MARIN+DUQUE. The legend tells about the powerful South Luzon king Datu Batumbacal who ordered the beheading of a fisherman-poet named Garduque when he discovered the love affair between the commoner and his daughter, Prinsesa Marin. The lovers sailed out into the sea but drowned. A heart-shaped island instantly rose from the waters between Mindoro and Quezon Province. Just like in today’s popular on-screen love teams, AlDub, DongYan, KathNiel, JaDine, and KimErald, the isolated island was named after the tragic lovers as MarinDuque.

Once a year, a beheading is staged but nothing in reference to the star-crossed love team. It is about the one-eyed Roman centurion Longinus who regained sight when a drop of blood from the crucified Christ spurted into his blind eye. His conversion into Christianity and beheading is reenacted in a rowdy and flamboyant Holy Week street theater complete with masks and garb in the towns of Mogpoc, Boac, and Gasan. Spectators crowd the piers and this island province becomes a little harder to reach at this time of the year. When the yearly Moriones Festival ends in Easter, Marinduque goes back to sleep again.

TOO EARLY FOR LENT. We arrived in Marinduque four months before the next Holy Week. At six in the morning, its provincial capital, Boac is still suspended between slumber and wakefulness. The shops located at the ground floor of old houses are still closed. At least there’s warm taho to nourish us from the seven-hour trip, first four by bus to Dalahican pier and then the rest by ferry to Balanacan port.

Boac has an endearing blend of old-fashioned charm and practical modernity. During our gentle stroll along the narrow streets of the sleepy town center, we gazed at the facade of centuries-old ancestral dwellings named Casa Narvas, Capitan Piroco Mansion, and Casa de Don Emilio Lardizabal. Other old houses seemed to be restored, repainted or rebuilt following their original pre-war bahay-na-bato configurations and some with Art Deco design elements. These post-war houses fit in perfectly both as dwellings for its old time residents on the upper floor and stores of modern conveniences at the ground level.

BREAKFAST IN BOAC. At around eight, Boac began to stir with activities from the early joggers doing their stretching right in front of the old Casa Real and Tribunal and the store openers of cafes and gift shops at the ground floor of heritage houses surrounding the town plaza.

Our first meal for the day of corned beef, tapsilog, and lomi noodles soup immediately made us feel at home in Marinduque. Tap-si-log is a contraction of tapa, sinangag, and itlog. Tapa is beef strips that were marinated in calamansi juice, salt and pepper and then air-dried under the sun until they are chewy like beef jerky. Then they are fried and served with fried garlic rice (sinagang), sunny-side up eggs (itlog), and vinegar dip. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch. Its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver, soy sauce and calamansi juice mixture.

BIGLANG AWA DEL BOAC. After breakfast, we explored the Boac Cathedral and its ancient fortification. Like in the case of most islands during the Spanish period, Moro raids were a common threat to local communities. Moro pirates would raid towns to kidnap the natives and then sell them to the slave market so the natives built a wall of river stones around the cathedral.

A massive Moro raid took place in the mid-18th century. The natives ran to the cathedral-fortress for refuge. Brave men defended the outer walls  while the womenfolk and children prayed the Rosary before the image of their patroness, the Immaculate Concepcion. Food started to ran-out and defeat was impending. Then during a sudden storm, a lady clothe in pure white was seen on the walls of the fortress waving her hand like shooing away the invading Moros. Frightened, the Moros retreated. The natives later found image of the Immaculate Concepcion with mud around its skirt and train. This is the first miracle attributed to the Immaculate Concepcion which received the name as Nuestra Señora de Biglang Awa del Boac.

BOAC CATHEDRAL. An enduring legacy of the Franciscan friars to Marinduque was Catholicism which they introduced in 1580. The Cathedral architecturally known for its massive buttresses, stone parapets, fortress wall were built by the natives using river stones from Boac River.

Local craftsmen carved the Cathedral doors with bass-relief of the four evangelists and the Baroque retablo that is graced with images of saints and the Nuestra Señora de Biglang Awa del Boac that was brought in by the Jesuits to Marinduque.

MORIONES MASK. From Boac we traveled to neighboring town of Mogpog. Here, sculpting wooden masks of Roman centurions with fierce facial expressions for the traditional Lenten street drama of the Moriones begins as early as December. But all-year round, the sound of chisel tapping on frangrant santol wood and flying wood dust fill the workshop of Dick Malapote who has been carving morion masks since 1979.

Masks are worn by the menfolk in Marinduque during the staging of the Moriones as a life-long vow or panata. The first Morion actor was a kampanero from Mogpog named Tata Bentong. Later, the tradition flourished in Boac and Gasan. During World War II, Moriones masks were placed at the beach front to trick the Japanese invaders of fierce warriors that are guarding the island. To save the first Morion masks, some were buried in earth along with santos while others were kept in the silong. Those that were buried in soil did not last the next century. Upon reaching old age, a Morion actor have the option to pass the mask to an heir in order to continue the family ritual or have the mask buried with him upon death to signify the end of a life-long panata.

CASA DE DON EMILIO. After all the walking to look for the old structures in Boac and searching for the Moriones mask maker in Mogpog,  we headed at ancestral house of Don Emilio Lardizabal in Boac which was converted for adaptive reuse as a restaurant conveniently located right in front of the old town plaza.

The house has a floor plan of a typical wealthy land lord’s residence during the Spanish period. The lower floor or silong that used for storing grains was converted into a modern cafe. The upper floor had a caida with doors that lead to the sala mayor and comedor. With some old-looking furniture and artifacts displayed the Kusina sa Plaza provides an evocative setting of Marinduque in the olden days to its patrons.

MARINDUQUE FOOD HERITAGE. In Marinduque, people love to eat and that love is extended to its visitors at Kusina sa Plaza. Served were the hearty sour soup with shrimp and buko strips called ulang-ulang. The kare kare, not the comfort food with peanut sauce but in Marinduque this dish has the similar texture and taste of sizzling dinuguan. Adobo sa dilaw sa gata that tastes heavenly when paired with steaming fragrant rice. All have coconut cream flavor.

Coconut-based dishes are known in Marinduque. Buko is young coconut popular for its juice. The buko meat is scrapped to make pies and salads. The bingi is the in-between stage coconut when the meat is plaint and soft but has enough body to survive cooking. It is used for Southern Tagalog dished like pancit buko, sinigang sa buko, ulang-ulang. The mature coconut is off course is known as the source of coconut milk. First squeeze of a grated coconut meat is called kakang gata. Second and third squeezes water is added to produce coconut milk. Grated coconut meat is used as toppings for bibingka and binatog.

GASAN’S ULANG-ULANG. An old timer in Boac suggested that we look for kagang, Marinduque’s seawater crab in Gasan. Since we have lots of time to spare, we traveled south of the island to Gasan market but the crabs were nowhere. While waiting for a ride back to Boac, I chatted with a local. Told him about the purpose of our visit in town. He volunteered to drive us to Barangay Pinggan to take chances in finding the kagang. We found what we were looking for at the beach for 15 pesos a piece. Now, how to cook them? No problem. The locals were kind enough to prepare our second lunch in Marinduque.

Proud of their food heritage, Mely Sadiwa prepared the dish called ulang-ulang by opening the shell and flaking the kagang crab meat. It is mixed with buko strips. Spiced with onion and salt, the mixture is stuffed back into the ube-colored crab shells. Nothing is wasted because the rest of the mixture is wrapped in banana leaf ala-suman and is tied to the crab. All this is cooked in a big kawa of coconut cream.

EPILOGUE: MARINDUQUE ALL YEAR ROUND. The highlight of our trip to Marinduque on this chilly yet sunny December is having paluto-style lunch by the beach in Gasan. We’ll miss this ulang-ulang delicacy in heavy coconut milk.

Marinduque is not only at its best during Moriones Festival in summer. At anytime of the year, you can expect romantic towns, heritage food, and unmatched kindness from its people.

Published in: on December 12, 2017 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  


A FORESHADOWING. Around mid-April of 1897, Andres Bonifacio fell from horseback.  There, he laid groaning  then in a prophetic voice told his companions that his fall was a bad omen for in the mountains of Maragondon he will die and be buried. A month later, a severely wounded Bonifacio was bludgeoned to death by Aguinaldo’s men in one of Maragondon’s forests. His remains and his brother’s, Procopio were buried on Mount Nagpatong.

A few days before Bonifacio Day brought us to this old town in Cavite for a pilgrimage with a theme of tracing Bonifacio’s last days in Maragondon. With more inspiration than information, we relied asking the townfolks who were eager to direct us to Maragondon’s heritage symbols with pride and ownership.

MARAGONDON. We approached Maragondon before sunrise from the plains and historic towns of Cavite. Having the largest land area in the province, Maragondon is mostly low hills of rice fields, pastoral lands, forests, rivers, and mountains. Somewhere in those elevations is the old town founded by the Jesuits in 1727. It got its name from the river which was described to be madagungong or thundering.

With its local heroes, the Riego de Dios brothers Vicente, Emiliano, and Mariano who served as high ranking officers in Aguinaldo’s army, the members of the town’s principalia who established one of the first branches of the Iglesia Independiente Filipina in town, and the ancestral structures that became mute witnesses to the unjust treatment and murder of the Katipunan Supremo, historic Maragondon remains bound to the heroic and darkest episode of the revolution against Spain.

HISTORIC HOUSES. Maragondon is old as felt in its aged architecture. Scattered around the town are tall two-level ancestral houses of sturdy built adobe ground floor and wooden upper floors minutely detailed with capiz or glass window shutters, carved ventanillas, wooden laceworks, and wide eaves such as the meztisa architecture of the 1940s Punzalan House that is envisioned for adaptive reuse as a restaurant. Across the town plaza is a bahay-na-bato with a brick faux finished and natural wood affair of Don Vicente Samoza, a Chinese supporter of the Revolutionary Government. The ancestral house of the Riego de Dios has a historical marker that pays homage to Aguinaldo’s Secretary of War, Emiliano.

Faded, parched-looking, the Biangge House demonstrates how a house ages fast when neglected.  According to folk history, this house was turned into General Mariano Noriel’s office where he handed over the instruction order to execute the Bonifacio brothers to Lazaro Macapagal. Overwashed in lack of paint is the Dolorfino House where the Katipuneros of the Magdiwang faction said to have secretly rendezvous in an attempt to rescue the Supremo and his brother from their captors. No historical markers or documented evidence to support these claims, only oral history that was passed on through generations of local historians.

BONIFACIO TRIAL HOUSE. But among the aging historic ancestral houses in town, the house of Roderico Reyes has the darkest history. It was converted into a museum with a historical marker that reads, Bahay na Pinaglitisan Kay Andres Bonifacio. The main feature of the museum is the life-sized diorama depicting Bonifacio’s trial set in the house’s sala de visita. With stone images arranged as they would have been during the 1897 hearings were the accused, the Bonifacio brothers, Andres’ wife Gregoria de Jesus, the incompetent defense lawyer Placido Martinez and the members of the military court, General Mariano Noriel, Crisostomo Riel, Tomas Mascardo, Esteban Ynfante, Mariano Riego de Dios, and Sulpicio Antony. It is a historic and dramatic scene frozen in time.

Behind the house was a batalan where Andres was kept prisoner while the trial ran from May 4 to 6. In the azotea were dark stains believed to be splatters of blood from the wounded Supremo, whose neck stabbed by knife and shoulder wounded from a bullet during a skirmish when he and Procopio were arrested in Indang. A classic case of nanlaban. The brothers were charged by a kangaroo court guilty of treason, sedition, and resisting government forces. Crimes were punishable by death.

MARAGONDON CHURCH. Sunday mass for that morning just ended when we stopped in the shadow of the town’s oldest monument. The church was built by the Jesuits 1714. River stones covered in layers of stucco were the primary materials used in the main building and the bell tower along the side.

Maragondon Church may seem deceptively whitewashed and plain until we got a closer look at its doors. Elaborately carved on natural wood were flowers, castle towers, birds hovering on trees, and galleons. All are symbols associated to the Blessed Virgin.

BAROQUE SPLENDOR. Inside this gem of a church are three massive retablos that were profusely decorated with Baroque columns, foliage, and cherubs polychromed in blues, reds, green, and generous amounts of gold. The side altars from the 17th century are older than the main one, which is a rarity because church retablos are mostly 19th century.

Matching the Baroque splendor of the main door and the retablos is the pulpit decorated with curlicues and monograms of Mary and Jesus in cartouches. Above are trusses with Latin inscriptions that were lifted from Psalms in praise of the Blessed Virgin. To the sides of the nave are the original colored glass panes mounted by the Recollects  in 1860 when they inherited the church from the Jesuits.

MAKAPAGAL: BERDUGO DE CAMPANILLA. From a narrow entrance we climbed the bell tower of Maragondon Church that rises five levels high. At the topmost level we found a collection of ancient bells. Oldest was commissioned by the Augustinian- Recollects  dated to 1889. From one of the lookout windows we had an unobstructed view of the countryside, the Maragondon River and the mountains of Nagpatong, Tala and Buntis.

Back at ground level, we went around the adjoining convent where a room near the entrance was used as a holding cell for the Bonifacio brothers. The room now functions as a classroom. Again, there are no historical marker or any label to tell about this relic. We only relied on what the locals say that on a rainy May 10th of 1897, Major Makapagal with four men fetched  the two prisoners, informed them that they will be moved into safety to Mount Tala since the Spaniards has already captured Naic and were advancing to Maragondon.

FOLKART ON STONE. Probably due to lost of blood, a frailing Andres was carried on a hammock while Procopio walked on foot. The two were kept from prying eyes and started their fateful journey to Mount Tala into the woods of Maragondon at Barangay Caingin.

In Barangay Caingin today, religious carvings that were sculpted directly on adobe outcrops along the road by former ice carvers known as the Suarez Brother have become part of the town’s tourist attractions. As we approached the riverside in Barangay Caingin, we were at a perfect time to catch Mang Oscar, one of the ice carving brothers sculpting characters for a creche this time out of bamboo.

PILGRIMAGE TO THE BONIFACIO MEMORIAL. It began to drizzle in Maragondon half-way in our trek to the Bonifacio Memorial, probably in sympathy with the blood that flowed at the foot of Mount Nagpatong on May 10, 1897. After a 10-minute ride in a tricycle from the town proper, we walked for 20-minutes through rugged and forested paths over hills and vast grazing land inhabited by herds of cattle that greeted us with curious looks as we passed right in front of them.

At the Bonifacio Memorial and Execution Site, sculptor Toym Imao designed a historical tableau by combining larger than life and minute brass figures to form the letters KKK. On another side is a mixed media collage imitating the weathered patina of brass forming the word Bayani. Both three-dimensional letras y figuras sculptures expound the heroic sacrifices of the Katipunan and the fateful events from the arrest in Indang to the execution of Andres and Procopio. There, we recalled the different versions and anecdotes of this tragedy of the revolution and reflected on the historical fact that the Bonifacios suffered and died in the hands of their fellow Filipinos.

EPILOGUE: JUST ANOTHER EMPTY TOMB. Flanked by Imao’s magnum opus is a low obelisk engraved with masonic symbols and a historical marker that states it was on Bundok Nagpatong, near Bundok Buntis, where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were executed. This monument marks the site where the alleged bones of Andres was exhumed in 1918 as supposedly a part of Manuel Quezon‘s campaign propaganda against Aguinaldo during the advent of the Commonwealth election. The relic was publicly displayed at the pre-war National Library and Museum until it got totally lost during World War II.

Should the skeletal remains of the Bonifacio brothers are yet to be discovered and identified, the Bonifacio Memorial and Execution Site in Maragondon, just like the Monumento in Caloocan is another empty tomb to the Supremo of the Katipunan.

-30 November 2017
Andres Bonifacio Day

Published in: on November 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm  Comments (1)  


FRANKENSTEIN-JEEPNEY TO LUISIANA. Crisp mountain air funnels through the open windows of a slow moving super-sized jeepney that transport passengers from Laguna to
Lucban. This Frankenstein-jeepney that has front and middle sections of a van that is attached to the long side seats running the length of the back section is my ride to Luisiana, a town famous for its pandan weaving tradition.

Traveling for about an hour from Sta. Cruz past the Laguna towns of Pagsanjan and Cavinti all I can do at the moment was to enjoy the endless views of nature and eavesdrop on random conversations between folks about stolen chickens and anting-anting in their mellifluous accent while the super jeepney rolls the uphill path of bottomless ravines and sky-high greens.

LUIS Y ANA. Historically, the chain of towns along this mountain path was called Terreno de Nasunog because the area was engulfed by fire from a volcanic eruption. It is said that the towns of Cavinti, Luisiana, Majayjay and Lucban today sit on ancient lahar deposits. Luisiana was a barrio of the neighboring town of Majayjay.  In 1848, its township as separate from Majayjay was granted. But unlike other Spanish colonial towns in the country whose name were adapted from either an endemic plant life, a patron saint, an outstanding natural feature, or a result of a language barrier between a proud local and a confused foreigner, Luisiana was named in honor of a founding couple who led the breakaway from Majayjay and the establishment of the new settlement.

The mountain road in Laguna is flanked with thick vegetation but I knew I arrived in Luisiana when random groves of giant
pandan trees started to show on the sides of the road. The entrance to the town center passes through a cemetery and by rows of pandan leaves on the roadside that were left to dry under the sun. I began exploring the town on foot in front of the monument of Don Luis Bernardo, the local culture hero who together with his wife, Doña Ana the town got its name,
Luis y Ana.

CHURCH MURALS. The church with an image of the Blessed Mother at the pediment was built in Baroque tradition has an extended portico and bell tower, which seemed to be recent additions to the antique structure. Under the enclosed portico is a Santo Entierro on a carroza. The interior of the curciform church was repainted bright and has Neo-Classical influences from the columns at the sides of the nave to the main altar.

I climbed the choir loft where I found Saint Cecilia playing the keyboard next to a singing angel on a mural. I climbed further  to the top of the bell tower for a breathtaking view of Mount Banahaw that seemed to have been placed on that spot to serve a natural mural for the town. From that height I saw the rows of stores selling brown hats, bags and baskets woven from pandan leaves. This is Luisiana’s main handicraft.

PANDAN WEAVING. The manual labor of the pandan weavers in Luisiana consists of harvesting the pandan leaves, pressing, drying, and weaving them into functional items. Under the shade in front yards and in service kitchens of homes, groups of womenfolk gather to weave the slender pandan leaves into traditional hats, flexible tampipis, and sturdy bayongs.

It takes patience and dexterous hands to keep the multiple strips of dried pandan leaves into simple and tightly drawn together checkerboard weaves. Pandan products can be reused several times and can last a long time.

PANDANAN. At the edge of a narrow street away from the town center was a pandanan, a grove where wild pandan trees grow and are harvested. Under the towering crowns of sharp-bladed greens I met  Sonia Apaya-Raculan, one of the old time pandan weavers in Luisiana. Here, she demonstrated how the leaves are cut from the tree and stripped on both sides using a knife.

Sonia explained that pandan trees sprout like mushrooms in Luisiana that is why basket-making and weaving things out of pandan became their traditional livelihood. So abundant that according to folk history that the sharp-bladed leaves of the pandan discouraged the Spaniards from reaching Luisiana.

ILUHAN. From the pandanan, Sonia led us to her home where she kept the oldest pandan press in Luisiana. Locally called the iluhan, this improvised simple machine is made from a massive log that is weighed down by slabs of rock tied around it. The pandan leaves are pressed in between the log and its cradle. The log is then rocked back and forth until the leaves are drained of moisture.

Pressing the pandan leaves using the iluhan is no joke. The press is heavy enough for toning and strengthening the upper body, pecs, arms, traps, and deltoid muscles. But as a source of livelihood, this is part of the daily activity of the hardworking pandan weavers of Luisiana. Only a few families own a pandan press and Sonia allow her neighbors to use their heirloom iluhan free of charge.

EPILOGUE: TRADITIONAL CRAFTS. In this day and age of instant noodles and mass production, handicrafts like pandan weaving may one day become obsolete. A thing of the past that romantics can only be nostalgic about. In the  service kitchen of her home, Sonia sat on the floor, weaving the smooth strips of pandan leaves while I watched hoping that this traditional craft may not die in Sonia’s skillful hands.

-November 4
The day when Hermano Pule of the
Cofradia de San Jose was executed in 1841

Published in: on November 5, 2017 at 12:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Side Trips and Samkara

GOOD MORNING SAMKARA. Mountain fog wraps the sprawling rice paddies in translucent white mists as the golden rays of sunshine peeks over from the east. Nature sets the perfect good morning mood for breakfast in Samkara Restaurant and Garden Resort is unlimited kapeng barakoLucban longganisa, daing na biya and the freshest fruits from a town famous for its annual Maytime folk harvest fiesta, the Pahiyas. Set under towering coconut trees connected at the top by an intricate network of bamboo catwalks to harvest the potent lambanog drink, our weekend retreat from the hectic life in the city is snuggled between the foothills of mystical Mount Banahaw and a rustic provincial landscape.

Samkara is about 15-minutes away from Lucban town proper, and a three-hour drive from Metro Manila past the quiet Laguna towns of Nagcarlan, Liliw, and Majayjay from San Pablo City. But I took a more scenic and slower route from Sta. Cruz past Pagsanjan then travelled the winding mountain road up to Luisiana. Here my side trips to the folksy, rustic, and a century earlier begins:

ILUHAN IN LUISIANA. The mountain road is flanked with thick vegetation but I knew I arrived in Luisiana when random groves of giant pandan trees started to show on the sides of the road. The entrance to the town center passes through a cemetery and by rows of pandan leaves on the roadside that were left to dry under the sun. I began exploring the town on foot in front of the monument of Don Luis Bernardo, a local culture hero who together with his wife, Ana the town got its name, Luis y Ana. There is an antique church where I climbed to the top of the bell tower for a breathtaking view of Mount Banahaw that seemed to have been placed on that spot to serve a natural mural for the town. Stores in the plaza sell hats and baskets woven from pandan leaves. This is Luisiana’s main handicraft.

The manual labor of the pandan weavers consists of harvesting the pandan, pressing, drying, and weaving. An old timer led me to a hundred year-old pandan press locally called the iluhan. This improvised simple machine is made from a massive log that is weighed down by slabs of rock tied around it. The pandan leaves are pressed in between the log and its cradle. The log is then rocked back and forth until the leaves are drained of moisture. This task is no joke and is good for toning and strengthening the upper body, pecs, arms, traps, and deltoid muscles.

PUENTE DE CAPRICHO DE MAJAYJAY. The road southwest of Luisiana leads to MajayjaySince the olden days, this mountain town had a reputation among early travelers for being far and secluded that they sigh catching their breaths ‘hay… hay.. Majayjay!’ Here, colonial treasures coupled with town’s folk history are revealed at every turn. Inside the centuries-old church is huge baptismal font that probably used by the early friars to convert the natives to Christianity in order to increase the labor force to build its massive church whose walls are three layers thick and a bridge known as puente de capricho.

Puente de Capricho was a project of Fray Victorino de Moral. It earned its name as the bridge of whims due the building duties forced on by the friar to the natives. It is said that those who refused to participate in bridge building were beaten with a whip on the buttocks, which explains why local referred to this unfinished structure as tulay pigi. In locating this controversial bridge, I hiked down a dumpsite at the edge of the street then walked through a narrow bamboo bridge until I reached the stone arch that crosses a deep ravine with a gurgling river below that snakes through the ethereal mountain landscape. This is de Moral’s unfinished project.

LILIW’S URARO GOODIES. Next on the route is Liliw. It has a church that dates back to the Spanish times. Baroque in architecture, it has a brick facade and imposing bell tower topped by overgrowth with Mount Banahaw looming in the background. High quality footwear are made in Liliw. Its main streets are filled with its finished products including the tasty uraro cookies.

Making the best tasting uraro cookies is no secret in Liliw. An old timer’s traditional ingredients for uraro were pure arrowroot flour, pork lard from native pigs, yolks from duck’s eggs, sugar, and carabao’s milk.  Modern bakers in Liliw replaced lard with margarine because lard from native pigs became scarce and it also decreases the shelf life of this famous pasalubong. I was invited in one of the oldest bakeries in Liliw to watch how the arrowroot dough is kneaded by hand, flattened to form small oblongs and distinctly embossed with floral design before they are baked in a pre-War brick pugon that is fired by dried coconut husks.

ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND OF NAGCARLAN. My walking tour at Nagcarlan began at street level. Along the narrow and sloping streets of this town are three-level stone structures with arched windows and distinct European influences erected on small lot sizes. According to folk tradition, the extravagant display of wealth was frowned upon that the wealthy families extended their houses vertically rather than horizontally. Then there is the church with striated facade of alternating bands of brick and stone over curlicues of Baroque and Moorish styles.  Inside the church is  a horror vacuii of glazed blue ceramics and machuca tiles. This kind of horror is repeated in the town’s famous underground cemetery.

A few walks past the American era municipal hall and the 1930s waterworks fountain, standing on mound is the impressive brick arch, elaborate grill works, and the circular perimeter wall decorated with Baroque wavy scrolls of the old Spanish cemetery. I entered the cemetery compound and walked the brick path that ended in the mortuary chapel where the last funeral rites reserved only for Catholic priests and the town’s elite were once held. To the right of the chapel are flights of adobe stairs that lead to Nagcarlan’s underground cemetery. Since the entire cemetery including the crypt was converted into a museum, the remains were removed and only the old niches fill the shadowed walls. Patches of blue and white and terracotta tiles make up the flooring and there is a faded elaborate fresco on the ceiling. In 1897, Pedro Paterno and Severino Taino led the  planning of the truce in Biak-na-Bato in this underground chamber. As for me, in make believe, I stood next to the stone altar, imagined myself as Van Helsing waiting for the lord vampire to rise up from slumber.

LUCBAN’S CULTURAL LANDMARKSLucban is not famous as a town for itself, but rather as a venue for the annual celebration of the Pahiyas, a folk religious fiesta held on the feast day of the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador. On fiesta day houses are decked with tropical produce and colorful sheets of rice kiping.  A side tour to Lucban on a non-Pahiyas day is a leisurely walk by the landmarks at the town proper: The 400-hundred church and cemetery, an American era monument to Jose Rizal, some ancestral houses that still has its stone ground floor and wooden upper floors with sliding capiz windows, and storefronts that demonstrate the making of Lucban longganisa and stalls that serve pancit habhab.

While I know that the traditional way to eat pancit habhab should not be with a spoon and fork instead it is slurped directly from a piece of banana leaf but it will be all over me if I eat it that way since I was starving from all walking I did in Luisiana, Majayjay, Liliw and Nagcarlan. The cozy and nostalgic Old Center Panciteria that has been in business since 1937 claims to be the home of the original pancit habhab. The restaurant has a photo gallery that shows the same old landmarks I walked by only that they are in sepia and was taken from an earlier century. Lucban is the last town for this series of side trips to the folksy, rustic, and historic. As the day came to an end, it’s time to meet with fellow bloggers in our rendezvous point for an overnight stay at Samkara Restaurant and Garden Resort in Sitio Malinao, Barangay Igang at the boundary road of Majayjay and Lucban.

EPILOGUE: RENDEZVOUS AT SAMKARA. The road on my way to Samkara glows reddish in the falling sunset as Mount Banahaw and the terraced rice paddies occasionally goes peekaboo from the side of the road. At dusk, the temperature dips as the clouds from the nearby magic mountain rolls down blanketing the provincial landscape once more with translucent white mists but in Samkara Restaurant and Garden Resort the welcome is consistently warm and the experience is always magical.

Samkara Restaurant and Garden Resort
Address: Sitio Malinao, Brgy. Igang, Lucban, Quezon Province, Philippines
Mobile: 0917-674-2693


THE HISTORIC QUARTER. The appetite for heritage preservation is big in Angeles, Pampanga because its people know that beautiful things happen when aggressive steps are taken towards protecting their community’s cultural and historical identity. Among the recent preservation efforts was to remove the entangled overhead utility cables that photobombs the facade of the hundred-year old church and remaining ancestral houses in the downtown area.

What I experienced in my recent visit to Angeles was a leisurely walk and unobstructed views of the important  heritage landmarks in the city’s historic quarter.

PRESERVED IN PLACE. Walking in the historic quarter of the downtown area was like strolling around a heritage theme park only that none of the old structures were reconstructed or artificial transplanted. Its centuries-old church, rice granary, town hall, ancestral houses and even the house of the town’s founding father are all preserved in their original location and repurposed as storefronts, museums and restaurants.

Angeles was formerly called Barrio Culiat. It was named after the vines that grew abundantly in the area at the time when the first settlers founded the town in 1796.

THE MIRANDA LEGACY. Along main street, marked by a stone arch was the home of Don Angel Panteleon de Miranda and wife Doña Rosalia de Jesus. The couple led the migration from the flourishing city of San Fernando to what is then wilderness between Pampanga and Tarlac. Barrio Culiat, as founded by the couple was at the extreme end of San Fernando is surrounded by the mountain range to the west, crocodile swaps in the east and within the gloomy primordial forest were inhabited the Zambals and Aeta with their fatal arrows. But the hostile land did not stop the couple from clearing away the wilds and founding a settlement. By 1813, Barrio Culiat had a parish, a school, a sugar mill, and a distillery. On December 8, 1829, the settlement  was formally separated from San Fernando.

The Miranda couple built their house of stone and wood in 1824. During the Philippine-American War, the house was used as headquarters of the retreating forces of the Revolutionary Government.

THE OLD CAMALIG. A few walks from the Founder’s House was the old rice granary locally called the camalig.  It was built in 1840 by the town’s first mayor Don Ciriaco de Miranda primarily as a shed made of light materials. It was restored in the early 1900s to its present form by Capitan Juan Nepomoceno.

This ancient structure was put to adaptive reuse to house a permanent exhibit of antique objects and photos of bygone Angeles and a restaurant that serves pizza in a native bilao.

PISAMBAN MARAGUL. In 1830, the Augustinian friars renamed Culiat to Angeles after the name of its founder and also as way of custom to its patron Los Santos Angeles Custodio, the Holy Guardian Angels. But enshrined in the main altar of the Pisamban Maragul or the big church is the splendid image of the Nuestra Señora de Santissima Rosario de la Naval. The early settlers had great devotion to the tradition of the La Naval. From its first year as a town, they have been celebrating the La Naval fiesta every October and when a new clearing was made into the wilderness, the image of the patroness is brought to bless the new community.

The present Renaissance-style stone church took 20 years to build through polos y servicios. It was completed in 1896 which at that time, the church is the tallest in the whole of Pampanga. A prosperous town it was, its tabernacle was said to be fashioned from gold and silver which disappeared during the 1896 Revolution. The twin belfries served as watchtowers during the Philippine-American War when Angeles became the seat of the Revolutionary Government led by General Emilio Aguinaldo.

APU MAMACALULU. On a side altar is the Santo Entierro of Angeles locally referred to as Apu Mamacalulu. The image was commissioned by a parish priest from a sculptor known only as Buenaventura around the years 1828 to 1838. It was first enshrined in a small chapel in Talimunduc and was transferred in different locations several times for safekeeping during the 1896 Revolution and Filipino-American War until it was finally enshrined to the Pasimbang Maragul in 1904.

The venerated image is taken out from its altar twice a year during the Good Friday procession and during the Fiesta ng Apu held every last Friday of October which commemorates the miracles attributed to Santo Entierro of Angeles.

MUNICIPIO NING ANGELES. By the late nineteenth century, Angeles was formed as a railroad town with roads, bridges, farms, a post office and municipal hall. It became briefly the capital of the Revolutionary Republic. President Aguinaldo held office in old municipio across the church.

The town was occupied by the Americans when the Aguinaldo fled north. The same municipio became the office of General Arthur MacArthur during the Filipino-American War.

PAMINTUAN MANSION. Further down the cobbled street is the filigreed Pamintuan Mansion. It served as the official residence of the President of the Revolutionary Government. It is through a window in the Pamintuan Mansion where President Emilio Aguinaldo watched the grand parade that celebrated the first and only anniversary of his short-lived republic.

This Neo-Renaissance bahay-na-bato has a brick ground floor and wooden upper floors. A wooden spiral staircase leads to the tower room. The mansion once housed Central Bank’s regional clearing office before it was converted into Museum of Philippine Social History.

EPILOGUE. If only cities and towns like Angeles give value and effort in tastefully preserving their built heritage then none of our ancestral houses and structures will end up being transplanted to another place such as in a resort in Bagac.

October 2017
Feast of the Nuestra Señora de Santissima Rosario de la Naval

Published in: on October 16, 2017 at 1:59 am  Comments (2)  
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