Cabugao and the Struggles of Its People

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

Cabugao town of Ilocos Sur is my newly-discovered lovely place. A coastal town west of the South China Sea, it is not only gifted with beautiful scenic spots like the Salomague Island. It is also rich with the history of its people’s anti-colonial struggles.

After we attended the founding of the Ilocos Sur chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), I was able to learn and appreciate the struggles against the Spanish, American, and Japanese colonizers by our hosts’ ancestors.

In 2007, they celebrated the centennial of the Ilocano 1806 -1807 Basi revolt. The said revolt was launched against the basi (sugarcane wine) monopoly decreed by the Spanish colonial government.

Being an avid reader of William Henry Scott’s books, particularly Ilocano Resistance to American Colonial Rule, I have learned about the anti-colonial struggle of the Ilocanos. I recalled these once more as our hosts identified the historical landmarks and monuments to commemorate the heroism of the people in the different towns they brought us to.

Diego Silang and his men built an outpost on Balaywak Hills. The hill was the battle site between the troops of Gabriela Silang (Diego’s wife) and the Spanish conquistadores, explained one local.

During the Filipino-American War, when the Americans were hunting down Emilio Aguinaldo, at least 18 residents of Cabugao gave up their lives on Mt. Bimmuaya, Barangay (village) Maradodon, Cabugao to slow down the offensive of the American colonial soldiers.

My source added that the anti-Japanese resistance movement in Ilocos Sur was founded on a hill known as Balay-aran in Barangay Caellayan, Cabugao.

Their ancestors’ heroic struggle is rekindled at present as they face various issues here in Cabugao.

New Challenges

With a land area of approximately 100 square kilometers, Cabugao is an eight-hour ride or 433 kilometers away from Manila. It is 220 kilometers and a five-hour drive from Baguio City. It has an economy mainly based on agriculture, particularly farming and fishing.

Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) member Danilo Gasmen shared that one issue they face now is dynamite-fishing. “Though aquatic resources, particularly fish species, are abundant in the area, fishermen are pushed to use dynamite to make fishing cheaper and easier. However, this is very destructive (and all for the sake of meeting) the consumers’ demand,” he told Baguio-based journalists.

“The effect of this illegal means of fishing on aquatic resources is grave,” Gasmen explained.“It destroys the coral formations found in these coastal areas.”

Gasmen added that particularly identified for protection are the corals and some fish species thriving around the Salomague Island. The island is 1,109 hectares wide.

Salomague Island is less than 10 minutes away by boat from Brgy. Sabang. We (Baguio journalists) landed and set foot on the white-sand beach. The water is so clear and blue that is why scuba divers frequent the area. Local picnickers are also among those the people we met on the island.

Due to the various fish species that abound in Salomague Island, the town adopted an ordinance that declared the waters around it (island) a fish sanctuary. But this noble policy is violated as the illegal dynamite fishing has now entered the area. My source said these fishermen using dynamite once gave their catch to a Philippine National Police (PNP) official for his birthday celebration.

Populated by 33,847 people, Cabugao has great potential for tourism-related businesses. However, at present, it is facing another problem: the increasing garbage disposal problem. Despite an ordinance on ecological solid waste management, our visit to their dumping site in Sitio (sub-village) Baliw, Brgy. Quezon, Cabugao showed that the garbage there is not yet segregated.

The waste is bulldozed down the rice fields, creek, and residential areas as there is no retaining wall to hold back the garbage pile. During the rainy season, this waste may find its way to the South China Sea.

But like their ancestors who faced the colonial challenges in the past, they will face the new issues and challenges as a community. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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