By Apolinario Villalobos
Many presume that the name of the province is derived from “kapis” shell that abounds around the island of Panay, of which Capiz is a part, aside from Iloilo, Aklan and Antique. But, it is said that the early Spanish settlers coined the name “Capiz”. The Spaniards pronounced the name referred to the place which was “kapid” as “kapiz”. “Kapid” which is the vernacular for twin was referred to the province then, when it was yet ruled with Aklan by Datu Bangkaya, one of the ten Malayan datus who came in the thirteenth century.
Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, commerce had been flourishing between the province and other islands such as, Cebu, Masbate, mainland Luzon, mainland Mindanao and even Borneo which at that time was called Burnay. Commerce was through the port of Pan-ay River.
In 1569, a Spanish contingent headed by Legazpi landed on the shores of the old settlement by the mouth of Pan-ay River. Despite the hostility of the natives, he was able to convert them into Christianity within a year. By 1590, Capiz port was made as a naval yard of the Navy of Acapulco. It was here where the Spanish armada would take shelter from typhoons. The first gobernadorcillo of Capiz when it was officially established as a town in 1757 was Don Juan Alba.
Just like the rest of the provinces during the Spanish time, the province was not spared from the ravages of revolutions. The progress which it had been enjoying since the American occupation was stunted by the WWII.
The province which comprises a total land area of 2,633 square kilometers is located on the northeastern part of Panay Island. It is bounded on the south by Iloilo, on the north by Aklan and on the west by Antique.
The province’s western terrain is characterized by rolling hills that gradually descend from the highland from which Pan-ay, Mambusao and Ma-ayon rivers also originate. Its towns and capital, Roxas city, are interlinked by a semi-rough road system.
The Capizeῆos are of Visayan stock. They are good-natured and are the kind who would rather tame time than be enslaved by it. Although, majority of the population descended from settlers who came in the thirteenth century, a small percentage is comprised of migrants from Luzon and Mindanao. A negligible number of aborigines whom the locals call “Mundo” are found in the hinterlands, particularly, in Tapaz, the southern border of the province, and which is famous for its unique “Mundo dance”.
As characteristic of Visayans, the Capizeῆos are soft-spoken. The prevailing dialect is Hiligaynon, but unlike the Hiligaynon used in Iloilo, the Hiligaynon-Capizeῆo is heavily accented, and there are variations in some words.
The provincial capital was known before as Capiz until May 12, 1951 when it was chartered into a city and named after the first President of the post-WWII Republic, Manuel A. Roxas. The 9,505 square hectares area of the city is sliced by the chocolate-brown colored Pan-ay River.
With the decline of sugar as one of the coutry’s top exports, and which is also one of the provincial major products, it was left with the fishponds where shrimps, crabs and prawns are cultured, to lean on. Freshwater fish and some marine products such as oyster and mussels, are also among the province’s main peso earner.
The Pan-ay River which traverses the province helps facilitate the transportation of farm products to the city and towns. Bamboo rafts and big dugouts are the usual sights from dawn till dusk, heaped with nipa shingles, baskets, mats, hogs, fowls, and other produce.
The city museum, named “Ang Panublion” should not be missed by those who are interested in the culture of the province and its people. In the public market are stalls that sell colorful handwoven mats and baskets. “Patadyong”, the Visayan wraparound skirt usually printed with colorful stripes and checkers can be found in most of the textile stores.
About ten minutes from downtown is the city’s Baybay Beach. It is unspoiled yet and the long stretch of fine black sandy beach is the favorite weekend retreat of the locals. Near the beach is a fishing village that hums with activities such as salting and drying of fish under the sun during peak summer fishing season.
Forty three kilometers west of Roxas City is Dumalag where the multi-chambered Suhot cave can be found, and some of which are not yet explored. Another countryside attraction of Capiz are the stretches of white sand beaches of Ivisan. And for old churches, visitors should take time to visit Sapian, Dao, Sigma and Cuartero for their old churches. Sapian is also famous for its mussel farms. Aside from the Suhot Cave, Dumalag prides in its centuries-old church, built in 1873. At Barangay Burias of Mambusao is Quipot Cave, at Pan-ay are Napti Island and Buntod Beach, and another cave, the Igang can be found at Maayon.
On the eastern side of the province is the Pan-ay Church with its big bell cast from seventy sacks of melted coins donated by the townspeople during the eighteenth century. The bell which weighs 10,400 kilos, measures seven feet in diametr. Further still, is the phenomenal mummified remains of Maria Basaῆes at Casanayan, Pilar. I heard about the story of the mummified remains of Maria from the locals that I befriended at the wet market where I had breakfast, one day. I decided to visit the barrio and see for myself if the phenomenon was true. She died in March 12, 1929 and more than fifty years after when her remains were retrieved, it was found to be still intact, although, shrunk significantly. She was brought home by her great grandchildren and kept in a glass case. Also, at Pilar are small caves where the Japanese retreated during the Liberation days of the WWII. A good snorkeling site is the town’s Tucad Reef.
The most popular festival of the province is “Halaran” (offering), cultural and religious celebration that revolves around its patroness, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The festival, lately, has been referred to as “Sinadya sa Halaran Festival” (Fun at Halaran Festival), a variation from the original name which was just “Halaran Festival” and celebrated in Roxas City during the first week of December. Activities during the festival are street dancing that includes “higantes” (giant paper dolls), fluvial procession, floating of lighted candles in the river, seafood exhibit, agri-aqua trade fair, and pyrotechnic display. Adding color to the celebration is the beauty pageant during which the queen of the fiesta is chosen.
During the time that direct flights to Caticlan, the jump-off point to Boracay Island, were not yet available, the airport at Roxas City was made as an alternate debarkation and embarkation point of tourists if the flights for Kalibo were fully booked. From Roxas City, buses can be taken to Kalibo for a connecting trip to Caticlan. The same option happens during the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo, when flights to the latter are fully booked. It is this convenient travel option that makes groups to cap their Capiz tour with a sidetrip to Boracay Island.