occ mindoro history

occidental mindoro history

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by Rudy A. Candelario 


      Mai, believed to be the old name of Mindoro, was mentioned in an old Chinese document in 982 A.D.  According to Scott, a historian, Mai is how the people of Southern China pronounced Mait, a settlement at the southern part of Mindoro where the natives of the place and the Chinese traders used to barter goods.  According to Antoon Postma, a Dutch researcher, the name Mait or Mahit was often mentioned in the ambahan or songs of the Mangyans.  A coastal settlement at Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro is still called Mait by the indigenous people up to the present time.


      The Chinese traders used to barter goods also with the inhabitants of Minolo, another coastal settlement at the northern part of Mindoro.  In an original manuscript kept at the archives of the Order of the Augustinian Recollect, Postma read that up to the last decade of the nineteenth century, the island of Mindoro was called by its inhabitants as pulo ng Minolo.  Due to his findings, the said researcher believes that the name Mindoro originated from Minolo.


      Among the Filipinos, the industrious traders are the people of Sulu.  They resented the colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards for they could not trade freely with their countrymen anymore.  They got angry when the Spanish soldiers attacked their settlements in Mindanao.  The former traders retaliated by raiding the communities under the control of the Spaniards.


      The raids conducted by former traders from Sulu to some settlements in Panay angered Spanish Governor General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.  In 1570, upon learning that the raiders have a trading post in Mamburao, a prosperous community in Mindoro,  he ordered his grandson Captain Juan de Salcedo and a big group of Visayan and Spanish warriors to drive the former traders from the said place. 


      Before reaching Mamburao, Captain Salcedo and his troops passed by Iling Island and Talabasi, believed to be the town of Sta. Cruz at present.  They drove the raiders out of Mamburao and afterwards defeated the defenders of Lubang. 


      Since the spread of Christianity was one of the reasons why Spain colonized the Philippines, two parishes were established by the Order of Augustinian Recollects in West Mindoro.  The parishes were Calavite Parish in the north and Mangarin Parish in the south.


      During the 18th until the early part of the 19th century, many communities disappeared in Mindoro due to the frequent raids made by Muslim traders who became pirates.  To defend themselves, the inhabitants of some settlements requested the government officials to help them construct forts and provide them with cannons which they could use against the pirates.


      The destructive raids of the pirates were stopped during the last decade of the 19th century, when the Spaniards were able to build sea vessels which were faster than the vintas of the pirates.


      When piracy stopped, merchants from other provinces bartered goods with our ancestors.  One of them was Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who during that time was a young businessman.


      During the period that Gen. Aguinaldo bartered goods with the people of Mindoro, the leaders of the communities where he used to conduct business became his friends.  This was the reason why when the Katipunan movement reached the provinces, some Mindoreños became its members.


      The leaders of the Katipunaneros in West Mindoro, when the Filipinos revolted against the Spaniards were Emiliano Cajayon and Esteban Quijano of Lubang, Mariano Abeleda ang Agustin Liboro of Paluan, Pedro Fernandez of Sablayan and Espiridion Jimenez of Calintaan.  They captured the Spanish priests, detained them in Paluan and imprisoned them in Taysan, Batangas.


      The Katipuneros of Mindoro, under the command of Captain Froilan Abriul and Marcelo Alcala, attacked Calapan, the center of the Spanish government in the island.  Reinforcements of a thousand Katipuneros from Batangas, led by Colonel Alfonso Panopio, came and helped them defeat the Spanish soldiers.  On July 1, 1898 Governor Rafael Morales, the head of the Spanish government in Mindoro, surrendered to the Katipuneros.


      The freedom gained by the Mindoreños from the Spaniards did not last long.  On July 29, 1901 the American soldiers landed in Calapan.  The revolutionaries of Mindoro resisted the advance of the American troops.  The group of Col. Deogracias Leyco of Abra de Ilog even resorted to guerrilla warfare but their gallantry did not prevent the Americans from putting Mindoro under their control after twenty six months of military campaign.


      In 1902, under the American government, Mindoro was made as a sub-province of Marinduque.  After three years, it was made as a special province.  Finally, on July 1, 1921 it was elevated to the status of a regular province.


      One of the significant events which happened in the western part of Mindoro, during the American regime was the establishment of the Philippine Milling Company.  The sugar company started to operate in 1911.  It contributed greatly to the increase in population of the communities at the southwestern part of the island.  Many families of laborers from other provinces decided to settle permanently at Central, the center of the company and the neighboring communities.


      When World War II broke out, different groups of guerrillas from Mindoro fought against the Japanese.  Unfortunately, due to the absence of effective organization and coordination, shortage of arms, funds and infrequent communication among the groups, the armed forces of the enemies were able to occupy the island.


      In 1945, the U.S. led Allied Forces liberated Mindoro from the hands of the Japanese.  They helped the local leaders rehabilitate their greatly damaged municipalities.


      While the Allied Forces were liberating other parts of the Philippines, they made San Jose their supply base and military camp.  Due to the presence of jobs in the military camp, many families from different parts of the Philippines came to this town and eventually, settled here permanently.


      After the war, due to the great demand for lumber, the logging industry prospered in Mindoro.  It resulted to the rapid denudation of its forests. 


      In 1950, what could be considered as the most important event in its political history, happened in Mindoro.  That year, the bill introduced in Congress by Mindoro Congressman Raul Leuterio, seeking the division of Mindoro into two provinces --- Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro, was approved and became Republic Act No. 505.


      During the first election held in Occidental Mindoro, on November 13, 1951 Atty. Jesus Abeleda and Hon. Federico Castillo were elected as congressman and governor of the province, respectively.


      The first two elected governors of Occ. Mindoro tried to build the provincial capitol in Mamburao. It was realized with the help of Congressman Felipe Abeleda in 1960, the first year of the ascension to office of Gov. Arsenio Villaroza.


      Due to the limited funds of the provincial government of Occidental Mindoro, the construction of roads was done, gradually.  It was started by Governor Federico Castillo and continued by Gov. Mariano Tajonera & Gov. Arsenio Villaroza.  In 1965, under the administration of Governor Villaroza, the road connecting Mamburao in the north and San Jose in the south was finished. 


      During the term of office of Congressman Pedro Medalla, Sr., Congress approved the laws creating the municipality of Calintaan, on June 18, 1966; and the municipalities of Rizal and Magsaysay, on April 3, 1969.


      In 1975, three years after he declared martial law, President Ferdinand Marcos created Mindoro Integrated Rural Development Office, the function of which was to coordinate the implementation of Mindoro Integrated Rural Development Project.  As a component of the implementation of MIRDP, the provincial road connecting Mamburao and San Jose was improved and widened.  Concrete bridges were constructed over the wide rivers of Pagbahan, Amnay, Patrick, Mompong, Lumintao and Busuanga.


      It was also during martial law period when the electrification of rural areas was vigorously implemented, including the construction and the improvement of irrigation systems in Occidental Mindoro.


      In 1986, after the peaceful EDSA revolution, almost all national, provincial and municipal officials were replaced by President Corazon Aquino of Officer in Charge (OIC).  Hon. Peter Medalla, Jr., became the OIC Governor of Occidental Mindoro.  The people of the province affirmed and extended his term of office during the election held in 1988.


      A tragic incident which the people of Occidental Mindoro could not forget was the assassination of Assemblyman Pedro Mendiola, Sr., the representative of the province to the Interim Batasang Pambansa, by unknown individuals, while he was delivering his speech at the plaza of San Vicente, Sablayan in April, 1986.  Up to the present time, the perpetrators of the crime have not been identified and apprehended.


      As an elected governor, Gov. Peter Medalla strived to improve the province including the concreting of the piers in Caminawit, San Jose and Matabang, Abra de Ilog.  With the improved concrete piers, Roll-on, Roll-off ships from Batangas and Manila were able to ply the province and helped in the development of trade & commerce in Occidental Mindoro.


      In 1987, members of the New People Army became more aggressive in fighting the government soldiers.  They raided the police headquarters in Abra de Ilog, Sablayan, Calintaan and Magsaysay.  Due to those aforementioned incidents, the number of soldiers in Occidental Mindoro was increased and they were sent to the different parts of the province to control the spread of the leftist movement.  Bloody encounters occurred between the forces of the NPA and the military.


       In the ensuing years, the names of Josephine Ramirez-Sato and Jose T. Villarosa became well known in the field of politics in Occidental Mindoro.  The two personalities occupied interchangeably the positions of governor and congressman of the province. 


      In 1997, a tragedy shocked the people of Occidental Mindoro.  That year, the two  sons of Congressman Ricardo Quintos, Tayamaan Brgy. Captain Michael Quintos and his brother Paul were assassinated.  The incumbent representative of Occidental Mindoro, during that time, Congressman Jose Villarosa and three other persons were charged with the murder.  They were sentenced to life imprisonment.  They appealed the sentence at the Court of Appeals and Villarosa was acquitted.


      In 2001, when Josephine Ramirez-Sato was the representative to Congress of Occidental Mindoro and Jose T. Villarosa was the governor, their projects included the construction of concrete roads from San Jose to Rizal; from Abra de Ilog to Mamburao; and from Poblacion, Sta. Cruz to Amnay River, the natural boundary of Sta. Cruz and Sablayan.


      In the 2004 local elections, Josephine Ramirez-Sato was again elected governor of Occidental Mindoro while Amelita Villarosa, wife of Jose Villarosa, as representative of the province to Congress. 


      The local Catholic Church and businessmen did their share in developing the province, particularly in the field of communication.  At present, there are AM and FM Catholic radio stations in San Jose.  There are three other FM radio stations in San Jose, one in Sablayan and one in Mamburao.  In addition, there are telephone landlines in San Jose and Mamburao and cellular phone towers & transmitters in different parts of the province.


      The Catholic Church, educators and association of parents & teachers have also contributed greatly to the establishment of schools in the province.  Missionary priests founded Stella Maris School of Lubang in 1923; San Sebastian School of Sablayan and Holy Family Academy of Central in 1957; and San Rafael High School of Abra de Ilog in 1969.  Aside from the aforementioned schools, the missionary priests bought and improved Southern Mindoro Academy (SMA) which was founded by a group of educators in San Jose, in 1945; and West Mindoro Academy of Mamburao, in 1947.  SMA is Divine Word College-San Jose at present.  Paluan Academy which was founded by a group of educators at the westernmost municipality of Occidental Mindoro is known at present as Paluan National High School.


      The association of parents & teachers with the assistance of local leaders established barrio high schools which were later raised to the status of national high schools and national colleges including the San Jose National Agricultural & Industrial School, Looc National School of Fisheries, Pedro T. Mendiola Polytechnic College, Mina de Oro High School, San Jose National High School, Occidental Mindoro High School and Magsikap Vocational High School.


      Agriculture is the primary livelihood in the province with farmers widening the areas to plant rice and corn. Fishpond owners not only engaged in milkfish and other aqua-culture during rainy season but also in producing salt during summer. The farmers, fishermen and fishpond operators made Occidental Mindoro as one of the top producers of palay, corn, milkfish and salt in the Philippines. 


  The tourism industry in Occidental Mindoro, particularly in the town of Sablayan, is also being developed.  Tourist guides are being trained in the said municipality.  Beach resorts are also being constructed  and marketed  by local businessmen in various coastal municipalities.


Big commercial establishments are also present in different municipalities.