A new reason for me to love Lucena City

My parents have always known that I have become a self-taught historian over the past few years. But I haven’t heard any comment from them about it. To them, it was nothing short of remarkable. Or so I thought.

Last Friday, November 3, was something special. It was when I was invited by Mr. Vladimir Nieto’s Konseho ng Herencia ng Lucena (Heritage Council of Lucena) to speak in front of a live audience at Pacific Mall regarding some old Spanish documents that I have discovered (from the Portal de Archivos Españoles, a website that will never be utilized nor enjoyed by my contemporary Filipino historians for obvious reasons) proving that the date of establishment of Lucena, Tayabas Province —my place of birth— was neither on 1 June 1882 nor on 20 August 1961 but on that very date of the event itself: November 3. Those documents prove once and for all that Lucena has just turned 138 years old last Friday.

But all that was secondary, at least from a personal perspective. I had one other important thing in mind: to make my parents proud of me, something that, I believe, I have never done to them before. I confess to all of you that I have never been a good son to them, the kind of son that many parents can be proud of. My mom was just thrilled to be there. And I was surprised that my dad appeared at the event. I invited him weeks before, but he did not give a clear confirmation if he would attend. That is why I honestly didn’t expect him to arrive. But he did.

I may not be able to reconcile my parents anymore. But at the very least, both of them were there to support me. They saw for the first time how I function as a historian. And the most amazing part of this was that it all happened in the city where I first breathed, where I had my first taste of sunshine, and where I first cried. And to the best of my memory, it was the first time that they were with me, in the city of my birth. We and all the others who were gathered last Friday at Pacific Mall Lucena celebrated for the first time in history the foundation date of Lucena. It was both a public and personal triumph for me. I couldn’t have asked God for any other “pacific” reunion.

I keep on telling everyone that, while I was born in Lucena City, the place is still a “stranger” to me because I didn’t grow up there. But not anymore. November 3 was a gift from God that I didn’t even ask from Him. He truly works in mysterious ways. 😇

Anyway, I’ll be blogging more about the details behind this event soon. ¡Hasta la vista!

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Was Unisan really founded in 1521?

Resulta ng larawan para sa unisan quezon

Welcome arch leading to the población or town proper (photo: Zamboanga.com).

Unisan, Quezon Province, formerly known as Calilayan, Tayabas Province, is the seaside hometown of my dad and my maternal grandmother. I didn’t grow up there, but I got to enjoy the place during summer vacations as a kid.

Unisan prides itself as the oldest town in Filipinas, having been founded in 1521! Searching for it in the Internet, one will always encounter the information below:

Unisan, originally called Kalilayan, is perhaps one of the oldest towns in the Philippines. As early as 1521, the town of Kalilayan was founded by Malayan settlers. All other towns in the country were established not earlier than 1565, when Spain formally occupied the Philippines as a colony.

But was Unisan really founded on that year?

First of all, the real name was Calilaya (or Calilayan in some accounts), not Kalilayan. Secondly, the creation of townships commenced only after the arrival of the Spaniards. Record keeping before that, particularly with the use of specific years or dates, was not yet in use for the simple reason that it was the Spaniards who introduced the Gregorian calendar. How then could have those “Malayan settlers” known that they established a town on that particular year? Lastly, the first settlers of Unisan were not Malayans but Malayo-Polynesian peoples.

What is on record is that Calilaya (now known as Unisan) was founded in 1578 by two Franciscan friars: Fr. Juan de Plasencia and Fr. Diego de Oropesa. But due, perhaps, to economic reasons, it subsequently became a barrio of Pitogo. In 1874, it became a town once again, but with a different name: San Pedro Calilaya, or simply San Pedro (that is why the parish there is dedicated to Saint Peter the Apostle). What I have not yet discovered is how San Pedro Calilaya became known as Unisan (even the uni sancti story one finds in Wikipedia is the stuff of a very creative imagination).

Sometimes, I am tempted to think if there is any strange link to the fact that my roots are from San Pedro Calilaya, Tayabas and here I am living with my family in faraway San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna for the past 13 years. Wonder no more if my family has chosen Saint Peter the Apostle to be our patron saint.