By : Maritoni Alvarez | YEHEY! In-house Production
17 June 2009 | 6:53 AM
Situated in the northern part of the Aurora Province and approximately 120 kms. from the historic town of Baler, Casiguran, dubbed as the “Enchanting Paradise in the North,” just celebrated its 400 years in history through a week-long festivity that showcased the town’s products, talents and beauty. The Quadricentennial of Casiguran, Aurora kicked off last June 7, 2009 with loads of activities to laud the town’s 400th year Anniversary.
Tracing Casiguran’s history
The town of Casiguran was found in 1609 by a group of Franciscan friars headed by Fr. Blas Palomino. It is the last frontier in the evangelization of the natives along the Sierra Madre Mountains. First inhabitants of Casigurans were the Negritoes or the Cimarrones as referred to by the Spaniards. Casiguran’s early settlers were mostly farmers, fishermen and hunters because the town is surrounded by rivers, lakes, ocean and forest.
The name Casiguran was coined from the town’s native word “Casigurunan” (Kasiguruhan in Tagalog) which means “safety.” During the Spanish times, the Casiguran Sound served as a refuge or sanctuary for sailing vessels. Casiguran Sound is a bay which is nearly enclosed by Casiguran’s landmass and the peninsula of San Ildefonso Town. The bay is rarely hit by monsoon winds making it a perfect sanctuary for ship anchorage and now an ideal spot for wind surfing.
Even before, it is believed that Casiguran has lots of potentials as a progressive town because of its rich natural resources and very fine harbor, however, the poor road condition hampers Casiguran from being one of the most advanced municipalities in the country.
Casiguran after 400 years
Now on its 400th year, Casiguran, at present, is one of the most promising towns in the Philippines. With the approval of the Aurora Special Economic Zone or ASEZA, the town of Casiguran will no longer be French to everyone. ASEZA is an act passed and approved in the Congress and Senate to establish the province of Aurora, which includes the town of Casiguran, as a Special Economic Zone like Laguna and Subic.
Mayor Reynaldo Bitong, Mayor of the Municipal Town of Casiguran, accounts the Baler-Casiguran road improvement to ASEZA. Mayor Bitong believes that ASEZA is a great way to uplift the lives of the people in the province of Aurora, specifically in the town of Casiguran. He further added that aside from the road improvement, an airport and a port is set to rise soon in Casiguran.
“Because of the ASEZA, kaya ginawa itong Baler-Casiguran road, that’s the most important, the Government will not spend so much money to develop a place without anything. The airport is almost completed, [maybe] within this year, and the Philippine Port Authority started [the] construction already, I think [it’s] almost 60-70% complete already, same with the airport, and that’s because of the ASEZA,” explained Mayor Bitong.
Upon the completion of the road, port and airport, tourists are expected to influx the small town of Casiguran. When asked if Casiguran is ready for the upsurge of tourists in the coming years, Mayor Reynaldo Bitong admits that as of now, the town is not yet ready to accommodate lots of tourists due to the lack of hotels in the area, however, he said that after the road improvement has been finished, they will start putting up hotels and more resorts in the town. He also added that they expect not only tourists, but also investors and locators to visit Casiguran since it’s already an .
It is expected that once the Baler-Casiguran road has been finished by the year 2010, the usual 11-12 hours travel from Manila to Casiguran will be reduced to 8-9 hours already.
Revisiting Casiguran’s beauty
According to Mayor Reynaldo Bitong, the town of Casiguran has plenty of beaches and products to boast. The Casapsapan Beach, an unspoiled beach in Brgy. Culat, is comparable to Boracay when it comes to beauty. Aside from its powdery, white sand and crystal clear, blue water, Casapsapan Beach is also rich in marine life. Different kinds of corals, sea urchins, fishes, crabs and the Casiguran’s pride, the Golden Shell, are very abundant in Casapsapan Beach. The Golden Shell, according to the Casiguranins, can only be found in the town of Casiguran.
One source of livelihood in the town of Casiguran, according to Mayor Bitong, is the Coconut industry, in fact, they even celebrate Coconut Festival in their town to showcase all their products which came from Coconuts such as lambanog, (Virgin Coconut Distilled Wine) and the Coconut vinegar. These products are known to be anti-oxidants and can cure common ailments and reduce cholesterol in the body. Aside from Coconut, the Casiguranins already started planting and harvesting corns and pineapples. However, Mayor Rey Bitong admits that the Pineapple industry in Casiguran is not that developed yet due to the lack f big market where they can sell their products because of the difficulty in transporting them to the City because of the road condition.
Casiguran’s Quadricentennial Celebration
Casiguran’s 400th year Anniversary celebration was commenced by a colorful parade on the morning of June 7 with the participation of Casiguran Brass Band, street dancers, local officials and participating teams for the sports fest, while the inauguration and blessing of the newly-built multi purpose hall took place right after.
The following days were made even more exciting through the Cultural Night with the theme “Noon, ngayon at bukas,” which emphasized the Casiguran culture, and the Coconut Festival which exhibits Casiguran’s products and delicacies displayed in a uniquely built “bahay kubo” made out of 100% coconut materials.
Casiguranin’s beauty and talent took center stage as the Bb. Casiguran Beauty Pageant was held on the night of June 11. The said pageant, according to Mayor Reynaldo Bitong, was actually the week-long festival’s highlight. 19 years old Charmaine Dee bested the other eight contestants and was crowned Ms. Casiguran 2009.
Coinciding the Independence Day last June 12, a parade and short program joined by Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and Cong. Sonny Angara of Aurora province was held at the Casiguran Multi-Purpose Hall. Gov. Castillo explained the real meaning of celebrating freedom while Cong. Angara took the opportunity to further discuss the ASEZA to let the Casiguranins understand how important ASEZA is not only to make Casiguran a progressive town that it should be even before but also to give more jobs to the people.
“Ang mga kapwa kong taga Casiguran magkakaroon ng trabaho dito sa loob ng Casiguran, sa sarili nilang bayan, ang mga anak nila dito mag-aaral, iyong mga dayuhan sila ang pupunta dito, sila ang magtatayo ng negosyo dito. Kung hindi iyan kabutihan, kung hindi iyan kaunlaran, hindi ko na po alam kung ano ang inyong depinisyon ng kaunlaran,” Cong. Angara explained. [My fellow Casiguranins will have a job right here in Casiguran, in their own town, their children will study here, people will start going here to put up their own businesses. If that’s not good enough, if that’s not progress, I already don’t know if what’s the definition of progress to you.]
The afternoon of June 12 signaled the start of the “Ihawan sa Kalye” where a long line of people went out of the street to grill Bangus simultaneously. As the night dawned, one of the most awaited events by the Casiguranin was held at the multi-purpose hall. The variety show joined by different local artists and performers was no doubt a favorite among the Casiguranins.
The morning of June 13, the exact date of Casiguran’s fiesta and also the last day of the week-long celebration of the town’s 400th year, was welcomed by the marching band to signal the historic date of Casiguran’s foundation. A grand parade, complete with floats and street dancing are just enough to put the town of Casiguran and the Casiguranins in a festive mood.
And what god way to cap off the night than to gather every Casiguranin in town to party hearty even for just once a year. The Community Night or the Mayor’s Ball paved the way for everybody to dance the night away and celebrate the 400 years that was and cheer to the 400 years ahead.
And just like how Cong. Sonny Angara puts it, “Kung maganda po ang pingdaanan nating 400 years, sa palagay ko ay mas maganda ang hinaharap nating 400 years.” [If the past 400 years were good, I believe that the next 400 years will be even better.]