November 27, 2022

The Datu Kalon Memorial in Lamitan City. (Contributed photo)

Residents of Lamitan City, Basilan celebrated Lami-Lamihan Festival in honor of a Spanish-era Caviteño who, by twist of fate, became a datu in the province.
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Cotabato City, Philippines

Residents of Lamitan City, Basilan celebrated Lami-Lamihan Festival in honor of a Spanish-era Caviteño who, by twist of fate, became a datu in the province.

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Barangay officials and sectoral leaders, led by the newly-elected Mayor Roderick Furigay, commemorated the life, works and examples of good governance by Datu Kalon, whose real name was Pedro Javier Cuevas, in Lamitan City on Sunday morning, June 26.

While Datu Kalon was a stranger in Basilan, he became a datu in the island province, whose leadership spanned through the villages in what are now Lamitan City and nearby towns.

He was first jailed by the Spaniards in Cavite for rebellion and, subsequently, exiled in what is now Zamboanga City from where he escaped and sailed to Basilan with the help of natives and, there, sought refuge among Yakans hostile to Spain.

Datu Kalon was chronicled by contemporary historians to have founded Lamitan, a community of mixed Muslims and non-Muslims, in 1886.

Descendants of Datu Kalon have stories of how he settled amicably bloody conflicts among Yakan clans and how his people pulled off deadly attacks on Spaniards who set foot in Basilan.

He was most admired by the Yakans for his strong opposition to Spanish rule, which started while he was in his homeland, Cavite.

Datu Kalun belonged to a wealthy and educated Christian family in Cavite.

At 27, he was incarcerated and sentenced to death, along with two companions, for their militant activities against Spain and direct involvement in the 1872 “Cavite Uprising.”

He bolted from the San Ramon penal colony in what is now Zamboanga City and, from there, proceeded to Basilan, where he eventually got assimilated into the local communities as a datu for his good leadership.

Datu Kalon, to promote interfaith and cultural solidarity among Yakans and non-Yakans, organized the yearly “Paglam-Lamihan” gathering in the old Lamitan to celebrate good harvest and peace in the communities that he led.

It was in 1983 when the local government revived the activity as an annual event via an executive mandate.

In a message during Sunday’s symbolic event, the incoming mayor Furigay, whose third and last term as vice mayor ends on June 30, called on constituents to keep Datu Kalon’s leadership ideals alive.

“Let is work together for the attainment of peace and development in the local communities,” Furigay said.

He also called on Lamitan City residents to support the peace and reconciliation programs of their governor, the now third-termer Jim Salliman. (John Unson)

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