Biliran Island Picture Gallery


CLEAR IMAGE. Google Earth now provides clear satellite image of the entire area of Naval, Biliran Province. The photo I saved shows the coverage of the present barangays of Santo Niño, Caraycaray, and San Pablo - which was the territory of Caraycaray in olden times when the former was still Sitio Aslum and the latter was still Sitio Macababalo. The map shows the snaking 3.5 km route of the Caraycaray River Cruise from the Caraycaray Bridge towards Sabang. The swampy point of land at the bottom is Banderahan Beach, where the "Love Ko Ang Naval" official tourism slogan of the town will be launched on Sunday, June 24, 2012.

Banderahan Beach was apparently named after a flagpole that was erected here by members of a team from the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (USCGS), which conducted mapping surveys around the country in 1899. Its official name in the published map is Punta Saban (i.e., Saban[g] Point), which is both a misnomer and a product of mishearing because the locals use Sabang to refer to the sandbar west of the mouth of the Caraycaray River, and not to the point of land to the east. According to a local fisherman (the late Doming Barotol) I interviewed in 1990, the base of the old flagpole, believed to contain some treasure, was already under six fathoms of water offshore. This piece of information indicated the extent of erosion of the Banderahan area in nearly a century, but which landscape was scraped and destroyed some more by a sand quarrying business in the 1990s.

The Banderahan area is a very historic ground. When the present Sitio Ilawod of Barangay Caraycaray was still a delta islet or a couple of islets separate from the mainland in 1588, I theorize it was here that Spanish and local defenders fought a bloody encounter with a landing party sent by the English corsair, Sir Thomas Cavendish, to burn or grab the galleon "Santiago," which was nearing completion at the shipyard nearby. Jose Rizal placed this shipyard in Panamao (the old name of Biliran), while other historians placed it in Panay.
Around 1590, two Jesuits on a survey mission, including the vice-provincial, were apparently "stranded" here for about three weeks (narrated by Father Alcina in 1668), before they finally decided to hike towards the present Leyte-Leyte, apparently on their way to Carigara. They must have run into a phenomenon called "callar" (very calm weather and sea water), which prevented them from using their sailboat to sail down the Panamao Strait. It must have been from this vantage point at Banderahan that Leyte (from Ila-Iti) got its centuries-old label, and that one of the unnamed two Jesuits must have been Fr. Pedro Chirino, who was presumably the first to use the Leyte (or Leite) name. The Jesuits "officially" started their mission in Leyte in 1595.

- Prof. Rolando Borrinaga

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Corvera St. Naval, Biliran, Philippines.
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