It has been a month since Cuito was razed to the ground. By now, things could already be seen clearly. That is to say, literally and figuratively. Without the physical structures, you now have a view of nature at its crispest, representing Palawan’s beautiful mountains, seas, and skies. On the other hand, quite reflectively at that, you may also peek into the circumstances of what made Cuito the Cuito we had come to know and acknowledged at this present time, including what we had not yet known and also what we had mistakenly known.

Foremost, how do you spell its name? And why is that place called such? How come it has also been referred to as Brgy. Bagong Silang and Brgy. Pagkakaisa? Other villages nearby are also being considered part of it; how come?

For a considerably long period, the place had been mistakenly known as “Quito.” It is both a misspelling and a mispronunciation of the term. The term refers to a capital city somewhere in Latin America. As such, it is pronounced “kee-to.” For us, though, we are used to articulating it as “kwi-to,” or to be more realistic, according to our local twang, “kwi-tû”.

Several of us, however, would contend with Cuyito. It was believed that the Spaniards of that era, particularly the earlier missionaries, had observed settlers arriving from the island of Cuyo. As such, they came to describe it as a little Cuyo. Notwithstanding, Cuyito would now stand as a three-syllable word. “Cu-yi-to” will prove to be a betrayal of the term, especially given the accepted pronunciation we now come to use. As a result, Cuito has evolved to become the more correct term as it pertains to the said corner of our city. Cuyito, which is also a Spanish word, would already mean a different creature. You would be talking now of a “guinea pig.” I am reminded of a book (for children) entitled “Los Cuentos de Cuyito,” authored by Nobel Prize winner Miguel Angel Asturias. What has that animal got to do with the place after all? Otherwise, let grammarians or doctors of linguistics finally put an end to this worthwhile debate, which could unearth a lot more issues about our local culture.

Furthermore, how far and wide is Cuito? While the news featured the two abovementioned barangays in the campaign “Help Quito,” its area, however, extends far beyond them. Old land titles would claim ownership of the area. Other barangays, like Bagong Sikat, Maunlad, and Tanglaw, to name just a few, had all their locations listed in the old documents as Cuyito. It is stated thus: Barangay Bagong Sikat, Cuyito, Puerto Princesa. Interestingly, if the first site is considered a barangay while the last is a town or city, how does the middle stand in the address? In some other places, this is accounted for as a district (Sampaloc in Manila, and Jaro in Iloilo, among others). For us, however, this is still nonexistent.

Be that as it may, Cuito could admittedly figure as a “barrio.” This Spanish term is defined as a “neighborhood” or a section of a city. Likewise, a barrio is considered an area or a portion of a town or a city that is populated by ethnic groups. That said, Cuito is thus an ethnic enclave for those who came from Cuyo, Palawan’s distinguished town, as a cradle of cultural identity and religious traditions. On the contrary, over time, a barrio has metamorphosed to connote a ghetto or an impoverished place, at times with a rather disgraceful image. Would this also apply to Cuito?

Currently, the place is undergoing reconstruction (of their lives, more importantly) on the part of families affected by fire and construction projects from the government side. A two cents’ worth on the forgoing hopefully may not do any harm. What makes a community or society truly founded? Certainly, it is not just about economics or arbitrary building structures.

Similarly, it could not simply be about people congregating in the same place, premised on somewhat shallow belongingness as groupings or associations. It goes without saying that concern for the integrity of creation must be rendered crucial, as it will prove to be significantly important in the landscape of development. All said, to reclaim the beauty and the rightness of the place, a collective, common effort must be called for. And on this line, culture does matter, while history is downright vital. And while we are at it, Cuito, or Cuyo, for that matter, has depth and richness as regards culture and history.