Archive for the ‘Legazpi’ Category

Old Roads Also Shaped The Northern Coastal Bicol Dialect

November 29, 2008

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.

The San Fernando, Camarines Sur-Oas, Albay Diversion Road

November 23, 2008

The construction of a San Fernando, Camarines Sur to Oas, Albay bypass (diversion) road has recently been approved. It is one of 10 priority projects in Bicol for 2008-2010 along with the construction of the new Legazpi airport. P500M has reportedly been released for the project. The rationale of the project is to decongest the main road running from Naga to Legazpi. A shortening of the travel time between the two cities is expected.

The planned diversion road is 61.90 kilometers long. Only 14 kilometers will be new road as it just intends to use old roads that already exist. Thus, 32.22 kilometers of existing gravel road will be paved and 15.68 kilometers of the existing Maharlika highway will be improved. An old bridge will also be repaired and a new 40-meter bridge will be built. The total project cost is estimated to be P2.25 billion.

This bypass road will connect the old roads connecting Legazpi to Naga (see my previous article, “The Old Roads of the Naga-Legazpi Corridor and Dialectal Variations Along Its Way”, 11/18/08). From the town of Oas it will probably use the old Mayao road that connects the town to Libon, Albay.

From Libon, it will use the gravel road that connects it to the upland barrios of Nabua. This is the Libon-Buga-Tandaay road. This road crosses the Nabua-Balatan road in the big barrio of Tandaay, Nabua. The road runs through the southern shores of Lake Bato.

From Tandaay,Nabua a gravel road runs to Bula, Camarines Sur, running south of the plains irrigated by the Bicol River. This road skirts the southern side of Lake Baao. This is the old Malawag road.

It seems the new road construction mentioned will be used to connect Bula to San Fernando, Camarines Sur. It is probable that the paved road running west of Bula to the barrio of Panoypoyan will used. If not, some other farm-to-market (feeder) roads might be used like the road to Bagoladio. It seems the new bridge will be used in this stretch since the Bicol River will have to be forded here, a connection that hencetoforth does not yet exist. Before reaching San Fernando, the road will pass through portions of Minalabac, if not the town proper. However, Milaor will be bypassed.

This diversion road for the most part will pass through the foot of the long mountain chain on the southern side of Bicol which is always visible from the road when one is traversing the Sipocot to Ligao stretch of the Maharlika highway.

Concerns have been raised about the possible effects on Naga and the towns that will be bypassed by the new highway. There’s fear that the economic downturn suffered by Daet and the Camarines Norte towns when the Quirino Andaya highway was opened will be replicated here.

But to sustain progress sometimes new infrastructure must really be built. There is no question that the Naga-Legazpi road is already a little bit crowded and this won’t get better anymore. Anyway the first users of this highway will probably be the cars, trucks and buses that just passes by the area en route to Sorsogon and Eastern Visayas.

Whatever, it is imperative that a comprehensive study be made of the possible impacts of the new highway should be. This is needed to warn the sectors that will be affected and also anticipate future problems.

It is now being bandied as the “GMA Highway”. The information is from NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) Region V office so it must be official now.

The Central Bicol Dialect Or The Northern Coastal Bicol

November 18, 2008

In the recent past, people often wondered why Bicol Naga is very similar to Bicol Legazpi. It is because passing through the national highway (Maharlika Highway) a lot of different dialects divide Naga and Legazpi. Going east, Rinconada will be the first different dialect encountered (starting in Pili and up to the western part of Polangui) and then Western Miraya (after Matacon, Libon). After that comes Bicol Oasnon (starting Oas, of course) and then Eastern Miraya (starting in Guinobatan until Daraga) before finally reaching Legazpi City.

After a period of wonderment comes the puzzlement. Some even said that the church and its rites and books has something to do with this “standardization”. I give no credence to that. Otherwise we would have learned Latin, the official language of the church.

But I think the path to being misled begins with the assumption that the Naga-Legazpi highway that we know of now has been in existence since time immemorial, when it is not. An old civil engineer explained to me 30 years ago that this highway was only built in the 1920’s. He said that before the arrival of heavy earth-moving equipments it is simply impossible to fill all the ricefields that lay between towns. He also added that the old roads passed through the hills like the old road from Camalig to Guinobatan is the Tagaytay (Camalig) road.

If one analyzes Bicol Tabaco it is readily apparent that it is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. And going farther northwest it is also apparent that the Bicol of the Partido area and Caramoan Peninsula is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. And, of course, Bicol Daet is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. Actually, except for some sub-dialectical variations, it is obvious that all of this belong to just one dialect.

This whole stretch that belongs to just one Bicol dialect (but with sub-dialectical variations) actually starts from the old town of Bacon, Sorsogon and proceeds northwest up to Mambulao [J. Panganiban], Camarines Norte except the Larap area. It is the reason why it is sometimes called the Northern Coastal Bicol. But more recently it is more often called as the Central Bicol dialect. Up to 2/3 of Bicolanos speak this dialect but in international texts it is not called as “Standard” Bicol.

The southwestern town of San Andres [the old Calolbon] which is very near Caramoan Peninsula also speak this dialect and so do a vast inland area west of Naga City and up to portions of the “railroad towns” of Camarines Sur. The old outlet to the sea of Nueva Caceres [Naga] to the south, Pasacao, also speaks this dialect. And so do the whole San Miguel Bay area.

In the olden days, even before the Spaniards came, the way of getting around or trading was by sailing (in fact the word layag or paglayag is the same in many parts of the Philippines). These northern Bicol seas are normally placid during the southwest monsoon (habagat) because it is shielded by the Bicol land mass. In fact the old pilgrimage custom to the visita of Joroan is connected with this. Sailboats as far as Northern Samar used to visit that shrine in the earlier days.

Sub-dialectical variations can be explained by recognizing geographical divisions in the fishing areas. Albay Gulf is a separate fishing area and that is why Bicol Legazpi predominates this area and to the barangay of Sawanga of the old Bacon which has a sea connection to Rapu-rapu.

The narrows of Cagraray island separate the fishing grounds of Tabaco Bay from Albay Gulf. Here Bicol Tabaconon predominates.

The promontory and rough terrain ahead of Joroan divides tha fishing grounds of Lagonoy Gulf from Tabaco Bay area. Here the mountain chain Mt. Iriga-Mt. Masaraga-Mt. Malinao extends up to the sea. Areas like this hold few inhabitants, hence, little fishing. Actually in the olden times Agta tribes dominated this area. Like in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon, the physical and fishing boundary between sub-dialects are connected to the presence of an indigenous tribe.

In Lagonoy Gulf, the Partido sub-dialect predominates.

The old trade route go round the Caramoan Peninsula. It does not go overland from Goa to Tinambac due to the rough terrain and the control of the mountains by the Cimarrones. If trade and communication is carried overland it passes the southern foot of Mt. Isarog (the Carolina route) and this is usually the case when the northeast monsoon (amihan) is blowing. When amihan is in full swing the northern waters of Bicol are rough.

Inhibitants of the tip of Caramoan Peninsula are related to the inhabitants of the southwest portion of Catanduanes. They make regular sea crossings even in the olden days.

The San Miguel Bay area which is horseshoe-shaped and which extends from Pambujan to Siruma and sealed at the entrance by the Caningo island is another separate fishing ground. Here, the Naga sub-dialect predominates.

The Camarines Norte seas up to the Calagua islands is another separate fishing ground. Bicol Daet dominates the eastern Camarines Norte town.

The area west of Naga City that speaks Bicol Naga is dominated by the lower portion of the Bicol River Basin (the portion nearer the sea). The meandering rivers here that irrigates the vast rice plains is also the old transportion route and this is connected up to the mouth of San Miguel Bay near Cabusao. The landing area near the Naga public market is a remnant of this artery.

This is the historical reason why Bicol Naga and Bicol Legazpi is very similar. As do the other dialects in the northern coast of Bicol.