Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Royal Way

In the first Google Earth image below, the main river leading from the Manila Bay to the confluence at the southern portion of Masantol is shown.

The river is flanked by two massive dikes or earthen barriers. Masantol was formerly a barangay (district) of the now-sleepy and backward town of Macabebe. When the Spanish first arrived in this area, Macabebe was one of the largest population centers of what is now the Philippines. The confluence could be known in the local languages as "sambal" or "sabang" and this is the area that I equate with the medieval Zabag.

About half the distance to Masantol is one of its barangays known as Malauli. It is at this point that the water turns from salt/brackish to freshwater. Here also local legend says that the king who opposed Martin de Goiti and the invading Spaniards resided, although now it is very sparsely populated. He is known variously as Rajah Bambalito or Rajah Soliman. Click on the images below for the full image size.

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Medieval texts also state that the king of Zabag lived in a estuary that was salty during high tide and sweet during low tide. One could view such an area as the real beginning of the river, the point at which the sea, represented by saltwater, ends.

In this blog, I have suggested that the king of Zabag was the "Lord of the River" and thus his position at the entrance point would have been traditional. However, we should note that the divergence area of salt and sweet water may have varied over long periods. The king would guarded the way to the emporium at the sabang/confluence or Zabag.

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In the image above, we see a closeup of the confluence near the southern end of Masantol town proper (Barangay Santa Lucia). The dikes, known as pangpang, pampang and bangbang, give the local province its name of "Pampanga." These massive dikes, unlike anything else in the province with houses and roads built on top, begin here at the confluence and end at the mouth of the river along the Manila Bay.

Click on image for full view

In addition to guarding the way to the market of Zabag, the king would even more important control the recognized waterway for visiting the sacred mountains of Pinatubo and Arayat to the north. Visitors could continue on boat using the rivers to reach Betis from where they presumably would proceed on foot. The distance from Masantol to Pinatubo is about 28.5 miles as the crow flies, and 19.5 miles to Arayat.

View Larger Map

You can grab this image above with your mouse, or use the arrows, to navigate up the river toward Masantol.