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Region 6: Western Visayas ••• Aklan

Aklan

Located between latitudes 11° 09' 30" N and 12° 01' 00" N, and longitude 121° 50' 00" E and 122° 34' 45" E, Aklan like Capiz shares the northern coast of the roughly triangular island Panay.  More than a third of the land is mountainous, with Aklan's western flank sharing the high cordillera that divides the province from Antique.  A break in the cordillera at Nabas allows passage to Pandan, Antique.  The south is bounded by the central cordillera of Panay, common to the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo.  The lowlands are limited to a narrow strip that starts from the coast and extends to the foothills, the widest are the floodplains of the Ibajay (30 kms) and Aklan Rivers (60 kms), two of five major rivers in the province.  The other rivers are the Tangalan, Jalo and Talon.  The rivers empty into Sibuyan Sea.

Aklan's beginning as a settled area is wreathed in legend and spurious and undocumented historical claims.  We come upon hard documentary evidence with the coming of the Spaniards.  In 1566, the Augustinian Fray Martin de Rada had begun evangelizing Panay Island, where he preached the Gospel at Pan-ay, Capiz and in Dumangas to the South.  Legazpi transferred the Spanish colony from Cebu to Pan-ay in 1569 because there was a scarcity of food in Cebu.  But by 1571, the Spaniards had moved their base to Manila.  The Augustinians, however, continued their missionary work and in 1581 evangelized Kalibo and in 1596, Ibajay.  Both were strategic settlements because they were near the mouth of Aklan's great rivers, a convenient waterway for penetrating the island's interior.

Aklan participated in the Revolution against Spain when Gen. Francisco Castillo, who had donated his fortune to found a national press for the Katipunan and Candido Iban arrived in Aklan to found a chapter of the Katipunan.  Iban was a native of Malinao, Banga and had befriended the brother of Andres Bonifacio, Procopio.  Inducted into the Katipunan he returned to Aklan to organize in the Visayas. Barrio Liloan became the base of the Katipunan.  In 1897, eighty-two Katipuneros rose in arms though unsuccessfully.  Their revolutionary efforts were repaid with the round up of leaders and the execution of 19 of them in 1897, including Iban.  Their heroic deed is commemorated in the In Memoriam monument at D. Maagma St., Kalibo.  Nineteen steps commemorating the 19 martyrs of Aklan led to the statue of Gen. Castillo.  Another monument to the revolution is at Malinao.

During the Second World War, Aklan had a well-established resistance movement against Japanese occupation.

For many generations, Aklan was under the jurisdiction of Capiz with which it formed one political territory.  Although the Aklanon felt that they were culturally different from the Capiznon, having their own language, attempts to create a separate province, took more than half a century.  The 1901 Taft commission was presented by petition by a delegation headed by Natalio B. Acevedo; the Urquiola-Alba Bill of 1920, Laserna Suñer Bill of 1925 and 1930, the Tumbokon bill of 1934 were presented to the legislature all to no avail but finally on 25 April 1956 a law was passed creating Aklan the 50th province of the Philippines.

Ecclesiastically, however, Kalibo (Aklan) became an independent diocese on 17 January 1976.  Through most of the Spanish era it was under Cebu, until the Jaro (Iloilo) diocese created in 1865, and when the Capiz diocese was erected 27 January 1951 it fell under the jurisdiction of Capiz.  Aklan has hardly any historic church complexes remaining, in contrast to the neighboring provinces.  Perhaps, being under Capiz for a long time, the Augustinians' building enterprise focused on this center rather than what was considered periphery.

Aklan's best-known tourist attractions are: the Ati-atihan and Boracay Island, both relatively new attractions.  Although the story told of the origins of the Ati-atihan links it to the legend of the peace pact between the Bornean datus and the Ati (Ayta) who occupied Panay Island in the 13th century, the fact is the Ati-atihan (held on the third Sunday of January to coincide with the feast of the Santo Niño) was concocted in the 1950s as a way to boost tourism.  Contrary to Alejandro Roces, who in his book Fiesta, proposes that a probable origin of this celebration were the artillerymen who successfully defended Aklan from slave raiders and who attributed their continued deliverance not just from military savvy but also divine intervention of the Santo Niño, the gran capitan.  Roces observes that after a fierce firefight against slave raiders, the brave artillerymen would have their faces covered with sooth, because to fire a cannon was a dingy affair.  Boracay a long but narrow white sand island came to the attention of surf and sun backpackers in the late 70s, by the 80s enterprising Europeans had set shop on the island and by the end of the century, the island boasted of five star resorts, a gulf course, establishments catering to different clientele: from economy to the luxury tourist budget, and a string of restaurants that serves the cuisine of the world: from native islander, to Japanese and Chinese, to Asian to continental, and what have you.  These two attractions alone bring in most of the tourist dollars and Euro to Aklan.

Aklan's historic areas and heritage sites are clustered in the flood plains of the Aklan and Ibajay River.  The plains are the most extensive flat area in Aklan, and also the most fertile, hence, appropriate for agriculture and human habitation.  The towns of Kalibo, Numancia, Banga and Malinao, formerly a barrio of Banga, are the oldest settlements in the province.

KALIBO | Banga | Batan | Ibajay | Boracay Island

Kalibo

In 1581, the Augustinians established a mission in Kalibo.  In 1680, the Kalibo was erected a parish under the advocacy of the San Juan Bautista  Then, the town site was at Barrio Laguinbanwa in Numancia, some two kilometers distant from the present site of Kalibo.

Heritage Site:  Here at Laguinbanwa, a church was erected but when town transferred site to its present location, another church was constructed at the new site (1804).  Both church and convento were completed completed in 1826.  But tragedy struck the complex when on 24 May 1885 however, a big fire razed the town including the convento.  The convento was reconstructed the following year (1886).

After the World War II, in 1947, Gabriel M. Reyes, Archbishop of Cebu and later Manila, personally took a hand reconstructing and remodeling the church.  The church  "On 14 June 1990, an  earthquake measuring  7.1 in the Richter Scale hit Panay Island at 3:41 P.M., � The epicenter was located at  11.34�North latitude; 122.10� East longitude,  in the vicinity of Culasi, Antique. The depth was computed to be 15 kilometers," reported Philvocs.  Damage to property included "The Catholic Church of Kalibo that is made of bricks (which) suffered cracks on its walls."  During the incumbency as bishop of Gabriel V. Reyes, a nephew of the former archbishop of Manila restored and improved the church to accommodate the many pilgrims who come to celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño.

The church of Kalibo is of modern construction but retains some of the lines characteristic of the post war church, which in turn alludes to earlier church styles.  The center of attention in this church is the image of the Santo Niño, in whose honor the annual Ati-atihan is celebrated.

Museo It Akean.  The Museum of Akean (Aklan) located at Martelino St., Kalibo, Aklan is housed in the "Eskuylahan it Hari" or School of the King.  This one story structure of mortar is designed along neoclassical lines with its arched openings and the straight lines of what is fundamentally a large box.  The school buildings one of a number dating from the Spanish era, when public education was first introduced in the 19th century.  The museum houses artifacts reflecting Aklan's history and legacy.

Kalibo | BANGA | Batan | Ibajay | Boracay Island

Banga

Banga's ancient site is what is presently the municipality of Malinao (see Malinao).  Erected as a parish in 1745 under the advocacy of San José.  The town site was transferred across the Aklan River at the foot of Maduyog hill in 1792.

Malinao first appears in the historical record during the 18th century, when it was decided to transfer Banga's town site across the Aklan River.  This happened in 1792, however, several prominent families decided to remain in the "old town," with the transfer of Banga was reduced to a barrio, and named Malinao, after a placid tributary of Aklan River, which traversed the western and eastern perimeter of the old town.  Don Juan Nepomuceno led the campaign to constitute lands west of Aklan River as a separate town.  Malinao was founded as a town in 1796 with Casimiro Barrera as first governor. Erected as a parish in 1798 under the advocacy of San José, its first parish priest was Padre Manuel.

Kalibo | Banga | BATAN | Ibajay | Boracay Island

Batan

Batan was erected as a parish in 1601 under the advocacy of Immaculate Conception; its barrio Torralba became a parish in 1897 under the advocacy of San Blas.  The 19th century saw the establishment of a number of parishes, namely:

Numancia: Erected as a parish in 1874 under the advocacy of San José

Lezo: Erected as a parish in 1867 under the advocacy of San Isidro

Nabas: Erected as a parish in 1858 under the advocacy of San Isidro

Makato: Erected as a parish in 1834 under the advocacy of Santo Niño

Tangalan: Erected a parish in 1889 under the advocacy of San Juan de Nepomuceno

Buruanga: Erected as a parish in 1895 under the advocacy of San Antonio de Padua

Kalibo | Banga | Batan | IBAJAY | Boracay Island

Ibajay

This is the second center established by the Augustinians in Aklan.  Established as a mission in 1596 Ibajay took as patron saint of San Pedro.  Ibajay has its own version of the Ati-atihan, claimed to be more original than Kalibo's.

Kalibo | Banga | Batan | Ibajay | BORACAY ISLAND

Boracay Island

This is not quite a heritage destination, perhaps fifty years from now it will be.  But Boracay is a phenomenon since Aklan for many tourists is synonymous to Boracay; in fact, many more know about Boracay than Aklan.  At peak season, some the island's population may swell to 20,000.  A word on the island is added a bonus for the weary heritage traveler.

Although Boracay was known to fishermen and some of its land owned by non-residents, the island came to international attention in 1980s when European backpackers, mostly German, wrote about this idyllic island in the South China Sea.  Soon enterprising Europeans who had married residents of the island or towns nearby built rest houses, and later engaged in a seasonal business to cater to tourists.  The English baker on the island is one of the oldest tourist establishments.  By the end of the 80s, many rest houses had been built and by the end of the century, Boracay could boast of five star accommodations and a golf course.

Boracay's central attraction is White Sand Beach, a gem of nature stretching for about four kilometers on Boracay's southwestern flank, where most of Boracay's 300 or so  hotels and resorts are located.  The northeast is rocky and subject to dangerous currents, especially during the rainy season.  Nearby reefs make the island an ideal jump off point for the enthusiastic scuba divers or snorklers.

Accommodations on the island range from dirt cheap to luxurious.  Food likewise.  Those on economy budget go to the talipapa, or open market, where fresh sea foods can be found and which can be cooked right there or brought to where one is staying.  But the island has many restaurants catering to all tastes. 

Equipment for water sports are also available, as well as lessons for scuba diving and wind surfing.