Maestro de Campo Island and oftentimes (misspelled as Maestre de Campo in most maps and records) is situated on a strategic position of the Philippine Archipelago. It is the most western and remotest island in the province that even ‘some’ government officials in Romblon today did not know that the island ever-exist nor does it still belongs to Romblon province if in case they knew little about it. It is circular in shape and mountainous with steep shores and it contains one small town on the east shore. During the olden days, the island was officially known as Sibale. The word ‘Sibale’ was derived from Bantoanon word ‘Si-bale’ cognizant place of natural beauty. Perhaps, this was the reason why many early settlers were attracted to settle down in this remote island because of its wonderful scenery and natural beauty plus the fact that the island was excellent for agriculture because the soil was fertile and suitable for upland cultivation. For this reason, early Bantoanons came to farm ‘temporarily’ because native Banton’s soil was very thin for cultivation of root crops and other yams and its terrain was very rocky. Sooner, the island was settled permanently by these migrant Bantoanon farmers together with their families.
Martin de Goiti was one of the most prominent members of Legaspi’s expedition team as troop captain. In 1567, de Goiti was appointed Master of Camp by Legaspi. In May of 1570, on orders of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, himself the senior Master of Camp (Maestro de Campo) or the ‘El Adelantado’ based in Panay
(Capiz) who sent an expedition under his master of Camp designate, Martin de Goiti and another lieutenant, Juan de Salcedo, his grandson, to investigate things at Manila. De Goiti and Salcedo set sail to explore and conquer every native villages, settlements and islands on-the-way in search for Manila with a team of 27 vessels, 280 Spaniards and several hundred Bisayan auxiliaries. In May 10, 1570 they landed and conquered Sibuyan Island and two days later assaulted the island of Banton on May 12, 1570. In his writings, de Goiti mentioned the conquered native villages of Sibuyan and Banton to be Bisayan speaking Indios (Bantoanon and Sibuyanon respectively) and noted them to paint themselves (Tattooed) like the rest of the Bisayan (Visayan) people. These people are of the same stock whom he referred to as the Pintados. Just after a year of their conquest in Banton, the island together with the island of Marinduque were organized into a single Encomienda on October 31, 1571, under Don Pedro de Mena. Thus, the new encomienda included all neighboring islands of Banton including Sibale, Simara, Dos Hermanas, Bantoncillo and other smaller islands in-between as part of it.
The first Spanish explorer Don Miguel Lopez de Loarca who was also a census officer of the Spanish government was the first European ever to set foot on the island of Sibahi (Sibale) in 1582. In his writings he noted native painted indios of around 50 souls or residents in the island who already converted to Christianity and lives by gathering wax and cultivating yam. He renamed the island’s name to Maestro de Campo in honor of Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the Philippine islands first Spanish governor-general and senior Master oCamp. Please note: Maestro not Maestre as found in Encycolpedia of the Philippine Islands by Blair and Robertson. However, many Sibalenhons insist the feminine form of ‘Maestre’ instead of ‘Maestro’ in Maestro de Campo. The island belongs to encomienda de Banton of Panay in the Pintados province. The second European to set-foot in the island was a Spanish missionary and explorer, Father Pedro Cubero Sebastian who in 1667 landed in one of the desserted beaches of the island. In his writings, he reported that the island of Sibale was uninhabited, after he missed-out to find the small settlement located along the landlocked harbor of Concepcion Bay.
In 1716, Capiz was created a separate province out of the old Alcaldia de Arevalo, formerly called Panay in the Pintados province and later named into Ogtong (Oton). The new province included the islands of Romblon group and the valley of Aclan in northwestern Panay island. Visita Sibale, being part of pueblo de Banton, automatically became part of the new province until March 19, 1853 when Romblon islands was organized into Politico Militar Commandancia del Distrito taken from Capiz.
Beginning in 1830, more and more Bantoanons were settling elsewhere, Tablas, Simara, Sibale, Marinduque, Mindoro and even in Luzon’s Bondoc Peninsula, you name it. Thus, the island of Sibale might had been settled by more migrants also around this year. The place in what is now the poblacion area was formerly called Fundacion de Concepcion, or settlement of Concepcion a name given by a Spanish clergy who was then assigned Parish Priest of Banton, Romblon, under which Sibale was religiously attached in honor of the Patron Saint Immaculate Concepcion. A story recounts that the image of this Patron Saint presently enthroned in the Concepcion Church is a personal belonging of Don Salvador Robledo, a Spanish Conquistador. It was originally mounted in the altar of his palatial house and it was later on transferred to the town’s church when Don Salvador Robledo returned to Spain and settled there for the rest of his life In the year 1850, Don Salvador de Rubio founded a settlement in Suyor, a place located 600 meters west of the town site. Remnants of the once upon a time palace of European motif could still be found in the place where it was erected. Just about 300 meters from his house is the spring known as “Tinigiban”. Don Salvador used to go bathing in the particular spring. The name Tinigiban is the contracted form of Visayan term “Tinigiban” which means chiseled. By paying a visit to the place you can still find the Tinigiban which will remind you of the mirror once fit in to afford anybody a life-size view of himself. Thus, in later years, the settlement or Fundacion of Concepcion here in Sibale island was converted into a visita known as visita de Concepcion in honor of its patron saint.
On March 19, 1853, the District of Romblon was organized known as Politico Militar Commandancia del Distrito de Romblon under Commandante de Infanteria Don Ramon Vieytes as its first Commander (petty Governor) taken from Capiz province with four existing towns namely, Romblon which was designated as the new capital town, Banton which included Sibale, Cajidiocan originally known as pueblo de Sibuyan and Looc. The full text of the superior decree in Spanish: ‘El superior decreeto No. 206 del 19 de Marzo de Ano de 1853 mandato creacion Commandante Politico Militar del Distrito de Romblon de la provincial de Capiz”. On February 18, 1854 the decree was confirmed by a superior decree. “La real orden No. 57 del 18 de Febrero del ano de 1854 approvado la creacion de el Distrito Politico Militar de Romblon con denominacion de Commandante Militar de Romblon”.
The following year of 1855 recorded a tremendous leap on the numbers of pueblos in the new district due to creation of new pueblos or parishes. 17 new pueblos were added to the existing four. However, visita de Sibale remained part of pueblo de Banton. The new pueblos that were created in 1855 were: Guintiguian (San Agustin), Simara (Corcuera), Odiongan, Andagao (Calatrava), Parpagoja (San Andres), Tingaray (Ferrol), Catolog (Santa Fe), Cabalian (sitio of Agmanic, Santa Fe, formerly a pueblo), Saban (sitio Sabang, Danao Norte, Santa Fe, formerly a pueblo), Lauan (Alcantara), Guinbirayan (barangay of Santa Fe),Cauit (now named barangay Azagra, San Fernando), Pag-alad (San Fernando), Magallanes (Magdiwang), Espana (barangay of San Fernando), Isabel (barangay Cambalo, Cajidiocan, formerly a pueblo) and Princesa (Cangumba, now a sitio of Azagra in San Fernando).
The Politico Militar Commandancia del Distrito de Romblon was converted into Politico Militar Commandancia dela Provincia de Romblon on January 11, 1868. This happened during the incumbency of Commandante de Infanteria Don Joaquin Corillo installed as Commandante in 1866. As a consequence, Don Corillo being the first official Governor of the new province reorganized the local municipal government. Thus 15 existing pueblos (municipios) or parishes were abolished namely: Guinpuc-an (barangay Carmen in San Agustin), Cagbagacay (Santa Maria), Pag-alad, Rancheria de Infiel (Ranch of Savaged or Wild People found at barangay Dulangan, Magdiwang which refers to the Mangyanes or May-as tribal people, organized into autonomous pueblo in 1861), Espana, Isabel, Princesa (formerly a pueblo, its territory now forms part both of sitio Cangumba in barangay Azagra and barangay Otod), Odiongan, Andagao, Parpagoja, Tingaray, Catolog, Sabang, Lauan and Guinbirayan. The 7 retained pueblos were the following: Romblon, Badajoz (now San Agustin formerly Guintiguian renamed Badajoz on August 28, 1868) Banton, Corcuera, Looc, Cajidiocan, Azagra (San Fernando), and one missionary center, the mision de Magallanes (Magdiwang) and one semi-autonomous visita, administered from pueblo de Banton, visita de Concepcion. Before the end of Spanish rule, four pueblos were restored, namely: Odiongan, Santa Fe, Espana and Despujols (San Andres).
Civil government was established under the Americans on March 16, 1901. Banton was one of the 11 new municipalities and Concepcion was a sole barrio in the island of Maestro de Campo under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Banton. The other municipalities in the province were Badajoz, Cajidiocan, Corcuera, Looc, Magallanes, Odiongan, Romblon the Capitol, Despujols, San Fernando and Santa Fe. The province of Romblon was abolished on July 15,1907 and incorporated into the province of Capiz as a sub-province due to insufficient income. Concepcion however was separated from the rest of the province in July 2, 1907 and incorporated into the province of Mindoro due to its long distance from Capiz town, the capital town of
Capiz province now known as Roxas city. For this reason, it was created into a separate local government unit known as the Municipal District of Concepcion as attested by a Romblon map showing the provincial maritime boundary of Mindoro (now Oriental Mindoro) encroaching the island of Maestro de Campo published in 1914 and issued by the U.S. Army Map Service, Corps of Engineers. Please check Philippine Map Series S501 reprinted in 1954 for reference.
On March 10, 1917, Romblon was restored as a regular province and the former municipal district of Concepcion belonging to Mindoro was recalled back to the province. The following year on March 15, 1919 it was converted into a regular municipality. Since then, there were efforts from Concepcion’s residents to secede from Romblon again, thus on March 16, 1924 known as Act. No. 3131, was again passed authorizing the segregation of the municipality of Concepcion from Romblon and once more for it to be annexed back to the same province of Mindoro. This act however was never implemented and Concepcion remained part of Romblon province. In June 8, 1940, the special municipality of Maghali was established through the passage of Commonwealth Act No. 581 sponsored by a Bantoanon legislature, Congressman Leonardo Festin. Concepcion was abolished and was annexed to the new municipality of Maghali with its seat at Banton town. The former town of Concepcion was represented only by a special councilor at its municipal council in the special municipality of Maghali based in Banton town. On May 26, 1946, the special municipality was abolished through the passage of Republic Act No. 38 authored by Romblon’s representative Congressman Modesto Formelleza and took effect on January 1, 1947 which restored Concepcion’s former status as independent municipality once again. Today, Concepcion is composed of 9 barrios or barangays to-date.
Development of Concepcion’s Barrios / Barangays:
In 1894 and 1896 national statistics, only one barrio existed in the island of Maestro de Campo although there was one sitio enumerated named Tinigban, but its population was not mentioned. This barrio was visita Concepcion of Banton pueblo and reported to have 609 residents in 1896. Under the American sponsored census, still only one barrio was enumerated and incoded as visita Concepcion under the jurisdiction of Banton municipality with a population of 992 in 1903.
Just a few days before Romblon province was demoted into a sub-province of Capiz in July 15, 1907, the island-barrio of Concepcion was converted into a Municipal District in July 2, 1907 known as the Municipal District of Concepcion and its jurisdiction was transferred to the province of Mindoro. As a consequence, the single barrio of Concepcion was split into 8 barrios: Poblacion, Bacjawan, Calabasahan, Dalajican, Masudsud, Sampong, Agbatang and Majaba. In 1918, just a year after the island was returned back to Romblon from Mindoro, the 8 barrios of the Municipal District of Concepcion were officially enumerated in national census of 1918. In the next census of 1939, Agbatang was abolished before census was conducted and the former barrio was annexed to barrio Poblacion, thus in 1939 data, the total number of Concepcion barrios was only 7 in numbers. In 1973, barangay Agbatang was restored as the 8th barrio of this municipality, taken from barrio Poblacion. In 1978 it was renamed barangay San Pedro. Also previously, barangay Majaba was renamed barrio San Vicente in 1960 while the 9th barangay to be created was Masadya taken from barangay Masudsud in 1973.
Today, Concepcion has a total of 9 barangays to-date, namely:
San Pedro (Agbatang)