Banton, Romblon

Banton, Romblon

Banton is a 5th class municipality in the province of Romblon, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 6,769 people in 1,478 households.

The original name of the island was Batoon, the most rugged, stony and rocky island in the country. It was changed by the Spaniards to Banton. Another theory suggested that the name was derived from the local name of the stone fish – Bantoy.

The Bantoanon community is the oldest one in the province. It was the earliest to have been mentioned by authorities like the writer of the “Voyages to Luzon in 1570” and by Miguel de Loarca in his Relacion de las Islas Filipinas where Banton was first mentioned in Spanish accounts. Loarca cited Banton’s 1582 population placed at 200.


Banton is composed of the main island of Banton and the uninhabited islands of Bantoncillo, and the Dos Hermanas Islands (Two Sisters), composed of Carlota and Isabel.

Banton is politically subdivided into 17 barangays.


* One hundred years after the discovery of the Philippines in March 16, 1521, Banton became a pueblo or municipality in 1622.
* From 1907-1918 Banton was a barrio of the Romblon municipality.
* Banton municipality was restored in 1918 with a new name-Jones, which included Simara (Corcuera). The first appointed President of Jones was Atanacio Faminiano of Corcuera, who served for one year, (1918-1919), but was elected in his own right in 1922.
* Romblon Governor Manuel T. Alvero, (1928-34), who was from Capiz, worked for Corcuera and even Magdiwang to become independent municipality. He was Jones’ first Justice of the Peace. He married a Bantoanon lady named Gloria de Leon and attained various high governmental positions later.
* The so-called District of Romblon, which became a part of Capiz since 1918, was transformed by a Royal Decree of August 19, 1853 into an independent province with the status of Commandancia Politico-Militar.
* In the long list of Romblon’s Commamdantes, who were appointed by the Governor General, Juan Fernandez Teran is the most remembered. Because of his no nonsense strictly enforcement of Christianization, the Mangyans in Romblon, who strongly resisted such act, left and settled instead in Mindoro.
* Banton was organized earlier than the other towns in the province. It was the earliest to have been mentioned by authorities like the writer of the "Voyage to Luzon in 1570" and by Miguel de Loarca in his Relacion de las Islas Filipinas.
* The original name of the island municipality was Batoon, the most rugged, stony rocky island in the whole Philippines. The name Banton was improvement by the Spaniards.
* Through the efforts of Congressman Leonardo Festin the name was changed to Jones in 1918, in honor of William Atkins Jones, author of Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916. Romblon, which had been demoted earlier to a sub-province of Capiz for lack of financial resources, was also restored to a provincial status under the said act.
* Congressman Dr. Jose de Moreno worked for the restoration of the old name Banton in 1959, by popular demand of the people.
* The old Banton village was built on the slope of Bakoko hill, about two kilometers southwest of the present Banton town. Many settlements, in fact, were accordingly located away from the seashore for security reasons, especially from sea pirates. These sneaky traders were repulsed by the avalanche of stones and rocks down the hill hurled by peaceful people pushed to the walls.
* The old village was transferred to its present location, in the 18th century when a stone church and strong cotta were constructed.
* Many pioneer Bantoanons had to go to Simanra and Sibale to farm when Banton soil became very thin for cultivating camote, ubi, gabi, and other yams; raising fruit trees, some abaca and coconuts. Rice and corn were imported from Panay. That led them to discover Tablas along the way. The big island was much better than either Simara or Sibale.
* Dionisio Fetalvero, who was Mayor of Banton for two terms, blazed the traill for commerce and trade between Banton and the Lucian cities, opening a new window of opportunity for economic progress for the islander since the 1930’s.
* Two Bantoanon frontiersmen leaders, Jose Barrios and Francisco Salvador, realizing the great difficulties of eking out a living in Banton, decided to make a settlement on Tablas island, which became known later as Odiongan, which has turned out the most progressive town in Romblon.
* In the search for greener pasture, the Bantoanon pioneers initially farmed in Simara which was nearest Banton, settling in Colon-Colon and San Jose, then in Sibale, before discovering Tablas.
* They also tried to establish settlements on the coast of Southern Luzon-Macalelon, Mulanay and Bondoc Peninsula.
* The Bantoanons’ unquenchable thirst for expansion was not daunted even by the grim malaria scourage gripping Mindoro then. After the Americans had minimized the malady, countless Bantoanons took off good. Fabella in his book mentions many places: Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Rancho, Gloria, Bansud, Bongabong, Roxas, and Mansalay as the receiving frontiers. He also cites the Visayas, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Zamboanga, Surigao and Davao. And also USA-San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto in Canada.
* Banton was organized as pueblo or a municipality headed by a governadorcillo elected directly by the people. He was also the town’s Justice of the Peace.
* Theoretically, the pueblo was a self-governing community, but actually the Spanish curate was highest authority. The Cura was the only Spaniard in town and the people naturally looked upon him as the representative of the King of Spain in that region.
* During the last 250 years of Spanish occupation in the Philippines, Muslim piracy as the worst calamity to take place.
* The piratical raids had been going on in Banton long before some left their home and founded the Odiongan in 1810 and in 1840. Before the close of 1810, the pirates started attacks on Odiongan.
* It was because of these frequent raids on Banton, Romblon, and other towns in the province that impelled the Recollect authorities to ask for coming to Romblon province of that great fighter Agustin de San Pedro, better known as "el padre capitan"
* The great recollect father started his work with the construction of the defense of the provincial capital after which he came to Banton, repaired and reconstructed the cotta which still stands to this day, perhaps better than any cotta in this country. After the completion of that bulwark, the Muslims attacks on Banton were repulsed with great losses on the part of the pirates and they did not come again.

Japanese Occupation in Banton, Romblon

On 1942, the Japanese Imperial forces landed in Banton, Romblon.

Liberation in Banton, Romblon

On 1945, the liberation to the Philippine Commonwealth troops landed in Banton, Romblon by the attack of the Japanese troops in the Battle of Romblon in World War II.

Banton Church: Its Early History

Banton was first mentioned in history when it was written in the chronicle of Maestre de Campo Martin de Goiti in his voyage to Manila on May 20, 1570 by the instruction of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi that was then resided in the island of Panay. On October 31, 1571, Banton became an encomienda entrusted to encomiendero Don Sebastian y Mena, a Spanish soldier that was resided in Villa Arevalo in Panay. In 1582, Banton was visited by Miguel de Laorca who gave a clear view of the island. In his famous book Relacion de Las Islas Filipinas, it was written: “The island is mountainous and almost round in shape planted with coconut trees. There 200 families residing the island. Majority of them are traders…”

Pueblo de Banton: The Oldest Town in the Province

Based on the historical accounts of the Augustinian Recollects, Banton was established in 1622 in the hill of Bacoco (now part of barangay Hambian) the earliest town established in the province of Romblon. Under the jurisdiction of the newly established town are the barrios of Simara, Sibale, Salado (San Andres), Guintiguian (San Agustin) , Lauan (Alcantara) and San Jose. When Pueblo de Romblon was created on March 19, 1631, the care of barrio Guintiguian together with the island of Sibuyan were transferred to the new pueblo. In 1635, the spiritual administration of Pueblo de Banton was entrusted to the Secular Eclessiastics of the Diocese of Cebu as a town annexed to the curacy of Ajui in Panay. Fr. Francisco Rodriguez was assigned as coadjutor priest to Banton and other neighboring islands.

Because of the geographic location of Romblon Islands, being far from each other, divided by a rough seas and a favorite passage of strong typhoons and are expose to frequent incursions and hostile attacks of the Moros, passed a great obstacles to Fr. Francisco Rodriguez administering the inhabitants. The priest wrote a letter to the Prior Provincial Padre Don Jose dela Anunciacion and asked to send a fighting priest that will replace him. The request of Padre Rodriguez was granted by the decree of the Bishop of Cebu, Don Padre de Arce on July 27, 1635 entrusted the evangelization of Romblon Archipelago to the care of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects (OAR). Fr. Pedro de San Jose was the first Recollect missionary to step in the soil of Romblon. In the same year 1635, OAR extended their missionary work to Banton. The missionaries relocated the town from the hill of Bacoco to its present location (Poblacion). The recollects said: “Although it’s more spacious than its former location, it is still not large enough to accommodate all the number of house and edifices required by its inhabitants…”

El Padre Capitan and the Fortification of Banton.

According to the historical records of the Recollects, almost immediately after taking on the post of the missionaries, violent attacks were launched in Romblon by the Moros. The savage attacks of the Muslims gravely disrupted the evangelization of the first Recollect mission. Fr. Pedro de San Jose even reaching to the point of driving him to escape in the mountains. When Fr. Juan de San Anotonio, superior of the Recollects was informed about the situation, he was determined and acted decisively to fortify the towns of Romblon and Banton, a task which would be very difficult for the missionary to undertake. The superior assigned Fr. Agustin de San Pedro to the islands to protect the lives of its Christian inhabitants. Fr. Agustin de San Pedro won fame for his heroic actions against the pirates and war exploits in Mindanao which earned him the title “El Padre Capitan”, a famous name in Philippine History. The newly appointed priest immediately began the construction of the churches and forts of Romblon and Banton between the years 1640-1650

In Banton, El Padre Capitan constructed first the church and convent then the walls encircle in it. In every corner of the walls, he put towers to be able to watch the approaching enemy. A deep well and other important facilities were constructed for the needs of the evacuees in case there is a threat of Muslim attack. To the north of the church, he build a watch tower on the top of Onti Hill which has a commanding view of the entire Sibuyan Sea and the exit point of the vessels from the port of Romblon as well as the ship going toward the south of the archipelago. Banton church was dedicated to Patron Saint of the parish, San Nicolas De Tolentino. The fort was named “ Fuerza de San Jose” (Fort of San Jose) in honor to Saint Joseph. In 1870, the details and the condition of the fortress church were mentioned in Memoria de Panay.” The fort is in the form of isosceles triangle. The walls measure 11.17 meters long, 2.08 meter thick and 4.58 meter high. On the top of the walls, there were 12 cannons with different calibers:

In the field of material achievements, much had been done by the Recollects and the Bantoanons. They constructed the church continually due to devastating typhoons that may come and the surprise attacks of Muslims. Because of these, they paid less attention to the artistic design of the church concentrating more on building them strong enough to hold on against whatever destructive elements to come.

The accomplishment of El Padre Capitan is truly amazing. At one time, a fleet sailed from Jolo to attack the island of Banton. On its way to Moros were trying to avoid passing Banton and Romblon in order to avoid a confrontation with the fighting priest. The enemy arrived on the sea craft and under the direction of El Padre Capitan, set on fire eight barges (caracoas) and with rest of the vessels, successfully destroyed the enemy. These served as warning against future attacks. Since then, Muslim piracy in the island was eradicated. In the book Sinopsis Historica , it was written: “Due to its location and because of the work of El Padre Capitan, the fortress church of Banton is real bastion and it would be difficult to find another fort in the archipelago into which so much effort has been poured, for the purpose of depending its inhabitants. The inhabitants themselves are simple folks, actively devoted to the town of their birth and on its occasion, whether in defense against the Moros or thieves, they always exhibited bravery.

The Creation of New Parishes

At first, there were only two Parishes existing in the island of Romblon, the Parish of St. Joseph in Romblon and the Parish of San Nicolas De Tolentino in Banton, both established in 1635, for the last 213 years of the OAR administration in “ Las Islitas”, (as Distrcit of Romblon was then called by the Recollects) much later when another parish was created . On November 22, 1826, the residents of the barrios of Looc, Odiongan, Lauan ( Alcantara), Guintinguian ( San Agustin), petitioned to Bishop Don Francisco Genoves, for a priest to administer their districts, independent from their mother parishes. In support of their petition, they cited the difficulty of administering their barrios from Romblon and Banton due to the great distance that separates them from one another, and also fear of the enemy who threatened their places. They also committed to see to it that the priest would not lack whatever necessities he required. In 1848, the third parish in the district was created in the town of Cajidiocan in the island of Sibuyan. The petition of residents in Tablas in 1826 was granted when the parish in Odiongan was buildt in 1858, the first parish in the said island. Other parishes were created and separated from their mother parish in Banton, they were the Parish in Looc in 1836, Badajos (San Agustin) in 1872, Simara in 1885, and Salado (San Andress) in 1892. Dramatic changes were observed in the Statistics and Demogarphy of the Parish of Banton because of the elevation of its former visitas into independent parish. These will be observeb in the book of Fidel de Blas which was entitled Labor Evangelica. In this chronicle, you will also notice not only the changes but also the list of the names of the parish priest of the church the year of the chronicles were made.

Population of Banton at Various Time

/a – Municipality of Jones /b – Includes barrios annexed to Corcuera /c – Includes barrios annexed to Concepcion /d – Perhaps this was former barrio Tinigban of Sibale (Maestro de Campo) Island rather than the Tinigban located at Tungonan. Population of the barrio was included under visita Concepcion /e – Reported in 1897 /f – Taken from barrio Nasunogan /g – Taken from Togong /h – Taken from Balogo /i – Taken from Banice /j - No Data /k - 2007 NCSO Census /l - Created barrio in June 12, 1954 under R.A. No. 1014 including the following sitios: Mahaba, Angomon, Solocan, Kapanranan and Yao.

External links

* [ Philippine Standard Geographic Code]
* [ 2000 Philippine Census Information]
* [ Banton, Romblon Official Website]

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