"International Tourist and Visitor’s Guide" to Biliran Island Province

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3. Biliran history

Biliran is one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines and it is located in the Eastern Visayas region. An island province, Biliran lies just a few kilometers north of Leyte Island. Its capital is Naval and for a time, Biliran was part of Leyte Province until it became independent in 1992.

3.1 Origins

During the early Spanish era, what is now called Biliran Island was known as Isla de Panamao.[1] The term refers to an ethnic fishing net.[2] The present name, believed to be adopted sometime between the late 17th century and the early 18th century, was, according to many publications, derived from a native grass calledborobiliran which once grew abundantly on the island's plains. A contending theory states that the name came from the word bilir, which was defined in an old Visayan dictionary to be the “corner or edge of a boat, vase or anything protruding, like veins, or the furrow made by the plow.” The dictionary also gives biliran as an alternate spelling for bilir. This theory is supported by the fact that Biliran was site of the first large-scale shipyard, built in the 17th century. Galleons were built to support the Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco in Mexico.

The first town, named Biliran, was founded in 1712. During this time, the island was a part Cebu Province. Biliran, together with the islands of Samar and Leyte were constituted into a separate province in 1735. Later when Samar and Leyte were split into two provinces in 1768, Biliran became part of Leyte Province.

3.2. Moro raids

In May 1735, representative inhabitants of Leyte petitioned Governor General Fernando Valdes y Tamon to allow them to resettle Biliran Island. They claimed it had been abandoned for the past 50 years and was presently inhabited by bagamundos (vagabonds) due to the frequent Moro raids.

On 26 May 1754, the Moros destroyed the pueblos of Biliran in Leyte and Catbalogan in Samar. Panamao was reportedly razed to the ground and only the gobernadorcillo of Biliran pueblo escaped capture by the raiders. The settlements of Biliran, Caybiran, Mapuyo and Maripipi were also destroyed by the Moros.

The Moros staged their attack by marching inland along a river in the province named Anas for a distance of 1.5-2 leguas (leagues). Having covered part of the interior around a mountain, they managed to capture the inhabitants, with the exception of the gobernadorcillo who had escaped. The houses and property of the natives were burned or destroyed. The church building suffered the same fate and its valuables were taken away by the raiders.[3]

3.3. Post Moro invasion

When the Moro raiders has been neutralized in the early 19th century, the local inhabitants went into the business of organizing new pueblos (also known as town) in the present geography of Biliran Province.

The inhabitants of Biliran Island petitioned for pueblo and parish status as early as 1712. The first parish priest was assigned in 1765 but its parish status was apparently withdrawn because of Padre Gaspar’s apostasy. The parish was re-established on February 22, 1782.

In 1828, Caibiran on the east became an independent pueblo and parish, the second to be created in Biliran Island.

Naval became the third town, and it was carved out of the territory of Biliran town. It initially became a separate parish in 1860. The Spanish colonial government officially recognized its pueblo status on 23 September 1869, the petition for which was apparently submitted around 1861.

Almeria became a separate town in 1886 and was named after a town in Spain of the same name.

Maripipi used to be a barrio of Naval. It was officially inaugurated as a town in 1867, two years ahead of its mother town, then folded up and was reduced into a barrio of Almeria, and then became a town again in 1899. Maripipi and the new towns of San Clemente (later Kawayan), Culaba and Esperanza (later Cabucgayan) were created around 1899 by the revolutionary government under Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo.[3]

3.4. World War II

Guerrilla forces

During the World War II, Biliran had its own guerrilla forces under the Leyte command of Colonel Ruperto Kangleon. The guerrilla operation where of invaluable assistance to the successful landing of the American liberation forces at PaloLeyte, on October 20, 1944 just before the Battle of Leyte Gulf.[4]

Landed to the Filipino soldiers liberated in Biliran

In 1945 liberated by the Philippine Commonwealth forces landed in Biliran with the local guerrilla forces by the attack of the Japanese troops from the island during the Battle of Biliran during World War II.


On April 8, 1959 Republic Act No. 2141 was signed into law effectively making Biliran a sub-province of Leyte. The island was only made an independent province on May 11, 1992 by virtue of Republic Act No. 7160, making it one of the newest provinces in the country.

3.5. People & Culture


Based on the May 2000 census, Biliran has a total population of 140,274, which makes it the fifth least populous province in the country, and the smallest in the region. There are 27,907 households in the province with an average size of 5.02 persons, slightly higher than the national average of 4.99.


The inhabitants of Biliran primarily speak Cebuano and Waray. Cebuano, spoken by 57.79% of the population is found mainly on the western area of the island, nearest Cebu, while Waray-Waray spoken by 40.80% can be found on the eastern portion. Majority of the residents also speak and understand Tagalog and English.

3.6. Geography

Biliran has a total land area of 555.4 square kilometers, making it the fourth smallest province in the Philippines. The province is composed of two major islands; Biliran Island and Maripipi Island. Other islands include Higatangan Island and Dalutan Island (uninhabited).

Biliran Island lies off the northern coast of Leyte across Biliran Strait. To the southeast is Carigara Bay, to the northeast is Samar Sea, and further on, the island of Samar. To the west is the Visayan Sea andMasbate lies 30 km to the northwest.

The main island features mountainous interiors with very narrow coastal areas. Mountain ranges occupy the major portion of the island municipality of Maripipi. Only the municipalities of Naval and Caibiran have wide plains extending about 7 km from the coast suitable for agriculture. Mount Suiro, which has an elevation of 1,300 meters is the highest point on the island.

Biliran has a combination of warm and cool climatic zones, thus the prevailing climate is ideal for the cultivation of a wide range of agricultural crops. There is no distinct dry season but the heavy wet season generally occurs in December.[5]

Biliran volcano's single historic eruption was from a flank vent in 1939. There are five solfatara fields on the island. The solfatara on the west side of Mt. Guinon contained more than 400 tones of sulfur in 1880.[6]

3.7 Political

Biliran is subdivided into 8 municipalities. It has an overall 132 barangays. All the municipalities except Maripipi are located on Biliran Island while Maripipi is an island municipality located to the northwest. The largest among the towns is Naval which is the capital of the province while the smallest is Maripipi.


3.8 Economy

The economy of Biliran is largely into fishing. Most of its towns, especially Naval and Biliran, have excellent seaports. There are 95 hectares of brackish water fishponds which produce prawnsshrimps andmilkfish. Another 30 hectares of seawater are suitable for seaweed farming and 10 more hectares for fishcage culture.

Being mountainous, Biliran can support various agricultural crops. The warm lowlands are conducive to palay production and other tropical crops. The cool highlands are favorable to high-value crops such as cutflowers and varieties of vegetable traditionally grown in Baguio City or Tagaytay City.

The inhabitants also engage in hunting, lumber, and manufacturing. The principal raw material produced is copra and coconut oil. Processed goods include white clay ceramics, dried fish, raw gulaman, andcitronella oil.

The untapped natural resources of the island include geothermal power and the abundant sulfur and gypsum deposits.

Major industries includes fashion bags, Romblon bags, shellcrafts, placemats, hotpads, baskets, coasters and trays

3.10 Volcanos

Biliran is a volcanic island in the central Philippines. It is one of the active volcanos in the Philippines.

  • Classification: Active
  • Current Summit Activities: Solfataric
  • Province: Biliran Region VIII
  • Nearby Cities/Towns:
  1. Kawayan, Biliran
  2. Almeria, Biliran
  3. Culaba, Biliran
  4. Maripipi, Biliran
  5. Naval, Biliran
  6. Caibiran, Biliran
  7. Biliran, Biliran
  8. Cabucgayan, Biliran
  • Adjacent Volcanic Edifice:
  1. Panamao (107 m asl)
  2. Gumansan (1064 m asl)
  3. Lauan (1187 m asl)
  4. Suiro (1301 m asl)

  • Rock Type: Hornblende andesite containing greenish and black hornblende
  • Tectonic Setting: Biliran Volcano is part of the curvilinear belt of Quaternary volcanoes in eastern Philippines, parallel to Phil. Trench to the east


  • Number of Historical Eruptions: 1

  • Latest Eruption/Activity: September 26, 1939

  • Site: crater

  • Eruption Character: Debris avalanche

  • Affected Areas/Remarks: Ashfall at Caibiran and adjoining areas (6.35 cm thick deposits

  • Monitoring activity: Short-term monitoring in 1954

3.11 Geothermal

The much awaited development of the geothermal power reserve in the province of Biliran will finally be realized as its surface exploration will finally start next month.

The Managing Director in Asia Pacific of Reykjavik Energy Invest informed that this is the first geothermal development project undertaken by Reykjavik Energy Invest (REI), a global leader in the development of renewable energy with specific focus on geothermal energy, here in the Philippines

This is an ambitious project that they have to jumpstart in the country since their firm is committed to the Department of Energy thru Secretary Angelo T. Reyes and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to provide part of the 1, 200 MW needed by the country by 2013 during the signing of the contract agreement between their firm and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines on July 10, 2008, Sigurjonsson added.

The Envent Managing Director added that if the surface exploration that cost $1M can start by next month, it is expected that it will be finished by May of next year.

He added that it will cost from $16M to $19M for the drilling of the two geothermal wells found in Sitio Pulangyuta in Barangay Cabibihan and Barangay Villavicenta in Caibiran and the other one found in Barangay Libtong in Naval.

According to Sigurjonsson, an investment of $125M is expected to be financed by their firm for a 50 MW source of geothermal energy that will be taken from the project. It is expected that the geothermal project in Biliran province can produce up to 100 MW.[7]

3.11. Credits (references to information sources)

     Copied from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biliran who cites following sources:

  1. ^ BiliranIsland.com Staff. "About Biliran". biliranisland.com. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  2. ^ Rolando O. Borrinaga. "Lost meanings in Biliran". geocities.com. Archived from the original on 2009-08-06. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  3. a b A Survey of Historical Activities in Biliran Province
  4. ^ http://www.philcentral.com/67.html
  5. ^ Local Government Unit: Province of Biliran
  6. ^ Biliran, Philippines Global Volcanism ProgramSmithsonian Institution.
  7. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) Biliran Page

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