A good time was had by all in the first La Laguna Tour last Sunday. We were blessed with good weather and enthusiastic participants.
We expected to spend less than 1 hour in Calamba but because there was a massive crowd gathered in Rizal shrine we end up surpassing the allotted time I originally planned. Fortunately, the traffic going to our next destination, Pila, wasn’t that bad, so the group made up for lost time. The national road in Calamba and Los Banos was where we experienced traffic during the ocular tour.
The early lunch in Victoria town, where we ate ‘itik’ delicacies, went well—everybody enjoyed the eating. It was also a good time to get to know everyone in the group. We’re all friends now, of course, there’s nothing that bonds people better than good travel and good food.
We then went to Pila, and as I expected, everybody was floored by its magnificent houses. There we showed possibilities for adaptive reuse and benefits of conserving heritage. This town must be promoted to death! Pila is a gift to us all—thanks to its old families, we could see how towns were planned and designed in a time where church was the center of life and living.
However, we were surprised that the Museo Pila was closed. I was later informed that it was empty—what happened?
In Pagsanjan, we started with a visit to the Gomez ancestral house. I thought this part of the tour would show how some of our splendid ancestral houses have been neglected over the years. Participants made an excellent observation that it would be a good addition to the tour if we could take participants inside ancestral houses that are preserved and occupied. We would definitely include this in the future. Pepe then took the group to the church and then to where the river forks to two (Pagsanjan is from the old Tagala word “pinagsangahan”).
We then went to Lumban, this was a brief stopover. But in the future I think we’ll include a sidetrip to one of the traditional weaving shops in the area. We’ll just have to figure out how to compress every single activity in one day. As I remain a believer that in order to appreciate the richness of this province’s culture and history, we have to take participants to as many towns as we can in a day.
I realized that if we’re doing these tours during Sundays, we would have to face the fact that we could not bring the participants inside the churches and do our talk all the time. Like in Paete, where a funeral mass was being held. Since the art inside merits a lecture, Pepe and I did ours outside. Fortunately, Catholic churches are open for all even when there are such services. Participants were still able to roam around the church, some even climbed the church tower with Pepe.
At Cafe Kesada the group had coffee while watching a local woodcarver work his magic. We are in the process of making an arrangement with local art patron, Dr. Nilo Valdecantos, to have local delicacies served with their brand of coffee in the future tours. We also had an open forum where we got interesting observations from all the participants. These feedback would help us improve the structure of the tour in the future.
The final stop was Pakil. I thought it was a great way to end the tour. Afternoon is the best time to see its impressive Franciscan church known for its Turumba festival. The setting sun’s light hitting the surface of the church’s facade creates a reddish yellow glow—I wanted this image burned in the participants memory.
Special thanks to Jemuel Aldave Pilapil for volunteering his driving services. He’s driver and vehicle number two. He had four travelers with him: Pepe Alas, Crystal Alas, Ruel Limbo, Christine (Teng) and her adorable daughter Amaya. I had four too, the guys from the National Commision for the Culture and the Arts : Rei Alba, Myra Brucelo and Leon Pangilinan, the man behind NCCA’s social media accounts. Also with us is Joey Dionisio, a local blogger.
Everything is a work in progress at this point. We have to tie everything together for next year. And I can’t wait to do more tours. Also, we are trying really hard to have a reasonable rate and fit as many activities all in one day. I insist on this because after all this tour is but an extension of our online advocacy—bringing Filipino history closer to Filipinos.
We expect to get better as we continue doing these marathon tours. We hope to see you in the near future with us!
Feast Day of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
* All photos from Pepe & Crystal Alas