A small town in the southern part of coastal Antique, the Municipality of Belison demonstrates rural Visayan living. With a small population participating mostly in agricultural activity, Belison is not only a society of farmers but also a lively and development oriented community. Belison, in its short existence, has planted the seeds of stability and sustainable growth in what was once impecunious economic ambiance. Where mostly hand-to-mouth subsistence level livelihood activity represented the entirety of household income, opportunities have now diversified to incorporate highly skilled, professional sources of revenue. This has given the community a more sophisticated and promising path of development, which is reflected in many of the town’s attributes. Indeed, when you enter the town on the national road you are first impressed by the fresh, bright appearance of the municipal offices set amid manicured lawns and framed by century old acacia tress. This care and attention to beautify is no accident and it’s notably different from most other towns you see in the province and across the region as well.
And when you smell the fresh, clean air coming off the ocean and greet the people who warmly welcome you and show you about town, you sense a feeling of pride and contentment in their manner. That Belison is what its name implies: a beautiful place and that it is because the people have made it that way. Belison is developing into a town that delivers a higher standard of living for its inhabitants and greater quality of life for anyone who comes to stay.
Before it became a town, Belison was merely a Barangay in the larger municipality of Patnongon, adjacent to the north. But its people understood their potentials as an independent community and worked for the establishment of its township. Belison barangay leaders and Manila-based Belisongnons as well, mapped out a petition requesting the national government to make Belison a town. The petition was brought to Malacañang on March 10, 1961, and by virtue of Presidential Executive Order No. 421 – signed by President Carlos P. Garcia –Belison was pronounced as the 18th municipality of the Province of Antique. The smallest and the youngest municipality of the province composed of 11 barangays, namely: Buenavista, Maradiona, Borocboroc, Delima, Ipil, Poblacion, Sinaja, Salvacion, Concepcion, Mojon and Rombang.
The historic tale of how the town of Belison got its name dates back to the Spanish era. During those colonial times, certain places or areas where people inhabited do not have definite names. In such case, the Spanish government decided to conduct a land survey in order to have recorded information in all settlements of pueblos, sitios, barangays and others. In the course if the conduct of the survey in the land of Datu Sumakwel, the Spanish authorities came to a place near a river, presently called the Belison River. Here, they saw an elderly man digging something at the bank of the river. The Spaniards approached the old man and asked him for the name of the place in a language too strange for the old man to comprehend and understand. The old man was silent for a while for which the strangers repeated the same inquiry in the same words of mouth. The old man, being deaf as well, thought that the strangers asked what his name was and what he is doing. Having that thought, he answered that his name is “BELI” and he was digging for “OSON” (a small variety of crab abundant in that place). The strangers believing that the old man’s reply was the name of the place, noted the words “BELI” and “OSON” while moving on to other places. That incident was handed down from generation to generation, until the settlement was formally and finally called “BELISON”.
Belison although peaceful now, was not always so. What happened to Pearl Harbor during World War II was eventually known in Panay specifically the barangay of Belison then, through the radio stations where the war fever was eventually felt. Japanese, entered Patnongon via Belison in the nighttime in local jargons (pagbuhang kang Belison) to signify their entry. Like the usual reaction of the frightened people, Belisongnons fled and ran for their lives. Some of them fled to the mountains, in the inland part of the locale, and some to the neighboring towns. According to the local old folks who are still alive and had experienced the trouble cause by the war, people were very careful not to create smoke every time they cook since they might be mistaken by the Japanese as guerillas especially those in the mountains. The Japanese would bomb places where they can see smoke coming out. The same case also happened to those who would hang their washed clothes in an open field or those that were visible to the Japanese pilot. When the Japanese bombarded the Poblacion, Belisongnon fled to Guinobatan, Bacay, Huna and Igcabugao, area in Belison which used to be the hiding place of the residents during the Japanese occupation. The people of Belison played important roles in the defense of the province and many veterans of the war who are still alive could give proof to this. These events highlight the qualities of Belisongnon being strong, committed to survival, and interdependent as a community.