Photo by Mark J. Glodava
Mayor: Filipina Grace America
The History of Infanta Revisited
By Rodolfo A. Arizala*
To the people of Infanta, province of Quezon, April is a very significant and busy month. During my youth, when there was no Irrigation System yet, we harvest palay once a year only instead of twice a year. We harvest palay either before or after the Holy Week. And two weeks after Holy Week, comes the celebration of the town fiesta its patron saint being St. Mark whose feast day falls on 25th April. So, April is time for harvesting, observance of Holy Week and celebration of town fiesta.
It appears that during the early period of our history, St. Mark was not our patron saint The town´s patron saint then was San Isidro adopted in 1874. According to a story, San Isidro was adopted as the patron saint of Infanta in the belief that he would protect the town against any form of calamities. And true, indeed, it was observed that right after the adoption of San Isidro as the patron saint of the town, the people experienced good harvests and enjoyed peaceful life free from natural calamities. However, seven years later in 1881, a strong earthquake visited again the town and among the structures destroyed were the church and belfry. Subsequently, the people adopted St. Mark as its patron saint.
At the altar of the church in Infanta, Quezon today, there is a statue of a bearded man holding a book with his left hand and with his right hand a quill or writing instrument. At his side is a figure of an animal, an ox. Is the statue that of St. Mark or of another Gospel writer?
Before we answer the question, let us first refer to a brief history of our town.
II. Legendary Origin
The town´s legendary origin could be traced to the Pre-Spanish period when a group of Malay tribe coming from the central and western side of Luzon headed by Nunong Karugtong crossed on foot the mountain fastness of Sierra Madre toward the Pacific coast on the eastern side of Luzon. After several days of travel, they reached a plain bounded by two rivers. But this Malay tribe did not stay in said place called "Barangay Comun"because Nunong Karugtong did not find it suitable where to establish a settlement. So they decided to move on toward the coast reaching the place we call now "Barangay Dinahikan". Nunong Karugtong did not like the place either due to its closeness to the sea. They retraced their footsteps in-land toward the mountain. Tired and weary, Nunong Karugtong and his men decided to rest. Nunong Karugtong fell asleep under a huge tree. while some of his men were looking for something to eat.
Nunong Karugtong´s men found a huge or giant yam (Ube). It was so big that it took four men to carry it where Nunong Karugtong was sleeping. They woke him up to present to him the giant yam they found. Nunong Karugtong was so weak and tired that somebody had to help him get up from the spot where he was sleeping. When Nunong Karugtong saw the giant yam and discovered that the soil is fertile with abundant source of fresh water (the Bantilan river), he decided to establish his settlement on the very spot where he fell asleep. His men suggested to him that the place be called "Binangonan del Ampon" which means the "place where an old man was assisted to get up like a child." Since then, the settlement has been known as "Binangonan del Ampon" until the arrival of the Spaniards when the name of the place was changed to "Infanta".
III. Historical Origin
In 1578 more than half a century after Magellan and his men landed in Cebu, a Spanish priest Rev. Fr. Esteban Ortiz, OPM arrived in Binangonan del Ampon and planted a wooden cross symbolizing the introduction of Christianity at the place. Then in 1696, Don Diego Mangilaya, a native chieftain developed the settlement into a community and built a wooden chapel at the spot where Nunong Karugtong fell asleep. Since its establishment, the place has been attacked by Moro pirates, visited by typhoons and cholera epidemic. In 1803, Kapitan Pedro de Leon affiliated Binagonan del Ampon to the province of Nueva Ecija and in 1850, Kapitan Rafael Orozco withdrew Infanta from the province of Nueva Ecija and joined it with the province of Laguna. In 1835, Benangonan del Ampon was renamed "Infanta" by Kapitan Juan Salvador in honor of the saint "Jesus Infanta" (Child Jesus).. All the inhabitants of Infanta were given Spanish surnames pursuant to a Royal Decree of 11 November 1848.
On 20 July 1898 a group of Infanta "Katipuneros" headed by Col. Pablo Astilla attacked the Spanish forces holed up at the limestone convent and after serveral days of siege and fighting, the Spanish soldiers surrendered. By virtue of the 10 December 1898 Paris Treaty of Peace, American soldiers occupied the town of Infanta and appointed Kapitan Carlos Ruidera Azcarraga as the first "town presidente." He was followed by Rufino Ortiz in 1903 who withdrew Infanta from the province of Laguna and joined it with the province of Tayabas. He also ordered the planting of coconut trees in the barrios (now barangays) of Infanta. During the administration of town "presidente" Gregorio Rutaquio (1911 -1916), he constructed the "Gabaldon type" of school house. From 1923-1928, Don Florencio Potes became town "presidente". He constructed the concrete municipal building and the first telegraph office of the town. From 1935 to 1939, Mr. Fabian Solleza served as town "presidente". During his incumbency, the Infanta--Famy road traversing the Sierra Madre Mountains from Infanta to Laguna and Rizal provinces was constructed. Also, piped water from a spring reservoir in barrio (barangay) Gumian was installed.
IV. Death, Sufferings -- WW II
In December 1941 during the incumbency of Mr. Sixto Quierrez as town mayor, World War II in the Pacific broke out involving the Philippines.. Several warships were sighted off the coast of Lamon Bay, Tayabas province (now Quezon). Japanese planes dropped bombs on Infanta destroying the municipal buliding and houses nearby. The following year after the surrrender of Bataan and Corregidor in April- May 1942, Japanese soldiers occupied the town of Infanta making the "Gabaldon type" school house as their headquarters. In 1942, the town of Infanta became a part of Laguna province. Guerrilla forces, among them the Anderson Guerrilla, established their headquarters in the mountains of Infanta and many people of Infanta were arrested and tortured by the Japanese soldiers on suspicioin that they were members of the guerrilla forces. Japanese naval officers and men retreated from Manila and decided to settle in Infanta due to its nearness to the Pacific Ocean. In April-May 1945, the inhabitants of Infanta were massacred by the Japanese in barrios (now barangays) of Alitas, Balubo and Langgas. Among those killed was town mayor Sixto Quierrez.
American planes bombed the town of Infanta razing to the ground all houses and structures. The Japanese soldiers retreated towards the mounains. The Anderson Guerrillas supported by the American forces liberated the town of Infanta from the Japanese on 25 May 1945. Some 75,000 Japanese soldiers surrendered.
V. Postwar &endash; Rebirth
Right after liberation of the town of Infanta in 1945, Mr. Rufo G. Magallanes was appointed mayor of Infanta and the town became a part of Tayabas province again. When on 4 July 1946 the Philippines was granted independence by the Ameriicans, Tayabas was renamed "Quezon " province in honor of Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.. So, Infanta became a part of Quezon province. During the postwar years after independence, the following were elected or served as Infanta town mayors:: Victorino Ruanto (1948-55); Ricardo O. Macasaet (1956 -59); Atty. Remegio Bustonera (1960- 63); Ildefonso Gurango (1964 -67); Gavino Ibayan (1968-1971); Dr. Primo Buñag (1972-1986); Augusto Corsilles (1986-87); Dr. Isauro Mercado (1987-88); Isagani Pradillada (1988-92); Sever Sollano (1992-95); Engr. Roldan Velasco (1996. He died while in office and Vice Mayor Filipina Grace America became Actg. Mayor). In 2001 election, Mr. Michael Mortiz was elected mayor. However, due to illness, he went on vacation/sick leave and Vice Mayor Filipina Grace America became again Acting Mayor of the town from 2002 up to the present.
The abovementioned town mayors did their best to contribute to the rehabilitation, progress and development of the town of Infanta. Among these significant improvements are: establishment of a public high school; construction of water irrigation system using Agos river as souce of water; construction of feeder roads connecting each other the various barangays as well as with the town of Infanta; renovation of the municipal building; establshment of an emergency hospital; cementing and improvement of major town streets; improvement of the public market; nenovation of the town plaza; construction of more feeder roads, school houses; improvement of town streets and water systems; establishment of three-day care centers; human settlements; offices of the Bureau of Lands and Register of Deeds; improvemnt of the Agus Irrigation System; construction of annex building to the municipal building; establishment of electric power to supply energy to the town and barangays; acquisition of ambulance vehicle and fire truck; improvement of the supply of potable water by harnessing the water from the spring (Bukal) in barangay Ilog; estrablishment of a branch of Southern Luzon Polytechnic College; asphalting of the Infanta-Famy Road; construction of a new modern concrete public market; construction of a warf and fish market in barangay Dinahikan; and improvement of the Infanta-Dinahikan road.
Side by side with material progress of the town of Infanta came also its "spiritual growth." In 1947 Irish and American Carmelite fathers headed by an Irish Chaplain Msgr Patrick Shanley, .arrived in Infanta. He launched a three-fold Mssion work: 1) Physical construction, 2) Catholic Action; and 3) Education. He constructed a concrete church, convent, high school and established a radio station. When Bishop Shanley left in 1960 followed later by the American and Irish Carmelite priests, Filipino diocesan priests, headed by Carmelite Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, came to Infanta in August 1961 to continue propagating the faith.He launched an integrated five-point program of action: 1) Catholic education; 2) Catechetics; 3) Catholic Action; 4) Vocation; and 5) Liturgy. This program is accompanied by Social Action and Community Development. Upon Bishop Labayen´s retirement in 2003, Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD, DD, took over as head of the Prelatura of Infanta. Bishop Tria Tirona continued the projects of his predecessors and as he sees it fit and appropriate is expected to innovate his own approach and program to achieve the Carmelite´s Mission in that part of the Philippines.
Thus, from a wooden cross in 1578; a chapel in 1696 during the early Spanish period; and dilapidated nipa and wooden church and convent in 1947 during postwar Philippines when the first Carmelite fathers arrived, Infanta now has not only a concrete church (Cathedral) and convent but also the parish has been converted into a Prelatura with jurisdiction over other neighboring Quezon towns of Gen. Nakar, Real, Polillo, Bordeos, Jomalig, Panukulan and Patnanungan. This is in addition to the towns of Maria Aurora Province -- Dipaculao, Baler, Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Dingalan, Maria Aurora, and San Luis.
VI. Metamorphosis of Infanta
From the foregoing legendary and historical accounts, the following metamorphosis of Infanta could be observed: From 1696 the settlement of "Binangonan del Ampon" blossomed into a big thriving community and was renamed "Infanta" in 1835. It was affiliated to the province of Nueva Ecija in 1803; Laguna in 1850; Tayabas in 1902; Laguna again in 1942; Tayabas again in 1945; and Quezon province in 1946.
Its patron saint was San Isidro in 1874 and years later St. Mark became the patron saint of the town. In 1949, the barrio (barangay) of Gen. Nakar became a separate municipality from Infanta and in 1963, another former barrio (barangay) called Real became also a separate town thus, lessening the land area and jurisdiction of Infanta.
Aside from these physical division and transfer of Infanta to different provinces, Infanta has been also visited by several calamites. For example by strong typhoons, floods in the years 1763,1813, 1831, 1922, 1929 and 1937. By strong earthquakes in 1823 and 1831. Cholera epidemic in 1737 and Moro pirate attacks in 1764 and 1797. By fire in 1940. By war in 1941 and Japanese massacre in 1945. Fires, typhoons and floods also visited Infanta during postwar and in recent years.
Despite such calamities, wars and misfortunes, the people of Infanta never lose faith in the Almighty and observe annually the feast of its patron saint with renewed dedication and religious fervor. And that special occasion will be repeated this 25th of April the feast of St. Mark. Now, the reply to the question raised at the beginning of this essay: "IS THE STATUE AT THE ALTAR OF INFANTA CHURCH THAT OF ST. MARK?
VII. OBSERVATION / CONCLUSION
St. Mark is one of the four Evangelists. He is represented by the "lion", because he starts his Gospel with St. John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying in the desert," and emphasizes the miraculous powers of the Savior. St. Mark wrote the second Gospel in Greek for the Gentile converts to Christianity. St. Mark´s purpose is to show to the Romans that Jesus is the Savior, and that He is divine. To this end he attends more to the miracles of our Lord than to His sermons, giving only a few of the parables at length. His language is simple, and yet earnest and full of charm.
The other Evangelist is St. Luke. He is typified by the "ox," the animal of sacrifice, because he begins his Gospel with the history of Zachary the priest offering sacrifice to God, and accentuates the universal priesthood of Christ. He was born at Antioch, Syria. He was a Gentile by birth and a physician by profession. He was one of the first converts to the faith and later became a missionary companion of St. Paul. The purpose of St. Luke is to give the converts a deeper and more accurate knowledge of the truths of their religion, and at the same time show them on what firm basis their faith is founded.
If one look closely at the statue at the altar of Infanta church considered by many as that of St. Mark, it is NOT accompanied by a "lion" the symbol of St. Mark, but by an "ox" the symbol of St. Luke. There is a clear indication that the statue at the altar in Infanta is that of St. Luke and not that of St. Mark.
Be that as it may, perhaps what could be done is simply replace the figure of an "ox" with that of a "lion"thus, converting the statue now at the altar in Infanta into that of St. Mark.
As we celebrate the feast of St. Mark on 25th of April, the town of Infanta has been akin to an infant or child that after getting up, he started to walk and traveled far and wide yet adhering firmly its roots to the very place where Nunong Karugtong fell asleep; got up and established the first Malay settlement along the eastern coast of Luzon.
Like an amoeba, Infanta has divided itself into three separate towns of Infanta, Gen. Nakar and Real, yet it keeps the people united with undying faith in the Almighty, dedication and hardwork to face the future. It has surmounted in the past several vicissitudes in life &endash;typhoons, earthquakes, epidemic, fires, war and destructions. And it has also achieved rebirth and reconstruction.
During the fiesta celebration this year on 25 April, it is time for meditation, prayers, and thanksgiving before the people of Infanta embark again on another long journey to the future.
(formerly Binangonan del Ampon)
Infanta, a fourth class municipality, is one of the oldest towns in Quezon Province. It is situated in the northern tip of Quezon mainland lying along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, facing the island municipalities of Polillo, Panukulan and Burdeos. It is a solid plane at the foothill of the Sierra Madre Mountains with a total land area of 34,276 hectares and with a population of 39,125 scattered among its 36 barangays.
Before the separation of General Nakar and Real, the land boundary was Umiray River in the northwest, the present boundary line dividing General Nakar town and Baler, Aurora, and in the southeast was up to Mag-asawang Bato, the present boundary between Real and Mauban. The municipalities of General Nakar and Real became independent towns during the incumbency of Mayor Victorino V. Ruanto Sr. and Atty. Remigio Bustonera, respectively.
The town is known as Infanta for 161 years. The name was given by a Spanish Captain named Juan Salvador in 1835 in honor of the eldest daughter of King Philipp II of Spain.
Prior to the coming of the Spaniards, a Malayan leader from the Province of Rizal named Nunong Karugtong and his men came to the place. Before the settlement was established the Malayan settlers chose among thee places &endash;&endash; Boboin, Comon and the present site of the town. Nunong Karugtong did not choose Boboin because of its proximity to the sea; nor did he choose Comon because it laid between two creeks. The present site of the town was chosen primarily because it was the place where the festivities in celebration of the finding of the big yam (ube) were to be held the following day. When at last everyone came to the place for the celebration, the old Malayan leader was still asleep. His men had to wake him and helped him get up.
Giving a name to the settlement was taken up. One of the men suggested that since Nunong Karugtong had to be helped in getting up from sleep, the name Binangonan del Ampon was the name to be given the settlement. It was also in consideration of the native's hospitality and warm welcome for every foreign settler that came to the place. Since there was another Binangonan in Rizal, this place was also known as Binangonang Malayo.
Infanta under the Spaniards
The first Catholic priest to arrive in Binangonan del Ampon was a Spaniard by the name of Father Esteban Ortiz, O.P.M., who in 1578 planted a wooden cross in the place where Nunong Karugtong fell asleep. This wooden cross became the symbol of Christianity, thus marking the beginning of the Spanish colonization of Binangonan del Ampon.
In 1696, Don Diego Mangilaya founded a settlement in he place. In 1697, paying to its mythical founder, Nunong Karugtong, he caused and led the construction of the first cathedral church right in the place where Nunong Karugtong fell asleep.
The distance of the place from Manila did not deter and Spanish missionaries and soldiers from coming and residing in this settlement.
Succession of leadership followed with a titular name of "cabeza de barangay." Don Diego Manglaya who served as "cabeza" from 1696 to 1699. Between 1700 and 1883, at least 171 settlers served as the cabeza.
Listed below are among those who served as "cabeza de barangay" with highlights of their administration.
Don Cosme Gutierrez, 1702: created Barrio Tongohin
Don Francisco Sumalakay, 1706: created Barrio Banawang
Don Nicolas Maalis, 1711: created Barrio Silangan
Don Juan Nicolas Sarmiento, 1718: built the Watch Tower and stockades around the town
Don Francisco Pagdamihan, 1721: built 2 Watch Towers
Don Guillermo Javier: Founded Barrio Anoling
Don Buenaventura Magnayon, 1736: built a church
Don Antonio de Leon, 1759: inhabitants were free to carry any arms to fight the Moros
Don Agustin de San Juan, 1764: remodeled the church
Don Diego Salvador: Created Barrio Binonoan
Don Juan Salvador Tonzon, 1835: widened the streets
Don Luis Ruidera: Changed the church tower
Don Bartolome Gurango, 1858: constructed Miswa Real Road
Don Arcadio Ortiz: created Barrio Dinahican
Source: Infanta Town Fiesta 300thYear Foundation Anniversary Souvenir Journal: April 23-27, 1996
Infanta needs funds to remodel chapel
Father Mario Establecida, Infanta's parish priest, sent a letter of request for some funds to remodel the chapel which they built for the purpose of 24-hour perpetual adoration. The remodeling will cost approximately $1,600, and will involve removing the carpet, which they thought absorbs odor &endash;&endash; pleasant and otherwise.
We call upon all kababayans to support this small project.
Donations may be sent to Metro Infanta Foundation at 7350 Braun Way, Arvada, CO 80005. Remember, your donation to the foundation tax deductible to the extent provided by the law.