Category Archives: Marinduque

Boac Fire Destroys Heritage Houses

Sad news coming from Boac. A fire destroyed 8 heritage houses in its poblacion. This includes the gazetted Piroco house (also called Maharlikang Bahay) according to an Inquirer report.

Among the fires casualty is the ChiWing Panciteria. The granddaughter of its original owner, Karlene Chi, broke the news to this blogger last night, she posted:

“Last night, a fire ripped through four blocks and almost all the buildings featured here have been destroyed. My family owns the panciteria that was featured here (surname is Chi). It’s called the ChiWing Panciteria, after my grandfather. My grandfather opened that store way back in the 30s or 40s. My dad and his siblings grew up in that kitchen. It is devastating to think that the history and that kitchen is gone… that’s all the family has left. Pictures and memories.”

My eldest brother’s stories about Moriones Festival inspired me to visit Marinduque. I grew up seeing his big red flag with a centurion’s angry face in our home. A keepsake from his pilgrimages to the island.

Some of the houses I visited in the area were annihilated by the blaze. I felt a familiar grief similar to the destruction of Bohol’s old churches after the devastating earthquake of 2013. I am blessed to have seen those churches before they went down.

The destruction of Boac’s antebellum houses is such a great lost. There’s this lamentable abrupt termination of tradition and cultural identity whenever a bahay-na-bato goes down. We can always reconstruct a certain architecture but never recover its rooted soul.

As Teodoro M. Kalaws elucidates:

“the great houses… are the material expression of our communal type of society… our grand sires erected those mansions to house generation after generation of descendants. They served to give life and fulfillment to the supreme ideal of stability, unity, perpetuity, of the Filipino family.”

When I visited Boac, I went mad taking snapshots of its old houses. Like their version of Tagalog, their antillean houses were delightfully unique. Perhaps owing to the islands isolation and fortune—for the most part, the houses were spared from destruction during WWII.

It is my belief that everything happens for a reason. Bad philosophy I was told but it’s a Christian way of rationalizing such a horrible event. Let’s all hope that things gets better for those affected…

And they will.

I look forward to the day that the houses would be reconstructed to honor the old Boac.

Here are some photos (there was no photocopying machine when I was there) of the heritage mapping done by Boac’s secondary students. This project had been archived by the province’s tourism department.

These photos were not included in my Boac blog (read it here I saved it on a separate folder. I thought it was nice reminder that the next generation would take up the mantle of heritage conservation when their numbers gets called.

Bahay ni Purificacion de la Santa. That name is holy indeed.

Sofronio Roque house

Heritage of Boac – Ancestral houses and more…

boac, marinduque, boac heritage, boac ancestral

After walking around the church of Boac, I decided to drop by the Capitol of Marinduque in Boac. I was told that the province had plotted all the ancestral houses in town. The Capitol building, severely damaged during WWII, had been restored after the war by funds coming from America. It’s a great example of American architecture that brings to mind the neoclassical buildings in Manila.

I met up with Efren Penafiel and some of the tourism staff of the province. They were all accommodating and their office, located at the rear of the old capitol building, is modern and clean. They even provided me with free Wi-Fi access. I came to look for the mapping records of all the old houses of Boac. To my disappointment, there was none available—good thing was that teacher and student volunteers, from some years ago, made a project documenting the ancestral houses. While it’s lacking in information, the effort is praiseworthy. There’s nothing more satisfying for a heritage advocate than seeing the children take interest in safeguarding our heritage.

I have seen photo blogs feature the town. I observed a slight difference in how houses were planned and constructed. While they’re considered bahay-na-bato, their location, being an island detached from mainland Luzon, influenced their character and form. Like an animal restrained in an island that naturally evolve to their environment. Just look at the roof shed on top of the sliding windows, supported with wooden sticks. This architectural element is uniquely from the island. Same with their brand of Tagalog. It sounds so different but familiar. Some say that Tagalog here is Old Tagalog. The mayor of Mogpog believes that it is. The center of the old town appears as it was 100 years ago. This is what I appreciate the most about Boac. The people did the work in conserving their heritage. It tells us how proud they are of their past. The Spanish carcel (now a National Museum branch),  the plaza and the old presidencia (municipio) all standing opposite a modern basketball court. I had second thoughts going home the next day because I craved to savor the Boac’s old charm more. The concentration of ancestral houses in this town is fascinating. Boac is an anomaly, the old houses are not only preserved but are still occupied by families, shops and business establishments. In some cases, the silong are rented out to business while the families that owns the house lives upstairs.

Is it their simple way of life? Their isolation, being an island? Or the attitude of the locals towards their ancestral homes? One day, I have to go back and find the answers to these questions.

But there are houses that are in bad shape. Like the case of one of the most historic house in Boac. The NHI marker tags it as Maharlikang Tahanan ni Kapitan Piroco, regrettably it appears to had been abandoned and left to rot. All the people I asked what the house was told me that it was once a school and it was, helping shaped some of the earlier natives of the town. But before this, it was the house of the wealthy community leader. Respected enough that he sat down with an American governor and officers for the benefit of his beloved hometown. Why the house has been neglected, I don’t know. But something must be done to salvage this house. It’s an outstanding bahay-na-bato, the biggest, the grandest and the only one with a generous yard in town. In the capitol, I saw volunteer heritage workers (students from local schools) record the condition of the house. It’s terribly exposed to the elements, portions of its roofing had caved in, with noticeable damage (possibly from the recent typhoon) from years of inattention.

There are markers around town dedicated to individuals (based on NHI’s record for Boac). Like the one for Pilar Hidalgo Lim, wife of war hero and West Point grad Gen. Vicente Lim. She became a president of Centro Escolar and had served presidents in various positions. Another marker is for Salvador del Mundo, a prominent chemist. I could not locate these markers—I should see these and the houses where they were placed next time!

The entire town is a fantastic throwback. And I dream of returning to spend more time and maybe even volunteer mapping the heritage houses. We have to record, not only the current state of the houses, but their history. One of the coolest thing about Boac is that there’s no rush to develop and modernize. They live at their own phase—and I like it.

One the most impressive examples of adaptive reuse of an ancestral house. This is the Emilio Lardizabal house. The entresuelo is a popular restaurant and the second floor is a bar in Calle Mercader.

A fine example of utilizing heritage houses and buildings. We should thank PNB for having the vision to do this here in Boac.

Shops and banks in the silong!

The romantic cells inside was all fired up seeing all these beautiful old houses restored and used!

Not all is as big as the others but still, they’re precious reminders of our past.

– Casa Real: Where Col. Maximo Abad surrendered to Capt. Bandholtz ending the war in Marinduque. Known revolutionaries, Hermenegilod Flores and Remegio Medina died here. Capt. Bandholtz who eventually became a general in WWI, was also instrumental in the capture of Macario Sacay.

– National Museum branch in Boac. It was a school for children established by the religious orders before it became a Carcel, annexed officed of Casa Real, Tribunal, municipio then restored in the 1980’s as a National Museum branch

The provincial capitol was damaged during WWII and just like all capitol buildings built during the American era was repaired shortly after the war with US funding. This one’s a great example of American architecture in the early 1900’s.

The Narvas house. Declared a heritage house by NHI. I’m not familiar with their criteria when it comes to these declarations. We should put up more markers to educate the public and protect the houses too.

The grandest of all houses in all of Boac. Sadly, left out to rot. I wonder if Capitan Piroco’s relatives are still around.

The left portion of Capitan Piroco’s house where tricycles wait for their passengers

Below are some of the houses I saw along the way….

A simple house that’s still used as residence

This one’s a panciteria

Seeing these Antillean houses lined up like this is just awesome.

A pinkish, well maintained old casa. The plants and pots is a nice touch!

Salon in the silong, rooms upstairs!

Hiding behind modernity.

There’s something about capiz windows…

Squarish, cubish like its ancestor the kubo

Some road works. How many of these has this simple house has witnessed over the years?

I just noticed, some of the old houses already have air conditioning. The past few days, the weather was a bit chilly.

You just hope that these people would resist selling out to modernity

Notes on the Church of Boac and our “Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang Awa”

mahal na birhen ng biglang awa, marinduque, boac marinduque

From Sta. Cruz, I traveled to Boac. It was 7:00 pm when I reached the province’s capital. This is already late night by local standard. Most of the stores are closed. But the motel I checked in to have snacks and sodas. With ample sleep, the finger foods I ordered was enough to restock the body—I was ready the next morning.

I started my tour, as I always do, paying a visit to the oldest church in town.

I studied Boac church’s history in advance and was captivated by its past. It does have quite an intriguing story. One that’s a mix of mystic lore and zealous faith.

I find it difficult  separating church and town history — it’s a one-could-not-exist-without-the-other situation. From the founding of the town to its way of life, all is connected to the church. The biggest celebrations too, are religious commemorations!

The church sits on top of a hill. One of the highest location I’ve seen for a Spanish era church. The hill provides an authoritative view of the town and the seas that surrounds it. It also suggests an important strategic purpose. More than an edifice for Catholic instruction, it is an impressive fortress!

The Augustinians, those who took part in Legazpi’s expedition, were among the first Christians to reach Marinduque. The Franciscans succeeded them, then the seculars for a brief period of time. In the early 1600’s the Jesuits came to town. They were responsible for inculcating a deep devotion among the locals to our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Marinduqueños are considered as one of the most faithful Marian devotees in the country. Their history explains why:

“In the mid 1700’s, look out posted on the baluarte spied on a large expedition of sea crafts, identified as ladrones (Moro pirates) by their colors and design. Their course heading clearly defined that the flotilla was aiming for the shores of Laylay…”This was yet the largest attempt to pillage the town…” (Montales). It is theorized that earlier skirmishes gave the locals valuable knowledge and experience with the wayts of th bandits allowing the former to resort to pre-arrange strategies in dealing with future attacks. Alerted by the incessant pealing of the church bells, the women and children, the old and the weak, evacuated to the eastenr interiror barrios of Boac while the men prepared to make a stand at the church fortress of the the town joined by a handful of women volunteers tasked to feed them and tend to the wounded.”

For two days, the buccaneers repeatedly besieged the church, for two days the locals gallantly resisted with spears, bows and arrows, bolos and big stones, with hot oil and frantic prayers…”

The Moros, realizing that the Boakeños were still defensively strong, waited near the riverbed, near barrio Laylay. They knew that if they waitlong enough, the Christians would grew weary, hungry and tired. Another two days had passed, the locals are still inside, the enemies are waiting to pounce on them.

Then a fast and sudden subasko appeared, a white squall, a freak weather phenomena. It’s a terrifying windstorm that destroyed the brigands encampment and some of their sea vessels. The locals thought of this as divine intervention. But this was not the end, the invaders were patient, they were in for the kill. They stayed even after suffering  heavy losses.

Then, suddenly a mysterious apparition, the chronicler Montales writes, “the moor pirates… saw the apparition and were very frightened… fear struck them for they had never seen such a woman so brilliant and so dazzling like the rays of the sun. Because of this spectacle they witnessed they fled away with their vintas….”

Maybe, women fighter really do scare these crazy men away.

This event is commemorated as the miracle of the Lady of Biglang Awa. The locals made “a niche on top the wall where the Lady of Biglang Awa was seen walking and driving the moor pirates away. For more than two centuries, the original picture of the Immaculate Conception that the Spanish Jesuit missionaries brought to Marinduque in the 17th century was venerated.”

To this day, the town abounds of stories of miracles and apparition by their beloved Ina ng Biglang Awa.

The church, just like in any other old towns around the country, is an integral part of Boac’s history. It is one of the most storied churches I have ever visited. Like the church in Argao, this was once a fortress, a stronghold where Christians took up arms to fight invading forces. It is as if it was the most important possession they ever had– the church symbolizes not only their faith but their way of life, their identity!

This is the most impressive church wall I have ever seen in the country, it is, literally, a military fortress!

Details of the ceilings inside the church dedicated to Ina ng Biglang Awa.

The retablo is ornate and from the looks of it, very well maintained. The church counts local politicians as patrons. So funds are never lacking.

The buttresses that kept this church standing for more than 100 years!

The booklet, “Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang Awa,” which was my main source of information here, was handed to me by the provincial capitol’s tourism officer, Erwin Peñafiel. An accommodating young fella who works in promoting tourist destinations in the province.

Finding Puente de Boac

puente de boac, boac, boac marinduque

I just came from barrio Laylay where I went looking for the ruins of a fabled watchtower. I found it and crossed it out on my itinerary, next was Puente de Boac.

My clothes were damp and muddied from the morning hike. With my soaked clothes (it rained again on my back to the town) I found myself in the Mugallon barrio hall. I asked the staff inside if I could use their bathroom. They’re OK with it, so I took a bath and came out fresh as a daisy.

While drying my hair just outside the building and eating biscuits I was looking at this bridge right in front of me when it struck me that it was the bridge I came to see!

There it was—the historic bridge of Mugallon, Boac!

I came back inside and asked if there’s a way I could go down the tributary so I could take a photo of the bridge. I explained to them that the bridge is reputed to be among the finest Spanish era bridge that’s still in perfect form. Unfortunately, the only way down is through a terrace of a private home at the other end of the bridge.

I asked the Capitana if she could facilitate this but she said the owners of the house would not consent to it at this time. They usually ask for access so they could go down the river to clean it. Whatever the reason was, I decided to just take photos of the bridge from the barrio hall.

Here’s the entry dedicated to Puente de Boac in the book “Puentes de Espana en las Filipinas,” by Manuel Maximo Lopez del Castillo – Noche (I wonder what this guy’s school ID looked like):

“Situated near the Catholic cemetery of Boac in Barangay Murallon, Puente de Boac is a single arched masonry bridge that spans one of the numerous tributaries of the Boac river. The bridge has been modified during the 1930’s, resulting in its road deck, particularly its supporting parapet wall, being finished in a row of concrete balusters. Only upon close inspection of the bridge can its Spanish period origin be evidently seen.

Unfortunately, nothing is mentioned about the bridge aside what little details the construction of the span provides. The bridge is 22.20 meters long with a 4.00 meter wide central arch. The semi-circular arch rises 2.70 meters above the creek and another 1.80 meters to the road deck. The width of the bridge is 6.50 meters with 0.30 meters, additional on both ends for the baluster railing.

The most interesting feature of Puente de Boac are probably its visible voussoir that line the other edge of the bridge’s arch. Compared to other bridges whose arch appears integrated with the overall masonry construction of the bridge, there is a distinct defining of the voussoirs in this bridge as opposed to the spandrel and abutment walls that line its edge. This definition show the distinct process of arch-making and the various elements that make up a sign, with the voussoirs showing the arch’s main structural framework and the spandrels and abutment providing filling and support.”

According to the tourism officer that I met in the province’s capitol, under the bridge are ladder steps that appears to have been used in the past when people traveled the tributary by boat. I’m not sure if the river was navigable before because it is shallow now and it was raining all morning. But I would not be surprised if cascos used to navigate it either.

I observed people pass by Puente de Boac from the barrio hall and wondered if they’re aware that beneath the smooth pavement is a Spanish era bridge. It is believed to be one, and there’s not a lot of them left, of the bridges from that epoch that’s still in excellent condition.

I hope no one from DPWH ever finds out about this bridge.

The barricades (or are these the original baluster?) and concrete were additions made in the 30’s when the bridge was expanded. The original road is where the vegetation, mostly ferns, grows. Above it is cement which what was used to increase its level.

Here’s a better shot. The arch and romanesque form still in fine state. This has to be one of the best extant example of Spanish period bridges. Form and artistic value was considered in making these types of bridges, this defers from the Americans who prioritized function and economy.

Thanks to the barangay chairwoman, the capitana, of Mugallon for the warm accommodation. I later found out that she’s the cousin of that tourism officer I spoke with in the provincial capitol. How rude I am to have forgotten these wonderful peoples names.

Baluarte Ruins of Laylay, Boac

boac, puente de boac, laylay boac, baluarte boac, lantawan boac

Church and people fighting together to fend off Moro plunderers is a story familiar to history students. The Moros had made it their occupation to rob, kidnap and ransack Christian communities (18th and 19th century) that quietly lived along the coasts.

But something good came out of these vicious incursions — it brought Church and people closer together.

The church and her missionaries had been deeply involved in the defense of our towns. Some of the defensive structures they had built can still be found along our coasts. In Cebu for example, the great builder, Fray Bermejo constructed a series of Bantay (watchtower old folks call bantay sa hari) to help secure the coasts against the Moros. Most of these citadels are still there, clinging to dear life, around the coasts of Cebu.

When I heard that such a tower exist in Boac I decided to see it. I knew beforehand that the baluarte or Lantawan (Tagalog for watchtower) between Barrio Laylay and Tabigue is already considered a ruin but I was still surprised by its present condition. A local guide, Nante, told me that the ruins are hard to find during the wet season because copious shrubbery grows around it. And we did encounter this first hand. We went in circles for a time before finding it.

The ruins is located in the Boac river delta, not far from the old port of Boac in Laylay (the new port has been moved to Kawit). Local historian Dindo Asuncion describes it having a, “a vantage location… an open 180 degree view of Marinduque’s western coast and its two-storey stone and mortar structure were visible from the Boac Church belfry.”

“The baluarte easily afforded Boakeños several hours lead time toprepare against any approaching troublemakers coming in from the sea about three kilometers west of the town. The residents maintained a system of messahe relays, consisting of the tambuli (lip blown warning device fashioned from the horns of a carabao) and flags by day, tambuli and torches by night particularly during the summer months where the calm seas were conducive for marauders prowling Tablas strait.”

There’s also a quadrangular small fence, made of quarried corals, which the locals refer to as asinan. While it may have been utilized for salt making long after the raids had stopped, I suspect that it was originally part of the fortification complex that included the baluarte.

While there were cleanup operations in the past (headed by teachers and students) the ruins is not maintained nor protected. In fact, there are noticeable small excavations around the ruins. Possibly by amateur treasure hunters. The main entrance appears to had been recently ploughed making it broader. I plead for the local government to secure the ruins as it is an important historical structure.

The existence of this ruin is widely known especially among the locals. I spoke with the tourism department in the provincial capitol and I was told that they had been including the ruins in their literatures as an added attraction to see. But the trouble is that not only is the ruins not easily accessible, there are no markers and it is not maintained. Without a guide, anyone trying to get to it could get lost during this time of the year.

It is puzzling why such an important historical landmark hasn’t been conferred with the recognition it deserves. I understand that it’s in a secluded area and that our heritage agency could not put historical markers in all historic structures but the consequence of inaction is costly.

The question boils down to: are we going to save this? Or do we just leave it until nature and treasure hunters bring it down.

Just imagine how many lives were saved by this massive watchtower through the years of its service.

I used to work in a building owned by Insular Life, the insurance company founded in Manila. At the ground floor, near the rear exit, there’s a historic marker that was unveiled by then VP Teofisto Guingona.

All I’m saying is that if we could put up historical markers for companies, then what’s stopping us from doing the same for historic places and structures?

A small tributary that could swell up anytime when there’s a downpour. You could walk straight to the other side if the water level is low like this. Otherwise, you’ll need a boat to cross.

The seaside forest shrubs has grown pass the height of a man. This means you have to crouch to get through. Dante here leading the way.

Dante said that he grew up playing here. They call these short but thick walls as “asinan,” I believe that this was part of the fortification the Church and townspeople built to battle the Moros.

After 45 minutes, or maybe more. Signs of the old Lantawan!

It felt like I was in ancient Maya. It was an incredible experience finding the ruins.

I had some bad skin rashes that I believe I got from some of the thorny plants in the area. But you couldn’t see any signs of that discomfort in this photo!

The ruins is located in Laylay. The small chapel of Laylay is a good place to start. I would recommend to pay for a guide this time of the year.

Special thanks to Nante Garnier, an honest tricycle driver who offered his services as a guide. He was surprised that I was willing to go for it alone but he insisted. “Kahit magkano lang iabot mo, baka kasi maligaw ka ser,” he said. And I’m glad I went with him. I was curious about his French sounding name and asked him if he was — of course, he’s not.


lantáwan is the same as tanáwan. These are words that refers to an elevated platform for viewing.

Don Vicente Alfante & the town of Sta. Cruz de Marinduque

lecaroz marinduque, alfante marinduque, sta. cruz marinduque, marinduque

Sta. Cruz have an imposing old church made of red bricks. Firs time I saw it, I knew the old Franciscan missionaries had a hand in its construction. These master builders had an affinity building using red bricks. Right beside it is the impressive old convent and school. It still houses a learning center. The Franciscan infirmary was moved here in the 1600’s from its old location in Pila.

The municipio consists of 50 barrios but with only fifty thousand residents. Its land, mostly forested, have scattered settlements. Like the rest of Marinduque, it’s blessed with scenic coastlines. What sets it apart is that it have three white sand islands off its coasts, all having great tourism potential.

The Lecarozes, well-known local politicians, hails from this town. The most significant ancestral house around here was built by this family in the early 1900’s. The longest serving provincial governor was a Lecaroz who held that office for more than two decades.

Maria Lisa, the present caretaker of the Lecaroz house in Sta. Cruz, claims that the house is in great shape. No structural damage but it did went through some minor repairs in the past. “It would last as long as we want it to be around,” she said. Maria sleeps on the upper floor. The ground floor has been rented out to a hardware shop.

Not far from casa Lecaroz is a much humbler but elegant wooden house built in the late 1920’s by the Alfantes. Its original owner, Don Vicente, passed away in the 1990’s. Leaving the house to his grandchildren.

I sat down and interviewed two of his granddaughter, Catalina, currently a kagawad, and Aurora Jean, a small business owner, named after the wife of President Manuel Quezon.

Their grandfather’s newspaper subscription to Nueva Era, the last Spanish newspaper in the country, kept coming long after his death. Aurora Jean said she wrote the publisher in Manila to have it stopped. My friend and distant relative, Guillermo Gomez Rivera, was the last editor and publisher of this newspaper. It closed shop 10 years ago.

Unlike his Lecaroz cousins, Don Vicente was a modest government employee in Manila—but his time was no ordinary time. He worked as a stenographer and proof reader when the country had an American governor. His name appears in the official roster of the civil service of 1913, along with Sergio Osmena, Manuel Roxas, Pablo Ocampo and Luis Ma. Guerrero. He personally knew most of these men. According to his grand daughters, he attended private parties held by these illustrious Filipinos.

Don Vicente Alfante worked in the Bureau of Forestry and later on for the Senate. But everything about him appears so down-to-earth. After his stint as a government employee, he retired as a farmer.

I then asked for a photo of Don Vicente from her grandchildren. “Oh, better we’ll bring you some of his letters,” they said. This, of course, is more than what I bargained for. I spent the next few hours browsing over his letters written in old Tagalog, Spanish and English. True to his profession as a professional stenographer and proof reader, his mastery of the languages of his time was remarkable. His penmanship was exquisite, his letters, clear and concise.

His letters to his wife were romantic–he was a true gentleman of culture. His messages were moving, it was difficult not to get emotional. In one of the letters he instructs his son, then living in the US, how to properly address his mother in his letters. His was a time when writing letters and sealing envelopes was not only an art but reflection of one’s culture.

Don Vicente’s Spanish letters were more formal. Most were addressed to men in public offices. Thanks to his clear and beautiful penmanship, the letters were all easy to read.

Like men of his generation, he was productive even during his retirement. I found this notebook where he wrote about medicines and healing techniques as practiced by medicos in Manila. He wrote pages dedicated to proper nutrition and diet. Because of the island being far from Manila, Don Vicente recorded these for his community’s benefit.

Stories of Rizal’s civil mindedness in Dapitan comes to mind—Don Vicente had that same spirit.

He also wrote down agricultural methods he sourced from the old Department of Forestry and Agriculture. He had several cows and farming lots. In a letter to the local agriculture agency he asked for permission to slaughter some of his cows and sell its meat to the public. These days, anyone could slaughter anything and sell them.

According to Aurora Jean, he was a very gentle grandfather. Not the kind of mestizo snub we all heard about growing up. He would greet his Licaroz cousins with “hola primo” and cordially converse with them in Spanish. But when he’s upset, they could hear him curse in Spanish! But never did he stay angry for long they said. He was a cerrado catolico. A wide reader and had spent the remainder of his life in the graceful wooden house he built for his family.

He died with his granddaughter, Catalina, beside him. His last words according to her were, “vamos, vamos!”

“Alam namin na dumating na ang mga mahal n’ya sa buhay na matagal ng patay, siguro kaya ganun ang sinabe n’ya, parang nagmamadali na s’ya umalis.”

Whoever they were, they spoke Spanish.

Don Vicente, unheard even in local town history, is the quintessential Filipino. Educated in the old-fashioned Filipino Spanish sense. He was civic minded, religious, a selfless family man who tried to impart everything to his children and grandchildren—sadly, only the house and those letters, remains of his heritage—everything else died with him.

The red brick church of Sta. Cruz. What has become common is the addition of a sheltered front which destroys the architectural appeal of our old churches. These extensions are eyes sores and does not add anything to the existing historical building. This practice must be stopped.

Details of Sta. Cruz’s old church. The retablo is worth viewing up close, the intricate wood carvings the precious santos’s were either made in Laguna or was imported from the overseas. The meter thick walls and center dome are impressive architectural gems.

The old convent and school. Utilized as a school for toddlers these days. There were many ill advised renovations (i.e., use of cement)that took place in the last decades. But overall, the church and town should be commended for allowing the structure to not only remain but used. As I haven’t been able to speak with anyone from the church, I could not verify where the old Franciscan infirmary is (or was) located. It was in the late 1600’s that the retirement house of Spanish Franciscans was transferred in Sta. Cruz from Pila.

The Lecaroz house. A stone throw away from the church. Typical style of old bahay na bato in the province. This house’s ground floor was for stocks, most likely, agricultural produce. But I could not verify if it had been a living quarter all along. The 2nd storey is were the rooms are. The capiz window are intact, the ventanilla are in good order. The floor is made of solid wood. There were also great samples of caladon inside. 

The Alfante house, not far from the Lecaroz, is a two storey house built utilizing mostly wood from the Marinduque forest. It is believe to had been built around the 1920’s. The Alfantes, according to family stories, use to own lots in Malate, near the church.

Writing his wife, from the Senado de Filipinas!

Don Vicente’s notebook containing technical-know-hows in medicine and agriculture. It also have pages dedicated to nutrition and other useful information. He most likely wrote these as reference after he retired.

An interesting authorization letter of a Sta. Cruzin man selling his cows to Dn. Vicente’s wife. The farmers letter is written in the Tagalog, the notario, in Spanish.

With Ms. Aurora Jean Alfante and Catalina Alfante-Mendoza. Behind us is the intricately designed wooden stair of Casa Alfante

The Charming Go House of Mogpog

mogpog, marinduque

A modest but colorful early 1900’s ancestral house in Mogpog

It’s not every day that you meet an individual that’s passionate about their heritage. Majority of the owners of ancestral houses grumbles about the cost of conservation and the absence of government backing. Not the case for Ma’am Marietta Go who looks after their heritage house with much care and attention. Theirs is a charming old house built in the 1930’s.

Ma’am Go runs a small sari-sari store in the house’s ground floor which she says doesn’t deliver much but keeps her busy anyway. She’s a proud mother of a unica hija that studied in Manila and now works for a major TV outfit. She’s married to a popular radio DJ. Her mother would visit them during special occasions in Manila but would “think of home after a while.”

The house, built by her parents has undergone continuous repair but much of the old had been retained. You could still see the original woodwork inside, like the solid daragkalin (literally an entire tree bole) that serves as the foundations of the house. “It is not cheap to maintain, my sibling(s) and I dedicate time and funds to maintain it, the way it was when it was built,” say Ma’am Marietta. It’s not an easy thing to do but her family’s committed.

This love for heritage could be traced from her appreciation of their immigrant ancestors history. “Our ancestors had traveled far to reach this place, imagine what that voyage was like?” Asked if she thinks her daughter and grandchildren would keep the house the way it is, “they will, they appreciate this house, even my son-in-law.”

The Go’s of Mogpog are historically linked to the town’s history. They were business pioneers. According to local stories, they were suppliers of a coconut byproduct, a kind of fiber, used by the the Spanish army.

Ma’am Marrieta told me that her father told her so many stories about their family’s past and his recollection of what the town was like when he was younger.

Ma’am Go and myself

When children are taught to appreciate their heritage they would treasure it for life. They would never part with it. Neither money nor the world could convince them to give it up. For them, toppling their ancestral house down is tantamount to slaying the memory of their ancestors.

I have nothing but admiration for people like Ms. Go and her family. They get it–they understand that for as long as these ancestral houses remains, the past lives on, their ancestors lives on. They’re shining examples of Filipinos who profoundly respects history. They don’t sell out the way others do. Filipinos like them deserves our appreciation and gratitude for sharing with us their heritage—our heritage.


Related article about the town: Moryonan and The Heritage Houses of Mogpog

Moryonan and The Heritage Houses of Mogpog

mogpog marinduque, marinduque, mayor senen livelo, moriones, moryonan

I grew up compiling our family’s old photographs. My Nanay kept them underneath our sala’s table for our guests to see. One particular photograph that fascinated me was a snapshot of my eldest brother posing with a big red flag. It had a drawing of a fuming centurion and the name of B-O-A-C beneath it. I was already in high school when I found out that Boac is a town and that Roman soldier is the symbol of the popular Moriones festival.

I wanted to see where Moriones originated for the longest time. So, I had Boac in mind but when I read that Moriones actually started in an old visita of Boac, now an independent municipality called Mogpog—I had to go there first. The place must have some rich history behind it.

Mogpog is where Balanacan Port is located. The town center is about 30 minutes by jeep from the port. Upon arriving in the town center I headed straight to the municipal hall and asked for information about some of the old houses and families in town. I was greeted by a friendly chap who offered me a tour. We drove for about an hour before I found out that the man was actually the mayor of Mogpog!

Mayor Senen Livelo II knows the town’s history inside and out—like a book. It’s incredibly rare to meet a government official like this gentleman. I knew from the moment he started talking that he’s the right guy to ask questions. He had been reared around the traditions of the Catholic church and so were the children of his generation. This explains why the town has produced prominent Catholic priests. Like Cardinal Vidal, whose ancestral house is situated not far from the mayor’s house.

The area where the mayor’s house stand was the old site where children were trained in caton (Spanish texts used to learn how to read) and music. The mayor could read music and plays several instruments. He told me that he’s trying to find time to write down some of the oldest composition in town for the future local musicians. It was a Livelo who started a band in the early 1900’s. It had grown popular outside Mogpog and was playing to crowds as far as Manila.

The local government has mapped the town and recorded around 110 ancestral houses built in the late 19th century up to the 1950’s. Ludovico Badoy of NHCP (his nephew was once my free provider of NHI printed books!) was pleased to see how this rather remote town has a sundry of heritage houses. Oddly, there’s not one historical marker in town that commemorates the cultural legacy of Mogpog. Luzon Datum, which is a geographic reference point in Balanacan is an NHI marker that commemorates the role of the town in American’s map making efforts in the country.

The mayor brought me to an upland area where the first church was built. Like many old coastal churches in the country, it had been rebuilt and relocated. It is easy to see why the was where the pioneer missionaries built their church. It’s uphill and had a commanding view of the entire town. The modern church of Mogpog today is located about 500 meters from the original site. A former nun, Sister Nelia, from the old Mogpog family of Labao, now lives in the area. Unfortunately she was not home when the Mayor and I dropped by. Inside her house, according to the Mayor, is the old altar and some remnants of the old church. Mogpog observes important Catholic feasts honoring their patron saints. In May, they celebrate the feast of San Isidro, the month of August is for their Virgen del los Remedios.

I was told that the oldest house is in Gitnang Bayan which was recently heavily renovated . Impressive is what locals call Bahay Intsik which was constructed by a Filipino Chinese family whose ancestors reached Mogpog centuries past. I walked around town some more and saw numerous stunning examples of houses whose design are brilliant combination of Spanish and native architectural elements. The mayor told me that it’s a challenge to persuade people to preserve their ancestral houses as they are private properties. He tirelessly talk to his constituents not to renovate or demolish their homes.

According to the Catholic website of Mogpog, there are still “several traditions that are still practiced by the populace to date, such as Moro – Moro, Salubong, Buling-buling, Novicia, Pabasa and Moryon.” The mayor was kind enough to bring me to Sta. Cruz, which was a 30 – 45 minute drive from Mogpog. We passed by some picturesque hillside roads which had parts that was damaged by the recent typhoon. While on the road, the Mayor shared more historical trivia about his beloved town. “Ang buhay ng mga taga-Mogpog noon ay simbahan at musika, edukasyon galing din naman sa simbahan,” connecting the relation and history of the natives and the church. He told me about the oldest traditions in town like, Putong, was originally called Tubong. A devotion that is symbolized by a crown with flowers representing the number of years of a devotee’s panata. Putong in other towns are more of a festive welcome for tourists. Like the old Moryonan, these religious traditions, were acts of atonement and sacrifice in observance of the Christ’s passion.

Patricia Nicholson, an American researcher that stayed in Mogpog and whom the mayor know personally explains the difference between Moryonan and Moriones, “Moriones festivals ar eheld in most towns in Marinduque, and in the island’s capital, Boac, where a stahed performance of the story of the Passion — the senakulo — is a popular attraction, along with many entertainments during the week… Moryonan takes place only in the town of Mogpog. It is the original re-enactment of the legend of Longinus as the celebration of the Passion. It takes place as a series of religious rituals inside the church as well as the streets. The Moryons are not actors, but local people fulfilling a panata, a sacred vow, and the whole community is included in the process.”

Marinduque, a relatively small island, have three distinctive Tagalog accents. Theirs is still old Tagalog, profoundly influenced by religious literature and Spanish. Mayor Livelo believes that their Tagalog is still pure as locals speaks it straight. Surprising is that adapted old Spanish words are still used (like costumbres and fundadores). These are no longer used in other Tagalog provinces. Mogpogueños’s character are mild and courteous which, say the mayor, comes from their religiosity. The municipality is perhaps one of the remaining local governments that prays oratio imperata (regularly every Monday). Mayor Livelo believes that they had been spared from serious damages brought by the super typhoons because of their fervent prayers.

A modest two storey pre WWII house with wooden planks, ventanilla and capiz windows

Cardinal Vidal’s ancestral home along Calle Rizal. The Cardinal’s father is a former provincial treasurer. His mom was a religious educator.

One of the most intricately designed ancestral house which belongs to a Go descendant. Unfortunately, there are visible signs of deterioration on the upper floor and roofing

The impressive Bahay Instik (Chinese House) which does not look like a Chinese house for it is a wonderful example of a bahay-na-bato. The house is utilized to house shops.

Regardless of an old houses condition. you could still see the classic architectural designs that is common in the country in the late 19th century and early 1900’s.

Majority of the houses in Mogpog are great samples of early 1900’s island homes.

This house is said to be the oldest in Mogpog (late 1800’s).

Another 1900’s home along Calle Rizal

This house is located right beside the mayor’s house in Calle Rizal

Some of these mid 1900’s houses are still livable and are in good condition

A unique early 1900 house with a protruding veranda. A prominent judge was said to be the owner.

I was told that this was a bodega. The present owners proudly painted the date  (15 July 1949)when it was completed.

We must continue using our ancestral houses. This one is still occupied.

The present church and the venerated image of Our Lady of Remedies in Mogpog.

Mayor Jojo and myself striking a pose for posterity!


This blogger would appreciate information about the houses that appeared in the site. My intention is to record them here for everyone to see and discover. Mogpog is rich in heritage and by sharing these to both locals and visitors we honor the memory of those who left these priceless remnants of our history behind.

I’m writing a separate article for an interesting interview I had with a descendant of a Filipino-Chinese family about their Mogpog ancestral home. Their house is perhaps the best conserved ancestral house in town.

An American woman, Patricia Nicholson, who stayed in Mogpog wrote her thesis “Change and continuity of Moryonan in the context of Tourism : a case study of culture process in Marinduque, Philippines”. She stayed in town (for one year in the mid 1990’s) and according to the mayor has amassed a wealth of historical finds during her stay.  Her blog (click here) about the town provides some important historical infos.

Big shout out to Mayor Jojo Livelo Jr. for playing host cum tour guide. The humblest public official I’ve ever met — and a good historian, too. To his driver Rafael — salamat!

And to the welcoming manangs in the public market who supplied me with cheap but nourishing food!

Related blog: The Charming Go House in Mogpog

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