The History of Maribojoc: Digging the Foundations of a Town
By: Mae Claire G. Jabines

In early accounts of Maribojoc, the town was called MALABOJOC coming from a tree belonging to the family of pine also known as “agoho” (Casuarina equisetifolia).  Augustinian Father Felix de la Encarnacion describes the meaning of “Malabojoc” in the Diccinario Español Bisaya as a kind of tree that has leaves similar to pine needles.  Boiled branches and leaves are very good for washing a person, who may have been crippled and suffered numbness.  Its’ bark can cure tumors, swellings and external abscesses.  Water wherein the root was cooked or soaked can heal relapses and especially to those women occasioned by childbirth.  Root with betel and lime is also a medicine for women who suffer from suppression of menstruation.  (Romanillos: 2005, pp.2-3).

Though archival records showed that it was only in the 19th century that the name Maribojoc was frequently used instead of Malabojoc, a 1793 bell in the town of Cortes, a former satellite parish of the town was already inscribed as “Maribojoc” (Trota Jose: 2001,p.82). This means that in the 18th century, there were church officials that used the name “Maribojoc.”

The town of Maribojoc has a very rich history and cultural heritage.  It is not only rich in the colonial elements that influence the town but also in its pre-Hispanic community and its participation in the resistance of foreign influence and religion, the Tamblot Rebellion.  Its’ role as mother parish of the 2 adjacent towns, Cortes and Antequera, explains the vastness of the theocratic power and control of the town.  Cortes was separated from Maribojoc in 1794 and, Antequera in 1880.

Maribojoc: The Foundation of a Town

Before the Spanish colonizers came, there were no political enclaves called towns.  Pre-Hispanic settlements in the archipelago were either in primitive communal, baranganic or sultanate system.  There was no concept of a nation and the state as well.

According to Simplicio Apalisok, there are many circumstances in determining the foundation of a town.  There are towns that were thriving populated villages before the Spaniards came and all the Spaniards have to do is to make them official towns, built churches and carried on their native names and boundaries.  Other towns were originally founded as encomiendas and others as overgrown barrios that separated politically from their parent towns.  Others originated as missions or visitas of missionaries expansion of their Order’s territory. (Apalisok: 1992, p.1).

As for the case of Maribojoc, it was a visita of the Jesuit Mission in Bohol.  A visita is a settlement where the church was the center of the activities of the community. (Apalisok: 1992, p.1)  In 1595 when Jesuit priests, Fr. Juan de Torres and Fr. Gabriel Sanchez, came to Bohol, established its mission in Baclayon and moved later to Loboc to protect themselves from the raiders.  In the account of Fr. Valerio Ledesma SJ, rector of Cebu, missions were sent to Maribojoc by 1600 particularly in the settlement along the river, it was then called VIGA. (Chirino: 1604).  A church was erected by Fr. Gabriel Sanchez along the river now known as Abatan. (Chirino: 1604).  The primitive communal society where known to be fierce warriors were converted into Christianity.  Initially, Viga later known as Maribojoc was among the missions that the Jesuits founded in early 1600s.  The other missions were Baclayon, Loboc, Dauis, Jagna, Talibon and Inabanga.

The Spanish Friars were the catalyst in the erection of the pueblos “towns not only in Bohol but across the country.  They first established the core institution, the Church, and around it the other institutions.  As the saying goes, “the Spanish history in the Philippines begins and ends with the friar.” (Illustre: 1973).

From a visita, the settlement near the river grew into a parish.  By 1768, it was canonically recognized as “Holy Cross Parish” with the last Jesuit friar Fr. Juan Soriano, SJ as its first parish priest.  It was also the latter who brought the Relics of the Holy Cross from Jerusalem via Rome.  Later that year, the Jesuits were expelled from the country.  The Recollects replaces the Jesuits as administrators of the Parishes and the community.  The second parish priest was a Recollect, Fr. Julian de Santa Ana.  The administration of the Recollects in Maribojoc lasted until 1899. (Echavia: 2006).  It was the time of the Recollects that the present stone church as built.

From the given data, there was no indication of the separation of the Church and the State.  The Church has the full autonomy over the spiritual as well as the political, economic and social aspects of the community.  It was a “theocratic state,” much more a “frairocracy.”  The creation of a separate political enemy known today as towns came into existence as an off-shoot of the reforms generated from the Spanish Revolution and the rise of the ideas of Liberalism and Reformation in Europe.  A separate political entity, a regular pueblo, was established in October 15, 1860.

Going back to the circumstances of the foundation of the town, Maribojoc was founded as a visita, a mission by the Jesuits in early 1600s in the settlement near the river that evolved and later became a parish in 1768.  More or less, the town now is 400 years basing on the early Jesuit mission near the river and 240 years old base on the foundation of the parish as the full authority over the spiritual, political and social matters of the whole population of the community.

Maribojoc through the years

Maribojoc was the first town in the province of Bohol to be mentioned in the historical accounts of the early Philippines.  According to the accounts of Gaspar de San Agustin in his work Conquistas de las Islas Pilipinas (1698), the surviving men of Magellan, headed by capitan heneral Juan Lopez de Carvalho, sailed southward to Bohol after their misfortune in Cebu and Mactan.  The fleet dropped anchor in the bay of Maribojoc.  They gathered provisions from Conception and transferred it to Victoria and Trinidad.  Later, they burned and sank Conception, the oldest ship of the fleet in the coast of Maribojoc before they sailed back to Spain and arrived in September 6, 1522.  From the shores, people watched the activity of the foreigners.  (Romanillos: 2005, p.2)

The coastal area of Maribojoc was known and traditionally called as “Dungguan.”  The physical terrain of the place is ideal for anchoring ships.  Jesuit Historian Francisco Collin describes Maribojoc as a place located at the foot of a mountain that possessed the beautiful harbor. (Romanillos: 2005, p.2)  The change of name from “Dungguan to Malabojoc” happened when a Spaniard asked a native what is the name of the place.  Not understanding what the foreigner was asking answered Malabojoc “like hair” as the native was referring to the rows of agoho trees in the coastline.  (Apalisok, 1992, p.155)

Aside for the coastal settlement of Malabojoc, there exists a river-based settlement called Viga, which today is part of Antequera.  The Viga settlement had constant interaction of the people of Dita and Marabago, parts of Antequera and Cortes respectively, which were also along the river known as the Abatan River.  In Pedro Chirino’s Relacion de las Islas Pilipinas, the people of Viga, known to have unruly and fierce warriors, were converted to Christianity by the Jesuits under Fr. Gabriel Sanchez.  (Chirino: 1604)  Such event marked the Spanish intrusion in the settler’s way of life.

Not long after the population along the Abatan River was converted to Christianity, a revolt erupted against the Jesuit Mission.  This was headed by Tamblot, a local babaylan, who urged the people to go back to their old beliefs and practices.  The Tamblot revolt was the first serious revolt in the country.  It gave the Spaniards pain in the neck but hope and opportunity to other Visayan islands to follow suit.  The Spanish oppression was the main cause.  The people of Malabojoc, who wanted freedom from oppression, sided with the revolt leader.  It was momentous for the visita to join the first ever call for arms against the Spaniards.  The Abatan River was on the battle sits of revolt.  Among the original visitas that the Jesuits established, only Baclayon and Loboc did not rise in arms.

Had Tamblot revolt been successful, every island in the Visayas or the Land of the Pintados will be free from the Spanish influence and culture intact.  However, the scheming “divide and rule” tactic was used against the native, where people from Sialo (Carcar), Cebu and Pampanga fought together with the Spanish armies against the resisting of locals and crushed the revolt.

As Christianity continues to occupy the lives of the people of Maribojoc, the visita founded by the Jesuits developed into a parish in 1767, a year before the Order was expelled out of the country.  The construction of a stone church began in 1798 in a swampy area of the town proper.  The parishioners were ordered to bring a piece of rock from the sea weighing not less than 4 pounds, whenever they went to church.  Disobedience would mean receiving several lashes.  Construction of the church was facilitated through polo y servicio (force labor).   The church was completed in 1816, 18 years after.  (Putong)  The current massive stone church was constructed in 1856 under the initiative of Fr. Manuel Plaza.  The church was finished in 1872 under the leadership of Fr. Fernando Rubio. (Trota-Jose: 2001, p.82)

The town architecture is best described by Regalado Trota Jose in his book “Visita Iglesia”:

“Maribojoc, like some old towns in Bohol is composed of a “downtown” and an “uptown”.  The church convent is located at the edge of the uptown with the back of the church facing downtown and the sea.  Both components are linked by a stone stairway completed in 1842.  The approach of the church façade is a causeway bridging the swampy depression.  Maribojoc must be the only church in the country with a ravine in front of its entrance, instead of a plaza.  There must be a defensive purpose for this kind of location.  There are plazas on either side of the church – one grassy, one now a basketball court… According to oral traditions, the grassy field flanking the gospel side of the church was once a graveyard.  Parts of the wall bordering their space are still standing.”

Furthermore, the establishment of major public and ecclesiastical edifices was done during the time of the Recollects as indicated in the Book of Noteworthy Events of Maribojoc (Cosas Notables). (Romanillos: 2005, p.8)

The Fort of St. Vincent Ferrer (Fuerte de San Vicente Ferrer) known as Punta Cruz Watchtower located three kilometers from the church was finished in 1796 under Fr. Manuel Sanchez de Nuestra Sra. Del Tremedal.  The fort was build to establish a defense system against the pirates.  The Punta Cruz Watchtower is the only tower-fort structure in the country shaped in a perfect triangle.

The school and casa tribunal were built during the time of Fr. Manuel Plaza in 1855.  Five bridges were built in separate periods.  Leguana bridge made by Fr. Lucas Martinez in 1892; Merced bridge by Fr. Manuel Plaza in 1856; Morella bridge by Fr. Manuel Plaza in 1856 and reconstructed by Fr. Fernando Rubio in 1871; the fourth one was Aorislag by Fr. Manuel Plaza in 1856; and fifth bridge, Punta Cruz was built by Fr. Antonio Cortes in 1841.  (Romanillos: 2005, p.9)

The construction of the wharf began after the church was completed in 1816. It was finished in 1864.  In the wharf, a stone building was erected in 1881 which was used to monitor the pirates and served as an office for collection of fees from sailboats that docked in the port. (Putong: 1965, p.122)  The building was also used as waiting area for the passengers.

The establishment of the major edifices of the town by the Recollect priests was an indication of the supreme power and authority of the Church over the temporal authority in the Spanish period. #


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Blair, Elma and Robertson, James. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898. Volume XIII., 1604-1605.  Internet Source: E-book by Project Gutenberg

Chirino, Pedro (1604). Relacion de las Islas Filipinas. Internet source: E-book by Project Gutenberg

Echavia, Oriel (2006). History Bits of “Holy Cross Parish, Maribojoc.  A paper read on the occasion on the “1st Shrinehood Anniversary, May 5, 2006.

Illustre, Jennie (1973). Philippine History-Story Worth Retelling. A book review of Christianization of the Philippines by: Fr. Miguel A. Bernard, SJ.

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Putong, Cecilio M. (1965). Bohol and Its People. Pp. 121-122.

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* The author is a faculty member of the Social Sciences Division of UP (University of the Philippines) Cebu College teaching Philippine and Asian History, Philippine Institutions (Rizal), Political Science subjects: Southeast Asian Politics and Philippine Foreign Policy and Political Geography.  Currently, she is pursuing her Masters in Political Science at the University of San Carlos, Cebu City.