Sunday, September 24, 2006

Getting Lost With Names - 1

Let’s talk town and city names in the Philippines. Yes, many a first-timer can easily get lost without properly checking or asking around where a town or city is. Often though, the getting lost or confusion stage occurs during the planning of a trip. Research and the ever reliable “asking around” do get us to realize exactly which place we are headed to.

Did you know there are more than 120 names in this country that are used by two or more towns or cities? That is counting only those places with exactly the same names! There are still others with the “sounds like” or “seems like” status.

Here’s a sample conversation:
Me: Yo, we just entered the NLEX and should be there in two hours.
Friend: Gosh! You don’t have to fly on the road.
Me: Oh San Fernando is just near, can we meet at SM or Robinsons?
Friend: Ha? There is no SM nor Robinsons here, ano ka ba?
Me: Di ba pagka-exit sa tollway ng San Fernando
Friend: ‘Tado, that’s San Fernando City in Pampanga, my house is in La Union
Me: Ganun?! So how long will this drive take us?
Friend: Usually 4 hours… and take your time!

There we went! I discovered that there are two places in the Philippines with the name San Fernando. Both are cities in provinces north of Metro Manila. One is the City of San Fernando, Pampanga (Region 3). The other is the City of San Fernando, La Union (Region 1) where the beaches are!

Anyway, a little bit of asking around or research on the web can help you avoid the above scenario. Good that the two cities of San Fernando are both accessible by car and on the same route!

So what are the other cities and towns with similar names? Ah, as I said, there are quite a number of them. But, let's start with a few and all others I will mention in separate blog entries. Here we go.

From Metro Manila, you can go north to Alaminos or head south to Alaminos! How is that? Alaminos City in Pangasinan is the drop-off point to the Hundred Islands while Alaminos town in Laguna is where you can find the foresty Hidden Valley Springs! So be careful and research well on where you are headed to!

Alcala is in the north, yes. But one is a town in the province of Pangasinan (Region 1) while the other Alcala is a town in the province of Cagayan (Region 2).

Cagayan… isn’t it the place for whitewater rafting? Yes, it is. And so is Cagayan De Oro in Mindanao! The name Cagayan in northeastern Philippines is actually the name of the region – Cagayan Valley. But local folks refer to it as just “Cagayan” in much the same way as you would just say Zamboanga for Zamboanga Peninsula. It is a region. The Cagayan in the south is actually Cagayan De Oro City in Region 10 and also referred to by locals there as just “Cagayan”! But wiser kids these days refer to it as CDO for Cagayan De Oro to avoid the confusion. Make the story cute and you even have the town Cagayancillo sometimes also referred to by locals as just “Cagayan”. Where is that? Oh, it is a remote island town that belongs to Palawan but very far from the mainland. A group of tiny islands actually, with pristine white sand beaches all around them. The place is near the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park!

Let’s go to Alcantara! That is a southeastern town in the island of Tablas (Romblon) with fine white sandy beaches, pebble strewn beaches, mountain springs and caves. The resorts there are ideally rural and not bustling with touristy urbanities! The other Alcantara is a yet even sleepier town in the island province of Cebu. It is the smallest town of the province in fact! How small? It has at least one gasoline station, a total of 5 jeepneys and some 20 or so tricycles!

Oh while we’re in this part of the island, past two resort towns(Moalboal and Badian), southwards you reach another little town called Alegria, of course still in the province of Cebu. There is the Cambais waterfalls with a wide area for swimming and there are tiny beach resorts in this tiny fishing village. But far to the east, there is another town that bears the name Alegria. It is in the province of Surigao Del Norte (Region 13 or CARAGA). The town is wide in terms of land area and is right smack on the edge of Lake Mainit where you can find romantic afternoons amid a sea of purple lilies and thousands of ducks in the silent waters or off the horizon. Oh, that place in Northern Samar also named Alegria is not a town. It is one of the Barangays of the town San Isidro. But yes, most everyone knows that Alegria is one of the crossing points from the island of Samar to Matnog in the main island of Luzon!

Let us go back to the northern part of this country and meet Alfonso. Alfonso who?! Well, whoever he is (they are) the name Alfonso appears twice the country’s list of towns. One of those towns is Alfonso, Cavite. Yes, its that town that hugs Tagaytay City (also in Cavite) and it is becoming a mountain resort town instead of its foresty past. High-end golf courses and of course vacation houses have started to spring in the part of town that is close to Tagaytay. Then again, this is one of the few places near the metropolis where you can still witness the firewalking rituals and of course grab a delectable sampling of pastilyas, tableya and/or atsara! Now where is the other Alfonso? It is a town up in the Cordilleras. Specifically one of the towns in the province of Ifugao. The town’s name is derived from exactly the name of its first mayor, Alfonso Lista. It was previously called Potia. This town is your destination if you want to see the other side of the Magat Dam – reputedly the biggest in Asia. And yes, the town defines Ifugao Province’s boundaries with Mountain Province and Isabela Province.

Now who is Isabela? Whoever she is (they are), Isabela is the name of a province up in the Cagayan Valley (Region 2). It is the biggest province in the region and 2nd biggest in the Philippines. This province is called the “Rice Granary of the North”. It covers an area from the Central Cordilleras up to the mainly uncharted Sierra Madres. The Cagayan, Siffu and Magat rivers all pass through this province. So whitewater rafting is an industry here! Of course the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park also sits on this province.

Another Isabela is a little town in the very middle of Negros Island. The town belongs to Negros Occidental. Like many of the Negros towns and cities, Isabela has seen a glorious industrial past. These days, it is home to a number of “has-been” unproductive haciendas many of which are owned by the family of the first gentleman. The place does have the “Tigkalalag Festival” during Halloween season which is worth a peek if you are in the areas nearby.

Then there is Isabela City. This city is in the island of Basilan just an hour’s ride by fastcraft from Zamboanga City. Oh yes, Isabela City is the jump off point towards the famous (or infamous) town of Lamitan. Thanks to the guerrillas who made that place a hideout. But Isabela City is just another busy and peaceful seaside port wont to ensure upward development and progress for its industries. This city is your departure point to interesting sights like waterfalls and white beaches. One of those interesting white sandy beaches is actually just across from the port.

Okay now, those were already three places named Isabela. Let’s complicate things by removing the last letter and we have “Isabel”! It is a bustling industrial zone town on the westernmost side of the province of Leyte facing Cebu. The most prominent name in this place is LIDE or Leyte Industrial Development Estate. Isabel’s port can be busier than that in the capital city of Tacloban or nearby Ormoc. Ships here are 'enormous cargo vessels'. But aside from being industrial, this town also hosts a scattering of caves, waterfalls and beaches. They even have a fish sanctuary and a bird sanctuary! There we are for Isabela and Isabel!

How about Alicia? Alicia is a big agricultural town in the province of Isabela (discussed above) and can be your place to stay on the way to exploring the western part of the province or up into the cordilleras. Far south on the eastern part of the island-province of Bohol, there is also a town called Alicia. Compared to the former, this is way too rural. The main activities in this landlocked town are crude furniture making and rice production/milling. There is a cave but not worth visiting yet as the place has no tourism infrastructure. Go there only if you know somebody from that place. Its about a hundred kms from Tagbilaran! Yet another Alicia is a town at the southern tip of the province of Zamboanga Sibugay. While this place is a good candidate to becoming a resort town someday, it is yet undeveloped. But there are good views of the bay and there are undeveloped islands with fine white sandy beaches. Oh Alicia! In case you’re curious, all three towns got their names from the same person – Alicia Syquia Quirino, wife of then president Quirino.

Hmm, this is getting too long! So let us first stop here and let me go on with my life. I will soon jot in other set of same-name places in this country. Remember, there are 120 or so such places. And we have covered only 9 of them so far. Only proof we have too many islands and more than too many towns and cities in them that we can’t even think of unique names for each locality! And don’t be too confident… aber sige nga… try listing 7,100 plus plus names… sige nga! Islands pa lang yan, and you know that an island can have so many towns or cities!

Golly am having fun at the confusion with many of my pictures and notes. Many of them bear the same names but I know I have been to separate places judging from the things that I wore or the things that I did!

Oh my Pilipinas! You are just vast, really
!

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