Bato is located at the southeastern portion of Catanduanes and is bounded on the north by the municipality of San Miguel; on the east by the greatest body of water, the Pacific Ocean; on the south by Cabugao Bay and on the west by Virac, the capital town of Catanduanes which is just 8 kilometers from Bato.
Meridional coordinates of the municipality’s location are: 124deg15’16” to 124deg21’7” longitude and 13deg32’50” to 13deg38’47” latitude.
Bato is politically subdivided into 27 barangays.
The natural features of the municipality of Bato is something it should be proud of. Having an elevation of land which varies from sea level to about 700 meters above sea level, it has space and areas for approximately all its necessities. The areas of flat to nearly flat lands along the coasts of Cabugao Bay and the Pacific Ocean and those along the banks of Bato River do not only cater to the agricultural needs of its inhabitants but also to their shelter and recreational needs.
Stability and permeability of basic rock formation could be seen in the geologic map the existemce of fault line along barangays Oguis, Sipi, Binanuahan, Cabugao and San Andres. These areas are considered critical especially in terms of development as urban expansion. Like other municipalities in the province of Catanduanes, Bato has many mineral deposits like gold, manganese, coal and copper.
The municipality of Bato is composed of fivev v(5) kinds of soils namely: hydrosol, mountain soil, alimodian clay loam, louisianna clay, and San Miguel silt loam.
The flat lands are mostly found along the coast of Cabugao Bay along the banks of the Bato River. These flat lands with a sloe of 0-3% occupies an average area of 25-30% of the entire hectarage of Bato. The Poblacion which is located along the eastern side of the Bato River is among the barangays having this slope, characterized to be level to nearly level land. However, due to its location, the Poblacion together with the adjoining barangays frequently suffer floods. The eastern portion of Bato which faces the Pacific Ocean has a slope ranging between 3-30% slope. These areas shield the lowlands of the municipality from the incoming winds of the Pacific. These areas are mostly planted to orchard, hard wood trees and abaca.
Bato, the smallest of the eleven (11) municipalities of Catanduanes has a land area of 48.8 sq. km. or 4,880 ha. It is situated along the eastern coast of Bicol Region. It lies on the Southern Part of the storm tossed island province.
To prevail on this small strip of predominant agricultural land, the Batonhon has thought himself to be practical. She has resolutely formed an alliance with the typhoon-beaten soil to gain her education, which can serve as a passport to better life in which better life cannot be offered by agriculture alone. Education has to play its part, proof of which the town has produced an unsurpassed number of Professionals of the different fields of expertise.
As you look around the foliage of the hills and mountains, the ebbing tides of the river, the swamps and blue-green sea, the valleys, precipice and cloudy blue sky, one would reflect that it is indeed inevitable for a resourceful Batonhon not to move on and seek a broader prospective venture elsewhere or abroad.
Little is known about the existence of Bato in the early part of the 13th century. It is believed however that on the basis of language peculiarities spoken by the natives, the early settlers were muslim traders from Surigao, traders who were previously immigrants from Borneo and Malaysia. They settled near the shore of Batalay for protection against external threats, and for communal needs, people lived together inn groups with elected leaders. Some of this group retreated from the shores and settled near the Bato River.
THE BIRTH OF HISTORICAL LAND MARK: (THE HOLY CROSS OF BATALAY
Through a significant twist of destiny, Bato incidentally became an important stage in the drama of Philippine History with Fray Diego de Herrera as the main character. Fray Diego de Herrera was a missionary from Toledo Spain. In Philippine history, he is known as one of the members of the expedition as Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and as one of the first priests who came to Manila between 1571 to 1572, said the first mass and became the founder of the monastery of San Agustin, the eldest church of the country.
Located at the Southeastern cost Catanduanes is a reef called Nagngagang Buaya which is linked by traditional with the place where a Galleon Espiritu Santo taken by Fray Diego de Herrera and nine other companies which embarked from Mexico suffered ship wreak on April 25, 1576 on their way to Cebu because of the negligence of the pilot of the ship and bad weather. According to Rev. Icacio Rodriguez, says that all the survivors were preened by the natives of the island, however, had they met an instant death, the story not have been completed. Mariano Goyena del Prado in his testimony says that the survivors were stranded in Batalay, a native “balangay” located at the Southern tip of the town of Bato, Catanduanes, where they were given shelter and provisions by the ruling datu. This testimony is closed to the belief of Batonhon that Fray Diego de Herrera lived for some days in Batalay and suffered martyrdom in the hands of the natives because he tried to introduce catholic religion, which the native did not accept. Tradition has it on the burial place of Fray Diego de Herrera where the Spanish companion planted a wander cross, a spring of clear water sprouted, which the natives regarded as an unusual phenomenon.
Again tradition says that the death of Fray Diego de Herrera brought supernatural punishment to the natives for killing a holy man. The punishment was in the form of school of swordfish, which attacked and killed many of the natives. The survivors retreated inland, some finally settled near the Bato River and the others went back to Batalay after the incident.
After many years, From 1840 to 1860, Bishop Grijalvo of Nueva Caceres ordered a moment to the constructed over the grave of Fray Diego de Herrera, the site of which could not be located. It took many attempts to plant a cross on the right spot because no cross would stand, it was noted to be uprooted every sunrise, when finally one morning the cross did not fall to the ground that caught the natives in surprise, the natives dug beneath where the cross stood and found a human skeleton supposed to be the remains of famous martyr. From then on pilgrims placed it on the pained parts of the body, others brought with them oil and many came with empty bottles to be filled with the miraculous water from the spring. To protect the cross from further destruction, it was encased with hard wood. Presently, it is on the altar of the Holy Cross of Batalay Chapel where it is venerated throughout the year.
On April 21, 1973 on the occasion of the fourth Centennial Celebration of the death of Fray Diego de Herrera, a decree was signed by the Most Rev. Teotimo C. Pasis C.M. Bishop of Legazpi, declaring the Holy Cross of Batalay a Diocesan Shrine with the right to hold a Liturgical celebration on the last Friday of April of every year. Thus, Batalay, Bato, Catanduanes become a historical landmark.
Although it was in Batalay, Bato, Catanduanes that the first seed of Christianity was planted by Fray Diego de Herrera, the spread of Christian religion in the place was slow, this was due to the refusal of the natives to an abrupt renunciation of their ancestral faith, Moreover, the establishment of Parishes in Catanduanes begun in the North.
Caramoran was established in 1600, Pandan in 1650 followed by the neighboring Parishes, Virac’s turn came late in 1755 followed by Calolbon in 1798 and finally Bato in 1830.
When the first priest was assigned in Bato, who was a certain Father Reymundoo, he constructed a temporary chapel with the help of the natives. They selected a Patron Saint appropriate to the Parish’s location and need. St. John the Baptist preaches the carrying of the cross and the parish significantly produced the highest number of Priests and religious people among the parishes in the province in proportion to the number of population.
Today the monumental church with unique architectural design dignifies the town. Its façade brings back the memory of the old times when our forefather, in the spirit of Bayanihan, toiled like ants until each brisk adhered together and form the massive high walls, the tower contained the legendary bell. Proudly the church stands as the oldest in the province and a tourist attraction.
When the Spanish conquistadores led by Juan de Salcedo set foot in Catanduanes in 1575, Bato remained for a time unexplored. However, during the Hispanization of the Philippines, the Governadorcillo ordered that all settlements must have their names registered, together with the data on population and estimated taxes due the king of Spain.
It was on this purpose that local Spanish official went around the Villages of Catanduanes. The Spanish officials assigned to this place asked a woman who was washing clothes in the natural stone well, the name of the settlement. She thought that Spaniard was asking the name of the well, so she answered “Bato” which the Spaniard recorded and reported as the name of one the setios of Virac.
So there, the place was called Bato until after it became full pledged municipality in 1896. Being strategically located at the bank of the river with only a few kilometers away from Cabugao Bay contributed to Bato’s becoming a municipality. However the Alcalde Municipal was appointed in 1898.
The people of the newly crated municipality fought brawly with the Spanish guards with Capitan Diego as the head of the Surrectus and General Brumbuela as the commanding Officer who took charge of Virac, Calolbon and Bato. The fighting continued until after Philippine Independence was declared in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898 because of communication gap.
When the Americans came during the year Philippine Independence was declared at Kawit, Cavite, the Batonhon who did not like to lose their hard earned-freedom went to the mountains and refused to recognize the American Administration. But the natives were easily convinced to put down their arms because of the Americans better knowledge of warfare and superior firearms.
The natives found the Americans more democratic than the Spaniards. In 1904, the Bato Public Schools was founded. It was housed in the Tribunal with two (2) teachers from Albay and an American supervising them by the name of Ralp Robinson. Miss Maria Nogot handled class A, Mr. Torrebio Vibarde class B. Batonhon found the school need better than the Spanish convent school in terms of methods of insurance and school supplies. While the Spanish School forced children memorize cartilla, the Americans introduced practical knowledge through English Instructor with school supplies available for few. In 1908, Miss Juliana Tolledana, the first Batonhon to be trained in the methods of teaching, taught in the public school. Then in 1909, teachers were all residents of Bato. It was in 1914 that Catanduanes became district 2, a separate district of the division of Albay.
On December 12, 1942, two Japanese warships docked at Cabugao Bay. Several squadrons of warplanes flew over the skies of the Poblacion, Batalay, Cabugao and Virac. The Batonhon were able to evacuate to safer places with handy belongings. The Japanese eventually conquered Batalay despite of resistance of the natives.
Military government was organized in Bato after the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and a Filipino Mayor served under the Japanese military command. In 1943, Atty. Basilio Soriano was appointed Major and the incumbent Major Ricardo Rojas was appointed as Provincial Governor by the Japanese Imperial Government until Catanduanes was liberated.
A guerilla forces was organize in Catanduanes with Major Salvador C. Rodulfo as the commanding officer and Bato as the official headquarter. Several encounters with the Japanese forces were happened somewhere in Mintay, Libjo, Virac, Gababang, Bato and in Banquerohan which is between Viga and Panganiban. In the early days of 1945, the Japanese garrison in Bato and Virac were cleared and Catanduanes was liberated of the heroism born out of the struggle for freedom.
After the liberation of Catanduanes in 1945, Vice-Mayor Moises Tarrobal assumed the position of the Mayor of Bato and restored the function of the commonwealth government until July 4, 1946 when the country gained independence from American control.
Today Batonhon found it wholesome to glance in a while to the glorious past and trace fine it the roots of greatness that the town has achieved.
With the present population of 19,269, Bato has 3,712 households, thereby placing the average family size at 5 members. It has a total of 3,667 occupied dwelling units. Of this dwelling units, 1,908 or 52.03% used concrete/brick/stone as their outer walls followed by bamboo/sawali/cogon and nipa which composes 29.42%. Asbestos/glass is the least used which accounts for only 7 houses or 0.19%.
Dwelling units have also been classified into single houses, duplex, multi-unit residential, institutional, living quarters and others. Thus of the total number of households, 99% or 3,644 occupies single house while the rest of 1% are either duplex or multi unit residential.
The municipality of Bato avails of the services of two (2) major health facilities. These include one (1) hospital and one (1) rural health unit, which is located in Barangay Tamburan and Poblacion respectively. There used to be eight (8) barangay health stations located in barangays Batalay, Bote, San Roque Bagumbayan, Buenavista, Binanuahan, Sibacingan, and Caagraray.
The Bato Maternity and Children’s Hospital which is under the administration of the Provincial Government of Catanduanes is catering the needs of the three (3) municipalities, namely: Bato, Baras, and San Miguel. It has a capacity of 50 beds whose services include consultations, admissions and minor surgeries. On the other hand, the Rural Health unit, which is under the administration of the Municipal Government of Bato, serves the needs of the 27 barangays of the municipality. Its services are medical/surgical services, laboratory services, family planning and women’s health services, oral rehydration therapy, TB Control, immunization, medico legal and social services, environmental health services, pre-marriage counseling, delivery calls and nutrition services.
Speaking of the health status of the municipality, for CY 1999, the Office of the Municipal Civil Registrar posted a live birth of 307, 159 of which are males and 148 are females. Likewise it recorded 89 deaths in age group 50 years and over. The Municipal Health Office for the same year recorded a crude birth rate of 27.47% and an infant mortality rate of 0.83%.
Almost 35.05% of the total population of the municipality or 7,415 comprises the school-going age population. The primary school-going population aged 6-10 years old are 2,570; the intermediate school-going population aged 11-12 years old are 993; the secondary school-going population aged 13-16 are 1,858 and the tertiary school-going population aged 17-21 are 1,994.
A survey of the actual enrollment revealed that there is an enrollment participation rate of 90.43%. This could be interpreted that for every 100 children aged 6-14 only 90 are enrolled. For secondary education out of 1,858 only 1,359 are enrolled.
A tertiary school is not present in the municipality, however post-secondary vocational courses are being offered by the Cabugao School of Handicraft ad Cottage Industries (CSCIII) which is now under the administration and management of the TESDA.
Protective services are being served by the police force, the firemen and the barangay brigades. All in all these force totals 164, broken down as follows: 17 policemen, 4 firemen, and 143 members of the barangay brigades.
Due to the absence of a PNP Building, the police station is presently located at the Municipal Hall with a floor area of 70.00 square meters. On the other hand, the fire station is occupying a total area of 60 square meters. The Barangay Brigades of Bato with a total force of 143 could be found all throughout the different barangays.
The municipality of Bato avails of the social welfare services of the government agency popularly known as the Department of Social Welfare and Development. This agency has two devolved personnel for Bato. Its services are extended to all the urban and rural barangays of the municipality and include among other: family life education and counseling, day care services, peer group service, supplemental feeding, relief rehabilitation and referral for medical care.
The organizations present in this municipalities are: Senior Citizens Organization, Women’s Organization and Parents Committee. Barangay Aroyao Pequeno has the greatest number of these organizations while the rest have the same number and type of these organizations.
The present sports and recreational facilities of the municipality include billiards halls, public library, cockpit arena, basketball and volleyball courts, beaches and scenic spots as well as waterfalls resorts. Twenty six out of twenty seven barangays has an existing barangay plaza, which is being utilized for outdoor sports activities. It laso served as a venue for community gatherings and socialization.