Friday, April 13, 2012

Taal, Batangas Tours (Part 4): The Heritage and Ancestral Houses of Taal

After the longish documentation of Holy Week in San Pablo City, Laguna, let me now continue with the Taal series. With the town’s history tracing back to 1572, it was only but natural to see Spanish culture deeply entrenched in the place. Perhaps the most salient are the ancestral houses which line most of the streets in the town proper. Although the assertion that bahay na bato was passed on to us by the Spaniards is debatable (as they are seen as simply improvements of the bahay kubo), it would be quite naive to deny the huge influence of the Spaniards on the style and architecture of these ancestral houses.

Let me share first the houses which, in one way or another, have historical significance to the town of Taal and to the country as well. I shall be posting here the notes on the houses and prominent persons verbatim.

The Villavicencio House
Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio
“Born in Taal Batangas, 13 May 1852. Helped organize the “Batalyon Maluya” February 1897; she was the owner, she donated to cause her steamer “Bulusan” which was later converted vessel; a revolutionary flag hoisted when the rebel forces entered Taal was sewed in her house; contributed material help for the support of the revolution; supported the Batangas guerrillas; died in San Juan del Monte, 29 September 1929. Organized by the Municipality of Taal, Batangas on December 4, 1955”
Visual inspection would reveal recent renovations – from the base concrete to the wood on the second floor. The place has also a spacious garden which adds to the cool ambiance.

Goco Ancestral House

“This heritage house of the Goco Family is registered with the National Historical Institute, pursuant to NHI Board Resolution no. 03, s. 2000.”
Found just across the house of Villavicencio, it exhibits resilience with its solid base and a compact set of capiz windows.

Agoncillo Heritage House
Managed by Don Gregorio Agoncillo Foundation

“Felipe Agoncillo y Encarnacion 1859-1941. Abogado, Estadista, at Makabayan. Ipinanganak sa Taal 26 Mayo 1859. Batsilyer sa Artes, Ateneo Municipal of Manila; Lisensiyado sa Batas, Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas. Masiglang Kagawad ng Lupong Pilipino ng Himagsikan sa Hong Kong. Ministro Plenipotensiyaro noong Unang Republika ng Pilipinas. Caballero de la Cruz Roja Española, iginawad ng Pamahalaang Kastila. Diputado ng Unang Purok ng Batangas sa Asamblea Pilipina, 1907-09. Kalihim Panloob sa gabinete ni Gobernador Wood, 1924-25. Pangulo sa loob ng anim sunud-sunod na taon ng Colegio de Abogados de Filipinas. Pangulo ng Unang Kongreso ng Pilipinas sa Pagsasarili, Maynila 22-26 Pebrero 1930. Namatay sa Maynila 29 Setyembre 1941.”
The Agoncillo House is found just as one enter the town proper and is more like a mansion already. Although I have read on the internet that tours are available for the place, it seemed that the place was closed when this particular visit was made.

Casa Punzalan Hotel

One thought: I’d want to spend several days in Taal and I’d like to stay in this place while in Taal.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Good Friday Procession in San Pablo City, Laguna

The Good Friday procession in San Pablo City, Laguna is on
e of the key events during the Holy Week, the other being the Salubong on Easter Sunday (which I was not able to document unfortunately). Major thoroughfares were close particularly in the city proper area. And the San Pableños seemed to be in a festive mood despite that it was Biyernes Santo – they covered the streets, put benches in the street centers while the children run to and fro.

The imposing features of the statues in carosas still provoke fear and aw
e amongst the spectators. The glaring eyes of the Romans, the pitiful state of Christ’s body, the sorrowful face of her mother Mary, all seem to still exude mystery. For the grownups like me, it was like revisiting childhood memories again. I can still remember that great white horse manned by a Roman soldier as Christ toiled to carry his cross when I was still a kid. For the young ones, fright and curiosity obviously bloomed from their young minds and hearts.

There were still the usual features of the procession – the permeating scent of incense, the incessant tolling of hand-carried chimes or bells, the monotonous chants, the ubiquitous bands. Taken as a whole it is a testament to the resilience of the Filipino spirit to hold on to long-standing traditions (whether they have rational basis or not is another matter). Thus it is no great surprise that people flock to the city to witness this annual
activity. I was fortunate this time to document at least most of the carosas (after a gruelling wait to fetch the camera I used). And in seeing those photos again, an idea popped inside my mind: to document more formally the origins of this tradition and the ways in which this tradition is being prepared for by the devotees. It may seem a very daunting personal task, but I hope I’d be able to accomplish it this year.

One irksome, if not mildly disgusting observation was the pseudo-participation of some individuals in the procession. I would concede to the fact that children were involved; their parent or guardians may have all been participants too. But to see lovers obviously taking the chance to spend time with each other amidst the praying groups of people; or groups of what looked more to me like gangs who only hunt for aesthetic sceneries to look at is definitely instances worthy of disgust. I am not generalizing those who participated, but in these instances we see illustrations of religious activities being performed devoid of deeper understanding and conviction. I am in any way defending the Roman Catholic faith (I am generally a religion critic); but they would do good to orient those would-be participants on the point of those activities associated with their religion.

* Summer is passing now with its mighty heat but it is still exciting to know that there are still religion- and season-related activities to anticipate. Cheers to free times!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Araw ng Kagitingan 2012 Commemoration and the Veterans’ Past and Future

* the monument in honor of the Bataan and
Corregidor Island defenders from San Pablo City

* the veterans who attended the 2012 Araw ng Kagitingan
program at Doña Leonila Park

I’ve already marked April 9 for two reasons: 1) to build my materials for a video I was suppose to make (which I ultimately failed last night due to slow internet connections), and 2) for the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan.

The date marks the fall of Bataan to the hands of the Japanese forces during the Second World War, an event which fast-tracked the downfall of the combined forces of the Filipinos and Americans culminating to the fall of Corregidor Island the following month. Araw ng Kagitingan allows us Filipinos to commemorate and honor the bravery shown primarily by the Filipinos – from the lay guerrilla fighters to the regulars – during the confusing times of the War. The events in the country, most particularly in the events here in San Pablo City, during WWII have become an interest of mine and have come to regard those guerrilla fighters in the city with respect.

* the veterans offering flowers to the monument

* flowers are not enough;
but they're the least that we can offer, dear fighters

That’s why if it is quite disappointing to hear people speak inaccurately of what these veterans of ours have done: that they fought so that we can have a city and that it was a fight of the peasantry. There may have already been social inequalities at that time but it was mostly out of the desire to kick the Japanese out of the city that they fought against them. It’s bad enough to hear historical inaccuracies; it’s worse to hear them being used to put forward political propaganda.

Let them, the war veterans, get the honor they deserve. Wreaths are tokens of sincerity for those who have died. It would be better to accord to those still living the satisfaction of seeing their efforts getting the right recognition. Beyond the usual financial benefits, it would be good to have accounts of their life during those times. And such accounts can only be made more reliable if we are to talk to them and have them narrate to us their lives. We give justice and honor of their future if we are to give security to their past.

Mabuhay kayong mga beteranong Pilipino!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Wednesday 2012 Procession, San Pablo City, Laguna

* mass on Holy Wednesday

* images of Christ and of His life on earth

San Pableños are now gearing up for the upcoming Good Friday procession and the procession held and organized by the San Pablo Cathedral is just a preview of what’s in store for Friday. This particular Holy Wednesday procession commenced after the later afternoon mass in San Pablo Cathedral and features carosas of Christ and His life here on earth. But this was small compared to the one to be held on Friday as it would feature huge carosas being pulled by many people.

* isang banda ng musiko!

* procession commences

* children church ministers lining up for the procession

* in procession

The smell of incense and of burning candles permeated the very air outside the Cathedral. Then there were also the mixture of voices and shouts from the procession attendees. Somehow, the scene gives me that religious feel, a sort of solemnity that is, to a certain extent, a characteristic of Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism.

* a scaffold found inside San Pablo Cathedral

* children climbing up the scaffold

* people preparing for the procession

* tarpaulin for the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday

One comical remark I overhead was from two kids talking to each other, the one saying that it would have been better if they used real persons in the carosas. This somehow struck home as it has been my wish too when I was still a child.

More on about the Holy Week commemorations here in San Pablo City, Laguna in future posts.