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Monday, December 28, 2009

Calamities In The 19th Century


The latter half of the 19th century can be described as literally disastrous in the history of Alimodian. Many natural disturbances came to stir the serenity of life in the quiet town causing damage to property and loss of life.

In December 1851 rain and gusty winds ravaged the community for one week. The rivers were flooded and large trees were uprooted and found their way from the banks of the river to the plains below. There was no official record as to the number of casualties.

In May 1866 another typhoon found its way to Alimodian and surrounding towns. This typhoon was assured a place in the town’s history as it was during its full blast when a lightning struck the giant cross on top of the belfry of the newly built church, thus toppling it to the ground. On June 29, 1869 a strong tremor jolted the church. As it was the feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pious had flocked to the church at the 7:00 o’clock mass. In the commotion that ensued many suffered broken limbs.

On April 25, 1877, 17 houses of bamboos were razed to the ground at about 1:00 pm. An old woman was caught in the fire and several families were rendered homeless.
July and August 1877 proved to be typhoon-infested months. Many trees were uprooted when the river was flooded with turbulent waters from upper regions.
The rains in these months exhausted nature’s supply because from September 1877 to May 1878, not a drop fell from the heavens. The people suffered nearly ten months of arid climate and searing heat and all crops withered. No harvest came in 1878. The year was a year of hunger, disease and death.

At eight in the evening of March 1, 1878, a conflagration razed 180 houses in Balud and Dawis (now Libo-on and Rodriguez Streets) just near the town plaza. This further dampened the already low morale of the people.

The first batch of raindrops fell in June so the people sowed corn and rice hoping that the drought had finally ended. But indeed, when misfortunes come, they come in throngs. Just when the rains started coming, so did the infesting locusts and other insects. They gnawed at the newly-sown seeds thus hunger persisted.

The months from August to December were remembered as the dreaded months as many got sick and perished because the resistance of the citizens was very low due to deficient food intake. Anemia and gastroenteritis were the cause of the early death. Almost 3,000 elderly citizens and children died. Because of this casualty, many opted to leave the town to seek fortune in other places were life was less harsh.

The next year 1879, it rained sufficiently, so that the harvest was comparatively better. But more bad times were yet to come.

Pestilence again struck in August 1882 and continued up to October. According to the official count as listed in the Libro de Entiero the number of deaths reached 900. This number, though, did not include those who perished in far away barrios whose bodies were not interred in the municipal cemetery in the Poblacion. The most tragic days were those from August 13-20. According to the accounts, an average of 90 people lost their lives everyday during that fateful week. It was said that some bodies did not see burial because sometimes entire families died together. The neighbors who attended the burial of a kin often found themselves the object of the funeral rites the next day.

From September to November of that year, a lone star with a projecting hair (could be a comet) appeared in the sky from 3:00 to 6:00 o’clock every morning. Some superstitious people interpreted this as an ominous sign from supernatural spirits.

The plague did not recognize barriers in economic and social position. While most victims belonged to the lower class, some who succumbed to the lethal plague were respected public officials. Some of them were Don Celedonio Almira, Don Belarmino Albeza, Don Isidro Allones, Don Placido Almira, Juez de Sementera Don Fausto Tolentino, Cabeza de Barangay Don Ciriaco Amargo, Don Julian Algallar, Don Patricio Guerrero and Guardia Civil Francisco Enriquez.

Many more tragedies occurred in the succeeding years, but the residents who survived the August to November onslaught of scourge would always remember it as the worst in their lives. Many even wondered how they survived.

On February 2, 1887 a strong earthquake rocked the town causing the stone image of St. Augustine, which was on top of the main door of the church, to fall. The cross on top of the belfry also crumbled down.

Six days later 48 more suffered the same fate in Barrio Gines.

After hundreds of years of Spanish domination, the Filipinos became weary of the Spanish rule as they were very cruel and oppressive. There were schools built but they were only for the Spaniards and Spanish mestizos. It shut its doors to the Filipinos. Since the Filipinos were ignorant, the colonizers maltreated and exploited them to the extent that they could no longer tolerate it.

The Roman Catholic Church is one of the edifices that serves as a monument of Spanish control in the islands which was constructed with the use of forced labor.

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