The Lake Shore Town Show & my First Kopi Luwak

tag: calamba, victoria laguna, paete, lumban, pila, pagsanjan, paquil, laguna

Last Sunday, we did an ocular tour of the lake shore towns of Laguna. We’re planning to do a history tour. My historian cum blogger friend, Pepe Alas, would deliver content and overall direction for the project. A few years ago, he was tasked to write the history of the province. The man behind the venture was Governor ER Ejercito. The book project hit a snag after the governor was sacked. I told Pepe that everything happens for a reason—why not use what he know about Laguna to educate. After all, this is what our respective presence on the blogosphere is all about.

He told me that Calamba, Pila, Pagsanjan, Lumban, Paete and Paquil are the best route to showcase the history of the lake towns. This could be the first organized out of town tour that would have stopovers in several towns–if we could put it together. The challenge is logistics and keeping the tour fee low. I’m confident about the content and presentation because of Pepe’s yearlong work and research in Laguna. The bigger challenge is keeping the tour reasonably priced so we could interest students.

Nothings final yet—but I’m hoping we could do this because it would compliment our online advocacy—spreading interest in Philippine history.

The first stop was Calamba. We went around and discussed areas of interest in town. Of course, you have the Rizal shrine and the church. But if we are to make this a historically enlightening trip, we have to make certain that we offer more relevant historical facts. I mentioned this to Pepe and he understands what I meant.

Not surprising is that the Rizal shrine is receiving more visitors these days. I heard that they serialized the life of Rizal on TV and it’s getting good viewership which should explain the increase in foot traffic.

Next stop was Victoria. We decided to take an early lunch. I asked Pepe where to go for a fine serving of fried itik and he referred me to this inexpensive eatery with a curious name, “itlog ni kuya,” not the most likable of names but it’s popular in Laguna. They sell superb, not too salty and without coloring, itlog na maalat—I say the best I’ve ever tasted. The branch we visited was just along the highway in Victoria. I heard that they’re franchising fast, so I would not be surprised if I see one in my neighborhood one of these days.

After the gut busting lunch, instead of being wound up, I felt lethargic. An indicator that you ate too much—and I did.

We drove straight to Pila. Known for its immaculate red brick church and charming ancestral houses. Most of our towns weren’t as fortunate as this town. According to Pepe, chunky clouds spared Pila from heavy aerial bombardment. The town illustrates how towns were designed under the Spanish. Most of the houses were early 1900’s reconstructions (Pila was set ablaze during the Phil-American war) but only the exterior details were altered, the overall style and construction remained loyal to the original. Noticeable is the absence of capiz windows among the houses, replaced by sliding windows with colorful semi-transparent panels.

Then we went to Pagsanjan. An interesting house we visited in town was the ancestral house of a friend. It’s in disrepair and would make a good example of how these houses  has been left out to decay by those who inherited them. The house caretaker revealed to us that there were buyers that went back and told her the reason why they end up deciding against buying the house was because they saw forbidding ghosts. I guess they’re the original owners who wished-for the house to be kept as a family heirloom and not to be sold to the highest bidder!

After Pagsanjan, we passed by the historic church of Lumban. We then headed straight to Paete for coffee and merienda. Then a shortstop in Paquil where we took pictures of its incredible church—I must say, one of the best looking church I have seen in the country.

Friends and family know that I don’t fancy coffee shops. I find it haughty and pretentious. The prices are ridiculous —the amount you spend in any of these coffee shops is a day’s toil for some of our countrymen. I know I’m not saving the world by avoiding these over priced cups of coffee but I’m saving my hard earned money. But I do appreciate coffee—although lately I’m buying the 3-in-1’s because not only are they convenient, they’re dirt cheap too. We do have a coffee machine and every once in a while I brew but as much as I can I try to save them for visitors.

Pepe told me that his extensive travels around the province and meeting locals was a great experience that makes up for the measly fee he was paid by his agent. It is in one of these meetings that he became friends with Dr. Nilo Valdecantos, owner of the popular Kape Kesada, in Paete. This guy’s an interesting cat—charitable, ebullient, friendly and a genuine patron of local art. In fact, his coffee shop was built to promote local artists. “He does not earn a lot here, he’s just having fun,” said Pepe of his friend. Even artist from out of town would drop by to see the small eclectic coffee shop and art gallery. While we were talking, Lanelle Abueva Fernando, well known ceramic artist from Antipolo and niece of National artist Napoleon Abueva, dropped by. A few months ago he had Jim Paredes as his guest.

Doc Nilo invited both of us to sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. “This is not the usual coffee,” he said. When I saw than grin in his face I knew what it was, Kopi Luwak. The odor was a bit musky and the taste, lingered like a fine wine—I enjoyed it—my first cup of civet, or musang, coffee. I first saw a package of this coffee sold in Malaysia a few years ago but the price prevented me from taking it home. Thanks to Doc Nilo, I tasted the exotic coffee at no cost!

How in the world did people discovered that un-digested coffee beans from a civets crap would taste good?

Some people like to talk shit, some eat shit. The latter discovered kopi luwak for humanity.

I asked Pepe if we could strike off Calamba, thinking that people know everything there’s is to know about Rizal anyway. He said we can’t speak of Laguna’s history without the Rizal. And I had to agree. Calamba according to him is the only town in the province that is triangular in shape. Which raise questions and speculations. Masonic? Maybe.

The most picturesque town in Laguna! Pila has retained much of its old charm. I’m always excited to see the tow–it never gets old—well, it is old, but you get what I mean. That food is from Victoria, once part of Pila, fried itik, which I just learned to eat recently, was great and so is the itlog na maalat.

Natives of Pila claims that they’re the “Bayang Pinagpala,” And they are blessed. WWII has spared this local town from destruction. There’s an unfounded rumor that the town collaborated with the Japanese, reason why the town was left alone. This is of course, a rumor. The destruction of our old towns, most of it, was from American bombardments. In their eagerness to flush out the Japs they destroyed so many of our old towns.

I would commend ER Ejercito for restoring the Maura monument to its former glory. It now stands in the plaza, where it should be in the first place. I’m allergic to politicians but Pepe told me that the ex-governor is a nerd when it comes to Philippine history—his stocks just gained points on my board. Monuments erected during the Spanish era are neglected because they’re unpopular. Try to displace Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s monuments and you’ll get in prison fast. Also, in this photo is the ancestral house of our friend which sadly is in disrepair. It could be a good place to see so that people would be reminded of what has happened to some of our heritage houses. This house have a veranda that opens up to the great river!

Paete’s church, with the lush forest and mountain as backdrop awes me to no end. When I’m in town, the first thing I do is look at the church from a distance. The church for some reason reminds me of Paoay. Also in the photo are the paintings of a Paete native, Jose Luciano Dans. Completed in the mid 1800’s. I hope that they get restored the soonest. I was told by Pepe that the recent typhoon brought floods that reached the interior of the church. The painting are remarkable example of how ecclesiastical art works were used to teach Catholicism to natives.

Lumban is  where music was first taught. It became the springboard for Franciscan missions. The indefatigable, Fray Juan de Plasencia, was among its first administrator. Lumban is also known for its weaving traditions and as of late, its drug problems. The second photo is the church of Paquil reputed for having the most beautiful facade in all of south Tagalog. Paquil, or Pakil, would be the last stop of the tour.

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9 responses to “The Lake Shore Town Show & my First Kopi Luwak

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