Thus the town’s name in Spanish; it is literally translated as “The Baths” in English.
The numerous hot springs located at the foot of Mount Maquiling usually comes to mind when the name Los Baños, a first-class urban municipality in Laguna southwest of Calambâ (or 63 kilometers southeast of Manila), pops up in conversations. Geothermally heated groundwater deep from the Earth’s crust produces these hot springs’s. It is said that Monte de Maquiling, which is actually a dormant volcano, will not explode anymore because the heat which is supposed to fuel its explosiveness is channeled through these hot springs that are now converted into popular resorts for short-time vacationers. Also, the sulfuric content of the waters are said to have healing properties for various ailments such as arthritis. And this was discovered by a friar.
Before the coming of the Spaniards, what is now known as Los Baños used to be known as Maynit, the Tagalog word for hot (that term is now spelled as maínit). Maynit was then a part of the ancient lakeside kingdom of Bay until 1589 when a Franciscan, Fray Pedro Bautista, discovered the place. Upon the discovery of the Maynit’s hot springs, he had them examined by fellow Franciscan, Fray Francisco de Gata, who was an expert in medicine. That is how they discovered the hot springs’ medicinal properties whereupon they established a hospital there for the natives (that hospital serviced the sick up to the last century).
Years later, San Pedro Bautista was martyred together with twenty-five other Christians in Japan. He was later declared as a saint. The people of Los Baños should take pride that it was founded by a saint.
Strangely, while the natural waters of Los Baños are hot —enough to boil an egg for about half an hour—, the five streams coursing through it (Dampalít, Saran, Pilì, Mulauin, and Maitím) are not.
Below are more photos of my visit to Los Baños’ town proper (población) two months ago (8/10/2010).
Aside from the town’s many hot springs resort, not to mention Mt. Maquiling, Los Baños was also known as the site of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, commonly known by its initials UPLB. The school is one of the University of the Philippines System’s six constituent universities. First known as the College of Agriculture in 1909, UPLB became a full-fledged university in 1972. It’s location is strategic and so conducive to learning: nestled at the very foot of Mt. Maquiling.
Speaking of Mt. Maquiling, tucked somewhere in the forests of the mountain is the The National Arts Center of the Philippines (NACP), a haven for young and aspiring artists. Indeed, the mythical splendor of Mt. Maquiling’s forests is also conducive to the spirit of learning and inspiration for these young artists. The NACP also houses the Philippine High School for for the Arts. The school provides scholarship for young gifted Filipinos whom it wishes to mould into great artists someday.
Aside from the UPLB and the NACP, the picturesque town of Los Baños is also the site of the famed International Rice Research Institute, the Philippine Council For Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development, the eco-tourism site Pook ni María Makiling, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, and various other institutions dedicated to nature, eco-tourism, and the environment. As such, this historic town was declared as the Philippines’ Science and Nature City under former President Joseph Estrada’s Proclamation No. 349 on 17 September 2000.
Paciano Rizal Shrine
“Él es mucho más fino y serio que yo; es más grande y más delgado, no es tan moreno, con una nariz fina, bella y aguda, pero tiene piernas curvadas.” —José Rizal’s description of his brother in a letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt—
Indeed, this town is even made more historic because this is where José Rizal’s brother Paciano breathed his last.
The mysterious Paciano Rizal (1851-1930) was the second of eleven in the Rizal/Mercado brood. He was a disciple of the controversial and martyred priest, Fr. José Burgos. It was from Paciano who Rizal imbibed much of the martyred priest’s nationalist/secularist ideals.
It was Paciano who, in a way, “recruited” his younger brother into joining Masonry by secretly sending the latter to Europe (without their parents’ knowledge!). Although not much has been written about Paciano’s association with The Craft, it should be carefully noted that Paciano worked with Fr. Burgos in the Comité de Reformadores, an organization which had many Masons in its roster (it should come as a surprise as to why Fr. Burgos, a Catholic priest, worked with such a committee at all). The said organization was also backed up by the liberal Governor-General Carlos María dela Torre, himself a high-ranking Mason.
It is therefore safe to conclude (as concluded by many other scholars) that Rizal’s early notions of liberal-mindedness was from his Cuya Paciano. Paciano was Rizal’s first “bridge” to the liberal tumult of 1872.
After Rizal’s execution, it was written that Paciano escaped to Cavite to join the rebellion against Spain. Many historians even wrote that he reached the rank of a general and saw action in Santa Cruz, La Laguna. Later, during the American invasion, he was captured somewhere in the province. Subsequently, after American subjugation, he lived a life of peace in his modest Los Baños enclave.
Iglesia de Inmaculada Concepción
It is sad that this centuries-old church no longer bear its original features because it was bombed beyond recognition by the Americans’ careless and almost useless carpet bombing in the area during World War II. Although there were indeed Japanese soldiers that had to be annihilated, it was not really necessary to bomb churches. Such frenzy in bombing various churches in the country —from Intramuros to Antipolo to Los Baños— leads a critically thinking mind to suspect that there could have been (and must have been) a hidden agenda, and that the so-called “liberation” of the Philippines from the Japanese Imperial Army is only part of a veiled attempt (and a good excuse) to destroy the Filipino identity. Collateral damage, so to speak. But that’s for another blogpost.
The previous war also explains why only a few Filipino houses (bahay na bató) are left in Los Baños.
The church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception no longer carries the sterling qualities and architecture that is known of Filipino churches during the Spanish period. However, despite its small size and the apparent lack of expected Filipino architectural aesthetics, its modernity —most especially its interiors— still hold a distinctive flavor which could not be compared to churches found in other countries. It still is Filipino. Also, it has a “mini cupola” situated right above the retablo, something rarely seen in both old and modern churches.
Thankfully, Los Baños still has the rural flavor that many aficionados of things pastoral will surely love. It can be said that Los Baños is the divisoria of La Laguna’s urban and rural side: the towns north of it are fast beoming clones of Metro Manila; the towns to its south remain rustic. Los Baños features both. Truly, Los Baños is an odd mix of old and new, of faith and anti-faith, of religion and science, of arts and commercialism, of rural and urban. But above all, Los Baños’ propensity for being a haven of some of the country’s most diverse flora and fauna is one treasure that it has to protect, conserve, and respect not only for the sake of eco-tourism and nature itself but also for the sake of future Los Bañenses.