If one has made the rounds of the southern provinces of Luzon this Christmas period, you should not have missed this year’s Belen Festival in the town of Sariaya in the province of Quezon.
Organized in the form of a competition, this annual festival features the nativity scenes as interpreted by different institutions and/or organizations. One catch here, as evident in the displays, is that they must use natural materials particularly from the coconut tree.
The displays are impressive under a night sky when all the Christmas lights are turned on. But on this particular visit, we had to do with the searing afternoon heat. But still the presentations are a sight to behold. The different belen are still on display as of this writing so you may still catch them if you are near the area.
Sariaya Plaza Park
And since this Belen Festival is found on the town plaza park, we took the time to enjoy the place and observe any details that would tell of its past. The park is comprised of the usual benches found all around, a small playground for kids to enjoy, and on one side is the towering Rizal monument inaugurated, as the plaque on its base says, on December 30, 1924, ninety years ago. One cannot help but wonder how it withstood the passage of time, in particular one major event in the country’s history: the coming of the Japanese.
One detail in this Japanese period in the country is their arrival on one of the many chosen points in Luzon, and that is on Atimonan, Quezon. This group of Japanese forces then proceeded to push towards Manila during the latter days of 1941. Perhaps they were not yet on a rampage mode or perhaps they still left the town on its own, judging on the survival of the many elegant houses in Sariaya. These are of course formative conjectures; the fact that most of these cultural treasures are preserved may have different stories altogether.
So much for these musings. I hope to witness any program on this very monument on its 100th anniversary, ten years from now.
Another curious thing on this monument is that despite its inauguration during the American period, the plaques on its base are all written in Spanish. A fusion of two colonial influences? Perhaps.
One plaque says:
“Este Monumento Fue Erigido El Año 1924
Bajo La Administracion de la Junta Provincial de
Hon. Filemon E. Perez – Gobernador
Sr. D. Leon G. Guinto – Vocal
Sr. D. Pedro M. Nieva
Del Concejo Municipal de Sariaya
Sr. D. Hilarion Valderas – Presidente
Sr. D. Felix Espinosa – Vice Presidente
Sr. D. Fructuoso Alcala – Concejal
Sr. D. Jacinto Castillo – ‘’
Sr. D. Rufo Quebasa – ‘’
Sr. D. Sisenando Alcantara – ‘’
Sr. D. Roman Fabre – ‘’
Sr. D. Eugenio Castro – ‘’
Sr. D. Victor Orendain – ‘’
Sr. D. Jose Valderas – [I cannot read the title]
Sr. D. Alejo Manhit – [I cannot read the title]”
What remains to be pursued here, particularly by a willing Sariaya native, is the story leading to the monument’s erection as well as the people behind it. Little stories for local history can be very enriching.