New Book aims to address missing chapters in Camiguin’s History

Social and Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Andrés Narros Lluch has just published a book “The Untold Stories of Camiguin Island” by the Xavier University Press, which seeks to fill in gaps in the island’s history.

This is the first research on Camiguin based on the archives of Augustinian Recollects and its Cosas Notables that seeks to correlate the manuscripts with archival findings and the island’s oral histories.

In the abstract of his paper, co-authored with the late Dr Erlinda Burton “Surfacing the Untold Stories of Camiguin Island” and published in Volume XXXIX of the Kinaadman Journal, Lluch explains the rationale for the book.

Kinaadman Journal Volume 39

“Many of the stories of the island of Camiguin remain untold. And once one goes into the depths of search, he/she can easily understand the reasons why.”

“First, the volcanic nature of the island that has been a factor in annihilating the evidence of the past. Second, many written manuscripts that contained documentation of its history were burned.  And third, there were few surviving manuscripts written in a language which Camiguinons and scholars today cannot read and understand.”

1951 Eruption of Mt. Hibok-Hibok (photo from Camiguin History Page)

“The combination of these factors resulted in the obvious chasm/gaps between the locals and their past. For all of these reasons, investigating Camiguin Island is not only a fascinating research subject with a high dose of historical vertigo, but significant to the community in understanding its past.”

This is the first book that documents and surfaces oral history while looking at how it intertwines with the archives manuscripts. It was not deliberate it was just a process that unfolded naturally, driven by my personal curiosity, he adds.

Lluch began to realize the correlation between the oral histories and the manuscripts while researching for his doctoral thesis in Mainit, a barangay in Catarman.

Barangay Mainit Map, Catarman, Camiguin (Google Maps)

“Several elders where sharing with me their knowledge of local history. Some years after, I become intrigued by the Indigenous People of highlands of Sagay (Kimigin tribe). Then I contacted the tribe leaders, relatives of Datu Mehong Bacuñata, elders, and interviewed them.”

“Once I had plenty of the local histories, I then wanted to double check with the stories written in the  manuscripts of the Augustinian in Quezon City, which of course, were written in archaic Castellano. It was quite difficult for me to understand their language. I had to buy a big loupe and be extremely patient. Then I found out that  correlations between  all sources was much higher I was expecting, as it was the case of the story of the Volcano Eruption of 1871, the Canon of Sagay or the big battle of Datu Mehong Bacuñata.”

Libro de Cosas Notables, Parroquia de Sagay, Isla de Camiguin, Provincia de Misamis

However, beyond the superficial hints he discovered, there were barely any extant ethno-historical records to explain the island’s current historical records which had considerable gaps because of frequent volcanic eruptions which buried evidence of its past, fires which burned written records and the archaic language in which the surviving manuscripts few scholars or the island’s residents understood.

“As a result of all these there is a break in the Camiguinons’ relationship with their past. A painful break, one that bleeds in silence.”

“This book aims to heal that wound, at least in part. And it does so by building up a story based on an extensive process of ethno-historical research that includes within it fictional micro-tales among its protagonists.”

As the first and only research based on the archives of the Augustinian Recollects in Camiguin, Lluch focused each chapter on an important historical event few Camiguinons or scholars are aware of.

Datu Migin (By Melissa Abuga-a)

Kimigin is about the first inhabitants of the island, the Manobo, the followers of Datu Migin, their way of life and culture. Today this tribe’s legacy is unknown to some and silenced by others.

Punta Pasil (By Melissa Abuga-a)

Punta Pasil tells the story of the first Christian religious center on the island, its beginning and its end: a center built by the Augustinian Recollects which for centuries has slept forgotten under the sea. The existence of this religious center was rediscovered thanks to the archival research that preceded the writing of this book.

Symbol of Datu Mehong Bacuñata (By Melissa Abuga-a)

Datu Mehong deals with the legend of a local leader, healer and warrior whose message, because he lived on the edge of the island and spoke a minority language, was silenced.

Eruption of Old Bulkan 1871 (By Melissa Abuga-a)

The Old Volcano deals with the story of what happened before and after the 1871 volcanic eruption, a story which is unknown but which nevertheless shows the complex relationship between the indigenous people’s local knowledge and the Christian knowledge of the friars.

The Untold Tales of Camiguin by Andrés Narros Lluch

The book holds within it a dream: that the inhabitants of the wonderful island of Camiguin will read it. Particularly those curious and critical students who question the official account, those who are not content with what is said, but search amid what has been silenced.

History teachers can help students contextualize their program with local voices, so that these might stimulate their curiosity and sense of pride in their own cultural identity.

Beyond this work, there is an extensive ethno-history research. I dared to display its findings through fictional micro-tales. Short accounts which unfold a local history spiced with small doses of fiction. I believe that these, far from obscuring the former, will help it be displayed in all its splendor.

More details about The Untold Stories of Camiguin Island from the Xavier University webpage here.

Lluch earned his PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED). He has done field work as an aid worker and social researcher in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Central America, South America, East Africa, and Europe for twenty years and resided in Camiguin for seven years.

Dr. Andrés Narros Lluch presents his book La comedia de la cooperación internacional: historias etnográficas del desarrollo en la isla de Camiguín during the 15th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day National Conference held 05 September 2017 at Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) in Cagayan de Oro City. (photo by RMB)

Lluch is the President of the KILAHA Foundation at Mambajao, Camiguin which he co-founded in 2015 to document and support local culture and identity, as well as preserve the fascinating biodiversity of Camiguin.

He belonged to the Southeast Asia Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies (2011–2012), was guest researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and associate researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Philippines Manila (2012–2014).  He is currently an affiliated researcher at Research Institute of Mindanao Culture (RIMCU) at Xavier University.

He has previously published La comedia de la cooperación internacional: historias etnográficas del desarrollo en la isla de Camiguín (Catarata, 2016) and currently commutes between Spain and Brussels, where he works at ODS as Senior Evaluator.


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