Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Brief History of Bohol

by Alan S. Cajes 

Bohol’s Geology

Bohol’s geological formation may be explained under the karst theory. According to this theory, sea level changes and uplift (combined with terrestrial erosion), and air exposure of biognic reef regions gave rise to hummocky landscapes that are often impregnated with sinkholes and caves. The chocolate hills are among the examples of striking karts topography. According to the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS), the chocolate hills were formed "ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain, water and erosion."

The Origin of the Word "Bohol"

That Bohol comes from the word "Bo'ol," which refers to the name of a place (the place thought of as the site of the Sikatuna-Legazpi blood compact) located a few kilometers away from Tagbilaran City is quite well-known. Some sources, however, claim that it actually comes from the Visayan term "boho" (hole) owing to the abundant caves, caverns, and holes in the island.

In "History of Bohol," a doctoral dissertation in history written by Lumin B. Tirol in 1975, Tirol established that the name of the province actually came from "bo'ol," the local name for a kind of tree that used to grow in the province. This claim partly relied on the expert opinion of the Botany Department of the National Museum. A picture of the tree is also exhibited as proof in Tirol's disseration.

The bo'ol tree is short and shrubby. Its leaves are heart-shaped with a dimension of about two inches in width and three inches in length. It bears white flowers in summertime. Its fruit, which is smaller than that of a grape, is edible and appears bluish in color when very ripe. In Jose Panganiban's "Diksyunario Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles" (1974), which Tirol cited, "bohol" is described as a "thorny or small tree with elliptic leaves, long yellow flowers, and nearly round fruit."

The penchant of calling a place after a tree or a person is quite common in the province. The upland barangay of Bayabas in Guindulman is obviously named after a guava tree. And so is the town of Batuan (this writer actually saw the batuan tree and tasted its fruit during his childhood). A batuan tree is exhibited in a museum ground in Butuan City.

16th Century Boholanos

It is safe to assume that today’s Boholanos (and Filipinos, in general) are descendants of what is known to anthropologists as Southern Mongoloid and to laymen as the brown race. This wave of migrants entered the archipelago around five or six thousand years ago.

The early Boholanos, however, differed from the rest of the Visayans. Pedro Chirino, writing in 1604, said that Boholanos were lighter in color, more handsome, braver and more spirited than other Visayans.

The Boholanos then, as it is now, were also good drinkers. Historian William Henry Scott quoted what he describes as Chirino’s well-known tribute to the Boholanos’ ability to carry their liqueur:

“It is proverbial among us that none of them who leaves a party completely drunk in the middle of the night fails to find his way home; and if they happen to be buying or selling something, not only do they not become confused in the business but when they have to weigh out gold or silver for the price…they do it with such delicate touch that neither does their hand tremble nor do they err in accuracy.”

Boholanos in Dapitan

Jose Rizal bought a historical document from the descendants of Lagubayan. The document is dated 7 July 1818. According to the document, Lagubayan founded Dapitan. Lagubayan was a Boholano. He resided in places such as Baclayon, Mansasa and Duis – all located in Bohol. He went to Mindanao, particularly in Iligan. Later, he settled in Dapitan. Lagubayan was known as the "lord of the Subanons" and the "terror of the whole Moroland". He gave the Spaniards pilots and guides, who took the Spaniards to Catunas (Raja Sikatuna) in Bohol.

Dapitan means "a place for rendezvous or meeting place". Dapit literally means, "invite". Perhaps Lagubayan invited other Boholanos to the place, hence, the name.
Dapitan was not the only place with Boholanos as the first settlers. Villaba in Tacloban was discovered by Boholano traders in the later part of the 18th century. The Boholanos were also the first settlers of Zamboanga, where many people up to now speak Cebuano with a Boholano accent. There is also a claim that Pagbuaya’s son, Pedro Manook, aided Legazpi in his conquest of Manila and Camarines. Manook subdued the village of Bayug (now Iligan City), which he established as a Christian settlement in 1626.

Bohol Today

Bohol is the tenth largest island of the country. It was created as a province on March 10, 1917. It produced Francisco Dagohoy, who led the longest revolt against the Spaniards in Philippine history. The revolt took the Spaniards 85 years (1744-1829) to quell. It also gave the Philippines its fourth president in the person of Carlos P. Garcia. Garcia was president of the 1971 Constitutional Convention when he died.

Bohol has a population of about 1.3 million. The annual population growth rate is 2.9 percent. The Boholanos today live in the habitable areas of Bohol’s 3,862 sq kms land area. They can also be found in various places throughout the country and the world.

The island-province is well known for its top quality handicrafts made of bamboo, saguran and abaca fibers, romblon, buntal and shell craft. It is also famous for its delicacies like Calamay (made from rice, coconut milk and brown sugar packed in a coconut shell).

Bohol is famous for its Chocolate Hills (1,268 haycock hills that turn green during rainy days and brown in summer). It has one “of the most beautiful eco-marine systems in the world” -- the Bohol marine triangle that covers Pamilacan, Balicasag and Panglao. This area is the habitat of whale sharks, stingrays, dolphins and other forms of marine life. The other famous tourist attractions are the man-made forest and mangrove areas, tarsiers, coral reefs, white sand beaches, diving spots, caves, watersheds, rivers, underground rivers, waterfalls, old churches, bell towers, etc.
Aside from its natural wonders, Bohol is also bursting with talents. It contributes to the nation’s well being by producing highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, seamen, lawyers, teachers, priests, artists, etc. In addition, its internationally acclaimed Loboc Children Choir could open the gates of heaven with its voices described as “so pure and angelic”.

Wonder no more why Bohol is God’s little paradise on earth.


Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People. GAROTECH Publishing, 1990 (8th Edition).

Arcila, Jose S. Rizal and the Emergence of the Philippine Nation. 2001 revised edition.
Constantino, Renato. The Philippines: A Past Revisited. Tala Publishing Series, 1975.

Corpuz, Onofre D. The Roots of the Filipino Nation. 1989.
Scott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society. AdMU: 1994.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History: An Epic of Filipino Greatness in War and Peace. Verde Bookstore, 1970.

Zaide, Gregorio. Dagohoy: Champion of Philippine Freedom. Manila: Enriquez, Alduan and Co., 1941.

No comments: