As an old settlement with archeological finds dating back to the Stone Age and historical accounts from pre-Hispanic to the Japanese Occupation periods, the coastal town of Gubat, Sorsogon province, at the southernmost tip of Luzon Island relished the wealth of its past as the 116th Independence Day was celebrated nationwide.
Roderick Quiñones Co, 42, first-time mayor of the quaint town rimmed by the eastern side of Pacific Ocean, had all the reasons to celebrate Freedom Day on June 12, the bispera (eve) of the town fiesta in honor of its patron saint, Anthony of Padua.
Co was proud to highlight the “grand heritage parade” of floats that depicted the development of Gubat from the Stone Age to the present.
Professor Luis Camara Dery, a doctor of philosophy in history from the University of the Philippines who specializes in Philippine history from precolonial to World War II periods, distinguished Gubat as one town that elected its own officials under the revolutionary government from Dec. 13-14, 1898, or barely three months after the Spaniards left Sorsogon.
Dery said the revolution in Sorsogon, which broke out on Aug. 23, 1896, started with a workers’ uprising in the shipyard at Panlatuan, Pilar town, until the Spanish colonizers fled two years later.
At that time of the election, revolutionary forces led by Gen. Ananias Diokno had already occupied the province.
‘Footnotes to history’
Elected to the highest position of presidente local was Don Angel Camara, with Don Florentino Escurel as vice presidente. The residents also elected the cabezas (heads) for the villages, Don Luis Silvestre as delgado de policia (chief of police), Don Rafael Hernandez as delgado de justicia (local magistrate), and Don Santiago Camara as delgado de rentas (treasurer).
Dery, currently a lecturer of De La Salle University (DLSU) history department, said that archeological evidence unearthed in various places in Gubat showed the presence of inhabitants there since the Stone Age.
An essay Dery wrote, titled “Footnotes to the History of Gubat, Sorsogon,” pointed to two stone-bark beaters and four stone axes that were recovered in the village of Bulacao, which resembled the pottery stone tools dated to be about 91 B.C. that were discovered from Bato Caves in the neighboring Bacon District of Sorsogon City.
Dery cited another archeological find of earth jars for burials covered by flat stones in the upland village of Tigkiw that were dated to be between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200.
Artifacts from Ariman, a coastal village southeast of the town, where “an assemblage of New and old Stone Age tools, burial jars, porcelain wares and a fossilized smoke pipe” were recovered, also document the antiquity of the town, he added.
During the Spanish conquest, he depicted the town to have suffered from “the bloody military campaigns launched by Spanish conquistadores,” which resulted in the destruction of the pre-Hispanic settlement of Gubat.
According to Dery, Pedro Manook, a native Boholano ally of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, also arrived in Gubat. “He (Manook) brought with him many kinsmen—and helped the Spanish conquer and Christianize Sorsogon and many other places.”
It became one of the major bases of the Spanish rule in the country, and together with Bacon, now a district of Sorsogon City, Gubat was made an alternate port for the Manila Galleon, with the nearby Magallanes town then hosting a Spanish shipyard.
Dery said that as a Spanish base, it drew Moro raids and invasions during the long-running Spanish-Moro War (1521-1898), thus, its name “Gubat,” which means “war or to invade, attack or raid.”
The village named Daku na Kuta referred to fortified stockades the inhabitants built against the Moro invaders. The attacks, however, declined over the years until the 1820s.
As a consequence of Governor General Pascual Enrile’s Decree of Dec. 12, 1831, directing all Spanish provincial governors to establish a regular weekly market day in every town, the abaca production and trading boomed. Gubat became a major trading center of the abaca industry.
Dery wrote: “Almacenes (collection houses where abaca were stored and processed) dotted the Pacific coastline of Gubat from Balud to Pinontingan. Batels (large sea vessels) loaded with abaca from Samar and Leyte weekly docked at Gubat.”
When the Americans colonized the Philippine archipelago, Gen. William A. Kobbe led the military expedition to Bicol which occupied towns in Sorsogon, Albay and Catanduanes.
But it was not a walk in the park for the foreigners because an official of the revolutionary government, Lt. Col. Emeterio Funes, a native of Bulusan town, about 30 kilometers south of Gubat, reorganized the revolutionary forces in Sorsogon and put up armed resistance.
Funes established his headquarters in the village of Jupi north of Gubat in the 1900 but later moved the headquarters farther to his hometown in Bulusan on the shoulders of Bulusan Volcano, after a crushing defeat of his men led by Valentin San Miguel.
“Betrayed by a collaborator, San Miguel and his valiant soldiers were slaughtered by the American troops,” Dery noted.
Funes finally surrendered to American colonizers on Feb. 22, 1901. But two of his men, Francisco de la Cruz and Antonio Colache, revived the guerrilla resistance, mobilizing about 400 men and women. They included Margarita Fullio and Catalina Purical, Esteban Diño, Francisco Estipona and Pablo Encinares.
The resistance did not last long and the people behind it gave in to the pressure of “military campaigns and reconcentration of the inhabitants.”
With the new colonizers, the people of Gubat embraced the American education through the first American teacher in the person of a certain Sergeant Daly, commanding officer of the American troops in Gubat.
Dery said two Thomasites (American teachers aboard USAT Thomas who reestablished the public education system in the Philippines)—Clarence McDonald and Glenn W. Caulkins—replaced Daly in continuing the educational instructions to the pupils of the town on Oct. 7, 1901, three days after their arrival.