Biliran Island 

Biliran, an island province in the Philippines situated in the Eastern Visayas region, is recognized as one of the country's smallest and most recently established provinces. Despite its compact size, Biliran is renowned for its captivating landmarks and breathtaking natural wonders.

If you're considering a visit to Biliran, here are some noteworthy destinations and activities to consider:

Sambawan Island - This picturesque island is celebrated for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and awe-inspiring vistas. It provides an ideal setting for swimming, snorkeling, and camping.

Tinago Falls - Tucked away in Biliran, Tinago Falls is a hidden gem adorned with lush greenery. It features a cascading waterfall where you can take a refreshing swim or simply bask in the peaceful ambiance.

Higatangan Island - This island is famous for its ever-shifting sandbar, which emerges during low tide. Take a boat ride to the island and indulge in its unspoiled beaches and transparent waters.

Agta Beach - Nestled in the town of Almeria, Agta Beach is a beloved destination for beach enthusiasts. Relax on its sandy shores, take a dip in the rejuvenating waters, or partake in water activities such as kayaking and paddleboarding.

Recoletos Falls - Another enchanting waterfall in Biliran, Recoletos Falls offers a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Take a plunge into its natural pool and relish the surrounding nature.


In the early Spanish era, the area now known as Biliran was referred to as Isla de Panamao. However, the current name, believed to have been adopted between the late 17th and early 18th centuries, has two possible origins. According to many sources, it is derived from the native grass called borobiliran, which used to grow abundantly on the island's plains. Another theory suggests that the name came from the word "bilir," which was defined in an old Visayan dictionary as the "corner or edge of a boat, vase, or anything protruding, like veins, or the furrow made by the plow." The dictionary also lists "biliran" as an alternate spelling for "bilir." This theory is supported by the fact that Biliran was the location of the first large-scale shipyard in the 17th century, where galleons were built to support the Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco in Mexico.

Biliran during the Spanish colonial period:

Biliran’s Historical Journey During Spanish Colonial Rule

In the annals of Biliran’s past, the Spanish colonial era unfolds with intriguing tales. Let us delve into its rich history:

  1. Founding of Biliran Town (1712):

    • The initial settlement, also known as Biliran, came into existence in 1712. It sought recognition as both a municipality and a parish.
    • Originally, the island was a part of the Cebu Province.
  2. Separation and Sub-Province Status (1735):

    • In 1735, Biliran, along with Samar and Leyte, gained autonomy as a separate province.
    • Later, when Samar and Leyte were divided into two distinct provinces in 1768, Biliran became a sub-province of Leyte.
  3. Challenges from Moro Raids:

    • During this period, Biliran faced formidable challenges from Moro raids.
    • In May 1735, the inhabitants of Leyte sought permission from Governor-General Fernando Valdes y Tamon to resettle Biliran Island. The island had been abandoned for five decades due to frequent Moro attacks.
    • On May 26, 1754, the Moros wreaked havoc, destroying Biliran and the town of Catbalogan in Samar. The town of Panamao suffered complete devastation, with only the Biliran mayor managing to escape capture.
    • The settlements of Caybiran, Mapuyo, and Maripipi also bore the brunt of Moro aggression.
  4. Recovery and New Towns (19th Century):

    • As the Moro threat waned in the early 19th century, local inhabitants began organizing new towns within Biliran Province.
    • Caibiran gained independence as a municipality and parish in 1828.
    • Naval, which had been a sub-parish, officially attained municipality status on September 23, 1869.
    • Almeria, named after the Spanish city of Almería, became a separate town in 1886.
    • Maripipi, initially a barrio of Naval, was inaugurated as a town in 1867. It later merged with Almeria as a barrio before regaining its town status in 1899.
    • The towns of San Clemente (later Kawayan), Culaba, and Esperanza (later Cabucgayan) also emerged around 1899 under the revolutionary government led by President Emilio Aguinaldo.

Biliran’s past is a tapestry woven with resilience, struggle, and the indomitable spirit of its people.

Biliran’s historical milestones during the Japanese occupation era and its journey toward independence:

  1. Japanese Occupation Era (World War II):

    • During World War II, Biliran operated its own guerrilla forces under the command of Colonel Ruperto Kangleon within the Leyte region.
    • These guerrilla fighters played a crucial role in aiding the successful landing of American liberation forces at Palo, Leyte, just before the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944.
  2. Liberation and Battle of Biliran:

    • In 1945, Biliran was liberated by the Philippine Commonwealth forces from the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army.
    • Collaborating with local guerrilla forces, they engaged in combat against the Japanese troops during the Battle of Biliran within the context of World War II.
  3. Philippine Independence and Provincehood:

    • On April 8, 1959Republic Act No. 2141 was enacted, designating Biliran as a sub-province of Leyte.
    • Finally, on May 11, 1992Republic Act No. 7160 granted Biliran full independence, making it one of the newest provinces in the Philippines.

Biliran’s journey through history reflects resilience, sacrifice, and the pursuit of autonomy.

The economy of Biliran relies heavily on the fishing industry, with its towns, particularly Naval and Biliran, boasting excellent seaports. Approximately 95 hectares (230 acres) of brackish water fish ponds support the production of prawns, shrimps, and milkfish, while an additional 30 hectares (74 acres) are suitable for seaweed farming, and 10 hectares for fish cage culture.

Despite its mountainous terrain, Biliran sustains a diverse range of agricultural crops. The warm lowlands are conducive to rice (palay) and tropical crop cultivation, while the cooler highlands favor high-value crops like cut flowers and various upland vegetables.

Local inhabitants are also involved in hunting, lumbering, and manufacturing. Copra and coconut oil are primary raw materials, while processed goods include white clay ceramics, dried fish, raw gulaman, and citronella oil.

The island's untapped natural resources encompass geothermal power and abundant sulfur and gypsum deposits.

Major industries include the production of fashion bags, Romblon bags, baskets, shellcrafts, placemats, hot pads, beverage coasters, and trays.

Biliran is increasingly recognized as an emerging destination for mountaineers, bikers, canyoneers, hikers, and other adventure enthusiasts. For instance, the Sampao River in Almeria municipality has been developed into a canyoning venue.

The recent status of Biliran in Economy

The economy of Biliran is primarily driven by its fishing industry, with a particular focus on towns like Naval and Biliran, which boast excellent seaports. These ports facilitate the trading and transportation of seafood products, contributing significantly to the local economy.

In addition to fishing, agriculture plays a crucial role in Biliran's economy. The island's terrain, characterized by mountains and lowlands, supports the cultivation of various crops. The warm lowlands are suitable for growing rice (palay) and tropical crops, while the cooler highlands are conducive to high-value crops such as cut flowers and upland vegetables.

Furthermore, Biliran's natural resources are diverse and offer opportunities for extraction and processing. The island is known for its copra and coconut oil production, which are essential raw materials for various industries. Additionally, there are untapped resources such as geothermal power, sulfur, and gypsum deposits, which hold potential for future development and economic growth.

Manufacturing also contributes to the economy of Biliran, with products ranging from ceramics to dried fish and citronella oil. The production of fashion bags, baskets, shellcrafts, and other handicrafts is also prominent on the island.

Moreover, Biliran is emerging as a destination for adventure tourism, attracting mountaineers, bikers, hikers, and canyoneers. The development of outdoor recreational activities, such as canyoning in the Sampao River, is contributing to the growth of the tourism sector and providing additional sources of income for locals.

Overall, while fishing and agriculture remain the primary economic drivers, Biliran is diversifying its economy through tourism and manufacturing, tapping into its natural resources and unique attractions to sustain growth and development.

Attractions of Interest

  • Bagongbong Falls, also known as Bagumbong Falls, showcases crystal-clear waters cascading from cathedral-like formations nestled within Almeria's forested expanse.
  • Ulan-ulan Falls, named after the Visayan term for "rain," presents cascading waters forming a natural catch basin, providing ample swimming opportunities.
  • Recoletos Falls boasts a 15-meter high waterfall, with a spacious pool ideal for swimming and cliff diving. The flat stones encircling the pool create a perfect setting for picnics.
  • Kasabangan Falls offers a serene atmosphere complemented by its cold, refreshing waters. This multi-layered waterfall, with 13 tiers cascading from the mountains, adds to its allure.
  • Tingkasan Bat Cave serves as a popular destination for tourists en route to Sambawan Island. Offering opportunities for spelunking, diving, and spearfishing, it promises an adventure-filled excursion.
  • Iyusan Rice Terraces, located in Barangay Iyusan, Almeria, Biliran, stand as remarkable manmade agricultural landscapes and tourist attractions.

According to the available data, the demographics of Biliran are as follows:

  • Population: In the 2020 census, Biliran had a population of 17,662.
  • Age Group: According to the 2015 Census, the age group with the highest population in Biliran is 5 to 9, with 20,036 individuals. The age group with the lowest population is 80 and over, with 1,918 individuals.
  • Household Population: In the 2015 Census, the household population of Biliran was 16,835, with an average of 4.35 members per household.
  • Gender Ratio: The gender ratio in Biliran is approximately 49% males and 51% females.
  • Population Density: The population density of Biliran is around 250 inhabitants per square kilometer.
  • Please note that these figures are based on available data and may have changed over time. For more detailed and up-to-date information, it is recommended to refer to official sources or government publications.

How does the population density of Biliran compare to other areas in the Philippines?

The population density of Biliran is approximately 251 inhabitants per square kilometer or 651 inhabitants per square mile.
To provide a comparison, the overall population density of the Philippines, based on the 2020 Census of Population and Housing, was approximately 368 inhabitants per square kilometer.

It's important to note that population density can vary significantly across different areas in the Philippines. Some highly urbanized cities and densely populated regions may have much higher population densities, while rural areas and provinces may have lower population densities.


Biliran Island, located in the Samar Sea, is part of the Visayas archipelago in the Philippines. With a total area of 535 square kilometers (207 square miles), it is the fourth smallest province in the country1. Biliran is situated just north of Leyte Island, separated by the Biliran Strait. To the southeast is Carigara Bay, while the Samar Sea borders the northeast. Across the Samar Sea lies Samar Island, and to the west is the Visayan Sea. Approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of Biliran is Masbate. The province consists of two main volcanic islands: the main island, also known as Biliran, and the smaller Maripipi to the northwest. Other minor islands include Higatangan and Dalutan.

Topographically, Biliran's main volcanic island features rugged mountainous interiors with narrow coastal strips. Only the municipalities of Naval and Caibiran have wider plains extending about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from the coast, suitable for agriculture. The highest point in Biliran is Mount Suiro, an inactive volcano, which stands at an elevation of 1,301 meters (4,268 feet).

In its history, Biliran has experienced volcanic activity, including a phreatic eruption and a potential debris avalanche at a thermal area on September 26, 1939. Ashfalls were reported in Caibiran and nearby regions, with deposits reaching a thickness of 6.35 centimeters (2.50 inches)2. The island also hosts five active solfatara fields, with the one on the west side of Mt. Giron containing over 400 tons of sulfur in 1880.

Maripipi, a volcanic island measuring 924 meters (3,031 feet), is home to the Maripipi Volcano at its center. Although classified as potentially active, the volcano has not recorded any historical eruptions.

In terms of climate, Biliran experiences a combination of warm and cool climatic zones, contributing to the prevailing weather patterns in the region.

 Let’s explore some of the notable establishments, scenic views, and other attractions in Biliran Island, a gem in the Philippines:

Sambawan Island:

  • Scenic Hills and Rustic Beach: Sambawan Island is a long cluster of rocky islands with patches of grassy hills. During low tides, you can traverse the rocks and walk to nearby islets. The beach, adorned with crushed corals and grainy sands, invites you to play with the waves. From the highest point of the island, you’ll have a full panoramic view of the surrounding sea, with the volcanic Maripipi Island looming like a big brother1.
  • Marine Sanctuary: Sambawan Island is a popular snorkeling and diving site managed by Sambawan Dive Camp and Beach Resort. The crystal-clear waters and well-preserved corals make it a paradise for underwater enthusiasts.
Tinago Falls and Canaan Hill Farms:

While not directly on Biliran Island, these attractions are worth mentioning. Tinago Falls is a stunning waterfall, and Canaan Hill Farms offers picturesque views of the countryside.


The capital of Biliran Province, Naval, is located on the western coast of the island. Explore the town, sample local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the island’s culture.

White Sand Islands and Beaches:
Biliran boasts pristine white sand beaches. Spend your days sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying the coastal beauty.

Rice Terraces:
Biliran’s mountainous terrains are home to beautiful rice terraces. These lush green fields are a testament to the island’s agricultural heritage.

Chase waterfalls! Biliran Island is dotted with waterfalls, including Ulan-Ulan Falls, Tinago Falls, and Almeria Falls. Each has its unique charm and offers refreshing dips.

Bridge-causeway Connection:
Biliran is connected to Leyte Island by a bridge-causeway. This engineering marvel enhances accessibility and connectivity between the two islands.

Remember, Biliran is more than just a tropical paradise—it’s a place where nature, culture, and adventure converge. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or exploration, this island has something to offer. 

Are there any alternative explanations regarding the etymology of the name Biliran? 

Several theories propose different origins for the name. One suggests it might have originated from "borobiliran," referring to a traditional fishing net, or from a native grass named borobiliran that once thrived on the island. Another theory links it to the Visayan term "bilir," meaning the edge of a boat or vessel, possibly due to Biliran's historical significance as a shipbuilding center during the Galleon trade era. Additionally, there's a theory associating the name with the lush greenery observed by sailors passing through Biliran's straits. These theories offer diverse perspectives on the name's origins, though the exact derivation remains a matter of scholarly discussion.

Here are some notable schools in Biliran Island:

Tabunan National High School:
Located in Almeria, this high school provides education to students in the area1. It offers a conducive learning environment with its facilities and classrooms.

Haguikhican Elementary School:
Situated in Naval, Biliran, this elementary school serves the local community. While there are no reviews or ratings available, it plays an essential role in shaping young minds.

Kawayan Central School:
Located in Kawayan, this school caters to students in the region. It offers education and fosters learning in a supportive environment3.
Biliran Province State University (BiPSU):

Formerly known as Naval State University (NSU) and Naval Institute of Technology, BiPSU is a state university in the municipality of Naval, the capital town of Biliran. It provides higher education opportunities for students in various fields.

Tucdao National High School:
Although not directly on Biliran Island, Tucdao National High School in Kawayan (Biliran) teaches students in grades seventh through tenth. With 24 instructional rooms and 3 non-instructional rooms, it accommodates around 1,007 students.

These schools contribute significantly to education and community development in Biliran Island. 📚🏫🌴

Biliran Island

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