Virac is a 1st class municipality in the province of Catanduanes, Philippines. It is the third largest town and the capital municipality of Catanduanes. It has a land area of 188 km². According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 57,067 people in 11,202 households.
Almost half of the area is rugged and mountainous, with topography interspersed by hills and plains dotted by marshy land and rocky jutting cliffs and crags.
The town is bounded on the east and south by the Pacific Ocean, on the north by high and green mountain ranges of San Miguel, and on the west by the gently rolling terrain and breast-shaped hills of San Andres.
Virac is criss-crossed by macadam, asphalt and concrete roads. It has a deep harbor and an airport. Transportation is catered by sea and air carriers. Inland transportation is by jeepneys and tricycles.
Catholicism is a deeply rooted institution in this town with 98% of the people embracing the faith. A cathedral had been superimposed over the old parish church. Virac is the seat of an independent diocese of Catanduanes with Bishop Manolo Delos Santos, D.D., at the helm. The town was once a vicarship of Caceres and later, the diocese of Legazpi. The patron of the town is the Immaculate Concepcion whose feast day falls on December 8.
Virac is politically subdivided into 63 barangays.
When the Spaniards set foot on the shore of Catanduanes, Virac was a small community led by Datu Lumibao and his wife Milbigan. Their eldest son Macacao lived at the bank of a nearby spring. Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo had first brought a galleon trade to Catanduanes waters in 1573. His purpose was to capture and punish the pirates for their activities in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and western Catanduanes.
When he came back few weeks after, his mission was to spread Catholicism. While at bay, his group saw smoke rising from the mountain. They tracked down footprints from the shore until they reached a sitio called Vidak, which was later changed to Virac. They came upon a large kaingin between the barrios of Danicop and Calatagan.
Datu Lumibao had his hut built a little above a spring, which still exists today. The reception hall was conveniently shaded by a tree. The Spaniards could not go near the hut because of the three huge fierce-looking dogs and several guards with their spears drawn toward the foreigners. But determined to succeed in their mission, they returned the threatening act of the natives with a gesture of friendship.
A piece of "onchita" was offered to the chieftain as a gift. But this was rejected when his wife said "we have many pieces of gold in our kingdom". A piece of silver was also offered but also rejected.
A priest then began his quest for more information about the place. Soon after this encounter, the Spaniards began giving the natives provisions not found in the chieftain's hut, such clothing and more sugar. After planting the seeds of friendships, began a stride to spread the message of Christianity. Lumibao was baptized as Jose, Milbigan, his wife Maria and their eldest son Mariano.
The record of christianization of Virac was lost due to vandalism of the Moros. The history of this town began to be accurately recorded only after 1775.
People from Catanduanes
- Roy Benitez, Virac, Catanduanes ~ actor, model, commercial model
- Anna Dizon, Catanduanes ~ Singer, Businesswoman
- Shalani Soledad, Baras, Catanduanes ~ Politician, current fiance of Noynoy Aquino
- Bro. Mike Velarde, Catanduanes - Tele-evangelist, Founder-El Shadai Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement
- Jose Tomas Sanchez, Catanduanes ~ Roman Catholic Cardinal
- Mahal, Catanduanes ~ Actress
- Jose O. Vera, Catanduanes ~ Senator
- Andy Vital, Catanduanes ~ DZRH radio announcer/commentator
- Christofer Rojas, Baras, Catanduanes ~ Actor
- Official website of Virac
- Philippine Standard Geographic Code
- 2000 Philippine Census Information