ang konstruksiyon didto sa baybayon sa maong visita.

“Ang mga tigpasiugda matinuuron sa tanan nga ebidensiya nga ilang gibungat ug wala itago gikan sa makinaadmanon ug labaw nga pagsantop sa Imong Excelencia, ang posible ug napanahon nga kaayuhan nga isumat diha sa sawug [sa korte] sa mga moatubang bahin sa pagbulag nga gihangyo sa Imong Excelencia. Molakat sila puno sa pagsalig nga makapadasig sa kalag sa mga ginsakupan, [nga mao] ang kaluoy sa Imong Excelencia nga kanunay itugot aron maminaw sa mga pangamuyo niadtong mga nagsalig sa katarong sa [ilang] mga katuyuan. Moabot sila nga mapinaubsanon mopahayag sa ilang hangyo atubangan sa bantugan nga kaluoy sa Imong Excelencia, makimaluoy uban sa tanang pagtahud nga ang [hukom] nga itugyan nagtimbangtimbang sa tanan nga gipahayag, ug gipaagi sa katarungan nga kanunay gitugot ug nagagikan sa Imong Excelencia; ug itugyan ang pagtugot niini nga petisyon karon, nga nag-inusara nga ipasunod alang sa pinakamahapsay nga pagdumala ug kaayuhan sa mga lumulupyo niining [duha] ka mga visita, ug sa posible nga pag-usbaw sa interes sa kaharian gikan niining dapita.

“Imong Excelencia, uban ang pagpahiubos ug tim-us nga pagtahud, naghangyo sila ug naghingyap nga matugyan ug gasa nga pagtugot kini nga aplikasyon, nga mao ang grasya ug tinigamnan nga pabor nga ilang gilauman gikan sa maluluy-on nga kasingkasing sa Imong Excelencia, kinsang kinabuhi gipanalipdan sa Ginoo pinaagi sa hilawig ug malipayon nga mga katuigan alang sa kaayuhan ug kalipayan niining mga Isla [sa Pilipinas]. Ug nanumpa sila nga dili manukad gikan sa malisya o maut nga katuyuan.”

Mao kini ang gisulat sa petisyon nga gipirmahan sa Nasombol niadtong petsa 28 sa Enero, 1857.
Ang tigpasiugda nga mga principales gikan sa visita sa Nasombol mao sila Narciso Napulis, ang teniente sa Nasombol; Seberino Saberon, nga usa ka Cabeza sa Barangay; Pedro de la Torre; Francisco Corpin; Trocio Sancap; Pablo Sabonido; Luciano Sabondo; ug Miano Morron.

Ang tigpasiugda nga mga principales gikan sa visita sa Bagombong mao sila Carlos Taburo Caparo; Antonio Abigas; Ygnacio Sabenay; Angelio Sandigan; Esteban Ebajo; Domingo Dopal, nga usa ka Cabeza de Barangay; ug Bernardino Lavete.

Ang naghatag sa visto bueno o katugutan mao si Padre Juan Garcia Inocentes, kura parroco sa Parokya sa Biliran gikan sa 1839 ngadto sa 1861.

A waterfall in Almeria, Biliran Province. (Photo courtesy of the Biliran Provincial Government.)

Facts and Fiction about Biliran

(Letter to the editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, published on March 9, 1997.)

 

A waterfall in Almeria, Biliran Province. (Photo courtesy of the Biliran Provincial Government.)

A waterfall in Almeria, Biliran Province.
(Photo courtesy of the Biliran Provincial Government.)

As a native of Naval, I kept hearing comments that the drinking water in my native province of Biliran was tam-ison (sweet). Then in a speech during a visit to Naval in January 1994, President Ramos surprised the Biliranons with his announcement that the Guinness Book of World Records listed Biliran as the source of the world’s “sweetest-tasting water.”

I featured the presidential revelation in the banner story for a local newsweekly. I believed, talked and wrote about it until early last year, when I was told that the citation was non-existent. Biliran Gov. Wayne Jaro told me in April 1996 that a search by the Malacañang staff failed to locate the “Guinness” entry on Biliran’s water. Nobody knows where the President got his information, which was taken as fact by his audience and led to a wild-goose chase for the specific water source (which is believed to be Tomalistis Falls in Caibiran).

The INQUIRER propagated the fiction with the front page article, “Biliran town has world’s sweetest water” last Feb. 3.

This myth-making started by the President must be corrected.

Biliran has factual attractions other than the fictitious entry in “Guinness.” The white coral beaches of Higatangan Island off Naval, Dalutan Islet off Almeria, and Sambawan atoll off Maripipi could give Boracay a run for its money and fame. The tiled Masagongsong Swimming Pool in Kawayan and the San Bernardo Swimming Pool in Caibiran source their crystal clear mineral water from adjacent underground springs. The Casyawan Falls in Cabucgayan and the Pondol Falls in Iyusan, Almeria are fascinating sights to behold. The latter is celebrated in the recorded legend about the local fairy, Maria Benita of Panamao.

Above all, Biliran is a historian’s feast. City folk who had watched “The Mission,” the movie about the aborted Jesuit experiment in communal society living among the Guarani Indians in the forest of Paraguay, did not know that its Asian parallel was carved out of the forest of Biliran town.

The Biliran Religious Revolt from 1765 to 1775 was the most successful revolt in Philippine history, though it is not found in our textbooks. It was led by Padre Gaspar Ignacio de Guevara, a native priest who was appointed as the first parish priest of Biliran pueblo. He later claimed that he was St. Peter with his royal throne in Biliran. The revolt ended after its leader was captured by Moro raiders, not by the Spaniards. The Franciscans in Samar believed that if the Moros had not caught Padre Gaspar, “there would not today [1775] be a Christian left in Samar and Leyte.”

The “Biliran commune” would be replicated elsewhere by members of the Dios-dios movement in Leyte and Samar in the 1890s, during the revolution that ousted the Spaniards from the region in 1898, and during the Pulahan Wars (1902-1907) against the Americans.

This native model of commune living, invoked by millenniarist movements during dangerous and uncertain times, preceded Karl Marx’s communist manifesto by nearly a century.

In Biliran, you can establish the historical basis of myth, folklore, oral accounts, place-names and rituals. You can also expose the fiction behind a presidential fact.

ROLANDO O. BORRINAGA, UP School of Health Sciences, Palo, Leyte

Sunrise over Tres Marias Mountains east of Naval. (Photo courtesy of the Biliran Provincial Government.)

Biliran Cultural Setting

A sociology textbook defined culture as “the entire way of life followed by a people and everything learned and shared by people in society. It includes all socially standardized ways of seeing and thinking about the world, establishing preferences and goals, and also consisting of the rules which generate and guide behavior.”

Another author refers to culture as “an organization of phenomena which include acts (patterns of behavior); objects (tools and things made by tools); ideas (beliefs, knowledge); and sentiments (attitudes, values).”

Scholars generally agree that the key to culture lies in the minds of individuals, and that the people’s mentifacts or ideas are the foundation of culture. The material aspects of culture are called artifacts.

In this section, we explore largely the mentifacts of the culture of Biliran Province.

In the 1950s, public school teachers of Kawayan and Almeria towns conducted interviews with local residents. They gathered folklore materials mainly from informants living in poblacions, villages, and settlements around the base of Mount Panamao, the most prominent geographical landmark north of Biliran Island. At the time, this island was a remote and isolated geography, reachable from other islands only by sea transportation.

The materials have since been used to explore the possibilities of using folklore as data source for historical writing. Some of the output articles may be accessed from here. They also provide glimpses of the unique world-view of the Biliran natives in their more pristine form.

Grid Map of Naval

Barangay Names of Naval and Their Meanings

Prof. Rolando O. Borrinaga, Ph.D.
School of Health Sciences
University of the Philippines Manila
Palo, Leyte

 

This article, extracted from a longer Naval Pueblo Day 2010 paper, provides the meanings of all the 26 barangay names of our hometown, several of which are no longer known or even misunderstood by the younger generations. The names are arranged alphabetically.

Agpangi. Contracted form of Ang pangi. The Bisaya article ang is quite unconsciously pronounced as ag in many conversation situations, thus Ag pangi in this case. Pangi(Pangium edule) [http://www.stuartxchange.org/Pangi.html] is a tree with a stout and tall trunk. It has wide and thick leaves, and its fruit, which is small and a bit long, is poisonous [Sanchez 1914, 413, Bisaya-Español section].

Anislagan. The root word of the name of this barangay is Anislag (Securinega flexuosa), a shrub and small tree used for house posts [Tramp 1995, 15]. Anislagan means “a place where anislag wood is gathered.”

Atipolo. The place has always been called by its natives as Tipolo, which is actually the Bisaya word for Antipolo (Artocarpus communis). The word Artocarpus is derived from the Greek words artos (bread) and karpos (fruit). Antipolo is a large tree, similar in habit, size, and leaf characteristics to Rimas (Artocarpus altilis) [http://www.stuartxchange.com/Antipolo.html].

Borac: Although Burak is the generic Bisaya term for “flower” (buwak in Cebuano; bulaklakin Tagalog), now virtually unused, it specifically refers to the ilang-ilang (Cananga odorata), a tree whose flowers are very fragrant, and whose oil is used in the perfume industry [Tramp 1995, 63].

Cabungaan. Although its root word is the generic Bisaya term for “fruit,” Bunga (Areca catechu) here specifically refers to the betel palm, whose reddish-yellow fruit was traditionally used with lime and the leaves of betel pepper or tobacco as ritual chewing material called buyô or mamâ [Tramp 1995, 61]. Kabungaan means “a place where bungais abundant.”

Calumpang. Named after a tree which was either a landmark or a boundary marker, or both, of this place. Kalumpang (Sterculia foetida) is a medium-sized deciduous tree with spreading branches that grows to 20 meters in height [http://manilaoldtimer.net/Trees of Alabang Hills/kalumpang.html].

Capiñahan. The root word of the name of this barangay is Pinya (Ananas cosmosus), the pineapple, a plant native to America which is cultivated for its fruit and the fiber for fine cloth [Tramp 1995, 360]. Kapinyahan means “a place where pinya is abundant,” implying that this place was once a large pineapple plantation.

Caraycaray. This is the oldest known barangay of Naval, which vicinity had served as the site of the first large-scale Spanish shipyard in the Philippines from the late 1580s to the first decade of 1600. This was also the original site of the poblacion of the pueblo of Biliran when it was created in 1712, before this was moved south of the island around the late 1760s, to an upland area of the present Biliran town [Borrinaga 2009, 5-6]. A modern Bisaya dictionary defines the word as a “stony and shallow part of the river where the water runs clear” [Makabenta 1979]. But the oldest dictionary has a definition that refers to people, not to water. It defined caraycaray as “to walk behind the steps (of somebody), and a place for trade or stopover (Sp., ventas; Bis., harapitan) by one in another” [Sanchez 1711].

Catmon. Named after a tree which was either a landmark or a boundary marker, or both, of this place. Katmon (Dillenia indica Blanco), the elephant apple, is a tree that reaches a height of 6 to 15 meters, smooth or nearly so [Tramp 1995, 100].

Haguikhikan. The root word of the name of this barangay is Hagikhik (Phrynium fasciculatum) [http://www.press.ntu.edu.tw/ejournal/files/Taiwan\501_201003\5.pdf], a plant variety whose leaves are used to wrap sweetened sticky rice [Tramp 1995, 169], the localsuman delicacy. Hagikhikan means “a place where hagikhik leaves are gathered.”

Imelda. The place was formerly called Igot, named after the edible green flavorful fruit of the orchard tree Malaigang (Eugenia calubcob) [Tramp 1995, 255], when this was still asitio of Barangay Lico. It was elevated into a barangay around 1980 and was named after former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

Larrazabal. This barangay was formerly an hacienda planted to sugar cane, owned by a branch of the Larrazabal family in Ormoc. It was labeled with the family name of the owners when it was established as a barangay separate from Talustusan. After the banks had foreclosed the property, it was acquired by the Biliran Provincial Government during the administration of Gov. Wayne M. Jaro (1992-1998), for the future expansion of the facilities of the then newly-created province.

Libertad. One of the two barangays on Higatangan Island, the younger one, located along its middle-eastern coast. Its name is the Spanish word which means “liberty, freedom.”Higatangan was formerly an island-barangay before it was split into two barangays with different names. In the Census of 1903, it had a population of 558. According to Artigas [1914, 321], the word means “a refuge of the Moros (refugio de moros).” In other times it was called Atangan, a place to wait for or anticipate something.

Libtong. This word means “the deep part of a stream or river” [Lisboa 1865, 222]. The name Libtong seems to have survived the alteration of its geographic make-up; the barangay is no longer on sunken ground. The canyon and river here must have been filled up with lahar during the eruptions of the volcano in nearby Caibiran in 1800 and 1939, respectively [Borrinaga 2007, 16]. The original settlers here were presumably native laborers and Spanish foremen who worked in the nearby sulfur fields (solfataras), to gather sulfur for the making of gunpowder.

Lico. The official name of this barangay comes from “a certain species of the Ubi tuber” [Sanchez 1711]. It is pronounced as lí.kô, as contrasted to li.kô, which means “to turn.” Thelico tuber must have been used both as food and medicine by the timber-cutters during the galleon-making years in this former Isla de Panámao.

Lucsoon. The official name of this barangay is commonly interpreted as “to jump.” But it seems originated from the word locsong, found in the oldest Bisaya dictionary [Sanchez 1711], but not in later editions. It means “to go down the river (bajar el rio),” and its synonyms include lugsong and tugbong. Lucsoon seems to be a corruption of locsongon, which means “a steep slope going to the river.”

Mabini. One of the two barangays on Higatangan Island, the original one, located along its southeastern coast. It was apparently named in memory of Apolinario Mabini, the Filipino hero known as the “Brains of the Philippine Revolution.”

Padre Inocentes Garcia. This is the official name of the barangay, although it is calledIlaya by the residents. It was named after the founder of the pueblo of Naval, Fr. Juan Inocentes Manco Garcia, the parish priest of Biliran pueblo who served the entire area of the present province from 1839 to 1861 [Jose 2008, 37]. In our language, Ilaya refers to the interior part of a land mass. This poblacion barangay is the educational center of Naval, being the location of the Naval Central School and the former Naval High School, now the Naval State University.

Padre Sergio Eamiguel. Formerly called Lico’ng Gamay when this was still a sitio of Barangay Lico. It was named after Fr. Sergio Eamiguel, who had served as parish priest of Naval from 1906 to 1922 [Holy Rosary Parish, 1966] and was known to have acquired some lands in this barangay, including its official barrio site. It is called by its abbreviated form, P.S. Eamiguel.

Sabang. The official name of this barangay, Sabang, means “the mouth of a river” [Tramp 1995, 379]. This young barangay, a former sitio of Agpangi, is located near the mouth of Agpangi river. The mouth of the Caraycaray river in the south is also called Sabang, but it has no settlement the size of a barangay.

San Pablo. This old name of this barangay was Macababalo (lit., can cause widowhood). This derogatory name seems to be an offshoot of the disastrous Moro raid on Biliran pueblo on 26 May 1754, when its poblacion was still located along the river in Caraycaray area, on the southeast side near the present Caraycaray Bridge. The Moros captured many inhabitants and plundered and destroyed the pueblo, burning the church and the houses and the fields [Borrinaga 2009]. The residents of this settlement on the mountain slope presumably had the sentry duty to look out for Moro raiders at sea from their vantage location. They failed in their watch that day, when the Moros left their boats at the river mouth and walked several kilometers through the swamps to raid the poblacion. The Moro raid on Biliran pueblo was the most sensational in terms of inflicted damage in 1754, the year with the most number of such raids around the country [Dery 1997, 30]. Its present name, San Pablo, was not taken from its patron saint, which is San Roque.

Santisimo Rosario. This is the official name of the barangay, although it is called Baybayby the residents. It was adopted from the Spanish noun modifier of the patron saint of our town, the Birhen del Santisimo Rosario (Virgin of the Most Holy Rosary). Baybay is the Bisaya word for coastal area, which aptly describes the geography of this poblacionbarangay. It is the commercial center of Naval.

Santo Niño. Formerly known as Aslom, after the pomelo (Citrus medica acida), the largest variety of citrus trees [Tramp 1995, 22]. The new wave of Cebuano-speaking residents, presumably not aware that the original aslom (the Leyte-Bisaya term for the Cebuano’sbuungón) was a tree and not a taste, did not like the “sour” connotation of the name of their barangay. They agreed to rename it after their adopted patron saint.

Talustusan. The word for the official name of this barangay was defined in a Spanish dictionary, which translates to English as follows: “Talostosan – rope, a thick and long rattan, etc., that is tied to a heavy object to slacken it or lower it from a high spot and slope; the same place where the object is taken down or lowered” [Sanchez 1914, 337]. It appears that this area was a main source of timber during the galleon-making years (from 1580s until the early 1600s), which were transported through the Anas river to the shipyard in Caraycaray area using of the talustusan technique, which term was adopted as the name of the place.

Villa Caneja. It was named after the Caneja Family, the known owner of most lands around this barangay. Villa is the Spanish word for “village,” not a mansion as commonly understood.

Villa Consuelo. Formerly known as Giron (locally pronounced as gi.run), which no native could adequately explain. But it can now be told that it was apparently called Giron after the hometown in Spain (pronounced as hi.rón; Girona, formally) of the Garamendi Family (the link was traced by a simple Internet search), the earliest known owners of this mountain hacienda. The official label of the barangay, Villa Consuelo, was adopted from the name of the sister-in-law of Mr. Ben Diu, the later owner of the property. The lawyer-husband of Consuelo provided legal advice to Mr. Diu in acquiring the property.

In summary, ten barangays of Naval were named after trees or plants: Agpangi (frompangi), Anislagan (from anislag), Atipolo, Borac, Cabungaan (from bunga) Calumpang, Catmon, Capiñahan (from pinya), Haguikhikan (from hagikhik), and Lico. Seven barangays were named after people: Padre Inocentes Garcia, Mabini, Villa Caneja, Villa Consuelo, Imelda, Larrazabal, and Padre Sergio Eamiguel. Three barangay were named after saints: Santissimo Rosario, San Pablo, Santo Niño. Three barangay were named after their geographical features: Sabang, Libtong, Lucsoon. And three barangays were named after other attributes: Caraycaray, Libertad, and Talustusan.

 

References

 

Artigas y Cuerva, Manuel. Reseña de la Provincia de Leyte. Manila: Imprenta “Cultura Filipina”, 1914.

Borrinaga, Rolando O. “Volcano scare in Biliran,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1 December 2007, 16.

__________. “A Position Paper for the Erection of a Historical Marker from the National Historical Institute (NHI) in Naval, Biliran Province.” 2009.

Dery, Luis Camara. The Kris in Philippine History: A Study of the Impact of Moro Anti-Colonial Resistance, 1571-1896. Manila: By the Author, 1997.

Holy Rosary Parish, Naval, Leyte. Dedication of the New Parish Church, October 2, 1966.(Commemorative program).

http://www.stuartxchange.org/. Titled “Philippine Medicinal Plants,” this website contains pages with the scientific names as well as common names of specific plants, together with the botanical descriptions and medicinal uses.

http://manilaoldtimer.net/Trees of Alabang Hills/kalumpang.html.

http://www.press.ntu.edu.tw/ejournal/files/Taiwan\501_201003\5.pdf.

Lisboa, Marcos de, OFM. Vocabulario de la Lengua Bicol. Manila: 1865.

Makabenta, Eduardo A. Binisaya-English English-Binisaya Dictionary. Quezon City: EMANDSONZ, 1979.

Sanchez de la Rosa, Antonio, OFM, and Antonio Valeriano Alcazar, OFM. Diccionario Español-Bisaya para las Provincias de Samar y Leyte. Manila: Imp. y Lit. de Santos y Bernal, 1914.

Sanchez, Mateo, SJ. Vocabulario de la Lengua Bisaya. Manila: 1711. (Completed in Dagami, Leyte around 1616.)

Tramp, George Dewey Jr. Waray-English Dictionary. Kensington, MD: Dunwoody Press, 1995.

Legend of Biliran – Isla de Panamao (Isle of Mystery and Magic)

by Ben Granali
(NOTE: This article was originally published in Women’s Journal, May 14, 1991, p. 14.)

Isla de Panamao — three words in which are embodied magic, mystery, and romance. No other words best describe the islands of Biliran Province but the resonance and the imagery of the original name. When one intones the words “Isla de Panamao,” it is as if he were invoking a spell in which reality intermingling with myth can no longer be distinguished one from the other.

The magic is there for all to see; that is if one is responsive to the evocative moods of nature. Picture Isla de Panamao as a picturesque and fabled mountainous island rising from a mirrored sea — the whole panorama of earth, sea and sky in soft and translucent shades of blue seemingly as fragile and evanescent as the mist pervading the scene.

This was a view of the island of Biliran as seen one morning by the writer from a mountain road on the mainland of Leyte. The entire scene bathed in the subdued sunlight of a cloudy sky conveyed a mood of magic and enchantment. For those who see nature as art, the picturesque features that abound in the islands exert an unforgettable fascination evocative of the magical, the mysterious, and the romantic as well as the beautiful in nature. Tourists from abroad have indeed visited these unspoiled islands to experience for themselves the lure of these places.

More prosaically, the Province of Biliran is made up of several islands — Biliran Island, Higatangan Island, and the northernmost island, Maripipi. Along with these three are about half a dozen islets from Biliran to Maripipi. The inhabitants of the island are hardy and independent people who have agitated for 30 years for Biliran provincehood [which became a reality in 1992].

How Biliran Island came into being is a matter of conjecture. One popular theory is that the island was once connected to the mainland of Leyte by an isthmus. The body of water now separating the island from the mainland could have been formerly a lagoon partially enclosed by a sandbank stretching from Barangay Villalon, Calubian [on the mainland] to Naval. Some old people reminisced that at low tide, when the sandbank became visible, a man on horseback could cross from one opposite shore to the other.

Natural forces carved a channel in the isthmus. In fact, on both sides of the isthmus, the formation of coasts (island and mainland) leading to the channel is like that of a funnel tapering to the narrow opening. The combined forces of wind, boiling tidal current and pounding sea at the apex of the funnel cut the channel and thus liberated the island of Biliran. The process could have taken some fifty to five hundred years, depending on the width and level of the island at the apex, the matter that formed the isthmus and other pertinent factors. When the channel happened we do not know. We do know that in 1604, a historical record of the channel was printed in Relacion de las Islas Filipinas by Fr. Pedro Chirino.

In another hypothesis, a volcanic or tectonic upheaval — millions of years ago — either wrenched apart from the mainland with cataclysmic violence the portion that became Biliran or heaved the island from the sea in a tremendous release of energy. Biliran Island and northern Leyte have remained a volcanic area. What is strange is that Samar, northeast of Leyte, is not reputed to be volcanic; whereas Albay in the Bicol peninsula has its famous Mayon Volcano.

Biliran has still its active volcano. And yet the fate of the lost Atlantis might be the fate of the island, a violent end for us all, God forbid. A most dangerous threat lies in the bowels of the island, making its presence known now and then by a muffled underground explosion and an earthquake — a mild tremor or a severe jolt.

Biliran Island was first known as Isla de Panamao — the island of Mount Panamao, the towering mountain that dominates the northern half of Biliran. As early as 1601, Isla de Panamao was already known in Spanish history as one of the sites established in the archipelago for the construction of Spanish galleons.

Why the island was named after Mount Panamao is not known. Was it because the very mysteriousness of the mountain commanded a superstitious awe in the people who gazed at its soaring peak?

Mount Panamao was once thickly forested and abounded with wild deer and wickedly tusked boars. The old hunters and kaingineros with their superstitions would walk warily in the forests since people then believed in mountain spirits. If a nymph like Maria Makiling were known to have haunted Mount Panamao, it would indeed be a most appropriate tale, but there was no such legend.

The old hunters would tell of a plateau where hectares of cacao plantations appeared to be diligently cultivated. The cacao trees were full of fruit. Game was also plentiful here. But the hunters never dared to pick the ripe fruit or kill the fat deer and wild boar.

There was an eerie atmosphere in the plateau about which the hunters would talk about in nervous whispers. Such strange stirrings among the trees when there was no wind, white mists floating wraith-like among the trees, and snatches of haunting music coming and going like gusts of wind, but it could be the wind soughing among the hollows and rounded contours of the mountainside. Such talk kept the superstitious and timid rural folk away.

But there was something that the inhabitants of the island learned later from distant Manila, which gave rise to the legend of the island of Mount Panamao. It was the story about the arrival of a strange galleon at the port of Manila and of how the Spanish port authorities stared in eye-popping wonderment at the splendidly furnished vessel with its shining sails of costly silk.

Everything about the galleon was new — from the ropes of abaca hemp, the smooth lines and surfaces of the vessel from bow to stern, the elaborate carvings on the polished cabin panels, to the shimmering sails of silk. And crammed-full in the capacious hold of the ship were sacks of dried cacao seeds.

The port officials were astonished and visibly impressed when they met the passengers on the deck of the galleon. The men were richly attired and strutted about with the air of grandees; the women beautiful and elegant in fashionable clothes of costly materials. They were as fair-skinned and even more aristocratic in bearing than the colonials.

When asked where they came from, the passengers of the galleon answered, “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao.” And where was the beautifully carpentered galleon built? The answer: “Isla de Panamao.” After a week, the passengers of the galleon sold all the cargo of cacao and returned to Panamao Island.

And mystery after mystery followed of course, some invented and relished nonetheless by Maynila folk. For certainly, the galleon and its aristocratic passengers and cargo of cacao would be the object of a lot of excited talk and speculations. The authorities themselves were said to be nonplused about their Spanish identity. Did they really come from Spain or any of the colonies? But no one had officially tried to identify these visitors from the records of the port authorities during their stay in Manila. And because of the lethargy of the Spanish bureaucracy, further inquiry was not made at all. Only the stories of the mysterious galleon would reach far and wide in the whole archipelago, for gossip and rumor travel on wings and cannot be stopped by anything but the fates.

Tongues continued wagging of the Spanish officer who, in the delirium of passionate love, deserted his post to follow his inamorata to Isla de Panamao. The man reportedly went mad because no one in the island knew about the galleon and the shipboard of cacao and lovely señoritas. And Punta de Bulalacao! Not a ship was seen, the port itself just rocks, shrubs and trees, and no one, not a single soul.

Even today there is still enough mystery brooding over the mountain when we see it veiled in mists in the cold and rainy months of the northeast monsoon. There are a lot of things that we would like to know about, such as the plateau with cultivated cacao plantations, and the deer and the wickedly tusked boars. Is the galleon going to sail again from Punta de Bulalacao with its fair passengers, or would it be this time a modern ocean-going vessel with a cargo of cacao? Where is the invisible kingdom of the engkantos? Where?

And who would believe this tale? But Mount Panamao is there, in the full glare of sunlight. And when the moon is a bright disk in the sky, when in the silvery sheen of moonlight Mount Panamao looks more mysterious than ever, who knows what not to believe?