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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, January 19, 2018
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Moro raids


Today is the eve of the feast of San Sebastian, a martyr, who is the patron saint of Bacolod, not just of the city but also of the diocese. He is likewise patron saint of soldiers because he was a centurion of the Roman army and a commander of the praetorian guards. The life story of St. Sebastian is as colorful and dramatic as the reason that he was adopted by the people of Bacolod as their patron saint.

There were several attempts after the collapse of the Spanish regime in 1898 to replace him as patron saint of Bacolod and even to do away with patron saints for towns but he was retained in a 1911 resolution by the Bacolod Municipal Council. However, through attrition and lack of interest of officials of Bacolod, though claiming to be Catholics and even showing off as Catholics, the city no longer has a fiesta. Only the San Sebastian parish and the diocese celebrate and Catholic schools have no classes, though I suspect they don't bother to tell the story of this martyr and why he became the city's patron saint. Ask your child and you will know the reason for my suspicion.

The choice of San Sebastian was dictated by the circumstances when the mission of Magsungay was created in 1756. The settlement was originally by the shore, identified as a village in a Spanish map of 1734. On July 14, 1755, the Moros from Zamboanga, launched a series of plundering raids of the western coast of Negros. It was holiday when they struck at Magsungay so that the people were caught while praying in the chapel. Several were killed, others escaped but more were taken and were believed to have been sold in the Borneo slave market.

Other villages were also raided – Karobkob (now Silay), Tukgagwan (now E. B. Magalona), Ilog, Binalbagan, Bago and Himamaylan - the only villages with sufficient population as to make a raid worthwhile for the pirates.

Without defense, flight was the only recourse. The evacuees would later on form the nucleus of towns and barrios as Kabankalan, Payao, La Carlota, Maao and Bacolod.

The villagers of Magsungay took refuge upland, the place they called “bakolod”, a natural elevation. Here the village of Magsungay was raised into a pueblo and its mission Church was placed under the protection of San Sebastian. The pueblo was later called “San Sebastian de Bacolod” to distinguish it from “San Sebastian de Magsungay” after some residents had returned to their original village when the Moro raids had been contained by 1780.

This distinction becomes clearer by the way a native of Bacolod was classified in the church record. Those in the evacuation site were called “feligres de dentro pueblo” (parishioners within the town) and “feligres de Magsungay” (parishioners of Magsungay).

The hymn to San Sebastian that is sung after the fiesta Mass perpetuates the reason for the choice. The closing lines justifies the celebration: “porque eres tu santo patron nuestroseguro y firme protector” (because you are our patron saint, our sure and firm protector).

The Moro attacks that followed in the piratical raids were political and religious. Luzon and the Visayas had embraced Christianity and thus stopped the spread of Islam northward from Mindanao. The raids in mid-1760 became more frequent prompting the people that fled to the mountains to remain there and thus inland villages developed.

The Moro raids desolated several towns that some people refused to return to their former villages and these towns ceased to exists. Binalbagan was not only plundered; the Moros settled there for months in the place that is now known as “Kang Moros” (of the Moros). The people returned to the shoreline but not in the original place but in what became Hinigaran (shoreline) where its parish under Binalbagan's patroness, of Santa Magdalena was founded. Binalbagan town and church were recreated only in 1883 under the patronage of San Isidro Labrador.

The same thing happened to Tukgagwan. The people fled, some sought refuge in the “estacada (palisade)” constructed among the Kansilayan trees that later became the town of Silay, while others escaped farther to the mountains and remained there and formed the villages Guintabuan and San Isidro. Tukgagwan was recreated only in 1860 and named Saravia. *



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