Posted by: vip | June 23, 2009

Carcar places to remember

…in our lives, we’ve loved them all”*

*(thanks to Lennon-McCartney, “In My Life” , 1965)

Musings so the muse of History may enlighten us.

Pre-history, ca. 200 B.C. After eons of being submerged under the sea, taking its sweet time as the sea floor itself as only “the spirit of God was hovering over the waters”, the Bacsiji-Napo area emerged as the planet underwent vast geological changes.  The taller portions of the seabed jutted ahead of the other much lower areas, and became islets.

Thus we can imagine geological evolution as the Ocaña-Napo hills became promontories overlooking the sea.  And then little by little the lower areas also came into view (to whom?LOL) and became dry land and the sea receded until it reached where it is now, the present Bacsiji littoral–the Ocaña-Napo hills now almost two kilometers farther inland.

Marine shell fossils littering the hilltop floors in Ocaña and Napo give evidence of their submarine past.  Not just those, but stone implements–rim sherds, chert blades, adzes—and shell used as tools, and skeletal remains of animals also tell a story—a prehistory–of the places having been, in various periods, settlement and ritual sites for people who subsequently lived there (permanently or as transient dwellers).

Upon a recommendation of an American retiree living on one of the Ocaña hills, Rosa Tenazas of the University of San Carlos Museum first examined the area in 1976-1978.  Dr. John Peterson and a USC-National Museum team revisited it in 2005, this time for the additional purpose of obtaining samples for carbon dating, which did confirm Tenazas’s estimate of their Neolithic age.

Two mesa hills in particular were the closer subjects of these investigations, the shorter one in Ocaña, now popularly called Calvary Hill because a priest landscaped a Stations of the Cross on it.  The taller one, some hundreds of meters away, in Tagotong, Napo, has been called by Dr. Peterson in his subsequent papers as Aleonar Site because it is inside Aleonar property.

1521. Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler who arrived with Magellan in Cebu wrote of a settlement stretching alongside the coast of Cebu, and of its people—which he called both Sialo.  Meanwhile, Visayan folklore[1] relates that Sialo was ruled by a son of Humabon, Sri Alho.  (Humabon’s nephew and son-in-law Tupas had succeeded him in Cebu)

The Sialos were tough, warlike people whose martial qualities did not go unnoticed by the Spanish chronicler and thus set them apart from the other Cebuanos found on the other side of the river in the San Nicolas area.  It is not known now whether the place got the name from the people or the people from the place.  Other accounts referred to the place also as Siaro, Salog and even Jaro.  And maybe it really was Sri Alho all along.

Valladolid, Kabkad, Carcar, 1599. A convento and parish was established on presumably a more populated part of Sialo and the parish was called Valladolid, after the former capital of the Kingdom of Spain.

King Philip II, after whom our entire country was named, was born in Spanish Valladolid. In 1601-1606, Valladolid again became the Spanish capital. Around that time, too, Miguel de Cervantes went to live in Valladolid and in fact published his masterpiece Don Quixote there, after which he moved back to Madrid. And Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid before Magellan reached the Philippines.

Such a historic namesake.

Around the period, too, the clay used in pottery found in several places in Cebu City and the province can be traced to Tuyom (and other sources like Bacsiji and Sibonga to the south, and Liloan in the north).  The Tuyom sites are located near the Minag-a River (AKA Valladolid River), and one is in fact called, descriptively, Inayagan.  It is especially heartwarming that a tough people turned to a more culturally creative industry, and such a soothing activity at that. Or was it just the women—while the men went to war? But then again, were these people still the Sialos?

Sialo raided? Now, we are somewhat incredulous that a tough people whose martial traits were immediately evident to Pigafetta would have been subjects of piratical raids. They were mercenary stock.  You’d think the Sialos’ reputation would have preceded them all over the archipelago and beyond the Celebes Sea.  Carcaranon over-confidence? A historical account relates of the Spaniards going after the remnants of the Dagohoy rebels in the late 1700s and employing Sialo “mercenaries” to do the job. There is no definite mention of where these Sialos came from.

But were the people in Valladolid by the early 1600s really still the Sialos, or more docile tribes that had been the timawas of the Sialos? There is an anthropological suggestion of fluidity of peoples coming and going from the place, and the Sialos themselves may not have been able to countenance being hamlet-ed as labor source for the town-building that the Spanish missionaries had set their eyes on accomplishing, and just left.

But came back with a vengeance! Perhaps the so-called “Muslim pirates” were actually just the Sialos who had moved elsewhere (Bohol maybe?) and returned to get back at the cause of their displacement–and certainly, the church would have been the representative. For instance, how did church historians know the pirates were actually Muslims? Axis of terror?

But, yes, that’s what historical accounts say happened.  Vicente Noel (1873-1951) and Vicente Florido (1907-1993) [whose first name I proudly share] in their respective reconstructions of the town history both mentioned that the Valladolid church[2] was burned to the ground in a Muslim pirate raid in 1622.  The authorities then moved the cabecera (parish/town center, derived from Sp. cabeza, meaning head) further inwards atop a hill in a locality called Kabkad (see previous post Kabkad in the time of Kolera).

The town was renamed (presumably) Cárcar, this time after a much much smaller agricultural town in the province of Navarra.

It’s possible Cárcar was chosen if only to velarly supplant the indio name Kabkad.  Better that, than the other possibility that a new name was in order since higher-ups had been taken aghast by the lèse-majesté that was the former naming of the town as Valladolid.

If the old town Valladolid was a settlement of Sialo people who, with their martial tendencies, were a distinctive band, were there another people already inhabiting this place Kabkad at the same period?  Or just the Sialos who went with the relocation, the traslacion?

What became of the Sialos?  I “often stop and think about them.”

In my life, 2009. Our town Carcar now has 15 barangays: Bolinawan, Buenavista, Calidngan, Can-asujan, Guadalupe, Liburon, Napo, Ocaña, Perrelos, Poblacion I, Poblacion II, Poblacion III, Tuyom, Valencia, Valladolid.  While still a grader back in the 60s, we had to memorize the ten barrios of the time.  Napo then was still part of Ocaña, and there was only one Poblacion.

In records up to 1880s, you would still not find any mention of Buenavista, Guadalupe, Perrelos, Valencia—curiously, the Spanish-named barangays we now have.  As Spanish names, they also make you kind of wonder were those names the decision of our local principalia or from the Spanish priest, or where? I did come across Valladolid in the 1860s records, but it was so rarely (say less than 5 times?) used after that.  Valladolid never quite managed to come back to the consciousness until well into the last century—it was just Daanglungsod for the longest time (interchanged with Pueblo Antiguo in early records).

What’s in a name: barangay, lungsod and others. Local places were just referred to in the Spanish-language records as lugar.  But what was the Bisayan equivalent then, what were they called in Binisaya–lungsodBayan? Or nothing particular, that’s why we just say lugar up to now?

Town was pueblo in Spanish.  We now use the Visayan lungsod, but did the term  always have its territorial implication that it has now? When did our folks begin calling a pueblo a lungsod? Or was lungsod already a political and territorial subdivision even before the Spaniards arrived? The term barrio came much much later and I presume so did sitio. Sitio of course means site, doesn’t it?

There was no Buenavista, no Guadalupe, no Perrelos or Valencia–yet, there already was Bacsiji, Balogo, Banica, Basac, Bato, Cabancalan, Cabiaon, Cabunculan, Caipilan, Cambuntan, Canasojan, Cangcabayo, Catadman, Cogon, Daanglungsod, Lagang, Latid, Luanluan, Mantalongon, Minag-a, Montepase, Mulag (Mowag), Napo, Pamitanagan, Panadtaran, Sangat, Tagutung, Tapon, Taug, Tubod, Tuyom, Ilaud, and others mentioned by those names. And yet all these are now just mere sitios, as it were, of the 15 barangays.  Sangat and Panadtaran, in 1858,  were attached to new town San Fernando.

Ocaña appeared in an 1864 record for the Nuñez family there, but there was no peep of the place name after that.

There was even no mention yet of a place called Poblacion. In the 1875 Manual del Viajeros, the term poblacion was used only to mean population, such that the Manual said that the poblacion of Carcar was 20,915, meaning the population of the entire town.

[In the last census taken for the said Manual, Carcar was the third largest in the province, next only to Argao and San Nicolas (then still an independent town). Cebu City was only 10th with 10,650, and the City even already included Parian and Lutaos.]

Carcar Poblacion.  There were surely individuals then living in present-day poblacion, but what name was the place called then? You see, persons were identified by their residence: Hilario Aleonar de lugar de Cabancalan; Tomas Aleonar de lugar de Mulag; Roman Sarmiento de lugar de Latid. Was our poblacion now then called Latid? Why not Kabkad, then? But that’s the enigma, Kabkad was never mentioned as a locality—or lugar—or whatever–and no individual or family were described as residents of Kabkad–never. At least, by the American period, poblacion was already a place (or barrio maybe).

Local character. Bolinawan, Tuyom, Caipilan, Cogon, Tubod were places named after their respective locality characters—bolinao, tuyom, ipil, cogon, tubod. But about Bacsiji, Banica, Cabancalan, Cabunculan, Cambuntan, Catadman, Lagang, Latid, Luanluan, Mantalongon, Minag-a, Montepase, Mulag (Mowag), Pamitanagan, Taug, Ilaud—my Visayan is very limited—what were these? We know Minag-a is a river but what does the word mean? The old Valladolid (Sialo) church was in its vicinity.

I’ve always wondered what Napo meant, especially that there are many places all over the province called Napo.  Pulò is islet or island, and yet most of these places called Napo are hilly areas far inland but could they have been promontories or headlands in geological pre-history as Napo, Carcar obviously was?

And yet, there is a nuance here.  If the word had come from Napulò, eliding the “l” the Cebuano way would entail just stretching the new syllable—na-poò.  But the place names are not pronounced that way, it’s na-pô!

Or, if it really was napulò meaning ten, what were these places the tenth of?  Did it suggest taking an even longer time to reach than siyam-siyam? Calling the lubas sa dagang binisaya.  Lubasa intawon ninyo ‘ning Napo.

We can take Tapon to refer to the same predicament as Labangon in Cebu City.

And many say Luanluan was so called because there used to be the train station there, where people boarded (luan) the trains.  The train may have passed through there, true, but that’s not why the place was called Luanluan.  By the 1850s, there were no trains yet but it already was called Luanluan.  So, instead, it may have been the boarding station for the balañgay boatfor the trip down the river to the sea.

What changes happened that Carcar “memories lose their meaning when I think of it as something new.”  En busca del nuestro perdido edén.  All these places and their moments, we’ll never lose affection…

[1] More erudite historians would be able to tell us whether these Visayan folkloric stories actually dated back to Humabon and earlier, or were mere hearsay themselves, or just works of fiction but numerous casual references to which, in legitimate historical accounts, have over time only made them come out as being true, much like what happened with the Code of Kalantiao.

[2] Ruins of the old church in Valladolid can still be made out. But an actual archaeological digging by Dr. John Peterson in 2001-2002 uncovered a much wider perimeter of the old church ground than can be made out from the old remnants. It would have been a big church even by today’s standards.



  1. Time was when the various strata of Carcar society, if there was ever such stratification, was blurred when it came to literature, drama, music and sports. Rich, middle class and the masa converged on the same plays in the plaza or the mercado and concerts by the local band of musicians who themselves came from different ranks.

    Le temps perdu. There is no longer a unifying element. Today, it’s the old rich, the new rich, the underworld new rich, the government officials and their families, and the rest who just go about their business.

  2. I want to know about the previous happiness in calidngan during the role of commander roy

    • @rolando, this is my absolute first time to hear of this. At least, you have heard of a commander roy and a happiness in calidngan, so please initiate and introduce us what this is all about.

  3. Ilaud was named because tle place was situated low land and always flooded with water when visited by a heavy rain. that is what i know. I think around year 2000 Ilaud was changed to Libertad St. and Ilaud was forgotten or unknown to those younger ages and to those who are not native carcaranon.

    • @dollyflores, what does the term ilaud have to do with low land and flood? I was inclined to think of the prefix -ila as a possessive, like ila-ud (ilang Ud) would be Ud’s place, whoever was Ud. I didn’t want to be misled about the pelagic term laud we sense it being open sea already and the place Ilaud was far from that.

  4. I’m not sure if there are any truth to this explanation, but a year ago, my godfather, Demio Nacua, gave me an explanation as to how “Napo” got its name. He mentioned that there were originally 10 families who settled in that area, hence Napo.

    I’m inclined to theorize that the word “Napo” got its name for the hilly nature of the area. The area is not “Napatag” but “Napo.”

    Bacsiji, on the other hand, is a fishing village. I thought this place was named after the Bacsiji or “baksihi” fish that is caught in that area. I swear I’ve had that yummy fish before.

    Mowag might be due to napo ka butakal na ngita ug napo ka anayonon nga na “mowag” na. I think Carcar might just hold the distinction of being the only town to have a “Horny” baranggay.

    • maybe you took mowag for ngowag. Do you know that for a long time I had no idea where the place Mulag, in the books, was. Until i just realized that many cebuanos do not pronounce “l” and so mulag can only be the latter-day mowag. this pronunciation is even taken to some extreme in that coral (fence) is pronounced corao. and old-time city residents still call mabolo, the district, as mabo(oh).

  5. can you send me some information about Ocaña…
    I badly need the LOCATION of Ocaña from Cebu..
    Its historical landmark…
    The Geographical Information…
    the population…

    please send me information about Ocaña…
    thanks a lot…

  6. some tales told us that during the american occupation, they can’t pronounce Kabkad(derived from the abundant fern named kabkad?) instead the americans pronounced it as CARCAR?……your research inriches our town….its about time for Carcar officials to build a heritage building where, including your researches be enshrined as legacy to generations to come…..thank you Vip…

    • maybe the tales about americans’ pronunciation are true but that is not how the town was called carcar. i have read an authentic (hand-written) encomienda order for carcar (in the internet) already calling the town carcar in 1624.

  7. Back in grade school in Napo Elementary School (1969-1975), we were told by our teachers during our local history class 101 that Carcar used to be called Kabkaban after the fern Kabkad. The name was then changed to Carcar after the Americans can’t quite pronounce Kabkaban and changed it to Carcar, after a local person was trying to teach the Americans how to pronounce “Kabkaban”, they saw 2 cars drove by and decided to call the place Carcar instead.
    About Napo, we were told that there were only 10 families who lived there and most, if not all, they have the family name of “Nacua”…

    Now, I’m confused, were our school teachers telling us the truth? or was it just a myth/telltale?

    • i am confused. my understanding was that the fern is called cabcab or even cabancaban and the town instead was called kabkad. re napo. i wish @jake or @isabel had named the 10 families of napo,.the nacua family came from san nicolas and arrived probably after 1850 marrying into Torres, Navares, Alcover, etc.

  8. Back then, my school teachers Ms. Fortunata and Teresita Torres, and Ms. Concepcion Nacua did not specifically mentioned who were the 10 families, but I will venture to say that they probably of the Nacua family, Claracay, Torres, Navares, Rama, and maybe even Navasca and Alcover family…These famiies have deep roots in Napo area. Me and Jake are from the Navares and Navasca family. Our paternal grandparents were Martina Navares and Francisco Navasca. Lots of Navares and Navasca in Napo. One thing I can recall from what were told by one of the sons from Napo, Atty. Delfin Velez Nacua, is that his grandfather Honorio Nacua (married to Francisca Lariego) was once a gobernadorcillo (or some local official) in Napo back in those days.

    • the nacua and rama families both came from san nicolas; torres from sibonga. probably the “native” families may be navares, manguiran, mangiao, barcoma (mino barcoma was a resident of napo and a sitting cabeza de barangay when he died in 1850), although other members of the family resided in cogon.

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