THE SAGA OF A TOWN
History is conceived in the womb of an existing culture. Any history which emerges is a given temporal frame and largely defined by the objective forces found in its geographic setting and its prevailing cultural orientation. Since the geography and the peculiar topographic elements of a specific historical setting are relatively constant elements in the historical process, they exert profound impact on the people within a longer duration. Their very existence preceded the emergence of the inhabitants of the locality. For the reason, the people shaped their history by creative adaptation to the given environment of their respective geography. Geography does not only define the culture of the inhabitants but likewise plays the decisive role in the economic life of the people.
The present location of Tinambac is fixed as 13 37” 16” to 14 2’ 15” latitude and 123 16”’ 57” to 123 26’ 30” longitude. It is bounded on the north by the Municipality of Siruma, on the northeast by Pacific Ocean; on the west by San Miguel Bay; on the east by the Municipalities of Goa and Lagonoy and on the south by Himoragat and Tigman Rivers. This munipality has a land area of 31, 884. 4354 hectares and 6.04% of the total land mass of the Province of Camarines Sur.
The earliest detailed geographic description of Tinambac was made by Bishop Domingo Collantes in his report of his Episcopal visitation in 1792. According to his sketchy geographic reckoning, from Tinambac which was “ in the summit of its slopes or in its northern hillock until Goa toward the east to six leagues…. From Tigaon until Tinambac there is nothing but small settlements and the mission of Manguirin toward the west is about 10 leagues away… from Manguirin about 5 leagues until Tinambac….”
In 1865 a Franciscan chronicler, Fray Felix de Huerta, the famous Franciscan chronicler of the second half of the nineteenth century, fixed the location of Tinambac:
At 13 53” 40’ latitude in a plain terrain on the eastern coast of San Miguel Bay at the left side of a river called Looc. Bounded on the north-northeast by the mission of Siruma at about five leagues; on the east by the mountains which extend until Caramoan and on the southwest by the town of Calabanga, at a distance of four leagues.
Following the Spanish system of measurement where one league was equivalent to 4.2 miles, Tinambac therefore was approximately farther from Calabanga by more than 16 miles and from Siruma by more than 20 miles.
A more detailed geographic data was provided by the Spanish traveler, Adolfo Puya Ruiz who wrote his travel accounts in the province of Camarines Sur in 1887. According to Puya, Tinambac was located ‘” to the south of Siruma, north of Calabanga, and east by Goa and Lagonoy in level terrain. It was situated between the rivers of Himoragat and Tinambac and closer to the sea or bay of San Miguel.”
Notwithstanding the enormous distance of this municipality from the capital it was evidently accessible on foot and by boat since ancient times. The construction of roads in the latter part of the colonial years, particularly in the 19th century, made the place accessible through horses. In the late 19th century travel from Calabanga to Tinambac remained tortuous as it took the following manner:
Going from a bad pathway which proceeds to the north, after having crossed some ricefields, one passes through a small creek and arrives at the visita of Belen; one continues his travel always toward the north and at a little while as one still takes the main road he moves toward the east which goes to Manguiring and continuing it toward the north one arrives at Tinambac which is farther from Calabanga by some two leagues.
Tucked in this remote mountain slope, Tinambac was hardly affected by the enormous changes taking place in the region of the conquest until the late 19th century. The opening of more roads and the introduction of more advanced transportation during the American regime brought Tinambac to the mainstream of regional commerce, social life and politics.
Located on the slopes of Mt. Isarog, Tinambac virtually retained its original topography despite the expansion of its urban centers. About 55% of this land area is nearly level to moderately sloping terrain. The remaining portion is hilly and mountainous which includes the mountain ranges on the northern and eastern section and some portion of Mt. Isarog on the southern part of the Municipality. Owing to this topographic condition, the total alienable and disposable land comprises about 70% of the total land area. The remaining 30% is classified for forest such as timberland, national parks and mangrove swamps.
It is no surprise that the large portion of the municipality’s land is predominantly utilized for agriculture. It comprises 75% of the total land area and it is devoted to coconut plantation. Only some 4% is devoted to rice, corn, banana and root crops. Inland aquaculture covers some 464 hectares or 1.8% of the total land area.
The hydrographic features of the municipality greatly favor fishing. Among the most important fishing areas are San Miguel Bay and Lamit Bay. Fishing sustains the economy of the municipality as some 17 barangays relied on fishing for their livelihood.
As of 1995 Tinambac had 49,185 populations distributed in forty four (44) barangays located in the following sites:
Coastal Barangays – Bagacay, New Caaluan, Old Caaluan, Buenavista, Magtang, Cagliliog, Pantat, Daligan, San Vicente, Bani, San Antonio, Magsaysay, Caloco, Agay-Ayan, Pag-asa, Tamban. Union, Filarca, Salvacion Poblacion, and Sogod, (20)
Upland Barangays – Bolaobalite, Cawaynan, Canayonan, Tierra Nevada, Lupi, Olag Pequeño, Olag Grande, San Jose, Antipolo, Bataan, Banga, Sagrada, La Medalla, Camagong, Salvacion Barangay, San Roque, San Ramon, Buyo, Mananao, Sta Cruz, and Binalay .(21)
Lowland Barangays – San Pascual, San Isidro, La Purisima. (3)
(There are eight (8) barangays that comprises the Poblacion, namely: Sta Cruz, Filarca, La Purisima, San Isidro, Binalay, San Pascual, Salvacion Poblacion and Sogod.)
The population of Tinambac has tremendously expanded and still expanding. In fact, it is one of the more populated towns of the province. This demographic data seems to indicate only that while it is located away from the mainstream of social commerce, geography is no longer a major obstacle to social growth the way it was in the early period. Nevertheless, its tremendous demographic growth and its corresponding urban expansion have also exerted immense pressure on natural resources. It could be inferred that in next two decades, Tinambac scenic hills and its vast verdant cover will gave way to more housing projects and other urban amenities. Modernity will engulf the idyllic and the serene world of the past.
When the second wave of Franciscan missionary enterprise to evangelize the mountain slopes of Isarog took off in the last decades of 17th century, clusters of flourishing natives was referred to as Himoragat, Lupi and Tinambac. Except for Lupi whose place in the early history of the town remained obscure, the names of Tinambac and Himoragat nevertheless played focal role in the evolution of the town.
Oral history claims that Himoragat was the ancient name of Tinambac which passed to oblivion when it was replaced by the present name of Tinambac. Spanish records however seemed to tell a different story. Himoragat and Tinambac were two distinct geographic territories which remained separate until about the early decades of the 19th century when the name Himoragat gradually passed out of existence. The origin of these names remains virtually obscure.
The name of the ancient village of Lupi was traced to indigenous hemp which evidently grew in abundance in this territory. The pioneering Franciscan missionary lexicographer, Fray Marcos de Lisboa, indicated in his Vocabulary de la Lengua Vicol, one of the earliest Bikol-Spanish dictionary composed in the early decade of the 17th century, that Lupi was “a species of hay which grows abundantly in the field and in the lowland portion.”
The name Himoragat was certainly an indigenous term whose meaning had been lost in the present linguistic cosmos. The earliest appearance of the word in extant Spanish colonial records was in 1701. The word could have come from the combination of two archaic Bikol terms Himora which means to do and aga which refers to the princess of the crab. Thus it could mean to take out the pincers of a crab. The Lisboa dictionary contained many words which were combination of the term himo+……
The most important toponyme or place name is Tinambac. It was originally a name of another ancient village but came to be adopted as the name for the entire municipality. But just like Himoragat, the origin of Tinambac was also obscure. Folk stories followed the typical pattern of explanation of the emergence of place names. Popular belief claims that the name arose out of some confusion in the course of a chance encounter between a group of Spanish exploring parties and the natives. Arriving at the seashore, the Spaniards who saw them inquired about the name of the place but unable to understand the Castilian language, the natives who thought that the Spaniards were asking for their catch told them that this was a pile of wild boar and deers. “Tambak na Osa” they told the foreigners as they pointed to the heap of these animals. Hearing the sound Tambac .the Spaniards began calling the place Tambac. A more reasoned guess could be drawn from the native lexicon of the 16th century context of the word
According to the Lisboa’s Vocabulario the word Tambac, from which the name Tinambac was certainly derived, means a mound of soil or animal manure which is thrown at the foot of buyo plant in order to hasten its growth (Monton de tierra o de estiercol que se echa alpie de buyo, o de otra planta para que crezca). Since the most toponymes were constructed according to prominent landmarks in the locality, the name Tinambac could have been given in reference to a mound nearby. This could have reference to the place where the church now stands as this is among the most important landmarks located in the heart of the poblacion.
THE FORMATIVE YEARS
Long before the first Spanish settler ever set foot in the region, Tinambac was already dotted with small but vibrant indigenous villages. It was these nomadic and semi-nomadic upland dwellers who greeted the first batch of Franciscans who pioneered the missionary enterprise in the hills. Slowly but steadily, despite the enormous obstacles that stood on its way, the village emerged right in the womb of its pre-colonial world and entered the mainstream of imperial culture.
The Pre-Hispanic Settlement
The mountain which loomed over the lowland pre-colonial Bikol landscape known among the natives as Isarog had a base which extended to some 13 leagues or some 65 kilometers in diameter. Evidence of previous violent eruptions is abundant but no historical records ever made explicit reference to its eruptions. This could mean that at least no major eruptions could have been occurred within the Hispanic period as it could not have escaped the meticulous eye of the numerous chroniclers of the colonial regime. There were speculations though that Isarog was among those volcanoes which erupted simultaneously in the middle of the 17th century. At the time of the establishment of Spanish settlement in Nueva Caceres, Bishop Salazar was informed by some natives that its slopes were teeming with royal eagles, white honey and wax and infinite variety of fruits.
The negritoes, probably its original inhabitants, must have first settled in this mountain volcano about 6,000 years ago. During this period the water level in the entire Philippines was already almost the same with the present level. Earlier on, about 8,000 years ago, when the water level was lower by some 100 to 500 meters from its present level, the slopes of Isarog must have been farther by some hundreds of kilometers from the coastline.
Owing to the nomadic and hostile character of these natives, the exact size of its population had never been accurately determined, except in the last decades of the Spanish colonial rule. In the first decade of the 17th century, a report gave an incredible estimate of 16,000 black inhabitants. From a more reasoned guess, its population in the early colonial rule could be less than 5,000.
Aside from the Negritoes the exodus of large groups of fair-complexioned semi-sedentary lowland dwellers, even prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, resulted in the rise of clusters of settlements. Devoted mainly to agriculture and hunting, they satisfied their basic economic necessities by way of barter mainly with their lowland neighbors and probably even with their upland neighbors, the negritoes. The inhabitants of the ancient villages of Lupi, Himoragat and Tinambac belonged to these groups apparently lived in this manner until the advent of the first batch of missionaries.
The Birth of the Mission
The missionary activity of the Franciscan in the region had begun in 1578 by the two pioneering missionaries, Fray Pablo de Jesus and Fray Bartolome Ruiz. To make the work of evangelization and the process of civilization easier and possible, the Franciscans adopted the system known as “reduccion”. This system compelled the natives scattered in far-flung areas to congregate in strategic site and form a nucleus of urban settlement. Dividing the Bikol River district into four major missionary zones, the two friars raised the first four missions’ outposts in the following strategic villages in the region namely: Naga, Quipayo, Nabua and Bula. By June of 1583, the following villages were added to the list of their mission outposts: Canaman, Yriga, Indan, Daet, Tabaco, , Malinao, Albay, Donsol, Sorsogon, and Bulusan. It was from these mission outposts that the rays of Christianity were radiated to the far-flung territories.
This missionary enterprise was apparently in full swing in the 1580’s when it suddenly came to a halt in the last decade of the 16th century. That lull was so apparent for up to the middle of the 17th century there was hardly any addition to the number of doctrinas earlier founded in the 1580’s. There is reason to believe that during this period the Franciscans settlements concentrated their efforts in consolidating and developing these nascent Christian settlements rather than undertake the arduous task of expanding their jurisdiction. Therefore, until about the middle of the 17th century, there was no evidence which suggested that the Franciscans secured headway in their mission work in the slopes of Mount Isarog. Until about 1649 the closest mission sites ever established by the Franciscans was in Quipayo. Quipayo however was mentioned as having three visitas which numbered some 2,400 persons the highest from among the earliest Christianized villages. It was possible that these three visitas were located within few miles from this settlement. Thus, it could be assumed that the indigenous settlements located in this vast expanse of the mountain slopes, including those clusters of villages within Tinambac were virtually untouched by the evangelizing fathers until the last decades of the 17th century. Nevertheless, from these incipient Christians settlements, the mission of Quipayo posed as the most strategic springboard for launching mission contingents to the villages around Mount Isarog. It was from their base in Quipayo that the missionary fathers would begin combing the upland territories of Mt. Isarog.
The Upland Exodus
The large population of un-Hispanized natives, particularly the agtas, was further increased by the exodus of partly Christianized lowlanders in the first decade of the 17th century. These apostates who, after having been congregated and converted to Christianity in the early salvo of evangelization, become disgruntled with the abusive colonial policies and institutions, left their settlements and sought refuge in the freedom of the hills. Although in reality the place was inhabited by two distinct ethnic groups, the Spaniards dissolved these distinct ethnics’ identities and lumped the inhabitants of these areas into a single ethnic category who were referred to in various derogatory terms as remontados, infideles, apostatas, monteses, criminals, cimmarones, negritos, malvados and so forth.
In 1656, Fray Antonio de San Gregorio, Bishop of Caceres, informed the government that there were indios hiding in the hills and wilderness of Camarines numbering more than a thousand. Many of these entrenched in the slopes of the mountain of Lagonoy from where they occasionally descended and caused havoc in the neighboring lowland settlements.
These intermittent raids of upland dwellers which hampered the growth of Christianized settlements in the frontier zones, aborted plans of the Franciscans to complete the Christianization of the region, as well as the increasing number of available missionary personnel, pushed the Franciscans to carry out the final phase of their missionary enterprise in the region. After about a century of immobility, the Franciscans undertook the conversion of the mountain settlements.
At the start of the missionary work in the nearby areas, the pioneering missionaries found not only large number of these lowland renegades but likewise settlements inhabited by a number of agtas, some of these intermarried with the fair –complexioned remontados. A few of these agtas whom the missionaries eventually introduced to the faith were:
Dahog married to Guintas, non-Christian negritoes of the mountain,
Dayaoun married to Rangga, non-christian negritoes of the mountain,
Danay married to Boyao, non-chrisitian negritoes of the mountain,
Cayanha, an old negrito of the mountain,
Inggid, an old negrito woman of the mountain,
Itta, a mature non-christian from the mountain,
Vara, a non-christian from the mountain in her teens,
Limapan, a non-christian of the mountain who was
Abayan, non-christian from the mountain also attending classes,
Bangguihon, an old non-christian negrito.
Out of these two distinct ethnic groups, various Christians settlements in Tinambac would emerge in the course of the Franciscan mission work. The missionary enterprise however proved to be a difficult task. It required not only a sustained and vigorous preaching of the gospel but even called for aggressive military action. To break their stiff resistance and bring them to the fold of the law and civic order various entradas were dispatched by colonial authorities to these mountain settlements.
The Preliminary Missions in Mount Isarog
The Franciscan inaugurated the resumption of their missionary activities with the opening of the missions in Isarog. From among these incipient Christian settlements, the mission of Quipayo posed as the most strategic springboard for launching mission contingents for the villages around Mount Isarog. From Their base in Quipayo the mission fathers succeeded in establishing smaller mission sites or visitas probably as far as Manguiring.
Earlier the Franciscans had not ceased in their attempts to corner these renegades and the elusive black heathens to bring them back to the folds of the church and the state. But the ceding of the Partido de Lagonoy to the seculars in 1637 resulted not only to the abandonment of the plans to convert these remontados but also encouraged the increase in the number of refugees. This likewise reinforced the serious spiritual setback on the faithfuls of Lagonoy. In 1682, the Bishop of this diocese of Caceres reported that in that year alone, 60 persons died in Lagonoy without receiving the last sacrament and many if not all those who died in the villages of Caramuan, Laui and Sangay had not received the sacrament. Concerned about this spiritual crisis, Bishop Andres Gonzales sent a report to the council of the Indies which responded with a royal cedula on July 21,1685 instructing the Bishops to take immediate actions to remedy this problem.. Even prior to the arrival of the royal cedula the Bishop once again received the sacraments. For his negligence, the bishop indicted the cleric Don Diego Sanz Baptista.
On the other hand, the bishop of Caceres had expressed his appreciation to the missionary efforts of Franciscans. As a favor, the Franciscan Provincial was informed on the 27th January 1687 that the parishes earlier taken from them were already returned to their control. Upon hearing this, the provincial immediately dispatched a request to the Royal Court and to the Junta De Hacienda de Manila to allow him to send two missionaries to the mountain of Isarog and Ragay to attempt once and for all the settlement of these natives. The Spanish monarchs, through the Junta de Hacienda of Manila, approved the sending of missionaries to the mount Isarog. Two were chosen to undertake the mission namely: Fray Francisco de la Cruz Oropesa and Fray Matias de Valdesoto.
The First Converts
On the first months of 1701 the two missionaries, Fray Francisco de la Cruz Oropesa and fray Matias de Valdesoto, began their apostolic ministry. A few months after, Fray Valdesoto gave account to the Provincial of his initial achievement. According to Valdesoto he was able to reduce in a sitio called Manguirin 242 Christianized cimarrones and baptized 86. A league away from Manguirin, with 216 person,most negritos, he laid the foundation of another settlement and placed the name Sta. Clara del Monte. At the same time Fray Oropesa Founded the settlement called Nuestra Señora de la Anunciacion de Himoragat with 79 person composed of cimarrones and negritos from which 53 were baptized.
Likewise, the indefatigable Franciscan missionary of Isarog Fray Francisco de la Cruz Oropesa, who was assisting in the mountains of Himoragat in a sitio called Dainrica, successfully reduced some 117 of these natives. Accompanying this report was the list of those who were already converted or baptized and those who were still undergoing catechism. Anumber of these were said to have come from a village called Hilohan which according to the mission report was near pueblo of Himoragat. The document was dated April 9 1701.
Joseph de los Santos, a 70- year old negrito from the mountain,
Andres de la Concepcion, a 57- year old negrito,
Augusta Rossa, a 70- year old negrita,
Phelipe de la Cruz, a 52 -year old negrito,
Francisco Lorenzo, a 50-year old negrito,
Maria de Jusus, a 50- year old negrita,
Juan de los Santos, a 48- year old negrito,
Gabriel Pasqual, a 46 –year old negrito,
Pedro de los Santos, a 25- year old negrito,
Manuel Silvestre, a 80- year old negrito,
Maria Manuela, a 60- year old negrita,
Bartolome Estivan, a 58- year old negrito,
Carlos Salvador, a 52 – year old negrito,
Juan de la Cruz, a 30- year old with a negrito father,
Cathalina de las Llagas, a 27-year old negrita,
Cathalina Ynes, a 40- year old negrita,
Maria de la Consepcion, a 55- year old negrita,
Pedro de Alcantara, a 20-year old negrito,
Cathalina Jacoba, an 18- year negrita,
Pascual de los Angeles, a 7- year old negrito,
Diego de los Santos, a 5- year old boy with a negrito father,
Maria Trinidad, a 10- year old negrita,
Pedro de Alcantara, a 7- year old negrito boy,
Estivan Joan, a 20 –year old negrito,
Joan Evangelista, an 8 –year old boy with a negrito father,
Antonio Ynocentes, a 10- year old negrito boy,
Maria Manuela, a 68 –year old negrita,
Mariana Manuela, a 50- year old negrita,
Ana Maria, a 22- year old negrita,
Ana Pia, a 6- year old girl from the mountain (probably not classified
Melchora Gaspara, a 2 ½ – year old girl from the mountain (not
classified as negrita),
Domingo Rovelto, a 10- year old boy from the mountain and was not classified
Francisco Gerbacio, a 32- year old from the mountain not classified as negrito,
Manuel Diego, a 7- year old boy from the mountain not classified as negrito,
Phelife Estevan, a 10 –year old boy from the mountain and was not
classified as negrito,
Carlos de la Cruz, a 3- year old negrito boy,
Diego Roque, a 9- year old negrito boy,
Maria Magdalena, an 8- year old negrita girl,
Maria Manuela, a 4- year old mountain girl,
Lucrisia Juana, a 6- month old baby with a negrito father,
Pasquala de la Cruz, a 3-year old girl with a negrito father,
Elvira de la Cruz, a 2 –year old girl from the mountain,
Simon Pedro, a 6- year old boy from the mountain,
Matheas Trinidad, an 8- year old boy from the mountain,
Joan Salvador, a 4- year old boy from the mountain,
Joan Trinidad, a 34- year old negrito,
Maria Trinidad, a 2- year old girl from the mountain,
Francisco de la Cruz, a 27- year old negrito,
Luis de los Angeles, a 1 –year ols boy with a negrito father,
Maria Magdalena, an 8-month infant negrita,
Theresa de San Joseph, a 70- year old negrita,
Phelipe Estivan, a 10 –year old boy from the mountain,
Manuel Diego, a 7- year old boy from the mountain
All these were baptized by the friar in the church of Nuestra Senora de la Anonciacion del pueblo de Himoragat. These were apparently the first batch of original inhabitants of this place ever to receive baptism since the coming of the Spaniards.
Some of these upland dwellers were persuaded to return to lowland settlements and a few of these received baptism in these lowland villages. Among those recorded as having been baptized upon their resettlement were:
Gabriel Limbaga, the father was a negrito married to Isavel Agta,
Diego Labuan..married from the mountain,
Diego Carranza, negrito married to Magdalena Hanggob, negrita.
For more than 5 years, the Franciscans showed unusual enthusiasm in this mission territory. But the outbreak of Episcopal controversies in the succeeding years demoralized the Franciscans and thus paralyzed the missionary enterprise. Since this time, the mission work in Tinambac apparently slackened. A 1726 report of Bichop Phelipe Molina complained that most of the mountain missions such as those of Tigaon, Manuiring and Himoragat were abandoned. Thus nothing was ever heard again on the mission or settlement of Himoragat until 1738.
The Second Wave of Isarog Mission
The preliminary mission work in Mount Isarog proved to be a resounding success. But despite the initial success of the mission, many still stubbornly resisted conversion. In 1738, Fray Sebastian Totanes, the provincial who was exasperated by the information of a large number of stubborn aetas and cimmarones of Isarog who were still entrenched in that mountain suggested to the governor-general to resort to an entrada in as much as the natives did not heed the paternal admonitions of their missionary fathers. After considering the request, the governor replied on April 24, 1739 ordering the Alcalde Mayor of Camarines to carry out the entrada. Soldiers combed the mountains beginning September 1, 1739 until the last days of December when the expedition was temporarily suspended for the soldiers were supposedly needed to collect rice as it was the month of harvest. This initial armed incursion resulted in the forcible conversion of about 113 cimmarones and aetas the dispersion of the rest to the various corners of the wilderness.
Upon learning of the suspension of the armed incursion in Isarog, Fray Totanes denounced the Alcalde Mayor of Camarines to the Junta de Hacienda for his failure to satisfactorily comply with the commands and asked the Junta to issue an immediate resumption of it until the cimmarones were completely subdued. In his communication on April 8, 1741, the Provincial instructed the missionaries to cooperate in the military actions and to proceed cautiously in bringing the rebellious natives back to their settlements. The provincial laid out the plans for the reduction once the native were completely pacified. In this scheme isarog was divided into 3 zones.
- The mission of Sta Cruz de Mangurin composed of the villages of Manguirin, Himoragat, Tinguinan, Ogob, Looc, Buri, Lucban and Paniquan.
- The mission of San Francisco de Salog located between the river of Mazuqui and Tigaon, with the villagees of Goa, Lupi, Tinambac, Himaga and Mataclan.
- The mission of Sta Clara de Tigaon which covered between rivers of Tigaon and Francia with the villages of Gayan, Pili, Maslog, Ursini, Gamogon, Tinawagan, Tinorongan and Borar.
Apparently the expeditions were carried out and resulted in the congregation of the cimmarones who in the census of 30 September 1740 numbered some 1,500 in the mission of Salog administered by Fray Pedro de la Madre de Dios. The mission of Sta Cruz de Manguirin had 1,029 in 1748 and Sta Clara de Tigaon had 217.
In this mission plan, the poneering villages which now comprise Tinambac were placed under the administration of other mission centers such as Mangurin and Tigaon. The villages of Himoragat were under Mangurin while Tinambac together with Lupi were under the mission of San Francisco de Salog. It was clear though that these villages of Tinambac still did not have their respective missionaries and were but occasionally visited by the missionary of their respective mission center.
Although Manguirin had become the head settlement which covered the missions of Himoragat, in due time in 1754, Himoragat became the mission and therefore became the head settlement. It was because of this event that an existing tale among the old folks of Tinambac mentioned in the course of mission work along the Himoragat River, seven missionaries died of cholera morbo simultaneously in 1733 when the parish was erected. From thence the place was noted as Mangurin. However, the real story noted that indeed what prompted the transfer was the brewing epidemic in Manguirin which took the lives of 7 religious missionaries. Fray Esteban Gascuena became the missionary assigned to this settlement.
The Founding Fathers
A few heroic friars had played key role in the founding of Tinambac and Himoragat missions. Among the most renowned of these were the pioneering missionaries Fray Matias de Valdesoto and Francisco de la Cruz Oropesa. But their works were sustained and further intensified by Fray Esteban Jose de Gascuena.
Fray Estevan Jose de Gascuena was born in the town of his surname on 3 August 1718. On 1 November1738 he arrived in the Philippines in 1752 and was assigned as missionary to Himoragat and Lupi and later administered Ligmanan, Milaor, Libong, Canaman, Calabanga, Magarao, and for the second time in Milaor. In the chapter meeting of 17 May 1777 he was elected definidor and presidente of San Francisco del Monte. Then he returned to administer Libon in 1780. As he was already in his old age, he retired to the infirmary of Santa Cruz where he died on 6 March 1789 at the age of 71.
Fray Estevan Gascuena who remained in this territory for quite sometime eventually left these two missions in 1757 and penetrated deep into the mountain where they remained until 1762 when these were once again reunited by Fray Antonio Bisquer with Manguirin once again as the base. Thus, Himoragat remained under Manguirin. But shortly after it was once again separated and was finally placed under Tinambac.
The missions began by these pioneering priests were carried out by a long line of equally dedicated and zealous pastors of the souls. Except on several occasions when the Franciscan missionaries were truly limited, most of those priests who administered the missions in Tinambac were Franciscans. They were:
1854-1856….Fr. Pedro de la Cruz
1869-1875….Sotero Dela Pena
1884-1887….Antonio Diaz Gomez
1888-1893….Amalio de la Pasion
The collapse of the Spanish regime marked the end of the control of parishes by the friars. The mission of Tinambac was handed over to the care of the seculars, most of who were Bikolanos.
The preliminary achievement of the founding missionaries in the early decade of the 1700’s was overshadowed by the enormous difficulties this fledging Christian settlement was facing. The series of dreadful moro raids, the lack of religious personnel and the limited administrative control colonial authorities had on this settlement, were some of the major factors which significantly retarded the growth of the territory. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties the people of Tinambac struggled hard to surmount these impediments to progress. The period from 1700 until the middle of the 19th century could be considered as most critical stage in the history of this municipality.
The Creation of the Pueblo of Tinambac
Although ecclesiastically Tinambac remained a mission and not a parish until about 1817 when it was assigned its own parish priest, it was already existing as a civil unit classified as a pueblo as early as the 1700’s. But following the missionary designs of the Franciscans, Tinambac however, together with its present barrio of Lupi remained under the control of Goa. These arrangement continued until about 1794 since a 1792 report still mentioned Tinambac as attached to Goa:
The town of Tinambac is attached to this town (Goa) which is farther by 5 hours of rugged road at the foot of Mt. Isarog which has also its small chapel and parochial house its titular and patron saint St. Francis of Assisi.
Likewise, as late as 1795 Himoragat was listed in the report of towns of the region planting mulberry trees and was referred to by the document as pueblo. It should be pointed out that before the 19th century, the word pueblo was generic term loosely applied to any inhabited location and therefore did not bear specific classification of administrative and political unit.
Toward the last years of the eighteenth century, the mission of Tinambac quickly assumed a more prominent geographical and administrative status while the mission of Himoragat had ceased to appear in the Franciscan records. It was because Himoragat had indeed ceased to exist as a settlement and its inhabitants were dispersed to other villages. The main reason for the disappearance of Himoragat was the disastrous effect of moro raids, the worst of these occurred in 1796. This was evident in the report of Alcalde Mayor Jose de Eguia to Governor-General Rafael Maria de Aguilar.
From the time I assume command of this province I already learned from my predecessor that in the year 1796 the moros destroyed the mission of Himoragat whose inhabitants were killed or dispersed to the mountain of Isarog…In the year 1794 the said mission existed as I have seen in the accounts but after its destruction nothing left of its poblacion nor have I received any notice regarding what happened to its men and its tributante.
Indeed, as in most coastal settlements, the chronic piratical assaults of the moros were among the factors which largely defined the conditions for the establishment or transfer of settlements. Being at the most vulnerable part of the region, Himoragat and its nearby settlements including Tinambac must had been the frequent victims of these destructive visitors. But it was evident that the 1796 attack was the worst compelling them to finally abandon the settlement. The Alcalde Mayor however emphasized that he had exerted enormous effort to look for them and to bring them once and for all to a strategic locality.
With this notice and other which pertain to the stubborn resistance of the said natives to establish in some other missions in the mountain but it will be possible to unite them and gather them from where they are, I will procure to reduce them in whatever means imaginable and I have already succeeded in bringing down some sixty Christianized families to whom I have chosen a lieutenant, a juez and an alguacil in the name of your lordship and I have placed them under the care of the gobernadorcillo of Maguirin which is the post proximate with the end of taking care and conserving them..
Observing the sea from its elevated location it ought to give information to the towns of Vicol of the arrival of the moros and that this could avoid them from being captured which is very often, for this end a very important poblacion is re-established which provides a very good start by way of the assistance provided by the Missionary father of Manguirin to which it is attached for this purpose.
The “elevated location” being referred to by Alcalde mayor could be the hill where the barrio of Lupi was located. Local folks have narrated many stories regarding ancient artifacts being unearthed in the vicinity of Lupi which supposedly revealed the existence of an ancient colonial settlement. Some inhabitants likewise testified that the elevated place was ideal for guarding the entrance to the Bikol river. This location was evidently the most strategic area to watch the sea and therefore it could guard the inland territories from seaborne attacks of the moros. This was also the most appropriate place to set up a stronghold which could provide preliminary coastal defense and ward off any assault in the event that a seaborne attack touched down to the coast . This, Alcalde Mayor Eguia likewise reported the settlement’s initial attempts to build some protective structures:
These men have greatly increased in number and are doing a small fort (baluartillo) in order to put up a falconete of two which I have offered them since it is simply lying in the Royal Warehouse without any use and I believe that it will be approved by your Lordship as it will be free of powder and bullets corresponding its use.
Some old people of this town who did some diggings in the hill where the church now stands testified that they found pieces of unusually large timber underneath the soil. This only tends to confirm the belief that the place was indeed utilized for some very important purpose, the site for a fortification.
Although the problem of defending the settlement against the chronic onslaught of the moros was among serious concerns of the natives and even the provincial authorities. The need to attract the non-Christian natives and likewise the increasing demand to sustain the newly-converted indios to the faith remained the over-riding concerns of the missionaries and the Alcalde in particular. But to fully win them over to the faith and to the Crown, the Spanish authorities had to provide them some concessions. This was the substance of an exerpt of the petition written by Alcalde mayor Jose de Guia to the governor-general dated January 31, 1803;
I beg that your Lordship may make it worthy to free these indios who voluntarily allowed themselves to be reduced to Himoragat from their contributions and their tributes for two years. This will de adequate to establish and place themselves in a more stable status of life and conserve them which these infidels only wish. They promise to pay their obligations later which all these they complied before the destruction of the mission. Since then their sons have retired to other missions and now they returned to con\tribute to repopulate this settlement.
Although no document provides a categorical information regarding the response of the colonial authorities in Manila, the rise of Tinambac was enough proof that this was granted.
About fifteen years later, in 4 November 1817, Bishop Bernardo de la Concepcion sent a report regarding the progress of the missions in Tinambac in an attempt to convince Governor-general Mariano Folgeras to sustain the missionary enterprise in this territory by sending a sesident minister. The document reads:
Lupi or Tinambac is located on a place which is very fertile with some one-thousand inhabitants which are found in the visitas called Cacaueynan, Cagagapoan, Payata, Cabangajan, Himoragat and Looc. Although these settlements are composed of few compact houses but many are scattered in all these sitios, and if they could be gathered together it could make some eight hundred to a thousand tributes. Our sovereign lost the major part of the contributions accruing to him. If an active and zealous cura would be assigned here the reduction of these men would indeed be a great success that there is nothing else to see for me than the name of Christians.
The dream of Bishop de la Concepcion to have a cura assigned to this settlement only took a little time before it was realized. In the same year a secular priest named Don Cecilio de San Isidro was assigned as a parroco interino. The report of an Episcopal visit in 1817 made this evident: “in the said date, month and year (June): The Illustrious Bishop, my Lord, arrived in the small town of Tinambac where he was making his visit. He gave the Episcopal blessing, announced the Holy Word, and confirmed 200. It does not have a tabernacle since its church is only built of nipa and bamboo. Nothing against the parish priest Don Cecillo de San Isidro came out of the private and public inquiry. By this we concluded the visit.” The presence of a resident priest in the territory paved the way not only for the sustained growth of the natives to the Faith but the rise of more stable socio-economic activities.
The Mission and Pueblo of Tinambac
Tinambac continued to remain under Goa. In the 1801 Plan general, it was listed together with Goa under Fray Antonio Chica with a population of 384. In 1803 Goa, Tigaon, and Tinambac were administered by Lic. D. Pascual Albao. Tinambac had a population of 350. But by 1815, after some fourteen years, Tinambac remained attached to Goa and Tigaon under Don Juan Bagalacsa as its parish priest “owing to the scarcity of religious”. However, after some ten more years, this town had already been assigned a resident priest named Don Cecillo de San Isidro, parroco interino.
However, even as late as 1896, Tinambac continued to be referred to as a “mission” with some 1,030 residents under Fray Roque Moral, a Franciscan. The main distinction between a parish and a mission was the former was characterized by a more stable and self-sustaining Catholic community while the latter was just on its incipient stage of Catholic instruction and was generally characterized by low-demographic density. At any rate, the decisive factor for the creation of a pueblo and the elevation of a mission to a parish were population and the urban prospects of the territory. Given the condition of Tinambac in the 19th century, which was characterized by low demographic profile and geographic isolation, it could be understood why it lagged behind.
The Patron Saints
The earliest colonial record which made mention of the preliminary work of the Franciscans referred to a settlement of Nuestra Señora de la Anonciacion del pueblo de Himoragat. Obviously, in the early stage of its conversion the pueblo of Himoragat was placed under the spiritual protection of the Virgin Mary through the Our lady of Annunciation. But because of the unstable mission conditions in this area due to the lack of ecclesiastical personnel and the frequent disruptive raids of the moros the mission effort here was not adequately sustained. This seemingly affected even their choice of patrons. Around, the second or third decades of the 18th century, the mission was placed under the paternal care of San Isidro Labrador. But after more a half a century, San Isidro was replaced by San Pascual Baylon. The installation of San Pascual Baylon occurred at the start of a more stable religious activities in the town. According to tradition, in 1859, an image of San Pascual was found in the cave of a small mountain between Lupi and Himoragat rivers which flowed from the Mt. Isarog. Since then San Pascual Baylon assumed the center stage of the town’s devotion.
San Pascual Baylon was among the more favorite patron saints among the Franciscans in the Philippines, himself being a Franciscan. When San Pascual Baylon was supposedly found miraculously in Tinambac, was only recently canonized. It was only 169 years ago since his canonization which took place in 1690. San Pascual was born at Torre-Hermosa, in the Kingdom of Aragon on 24 May 1540. This date coincided with the Feast of Pentecost called in Spain as the Pasch of the Holy Ghost whence the name San Pascal or Pascual.
His parents, Martin Baylon and Elizabeth or Isabel Jubera, were poor but virtuous peasants. As a young boy, San Pascual already showed conspicuous signs of his unusual devotion towards the Holy Eucharist. It was this devotion which formed the distinctive mark of his saintly character. From his seventh until his twenty-fourth year, he led the lowly life of a shepherd. Shortly thereafter, he entered the religious life and was admitted as a lay brother among the Franciscans of the Alcantarine Reform.
In his cloistered life, San Pascual’s charity to the poor and the afflicted was remarkable. Although poorly educated, San Pascual wise counsels were sought by people coming from various stations in life. After living a life of sanctity, Pascual died in Villa Real on May 15, 1592 at the age of 52. In 1618, twenty four years after his death, Pascual was beatified. But it took him some 72 years before he was finally canonized in 1690. The great story of the saint quickly spread to the various missions outposts of the Spanish empire particularly to those under the Franciscans. His life became an inspiration among the priests and laymen. His feast is kept on May 17.
The Moro Menace
The unabated annual attacks of the moros in the Bikol region persisted way down the last decades of the 19th century. The disastrous incursion of the moros in Himoragat in 1795, was not the first time but the probably was one of the most destructive. The series of menacing moros raids in the region which went back to 1583 evidently affected Tinambac being located on the seacoast and was on the gateway to the mainland Bikol Peninsula.
But the 1795 raid was not the last one. On August 16, 1838, the Moros once again manifested their fury when it made its assault on the town killing one and wounding three. These hostile visitors took as their booty eleven of the towns inhabitants.
The Period of Prosperity
The favorable economic and political climate which began to prevail in the entire colony in the middle of the 19th century also swept through the municipalities on the slopes of the Mt. Isarog particularly in this town of Tinambac. Signs of more animated economic life were reflected in the gradual urbanization of this municipality. This was part due to the increasing presence of the colonial representatives, in particular, the appointment of a resident missionary-curate. As it was true in the entire colonial villages in the Philippines, it was the presence of a clergy which set the colonial transaction in motion and thus was largely responsible for laying the foundation for cultural and economic transformations.
Spanish urban life heavily revolved around the religious life of the people and was symbolized by the looming structure of the church. Since the beginning of the mission in this territory a church and a dwelling for the missionary were already erected. They were however constructed only of flimsy materials such as nipa and bamboo. These structures remained in such state even in the middle of the 19th century. In 1865, Fray Felix de Huerta reported that the church, the parochial house and that which serves as tribunal are all made of nipa and bamboo. But the advent of more stable ecclesiastical structure required more permanent structures to house the resident priest and the various religious activities with more decency. In 1885, Fray Deogracias Gomez began the construction of stone building and was completed in 1893 by Fray Amalio Garcia. The Parochial house, made of stone and wood, was also due to the efforts of the two friars. A cemetery was also opened by Fray Maximino Cuadrado in 1878.
As it was evident in the case of the ecclesiastical buildings and other major colonial structures, it could be said that Tinambac lagged behind from most other towns in the region in matters of socio-economic development. Signs of a more animated colonial life began to take shape around the second half of the 19th century. A middle of the century observer noted that although Tinambac had already a primary school yet images of stagnation were evident in the residential houses in the poblacion which he described as “ all of nipa, of poor and light construction”. Changes took slowly that 20 years after, the descriptive account of another Spanish observer hardly made some differences with the earlier picture:
It has a small church of wood and nipa, an average sized convent of mamposteria, , wood and nipa, a small tribunal of light materials and some 180 houses in general of bamboo and nipa or cogon, with the exception of some 10 or 12 which are wood.
While other towns on the mainstream of development were enjoying the amenities of modernity, they likewise began to feel the pressure of urban life. Public health had become a major concern as diseases plagued the colonial period. Among the root causes of epidemic was drinking water. While other towns were suffering from lack of clean and safe drinking water, the source of potable water was not a serious problem among the 19th century people of Tinambac. Adolfo Puya Ruiz, a prolific and brilliant travel writer, noted that the waters of the inhabitants of Tinambac were very good as they had a very safe and abundant water source, the river of himoragat.
Despite the geographic isolation of Tinambac, the late 19th century marked the opening of more passable roads or caminos de herradura which led to the town of Calabanga and the mission of Siruma. What used to be accessible almost exclusively by water had begun to enter into the mainstream of provincial activities as inland travel had become safer and faster
Tinambac was also linked to the outside world by a postal province service which received mails from the capital at least once a week.
Although a system of local government antedated the coming of the missionaries to the mountain, no records of its early native leaders either documented or oral ever survived. Since the concept of a centralized government did not exist in pre-colonial Bikol society, it was evident that the barangay form of government in the scattered villages of Tinambac. The Spanish colonial government introduced the concept of the pueblo as the basic administrative canopy which integrated the few low densitied-villages of the pre-colonial days. The pueblo was governed by a set of officials headed by a gobernadorcillo or petty governor which the natives preferred to refer as the gobernador. This office of gobernadorcillo was an honorary position and was filled up by the hereditary succession until the 18th century when this became elective. The first gobernadorcillo of the town generally came from the most influential chieftains and one who showed fealty toward the Spanish regime.
The gobernadorcillo was assisted by a host of subordinate officials mainly coming from the principalia class. In the 1700’s a pueblo would generally have the following: A lieutenant or deputy, an escribano or clerk, an alguacil mayor or chief constable, an alguacil de bagamundo or constable for the vagrants, a juez de sementeras or Superintendent of Fields and Harvests, a juez de palmas or Superintendent of Coconut Plantations. These were the set of officials which were available in Tinambac and Himoragat in 1781, the earliest recorded set of local officials for these two settlements. During these time in Tinambac and Himoragat remained to be referred to as missions:
Mission de Tinambac
Governador – Domingo de los Santos
Teniente Mayor – Domingo de los santos
Juez de Sementeras – Francisco de los Angeles
Juez de Palmas – Juan Domingo
Escribano – Juan Ermenegildo
Alguacil Mayor – Geronimo de la Cruz
Alguacil de Bagamundos – Antonio Somiao
Mission de Himoaragat
Governador – Manuel de Alcantara
Teniente Mayor – Francisco Lomogso
Juez de Sementeras – Bartolome Batan
Juez de Palmas – Antonio de la Cruz
Escribano – Santiago Fernandez
Alguacil Mayor – Juan Fiderico
Alguacil de Bagamundos – Juan Vizente
Although Tinambac continued to have its uninterrupted chain of local administrators the succeeding sets of its local officials had been unfortunately lost. At the outbreak of the revolution in 1896, Tinambac had the following set of officials and influential residents. These were, the parish priest, the captain municipal, the Juez de Paz, or the local magistrate and the primary school leaders:
Parish Priest – Fray Pedro Arroyo
Capitan Municipal – Lazaro Gacer
Juez de Paz – Joaquin Talavera
Maestro de Niños – Francisco Turra
Maestra de Niñas – Rosenda Belleza
In 1897, the local composition of the local bureaucracy was the following:
Parish Priest – D. Roque Naranja
Capitan Municipal – D. Lazaro Gacer
Juez de Paz – Francisco Turra
Maestro de Niños – Francisco Ona Santos
Maestros de Niñas – Da Rosenda Billesa
Nothing was changed in this composition until the outbreak of the second phase of the revolution in 1898.
Growth of Population
Among the earliest recorded population data since Tinambac assumed a more urban set up was in 1803 which counted some 350 inhabitants. In 1829 the missions of Tigaon, together with Goa and Tinambac had an aggregate population 0f 3,822. In 1840 when a demographic data exclusive for Tinambac was already available it mentioned of some 870 residents. Nine years later, in 1849, it fell to 678 but by 1865 it achieved a significant increase counting a population of some 1,599.
If the 1875 figures could be relied upon, after a lapse of ten years it suffered a slight decrease with only 1,166 populations. After a year it rose to 1,620 in 1876 and in 1881 it had 3,302. By 1890 its population once again suffered a slight decline as it went down to 2,965. By 1896 Tinambac’s inhabitants counted some 1,030.
It could be said that despite the fluctuations in the demographic profile, in general, Tinambac was expanding as reflected in the increasing number of barrios. From 109 houses in 1850 which included Siruma as its visita the town showed remarkable growth some 30 years later. In the Mapa de Almas of 1884 it had a headcount of 1,452 with 1 spaniard, 1 meztizo and 2 chinese Christians. In 1886-1887 padron it registered some 1,558 based on the reports of cabezas de barangays. In this year the following barrios were listed as belonging to Tinambac with their corresponding number of inhabitants: Japagon 300, Bani 200, San Vicente 210, San Roque 220, Lupi 227, Narayray 150.
There were several factors which could account for the gradual rise in population. Among the factors responsible for this was the improvement in sanitation and medical practice. The establishment of some sort of hospital in the capital helped a lot in the cure of some mild sickness which in previous times would have been fatal. The booming industry also elevated the quality of life of the people of Tinambac as it ushered in some conveniences and amenities.
But some age-old problems continued to beset the towns which in some way affected the growth of population. Aside from the onslaught of moro raids, Tinambac also suffered the ravages of epidemics. But its isolation significantly mitigated the otherwise horrible effects of such occurrences. In the 1884-1846 cholera epidemic, Tinambac was among the towns which were least affected which reflected in its comparatively low mortality rate. While cholera was raging in most towns of the province and was taking its enormous toll on the population Tinambac only suffered some 33 casualties during the entire epidemic period while other towns had as much as 400 or 600 as the case of Albay towns.
Prosperity and Natural Bounty
The town of Tinambac enjoyed the blessings of natural bounty. As late as the middle of the 19th century, Franciscan chroniclers continued to describe the enormous resources available in this place. Its thick forest yielded hardwood excellent for building ships and construction of massive structures. It also provided other items such as nipa and bamboo canes extremely useful for the construction of most residential houses in the town. Its inhabitants were supported by the forest with edible fruits, root crops and other foodstuffs. Fowls and animals were also hunted in this forest.
The existence of various rivers and streams which emanated from the mountaintop made agriculture its major leading industries. Aside from rice, it also benefited from a rich harvest of such other commercial crops as corn, sugarcane, coconut and abaca. Since the town was at the mouth of the sea it enjoyed enormous marine resources but as it also at the fringes of the lush Mt. Isarog forest. A very good description of this vast natural resources of the town was given by a Spanish traveler:
It has excellent grazing lands for horses and livestock, beeswax and many other kinds of chase. From its mountains emanate various rivers and streams which fertilize the terrain and which run from the east to west until it flows out to San Miguel Bay. Its coast abound in good fish, but lacks protected ports and could only dock at the mouth of the river vessels of smaller sizes. The land is planted with rice, some corn, sugarcane, abaca and coconut. Its inhabitants dedicate their occupation in agriculture and benefit likewise from abaca, hunting and fishing whose products are brought to the capital through small vessels.
As more exuberant commercial climate prevailed, the quality of life of the inhabitants significantly improved. They began to share the enjoyment of the amenities of life with those of the major provincial centers. As the Spanish traveler observed, the town had regular weekly access to pork and occasionally feast on beef sold in the local market.
For other items of their daily needs, the fifteen Chinese who settled in this town offered in their small stores some clothing item of cheap value and some other items of the country. The only major European item not available in their meals was bread since there was no bakery in this town.
TINAMBAC ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE REPUBLIC
The last decade of the 19th century was characterized by the wide scale political turbulence which had never been witnessed by the people of the region since the advent of colonial rule.
The Revolutionary Period
While oblivious of the major events transpiring in the national, regional and even in the provincial level, the people of Tinambac went about their lives as they have lived throughout the Spanish colonial period. Thus while the stories of the terrifying revolution in Manila had already begun to infuse panic among the inhabitants of the towns near the capital, Tinambac remained quite and calm. This probably explained why no one from among its inhabitants even those who belonged to the elite were ever implicated in any seditious actions.
The first sign of trouble reached Tinambac only in 1898. When the revolt of the civil guards took place, some Spanish nationals slipped out of the capital and fled to the mountains. Among them were Frs. Gabino Muñoz and Casimiro Fuente who, upon being informed by Don Francisco Sameza regarding what occurred in Nueva Caceres, had marched to Tinambac. While in this town, the report of the revolt in Nueva Caceres reached some of the native residents of this town and took action against any Spaniard. Thus while they were here, they were arrested and made prisoners in this town together with Fray Ildefonso Garcia.
At the outbreak of the revolution the parish priest of Tinambac was Fray Ildefonso Garcia Saiz. He was born in Canizar de los Ajos, Burgos on Janaury 22, 1874. He was the youngest among the Franciscans who were imprisoned by the revolutionists. He was professed in Pastrana on October 4, 1889 arrived in Manila on October 16, 1896, worked first assistant to the parish priest of Canaman but by January of 1898 was sent as parish to Tinambac where he was taken by the revolution.
In the company of these priests were three Spaniards and fearing that they would be shot, they presented themselves. The rebels demanded the surrender of arms which they did (p.63 Friars account). With the triumph of the revolution, the proud banner of Spain was hauled off and a new political regime was installed.
The Aguinaldo government which immediately organized the administrative structure of the new republic openly manifested its demand for firm loyalty among the local officials. Tinambac’s last gobernadorcillo under Spain, Mariano Asug, was apparently given satisfactory rating by the Aguinaldo government as he retained his office until 1900.
The Outbreak of the Philippine – American War
The geographic isolation of Tinambac did not spare this town from being caught into the raging fires of the war which broke out in the modern period, the Philippine – American war. It was in this war that Tinambac had tasted for the first time the frightening reality of conflict and shared the bloody battles fought between the advancing American forces and the gallant Filipino defenders at the height of the Filipino – American war.
As soon as General Ludovico Arejola was proclaimed Commanding Officer of the Filipino troops, series of guerilla attacks were launched by them from their mountain base in Minalabac. For strategic coordination, Gen. Ludovico Arejola divided the provinces of Ambos Camarines and Catanduanes into five military zones. The first military zone under the command of Lt. Col. Bernabe Dimalibot was composed of Nueva Caceres, Milaor, Minalabac, San Fernando, Bula, Nabua, and Bato. The second military zone consisted of Pasacao, Pamplona, Camaligan, Canaman, Gainza, Libmanan, Sipocot, Lupi and Ragay. Commanding this zone was Maj. Isidro Martinez. The third military zone comprised Manguring, Calabanga, Bombon, Quipayo, Magarao, Pili, Baao, Mabatobato, Iriga and Buhi. This zone was commanded by Lt. Col. Pedro Pantonilla. The fourth military zone embraced Tinambac, Siruma, Lagonoy, San Jose, Goa, Tigaon, Sangay, Caramoan, and the whole Catanduanes. This zone was commanded by Capt. Elisio Nazola. The fifth and the last military zone included the towns of Daet, San Vicente, Basud, Labo, Paracale, Mambulao, Indan, Calasgasan, and Capalonga. Lt. Col. Raymundo Segovia headed this zone.
Thus, Tinambac fell under the fourth military district which now constituted the majority of the towns of the Partido District. This district being located in the mountains of Isarog was among the places where decisive places battles were fought. The earliest recorded hero of Tinambac during the Fil-American war was 1st Lt. Magat was an officer of the revolutionary army before the outbreak of hostilities. Upon the arrival of the Americans, Lt. Magat was assigned to Tinambac where the Americans caught sight of him in the shore. The Amercans attempted to arrest him but instead of giving up he resisted the enemies with his pistol. In the ensuing skirmish he was shot and died instantly.
The Americans who regarded this area as one the most inhospitable territory maintained regular patrols where occasional encounters occurred. Among the most renowned encounters was recorded by an American officer commanding the Ninth Cavalry. From their base in Calabanga, 1st Lt. Geo White, commanding the Ninth Cavalry, reported to the Adjutant-General of the Third District of the Department of Southern Luzon on the result of their operations in Tinambac. This was dated 22 March 1901. The report read in part:
On Sunday night at 10 o’clock received notice from the presidente of Tinambac that certain insurgents under command of Pastor Espiritu had entered the towm during the day and were collecting contributions of money and rice from the inhabitants. He told me where they were stopping in the vicinity of the town, but as we could not have reached them that night. I concluded to leave here with the tide at 4 p.m. Monday so as to strike their camp about midnight. In the morning I received a letter from Captain Gordon, Forty-seventh U.S.V. who has followed them from Goa the day before saying he was at Tinambac with 6 soldiers and 7 scouts. I immediately set out with 5 men and 5 scouts for Tinambac, giving orders for 10 more men to follow with three days rations as soon as they could get ready. Reached Tinambac by baroto at 11 a.m. and took what men I had on a scout after the insurgents who had left the immediate vicinity of Tinambac and had gone back to the woods about 8 miles to a place called Camagong. Here we struck them at about 4 p.m., but as they had cordons out we got none of their guns; exchanged about 4 shots with them at long distance, but think no one was hit. Captured one machetero, who had been with them a long time; burned the house they were using as a cuartel. Captured the valise and cane and a bundle of papers belonging to Pastor, also 2 bolos. The machetero was a sergeant of his command. The next day, with the forces of Goa under Captain Gordon, we followed them about 15 miles back into the hills but they separated and their trail was lost. Remained one more day at Tinambac vainly trying to get information., and returned Wednesday p.m. .Sent back a detachment of 1 corporal and 4 men with armed policemen of this town yesterday to go into Tinambac, reaching there during the night in the hope that the insurrectos might return.
They got information there was party of them near Catangan, about 12 miles north along the beach. These they surprised at about 10 o’clock this morning by taking a trail through the woods which was almost impassable. As an outcome they killed 3, among them the assassin Agapito Maaldot, whose history is in the hands of the provost judge of this district; captured 1, got 1 pistol with several rounds of ammunitions. Reported to be 12 guns in the command of Pastor Espiritu, who is said to be desirous of surrendering, but with a guaranty of immunity from punishment. As this man has committed several murders, one not more than a week ago, I have given him no encouragement whatever. Will make further report toward the end of the month.
This report of Lt. Geo White was among the few narratives which provided a glimpse of the war in Tinambac. Except for this not much known on the more significant events which took place in this town during the Fil-Am war.
Apprenticenship in the Democratic system Under America
The triumph of the American forces eventually gave way to the creation of the American colonial regime in the island. Unlike the Spaniards who showed the natives little encouragement in political activities, the Americans encouraged greater native participation in the affairs of the colonial government. In the municipal level, as in Tinambac, the impact of American rule was only felt gradually since little changes were introduced in local governance. It would take some twenty years before substantial changes were seen in local administrative system.
Geography was among elements that could either propel growth and progress or stagnation and decay. Located in the more inaccessible and rugged terrain of the province, Tinambac defied time and its prospects of change. Thus even at the outset of American colonial rule Tinambac remained a sleepy provincial town which intensely lacked the very signs of urban life and its debilitating effects. William Freer, an American teacher who came to the place in 1904 made a colorful description of Tinambac:
Having traveled around the northern base of Isarog, I found myself one Sunday morning in the barrio of Payatan, and not due in the poblacion of Goa, twelve miles distant, until the following morning. Therefore I determined to ride my pony over the trail to Tinambac, on San Miguel Bay, to learn how the people were getting along the with new schoolhouse building with government rice, and incidentally to spy out the trail for the provincial board. The day was pleasant and the journey enjoyable, at least the last quarter lengthened out to double.
As he passed through the lush vegetation of the mountain slopes Freer was particularly attracted by the sights of its exotic flora and fauna;
The tropical forest contained the most curious specimens of plant-life huge tree ferns, tangles of rope-like vines; great bunches of air plants and parasitic growths, strange blossoms, fruits of the brightest colors and seed-pods of the most curious forms. Animal life was but little in evidence. I saw only the small green paroquets that flew overheard, and heard nothing but the raucous call of the large beaked calao. Toward the last trail degenerated into a muddy and stony brooklet, which the pony traced with slow and experimental gait. But the end finally came, and then I found myself traveling around by the side of the pleasant river, and heard, from just around the bend, the shouts of children bathing and playing like-river sprites in the clear and tepid water.
But its inhabitants likewise caught the curiosity and even admiration of this American observer. Freer was equally pleased with the hospitality of the inhabitants of the town. He indicated however that local officials seemed to lack facility of language:
The day had become hot as noon approached, and the hospitality showed me at the home of the town treasurer, one of the three or four men in the town who knew Spanish, was a welcome relief from the saddle and the burning rays of the sun. I paid a call of respect to the presidente, but our conversation was not very satisfactory, from the fact that he did not understand Spanish and I did not know Bicol.
This town presidente was probably Casimiro Sancho who held the office between 1903-1904. Freer who showed enormous attention to details and a highly personalistic observer, took notice of the typical life of the clergy in their respective parishes:
Desiring to call upon the padre, I was informed that, mass being finished, he was enjoying the diversion afforded by play. The game of burro is very popular with the lesser Filipino ecclesiastics, who, in common with their lay brothers, have never been taught to look upon gaming with disfavor.
The cleric of this town, just like the most of the late 19th century and early 20th century parish priests was extremely addicted to gambling. Such vices among the priests, though frowned upon, was not necessarily regarded as inconsistent and thus persisted way until the later years of American rule.
Local Government under America
The advent of American rule signaled the rise of democratic program government. While the battles for the control of the country were still being fought, the American military administrators had already began designing the new political machinery of the American colonial government. On August 8, 1899 General Orders no. 43 was issued by Major General Elwell Otis which created the new municipal council. The order prescribed among others:
In each town there will be a Municipal Council, composed of a Presidente and as many representatives or headmen as there may be wards or barrios in the town, which shall be charged with the maintenance of public order and the regulation of municipal affairs in particulars hereinafter named. It will formulate rules to govern its sessions and order of business connected therewith, and by majority vote ( to be determined by the Presidente in case of tie ) will, through the adoption of ordinances or decrees, to be executed by the Presidente, administer the municipal government; but no ordinance or decree shall be enforced until it receives the approval of the Commanding Officer of the troops there stationed.
Although the native populace was allowed greater participation in the affairs of the government, most of those emerged as local administrators, in particular the local presidente, as the municipal mayor was then called, still belonged to the traditional elite of the municipality. Many of them had occupied the office right before the collapse of the Spanish rule. Despite the alleged democratic framework on which the colonial administrators continued to favor the ruling elite. This was evident in one of the provisions of the military order which stipulated that the headman should be “of native birth and parentage and a resident and property owner of the town.”
The local chief executive was assigned very specific functions. The more important among them were:
- To establish a police force
- To collect taxes and license fees, to act as treasurer of public funds and to make disbursement on warrants of the council.
- To enforce regulations relating to traffic and the sale of spirits, to establish and regulate markets, to inspect livestock and record transfers and brands of the same.
- To perform duties formerly belonging to the lieutenant of the paddy fields
- To enforce sanitary measures.
- To provide for lighting the town.
It was clear that the functions of the presidente were hardly changed from that of the gobernadorcillo of the Spanish regime.
A more complete list of local officials who served the town of Tinambac from the outbreak of the revolution until the outbreak of the Pacific War was already available.
Mariano Asug – 1898
Francisco Torra – 1900
Roman Betito – 1901
Jose Borja – 1902
Paulino Abanan – 1902
Casimiro Sancho – 1903-1905
Francisco Tordilla – 1905-1907
Jose Robles – 1909-1911
Lazaro Gacer – 1912-1915
At about 1917 a new government code was enacted which defined the functions of the local presidente. Although some aspects of his previous functions were still evident, additional functions introduced. Among which were:
- He shall lend his assistance and give support to the provincial treasurer and his deputies in the collection of taxes and shall cooperate with the health authorities in the enforcement of sanitary laws and regulations in force in the municipality.
- He shall issue orders relating to the police or to public safety, and orders for the purpose of avoiding conflagrations, floods and the effects of storms or other public calamities.
- He shall preside at the meetings of the municipal council and shall recommend to said body from time to time such measures connected with the public health, cleanliness, or ornament of the municipality or the improvement of the finances as he shall deem expedient.
- He shall attend such conventions of municipal presidents as may be lawfully called by the provincial board.
From this period and onward until the outbreak of the second world war, the system of administration in the local government was virtually unchanged. During this time Tinambac was administered by the following local presidentes:
Cipriano Filarca – 1916-1918
Moises Tordilla – 1924-1928
Perfecto Agao – 1929-1933
Moises Tordilla – 1934-1942
The advent of Japanese invaders temporarily halted the operations of the democratic processes to which the Filipinos were beginning to respond with enthusiasm and vigor. And it was the sentimental attachment to democracy that defined the attitude of the local authorities toward the new masters.
The early decades of the American colonial regime began to show some signs of vibrant commercial activities in the area marked by the establishment of a large sawmill ran by the Caldwallader-Gibson Company in the 1920’s. To facilitate the transport of the huge timber, the company constructed railroad tracks which passed through Camp 6 until Tandoc, Siruma. In 1936 the company site was transferred to Tandoc leaving behind the buildings which used to house the personnel in Bocogan and Tamban.
The earliest recorded population data of this town during the American regime was the highest from among all the previously recorded demographic profile. In this 1902 data it mentioned Tinambac as having an aggregate population of 4,880 distributed in the 11 barrios which included the head settlement called the poblacion:
Nueva California 436
Nuevo Suez 265
Sierra Media 255
Tierra Nevada 453
A slight increase was noted in the 1903 report which had some 5, 298. In 1918, more than 15 years later, its population once again inched up to 5, 507. More than twenty years later, toward the outbreak of the Pacific War, Tinambac’s population almost doubled as it rose to 10,921.
The arrival of the Americans signaled the birth of modern educational system. Unlike in the Spanish period where education was merely an appendage of religious instruction, the American government pursued education as an end in itself and divorced from any religious purpose. The first schools established by the American were tutored by the American soldiers, By 1902, a shipload of professional teachers arrived aboard the USS Thomas and thus pioneered the formal American program. Shortly after Americans schools in the following barrios: Tinambac Central, Bagacay, Bani, Bolaobalite, Buenavista, Cagliliog, Daligan, Olag, San Vicente, Tierra Nevada and Union.
Tinambac had tales which reflected their fond memories of this first batch of teachers. They recalled of an officer who scoured the neighborhood for children to attend classes organized by the soldiers and rounded up those who left or escaped from school. Incentives were given to children in order to attend classes. Free school supplies and candies were some of the articles used to attract the young students to schools.
Owing the fear and traditional bias against education, only few would wish to attend classes. In fact, according to one teachers of this school, the first grade seven graduates were only 17 and this graduation took place in 1921. But in due time enrollment rose and even handful American teachers could no longer effectively handle the increasing numbers of classes. This compelled the American authorities to eventually welcome educated natives to the teaching profession. Among the Bikolano teachers whom the old inhabitants fondly remembered as pioneering in the education of the town’s youth were Macario Francia and Mr. Catalino Prades.
Tinambac was earlier attached to the Calabanga district. This district was composed of the towns of Magarao, Calabanga, Tinambac and Siruma. The office of the supervising principal was at Calabanga and the Principal was assigned in Tinambac Central with the assistance of few teachers. Among the District Supervisors assigned in Tinambac was a certain Mr. Roche. The others were:
Mr. Luther Bewley
Mr. Celedonio Salvador
Mr. Ildefonso Zurbano
Mr. Roman Belmonte
Mr. Blas David
Mr. Tomas Pan.
Mr. Silverio Salvosa
Mr. Eulalio Menla
Mr. Aurelio Pontillas
Shortly after the outbreak of the Pacific War and during the term of Mr. Macario Penaflor.. Tinambac became a separate district. Immediately after the war, classes were resumed and a new district supervisor was appointed. This was Mr. Eulalio Menla who received his appointment in 1946. Few years after, in 1952, Mr Antero Sto Tomas took the post. He was later on succeeded by Mr. Leoncio Dela Torre. From among the these district supervisors, the name of Mr. Celedonio Salvador stood prominently in Bikol history. Salvador was among the few Bikolanos in the early period of American regime who earned the national fame.
Celedonio Salvador was born on March 8, 1890 to spouses Apolonio Salvador and Maria Ambrosio then residing in Nueva Caceres, the capital of Ambos Camarines province. At the age of seventeen he finished his Teacher’s Course at the Philippine Normal School in Manila. A teaching job in his hometown was waiting for him immediately after his graduation. Two years later, 1909 he was made principal in Tinambac Elementary School. In 1911 Salvador was promoted to supervising teacher in Daet, Camarines Norte ( then still a part of Ambos Camarines ). It was in Daet where he met his wife, Cecilia Suzara. Right after his marriage, he was sent to the United States as a government pensionado where he studied at the University of Indiana. He returned to the Philippines in 1922 and resumed his supervisory work. It was apparently during this time that he was assigned as District Supervisor of Tinambac. Shortly thereafter, he was made superintendent in several provinces.
In 1937, Celedonio Salvador began his ascent to the national ladder when he was appointed acting Director of Education. Two years later he was appointed Director of Education, supposedly the first Filipino to receive such honored position. He died of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 65.
Except for Celedonio Salvador, the other principals assigned in Tinambac did not share his prominence. But they were nevertheless equally great in their devotion to the growth of education. These were among those who held the position of principal since the early years the introduction of the American system of Education until the outbreak of the Pacific War.
Mr. Serafin Mendoza
When the war broke out Mr. Wenceslao Adupe was holding the position and was compelled to open Niponggo classes. He remained principal until the liberation in 1946.
The Religious Condition
The advent of Protestantism and the spread of other religious sects in the region did not destroy the devotion of the faithful of Tinambac to Catholicism. Despite the efforts of other sects to wean them away from the age-old devotion to Catholicism little headway was made and Catholicism continued to grow and to flourish.
The American regime however ended the rule of the friars in most parishes in the Philippines. For more than a hundred years, Tinambac was virtually a Franciscan mission territory. Nevertheless, chronic lack of Franciscan missionaries often compelled the bishop to assign a secular as a cura interino or substitute parish priest. But the advent of American rule provided the seculars with absolute control of the parish including the town. Hence, from 1900 onward, Tinambac was given over the care of the seculars. The first secular priest assigned in this mission town in the 20th century was Fr. Apolonio Almonte. Others who served in the early decade of the American rule were:
Notwithstanding the challenges posed by Protestantism and the growing Aglipayan sect which found the substantial followings in the towns of nearby Partido District, large number of Catholic priests were being ordained annually providing ample reserves of parochial curates. From 1907 until 1911 Father Sebastian Velez was assigned to this town. The others who succeeded him were:
- Augurio Ante
- Jorge Prepotente
- Victor Fetil
- Hegino Saavedra
- Felix Ragos
- Catalino Reyes
- Rafael Quimpo
- Francisco Hermida
Although Tinambac’s Catholic community remained vibrant and dynamic, the liberal atmosphere endangered by the American colonial regime has opened the doors of the town to other religious movements and sects. Hence, after 1950’s other religious groups began to thrive in this locality and therefore further enriched local culture.
The War Years
Located far from the nerve center of provincial activities, the rumblings of hostilities nevertheless did not spare this municipality. Occasional outburst of violence marred the otherwise quite municipality. The war further re-inforced the isolation of this town as transportation was virtually unavailable and travel was very risky. Nevertheless, the hardship experienced by those in the lowland poblacion was felt with lesser intensity in this place.
Although enemy presence in Tinambac was almost nil, the operations of public order was taken over by the shadow government of the Camp Isarog guerillas under Lt. Teofilo Padua and his most able lieutenant, his son, Lt. Lorenzo Padua. This guerilla unit was responsible not only for the maintenance of public order within the framework of the Commonwealth Government. Thus, loyal local officials were given due protection and assistance while those who showed wholehearted cooperation to the invaders were watched and punished.
The Camp Isarog Guerilla unit, which had military jurisdiction over Tinambac, also regulated prices of basic commodities within its sector, through the Board of Food Control of this guerilla unit, General order no. 5 was issued by Capt. Lorenzo Padua to all municipal mayors and barrio lieutenants which fixed the prices of some foodstuff. The mayor of Tinambac was one who received this order.
Seeing the major role played by the guerillas in keeping aflame the hopes of freedom, residents of this town gave wholehearted support to the resistance movement either in the form of war contributions or by joining the movement as they battled the enemy in the field. It appeared that the camp Isarog gurilla unit had even set up a camp in Tinambac. This was evident in one of the memoranda issued by by Maj. Lino Oliquino, the commanding officer of the 1st battalion of the Camp Isarog Guerilla, to the guerilla officers stationed in this place named Lts. Sta Ana and Cooner. The memorandum dated 17 January 1945 read in part: “Upon my arrival here in Tinambac, I have found out that no supplies of palay where here. You are hereby ordered to find out what is wrong thru relay or if you did not relay any supply expedite for Maj. Lorenzo Padua is in great need of this supplies for again I have received orders that this men have no more food and no supplies from here has been received by him in the regimental Headquarters…. In order that you will have full understanding and not to entertain any hesitation, you are enjoined to contact at once Capt. Porferio Villamora and confer about this.”
Tinambac was lucky enough that no major encounters took place between the Japanese and the guerillas in this locality. The closest and one of the most important events of the war in the province occurred in the barrio of Vito in the coastal village of Siruma where a contingent of fleeing Japanese troops encountered a small unit of guerillas in a bloody battle ensued. Among the casualties were civilians whom the Japanese compelled to accompany them in their bid escape from their besieged camps in Naga. These included Governor Mariano Villafuerte and his family. Except from this event which came to be known throughout the province of Camarines Sur, this town had seen very little action during the critical years of Japanese occupation.
The Period Of Rehabilitation to the Present ( 2000 )
After more than four years of living in suffering and fear, the end of the war was received with enormous rejoicing everywhere. But the euphoria was brief for the Filipinos had to confront the horrible reality of the effects of the war. Although the war was bloody, Tinambac was comparatively fortunate since post war demographic data seemed to show a relatively less horrendous image. In fact, the town’s population hardly suffered any decrease and even surpassed its pre-war records. This seemed to indicate that mortality rate owing to the war was less severe. In 1948, 2 years after the liberation, Tinambac population rose to 14,103. Twelve years after, buoyed by its enormous industrial prospects, its population leaped to 28,897. One of the factors responsible for this remarkable demographic increase was the influx of a large number of Tagalogs, particularly those coming from the province of Batangas whose adventurous and commercial spirits found haven in this town.
The horrors of the war did not dampen the religious fervor of its simple but devout inhabitants. The religious life of the people remained vibrant as ever. The Catholic Church nevertheless continued to enjoy its prominent status in the life of the people. Fr. Francisco Hermida, the parish priest who steered the people through the difficult years of the war, survived the war and continued to nourish the people with the inspiring wisdom of the gospel until 1950. He was assisted in various times by Fr. Guillermo Rejante, Fr. Guillermo Santiago and Fr. Ludovico Vela.
As soon as peace was restored, the civilian government under Mayor Tomas Zarcedo undertook the work of rehabilitation. The mayor however was more fortunate since unlike in other places severely affected by the war, rehabilitation work in postwar Tinambac was less painful. After a span of one year, Mayor Zarcedo was replaced by Eustaquio Matos who administered the town from 1947 until 1949. Having overcome the most critical period in postwar years, Tinambac socio-political life began to normalize. The following municipal officials were mainly responsible for steering the town toward the attainment of its vision development.
1950-1954… Moises Tordilla
1955-1958… Perfecto Agao
1960-1962… Egmidio Dolores
1963-1966… Tomas Zarcedo
1967-1980… Catalino Prades
1980-1987… Pedro Jarcia II
Throughout its political history and until the present, Tinambac did not evolve a strong ruling family which dominated local politics. As could be seen from the names of those who administered the town, no similar family name ever surfaced.
The postwar social problems which erupted in other regions in the Philippines particularly those in Central Luzon, such as the agrarian unrest which assumed revolutionary proportion through the HUKBALAHAP movement, was hardly felt in the different towns within the province including those in the mountain districts such as Tinambac. But concrete efforts were undertaken both by the national agencies and the local government of Tinambac to pre-empt the spread of any ideology which could foment peasant unrest. The proclamation of order no. 90 series of 1957 which was based in an earlier RA 1199 issued in 1954 under the Magsaysay administration, attempted to bring solutions to land problems. Although little has been achieved by these legislative measures, these paved the way for more sustained efforts to provide solutions to agrarian problems.
During the Macapagal era, RA 3844 was signed into law which was further strengthened by President Ferdinand Marcos PD 27 which launched the campaign to bring about “land for the landless.” In this scheme, Tinambac became one of the pilot municipalities. The implementation of this program made Tinambac one of the region’s migration destinations.
As the angry seventies, roared more social problems were emerging. Beginning in the early 70’s Tinambac began to feel the pressure of the brewing social unrest as communist insurgency gained more followings among the inhabitants of the more remote barrios. The declaration of Martial Law in September of 1972 only increased the ranks of subversive elements as suspected activists fearing the possible crackdown escaped to the hills of Isarog. Thus, from the early years of 1970’s until the last years of 1980’s Tinambac was regarded as among the most dreaded municipalities as it earned the reputation of being the hotbed of communist insurgency. Reports of arrests, salvaging, and bloody encounters had become frequent. But its image greatly improved within the last decade of the 20th century. The numerous infra-structure works undertaken during the last decade significantly transformed the urban face of the municipality. The last decades of the century were the heydays of the political careers of new names but by no means less influential figures in local politics. These were Mayors Jose Reyes who ran the town for almost ten years from 1988 to 1998 until succeeded by the millennium mayor, Rosito T. Velarde.
The major documentary sources for this research are mainly derived from the following archives both in Europe and in the Philippines. In Spain the following were the major repository of historical information:
Archivo General de Indias (AGI), Seville
Archivo Franciscano Ibero-Oriental (AFIO), Madrid
Museo Naval (MN), Madrid
Biblioteca Nacional (BN), Madrid
In the Philippines, valuable primary documents on Bikol history are found in the following archives:
Philippine National Archives (PNA), Manila
Philippine National Library (PNL), Manila
Archives of the University of Sto. Tomas (AUST), Manila
In Bikol region, substantial data are also available from the Archdiocesan Archive of Caceres and the University Caceres Museum.
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The Paper. March 20, 2000