Thursday, December 31, 2009

Well Wisher

 * fireworks display in Alaminos, Laguna

In the few remaining hours of the year, let us set ourselves to a solemn look back on the things that we have done for the last twelve months. And may we orient ourselves in the coming of the New Year to our newfound resolves. There is nothing wrong with being organized with our personal endeavors. Instead, it endows our lives a more coherent form and meaning. Let us then celebrate in the safest way we could!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pier Thoughts

* Batangas City and Calapan City pier views

I already posted my thoughts on the recent tragedy on the waters between Batangas and Calapan City in my other blog ( I only wish to describe some personal recollections and hopes here for the Batangas City pier.

Firstly, the terminal fee has increased through years and even if these fees do not translate directly to the safety of the ships, at least they would now (after the tragedy and before another ship is lost) make more stringent measures to show that it matters not how beautiful a pier terminal is (as can be said for this pier with a newly refurbished terminal) but rather the safety of the vessels and of the people who board them.

I would testify that the shipping lines staff are active in making the passengers sign the passenger manifesto (this is easily observed in SuperCat ticket office) but they should cut off NOW the habit of passing a ticket issued to a passenger to another passenger. I could still remember obtaining a ticket with a name and information of another person. I shall never know if that person signed the manifesto earlier, but I made it a point to sign my name on the manifesto. At least I was able to put my name on it in the event that it would have turned out as my last trip on earth. People could then be able to trace me and attest that I really took that last trip.

It all goes beyond the manifesto and the safety measures for the passengers. Those ships should be regularly, and I mean genuinely regularly, checked for their sea worthiness. We have the concerned agencies for these and we would not want to hear another sea disaster. You do not want to be blamed for negligence Sirs, do you?

Although I think I would not be boarding any sea vessel in the immediate future, I just hope that everything – from the ticket purchasing to the actual boarding – would be different the next time I set my feet on this pier.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

La la la Alaminos, Laguna

It was Christmas day when I went to the town of Alaminos in Laguna and its main street Jose P. Rizal Street in the town proper was teeming with people. It later occurred to me that it was a holiday but most people chose this day to have their children baptized in church. If I remember it right I was also baptized on a Christmas day.
And off I went to mingle with Alaminos Christmas churchgoers but not before having sneak peeks to the objects along Rizal Street.
 *some of the big houses in the town proper of Alaminos, Laguna

One will immediately notice the big houses on this street. I would categorize them as mansions as they are of similar built and size to the ones we call mansions in San Pablo. There was one such mansion, on the corner of Rizal Street and the national highway, bearing these names outside: Adelaida Fule and Erlinda Fule, both Bachelor of Music. I do not have any idea of who they were but judging from this huge house the family from which they belonged were most likely rich and perhaps influential.
I encountered next was the Rizal monument with a foreign-looking lady behind him. I was not able to look more closely to that figure since the sun was already high up in the sky. Below is a marker:
Constructed: Municipal President Don Jose F. Fule, 1920-1923.
I venture to say that these Fule’s are probably related to one another and have been prominent figures there. I could probably dig in to this in the future since Alaminos is not that far.
The Church (Our Lady of Pillar) has Nuestra Señora del Pilar as its patron saint. The arc just outside says F.1815. Old indeed. But looking inside the church (which I first visited during the christening of a cousin’s daughter) it looked recently constructed. I tried to look outside for any signs that it still hold some time-tested part (old walls, etc.) but all I could connect to its old age was the bell on its tower. It has inscriptions which I would surely want to read and transcribe here at Back Trails!

Trek to Liliw, Laguna

* Gat Tayaw Street in Liliw, Laguna; this is where most of the shoe/sandal/slipper stores
are located; portion of Mount Banahaw is seen in the background
* one of the big houses still found in Gat Tayaw Street
* the Liliw town hall
The town of Liliw in Laguna will always be associated with the slippers and sandals industry. The said industry have made the place a very popular destination for shoppers and tourists alike.

Nestled close to the mythical mountain of Banahaw, it provides an exciting tour as one has to go through mountainous areas and snaking roads just to get there. One time I thought of bringing an intimate to the place a day before Christmas upon knowing that the person has never been to the place. Although I have already been to Liliw many times, I am always imbued with anticipation about the things that I might encounter there. For some reasons I find rummaging through shoes and sandals a fun thing to do.

To my surprise we found the place with many people despite the coming holiday. The main street that houses the shoes’, sandals’, and slippers’ stores, Gat Tayaw Street, now has several makeshift food stall where visitors can but food to fill their stomachs. Eye-catching as well was the town hall which was apparently refurbished recently.

As I later remarked to my companion, I find it surprising that the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards reached the place. I could merit those Spanish religious and conquistadores for having that seemingly infinite resilience to propagate the Spanish rule and Christianity albeit with accompanying abuses.

* the façade of the Liliw Church
* a dark view of the church's interior

* a chapel within the church area

What triggered my surprise was the inscription I found inside the church of Liliw. It says that only part of the floor remains of the original church-convent which was a ‘casualty of the Philippine Revolution…’ of 1898 if I am not mistaken. The Church of Lilio, as it was then called, was under the administration of the (Church or Parish?) of Nagcarlang (Nagcarlan, Laguna) until 1605. The church and convent were damaged by 1880 and partly burned by April 6, 1898. This is probably the event that damaged the church. In any case, the façade looks old enough and carries on the style probably fit during those times. (I am yet to review my lessons in Humanities 2 to give better descriptions of church designs.)

Note: The pictures above were taken way back in 2007, and some details, especially of the church (their retablo), are different today.

[How to go to Liliw, Laguna: From Manila, one can board a bus bound to Lucena City, Quezon. Drop off at San Pablo City, Laguna specifically at the place they call 'Medical' (after the San Pablo Medical Center). Then board a jeepney bound for the town proper. Then walk towards the San Pablo Cathedral. On the cathedral's left (if you are facing it), you will find the city's fire station. Beside the place is the makeshift terminal of the jeepneys bound for Liliw.]

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Visit to San Pablo City Saint Paul the First Hermit Cathedral

 * San Pablo Cathedral at night with Christmas lights

Church Visit 
Although I have always been vocal on my objections about the celebration of Christmas, it does not stop me from recognizing it as an integral part of the tradition of Filipinos. Its celebration makes a stranger realize how Christianity, brought to the country by Spanish conquistadores almost five hundred years ago, have molded the lives of our countrymen.
Because I am no celebrant and because we do not usually go out of town during this so-called Christmas vacation, I decided to prowl the city proper.
Dragging along a very reluctant sister, we went to the cathedral to see the activities there. A makeshift stage and extra seats were already placed right outside the church ground (the patio). It was already 8 o'clock in the evening but there were still many people. I even heard from the newcomers that there were no more seats available inside the church.
Meanwhile, people outside were doing their respective ‘businesses’ such as caroling. I do not give to kids who beg (to discourage them from doing it) so I treated instead the two kids who went to 'serenade' us with their Christmas songs with a photo op. I promised not to erase it so I put it up here.

The ‘traditional’ food for the season were also present. Lining the outside fences of the church were small stalls selling pop corns, bibingka, puto bumbong, among others. Puto bumbong is not a stranger to us family but for reasons I could not understand I have confused it with bibingka. But both are delicious delicacies.
* caroling children at the church patio; I promised not to erase this photo so I put it here

The San Pablo Cathedral Construction History

This blog entry is ideal for two reasons: 1) it is the Christmas season (for those who believe in and celebrate it) and 2) I obtained a short note on the construction of the church. I found this note on the makeshift library for the children in Gawad Kalinga Brgy. San Lucas II, San Pablo City a year ago. As I surveyed the note (with a byline of RER), the information is more or less widely known already.

Prior to the coming of the Spaniards, there was this ‘kingdom’ of the Tagalog called Sampalok, comprised of portions of Lipa, Tanauan, Sto. Tomas, Alaminos, and Rizal (not the province, but the town here in Laguna). This ‘kingdom’ was ruled by Gats and Datus, the most famous of which was Gat Paguil.

Spaniards came to the place in 1571 led by Capitan Juan de Salcedo, who was related to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The ‘kingdom’ was finally 'subdued' by Don Gabriel de Montoya who was accompanied by Father Alvarado and Father Diego de Espinar. But the parish in Sampalok was finally organized by Father Andres Cabrera. A chapel was built in 1586, later installing Saint Paul the Hermit as the patron saint. The earliest church had a thatched roof and the labor and materials for the construction (as was always the case during those times) were provided by the natives.
Meanwhile the town of San Pablo was organized in 1647. Formerly under the Augustinians, church administration was transferred to the Franciscans in 1694 who held it until 1912 when it was finally placed in the hands of the secular priests.

* bibingka, puto bumbong, etc. stalls; on the background is the arc of Liceo de San Pablo

The year 1662 saw the rise of the church with the help of Gobernadorcillo Bartolome Fundan. The modern church construction started in 1680 during the term of Father Juan Labao and was finished in 1721 under the term of Father Francisco Juan de Elorreaga, both of whom were architects from Biscay, Spain. Destroyed several times for varied reasons (natural causes and by outlaws, etc.) it was repaired and reinstalled many times. In 1796, the brick and stone walls were completed. Between 1801 and 1813 the tower was built while the cruzade in 1912.
Also in 1912, the Seminario Menor de San Francisco was put up, with a three-story building provided for it just adjacent to the church. It was placed under the Paulist fathers but it was later transferred to Lipa. Before World War II, the premises of the seminary were donated to the Jesuits for conversion to a school under Bishop Alfredo Verzosa of the Diocese of Lipa (which included San Pablo).

In 1947, the destroyed seminary was converted into a high school named Ateneo de San Pablo. Later, when the Jesuits finally decided to close the school, negotiations were made for the turnover of the said school to the newly organized Diocese of San Pablo. The school was renamed Liceo de San Pablo which is still operating today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on a ‘History’ Day

* view of the sky on a sunset in Bay, Laguna
The blog post title may seem biased for the 2nd UPLB CAS (College of Arts and Science) Student-Faculty Research Conference was designed to cater to the different fields and disciplines under our college. I definitely enjoyed this one-day affair because of those several talks on history. This day galvanized my resolve to learn more about this field. I listened to more or less ten talks/paper presentations, waiting only for a few ones that interested me. But the presentations on history were the ones that interested me the most.

Some of the presentations were:

Kapaligiran, Wika, Kasaysayan: Mga Pangalang Lugar sa mga Mapa ng Bulacan Noong Panahong Kastila
Presented by Roberto Mata

Mga Representasyon sa Babaeng Tagalog: Halaw sa Vocabularios ng ika-17 Dantaon
Presented by Rhina Boncocan

Towards a Historiography of Bay, Laguna: A Reading of Makiling Legends
Presented by Aileen Macalintal

Ang Mutya ng Pasig: Mga Imahe ng Pasig sa Kamalayang Bayan at Kwentong Bayan
Presented by (my former professor) Wensley Reyes

In at least three of the above presentations, it was worth noting the emphasis given on the importance of names of the places–the context in which they were used before and then now as well as their origins. The idea that
these names ‘evolved’ through time under different conditions such as the coming of foreigners (most notably, the arrival and conquest of the Spaniards) was also impressed to the audience.

Sir Mata made a note too in seriously taking into account the names of places. His examples in some places in Bulacan is a testament to the importance of the meaning that these names give or share to the people. With this I am convinced that it is essential to know something about one’s past in order to fully chart our present and future.

Regarding the number of legends mentioned during the presentation of the papers above, I would agree with the speakers who have the conviction that local folklore and tales are important in the creation and development of the collective beliefs of the people in a certain community. It would be definitely boring to have history texts emblazoned only with names, dates, and places.

In connection with that, I remember a time when I had to endure a hardcore barikan (drinking session) in a village in Rosario, Batangas. Despite the numbing effects of their preferred alcohol, I was compelled to stay because of a tale about a particular gang called Pitong Gatang guarding a certain area in their place and robbing and/or extorting stuff from and/or humiliating people that happened to pass by this group. This tale, whether it was true or not, gave me a different view of an otherwise plain and sleepy tricycle terminal which is the place where this Pitong Gatang group was alleged to have stationed themselves before.

So that’s it. I have no idea if I would ever have the chance again to seat freely like that all day. But I’m sure to make this as a starting point to hound our city’s local place names and dig into their origins.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back Trails Opening Up

* view of the sky in Lodlod, Lipa City, Batangas

Yet Another Blog

Yes, this is another attempt to put up a blog, an addition to the handful that I already have and maintain. But this arose from the inspiration I had from a friend from the internet. Kuya Arnaldo (we have agreed that I will call him Kuya from now on) maintains a journal of sort of his travels in and out of the country, but makes it a point to write them in the context of Philippine history. It may seem boring at first, just traveling to places and digging only about their past. But as I followed his blog, I realized that it is interesting. It shows that learning (about history in this case) is not confined inside the walls of our classrooms. And Kuya certainly learns things first-hand which is a treat. It gives you the ‘real-ness’ (if I may call it that) of our past, of our heritage. Knowing our past puts our present in a more coherent place in our consciousness and helps us to chart our future. Indeed my decision to launch this blog is largely due to the influence that Kuya Arnaldo has given me. History is an interesting field and it has many facets from which we could learn a lot. 

Why a Separate Blog?

Why put up a separate blog when I already have four others to maintain? Is it not a burden already? Yes, I would admit that it is kind of a turn-off with all these blogs. I can liken it to multiple accounts in Friendster with nothing really unique in each other. But I feel the need to characterize the nature of this new blog: a travel/history blog so that people could turn to this place and discern easily that it caters to travel and history. But I do not guarantee that it would always be the case. We cannot possibly separate our history, our past to our present (which in my case, falls in the dominion of my other blogs). Also, I realized the need to have an open communication to people of different backgrounds and I envision this blog as another platform in which healthy exchange of information about history (Philippine history in particular) can be made.

 So, here it is! Back Trails opening up now!