Saturday, July 31, 2010

Amongst the Heights: The Houses and Mansions of Nagcarlan, Laguna

* an old house, still intact

* a house labeled Elyon Academia

* one resilient house

* reminds me of the house within the compound of Casa Segunda

* more or less like the previous one

* notice those transparent spheres by the windows, it is an ornament(?) common to some of the houses there; I wonder what they are called and what they are specifically for

* three-floored mansion-like house

* talk of seeing a really big house

* the Rizal Standard Academy, founded in 1939; but its past can only be glimpsed through the other half of the school’s façade

* now this is one fairly preserved house

* the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the parish of Saint Bartholomew

* the defunct El Dorado Theatre

There is essentially no limit as to how a house can be termed beautiful. Any thing that is old seems to me a beauty and treasure already. But regarding the houses of Nagcarlang, placing them according to the periods when they have probably been made serves as a key towards appreciating them more and the era that influenced them.

It seems that the Spanish era as well as the American period has made their respective marks on the town, especially on the way houses were designed. Typical motifs of the old houses of the Spanish period are easily identifiable. Moreover, the general style of being half-concrete, half-wooden is also still observable.

The seeming mansion-type houses are still seen on the town’s streets, most likely brought by the American period. Some are solid two stories while others are three-floored. But almost all of them have this feature of having a balcony, complete with intricate details that are in the realms of architecture. But then, these mansion-like houses are curiously narrow-spaced. One cannot help but consider the thought that there was already an emerging problem of overpopulation in the town proper. In any case they are quite unique and serve as a trademark for the town.

With regards to some other points of interest, there is the food in a barangay called Sinipian, their Kalang Festival in October, and the Bunga Falls.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Amongst the Heights: Nagcarlan, Laguna

* view of the church of Nagcarlan, on the left is what could have been a part of the old convento

* view of the church / bell tower with a grotto on the lower right side

* close-up of a detail of some designs on one of the church’s entrance

Literally elevated, the town of Nagcarlang (its old name) can be reached by trekking up several slopes, which are probably part of the great Mount San Cristobal. If one would be keen enough to observe during the travel, one can see the peaks of the mountains that deck the city of San Pablo.

Personally, Nagcarlang has stuck to me because this is where the people of San Pablo comes to buy meat, which are probably fresh and cheap. If one opts to save in fiestas, Nagcarlang is the place to buy such meat.

* a monument of Rizal found just a few steps away from the church, flanked on all its sides by a number of creatures of what look like a half-lion, half-fish (a merlion?), and several women holding a harp, chains, a bread(?), and a cog wheel

Its famous underground cemetery should not overshadow the town itself, which is also a treasure. There is their church, recently the talk of the town, as the TV show ‘Kampanerang Kuba’ was shot in its premises. This has probably stuck also to the town folks, as I managed to overhear a group of passing students mention Kampanerang Kuba, probably making allusions to some scenes from the show that they still remember.

Fairly similar to some of the churches I have visited, the early church built in the town was made of light materials. A Reverend Tomas de Miranda built it who, it was said, came down with the first wheat seedlings in the town. In 1752, the church was finally built from bricks and stones. But a fire, 29 years later, partially destroyed that most likely already-imposing church. Reverend Vicente Velloc, the same man who built the underground cemetery, added a choir loft in 1845.

I was unfortunate not be able to enter the church, as it seemed that it was close. (Or, was I, yet again, not too keen to find the ‘side entrance’?) The church is constructed on high grounds, much similar to the church in Liliw, which has a commanding view of the town proper. That seems to me a psychological conditioning, for in placing the church in the center of the town, or on high grounds as in this case, people would eventually look up to the Church (yeah, with the capital C) as a stronghold, a power so to speak. I hope I made some sense there.

* the imposing Nagcarlan Residencia

* a fountain found on the grounds of Nagcarlan Residencia constructed in 1920, I wish they use it more often; as to the poses of the figures which are somewhat suggestive, I leave that to the minds of the possible readers of this entry, he-he

A short walk from the church would bring you to the town hall, one that they call Nagcarlan Presidencia. The former seat of power was in Casa Real, found on the corner of Calle San Diego and Calle San Rafael but was closed down at the coming of the Americans. This present town hall was built in 1941 which has a ‘neo-classical’ look on it.

The profusion of houses in their different stages of decay and grandeur makes a short walk among its streets a treat. Later I shall be sharing yet again, those casas that I found charming and attractive, together with the other destinations that can still be pursued by a willing visitor.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

* the entrance to the underground cemetery

* the inside of the chapel; notice the remaining ceiling planks, they seemed to me the original ones placed again to reinforce the originality and serenity of the place

* view of the underground as one reach the last flights of stairs down

* a close-up of a crypt; notice that this one died at 104 years old; that is one super senior citizen

* this faded words of some sort captured my attention as well; since I was not able to figure it out, I resorted to an entry posted by Kuya Arnaldo which has these words; it said: “Go forth, Mortal man, full of life / Today you visit happily this shelter / But after you have gone out / Remember, you have a resting place here / Prepared for you”

Perhaps one of the historical places that have gripped me with a very intense awe is the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. The serenity of the place, the well-groomed lawn, and the overall cleanliness of the area served to produce an ‘awe effect’ to whoever comes across the cemetery.

On the main gate is a small board telling the visiting hours, the last hour of which was supposed to be 4 pm. And it was kind of awkward, as I was well beyond the closing hour, having done the visit out of boredom one late afternoon in our house. Nevertheless it was with excitement that I entered the land of the dead, knowing that I was literally the only breathing being at that time (I do not recall hearing any birds of any other animals nearby).

The soft thud of foot steps reached my ears just as I came upon the chapel at the end. I turned around to see a stocky, middle-aged man who turned out to be a guard of some sort in the place. He nevertheless greeted me amicably and welcomed me to the place. Just no camera flashes; that was the general rule.

This underground cemetery is the only one existing in the country (if you might want to create another one, you might do so, I think). A certain Father Vicente Velloc, of the Franciscan order, oversaw the construction of the place in 1845, together with the construction of the town church as well as the convent. During the revolution of 1896, revolutionary leaders made the underground as their meeting place. One can only imagine those meetings, in a period when myths and pamahiin about the dead was more or less still prevalent. With just the faintest of light, enough to see the faces of the attendees or the documents at hand, they braved the cold place and conspired and brewed their plans.

The hardest part of all was to take pictures below as the lighting is poor (the positions of the light, I think, were meant to keep the ‘eeriness’ of the place). I thought I was already encountering ghosts or something, as I began to heard children laughing; voices that seemed to me were playing. I am a hardcore unbeliever in spirits or anything connected to it, but man, in a place like that!?

I lingered for a while, enjoyed the brief solitude that the place gave. Upon going back up, I immediately asked the guard if there are residents behind the cemetery. There are thus solving my little mystery.

The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is a priority destination to those who are into cultural-historical-religious things. It is not a place for picnics, but it sure makes you love the past (I mean the culture particularly) of our country.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tranca of Rosario, Batangas

* Tranca preparing to slumber

I have mentioned Tranca in the early days of Back Trails. It was said that this particular place was guarded by a group called ‘Pitong Gatang’ and one would not be able to pass through without facing this group. Either one gives what they would require or do what they would want the unfortunate victim to do (perhaps do a dance, or something like that).

Regarding this Pitong Gatang, I still have not searched it on the internet, or even dig in if the name has something to do with measuring rice. I am personally looking forward in learning more about it verbally, from people who have kept this tale alive and passed on from tongue to tongue. It is, I believe, a tale of oral tradition and origins, and I am glad to have experienced it. I hope to find more tales and other things passed on via oral tradition, not just in Batangas, but to other places in the Philippines as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Casas: La la la Alaminos, Laguna Part 5

* standing strong in Alaminos

* found along the Maharlika highway * another elegant one, also found along the Maharlika highway

* similarly elegant, still found along the Maharlika highway

* not that old, but nevertheless a treasure to behold (and to own)

I shall end this series by sharing a few more houses that have captured my attention. As I have said, they are not those hardcore Spanish houses. But in looking up those houses big and small, scattered randomly on those little streets at the town proper, it served to lay in my mind an imagined walk in a little village during the period between the Spanish and the American periods.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Casas on Calle Rizal – La la la Alaminos, Laguna: Part 4

* statue of a woman standing in front of a house in Rizal Street

* view of the house where the woman statue can be found; situated on the corner of Rizal Street and the Maharlika Highway

* the Fule Mansion complete with detailed decorations along the fence of the place

* one starts to figure out why it is getting hard to maintain houses made out of wood, such as this one

As with many other places in the country, the main street – most often the very one leading to the church – contains the biggest, if not the most imposing, houses. There was Calamba for instance, then San Pablo, and San Juan in Batangas, just to name a few. And to a certain extent Alaminos can be categorized along this line, as I have observed that in Rizal Street, the street that leads to the town church, many such houses (and even mansion, if we could count the Fule residence there as one) are found.

* a house which I could say is simple yet elegant

* the surrounding compliments the already serene feel of this house

* an imposing one

* one can trace the features of the upper part of this house, features that certainly were lifted from the designs of the houses during the Spanish times

Novice as I might be in technically categorizing these houses, the look of the houses themselves would give one that idea when they came to existence. They are not Spanish, those that some call Antillean ones, nor are they modern, in its present-day sense. They are more to me like immediate post-American, for they have features that can only be placed during the American times. As to the hardcore bahay na bato, I could not find one; or was it just I missed them? In any case, there were certainly traces on some of the houses that feature Spanish details, or designs for that matter. I was able to talk to some elders who told me of the events of the Second World War which included Alaminos. It could have been possible that those tumultuous times had, to some extent, caused the destruction of the houses of the Spanish times.

Lastly, there was a recent comment posted on the first part of my Alaminos series. And the comment relayed a number of details about the Fule’s of Alaminos who I have alluded to earlier. I extend my thanks to whoever shared those details. It is my hope that future readers would find that helpful as well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

La la la Alaminos, Laguna: Part 3

* the Rizal statue I have earlier mentioned which has a lady included; I wonder who she is/was: Liberty? Justice?

* the church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, founded in 1815

* the bell I have also mentioned earlier which has those curious inscriptions; too bad the church was close at that time, I could have asked the caretaker to take me to the tower

* the Al-Iman mosque, found just a short walk away from the town hall

* the Alaminos town hall; more or less created shortly after the American period (just tentative action in figuring out the era when buildings and/or houses are built)

I have earlier posted two accounts of my visit to the town of Alaminos and as I have felt that they were rather incomplete (that is, I was not able to take pictures of things and places there), I decided to embark on a re-visit to the town. (Perhaps the first of the many re-visits that I shall be doing, given the resources and time, in the future.)

The name ‘Alaminos’ certainly has that Spanish feel on it. But on digging in about the town, it was not even its original name. It was in the past called Trencheria. And having this notion that old names during the pre-Hispanic times were usually used to describe the terrain, or the features of the place, I am venturing to say that the place had probably trenches or some kind of feature connected to it. It was still then a barrio of the town of San Pablo, which was still under the jurisdiction of the province of Batangas. In 1873 it became a separate town but was placed under the province of Laguna.

That Spanish feel in the name of this town came from Capitan General Juan de Alaminos Nivera who at that time was administrating the province of Batangas. 1902 witnessed its return to the town of San Pablo. It has finally obtained its town status up to the present in 1916.

In the past, it seemed only to me a transient town, one that should be passed through in going to Manila. Now that I am more than just merely interested in knowing the towns I pass by whenever I travel, it was exciting to know the many little treasures that the town has. I am only talking as far as the town proper is concerned. Who knows, perhaps in its rural barangays, more can be discovered that are of great interest not only to a history buff but to an Alaminos resident as well who has the desire to know more about his town.

Later, I shall be sharing what I love looking for the most in the towns I visit – casas!

(The first two parts about Alaminos can be read here: Part 1, Part 2)

Our Lady of Manaoag in San Pablo City

* the Our Lady of Manaoag

Despite having beliefs that are situated between the border of agnosticism and atheism, they have not hindered me from immersing myself in the religious landscape of the country that is both complex and attractive. Thus upon knowing that the Our Lady of Manaog is in the city, I naturally gravitated to the cathedral to take a look at it.

I found the statue of the Nuestra Señora del Santissimo Rosario de Manaoag flanked by individuals more or less praying to the virgin. Later I was to learn that she is the patroness of the sick, the helpless and the needy. Due to its crowns and halos that are decked with jewels, attempts were made then to steal them. Priceless on one hand, miraculous on the other. Tales are told that the statue has survived attempted destructions of the church where it was housed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Faces of U.P. Los Baños 7: Barracks during the Interment, WWII (and others)

* the Animal Husbandry arc, beyond of which the College of Veterinary Medicine, DTRI, among other can be found

* a tower of some sort near the university publications office; if one should look at the lower right portion, one can see a man relieving himself; it felt awkward taking this shot, afraid that the man might think that I was taking a picture of him

I can still remember the excitement that rose within me when I discovered that a few decades back, on the very grounds of Freedom Park up to the area of the College of Veterinary Medicine, rows of barracks were made for the prisoners of the Japanese which had started to occupy majority of the places in the country. It was of course during the Second World War, when, it seemed to me, things were quite hazy and confusing, as if tomorrow would be as uncertain as have been of yesterday. Well enough of this musing. I am just beginning to think that there is indeed some evil embedded even at the very thought of war.

* a US Signal Corps photo showing the barracks and Baker Hall during the Los Baños Raid; it seemed to me that there was something wrong with the caption so I flipped the photo…

* the previous picture flipped horizontally; the caption becomes accurate now; perhaps it was due to the confusion of the war, but Baker Hall is too big to be misidentified in this one

* another US Signal Corps picture showing a portion of the then Infirmary

* the previous picture flipped horizontally; decided with this flipping judging from the smoke that was supposed to be coming from the area of the Animal Husbandry which is essentially on the left side of the Infirmary as well as due to that circular structure which I believe (which could not be true) is the water tank I have made allusion to in my earlier entry

* yet another US Signal Corps photo showing the Animal Husbandry arc

* again, another flipped photo of the previous one; I decided on this since most of the barracks were on the left side of the arc which makes the previous photo an inaccurate one; at the end of this entry is a reconstruction of the internment camp

Anyway, with the help of some prisoners who were able to escape the eyes of their Japanese captors as well as of the well-planned and well-coordinated actions of the liberating forces of the Americans and the Filipino guerilla units (yes, Filipinos; and this one should not be forgotten as it was their country which was invaded and mercilessly involved in that war!), the rescue turned out to be a success. But, of course, not without casualties. Inside the compound of St. Therese is a marker, commemorating the sacrifice done by several guerillas during this rescue mission.

* seeming bridge to what was then a building; wonder what it is?

* well, it is the Poultry Husbandry façade built in 1949, which makes it not a casualty of the war (or was it?)

* the mighty Animal Husbandry façade built in 1921

* the Swine Husbandry, 1953

* the new EB Copeland Gymnasium, where the PE classes shall soon be held

* the Parasite Collection Museum(?) of the College of Veterinary Medicine

* the seeming lonely road to the New Dorm

* the infamous Gazebo, where “miracles” used to happen

* a reconstruction of the Los Baños internment camp, most probably from the sketches made by Leo Stancliff

What is enchanting in the area of the College of Veterinary Medicine is the presence of these blocks of concrete, which are the remains of the buildings of the budding College of Agriculture. It is a treat for one like me who enjoys piecing out left over details. I know that our library – that new room in the library! – contains a number of reading materials detailing the life and story of the university. It is a great regret that I was not able to devour them before graduation. But then again, as I always say, books and accounts are only good in so far as it gives us the details and information. Experience itself – the travel, the walk, the scrutiny of the objects out there – which engages the willing individual transcends the ‘book life’ and makes travel a whole new different experience. Especially if one ventures to know more about his or her country’s past.