Oral history passed on by family historians suggests my ascendants fought against domination of European colonizers as early as the 17th century, nearly 100 years after some of these eastern islands had started making the sign of the cross.
Most popular of these ascendants was Teresa Magbanua, who earned the moniker “Joan of Arc” of the Visayas.
St. Joan of Arc—byname the Maid of Orléans, French Sainte Jeanne d’Arc or La Pucelle d’Orléans, (born c. 1412—died May 30, 1431, has been revered as a martyr, and viewed as an obedient daughter of the Roman Catholic Church, an early feminist, and a symbol of freedom and independence.
After the French Revolution, she became a national symbol of France.
The unveiling ceremony of our Great-GrandAunt, Teresa Magbanua, “Joan of Arc” of the Visayas.
In the Visayas, ‘Nay Ysa, as she was endearingly addressed, was trained as an educator; but she chose to join her brothers and other kin in armed struggle, rather than enjoy the comforts of classroom teaching.
‘Nay Ysa, was deemed an expert in shooting while riding on horseback.
She was reluctantly given the command of Bolo Batallion, when she was able to persuade the Commanding General of the revolutionary forces in Panay Island, who was also her blood relative, that she could fight and lead the fighting forces.
‘Nay Ysa’s battle plan was unconventional.
She conceived the “agaw armas” tactic by visiting the enemy’s barracks in the middle of the night, to lure the soldiers to imbibe intoxicating drinks.
When the enemies had a drink too many, she signaled her troops hiding and waiting in the nearby undergrowth to grab their firearms.
‘Nay was a formidable threat to the colonial government.
Because clan members were involved in overthrowing the colonial government, the latter persecuted the members of Magbanua Clan.
To survive, clan members went into quick evacuation. They dispersed – “naglayas kay gin pintasan.”
Some clan members were able to escape to nearby towns of Pototan.
Some went to Antique, some to Capiz.
Others migrated to Negros.
My direct ascendant, however, found refuge in Romblon, in Southern Tablas island.
At the time, a military decree was issued that in every settlement, residents must have a uniform first letter of their family names.
The letter assigned in Sibuyan was R; in Romblon proper letter M; in central Tablas Island was letter F.
The letter, however, assigned in Southern Tablas was “G”—there was letter G in the family name, Magbanua.
To comply with the decree, what my direct ancestor did was to drop the first two letters, MA, and transposed the remaining vowels. Hence a new surname was born: Gabuna.
I am a fifth generation Gabuna.
The month of April, the same dates as the town fiesta, the Gabunas held a grand reunion.
Relations who settled in Mindoro, Batangas, Aklan, and those who sailed out or flew out to foreign lands returned for that legendary homecoming.
Every time I met a younger face, my instinct was to raise the query, “Who is the Lolo of your father?”
Embarrassing it might be, but that was the only way I could trace our blood line.
Tears, laughter, and hugs were shared —until the next grand reunion.
(BG resided in North America for 30 years, seven of which were spent in the Arctic, a line of latitude about 66.5° north of the Equator. He and his wife are the first Filipino couple to build a “nipa hut” in the North Pole. He worked as Consultant on Organizational Change & Management. He is at present engaged “Kawayanan ng Bayan” movement, planting giant bamboos nationwide to help address climate change).