"Ro isla it Buruanga" is Boracay.
It is an island truly beautiful, sometimes sinful, always controversial. This makes it intriguing and causes people to return again and again, if they cannot linger for a lifetime. Its rich History dates back in the early 17th-8th Century.
Boracay is more than just another Island and Resort by the Sea. She was a shy island, with a secretive and secluded past hidden behind the history of time, the soil molded by the hands of a woman by the name "Sofing" or "Soping" and her husband Lamberto Tirol, with an Aeta blood line and a few of those who were fortunate to obtain literacy at an early age, together with thier loyal friend and neighbor by the name "Lola Orang" Sacapano and her loyal peers the original settlers, islanders, locals and Aetas of the island, that made the island into what it is now - an island paradise. The island is indeed a creation of the Almighty with a historical past.
As history books tell stories of times past, few is ever written or told about the island's history prior to its popularity in the seventies. Many would write about it but with always the same tone - its past being shaded or unknown.
Others would tell tales about how the island was discovered - film crews, German writers, backpackers.
Some people considered themselves lucky for having had the time spent with the settlers and old people in Boracay. Accounts of fisherfolks and Ati indeed were mentioned. There is one account that they revealed - about who they often referred to as the "First Family" of Boracay - they were considered as among the first settlers of the island who lived among the Ati.
The Island belongs to the Western Visayas group and is located in the northwestern tip of Panay, in the west Visayas of Region VI, neighboring the Sibuyan Sea. The island has three major Villages namely; Yapak in the North, Balabag in the middle, and Manoc-Manoc in the south, and numerous small barrios or barangays or sitios, all linked together by a maze of paths, labeled into five commercial stations.
The name Boracay is attributed to different origins. One story says that it is derived from the local word "borac" which means white cotton with characteristics close to the color and texture of Boracay's white sugary and powdery sand. Another credits the name to local words "bora," meaning bubbles, and "bocay," meaning white. Yet another version dating back to the Spanish era says the name is derived from "sagay," the word for shell, and "boray," the word for seed.
But consistent is that story by the islanders themselves. The natives themselves said that as far in time as their memory can take them, the island which is now known as “Boracay” had no name before until a couple blurted out of their personal conversation about the froath and foam of the oceans of boracay. Malay was a part of Buruanga or was only a barrio or barangay of the municipality of Buruanga, and people merely called the place “Ro Isla it Buruanga”.
The name “Boracay” was first given to a very tiny island off the northern tip of the “Isla” by a native upon hearing conversation between a couple, now known to be the Father and Greener of the island of Boracay - Judge Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales.
Folks have it told that many years ago, the couple came to settle at the northern coast of the “Isla” now known as Yapak, as Yapak was a barrio discovered by Lamberto himself, to engage in planting and selling tobacco leaves as their means of livelihood. One day an islander was approaching the couple when he overheard a conversation between the couple at their dwelling. Lamberto was at the beach or in the beach water as he observed thick froath being washed ashore by the waves that clased between the tiny island and the “Isla” agitated by the Amihan wind. Observing this thick froath, he called out to Sofia and said “Acay, hanggod ka bora, Acay,” which when translated can mean: “Darling, there’s plenty of froath, Darling.” Perhaps this is the origin of Boracay, derived from “Bora.Acay”.
And that name stuck for the tiny island. Much later, the name was given to the bigger island instead of calling it “Ro Isla it Buruanga.” The humble abode of the couple and their family. They had nine (9) but two girls died during infancy (Elsie Edna, Rizalina, Racel, Sol, Josel, Demosthenes, Haide, Belen+ and Florentina+) in Buruanga (now Malay) was just a piece of lot in the island, until some islanders sold their lots to the family. The rest of the islanders followed suit. The family soon realized that they owned a relatively large portion of the island, and provided more than enough not only for the family but also for the few settlers of the island - because of their generosity and kind hearts they were fondly called "Don Lamber and Dona Sofing".
Akeanon is predominantly spoken in Aklan. Other than Tagalog/Filipino and other local vernaculars, English is widely spoken in the island.
The source of living was mainly fishing. Then later farming was introduced by the local settlers so that coconut and tobacco plantation and vegetation provided for the livelihood of the Boracaynon settlers. They would trade copra with Aklan and in some parts of Luzon for rice and other goods. In the 1960s and 1970s, families from Panay and neighboring towns became frequent visitors to the island.
Antropological studies suggests that the Ati were the original settlers in the island but interbred and/or crossbred with other people we now called the "Boracayons".
The Man: Judge Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol, descendant of the famous Gabriel Ureta who changed his surname from Ureta to Tirol after his great escape from the Spaniards to the Tirol Mountains of Austria and Basilisa Diangson.
The Woman: Sofia Ner Gonzales, descendant of the First Surgeon of Panay Dr. Cipriano Gomez Gonzales whose roots can be traced from somewhere in or near Antique and Florentina Quijano Ner of Cavite
They settled in the island in the 1900s when Lamberto became a Judge in Buruanga, an old name for Malay. Sofia had a small lot in the area where they constructed a small shelter. Later on, a number of islanders sold their lots to the couple, until a relatively large area was occupied by the family.
It was reported by the locals and documented by the Bureau of Lands sometime in 1920 particularly by the Office of the Land Inspector in Buruanga (now Malay), District 17, that it was Lamberto who founded the barrio of Yapac in 1913, a portion of the island he bought from some islanders in addition to the already owned lot by Sofia adjoining thereto. At that time, Yapac only constituted seven houses and one barrio church.
Lamberto, or Lamber as he was fondly called by the islanders, was a good provider, he worked hard to earned his own keep and to give his family a good life. Sofia, or Sofing, as she was fondly called by her fellow Boracaynons, was a green thumb, a good administratrix and a good employer. While Lamberto work, she and her workers would go around and about the island planting trees and vegetables. She was able to plant thousands of coconut trees along with corn and tobacco. Her main product was that of tobacco and copra. It was written that she was able to produce first class tobacco which were traded from all over Luzon. In 1987, she was esteemed as “The Woman Behind The Greening of Boracay” in The Sunday Times Magazine. The same was reprinted in 1998 by a local paper in Panay.
It was an early demise for Lamberto. He died sometime in 1924, a year of mourning not just for the family he left behind but also for the Boracaynons. He was, to them, a father, a trustworthy “Amoy” and a friend. He left behind a young widow to tend their orphaned children. Despite her broken heart, she maintained that composure of a strong willed woman, continued to take care of the island, made it into something the world would call "Island Paradise."
With the help of a nephew Josefino Sta Maria Tirol, Sofia was able to place her portion in the island under the Torrens System. In 1929, Sofia was granted a title in her favor and for the Heirs of Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol. At that time, Aklan was still part of Capiz, so was Malay, so that the Ordinary Registration Proceedings for Titling over Panay was lodge in the Courts of First Instance in Capiz Area. In 1931, Honorable Enrique Altavaz of the General Land Registration Office issued giving formally a torrens title over a large portion of the island. Sometime after that, other Tirol kin followed suit, Ciriaco S. Tirol and Roberto Hontiveros Tirol in 1933.
Sofia's ground work gained her the appreciation she much deserved. In 1987, in a magazine (The Sunday Times Magazine, November, 1987), an article was written about the woman behind the greening of Boracay. The article was about Sofia Ner Gonzales. Today, the island remained to be as Sofia intended it to be: an Island Paradise. She would have wanted it the way it was: with all the coconut trees standing almost everywhere, including bended cocos that gave the island the unique scenery peculiarly exclusive to Boracay. Sadly, those trees are no longer there. Environment and legal issues beset the island. Government intervention seem to aggravate the matter. Nonetheless, Boracay remained one of the best beaches in the world.
Modern Day Boracay:
1980 marks the beginning of the Modern Age of Boracay Island. It was due to the accidental discovery of one film maker that introduced Boracay to the rest of the world. Even though electricity arrived in the late 1980, visitors came pouring in after that film "Too Late the Hero", bringing along their own amenities, especially water to drink. In the early fifties, or right after the War (WWII), business, great and small, began to blossom in the island. On some parts, dirt or rocky or smooth roads gave way to paved ones.
Sofia would have wanted the island to stay as it was, with millions of trees resting peacefully and happily on white sugar-coated sands of the island, with few joyous people relaxing by watching the calm and serene blue ocean touching the blue heavens... But times changed and the rest had to change with time. Some of its secrets are now in the open. Its privacy may have been lost with the deluge of visitors it attracts every year, but it doesn't seem to matter. People from all over the world continue to flock to its brilliant powdery white sands and shores and aquamarine waters.
Rapid growth of the Island began in 1970, and the population has grown. Today, this beautiful sea island continues to offer Visitor and Resident alike a beautiful oasis featuring miles of blue beaches, World Class golf, recreation and a renewal of spirit as one finds himself surrounded, and enriched by, the peaceful beauty of nature.
Our Thanks and Appreciation to the local islanders and residents of the island of Boracay for the accounts especially to the heirs of the Aguirre, Supetran, Sualog, Sacapano (Lola Orang's Heirs), Tupaz, Gelito and most especially so to the Heirs of Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol and Sofia "Sofing" Ner Gonzales or "Lola Soping" for sharing their ancient journals, letters, case files and old accounts from islanders of the island. Special Thanks to the heirs of Boracaynons who corroborated the stories written above and used as a source for this brief history. Most of all, thanks to Teresita Tirol Rojo Corpus, Mr. Johny Tirol Kimpo, Jessica Denosta Tirol - Andan, Antonio Tirol Carpio, Haide Tirol Solidum and people from different government offices of Malay and to the one who helped compile and verify this History of the Island. You know who you are. I thank you.