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The Capiznon People of the Philippines: History, Language, Culture, Customs and Tradition [Philippine Tribes & Ethnic Groups]

The Capiznon People of the Philippines: History, Language, Culture, Customs and Tradition [Philippine Tribes & Ethnic Groups]

Capiznon” is derived from the word kapis, a seashell obtained from the mollusk Placuna placenta and used to make square panes for windows, and the suffix non, meaning “people.” The term refers to the culture, language, and people of Capiz province, one of Panay Island’s four provinces: Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, and Aklan. Capiz is bounded by the Sibuyan Sea in the north, Aklan province in the northwest, Antique province in the west, and Iloilo province in the south and southwest. As of 2007, its population was 701,664, making it the third most populous province in the region. Its capital is Roxas City; its municipalities are Cuartero, Dao, Dumalag, Dumarao, Ivisan, Jamindan, Maayon, Mambusao, Pan-ay, Panit-an, Pilar, Pontevedra, President Roxas, Sapian, Sigma, and Tapaz.

The Capiznon people belong to a larger group called Visayan, and the Capiznon language is a subclassification of the Visayan language. It is closely related to Hiligaynon, 91% of which Capiznon speakers comprehend. It is considered one of four languages constituting the peripheral subgroup of central Visayan languages, the other three being Hiligaynon, Masbatenyo, and Camotes.

Though frequently mistaken to be the same as Hiligaynon, Capiznon has certain features that make it a different language. Capiznon possessive pronouns are formed by the addition of a t-prefix to the Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Aklanon pronouns, thus: t-akon (I), t-aton (we-inclusive), t-amon (we-exclusive), t-imo (you), t-inyo (you plural), t-iya (he/she), and t-ila (they). These pronouns adopt the nominative and accusative case and are always in the middle or end (not in the beginning) of a sentence. These pronouns are similar in form to those of nearby but more distantly related languages such as Karay-a and Aklanon. In Capiznon, the third-person singular pronoun tiya (pronounced “cha” or “tsa”) precedes personal pronouns for emphasis, thus forming double pronouns in an utterance. For example “Indi tiya takon” can mean either “It wasn’t me” or “I won’t (do it/like it).” Additionally, some Capiznon words are not Hiligaynon but are similar to Aklanon or Waray, such as yandâ (now), laong (to request permission), bundol (dull), halâ (to say), and gumangkun (nephew/niece).

Words such as gutus (to walk), likot (weeds or litter), uyapad (rice fields), pinsan (as a whole), and hinipu (youngest child) have no known cognates among nearby languages. Some words that are found both in Hiligaynon and Capiznon may have different meanings. Libud, meaning “to peddle” in Hiligaynon, means “to stroll” in Capiznon. Tina-i, meaning “intestines” in Hiligaynon, means “stomach” in Capiznon. Palak, meaning “to panic” or “to rattle ” in Hiligaynon, means “to brag” in Capiznon.

Languages in Panay Island exist in a continuum; thus, varieties of Capiznon exist even among its different speakers. Capiznon, with its distinct features, is spoken in northeastern Panay, such as Roxas City and the towns of Pan-ay, Panit-an, Ivisan, President Roxas, Maayon, Pilar, and Pontevedra. However, Karay-a predominates in Tapaz, Dumarao, Dumalag, Dao, and Jamindan; and Aklanon is spoken in Mambusao, Sigma, and Sapi-an more than Capiznon or Hiligaynon. The variety spoken in Panit-an is even more distinctive in that the Hiligaynon “l” is pronounced as “w” or “y.” Thus, the Hiligaynon magulang (elder sibling) is maguwayng in Capiznon and ulu (head) is uwi .

History of the Capiznon People

According to folk history recorded in the Maragtas, 1907, by Pedro Monteclaro, 10 Bornean datu (chieftains) landed at a site now known as San Joaquin town in Iloilo province. They purchased Panay from the Aeta, cultivated the land, and renamed the island Madya-as. They divided it into three sakup (communities): Irong-Irong, Akean (which included the area of Capiz), and Hamtik (now Antique). These were loosely united under a government called the Confederation of Madya-as.

Visayan couple People with tatoos pintados
Visayan couple (Les Philippines: Histoire, Geographie, Moeurs, Agriculture, Industrie et Commerce des Colonies Espagnoles dans l’Oceanie by Jean Mallat. A. Bertrand, 1846.)

When the Spaniards led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came to Panay from Cebu in 1569, they found people with tattoos, and so they called it “Isla de los Pintados” (Island of the Painted Ones). How the island itself came to be called Panay is uncertain. The Aeta called it Aninipay, after a plant that abounded in the island. Legazpi and his men established their first settlement in the island at the mouth of the Banica River in Capiz and called it Pan-ay. This was the second Spanish settlement in the Philippines, the first being San Miguel, Cebu.

Harbor of Capiz Island, Panay
Harbor of Capiz Island, Panay (Philippine Picture Postcards 1900-1920 by Jonathan Best. The Bookmark, Inc., 1994.)

Akean was divided into encomiendas, large tracts of land granted by the Spanish king to loyal Spanish subjects. The town of Pan-ay, Capiz was appropriated by the king in his name, and it became the seat of the chief encomendero, the land grantee whose functions and privileges were equivalent to those of a provincial governor. The riverbanks of Pan-ay, with a scattered population of about 2,000 natives, were distributed to Spanish soldiers. In mid-1571, Legazpi left Pan-ay to establish the colonial settlement in Manila when famine struck the island.

In 1703, Panay Island was divided into three provinces: Iloilo, Antique, and Capiz (which included Aklan). But it was only in 1716 that Capiz was made a politico-military province, which included the neighboring islands of Maestre del Campo, Romblon, Tablas, and Sibuyan. A town of the same name, Capiz (now called Roxas City) was founded in the same year. Before this, Capiz was within the jurisdiction of Oton, Iloilo. The province of Capiz was created under Republic Act 2711 on 10 March 1917, as a third-class province based on income, though this still included Aklan.

Aklan was separated from Capiz only in 1956; hence, the history of Capiz is often connected with that of Aklan. However, the western section of the old Capiz province is still called Aklan (possibly after the name of the river that flows in this valley) while the eastern side, which is present-day Capiz, was called Ilaya.

Pan-ay, like the other coastal towns of Panay, was beleaguered by a series of Muslim raids. In 1569, the Spanish soldier Juan Salcedo, with a combined force of Spanish soldiers and Aklan and lbajay warriors, pursued Muslim invaders to Mindoro and defeated them. In 1599, the pirates entered the town of Pan-ay via Banica River and razed it. Another attack occurred in 1633 and, in 1672, the alcalde mayor was captured and beheaded. As late as 1814, two watchtowers, measuring seven square feet and 10 feet high and made of black pebbles, were each built on a hilltop in what is now Roxas City.

Throughout the Spanish colonial period, several large and small uprisings occurred in Panay. In 1795, the Spanish-controlled town of Dumalag was besieged by 400 Negrito and Malay rebels. In 1896, a Visayan chapter of the Katipunan (revolutionary movement) was organized, and Teresa Magbanua, a Katipunan member from Iloilo, led her first battle in Barrio Yating, Pilar town, Capiz .

On 18 March 1897, Esteban Contreras, a farmer and fisherman by occupation, founded the revolutionary movement of Capiz in his hometown of Barrio Malag-it, Pontevedra, Capiz. It was said that his anting-anting (supernatural power) accounted for his numerous victories against the enemy: He could delude them into seeing revolutionary soldiers where there were only sticks; he grazed his white horse over tops of trees; and he always eluded capture.

Contreras’s officers were Colonel Pascual Barza, Captain Ramon Contreras, Major Santiago Bellosillo, Captain Alejandro Balgos, Captain Nicomedes Bernales, Lieutenant Santiago Blanco, Chief Procurement Officer Alejandro Amistoso, and Chief-of-Staff Agripino Albaladejo. They called themselves the agraviados (the aggrieved) and devised ingenious strategies with which to recruit more revolutionaries.

The agriaviados’s first military encounter was with a Spanish patrol on 3 May 1897 at Sitio Tadyaw, Barrio Linateran of Panay town. Led by Colonel Victorino Bulquerino, it was a trial run for bigger battles to come. Only seven carried real rifles; the rest had bolos, spears, and mock rifles carved out of gafa (nipa stalks). This show of arms frightened the Spanish patrol into retreating to Capiz town. Thus, no one was killed on either side.

The first major battle was on the following day, when Contreras, leading 700 to 1,000 revolutionaries, attacked the Spanish garrison at Barrio Tanza del Norte of Panay town. Although the Spanish forces sent for reinforcements, a revolutionary contingent, led by Colonel Felix Balgos, stopped them at Barrio Agbalo. Hence, the Spanish forces were easily outnumbered and defeated. Lieutenant Pascual Barza, having felled a Spanish captain, was promoted to colonel.

Anticipating enemy reinforcements from Capiz town, the revolutionaries then lay in wait at Sitio Lahab, Barrio Bato, off Panay town. This battle lasted for four days, in which about 150 on either side, including Lieutenant Bellosillo, perished. In reprisal, the Spaniards razed the whole town of Panay, except the church, and executed 12 residents. The revolutionary army broke up and returned to their previous lives.

After a brief lull, Contreras and his leaders emerged from hiding in Tinagong Dagat and launched a series of attacks against the Spanish detachments. Aurelio Matillano, having recovered from his injury in the Battle of Sitio Lahab, organized his own townmates in Pilar. On 6 June 1896, he led his army up Balisong Hill, 50 feet high and steep, made of sharp coral rocks and dotted with caves. On the hilltop, they erected shacks and defensive embankments, and piled up fist-sized rocks to supplement their guns and a cannon. Three days later, Contreras and his men joined them and transformed the hilltop into a wooden fortress, stacking up logs, boulders, and more rocks. Arce, Bisnar, and new recruits soon joined them.

The Spanish forces besieged the hill from all sides. The revolutionaries cut the ropes that secured the logs, pushed the boulders down, and pelted the enemy with rocks. But after a five-hour battle, seeing the Spanish forces’ superior arms and greater numbers, General Contreras finally led his men to escape through the caves and swamps. They had lost two men, one of them Lieutenant Colonel Arce, but had felled about 300 of the Spanish forces. To this day, the people of Pilar town commemorate this battle and the heroism of Juan Arce with pageantry and a reenactment in the church plaza.

A few months after the battle of Balisong Hill, Contreras and his men marched to Aklan, thus bolstering the morale and numbers of the Aklanon revolutionaries. Immediately after, the Spaniards’ surrender became imminent when they constituted a comite de pacificacion (peace committee).

On 15 September 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo held the Malolos Congress, in which the Capiznon representatives were Miguel Zaragoza, Mariano Bacani, and Juan Baltazar. Two months later, to ensure that his Malolos-based government would have some involvement in the defeat of the Spanish forces in Panay, Aguinaldo sent a Tagalog contingent, headed by General Ananias Diokno and Macario Adriatico. It was a timely move because, by December 1898, the Spanish forces were evacuating Aklan and retreating to Capiz, where they formally surrendered in August 1899.

On 24 December 1898, two weeks after Spain and the United States had signed the Treaty of Paris, the Spaniards departed Iloilo City. Four days later, US ships under the command of Brigadier General M. P. Miller anchored at its docks. For six long weeks, however, the American troops stayed put on their ships while the leaders of Iloilo stalled them off. Finally, Miller received the order from Major Governor Elwell Otis to take the island of Panay. On 11 February 1899, the US troops finally set foot in Iloilo.

On 5 December 1899, a US battalion landed at Passi and for four days walked through six towns to Capiz town, interrupted by intermittent ambushes from erstwhile revolutionaries, now guerilla resistance fighters. As the Americans marched into the Capiz town hall, the residents kept their houses shut. However, at the center of each capiz window was a tiny glass pane that customarily served as their peephole. Through these, the people witnessed the formal surrender of their town to US rule and the raising of the American flag. The incumbent presidente (mayor), Jose Albar, continued to stay in office as the new regime’s appointee.

The Americans plundered the towns of Capiz province, such as Calapawan and Cabugao, known to be the guerillas’ nests. Storehouses for rice grains were razed, homes looted and burned, and villagers interrogated under torture. Captain Ramon Contreras was himself subjected to the “water cure.”

The other face of US colonization was its policy of “benevolent assimilation,” which was fulfilled through the transplantation of its own homegrown systems and institutions into Philippine culture: a capitalist democracy; a public school system to spread American history, culture, and the English language; roads and bridges for easier access and communications to remote regions of the archipelago; and a public health system to eradicate contagious diseases, particularly leprosy.

To these ends, toops and guerillas, until one by one, the resistance leaders of Panay surrendered: General Delgado of Iloilo on 2 February 1901; General Fullon of Antique on 1 March; and Aguinaldo’s Tagalog man Diokno, on the same day. The last to surrender was General Esteban Contreras, on 23 March 1901.

The US battalion in Capiz town opened a school with its chaplain as teacher. Volunteer soldiers started teaching English in its schools, then in nearby towns. By September 1900, almost a hundred boys and girls were going to school in the whole province.

On 14 to 15 April 1901, when the Taft Commission visited Capiz, in a meeting that was held with the local officials, a 10-year-old Filipino Ludovico Hidrosollo delivered a speech in English in a flawless accent. This was four months before the arrival of the Thomasites, the first American teachers who journeyed from the United States aboard the USS Thomas. In August 1901, 14 Thomasites came to Capiz province and spread out into several of its towns: five in Capiz town, two in Kalibo, and one each in Panitan, Dao, Dumarao, Pontevedra, Panay, Ibajay and Malinao.

In the same month that year, the Balangiga massacre in Samar caused a great stir even in Capiz as rumors spread across the islands of a widespread uprising. One American officer reported its suspicions that Capiz’s ruling party was reviving the Katipunan with a “secret fund” coming from the town revenues, particularly those of the cockpit and the public market. Indeed, Governor Vidal, in his yearly reports, consistently described the people’s “profound discontent,” citing several complaints, among them the abuses committed by American soldiers.

By 1904, local young women who were being trained to become teachers became part of what was called an aspirante class. Besides elementary schools, there were night schools, normal schools, industrial, and agricultural schools. In the whole province, which had a children’s population of 50,000, there was a total of 1,154 students distributed among 15 schools, with 10 American teachers and 15 Filipino teachers. Barrio Loctugan alone had a Filipino teacher with 200 students. By the end of 1905, the number of schools had leaped to 137, with 22 American teachers, 137 Filipino ones, and 22,227 students.

Mary H. Fee, a Thomasite who in 1910 published a detailed account of her stay in the Philippines, describes baseball as being “the most popular American import.” Capiz, she notes, started its own team in 1903. In their music classes, the students sang “Swanee River,” “There’ll Be a Hot Time,” “Just One Girl,” and “After the Ball.” The young Hidrosollo, whom she mentions as a helpful pupil, became one of the first two pensionados (scholars) of the province sent to the United States in 1903. Hidrosollo took a degree in agriculture from the University of Michigan, became a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines in 1926 to 1931, and governor of Capiz in 1947.

In 1902, roads were impassable even for wagons, and there were hardly any bridges. Of greatest priority was the road connecting Capiz City with the town of Pilar, where the sugar plantations had been the most productive before most of its sugar mills were set on fire during the revolution against Spain. By 1904, this road, which included bridges, was completed. In the same year, work on a railway covering the 110-kilometer distance between Capiz and Iloilo began and was completed in 1910. Trains ran along this railway until the 1980s.

Industrialization, which coincided with the American colonial period, was the central concern of Governor Antonio Habana, who succeeded Vidal. In 1906, he noted that the simple hoe, which had been introduced into the country only in 1901, was the most common plowing implement among the farmers. Some still depended on the carabao-pulled plow, and a few sugar planters were now resorting to the modern disk plow. In the whole province, there were two rice-hulling machines, but all the weaving industries, such as those of burlap sacks, sinamay, nipa, and hats, were being manually done by women from out of their home.

Three distilleries had been erected in 1865 by the Ayala company of Manila in the nipa swamps of Capiz town, now Roxas City, and these were supervised by Margarita Roxas y Ayala. This prompted Don Antonio Roxas, grandfather of President Roxas, to put up his own, too. The large-scale manufacture of whiskey from nipa palm juice had been the only mechanized industry then and could have been the forerunner of a program of nationalized industrialization. In 1906, the American regime’s introduction of the internal-revenue tax forced the shutdown of the distilleries, but the following year saw the reopening of these distilleries plus five others, making eight distilleries in all. In World War II, the Japanese cannibalized the copper and bronze machinery in these buildings.

The Capiznon’s involvement in World War II began even before the Japanese reached their shores. At the behest of Lieutenant Colonel Manuel A. Roxas, through Governor Gabriel Hernandez, they donated 17,000 sacks of rice and corn, and 10,000 eggs to the Allied troops in Bataan and Corregidor. On 12 April 1942, enemy troops landed simultaneously in Capiz, Iloilo, and Antique. This led to the formation of the Panay Resistance Movement, divided into the civil resistance movement and the Panay guerilla force, led by General Macario Peralta. By December 1944, the Capiznon guerillas had reclaimed the Japanese garrisons; and on 1 September 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Ryochi Tozuka led in the surrender of the Imperial Japanese Army in Panay.

The end of the Japanese occupation in 1945 revived the Filipinos’ active participation in electoral politics and other regional concerns. Capiznon individuals who have attained prominence include President Manuel A. Roxas; Pedro Gil, founder and editor of newspapers, congressman, and ambassador to Buenos Aires; Vicente Carmona, first president of the Philippine National Bank; Cornelio Villareal Sr., a member, along with Roxas, of the 1934 Constitutional Convention; Jovita Fuentes, National Artist for music; and Daisy Avellana, National Artist for theater.

The Capiznon Way of Life

Capiz is a first-class province, with an average annual income of 99,313 pesos per family, according to the 2007 Census. Due to its geography, it has very abundant natural resources in both land and sea. The two cities, Capiz and Roxas, have 14 towns between them that lie within the Panay River Basin. The Panay River, 152 kilometers long, has three major tributaries: Mambusao River, Badbaran River, and Maayon River. Upper Panay River flows downstream from the town of Panit-an and divides into two parts: the lower Panay River and the Pontevedra River. Pontevedra River leads to the Hamulauon River, which is the largest outlet of the Panay River system and creates a bay called Tinagong Dagat. The Panay River, on the other hand, flows into the plains, thus providing natural irrigation to agricultural crops, mainly rice. However, during the typhoon season this area tends to go under water.

Fishermen in Roxas City, Capiz
Fishermen in Roxas City, Capiz, 2012 (Isiah Obera)

The main agricultural products of the province are rice (335,605 metric tons in 2010), sugar cane (496,333 metric tons in 2009), and coconuts (87,603 metric tons in 2009). But Capiz is best known as the country’s “seafood capital” because of its 90-kilometer-long coastline, which forms natural bays like Sapian and Tinagong Dagat, essential for fishing and brackish-water aquaculture. Roxas City alone has 1,805 hectares of fishponds, which per year produce 3,127 metric tons of milkfish, 312 metric tons of shrimp, 3,664 metric tons of mussels, and 1,034 metric tons of oysters. Commercial fishing yields 10,558 metric tons per year and subsistence fishing, 4,679 metric tons. The province also abounds in alimango (mudcrabs), diwal (pacific angel wings), lukon (prawns), and cagaycay (Asiatic hard clams).

Capiznon woman preparing piña fibers for weaving
Capiznon woman preparing piña fibers for weaving (Through the Philippines and Hawaii by Frank G. Carpenter. Doubleday, 1930.)

The same geographical factors have provided for large and small industries. Sand and gravel are the region’s contribution to the country’s construction industry. The nipa palm thrives best along the coast, and the making of nipa shingles for roofing is a lucrative occupation. The buri palm fiber called saguran is made into hats, slippers, mats, household adornments, burlap sacks, and sail. It was in 1904 that pi-os (capiz) became a major trade product: The shells were being used for windows, and its meat was being purchased by plantation owners in Negros and Iloilo to feed their workers. Other cottage industries are basketry, abaca weaving, shell craft, and making of mosquito nets, rope, and abaca slippers. The cloth-weaving industry reached its peak production before World War II but has since declined because the market became flooded with mass-manufactured textiles. An emerging industry is cut flower and ornamental plant production. Between 2006 and 2007, the Capiz Multi-Purpose Cooperative Inc. sent 11,071 kilograms of the fortune plant Dracaena to Japan.

Senior Capiznon mat weaver
Senior Capiznon mat weaver, 2015 (Jessica Ayun,

There were no copper mines until 1955, when Wenceslao Indencia established the Pilar Copper Mines Inc. In 1999, Provincial Board Order No. 6 put a stop to commercial mining for a 15-year period, and three years later, extended the ban to another 50 years. Since 2004, however, small-scale mining has been allowed in Maayon and Dumarao. In 2007, the Provincial Board Resolution No. 69 allowed for “mineral exploration,” a term that critics claim allows a way around the mining ban.

The tourism industry has grown, earning 1.308 billion pesos in 2009, for instance. Great crowd drawers are festivals like the “Capiztahan” and “Sinadya sa Halaran.” Popular sites are the Pan-ay church, which has the country’s biggest bell, cast in 1884 from 76 sacks of coins; President Manuel Roxas’s birthplace; and the ruins of two 19th-century “Moro towers” standing on separate sites in Roxas City. A 45-minute ride called The Panay River Tour gives tourists a view of the city’s riverscape; stops along the way offer them a glimpse of the village folk’s lifestyle and fishing practices.

On the other hand, throughout its history, Capiz’s fortunate geography has not spared it of natural disasters. Well into the American colonial period until eradication methods were either discovered or invented, the province suffered from epidemics like cholera, animal plagues like rinderpest, and infestations on agricultural crops like those of locusts and rats. Climatic extremes, however, like drought and typhoons, have been the bane of the province, from the earliest colonial accounts until the present. On 5 November 1984, Typhoon Undang destroyed 97.08 million pesos worth in the agriculture sector and 71 million in the fishponds business. On 8 November 2013, the damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda (international name, Haiyan) on the fishing industry amounted to 675.82 million and 1 billion on the 22,259 hectares of rice fields. In Roxas City alone, 90% of fishponds and fishing boats were destroyed.

The Panayanon Government

Late 16th-century accounts, such as that by Miguel de Loarca and an anonymous manuscript now referred to as the Boxer Codex, say that traditional Panayanon government was headed by the datu, who as head of a sakup, was the judge in matters of dispute, the protector and defender, and a feudal lord. His subjects were called sinakpan, whose property he appropriated when they died. Any of the datu’s sons could claim succession; hence, warfare could erupt between brothers competing for the throne. Another recourse was for the disgruntled brother of a newly installed datu to start his own sakup. A class of warriors called timawa owed fealty to, and protected, the datu. Their tasks included testing the datu’s wine for poison. They accompanied him on raiding forays and were on familiar terms with him. They were themselves descendants of datu, the first generation timawa, having been the illegitimate sons of a datu and a slave woman. The rest of the sinakpan were the oripun, who provided the economic and political support for the datu and timawa, since the latter two did not engage in agricultural or industrial activity. Legislative decisions by the datu were done publicly and with the guidance of the ponu-an, a council of elders knowledgeable in matters of custom law. Although law was handed down by tradition, amendments could be made with the consensus of the datu. The datu decided on a case after listening to the sworn testimony of the conflicting parties. All crimes, including murder and disobedience to the datu, were punishable by fines, which could be paid for with servitude.

The first stage of Spanish political control was the encomienda system, which was begun in 1571. But because of the abuses perpetrated by the encomenderos, it was abolished in 1720. With the abolition of the encomienda system, Capiz was made a province, called the alcaldia, and governed by the alcalde mayor. The alcaldia was composed of pueblos or towns headed by a gobernadorcillo addressed as “capitan.” The barrios, called barangay, were headed by a cabeza de barangay.

On 14 to 15 April 1901, the Taft Commission, led by Governor-General Howard Taft, visited Capiz while on an official tour of the archipelago. The province’s local officials met with them at the Jaena Theater. It was at this gathering that the proposal for the division of Aklan and Capiz was first presented, provoking impassioned debate among the Aklan leaders, who were themselves divided on the matter.

On 4 July 1902, the US government declared its war with the Philippines officially ended, although in Capiz, this was belied by the continued presence of American officers who stayed on to command the local constabulary. Governor Vidal himself was chafing at having to draw his salary from funds controlled by the American treasurer and the Supervisor of Education.

The surrendered resistance leaders became town mayors: Santiago Bellosillo, Damaso Bulaclac, Ramon Contreras, and Nicomedes Bernales. The exception was the revolutionary and guerilla leader, Esteban Contreras, who moved his family to Casanayan and went back to being a fisherman.

Elections for the first National Assembly were held in 1907, and three Capiznon were voted in: Jose Altavas, Simeon Mobo, and Eugenio Picazo, the last being Manuel Roxas’s stepfather. Manuel A. Roxas became the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1922. He was one of seven members of the Constitutional Convention of 1934 who made the final draft of the Constitution and he went on to become the first president of the Republic. When the Commonwealth Period was established, provincial and municipal leaders agitated for local autonomy. Gabriel K. Hernandez was elected governor of Capiz, and the title of presidente municipal was replaced by municipal mayor. Today, Capiz has two seats at the House of Representatives, and is administered by a governor, vice-governor, and a provincial board.

The women of Panay also agitated for participation in the electoral process. One of the leaders of the suffragette movement was Attorney Josefa Abiertas, 1894-1929, born in the town of Capiz, now Roxas City. The first female member of the Philippine Bar, she actively opposed crime and vice, especially gambling and prostitution, and organized indignation rallies with the help of student leaders.

Capiznon Social Organization and Customs

The traditional social hierarchy consisted of five classes: the datu, timawa, oripun, negrito, and outsiders from across the seas. According to an origin myth, these classes were the five types of people that made up all of humankind. The term “datu” referred to both the social class and the village head who belonged to this class. He had a retinue of personal vassals called timawa. These two upper classes were economically supported by the commoners, called oripun, who were further divided into 12 subclasses ranging from the bihag (captive slaves) to the tumataban (“the most respected” commoner, serving only five days of labor per month).

Teachers of Capiz
Teachers of Capiz (In the Land of the Filipino by Ralph Kent Buckland. Every Where Publishing Company, 1912.)

Vertical mobility was possible within this social structure. A slave, for instance, could become free after paying off his debt or as a reward from his master. Slaves could also go up the ladder of the 12 subclasses within their class. However, the datu kept the noble line unbroken by marrying only princesses of other sakup, whether by proper arrangement or by abduction. The princesses were binokot or “wrapped up,” that is, reserved for an appropriate marriage. The illegitimate sons of a captive binokot princess and the datu became the timawa. Upon their father’s death, they were set free and were called ginoo.

By the 17th century, the noble classes, datu and timawa alike, had been absorbed into the Spanish colonial structure; and the timawa, now subjugated by Spanish military might, had to seek a means of subsistence like farming and fabric weaving. The current meaning of the word “timawa” is “poor or destitute,” evidence of the effect that Spanish colonization had on indigenous society.

The datu class was also referred to as manggaranon (rich), halangdon (held in high respect), and dungganon (honorable). Among the other halangdon and dungganon were the sabiosar (wise) and the babaylan (priest or priestess). The datu was also the agalon (feudal lord and master) of the timawa and the oripun. Because the present agricultural system maintains feudal relations between landlord and tenant or worker, these terms are still in current use.

The Capiznon kinship system follows the general Philippine pattern, relationships being traced along both paternal and maternal lines, with terms of address for each member of the family. Marriage arrangements follow tradition: parental approval and arrangement, and a ceremony called pamalaye or pabalayon.

The marriage ceremony itself is festive and costly. The newlyweds may stay with the bride’s family for a few days then move in with the groom’s family for a longer period until the couple set up residence, usually as decided upon by the husband, with his wife’s concurrence. In the past, the groom was expected to serve the bride’s family for the first few months.

The father is the head of the family, although household matters like preparing the meals, buying clothing for the family, entertaining visitors and relatives, and attending to the children’s needs are the mother’s responsibilities. Grandparents are respected and cared for, their opinions sought, and their advice followed. In their terminal years, they are attended to by the favorite son or daughter. Equal inheritance for the children is observed.

Religious Beliefs and Practices of the People of Capiz

The early Panayanon believed in many gods. Bululakaw, a bird which looked like a peacock and could cause illness, was said to live in the island’s sacred mountain called Madya-as. A chief goddess was believed to reside in the mountain of the nearby island of Negros Occidental. She was called Laon, after whom Mount Kanlaon is named. Mediators to the gods, also said to be the first priests, were Bangutbanwa, who prayed for good harvests and an orderly universe; Mangindalon, who interceded for sick persons and prayed for the punishment of enemies; and Soliran and Solian, who performed marriage ceremonies. Manunubo was the good spirit of the sea.

Traditional folk belief and legend are peopled by mythological creatures. Tungkung Langit is the god of the sky who brings famine, drought, storms, and floods. Lulid-Batang is the god of the earth, responsible for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Linting Habughabug is the god of lightning, whose look kills people and who shouts in anger. Launsina is the goddess of the sun, moon, stars, and seas, and the most beloved because people seek forgiveness from her. Burigadang Pada Sinaklang Bulawan is the goddess of greed to whom people pray when they want to get rich. Saragnayan, the god of darkness, has the power to replace brightness with darkness. Lubay-lubyuk Hanginun si Mahuyuk-huyukun, the goddess of the evening breeze, cools people, especially during the summer. Suklang Malayun is the guardian of happy homes, and Maklilum-sa-twan the god of the plains and valleys.

Thanksgiving ritual led by a Panay-Bukidnon in Pan-ay River, Capiz
Thanksgiving ritual led by a Panay-Bukidnon in Pan-ay River, Capiz, 2014 (Kim Logronio)

Catholicism and reverence for patron saints have not completely replaced the belief in the ingkantu (supernatural beings), which reside in places called mari-it, for example, cliffs, bamboo groves, boulders, and earth mounds. They either prey on people or, at the very least, play tricks on them. The ingkantu are also believed to be fairies that appear beautiful to mortals. The palhi are evil spirits. The aswang is a man-eating person. The gabunan is an aswang which flies in the form of a huge bat of which there are various kinds: tiktik, kabug, and wakwak. The tiktik is a bird that eats human liver. The wakwak, unlike the aswang, prefers to eat dead persons. The bagat, usually in the form of a huge dog or some grotesque creature, preys on lone travelers. The sigbin, also a dog, preys on people at noontime. The bawa looks like a big hen, but it can easily snap its victim’s neck. The kama-kama are dwarves living in earth mounds, and are lazy and fun loving. The tamawu or taglugar are spirits that can be either friendly or evil. They live in resplendent palaces that look like mere boulders to the human eye. When they find a human being attractive, they entice the person to join them; this peculiar act of courtship is called yanggaw. The dwindi (derived from the Spanish word duende) is a dwarf residing in a mound of earth. The lulid sa bungsud has a big head but a small torso and limbs. One who disturbs the mound where it resides falls ill. The agta is a very dark, hairy person living in the forest. Although a trickster, it is helpful to people. The amamanhig is a dead person who has returned to life and simply echoes everything that mortals say; it has lost the power to think. Hiwit or barang is a ritual that gives one the power to inflict pain on an enemy.

Belief in the power of the babaylan has not completely disappeared either, although their number has dwindled. In pre-Christian times, the babaylan played an important political, social, religious, and cultural role. They were advisers to the datu, and the spiritual and physical healers of the community. They officiated in ceremonies that marked the life cycle of each villager. In pre-Spanish times, a significant religious ceremony was held every seven years to pray for the “strengthening of the universe.” The people of all three districts Irong-irong, Hamtik, and Aklan convened near a spring, the waters of which flowed back to the mountains. Here, sacrifices and offerings were made for seven days.

Pan-ay was made the first Spanish settlement in Capiz in 1572, hence becoming the center of Christian conversion in Panay Island, with the Augustinians as the primary proselytizers. The babaylan strongly resisted Spanish rule. They tried to maintain their influence over the Christianized villagers, sometimes succeeding in winning them back to the worship of their anito, and at times actually leading popular revolts. Two babaylan from Pan-ay named Conitnit and Cauayuay escaped into a secluded place in what is now Pontevedra. Here, they continued to perform rituals and cure the ailments of the people from Sublangon and nearby barrios. In their honor, their place of refuge was named Bailan, now a barangay of Pontevedra.

In the town of Dumalag, Friar Morales was relentless in his attempts to eliminate indigenous beliefs and practices. He deliberately held mass on Pamgilaron, now Mount Blanco, because a cave there was the babaylan’s ritual site. His mass ended just as a storm began, and white crosses were said to have fallen with the rain. At another time, he had begun to cut a tree called Maliao because the natives believed that their ancestors and diwata lived there. A native tried to stop it by killing him but the friar succeeded in felling the tree. That same day, a crocodile attacked that same native and bit off his legs.

With the revolution against Spain bearing a strong anticlerical sentiment, the Philippines was fertile ground for Protestant conversion during the US colonial period. On 24 to 26 April 1901, the various American Protestant sects met to organize themselves into the Evangelical Union of the Philippines and divide the archipelago among themselves for mission work. Capiz was reserved solely for the Baptist church. However, local Christian groups such as the Iglesia ni Cristo and Iglesia Filipina Independiente had already preceded the American mission groups.

In the same year, a medical missionary couple, Dr. and Mrs. Peter H. J. Lerrigo, was hosted by an affluent couple, Don Manuel and Andrea Gregorio, who cautiously admitted to being members of a homegrown Protestant church. Two years later, Miss Celia Sainz arrived to conduct Bible studies for women; another three years later, Miss Margaret Suman arrived to run a “home school” for orphaned young girls, ages 6 to 12 years.

How the home school started was tied up with the political turbulence of the period. A local officer had handed over a seven-year-old girl to the Baptist missionaries when her father was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment; her mother was dead. Thus sprung the Capiz Home School, which provided not only a home but also schooling, vocational training, and Christian formation.

The American community, skeptical of “native preachers” in their church, approved of Suman’s work more than Sainz’s. In one account, there were 80 Capiznon and only two white people in church because the preacher was a Capiznon speaking “Visaya.”

Santa Monica Parish Church in Pan-ay, Capiz
Santa Monica Parish Church in Pan-ay, Capiz, 2014 (Cherryl G. Pascual,

The majority of the Capiznon, however, have remained Roman Catholic. The popularity of Catholic charismatic groups has steadily grown. A group named Jesus is Lord Believers-Disciples of the Divine Mercy fuses the devotion to the Divine Mercy with Charismatic Catholic worship. Based in Sibaguan, Roxas City, it is headed by lay people and is recognized by the Catholic Church. As in most of the Philippines, each town in Capiz celebrates a patron saint’s feast day with a pista (festival), which is a fusion of civic and religious events. For example, the Sinadya (merrymaking) Festival is celebrated annually in Capiz City, the provincial capital, on 4 to 8 December to correspond to the feast day of the Immaculate Conception.

Fringe groups and folk practices bear vestiges of the indigenous belief system. In 1954, there emerged a religious group called “Trance,” headed by someone called “Iluy sang Duta” (Mother of the Earth). She was believed to have the power to communicate with the Blessed Virgin Mary via the pasagahay, the ritual that takes her soul to heaven.

The function of the babaylan as medical practitioners persists in folk healers called manugluy-a (ginger-healer) and siruhano (surgeon), whose rituals are a blend of indigenous and Christian elements. The Capiznon might consult the folk healer for diseases that cannot be explained by Western medicine. Chills and fever, for instance, may be interpreted as kabuno, or a reprimand given by a dead person to a relative. Sinda, which is manifested by vomiting, and sabwag, by itchy lesions on the skin, may be punishment inflicted by supernatural beings. The afflicted person may ask a folk healer to propitiate these beings with offerings.

Until today, the belief in pre-Christian mythological beings lingers, especially the belief in the aswang. Spanish chroniclers Plasencia, Alcina, Ortiz, and San Antonio wrote that the belief in the man-eating aswang was generally common among Visayans, although they did not state any specific association with Capiz or its people.

In modern times, however, Capiz has been specifically associated with it, with the Capiznon being tagged as aswang by outsiders. In Maximo Ramos’s The Aswang Complex in Philippine Folklore, 1990, the province of Capiz features prominently as the setting of aswang stories. One story has the whole population of a barrio in Capiz consisting of aswang, including the town mayor.

Local scholars have tried to find historical underpinnings of the myth. Clavel (2004) traces the association of Capiz with the aswang to the story of the conflict between the good spirit named Agurang and the malevolent spirit named Asuwang. Magos (2005) points to the character Paglambuhan, who was called aswang in the Hinilawod epics of Central Panay. He was a formidable warrior who collected the bones of his vanquished enemies as symbols of prestige and valor. Both scholars propose that the tag “aswang” was later applied to people believed to have supernatural powers and did not succumb to foreign influence as colonialism progressed.

The prominence of Capiz in this narrative may have arisen from the prevalence and the resistance of the babaylan such as Conitnit and Cauayuay. The Spanish friars called these powerful personalities demons, witches, or devils, thus demonizing them. This slander later fused with the native appellation of “aswang.” Despite the end of Spanish rule and the entry of the Americans with their science and modern medicine, the babaylan continued to perform their traditional duties in the area.

Modern medicine itself may be deemed responsible for the continuation of the myth of the Capiznon aswang well into the 21st century. American colonial records described a muscle disorder called Torsion Dystonia or, in the local language, lubag (literally, to twist), also described as “twisting movements which progress into abnormal postures” (Baes 2011, 43). This description, it is said, matches that of the aswang. A study of the disease places Capiz as the home of 131 out of 269 people in the whole Philippines afflicted with the disease, with 50 others in the rest of Panay.

Community and Traditional House of the Capiznon

The traditional house of the Capiznon is made of bamboo and nipa or cogon leaves. It is square, with one to two rooms. The roof, palaya (pyramid shaped) or binalay (hip shaped), is made of either cogon or nipa leaves. The main posts are of agoho timber while the smaller posts, roof beams, and rafters are of dried bamboo. Rope and vine are used to join parts together, such as beams and rafters. Instead of nails, which may split the bamboo, wooden pegs and mortise-and-tenon are used. The walls are of woven bamboo slats, woven amakan (bamboo splints), or flattened bamboo nodes. The floor, which is about 1.5 meters above the ground, is of bamboo slats that may be laid in such a way that the nodes form a design. The space under the floor is generally open, but sometimes is used as the shelter for livestock like pigs or chicken or as the rice granary. If so, it is enclosed with woven bamboo slats or bamboo tops and twigs.

Ati house in Dumarao, Capiz
Ati house in Dumarao, Capiz (Capiz Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office)

Sulay (props) made of sturdy bamboo are sometimes used to support the sides of the house. One end is pegged or tied to a section under the eaves, while the opposite end is buried in or pegged to the ground and reinforced by large stones. Interior partitions, such as those between the living room and kitchen, are made of woven amakan. The kitchen contains the stove and the tarap-anan, a bamboo platform standing on stilts above the stove. Placed here are leftover food and kitchen utensils such as the bayung (bamboo water container), banga (clay water jar), kerosin (kerosene can), and kabu (coconut shells for drinking).

There must be at least one window facing the east, for good luck. For the same reason the owner marks the number of steps by reciting the words “oro, plata, mata” (gold, silver, death); the builder must make sure that the steps do not end on the word “death.”

The way the basic house materials are put together fulfills both functional and aesthetic ends. The nipa shingles on the roof are left untrimmed so that the effect is a shaggy and informal look. Window latticework designs may range from the simply geometrical to the ornate. Bamboo strips of various lengths are placed end to end in different positions or laid over other strips to effect intricate geometric designs such as diagonals on squares, zigzags on horizontal stripes, diamonds within diamonds, sprinkle of asterisks, flowers, crosses, and stars.

The Capiznon weaving and embroidery culture is reflected in some windows, which can resemble piña or jusi embroidery or the solihiya (caned) design of living room furniture. In the rural areas, the bamboo or nipa house stands squarely in the middle of the field, overlooking the various stages of the agricultural cycle.

City or town planning, on the other hand, reveals traces of Spanish influence. The town center is a huge, open square called the plaza, from which streets and houses radiate. The plaza is surrounded by the cathedral, the government buildings, and the stone houses of the traditionally affluent. The residential stone houses of the Spanish period, some of which still stand today, derive their basic structure from the traditional rural house. The steep roof is hip-shaped, originally of nipa but now replaced by galvanized iron; the living quarters are elevated. The stone wall has a wooden frame that still makes use of the post-and-lintel structure, identical to that of the nipa house. The zaguan, or stone ground floor, is used as an office, storage space, a stable, or a garage. Rooms on the upper floor are a vestibule, living room, bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, toilet and bathroom. Church architecture in Capiz is represented by the churches of Capiz City, 1728, 1885, and 1870; Loctugan, 1875; Dumalag, 1833 and 1873; Pan-ay, pre-1698; and Dumarao, 1710.

The Capiz City Church has a facade that is almost bare, having less of the baroque features typical of Philippine churches. The Loctugan Church has one story, with flat pilasters and a Graeco-Roman pediment; underneath are triglyphs. The Dumalag Church has a facade that is decorated by small pilasters. Its five-story tower has five bells forged in 1881. The church used to have beautiful paintings, but these have become faded and timeworn. The facade of the one-story Dumarao Church is a study in contrast: massive wall, slender columns, and disproportionately small Greek pediment.

The uniqueness of the Pan-ay church facade lies in the different shapes of the first story and the second story. Considered one of the most beautiful churches in the country, it is an excellent blend of the Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Pan-ay also boasts of a bell that is reported to be the largest in the country (see logo of this article).

Capiznon Arts and Crafts 

The traditional weaving method of piña or pineapple fiber is called pili or sinuksuk. This is a floating weft technique accomplished after cloth weaving, an intricate process for embellishing piña fabric before it is cut and sewn into a gown. A typical design is a cluster of five-petal flowers surrounding a butterfly. This is repeated in a series along the borders of the cloth.

Panubok, a Panay-Bukidnon embroidery style typical of Jamindan and Tapaz, Capiz
Panubok, a Panay-Bukidnon embroidery style typical of Jamindan and Tapaz, Capiz (Capiz Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office)

Abaca slippers, which the town of Loctugan produces, have designs of flora or fauna, woven in simple geometric lines and in red, green, yellow, and blue colors. Sequins and beads of the same colors are attached to those that are worn for special occasions.

During the Spanish period, capiz shells were used for windowpanes on houses and convents. Today, these shells are strung together to make chandeliers or glued together to make lampshades. Shell chimes are strung together in two or three graduated tiers and sometimes painted.

The Visayan skirt is the patadyong, a knee-length barrel skirt with inwoven checkered designs in red, green, black, yellow, and white. The upper garment is the thin, almost transparent kimona, a sleeveless blouse that hangs loosely down to the waist. It has no openings on either front or back but has a wide neckline sometimes embroidered with flower, tendril, and leaf designs.

In 1904, a painting of the Capiz River, done by the local artist, Pedro Adreña, numbered among the exhibits in the Philippine pavilion at the St Louis exposition.

Capiznon Poems, Riddles and Legends

The patugmahanon (riddle) is a word game played by adults and children during social occasions, to while away the time, to create camaraderie among warring parties, or simply to entertain. It reveals the people’s values, institutions, traditions, customs, and humor, which is sometimes risqué.

Anu nga tanum nga kun sia magpuya sa ulo nagaagi?

(Puso sang saging)

(What plant bears fruit that passes through its head?

[Banana flower])

Pumungku ang maitum

Tinusluk sang mapula

Gumwa puti na.


(The black one sat down,

Was pricked by the red one;

What came out was white.

[Rice cooked in a pot]).

Pag-abut ni Tatay mu bumag-id kay nanay mu.

(Sanduku kag bairan)

(As soon as your father arrived,

he rubbed against your mother.

[Bolo and grindstone])

Isa ka gatus nga magbulugtu,

Lunsay nagakalu.


(A group of little gentlemen,

All wearing hats.

[Betel palm nut])

Baboy sa Sorsogon

Kun indi pagsakyan, indi magkaun.

(Kuskusan sang lubi)

(My pig in Sorsogon

Unless mounted, will not eat.

[Coconut grater])

The hurubaton (proverb) is most revealing of the natural environment and material culture of the Capiznon. The strong odor of ginamos (fermented small fish) is used as analogy for one’s foul secrets, as in the proverb:

Bisan anhun nimu sing tagu,

Kun ginamus nga mabahu,

Siguru gid nga manimahu.

(No matter how well you hide it,

The bad-smelling ginamos

Will always give off its odor.)

In another proverb, the batu bantiling (basalt) is the metaphor for a hard object worn out by dogged perseverance:

Ang batu bantiling bisan nga matig-a,

Sa inanay nga tulu sang ulan madutlan.

(The basalt, no matter how hard,

Will soften when continously wet by raindrops.)

Unguarded rice grains are used as analogy for one’s carelessness over hard-earned property:

Ang binun-ag nga wala sing bantak tuk-un gid.

(Unguarded rice grains being dried under the sun will be picked.)

The lawaan, a tall, strong tree, symbolizes a person with the same characteristics:

Lawaan, kun nagatungtung ka sa kataasan,

Kung ikaw sang Dyus pagbut-an,

matupung ka sa ulisiman.

(Lawaan, you may be standing on the highest ground; but if God wills it,

you will be cut down to the size of the weed.)

The most popular type of narrative poetry is the kumpusu or composo (ballad), the topics of which range from historical events to love affairs of some people, actual or fictitious, and social conditions. For example, a ballad with bawdy lyrics, “Ang Mga Pam pam” (The Prostitutes), describes the forward behavior of prostitutes during the early American colonial period.

Anyus cuarenta y dos edad sang kalibutan

Amu ang pag-abut kanu nga kadam-an

Ang mga babayi kay nagbululu-ang

Dalaga, may bana, nag-intra sa pampam

Uras igkaaga pampam gapalaligu

Sa higad sang baybay pampam gapululungku

Umabut na gani ang pisti nga kanu

Ang bwisit nga pampan kay nangupu-kupu

Pampam ining pampam

Pampam kanday Felipe

Mas swabi, manami

Pampam kanday Tony Bayaran mamisu

Dus pisus ang gab-i

Hasta namaaga nimu nga bumbati

Akun naluuyan pampam nga tigulang

Birahan sang kanu, pampam nagasiru

Tungud sadtung armas, malaba kag daku

Ang buwisit nga pampam nagahiku-hiku.

(The world was forty-two years old

When many Americans arrived;

The women went crazy,

Single girls and the married women became prostitutes,

Every morning the prostitutes took their bath

On the shore the prostitutes all sat,

But when the American pests came

The pesky prostitutes embraced them

These prostitutes were prostitutes;

The prostitutes at Felipe’s

Were more suave, more delectable

Than those at Tony’s;

Payment was in pesos,

Two pesos a night

And you could use them until dawn;

It was the old prostitute I pitied;

The American attacked, the prostitute burped

Because of his weapon, that was long and big

The pesky prostitute wriggled in pain.)

“Pagkalunud sang Negros” (The Sinking of Negros) recounts a sea tragedy that occurred in 1927, when the interisland vessel Negros sank in the sea near New Washinton and Kalibo, Aklan, during a typhoon. “Pagbumba sa Syudad sang Iloilo” (The Bombing of Iloilo City) narrates the Japanese bombing of the city and the death of many civilians on 18 November 1941. It includes a fictional account of Hitler visiting Roosevelt at the American embassy to warn the latter of the impending war. There are references to the “bestial Japanese” who had the “bad manners” to bomb the “port of Hawaii.”

Pagkalunud sang Negros
“Pagkalunud sang Negros” (Illustration by Benedict Reyna)

On the other hand, there are kumpusu that are fictional narratives with a didactic purpose. “lbon nga Pinis” is about an unfaithful female bird named Pinis. When her husband Bedabid goes searching for food, she has an affair with Jecaro, who happens to fly by. She is left alone in the end, Bedabid having flown away brokenhearted upon learning of her infidelity, and Jecaro having had doubts about her faithfulness to any lover.

“Basilio” is a kumpusu that hints at a natural cause for a man’s aswang behavior, that is, his cannibalism. Basilio has broiled and eaten his own child and is therefore condemned by law and social opinion as an aswang. Reproaching him, his wife recalls a period of famine when they shared a handful of rice. Hence, these lines hint that Basilio’s crime may have been provoked by extreme hunger and therefore give a clue as to the economic conditions of the people. On the other hand, it is cultural forms like this that might have confirmed for outsiders the myth of the Capiznon being aswang.

Basilio, the aswang who ate his own child because of extreme hunger
Basilio, the aswang who ate his own child because of extreme hunger (Illustration by Benedict Reyna)

Prose narratives consist of tales, fables, and legends explaining the origin of place names, land features such as caves and forests, and other elements of nature such as root crops and animals.

A legend about the Capiznon’s first basic food tells of two brothers and one sister who were suffering as a result of famine. One day the two brothers talked about killing their sister Cayla to spare her from dying of hunger. Distraught, Boaran, the older brother, took a walk and came upon an old man who instructed him to do the following: Chop up his sister, sow the pieces of her flesh on the kaingin or swidden field, bury her head in the middle of the kaingin, and then build a hut over it. The old man promised that the kaingin would then grow rice grains, coconut trees, sugarcane, tubers, and sweet potatoes. Furthermore, the girl’s life would be restored and she would be sitting in the hut after three days. All that the old man promised came true. But she recovered only long enough to walk back home with her two brothers. After a few words of farewell, she disappeared.

Legend has it that Legazpi and his men, in search of food, exclaimed upon discovering the island, “Pan hay en esta isla!” (There is bread on this island!) Folk history has several explanations for the name of Capiz. It is said that once, when a group of Spaniards lost their way, they saw a mother coddling her twin sons. When they inquired as to the name of the place, she thought they were asking about her sons, so she answered, “Kapid” (twins). A second conjecture is that the province was named after the twin sons of Datu Sumakwel, one of the 10 Bornean datu who settled on the island. “Kapid” may also refer to Capiz being Aklan’s twin.

Then there is the legend of the origin of the name of the town Dao. When Datu Bangkaya was ruler of Aklan after the Confederation of Madya-as, he ordered the barangay to look for areas on which to establish settlements. Two barangay, led by Isada and Paro, went in opposite directions on the river, starting from a common point called Catabanga. They met at a bank near a big tree called dao. Today the natives of Dao recognize Isada and Pedro as Dao’s founders. Spanish accounts, however, say Dao was founded in 1835.

Capiznon Songs, Musical Instruments and Folk Dances and Festivals

The toltog palanog (clay flute) is the earliest musical instrument in Panay. It has three holes at one end and two at the sides. There are several kinds of tulali (bamboo flutes), including the pasyok, a child’s flute made of stiff rice straw; the dios sios, a set of reeds of different lengths, tied side to side; and the budiong, a shell with the pointed tip cut off. The tan-ag, made of two pieces of light wood, is the earliest percussion instrument. A set of these is called the dalutang. The bunkaka, also known as takup, is a section of bamboo with a split end. It is held in the right hand and struck against a pole in the left hand.

Different ways of striking cause variations in rhythm. The bulibaw is a drum made of hollowed-out wood topped by animal skin. The ludang is a smaller drum that is held on the lap. The lipakpak is a clapper made of a narrow section of bamboo, two nodes long. It is split in two down to one node. The lower half is the handle. The native guitar goes by various names: pasing, meaning “to strike”; boktot or “hunchback,” because it is made of coconut shell; and culating. The strings are made of fibers or any twine. This is used to accompany the singing of the panawagon or the kumpusu. A guitar with six strings made of hemp, banana fiber, or lukmo is now called the sista, from the Spanish word sexta or “six.”

Panay-Bukidnon playing the bulibaw, a native drum
Panay-Bukidnon playing the bulibaw, a native drum (Capiz Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office)

The buting is a thin bamboo tube with two ends that are strung with hemp or any fiber, so that it bends like a bow. The kudyapi is a violin made of thin light wood and strung with hemp or banana fibers. The subing, or bamboo mouth harp, is made of a narrow and thin piece of seasoned bamboo with a strip cut in the middle. One makes this strip vibrate by gripping the solid end with the mouth, holding the middle with one hand, and striking the other end with a finger of the other hand.

The first four lines of the typical Capiznon folk song establish the melody, which is repeated thereafter. The kumpusu is sung to a preset melody, which has become part of the traditional repertoire of the singer. The panawagon is a plaintive love song, usually about unrequited love. It is sung at a harana, when the man serenades his ladylove beneath her window.

Besides the kumpusu, other types of folk songs are the copla (light song), subtypes of which are the lullaby, children’s song, game song, and animal song (used to accompany spontaneous folk dancing); panawagon; work song; war song; and the luwa, which is sung at the bilasyon or vigil for the dead. The most popular lullaby in Panay is “IIi, IIi Tulug Anay,” which is also well-known nationwide:

Ili, ili tulug anay

Wala diri imu Nanay

Kadtu tinda, bakal papay

Ili, ili tulug anay.

(Little one, little one, sleep awhile;

Your mother is not around;

She went to the market to buy bread;

Little one, little one, sleep awhile.)

Children sing while they play group or individual games. Some of these game songs are about animals whose behavior the children imitate with gestures as they sing, as in “Tung-tung-tung-tung Pakitung-kitung”:

Alimusan sa pinggan

Ginabantug nga indi masud-an

Ginkuha kag ginsud-an

Nagtambuk kami tanan.

(The catfish on the plate

Known never to be made into a viand

It was caught and made into a viand

We all got fat.)

The panawagon or love song is usually about unrequited love and may sometimes express the hope of winning the heart of one’s beloved, as in “Ang Timawa” (The Lowly One):

Imu nga ginsikway ining pubri ku nga dughan

Sanglit kay timawa ining akun kahimtangan

Kay ikaw gid, Inday, pinalangga ku nga tunay

Sanglit kay timawa, antusun, Inday, ang imu


(You forsook this poor breast of mine

Because of my lowly state;

But you, Inday, are my true love

Because I am a lowly one, I shall bear, Inday, your

forsaking me.)

“Filemon” is the best known of the very few work songs extant today:

Si Filemon, si Filemon

Namunit sa kadagatan

Nakakuha, nakakuha

Sang isda nga tambasakan

Ginbaligya, ginbaligya

Sa tindahan nga guba

Ang iya nga nakuha

Ang iya nga nakuha

Igu lang ipanuba.

(Filemon, Filemon

Went fishing in the sea

And what he caught, what he caught

Was tambasakan fish

He sold them, he sold them

At the dilapidated market

And what he earned

And what he earned

Was just enough for tuba.)

An example of a kumpusu about war is “Si Deocampo kag si Villamor” (Deocampo and Villamor):

Akun kumpusuhun yadtung si Deocampo

Sanglit kay abyadur siang Filipino

Sia ang nangahas sa pagbumbardiyu

Sa banwa sang Hapon sa syudad sang Tokyo

Anay sang didtu na sia sa Pacifico

Siang inabutan kinsi ka iruplanu

Iya nga gin-away sanglit kay kuntraryu

Naubus ang kinsi, humulus treinta y ocho

Yadtung treinta y ocho iya pinaluta-lutayan

Bali veinte y ocho ang iya natugdang

Sa tagipusuun sang iya nga nasyun

Tagipusuun nga Pilipinhun

Amu ang gugma sang dalagang bukidnun.

(I shall narrate Deocampo’s story

Because he was a Filipino pilot

He it was who dared to bomb

The country of Japan, the city of Tokyo

When he was over the Pacific Ocean

He was overtaken by 15 airplanes

He engaged them in battle because they were


All 15 were demolished, were replaced by 38

These thirty-eight he fired at wildly

All in all he felled 28;

In the heart of his nation

A heart that was Filipino

Was the love for a mountain lass.)

During vigils for the dead, the people sing the luwa to while the night away and to keep from falling asleep. These may be humorous, sentimental and mournful, or didactic, that is, expressing allegorical lessons about life and using nature symbols. Below are two humorous or whimsical luwa:

O is pusibli nga manayuk-nayuk

Vamos sa katunggan, kitay manamiluk

Pagdala sang wasay, pagdala sang pasuk

Langgaw nga dalisay

Ay, ay, nga makaluluuy.

(O is pusibli that is tall

Let’s go to the swamp, we’ll gather shipworms

Bring an axe, bring a pasuk

Pure vinegar

Ay, ay, you look pitiful.)

Didtu sa amun sa Capiz,

Banwa nga naturales;

Nagadalagan ang ibis,

Ginalagas sang kamatis.

(In our place in Capiz,

Town that is natural;

Small fish are running,

Tomatoes are chasing them.)

The go-betweens who recite the luwa in the courtship ritual may deliberately use ambiguous and circumlocutory language, which keeps the audience in suspense regarding the sincerity of their declarations.

Ang gugma mu, Nunuy, kun hantup sa bu-ut,

Bumugsuk kay balay sa pusud sang lawud;

Salugan muy tapi dindinan muy pawud,

Aptan musing pakpak sang banug.

(If your love, Nunuy, is sincere,

Build a house in the middle of the ocean,

Make the floor out of wood, the wall out of nipa,

And the roof out of hawk’s wings.)

In parlor games, the man and woman take turns reciting, and whoever recites the greatest number of luwa wins the game. A sample luwa recited by a woman follows:

Ang bulak sang tanglad kay pitu ka batu,

Kuha-un ku ang apat mabilin ang tatlu;

Tagaan ta, Nunuy, dyutay nga termino,

But-un ta ugaling maghumuk ang batu.

(The tanglad flower has seven stones,

I pick four and three are left,

I’ll give you, Nunuy, a small condition,

I’ll marry you when the stones soften.)

A man’s luwa is the following:

Malayu nga lugar ang akun ginhalinan,

Tupad sa Oriente, dayun sa Sidlangan;

Madamu nga bulak ang akun naagihan,

Solo ka lang Inday ang akun mahamut-an.

(From distant places I have come,

From the Orient, toward the East;

I have passed many flowers,

But you alone have the fragrance that pleases me.)

In 1897, General Esteban Contreras’s revolutionary movement had the following anthem (Amigo, 178):

Awit sang Revolucionarios

Viva sa cay Heneral Aguinaldo nga nagtucod sang


Ang jefe nila nga guinboto si Juan cag si Ruperto

Ala jota jota sa cay Maraingan

Ala jota jota sa cay Don Esteban

Ala jota jota sa tanan sa ila

Viva! Ay cay Senior Pascual Barza.

(Song of the Revolutionaries

Viva to General Aguinaldo, who organized the


The chiefs whom they chose were Juan and Ruperto

Ala jota jota to Maraingan

Ala jota jota to Don Esteban

Ala jota jota to them all

Viva! Ay to Señor Pascual Barza.)

Panay-Bukidnon couples dancing
Panay-Bukidnon couples dancing (Capiz Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office)

Many indigenous folk dances are mimetic, such as the tinolabong, named after a heron called tolabong, with a long neck, long legs, long tapering bill, large wings, and soft white feathers. It is a favorite dance of the mountain people of Panitan and Loctugan. The female dancer wears a red or white skirt and a white, loose blouse with long sleeves and a close neck. The male wears red or white trousers and white camisa de chino. Both are barefoot. The dance begins with the dancers posing in the resting position of the bird, their hands formed like the heron’s bill. The dance imitates the heron’s movements. The dagit-dagit, meaning “to swoop,” is part of the farmers’ celebration of a good harvest in Barrio Yabton, Ivisan. The female wears a patadyong and kimona. The male wears a barong tagalog and trousers of any color.

A dance in Tapaz is the inagong, believed to have been introduced by a sultan who sought refuge among the natives of Libacao, Aklan when the revolutionaries arrived. The female wears a patadyong and camisa with maria clara sleeves. A piece of cloth, about 2.5 centimeters wide, from which dangle silver coins, is tied around the forehead. Another piece of cloth with coins is used as a necklace. The male wears trousers and a shirt of any color. A long red band, 7.5 centimeters wide, has one end hanging behind the neck and is worn crossed on the chest, wound around the waist, and knotted behind. Each dancer carries a triangular red kerchief about 60 centimeters long.

Sa-ad, meaning “a promise,” is a courtship dance in Cabugao. Sa-ad is based on a legend about a man called Indo, the best singer in the area, who fell in love with Aning. He courted her and served the family but ended up brokenhearted. He composed a song called “Sa-ad,” which became the basis of this dance. The female dancer wears a patadyong and camisa with stiff sleeves and a soft pañuelo (kerchief) over one shoulder. The male wears barong tagalog and trousers of any color.

Capiznon version of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged by the Dagway Sigmahanon theater group
Capiznon version of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged by the Dagway Sigmahanon theater group (Dagway Sigmahanon, Inc.)

A courtship dance of Barrio Lamot is timawa (the pitiful one), based on the story of a man and a woman, both timawa, who meet at a social gathering and fall in love. The female wears a maria clara costume, and the male wears a barong tagalog and black trousers.

The escotis is performed by the mountain people of Capiz at a housewarming party, in order to test the strength and durability of the new house. The female wears a siesgo skirt with a voluminous underskirt, a kimona, and soft pañuelo over one shoulder. The male wears a camisa de chino and trousers of any color. Both are barefoot. They dance in sets of four pairs in square formations. In Roxas City, the escotis is danced during special occasions like weddings or baptismal parties.

People living in the hinterlands of Tapaz are variously called the Sulod, Montecas, Mundo, Bukidnon, or Bukil. One of their dances is banog-banog, which imitates the movements of the hawk. The female wears a long-sleeved piña blouse and a patadyong. Strands of silver-coin necklaces, of Queen Isabel and Alfonso XII vintage, cover the breast down to her waist. The male wears a loincloth embroidered with geometric designs or conventional figures like the lizard. Each dancer holds a large scarf in both hands and moves it around throughout the dance.

The roots of Capiznon drama are first, in ritual, such as the babaylan rituals for appeasing spirits and curing the sick still practiced today, which include mimetic elements and chant; and second, in the verbal games played during wakes. In the rituals, sacrifices are offered, prayers chanted, and symbolic dance motions made. In the verbal games, a semi-dramatic situation pits men against women in poetic jousting. At the nightly vigils during a wake, for example, the men and women compete in the reciting of the luwa. The gentlemen pay compliments, boast about bravery, distances traveled, or hardships undergone; and the ladies answer coyly, also in verse.

Religious drama and dramatizations in Western Visayas include the forms found in other regions: the soledad on Easter morning, in which the black-veiled Mater Dolorosa wanders through the town in a lonely vigil, then meets the carro, or float of the risen Christ; the taltal, or passion play, on Good Friday; the Easter procession of the Resurrection, in which a boy and a girl dressed as angels recite poems to the Christ and the Virgin; the Constantino in May, dealing with the finding of the Holy Cross; the pastores or da-igon at Christmas time, in which songs are sung by the “shepherds” worshipping the Infant Christ. Except for occasional revivals and revitalized forms, there are few full-length presentations these days.

Unique to Pan-ay, Capiz is the “Considerad” (to contemplate), which began in 1935, when a seminarian, Jose Bulao, handed Vicente Buenvale, also known as Tay Vicente Atak, a script. The “Considerad” was part of the Good Friday procession. Objects signifying aspects of Christ’s life were attached to 46 poles, each carried by a boy. Twenty-three of the boys alternated with the other 23 in chanting verses in “Spanish” and their Capiznon equivalents. The verses each started with the words which in English mean “card,” “pouch,” “post,” “cord,” “clothes,” “crown,” “palm,” “lamp,” “sword,” “judgment,” “cross,” “hammer,” “nail,” “stairs,” “rooster,” “spear,” “forceps,” “handkerchief,” “glass,” “cotton,” “insignia,” and again, “card.” Following is an excerpt (Bolante 74):

Considerad que entos dalos

Fueron que jugaban los Judios


Pamalundogon ta mga Cristianos

Ini nga mga baraha

Amo ang ginsugalan sang mga Judios.

Stage drama seems to have begun in the 19th century with the kulukyu or moro-moro, which is adapted from the korido (metrical romances). This, as in other regions, had Moors, called “pulahan” because they wore red, and Christians, called “ituman” because they wore black. The plays were staged in makeshift open-air stages at fiestas, in plazas, cockpits, theaters when available, marketplaces, and carnival auditoriums. These were staged well into the next century, although early in the 20th century, the sarsuwela (musical play) replaced the kulukyu as the most popular drama form.

In Roxas City, the Halaran (place of offering) Festival is held for three days in October. Begun in 1975 by Capiz Governor Cornelio Villareal Jr., the festival was originally a dramatization of the pre-Christian practices of the Capiznon’s Malayan ancestors. However, in 1981, this feature was replaced with a Catholic form of celebration, and a Holy Mass opened the festivities. The highlight of the festival is a fluvial parade on Panay River, with two rows of biniday (sailboats). The passengers are dressed like Malayan aristocrats of the old days, sailing toward each other. In 1985, a pageant of the province’s history, from the time of the aboriginal Aeta to the present, was added, and on the afternoon of the last day, there was dancing in the streets.

In 1992, Roxas City’s Halaran Festival was fused with Capiz City’s Sinadya Festival, which was begun in 1988. A year later, these were again celebrated separately until 1998, when they were fused again, taking the name “Sinadya sa Halaran.” “Capiz-tahan,” a play on kapistahan, meaning “festival,” is the celebration of Capiz’s foundation day on 15 April 1901. An evening fluvial parade and seafood festival highlights the festivities.

Tagbuanay Festival of Pilar, Capiz
Tagbuanay Festival of Pilar, Capiz, 2009 (Capiz Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office)

On 29 to 30 October 2004, an Aswang Festival was held to capitalize on the popular notion of aswang existing in Capiz. Initiated by the the Dugo Capiznon, Inc., it tried to attract tourists with Halloween-like festivities, but the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed it, and so it was scrapped in 2007. A festival that is still celebrated is the Tagbuanay Festival of Pilar, Capiz.

Media Arts

There are two local TV stations operating in Capiz: Filvision (Altocable), which is operated by providers of cable television; and CCTN-Capiz, a religious channel operated by the Archdiocese of Capiz and affiliated with CCTN Cebu. A third, Wesfardell TV, has not resumed broadcast since Typhoon Yolanda, also known as Haiyan, struck the province. Alto-TV features a variety of public affairs programs, as well as sociopolitical commentary. These programs are not produced by the cable TV providers themselves but by private individuals and local government agencies, which purchase airtime as block-timers. Pag-Ulikid (giving back) features the activities and programs implemented by the provincial government, and CapizTV is a travel show that features tourist destinations in the province.

Of the three AM stations that had been operating in the area for decades, only two are still on the air: Radio Mindanao Network (also known as Radyo Agong)–DYVR and Bombo Radyo-DYOW. The third, DYJJ Radyo Budyong, has not resumed broadcast. The radio stations provide local news for the province. However, most of the airtime in regular programming is devoted to radio dramas in the regional language of Hiligaynon. This is because these dramas are produced in the drama center of stations in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.

Aside from a centralized production of dramas, sister stations in the region also have standardized programming from Mondays to Saturdays. On Sundays, feature magazine shows and musical programs are aired instead of radio dramas. In these musical programs, local musicians play songs live in the local language. DYVR’s Bulawanon nga Lalantunon (Golden Songs) features the Capiznon’s musical ability every Sunday afternoon, while DYOW’s Gitara sa Bombo (Playing the Guitar at Bombo) showcases local guitarists playing popular and traditional songs.

The belief that Capiz is the home of the aswang is propagated in national media and the entertainment industry. In November 1996, an aswang feature in GMA Network's Brigada Siete, hosted by former Senator Vicente Sotto, insinuated that Capiz is the home of the aswang. An article by Dulce Arguelles in the 7 February 2000 issue of Manila Standard labeled Capiz as the “island of the aswangs.” Peque Gallaga’s film Sa Piling ng Aswang (By the Aswang’s Side), 1999, used the town of Panit-an, Capiz as its setting. Another one of his films in the series Shake, Rattle & Roll was inspired by a story in Maximo Ramos’s The Aswang Complex in Philippine Folklore, 1990. The story, however, mistakenly places the town of Dueñas in Capiz, when it is actually in Iloilo. 

Video: The Aswang Phenomenon - Full Documentary

Canadian filmmaker Jordan Clark has weighed in with his own documentary film, The Aswang Phenomenon, 2009, which investigates the possible explanations for the myth and how Capiz has become associated with it. It concludes with more questions than answers.

Capiz has four local weekly newspapers: Capiz Times, Capiz Chronicle, Capiz Tribune, and The Watchman. These deliver local news, opinion, features, and advertisements in less than a dozen pages for a circulation of a few hundred to a thousand readers. Most of the articles are written in English rather than in the local language.


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This article is from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition.

Title: Capiznon

Author/s: Rosario Cruz-Lucero, with E. Arsenio Manuel (1994) / Updated by Ruchie Mark Pototanon (2018)

Publication Date: November 18, 2020

Access Date: August 11, 2022

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