History Of Oriental Mindoro

The Island of "Mina de Oro"

Legend has it that long before the Spaniards discovered the Philippines, Mindoro was already among the islands that enchanted pilgrims from other countries.  It was said that vast wealth was buried in the area, and mystic temples of gold and images of anitos bedecked the sacred grounds of this relatively unknown land.  The Spaniards even named the island "Mina de Oro", believing it had large deposits of gold.

The history of Mindoro dates back before the Spanish time.  Records have it that Chinese traders were known to be trading with Mindoro merchants.  Trade relations with China where Mindoro was known as "Mai" started when certain traders from "Mai" brought valuable merchandise to Canton in 892 A.D.  The geographic proximity of the island to China Sea had made possible the establishment of such relations with Chinese merchantmen long before the first Europeans came to the Philippines.  Historians claimed that China Mindoro relations must have been earlier than 892 A.D., the year when the first ship from Mindoro was recorded to have sailed for China.

Historians believed that the first inhabitants of Mindoro were the Indonesians who came to the island 8,000 to 3,000 years ago.  After the Indonesians, the Malays came from Southeast Asia around 200 B.C.  The Malays were believed to have extensive cultural contact with India, China and Arabia long before they settled in Philippine Archipelago.


Mindoro was first discovered by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first Spanish Governor General of the Philippines.  When Legaspi conquered Cebu in 1565, he heard of a flourishing settlement in Luzon.  The search for abundant food evidently lacking in most Visayas Islands prompted the exploration leading to the discovery of this island.  Captain Martin de Goiti, accompanied by Juan de Salcedo, sailed for Luzon.  On May 8, 1570, they anchored somewhere in Mindoro Coast, north of Panay.  Salcedo and de Goiti had the chance to explore the western part of the island, particularly Ilin, Mamburao and Lubang.  From Ilin, Salcedo sailed north of Mamburao where he found two Chinese vessels containing precious cargo of gold thread, cotton cloth, silk, gilded porcelain bowls and water jugs to be exchanged for gold with the natives of Mindoro.  In 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi also visited the island and brought the natives under the Spanish rule.


The evangelization of Mindoro started in 1572 through the Augustinians. In 1578 the Franciscans took over and ten years later the secular priests.  Also in the seventeenth century did a new phase in Christianization begin for the Mangyans were likewise visited by missionaries.  The Jesuits erected seven “reducciones” in 1636.  It was in these settlements that Mangyans from the inaccessible forests and hills were induced to settle down and be baptized as Christians.

The Province of Mindoro

Mindoro, which was formerly integrated into the province of Bonbon (Batangas) together with Marinduque, was made a separate province in the beginning of the seventeenth century.  The island was divided into pueblos headed by gobernadorcillo and composed of several barangays headed by cabeza de barangay.  Minolo (now Puerto Galera) became the provincial capital, then Baco and finally Calapan which was founded in 1679 as a result of conflict between the Recollect priests and the Provincial Governor.

The Spanish Government

In 1801, the Spanish authorities started a program of re populating Mindoro but such attempts failed since the people were afraid to migrate to the province.  Those who were eventually sent to Mindoro still returned to their homes after several years.

It was only in the second half of the 19th century that the island's population started to increase due to demographic pressure in the main settlement centers.  This resulted in the founding of new administrative units.  The number of pueblos increased and education expanded.  However, the number of teachers available was limited such that very few were able to read and write and speak Spanish.  These people formed the small native upper class in the province.

In terms of trade and agriculture, change came very slowly to Mindoro.  In 1870, only minor quantities of crops were shipped out to Batangas due to neglected agricultural development.

The coal mines between Bulalacao and Semirara Island were discovered in 1879.  In 1898, the Spanish colonial government granted titles for nine coal mines but exploitation in large quantities never took place.

When the Philippine Revolution broke out in 1898, Mindoreños rallied to overthrow the Spanish Government in the province; although the uprising predominantly originated from outside the island as planned, organized and triggered off by the Caviteños and Batangueños.  This was not for social changes but an anti colonial war to gain independence.  However, their victory was short lived because the events that followed marked the beginning of the American Regime in the Philippines.

The American Regime

The victory of Admiral Dewey over the Spaniards in Manila on August 13, 1898 brought about general changes in Mindoro.  A general primary school system with English as the language of instruction was established.  Calapan port was opened to inter island commerce.   The U.S. Army Signal Corps connecting Calapan and Batangas installed a series of military cables.  Land telegraph for public use was also installed in Calapan and Naujan.  With the construction of provincial road along the east coast, the most important towns of the province were connected with one another.  Free trade was established between the U.S.A.  and the Philippines that brought about significant changes in the economy of Mindoro. Infrastructure and economic measures were adopted which induced massive wave of migration to the island.

Changes in the affairs of the local government also took effect in the island.  Mindoro was made a sub province of Marinduque on June 23, 1902 by virtue of Act No. 423 of the Philippine Commission.  On November 10, 1902, Act No. 500 separated Mindoro from its mother province, thereby organizing its provincial government. The same Act provided further that "the province shall consist the main island and the smaller islands adjacent thereof, including the islands of Lubang, Caluya and Semirara".  Puerto Galera was made the seat of government, with Captain R.C. Offley as the first civil governor.  In 1907, the province was allowed to elect its first delegate in the person of Don Mariano Adriatico.  Mindoro was finally declared a regular province in 1921.

In the years following the invasion of Mindoro by the United States Forces, there had been a considerable increase in population due to the pouring into the highly underpopulated island of a massive influx of new settlers.  For the first time, the development and cultivation of the island's interior was made possible.  The structure of society and the distribution of landholdings were likewise altered.  The minority policy of the Americans was adopted, uplifting the Mangyans to the Filipino majority's level of civilization through special educational regulation and separate settlements.

The Province of Oriental Mindoro

World War II wrought heavy damages, death and pain to the people of Mindoro.  However, social conditions continued to exist without any definitive changes.  After the war, reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure and economy took place which ended with the division of the island into two provinces of Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro on June 13, 1950. It was finally signed into law through Republic Act 505 by the President of the Philippines on November 15, 1950.

In the decades after the war, the island continued to become one of the preferred areas of new settlers coming from the overpopulated provinces in the Philippines in search of the new land.  Apart from the hope to become landowners or to have better tenancy conditions, the guerrilla war (Huk rebellion) in Central Luzon was an important factor for migration.  Under the settlement program of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) which was founded on June 18, 1954, families from Central Luzon were settled in the Bongabong Pinamalayan area.  This project ended in 1956 after the settlement of 606 families (3,636 people) on 8,600 hectares of public land.  Since then new settlers have incessantly migrated to Mindoro until today.

Due to demographic changes, an administrative reorganization of the province of Oriental Mindoro was implemented.  Here, the rapidly expanding municipalities of Bongabong and Pinamalayan, as well as the large municipalities of Naujan and Pola were separated.  Victoria (in 1953), Bansud (in 1959), Socorro (in 1963) and Gloria (in 1966) became independent municipalities.

In 1963, the citrus fruit industry in the provinces of Batangas and Laguna collapsed because of plant diseases.  For this reason many farmers migrated to Mindoro and settled down in Pola.  Here, the "calamansi revolution", as it was called, was initiated.  Owing to the absence of competition on the other hand, the production of coconuts had retained the rank as Oriental Mindoro's number one cash and export crop.

After the proclamation of Martial Law in 1972, the National Government and the World Bank implemented the agrarian development program in the province.  Considerable funds were allocated to improve the provincial roads in Oriental Mindoro to connect the semi isolated barrios to the main roads for easier and faster transport of agricultural products to the local market.  The cultivation of subsistence crops (rice and corn) was given top priority.  Mindoro became not only self-reliant in the production of rice but also a rice net exporter.

In spite of undeniable improvements, the integrated agrarian development program did not affect any structural changes in land distribution because only rice and corn lands were under land reform.  These lands were very limited in extent.  Coconut plantations and extensive pasture lands were exempted.  Most of the Mindoro farmers still owned their parcels of land and in some areas there were still land resources available.

In the years that followed, the social and economic situation of most of the population in Mindoro worsened.  Debts and low income characterized the farm households' situation.   The increasing influx of migrants caused more and more serious land conflicts with the Mangyans, the original inhabitants of island.  The operation of the New People's Army (NPA) extended to Mindoro.  Their main area of action up to present has been the hardly accessible interior of the island. In Oriental Mindoro, the "hotbed of insurgency" is the RoManBul [Roxas-Mansalay- Bulalacao] Triangle. 

Immediately after Corazon C. Aquino assumed the presidency after the EDSA revolution in February 25, 1986, almost all national, provincial and municipal officials were replaced by OICs.  Rolleo “Bong’ Ignacio being an Aquino supporter was appointed as undersecretary of the Department of Natural Resources. His cousin Benjamin “Chippy” Espiritu was appointed as OIC governor and all the mayors of the fourteen municipalities were likewise replaced.  Only Mayor Renato U. Reyes of Bongabong remained in his position.   

In 1993 the province experienced a series of natural calamities unprecedented in the history of the province.  These successive strong typhoons “Naning”, “Pepang” and “Rosing’ struck the northern, central and southern parts of Mindoro within a span of four months causing floods, destruction of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, inflicting enormous damage to crops and properties and loss of human lives.  The province was still reeling from the devastation when a more violent catastrophe hit the province.  In the early hours of November 15, 1994 which was the founding anniversary of both the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, the whole populace was jolted by an earthquake which measured 7.2 in intensity on the Richter scale. 

After two years, Oriental Mindoro had rebuilt the last of the 30 destroyed bridges and has more than sufficiently recovered from the losses brought by the series of calamities.  Agriculture’s productivity started to climb and business activities have become bullish.  For this dramatic come-back, President Ramos during his visit on October 1, 1996 declared Oriental Mindoro as the top province in terms of calamity management and gave Rodolfo G. Valencia the “Outstanding Governor in Calamity Management” award.

The island provinces of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan formed in early 1996 a new socio-economic aggrupation acronymed as MIMAROPA.  This is the counterpart of the CALABARZON industrial growth area composed of the mainland provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Aurora, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.  Governor Valencia of Oriental Mindoro was elected as chairman of MIMAROPA. 

It was on May 17, 2002, by virtue of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 103, that Region IV was divided into Region IV-A and Region IV-B.  Region IV-A shall be known as CALABARZON and Region IV-B shall be known as MIMAROPA. The executive order also transferred the Province of Aurora to Region III.

On January 30, 2003 at the University of Asia and the Pacific campus, the two Mindoreños, jointly worked hand in hand for the resolution of a major problem – the energy and power crisis.  The 1st ever Power Summit was held with Governor Bartolome L. Marasigan, Sr. and Governor Jose T. Villarosa of Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro, joining efforts to formulate the Mindoro Island Power Development Plan.  It was meant to thresh out vital issues on power development; to explore options for electrification; and to formulate viable solution to achieve long-term power generation.

To promote/generate investment in the areas of power  and energy, ecotourism, agriculture towards poverty alleviation, the Oriental Mindoro Investment Summit was held on April 5-7, 2006 at the Filipiniana Resort Hotel, Calapan City in partnership with the University of Asia and the Pacific, the Offices of the Two Congressional Representatives, Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro and Shell Malampaya Foundation as the Private Sector partner. There were pre-summit activities undertaken such as launching of ORMINVEST Website (www.orminvest.com) and Lakbay Mindoro 2006. Summit proper activities included agro-eco exhibit to showcase 14 municipalities and one city, presentation of UA&P investment study for Oriental Mindoro and investor/business matching.

In order to spur and accelerate economic growth in the Region Executive Order No. 682 was issued on 22 November 2007 designating Calapan City in the Province of oriental Mindoro as the MIMAROPA Regional Government Center. This is not only to adhere to the government policy to promote regional development but to push the MIMAROPA provinces to interconnect with one another to hasten each other’s development and increase the Region’s contribution to national wealth. Moreover, the establishment of government center in the region will foster efficient and effective delivery of government services.