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Opinion

St. Michael and the Town of Argao

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

This week, on September 29, the town of Argao, Cebu, celebrates its fiesta. And while many might say that this is the 414th anniversary of Argao’s founding, the town’s founding date is not exactly on September 29. In fact, it has several foundation dates. Argao first began as an encomienda (a tax-collecting system) assigned to Don Hernando de Monroy on November 3, 1571. On June 21, 1599, it became one of the eight vice-parishes of Carcar. Argao’s official founding as a town was in the year 1608, although no month and year is recorded. While the town and church were usually established at the same time, Argao only became a parish on October 16, 1733 and, since town fiestas were held on their religious, and thus parochial, founding, Argao’s celebration was held on the day its parish was consecrated to St. Michael, which falls on September 29.

Saint Michael, indeed, plays an important role in Argao. The love for St. Michael is etched in the hearts and minds of any one raised in Argao, or whose roots are from there. Almost all houses have an image or statue, in varying sizes, of their patron saint. In a locally composed song about St. Michael, he is described as “magtutudlo og mag-uuna” --teacher, guide, and one who leads. And as Argao’s defender, three tales, told at three different points of Argao’s history, tell of how St. Michael saved Argao from her enemies.

The earliest reference to St. Michael’s miracle was in the early 1800s when Moros had to hastily retreat when a small boy was seen walking on top of the town’s high stone wall; the same boy then ignited a volley of fiery missiles from canons mounted on the said walls which led to the retreat of the Moro pirates. Some claim that the little, dark-skinned boy was St. Michael himself.

The second miracle of St. Michael happened during the outbreak of the revolution against Spain. This legend tells of a battleship supposedly on its way to bomb Argao when, at midnight, a janitor in Argao’s municipal building heard a small voice requesting him to open the doors and let him out. The voice turned out to be from a St. Michael statue. The janitor promptly took it out and placed it on a stone wall of the church plaza. As the ship sailed closer, a small boy suddenly appeared on the deck of the battleship, took out the ship’s cannons, and threw them out into the waters. Later, when the Spaniards tried to shell the town, they found out that all their cannon balls had been replaced by coconut husks, thus making their weapons useless.

The third miracle happened during the town’s fiesta in 1944 when six Japanese warplanes flew over Argao to bomb the town. Although observers said the day was sunny, the whole town was suddenly blanketed by a thick fog forcing the warplanes to withdraw without dropping a single bomb. Similarly, eight Japanese patrol boats anchored just off Argao’s shores were unable to fire because, once again, a thick fog appeared near the sea. Witnesses say that a dark-skinned boy boarded the patrol boats the night before.

While history should deal with facts, from the dawn of civilization people have also documented oral history which, while not always provable and like the three tales of St. Michael’s miracles in Argao appear to be purely based on religious faith, these tales nevertheless provide an interesting glimpse into the stories of people at certain moments in their history.

FIESTA

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