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