Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Ana Kalang Festival, Nagcarlan, Laguna


A celebration of fruits of labor. A celebration of nature’s gifts. A celebration of a town’s products. A celebration of a town’s origins. A myriad of reasons to celebrate in one place. We were fortunate enough to be in the town of Nagcarlan, Laguna on the last day of its annual Ana Kalang Festival. Its origin would be clearer to you, dear reader, as you read about it straight from the town administration’s descriptions. 
"Laguna’s First Non-religious Festival

Every third Wednesday of April to the ensuing Sunday, Nagcarlan throws its doors wide open for everyone to partake of all the mirth and excitement that come with the celebration of the Ana Kalang Festival.  It is during this time of the year when Nagcarlan showcases its unique folk arts whose leitmotif is the use of dried indigenous materials and displays its great potentials as the Vegetable Basket of Laguna, or even the Vegetable Bowl of Southern Tagalog.
Throughout the celebration, giant statues called kalang-kalang and replicas of old structures known as arko, all beautifully crafted from indigenous materials, are put on display around the municipal compound.  Every nook and corner is decorated with fresh farm produce, while the biggest hall of the Municipal Building is filled with a wide array of antique furnitures, images, and all sorts of precious wares borrowed from prominent families of the town.

Originally held in the first week of October to coincide with the peak of lanzones harvest, this 25-year old festival traces its beginnings in 1987 with the successful holding of the first Lanzones Festival, which was replicated in October 1988.  In 1989, however, the sudden drop in lanzones harvest necessitated the renaming of the celebration, and the organizers’ unanimous choice was Ana Kalang Festival – in honor of the woman who figures in the legend that tells how the town of Nagcarlan got its name.  Because October has become a stormy month in recent years, the local government, upon consultation with stakeholders, has decided since 2008 to move the celebration to April, when local fruits and vegetable are most abundant and weather conditions are most favorable."
- Source:

What makes the kalang-kalang and the town’s Presidencia replicas really good to look at is their artistic use of easily obtained natural materials. It’s a celebration that’s not so pompous yet maintains a festive atmosphere.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Leisurely Walk in Pila, Laguna

I will admit that I envy towns or cities that still preserve a portion of its past: be it structures, food, tradition, or even ambience. Pila, Laguna still has the last one. Although more famous for its well-preserved and well-maintained ancestral houses (which fortunately survived the last world war), the town is unique for that old times ‘feel’. The houses reinforce that feeling, add to that the silent watcher that is the town church. One brief rest at its center, at its town plaza would definitely remind you that it still good to have those things from the Spanish era. Despite the busy street on all sides (one being a main thoroughfare for both jeepneys and buses), the town center is surprisingly peaceful in general. Of course these are the views of a visitor and I hope such views can be maintained and be seen as well by the others.

On a different note, upon closer examination of the houses, one may want to make detailed study of their designs as well as treir similarities. I have come across a book in National Bookstore that  discusses house designs in the Philippines but then, ‘localized’ historical researches would not ne bad at all I believe.  For now, the aesthetic aspects of the Pila ancestral houses would suffice.

What remains to be seen and visited are: 1) the Pila Museum (‘di ko pa maabutang bukas), and the original location of the town.

Food for the Trails: Patio Sophia in Pila, Laguna

Food is ever present in travels and tours. And so if you are looking for some quick chow in Pila, Laguna, you may want to visit Patio Sophia. Situated just across the street from the Pila Church, the visitors are offered with food common to the Filipino palate. Yes, the usual stuff – pasta-based snacks and Filipino ulam – but the surrounding enables you to imagine a Spanish-era setting as you eat. One only has to look outside and see neighboring houses and stores. In our case we choose the favorites: baked macaroni topped with cheese and clubhouse. Pushed with cold drinks, and merienda time was well satisfied. 

Patio Sophia is located at number 30 Rizal Street, Barangay Santa Clara Norte, Pila, Laguna. You may contact them at these numbers: (049) 559-5032, 0932-8778783. You may also send them an e-mail to:

Revisiting Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban, Quezon

This revisit to Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban, Quezon was brief one, mainly to finally break the atmosphere of work and teaching that pervaded even our home. At the same time, it was good to have the chance to get the details of the activities of the church to be shared to would-be visitors.

Upon arriving, it was noticeable that many people were already visiting although the Holy Week for this year was several weeks away still. Avoiding the rush perhaps? More likely. Besides this, the food stores are big winners, particularly the ice cream stalls. Darn, the line was simply amazing. Although it was expected because of the percentage of children present brought along by their parents and relatives. Plus the fact that it was very hot. Aside from that, the area intended as play area for children got additional fixtures. A ‘replica’ of Noah’s Ark was still getting furnished.


The climb up the hill where a series of steps, scenes for the Stations of the Cross, and the huge image of the Risen Christ are placed is inevitable. We noticed visitors from the Southern Luzon area and even from Metro Manila, complete with pilgrimage shirts, and official cameramen. Having no sufficient background on the religious stuff pertaining to Cuaresma, I wondered why one has to count the steps found in the place. Also, although a mixture of elders and middle-aged individuals were seen and heard uttering prayers at every Station of the Cross, most of the people seemed more like tourists visiting a tourist spot, with all those non-stop photos ops and posses here and there. Again, religion and tour merge into a very blurred division line. But who am I to judge? After all, devotion or prater can be done in our own different ways.

As we reached the foot of the Risen Christ, I could not help but look into the general direction of the town proper of Lucban where a few weeks from now, the famous Pahiyas Festival is set to happen. Looking forward to another May, to another summer month full of festivities rooted on different Filipino traditions.

Leisurely Walk in Liliw, Laguna

Summer and afternoon combined together bring in a longing for the outdoors. In the absence of a suitable place to take a swim, a walk – as always – is the next best option. Liliw was chosen for potential slipper or shoes purchases (and indeed it was, although favorable only to ladies).

The main street for selling the famous tsinelas, Gat Tayaw Street, was filled with Sunday customers, most probably taking the free time to make purchases before going back to work. I noticed that the traffic enforcers have blocked the area to hinder vehicles to pass through the place and to give the visitors the freedom to go up and down the street.

The town proper is also is gearing up too for its coming annual festival. Posters of the Tsinelas Festival are already put up at different stores. One downside that I just noticed was the construction of a metal- and concrete-based structure in the area of what used to be a small park, adjacent to the town hall. Again, the people behind this construction may have their own motivations and reasons but the structure will project a different image from the otherwise still-rural setting of the town proper. We see here, yet again, a silent clash between modernization and old time atmosphere.

Walking through the other streets, it’s good to see that some of the ancestral houses are still being preserved, albeit at different levels. Some of them have designs that are worth noting for my dream bahay-na-bato.

Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival 2014 Program of Activities

Dubbed as the Tsinelas Capital of Laguna, the town of Liliw in Laguna has, in recent years, held the Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival, a celebration of the town’s main product – tsinelas. This year’s fest carries the tag line: “Halina’t tuklasin ang ganda ng bayan ng Liliw!!!” and will be held from April 22 to April 27, a week-long festival.

Here are the activities set to happen for the festival:

April 22
Mass – 01:00 pm
Governor’s Night – 07:00 pm

April 23
Disenyo / Photo Contest
Opening Parade – 03:00 pm
Barangay / Congresswoman’s Night – 07:00 pm

April 24
Media Coverage – 05:00 am
Barangay Bailete – 01:00 pm
Tsinelas on the Ramp – 04:00 pm
Chorale Competition – 07:00 pm

April 25
Lukayuan – 03:00 pm
Cultural Night (DepEd) – 07:00 pm

April 26
Fun Run – 05:00 am
Grand Bailete – 03:00 pm

April 27
Padyak – 05:30 am
Street Party – 07:00 pm
Mutya ng Liliw – 07:00 pm

For further details you may inquire at this number (049) 563-1003 or you may send an e-mail to

Come and experience Liliw!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Instituto Cervantes Manila’s Día del Libro 2014

A celebration of books and Spanish language will be coming again as Instituto Cervantes Manila holds the annual Día del Libro or the International Book Day. This year the venue will be held (back again) in the Instituto’s home at T. M. Kalaw Street in Ermita, Manila. There will be contests and corresponding prizes so do not miss the opportunity to come! Remember the date: April 26, 2014, from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm, possibly beyond that.

For the full program you can visit their site here.

Photo credit:

Palm Sunday 2014 in Laguna

The Holy Week is a (personal) gentle reminder of some of the biblical details I was able to learn during my younger years. The Palm Sunday, based on the New Testament part of the Holy Bible, is an act fulfilling the words of an Old Testament prophet:

San Pablo City, Laguna

“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Matthew 21:5 (The Holy Bible, new revised standard version, p.23, NT)

Part of welcoming Jesus was the laying of branches of trees along the road. It may have been lost in the translation or it may have been mere tradition but it has been palm leaves since time immemorial.

Palm leaves in the Philippines are still blessed as part of the mass, again part of the traditional rites. It is worth noting that these same palm leaves are the ones brunt to ashes and used for the next Ash Wednesday.

Liliw, Laguna

Nagcarlan, Laguna

Going through several town in Laguna on that Palm Sunday afternoon, it was good to witness the budding devotion for the week, the business on the side, and the ever-festive mood outside the churches despite the expected Good Friday commemoration.

St. Padre Pio Parish and Shrine, Santo Tomas, Batangas

This year’s Holy Week is not even halfway through yet and so there’s still a lot chance to visit churches and shrine. One place a would-be pilgrim and religious can visit, one place not is just one bus ride away from Metro Manila is the St. Padre Pio Parish and Shrine in Santo Tomas, Batangas.

Found in the midst of Batangas greeneries, the shrine is indeed ideal for prayer and meditation. You should expect of course the constant hum and buzz from the people doing their business in the periphery of the shrine as well as from the visitors. One thing that we have observed in these kinds of places is that the distinction between shrine and tourist destination is quite blurred. (Note that we do these visits for their general cultural significance to the Filipino.)

Anyway, what can be found inside the shrine? Prayer and meditation can be done in a number of ways. The shrine has a several chapels where you could do your personal devotions. There is also what looked like a main hall or church where regular masses are being held. Upon entering, there is also a store where religious items can be purchased for use in the shrine and later.

What is most interesting – both from the religious’ and tourist’s view point, I believe – is the several-feet high tower. It is basically a place where you can know more about the life of Padre Pio. But note that you have to pay 20 pesos for the entrance fee in exchange for a small prayer booklet of sort. This 20 pesos of yours buys you a literally breath-taking view of the surrounding countryside. Photos will not be enough to relay the feeling. You better climb up that tower.

On the tower’s ground floor you have an image of the glorious cross and for the succeeding floors, the life of Padre Pio in pictures.


Padre Pio’s Life: A Brief Outline (from the photos in the tower)
  • he was given the name Franceso Forgione after St. Francis of Assisi
  • second of the five living children of Maria Giuseppa del Nunzio Forgione and Grazio Mario Forgione
  • 1897: at the age of 10, he had already expressed his desire to become a priest
  • 1903: at the age of 15, Padre Pio entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone and took the habit of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (O. F. M. Cap.) and took the name Fra Pio (Brother Pio) in honor of Saint Pius V, the patron saint of Pietrelcina in Southern Italy
  • August 1, 1910: At the age of 23, Fra Pio was ordained to priesthood, now called Padre Pio, the Capuchin priest. He said: “I want to be a friar with a beard…like Brother Camillo.”
  • 1915-1918: served in the military
  • September 23, 1968: Padre Pio died at the age of 81
  • Gesú, Maria: with his rosary in his hands, he declared these words over and over until he breathed his last

His life was as adventurous as any outgoing person indeed.  What remains to be known is how Padre Pio was chosen to be venerated by the people in this place in Santo Tomas.

One last detail that I was able to note was this curious little monument found just as you enter the shrine. It is dedicated to the memory of Ernesto M. Gonzaga (Dec. 27, 1930 – Dec. 5, 2005) who apparently made the development of the shrine possible.

Schedule of Liturgical Services of Padre Pio Parish
* Note that the parish itself is different from the shrine. The main parish or church is found a short walk from the corner along the highway that leads to the shrine. See directions below.
- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 06:30 am (parish)
- Wednesday, Friday, 05:00 pm (parish)
- Sunday, 06:00 am (parish), 08:30 am, 04:30 pm (shrine)

Regular Confession
- every Friday, 04:00 – 05:00 pm

Baptism (regular schedule)
- Sunday, 07:00 am

- to be announced
- as per schedule

- as per schedule

Anointing of the Sick
- anytime urgently necessary
For blessing of houses, offices, cars, religious items, etc.
- inquire at the office or at telephone numbers (043) 784-3568 or 455-0894

[How to go to St. Padre Pio Parish and Shrine, Santo Tomas, Batangas: Whether you are coming from Cubao area of LRT-Gil Puyat station area, simply board a bus headed for Lucena City, Quezon. You simply ask the conductor to stop the bus at the corner that would lead you to the shrine. This corner is in Bregy. San Pedro. Upon alighting the bus, tricycles are available near the 7-Eleven store. Minimum fare would be around 10 pesos but that would depend whether you are visiting solo or in group.]

The Remaining Holidays of 2014

As we proceed to our vacation destinations, it would be good to note the holidays still available to us this year. This information came from Presidential Communications Operations Office under the Office of the President.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2014 Schedule Semana Santa sa Kamay ni Hesus, Lucban, Quezon

For those who are planning to spend a day or two in Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban, Quezon, here is the schedule of activities in that place.

April 13 – Palm Sunday
> Eucharistic Celebration (07:30 am)
   commemoration of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem with a solemn procession
   Venue: Rosary Hill to Healing Church
> morning mass at Kamay ni Hesus Church (09:00, 10:30, 11:30 am)
> Estacion General (Via Crucis at Grotto) (02:00 pm)
> afternoon mass at Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church (04:00 pm)

April 14 – Monday of the Holy Week
afternoon mass at Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church (04:00 pm)

April 15 – Tuesday of the Holy Week
afternoon mass at Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church (05:00 pm)

April 16 – Wednesday of the Holy Week
healing mass at Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church (09:00 am)
afternoon mass at Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church (04:00 pm)

April 17 – Holy Thursday
> evening mass of the Lord’s Supper (04:00 pm)
> washing of the feet (until 11:30 pm)   
    holy communion
    Benediction (reposition of the Blessed Sacrament)
    Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

April 18 – Good Friday
> Seven Last Words by Fr. Joey A. Faller (12:00 nn)
> Celebration of the Lord’s Passion (03:00 pm)
    Liturgy of the Word
    Veneration of the Cross
    Procession around Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church
    Note: veneration of the Cross continues until 11:00 pm

April 19 – Holy Saturday
> Continuous Veneration of the image of Christ crucified in the church (09:30 pm)
    Easter Vigil
    Blessing of Fire
    Paschal Candle Rite
    Holy Mass Encuentro (Salubong)

April 20 – Easter Sunday
Eucharistic Celebrations at Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church
(07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 11:30 am / 04:00 pm)

The Galahads of Batangas

As we visited the city of Tanauan I passed by this marker mounted on a wall on a busy Tanauan City intersection. The plaque mentions the formation of The Galahads in the summer of 1954 in that very corner where the marker is found. This makes The Galahads now sixty (60) years old! From the original eleven members, it has grown to include more members. Admittedly, I have never heard of the group until that chance encounter with marker. It would be interesting to meet a member or members and know more about The Galahads, its formative years, and its current activities.

The Year That Was 2013: Christmas Tours and Celebrations

The so-called Christmas break has always been a chance to literally breathe in respite, however brief. Ever since Back Trails began, traveling has become part of this two- or three-week break. And last year was no different. Although not far, neighboring towns are always infinite sources of historical delights (for lack of a better term).

San Pablo City Plaza

From home first. The city plaza has been, in recent years, surprisingly open to the public (see one of the first entries in Back Trails which included the town plaza here: A Visit to San Pablo City Saint Paul the First Hermit Cathedral). The gates before were only open during the week-long Coco Festival during January. Last December the plaza was covered with hundred of blinking lights in celebration of the coming Christmas. I still found it somewhat surprising, seeing people stroll within this space in the middle of the city proper or seat on its stone benches.

Santo Tomas, Batangas

Bus rides have always been fun. So a bus we hailed and alighted on the town of Santo Tomas in the province of Batangas. We naturally gravitated to the town church (which I have covered before; see my entry:  Afternoon Stroll in Santo Tomas, Batangas: Santo Tomas Church Part 3). Besides visiting the interior of a chapel on the side of the church, I ‘discovered’ this marker that is World War II-related, most likely missed out during my first documentation of the church due to many photo taking.

A plaque entitled ‘Memorial’ contained the following words:

“The Parish Church of Sto. Tomas de Aquino, facing the legendary Mt. Makiling, bears a historical memory of World War II-1941-1945, for on its ground men, women, and children courageously faced death with the weapons of savage warface [could probably meant to be warfare -fme] and missile of modern artillery.

“In loving memory of the fifteen (15) Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit who were killed during the heavy artillery barrage in Sto. Tomas, the Alumni and Alumnae of St. Thomas Academy (1920-1945), dedicate this place as a silent tribute to their work as educators and missionaries;

“To the numberless unknown men, women and children who were massacred by Japanese soldiers on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 1945, the townspeople of Sto. Tomas highly remember them as harbingers of PEACE AND UNITY.”

On a separate plaque are the names of the sister referred to in the memorial. They were:
  • Sr. Cesaria Arjonilla (American)
  • Sr. Benedicta Diancourt (German)
  • Sr. Isburga Faulstich (German)
  • Sr. Passima Hartelt (German)
  • Sr. Francisceta Hoerth (German)
  • Sr. Ansberta Hoffman (German)
  • Sr. Victimaria Jurcovic (Slovakian)
  • Sr. Richarde Mzyk (Polish)
  • Sr. Aloysius Meder (German)
  • Sr. Celia Molina (Filipina)
  • Sr. Gumberta Piebler (German)
  • Sr. Placida Schofs (German)
  • Sr. Cleophana Schnettler (German)
  • Sr. Adelheida Unterscher (German)
  • Sr. Bernia Weissert (German)

As I write this entry, I believe this historical event is worth studying, the story of their presence in that place and perhaps their individual biographies.

Tanauan, Batangas

A short jeepney ride would bring you to the city of Tanauan. Its church, although still modern-looking (except perhaps the elaborate designs of the door borders; I don’t know if it has a more formal term). One curious item I saw was this charcoal artwork which depicts the Tanauan church with an adjacent building, like a convento or school, I am not sure. A short review of its historical background that the location of the church dates back to 1754 and so this Spanish period structure definitely has basis. Although I am yet to see old photos of the church.

On the town’s ‘plaza’ we found a giant Christmas tree that resembles the town Christmas tree in 2012. But I cannot directly claim that they are one and the same. A short walk would bring you to an abandoned lot with a remaining wall of what could have been a big house.

What could catch your attention are the ‘stones within the paletada. I am not an expert in building materials but they appeared to me as if they are crude stones, not exactly hollow blocks. Better look at them more closely next time. This could probably be part of a big house as I have said earlier. This is probable given the fact the street on which this lone wall is found is lined with big, old houses.

Malvar, Batangas

Next stop: Malvar, a town that is yet to be ‘discovered’ by Back Trails. The town church has resemblance to the church found in Alupay, Rosario, Batangas (see my entry here: Holy Family Parish Church in Alupay, Rosario, Batangas). I have never actually slept inside a Roman Catholic Church, much more slept during a mass. But that was precisely what happened on this visit: dozed off during a wedding ceremony! But still we co-celebrated in the happy nuptials, however silent.

A marble slab outside contained the ‘Decree of Dedication’ of the church to the Immaculate Conception. Beyond this dedication, it is actually public source of the church’s history. From the decree I quote:

“In 1970, a new church rose on this site during the tenure of then parish priest, Msgr. Jose Aquino. Today 16 Sept. 2007, this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, our newly renovated altar and church are dedicated in behalf of the ecclesial community of this parish during the incumbency of Fr. Virgilio B. Hernandez, its pastor. The rite of dedication is presided over by His Excellency, Most Rev. Ramon Arguelles D.D., Archbishop of Lipa, in the presence of some priest-concelebrants. The parish community, together with the good mayor of the municipality of Malvar Hon. Cristeta Cuevas Reyes, and the parish pastoral council led by Mrs. Teresita A. Ong (President) and Mr. Elpidio Aguilera (Vice President), and guests witness the occasion and participate in the said liturgical celebration.”

(The happy tour ended when that big small came into view. Companions’ shopping prospects won over further travel. Will tackle Lipa again soon.)


I am not exactly an active participant of the so-called Christmas for reasons both academic and religious. But this event, whatever its motivations and supposed origins, gives one a glimpse of our long-acquired traditions and ways of celebrating it. Athough it cannot be denied that this holiday in the country is now heavily influenced by Western traditions, particularly American. Sad but true. History-wise, Christmas reminds me of several scenes in José Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and at the same time makes you more open to the concept of giving than in any time of the year.

Once, we woke up just to get a glimpse of the morning masses held a few days before Christmas: the Misa de Gallo. It was just disappointing to see people selling cigarettes on church grounds. Catholic or non-Catholic, it was quite obvious that it was disrespectful. Pan de Sal gave way to Puto Bumbong which was eaten happily together with a large cup of milk. Add to that another set of meal later in the morning with the hard-to-get (at least in our case) tawilis.

As I close this entry, it seemed more like a truncated Visita Iglesia rather than a Christmas tour. Still, my view stands that this break should be exploited not just for unhampered shopping and arbitrary giving but also to know more of difference places in the country.