Romblon is an archipelago province of the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA region. Its main islands include Tablas which is the largest and where there are nine municipalities and followed by Sibuyan with its three towns. Corcuera, Banton, Concepcion and San Jose as well as Romblon which is the provincial capital complete the list of major islands of Romblon. The province lies south of Marinduque and Quezon, east of Mindoro, north of Aklan and Capiz, and west of Masbate. Its capital is also named Romblon. According the May 2010 Philippine census, it has a total population of 283,930 people.
Romblon's early inhabitants were the Negritos from Panay and Mangyan tribes from Mindoro. Ancient wooden coffins discovered in caves of Banton Island in 1936 signify a rich ancient civilization and culture in the province before the arrival of the Spaniards. These artifacts are currently in display at the National Museum in Manila.
Dispatched by Governor Miguel López de Legazpi, Spanish conquistador Martin de Goiti explored the western and northern Visayan Islands including Romblon Islands and Mindoro in late 1569. With a force of 300 Spanish soldiers, cavalrymen and several local natives, they conquered every native village and established many Spanish settlements in the area that were organized into encomiendas.
Legend has it that when Goiti’s expedition landed on the southern coast of Romblon Island, his men wandered along the beaches searching for food and water. One of his men saw a low built hut, and feeling thirsty, he sought the owner of the hut only to find a hen’s nest settled somewhere on top of the post near a window. Upon noticing the house occupant, a young woman, sitting nearby, the man asked if he could get the chicken for free. The young woman, not understanding a single word he was saying, answered in the vernacular “nagalumyom”, which meant that the hen was brooding some eggs. Perplexed, the man left the hut muttering in disgust the word “nagalumyom”. Asked upon his return to the ship where he came from, he mockingly answered “nagalumyom”.
When the Spanish left, they named the island “Nagalumyom” which was corrupted to “Lomlom” and later, officially to “Donblon”. This is the name mentioned and reported by Miguel de Loarca in 1582, until it finally morphed into its present name Romblon to suit the Spaniards pronunciation.
The earliest encomiendas established in what is now Romblon Province were Island of Banton and Marinduque to Don Pedro de Mena established on October 31, 1571; Donblon (Romblon) to Don Gonzalo Riquel established on April 24, 1571; Tablas Island being part of an Encomienda together with the island of Çibuyan (Sibuyan) and settlements along the creek of Maharlu or Mahalud in Panay Island to Don Alvaro de Angulo established on November 2, 1571. These encomiendas were under the jurisdiction of the province of Panay.
The first census was done in 1582 by Spanish navigator Don Miguel Lopez de Loarca, who mentioned Tablas (Flanks) Island or Osigan its original name, after he visited the place. He placed the population of Tablas at 250 souls, mostly living in a small village (Cabolutan) and surviving by gathering wax. Çibuyan (Sibuyan) had 300 pintados, native painted “tattooed” Indians, and plenty of gold. Simara or Cabras (goats in Spanish) had 150 inhabitants who lived by raising goats. Banton had 200 pintado residents who were mostly engaged in trading because the island is not fertile, very rocky and mountainous, though it abounds in coconut, sweet potatoes, yam and wax as for its other products. Romblon had 240 residents engaged in wax gathering. Anbil (Hambil) or the present day Carabao Island had 50 Indios who were boat builders or cagallanes in Spanish.
In 1618, the province of Panay was subdivided into three judicial districts: the Alcaldia-mayor of Arevalo or Ogtong (Oton), the Corregiemento of Negros, and the Corregiemento of Panay and Aclan. Romblon Islands belonged to the later. However, in 1658, Romblon and Banton’s jurisdiction were transferred to the newly created province of Catanduanes, only to be returned to Panay ten years later.
Politico-military commandancia de Romblon
On March 19, 1853, Romblon became a politico-military commandancia and sub-province of Capiz, with only four municipalities or pueblos: Romblon (the capital town established in 1631), Banton (established in 1622), Sibuyan (present-day Cajidiocan, established in 1744), and Looc (established in 1844).
Two years later, in 1855, 17 new pueblos (equivalent to present-day municipalities) were added: Guintiguian (San Agustin), Simara (Corcuera), Odioñgan, Andagao (Calatrava), Parpagoja (San Andres), Tingaray (Ferrol), Catolog (Magsaysay, Santa Fe), Cabalian (Sitio Cabalian, Agmanic, Sta. Fe), Saban (Sitio Sabang, Danao Norte, Sta. Fe), Lauan (Alcantara), Guinbirayan, Cauit (Azagra, San Fernando), Pagalad (San Fernando), Magallanes (Magdiwang), España, Isabel (Cambalo), and Princesa (Cangumba).
The first executive of the politico-military command of Romblon was Don Ramon Vieytes, followed by Don Joaquin de Prat and Don Joaquin Vidal. The most feared military governor of Romblon was Don Jose Fernandez de Terran who reigned from 1880 to 1883. He was most remembered because of his tyranny and cruelty among his people that greatly affected their lives of these early inhabitants.
Beginning in 1893, the title of provincial executive was changed into Governador de Politico Militares. The last executive was Don Carlos de Mendoza y Cerra who was installed briefly from 1897 until 1898, when local Spanish authorities in the province finally surrendered to the revolutionary forces of the Visayas organized in the province under the command of Lt. Adriano Rios, a native Sibuyanon from visita de San Fernando in pueblo Azagra, Romblon.
Civil government was established under American colonial rule on March 16, 1901. Romblon was divided into 11 new municipalities. But on July 15, 1907, the province of Romblon was abolished and incorporated to the province of Capiz as a sub-province due to insufficient income. Concepcion however was separated from the rest of the province and incorporated into the province of Mindoro. In 1917, Romblon was reestablished as a separate province by Philippine Act No. 2724. It was returned under the control of Capiz during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. On January 1, 1947, following the liberation of the Philippines, the regular provincial status of Romblon was restored.