An isolated volcanic mass surrounded by coral reefs, Marinduque lies between Tayabas Bay to the north and Sibuyan Sea to the south. It is west of Quezon Province’s Bondoc Peninsula; east of Mindoro Island; and north of the island province of Romblon.
This small heart-shaped island is famous for its colorful Moriones Festival, the unique and imaginative reenactment of a Roman centurion’s conversion to Christianity and his subsequent beheading. For over 200 years, the province is home to one of the oldest religious festivals of the country featuring masked men colorfully dressed in the likeness of roman soldiers. It is celebrated annually every Holy Week.
Marinduque’s original settlers were Mangyan and Malay people. Evidence from Sung dynasty pottery dates contact with Chinese traders to between 920 and 1289.
The Marinduque Museum has interesting displays, including some pieces found in the ancient Chinese junk (over 500 years old) that is submerged in the waters off of the Tres Reyes (Three Kings) Islands, southwest of Gasan. The largest of the three, and closest to Marinduque’s southwest coast, is Gaspar Island, with Melchor Island and Baltazar Island beyond. These islands are named after the biblical Three Kings: Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar. The wreck of a 15th– century Chinese trading vessel occurred between Pingan and Gaspar. A large number of ceramic pieces have been recovered, including Shantou porcelain and stoneware jars, and some iron skillets.
Spanish settlers, lead by Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, sailed up Marinduque’s coast in 1571, and promptly claimed the island for Spain. The Spanish had trouble pronouncing “Malandic,” the island’s original name, and changed it to Marinduque. Malindic means sloping.
Legend would have the heart-shaped island rising from the seas as a consequence of a tragic love story. A powerful southern Luzon King named Datu Batumbacal (literally, “ironstone”) prevented his daughter, Princess Marin from accepting the love of a fisherman-poet, Garduke and ordered the poet slain. The lovers sailed out to sea and drowned themselves. Marinduqe Island grew from the spot where the couple committed suicide.
Boac, the provincial capital and seat of business and commerce, is situated on the west coast. The original settlement was call biak (split) because it occupied both sides of the Boac River. It is a sleepy settlement, dominated by a large church building. The fortresslike church at Boac was built in 1792 as a shrine for the miraculous Lady of Biglang Awa (Sudden Mercy) to which is attributed deliverance from a Moro attack. The church has massive walls that are one and half to two meters thick, beautiful restored façade and sits high on a hill. There are good views from the bell tower. It features Filipino-Hispanic Gothic architecture, with much of the original structure faithfully preserved – the façade and main body, the belfry, and the altar.
On the northern coast, the town of Santa Cruz has a Spanish church built in 1714. Also, in the town of Santa Cruz is the mysterious Bathala Caves complex, formed of coral limestone that’s been upthrust about 30 meters above sea level. Only four of the seven caves have so far been explored. The first is called the Simbahan (church), owing to its cathedral-like interior where stalagmites form a rough likeness to an altar, a bell and a silhouette of the Virgin Mary carrying the Child. The second cave is darker and deeper, and reputedly guarded by a python. The third has an underground river, and the fourth cave harbors human bones, thought to be the remains of World War II soldiers.
During the Spanish and early American occupations, Marinduque was part of Balayan Province (now Batangas) in the 16th century, Mindoro in the 17th century, and had a brief period as an independent province in 1901, when the Americans arrived.
During the Philippine-American War, Marinduque was the first island to have American concentration camps. Marinduque is the site of the Battle of Pulang Lupa, the first known major battle where 250 Filipino soldiers under Colonel Maximo Abad, defeated a smaller force of 54 American Infantrymen. It is one of the few battles during the pacification of the Philippines where the tenacity and bravery of the Filipinos prevailed over the well-armed Americans.
In 1902, the US-Philippine Commission annexed the islands of Mindoro (now two separate provinces) and Lubang (now part of Occidental Mindoro) to the province.
Four months later, the province became part of the province of Tayabas (now Quezon).
On February 21, 1920, Act 2280 was passed by the Philippine Congress, reestablishing Marinduque as a separate province.
In 1942 during the Second World War, the Japanese Imperial forces landed in Marinduque.
In 1945, combined American and Filipino troops liberated the province from the Japanese forces. Two government agencies were stationed in the province during the American period, the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Philippine Constabulary. The general headquarters of the PCA was active from 1935 to 1942 and again from 1945 to 1946 while the PC was active from 1945 to 1946.
Archaeology in the Philippines began in Marinduque. Prior to 1900, only one important archaeological investigation had been carried out in the country: the Antoine-Alfred Marche’s exploration of Marinduque from April to July 1881. An abundant yield of Chinese urns, vases, gold ornaments, skulls and other ornaments of pre-colonial origin was what Marche finds represented. He brought back to France the Marinduque artifacts he uncovered in 40 crates. Part of it now is said to be housed at the Musée de l’Homme in France. The finds also included a wooden image of the Marinduque anito called “Pastores” by the natives.
One of these artifacts also found its way into the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. These fragile jarlets traveled from China to the pre-colonial Philippines, buried in a cave in Marinduque for centuries, excavated in the late 19th century, brought to Paris and eventually one ended up at the Smithsonian Institution museum.
Insight Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippines Guide by Jill and Rebecca Gale de Villa
Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes