The island of Masbate was formed out of volcanic and other rocks over one hundred million years ago, together with the other islands of the Philippines. At this time man and even many of the lower animals, had not yet appeared upon the earth. However, many millions of years later, long before the ancestors of man had moved into North America or Europe, ancient men were living in the tropical regions of the earth. They haunted wild animals and ate wild plants and fruits. Their tools were of stone, and probably also of bone and wood.

Some of these very early stone tools and bones of the animals he hunted have been found in Masbate and it is not impossible that the early ancestors of man also lived on this island long ago.

Remains of this kind are very difficult to find and are very rare. These remains are probably half a million years old. The stone tools found were very primitive which is surprising since these early peoples managed to kill large animals, they must have been brave and skillful hunters.

Although over thousands of year man developed into his present from and stone tools became more sophisticated, the hunting way of life continued without great change until eight thousand years ago. Then a great development occurred. People began to grow crops and tame wild animals, thus, the first farmers appeared. This happened at much at the same time all over the world, but is though to have first occurred in the tropical areas particularly the Philippines. It is still known whether farming was invented independently in the Philippines, or whether it was introduced from somewhere else in Southeast Asia. Nor is it known whether early farmers of the Philippines grow rice, or not only crops. What is clear is that the introduction of farming made many other changes possible. People begun to live in settled villages, and made pottery for the first time. They also improved their stone tools. They are the remains of the first farmers who used the axes to cut down the forest which covered Masbate mountain valleys and hills at that time. The early farmers also made beautiful ornaments of shells and buried their dead in burial caves sometimes placing the bones in large jars. Two large caves in Masbate, the Bat-ogan Cave in Mandaon Municipality and the Kalanay Cave in Aroroy Town are famous all over the world as burial caves.

About for hundred years before the birth of Christ, iron and glass as well as woven cloth appeared in Masbate. The stone tools gradually disappeared since the new iron tools were so much better. This period in the Philippines which lasted until the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth century, is usually called the iron age. It was a time of great development. Agriculture improved with the new metal tools with kaingin agriculture in the hills and paddy farming on suitable ground. Beautiful decorated pottery, some of the most beautiful known in the world, were found in Masbate caves.

A special writing as well as records and letters written on pottery and tree bark were unearthed at Kalanay Cave. Unfortunately few samples of this early writings have survived. There was also a great deal of trade between islands during the iron age. Masbate was involved in the venture on trading as can be seen by the many fragments of porcelain, all which came from china in ancient times.

Porcelain jars of the rare celadon trade pottery dating back as early as the 10th century, were excavated at Aroroy in 1930. Chinese traders had been coming to Luzon, Visayas, and Sulu during the Shri-Vishayan Empire and the succeeding Madjapahit Empire. Probably, from Palawan or Mindoro, early traders visited Masbate on the way and founded small settlements along the coastal areas.

People had been living in Masbate and other islands of the Philippines for many thousands of years. The remains of their village and their activities are part of the heritage of the people as in the heritage of language culture and art that the people in the olden times have left to their descendants.


The first Spanish expedition to explore Masbate, Burias, and Ticao islands was led by Capt. Luis Enriquez De Guzman in 1569. De Guzman accompanied Miguel Lopez de Legazpi when they reached Cebu one year earlier than the rediscovery of Manila de Goiti. Captain Andres de Ibarra subsequently continued the exploration of the islands.

It is noted that the Christianization of the Bicol Region actually began in Masbate in 1569. We quote from fray Pedro de San Francisco de Asis “History of Discalced Agustinians” (Blair and Roberton, Philippine islands, Vol. 41, pp. 213-214):

Don Luiz Enriquez de Guzman, a knight of sevilla, reduced those islands- Masbate, Ticao and Burias to the crown of Espana in the year one thousand five hundred sixty-nine (1569). Their conquest was finished and they were thoroughly subdued by Captain Andres de Ibarra. Protected by arms, Father Fray Alonso Jimenez. . . introduced the evangelical law in Masbate. Other Religious, imbued with the same spirit and of the same institute followed and spread the work into Ticao and Burias.

The same source further said:

 “He (Fray Alonso Jimenez) was the first missionary to the island of Masbate, Leyte, Samar and Burias. Then he went to Ibalon (Bicol) in the provinces of Camarines, where he resided many years and made many religious incursions into Albay and Sorsogon. Fray Jimenez, a dictated Agustinian missionary, was considered the apostle of the island of Masbate in consideration of the splendid efforts for the extension of the Catholic Faith.”

The mute legacy of Fray Alonso Jimenez to Masbateños which lasted to this day, is the stone church that he built in 1569 at San Pascual municipality. It is the oldest church in the Philippines. The wall of this church measures some thirty inches in thickness of adobe stones which must have been transported to san Pascua. It is possible that conscripted labor was used in the erection of this church.

In the middle part of 1600, shipbuilding was established in Mobo when the Galleon trade was its peak. According to manuscript on historical data (National library, Filipiniana Room), from early Spanish days, Burias with its seat at San Pascual, was part of Ibalon (Albay) province. Technically, Masbate and Ticao were also part of Ibalon but Ticao and Masbate islands were left untouched by the Spanish authorities. The recollects, however were based in Mobo at Daan Lungsod since the 1700. While Masbate was the “Capital Village.”

Sometime in the 1800 some Spanish settlers from Cebu landed at Guiom, a barrio of Cawayan on Masbate Island. They established a colony there. Being loyal to Cebu, the Mother Province, the colony fell under Cebu’s administrative jurisdiction. It was not until later that Masbate and Ticao were in actuality transferred to Ibalon’s formal jurisdiction. From Masbate the seat of government was transferred to Mobo.

Although Ibalon assumed jurisdiction over all the three islands of Burias, Ticao, and Masbate, the government seat of Masbate was ion Guiom. But due to its inaccessibility to Burias and Ticao and Mainland Bicol, it was transferred to Polanog, near the mouth of the Lumbang River. However, the government records were kept in land of Cagay, safe from Moro attacks. Later the capital was transferred again to Mobo and later still, to its present site in Municipality.

Historical account is replete with tales on the conditions of the Island of Burias, Ticao and Masbate during the Spanish occupation. According to Delgado in his “Memoria de Ticao y Masbate”(Philippine National Archive, Manila) the early settlers of Burias Island were the captured followers of Raja Soliman and Raja Lakandula whom the conquistadores dumped on this Island upon their return to Cebu after the fall of Manila. In the 1800, Burias was deserted and serve as a pirate lair. Its rich forest and fishing grounds readily filled needs of the pirates. In 1832 when he had verified that Burias was the springboard for Moro raids, in Bicol, Governor General Pascual Enrile commissioned two trustworthy aides Jose Ma. Penarada and Nicolas Enrile to conduct a reconnaissance of the Island, dislodge the Moros and erect a fort. There was a need to protect the few settlers and encourage others to come. The Alcalde Mayor of Camarines Sur, Manuel Castaneda initiated the sending of unmarried women to the Island to solve it’s under population but desisted later for fear of creating scandals. Somehow the Island became the dumping ground for captured cimmarones, remotados and Moro marauders.

By 1776, Ticao was under the spiritual care of the Recolletos but by that time, there were no Christians left in Burias and only a few in Ticao because the constant piratical raids had taken their toll. In 1811, Ticao’s fortuned brightened. One Antonio Vicente a Native of Mandawe, Cebu moved to Albay and engaged in war against the Moros. The Moros held him in high terror after he captured two pancos of Moros in Masbate, freed several captives, seized rice and gun powder and killed 18 pirates. He proved his feet by presenting 36 human ears to the Alcalde Mayor of Albay.

When he was petitioned in 1818 by the town people of San Jacinto Vicente transferred with several companions to the island. He established a visits in Ticao, opened lands for cultivation and constructed two wooden balwartes armed with two cannons bought with his savings from balatan gathering. After his coming to the island, the pirates stopped harassing the place.

The Sea of Ticao Island evoked fear in the hearts of Spanish Mariners. The Galleon Santo Cristo de Burgos was sunked near the port of San Jacinto in 1726. The Galleon San Andres met the same fate in 1798.

According to the Philippine National Archive records, the fertile soil of Masbate was sustained by continuous rainfall and turned out excellent grazing grounds where deer and wild Carabaos roamed. But like the rest of Bicol, Masbate and Ticao line within the typhoon belt and have receive their share of destruction over the years.

Locusts have also plagued the island in the past. In the 1840’s Locusts were in Masbate for seven years. This compelled the inhabitants to abandon agriculture and devote their time hunting. Wild cattle in Cataingan were considerable and the deer population over the islands was abundant. Wild game was plentiful.

In 1818 the shore lands of Masbate were sparsely populated by small settlements of fishermen. Christianized inhabitants were in the hills. They refused to dwell in seaside settlements or mission posts for fear of pirates who had established their own communities on the deserted coast. By 1844, only three small barrios existed on the northern coast.

Accounts in Moro raids of Masbate settlements of Christians mentioned such places as barrio Magdalena, Town of Baleno, Sitio Enambacan in Palanas and the town of Mandaon. The raiders took captives to be sold to the Tirones whom Masbateños believed to the people with tails who feasted on human flesh. In Guinhanyan, Mandao, the pirates hung the intestines of captives who were killed because they could not be brought to Mindanao.

The port of San Jacinto, the barrios of Benetinan and Buyo in San Fernando were Moro targets for raids. The Moros were particularly bent on destroying the fort to deny passage to transpacific galleons.

In October 1756, the Moros besieged Mobo. Fortunately, Spanish galleys in charge of fortifying the town arrived and put the besiegers to flight. However, the following day, the Moro raiders stormed the town of San Jacinto which was weakly defended by palisades. Fray Manuel de Sta. Catalina fled with his flock into the interior towards the opposite coast where they hoped to embark for Mobo. Meanwhile the raiders amused themselves by looting the town, convento and church which they burned. They pursued the fugitives. Unable to keep up with his people, the Padre hide himself but the barking of his pet dog gave him away. He gave himself meekly.

As they sailed South near Canlibas, the Padre induced his captors to call at Mobo for his ransom. Before the fort, they negotiated for a ransom of 500 pesos partly in silver, partly in goods. About 10 men left the fort with ransom. Ten raiders landed, taking the padre with them. While some took charge of settling the ransom, the others jumped on the Christians, those carrying the ransom money were stunned. The raiders captured the including those who did not flee in time and herded them to their vessels, fearing for the padre’s life, the fort of Mobo held its fire as the raiders sailed away with their rich booty. His captors made him row like a galley slave with a rattan halter around his neck to prevent escape, a Moro prince of iligan purchased the padre and brought him to his court where the priest stayed until, through the invention of Corregidor of iligan, the governor of Zamboanga and father prior, his ransom was negotiated. The well-known Pedro gastambide came and ransomed him for 800 pesos.

The Moro raids peaked in intensity in 1754, in that year, Mindanao was hit by bad harvest. Moros, therefore, sought Christian captives to be sold as slaves. They swooped down on the recollect missions on the islands of Ticao and Masbate and tabalas, carried away about two-thirds of the population. The Moro attacks in the 1750s were shifted from well-populated pueblos were resistance was strong, to unarmed or lone trading vessels, defenseless visitas and settlement of twelve to twenty scattered houses. For instance, a fleet of raiding vessels swooped down on Limbuhan and killed those who resisted capture.

The raiding maranaos stunted the economic growth of the islands in the visayas including Masbate, Ticao and Burias. The disturbance on this account continued until the later part of 1800. It also caused the decimation population.

In 1837, a good strike changed the outlook of the province as holders of fortune-seeking settlers arrived almost daily in the ore fields of Aroroy. The sudden leap in population and commerce required better local administration. 1846, Masbate and Ticao were separated from Albay province and made as a single politico-military commandacia or district.

At about that the same time, Burias was organized as separate commandacia with its seat at San Pascual this state of affairs continued to the end of the Spanish era. However, shortly before the declaration of the Philippine Independence by President Aguinaldo, Masbate as the Capital of province was established.