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The Untold Story of a ‘City Within a Town’

This is the way up to the public cemetery.

Cebu, Philippines– Who’d believe that in a series of mountains among another is nestled a “prosperous, small city” within a sleepy town in the South?

Of course, none. Even if you pay a visit to San Miguel, you will forever be awed in disbelief in what you will see!

San Miguel is believed to be another undiscovered tourist spot. With many breath-taking, panoramic views to behold, wonderful residents to speak with, and some unique religious practices to talk about, it is by now supposed to be another World Guinness Book record-maker.

Experience the convenience of living in the remotest, mountain barangay, San Miguel, where almost everything, like in a city, is readily available – Church (and priest), school, public library-cum-reading centers, sports amenities, public markets, convenience stores, hardware stores, bakeries, asphalted roads, and so forth.

Described as a “barangay that behaves like a city,” the residents have become “social slicks,” now feeling so pampered by the availability of almost all the things they need, and, despite many problems they are faced with in life, have rarely been found to be in the doldrums.

The smallest barangay in San Remigio town, about a hundred kilometers from Metro Cebu, it is bordered in the east by Calambua, in the west by Bagtik and in the north by Little Baguio, all also in San Remigio town, and in the south by Kantubaon in Tabuelan town.

San Miguel, named after its patron San Miguel (in English, St. Michael), is known among the barangays in the northwestern part of Cebu Province, in the central region of the Philippines, for some of their religious practices not common to other Catholics inside and outside the country.

Religious Practices

A hundred percent of the residents are Catholics. They will pray three times a day (i.e., morning, noon and afternoon) everyday. They, too, observe fasting (i.e., no foods and drinks). Fasting is done every first Tuesday and Friday, and 13th Day of the month as well as during the Holy Week. Males and females will be fasting for a maximum of seven and five days, respectively. Males who fast for seven days are required to eat only fruits for thirty-three days starting at 8 a.m. of the seventh day. Females who fast for five days will eat only fruits for ten days starting at 8:00 a.m. of the fifth day.

During the fiesta, there will be a Sinulog dancing in honor of the patron saint. Dancers will wear very colorful, stylish costumes. There will also be a cantada (singing of religious songs) in the Church. The Cantadores have long been headed by the power-belter Cresenciana Canete, who sang ala-Dulce. It was the late Yaya Taling the Mananabtan who, with a very clear, highly modulated voice sounding so supplicatory, would lead the Novena until her death. They are deemed San Miguel’s “religious institutions”.

San Miguel residents are known for their value of “pakikipagsandurot” (smooth interpersonal relations) in that they are accustomed to setting community-oriented activities, in which young and adults alike are expected to be involved.


San Miguel has its own version of “bayanihan”, and it is called “dagyaw.” “Bayanihan,” a Tagalog term which refers to communal unity or collaborative effort involving community members to achieve a specific, common objective, is commonly practiced in the Philippines.

While the German version, i.e., Gemeinschaft (pronounced [ɡəˈmaɪnʃaft]), coined by German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies, refers to sociological categories for two normal types of human association with an identity of purpose, dagyaw accentuates changing people’s social outlooks, wherein they would be expected to “share common mores and same beliefs to ensure a collective sense of loyalty to any other community members”.

If you hear San Miguel residents say, “Mag-dagyaw ta,” they mean, “Let’s go work hand in hand.”

And who wouldn’t be surprised to hear them say that? Dagyaw is not compulsory.

Jeanne Romero-Detmering, a thirty-something resident, said: “Every after the dagyaw, I don’t feel tired because I feel happy and socially responsible.”

The Southeast Asia’s Cleanest and Greenest Barangay

San Miguel was recognized as the Asia’s Cleanest and Greenest Barangay by the defunct Southeast Asian Treaty Organization or SEATO in the late 1970s, a few months prior to its dissolution on June 30, 1977. Not sitting on its laurels, the barangay has maintained its clean and green program even after the death of the late couple, Sabbas Romero and Lucena Romero, the erstwhile religious leaders in the community.

Electricity and Water System

Under the auspices of the University of San Carlos Water Resources Center, a coterie of German scientists led the establishment of the solar water supply system in Bagtik, San Remigio town. This supplies water to as far as barangays in the neighboring towns of Tabuelan and Tuburan.

The electricity in San Miguel has up to now been supplied by Cebu Electric Cooperative II. Electricity costs in the barangay are lesser compared to that in Cebu City, where taxation is passed on to the consumers.

Barangay Roads

Due to the continued support by the local politicians and the moneyed residents, like the Alberakdars, the Abaneses, and the Detmerings, the roads in the barangay have been asphalted or cemented, and the barangay’s clean and green program, under the close monitoring of barangay chief Joselito M. Sipalay, has continuously been implemented. More projects are coming in.

(At present, San Miguel’s barangay chief is the then Prosy Sipalay.)


About Danilo Tao-tuan Naraja

I am an expatriate based in Jubail, Saudi Arabia and work in the Admin and HR Division of an oil and gas company. I am an HR practitioner for more than a decade. I used to work for a Cebu-based local newspaper. I love to write human interest stories and started writing when I was still in high school.


2 thoughts on “The Untold Story of a ‘City Within a Town’

  1. Very well said. I enjoy reading this article. Well done!


    Posted by Jenny O'Toole | January 4, 2012, 1:54 pm

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