My late mother used to narrate that I was born few days after Maribojoc’s commercial center was turned into ashes in August 1952. She was pregnant but was forced to run toward the outskirts away from my father’s flaming furniture shop. Thus I was born a premature baby.The incident was immortalized by a 1960s Tagalog movie titled Lagablab ng Maribojoc. Since then few ships docked at its port.
Records show that the town’s ancient name was Dungu-an, from the Sugbuhanon word “dung-go,” which means to dock. Since it’s located in a bay’s cove it offers safe harbor.When the Iberian conquistadores came its name became Malabojoc. The reason could be due to the existence of caves. The Spanish word “mal,” bad or dangerous , and Sugbuhanon word “bojo,” or holes in the ground, were combined for the name.
The romantics, however, called the town Maribojoc. Pine trees locally called aguho were renamed maribojoc trees since the spindles looked shiny from afar as if the flowing hair or “buhok ” of a lady. Almost every other lass in town was baptized Maria, Spanish for Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Another reason for renaming the pines maribojoc trees could be to serve as landmark for visitors-that when they could see a clump of pine trees from a distance, then they could be near town.
I could still remember that during the early 1960s, ships on its way to or from Mindanao dropped anchor in the bay to replenish or to hide from storms. One of the ships carried Australian tourists. My mother, who used to climb aboard ships to sell woven baskets, befriended a certain Ms Tymms, from Perth..The tourist thought my mother was Iberian because of her brown hair and white skin.
The reason Maribojoc stagnate could be that its past and present officials did not know what direction to take.They failed to develop its agricultural sector because only the inner lands could grow rice, maize, cassava ,bananas, and coconut palms. The local government could not develop its handicraft industry because of lack of raw materials . The bay ceased to be a fertile source of sea foods. The cause could be the seabed was mined of coral rocks which were used to build the church cum fortress in the 1600s.
My grandfather, who was born in 1893, used to tell me that the church was built through slave labor. Each male parishioner was to bring a squared lime or coral rock mined from the seabed every Sunday and eggs for binder. Failure to bring the right size meant whipping by the Spanish friars with dried tail of a stingray , locally called pagui.
Today, this church is the only remaining tourist attraction in the center of Maribojoc. A triangular watch tower in the barrio of Punta Cruz, some five kilometers from the church,however,attracts historians and tourists..The church’s choir loft used to host a working wind pipe made in Germany that brought music to parishioners during Sunday masses.As kids we used to pump the bellows to provide wind to the pipes for the music.Today it is silent due to neglect and lack of fund to repair the instrument, one of three existing in the Philippines. It was built during the time when the bamboo organ of Las Pinas City was assembled by German artisans.
The present leaders have tried to put Maribojoc on the tourism map. The Evasco administration has encouraged the establishment of resorts, lodging houses, tourist attractions, eco-conservation mangrove camps, kayaking, dragon boat competitions, others. As an old Spanish town, which is about 14 kms from an airport, Maribojoc has its potential as an alternative destination to Baclayon or Loboc towns.The old port could be an alternative or even better port than that of Tagbilaran. The caves could have been explored and developed as tourist destinations, particularly for spelunkers.
But the efforts could be too little, too late. Had the old fort that used to surround a Spanish cemetery at the back of the church, and vintage houses were restored, Maribojoc could be Bohol’s major tourist destination. Time could have smiled on Maribojochanons. But alas, the town failed to catch up with modernization. Time has forgotten Maria with her flowing hair.