This blog features some of the author's lengthy essays on sacred scriptures, theology and history.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


                                               By Lope Coles Robredillo, SThD

This short essay is indebted to Dr Bruce Cruickshank, formerly Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian History at the Georgetown University, Washington DC; Fr Cantius Kobac, OFM, formerly at the Franciscan Friary in Manila; and the late Fr Pablo Fernandez, OP, Professor of History at the University of Santo Tomas.  They were very helpful in my on-going research on Eastern Samar history.  Acknowledgment is also due to the staff at the Philippine National Archives, Philippine National Library, Lopez Memorial Museum, Cebuano Studies Center and Divine Word University Museum, and to Ms Clarissa Apita-Villalon, who was then student at the University of San Carlos, Cebu.  The essay is at present being expanded into a full-length history of the Borongan politics, economy and culture.  
            I. INTRODUCTORY

There are various ways of writing the history of the township (pueblo) of Borongan.  The common one is to recall from memory and from word of mouth the significant dates and places as well as the prominent persons of the town, together with the tangible accomplishment of the town officials.  Though popular in histories one reads in almost all town fiesta souvenir programs, this is not, strictly speaking, history properly so-called; this pertains more to “oral history” that, as they appear in those souvenir programs, cannot be seriously accepted without much reservation.  A second way, which could be combined with the first, is to describe the who, what, where and when of Borongan history on the basis of written documents.  History textbooks in high-school studies are probably an example of that approach.  Another method consists in interpreting the events in the light of a certain philosophy or principle, as in a Marxist interpretation of Philippine history.  The books of Renato Constantino, The Philippines: A Past Revisited, and the Philippines: A Continuing Past, usually come to mind.  Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution is a good example of a history written from the standpoint of the people from below.  Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West is a classic example.
            The present history of Borongan, however, follows a quite different approach.  It uses
for its framework the concept of history by Arnold Toynbee, author of the monumental A Study of History, which interprets events in terms of challenges and responses.  It is the purpose of this brief essay to show that the history of this pueblo (township) from circa 1604 to 1898 resulted from the interaction between the Spanish purposes through the colonial intermediaries and the Borongan responses in a culture that was quite foreign to the early missionaries.
            Scattered Hamlets along Guiborongani and Loom Rivers . Before the Spanish missionaries set foot on what is now the municipality of Borongan circa 1604, it was no more than a cluster of scattered hamlets called gamoros, mostly on the banks of Guiborongani (Borongan or Sabang) river.  A few hamlets were likewise dispersed near the mouth of Loom river and on its banks.  There was no Borongan town yet, if by town one refers to an aggregation of houses, at least with streets and a governing center.  Of course, Guiborongani or Borongan, which is now called Sabang, was a big gamoro or hamlet.  (It was so named by its pre-Hispanic natives because, as a writer of 1814 says, of the fog that envelopes the place: “El nombre Borongan significa sitio nebuloso, llamado de la niebla que levantan dos rios entre cuyas margenes se halla el pueblo.”)  It did not have the features of a town, however.  On the contrary, the people were widely dispersed; they formed a “society” in transition, but fragmentary in character. 

           Political Structure and Agriculture.  The gamoro was headed by a datu (chief), whose place in the society provided some initial forms of social stratification.  He was distinguished from the sacopan (roughly, barangay) and the esclavos (slaves?). As leader, he had privileges, sustained customs and traditions, and wielded decision-making.  Originally, these people were seafarers who later learned to till the land.  They were engaged in crude agriculture, kaingin or slash-and-burn, though their crops hardly met the needs of the population. The baloto (outrigger) was their means of travel; on land, they only had foot-trials, for roads were unknown.
            Trade, Commerce and Culture.  Trade, however, there was, for they had barter relations with itinerant Chinese junks which carried large earthen jars, cotton cloth, porcelain pottery, etc.  But, a few home furnishings aside, the Boronganons were Indonesian almost through and through, subsisting on palawan (yams) and upland rice, using hongot as drinking glass and paia as plate.  They slept on a taguican made of rattan or a rancapan made of thin bamboo. In general, men wore bado and bajag, while women wore primitive blouses and short skirts from abaca. They had no table nor did they partition their houses, which usually stood four feet above the ground.  The sight of their tattoos moved the Spaniards to call them pintados (the painted ones), as they did describe all the Ibabaonons and Samarnons.  They loved to drink tuba, a fermentation from the sap of the coconut palm.
            Religion. In terms of religion, they were animists, seeing the world in a primitive fashion as inhabited by supernatural powers such as the agta, onglo, cahoinon and kindre
d spirits.  These spirits were rendered beneficent or harmless through magical rites.  Their animistic religion can partly be explained by the hostility of nature--the frequent occurrence of baguios (tropical storm), the presence of buaias (crocodiles) that infested the Guiborongani and Loom rivers, and the heavy toll of epidemics.
            Early Settlements and Settlement Patterns. When the Jesuits based in Palapag (Residencia de Ibabao) arrived at the gamoros in what is now the municipality of Borongan , they realized how decentralized the Boronganon “society” was: “ellos estan divididos en los montes y rios a su voluntad, donde hacen sus semeteras, de que viven y se sustenan.” For this reason, they embarked on a program which served as basis for cultural integration called reduccion, “an organized process of resettling the Indios (natives) from their scattered hamlets into larger villages, where the introduction and growth in the faith may become possible.”  This was how the bungto of Borongan was formed. The Spanish missionaries redesigned and enlarged the hamlet near the mouth of the Guiborongani (now Borongan or Sabang) river, making it the central village or bungto.  Later, however, this central village was transferred to Loom (the present site of the poblacion), where drinking water from what is fondly called Hamorauon was abundant.  The Jesuits induced many families living near the rivers and on the mountains, like Guiborongani, Latay, Tarusan, etc. to congregate in Loom, which became bungto (town) of Borongan.  But the best known migration to Borongan at that time resulted from the almost total abandonment of the town of Magtaon ( Concord ), one of the oldest pre-Hispanic bungtos on Samar island, probably before 1620, when most of the settlers left either for Borongan or for Basey.  (The same settlement patterns obtained in the founding of the bungtos of Bacod [now submerged in Dolores river], Tubig [Taft], Sulat, Libas [transferred to Nonoc, now San Julian], Guiuan and Balangiga.)
            Introduction of the Faith and Culture. This settlement pattern facilitated the
introduction to the faith.  The people were given instructions in reading, writing, singing, the fear of God and the Christian doctrine reduced the minimum: Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Credo, Salve Regina , the fourteen articles of faith, the fourteen works of mercy, the Ten Commandments, the five commandments of the Church, and the act of general confession.   Under the direction of the missionaries, they put up a church and a rectory of light materials (nipa and wood), and built houses around them.  However, the Jesuits were not only evangelizers; they were also civilizers.  They introduced new plants and crops, taught the native to open up new fields and change agricultural pattern. For the first time, the Boronganons knew settled agriculture.  And if their produce reached Manila , it was because the Jesuits bought their forest products and sent them to the city.  It appears, therefore, that the Christianity which the Jesuits had brought to Borongan represented a discontinuity: the natives acquired the fundamentals of Christian civilization and begun altering their economic, agricultural as well as cultural patterns.
            In 1612, Borongan was one of the flourishing mission settlements. The Jesuit missions with their corresponding approximate population were:
           Libas (in 1887, transferred to Nonoc, now San Julian)                                    690
           Borongan                                                                                                     600
           Jubasan (independent settlement until 1650; later part of Dolores)                   600
           Bacod (now submerged in Dolores River;  
                     wrongly identified in Leyte-Samar Studies as Oras)                         450
           Tubig (Taft)                                                                                                  360
These figures represent those who had access to the Church and were incorporated to the Spanish rule.  The rest of the population who “fled from the town” (“los huyen del pueblo”) settled on the mountains.  These totals seem to indicate a decrease due to the epidemics in 1608-1609.  Also, the frequent piratical attacks of the Muslims (Moros), notably the Mindanaoans, the Joloans, and Camocones wrought much destruction of property and loss of lives.
            The Beginnings of Evangelization. The ministry in Samar was arduous.  Commented a Spanish Jesuit who worked in Borongan: “que Hector ni que Hercules
bastara con tanto.”   It may be recalled that usually there were only five Jesuits who covered what is now Northern and Eastern Samar .  In the early 1630’s for instance, Sulat was under the care of the Jesuits based in Borongan, who sometimes serviced one or two other towns.  Under this condition, they were always on the move like snails: “con la casa a cuesta como el caracol, pues, adonquiera que ya el Padre ministro, ha de llevar consigo, todo el menaje de casa, y a muchas partes el de la iglesia, que es una de las mayores cargas que tiene este ministerio.”  In 1697, Borongan had its first resident Jesuit priest, Fr. Dionisio Gutierrez, SJ.  He was succeeded by Frs. Juan Tomas Layn, Antonio Hernandez, Antonio Xavier Mir, Gregorio Tabora, Joseph Chacon, Martin Gil, Paulo Sanchez, Cayetano Martin, etc.  But before 1697, the Jesuits had their cabacerilla in Tubig (which was transferred to Sulat after the Sumoroy rebellion in 1649), and from there they farmed out to other towns.
             Problems of Evangelization and Inculturation.  In Borongan itself, the problems were no less real.  The slow acceptance by the people of the reduccion made the priests’ ministerial work less effective.  Houses were two or three miles from what was
normally the bungto.  With settlers reluctant to leave their farms, the priests had to go to the people.  If the latter went to town, it was for Sundays and the big Church feasts.  Thus, whatever they accomplished in their earlier missions, seemed lost when the Jesuits returned, and they had to start all over again, like Penelope: “el que forzosamente va siempre tejiendo, pues lo que trabajo en 19 o 20 dias, cuando vuelve despues, al cabo de uno o dos meses o mas, a dar la vuelta, lo halla todo perdido y olvidado; con que siempre comensamos de nuevo, y es menester volver a la urdimbre y tramar la, que nunca se abaca.”  Fittingly enough, if the town fiesta was and continued to be colorful, it was to entice to Boronganons in the scattered hamlets to live in the bungto.
            Prior to the coming of the Franciscan friars, the task of assimilating the Boronganons to Spanish culture and civilization was almost exclusively the effort of the Jesuits. For if the people had any contact with the Spanish world, it was through the priest. Most often, he was, not without reason, completely identified with the Spanish colonial government.  It is true, of course that the civil government had the alcaldes mayores (governors) and encomenderos who in principle were responsible for the administracion de justicia (defense and protection), the doctrina (doctrinal instruction), and collection of tributos (tributes), but they rarely came to town save to collect taxes. It is understandable the first credit for what Borongan is now should go to the Jesuits who were practically the factotum of the town: “el Padre es el todo en cada pueblo”. He was the evangelizer and civilizer, trying to change the political, economic and religious structures of the Samareño in Borongan, according to their view of what the Filipino culture should become.
            End of the Jesuit Ministry.  It is difficult to assess the effect of the Jesuit ministry in Borongan since most archival records of the order were destroyed upon its suppression in 1767.  It may be assumed with certainty, however, that their evangelization and culturation efforts must have paid off, evidenced by the way the Boronganons embraced Christian culture and religion, adapting it in some areas, modifying it in others, even changing it in some other aspects. 
            No doubt, the Jesuits were well loved by the Boronganons. The Sumoroy rebellion in 1649-1650 can partly demonstrate this. When the Palapagnons rose in insurrection against Spain , the first Jesuit settlements on Eastern Samar to participate in the rebellion were Bacod (Dolores), Jubasan, and Tubig (Taft) where the Bacodnons burnt the stone church and the convento, killed the Jesuit priest, Fr. Vicente Damian, and recruited many to their cause. Like the Sulatnons, the Boronganons never joined the ranks of the rebels nor harmed the church and the  convento of stone. When Borongan’s last Jesuit parish priest, Fr. Jose Vasquez, SJ, left in 1768, a parish life had already evolved in which the people now went to the priest, whereas before, it was the other way around.  The life of the parish centered on the stone church that was built under the direction of Fr. Francisco Diez, SJ, in 1710, and dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose feast falls on September 8th.  At the end of the Jesuit missionary stint, Borongan had a population of 4,999, forming 751 tributes.
            The Boronganon Hostility to the FranciscansIn 1768, the Jesuits handed over the administration of Borongan to the Franciscans.  Fr. Juan de Mora, OFM, was the first Franciscan parish priest.  During the early years of the Franciscans, it seemed that the natives did not accord them as much esteem as they did the Jesuits.  Many times Fr. de Mora and other curas had serious difficulties with the people. Two examples may suffice.
        A man was sent to Catbalogan with eight pesos and the Church register, but this man used the money for drinks, destroyed the book, and then returned intent on killing the cura parroco.  Everyone in town knew of the plot to kill the priest, but none, not even the capitan (town executive) of Borongan, took any action against the scoundrel.  In July 1773, something worse happened. A cabeza de barangay (barangay captain), punished for mocking and disparaging the priest’s Sunday sermon, set on fire the convento, the stone church and some houses. The conflagration killed 70 persons, and Fr. Antonio Selles, then taking his siesta, was almost burnt alive.
            Resistance to Culturation?  This reaction to the Franciscan ministry allows a variety of explanation.  The suggestion has been advanced that, probably, by abolishing the Jesuit commerce, the friars offended the local officials who profited from the trade.  It is
likely, too, that it stemmed from the personality of the parish priest.  Other factors may not be discounted.  In an atmosphere of anti-Franciscan feeling not a few Boronganons may have hankered for the good old days of the Jesuits, since the Franciscan way, with their emphasis on the poverty of St Francis, differed from that of the Jesuit.  The abolition of the Jesuit commerce, the frequent reprimand by the friars about their drunkenness, neglect of religious duties, and evil ways, among others, of the Boronganons may have been viewed by the latter as infringement on Boronganon culture and social structure which the Jesuits hardly made much improvement on.  (It must be recalled that the Franciscans were not silent about their criticisms of what they considered as the poor handling by the Jesuits of the Samar parishes.)  In other words, Boronganon hostility to the Franciscans can be understood in terms of the more radical molding of the Samareño cultural patterns to the Spanish Christian culture than what the Jesuits did.
            Franciscan Evangelization and Culturation; Formation of Barangays. Reaction such as this never discouraged the Franciscans in their evangelization and culturation efforts.  In 1781, shortly after the small Jesuit edifice was burned, Fr. Jose de
Osma built a larger one, all out of stone.  From his little savings, Fr. Juan Navarette added some improvements in 1843, and in 1853, constructed beautiful round bell tower.  A Spanish writer of 1886 described the Borongan parish church, and rectory thus: “Iglesia: de mamposteria, techada de hierro galvanizado, de 31 brazas de longitud, 7-1/2 de latitud, y 4 de altura, tiene una buena torre... construida en 1853. Cemeterio: de cota en buen estado, pero la capilla sin techo, pero ser necesario elevar mas sus cotas. Casa parroquial: de mamposteria, en estado regular, techada de nipa.”  Even as far back as 1864, the cemetery was already enclosed by a 6-foot stone wall, while the rectory was “bastante especiosa” even as it served as the casa real, the first floor converted into a carcel (prison cell).
            But more than the baroque church, the Franciscans were concerned with the people, who must enter it.  The friars who could not comprehend the Boronganon tendency toward fragmentation, since they identified civilization and culture with the city, reacted strongly by
persuading the Boronganons to live in the poblacion (town proper) or at least near it, but with limited success.  The principalia (town’s aristocracy) would not cooperate as the status quo was very  profitable to them.  The resistance put up by luucs (cimarrones or remontados) who fled, hide (luuc) or were quasi-fugitives from civilization provided the basis for the formation of the visitas (roughly, barrios) of Borongan.  Aware of the major constraints in gathering the people in the poblacion, the friars converted the concentration of luucs into visitas. Such for instance, was the beginning of the visita (now municipality) of Maydolong, established in 1820 out of many luucs by Fr. Vicente Merida who converted them to the faith. In  1884, the erstwhile luucs began paying tribute, already reached as they were by the civil government. The visitas of Bugas, Suribao, and San Gregorio have been created in that manner.
            Cruickshank gives detailed report by a Franciscan parish priest of Borongan in 1848
describing the process in detail: “Last week I made an excursion to the cimarrones of the mountains, and I returned very content, having left them all registered and grouped in a visita about six hours away, three hours by land and a regular trail and the other three by navigating a grand river.  I baptized twenty, five of whom were adults and the other children, and left eleven catechumens who wanted baptism who yet do not know the catechism.  I believe they will be baptized at the end of Lent... and they will begin to pay tribute at the beginning of next year.  This new visita [San Gregorio?] has about three hundred souls divided into three tribes three hours distant from a central point where a parish house and chapel have been made to which they can gather easily.  Seven couples have received the sacrament of marriage; two pairs who are still catechumens will be married when they are baptized.  The other sixty-five couples with natural marriage will all be married this year, it being necessary to give them time to learn the doctrine.”
            Religious Education. The Franciscans, it is clear from this report, emphasized religious instructions, despite the difficult means of land and sea travel, the lack of ministers, and the language barrier between the friars and the Boronganons.  Fr. Juan Navarette, for instance, wrote the catechism of Christian doctrine in Samareño, while Fr. Antonio Sanchez composed in or probably translated, into Samareño, various novenas
which still survive to date.  This was due to the friars’ attitude toward education, crystallized by both the Chapter of 1655 and 1663, the latter stating that one thing a friar pastor should be diligently concerned with is the school and education because through these, the parishioners are formed and educated with instruction and administration, and emerge capable of fulfilling their Christian duties and of performing governmental functions when the children become adults.
            In keeping with these, Fr. Juan Navarette, out of his own savings, built in 1843, a school building measuring 108 ft. long and 30 ft. wide, which housed the escuela de instruccion primaria (primary school) and the escuela de niñas (school for girls).  This
structure was maintained by the caja de comunidad, a community fund contributed to by each adult Boronganon in the amount of half-real.  Here the friars taught catechism, salvation history, music, reading, writing, arithmetic,  practical arts and handicrafts.  It is not clear how the Boronganons responded in terms of attendance, but certainly those outside the poblacion, more concerned as they were with their farms, hardly recognized its importance.
            Trade and Commerce.. Apart from resettlement, infrastructure projects and education, the friars also had a hand in commerce.  When in 1859 Feodor Jagor, a German naturalist, visited Borongan after going to Paric (Dolores), he noticed that, although commerce on Eastern Samar was mostly rudimentary, there was something like large-scale exploitation of natural resources in Borongan.  The role of the Franciscans can be gleaned from the 1865 description of Borongan agriculture, commerce and trade: “El terreno cultivado produce muchos bocos, bastante arros, palauan y camote, con algun abaca, de maderas, ria de ganado vacuno, cerdos y gallinas, a la caza y a la pesca, y las mujeres al tejido de guinaras cuyos productos esportan para las islas de Cebu, Negros y Leite, y con mas frequencia para Manila pudiendo asegurar que todos los productos de este pueblo se han duplicado y aun triplicado bajo la celosa direccion del R.F. Juan Navarette.”
            Infrastructural Projects. To facilitate evangelization and commerce, the friars became road-builders. In 1860 Fr. Salustiano Bus, with the use of the people’s polo (corve
e labor), opened a road from Borongan to Suribao and Bilid (Bihid), in the direction of Basey, an idea being revived and intermittently implemented in our days. The purpose was to facilitate access to the visitas along the Suribao river from the poblacion, enable the folks to go to church on Sundays and sell their products in the tabo (weekly fairs). Two of these visitas, formerly inhabited by luucs (the marginal people) were established by Fr. Navarette, one in 1845, which began paying tribute in 1849, and the second, dedicated to St. Dominic, in 1850.  Then in 1873, Fr. Antonio Sanchez, together with Frs. Felipe Vasquez and Pablo Benavides, opened a road to Lanang (formerly a visita of Borongan until 1851 when Fr. Jose de Osma made it into a pueblo), Hernani, Pambujan (now Gen. MacArthur), as far as Salcedo.  In 1874, Fr. Sanchez began the construction of a road from Borongan to San Sebastian , but this was discontinued most likely due. among other factors, to the people’s failure to see its economic and religious importance.

           Moro Raids. Aside from the Boronganons themselves, other factors encumbered the Franciscans’ endeavors, particularly the Muslim piratical incursions from 1754 to 1778 when these were very frequent on Eastern Samar . Moreover, the cholera epidemics frequently struck the town, notably in 1846, 1850, 1785, and 1883, mainly due to the open wells which were the sources of drinking water.  The seriousness of the piratical raids can be gauged from the population decline in the east coast from 10,365 in 1770 to 7,272 in 1800.  The decrease could be attributed, of course, more to dispersal to remote areas rather than to captivity and sale of the bijags (captives) in the Asian slave markets.

            Consequently, it became more difficult to evangelize and culturate the dispersed inhabitants. But even during these raids, the friars were with them; they initiated and supervised the construction of the baluartes (forts) in the 1830’s, one located south of the
poblacion and the other in the northeast.  One of the recorded Moro raids on Borongan happened in 1803 when five boatloads of Moros ransacked one visita, capturing two natives.  In 1847, five Boronganons were taken captives.  Experience showed them it was better to face enemy at sea.  Thus, in July 1780, the natives engaged the Moros aboard 15 boards outside the harbor of the town.  After a five-hour engagement, the Moros lost, with five captured, over 100 killed, and 4 boats destroyed.  No Boronganon was reported killed.
            Cholera Epidemics. The second factor, the cholera epidemics mentioned above, compounded the problem of population dispersion. According to Cruickshank, the death ratio per thousand in Borongan was 20.3 in 1876, 29.6 in 1882, and 57.0 in 1883.  In the epidemic of 1883, Borongan ranked fifth among the hardest hit townships on Eastern Samar , to wit:
            Town                      Death Per Thousand                                  Ranking
Balangiga                              64.6                                                             1
Sulat                                     60.6                                                             2
Oras                                     58.9                                                             3
Paric (Dolores)                     57.4                                                             4
Borongan                            57.0                                                             5
All these factors easily explain why even in 1893, when Borongan had a total of 9,692 population, its inhabitants were greatly dispersed.  According to Cruickshank, the dispersion is as follows:
            40.3%  resided in the poblacion
            24.6%  lived outside but within 3 miles from it
            20.4%  lived within 3 to 6 miles
            14.7%  lived within 7 to 12 miles
One can infer from this the success of the Franciscan effort at reduccion, for only 3,895 lived in the poblacion. It is instructive to note that among the barrios of Borongan in 1895, namely, Loom, Tarusan, Campisao, Palara, and Latay, only Tarusan later on became part of Borongan poblacion..  But of course, this was more than what one, given the Boronganon resistance to the compact village, can bargain for.

            Cultural Assimilation. In the final result, the Franciscan efforts were brought to fruition, even if these fell short of the world view in which they conceived them.  In the
1880’s, the Boronganons already had beds, furnished their houses with rooms and even azoteas, and if money warranted, made it a point to discard the paia or hongot during meals with visitors. Abaca wear was almost forgotten.  Tuba remained the stuff to gladden the heart, and most preferred wet rice to palauan.  Their produce could reach Manila and Cebu .  In 1869, four boats left Borongan for Manila , and by 1893, ships were arriving, albeit on an irregular schedule, on Borongan harbor.   Thanks to the education by the friars, Boronganons could serve as gobernadorcillo, tenientes, and capitanes.  In the 1880’s, Boronganons themselves were teaching their townsmen.  In 1898, for instance, when Fr. Antonio Sanchez was the parish priest, there was a maestro de niños, Eugenio Daza, and one maestra de niñas, Zosima Saco.  Thus the people of Borongan  were incorporated into the Spanish system through the friars.

            Signs of Assimilation.  These signs of incorporation are too numerous to cite.   In the 1890’s, Fr. Antonio Sanchez opened four more streets of the town. (No wonder then that most town streets were named after saints who were dear to the Franciscans.  And if I may remark, I suggest that the Borongan town officials should not, for the sake of historical sense and tradition, easily change the names of the streets.  Indeed, I think it is a historical mistake that the name of Real Street was changed, because Calle Real is the original street of Borongan.  With its renaming, that significance is lost..)  It being one of the central towns of Eastern Samar, one of the two judicial and treasury staffs for Samar island was in Borongan.  The guardia civil, Spain ’s counterpart to the national police, was stationed in the town.  But the clearest sign was the increase of population and the presence of Chinese or Chinese mestizos who partially monopolized local business:
Total Population of Selected Eastern Samar Towns in 1865, 1893, 1903
Towns                         1865                               1893                             1903
Guiuan                        12,873                           11,325                          11,594
Borongan                    7,671                              9,692                         13,667
Lanang (Llorente)         5,485                              4,595                           5,673
Sulat                             4,353                             4,604                           5,266
Tubig (Taft)                   3,274                             3,434                           3,031
Oras                             2,998                             3,718                           4,830
Total Number of Chinese on Selected Eastern Samar Towns in 1887, 1892, 1894
Town                              1887                            1892                               1894
Guiuan                              66                                143                                 167
Borongan                        13                                  19                                   38
Taft                                    5                                    7                                   13
Sulat                                   1                                  11                                   12
San Julian                           1                                    5                                     6
Dolores                              2                                    2                                     6
            The Borongan Church. In view of all these, Catholicism, as a social fact, of which the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries were its conduit, cannot thus be gainsaid
in the history of Borongan; its history under Spain is intertwined with the history of Christian religion.  And a monument to that social fact, was the old church (deliberately torn down in 1960 to give way to a concretemodern cathedral) which, as already noted, was originally built under the direction of Fr. Francisco Diez and, after having been burnt in 1773,  rebuilt by Fr. Jose de Osma in 1781 and expanded by Fr. Juan Navarette in 1843.  In 1853, the latter constructed a round bell tower.  (In 1939, Fr Francisco Palomeras became the first diocesan parish priest of Borongan and added a second storey to the bell tower; in 1950, Fr. Potenciano Ortega added a third.)  The building was extended in cruciform by Fr. Antonio Sanchez to accommodate the parishioners.  Later, on Fr. Arsenio Figueroa added the zinc roof and painted the entire church. In 1895-1897, Fr. Gil Martinez constructed a completely new convento of stone, 35 meters long and 15 meters wide.

            The Dios-Dios and the Pulajan Movements. Certainly, the beauty of the baroque church of 1896 never signified the depth of how Boronganons embraced the faith.  In terms of really understanding the faith, the nuances were too evident. Those in the visitas and rancherias mixed pagan beliefs and practices with Catholicism more deeply and
frequently than did those in the poblacion--a mixture that paved the way for the rise of a sect which flourished in Borongan, namely, the Dios-Dios.  This movement, from which the Pulajanes grew, was syncretist which, among others, promised a new Jerusalem and a new king, the resurrection of those who died in the epidemics of 1882-1883,  protection from Spanish bullets, and eventual victory through magic and superstitions.  In September 1884, after intensive recruitment, and after two months, some 300 to 400 Dios-Dios adherents attacked Borongan twice.  Knowing the developments, the parish priest and the Spanish authorities quickly quelled the movement.
            History of Distortion and Criticism of History.  As he pauses to reflect on this brief account, one readily infers that the history of Borongan from 1604 to 1898 is more
complicated than what most Boronganons probably think about their past.  Thanks to archival and documentary evidence, many events, hitherto unknown to many, were uncovered.  And even well-known traditions have appeared differently because they are now interpreted in a new light.  One, it goes without saying, cannot therefore simply rely on oral history--what has been handed on by word of mouth about what transpired in Borongan, much less take it as gospel truth.  Because historiography, the writing of history, is a science, and a critical one at that, it admits of revision as soon as data hitherto undiscovered demand it.  Criticism of traditions and history of the town should thus be welcomed, even as history and traditions, if one is to get into the truth of the historical events behind them, are always in need of purification and updating.  Of this a number of examples can be given, though one may suffice.
            One of the historical distortions which this short history corrects is, for instance, the
view that the Spanish friars were principals of colonial appropriation and exploitation.  It is one of the stereotypes which prevailed in the historiography on the Spanish regime in the Philippines , no doubt nurtured by the Philippine Propagandists and, it would seem, by the current Marxist interpretation of history.  This is an unfortunate historiographical development which contemporary scholars of Philippine history correctly refute..  Indeed, a sketchy once-over at the Spanish efforts at evangelization gives the lie to that historical distortion. 
            A case in point is the present account of what happened in Borongan from 1604 to 1898.   Indeed, this history provides evidence to the idea that one cannot make a general
history of the Philippines , for the nuances and differences in local histories are far deeper than what appears.  The general picture one gets of the Spanish regime from standard history books obviously does not apply probably to most town histories, evidently not to the history of Borongan.   The truth is, such a view of the Friars more reflects the general summaries of the ideas of the Propaganda Movement, rather than the documentary evidence on what actually transpired in the rural areas that were remote from the squabbles between the Filipinos and Spaniards in Manila .  Indeed, the credit for the change of the Boronganon fragmented and tribal society into a civilized society with a Christian world view must go first of all to the intermediaries of the Spanish colonial history, and they were the Christian missionaries.
            The same critical approach must be applied to the so-called Padul-ong to sift the grain from the chaff, but that could be the subject of another historical essay.* 


  1. Hi I would like to know where you got your sources for this because I am doing a report on my hometown, borongan. Please if you still remember it would be so much help as I don't really know where to start looking. And despite the fact that I would site your post. My professor said that we would need other sources like published books or publications, etc.

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