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Beach Scene of Tukuran

History gives light to some forgotten events of the past that people need to know in order to understand how those things came to exist. It also enhances the patriotism and nationalism of the people . In order to realize the significance of local history to national history, the need to document these places should therefore be emphasized. One of the places, which ought to be revisited, is the municipality of Tukuran.
The original inhabitants of Tukuran were Subanens and Iranuns. Tukuran is derived from the word tukod meaning “to build” or “to construct”. Its original inhabitants were Subanuns and Iranuns.

Historically, Tukuran was a passing point of many merchants because of its location on the trade route. Merchants of different tribes regularly passed by the area, carrying with them their wares. These merchants usually came from the nearby provinces, most specifically, Zamboanga City and Southern Mindanao, as well as the places of Lanao and the Misamis region (Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental). When the Spaniards came, they tried to control the trade route, building the famous Fort Militar that overlooks Tukuran and the northern part of Illana Bay, as well as the so-called Spanish Trocha which then connected Tukuran directly to the regions of Lanao and Misamis. It came to be known as the Trocha de Tukuran ( Trocha that means in Meranau Afta or Apazan).

Close to the end of the century, the Muslims, under the leadership of Sultan Amay Untad Panduma, founded a settlement in Tukuran. They claimed to have come from the Iranon tribe. Since their number was large, they decided to divide themselves and settle in the neighboring sitios. Sultan Paduma’s descendants succeeded him in ruling the group.

The first wave of Christian settlers followed a few years later, led by Felix Ocampo. They hailed from far up north, in Manila. They chose to settle in the shores of Tukuran. They were later followed by the settlers from Pangasinan together with their families and farming equipment.

Before Tukuran became a municipality, it was a part of the municipality of Labangan, until November 29, 1958, when President Carlos P. Garcia, under the recommendation of the Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Board headed by Governor Bienvenido Ebarle, signed Executive Order No. 323 making Tukuran a municipality. The first municipal mayor appointed to head the municipality was Mayor Filomeno C. Villamero (who was then elected vice mayor of Labangan), with Sultan Mamadra Panduma as the vice mayor.

-The Spanish Period-
Old Spanish Camp, Barangay Militar
An excerpt from the Treaty of Sultan Kudarat of Maguindanao and King Philip IV of Spain signed on June 24, 1645 proves that the place used to be vassalage of the Sultan of Maguindanao. Islam was the dominant religion of the land. There was no king to rule, nor there existed a single law signifying the rights and duties of the subjects. Each datu considered himself as the most outstanding and powerful chieftain of the place and yet he had no more loyal subjects than his relatives and slaves. According to Thomas Forrest in 1780 Tukuran is a place where Iranuns lived in, built and repaired prahus. There were several services conducted by Spaniards in the isthmus of Tukuran because of it being the strategic place for a Spanish stronghold and to shorten communication in the north of Pangil Bay to south of Illana Bay, as well. On March 12, 1890 a fortified station named after the member of the royal family fort Alfonso XII locally known as fort Militar was built to stop the Moro from their slave-raiding activities against the Subanu people to Christians, and to facilitate their pacification on Mindanao campaign of colonization in general. Governor General Valeriano Weyler proposed the construction of a canal across the isthmus. the plan, however, did not realize.

-The American Period and World War II Liberation-
Moro resistance on the hill of Tagulo, a sitio of Tukuran was pacified; the Moros were forced to abandon the place on October 15, 1900 and the place was occupied by American soldiers. In 1912, Tukuran was established as a military district and then became a municipal district in 1918 with a population of 3,921. Due to the ongoing piratical raids, the people transferred the seat of the government to Labangan in 1921; settlers began to arrive. As a result of the heavy influx of the settlers from Luzon and Visayas there was fragile co-existence among the indigenous Moro, Lumads and Christian populations. In Luy-a and Camanga, Subanens retreated to the hinterlands and the Iranun Muslims gradually transferred to Labangan. Moros from Kalibaw, Karumatan (municipality of Karomatan) continued to raid the town. With this marauding activity, the American soldiers’ attention was divided. The beach (front and shell depot) played an important role as a landing site of series of landing of ammunitions from Australia to supply the Guerilla Movement in Mindanao. During the early days of resettlement, English was the lingua franca. The town fiesta was first celebrated in 1938 with San Isidro (Saint Isidore) as the patron.

The first contact with the Americans since World War II began was on March 5, 1943, when the US submarine Tambor passed by in Tukuran and distributed supplies. On board the submarine were Charles M. Smith and Commodore Charles Parson. These American officers informed Australia about the location of Tukuran as a good docking site. In the morning of January 25, 1945 at about 11:00 a US sea plane “Sta. Catalina” landed on the beach to unload supplies. During liberation period, American planes in V-formation fly in the sky. Displaced Tukuranons returned home and started to fix their abandoned homes. Schools were reopened and life returned to normal.

-Townhood and the 1960s-
Mayor Filomino Villamero, the mayor of the town of Labangan considered the idea of making Tukuran a municipality by virtue of Executive Order 323 signed by his Excellency Carlos P. Garcia on November 29, 1958. Tukuran became a municipality. During the early 1960s many Tukuranons had experienced the abundance of the sea. Some of the family especially the taga-baybay, coastline dwellers found fortune in the fishing industry. Curvada was the trading center of Tukuran during this time. Lab-asiros (fish traders) have usually experienced difficulty in transporting the tuna to Curvada due to the sticky mud in going to Tukuran proper. This decade was considered by Tukuranons as the dawn of the fishing industry of the town.

The center of the trading is in Curvada (the present PNP visibility post). Cans from the shore to Curvada were manually handled and which contained fresh fish. The trading activity was very progressive. There were Chinese -Filipinos who once lived there but vanished later due to their superstitious beliefs that the town was not favorable for business. Lab-aseros(fish traders), had usually experienced a difficulty in transporting the tuna to Curvada due to its sticky muddy road going to the trading center. Lupoy, an ordinary fish during this time was even visible at Canawa creek during high tide, and even crabs and other marine creatures were of abundance. Trucks from Aurora stayed only at Curvada because of the poor road condition and only waited for the lab-aseros to come and sell.

-The 1970s-
This decade was characterized by military instability and natural calamities that affected the people’s socio-economic activity.

-Great Fire in Poblacion-
On January 21, 1971 at about one o’clock after the stall keepers had taken their lunch a day on the festivity of Sr. Sto. Niño of Pagadian, a great fire brought disaster on the first year of this decade. About a hundred houses and commercial establishments were burned down but luckily, no one was hurt. This caused an economic breakdown of the municipality as it was estimated to cost 2 million of the properties lost. Aid from the government through DSWD and some NGOs helped the townsfolk stand again from the ashes.

-The Barracuda – Ilaga Conflict-
Commander Toothpick, a Tiruray tribal warrior was known to fight against alleged Muslim terrorism and exploitation. It was this time that the term Ilaga was introduced into the vocabulary.”Ilaga” means “rat” but Muslims of North Cotabato called it “Ilonggo Land Grabbing Association”.The Ilaga was a Paramilitary Organization known for its anti-Muslim sentiments. It was composed initially, as reported in media, of some Ilonggo natives of Panay.

The physical pattern of events showed the spread of conflicts, from North Cotabato to Lanao del Sur, from Cotabato to Lanao del Norte, and from Cotabato to Zamboanga del Sur.It should be noted that Tukuran is the first coastal municipality from Lanao Sur in Illana Bay. The murder of Al Mirasan Tampogao, vice mayor of Carumatan, in Tukuran at Sto. Niño, Tukuran is said to be one of catalyst of the Barracuda attacks in the area. The alleged assassin was a member of Ilaga, a group known for its anti-Muslim sentiments. After that incident, there had been fears of a Moro attack on the town to avenge the Vice Mayor’s death. In May, the rebels in front of the burned Municipal hall of Labangan kidnapped Father O’Halpin, the parish priest of Tukuran, on his way back to the town, but he was released later. This related incident added to the suspicions that a conflict will soon come. At this time Labangan was in the hands of the Barracudas (black shirts). A suspected Barracuda attack on the town mayor’s residence on the third week of April 1972 added to the tension between the two groups, although it was also suspected the attack was politically motivated. Consequently, the 29th IB, PA was able to intercept a message revealing that on July 27, 1973, there will be an attack on the town; the attack took place at early morning on the day before the set date, on the 26th.

Even though the 29th IB, Philippine Army had intercepted the rebels at Lambayong now Baranggay Panduma Sr. which is seventy five meters from the shore, the Barracudas were able to take hostage a pumpboat operator along the way and were successful in taking over the Shell Depot which is located just a few meters from the shore. The depot manager was killed. However, their alleged plan to destroy the depot was stopped because of the Army’s intervention by then. The group split in two: one group retreated to Luy-a where they beheaded two civilians and slaughtered one carabao for consumption and fed on uncooked mais. It took them a week to retreat since there were blockades by the 29th Infantry Brigade in their way. Eventually, the rebels were able to escape going to Lanao del Norte. The other group attacked Militar and neighboring coastal barangays. Blockades by the 29th IB, PA at Tukuran River prevented them to penetrate the town center; they were forced to retreat to the hinterlands of Libertad. Some casualties were not being reported due to the tension being experienced by the people. As they retreated, passing Brgy. Baclay, they ambushed the Parish Priest of Aurora, Father Paulo Kill and luckily, he survived. In the aftermath, the rebels left 46 civilians, 11 rebels and IPAs dead.

The Barracuda-Ilaga Conflict had greatly depopulated the municipality as majority of the people relocated to other towns. Atty. Francisco D. Boter, the municipal registrar, in his article in Pagadian Times reported: “Like a volcano that had erupted, Tukuran became a ghost town with only a handful of people roaming the streets with the mournful howling of scraggy dogs now and then disturbing the cemetery-like silence and solitude that pervaded the ones buzzing and taming residents.”

-The tsunami of 1976-
On the evening of August 17, 1976, tsunami ravaged Illana Bay or 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake. It was caused by a 6.7 magnitude undersea earthquake. People that night living in the coast heard the roaring sound of the sea, ran to save their lives going to Curvada at about 9:30 in the evening. In Bayao, houses were washed out into the mangroves and into the Bayao River delta. This time the residents were given assistance by the joint group of social action center (SAC), Kapapagaria Foundation Inc. (KFI) in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Despite the devastation, only one casualty was reported.

The decade of 70s left three marks: first, as the years of ashes that brought destruction to Poblacion that caused severe economic breakdown of the municipality. Second, the tsunami on Illana Bay that destroyed properties. Third, was the Ilaga-Barracuda conflict in Tukuran that brought famine and hunger to the people and the very reason of the depopulation of the municipality. The general masses, both Christians and Muslims were caught in the middle of crossfire. Many of them transferred to neighboring towns of Aurora, Molave, Bonifacio, Pagadian, and even going back to Visayan islands, their homeland, if only to secure their life. Most of the Visayan people in the Poblacion took refuge in Dumaguete.

In 1978, right in his office, Mayor Antonio Jimenez, O.D. was arrested. An ASO or arrest and seizure order was issued against him from the national government. The remaining populace were baffled on the fate of the honorable mayor.

A series of related incidents on PA and CPP-NPA struggles in Tukuran during the 1980s. This was because of the Marcos dictatorship, communist movement had spread in the whole archipelago in an aim to change the routine style of the government. In this decade most of the barangay people fled or were forced and obliged to seek refuge in concentration camps and schools to protect them from the crossfire of two raging forces.

-Post-EDSA Revolution to Present-
After EDSA revolution, Isaias Barrido was appointed as municipal mayor as part of the reorganization program of Aquino government. He was a former forest ranger assigned at the Baclay nursery, a reforestation project of the national government. The first challenge to his administration occurred on October 24, 1986 due to the intense operation of PA against CPP-NPA. A mistarget landed in Curvada rice field. Hundreds could have been killed if it landed in the public market.

In 1988, the new government of Corazon Aquino ordered the conduct of a local elections in the Philippines. Bonifacio Vega was elected town mayor. His first term was characterized as the height of CPP-NPA and PA struggle. In Tagulo incident, there were seven killed in the side of the government. PA strongly believes that it was done by the CPP-NPA. Because of the struggle of two raging forces, his administration adopted, through the advice of the military, the policy of hamleting. As a result, the farmers in the far-flung barangays suffered. The military had estimated 80% of the business sectors were influenced by the rebels. Some of the suspected members of the CPP-NPA were arrested. The mayor had a hard time solving the main problem of his municipality.

Vega won for the second time in the 1992 National Elections. The issue on the CPP-NPA struggle was eventually resolved due to the implementation of various projects which focused on both socio-economic and socio-cultural aspects. In the 1995 National Elections, Vega was set to run but then decided not to, due to health reasons. Instead, he endorsed Isaias Barrido under the banner of Lakas-NUCD.[1] Isaias Barrido won the election. By the advent of IRA the barangays comprising the municipality were provided with increased shares of the financial resources of the government with the aim of enhancing the delivery of basic services to the people for the second time he was elected. Municipal road concreting was one of his main programs, livelihood programs were his main focus. Because of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the National Government, many projects were completed during his administration. He continued the construction of municipal streets, hanging bridge, solar driers, water reservoir, basketball courts, and farm to market roads to fasten the development of rural barangays. The municipal streets and other newly constructed infrastructures under the Barrido administration had changed greatly the profile of the municipality.

Mayor Bonifacio Vega Jr. succeeded the mayorship of Tukuran in 2004. He led the municipality for 6 yrs or for 2 consecutive terms and managed to increase the IRA to 48 million pesos in 2010 with a local revenue generation of less than 5 million pesos including the income from the Economic Enterprise. During the stint of Mayor Vega, Jr., he continued the programs of Mayor Barrido including the concreting of some municipal streets and the municipal gymnasium.

Mayor Francisvic S. Villamero succeeded as Mayor in 2010. During his first term, he initiated the conversion of Sto. Niño shore into a boulevard. The concreting of the Aurora-Tukuran road also commenced. 4Ps, ARCP and Kalahi CIDSS programs were also introduced and implemented. Road Concreting projects in the barangays were also implemented. Livelihood projects from the PAMANA program were also implemented in the 25 barangays. During his second term or in 2014, the Economic Enterprise income tremendously increased from 1.8 million in 2010 to 5.4 million after fixing some market management issues. The concreting of Gapasan, RM to Navalan Tukuran via Laperian, buenasuerte and Sambulawan was also finalized for bidding under PRDP program and is now ongoing. The construction of the new public market was also commenced.

Local tourism also contributed to its local economy that it has recorded more or less 70th beach visiting tourists beginning 2016.

The remarkable increase in college enrolment at the JH extension campus to almost 1,000 in 2014 was one main reason why the local transport known as Payong-payong balooned to more than 600 from less than 100 in 2010. The popular sikad transport slowly become less demanded.

For 2018, the IRA increased to more than 110million from 48million pesos in 2010. The local revenue generation is also estimated at more than 20 million pesos for 2018 inclusive of the Economic enterprise estimated income of 9 million pesos.

Tukuran has received many distinctions from the DILG, DTI and other agencies for its governance approach including 2 Seals for good housekeeping and 1 Seal for Good Local Governance for 2016.

Tukuran now is one growing peaceful municipality in terms of economy and disaster resiliency in the province of zamboanga del sur. It was the first to implement the wearing of safety Helmet in the province.