Category Archives: Negros Oriental

My Lola & the Fighting Cañetes

I rarely post pictures of myself and family here but this time I would like to make an exception. This is the most recent photo I have with Lola Nene. Taken last year December. (L to R) Lola, Me, Samboy (my brother) & Aunt Norma

Last year when I visited my last surviving lola we spoke a lot about her memories growing up. She’s the youngest of more than a dozen siblings. I was reminded of her and our conversation when a few weeks ago, an Australian man I’m training with told me about his experience and facsination with “arnis”. I didn’t brought up the stories my Lola had told me because I know little about the history of arnis. Which is a shame really considering I’m related to the originators of this popular style of Filipino martial arts.

Lola Nene being the youngest was taken by her older sister when the war broke out. While her brothers joined the military. Aside from the sister who took her in (my fathers mother), she never got reunited with her other siblings again after the war. What’s sad was that she kept hearing stories about them but never got the chance to see them. She said another reason was that she never had the time to look for them because she had to raise her son alone after the untimely death of her husband (a Cabahug). Today her unico hijo, Uncle Boy, is a speechwriter and a long time professor in PUP.

She told me that one of her brother, Silvestre, was hired to become a top bodyguard of President Osmena. She thought that she’ll meet him in Cebu only to find out that the man moved to the US. Silvestre, along with his brothers, founded the “Doce Pares” style of escrima. She’s unsure if Ciriaco, the lone surviving member of “Doce Pares” (must be in his 90’s) is a cousin or a brothers. Yoling, the eldest, had long passed. He was the leader of the group until his death.

I guess with this post I’m just hoping that someone, a brother or the second generation of Cañetes here and abroad, would stumble across this and find that Lola remembers and thinks of them to this day and wonder, whatever happened to them fighting Cañetes.

Hong Kong
November 2012


San Carlos City, Lola’s Hometown

San Carlos in Negros for me is home to forgotten family ties. My grandmother, a de los Santos, was a sugarcane farmer in the Ledesma owned Hacienda Fortuna. She came from a big family but believe it or not, I have not met anyone or known personally a relative from this town. 

My Nanay gave me instructions on the exact locations of where she used to work as a “tindera” and some houses in the poblacion where I could find relatives. But the town has changed drastically in the 50-odd years that have passed since she left San Carlos. Those relatives are no longer there and that shop where she used to work is now something else.

The landscape has changed. A new city hall, a large Gaisano mall and expensive looking subdivisions are now landmarks. There’s this highway called Don Salvador Benedicto that cuts deep through the Negro’s central mountains. A very impressive feat of road engineering. It reminded me of the steep zigzagging roads in the highlands of Luzon. Before the only road going to Bacolod pass along the coastlines. The mountain highway substantially lessen travel time by more than half I was told.

The old plaza now have a covered convention center. There were several banks which I take as a sign of progress. The Elementary school grandmother attended is still there. The Institute (Central Negros) where my mother enrolled for secondary studies is now a full college. The centuries old Catholic institutions, Sta. Rita (located in the old convent) and Colegio de Sto. Tomas of the Recollects, remains unchanged.

My Nanay remembers my grandmother to be extremely religious. She dabbled in spiritual healing when not helping out in the farms and vending vegetables. She was very spiritual, a devout churchgoer. If she fail to hear mass, she still goes to church anyway, to pray. While I was inside the church, I saw some old women that reminded me of my mother’s description of her. They were wearing “belo”, dressed in long saya and had these laced novenas around their necks while praying the rosary.

Her children helped sell vegetables and mani (a popular San Carlos crop) in the old public market. All her young boys never finish high school. They preferred working over books. The two girls, my mom and her younger sister, were the only ones that took interest in studying. My aunt, (now living in the Emirates) was the only one that finished college. She majored in education, graduated with honors. She is said to be the splitting image of their mestisahin mother. Since they don’t have a surviving picture of Lola (they lost belongings because they were like gypsies moving from one town to another) my mother would always tell old friends and relatives to look at her younger sister if they wanted to see what their mother looked like.

I’ve never known my maternal grandmother. Never even saw a picture of her but there’s a lot of her in all of us. My mother would be reminded of her in us. She said that I have her eyes. I like the idea that I’m seeing the world with these borrowed eyes. My Lola’s eyes.

She lives in all of us her grandchildren.

Just before I left the town. I dropped by a lodging house managed by a friend’s mother. Their property sits right beside the cemetery. I asked them if people are turned off by their location. My host said the location is never a problem. Lodging and hotel business are doing well these days because according to them because local government is getting better in promoting tourism.

The lodging house’s service mini-van took me to the Ceres station where there are buses going to Bacolod through the Benedicto Salvador highway. I bid them farewell and bought some mani for pasalubong before boarding the bus. I would like to comeback one day and hopefully meet some of my relatives.

Vamos San Carlos!

San Carlos Church. What a clean and peaceful town.

Santo Tomas – Recoletos de San Carlos

The old mercado and the Tri-sikad’s

la contruccion de esta calle de cemento concreto es una donacion a esta iglesia de los esposos Dn. Vicente Atienza y Senora – diciembre 27, 1966. What happened to these Spanish speaking residents?

Vamos San Carlos! What a catchy slogan…


Filipino Halloween?

Don’t confuse Halloween with our tradition of commemorating the dead. This dishonors our tradition. American Halloween (31 October) can be traced to Celtic paganism. Its association with “Pista ng mga Patay” and “Todos Los Santos” can solely be attributed to its proximity to the Christian holidays. Other than this, it has nothing to do with our traditional remembrance of the dead.

The mainly Catholic ritual of visiting the cemeteries has been for years also become a date for family reunions. Coming together during these official holidays to remember the dead has been ingrained in our society. I’ve always been fascinated by how this tradition of remembering our deceased relatives and friends, continue to bring us together. Now, “tricks or treats” and the Halloween merriment is slowly taking over our culture for these two days in November.

Día de los Difuntos (or Día de los Muertos) is a local holiday that is considered to be originally Filipino. This is not considered a public holiday in Spain but is celebrated in Mexico but not a state holiday. For hundreds of years, these two dates for us has always been days of commemoration and solemn celebration. Obviously, inspired by deep Catholic belief. However, in other places in the country, it is mixed with prefilipino rituals. Which makes it all the more interesting – It is this concept that reveals to us what our identity is as individual and as a society.

I’m not saying Halloween is bad, it could be fun for kids – and even for adults. As a matter of fact, this American tradition is good for the markets, it triggers spending and consumption, which I think was what they had in mind (or what it has become).

For me, “Pista ng Patay” came early this month. An amazing  journey that finally brought my mother back to where she spent part of her childhood and where her parents was laid to rest. These two dates in the Filipino calendar should be solemn and respectful tributes – as it has always been for the greater part of the last 400 years of our history.

I wish our dead were closer to us but they’re in far away places like Bayawan (maternal grandparents) and Valle Hermoso (paternal grandparents). Valle Hermoso, was  town pioneered by a Spanish-Chinese mestizo by the name of Don Diego de la Viña, a major player in the province’s struggle against the Spanish forces. He played a crucial role in christianizing the Bukidnon. On our way towards San Carlos, we passed by this sleepy but scenic town.

At least for my mother, she knows where her parents were laid to rest, my father was not so fortunate. During the war, when they were being hunted by Filipino guerillas after they were suspected of complicity with the Japanese, his mother (a Cebuana from the Barileño clan, the Cañete) died and was buried beside a tree in the wilderness of barrio Bagawines. According to him, its almost impossible to locate it today. His mother was buried in a way that it would not leave a trace.

Growing up in Manila and Makati we visited distant relatives in the South cemetery. Dead relatives that I never met. My father met some of his lost relatives here in Manila. He never searched for them, met them all by chance when he was already working here. Since then, he would tag me along whenever he would visit these relatives. When you’re a child, visiting the cemetery is a fascinating occasion.

I enjoyed collecting the melted candles, the family stories and of course the food, which was supplied in abundance by Filipino Chinese relatives – they value their dead so much that I thought they were worshiping them. But later on, I discovered these rituals follows a rich cultural tradition. The only difference with the ones that I saw abroad is that here, these folk Chinese traditions has absorbed part of Catholic practices (like the “pa-misa” as most of them are Catholics). These examples reminds me that what makes Filipino, Filipino, is this melting pot of culture and tradition.

From Dumaguete we went straight to Bayawan, where my mother’s parents were buried. We went back to Dumaguete and spent a night there. Then the following morning, we traveled three hours to San Carlos, passing by the wonderful towns of Oriental Negros. In San Carlos, we crossed Tanon Strait to Toledo where we took a bus to Cebu City. We then went back to Toledo to rest. Just before dawn we were on our way back to San Carlos, took the Don Salvador hiway to Bacolod and Silay. That afternoon, we crossed the seas and reached Dumangas just before 8PM. Three wonderful islands in three days.                                                                          Picture above, with my mother at Dumaguete’s cathedral. 


Bayawan Negros Oriental: Far Away But Not Forgotten

Bayawan public cemetery’s “komun”

I’ve never met my maternal grandparents. They both died relatively young. I’ve never even seen a picture of them but growing up I’ve learned to imagine their faces and what they were like just by listening to my mother’s stories about them.

They were buried in Bayawan’s public cemetery almost five decades ago. They both died from injuries they sustained from a vehicular accident. Details are shady as to what exactly happened. Their children were too young to recall the incident. My grandmother died days after in a Dumaguete hospital. My grandfather followed her to the grave months later. His eldest children said that he never fully recovered from his injuries and the pain of losing his wife.  

Lola Elizabeth was a typical Visayan woman from that period. A devout religious and very industrious. She helps augment the salary of her husband who was then working for his relatives, the Diazes of Bacolod. She and her children lived  in Hacienda Fortuna in San Carlos. The location of their home suggest that her parents were farmers working for the Ledesma’s. My mother’s only tangible inheritance from her parents are her pierced ear. It was done by her mother when she was in grade school. Though Lola’s life was short she was never forgotten. Several grand daughters and great grand daughters were named after her.

The father was an adventurer. He preferred the life on the move. He was born and raised in Dumangas but chose a life away from his family. From Iloilo he traveled to Bacolod then to San Carlos where he met his future wife. He married young but this did not slowed him down. He was a known gambler – in life and with cards . He signed up for USAFFE and fought in the Dumaguete environs until its liberation. After the war, as if nothing happened, went back to his family and became a father for the fourth time. This daughter, their youngest, will have no memory of her parent. She was still a baby when they both died.

In the late 50’s, he was back in Bacolod, now working directly under the family of his cousin, Celia Diaz, the Negrense wife of Doy Laurel. He was later assigned in Bayawan, the largest town in Oriental Negros. He assisted in managing the vast farm lands of his employers. My mother is uncertain what was his job exactly under his wealthy relatives but because of his reputation, he was deeply trusted and was generously treated by them she said. He was awarded a property in Bacolod for his loyal service. My mother heard from elders when she was already in her teens that he sold this land. He stayed in Bayawan until his unexpected death. Before he died he entrusted the custody of his children to Maria “Maring” Diaz, another cousin who was married to an Ilocano Sacada man who settled in Bayawan.

Although my mother’s family became middle class, the children suffered greatly after the deaths of their parents. After the tragedy, my mother together with her siblings left Bayawan because of the oppression they suffered under the custody of the family that adopted all four of them. Nay Maring, according to my mother protected them and really look after their needs but the problem lies with the other family members who were reluctant to take them from the beginning.

Day Maring, as she was called,  was  “extremely kind”, almost a “santa”, my mother would tell us. Beautiful days with her starts in Sto Tomas Villanueva church this continues after her school when Nay Maring would accompany her while she do the chores around the house. It was this motherly bond that gave my mother the premonition some years back of Nay Maring’s passing. She has appeared many times in her dreams, “alive and happy” she said. What’s amazing is that what she told me as the year of Nay Maring’s year of death was close to what the local people in Barrio Banga confirmed. She was already in her 80’s.

They soon found their way back to San Carlos with their maternal relatives but this did not last long. They never seem to find a place to call home. The Diaz boys, now already in their teens tried their luck working in Subic. A few years later, they would all be reunited  in Olangapo. Now with families and stories of their own.

A beautiful scene. Bayawan’s river emptying to the Sulu Sea

The oldest church in town, Sto Tomas Villanueva, where my mother had her first communion. It has been heavily renovated. At the time of our visit the inside is being redesigned.

One of my goal this year was to reach Bayawan together with my mother and make that spiritual connection with these special folks that I never got to meet . I’ve always wanted to go to the place where they were buried, light candles, offer my prayers and thanks. “The only time that people really die is when they’ve been forgotten” I read from somewhere and I believe that this is true. These people who died  five decades ago, has always been alive in all of us because we remember them and the message of their lives.

Since my mother left Visayas, she hasn’t gone back – for almost 50 years! For her, this is more than just a holiday, it’s a fulfillment of a promise made – that one day, when things gets better, she’ll visit them. Now after all these years, finally, she made it. If she had the time and money, she would’ve done this a long time ago but we, her children was her priority. I’m grateful that God gave me the opportunity to make it happen for my mother.

We were told that my grandparents were already transferred to the “komun”, the term for a common burial ground. Since no one has paid the lease, they were moved out. We expected this to be the case, so it did not surprised us. But my mother very well remembers where her father and mother where buried. She recalls young bamboos planted near the tombstone where her parents were laid to rest; native bamboos five to six feet tall, spaced about a foot from each other. Today, the young bamboos has become giants. Stretching some 20 feet high and has occupied a large part of the cemetery. It has been that long.

It was sad to see people being buried without even a marker. This is how poor some of our paisano’s are here. Being the biggest municipality in the province, I can’t understand why they cramped all their dead in such a small area. I was shocked to see the burial mounds – maybe because I’m used to seeing the dead placed inside niches. The cemetery is surrounded by sugar cane farms and is the only public burial ground in the poblacion.

I thank God for giving me and my mother this wonderful opportunity. The long  journey to Bayawan was all worth it.

—-


A Picture of Mt. Kanlaon

 Mt. Kanlaon (Canlaon, Kan-laon) with a strange cloud  formation hanging on top of it. I took this photo at the port of Toledo just before the sun rose. It was a perfect day and we were headed back to Negros.

Tañon strait was so calm that one could mistake it as a lake at that time. The sea breeze was cold and fresh. The only sound I could hear was the crashing little waves and the motorized boats from the distance.

Kanlaon is one of the most active volcanoes in the country. It sits side by side with Mts. Silay and Mandalangan. It has a broad crater lake, I was told, I wonder what it looks like.

Canlaon the city is located at the foot of the volcano. It is considered the vegetable basket of the province. The high altitude and the rich earth produces the finest quality vegetables in Negros. My mother’s relatives in San Carlos made a living from buying vegetables here and selling them in their hometown back in the 40’s and 50’s.

It is also the home of a barrio named after Ninoy Aquino.


Cebu: My Nanay’s Short but Memorable Visit

Almost three hours of traveling – from Dumaguete to San Carlos. We rested at the San Carlos public market where my mother sold vegetables from Canlaon as a child. We then went to Toledo crossing the beautiful strait of Tanon.  The journey was fast but very rough. The waves were high and the commuter boat, small and crowded. In Toledo we rode a bus that took us to Cebu City.

It was extra special for my mother because it was her first time in Cebu, an island visible from where she grew up. “On a clear day I could see the smoke from its coal factories”, she said.

Toledo is the most developed among the western towns of Cebu. It has benefited from the cooper and coal mining. However, noticeable is the toll nature has taken from decades of mining.

The road from west to south traverse the mountain slopes. This provides scenic countryside beauty and horrific views of defaced mountains and lost forest.

The bus then exits in Naga and continues northwards to Cebu City. I love seeing the lively towns of San Fernando, Talisay and Minglanilla – even from inside the bus.

We went around the city; I took my mother to the usual places tourist visits in Cebu. The most important, at least for her, is seeing Sto. Nino de Cebu. It was the highlight of her Cebu trip, according to her.

After a tiring afternoon of walking, we went back to Toledo. The bus was being driven by a mad man – it swerved and was over speeding in angled and narrow high way. Somewhere in the middle of the trip, they had problems with the engine. They got it fixed but at this time it was already dark which made the ride really uncomfortable. I remember when I was still residing in Cebu, one of my colleagues warned me that the transportation in this part of the province is notorious for recklessness and accidents. And having traveled in the west side before, I could tell that not much has changed.

Back in Toledo we spent a night to get some deserved rest. The ferry ride back to San Carlos departs at 6 in the morning.

Oct 2010


Dumaguete – DGTE

An officemate was asking for directions to Dumaguete last Thursday. Not sure when will he go there but I hoped he follows the route I suggested to him which is perfect if you’re just after spending the day in Cebu and plans to go to Dumaguete the following day. I told him to ride the bus straight to Liloan port in Santander early next morning. That bus ride is a special trip in itself.

Santanders Liloan port (above) with its white sand surf. Santander is the southernmost municipality of Cebu famous for its amazing dive spots. Fast craft boats ferry passengers to Sibulan, Negros Oriental – the picture below is Sibulan’s coastline as seen from the boat.

Thanks to him I was reminded that I have not yet posted some pictures of my visits to this place they call the land of genteel people .

From Santander, on a clear day, one can already see from afar the houses’ windows in Sibulan. I was told that this is the closes point between the two province. Sometimes the ride can be a little bumpy but trip does not last long, about 15 to 20 minutes, so hold on to your sits. The ships are Japanese made, aging but very sturdy and relatively fast – strange but the fact that its from Japan eases my worries a bit – as you can see, for a man passionate about traveling, I hate traveling by sea. Traveling down south in a bus is kinda like an unguided tour; you get to see the spectacular coastal scenes of the charming southern Cebu towns. I remember my first time seeing the church of Boljoon, nestled by the mountains, surrounded by lush greens, fronting the beautiful sea-hands down, one of the most memorable landscapes of my wandering in that part of the country.

The great Symbols of Dumaguete. The seal and the Campanaria de Dumaguete (also seen in the official seal of the city) – the ancient sentinel that guarded the Catholic population from violent Moro raiders. These frequent incursion, called Daguet (meaning to “poach”) is believe to have been the origin of the word Dumaguete.

Dumaguete is a special place and is truly worth visiting – I visited the town several times. The town has this university atmosphere to it.  Silliman University, a protestant school founded at the turn of the 20th century can be seen from the port of Dumaguete. It’s a vast campus, perhaps one of the biggest in our country. It also have scientific research centers outside Dumaguete. A man named Dr. Hibbard, who stayed in Cebu was on his way to densely inhabited Iloilo and Zamboanga when he suddenly made a side trip to Dumaguete upon the suggestion of a friend. That side trip would be the beginning of the Protestant school. It started as a research campus and to this day is renowned for its science programs. Another important institution is St. Paul, a Catholic university founded by seven Sisters of the Congrgation of the Sisters of St. Paul in 1904.These Nuns have a small memorial spot in Rizal Boulevard, where they’re depicted crossing the Tanon straits. Students refer to the monument as ” sister act”. The provincial state university of Negros Oriental is also in Dumaguete.

I’m trying to imagine how popular Rizal may have been during his days (while he was still alive) because  every word he utter gets around. He remarked that Dumaguete is a “Land of Genteel People”  during his brief visit that lasted just a few hours and today this is the city’s other name. Unbelievable! You can’t help but wonder if he had that rockstar status – were people calling his name out asking for autographs then?

When the town was captured by the Japs they made Silliman and the spacious American styled houses their offices and barracks. Making the town a virtual Jap country. A man showed me the house where the notorious Kempetai held office. Executions are done in the plaza for all to see – I wonder if people came out and watch those barbaric Japs execute their hapless victims. A Japanese Prince who serve the Imperial Army is buried somewhere n Rizal Boulevard – a Japanese Parliament member, who visited the WWII collector from Valencia told the collector, even pointing its location. What I find truly amazing is that when the American liberated the town – they never viciously bombed Silliman, if they did not with the same tenacity and obsessive streak they had with the other assignments to “flush out” the Sacangs – thanks to this merciful act the town’s iconic university has remained intact, unfortunately to some of our towns, they had to suffer the wrath of the yanqui heavy bombers.

César Ruiz Aquino and the Tiempos are residents of Dumaguete. Eddie Romero is a Dumaguete native. Just some of the familiar names that calls one of the smallest Filipino city home. Some of our relative on the Father side lives in this awesome town. Although distance and time has separated my Father to most of his Negrense relative he remembers them like it was yesterday, especially the ones in Bais and Bacolod. While I was working in Cebu, I met someone who turned out to be of distant kin; her Father’s mother was from the Arnaiz clan of Negros – what a small world we live in.

DGTE has all the things that you need if you’re a city soul but not far are nature places where you can rest and recover from all the pressures of this world –like the twin lake on top of a mountain past Sibulan and the picturesque town of Valencia. Every time I visit the Dumaguete, I stay in this inn (called Vintage) fronting the public market. The location suggest that its no five star but nice none the less and economical (in short cheap). Mornings are spent eating puto maya and drinking brewed coffee at the popular red stalls in the market, the coffees are the best ones that I ever had in the region. When I asked where the coffee beans are from – they showed me the sack, it says “Product of  Vietnam”. The hot thick tsokolate is also a favorite, this time, the cocoa’s are local. Of course if your in Dumaguete complete your experience and try their famous Sans Rival. There are several pastry shops in town but the one that I tried is the shop near the gate of Silliman.

As luck would have it, all the nights that I’ve been in Dumaguete were rainy and disagreeable. But mornings are pleasant and warm – the Rizal Boulevard, where Rizal once strolled during a stopover before heading to Dapitan is a handsome park along the coast near the port. I plan to tour my parents here soon – I’ll be needing time and money of course – something that has been lacking these days ☻

Some of the houses near Rizal boulevard. Most noticeable is the American colonial influence that took place in the manner of  styling. Except the white gate (with the name E.Colon) of a house that resembles a Franciscan mission gateway.

Examples of Post American structures. These building are near the mercado.


The Cat-al house museum

Band of Brothers: Far left is Sr. Cat-al, taken in the Silliman campus

Band of Brothers: Far left is Pvt Villa, Mr Cat-al’s grandfather (Silliman campus)

The greatest collection of WWII memorabilia’s in the Philippines can be found in Valencia, Negros Oriental. Its not a modern fancy museum building with spotlights and tour guides, its actually the humble home of familia Cat-al.

The collection was started by the patriarch of the family, Mr. Porforio Cat-al, who joined the resistance against the Japanese and fought in the jungles of Negros Oriental. He then started bringing home guns and ammunitions left in the battlefields after the war. His son, a local Valencia geothermal staffer, significantly expanded the collection.

Now in his 50’s, the young Cat-al gained the admiration of many WWII memorabilia aficionado. People ranging from WWII Veteran groups to Japanese diplomats has visited his distant Valencia home. It was in the late 90’s when he handed over the remains of more than a dozen Japanese soldiers to a Japanese Parliament man and embassy representatives. The Japanese declined to compensate him for discovering and excavating the bodies, “our ancestors are not for sale” they told Mr. Cat-al, obviously, misunderstanding what the man wanted – a fair compensation for his hard work. He could have just left them in the jungle but he believes that their “spirits” led him to them. The good Negrense not wanting to see his proud guests go home empty handed gave the boxes containing the skulls and bones. Since then, he has acquired more than a dozen dead Japanese soldiers from his excursions. He stored them all in his garaje. He’s expecting a visit from his Japanese “friends” soon.

lamps

old cases of San Mig and a vintage kirin bottle. A 1901 lamp from a German trading house. A Machine gun. Lennon Jap spectacles!

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A bullet stranded in another bullet! Malaria sprayer. Postizo with gold teeth. Medals and buttons

His most priced possessions are his Samurais. Several blades with ivory tsuba (handle) are displayed in a glass counter. The handle is intricately engraved art. He also showed several samurais that was “mass produced” during the war, the quality of these sword he said were  “no good”. There are also offers made for a Samurai he suspects belonging to a high ranking Japanese officer. Recently, the Veteran Bank of the Philippines loaned some of his collections. They offered him money to borrow the items. The loaned item includes an extremely rare ship gyroscope but he declined.

He presented some of his rare “believe it or not” items. Like a bullet that got stuck on another bullet. An American army helmet with two bullets holes on it. A lacoste button from a Japanese leather garment. Countless Medals, bullets, guns, spectacles, toiletries, lamps, uniforms, raincoats and many more – he even have a place dedicated to Japanese gold postizos! Asked if he have a catalog of all his collection, “No, I don’t do that”. He said he plans to pass his collection to his sons.

Another interesting memento in display is a document recognizing the sacrifice of one his grandfather, an army private, who died defending Manila. He was never found. The plaque of appreciation was signed by no less than American President Dwight Eisenhower.

Just outside his house are his disarmed “Big Mama” bombs. As tall as a normal person, these heavy bombs with its ominous whistling sound made the Japanese “wet their pants” and scramble for cover. The mountains and towns were extensively bombed during the “liberation days”. these bombs greatly diminished the Japanese operations in Negros he said. Cat-al said that many of these bombs can still be found in the jungle, including one that got stuck on top of a tree!

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Jap’s bones, thugs and disharmony. Radio gaga. Coins. Water container

Kodak cameras

Kodak cameras found in Jap hide outs

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Mortar. German Pistol. Gas mask. TNT!

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The Swords with ivory for a handle.

The Negrense family could easily make a fortune out of their collection but had refuse numerous offer including that of the provincial government to house his vast collection in a permanent museum, but they “always decline” such offer because they believe that their discoveries are best shared in their humble abode. They don’t ask for any fee. Asked why he continues to this day to search for more items to add to his already enormous collection, the young Cat-al borrowed the notebook I was holding and wrote down the following:

“Timeless, an experience, a memory of how time flies quickly without intention you become sentimental and attached. With care my heritage will remain for a thousand years or even more for generations to behold the joy of these treasures lie in the promise of a bright long future of giving the present an inkling of yesterday. Of being mesmerized by the beauty, elegance and grace of a once opulent era. Beauty, elegance and grace that transcends ages,  a rare find, timeless and priceless”

I’m not sure if this is an original composition but I’ve never met a man with an overflowing passion for collecting pieces of our past. Men like him is as rare as the items he collects.

Sincerely yours... President Harry Truman

Sincerely yours… President Harry Truman

With the Man

With the Man.the younger Cat-al continuing his Fathers work.

Julio 2009


Marcos and Bacong

The bronze plate dedicated to Marcos and Cong Macias at the entrance of the elegant municipio

The bronze plate dedicated to Marcos and Cong. Macias at the entrance of the elegant municipio

Bacong is just 20 minute ride from  the town of Dumaguete, I reached the sleepy town one afternoon whose claim to fame is being the hometown of revolutionary hero Pantaleon Villegas aka Leon Kilat. A Spanish descendant, born to an affluent Negrense family, he worked in a pharmacy in Cebu owned by a German firm. He led the Tres de Abril revolt in Cebu. He was also a trained horse jock. Kilat was feared because people believe that his amulets makes him invincible! He was killed in Carcar by his own men, stabbed because they believe bullets won’t work.

Marcos wanted a grand town hall for Bacong, what Marcos wants, well, he gets of course. The town now have  a splendid town hall that is  comparable to the Capitol in terms of architecture and dimension! In fact, its grounds are bigger than that of the provincial seat. A monument was also commissioned for Kilat, whose bones were dug up in Cebu (in 1920’s) and placed under the impressive white monument now situated in the town hall’s plaza.

The Marcoses were the last great builders of Filipino leaders. Period. I mean this man built a national highway system that was six time the length of roads that was built since the beginning of the century. And by the way, roads then were the sole duty of the government and was not private enterprise like what we have now.

Our leaders of today no longer possess the vision for constructing outstanding edifices and bridges. What we have now is the tingi culture; we now prefer the cheap and disposable materials blame it on the nation’s resources they say but looking at how money is getting exhausted by the government, makes one want to skip paying taxes. Sa kurakot din lang naman ang punta. Unfortunately, for the Macorses, many of their accomplishments are stained by the political mess that arose from abuse of their power.

The greatest and grandest structures were built during Apo’s time, my favorite is the bridge that crosses the San Juanico straits (formerly Marcos Bridge but was later renamed for obvious reasons) – linking the provinces of Samar and Leyte. Many Filipinos of today does not know this man except that he was a dictator and that his government was overthrown. Some of his structures include; The Pan-Philippine Highway that stretches from Aparri in the north through the Visayas and to Davao City, connecting to the Sulu archipelago in the south; the San Juanico Bridge, the longest in the country; Manila North and South Expressways; Cebu-Mactan Bridge; Iligan-Cagayan de Oro-Butuan road; Davao-Cotabato road, Manila North Road; Laoag-Allacapan Road; Gapan-Olongapo Road; Tarlac-Bugallon-Sta.Rosa road; the Zapote-Tagaytay Road; the Agoo-Baguio road, and many others that cut deep through mountains and villages (an example of this is Cebu’s South road). While the man tried to build the nation’s main infrastructure, the wifey, Imelda, pioneered cultural renaissance and swiftly constructed her edifices to support it. Filipino Art was alive during her time. I don’t think many artists will argue.

The mucipio, the kilat monument and its visitor

The mucipio, the kilat monument and its visitor

Wow, I’m sounding like a Loyalist here, but I can’t help but write about Marcos’ nation building scheme when I saw Bacong’s town hall. When I first saw the old Mactan bridge and Sn Juanico, I thought then, well they’re amazing feats but he had to build these but Bacong – a small quite town, which probably at the time had less than half of its population now (walang gaanong botante in short), I started to believe that when this guy required to build something he wouldn’t settle for the economy type (he hates the word cheap I guess), he wants them impressive and graceful (kailangan maarte) and expensive! For all the bad stuff you hear from his years as president, we often fail to notice his accomplishments.  His government was corrupt but what has changed since then? Nothing. Vicious cycle talaga.

Damn, that’s two decades of being the Chief Executive, but come to think of it – what have our past and present Presidents accomplished during their years? Our highways since then are now maintained and expanded by corporations (worst their foreign owned), some of our structures need charity funds (abuloy madalas galing sa Japan and US) from outside in order to be constructed and our public works are still among the most corrupt and inept in the world. Talk about progress. By the way, this man completed the North Expressway using military engineers; I think we could get rid of DPWH now and use our soldiers again!

Well. The truth is Marcos was building big then and thanks to his wife, with chic!

The Church of St. Augustine of Hippo is a stone throw away from the municipio, its partly hidden by the giant acacia trees from the main road. It faces the sea, the surf is composed of black volcanic sand, its so fine that it breaks into flakes when I stepped on it. After visiting the municipio, I went straight to this beautiful church which is considered a national treasure.

Church of St. Augustine of Hippo & Pipe Organ (Bacong) Completed in 1865; situated by the sea; main altar is reputed to be the province’s oldest; its pipe organ from Zaragosa, Spain was installed in 1894 through the efforts of its first parish priest, Rev. Joaquin Soriano. The belfry, reputed to be the province’s tallest, with winding steps to the top, was used as a look-out point for seafaring pirates.

Church of St. Augustine of Hippo & Pipe Organ (Bacong) Completed in 1865; situated by the sea; main altar is reputed to be the province’s oldest; its pipe organ from Zaragosa, Spain was installed in 1894 through the efforts of its first parish priest, Rev. Joaquin Soriano. The belfry, reputed to be the province’s tallest, with winding steps to the top, was used as a look-out point for seafaring pirates.

15 Agosto 2009


Casaroro Falls

Casaroro Falls

Casaroro Falls

This time I was sure that I’m not going to miss a visit to Casaroro, I have plenty of time and saved some money. My second visit to Negros Oriental would not be complete without it.

The mercado of Valencia have many habalhabal operators that have brought people where the trail (its torturous ladder steps) begins. The ride cost around P150 to P200, depends on I don’t know what. After getting a bottle of water and a sweet rice cake I took my pricey back ride towards the mountain. The ride took around 20 minutes, there was a stretch when the road is unpaved, because of the uneven, very rough road and the steep ascend, it would be best to walk instead of still riding on the motorcycle, these drivers would tell you that they can manage it but since it’s not that far from where the trail begins, I thought that it would be best to just walk. Not worth risking your limbs.

The real challenge is reaching this falls, going down was easy, going up is the tough one, I had to make several stops before continuing, it’s like going upstairs in a towering building designed to be serviced only by elevators! Hundreds (felt like thousands!) of steps that at some point is steep – again, I’m pretty sure that fit people would find this fairly easy but not for someone like me whose idea of exercise lately is walking around the mall to window shop. Its not easy.

Enough of my complaints, I should be thankful actually, because going to Casaroro before was reserved for advance mountaineers. Now, the only challenge for those who wants to see this magnificent falls is surviving its cardiac stairs! This is one good workout!

Along the way I passed by many cottages; there is even a comfort room; the local government did a great job in providing these facilities. The rocks that line the stream are gigantic. The area is still a forest where wildlife abound; birds, insects, trees and many flowers can be seen in the area, it’s a perfect spot for nature photographers. Although the pathways are paved, I was cautious with my every step. Before crossing the suspended bridge I saw a brownish small snake crumpled not very far from it, I was reminded that I was only a guest and that this place, even it was developed for the tourist like me,  still belongs to them.

They say that this falls is the most photographed in the whole of Negros – who wouldn’t take loads of photos, the scene it provides is breathtaking! The spot near where the water hits ground is filled with mist that at times blurs the landscape.

It was a long way down and a lengthy hike towards the falls but it’s all worth it. After reaching the falls I took many shots of it, its waters is strong and intimidating. I think during this time of the year it’s not safe to plunge on to its waters but during the summer days when water levels are low, it’s not a bad idea to swim under the falls and escape the summer heat.

I think I would like to see this place again, hopefully with some nature loving friends, spend a beautiful morning under those charming cottages while enjoying Casaroro’s picturesque falls and water streams.

30 Agosto 2009


Valencia Negros Oriental: A wonderful discovery!

Sundays at Valencia

Sundays at Valencia

I got out one day, went straight to the jeep terminal near the market and just rode a jeep straight to Valencia. There I planned to hitch a ride to Casaroro Falls but I plan not to if I won’t get a good deal with the habalhabal (motorcycle operator). I just don’t have the money. I thought that if I won’t get a fair deal I’ll just walk around Valencia, a town situated at the base of the mountain.

The Recolletos fountain

The Recolleto’s fountain

Valencia was named by a pioneering Recollect Friar’s hometown in Spain. These Spaniards would improve the town by constructing community structures. Only the plaza and its fountain, which was created after the Friars successfully channeled the waters from the mountain to the present town remains. The people of this town has never forgotten the Augustinian Recollects contributions, they recently named a street that leads to the plaza after the Order. The same street has a commemorative inscription, “Recolletos Street, a fitting gesture in recognition of the Order of Augustinian Recollects’ integral achievements in this municipality for 152 years”, giving credit to the Padres who came to evangelized and care for the people of what was once feared settlement because of the Moro brigands who hid in its mountains. Now, I know why these missionaries, the Recoletos, are called “jungle specialist”. Another monument located at the church’s garden is that of Padre Ezekiel Moreno, A Spanish friar who was assigned in Las Pinas and Sto Tomas Batanggas. The Spaniard is considered as one of the founders of Puerto Princesa. He died a Bishop somewhere in Latin America. He was later made a saint because of his missionary work and his exemplary leadership.

The town has a charming sunken garden where people would go play games like volleyball ( believe it or not they play without rubber shoes!). The vast field becomes a tiange where people would huddle to buy ukay-ukay (also big biz in Dumaguete esp during Sundays) and some other stuff. The plaza also becomes the town’s open air coliseum for concerts and all other activities. These grounds for sure would be busy for next years elections. The Sunday bustle had a very festive mood, it was very organized, stalls were made of nipa and bamboo, and they were very good to look at. At the center of the plaza is the fountain of the Augustinian Recollects. The church and the Town hall sit side by side. The town center is surrounded by gigantic old acacia trees. Across is the town’s small mercado where you can find internet shops and some other cooperative office, the food in the mercado is ridiculously cheap. I ate a Bisayan soup called Vas-oy here, it’s made of cut meat and pork blood, it smells great and goes well with bread.

Walking around the town is good exercise. I decided to go to Casaroro the following week when conditions would be favorable. The streets are clean and the air is fresh. Because of its elevation, some of the rich families from the low lands have residences here. Some streets are lined with rambotan trees, so plenty that children don’t even bother to pick and play with it. The environment of Valencia is suitable for farming. Water is abundant which is channeled from the mountain. The town is also blessed with geothermal energy, since it was discovered the people of Valencia enjoys a reimbursement in their electricity bill (a resident said P800), now, that I think is cool!

The plaza is designed after a Spanish garden

The plaza is designed after a Spanish garden


Around Dumaguete

The mighty belfry of Dumaguete

The mighty belfry of Dumaguete

When you’re in Dumaguete perhaps the one thing that you’ll notice is its simple and laid back atmosphere – and if I’m right it would remain this way for a very long time, it’s far from Cebu where the economic growth is fast transforming its landscape and its people. There are clubs and restos (and soon a Robinson mall) that lines the boulevard named after our dear national hero, stores in the streets that goes around the historic Silliman University but even with all of these, it feels like a small town. Actually, the “University town” is one of the smallest city in the Visayas but its contribution both in economy and history to the province is most significant and just like what Rizal observed, the people are truly gentle.

My favorite place here is not my rented little air-conditioned room (which by the way is probably the cheapest in town) but the stretch of red colored Coca Cola sponsored little stalls in the mercado. These food stores serve great brewed coffee! Yes, better than the overpriced imported coffee people buy to look cool and hip back in Cebu and Manila. Everything is so cheap that it’s never a bad idea to load up here before going outside the town. I regularly eat their giant pan de sal (the size of my fist!) with egg and coffee. If I’m feeling really hungry, I’ll order the all time Filipino fav, the mighty pansit. Just to give you an idea how cheap food is around here, the pancit would cost you P5 per order, yep, less than the pamasaje you’ll pay for a one kilometer jeepney ride in Manila. They also serve budbod, a type of kakanin that comes in original and choco flavor; there is also this malagkit that is similar to bico, I remember my Nanay would make these during special occasions when we were younger, this is before she shifted to making maja blanca and the popular brown bico.

Dumaguete is not far from Cebu. At first, I was unhappy with the three hour bus ride from Cebu City to Liloan port in Santander but because Dumaguete was my gateway to the other island provinces I wanted to see, I have to deal with the fact that I’ll have to come here often (not unless I can afford plane tix all the time!). I guess with these lengthy trips you’ll just have to learn how to sleep while the bus or the ship is moving, something that took me some time to learn because I’m one of those people who would always want to have the window seat so I can see what’s outside. Nowadays, I deserted this inclination and started slumbering during long trips. Sleep I figured is a time machine that cuts travel time!

How many times have we heard that the world is small and that somewhere out there is an old friend or a relative. Here in Dumaguete I would be least surprised if we have relatives since the original Arnaiz of the family (the Great Papa) is from Bais before moving to Bacolod to chase his dreams. The Arnaiz here in Negros Oriental I noticed are political, there is a man my father told me was a Judge in Sibulan whom he met many years ago and found out to be his relative. In the office where I work, I met a very kind lady whose father’s mother is related to my father, not sure though what that makes us, she’s a proud and a fine-looking Dumagueteña – the world is small they say, I think it is smaller than we think.

Silliman University

Silliman University

The minimum fare for the tricycles here is less than P8 but since we live in a country where transportation fare is ever-increasing (never decreasing) I don’t know if it would be the same when I come back (How much is the jeepney fare in Manila, I don’t know na?) Here people would para (stop the jeep) after going down would go to the driver and pay, it’s strange for someone whose use to paying while inside the jeep. In Cebu, the jeeps have these loud conductor saying things they alone can understand, they’re in charge with collecting fare from the passengers.

There are many historical sites one could visit in Dumaguete. Rizal Boulevard is an attractive walk, especially at night when their American styled old lamp posts are lighted. Rizal strolled here when his ship, bound to Dapitan, stopped over the town’s port. Old Acacia trees were scattered all over the town during the American years. One could take a leisurely stroll here even in high noon since boulevard is lined with these old Acacias (locals are taking siestas under these trees). There are also some Pine Trees and many old American colonial houses. These excellent examples of colonial architecture, comparable to the ones in Baguio should be maintained because it symbolizes the historic changes of the town.

The towns Cathedral

The town’s Cathedral

The Cathedral of Sta. Catalina de Alexandria (the islands 1st stone church) can be found along with its massive belfry that has been the iconic symbol of old Dumaguete in the poblacion. A grotto dedicated to our most Holy Mother has been added at the base of the tower which has become a location of devotion. The church has been expanded, altering the old structure but it still has traces of its original construction. At its side plants had taken hold of a portion of wall, these were the original wall made of corals which was left unpaved, aside from this the church and its convento looks contemporary. On the other hand, the Silliman campus is remarkably preserved by its administrators. The main building is still standing and well maintained. The Protestant Cathedral and the University’s many study buildings hardly changed. I guess we Catholic’s can learn a thing or two from these Protestants in looking after our heritage buildings. I keep asking the question why our Catholic leaders haven’t fully controlled this major problem, “local parish priest treating their church like it was their own residence!”

A monument celebrating the arrival of the Sisters of St. Paul

A monument celebrating the arrival of the Sisters of St. Paul


Stopover at Sibulan

Not Rizal this time, its the Guy!

Not Rizal this time, its the Guy!

This is something new. A monument in front of the municipio not dedicated to Jose Rizal. This time it’s Ramon Magsaysay, our guy – I’m not sure why they have Magsaysay but I suppose that the president was not only popular with the old politicos here in the mid 1900’s, who built the monument but with the people as well. Too bad we lost the Guy. He died when his plane crashed in Cebu (how can a presidential plane crash?). I heard that the crash site have a memorial, thanks to Sibulan I was reminded of this, I’m already planning a visit sometime this month.

Sibulan, aside from its natural wonders (its breathtaking twin lakes) is where Dumaguete airport is located. I don’t know why they allowed to have the airport to be built in their place and have it named after the adjacent town of Dumaguete, well, I think this is the case everywhere, Manila airport (now Ninoy Aquino – hope that they won’t change it to Cory Aquino this time) is in Paranaque and Pasay, Bacolod’s is in Silay, I guess that’s how it is here in our country. Sibulan is also the entrance of the ferries that comes from Santander, the Sibulan-Liloan ports regularly transport people from Cebu to Negros Oriental and vice versa.

Looc, here in Sibulan is where the Japanese and Guerilla units made of brave Filipinos first fought. In this barrio is a shrine dedicated to that historic moment. They celebrate this encounter annually.

San Antonid de Padua de Sibulan

San Antonio de Padua de Sibulan

The towns charming church of San Antonio de Padua is also a popular devotion site, built to honor the town’s patron Saint around mid 1900’s along with a very peaceful plaza, on its side is the town mercado. Here people customarily light 13 candles for their wishes. June 13 is their feast date of St. Anthony; I guess this explains the 13 candles.


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