Chapter Two – Fortifying the Town
The Muralla And The Baluartes:
With her economic stability, enhanced by the growth of abaca industry, Bacon could have led a peaceful existence after assuming its legal status, as a principalia or municipio under the province of Albay, were it not for the frequent Moro raids which brought havoc to the inhabitants, many of whom were either killed or taken captives. Confronted with the grave problem of above –mentioned, this young daughter of Albay conceived plans of fortifying herself. This led to the construction of the muralla in the heart of the town where the people could take refuge in the event of Moro invasions. This muralla (thick walls) beside the market still stands to this day.
There were also baluartes constructed on each corner of the muralla and in the outskirts of the town. They served as the first lines of defense against the enemies and as watchtowers. One was constructed at the eastern part of the town proper, by the shores of what is now known as Quinale about a kilometer from the heart of the Poblacion. Another was in the place once called the Montufar, at Manlabong point, which is the easternmost part of the Pueblo de Bacon, bordering the Pacific Ocean. This is about fifteen miles from the Poblacion. The latter, with the soldiers garrisoned therein, served as the vanguard of defense, and the main artery of communication in case of impending danger of Moro invasion. For a similar purpose, all towns along the shores, like Bacon were provided w/ baluartes.
As soon as invading Moros were sighted, a warning would be sent out by means of sounds made on the pustuhan. This was a big trunk of a tree, hollowed at the center and hung in a convenient place in baluarte. The casa tribunal (municipal building) was also provided with one.
When pounded the pustuhan, emitted a strong. booming sound that could be heard for miles. There was a code followed in sending out messages. When the watchman at the nearest baluarte heard the warning, he would sound the same alarm on the pustuhan. Thus the people in the community were alerted of the coming danger and they would be prepared before the enemies could land.
The work on the muralla and the baluartes mentioned above was begun and completed during the incumbency of Gobernadorcillo Teodoro Saens. He was elected for six consecutive terms (1776-1781) in order to complete the construction of fortifying the town undertaken by him. Together with Cura Parroco at the time Rev. Fr. Geronimo de Talavera, he led & directed the work. The labor was supplied by the male inhabitants who were required to render gratuitous services for the purpose. The cementation which has been proven to be highly durable and strong, defying the elements and escaping deterioration up to the present, was made from lime, sand and stone thoroughly mixed with basi* and tuba**. The basi and tuba, according to the theory of experienced men at the time, would solidify the mixture, and the finished product would be of concretely great resistance and durability.
A church was constructed and a cemetery was provided for, in the muralla. Sufficient rooms and quarters were likewise provided for all inhabitants who might seek refuge within it in times of emergencies. The baluartes in the four corners of the muralla served as artillery bases on which cannons were mounted for the defense of the place against the enemies.
It is believed that the cemetery within the muralla contains the remains of the wife and newly born child of one of the governor general of the Philippines. The said governor-general with his family was passing San Bernardino Strait when a storm overtook them. They sought refuge at Banao, a sition of the barrio of Salvacion, about three to four miles from the Poblacion on the eastern part of the town. The governor- general’s wife was in the family way.
Unfortunately, the child chose to be born into the world on such a stormy day. It was not a normal delivery. Hoping to have the best possible care and attention under the circumstances, she was immediately taken to town; but nothing could be done to save either one or both. The mother and child died, and their remains were buried at this cemetery.
The Telegrafos Opticos and the Telegrafistas:
Telegrafos opticos, a series of outposts for communications, were constructed and installed at strategic points in 1815, to facilitate further means of communication in order to alert the inhabitants of the coming danger of Moro raids. The telegrafos opticos served as the points of Camlongan, Anahaw, Gajo, Himoraga, Caricaran, Guisoc, Hulugan, Meycawayan of Gatbo, Talisayan, Montufar, Rapu-Rapu and Batan. They lessened at least, although they did not altogether stop the raids.
For a still more effective service, these telegrafos opticos were replaced later by telegrafistas. They had to render a similar duty; namely: to give signals and alarms as soon as they sighted the arrival of any vessel or any means of transportation by sea, especially those used by the Moros, like the Panoas and the Salisipan of which these officials were very much acquainted.
During daytime, the telegrafistas gave the signal by raising flags; at night, lights. They followed a code. The signals served to alert the officials and the inhabitants of the respective communities of the impending Moro raids and other catastrophe.
The Breakwater at the Back of the Old Municipal Building:
Very close to the sea, Pigsabonan, then the center of the Poblacion, was in constant danger of the raging sea. Often it is flooded water from the sea during high tides, especially when the waves were big, caused by strong winds from the north, northeast and the east. To protect Pigsabonan against such dangers, a strong breakwater was constructed along the shore in front of the muralla about a hundred meters away from it. This was done on the initiative of the incumbent gobernadorcillo, in 1814, with the cooperation of other municipal officials and prominent citizens of the community, and the inhabitants who donated the labor and materials. A small portion of the land thus gained from the sea was converted later into a park under the management of this same gobernadorcillo.
An additional length of this breakwater was added in 1829 to protect the house of Gobernadorcillo de Vera from the sea. The breakwater extended almost throughout Pigsabonan. Formerly it used to be high enough to protect the land from the raging sea. The surface was a little more than a meter wide. This breakwater was not only used for the purpose mentioned above, but also as a sort of pier to boats to anchor in during fair weather. A warehouse was constructed nearby where goods transported to and from Bacon were stored. Most often, during moonlight nights people took a stroll on this little pier of Bacon.
Long before the outbreak of the Pacific War, nature likewise provided a natural breakwater for these parts along the shores that were not protected by these parts along the shores that were not protected by the breakwater constructed in 1814-1829. A thick growth of pandan plants and dalogdog and trees that thrive along the shore were allowed to grow and served a similar purpose to protect the place. Pigsabonan had been safe from the dangers of the raging sea before the last World War broke out. Sometime in 1942 when Japanese garrisoned here ordered the shores to be clear of all these plants, the thick growth of which, according to them afforded a safe hiding place of what they termed dorobos (thieves). From that time on, the houses along the shores including the school building were in constant danger from the rough sea. Gradually, both sides of the sea wall that used to be seen at the back of the old municipal building were filled with sand and stones carried by the big waves. There was a time when this wall was almost totally buried.*
*See Part Three, Chapter 7, pp. 40,41,43 for further information regarding these walls.
* Basi- the juice of the sugar cane.
**Tuba- a delicious liquid taken from the flower of a coconut tree.