New Carcar City Hall

The City of Carcar established in July 7, 2007 by virtue of RA 9436, was originally a small seaside settlement some 40 kilometers south of “Zebu” now Cebu City. The settlement was known then as “SAYLO” or “SIALO”. It is located between two big rivers. On the north, is the MINAG-A River which empties into the Carcar Channel from the mountain area bounding the City of Carcar with the municipalities of Pinamungajan, and San Fernando. On the south, is the CARCAR River which empties into the Carcar Channel from the mountain area bounding the City of Carcar with the Municipality of Barili.

The settlement was called “Saylo” because it lies at the outskirts, and out of the water way leading to Mowag a larger riverine community along the Carcar River

Oral traditions claimed, that in olden times it would be difficult for non inhabitants of Carcar to locate the main community at Mowag now the Poblacion Area, because of a labyrinth of water ways of the Carcar Marsh. So the safest approach to reach the main community at Mowag, is by land from Saylo through a circuitous route passing through what is now Barangay Liburon, to Ylaya part of Poblacion III, and then to Luan- Luan, Poblacion I.

Other oral accounts of how this seaside settlement got the name “SIALO” saw print in an Annual Fiesta Souvenir Program. The article entitled, “VALLADOLID THE OLD TOWN” was written by the late Sofronio Gantuanco, a Public School Supervisor by profession. Carcar City – The Gateway To The South

Excerpts from that article are reprinted here for the younger generations of Carcar, and students of history, to appreciate.

“According to written record, the old town was very abundant. The inhabitants were prosperous and industrious. Based on the written record of the Spanish chroniclers, the name Sialo was derived from a story of a group of inhabitants who were very progressive. The people were living life of miserliness and thriftiness. The Chinese traders or businessmen always made their transactions along the coast of Bas and Catadman. The Chinese traders encountered this miser group of people. Right away the Chinese traders showed their products. The immediate reaction of the group was to turn down the offer of the Chinese by saying, “Walay kuwarta kita karon” The Chinese responded, “Siyalo walay kwalta unya dako balay? Siyalo! Thus, the place was called Sialo – a barrio that became the town of Valladolid.”

Carcar was already a thriving community even before the Spanish Expedition led by a Portuguese Fernando Magallanes also know as “Ferdinand Magellan” landed in the shores of Cebu in 1521.

“This is affirmed by the discovery of an ancient burial site dating to 6700 – 3000 BC (Neolithic Era) in the barangays of Napo, and Ocana in Carcar by Archaeologist Rosa Tenazans. This discovery is considered the first evidence of the peopling of Cebu, and Carcar for that matter. This historical fact was reaffirmed by an American archaeologist, John Peterson in a site close to the Tenazans’ excavation in 2005.

2 “Between 618 – 906 AD, the Philippines trade contact with China began.” This trade contact thrived and flourished going through the time of the Sung Dynasty, and the Ming Dynasty, and extended to Cebu including Carcar. This is affirmed with “the excavation of ceramic pieces in Valencia, Carcar by the Gutche Michigan Expedition of 1922 – 1924. The ceramic pieces belonged to the Sung Dynasty which ruled China from 960 – 1279 AD.” While the accidental discovery in the early years of 1960s of an ancient burial site by local settlers at Tawog, Valladolid, Carcar, Cebu, which led to the excavation of pieces of spear heads and bladed weapons, jewelries, and ceramic pieces of the Ming Dynasty added to the claim that Carcar was an old settlement.

(1- 2) rephrased from Carcar Timeline; by: Mr. Trizer Dale Mansueto
Carcar’s first contact with western civilization dates back to 1582 or a few years earlier. In his chronicles, Miguel de Loarca wrote about “JARO” a village inhabited by 500 natives under an encomendero. This village is referred in old Spanish documents as Carcar.

In June 21, 1599, the convent dedicated to the name of Nuestra Senora Virgin dela Visitacion was founded through a “defenetario”, by the Order of St. Augustine. The founding of the convent not only ushered in the advent of Christianity in “SAYLO or SIALO” but also the start of the Moro-Christian War in this part of the world.

In June 1, 1601, the “defenetario” was confirmed by the Father Provincial of the Order of St. Augustine, and a religious was allowed to reside in the convent to care for the souls of the inhabitants of “SAYLO” or “Sialo”. A decade after, in 1611, “SAYLO” or “Sialo” was placed under the administration of San Nicolas de Naturales.

In April 29, 1617, “Saylo” or “Sialo” was separated from San Nicolas de Naturales. This separation would pave the way for the establishment of the St. Catherine Parish in 1620.

A few years after the establishment of the Parish of St. Catherine, saw “SAYLO or SIALO” which was previously renamed Valladolid after a town in Navarre, Spain, defending its self against the attacks of Moro Marauders from the Island of Mindanao.

This predicament though largely was an extension of the Moro-Christian War, called for the involvement of the riverine community at Mowag. The Mowag chieftain sent his son, and a number of warriors to aid the community at SAYLO. For two occasions in the infamous year of 1622 the church at Saylo was burned down by the Marauders, the last being the most painful to the natives because the Chieftain’s son got killed and was beheaded. This incident made the natives at SAYLO’ decide to hastily leave the place and join the community at Mowag for their safety.

In a solemn procession, the natives with the Spanish settlers carried the image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, while another group of warriors carried the headless body of the Chieftains son to the top of hill at Mowag. The travel was not easy because the marauders were close on their hills. They had to wade through the marsh land and took the waterway to the riverine community at Mowag to misled, and avoid contact with the enemies. Legends would tell that during this sojourn St. Catherine would come to the aid of the natives by making the trees and bushes bent over to cover the natives from the prying eyes of the enemies.

Oral traditions had it, that the Chiftain’s son was buried at the east-side atop the Hill of Mowag, now the Plaza of Carcar, and a new church was built on the opposite side of the hill. This site is now the site of the Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Carcar.

In 1624, the Spanish settlers, with the natives, rebuild the town of Valladolid, and enshrined the image of St. Catherine of Alexandria their patroness. The town of Valladolid was later renamed Carcar after a town in Spain. But old folks prefer to call the place “Kabkad” short for Kabkaban because kaban-kaban a sturdy fern used by the natives as ornament, and as medicine, grew abundantly in the place. The year 1624 is considered the Year the Town of Carcar was founded having a parish priest, and a gobernadorcillo.

The late Paulina Bargayo claimed that the original image of “Santa Catalina” is now in the keep of their family because the image was entrusted to his father, the late Basilio Bargayo a parish scribe, by Rev. Fr. Anastacio P. del Corro, the parish priest of Carcar. It was Fr. Del Corro who told Paulina Bargayo that the image was the original image from the “Daang Lungsod” or the old town.

In the years that followed, Carcar became one of the biggest Augustinian parishes in the Visayas. It comprises the visitas from Simora(Sibonga), Argao, Dalaguete, Oslog (Oslob), up to Tanon (Santander). This a clear indication that the catholic religion has flourished in Carcar, and would greatly influence the local culture. In December 31, 1690, the Parish of Carcar was divided into two vicariates as proposed by the Father Provincial of the Order of St. Augustin.

While Carcar continued to grow spiritually, its economic growth was at a snail’s space. The population of 1,116 in 1632, only grew to only 2,690 by 1760. Eight years later the population of Carcar would diminish to around 968 inhabitants. This situation could have been caused by an unfavorable environment and agricultural conditions; a general resistance of the inhabitants to Spanish efforts at tribute collection; and a decline in commercial activity and persistent Moro raids.

It was only after the Economic growth in Cebu in 1840 that Carcar grew to be one of the top sugar producing towns in Cebu. In 1845, Carcar ranked third in sugar production next to Mandaue with Talisay at the top spot.

In 1849, Carcar would be doning a peculiar fiber of family identity. By a decree of Governor General Narciso Claveria the natives were given Spanish surnames. Though the decree was such that the indios be given Spanish surnames, most indios in Carcar had their surnames but authentic Spanish. Many surnames in Carcar until today, is endemic to Carcar.

A year after, Carcar would be known as a town in the Island of Cebu with about 1,834 houses of simple construction, and a population of 11,043, and 2085 tributes. Carcar already has a good rectory, government house, prison, and primary school for both sexes where the Cartilla, and the Doctrina Cristiana were taught. The Church of Carcar was of good construction under the patronage of St. Catherine of Alexandria. The outskirts of Carcar are the barrios of Sangat to the north, and Bacsiji to the south. These barrios still bare the same names, though Sangat at present is already part of the Municipality of San Fernando.

The economic growth of Carcar during this period continued to pace smoothly that in 1859, the construction of a new massive stone church started. This endeavor was undertaken by the parishioners, and local leaders under the leadership of Fray Antonio Maglano, OSA, the parish priest. The construction of the church was completed in 1876 under the leadership of Fray Manuel Fernandez. Fray Fernandez was also responsible for the construction of the first road from the town plaza to the sea. The road is now known as the General Antonio Luna St. This road was cut – off by the Carcar River when it was straightened during the incumbency of Don Mariano A. Mercado as Municipal President of Carcar.

After the General Luna St. was constructed, most of the camino vicinal within the town proper were also converted into streets. One of the main streets in Carcar was constructed on a path leading to a river embankment then known as Ilawod. This road is now known as Sta. Catalina St.

The first celebration of the Feast of St. Catherine after the construction of the new church was grandiose, and the parishioners were very much elated, and proud of their new church, a new image of their patron saint, and a new procession route which remained as the procession route followed for parish processions even today. It is also within this period that other century old images of saints and icons were acquired by the parish imported from Barcelona, Spain. These acquisitions were made through sponsorships of well to do families in Carcar to make solemn processions during the Holy Week more meaningful.

In the decades that followed, Carcar remained a peaceful town, free from the spirit of the Philippine Revolution which prevailed in many provinces in Luzon, and in some places in the Visayas including the province of Cebu; not until that fateful day of April 8, 1898 when General Pantaleon S. Villegas, aka “LEON KILAT” a general of the Philippine Revolution, was assassinated at the command of the local leaders of Carcar.

Within a year after the ignominious death of Gen. Leon Kilat, Carcar joined the Philippine Revolution, and a Municipal Government was established under the revolutionary government of Don Florencio M. Noel. He assumed the leadership of the new revolutionary government in January 15, 1899 through an election held among local leaders. The revolutionary government though, would be short lived because the American occupation forces took control of Carcar in July 2, 1899.

Though the revolutionary government in Carcar was short lived, a Carcaranon revolutionary general in the person of Gen. Troadio Galicano, continued his resistance movement this time against the Americans. Gen. Galicano established his camp at Sitio Kalangyawon, in Napo, a mountain barrio of Carcar.

In that same year, the first election in Carcar under the American Regime took place. Don Vicente J. Noel was elected the first Municipal President of Carcar. During his tenure as Municipal President, he spent his own money to build the school building which will house the Carcar Intermediate School. The Carcar Elementary School was opened in 1905 under the Bureau of Education, and was considered as the first government institution of learning outside of Cebu City during the American Regime.

Perhaps providential, Carcar’s economic activity liven-up the more with the operation of the Philippine National Railway in 1908. This government infrastructure strengthened the more Carcar’s control as the hub of progress for the Cebu south-east and south-west growth areas not only economically, but also culturally, and intellectually.

In 1923, St. Catherine’s School a parochial school, and the first exclusive school in Carcar and outside of Cebu City, was founded by the late Anastacio P. del Corro under the administration of the Imaculatae Cordae Marie (ICM), a congregation of nuns. The school was not only patronized by families in Carcar, and the neighboring towns, but also by families from the Island of Negros and parts of Mindanao.

Over the years, Carcar stood as the center of the culture and the arts of Cebu south. Its landmarks, like the Carcar Rotunda, the Town Plaza with its beautiful buildings, and statues considered masterpieces par excellence, are testaments of many a Carcaranon artistic acumen.

Carcar is the home town of many playwrights of stage plays like “linambay”. The “Linambay” is a long running stage play which originated in Barangay Valladolid; Balitaw, an extemporaneous intercourse of thoughts, principles, and feelings between a man and a woman on a variety of life’s situation, either melodramatic or comedy,expressed in verses with music and rhythm to a time signature of 3/4; and Ohong-ohong a native dance which also originated in Carcar, where the dancers or participants themselves dance to the beat of their song with the lyrics as the story line of the dance.

Carcar is also home to renowned musicians, and artists. Prominent among them, are the late, Professor Brigido Lacandason, Dr. Ramon A. Abellana, and Mr. Placido Bargayo, to name a few musicians; and artists who won great accolades in on the spot painting contests, and exerted influence on other artists’ outlook and style. To name a few, are the late Prof. Martino A. Abellana Sr., Vicente Poncardas. Prominent among the living, is Mr. Romulo Galicano who is the second Filipino to win the “Grand Award for Portrait Painting” of the 2005 International Painting Competition organized by the Portrait Society of America. The first Filipino who won the award was the renowned Filipino Painter, Juan Luna.

The economic activity in Carcar “then and now”, solidly rests on its underground economy. These are the small scale business enterprises and cottage industries. Shoe making, Blacksmithing, and Chicharon making and other Carcar delicacies, ranks the most solid small-scale businesses in Carcar.

Shoe making had its crude beginnings in Liburon towards the end of the 19th Century. This business enterprise grew as a close to extended family and then to a neighborhood endeavor in early 1920, and operates almost the same way until today. The catalyst of shoemaking industry in Carcar, was the late GREGORIO MACASERO who learned the craft from “Na Awang Villasquena” of Liburon.

Blacksmithing is another vital technology to Carcar’s economy. Though it started as a simple shop built for the needs of the family of Don Florencio M. Noel who is also popularly known as Kapitan Insyong, it became the training ground of future Carcaranon blacksmiths. At the prodding of Kapitan Insyong, Patricio Gabrillo with wife Ignacia Dakay, stayed for good in Carcar and laid the foundation of the blacksmithing industry of the place.

Chicharon making and other Carcar delicacies are as old as the shoemaking, and blacksmithing industries. Like Chicharon, the most popular among the delicacies of Carcar are the “ampao”, and the “bucarillo”. The other popular and sought after delicacies of Carcar are the azucarada, gulgorias, mammon, and pulvoron.

Chicharon making was started by Casimero Alesna in 1920s, and was propagated by the couple Patricio Paraz, and Anuciacion Alesna, the forebears of the present chicharon makers in Carcar.

Today, Carcar is continuously striving to be at pace with the rest of the world , aware of the effects of globalization on its fledgling redirected economic outlook to achieve a globally competitive agro-industrial economy while preserving its cultural heritage. This is aptly summarized in Carcar’s statement of its Vision, and Mission.

CARCAR, a culturally rich and environment friendly city with an economically and well developed infrastructure facilities, through good governance ensuring an efficient and effective delivery of basic and social services.

The City of Carcar with its committed civil servants shall provide appropriate facilities and needed infrastructure with the participation of community friendly investors to help the city in the preservation and conservation of its cultural heritage and environment.