Ancestors of Mariveles referred to the town as Camaya in the past.

A 17th century French print of Manila Bay. On the right is Cavite and the left cove with the lighthouse is Bataan. 

Mariveles in Bataan was formerly known as Camaya in pre-colonial times (originally spelled as Kamaya). It was a pueblo when the Franciscans arrived in 1578. A bustling port during the glory years of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade, it was the first and last port of call for ships entering and leaving the Philippines via Manila Bay.

To protect themselves from invading troops, the Spanish crafted a strategy that included the seaside beach of Mariveles. In the early 20th century, the Americans followed likewise. Mariveles was the starting site of the Bataan Death March in 1942 when the Philippine-American forces surrendered to the Japanese.

When I went to university in Bataan, one of my classmates resided on the same street as me. My curiosity was piqued when I learned this, considering present-day Camayas hail from Pampanga. I questioned my father if our ancestors originally originated from Bataan, and he couldn't say for sure, but he did indicate that Bataan does speak Kapampangan in some areas. Mariveles (and other towns in Bataan) were part of Pampanga until 1754, when they were ceded to the Kingdom of Spain.

Camaya has a K in its spelling in several papers and maps. It's possible that Kamaya's origins can be traced back to the Malay regions of Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

But there aren't a lot of Camayans in the Philippines, and they're mostly concentrated in the province of Luzon. I'm delighted my ancestors didn't take advantage of the Claveria Decree of 1849 and change their surname to a Spanish one. They may have been too proud of their illustrious past to consider something else as a replacement.

The Catalogo Alfabetico De Apellidos is available online, and we were able to locate the Camaya surname in the official list of surnames by searching for the name.

My Camaya cousin recently sent me a link to an article about the origins of the name Mariveles. Austrians who were inspired by the friendship between Ferdinand Blumentritt and José Rizal built the website where the post originated.

John Foreman's book, The Philippines Islands, published in 1905, was the primary source for the origin of the name Mariveles. Google Books had an electronic copy of it.

While reading the article, I realized that the narrative seemed similar to me, and I remembered reading it previously. I went through all of my Ambeth Ocampo novels until I discovered the same story. He may have read John Foreman's book, as well.

In what way did Camaya transform into Mariveles?

While residing in Mexico in the early 1600s, two young people developed feelings for each other. Maria, the young lady, was betrothed to the older brother of her lover's older brother. The young man was destined for a career in the Church because he was the younger of the two sons. He was ordained a Franciscan monk and sent to the Philippines as a missionary.

The pair reunited in Manila a few years later. Maria was a nun at the Santa Clara Convent at this point. Rekindling the flames of their relationship. They eloped, as is the norm for lovers. In their minds, they were going back to Mexico.

One of the leaving galleons going for Mexico had to be caught by them in Camaya, so they made their way there. The ship's departure was delayed by the captain's decision.

The elopement in Manila, on the other hand, sparked a media frenzy. There was a search for them by an alderman or alcalde de mayor, who was sent out. Corregidor was the final resting place of a troop of soldiers searching for the star-crossed lovers. On the island, they couldn't find them, so they marched on to the town of el Camaya. In the course of their search, they came upon a couple who had been attacked by a gang of thugs.

In Manila, the young friar was transferred to recuperate. In the end, he was exiled to the Visayan mission. She was sent back to Mexico and spent the remainder of her life in a convent as a prisoner of the church.

Maria Velez was the inspiration for the name of the village of Camaya (Mariveles). Corregidor (alderman), El Fraile (friar), and La Monja (monk) were the names of the three nearby islands (the nun).

Because of this, the story behind the name Mariveles serves as a sobering tale of unrequited love.