100 Istoryang Albayano, Segment 2

By Abdon M. Balde Jr.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF ALBAY. Long before the Spaniards arrived in 1569, Albay had a thriving civilization and a rich culture. The land was fertile, lush vegetation covered the plains and the mountains. The main products were rice, copra and abaka. There were vegetable farms in the plains and on the slopes of the mountains. Fish and marine products were the livelihood of the residents in the coasts of Albay and Lagonoy Gulfs.  The earth yield minerals, particularly gold. 

In July 1569, Luis Enriquez de Guzman, a member of the Spanish expedition led by Legazpi, sailed on small boats from the Visayas and landed in the southeastern side of the region, in a town called Gibalong, now part of Siuton, Magallanes, Sorsogon. From there they travelled by land until they reached the town of Camalig, now almost in the heart of Albay and at the foot of Mayon Volcano.

Catholicism was first introduced to the Bikolanos by the Augustinian friars in 1569. The coming of the Franciscans in 1578 started a systematic and sustained process of Catholic conversion. Compared to Manila and other provinces, the benevolent Franciscans created rapport and good relations with the citizens of Albay. No abuses of friars were noted in Albay, except in late 1896 when the Philippine Revolution started. Fifteen Bikolanos, some of them Albayanos, were suspected of joining or were sympathetic to the Katipunan of Bonifacio, and they were shot in Luneta on January 4, 1897, just four days after Rizal was shot. Other suspects were exiled in Fernando Po in Africa.

In 1572, Juan de Salcedo, the grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi traveled on foot to Bicol in search of gold. His troops penetrated the Bicol Peninsula from the north, attacked the gold mines in Paracale and Mambulao and made it as far south as Bato Lake. They went up to the town of Libon and established there the very first settlement called Santiago de Libon. In 1574 the Spanish adventurers in Bikol returned to Manila with over 4,000 ounces of gold. They believed they have found the land of “El Dorado.”

In  April 3, 1574 the coastal fishing village called “Baybayon” became an encomienda assigned by Governor General Guido de Lavesares to Juan Guerra. This place would later be called “Baybay”, then “Al Baybay” and later shortened to “Albay.” Today April 3 is celebrated as Albay Day. The development of Albay as a progressive province was largely the work of Jose Maria Peñaranda, the governor of Albay from 1834 to 1843. His monument stands in a plaza bearing his name in front of the Provincial Capitol.

We shall tell his story later.