The Bayot Family, considered the First Family of Masbate, is acknowledged to be the wealthiest and most landed in the province. They are descended from Joaquin and Francisco Bayot, two brothers who were Spanish soldiers assigned to Cagayan Valley. Family tradition says that when they were demobilized, the siblings went south to seek their fortunes and ended up in Masbate where Joaquin and Francisco married into the well-landed Danao and Zurbito families, respectively. It is said that while the family was rich enough to have built Villa Bayot, a large bahay-na-bato by the sea in the capital town of Masbate in 1880, an even greater fortune was made in supplying traviesas or railroad ties to the Manila Railroad Company, when the Bicol Railroad was being built in the 1920s to 1937.
When Dona Josefa Zurbito de Bayot, the wife of Francisco, died in 1894, her bereaved husband immediately commissioned the painter Fabian de la Rosa to execute a portrait of the deceased based on a photograph. The painting was put in a box frame with the plaited hair of the deceased arranged on one side, while a spray of cloth flowers decorated the right side of the portrait. This Memento Mori or Remembrance of the Dead is most unusual and is probably the only one extant in the Philippines.
Incidentally, Don Francisco became a Governor of the province. His grand-daughter was Carmencita Bayot Zaldarriaga, Miss Philippines of 1937 who married Antonio Arnaiz, her escort at her coronation and the first Filipino to fly an airplane from Europe to Manila. Arnaiz Ave. in Makati is named after him.
-Martin I. Tinio, Jr.