CAPUL ISLAND, NORTHERN SAMAR – The Acapulco Connection

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With a unique dialect (Abaknon or Inabaknon) far from the Waray Region where it belongs, a history entwined with the centuries-old Acapulco Galleon Trade, a land blessed with natural wonders, Capul Island is a treasure trove for tourists.

From the capital town of Northern Samar, Catarman, you take a one-hour jeepney ride to the port town of Allen.  The port town of Allen is actually a part of the National Highway, connecting the southern-most tip of Luzon, Matnog to its port which is usually the route of land-based transport like buses, trucks and freight forwarders and even private vehicles towards the Samar and Leyte Provinces and Mindanao.

Upon reaching the town’s transport terminal, you may opt to take a pedicab (PHP 20) towards the port area or you can just walk, if you are not carrying that much luggage.  It is just a 10-minute walk away through the town’s quiet main street to its busy port area.  Don’t get too surprised when buses and crowds hog the sprawling privately-run port, or when you get these old ladies selling their local products and delicacies to you, its a daily occurrence here.

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You have to look for that area where the big bancas (local boats) are located, or you may ask around as to where the boat going to Capul is located.  Make sure that you get there before 11.30am because the boat usually leaves at 12 noon.  And, there is only one trip per day.  Once you miss it, well, you have to wait for another day.  You may sleep over in any of the lodging houses within the port area complex.

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The one and a half hour boat ride through part of the slightly turbulent San Bernardino Strait, where the inner seas of the archipelago meet the Pacific Ocean, we finally arrived in this historic island.

 

There are no hotels or lodging houses within the small town, the only option – homestay.

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It was no ordinary house, where I stayed.  It’s a pre-liberation house, its lower floor in stone and concrete and is used as a shop and storage, while the upper level is the living quarters.  The access to the upper floor is through a concrete staircase just right outside the shop entrance.  Upon ascending the steps, you will land on a small open area that serves as an entrance porch before you enter the spacious interior with the house’s living, dining and kitchen areas.

Tall and wide sliding Capiz windows line the four walls of the house.  On one side are the three bedrooms, one for the owner (all her children are based in the US already and every so often would come for a visit), and two for guests, like me.  After dropping all my stuff inside my assigned room, I told the owner that I will be heading for their church which was just a few small blocks away.

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The 17th century church, made of coral stone would be the centrepiece of the town.  The fort that used to surround the church is still evident in some areas.  It used to protect the town from enemies and pirates.  It is to be noted that Capul played a role in the Spanish Galleon Trade between Mexico and the Philippines – being the first stop for the ships coming from Mexico and the last stop before the ship sails across the Pacific to Acapulco.  And there you go, the name of the town has been said to be derived from the name Acapulco.  Although it’s been an outpost for the Spanish Trans-Pacific Galleon Trade, their dialect is far from being related to Espanol or Catalan.  It’s been said that their unique language is a conglomeration of mainly Middle Eastern peppered with Chinese, Malay and Spanish languages.  I’ve never heard such dialect being spoken anywhere else, with its different sing-song intonation.  A dictionary was even created to document this dialect – Abaknon or Inabaknon..  Interesting, right?

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Anyway, going back to the church, its façade is devoid of ornaments, except for a tell-tale sign of a broken pediment that once must have been part of its basic décor.  Instead of a rose window, which is commonly seen in old churches, the upper part of the façade has three rectangular windows and two simple identical decorative towers on both ends flank a third one at the top of the middle part of the facade.  The bell tower is all in its own, standing at easily 3 storeys high, it also served as the main look-out for on-coming enemies from the sea and at the same time its bell was used as a warning device in case there is fire or enemies are approaching.  Since the church is small in size, there is only one set of double-leaf door as the main entry point from the front.  The NCCA’s plaque declaring the church as a national treasure can be seen on the left wall of the façade.

The simple interiors will greet you upon entry.  And both sides you will see big doors leading to courtyards.  The left courtyard is the side where the wall of the old fort is still evident.  With a simple garden within its courtyard, a small pathway will lead you to the parish rectory.

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