Friday, July 24, 2009

Immortalizing Canlubang

Calamba is a city in the Laguna province situated some 54 kilometers south of Manila along the Laguna de Bay. Over the years this birthplace of our national heroe has turned into an important industrial hub and tourist destination. Canlubang is the biggest baranggay in Calamba. The name Canlubang descended from the tagalog term Kanlungan ng mga tulisan (bandit's haven). Its thick foliage must have been a good bastion for the marauding outlaws in the colonial times.

When the old mill's production stopped years ago nature started to reclaim what was rightfully hers. Grass meadows now invade open lands of once sugar cane fields. Rotting foundations strangled by vines stand defiantly against the ravages of a forlorn time. Pot-holed muddy roads snake through the neighbourhoods as a few brave and loyal souls struggle to reach their dilapidated homes hoping to survive the onslaught of an oncoming typhoon. Bulldozers roar like thunder devouring ancient houses along its path givimg way to the development of first class subdivisions that will cater to a new breed of upper class society.

They say Atlantis was a legendary city that submerged overnight 9,000 years ago. It sank as a result of a great volcanic activity. Apparently, it was the cradle of all civilizations, but no historical records pertain to its existence except in Homer's poem Odyssey. Canlubang's history on the other hand transpired only a little less than a century ago but its bountiful history seems to have been tossed to oblivion. The neck of the wood's heyday was seen after the last war when the sugar economy of the Philippines reached its pinnacle. A classic hacienda/enconmienda system was in effect to manage the self-sufficient private community of 45,000 who use to enjoy world-class perks of free hospitalization, dental, water, electricity, Christmas give-a-ways, housing and repairs including subsidized groceries and a public market. Added to the their long list of perks, this paradise boasted of free public pools, a drive-in movie, tennis courts, a golf course, a pelota court, parks and playgrounds on every sitio, a labour hall, a convent and a seminary, a pavillon, bowling alleys, a catholic church, a plaza, free private schooling in the primary and seconday levels, a baseball stadium (considered to be the oldest in the Philippines) that was home to its popular team- the Canlubang Sugar Barons.

Canlubang's demise was painful, and a gradual one. There are many factors for the death of the sugar industry in the Philippines. To name a few, one is the development in the 60's of High Fructose Corn Syrup in the United States that resulted in the tragic reductions in the sugar cane quotas in the US. In order to keep the sugar industry afloat, the Philippines was forced to sell its sugar to the world market dumped by subsidized and cheaper sugar from the European Community. Even international sugar agreements failed to cushion the massive fluctuations in the world prices over the past decades. But if you really want to dig further down to the root cause of all these problems you have to remember your lessons in history.

Noticed how former colonies in the world are mostly poor and politically unstable? Take for example past Spanish territories, most are poor not because they practice Roman Catholicism, but because a culture of rapaciousness is perpetuated. Six hundred years ago, colonial powers implemented land tenure arrangements. Peasants were divested lands, created plantation economies, maimed local wealth that relied solely on the exportation of raw materials, and destroyed industries that could have challenged foreign industries. Ravenousness is propagated in the midst of political freedom through unfair trade practices on tariffs that can be four times higher on former colonies than their former colonizers. International banking lenders loan huge amounts to finance large projects that still benefits foreign companies engaged in local resource extraction through the sustenance of foreign government powers.

Canlubang is but one of the casualties in this culture of greed. Thanks to an extremely biased world, we are poor because they are rich. The Canlubang of today is now a picture of destruction and progression. Its agonizing metamorphosis is a lost to many, and a gain for some.

Sons and daughters of Canlubang, her story begs to be told. Pause for a while and close your eyes. Try to recall the loud horn of the mill as armies of workers march to and from work while the three giant black chimney stack belches out a steam of smoke. Never, never forget for once, the sugar mill that brought sweetness to coffee cups and candie bars of the new world.

Note: I find it odd why a single article can not be found in print or electronic (Internet ) that gives credence to the grandeur of this once vibrant community. Be proud of your past. Show to the world how it was to live in Canlubang's glorious past by posting old and new photographs in this site. Blog articles are also welcome to be submitted for posting at