Biliran is the fourth smallest province in the Philippines and is located in the Eastern Visayas region. Biliran Island is 1,115 kilometers southwest of Manila. Its capital is Naval and for a time, Biliran was part of Leyte Province until it became independent in 1992. The province is composed of two major islands: Biliran Island and Maripipi Island. Other islands include Higatangan Island and the uninhabited island of Dalutan. It has 8 municipalities and 132 barangays.
Situated in the heart of the Philippines, Biliran lies a few kilometers north of Leyte Island across Biliran Strait. To the southeast is Carigara Bay, to the northeast is Samar Sea, to the west is the Visayan Sea and Masbate lies about 30 km to the northwest. The main island features mountainous interiors with very narrow coastal areas. Mountain ranges occupy the major portion of the island municipality of Maripipi while the municipalities of Naval and Caibiran have wide plains extending about 7 km from the coast which is suitable for agriculture. Mount Suiro is the highest point in the island with an elevation of 1300 meters.
Biliran is the fifth least populated province in the country and the smallest in the region. The inhabitants of the province primarily speak Cebuano and Waray. Cebuano is spoken by 55.79% of the population and is found mainly in the western area of the island; while Waray, spoken by 40.80%, can be found on the eastern portion. Biliran has a combination of warm and cool climatic zones, thus the climate prevailing is ideal for cultivation of a wide range of agricultural crops. There is no distinct dry season but the heavy wet season generally occurs in December.
Biliran comprises eight towns: Kawayan, Almeria, Naval, Biliran, Culaba, Caibiran, Cabucgayan, and Maripipi, with Naval as the capital town. The province thrives mainly on the fishing and seaport industry. Most of its towns like Naval and Biliran are considered as excellent ports and are often the gateway to further destinations within the Visayas and even the Mindanao region.
According to folklore, Biliran derived its name from the native grass – Borobiliran – which was abundant on the plains during the Pre-Spanish period. Long before this era, seafarers passing through the narrow straits of Biliran, separating mainland of Leyte and the island of Biliran, had noticed the fertile plains and the lush green hills of the island.
In the early 18th century, a group of settlers, led by Fr. Gaspar settled in Albacia (now a sitio of Barangay Hugpa in the municipality of Biliran). Years later, this same group of settlers now led by Fr. Lorenzo Rivera transferred to Magsanoc. Unfortunately, Magsanoc, (now sitio Nasunugan) was burned to the ground. These settlers finally settled on the plains of Biliran. This settlement developed and grew. In 1878 it was formally declared a municipality of Leyte by the Spanish authorities – the first town in the island of Biliran. This significant event led virtually to the naming of the whole island as Biliran Biliran became a regular province on May 11, 1992 after a plebiscite was conducted in accordance with R.A. 7160. The island province, which was formerly a sub-province of Leyte, belongs to the Eastern Visayas region (Region 8). It is surrounded on the north by the Visayas Sea, on the south by the Carigara Bay, on the east by the Samar Sea, and on the west by the Strait of Biliran.
During the early Spanish era, Biliran Island was known as Isla de Panamao. The term refers to an ethnic fishing net. The present name, adopted sometime between 17th and early 18th century, was derived from a native grass called borobiliran which grew abundantly in the island’s plains. The first town named Biliran, was founded in 1712. During this time, the island was a part of Cebu province. On April 8, 1959, Republic Act No. 2141 was signed into law making Biliran a sub-province of Leyte. The island was only made an independent province on May 11, 1992 by virtue of Republic Act No. 7160, making it one of the newest provinces in the country.
Biliran Province is endowed with natural tourist attractions that lure both local and foreign tourists: coral reef gardens, scenic waterways, white sand beaches, natural hot and cold water springs.
White Sand Beaches. The island takes pride in its white sand beaches: the Agta beach in Almeria, the Banderahan Beach in Naval, the exotic island of Dalutan with its sculptured rock formations, the Sambawan Island with its rich marine life and coral gardens, the Higatangan Island, famous for its moving white sand bar, the Cogon Beach in Kawayan which is ideal for edible shellfish hunting, and the Genuruan Island in Kawayan which is ideal for water skiing and deep sea diving. There is also the Tingkasan Island, famous for its mysterious bat caves and edible shellfishes. The panoramic island of Maripipi has a beautiful marine seascape.
Waterfalls. The clear and sweet tasting water that flows from the Tomalistis falls is believed to be one of the best in the world. Other falls include the Kasabangan Falls and Casiawan Falls in Cabucgayan, the Kinaraha and Pundol Falls in Almeria, and the newly discovered falls in Pulang Yuta in Caibiran which resembles the Pagsangjan Falls.
Water Springs. The Libtong Hotspring is located in Naval while the Mainit Hot Spring can be found in the municipality of Caibiran.
The more popular swimming pools are the Masagongsong Swimming Pool in Kawayan and the San Bernardino Swimming Pool in Caibiran. These pools never run dry nor require chlorination because their waters flow freely from their cool underground natural spring source. Both have amenities like kiosks, conference halls, dressing rooms and rest houses.
Cebuano is spoken by 57.79 percent of the population, and Waray-waray by 40.80 percent, are the major dialects spoken in the island. The towns facing the mainland of Leyte and Samar speak Waray-waray, whereas the towns near Cebu speak the Cebuano dialects. Filipino/Tagalog and English are also spoken and understood by most of the inhabitants.
The economy of Biliran is largely into fishing. Most of its town, especially Naval and Biliran, have excellent seaports. There are 95 hectares of brackish water fishponds which produce prawns, shrimps and milkfish. Another 30 hectares of seawater are suitable for seaweed farming and 10 more hectares for fishcage culture. The warm lowlands of Biliran are conducive to palay production and other tropical crops. The inhabitants also engage in hunting, lumber, and manufacturing. The principal raw materials produced are copra and coconut oil. Processed goods include white clay ceramics, dried fish, raw gulaman and citronella oil.