Casa San Pablo

LAW OF ATTRACTION. It was one of those long and grueling hours that at the start of my shift in the middle of the week I was already wishful for it to abruptly end. There’s pressure in all angles and that unfulfilled creative aspirations every day made me restless and depressed. I was experiencing an occupational burnout. In my workstation, I daydreamed for a rustic escape where I sit in a corner of a countryside inn overlooking a farm to write or do some art, indulge in sightseeing and dining while exchanging random stories about life with friends or just simply taking things at an unhurried pace and enjoying a valuable me time to keep my mental health intact.

By the end of the workweek, I don’t know where to go. I was so preoccupied in juggling my tasks that I missed planning for the weekend. While having lunch on a Saturday, I got a call from Boots Alcantara reminding me of a weekend stay in Casa San Pablo to meet the artists-in-residence from the Tuklas Program of Eskinita Gallery. Shamefully, I forgot about this invitation. That afternoon, I immediately boarded the provincial bus to my favorite provincia, Laguna.

SAN PABLO CITY. I arrived in San Pablo City a few minutes before midnight. In the darkness of the sprawling grounds of Casa San Pablo, I followed the footpath leading to the bed and breakfast inn. It was strange for someone like me who has gotten used to the noise of the city a few hours ago that suddenly all was serene and only the mesmerizing chirping of the crickets can be heard. A night staff led me to my cabin.

The next day, I walked to the cathedral at the plaza to hear Sunday mass. It was still dark and the weather balmy at 6 in the morning. While standing at the base of the American era Rizal Monument, the sunrise gently revealed San Pablo’s famous landmarks like a visual historical timeline of the city. Located at the foot of the primordial Mount Banahaw, the Franciscan friars organized the four villages of Sampaloc under the church bells of San Pablo de los Montes in 1556. In 1940, the Commonwealth government made San Pablo as Laguna’s first chartered city and appointed Dr. Potenciano Malvar as its first mayor. On my walk back to Casa San Pablo, the city began to stir with activities. I paused right in front of the stately Fule-Malvar Mansion already basking in the morning sun. Built in 1915, this Neoclassical structure was home to the first appointed mayor of San Pablo City and wife Eusebia Fule.

CASA SAN PABLO HISTORY. The history of Casa San Pablo dates back when the family matriarch Sinforosa Azores Gomez inherited the vast coconut plantation from her father. Sinforosa and her husband built a vacation house within the plantation. The Gomez couple later opened the vacation house to accommodate guests from out of town. It became a popular place in San Pablo City as Kay Inay Resort. In 1997, The eldest grandson of Sinforosa and Pepe, Jose Cayetano ‘Boots’ Alcantara continued the family’s inn-keeping business. He and his wife An Mercado renamed the bed and breakfast inn as Casa San Pablo.

The celebrated potter from Quezon, Ugu Bigyan designed a delightful assemblage of cottage inns where he put together a strange mesh of dissimilar but interesting vintage items like salvaged pre-war house parts, capiz window panels, turn-of-the century railroad tracks called traviesa made into footpaths, prensang de uling turned into stairway handles and more storied objects reused as decorations or functional fixtures. Each of the rooms has a character that brings the nostalgia of youth and simpler times. One room has a collection of rare die-cast toy cars and another with a display of sketches and paintings. My cabin had a barber chair.

KUWENTONG BARBERO. Back to my room, I had my first coffee for the day while seated in a barber chair. This ergonomic chair was invented at the turn-of-the-century so that the menfolk can sit comfortably while a trusted barber serviced them with haircuts, beard trims or warm shaves.

While it is an unusual artifact among the grouping of mixed vintage furniture in the screened balcony since a barber chair has been a staple fixture in barbershops but not for the bedroom, it recalls those visits to the good old barbershops for the pampering, relaxation, and most anticipated storytelling or kwentong barbero where the barber instantly becomes an all in one town historian, showbiz reporter, sports and political analyst.

REMEMBERING VIAJE DE SOL. I immediately felt nostalgic of my early days as a blogger upon entering the main dining pavilion of Casa San Pablo. A hearty breakfast was served with freshly brewed coffee to match the special bibingkas. Popular during the Christmas season, bibingka is batter made of rice flour and baked along roadside stalls using the dos fuegos method.

I was in my mid twenties when I started blogging about trips to historical landmarks in Manila then later about sojourns to the countryside. Travel blogging was a new thing then and so as Viaje de Sol, a no fuss, unpretentious arts and culture tour of Laguna and Quezon organized by a group of local store owners and inn keepers in the region. The Viaje del Sol itinerary and activities included cruising Sampaloc and Pandin lakes, having brunch at Kusina Salud or Kinabuhayan Cafe, participating in arts and crafts making at Ugu Bigyan‘s pottery studio or Carlito Ortega brass sculpting workshop, watching cultural shows at Villa Escudero and staying for the weekend in Casa San Pablo.

THE ART BARN. A new structure in the Casa San Pablo is the Art Barn. This multi-purpose hall looks like a farmhouse that blends well with the pine trees and other eclectic structures in the compound. It houses exhibition spaces for contemporary and folk arts, a conference hall and a spacious art-making studio. Activities in the Art Barn draws not just artists and visitors from out of town but also local residents, cultural workers, teachers, students, and artists who come to interact with the different expressions of art.

In random corners of the Art Barn are modernist drawings and contemporary paintings from the art collection of Boots Alcantara. Curated art pieces were purposely showcased in the Art Barn so that fine arts, from its most sophisticated plane is brought back to its primary roots, the common folks. When onsite, Boots holds personal tours to guests where he talks about his relationship as an art collector with the artworks and the artists.

TUKLAS ART RESIDENCY PROGRAM. As a way of giving art back to its primary roots, Casa San Pablo partnered with Eskinita Gallery in implementing the Tuklas Program. A brain child of social realist Alfredo Esquillo, Tuklas Program reflects the artist’s personal experiences as a student of Renato Hubulan. The program aims to discover talents from different parts of the country through its art residency programs. Through the Tuklas Program, artists in residence get encouragement and learn the best creative practices from visiting artists.

In the Tuklas studio of Casa San Pablo, I met the artists in residence, Billy Bagtas and Genavee Lazaro.

APOCALYPTIC CREATURE. Highly expressive, creative, and the dense drawings of apocalyptic creatures with razor sharp fangs and pointy fingers that painfully clutches into the soul is a shocking retelling of Billy Bagtas’ spiritual battle and how he gained victory through mustering his faith.

Before his evocative paintings, Billy narrated his dark lucid dreams, the repeated trips to a neighborhood witch doctor, his grim encounter with kulam and an exorcist priest from Quiapo.

MGA CACTUS LANG YAN. If Billy’s stories fit the bill for a horror Netflix series, Genavee Lazaro has an equally spine-tingling story on how she developed her whimsical terracotta figures. Whenever Genavee comes home to her apartment in Quezon City, she would hear knocks and banging coming from the kitchen.

To cope with the pestering poltergeist, she made terracotta figures modeled from her cactus collection and placed them in the kitchen. Since then every time Genavee would hear the strange noise, she dismisses her fear as mga cactus lang yan.

TERRACOTTA STORYTELLERS. My take away from the stories of Billy and Genavee is that art is about storytelling. Just like the little terracotta communities in bright and folksy colors that potter An Mercado Alcantara shaped by hand and baked in her studio at Casa San Pablo. She learned pottery from experience and getting lessons from celebrated potters Jon and Tessa Pettyjon, Ugu Bigyan, Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, and Joey De Castro.

Retiring from her corporate career as publishing executive, An became a full time potter-artist and inn-keeper. At Casa San Pablo, she retells the simple life of the town folks through her colorful clay figures and shares her passion in storytelling and creating terracotta dolls through creative writing and pottery-making workshops.

ROAD TREAT AROUND UPLB. The rest of the afternoon, Billy and Genavee drove me around Los Baños. The most famous landmark in town is Mount Makiling, a dormant volcano from which all the hot springs and local legends emanate. The lake shore town of Los Baños was locally called Mainit, referring to the numerous hot springs in the area. According to local legend, the mountain is home to the beautiful fairy, Mariang Makiling. She was a nature goddess protecting the mountain. Stories about her generosity and wrath is so implanted in the folk consciousness that locals claim to have seen her bathing in Dampalit Falls.

We drove further into the woods on our way to the University of the Philippines (UPLB) Campus. It was early in the evening. A full moon rising. We were right in front of Baker Hall.  A potent setting for more fun and spooky ghost stories from Billy and Genavee.

EPILOGUE: A CHARMING INTERLUDE. Back in Casa San Pablo, our group had dinner. After dessert, we had bottles of beer while in hammocks swinging set under stars. I’m grateful to Boots, An, Billy and Genavee for being part of this charming interluded from my daily life.

– 12th year anniversary of the Traveler on Foot

Published in: on January 14, 2020 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quirino Province

DEFINE ADVENTURE. For others, the idea of adventure seems impossible today when the vast jungles, great rainforests and ancient lost cities have been explored and discovered. It seems that everything has been mapped out leaving this generation and the next with third-hand adventures through vlogs and travel shows.

But the authentic adventure is not a race on who gets there first. It can be as simple as a road trip with friends on newly constructed roads around the mountainside to meet new generation of tribes who kept the ancient traditions of their forefathers intact. For the third leg of our trip around the Cagayan Valley Region, my friends Rod and CJ brought me to Quirino Province to meet the Bugkalot and Agta tribes of the Sierra Madre.

QUIRINO PROVINCE. Located at the southeastern section of the Cagayan Valley Region, Quirino is landlocked by the provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Aurora. The great mountain range of the Sierra Madre provides Quirino with a natural barrier from tropical storms that enters the country from the Pacific Ocean in the eastern seaboard. The province was established in 1971 and was named after Philippine president Elpidio Quirino.

Driving from a newly constructed highway that connects Isabela to Quirino, Rod pointed the pale blue Mamparang mountain range as our destination. In preparation for this journey, we had Ilocano dishes for brunch at a solitary restaurant along the highway. For the next hour, we traveled across smooth roads with views of rice fields and rolling hills and crossed a couple of iron braced bridges, then the hood of our vehicle turned up skywards. We’ve reached the mountainside.

MOUNTAIN DWELLERS. Before the creation of Quirino Province, this forested region was part of Nueva Vizcaya. It is inhabited by Negritos. This pre-historic tribe is also called Aeta, Ita, Agta, Dumagat, and Baluga. Like their ancestors, hunting and fishing is their way life. They build temporary shelters at the heart of the jungle and then leave their planted clearing to roam in familial clusters around forest to find source of food.

On one side of the  mountain road, we spotted a makeshift stall with wild, bright red rambutans. It is run by an Agta family who introduced us to their tribal elder.

MEETING THE AGTAS OF QUIRINO. From the main road we climbed the slope to enter the Agta settlement in this part of Qurino. The Agtas are brown skinned. Have wavy or kinky hair. Relatively short in height. Occasionally, mountain hunters still wear the traditional loin cloth and the women wear colorful tribal beads around their neck.

We spent a few minutes with the Agta children and listening their their tribal elder. One of the topics that surfaced during our conversation was the issue on ancestral domain. Due to massive deforestation and land grabbing in the area, the Agtas are being forced out of their ancestral land. Although a nomadic tribe, the government must recognize the historical fact that the Agats practically own the mountain because it has been the home of their forefathers since prehistoric times.

NAGTIPUNAN TOWN. By afternoon we descended from the mountains into the valley called Nagtipunan. Geographically speaking, the town was called as such because it is a convergence point of the different tributaries of the Cagayan River. The local government made developments in the area to make it suitable for touristic activities like water sports, rock climbing and sightseeing tours.

In oral tradition, Nagtipunan was named by the different tribes as a shared area among the Agtas, Illongots, Ifugaos, Gaddangs, and Ibanags where they conducted trade and crossed the valley, immune from attack from warring tribes and unscathed from the headhunters.

ILONGOT. Known locally as the Bugkalot, the Ilongot were known for their distinct tribal accessories and headhunting tradition. In the town of Nagtipunan, Adangsel Nangitoy Jr. introduced us to tribal elder Atgeb Casecpan. Although received a Christian name as Pastor Danny Dominguez, he did not abandoned the tradition of making tribal accessories fashioned from glass beads, tassels, and mother of pearl trimmings that were put together employing a delicate wiring or weaving technique.

An heirloom accessory of the Ilongot that is brought out for special occasions is the Ilongot hornbill headress. It was worn by fiercest headhunters of the tribe. It is made up of the beak and skull of the hornbill mounted on the delicate bamboo frame and adorned with red tassels and mother of pearl platelets. Danny narrates that the tribe do not make them anymore since hornbills are endangered birds and headhunting rituals has seized a long time ago. But Danny continues make headhunting blades and their miniature versions for tourist trade.

ILONGOT HEADHUNTING TRADITION. Bladed weapons of the Ilongot were made from traditional agricultural and hunting tools. Those used for warfare or headhunting were usually made for the purpose. Adangsel introduced us to the iteng, a short blade resembling a scythe was used for kaingin and cutting grass. For head hunting, warriors used the tagyaden, badass looking curved bolo. It used with a precise backhand swing to chop the head of the enemy. Blade handle and sheath are decorated with beadworks, tassels, and metallic embellishments.

Headhunting tradition among the early Ilongot was a form of expression of bereavement. During a state of grief, the tribe would go for a killing spree. Severing heads of a member an enemy tribes and an outsiders meant acquiring an amet, the spirit of the beheaded that was necessary for emotional balance and for cultural regeneration. This ritual was also practiced when human head was offered as wedding dowry. Pastor Danny assured that this murderous practice has been abandoned by the Bugkalot.

EPILOGUE: NAGTIPUNAN CROSSROAD. Washing the gore from headhunting ritual stories, Adangsel brought us to the Siitan River Park.

It boast of a curtain of limestone walls jutting out from a placid, emerald green river. This area served a shared fishing and hunting ground for ancient tribes that passed the Nagtipunan crossroad.

Published in: on December 2, 2019 at 12:23 pm  Comments (4)  
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First United Building

ESCOLTA REVIVALIST. Pre-war Escolta reigns in the memory of those who were fascinated by its former grandeur. With the old glamour gone as the country’s premier high street, the Calle Escolta for this generation is a narrow street in Manila with Art Deco and Beaux Arts structures revitalized for adaptive reuse as cafés, restaurants, barbershops, art exhibition and creative co-working spaces, boutique hotels, craft stores and antique shops, graphic design studios, etc. etc.

The central hub for all this Escolta revivalist movement is First United Building, a 1928 Art Deco building guarding the entrance of this historic street.

ART DECO ASSEMBLAGE. Art Deco is an architectural style movement that became popular in 1920s Europe. It is characterized by streamlined surfaces, linear and geometric shapes, and odd combinations of design elements from different periods but still worked seamless and bear the impression of glamour. This assemblage of intricate design completes the backdrop of any 20th century Hollywood and Parisian film and that Swing Kids- and Great Gatsby-fashion.

In the Philippines, think of the bodabil (vaudeville), the jazz age of Katy dela Cruz and the Commonwealth era of Manuel Quezon, the iconic Metropolitan Theater in Liwasang Bonifacio, the FEU Campus in Quiapo, the Capitol Theater and the First United Building (FUB) in Escolta.

PEREZ-SAMANILLO BUILDING. While World War II destroyed most of the landmark structures in Manila, those that remain were demolished to give way to modern high rise structures without considering their historical importance and design heritage.

Formerly known as the Luis Perez-Samanillo Building, First United Building is one of the few surviving specimens of the Art Deco age in the country. Designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of painter Juan Luna the five-floor building was considered a skyscraper of its time.

GRACEFUL ENTRANCE. Enter the building from Escolta street into the lobby through its filigreed wrought-iron doors. That graceful entrance are repeated in the moldings around the elevator doors and wrought iron handrail of the sinuous staircase.

On the elevator is a vintage floor indicator that recall the time when the First United Building was Manila’s foremost business address.

HISTORIC ADDRESSES. FUB prides itself for its maximized and tall wall space, abundant lighting and maximum cross-ventilation, large amount of architectural and decorative elements. It survived World War II and the bonfires of progress that decimated some of the  heritage structures in Manila.

In the 1930s, the consulates of Panama and France occupied Rooms 217 and 329. Various film production companies were housed in FUB because of its proximity to the movie theaters along Avenida Rizal. Room 514 was occupied by RVQ Productions of comedy king, Dolphy. Superstar Nora Aunor held office at Rooms 502 and 506. 80s matinee idol, Gabby Concepcion also held his production office in room 308.

FIRST CO-WORKING SPACE. These historic addresses have been converted for adaptive reuse by their new tenants into architectural and design firms, art exhibition and co-working spaces.

Dressed in that hipster vibe is the First Co-Working Space that has timeless views of Sta. Cruz Church, Roman Santos Building and the Beaux Arts Regina Building across, which was also designed by Luna de San Pedro.

FUB COMMUNITY MUSEUM. The building’s mezzanine houses the FUB Community Museum that tells the story of Mr. Sy Lian Teng through news clippings, photographs, and artifacts. Mr. Sy Lian Teng migrated to the Philippines from China in 1918. He grew his business and built a home for his family in Malate. But like most Malate families during the Liberation of Manila in 1945, his wife and children were murdered by the Japanese enemy. He remarried after the war and acquired the Luis Perez-Samanillo Building.

Also on exhibit, are artifacts from Berg’s Department Store that opened at the ground floor of the building in 1936. Dominating a corner in the museum is a portrait of Evelyn Berg Empie, daughter of store owner, Ernest Berg. 

HUB: MAKE LAB. The shell of the the pre-war Berg’s Department Store was converted into a bazaar and exhibition space for young creatives. Under the hanging sculpture of Leeroy New is a cluster of exhibition booths designed by Architect Arts Serrano. There is also Folk Barbershop, Fred’s Revolution pub and The Den Coffee and Contemporary Culture in their respective corners.

Good finds at HUB: Make Lab were the mugs with images of vintage cars and bicycles printed on them. This fittingly recalls when La Estrella del Norte in Escolta imported the first automobile in the country called a Richard, which was bought by a certain Dr. Miciano.

THE DEN. Whenever I end up my random walking trips around Manila in Escolta, The Den Coffee and Contemporary Culture has become by go to place. Aside from coffee and food, there are also small artworks that can be purchased from this coffee store. Have a good eye, one can snatch a good buy.

In my visit to FUB during the staging of the first Escolta Saturday Market in 2013, I was able to bring home artworks by Niel Pasilan, Leeroy New and Dexter Fernandez.

EPILOGUE: AN ASSEMBLAGE ART. Recently, I became fascinated in making assemblage art that I fashioned from vintage objects I sourced from places I’ve been to. These travel souvenirs were cramped in display cabinets at home until I decided put them together to create cohesive, maximalist, and storied artworks in box-type frames as extensions for my travel narratives.

The different happenings and gatherings in the First United Building make up an assemblage art that is timeless, huge, and out of the box.

Kiangan, Ifugao

MOUNTAIN TOWNS. For most travelers, a trip to Ifugao starts and ends in Banaue Rice Terraces. View decks that offer a panoramic vista of the ancient staircased rice paddies are heavy with tourists all year round. Like most travelers, I’ve been to most of tourist spots in Ifugao during my first time in the Cordilleras.

For this trip with freinds Rod and CJ, we veered away from the crowded sites and drove to the mountain towns of Lagawe and Kiangan.

MAGAT DAM. Temperature dips as we traveled out from the lowlands of Isabela into the grand mountain chain of the Cordillera. On the way, we made a quick side trip to Magat Dam. This high-rise dam holds back the force of the mighty Magat River on the Isabela-Ifugao border. Built in the 1970s, Magat Dam was an incredible engineering feat, designed for generating electricity, irrigation, and flood control.

We walked the length of the driveway for a closer look of the spillway and the reservoir. The water level in the reservoir was lower than the normal mark where floating solar panels were being installed to contribute to the electricity generated by the hydroelectric power plant.

G’ADDANGS OF ALFONSO LISTA. By mid-morning, we reached the town of Alfonso Lista. Village life in this mountain town are huddled close in the población where we met Veronica De Guzman, a weaver of G’addang tribal garments. She responded to our questions and acceded to our request to demonstrate weaving using a box-type loom.

Among the tribes in the Cordillera, the G’addangs are the most fashionable. Womenfolk dressed in woven blouse called buruwasi and skirt that are extravagantly decorated with colorful beads, shells, coins, buttons, and bone while the menfolk wear an indigo cape called tapit on top of a beaded jacket or koton and g-string or baag. Traditionally, G’addang garments are in bright red and woven with symbolic and geometric patterns in white, black, and yellow to distinguished them from the other warring tribes.

G’ADDANG BEADWORKS. Veronica brought out an ensemble of G’addang accessories. To complete the buruwasi are the cloth tiara, belt, necklace and earrings – all beaded and decorated in horror vacui fashion with pieces of carabao horns, pig fangs, bird feathers, and sundry objects. Prized are those accessories adorned with pre-war coins and heirlooms glass beads.

Before leaving Veronica, she gave us a couple of bead and shell necklace and a buruwasi that will go to the Balay na Santiago Museum in Isabela.

ROADSIDE TO LAGAWE. By noon time we had crossed Lower Magat Dam in Nueva Vizcaya and finally revved up again around the rugged mountainside in Ifugao. We made several stops by the roadside to eat and shop. For lunch, we dined at a roadside eatery that served local favorites papaitan, dinakdakan, calderetang kambing, and sinigang sa misu.

Under thatch roofs of sawali huts are fruit stands and basket weavers. A fruit stand sold clumps of lituko. This fruit of the rattan palm have overlapping layers that look like snake skin. Press the brittle skin to break open the fruit. The fruit has the same level of sourness as the kamias and tamarind. Next to bamboo, rattan has been traditionally a popular raw material for making furniture and weaving baskets.

HU-OP BASKET. We arrived in Lagawe in the afternoon. Touristically, the capital town of Ifugao has nothing much to offer but a genuine immersion to mountain life that is simple, rural, and pleasantly away from commercial trappings. Its public market displays Ifugao’s primary products, highland crops  and brown rice from the terraced paddies, the native rice wine that is drank during recreation and rituals called baya and key ingredients to the customary betel nut chewing: dried tabacco leaves, lime or apog, betel nuts and leaves.

I was particularly drawn to the hu-op, a box-like basket traditionally used for holding cooked rice. It is made of tightly woven bamboo strips and has a tight-fitting lid. Baskets from the Cordilleras are the best travel souvenirs. They have practical use and are light to carry around.

NO GOLD IN YAMASHITA MUSEUM. We drove further deep into the mountains. By mid-afternoon, we reached Kiangan. This historic town is home to a couple of heritage museums and World War II memorials. Driving towards the town center, we were immediately drawn into the 1920s American architecture of the United Church of Christ and nearby Ifugao Academy.

Across the Protestant Church is Kiangan Central School where its Home Economics building was made into a museum to commemorate the surrender of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita to the Ifugao and American forces on September 2, 1945. Artifacts in the museum put a human face into the war. A photograph shows the defeated Tiger of Malaya facing an American military tribunal that sentenced him to death for war crimes. Upon his death, treasure hunting became prevalent in Kiangan because it was believed that the Japanese General hid an enormous amount of gold in the area. No one knows if the fabled Yamashita treasure was ever found.

IKAT AND DEATH BLANKET. But the real treasures of Kiangan is housed in the building next door. The Indigenous Peoples Education Center contains tribal artifacts that preserve and showcase the ancient crafts and culture of the Ifugao. Kiangan is the oldest town in the Ifugao. It is home to the tribe’s mythical ancestors Wigan and Bugan. Wigan was the sculptor of the first bul-ol, a wooden image of the rice god while Bugan weaved the first fabric using the backstrap loom called the ablan. The couple learned these crafts from Ifugao gods and passed the skill to the next generation of sculptors and weavers.

With today’s fusion of modern and traditional, in art and in fashion Ifugao woven fabrics are sought after by designers and decorators for their texture, color, and primitive symbols like the lizard or baniya that represents the god that showed the tribe how to source water and the snake or tinukud that represents the god that guards the mystical boundary between life and death. Some city folks fail to research that these stylized animal patterns are elements found in a traditional death blanket used to wrap corpses. Recently, the Ifugao fabric made it into the news when Vice President Leni Lobredo was accused of wearing a death blanket for a skirt in a state event. Ifugao weavers were quick to correct critics that the VP’s dress was fashioned from the tie-dyed binobodan or ikat fabric. The ikat is a classy gift to fashion-conscious friends that can be purchased directly from the Ifugao weavers in the heritage center.

KIANGAN WAR MONUMENT. Passed the Protestant church and school, we drove the sloping road following the street sign that led us to the Kiangan World War II Memorial. Similar with the war memorials in Corregidor and Mount Samat, the Kiangan War Memorial was erected to commemorate the end of the Japanese occupation and to honor the brave Ifugao and Americans veterans of war. Historically, tribes in the mountain provinces we’re relatively untouched by the Spanish colonial rule because they fiercely fought for their territory. Their heritage and way of life remained intact and unconquered until the coming of the Americans who introduced public school education and Protestantism.

Ifugao warriors fought the Japanese side by side with the Americans until General Yamashita surrendered. The Kiangan War Monument drew inspiration from the native Ifugao house that is raised from the ground and sits on stills.

ALL THINGS BROWN AND SOOT-COVERED. The weather has changed while we were in the War Memorial. The clouds were low and grey. We raced across the sprawling lawn to reach the Ifugao Museum on the other side of the compound due to the impending rain.

The anthropological museum is a branch of the National Museum. The two-level building showcase priceless artifacts from around Ifugao. The collection includes all things that are brown, soot-covered and beautiful: wooden idols in all conceivable positions and animal protectors, woven baskets in different shapes, sizes and purpose, carved wood that form house parts and household implements, musical instruments of wood and brass, accessories and clothing. A status symbol among the Ifugao is the hagabi, a large wooden bench carved from a single tree trunk. A hagabi in the front the house means that its resident have acquired good fortune. Two ends of the hagabi bench have stylized carvings of pig or carabao heads. The entire village participates in the finding for the right tree and in the making of the hagabi. It’s a village festival that lasts for several days.

EPILOGUE: CAÑAO RITUAL. The centerpiece of the Ifugao Museum is a tableau that illustrates the staging of the cañao. This ancient ritual is performed to pray for a bountiful harvest and before and after tribal war or the headhunting season.

The ceremony is led by a mumbaki, an ordained native priest who chants long and memorized prayers while sipping rice wine. Around the altar are ritual wooden container or panumahan, betel-nut offerings, jugs of rice wine, ritual bowls, bul-ol idols and bundles of rice grains. The ritual is performed in stages with dancing, chanting, and beating of flat gongs called the gangsa. It ends with a sacrifice of a native pig.


Published in: on November 2, 2019 at 1:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Paco Cemetery

UNMARKED GRAVE OF GOMBURZA. Shortly after the execution of the priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora in the scaffolds of Bagumbayan, they’re remains were buried in an unmarked grave in Paco Cemetery. Their death in February 17, 1872 has inspired a national revolution against colonial Spain. A stone cross was erected in the outer wall of the cemetery to commemorate the martyrdom of the priest collectively known as GOMBURZA.

Paco Cemetery was built by the Dominican order in 1807 in the suburb of San Fernando de Dilao. Designed by Nicolas Ruiz, the maestra de obras of the Manila, it was named Cementerio General de Dilao. It was intended as an exclusive cemetery for the Spanish residents of old Manila’s. Later in the century, Governor General Fernando Norzagaray ordered the construction of an outer wall to intern victims of the cholera epidemic that swept Manila like the angel of death during that period.

CIRCULAR CEMETERY. The cemetery has a circular plan like the one in Nagcarlan, with an inner concentric wall which was the original cemetery. The cemetery gates bears a Neoclassical architecture in adobe that recall the same details found in the gates of Intramuros.

At the end of the cemetery’s main avenue is the circular chapel of Saint Pancratius. The chapel was also done in the same Neoclassical style and has a cement dome. It houses the remains of Governor General Ramon Maria Solano y Llanderal. The chapel is currently under the care of the Vicentian fathers in San Marcelino. On the sides of the chapel are wide stairs leading to an open terrace lined with stone balustrades.

A DEAD CEMETERY. No burial have taken place in Paco Cemetery since 1912. During the Liberation of Manila, the Japanese turned the cemetery in the ammunition depot. They dug trenches and installed bombshells around the thick walls. After the war, much like most structures of Manila, the cemetery was in ruins and became infamous for it was known to be inhabited by large pythons. It’s a dead cemetery.

In 1966, the cemetery was renovated and turned into a public park by landscape architect National Artist Ildefonso Santos.  In the 1980s, it was known for an open air orchestra concerts and a preferred venue for stylish-theme wedding.

RPJ IN REVERSE. Also located at the outer circle is a landmark cross that indicates the burial place of  Dr. Jose Rizal after his execution in Bagumbayan on December 30, 1896. Unusual is how the initials of Jose P. Rizal are inscribed in reverse as RPJ at the base of the cross. According to the story, the day before Rizal was put to death by firing squad, his family negotiated with Spanish authorities to turn over his corpse to them later the next day. They were met with refusal because the Colonial government feared the burial site would be used a symbol of martyrdom and can trigger a revolution. Toward the evening, the civil governor of Manila, Manuel Luego, took pity on Doña Teodora, Rizal’s mother and gave her permission to take the body after the execution. Rizal’s sister Narcisa, made arrangements for a coffin and transportation.

However, when Rizal’s family went to the execution site, the remains of Jose had already been removed. Narcisa, searched in vain for the body of his brother in all the cemeteries in Manila. Passing through Paco Cemetery in the afternoon, she came upon some civil guards and out of gut feeling surmised that their presence indicated that her brother had been buried there. She searched all over Paco Cemetery until she found a grave with freshly turned earth. She bribed the sepulturero to place a marker with Rizal initials in reverse to mark the burial site. In August 17, 1898, Rizal’s remains were exhumed and transferred to her mother’s house in Tondo until it was properly buried under his monument in Luneta.

Published in: on October 26, 2019 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)