I went to this place under the cover of wanting to take the boat ride to the falls but the history nerd that I am-of course was more interested in finding sites that would be of interest and it was not hard to find one for Pagsanjan is such a historic place. This was last year and I was reminded of this place today while driving and seeing one of the buses with its ad showing Pagsanjan (and its current Mayor) as a tourist destination.
It was Despujol who said that to ‘decatholicize’ is to ‘denationalize’ us – a remark he made to defend his action of sending Rizal to Dapitan. He must’ve been referring to towns like Pagsanjan and the other great domains founded or was made into a community by the religious orders. The main road leads to the town’s great church and true to its name (Pinagsangahan) the ways that would lead you to the other neighbouring town is through this small town’s crossroads.
Though the barrio was believed to have been established by Chinese traders and some enterprising folks who made a living from betelnuts and other agricultural activities, the then barrio was elevated to township on the mid 17th century by Governador General Bonifaz and due to its strategic location was made La Laguna’s capital. The capitolship lasted for more than a century.
The church was no longer the original one founded by Fray Magdalena with the help of the piuos locals, like in many other places it was destroyed by American bomb attacks(like the many other historic sites during the WWII). The then image of our Lady of Guadalupe was destroyed, it would be years later that the Mexican people would be once again be generous enough to give the old town its new life size image as a gift, making the same gesture that their catholic nation as brothers to us, has made when they brought to shore together with the missionaries the first image through the galleon trades.
Reading Dr. Zaide’s PAGSANJAN: In History and Legend I was moved by its historic contibutions not only to the province of Laguna then but on a wider scope, for a diminutive size in comaprison to other towns it was a giant. It has provided the nation wih great sons and places of significance to the revolution. You wouldn’t really know unless you travel to this far flung places and whenever I do I often imagine how long it must’ve took then to travel from what we know now as metro Manila to this places. Rizal in his diary told us that Calamba to Manila is a 10 hour journey. We don’t have an excuse not to tour around for we have faster means.
Aside form the rich historical role it is also blessed with natural wonders, I had great time shooting the rapids – make no mistake about it. I was strolling at dawn the next morning we arrived and was surprised that people attends dawn masses, they have this all year round unlike us here in the metropolitan. The town is still very traditional although one can see imposing traces of urbanization.
I’m always discouraged when I see commercialization stand together with the old, somehow our track record as a nation shows that this has been disastrous for eventually the new would destroy the old. I have never condemned urbanization for it benifits society economically but I’ve seen how such venture would have the old lose. In Makati for example, we had pre American structures who were sold by the next generation of owners since the market was just irresistable – the old houses never stood a chance. In its place now stands building.
After leaving the town, passing the historic Pagsanjan arch, I was in deep thought if the people I’ve met in the town have in them the desire to keep the gifts that time had given them, almost three centuries in the making. How would they preserve the old tradition alive to pass on to the next generation. People seem content with time slowly passing, life’s still simple there and I have dreams of building a house in the banks of its river where i can throw my fishing line and hope to catch ayungins, hito and tilapias. One day I will.