Toponym of Baclayon

There are still many towns in Bohol that use folklore and fairytale to indicate the origin of the name of their town.


Toponymy or the study of the names of places indicates that since time immemorial people always give a name to the place where they live or stay. Sometimes the names are exonyms or given by the neighbors or outsiders and sometimes they are endonyms or names given by the residents themselves.

There are times when the names are given or designated by a person in authority. However, most of the time the names are cachetonyms or eponyms.

A cachetonym is a name derived from a prominent or distinguishing feature of the place. An eponym is a name taken from a name of a person whether real or legendary.

Town aspects

During the Spanish times a town has two aspects or jurisdictions. There was the religious aspect headed by the Parish Priest and the civil aspect headed by the Gobernadorcillo. It was possible that the religious aspect of the town will have two or more civil aspects. Since the religious aspect was always headed by a Spanish Priest, it was deemed superior to the civil aspect.

During the Jesuit era in Bohol, the name of the religious aspect was written first and followed by the civil aspect. Hence we had the name San Jose de Tagbilaran or San Miguel de Jagna. The San Jose or San Miguel was the name of the Parish and Tagbilaran or Jagna was the name of the place and the civil jurisdiction of the town.

Nowadays, since there is already a complete separation of church and state, the situation is already reversed. A civil town can have two or more parishes within it.

The name ‘Baclayon’

The dictionary Vocabulario De La Lengua Bisaya (1618) by Fr Mateo Sanchez defines Baclay; Baclayun as to transport something from one place to another; to take the risk of passing through rivers, mountains, etc.

The dictionary Bisaya-Español (1850) by Fr Juan Felix de la Encarnacion defines Baclay as, a.) Stole or cloth band worn across the breast. b.) To walk or to travel following the shoreline.

The Baclayun or Baclayon of Fr Sanchez means to pass through rivers, mountains, etc. The Baclay of Fr Felix, which means a stole cannot be made into Baclayon. However, Baclay, which means to walk or travel following the shoreline can be transformed into Baclayon, which means “to be hiked or trekked.”

The remnants of a long-house we discovered about 100 meters from the shoreline of Guiwanon, Baclayon indicated that the land portion extended far beyond the present shorelines of Baclayon. In the 1960s, the land portion of Layâ, Baclayon was still very far seaward than the present situation.

In all indications, the meaning of Baclayon is as defined by Fr Juan Felix de la Encarnacion, “to walk or to travel following the shoreline.”

The word bacayon, which means to be side-stepped, could not be the likely source of the word Baclayon. In the first place, where and what is to be side-stepped? Bear in mind that the most prevalent mode of transport during Spanish times was to travel by boat along the shoreline because there were no roads.

There was no competent authority that declared Baclayon a town. When Frs Juan de Torres and Gabriel Sanchez arrived in Baclayon on Nov 17, 1596 the town was already existing with an estimated population of 10,000 inhabitants. The two Jesuit Priests just proceeded to evangelize the place and claimed it for Spain. Baclayon was the first town established in Bohol by the Spaniards.

Source: The Bohol Chronicle issues of January 9, 2011 and January 19, 2011

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