By Abdon M. Balde Jr.
THE START OF MY OVER 4 YEARS OF RESEARCH FOR THE BIKOL EPIC FRAGMENT, “IBALONG” started in Magallanes, Sorsogon in 2004.
Just like the expeditionary troop of Fray Alonzo Jimenez and Don Luis Enriquez de Guzman, I followed the stream of the Ginangra River from the mouth of the ancient port of Bagatao in the town of Magallanes until we arrive at the smallest stream, behind the huge tree (in the picture).
Then we walked to the site where Fray Jimenez celebrated the first mass in the island of Luzon, in this place called Gibalong–now part of Sitio Siuton, Magallanes.
This small expeditionary force on a small boat (not a galleon, as celebrated now in Sorsogon) happened in the last quarter of 1569–almost 2 years before the forces of Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo first arrived in Manila in May 1571!!!
The narrative of the epic fragment referred to the whole of Bikol as Ibalong. It would be recalled that Roy Lopez de Villalobos in 1543 likewise referred to the large island of Luzon as Tierra de Ibalong.
One of the products of my research was my 700 pages novel “Awit ni Kadunung”, a retelling of the epic Ibalong in 3 time zones–published by UST Publishing House in 2008 and which helped me win the Southeast Asia Writers Award in 2009.