A Short History of Bohol (Part II)

IJsselstein, Monday, 20 February 2006 18:03:54

Previous Part.

The Last Years of Spanish Rule

After the end of the Dagohoy rebellion, a period of relative peace starts in Bohol. During most of the Spanish era, Bohol was a part of the residencia of Cebu, but on 22 July 1854, it was made, together with the island of Siquijor, into a separate politico-military province. In 1879, when a census was held, Bohol had 34 municipalities and a total population of 253,103 souls. (Less than one fifth of the population today!)

Spanish rule came to an end in April 1899. In that year, after winning the American-Spanish war, the U.S. 'bought' the entire Philippines for twenty million dollars. The Spanish left the island, and Bohol became a "Gobierno de Canton," run by important Boholanos as part of the independent republic proclaimed by Emilio Aquinaldo.

The American Era

After almost one year, on 17 march 1900, American troops landed in Tagbilaran. Lead by Major Henry Hale of the 44th infantry Battalion, they came to take over control from the followers of Aquinaldo. The Boholanos started an organized resistance against the new invaders. On 3 September 1900, under the leadership of Col. Pedro Samson, a bloody struggle started, which lasted for several months. In their attempt to force the Boholanos to submission, the American forces burned to the ground 20 of Bohol's 35 towns, killed hundreds of people, and indiscriminately slaughtered livestock. Finally, on 23 December 1900, the resistance leaders surrendered to the Americans. A peace treaty was signed in the convent of Dimiao, and peace was restored. Unfortunately, a cholera epidemic following the turmoil of the war killed hundreds of Boholanos in the following year.

With the peace restored, the American government started to reorganize and reform much of the country. Roads were constructed and schools established, and the living conditions started to improve somewhat. It was also during this period, on 17 March 1917, that Bohol was created a separate province.

World War II

The American Era, effectively ended with the Second World War. On 17 May 1942, Japanese forces landed in Tagbilaran. Three very difficult years where to follow. Again, the Boholanos stood up to defend their freedom. The resistance movement, which consisted of disbanded soldiers and civilians, organized a guerilla style war against the Japanese oppression. At first, their headquarters, 'Behind the Clouds' was hidden in the deep and inaccessible ravines near Catigbian, and later this was moved to Carmen, while the original encampment remained a prisoners' camp.

The American forces returned on Bohol on April 11, 1945. This time, they were welcomed as liberators, and only to stay for a relative short time, as on the 4th of July, 1946, Bohol became a part of the independent Republic of the Philippines.

After Independence

After independence, a long period of relative peace and slow development started. Freedom loving and independent, Boholanos don't like to be ruled by others, and, unlike on many other islands in the Philippines, there are few large landowners or haciendas on Bohol. Many Boholano families were and still are subsistence farmers, who till their own small plots of land for their own food, and grow coconut trees for copra (dried coconut flesh), to earn money for their other needs. Although Bohol is still mainly an agricultural province, the capital Tagbilaran was elevated to a city on the first of July 1966, and today has a population of about 70.000 people. The entire province is now (according to the 2000 census) home to about 1.3 million people.

Like in many provinces in the Philippines, no longer all people can earn their livelihood in agriculture, and many have sought a better future outside Bohol. Many have found work in the large banana and other plantations on Mindanao, or in the industry or in all types of service jobs in the big cities, especially Cebu and Manila. Boholanos are also well known as sailors. When on board a ship, both within the Philippines, or internationally, you have a big change that some of the crew members originally come from Bohol. Finally, a large number of Boholano's have moved abroad, to live and work in the Middle East, the United States, and Europe.

Only in recent years, the touristic potential of the island has been realized, and work has started to develop resorts and hotels to make Bohol's magnificent natural environment accessible for tourists.

Jeroen Hellingman