Tag Archives: Muntinlupa

Japanese Memorial Garden in Muntinlupa and other WWII stories

My brother trying to read some of the Japanese letters engraved in stone. We visited the Japanese Garden in Muntinlupa last April.

I took my brother to Muntinlupa’s Japanese memorial two months ago. Like many locals he has never heard of it.I have written a couple of blogs (here, here) about this solemn garden. I thought he’d like it because of his familiarity with Japanese history.

He recalls his wife’s story about Hiroshima. How her ancestors suffered after the atomic bombing. As is often the case, innocent men, women and children were the biggest casualties. Its status as a minor city actually contributed to it getting picked by the US. Destroying Tokyo would cripple the country for a longer period.

In the book, “The Untold History of the United States,” Filmmaker Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuzniak proposed that the atomic bomb was no longer necessary. The two suggests that the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a warning to other expanding nations. The message was clear—America intends to dominate the post-world war.

Isn’t it an irony that the most active nation in stopping other nations from developing nuclear technology is the only country that has used it to destroy two cities?

* * *

The Japanese occupation reminds me of my parent’s horrific wartime stories. Experiences made my father swore never to return to San Carlos in Negros Occidental again.

One particular ghastly memory of Papa was watching his uncle being buried alive in broad day light. He said his uncle never begged for his life but asked to be shot—the guerillas refused to do so. These criminals were never punished after the war. My father recalls his chance encounter with one of them in the 70’s. He literally bumped into one of them while crossing Cubao!

My father lost his mother and a younger brother too. Lola got sick while they were hiding near Kanlaon. When she died they made a shallow grave intending to give her a proper burial after the war. When they returned the forest had reclaimed everything. They spent days trying to locate the grave. They never found her.

* * *

The indefatigable writer Sionil Jose believes that the Japanese deserved what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My brother, a US military man, believes it was a mistake. When I told him that some historians believes that Japan was far from surrendering he said “with all the force and leadership they had then it was just a matter of time”.

I recall a story from the archivist Ernie de Pedro of Japanese soldiers planting rice in Ilocos. Men who volunteered for the job asking only for some food and water. He believes that these men were most likely farmers. Planting and harvesting must have brought them some sense of normalcy as it recreated their former lives.

Not many people know that the Pedro Diaz school in Muntinlupa (which made news recently because it sits on top if a fault line) was name after a community leader that was executed by the Japanese. The Japanese memorial in Bilibid was said to have been where the last hold outs were captured.

Not far from where I live now is Punggol beach. The Japanese killed Chinese men they suspected of collaborating with their enemies in its shores. There’s a marker there that reads “On 23 February 1942, some 300-400 Chinese civilians were killed along Punggol foreshore by Hojo Kempei firing squad. They were among tens of thousands who lost their lives during the Japanese Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians…”

* * *

Now, going back to the Japanese garden. I was delighted to find it improved. It now have comfort rooms. The shrine, with all those colorful linked paper cranes, was striking in its serenity and symbolism. The Japanese dedication in honoring their war dead is something to be admired.

Let’s all wish this amiable fella the best of luck. I believe he’s five years away from being released from imprisonment. He probably lost that front teeth from rioting inside. Nah, he seems like a nice fellah really.

We run into one of the guys that maintains the garden. He was welcoming and assisted us during our visit. These guys are “living out” inmates tasked to look after certain area around Bilibid. They can freely go out of their cells. I gave him a ride back to the gates of the prison and kidded him, “you can take the ride all the way to the town and no one would notice!” To this he replied in Tagalog “Hindi po Sir, malapit na ako lumaya, 20 years na ako dito po eh.”

Behind the Names of the Barangays in Muntinlupa

muntinlupa, tunasan, putatan, bayanan, buli

I was contacted by this cable TV show to talk about the streets of Binondo last week. I was referred to them by my friend Glenn, of the popular blog, Traveler on Foot. So, I was reading up on the history behind the street names in that old suburb a day before the supposed interview date. I was on my way yesterday when I got a call from the producer that they’re rescheduling everything. Since the whole thing got me started on the history of streets and places, why not write something for Muntinlupa–we’ve lived here for more than two decades. I’m sure the new generation and those who happened to moved in recently are clueless about the origins of the names of places here.

What’s Putatan? Buli? Bayanan? Alabang? where did these names came from? what are they? what do they mean?

Natives had this custom of identifying places after plants or trees that abundantly grows in it. They’re not as vain as we are who would name places after our personal interests. They like using botanical references. Like Sampaloc, or Talisay, common names of towns across the country. The street where I grew up in Makati is called Bagtican, teak in English, also known as lawaan. Manila, after the plant nilad. Manggahan, mabolo and niugan are usual names for barrios. The list of places named after plants is endless. When I was in Malaysia, I was surprised they have this old custom as well. It is probably from our common ancestors where we got the tradition.

This seal of Muntinlupa was designed by one of Fernando Amorsolo’s son–Manuel Amorsolo. The seal shows the year it became an independent municipality (1917) and the year it became a city (1995). However, the official record is that it became a municipality in 1918. The nine stars are the city’s barangay. (photo from wikipedia)

In Muntinlupa, it’s the same. Almost all barrios were named after plants.

Buli, pronounced as bulé, near Sucat, in English is palm. But our version of this palm produces an edible fruit that Tagalogs consume. Its scientific name is corpha elata and is indigenous in Philippine soil. The bulé could no longer be found in present day Buli, but the name suggest that it was abundant in that part back in the day.

There’s Cupang, a tall tree that grows up to 30 meters. It is native in parts of Indonesia and South East Asia. Malaysian have places named after this plant too, but they spells it as Kupang (like tanjong kupang). It also produces a fruit, similar to that of an ipil-ipil but bigger, the seeds are boiled then consumed.

There are two Alabang in Muntinlupa. The affluent residential Ayala Alabang and Alabang, the business district of the south metro. Both owes its name after Rio Alban, the river that runs across Festival mall. You could look up maps of old Tunasan San Pedro and find Rio Alban as the most prominent landmark in the area. I find it amusing when people insist that Alabang was from the word “Abang” because the area, as these people claim, was once controlled by brigands that would hide behind the bushes and ambush travelers. We have so many of these accounts that does not have any historical basis but they’re more entertaining than the factual historical accounts, so people enjoys spreading them.

Alabang also brings to mind those college classmates who lives in Tunasan, Buli and Bayanan but when asked where they live they’d respond, Alabang, like clockwork. If you say Muntinlupa, you get teased then. I’m not sure if people still ask, “saan sa Muntinlupa? sa loob o labas?”

There’s an interesting detail that curious Muntinlupa locals notice. They ask if Bayanan was the ancient pre-filipino town center while Poblacion was the Spanish era town proper?

The Spanish era Poblacion was the town proper all along. It used to be near the lake, where the church was first erected. The church was later moved near the new main road and Bilibid Nuevo. Where the church was located is where the town proper is in old Philippines. The Tagalog word bayan is equivalent to the Spanish word Pueblo or town, but there’s no basis that tells us that Bayanan, became the town proper at any point in Muntinlupa’s history.

In fact, it was named after a plant as well.

Bayan, or báyan (memecylon ovatum) also known as palumpong (which also means shrubs), produces lilac flowers and have rounded leaves. You could still see these plants around. The place was named after báyan the plant , not bayan the town—So, Bayanan, literally means a place where báyan grew in abundance. Its flowers and leaves are believe to have antiseptic qualities.

With the exception of Alabang, Sucat and Poblacion, all barangay names in Muntinlupa had botanical origins. Hopefully, one day, the city hall would collect these plants and trees for the locals to see.

Another barrio, Tunasan, once part of the Friar estate collectively known as Tunasan San Pedro, was named from the lotus-like plant called túnas. Known for its medicinal uses, it flourished in that part near the lake.

Believe it or not, Putatan, is also a name with botanical origins. In old Tagalog, pútat, means new leaf or growth. An area where leaf, sap or branch has develop. It must have been where young trees were seen and planted. I could still remember seeing rice fields and vegetable plantations in the area when we first arrived in 80’s. There were fruit bearing trees too. Now all of that land had  been developed. I hope this dismisses rumors that Putatan was where the brothels were in the ancient times!

Putahan naman yun’ hindi Putatan.

The Tide is Turning…old DOH building will rise again!

Old DOH Building will be back

Something’s special is happening in Alabang. The entire Filinvest mall is getting a facelift, but, this is not what I’m all excited about. The planned inclusion of the old DOH building as part of the improvements is the thrillin’ news here!

A few years ago, I would bike around the area and wonder what fate awaits the condemned art deco building. I blogged about it (here) and I remember taking pictures of the building in several occasions (and this bothered those vigilant sekyus).

I thought that it would be nice if they could find a way to save it. Maybe, ‘reuse’ it as part of their properties attraction. Well, that day has come!

The entire area has been undergoing development. The bars and restaurants (on the left wing of Festival Mall) that became favorite grounds for merry makers is now temporarily closed. I was told that their planning some kind of a ‘lifestyle’ development in the area with the old DOH building as a center piece.

I can’t wait to see what the final project would look like.

I haven’t researched the history of this building yet (partly because I really thought they’re demolishing it) but from what I heard is that this used to be the HQ of the topical medicine research arm of DOH (don’t quote me here!). They use to have snake pits and farms around here for research. They have cattle freely roaming the vast scrub land until the government decided to sell the land. The old DOH building is an elegant art deco and the thing that I really like about it is the monument that sits in front and in the middle of the facility—an enlarged replica of Rizal’s ‘The Triumph of Science over Death‘.

The old DOH building in Civic Rd. Filinvest Alabang

This building along with Bilibid prison, in my estimation, was built in the same era. Which puts it in the 40’s, if not early 50’s. So I was wondering why the government never bothered to protect it after they sold the property! They just took the money and run away—typical government I should say. If the Filinvest group were insensitive with heritage this old building would just be a pile of rubble today.

Back to the Dark Ages for Muntinlupa

Now that Muntinlupa’s back in the hands of Jaime Fresnedi, I’m expecting things to go back to the ‘dark ages’. Fast. The traffic has deteriorated in Alabang (not there when San Pedro was mayor). Garbage is everywhere these days. The usual signs of back to business—business of doing nothing—is, well, back to business.

It’s still early but this guy has been in reign for almost a decade before the young San Pedro kicked him out two elections ago. And the reason why he was replaced was that Muntinlupa kept regressing under his watch. I could remember the cheap street lights he installed—I could see more with a candle on hand. I don’t think Fresnedi’s a bad guy, I actually believe he’s nice. I once saw him stand right beside his BMW in that charismatic fellowship center near Susana. But I don’t think much of this man as a leader. The 90’s and the 2000’s saw two different Muntinlupa, one that was stuck as a tier 2 city, the other a prime city. Aldrin San Pedro help create that ‘prime city’ condition—Fresnedi was the tier 2 guy.

And those guys that vouched for Fresnedi is pretty excited about his arrival. The other day, while I was buying some veggies in Muntinlupa ‘Bayan’, this guy selling eggplant was using plastic bags. I told him that’s not allowed and with a huge smile on his face responded, “kay San Pedro yun Ser, Fresnedi na tayo.”

Perfect. Now we’re really sliding back to the pits!

Aldrin San Pedro was beaten by a few thousands. Not a majority win for Fresnedi but a win none the less. San Pedro allowed his opponents to feed the public with malicious rumors of corruption allegedly perpetrated by his family. If he had a good PR team, these nasty attacks would’ve never caused his candidacy harm. It must have been his confidence—he did well and trusted that the people would want to have more of progress. Hmmm, not really. San Pedro forgot that Philippine politics have the same dynamics as that of local showbiz. Those little lies could get you fired—and he got his you-know-what fired. Here’s hoping that, if it’s not San Pedro, let’s pray we get a young guy, progressive politician next time. Anyway, these Biazon’s shifted away from San Pedro so they could make their move in the local elections next time, if this Ruffy fella run, maybe him but if San Pedro gives it another run, maybe him again.

Going to St. Peregrine Laziosi Parish

Though I’m not in any official capacity in the parish, I continue to received emails and messages asking for directions on how to go to St. Peregrine. I have only my faulty writing to blame. Some people find it odd that for what appears to be a travel blog, the article I wrote does not have any directions on how to get there.

I’ve been getting so many queries on St. Peregrine (and the Asilo in Paco, which I also wrote about here, and have to soon write directions for as well) since that blog came out about three years ago. I would like to add a not so detailed guide on how to go to St. Peregrine Laziosi Parish in the hopes that it might help people who wants to see the church.

I know that most of those who wanted to visit the church are persons with illnesses and disability, and their families. And I wish that all of those who makes it experience healing, both spiritually and physically. I recently loss an uncle to cancer. I wish things could have been different. But God has other plans.

What makes the church special is that of all the churches named after St. Peregrine, it’s the only one that have, literally, a piece of him. Enshrined in the church is a relic (a rib bone) from the Italian saint considered to be the patron of cancer patients. The guy is an interesting man. He started as a hard core anti-cleric that later converted. A story about him was that once he slapped and humiliated a priest for preaching. When he converted he joined the Order of the Servants of Mary. The guy that he slapped became his superior. I don’t know if Philip, who also became a saint, gave him harder penance. I surely would if I was him!

The Servite Friars built the church in the mid 1980’s. They’re one of the first mendicant orders of the church. They have quite a history. They were established just 18 years after the Dominicans, and 11 years before the Augustinians! When I heard about them (and that their church is not that far from where I live) I started attending mass there. It was also around this time that I switched to the Rosary of the Seven Dolors. To be perfectly honest, my preference to it has something to do with it taking a much shorter time to recite. I’ve always treasured my old rosaries but never got to fully commit praying it. Too lazy to take it up. When I found out about the Rosary of the Seven Dolors it made me, at least, devout sometime for prayer and meditation.

I don’t know why the Servite Order picked Muntinlupa. But I’m glad that they did. They also took under their administration the chapel in the prison grounds. Its interesting to note that the oldest church in Muntinlupa was dedicated to Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados. So there’s a history of devotion to our Mother that dates back to the Spanish times. Interestingly, at least for me, I was born in Sta. Ana where Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, is not only a religious devotion but a historical symbol.

Going to St Peregrine (from North):

Take a bus going to Pacita (Pacita complex), San Pedro via Susana Exit. Ask the conductor if they will take the Susana exit because there are Pacita buses now that exits via Southwoods – you don’t want to be in this one. You need to be in a Pacita bound bus that exits via Susana. Tell the conductor to remind you where St. Peregrine is. A good reference point is SM Muntinlupa. The church is around 500 meters from this establishment.

The church is less than a kilometer away from the San Pedro – Muntinlupa boundary.

The fare depends on what point in EDSA you’re taking the bus. A ride from Cubao (and this was just last year when I was still there) costs around 60-80 pesos. But with how crazy gas and diesel prices increases, I really don’t know what’s the present fare.

If you’re coming from Manila, you should be able to ride a bus that ply the same route. You can find these bus terminals near Buendia.

If your coming from Taguig and Paranaque area, ride a jeep or bus that goes straight to Alabang and from Alabang (near Metropolis) take a jeep that have Binan, Muntinlupa, Pacita signboards. Its important that you take the one that have these names because these are the ones that goes to the National Rd. and not the South Expressway.

Thanks to SM, although known to be a historical heritage destroyer, at least they serve as good reference point. If you’re coming from Alabang, SM Muntinlupa would be on your left and from here, the church is only about 500 meters away.

From South

If you’re from the Southern areas. The same thing applies. Just avoid jeeps and buses that goes to South Express way because you’ll miss the church. Make sure that you get on a jeep that have Binan, Pacita, Muntinlupa and Alabang on its signboards. Buses from the south are not allowed in Muntinlupa so most likely you’ll have to take a jeep ride in Calamba or Sta. Rosa (or which ever is closest to you).

An alternative, and I believe this makes sense for those that are coming from Batangas and the far Laguna towns, is to take a bus all the way to Alabang and from there take a jeep going to St. Peregrine. Ride a jeep going to Binan, Muntinlupa, Pacita – and alight in St. Peregrine.

The church is located along the National Rd., so its easy to locate. I hope i didn’t confuse people more with these instructions. Just wanted to help. That’s all.

Dinner @ Hapchan Alabang

The team enjoying some Chinese chow

We had our little get together slash “despedida” last Friday at Hapchan. I was totally entertained by the funny stories. Takes my mind out of the “now”. It was a simple dinner and everybody had a great time and bloated guts!

This team will always have a “lugar especial en mi corazon”. Hired all of ’em – first time I was able to assemble my own team. What a great two years it has been!

At the dinner table, the conversations revolved around the funny stuff  and our exciting mad crazy office lives. Well, ok, maybe work is not really that exciting. Kind of depressing actually but these guys are just awesome to work with. You forget about the bad stuff. They bring in the light and sunshine every time!

Throughout my stint in the company I learned a great deal from my staff. All along I thought I was the teacher, little did I know that I was the student.

I’m sure they’ll be alright without their crazy boss around. It’s a bittersweet feeling to be leaving but my work is done, now, they have to create their own expeditions.

These guys have the potential to go very far. It’s all there for them to enjoy!

Plus ultra!

Life is a Great Sunrise

beauty that needs no words...

I don’t know if its the thought that I’m a month away from leaving the building (I recently resigned) that gave me a more appreciative eye but you know lately I’ve been seeing a lot of these breathtaking sunrises over Laguna de Ba’i. Truly a wonderful experience.

Over the years,  I developed this habit of looking at the sunrise before leaving the office. Except during stormy days, I always make it a point that I look and take a photo. They’re never the same. The explosion of colors that appears every morning spattered across the sky and hills of Morong is just amazing.

A pure delight.

Stream liners (in the 1800’s) once serviced the towns around the lake. This brought unprecedented growth to the southern Tagalog provinces. People coming as far as Tayabas and Bicol would send their products to Manila using this route. A ferry service will have a great impact on how people move today. But the forces behind the toll ways and oil would not allow any competition. That’s how they do it, they provide you with no other option but to go their way. If government is not owned by these special interest group it would push for viable alternatives people can use – we all know that’s not going to happen. Government no longer belongs to the people but to these corporations who have them inside their pockets.

The Rizal Manifesto

Having visited Rizal’s reconstructed house in Calambâ recently (biking all the way there from Muntinglupà!), I became interested again in the circumstances that led to his execution. I reread “The Trial of Rizal” (a book almost forgotten today) and saw some interesting facts that are often glossed over by our history teachers.

For example, not many are aware that those witnesses who testified against Rizal were all Filipinos — not a single Spaniard pointed an accusing finger. This could be trivial to some but nonetheless an illustration of how the trial was conducted. These witnesses signed a written affidavit confirming that they acted on their free will. Of course, we could no longer determine if they were forced or they willingly provided the information.

There are lots of questions revolving around that historic trial.

Were they pinning Rizal down so he could take the fall? They say that all great movements need a martyr to believe in…

It is not conspiracy theory; Rizal made some enemies in his years as a propagandist. He was admired and envied. In his trial, he even mentioned names that he considered hostile against him. The peaceful man that he was, he chose to retire and begin a new life. But his past haunted him. Powerful forces were out to get him. And they did get their quarry.

Rizal was aware that his name was being used not only to solicit funds but also as some sort of a head figure for the Katipunan. His family had warned him about it. And this concerned him gravely. Fearing that such an activity would result to loss of lives, he requested the governor general that he be permitted to publicly denounce it. On 11 December 1896 (a few weeks before his death sentence), he wrote a manifesto to address the issue:

”Fellow countrymen: Upon my return from Spain I learned that my name was being used as a rallying cry by some who had taken up arms. This information surprised and grieved me but thinking that the whole affair was finished, I refrained from commenting on something that could no longer be remedied. Now, rumors reach me that the disturbances have not ceased. It may be that persons continue to use my name in good or in bad faith; if so, wishing to put a stop to this abuse and to undeceive the gullible, I hasten to address these lines to you that the truth may be known. From the very beginning, when I first received information of what was being planned, I opposed it, I fought against it, and I made clear that it was absolutely impossible.  This is the truth, and they are still alive who can bear witness to my words. I was convinced that the very idea was wholly absurd — worse than absurd, it was disastrous. I did more than this. When later on, in spite of my urgings, the uprising broke out, I came forward voluntarily to offer not only my services but my life and even my good name in order that they may use me in any manner they may think opportune to smother the rebellion. For I was convinced of the evils which that rebellion would bring in its train, and so I considered it a privilege if at whatever sacrifice I could ward off so much useless suffering. This is also of record.

“Fellow countrymen: I have given many proofs that I desire as much as the next man liberties for our country; I continue to desire them. But I laid down as a prerequisite the education of the people in order that by means of such instruction, and by hard work, they may acquire a personality of their own and so become worthy of such liberties. In my writings I have recommended study and the civic virtues, without which no redemption is possible. I have also written (and my words have been repeated by others) that reforms, if they are to bear fruit, must come from above, for reforms that come from below are upheavals both violent and transitory. Thoroughly imbued with these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, as I do condemn, this ridiculous and barbarous uprising, plotted behind my back, which both dishonors us Filipinos and discredits those who might have taken our part. I abominate the crimes for which it is responsible and I will have no part in it. With all my heart I am sorry for those who have rashly allowed themselves to be deceived. Let them, then, return to their homes, and may God pardon those who have acted in bad faith.”

After clearly dismissing any involvement in the planned uprising, wanting his countrymen to avoid its evils, Rizal laid out plans on what he saw as the proper approach and focus so that civil liberties and eventual freedom can be achieved. Sadly, these “prerequisites” were totally forgotten by the generation of leaders who had succeeded him.

The manifesto cannot be any clearer and articulate than how it was written by Rizal. He was a revolutionary, yes, but he never wanted a bloody one. In his view, it was not only costly in terms of lives but was self-defeating. His was a revolution of the mind.

What’s striking about the document is that it was written weeks before his execution. It was apparent to him that, after the discovery of the Katipunan,  a mass revolt was soon to follow and that his death would most likely ignite it. What I find fascinating about Rizal is that he was a gifted psychic. Although he defended himself well against the accusation leveled against him, he knew that he would end up in Bagumbayan. He predicted this years even before he was implicated in the rebellion (Bagumbayan was mentioned five times in Noli Me Tangere)! This clairvoyance probably made it easier for him to accept his fate.

A closer examination of the trial documents will show that Rizal was actually innocent on the charge of rebellion. Aside from testimonies and letters, there was nothing solid that can pin him down for initiating the rebellion. He had proven that there was no link between his La Liga Filipina and Andrés Bonifacio’s Katipunanother than some of those who were with him during the founding of his group (which, according to him, “died stillborn”) who later got involved or joined Bonifacio’s group altogether.Curiously, however, the words Liga and Katipunan mean the same thing in English: “league”.

Now I can understand why we were kept away from such documents. They were protecting Rizal’s reputation of being the prime mover of independence. I believe there’s no need to hide such historical lessons. After learning what he was fighting for, personally, he even became greater than he ever was. His revolution goes beyond winning wars — he wanted a revolution of the mind, to see our fellow Filipinos as part of our selves. The Rizal who was sentenced to death wanted us to dedicate ourselves to the civic and social betterment of the Filipino nation.

Violence can never be justified in Rizal’s revolution.

Self Portait of an Unproductive Man

El autorretrato. Ink on a scratch pad I took from Singapore's Airport.

There are just so many things going on at work these past few days that I decided to sketch myself. I like drawing stuffs and throwing them away. Looking back, I should’ve kept those drawings. If I did, I would now have a voluminous portfolio to present to prospective employers [if its any good!]. I’ve been thinking of quitting work lately and shifting to a more creative employment [if a guy like mideo crus can get his art exhibited, why not me?].

I’m looking for the kind of work that doesn’t involve dealing with excessive stupidity and annoying co-workers. Man, a decade of being a corporate slave is taking its toll on me. I’ve lost a lot of hair and I’m getting fat. But I still enjoy interacting with clients and working around individuals. Most of whom are kind, supportive and wonderful people.

Well, Rolling Stones said it best, “you can’t always get what you want!”.

This Morning

Took some pictures of the lake and the people that spends their time either exercising or fishing around it during Sunday morning. Its  nice seeing this area getting some attention from the local government. It wasn’t like this before.The area now have a school and sports hall. Though short, the paved road that goes around the area is good enough for some biking.

This San Pedro guy is progressive in his politics. This young mayor is bringing in some fresh ideas and good planning. I like his initiative of banning the use of plastic bags. When I heard of it I was thinking that it will never be enforced. Another useless law. Then the local government started closing down stores that violated the plastic bag ban. The recent store to be shut down is  KFC at the corner of Zapote Alabang rd near the market. Though the closure deprives me of my KFC fried chickens and zinger sandwich, the message is clear.

No one is above the law – even big business.

Makiling really looks like a woman lying on her back.

Boat fishermen heading out to the lake at the break of dawn.

The water lilies. Why haven't anybone thought of that as a good band name, I don't know.

Recreational fishing around the lake. But no "catch and release" here. What's caught goes straight to the frying pan.

Afternoon Bike Around

I rode my bike late this afternoon to sweat and get some fresh air near Laguna de Ba’i. When it rains, the tributaries leading to the lake are free from rubbish and litter. The flowing waters of these narrow tributaries that goes straight to the lake looks so beautiful this time of the year.

Locals are anxious when it rains hard around these parts because of the floods.The bitter memories of typhoon Ondoy are still fresh. Some areas around aplaya had been underwater for months after the deluge.

I like this area of the town. The area gives you a good look at historic lake. Right across is Binangonan. Here you can see different classes of Muntinlupeño: Poor, rich, fisherfolks and tenderos.The tricycles are everywhere.

The governments lack of planning is to blame for the houses built near the aplaya. The view must’ve been amazing 100 years ago when when its waters were used to irrigate surrounding rice fields, fishing and passage ways for steamboats. The fishpens are an eyesore that must be removed.

I then went to my parish, St. Peregrine in Tunasan. Churches for me are proven to  perfect for contemplation.  Rested for awhile then headed back home.

New Bilibid: A Muntinlupeño Landmark

Bilibid Nuevo: smack right in the middle of a town called Muntinglupa

I’ve been seeing a lot of my hometown by bicycle lately. Its different when you visit places riding your bike (it could be hazardous though national rd is infested with reckless jeepney drivers!) things look a little better and to top it off biking is a great cardio workout.

I recently visited the Bilibid area, brought my camera and took some pictures of a place infamous for being the country’s central prison facility. I could still remember when we first came  in town in mid 90’s. When I tell friends (most are from Manila and Makati) that we relocated to Muntinlupa, they’ll jokingly ask me the  question “sa loob o sa labas?”. Another funny memory I had, this time in college was this guy who would tell the class that “I’m from Alabang not Muntinlupa!”, the fool knows that Alabang is in Muntinlupa but the social climbing goat does not want to be associated with Muntinlupa but with the classy uppity villages. Such was the reputation of Muntinlupa before but this has drastically changed over the years. Today, Muntinlupa is known for its Makati-sque transformation, a stark contrast from the days when it was  known just for being host to hardcore criminals and electric chair executions.

There’s a lot of history behind this place. When I say history I’m pertaining to its early years. The original Bilibid (in Manila) called Carcel y Presidio Correccional was established through a king’s decree. After the devastation the revolution brought to our economy followed shortly by the brutal  Filipino American war more and more people begun to have problems keeping up with the new imposed American laws. A bigger facility (500 hectares wide) was needed the Yankees declared. This time the new place was created outside the Capital, far down south, which was a smart move. They don’t want to be dealing with criminals and “insurgents” (just imagine the flight of these revolutionaries) in the capital no more.

The new prison altered the once sleepy cogon infested town of Muntinglupa (transferred in 1936). Commerce had increased around the town because of the people that worked in and out of the prison and its visitors.  The parish moved the Church near the new main road and Prison complex from its original location (near the lake) it now it sits at the crossroads of what is today called “bayan” but I’m not certain if this can be attributed to the development of prison facility. What I do know is that the old spot where the church use to stand was quite small and contained. The old place now is now a residential area but the parish still celebrates the church’s foundation in the actual spot where the first missionaries erected their church.

I’m assuming that the old houses in the lakeside was destroyed during the war but I had been informed that there are quite a few old houses that survived near where the old church once stand, originally the site of the old settlement called Muntinglupa.

I’ve never entered the prison complex, this is my third visit and I’m happy to be outside looking in (hirap siguro ng buhay bilango). Some historical people had endured hard time inside this prison. My favorite is Amado Hernandez who was said to had created some of his greatest work while incarcerated. Hernandez, a national artist married to Atang de la Rama (also a national artist) wrote a play entitled “Muntinglupa” based on his prison experiences. I had been searching for a copy of this play for some time and I believe that the city government should start promoting Amado Hernandez’s plays – most of which is said to had been based on his prison experiences in Muntinglupa.

The most famous former prisoner of Bilibid is Gen. Yamashita, who eventually was executed in Los Baños. His remains is said to have been buried in a secret location in Los Banos that up to this day is unknown (this according to the memoirs of an army man who placed the ropes around his neck).

Jamboree Lake. If this is indeed a lake it could be the smallest but then again it could be classified as something else. What's interesting is that inmates from the old days did hard labor expanding this body of water.

Aside from the prison complex there’s this small “peace” memorial that was funded by the Japanese government. Its located near the monument (sculpted on a small knoll in the road side) of the first Filipino warden, Eriberto Misa. This man is an interesting figure according to Choy Arnaldo (not related but a history buff  I think): “He sought to humanize the conditions of convicted criminals. He had already established his reputation as a fearless and honest PC Constabulary Officer,  and had previously served as warden of the  Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan. Although he was born on July 7, 1889 in Bolinao, Zambales (now  absorbed into Pangasinan)”.

Many Japanese were executed in Muntinglupa and most of these men are buried in the cemetery up hill. There’s also a memorial in that cemetery where Japanese visitors offer colorful paper cranes and incence for their dead. I was told that some of them still weep for their dead.

The Jamboree lake is said to be the smallest in thecountry. It is amusingly small. There’s a WWII artillery gunner near the lake, I’m not sure if it was it actual location during the war. There’s still some fresh air around this vicinity –ideal for those who wants to exercise or just relax under the shades of the tall trees around. Not far is the church administered by Friars of the Order of  the Servants of Mary.

The Warden's quarter. This place served as administrative office for both Americans and Japanese officers. The house is not reall in great shape but its elegant haven't faded.

A panoramic view of the Warden's quarter

My favorite building actually is tucked inside the compound, guarded by heavily armed body guards. It’s the warden’s quarter. A beautiful early 20th American house with subtle touches of Filipino influence. Its not a century old house having been built sometime in 1930’s but the style is truly timeless. I haven’t read extensively on the American influence in our architecture but this one feels like Victorian meets romantic Filipino style. The fact that it has survived all these years is a testament to its durability. Time has not diminished its elegance. Its been used by American, Filipino and Japanese officials through out the years of its existence. The place has so much history not known to many. There’s not a lot of old houses in town left, hope this one stays for Muntilupeño’s future generation.

Historical Marker Installed at Insular Life Alabang

Insular Life  recently celebrated its 100th year. The first local insurer is considered not only a pioneer in Filipino business but one of the most reliable – they never ceased operation since their founding.

Even during the Japanese occupation!

Last November 25, an NHI marker was installed at their twin tower in Muntinlupa, a fitting dedication to an enduring Filipino company.

Although they had owned buildings in other places (originally in Echague) around the metro, the solid metal marker was installed in Filinvest Alabang, now the headquarters of their operations.

The only other historical marker in the city is located in New Bilibid prisons.

The company’s trademark in its building designs are the beautiful reliefs of Philippine cultural scenes in its facade. Artworks that depicts everyday Filipino life. This is a testament to the pride they have in our history which they were very much part of. I think there’s not a lot of company like them out there.


The company I work for rents a small office in this building. In the beginning I felt nothing special really,  it had no difference from all the other buildings but this changed when we moved up to one of its higher floors.

Every dawn, I’m always in for a threat. A majestic sunrise over Laguna de Ba-y! On a clear day, especially after a mild downpour, I can see Manila Bay on the west side.

Here in Alabang (not sure if the same thing applies to the other Insular properties), they exclusively hire Ilongo security personnels. Perhaps, their forte (and this I know for my parents are) is that they’re ‘malambing’ character. Works like a charm especially with rude and hostile employees and visitors.

Dreams of capturing beauty in some way

A portion of Rio Alban (now Mangangate River) near Laguna Heights Filinvest. Rio Alban is where Alabang got its name. A creek that goes straight to the river serves as Ayala Alabang's main drainage. Rio Alban specially in the Alabang area is still teeming with plant and aquatic life, sadly, with the fast developing district, all of these could change in the coming years. The widest area is said to be 800m found in National Bureau of Prisons. The river drains to the lake somewhere in Cupang.

I have been researching these beautiful birds that can be found along the small rivers and the remaining woodlands in our area. This justify an investment in camera equipments that will help me document the existing wild life until it vanishes forever – but this, of course, is easier said than done as DSLR cameras and its peripherals has been outrageously expensive.

So this personal project could remain side tracked for awhile, but I hope not for long because time is the enemy. A few years from now, I would like to look back at this and share it with those who lived in this area, you know those stories you often hear from old people (or not so very old people) about certain time and place that they remember , how it comes back to mind over and over again. My Father has lots of these stories – he speaks as if old Manila and Macati was some distant lands lost in time. Before, nature felt close, even to those who lived in the metropolis – parks and gardens (may ganito pa ba sa Metro Manila?) were more than just seats and lamp posts, they were sanctuaries for both man and wildlife, we no longer have these zones. This is a flaw in how we design our districts – there must be balance and we know this, but pays little attention. Those that still exist are slated for extinction (remember the historic gardens of Manila?), majority are neglected. Is this an inevitable consequence of our development?

We could strike a balance between development and conservation, but the initiative, in Filinvest Alabang’s case, would have to come from them, to allocate areas reserved for nature and for them to ensure that Rio Alban would remain flowing and alive. Since taking over, their zoning and subdivisions shows that they had no intentions of reserving space for any nature areas. The one that we have now exist because it hasn’t been developed yet. So much has changed in less than a decade – from scrubland, where wild animals once freely roam, the former government owned site for state scientific research has been swiftly transformed into a jungle of glass and concrete.

I’ve never felt so negative about urban development – my definition of progress has changed over the years. Perhaps, because for the first time in my life I’m seeing nature being disrupted and degraded – in order to advance our desires to expand, to “urbanize”. Greed drives this process and somehow we have learned to accept that this is how it should be – that we all must give way to our society’s paramount objective of modernizing everything. This uncontrolled and unregulated urbanization has led us into some of the most disastrous events in our lifetime, and still we turn a blind eye to it, we can’t go on like this forever. There are consequences – sooner or later we’ll have to answer to Mother Nature.

As I was heading home this morning, I briefly observed the Alban River (the altered portion near Festival Mall) and the lush trees around it. Not far is an on going construction site. Nothing can produce the distinct sense of awe and pleasure nature gives – brief moments when I feel at peace and free. In the short period that I was there I saw a pair of freshwater turtles, a mountain shrike and a group of Pygmy flower peckers – they were beautiful, perfect the way they are.

20 June 2010

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