Catmon fiesta: personal notes and synodal greetings

BAR NONE - Ian Manticajon - The Freeman

Allow me to extend my happy fiesta greetings to my hometown, Catmon, Cebu. Today, February 10, the town celebrates its 189th Annual Fiesta under the theme “Ang sinodohanong Pagpanaw sa atong Simbahan uban sa patron Señor San Guillermo de Aquitania” (The Synodal Journey of our Church with patron Señor San Guillermo de Aquitania).

In this context, ‘synodal’ emphasizes community, participation, and shared discernment in the church's direction, under the patronage of Señor San Guillermo de Aquitania (Senior Saint William of Aquitaine). It signifies a collective and participatory journey in faith and governance, where the voices of a wide range of the community are valued and considered.

A town fiesta in the Philippines is both a religious and cultural celebration, very much a part of our identity as Filipinos. Thus, I would like to congratulate the people of Catmon, the town’s public officials led by Mayor Avis G. Monleon, and the church or parish officials for today’s celebration.

On a personal note, since I started writing this column more than seven years ago, I am sometimes asked by readers about my roots. Reading between the lines, this often means, “How can someone with an unfamiliar surname in Cebu write about Cebu in a Cebuano newspaper?”

I was born, raised, and have lived in Cebu City, with weekends and special occasions, like fiestas, spent in our hometown of Catmon. Like many in the pre-war generations of Filipinos, my ascendants married into clans from other islands. My paternal grandmother’s family migrated from Catmon, Cebu, to Northern Mindanao before the war, where she met my paternal grandfather, who was from Camiguin Island.

When my late father, Rogelio (Roger), graduated from high school in his hometown of Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, he decided to pursue a college education in Cebu City, choosing the University of San Carlos. He once told me that this was a controversial matter at that time. In the post-war economy, it was actually quite easy to acquire tracts of land in Mindanao. According to lore, a gallon of ‘tuba’ could be exchanged for a piece of land. So the community didn’t see much value in higher education, considering they could live relatively comfortable lives off their lands.

Yet my father insisted on enrolling and completing his college degree at USC in Cebu City, despite the challenges he faced far away from his parents and 12 siblings. This value he placed on education is one of the values he bequeathed to all six of his children, whom he and my mother ensured were enrolled in good schools.

In Cebu, my father was sent to stay in Catmon on occasions when there were no classes, finding a second home under the care of his grand aunt. It was in this home that he met my mother, Corazon “Sony” Sususco Cavada, the youngest daughter of the Catmon municipal treasurer, Jesus Cerilles Cavada, from his first marriage to the late Antipas Juban Sususco. After becoming a widower, Jesus Cavada married the widow and public school teacher Felicidad Orlanes-Collantes, the very grand aunt under whose care my father lived. Thus, my father met my mother in the household of the latter’s father and stepmother.

Indeed, in Catmon, I have relatives from both my father’s side --the Orlanes clan-- and my mother’s side --the Sususco and Juban clans. That is probably why I am not inclined to throw my hat into the town’s political arena; I could easily have relatives on both sides of the political fence.

Over the years, I have witnessed many developments in the town. Some of the modern conveniences of the city are now available, yet the town remains a beach and mountain paradise, and hopefully, it will always stay that way.

One concerning observation, however, is that as more land near the beach becomes privately owned, public access to the sea appears to be increasingly restricted. I hope government will pay attention to this issue because, the last time I checked, foreshore areas legally belong to the state. Private landowners adjacent to it should not be able to completely fence off the area, preventing public access to the beach.

I do hope that our communities will embrace the 'synodal' call of this year’s Catmon fiesta theme. We should share our resources and nature’s bounty within the context of a collective and participatory journey, not just in faith but also in our day-to-day living.

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