RESILIENCE AMIDST A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

The year 2010 was up for an ominous start as self-proclaimed prophets of doom scampered their way over the social media unjustly condemning Planet Earth to end two years later in 2012. In the local scene, the scare was worsened as one force majeure after another – two nerve wracking earthquakes and a super typhoon, among others – battered the town.

Four days short a year after the town celebrated its 300th founding anniversary, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake hit Dalaguete at around 11:49 AM on February 6, 2012, the epicentre of which was pinpointed 6 kilometers or so off the coast of Tayasan town in the neighboring province of Negros Oriental.  Unbeknown, it was just a prelude of sort of what would soon to come a little over twenty months later.

October 15, 2013 was a Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha. The public holiday had closed schools and some government offices, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. The magnitude 7.2 Bohol earthquake that occurred at around 8:12 AM that day was the deadliest one in the Philippines in 23 years since the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The façade of the 187-year-old San Guillermo Church at the town’s capital ripped precariously from the rest of the church structure and its 33-meter octagonal belfry had shown ominous signs of irrevocable structural damage. Up north in Cebu City, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño’s bell tower suffered a much worse fate as it totally collapsed to the ground. The extent of the quake was so devastating that mainland Bohol shifted about 55 centimetres (22 inches) west towards Cebu Island.

On November 7, 2013, just three weeks after the quake, Dalaguete was put under public storm Signal Number 3 brought upon by Super Typhoon Yolanda, (Metro Cebu and Northern Cebu were inconveniently placed a notch more dangerous at Signal Number 4), by far the strongest one to ever hit the country in recorded history. The eye of the storm fortunately missed the town.

However, Dalaguete was not as lucky when tropical depression Queenie, (ironically a public storm Signal Number 1), took a landfall on November 27, 2014. The Municipal Government reported that Php 27.822 million worth of agriculture, livestock and fisheries were destroyed in the aftermath. Typhoon Queenie would also be remembered as the culprit in the sinking of a fishing boat, the semi-iconic shipwreck that can now be found at the port area of Poblacion.

Down but not out, the inherently resilient Dalaguetnons indomitably steered their way back on their feet. The decade that was 2010-2019 was indeed a rough one that brought up the tough in everyone.

BUILD, BUILD, BUILD

In time with the town’s 300th centennial celebration, the Municipal leadership initiated various infrastructures at the Poblacion Reclamation area in the vicinity where the University of the Visayas Dalaguete Campus presently stands. It commenced the construction of the Php 8-million, 676-sq.m. Dalaguete Health Management Complex which would house the Municipal Health Office, the Rural Health Unit 1, and the Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care (BeMONC) facility, among others. It has started operations last September 14, 2012. An adjacent infrastructure would later house Landbank Dalaguete and the town’s Municipal Trial Court.

In preparation for the 2015 Cebu Provincial Sports and Cultural Meet slated from November 22 to 28 of that year which would be mainly held in town, a junior Olympic-size swimming pool was constructed at the back portion of the Dalaguete National High School Grandstand. An asphalt lawn tennis court was built at the Poblacion Seawall area for the same purpose.

In addition, the Santa Cruz Monument and the so-called Kiosko were made into a center piece of what is now collectively but unofficially known as Foodlane.

The Municipal Hall, the town’s seat of government, underwent its share of major renovations. Prior to this, a rigodon of government offices were taking place – the Dalaguete Police Station and its Detention Center transferred to the former Municipal Health Office Building, the COMELEC office was transferred in Sitio Suba, and the Municipal Trial Court found its home at the upper floor of Landbank Dalaguete, among others. The renovated and more conducive Municipal Hall was inaugurated on June 12, 2019, Independence Day.

Uphill, the Municipal Evacuation Center in Sitio Bunker, Barangay Tapon was formally opened to the public last November 28, 2019.

Meanwhile, considerable widening of what used to be a one-way lane Palingpaling Road leading to Mantalongon was being undertaken.

Last June 6, 2014, then Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala led the launching of the Php 17.5 million Dalaguete Agri-Pinoy Trading Center, (DAPTC). The imposing 17.568-million peso facility is the erstwhile Mantalongon Vegetable Trading Center established in 2003 that needs to be expanded to cater to the urgent need of a wider and more conspicuous trading hub. In the same vein, a two-storey satellite vegetable trading center was established in Caleriohan. 

NEW TRAVEL DESTINATIONS

Osmeña Peak, Obong Spring, San Guillermo Church Plaza. These are the frequent names, among others, that usually form part of a typical Dalaguete leisure travel itinerary. At the advent of the new decade, the Municipal Government developed and introduced equally inviting new travel destinations.

LUGSANGAN PEAK

Locally known as Ka Sino, which in the vernacular suggests that a certain Sino used to reside within the vicinity of the place, Tabon’s version of Pride Rock, (the royal court of sort in Disney’s Lion King movie), offers one an imposing view of neatly arranged mounds on a grand scale reminiscent of Bohol’s Chocolate Hills. Towering at about 1,005 meters above sea level, Lugsangan Peak is just about an hour’s walk from Osmeña Peak.

KANDUNGAW PEAK AND CAVES

A peak to scale for the daring few, Kandungaw is not for the faint of heart, as it features a literally vertical wall on its western side with an elevation of 958 meters above sea level.  The most challenging among the town’s mountain peaks, the summit’s cave network was a natural refuge of the barrio folks during World War II. Those who dare, though, are rewarded by a breathtaking panorama that includes the region’s pioneering strawberry farm, rice terraces, and a bird’s eye view of the neighboring Negros Island as well as the Alegria stretch in the west and the Argao to Alcoy stretch in the east. The Kandungaw Peak vicinity is some 30 minutes ride from Mantalongon Public Market.

A FLOWER FARM AND A STRAWBERRY FARM

Mt. Talongon Flower Farm is home to native sunflower species and about 20 imported variations of other flowers such as petunias, snapdragons and crimsons. Once a wetland planted with rice, the property was bought by the Municipal Government in 2017 to cater nature trekkers who are fond of flower gardens.

On the other hand, the privately owned and operated strawberry farm in Barangay Maloray is the first of its kind in the region, and is conveniently situated along the road leading to the increasingly known Kandungaw Peak. Both farms require a Php 50 entrance fee.  

A TESTAMENT TO DEDICATED PUBLIC SERVICE

The fiscal years 2013 and 2014 showcased a very rare back-to-back accomplishment for Dalaguete as two of its Municipal personnel became a recipient of the Dangal ng Bayan National Awards – Engr. Expedizitas Lenares of the Municipal Agriculture and Natural Resources Office (2013) and Ms. Euthemia Plariza of the Municipal Health Office (2014).

In 2015, the local leadership received the PaNata ko sa Bayan Award (Gawad Listahanan) from no less than the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.  

In 2017, Dalaguete was among the inaugural batch of 24 towns in the country to receive the Synergia Foundation’s Seal of Good Education Governance Award, in recognition for its outstanding efforts in delivering basic education to its constituents. During the same year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development bestowed Gapas Award for being a Model LGU Supporting the Implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The Municipal Government also emerged as 2nd Runner Up in the 2019 Americares Philippines Award of Excellence in Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for its local mental health program aptly named UTAC.  

LOOKING FORWARD: AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE NEW DECADE

A DELICATE BALANCING ACT

Presumably because of the two world wars that peppered almost half of the twentieth century and the considerable distance of the town from the Provincial capital, the economic activity of the town was at an understandably lazy pace. Nevertheless, there was a significant uptick at the start of the new millennium.  After almost a hundred years since Dalaguete was officially acknowledged as a town through Act No. 82, (the Municipal Code of 1904), it became a third class municipality sometime in 2001, a second class municipality in 2004, and finally a first class municipality on July 29, 2007.

I may be a slow walker, but I never walk backwards,” thus says the late American president Abraham Lincoln. In some aspects more than one, this has become the unwritten strategy at which the framers of the development of Dalaguete have recently adopted. 

And then there is a lull… or is there?

Typical Harvest Time Scene (Ablayan, Dalaguete)

The undisputed Vegetable Basket of Cebu and its official Summer Capital – these are two designations that almost always come to one’s mind to those who have already come to know and visit Dalaguete. The town is host to the province’s largest and busiest straight from the farm vegetable trading center where truckloads of fresh vegetables not only from Dalaguete but that of the neighboring towns of Alegria and Badian as well, are sold daily on a wholesale basis.

On the other end, the diversity of the town’s territorial jurisdiction is practically from ridge to reef – it is host to cooler than the usual highlands as well as to some of the finest coastal resorts in the province – indeed, Dalaguete has such a diversified natural heritage it truly deserves the reputation as its official Summer Capital, a recognition it rightfully earned, (via Provincial Board Resolution 215-2006 dated January 23, 2006).

Needless to say, the Municipal leadership is inadvertently faced with a curious dilemma that should be carefully and meticulously addressed into. Much as it does not want to jeopardize its highly-sought natural landscape, Dalaguete is primarily an agricultural town and the livelihood of its people largely depends on agriculture. A workable framework must therefore have to be drawn that shall outline, among others, the measures to be taken to help meet the town’s basic commodities requirements and food production goals while maintaining its Summer Capital of Cebu reputation.