Cubi’s Pointed Mystery

Place name origins present a deep pool of myth and urban legend and imagination often overtakes reality. There may be cultural significance in the frequent claim that some name is the result of a misunderstanding.

An example is a claim that the name of Limasawa emerged because the Spanish asked how many wives the local rajah had and was told “Lima y asawa“, which the Spanish assumed was the name of the place. If you want to have a shot at explaining why that notion doesn’t make sense, leave a comment below.

Cubi Point in Subic Bay has been provided with similar explanations for its name, which I came across while working as a volunteer for the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, SBMA in the mid-1990s. Those familiar with it will know the story of Radford’s Folly, more properly Radford Field and designated US Naval Air Station, built during the Korean War.

The story of how NAS Radford Field came to be built deserves a future post all to itself but for now, it involved the removal of an entire village, along with their carabao in great tar buckets floated across the bay to become New Banikayin in Olongapo, the flattening of a mountain almost to sea level and the creation of an airstrip modelled upon an aircraft carrier. It was a remarkable construction project.

For now, let’s look at the name, Cubi.

Popular legend has two explanations. One is that ut derived from Construction Unit Battalion 1, which is said to have built the airstrip; the second suggests that it comes from the notation “Can U build it?” on a piece of military documentation. Let’s take a look at those legends.

Certainly, it was built by the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion,  MCB, but it was built by MCB 3 and MCB 5, not MCB 1, and there is no “Construction Battalion Unit 1”. So that explanation does not work.

As for “Can U build it?”, we haven’t found such a notation but even if it did exist, it still could not explain the name Cubi Point because that name long predated any American presence in the area.

When the Americans claimed the Philippines, the famous Father  José María Algué, SJ, of the Manila Observatory was in the process of producing an atlas of the Philippines. This was published by the USGS in 1900, long predating NAS Cubi Point. If you click on the above picture you’ll see a larger version of the map, which shows that the promontory was already called Cuby Point.

To seal the deal, Camilo de Arana,’s Derrotero del Archipiélago Filipino of 1879  has an entry for Punto Cuby  at the entrance to the port of Olongapo.

In other words, the name has nothing to do with the Americans at all.

So, where did the name come from?  As it happenes we have a likely answer to that:

Cubi, cuby or kubi in Tagalog, is a tree found in mixed dipterocarp forests like that of Subic Bay, scientifically known as Artocarpus nitidus Trécul, which grows about 15 metres high and bears an edible, if not particularly tasty fruit.

Such a tree would be a useful aid to navigation “Go starboard when you see the point where the Kubi trees grow.”

So, Cubi Point was named after a tree, but maybe you have other explanations>










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