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A Town Called Balete

Al F. de la Cruz
Sanggunian Bayan,
Balete, Aklan
11/17/2009
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BALETE

“….(W)e are not interested in everything that happened in the past


Primarily, we are interested in those aspects of the past
Which have significance for our present society.”
-Estrellita T. Muhi

Doing research about the historic past of Balete requires the patience of Job, the
persistence of Sisyphus and the dexterity of a Benitinanon . This is so as can be seen and
understood from the fact that unlike the towns of Batan and Altavas, to mention just a few, our
predecessors and ancestors left us with no credible account whatsoever either oral or written of
how our town came into being. We read in an old souvenir program one story telling us that
Balete got its name from the Balite tree growing at the heart of the town. The story went to tell
that when Spaniards happened to pass this place they inquired about its name. The natives
unable to comprehend the strange Hispanic dialect made a wild guess. They thought that the
strangers were after the name of the huge tree, so they responded informing them that it was
―Balete.‖

Another account claimed that prominent families established Balete in June of 1812 when
the parish priests Rev. Fr. Vicente ―Amoy‖ Guanko arrived at Sitios Liboton and Bantayan
together with ―some Spanish Nationals.‖ It related that one Rosendo Eliseo was elected viva
voce as the first Capitan. Further on, another story hailed October 24, 1897 as the historic day
when the fabled or at least the mythical El Tiroteo de Agtawagon (literally, the skirmish of
Agtawagon Hill) took place.

Although regarded as official, we cannot take this record as ipso facto history of Balete.
With the use of historical methodology and scholarly research these accounts fell short of our
expectations. The manuscript we have at hand proved otherwise.

Several researches were made at the National Archives, the National Library, University
of San Agustin-Iloilo, to mention a few, so to have a glimpse of the past. With these researches
we were able to approximate the foundation of Balete as a pueblo (municipality) in 1826 when
we were still a colony of Spain per the manuscripts Actas by Julian Peñalosa, et al. (undated),
Alcaldias Mayores (1800? – 1889?), Erecciones de Pueblos de Capiz (1865 – 1894, 1862 –
1890), Memoria dela Provincia de Capiz, Año de 1888 and Patronatos (1759 – 1859). We
also consulted the works of foremost historians like Fr. Juan de Medina (1893), Salvador Font
(1892) Fr. Elviro Perez, OSA (1901), Fr. Hipolito Casiano, OSA (1919) and others to provide us


The following is an attempt to rewrite the history of Balete by using Textual analysis of data available at present
(January 1999). Practically, it is a story of the illustrados of Balete. The remondatos have their other story too.
Unfortunately, nobody cared to tell us that one.

Refers to someone who resides in Benitinan, the remotest part of Balete where only the strong and dexterous
survive considering the harsh realities of nature.

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a vantage point in discerning the processes we had undergone from being a mere visita of the
Parish of Batan to evolve later as a pueblo, then to revert as an arabal of New Washington until
such time we became a municipality during the American colonization.

Fr. Vicente Guanco’s name appeared in the manuscript that narrates a settlement of
dispute over the boundaries of the pueblos of Banga and Balete at Nagatod Hill some time on
April 28, 1882. Those who where together with Fr. Guanco were Adriano Calizo, the
governadorcillo of Balete at that time; Alejo Eleserio, Capitan Pasado; Agapito Borromeo,
Cabeza Actual; and Juan Oquendo also a Cabeza Actual.

An earlier manuscript, the Patronatos 1759 –1859 notes that P. Don Matias Piansay is
being replaced by P. Don Diego Albao as curate of Balete per letter of instructions dated August
25, 1856 by the Bishop of Cebu, F. Romualdo Jimeno.

By that time, Balete has 15,525 hectares of land where its total cultivated land areas
yielded 200 cavans of palay more or less per season or cropping. The Memoria de la Provincia
de Capiz (May 9, 1888) situates Balete as one among the 33 pueblos of Capiz. It says that
epidemic is frequent in the community. For instance, cholera broke out sometime in 1882 that
caused the lives of a total number of 144 people.

As was the custom of the time in view of the Royal Edict, there was no discernable
separation between the church and the State as the parish priest used to be responsible or had to
be consulted for the appointment of a governadorcillo. Only in 1904 did it happen that an
election took place in this part of the island when the landed few of Batang, Jimeno and Balete
elected Mr. Juan Oquendo as the first Presidente Municipal of the newly formed Municipality of
New Washington. But this was already during the American period when we were a mere arabal
of New Washington (cf. Historical Data [1952], roll# 17, 18 & 19).

It was said that when P. Don Vicente Guanco was Parish priest, 1 Balete was experiencing
as sort of renaissance. We read in Historical Data2 that a church made of bricks was
constructed so as not to be outclassed by houses in the town, which were said far better ―than any
of the neighboring towns.‖

We have reasons to believe this telling by the very fact that the barrios within Balete were
named after the landed few---the illustrados of Balete. Prominent among those were the names
of Simeon Oquendo, Ponciano Concepcion, Carlos Feliciano, Adriano Calizo, Ambrocio Aranas,
Juan Cortes, Marcelino Morales, Torebio Oquendo, Eulalio Feliciano, Juan Oquendo, who had
been all appointed governadorcillos at one time in their political careers. 3 But it was said that
the real power, the really influential among these members of a clan of illustrados4 who

1
The Manuscript Erecciones mentioned Fr. Guanco as parish priest of Balete in 1882. We can surmise though that
prior to that he was already serving as such and that it is likewise possible that he remained so after 1882.
2
Cf. Historical Data, roll # 18.
3
Ibid., roll # 17 & 18.

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practically owned Balete was the low profiled mother of Blas Feliciano, Doña Florencia
Feliciano who was a very good friend of Padre Guanco.

When the Katipuneros of Gen. Ananias Diokno was driven out of Batan in 1902, the
Americans went to spread its own ideology by establishing schools. 5 With the remnant of the
Katipuneros captured or hiding in the hills and the civil government of the American imperialist
established, Gov. Gen. William H. Taft, in 1903 sent out his representative to reorganize the
local governments throughout the country. In the province of Capiz, he commissioned Benito
Luzzurriaga to reorganize the municipal government. When Luzzuriaga and his companion
arrived in Dominguez (Lagatic), a barrio of Batan, they found the place suitable for the
establishment of the good port. In 1904 he directed to fuse Batan, Balete and Jimeno into one
municipality with it seat of government at Lagatic. But to make it more symbolic he renamed
the place New Washington.6

Immediately, election was held where only those landed few were allowed to cast votes.
Prado (1952)7 relates that the first Presidente Municipal was from Balete in the person of Mr.
Juan Oquendo who was to serve for one year (1904-1905). Those who served after him were as
follows:

Mr. Florencio Melecoton, 1906; (other texts either have Melocoto or


Melecoton)
Mr. Ananias Mariano, 1907;
Mr. Blas Feliciano, 1908-1909; (Baleten-on)
Mr. Pedro Cortes, 1910-1916;
Mr. Eulalio Feliciano, 1916-1919; (the last Baleten-on to be
Elected as Presidente Municipal of New Washington)
Mr. Rufino Sucgang, 1920-1922.

The Research Committee of Altavas however recorded that Mr. Juan Oquendo was
reelected in 1910. He was supposed to serve until 1916 as the term of office of local officials
were made into five years. He failed even to complete a year as he resigned for unknown reason.
In lieu, his vice-president, Mr. Pedro Cortes acted as the chief executive of New Washington
until 1916. 8

4
Carlos Feliciano was the elder brother of Dona Florencia. Eulalio was the eldest of his 8 children while Adriano
was a son-in-law. Torebio on the other hand was Dona Florencia’s son-in-law
5
Cf. Ibid.,roll # 19.
6
Ibid.
7
Ibid.
8
Ibid.

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On November 23, 1917, Executive Order No. 88 was signed by Gov. Gen. Francis
Burton Harrison creating the Municipality of Altavas (formerly Jimeno) as the 32 nd Municipality
of Capiz. The sponsor for the creation was a Baleten-on—Sen. Jose Cortes Altavas. By January
1, 1918 the Municipality of Altavas officially came to be. 9

Prado (1952) relates that with the seperation of Altavas, ―Balete followed soon after.‖10
Which date, that he was silent. The teachers of Balete in 1952 did mention in passing that Balete
was established as a Municipality in 1917.11 This claim is doubtful as it runs contrary with the
earlier claim of Prado and the fact that Baleten-on Eulalio Feliciano was then the President of
New Washington from 1916-1919.

On the other hand, Sergio Eliserio (who had served as Municipal Secretary of Balete
from 1946 to 1958) in his report dated November 8, 195612 noted that Balete was an arabal of
New Washington from 1904 to 1919. He then went to list the Presidentes Muncipales and
Councilors starting from 1920 to his time (1956). The officials of Balete in 1920 as identified by
Eliserio were as follows:

Mr. Juan C. Oquendo, President;


Mr. Felipe Oquendo, Vice-President;
Mr. Cipriano Lachica, Councilor;
Mr. Emeterio Fulgencio, Councilor;
Mr. Julio Villaruel, Councilor; and
Mr. Mateo Feliciano, Councilor.

The other Presidentes were Felipe Oquendo (1921-1922), Miguel Calizo (1923-1925),
Antonio T. Cortes (1926-1928), Felipe Oquendo (1929-1931), Jose Feliciano Cortes (1932-1934)
and 1935-1937).

The first Municipal Mayor after the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth on
November 15, 1935 was Jose Barrios (1938-1940). He was followed by Miguel Calizo (1941-
1945 and 1946-1947).

With the proclamation of the second Philippine independence on July 4, 1946 and the
rise of the second (or third as other historians would have it) Philippine Republic, Teodoro F.
Calizo was elected Mayor (1948-1951 and 1952-1955). Apolinar H. Cleope (1956-1959),
Teodoro F. Calizo (1960-1967), Bernardo J. Rodriguez (1968-1980), Jean O. Rodriguez (1980-
1986).

9
Cf. Bingo Altavas Why Alltavas Came to be. Unpublished. See also Historical Data. Roll #19.
10
Historical Data. Roll #19.
11
Ibid., Roll No # 18
12
Cf. Briefing Folder, Municipalty of Balete.

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Potenciano G. Rodriguez, M.D., was appointed OIC Mayor during the Revolutionary
Government of Corazon Aquino. He was elected Mayor in January 18, 01987 and ended his term
on June 29, 1998. Teodoro V. Calizo, Jr. runs unopposed in May 1998 elections and assumed
office on July 1, 1998. He completed the maximum allowable terms for a local chief executive
on June 30, 2007 leaving a legacy of leading Balete to leapfrog from a sluggish 5 th class
municipality with an average annual income of 15 Million to become a vibrant 4 th class town
with an annual earnings of 50 Million Pesos more or less.

In July 1, 2007, Noemi Calizo-Cordero, the eldest daughter of Teodoro F. Calizo


assumed the office of the Local Chief Executive of Balete, drawing out her 8-point agenda for
the Municipality. In a matter of three years, she brought honors to the Baleten-on people when
the LGU won grand slam for two consecutive years in the Provincial EXCELL Search Awards in
2008 and 2009, making Balete to stand up and represent Aklan under Category B (6 th – 4th Class
Municipalities) in the Regional Search.

AL F. DELA CRUZ
Secretary to the Sanggunian
(Edited on Nov. 17, 2009)

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