[an linobongan can sacoyang inulnan]

83 years ago, I first saw the light of day in the barrio of Siuton, Magallanes, Sorsogon. There I spent my childhood until I was fourteen during the war years. It was in the early thirties and most of the barrios were still quite primitive but Siuton then was a little bit more advanced.

Small and compact, the central part of the barrio was divided into four blocks by wide crossed streets as they are until now with buildings on each block and more houses lined on the outer sides. But the streets then were still unpaved and usually muddy with mud holes here and there where tired carabaos wallowed after having towed sledge {pakapang] loads of bundled [pinardo] hemp. [No wonder I always had athletes’ foot (alipunga, yucky!) during rainy days all those years and usually had to ride pick-a-back to school on any one of my older cousins from another barrio, Malbog, who stayed with us during school days.]

While other barrios didn’t have schools yet, Siuton had complete primary grades, although we had only two teachers – Miss Primitiva Antiado, for grades I and II, and Mr. Emeterio Genova, for grades III and IV. Now the barrio is so much larger with a Barangay High School, other barangay offices, a fish market and private houses occupying the other side of the northern river bank and the outskirts on the eastern part.

The residents at the time were mostly land owners and the houses were made of semi-permanent materials, some concreted and roofed with GI sheets. On the other side of the block where our house stood was a large camarin where my cousin, the late composer Lutgardo C. Antiado and family lived. I was told that the camarin used to be the bodega of the Antiado Hemp Dealers Corporation, owned by the heirs of the late Cabeza de Barangay Ysidoro Antiado. Almost all of the residents then were consanguineous to one another but now there are so many people living there whom I no longer know.

Siuton is wedged between two gurgling and sparklingly clear rivers [I don’t think they are still so now] on its northern and southern sides, converging about a kilometer down the western part into one deeper and wider one. [The place was, and still is, called Embarcadero – where boats were berthed.] It then meanders for several kilometers out to sea through the bucana between barrio Caditaan and a sitio now called San Isidro, which fronts another sitio -Telegrapo.

As I mentioned the river, a historic event that took place on this river comes to mind.

I’m not claiming to be a historian. Nevertheless, the way I imagine it, a Spanish galleon was seeking refuge from a typhoon or the onslaught of the habagat and tried to enter the river mouth. It is possible that the ship was already damaged and too large to enter the river so the Spaniards hired natives to make a raft which they used to carry them up river. Being made of bamboo, the raft was probably quite unwieldy and taking long as it went against the onrush of a swollen river and the torrential rain so the passengers were possibly dripping wet, cold and grumpy.
It could be that one of the travelers asked a native where they were going and since it was in Spanish the native possibly thought the man was complaining about the sluggish journey and asserted, ”‘Piuton!”, meaning the river was too narrow. And the Spaniard took it as “Siuton”.

Anyway, the barrio they were going to was really called Siuton.

A few kilometers before they could reach the Embarcadero, the raft could no longer go on so they moored on the right bank of the river where the natives usually berthed their large boats, called casco, when the tide was low.

The strangers then temporarily settled on the other side of the bank in a sitio of Siuton called Gibalon where they built make-shift huts and a chapel from bamboo and nipa palm leaves that grow abundantly along the river banks. It turned out that they were Friars on an evangelistic expedition and so the first mass ever held in Luzon was celebrated on that historical site in 1569. I am sure they stayed there for some time as the Elizalde excavators were able to dig up aged jars, pottery shards and other household articles from the site some years ago.

When I was little, I used to wonder why that place where we usually berthed our casco was called Orta by my old folks. Now I realize that it was named after one of the friars in the expedition – Friar ORTA. And Orta it is to this day.

Can we still have doubts that the first mass in the Island of Luzon was indeed celebrated in Sitio Gibalon. Siuton, Magallanes, Sorsogon? I regret, however, that until now, the oft repeated promise that a Cathedral would be constructed on the historical site each time a commemorative mass was held, has proven to be just that – a promise through the years.
I was telling about the river and have digressed. I’ll tell you more about those rivers next time.

The author, is Clarita Antiado Abraham. She is 86 years old of Magallanes, Sorsogon. At 86 years old, she is pursuing her passion in writing and maintains regularly her Facebook account.