By Atty. Eufronio Fallarme
Situated east of Oriental Mindoro, southwest of Marinduque and north of Romblon is an Island commonly called SIBALE, one of the Island municipalities of Romblon. Originally, it was under the province of Mindoro. Romblon and its neighboring islands were then under the province of Capiz, now Roxas Province. When Romblon was created as a regular province, Sibale was annexed to the new province to comply with population requirements in creating a province.
On the map, the island looks like an irregularly shaped starfish. The topography is more of a rolling hills covered with coconut trees. Its highest mountain is called BANDIRAHAN. From its peak, one could see the panoramic view of the surrounding island.
During the Spanish era, it was used as the observation outpost for marauding moro pirates. When a Moro vinta is cited, a flag is hoisted to warn the people of the incoming pirates giving the women and children time to hide while the men prepares to fight the intruders. Hence the name BANDIRAHAN. Likewise, during the Second World War, it was used by the guerilla as an observation post to monitor the movements of the Japanese war ships.
It has three unique and distinctive names, namely:MAESTRE DE CAMPO, CONCEPCION AND SIBALE.
According to legends, they were acquired as follows;
MAESTRE DE CAMPO
This is the official name of the island. During the Spanish era, a galleon entered the bay to seek shelter from the turbulent weather. One of the officers asked a native of the name of the place. The native replied: “it is KAMPO”, meaning, a place where many people live together. Looking at the surrounding areas, the officer asked the name of the corn plants that grew abundantly. The native again replied, “The are called MAIZE TREE”, the main staple crop of the inhabitants. Since there are many settlements all named KAMPO, the Spaniard told the native that the name of the place should be MAESTRE DE CAMPO (camp of corn). The native then spread the news of the new name given by the Spaniard.
This name was adopted in honor of the patron saint, the IMMACULATE CONCEPCION whose feast day is celebrated on December 8 of every year. The town is the set of the municipal government.
This is the name commonly used by the people. There are two versions on how this name is acquired:One was, when another Spanish galleon sought shelter inside the bay, a native noticed the interest that one of its crewmembers had shown while scanning the beauty of the town and the bay. He asked the Spaniard in his native language. “BALE ANO?” (It’s beautiful isn’t it?). The Spaniard approvingly answered; “SI, BALE!” (Yes, it’s beautiful!). Imitating the sound of the answer, the native spread the news that the name of the town is SIBALE.
Another version is that, when the English vessel sought shelter inside the bay, an officer was heard to make a comment about the beauty of the town and the bay. That is a “VALLEY NEAR THE SEA” and called it a “SEA VALLEY”. From the sound of the name given, the native who over heard the comment again spread the news that the name of the town is really SIBALE.
The barrios and other places around the island has a unique names of their own:
Whenever the people from this place goes to town on rainy and wet days, they would just slide down NA OZOZ) at the edge of the slope above the town to avoid rolling or tumbling down. The people then named this place, BIDOOZ. This place is now called San Vicente.
This place use to have a thick outgrowth of rain forest that served as a sanctuary and breeding place of certain specie of birds called SPARROW. The natives call that specie of bird SAMPIRO and named the place SAMPIRO.
This place has a long sandy beach in which turtles (locally called PAWIKAN) use to lay their eggs to hatch. The natives hunt the turtles and gather the eggs for food. Every time they go to town they would bring turtle meats and eggs as their provision while in town and as gifts to friends and relatives. (Raya is Pawikan) hence, the name RAYAJICAN in Visayan or DALAJICAN in Tagalog.
People here are known to be expert in making farm implements locally called SUDSUD. It is a sharp pointed triangular iron used for plowing and dehusking coconuts in making copra. They produce more than the demands and hence, the name MASUDSUD.
This place is noted for its mangrove, which is locally, called BAKHAW. The natives use to cut, gather and sell the trees to bakeries for use as fuel for making bread and also for charcoal used in ironing clothes. The barks soaked in water are used to dye fishnets to make it durable and less visible to the fish. The dried barks are pulverized and used to ferment tuba to vinegar.
This name was derived from the word “Phong”, a sound of a cannon fire. At one time a passing Spanish war vessel shelled the place. Asked what the native heard, their reply was “OSANG PHONG”. The natives coined the word SAMPONG and adopted it as the name of the barrio.
By coincidence, the same place was shelled by a passing Japanese war vessel during the Second World War. And during the liberation, a group of five Japanese strugglers in a small sailboat attempted to land on the said place. The angry natives riding on an outrigger tried to intercept the strugglers and hurled stones at them. The strugglers fired one shot from small firearm and the natives dived into the sea and scampered for safety. The strugglers did not attempt to land and changed its course for another destination.
The fertility of the land in this place made it suitable to grow vegetables and among them is the squash locally called KALABASA.
During harvest season, people from other places come to this place to gather this kind of fruit for consumption. Hence, the name CALABASAHAN; a place to gather squash fruits.
This name was derived from the big trees called TALISAY that grows abundantly on its long white sandy beach. Its crystal clear seawater in this area makes it an ideal place for scuba diving. Its coral reef abounds with different species of fish making it an exciting place for sports fishing.
This name is derived from the word drift log locally called BATANG. During a turbulent weather, a passing cargo ship jettisoned some of its log cargoes to lighten its load and prevent it from sinking. These logs drifted to the shore of this place and was then called AGBATANG. This place is now called San Pedro.
There is an outpost in this place which requires all sailboats entering the bay to pay a certain fee called TONG before they GO. Hence the name TONGGO.
In this place, the sailboats are inspected to see if they have paid the required tong before they raise their sail to proceed. (BA-O-MAGYADAG)
This is a concave part located at the left side of the entrance of the bay. There are two long sandy beaches here. Sailboats overtaken by bad weather would seek shelter and bring their boat above the shore. (NAG ARRIBADA)
This is a small mountain located at the right side of the entrance of the bay. Originally, this was square shaped that looks like a battery of a car. The people called this BATARIYA. Due to the action of the natural elements, erosion took place and now looks like a cone. On top of one of a rock is mounted the statue of the Immaculate Concepcion which is visible when entering the bay.
This place is a few meters north of the town with thick forests whose foliage offers a good hiding place. Anyone who was wanted by the Spanish authority would go and hide in this place. Hence, the name TINAGO.
This word means interior. A person hiding in Tinago who feels insecure would go to this place where the forest is thicker and ideal place to hide. A Spaniard who chosen to stay constructed a palatial house in this place. Nearby is a brook with cooled running water where the Spaniard uses to take a bath. The front wall chiseled and a life size mirror was placed so the owner could see himself while taking a bath.
SIBALE is strategically located in the middle of the Philippine archipelago. It is along the passage route for vessel going to and coming from the Visayas and Mindanao. Vessels which encounters turbulent weather often seeks shelter inside the bay.
It’ss a good destination for tourists. Starting from Manila one could take a passenger truck or a car to Batangas. From Batangas pier, take a ferryboat to Calapan and from Calapan take a passenger truck to Pinamalayan. In Pinamalayan you could take a ride on outboard motorboats, which takes around two hours to reach Sibale.
It has a number of beautiful scenic places that could attract tourist from all over the world. It has a beautiful bay with a pier and a seawall that could accommodate both interisland and small vessels. Its bay offers a safe shelter for passing vessels during stormy weather.
There are a many white sandy beaches with crystal clear water and unspoiled coral reefs good of scuba diving and sports fishing. Inside the bay is a good place for water skiing.
The streets around the town are cemented and well lighted with electric lights. Roads going to the barrios are also cemented and one could go around the island on a motorbike. It has a water system that sufficiently supplies the immediate needs of the people. There are two high schools, National Barangay High School and Sibale Academy whose graduates are now successful in their chosen line of career.
But above all are the accommodating, helpful, respectful, and hospitable people. Its population is approximately 9,000. Peace and order is excellent. And there are no major crimes or drug problems.
People from other places who have came to Sibale and have seen the beauty and serenity of the place have decided to stay and settled there.
A young man stayed for a while, composed a song and dedicated it to a young lady whom he fall in love, the song entitled Sibale.
S I B A L E
Lovely isles of the northern seas;
Please listen to my true and sincere plea;
Oh, Goddess of the sea.
Ladies play with your melody;
You have placed me in ecstasy,
With a love, I pledge thee.
When you’re away;
I’m so lonely and weary;
But when you’re near;
Everything is so gay.
Oh! B E T T Y;
Beautiful girl of Sibale;
You’ll be always in my memory;
Oh, siren of the sea.