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The Future “Shrine City” of Southern Tagalog (San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna)

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Welcome to San Pedro, the gateway to La Laguna province!

I’ve been a San Pedrense for close to six years already.

We moved to San Pedro, La Laguna last 2004 at the height of the infamous 2004 Philippine General Elections (where FPJ won in the voting but lost in the counting). My wife was then pregnant with our second child (Momay). I was then working in SPI Technologies in my hometown, Parañaque City. Thus, I had to travel for almost two hours from San Pedro to Parañaque’s Barrio Santo Niño where SPI was located. A female cousin of mine, who is married to a native San Pedrense (from the Igonia clan), helped us find a place to stay. I chose San Pedro because the apartment units there were considerably cheap. Although it’s just beside Metro Manila (via Muntinlupà City), the rates of apartment units there are provincially cheap.

As a history buff, I was very excited to see San Pedro town for the very first time. I was expecting something rural, like that of my dad’s hometown of Unisan, Quezon. I was disappointed to see a rather urbanized place fuming with smoke from countless tricycles, roads teeming with junk food wrappers and assorted litter, and a huge Sogo Hotel at the entrance to the town from Metro Manila. Back then, I haven’t been traveling much. So my expectations were doused cold. Also, I noticed a scarcity of classic Filipino houses which we call bahay castilà or bahay na bató. Only a few remain. I even doubt if those surviving houses date back to the Spanish times. But there are still a couple of postwar houses which somehow resemble the bahay na bató which I adore so much.

We first lived in a small, one-room apartment unit in Sitio Pitóng Gatang in Barrio San Vicente. In late 2007 (I was already working for APAC Customer Services for three years), we moved to a larger apartment building in the same barrio (now called a barangáy).

We’ve befriended a lot of San Pedrense folk. Especially my very amiable wife who knows almost everybody in our barrio: tricycle drivers, various street and market vendors, canto boys and street toughies, elderly folk, etc. She really has that masa attitude in her which I’m so proud at.

Me, I befriended the upper echelon of San Pedro, hehe! I had the privilege of cowriting (with Arnaldo Arnáiz) current Mayor Calixto Catáquiz’s biography (still unpublished, though). I also befriended San Pedro’s official historian, Sonny Ordoña. He cowrote the history of the town with Amalia Cullarín Rosales entitled San Pedro, Laguna: Noón at Ngayón.

This year or next year, we’ll soon be leaving San Pedro. We’ll soon be moving to Calambâ, La Laguna, where we have purchased our own home. But six years is six years. So many things have happened to us here in San Pedro. This is the place where we have totally become independent and slowly built our “little empire”, i.e., our family; before, we had to seek financial support from immediate family members. All my children began their childhood here. My daughter Krystal is a pioneer student of nearby Santa Hideliza Montessori (formerly known as Asturias Angel Montessori School) where she is a consistent first honor student (it’s all in the blood, hehe!). Momay has just started his schooling in the same school. We’ve built friendships. It is here where I discovered and became a devotee of the miraculous Santo Sepulcro. One midnight, as I was headed for work, I even got to beat up a huge street toughie who tried to harass me (seriously)!

For better or for worse, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna has become part of us.

Enjoy the pictures which I took of the town (my daughter Krystal and I had an afternoon stroll last 29 December 2009)… =)

St. Peter The Apostle

Banál na Cruz ng San Pedro Tunasán

A view of the urbanized población from the church tower.

The only municipal hall that I know where the mayor's office is located right above a multi-purpose town plaza stage. Unique.

Messy wires mar this view of the town's enormous church.

The road going up to San Pedro Bridge (my daughter Krystal's at the onset).

Naty's Tourist Lodge / Restaurant. However, what is interesting for tourists to see in San Pedro? This is what the next administration should work on. Tourism is also important economically.

Tanghalang F.A. Vierneza, a waste of public funds if you ask my opinion.

Going up the bridge, further south of San Pedro.

San Pedro Bridge

The semi-polluted river of San Pedro. The river still teems of fish and other river creatures. There is still hope to save this body of water. A sincere environmental effort from the local government is direly needed.

Mount Maquíling from afar.

Suki Wet & Dry Market

Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol

The altarpiece.

The Nativity scene (all these photos, by the way, were taken last 12/29/2009).

Liceo de San Pedro (San Pedro High School)

Very few Antilean (bahay na bató) houses remain in San Pedro, which is quite sad. The one in this photo has been converted into a commercial establishment.

Many streets in the oldest parts of San Pedro look like this. Good thing these pink bougainvilla flowers beautify the place a bit.

One of my favorite flowering plants: the eye-catching bougainvilla!

Typhoon Ondoy floods were already subsiding when this photo was taken. But this dirt road leading to the lakeshore was still soft and very muddy. Thus, Krystal and I didn't push through with our lakeshore trek.

A fishpond a few meters away from the lake. It was also damaged by Typhoon Ondoy.

San Roque Elementary School in Barrio San Roque.

Ducks raised near the lake. San Pedro used to have huge balót and iticán industry which rivaled that of Pateros.

Water lilies fill the banks of Laguna de Bay in this part of Barrio Landayan.

Flowering water lilies!

Black birds flying excitedly over the lake! Are they crows?

Seashells embedded inland, meters away from the lake.

The modern church tower of the mysterious Santo Sepulcro Church in Barrio Landayan.

Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro

An ancient acacia tree in front of the Santo Sepulcro Church.

My daughter, Jewel Krystal Rose, when she was four years old (on my 25th birthday). I didn't allow her to be baptized at a much earlier date because I was an atheist before. This miraculous church further reaffirmed and strengthened my belief in God. =)

Light.

Dark.

The Holy Sepulchre which houses the iconic icon of Jesus Christ, known all over San Pedro Tunasán as the miraculous Lolo Uweng.

A busy part of the town.

Vegetables, fruits, and spices being sold out on the streets, a usual Latin-American activity.

¡Caramba! He's everywhere!

Bibingca and puto bumbóng vendors; all pictures were taken during the 2009 Christmas Season.

Puto bumbóng

Bibingca

Sampaguita buds in the town plaza. San Pedro Tunasán is also known as the country's Sampaguita capital.

Missed the whole name, haha! The bus was moving fast... and I was moving slow!

Krystal buying a Sampaguita collar.

La flor de la sampaguita, una flor filipina.

The massive façade of the San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church.

The statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the church which can be seen from miles around.

Not sure if this house is prewar or postwar. But it's definitely vintage.

Calle San Vicente goes through a tunnel beneath the San Pedro Bridge.

Another Filipino-style house.

This one's a charm!

This railroad goes all the way to Ciudad de Legazpi, Albay in Bícol province.

Coconuts!

Santa Hideliza Montessori School, where Krystal and Momay study.

Capilla de San Vicente de Ferrer

A neighbor leading us to one of San Pedro's last few remaining Sampaguita plantations. The town used to have huge plantations everywhere. Many of the townsfolk relied on the sampaguita trade for a living. But that was long ago.

¡Ang manóc ni San Pedro!

Today, the once flourishing sampaguita farms have been relegated to a mere backyard industry.

Bamboo (not the band).

Our San Pedro Tunasán walk ended at dusk.

A FEW THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT SAN PEDRO TUNASÁN, LA LAGUNA’S PAST AND FUTURE

The former name of San Pedro was San Pedro Tunasán. San Pedro is from one of Jesus Christ’s apostles. Tunasán comes from the word tunás which is a medicinal herb that used to grow along the western banks of Laguna de Bay where the said town is now situated. Significantly, this herb was actually brought here by the friars from México.

San Pedro was inhabited by Tagalog tribesmen before the Spanish arrival. Spanish friars (Franciscans) assembled many Tagalog tribes in what is now known as La Laguna province through a process called reducción a pueblo, creating what we now know as a town or pueblo/municipio. San Pedro Tunasán is a product of this complex process.

San Pedro Tunasán during the Spanish period produced considerable quantities of rice, mangoes, coconuts, native oranges, lemons, buyô (betel leaves), and even sugar cane. And according to the Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de las Islas Filipinas (Fr. Manuel Buzeta, O.S.A., and Fr. Felipe Bravo, O.S.A), there used to be a big house made of brick and tiled-roof which was a silk factory. Unfortunately, it’s not stated in the book where this old bahay na bató was situated, thus I have no idea if it still stands.

San Pedro was also owned by the Jesuits and was used as an estate (or hacienda) to fund their projects and other activities, particularly the Colegio de San José in Intramuros (where José Rizal’s father, Francisco Mercado, studied). It was the Jesuits who built a chapel (ermita) dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle (now known as the Parish of San Pedro Apóstol).

San Pedro Tunasán used to be a part of Tabuco (an old Tagalog term which means “the end part of a river”), a large town which was also then comprised of what are now the towns of Bíñán, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao. It officially became a town when it was detached from Tabuco on 18 January 1725 upon the request of San Pedrense principalía led by Alonzo Magtibay, Francisco Santiago, and Ignacio de Guevarra. Their request was granted by the last Spanish Habsburg king himself, King Charles II. Santiago subsequently became the first town mayor. Therefore, the real foundation day of San Pedro Tunasán should be celebrated every 18th of January and not on any other dates.

Many years later, a large northern chunk of the town was sold to Muntinlupà. That chunk of land is now Muntinlupà City’s Barrio Tunasán (where many lechón stalls abound). That is why the town today is simply called San Pedro. But I refuse to call it as such. I always prefer the original, giving due respect to history: ¡San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna!

The city’s incumbent mayor, Calixto Catáquiz, who’s running for reelection this May, plans to make San Pedro a “Shrine City”, as written in his still unpublished biography, A Date With Destiny (One More Challenge!) The Life Story of San Pedro:

“Mayor Catáquiz is a visionary,” says Sonny Ordoña, the town’s resident historian and the municipal hall’s consultant for cultural affairs. “Once he asked me for a unique nickname for the town. Since we have a couple of shrines here, particularly the miraculous Santo Sepulcro Shrine in Landayan, I suggested to him, ‘well, why not dub it as a Shrine City?’ His eyes beamed with the idea. The next thing you know, he’s telling everyone that he’s planning to create a 30-storey high bronze statue of Jesus Christ! He wants it installed up in the mountains of San Pedro!”

The feet of this gigantic statue ala Cristo Redentor of Rio de Janeiro would stand on four chapels. These chapels will serve as monumental pedestals. An incredible concept that is already being planned!

“This chapel would be in full view from Alabang and possibly from Parañaque,” says the mayor. “Aircraft will easily discern it from atop.” Certainly, this future landmark will place San Pedro on a national scale!

Shrine city or not, San Pedro Tunasán is all worth it. All it needs is full and sincere cooperation between the local government and its inhabitants.

Finally!

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Yeah, finally…

It’s embarrassing to note that despite my thirty years on this capitalism-crazy planet, I still don’t have my own bank account. But this afternoon, all that changed when I opened one (with my wife as my co-account holder) in a Bank of the Philippine Islands branch in Alabang, Muntinlupà City.

Celebrating at Starbucks (Alabang Town Center)!

This is one of the happiest days of my “they-say-jump-I-say-how-high” life!

Metro Manila is being pummeled right now by Typhoon Santi.

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I went outside with an officemate just a few minutes ago. It’s no longer raining here in Alabang, Muntinlupà City. But hours ago, it was raining dogs and cats and cows and other assorted mammals. Man! The wind’s like crazy! The last time Metro Manila suffered a direct hit like this one was three years ago, and it was Typhoon Milenyo.

I went to the parking lot, which was almost empty, and looked up to the sky. Huge gray clouds were slowly moving in one hellish circle!

Typhoon Santi is here!

And too bad I don’t have a video camera with me. That’s what I’ll buy for myself this Christmas season.

This kind of weather always excites me. I don’t know why. I was screaming like a child outside as the wind was blowing up all over my body. And Dustin (my officemate) was very amused. Well, I told him earlier that a storm chaser’s my dream job.

This typhoon is a work of art! A magnificent creation of God!

Or should I say, of man?!

Climate change, anyone?

TYPHOON SANTI IS HERE IN METRO MANILA!

Typhoon Santi is here in Metro Manila!

Typhoon Ondoy: A Global Warning!

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According to reports, yesterday’s tremendous tempest dumped the heaviest rainfall on Metro Manila and nearby provinces in more than four decades!

I was stuck in our office in Alabang, Muntinlupà City for hours after my shift. But the downpour never ceased. I was supposed to attend a kid cousin’s birthday, but I thought it best not too.

Seeing that it was hopeless to wait for the rain to cease, I just barged outside using my dilapidated umbrella. And I was disgusted by what I saw — stranded motorists! It reminded me of my college days getting stuck in the same situation. I remember one time when I had to walk from Adamson University in Manila all the way to Parañaque City! It was a scary flashback because yesterday, I didn’t plan of walking from Alabang all the way to San Pedro, La Laguna.

Little did I know that a tragedy was already happening all over the metropolis and its surrounding provinces.

I waited for almost an hour under the Alabang viaduct. And underneath the viaduct, traffic was hell. Counterflows where virtually everywhere, and many commuters were already soaking wet. Whenever empty jeepneys pass by slowly, exhausted commuters surround them, like vultures waiting for their prey to die. Luckily I was able to catch an apprehensive jeepney driver (I saw the look on his face; he was still undecisive whether or not he should just drive home or still pick up motorists). I ran as fast as I could (the veteran that I am from all these flooded moments), getting the choicest jeepney seat — the front seat.

In just a few seconds, the jeepney was filled. Initially, the driver decided to drive us only up to Muntinlupà (the población), but no one seemed to care. We all had one thing in mind: to go back to our respective homes as close as we can get.

The driver chose the old National Road (Mahárlika Highway) instead of the South Luzón Tollway because the traffic flow in the said expressway was almost immobile. But it was even worse in the national road. Many parts were flooded. I was surprised. This was no ordinary rain. I’ve never seen Muntinlupà flooded that way before.

I started sending text messages to friends, asking them their situation. I learned that even in Manila, it was flooded. It was no surprise because floods in many parts of Manila is almost “normal” (no thanks to litterbugs).

Surprisingly, we noticed that there was no more traffic jam in the población. So the driver decided to drive us all the way to San Pedro, La Laguna (which is supposed to be a couple of minutes away). I wondered why there was no more traffic jam. I found out minutes later.

When our jeep drove past Susana Heights, it started to rain heavier again (I already threw my useless umbrella in the garbage bin; anyway, I was already prepared to get wet myself). I got the shock of my life to see that the highway in front of me turned into a virtual sea of flood!

So that’s why there were no more vehicles! And the few vehicles that remained were those whose engines were flooded already. Poor owners! And there were people everywhere, braving the rains and the waist-high floods.

Our driver was still apprehensive: should he drive through the waters or not? I egged him to “go for it, dude!” The guy was cheerful all throughout the trip, and was very thoughtful of his passengers (may God bless his career). And yes, he did decide to drive on. The secret to it was not to remove his foot onto the pedal. He must continue driving through the flooded road without stopping or else the waters will enter and engulf the engines.

And so he drove, turning his rickety public utility vehicle into an amphibian-jeep, creating waves along the way, splashing commuters who decided to walk through the floods. And other vehicles who were coming from La Laguna made more ripples and waves in the flood. Some of the flood waters even entered where I was seated.

For some odd reason, the sight excited me. And I was very, very disappointed for not having with me my wife’s Motorola v3i (the only “digital” camera we have). I should’ve taken pictures of the flooded scene for this website and for ALAS FILIPINAS.

When our jeep neared San Pedro, La Laguna, the floods got worse. All esteros overflowed, destroying the shanties along its coast. The boundary between Muntinlupà City / Metro Manila and La Laguna province has become water world. I suddenly thought of San Pedro’s mayor, Calixto Catáquiz, who is a family friend. His home in Barrio Sto. Niño lies is near Laguna de Bay and is not in an elevated place. I hope he’s OK.

Driving through the boundary is the most difficult drive we encountered. The flood was much higher, and there were so many standed people who were blocking the way, slowing us even more (I wasn’t ready yet to “dive” into the murky, garbage-filled flood). But luckily, we went through. I was confident that as soon as we get to the San Pedro bridge, we’ll be OK because the bridge was built very high above the river.

Although the river didn’t overflow on top of the bridge, the place has been converted into a “parking lot”. I’ve never seen the bridge filled with so much vehicles! There were so many parked cars, jeepneys, and even buses that I feared we might not get to the other side). But we did.

When we got to the other side, I dropped off because our apartment was just near. It was no longer raining heavily, but it was still drizzling enough to soak me. But I never got the chance to walk to our home which is what I usually do — the road was flooded with almost-knee-high waters. I had to take a trike. Luckily our apartment is situated in an elevated place. And even if it gets flooded there, we’re on the second floor. I later learned today that others who have two-storey homes, such as sexy actress Cristine Reyes, were not so lucky:

Even this year's FHM Queen wasn't spared from Ondoy's wrath!

Even this year's FHM Queen wasn't spared from Ondoy's wrath!

Funny thing is that after breakfast I was just reading a copy of FHM Philippines 100 Sexiest Women for 2009 where she won the number one spot, hehehe! I wasn’t able to watch TV news because we still have no cable (and no internet connection yet; I’m now at our neighbor’s internet shop). F*ck, we even lost our water supply. Yesterday was even worse: when I got home, there were both no electricity and water supplies.

Now that I’m online, I just realized the magnitude of yesterday’s massive downpour:

RELATED LINKS:
‘Ondoy’ leaves 72 dead and missing
‘Ondoy’ like ‘Katrina’
Tropical Storm Ketsana 2009
Typhoon Ondoy, Emergency Disaster Relief Numbers
Typhoon Ondoy displaces 153 families

And here’s a really scary video of Marikina River uploaded by INITIATE360 in YouTube. Typhoon Ondoy turned the river into a mammoth killing machine:

Below is INITIATE360′s account of the above video:

“I just got back from the river’s edge 5 minutes ago. A 10-15 feet height differential between the Marikina River and the embankment has now been reduced to the point that water is splashing against the high-rises of Eastwood, Metro Manila. A security guard for this sealed off area approaches me and covers me with his umbrella while I snap pictures from my phone. “Where are the police or firemen?” I asked. He first points at a speck in the middle of the river 300-400 meters out to my right. “That was a woman with her 2 year old infant clinging on to her. She passed through here in the middle of the river – waving at us for help. There was nothing we could do – she had passed though within 5 seconds. We’ve been seeing other people washed away.” We watched helplessly at the 20+ people 200 meters away that are now sitting on top of their corrugated roof-tops as the river rages beneath them on their submerged homes… waiting for emergency personnel yet to come.”

Marikina River, as well as other rivers in Metro Manila, overflows from time to time during typhoons. But not like this. And according to Reyes herself, she has lived in Provident Village, Marikina City for many years. This is the first time her home was inundated.

In other news, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro has his hands busy working with the National Disaster Coordinating Council with all rescue and relief operations. According to him, this is the worst typhoon tragedy he has ever encountered. Even the Philippine Navy claimed that this was the first time that they had received so many calls for help at the same time.

Since Gibô Teodoro is at the helm of all rescue and relief operations, I’m afraid that this tragedy might be given a “political color” to it because this is actually the best time for Gibô to up the ante with regard to his presidential aspirations. He might win (or try to win) the hearts (and votes) of thousands of Filipinos who were affected by the typhoon. Nevertheless, may his rescue team be successful with their endeavors.

It’s past 4:00 PM in the afternoon. The rains have slowed down, but hasn’t stopped yet. Malacañang Palace has already declared a state of calamity in Metro Manila and other 25 affected provinces. Close to a hundred people lost their lives. And thousands have been displaced. Eighty percent of the capital is underwater.

May this serve as a GLOBAL WARNING to all those who disrespect Mother Nature (such as litterbugs, smoke belchers, illegal loggers, etc.). Like countless others, I am mighty sure that climate change has something to do with this.

Click here for more photos of the tragedy (culled from various Facebookers).

What Would You Do With P150,952,935.60?

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SuperLotto is indeed the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) grandest lotto game of them all. And last Sunday, a lone bettor from Muntinlupà City won the whopping prize money of P150,952,935.60!!!

What would you do with such an amount?!

Pera pera pera must be cuela in a rich man's world!

Pera pera pera must be cuela in a rich man's world!

The corners of my mouth would’ve reached my ears! My eyes would be seeing double! My knees would shake as if there’s an earthquake…

Man, I’d simply die!!!

Or perhaps I’d even write more PCSO songs for Mirahel!

But with this lucky Muntinlupà SuperLotto bettor, life will be so much better:

Munti bettor wins P150-M lotto jackpot

Me and wifey bet last Sunday, but we lost. But you bet that we’ll bet again! Everything’s not yet lost!

Pepe Rizal won the lottery more than a century ago. I hope another Pepe will win — way to go! =)

It’s the economic crisis, baby! That’s what’s giving this game such huge popularity!

Man, imagine such an amount hocked inside my malnourished bank account…

But until then, I “suffer” here within the confines of my lonely office cubicle…

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