BRIDGING THE GAP
The Babaylan-led revolt in Igbaong, Antique
Prior to the 1898 Revolution in Western Visayas led mostly by the ilustrado class, some uprisings motivated by freedom and the desire to practice the old ways, spearheaded by common folks, already occured. Among these was the revolt of the babaylans in Igbaong, Antique in May 1888 under the leadership of Maximo and Gregorio Palmero (Lachica 1998, Maza 1987, Ricarze 1976, Elio n.d.) Igbaong is the mountainous area in present-day municipalities of Sibalom and San Remigio where the babaylans fled and hid because the Spaniards declared them as enemies of the church and the state.
The plan to revolt was talked about while people worshipped in a syncretic way (mixed Christian and animistic rituals) in the Igbaoing cave. The babaylans informed the worshippers about the forthcoming revolt and the need for unity. In order that nothing will happen to the women and children of families who sympathized with the cause when the fighting would commence, the folks were instructed to reverse their wooden/bamboo stairs or their bamboo water containers. An appeal was also made for contributions in cash or in kind in preparation for the struggle.
The outcome proved that many people supported the plan to revolt because they willingly contributed and pledged to fight. It was even reported that there were well-to-do personalities who secretly supported the plan to drive away the hated Spaniards from Antique. Due to the desire of people to be able to help, many went to Igbaong to see for themselves what preparations were being made and how they could be of help. Those who came were said to be fed well. It is reported that the only thing that could be seen inside the cave was a large cawa or cooking vat full of food and one of the babaylans. Yet, it was amazing that regardless of the many people getting food from the cawa, it never became empty. This mystery spread all throughout the area and attracted more people to join the movement.
The moment of the attack came and was timed with the feast of Corpus Christi. Close to 800 members of the Igbaong movement armed with bolos and spears assembled. At first the babaylans argued as to who will lead the attack but, in the end, it was decided that a retired guardia civil, Pedro Gallones, should do the job.
The objective of the attack was to seize the capital town of San Jose de Buenavista. As they neared the Linaban River in the town of Hamtik, they encountered a force of native guardia civil who, upon seeing the determined band, readily fled leaving behind their Spanish sergeant who was killed by the attacking group. Coincidentally, when they arrived in the poblacion of Hamtik, worshippers were also getting out of the church. A Spaniard among the churchgoers, Martin Fornier, fired his gun upon seeing the attackers. Pandemonium broke loose and people scampered to different directions for safety. The Spanish friars immediately sent an urgent message for help to the Provincial capital while at the same time calming the attackers not to do anything foolish. The Igbaong fighters, on the other hand, positioned themselves in strategic points around the plaza. When troops from San Jose de Buenavista arrived, there was a brief skirmish, after which the Igbaong attackers withdrew. One of them was killed while one Spanish sergeant was the casualty on the Castillian side.
Because of what happened in Hamtik, the Spanish authorities in Antique appealed for more troops in Manila. The reinforcement eventually arrived and they launched a campaign to capture the leaders and followers of the Igbaoing Revolt. The Spanish military was able to secure the list of those who participated in the uprising and hunted them. It was fortunate that even those who were innocent but whose family names were similar to those found on the list were also arrested and imprisoned. Some were luckily able to flee to the other towns in Antique. All those who were captured and implicated in the Igbaong Revolt were transported to Iligan (capital of present-day Lanao del Norte) in northern Mindanao to work in the shipyard there and where they spent the rest of their lives.