Update on Oslob’s Cuartel

I really need to start posting here in real time; I’m guilty of procrastinating at times (or most of the times). These past few days, I’ll only begin to post after some weeks has already lapsed. While I write everything in my notebook (the real notebook, the ones made of paper!) it would take me sometime to edit pictures and copy what I wrote in my pad to the site, often in rush and yes, with many laughable errors that Mhaan would often remind me about, but that’s how it is.

The reason why I’m saying all of these is that just this week, I posted an article about the Cuartel and Church of Oslob (I went there 21 July 2009) – only to find out that the Cuartel had already been fully restored, last 28 August, and is now highlighted by powerful halogen lamps that makes it an attractive landmark that can be seen from the sea!

The Oslob project was a success, it remains an unfinished structure, just like how it was when the Spaniards abruptly abandoned its construction, and it’s actually good that it would stay that way instead of becoming a totally furnished building that would almost certainly make it unrecognizable in time, forgive me for having little faith in such ventures. Let’s just say I’ve seen the worst when it comes to these things.

Sea travelers that pass by would now know that their passing by Oslob. I like what happened here, a very nice ending for the small heritage conservationists group’s old dream of saving what they deem rightfully belongs to them, I heard fought long and hard for the project. I hope that these also serves as a good start for future conservation projects around Cebu.

We need more of these; we have a long way to go.

Light-up in Oslob, digging in Argao

By Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News First Posted 12:08:00 08/27/2009

It was the dream of a lifetime for Oslobanons, while some nightmare unfolded in Argao town. Last Thursday, Gov. Gwendolyn F. Garcia motored to Oslob, the last leg of a full day inaugurating schools along the way, together with the provincial hospital in Carcar. The occasion in Oslob was the lighting up of the once-rundown and now fully rehabilitated Cuartel de Oslob, an unfinished Spanish-era structure that fell to theft and the uncaring attitude of many.

The occasion was marked with a festive mood akin to the Suroy-suroy Sugbo and was aptly capped by fireworks the likes of which had never been seen before in Oslob or even outside metropolitan Cebu. Twenty-two huge halogen lamps now beam up on the structure as it stands proud, the first of many more developments that the governor has promised to work for together with Osloblanons and their officials led by Mayor Ronald Guaren and ViceMayor Pacifica Letigio.

Already in the works are the park beside the Cuartel leading to the ruins of Fray Julian Bermejo’s watchtower, the removal of resort huts that block the Cuartel’s vista from the sea, and a possible redesign of the odd basketball court that blots out a large section of the cuartel from from the national highway. Mayor Guaren also plans to close the old Calle Aragon, from the national highway straight to the Cuartel, and pave it with bricks underneath a shaded trellis leading to the Cuartel. A museum is also planned to rise within one of the rooms of the Cuartel.

Now, this event came on the heels of a frantic call by Todd Lucero-Sales, the newly appointed heritage commissioner of Argao, asking for help concerning reports that Argao Central Elementary School had been the subject of illegal excavations. I had just arrived in Oslob that afternoon when the call came. Apparently, the school principal is alleged to have cleaned up seven old and unused septic tanks of the school but rumors began to surface that treasure hunting activities were going on at night. Allegedly, caches of World War II vintage Japanese armaments, mostly guns and ammunition, were being quietly carted away at night, with expensive sports utility vehicles (SUVs) leaving the site in the wee hours of the morning.

Argao’s first councilor, Vip Semilla, no stranger to heritage advocacy, had already gone to the sites, now covered over as the cleanup of the tanks was apparently finished some two weeks ago. Photographs have also been taken by the municipal engineer. Meanwhile, the school principal denies knowledge of any malfeasance and has in fact allegedly told some radio reporters that there were some nights when the well-lit school would suddenly get dark and one septic tank sealed on a Sunday afternoon was found to have been opened the following day.

Why this incident never reached the police authorities in Argao has been baffling to many. There is a possibility of course that all this talk about looting and treasure hunting is all baloney – a product of nasty rumors coming on the heels of the much-publicized compost pit excavations carried out by the principal of Basak Elementary School in Cebu City.

But if the rumors are indeed true, then in this day and age when the heritage movement has caught on in the countryside, it is nothing but appalling to hear that unscrupulous treasure hunters are still at it to get personal gain at what are clearly cultural properties of the state.

The Cebu Provincial Committee on Sites, Relics and Structures is thus preparing a fact-finding team following a formal request sent by Mayor Edsel Galeos through Councilor Semilla, to conduct a joint inquiry and ocular inspection of the site next week. Nothing less than the reopening of all these septic tanks to see if the reported tunneling has been carried out in the guise of cleaning them up will confirm or deny these rumors.


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