During the Spanish period, the Chinese are considered as second class citizens. But a number of them rose to prominence shaping Bicol Region’s history and culture. Among those that ring a bell is Jose Ignacio Paua which we featured earlier — a leader of Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan and later a mayor of Manito, Albay.
Another that literally and figuratively rings a bell is Simon Li Tuanqui, a pure Chinese ‘known for donating the now equally well-known pair of “Li Tuanqui Bells” to the Peñafrancia Shrine in Nueva Caceres in 1863 and 1868‘. He was one of the early Chinese migrants baptized in the Roman Catholic faith in the Bicol Region.
Aside from donating the bells, he also donated a significant amount of his wealth for the construction of the Peñafrancia Shrine and financed the building of the first pagoda for the annual procession in the Naga River.
Simon Li Tuanqui spent the rest of his life in the Bicol Region as businessman. He resided in Polangui, Albay and fathered sons and daughters who shaped local politics and the economy.
Source: The Enduring Legacy of Simon Li Tuanqui
Masbate is known as “the wild, wild west of the Philippines” and “the poor man sitting in the pot of gold”. Thanks to recent developments, the province is starting to shelve these names. Election observers for the May 2010 elections found Masbate to be relatively peaceful compared with the previous elections, and that the National Statistics Coordination Board noted Masbate “sliding in the list from being the poorest province in the country in the year 2000 with 70.2% poverty incidence to the 8th most poor in 2006 with 59.5%.”
Unknown to many, however, Masbate is one of the early settlements in the Bicol Region. Artifacts dating back to as early as 10th century were found in Kalanay (now Aroroy), and when Captain Luis Enriquez de Guzman anchored on the shores of Masbate in 1569, he found tiny settlements spread along the coasts engaged in flourishing trade with China – an explanation why there are a number of Chinoys in the island-province. Masbate is also said to be the place where the Christianization of the Bicol started.
In part because it is the source of class lumber for the construction of galleons during the Spanish period, Masbate was declared a province in 1864. In 1908, this was revoked and Masbate was annexed to Sorsogon. Masbate again became an independent province on February 1, 1922.
Catanduanes was once a part of Albay. On October 26, 1945, it was emancipated from Albay and was declared an island-province by virtue of Commonwealth Act No. 687.
Based on records, gubernatorial elections for Catanduanes started in 1948. According to Prof. Alex De Guzman, when the island was still in transition to becoming a full-pledge province, it was headed by Lt. Governor Felipe Olesco Usero. The complete list of governors of Catanduanes from 1948 to present is as follows: