Masbate is an island province of the Philippines located in the Bicol region. Its capital is Masbate City and consists of three major islands: Masbate, Ticao and Burias.
Location within the Philippines
Chinese visited Masbate and established small settlements during the Srivijaya and Majapahit periods.
Ruins of cave-like dwellings, possibly built by Indians that accompanied the traders, were discovered along the coasts of Aroroy, Palanasand Masbate.
Porcelain jars dating back to the 10th century were excavated at Kalanay village in Aroroy town in the 1930s.
Historical accounts showed that Christianization of the Bicol Region actually began in Masbate in 1569. When Captain Luis Enriquez de Guzman anchored in Masbate in 1569, he found settlements spread along the coastlines with its people engaged in flourishing trade withChina.
Father Alonso Jimenez was the first missionary to the islands of Masbate, Burias, Leyte and Samar.
He then went to Ibalon in Camarines Province, where he resided for many years. He made several religious incursions in the provinces ofAlbay and Sorsogon, but he was considered as the apostle to the island of Masbate
In December 1600, Dutch Commander Admiral Oliver van Noorth sought refuge at San Jacinto Harbor after his fleet lost to a Spanish Armada in Manila. He was later engaged in a fierce clash with Limahong's fleet at Canlibas-Matabao passage.
At the height of Galleon Trade, Mobo town contributed first class lumber for the construction of galleons, making it the center of trade in the province. It then became the capital of the islands in the early part of the Spanish occupation.
In 1864, Masbate was declared a separate province from Albay. Guiom was made the capital while Ticao became a commandancia-politicio-militar. But shortly before the declaration of Philippine Independence, the town of Masbate was declared as the capital of the province.
The Americans came to Masbate in 1900 to extend their pacification campaign. In December 1908, Masbate was annexed to the province of Sorsogon. A bill declaring Masbate as independent province was approved on February 1, 1922.
As early as 1906, Masbate lawmakers made proposal to the United States Congress to grant the Philippines Independence.
At the height of World War II, the first Japanese elements arrived in Masbate the dawn of January 7, 1942 from Legazpi. They landed in several places without facing opposition- the province was too stunned to mount any resistance.
The Japanese occupation reduced Masbate to economic shambles. Economic activities were limited to fishing and buy-and-sell, among others. Food production came to a halt. Camote, pakol, banana blossoms, pith, and obscure fruits like barobo were used as food substitutes. Barter transaction prevailed. For lack of nutrition, many people succumbed to beriberi and malaria. Lice and tick infestations were rampant.
Dr. Mateo S. Pecson, governor of the province, refused to cooperate with the Japanese and evacuated the provincial government to Guiom, a command post used by the guerrillas. Pecson was arrested by the Japanese and incarcerated in Cavite where he managed to escape. He later joined the guerrilla movement in Central Luzon.
In 1944, Provincial Board Member Jose L. Almario conspired with the Japanese to govern the province. During the Liberation, he was arrested by the guerrilla forces and was charged with collaboration. He was saved from execution by a letter from General MacArthur.
Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa, the lone Representative of Masbate, fought against a congressional bill forcing Filipinos into the service of the Japanese Empire, resulting to his detention in Fort Santiago in Manila.
When the province was liberated by joint Filipino and American soldiers on April 3, 1945, Pecson was sent to Masbate by President Osmeña to organize the civil government. He took the reins of government on May 11, 1945.
The Diocese of Masbate was created on March 23, 1968, separating it from the Diocese of Sorsogon. It comprises then, and now, the civil province of Masbate with its 121 islands including the two larger ones Burias and Ticao. It is now a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Caceres. Its titular patron is St. Anthony of Padua.
Masbate's land area of 7,000 square kilometers holds a population of 598,813 of which 85 percent are Catholics. Devotional practices such as the rosary, novenas to saints, and other religious manifestations as processions, the misa de gallo and Holy Week traditional activities are still very much part of the way of life of most parishioners.
The Diocese of Masbate cannot truly boast, at this point, of great achievements in terms of programs and projects. But it has started to initiate various church programs spearheaded by the Diocesan Commissions on Religious Formation, Social Action and Liturgy, to start on its mission to steer its parishioners towards maturity in the Christian faith. This is done through catechesis, spiritual retreats, seminars, youth encounters, and the like.
There are a total 22 parishes in the Diocese of Masbate, ministered to by 43 priests and 11 religious sisters. It has 1 minor seminary, 4 pastoral centers, 3 elementary schools, 6 high schools, 1 college and 7 kindergarten schools. And among its faith communities are 20 BEC's 46 neo-catechumenal communities, 11 mandated organizations and 3 charismatic groups. Other denominations include the Members Church of God International, popularly called Ang Dating Daan. Also Jesus Miracle Crusade and Iglesia Ni Cristo are present in this province.
Masbate is endowed with rich natural resources. In line with its agriculture are other industries such as large farming, livestock and poultry raising. Along its coastal areas, fishing industry predominates. Agricultural lands are planted with rice, corn, rootcrops and coconut.
Masbate ranks second only to Bukidnon in raising cattle. About 70% of these are sold to Metro Manila and other provinces in Luzon. Farming is the main source of livelihood. Copra is the leading product, followed by corn, rice and rootcrops. Fishing is a major industry along the coast.
Manufacturing firms are in the copra industry, handicrafts, furnituremaking and fish processing.
The province is surrounded with rich fishing areas where all kinds of commercial species of fish teemed in great abundance.
Rich minerals are found in the province. Masbate is described by geologists as a province sitting on a "pot of gold". Other minerals found in the area are manganese, copper, silver, iron,chromite, limestone, guano, and carbon.
Cottage industries such as furniture and cabinet making, ceramics, garments, handicrafts and metalcrafts, are likewise source of livelihood.
Major institutions of higher learning in the province include the Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology in Mandaon and in Masbate City, Osmeña Colleges, Masbate Colleges, Liceo de Masbate, Southern Bicol College,Cataingan Municipal College. Masbate also has national schools in Cataingan, Placer, San Jacinto, Mandaon, Mobo, and Masbate City.