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- Location: 13,750 feet above sea level
The most popular yarn about how Tago got its name involves three Tagon-on women hiding from unseen enemy soldiers on a cloudy Tuesday, six full moons after the First World War broke out. Just as they were about to enter their hideaway, an American soldier emerged from a bamboo clump, holding a rifle with his right hand and three limp roosters with his left. When he asked them what the name of the place was, the women, who didnâ€™t speak English, thought he was asking them what they were doing. And so they chorused, â€œYag Tago (weâ€™re hiding).â€
He left and told his companions that the place was called Tago. And the name stuck!
But thereâ€™s a far less simplistic and more interesting tale about Tagoâ€™s provenance that came out in 2005, in a crude two-page computer generated gazette, written in Visayan, published and sold at P10 a copy by Ex-Mayor Petronilo Salas. Passed on by oral tradition, the story was culled by Salas from Alpio Prado, Emilio Pareja, and Atty. Garcia of Tago; Rafael Consuegra and Antonio de la Casa of Cagwait; Juan Montero and Hilario Murillo of Bayabas; Manuel Perez and Pedro Oribe of San Miguel; and Uldarico Navales, Asay Tello Quintos, and Manolo Serra of Tandag.
Central to the tale was Tiago, a Mamanwa who lived in that part of Tandag now known as Kabugan. Then populated by Mamanwas, Kabugan was a social ghetto quite far from the municipal site of Tandag that then straddled the present areas of Dagocdoc and Bontud.
Tiago and his family left Kabugan when residents of Dagocdoc and Bontud began building their homes in Barangay Tondo near the present Moonglow. His departure was in keeping with the implicit caste system then (and even now!) that natives like Mamanwas were not to live anywhere near Christians as they were unlettered, uncultured, and unbaptized.
(What brought this exodus of Dagocdoc and Bontud residents to Kabugan was the constant attack of Tandag by Moro pirates who wanted to snatch their brothers held captive in Fort San Nicolas, a cota of the Spanish soldiers that stood where the present commercial complex of Tandag sits. Made of piled anapog rocks about five fathoms high and fitted with canons, Fort San Nicolas faced the twin Linungaw Islands, providing the Spanish soldiers a vantage view of the sea that Moro pirates took as route to attack Tandag.)
Tiago and his family went south, towards the hunasan of La Paz, in an islet dense with mangroves and nipa, near the estuary of Tago River. They cleared some three hectares of land and built their home, dotting the surroundings with fruit trees and rootcrops.
At night, Tiagoâ€™s nameless island became a hunting ground for food by migratory kago (an archaic term for kabog, a nocturnal bird that reeks like urine) from Mancagangi and Linungaw Islands. Using contraptions that included a kite fitted with hooks, Tiago caught some of these kago, butchered them and gave some of the meat to strangers who passed by. When these strangers, who didnâ€™t bother to ask Tiagoâ€™s name, were asked where they got the bird meat, they would say "kan kago" (from kago), referring to Tiago. And that was how Tiago became known as Kago. It was not said however whether this was in admiration of Tiagoâ€™s benevolence or in ridicule of his smelling like the avian meat he shared.
And so it happened that people flocked to the island to ask for bird meat and later named it "Kan Kago" or Kago's.
Years rolled by. Then came the outbreak of cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever and small pox in Tandag, forcing some residents to flee south to seek refuge. And again they found Tiagoâ€™s place. As expected, Tiago and some Mamanwa families eventually deserted their homes after selling to Christian squatters, through barter, their belongings like platters, plates, earthen pots, kettles, ax, whetstones, among others.
Tiago was said to have resettled in Alba where he was later baptized, assuming the name of Santiago Suazo. The Suazos of today are believed to be Tiago's descendants.
The families that acquired the "kan Kago" island were the Monteros, Falcons, Prados, and Laurentes. They later changed the name from Kan Kago to Tago in reference to the place where they hid. This adjectival allusion to an island both secluded and obscure was why Tago was originally pronounced with the accent on the second syllable and not without stress as it is uttered today.
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- ronald e. Osborn