Biliran at 31
Celebrations and Festivals

Biliran at 31

May 15, 2023, 4:59 AM
Joyce Kahano-Alpino

Joyce Kahano-Alpino

Writer

Biliranons celebrate the island's 31st year of existence as a province last May 11. It was a sub-province of Leyte for 33 years, from 1959 through 1992, under Proclamation 174.

During the early Spanish era, Biliran island was known as Isla de Panamoa which literally meant "Isle of Mystery" and refers to an ethnic fishing net wherein the island's first established municipality called Biliran was initially founded in 1712. Then, the island was still a part of the province of Cebu until Biliran, together with the islands of Samar and Leyte, were constituted into a separate province in 1735.

Moro raids

In May of the same year, representative inhabitants of Leyte petitioned Governor General Fernando Valdes to allow them to resettle in Biliran Island after allegedly being abandoned for the past 50 years and was being inhabited by "bagamundos" (vagabonds) due to the frequent Moro raids.

In 1734, the Moros destroyed the municipality of Biliran and the town of Catbalogan in Samar. In addition, the island was reportedly razed to the ground and only the gobernadorcillo (mayor) of Biliran town escaped capture by the raiders.

The houses and property of the natives were burned or destroyed. The church building suffered the same fate and its valuables were taken away by the raiders.

Post invasion

When the raiders were later neutralized in the early 19th century, the local inhabitants went into the business of organizing new towns or "pueblos" in what is presently known as the province of Biliran.

After the town of Biliran, Caibiran on the east became an independent municipality and parish and the second to be created on 1828.

Naval was its third town, carved out of the territory of Biliran town and became the first separate parish in 1860.

The Spanish colonial government officially recognized its municipality status on September 23, 1869, following the petition submitted around 1861.

Biliran, presently

At present, with Biliran's rich history and picturesque natural sceneries, tourists from nearby provinces as well as foreign visitors flock to the island to enjoy its natural wonders — from beaches to mountains. The small island province of Biliran is among the top picks for revenge travels in the region after the pandemic.

And with the present leadership, which focuses on the promotion of its tourism and empowerment of its people, both local officials and residents remain hopeful that this will be a start in province's progress in the future.

"Thirty-one years, it remains a very young province in an old country. It is a small province surrounded by big provinces and cities.
"But through hope, a helping hand, the compassion for all, and unity we have proven that we can compete and can stand proud. Our flame continues to burn and as one we can build a better future. Padayon Biliran, " says Biliran Gov. Gerard Espina.

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