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Too many “official” hashtags for the upcoming papal visit?

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In recent years, hashtags have become the lifeblood for social media’s dynamism, real-time qualities, and fast connectivity to other people sharing the same message or news online. Twitter set the wheels in motion, then other social media giants such as Facebook and Instagram followed suit upon noticing its popularity and usefulness. Hashtagging has now become a big deal in the Internet. Today, we have become a world fixated in hashtags. Even politicians, big business, and religious leaders find it riveting and, in the long run, useful especially in popularizing ideas and messages. And even one’s agenda.

In the past few months leading to Pope Francis’ visit to our country which will happen within this week, we have come across so many “official” hashtags for his historic and spiritual visit. Rappler has #PopeFrancisPH. ABS-CBN uses #PopeTYSM. And so on and so forth.

While these local media giants have all the right to popularize their own hashtag on the upcoming papal visit, let it be known that they are not official. There is only one official hashtag for Pope Francis’ visit. And that is…

#PapalVisitPH is the only official hashtag to Pope Francisco’s visit to Filipinas.

To declare that #PapalVisitPH is the only official hashtag is not being selfish. It’s just setting the record straight that an official hashtag referring to the papal visit should come, of course, from the Catholic Church and not from secular institutions, especially those who are forwarding their LGBT agenda while sucking up to the Pope for recognition.

La Laguna Lakeshore Tour (dry run)

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FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES & WITH ONE’S PAST present: La Laguna Lakeshore Tour (dry run)! Image design by NCCA’s León.

We prayed for sunny skies. And we got more than what we bargained for. The weather wasn’t just fine during the dry run of our La Laguna Lakeshore Tour venture last November 16 — it was literally dry. So dry it was I thought summer swapped months with the cold season! Nevertheless, we were thankful for the cooperative weather because we were able to enjoy fully our walkathon of our selected lakeshore towns.

As discussed in a podcast two Sundays ago, me and Mr. With One’s Past are planning of making a guided tour of La Laguna Province. To start the ball rolling, we thought of doing a dry run scheduled for November 16, another Sunday. And since the only marketing tool we have at the moment is social media, we thought of publicizing about the dry run in Facebook and Twitter. Arnaldo doesn’t have a personal Facebook account, so I did most of the announcing (with some help from wifey). Those I had in mind were our former colleagues from APAC Customer Services (Los Ángeles Times account). I wrote a post about it on my wall, then tagged people left and right as I was not really expecting a lot to join. Surprisingly, many showed interest, even those outside of our LAT circle of friends. Even some members of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts confirmed their attendance which was a positive sign.

The only problem is that we were unprepared for that overwhelming reception. Logistics became a problem. Arnaldo wasn’t able to find a cheap but comfortable ride. So we had to content ourselves with his car which could only fit a maximum of four to five passengers. Good thing that one of his friends, a former subordinate of his, volunteered to bring his own car which could carry five more. We then had to limit our number of guests, trimming them down to eight (which included a five-year-old girl). Grudgingly, we had to turn down many others who had wanted to join.

On the eve of the tour, Arnaldo dropped by our place to make more plans on how we are going to conduct the tour. It was drizzling the whole day; we were so thankful that, on the next day, we woke up to sunny skies. Our prayers were answered.

Meeting place was at Alabang, Muntinlupà (at the firestation near Festival Supermall). The exciting part is that all of those who were to meet us do not know each other. And me and Arnaldo do not know all of them, either. Three were from the NCCA: Rei, León, and Myra (well, she used to be). The other one is Cuya Joey, a former colleague of mine from APAC’s Unicare account who blogs at Manila Labyrinth. The one who brought a car was Jemuel. Jemuel brought with him two friends of his: former colleague Teng who in turn tagged along her little daughter Amara, and Ruel who is also a history buff.

After some quick introductions and debriefing about the tour, we boarded our rides. Me and Krystal (who served as our photographer) rode in Jemuel’s car with his group while the rest joined Arnaldo’s. We all left at around 8:00 AM and then arrived at the Rizal Shrine in Calambâ in less than an hour. What greeted us there was unexpected from a usually slow Sunday morning at the town proper — hordes of high school students delivered by huge buses! It somehow dampened my momentum because I was already revved up for what I was about to say during the tour of the house. There was a quick change of plan; we proceeded to the town church first to show them where exactly the National Hero was baptized.

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista (Calambâ).

We returned to the shrine a few minutes later, but the hundreds of students who were still lined up towards the entrance were crammed like MRT passengers during rush hour. Since we were not part of the field trip, we gained easy access. But the noise, not to mention the heat because of so many people, made me dizzy and uncomfortable. I’ve never seen so many people at the Rizal Shrine, even during those Rizal Day ceremonies that I have attended in the past. Fortunately, we survived. I was still able to explain to them the parts of a bahay na bató, with Arnaldo pitching in from time to time. Outside the shrine, both of us gave more interesting historical tidbits about the “Hometown of the National Hero“.

José Rizal Shrine (Calambâ). From left to right: Ruel, Jemuel, Teng with her daughter Amara, León, Arnaldo, me, Myra, Rei, and Cuya Joey.

Our next stop was for lunch. Surprisingly, traffic was a breeze at the national highway near the UPLB area. Then we realized that it was a Sunday. We arrived at Victoria and dined at the curiously named Itlog Ni Kuya. The theme of this quaint restaurant by the sleepy highway complements the town’s nickname as the “Duck Raising Center of Filipinas” since they serve Victoria’s delicacies: ducks, duck eggs, quail, and related products. Here one can find the best-tasting salted eggs (itlóg na pulá): not too salty nor greasy, but tasty still.

Itlog Ni Kuya (Victoria).

Hearty lunch stopover at the country’s duck raising center.

After a nice meal and some pleasantries, we drove straight to “La Noble Villa de Pila“, the only Lagunense town declared as a National Historical Landmark mainly because of its well-preserved and conserved picturesque ancestral homes and baroque church, all left unscathed —in somewhat miraculous fashion— during the last war which heavily damaged many other towns in the province (thus one reason why Pileños proudly proclaim their town as “Bayang Pinagpalà“).

Both Victoria and Pila have a shared history because the former used to be a part of the latter. In fact, the original town of Pila used to be located in present-day Victoria. The ruins of the original church of Pila can still be seen in Victoria’s Barrio Pagalañgan. All this I explained to them like a boss. Kinda.

Giving a brief background about the beautiful heritage town of Pila.

Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua (Pila).

The NCCA folks and Teng are so amused by Casa Hipólito Rivera’s creative attempt on adaptive reuse. Almost all ancestral homes in Pila are well-preserved, many of which have been turned into business establishments, but without any major alterations done to the houses’ physical features.

After a fun photo-ops around Pila’s picturesque town plaza, we proceeded to nearby Pagsanján, the “Tourist Capital of La Laguna“, so-called mainly because of Bumbuñgan River’s exciting rapids that lead towards the world-famous Pagsanján Falls (which is actually within the territory of Cavinti). But there are more reasons as to why Pagsanján merits this lofty title. One of them is this antique stone arch.

That’s me, Jemuel, and Ruel by the Puerta Real (Royal Gate).

Known as the “Puerta Real” (Royal Gate), this stone arch is made entirely out of adobe with carabao milk and lime used for mortar. It was constructed from 1878 to 1880 and was inaugurated in 1894 by Pedro Paterno, a contemporary of Rizal, who wrote the first Filipino novel entitled “Nínay”. Paterno later became the province’s representative (first district) to the first Philippine Assembly from 1907 to 1909.

The last time I gave this arch a closer look was almost three years ago. It still looked OK back then. But last Sunday, while inspecting the arch with Jemuel and Ruel, I sensed that something was wrong with it. After checking it out closely, I noticed that it was recently coated with cement finish! This unwise move appears to have just happened recently.  This is not good because cement is harmful to adobe. And worse, the historical marker was no longer there!

My golly. Whoever ordered this double desecration of Puerta Real ought to be poured with fresh cement.

Anyway, after that sad discovery, we drove past the arch and slowly passed through “Calle Real” (Royal Road), another one of Pagsanján’s gems. Left and right are handsomely preserved ancestral homes, many of which are older than one’s great grandparents. At the end of that engaging road is the white-painted town church. But before visiting it, Arnaldo thought it best to first visit the semi-abandoned house of the ancestors of our esteemed historian friend, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera.

At the rooftop of the semi-abandoned Casa Gómez, familiarizing our guests with Pagsanján’s geography. One of the earliest settlers, if not the founder, of this house was Francisco Gómez, a 17th-century “alférez” (sub-lieutenant) of Pagsanján who married an india (native) by the name of María Dimaculañgan. Two of their descendants were Premio Zóbel winners: Guillermo Gómez Windham (the first person to have won the prestigious award) in 1922, and our personal friend Guillermo Gómez Rivera in 1975.

It was Arnaldo’s idea to include this in the itinerary, something which I agreed to. Admittedly, this bahay na bató is not tourist material. While some of its old features are still intact, most are already dilapidated. The stairway’s balustrade was said to have been stolen, which I doubt (I suspect it was sold). The “yacál” flooring is already in bad shape. The window panels were no longer in place. The ceiling was a mess. Several informal settlers already live within the house, having made a home out of each “dormitorio“. The purpose of the visit was to instill awareness or an “awakening” among our guests about how today’s generation treat their ancestral homes. Because this kind of treatment often happens in many ancestral houses, most especially in Metro Manila and in surrounding provinces. Such a house in this condition seems out of place in a beautiful heritage town like Pagsanján whose many ancestral houses remain intact and livable.

Afterwards, we walked towards the town church. It’s just nearby since Casa Gómez is right behind it.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Pagsanján).

After exploring the interiors of the church, we walked towards the riverbank which is just a few steps away. The area we went to is where the terminal of the “banqueros” (boatmen of the Pagsanján Rapids) are located. It is the perfect spot to bring tourists in order for them not just to know but to see the origin of the town’s name.

The name Pagsanján originated from the word “pinágsañgahan” which means “branching out” because, coming from Laguna de Bay’s eastern bay to the north, the Lumbán River branches out (“nagsásañga“) into two: Bumbuñgan River to the left which leads straight to the world-famous falls, and Balanac River to the right which goes through the town of Magdalena (see photo below). Before the Spanish advent, Chinese traders often landed in this area where they traded their wares with the natives.

Pagsanján is actually a “bonus” to our lakeshore tour because it is not situated beside Laguna de Bay. It is a landlocked municipality, surrounded by Lumbán to the north, Cavinti to the east, Santa Cruz to the west, and Magdalena to the south.  Its only direct connection to the lake is Lumbán River which it shares with the Municipality of Lumbán. In history, Pagsanján was a mere visita or barrio of Lumbán during Spanish times.

Speaking of Lumbán, “The Embroidery Capital of Filipinas” was next on our itinerary. It was already past three in the afternoon, little Amara was weary, and we were way behind our itinerary. That’s why we decided to stay at Lumbán’s town proper only for a short time. In fact, the impromptu plan was to just drive by the church. But Arnaldo decided to drop off altogether. At the grassy town plaza between the church and the Lumbán River, we gave our guests a brief historical background of the town as well as other interesting tidbits (the lumbán tree, the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, etc.).

Iglesia de San Sebastián el Mártir (Lumbán).

When I shared to them that my kids had an exciting time at the rooftop of the church last January, Cuya Joey wanted to climb as well. Unfortunately, we were running out of time. We really had to leave for the next town. Maybe next time, Cuya Joey. But by then, you will have to pay us and sign that very important waiver so that I can finally push you off from any bell tower we’d climb (insert evil laughter here). :D

Arnaldo and myself sharing historical tidbits about Lumbán. Although we do not employ theatrics and comedy in our tour, we try our best to make what we share as interesting and as accurate as possible but with occasional wit and laughter.

Hurriedly afterwards, we went to Paeté, “The Carving Capital of Filipinas“. Our first stop was the town church. We parked in front of the municipal hall (Teng had to be left behind because Amara was already taking a nap). While walking towards the patio to view the church’s renowned façade, I told the guests to follow me and not to look at the façade just yet. They were wondering why. Several meters away from the façade, I climbed a concrete planter box (a note to environmentalists: no plants or animals were harmed during the dry run of our tour). I told the rest to join me. Upon climbing, I then told them that they can finally turn around to look at the church. They were all astounded with the view…

Iglesia de Santiago Matamoros (Paeté).

I always recommend that very spot whenever viewing the church of Paeté. When I brought Krystal here last November 2, I bid her to do the same. She’s been hearing so much from me about this spectacular view of the churchc. That’s why she was excitedly obedient when I told her not to look at the church until she had climbed the concrete planter box. She couldn’t contain the excitement and glee on her face when she finally saw the splendid vista. Indeed, Paeté Church is best viewed from this distance because it includes Monte Humaráp behind it, thus giving out a picturesquely breathtaking effect.

The centuries-old paintings of José Luciano Dans inside Paeté Church.

At Paeté Church, we had time to climb the bell tower since that town was our penultimate stop, anyway. Jemuel and I accompanied bell-tower freak Cuya Joey up the campanario (it was just my second time up there). From the bell tower, one can have a 360° view of the town. Up there, the vista of the town’s multicolored houses, of Mount Humaráp’s lush greenery, and of Laguna de Bay’s sparkling eastern bay, coupled with a strong, fresh breeze, is simply indescribable. It makes you want to scream and be stoic at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Jemuel.

However, it is not advisable to climb up the tower without proper supervision — my supervision to be exact, haha. But seriously, the wooden ladder inside the bell tower is already ancient and rickety. And outside the dome, the terrace is very low, making it scary to walk or even stand upright. That is why if you want to experience the euphoria that this height offers, you will have to book a tour with us.

Only boring people will get tired of visiting Paeté’s cultural landmark: Kape Kesada Art Gallery. This place also serves coffee, including the expensive Kopi Luwak. With us is Bevs, the friendly owner‘s trusted assistant.

We also passed by the popular Kape Kesada Art Gallery where we had some freshly brewed coffee. Too bad our friend Dr. Nilo Valdecantos, the owner of the place, was away to attend to some urgent matter. I was hoping that he would deliver a Tagalog ode to our group, hehe. But his trusted girl Friday Bevs was there to attend to us. Some of the group also strolled around Calle Quesada to shop for some woodwork. A lady vendor selling quesong putî (a delicacy of Lumbán and Santa Cruz) also dropped by to sell her wares. Two woodcarvers were working on a bulky piece of wood, trying to fashion out of it perhaps a dog. We also saw two caucasians who sat in front of the gallery drinking beer. Culang na lang si Vice President Bínay.

During our coffee break, we had an open forum and asked our guests about their opinion of this La Laguna Lakeshore Tour that we are planning to launch sometime in January 2015. We asked them if they have any complaints, suggestions, etc. It was a lively discussion which helped us see avenues for improvement. For instance, Arnaldo opened up an interesting question to the group: should we still include Casa Gómez in the itinerary? Many in the group honestly find it uninteresting. But Ruel pointed out that if we could only tour future guests in a live ancestral house, i.e., not “artificial” like the Rizal Shrine in Calambâ, prior to entering Pagsanján, then that might add more interest towards our objective (instilling concern towards ancestral homes). Our guests should be able to enter a living ancestral house prior to entering a dying one in order to stir in them the sentiment that we want them to realize. Ruel said that he heard of a house in Pila that is open to tourists, but he couldn’t recall which house. Me and Arnaldo will have to trouble ourselves about that in the coming weeks.

Everybody pitched in their suggestions, possible scenarios, tour rates, etc. Even Bevs gave her thoughts about the tour. We are so grateful to all of you guys!

My daughter Krystal embracing a giant pencil, probably carved out from coco lumber. There are more or less 80 woodcraft factories in Paeté, with the more famous ones found along Calle Quesada at the town proper. The industry provides 70% of the population’s livelihood.

After Paeté, our last stop was Páquil (even at gunpoint I will never spell it as Pakil). Teng had to wake up Amara since it was our last stop. Besides, everybody in our group should see the marvelous façade that was designed by Bartolomé Palatino, the same Paeteño who designed the façade of nearby Paeté Church.

Páquil is known as the “Home of the Turumba Festival“, the longest fiesta in the country and probably in all of Christendom. This festival is held seven times a year, beginning on a Friday before Holy Week up to the seventh Sunday after Easter as well as during the town’s fiesta on May 12 (Fiesta Paquileña) and the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15, the same date when the first Turumba was held (15 September 1788).

The church was filled when we got there (at half past five). Before some photo-ops, Arnaldo gathered all of our guests at the plaza fronting the church. There I explained to them that the central figure of the Turumba Festival is a painting of the Virgin Mary locally known as Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba. This mysterious work of art (9″ x 11″ oil painting on canvas) is now enshrined in its own chapel on the second floor of the convent. I said mysterious because its origin is up to now shrouded in mystery. According to local legend, the framed painting was seen floating in Laguna de Bay by fishermen. They were able to tow it towards the shore but the framed painting was so heavy, the locals could not even lift it. News of this discovery immediately spread throughout town. They called the parish priest who was surprised to recognize that the natives have just discovered a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows. The priest then cited the Litaniae Sanctorum as the people started singing and dancing out of joy and awe around the mysterious painting. Miraculously, after another attempt of lifting it, the people at last were able to do so. And as they triumphantly carried the painting towards the church, they were singing songs of praise while dancing, with the ladies joyfully clacking their “baquiâ” (wooden clogs) along the way. Thenceforth, the image was referred to as “Turumba”.

NCCA’s Rei asked a good question: what in the world does “Turumba” mean? I told him that according to the late National Artist Alejandro Roces, it could have been derived from two words: “turò” which means “to point”, and “umbáy” which is a dirge sung by sick people. I added, though, that this may all be just an etymological speculation on the part of Roces. In short, nobody really knows what Turumba means.

Iglesia de San Pedro de Alcántara (Páquil).

The façade turns into reddish-gold as the rays of the setting sun envelops it.

Before leaving Páquil, Arnaldo and I directed their attention towards the façade of the church not just to marvel at its intricate designs of Renaissance and Egyptian influences but also to see the splendid reddish-gold glow caused by the setting sun. Probably no amount of photography would be able to capture this effect. But we’re willing to bring you here just to experience it!

We left a few minutes before six in the evening, weary but satisfied. It was a fulfilling experience, at least for my part, to share knowledge about the province I love, and to tour them around it. I’ve been to these beautiful towns many times in the past. But to revisit these places this time with many people who have never been there is something else. I never dreamed of speaking in front of a group, most of all tagging along many people to a place unfamiliar to them. Actually, I can do some public speaking so long as I have a prepared speech, or maybe if I were tipsy (as I always say, I’m a writer, not a talker). So what happened last Sunday was a revelation. Many thanks to Arnaldo’s insistence and encouragement.

One more thing: all of us made new friends. At the start of the tour, not everyone in the group knew each other. A little later, we were all laughing at León’s nostalgic “Labs Ko Si Babe” story about Pila! So this is another bonus when you join our tour — you will gain new friends!

Click here to view all the photos of our educational/familiarization tour of my beloved adoptive province!

Even this church’s side entrance is not spared from artistry! It could even rival the façade of other churches!

Arnaldo and I will be announcing more updates about our “La Laguna Lakeshore Tour” in the coming days to those who are interested to explore our beautiful province by the lake. Also, a “La Laguna Mountain Tour” is in the works. We also have in mind a food tour of the province as well as a heritage tour in other provinces. Therefore, and whether we like it or not, we will be needing a new blog for this venture. And if this project works out and becomes profitable, we will be setting up a Filhispanic foundation catering to Filipino studies and even flamenco dances (as envisioned by Señor Gómez). Later on, we’ll conceptualize a Filipino-themed restaurant. Then we’ll buy more land and property and build Filipino-style condominiums and villas, setup beach resorts, buy more land and property, and eventually, establish a huge mall. We’ll probably call it La Solidaridad Mall or something to that effect.

But first thing’s first. This La Laguna Lakeshore Tour should work out fine. Qué Dios nos bendiga.

Stay tuned for further announcements. You may follow me and/or Arnaldo on Twitter as we discuss the progress of this tourism project. You can even join us in the discussion and provide us some inputs that might be of valuable help to us. ¡Hasta entonces!

My Filipiniana wedding! (part 3)

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¡Mi familia maravillosa!

Exactly a year ago today, our dreams finally came true — a wedding that was 14 years in the making!

Our wedding rings on my wife’s Filipiniana bouquet composed of sampaguita, gumamela, ylang-ylang, pandacaqui, camia, and champaca flowers. The bouquet was designed by renowned florist Serge Igonia, a native San Pedrense.

Right after our wedding at the San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna.

If there is one most important thing that we learned on that beautiful Friday the 13th wedding, it is this: the weddings of today are focused on the couples, but traditional weddings are focused on the wedding itself, that it is a covenant between God and the newly weds, thus emphasizing that a wedding is not merely a ritualistic union but a holy sacrament. A wedding is not your usual earthly event.

But wedding receptions? Oh, yeah! That’s the newly wed couple’s preferable moment to shine! :D

Jardín de San Pedro is located along Calle Luna, just a stone’s throw away from the church.

Yeyette and I agreed to have our wedding reception held at our adoptive hometown, and at a place just near the church so as not to tire our guests. Jardín de San Pedro was the obvious choice. Aside from being very near the church, we really dig its name because it’s very Filipino. We have already been to the place when Krystal’s elementary graduation rites were held in 2012. I immediately had a liking for it because of the natural ambiance and the “Filipino feel” of the place. And yes, as its name connotes, it is really filled with sampaguita flowering plants. It is unmistakably a clear nod to San Pedro Tunasán’s title as the country’s sampaguita capital. That first visit to Jardín de San Pedro provided a positive impression upon me which further spurred my dreams of pursuing that belated wedding which I have been planning on my mind for years.

When we first consulted the Legaspi Family, the owners of the venue, the menu offering they showed to us were not to our liking because not Filipino. All meals were “International” (pot roast beef with gravy, caesar salad, penne bolognese, etc.) and “Chinese” (shrimp with quail eggs, crispy canton noodles with crab meat sauce, corn and kani soup, etc.). The packages were completely out of sync to our Mozarabic Rite wedding. But we’re glad that the Legaspis could think out of the box. Although unavailable, they opted to customize their wedding packages for us! So on our next meeting, we were delighted to see an updated menu of theirs which since then included a buffet that is completely Filipino.

We also planned on other stuff: the decors, the sound system, and everything else. We requested the theme to be as Filipino as possible. What I had in mind was not to have the usual wedding reception which people today are accustomed to. I had in mind of reviving, at least for a day, the nearly forgotten “<em>tertulia filipina</em>”.

Tertulia literally means a social gathering. But in the Filipino sense, it was not just a social gathering where people eat and discuss. At a time when there was still no television, radio, or Internet, Filipinos celebrated arts and culture during such gatherings. In a tertulia filipina, there is much poetry reading, music, and dancing. So again, as in our church wedding where the focus was on our union as a covenant, I decided to put the focus on the event itself instead of us bride and groom. The event was the “<em>bida</em>”, not exactly us. We took the opportunity to introduce to our friends and relatives how “partying” was like during the Spanish and early US period.

We are Filipinos. We’re not US citizens. We’re not Chinese. Neither are Japanese, Indians. etc. So why celebrate with that kind of theme?

A revival of cultural pieties is what we did. And we hope we got the message through.

And yes, we had no wedding planners. I planned all this (Yeyette and our dear college friend Michael Lim had a small role, hehe!). Who knows? I could be your next wedding planner — so long the theme is Filipiniana. :D

Sampaguita buds all over the tables. We’re not called the sampaguita capital for nothing.🙂

Our modest two-layered wedding cake crowned with santán flowers.

Classic sorbetes to welcome our guests. It was a bestseller!

My mother-in-law checking out the vintage decorations.

Our dear college buddy, Michael Vincent U. Lim, hosted our tertulia filipina wedding reception.

Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz graciously welcomes our guests, most of whom are from out of town.

With the wedding sponsors. L-R: Former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, the groom, the bride, Señor Guillermo Gómez, and Señora Josefina Láus de Alas

My best buddy Arnaldo Arnáiz delivering his heartwarming brindis.

L-R: Former Mayor Calex and his wife, incumbent Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz, the groom, the bride, and Señor Gómez.

Musical prodigy Satcheil Amamangpang and young church historian Jesson Allerite perform several Filipino folk songs in Spanish. They were also part of the four-man choir during our wedding.

L-R: my sister Jennifer Alas, my dad Josefino Alas, my cousin Cuya Ángelo Joseph Carcallas, my maternal grandmother Norma Soriano, my daughter Krystal, my cousin Paolo Raphael Balicao, my cousin Jam Alas, Jennifer’s fiancé Chock de Guzmán, and dad’s cousin Uncle Joel Évora.

L-R: Yeyette’s sister Kathleen Diezon, my father-in-law Jaime Perey, Tita V-Beth Atienza, my mother-in-law Teresa Perey, Tita V-Beth’s friend Liez de León, and Kathleen’s daughter Krishna. The two gentlemen behind my mother-in-law are Yeyette’s stylists.

Jardín de San Pedro customized a Filipino meal upon our request. The package included: menudo, pancít cantón guisado, oven baked chicken lemon grass, rellenong bañgús, Jardín de San Pedro beef steak Tagalog, steamed rice, leche flan, buco pandán, and sago & gulaman.

Poet-musician Joms Púnay delivers his Tagalog verses “Sa Bus” and Bituín“.

Flamenco dancer and indie actress Jameela Pérez reads her Spanish poem “En Mis Ojos Hasta Que Me Levanto“.

Pinay Poet Imee Rabang delivers her English poem “Every Night”.

Veteran flamenco dancers Kenneth Gaerlán and Valerie Devulder wow the audience with their moves.

My cousin Josh Alas (right) and his instructor Leo Laher (left) performing Johann Pachelbel’s famous “Canon in D major”.

Joms backs up the violinists with his guitar strums.

Joms Púnay on guitars, Roxanne Guivencán on vocals, and Bernard Cadawas on the cajón. This nameless band from Paeté performed several acoustic performances, among them the Chavacano hit song “¿Por que?.”

Dancing with my wonderful bride to this tune!

Kenneth and Jam in a powerful performance!

You get to hear my cousin Jam over at Magic 89.9, but she doesn’t sing there like what she did here! And it’s damn high-pitched I thought I’d never get to use my ears again afterwards! On this photo, me and her brother Josh troll her without her knowledge!

Yeyette’s friend Arlene Umali serenaded us with her a cappella rendition of “Gaano Co Icáo Camahál”, one of our favorite Tagalog love songs.

Closing remarks, acknowledgments, and a bit of long overdue drama.🙂

¡Gracias, gracias, muchísimas gracias!

1) Please CLICK HERE to view all of our photos!
2) Please CLICK HERE to read part 2.
3) Please CLICK HERE to read part 1.

¡Enaltecer la familia para la gloria más alta de Dios!

¡Agradecemos a todos los que nos ayudaron!

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Aunque soy cristiano, tengo una tendencia a ser pesimista. Pero los acontecimientos recientes han restaurado completamente mi fe en la humanidad.

Tantas personas respondieron a mi petición de ayuda la semana pasada, y algunos de ellos ni siquiera hemos conocido aún en persona. Es la hora para mostrar mi humilde gratitud.

 

Yeyette en el hospital, un día después de su parto e histerectomía. Las flores son de mi hermana Jennifer.

 
Más de una docena de personas, de una u otra forma, nos ayudaron durante este episodio más difícil de nuestras vidas. De parte de mi mujer Jennifer “Yeyette” Perey de Alas, me gustaría dar mi agradecimiento especial a estos ángeles: mis hermanas Jennifer y Jessica, mi suegra Teresa Atienza de Perey y su paisana Jene Alfaro, mi suegro Jaime Perey, la Familia Catáquiz de San Pedro Tunasán (la srᵃ alcaldesa Lourdes Catáquiz, su marido Don Calixto Catáquiz, su hijo Aris Catáquiz, y su sobrino León Buenavista), mi tío Ramón Alas, el gran filipinista Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Antonio Marques Sans (salimos del hospital principalmente a causa de él), Shee-Ann Meneses, Diego Pastor Zambrano, José-Rodaniel Cruz, Luis María Cardaba Prada, nuestra vecina Flor Junio de Pérez (por cuidar de nuestros otros niños durante nuestra estancia en el hospital), Ronald Yu, Sylvia Santos de Pineda (bisnieta de Marcelo H. del Pilar), Jennalyn Carmona y Jingky Sumañga (respectivamente del departamento de facturación y una enfermera de St. Clare’s Medical Center), y mi mejor amigo Arnaldo Arnáiz.
 
Gracias también a los médicos que trabajaron arduamente para salvar la vida de Yeyette: la ginecóloga obstetra Drᵃ Catherine Pujol de Azores y su cirujano marido Dr. Rouel Azores, el anestesiólogo Dr. Gerald Vita, y otra ginecóloga obstetra Drᵃ Orpha Montillano de Corrado.
 

Junífera Clarita en el cuarto del bebé del hospital.

 
Y por supuesto, mil gracias también a todos los innumerables y valiosos amigos y parientes nuestros que oraron por la seguridad y recuperación de mi mujer y nuestra nueva bebé, Junífera Clarita. ¡Muchas gracias a todos ustedes! Gracias por el apoyo y el aliento espiritual y moral. Yeyette ahora disfruta de su segunda vida en la Tierra con nuestros cinco hijos hermosos. Somos muy afortunados de tener a todos ustedes en nuestras vidas.
 

¡Hogar, dulce hogar!

 
¡Enaltecer la familia para la gloria más alta de Dios!

100th registration date, not foundation, for the INC

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Renowned Catholic apologist Francis Raymund Gonzales (founder of 100% Katolikong Pinoy) hit the nail right when he said that Félix Manalo did not establish the Iglesia Ni Cristo on 27 July 1914. The INC sect was already in existence way before the said date. As a matter of fact, Manalo was already preaching his newfound doctrines in Santa Ana and Taguig a year earlier.

According to stories, Catholic-born Manalo underwent several religious conversions before finally making a hermit-like (but very brief) research sometime in November 1913 by secluding himself with religious literature and unused notebooks in a friend’s house in Pásay. This solitary confinement lasted for three days. After his self-imposed detention, he emerged from the room, announcing to everyone that he was the “restorer of the church of Christ”, “God’s last messenger”, and the “angel from the East” (Revelation 7:1–3). As a matter of fact, the first INC congregation, complete with an ordained minister, was already established in Santa Ana in 1913. And his first converts were baptized along the banks of the Pásig River on that same year.

So why in the world are they celebrating the centennial of their foundation today? Manalo merely registered his sect exactly 100 years ago with the Bureau of Commerce (today’s Department of Budget) to make the INC a legal entity. But that doesn’t mean that their group was established on the said date.

Because there is no record of the exact date when Manalo proclaimed himself as God’s final angel from the East, perhaps the INC leadership found it convenient to connect their sect’s foundation date to when their founder registered it with the Philippine government. In that regard, didn’t that act by Manalo make their group a worldy institution? And since INC members believe that the Bible is the only basis of their beliefs and practices, did it completely escape the minds of their ministers about what the Holy Book has to say regarding worldliness (Colossians 3:2, 1 John 2:15-17)?

This is rather too obvious that I’d rather have you, dear reader, make a caption out of it.

Nevertheless, although I have no intention of greeting the INC today, it is not exactly my intention to spoil their party (if the abovementioned information disturbs our friends from the INC, there’s no one else to blame here but those who have planned out their centennial festivities). What I would really like addressed here is how we Filipino Catholics react towards and/or against this thorn on the side of our Faith. Many of those who react are active on social media, particularly on the Facebook page Exposing the Iglesia Ni Cristo Cult of Manalo which I follow. I am delighted to see how the administrators of this page expose many enlightening facts about the INC, and how its more than 5,000 followers take part in the discussion. Many of those who comment are even members of the INC themselves. In YouTube are many videos of debates between INC ministers and Catholic defenders. Outside of the Internet, I am sure that there are many other conferences between representatives of both the INC and the Holy Mother Church.

But that is the problem. I notice that many militant Catholics and defensive INCs do not take part in friendly dialogue anymore, judging from what I read or see on the Internet and various media. Whenever I read the comments of each post in Exposing the Iglesia Ni Cristo Cult of Manalo, for instance, disappointment mars my heart. Because there is little or no friendly dialogue at all. What I usually encounter are insults, calumnies, and downright mudslinging.

To my fellow Catholics, the point of all these efforts is for us to supposedly convert our INC brothers and sisters, to bring them to our fold, to have them believe in us because we believe, nay, we know, that we are on the right path to salvation, that ours is the true faith. Because if the sole purpose of such debates and social media groups is to simply antagonize and to attack the INC camp, then we have failed our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in helping Him spread the gospel to every nation and to all creatures (no pun intended, hehe!). Because with each calumny, each diatribe, that we happily hurl against the INC (as well as other sects), the more we create enmity and hatred, the more we widen the gulf that divides us, a gulf that isn’t supposed to be there in the first place.

So next time we engage the INC in a discussion, each time we create a clever meme or publish a new exposé, we have to keep in mind that our main objective is to make them realize the golden veracity of the Holy Mother Church. Because if we only generate more hateful comments and reactions from the other camp instead of making them realize that they are on the wrong side, then we have just showed the rest of the world that we are no better.

There would be no INC without the Holy Mother Church

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The below information has been going the rounds on Facebook for days in light of the coming centennial of the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s registration (yes, you read that right: registration, not foundation). I deem it fitting to share because it’s not only informative but also filled with historical tidbits that enlighten.

 

There may be friends from the Iglesia Ni Cristo (originally Iglesia ni Kristo) who will be jovially celebrating their sect’s 100th Anniversary this weekend. This marks their church’s 100th year of thriving from July 27, 1914, the date their sect has been registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission during the American rule. Along with your chatter with your INC friends about their sect’s achievements and assets, let us also share to them some of the significant contributions that our Holy Mother Church had unselfishly endowed to them for their use.

1. The word CHAPEL (“Kapilya”) – Members of the INC use this term often, than the politically correct term “gusaling pangsamba”. But little do they know that the word CHAPEL itself is of purely Catholic origin. The term is first used to call the small housing structures or shrines where the relic cloak of St. Martin of Tours is kept, thus CAPELLA (little cape), from the Latin word CAPA or cloak. The cloak is used by the French knights in their war efforts, asking the intercession of St. Martin of Tours for them to win the battles. As customary, the cloak is transportable, so various housing structures were built in every place to house the cloak relic. The Catholic people use the structure for worship, thus the word CHAPEL became of regular use to mean local small church communities.

The word CHAPEL/KAPILYA is not found in the Bible.

2. The word SANTA CENA (Holy Supper) – Since the Philippines has been under Spanish rule, Spanish language is once part of the Filipino familiar tongue. The Holy Mass then is also widely known as the Holy Supper (even until now), or Santa Cena in Spanish. The founders of the Iglesia Ni Kristo adapted this term to mean their own worship service, particularly using some items somewhat identical to the Catholic Holy Mass (that is, bread and wine)

3. The term ECCLESIASTICAL DISTRICT – From the word ECCLESIA, Latin word for “Church”. Latin-speaking Catholics derived ECCLESIA from the Greek word EKKLESIA, which means “a group of those who were called out.”. An Ecclesiastical District in the INC is in the same principle and means used by the Catholic Church – a group of smaller locales or churches in a significant territory.

4. The term PASTORAL VISITATION – This term constitutes a bishop or an archbishop visiting a parish or a religious entity/territoty for a specific purpose (can also be applied to the Pope, though the term would be a PAPAL VISIT). In the INC, this means a visit of their Executive Minister to a locale.

5. The term IGLESIA – a term used originally by Spanish-speaking Catholics hailing from Hispania (Iberian Peninsula). In Spanish-speaking countries, when you ride a taxi and say to a driver to drive you to an IGLESIA, the cab driver will drive you to the nearest Catholic Church in the area.

Other also noteworthy contributions are the following.

1. The famous architect of their houses of worship is a devout Catholic named Carlos A. Santos-Viola. Gaining respect from the INC, he was repeatedly invited to join the sect, but he declined every time. Carlos served in the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Quezon City and died on July 31, 1994.

2. Without the Gregorian Calendar promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII, there might be no observance of the July 27, 2014 anniversary, or the date would be different.

Now that was mind-blowing. And the abovementioned information reminds me of Nick Joaquín’s incisive observation about local Christianity. What was that again? Oh, yeah. Here it is…

The Faith has so formed us that even those of us who have left it still speak and write within its frame of reference, still think in terms of its culture, and still carry the consciousness of a will and a conscience at war that so agonizes the Christian. For good or evil, our conversion to Christianity is the event in our history.

My Filipiniana wedding! (part 2)

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It’s that uncanny day of the year again, when people suffering from friggatriskaidekaphobia whimper on their beds, and meme makers and sharers are having a good time spooking their friends on social media. But for yours truly, Friday the 13th is a special day.

 

Me and my partner for life, Yeyette, we married on a Friday the 13th. And that was last year, 13 September 2013, when all of Metro Manila and its surrounding environs were being showered by rainfall… except for San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna where we were wed! It was a historic date not just for the two of us but also for the (then) town because it was the first time since the late 1950s when a Mozarabic Rite wedding was held there.

Well, just reminiscing here. And just also to remind everyone that Friday the 13th is not bad at all, just mere superstition that needs to be relegated to Hollywood garbage. Even Jason Vorhees would agree.

Three months to go, and it will be our anniversary.🙂

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

Up next in part 3: Filipiniana wedding reception at Jardín de San Pedro!

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