Romblon is a 4th class municipality in the province of Romblon, Philippines. It is the capital municipality of Romblon. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 36,612 people in 7,134 households.
Romblomanon or Ini is the native language of its inhabitants.
History taught us about the stunted kinky-haired tiny black “Aetas” (locally known as “Ati” or “Ita”) were believed to have descended from the “Orang Asli” native aboriginal people of the Malay Peninsula in Mainland Asia who have come to the Philippines. According to traditions, they crossed by land from Southeast Asia during Paleolithic Period. The Philippine Archipelago had once been connected to the great Asian continent by a causeway of rock, over which these tiny black Aetas crossed. They are believed to be the first settlers of our country.
Historians from Romblon’s various municipalities claimed that the original settlers of their towns were Aetas, including the towns of Odioñgan and San Agustin. Absolutely, they were correct for when the National Census under the American Administration was conducted in 1918, both Aetas and Mangyanes were still present and inhabiting the interior of Central and Southern Tablas (highlands of San Agustin, San Andres & Odioñgan), Carabao Island and the mountains of Sibuyan Island.
When the land bridges sank beneath the sea, the next wave of migrants, the Malays between 200 B.C. and 400 A.D., the period recorded in history as the golden age of the Hindu Kingdoms of Madjapahit Empire based in Surabaya and the much later Shri-Vishayan Empire based in Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia including the Malay Peninsula. Although it has never been clear whether they left their homeland as immigrants in search of better life or as political refugees seeking asylum elsewhere, wave after wave of Malays, the subject of these two empires arrived in the Philippines specifically in the Visayan Islands which included the Romblon group of islands. Hence, the word “Visayan” or “Visayas” and “Bisaya” was derived from the word “Vishayan” from Shri-Vishayan Empire, whose subjects have settled permanently in the fertile lowlands of its numerous islands. They drove the former black migrants further up the hills and deeper into the forest. As they came in large, outrigger boats called balanghays, which carried whole families or villages, their new settlements came to be known as balanghay and later Barangay. Ninety-eight percent of today’s people in Romblon are descended from this basic Malay stock, with an admixture of other racial strains of later colonizers.
The Malays, a mixture of Indo-Chinese ancestry with Caucasian strains due to its close contact with Semitic people could have been the pioneering settlers of the province. Evidences that these pre-historic people could have settled along the narrow coastal plains become real when human skeletal remains in various burial caves were found done in solid wood coffins. Most of these burial sites are concentrated in the islands of Cobrador, Alad and Banton and the slopes of Mount Payaopao and on the eastern slopes of Tablas summit located in barangay Talisay, Calatrava and to date many remained unexplored, evidence that these places were settled long before the coming of the European colonizers.
No other historical tribes aside from the early Malays could have been more advanced as they were skilled pottery makers and artisans. Today, countless broken pieces of potteries are found littered endlessly outside and inside the caves at Balinsasayao in Mahabangbaybay, Tablas Island, one of the caves already explored by the natives with three huge chambers. Porcelain and chinawares dating back to Ming dynasty of China were also found at this cave and at Bagusina cave in Sugod including antiquated jewelries and other treasured belongings of the deceased.
At one instance, I personally examined one of these coffins out of curiosity. The remains have white teeth as found, uncommon among early Visayans. The stature of fully matured person was to my assessment, towering six feet in height or over if only they were alive today. But early Visayans are short in stature and don’t possessed white teeth as noted by English explorer Ralph Fitch in his writing in 1591 that the idea that only wild animals has white teeth was widespread among ancient Filipinos. The distinctive features of the Spaniards according to Fitch were their plain white teeth, a feature shared with monkeys, dogs and pigs. Human beings were thought to be distinguished by cosmetic refinements like filed and stained teeth. The Visayans called gold work tooth filling “sangka” and “bansil” and leveling was done by an expert with slender stone file, the desired effect was always to render them even and symmetrical. Once filed, the teeth were colored in different ways. Regular chewing of “mama” made them black or red and covered with inlays, crowns or plating of teeth goldwork known as “pusad”, an impressive example of Visayan dentistry. Other skeletal remains were weird. It was reported that one skull found in Balinsasayao got only one eye, a Cyclops? Another one found at Alad Island cave has a very unnatural elongated curving chin that seems like a bow or an extreme example of “babalu”.
Some Malays of the same stock and origin as their lowland counterparts choose to live in the forest in order to avoid forced conversion to Christianity and in paying tributes. Early local government persuaded and convinced some of these pagan tribes mostly found living in the interior of Tablas, the mountains of Sibuyan and the island of Carabao to submit them selves to the authority of the Spanish government and convert to Catholic religion. Remnants of these indigenous people who are called Mangyans, Mangyanes or May-as could still be found in the interior of Sibuyan Island.
Early Filipinos could read and write using their own native alphabets. Alibata is an ancient writing system derived from two Arabic terms that refers to the first two letters “Alif” and “Bet”. It is also called “Baybayin”, which means, “to spell” in Tagalog, that was used in prehistoric Philippines. Although it was all but extinguished by Western colonization, variant of it are still used in parts of Mindoro, Palawan and Mindanao and is increasingly used by Filipino youth as a way to express there identify.
The script has had a rather short history, having come into use around AD 1000-1200 and for the most part becoming extinct in the late 18th century. However, four forms of the indigenous scripts all survived to present day; the script used by the Mangyan Buhid Tribe of Bansud and Hanonoo Tribe of Mansalay in the island of Mindoro, the Tagbanua’s in the island of Palawan, and in some pockets of Manobo Tribes in Mindanao. In truth however, the origin of the script has not yet been ascertained and various theories abound. They say that the writing was derived from Sanskrit, an ancient Hindu script that came from India that influenced most of Southeast Asian countries particularly the ancient Malay Filipinos, Indonesia and Malaysia. Pre-historic people of Romblon were literate. One example of Pre-Spanish Romblomanon style Visayan-Alibata Script could be found on a stonewall mural in Manonggoy Cave along the coast right at the boundary marker of Barangay Sugod and Carmen in Tablas Island perhaps to my evaluation, dated 1200–1300 AD. However, only recently, some careless treasure hunters destroyed the wall murals perhaps by using dynamites and only heaps of stones remained.
Miguel Lopez de Legaspi (Born in 1502–Aug. 20,1572) also known as El Adelantado (The Governor) and El Maestro de Campo (Master of the Camp) was a Spanish Conquestador who established the first colony in the Philippine Islands at Cebu. He was the youngest son of Don Juan Martinez Lopez de Legaspi and Elvira Gurruchategui. He was born to a noble family and lived in the small town of Zumarraga in the Basque province of Guipuzcoa, Spain. In early 1564, he led an expedition in the Pacific Ocean to find the Spice Islands where the previous explorer Ferdinand Magellan and Ruy Lopez de Villalobos had landed in 1521 and 1543 respectively. King Philip II, after whom the islands were eventually named, ordered the expedition.
Lopez de Legaspi’s troops arrive in the Philippine Archipelago and landed in the shores of Cebu on February 13, 1565. Having heard of the rich resources of Manila, he dispatched two of his Lieutenant Commanders, Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo. Salcedo was his eldest grandson aged 15 years old only at that time, to explore the northern regions of Luzon.
Juan de Salcedo concentrated in exploring the northern regions of the Philippines with a small force of 45 soldiers in the late period of 1571 where he traveled most of the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and all the rest of northern Luzon and founded several towns and cities. On the other hand, Martin de Goiti left Cebu, explored and founded the rest of the Visayas particularly the western and northern Visayan Islands including Romblon Islands and Mindoro in late 1569. With a force of 300 Spanish soldiers, cavalrymen and several local natives, they conquered every native village and established many Spanish settlements, towns and cities in the area. In Mindoro, he encountered Chinese sea-traders in the area. Goite fought with the Chinese on the eastern coastline of Mindoro and defeated them off the islands. Each town and villages they conquered were organized into Encomienda.
The encomienda system was a trusteeship labor system used during the Spanish colonization. Conquestadores or the soldiers and staff of Legaspi were granted the lion- share of the trusteeship over the indigenous people they conquered, in an expansion of feudal system in the country. The system entails direct land tenure by the encomiendero. The encomiendero were authorized to tax the people under their care and to summon them to labor and were expected to maintain order through the established military and provide teaching – Catholicism.
He placed the population of Tablas at 250 souls mostly living in a small village (Cabolutan) and lives by gathering wax. Çibuyan (Sibuyan) has 300 pintados, native painted “tattooed” Indians which affords by report a most agreeable and remarkable appearance, plenty of gold, hence the island is rich in gold mines. Simara or Cabras (goats in Spanish) has 150 inhabitants who lived by raising goats. Banton has 200 pintados residents who are mostly engaged in trading because the island is not fertile, very rocky and mountainous, though it abounds in coconut, sweet potatoes, yam and wax as for its other products. Romblon has 240 residents engaged in wax gathering. Anbil (Hambil) or the present day Carabao Island has 50 Indios who are boat builders or cagallanes in Spanish. It is evident that Tablas was inhabited long before the coming of the Spaniards. To place the population at only 250 people in the 16th century who are mostly settled in its small village of Cabolutan and living by gathering wax was perhaps to my own opinion was before the late incursion by the Moors or Moros who have annually infested the islands carrying captivity. Like many regions in the country, Romblon suffered from frequent devastating raids of the Moros and the Dutch. So that I supposed it is safe to presume that they do not exceed 1,500 human conglomerates in the 16th century.
The first of the five provinces are in the island of Luzon, namely: the province of Manila, Ylocos, Cagaian, Vicor y Camarines, and Pangasinan. While the two provinces outside of Luzon are the provinces of Panay in the Pintados and the province of Zubu or Zebu. Panay, situated in the Pintados, one hundred leagues south of the city of Manila, is more fertile and yields more rice and other provisions, than any other province of the kingdom except Manila. Neither is there any province relatively densely populated, for, although it is not eighty leagues in periphery, it contains thirty thousand of the most profitable and peaceable tributes in the whole kingdom. The capital of this island is the town of Arebalo or Arevalo, which was settled by the Adelantado Legaspi in 1567, and enlarged by Don Gonzalo Ronquillo in 1582. It is near the village of Oton and the port of Yloylo, the most southerly port of the governmental district. In 1618, the province of Panay in the Pintados was subdivided into three judicial districts. These are the Alcaldia-mayor of Arevalo or Ogtong (Oton), the Corregiemento of Negros and the Corregiemento of Panay and Aclan. Romblon Islands including Tablas with its two early-established pueblos of Romblon and Bantoon (Banton) belong to the later. However, in 1658, Romblon and Banton’s jurisdiction were transferred to the newly created province of Catanduanes, only to be returned back to Panay ten years later.
The islands of Romblon and its neighboring islands are called Visayas and its people are called Visayans or “mga Bisaya”. The Visayans in the olden days are also called “Pintados” because they are in fact so; their whole body is covered by tattoos. Not by nature although they are well-built, well-featured and fair skinned, but by painting their entire bodies from head to foot as soon as they are young men with strength and courage enough to endure the torture of painting. The first impression of the Spaniards on the native Visayans was: “They were handsome among these people. Their hair was black and of shoulder length, they had silk cloth on their head and two large gold rings hang from their ears. They wore cotton cloth embroidered with silk to cover themselves from waist down to the knees. On their side, they wore a dagger with a long handle, all of gold with its scabbard made of wood. With this, they wore upon them scents of storac and benzoin (perfumes?). They were tanned and their faces were all painted.”
Near the end of Spanish rule, the executives were Don Casimero Perez Davila, then followed by Don Antonio Lejos aka La Torre and Don Manuel Hernandez y Herrera who hold post until 1893. Beginning also in 1893, the title of provincial executives was changed into Governador de Politico Militares with Don Jose Cortes y Dominguez as its first provincial executive with that title, followed by Don Justo Cumplido y Montero in 1896. This was during the Filipino-Spanish war and finally, the last executive was Don Carlos de Mendoza y Cerra who was installed briefly from 1897 until 1898, when local Spanish authorities in the province finally surrendered to the revolutionary forces of the Visayas organized in the province under the command of Lt. Adriano Rios, a native Sibuyanon from visita de San Fernando in pueblo Azagra, Romblon.
Please take note that the Commandant was also the Military Governor of the province he governed. Like the the rest of the Visayan region, Romblon province was ruled by a military governor ever since its creation in 1853 until the end of Spanish rule in 1898. Unlike in Luzon provinces and the more pacified regions in the country where civil governors were assigned here in Romblon, the inhabitants were not restless or troublesome, for none are more peaceable or more useful than the Romblomanon-Visayans themselves at their own disposals (Spanish authorities), but because they were on the frontier towards the seas of Mindanao and Moluccas. Their natives principally the Moros constantly infest the coast of these Islands, hence the necessity for a military governor.
Two years later, in 1855, 17 new pueblos were added including Guintiguian (San Agustin). The rest of the 16 pueblos (equivalent to present-day municipalities) were the following: Simara (Corcuera), Odioñgan, Andagao (Calatrava), Parpagoja (San Andres), Tingaray (Ferrol), Catolog (Magsaysay, Sta. Fe), Cabalian (Sitio Cabalian, Agmanic, Sta. Fe), Saban (Sitio Sabang, Danao Norte, Sta. Fe), Lauan (Alcantara), Guinbirayan, Cauit (Azagra), Pagalad (San Fernando), Magallanes (Magdiwang), España, Isabel (Cambalo) and Princesa (Cangumba) A tabulation of population done on censal year of 1861 is shown herewith below to show Romblon’s numerous pueblos’ or local units in existence at that time:
Name of Pueblo|
/1 Guintinguian is now San Agustin /2 Guinpuc-an is now brgy. Carmen, San Agustin /3 Cagbagacay is now Santa Maria /4 Former name was Pueblo Simara, now it refers to the name of the island. This is now the municipality of Corcuera /5 Cauit is now brgy. Azagra, San Fernando /6 Pag-alad is now San Fernando /7 Magallanes is now Magdiwang /8 Rancheria de Infiel meant Ranch of Wild & Savage people (this refer to the special pueblo / parish for Mangyanes / May-as) located in what is now Dulangan, Magdiwang /9 Isabel is now brgy. Cambalo, Cajidiocan /10 Princesa is now both sitio Cangumba of brgy. Azagra, and brgy. Otod, San Fernando /11 Andagao in now Calatrava /12 Parpagoja is now San Andres /13 Tingaray is now Ferrol /14 Catolog is now Santa Fe, the former townsite converted into a barrio and is now renamed brgy. Magsaysay, Santa Fe /15 Cabalian is now a sitio of brgy. Agmanic, Santa Fe /16 Sabang is now a sitio in brgy. Danao Norte, Santa Fe /17 Lauan is now Alcantara. Its former townsite at Lauan was organized into brgy. Lawan
|1894 ||1896 ||1903 ||1918 ||1939 ||1948 ||1960 ||1970 ||1975 ||1980 ||1990 ||1995 ||2000 ||2007 |
| Poblacion (U) |
| Barangay 1 (U) |
| Barangay 2 (U) |
| Barangay 3 (U) |
| Barangay 4 (U) |
|a|| Barrios annexed to Romblon taken from former Pueblo Guinpuc-an (Carmen) in 1868|
* - Hacienda, ** - Barrio
|c||Abolished in 1901 and annexed to Li-o|
|d||Population not mentioned|
|e||2007 NCSO Census|
Romblon is one of the two oldest settlements or pueblo in the province, the other pueblo is Banton located north of the province and very close to Marinduque province. The first recorded census available so far under the Spanish administration showing breakdown of its barrios was in 1894 reporting a total of 23 existing barrios. There were two local political units identified as barrio on this census, these were barrios Alfonso XIII (now a sitio of Li-o) and Maria Cristina (renamed Sawang). Two additional barrios were added to its long list beginning 1868 when the former pueblo of Guinpuc-an (Carmen) in Tablas island was abolished and ceded two of its barrios of Majabangbaybay and Sogod to this town. Another two numbers had unspecific barrio category, these were Aglomiom and Agnaga, while the pueblo referred to in 1894 census was barrio Poblacion, the rest, 16 in numbers, were barrio haciendas with a combined population of 6,731 in 1894. In 1896, its population was not reported unlike the rest of other municipalities or pueblos/parishes in the province. Of the original 23 barrios reported in 1894, only a very slight change could be noted if compared to Romblon's present population done in year 2000, and also if compared to number of barangays created. It is therefore a fact that Romblon’s advancement was very minimal for the last 2 centuries of its history. Eitherway, Romblon in the 19th century is very much the same Romblon in the 21st century.
In 1901, 9 new barrios were created under the American administration, but it also abolished three of its existing barrios. Abolished barrios were barrio Aglomiom which was merged to Sablayan due to its small population, the coastal barrio of Alfonso XIII which was annexed to upstream barrio of Li-o and the inland barrio of Cogon which was reorganized and split into 5 TIMLA barrios. While the two barrios located in Tablas island of Majabangbaybay and Sogod were returned back to Badajoz, abolished as independent barrios and attached as sitios of barrio Guinpuc-an (Carmen) in 1901. Agtongo was created into a separate barrio in 1916 taken from Cajimos, while in 1918, those engaged in maritime industry were counted separetly as a distinct barrio known as Embarcacion. However, in 1939 its population was annexed to barrio Poblacion or El Pueblo.
As mentioned, these 9 additional barrios of Romblon, Romblon beginning in 1901 were 1. Bagacay, taken from Lonos, 2. Mapula from territory of former barrio Maria Cristina, renamed Sawang also in 1901, 3. Calabogo, taken from Agnaga, and the 5 new TIMLA barrios of: 4. Tambac, 5. Ilauran, 6. Macalas, 7. Lamao, and 8. Agbaluto which were created from territory of former barrio Cogon. The last barrio to be created, 9. Agbudia was taken from Guimpingan in 1939.
The island barrio of Nagoso was renamed into Cobrador in 1960. In 1975, the urban barangay of Romblon Poblacion was split into four separate barangays of Barangay 1, 2, 3 and 4. Today Romblon is composed of 31 barrios or barangays, namely:
Romblon is politically subdivided into 31 barangays.