Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary: Patron Saint of Naval
Beginnings of Naval, Biliran Island
(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.1
In this revisionist paper we present theories on our town’s geologic origin,
push back its recorded history by 250 years, and clarify certain controversial
issues related to Naval’s founding in the 1850s.
For the natural history of Naval, a "delta-formation theory" has been proposed
to explain its geologic origin.2 A geologic survey
of Leyte published in 1954 also described the "coastal alluvial plains
in Naval (as) the largest in (Biliran) island," an exception from that
of the surrounding regions of the island which are characterized by broken
hills and mountains.3
For the recorded history involving the present territorial jurisdiction
of the town of Naval (see map), there was already an unnamed village here
in 1600, the one described as the nearby base of the Spanish, native and
other workers in the first known Spanish shipyard in the Philippines on
Isla de Panamao (the present Biliran Island), and which had been visited
by Jesuit missionaries based in Carigara starting in 1601.4
We postulate that the site of this village was located in the present Sitio
Ilawod (a sitio is a cluster of few houses, ilawod refers
to the seaward portion) of Barangay Caraycaray, along the southern bank
and near the mouth of the Caraycaray River; that the first hospital in
the Visayas region was established here in this village by the Jesuits
in 1601; and the the shipyard was initially located at the nearby Sabang
beach across Inagawan.5
On 10 September 1712 the pueblo which had become known as Biliran
filed a formal petition for becoming a separate pueblo and parish.6
This pueblo of Biliran included the settlements in the different areas
and islets of Biliran Island, excluding Maripipi Island.7
We also postulate that the poblacion of Biliran pueblo was situated
in the present Sitio Ilawod, on the same site that we had just postulated
as the village base of the workers in the Spanish shipyard on Panamao in
1600, or 112 years earlier.
To support our claim for Sitio Ilawod as the poblacion of Biliran pueblo,
we argue that the lantawan or watch tower on this site was erected
long before 1712, as the previous requirement for this pueblo’s formation.
We surveyed on 3 February 1990 the remaining traces of coral stone blocks
of this watch tower (called trinchera sa Moros, the local reference
to this fort against the historical Moro raiders). We found them at ground
level overlooking the Caraycaray River in a neglected state. Flooding had
apparently caused this relic to gradually sink into the swamp through the
years. It was barely two meters above the water level at low tide and had
been overgrown with weeds and nipa palms.8
In May 1735 a government document published in Manila directed the natives
residing in Biliran to have "peopled" jurisdiction within five years. This
implies that it had attained the required number of tributes, namely 500.
That document probably constituted the conditional government recognition
of the people’s petition to be recognized as a pueblo back in 1712. The
condition was probably met in due time, there being no subsequent document
or folk information to indicate a demotion in status of the pueblo of Biliran.9
The diminution of Biliran pueblo’s population between 1712 and 1735 could
be attributed to the effects of the Moro raids and the government-promoted
migration to more central areas of Leyte and Samar to keep the people "under
the bells" of the church.10
On 10 October 1765 a government document published in Manila appointed
a certain Don Gaspar Ignacio de Guevara as "cura" (parish priest) of San
Juan Nepomuceno in Biliran pueblo.11 A secular priest
who hailed from Samar,12 he turned out to be deluded
Padre Gaspar (as Guevara is known to folklore of the present-day Biliran
town) created a new poblacion by transferring it away from its original
site in Sitio Ilawod to a hilltop in what is presently known as Barangay
Hugpa.13 He called this new site Albacea
(testamentary executor).14 Here he set up a sanctuary,
enthroned himself in the "chair of Peter" with the royal throne in Biliran
Island, and styled himself as the "first of the priests of the world."
From his sanctuary, Padre Gaspar spread his doctrines, granted indulgences,
spread news of miracles in the Leyte-Samar region, recruited and sent out
disciples to incite revolts, conferred sacred orders, gave out offices,
legislated, threatened those who opposed him and, together with an "alcalde
mayor" of Biliran whom he appointed, fought against the Franciscan friars
in Samar and the Augustinians in Leyte. He ordained sub-deacons, and attracted
a great number of followers, especially among the women. He was also cordially
treated and sheltered by the Alcalde Mayor (governor) of Samar (which
included Leyte until 1777), who also worked with him.15
Padre Gaspar was captured by Moro raiders and was drowned to death near
Tagasipol Islet shortly before 1775, about 10 years after his appointment
as cura of Biliran. He was succeeded by a Father Lorenzo Rivera.16
The Old Site
As a result of the transfer of the poblacion to the new hilltop location
(Albacea), the old site (in Sitio Ilawod) became known as Binongtuan
(i.e., "towned," the past tense of bungto, the Waray word for town
in verb form).17
According to local folklore, either during Padre Gaspar’s tenure as cura
or at the time of his death, a maldicion (curse) was pronounced
over the people in Biliran pueblo’s old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod): that
no male-born child of this place should ever become a priest; that whosoever
should defy this curse risked insanity, death or failure as a person.18
However, while the concrete effects of defying such maldicion has
been told through the generations, folklore is not clear about its premise.
Why was the curse pronounced? Was it because of the defiance and resistance
of the villagers of the old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod) against Padre Gaspar’s
manipulations, particularly the removal and transfer of the pueblo’s altar
to Albacea? Or was it their apparent refusal to ransom Padre Gaspar from
his Moro captors, which act led to his undignified death? Both speculations
could be inferred from available documentary sources.
Whatever may be the cause of the maldicion, the remaining villagers
or their leaders in the old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod) who did not follow
Padre Gaspar became known as Bagasumbol or "obstacle to enemies,"
who waged territorial border disputes against their "deserters" and "usurpers"
in the new poblacion in Albacea.19
With Padre Gaspar’s transfer of the poblacion, the geographical area that
is now known as Naval was reduced to the status of a visita of Biliran
pueblo. However, many residents of this visita also moved to a more elevated
location two kilometers northeast of the old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod).
They named their new settlement Caraycaray.20
The reasons for this move were probably to secure themselves from sneak
Moro attacks along the Caraycaray River,21 and to
avoid the curse on the old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod), which had also
been renamed as Bagasumbol. However, the most probable physical reason
was to avoid the effects of the more frequent river floods, the most direct
results of the decades of forest denudation (starting with the rampant
log-cutting during the galleon-making years) and the attendant threat in
a swampy village of attacks by man-eating crocodiles.22
Padre Juan Inocentes Manco Garcia: Founder of Naval
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 1861.23 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 1828.24 And the place that
would become Naval (the area around the old poblacion in Sitio Ilawod)
was already called Bagasumbol.25
According to folklore, Padre Inocentes (as Father Garcia was known) would
make trips to Almeria, the northernmost outpost of his assignment, from
his parish base in Biliran poblacion. Passing by the site of the present
poblacion of Naval, he would pause in his journey to admire the beautiful
sweeping plains of the area. Struck by the flatness and fertility of the
land, he invited his relatives and friends from Dimiao, Bohol, and Danao,
Cebu, to come and settle in this place.26
The new migrants settled on an area near Tubod (spring), some two
hundred meters north of the present town plaza of Naval, and about three
kilometers northwest of the village of Bagasumbol (in Sitio Ilawod), the
poblacion-turned-visita of Biliran pueblo.27 They
were followed by other migrants from Panay and Negros.
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.29
The name Bagasumbol, which sounded war-like, was changed to the more peaceful
name, Naval, in 1859.30
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 1882.33
On 23 September 1869, Naval was (officially) recognized as an independent
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.36
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.39
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.)
For the new settlement in Manogsok, the people constructed a church,
a tribunal (government house), and a watch tower. They also raised
domesticated animals and cultivated more land. Then a fire occurred and
the whole village was reduced to ashes. What was left was the lantawan
(watch tower), which was built far down on a hill overlooking the sea.41
Thus rendered homeless, some households wandered from place to place. Others
founded another settlement. They chose a location near Albacea, on a piece
of land belonging to a certain person named Ilag (i.e., hostile).
The new settlement was called Can-Ilag (of Ilag, or owned by Ilag).
They renamed their former settlement as Nasunogan - the site razed
On 22 February 1782, Biliran’s parish of San Juan Nepomuceno received official
superior approval from the Bishop of Cebu, about 17 years after Don Gaspar
Ignacio de Guevara, its first curate, was officially appointed by the Spanish
colonial government in 1765.43
This chapter, slightly altered here to fit the folkloric
names of two priests, was originally published as an article in Kinaadman
(Vol. 14, No. 2, 1992), 129-140. This quarterly journal is published by
Xavier University (Cagayan de Oro City) jointly with the Ateneo de Zamboanga
and the Ateneo de Naga. The editor is Fr. Miguel A. Bernad S.J., a published
1 The "from Bagasumbol to Naval" theme of local folklore was
set to verse and music to accompany the sinulog ritual that was
performed annually in honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary on the
first Sunday of October. The ritual was essentially of the moro-moro
character, where the Christians always triumphed over the Moro raiders.
This was traditionally performed after Mass in front of the church, before
the image of the town patroness which is mounted on a pedestal.
It is said that the late Fr. Miles E. Pfalzer,OFM, having
newly learned the Cebuano language, was offended by certain phrases that
were sung or recited during the sinulog rehearsal a few minutes
before its performance in 1959, particularly the passage which says "mobaha
ang dugo (blood will flow)." He grabbed the image of the Virgin from
its pedestal and returned it to its altar inside the church. As a result,
the sinulog for that year was not performed. The same ritual has
not been performed since then, in deference to the Franciscan priests,
although some older folks can still remember the ritual’s choreography,
uniforms, lyrics, and music. (Information provided by Mr. Jacinto Barbanida,
Mr. Nitoy Mocorro, and Mr. Venancio Sañosa to Mr. Alberto M. Bago.)
The 1961 Naval Centennial Celebration (of the official founding
of the Naval parish) did not include the sinulog ritual, which had
been performed annually for almost a century in honor of the town’s patroness
(Information by Mr. Jose Gahum).
The 1966 Naval Municipal Historical Committee was convened
to draft a history of Naval for inclusion in the Religious Fiesta Souvenir
Program for 2 October 1966, which celebration included a program for the
dedication of the new, concrete Naval Parish Church, which construction
was financed partly by American donations on a direct counterpart basis.
The history drafted by the 1966 Committee started the publicized softening
of the war-like image of the Naval people’s predecessors. (See related
discussion in Note No. 30).
2 Rolando O. Borrinaga, "The Natural History of Naval," The
Biliran Clarion, 16 August 1987, p. 2. This article theorized that
the land on which the town of Naval is located was formerly a delta formed
by two rivers, the Anas River in the north, and the Caraycaray River in
3 Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr. Leyte: The Historic Islands
(Tacloban City: Your Press, 1964). pp. 22-23.
4 Pedro Chirino S.J., Relacion de las Islas Filipinas
(1604), translated by Ramon Echevarria (Manila: Historical Conservation
Society, 1969). This book included a short chapter (Ch. 76) on the mission
to Panamao (pp. 459-462 for the English translation).
Eduardo A. Chico in "A Short History of Naval" (unpublished
1957 manuscript at the Leyte-Samar Museum Library, Divine Word University,
Tacloban City, 44 pages, p. 3) cited Chirino’s account on Panamao. Menardo
L. Lumapak in "A Historical Research on Biliran" (unpublished 1957 manuscript
similar to Chico’s, 60 pages, pp. 22-27) provided direct quotes pertaining
to the Jesuit missions in Panamao from Francisco Colin S.J., Labor Evangelica
Chico’s and Lumapak’s papers, which were undergraduate theses
submitted to the Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, Leyte, are especially valuable
for containing information from interviews with knowledgeable persons in
Naval and Biliran towns, respectively, at a time (1957) when Biliran Island
was still an isolated and inaccessible area of Leyte. Also valuable are
their citations from source materials inaccessible to our committee.
For the site of the first Spanish shipyard on Panamao Island,
I (Borrinaga) advance the theory that this was initially located at Sabang,
the northern beach at the mouth of the Caraycaray River, before this was
transferred to Pauican -- now part of Cabucgayan town (Lumapak, p. 27).
In Sabang, wooden-hulled small boats (paraos) and similar sea vessels
of long ago (i.e., until the 1960s) would shelter during typhoons or monsoon
storms, would be docked for repairs, or would be left to decay if already
beyond repair (Information provided by Mr. Dominador Barotol, a fisherman
from Sitio Ilawod, Barangay Caraycaray). This site thus retained a vital
harbor, repair, and graveyard function for sea vessels for some three centuries,
long after the ship-building function was transferred elsewhere (i.e.,
to Pauican, and finally to Cavite). This function was particular to Sabang
among all the river systems west of Biliran Island.
Tantuico (Note No. 3, p. 134) and Chico (p. 3) mentioned
that six galleons in all were built in Panamao (now Biliran) Island. On
one of these, Father Chirino sailed from the Philippines in July 1602 to
make his report on the Jesuit missions in these islands to the Jesuit General
5 Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr. Leyte Towns: Histories/Legends
(Tacloban City: Your Press, 1980), p. 125, cited: "In the beginning, this
town was called Caraycaray." Lumapak, p. 12, cited: "... (A) village was
formed in Caraycaray, a barrio now belonging to the town of Naval."
However, Chirino and Colin did not specifically mention the
name of the village that the Jesuits had visited on Panamao Island. Lumapak,
pp. 22-24, citing from Colin’s account, mentioned the speedy construction
of the church and the parish house -- and of the first hospital to be built
in the Visayas region -- on the unnamed Panamao village, to serve the needs
of the natives and of the workers in the shipyard.
The postulated village site (ca. 1600) in Sitio Ilawod is
less than one kilometer away from the theorized site (see Note No. 4) of
the first Spanish shipyard on Panamao (now Biliran) Island. It fits a common
pattern of early Philippine settlements at the Spanish contact in the 16th
century, i.e., near the coast and near the mouth of Caraycaray River, the
biggest river on the island.
6 Bruce Cruikshank, "The Settlement of Samar in the Nineteenth
Century," Leyte-Samar Studies XII, 1 (1978) 30-63, suggested that
the word pueblo is best translated as municipality or municipal
district, rather than town or city. The core of the pueblo was the
poblacion, the site of the government office, church, parish house,
jail, plaza, and houses of the most prominent residents (principalia).
Away from the poblacion but still within the pueblo were subsidiary settlements
known as visitas (villages serviced by a non-resident priest, usually
with their own chapels), barrios, rancherias, and sitios
(clusters of a few houses each).
Tantuico (Note No. 5, p. 125), Chico (p. 33) and Lumapak
(p. 36) claimed 1712 as the year of Biliran’s official creation and recognition
as a pueblo. In a subsequent note (No. 9), we will explain that this may
not be so.
The requirements for political and ecclesiastical independence
were: population to support a priest (at least 500 couples are needed),
a church building, a parish house, and a government house. A watch tower
for defense against the Moros was also a requirement (Cruikshank, pp. 39,
37). Government recognition of a pueblo petition appeared ministerial in
nature. But absence of such recognition may jeopardize the status of the
petitioning pueblo when invoked in extreme cases, as what happened to Dapdap,
Samar in 1882 (see Note No. 19).
Lumapak (p. 17) quotes the theory on how Biliran got its
name as advanced by Judge Norberto Romualdez Sr. at the turn of the century.
The pueblo was said to have been named after the grass, borobiliran,
which grew luxuriantly around the settlement. Along the same premise, I
(Borrinaga) advance the theory that the grass, borobiliran, was a secondary
vegetation in a once-forested marshy but uncultivated area; and that the
deforestation of Biliran pueblo started as early as 1600, with the massive
log-cutting activities to provide construction materials for the Spanish
galleons that were built on Panamao Island.
7 Maripipi Island, one of the eight municipalities of Biliran
Province, was described as a settlement with a population of 100 as of
1582 (Loarca). In 1595 it was described by a Jesuit missionary (Diego Sanchez)
as being inhabited by a pagan tribe. The island and its inhabitants were
described negatively by Father Alcina in his Historia as of 1668
(see Note No. 10). Folklore tells that Maripipi became a visita
of Cebu in 1645 and became a barrio of Carigara, Leyte in 1765 when a separate
"cura" was appointed for the pueblo of Biliran. It was inaugurated as an
independent pueblo in 1867. Before that, probably starting in 1862 after
the creation of Naval as a separate parish, Maripipi was a visita
of Naval (Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 135).
8 The 1966 Naval Municipal Historical Committee apparently
erred in claiming that the lantawan or watch tower in Sitio Ilawod
was built after Naval was settled in the 1860s. There was no more need
for this structure during the period, since the Moro attacks had ceased
by then. Moreover, this lantawan should have been built in the present
poblacion of Naval, and not in Sitio Ilawod. Thus, this lantawan
could have existed long before Naval was ever founded in the 1850s.
A piece of cannon protruding under water was extracted from
this lantawan around 1940 (just before the war) when the structure
was also taller still. This gun, whose barrel could accomodate a ball the
size of a coconut shell, was brought to Tacloban, escorted by two constabulary
soldiers, for safekeeping at the Provincial Capitol of Leyte. This was
during the tenure of Mr. Magdaleno Batiquin as barrio captain. (Information
by Mr. Jose Gahum.)
9 PNA, Cedulario 1734, Expediente 26, fol. 182-184:
- "Junta General de la Hacienda sobre rrepresentacion que dichieron los
naturales que poblan la isla de Biliran perteniciente a la jurisdiccion
de Leyte haber poblado dicha isla tiempo de 5 años. - Manila, 14
de Mayo de 1735" - cited by Cantius J. Kobak OFM, "A Preliminary Survey
of Samar-Leyte Documents in the Philippine National Archives," in Leyte-Samar
Bibliographies, ed. Fr. Raymond T. Quetchenbach SVD (Tacloban City:
Divine Word University, 1976), p. 38.
Cruikshank (Note No. 19, p. 53) remarks that in the government
recognition of a pueblo "speed was not the strength of the early Spanish
administration." For an unnamed Samar pueblo’s petition, "... an initial
delay of at least sixteen years (before the visit of the alcalde mayor)
and ... no word from Manila for at least nine years (when the report was
written)." In Biliran’s case, an almost similar lapse of time occurred
before official recognition came.
10 Bruce Cruikshank, Samar: 1768-1898 (Manila: Historical
Conservation Society, 1985), p. 50, etc. Also Cantius J. Kobak’s translation
of Francisco Ignacio Alcina SJ, Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas
... 1668 (Part II, Book III, Chapter 18), Leyte-Samar Studies
XIV, 1 (1980) 55-58.
11 PNA, Cedulario 1760-1766, Expediente 78, fol.
236-237: - "Presentacion para el Curato de San Juan Nepomuceno de Biliran
hecha por el Bachiller Don Gaspar Ignacio de Guevara. - Manila, 10 de Octubre
de 1765." (Kobak, Note No. 9, p. 40.)
12 Lumapak, p. 12, and Cruikshank (Note No. 10, p. 43 and
p. 47) provide information that Don Gaspar was a secular priest who hailed
13 Hugpa appears to be an old Waray word meaning shattering
failure (of hopes, expectations?).
14 Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 125; Lumapak, p. 12.
15 Fr. Cantius J. Kobak OFM, "Don Gaspar de Guevara of Biliran
Island, Leyte: A Legendary Figure or a Historical Reality?" Leyte-Samar
Studies XII, 2 (1979) pp. 150-153.
Cruikshank (Note No. 10, p. 43) notes that Don Gaspar was
"... a Samareño who had developed his own religion and who had established
civil as well as religious control over parts of Samar ... Don Gaspar clearly
represented a threat to the Franciscan and Augustinian priests, as well
as ultimately to the Spanish administration."
However, the statement that Don Gaspar was a threat to the
Spanish administration is debatable. Kobak cites from an archival source
that Don Gaspar was cordially treated and sheltered by the Alcalde Mayor
of Samar, who also worked with him.
Cruikshank (Note No. 10, p. 43) further notes that "The Franciscans
believed that if the Moros had not caught him (Don Gaspar), ‘there would
not today (1775) be a Christian left’ on Samar and Leyte."
16 Lumapak, p. 28, reflects the detailed folk version of how
Don Gaspar was killed. Tantuico (Note No. 5, p. 125) merely mentioned that
Don Gaspar was captured by Moro pirates and drowned at Sipol.
17 The existence of a Binongtuan is common to many towns in
Leyte. This Waray word is an informal, socio-cultural reference to an old
poblacion site. However, in a town like Alangalang, Binongtuan had been
adopted as the formal name of the barangay that was its old poblacion site.
18 We are certain now that the maldicion (curse) on
Naval was pronounced previous to its separation from Biliran pueblo in
1860. What made us hesitate for a long time to point at Don Gaspar de Guevara
as the perpetrator of the curse was the folklore that it was a non-Spaniard
(i.e., native) priest who made the pronouncement. We had previously thought
that Don Gaspar was a Spaniard.
But from Cruikshank’s book (see Note No. 10) we learn that
Don Gaspar was indeed a (secular) priest who hailed from Samar. In this
case, folklore and history have fitted each other.
The drowning of Don Gaspar makes us speculate that the Moro
raiders may have negotiated with the villagers of Biliran pueblo’s old
poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod) for his ransom. If so, this move offered an
opportunity for the spurned villagers to even a past wrong inflicted on
them by Don Gaspar; they probably refused to ransom him. This decision
probably prodded Don Gaspar, in his desperation and at the point of death,
to make the vilest pronouncement of his career in the priesthood: a maldicion
against the very people he was sworn to serve, but whom he shabbily treated
all along. The maldicion was probably relayed to Bagasumbol by a messenger.
19 The name Bagasumbol, or "obstacle to (our?) enemies,"
was probably ascribed to the leaders and villagers (and later to the settlement
itself) of Biliran pueblo’s old poblacion (in Sitio Ilawod), for their
belligerence against the might of Don Gaspar and what befell him. They
probably earned the grudging respect and admiration of Don Gaspar’s enemies
(the probable ascribers?) in the different pueblos of Leyte and Samar.
Chico, pp. 32-33, and Lumapak, pp. 36-38, mentioned that
the territorial disputes between Naval and Biliran occurred as early as
the founding of the Biliran pueblo in 1712. With new evidence as proof,
this belief does not hold true anymore. These disputes most likely occurred
after Don Gaspar pulled out the poblacion site from Naval area to Biliran
between 1765 and 1775.
A "civil war" finally erupted between the two towns in 1909.
The American civil and military officials in Tacloban, presumably unaware
of the historical precedent, apparently changed their mind and decided
to revert Naval again to the status of a barrio of Biliran, after they
had consolidated the towns of Leyte under their civil government by 1904
(whereby they initially reduced Biliran to a barrio of Naval). This was
the last straw to a historical resentment. Armed fighters from Naval attacked
Biliran in the evening of the latter’s municipal election in 1909, grabbed
back the seat of municipal government, and installed this in Naval. As
a result, it was Biliran’s turn to again become a barrio of Naval.
The officials of Biliran protested and sought top-level interventions
against the insurrectos (insurgents) of Naval. Instead, they were
granted a separate town status by fiat in 1912 (Tantuico, Note No. 5, p.
A similar case of a parish priest pulling out the poblacion
site in favor of another location had been studied by Bruce Cruikshank
in his article, "The 1882 Dapdap Incident," Leyte-Samar Studies
IX, 1 (1975) 32-58. He noted that the resistance of the people to the poblacion
transfer revolved around the transfer of the altar, " the center of the
community plexus." Cruikshank concluded his study as follows: "The altar,
and the religion it represented, had been introduced by Spanish friars,
but subsequently adapted and assimilated as an essential part of Samareño
life. Its removal, even by another Spanish friar who miscalculated, was
to be resisted. One irony of this story is the fact that the friars brought,
and later, another friar tried to remove the altar. Another irony is that
even this resistance was misinterpreted by the Spanish as an insurrection
rather than a defense of the established, Samareño order."
20 Caraycaray is the Waray word for wavelets and ripples
produced by the rapid downstream flow of water through the declining shallows
and barrier rocks between different water level of a river (folk description).
Perhaps, when asked to describe their new settlement, the residents would
refer to the shallow upstreams where the river produces caraycaray.
(In Sitio Ilawod, the river is deep. From here, the nearest shallow portion
that produces caraycaray at low tide is more than one kilometer
upstream by banca.)
21 In the nearby mountain east of Barangay Caraycaray, there
is a place called Campoding. Originally, this place may have been
called Can Poding (of Poding, or Poding’s territory). That the words
were corrupted to indicate an encampment suggests that the place probably
became a refuge of people fleeing from the Moro attacks during the Spanish
era. In previous years, there used to be several deep, short gullies, perpendicularly
located at intervals along the southern bank of the Caraycaray River. There
was also a similar gully that snaked along the base of the plateau situating
the present Barangay Caraycaray on the way to Campoding. These gullies
were probably dug in the olden times as defensive trenches-cum-pitfalls
to protect the refugees from the attacking Moros. These trenches are gone
now, with the introduction of irrigation and rice-planting in the areas
where they were dug.
22 Floodwaters from the Caraycaray River overflow the river
banks in Sitio Ilawod at least once a year. Information on the type of
wood ideal for ship-building (teak) and the threat posed by man-eating
crocodiles were provided by Mr. Jose Gahum, who was born in Sitio Ilawod.
Mr. Alberto Bago provided the information that a certain Mr. Kirit Ballesteros
used to engage in crocodile-trapping in Caraycaray River near Sitio Ilawod
until the late 1940s. Borrinaga (Note No. 2) noted the minor yearly floods
in Naval, and a major destructive flood every cycle of 25 years or thereabouts.
23 "From Bagasumbol to Naval," 1987 Naval Town Fiesta Souvenir
Program, pp. 14-15. This article was reprinted from the 2 October 1966
Fiesta Program (see Note No. 1).
Father Garcia appeared to be a progressive-thinking priest.
He was also a leader in war, leading the defense of Bagasumbol against
Moro attacks. When these attacks finally ceased, he rechanneled the energies
of the people to the founding of a new pueblo in Naval. (See also Tantuico,
Note No. 5, pp. 136-137; Chico, pp. 8, 27.)
Lumapak, p. 17, mentions that Father Garcia was the parish
priest of Biliran from 1859 to 1861. Previously, he seems to have been
only the assistant parish priest there.
24 Before Caibiran became a separate pueblo, the settlers
on its (eastern) side of Biliran Island had been visited by Jesuit missionaries
from Carigara in the 17th century. Caibiran became a visita of Biliran
pueblo when the latter’s status as independent parish was approved on 22
February 1782. Caibiran became an independent pueblo and parish in 1828,
with St. James as its patron saint. The pueblo’s poblacion site was transferred
in 1884 from its old location at the mouth of Caibiran River to a more
elevated, and less flood-prone, seaside location a few kilometers south.
(Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 129.)
25 "From Bagasumbol to Naval," Note No. 23; Chico, Note No.
26 Natives of Barangay Caraycaray, particularly those familiar
with Sitio Ilawod, would dispute the published folk version, which was
probably told from the viewpoint of those living in the present poblacion
of Naval. The Caraycaray folk version tells that Father Garcia did spend
evenings in the village of Bagasumbol (Sitio Ilawod) on his way to, and
return from, Almeria. The latter version is strengthened by Chico’s paper,
pp. 22-23, which tells that two of the ablest lieutenants of Father Garcia
were Pablo Machete, "the capitan of Naval known for his undaunted
bravery against the Moro raiders, for which he earned the nickname Maglinti"
(linti is the Cebuano word for thunderbolt), and Agustin Garcia,
the "right-hand man" of the priest. These two persons, and their families,
lived in Bagasumbol, and may have been the original of Father Garcia’s
relatives who settled here, when Moro attacks were still common, before
other relatives and friends were invited in, when the Moro attacks had
ceased. The descendants of Pablo Machete and Agustin Garcia still live
and own farmlands in Sitio Ilawod at present.
27 Information on the settlement in Tubod was provided
by Mr. Jose Gahum, an avid student of Naval’s history. (He passed away
in late 1995, five years after co-authoring the final draft of this paper
in 1990. Mr. Alberto Bago, another co-author, passed away in March 1990,
less than two months after the completion of the same draft.)
28 "From Bagasumbol to Naval," Note No. 23.
"To the Cebuanos (for example, Garcia, Mangco, Gonzales,
Laude) besides certain portions of the town were assigned the lands south
of the settlement, stretching toward Caraycaray; the Boholanos (for example,
Jayobo, Enguito, Sabuag) were assigned the lands just beyond the canal
at Calumpang stretching on toward the mountains; to the Hilonggos (for
example, Corbera, Zamora, Castin) were assigned the lands north of the
settlement, out toward the Anas River."
29 Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 137.
30 Chico, p. 28. The renaming of the "war-like" Bagasumbol
to the "peaceful" Naval, in honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary,
was made in 1859, during the incumbency of Gobernadorcillo Severino
The 1966 Naval Municipal Historical Committee "softened"
Bagasumbol some more by restricting the word to geography to mean a "somewhat
pointed" (parece punta) place.
The "softest" version of Bagasumbol, as "like the feathery
flowers of tangbo (a reed)," is found in Tantuico, Note No. 5, p.
31 Chico, p. 25. Also, "From Bagasumbol to Naval," Note No.
32 Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 137.
33 Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 137. Also, "From Bagasumbol to
Naval," Note No. 23.
34 Chico, p. 24.
35 "From Bagasumbol to Naval," Note No. 23. Also Chico, pp.
36 Chico, pp. 9, 25-27.
37 Chico, p. 26.
38 "From Bagasumbol to Naval," Note No. 23.
39 Cruikshank, "The 1882 Dapdap Incident," Note No. 19, p. 56 (Note 5).
40 Lumapak, p. 13; Tantuico, Note No. 5, p. 125.
41 Lumapak, p. 13.
42 Lumapak, p. 13. In later years, Nasunogan was called Binongtuan
(old poblacion site), presumably after the poblacion of Biliran was transferred
(again!) to its present seaside location. At present, Nasunogan is a sitio
of Barangay Hugpa.
43 Lumapak, p. 16.