Tracing back the historical development of Virac, Sta. Cruz ha its special share for its spiritual Socio-Economic and Political Progress. Taking into account landmark in existence which must have been constructed early during Spanish Era has its Chapel and other structures maintained.
First and foremost is the Parola, the lighthouse fronting in the Pacific Ocean, the sailor’s guide whose stewardship must be handed to the late Don Agustin Tabligan. It must be this Parola that guide one of the galleons on harsh weather which unfortunately was wrecked down. Its remains were blown and carried by the current of strong waves to the shores of Sta. Cruz, several meters east of the Parola. The rusted ship skeleton has remained there until the broke of World War II.
The first Pantalan, the wooden structure where small transportation vessels and bolandros anchored, was at the junction of Rawis and Sta. Cruz leading to Almasin or storage of hemp and copra owned by Suyo Tan family, now the Ching Bee. The Parao, smaller than balandros that cater earthern pots and jars or salted fish like cuyog and balao just anchored by the shallow seashore where trade is just carried on.
It must also be this Parola that guided the Japanese Naval warship that anchored a distance away, carrying the plane bomber that incidentally failed to hit the Casa de Gobyerno, the seat of the JMA now. Instead the bomb fell on the field by the side of Sta. Elena creek, creating a thirty-meter-diameter pit. Small holes on the road were caused by sharp nails. Also, the ship skeleton must have caused the Japanese Official to take a speed boat to land in the ground of Sta. Cruz, who incidentally encountered Estanislao Villegas and daughter Nieves trying to sneak out, not using the main road. He immediately interrogated the trembling Estanislao. “Where Japanese Arata stayed?” He could not speak rather pointed only to the south direction; then, the Japanese radioed the returning plane and made signals. Thus, Virac was only hit once by the Japanese bomber.
The chapel construction required long preparation to accumulate timber, lime stone etc. When everything was ready, there was conflict and disagreement among the fifteen heads of the families; more were in favor to construct it on a vacant space which later was owned by the Hon. Mayor Florencio Tacorda and very lately, was purchased by the Balmadrid family through the heir of her daughter Felomina T. Palomer.
The aggressive Sr. Tranquilino Avila with Sr. Juan Alpapara (who was then Aquasel that act as facilitator and mediator, who was then appointed Teniente Del Barrio requested the advice of Sr. Gregorio Villegas, the Capatas who was in charge of the construction of roads, bridges, churches with the retablo for the altars. He commented on the requirements.
Churches and chapels are sacred. They must be built on exclusive places, must have no obstruction whatsoever. This refers to Ezekiel 43:7 and 8. He pointed the space where the chapel is built at present.
So, the three of them with their aides seven started the construction at 1:00 A.M. with the bright full moon on its 12:00 O’clock position while others were sound asleep. A simple ritual was made with the laying of the corner stone with the relics and names listed. They were so careful that the layout must be followed accurately.
In the morning, many were surprised to see that the foundation of the chapel was in place with the sacristy behind (as it had been before the World War II) the others were tongue-tied to complain as to who has done it. Being God-fearing and religious, they just accepted it as God’s will. So, they too started to assist on the task as in those days construction of chapel were through Atag or Bayanihan, a community self help labor.
Sr. Tranquilino Avila became the first Matanda Del Barrio with no specific term of service, his untimely death and was followed by Sr. Mariano Vargas, the father of Segunda V. Palomer then Sr. Valeriano Alpapara the son of Aquasel Juan Alpapara that was before and after the World War II. Then, the folks of Sta. Cruz transferred the sacristy was occupied by the stage of the Barangay Plaza and the Bahay Tanod, now a small multi-purpose structure.
Another historical landmark is the Gutierrez Hermanos Building where the late Don Saturnino Cavada Sr. was the steward and proprietor, catering on hemp and copra. It could be on strategic location where the pier was constructed at the junction of Sta. Cruz and Salvacion; it was mid-1930’s when the pier was inaugurated, graced by the presence of the first and only Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, with his younger daughter, Aurora. However, the Presidential Yacht did not dock at the pier. It anchored several meters away where decorated fishing boats flocked by the sides. the fisherman, with their children, chant, “Mabuhay si President Manuel Quezon”. That was the start of the coming of the ships that anchored at the pier. First, the Dos Hermano’s ship followed by the Sitio’s ship which come and go alternately once a month.
Sta. Cruz was also hosting Pres. Elpidio Quirino at the residence of Congressman Severiano de leon and, in like manners, Pres. Diosdado Macapagal had been in the residence of Mrs. Segunda V. Palomer, who was then the campaign manager of the Liberal Party. That was the time when there was no hotel yet in Virac.
Still on trading, Sta. Cruz was the seat of Chinese traders. There was the Virac Trading headed by Co Choy then Que Tay et.al. which cater on textile, china and other kitchenware even orenulas. The space is now occupied by the Fortune, owned by Haya and Ching, and also the old Acme building. Suyo Tan and children Esperanza, Marino, Lucio (could be the Lucio Tan wealth magnate), and Febis have another business aside from Hemp and Copra; they also manage a bakery with various candies and chocolates. The building was renovated by Mr. Leon Tatel and formerly named KIMI’s Bakery. There was also Johnson and his brother Enchiong catering school supplies to rubber bands and Kerosene lamps and petromax. Another one is Kim So who has a sari-sari store and also catering on hemp. One more sari-sari store was owned by Ya Nga Lim and family; moreover, they cater rice and other grains. This old Chinese was fond of riddles and jokes, especially for the youths like “ako kaon puno mangko, tapos na ako kaon puno pa manko, ano kaon ko? Also tawo dae dapat daya, Dios dae tulo caldao-banguetendok, kita Niya Tawo gadan bayad siya”. His own Tacio, a famous artist in tailoring has catered his work through the social groups in Catanduanes, for his fashionable style on ladies’ and men’s clothes.
The family of Don Pedro Sorreta, who owned a large land area in the north and in Sta. Cruz, was part of the “sosyal” and rich class on that time. Part of the land area that the family owned is where the Marem Pension House and bakery was constructed. It was the same with the Junction Hardware, which was previously owned by the Camacho Patriarch that extended to the southern corner. This was then the residence of his granddaughter Lilia Molina y Camacho.
There was also the Aquasel Juan Alpapara serving the duties of the Teniente Del Barrio, who had caused and donated the Holy Cross for the chapel from hardened Camagong trunk, existing on its altar at the present time. His son Sr. Valeriano had been consistently elected as Matanda of Sta. Cruz, whose term expired only after the World War II.
Mr. Gregorio (GoyingLlantino), was the first one to own a family car in Virac. With a beautifully painted residential home in Sta. Cruz, fronting the political residence of the disciplinarian mayor, Hon. Florencio Tacorda, who with pride, wears his Lion Symbol, yet tempered with magnanimous generosity for spiritual and economic security. Another noble house was the home of the first priest of Sta. Cruz, Rev. Fr. Apolonio Molina, the uncle of Rev. Fr. Pascual Macuja. Other priest of Sta. Cruz, were Rev. Fr. Edmund F. Vargas, Rev. Fr. Nestor Buena, Rev. Fr. Joey Aguilar and Rev. Fr. Rolando Panesa Jr., and a nun (a daughter of Roman Vargas and Rafaela Sarmiento), a descent of the Alpaparas Clan, with the title Sister Justina, who actively participated during the First People Power in 1986 at EDSA.
Adjacent to that house of Rev. Fr. Molina was the home of the first Schools Supervisor of Catanduanes (still a sub-province of Albay then) Mr. Melanio Francisco, whose wife, Dona Maria (Tiya Ling Ling), was the first elected woman Board Member, the position reigned only by political men; it is inherent them from the clan that Dr. Ricardo Francisco became a Schools Division Superintendent of Catanduanes. That space was now occupied Caltex. There was also the late Mrs. Gloria M. Icaranom, with an angelic voice, who became the first lady councilor then the Matanda of Sta. Cruz who finished the task of renovating the chapel altar with her co-officers that has been started by Matanda Pedro Vargas followed by Matanda Manuel Balmadrid, with Barangay Captain Nelson Marzo, has spear headed the construction of the canopy of the chapel which added to the beauty and solidity of the structure.
The Co’s residence and business spaces were formerly occupied by the Boy Scouts Provincial Headquarters. But prior to that it was part of a portion of the old Youth Center and the business establishment was then the Official Territory of the Police and its Commanding Officer. It must have been the official residence of General Lizaso, where the triangle space with the fountain was named Plaza Lizaso.
During those days , Sta. Cruz was inhabited only by families of: Aguilar, Alpapara, Arcilla, Avila, Benitez, Camacho, Francisco, Gianan, De Leon, Masagca, Molina, Oclarino, Sarmiento, Socito, Sorreta, Tabirara, Tacorda, Vargas and Villegas. Pennames or alias were prominent to identify clans on humorous jokes. They were the Apopo, Baga, Kalunggay, Gayo-gayo, and Hamies, por Dios, Pata, Pulot, Pusoan, Mon-ak, Putak, Madulom and Ubong.
Other have migrated in Sta. Cruz due to work and employment there, by the Vallejos and Siatong families, the surveyors, followed by Mr. Hilario Diasanta, Gorgoing (Police) Tejada, who upon retirement, established a store which channeled dried fish and salted cuyog and balao from the parao of the mainland vendors. Mr. Ambrosio Balmadrid was an employee in Public Works. Judge Juan Templonuevo, though a transcient, has established their family residence in Sta. Cruz.
After the World War II, many had permanently transferred here (Sta. Cruz). Among them was the Congressman Severiano de Leon. Later, Atty. San Roque, Atty. Velasco and Atty. Atencia, then Mr. Jesus Oliver and Mr. Policarpio Tindugan did the same as the politic. Other family names were acquired due to marriages between the members of the mentioned clans like Tiagong Police Sgt. Santiago Talan, who was the cause of the absence of juvenile delinquency due to his disciplinary measures, which had been much appreciated by the folks.
It could be noted in the spiritual and political development that position titles and addresses were changed: from the Aquasel, “The Facilitator and Mediator to the Cabesa de Barangay, then, to Teniente Del Barrio and later to Barangay Captain. And from the simple Matanda nin Centro Catolico. While the Barangay Captain and Council men were officially elected through secret balloting, the Matanda nin Centro Catolico and other officers with the Cabos were just appointed or on informal election or designed by few members.
A very salient point here is the position of the Barangay Captain. He had been a Phoenix Leader, who rose from a simple industrious youth, working to help augment the family income, became the uncontested and consistent Youth President in 1980 until he filed his candidacy for Barangay Captain and still single when elected. Now, he had completed the successive Four Years terms as Brgy. Captain. He had been instrumental with his subsequent Council Men in Sta. Cruz in their spiritual and political and even socio-economic development. Congratulations Brgy. Captain Nelson C. Marzo. No one in your level can ever surpass your service. You are indeed a Phoenix Leader.
Kudos to Mrs. Efigenia Gianan Aguilar, who despite not in profession, had been a livewire in the activities in the medical missions in Catanduanes in 1993. Her performance is well-known throughout the USA because of the Catanduanes International Association activities.
Sta. Cruz is graced with industrious and God-loving people. From the farmers, fishermen, carpenters, housekeepers and business-minded individuals, Sta. Cruz had been the home of various personalities.
Generally, the unemployed earned their living through self-help small-scale business industry , aside from business establishments by the capitalist. Farming and fishing have now become side line jobs and also hobbies.
Sta. Cruz, with the Patron Saints, is lovely to emulate and peaceful place to live.