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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Honoring the war dead on a windy Barili cliff

THERE is a place in Barili where the howling of the wind, on some nights, sounds like the moaning of the dead.

It is a cliff where more than 200 Cebuanos were bayoneted, their throats slashed and their heads cut off by Japanese soldiers, who then threw their bodies into the sea during World War II.

“Nobody wanted to pass by this area at night. This was a feared place,” the town’s historian, Azucena L. Pace, said.

A few meters away from where she sat, a nine-foot cross stands on the edge of a 36-foot-high cliff called Palalong in Barangay Guibuangan.

The ground under the cross is believed to be the burial site of those killed and thrown off the cliff during the war.

Mahadlok ang mga tawo tungod kay makakita og mga shadows, makadungog og moaning (The passersby feared the shadows they saw and the moaning they heard here),” Pace said.

She recalled that the residents’ fears were assuaged only in the 1980s, when the dela Vega family, reportedly from Sibonga town, built a house and operated a bus garage near the cliff.

Na-alive na ni dinhi, wala nay kahadlukan (The place came alive and the people weren’t afraid anymore). Fear is rooted in ignorance,” Pace said.

The wind’s howling, however, can still be heard these days.

Ang hangin lang gyod, naay uban mahadlok (The wind still scares some people),” said Rose Hingoyon, one of the caretakers of Palalong Place Bar & Restaurant, the establishment built by the dela Vegas on the cliff.

The establishment offers board and lodging to travelers, and Hingoyon often hears guests talk about their “scary” experiences.

She said a number of visitors told her about a lady in a white dress, walking around the white cross when the clock strikes 6 at night.

Carlos Estrada, the manager, said the wind blowing toward the cliff is just strong that it makes a sound when it crashes onto the cracks of the structure’s windows.

Dili man ko motuo anang mga ingon ana (I don’t believe those ghost stories),” he said.

Just a few meters from the lodging house is the white cross, which is now surrounded by tall green grasses.

It is usually crowded every Nov. 1 and 2, when relatives of those killed during the war gather to light candles and offer prayers, according to Estrada.

In his book “Ang Sugbu sa Panahon sa Gubat (Cebu in the Time of War),” the late Cebuano historian Isidro Abad wrote that not all of those thrown off the cliff died. Some fell on the branches of the trees that had grown on the cliff’s side.

Some executions were also made not by the Japanese soldiers, but by some Filipinos who collaborated with the Japanese.

Thirteen volunteers spying for guerillas were bayoneted and thrown off in the first batch of killings on the cliff. Four of them—Julian Libre, Casimito Libre, Miguel Tampos and Catalino Pagar—survived.

The bodies thrown into the sea were not taken nor buried until the Japanese soldiers left Barili in September 1944, which was then preceded by a widespread massacre in the town.

It took several days before the local boatmen found the decomposing bodies of the victims, some of which were floating below the cliff while some were hanging on the trees’ branches.

Daghan kaayo, nagpasad ang corpses, ilang gipamunit kay perte baya tang respect for the dead. Putol-putol na, bungkag nang lawas (The bodies had been decapitated. The boatmen collected them because it is our nature to respect the dead),” Pace recalled.

The remains were then buried on top of the cliff, where a chapel was constructed. The chapel replaced the white cross in 2004.

“A small place like Palalong has a very rich history,” Pace said.

Anyone who wishes to visit the Palalong cliff can board a Barili-bound bus from the Cebu South Bus Terminal.

For a bus fare of P75-84, the vehicle will drop off visitors right in front of the Palalong Place Bar & Restaurant.

Palalong is not all about death and paranormal activities. From the top of the cliff, guests can enjoy the picturesque view of Tañon Strait.

Pace recalled that in one of her late afternoon visits to the cliff, she saw the sun setting in the west while the moon was rising in the east.

On the other side of the sea is the coast of Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. “It’s a postcard-perfect view,” Pace told Sun.Star Cebu.

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