Repeatedly it was taught to us, Mambusenos, in grade school that the name Mambusao was a semantic error or a misconstruction of the dialect verb “busao” that was translated by the Spaniards as ‘Mambusao’ for the town’s name. The information, legend says was gathered during a misunderstood inquiry made by a Spaniard from a local they passed along a river. This story has been relayed for generations and had been the accepted legend of the name. However, I managed to do some research as I stumbled upon some good readings which led me to some trusted facts on the true etymology of the name ‘Mambusao’. My ‘not-so-extensive’ digging may present an alternative to the already accepted story on Mambusao’s name.
The name Mambusao was not endowed through misunderstanding or misconception by the Spaniards as what our folklore tells us. The name was ordained by the Bornean settlers and was already used to name the place hundreds of years before the Spaniards came. This name was already used by the locals (pre-hispanic Filipinos) to call the place bounding the river they also called Mambusao. The place stretched from the boundaries of a land called ‘Agnaya’ in ‘ilaya’ (upstream) and which extended to a place called ‘Sikma’ in ‘ilawod’ (downstream).
The origin of the name was actually “Mamburao”. The locals also named the river that flows through it as ‘Mamburao’. Mamburao, to your surprise, was the name of the chieftain of the island of ‘Minuro’ or the present-day Mindoro. In his honor, the place where he settled during his short visit to the island was named after him. The visit came about when he was invited to the island of Panay by Marikudo and Maniwantiwan during the celebration of the establishment of the Madya-as Confederation.
The place was called Mamburao as early as the 13th century which coincided with institution of the Confederation of Madya-as. It may be recalled that the Madya-as Confederation was established by Datu Puti with ten other datus from Borneo when they landed in Panay Island in the 13th century and bought the property from the chieftain Marikudo. The confederation was a semi-democratic state within the Visayas island region established by these datus with its base in the Panay Island.
It was said that Marikudo moved to the Highlands or mountainous region of Panay which was presumed to be the present location of Jamindan and Tapaz, Capiz, a place adjacent to Mambusao. This transfer gave way to the new settlers who preferred to stay along the coastlines. After the barter, the datus established the Madya-as Confederation. A celebration then ensued which included Marikudo, Maniwantiwan and their subjects. Several chieftains from neighboring islands were invited for a month-long celebration. Mamburao of Minuro Island may have been invited by Marikudo or Datu Puti.
The ten datus from Borneo were quite advanced in civilization than the negritos they found in the island of Panay, and before the settlement, they were already naming places in Borneo. They took the opportunity as a token of honor, friendship and peace with Marikudo to name some of the places in the island after some notable negrito leaders and members of their families. They on the other hand named majority of the places from their (datus) own names. Jamindan’s name came from Amindan, son of Marikudo and Maniwantiwan, a local warrior chieftain. Jagnaya, a barangay of Jamindan, derived its name from the wife of chieftain Amindan – Dayang-dayang Agnaya. The adjacent town of Sigma was derived from the name of a Bornean datu, ‘Sikma’.
It was then quite puzzling that Mambusao was named after a chieftain from another island. It was said that Mamburao had a major role in the reconciliation of Marikudo and some of the ten Datus after an altercation. Mamburao became a very close friend of the Datus and especially to Marikudo, who at one time arranged a wedding between Mamburao’s son Managrin and Agnaya. The special bond between Mamburao and Marikudo gained Mamburao the honor to grace the name of the place and the river.
The transformation of the name to the present “Mambusao” from “Mamburao” may have been the result of the peculiar pronunciation of the letter “r” by the locals which in time may have evolved to the letter “s”.
It is quite difficult to consider that the name Mambusao came only from an action word “busao”, while all the places adjacent and surrounding the present town were named after (pre-hispanic) leaders.
Not only in Panay but a number of places’s names in the Philippines are told to have been formed out of misconception by the Spaniards who later named these places as such. These kinds of stories are evidences of our colonial mentality, that the Spaniards are more civilized than the pre-Hispanic Filipinos when they came and therefore had the competence to name places.
The island of Panay as recorded in pre-Hispanic history was one of the first politically and economically organized and progressive regions in the Philippines. Mambusao could have been a flourishing settlement hundreds of years before the Spaniards came. We sometimes cloud our search for history because our mindset tells us that everything were established or founded by the colonizers.