Posted by: vip | April 23, 2010

How towns got their names

How towns got their names

Were it not for the gun ban, any Carcaranon who has not heard of the name Kabkad at all should be shot.  Kabkab is a fern abundantly found in Carcar but more importantly, kabkad is said to be the town’s old locality name.  But is it? Not only is kabkad a little different from kabkab but the ancient settlement was Sialo but when the center (located in the Valladolid area; that’s why it was for a long time called Daanglungsod) was razed by pirates, the ayuntamiento was moved farther inland to, I suppose, the place then called Kabkad.  My problem with this historical claim is I have yet to find a record in the old parish books referring to a locality (lugar) called Kabkad and I’d certainly be ecstatic to.

Then just this decade of festivals* which the province started, someone came up with the term Kabkaban for Carcar’s.  Kabkab? Why not Kabkadan if the town is Kabkad? Okay, let’s just get this straight. The fern is called kabkab, and, faithful to the town name legends formula, it was thus the Spaniards themselves who called the town Kabkad (from the mispronunciation of kabkab). And yet, non-Carcaranons also say the fern is called kaban-kaban. Whew!

And that’s just half of the puzzle. Sialo, or Salug, or Siaro, or Jaro, was a settlement of a distinct band of natives (also called Sialos) who inhabited the coasts south of San Nicolas. In 1599, the Spaniards established a visita in a settlement they call Sialo or Salug, in what is now inside the territory of Carcar. From the name, a visita is a convent under a main parish (in this case San Nicolas), which the priests use as a forward base to reach further their evangelization of peoples. As to when this visita got upgraded to a parish itself is not very clear but this point is very crucial, because Boljoon is hot on our heels with the idea that it was that parish-town got established ahead in 1606.

But since the area is historically called Daanglungsod (old town), Carcar believes a full-pledge town must indeed have been established. Anyway, the actual foundation date notwithstanding, the town was called Valladolid but in 1622, it was raided by pirates and the church was razed. The Spanish authorities then moved the center to a more distant place inland. The place name of that new center was–there–Kabkab, or Kabkad and thus this “new” town was called Carcar in 1624. And therein is the crux of Boljoon’s call to set the records straight. Again, to repeat, I have not found any mention of a place name Kabkad. There was a Cabanbanan mentioned as a place name by 1850, could this have been the kabkad of old? But nobody at present I asked has ever heard of a Cabanbanan in Carcar.

It is nothing less than amazing that the priests were able to build a fairly big church in that Sialo settlement now located in barangay Tuyom (once part of barrio Valladolid) between 1599 to 1622. Barangay Valladolid might want to change all that, too.  The establishment of independent barangay Tuyom was done with no consideration to history. Otherwise, that area of the old church, in Inayagan, Tuyom, should have been retained by Valladolid just for the history of it. It just added to our place name puzzles.

The name Carcar, on the other hand, is on record as being the town’s name. It is also a name of a town in Navarra, in Spain. Then the conjecture: a priest named the town after his town in Spain. Whether true or not, we’ve never developed the habit of verifying.  That’s why Philippine town histories have been askew for centuries. Admittedly, the records are not easily obtainable.  But actually for Carcar, any historian with access to Agustinian records at Sto. Niño could easily check whether a friar or church dignitary here at the time was indeed a Carcarés.

(A development:  Carcar historian Jerry Martin Alfafara, cursorily going over the list of all Agustinians who ever served in the Philippines, which list included their hometowns in Spain, found nobody coming from Carcar, Navarra–adding to our troubles.)

Why is it that all town histories start with How the Town Got Its Name? And the common story is of locals not understanding what the Spanish authority was asking, and answering wrongly and the wrong answer stuck and became the town name. Or, the local did understand and it was the Spaniard who could not pronounce the native word, and the foreigner’s pronunciation prevailed.

Come on, was it always like that as most town claims–always?

Moalboal.  The local was at a hot spring.  The Spaniard asked what the place was called. The local thought the European was asking what the water was undergoing. bocal-bocal (boiling). Ah, the story continues, the Spaniard, not being able to correctly pronounce the term, then decided the town was called Moalboal.  Seamless.

Except that bocal is a pretty Spanish word and in fact for a long time just some years back, we ourselves were still using the term to call our provincial board members. So, truth actually is, the hombre would have been able to utter bocal-bocal without any strain on his vocal chords, vale?

And except also that there are actually two towns in Asturias, Spain, with the names Moal, and the other, Boal.  Hmm.

So, now knowing that, may I ask again: how did Moalboal get its name?

* Ah festivals. We’re at a loss which festival in Cebu was ever a tradition in the place–perhaps only the Sinulog. As for Carcar, there was never a kabkaban before this millenium and to call it a heritage project does not take into account that, let me put it in terms of inheritance –that cultural heritages are paraphernal but these new festivals are current and just conjugal. And millions of pesos are being spread around for these so-called heritage projects. Tourism, yes! But never call it a heritage project; let’s call a spade a spade — in Cebuano slang, gi-palahan ba.


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