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Calinog:  Its Story in a Hundred Years

The Myth

CALINOG is believed to be the resettlement place chosen by Tuan Marikudo, the Negrito chieftain of Panay, who bartered his domain, the coastal plains of San Joaquin, then a part of Hamtic, for a saduk” of gold and a long necklace to the intrepid Malays from Borneo.  He found the place ideal for his family and tribe after he retreated towards the inland bringing with them their nomadic habits and propensity. Tuan Marikudo and his people reached the wide area midway between the two big rivers, Jalaur and Ulian. The strategic hills mounted in the middle of that area where they settle served as their citadel and watchtower. That area is now believed to be the majestic place overlooking the town proper of Calinog we call Marikudo Hills.

As the Negritos travelled to the heart of Panay, the Malays followed them seeking for more settlement. To avoid conflicts among his men in the occupancy of new areas, Datu Sumakwel, the most senior of the Malay headmen, assigned his henchman Lumakad to all the plains and hills along the Jalaur River, while to his warrior Damara-ug was entrusted all the plains and hills along the Ulian River. Due to the difficulties of communications and other natural hindrances after an appreciable lapse of time, the followers and descendants of these two henchmen became rivals. The rivalry resulted in sporadic warfare between the two groups. By a stroke of providential romantic fortune, however, the two sons of Lumakad named Berdin and Lutos married the two daughters of Dumara-ug; Maputing Dalaga and Ampaw unifying them, this time in facing the Spanish colonizers.

The History

After the death of Magellan in Cebu in 1521, there were subsequent expeditions from Spain to finalize the occupation of the newly found land, but it was Miguel Lopez de Legaspi who successfully reached Cebu in 1565. Right there he established the sovereignty of Spain over the archipelago as well as helped Father Andres de Urdaneta start the propaganda of Catholic faith among the natives. However, Cebu did not have sufficient provisions for the Spaniards. Legaspi was forced to send Mateo de Sanz to forage for food. After exploring and lingering along the coasts of Bohol, Negros and other neighboring islands, Sanz arrived in Panay in the early part of June 1565. This island proved bountiful thus they called it PAN HAY (meaning there is food).

In the later part of 1569, Legaspi was convinced by his top aides to transfer the Spanish stronghold from Cebu to Panay. In fact, Legaspi himself visited the island (Panay) in 1570 and found it with abundant supply for provisions and favoured with a strategic position in resisting the Portuguese invaders and other piratical marauders. He then formally established the second Spanish settlement and eventually started colonizing the island. At that time, there were already about 250,000 people scattered in the island as  Hamtik (Antique) was already a flourishing settlement. Legaspi introduced the encomienda system (land grants). The land grants were bestowed to the mercenary Spaniards and to some natives who cooperated in colonizing the new territories. Thus, the barangay system established by the Malays was supplemented if not altogether modified by the Spanish regime. Settlement after settlement were annexed by the Spaniards and one of the settlements falling into the hands of the new conquerors was Calinog.

When the Spaniards first stepped in Calinog, they were amazed by its incomparable peacefulness. They asked the natives about the equivalent of “pacifico” (Spanish term for peaceful) in the local dialect. The answer of the natives was “Calinong”. The Spaniards found it hard to articulate and pronounce the word “Calinog”; so they started imitating the name in its abbreviated form and Castillan intonation. Hence the derivative name “Calinog” became the historical official nomenclature of the locality. Calinog then complied with the standard town-planning in accordance with the Laws of the Indies. As prescribed, there must be a town plaza and around it, is a site for the church, the municipal tribunal, the public market, the school building and the common pasture lands. Besides the Catholic faith, the aesthetic and architectural ingenuity of the Spaniards was justifiably acknowledged by the setup we have in Calinog quite unique compared to other towns of Iloilo.

The first Catholic church established in Calinog in the early part of the 18th century was temporary and it stood in the southern side of the town plaza itself. This temporary structure was destroyed by a strong typhoon and high flood that hit sometime in 1850. The existing massive Catholic church was constructed in a location that is more secured. It took almost 2 years to finish the edifice with forced labor executed from the devotees. It was said that the blocks used as walls came from Dingle and was transferred through people lining the road all the way from its source to the church location while other stories tell that they were transferred via makeshift boats upstream from Dingle to Calinog. It should be noted that Calinog became an independent parish way back in 1810 with parish priests assigned in temporary capacity.

In the year 1763, Calinog was organized into a “pueblo” and its first recorded Capitan Municipal or Gobernadorcillo was Juan Guillermo who was chosen by the parish priest. He served the town for many years. His successors were selected in the same manner. This practice in choosing the town executive by the parish priest continued up to the middle of the 19th century, when the position of the Local Chief Executive was then established by election. The honor of being the first selected Municipal Captain went to Lazaro Celestial who served a two-year term (1866-1867).

Numerous elected town executives of two-year term took place thereafter until the establishment of the Filipino Revolutionary Government in June 12, 1898 by General Emilio Aguinaldo. That year, the revolutionary government chose Ignacio Catolico as “ Presidente Local” of Calinog. It was also about this period that the American forces landed in Iloilo and took towns one after another without much resistance. Upon arrival in Calinog, the American soldiers were accorded warm reception. Unfortunately, when the American troops reached Passi, they discovered that three of their soldiers were missing. It was found out that the three were left behind in Calinog  as they became drunk by tuba diffused with “gaway-gaway” juice courteously tendered to them by the mischievous natives. Irked by this incident, the Americans returned to Calinog and fired at random on all persons and cattle in their area of sight and set the entire town on fire. Calinog was reduced to ashes and its people left their homes and fled to the mountains. Thereafter, starvation and epidemic occurred. The destruction of the town was almost so complete that by superior order of the government, Calinog was annexed to the Municipality of Passi in 1904.

The Beginning of the New Era (Countdown to 100 years)

The annexing of Calinog to Passi was only temporary for in 1920, the Calinognons, under the able leadership of the late Francisco Casa, Municipal President of Calinog, petitioned for separation from Passi, It was signed by Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison on December 23, 1920 and became effective on January 1, 1921. Francisco Casa was sworn in as its President. Thus, a new era in the history of Calinog began.

In the early part of the war years, Calinog became the rehabilitation center for the USAFE soldiers who evacuated from Bataan. The Iloilo Mission Hospital then was housed at the Calinog Central Elementary School building. On April 16, 1942, the Filipino-American forces under Gen. Albert Cristie retreated to a pre-arranged position in Mt. Baloy. Having conducted a mopping operation on two points between Iloilo City and Roxas City, the enemy forces were finally affected by the convergence in Calinog. The subjugation of almost the entire Panay by the Japanese was without stiff resistance. However, when the enemies pursued the retreating forces to its USAFE headquarters located at Mt. Baloy, they were thwarted on the way back by the crack battalion of the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 61st Division, guarding the gateway of Mt. Baloy. It was this battalion which, although deficient in number and crudely equipped, deployed its men on the sides of Dila-Dila mountain and engaged the Japanese forces in the battle, thereby retarding the advances of the enemy. In command of this battle-tested army was Capt. Julian Chavez, otherwise known as the “Hero of  Dila-Dila”, who for his courageous stand, was later on promoted in record time to Major and finally to Lieutenant Colonel by Gen. Christie. The resistance put up at the Mt. Baloy by the USAFE forces did not last very long because Gen. Christie against his will was ordered to surrender after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, brought about by the fear that the American prisoner-of-war might be massacred by the Japanese, Gen. Christie obeyed but many of his officers and men refused to submit. Among the officers and men who defied the order to surrender were Lt. Col.Macario Peralta, Lt. Leopold Relunia and Lt. Col. Julian Chavez. This trio organized the famous Panay Guerilla Unit, the 6th MD, which, in conjunction with the Confessor Civil Resistance Government maintaining headquarters in the mountains of Bucari, Leon, challenged the Japanese Imperial forces during the whole period of the war.

Peace in Panay Island was restored upon the landing of the US 8th Army in March 1945. With the assistance of its Philippine Civil Affairs unit (PCAU), the US army restored and rehabilitated the burnt and destroyed towns and distributed reliefs to the war-weary inhabitants. The civil government was established in the entire Province of Iloilo including Iloilo City. In due time, the town was able to stand on its own feet. However, the HUKBALAHAP dissidence movement established its quarters within the vastness of its force, with the headquarters in Calinog. After this subversive movement was crushed down, Calinog embarked on various socio-economic programs and activities in line with the “common tao” sympathy and movement of the late President Ramon Magsaysay.

Since 1950 or about that year, Calinog has enjoyed electric light operated by the municipal government. For 25 years the town has continuously been blessed with electricity only barred by short interruptions due to mechanical breakdowns. It was supplied by ILECO II under the Rural Electrification Administration.

At the cost of ninety million pesos, the Calinog-Lambunao Sugar Mill, Inc. (later named South Pacific Sugar Corporation) was established in 1969-70. Calinog became a sugarlandia overnight. A sugar refinery plant to complement the sugar mill was constructed at the cost of approximately fifty million pesos. The establishment of the sugar mill and the sugar refinery plant boosted the income of Calinog. Since 1970, improved economic life of the people became very evident.

A network of road systems traversed Calinog town. Aside from the roadway systems, the town enjoys standard air landing field outside the city of Iloilo. The Calinog Aerodrome constructed within the compound of the Calinog-Lambunao Sugar Mill allowed the landing of ten-seater light planes.

In 1953, Calinog was chosen as the cleanest and greenest Municipality in the Philippines. Twenty-four years later in 1977, it won the same award for the second time. It became a hall of famer for the same award in 2000-2001.

Aside from its rich history, this municipality also thrives with virgin forests, carpets of green grasslands, verdant landscapes of hills and mountains, and vast vegetation that produce a lot of harvest from its fertile soil. Rice, bananas, corn, sugarcane, and other root crops are the main products of its town. Endemic fauna and flora also flourish abundantly in the wildlife.

Deep in the rainforest of Mt. Baloy is a gigantic waterfall that cascades into the bowl of boulders in the flat terrain in Caratagan. It is the origin of the Jalaur River, the second largest waterway in Panay. To this date, a giant project, the Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project is starting to rise. This project will serve 25 towns including Iloilo City with an objective of sustaining the region’s rice production.

Calinog has well-preserved its culture, practices and traditions showcased by the Panay Bukidnons. On August 24, 2001, the Balay  Turun-an (Central Panay School for Living Tradition in the mountain village of Brgy. Garangan) started its operation. The school was built by Sulod leaders who envisioned passing on their indigenous knowledge to children and preserving their Sulod culture. One outstanding person who ceaselessly preserves the traditions through oral literature is Mr. Frederico Caballero, a Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardee in the year 2000.

Calinog is also the home of the famous Hirinugyaw Suguidadonay Festival, a local cultural presentation. Hirinugyaw, means cheerful and joyous. In Hiligaynon it is simply described as “hugyaw”. Like world-renowned Dinagyang festival in Iloilo City, Hirinugyaw Suguidadonay is a celebration dedicated to Señor Sto. Niño.

Authentic festivity in the municipality is the Linabugan Festival, a one of a kind cooking competition where contestants use “labog” also called “roselle” in English, a sour but edible plant that flourishes and in abundance in Calinog, as their main ingredient.

It also has the Jalaur Promenade, a 200-meter walking area serving as breathing place in the Poblacion where one can witness the rising and setting of the sun at its best.

100 years after Calinog was given back independence as a municipality, convenient stores, hyper markets, subdivisions, medical clinics, reconstructed and improved hospital, growing number of public and private schools, and having a university in the town made the lives of the Calinognon easier and more convenient. Progress became unstoppable.

From the hands of the late Mayor Francisco C. Casa in 1921 to his namesake Mayor Francisco L. Calvo this 2021, Calinog continues to tailor a legacy that marries modernization with our roots. Truly we will journey as a municipality with pride, with confidence, with honor and courage. To 100 years and more, Sanyog Calinog!