FOUNDATION OF COLONIAL SETTLEMENT

The embryonic stage of Milaor's integration in the larger imperial horizon took place within the encomienda system. The encomienda, as the world implies, was an entrustment or a stewardship. It was a system borrowed from the medi­ eval society whereby the Spanish King conferred jursdiction over a certain territory to the colonizers as reward for their services. As a favor from the King, the encomiendero, as the holder of the encomienda was called, was given the right by royal bounty to receive and enjoy for him the tributes of the natives assigned to him. In return, he was obliged to protect and defend his wards from outside aggression, to dispense justice and settle disputes and to provide them preliminary instructions in the Catholic faith.
As early as 1581, some 8 villages along the Bikol river al­ ready existed as encomiendas. Owing to the proximity to the City of Caceres and its strategic location on the Bikol river, Milaor was among the earliest settlements absorbed within the encomienda system. Consequently, the people of Milaor were among the earliest Bikolanos who suffered under the Spanish yoke. The encomienda system earn the notoriety for the exploitation and abuses suffered by the hapless native populace.
Based on the 1591 report on encomienda, Milaor was under the control of a certain Spanish soldier named Torres. But by 1591, Torres was already dead and the ericomienda was inherited by his son. This was a brief description of the encomienda of Milaor:

"belonging to the minor son of Torre; in this encomienda, there are five hundred and twenty whole tributes, or two thousand and eighty souls in all. This encomienda is one-quarter of a leaque from the town up the river. Two Franciscan religious from the convent of Caceres visit it, so that it is sufficientl y instructed. The magistrate of Caceres administers justice there."

From this report, it was clear that Milaor was already receiving regular religious instructions from the Franciscans, although still merely a visita, according the ecclesiastical classification, Milaor already possessed the fundamental ingredients of a Spanish colonial pueblo, the existence of a civil government and the church.
Although the Castillan steel blazed the conquering trail, the Franciscan mission sustained and provided the spiritual legitimation for the colonial rule. Its conversion was began in 1579 with the arrival of the two pioneering Franciscan missionaries Fray Pablo de Jesus and Fray Bartolome Ruiz. These two laid the foundation of the Franciscan mission in the southern portion of Luzon, particularly of the riverine district of Bikol. The geographic circumstance of Milaor nec­ essarily brought it within the ambit of the first salvo of the missionary enterprise.

Around 1585, based on the entries in the baptismal registry, this was already existing as a town under the patronage of St. Joseph the Carpenter. Although the documentary record of the exact date of its birth is no longer available, perusal of indirect historical evidence point to 1583 as the year when it emerged as an active mission outpost. Since it was traditional among the missionaries to conduct their missionary work during post harvest seasons and during more auspicious climate, it was most possible that the missionary enterprise was launched in the summer months, particularly in the last week of April. The prepon­ derance of celebration of fiestas and other indigenous or tra­ ditional festivals in the summer months probably had some links with this missionary event. This was especially true with Milaor, which celebrates its fiesta during May 1 (May 19 until 1959 when Fr. Vicente Ramin assumed as parish priest) a time which, in early Philippines, coincided with the period for post-harvest celebrations.

Although no available record could show who its first re­ ligious minister was, sketchy information showed that this could either be Fray Juan de Garrovillas or Fray Matias An­ drade.

Fray Juan de Garrovillas was a native of the town of Gar­ rovillas from where his surname was derived. In 1580 enlist­ ed for the missions to Mexico and from there he proceeded to the Philippines arriving in this island in 1582. His superi­ or assigned him to work in the conversion of the natives in the Camarines province. He was assigned as the guardian of the convent in Naga until 1591when he was transferred to Manila as he was named Definidor. It was certain that during his guardianship, Fray Juan Garrovillas must have taken part in the work of converion of Milaor sometime be­ tween 1583 until his departure from Naga.
Fray Matias de Andrade arrived in the Philippines from Mexico in 1582 where he was assigned in the evangelization of the Camarines province, particularly the towns of Car­ amoan and Milaor while based in the Franciscan convent of Naga . In 1594 he was named Definidor of the Franciscan Province of San Gregorio. He went back to madrid and trav­ eled to Rome and Mexico. He was made Bishop of Caceres on March 1612 and took possession of this See in 1613 where he died in 1613.

It could be possible that at least one of them was among the two Franciscans mentioned in the 1391 report of en­ comiendas who were conducting their mission works since both of them were apparently still in Naga until 1591. Whoever they were, these friars did a remarkable achievement not only for the Faith but also for Spain whose humble and dedicated work of Catholic proselyti­ zation forged an enduring bond between the natives of Milaor and Christianity.

 

 

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