Cabatuan is among the popular areas in the province in heritage tourism. More travelers are visiting remnants of Spanish culture in the area. The historic and cultural resources associated with the people of Cabatuan, its events, or aspects in their community’s past gave the municipality its sense of identity and help tell its story.
The Second-Class municipality of Cabatuan is 24.2 kilometers away from the city. It is connected to a national highway passing through the towns of Pavia and Sta. Barbara. Four other national roads connect the town to its adjacent municipalities; Alimodian in the south; Maasin in the west; New Lucena in the north-east; and Janiuay in the north where the highway continues northward to Lambunao and Calinog and then to Tapaz, Capiz. It is politically subdivided into 68 barangays over a land area of 8,248 hectares.
Cabatuan is populated by 58, 442 (2015 Census on Population) Cabatuananons. Markey days is every Wednesdays and Sundays. It annually celebrates its Religious Fiesta every 10th of September in honor of their patron San Nicholas de Tolentino.
To get to Cabatuan one can take a jeepney at the Ungka Transport Terminal (fronting Christ the King Memorial Park) in Barangay Ungka-II, Pavia, Iloilo.
Cabatuan may have gotten its name from several Hiligaynon words: Kabatuhan – from the word bato, meaning rock; from Batu-an meaning to resist, oppose, challenge, defy, fight or contest. However elderlies believed that the name was derived from Batuan tree, its sour fruits being used in flavouring certain native soups and dishes.
Cabatuan was believed to be priginally planned by a certain tribal leader named Tono, along with two other leaders, Gomoc and Amihan. The site of the early settlement was on a level track of land near ythe northern bank of Tigum River where the poblacion is now located.
Cabatuan was officially organized upon the installation of Rev. Father Antonio Lopez as its first priest. The town’s founding in 1732 was justified by a huge cross made of hard thick Molave tree, the base of which still stands at Pamul-ogan Hill.
Following the Spanish procedure of founding settlements first involves dedicating the place to Christ, and claiming the area for the King, followed by the erection of a huge cross made of hardwood with the date carved on it. On the cross which was officially regenerated on April 9, 1972, during the celebration of the 239th Foundation year, was carved “1732,” although what remains of the cross now is only its base.
Elderly residents of the town recall the spiritual protection of St. Nicolas de Tolentino whom Cabatuananons still venerate today as their Patron Saint.
ST. NICOLAS OF TOLENTINE PARISH CHURCH is of Neo-Classical architectural style. The first parochial church was finished in 1732, same year when it became an independent parish. The present church was constructed in 1834 under the supervision of Father Ramon Alquezar. It was finished by Father Manuel Ruiz in 1866 using bricks. A red brick convent was built under the supervision of Father Juan Porras in 1876. Minor restoration was done by Father Manuel Guiterrez in 1890.
Known to be one of the most beautiful churches in Iloilo during its time, it was described as the “Model of Temples” by El Eco de Panay and the Largest Brick Church in Panay. Every side of the church was a façade in itself. It was said to have looked more of a Basilica. It was accented by three domes where at each side of the church were big clocks and the last dome was at its center over the altar. It measured 50 meters in length and 20 meters in width. Its thickness was about a meter and a half. It used to have 19 circular, multi-colored window panes and 10 massive doors. The altar was flanked by two smaller altars. The belfry had four windows with four big bells. On its ceiling were paintings of Rome and chandeliers.
In 1942 it was burned by guerillas and totally destroyed by Japanese forces the following year. The front portion of the church however was not damaged. The bricks and the stones of the church were used to repair the landing field in Tiring.
CABATUAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY in Barangay Banguit is a four hectare perfectly square shaped cemetery constructed in 1886 under the supervision of Father Juan Porres, Father Cesareo Prodigo and was continued by Father Manuel Guiterrez in 1890. The chapel is a fusion of Roman, Gothic, Byzantine, and Baroque architectures. The complex carvings on the chapel’s facade are considered to be the most distinct cemetery relief which can only be found in Cabatuan. With elegant iron grills, its walls and chapel were made of stones quarried from the mountains in Leon. It was heavily damaged during the 1948 Lady Kaykay earthquake and was reconstructed.
PAMUL-OGAN HILL is home to the shrine considered to be the cradle of Cabatuan’s History. At the peak of the hill lies a concrete cross reminiscent of the original cross planted by the Spaniards who first came in the region. Every lent, traditional devotee starts their journey from the mouth of Barangay Pamulogan to the peak of the hill as penitence.
TREE OF BONDAGE lies in the Town plaza directly in front of the Municipal Hall of Cabatuan. It is believed that the natives were tied in this tree and whipped if they refuse the polo or forced labor during the Spanish Era. The tree is an old and artistically skewed Plumeria tree (Plumeria rubra) currently fortified with a concrete base to withstand destruction.
TINUOM Festival is a celebration of the town’s popularly craved delicacy, tinuom, a soup made of native chicken with tomatoes, onions, potatoes and lemon grass added with a cup of water and wrapped in banana leaves. This festival is one of the highlights of the religious fiesta celebration of the municipality and is a colorful explosion of music, costumes and folk dance steps. There are six (6) competing tribes or “tribus” representing the six secondary schools of the town. A choreographed “chicken dance steps” is performed in the middle of the presentation.
CACAO celebrated every June is Barangay Acao’s way of giving tribute to its cash crop that had improved the lives of many residents of the barangay. The celebration is pure delight as it is inclusive of preparing various forms of edible goodies from chocolate and its accompanying chocolate-eating contest. Productio of native chocolate to form tablea or pressed chocolate tablets was a basic cash-earning industry that provided many families with a ready source of income. As a major effort of the community dedicated to this industry, the barangay council has encouraged the plkanting of more cacao trees to further strengthen the chocolate production business of the community and also as a form of identification of this part of the town.
PASYON and KAPIYA CONTESTS is celebrated evefry Good Friday, the town prepares for their famous Via Crucis by way of their annual Kapiya contest and Pasyon singing every Good Friday. You do not need to climb up mountains or walk through long distances in order to see these Lenten traditions. The Kapiya display is an annual competition of beautifully depicted series of sculptures made of indigenous materials popular in the area. The characters are life-sized and are even well-lighted during the evening. Pasyon is the singing of the account of the Sacred Passion of Christ. The singers, young and old are engage in marathon chanting of the Christ’s Passion in their little makeshift bamboo chapels situated beside the Kapiya that are clustered in the different streets of the town.