Rizal Vice Mayor Ferdinand Sumague would rather call it an “Municipal Identity Crisis,” saying that even government officials from other municipalities are oblivious of his town’s existence. “We always have to go through some series of questioning: Where in Rizal are you from? Montalban? Tanay? Is it possible to have a province within a province?” he says. Even after explaining that the town is in Laguna, he adds, the next question will be: Where is it? Rizal town, with a population of only 15,000 and a land area of 27 square kilometers, is at the center of the more popular towns of Nagcarlan and Calauan, and San Pablo City, which amplifies the disparity.
“At least we have here the shortest highway. Only five kilometers,” Sumague says in jest.
Sumague believes the “confusing identity,” to begin with, has hampered the municipality’s progress for the past 92 years since its foundation. With a yearly income of only around P31 million, Rizal was pinned to the bottom among all 30 Laguna municipalities. “We need to have our own identity, first,” Sumague says. Thus, town officials undertook their research and stumbled last month upon a piece of history about a 560-meter plateau in the remote village of Tala called the Tayak Hill. This, they say, is the key to Rizal’s progress.
According to the books titled “Guerrilla Interview,” authored by David Dwiggins, and “For Love of Freedom,” by Juan Hernandez, the Tayak Hill served as the command post of the Filipino-American Irregular Troops under a certain Col. Gertrudo San Pedro during World War II.
The book reveals that in January 1945, San Pedro’s unit saved three American soldiers aboard a faulty plane that swooped down near the area. The site, the records add, gave the soldiers a vantage view of Laguna. About an hour’s walk from the plateau is an 11-km field where Filipino and American troops built a 300-meter runway for aircraft that flew forces in and out. In February 1945, the field was used as a dropping point for food, medicine supplies and war materials. It was also on this airstrip that Virginia Llamas Romulo took off to rejoin her husband, Gen. Carlos Romulo, in Mindoro.
(“Even records at the municipal government did not have this (information) until today,” Sumague says.)
The municipal government has tagged the area as the “The Landing Point,” and is set to build a replica of a US Air Force L-4 Observation plane that once landed there in 1945. Sumague says this will serve as a historical landmark for Rizal, which he hopes would begin to attract tourists to the town.
“People go to Nagcarlan because of the underground cemetery. San Pablo has the seven lakes. Calauan is known for its pineapples, while Liliw is known as the tsinelas (slippers) capital. Now, Rizal will be known as “Tayak Hill, The Landing Point, and Camp Bakod na Bato” he says.
Sumague, who also heads the municipal tourism office, says the tourism project includes establishing an adventure park atop the Tayak Hill. A Sports Tourism Adventure—triathlon, airsoft and paintball competitions, and paragliding—will be held. “Regular sports activities will also give tourists reason for coming back”, Sumague says.
“Other towns are already (at the stage) of promoting (their products). But us, we have just started,” the vice mayor says.