Bohol During the Spanish Period

By Jes Tirol (Bohol Chronicle)

Trivia: Did you know that from October 5 to October 14, 1852, nobody was born, nobody died, nobody got married and practically there was nothing. Why? Because these dates never existed. By that time, the Julian calendar used by Catholic Church was already behind by ten (10) days compared to the modern Gregorian calendar. The Pope ordered that after October 4, 1852, the next day will become October 15, 1852 and henceforth the Gregorian calendar will be in use.

After a series of fourteen (14) articles we can now have a better picture of what happened in the Province Bohol during the Spanish era in the civilian aspect. Heretofore our history writers in Bohol could only tell us about the religious aspect in Bohol.

Governmental Organization

The province of Bohol was created by Governor General Marquis de Novaliches on March 3, 1854. Bohol was created as a Politico-Military province with a military man as governor with at least the rank of Captain. The first provincial governor of Bohol was Captain Guillermo Kirkpatrick of the Corps of Engineers.

The Provincial Governor was supported with other government functionaries. In 1855, Governor General Manuel Crespo decreed that Tagbilaran will be the capital town where the provincial officials will stay.

The different towns have two aspects of government, which were the religious and civilians aspects. The religious aspect, headed by the Parish priest, was higher than the civilian aspect, which was headed by the Gobernadorcillo. The Gobernadorcillo takes order from the Parish Priest.

The Gobernadorcillo was supported by the different judges and lieutenants. The whole town was divided into Barangays or family groupings of about 40 to 100 families per barangay. The barangay was headed by the Cabeza Barangay or Head of the Barangay.

Only the town had a boundary. There were barrios but they were only rough geographical locations. The members of the numbered barangays can live anywhere in town. The town was not considered a corporation, unlike the municipality, which could enter into contract and obtain debt.


During Spanish times, almost all Boholanos will declare that they were poor, including the rich Boholanos. Why? Because anybody could be accused of the crime of “unexplained wealth” and put in prison. This attitude is carried to the present day mentality of the Boholanos. Almost everybody will say that they are poor including businessmen and politicians.

Corruption, like making double budget, was already present in Bohol 150 years ago.

In 1855, the daily wage was only 16.25 centavos per day including meals. So an ordinary worker earns only about P4.87 per month. However, his tribute-tax was P2.00 per month excluding the sancturum or church tax of another P2.00. It leaves the worker only 87 centavos for his personal use. It was the reason why many would opt for the polo or 40 days unpaid labor for public works.

Social Condition

The Boholanos were generally peaceful in character and tried to suffer in silence. They were generally healthy with the daily diet of corn, sweet potato, or ubi. Rice was only eaten by the rich people who must eat it sparingly or else they could be recognized as rich and their wealth coveted by the Spaniards.

In Tagbilaran, potable water supply was scarce. People relied so much on rainwater and few wells. The towns were better off with their numerous water springs.

The main product of Bohol was the lompot cotton cloth. In Tagbilaran alone, there were 200,850 cotton trees as source of material for the cotton weaving industry. Almost every household was a weaving factory. Unfortunately, nobody now knows how the lompot was made.


Many of the present cultural behavior and practices of Boholanos can be identified from the records of the Spanish era in Bohol. The “Patron” system as practiced in our political system was started during Spanish times. Almost everybody during the Spanish era must defer to the Cabeza de Barangay. This is still true today when constituents go to the Barangay Captain or Mayor to ask for money for almost anything.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Colin Carlin Says:

    Do you have more information on Governor Guillermo Kirkpatrick?
    His origins – his family?
    His wife was an Amercican – what was her name?
    Did they have children?
    I am writing a biography of his ancestor, US Consul William Kirkpatrick of Malaga, and I am looking for more information.

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