HACIENDA SAN ANTONIO, Ilagan- Walking through the centuries old acacias lined along the path to the historic administration house of the first ever business empire in the Philippines -the Companias General de Tobaccos de Filipinas or simply “Tabacalera”; is like going back in time when you have to be cautious being accosted by the dreaded Guardia Civil in the Spanish era for loitering during working hours.
In fact, 40 years ago during the Marcos regime; this hacienda has been a place marred by violence and human rights violations having been occupied by a crony business until then Governor Faustino Dy Sr., lobbied Malacanang to cause the distribution of this vast track of Spanish estate to the native tenants through the agrarian reform program of the government.
An old bell that speaks of its age; once a loud herald is now a mute witness to the changing times in the former hacienda
At present, the issue of the day lies whether this remote and former Spanish Tobacco Hacienda should likewise vouch for Cityhood of this capital town being far-flung from the amenities of an urbanized poblacion area.
The man in charge here- Vice Mayor Vedasto “Ka Piding” Villanueva calls the shot whether all 30 barangays under the jurisdiction of this former hacienda rally to the second time since cityhood proponents lost their bid in the first plebiscite held in 1998.
Villanueva, a fierce and respected old timer who lives in the heart of the Hacienda (Barangay Centro San Antonio) at the moment says he is a team player and would vouch to support the cityhood bid.
“Once this guy is pissed off,” according to local Businessman John Reniedo; Villanueva could be seeking to severe his turf and form a new town instead. If the case pushes, the officialdom of Ilagan led by a hot-headed Mayor Josemarie Diaz is like riding on a sinking boat.
However, the humble Vice Mayor commented that this hacienda realm does not really contribute much to the present P206 million annual revenues it profits to qualify into cityhood. “Maraming taga rito ang hanggang sa ngayon defiant magbayad ng almeyar dahil nasanay sila sa mga indoctrination ng mga NPA nung martial law,”(Many people here are still defiant to comply in paying their real estate taxes since most people here still have martial law hangovers brought by the indoctrination of the NPAs), Villanueva commented.
Centuries old Acacias, the silent witness to the past events that transpired in this Haciendas from the Tyrant Spanish times to the Terroristic Martial law regime to the Logging Frenzy in the 21st Century. The Acacias here begin to bloom its leaves after being blown by typhoon Juan winds late 2010.
Tabacalera first established its base in the former Capital of Cagayan valley then known as Nueva Segovia in Lallo, Cagayan. It is where the industry played the vital role in the economic development of the Alcadia (Then comprises the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya as a whole).
An antique paper binder left in the open beneath the front stairs and exposed to entrepreneuring thieves who would make use of its copper parts for sale to scrap metal buyers
In 1895, Tabacalera expanded and opened its factory – the “La Flor de Isabela” in what is known before as San Fernando de Ilagan. It acquired properties in what is known as the Haciendas San Antonio, Sta. Isabel (Ilagan) and Hacienda San Luis (Cauayan). The business empire owned by Antonio Lopez-the first Marquis of Comillas; flourished as it also established the Tabacalera Insurance Company and its own shipping business- the Compania Trans-atlantica.
The company enjoyed privileges from the Spanish Monarch until the outset of the Philippine revolution in 1898. Tabacalera lost its special status with the entry of the American occupation where the company has to adjust and compete with other world market players in the industry.
At present the old Tabacalera administration house and its immediate backyard have been sold by its Spanish stewards to the Parish of Ilagan and is now being used as a staff house to priests, lay workers and church leaders.