Tag Archives: Ilocanos

Books, Books, Books: Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir)

I just finished reading Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir) and I thought it was a book deserving of being blogged about. I know that there are people who hates what he represents but I would call even them to give it a chance.

I have the Kindle version which is 19.00 USD. Not cheap but since I am overseas I’ve been ordering Philippine published books available on Kindle when I have spare cash to spend. Reading them makes me feel right at home—albeit only in the mind.

Enrile’s book is an important memoir, if you don’t believe that, well, ask ex-President PNOY. He attended the book lunch four years ago, along with Imelda!

The history buff that I am relished the parts where Manong Johnny wrote about his childhood in that isolated bucolic barrio of Gonzaga in old Cagayan. His notes on how people behaved back in the day were charming snippets of the Filipinos old way of life.

I am aware of the criticism leveled against Enrile’s memoir. Some say it reeks of lies. Case in point was the “ambush” story which Gen. Montaño, the PC chief then who investigated the incident, already said was bogus.

In the first chapters, Enrile recounted the story of his father, his childhood, his old town and his beloved mother. Her only surviving photo I read prominently hangs in his posh Makati home. He looks more like his mother than his mestizo father. She sent him in several occasions to school by asking whoever was administering the school to charge them nothing in exchange for little Juanito running errands for them.

Enrile recounts in his book how he changed his mind from having no desire to become a lawyer (his father’s a popular lawyer, cousin of Mariano Ponce) to devoting himself to become one. The famous story of boys stabbing him with blades because of jealousy I have heard before but reading his accounts provided more details. The attackers were scions of Cagayan elites. They were never charged and remained regular students, while the young Enrile was expelled for causing trouble. Imagine if this injustice never happened, the man would have been an engineer we probably would never heard of.

An interesting account from the book was when Enrile was imprisoned by the Japanese. He shared a small dark space with a man he would later discover to be a Spanish tobacco trader. He spoke with the man in Spanish. He explains that while his Spanish was not perfect, he learned the language from his mother who spoke it with his grandparents. They were fluent speakers. My distant relative, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, whom Enrile represented in the past told me that the man speaks Spanish.

Rene Saguisag, one of the few lawyer that I admire, in a recent podcast interview with Martin Andanar (now PCOO secretary) said that our experiences during the war had a lot to do with corruption. I read the same observation from Director Erik Matti, who I heard was making a film about it. This same observation was echoed by several WWII survivors I’ve had the chance to meet. Not to blame past experiences for our present predicament but it’s an interesting subject to say the least.

My father’s stories about how Filipino guerrillas, in guise of fighting the Japanese, cruelly raped women and ransacked houses I thought were isolated incidents. He’s from Negros, Enrile’s from Cagayan and yet they have familiar stories. The former Senator recalls how bandits, after looting the houses in Gonzaga, brought him and his friend to the seashore. The abductors then asked them to dig their own graves. Enrile begged for his life from the group’s leader. He mentioned to him that his brother is a soldier fighting in Bataan. Upon hearing this he freed them. Turns out that this bandit trained along with his brother in the army reserves.

Unfortunately, my Father’s uncle in San Carlos was not spared by the guerrillas. Like Enrile, he was made to dig up his own grave but his fate was different. He was buried in that hole he burrowed.

The other book that I had the chance to read was “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” by Aries Rufo.

It’s an interesting book that most Filipino Catholics should read. The work of Rufo reminds us that even prelates are susceptible to sin. They’re human beings like you and me.

Rufo wrote about the once popular Bishop Yalung, a Cardinal Sin protege. He was later defrocked because of alleged romantic relations with a couple of parishioners. He came from the parish where I took up Catechism, The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Antonio Makati. The same parish where I would see the Binays attend Sunday mass regularly.

Could  you imagine the Church having a fund for illegitimate children of priests? It’s hard to believe but this exists.

The last time I visited this church was when I attended the wedding of a friend. He met his wife in the software company where I was a supervisor. I hired the guy and has become friends with the two. They’re both very good people and now they have a happy little toddler, a cutey named Liz!

Not all men who wears the cassock lives holy lives. But I have met great priests in my life; like the Servites in Muntinlupa, all selfless missionaries of the Lord. They’re great inspiration to young Catholics like myself. I’m inclined to believe that most are true servants but there are exceptions, of course, and this is what “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” is all about.


The Augustinian Church of Paoay

The Iconic facade that to this day remains as mysterious as ever. According to experts, the church was designed based on different architectural approach. They indicated that one of the influences for the form came from the Buddhist style.

I’m a big kid myself but just look at how this bell tower dwarfs me like an ant!

I’ve been wanting to see this church for a long, long time not only because I’ve read so much about it but I’ve been intrigued by its unusual form ever since I first saw a picture of it. I hardly ever get to visit this part of the country (this being only the second time). The first time, I missed the chance to see Paoay. I was in Laoag then, went to Vigan and on that same day, went back to Laoag to catch the flight back to Manila. I run out of time and skipped Paoay. This time I made sure I have enough time to wander around like a zombie in a resident evil movie.

Paoay brings to mind men like Valentín Díaz, one of the original founders of Katipunan, signatoree of the Pact of the Biak na Bato. A native Paoayeño. And of course, Marcos, who according to Homobono Adaza, instructed the US military men commanding the helicopter he and his family boarded to transport them to Paoay. Site of his grand “Malacanang ti Amianan” residence constructed along the shore of the town’s great lake. The tall story was that the pilots misheard Marcos and brought them, not to Paoay, but Hawaii. Obviously, a joke, but there could be some truth to the story because it’s probable that Marcos demanded to be brought to Ilocos instead. To this day, Marcos’s children asserts that they were abducted and was taken out of the country without their approval. “Kidnapped” according to Marcos Jr, who’s now a senator of the republic. It is said that Cory was consulted if the Marcos could stay in the country. Fearing the dictator could muster a come back , as he was still widely popular especially among his fellow Ilocanos. Madam Corazon refused to allow it.

There’s plenty of attraction in Paoay. You have the sand dunes. Of course, the Marcos residence, now a museum. The lake, that according to legends used to be a thriving community before it was flooded by the heavens. But the town’s eternally known and associated with an Augustinian creation, appropriately named after their Order’s patron saint- the San Agustin church – the single greatest symbol of Paoay and its people.

The upper portion of the facade

In the book “Angels in Stone”, Padre Galende describes the church as possessing “the most striking examples of religious architecture in the Ilocos and perhaps in the whole country”. Its uniqueness and eccentric design has drawn many tourist to its doors. Some, curious of its figure and are just excited to look and touch it. Others, to have their pictures taken so they can pretentiously show to their friends that they’ve seen the mystical church of the north. But whatever the reasons are, it’s clear that the designers and builders of the church wanted to make a daring statement. And they did.

Considered as North Luzon’s most famous and recognizable church, San Agustin of Paoay is made of enormous bricks and thick coral slabs, said to had been harden together with a blend of limestone mortar and sugar cane juice. If the sugar cane juice failed to impress you, then perhaps the fact that the church took almost 100 years to complete must be compelling enough to impress you. The construction focused on building a structure that can withstand strong earthquakes. This baroque church is “distinguished for its heavy buttress that begins with massive volutes on the ground and tapers to fine points”. After centuries of existence, the builders accomplished what they originally set out to do.

Described as, “fortress-like… with crenelations and niches suggestive of south-east Asian temples and pyramids”. Its appearance has inspired stories and traditions. Its architectural design has many expert still talking to this day. It’s one of the oddest, and I mean this in a beautiful way, Filipino Catholic church I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a lot of them in my lifetime. Some historians, attempting to give details to its peculiar appearance, suggest that the Itnegs, a pagan tribe who live in the mountains, might have influenced its design because of its geometrical form. Truth is, who knows what the Augustinian fathers were thinking. All I know is that for as long as this church stand, it’ll continue to astonish and puzzle us with its seemingly unexplainable charm.

The interior of the church is currently undergoing repairs. I was surprised to see this. We usually just see the outside but there’s a lot of things happening in the inside. We have to keep in mind that this building has went through countless natural and man made calamities. The fact that it is still standing is a testament to the ingenuity of its builders and the people of Paoay who’ve taken good care of their beloved church.

The entrance door and the choir loft

These beams appears to had been recently installed.

Aside from the retablos and santos, this pulpit is among the only original furniture inside the church.

The center retablo

The old thick tiles appears to be in good shape

The marker providing a brief account of the church’s long history

17 September 2012


%d bloggers like this: