Friday, December 31, 2010

Musings on the 31st

As the year draws to a close, let us be reminded of our triumphs and failures in the past year. And let us carry the lessons that ensued from them.

Resolutions are good in so far as they serve us a plateful of optimism at the start of every year. But I urge each one of us to carry them to reality. We may have different views of resolutions, but I believe that they have a common trait. And that is the character of change.

It may still be debatable whether life is indeed cyclical or not. But one thing cannot be denied in life: that we ought to make our lives better. The coming of the new year gives us a perfect excuse for declaring resolutions. We might as well make use of this opportunity.

As I always say every January First: let us face the new year with brave hearts!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Revisiting Pagsanjan, Laguna: The Houses in Mabini Street I

* a mixture of modernity and a touch of the past

* a typical renovated house;
on the ground floor is Infinito (whet
her it was a shop or a store I cannot recall)

* the local Iglesia Filipina Independiente

* an old arch along the street

* only the solid walls remain of what could have been a grand house

I have walked again into Wonderland. Or to make use of a more common phrase, it was as if I have walked back to the past. It is always, and I say always, wonderful to find myself surrounded by these houses that derive their designs from the Spanish period.

They are already relics, and these houses in Pagsanjan are part of that few remaining treasure houses in the country. They should be protected and preserved. In this country where weather phenomena are bound to wear every thing exposed to the environment, we cannot hope to find security by just owning them. Preservation methods should be done to them.

* elegant, as far as I see it

* strong and brick-colored

* still looking strong and elegant

* a haggard- and harassed-looking Trailer Pransis posing outside the house previously shown

* despite finding the Mabini Street just adjacent to Rizal Street which is always busy and noisy with vehicles, the street is surprisingly quiet

I admit I envy those who own such houses, as in the case of a brod in an organization Michael ‘Mike’ Asinas in San Pablo City, Laguna (see his house here). Passion for such colonial houses combined with the aptitude for preservation and the arts would surely enable these houses to survive and meet the future generations.

It is important that they survive I believe. For in these web-pervaded times, people’s attentions are shifted towards things online. And with the way Western culture permeate even our smallest activities; we really should have objects to which we Filipinos can call back our origins, our roots.

Such houses can be of immense help to us.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Revisiting Pagsanjan, Laguna

We recently did a four-town tour here in Laguna: Paete, Kalayaan, Lumban, and Pagsanjan. Pagsanjan was not in our list actually but the place was simply irresistible. Besides, visiting three towns in a day was already a tiring activity; Pagsanjan was certainly a good place to rest…and sip a cup of coffee.

Another motivation for revisiting Pagsanjan was a comment posted on one of my Pagsanjan entries. In it, someone suggested to me that I visit Mabini Street. It turned out that Mabini Street was just the street adjacent to Rizal Street, the one I have recently blogged about. The revisit was worth it.

[I will just share two finds here, as we were primarily in need of a comfort room and a place for rest when we arrived in Pagsanjan.]

* standing against the fiery sun

A Curious Obelisk

I did not notice this solitary monument until I took a picture of a statue of Father Pio on the far side of the Pagsanjan church’s patio. It seemed at first that it was a monument for Rizal. But no; he has his own at the town plaza. Neither did it look like a monument for World War II veterans. They have their own at the town plaza too.

And so I contented myself in observing the inscriptions on its base. I noted two plaques bearing the following words:


Using an online English-Spanish translations program, these can be translated roughly as


Who are these people and what are those boards mentioned are topics that can be studied next.

* the Pagsanjan Municipal Building, again!

The Pagsanjan Municipal Building

Alas, I was able to take some notes about the town’s municipal building. It was erected in mid-19th century and originally accommodated the Tribunal del Gramio de Naturales. Key points in our history saw the building’s occupation: first by the Filipino revolutionists in 1898 (Philippine Revolution of 1896), then by the American Forces in 1903 (Filipino-American War). The first public high school in Laguna was founded there in Pagsanjan and it served as its building from 1903-1907. It was most likely under the influence or administration of the Americans (or American educators for that matter). Then it also housed the town’s elementary school until 1911. Later, it became the office of the municipal government. The tumultuous times of World War II resulted in its destruction on March 20, 1945. The building’s reconstruction spanned four years: from 1951 to 1955.


Again, what remains to be seen in this town is the Pagsanjan Falls.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The First Wi-Fi Bus in the Philippines

* the first wi-fi bus!

Anyone wishing to connect online would definitely enjoy a ride on Lucena Lines and Jac Liner (and perhaps their other affiliated bus names). These bus lines are now wi-fi connected. This freebie can be helpful particularly to travelers intending to know more about places and people. Or, Back Trails-wise, for obtaining needed historical details for the entries. (A laptop or a smart phone would not be that hard to obtain in the near future, cheers!)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Two Places

While we are figuring out how to fix a defective memory card containing precious photos from some recent trips, let me share some Christmas decors we’ve come across as we did some tours. I am not really a celebrator of this day. But, well, in view of its Spirit, here it is.

* the bright Christmas light in front of the municipal hall in Bay (Ba’i), Laguna

* Trailer Pransis breathing in the Spirit of the season in Bay

* bear with the poor shot as it was done during an unexpected downpour; the church in Sariaya, Quezon

Sariaya Belen Festival 2010

One of the most common decors I have seen is the Nativity scene, often called in the country as Belen. Seen here are some of the Belen exhibits at the Sariaya plaza just across the church. Unfortunately, the sudden rain prevented me to take pictures of all the displays.

* this one is made by Lennon Roxas

* this is was designed by Concepcion Ibaba Elementary School, it was adjudged as the Night Judging Winner

* this was from DepEd Sariaya East

* this was submitted by JC Farm

With the possible exception of New Year celebration (when all firecrackers and fireworks light up the skies along with the noxious smoke), Christmas seems to be one unique celebration when the night-time is engulfed with many different lights.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Aboard a DLTBCo. Bus

People are busy online searching for information about the recently-operated DLTBCo. Buses. One of the most comprehensive sources so far is a particular Flickr account which contains many photos of the buses.

Riding the buses is quite comfortable. They have wider seats (as in the case of DLTB buses bound for Batangas Pier) and are cozy (seeing red all around is quite good I think).

It may carry a name almost similar to a defunct bus company which reigned for many decades but we are yet to see if they will survive because of the operation of other public buses. And I am yet to see an ordinary DLTBCo. bus. Most of what I saw so far are air-conditioned ones.
See my first entry about DLTBCo. here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Eve in Noli Me Tangere

As Christmas day approaches I cannot help but remember one of the chapters in Noli Me Tangere. Christmas in the Philippines is always an awaited celebration and it must have been the case too during Rizal’s time. And Rizal, being a man of irony himself, chose to stamp a scene of gloom in the concluding parts of the Noli: the death of several characters amidst the joyful air of Christmas.

What I looked for specifically in the Christmas Eve Chapter (chapter 64 in the Soledad-Lacson Locsin version) were the food and customs that might still be seen at present. On the first part we can see Basilio (still recovering from his wounds) in the company of a family living up a mountain. I could not help but wonder if Rizal had in mind Mount Maquiling as the setting. What was the food the family was planning to prepare for Christmas Eve? Chicken and dried boar’s meat for the meal. For the children, firecrackers and a head for a doll. I don’t know, but I think meat will always be a staple food for Filipino festivities. As for the children’s wishes, it seems that the use of firecrackers is a deeply entrenched tradition of the Filipinos. We won’t be seeing a firecracker-free Philippines yet.

With regards to the death I mentioned, it refers to Sisa’s and Elias’. I always wonder why stories that concern blood are always moving. We see here Sisa gripped by insanity, but when she sees the bloodied forehead of Basilio, “something like a spark was kindled in her mind, and she recognized her son.” Later we see Elias uttering one of the famous lines from the novel and the open-air cremation of his body, together with Sisa’s.

Perhaps beyond the festive atmosphere of Christmas celebrations, I believe it would not be that bad to look around and extend comfort to those who are hurting.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Christmas Decorations at U.P. Los Baños

* a white Christmas tree; as usual, it is always higher than the (former) Admin Building

* Belen

* Santa lands on UPLB!

* Trailer Pransis striking a pose

I seem to recall that UPLB started installing impressive Christmas decorations after the onslaught of Milenyo in 2006. The wooden Nativity Scene was a commissioned work, constructed using the uprooted trees inside the campus during the said typhoon.

Indeed, the decors are leveling-up each year. But for those who have what I call ‘malilikot na isip’ (I apologize for this, as I cannot find right now an appropriate English translation of it), the issue of the tuition fee increase a few years back is recalled to the mind. Were these decors (and the lightings all over the campus) made possible by the student fees? I wonder.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Back Trails Blog First-Year Anniversary

Reaching this first-year mark in Back Trails’ existence is not a surprise at all. In fact, I have been looking forward in celebrating this.

This first-year block contains in general my exploits in the last six years. And I am thankful that I was able to share here what I thought then as random notes about history tidbits from the places that I was able to visit. This small compilation of trips and notes is already a fine achievement for me but I think that I can still push this blog beyond its present state.

I came to a point that I characterized Back Trails as a travel/history/culture blog. And in my own interpretations, I think I was able to fulfill that description. But reading through other travel and history blogs and doing revisits to different places in the country, one thing comes clearer and clearer to me:

that discovering things about a person’s or a place’s past is inexhaustible; for the past, as days pass by, gets more and more intricately complex, and it is up to a willing adventurer – be it a historian with degrees and titles or a simple traveler – to immerse him/herself in our country’s past.

Much can still be discovered about our country’s past. This is evident in the active works of some historians and writers who stir the stagnant waters of our historical consciousness and turn our attention towards history. Of course, we may have our own motivations, but if the same end is desired (that is, having an active interest in history all over the country), then such differences are not problems at all.

But being an amateur traveler/travel-history writer is not an excuse to suspend Back Trails in mediocrity. Just recently, while reading through some downloaded materials, I came across a line that sliced through me, as its message is a wake-up call and a sharp-edged motivation for me to continue with Back Trails and make it more than just a good blog:

…knowledge of [the] real history carries significant power.

To have knowledge of our history – our real history – is to master the intricacies of our past, together with all the ugly sides, the scandals, the treacheries, among other. To have knowledge of our real history is to have solid grounding in examining our present conditions. To have knowledge of our history is to be able to define our identity and prepare ourselves well (as a country) in the future.

This may not have much bearing on the reason for this day’s celebration but this is important to me, as I am now endowing Back Trails a firm anchor from which to base its future contents. I might as well call this a passion, as others may not have the same degree of enthusiasm about such endeavor.

Finally, I shall still keep the language format of the blog. Although I have now understood the importance of having our records of (or about) the past written in Filipino, writing entries in English will facilitate faster dissemination of information and thoughts to the world. This may not be a strong justification but I am content to have this suffice for now.

And so now, to the people who I was able to know (even in passing) through Back Trails, let us then continue with the historical escapades and discover the Philippines (and its rich past) as we travel and see different places. To you, chance reader, I hope that you would stick to this blog and share this with your friends as well.

Hail to Back Trails! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Revisiting Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna

* still, the (avocado) green-coated Rizal Shrine

* the grand staircase of the house; I cannot help but recall the event when Rizal walked out of an occasion when Fr. Leoncio Lopez questioned Rizal’s ability to make good poems

* commemorative coins for Rizal

* a portrait of Rizal made by G.T. Nepomuceno

* replicas, I think, of the simple tools for grinding and storing rice

* one of the rooms upstairs
* another upstairs room

* this image of Rizal has a 1927 date on one of its lower corner; I wonder if this is an original or a reproduction

* one cannot help but notice this white house just across the street; it has been there ever since I first visited the shrine

It is always good to have free afternoons. And when one time such opportunity came, we opted to revisit the Rizal Shrine.

Although I have visited the place more than ten times already, I always find the visits mentally rejuvenating. The place is very conducive for picturing mentally Rizal’s childhood – the lush trees, the imposing church across the street, the guardia civil quarters opposite the house, Calle Real. Mount Maquiling was still visible from their house during his childhood and it must have been a very lovely scene.

We have been speculating about the old stone wall still visible opposite the shrine. The place now houses a store. If I could have only dated the structure, at least visually, it would be good to know if the wall was still part of the old guardia civil quarters.

* a painting entitled “Agawang Buko” by Romeo Dianzon showing children playing with the buco; I wonder if there are children still doing this

* a small-scale reproduction of the Rizal Shrine

* one of Rizal’s coats; I cannot recall if this one was part of the coat Rizal wore when he was executed in Bagumbayan (now Luneta Park)

* a certificate of Rizal during his student days

* embroidered slippers given by Leonor Rivera to Rizal when he left for Spain in 1882; she made this she was still a student at La Concordia

* a diorama of Rizal’s cell in Fort Santiago

* a toothbrush holder made by Rizal for her sister Trinidad or Doña Trining

* another Rizal coat
* suspect for historical artifact – I have been wondering if the old walls visible in this photo can be traced back to the late nineteenth century

These potential discoveries really encourage me to travel to places of historical interest. I may not be a hardcore (or even a qualified) historian, but to know more about our country’s past – our history – is, for me, an adventure in itself. Plain traveler. Tourist. Visitor. Anything. Appreciation of history knows no title.

Why do I say these things? This is for chance readers who feel that paying the Rizal Shrine a visit is no longer relevant, that there are no more things to learn from the place. The place features artworks from Calambeños and nearby places. From these we can get a glimpse of the growth of views of the youth with regards to the city and its history. When we did the revisit, the works mostly featured social realism. Why is that? Questions like that can emerge and it would be good to entertain them while on trip.


I guess this wraps up my travels for the year. I still have a bunch of photos from some random trips but I plan to go through my entries in the past one year and make a personal assessment of some sort. Doing this Back Trails project has taught a lot of lessons and I wish to collate by rereading the entries.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Colegio de San Juan de Letran – Calamba 2

* view of the Letran open grounds; too bad clouds were covering
Mount Maquiling when I took this shot

* an artwork made out of old materials

* St. Albert the Great Chapel

* view of the lobby of Letran’s mini-hotel

* can I call this installation art? this is one of the rare moments when I get attracted by modern stuff

* figurine found inside the mini-hotel

* another figurine, probably of a saint; also found inside the mini-hotel

* Trailer Pransis striking a pose

* breathing in the morning air at the rooftop

This is just a continuation of posts on Letran. I always feel like I am in Hogwarts whenever I walk the long corridors of the buildings inside. And so, despite the heat of the noon, I always make it a point to just walk through the buildings and familiarize myself with the premises. Afternoons are equally lovely. But time constraints hinder me to lounge after work hours.