CURIOUS TRAVELER. It was curiosity that drove us visit the town of Nagcarlan in Laguna. The town is famous for having above its ground an antique church (one of the oldest in the country) and narrow but tall ancestral homes (there’s practical reason for that), below its ground a centuries-old cemetery (a one of a kind structure in the country) and moreover, an interesting story on how the town got its name.

SPANISH NAGCARLAN. Pre-Hispanic Nagcarlan was headed by a datu named Gat Lakilaw. Franciscans Juan de Plasencia and Diego Oropesa initiated the town’s conversion to Christianity in 1578. Padre Tomas de Miranda, the man known to have planted the first grains of wheat in the country, officially founded the town as a Franciscan mission in 1583.

Historical highlights of Nagcarlan include de Plasencia’s first Diccionario Hispano-Tagalog, which he wrote in 1579 and first known guidebook for effective and righteous governance for alcalde mayors called Costumbrez de los Tagalog. In 1595, Nagcarlan became an independent municipality with Gaspar Cahupa as its first gobernadorcillo. Fr. Cristobal Torres named the town Nagcarlan in 1752 to honor the great female leader of the town, Ana Kalang.

LEGEND OF ANA KALANG. There is a popular legend about how the town got its name. It was said that the name Nagcarlan was a corruption of the name Ana Panalangin or Ana Kalang. Ana Kalang was a native woman who was known for her golden salakot and cane which she always carried when walking around town. She was well-respected by the townfolk not just for her wealth but also for the help she extends to those in need.

The town celebrates the five-day Ana Kalang Festival in October which features cultural shows, trade exhibit, a beauty peagent, and colorful street dancing the kalang-kalang.

NAGCARLAN CHURCH. According to folk legend, Ana Kalang built a stone road between the Nagcarlan Church and her stone house to make it easy for her to go to and from the church. Nagcarlan Church was dedicated to San Bartolome Apostol and was first built of light materials in 1583 by Padre Tomas de Miranda. The second church of brick and stone was built in 1752 by Padre Cristobal Torres. The church was badly damaged by fire in 1781. It was repaired by the stone bell tower was added. It was Padre Vicente Velloc who in 1845 made it the way we see it today in Laguna Baroque style.

CAMPOSANTO DE NAGCARLAN. Padre Vicente Velloc was the builder of Nagcarlan’s Cemetery. This is a one of a kind structure in the country. It was built in 1845 to serve as an exclusive burial ground for Spanish friars. The cemetery is enclosed by 240 above-ground crypts embedded on the circular wall which is comparable to Paco Cemetery.

At the end of red-brick walk is the chapel crowned by a bell. The image of the Santo Entierro was the first we’ve notice upon entering the chapel. Turing right from the entrance, we went down from a flight of stairs leading to the underground cemetery.

THE ICONIC UNDERGROUND CEMETERY. According to folk history, Padre Velloc also built the underground passage leading to five underground chapels where solitary masses are held. The underground passages were said to have continued all the way to Mount Banahaw. These passages were sealed off and the location remains unknown. Another legend was told that the underground crypt served as the subterranean passageway used by Ana Kalang on her way to the church from her house.

The cemetery was made into a National Shrine. It was in this cemetery where secret meetings of the Katipunan were held. In 1897, Pedro Paterno and General Severino Taino first planned the Pack of Biak-na-Bato in the crypts. Emilio Jacinto was captured here in 1898 after being severely wounded from the battle of Mahabang-Tanaw in Majayjay.

GOING VERTICAL. Along the narrow and sloping streets of Nagcarlan are old houses. These notable old houses are mostly of three-level stone structures with arched windows and European influences that are erected on small lot sizes. It was said that during those days, the extravagant display of wealth was frowned upon that the rich residents of the town decided to extend their houses vertically rather than horizontally.


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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] next town is Nagcarlan. The first time we went this town, we visited its famous landmark -the underground cemetery. […]

  2. Great posting and great pictures. My father was born and buried in Nagcarlan, so I was really happy to have found this. Very informative, especially the legend of Ana Kalang. Its been a few years, but I look forward to going back “home” with my own kids at some point so that can see where their grandfather grew up and to learn about their heritage. Thanks!

    • I am fascinated with the folktale about your home town Mike. And Nagacarlan is such a beautiful place to share to children.

  3. gusto po namin pumunta ng nagcarlan..from calamba crossing po,ano ho ba ang mga sasakyan namin?…tnxs!..

  4. The Virinas are from Nagcarlan and we go visit whenever we can. The old houses are owned by the Plantillas. Relatives of our family. Am rushing an article on San Bartolome church when I stumbled into your wonderful site. We lived in Tanong, Malabon a long time and there is a San Bartolome church there, too. So both places share August 24 as the town’s fiesta. The San Bartolome statue in Malabon was brought from Spain 400 years ago so there’s a big celebration this year. These are two churches that are close to my heart.

  5. This site is informative. I’ve been to Silangang Napapatid Nagcarlan. I love the cool running water of the river here. Nilupak, Puto Pao, etc. =)

    • we’ve not been to silangang napaptid in nagcarlan and havent tried nilupak and puto pao Jackson. thank you for sharing.

  6. moments from now, we’ll be setting our feet on Nagcarlan’s ground. and we’ll most probably wish to explore the underground cemetery. 🙂

  7. I’ve been meaning to drive up to Nagcarlan to check out the underground cemetery (it fascinates me deeply – I’m not quite sure why, hehe) but (a) I am too afraid to go there alone and no one else would go with me; and (b) I want to make the best of a road trip there by getting to know all the places I could visit in Nagcarlan and the surrounding areas first. Of course, perhaps spontaneity will win me over and one of these weekends, I might just drive up there on a whim. 🙂

    Great post and great blog! Hope we can exchange links, if you don’t mind. Thanks! 🙂 – Daene

    • Nagcarlan has fascinated us in books filipina on flip flops. It surely wowed us when we went to see it for ourselves. Good luck on your trip!

  8. i am writing for a magazine. i happened to land in your site. i got so many insights fron your travels. thanks.

    • Thank you gerny for dropping by. May I know the name of the magazine you are affiliated with?

  9. I strongly agree that we should know more about our history Timon. Like you, I wanted to share my travels to inspire others to look into them.

    Hope to hear from you again.

  10. Great site! great travels!

    Hope one day we can share this discoveries, we as people should learn more from our past!

  11. It makes me proud to see that there are a lot of very interesting places in this country Sidney. I would like to see them all.

    Glad to hear from you again.

  12. You are traveling a lot.
    Indeed, a very interesting place!

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