The Karay-as, or Southwestern Visayans, or, Hamtikanon, are part of the wider Bisaya ethnic group, who constitute the largest Filipino ethnic group. The name of their tribe was derived from the word "iraya", which means "upstream".
Karay-as number about 363,000. They are the descendants of immigrants from Borneo. However, recent findings revealed that the ancestors of the Karay-as are the Austronesian-speaking immigrants who came from South China during the Iron Age. They speak the Kinaray-a language and are Christians. About half are Roman Catholics, and the remaining half are Protestants. Some practice the Sulod religion.
Most Karay-as engage in agriculture, as well as in cottage industries. Several towns in Antique have the distinction of producing quality ware ranging from salakot and sawali from Belison, bamboocraft from San Jose, ceramics from Sibalom, pottery from Bandoja, Tibiao; mats from Pandan and Libertad; and loom-woven patadyong (barrel skirt) from Bagtason, Bugasong, the only one of its kind in the Visayas and well-known throughout Panay. Music, such as courtship songs, wedding hymns, and funeral recitals, is well-developed, as it is with Dance.
According to the tales of the Maragtas, Antique once enjoyed primacy among the realms carved out in Panay by the 10 Bornean datu (chieftains), who, fleeing from the tyranny of Sultan Makatunaw of Borneo, bought the island from the Ati King Marikudo and established the sakup of Hamtik, Aklan, and Irong-irong. The datu supposedly landed in Malandog, Hamtik, where a marker commemorates the event which is reenacted in the Binarayan (literally, "place where the boats landed") Festival. In Hamtik ruled the wisest among the chieftains, Datu Sumakwel, whom Datu Puti designated as the primus inter pares among the seven remaining datu who formed the confederation of the Madya-as.
In Spanish times, Antique was adminished from iloilo, and remained a backwater of the colony. When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi transferred his headquarters from Cebu to Panay, his men came upon the village of Bugasong and Hamtik. Encomiendas were established in Pandan and Hamtik in the 1570s. By 1581, the Augustinians set up a mission in Hamtik, establishing the first parish in Antique. This was followed by Barbaza, 1596, San Jose de Buenavista, 1733, Bugasong, 1742, San Pedro, 1744, Sibalom, 1745, Pandan, 1752, Patnongon, 1761, Dao,1771, and Culasi, 1773. In the 1660s, Antique belonged to Ogtong, one of the two provinces carved out from the island, the other being Panay. In 1793 Antique became a separate province. The Antiquenos did not welcome the Spanish rule. The natives, called mundo and cascado, refused to live in the cabeceras or town centers, a problem that occasional Muslim raids along coastal towns did not help relieve. In 1828, secular priests participated in serious revolt launched againsts the alcalde mayor, Don Francisco Oreta, which ended when he was replaced by Don Benito Domingo. In 1888, the Igbaong, secrest organization in San Remingo led by Gregoria Palmero revolded againsts abuses by Spanish officials and Augustinian clergy. It was pacified only seven years later.
When the revolutionary movement was launched, Panay became an active area for Katipunan recruitment. On 21 September 1898, Gen Leonardo Fullon landed in Inayawan, Pandan and captured the town, holding the parish priest captives. The following day, Fullon and his army landed in Culasi, forcing the Spaniards to withdraw Tibiao. The Filipino soldiers under Spanish command muntinied and placed themselves under the command of Fullon. A week later, the forces of Fullon clashed with Spanish troops in Bugasong in a battle that momentarily stopped Fullon's successful southern campaign. Fullon retreated to Culasi. Spanish success was short-lived, however, as another filipino mutiny decimated the Spanish officers. By 23 November that year, Filipino revolutionaries had taken San Jose de Buenavista. Fullon then beacame Antique governor.
During the Philippine-American War, the Americans did not land a force in Hamtik, until January 1900. Not long after the revolutionary forces under Fullon were forced to shift to guerilla warfare. Fullon held out until 22 March 1901, when he surrendered to the Americans. In April, the civil government was established and Fullon was elected governor. A lasting legacy of the revolution to Antique is Iglesia Filipina Independente, which was founded by Gregorio Aglipay, Gen Emilio Aguinaldo's Military Vicar General, and labor leader Isabelo de los Reyes. Next to Ilocos, Antique has the greatest number of Aglipayans.
In 1939, in anticipation of the Japanese invasion, Antique became mobilization center. World War II saw an active anti-Japanese guerilla campaign led by Col Macario Perlta and other officers of the 61st infantry Division of the USAFFE ( United States Armed Forces in the Far East). The first submarine-borne supplies to the 6th Military District (as Gen Douglas MacArthur designated the Panay-Negros area) were landed in Libertad, then a barrio of Pandan. Guerillas operated rather freely in Antique, as their mountain bases in Mts Baloy and Madya-as were located on the border of the Iloilo and Capiz. Moreover, the Japanese were garrisoned for most of the time in the capital of San Jose. The Japanese would occasionally sortie north to pursue guerilla forces in actions that the people would call as "penetretion" and associated with "evacuation". The guerilla warning system worked effectively in evacuating the people from the town centers whenever Japanese columns would venture out of San Jose, such that the majority of the people Antique could say that they never saw a Japanese soldier during the entire war. Looming large in the public imagination were the horrors, not so much of Japanese atrocities as of the guerilla killing fields called Badyang, a place where suspected collaborators were executed. Stay-over public officials and traders were most vulnerable to charges of collaboration.
During the Snap Elections of 1986, the pro Corazon Aquino led by former Gov Evelio Javier conducted a successful campaign against entrenched pro Marcos forces led by Assemblyman Arturo Pacificador, but after the elections, the charismatic Javier was gunned down in broad daylight in San Jose. The assassination intensified the tension that culminated in the EDSA revolt 11 days later.