WHEN WAS ODIONGAN FOUNDED?
By: LEE FABELLO FOJA Y FRADEJAS MADURO
Member, National Press Club of the Philippines
The old and new seals of Odiongan reflect the year 1846 as its founding year. Though the book of Mateo Meňez, an Odionganon chronicler, mentions that it was on April 5, 1847 when the second group of migrants from Banton who settled in Cota, a peninsula shaped area on the northwestern coast of Tablas island between Bangon and Bongoy rivers, decided to move to the area where the Poblacion is now located and changed their fiesta from December 8 (Concepcion Day) to April 5 (feast of St. Vincent Ferrer). What triggered the exodus were first, the destruction made by typhoon “Ugis” in 1844 which made the twin rivers of Bangon and Bongoy swell and swept the settlement, and second, the fire on December 7, 1846 which reduced many strong houses to ashes. This writer of the present time believes that the community built by the first 49 settlers in 1810 and rebuilt by the second 243 settlers in 1840, both from Banton, was made of houses standing on wooden stilts connected by elevated wooden boards or bridges. This is because the place called Cota is swampy and even still swampy of up to this date and many parts of it are under sea water during high tide.According to Gilbert F. Fabella, another historian, the houses of the early settlers of Cota were huts and shelters which according to Mateo Meňez were later replaced with houses of strong timbers.
If the actual transfer from Cota to the area now known as Poblacion was made on April 5, 1847, why is it that the seal of Odiongan reflects the year 1846 as its founding year? The twin disasters, flood of 1844 and fire of 1846, dismayed the settlers of Cota and after December 7, 1846, they conceptualized the idea of transferring to the east bank of Bongoy river. This writer also believes that the early Odionganons started clearing and built houses in the new location from the later part of December 1846 up to the first quarter of 1847 and on April 5, 1847 the exodus and procession around the new town took place.
This is the only logical explanation why they chose the year 1846 as the founding year of Odiongan. It is because it was in 1846 when they conceptualized the transfer and started building the new town.
By analogy, this was the same situation with the Romblon State University seal. For many years, up to around 2013, it reflects the year 1914 as the founding year until they changed it to 1915 before its centennial celebration.
Mateo Meňez wrote that it was sometime in November 1914, during the district meet in Odiongan when American John C. Early, then head teacher of Romblon-Sub Province, suggested to the teachers the idea of the establishment of a farm school. The teachers took his suggestion to heart, and began at once a campaign to acquire nearby farmlands. Emilio Firmalo and other farm owners donated thirteen hectares of land, Nazario Famadico donated three work carabaos and the people of Odiongan built and donated temporary farm houses. But it was in June 1915 when Odiongan Farm School (first name of Romblon State University) came into being basically as elementary school with 65 pupils in Grade 5 and 48 pupils in Grade 6.
This could be the reason why they chose 1914 as the founding year. The establishment of the school was conceptualized and the campaign for its creation were done in 1914. This writer though has no serious objection to its change from 1914 to 1915.