Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maasin Leyte’s Pilgrimage City


MAASIN City is the gateway to Southern Leyte’s tourist destinations like the site where Limasawa First Mass was held, diver’s haven, and activities like whale and shark-watching in Liloan, among others.
Abaca Products
Maasin gained prominence as the leading source of the sturdy abaca twine called lapnis which is woven into strong lanot rope. Abaca is also made here into ornamental household items and fashionable ethnic attire for high society women.
Maasin City is the leading producer of abaca fiber, abaca textile variety and abaca native handicrafts that have penetrated national and international markets. Other leading produce are copra and coffee as well as ceramics and delicacies such as salvaro, sortidos, otap, bocarillo, tres marais (bodbod), kalamay, hopia pinaypay and the famous "turnos" (ginamos orinun-onan).
Local Delicacies of Maasin
It was said that during the Spanish times, some Spaniards who needed water to drink reached the Canturing River. They asked the natives, "Que pueblo es este?" (What town is this?) Thinking that the Spaniards were asking them how the water tasted, they quickly replied, "Maasin" (which means salty). That’s how Maasin got its name.
Maasin is also famous for its religious abodes, like the Maasin Cathedral and Our Lady of Assumption Shrine. Maasin Cathedral was established by the Jesuit missionaries in 1700. A temporary church was erected but was destroyed when the Moro marauders attacked the town in 1754.

         Maasin became a town the preceding year. In 1768, the church administration was transferred to the Augustinian priests. It was restructured in 1771 but again, it was destroyed by the Moro villagers in 1784. By the administration and leadership of a certain Father Serapio Gonzales, a church made of coral and hard tones was erected. Again, it was destroyed in 1839 and rebuilt once again in 1882 by Father Jose Paco after it accidentally burned down.
It was again rebuilt and became a Cathedral when an order was done creating the new Diocese of Maasin on Aug. 14, 1968. Its Patron Saint is the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion (Our Lady of Assumption). Rev. Fr. Urcisimo A. Luzon is its 49th parish priest in succession.
Maasin City Cathedral
We were mesmerized by the beauty of the Cathedral. Bricks make up its structure. It has an exquisite high ceiling that features various statues of saints, with the image of Our Lady of Assumption on the center.
Not so far from the Cathedral is the Monte Cueva. It is a pilgrim’s site and tourist destination in Barangay Rizal. Located 300 miles from the National Highway, one has to pass a bridge first where tall trees on each side of the road stand proudly. On the way up is the 14th Station of the Cross, featured in big frames scattered along the way. It takes 300 steps to reach Monte Cueva where mass is held every 5 a.m. on Wednesdays and 6 a.m. on Saturdays.
Monte Cueva
Monte Cueva is located at the top of the mountain and a small chapel awaits the pilgrims and the devotees. The stones are real and alive, it drops small amounts of water people consider "holy water" and drink them.
From Monte Cueva, we proceeded to the Our Lady of Assumption Shrines in Jalleca Hills. It has its modest history. This was conceived by Mrs. Milagros Castro from a dream. The Lady of Assumption wanted to have her image or statue be erected on the top of the hills. This did not materialize at first until signs of miracles began to show up, like a ray of light appearing on top of the hill.
Donations kept pouring in incessantly, nationwide and even abroad. The lots on the hill where the statue stands were donated by the families of Jarabe, Leyson and Carbonilla, known collectively as Jalleca, where the hills was named after. Approximately, the statue measures 36 feet from head to foot, its base is 15 feet and its width is also 15 feet.
Mama Mary Shrine
To reach the apex of the hill one has to climb 253 steps and you can see the panoramic view of the entire Maasin. Its ambiance is flowery, so to speak, gumamelas, kalachuchis, bougainvilleas and roses surround the place.
At the back of the shrine is a rectory and an adoration room. Its walls are made of limestones and the floorings are tiled.
"We are expecting more than ten thousand local and foreign pilgrims to visit Monte Cueva and Jalleca Hill on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Masses will also be held atop the hill," Royen Segovia, Maasin City tourism officer said.
We visited a private museum owned by Boy Abiera where we admired all the artifacts and antiques displayed dating back 17th century. We also had an opportunity to visit a biscuit factory owned by Lilia Orais.
We felt like religious pilgrims who have traveled far and wide just to see these historical and religious places.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Maasin City Cathedral: Standing with it's Beautiful History and Architecture

The parish of Maasin can be considered one of the oldest parishes in the country. Long before the parish was designated its Patroness, different missionary groups began to arrive. First to come were the Jesuits who stayed from 1700 to 1768. The Augustinians succeeded the Jesuits until 1843, after which the Franciscans took over and continued the missionary task until 1896.
It was believed that the church was established in the year 1771, during the time of the Augustinians. Existing books of baptism so far on record, however, showed the years 1793 onwards. The records before 1793, it may be deduced, might have been destroyed by inevitable events or circumstances
Of the three missionary groups- Jesuits, Agustinians, Franciscans- the Franciscans received the credit as the one responsible in choosing Our Lady of Assumption as the patroness of the parish. Since the feast day of the selected Patroness fell on August 15, it was also considered as the date for the town fiesta. No records are available as to the year the very first town fiesta was held, but since the Franciscans, who arrived in 1843, were credited in designating the Patroness of Maasin, it is safe to say that the maiden town fiesta might have been on August 15, 1844. (The minicxipal government, however, has fixed the date of the first town fiesta by the turn of the century, on August 15, 1900, during the threshold of the American occupation.)

When the Franciscans left, the parish was placed under the diocesan priests of Cebu. Then from 1920 up to 1930s, it was under the Diocese of Calbayog, and sometime from the decade of 30s until 1968, under the Diocese of Palo. In 1968, the parish became the Cathedral Seat of the Diocese of Maasin which covers all the municipalities of Southern Leyte provinve, including the towns of MAtalom, Bato, Hilongos, Hindang, Inopacan and Baybay of province of Leyte. It ranks as the Cathedral Parish of the diocese.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The City of Maasin


Map of Maasin City
The island of Limasawa in Southern Leyte carved a very significant place in Philippine history.  In 1521, a Portuguese-born Spanish explorer and navigator, Ferdinand Magellan and his crew came ashore and celebrated the first Roman Catholic Mass on the island.  Incidental to the historic event, Magellan made peace with two Filipino rulers, Rajah Kolambu and Rajah Siani who subsequently were converted to Christianity.  A marker notes the spot on Limasawa where their blood compact of frienship and alliance was sealed.

Southern Leyte, for centuries, was actually an part of the island of Leyte.  During the Spanish period, the region was sparsely populated.  Continued Moro slave raiding discouraged the establishment and stabilization of other large towns.  In the 19th century, immigration from the provinces of Cebu and Bohol increased the population of the region and opened the land towards farming.

First Mass in Limasawa Island

One of the oldest towns in Southern Leyte is Maasin, nowadays called Maasin City.  Little is known about its pre-Spanish existence.  When the Spanish missionaries became active in their missions, they discovered that the Maasin community was already organized, with its people friendly and interested in embracing the Catholic faith.  The community was formally established as a parish by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus in the 1700s and was called "nipa".  This was authenticated by a piece of stone from a long destroyed convent that bears the inscription: "Pa. De Tagnipa - año 1776."

The renaming of the town of Maasin is related to the incident when some Spaniards, who needed drinking water, scanned the shorelines and found Canturing River.  They asked the natives in Castillan Spanish while gesturing towards the river, "Que pueblo es este?" Without hesitation, the natives answered "Maasin" (meaning salty), thinking that the Spaniards were asking them how the water tasted.  From that time on, the place has been called Maasin.

People, Culture, Arts, and Local Economy

Cheerful children in the city
Maasinhons and Southern Leyteños speak either the Cebuano or Boholanodialect. Their cultural and linguistic affinities tend to differ them from those who reside in Cebu, Bohol, and the western coast of the province of Leyte.  Most of the people are farmers and fishermen who are noted for their hard work and frugality.Approximately 90% of the people are adherents of the Roman Catholic Church, but traditional folk beliefs and superstition still influence some of them.  Some farmers still hold on to pre-Hispanic and conservative beliefs in making offerings and sacrifices before planting season starts.  At times, chicken or pigs are ritually sacrificed to ensure that the spirits or the elementals of the land will allow a good harvest.

Maasin City is Southern Leyte's commercial and cultural showcase.  An important edifice that brings pride to the Southern Leyteños is the notable Spanish-era church - a relic of time when churches were the only true refuge of the people, both spiritually and physically.  The church is adorned or embellished with an ornate altar and beautiful images of saints, and became a testament to the continuing religiosity of the people of Southern Leyte.

Maasin City is accessible by land and sea.  Regular boat trips from Manila take 27 hours while fast watercraft services from Cebu bring travelers to Maasin in just two and a half hours.  Buses plying the Maasin City-Tacloban route usually take five hours.  Southern Leyte has a total land area of about 173,480 hectares and a growing population of about 321,940.


Aerial View of Maasin City
Southern Leyte is characterized by relatively flat lands along the coastal areas where population centers lay, but rugged and mountainous towards the interior.  It has numerous small rivers in addition to, at least, eleven major rivers which include Canturing River in Maasin City, Amparo River in Macrohon, Divisoria River in Bontoc, Subang Daku in Sogod, Lawigan and Hitongao Rivers in St. Bernard, Camugao River in Hinundayan, Magcasa River in San Juan, Das-ay and Pondol Rivers in Hinunangan, and Maag River in Silago.


Even though March-May timeframe is considered hot and dry with temperatures ranging from 22-32 degrees Centigrade, in general terms, the province actually has no dry season.  This is due to the fact that rainfall is, more or less, distributed throughout the year.  June to October is mostly rainy; whereas, November to February is cool with temperatures ranging from 22-28 degrees Centigrade.  Year round, average humidity is about 77%.

Motorsiklo sa Maasin

The existing road network crisscrossing Southern Leyte consists of major arterial highways that link to the province of Leyte, passing through two major outlets - on the western part, the Maasin-Mahaplag-Baybay route; and, on the central part, the Mahaplag-Sogod route via the Maharlika Highway.


The province has only one existing airport which is located in Panan-awan, Maasin City.  This airport is considered a feeder airport with a total runway length of 1200 meters and a width of 30 meters.  At present, however, the airport does not service any commercial flights.  It has no terminal and can only accomodate general aviation aircraft weighing up to 12,000 pounds during daytime hours.


Major means of transportation

Of the twelve seaports in Southern Leyte, two (Maasin City and Liloan) are declared as national ports while the other ten are considered municipal ports.  Travel by sea from Cebu to Maasin, and vice-versa, by ship takes about six hours, and about two hours by Supercat and Waterjet.  A ferry boat from Liloan to Surigao takes about three hours.

Bus Terminals

There are five designated bus terminals in Southern Leyte: Maasin, Liloan, Sogod, Hinunangan, and Silago.  These terminals are just open spaces used by buses as parking/passenger waiting areas, and not equipped with buildings and other facilities.

Maasin City Terminal
There are at least four bus companies taking the Manila-Maasin route: Philtranco, Cedec, Inland Trailways, and Ciudad. Bachelor takes the Ormoc-Maasin-Davao route.

From the Maasin City, by land, it takes approximately five hours to travel to Tacloban City; twenty three hours to Pasay City or Quezon City; and, nineteen hours to Davao City via Liloan ferry boat.

Power / Energy

The principal source of power / electricity in Southern Leyte is the Tongongan Geothermal Power Plant in Ormoc via National Power Corporation through the Southern Leyte Electric Cooperative (SOLECO).  The major power transmission lines in the province emanate from 69 KV Tolosa, Leyte which is connected to 69 KV Bontoc, Southern Leyte then to Maasin City, and 69 KV Baybay, Leyte to Maasin City in case of power failure.

Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant
A mini-hydro electric power plant in Hinabian, Catmon, St. Bernard was developed with a capacity of 810 KW to serve the Pacific towns particularly St. Bernard and San Juan.

A major breakthrough in power generation is the Southern Leyte Geothermal Project in San Juan with a capacity of 50-100 megawatts commissioning in year 2003.  It is anticipated to sustain an estimated economic life of 25 years.  Activities involving Pre-operation Phase was already initiated.


Communication in the City
Postal communication system is the major means of communication in all municipalities of the province.  There are five telephone exchange companies operating in the province to provide domestic and international calls namely PLDT, PT&T, RCPI/Bayan Tel, Evtelco, and the Bureau of Telecommunications (Butel); two radio stations - DYSL in Sogod, and DYDM in Maasin City.  Other modes of communication include SSB radios for government offices, and cellular phones for government and private entities.

Health Facilities

In 1996, the health and medical needs of the province were provided by eight government hospitals, six private hospitals and clinics, twenty rural health units or municipal centers, ninety three health stations, and ten outpatient private clinics. The total bed capacity of government hospitals is 265 while that of the private is 110. A current tally of health facilities in the province is still being determined.

Places of Interest

Cuatro Islas
Banahaw Springs - Located in Barangay San Joaquin, Macrohon. Features cool spring water pool of which many from Maasin visit during weekends and after-beach swimming.

Bitu-on Beach - Located in Barangay San Roque, Liloan. Its physical features entails white sandy beach, variety of colorful sea shells, excellent location for picnicking, swimming, and fishing.

Cuatro Islas - Located in the towns of Inopacan and Hindang; a resort equipped with nipa huts for picnics and overnight hangouts. Pumpboats from the town proper will take approximately 30 minutes to reach the islas' rich fishing grounds. The four lovely isles namely, Apit, Daguio, Himokilan, and Mahaba, are bordered with white sandy shorelines.

Nearby Falls
Esfa Beach Resort - Located in Maasin City with facilities that include resthouse with native delicacies, beach tables, dressing rooms. Excellent for swimming, fishing, and shell hunts.

Guinsohotan and Busay Falls - Located in Maasin; features clear running waters for swimming, picnicking, and or just simply doing laundry.

Hanginan Trail / Mountain Hiking - The highest elevation in Maasin. It holds a historical value as a "watch point" during the Spanish era.

Kuting Beach Resort - Located in Macrohon and features wide stretches of sandy beach. It is a favorite site for swimming and picnicking.

Kuting Beach Resort

Limasawa Island - It is located at the southern tip of Southern Leyte; can be reached by motorlaunch-ride from Padre Burgos in about 45 minutes. It is the historic site of the celebration of the First Catholic Mass in the Philippines when Ferdinand Magellan came in 1521, and the location of the historic Shrine / Marker where the blood compact was performed between Magellan and two other rulers.

Maasin Cathedral
Maamo Beach - Located in Barangay Sna Roque, Liloan; can be reached via Mahaplag, Sogod by means of outriggers. Its white sandy beach is excellent for swimming, picnicking, and fishing.

Maasin Cathedral - Located in Maasin City; features olden images of saints which date back to the Spanish era.

Macrohon Reef - Nice site for scuba diving just off the shores of Macrohon town-proper. Nice underwater beauty linking to the fish sanctuary.

Magsuhot Park - Located in Sogod and approximately 3 kilometers from the Phil-Japan Friendship Highway. This national park features a forested area of about 500 hectares. It has 4 waterfalls that converge into one basin.

Mohon - San Joaquin Beach - One of the most visited beaches in Macrohon for family picnics and outings; the only fine gravelled beachline along the coast with private beach cottages.

Tancaan Point
Panaon Island - Located in Liloan; a part of the Mindanao Deep (second deepest body of water in the world!). An ethnic tribe called "kongkings"(small, curly-haired and dark skinned people) that is believed to be the migrants from Mindanao resides in this island. They normally come down from their mountain hideouts during market days to trade.

Sulphur Spring - Located in Anahawan; a perfect scenery for sight-seeing.

Tancaan Point - (Santa Sofia Beach) Located in Padre Burgos featuring a concrete stairway to a watch tower that overlooks the deep blue sea and historic Limasawa Island.

Wawa Strait - Located in Macrohon, an often invisible strait to behold from this town.