A Walled Town in Oslob

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

LAST month, my friends and I ventured on an almost 300-kilometer trip starting from the eastern side of southern Cebu going all the way to the southernmost tip and looping up back north via the western side. As usual, we made several stopovers to a handful of old stone churches and watchtowers. What stirred up my interest was the sight of what appeared to be a citadel in the municipality of Oslob while we were on our way to another town.

Oslob’s Daanglungsod, a Cebuano term which literally means old town, is the site of the former settlement of Oslob before it was transferred to its present-day location two kilometers to the north. The settlement was fortified with defensive walls and bastions to protect it from the usual threat of Moro slave raids from the south which was rampant sometime between the middle of the 18th-century up to the middle of the 19th-century. It was in effect a walled town or settlement. Think about Manila’s famed Intramuros, the old walled city, and you’ll get an idea of what Daanglungsod is all about but at a smaller scale.

Fortified settlements are not unique in Cebu. In Argao and Boljoon for example, the church complexes are also fortified with walls and bastions although only sections of it still stand today. In Ginatilan, the remains of a stone wall with a portal can be found across the church signifying that it too may have also been walled.

Complementing these fortifications is the string of watchtowers that dot the southern coast of Cebu. Today, watchtowers can still be found starting from Carcar in the eastern coast all the way to Alegria in the western coast.

The Daanglungsod fortification is quadrilateral and is quite expansive, around a few hectares big. There are four bastions positioned at strategic portions of the walls and one free-standing watchtower at the very center of the entire area inside. A portion of the fortified area ascends into an elevated plain towards the west.

Although in a state of disrepair and except for two breaches, the perimeter of the entire fortification is still pretty much very intact. Looking at the overgrowth of roots at some of the bastions reminds one of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

There are four portals to this walled-settlement, two on each of the southern and northern walls. A large breach at the eastern wall right from the main highway serves as the contemporary entrance for almost anyone coming from the highway and for vehicles wanting to go inside. A smaller breach is located at the western side of the fortification. There is also another watchtower at a promontory near this fortified settlement although we did not explore it since it was already getting dark.

There is nothing inside the area now except for a few remnants of what used to be structures or buildings during this former settlement’s heyday, a basketball court and a chapel of modern construction, some coconut trees and other vegetation. But like in most other settlements, this walled former town may have contained religious edifices (i.e. church), government buildings (i.e. town hall), houses for a few residents, and other structures. A huge bastion located at the southeast portion where the walls at the east and the south meet bears a relief of a year carved above the lintel of an entranceway. Though quite indiscernible due to corrosion, the year seems to be either 1785 or 1789. The year signifies either the completion of the fortification or just the bastion itself.

According to a local historian, the town was eventually relocated for the simple reason that the present-day location was easier to protect against the Moro slave raids and that it had a friendly terrain conducive for the growth and expansion of a town. It should be noted that the old stone church of Oslob in the present-day town was built in 1830 so the old town must have been relocated sometime between 1790 and 1829.

Exploring this entire walled settlement is not quite hard enough. From the breach cum entrance at the main highway just follow the perimeter of the walls until you’ll go back to where you’ve started. Along the way you’ll pass by the bastions and the portals that were mentioned previously. Take extra precaution when entering the bastions as some of these have been dumped by some of the residents nearby with garbage containing broken glass. There’s also one bastion that smelled of human faeces. The integrity of the structure of some of the bastions due to the overgrowth of plants is also questionable so attempting to climb it is highly discouraged. Plans however are underway for the rehabilitation of the entire site.

Getting to Oslob

There are many ways to reach Oslob which is around three hours south of Cebu City. The most convenient way is to ride a Ceres bus, a major bus operator in the Visayas, which operates at the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Take the bus that goes to Bato (via Oslob) and tell the bus driver or the conductor to drop you off at Oslob’s Daanglungsod.

Accommodation is not a problem too since there are a lot of cheap but decent beach resorts that dot the coast of Oslob.

For our trip however, we stayed at Mediong Beach Resort in Boljoon, another town which is just a few kilometers north of Oslob. The resort offers cozy airconditioned rooms for P2,000 plus a night which I find a bit expensive considering that it does not have a decent beach front although it offers an enchanting view of the famous Ili promontory at dawn and a fairly large swimming pool.

In Oslob poblacion just where the bus disembarks, you can find a diner that offers affordable but decent servings of buttered fried chicken, hotdog, pork steak and others. It’s more than enough to satiate your hunger after the tiring travel.

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