Oslob controversies, ca. 1882
In 1882, Fray Gregorio Ros, OSA, parish priest of Oslob, answered a set of 81 questions that, like the previous set of articles on Toledo in this space last month, provides us today an intriguing glimpse of the town, complete with some possible controversies. This document, along with those of Toledo (which I wrote about in three articles last month), Danao and Sibonga, were deposited at the Augustinian Archives in Valladolid, Spain, which its archivist, Fr. Policarpio Hernandez, OSA, graciously shared with us during a brief visit there in 2015.
Let me start the somewhat less controversial. Of the town’s name, Ros writes: “Este Pueblo no ha tenido ningun otro nombre. Ha tomando el nombre de Oslob porque una de las fuentes que estan cerca del casco del Pueblo se agota cuando la marea esta en su flujo de la mar; esta desaparicion del agua en baja marea la espresan los Naturales con el termino de “Oslob.” (My rough translation: This town has no other name. It took the name of Oslob after one of the springs near the town center, which disappears when the tide flows out to sea; the disappearance of this water in low tide is expressed by the natives through the word “Oslob.”
Ergo, the Tuslob Festival of that town, created after the usual fictitious encounter where some Spanish soldiers ask some Oslobanons what they were doing and getting the response that they were doing “tuslob” (dipping) food on a sauce or has found a definite historical disproof. (To start with, it is quite illogical that two sets of people, one conqueror, the other the conquered, who did not speak each other’s language by the way, suddenly and without explanation understand each other and communicate in such an uncharacteristically friendly first-time encounter so unlike the first encounters between Spaniards and other natives with the latter either killing the former or running away fast to avoid a skirmish.)
If that is not problematic enough, consider the unfinished structure across from the church, which we have all come to love as the “Cuartel de Infanteria.” Here are some tantalizing words from Fr. Ros that may explain what this structure really is: “Muchas son las mejoras que hizo in este Pueblo el M.R.P. Mauricio Hernandez… Dio principio y vio muy adelantado la obra del tribunal que es todo de piedra, no pudiendo continuar al frente de dicha obra por haber sido nombrado Rector del Colegio de la Vid en España.” (Many are the improvements made in this town by the Very Rev. Fr. Mauricio Hernandez… He began and saw the very advanced work on the Tribunal was, which is all of stone, not being able to continue to lead this work after being named Rector of the Colegio de la Vid in Spain.)
On an earlier section, Fr. Ros refers to both an existing Tribunal (Courthouse or Municipal Hall), thus: “El tribunal que servio de convent en tro tiempo, tambien de mamposteria la parte baja, con cubierta de nipa. Los Escuelas de piedra y tabique pampango. Hay ademas otro tribunal en construccion todo del fabrica, esta bastante adelantdo pero como guiera que es obra de polistas o genete que no es del oficio se nota que su construccion no guard alas reglas del arte.” (There is also another Tribunal in construction, all of masonry fabric. It is quite ahead of its time but since it is the work of corvee labor or people who are not experts, it is noted that its construction does not keep to the correct manner.)
What are we to make of these lines? Two grand Spanish era structures that remain to be correctly ascertained are found in Oslob. One is the huge fort or fortress in Daanlungsod and the Oslob Cuartel just to the right of the church when facing the sea.
Everyone has been told that this latter structure was designed to house the army guarding the southern end of Cebu facing Siquijor — an ideal spot to watching slave raiders coming in from Midnanao. I myself have written about such stories, that this military “Cuartel” was unfinished because the Spaniards had left the country by 1898 without completing it. Intriguingly the huge fort — much bigger than Fort San Pedro and the Lawis Fort in Madridejos — now still standing in somewhat bedraggled but still proud state in Daanlungsod, is not mentioned at all in this 1882 document.
My conclusion is this: the fort did not exist before 1882 and the Cuartel is misnamed, much like the Tuslob Festival is in error. The Cuartel is in fact the unfinished (but already in advanced stage) “new” Tribunal or municipal hall of Oslob that Ros talks about above. There is one structure like this that still stands in fact: that of the municipio of Dalaguete, albeit someone covered the coral stone walls with white cement some thirty years ago.
Alas, the fortress in Daanlungsod could possibly be the Cuartel de Infanteria that is mentioned in local lore although by 1882, the slave raids from Mindanao had all but been a thing of the past, having been controlled if not stopped altogether by the early 1850s already. Such a huge fort would have been built for some other purpose.
But why does Fr. Ros not mention it? There is a record of this fort waiting somewhere in the military or naval archives in Spain. Its time to surface has, alas, not yet come. For the moment, one must remember that Gov.-Gen. Narciso Claveria, returning from routing the Moro slave raiders of Balanguingui Island in Mindanao stopped by Oslob on his way to Manila in 1848. Did he see something strategic in Oslob with that brief visit resulting in a fort being constructed later? Let us tackle that and more in the next column.
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