Friday, July 28, 2006


Another wave of settlers from Solsona and Dingras in Ilocos Norte arrived in the 1920s. This group was led by Donato, Francisco, and Andres all surnamed Agcaoile; Calixto Atabay, Julian Duldulao, and Cecilio Gagate. They settled in what is now called as Sonsona (Purok 3), derived from its old name of “Kasolsonaan” in memory of their hometown in Ilocos Norte.

Most relatives from our maternal grandmother’s side are located in the Sonsona and the Amyanan part (Purok 1) while our bloodline from Lakay Burik are mostly concentrated in Purok 2 (where the Tomas ancestral house stands) and Abagatan (Purok 5, where most of Lakay Burik’s descendants are clustered). This fact made me conclude that the second wave of settlers was the spearhead of another group that will include the family of Jacinto and Virata Nicolas of Solsona --- my maternal grandmother’s parents. But they will only stay for a short time and continue their trek to Roxas, Isabela.

I visited Solsona on 17 July 2005 going through the Cagayan Valley to Ilocos route. The second Ilocos Norte town from Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan after Pagudpud will be Bangui and its huge wind mills. The town was established as an Augustinian mission in 1605. The first church was probably built around 1607. It has been destroyed by a succession of fires before the present structure was built probably at around 1829. This was again damaged by the earthquakes of 1880 and 1891, repaired, then damaged again during the Japanese occupation. Half of it has been restored and today serves as the church of San Lorenzo Martir.

From Bangui, the next towns will be Burgos, Pasuquin, then Bacarra with its “bowling acrobatic tower of Southeast Asia”, so called because of the church’s bell towel that tilted during an earthquake in 1931. The “acrobatic bell tower”, however, is no longer visible because the uppermost part finally crashed during the 1989 tremor. Bacarra is an old town having been established as the Augustinian mission of Dumaqueque in 1591 and later served as a base in the Christianization of the Apayaos. The present church, dedicated to San Andres Apostol, is said to be built in the 1830s and have been restored several times.

I turned left from the national highway in Bacarra towards the town of Vintar to have a look at the province’s oldest extant Spanish-era church mural decoration. The church was built in the 1830s and dedicated to San Nicolas Tolentino. It has been damaged by several earthquakes and rebuilt. Today, only parts of the brick walls remain.

The road from Vintar to Solsona is almost an hour of solitary travel along a mountain pass that seemed to be seldom used. I thought I was lost until finally reaching a stretch of tobacco fields where a farmer assured that I am on the right direction. Solsona is a cute little town bordered by the mountains of Apayao. The winds stirred when I arrived at the modern church, perhaps the ghosts of dead ancestors welcoming a family who will not forget.

Solsona is part of what I call the Nicolas-Lazaro-Tomas ancestral loop. Not far away are Miguel Tomas’ Piddig and Lakay Burik’s Dingras who, with Solsona, are the building blocks of modern Almaguer.

The road back to the national highway brought me to Sarrat, birthplace of Apo Marcos and his sidekick Gen. Fabian Ver. Cabayugan or Sarrat was established in 1586 as an Augutinian visita of Laoag. It boasts of a colorful and violent history: the whole town joined the Basi Revolt of 1807; rose up in arms again in 1815 during which the hated housekeeper of the parish priest, Rosa Agcaoili, was killed and dismembered; and revolted against the Americans in 1899 under the leadership of Don Pepe Ver. In 1910, the court returned Sarrat’s church and convent to the Catholics and a day later, the Aglipayan parish priest, Fr. Mariano Edralin, was found murdered. The beautiful church of Sta. Monica was started to be built by Fr. Isidro Champaner (OSA) in 1848. It is probably the biggest Spanish-era church in Ilocos Norte. Its original roof truss of logs is still intact.

Right at the corner of the road from Solsona and the national highway is the well-preserved church of San Nicolas. It was built in 1811. There is a story that during the revolution against Spain, Filipino troops led by Gen. Manuel Tinio tied up the cura paroco --- Fr. Victoriano Garcia Alonzo (OSA) --- in the bell tower. San Nicolas is the hometown of Pedro Almazan --- self-proclaimed King of the Ilocanos --- who, with Andres Malong of Pangasinan, Juan Magsanop of Bangui, and Gaspar Cristobal of Apayao led a rebellion against the Spanish. San Nicolas also host the locally renowned Dawang’s Eatery where I stopped for a late lunch of igado, paksiw (a soupy version of pinapaitan), tinuno, and their dinardaraan with crispy bits of bagnet.

I ended my sojourn to Solsona in Laoag City where I whiled time under the shadow of the San Guillermo Hermitano cathedral. Ylaua was established in 1586. Its present name Laoag is an Ilocano word that means light or clear. When Juan de Salcedo and the Augustinian missionaries first came to Ylaua/Laoag, they found a thriving settlement of 6,000 people clustered on a hill where they built the first church. The place was called Ermita and it is still known by that name today. The present stone church was probably started to be built in 1659. In the early years of its construction, the rebellious Pedro Almazan raided and looted the church. It has undergone several restorations since then. Not far away is its “sinking” bell tower, detached from the church by the city bustle and a strip of commercial establishments.


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