Boracay and its History

Trip Start May 08, 2000
Trip End Oct 08, 2002

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La Isla Bonita Resort Boracay
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Fairways & Bluewater Boracay
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Boracay Island
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Calypso Diving School Boracay
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Flag of Philippines  , Western Visayas,
Monday, July 22, 2002

The Chronicles of Boracay Island: Island History

Buracay is Boracay

It is an island truly beautiful, sometimes sinful, always controversial. This makes it intriguing and causes people to return again and again, if they cannot linger for a lifetime. Its rich History dates back in the early 17th-8th Century.

Boracay is more than just another Island and Resort by the Sea. She was a shy island, with a secretive and secluded past hidden behind the history of time, the soil molded by the hands of a woman and her loyal peers that made the island into a paradise. The island is indeed a creation of the Almighty with a past.

As history books tell stories of times past, few is ever written or told about the island's history prior to its popularity in the seventies. Many would write about it but with always the same tone - its past being shaded or unknown.

Others would tell tales about how the island was discovered - film crews, German writers, backpackers.

Some people considered themselves lucky for having had the time spent with the settlers and old people in Boracay. Accounts of fisherfolks and Ati indeed were mentioned. There is one account that they revealed - about who they often referred to as the "First Family" of Boracay - they were considered as among the first settlers of the island who lived among the Ati.

No wonder there are Villas and Cottages named in her honor.

No wonder there are structures which stood and are named in his honor.

The Location:

The Island belongs to the Western Visayas group and is located in the northwestern tip of Panay, in the west Visayas of Region VI, neighboring the Sibuyan Sea. The island has three major Villages namely; Yapak in the North, Balabag in the middle, and Manoc-Manoc in the south, and numerous small barrios or barangays or sitios, all linked together by a maze of paths, labeled into five commercial stations.

The Origin:

The name Boracay is attributed to different origins. One story dates back to the Spanish era saying the name is derived from "sagay," the word for shell, and "boray," the word for seed.

The other version says that it is derived from the local word "borac" which means white cotton with characteristics close to the color and texture of Boracay's white sugary and powdery sand. Another credits the name to local words "bora," meaning bubbles, and "bocay," meaning white. Yet another version is the one relayed by officials of one town in Panay attributing the name of the island to a certain man whose family is from the Tirols of Panay. As the story goes one tuba gatherer in the island, while gathering his coconut oil for that day overheard the conversation of a couple talking about the foamy white bubbles emanating from the ocean. We will later on know who the couple the name of the island is attributed to.

The Language:

Akeanon is predominantly spoken in Aklan. Other than Tagalog/Filipino and other local vernaculars, English is widely spoken in the island.

The Livelihood:

The source of living was mainly fishing. Then later farming was introduced by the local settlers so that coconut  and tobacco plantation and vegetation provided for the livelihood of the Boracaynon settlers. They would trade copra with Aklan and in some parts of Luzon for rice and other goods. In the 1960s and 1970s, families from Panay  and neighboring towns became frequent visitors to the island.

The Settlers:

Antropological studies suggests that the Ati were the original settlers in the island but interbred and/or crossbred with other people we now called the "Boracayons".

The couple: 

Lamberto "Lamber" Hontiveros Tirol and Sofia "Sofing" Ner Gonzales

They settled in the island in the 1900s when Lamberto H. Tirol, who was believed to be have Aeta ancestors,after serving as a Mayor of Makato, became a Judge or "Juez" in Buruanga, an old name for Malay. Sofia had a small lot in the area where they constructed a small shelter. Later on, a number of islanders sold their lots to the couple, until a relatively large area was occupied by the family. As the story goes the couple would go round and about the sea shore while conversing. It is but a good timing for that tuba gatherer to have at one time overheard the couple talked about the island's froathy bubbles, attributing to the couple, particularly Lamberto, as the author of the name "boracay". It was reported by the locals that Lamberto and Sofing named the island "Boracay".

Lamberto, or Lamber as he was fondly called by the islanders, was a good provider, he worked hard to earned his own keep and to give his family a good life. Sofia, or Sofing, as she was fondly called by her fellow Boracaynons, was a green thumb, a good administratrix and a good employer. While Lamberto work, she and her workers would go around and about the island planting trees and vegetables. She was able to plant thousands of coconut trees along with corn and tobacco. Her main product was that of tobacco and copra. It was written that she was able to produce first class tobacco which were traded from all over Luzon with the help of her friend Orang Sacapano who was believed to be her childhood friend and distant relative. In 1987, she was esteemed as “The Woman Behind The Greening of Boracay” in The Sunday Times Magazine. The same was reprinted in 1998 by a local paper in Panay.

It was an early demise for Lamberto. He died sometime in 1924, a year of mourning not just for the family he left behind but also for the Boracaynons. He was, to them, a father, a trustworthy “Amoy” and a friend. He left behind a young widow to tend their orphaned children. Despite her broken heart, she maintained that composure of a strong willed woman, continued to take care of the island, made it into something the world would call "Island Paradise."

Sofia was able to place a relatively large portion of the island under the Torrens System. Even then she continued to cultivate the island until her twilight days.

Modern Day Boracay:

1970 marks the beginning of the Modern Age of Boracay Island. Even though electricity arrived in the late 1980, visitors came pouring in, bringing along their own amenities, especially water to drink. In the early fifties, or right after the War (WWII), business, great and small, began to blossom in the island. On some parts, dirt or rocky or smooth roads gave way to paved ones.

Sofia would have wanted the island to stay as it was, with millions of trees resting peacefully and happily on white sugar-coated sands of the island, with few joyous people relaxing by watching the calm and serene blue ocean touching the blue heavens... But times changed and the rest had to change with time. Some of its secrets are now in the open. Its privacy may have been lost with the deluge of visitors it attracts every year, but it doesn't seem to matter. People from all over the world continue to flock to its brilliant powdery white sands and shores and aquamarine waters.

Rapid growth of the Island began in 1970, and the population has grown. Today, this beautiful sea island continues to offer Visitor and Resident alike a beautiful oasis featuring miles of blue beaches, World Class golf, recreation and a renewal of spirit as one finds himself surrounded, and enriched by, the peaceful beauty of nature.

~~~ Gratitude and Appreciation to the Heirs of Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales for sharing their ancient journals, letters, case files, official documents and old accounts from government offices and islanders  of the island. Special Thanks to the government agencies for providing data to verify this story before its publication. Most of all,  gratitude is greatly owed to the heirs of Boracaynons (Aguirre, Sacapano, Victorio, Supretan, Archal, Ambay, Vargas, Peroginog, and Sualog, Cahilig, Yap, Miraflores, Macavinta, among others) who corroborated the stories written above and used as a source for this brief history. Acknowledgement is likewise due to Teresita Tirol Rojo Corpus, Relatives of Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol of Antique, Makato, Yapak, Panay and Buruanga, and the rest of the Herederos de Lamberto H. Tirol y Sofia Ner Gonzales,  Thank you also to Terry Todd.

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