Year 1855: Provincial lockdown in Bohol

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Year 1855: Provincial lockdown in Bohol

Topic |  


One hundred sixty five years ago, the Province of Bohol experienced its first lockdown.  Boholanos were prohibited to get out of the Island Province of Bohol except those who can obtained a passport from the office of the Provincial Governor Guillermo Kirkpatrick.

Today we have also a lockdown.  The only difference is that in 1855, if you will be caught violating the lockdown, you will be put in prison.  You will be released only at the discretion of the Provincial Governor.

In the old definition, lockdown refers to the prohibition of prisoners from going out of his cell after a riot.  The Bisayan equivalent word is “bilanggò tanán” or “bilanggutáan”.  Now this word has become an interjection or cuss word because the bilanggutánan is not a welcomed situation.


Became a province

On 3 March 1854, Governor General Marques de Novaliches signed the decree creating the Islands of Bohol and Siquijor as a separate Politico-Military Province separate from Cebu.  On the same day, Gov.-Gen. Novaliches also appointed Captain Guillermo Kirkpatrick of the Corps of Engineers to be the first Provincial Governor of Bohol.

Capt. Kirkpatrick boarded the naval ship El Cano to assume office as Provincial Governor of the new Politico-Military Province of Bohol.

According to the decree, the town of Calape, Bohol will be the capital town of the province.  When Gov. Kirkpatrick arrived, he did not like Calape because it was difficult to defend in case of attack by pirates.

He toured the Island of Bohol by sea and decided that Tagbilaran was the most ideal place in term of defense and relatively at the center of the province when Siquijor was considered. He sent his report to the Governor General and it was approved.

Take note that from Sitio Ubos, near the St. Joseph Cathedral, the sea was full of protruding rocks up to last lighthouse of today’s wharf (Note: it was removed in the 1920s) and towards Dauis, the sea was too shallow for navigation.


Activities of the Governor


Capt. Kirkpatrick was a very active governor.  He was very strict in implementing the Spanish rules.

The first order of business was to map the whole island of Bohol and the island of Siquijor.  The next was to construct a road around the island of Bohol and contruct bridges over rivers and gorges.  He was not satisfied with wooden bridges but allow only stone bridges.  (Note: Many still existed until they were destroyed during the construction of the Bohol Circumferential Highway.)

He gathered in Tagbilaran all the Gobernadorcillos (now: Mayor) of the 27 towns including those of Siquijor (Siquijor, Canoan, & Lacy).  He told them to indicate the portions of the roads and bridges that they will build.


He told them to include the estimate of money and materials and the number of polistas (those who will render unpaid compulsory labor). Captain Kirkpatrick then requested the National Government to release the appropriation of Bohol since 1837.  The money was granted.

Emigration problem


Governor Kirkpatrick noted that the polistas were always lacking due to the penchant of Boholanos to emigrate, (Note: emigrate = going out; immigrate = coming in.) He asks the Gobernadorcillos why the people will emigrate.  The Gobernadorcillos answered that since time immemorial it has been the nature of Boholanos to emigrate to other places.

Action taken

On July 7, 1854 Captain Kirkpatrick wrote the Governor General about the situation in Bohol and he wanted to stop the emigration.

On August 19, 1854, Governor General Novaliches answered that since September 23, 1843, there was already a circular issued by the National Government to require Boholanos to obtain a passport signed by the Provincial Governor so they could leave Bohol.

Since Bohol was not yet a separate province it was difficult to implement.  How could you obtain the signature of the Provincial Governor in Cebu, without leaving Bohol? Capt. Kirkpatrick asked a copy of that circular and it was obtained on March 1855.

Immediately Gov. Kirkpatrick ordered the Gobernadorcillos to implement the circular.  If the reason of the Boholano was to “look for greener pastures”, he will be sent to the interior of Bohol where the land was fertile. In effect the whole province of Bohol was in lockdown.  Anybody who wanted to leave the Province of Bohol must ask permission from the Provincial Governor.

To insure compliance, the Governor General ordered the Provincial Governor of neighboring provinces to arrest Boholanos who arrive in their province without a passport.

The Passport

To obtain a passport from the Provincial Governor, a Boholano must have a clearance from his Cabeza de Barangay, then the Gobernadorcillo, and then the Cura Parroco (Parish Priest).  This passport was effective only for one year.  You must repeat the process for the next year.

The Consequences

Gov. Kirkpatrick finished his roads and bridges projects from Tagbilaran to Guindulman and Tagbilaran to Inabanga.

The polistas were those who did not have the actual coin-money to pay the taxes.  So they were required to pay in terms of 40-days labor in a public works project.

The problem was the scarcity of coin-money.  Bohol was a politico-military province.  It did not have the priority in the distribution of the coins that became scarce after Mexico became independent.  In fact the coins of different denominations were physically cut into four parts of cuarta.  It is the origin of our word “kwarta” for money.

Cebu and Missamis were “Alcaldia” provinces or under control of the King and they have the priority.  As a consequence the Boholanos must engage in trade with Cebu Province and Missamis in Mindanao in order to obtain the actual coin-money to be paid to the government.

It was necessary because Spanish officials in Bohol were mostly military men and allowed only to receive cash.  They were not allowed to own properties.  The Boholanos had a better chance of obtaining actual coins in Missamis.

Since the passport must be renewed every year, the Boholanos must return to Bohol every year.  The best time to return to Bohol was during the town fiesta.  You will be sure that the Cura Parroco was in town and available to sign the required clearance for the passport.

As time went by, the passport requirement was abandoned but the practice of coming home every year to attend the town fiesta and until 1970s or before martial law years, to obtain the cedula of residence certificate was continued.

Now our lockdown or bilanggutanan is due to the COVID-19, in 1855 it was due to emigration or out migration.

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