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One of today’s most respected Bantoanon researchers, suggests that Banton island has been inhabited since the Neolithic Period, citing the Bantoanon language and the burial caves as the major evidences (“Tracing Our Roots Through the Bantoanon Language”, Silak, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1998).

The original name of the island was Batoon, the most rugged, stony and rocky island in the country. It was changed by the Spaniards to Banton. Another theory suggested that the name was derived from the local name of the stone fish – Bantoy.

The Bantoanon community is the oldest one in the province. It was the earliest to have been mentioned by authorities like the writer of the “Voyages to Luzon in 1570” and by Miguel de Loarca in his Relacion de las Islas Filipinas where Banton was first mentioned in Spanish accounts. Loarca cited Banton’s 1582 population placed at 200.

One hundred years after the rediscovery of the Philippines in March 15, 1521, Banton became a pueblo or municipality in 1622.

From the records of the Diocese of Romblon, the Catholic parish was established in 1644 (though Bantoanons believe that it could have been established during the time it became a pueblo which was normally headed by a Spanish curate). St. Nicholas of Tolentino was installed as patron in 1648.

Punta Matagar

Records had it that “The old Banton village was built on the slope of Bakoko hill, about two kilometers southwest of the present Banton town.” The old village was transferred to its present location in the 18th century when a stone church and a strong cotta were constructed under the leadership of Fr. Agustin San Pedro, popularly known as El Padre Capitan.

From 1907-1918, Banton was a barrio of the Romblon municipality. Banton municipality was restored in 1918 with a new name - Jones, which included Simara (Corcuera). In 1989, the name was restored to Banton through the efforts of Congressman Jose D. Moreno. 

Guesthouse inside Fort San Nicolas

In search for greener pasture, Bantoanons sailed out of Banton and established the first settlements in Simara, Sibale and in Tablas (Calatrava and Odiongan). Some also tried to establish settlements in the coast of Southern Luzon – Macalelon, Mulan-ay and Bondoc Peninsula. Later on, countless Bantoanons took off and settled in Mindoro particularly in Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Rancho, Gloria, Bansud, Bongabong, Roxas and Mansalay. Much later, many settled in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Batangas, Laguna and Cavite especially during the economic / real estate boom in the ‘90s when Bantoanons established permanent homes in the area. There have also been a few but steady migrations of Bantoanons to the United States since the 1950’s. This out-migration is the reason for the continuing decline of Banton’s population. 

Accounts show that Marinduque is the oldest trading partner of the island. In the 1930’s, Dionisio Fetalvero, who was Mayor of Banton for two terms, blazed the trail for commerce and trade between Banton and the twin ports of Batangas and Lucena cities, opening a new window of opportunity for economic progress for the islanders. 

World War II did not spare Banton. During the Japanese occupation, Bantoanons have been subjected to the brutality of visiting Japanese soldiers. There was actually a guerilla movement in the island. 

A fierce battle was fought around the waters of Banton Island, popularly known as the Battle of Sibuyan Sea, between the Japanese Imperial Navy and the American Naval Air Force during the Americans’ liberation of the Philippines. This battle, successfully fought by the Americans, is the turning point in the downfall of the Imperial Navy and the eventual liberation of the Philippines. 

Fort San Nicolas- left Wall

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