Art Heritage of Paete

Paete is a lakeshore town in Laguna that was named after the tool used for carving wood known as the “paet,” the vernacular for chisel. It was said that when a Spanish missionary asked for the name of the town, a villager thought that the foreigner was asking for the tool (chisel) he held in his hand.


Although the town was accidentally named as such, the name Paete is very appropriate since the town is famous for its woodcarvings.  With a century’s worth of artistry tied to its belt, Paete was declared the “Carving Capital of the Philippines” in 2005.


The fastest way to get to Paete is through the Manila East Road. With hardly any traffic, and miles upon miles of the scenic countryside to feast one’s eyes upon, the road trip through the national highway is an experience in itself (an alternate route is through South Luzon Expressway where the travel time is longer and less scenic).

Passing Rizal towns of Antipolo, Teresa and Morong, the one hour drive from Cainta Junction took us to Tanay. After an hour and a half hour drive from the town of Tanay, the winding mountain roads leveled and brought us to the lakeshore towns of Mabitac, Panguil, Pakil and then to our destination –Paete.

Upon our arrival, we went to the town’s local tourism office to meet up with Mr. Bien Cagandahan. Bien gladly showed us around the town and introduced us to some of its local artisans and store owners.


Our first stop was the Church of Santiago Apostol. The last time we were at this church was during our Visita Yglesia via Lake Town of Laguna de Bay. As always, the church marveled us with its artistry. Bien proudly pointed out the five exquisitely carved retablos which were crafted by their forefathers.


The church of Peate is one of the few churches that houses original works of Paete-born painter Jose Dans. Dans is known for mixing pulverized volcanic ash with pigments and fashioned his brushes out of cat’s hair.


Bien revealed to us the story behind the two remarkable paintings of Saint Christopher.  According to Bien, The first painting (done during the 1780s) was directly painted on the wall of the church by an unknown artist during the 1780s. In this painting, the saint is depicted as if a Moro or as a pirate.


The friars did not like this painting of Saint Christopher. Jose Dans created a second painting of Saint Christopher this time on wood. The saint was depicted on the second painting as a Caucasian in sixteenth century European clothing. The new painting was placed on the same spot to cover the first painting. The first painting was forgotten in time until it was rediscovered during the 1980s when the church was undergoing renovation.


For a guided tour of the of Paete, contact Bien Cagandahan at 0929.283.04.52 or the local tourism office at 049.817.18.14

Click here for Part 1 –Art Heritage of Paete, Part 2 –Shopping for Paete Wood Carvings, Part 3 –Kape Kesada, Part 4 –Paete Holy Week Procession, Part 5 –Paete Artist Unite for a Good Cause

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Explore the heritage town of Paete’s artistic culture […]

  2. […] Explore the heritage town of Paete’s artistic culture […]

  3. I’m particularly interested in that last supper carving in the picture with your son. Which store is that? Any contact details? Thanks!

  4. […] The Heritage of Paete […]

  5. Hi, this page is really helpful. May I know if you can refer me to the right store/place in Paete where we could buy masks made of paper mache? Lino Dalay’s email address no longer works and also his contact numbers. Thank you so much.

    • Lino Dalay’s shop is the only one I know that make and sell paper mask Myrna. Will try to ask for his contact info. -Glenn

  6. Additional Information regarding the San Cristobal Painting: It is the oldest largest painting in the Philippines. It is the oldest among the paintings of its size and it is the largest among the painting of its age.

  7. Great place to visit! There’s a lot of sculptures, painters, paintings, and
    it is agreat place to spend vacation.

  8. Paete church is truly a treasure, sad to say though that the painting featured here of San Cristobal was slightly damaged by (my guess is) termites. It was only recently that they decided to cover the lower part of the painting and are waiting for people from the national museum to restore the painting. I really hope they got to it soon, since it would be a great loss to loose a national treasure due to negligence.

    • About the San Cristobal painting, the restorer have just started the procedure. By the way, the restorer is Araceli Limcaco Dans.

  9. […] story about the San Cristóbal paintings on the left side of the church wall’s interior (read here). The first one apparently appears to be an Asiatic-looking San Cristóbal. Perhaps Dans modeled the […]

  10. I went to st. james church in paete laguna, last april 11, the church was amazing, because it was built with remarkable history. the original painting really touched my heart. but i am dissappointed with some people around, especially the one store selling food at the back of the church, they were so matapobre to some tourists visiting the church, i think and i suggest to reorient this people who are making paete most unfriendly place. . . pls make some actions on this

    • Your request had been sent. Can I ask, how can you say they’re matapobre? What have they done to you? This report has already been sent to the Church.

  11. i can’t wait to see these treasured paintings of st. christopher in real. since st. christopher has been a part of my life when somebody gave me a medallion 30 years ago,i promise to myself that i will personally visit st. christopher in paete, laguna… may god bless with this endeavor

  12. astig ang paete

  13. I was not aware that Dans has a similar painting of Saint Christopher from halfway around the around a world Teodoro. It is possible that Dans may have gotten his idea of the saint from Mexico since our country was ruled from Mexico and not directly from Spain for some time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. I have seen a similar “Traveler on Foot”(the one painted on wood ) painting in Juarez, Mexico at the Museum of Arts there. Unfortunately, taking pictures were not allowed. I am sure it was the same source/ painting in Mexico Mr. Dans copied it from.

    • It was not copied. The painting of San Cristobal was requested by the friars from Mexico that time.


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