Category Archives: Tayabas-Quezon

Calle Granja Stays in Lucena!

I posted this update on the blog’s fan page earlier. What a relief that we not only have sensible people in NCHP but more important is that they’re historically sensitive decision makers too. We have lost so much of our tangible heritage that we have to stand up to protect what remains — and there’s not a lot of them standing. But it’s not only the old buildings, churches, houses and bridges that are being removed in the name of progress, even our intangible heritage like the names of the streets our grandparents grew up on are being recklessly removed.

The thing that we have to be on a look out for is that when politicians actively seek changing a place’s name he does so with an agenda, maybe personal but most likely political.

There are new land developments in Lucena and it would be easier to name a new street Felix Manalo but that wouldn’t have any political impact. It would be not as impressive as naming the portion of the street that leads to the INC compound under their founder’s name. The politician’s that are pushing for the change tries to convince, I think themselves because no one would take their word, that they’re not doing this to win any political favors. Well, that’s like religiously betting on a horse and saying that you careless if it wins the race.

Fact is that INC’s block voting appeals to politicians. It’s not their fault that they’re united when making such decisions but they, intentionally or unintentionally, influence politicians in the process. Block votes are like a delectable dish our power hungry politicians could not resist.

Here in Muntinlupa it is said that the INC’s decision to pull out their support from the past mayor was the reason he loss. Many believe that they’re the swing vote in that very tight mayoralty race. So it’s understandable that the present mayor would send his traffic enforcers to INC churches when they have services. Not so much to assure that traffic flows nicely but to ensure that the vehicles that goes to the church are prioritize. They realize that those people stuck in traffic won’t vote as one come elections time but the INC folks will — and that’s good enough reason to suck up to that religion’s leadership.

To prove my point, go to the city hall now and you’ll see large banners congratulating this religious group’s 100 years of founding. They’re the only religion that gets such attention. No other religion does–at least here where I have lived for two decades now. Catholics don’t get giant tarpaulins congratulating them for a new Pope — that would be unheard off, silly even, to these local politicians.

I hope this NCHP decision sets the precedence. No politician or group should be allowed to enact changing a name of a historical place. Here’s hoping that legislation be made on banning changing the names of our streets and towns. Such changes not only confuses the people but erases history and ultimately desensitize our memory from the importance of our past as a people.



About the Siege of Baler

Manuel L. Quezon’s remarkable rise in Filipino politics and the siege of Baler are two events that placed Baler in national attention. This Tayabas (now Aurora’s capitol) town was once an isolated settlement. It didn’t have a port. By land, it can be accessed through trails that had been carved  into East Luzon’s mountainous landscape approximately 300 kilometers east of Manila. I’ve never seen the coastal town famous for its surfing until this year.

Up and ready for a dawn rosary prayer. The Older Baler generation are devout Catholics like their ancestors who were indoctrinated to Catholicism by the first Franciscan missions.

The siege of Baler is among my favorite subject in Filipino historiography. The town was the  last bastion of the Spanish empire. But the siege, I think, was important for us Filipinos because the incident exemplified that we were more civilized than the Americans gives us credit for. Aguinaldo’s safe conduct pass for the  cazadores, ensuring that the Spaniards are treated like “amigos” and not enemies, speaks great volume of the character of the Filipino leadership. The young president’s executive order became the basis of Ed Angara’s Philippine Spanish Friendship Day.

The cazadores didn’t know that they will be the last Spaniards ever to surrender in the islands. These guys believed the war was still on and so they stubbornly held their ground until an old newspaper finally convinced the last Spanish captain that the sun has finally set on the Spanish Empire. Most Cazadores were from poor families, drafted to fight a war no one else didn’t want to wage. Their courage and gallantry became legendary back in their homeland. An old Spanish film directed by Antonio Román called “Las Ultimos Filipinos” was based on a radio drama script and  two novels, “El Fuerte de Baler” andLos Héroes de Baler”. Recently, a Filipino movie was created with the siege as the background of the love story. There was no Filipino in the unit, Rosales’ character was not based on any of the soldiers.

The church was smaller than I expected. There was no way soldiers survived more than 300 days with out support from the outside. Locals told me that their ancestors speak of how they helped the soldiers because of pity. We are a forgiving lot and it appears that Baler natives had forgiven the Spaniards even when they were still waging war. If it this was in any other nation, the Spaniards in Baler would have been dragged like animals in the streets and executed. But our Christian society, which the Spanish religious bequeathed us, even in war, does not tolerate such behavior.

The people then, according to locals now, was worried more about ridding the church of the Spanish soldiers so they could attend church than the actual battle. The Americans, understanding the symbolic significance of the Spaniards surrendering to them sent a rescue party but was annihilated by the Katipuneros. The Spaniards in the Philippines preferred to surrender to the Filipinos than the Americans. This could be coincidence but in Baler and Iloilo, the last Filipino towns under Spanish rule, both were surrendered to Filipinos.

Some facts about the Siege:

The treaty of Biak na Bato cut the Spanish forces in Baler from 400 to 50 men.

Capitan de las Morenas fearing an attack from the Katipuneros decided to move his men to the church.

Colonel Calixto Villacorta, receiving the word that the Spaniards was not surrendering used canons. It damaged but failed to topple the church.

Most soldiers died from beri-beri including two commanders. Other cause of deaths were bullet wounds, dysentery and execution. Hours before the surrender two soldiers were executed for treason.

There’s a map in the museum that shows where the soldiers were buried inside the church.

The rescue party the Americans sent to relieve the Spaniards was ambushed by Filipinos and its commander, James Gilmore, held prisoner for almost 8 months. Making Baler one of the only few towns that won battles against Spanish and Americans.

An old newspaper left by Spanish emissaries, containing the wedding announcement of an old colleague convinced the last Spanish commander that the war is over. Before this he doubted Spanish, Filipino and religious representatives (even a letter from the last Governor General). His discovery of the short article about his friend’s wedding and his relocation (which no Filipino or collaborator could have possibly known) finally convinced him to surrender.

The dress of Ann Curtis and Jerico Rosales were donated by the producer to the town’s Museum along with the awards the movie “Baler” won.

Crossing a River in Baler

I just love engaging locals in conversations. I learn the most from them. This is why for me, there’s no better way to travel but to do it like a local do. While its comfortable to rent vehicles and stay in comfortable resorts, it keeps you away from the real world – the one that locals had to live with and work around.

While I was in Baler, I learned that the local government tried (I think they’re still at it) to construct a bridge that would connect Sabang to the fishing barrio where Ermita hill is located. Their efforts of building that bridge had all failed. Wasting money and resources that the province don’t have (still locals find humor in this “kapalpakan” of their officials). There’s  a bridge farther upstream where people with cars and rented vehicles (often tricycles for two hundred bucks or more) pass. The only reason tourist cross this river is to visit the site called Ermita Hill.

I found out from locals that it would only cost P5 to cross the river by a small wooden boat (paddled like a Venetian gondola) that can carry 4 to 6 people. So I walked from my place to the area where I can catch that five peso boat ride. There I saw some craftsman working on traditional fishing boats. There was some gambling going on as it was a Sunday.

The river is about 500 meters wide and since it rained hard the previous night, the water was murky and flowing a bit strong towards the bay (less than a kilometer from where we are crossing).

Still trying to write about that 3 day stay in Baler. What a great town. I heard that the town got battered by the recent typhoon(s). My prayers are with you Baler.

The Very Noble Tayabas

I was once invited to attend a wedding in Tayabas, Quezon but had to decline because of other personal commitments. But since then, I’ve always thought of going to that historic town which is one of only eight villas during the Spanish era. Being one of the centers of evangelization, Tayabas grew into a prosperous and important town endowed with the most amazing colonial structures. When I finally went there last October, I looked for its fabled arched bridges but found more than what I was looking for. Tayabas is one of those towns that you have to walk around, soak in its delightful rustic atmosphere, and hear stories from locals about their town’s past especially if you are a history buff. Although not as well preserved and impressive like its sister villas such as Vigan and Pila, it is a pleasant old town with historic buildings possessing its own natural beauty. There are still many superb walks around La Muy Noble Villa de Tayabas.

Roughly two kilometers away from Sariaya, Quezon, the main road (Mahárlika Highway) to Tayabas forks left if you’re coming from Manila. Its importance to the Spanish authorities was manifested when the capitolio of the whole province of Tayabas (now known as Quezon province) was transferred from the town of Unisan (formerly known as Calilayan) to Tayabas town. I was surprised that this town is now a city even with less than a hundred thousand residents and with its rural facets still intact. For a city, Tayabas is well-provided with countryside resorts, but I haven’t tried them yet (I could imagine that they can provide a nice place for special occasions particularly during the summer months). When Franciscan founders Fray Juan de Plasencia and Fray Diego de Oropesa first arrived at the place, they followed rocky trails leading to what they heard was already a populous settlement. But as always the case, the population was scattered and disorganized. Catholicism was the uniting force which created a cohesive and compact community. Thus, these Christian missions later became towns (in a process called reducción a pueblo. In the case of Tayabas, it became more than a town. It became a villa, an honor it shares with Madrid, Spain and other Filipino villas during that time.

This is what many people, including some historians, don’t recognize. Many still have the illusion that things would have been different without the intervention of these missionaries. We should understand and consider that during that glorious epoch, there were a series of colonial conquests going around the Pacific and the Americas. God so happened to place our islands in a strategic location, at the very gates of the Orient; it would be unimaginable for the shipping powers of the world not to take notice of it. We were in the middle of these historical shifts, the West meeting the East. We should not just ignore these peculiarities especially since most of us are still steadfast to the religion of the West’s reyes católicos. What we should reassess is how our ancestors made their culture theirs as well. There is nothing we can do to undo what our ancestors acquired from these historic clashes and meetings. We should instead celebrate the outcome of this merger because what came out of it is us, the Filipino.

I read that among the most excellent examples of arched bridges ever built in the country can be found here. Such is the case of the spectacular Malagonlong, a centuries-old arch type bridge built during the mid-1800s. It never fails to astonish first-time visitors with its durability, design, stability, geometry — our ancestors constructed Malagonlong as well as other magnificent bridges employing techniques that were years ahead of its time! Such bridges that were built during Spanish times would have been the pride of other countries if they were only built there. And during that time, our Asian neighbors were still making timber bridges, but here we are, already duplicating what is being accomplished in Europe. It is unfortunate, however, that some view this architectural masterpieces as nothing but colonial accomplishments and not Filipino milestones. It is but a terrible error for our history books to declare these structures as products of an enslaved people. Fortunately, as a form of recompense, a historical marker was unveiled by the National Historical Institute (NHI) headed by its current chairman, Ambeth Ocampo, finally marking its importance to Filipino architectural heritage.

Malagonlong historic marker

There are other bridges in Tayabas that are definitely worth visiting such as the Mate bridge which is the main bridge going to Maúban, Quezon during the colonial years. It was built around the same time as Malagonlong, and is now obscured by thick vegetation. The other bridge is Lakawan which was, sadly, demolished to give way to a new one. There was another one that I forgot to look at, but I believe I passed by this bridge several times: the Puente Isabel III which crosses Río Iyam. This has been repaired during the American era and is still the primary bridge to nearby Lucena City. Looking at the recent available images, it no longer bears any trace of its original construction. This bridge was originally constructed in the mid-1800’s.

It is a sad fact that the majority of colonial bridges not only in Tayabas but in the whole country have been neglected, if not threatened with future destruction.

I remember the Cavenaugh bridge in Singapore which, up to know, still stands, superbly preserved and restored by its government. It is located in the heart of the island country’s financial district. I also find it fascinating that instead of demolishing it to build a new one, the Singaporeans decided to leave it alone and build their modern bridges around it. The bridge is basically a footbridge, a busy one as it links two important districts in the Quay area. It amazingly survived the Japanese occupation. An amusing old metal board located at the foot of the bridge warns people against crossing the bridge with their cows and horses. Rizal even wrote about this suspended bridge in his journal.

I just wonder when we will ever start to notice the importance of our heritage structures. From what I’ve seen so far, we are so detached and disinterested; we don’t seem to have the heart to care for these relics. In a way, this goes back to how we are taught to “appreciate” Filipino history.

The rain has restricted me to roam freely in the glorious calles and barrios of Tayabas. I came early but had to spend a lot of time in the shade because of the October rain; it was like that the whole time during my stroll there. Adding to my frustration was when I went to the famed Casa Comunidad de Tayabas, it was closed. I heard that the NHI made attempts on restoring the former tribunal. It is where the controversial Hermano Pule (Apolinario de la Cruz) was sentenced to death in 1841 after he was found guilty of instigating a mutiny based on his own spiritual convictions. Referred to as “ang símbolo ng Tayabas”, this splendid executive edifice was constructed utilizing community funds from the once prosperous town called La Muy Noble Villa de Tayabas. One could only imagine how Tayabeño life in those days must have been. The town naturally was a showcase of the colonial state, and it has called the attention of many illustrious Castilas like Don Enrique de Borbón, a descendant of King Philip who once stayed in Tayabas as a regal executive.

Not far from the Casa Comunidad is the elegant Minor Basílica of St. Michael. Shaped like an old key, the church of Tayabas, once repaired by a Franciscan saint, has been around for hundreds of years. Its old age is already showing as there are obvious signs of deterioration on its wooden materials. Nevertheless, one could just imagine this church’s history and its deep connection to the early natives just by observing the attachment and pride that Tayabeños still have for it. It comes as no surprise that Tayabas locals consider the church as the most grand, the most beautiful, in the whole province of Tayabas/Quezon. The legend of its gold and other veiled possessions has aroused the curiosity of many thieves. The church clock located in its campaneria is the oldest in Asia.

Just like their forefathers, Tayabeño life starts and ends inside this most magnificent example of Filipino architecture. The religion has remained strong throughout the centuries, and this can be gleaned through the Tayabas way of life as well as its surrounding cultural landscape. It has touched every aspect of Tayabeño life. While I was inside, a mass was being held in respect for a departed Tayabeño; there were two other deceased, and their respective families were waiting in line. It was a busy day praying for the dearly departed.

A local tourist guide from the municipal office who was with a group of students that were rappelling down the new bridge opposite the picturesque old Franciscan bridge of Malagonlong told me that their church has been the victim of numerous pilfering. He recounts that it had upset the people because it was just incomprehensible that someone would loot a holy place. Now, reality has set in that burglars would care less if it is a church or a convent that they are desecrating. They have security personnel now in place but damage has been done. I tried to speak with the local priest, a certain Padre Antonio. He was a very cordial gentleman, articulate, and at the time of my visit he was in the middle of a meeting. It was perfect timing because he was with a group of enthusiastic people making plans of organizing a parochial museum that would showcase some of the Church’s antiquities. After sometime observing them, I had to excuse myself because I wanted to continue my Tayabas walk.

The plaza near the town hall has some historical markers. What I found odd are the caged monkeys near the official town hall (no, I’m not referring to its local politicians). Whatever happened to natural conservation? These animals are being taunted by naughty children who, naturally, do not know that they were hurting the poor monkeys. It was not a pleasant experience. They should be freed, all of them.

To cap it all, I had a great time seeing Tayabas firsthand. It is not only a wonderful place for heritage-loving tourists but also to those who want to see nature at its very best. Rivers are still flowing graciously, and in some parts even pristine. I found anglers along its banks, indicating that the waters are still teeming with fish (although there were already signs of pollution due to impending urban activities).

With sufficient interest and appreciation towards Philippine history and culture, one could fill in an enjoyable and worthwhile visit to this once glorious and “Very Noble Borough of Tayabas”.

Uni Sancti: Unisan Visit

Ricefields and coastal scenes of Unisan

The thing that I remember most about my visit to Unisan, Quezon early this year was seeing how the old town is beginning to look increasingly deprived and lost. I should be writing something nice (the hospitality that Familia Evora-Alas extended has been nothing but a pleasure) for the town still have that old Filipino spirit, the one that you normally see in provincial towns. But its sad state just won’t make me do it.

It’s not new that most of the ancestral houses these days of old Filipino families are gone. We have been very good at tearing them down, anyway. Some still lie in rubbles which are really painful to see for someone like me. The first bahay na bató (Antillean house) in Unisan, the Maxino house (said to be haunted because the family members of the original owner were massacred in the 19th century), was salvaged by the God-sent group of Architect Jerry Acúzar in Bataán. The house was praised for being one of the most elegant casas in the country. Although the house rests outside its home province now, at least it still exists somewhere which is better because not all Antillean houses are as lucky.

There really is nothing new in seeing the old removed as this has been a common experience for me. What bothers me more these days is that, all too often, neglect is becoming an increasing problem in the Filipino society. Our attitude towards these heritage structures mirrors that. In Quezon, there is illegal logging but you don’t hear people crying about getting rid of it. For some reason, all of these are accepted occurrences. Life goes on as usual.

A friend of ours, San Pedro, La Laguna Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, whose great grandfather was once the town chief of Unisan, frequently visits the said town and stays with the Alas clan. Speaking of politicians, the town’s congressman, who made a name for himself after proudly announcing to the world that it was he who paid for Arroyo’s multimillion dinner in New York sometime last year, built a castle-like mansion that sits next to some of the most poorest people in that town. These seashore villagers defecate and clean themselves in the surf where their small fishing bancas are docked close to what appears to be the solon’s yacht. There can be no higher contrast in Filipino social order –the filthy rich living side by side with the poorest of the poor — you’ll see this here in Unisan. And yet, just a couple of days ago, the owner admitted hosting a sumptuous million peso meal to politician friends.

But this is our society today: we complain about our past, how the colonialists corrupted it. But as days and years roll by, we only manage to sink deeper and deeper — and that hated past seems to get brighter and brighter. Our society undeniably is more corrupt than ever. But we don’t seem to mind this as we carry on putting old time crooked politicians from old elitist clans in the helm again and again. I’m quite certain that a few years from now, after electing these crooks, we will still be demanding change. But once we have achieved it (or get fooled into believing that we have finally achieved it), we’ll slide back not to where we once were but in a much worst position. Well, it is fun, isn’t it?

The Alas' coastal rest house.

As Pepe and I were taking pictures of what remains of vintage Unisan, we got apprehended by the provincial police and were detained for about two hours. No violence was committed against us by the police who were just paranoid about the recent communist incursion. They have a reason to be anxious because the communists have just raided a neighboring barrio, murdering some of their colleagues. My friend, sporting his peculiar rocker-slash-pro-wrestling style, probably did appear to be an insurgent to them. I was waiting for the good-cop, bad-cop thing, for them to bring the whoop ass to him but it never did happen. They were surprisingly polite. My friend’s family is well-known in Unisan; the current mayor was actually an uncle of his. Perhaps that was a good deterrent for police cruelty but Pepe have had bad history with the local police. The police station, if I’m not mistaken, was a dispensary during the American years. Unfortunately, the police barred me from taking pictures of it. It had rooms that appeared to have served as bed quarters. I wanted to reach the old bridge, visible near the Alas residence, that was said to be destroyed during the Japanese Occupation, but we ran out of time because of what happened.

One house here was said to have been fitted with materials that came all the way from Europe. Now, you start to wonder how rich Unisan was and how its residents lived. And the case is the same with most towns all over the country during the Spanish era: affluent and sophisticated families were products of what were then prosperous provincial societies. They once dominated everything there is about the community. These families, whose ancestors will be immortalized by the lapidas you now see inside old yglesias, are testaments of what Filipino life was once like. It is sad that we often hear people talk down on how this period in Philippine history is nothing more but Spanish history in the Philippines…

Unisan's church marker near the peeing area of the sports complex

Another interesting edifice in town was the church that looks more like a contemporary chapel in a new housing development. Aside from the stone marker, placed near an obnoxious corner, reminding people of its founding, it has no trace of history and tradition. The church, a Franciscan mission, was completely renovated losing its historic charm that makes our churches unique. We went up to the campanaria and saw a magnificent vista of the coastal town.

After going around town taking photos of its ancestral houses, we later decided to visit one of Unisan’s caves called Bonifacio Cave. It is located about two to three kilometers from the town proper. We were waiting for one of Pepe’s cousins to take us there. We decided to buy some refreshments when we spoke to the old tindero who knew Pepe’s grandfather. He later offered his tricycle to bring us to the Bonifacio cave when my friend’s cousin failed to arrive on the designated time. It is true what they say about our old barrios: everyone knows everybody. Unisan was once a tightly knit society, I was told, and I believe to a certain extent it still is (just like in other provincial towns in the Philippines).

We never really went deep inside the cave as we were ill-equipped to do so. We’re not really spelunkers, but the experience was fun. Sadly, there were some signs of vandalism and garbage. If only the local government could conserve this precious cave, it will definitely be an exciting attraction for Unisan’s tourists. I’m not sure if the local government is interested in tourism. Never really felt they were. But it is never too late to start. Those picturesque stone houses, the warmth of the people, cultural heritage, and the natural attractions –- these are all ingredients of a Filipino tourist spot. But it takes vision and constructive creativity to achieve that, something that is lacking these days among our leaders.

Unisan, its history and natural beauty, made the trip worth it (I think 5 hours) — even if many of the things I saw did not appeal to me much, the dirty seashore, poverty and sorry state of some of the old houses, I have to admit that I felt relaxed and inspired by Unisan’s bucolic and serene life.

more photos of this trip here


Governor Natalio Enriquez Ancestral House This eye-catching and brick-roofed Sariaya landmark near the church, is an Art Deco style house designed by European schooled architect Andres Luna de San Pedro, the son of artist Juan Luna. It was built in 1931 by erstwhile Tayabas Provincial Governor Natalio Enriquez (1941 – 1945) and his wife Susana Gala. A venue for fabulous social gatherings in pre war Sariaya, it hosted the grand reception during the 1938 wedding of their daughter Alicia to Manuel Gala where Philippine Commonwealth First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon served as principal sponsor. It was declared by the National Historical Institute as a Heritage House on May 14, 2008.

Sariaya’s richest and prominent citizens left behind grand houses for us to celebrate and be proud of. Most were built during the height of its economic progress brought by the copra business. The descendants that preserved the grand old houses must be congratulated for not surrendering to greed. Its architectural and historic importance has drawn many tourist, students and admirers – which is not a surprise at all since you wouldn’t see houses like the ones you’ll find here anywhere else.

Historical markers were recently installed on the houses of the prominent families. I don’t know much about the families of Sariaya but I’m sure their stories is as interesting and valuable as the house they left behind. I’m fascinated at how most of the old structures are preserved. I walked away from the town center, heading towards the bay and saw several bahay na bato that are still stable and occupied. These level of awareness is getting rarer and rarer that I fear one day I’ll wake up being surrounded only by houses made of steel, glasses and plastic.

The best and the brightest builders and planners were employed by the propertied families of Sariaya. Nakpil designed the tisa roofed Rodriguez house while Luna San Pedro, son of Juan Luna, designed Governor Enriquez’s majestic abode. These two are giants in the Filipino architectural world. The presence of their work here gives us an idea of the level of sophistication and elegance of old Sariaya.

The town hall of Sariaya is an Art Deco, perhaps the only one of its kind. Art Deco is one of the most influential design movements of the 20th Century.

The municipio looked strange, colorful and familiar. It could very well be the only town hall built following the Art Deco style. I’m not really a fan of this particular design but it’s imperative that we retain them for structures and buildings represent the different strata of our history.

Just imagine how life was way back in those days when the town held dances, fiestas and celebrations in the town center (fronting the municipio) – they even had this dance ball called “comprasas” during Valentine’s Day. It’s their version of match making. It’s a fascinating event that even men from as far as Manila would go to Sariaya’s Rizal park, putting on their best dance steps. The competition must’ve been really tough. After all, future sweethearts is at stake!

The church of Sariaya is of elegant baroque style. Recently it has gone through major restoration. The original was said to have been built close to the shore but was later moved because of frequent pirate attacks. A strategy that was also employed in the Visayan Catholic communities as response to the slave raiders. A popular devotion in this beautiful white church is the Sto. Cristo, a replica of the crucifix in Burgos, Spain. Sto. Cristo de Burgos is the centerpiece of the church and rightly so – for it help shaped the religious culture of this most beautiful and wonderful town of Sariaya.

Don Catalino Rodriguez Ancestral House The third NHI-declared Heritage House in Sariaya, it was renovated sometime in the year 1922 and owned by Don Catalino Rodriguez, Sariaya’s town Presidente (Mayor during the American occupation period) from 1908-1909. This fenceless, almost block long residence with its main entrance facing south along Calle Daliz is likewise bounded by Calle Rizal on the west and Quezon Avenue (formerly Calle Talavera) on the east. Among its features are colorful stained glass windows, a big veranda facing east, a straight grand flight of wooden stairs, a beautiful high ceiling with intricately-designed lattices, a spacious grand living room, European and American fixtures in the bathroom and the kitchen and beautiful wall paintings.

Julianito Rodriguez House This brick-roofed, thick-walled, pink-colored, three storey house once owned by Mr. Julianito Rodriguez and his wife Rosie Gala is a comprehensive renovation of a circa 1920s residence of erstwhile Tayabas Provincial Governor Maximo Rodriguez that burned in 1944. He and wife Martinita Gala were the principal sponsors of Manuel Luis Quezon and wife Aurora Aragon during their wedding in Hong Kong, and their house was where President Quezon used to stay whenever he visited Sariaya in the old days.

Enriquez – Gala House This big house is owned by Atty. Librado Enriquez and his wife Josefina Gala which was built to replace a much older residence that burned in the Japanese-started great fire of 1944. Among its features are an arched roofed – entrance topped by a curved veranda, a silo-like outside wall with small windows where a curving flight of stairs inside leads to the second floor of the house as well as three cathedral-type arched side doors with Corinthian style column embellishments that open to the garden topped by another veranda upstairs held by the curving crowns of ionic columns.

One of the historical landmarks of the town is the St. Francis of Assisi Church, which was built in 1748 (Find out more about this in the narratives of the historical marker photo). The highway slices thru the town proper and the church is not easy to miss on the left side. There are times of the day though that traffic is rerouted in front of the church. When you are facing Lucena-bound, you may be directed to take a side road to the right. In that case, find your way back to the highway after a few corners and you may enter the churchyard’s gate when you are facing Manila-bound. The church houses the Sto. Cristo de Burgos image which is more popular than the acknowledged patron saint St. Francis of Assisi, as the former was believed to be miraculous and visited by pilgrims from far away places. If you are the kind who do not believe in miracles, then try the native delicacies peddled near the gate at unbelievably low prices. The church’s historical marker states that the earthquakes and floods of 1743 destroyed the church and caused the transfer to the present site. However, an article by Bambi L. Harper (Sense & Sensibility, Phil Daily Inquirer 08/13/02) quoting a letter from Eric Dedace (of Sariaya Quadri-Centennial Fdtn) narrates that “…folk legend handed over for more than 259 years now had it that after the 1743 earthquake, the pillaging Moros (native Muslimscame and once again burned the church and the town and the people fled to Mount Banahaw’s slopes. Returning… the survivors found the Cristo de Burgos still intact amid the charred ruins, which they regarded as a miracle… it was wrapped in white cloth and carried by able-bodied men northwards to higher ground. After resting for a while, the men folk tried to lift the icon to resume their journey but it became too heavy to carry so the people took it as a sign that the new church should be built at that very spot and so Sariaya came to being amidst another ‘miracle’ which they say continues to this day. The prior part of the same letter mentions about the lake in Mt. Banahaw that collapsed due to the earthquake, causing the flood and the destruction of the church and the town. These accounts could be consolidated if we would say that after the earthquake with accompanying flood, pirates attacked and burned the church (which survived the earthquake and flood, otherwise there is nothing to burn). This prompted the townsfolk to build a new church at the present site, in effect transferring the town. Hence, the former location is now called Lumangbayan (Oldtown).

Remnants of a Spanish speaking populace

Viva Sr. Sto. Cristo

Simple yet elegant.

Even the simplest, is an affirmation of a sophisticated taste and lifestyle.

An old structure, now a school.

Pink house.

In the midst of modern progress-the old struggles to coexist with the new.

An old house converted into a gospel house.

A typical bahay na bato model that could be found around the islands.


* Photo captions for the first five photo by Eric J Dedace of SFCF

** All photos by Arnaldo

Sr. Rodolfo Cataquiz 1917-2009

I was informed by my friend that the father of another friend, Calex, had passed away. It’s sad that often in life we come across deaths, a love one, a friend or just someone we happen to know. The shadow of death reminds us of life’s brittle thread.

I know a lot about the history of Calex’s family because we (with Pepe) were once employed by the current San Pedro chief to do some writing and research for him. I’ll never forget how animated and pleased he was whenever we would talk about his father. Calex has a million and one stories to tell about his Papa. He was very proud of how his Father succeeded in a life full of hardships, it was truly an inspiring rags to riches tale. We initially wanted to speak to the elder Cataquiz then but were told that he was already weak. In the end, what his son had told us about him, was more than what we needed, his achievements in life was testimony of a life well lived.

Pepe wrote an article about Sr. Rodolfo.

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