Sunday, March 9, 2014

Exploring my hometown Basey

Golden (Cadac-an) River

Experience a rustic ‘rural life’ characterized by simple homes and lots of verdant scenery in the southwestern part of Samar. It is not cosmopolitan, but in every respect, it has all the scenic – and cultural variety you would expect from a town. That is my hometown Basey, a coastal town about 28 kilometers away from Tacloban City which could be reached from Tacloban by a 45-minute land trip passing through the picturesque San Juanico Bridge. It is bounded by the town of Sta. Rita and Villa Real in the North, Borongan and Marabut in the East, Tacloban City in the West and San Pedro Bay in the South.

If we got by the legend of Bungansakit, the settlers always remembered the place a “Mabaysay”, a beautiful woman who inspired others. The settlers name it “Baysay”, later contracted to Basay and Americanized into Basey. Basaynon have long been banking on their native “banig,” 17th Century old church and the Sohoton Natural Park to stake their claim in the tourism industry and create more economic opportunities for the town.
San Juanico Bridge
The first settlement of town was established near the mouth of the Golden (Cadac-an) river. The settlers in the place called it Binongtu-an. Like other early coastal settlements, it was not spared from plunder by the Moro marauders, which caused the settlement to break and scatter. The bulk of the Binongtu-an settlers traveled from Cadac-an to the smaller and winding Lawa-an River and settled on its banks. Buscada eventually became the name of the place where the fleeing people settled. As the settlers’ number increased, some of them moved to the other side of the hill (Loyo).

Some of the settlers from Binongtu-an traveling from Cadac-an river did not enter the Lawa-an River but turned left after Capungturan Island and settled along a lofty shore where the smaller river meets the sea, and what is called now Baybay and Campunao. These places are shielded from Moro pirates from the open sea by the Capungturan and Jinamoc Islands. As the population increased, the settlers spread from Baybay to Loyo, Lawaan, Palaypay, Mercado and Sulod.
St. Michael Church
            The “timeline” of Basey:     

  • In 1591, the first Spanish mission recorded the flourishing settlement of Basey under the bishopric of Cebu. 

  • The parish was formally established in 1650.    

  • Fr. Cristobal Miralles of the Jesuit mission in Basey built a church made of wood only to be burned and looted of its treasures by Moro raiders on Corpus Christi Day in1663.   

  • In 1768, Basey was ceded to the Agustinians.  

  • The Franciscans ministered the town in 1804 and Fray Juan Navarro was appointed first Franciscan parish priest. The coral church built on a hilltop started as the present convent inside a fort, which overlooks San Pedro bay. The Franciscans named the church St. Michael the Archangel, in deference to the patron saint of the founding Jesuit missionaries.  

  • In 1845, Fray Domingo de Madrid repaired the church. About the same time, a cemetery in Barangay Buscada was built with a coral stone chapel inside it. Basaynons of stature in the community were entombed into shelves of its 10-foot thick, coral and limestone walls.

  • In 1846  and 1856, the construction of the bell tower and Basey Church were completed.

  • In 1880, the church was damaged by a storm and in 1894 Fray Vicente Gutierrez replaced the roofing with galvanized iron.

Sohoton National Park
Sohoton National Park
The more that I’m away from Basey, the more that I appreciate the beauty when friends of mine telling me about Sohoton. Our hometown is more of a wonderful sight rather than a sight of poverty in that case. The Sohoton national park boasts of caves with magnificent stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations, and of a natural bridge, an arch-shaped rock that connects two ridges over the river below. In 1935, in a move to preserve the natural beauty of the area between the Barangays of Inuntan and Mabini, the farthest upstream village, the government declared protected the 840-hectare Sohoton Bridge National Park, which could be reached through the Golden River. During the Philippine-American War, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Filipino revolutionaries established a camp atop a cave, now called Panhulugan, at the confluence of the Cadac-an and Sohoton rivers. From their vantage point, they would throw bamboo spears and drop boulders into the river where an enemy boat was passing by.

Within the park, there are limestones, rockholes, weather-formed rocks and underground rivers aside from forests and wild animals. The more prominent assemblage are the cathedral-like caves of Panhulugan I and II, Sohoton and Bugasan. These caves are endogen caves in angular limestone cliff. They support the base of other crack systems. There are many flowstones and dripstones in the formations.

The Panhulugan Cave frames itself in an angular limestone cliff forming a letter “H”. It's three main cracks serve to wit its form. Its two parallel legs lying 50 meters apart and connected at the entrance by a perpendicular crosspiece provide the said formation. The cracks serve to be the hub opening for internal hallways and the internal cave chambers measure some 49.2 feet high at the end of its leg. Its cathedral immensity contains an interior that branch out into many multi-levelled chambers and tunnels. Inside the cave were an infinite variety of flowstones and rock formations which resembled familiar images of the outside world. The cave is geologically active as evidenced by the constant drips of water from stalactites. These caves were used as burial sites during the 13th century.
Sohoton Cave
The nearby Sohoton Cave is another cathedral-like dome with a parabolic arch-type entrance of about fifty-meters high. Its entrance is a flat door about twenty meters in width and fifty-meters in length. On its ceiling hang spike-shaped crystalline stalactites and rustic and cavernous walls and with stalagmites on the floor. At the far end of the cave is an opening with a balcony overlooking the natural swimming pool.

Another formation to see is the Sohoton Natural Bridge. It is a huge arch-shaped rock that connects two mountain ridges spanning the Sohoton River with a vertical clearance of 23 feet, about 8 meters in width and 40 meters in length. The Stone Bridge is forested at its upper portion while on its underside hang heavy karst formations of giant stalactites forming like swords and rockets. Tourists had to take a one-hour motorboat trip to reach the national park.
San Pedro Bay
Aside from the famous “banig,” church and Sohoton, Basey is now becoming known for its pristine beaches and rustic resorts in the outskirts of the town, which have made the place a veritable getaway spot by some foreigners and backpackers. The most popular of which is the Marabut Marine Park Beach Resort, which boasts of towering rock islets with secluded beach coves. The water there is clear and cool aquamarine, seemingly untouched by the growing populace, which is rich in flora and fauna, truly a diver’s paradise. Another resort that is fast making a name for itself is the Caluwayan Palm Island Resort, a 20-minute jeep ride from Basey, which is surrounded by a breath-taking view of the of towering rocks islands and islets with secluded coves and coral gardens.
The author at Bacubac Beach
Given all the scenery and quaint simple life where you want it, when you want it, would feel right at home. Our hometown, from its rich in cultural history to the dynamism and creativity of its people… is truly our pride.

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