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Ryan Fauli's Yagting Cultural Heritage Collections
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Yagting History
by: Valentin F. Faigao

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Banton became a pueblo in 1622; a municipality in 1918

(Note: The materials for this essay have been largely sourced from the book, "The Romblon Archipelago" by Prof. Gabriel F. Fabella Sr., President Emeritus, Philippine Historical Association; Head, U.P. Dept. of History, 1958-1960, among others, who widely cites Chronicler Mateo Menez in his book.)

 

  • One hundred years after the discovery of the Philippines in March 15, 1521, Banton became a pueblo or municipality in 1622.
  • From 1907-1918 Banton was a barrio of the Romblon municipality, and also Corcuera.
  • Banton municipality was restored in 1918 with a new name-Jones, which included Simara (Corcuera). The first appointed President of Jones was Atanacio Faminiano of Corcuera, who served for one year, (1918-1919), but was elected in his own right in 1922.
  • Romblon Governor Manuel T. Alvero, (1928-34), who was from Capiz, worked for Corcuera and even Magdiwang to become independent municipality. He was Jones’ first Justice of the Peace. He married a Bantoanon lady named Gloria de Leon and attained various high governmental positions later.
  • The so-called District of Romblon, which became a part of Capiz since 1918, was transformed by a Royal Decree of August 19, 1853 into an independent province with the status of Commandancia Politico-Militar.
  • In the long list of Romblon’s Commamdantes, who were appointed by the Governor General, Juan Fernandez Teran is the most remembered. Because of his no nonsense stricty enforcement of Christianization, the Mangyans in Romblon, who strongly resisted such act, left and settled instead in Mindoro.
  • "Panahon pa’t kato ni Teran," (Those were the days yet of Teran), was what the old folks used to say in referring to Banton’s olden times. Fabella cite Mateo Menez on this from the latter's "A Brief History of a Typical Philippine Town".
  • Banton was organized earlier than the other towns in the province. It was the earliest to have been mentioned by authorities like the writer of the "Voyage to Luzon in 1570" and by Miguel de Loarca in his Relacion de las Islas Filipinas.
  • The original name of the island municipality was Batoon, the most rugged, stony rocky island in the whole Philippines. The name Banton was improvement by the Spaniards.
  • Through the efforts of Congressman Leonardo Festin the name was changed to Jones in 1918, in honor of William Atkins Jones, author of Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916. Romblon, which had been demoted earlier to a sub-province of Capiz for lack of financial resources, was also restored to a provincial status under the said act.
  • Congressman Dr. Jose de Moreno worked for the restoration of the old name Banton in 1959, by popular demand of the people.
  • Before the coming of Europeans to the Philippines, there were very few settlements that may be classified as towns as we know them today, except Maynilad (Manila), Zubu (Cebu), and few others not well known; perhaps a part of Irong-Irong (Iloilo), later called Arevalo. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi might have given it that name, Fabella says.
  • Fabella quotes Mateo Menez as saying "The old Banton village was built on the slope of Bakoko hill, about two kilometers southwest of the present Banton town." Many settlements, in fact, were accordingly located away from the seashore for security reasons, especially from sea pirates. These sneaky traders were repulsed by the avalanche of stones and rocks down the hill hurled by peaceful people pushed to the walls.
  • The old village was transferred to its present location, (Year 2000), in the 18th century when a stone church and strong cotta were constructed.
  • Fabella cites theories origins of the Banton people: a) "Bantoanons were generally refugees from the dockyards of Marinduque where laborers from many parts of the country had been gathered for the purpose of cutting timber for the construction of galleons used by traders between Acapulco and Manila; b) Another theory cited that a good number of them came from a settlement in Northern Mindanao called Banton. May refugees from Marinduque had come from such places as Negros, Bohol, Leyte, Panay, Bicolandia and Mindanao, and perhaps the bigger number of them were from that region called Banton."
  • Fabella says, " Their individual dialects developed into the Bantoanon (Asi) language we know today." It is still evolving and flowering into a new, sometimes amazing, blossom, as it receives cross-pollinations with other tongues. (Ex: Oy, bakit asi ra, kag uno kamo ni-arrive?"
  • The pueblo or present municipality of Banton, known as Jones then, (1918-1959), had jurisdiction over the islets of Banton, Bantoncillo or Gakut, the Puyo at Suyukan, and the Dos Hermanas (sisters) Isabela and Carlota.
  • Many pioneer Bantoanons had to go to Simanra and Sibale to farm when Banton soil became very thin for cultivating camote, ubi, gabi, and other yams; raising fruit trees, some abaca and coconuts. Rice and corn were imported from Panay. (Naku ha, mahilig na rin sila sa imported, then. Oy, pangintremis only.) That led them to discover Tablas along the way. The big island was much better than either Simara or Sibale. (Hay, muyate, may pagka-Magellan talaga sinra it kato. No wonder! We got their genes, their beautiful and daring descendants. All over the world, ara!)
  • Dionisio Fetalvero, who was Mayor of Banton for two terms, blazed the traill for commerce and trade between Banton and the Lucian cities, opening a new window of opportunity for economic progress for the islander since the 1930’s. The rest history.
  • Two Bantoanon frontiersmen leaders, Jose Barrios and Francisco Salvador, realizing the great difficulties of eking out a living in Banton, decided to make a settlement on Tablas island, which became known later as Odiongan, which has turned out the most progressive town in Romblon.
  • In the search for greener pasture, the Bantoanon pioneers initially farmed in Simara which was nearest Banton, settling in Colon-Colon and San Jose, then in Sibale, before discovering Tablas.
  • They also tried to establish settlements on the coast of Southern Luzon-Macalelon, Mulanay and Bondoc Peninsula.
  • The Bantoanons’ unquenchable thirst for expansion was not daunted even by the grim malaria scourage gripping Mindoro then. After the Americans had minimized the malady, countless Bantoanons took off good. Fabella mentions many places: Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Rancho, Gloria, Bansud, Bongabong, Roxas, and Mansalay as the receiving frontiers. He also cites the Visayas, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Zamboanga, Surigao and Davao. And also USA-San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto in Canada. (If Tang Ambi Fabella were to talk among us today, he would chuckle in awesome amazement at his utterly outgrown list. (Tang Ambi, you can rest in peace really.) Will somebody, please continue the catalogue during this computer age.
  • In the early years of Spanish rule, Romblon was a district under the control of the Alkade Mayor Arevalo, now Iloilo City.
  • The alcaldia included the whole island of Panay, Guimaras, Negros Occidental and the Romblon archipelago. The Calamines island were also a part of that alcaldia.
  • Banton was organized as pueblo or a municipality headed by a governadorcillo elected directly by the people. He was also the town’s Justice of the Peace.
  • Fabella says that local custom like Juan de Plasencia’s Las Custombres de Tagalog written at Nagcarlang, Laguna in 1589 was used as a code of laws.
  • Theoretically, the pueblo was a self-governing community, but actually the Spanish curate was highest authority. The Cura was the only Spaniard in town and the people naturally looked upon him as the representative of the King of Spain in that region.
  • During the last 250 years of Spanish occupation in the Philippines, Muslim piracy as the worst calamity to take place, writes Mateo Menez, Fabella, cites in his book.
  • The piratical raids had been going on in Banton long before some left their home and founded the Odiongan in 1810 and in 1840. Before the close of 1810, the pirates started attacks on Odiongan.
  • It was because of these frequent raids on Banton, Romblon, and other towns in the province that impelled the Recollect authorities to ask for coming to Romblon province of that great fighter Agustin de San Pedro, better known as "el padre capitan"
  • The great recollect father started his work with the construction of the defense of the provincial capital after which he came to Banton, repaired and reconstructed the cotta which still stands to this day, perhaps better than any cotta in this country. After the completion of that bulwark, the Muslims attacks on Banton were repulsed with great losses on the part of the pirates and they did not come again. (A good idea material for a short story. Anyone?)
  • Fabella says according to Menez the year 1870 is probably the last year of piracy because in that year there were already so many warships in the Philippines. That could be true for groups, but individual pirates would still attempt some raids after 1870, specially isolated regions of small islands like Banton, Simara and Sibale, Fabella says.
  • Several years before the Revolution of 1896, tulisans from southern Luzon attacked Banton. Fabella cites a certain old Cenon Ferranco as the source of the story. Accordingly, waking at 3:30 AM after a four hours’ good night sleep for an old man Olong Cenon went out of his simple house still squeezing his eyes against the early cold morning air, to verify somebody shouting, "tulisan! tulisan! tulisan!" The a man approached him whom he asked, " Inggua baga it tulisan?" Are there tulisans? "Ako ay tulisan.",came the man’s sharp answer. Olong Cenon flew quiveringly, straight swift as an arrow to its target - the confines of his house. Olong Cenon strongly suspected that the tulisans were Batangueños or Tayabasnons, from the way they talked and gesticulated.
  • Fabella cites, especially the enthusiasm of the Bantoanons for the "Golden Anniversary Celebration" of Banton’s founding as a municipality in 1968. He regrets, however, that Banton was already a pueblo in 1622, a seeming historical lapse in the Bantoanons’ sense of history. (Oh, that Tang Ambi were still around in 1998 when the Golden Anniversary of the Banton High School he founded was held!)
  • Fabella says the best proof of the Bantoanons’ fervor for the event was the putting up of a souvenir magazine, the "Buyawang Ani" edited by James F. Fabicon, Lito M. Faigao, and Valentin F. Faigao. He says many of the opinion that the "Buyawang Ani" magazine was the best attempt yet (then) of the Bantoanons group of journalism (Fabella then had a prophetic sense of the future when another important event takes place in the near future, a better "Buyawang Ani" might be produced, but when shall it come?
  • Great Tang Ambi, you have missed a lot: The Diamond (75th) Jubilee Celebration (1993) Magazine (1918-1993). Its editorial Board was chaired by Vicente F. Ferriol with the following members: Dr. Salustiano Faigao, Romulo Faz, Sr., Norberto Fabra, Virginia Fesariton, Evangelista Fabro, Teddy Famini, Ismael Fabicon, Eutiquio Famatigan, Rinzi Fadrilan and Manuelito Festin. Mario P. Fetalino was its Consultant.
  • The 50th Foundation Anniversary of Banton High School, forerunner of the BNHS. Its Editorial Staff was composed by: Lyndon F. Fadri, Editor and Chairman; Contributors: Maximo P. Fabella, Romulo Faz, Sr., Ish Fabicon, Mary Anne Fabella Cortez, Vingco Festin Fesariton, Nonelon Ferriol, Jane Malou Famadico, Segreda Shiela Ferrera, Sevilla F. Santos, Rogelio F. Fababeir, Blanquita Falsado, Jose A. Fonte ( Now Vice-Governor), Abraham F. Fabicon, Abner F. Faminiano, Imelda F. Fietas.
  • And many other assorted publications, foremost of which are the yearly Biniray magazines, and a host of Balik-Barrio magazines.
  • He also cites the late Ildefonso F. Musico’s (fondly Manong Fonsong to us) succinct editorial: "Fifty years of Banton is fifty years of industry, perseverance and patience. Physically limited in area, she had to squeeze every drop of life from each square inch of her tillable ground. Geographically isolated from the rest of the world, she too behaved like a real island. With all the odds against her economic development, she had to bear her miseries like waiting for good times to come, but the rules in the books with her. Long ago she learned the fable of the industrious ant. She knew the effects of water persistently dripping on stone. She is impressed by the story of Job. (An ageless piece, Manong Fonsong!, that.) now, it still rings true on the threshold of a new millennium.
  • Several years before the revolution, Banton must have been an important town because commercial steamboats used to drop at Banton twice a month for cargoes or passengers. (Amen to that, I saw one in the 1930’s when I was still in grade school).
  • The coming of two American teachers (Mr. Benning and Mr. Blackley – from Mr. Pedro Faigao’s autobiography), who stayed at Banton for three years made the Bantoanons realize the difference between Spanish and American education policies and system. Americans insisted that Pinoys must learn English and pupils had to be brought to town to attend school. And pupils liked to come to school because teachers were very kind to them. They gave their pupils candies, pencils, paper, and notebooks also. They were not given corporal punishment, unlike under the brutal Spanish teachers. The American established the first second and third grades in Banton, producing the first graduates ever in Grade IV in 1909 in the island, who received certificates under Mateo Menez. Intermediate school was in Romblon island (You can imagine now how tremendously difficult it was for our Bantoanon ancestors to get an education.)