Dateline: Calbayog, Samar

By Buddy Gomez

Posted at Apr 08 2015 10:46 PM | Updated as of Apr 09 2015 07:50 AM

Let me begin with a disclosure. Calbayog is my hometown and I am very proud to be a Waray-waray hometown boy. I have departed Calbayog many times, never forsaking her, always returning. As often and whenever possible.

But Calbayog, where I took my first baby steps, learned to utter my very first intelligible words (in the local dialect, what else!), suffered my first infant ailments (whooping cough plus a bout with eczema), my first schooling, and after the interlude of being away for the first  time--caught in Manila during the Japanese Occupation--where I returned to finish high school and in the process began learning the bitter-sweet lessons of adulthood and intimately experienced what macho manhood was all about, will always be part of what and who I am.

Ah, memories, memories! Calbayog has never left me and never will, wherever else I find myself destined.

Waray-waray is both the Samar island (the third largest in the Philippine archipelago) lingua franca as well as an ethnic description. Fierce and warlike but only when provoked and cornered, actually an undeserved reputation, really a hilarious bad rap, popularized by Nida Blanca’s ditty: “hindi u-urong,” about the Waray not retreating nor surrendering! Yet possessed of humor and hospitality beyond compare! (Walang kaparis!) Great lovers, too!

I never miss the opportunity to rib in good-hearted jest my fellow Visayans from another region (Cebuanos, our major group) about their having slain the very first tourist to land on their shores! (Remember Lapulapu and Magellan on Mactan sland!)

Of course, today, Cebu hosts about the best of tourism facilities in the country. While days earlier, the very same group of Europeans were humbly regaled with island welcome by a Samar chieftain who introduced the visitors to the local libation of friendship--“tuba”--the celebrated, happily inebriating grog naturally brewed from the collected droplets of coconut sap from her blossoms.

It is a fact of tourism lore that our forebears have indeed been in the practice of hospitality since 1521. It was on that morning in March 494 years ago when Europeans established the first social contact with the Waray-waray (a people later to be also known as Filipinos) on the shores and the sweet water springs in the island of Homonhon! Practicing Hospitality since 1521--that is what the Waray-waray is all about!

The concept of a hometown is somehow inextricably linked to one having been away from her bosom and thus connotes a longing for the same old places much altered by time and human accretion; familiar old faces and smiles, alas fast fading. Memories of happy times. Nostalgia. Having a hometown is a basic human right!

THE SURGE OF BUSINESS

The pulse of commerce throbs mightily. The spirit of surging mercantilism in a developing world setting is much evident in the sounds and sights, even scents that abound in and from the streets animated by vroomvroomboom of motorized tricycles (the transport of the masses), the constant flow of cargo trucks laden with merchandise.

But nothing can supplant the personal experience of a 90-minute leisurely walking tour of the poblacion’s trade and commercial center that includes a bustling third world riverport and fish market. (This walking tour I took Monday morning.)

There, you find the colorful outsized engine-powered boats with outriggers, literally instruments of commerce, transporting people and cargo to and from the island municipalities to the west. It would really be fun and informative to take the time to mapquest Calbayog and Samar on the InterNet, a vicarious and imaginative visit.

Banks, bakers, pawn shops abound. Franchised food outlets operate alongside Mom & Pop shops, many of them with InterNet/ WiFi connectivity. The recent proliferation of Pensiones, Inns and hotel accommodations represent the most recent of improvements. SMART and Globe operate cellsites that cover the length and breadth of the City, including the island towns across Samar Sea.

Access to the rest of the outside world to which international nooks Calbayog OFWs have gainfully strayed and sent home ample shares of their sweat and labor. Service and repair shops of otherwise recyclables or throw-away appliances. Old-fashioned foundry shops that produce local machetes and bolo blades with scabbards of local wood bound by jungle vine. Etc. etc.

Motorcycle/motorbike and home appliance stores with their adjunct installment sales and financing offices. Construction supply outlets feeding a boom. Department stores, although far from Metro Manila’s SM-style of retail malling, contain every imaginable consumer goods and consumables, items of modern day conveniences that are available in the myriad country-style stores, a tourist attraction by themselves.

The ever present Chinoy-owned and -operated enterprises collectively provide the largest source of private employment. Like in most parts most parts of the country, they form the economic backbone that sustains a vibrant community.

LEADERSHIP MATERIAL IN THE NATIONAL LEVEL

Perhaps, more than any other municipality in the country, Calbayog has contributed an array of luminaries to the luster of national political leadership and governance, outstanding men and women of the cloth, to professional excellence, to entrepreneurship and to public service.

Calbayog, an otherwise unheralded spot in the country’s geography has produced a proud harvest that far outstrips its size and relative prominence. Three senators, one of whom served as Senate president; of the several who served as Cabinet secretaries, one was Deputy Prime Minister; four of all the provincial governors, three ambassadors / chiefs of mission in the country’s foreign service and a general in the military.

The Catholic Church has been enriched by a Cardinal, an archbishop and several bishops, and a prioress of a major order of nuns who had previously served in an international capacity while seconded to a posting in Rome. All from Calbayog.

High-ranking government functionaries in the executive and judicial department, as well in Constitutional offices, have likewise come from this community. Managing and senior partners of the most prestigious law firms in Manila likewise hail from Calbayog.

They all provide a source great pride in the hearts of townfolks. This cast of inspiring individuals serve as beacons of achievement for our youth to emulate.

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

The early story of Calbayog is intertwined with the introduction of Christianity in this part of the world. Over time and place, what we know today as Calbayog in its present site, has been moving its location towards safer grounds within the same general vicinity as a consequence of the long past climatic ravages such as natural riverine displacements caused by floods and the turbulence of typhoons, worsened still by recurrent piratical onslaughts that the Samar western coast was prone to.

The dawn of Christianity in Samar commenced in 1596 when the first wave of Jesuit missionaries set in motion ecclesiastical evangelism in a small settlement known as Tinago, about 30 kilometers south of Calbayog facing the sea. It is now the municipality of Tarangnan.

Three years after Tinago, along the major river of Hibatang, in 1599, a ‘visita’ (the seed of a Christian community without a resident pastor but periodically visited!) was established as an adjunct of a parish sited in the island of Capul that faces the gateway of San Bernardino Strait towards the Pacific.

It was in 1785 when Calbayog was separated from the jurisdiction of Capul to become a parish although still attached to the more prominent, at the time, parish of Bangajon, now known as Gandara. As a parish and Christian community, dedicated to Our Lady of the Nativity (Nuestra Senora de la Natividad) as her patron saint, Calbayog is now 235 years old.

FAST FORWARD BUT NOT THAT TOO FAR OFF

Calbayog is a tourism gem in the raw. Its development as a commercial enterprise will yield blessings to the investor/entrepreneur as well as to its ultimate beneficiaries, the locals and their visitors. Calbayog and Samar have something exotically new and different to offer.

Calbayog has much to contribute not only to the economic well-being of the province of Samar and East Visayas, but to the country as well. For the investor, it is not financial intrepidity at all, but simply common sense.There are opportunities for honest lucre that await him. Those opportunities are like Easter Eggs laid out in the garden. They are there, meant to be found!

The progressive environment provided by people and the neighborhoods simply await new investments. Such, therefore, require a prudent exploratory visit from entrepreneurs in search of sterling opportunities; and for prospective retirees and actual retirees in search of a venue for a relaxed and enhanced longer life of bliss and ease.

But before purchasing that plane ticket, it is best that we rely upon the services of that good old reliable Google. For the adventurous, Calbayog may not have the white sands and the crowded populations of the Boracays. Beyond just beaches, we have a more exotic and challenging array of waterfalls and caves. (About them, please google “Photos of Calbayog City Waterfalls.”)

In terms of natural beauty and allure, let me ask you: has there ever been an artist’s representation of Adam and Eve lolling by the beach, basking in sand and sun? Adam and Eve were never beachcombers! Then, go spiritual and commune with Mother Nature. Calbayog gives you unspoiled paradise. No serpents, just the bliss of revered and well-preserved nature.

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PS: Senatorial EPal !

This one is difficult to let pass. If you do not know what “anti-bacterial and elastometric” paints are (and chances are that you do not), you may want to ask the youthful Senator Chiz Escuder, so young and yet so epal!

Epal is, of course, the now very popular wordplay on “pumapa-papel,” meaning a surreptitious seeking of a role to play, taking advantage of an opportunity to be seen or heard for the sake of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.

Senator Escudero flagrantly engages in the practice. I find this infantile wont degrading and demeaning to the office and stature of a Senator. On an outdoor, point of purchase advertising sign--two of them, a plastic banner as well as a standee measuring 30 by 40 inches, which I beheld during my walkabout--there was Chiz beaming from ear to ear, grinning with all his white dentures agleam, hawking and merchandising a brand of roofing paint!

Cheap Chiz! Unbecoming, wouldn't you agree?

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.