The History of Bantayan Island, Past and Present
Early History of Bantayan Island
The first full time residents of Bantayan Island, arrived on the island during the period of time from 1635-1645. The king of Spain used the island as an advanced warning system for the larger islands of Cebu, the Visayas and Luzon.
Muslim marauders called “Moros” frequently made their way up from Mindanao invading the Christian settlements in the Visayas, murdering and robbing the people inhabiting these areas.
Because Bantayan Island is a natural barrier for entrance into the Visayas, small watchtowers were constructed all over Bantayan Island to serve as lookout post for invading Moros.
The name “Bantayan” comes from the Cebuano term that means “A Place to Watch”. The places of lookout were called in Cebuano: “Bantayan sa Hari”, meaning “A place to watch for the king”. The people who lived on the island adopted the term that described the purpose of their being there and shortened the name to “Bantayan Island”.
The town of Bantayan in the Municipality of Bantayan is the closest outpost and best view for any invading Moros who would approach the Island. Tall stone walls were also constructed at the site of Saint Peter and Paul’s church in Bantayan that surround the convent and the church near the area where the public plaza is currently located.
No Cities, Just Three Municipalities
Being a very small island, Bantayan is just about 7 by 10 miles and has no formal incorporated cities. The three main areas of inhabitation are the Municipalities of Santa Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos.
Bantayan is known as a second class municipality with 25 barangays called:
Atop-atop, Baigad, Baod, Binaobao (Poblacion), Balidbid, Kabac, Doong, Hilotongan, Guiwanon, Kabangbang, Kampingganon, Kangkaibe, Lipayran, Luyongbaybay, Mojon, Obo-ob, Patao, Putian, Sillon, Sungko, Suba (Poblacion), Sulangan, Tamiao, Bantigue (Poblacion) and Ticad (Poblacion)
Madridejos is a fourth class municipality with14 barangays called:
Bunakan, Kangwayan, Kaongkod, Kodia, Maalat, Malbago, Mancilang, Pili, Poblacion, San Agustin, Tabagak, Talangnan, Tarong and Tugas.
Santa Fe is a fifth class municipality with 10 barangays called:
Hagdan, Hilantagaan, Kinatarkan, Langub, Maricaban, Okoy, Poblacion, Balidbid, Pooc and Talisay.
Current History and Purpose of Bantayan Island:
Because Bantayan Island has played such an important role in the establishment of the early Christian church and the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the 500 year old Church at Bantayan called Saint Peter and Paul’s Church has become a gathering place for the season of Jesus’ resurrection during Easter.
During what is described as “Holy Week” tens of thousands gather from all over the Philippines to the tiny Island of Bantayan to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and to enjoy the festivities of that week.
During this period of time the hotels and resorts on Bantayan Island are full even though the nightly rates for all of the rooms in these resorts double or triple in price. It is advisable to book your stay on Bantayan Island for the Holy Week Celebration at least nine months to a year in advance.
Bantayan Island as a Vacation Destination.
Every year Bantayan Island becomes more and more popular as a greater numbers of people from around the world discover it’s charm and peaceful seclusion. Just a single walk along a sunset beach or a leisurely stroll on a scooter beneath arching coconut palm tree lined roads, is all it takes to firmly cement Bantayan Island into your list of favorite destinations.
The present state of the resorts and hotels on Bantayan Island is that of simplicity, modesty and reasonable prices. There are no five star resorts on the island and personally I hope that none ever arrive. There are enough luxury resort island destinations in other places, void of peace and quiet and the serenity that this island paradise offers. If you are seeking a jumping party atmosphere Bantayan Island is not your place. If on the other hand you have had enough of the traditional tourist traps and instead desire peace and quiet and a simple island paradise experience, you will quickly fall in love with this beautiful place.
It is the simple charm and peace of the island that lends itself to the greatest attraction for most people. There are no malls, movie theatres or fashion districts on Bantayan Island. Some have predicted that Bantayan Island is an early Borocay and that within a decade this quiet and peaceful paradise will be a booming destination just like Borocay. I certainly hope that it does not degrade into such a place.
One of the greatest personalities of Bantayan Island is rarely talked about on any travel web site, it that of the beautiful native people of the island. If you have the courage and interest, a walk through the quiet and simple fishing villages in the municipality of Santa Fe will thrill your sense of adventure.
These amazing people are at the low end of the definition of poor, yet maintain an incredible beauty of spirit and grace that I have not encountered any place else in the world. It was because of the people of Bantayan Island that I made the decision to move here in 2010.
My wife and I have a ministry to the poor of Bantayan Island in which we rebuild the typhoon destroyed and damaged Nipa Hut dwellings of the island people, supply food and clothing and medical needs.
You can learn more about these beautiful people and how you can help us meet their needs by following the following link: The Ministry to the People of Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island as a Fishing and Farming Community
Many people who come to Bantayan Island are not aware that the Island has a very large fishing and farming community.
Bantayan Island is known as the “Egg Basket” of Cebu. Some estimates are that the Island of Bantayan supplies as much as 200,000 pounds of eggs, or over 500,000 eggs per day, to the people of Cebu.
Large truckloads of pigs make their way to market every week by way of the ferry transports from Santa Fe port to Hagnaya port on the big island of Cebu.
Amazingly, Bantayan Island is the largest producer of fresh crab anywhere in the Philippines. One of the major sources of income for the people of the island is from the fishing trade. Large quantities of fish are found off shore from Bantayan Island that come from the rich sea life of the China sea. In recent years the fish have not been as plentiful for the poor fishermen of Bantayan Island. Families have found it increasingly more difficult each year to provide adequate food due to the decrease in their catch.
Caves on Bantayan Island
The best know and most visited cave on Bantayan Island is Ogtong Cave. Located at the Santa Fe Beach Club, Ogtong Cave Resort, this amazing underground feature contains a sparkling pool of crystal clear fresh and salt water. Tiny fish that have adapted to the salt and fresh water combination swim alongside you as you swim beneath the surface of the water in the cave.
This cave is located at Barrio Atop-Atop at the central part of Bantayan Island. A slope in the ground at the opening of the cave directs you to the main portion of the cave. Upon your entrance to Tiyaba Cave you will find a wonderful stream of fresh water that feeds the pool inside the cave itself. The water in the cave is so fresh and pure that the local people use it for their drinking water supply.
A well hidden and secluded cave in the Barrio Silon where legend has it that Captain Tawi of Bantayan Island used the cave to hide some of his merchandise that he shipped from the island.