Toledo in the eyes of Juan Climaco, 1886, part 1
On 1 April 1887, or one hundred thirty years ago this year, the Philippine Exposition opened in Madrid. In preparation for this big event intended to introduce the distant colony to Spain and all of Europe, existing municipalities in the archipelago were apparently asked to respond to 81 questions about their towns as a kind of profile.
For some reason, those of four towns in Cebu, namely Toledo, Oslob, Danao and Sibonga, were eventually kept at the Augustinian Archives in Valladolid, Spain, something that I have written about in general terms in a previous column.
Interestingly, whereas all the other three were written by Augustinian or Augustinian Recollect friars (Danao by Fr. Fidel Moreno, Oslob by Fr. Gergorio Ros and Sibonga by Fr. Enrique Magaz), that of Toledo was penned by a layman, 25-year-old Juan F. Climaco, who, despite such a young age was already a former gobernadorcillo (today’s mayor) of the town.
Climaco finished what he described as a hurriedly written monograph entitled, “Un Bosquejo Sobre el Pueblo de Toledo, Provincia de Cebu” (A Brief Sketch of the Town of Toledo, Province of Cebu) on 1 December 1886, just four months before the exposition opened, which you might think would mean that the monograph never reached Madrid. But then again, when you see the date on the Sibonga profile, it is 26 May 1882, four years before the event.
Putting that aside, what is there to learn about the young Climaco, still about 19 years shy of the governorship of Cebu that he would eventually win, and of his beloved Toledo?
A full reading of this monograph will reveal why the Talisay-Toledo (now called Manipis) Road, the first national highway ever pursued not just in the Philippines but also in the United States (that is according to its engineer, Eusebius J. Halsema, in his autbiography), was started by Climaco himself during his term as governor of Cebu.
But that is going ahead of the story, as it were.
First, for a document addressing a Spanish audience, one which had to go first through the alcalde mayor or governor of Cebu (at the time Don Jose Marques), the monograph is almost incendiary.
On describing the tortuous, overland day-long route one must go through to reach Toledo on the West from the capital of Cebu on the East, Climaco writes (my translation): “After an hour of rest, we continue the day perfectly along the path that we must follow, but above all I call your attention that in that same direction we have a road seven meters wide built by means of ‘polistas’ (corvee labor) in 1882 and also through the cooperation of the towns of Pinamungajan, Balamban, Asturias, and Tuburan, besides the contributions of several rich people consisting of tools, grains etc.”
He writes further: “But under the new reform of the regulations on ‘prestacion personal,’ the roadwork had to be suspended, and is now in the most complete state of abandonment. And as if to conceal it, they allowed cogon grass to grow on it, fenced on both sides with majestic and large trees where at their feet spread shady groves of shrubs.
“Is it not true, my dear reader, that when contemplating this roadwork it seems that the most bitter discouragement takes over our minds?
“What development do we want in our agriculture when people with more fertile land are without terrestrial communication for their producers in the most important markets?
“Ah! I read in your eyes, what happens to your imagination and it is … that you consider as do I, that the completion of this road needs no great sacrifices.”
If I were the governor, I would have had the young Climaco immediately censured and this monograph kept under lock and key for such derisive comments on the behavior of the Spanish colonial government, right?
But wait, this is just the beginning: on pages 6 and 7 of 59 pages. Space will not allow me to pour out more of his thoughts about the dismal state of Toledo at this time of 1886.
So allow me to continue next week, but before I take leave, let me greet everyone a happy and prosperous 2017!
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