This April, we celebrate National Literature Month, and this May, we celebrate National Heritage Month. So what better way to celebrate these two national cultural fests than by mapping out a virtual “litera-tour” of Dumaguete, highlighting the works of key authors in Negros Oriental and at the same time celebrating their works as important intangible heritage of the community! It’s a unique DIY tour you can take to get to know Dumaguete in an approximation of its literary splendor.
We encourage you to take this issue of Buglas Writers Journal as a map to do your own walking tour of specific sites in Dumaguete that have valuable connections with various pieces of literary works, giving the reader/tourist a chance to appreciate the works and to see the significance of specific places in Dumaguete in the light of the literary. [This issue will be closely connected to our Facebook postings.]
In a way, we are aiming to underline the importance of Dumaguete as a “City of Literature” in the Philippines, where many Filipino writers—both local and national [and international]—have aspired to set many of their stories, poems, dramas, and creative non-fiction: Dumaguete as inspirational wonderland.
We have chosen twenty-one spots in Dumaguete that can be found in passages of relevant literary texts. Let’s begin…
We will begin this literary tour at the Campanario de Dumaguete, or the Dumaguete Belltower, long the symbol of the city. The campanario was built during the time of Fray Juan Felix de la Encarnacion who took charge of the Dumaguete parish between 1867 and 1879. It is set on the remains of the original southeastern watchtower originally built by Fray Jose Manuel Fernandez de Septien, parish priest of Dumaguete, between 1755 and 1760. Fr. Septien could very well be considered as the “Father of Dumaguete,” because it was through his efforts that the town grew in strength, even managing to deflect marauding pirates from the South. This literary tour begins with a comprehensive look at the history of Dumaguete, written by one of its eminent historians, Dr. T. Valentino Sitoy Jr.
SPOT 2: THE JOSE RIZAL MONUMENT AT THE M.L. QUEZON PARK
From the campanario, proceed to the monument of Jose Rizal in M.L. Quezon Park. Cross Perdices Street, and enter the city plaza from the western side and proceed to the center, where the statue of the National Hero is located. Rizal came to Dumaguete twice: in 1892, right before he arrived in Dapitan for the start of his exile, where it was noted that he had breakfast at the house of one Jose Longa; and then in 1896, right after he departed Dapitan at the end of his exile, on the way to Manila to volunteer his services as doctor in the Spanish enclave of Cuba—an aborted plan since he was immediately arrested by Spanish authorities, and by the end of the year was executed at Bagumbayan.
SPOT 3: PO’S MARKETING AT THE CORNER OF LOCSIN STREET AND PERDICES STREET
From the statue of Jose Rizal in M.L. Quezon Park, exit the plaza in the western side, facing the Catholic Church, and proceed on foot turning right on Perdices Street [formerly Calle Alfonso XIII]. Go northwards, crossing one block, until you get to the corner of Perdices Street and Locsin Street. On the northwest corner stands Po’s Marketing, which was constructed from the ruins of Hassaram’s Department Store, which burned down in 2007. Hassaram’s and Rajan’s Department Store were two of the earliest department stores in Dumaguete, owned by South Asian immigrants. Also in this area was located Bombay’s Bazar. Reading Torrevillas’ essay, how did Dumaguete locals treat langyaw [or strangers] in their midst?
Go back to M.L. Quezon Park, and contemplate it and its environs. Quezon Park in Dumaguete is not only the veritable center of the city, it is also the true mark of confluence in terms of Oriental Negrense history. The plaza occupies the space between the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria [the original foundation of which was built in 1754] and the Presidencia [built in 1937 by renowned Filipino architect Juan Arellano], and by its very location has been witness to the historical upheavals and progress of Dumaguete at the height of both Spanish and American colonial rules. It was in this space, for example, that Don Diego de la Viña and his men settled when they arrived in Dumaguete from Guihulngan on 24 November 1898, completing the liberation of Negros Oriental from Spanish rule. Formerly a field of weeds, and then a corn field, and finally a makeshift plaza between the casa tribunal and the Catholic Church, Quezon Park was formally dedicated in the afternoon of 17 September 1916 with the firing of cannons, speeches, music, and refreshments—marking a year of rapid progress in Dumaguete. Quezon Park was refurbished under the direction of Sr. Juan Posadas, transforming the area into recreation grounds with green lawns, gravel walks, flower beds, and concrete benches. It was named after the statesman Manuel L. Quezon, even before he became the President of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935. This was in honor of his efforts in the passage of the Jones Law, or the Philippine Autonomy Act, in 29 August 1916. Quezon had been one of the Philippines’ two resident commissioners to the U.S. House of Representatives, and had drafted at least two versions of the Jones Bill. Quezon would make frequent visits to Dumaguete in the ensuing years, developing a close relationship with the place. After World War II broke out in the Pacific and the Japanese Occupation began, Quezon and members of his family, and their military escorts, slipped off to safety in Australia from the port in Dumaguete by submarine on 6 March 1942. In Tiempo’s story, we meet an American resident of Dumaguete, who lives in a house with a great view of the park and its environs, and whose life somehow mirrors much of the historical upheavals of the town.
SPOT 5: THE NATIONAL MUSEUM AT THE DUMAGUETE PRESIDENCIA
Proceed to the Presidencia, which currently houses the National Museum of Dumaguete. In 2017, the City of Dumaguete turned over the restoration of the original architecture, built in 1937 and designed by the great Filipino architect Juan Arellano, to the National Museum of the Philippines, which now oversees a Dumaguete branch in the property. Opened in November 2022, the National Museum of Dumaguete currently showcases sections on local natural history, on local anthropology and archaelogy, and on heritage edifices found in Negros Oriental and Siquijor. Part of the natural history display are various flora and fauna found in the island of Negros, as well as minerals and rocks sampled from various sites, including Mt. Talinis and Casaroro Falls. Because we are confining ourselves in this literary tour within the borders of Dumaguete, we can try to explore within the National Museum other places outside of the city, such as Casaroro Falls in Valencia, that have inspired Filipino writers, like this poem by National Artist for Literature Gemino H. Abad.
SPOT 6: THE ARNAIZ ANCESTRAL HOUSE ALONG RIZAL AVENUE
From the National Museum, exit through the Calle Sta. Catalina gate and turn right towards Burgos Street, a pedestrian promenade that connects M.L. Quezon Park to the Rizal Boulevard. Once you reach Rizal Avenue, turn left and in the next corner, you will see the Arnaiz Ancestral House, one of Dumaguete’s “sugar houses,” the homes of Oriental Negros’ sugar hacenderos. It has a fascinating story. In the 1980s, it was the home of Father Eleuterio Tropa, the founder of the Lamplighter World Peace Mission [also called Spaceship 2000]. Then it was the site of the first Shakey’s in Dumaguete, and is now Allegre Bar and Arte Gallery Cafe. It overlooks an area of the Rizal Boulevard which became famous for being the battleground of various men of differing faiths debating over religion.
Head towards the new Pantawan Dos [or People’s Park] area of the Rizal Boulevard, where the Panilongon monument is also located. Immediately to the right of the newly-reclaimed land is the Tinago community, which has thrived on subsistence fishing for many generations, as portrayed in the poem. The Pantawon Dos gives a good vantage point for observing what is happening to Dumaguete, and on good days, you can also see the majesty of Cuernos de Negros in the background. The picture you see is that of a city that is in constant change, perhaps an anti-thesis to the town of nostalgia by the persona of Peña-Reyes’ poem. What is the Dumaguete you remember, and love the best?
Walk down the Rizal Boulevard towards its northern point, and across Why Not? is a curiously shaped acacia tree, which has inspired many writers who come to Dumaguete. The acacia trees of Dumaguete are an iconic natural heritage of the city, and most of them are more than a hundred years old, a significant number having been planted by American missionaries at the beginning of the 20th century. [The Silliman campus itself is dotted with over 300 acacia trees.] An old story goes that an acacia planted at the Rizal Boulevard indicates the Protestantism of the family whose house that particular tree fronts.
Walk down the Rizal Boulevard towards its northern point, and across from Paseo Perdices [formerly the Mariano Perdices mansion] and Sans Rival Bistro [formerly the Manuel Teves mansion], on the [almost] grassy area of the seaside promenade is a bench. There are actually many Rizal Boulevard benches, but this one is our favorite, and feels like the very bench from Villasis’s story. Officially the Paseo de Rizal, it was built in 1916 and currently extends at a length of 967 meters, from the Press Club to the pier [including the extended promenade]. It is named after Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was said to have spent a few hours along the stretch to stroll before departing for Dapitan for his exile. Presently, it has become the most sought-after, most romantic promenade of the city, where local social life practically begins. In Villasis’ story, a member of Dumaguete’s old guard who lives in one of the sugar houses falls into a tentative friendship [even love] with a prostitute who uses the Boulevard as her walking ground. What does this say about Dumaguete’s generational and economic divide?
Disembark from your tricycle at Hayahay along Flores Avenue [which, for some reason, most locals used to call Escaño], fronting Piapi Beach [which, for some reason, most locals also call Escaño Beach]. “Escaño,” for many generations of Dumaguete youth, was “party central,” where you could park your car along the seawall, turn the car radio up loud, and party with friends. Hayahay, which includes Lab-as Restaurant, founded by the Fuentes family in 1988, is famous for its Reggae Wednesday, and also for being the “headquarters” for Dumaguete youth for most of the 1990s until the 2010s. Yu’s story paints a picture of this youth culture. What wild things did you do in Hayahay?
From Hayahay along Flores Avenue, walk northwards down the adjoining Escaño Drive, which has only been recently constructed and completed, reclaimed from what used to be a beachfront leading towards Silliman Beach in Bantayan. This will lead you to The Henry Hotel, a posh resort that used to be South Seas Resort, one of Dumaguete’s pioneering beachfront hospitality property. [In Villanueva’s story, it is masked as Seven Seas Resort.] Absent in The Henry Hotel is the dark vibe that pervades the story of a wife running away with her son from domestic strife. [What darkness does Dumaguete hide?] But while at The Henry, enjoy the offerings of its many restaurants, including Sans Rival, Si Señor, and Coffee Collective.
SPOT 12: THE OLD TIEMPO HOUSE AT AMIGO SUBDIVISION
Exit The Henry Hotel from its Escaño Drive side, and choose either to walk or grab a tricycle to the next stop. We suggest walking, for the exercise, and retrace your steps back towards the intersection of Flores Avenue, Escaño Drive, and EJ Blanco Drive, and walk westwards down the latter. Turn left at the first road you will encounter, and you will have entered Amigo Subdivision, Dumaguete’s pioneering subdivision, established in the pre-war years by Mary Davis Amigo and her husband Norberto Noblefranca Amigo. Soon enough, you will come to the subdivision’s main artery. Turn right, westwards. Somewhere on the left, there is a gated property that used to be the home of Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, where they entertained [and taught] for many years, which they had to sell. Miraculously, the house is still intact, albeit in a dilapidated state. “Bonsai” was written in this house, and touches on personal items from the Tiempos’ lives.
SPOT 13: IN TRANSIT, ON BOARD A DUMAGUETE TRICYCLE
From the western entrance to Amigo Subdivision along Hibbard Avenue, hail down the ubiquitous Dumaguete tricycle [which is also locally known as a “pedicab,” albeit a misnomer since the cab does not run on pedals, but is attached to a regular motorcycle]. The cab goes about town with its distinctive three-wheels, and is the most popular form of public transportation in Dumaguete. Its size makes it arguably one of the biggest cabs of its kind in the country. There are currently about 2,500 tricycles plying the streets of Dumaguete. The regular fare, post-pandemic, is 15 pesos per kilometer. Read Gamalinda’s short poem while on transit. Do Dumaguete’s roads “crawl on [their] bellies to the sky” still?
SPOT 14: OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP REDEMPTORIST CHURCH
Disembark from your tricycle at the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church, which is accesssible from Jose Pro Teves Street [formerly Cervantes Street] via San Lorenzo Ruiz Drive, which skirts the church’s compound. The church was inaugurated in 1970, but started its congregation at the then Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel at the nearby Manuel L. Teves Memorial Hospital compound in 1958. The Redemptorist Church famously put out a statement to toll its bells when Fr. Rudy Romano was abducted by military forces at the tail-end of the Marcos regime for his activism, never to be seen again. Those who grew up in Dumaguete in the 1980s would remember the ringing of these nighty bells.
SPOT 15: THE PARK AT THE SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER ALONG ALDECOA DRIVE
From the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church, grab a tricycle and go to the Silliman University Medical Center. For our purposes, let’s use as our stop the small park at the very center of the hospital compound. SUMC is an independent sector of the university, and grew out of the Mission Hospital first established along Hibbard Avenue [in the building now known as Katipunan Hall] in 1915, which served the community for more than one hundred years. The new one along Aldecoa Drive was built in 1974, and finished in 1976, and boasted of the first elevators in the province. In one part of Aquino’s story, a young man is confined in the hospital. How many stories are there in the actual story?
From SUMC, go a bit eastward down Aldecoa Drive and proceed to the northern entrance to Sillliman campus in a place everyone colloquially calls Laguna. The Laguna road is a bit of a long walk until you reach a second gate that takes you into the main campus. Turn to the immediate left, towards the dorms, and follow the path that leads to the back of Chapel of the Evangel. Channon Hall is the old building beside Hibbard Avenue, one-time torture chamber of the Japanese during World War II. The large acacia trees nearby also served as hanging trees for condemned prisoners. Get a nightmare. In this excerpt from Coscolluela’s play, a middle-class Dumaguete family starts feeling the personal ravages of World War II in the city. How much do you know about the Japanese Occupation in Dumaguete?
From Channon Hall in Sillliman campus, cross the wide expanse of the Ravello Soccer Field towards the Luce Auditorium, and walk the concrete path going southwards along the entire length of the Roman Yap Road, which terminates in one of the drivethroughs that service West Quadrangle, the Amphitheatre, and Silliman Church, which was completed in 1949 and is the built testimony of Silliman’s American Presbyterian origins. Sitoy’s novel, which could be about Dumaguete as Donostia, sets a tense confrontation scene in the university church. Has your faith ever been rocked by doubt?
From Silliman campus, exit through the portals at the head of Hibbard Avenue and turn to the left, towards the sea, along Silliman Avenue. Right near the intersection, you will find Jo’s Chicken Inato, a heritage restaurant in Dumaguete City founded by Josephine and Jesse Ng in 1985 to introduce Dumaguete’s equivalent of Bacolod’s chicken inasal, which is the inato [or “ours”]. It started as a cake house, but later evolved into a roasted chicken empire that speaks much of the locals’ love for chicken. Casocot’s story is a reflection of this love, centered on the inato. While you’re here, eat a pecho.
SPOT 19: EL AMIGO/CAFE MEMENTO ALONG SILLIMAN AVENUE
From Jo’s Chicken Inato, walk towards the east, towards the sea, along Silliman Avenue. Just a stone’s throw away from the corner of Rizal Avenue, you will come across a bar called El Amigo, which has a smaller coffeeshop/gallery inside it called Cafe Memento. This is owned by the visual artist Babbu Wenceslao, the son of the poet Merlie Alunan. Starting in the 2000s, this was the hangout of many of the city’s young artists, and particularly the poets that come to Dumaguete every summer. Pastrana’s poem is a story of a summer love. Have you ever fallen for the same kind of magic in Dumaguete?
From Cafe Memento/El Amigo, walk along Silliman Avenue and go towards the sea, and cross Rizal Avenue to enter Rizal Boulevard once again, this time with a view of Silliman Hall, the oldest building in Silliman campus. Go to the area which is known as Pantawan Uno. “Pantawan” is the Bisaya word for “window,” and this square is just that: the window into Dumaguete, complete with a signage for tourists to take photos in. Sit by the seawall. Contemplate the view. Think of Montes’ love/hate letter to the city. Do you feel the same way?
From the Pantawan Uno of the Rizal Boulevard, where the Dumaguete signage is located, walk the brick pathway towards the northern end of the paseo, which terminates at the entrance of the Dumaguete Pier. Go to the Visitor’s Center, which contains information about Dumaguete for tourists. The Visitor’s Center also has a balcony which gives one a good view of the city, particularly the Rizal Boulevard area. It is a site for both welcome and goodbye. Read Evasco’s poem while looking at the city. Imagine that the farewell it talks about is yours.
Attempting to write a history of Dumaguete is a most daunting task, mainly because of the paucity of readily available sources. Nevertheless, for us who live in Dumaguete, it is a necessary task. In fact, one might say that it is an unavoidable obligation. For unless we know what Dumaguete was in the past, we would not be able to fully appreciate what it is in the present. Even more importantly, without the full appreciation of what it now is, we can hardly have an inkling of what it may yet can become.
For our purposes, I propose to divide this paper into six periods, namely:  the prehistory of Dumaguete;  the period from 1565 to the establishment of the Dumaguete pueblo in 1620;  Dumaguete from 1620 to about 1754;  the period from 1754 to 1898; and finally,  the century from 1898 to the present.
Hopefully, the reasons for formulating these time segments may become clear. At the same time, I shall hazard to identify the main aspiration, which moved the people of Dumaguete at each particular segment of their history.
Questionable Popular Explanation for Origins of “Dumaguete”
It is the general assumption that Dumaguete derived its name from the Visayan verb dagit, meaning “to snatch,” or better yet, to “swoop down and seize,” as when a hawk swoops down and seizes a prey. This same line of thought assumes that “Dumaguete” was derived from the presumed fact that it was where Moro raiding parties used to seize local inhabitants into slavery. The common belief is that its original name was Dumaguit, which the Spaniards transformed into “Dumaguete.”
There are at least three reasons, however, which pose serious difficulties with this idea.
Firstly, according to Spanish records, there were only three villages in Dumaguete in 1565, two along the shore, one with about 25 houses, and another with 50. The third was situated on an elevation visible from the sea and had another 50 houses. With about 100 houses in the area and about 400 or at most 500 inhabitants, who were so situated as to easily escape into the interior, the area did not seem a likely place for habitual seizure of captives. In any case, if it was a place where raiders were wont to snatch local inhabitants, why was it not rather more appropriately called dalagitan or dagitanan.
Secondly, the term dumaguit is an admiring ascription to the actor of the verb dagit. Was it in honor then of the valiant Moro commander, whoever he was, whose process his Christianized victims decided to celebrate with a glowing epithet? At best, this is unconscionably inappropriate; at worst, it is unfathomably absurd.
Thirdly, there is the presumption that there were frequent recurrent raids, so that in time the place came to be given this name as a result. But a Spanish Augustinian record says that one of their members, a Fray Francisco Oliva de Santa Maria, O.S.A., was assigned in “1599” to “Dumaguete,” though later that year he was transferred to the Augustinian’s Panay missions when Negros was handed over to the secular clergy from the cathedral of Cebu.
Yet the Moro raids against Christian settlements in the Visayas and Luzon began only that very same year, 1599, when a Maguindanaon force—3,000 strong—in more than 50 large vessels, attacked the Visayas in revenge for Spanish incursions into Islamic territory in Mindanao. The same marauders returned in 1600, and again in 1602. In annotating Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, Jose Rizal stated that the 1599 raid was “the first piracy of the inhabitants of the South recorded in Philippine history.”1 How can Dumaguete be named as a result of Moro raids, when the Moro raids began in 1599, and in 1599 Dumaguete was already known by the Spaniards as “Dumaguit” or “Dumaguete”?
But there is a Spanish document of 1582, the Relación de las yslas Filipinas written by Captain Miguel de Loarca,2 the Spanish encomendero of Oton, Panay, which mentions the personal name of “Dumaguet.” The pertinent passage reads: “[Q]uando los prinçipales desçendientes de dumaguet … muere El principal de aquella mesma muerte matan a un esclauo el mas desuenturado qe pueden allar para qe los sirua en el otro mundo y siempre procuran, que sea este esclauo estranjero y no natural porqe Realmente no son nada crueles.”3
In English, this 16-century Spanish passage reads: “When the chiefs descended from Dumaguet die, a slave is made to die by the same death. They chose the most wretched slave they can find to serve the chief in the other world. They always chose a foreign, not a native, slave, for they are really not at all cruel.”
The phrase prinçipales descendientes de dumaguet (“chiefs descended from Dumaguet”) seems to imply that Dumaguet himself was a great Visayan chief, who seems to have been a folk-hero honored by the epithet “Dumaguit,” and this perhaps because of his prowess in attack with such fury and swiftness that he always succeeded in seizing hapless captives for slavery.
Moreover, he must have lived several generations before 1582 for Loarca to be able to speak of los prinçipales descendientes de dumaguet. If so, then “Dumaguete” does not then carry with it a sense of weakness, ignominy, and defeat. Rather, it is a tribute to the might, valor, and greatness of an ancient Visayan chief who continued and deserved to be long remembered despite the passage of generations.
If so, then Dumagueteños can regard the name of their city with lively disposition and even with justifiable pride, and do not have to paradoxically celebrate the prowess of an enemy chieftain, whoever he was, who had in fact inflicted painful and ignominious defeat on early Dumagueteños.
Glimpses of Dumaguete’s Prehistoric Past
The study of prehistory by examining closely cultural artifacts uncovered by archaeology is important,4 for, as Professor F. Landa Jocano has very well put it, “our prehistoric past is the foundation of our present society.”5
We are fortunate that the Tanjay-Bais and the Dumaguete-Bacong areas have been the sites of considerable archaeological excavations by international and local scholars in cooperation with staff members of the Philippine National Museum.
The First Systematic Archaeological Dig in Negros
The first systematic archaeological dig in Negros began in 1972 on a burial site in barrio Magsohot in Bacong, Negros Oriental, under the guidance of Silliman University and University of San Carlos archaeologists. Between 1979 and 1995, the Tanjay-Bais area was also surveyed by three sets of American scholars, who identified as many as 500 individual prehistoric sites and dug up more than a dozen places. Then in 1988-1989, a British archaeologist from the University of London led a team in surveying the area from the Banica River to the Bacong poblacion. They identified 72 prehistoric sites and excavated two of these. One was in Calindagan, and the other in Bagacay.
In the various sites excavated, they found, in varying quantities, stone tools, iron implements, plain and decorated local pottery, glazed foreign earthenware, and Chinese, Thai, and Annamese porcelains. The oldest site on Negros so far identified is the so-called “Edjek Site” in Tanjay, which yielded fired clay lumps dating back to 2310-1410 B.C.,6 and stone tools dated 1550 B.C.7
In the Dumaguete area, the site in Bagacay showed signs that it was inhabited as early as 2,400 years ago. The site yielded sherds or broken pieces of plain and decorated pottery, some with rice husk impressions, dating back to 342 and 320 B.C.8 Bagacay also yielded stone tools, shell fragments, and a pottery firing place, all dated about 31 B.C. The rice husk impressions show that rice was eaten in the Dumaguete area as early as 342 B.C. and possibly even earlier on.
On the other hand, the Calindagan Site, which gave evidence of pottery making and iron smithing as early as 940 A.D., also yielded the earliest imported porcelains found in the Visayas. These porcelains were buried with organic material dated about 1090 A.D. By comparison, the earliest porcelains in Cebu City date back only to 1290 A.D., and those in Tanjay to about A.D. 1390.9
Both the Calindagan and Bagacay sites yielded post molds, which by the size of the houses, suggested that both places were residences of local elites, meaning chiefs and their high-born retainers.
Two general conclusions regarding pre-Spanish Dumaguete can be inferred from these archaeological data. The first is that “complex polities [political oganizations] existed in the Dumaguete-Bacong area by the eleventh century A.D. and continued up through the sixteenth century.”10 The second is that as in other chief Philippine coastal settlements beginning the 11th century A.D., “the Dumaguete chiefs participated, either directly or indirectly, in long-distance trade as indicated by the presence of Asian tradewares.11 This does not necessarily mean these wares were brought here by Chinese or other Asian traders. It could also mean that local Filipino traders [may have gone] to the places of origin of the wares, or at least to places where these wares were sold. Quite possibly also, these wares were brought by stages [that is, from port to port] from their places of origin until these eventually arrived in Dumaguete.
This, where history is silent, archaeology has helped to fill part of the void in our understanding of what Dumaguete was in pre-Spanish times.
Dumaguete at the First Spanish Contact
The first reference to Negros Island in European accounts is in Antonio Pigafetta’s Italian chronicle of the Magellan expedition entitled Primo viaggio intorno al mondo, or “First Voyage Around the World.” There is also a parallel reference in the Spanish work entitled Diario o derrotero del viaje de Magallanes (“Logbook of the Voyage of Magellan”), written by the chief pilot Francisco de Albo. After the expedition survivors burnt the vessel Concepcion at Bohol for lack of men to sail her, Pigafetta says: “We then headed to the southwest, coasting along an island named Panilongon, whose inhabitants were black as those in Ethiopia.”12 Albois even clearer when he states: “We left Sugbu and headed southwest up to 9 degrees and 40 minutes between the end of Cebu and an island named Bohol; towards the west of the end of Cebu was another island named Panilongo, and was an island of blacks.”13
This information was apparently the original source for the name “Negros,” which the Spaniards subsequently gave to the island. As early as 1545, a map drawn by the great Spanish cartographer Alonso de Santa Cruz shows an island west of Cebu with the legend y. de negros (“is. of blacks”).14
Cultural Characteristics of 16th Century Visayans
What were the cultural characteristics of the people of Negros, and of the Dumaguete area, in particular, at the time of the Spaniards’ first arrival? Aside from the reference to the existence of Negritos, there is no information from Spanish records about how the 16th-century coastal inhabitants of Negros looked and lived.
A Portuguese account of the Magellan expedition written by Dom. Ferñao Oliveira (1507-c.1580), and only recently brought to light, says that after leaving the Ladrones Islands, the Magellan expedition headed westward without seeing any land for many days, after which acharam muitas ilhas povoadas de gente vestida e governada por reis, ao modo dos Malaios. Entre esta ilhas acharam uma grande, que chamam Cebu (“they found many islands populated with people wearing clothes and governed by kings in the manner of the Malays. Among these many islands they found a large one, named Cebu”).15
If anyone ever wonders whether 16th-century Filipinos were clothed or gloried in their semi-nakedness, this is a report by a Portuguese who had no reason to either glorify or debase the Filipinos of that time. As evidence that Visayan governments were like the Malay, one can cite Pigafetta’s report that the brother of Rajah Humabon carried the title of Bendahara, a Malay title for Chief Minister.
The Account of Pigafetta
But Pigafetta who had an eye for detail has made meticulous notes about Philippine culture as he saw it in 1521. As today, whatever was true of Cebu then was also probably true of Negros. Thus, what Pigafetta says of the Cebuanos or of the Mindanao people was probably true of the Negrenses as well.
Time constraints do not allow us to repeat all that Pigafetta noted. But it is well worth quoting his description, for example, on Rajah Kolambu, whom he describes as “the most fine-looking man” (lo piu bello huomo) that they had seen among the islanders. Kolambu’s tawny body was “tattooed all over” (tuto de pinto) and was perfumed with storax and benzoin. He wore a sarong of silk-embroidered cotton reaching to the knees. He sported a headgear of silk cloth and two large earrings of gold. His black hair hung to his shoulders. At his side hang a dagger with a long shaft of gold and a scabbard of carved wood. Each of his teeth had three spots of gold fillings, so that his teeth shone whenever he opened his mouth. His sarong was of a type, which the Spaniards called cambaya cotton, that is, Cambay cotton imported from northwest India.
Pigafetta also described Rajah Humabon’s wife as “young and beautiful” (jouene et bella). She was “dressed fully” (tuta coperta) in a black and white cloth. Her mouth and nails were “very red” (rosissime). Early Filipinas used lipstick and nail polish! She wore a large headdress of palm leaves, which had a crown of the same material, like a parasol. It reminded Pigafetta of the Pope’s three-tiered tiara. When Pigafetta next saw her, she had added to her ensemble a gold-stripped silk scarf, thrown over her head and shoulders.16
As to Rajah Humabon, when he first gave an audience to Magellan, he and Magellan sat on “chairs of red and violet velvet” (cathedre de veluto rosso et morello), while Humabon’s chiefs sat on cushions. The rest of the people sat on mats.17 Was this picture of opulence also that of the court of the chiefs of Negros?
Possible Frequent Contact with Malacca
As to where the Cebuanos did their shopping, there was one likely place, namely, Malacca. When they conquered Malacca in 1511, the Portuguese found there 500 Luções (Luzones), resident merchants from Luzon, as reported in 1513 by the Portuguese chronicler Tomé Pires.18 Malacca was a cosmopolitan port of traders of various nations—Armenia, Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India [especially Gujarat], Ceylon, Pegu, Ayuthia, Cambodia, Champa, Tongking, Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi [Celebes], Moluccas, Borneo, Sulu, Cebu, Luzon, China, the Ryukyus, and even Japan, etc.19 The Sejarah Melayu (“Malay Annals”) claims that Malacca by the end of the 15th century had a total population of 190,000.20 Tomé Pires also noted that as many as 84 different languages were spoken in Malacca, adding that, “No trading port as large as Malacca is known, nor any where do they deal in such fine and highly-priced merchandise. Goods from all over the east are found here; goods from all over the west are sold here.”21
If 500 Tagalogs were to be found in Malacca in 1511, did Cebuanos and Negrenses, among other Filipinos, not frequent this largest of international ports also? The implications are staggering and demand a fresh review of early Philippine history.
From 1565 to the Founding of the Dumaguete Pueblo (1620)
This period starts with the first known Spanish visit to Negros in April 1565, by the Spanish frigate San Pablo, which Legazpi, who was then in Bohol, had sent out to locate the settlement of Sugbu. Commanded by Captain Juan de Aguirre and piloted by Esteban Rodriguez, the vessel also carried as interpreter an African slave who had lived in India and Malacca and knew the Malay tongue well. As guide, they also had the Bornean pilot Tuasan, who days before had been captured by the Spaniards in a fierce sea battle off the coast of Bohol. Information on the adventures of the San Pablo during its visit to Negros Island is contained in a Relación written in 1565 by the chief pilot Esteban Rodriguez.22
But as the San Pablo left Bohol for southern Cebu, it was dragged by strong currents all the way to the nearby island of Negros. Rodriguez’s Relación noted that the island was called “Binlas” (probably an erroneous transcription of the original “Buglas”) and that it “was said to be full of Negros.”23
The meticulous recording by Esteban Rodriguez’s Relación of the sailing directions the vessel took and a careful look at the Negros map enables us to reconstruct where in Negros the events described took place. It appears that their first landing point was barangay Cangmating in Sibulan.24 Where the Spaniards made their landing, there was visible from the ship a coastal plain dos leguas (“two leagues,” or about ten kilometers) wide—the length of the coastal plain from Sibulan to Banilad in Dumaguete. The prevalent vegetation was sabana (“savannah”) by which was probably meant cogon grass.
The Spaniards also saw many houses about a legua (five kilometers) from the sea. As these houses were apparently located inland, there must have stood on a slope at slightly higher elevation (Palinpinon?) that the coastal plain for the Spaniards to be able to see them from their vessel.
A party of twelve men landed and walked along the shore, apparently southward, for close to vna legua y media (“a league and a half,” or about 7 kilometers) till they came to a settlement of about 25 huts. This would place them in the area of present Dumaguete.
The people had fled at the Spaniards’ approach, except for an old couple who could not run, and a boy who was probably a grandson. After their initial fears had been calmed down, the three told the Spaniards that the coastal areas of the island were well populated, but that many blacks lived up the mountains. Pressing the boy to guide them, the Spaniards soon came to a second settlement of some 50 houses. Was this in the present Dumaguete? All the inhabitants had fled to the hills, leaving in their hurry plenty of rice, chickens, and pigs in their homes.
But how do we know that these settlements were in fact in the Dumaguete area? The best clues are found in the directions mentioned in Esteban Rodriguez’s Relación.
Returning to their frigate and following the coast southward, the Spaniards then sailed Susudueste (south-southwest). The only coastal area in southeastern Negros where the shoreline follows a NNE-SSW direction is the area from Dumaguete to Zamboanguita. Nowhere else can one find this coastal configuration on Negros.
There is no need to follow the San Pablo from hereon. Suffice it to say that near what is now Sumag [near Bacolod], the Bornean pilot was killed by the local people. The Spaniards then refrained from making any landings. They rounded the island of Negros, and when they came to Escalante, they crossed over to Cebu. They followed the Cebu west coast southward till they reached its southern tip, heading thereafter back to Bohol.
Oblique Cebuano Resistance Against the Spaniards
After they had been subdued, the Cebuanos employed the strategy of seeking to drive the Spaniards away through hunger—by refusing to till and sow their fields. Echoing an earlier similarly worded report in 1565,25 the Augustinian Fray Diego de Herrera wrote King Philip II of Spain in January 1570 that the Cebuanos “fled and deserted their villages, and those who remained determined not to cultivate no sow their fields, believing that by this strategy or resistance [ardid de guerra], they could drive us from their land.”26 Another report of 1574 explained that the Spaniards survived the period 1565-1569, because they resorted to the following drastic measures. They would o at first to the more immediate villages, and then the others much farther, not only in Zubu but also on neighboring islands. Striking at dawn, they seized provisions, as well as gold and jewelry, that they found in the houses, killed many of the inhabitants when these sought to defend themselves…and those whom they took alive they enslaved.27
Did they forage for food in the Dumaguete area? One can only surmise, but it is likely that they did, since Negros was much more fertile than Cebu.
The Encomiendas of Negros
The first time that the Spaniards took the inhabitants of Dumaguete under the orbit of their control was on 25 January 1571, when Legazpi parceled out Negros Island into 17 private encomienda, or more than a third of the 45 private encomienda in the whole country.28
Thirteen were on the Negros west coast. The three encomienda on the east coast were those of the rivers of Tanjay, Davi [Dauin], and Monalongon [Manalongon], which were given to the Spaniards Francisco Rodriguez, Luis de Santa Cruz, and Cristobal de Osorio, respectively.29 The area of Dumaguete was apparently included in the encomienda of Dauin. How many inhabitants there were in Dumaguete at that time cannot be ascertained.
What was the reaction of the Negrenses? Judging from the report on encomiendas, what the Negrenses did was to move away to avoid the tribute. In 1571, the Spaniards assumed that each Negros encomienda had from 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants each, and therefore estimated a total Negros population of 31,000. By 1591, however, only 17,000 inhabitants remained in the various Negros encomiendas.30 By 1606, the number had even dwindled further to 13,504 inhabitants.
But since the Negros encomenderos complained that they could not collect sufficient tribute to support them all, the number of Negros encomiendas was reduced to ten in 1576, and then to eight by 1591. The three encomiendas on the east coast, namely, Tanjay, Dauin, and Manalongon remained.31
As early as 1574, the Augustinian Prior Provincial, Fray Martin de Rada, O.S.A., had already described the reaction of the Filipinos, as follows:
Some of them at the time of the collection of the tribute demolish their houses … and go into hiding, in order not to pay the tribute … With others it is necessary to use arquebuses [the standard Spanish long firearms] and (other) weapons, and troops, in order to make them give tribute and most of them have to be imprisoned so that they might comply.32
Indeed, in 1576 the newly arrived Governor-General, Dr. Francisco de Sande, would lament that the Filipinos continued to be elusive, “like deer, and anyone who goes out to find them must necessarily lie in wait to seize one of them, who must then call back the others who had fled to the mountains.”33
What apparently happened in Negros was that many of the inhabitants, including those in Dumaguete, had taken flight into the interior. Those from Dumaguete had probably taken refuge in such inland areas as Palinpinon and other places along the Okoy River, or in the slopes of present-day Valencia, or even further inland.
In 1582, Miguel de Loarca in his Relación de las yslas Filipinas would refer to coastal people who had fled into the Negros interior to live alongside the Negritos as the “Igneines,” in contrast to those who remained in the coast who were called “yliguenes.”34 By 1630, the Negros central highlands were still held by “Bisayan Igneines” and Negritos, both of whom “were not affected at all by Spanish rule.”35
The very first mission in Negros was that of Binalbagan in 1575, with Ilog as its out-station, both reached from the Augustinian mission center in Ogtong [Oton], Panay.36 On the Negros east coast, it was Tanjay which first attracted the attention of the Augustinians at Cebu as early as 1578. The Augustinian Chapter of 1580 ordered the founding of the mission of Tanjay,37 and its first missionary was Fray Bartolome de Alcantara.38 But lack of missionaries forced the Augustinians to abandon Negros in 1583,39 and Padre Alcantara left Tanjay for Panay. For the next sixteen years, there is no reference to any mission, nor convent, nor church in Tanjay, much less in Dumaguete.40
In 1599, an Augustinian, Fray Francisco Oliva de Santa Maria, O.S.A., was appointed missionary to Dumaguete.41 But later that same year, the Augustinians ceded Negros to the secular clergy, and Dumaguete once more disappears from the missionary chronicles. Most probably, the Dumaguete people continued to play hide-and-seek with the militarily-escorted tribute collectors who came once each year.
The evangelistic mission in Tanjay took a different turn. A Portuguese-born secular priest at Cebu, D. Diego Ferreira, was assigned to it in 1599, though Ferreira not once visited his charge because he knew no Cebuano. He requested, however, the Jesuits in Bohol, Father Gabriel Sanchez and Father Francisco Gonzales, to come to Tanjay. It was these Bohol Jesuits who between 1600 and 1602 placed the Tanjay mission on firm footing, since then making Tanjay the premier Catholic parish on the Negros east coast. Two leading Christians in Tanjay were the wife of the chief and a man named Juan Orenday.42
The Moro raids of 1599, 1600, and 1602, which were specially directed against Christian settlements in Cebu, Panay, and Negros, exposed southern Negros to more attacks in the future. Through vigilance, flight, subterfuge, or when it will not be helped, frontal combat, the people of Negros managed to stand against the interlopers.
The Pueblo of Dumaguete (1620-1754)
It is noteworthy that Dumaguete became a pueblo [town], parish, and mission center all rolled into one only in 1620, only after the establishment of the Corregimiento de Negros.
The corregimiento, governed by a corregidor, started as a 13th-century Castilian institution which began during the time of Alfonso X, King of Castile and Leon in 1252-1284. In Spain’s overseas possessions, the corregimiento began in Nueva España [Mexico] in 1530, when King Philip IV instructed the Royal Audiencia of Nueva España to appoint officials who would supervise Indian affairs. These officers were called corregidores.
The first corregimientos in the Philippines were organized toward the end of the 16th century as the early encomenderos began to die off one by one. By 1606, there were already thirteen alcaldias and six corregimientos from Ilocos and Cagayan in the north to Butuan in the south.43
The corregimiento of Negros was established sometime between 1608 and 1618. The reason why it was difficult in appointing a corregidor for Negros was that, as the Spanish church historian Cuesta puts it, “it took time to bring Negros into the mainstream of the country.”44 Why was this so? Was it because Negros had resisted, though perhaps more often obliquely through evasion rather than frontal conflict?
The Founding of Dumaguete
Dumaguete was founded as a parish on 15 March 1620, by which same token it also was established as a town. The Dumaguete parish at that time encompassed the whole coastal area of southeastern Negros. At its founding, Dumaguete included the “sitios” of Marabago [Malabago, an interior barangay some four kilometers from the Bacong poblacion], Siaton, and Manalongon,45 in the south; and Alum [now Sibulan],46 in the north. Before long, its jurisdiction would include such barrios as Dauin, Budiong [Budyong], Giligaon, and Cauitan, thus extending its jurisdiction over the whole area from Sibulan to Bayawan. Beginning 1627, the Dumaguete parish would also include the island of Siquijor,47 and this continued until 1785 when Siquijor apparently became a separate mission center in its own right. Sibulan would become a town only around 1720,48 but even then it continued to be ecclesiastically dependent on Dumaguete.
In his History of Negros, the Spanish Recollect author, Fray Angel Martinez Cuesta, O.A.R., states that “by 1625 the majority of the population in these two towns [Tanjay and Dumaguete] had accepted Christianity.”49 This is Martinez Cuesta’s opinion, though if he is referring only to the poblacion, he is probably correct. But then the poblacion of Dumaguete, as indeed also that of Tanjay, would be comparatively small in 1625. It goes without saying that outside the poblacion of Dumaguete—and also Tanjay—there were great numbers who still needed to be evangelized.
It is fortunate that the names of the first eight parish priests of Dumaguete, all seculars, have been preserved, as follows:50
Padre Juan de Roa y Herrera, the first curate of Dumaguete, had been the parish priest of Tanjay from 1615 to 1620. It is remarkable that during his three-year stint in Dumaguete (1620-1623), the Tanjay parish was vacant. After his service in Dumaguete, Padre Juan would return to Tanjay, where he would serve continually for the next ten years until 1633.
There are probably significant inferences that one can draw from these bits of information. Since Padre Juan had served for five years in Tanjay from 1615 to 1620, it is quite possible that, with his almost certain fluency in the Cebuano tongue, he had from time to time visited Dumaguete during those years. The fact that after his stint as first parish priest of Dumaguete, he then returned to Tanjay to stay there for another decade, suggests that Padre Juan had simply been lent to Dumaguete for three years so that Dumaguete can be established as a town and parish.
D. Juan de Roa y Herrera (1620-1623) D. Pedro Gomez de Herbante (1623-1633) D. Luis Fernandez de Leon (1633-1634) D. Andres Galiano Marmolejo (1634-1636) D. Alberto Marti (1636-1639) D. Francisco de Roca (1634-1642) D. D. Pedro de Uriarte (1642-1646) ad interim D. Pedro de Miranda (1646-?)
Thus, this secular priest, Padre Juan de Roa y Herrera, of whom we know nothing except his name, had made quite a contribution to the ecclesiastical history of both Tanjay and Dumaguete during the 1620s and the early 1630s, which comprised a most crucial period in the history of Christian missions in the Visayas and Mindanao. After Dumaguete, the founding of Bayawan town would follow next in 1630, and Dauin in 1660, with Cauitan and Giligaon being barrios attached to the latter.51 These new towns, however ecclesiastical, continued as visitas, or out-stations, of the mission of Dumaguete. It was not until 1796 that the new parish of Siaton-Dauin would be carved out of the jurisdiction of Dumaguete.
Dumaguete in the 17th Century
But how did Dumaguete look in the 17th century? Some idea of it is offered by the description of the typical Visayan towns in the latter half of that century, from two contemporaneous accounts quoted by a recent Spanish church historian. Thus, in 1668, the Jesuit missionary of Leyte, Father Francisco Ignacio Alcina, S.J., in his manuscript entitled Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisaya described the typical towns in his mission at that time in this wise:
The towns only have a church and a convent and a few huts that serve as the residence of the Indians when they come to town which happens only on Sundays when the parish priest also comes. They themselves are scattered about the mountains and rivers where they plant.52
This picture is corroborated by the Recollect Fray Tomas de San Jeronimo, a long-time missionary in the Visayas, who stated that
the natives do not inhabit the towns which only consist of the church and a few houses, inhabited most reluctantly by the Gobernadorcillo and his assistants and by some of the principales. They live in fields at least half a day’s journey away from the church.53
It is to be remembered, however, that the poblaciones in Leyte, described by Alcina, were more developed than those in Negros. In Luzon, there apparently was an earnest attempt to persuade the scattered inhabitants to gather in towns, as prescribed by the Recopilacion de Leyes de Indies.54 But there was strong resistance to this idea in the Visayas. As a modern Spanish scholar has recently put it:
The results however especially in Visayas were discouraging. In Negros, these attempts were either never attempted or were so sporadic that the Indians continued to live in scattered places or hamlets till well into the nineteenth century. The royal orders were not complied with and the efforts of the missionaries to put them into practice were in vain because the natives were most reluctant to leave the places of their birth … A massive transfer of the natives to organized towns would have meant too radical an innovation for Negros and would have upset their way of life.55 (Italics supplied)
Until 1796, when the parish of Siaton-Dauin was created,56 Tanjay and Dumaguete were the only parishes on the east coast, and these were ministered to by secular priests sent by the Bishop of Cebu.
The Work of Secular Priests
The Spanish scholar Angel Martinez Cuesta points out as a general condition in the country, that the secular clergy “rarely engaged in strictly missionary activities,” for “they usually limited themselves to the administration of communities that had already been converted.”57 If this was so (and there is no reason to think otherwise), then Padre Juan de Roa y Herrera and his successors in the curacy of Dumaguete was too busy to have time to venture into the interior in order to gather for religious instruction the scattered inhabitants in the hills and interior valleys.
The wideness of the area of responsibility of the parish priest of Dumaguete—as was reportedly also in Tanjay—and the resulting difficulty in evangelization is clearly stated by Cuesta in another section of his volume, as follows:
The mission of Dumaguete … covered the entire southern part of the island so that the parish priest was unable to visit all the villages of his parish every year, much less to attend to them properly.58
This condition continued to obtain from 1620 to the middle of the 19th century. It applied not only to Dumaguete and Tanjay, but also to Ilog and Binalbagan, the established parishes on the other side of the island.
Speaking of the people outside the jurisdiction of these parishes, Cuesta would affirm that “the other people who were very numerous were not affected by the Spanish impact.”59 These referred not only to the remontados, the Visayans who had taken to the hills, but even coastal populations along the entire northern coast from Bais to Bago.
The difficulty in evangelizing them was partly due to the fact that until about 1850, there were apparently no more than four or five missionaries on the island of Negros, and each had the near impossible task of covering an immensely wide area. As Cuesta would conclude, “the rest of the island would not be affected by the missionaries till well into the nineteenth century.”60 By way of summing up, he pointed to the lack of missionaries, and the fact that outside the established parishes the people did not live in properly organized settlements as the “main obstacles that rendered the penetration of Christianity in Negros ineffectual.”61
The Negros Situation in Early 17th Century
As late as 1686, the Augustinian Fray Gaspar de San Agustin, O.S.A. (1651-1724), would write in his Conquistas de las islas Philipinas: la temporal, por las armas del senor Don Phelipe Segundo el prudente; y la spiritual, por los religiosos del orden de nuestro padre San Agustin that the friar missionaries dared not go into the interior areas to evangelize “unless accompanied by people and soldiers,” because the animists “wanted to take away the lives of the missionaries who went to preach to them.”62 Though San Agustin used as specific illustration an episode in Nueva Ecija when the Augustinians Fray Juan de Abarca and Fray Diego Tamayo went up to the mountains with a numerous escort of Pampango auxiliaries, who killed “many” of the mountaineers,63 the situation was most probably the same in the other large islands, including Negros.
Indeed, in 1723, Father Pedro Fariz, S.J., Jesuit missionary of Ilog, would make the dark observation in his annual letter for that year about many cimarrones (“wild ones”), remontados (apostates who had returned to the mountains), and vagamundos (“vagabonds” who sought to avoid paying tribute) in the mountains of Negros. As he put it: “For long Negros has been adversely affected by a multitude of cimarrones scattered over many places. Many of them are malefactors, others are vagabonds, others are Christian renegades, many are pagan Negritos, and the rest are rebels.”64 This was the first admission by a Spaniard, whether civil official or missionary, that a large proportion, probably the majority, of the people of Negros, were either “rebels” or ungovernable ones.
Outside the parishes of Dumaguete and Tanjay, this was the true picture in the mountains of Negros, not only along the western but also along the eastern slopes. Speaking of cimarrones as “the second enemy much worse than the Negritos,” Father Fariz would add that “they live all over those mountains and are ten times more numerous than the people who went up there,”65i.e., the remontados.
From a French copy of a letter by the Czech Jesuit Father Anton Malinsky, S.J. (1703-1752), of Ilog, in 1733, it is also known that up to that time, the stability of the established towns and parishes was not completely assured. For as Malinsky reported, the people who had resettled in specific towns still yearned for the freedom of the hills, and that la crainte d’une maladie ou d’une incursion enemie peut les engager a quitter leur maisons et jardin et a s’enfuir dans leurs forets (“the rumor of an epidemic or an enemy attack would prompt them to quit their homes and fields and flee into the forests”).66 Certainly, Malinskywould not have been describing the situation in Ilog, but also in the rest of Negros, including Dumaguete.
Because of the more or less frequent clashes between the remontados and the “resettled natives,” that is the Christians, the parish priests of Negros in 1731 requested the Spanish colonial government “to renew the old punitive expeditions against the remontados so as to overcome their continuous crimes and their resistance to conversion.”67
Moro Devastation of Dumaguete
Scarcely had the trouble with the remontados been solved when, after half a century of respite, the Moro raids resumed in the 1720s. Dumaguete was one of the first Christian towns to fall victim to the renewed incursions. This new round of Moro attacks erupted when the Spaniards in 1720 relocated their fort at Labo in Palawan to the southern end of the Zamboanga peninsula. This understandably alarmed the Tausogs and the Maguindanaos and precipitated a new round of conflicts.
Almost immediately, the Zamboanga fort came under recurrent and vicious attacks. Datu Malinog of Maguindanao, started by ravaging in 1721 the Christian settlements along northern Mindanao. In December 1722, he turned to the coastal Christian settlements of Negros and Panay.
Striking back, the Spaniards defeated Datu Malinog’s fleet in a battle off the coast of Negros. In 1723, the Spaniards recaptured from its Maguindanaon defenders the old Spanish fort at La Sabanila.68
Before the year was over, Datu Malinog returned once more to Negros and Panay, bringing new destruction to towns, churches, and convents, aside from taking many Christian Visayans into slavery. The two Negros towns which suffered the most during these raids of 1722-1723 were Ilog69 and Dumaguete. There unfortunately are no statistics for individual towns in 1722. But since there were only 7,974 Christian townspeople for the whole of Negros in 1713, and the town of Ilog accounted for about 4,000 of these,70 then the poblacion of Dumaguete probably had no more than a hundred or so families and houses, with a population of about 500. Indeed, as will be seen below, the parish priest of Dumaguete could muster only 50 defenders.
The raids of 1722-1723 left a huge swath of destruction within the municipality and parish of Dumaguete. Datu Malinog’s Maguindanaon raiders used as base the isolated cove of Siit near what is now Zamboanguita, and razed to the ground the entire barrios of Budiong, Dauin, and Siaton. The women, the very old, and the very young in Dumaguete were sent to safety in the interior, and the Spanish parish priest, D. Juan de Prada, along with some 50 able-bodied men, remained in town to guard their properties and belongings. But with the approach of the Moros, Padre Juan and his companions saved themselves only by taking a hurried retreat into the hills.71 The second Maguindanaon raid of 1723 completed the destruction of the previous year.
Dumaguete was not only destroyed but also left defenseless. Though Padre Juan de Prada thereafter did his best to gather the scattered inhabitants of his parish, the recent Moro raids showed the continuing precariousness of the situation.
These successive Moro raids were simply devastating, and must have been remembered with dread and dismay for two generations for sure, but the seizures of Christian captives cannot have been the origin of the name Dumaguit [or Dumaguete], for Dumaguete had already been so named for more than 120 years, or even more.
Desperate Measures Against the Moros
To check the annual Moro raids, the Manila government decided to build, as far as cash-strapped royal treasury would permit, more galleys to be stationed at points most likely to be menaced by the Moros, and to erect look-out towers and fortifications in coastal villages. It was also decided that the smaller villages on the coast be gathered into larger ones of at least 2,000 people, in order to better able to resist the onslaught of the annual Islamic fleets.
Some missionaries had already built fortifications around their churches, and in some cases had erected small forts in lofty places to serve as sentinel posts.72 As no money could be spared from the royal treasury for these village fortifications, the missionaries and parish priests supplied from their own stipends the funds to pay the overseers and the construction workers, and “by dint of entreaties, persuasions, and threats obliged the people” to give the materials and labor to build these little forts.73
At the same time, there apparently was exerted an earnest effort on the part of the missionaries to bring more of the hill people into the resettled towns and into conversion. As envisioned by the plan of the Spanish colonial government, fewer but larger towns along the coast would be desirable to check the recurrent Moro raids.
From 1754 to 1898
Defensive Strategy for Dumaguete
The Spanish colonial government decided to build and station more galleys at points most likely to be menaced by the Moros, and to erect look-out towers and fortifications in coastal villages. It was also urged that smaller coastal villages be gathered into larger ones of at least 2,000 people, the better to resist the fresh Moro raids.
In 1754, the recently appointed parish priest of Dumaguete, the peninsular Spaniard D. Jose Manuel Fernandez de Septien, decided to transform Dumaguete into a better-organized and well-defended town. The villages of the southeastern Negros coast from what is now Bacong to Siaton, including the villages of Ajong [not to be confused with Ajong in San Jose], Budiong, Dauin, Giligaon, Manalongon, and Cauitan, were small and undefended, and were specially exposed to Moro raiding fleets as these rounded the northern bulge of the Zamboanga peninsula. With permission from the Bishop of Cebu, Septien had all the people of these coastal villages gather at Dumaguete.74 Thus, by 1754, Dumaguete had acquired stability and strength as a town and parish center.
Septien would serve the Dumaguete parish for 22 years from 1754 to 1776. It was he who was responsible for building a stone church of Dumaguete, the first such church in Negros and for a long time the only stone church among the nine parishes of Negros.75 Septien probably started building the stone church in 1760, after the continual Moro raids during the past half dozen years finally subsided.
As to whether Septien also succeeded in getting the hill people to come down to Dumaguete is not known. But if it is true that the original Dumaguete population was augmented by Bohol refugees in the wake of the Dagohoy rebellion, this would explain the increased capacity of Dumaguete to repulse subsequent Moro raids. It would also explain the gradual growth of Dumaguete till it became the most populated town on the entire Negros east coast.
Septien’s program served two purposes, namely, better defense against Moro raids and more effective control of the local population, in order to avoid restiveness as in Bohol. Indeed, the immediate result of this program was the significant reduction of Moro destruction in the southeastern Negros coast.
Renewed Moro Incursions
The first test of Dumaguete’s organized defenses came in 1754, when the Moros once more appeared for a systematic attack of the Visayas. This time, the brunt of the attack fell on Negros, where the work of the missionaries since the beginning of the 18th century had led to a number of new coastal settlements. By this time, the Moro fleet had become bold enough as to hold a number of strategic places as staging bases. In Negros, their bases included the well-sheltered Siit Cove some five kilometers south of what is now Zamboanguita,76 as well as a few small islands off the northern end of Negros in the vicinity of the Pan de Azucar Island.77 Near Panay, their base was Guimaras Island. For attacks against the southern Luzon coasts up to the very shores of Manila Bay, their main base was on the northern end of Mindoro.
The renewed Moro incursions in Negros came during the first half of 1754, when the raiders held Siit Cove from May to June of that year. The barrio nearest to Siit, namely Siaton, felt the brunt of the initial Moro onslaught, so that only three persons managed to escape with their lives.78 Thus, all barrios of Dumaguete up to Bayawan were ravaged by the Moros. But the Moro force in southern Negros was apparently much smaller than the main contingents in northern Negros and Panay. They launched an attack on Dumaguete, but were effectively repulsed by the organized defenses of Padre Jose Fernandez de Septien.79
The Moros remained in the area of Negros until 1760, and stayed at the mouth of various rivers for up to two or three weeks at a time, doing repairs on their vessels, while landing forces ravaged the countryside. Except for Dumaguete, all other towns and barrios all over Negros were sacked and stripped of all movable prized objects and burned, together with the churches and convents. The fields were torched, and domestic and work animals killed. As usual, the Moros took all the captives they could load on their vessels. In Tanjay, it was said that the dead and wounded during the period 1756-1760 exceeded two hundred.80
The organized defenses that Padre Septien set in place, however, was responsible for the fact that after 1760, the Moros threatened Dumaguete no more. This also marked the beginning of the growth of Dumaguete, so that by the middle of the 19th century, it had risen to become the largest town in the whole Negros east coast.
In the last score years of the 18th century, the Moro raiders returned to Negros. In 1758, they invaded the provincial capital of Ilog, and when they could not take it, they vented their anger on nearby Himamaylan and Binalbagan. It was in 1758 that Binalbagan was so destroyed that it took the town almost a century to recover. The destruction of Binalbagan also led to the growth of Bacolod, which in time would rise to become the premier town on the west coast.
The British invasion of Manila in 1762-1764 hardly touched Negros and Dumaguete. In 1767, Charles III of Spain suppressed the Spanish Jesuits and ordered them expelled from all Spanish dominions. The royal order arrived in the Philippines the following year, and the Jesuits of western Negros, along with all others in the various islands, were rounded up and repatriated to Spain. This did not affect Dumaguete and Tanjay and other parishes on the east coast, for these were already in the hands of the secular clergy.
The troubles in Spain at the beginning of the 19th century, which were really a spill-over from France due to the rise of Napoleon, also hardly affected Dumaguete. For Spain was too far, and Dumaguete continued to be a small town in a province which seemed to have been largely left out in the politico-economic affairs of the Spanish colony.
Dumaguete in the 19th Century
It was in the nineteenth century when Dumaguete gradually became the dominant town on the entire east coast of Negros.
The early parochial records of Dumaguete having been destroyed by fire at the Cathedral of Cebu, there are no available population statistics of Dumaguete before the coming of the Recollects at the middle of the 19th century. In fact, the first population statistics of Dumaguete date only from 1850, which appears in a two-volume work on the Philippines by the Spanish Augustinians Fray Manuel Buzeta, O.S.A., and Fray Felipe Bravo, O.S.A., entitled Diccionario geográfico, estadístico, histórico de las Islas Filipinas (1850-1851).81
In 1850, Dumaguete was described by Buzeta and Bravo as a pueblo con cura y gobernadorcillo (“town with parish priest and mayor”), with a population of 5,374.82 It had a church, a convent, and a tribunal (“municipal hall”).
In another section of the same work, the two Augustinian authors state that with its añejos or barrios, the municipality of Dumaguete had 896 houses of light materials (de sencilla constucción), meaning wood or bamboo with nipa roofing, and a total population of 18,261.83 The 896 houses, however, most probably refer to the houses in the poblacion with its population of 5,374, for this would give an average of six persons per household, which is reasonable. As to the figure of 18,261 for the entire municipality, this was probably a typographical error for 8,261, considering that the total population of the entire costa oriental of Negros is placed at only 20,079, plus the fact that the populations of the two nearby towns of Sibulan (1,371) and Bacong (1,833), each located only six or seven kilometers from Dumaguete, are given separately.
In Buzeta and Bravo’s work, the 1850 population statistics for the Negros east coast appear in a summary for the entire island, both the costa occidental (pop. 18,153) and the costa oriental (pop. 20,079). There are also individual entries for each town. In four cases, Guihulngan, Jimalalud, Dumaguete, and Dauin, the ratio of inhabitants to houses is 6:1 which means that by 1850 the average Negros household had six members.
In the table below, the number of houses for the four above-mentioned towns are from the work of Buzeta and Bravo. The number of houses for the other towns have been obtained by dividing the population of the poblacion by six. In 1850, the distribution of population of the towns in what is now Negros Oriental, along with the date of creation of each town or municipality, is as follows:
The towns of Sibulan and Guihulngan have two founding dates, for the first time was apparently not effective, so that both towns had to be reestablished at a later date.
From these statistics, one finds that 11,994, or 60% of the total population on eastern Negros in 1850 lived in the stretch of coast between Sibulan and Siaton. The remaining two-fifths lived between Ayuquitan [now San Jose] and Guihulngan.
On the other hand, Tanjay, which was the earliest and most populous town in the late 16th century, had a population only a little more than a fourth of that of Dumaguete.
Gradual Population Growth of Dumaguete
The growth of Dumaguete from merely two or three separate but nearby settlements around 1565 to its status as the largest town along the entire east coast of Negros deserves some explanation.
The process seemed to have started in the second half of the 18th century when its parish priest Padre Jose Manuel Fernandez de Septien beginning about 1754 successfully organized the town for the defense against the recurrent Moro raids. The effectiveness of this program made Dumaguete a safe haven on the southeastern Negros coast against the perennial scourge from Mindanao. The growth of Dumaguete might also be partly attributed to the fact that the Negros east coast was administered from Cebu. Even after Negros had become a separate province on its own right, its eastern coast continued to look to Cebu for its political, social, economic relations, just as the Negros west continued to look to Iloilo.
Sluggish Economic Development of Dumaguete
The agriculture of Negros since the beginning consisted mainly of the production of subsistence crops, like rice, corn, and rootcrops.
The agricultural development of Negros took place only in the 19th century. In the 18th century, Philippine agriculture received a boost with the formation of the Real Compañia de Filipinas. The cultivation of indigo, cotton, pepper, and cinnamon was encouraged. But none of these really succeeded. What succeeded was tobacco growing, especially with the introduction of Virginia tobacco. But since this plant thrived only in water-soaked soil but rainless environment, the only place where it specially thrived was the Cagayan Valley where the Sierra Madre in the east and the Cordilleras in the west shielded the region from typhoons coming from the Pacific or the West Philippine Sea.
Even then, Negros did not profit from the stimulus introduced by the Real Compañia de Filipinas, because of the untimely death of D. Felipe de Zuñiga, the Negros governor from 1779 to 1785 who had espoused the program of the company.85
The opening of Manila to international trade in 1834 in time brought prosperity to the Philippines. Due to its fertile soil, Negros soon became a major sugar cane producing province. But the town of Dumaguete did not share much of the bounty of this new cash crop. Around 1828, only Bacong and Amlan on the east coast grew sugar cane, though in small quantities.86 When Negros developed into a great sugar-producing center by around 1860, the bulk of the plantations were on the west coast. This was partly due to the fact that many of the new Negros sugar barons came from Iloilo, and partly also because the chief port south of Manila was also Iloilo, which was just across the Guimaras Strait. By 1870, about 74% of the sugar exported from Iloilo came from western Negros.87
To illustrate the economic growth on the west coast and the enrichment of a few who had capital to start with, between 1880 and 1893, about 25 individuals purchased from the government public property amounting to about 5,000 hectares,88 obviously to be used for sugar planting. These were people from Manapla, Victorias, Saravia, Silay, La Carlota, Pontevedra, etc. But no single businessman from Dumaguete was among them.
On the other hand, between 1890 and 1894, four individuals from Dumaguete petitioned the government to acquire public property. But one person applied for two hectares, another one hectare, and the remaining two less than a hectare each.89 By any account, there was no comparison between the west and the east coasts. In particular, Dumaguete was still in the backwoods, while many towns on the west coast were exporters to various parts of the world.
It is perhaps no wonder then even when Negros finally joined the Revolution as a very late comer in November 1898, the leaders, who were the sugar barons of Negros Occidental, tended to look at Negros Oriental simply as an appendage.
There was hardly a revolution in Negros Oriental, because in the first place, there were not many Spaniards in the province to rebel against. Dumaguete had its natural leaders, particularly Meliton and Demetrio Larena, who were educated in Manila, but they and their followers were largely isolated, which was not their fault, by poor communication from the events in Manila.
The revolution was to come later, not a political one but a religious one. There must have been some smoldering resentment on the part of the Filipino secular clergy, who were dispossessed of their parishes in Negros when the Recollects took over the curacies at the middle of the 19th century. Since the closing decades of the 18th century, when increasingly fewer Spanish secular priests were coming to the Philippines, the secular clergy were mostly Filipinos. They held the Negros parishes for 50 or more years, when suddenly after 1848 they were told that no Filipino clergy can occupy the Negros curacies, for as soon as the old Filipino curate died or resigned, he was to be replaced only by a Spanish Recollect.
This was probably one reason why the chief leaders of Dumaguete and Negros Oriental led by the Larenas turned to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Aglipayan Church, when this was founded in 1902. The Aglipayan Church, which was a reaction to the continuing rule of foreign bishops, was the delayed religious component of the Revolution of 1896.
The Period from 1898 to 1998
It was during the period 1898-1948 that Dumaguete came to its own and begun to make a name for itself. But it was not through industry, commerce, or trade. This was through education, and the leading role in this new thrust was Silliman Institute, founded in 1901 and established in Dumaguete largely through the efforts of Governor Demetrio Larena and his son-in-law the future Governor Hermenegildo Villanueva.
The dream of American philanthropist Horace Brinsmade Silliman to found what he originally envisioned to be a school for boys halfway around the world in a country he had never visited was zealously pursued by such missionaries as Dr. and Mrs. David Sutherland Hibbard, missionaries to the same Presbyterian Church to which Mr. Silliman belonged. The enthusiasm of the Dumaguete leaders and their insistence that the projected school be set up in Dumaguete and in Silay, Jaro, Aparri, or Sulu, as the Presbyterian missionaries were also considering, determined the course of Dumaguete, and in fact, the province.
It was Silliman Institute, which placed Dumaguete on the world map. In fact, in most American-printed maps since 1901, Dumaguete was almost always indicated, along with Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo, and the address “Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, P.I.” was a familiar one to many, because of the institution that the Hibbards built.
That both Dumaguete and Negros Oriental fully appreciate the contributions of Silliman University is seen in the fact that symbols of Silliman appear in the seals of both local government units.
The establishment of Silliman inspired the setting up of other educational institutions—the first of these, St. Paul’s College, Dumaguete, in 1904. It also inspired Foundation College, established by Dr. Vicente Sinco, who was an alumnus of Silliman University. The seal of Foundation University reminds one somewhat of the Silliman seal.
Even the public schools of Dumaguete have received inspiration from Silliman, and have a major component in their administration, faculty, and staff the best graduates of Silliman. For example, from the very beginning, the Provincial School, now Negros Oriental High School, has had close relations with Silliman Institute, its early American teachers being intimate friends of the missionaries at Silliman. And due to the admiration of Governor Hermenegildo Villanueva had for the Silliman Shop, he wanted the province of Negros Oriental to have one like it. At his instance, a woodworking class was opened in 1907 as an adjunct to the Provincial School. That woodworking class in time grew to become an industrial department of the Negros Oriental High School, and in 1927 became an independent school under the name Negros Oriental Trade School. In time, the Trade School became EVSAT, and then CVPC, and now the Negros Oriental State University, the largest state university in the whole of the Visayas and Mindanao. As a result of this impetus to education, more schools in Dumaguete have arisen—including COSCA, Don Bosco, the Dumaguete City High School, and the Dumaguete City Science High.
As a result, Dumaguete has the ingredients needed for it to grow on the model of “university town” complex. Since 1948, when it became a chartered city, the occasion being graced by the presence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino, Dumaguete has grown with increasing pace, into a peaceful, clean, and beautiful city. The efforts of its people, under the inspiration of its long line of leaders, the position now held by a young and dynamic leader in the person of the Honorable Felipe Antonio Remollo, is easily propelled forward, because Dumaguete is an educated city. And, as such, its people are forward-looking and achievement-oriented.
When we talk of history, the closer we are to the present, the more risky it is to make generalizations. Let me end by saying that the future of Dumaguete City is what we make of it. We are all part of its history in the making. If we work with open-mindedness, liberality, and judiciousness, we can draw for this city of gentle people a yet bigger spot on the map of the Philippines and of the world.
See Rizal’s note in Dr. Antonio de Morga, Historical Events of the Philippine Islands, trans. from the original Spanish (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1997), p. 134.
The full title is “Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas, por Miguel de Loarca. Tratado de las yslas Philipinas en qe. se Contiene todas las yslas y poblaçones ge. Estan Reducidas,” dated 1582. The original Spanish text and accompanying English translation is found in Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, The Philippine Islands, 1492-1898 (55 vols.; Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1903-1909), vol. V, pp. 34-187.
Systematic archaeological studies in the Philippines began in 1881 when the Frenchman Alfred Marche made surface studies in Masbate and several other places in the Visayas. Then in 1922-1925, a team led by Professor Carl Guthe collected more than 30 tons of Chinese ceramics in the Philippines, as well as locally made pottery and other artifacts, which are now deposited in the University of Michigan. But from 1926 to 1941, archaeological research in the Philippines was done largely by one man—Professor H. Otley Beyer, who has been dubbed the “father of Philippine archaeology.” / In the postwar period, Dr. Wilhelm Solheim II, of the University of the Hawaii, assisted by Alfredo Evangelista and E. Arsenio Manuel, conducted systematic archaeological excavations in Masbate. But the most extensive excavations were done by the National Museum of the Philippines, led by American archaeologist Dr. Robert B. Fox, first in the Bicol peninsula in 1956-1958; then in Calatagan, Batangas in 1958-1962; and afterwards on the west coast of Palawan from 1962 to 1966. / In the meantime, other archaeologists worked in the Kulaman Plateau in Cotabato, Tawi-Tawi, Cebu City, Laguna, and elsewhere. In the 1970s, the more dramatic studies were made in the Cagayan Valley, Talikod Island in Sulu, and Butuan. The Butuan diggings from 1976 to 1986 uncovered eight long-distance balangays, averaging 15 meters long and 3 meters wide across the beam. / In the 1990s, interest shifted to underwater archaeology. The most remarkable underwater find, made by French archaeologists and staff members of the National Museum of the Philippines in 1993, was the wreck of the Spanish vessel San Diego which sank on 14 December 1600, bringing down to the bottom thousands of trade items from China and Southeast Asian countries. For more details, see Jocano, Philippine Prehistory, pp. 6-11.
F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage (Manila: Punlad Research House, 1998), 18.
See Fig. 4 (“Phases of Occupation”), in Junker, Gunn, and Santos, “Prehispanic Trade and Economy Along the Tanjay River,” 77. The area excavated, at an upper level, also yielded housepost holes and hearth-places dated to about A.D. 1280.
Bacus, “Late Prehistoric Chiefly Polities in the Dumaguete-Bacong Area,” p. 13.
See “Fig. 7. Comparative summary of relevant archaeological evidence from three chiefly centers in the Central Philippines, A.D. 900-1600,” in Junker, Gunn, and Santos, “Late Prehistoric Chiefly Polities in the Dumaguete-Bacong Area and Central Philippine Islands,” p. 19.
Bacus, p. 43.
Bacus, p. 43.
Quote Pigafetta here. Although the editor of a Portuguese translation of Pigafetta opines that “Panilogon” meant Panglao Island off Tagbilaran [actual ilha de Panglau], see Neves Aguas footnote in Fernao de Magalhães: A primeira viagem ã volta do mundo contada pelos que nela participaram ([Lisboa]: Publicações Europa-América, Lda., 1986, p. 85n), he could not be right, for from where the expedition burnt the Concepción, Panglao Island would be to the “southeast,” not “southwest.” The only island other than Cebu [which the Magellan expedition already knew] which they could have seen to the “southwest” would have been Negros.
Francisco Albo’s account is entitled “Diario ó derrotero del viaje de Magallanes desde el cabo de San Agustín, en el Brasil, hasta el regresso a España de la nao Victoria,” and appears in Colección de los viajes y descrubrimientos que hicieron por ma los españoles desde fines del siglo XV, ed. by Martin Fernández de Navarrete (5 vols.), vol. IV. / The specific passage reads in its Portuguese translation: “Partimos de Subu e fomos a sudoesta até 9 graus e três quartos, entre o cabo de Subu e uma ilha chamada Bohol; da parte de oeste do cabo de Subu há outra que se chama Panilongo, e é de negros.” (p. 247).
As quoted by Carlos Quirino, Philippine Cartography, 2nd ed. Amsterdam: N. Israel, 1963, p. 31.
See “Viagem de Magalhães, por um autor anónimo; manuscrito existente na Biblioteca da Universidade de Leida (Holanda),” Fernão de Magalhães: A primeira viagem à volta do mundo contada pelos que nela participaram (Lisbõa: Publicações Europa-América, 1986, p. 178.
Pigafetta, Magellan’s Voyage Around the World, vol. I, pp. 154, 156.
Ibid., vol. I, p. 150.
Tomé Pires, The Suma Oriental [Cortesão ed.], II, 281-282. See also Braz d’Alburquerque, The Commentaries of Affonso d’Albuquerque, III, 128-129.
See esp. Tomé Pires, in The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, tr. by Armando Cortesão (2 vols.; London: The Haklyut Society, 1944).
Donald F. Lach and Carol Flaumenhaft, Asia on the Eve of Europe’s Expansion (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prenctice-Hall, 1965), 90, citing Sejarah Melayu [Malay Annals].
As cited by Donald F. Lach and Carol Flaumenhaft, Asia on the Eve of Europe’s Expansion (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prenctice-Hall, 1965), p. 17.
The full article of this account is Relación mui circunstanciada de la navegación que hizó el Armada de S.M. á cargo de General Miguél Lopez de Legazpi, desde 21 de Noviembre de 1564, que salió del Puerto de Navidad … hasta su llegada á las islas de Zubu de las Philipinas …, and is found in the Colección de Documentos Inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas de Ultramar, 2a. serie (25 vols.; Madrid; Est. Tipografico “Sucesores de Rivadeneyra,” 1886-1932, II, 373-427.
Fr. Angel Martinez Cuesta, O.A.R., in his History of Negros (Manila: The Historical Conservation Society, 1980), opines that the landing point was somewhere “near the present town of Zamboanguita” (see p. 28). But this interpretation cannot be correct, for it does not coincide with the sailing directions the vessel afterwards took.
“Relaçión del ordén que la gentle española,” in HPAF, vol. XIV, p. 226.
Fray Diego de Herrera, O.S.A., “Carta del P. Diego de Herrera á Felipe II, dándole cuenta de su viaje á Filipinas,” dated 16 January 1570, in HPAF, vol. XIV, p. 39.
“Relaçión del ordén que la gentle española,” p. 223.
The encomienda, literally meaning “entrusted territory,” was part of a system of rewards for services rendered to the Crown during the nearly eight centuries of the Reconquista (A.D. 711-1492), when the Spaniards sought to reconquer their homeland from the Moorish invaders. In the Philippines, the encomienda system was the initial phase of the Spanish political administration, which ended with the later creation of the province.
See Francisco Colin, S.J., Labor evangelica, ministerios apostólicos de los obreros de la Compañia de Jesús (Madrid, 1663); new ed., annotated by Father Pablo Castells, S.J. (3 vols.; Barcelona: Imprenta y Litografia de Henrich y Compañia, 1900-1902), vol. I, pp. 157n.-158n.
For more details on the Negros encomiendas, see “Relación de las encomiendas existentes en Filipinas el dia 31 de mayo 1591,” in Wenceslao Emilio Retana y Gamboa, ed., Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino: Recopilación de documentos históricos, scientificos, literarios, y estudios bibliográficos (5 vols.; Madrid: Impr. de la viuda de M. Minuesa de los Rios, 1895-1905), vol. IV, pp. 96-105.
The encomenderos of Dauin and Manalongon in 1571, namely, Luis de Santa Cruz and Cristobal de Osorio, respectively, continued to hold on to their possessions. But Francisco Rodriguez, who had the encomienda of Tanjay in 1571, had been replaced by 1576 by another man named Pedro Navarro. See Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 32.
Fray Martin de Rada, O.S.A., “Parescer del prouincial fray martin de rada, agustino, sobre las cosas destas yslas,” dated Manila, 21 June 1574, in HPAF, vol. XIV, p. 192.
See Sande, “Carta a Felipe II,” in HPAF, vol. XIV, p. 435.
Loarca, “Relación de las yslas philipinas,” p. 130.
Angel Martinez Cuesta, History of Negros (Manila: The Historical Conservation Society, 1980), pp. 12, 38.
The missions of Ilog and Binalbagan were begun in 1576 by the Augustinians Fray Géronimo Marin, O.S.A. and Fray Francisco de Manrique, O.S.A., both missionaries at Ogtong (Oton), Panay. See Manrique’s letter to Fray Alonso de la Veracruz, O.S.A., dated 3 June 1576, as quoted in Fray Gregorio de Santiago Vela, O.S.A., “Fragmentos de correpondencia,” in Archivo Histórico Hispano-Agustiniano, vol. XVIII (1922), p. 138-139.
See “Relación de los conventos y pueblos fundados por los PP. Agustinos,” p. 483. Cf. Fray Gregorio de Santiago Vela, O.S.A., “Fragmentos de Correspondencia,” in Archivo Histórico Hispano-Agustiniano, vol. XVIII (1922).
See Fray Gaspar Cano, O.S.A., Catalogo de los Religiosos de N.P. S. Agustin de la Provincia del Smo. Nombre de Jesus de Filipinas desde su establecimiento en estas islas hasta nuestros diás, con algunos datos biográficos de los mismos (Manila: Imp. de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1864).
Fray Domingo de Salazar, O.P., “Carta de peticion del Obispo de Manila al Presidente del Consejo de Indias, dando cuenta del estado y necesidades religiosas de las Islas Filipinas,” as cited in Colin-Pastells, vol. II, p. 680. An English translation appears under the title “Relation of Philippinas,” in Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, vol. VII, pp. 46-47, 50.
See Wenceslao Emilio Retana y Gamboa, Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino; Recopilación de documentos históricos, cientificos, y estudios bibliográficos (5 vols.; Madrid: Impr. de la viuda de M. Minuesa de los Rios, 1895-1905), vol. IV, pp. 96, 105.
Elorde Perez, Catalogo bio-bibliográfico de los Religiosos Agustinos, p. 38.
Chirino, Relación, ch. Lxxi, 226-227. See also Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 67.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 62 (note 38), citing AGI, Phil. 29, gr. 6, no. 143.
Ibid., pp. 52-53.
Felipe Redondo (and?) Felipe Sendio, Breve reseña de lo quo fue y de lo que er la diocesis de Cebu en las Islas Filipinas (Manila, 1886), p. 108, cited by Cuesta, p. 60n.
The identification of Alum as the former name of Sibulan is indicated in Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 113.
See Cuesta, History of Negros, pp. 69, 70.
Cuesta (History of Negros, p. 121, note 28) refers to a manuscript by Padre Mariano Bernad, entitled Reseña Historica de Dumaguete, as the source for the date of the founding of Sibulan town. This manuscript, however, has not been published and to this date continues to be an archival material.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 94.
Redondo, Breve reseña de … la Diocesis de Cebu, pp. 131-132.
See Cuesta, History of Negros, pp. 45-46.
Father Francisco Ignacio Alcina, S.J., “Carta al P. Juan Marín,” dated 21 June 1660, in ARSI, Phil. 12, ff. 1-12, as quoted by Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 46. (See also Alcina’s Historia, 2nd part, II, ch. 2.
Fray Tomas de San Jeronimo, O.R.S.A., “Sobre la administración del Santo Viatico a los indigenas en sus cases,” ed. by Rafael Garcia, in BPSN, vol. 55 (Marcilla, 1965), pp. 237-277, as quoted by Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 46.
The specific provision in this Recopilación is found in Book I, title 3, Law 1, as cited by Cuesta, History of Negros, pp. 81, 98 (note 6).
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 81, 82.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 137.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 79.
Ibid., p. 80.
Ibid., p. 80.
Ibid., p. 80.
Ibid., p. 82.
Gaspar de Agustin, O.S.A. Conquistas de las islas Philipinas: la temporal, por las armas del senor Don Phelipe Segundo el prudente; y la spiritual, por los religiosos del orden de nuestro padre San Agustin [Madrid, 1688, 1720] (New ed.; Valladolid: L.N. de Gaviria, 1890), 355.
Ibid., p. 474.
As quoted by Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 110.
Malinsky, Carta al Rector de Brno, dated 21 April 1733, in E/I/a-18, fol. 215, in Archivo de la provincial tarraconense SI, San Cugat del Valles (Barcelona), as cited by Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 120, note 22.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 111.
Fray Jose Torrubia, O.F.M., Dissertación histórico-politicas, y en much parte geográfica, de las Islas Philipinas, extensión del Mahometismo en ellas, grandes estragos, que han hecho los Mindanaos, Joloes, Camucones, et confederados de esta secta en nuestros pueblos christianos, … etc. (Madrid, 1753, as translated in BRPI, vol. XLVI, p. 39.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 58, citing “Testimonio de los autos sequidos en Manila durante los años 1701-1702 a consecuencia de una exposición de los cinco provincials sobre los males de las Islas,” in Archivo General de Indias (Sevilla), Filipinas, 125.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 108.
Cf. Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 124.
See BRPI, XLVCI, 48, citing Montero y Vidal, Historica General de Filipinas, I, 438-452.
Fray Joaquin Martinez de Zuñiga, O.S.A., Historica de las Islas Filipinas, compuesto por el R.P. Rector Fr. Joaquin Martinez de Zuñiga, del Orden del San Agustin (Sampaloc: Fr. Pedro Arguelles de la Concepcion, 1803), pp. 526-528.
Fray Juan de la Concepcion, O.R.S.A., Historica General de Filipinas; conquistas espirituales y temporales de estos españoles dominios, establecimientos, progresos, y decadencias (14 tomos; Manila: Imprenta del Seminario Conciliar, y Real de San Carlos, por Agustin de la Rosa, y Balagtas; Sampaloc: Conv. de Nra. Sra. de Loreto, 1788-1792), vol. XIV, pp. 332-334.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 151-152, citing Msgr. Santos Ballesteros’ letter to King Ferdinand VII, of Spain, dated 25 August 1831, in Archivo Historico Nacional (Madrid), Ultramar, 3167.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 123.
Cf. Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 124, 125.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 125, citing “Carta del Gobernador de Filipinas al Rey, remitiendole su resumen de los daños causados por los Moros,” dated 14 July 1761, in Archivo de Indias (AGI), Filipinas, 303.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 125.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 125, citing “Carta del Obispo de Cebu al Rey,” dated 5 July 1761, in Archivo de Indias, Filipinas, 920.
Fray Manuel Buzeta, O.S.A. and Fray Felipe Bravo, O.S.A., Diccionario geografico, estadistico, historico de las Islas Filipinas, dedicado a S.M. el Rey, por los M.M.R.R.P.P. Misioneros Agustinos Calzados (2 vols.; Madrid: Imp. de Don Jose C. de la Peña, 1850-1851).
Ibid., vol. II, p. 358.
Ibid., vol. II, p. 27.
Ibid., vol. II, p. 358.
Cuesta, History of Negros, pp. 129-130.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 366.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 377.
Cuesta, History of Negros, pp. 383-384.
Cuesta, History of Negros, p. 384-385.
T. Valentino Sitoy Jr. is a theologian and historian, with a great interest in church history in the Philippines. He studied at Silliman University and the University of the Philippines-Diliman, and also attended The University of Edinburgh and the Andover Newton Theological School. He was visiting professor/scholar to Overseas Ministries Study Center in Ventnor, N.J.; International Christian University in Tokyo; Parkin-Wesley Theological College in Adelaide; and the Union Theological Seminary in New York, as well as Calvin College and Theological Seminary in Seoul and Trinity Theological College in Singapore. He was Area Dean for the Philippines of the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology. He was Dean and OIC Vice President for Academic Affairs for Silliman University, and also former Graduate School Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs of Negros Oriental State University. Currently he is Adjunct Professor at Silliman University. His books include British Evangelical Missions to Spain in the Ninetheenth Century , Silliman University 1901-1976 [with Crispin Maslog and Edilberto Tiempo, 1977], A History of Christianity in the Philippines: The Initial Encounter , Comity and Unity: Ardent Aspirations of Six Decades of Protestantism in the Philippines (1901-1961) , and Several Springs, One Stream: The United Church of Christ in the Philippines . He was Metrobank Foundation Inc. Outstanding Teacher of the Philippines (College Division) Awardee in 2002
Al día síguiente, Sábado, al amanecer fondeamos en Dumaguete, cabecera de Negros Oriental.
El vapor atraca bastante cerca por la gran profundidad. Dumaguete se despliega en la playa donde se ven casas grandes, algunas con techo de zinc. Sobresalen la casa de una señora cuyo nombre he olvidado, la que ocupa el gobierno y otra empezada, con sendos harigues de ípil.
Yo bajé con mi familia y el G.P.M. Yo las dije que recorrieran la población para ver lo más importante, mientras que el G. P. M. y yo íbamos a saludar al Sr. Gobr. Regal, a quien yo había conocido en Dapitan de paso para su gobierno.
De allí fuimos a ver al Cpn. de la Ga. Civil, Sr. Herrero, que padecía de una oftalmía que resultó ser conjuntivitis granulosa. En su casa he conocido al médico titular, Sr. P., del que supe muchos casos y cosas relativas a etiquetas provinciales. Quedamos en que mientras yo iba a visitar a mi amigo y antiguo condiscípulo, Sr. Herrero Regidor, Juez de la provincia, se haría la operación para la tarde. Fuí en efecto a visitar a este Sr. quien me recibió cariñosísimamente, invitándome a pasar con él el día, con mi familia. Ví a Periquet, conocí a su familia y visité la casa de Da. Rufina, casa hermosa, donde ví por primera vez después de más de 4 años tocar el piano ‘y en verdad muy bien. Noto que los de Dumaguete tienen gusto. en adornar sus casas con plantas y flores. A la tarde operé al Cpn. de la G. C. y nos embarcamos. Vimos una multitud de quintos a que iban a !ligan. ¡Iban atados por los codos y detrás venía la música! Conocí al Inspector de montes que resultó ser un antiguo condiscípulo mío.
Salimos a la noche, a eso de las 10, y al día siguiente por la mañana entramos en Cebú.
The following day, Saturday, at dawn we anchored in Dumaguete, capital town of Negros Oriental.
The steamer was able to dock quite close due to the great depth. Dumaguete spreads out on the beach where you can see large houses, some with galvanized iron roofing. The house of a lady, whose name I have forgotten, stands outs; it is now occupied by the government. Another one just begun, with many ipil posts.
I went ashore with my family and the C.P.M. [Politico-Military Commander]. I told my family to see the town while the C.P.M. and I paid our respects to Governor Regal whom I met at Dapitan on the way to his destination.
From there we went to see the Captain of the Civil Guard, Mr. Herrero [Regidor], judge of the province, who was suffering from ophtalmia which turned out to be conjunctivitis granulosa.* I met Mr. P., the permanent physician at his house, from whom I learned about many cases and things concerning provincial etiquette. It turned out that while I was going to visit my friend and former classmate Mr. Herrero Regidor, the provincial judge, the operation was set for that afternoon. In fact, I went to visit this gentleman who received me very affectionately, inviting me and my family to spend the day with him. I saw Periquet and his family and I also spent the day with the family of [Don Mariano Pinili]. I also went to the house of Mrs. Rufina Ybanez. It was a beautiful house, where after four years, I heard the piano expertly played. I observed that the people of Dumaguete are fond of decorating their houses with plants and flowers. In the afternoon I operated on the Captain of the Civil Guard and then we embarked.
We saw a crowd of fifths who were going to Iligan. They were tied at the elbows and behind came the music! I met the Forest Inspector who turned out to be an old classmate of mine.
We left at night, around 10, and the next day, in the morning, we entered Cebu.
Jose Rizal is hailed as the National Hero of the Philippines. His novels include Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which were instrumental in setting the flame of revolution against the Spanish colonial government. He was killed by a firing squad on 30 December 1896.
Bombay Bazar, they spelled it. Without the second “a” that turned the word into a Thousand-and–One-Nights exotic. But an old store nevertheless. My brother called it Bombay Bizarre the sort of joint where you get the feeling you’ll never get out alive, snickered our friend Chee-bee. Where they played what Chee-bee’s brother Tito called “that curvaceous music”; blaring out into the hot noonday asphalt smell of Alfonso XIII Street, its plangent diatonic swoops sinuous as the S-curves of the carved deities on Khajuraho, the music sounded harsh.
It was rumored they sold “pawned goods’ at the Bombay Bazar. Chee-bee’s brother had once hocked their sister’s hair dryer there, to plug a craving for speed and marijuana, but we never found out if they got it back or not. The proprietor of the Bombay Bazar interjected a spurious “eh wot?’ into his conversations and sounded like a dubious proposition on all counts. It was the “Bombay,” meant to sound exotic, that placed a kind of generic stamp on the place and doomed it, I thought; no one would ever wander in there looking for bargains.
Filipinos pronounce it “boom-bye.” That’s how Filipinos designate all South Indians, whether they’re actually from Bombay or really from Delhi or Calcutta or Poona or Kashmir. A resonance redolent of the bulging sacks of traders’ goods, hefted by hairy forearms; mixed in with muddled racist images of “curly shoes” and ankle-length bloomers, and the turbans one later learned to associate more correctly with the Sikhs; boom-bye: red onions, dark streets, and drums.
The Bombay Bazaar was the newest in the trio of Indians stores that triangulated Locsin Street, a tacitly competitive corner of local merchandising, teeth gleaming hostilely at one another like concealed daggers from across the street. One assumed their respective owners to be scarcely cordial with one another—but who knows: that aspect of their relationship remains enigmatic. At least they were not in sinister consortium the way the Chinese monopoly worked, with their secretive Chinese Chamber of Commerce weekly meetings, carving up the local economy, from town to town, according to the expansionist fiefdoms of Hunan and Formosa imperialistically transplanted.
There was a sort of mercantile hierarchy among the three Bombay stores. The Bombay Bazar, although the most recent, already reeked of decrepitude. It was an old time bazaar in the most authentic sense, and probably might have been transported, whole, from one of souks along “the street called Straight, in Damascus,” judging from the haphazard variety of somewhat cheap merchandise piled into its one small showroom.
The owners apparently never figured out their demographic targets or their marketing focus—what it was that customers were supposed to go to their store to buy—since they sold a hodgepodge of goods: aluminum kettles dangled weirdly, strung on hemp ropes from the low ceiling; tinny gilt photograph frames shared counter space with plastic barrettes; and one might even spy the dirty-white fringe from a bit of rolled-up carpeting among the bales of thin garish clothing goods. It was all rather unattractively placed, but in actuality, the store arrangements were probably more authentically “Bombay” than the other two stores, when one came down to it, if it were atmosphere one was looking for. I’d would have only been in there once or twice and wandered out again, vaguely relieved, as Chee-bee would have said, to have merely come out again alive, to have escaped the silent speculative glance of the store owner and returned to the hot open-sewer stink of Santa Catalina Street, pursued only by the shrieking sitars.
The owner of the “new” Ramanujam’s Shop-O-Rams, farther uptown, inherited the shop from his father. I have vague recollection of the “old” Ramanujam’s store, fronting the wet market, with old Ramaujam himself rotundly presiding over the cash register, and the startling glare of Coleman lamps sizzling alongside the 200-watt fluorescent bulbs: an efflorescence of illumination, as though to discourage would-be shoplifters, in the-not-unlikely event that the town’s unreliable electric power “browned out” unexpectedly. I think the old store burned down. Perhaps one of the redundant Colemans exploded one night.
“New” Shop-O-Rama was always New, even twenty years later, when it had turned itself into “the shopping capital” of Negros Oriental. Thin salesgirls guarded the glass cabinets containing Charlie cologne and the shelves stacked high with Levi’s dungarees. Watched coldly by the owner’s rather dour wife, the clerks rustled adeptly around the store, gift-wrapping packages and creating pouf bows with skillful twist of the wrist.
The natty owner, “young” Satish, a judicious sprinkling of gray at his temples, rested his neat plump elbow on the glass counters, benignly offering discounts—as much as twenty percent off the net—for favored customers, his twinkling eyes, underneath their outrageously curly eyelashes, resting perhaps a shade too long on the shapely backsides of the coeds as they emerged from his store, their buttocks smartly outlined by the studs on the Levi’s bought from his store.
It seemed to me that Satish had been Ramanujam’s Shop-O-Rama all of its life, even as the store stayed forever “new.” There was a childishness about him that probably derived from the store’s avowal of its unchanging regeneration. But for the name of the store one would have forgotten there had once been an Old Ramanujam. But for that—and for the small alcove set into the wall beside the curtained changing-room on the ground floor—one’s eye might almost miss seeing the small brass jar of joss sticks, and sitting beside it on the alcove shelf, the black-and-white photograph of old Ramanujam himself, now thin-cheeked, his eyes already sinking back into the shadows that no cheerful glare of Coleman lamps could hold away.
Hand-lettered underneath the photograph, the reverential but matter-of-fact care with which the words were formed was almost like a cry of grief: “Father expired on 31 December 1967.” Expired, like a battery, or a license to sell merchandise, on the last day of the year.
Yet it’s not quiet right to say Satish never changed, though the turn-over on his merchandise was a veritable model of successful retailing-as-perpetual motion. He was inordinately proud of his store’s participation in the university social life, such as it was: he’d cultivated a town-and-gown relationship, literal and exemplary—as haberdasher to the studentry. More specifically, he gloried in his role as the beaming supplier of jeans that the flashier nursing students strutted and swiveled in during the Founder’s Day “Miss Silliman University” beauty contest and fashion show.
He recounted to me one day his excitement at the visit paid by a movie star who’d dropped into town for a couple of hours’ filming by the famous Dumaguete seaside. She was a pretty, pouty girl with dewy eyes, on the second or third tier in the current Philippine hierarchy, and Satish’s cheeks gleamed moistly as he told about how she’d dropped by and tried on a couple of pairs of jeans right there in the store. (Behind the picture of Expired Father, I thought somewhat cynically.)
He leaned forward over the glass counter, propelled by the naïve pleasure of the moment, and asked: “Your husband, he makes movies right? I have a good idea. I been thinking about it some time. Maybe he makes a movie, you know, just a simple movie. I get sponsors from, maybe, the Mount Kaladias Lions Club, you know? I provide the costumes, like, you know, a real movie. Simple story. About young life. About the campus.”
I was too startled—and unaccountably touched—to think of a reply, and took refuge in mere dissembling; hoping I did not sound increasingly bright or patronizing, I said a shade too fervently, “Oh, that would be nice. I’ll tell him about it right away.” At that point the some total of my husband’s movie making was a couple of documentaries for the University, and several short films he’d successfully placed in the national short-film festival. He was deep into his Herzog hero-worship phase—having just emerged blinking into Aguirre’s Amazon sunlight from the Nordic darkness of a short-lasting Bergman influence—so he gave a scoffing, brief chuckle when I repeated Satish’s moist suggestion, and the whole thing was forgotten.
Satish did not mentioned the movies again during the next couple of years, even on those occasions when I’d buy the Chaps cologne and the tall Levi’s that were obviously meant for my husband. Perhaps it was the long-term residence in the town of another movie outfit that resurrected Satish’s “simple idea.” This time my husband was a unit manager of the film, and we and some of our friends and neighbors actually appeared briefly in it. After our very short moment in the sun as Christopher de Leon’s family (trailing along after him down various forest path and dry riverbeds, dressed in authentic pre-Hispanic garb), we attained to an uncomfortable fifteen seconds of local celebrity. Satish approached me again, over the counter, while his wife rang up my purchases behind him, a serious little pucker furrowing the friendly brow.
“I’m thinking about that movie,” he said, while my heart quailed cravenly at the prospect of fielding yet another movie proposition for my indifferent spouse. Now I’d have to accept Satish’s over-generous thirty percent net discount while pretending I’d forgotten all about that earlier business three years ago. “I think,” he said earnestly, his consciousness having apparently evolved, in the intervening years, into a weltanschauung far beyond the simple pleasures of garbing coeds in Levi’s for a movie about young life, “I think we make a movie about, you know, serious. World hunger. About Eenjah.”
Each year, three times a year, my Dad gives my mother a bottle of perfume: at Christmas, on her birthday in April, and the following month for their wedding anniversary.
He goes to the store of a particular Indian merchant for these gifts—usually on the day before the event, an hour before closing time.
Unlike the Bombay Bazaar with its mournful violence of plangent sitars, and the upbeat rock music that Shop-O-Rama’s favored to set the mood for the buying of jeans, Ranjit’s Department Store considered it déclassé to play music. Ranjit’s was the Macy’s of Dumaguete City. Stodgy and reliable, it was there that one went to buy wedding presents for people, a store one’s parents turned to for anniversary gift. In our town we had no department-store bridal registries (among my wedding gifts were three identical cake-server sets), but whenever a big wedding was coming up, someone at Ranjit’s could be counted on to whisper discreetly into one’s ears if a particular item had already been purchased, thus steering the giver away from redundancies.
The owner, a soft-voiced genial man who was in Rotary with Dad, had numerous daughters, and his fortunes—and the prices in his store—fluctuated according to the stages of negotiation leading to the ever-proliferating family nuptials. Dowries were the store’s raison d’etre. They had two sons, on whom his wife was pinning their fiscal deliverance, though Jayanta Misra was too seemly, or maybe already just too Filipinized, to make much of their marketable potential.
Their younger son, Harresh, had a thin face and wary measuring eyes—not tragic mellifluent liquidity floating over an excess of whiteness that were the eyes of his favored older brother, after whom the store was named.
Ranjit, more outgoing and seemingly less bright, was easy to be around with, but had a tendency to burble that made me vaguely uneasy. I had Harresh (he signed himself “Harry” then) in one of my Introduction to Literature classes when he was a sophomore or junior in college, and I was fresh out of school myself. His work had brilliant brevity, and his papers were submitted in tiny, scrupulous handwriting, with exclamation point judiciously placed.
I thought it was his being younger son that had probably given him the twist at the corner of his mouth, a mark of incipient bitterness that deepened upward into mirth when once or twice I’d tried a joke that sailed over the heads of the rest of the class. He had narrow fastidious nostrils that quivered in the sardonic stillness of his face, appreciating the knowledge that there were nuances he alone could catch, not bothering to nudge his seatmate on the elbow, or even to chuckle: just the twist of his mouth and the faint wing to the nostril.
There was something of the same reserve in his father’s eyes, a sharp absence that was like a judgment withheld, underneath the smooth mercantile jocundity. Sometimes I imagined it was almost the loneliness of an intellect gone undeveloped, that should have gone into theology and not retailing. Perhaps that was why he liked Dad so much—they could trade jokes, no matter how superficially, and that beyond the ritualized exchange of buying and selling, there was the novelist-professor on one side of the counter and, on the other, the heir to the Rig-Vedas and the Bhagavad-Gita. It was always tacit, a coinage never exchanged—an appreciation for the other—held in mutual reserve, as it were: a fiduciary note of intellectual respect.
Or perhaps I was just imaging it all. He was certainly the quintessence of the smarmy trader (his manner had an excessiveness that seemed almost ironic) whenever he’d spot Dad and me standing at the entrance to his shop three-quarters of an hour before closing time on Christmas Eve. In our town, the storefront entrances run the whole length of the shop, stopping at the pair of plate-glass displays that flank each establishment. These entrances open directly onto the street or sidewalk, and are laboriously closed each night with stout wooden panels and a metal grille that is pulled across the paneling and latched. Except in shopping malls, stores in the America do not exude this kind of daytime, wide-open informality, and recalling them now—and their dichotomous shuttling between trust and mistrust—is like stepping back into the third world again, with all its knife-edged vividness.
Jayanta strides amiably towards us from the back of the store, beaming with warmth that is meant to convey more than a merely professional pleasure. He has an unfortunate tendency to rub his hands together as he approaches favored customers, and observing this mannerism, time and again, gives my mother and me a kind of cynical enjoyment.
Hair crisply anointed with Brylcreme and his Countess Mara polo shirt reeking of Aramis, he stops smartly before us, rocking a little on the balls of his feet, his hand clasped together and the smile fixed relentlessly in place. “Ed, Ed, good to see you. And something for Edith today?” he says. His ebullience never varies, despite the prices of merchandise that go up wildly after each calamitous dowry-giving.
After all these years he knows that it’s perfume that we’re after, but is too mannerly to make that assumption in front of us. Or maybe it’s simply that he and Dad relish every station in his ritual, so he waits until Dad has explained our errand before turning to the business of selecting the merchandise.
“Maria,” he says, turning to one of the dozen or so slowly aging counter clerks, all but snapping his finger at her to have her unlock the glass case where the perfume is kept.
For some reason all the clerks seem to be named Maria. Or maybe he just calls them all Maria. They all speak excellent English, and in their dealing customers or the owners, they emanate the soft-spoken familiarity of household help who have been with the family for many years.
Examining the selection in the glass cases is usually just a formality, because the choice selections are all kept in the back room. When he’s had time to size up the occasion and the seriousness of Dad’s spending, Jayanta gives order to the Maria currently in attendance to bring out some of the stock from the back room.
There are no sample bottles of scent in third-world merchandising. The gilt or pastel boxes containing Anaïs Anaïs and Nina Ricci, of Ysatis and Madame Rochas and Givenchy III, are painstakingly opened, and a cautious nostril is reverently applied to the atomizer head. “It is the spray you want, not the plain?” Jayanta ask. “Of course, it’s to be the spray; these women, Ed, these women.”
When we have made the selection between us—Dad opting for the deeper woodsier scent, and I holding out for the flowery-citrus—we enter the delicate phase of transacting the price. Polite skirmishing ensues between Dad and Jayanta (the attendant privileges and obligations of their Rotarianship hovering in the background of their negotiation like the gaudy muses of merchandise retailing).
Sometimes the transaction is interrupted by another of the Marias, who approaches Jayanta tentatively, bearing a message from his wife who is working the cash register. Mrs. M., too, waves a heavily ringed hand in greeting whenever we enter the store, but prefers to keep her position of power behind the register. I have sometimes uncharitably suspected the message to contain a certain cautionary element that goes into effect when she senses, from afar, that Jayanta is about to cave in and give up a soft sale to us. At any rate, the Maria might say, “Mister, Mrs. says that the key to the stockroom, we cannot find.”
And Jayanta, interrupted at this delicate stage of the negotiations, throws up his hand in exasperation and says, “Oh, heavenly day!” and moves fussily toward his wife where they hold a brief consultation in Hindi.
Dad politely averts his eyes and pretend to examine the merchandise in the glass counter in front of us, but I’m less inhibited by the imperative for good manners and pass this brief interregnum wondering how Mrs. M keeps the sari from unwrapping and speculating on whether she ever gets gas pains from not covering up her tummy, and watching the pocket of exposed, hanging-over midriff heaving emphatically once or twice as she expostulates with her husband.
He returns grinning grimly and he and Dad move into Phase Two of the haggling. Both of them are trying not to think of those daughters. Or rather, Jayanta is thinking, Now Ed’s thinking about how many daughters I still have to marry off, and he is determined that Dad should not feel sorry for him.
“Now, Ed, Ed, this is for a special occasion, right? This is for Edith, right? And for the wife, why, one must give only the best.” And Dad makes some joshing remark about Jayanta’s obvious prosperity, and the town’s reliance on his store, stocked as it is with his discriminating good taste, and they move with mutual accord into the third phase, settling the price.
For his part, Dad, having transacted a price satisfactory to them both (and in order, too, to give some grace to the awkwardness implicit in all this), finally brings out the same jolly assurance he always gives Jayanta at the end of the haggling session: “I have a marriageable son, a good-looking boy; he can pass for an Indian, you know.”
Jayanta bares his teeth in a pained smile and sedately completes the charade: ”Well, well. Let’s talk about it sometime, shall we, Ed.”
I was witness to many of these transactions and at first they mortified me, until (out of a sense self-preservation, perhaps) I began to recognize a certain underlying esthetic.
I’d only seen Jayanta slip out from his well-Brylcremed punctilio once, and that was when Dad had made some casual remark referring to his being Indian, not Filipino. A glaze of hurt came over the bright, measuring eyes; and he said plaintively, “I am a Filipino, Ed. My father died, like yours, fighting the Japanese during the war, here.”
Years later, after our family had moved to the States, we learned that his son Ranjit—the young eminently marriageable doctor who never wed, and for whom the store was named—had died and died a hero. He went with a critically ill patient who was being airlifted to the next island, flying the child over to the Cebu General Hospital in a light aircraft owned by the son of one of the sugar plantation owners. They ran into a storm on the way back, crossing the Tañon Strait that separates Negros from Cebu. It is said that on a clear day, standing at dawn on the beaches of Dumaguete, facing Cebu, one can hear the cocks crowing across the strip of sea, in Santander. The wreckage of the plane was found but the bodies were never recovered. Jayanta, who used to sit in a back pew at the Silliman Church on Sunday mornings, the light from the windows picking up the silver streaks in his shiny hair, was a broken man, and within a year store was closed. At some time over the years, unobtrusively and not wanting to make a big deal out of it—still ruled by habitual courtesy, as it were—he’d turned Christian, it seemed, as his son Ranjit had, earlier; and perhaps, who knows, that finicking silence behind the merchant’s spiel did not, in the end, play him false—and he found the store was no longer enough to fulfill that unspoken esthetic, recovered from the wreckage.
Maybe it was that same ancient ontology (made durable and comfortable by the ritual of buy-and-sell), a sense of otherness persisting beyond the souks and the Khajuraho music transplanted to the far shore, that caused Satish to lean over the counter, to make his shy and clumsy offer of subsidizing a movie, as he thought, that might appeal to this customer’s discriminating taste—and to fill some hunger of his own: “About Eenjah,” he said, “something about Eenjah.”
Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas was born in Dumaguete City in 1951, the daughter of writers Edilberto Tiempo and Edith Tiempo. She received a BA in 1971, and an MA 1978, both in creative writing, from Silliman University, and went on to earn her Ph.D. in English Literature, also from Silliman. She worked for the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa as associate program coordinator, and for the university's English department as adjunct faculty. member. She has won several Palanca Awards for her fiction and poetry, and was the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from the Writers Union of the Philippines, as well as the National Book Award. Her books include Upon the Willows and Other Stories , The World Comes to Iowa: Iowa International Anthology [1987, co-edited with Paul Engle and Hualing Nieh Engle], Mountain Sacraments , Flying Over Kansas: Personal Views , and The Sea Gypsies Stay . She was former director-in-residence of the Silliman University National Writer's Workshop.
Five days of the week Mr. Mc Lure was a familiar figure trudging along the Rizal Boulevard that fronted the shoreline for more than a kilometer to the post office. There were no boats from Manila or Cebu Sunday and Wednesday; the only first-class mail he expected was the one containing his monthly pension as a Spanish-American War veteran. What he got regularly from his P.O. box was his subscription copy of the Manila Daily Bulletin and the Philippines Free Press, periodicals edited by Americans. The hook-handled camagon cane in his right hand was a third leg, its nickel-covered point tapping the asphalt like a heartbeat. Most striking about Mr. McLure was the oleander flower in his left hand.
The oleander came from one of three clumps he had planted more than a third of a century ago around his house. Only one trunk remained and this could be seen from his bed, tall and sturdy, so close to his window he could reach out for a cluster from one of the branches. On warm afternoons taking his siesta or on bright moon-lit nights lying wide awake or waking up from a dream he would see the poplar-like trunk, almost the size of his leg, silhouetted against the sky…
Half a world away in a trim little garden in front of a modest brick house was an oleander clump his mother had planted. She had a knack for growing things, creepers and unpotted African violets burgeoning profusely among daisies and under the lilac bush. The oleander she called the giraffe because she could pluck its flowers from her window. She died two years before the end of the first world war.
After so many steps, two hundred or so, the old man would lift his hand; it trembled a little and he would stare at the oleander with idiotic concentration, as though he were recounting the stamens or tracing the purple curve, and then he would bring the oleander under his nose—a thin, pointed nose it was—inhale deeply and drop the hand back to his side.
The last hundred fifty meters to the post office along the Rizal Boulevard bordered part of the eastern section of the university campus. Within this distance McLure had to cross two streets to the P.O., the first one, really an extension of the boulevard, swerving off right to the wharf, and the other bisecting it on the P.O.’s north side. This portion of the boulevard where the crossing streets converged behind the triangular island about thirty meters from the P.O. was visible from the office of the American president of the university, an institution founded by the U.S. Presbyterian Church in 1901, three years after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War. McLure was crossing the first junction when President Larsen saw him staring at the oleander. The man was oblivious to the traffic moving to and from the wharf.
A couple of minutes later there was a screeching of brakes. President Larsen stood up and walked to the window. A cargo truck coming from the wharf had jerked to a stop half a meter from McLure, who was in the middle of the street. The driver stuck out his head from the cab and shouted, “Do you want to get killed?”
The old man dropped his hand with the oleander to his side, turned to the driver, not seeming to understand him, and proceeded to the post office.
Before going home that noon President Larsen stopped at the office of Dr. Holtz, the minister of the university church. He told Holtz about McLure and the near-accident close to the post office. “I had the odd feeling the man wanted an accident to happen.”
Dr. Holtz was quiet. He was one of the old-timers among the fifteen American families in the university. He had written the lyrics of the school song whose music he had adapted from the “Old Nassau” of Princeton, where he had his theological training. When the college population was less than a thousand he knew every student by his first name. Outside of the American families on the campus he cultivated the friendship of three other Americans in town—one of them John McLure—who had arrived in Dumaguete within seven years of each other. The second was Theodore Fletcher, who owned two houses, one in Dumaguete and the other in Pamplona, forty kilometers to the north, where he owned the largest coconut plantation in the province. The third American was Charles Boynton, an engineer who had come as a tourist and a guest of a college classmate teaching in the university; he met and the daughter of a sugar cane farmer, established a construction firm, and co-founded the first Rotary Club in the province.
John McLure had brought some embarrassment to the small American community.
“I’ve known John McLure for twenty-six years. That’s how long I’ve been here. After his wife died about fifteen years ago, he started drinking heavily. About that time, too, he closed his bicycle store. He had good American bicycles, but he lost out to a competitor, a half-Chinese, who imported much cheaper bicycles from Japan. By the way, it was his wife’s inheritance that started the bicycle store. His wife was the only daughter of a prosperous farmer from Ayungon, some seventy kilometers north of here.”
“Does McLure have children?”
“A daughter who eloped with a drug salesman when she was seventeen. I understand she died giving birth to a baby who lived only a few hours.”
“How does he keep himself?”
“He gets a pension, he’s a Spanish-American War veteran. When he closed his bicycle store, he rented the space to a rice and corn dealer. Half of the second floor which he remodeled into an office he leased to a couple of lawyers. He’s all right financially. His pension converted to pesos takes care of his needs. The rent money he spends on alcohol.”
“What’s wrong with him, aside from his drinking?”
“You’re referring to the flower in his hand?”
President Larsen nodded. “But especially about his sight and hearing. He didn’t mind the traffic.”
“Reading is the only thing he does—when he is sober. He goes to the post office mainly for his papers. I had a talk with him a few weeks ago and he had no hearing problem.” He paused. “I’ll see him today.”
McClure’S house was across the southwest corner of the town plaza. Burgos Street on its north side hit the Rizal Boulevard three blocks to the east; on the west side Alfonso XIII, the town’s main street, cut through the university campus a kilometer to the north. Commercial stores lined both sides of Alfonso XIII for three blocks to the south. From the northwest window one had a good view of the park; concrete walks had been laid out under the acacia and trees; a line of tennis courts and a children’s playground just across Burgos Street; the statue of the national hero facing the east, and some twenty meters from it a kiosk which served as a stage for speakers at political and civic gatherings; facing the kiosk across Alfonso XIII was the Catholic church. Through the foliage of the trees beyond the eastern edge of the park, the City Hall and one wing of the East Central School were visible.
From his rattan-ribbed lounging chair in the narrow verandah overlooking the park, McLure could see, without being seen from the intersecting streets, several blocks of the town’s busiest section. Forty-one years ago, when he arrived, the park and the areas contiguous to it were just a carabao pasture. With the growth of the university the town expanded in all directions. To his idly observing eyes the ancient watch tower across the street looming beyond the verandah sill just a meter from his feet never ceased to be an anachronism. Of cut coral rocks it was built near the close of the seventeenth century like a section of a medieval fortress; it had originally been intended as a lookout for Moro pirates. The coastline from Dumaguete to the southern tip of Negros opens itself to the Sulu Sea, which for centuries had been dominated by roving marauders; neither the Spaniards nor the Americans after them were able to subdue the fanatical Moslems. The tower top served as a belfry of the Catholic church; at the bottom was a grotto with the image of Santa Catalina—the church itself was named Cathedral of St. Catherine—the town’s patron saint, who, it was believed, used to release a large swarm of bees to attack the Moro pirates as their vintas approached the Dumaguete shoreline. McLure had indeed seen a beehive hanging from a top branch of the acacia tree a few meters from the tower. As the only white infidel (he was not unhappy about this designation), he believed the beehive had been hung there and replenished from time to time by the Spanish friars in their desire to keep the superstition of Santa Catalina’s special power intact.
Someone was knocking on the door. He waited. The knocking persisted, so he stood up and crossed the living room and opened the door. Standing there was Dr. Holtz.
“Oh, Paul. Come in. It’s been months—three months—since your last visit.”
After he had closed the bicycle store nobody had dropped by to see him, except for the times Dr. Holtz came in for a chat. He felt all the other Americans in town treated him with condescension, were embarrassed by the notoriety of his drinking. As far as he was concerned, they were busybodies. All of them, except Paul Holtz. A year after his assignment as pastor, Dr. Holtz had invited McClure to attend the church services at the university. “What for? I don’t go to church. Any church. I have nothing to do with hypocrites. With sanctimonious people moving around with superior airs. Are you offended with what I’ve said?”
“You must have reasons for feeling that way.”
“Of course I have. Most of your people think I’m the plague. I drink, yes. On my money, nobody else’s. My drinking is nobody else’s business.”
“This is all probably in your head.”
“It’s not probably—it’s all there, all right. Because your people put it there.”
That first meeting Dr. Holtz was remembering as he sat in a large low rattan chair that had long needed a new coat of varnish.
“I hear you had a near-accident this morning.”
“Who told you that?”
“Dr. Larsen, our new president. A vehicle screeching loudly got him out of his chair. His office is just across the street where it happened.”
“So the man Larsen already knows the walking habits of John McLure.”
“It’s not like that, John. Anybody would be concerned.”
Dr. Holtz himself had known McLure’s peculiar habit with the oleander. President Larsen’s comment on what appeared to be the man’s suicidal behavior did not surprise him. And he was concerned. The man’s preoccupation with the flower, repeated after so many hundred steps, was a quirk that could cost him his life.
“That oleander outside, John, is like a tree. I thought the oleander is a shrub.”
The man’s chuckle, a rare sound from him, was a deep rumble that made his prominent Adam’s apple bounce under the loose skin of his scrawny throat.
“Yes, the oleander is a shrub, but I made that one into a tree. A simple matter of letting only one stem grow out of a cluster of three or four. The oleander is an Old World evergreen shrub of the North American dogbane family. A medicinal shrub. My grandmother, an unusual woman, took with her three oleander cuttings from Exeter in Southwest England all the way to Kansas. The root end of each cutting she wrapped in Devonshire soil. Three cuttings just to be sure. You of course know—or maybe you don’t—that the California vineyards were started by Basques who got the grape cuttings from Spain. And perhaps you don’t know—” there was the chuckle-rumble again the sharp valve bouncing in his turkey throat, “—that the Christian Brothers are famous producers of some of the best wines in the world.”
McLure fell quiet, as though to let that point sink in, about the winery of the Christian Brothers. “You, Paul, would consider my grandmother the more desirable immigrant. Oleander in Kansas sprouting from Devonshire soil. No greater Old World loyalty than that. Anyway, when I came here, I saw the oleander’s indigenous.”
The man’s reference to his grandmother recalled to Dr. Holtz a conversation he had with McLure a few years after he had known him, about the time the bicycle store was running down. The small American community had delegated him to speak to McLure; they we’re contributing money for his return home.
“Even if I had a place to go home to, how far will my pension go there? At least here it doubles. This is our home, my wife and me. We can manage. Our needs aren’t much.”
And he had gone on, suddenly conciliatory. “My father died in Kansas three years after I came here, the year Taft was inaugurated Philippine civil governor. My younger brother took over the farm—I sold my share of the farm to him. My only other kin now is a widowed sister in O’Keene, Oklahoma. The only time I had thought of going home was to visit my ailing mother. I was preparing to leave when the cable came. She’d died the week before. So you see, Paul, there’s nothing for me there.”
“What made you join the American troops for the Philippines?”
“I can ask you the same question: what made you come when you could have worked among our own people back home?”
He waited for a reply but none came. “Have you ever been through Kansas?”
Holtz shook his head.
“It’s mostly flat, unlike other prairie states like Iowa or Nebraska or Illinois. Finch is the village where my family lived, some thirty miles northwest of Topeka. In Finch all you see from anywhere you stand from one season to another is a flat horizon. No bumps of any kind for the eyes’ relief. And during the wheat season—as you know, Kansas produces the most wheat in America—you’re engulfed by wheat. And for me, anyway, breathing in the summer seemed difficult. The hottest day in Dumaguete is nothing like Kansas summer. My brother was never bothered by the Kansas landscape. I suppose I was an oddball. I had to get out, it seemed to be a constricting prison.
“Another thing. I don’t know how much of a reason it was for my leaving Kansas. My father fought in the Civil War. Bull Run Antietam, Shiloh—those places. You of course know the Kansas- Nebraska Act.”
Dr. Holtz looked at him with a new eye. “I forget the details.”
“That Act was passed by Congress in 1854, and it upset the balance of power between the slave and free states and helped to bring on the Civil War. Anti-slavery forces finally gained control. My father was among the first to volunteer. Not an educated man, but his sentiments were right. When he returned from the war, he farmed our land. Proved to be a good provider. He had stories for us about the war. And he was grateful for coming home alive. Hundreds of Kansas farmers never made it back. I suppose because he himself didn’t finish grade school he sent my brother Bill and me to a school in Topeka. I finished high school and Bill came home with me; he didn’t want to go back to Topeka by himself. When the Spanish-American War broke out I enlisted. My father didn’t say anything for or against my joining. But I knew how he felt; he didn’t want me to go through the same thing he had. I never told him about the Kansas horizon that could close you in—he thought I was enlisting for the same reason he had joined the Union troops. I knew how he felt when I didn’t go home after the end of the Spanish-American War.
“One other thing, Paul, and I’m done. I was very fortunate to be assigned to a peaceful province like Negros Oriental. Our U.S. military record in many other places in this country is something no American can be proud of. In places like Samar there was a lot of butchery. Not only of noncombatants, but also of animals. Horses and cows and carabaos and pigs—whatever moving thing the soldiers saw. The Spaniards had a term for it. Juez de cochillo. But we did that sort of thing to the Indians, too, didn’t we?”
Both were quiet. “I feel very much at home here, the way your people in the university feel at home. But I wish your people would leave me alone. My drinking is my business.”
He stood up. “I’ll make us some coffee.”
Dr. Holtz also stood up. “No, thanks, John. Two years ago my doctor said no more coffee for me. I must get going.”
“Thank you for coming. It’s good talking to you.”
“I wish you’d come to see me, too.”
“I know you mean that. Thank you. And you know you’re welcome here any time.” At the landing he said, “There was something I was going to tell you. I’ve left a letter for you with my lawyer.”
“What are you talking about?”
“There are two lawyers renting half of the second floor of this house. The older one, Atty. Orteza, is my lawyer. The rentals I get from the lawyers’ office and the store below aren’t much, but the money can probably take care of one or even two students.”
“This is no time yet to talk this way, John.”
“Anything can happen to John Mc Lure in his condition. When the time comes, you’ll know how to use this house. The fee, my friend, for a decent burial.”
In Dr. Holtz’s office, five months later, the telephone rang.
“Dr. Holtz? … This is Atty. Orteza. Twenty-five minutes ago Mr. Mc Lure was hit by a car. He was crossing the street to the house…”
Edilberto Kaindong Tiempo was born in Maasin, Southern Leyte in 1913. He obtained his BA in English at Silliman Institute [now Silliman University] in 1937. He enrolled for graduate studies in 1939 at University of the Philippines but did not finish. In 1940, after marrying Edith Lopez, he returned to Dumaguete to teach at Silliman. He would later be accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he would obtain his MA in 1951. In 1957, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Denver. Upon returning to the Philippines in 1962, the couple established what is now the Silliman University National Writers Workshop. At Silliman, he served various positions, including chair of the English Department, graduate school dean, vice-president for academic affairs, and writer-in-residence. His novel, Cry Slaughter, published in 1957, was a revised version of his Watch in the Night, which he culled from his wartime experience in Negros Oriental. Cry Slaughter had four printings by Avon in New York, a hardbound edition in London, and six European translations. His other books include the novels To Be Free , More Than Conquerors , Cracked Mirror , The Standard Bearer , and Farah , the short story collections A Stream at Dalton Pass and Other Stories , Finality: A Novelette and Five Short Stories , Rainbow for Rima , Snake Twin and Other Stories , and The Paraplegics and Five Short Stories . He also authored Literary Criticism in the Philippines and Other Essays . He won the Cultural Center of the Philippines Prize, the Palanca, the U.P. Golden Anniversary Literary Contest, and the National Book Award. He died in 1996.
Under a mercury lamp In front of Father Tropa’s white house, By the sea off Dumaguete, Gather a crowd of bystanders Around bible-clutching ministers, Local sages, native philosophers, And self-styled prophets of doom Engaged in a free-for-all match Of rhetorics, semantics, Home-brewed knowledge, and folk beliefs About the myths and mysteries Ever shrouding the life of Christ.
From a distance, On top of the concrete seawall, Over heads and shoulders of the crowd, I watch with amused delight The endless bursts of wisdom, Strange revelations, Esoteric facts and fiction That send strong surge of friction Electrifying the soggy summer night.
Suddenly the lamp expires. The rabble-rousers do not mind. The demagoguery goes on unperturbed. Behind me I hear the sea waves laugh As they lap the craggy rocks. Swish. Swoosh. Swash. Even the quarter moon strikes a sheepish smile As a balut vendor cries his eggs out And a tricycle sputters fast – Its passengers shouting Obscenities at the crowd.
Cesar Aljama is an architect. He has won the Palanca Award for his poetry. He lives in Bae, Laguna, which is beside Los Baños. He was a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.
Halfway on that long sea journey you remember the mountain swinging into view, blue slope shaping the island; the palm-lined shoreline drawing you closer into the harbor of that quiet sea town sheltered in the mountain’s shadow.
On the promenade by the w1ater they stroll late afternoons and early evenings, those students, teachers off from school, clerks from City Hall; an old man walking his idiot grandson; the wealthy Chinese dowager hobbling on stunted, bound feet stockinged in any weather, her retinue of servant girls toting fair-skinned fat-faced babies; earnest children, sad old ladies hawking sweepstake tickets, salted peanuts, bibingka, warm Coca-Cola. In groups or alone, they come for the breeze from the water, to watch shadows settle on nearby islands, Cebu, Panglao, Siquijor and, some days, the coast of Mindanao hovering on the horizon’s haze. At dusk they slowly head for home, the Angelus ringing Hail Mary, full of grace.
Night, and the fishermen go to sea regretting the moon that pales the glimmer of their lanterns on the water luring fish into nets, onto baited hooks dangled in dark depths.
Spread out, the bancas rock and sway on the tide, stringing their lights across the bay; the melancholy flames flash like sea snakes on the swish and rush of the moon-drawn flood racing, plunging. Magic and terror battering the constant shore.
In town at no fixed hour the people mark the coming and going of boats in the harbor by their whistles and horns: three blares for arrival, two for departure– Manila, Mindanao, Cebu; and sometimes at night a massive freighter from Liverpool or Amsterdam dropping or raising anchor blasts its horn; deep booms bounce off the mountain, echo and float in the shattered dark where the startled sleeper, waking, turns over, and resumes dreaming in that slumbering town by the sea.
Wishing to see more than vapor trails across the sky on that extended journey, you welcome birds broadcasting land. Seduced by other harbors, you think all ports the same, forgetting that which you loved well. Still, served by memory, time’s inconstant servant, summoned up by one thing or another, you dream someday arriving at the hometown you remember, and finding it there.
Myrna Peña-Reyes was born in Cagayan de Oro City, but her family moved to Dumaguete where she was educated at Silliman University from elementary through college, graduating with a BA in English. She went on to earn her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. While a resident of Eugene, Oregon where she lived with her late husband, the poet William T. Sweet, she was a winner of the Oregon Literary Fellowship grant for poetry in 2002. Presently retired in her hometown of Dumaguete, she continues her volunteer affiliation with Silliman University’s literature and creative writing program. Her poetry collections include The River Singing Stone (1994), Almost Home: Poems (2004), and Memory’s Mercy: New and Selected Poems (2014).
Under the shadow of this tree We are speckled by pieces of sun Sliding between the leaves. The wind falls In slivers Through the silences Of roughened bark.
We are above it all Perched like birds Sitting on the branch Like the foamed thoughts Of the poets meditating On the sea wall below.
Siquijor seems nearer to us Than in our dreams. And when the wind Slips Into our shirts, We puff up like chicks Wanting to fly.
Nerisa del Carmen Guevara is an Associate Professor teaching at the University of Santo Tomas. She has exhibited her installations and performance pieces at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and other spaces. She has received a Palanca Award for her poetry, a Silver Cup for Dance Solo in the April Spring Festival in Pyongyang, and a Catholic Mass Media Award. She has an M.A. in English Studies from University of the Philippines, Diliman, and she is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing in the same university. A featured Southeast Asian performance artist, her documentaries Elegies and Infinite Gestures are currently in the archives of The Live Art Digital Agency (LADA), London. Guevara has done performance art pieces for the Philippine International Performance Art Festival, SIPA International Performance Art Festival, PERFORMATURA, and Grace Exhibition Space, New York. Her poetry is collected in Reaching Destination: Poems and the Search for Home [UST, 2004].
All that I love I fold over once And once again And keep in a box Or a slit in a hollow post Or in my shoe.
All that I love? Why, yes, but for the moment— And for all time, both. Something that folds and keeps easy, Son’s note or Dad’s one gaudy tie, A roto picture of a beauty queen, A blue Indian shawl, even A money bill.
It’s utter sublimation, A feat, this heart’s control Moment to moment To scale all love down To a cupped hand’s size,
Till seashells are broken pieces From God’s own bright teeth, And life and love are real Things you can run and Breathless hand over To the merest child.
Edith Lopez Tiempo was born in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya in 1919. After her marriage to Edilberto Tiempo in 1940, the couple moved to Dumaguete City, where she earned her BA in English in 1947. She later pursued her MA at the University of Iowa as part of the famed Iowa Writers Workshop, graduating in 1950. In 1958, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Denver in Colorado in 1958. In 1962, together with her husband, she co-founded the Silliman University National Writers Workshop. Her books include the short story collection Abide, Joshua and Other Stories , the poetry collections The Tracks of Babylon and Other Poems , The Charmer's Box and Other Poems , Beyond, Extensions , and Marginal Annotations and Other Poems , and the novels A Blade of Fern , His Native Coast , The Alien Corn , One, Tilting Leaves , and The Builder . She has also published books on literary criticism, including Six Uses of Fictional Symbols  and Six Poetry Formats and the Transforming Image . She has received awards from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from UMPIL, as well as from the Palanca and the Philippines Free Press. She was proclaimed National Artist for Literature in 1999. She died in 2011.