Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Militant youth leader shot dead in Cagayan!

This story was at the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s 18 December 2006 issue. Nelson Asocena, a Sangguniang Kabataan chairperson and a member of the Anakbayan youth group and the Kagimungan peasant group, was only 19 years old and the latest to fall in a spate of brazen killings that has gripped the province of Cagayan. Nelson is officially the 262nd militant to be killed in the country since 2001 as per the Inquirer count. I don’t know him personally but I sympathize with those who grieve his untimely death. Like many Filipinos, I am horrified with the rising number of extra-judicial executions in the country and condemn the nameless and shameless perpetrators of this most heinous crime to humanity.

Nelson is from Malaueg which is now known as Rizal. We --- that’s me and Elias --- visited the sleepy and rustic town on 16 June last year for its church which has been declared as a national heritage site by the National Commission on Culture and Arts. It is nestled at the foothills of the mighty Cordilleras, sandwiched along the boundaries of Apayao and Cagayan, majestic in its ruggedness, elegant in its simplicity. Our route there is via Cabagan towards the towns of Sta. Maria, Isabela and Enrile Cagayan. We passed through corn country in unforgiving roads, traversing the Cagayan River through spillways that serve as bridges during the dry months. Along the way, I dropped by the small town of Enrile to visit its Spanish-era church.

Enrile’s history was conceived by divine intervention. It 1724, a miracle happened in Cabug that was attributed to the Nuestra Senora delas Caldas during a raffle for the distribution of patron saints for the various ecclesiastical missions of Tuguegarao. Since then, it has been the patron saint of Cabug --- a village of Tuguegarao that was later established as the pueblo of Enrile in 1849. Fr. Pedro Alcantara (OP) initiated building the present church that was already in use by 1877. This was razed by a fire at the end of Spanish rule and was rebuilt by Fr. Francisco Bueno (OP). Don Vicente de Guzman, the first lawyer of Cagayan and its representative to the Malolos Congress, helped him. Don Vicente’s son would later become the second provincial governor of Cagayan and its first representative to the Philippine National Assembly.

National Heritage: An Outpost in the Cordilleras

From Enrile, we sidestepped Tuguegarao via Solsona towards the town of Tuao which is the gateway to Malaueg. After another 15 kilometers of dirt road and several Bailey bridges, we arrived at the town by 11 am. Malaueg --- now known as Rizal --- is geographically a part of the Cordillera but politically a part of Cagayan. Its name was derived from the Ibanag words ma and ueg meaning creeks or rivers. In 1607, a church dedicated to San Raymundo de Penaforte was built in Malaueg through the efforts of a local chieftain named Luis Pagulayan. Malaueg was accepted as an ecclesiastical mission of the Dominicans in 1608 and was used as an outpost for the conquest of the Cordillera and in bringing down remontados. During a rebellion led by Caguenga and Furuganan from 1608 to 1610, the convent of the church was razed by fire. Fr. Francisco Mola (OP) built another church in 1617 that was destroyed by fire in 1641. The present church that, in a time, was the biggest built in Cagayan Valley was blessed on 1651. Famous Dominicans served in the mission of Malaueg namely Fr. Jose Bugarin (OP) who was the principal author of the first Ibanag dictionary, Fr. Luis Flores (OP) who became a martyr in Japan, and Fr. Francisco Capillas who became a pro-martyr in China. The church represents an early effort at stone church building.

There seemed to be no market and therefore no eatery in Malaueg so I decided to take lunch on our way to Claveria where I planned to stay for the night. I told Elias to take a short cut to the national highway via Sto. Nino through a secondary road indicated in the EZ map before reaching the town of Tuao. But we were told that the only road leading to Sto. Nino was by foot so we proceeded to Piat where we asked our way around. We drove along a feeder road in what seemed to be pastureland, relieved to finally reach a campus of the Cagayan State University in the middle of nowhere, then drove to Sto. Nino in another 10 kilometers of dirt road where we were told that we need to cross the Cagayan River by ferry boat to reach the national highway on the other side. And there were no ferry boats that day so we drove back to Piat and finally reached Tuguegarao by 2 pm. Tired and hungry, I decided to make the best of a bad chance and asked Elias to look for the Triangle Panciteria which is said to offer the best Batil Patong in Cagayan. It took as the best part of an hour doing that because the panciteria is inconspicuously hidden by giant acacia trees near the Buntun Bridge which is said to be the longest freshwater bridge in the country. It was worth it --- the Batil Patong is a sumptuous meal of Cabagan noodles; sautéed in onion, garlic and light soy sauce; garnished with thin slivers of pork meat and liver and what seemed to be meat balls; topped by a well-fried sunny side up egg (I assume this as the origin of the name --- batil meaning egg in Ibanag and patong meaning “placing it on top”); and served with a condiment of chopped onions and soy sauce. It was actually my second time to have the dish, the first a few years ago during my first trip to north Luzon when Pare Dojoe (with Pare Amor and Pare Olan) took us to Gretchen’s.

The next 2 hours is a rush to Claveria so I can take pictures of the colonial churches along the Cagayan River with the remaining daylight. The first stop is Iguig whose first church --- dedicated to Santiago Apostol --- was built in 1607. After it was accepted in 1608 as an ecclesiastical mission of the Dominicans, another church was built in Nabunangan that was inundated four times by the rampaging waters of the Cagayan River. Fr. Pedro San Pedro (OP) initiated building the present church on top of a hill between 1765 and 1787. The patio to the river still exists but is today 50 meters farther from the riverbank. The church hosts the Cavalry Hills, the Jubilee Cross and a 3-centuries old well.

Next stop is Fulay --- Alcala’s old name --- that was established as a town in 1787 as a resting place for travelers and boat rowers. In 1843, it was renamed in honor of Governor General Don Francisco de Paula Alcala and accepted an ecclesiastical mission of the Dominicans in 1845. In 1881, Fr. Casimiro Gonzales (OP) initiated building the convent then the church that was dedicated to Santa Filomena. Fr. Pedro Perez (OP) continued the construction until the church was almost finished. The church is the widest, the best shaped and most beautiful in the province of Cagayan.

We arrived in the next town of Gattaran --- derived from the Ibanag word gattad meaning “side of the mountain” --- in a late afternoon drizzle. The Dominicans accepted it as an ecclesiastical mission in 1623 with Fr. Jeronimo Moner (OP), the beloved missionary of the Babuyanes, as the first vicar. The church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria was probably built before 1739. From there until 1898, improvements were made by Fr. Nolasco de Medio (OP), Fr. Domingo Campo (OP) and Fr. Santiago Capdevila (OP). One of the priests who served in the church is Fr. Claro Arroyo --- the only Domincan in Cagayan on record to be accused of immorality by keeping a Balvina Cabal of Lal-lo as a mistress and by lusting after a married local woman named Toribia Rodriguez.

It was dark when we crossed the Magapit Bridge, Asia’s first suspension bridge, on my way to Claveria along Cagayan’s panhandle. The raging rainstorm reduced visibility to 5 feet at most so we have to drive slow. We passed by the town of Pamplona at around 8 pm. I wanted to visit the town’s colonial church but the rain and darkness forced me to proceed to Claveria where we spent the night. But I won’t miss the chance so the next day, we drove back to Pamplona. Fr. Miguel Martin de San Jacinto (OP) initiated the building of the present church from 1614 to 1617 in the old pueblo of Massi. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1721 and later restored by Fr. Jose Cano (OP). In 1842, the pueblo of Pamplona was established with the fusion of the former pueblos of San Juan de Nepumoceno and Massi. The church --- dedicated to San Pedro el Martyr --- is one of the oldest intact in Cagayan Valley. This was because it was supposed to be earthquake-proof having been built on top of a solid rock with a diameter of 1 to 2 kilometers below the ground.

I dedicate this piece to Nelson. We may be total strangers to each other and might have other ways of looking at things but we were bounded together by an old town once called as Malaueg. I promised myself to come back to Rizal sometime and when I do, I will look for his tomb and pay my respects for a fallen hero.

MEA CULPA: I was not able to take a photo of Tuguegarao’s Batil Patong because we left the camera in Nueva Ecija during my first foray with Dojoe, Amor, and Olan; and was too hungry to take one during my Malueg trip. I can’t find one in the web and I will highly appreciate if somebody can send me one.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
1) Enrile, Cagayan.
2) The stone church of Rizal/Malueg has been declared as a national heritage site.
3) Tuguegarao’s Buntun Bridge is the longest freshwater bridge in the Philippines. A kilometer away towards the city proper on the left side of the road is the Triangle Panciteria.
4) Iguig, Cagayan.
5) Alcala, Cagayan.
6) Gattaran, Cagayan.
7) The Magapit Bridge at dusk during a lull in the rainstorm. It is Asia’s first suspension bridge.
8) Pampalona, Cagayan.

1 comment:

Zachary said...

i really like this place. scary content. carry on the great work and merry christmas!