Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Chronicling Sta. Cruz History with my Photographs

Aside from being the oldest town in Davao del Sur, I have known very few literature and equally few interest about my hometown’s history. Not until portions of Mt. Apo were burned last March. As a Tourism Officer I had to look for other tourism products to give alternative reasons for people to visit to this place other than climbing the highest mountain in the country.

As I gained curiosity with the history of Sta. Cruz based on further readings and personal interactions with some key informants in the town, I learned that ours is perhaps one of the most colourful in the entire Mindanao. The municipality of Sta. Cruz was an active participant in the making of Mindanao’s and Philippines’ histories. From the Spanish rule, to American regime, to Japanese occupation, to Philippine Independence, to Martial Law, to EDSA Revolution, Sta. Cruz’ story was intricately interwoven into the country’s saga.

This gulf town was originally called “Labo,” a Bagobo word which means “marshland”. Labo is situated between a confluence of two mountain streams where water were as clear as crystal and was but a short distance from the coast. Long before the Spaniards came, the Lumads or the natives Bagobo-Tagabawa inhabited Sta. Cruz that was mostly forested except in the Darong coast. More than a century-old municipality, Sta. Cruz was legally created last October 5, 1884 and it is the third oldest town in Mindanao.

According to pioneers, Sta. Cruz originated its name way back in 1880 when Spaniards planted a big cross under a shelter upon their failure to Christianize the settlers who continued to resist them. Another group of migrants settled adjacent to the cross which was near the municipal building site, the place came to be known as “SA CRUZ” which means “AT THE CROSS”. Official records from Manila Archives also described how Sta. Cruz got its name during the Spanish administration. It was documented that on October 4, 1884, Angel Rodriguez, Spanish Governor General of Mindanao Province arrived on board the warship “Garduqui” escorted by a sergeant, corporal and twelve persons from the capital detachment. They were greeted by both Christians and non-Christians bringing with them banners bearing the embroidered word STA. CRUZ. The next day (October 5), Rodriguez blessed the town STA. CRUZ SA MINDANAO. The territorial lands of Sta. Cruz prior to the division of Davao Province included municipalities of Digos, Bansalan, Magsaysay, Matanao, Kiblawan, Hagonoy, Sulop, Malalag and Sta. Maria.

Sta. Cruz might have a vibrant history but it is not supported with a very informative remainder. It is in this reason that I started looking for remnants all over the town. In April this year I had a personal quest to photo-document historical leftovers and validated each one of them through the inscribed records from all possible sources. And when we had our preparation for the 132nd Foundation Anniversary of the town, I tapped the dynamic group Davao Photographers Club (DPC) to help me in doing the job. We came up with a photo exhibit last October 1-5 and eagerly called it KAGIKAN showcasing photos of old structures and people in Sta. Cruz.

At this point, I would like to share some of my shots of old places and structures I gathered for almost seven months. The corresponding literature are a product of my eccentric researches and personal conversations with the direct families of the owners.

Municipal Hall Building. The Municipal Hall of Sta. Cruz is the very first town hall built in the entire Davao del Sur province. It was erected in 1938 during the administration of Mayor Mariano Pejo simultaneous with the other two structures Jose Rizal Monument and the Don Mariano Pejo Park Fountain.  These structures were built by Marble Works Construction Company. In front of the building was the same site where Spanish evangelizers arrived on board the warship “Gardoqui” led by Angel Rodriguez, a Politico General of Davao Province way back 1884.

Doña Matea Ancestral House. Established in 1930, Doña Matea Almendras-Ralota Ancestral House is one of the few ancient structures attesting that Sta. Cruz is the mother town of the province of Davao del Sur. It is located in Poblacion Zone 3. A migrant from Cebu, Doña Matea remarried to Bendigo and became matriarch to a clan of politicians namely: Almendras, Bendigo, Ralota and Cagas.

San Pedro Chapel Tuban. This edifice in Baybay, Tuban is said to be the foundation of Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban (GKK) in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the world. A celebration of Holy Eucharist being administered by a PSL (Pangulo sa Liturhiya) was first held here on year 1957.

Dean Old House. This house was built in 1920s by the first appointed mayor of Davao del Sur Don Ciriaco Godoy. Godoy’s only daughter Doña Indeng married to a Dean husband which eventually made the house an ancestral abode of the Deans until today. During the World War II, the family transferred to Matan-ao and the Japanese soldiers occupied the house as their headquarters. When the Americans came, the family also reoccupied the house.

Melilia UCCP Mission School. This is the first structure after the Thomasites led by American missionary Rev. Robert Black introduced Protestantism. Black first preached the gospel to the Bagobos in Melilia in 1904 and it consequently became the bastion of United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and from it hailed the founders of Brokenshire Hospital of Davao and the Siliman University. The actual establishment of this structure was year 1909. It was called Robert Black Mission  School where Maximiano Tongcaling became the first Bagobo preacher.

Tuban Old Cluster Houses. This cluster of houses situated along the national highway of Barangay Tuban was built in 1950s by the early settlers of the place from a prominent clan of the Aguilar and Carriedo. Some older houses located in the opposite side are owned by some half-blooded Chinese as first settlers of the place.

Tan Kim Kee Estate Old Farm House. The house was built in 1911 primarily to be used as vantage site in monitoring the farm workers and the physical status of the Tan Kim Kee agricultural production area, who were among the families to have been allowed by the American Commonwealth to own cadastral property in Sta. Cruz per Cadastral Survey No. 275 paving the way for granting property rights. The highest mark of the house allowed the farm manager to oversee production of the wide area of coconut and cattle ranch. Owned by the Chinese Lim clan, Tan Kim Kee Estate is the largest agricultural area in the southern part of Sta. Cruz. From it was also a coconut solar dryer assembled which, according to pioneering farm workers, was converted by the Japanese soldiers into a salt warehouse as provocative site for their captives during the Japanese period. 

Saez Spanish House in Darong. This house was built in 1940s by Don Eliseo Saez, a Spaniard who came from Burgos, Spain. Before the coming of Don Eliseo, his brother Don Marcos Saez already owned a vast agricultural plantation. The Saez brothers were among the Spaniards who settled in Darong, which became the biggest Spanish Community in Southern Philippines if not Mindanao.

Balay ni Nonoy Pension House. The house was first built in 1950s that served as the home of former Mayor Amancio Bendigo. It was renovated in 1970s and now being used commercially as a pension house and office of the family’s real estate business.

Patulangon Old Guttierez House. This structure housed the Guttierez Family in Patulangon, Barangay Zone 1. It was erected in 1926. The Guttierez were among the early settlers in the town with Spanish roots led by their great grandfather Don Sergio Guttierez who hailed from Santander, Spain.

St. Joseph The Worker Parish. In the course of erecting new parishes in 1940 upon the request of Bishop Luis del Rosario, SJ, DD as part of their evangelization efforts in Mindanao; the St. Joseph The Worker Parish was established in Sta. Cruz (then still the entire Davao del Sur) along with the parish of Kingking. The first Parish Priest  was Fr. Leo Poirier, PME and the Assistant Parish Priest was Fr. Omer Leblanc, PME. The formal establishment of the parish structure was May 1941. Unfortunately, war broke out in December 1941 and the two priests fled to the mountains but later surrendered to the Japanese but were eventually killed in 1942 by the Japanese soldiers in Pikit, Cotabato. Although the parish has a new structure now during its 75th Jubilee celebration, St. Joseph The Worker Parish is a major contributor to the overall historical timeline of the Municipality of Sta. Cruz.

There are still many structures around the town but I have yet to visit them one by one because of time constraint. The Spanish houses in Astorga and Coronon are my next target and the old residents of the previous mayors in Sta. Cruz.

Truly, we have a rich history unfolding and with the LGU’s drive to encourage the owners of these structures to preserve them we could launch another interesting tourism product with history as the theme.

Monday, October 3, 2016

My getaway in La Isla Bonita

My second time around in Talicud Island had me joining a specialized workshop on tourism and travel photography as hosted by the Department of Tourism XI last September 26-27. The venue was quite exciting, featuring a new beach resort in the island, La Isla Bonita (LIB), which is owned by a good friend Miss Araceli Ayuste, the same person who manages the famous Punta del Sol Resort in Peñaplata, Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS).

Just like some common resorts in the island, LIB can be a good setting for those who love to be in isolation for at least a night or two. The island has very limited cellphone and internet signal and it is situated in a distant location of sitio Cogon in Talicud.

The very purpose of choosing the island as the venue of the workshop is to make sure that participants would be able to internalize photography principles as imparted by our resource person, master photographer Rhonson Ng. We stayed for one night in the place and we eventually succeeded our expectation to learn travel and tourism photography.

The resort is cool. It has clear blue waters facing the huge Davao Gulf and is uniformly contrasted with the fine white sand, a trademark in Talicud. It also offers panoramic view of two major mountains in Mindanao – Mt. Apo and Mt. Matutum and the vast mountain scape of the south western Mindanao. The tall coconut trees formed part of its charming beach landscape.

While traveling to and from the resort as part of the itinerary of the workshop, we were oriented to some interesting spots in Talicud such as the mangrove sanctuary and the remarkable “friendship road” as locals would put it.  

As a portion of Kaputian, Talicud Island promises to be the next destination in IGACOS. Although LIB is the lone resort in the place, it won’t be too long for this place to be a haven of tourists and visitors because of its natural but attractive beach attributes.

Thank you very much to the Department of Tourism for inviting me there in the workshop. Photography, indeed, gave me another way to play inside this beautiful part of the universe. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mechanisms in brewing life the SMB way

San Miguel Brewery, Inc (SMB), being the largest and premiere beer manufacturer of the Philippines, is also one of the firms which is taking larger-than-life initiatives for environmental conservation and rehabilitation. While the company is savouring titanic success, it has laid out comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) aimed at helping their host communities by caring for the environment and contributing to countryside development.

For two consecutive years, I have witnessed how serious SMB is in its Buhayin ang Kalikasan, an annual tree planting project that underscores its commitment towards responsible stewardship of the environment. To some interrelated magnitude, they christened the program TREES BREW LIFE which to me a manifestation of levelling up their tree growing efforts in order to infuse respect and care for life, not just human life but the rest of biodiversity.

Last August 13 I was commissioned by Meggy, a very good friend from SMB, to photo document their tree growing in Matina Pangi, Davao City. This has been their project area over the last four years. As usual, the enthusiasm of the employees to plant trees was very evident. They planted a total of 2,000 assorted seedlings in the extended portion of the Pangi river. As I roamed around I saw the trees planted a year ago which now started to develop greener and huge canopy.

I am sure there are so many attempts to do the same but SMB’s mechanisms spell a difference in sustaining the initiative. In 2013, the survival rate of the trees planted was at a whopping 94 percent. In 2014, the outcome is almost the same, generating an 89 percent survival count. The 2015 version has yet to be identified but when I joined Meggy in a site monitoring visit, majority of the trees grew well despite the El Niño phenomenon in summer this year.

WE'VE DONE OUR PART. Some friends in the media here in a souvenir shot
With representative from San Miguel Foundation Mr. Don Guerrero
It was just plain and simple why SMB is successful in brewing life, and for me the system has to be all-inclusive. First, they tapped the barangay government of Matina Pangi as their partner who is committed to monitor and take care of the trees planted. A site caretaker was assigned to practically perform cultural management practices while the seedlings are in their infant stage, which is definitely the most critical stage of the seedlings' lives. SMB also knocked the assistance of the City Environment Office and the community residing in the planting sites, recognizing their respective roles in sustaining the initiative. Indeed, multi-stakeholdership approach is categorically the name of the game.

With Matina Pangi Barangay Captain Carmelo Arana
Second, with CENRO’s guidance, appropriate tree species should be planted so as to attain higher growth proportion. In a riverbank stabilization for example, SMB planted Malibago trees, an ideal specie which is also known for its survival instinct despite instances of long dry spell and drought. It is also propagated asexually, which means that it has diffuse root system suitable for creating river to soil equilibrium.          

With SMB’s name associated to beverage brewing excellence, there is a fresh component that is integrated into its label and that is the care and esteem to life and it is manifested by growing more trees every year. 

P.S. My salute to the Barangay Captain of Matina Pangi Hon. Carmelo Arana for the all-out support to the Buhayin ang Kalikasan Project. I seldom encounter such attitude as admirable as Kapitan Arana in supporting environmental conservation and rehabilitation program.