Monday, April 6, 2015

Bantayan: Secret Guardians of Guimbal

The town of Guimbal, Iloilo is a famous heritage destination in the region thanks to its bantayans or baluartes or watchtowers. They are the first thing first time travellers would be introduced to when they visit the town. These bantayans create a picturesque and distinctive silhouette of its historic past.

On April 7-11, 2015, the people of Guimbal will honor these historical icons with the celebration of its annual Bantayan Festival. Celebrating its 13th year, the festival will celebrate its Foundation Day on April 7 (Tuesday) along with the Opening of its Food Festival and Agro-Fair, the Grand Parade with Float and Street Dancing Competition at 3 p.m. and the Opening Program with Drum Beats Competition, 7 p.m. at the Amphitheater; April 8 (Wednesday) Search for Anyag Kang Bantayan, 6 p.m. at the  Amphitheater; April 9 (Thursday) Boat Racing and Porma Balas 8 a.m. at Bantayan Beach Resort, Pintalawas, 11 a.m. at Bantayan Beach Resort and the Re-enactment of the Moro Raids at 2:30 p.m. at the Bantayan Beach Resort and the 11th Banatayan Film Festival, 6 p.m. at the Amphitheater; April 10 (Friday) Motorcross and 4x4 Off-Road Competition, 8 a.m. at Guimbal River and Musical Concert with Artists, 8 p.m. at the Amphitheater; April 11 (Saturday) Tribal Dance Drama Competition, 3 p.m., Merry-Making, 5 p.m. in Rizal Street and the Awards Night and Fireworks Competition, 8:30 pm at the Amphitheater.

Still standing today are four bantayans and all of them are in a not-so-good state of repair owing to the ravages of time and nature. These bantayans served as strongholds constructed by the Spaniards in the Philippines for protection against local aggressors, the Muslim Pirates during the Spanish Colonial Period.

In Guimbal, watchmen would pass on a warning signal around the village by tapping a guimba (an ancient drum made from deerskin) to create a sound until it reaches to another point eventually warning the whole vlllage of an incoming raid.

It was said that sometime in between 16th and 18th centuries, raiding fleets known as caracoas or outriggered vessels with thirty to forty rowers on each side and sailed the waters of the Visayas making it as their roadway to reach Christian pueblos. Many of these islands were devastated by Muslim pirates. They plundered and, burned Christian villages, took the locals as their captives and sold them as their slaves, despoiled the church of its silver and ornaments.

For Christian villages, the people depended on their church to protect them and at some point, used as sleeping quarters if caracoas are sighted. Many of the churches in the Visayas resembled like small fortresses with few windows and a bell tower to warn of an incoming danger.

Frequent attacks prompted the people and Spanish authorities to take action before more attacks will occur in the area. Its extensive coastline was impossible to fortify everywhere so what was planned was to build a ring of watchtowers at strategic points around the village. Watchmen assigned would keep a look out for suspicious ships and warn the people.

In the barangays of Nanga, Rizal-Tuguisan, Generosa and Pescadores, still remain these bantayans, keeping a silent watch over the towns coastal waters.

Guimbal is 29 kilometers south from Iloilo City. It has a land area of 4, 448 hectares subdivided into 33 barangays. The town shares borders with Tigbauan on the east; on the northeast by Tubungan; Igbaras on the northwest; and west by Miag-ao. It annually celebrates its religious fiesta in honor of San Nicolas de Tolentino every September 10. Markey day is every Tuesday.

To get to the resort, one can take a Guimbal jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary in Barangay Mohon, Oton or when in the city, at the market situated at the back of Robinsons Place Iloilo. For more information, please contact Miss Karen Gayanilo-Felicio at 09199941585.

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