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Pinili turns its centennial page

Pinili, Ilocos Norte, where warriors walked during the Philippine-American War at the turn of the 20th century and during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, marks its centennial on Jan. 1.

Officials of the local government unit, headed by Mayor Rommel Labasan, have called on Piniliños to join in the special celebration on Jan. 1 and the 10-day saturnalia during the town fiesta starting April 20, in the run up to the feast of San Isidro Labrador—real name Isidro de Merlo y Quintana—Catholic patron saint of the town.

The anniversary is themed “Pinili 2020: Panangipateg ken Panangitandudo ti (sic) Naindaklan a Gapuanan, Puersa iti Masakbayan (Upholding standout past deeds, driving impetus for the future).”

As early as August this year, this garlic-producing third-class municipality, which became Ilocos Norte’s 17th town on Jan. 1, 1920—with Felipe Arcangel of Batac appointed by townmate, then vicar of the Philippine Revolution Gregorio Aglipay, as the first town chief executive—started clearing the decks in preparation for its centennial.

Pinili Municipal Hall, facing south, perched on a hill overlooking the town square and the garlic lands of the town proper.
Pinili Municipal Hall, facing south, perched on a hill overlooking the town square and the garlic lands of the town proper. 
On Jan. 1, the centennial hymn, written by Carmi P. Lorenzo, the Pugaoan-born principal of Ferdinand Marcos Senior High School in nearby Batac, titled “Pinili a Salinongmi (Pinili our Haven)”—she won the writing competition—will be heard for the first time, according to officials.

The winner in the Digital Logo competition, also launched in August, was identified by contest organizers as Elmer Jhon Bugarin.

Apart from the hymn and logo competitions, there was also the English Essay Writing Contest, open to all top essayists of the three high schools here—the Pinili Institute, the Pinili National High School and the Sacritan Integrated School. It was sponsored by the Prof. Honor Blanco Cabie Awards for Literature, now in its 11th year, in cooperation with the Pinili Local Government Unit.

The winners—Christian Britany Barroga (Pinili National High School), 1st; Jolina Espiritu (Sacritan Integrated School), 2nd; Shanel Jay Aguinaldo (PNHS), 3rd; and Mark Angelo Perez (Pinili Institute), consolation prize—will get their cash prizes and certificates in April, during the town fiesta at the Pinili Amphitheater south of the terraced town square.

It was in the erstwhile forested hills of Pinili, eventually detached from the mother towns of Paoay, Badoc, and Batac, where Aglipay and his Sandataan guerrilla forces, made up mostly of homegrown villagers, fought advancing and better armed American troops along the main gravel road—eventually named after Aglipay—that cuts through the town proper and the rice lands west and east of the poblacion.

The Aglipay Shrine, inaugurated in 1997.
The Aglipay Shrine, inaugurated in 1997.
Arguably, Pinili is the only chosen town in the Philippines, with some romanticizing that it was Aglipay who selected the name Pinili because he chose the then thickly forested hilly area to be his and his guerrillas’ last stand against the advancing American troops out to subdue President Emilio Aguinaldo and his followers north of the capital Manila.

Some have forgotten that the area’s elders themselves in fact chose—Pinili, and there was then an existing barangay called Pinili Badio which adjoined Badio Laud—to unite and be one municipality after the Philippine-American War for unity and closer cooperation.

Later on during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, bolomen from the town headed by Mariano Gamatero of Puzol with three subordinate officers ranked major—Agustin Cabie of Upon, Cecilio Vermudez of Salanap, and Florencio Tacub of Puzol—fought guerrilla warfare using military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight the larger and less-mobile Japanese troops.

In the months before the anniversary, Labasan and the other officials flew out in batches to Hawaii and the US mainland as well as Singapore to persuade their townmates “to come home and celebrate the town’s colorful centennial anniversary next year.”

Pinili LGU and Pinili-Metro Manila Residents Association officials
Pinili LGU and Pinili-Metro Manila Residents Association officials headed by Mayor Rommel Labasan and Josie Lane, respectively, during a meeting at the residence of Architect Roland Polendey (standing, second from left) and wife Len (seated left). Also in photo is the author (standing, fifth from left). 
They also met up with officers and members of the 1993 Securities and Exchange Commission-registered Pinili-Metro Manila Residents Association in December, where Labasan and Vice Mayor Maynard Francis Bumanglag made a pitch for the centennial celebration.

PMMRA, a civic, non-profit, non-government organization, has been itself conducting annual medical outreach missions in the town’s 25 barangays—covering five barangays per mission—since the mid 1990s.

On the first day of 2020, officials said Pinili’s history will be re-enacted at the town square after a Thanksgiving Mass in Kullabeng, the site where Aglipay used to meet up with elders of the area before it became a town. It was also there where, old hands and historians say, Aglipay, then no longer a Catholic, celebrated what was to be called the first Aglipayan Mass—not in Manila or elsewhere.

There will be a colorful, if animated, march, expected to be highlighted by street dancing along the more than one-kilometer Aglipay Road between the Shrine and the town hall participated in chiefly by local officials, the youth, and some elderly.

Pinili became a municipality after then Gov. Gen. Francis Burton Harrison signed on Dec. 20, 1919 his Executive Order which created Ilocos Norte’s 17th town.

Topics: Pinili , Ilocos Norte , Philippine-American War , Japanese occupation , centennial , Mayor Rommel Labasan , feast of San Isidro Labrador , Isidro de Merlo y Quintana
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