Boracay: Unveiling history

Unfolding that part of Philippine history, blending historical facts with accounts of the hidden legacy of Lamberto "Lambert" H. Tirol and Sofia "Soping/Sofing" Ner Gonzales as revealed by old journals, accounts of case files, news items, and series of testimonies of the natives in the Island of Boracay, Aklan, Panay Island, Philippines. The publication of results of research and discoveries is an essential part of this project. 

The Boracay Project

Boracay History 

It is true. Little is known about the history of the island of Boracay.

Boracay used to be a quite place, private abode of a number of islanders and the natives called "Ati".

Of these islanders are two natives from Boracay who, as told by the locals, gave the island its name - Lamberto Tirol and Sofia Gonzales.

In the late 1800 or early 1900s of the island history, during the early age of their marriage, the couple settled in Makato, Aklan Province in Panay but later on settled and engaged in cultivation in an island in Buruanga whose name was not yet "boracay" at that time.

Life in the island was quite and simple and away from civilization and war. Lifestyle was said to be humble. Sofia had a little lot in an island in Buruanga used to be called as "Ro isla it Buruanga". When Lamberto H. Tirol then became a "Juez"  or Judge in the late 1800 or sometime early  1900, the couple decided to settle in the island. During those times they engaged massive cultivation in planting coconut trees, tobacco, marijuana (some locals claimed it was Sofing and a certain "Orang" Sacapano, another settler, who planted marijuana and traded it for medical purposes, along with first class tobacco they themselves cultivated with the help of some natives). 

Later on, some islanders belonging to the "landed settlers and clan" offered for sale some of their lots to Lamberto and Sofia. The rest of the Islanders followed suit so that relatively a large portion of the island belonged to the Couple. Massive cultivation and farming continued. Great harvest was a normal site during the early years of Boracay. The Family of Lamberto H. Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales lived amongst the natives, treated all of them as their own family. It was even said that Lamberto was an "islander" attributing to his dark skin and short height. 

Upon the death of Lamberto H. Tirol, Sofia Ner Gonzales was left to attend to their children and their lands. As a young widow she has to work extra hard to fend for herself and her family. Accounts about her spending all her waking hours in the island with Orang Sacapano, her friend, were tails told by old folks to children in the area. She cultivated the island, planted it with millions of coconut trees with the help of her tenants and neighbors. She even tended and cared for certain areas of the property belonging to her sister Rosalia who at that time settled outside Panay. It was even said that Sofia, with the help of  Orang produced first class tobacco during their time. Because of the cultivation of the island Sofia  gained for herself the reputation as the "Greener of Boracay".

Yes, the early years of Boracay were indeed private (as it was the choice of some families and settlers of the island)- its history was, to our minds, kept deliberately hidden from history books for some reasons only the heirs themselves know.

But at some point in time, truth must be told, history must be unveiled.

The Tirol Family of Aklan indeed possess titles over portions of Boracay Island. They were considered to be Landlords even in the present times including the settlers Gelito-Sacapano, the long time and very first neighbors of Sofing, possessing the island and commercializing most parts. Some properties were sold to the Elizalde family, Ayala-Zobel by the Sarabias, and others. Other than that, most lots are still covered by Tax Declarations.

A large portion of the island is now state-owned, except for the titled lots of Lamberto and Sofia along with relatives Ciriaco Tirol and Roberto Tirol (among the owners are their heirs, Elizalde, Sarabia, Dignos, Dimacali, Andan, Carpio, Solidum, Menez, Kimpo, Rojo, Tan, Marte, Jarantilla, Miraflores, Gelito, Aguirre and Sacapano).

Series of controversies beset Boracay island. Government intervention seemed to aggravate the matter. If Sofia Ner Gonzales and Orang Sacapano and the rest of their neighbors were alive today they would have wanted the island to stay as it was, with millions of trees resting peacefully and happily on white sugar coated sands of the island, with few sojourners watching the calm and serene blue ocean touching the bluest island skies. 

But times change and the rest changed with it, including Boracay. Most well kept secrets eventually unfolded as the earth ages with time. The island's well guarded privacy may have been lost now with the deluge of visitors the island attracts every year. People from all over the world continue to flock to its brilliantly blinding powdery sands and silky shores.

Despite issues and controversies sorrounding Boracay Island, tourists continue to flock in, with the island contributing to the economy of the country.

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Unfolding that part of Philippine history, blending historical facts with accounts of the hidden legacy of original families of the island of Boracay, including the original settlers Lamberto H. Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales and their neighbors as revealed by writings, old accounts of case files, and series of testimonies of the natives in the Island of Aklan, Philippines, especially close friends and relatives (Aguirre, Gelito, Sacapano) = The Boracay Project.


 For Further Reading:

The Sunday Times Magazine, November 18, 1987: "Sofia Ner Gonzales vda de Tirol: The Woman Behind the greening of Boracay Island, Philippines"

Old Boracay  (1900-1960)

Boracay in 1979 

 The Wall Street Journal 2011

The island Paradise of Boracay, Philippines

The Biography of Dr. Cipriano G. Gonzales, Luz Gonzales, 1960

Enterpreneurs, big landlords and the rural poor in the beach resort of Boracay

The World Archives: Digitized History 


Journal of the Herederos de Lamberto H. Tirol y Sofia Ner Gonzales, March 30, 1996: Teresita Tirol Rojo-Corpus, Rosette Tirol Solidum-Aster, Carissa Tirol Carpio-Dimacali, Divina Tirol Marte-Villanueva, Lolita Denostra vda de Sr. Josel Gonzales Tirol, Sr., Racel Tirol Marte, Sylvia Gonzales Tirol, Haide Tirol Solidum, Amelita Kimpo, Jessica Tirol Andan, Jocelyn Tirol Dignos  

The Xihalife Cross Cultural Exchange

Journal: Hijos de Tirol, April 23, 1988 


The BMW Tropical Book by Fourth Estate of London, by Nick Hannah 

Golden Phoenix Hotel

The Manila Bulletin, March 5, 1991 

Boracay is simply the best!

 Las Cronicas de Boracay

 The People's Journal, February 14, 1990 

The Malay Local Government Website  

 The Philippine Star, February 16, 1990 

 The Sunday Times Magazine, November 8, 1987 

 The Philippine Star, April 28, 1990  

The Encyclopedia Britannica Links

OCLC Developer Network

The European Heritage Library: Balancing Paradise and Pandemonium

The European Heritage Library: Cultural and Historical Exchange of the Spaniards and Filipinos in the island called "Boracay"

Cambridge Central Asia Academic Studies

Thinkfinity: Verizon Foundation

Boracay: Back in the arms of a lost sweetie

Boracay, one of the 10 finests beaches in the world - Hapers and Queen Magazine  

The Philippine Star and

"Boracay II" - George Tapa, Grand Awardee, Travel Photo Category of the 1990 PATA Gold Awards, PATA Chapter World Congress 

Boracay and its History in the eyes of a traveler

Cambridge Central Asia Academic Studies: Boracay Island History / 

Ed Roa in Blog (Comments)

 Boracay wins UK Travel Writers' Commendation - British Guild of Travel Writers Award 1991


Cronicas de Panay

Back in the arms of a lost sweetie:

Governance in Context

Etymology of "Boracay"

Boracay History

Boracay in the old days

Boracay Sun

Unfolding that part of Philippine history, blending historical facts with accounts of the hidden legacy of Lamberto H. Tirol and Sofia Ner Gonzales as revealed by ancient writings, old accounts of case files, and series of testimonies of the natives in the Island of Aklan, Philippines = The Boracay Project.

Recently updated 01/08/2012