The ‘strange’ case of Capillahan and the Naga tragedy

By Jobers R. Bersales |October 10,2018 - 08:51 PM

Before I proceed with the main part of this space, let me invite the public to the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Conference 2018 which will happen tomorrow, the Spanish National Day, at Buttenbruch Hall of the University of San Carlos Downtown (former Main) Campus, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Twelve speakers will tackle different topics to be keynoted by nationally-acclaimed historian and essayist, Dr. Resil Mojares. Among the highlights are a talk on Limasawa-Masawa “first mass” by Dr. Rolando Borrinaga and Cebu’s centuries of lethargy by Dr. Danilo Gerona. Another well-known historian, Dr. Antonio Hila, will also talk on our Spanish colonial heritage expressed in music. The event is sponsored by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and is jointly hosted by USC Museum and the USC Department of Sociology, Anthropology and History. For seat reservations, kindly call the museum at 2531000 loc. 191.

Allow me also to greet congresswoman Gwendolyn F. Garcia who will also celebrate her birthday tomorrow.

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And now to the strange case of Masaba, Danao. It appears that the tragedy that befell Sitio Sindulan in Naga City late last month was not a first for Cebu.

Sometime in March 1975, the entire sitio called Capillahan in barrio Maaba was destroyed in similar circumstances, although no casualties were thankfully reported unlike the sad case of Sindulan.

At Capillahan, some 19 houses and 1,200 coconut trees had inexplicably moved down 50 meters from their original location and were destroyed,

including 2.5 kilometers of a feeder road where these houses were originally lined up. A total of 150 persons were thus rendered homeless, and some 150 thousand pesos of property destroyed.

It was not a sudden movement, however. Residents started noticing cracks on the ground in their sitio two months earlier, right after a typhoon named Auring had struck on January 24. One barrio resident, an old-timer named Anacleto Pasa, even told city officials that the sitio had been moving since 1933 although no one apparently noticed it.

The Freeman newspaper report about this incident mentions one resident reported feeling the site “sailing away”. Cracks were then found all the way to Mt. Manghilao, where a big cross planted by the Spaniards still stood.

In a subsequent story by the same newspaper, speculations were rife that two main culprits were behind the movement: abandoned underground tunnels of coal miners in times long gone and the many springs in the barrio, which I suspect must be the reason for its name, Mabasa, Cebuano for something that gets wet or is always wet.

Again, except for the sad, tragic loss of lives at Sindulan, there are parallels between there and Capillahan that make us wonder if there are many more events like this that have happened in the distant past. Given the limestone makeup of Cebu’s geology set against more and more extractive human activities, often-long periods of heavy downpours must no longer be disregarded by those living on denuded or deforested slopes. The destruction of Capillahan and Sindulan may not be the last.

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