The late morning of Rizal Day 2011 was a busy day since it will be my last day in the Sugarlandia. After a brief delay with laundry at a laundromat near my Bacólod home, I met my guest in the hotel lobby. The streets were busy since it was a holiday and last minute shopping chances for people before the New Year’s Eve. After a brief of being stuck near the Libertad Market area, we finally caught the next bus to the town of Hingaran, south of Bacólod City. It was a “bulilit” or a small non-aircon bus that we were in but it sat us comfortably. The trip did not take long since an hour later, we finally spotted Hinigaran River with iconic fishing boats on ashore.
While the bus was approaching the brand new terminal of Vallacar Transit’s Ceres Liner, we noticed a multitude of talabahans or restaurants serving a famed product of Hinigaran – oysters. From the bus terminal, we walked towards the direction of the bridge, surveying the nicest place to eat talaba and some seafood since it was almost past lunchtime. Since we arrived at almost one in the afternoon, we had a hard time finding a place that still has some food by their turo-turo counter. Indecisive, my guest got his tablet and searched in Google for a nice place to eat. Results fared favorably to Kalan-an sa Dalan where Danding Cojuangco ate before.
After our brief but sumptuous lunch, we decided to have a walking tour of Hinigaran’s Poblacion. Being a stopover of some buses en route to the southern parts of the Island, this town has become a busy center of activity. Along the highway is a century -old church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, a structure of red brick and coral rock. Even as this structure show wear with a small tree growing on the side, the structure still stands with the bricks still showing a red pinkish color. In front of the church is the town’s plaza, one of a sunken design typical to Negros towns. Apparently, there was fanfare days ago from Christmas Day since there were fiesta rides.
Entering the church, we discovered that it was the most unfortunate time to enter since there was a funeral going on at the altar and all the church’s minor chapels. Nevertheless, we decided to enter since there were other people not attending that are for confession and their prayers of obligation. While the church façade retains the characteristic of its age, the inside of the church was obvious to be of new design, perhaps because the old dilapidated structures was replaced by newer ones. We did not stay long inside though as respect to the mourners and people in prayer who might be distracted with our presence and the fact that were taking pictures there.
In the churchyard, we some the retired century-old bells taken down long time ago when the church was refurbished. Reading from the dedication in Spanish embossed on the bells, the bells date to 1896 and were dedicated to the church’s patron Maria Magdalena or Mary Magdalene. Special thanks were also dedicated to Joseph the Carpenter, who was the source of inspiration for the builders of this church. While the bells show cracks and some corrosion, the bells are perfectly preserved and sturdy solid. While efforts to preserve these bells I appreciate so much, carillons are less common in churches today, being replaced by shabby-looking speakers.
Heritage structures like these always makes me think how long they are going to last. Somehow, heritage structures has fallen into the mercies of those who disregard the value of these cultural treasures. Hinigaran and the nearby town of Binalbagan are historic towns in themselves and unfortunately are seeing heritage structures falling to disrepair and eventually demolished. Often those in urban areas are falling victim to the name of development while those misguided are taking down structures and building complete new structures even though in the mirror image. Silay City is leading in heritage conservation and hopefully the rest of the province.
Faithful to traditional Spanish town planning, the Municipio or the Municipal Building is located directly across the church. Town Halls are often called Presidencias especially the time when Municipal Mayors still bear the title Presidentes Municipal. Hinigaran Presidencia was completed in 1936 at the administration of Presidente Municipal Ricardo C. Lagtapon. The structure is inspired by typical Spanish Presidencias and has a balcony loft overlooking the Plaza where the Presidentes Municipal would often address the people. While the façade is perfectly preserved and painted to its original colors, interiors need some remodeling with age-old wear.
Under the balcony is the coat of arms of the old Commonwealth of the Philippines with the semi-legendary “Hijos de Ponggol” as a supporter of the heraldic shield. Initially, the term “Hijos de Ponggol” puzzled me since that was the first time I have heard of such, but a Hinigaran native explained to me that they pertain to the warriors who once inhabited the shore of Hinigaran River. Ponggol is actually a Hiligaynon term for “cutting off the head” which these warriors are notoriously known for doing with their enemies. At present, historical research puts them as expert in the ancient combat version of the Filipino Martial Arts we now know of as arnis.
Reading the building’s inaugural copper inscription, I suddenly noticed something peculiar in the marker where the contractor here is identified as Angel Yulo Locsin, or in short Angel Locsin! Well for this matter, this Angel Locsin could have been a guy, of course not the actress we know of. Located in the ground floor of the Presidencia is the Congressional Office of the late Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo for the town. Congressman Iggy hails from nearby Binalbagan at Barrio Payao but he had offices in all the town halls of his legislative district. Of press time, this and other towns of his district is gloomy at his death, pending election of new Representative.
At the lobby of the Presidencia, there is a big painting of a man chopping off oyster shells from the bamboo poles where these grow on. Oysters have been a product of Hinigaran and it is fitting that a painting in tribute to the town’s industry hangs inside. We tried finding the tourism office but we remembered that it was a holiday. Surprisingly, unlike other town or city halls, there was not strict security to whisk us before entering. In fact, townspeople were actually free in entering the premises, bringing their coffee mug and talking about the latest in town. I cannot imagine doing that in the new Bacólod City Hall and much more in the Quezon City Hall.
Having explored all possible nooks and crannies of the Presidencia, we decided to cool down at the town’s plaza once more. In this town’s plaza is the World War II memorial with a real life 1940’s era machine gun with heroes of the war commemorated. A gentle breeze was a cool treat for a hot day. Since it rained the previous day, almost all of the benches at the town’s plaza were muddied so we decided to go find a comfortable place to sit in and have our merienda since it was almost three in the afternoon. My guest asked me if I know of a nice café in town where we can relax before going back to Bacólod. I led him to one just walk away from the plaza.