Neolithic artifacts like stone tools, burial jars, beads and shell implements excavated from sites within the province indicate that the area of Sorsogon was settled as early as 2200 years ago. In 1569, the Spanish explorer Luis Enrique de Guzman landed in the vicinity of a village called Gibalong or Ibalon in what is now the province of Sorsogon. A year later, two Augustinian priests established the first Christian settlement in Luzon and named the area Ibalon, which later referred to the entire Bicol Peninsula.
The early missionaries established missions in Casiguran, Sorsogon and Bacon. A Spanish shipyard was established in Bagatao Island at the mouth of Sorsogon Bay, which built galleons and different types of ships used in the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. The island was an important way-station along the route. In 1636, when the partidos of Ibalon and Camarines were separated into different provinces, Sorsogon became the capital of Ibalon. However, due to the continued raids of the Moros in the mid-17th century, both Bagatao and Sorsogon were abandoned by the Spaniards and the capital of Ibalon was transferred to Albay.
During much of the 17th and 18th centuries, the area of Sorsogon was sparsely settled. The continued Moro raids ravaged the coastal town. In 1754, the towns of Bacon and Bulan were destroyed and their townspeople brought into captivity. Raiding continued until the beginning of the 19th century and forced the Sorsogon residents to build watchtowers and palisades to protect themselves from Moro slave-raiders.
In the 19th century, the region of Sorsogon greatly benefited from the increased demand for abaca. A locally developed technology, the hemp stripping machine credited to a 17th century Franciscan missionary named Fr. Pedro Espellargas of Bacon, became an important implement in the industry. The area of Sorsogon became an important hemp producer and the cultivation of abaca became the leading industry.
In 1894, Sorsogon was separated from the province of Albay. The Americans annexed Masbate to Sorsogon when civil government was reestablished. In 1920, Masbate was separated to constitute a distinct province.
People, Culture and the Arts
The people of Sorsogon are Bicolanos and generally speak the Bicol language. However, close proximity to the Visayan island of Samar has given the dialects spoken in the province a peculiarly Visayan tone and vocabulary, which probably indicates a mixture of the Waray and Bicol languages. Most Sorsogon Bicols can speak English and Filipino fluently.
Sorsogonís people are mostly farmers and fishermen engaged in the cultivation of coconut, abaca and rice. The seas around the province sustain subsistence fishing. The province reputedly produces the best abaca hemp in the entire region, a matter of great importance in a province that supports a number of abaca based industries. Sinamay cloth weaving and abaca fiber slippers are chief household industries.
The SorsogueŮos, as do all Bicolano peoples, celebrate Ibalon, the old name of Bicol and the earliest settlement visited by the Spaniards, in epic form. The tale speaks of a time when great men called Lipod from a mythic place called Botavara settled in Ibalon. Led by Handiong, a warrior hero who slew the monsters that plagued the land of Ibalon. Handiong was instrumental in introducing laws, the culture of rice and the making of the boat. Under his reign, the boat rudder and sail, the plow, bolo, weaving, pottery and writing were introduced. Thus, under the mythical reign of Handiong, all of the necessities of Bicolano culture were introduced. Handiong was still alive when the last great monster, Rabot, was slain by a younger warrior hero named Bantong and thus ended the legendary period of Ibalonís tale.
The epic, though incredible, gives evidence of a long period of settlement of Sorsogon and the rest of Bicol.
Trade and Investments
Sorsogon is set to participate in the developing growth corridor of Bicol and take advantage of its position as Luzonís link to the Visayas. The fertile earth produces rice, coconuts, abaca, and coffee. The hills and mountains are also sources of limestone, coal, pumice, pumicite, and white clay. Sorsogonís location on the tail of the southern Luzon and skirting the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean gives the province a bounty of aquamarine resources. The province also has an abundance of technically skilled, highly trainable labor force.
The province is easily accessed from other points in Luzon through the Maharlika Highway System, and buses plying the Manila-Tacloban or Manila-Davao route carry commuters all the way up to Matnog and are ferried across to Allen in Northern Samar. A network of secondary roads links the other municipalities together. There are two airstrips in Sorsogon although nearby Legaspi City Airport is the usual air link to the province. There are 3 major ports and 6 municipal ports that provide sea borne access to the province. Matnog is a major link between Luzon and Samar Islands, while the port in Bulan moves cargo and passengers between Sorsogon and Masbate. Reliable telecommunications link the province to the rest of the country and to the world. The province is a major source of geothermal power to the Luzon Grid and is amply supplied with electricity while local water districts supply water for domestic and industrial use. Nineteen private and government banks provide the province with a vibrant banking industry.
Resource-based industries are the most promising prospects for potential investors. Gifts and handicraft manufacture, food processing, brickmaking and pottery, seaweed production and fiber processing are the most encouraging industries in the province. The province also holds a big potential for tourist development. Natural wonders, such as Mount Bulusan and Bulusan Lake, and Rizal Beach have traditionally attracted visitors to the province. However, the province also offers pristine beaches, cold and hot springs, isolated island getaways, caves and waterfalls. Droves of tourists are now pouring into the province attracted by the gentle whale sharks or the butandings that feed off the coast of Donsol. The local government is promoting the development of tourist facilities in destinations such as Pinaculan Island, the Bulusan National Park, the Rizal Beach Tourism Estate, and, of course, the Donsol Whale Shark Watching area.
Development Initiative Highlights: