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History of Romblon

(by Soledad Montiel)

The Negritoes were the aborigines of the island comprising the province of Romblon. The Mangyans were among the first settlers.

Today, these groups of inhabitants are almost extinct with only a few scattered remnants of their descendants living in the mountains of Tablas and in the interior of Sibuyan Island. A great portion of the present population descend from the Nayons and the Onhans who immigrated to the islands from Panay and the Bicols and Tagalogs who came from Luzon as early as 1870.

In his accounts of his visit to the Philippines in 1582, Loarca made mention of the islands of Donblon (Romblon), Simara, Banton and Osingan (Tablas). It was during this visit when the miraculous image of the Patron Saint Sto. Nino was left in Romblon after Loarca's ship failed seven times in its attempt to sail out of Romblon Bay.

From the beginning of the Spanish sovereignty up to 1635, the islands were administered by the secular clergy. When the Recollect Fathers arrived in Romblon they found some of the inhabitants already converted to Christianity. In 1637, the Recollects established seven missionary centers at Romblon, Badajos, Cajidiocan, Banton, Looc, Odiongan and Magallanes (Magdiwang).

In 1646, the Dutch attacked the town of Romblon and inflicted considerable damage. This was, however, insignificant compared with the injuries the town of Romblon and other towns in the province sustained in the hands of the Moros, as the Moslems of Mindanao were then called, during the Moro depredation when a good number of the inhabitants were held captives.

In 1818 Romblon was incorporated into the province of Capiz. In 1853, the islands were organized into a politico-military “commandancia” administered from Capiz and continued to be so until the end of the Spanish rule in 1898.

When the revolutionary government took control of Romblon in 1898, Colonel Diego de Dias, then commander of the revolutionary forces, ruled the province embracing the municipalities of Azagra, Badajos, Banton, Cajidiocan, Corcuera, Looc, Magallanes, Odiongan, Despujols and Santa Fe. On March 16, 1901, the American civil government was established and in 1907 Romblon became a sub-province of Capiz. In February 1918, it was again organized as a regular province and it remained so until 1940 when it was organized into four special municipalities under the direct control of the Department of the Interior by virtue of Commonwealth Act No. 581, sponsored by the Assemblyman Leonardo Festin.

Romblon was occupied by the Japanese forces on March 21, 1942. The islands became the center of considerable resistance movement under the direction of General Macario Peralta, Jr., from his Panay headquarters. One of the most exciting incidents of the Pacific War took place in the waters of Romblon - the naval-air battles between Japanese Admiral Kurita's Fleet from Singapore and Admiral Halsey's carrier planes from the American Third Fleet then stationed east of the Philippines.

Romblon was liberated on March 12, 1945 under the command of Colonel Clifford and on January 1, 1947, about a year and a half after the liberation, Romblon was again reconstituted into a regular province by virtue of Republic Act No. 38 which was authored and sponsored by Hon. Modesto Formilleza, then Congressman for the only Congressional district of Romblon.

HOW ROMBLON GOT ITS NAME ?

A legendary tale tells of how Romblon Island got its name. When Loarca's expedition touched sand in Romblon, one of the soldiers rambled along the beach. Tired of strolling, he felt thirsty; went up a house and asked for a drink. The low-built hut where he went up was a primitive one-room shelter. Inside it was a hen's nest somewhere in the top of a post near the window. A hen was hatching eggs therein.

The Castillan soldier inquired if he could get the chicken for free. The house occupant, a young woman, did not comprehend what the visitor said so she answered in the dialect "Nagalomlom", meaning the chicken was brooding. Perplexed, the Spanish soldier left the house muttering in disgust the word "Nagalomlom".

Then when he returned to the ship he was asked where he had been and he answered mockingly - "Nagalomlom".
When the Iberians left, they named the island "Nagalomlom", meaning where the chicken was brooding, until it was corrupted to "Domblon", and later on modified to ROMBLON.

Since then, the group of islands scattered in the surrounding water area were named ROMBLON.

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