Days of rape and plunder…
by Ronnie Hoyle
NOT all visitors to Panglao Island on Bohol have been made welcome in
the past, not like they are today by the growing population. It was not
that the islanders themselves were not as friendly as they are today -
it was just that the hordes of ‘tourists’ who attempted to visit and
stay for a while before taking home some souvenirs of their trip were
not the sort you wanted to make a repeat visit.
What the tourists of days gone had their eye on was a little bit of rape
and plunder for their evening entertainment...and somehow no one on the
island was prepared to put up with any of that sort of hospitality with
their wives and daughters.
Luckily for the locals, the Recollect priests from Spain who were trying
to convert the locals from animistic beliefs to Christianity also took a
dim view of the invasion of Moro pirate visitors from far off Borneo and
the southern island of Mindanao who wanted to disturb the peace and
tranquility and create a bit of murder and mayhem.
The priests decided to build a defending watchtower with lookouts to
protect their burgeoning community, but not until 1851 after the church
and the village of Panglao itself had been raided several times and the
original church burned and sacked on several occasions by the unwelcome
Conscripted local labour was used to build the hexagonal tower - a rare
design among Spanish watchtowers in the Philippines - but the cement
used in the coral limestone construction was of an inferior quality.
The tower is now on the point of collapse, with the walls bulging out at
the bottom: the wooden stairs to the lookout posts on the upper floors
have already disappeared and much of the original tile roof has caved in
and it now looks like a bit of the island’s history may crumble to the
ground soon if urgent action is not taken to preserve what remains.
Only people with special interest and special permission are allowed
entry at the moment because of the current danger.
Reputedly the tallest watchtower on Bohol, it becomes the backdrop for
the Hudyaka sa Panglao dance festival on August 28 every year when
thousands of people surround what is termed ‘the biggest plaza in the
province of Bohol’ when many of the dramatic and enthralling dances
feature symbolic re-enactments of past invasions and their repulsion by
the forefathers of local people today.
Across the other side of the island, fronting the sea beside the church
at Dauis, is Panglao’s second watchtower which, curiously, is of a
similar hexagonal design but more squat in nature and claims to have
been built in 1774, suggesting that the pirates were a plague in that
town before that time.
Commissioned by Recollect Father Santiago del Corazon de Jesus, local
people refer to it as the ‘Castillo del Corazon de Jesus’ after its’
builder and that it was intended to defend the church and its’ treasures
at Dauis, close to the original peace pact settlement of Bo-ol, where
the Spanish signed the Blood Compact with local chieftain Rajah Sikatuna
on March 16, 1565, and to protect the burgeoning community around St.
Joseph’s Cathedral at the other end of the narrow strait which
eventually became Tagbilaran City.
The steps up to the tower lookout at Dauis are described as being
‘visitor-friendly’ and give a view of the convento, the church and the
strait, which is today almost an inland lake with the two bridges and
their causeways blocking entry to any large vessels which might carry a
few unwanted souvenir hunters. The top of the tower is rimmed by some
fancy woodwork, while carved heads made of coral stone protrude from the
Records do not exist on how many times the pesky pirates from Mindanao
might have tried to visit Dauis to join in its feast and fiesta day on
August 15 every year, or for its second feast day on the last Sunday of
January, but the church was reconstructed several times with records
saying that it was originally of wood and bamboo with a nipa roof and
was burned down in 1795, probably the result of another pirate attack,
despite the building of the watchtower: it had last been razed to the
ground in 1769, five years before the watchtower was built.
The present church is the fifth built on the site and was started in
1863, with the final touches not finished when it was consecrated on
August 23, 1923: it eventually took 61 years to complete after the first
cornerstone was laid and, thankfully, although it was taken over by the
Japanese in World War Two, not a pirate has been seen since!
Kilroy Was Here © 2006