In my previous post [“The Central Bicol Dialect Or The Northern Coastal Bicol”, 11/18/08], I discussed how the old sea connections possibly influenced the evolution of the predominant Bicol dialect. I also tried to show how geographical features of its area possibly shaped its sub-dialectal variations.
I would argue now that it is not only sea connections which cemented the evolution of the predominant Bicol dialect, the Northern Coastal Bicol. This is my preferred term over the internationally more accepted name Central Bicol because it shows the geographical connection more clearly and it is not misleading (Central Bicol might not be able to claim dominance in the central portion of Bicol).
It is an obvious fact in history that Bicol is bi-centric or bi-polar, that is, no single center dominated the entire region. This is not the case of the likes of Central Visayas which is dominated by Cebu City or Eastern Visayas which is dominated by Tacloban. Ours is like the case of the bi-centric Western Visayas which is dominated by two cities, Iloilo City and Bacolod. In Bicol, Naga dominated the western portion, the old Ambos Camarines and Legazpi (or Albay then) dominated the eastern portion, the Partido de Ibalon.
This is maybe so because of the elongated shape of the peninsula and the difficulty of travel in the early times.
I would argue that the old roads connecting Legazpi and Naga through the central portion is not the main road connecting the two cities. But I would also say that it is probably the secondary road connecting it. There is no such thing as a southern coastal road because of the dearth of coastal plains in the area, the need to cross the mountain chain in the southern part of Bicol and the prevalence of Moro raids in the southern coastal areas.
The direct central road is probably not the main road because it passes through mountainous areas and rough terrain. From Daraga to Camalig, the old Busay-Lacag road leading to Cabagnan is just a sampler. And from Camalig it is even a steeper climb to Guinobatan via Palanog. From Mauraro (an old visita) or Guinobatan to Ligao it is no picnic either. And from Ligao the path takes the foothills of Tula-tula and probably rather than taking the Mayao road the travellers might just take the Mabayawas road to Libon. From here taking the route south of Lake Bato and Lake Baao the travellers have to trek the foothills south of Nabua until it reaches Bula and Minalabac (the trail will probably not cross the upper Bicol River here). From Minalabac the trail probably hook north to Milaor and Naga City.
A probable alternate route is the route just below the foothills of Mayon Volcano. From Cabagnan in Camalig there’s a road that passes through Sua to Maninila and Masarawag in Guinobatan. From here the road leads to northern Ligao and Oas barrios. In modern times this is called the Nasisi road and this leads to Napo in Polangui [See my earlier post, “The Old Roads of the Naga-Legazpi Corridor And Dialectal Variations Along The Way”, 11/18/08]. From here a trail through the foothills passes north of Matacon before connecting to the Masoli road which leads to Iriga. From Iriga the road probably hews to the Iriga-Pili road we know now. But from Pili I have argued in the said article that the road probably follows the Pacol road.
It is probable that this road is more used in Spanish times rather than the more southern route which passes through Libon, Bula and Minalabac because it has less climbs and it is farther from Moro raiding parties. As an indirect proof the middle portion of this is more progressive historically than the more southern route. To this I am referring to the Polangui-Iriga-Buhi triangle.
Aside from these routes another route exists. It might be roundabout but it mainly passes through coastal plains. I am referring to the road from Legazpi that passes through the first district of Albay through Tabaco before ending in the Tiwi-Joroan area. There is no major climb here if one takes into consideration that the old road passes through Bacacay.
There are major centers along the way. Joroan is a major pilgrimage area in earlier times (Joroan church in fact is the diocesan shrine and not the Albay cathedral and its Nuestra Senora de Salvacion is the patroness of the Diocese of Legazpi) and even Samar peoples pay homage to its image. Tiwi’s pottery is known far and wide and so is Tabaco’s metalcraft and shipbuilding. The safe and bustling ports of the Bicol peninsula are concentrated on this northern shores which are relatively safer from Moro raids compared to the southern coast.
The climbs only start in Joroan on the way to scenic Patitinan in Sagnay with Mayong serving as the middle point and trading area with the Agtas. From Nato it is all coastal plains up to Goa, a major port and link to Catanduanes in earlier times.
From Goa a major overland route connects it to Naga via Tigaon and Pili. The old road hews close to the current road but it probably uses the Carolina road in going to Naga.
Goa has also an overland route across the shallow mountains to Tinambac which leads to the San Miguel Bay Area. A coastal road then connects the coastal areas up to Indan (Vinzons) via Calabanga, Cabusao, Barceloneta, Pambuhan and Mercedes. But, of course, a sailboat can also be taken across San Miguel Bay.
But, of course, Goa also connects the towns of the Partido area.
It can be seen that Pili is the crucial junction of the two roads as is Minalabac (which is the junction of the westward road to San Fernando, Pamplona, Pasacao, Libmanan and Sipocot which are all Central Bicol-speaking and the southern road which leads back to Bula and the Rinconada areas). This probably explains why historically the two towns are mixed-speaking where both central Bicol and Rinconada co-exist. I argue that the old roads delineated the boundaries of the two dialects.
That old main coastal road, I think, and the sea connections was the major reason why there is a predominant Bicol dialect with a clearly defined contiguous area. That elongated area was the major corridor of commerce and travel in Bicol during the early times.
It was only obscured in the last 90 years when the Americans chose to connect Naga and Legazpi via the central corridor maybe because it is the shorter route and they have already the heavy equipments needed to build roads over soft surface like rice fields.