Centuries years-old worth of history laid underneath Guimaras province’s silver anniversary which the province is celebrating this 2017.
It can all be traced back after the fall of Ferdinand Magellan in the hands of Datu Lapu-Lapu after the Spaniards discovered the Philippines in 1521. The remainder of Magellan’s troops sailed away to the neighbouring islands of Cebu in search for a safe haven. And as they were sailing inbetween the islands of Panay and Negros, they saw a smaller island and the Portuguese mariner decided to call it: Guimaraez, after the capital of their country – the birthplace of Portuguese nationality.
Marceily Point, one of the tourist destinations in Guimaras today
Besides the pristine beauty of the island, it was rich with products such as wood, stone for contruction, wax and honey. In the latter years, its fishing and agricultural industries became massive due to its abundant fishing grounds and bountiful harvest of rice, corn tobacco, coffee, and cacao. These had attracted the attention of the Spaniards that had long settled at Arevalo in Iloilo. Soon, foreigners were flocking in the island to get building materials, to research on the ecosystem and to enjoy the abundant agricultural produce.
Eventually, the locals were converted to the Christian faith at the time Iloilo was. Then the Spaniards organized pueblocitos or villages namely: Nayup, Nabilhan, and Igang – each with their own patron saints. During this period there were two friars in Oton and one was assigned by Governor General Dasmariñas to visit the island from time to time, reporting their progress back to the King of Spain. Their endeavour led Guimaras to be an annex to the parish in Iloilo in the 18th century despite the constant raiding of pirates in the island that slowed the growth in population.
In the mid-18th century the island’s jurisdiction fell under the Augustian Order, then later on under the Jesuits, and then under the Dominicans.
In 1775, Guimaras was organised into a regular parish with Iloilo. The three villages mentioned earlier was formed into a single parish. After the island’s population increased, Guimaras was given its municipal status with seat of government in Tilad, now knowsn as Buenavista.
As Guimaras became a municipality under Iloilo, its first Captain Del Pueblo was Eugenio Tarrazona. Since Buenavista became the government’s headquarters, it also became the mother town of the island.
The American Regime in the 20th century brought even faster progress that by 1908 Guimarasnons were given the right to elect their municipal president. Manuel Garganera became its first elected president. And it was in the same period that Douglas MacArthur, head of Corps of Engineer in Iloilo, constructed roads and wharfs. He gave jobs to the native laborers by hiring them in the construction site along army engineers, building a headquarter at Camp Jossman in Barrio Supang of Buenavista, where he had built the Sto. Rosario Wharf and the road from the wharf to Supang. To honour his contribution to Buenavista, they changed the name of the warf from Sto. Rosario to Gen. MacArthur’s Wharf by virtue of a resolution passed on December 29, 1992.
Since the population continued to flourish, Guimaras was split into municipalities in 1918. Barrio Nagaba became the Municipality of Jordan with Valeriano Villanueva as its first municipal mayor. The third municipality was Nueva Valencia, created in 1941 with Florentino Gallopa as the first town executive. These three municipalites became an integral part of the Province of Iloilo until Guimaras became a sub-province on June 18, 1966, thereby giving the island more autonomy under the leadership of Senator Rodolfo Ganzon and Congressman Fermin Caram, Jr.
The Navalas Church was built in 1880 is the oldest Catholic Church and the only heritage church in Guimaras
Three years after becoming a sub-province, a governor was appointed and eventually elected for the island. Antonio G. Ortiz was designated as Lieutenant-Governor but was later changed to Governor by virtue of the Republic Act No. 5682. Years later, Governor Ortiz filed a leave of absence and entitled Atty. Gualterio B. Gelvezon as Officer-in-Charge. Unfortunately, on July 17, 1984, sixteen days after his leave, Governor Ortiz died.
Following the Revised Administrative Code, Governor Conrado J. Norada became the Governor of Guimaras and at the same time Governor of the Province of Iloilo. In October of the same year, President Ferdinand Marcos appointed Governor Leopoldo Locsin as Governor. It was not until the end of former Buenavista Mayor, Aberlardo D. Javellana’s, term on February 1, 1988 that the people had elected their second and last governor as a sub-province - Dr. Catalino G. Nava. Under Governor Nava’s term, Guimaras became a full-fledged and regular province. The proclamation became official on the 22nd of May, 1992.
After the successful campaign to make Guimaras independent, the work wasn’t over yet as progress still had to be made for this newborn province to be able to stand on its own, and such work fell on the shoulders of Emily R. Lopez, the first governor for the Province of Guimaras. Improvements were indeed on its way that on February 20, 1995 under President Ramos, two municipalities - Sibunag and San Lorenzo – were added.
Guimaras had come a long way to become an autonomous province, and not only that, the island had continued to prosper and expand its attraction as it aims to be the Agri-Tourism capital of Region VI. The province’s mission is to help its people and improve their way of living through responsive and participatory governance.
Now, the island is known for producing the world’s sweetest mangoes and the famous Manggahan Festival that reminds, Guimarasnons, of their humble beginnings and the potentials of what can be achieved if people unite and work together.
Guimaras does not disappoint as it is an island filled with amazing possibilities and kind locals.
Come visit Guimaras, the island that fits your taste./PR