The “Land of the Howling Wind”, Catanduanes is an island province thrust into the Pacific Ocean. It is separated from Luzon by Maqueda Channel, across which lie the Caramoan Peninsula of Camarines Sur. Catanduanes is chiefly mountainous with few coastal plains. There is rain throughout most of the year which fall heaviest from November to January. There are no pronounced seasons but it is regularly visited by typhoons during the months between June and October.
Juan de Salcedo visited Catanduanes in 1573 after exploring Camarines. He landed at a point near Virac and was welcomed by Datu Lumibao. It was believed that Lumibao was a descendant one of the mythic ten datus from Borneo, and the people of the island related to the Visayans. Despite early efforts to Christianize the people of Catanduanes, the island was known as a haunt of pirates. In 1576, ten Augustinian missionaries perished in the treacherous seas off the island after their ship was wrecked in the vicinity of Bato. Catanduanes was known as an early center of shipbuilding during the early Spanish and it is believed that its name is derived from the Catandungan River, along whose banks tando trees used extensively for shipbuilding were found. Being largely isolated from the rest of Bicol, Catanduanes was particularly vulnerable to Moro attacks. In 1755, Catanduanes was overran by the raiders who pillaged and burned the towns of Virac and Calolbon. Loyang Cave, in San Antonio, is the mass grave of islanders who were massacred in that raid. The island continued to be vulnerable to raiding until the mid-19th century. Catanduanes was placed under the jurisdiction of Albay after Bicol was divided into two in the 17th century. It remained part of the province until 1945. On October 26 through Commonwealth Act No. 687, Catanduanes was separated from Albay and became an independent province.
People, Culture and the Arts
The people of Catanduanes are Bicolanos whose dialect indicates a strong Visayan influence. The early Spanish chroniclers noted that the people on Catanduanes, not unlike the Visayans, also adorned their bodies with tattoos. Oral traditions also reveal folk legends that trace the earliest Catanduanons to the same group of settlers who allegedly peopled the Visayas. As a result of geographical seclusion and vulnerability to storms, the Catanduanons have remained isolated from the rest of the Bicol region and the Philippines. This isolation in part accounts for the strength of religious institutions in the island. Nearly all the people belong to the Roman Catholic Church and religious fervor remains high. However, despite their isolation, the people of Catanduanes are also noted for their genial mien and hospitality. Among the most notable religious observances in Catanduanes is the Kaghorong. This is a reenactment of the Saint Joseph’s and the Virgin Mary’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem held from the 16th to the 25th of December. A troupe goes from house to house and sings before the door asking for shelter. When they are refused, they move to another house. The owner of the house then shakes the hands of the leader and hands over some donation in form of money.