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Cebu’s heritage gem of the south – Carcar City – grew out of a small seaside settlement about 40 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital.
This settlement was nuzzled on a basin stretch surrounded by a vast wetland and between two colossal rivers, the Minag-a River in the north and Carcar River in the south. It was then known as “Saylo” or “Sialo”.
Carcar, now a fourth-class city, has stood over the years as being the center of culture and arts of south Cebu.
It is the hometown of renowned musicians, essayists, poets and artists who won accolades on different outlooks and genres and playwrights of stage plays like “minoros” and “linambay,” a long running act in prose and verses.
One of its prominent landmarks, the Carcar Rotunda – the circular plaza right smack in the heart of the city – owes its design and masterpiece sculptures to the artistic acumen of two Carcaranon brothers.
Four 19th century houses that serve as monuments to its rich heritage and culture received national recognitions.
These houses – Balay na Tisa, Ang Dakong Balay, the Mercado Mansion and Silva House – were cited as national historical landmarks by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
A long queue of century-old acacia and fruit-bearing trees line both sides of the road approach to Carcar, reachable after a 45-minute drive or a one-hour bus trip from the bus terminal in Cebu City.
These rows of huge trees, with their leaves intersecting above the highway, create a tunnel of shade that serves as a distinct welcome to the city.
Carcar’s geographic location makes it an access point for tourism and commerce in southern Cebu. From Carcar, which is just a short trip from Cebu City, travel time to top attractions in the southern town is considerably cut down.
The city is bounded on the north by the municipality of San Fernando, on the south by the municipality of Sibonga, on the west by the towns of Barili and Aloguinsan, and on the east by Bohol Strait.
Carcar encompasses 11,700 square kilometers of mostly flat lands and is comprised of 15 barangays. Government statistics placed the city’s population as of May 1, 2010 at 107,323.
The city is continuously striving to be at pace with the rest of the world, looking at globalization from a perspective of an agro-industrial economy that wants to be competitive but at the same time preserve its cultural heritage.
Carcar takes pride in its small-scale business enterprises and cottage industries that include shoemaking, blacksmithing, and chicharon production – main livelihood activities of Carcaranons.
The present administration under Mayor Nicepuro L. Apura seeks to achieve a politically and economically stable Carcar while preserving its cultural heritage.
Its current focus is to construct a diversion road that aims to provide an alternative route for the fast delivery of goods to and from the southern cities and towns to Cebu City.
Among its priority projects are the construction of a modern abattoir, acquisition of land as the site for a new public market with terminal and the wet and livestock auction market, formulation of a master drainage plan and development of Carcar’s agro-forestry resources, among others.
Classification: 4th class city
Population (2010 census): 107,323
Land Area: 11,700 square kilometers
Number of barangays: 15
Distance from Cebu City: 40 kilometers
Long before Spanish explorers came to the Philippines, Cebu was a flourishing trading post and the natives bartered their products like ceramic and gold with goods from such countries as Siam, China and Arabia.
Trading eventually transcended to other areas, including Carcar. As trade flourished, so did Carcar.
When the Spaniards came in the middle of 16th century, they gave the old settlement of Sialo the name Valladolid after one of the towns in Spain.
The locals though preferred to call Carcar “Kabkad,” short for “kabkaban,” a sturdy fern used by the natives as ornament and medicine.
An article entitled “Valladolid, The Old Town” written by the late Sofronio Gantuanco, a public school supervisor, for a fiesta souvenir program described Carcaranons as industrious, contributing to the town’s bountiful growth.
In the 1840s, Carcar became one of the top sugar producing towns in Cebu. It ranked third to Talisay and Mandaue in sugar production.
Some 80 years back or in 1760, the town’s growth hit a setback and its population dwindled to less than a thousand. Historical accounts attribute this situation to unfavorable environment and agricultural conditions as well as the persistent pirate raids that led to the decline in commercial activities.
Carcar, nevertheless, continued to grow spiritually and became one of the biggest Augustinian parishes in the Visayas.
Its visitas included Simora of Sibonga, Argao, Dalaguete, Oslog of Oslob, up to Tañon in Santader, proof of how the Catholic faith flourished in Carcar and influenced the local culture.
Carcar’s religious formation started in 1624, when the Spaniards arrived and built together with the natives the town of Valladolid and enshrined there the image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the city’s patroness.
A few years after the establishment of the parish of St. Catherine, it was able to successfully defend itself against marauders from the island of Mindanao.
In 1856, the construction of a new massive stone church was started and houses of stone began rising on the Carcar landscape.
In the decades that followed, Carcar remained a peaceful place free from the turmoil of the Philippine revolution that prevailed in many provinces of Luzon and in some places of the Visayas including Cebu.
The amity ended when General Panteleon S. Villegas, also known as “Leon Kilat” – a general of the Philippine Revolution, was assassinated at the command of the local leaders of Carcar on April 8, 1898.
In that same year, Don Vicente J. Noel was elected as municipal president of Carcar. During his tenure, the first government institution known as the Carcar Upland Elementary School opened in 1905 under the Bureau of Education.
Years after, educational institutions started to sprout in Carcar, such as the Cebu Institute administered by Don Paulino Gullas in 1910 and the St. Catherine’s School, a parochial school and Cebu’s first exclusive school for girls founded by Anastacio P. del Corro in 1923.
Acknowledged as the brainchild and “Father of Carcar,” Don Mariano Mercado became the first mayor of Carcar from 1932 to 1940.