History of Bohol Cortes
The history of Cortes dates back to pre-hispanic times. They already had a form of government way before the coming of the Spaniards. The town was known as “Malabago” after its chief who was a cotemporary of Haring Lomod, otherwise known to many as Tamblot – the first Boholano to raise arms against the Spanish conquistadors.
The Malabago settlement was situated in the upland territory of the present day Cortes near the Abatan River while that of Tamblot was at Barangay Viga in the lowlands of Antequera which stretches to the riverside valleys opposite that of Malabago beyond the present day Abatan Bridge.
Tamblot’s reign started in early 1600 A.D. and the uprising in 1621 was triggered when a Spanish priest want to take back a silver church bell (Lingganayng Ugis) which he gave to Tamblot in order to put it up in a church he built at Malabago. Tamblot resented such a move; refused to give the bell back and so the feud between him and the Spaniards started.
So the Malabago settlement dates back to as far as early 1600 A.D. The people of Malabago have a culture of their own and recorded their day-to-day activities in their own writing using unique characters which they carved out on a piece of bamboo using a knife called panggi or supok.
Malabago then was a sanctuary of hardy farmers who cultivated the land and made rice paddies in the north and east lowlands. By then, it was being served by priests from Maribojoc town. Supporting Tamblot during the uprising, the Spaniards destroyed the settlement in 1621.
The settlement was transferred to Bahian which was also destroyed by the Spaniards. Again the people settled at Ylaya at the upper part of the river. Not accessible by boats, the people have to berth near the mouth of the river which they eventually called as “Dayhangan”, meaning “berthing place”.
The people who choose to live near the mouth of the river and along the swamps grew. Their main livelihood was to catch fish so the new settlement was called “Pamingwitan” or a place where one can catch fish using a fishing rod. Way back in 1793 or 94, the independent parish was established.
Finding it hard to pronounce the name of “Pamingwitan”, the town was re-named Cortes, after the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes. Some said it was named after Cortes, a town in Navarre of Northern Spain.
The town was probably established in 1862 during the construction of the Catholic Church wherein the settlements of Malabago, Pamingwitan and Dayhangan where welded into one and called the “Pueblo de Cortes” derived from the Spanish word “cortesimo” meaning “most courteous”.
The parish was dedicated to the Santo Niño. The inhabitants of the town were baptized and given instructions in the Catholic faith. Although the church was built way back in 1880, the bell towers’ upper register was completed only in the 20th century. A boy’s school building was constructed in 1895.
The town of Cortes played a prominent role during World War II. The inhabitants of the town formed a bolo battalion to fight the Japanese Invaders. Yet in 1942, the town was overwhelmed by the Japanese; houses were burned down and the school building was occupied and used as a garrison.
Cortes was liberated from the Japanese a few days after the arrival of the Americans in Tagbilaran on April 11, 1945. In less than a month, the whole province of Bohol was officially declared liberated on May 25, 1945 by Major General William H. Arnold, Commander of the American Division.