Huwebes, Enero 11, 2018

The Capital Town: From Hinterlands to Bicolandia’s Agro-Industrial Center

Prepared by Ralff Nestor S. Nacor

The background picture shows the Balang Falls or more popularly known as Shower Falls in Sitio Bongcao, Curry during our Mt. Isarog adventure on April 13, 2017...

Early Inhabitants: The Natives of Pili, Camarines Sur

There are two races which were considered as natives of Pili, Camarines Sur:
1. Bikol- Isarog Agta Tribe of Negroid stock
2. Central Bikolano speakers of Malay stock

The Agtas were believed to be the first settlers of the town. They were related to the other tribes with Negroid stock like the Dumagat, Agta of Mt. Asog, etc. The occupation of the more-advanced Malays in the lowlands forced them to go upland at the foot of Mt. Isarog. The Bikol- Isarog Agta race of today can still be seen in the uptown Pili especially in Barangay Curry.

The Malays were considered as the ancestors of the dominant-lowland Bicolanos. These people speak the Central Bikolano language of the Naga variant. If we will follow the Legend of Maragtas, two Datus went northward from the island of Panay (where the Confederation of Madyaas was founded by the Malay immigrants). The two of the famous Ten Bornean Datus mentioned were Datu Dumangsil and Datu Balkasusa. It was believed that Datu Dumangsil founded a Tagalog kingdom near the Taal lake, while Datu Balkasusa went southward up to Bicol peninsula. Thus, Datu Balkasusa was the ancestor of the Bicolanos of Malay stock.

The ancient name of the Bicol region is “Ibalon” which came from the word “balyo” meaning “cross/ other side”. The ancient Bicolanos of Malay stock founded their own community centered beside the Bicol River. The word “Bikol” came from the word “biko” which means “curve”, that is because the Bicol River is curvy. This community is located at the present-day Naga City. However, some of them settled at the south of the river in the present-day Pili for farming purposes.

Spanish Period & The Cimarrones

The town of Pili was mostly considered as a hinterland before 1819. Being just a neighbor of “Ciudad de Nueva Caceres”, the natives were forced to settle in the said Spanish city due to the policy of “reducciones”. The “Ciudad de Nueva Caceres”, the center of Ambos Camarines, is the present-day Naga City and is one of the royal cities of the colony. Pili at that time houses the “Cimarrones” or the “Remontados” who resisted the foreign rule of the Spanish. The modern day-Pili remembers the contribution of the “Cimarron” and “Cimarrona” in Pili’s history through a statue in front of the Municipal Hall.

Ruins of the Hospital Diocesana de Lazarinos de Palestina
Photo from the Pili: Banwaan Ko Padangat Ko Cultural Heritage Society
The center of the settlement was formerly in the barangay of Binanuaaan (the word came from “Banwaan” meaning “Town”). With the foundation of the first parish church in the present-day Pili in 1819, the “poblacion” was ever since transferred to its present-day location. The church was named after San Rafael Arcangel, the patron saint of fishermen and held its annual fiesta during October 24. The only living non-parochial Hispanic infrastructure in the town is the Watch Tower Ruins built in 1872, which is in front of the present day- Christ the King Parish Church at Palestina. It is here where the Spaniards built their Leper hospital far away from the city.

American Period & Establishment As a Town

The Americans established the town of Pili in 1901. The name of the town came from the word “pili” or “to choose” and not from the Pili nut (Canarium ovatum). In fact, the fruit is very rare in the town even the region is famous for it (Pili trees of the town can only be found inside the CBSUA- Main Campus). Known as the “Piniling Lugar”, the Americans wanted to make Pili as the new provincial urban center, since Naga City which the Spaniards had developed was prone to major floods. Even my history professor in CBSUA told us that Pili in its plain form was more elevated than its neighboring Naga City. The rivers of the town were very low as compared to the land where the people are living, thus no major flooding occurred at least in its written history.

Fortunato Tuazon - Pili's First Mayor
            Photo from the Pili: Banwaan Ko Padangat Ko Cultural Heritage Society

The town is very strategic location for the Americans. Pili connects the major districts of the province: the Bikol Naga-speaking towns of the North, Partido Area, and the Rinconada Area. It was here where they build the current Naga Airport in the barangay of San Jose. Also in the same barangay, they built the Camarines Sur Agricultural School in 1918 which is exclusive for boys at that time. This is now the main campus of the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture.

Japanese Occupation

According to Sir Carlos Arejola, a historian, when the World War II broke out in 1941 the Japanese Imperial Army sent 3,000 soldiers to Pili due to the concentration of American developments in the town. They built tunnels, manmade caves, and foxholes all over the town which are still existent today. The infrastructures of the war were mostly in the barangays of Cadlan, Curry, San Jose and even in the Poblacion Area.

"I-Witness: Yaman ng Isarog"

My grandmother Leonor Baylon, a native of Barangay Tinangis, said that they escaped the war by hiding in the forests of Mt. Isarog. They were in a group headed by a leader who directed their exodus. When the Japanese started to lose, they also flee to Mt. Isarog to hide. Aside from the holes in downtown Pili, they also created a lot of holes in Mt. Isarog and used the mountain as their last stand in the Bicol Region. In the present, we remember the heroes of the war through the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Monument in Sitio Bongcao, Curry located at the foot of Mt. Isarog.

   Filipino-Japanese Friendship Monument
          Photo from the Pili: Banwaan Ko Padangat Ko Cultural Heritage Society

The Capital Town

Naga City was the former capital of Camarines Sur. It was formally designated as the provincial capital by virtue of Philippine Legislative Act No. 2711 on March 10, 1917 under the American Rule. It is until December 15, 1948 when Naga City was declared a Chartered City. This move had declared a need of searching for the new site of the Provincial Capitol building.

Former Governor Juan F. Trivino chooses the Municipality of Pili as the new home of the Provincial Capitol. The selection also determined the new capital of the province. Finally on June 6, 1955, Pili was declared as the Provincial Capital by virtue of R.A. 1336 replacing Naga City. There were six possible sites in Pili which were considered for the provincial capitol. The Capitol Site Selection Committee finally voted in favor of the 15 hectare lot donation of Don Susano Rodriguez in the barangay of Cadlan.

The Barangays

There are 26 barangays in the town. Most of them were named after each of their respective patron saint. However, there are some which has names with different origin.

Poblacion Area: Old San Roque, San Antonio, San Isidro, San Juan, San Vicente, Santiago
Uptown Area: Tinangis, Curry, Sto. Nino, Del Rosario, Bagong Sirang
Northern Part - Lowland: Palestina, Cadlan, Caroyroyan, San Jose, San Agustin, Sagurong, Tagbong
Southern Part - Lowland: Binobong, New San Roque, Binanuaanan, La Purisima, Sagrada, Himaao, Anayan, Pawili

Trivia for some barangays:

Curry – former name is Bongcao (which is now only a Sitio). It is named after the first Governor of Camarines Sur- George Curry. The Eight Waterfalls in One River can be found in Sitio Bongcao. The seventh waterfall is the Slide Falls and the last is the Shower/ Balang Falls. Mt. Isarog is the source of water of every town surrounding it including Pili.

Tinangis – comes from the root word “tangis” meaning “’cry”. It was believed that natives cried whenever they walked to the upland barangay due to its far distance from the lowlands. With San Jose and Caroyroyan, they were the home of the Camp Elias Angeles (9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army). The highest waterfall in Mt. Isarog is clearly seen from here. If you are from Pili, you can see a waterfall visible (a white line) from the National Highway after a rain and it is the Maati Falls. It came from the root word “ati” meaning “loses a certain amount”, since the waterfall seems to disappear in a sunny day. Some may claim Balang Falls as the highest waterfall, but locals were convinced that it is the Maati Falls (Natives says that it is very difficult to reach Maati Falls).

Caroyroyan – the barangay is mostly of grass and rice farms in the early 20th century, that is why it might came from the word “Kaparoroyan” having the root word “paroy” meaning rice husks.

Cadlan – the location of the Provincial Capitol. It also houses the famous Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) and Lago del Rey.

New San Roque – the Balut Capital of Pili

Anayan – the barangay where the roads to Partido and Rinconada where parting ways. They are famous for their “sinapot”/ fried bananas.

Modern Pili: Bicolandia’s Agro-Industrial Center & Urbanization

Pili is the second trading center of Metro Naga. This paves the way for the rapid urbanization of the town in the 20th century from a mere hinterland before. Most people from Pili are products of the immigrants from other parts of the Bicol Region. The proximity of the town in Naga City also made the town an ideal place to live for those who study and work in the said city.

Also, Pili is Bicolandia’s Agro-Industrial Center. The town is the home of the Department of Agriculture in the Bicol Region, parting away from most regional offices located in Legazpi City, Albay. It is also the home of the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, which is the regional center for higher learning in agriculture. Agricultural products of the town are mainly rice, corn, and sugar canes. In fact, Pili is one of the rice granaries of Camarines Sur. With this, aside from being an important agricultural center of the Bicol Region, the town also houses industrial companies with agricultural processes. Some of the industrial plants are as follows:

·   Co Say Oil Mill – Located in La Purisima, the company is one of the largest producers of coconut oil in the Bicol Region. From coconut meat they extracted the natural oil via leaching.
·   Partido Rice Mill – Located in New San Roque, the company is known for its quality rice products in the whole province. They have a large milling plant as compared to other ordinary milling plants.
·   Bicol Biomass Power Plant – Located also in New San Roque, the waste rice husks of the Partido Rice Mill will be sent here to produce electricity by creating steam from burning it. This is the first Rice-husk power plant in Southern Luzon.
·     B-Meg – they have a plant located beside the National Highway
·     Penafrancia Sugar Mill (Pensumil) – Located in Himaao, they are using the sugar canes planted at the foot of Mt. Isarog. Pili is known as Bicol’s Sweetheart especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s due to this.

“The history of Pili, Camarines Sur may remain an exciting puzzle for historians and history enthusiasts, but whatever it is we are sure that it played a major role on the identity of the town today."

The Capital Town: From Hinterlands to Bicolandia’s Agro-Industrial Center

Prepared by Ralff Nestor S. Nacor The background picture shows the Balang Falls or more popularly known as Shower Falls in Sitio Bongcao,...