Last updated on September 30, 2019
The area that is now Albay had a thriving civilization before the Spanish arrived. The Spanish explorers found densely populated settlements with an abundance of gold and provisions in the southern Bicol peninsula. Ancient inhabitants practiced rice cultivation, made fine gold jewelry and possessed silk, suggesting trade with China. American anthropologist Henry Otley Beyer found jars, stone tools and shells from 100 to 500 BC in Sorsogon and Albay. Meanwhile, ancient burial jars and pottery were also found in Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave in Camalig. Other evidences of pre-Hispanic civilization include the Mataas shell scoop, which dates back to the Late Neolithic Period, found in Cagraray Island. The Mataas shell scoop was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.
Legazpi was originally a fishing settlement called Sawangan that occupied the mangrove swamps that is now the Legazpi Port, inhabited by fisher folk and farmers. In 1569, a Spanish expedition dispatched by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi led by Luis Enriquez de Guzman and Agustinian friar Alonso Jimenez first set foot in Albay. They arrived on the coastal settlement called Ibalon in present-day Magallanes, Sorsogon after exploring the islands of Masbate, Ticaoand Burias and proceeded inland as far as present-day Camalig, Albay.
In July 1573, the conquistador Juan de Salcedo, grandson of Governor-General Legazpi, led another expedition from the north. They founded Villa Santiago de Libon (present-day Libon, Albay) and reached the settlement of Albaybay, whose name was subsequently shortened to ‘Albay’ or Pueblo de Albay. In 1616, Pueblo de Albay served as the capital of Partido de Ibalon, which included present-day Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, parts of Camarines Sur and the islands of Catanduanes, Ticao and Burias.