Residents and visitors to this beautiful isle off the northern coast of Mindanao have heard many versions of how its mysterious name came about, but now a book that delves into the historical origins of the its name at last gives its version a plausible leg to stand on.

In his paper co-authored with the late Dr. Erlinda Burton  Surfacing the Untold Stories of Camiguin Island published in Vol. XXXIX of the Xavier University’s Kinaadman Journal, Social and Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Andrés Narros Lluch said the name originated with the Proto Northern Manobo who first migrated to the island.

Kinaadman Journal  Vol. 39

According to archaeological and linguistic studies, a legend on the origin of the people in Camiguin tells of a certain leader/chieftain named Migin who settled down with his people on the southeastern part of the island.

The prefix Ki in the word Kinamigin means territory, thus, the word Kimigin means the land of Migin.

When Boholanos migrated to the island, its name was translated to Bisaya as Kamigin, in which the prefix ka had the  same meaning.

When the Spanish missionaries arrived on the island in the 16th century, they translated its name following their lexicon rules, replacing the with c and inserting u in between the g and i. Thus, Kamigin became Camiguin and is still spelled in this way today.

The Untold Tales of Camiguin by Andres Narros Lluch

In his book The Untold Stories of Camiguin Island which was recently launched by the Xavier University Press, Lluch aims to introduce Camiguingnons and scholars of the island’s  history  to some missing chapters of its past.

“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.”

He cited the eruptions of the island’s volcanoes, the loss of many written manuscripts to fire, and the archaic language in which the few surviving manuscripts are written among the key reasons why many chapters of its history remain undiscovered.

1952 Mt Hibok-Hibok eruption (The Illustrated London News, 12 January 1952)

“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.”

“As a result of all these there is a break in the Camiguingnons’ 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.”

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.

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

He gathered local histories from the island’s indigenous peoples, then compared these with the manuscripts written by the  Spanish Augustinian Recollects called Cosas Notables written in archaic Castellano which proved difficult to translate.

Most of the findings herein are credited to Father Calisto Gaspar. During his time as parish priest in Catarman (1884-1898), he worked hard in order to rescue lost stories (through interviews of elders, informal group discussions, readings) and to bring to light what he called the “dark tunnel of the History of Camiguin.”

Datu Migin (by Melissa Abuga-a)

However, he found many parallels between the old tales and the written records.

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 Camiguingnons and scholars are aware of such as Kimigin (about the first inhabitants of the island, the Manobo, the followers of Datu Migin); Punta Pasil (the first Christian religious center on the island);  Datu Mehong the legend of a local leader, healer and warrior whose message was silenced); and  The Old Volcano (what happened before and after the 1871 volcanic eruption).

Dr. Andrés Narros Lluch

Lluch co-founded the Kilaha Foundation in 2015 to document and support local culture and identity, as well as preserve the fascinating biodiversity of Camiguin. He is currently an affiliated researcher at Research Institute of Mindanao Culture (RIMCU) at Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan).

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.

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).

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

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

Mount Hibok-Hibok (courtesy of Fermin Alvarez)

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