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Category Archives: History

The medium is the key

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I’ve been noticing a lot of new and younger historians today, giving lectures, interviews, and tours here and there, working extra hard to multiply their followers in their respective social media accounts. Many are probably looking forward to becoming “the next Ambeth Ocampo​”, or something to that effect. And even more are willing to become iconoclasts, eager to rewrite historical canon when opportunity knocks. Nothing wrong with that. But Filipino History is a complex study. It is incomparable to the histories of other nations. Our history is more about discovering new data and thrashing out the older ones. Because ours is a sad case, is in fact tainted with lies and absurdities (“leyenda negra“, hispanophobia, regionalism, etc.). Our history does not need a simple rewrite. It requires effort for self-justification of the Filipino. It needs an interpretation based not on nationalistic emotions but on hard data. Because our country’s history, to put it more bluntly, offers salvation of identity. This identity is power for it will return the dignity and swagger that we once wielded. It is the kind dignity that will enable ourselves to FIGHT all elements that dare trample on our beaten and tired souls.

Our true identity is locked away inside the forgotten chest of history. Today’s new breed of historians need not destroy it, for doing so will only do more harm to our already damaged culture. All they need is a key to unlock it. That should be their sole purpose (today. Historians should not act like celebrities. Rather, and modesty aside, they should behave more like superheroes loser by day, crime fighter by night). In reality, they really are. The Filipino Historian has a far more nobler purpose. He does not merely dig through sheets of yellowing paper to uncover hitherto unknown data and simply write about it. No. The purpose is to unravel and expose in order to help the Filipino self to recogize who he really is.

However, the Filipino Historian, who is also a writer, is not spared from the travails and hardships brought about by economic realities. More often than not, this reality serves as a hindrance to that noble purpose we speak of. But let not these deprivations discourage the Filipino Historian, for the fruits of their labor is for the betterment of their patria.

But where is that key? It’s not difficult to find: our forefathers who used pen and paper to elucidate and express their thoughts and ideas in aspiring for a better Filipinas left us just that — a medium in which to disseminate what was on their minds. That medium is the key to interpret our muddied history.

© Español al Día

Was Indang Church… attacked?

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Earlier today, a netizen from Indang posted several photos in his Facebook account of a horrendous accident inside the Saint Gregory the Church of Indang, Cavite.

© Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

The impact destroyed one of the antique stoups (to the left) and barely missed the gravestones of Agustín de las Alas (left) and Severino de las Alas (right), a close associate of Emilio Aguinaldo. @ Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

What’s left of the antique door and the stand of the broken stoup. It was the stoop I used before I stepped outside the church last March 22. @ Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

At first, shocked as I was, I really thought that it was just a freak accident. Until my daughter Krystal reminded me that this “accident” might have something to do with the quarrel between parish priest Fr. Von Arellano and Mayor Bienvenido Dimero. It’s because the latter entered into a questionable water supply project that sought to supply Tagaytay City with 10,000 cubic meters of potable water to the detriment of Indang’s residents. Just last year, thousands of people from both Indang and nearby Náic gathered in front of this church to protest this unpopular and dull-witted project. And the last time I talked to my father-in-law about this subject, he did confirm to me that Indang is having problems with its water supply since then.

The evidence against the mayor regarding the unpopular water supply issue is just too glaring to ignore. @ La Familia Viajera

@ La Familia Viajera

@ La Familia Viajera

In other words, Tagaytay, a major tourist spot in Cavite Province, now has more water supply than Indang even though the former sources its supply from the latter. The irony of it all.

Because of my daughter’s heads-up, I started to examine the photos of the accident. Now I have a hunch that she could be right. Besides, I’ve been to this church a couple of times already especially since my father-in-law still resides there. I am familiar with the church’s surroundings. The church itself is SEVERAL meters away from the road, and the narrow pathway leading towards the church’s antique doors is surrounded entirely by a cemented raised-bed garden. The driver could have easily skidded his vehicle against this raised platform to put a halt to it, or at least to slow it down. But he didn’t. Other than that, this “accident” happened at around 1:00 AM this morning, when the steel gates to the church grounds are already closed. Ramming straight into those gates would have slowed the vehicle down. But it didn’t.

How uncanny it is that the raised cemented garden-bed on either side of the narrow pathway remain unscathed! @ Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

The driver had a choice to either swerve left or right and just ram his vehicle on either post of the projecting porch (a latest addition, anyway). But he didn’t. Instead, he opted for a more perilous choice: the antique church’s wooden door. This photo was taken last March 22. @ La Familia Viajera

That is why I do not believe that this was an accident.

Fr. Arellano, by the way, is an officer of the Save Waters of Indang Movement, the group opposing Mayor Dimero’s unpopular move.

Sayang.Me and my family were at this church just last March 22. We, most especially my wife, marveled at the antique and stylish interiors of this Caviteño heritage site. And now this recklessness happened. I remember when, in 1897, Andrés Bonifacio allegedly attempted to burn this House of God should government forces recapture the town from his fellow Tagalog rebels. Even in the past, this church already figured in political controversy. Then as now.

Is this church, now led by an implacable priest hostile against the local government’s (alleged) greed and stupidity, under attack? I’m inclined to think so, but I honestly hope that I’m wrong.

From what I have gathered, the owner of the jeepney is willing to pay for the church’s damages. And the good news is that the door can still be rebuilt. But I doubt if it would be put back to its former condition. As a friend of mine shared on her Facebook: “Sorry means nothing when you hurt someone. And you hurt me bad… ” Photo taken last March 22. @ La Familia Viajera

Walk Back in History: The San Nicolás-Binondo Heritage Tour

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Walk Back in History: The San Nicolás-Binondo Heritage Tour is a historical and architectural walk on the world’ s oldest chinatown. Walk the streets of historical San Nicolás and cosmopolitan Binondo. Explore their history and the evolution of their architecture. Learn the historical, social, political, and economic factors that gave rise to the unique architecture of the area. Apart from learning history and architecture, learn also another Philippine devotion to the black Christ, the Santo Cristo de Loñgos
—Mª Cecilia Sunico—

This unique tour, probably a first of its kind to be conducted in the ancient arrabales of Binondo and San Nicolás, will be launched on May 3rd, a Sunday. The tour begins at exactly 8:00 AM in front of Binondo Church. Make sure to wear casual summer attire and sandals or sneakers as this tour will require plenty of walking. The tour will be facilitated by my friend Cecille Sunico, a well-known heritage activist in Manila who is also a descendant of the famous Hilario Sunico; chances are, the bells ringing from your población‘s old church belltower were cast from Sunico’s San Nicolás foundry (see photo above)

The fee is only ₱500 per person (exclusive of meals). Click here to join!

Pío Andrade, Jr.: the scientific historian! (podcast)

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Few people today remember Pío Andrade, Jr.; he created quite a stir among the intelligentsia back in the late 1980s when he published his book unmasking the true character of revered statesman Carlos P. Rómulo. Shortly after that, he replaced popular historian Ambeth Ocampo as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s resident history columnist when the latter entered the cloister.

During that brief stint with the Inquirer, Andrade was attacking various historical personages left and right, dead or alive. Unlike Ocampo, the columns he wrote were not simply trivial and informative but combative as well, for Andrade was a nationalist and a fearsome hispanista. This concerned a friend of his, a well-known official from the Film Archives of the Philippines, who had warned him to tone down his fighting stance as it might endanger his career, if not his safety (this was told to me by fellow history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz). But it was too late. The fearsome historian since then has become a marked man: marked to become forever marginalized.

Unlike many historians we have today, Andrade treats his historical researches as pure science. But this should come as no surprise since he is an acclaimed chemist who has made significant contributions on the studies of local medicinal plants, radiation chemistry, textile chemistry, food product development, pesticide chemistry, ethnobotany, and biomass energy. His profound knowledge of scientific research assisted him in uncovering many truths about our country’s historical truths. For one, he was able to raise more doubts about the authenticity of Rizal’s alleged execution photo. Also, he can tell a hispanophobe point blank, and with sources to boot, that the Spanish language was indeed widespread in Filipinas during the Spanish times.

With all his achievements in the local scientific community, he could have easily garnered a lucrative career overseas. But he never chose that easy path. His reason? Love of country.

Without further ado, here’s good ol’ Arnaldo’s interview with Señor Don Pío Andrade, Jr. last November in episode 5 of our podcast venture. Unfortunately, I was absent in episode 5 because I had to tend to a farm that day (cubicle farm, that is). The interview is a long one, that’s why Arnaldo had to cut it into two parts (part two will be available soon). But for those who are interested in Filipino History, an hour-and-a-half interview with probably the country’s most adroit and fearsome historian today is even “bitín“.

Prepare to be intrigued by a barrage of information overload.

Stay tuned for part two!

The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila

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We will always remember
What we shouldn’t forget
What made our hearts asunder
From the rubbles of regret.

Baybayin is not Filipino

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As per the research of scholar Trinidad Pardo de Tavera.

At the 4th Baybayin Festival Rizal held at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City last November 22, Senator Loren Legarda announced that she filed Senate Bill No. 1899 which calls for the use of Baybayin in all official logos of government agencies, departments, and offices.

While her bill will impact only official government logos, the fact remains that the good senator is still campaigning for its eventual general usage. This became evident when, on the same event, she said:

Marahil ñgayón ay hindí na maunauaan ng caramihan ang cahalagahán ng Baybayin dahil sanáy na tayo sa sistema ng pagsusulát na ating nacagisnán. Ñgunit capág binalicáan nátin ang ating casaysayan, ang baybayin ang símbolo ng civilización ng mga sinaúnang Filipino, bago pa man táyo mapasailálim sa pamumuno ng mg̃a dayuhan. (Perhaps today, many no longer understand the importance of Baybayin because we are already accustomed to the current system of writing which we have been using. But when we look back at our history, Baybayin is the symbol of civilization of the first Filipinos, right before we were subjugated by  foreign rule.)

This statement only implies her full support for Baybayin.

More than one Baybayin

Baybayin, as many of us all know, is an ancient pre-Filipino script that was used by major ethnolinguistic groups in the country such as the Tagálogs, Cebuanos, Ilocanos, etc. It has always been taught to us that the Baybayin (mistakenly referred to as Alíbata years ago) was the original Filipino system of writing. This is, of course, a false notion. For one: before the Spaniards arrived, our country was not yet created. Hence, there were still no Filipinos during that time (the first Filipinos were actually criollos or insulares; the term “Filipino” itself was coined by one). Second, and more importantly, there are several variations of Baybayin.

As can be seen from the chart above, there are more than one version of Baybayin. The Baybayin of the Visayans is not the one used by the Bicolanos, the Baybayin of the Ilocanos could neither be read by the Pampangueños, and so on and so forth. Even Tagálog has five versions! So how can Senator Loren Legarda incorporate the usage of this ancient script when it varies according to linguistic region? Will she do an eeny, meeny, miny, moe? Or will she arbitrarily use Tagalog since it is the basis of the national language? But again, WHICH Tagalog Baybayin? And if she chooses a different script other than Tagalog, that will make the other ethnolinguistic groups feel left out as well.

At this early stage, we can already feel the ineffectiveness of Baybayin. It will only espouse more division than unity other than confusion to an already uneducated Filipino studentry.

From Baybayin to Abecedario

We do, however, understand the nationalist stance of Senator Legarda. It is the same sentiment shared by many other nationalists, particularly those from UP Dilimán. But it is a kind of nationalism that is twisted and not rooted to historical reason and analysis. Had the good senator and those supporting her bill looked beyond their textbook knowledge as basis for this ancient script’s usage, they would have realized its inefficacy (eventually realizing their misplaced nationalism). Baybayin was actually scrapped not because the Spanish friars thought of it as the “workings of demons”, as we are wont to hear from hispanophobic historians, but for the simple fact that it was not an effective medium in disseminating novel thoughts and ideas to a people who were about to be taught the rudiments of contemporary literacy — book culture.

We can point out to Tomás Pinpín, our country’s first typographer and printer, as the culprit behind the disuse of the Baybayin. But he did it for practical reasons. When Pinpín was commissioned by the Dominicas to print the first Christian booklets for each native language, different typographical sets of Baybayin had to be manufactured. It was a very tedious process considering the fact that during his time (late 16th to early 17th century), wooden letter chips which were used to form each word that had to be printed were then handmade. It dawned upon Pinpín that it would take a lot of time, possibly years, to complete so many sets of Baybayin even before he could begin printing a book.

The archaic xylographic method of printing was a tedious process. Just imagine your first book being published in this manner using just one writing system. What more if it will be published in other systems of writing? You would have lost more hair by then compared to this guy in the picture.

But being of Chinese origin, Pinpín was aware that mainland China also had many languages. The difference, however, is that the Chinese always had one common system of writing, something which our country didn’t have at that time. And so this gave our first typographer and printer a marvelous idea: why not standardize the system of writing of all indigenous groups in Filipinas? Instead of using the various kinds of Baybayin, Pinpín (with the blessings of the Dominicans) decided to adopt for all the native languages the writing system that the Spaniards have been using — the Roman alphabet.

Not only did this move save Pinpín tons of time and labor in printing the first set of books meant for religious missions. It also gave the several groups in the archipelago, from Aparrí all the way to Joló, a sense of unity, of oneness, and of identity. And that is also the reason why up to now, we are still using the same system of writing.

Hardened nationalists who despise the present use of the Roman alphabet and yearn for the return of the Baybayin should take note that Pinpín’s decision to discard the latter not only gave him and future printers the ease of work. Inadvertently, it also paved the way for the introduction of two new vowel sounds: the “E” and the “O” (before the Spaniards arrived, the natives only had three vowel sounds: “A”, “I”, and “U”). It also assisted the natives into learning not only the Spanish language but also other European languages using the same alphabet. In the long run, the Filipinos developed their own alphabet, different but somewhat similar. It was called the Abecedario Filipino.

Bring back the Abecedario Filipino

If Senator Legarda’s intention of bringing back the Baybayin from obscurity is to instill nationalist pride among Filipinos, then she’s barking up the wrong tree. If one were to analyze it, Baybayin will only foster regionalism rather than nationalism. This alarming observation is already evident in local Pampangueño historian Michael Raymon Pañgilinan‘s patronization of the Culitan, the Capampañgan term for their version of Baybayin. Pañgilinan and his followers’ preoccupation for the Culitan did not instill in them love of country but love of region. As a result, Pañgilinan himself disdains of being called a Filipino and is obsessed with talks of a fairy tale “Kingdom of Luzón“.

What Senator Legarda and other leaders in government tasked to handle cultural and heritage issues is to bring back instead not the Baybayin but the 32-letter Abecedario Filipino, the true Filipino orthography which developed from Pinpín’s ingenious move to use the Roman alphabet instead of the awkward Baybayin.

Having 32 letters (five letters more than its Spanish counterpart), the Abecedario Filipino is clearly one of the longest alphabets in the world. Most of its consonants are read with the Batangueño inflection “eh”:

A (ah), B (be), C (se), CH (che), D (de), E (eh), F (efe), G (he), H (ache), I (ih), J (hota), K (ka), L (ele), LL (elye), M (eme), N (ene), NG (nang), Ñ (enye), ÑG (ñga), O (oh), P (pe), Q (ku), R (ere), RR (erre), S (ese), T (te), U (uh), V (ube), W (doble u), X (ekis), Y (ih griega), Z (seta)

As mentioned earlier, the introduction of the Roman alphabet by Pinpín which paved the way for the development of the Abecedario Filipino augmented the phonemes of the local languages with the addition of new vowel (“A”, “I”, and “U”) and consonant (“F”, “Ñ”) sounds. The Abecedario Filipino is also the same alphabet utilized by Francisco Balagtás when he wrote his now classic Florante at Laura. It was the same alphabet used by our forefathers, and that included Rizal and his contemporaries, in writing literature and in corresponding among themselves. Whether a Filipino back then spoke a different native language, his usage of the Abecedario Filipino is one proof that he has assimilated himself into the Filipino cosmos,

The Abecedario Filipino is thus the orthography that must be put back to full usage because of its unifying characteristics. Other than that, the Abecedario Filipino will prove once and for all that Tagalog, Cebuano, Capampañgan, Bicolano, etc. are not inferior to English.

This obsession for a mythical glorious past should stop because it is retrogressive and very un-Filipino. But if Senator Legarda still insists of having her worthless bill passed into law, then she might as well push for all Filipinos to go back to writing on banana leaves and tree barks.

The Baybayin NEVER united our archipelago. It never did. And it never will. On the other hand, the Abecedario Filipino has already proven its effectiveness in strengthening our collective identity as Filipinos.

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!

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