Roa: The old horno of Alubijid

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By A. Paulita Roa

Past Speaks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


THE municipality of Alubijid is located in the western coast of Misamis Oriental. The name of this town is taken from the alubihod or alubijid tree (Spondias pinnata (L.f.) Kurz Anardiaceae).

Locals say that the fruits of this tree are crunchy and round in shape. Oral tradition states that Alubijid trees were used by traders as markers to reach the town since it grew in abundance along its shores.

During the Spanish colonial period, El Salvador was part of the pueblo of Alubijid. In 1865, a royal decree was issued separating Alubijid from the town of Yligan (now Iligan). It was established like an independent parish with two visitas namely El Salvador and Molugan. In 1878, these visitas were turned over to the Jesuits by the Agustinian Recollects who were in Misamis Province since 1622.

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It was about this time that Bro. Juan Costa was sent to work in northern Mindanao. He was from Barcelona, Spain and entered the Society of Jesus as a brother in 1867. Costa was considered a genius in brick making. He was responsible for the construction of the water system in Balingasag and trained many people on how to make bricks. He then set up brick making kilns or hornos in Jasaan, Tagoloan and Alubijid.

When the first ever bridge that spanned the poblacion of Cagayan de Misamis (Cagayan de Oro) to Carmen was constructed around 1893 or 1894, it was reported that a horno was set up near the work site to make the bricks needed for the construction of the bridge. It could be that Bro. Costa supervised the brick making for that ill-fated bridge. However, there is no record on the name of the brick maker and what happened to the horno after the work on the bridge was completed.

Based on archival records, the three brick making ovens or hornos were put up by the Spanish Jesuits to help construct their churches in northern Mindanao like the Holy Cross Parish Church in Alubijid, the Nuestra Sra. de las Nieves Church in El Salvador and the Immaculada Concepcion in Jasaan. Unfortunately, the kilns in Jasaan and Tagoloan were demolished when the Butuan to Iligan national highway was built in the 1970s since they were located by the roadside.

Many Alubijid residents take pride of the fact that their bricks were exported to Bohol and were used in building the famous Baclayon church there. This church is one of those declared as a national cultural treasure and is however, around three centuries old while the horno of Alubijid is over a100 years old. It could be that some parts of this church were renovated and prime Alubijid bricks were used as the building materials.

In 2007, the team from the Archaeological Studies Program of the University of the Philippines – Diliman (ASP-UPD) headed by Prof. Lee M. Neri conducted a survey along the coast of Misamis Oriental. It was then that they saw the horno located in Barangay Poblacion in Alubijid. Because of its historical importance, the team assigned to it a National Museum site code–X–2007–H4. This site is very significant because it is the only kiln in Misamis Oriental that was built during the Spanish period that survived the onslaught of time. A number of treasure hunter pits were found there and it was learned that they were dug in the 1980s. Prof. Neri wrote that the condition of this kiln or horno is very fragile and unsound. Aside from the looting, the site was used as a garbage dumpsite and vegetation covered the area. Roots may further destroy the structure.

The good news is that the Northern Mindanao Archaeology team of ASP-UPD led by Prof. Neri, in partnership with the municipality of Alubijid under the office of Mayor Alvin Labis will conduct an archaeological study on the horno in the month of April, 2014.

An in-depth analysis of cultural and biological materials and its geological aspect will be considered in interpreting the site and its past environment. Mayor Labis is keen in protecting and preserving the horno from further destruction. We fully agree with him. The horno has to be saved before part of the cultural heritage of Alubijid will vanish from the historical map of Mindanao like the kiln sites of Jasaan and Alubijid.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 01, 2014.

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