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Category Archives: Culture
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
No matter how much we complain or give praise about it, it is a fact that stares us hard right in the face: our country is fixated with showbiz. It has become part of our culture — Filipino pop culture to be precise. From advertisements to philanthropy to politics, celebrities are almost always a focal point. Since the departure of strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, who during the Martial Law years suppressed freedom of the press due to (alleged) circumstances beyond his control, emerging media moguls (led by ABS-CBN) somehow tinkered with the newly satiated freedom of many anti-Marcos Filipinos whose civil liberties were intentionally excluded by military rule. As emotions were running high during that time, new expressions of TV freedom (this includes TV Patrol’s rather controversial “on-air tabloid” style) were suddenly introduced to minds that had just been freed from years of media suppression. Not much later, Kris Aquino, the daughter of Marcos’ successor herself, became its prized darling and has been so for close to three decades already. Post-Marcos media’s coddling of suppressed liberties using glitz and glamour as well as appeal to emotion, including the enthronement of political daughter Kris as the “Queen of all Media”, is probably one of the reasons why celebrities from both TV and film have been treated by Filipino masses as if they’re demigods. The masses adore them more than anyone else, especially since the characters they portrayed on screen somehow mirrored real-life scenarios of the ordinary Juan de la Cruz. That is why their fame has even been used as a gauge for political readiness.
But fame, of course, is not without its repercussions. With fame getting into their heads, many showbiz personalities throughout the years have become notorious for acting like their Hollywood counterparts: their lavish lifestyle, foul behavior off camera, and personal scandals have been fodder for the very same ratings-hungry media which takes advantage of both them and their followers.
With the growth of Internet usage at the close of the last century, many have observed that TV and film appreciation may have reached a saturation point. Social media now provides a healthy avenue for Filipino netizens to look for new alternatives as against overexposed media brats. In fact, today’s revered media darlings (Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, Bogart the Explorer, etc.), not to mention indie film breakthroughs, originated from the Internet.
But what happens when both TV and Internet personalities were put together?
“We’re moving towards the direction where both [social and mainstream media] have no choice but to co-exist,” observes TV host and talent manager Boy Abunda. And the first stop towards that direction is currently materializing on noontime TV.
For close to three months now, Filipinos all over the world via cable TV and the Internet have been glued to Eat Bulaga!‘s “Juan for All, All for Juan” (JAAJ) segment to witness an ongoing series that began in accidental fashion. The longest noontime variety show in the country has hit a goldmine with the unplanned formation of an unconventional love team between matinee idol Alden Richards and Internet sensation Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza. Eat Bulaga! since then has capitalized on the hugely popular tandem by creating what they call a “Kalyeserye”, much to the detriment of rival networks and to the amazement of pop culture observers, social media pundits, and even sociologists. Alden and Maine’s huge following has even given their love team a nickname which trends on various social media (particularly on Twitter) every single day: AlDub, a portmanteau of Alden and Yaya Dub.
And just how wild is this latest Filipino pop culture craze?
AlDub brings back reminiscences of our fanaticism over Mexican actress Thalía brought about by her “Marimar” telenovela during the early 90s. Since AlDub’s accidental inception last July 16, social media have been pregnant with reports about office workers who miss or adjust their lunch breaks just to catch the ongoing AlDub drama, with some arriving late or not reporting for work at all. School children have been vocal about their wish for class suspensions (one provincial governor took time to answer such clamor). TV sets inside malls, restaurants, and other related establishments are being flocked by customers during noontime. Bus, jeepney, tricycle, and train terminals with TV sets have waiting passengers tuned in to them, unmindful of waiting for the next ride. Many sari-sari stores and bakeries shut down operations whenever Kalyeserye is about to begin. A video of a little girl crying because of AlDub’s star-crossed situation became viral in YouTube. One militant solon unashamedly professed his support for the love team. Fellow showbiz personalities like Judy Ann Santos, Ai-Ai de las Alas, and many others confessed that they are fans of the love team. Even people from ABS-CBN, the heated rival of Eat Bulaga!’s studio GMA Network, were not spared from the AlDub fever.
OFWs are not spared from the craze. As in the case here in Filipinas, many AlDub fan clubs from other countries have sprouted like mushrooms, keeping themselves abreast of each episode. And speaking of other countries, US film giant Walt Disney Studios stunned its Filipino fans when it posted on its Facebook page two characters from one of its popular animated films commenting on the AlDub fever!
AlDub has also been breaking Twitter records. Last September 24, its
#ALDubEBforLOVE hashtag drew an astonnishing 25.6 million tweets! A week earlier, #ALDUBMostAwaitedDate was tweeted and retweeted more than 10 million times in a span of 14 hours (the final tally was 12.1 million). Guinness World Records is reportedly considering awarding the latter with the “Fastest Rising Worldwide Trend” Award.
How this love team is embraced by people from all walks of life, from a wide range of demographics, is certainly unprecedented and astounding. It would be thoroughly surprising to meet anyone who is not familiar with today’s most recognizable faces on both TV and social media. But for the sake of those who are still stuck in some kind of antimatter universe, here’s something to fill you in (and for the millions who already know, a reminiscence)…
It all began when Dubsmash, a video messaging application for mobile devices, captivated the interest of local netizens early this year. With the application, users can choose an audio recording of a well known recorded quote from an uploaded list and record a video of themselves in which they dub the quote. Usually, the uploaded quotes are lines from a movie or a TV program.
Enter Nicomaine Dei Mendoza, or simply Maine, a pretty twenty-year-old lass from a petite bourgeoisie family in Santa María, Bulacán. She graduated from an exclusive school where she took up culinary arts and had her on-the-job training in New York. As such, it’s unlikely for a pretty young lady with intimidating credentials to make fun of herself online, least of all distort her face for everybody’s amusement. But that’s what exactly Maine did to herself. Just a few months ago, her Dubsmash parodies of various people, most notably presidential sister Kris Aquino, have gone insanely viral, this because of her expressively creative ways of dubbing those persons’ lines, complete with body movements, make-up, and props to boot. Her facial elasticity and the preciseness in which she dubs made it appear as if she’s not dubbing at all, as if she really owned the uploaded voices. Because of her dubbing creativity, her Dubsmash videos became viral, with her rendition of Kris Aquino last summer earning more than a million views overnight.
Since then, any mention of Dubsmash will immediately bring Maine Mendoza to mind, at least in our country. Netizens now call her the “Dubsmash Queen of the Philippines”. And the buzz which she has inadvertently created caught the attention of Eat Bulaga! who then recruited her via Facebook. She was given the role of Yaya Dub which is short for Divina Úrsula Bukbukova, and her last name would be Smash, an ingenious homage to the video messaging application that made her an Internet sensation; yaya is Tagálog for nursemaid. Her responsibility as Yaya Dub is to be the girl Friday to comedian Wally Bayola’s snobbish and supercilious Doña Nidora Esperanza y Zobeyala vda. de Explorer, or Lola Nidora for short. Together, they join José Manalo and Paolo Ballesteros in JAAJ doing comedy vignettes in various barrios in Luzón while helping out less fortunate families (drawn through a lottery from the studio) by giving them food, cash, and other prizes from Eat Bulaga!’s wide array of sponsors.
Let’s face it: it is already common knowledge that GMA Network is behind its rival, media giant ABS-CBN. While some of GMA’s shows have proven themselves to be more successful over their rivals (this includes Eat Bulaga!), mainstream media popularity is being enjoyed by a majority of ABS-CBN programs. As such, many of the former’s talents are considered by many as second-rate compared to the latter’s stars. A marquee with the name “Alden Richards”, a GMA Network contract star since 2011, has less appeal if it were to be placed vis-à-vis ABS-CBN matinee idols such as Daniel Padilla or Enrique Gil or James Reid. So despite his string of successes in his mother studio, Alden seems to be “still struggling” when it comes to the mass appeal being enjoyed by Padilla, Gil, and other ABS-CBN male stars, as if he is still carving his own niche in local showbiz — all this, of course, was before the AlDub craze that is currently sweeping the Filipino community worldwide by storm.
Nevertheless, Alden has everything a matinee idol needed to have in order to succeed: good looks, good build, and admirably good manners. But the impression remains that his seemingly goody two-shoes image is just that — another good-looking fellow who will soon fade away from GMA’s supposedly lackluster limelight. Whatever fame Alden has couldn’t seem to go toe to toe against that of his more popular counterparts in ABS-CBN. One write-up even called him the “John Lloyd Cruz of GMA” (Cruz is one of ABS-CBN’s top stars), a comment which, of course, complements Cruz more than Alden.
Recently, Alden was given the chance to be launched as a major actor when he was given the weighty role of national hero José Rizal in the epic docudrama “Ilustrado”. Surprisingly, despite the name Rizal and the historicity attached to it, the drama series was not warmly received. It lasted for a mere 20 episodes, immediately forgotten.
The birth of a phenomenon
As many fans already know, Alden was hired by Eat Bulaga! in May this year as one of its many co-hosts, but only for a month-long trial period. He was followed by Maine a few weeks later. But they were not put together since Alden’s duties are studio-based, hosting a contest for attractive young men. Maine, on the other hand, is always on the road together with her JAAJ colleagues. The only interaction that JAAJ cast had with their studio colleagues, particularly Eat Bulaga!’s main hosts Tito, Vic, and Joey (popularly known as TVJ), was via split screen communication.
The magic began when Eat Bulaga!’s staff found out that Maine had a real-life crush on Alden who she has yet to meet. The staff then thought of pulling a soft prank on her by having Alden sit with the audience at the studio while Maine was doing her grumpy Yaya Dub routine (JAAJ was somewhere in Olóngapo). Then this happened:
And just like that. Sparks flew on their first split screen meeting. Local netizens immediately noticed the delightful interaction between Alden and Yaya Dub and were tickled pink with how the latter unintentionally broke character. Yaya Dub’s masuñgit demeanor was shattered beyond her control. For the first time since her TV debut, Eat Bulaga! fans saw grumpy Yaya Dub’s genuine smile. More “kilig” moments between her and Alden transpired in the following days. On social media, particularly on Twitter, netizens were on a frenzy, demanding more screentime for the two. It was during those early days when somebody thought of coming up with the catchy nickname AlDub which spread like wildfire. Eat Bulaga! management took notice of the well-received split screen flirtations which seemed to have overtaken the segment itself. And then there’s that huge spike in the ratings, of course. Noontime viewing habits have never been the same since that unexpected July 16 episode. Kalyeserye (a Joey de León coinage) was born and has been on a nonstop rampage both in the ratings and in social media.
Because of the craze, Alden’s career was rejuvenated like never before! Both he and Maine have become instant media darlings and endorsement favorites. Just recently, fastfood giant McDonald’s Philippines and cellular service Talk N Text have also capitalized on AlDub’s huge popularity by making both Alden and Maine as their endorsers. And even before their commercials were premiered for the first time (especially in McDo’s case), netizens were already abuzz with excitement. It can even be said that McDo’s AlDub TV advertisement has become the most anticipated TV commercial in local media history. Now they have more lined up.
But what made AlDub in particular and Kalyeserye in general tick among an overwhelming majority of Filipinos?
Explaining the craze
It can be argued that while AlDub is the centerpiece of the so-called “teleserie parody”, it’s the whole Kalyeserye itself that has captivated millions of Filipino viewers all over the world. Wally’s superb breakthrough acting as the strict Lola Nidora hilariously complements the eccentric nonspeaking Yaya Dub of Maine who merely “dubsmashes” as a way of communicating. And as Kalyeserye took flight to stardom, Manalo and Ballesteros followed suit in the zany acting, eliciting hordes of laughter and tears wherever they go.
Many have attempted to explain the reason for this phenomenon. One sociologist claimed that “Cinderella complex” is the underlying factor behind the craze, It holds water since Filipinos have been exposed to “clacismo” conflict (poor boy/girl falls in love with rich girl/boy) in local romance movies for many years, a phenomenon that can be traced to our Spanish colonial past since it was the Spaniards who introduced feudalism here. And that’s the core of the story of Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye: a matinee idol and a nanny falling in love — split screen style, though. But the twist here is that the nursemaid’s rich boss (who is later revealed to be related to her) is against the blossoming love affair for reasons not yet clearly known (in the story, the reason is written in Lola Nidora’s diary, but it was stolen by a mysterious riding-in-tandem).
Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye is deemed by many as a parody of telenovelas or teleseries (hence the name). But if you look at it closely, it is more than that. Teleseries are rehearsed and taped whereas Kalyeserye is delivered spontaneously. As already revealed in various interviews, the actors don’t have a script. They merely follow a storyline. In drama circles, this is called “improv acting”. And since it’s improv comedy, the actors are given the license to break the fourth wall from time to time, that’s why it’s not unusual for televiewers and studio audiences to see them trying hard to control their laughter whenever a fellow actor (or other Eat Bulaga! hosts on the studio) blurt out one-liners or rib them with other hilarities.
Kalyeserye’s improv acting adds up to the charm. However, it is but another ingredient to what makes up the whole picture. To put it more bluntly, Kalyeserye is essentially a zarzuela. In fact, we see several elements of it: comedic acting with matching colorful costumes, drama and romance, and much dancing and music — “Dubsmash” music, that is. And it’s all done on live TV, hence the “modern-day” tag. AlDub is a reincarnation of this now rare Spanish lyric-dramatic genre. The zarzuela, in fact, is an important component in our national identity because it has been a major part of our history for more than a century. As a Hispanic people, it is already in our genetic memory, in our DNA, Deep within the Filipino psyche is a nostalgic longing for this theatrical art form which has endeared generations of Filipinos since 1879.
(Incidentally, Vicente Sotto, the grandfather of Tito and Vic Sotto, 2/3 of Eat Bulaga!’s TVJ triumvirate, was one of the first writers of the zarzuela. In 1902, Sotto wrote “Maputi ug Maitum” or “Black and White”, a zarzuela in the Cebuano language).
Zarzuelas of old were also known to tackle and include social issues of the day as well as to impart values. These we see in Kalyeserye whenever the riding-in-tandem appears (the prevalence of riding-in-tandem crime incidents), whenever Alden and Yaya Dub show their split screen “lambiñgan” right in front of a very upset Lola Nidora (impetuous juvenile relationships), whenever Lola Nidora cautions Yaya Dub to act like a “dalagang Filipina“, and a whole lot more. And speaking of values, Kalyeserye has also been earning both praise and support from various sectors, most notably the local Catholic Church, for subtly imparting traditional Filipino values and customs that, sadly, are rarely practiced by Filipinos nowadays. As a matter of fact, we can boldly claim that Kalyeserye has Filipino values written all over it. We see this whenever Alden writes “pô” and “opò” in his fan sign communications with Lola Nidora and her two sisters Lola Tidora (Ballesteros) and Lola Tinidora (Manalo). We see this whenever Yaya Dub performs the “mano pô” gesture, bowing her head towards the offered hands of Lola Nidora, Lola Tidora, and Lola Tinidora as she presses her forehead on their hands. And that only strengthens our claim that, indeed, this show is a modern-day zarzuela because it imparts the appreciation of Filipino culture, customs, values, and even spirituality (Alden making the sign of the cross before a Catholic image as he enters Lola Nidora’s mansion in episode 63).
In Kalyeserye we see more of this Hispanic genetic memory of which we spoke of earlier. Remember the first time Yaya Dub broke character when she couldn’t control her smile towards Alden? She immediately covered her face with her abanico. Wittingly or unwittingly, she mimicked the Filipinas of olden times who covered their faces with abanicos each time their faces revealed their emotions. Her now famous “pabebe wave” is, in fact, a modest/demure way for a Filipina to wave towards her admirer. And need we mention that this novelty word is rooted in Spanish? “Pa” is a Tagálog prefix while “bebe” is Spanish for “baby”.
We all laugh at the “asaua ni” jokes being thrown around by cast members when, unbeknownst to many, it is a nod to the Spanish language’s gender rules. And need we remind everyone that the word Kalyeserye is derived from Spanish (calle + serie)? And of course, there’s Lola Nidora whose name was inspired from that famous Hispanic American cartoon character called Dora The Explorer. Lola Nidora herself speaks (broken) Spanish from time to time.
But how come Lola Nidora seems to have never aged in spite of the fact that she’s already 150 years old? All her three bodyguards are named “Rogelio”. The riding-in-tandem seems to come out from nowhere. In many episodes, we see Alden from one part of the screen hand out flowers and other gifts to Maine who’s at the other screen (in one hilarious episode, Alden hands out a glass of water to Lola Nidora; but when the latter, who is on the other end of the screen received it, it became a cup of coffee with a drowned fly in it). How come Yaya Dub (prior to episode 58) couldn’t speak? And who could ever forget episode 24 when Yaya Dub participated in Eat Bulaga!’s celebrity contest “Dabarkads Pa More”? After her performance, she was threatened by Lola Nidora, in the form of a witch, to immediately flee Broadway Centrum or she would turn into a fat pumpkin.
And the most bizarre yet most interesting part of all this is that the cast of Kalyeserye are able to interact with TVJ or whoever else is sitting on the JAAJ table, thus blurring the lines between fiction and reality.
There are lots of questions in Kalyeserye which nobody even bothers to ask not because the show is just a parody but because such questions don’t really need any answers. Or to be more apt, many weird occurrences in Kalyeserye just don’t require any explanation at all. Kalyeserye is simply out of this world and at the same time it is not because the segment still has to co-exist with the goings-on of Eat Bulaga! (Yaya Dub’s participation in the grand finals of “Dabarkads Pa More” in episode 75 best exemplifies this). This strange mix of fiction and reality is called magical realism.
Magical realism traces its roots to Latin American Literature, another Hispanic creation.
But it can never be ignored that the major selling point of Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye is its so-called “kilig” factor between Alden and Yaya Dub. Kilig is a modernized spelling for the word “qilig“. Many say that it has no direct translation to any language. So let’s go back to history to find out more about its meaning.
On page 265 of the book “Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala” (published in Manila in 1860 by Spanish friars Juan José de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlúcar), we see that qilig is defined as “temblar el cuerpo por picado de culebra” which means “the shaking of the body as caused by a (poisonous) snakebite”. That is why today, we associate kilig/qilig to that shaking, inexplicable feeling whenever one is infatuated or falls in love. The split screen antics of Alden and Yaya Dub have given their fans an overload of kilig/qilig not only to the young but across all age groups, including married couples. Surprisingly, even the “baracos” are not spared!
What in the world could have caused this strange occurrence, that even full-blooded males are swooning over AlDub?
Aside from the clacismo conflict that was explained earlier, one telling reason is the fact that Alden and Maine (prior to the September 5 episode and all succeeding Saturdays after that) had never met or communicated in real life. The only communication they had for most of the time was through split screen and fan signs. To some, this setup endeared netizens towards the show because Alden and Maine’s situation reminded them of long-distance relationships that are linked only by the Internet. Many of them use Skype, FaceTime, and other related video chat applications to communicate with their long-distance love interests. However, not all netizens use such software. Therefore, we still have to dig deeper into the Filipino psyche…
We go back to Intramuros, the blueprint of all towns in Filipinas.
During the days when the sun had not yet set on the Spanish Empire, houses inside the Walled City were built so close together that neighbors could see the interiors of each other’s houses through their large windows. This set-up was taken advantage of by young lovers who surreptitiously communicate through windows at night. This romantic practice by young Filipino lovers during the Spanish times spilled over to other towns across the country whose houses were similarly built like those inside Intramuros — close together.
The above facts remind us of this once popular tale of two lovers in old Quiapò who communicated with each other only through the windows of their respective houses. They have never spoken outside of their homes; only through their windows. The boy once attempted to come close to his wooed who was then walking outside the church but hesitated especially when he saw his lover’s parents with her. This went on for a while until, no longer able to bear her emotions, the young lady challenged her lover to formally court her and to present himself to his parents. Their courtship eventually gave birth to the traditional habanera Filipino song La Flor de Manila, now known as Sampaguita (more about this story in a future blogpost).
During that time, Filipino suitors touching even just the hands of Filipinas were considered taboo. The only time that they were allowed to come in close contact to each other was during the day of their wedding. And that adds up to the thrill which we now call qilig/kilig. In modern times, however, all of this has been lost. The Filipino youth, Anglo-Saxonized to the core, have engaged in premarital sexual relationships in wild abandon, debasing love of its purity and truest form. That is why Alden and Maine’s first appearance together in split screen last July 16 woke up in us our latent Hispanic romanticism. The split screen were, in a way, the windows of those old houses where lovers of yesteryears whispered either puppy love frivolities or their undying love for each other.
Lastly, AlDub is not your ordinary love team. Unlike all love teams we have, they’re not what most showbiz-loving Filipinos call “pa-tweetums” or “pa-cute“. They are weird and wacky, making their tandem somewhat revolutionary. But most of all, they subtly spread Filipino CATHOLIC Values. That is why they have touched base to our latent Hispanic soul. AlDub has inadvertently reconnected us to our past selves.
Like many other pop culture phenomena, Kalyeserye will one day run its course. But the positive effect it has on Filipinos about rekindling their time-honored values will be for keeps. Let’s enjoy and cherish it while it lasts.
“Spanish friars mercilessly flogged Filipinos.”
This modern concept of the Indio being flogged by a Spanish friar under the hot tropical sun is what keeps the motor of hispanophobia running. There is no more need to expound what an indio means; simply put, indio is a Spanish word for “native”. The so-called “insulares” or Spaniards who were born in Filipinas were the first Filipinos. Through time, however, hispanization further blurred this. Indios/natives who were Christianized, who started learning and talking in Spanish, and who imbibed the culture from the West began referring to themselves not as indios but Filipinos as well. And this posed not a problem to the insular. As a matter of fact, the insular never considered themselves as “Spaniards” in the strictest sense of the word. They, as well as the Hispanized indios, simply referred to themselves as FILIPINOS. Filipinas is where they were born and where they grew up (patria chica).
To continue, those indios —whether they belonged to the Tagálog race, Ilocano race, Bicolano race, etc.— who were Hispanized in effect lost their “indio” identity (but not completely, of course) when they assimilated themselves to an influx of cultural dissemination coming from the West. There is nothing wrong with this. During those days, it was perfectly normal, as the influx of a foreign culture had no hint of any personal profit and even promoted cultural osmosis in the local scene (contrary to popular belief, Spain NEVER became rich when they founded and colonized our archipelago).
Anyway, because of cultural dissemination, the Hispanized Tagálog ceased to become Tagálog: he became Filipino. The Hispanized Ilocano ceased to become Ilocano: he became Filipino. The Hispanized Bicolano ceased to become Bicolano: he became Filipino. In other words, the term Filipino is not a race but a concept (there is no such thing as a Filipino race because our country is composed of several races). But this concept put a premium over our collective identities, giving us a patriotic “swagger” to refer to ourselves under one homogeneous identity: EL FILIPINO.
To Hispanize, therefore, is to Filipinize. And to put it more bluntly, our “Spanishness” is what makes us Filipino, not our “indio” identity (which is merely a substrate). If we take away our indio identity in us, our Hispanic identity will still continue to flourish. But if we take away our Spanishness, we will go back to becoming savages, and go back to the mountains as “cimarrones“.
Take for example Cali Pulaco, popularly known today as “Lapu-lapu”. This fellow, an indio ruler from Mactán, virtually resisted change. His neighbor, Rajáh Humabon, did not. Humabon accepted change, was baptized into the Christian faith, and received a Christian name: Carlos (named after then Spanish King Carlos I). Remember that culture is not static, should never be static. His men accepted the Santo Niño (and the icon’s culture) as part of their own. Those who were baptized with him died as Christians; Lapu-lapu and his people died as heathens.
And even up to now, Cebuanos celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño with frenzied fervor. Because the Santo Niño has become part of them as Cebuanos, and part of us as Filipinos.
During the Spanish times, there were many other ethnic groups who resisted change — the Ifugáos up north, the Aetas of the mountains, the Mañguianes of Mindoro, the Muslims of the south, etc. And because they resisted change, they missed the opportunity to become “one of us”. Technically, they are not Filipinos. They are only Filipinos by citizenship. But in a socio- and historico-cultural sense, they are not. And look at them now: no disrespect, but they look pathetic and backward because they resisted change. The mountain tribes of the Cordilleras still wage against one another. The Aetas continue to be forest dwellers. The Muslims still raid and kidnap Christians for a ransom and to have their turfs seceded from Filipinas. Etc etc etc. Because, then as now, their culture remains static. They still remain as INDIO as ever before.
Let us accept the fact that our Spanish past is what made us Filipinos in the first place. it is this identity which removed us from the backwardness of a static culture that refused to accept change. Let us accept that we are Filipinos because we are Christians (Catholic), we use cubiertos whenever we eat, we STILL SPEAK Spanish (uno, dos, tres, lunes, martes, miércoles, enero, febrero, marzo, silla, mesa, ventana, polo, pantalón, camisa, etc etc etc.), we eat adobo and pochero, we have Spanish names, we practice and value “amor propio“, “delicadeza“, “palabra de honor“, our town fiestas are the most festive and lavish in the whole world, we enjoy the “tiangues” of Divisoria, etc.
No soy indio. Porque soy filipino.
Originally published here, with slight edits. Special thanks to Arnaldo Arnáiz for the title which was actually a catchy notion that he conceptualized when we were still office mates a few years back.
Tayabas/Quezon Province is my roots. I grew up in Parañaque and have been connected to La Laguna Province for the past decade, but Tayabas will always be a part of me. I was born in Lucena and, as a child, have spent many happy summer vacations in Unisan, my dad’s hometown (my mom grew up in Tondo but her mother is also from Unisan). That’s why I feel very honored to have been invited to join the Quezon Province Heritage Council, Inc. (QPHC) upon the recommendation of Gemma San José of Talólong/López. It’s like a homecoming of sorts. I still am a Tayabeño.
I attended the group’s meeting last week in San Antonio, Tayabas (it was just their third since the group was conceived only recently). The meeting was held in charming Fil-Am Garden Resort owned by another member, inspirational author Julie Cox who is a native of the said town.
The meeting, moderated by interim president Danny de Luna, was very organized that we were able to tackle everything on the agenda, even wrapping up ahead of schedule. Being a new organization, much of what was talked about revolved on how to structure QPHC into a fully legal entity, including future activities and a possible merger with the Quezon Historical and Cultural Society which, at least to me, seems to have been inactive for a long time.
Also, during the meeting, the group took advantage of showing its appreciation to Ms. Cox for graciously hosting the event. The entrepreneur/philanthropist celebrated her birthday a few days prior, so it’s only fitting for her to be honored, and in a rare manner. Tina Decal of Kulinarya Tagala fame presided over an ancient Tagalog “vin d’honneur” for the hostess. Fellow QPHC member Eric Dedace described what we had witnessed and experienced:
…everybody prepared for the traditional “tagayan” ritual of drinking lambanóg facilitated by the Sariaya food heritage aficionado Ms. Tina Decal who acted as the “tanguera”. She properly enunciated its symbolic nature as a great expression and gesture of local warmth and welcoming hospitality by saying: “¡Ang init ng pagdaán ng lambanóg sa lalamunan ay tandó ng init ng pagtangáp ng mg̃a Tayabasin (Tayabeños) sa mg̃a visita!”
Incorporated within the ritual was the “hagbóng”, a traditional Tayabeño ceremony given to a lady on the eve of her birthday. As such, two bouquets of flowers, individually brought by Ms. Decal and Ms. Maricel Martín, were handed over to Mr. de Luna and Architect Juanito Martín, who stood at both sides facing Ms. Cox who had her back to the center backdrop. Ms. Decal, who stood behind the center table, then presided over that very distinctive tradition by raising her hand holding the lambanóg in a wine glass, and offering the drink with the words “¡Na’ay pô!” (Here is my drink!). And, as previously instructed, everyone replied with a “¡Paquinabañgan pô!” (Make use of your drink!). Afterwards, Mr. de Luna and Architect Martín, one after the other, raised their toasts as well to Ms. Cox in the same gallant manner, and completed the one-of-a-kind ritual by handing her the flower bouquets amid much applause. Ms. Martín then handed the gracious host her very own black QPHC T-shirt as well.
Many of us today relate the Tagalog words “tagay” and “tanguero/a” to informal drinking sessions, usually rowdy drinking sessions out in the streets or in a local sari-sari store with buddies (“baricán” is what they call it), not knowing that such words have loftier origins and usage. And who would have thought that such a ritual still exists, or at least, that the Tagálogs have very sophisticated social norms? That is why the study of history, culture, and heritage is significant not only to scholars but to ordinary citizens as well. Because much of what we do in our daily lives is rooted to our past. And knowing and understanding our past strengthens our resolve about who we are and helps us value our society even more.
I am thankful and fortunate to have witnessed this ancient ritual among like-minded people in the Quezon Province Heritage Council, Inc. I am sure that I have much to learn about Tayabas. This province is so rich in both tangible and intangible heritage, much of which are in danger of being erased by careless modernity.Our group has a lot of job to do.
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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). 😀
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
In early in 2012, I was invited to write a coffee table book for La Laguna Province. It was one of former Governor E.R. Ejército’s priority projects for the province’s culture and tourism sector. It took me more than a year to finish it, having had many sleepless moments (taking forty winks usually inside a provincial bus) because I had to juggle wage slavery, household responsibilities, and painstaking research and travel in between. I even developed varicose veins on both of my hands and forearms due to overtyping (and it pains me every single day up to this very moment). Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, the book project did not come into fruition. I am not even informed of its status anymore.
On the bright side, I was able to tour the whole province and got to meet many important people there and even got to befriend some of them. Probably the best part of that experience was that I was able to discover the province’s long-lost foundation date without even trying (and without being given proper recognition, haha). But still, my dream of becoming a published writer remains unfulfilled. And worse, all that hardwork I poured for what could have been my very first book was all for naught.
Or so I thought.
Several days ago, my good ol’ buddy Arnaldo broached to me this idea of his about us becoming tour guides. Actually, he already suggested the idea to me months ago. I flatly declined, telling him that I’m just a blogger, that the only people I can tour without my knees shaking out of nervousness are my family. But Arnaldo’s the resilient type of guy. He was finally able to convince me by saying that I’m no different from him, that he’s just a blogger too. And he added that the edge that we have over other tourist guides is our background in Filipino History. We’re not just history buffs but citizen historians (gracias por introducirme a esta terminología, Señor José Perdigón). While some tourist guides are doing what they’re doing for the sake of, perhaps, fame or money (or both), we intend this venture to be an extension of our respective blogs’ advocacy: to raise awareness on the true being of our national identity by providing a correct interpretation of our country’s history.
Of course we have to admit the fact that earning millions of bucks from this tourism venture every month is enticing. And because of the exposure we’d be getting, Arnaldo and I will certainly receive lucrative offers from Star Cinema, Viva Films, ABS-CBN, GMA, and all those media giants to become their contract stars. But that’s beside our true objective and is only secondary. Believe it or not. Anyway, you will fully believe this more once you learn how much we will be charging our guests (it’s guaranteed to be a bargain)!
At first, the idea was to provide a tour within the Metro Manila area. But I cautioned Arnaldo that Metro Manila has been toured to death and is somewhat crowded with tour guides already (Carlos Celdrán, Ivan Man Dy, and Bryan Ocampo to name a few). They may not be as good-looking as the two of us, but still, the metropolis playground’s already filled. So why not do it somewhere near the National Capital Region? And then it hit me: why not La Laguna, a place which I am very familiar with? Arnaldo himself, being a resident of nearby Muntinlupa City, has also traveled extensively in La Laguna and has blogged many of its towns and cities numerous times. Besides, we are not aware of any regular tour guides covering the province. And more importantly, so many Filipinos have yet to know and experience the charming beauty of La Laguna’s rustic scenery, history, culture, and heritage. Many people know the province usually because of its hot springs (“¡Tara ná sa Pansol!“), Enchanted Kingdom, and being the birthplace of José Rizal, a reality which I find unfair and a bit demeaning because La Laguna has a lot more to offer other than hot spring resorts, national shrines, or carnivals.
My interest with this tourism project grew each time Arnaldo drops by at our place to discuss about it. Even my wife Yeyette has high hopes for it. The two of them are damn sure that this will work out. But I really don’t know. Not that I’m a pessimist (actually, I am), but whenever I remember my failures as a writer, I feel so frustrated. Good thing that their positive attitude is contagious.
That’s why I’m now blogging about it. 🙂 Really, I think it is worth a try!
So, when I was fully convinced to accept this project, Arnaldo trusted me with the liberty to choose which towns we should tour since I was more familiar with the place. It wasn’t that easy — I guarantee you that each and every town in La Laguna has something interesting to explore (yes, there are also noteworthy sights to see even in urban San Pedro Tunasán or in obscure Rizal!). But we had to face the fact that it is not possible to tour the whole province within a day or two. And we needed to tour guests for only a day. So after much thought and deliberation, I told him that we should do “two packages”. Package A would be a lakeshore tour, or those towns located right beside Laguna de Bay. Package B would be a mountain tour, or those towns located upwards Monte Banajao. In order for the tour to push through, we should have a minimum of 15 guests. Arnaldo said that he will take care of the logistics (particularly the vehicle) and much of the talking, hehe! Because I’m more of a listener than a speaker. However, in the event that we will have Spanish-speaking guests, then I will have to take over.
For now, our focus is on Package A. And the tentative itinerary for it is:
Calambâ —> Pila —> Pagsanján —> Lumbán —> Paeté —> Páquil.
As can be seen from the photos on this blogpost, me, my daughter Krystal, and Arnaldo already made an ocular inspection of these places last November 2.
“Everything happens for a reason”, Arnaldo reassured me, saying that all the sacrifice that I did for that shelved La Laguna book project really had to happen. Because it was bound to open a new door for us, after all.
I hope he’s right. Hágase la voluntad de Dios. 🙂
¡Viajemos a La Laguna!
¡Mi familia maravillosa!
Exactly a year ago today, our dreams finally came true — a wedding that was 14 years in the making!
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! 😀
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. 😀
¡Enaltecer la familia para la gloria más alta de Dios!
Dear National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Intramuros Administration (IA),
How are you? I hope you’re doing fine. First of all, I would like to applaud the both of you for all your past and present efforts in championing Filipino culture, heritage, and the arts within and outside the Walled City…
Aw, the heck with formalities! Enough with the niceties! You two actually disappoint me!
Let me first direct my attention to you, NCCA. Several days ago, you did a commendable act when you condemned DMCI’s Torre De Manila for desecrating the visual skyline of the Rizal Monument. Hurrah. Kudos. Party balloons. But now, take a look at this photo:
I assume that you’re the one who took it because you tweeted about it. “Street art in
@Intramuros #Philippines #Manila #vivamanila” was your proud declaration on your Twitter account. And worse, your friend IA retweeted it! But first, what is wrong with this picture that has been the source of my displeasure? Because this graffiti which you call “street art” is not even national. It is associated with hip hop culture which originated from the toughies of South Bronx in New York. Furthermore, graffiti’s status as an art form is still questionable. So is that what you are promoting now? Secondly, why did you allow a questionable subculture art form within the historic walls of Intramuros? I would have just let it pass without comment had this kind of graffiti been painted elsewhere (face it: one usually encounters graffiti art in latrined walls and dank alleys near rowdy neighborhoods). But no, it was done within Intramuros!
To the people who make up the IA, may I remind you your reason for being. And that’s Presidential Decree No. 1616. It goes a little something like this:
The Administration shall be responsible for the orderly restoration and development of Intramuros as a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. As such, it shall ensure that the general appearance of Intramuros shall conform to Philippine-Spanish architecture of the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.
Before you go smart-alecky on me, don’t even start that graffiti is not architecture. But hey, this is not just about architecture anymore but about the Walled City’s general appearance which you guys swore to protect and conserve. And of all people, you should know what general appearance I am talking about. My golly, is graffiti even Hispanic? Is graffitti even Filipino? And while I may not be against graffiti so long as it is on its proper place (preferably in an MMDA-sponsored “Metro Pogi” colony), it has no place within the historically hallowed walls of Intramuros.
My friends, it was in Intramuros where the Filipino State was established on 24 June 1571. For centuries, it was the seat of political power — of royal political power. Its walls laid witness to a thousand traditional processions and events which both devout and heathen now consider as legendary. Intramuros was where many of our patriots and great thinkers were educated. Intramuros was our country’s little Europe, the medieval city of the Far East, the citadel of baroque and gothic architecture, of carromatas and genteel people, of cobbled roads and revolution, of gas light and romanticism, of gallantry and Filipino Identity.
My friends, in Intramuros were trained our first real painters.
If you can find time criticizing the Rizal Monument’s photobombing problems, please do the same by cleaning your own background. And if you have no more regard for national aesthetics, at least do show an ounce of respect for national history.
Rainy days of recent weeks brought back beautiful and exciting memories of last year’s Allah Valley Familiarization Tour, particularly our journey to enchanting Lake Sebú. It took place during my “birthday week” (July 14-18, 2013), and it was my first trip to Mindanáo where I got to meet some of the most interesting people. For most part of our tour, it was either raining or drizzling, but it never spoiled our “vacation”, at least for my part.
I got lucky to have been part of that tour which was composed of well-known travel bloggers and writers as well as representatives from the Department of Tourism. Together, we traveled to many parts of Cotabato del Sur (South Cotabato) and Sultán Qudarat, or those places pertaining to the Allah Valley region. But what was perhaps the most thrilling place we visited was Lake Sebú in Cotabato del Sur.
Lake Sebú is a large natural lake located in the municipality which also bears its name.* Situated in the nature-tinged province of Cotabato del Sur and within the Allah Valley region, it is recognized as one of the country’s most important watersheds as well as a major tourist attraction in Mindanáo. The lake region is beautifully surrounded by rolling hills and thickly forested mountains and is the home of the T’boli, the extremely friendly indigenous peoples of South Cotabato.
So enchanting were the sceneries, stories, and people of Lake Sebú that they inspired one of us to make a film! Writer Ida Anita del Mundo (daughter of a living film legend) was roused by our Lake Sebú sojourn to write and direct her first indie film, K’na, The Dreamweaver. It’s one of the entries to this year’s Cinemalaya which opens tomorrow night.
No wonder she seemed catatonic for most part of the tour! She was subconsciously cookin’ up something, after all! 😀
I told Ida many weeks ago that I’d tag my family along to watch the screening of her film. Unfortunately, because of my wife’s delicate pregnancy, we won’t be able to do so anymore. Lo siento, señorita. But she has already seen the stunning trailer and she has nothing but praises for it. Judging by the trailer alone, this movie is in a class of its own. Wifey and me would be surprised if this film does not win a major award. We’re both disappointed, though, that we won’t be able to see the full movie. It was supposed to be the first indie film that we’d ever watch, believe it or not. But here’s hoping that a DVD of K’na, The Dreamweaver will come out in the near future.
But how enchanting is Lake Sebú, really? To those who won’t be able to travel there the soonest, I suggest you check out Ida’s jaw-dropping art film to find out.
The Municipality of Lake Sebú was once a part of the Municipality of Surallah. It became a separate municipality on 11 November 1982. On the other hand, Surallah was founded on 19 June 1961 and was one of the 11 original municipalities of Cotabato del Sur when the latter province separated from the much larger province of Cotabato on 18 July 1966. Cool. So I share the same birthday with the province. Maybe I should move my family there permanently. And you better believe me when I say that it’s not a bad idea. 😀