08 September 2007

Explaining a historical puzzle

DANNY Gerona's From Epic to History, the definitive history of Naga, mentioned something about the original San Francisco Church being different from the current structure, not only in terms of built but also its layout.

The old church in Nueva Caceres (the settlement built by the Spanish conquistadors), it said, faced Naga River as if to convey the message it is ready to serve the native population of Naga, the ancient village located across the river in what is now presently the Tabuco-Lerma area.

This is also immortalized in the stained glass representations of the church's history that adorn the structure itself. The first one, if I still recall correctly our visit with a Palafox Associates team (the ones I had breakfast with), shows a structure made of wood and indigenous materials, including what looks like tiklad roofing.

How would one reconcile that with accounts that place the original church to be parallel, instead of perpendicular, to what is now Peñafrancia Avenue? Our conversation the day before with Joe Obias, my former Vox editor and a local historian, provided the answer.

In those days, he said, Naga River is not the largely straight waterway we see today; it actually meandered into Nueva Caceres, into the current CBD, in a semi-circular fashion consistent with Gerona's account. The graphic above represents how everything probably looked like, with the old church in orange superimposed over the current one in blue.

A strong typhoon probably carved up a straighter route, similar to what happened to the current Balatas landfill many decades back. In conversations with Engr. Joel Martin and Jerry Abainza of the city environment office during our initial meeting with the visiting Czech consultants, I found out that some portions of said landfill is hollowed -- reminder of the river's original route until natural forces again carved up a more convenient, less sharp path.

Joe added the name of barangay Dinaga, Naga's smallest village smacked right within the city center, is actually derived from the word "pagdaga" (to fill up with earth), referring to the successful effort to reclaim the old waterway that became redundant when the new, straighter river path came about.

By the way, if you wonder why there are two major plazas (not three, because Plazas Rizal and Quezon used to be one single plaza before) within one small CBD comprising of just a few blocks, it is because what is now Galeria de San Francisco used to be the site of Naga's city hall. In this light, the placement of Plaza Quince Martires would entirely make sense, being right in front of the main city government building.

The same is true with Plaza Rizal: it is also located in front of where the old provincial capitol used to be, what is today's LBRDC Building (which houses Robertson and Land Bank) before it was destroyed by fire.

Do you know other differences between Naga as we know it today, and the Naga/Nueva Caceres of yesteryears?


Filipinayzd said...

Wow! Ano tong may tunnel daa na nagkokonektar sa palasyo saka Cathedral?

May barangay Dinaga man sa Canaman, hali an ngaran sa tataramon na "dinagaan" kataid kan barangay Pangpang, hali man sa "pampang" nin solong, kung saen nakatogdok an simbahan. Pareho an lokasyon arog sa San Francisco.

Garo palan sa Old Albay, haros magkaatubangan an kapitol kan syudad saka probinsya.

Anonymous said...

ang galing!

dave said...

Nice one!

How about the decrepit prison structures in the vacant lot a few meters east of the San Francisco Church? It was also the former site of the Post Office. Those prisons last had occupants about twenty years ago. How far back are these buildings? Were they used as a World War II jail? Or even as a Spanish garrison?