Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

A history of history anent Dumaguete

By ALFRED A. YUSON, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 02, 2023 5:00 am

Any book on or from my adopted city of Dumaguete makes it to my must-have list. Thanks then to good friend Ian Rosales Casocot, who saw to it that I’d receive one of the first copies of the boxed three-volume set, Hugkat—launched early last month at the newly-restored Presidencia (built in 1937 with Juan Arellano as architect) that has been converted as a branch of the National Museum of the Philippines. 

A primary participant in the historiography project, Casacot is credited as its editor-in-chief and technical editor. It was Dr. Earl Jude Cleope, the Compiler and general editor, who conceived of Hugkat Journal in 2017 as one of the flagship projects of the newly formed Dumaguete City Heritage Council. “Hugkat” is Cebuano for “unearth” or “bring to light.”

Ian explains why he regarded his involvement “as being almost a sacred duty.”

“Every city (or town for that matter) that people consider to be truly memorable springs from an ideal: the place is culturally grounded and aware of its history, so much so that it is able to create an entire creative industry around that sense of history and culture, and at the same time able to give its population a prideful sense of place. This is the same for almost every city of note all over the world.

“When I was growing up, I became more enamored of my city and my province because I was somehow able to read up on histories put out by Caridad Aldecoa-Rodriguez and T. Valentino Sitoy.

“Dr. Sitoy’s history of Negros Oriental, for example, published in 1993 in Kabilin, was a truly riveting piece of historiography…. Prof. Rodriguez’s portrait of Don Diego de la Viña, the liberator of Negros Oriental from the Spanish in the last throes of the Revolution, also allowed me to go beyond the usual Tagalog-bound stories of the KKK….

“But who remembers Don Diego de la Viña today? There is a marker for him at the M.L. Quezon Park, and that’s it. Even the road named after him in Dumaguete is not the road he literally marched on when he entered the capital all the way from Vallehermoso.”

Casocot, a creative writer who recently won the Palanca first prize for the short story, samples some trivia questions:

“Where is the nearest archaeological dig that gives us a clear picture of a rich Iron Age culture in pre-Spanish Dumaguete? [Answer: Magsuhot, Bacong.]

“When was Dumaguete officially founded as a pueblo? [Answer: 1620, which makes the city about 402 years old.]

“What is the name of the Dumaguete parish priest responsible for fortifying the settlement starting in 1754, which allowed the locality to escape for good the constant pillages by southern pirates? [Answer: Fr. Jose Manuel Fernandez de Septien.]

“Who built the campanario on the ruins of one of the towers built by Fr. Septien starting in 1867? [Answer: Fray Juan Felix de la Encarnacion.]

“Who filed the bill that led to the charter of Dumaguete as a city in 1948? [Answer: Sen. Lorenzo Teves.]

Such questions spurred Dr. Cleope and Casocot into “forming and framing Hugkat Journal… to be a repository of the best historiographies we could find that could track the story of Dumaguete and Negros Oriental in terms of history, culture, and heritage.”

Composing Volume 1 are the following:

“Padre Mariano Bernad in Dumaguete: Its History in Retrospect, 1620-1895” by Fr. Roman S. Sagun Jr.—an annotation on the work of local history by the last Spanish colonial parish priest of Dumaguete, Fr. Mariano Bernad.

“Early Protestant Endeavors in Negros Oriental: The Malahay Brothers and Angel Sotto” by Prof. Carlos M. Magtolis Jr.—a history of the pioneers of Protestant evangelization in the province.

“Dumaguete During World War II” by the late Prof. Caridad Aldecoa-Radriguez, an eminent local historian, providing “the stories and the statistics of the war that ravaged Dumaguete and the world.”

A matrix titled “List of Presidentes, Municipal and City Mayors of Dumaguete (1901~2001)” by Dr. Cleope offers “a handy overview of city development under specific administrations.”

Then there’s “The Political Career of Mayor Jose Pro Teves, 1948-1978” by the late Prof. Victor Emmanuel H. Enario, as a pioneering work of political biography. It was Jo Pro Teves who popularized breakfast of puto maya and tsokolate at the painitan—simply by patronizing it as a breakfast hub, “leading to its intangible heritage status as being uniquely Dumaguetnon.”

In Volume 2, “Dumaguete in Historical Perspective” by Dr. T. Valentino S. Sitoy provides a brief but comprehensive history of Dumaguete from the pre-colonial to the contemporary period. “This is the essay that famously debunks the notion that the name of Dumaguete does not come from our oft-told story of ‘daguit,’ the kidnappings of locals by southern marauders.”

“The Streets of Dumaguete” by Prof. Lorna Peña-Reyes Makil “mixes history and personal narrative about the naming of various city streets.” Then there are “The Political Career of Mariano F.B. Perdices: Post-War Years (1945-1959)” by Dr. Justin Jose A. Bolado, another political biography; “Fire and the Changing Cityscape of Dumaguete” by Dr. Cleope, listing down all the significant fires from the 1950s, and stressing “how fire as a phenomenon has actually helped change the city’s landscape, often for the better; and finally, “The Formative Period of Contemporary Literature in Negros Oriental (1901-1945)” by Casocot, mapping out “the development of local literary arts in the first half of the 20th century.”

For writers and creatives, this essay will likely prove to be the most interesting. Beyond citing the pioneering writers in what was then still Silliman Institute, it introduces and details the contributions of the three “seeds” of literary productivity from the 1930s to the end of the war. These are poet-professor Ricaredo Demetillo, who taught at Silliman U. before moving on to UP Diliman; writer-filmmaker Eddie Romero, who became a National Artist for Film; and fictionist Dr. Edilberto Tiempo, whose novels dwelled on the war years, well before his scholarship in the US led to his establishment of Silliman’s fabled National Writers Workshop upon his return in the early 1950s.

Volume 3 publishes for the first time the Historical Data Papers “mandated by President Elpidio Quirino in 1951… to update the papers deposited at the National Library (but) which were destroyed during World War II.” The texts from the Historical Data Papers on Negros Oriental and the Sub-Province of Siquijor are presented “largely unedited, to preserve as much as possible the flavor and texture of the original materials.”

The original archival compilation consisted of several sets of materials, “with each set running to the hundreds in terms of pages; thus, for the purposes of the current publication and its limitations, only the first three sets have been reprinted in Hugkat Volume 3. It is hoped that future issues of Hugkat Journal will be able to accommodate the compilations not included in this particular issue.”

Summing up, Casocot writes: “I do hope that this journal project continues because there are so much more to cover in local historiography.”

A final note: To differentiate, per Wikipedia, “Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject.” In brief, historiography may be said to be the history of history.