Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sustaining Heritage Tourism in Cabatuan

Cabatuan Catholic Cemetery by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Iloilo's historic towns attract mostly local travelers and small towns, such as Cabatuan, also get their fair share of attention.

Tourism is one of Cabatuan’s important industries. It is their preferred economic development strategy since it is an opportunity for this town to identify, package and market their existing assets. Heritage tourism is its fastest-growing segment.  The town is among the popular in the province in heritage tourism visitation.  More travelers are visiting remnants of Spanish culture in the area. The historic and cultural resources associated with the people of Cabatuan, its events, or aspects in their community’s past gave the municipality its sense of identity and help tell its story. 

Cabatuan Church, photo by Tara Yap

ST. NICOLAS OF TOLENTINE PARISH CHURCH is of Neo-Classical architectural style. The first parochial church was finished in 1732, same year when it became an independent parish. The present church was constructed in 1834 under the supervision of Father Ramon Alquezar. It was finished by Father Manuel Ruiz in 1866 using bricks. A red brick convent was built under the supervision of Father Juan Porras in 1876. Minor restoration was done by Father Manuel Guiterrez in 1890.Known to be one of the most beautiful churches in Iloilo during its time, it was described as the “Model of Temples” by El Eco de Panay and the Largest Brick Church in Panay. Every side of the church was a fa├žade in itself. It was said to have looked more of a Basilica. It was accented by three domes where at each side of the church were big clocks and the center dome was over the altar. It measured 50 meters in length and 20 meters in width. Its thickness was about a meter and a half. It used to have 19 circular, multi-colored window panes and 10 massive doors. The altar was flanked by two smaller altars. The belfry had four windows with four big bells. On its ceiling were paintings of Rome and chandeliers. In 1942 it was burned by guerillas and totally destroyed by Japanese forces the following year. The front portion of the church however was not damaged. The bricks and the stones of the church were used to repair the landing field in Tiring.

CASA or the town’s municipal hall was built along with the church sometime 1734. Though its second level was damaged by war and other calamities, the ground floor is centuries old characterized by columns of art deco architectural design with semi-arched windows of capiz shells of Tuscan-inspired architecture.

Roman Catholic Cemetery, photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

CABATUAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY in Barangay Banguit is a four hectare perfectly square shaped cemetery constructed in 1886 under the supervision of Father Juan Porres, Father Cesareo Prodigo and was continued by Father Manuel Guiterrez in 1890. With elegant iron grills, its walls and chapel were made of stones quarried from the mountains in Leon. It was heavily damaged during the 1948 Lady Kaykay earthquake and was reconstructed.

relic from the original cross at pamul-ogan Hill

PAMUL-OGAN HILL SHRINE in Barangay Pamul-ogan is popular especially during the Holy Week. It is said that when Spanish authorities set foot in the town they planted a Molave Cross on the hill. What remained of the cross is a piece of wood almost 2 feet in height with the date 1732 inscribed. The hill overlooks the poblacion of Cabatuan and the New International Iloilo Airport.

Tree of Bondage, phtoto courtesy of Cabatuan Tourism Office

TREE OF BONDAGE is considered as a shrine by the people of Cabatuan situated in the heart of their municipal plaza fronting the historic Municipal Hall. The historic calachuchi tree has long been standing as one of the pride of the town and has been identified as a tourist spot. It constantly is by local tourists. Local stories has it that during Spanish rule, locals who refuse to do labour for the construction of local roads, the church and bridges, as well as other public structures were tied to the tree and whipped. Presently, the tree framed with chains attached to poles and a concrete base.

BALAY TABLEA. Even the local cuisine has indigenous and foreign influences the strongest is from Spain that ruled the Philippines for almost 400 years. Historians claim that our local cuisine is almost 80 percent of Spanish origin. Because of the Spaniards elite community at that time, our dishes were also adapted by the upper-class Filipinos. The drinking of chocolate has a long tradition in many local towns all over the country. It said that sometime in the 17th century, Spanish authorities pushed the growing of cacao trees and making its beans into cacao tablets popularly known as tablea.  Fresh cacao beans are removed from their pods, and peeled then dried under the heat of the sun. The beans are then roasted and are manually grinded. It is then mixed with a little sugar and formed into tablets. It is then mixed with a little water, milk and sugar and boiled to almost syrup consistency and served hot especially during breakfast and other special occasions. Cacao Tablea is now a sought after delicacy and famous cottage industry in Cabatuan. It has its own specialty house right at Rizal-Ilawod Street and is owned and managed by Caterine Taleon. There visitors can taste one of the best native chocolate drink in the province.

The Second-Class municipality of Cabatuan is 24.2 kilometers away from the city. It is politically subdivided into 68 barangays over a land area of 8,248 hectares populated by 50, 861 residents (2010 Census on Population). It annually celebrates its Religious Fiesta every 10th of September in honor of their patron San Nicholas de Tolentino. Tinuom Festival is celebrated in the last week of August till the 2nd week of September. Markey days is every Wednesday and Sunday.

To experience the historic heritage of the Spanish colonial times, visit the town exhibition during the 10th TUMANDOK celebration on September 18-20 at the fountain area of Robinsons Place Iloilo. For more information, please contact Mr. Francisco Gonzaga Jr. –Municipal Tourism Officer at 09283649477.

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