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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alimodian During The Spanish Regime

pre-war Municipal Hall



Alimodian as an Arrabal of Ogtong
                    The system of government in the town of Alimodian changed with the coming of the Spaniards whose aim was to colonize and Christianize the Filipinos.
                It was over 200 years after the coming of Magellan in the Philippines when the town was really governed by the Spaniards. Starting in 1753 Spanish influence and control were felt in Alimodian. It was a small community and it was under the jurisdiction of Oton.
                But ambitious, adventurous and far-sighted for the early Alimodiananons, a rudimentary government was not adequate to serve their wants and needs. The status of Alimodian then was not a full-fledged municipality but only a visita or a territorial colony under the jurisdiction of a mother town, Ogtong (presently the town of Oton).
                This type of political structure was quite inconvenient to the Alimodian populace. The municipal government was centered in Ogtong poblacion, so municipal regulations were implemented in far-flung places like the Alimodian visita with great difficulty. Most of all, the people of Alimodian who had strong affinity to the church, found it exasperating to travel mostly by foot all the way to Ogtong to attend mass. Furthermore, the execution of the Christian duties and their application for death, marriage and baptismal and other religious and legal certificates and requirements were greatly hampered by the distance between the two places.


Plans and Establishment of the Town Site

                 In 1753, the leaders of Buhay and Bagumbayan (which today form the northern and southern boundaries of the poblacion) and other barangays met,  ostensibly to ready plans for the formation of a municipality separate and independent from Ogtong.
                The leader of the meeting of elders was a Bagumbayan delegate, Agustin Magtanong. Magtanong had earlier made his mark as a leader in Bagumbayan. From the hills, he moved southward with his men nearer the river to the present site of Bagumbayan where Agustin emerged as a leader in no time. Through this dynamic leadership, Bagumbayan experienced an economic boom commendable enough during those times.
                Though noble were the aims of its propositionists, the meeting was a dismal failure. Though the men recognized that basic to the founding of a municipality was the building of an ermita, tribunal or municipio (municipal hall) and an escuelahan (school), they did not agree as to where to construct these structures.
                Regionalistic tendencies of the elders took their toll when they failed to decide the site of the poblacion (town central administrative area and plaza). The delegates from Bagumbayan wanted the town to rise in Balua, Ubodan which was near their place. But those from the southern end of the visita were not amenable to this. They would like the poblacion to be constructed somewhere in the vicinity of their homes in Buhay, as they advanced the reason that the place was near Oton and they could easily consult matters pertaining to the church and state. A compromise was not reached between the two factions, so the meeting was adjourned without anything concrete agreed upon.
                But all hopes were not extinguished by the failure of the first round of talks. The next year,  1754, the leaders decided to give the issue another try.
                Credit it, to the ingenuity of the early Alimodiananons and their burning desire to attain political sovereignty, the people did not remain idle during the interval of the two meetings. They deemed it wise that although no decision had yet been made as to exact location of the Poblacion, they should be ready in time being with the logs needed for the construction. So, the strong men in the visita cut timber in the Island  of Enampulangan, part of Guimaras and towed them for storage in the beaches of Ogtong. By the time the second meeting of elders was convened by Agustin Magtanong in 1754, a sizeable pile of big, durable logs was waiting to serve as foundation for the Municipality of Alimodian.
                At the start of the meeting, the two groups presented the same proposals they made during the first meeting. And again, a compromise was not yet in sight.
                Then a bright idea struck the mind of Agustin Magtanong. So that the place where the town would stand would be finalized without any accusation of bias from either party, Magtanong proposed that they choose the biggest log from the pile in Ogtong and have the log carry by two carabaos from there to the proposed site. Wherever within that site the cable would snap and break, there would the Poblacion. After several moments of pondering, the motion was carried almost unanimously.
               Excitement was rife among the men and women who followed the trail of the carabaos on foot from Ogtong. When the burdened beasts neared Buhay with the rope showing nary a sign of breaking, the people from the place lost all hopes of having the poblacion in their place. But the rope did snap just at the bank of the Cabudian Creek where the town plaza is now located.
               Although this incident pleased neither of the contending parties as the rope broke off almost midway between Buhay and Bagumbayan, members of the present generation with interest in the town’s history regard it as a  fortunate event. Firstly, because, being near neither Buhay nor Bagumbayan, no faction triumphed so none was disappointed either. Had the cable given way to pressure adjacent to any of the two, one would have been alienated in the “victory” of another, thus spawning rivalry and apathy between the two. Secondly, the place was considered desirable for a community to thrive in, because of its proximity to a creek and a river, water being a basic requirement of human life.
               The site for the Poblacion having been determined by the workings of non-human force, the people of Alimodian embarked on the herculean task of founding a town. Prime consideration then for a certain place to apply for an independent municipality status was the presence of a church, a convent, a municipal building and a school.
               Labor for the erection of these structures was provided free, mainly by the civic-spirited men and women who pooled their resources together for the common cause of putting a town all of their own. Due to lack of funds to finance construction of more enduring buildings, materials used for the structure were mostly bamboos, cogons and logs. After months of dedicated work, a town, complete with the requirements set up by the Spanish royalty, came into being.
               During the year 1755, the populace petitioned for the installation of a teniente absoluto for the visita of Alimodian. And who could fill this office more appropriately than the dynamic Agustin Magtanong, the architect of the separatist move?
               As the church and convent were all ready to receive the pious and the penitent, the Alimodiananons clamored for a parish priest who would administer to their religious ceremonies and come to help in their spiritual predicaments. As Spanish culture and beliefs had heavily saturated the minds of Filipinos during that time, it was of general conviction that the best place to teach children manners was the church. So the demand intensified further.
               The people’s clamor was answered when Fray Vicente del Campo came and ministered to the spiritual needs of his wards. Official separation from Ogtong was on August 20, 1756. Fray Vicente took office as the first parish priest of the visita of Alimodian on January 25, 1755 and served in that position for more than four years. The formal separation of Alimodian from Ogtong was written in Spanish.
               Completing the roster of barangay leaders who attended the 1753 conference were Lorenzo Tunao, Tomas Andaya, Agustin Calintang, Juan Balinas, Clemente Tomnog, Nicolas Estavillo, Agustin Daay, Lorenzo Ysug and Francisco Sarmiento.
               But the people knew that these were not enough. Although they were granted a teniente absoluto (absolute power) and a cura paroco (parish priest), the status of the town was still a visita.


Separation From Ogtong

               With the help of M.R. Fray Jacinto del Puno, Vicar General of the Agustinian Fathers, they appealed to the provincial government of Governor Manuel Salazar de los Monteros to appoint a captain or gobernadorcillo for the visita so it would be recognized as a full-fledged municipality.
               The governor arrived in Ogtong on January 8, 1757 to choose the future gobernadorcillo. Once again, Agustin Magtanong filled this position and it was largely for this feat that Magtanong earned the distinction of being the founder of Alimodian. His appointment was endorsed by the principales and the parish priest, Fray Francisco Calsetas. It may be significant to recall at this point that during those years, officials in the government were not elected as we do now, but were not nominated by high officials in the government.
               In 1849, the Spanish Crown passed the Claveria Decree, named after its proponent, stating that the family names of the people must be changed. The scheme was that the family names must carry the first letter of the town’s name. Thus the people of Leon (formerly Camando) were surnamed Cambronero, Camposano, Cabalfin, etc.; San Miguel – Sale, Sales, Salapantan; and Alimodian – Alvior, Amparo, Altura. Exception, however, was granted to officials who were privileged to select whether to change their family names or to retain them.
              For the orderly flow of transportation facilities and for the convenience of the people, streets began to be constructed in the 1850’s. Many of the streets still ran through the same places they are now, although the names may have undergone several revisions. Most of the names of the streets were those of saints and many of them are still retained up to this time.


The Construction of the Roman Catholic Church

             A more permanent church to serve better the religious demands of the pious Alimodian folks was also erected. On December 5, 1859, the cornerstone of the permanent church was laid with the Spanish dignitaries from Manila, Cebu and Iloilo in attendance. The gobernadorcillo (town mayor) during that time was Don Timoteo Amarra. The parish priest was Fr. Florencio Martin.
              The building of churches may be singled out as an oppressive undertaking of the Spanish Crown during its rule. Forced labor was utilized throughout the entire construction period and the case of Alimodian was no exception. The tabla (wood)  used in the walls and floor of the religious shrine came from Camando, now the town of Leon, more or less 8 kilometers away. The men had to carry the tabla manually or had them carried by weak-emaciated animals. Tisa or bricks were made from clay through long tedious process that the residents had to contend with because they could do nothing else.
              The long painful task of building the house of God finally ended five years later. The Alimodian parish church stood majestically at its formal opening to the public on December 22, 1864 with impressive ceremonies. But never to be forgotten are the dozens of men who lost their lives that their brothers and sisters would have a refuge for their spiritual longings.
              In 1882, some 18 years later, the roof of the church was replaced with galvanized iron roofing. The gobernadorcillo who was responsible for the alteration was Don Solomon Algallar y Tolentino and the parish priest was Fr. Serapio Gonzales.
              In July 1863 the concept of Economic Year was introduced by the Spanish authorities. An economic year corresponded to the time starting from the planting of the crops up to the time of harvest. As decreed, the Economic Year would start on July 1 and end on June 30 of the next year. Corollary to this, it was also ruled that all gobernadorcillos  and town officials from that time should serve the term of two economic years.  The first to enjoy this privilege was Gobernadorcillo Pedro Amparo.
             The first permanent municipal hall to house the government personnel and facilities was constructed in 1872, 118 years since the founding of the town. The first municipal hall was erected during the incumbency of Capitan Jacinto Almonte about a century before. This was ought to be temporary, the first structure served its purpose for almost 100 years. The new hall was finished in 1873 and inaugurated the next year during the term of Capitan Marcelo Tolentino y Alger. The total cost of the government house ran to 300 pesos, a sizeable amount during that time.

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