Category Archives: Bulacan

Bahay-na-Bato: Always the Haunted Houses


“The town’s Antillean houses were massive but refined, elegant.The builders were not cutting corners. They were out to impress!” These days they’re all gated, almost hidden, with only caretakers (like that lady) for residents.

I recently watched a GMA Front Row about the ancestral houses in San Miguel, Bulacan. “Front Row: Ang Misteryosong Lumang Bahay ng San Miguel Bulacan” was uploaded in Youtube October last year. I’m not sure when it aired on TV.


I wasn’t surprised that the stories were, again, about trifling ghost stories.

Filipino TV producers and writers are obsessed with haunted houses. Good for ratings—terrible for the already underappreciated bahay-na-batos.

Manuel, grandson of Doña Crispina de Leon (sister to former first lady Trinidad Roxas) said the, “house reflects the rich history of this town…it shows that even during those times there were cultured, educated people and entrepreneurs…movers of the town’s small economy.”

He said not once did he ever seen a ghost. Manuel spoke of the house’s colorful past. He took the focus away from it being jammed with ghosts.

All the other caretakers spoke of their scary experiences.

The featured De Leon house was where Gregorio del Pilar slept before living Bulacan to head north.

Teodoro M. Kalaw said it was the wish of the builders that their houses continues to be inhabited and appreciated by generations to come.

Our tangible heritage are not just spaces where horror films gets staged. They were built to last for “US” to live in, to celebrate.

Not long ago, while walking around the Dominican’s retreat house in Nasugbu, I overheard teenagers chuckle. “Ay dito yun, eto yun!” one of them somewhat reenacted a scene. Curious, I asked what’s going on. “Sukob po, yun movie ni Chris Aquino, dito po s’ya kinasal.”

Now, the Chapel is not a heritage structure. But my point is that the young would most likely recall a horror flick scene over the history of a place.

We once went to Wisconsin to buy clothes and electronics. This US state have low sales tax and great bargains from “outlet” shops.

I was looking for an IC recorder. A Sony attendant recommended one, “this model is very popular for ghost and paranormal people, y’know”.

Interesting sales pitch.

We have a different culture compared to westerners. In the US, old hotels rumored to be haunted gets more reservations.

Their notorious haunted houses are not adversely affected by its reputation.

On the contrary, Filipinos steer clear of places believed to be haunted.

A few years ago, someone looking for a place to rent in Manila sought my advise regarding an old apartment. He wanted to know if it had a history of being haunted!

In San Ildefonso, the “bahay na pula” was demolished in 2016. Not a whimper was heard. I didn’t even heard of it until a friend told me.

For most people, even local historians, it’s not only haunted, its “dark” past makes them want for it to just go away. They don’t want anything to do with it.

The house was one of the many sites where “comfort women” were raped during WWII.

A blogger friend told me that Engr. Acuzar allegedly bought the house for his Bataan beach resort.

But is it not better that it remain there to educate the young?

If we follow the proponents of the demolition’s logic, we should build on top of Bagumbayan. Ensure no trace of its past remains. No monuments, nothing. Luneta was where Filipinos got shot and guillotined! Let’s build an SM mall and a dozen Jollibee on its very ground!


The last time I saw San Miguel was four years ago. My wife’s family is from nearby San Rafael. The town is a short jeepney ride away.

I remember witnessing two tricycle drivers fight MMA-style when I came to see the bahay-na-bato(s). I thought that’s a bad omen (there was also a bit of rain that day!).

True enough—it was.

I failed to inspect any of the famed houses up close. I viewed all of them from the street. No one allowed me in, not one caretaker!

The town’s Antillean houses were massive but refined, elegant. The builders were not cutting corners. They were out to impress!

San Miguel’s the biggest cluster of bahay-na-bato that I have seen in the province.

Owners are struggling financially maintaining their inherited properties. They’re not given financial and technical support but are told by government and public to hold on to it.

I know of one case in Laguna where the owner just decided to sell the house to free himself with what seem to him a lifelong encumbrance.

I always thank caretakers and owners I meet. What they’re doing is a difficult task. They’re not only preserving the memory of their forebears but the historical identity of us all.


To be clear, I remain a fan of GMA 7 docus. I believe we’re in the golden era of Filipino documentaries. In my mind, they’re the best at it. But I’ve seen enough haunted houses that features our bahay-na-batos.

Time to make something else. Leave our old houses alone please.

Short Visit to Angeles, Subic & Olongapo of my Childhood

A good time was had last Tuesday when my two brothers along with two nephews and a niece journeyed up north. My elder brother (here for a short vacation like myself) visited the final resting place of his US Navy mentor and friend, Andy. We then went to Subic, then Olongapo. Here we spent many summer holidays back when were little kids.

The first stop was Angeles where we met Cecil, Andy’s sister. He held the rank of master chief, the highest among enlisted personnel. He was not only accomplished Filipino in his field, he was, according to my brother, the kindest person he ever met. The kinda guy that would drop what he’s doing if someone needs his help.

View this post on Instagram

A view of Mt. Arayat from Magalang.

A post shared by H_YARN_LDO (@heyarnaldo) on

Andy recently retired, bought a beautiful house near the San Fernando-Angeles border. He started sending boxes after boxes of his stuff from the US: chandeliers, Japanese furniture, even a wooden mini bar. Everything was waiting for him—what he had is how every OFW imagine how their careers to end. Retire back home, surrounded by loveones, living in the dream lofty house decorated with personal effects culled from memorable trips. Sadly, tragedy struck. During one of his usual runs, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 51.

Some of the boxes he sent from the states are there in his garage, left unboxed, waiting to be opened. It was so sad to see.

After Angeles, we headed straight to SCTEX. Passing by Clark airfield and some of the best views of the peaks and valleys of Central Luzon. The kids were awed by mountains carved to make way for roads. Our driver, Jesse, who worked in Subic for two years said the entire project was supervised by the Japanese. The guy turns out to be a conspiracy theorist nut like myself. He said the Japanese took on the project so they can look for buried treasures. Of course, there’s absolutely no proof of that but it’s fun to talk about nonsense if you have nothing to do.

Travel time was way longer in the 80’s but you get to pass all the busy towns. Now, Olongapo and Subic doesn’t​ feel that far of. The access has brought some economic benefits to locals. We kid our mother who practically gave her lots in the area to relatives (who doesn’t even know who she is) to take those back!

After eating our lunch in one of Subic’s restos along its scenic shoreline, we headed straight to another navy buddy of my brother. Navy servicemen are common in the area because Subic back then (when they still have the US port base) allowed Filipino recruits. Many of the young locals did join and some of them went back to retire.

I got really excited seeing the color coded jeepneys still plying the streets. As they say then, only an idiot get lost in Olongapo. If you don’t know how to read, all the jeeps are color coded.

We used to go to the busy wet market and see US servicemen buying local goods. When night time comes, the streets comes alive with all the a-go-go clubs neon lights. You see drunk American men then hanging on to their Pinay companions. One thing about the town is that almost all roads leads back to the main road.

Our house was in Balic-Balic and I remember being woke up by the thundering sound of fighter jets going around. The noise made the glasses in our small kitchen shake (we live uphill).

My Aunt Lydia’s husband worked as an engineer in Subic then. He would always bring back home some sweet goodies from the base. Back then, they have stores there selling merchandise for US servicemen. Everything of course was “estaytsayd”. The sweets and chocolates I tasted then are the ones I go for today (snickers and M&Ms). I never got to see the inside of Subic during those times. All I saw then was its gates guarded by US military men whenever we pass by.

Spending time in Olongapo is probably the reason why I love nature. I have a profound appreciation of our natural environment because I enjoyed it as a child. We used to bathe in Mabayuan (a tributary of Sta. Rita river) during my summer vacations back in the 80’s. While we’re at it, we would catch these almost invisible fresh water shrimps. My cousin Jean, who now lives in the US, uses her long skirt to net this fast little crustaceans. The water was so clear then, people would wash dishes and clothes there. Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing stream, I get transported back to those sweet childhood memories.

Hidden Treasures of San Miguel, Bulacan

When I say hidden, I mean hidden–almost tucked away from plain sight. Most of San Miguel Bulacan’s heritage houses are gated from view, and in a way, from memory.

But if there’s one thing that should make heritage advocates happy is that the ancestral houses are still standing. The present owners effort is truly commendable considering the soaring cost of keeping these houses–most of which are a century old. I couldn’t care less if they restrict people from seeing their homes as long as they keep it. While there were casualties (some  has fallen into disrepair) the ones that remain in good shape are the most historic and architecturally important.

This visit, my second time, was strange—and a bit frustrating.

The weather was fine and warm all morning but when I reached San Miguel at around 2PM it started to drizzle. To make matters worst, a brawl broke out between tricycle drivers. That was pretty intense–what a welcome that was!

It felt like progress has left this old town with only its baronial houses as proof that it was once a golden town. There was a time when popular actors and politicians would pay one of the prominent families in town a visit. Things changed here, it has become the typical far flung municipality where poverty is on ever increasing rate.

The houses the landed families built here are the most ornate and imposing in the province. Much bigger compared to those found in the capital Malolos. 

Mayumo, which means ‘sweet’ in Capampangan, was part of the original name (San Miguel used to be part of Pampanga)  that for some strange reason is no longer officially used.  The name was said to had been derived from the giving character of the town’s pioneer. He must have been a sweetheart! Why abandon such an important historical detail?

The town of San Miguel has always been historic. Aguinaldo and his generals headquartered (the general used the Tecson house) their forces in town. And here, perhaps, the most important event in Philippine Spanish war, the pact of Biak-na-Bato took place (some claim that the document was signed in the Tecson house and not in the rough forested area of Biak-na-Bato).

The most beautiful heritage homes can be found in the intertwined barrios of San Vicente and San Jose.

Most of the old homes are somewhat related to the de Leon’s. Notable members of this family consist of the late movie pioneer Narcisa Doña Sisang de Leon, founder of LVN filmsn (Doña Sisang was known to insist to speak only in Spanish and Tagalog). Mar Roxas’ grandmother was Trinidad de León-Roxas, the 5th first lady of the republic. 

Other notable personalities that trace their roots to San Miguel are: Maximo Viola, Felipe Buencamino, Trinidad Tecson, Nicanor Abelardo, Director Mike de Leon and Virgilo Almario.

The military camp in town, Camp Tecson, was named after the local revolutionary hero Pablo Tecson. He donated this land to the government to be used as a military installation. He was under the command of Gregorio del Pilar (who briefly stayed in San Miguel with an uncle during the war), whose mother was a Sempio. Present defense secretary Albert del Rosario’s mother is the younger sister of del Pilar’s mother.

In Barrio San Jose one can find the house that was built by Rizal’s confidant, Maximo Viola. This guy not only lent Rizal the money for his Noli, but also accompanied Rizal to see prostitutes during their time together in Europe. Well, at least that’s what he claims.

The Sevilla house, locally known as “malaking bahay”, was built with ball room dancing in mind. The third floor was where the Celia Club would meet to dance the night away. I’ve never seen such an imposing (and costly) home built in the countryside. This house brings to mind the three story building Casa Vizantina in Manila (now moved to Bagac!).

The word is that some of the houses (I don’t know which ones) in San Miguel was destroyed by treasure hunting. It is strange that a town like this has not yet been declared a “heritage town” by our historical agencies. You would think that they would do so for such recognition would help promote the town’s tourism and historical awareness.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, this trip was a bit disappointing. You see, I first came here in San Miguel in 2005 (this blog wasn’t born yet) and I remember being refused by most of the owners and caretakers to see and take photos of their homes. Well, I encountered the same today. They just can’t be bothered with visitors. I think what haven’t caught up (and this puzzles me to no end) with the present owners yet is the idea that their houses have the potential for tourism and education. There’s just so much history around that it’s a shame that these historical homes are not accessible. Perhaps, our historical agencies needs to make that first move, declare the old town a “heritage town”, maybe then (just maybe) the owners would open their doors and embrace the fact that their houses are essential historical examples of Filipino culture and identity.

The ancestral house of LVN’s Dona Sisang. Obscured by banana it appears to have been recently painted.

The current owners was not really excited to see people wanting to see their ancestral house.

The only house along Calle positioned next to the road. A practice that is common in big old towns in Spanish Philippines. Interesting is that here in San Miguel most houses are built away from the road and gated.

New gates for an old house….

One of the smaller casa in Calle Rizal

Another obscured casa. The detailed window designs are superb examples of early 1900’s style

Visited by the Quezon’s. They call it the  de León – Sempio house.


The only house I managed to enter. The people I spoke with were gracious enough to show me around.

What’s good is that the houses are still being used. They’re not obsolete, still in use!

Some has fallen into disrepair like this one.

Some of the biggest bahay-na-bato ever built are here in San Miguel

Another hidden gem. Let’s invite these owners to open their ancestral homes to visitors.

The Tecson ancestral house. The only one with a historical marker in town (even the church does not have one).

San Miguel’s centuries old church. Even this sanctuary was closed for this weary traveler to see.

Notes, Baliuag to San Rafael

I love names of old towns and barrios. It tells a lot about a place, and in some cases, what resident were like, their livelihood and expertise back in the day.

I was wandering around Baliuag and I encountered some interesting ones: Matangtubig, Tiaong, Tanawan, Pinacpinacan, Maguinao and Ulingao. And these: Pasong Instik, Pasong Callo and Pasong Bangkal.

Interesting is Calle Rizal, it connects the town center to the municipal road and the highway. After all these years, it retained the “calle”. It most likely have the St. suffix in updated official documents but who in his right mind would call it Calle Rizal Street?

In San Rafael, I’ve become familiar with the barrios too. Relatives here has made an etymologist out of me. Barrio Dagat-Dagatan, occasionally gets flooded when the river nearby overflows, hence, the name. Then there;s the main junction, Cruz na Daan, from the intersecting roads that resembles a cross.  Pulong Bayabas, Banca-Banca and San Agustin are some of the barrios nearby.

Curiously, there’s a barrio called “Bahay Pare”, but the entire place used to be rice fields. Neither a church or a casa de los clérigos was ever built there.

San Rafael’s old town was built around the church dedicated to San Juan de Dios. The site the missionaries chose was near a  settlement on the banks of a reservoir linked all the way to Angat Dam. The area around the church is considered the old town but there’s hardly a trace of ‘oldness’ here today.

The church is a site of an important battle between the Spanish and the locals. I first saw it in 2010. The Doric church has a dark history. So many perished here during the siege of Spanish forces and local volunteers. A mass grave was said to have been ordered to bury these revolutionaries.

Revisiting Baliuag

One of the reason why I visited Baliuag was to inspect its tall renaissance-style church. Too bad it was close. I first saw the church when I was in college.

It was only in the 90’s that the convent was restored to its “original Spanish” style by civic groups in partnership with the church and local government. People are waking up even in these parts.

“It’s two level, Renaissance facade has a triangular pediment, a dome resting on a drum and topped by a tempietto; paired round columns, and a central projecting portico (a latter addition) at the main entrance. Its slender, unusually tall and delicately designed bell tower, completed in 1866 by Father Marias Novoa, has round openings and a base as high as the horizontal cornice.” – PHILIPPINE CHURCHES, Benjamín Locsin Tayug

The monument they call “Baliwag para kay Rizal” is a curious one. It’s written in the archaic Tagalog that no one today appreciate and recognize. We lost it in less than two generation. The great Bulacan native Francisco Balagtas wrote his masterpieces using it. He did NOT used the “Pilipino” alphabet, he crafted his words with the more complete Spanish letra.

I wonder what would be his opinion of his old Tagalog being replaced by “Pilipino?”

“Baliwag para kay Rizal” was inaugurated in the 1920’s by Quezon, then senate president. It was erected a few meters from the church’s door. The Ponces, some of which served in the local government, was in attendance.

Mariano Ponce’s one of those guys who contributed a great deal but is largely forgotten by our generation. The co-founder of La Solidaridad was born and raised not far from the town’s church.They still have properties around the town.

He’s Juan Ponce Enrile’s great grand uncle. Now, don’t ask me to explain that.

Finally, the question of whether to use Baliuag or Baliwag.

There must be an ordinance that instructs people to use “Baliwag”, otherwise people would continue to use the old ‘Baliuag’. The older generation still prefers the old Tagalog. Who can blame them, it has been written this way for centuries!

But laws changes the future, so the next generation would probably never see their town’s name written as ‘Baliuag’.

Let’s see if the province of Bulacán change Guiguinto to Giginto, Meycauayan to Maykawayan, Marilao to Marilaw, Calumpit to Kalumpit and Bocaue to Bokawe.

They have a history of historical recklessness. Renaming old town like Quingua (now, Plaridel) and Bigaa (Balagtas) in the past. History books today tells us Balagtas was born in Balagtas. These changes makes no sense.

Ever heard of the great battle of Quingua? Where Filipinos prevailed over the mighty Americans under Gen. Bell and Col. Stotsenberg?

Unfortunately, Quingua now only exist in our history text. We have to thank our dimwitted politicians who erased this great town’s name replacing it with Marcelo H. del Pilar’s pen name.

Candaba in December…

Candaba is one of the biggest town in Campampangan territory. It shares its borders with two other provinces: Tarlac to the North, Bulacan on the East side. Very few know that it’s also one of the first to be established and given a chief under the Spanish. Aside from its historical significance as a pioneering Pampango town, Candaba possess a natural environment that is unmatched all through out the province. Its wetland is a major migration destination for a variety migratory birds. Some come as far as the Arctic region! The other migratory destination in the country is Olango Island in Cebu. But unlike Olango, which are groups of mostly protected islands off the coast of Mactan, the Pampango wetlands are accessible to the rural farming communities which opens it to development – the wetland is not entirely a sanctuary reserve.

Rice fields and egrets...

Tagalog came from the phrase "Taga-Ilog" while Pampanga from "Pampang" - both names tells us where these tribes once lived

The wetlands are now threatened like it never has before. World renowned ornithologist predicts, if not protected, the wetlands would vanish in a few decades. A third of the original number of the migratory birds population (from statistics taken three decades ago) has stopped coming to the wetlands. These species has been flying to Candaba for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, and now that natural pattern has been disrupted.

Lost forever.

Get this, from 32,000 hectares the wetland area is down to 72 hectares.

The birds will stop coming to Candaba eventually,  sad, but with the rapid rate of urbanization and agriculture – there’s little we can do. Cory declared a large portion of Olango sanctuary during her term, maybe the son have to do the same for Candaba. Otherwise, it would be impossible to stop the diminishing wetlands.

Now, on to a happier note.

It has been raining off and on for two days straight but even the gloomiest of days can’t stop us from celebrating yet another milestone in our family’s life – the 80th birthday of our Lola Marina – who despite her age remains strong, happy and appreciative of family, friends and life.

Happy birthday Lola Marina!

Lola Marina during her birthday celebration.

On my way to Candaba I was worried about the rain (brought by the typhoon that ravaged the southern provinces). Surprisingly, it didn’t cause much disruption during the celebration – it even stopped when the food was being served to those in attendance. God wanted her Marina to enjoy her special day.

“Such birthday celebrations are becoming rare… it is important we celebrate such a day”, say the priest. But what I find so inspiring is not so much the years (a rarity in our time) but the milestone of how she dedicated all her life for her children after the untimely deaths of her husband and the eldest son (the latter, murdered in cold blood). She’s an inspiration to all of those who knows her.

If God painted a picture of a wonderful life, Lola Marina must be in that picture!

Although part of Candaba, Lola and her family are Tagalog. They still speak the language with that romantic Bulacan accent. They trace their ancestry to the oldest of Bulaqueño clans in San Rafael. Most of her family are still residing in the Bulacan side of the area.

Whenever I visit her house I alight at a barrio called Cruz na Daan in San Rafael. From there, its a short 2 kilometer distance to Vizal Sto. Niño of Candaba. You can literally travel two province on foot!

Here Pampango and Tagalog lives, fishes and farms side by side. Which by the way reminds me of the legendary Tagalo-Pampango alliance during the Spanish times. So powerful a union that when they withdrew their support from the Spanish crown – the Colonials lost the country!

Old Houses in Pinoy Horror Films

I was watching news earlier when I saw a news anchor show some of the old houses that has been shoot locations for some of the popular Pinoy Horror movies.

Bahay na Pula in San Ildenfonso Bulacan (Ilusorio Mansion). In San Miguel Bulacan they showed the Tecson house. In San Pablo Laguna there’s what locals call the White House. Where the movie Tiyanak was shot. I also know of a place in Malolos that was used once.

What was surprising is that the current owners has expressed satisfaction over the way their ancestral houses had been portrayed in these movies. They sure made a quick buck from all the producers but the negative image these films created has profoundly diminished the value (in the eyes of the younger generation) of these old houses. These remnants of our past are now no more than just haunted, forsaken structures  – thanks to cheap Pinoy horror flicks.

Instead of people asking why these houses are important they get more curious on whether its haunted. In the US, interest in haunted houses works in favor of the old house. Somehow, enterprising owners (specially old inn’s and hotels) find it a marketable reputation. But here, its different – bahay na bato’s value becomes less and less until everyone in the community loses interest in conserving them. We live in a country where its acceptable to demolish old structures that are the very fabric of our history.

More than just houses, these old houses tell the story of our ancestors. They must be protected from those who have no regard for the history and culture – difficult, yes, because those who are supposed to conserve are bent on destroying them – either by giving it a bad reputation or physically tearing it down.

Barrio Vizal in Candaba

I wanted to see the rice fields but the rain was just too heavy. So we stayed indoors most of the time.

Our gracious host is an old Bulaqueño family. They’re farmers since the early days owing to their barrio’s location, the vast flatland on the borders of the agricultural towns of San Rafael Bulacan and Candaba of Pampanga.

Locals of Vizal are mostly farmers and duck raisers. Most of them trace their roots back to San Rafael in Bulacan.While Candaba is Pampanga, Vizal is the border barrio that sees itself more Tagalo than Pampango.

A Tio recalls many beautiful memories of the farm fields located at the border of two great provinces. How farmers would earn enough to afford them and their families with the simple comforts money can buy, education for all their children and folksy homes for their growing family. Most of the families he knew “had many sons and daughters”, having more than four children but none ” would go hungry” and “almost all would attend public schools nearby and later on colleges in Manila”. They were practical and wise with their money.

These days you’ll rarely hear such stories. Our farmers has become one of the poorest sector in our society. Some say that they had been this way since the beginning but you get to speak with actual people that tilled land for generations and they’ll tell you that life was much better a few decades ago. It seems that the farther we get, as a nation, the worst it gets for these folks.

The truth is that our government and their pet capitalist  forgot about their own farmers and their well being. To let agricultural products from our neighbor countries get imported and sold almost half the price of the locally grown produce is just is just simply unfair and unjust. And this is just one example of how our government and the policies it creates are slowly killing our agri sector.

How is it possible that farmers from China and  other neighboring countries export and still maintain their cost low? The answer is that their government plays an instrumental role as a subsidizer – from growing to shipment – while ours puts the burden on the farmers who, because he had to pay more than his Asian counterparts, are left to sell at a higher price because if he gets his price any lower he would be selling for a loss.

In that barrio I heard that a “sili” farmer abandon his produce to rot because the market price for his sili is so low (bagsak preso) that selling them would cost more.


Speaking of sili, I noticed that Bulacan dishes are never spicy. They prefer the mild flavor. Which reminds me a lot of the Ilongo dishes that I now  miss…

While it rained the whole time I was in Candaba I still had a grand time soaking in traditional Tagalog cooking and lifestyle that very few urban souls get to experience.

The rain was good in a way, it heightened my appetite more!

My Tagalog family had prepared some fine examples of traditional dishes you rarely get to taste in Manila. Native adobo chicken, guinisang ampalaya with durog na tinapa, lechon pacsiw, their version of “bachoy” and, first time for me, fried “itik” (bought from the next door neighbor), which I found out to be tastier compared to chicken.

The secret must be that everything is “sariwa” (fresh). People around these parts raise their own chickens, fowl and swine – not all of them do but the family I stayed with does which makes the weekend sleepover more enjoyable for someone unfamiliar with life in a rural Tagalo barrio.

June 2011

Brief visit to the Church of San Rafael

Before heading back home I visited the historic San Rafael church located in the old poblacion. The barrio is well inhabited unlike the ones that I had seen earlier. It took me two rides from Daang Cruz. The tricycle heading for the church cost me 50 pesos! But of course, this is small change – I would not miss the chance of stopping over such a historic place .

The history of San Rafael is linked to what many consider as the deadliest battle, though a lopsided one,  ever fought by the Katipuneros. Here Hen. Anacleto Enriquez was killed together with 800 of his men inside the Church and its convent. They were said to had been buried in a mass grave just a few distance from the church but no one seem to know (those that I asked) where it was exactly. After walking around the church and convent, I realized that with that many men holed up in that confined area, the church and convent was tight quarter with barely a space to breath for the katipunan men. I could not imagine that many bodies stranded in such a small space. Even if they were not assaulted by the seasoned Cazadores, who had chased them out of Malolos, with that number (800?) trapped inside, they would’ve starved to death in San Rafael in a few days.

The facade of Iglesia de San Rafael

They launched a book about the treasure of the town. Most of the relics are from the church.

The Atenian Enriquez, the leader of the group, was one of the founders of Katipunan in Bulacan. Enriquez’ brother, Jacinto, was later chief of staff in del Pilar’s army during the second phase of the revolution. Jacinto was one of only four survivors in the battle of Tirad Pass – referred to by some historians as “Philippine Thermopylae”.  Del Pilar was said to had been shot in the neck during the initial confrontation with the Americans because of his refusal to take cover. The rest of his men were killed by the Americans. I wonder how many lives would’ve been spared if Aguinaldo had surrendered to the Americans instead. His army was on the run with little hope of anything better than to hide and evade. Of course we can think about these scenarios because we have hindsight. That was a tough position for the Filipinos.

Strangely, the municipal website cites Trinidad Tecson, the lady revolutionary from San Miguel de Mayumo, among those killed in the siege. The writer probably got carried away.Trinidad Tecson is known by many titles; “Henerala Ningning”, “babaing lalaki”, “”Mother of Philippine Red Cross” and “Mother of Biak-na-bato”.We have the most creative and agile minds when it comes to names. The former Commissary of War died in 1928 and is buried in the North Cemetery. I know this because I remember seeing her tomb in the veteran section of the north cemetery.

A Painting of the battle that took place insice the church and convent of San Rafael. An overly dramatized depiction of the event that took place inside the convento.

Image of San Rafael at the gates

The present symbol of the municipality of San Rafael is the image of the historic church. A testament of its role in the society it help build. Written in the convent walls. I found this brief history  of the church:

Sa simula ang lugar ng San Rafael ay bahagi ng bayan ng Quingua. Noong taong 1750 itinatag ang San Rafael bilang bayan at marahil kaalinsabay na din ang pagkatawag nito bilang nagsasariling parokya. Pinaniniwalaan na ang mga Prayleng namamahala at dumadalaw sa simbahan ng San Rafael ay mula sa Parokya ni Santiago Apostol ng Quingua (Plaridel) ay naninirahan sa bahay ng pamilya Vasallo hanggang sa maitayo ang kumbento ng parokya taong 1863. Batay sa mga dokumento sinimulang gawin ang matibay na kumbento yari sa tisa, bato at narra.

Taong 1868, itinalaga sa San Rafael ang kanyang unang Kura Paroko sa katauhan ng isang Agustinong pari na Espanol nas is Padre Antonio Piernaveja. Kasabay din nito ang paghiwalay ng isang bahagi ng San Rafael upang gawing isang bagong bayan ang San Ildefonso. Mula noon naging opisyal na tirahan ng Kura Paroko ng San Rafael ang kumbentong ito.

Sa paglipas ng panahon, hindi lamang nagsilbing tahanan ng pari ang kumbentong ito ng iba’t ibang gawain at pagpupulong ng mga samahang pangsimbahan at gawain ng parokya. Noong panahon ng Hapon, naging ligtas na lugar din ito na tinirahan at tinaguan ng ilang mamayan. Pagkatapos ng giyera nagsilbi din ito na pansamantalang piitan bayan ang isang bahagi ng ilallim ng kumbento.

I instantly recognized the name of the first assigned “Kura Paroko” as I remember reading it from somewhere. He’s a Damaso-type character. Padre Antonio Piernavieja was the kind of Friar that drove the people around him to fear and hate his kind. Piernavieja had been instrumental in the trial of the Gomburza. It was an account of his together with that of Padre Echegoyen accusing Padre Burgos involvement in the infamous motin de ’72. This event sent the creole priest and the two other Padres to the guillotine. One of Rizal’s dark characters in his first novel was based from this man. This depiction, in a way, is accurate as the same Friar had been a subject of numerous complaints by the San Rafaeleno’s during his tenure as Cura. A case was filed against him and the complaints were; failure to conduct mass, relationship with an unmarried women (even had a child!) and his suspicious solicitation for some bridge construction. It is significant to note that the case reached Manila and was dismissed later on. During the revolution the same man, now in Cavite appears as prisoner. He was made chaplain by the Katipuneros – his flock was the devout Catholics in the revolution. His luck would later run out as he was accused of spying. The Katipuneros then tied him up and he died of hunger and thirst in the fields.

The significance of this man is his actions during the Gomburza case. They never realized the effect the execution would have to those who aspire for independence. If they they knew they would have avoided it. With Rizal’s execution, it indicated that they never learned from history. If 1896 was the year of the revolution, ’72 was the year of the awakening. Before that century ended Filipinas became their Eden lost. But he  and people like him are a minority in a vast majority. Evidence of the Church and her men attending to its communities abound and this could never be disputed.

Unfortunately, we are seeing some of these Damaso attitudes again from our Catholic leaders. Instead of strengthening local churches by once again building solid relationships with the local community they engage in politics and media. Like Piernavieja, these political priest, bishops and cardinals are giving all Catholics a bad name. They never learn.

Sunday in San Rafael

San Rafael

Initially, I had no plans this Sunday. All these downpour made it difficult to plan a trip. Then I woke up this morning and saw the sun up and the weather slightly warm. I thought It would be a waste not to make use of this perfect sunny Sunday. It’s days like this that makes you appreciate the haring arao. So I packed my bag and went straight out of the gate. For some strange, unexplained and eccentric gusto I had San Rafael, Bulacan in mind. I’ve been longing to visit a family in this quiet Bulacan town but whenever I do plan (for the past two years) the journey something unexpected comes up. This trip has long been over due. So this one Sunday was “do it or never” for me.

In this part of San Rafael, ricefields occupies much of the land. Across these vast farm land is Candaba.

I was in Cubao at around 7 in the morning. All alone without a clue what bus to board. I don’t even know the exact address where the family live. All I know is San Rafael, the town, Vizal, the small barrio and some vague knowledge I have of it – and this, oddly, was exciting prospect for me. Those headed north converge around the multitude of bus terminals in the vicinity of Cubao. There’s something about seeing people in provincial bus terminals. These people leave behind their loved ones to work in Manila – today, they’re going home – except me.

A beautiful church reminiscent of the old Baroque that can be found all over Luzon. This one is Daang Cruz.

I reached San Rafael after 2.5 hour or so of traveling. I pass over such historic towns: Plaridel (formerly Quingua) and Baliuag. These provincial towns seemed busy for a Sunday. It was enticing to go down in Baliuag, as I’ve yet to see its celebrated church but I have to find what I came to look for in San Rafael first, so this has to wait.

I went down in front of the church in Cruz na Daan, which I thought would have tricycles. I was surprised, there was nothing there. I had to walk back where to where some shops and some rural banks were and then started asking for directions. I was amazed at the shops that sells mostly farming tools and poultry feeds –   In a world that is fast becoming more and more dependent on technology, life in San Rafael has remained mostly agricultural – at least in these part of San Rafael. They also have these small stalls that sells roasted pugo, chicharon and some local kakanin. I had no address with me, only the name of the person I came to look for. The tambays, usually tricycle drivers and vendors, are always the best people to approach when you’re lost.The people I asked knew the family I was looking for like they were kin. Its true when they say, “everybody knows everybody” in the Filipino barrio.

A cross Dagat Dagatan

Finally, I get to meet them. I was glad to be rewarded with the opportunity to see them after traveling without even an address as reference. The San Rafaeleño clan is now a matriarchal family since the Lolo, a Bulakeño gentleman and a respected figure in the Barrio died a few decades ago. He left behind a well knitted family that has maintained strong relations with each other. The Lola on the other hand is a simple housewife but had long since managed their  modest farms after her husband died. She has dedicated the best years of her life for her children. And with this enormous task – she had been nothing short of being outstanding. She’s a magnificent cook – works her magic, naturally cooking  appetizing Tagala dishes,  inside her quite roomy cucina. I also know for a fact that she makes mouth-watering meriendas. Too bad I never got to taste them since my visit was unexpected. Her children and grandchildren, those that are already living abroad, visits her often throughout the year. The wonderful old lady is being taken care for by her two devoted children that lives with her.

The single lane bridge crossing.

The younger generation of this Tagalog family still follows the traditional values and beliefs of the old Tagalog way of life. The fiestas and all the important religious Catholic events are still observed. Even the art of Bulakeño cookery is handed down to the next generation. I could just imagine how their table would look like this Christmas! What is truly fascinating is their Tagalog – theirs is said to be the most profound of all the Tagalogs. Some had even suggested that Bulacan’s Tagalog is the equivalent of what Castilian Spanish is to the Spanish language. And I can feel that they are proud of this fact.

Everything is uncomplicated and clear inside their household. They all eat lunch at the same time and talk about family. Seemingly routine and mundane for us outsiders but it was refreshing for someone like me. They’ve been exposed to the hardship of life as farmers and perhaps this is why even the littlest of task, like feeding the animals, is important in the house. “Magsikap”, “Magtipid”, “Magsimba” ,”Gumalang”. We find such reminders old fashion, even whine when we start hearing them but these values were the foundation of our old society. We now take these lumang tradisyon for granted – It’s about time that we look back at what made our old society great.

The remaining family members of the clan continues to live a pastoral life near the border between San Rafael and Candaba. Barrio Vizal, where they live, is in Candaba – its fascinating that  when you cross the narrow boundary, you’ll find a populace speaking pure Campampangan. Barrio Vizal remain Tagalog. It is as if a line had been drawn to split the Capampangans and the Tagalogs here.

The San Rafaeleño family for generations has maintained farmlands  for rice planting. They are the quintessential Farmers of the northern Tagala region. Their rice fields are magnificently green this time of the year. They have half a dozen dogs and some farm animals. They feed these animals with old stocks of their rice – those that probably are not good to sell. Thy have a spacious camalig and a modest residence that has  been gradually improved throughout the years. What strikes me as significant is that whereas they’re visibly prosperous country folks yet they’ve maintained a bucolic lifestyle.

I’ve learned a lot that Sunday in San Rafael — small things that I can do to uncomplicate life.

29 August 2010

Malolos: In Panorama

The Kapitolyo or Capitol building. A white classical building with wide squared columns. The seat of provincial government.

The last time I visited this place I was in secondary school. Back in the early 90’s, a brother purchased a small but tidy house in this Bulaqueño town. It was for a bargain price. It is now leased to a family for a very reasonable rent with the conditions that they keep it in order and that they make no changes. But just before it was put up for leasing, we had to refurbish and fix the house. The summer of ’91 was when I spent the whole vacation break in this historic town. The house is less than a kilometer drive from the Kapitolyo.

Aside from the historic Barasoain, the first seat of the republic, there are the old buildings and houses I vividly remember. I’ve always wanted to go back so I can document the district in pictures. It was a unique and memorable experience then, as I was already into history, spending a summer in Malolos heightened my interest in old houses specially those that played an important role in our history.

Malolos, as we all know, was the seat of Aguinaldo’s government. What brought him to Malolos was not only the support of its populace and its prominent families but the town’s layout, which seem to be perfect for an administrative complex not to mention the proximity with Manila. At that time that they have not abandoned the hope of getting back to Manila – after all, history tells us that whoever controls the capital controls the state. But I’ll skip the critical points for now and just enjoy the town that we know and love.

If I’m not mistaken, Malolos is about 50 km from Manila. But don’t take my word for it – what I’m certain about is it’s less than an hour trip without traffic from the Baliwag bus station in Cubao. Of course, you could forget about counting time if you’re caught in bad traffic in highway 54.

The best place to start a historic tour of Malolos is in the Capitol building. Built in the early 1900’s it was destroyed and razed by the Japanese during the war. It was rebuilt by American funding, just like all government building in 1950’s. The spacious park in front of the building is perfect for for picnics, during the rainy seasons it becomes lush and green. Events from pageants to political rallies are held here. Not to miss is their version of walk of fame, where they’ve etched the names of honored National Artists’ and known personalities from the town in black marble stones.

The Capitol museum located in the far right corner of the Capitol compound was renamed Blas Ople. The great Bulakeño from Hagonoy is someone I admire for his prescience and depth of knowledge in Philippine historiography. The Premio Zobel awardee has steadily advocated the preservation of Spanish during his political career because of historic and economic reasons. It is not his first language. His bust stands in the main door entrance of the museo.

From the here going to Barasoain is a quick jeep ride. You can also walk if you  want. Just like in the old days, the route is still dominated by the undersize karatig jeeps which fits the small town feel of Malolos. The Barasoain church has remained the same, which is what we want since we’ve seen countless heritage structures go to waste. The only changes were the improvements made for the NHI museum located on the second floor of the old convent. It was truly awesome and inspiring to see the enthusiasm of the officials who made the project possible.

The first Cojuanco lived here. A Chinese who converted to Catholicism, marrying a local girl. He was an artisan who later moved to Paniqui.

The attractive courtyard can be seen from upstairs. The palm trees and other plants help maintain the spacious garden cool during these hot summer days. After spending some time walking in and out of the Church I then decided to head out to the Cojuanco house. The Chichingco relatives of the Cojuanco’s are the caretakers of this elegant looking old house, now decorated with yellow ribbons and banners of Noynoy. The house was said to have been the temporary home for some revolutionary leaders. It is said that Ysidra Cojuanco, daughter of Jose met Antonio Luna and fast became lovers. What is gossip to many is true history to many other (read Henares take on this here). Jose Cojuanco was said to have decided to move to Paniqui because of Ysidra’s unwanted pregnancy. Many believe the son was that of Luna. Ah, the marvelous world of historical gossips!

Next stop is the Casa Real. Unlike the Cojuanco house which was inaccessible to the public, this one is, being administered by NHI in cooperation with an association of women called “Kababaihan ng Malolos”, in homage of the brave women of the town. Entrance is gratis. The Casa is preserved and beautifully kept with many interesting pieces from the women of Malolos. Made of ladrilyo and mortar this administrative building was built in 1786 but it was in this same location that the original was also erected.

Going to the Cathedral you’ll pass by an arched roman bridge that has amazingly survived the test of time. The Cathedral became the official office of Aguinaldo, there were bronze statutes of the General and his leaders in the church yard under a tree that they call the centennial tree. The interiors was splendid although it has been repainted and repaired many times.

The best preserved house in Malolos. The Adriano house along Pariancillo.

The other antillean houses can be seen from here as they are not far. The Municipal building is located right in front, while walking along the old Parian will reveal more beautiful historical houses. One has to keep in mind that the Republic headed by Aguinaldo practically converted the town into an administrative complex, making government offices out of residential spaces. This is what’s so unique about Malolos. That is of course aside from having the distinction of giving birth to Asia’s first republic.

Old cannons, bronze commemorative plaques, monument, even their own version of the walk of fame! The parque of the Capitol welcomes the weary souls and offer them peace in the middle of busy ciudad Malolos.

Finally, back where it all begun. The spirit of 1896 lives on! Viva la Yglesia de Barasoain! Viva Malolos!

The Barasoains Garden seen from the second floor of the convento.

The Cathedral where Aguinaldo held office. It became his Palacio Presidential.

The Interior of the Cathedral of Malolos. This Neo Classical church was rebuilt many times. One of its restorations was headed by the Recollect Saint Ezekiel Moreno who from 1859-1872 repaired the damaged foundations and walls caused by the massive earthquake of 1863.

The Lomotan house. In this same street the Bautista house, painted green, can be found. In front of Lomotan is the location of the School for the women of Malolos.

Calle Pariancillo where the houses of the old Malolos family of Arcadio Ejercito, Adriano ( Meralco today), Tiongson (demolished in the 80's), Cervantes (now a jeep terminal). The Carcel (Detention Center) is on the other side but has long been abandoned and altered. The Ejercito's of Malolos are the ancestors of Erap, whose Father was a prominent Engineer in Pagsanjan.

On the other side it'll be hard to miss this Palacial house of the Santos'. Builtin the early 1900's.

This is just a stone throw away from the big white house belonging to the same family. It is now the headquarter of K of C.

An old house in Canalete. Probably familiar to many, countless tv and movies has been shot here. Its near the river and the old place called Bihonan.

%d bloggers like this: