Ronda’s Past Names

In most instances, the ability to know the origin of a town's name presents not much of a puzzle to solve. The case of Ronda, however, is interestingly unique.

Based on historical records, the town has already been bestowed three different names. The oldest of these names was "Pungtud," which was derived from the name of the town's founder: Tu Pungtud. He was known among his followers as a great leader, a datu who lived sometime in the 1700's. Even to this day there is a place in the town near the seashore which bears the original name.

The succeeding names given to the town, strangely, are riddled with a lot of questions which border on the mysterious. The second name Holoyazv, which replaced the original, is a case in point. Then there is the equally troubling truth about its third and present name—Ronda. The origins of these two names present quite a dilemma not only to scholars but even to ordinary folks in the present age. Every so often, due to scarcity of verifiable sources, the tendency is always to rely on mere speculation and hearsay as is presented by proponents rather than on solid factual data.  Nevertheless, for purposes of comparison, both names are here given ample treatment.

If anything, there is one attribute uncommon about the town's latter names. This is due to the undeniable fact that it bears at least three different interpretations which through time have become part of the town's cultural facade and have been crafted in the people's subconscious psyche. A situation such as this inevitably calls for some assumption. It is safe to assume, for instance, that the town must have gained a reputation in the olden days. Otherwise, no one would have bothered to think about its prior and proper names. As William Shakespeare once asked, "What's in a name?" This question by the great bard denotes both interest and intrigue to anyone who hears the name being asked.

Regarding the second name "Holoyaw", it may be interpreted in three ways. Its first interpretation can be derived from what nature has given it quite profusely, namely, the kind of plant that used to thrive in the place. It is said that back in the olden days, a rare species of banana called "Holoyaw" used to grow abundantly along the banks of a river. As regards the exact river, one can never tell with absolute certainty. Ronda has lots of rivers or creeks which flow in almost every barrio or sitio. Like the ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians, the river served as a source of livelihood for the Rondahanons of old. And since most of their activities revolved around the river, they could not help but notice something that was quite common in their surroundings—the presence of the tropical banana. It is quite obvious then that the first settlers called the place "Holoyaw" because of the abundance of such plant in their surroundings.

At present, however, none among the existing settlers of the place, at least those who have been living here for so long, could attest as to the existence of the variety of banana called "holoyaw." Most of them would invariably say they have never seen that variety of banana before.

The second interpretation of the name "Holoyaw" has something to do with what actually happened prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. This southern town, just like the others adjacent to it, was quite susceptible to attacks by sea-faring bandits coming from several places of origin. But the most prominent of these unfriendly groups were those that came from an island in Southern Mindanao: Jolo, Sulu. These "moro" pirates, as they were called, had the uncanny habit of frequenting the town and ravaging it of its natural riches.

The natives, of course, did not take matters by just sitting down. They were left with no other choice but to defend both their lives and their place by driving away the invaders, for fear that the Muslims might deprive them of their heritage. As a sign of protest, they shouted in one voice, "Jolo Ayaw!", a Cebuano expression which meant: "Jolo, don't!" Metal clashed against metal or slingshot pitted against another slingshot as the natives bravely fought for survival in what may be described as a battle royale between two equally brave forces. For most of the local natives then, anybody who was a Muslim naturally came from Jolo in Mindanao and was hence considered an archenemy. Time and again the natives had to express their categorical disapproval of the moro raids by saying, "Jolo Ayaw!"

Several generations passed after the first encounter with the enemy. But each new one kept uttering the same two words with renewed interest, a living reminder of their forefathers' relentless effort to drive away the invaders from the south, until at last the words became fermented in time to form just one magical name of the place: "Holoyaw."

In the third interpretation, the same words "Jolo" and "ayaw" are used, though this time the connotation is rather different. Whereas in the previous one the words signify a defiance to the tormentors' act of aggression—that is, the Muslim pirates' invasion—in the third the words would now refer to some

domestic quarrel. Based on oral tradition, the town's founder Tu Pungtod and his wife Ta Bugtai, had a quarrel one day as to what name should be given to the place where they were staying.8 The two were safely cuddled in the uppermost portion of Liboo Hill, purportedly to hide from the invaders, when by chance one of them suggested a name to be given to the place. To Pungtod started by saying that it should be called "Jolo", owing to the fact that the Muslims frequented the place. Though it was no secret that such event really happened, the wife didn't quite agree to her husband's proposal. In response, Ta Bugtai, the wife gave her vehement rejection by saying "ayaw!" or "No!" In complete sentence, Ta Bugtai might have said something like: "I don't like that name to be given to our place!"

The altercation lasted for days, perhaps even weeks or months with no apparent resolution in sight until at last a happy compromise was reached. This happened when both of them finally decided to combine the two words "Jolo" and "ayaw" and come up with one name, "Holoyaw." A marriage of two words, one Muslim and the other Cebuano, thus took place, reverberating to the native tongue's daily conversations for several ages to come.

A fourth interpretation still has something to do with the constant threat of the presence of Muslims from Jolo. This time, though, the name implies a slight reluctance on the part of the natives to resist the invaders.

According to one source, the name "Joloyaw" is a combination of two words, "Jolo" and "Kuyaw", a Cebuano term for "fear".9 The mows often plundered and captured people to become their slaves. They also killed people and looted their things in the household.10Because the Muslims were a dangerous race, who often killed their conquered victims, they were feared among the Cebuanos, particularly by the Rondahanons. The term "Jolo" was often associated to "kuyaw", which in time became a mantra of sorts. And just like anything that smacks of danger, the name later on instilled in the minds of its listeners a dark moment of their ancestors' past.

If the second name of the town is puzzling enough, its present name is equally, if not even more, enigmatic. And just as there are three interpretations related to the town's second name, there are likewise three for the present one. Following are the explanations for each.

The first of these interpretations has something to do with the resistance movement happening during the Spanish period. It is said that back in the old days, Ronda was once a favorite hide-out for rebels who were unsympathetic to the colonization campaign of Spain.11 It must be clearly understood, however, that these rebels were other-towners, or those who lived outside Ronda but chose to stay in the place for safety. A closer look at the town's natural terrain would reveal one thing. If the rugged contours of the town were to be made the basis for choosing the best place to hide, one would unwillingly stick to the plains but, rather, go some place where one would become "invisible" from the onslaught of the Spanish soldiers. And the most logical choice would be the hill called Malalay, which until the present is known for its rough terrain, a natural obstacle

for climbers wishing to reach its apex. In fact, this hill became the hide-out for the guerillas or suspected rebels who fought against the Japanese during World War II.12 Now, when the Spaniards knew where the rebels (a.k.a. insurrectos) were hiding, their natural instincts told them to make surprise raids (ronda) in the place. Subsequent raids took place one after the other to quell further uprisings until the insurrectos gave up to the Spaniards. Thus, due to the frequent raids occurring every year, the place came to be known as Ronda.

The second popular theory that is being passed around to explain the origin of the name "Ronda" has something to do with the usual practice among barrio folks of having a "Market Day", which is known locally as "Tabo."13 It is said that while the natives, led by their chieftain To Pungtod, were gathered in the town's market square, a group of Spanish soldiers brandishing their swords came passing by. Surprised at what they saw and most likely terrified, the natives immediately abandoned their stations and scampered like chickens. Running as fast as they could was their only chance for survival in the midst of imminent danger. Why they had to do it was quite obvious: they thought that the bearded strangers were after them and so they had to run for their lives to avoid persecution. Despite the flurry, nonetheless, one man bravely stood his ground. To Pungtod, the town's chieftain, remained calm yet ready to face the strangers. This was only proper understandably since he was the acknowledged leader of the place. And he wasn't mistaken, for after seeing his friendliness and statesman-like character, the Spaniards asked him for the name of the place they stumbled into. Not knowing a word in Spanish and probably surmising that they perhaps were asking for an explanation why his compatriots ran away, the native chieftain simply replied in Cebuano by saying: "Nahadlok sila sa ronda!"{They were afraid of the raid!). The Spaniards, who never had any interpreter at that time, could not understand a single word from the reply except the word "ronda." Thus, they thought the place was probably called "Ronda."

A third interpretation is based on the Spaniards' impression upon seeing the town for the first time. As early as the year 1565, a small group of these foreigners went to survey the place.14 The Spaniards found the natives quite friendly, and so they asked the chieftain to call for a meeting of the inhabitants.15 Finding no problem with having a meeting with the visitors, the natives agreed. During the said meeting, the Spanish spokesman expressed the noble intentions of Spain and its representatives in visiting the place. The visitors told the natives that they found it hard to pronounce the name "Holoyaw". They further explained that they were so amazed at what they saw for the place had a striking resemblance to their own town of origin somewhere in Spain. According to them, "Holoyaw," as the name of the village used to be called, was flanked by two highlands—that of Liboo Hill in Barangay Liboo and Cambun-an Hill in Barangay Sta. Cruz—a familiar site that reminded them of a place called Ronda in Spain.

Because of such strong similarity, the Spaniards could not help but use the same name to call the place. Hence, the village came to be known as Ronda.

Whichever interpretation one may choose to explain the given names of the town must certainly have a compelling reason for doing so. In the final analysis, the reader is given free rein to decide which of the above-mentioned theories he would most likely prefer to dispel varied doubts about the veracity of existing interpretations. Nevertheless, the following synthesis by the author is here presented for further analysis of the prevailing dilemma caused by the choices one has to make in making an authentic assessment of the town's name origin.

If there is one common thread that binds together all the interpretations surrounding the origin of the town's first name, it has to be the constant reference to the presence of the Muslims in the area, which was once considered a threat to the people in the south. As the name "Holoyaw," alone suggests, there is overwhelming evidence to prove that the people from Jolo frequented the place, a fact so obvious it was often mentioned in the histories of other southern towns which, one way or the other, had some unhappy experience with the Muslim invaders in the past. Due to such undeniable occurrence, one can only deduce without fear of committing a "non sequitur" (literally, an argument which does not follow), that the name "Holoyaw" could be traced to the local dwellers' fear and hatred of their most avowed enemy. Whether or not it is grammatically correct to say that the suffix "yaw" attached to the word "Holo" is a contraction to either of the Cebuano terms "ayaw" (don't or no) or "kuyaw" (frightening) is of small significance compared to the more revealing truth about the Moro raids.

The problem of semantics would have to give way to the tangible proofs of historicity where evidence to the contrary can at best be relegated to mere hearsay.

As regards the latter name Ronda, one has to take note that such a name is, obviously, of Spanish origin. Given such circumstance, there is great possibility that the name must have been given by someone of Spanish descent. In fact, most of the towns in the Philippines bearing Spanish names are christened by none other than the Spanish missionaries who were once assigned in these islands.

As for the exact reason why the town had to receive the name it now bears, there seems to be no better explanation than the one mentioned above —that is, the impression that was held by the Spanish missionaries who first visited the place. According to them, the place had a strong resemblance to their own hometown back in Spain. There was immediate recollection of, coupled by an obvious nostalgic effect derived from, the place where they had left thousands of miles away: a village flanked by two highlands such as the one they saw for the very first time. The result was an immediate and categorical proposal to call the place "Ronda". 

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