Tag Archives: rizal

Rizal and my Heidelberg Trip

Here’s an interesting Rizal story you don’t hear everyday.

When my former company asked me to go to Germany, I was told that I’m staying in Walldorf. Too bad I said, I wish it was Heidelberg (also in the southwestern part). Jose Rizal studied and lived here.

Heidelberg is about 20 to 30 minutes ride to Walldorf. There’s no train station that connects the two. Most employees avoid getting booked far from the headquarter. I had to rent a van for my daily commute to work.

That night I started reading Rizal’s diary entries about Germany. I had to brush up on my history. I made a list of places to visit. I thought that I had to spare a day to see Heidelberg.

I read for hours, like a mad man. Even read his poem, “a las flores de heidelberg”, for the first time!

I slept that night reading this poem.

Two days later, the travel agency called. There were no hotels available in Walldorf. The agent sounded apologetic. She said the nearest they could get is Heidelberg!

This got me really excited but I pretended to be hassled by the whole thing.

I must’ve dreamt staying in Heidelberg to reality.

There’s another coincidence I thought was interesting.

The hotel (NH) they booked, rarely used by our employees is actually Spanish owned. However, I was disappointed to discover that they don’t serve Spanish cuisine. Yes, no paella.

The day I arrived, I quickly unpacked and went to the lobby to get WIFI. I can’t connect and it was getting dark outside. I decided to just go out. I went back after about an hour. It was too cold. I only had a shirt on and a windbreaker—I was terribly underdressed!

The next morning I decided to look for a bakery. I wanted something local for breakfast.

Took this photo on a Sunday morning. Around this time locals are slow to rise. They take their time.

From the hotel drop off area, I crossed to get to the other side. I remember the street was partly elevated right in the middle. There’s a tram track. It was a busy street.

While walking something caught my eye. A dark marble marker with a familiar seal, like that of Manila, on a building wall.

The address: 20 Bergheimer Straße.

The clinic where Rizal studied opthalmology!

What were the odds?

The hotel was in the same street and less than a mile from where Rizal learned to fix eyes!

I checked Trivago and looked up hotels in Heidelberg. It came up with around 130!

I conclude that Rizal liked it when I started reading lines from his “”a las flores de heidelberg” that night. He pulled some strings from up above. For sure.

Happy 156th birthday Tio Pepe!

Related links:



Rizal’s Hong Kong

One of the remaining granite steps in Mid Levels. Even the colonial iron bars that separates the road was wonderfully restored.

The good thing about Hong Kong is that it’s just a two hours flight from Manila — and they don’t require a visa. You can grab round trip tickets on line for dirt cheap prices. Thanks to budget airlines.

There’s a huge Filipino community here. Never had problem finding my way around because there’s a Filipino in every corner. I heard Tagalog everywhere. Heck, I even saw a Jollibee on my way to the Mid Level.

Like many students, I saw those Rizal calling cards in Fort Santiago back in the 80’s. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of finding those Hong Kong addresses.

Finding Rednaxela Terrace and the hero’s eye clinic at no. 5 D’Aguilar Street didn’t posed that much of a challenge. Both have historical markers installed by the local government. Although the original structures are no longer there, seeing where they once stood was worth the visit.

The marker in D’Aguilar clinic.

The streets in this old quarters are narrow and crowded. Reminds me of Manila.

I have issues walking under these swinging billboards. Scare the you know what out of me.

That’s yours truly after a good cardio workout going up the Mid Levels just to see Rednaxela Terrace.

Another old road going up the hill.

The old Rizal home in Rednaxela was actually located further back near Peel Street. The marker was placed in the main path way for visibility. Rednaxela is Alexander misspelled. Obviously, someone messed it up pretty bad during the area’s zoning and the name got stuck.

The granite road and the street lamps Rizal wrote about in Duddell St. are still there. It’s a couple of blocks from the Central train station. The place appears to have been locked in a time capsule.

There’s another clinic, said to be somewhere near the Rizal’s Rednaxela Terrace home in the Mid Level. I haven’t come across any direct reference where this place used to stand.

Another site worth the visit is the location of the old Agoncillo residence in Morrison Hill Park. Said to be where Aguinaldo commissioned our flag to be sewn together. It also have a red metal marker courtesy of the Hong Kong Antiquities Council.

I’m interested to find where Aguinaldo and his men lodged during their exile. We don’t have any existing reference where this place was. Maybe someone would dug up this little piece of our history someday.

Another interesting location would be Jose Ma. Basa’s home. The unofficial Filipino center as it was customary for expats to pay it a courtesy visit upon arrival. I wonder what his opinion would be of his descendants feuding over the wealth he left behind.

Other places like the Mariano Ponce residence are yet to be discovered. In this house Juan Luna abruptly died of a heart attack. I read an interesting article from Ambeth Ocampo that alludes to the opinion that the painter was probably poisoned.

Later on, his son would take possession of his remains and stay in Hong Kong for some time before bringing his father to San Agustin church. It is said that he carried his father bones inside a bucket and would sleep with it under his bed. I assume that they stayed in a different location and not with Ponce. Where exactly, no one seems to know.

So many historic places that we have yet to find. I think it’s time our government commissions a study to find all these places.

Touch Down Hong Kong


I’ve been wanting to see the historical places here where Filipino patriots spent time during their exile. I have no plans other than seeing these places. Well, maybe eat in a fancy resto, dine in class and sip some high grade wine – but that’sa a dream. That’s not going to happen. Budget is not that deep. I’m going to have to settle with the hawker stalls for sure.

This Chinese territory is unbelievably crowded but they have great infrastructure and for a place this populated, they’re not that polluted.

I kept seeing the classic anime movie “Ghost in the Shell” in my head when I started walking around the busy streets of Hong Kong. The neon billboards, the imposing skyscrapers, high rise homes on hillsides, the busy airport and their coastal seas where huge freight ships pass with regularity. The place is alive and buzzing.

Unlike Singapore, they don’t talk a lot of English here. But hey, there’s a Filipino in every corner. So worry not about getting lost – these people will help you not to get lost.

It’s fascinating that like in the past, the island remains very popular to us Filipinos.

Pimped trams!

Buildings and neon billboards. Fun.

The longest covered path walk in the world complete with escalators. Wait, isn’t that Barbara Walters?

I have this uneasy feeling walking under these billboards. For sure someone already died from these things falling.

Hong Kong’s a great place – they have Disney Land and Jacky Chan (and Bruce Lee but he’s no longer around). If that’s not cool then I don’t know what is. Jacky Chan, that’s the man right there. He should be president of Hong Kong.

By the way, San Miguel beer is big here. Maybe the patriots brought it here in the 1800’s?

They require no visa and the island’s just a two hour plane ride from Manila. The cheapest, easiest foreign land we could get our ass on and the best part is that we have a great history here.

An R&R in HK is perfect for those Pinoys wanting to temporarily get away from the danger of getting shot by those murderous riding in tandem motorists.

More later…

The Rizal Fountain in Wilhelmsfeld

The Ullmer’s fountain shipped here to become the Rizal fountain.

In Wilhelmsfeld, away from the distractions of the busy German towns, Rizal finished his Noli. Ullmer hearing the news of a Filipino doctor that was executed in Bagumbayan contacted the German consul in Manila asking if that was the guest that stayed with them. The consul confirmed that he’s the same guy. Rizal in a note to some of the Ullmer mentioned that he’ll probably never see them again. He was right. (The copperplate dedication below the iron marker is erroneous, it says ” 155 years”, should be “150 years”)

The long and cold educational field trip in Wilhelmseld for me ironically, ended here, in Luneta, in some forgotten ground that no one bother to see except bums and underage student lovers. This fountain was in Wilhelmsfeld until the Germans thought it a good idea to bring it here in the 60’s as a gift. It was recently repaired (unveiled by no less than Noynoy Aquino) for the 150th year of Rizal’s birthday.

Although they call it Rizal fountain, it was actually the drinking fountain in Ullmer’s rectory. The guy wasn’t the only one drinking from it. Even birds drank and bathed on it. Someone from the town hall told me that “part of the house” of Ullmer was sent to the Philippines “a long time ago”. At first I thought it was really something that belongs to the house; like a window, a door or a furniture. I was surprised to hear that it was a stone drinking fountain.

These are fountains connected to aqueducts or in Wilhelmsfeld’s case, springs. At the end of 19th century these drinking fountains became purely decorative.

Before Wilhemsfeld, I didn’t even know that a fountain installed in the house of the good pastor existed, later uprooted and moved to Luneta in the 60’s. I’ve visited the park, since I was a kid, countless times but for some strange reason this object has escaped my curious attention. Now there it is, the final piece that concludes the Wilhelmsfeld visit a few months ago.

A German Town Called Wilhemsfeld

The Hill Town

I woke up around 5 in the morning, ate my usual breakfast and headed straight out to catch the earliest bus to Wilhemsfeld (pronounced ‘V’ilhemsfeld) the town where Rizal wrote the last chapters of his Noli. The importance of this town is monumental in our history. Here he found the inspiration to complete the book that changed the course of our destiny. If you’re retracing Rizal’s footsteps in Germany this town is a must visit.

The trip lasted less than an hour from Heidelberg. On my way up to the hills of what is known as Odenwald I saw countless old German houses. Before entering the forest area shrouded in mist and thick fog I saw modern houses sitting side by side with some of the oldest houses in the province. You’d think that a progressive and developed country eventually loses touch with its roots and traditional values – not the Germans. This morning was one of the coldest thus far for me. The elevation made the air much colder (I’m used to extremely hot weather so everyday here  feels colder than the last).

When Rizal moved from Heidelberg to Wilhelmsfeld there was only a mountain trail that he traversed on a regular basis to  Heidelberg. I wonder if it is this present road that is used now. How people traveled during winter must have been difficult in the old days. We’re so fortunate with the technology we have today. Traveling has become so easy. I don’t think I would last long if I’m going to walk my way up like what people did during those days – thank heavens, German’s have very good public transportation.

Around Wilhemsfeld

Finally, Wilhelmsfeld.

I reached Wilhemslfeld before 8am. During weekends you could hardly see a soul in the early hours. I noticed that Germans start their day late during the weekends. It felt like twilight zone walking around not seeing a single person. So I wandered like a cloud for some time until I found José-RizalStraße. I know not far is Pastor Ullmer’s house. Copper markers (or whatever it is called) by the Philippine consulate made it easy to locate. Interestingly, they wrote it in German. The house looks great, you wouldn’t know how old  it was just by looking. Not much has change in fact you could look at old photos of the house and you’d hardly notice any difference from what it looks like now.

Not far from the Pastor’s house is the church called Evangelische Kirche where Rizal attended services. The rolling hills in this beautiful German country is so peaceful, so wonderful (I heard that they’re actually a popular town resort). I’m not surprised that Rizal liked Wilhemsfeld. It reminded him of his hometown Calamba.

One thing that I noticed is that people seem to be more friendlier from around here. I guess they can recognize what Filipino looks like. The house gates were opened so I took the liberty and looked around. The owner, who was having her tea, went out and greeted me. She did not mind that I entered the premises without even ringing the doorbell. Never even asked what were my intentions. Realizing that I violated their space, I apologized to the owner but she said “its fine, its ok, welcome”. She was too kind and spoke very good English. She told me that I can comeback at a later time and talk to her husband (who was still sleeping at that time).  She said that they’ve seen several Filipino visitors including some leaders in the pass (I wonder who were those).

After my brief conversation with this kind lady I crossed the street and went to the red church just right across. There I met an old lady walking her handsome labrador retriever. I’ve never seen one with such a thick fur. The old lady does not speak English at all but she was telling me of a place a few blocks from where we were. I knew what she was talking about when I heard the word “platz” (which means park space or a plaza). She was giving me instructions on how to go to their Rizal Park! They really can tell what a Pinoy looks like from these parts.

Not far from the town’s ruthaus is a small park where the life size monument of Rizal can be found along with all his German friends that as we all know  greatly influenced him. A short alley (called Ullmer weg) named after his host, leads to the humble park. They drained the pond water that surrounds the statue I believe because it gets frozen. The small space is neatly kept and cared for. Surrounded by trees and memorial metal plates dedicated to Rizal and his German contemporaries. Last year, Calamba and Wilhelmsfeld forged a sisterhood pact which I thought was good between the two towns as they share a common past through their most outstanding citizens – Pastor Ullmer and Rizal.

I always complain about Rizal monuments back home, so many of them that I feel that it has lost its meaning but for the first time I really felt good seeing this one. Its like seeing an old friend – I’ve never been this thankful seeing a Rizal monument in my life. Germany would’ve been just another country for me if it were not for Rizal. The guy opened doors for us to be connected to world that was very different from our own. Rizal remains relevant not only because he traveled the world for us to see but also because the historical mission he thought his generation could carry out has not been completed. Somehow we have to figure out how to continue what his generation started.

Just before I went back to Heidelberg, this time an old man with a walking stick, approached me and asked if I needed help with anything. I don’t think he said it in English but I think that’s what he wanted to say. He was smiling all through out. I think people here are friendly towards someone like me because I’m Filipino. The story goes that Pastor Ullmer never hesitated to offer accommodation to Rizal and it was here that he perfected his German. The people from around here still carries with them that same generous character. They’re all Pastor Ullmer to every Filipino.

What was the yard is now the garage. This is the back side of the house. Beautifully maintained.

The house taken from a distance. The layout is different from what we Filipinos are used to. The main door is on this rightside. The backyard (now the garage) appears to be the facade but actually is not.

The actual address marker of Pasto Ullmer’s house. “Pfarramt” means rectory in English.

I can’t understand why Filipino officials here would write this in German – Well, I guess this force non speakers to learn some German. This reminds me of those NHI marker in the Visayas written in Tagalog. The marker reminds its viewer that this is the house where Rizal finished his novel.

The guy’s a rockstar. What I can say.

While the Germans wrote this one in English. These folks know who’d come here to see this sign. The marker points to the direction of Calamba which is 10361 km’s from here.

The church where Rizal heard services.

What a lovely town this Wilhemfeld is.

The signboard reads, “PARKFEST” at the Rizal Park.

Because of Wilhemsfeld’s hilly terrain, they have uneven roads that goes up and down. This is an esquinita called Ullmer Weg. A block away from the ruthaus. The street that leads to the park.

There he is! the man, the myth, the legend.

Going back to Heidelberg. This modern white building is the ruthaus, their version of a the municipio. More than a year ago, Calamba officials went here to sign a friendship pact with the town. There’s a post with a sign pointing to Calamba an how far it is from Wilhemfeld.

Heidelberg’s Arch Bridge

A bridge, a passenger boat and a castle on the hill

This long, old and narrow town along the great river Neckar is a living museum in itself. I would walk aimlessly around exploring the town without minding where I’ll end up. This time I found myself in the town’s old bridge. They call it alte brücke, the old bridge, the most beautiful of all bridges in Germany!

The bridge and its surroundings presents a lovely post cardy scene. There’s something with old bridges that makes you feel good about things. With the picturesque backdrop of the hills on the one side and the alstadt and all its baroque houses on the other, the area continues to draw flocks of tourist like ants being drawn naturally to sugar. What did Goethe, Rizal, Victor Hugo and Twain felt when they crossed this wonderful bridge for the first time? I’m sure they felt good about it.

I read that it had been destroyed around 1689 and 1693. There was war between the protestant English and Spanish forces – yes, in Germany believe it or not and the bridge had been badly damaged during this period. Early records shows the bridge being mentioned as early as 11th century. How many reconstructions it had gone under? No one’s sure. An old illustration of the bridge shows it having a wooden roof. The gates on the end of the bridge had a very interesting Moorish form but none the less it was beautifully constructed and conserved. In Tayabas the Franciscans built an arch bridge not as long and wide but as spectacular and elegant. Considering that both were built on top of a river bed and unpredictable water current in a time building technology was not as advanced and efficient is testament to an incredible engineering feat.

There are several extant examples of these bridges in our land. We definitely have more to gain preserving what remains of our heritage structures. They are monuments to what had been achieved in the past. Unfortunately, many of these structures are presented by educators as mere remnants of oppression and of the colonial phase. I’ve heard these silly arguments in my life and consider such as ignorant and empty opinions. Such assessment only serve to diminish our peoples interest in Filipino history.

I have not heard of an Egyptian complain about the pyramids because it was built by brutal labor but I know the Talibans did dynamited to pieces the world heritage giant standing Buddha’s of Bamiyan. Their rational is as mad as those that declare Spanish era structures historically useless and irrelevant.

Our actions towards heritage conservation define the level of our historical understanding and appreciation. Right now, we’re lagging behind in heritage conservation. Even communist Vietnam is doing better than us with their drive to preserve the colonial buildings left behind by the French. Those who do well as a country are those who protects their historical structures and continuously promote history, culture and arts. While those who thrash theirs are clearly headed down.

April 2012

Taken on a different day. A sunnier day!

Young men paddling along the river Neckar

What a wonderful day it was.

The gate bridge of Heidelberg

The Balay in Balayan

Balayan Church

The church with its red brick bell tower is an impressive baroque. The interior is worth a look because it has structurally remained intact (although the modern paintings & murals are a bit out of place). Declared a National Cultural Treasure because its construction was supervised by Filipinos. A rare achievement in the 18th century.

Mr. Alix, a local in his 60’s recounts their elders telling them about “countless church legends” and how it was built “piece by piece” making it virtually earthquake proof. I saw small repairs around the church that were not properly done (some portions of the bell tower for example were patched with common cement). It is ideal that all repairs and restoration work are coordinated with authorities for technical direction. Until now, some of our parish priest fails to understand the benefits of this coordination.

The locals appears to be conscious of heritage conservation. There was controversy some years ago when the church allowed the building of McDonalds in its compound. I’m not sure about the details but I heard that the locals opposed to it. My personal opinion is that the parish should have never allowed it.

Bahay na Bato – Balayan Style

Near the church are clusters of bahay na bato nestled between modern houses and shops. Some of the old houses that are  rented out to businesses maintained its period exterior. Despite being converted into shops they retained many of the antique structure and design from its earlier incarnation.

Just like in many old towns, there are casualties. Old houses that were quietly removed. However, there are still a lot of great looking houses left. Descendants (like the Martinezes and Lopezes) are proud of their ancestral houses that even when most of them no longer resides in Balayan they hire people to look after them.

Balayan must retain its most important period houses. Their history can be seen today in these wonderful relics. For them to preserve these vintage treasures is to honor their past, their heritage and the name of their town – Balayan. I’m glad that the awareness for conserving what’s left of the old town is high among the locals.

I visited two of the Martinez’s ancestral houses. Both are in good condition. The biggest and the most elegant of all ancestral house belongs to this Family. The Martinez mansion across the gas station have a stone arch which is a rarity even among the rich homeowners in Manila. The first floor is rented out to a carinderia. The house is maintained by caretakers from Iloilo. They have strict orders not to allow anyone in. The house is one of the biggest I’ve seen in the province. It has a wide yard and some fruit bearing tree.

Another house that had been preserved for visitors to see is the simple yet elegant Ermita house. One of the parents of Eduardo Ermita is from a family of means in Balayan. A personal favorite is the Santos house (located not far from the Lopezes mansion) because of elements that reminded me of the ancient stilt wooden houses of the coastal islands. I was told by a local that if all the houses of old Balayan was preserved the town could rival their neighbor Taal not only in number but grandeur and splendor. What’s noticeable is that houses in Balayan are spacious compared to Taal.

The most popular Balayan house is the casa grande of the Lopezes (honored with an iron marker by historical commision). The house house was endowed with expensive furniture, grandiose interiors and profuse ornamentation throughout. This should be easy to explain as the owners were among the richest family in the province.

Casa grande’s renowned resident, Sixto Lopez, is one of the most brilliant minds of his time. I saw a correspondence of his in English (addressed to a US senator) which shows how adaptive and flexible his generation was when it comes to language and learning. He learned English as he was appointed to seek US recognition of the Philippine independence. The Batangas revolutionist (Galicano Apacible is also a native of Balayan) were giants in thoughts and intellect. We have to take inspiration from their achievements and how they lived their lives.

Sixto Lopez’s had the idea of briging Aguinaldo and Mabini (a province mate) to the US as there were people there that he believe could help them in their fight for independence. Even when Aguinaldo was captured he petitioned for him to go stateside (same with Mabini). Unfortunately, his plans never materialized. Lopez’s hope for American recognition is a clear sign that the American public were concerned about the military expansionism and there are Americans that were willing to listen. Some of these men (like the popular author Mark Twain) vehemently opposed the idea of an American empire. There are moderate and liberty loving Americans that even then were against occupying other states. Today, we see these liberty loving American’s getting more vocal – I pray that they succeed in taking back their country.

I wonder if there are existing tourism programs in Balayan. With creativity and planning the local government could get people to visit the town. The idea can be attractive. The town is abundant in historical and cultural resources. There are field trips (for students) that goes to where the famed Bagoong Balayan are made. It won’t be such a bad idea to include a walking tour of the old houses of Balayan. It being a coastal town, a stroll near the bay (if they can develop it) after a walking tour of its historic center is a perfect ending for a day’s visit.

Leo Martinez's ancestral house

Casa Grande - the Lopezes home in Balayan

An elegant white painted office for once rich Balayan cacao business

An example of architectural "reuse". This is one of the biggest stone house in town and its looking great!

Another house owned by the Martinez clan of Balayan. A personal favorite!

Renovated through the years but still showing the original design of a classic Filipino home

The Bahay na Bato just like the Bahay Kubo are square in design

I was told that the lower floor serves as a mortuary. The upper floor, a study hall (?) That's a strange combo

More Rizal

Media’s going loco over Rizal’s 150th birthday. The last time we had something similar to this was during the centennial.

I think this is good. Rizal is Rizal. Who doesn’t recognize the name. It’s everywhere. His life message is what we need to bring closer to our young people.

I’ll never forget reading Leon Ma. Guerrero’s “The First Filipino”,arguably the best bio on the hero. He captured the time, place, emotion – everything about Pepe Rizal. His work changed how I look at Rizal -he was extraordinary not because of how he died but how he lived.

The book was a gift from a friend (who’s now back in his native Cotabato I believe) His uncle is Mr. Badoy of NHI.

Guerrero’s bio is like Soledad Locsin’s English translation of Rizal’s novel. They did justice by writing without covering up the true Rizal. No one will ever write as good as these men and women when it comes to Rizal because they grew up in the hispano filipino culture and tradition before it was lost.

I wish that other heros, yes, those perilously close to being forgotten can one day get the same attention Rizal is getting. Rizal is awesome but it wouldn’t hurt if we can celebrate with the same enthusiasm the other important dates in the lives of the our lesser known heroes.

Rizal at 150

Rizal at 150!

It’s amazing how time flies isn’t it?

The Calamba native, considered as the greatest Filipino hero of all, will be celebrating his 150th birthday.

Actually, we’ll be the ones commemorating since his long been gone.

Aside from his career as a writer for the “propaganda” we seem to have forgotten his other side. He had many sides – we gloss over his other talents.

Rizal today is the face that people have imprinted on their shirt like that of Che Guevara.

Do they even know what he stood for?

There so much we can learn from this guy.

That’s if we can go beyond the demified Rizal model we’ve been taught to imitate.

A Morning in Morong Rizal

Morong Moro

Its surprising how provinicial some towns are even if they’re just a few kilometers away from the capital. Morong in Rizal is one such town.

I came to see the town to visit its famed San Geronimo church but ended up wandering around for awhile.

The entire province was once called the province of Morong. They renamed the province after Rizal (as if he needs more publicity).

A green river. Surprisingly, clean. Good job Morong!

It baffles me why they changed the name?

Morong refers to its former inhabitants, the Moros, said to have lived in the peninsula’s mountainous parts.

Could this be the reason why?

Were they (Americans and Filipino leaders in the early 1900’s) uncomfortable with such a name? Or were they just massively promoting Rizal as an idol for the Filipinos so they’ll follow his peaceful ways versus the revolutionaries, whom at that time was still popular in the countryside?

If it had not been changed, there would have been the issue of what to call the people of the province since they’re not Moro.

They refer to themselves today as “Rizalenos”. Out of curiosity, I asked a couple of locals in the area and “Rizaleno” sounded alien to them.

But for me, old names should never be replaced because history is lost. Just as you would not rename a living person not unless you want to hide his past.

A local passes by one of the few remaining old houses near the town square

Some refute that the name came from “Moro”. But I believe there’s historical basis that it did. The Moro, historically the adversary of Catholic Spain, were dispersed when the two met in Manila.

The Moros must’ve fled to the mountains after Manila was placed under Spanish rule. Even the Moro rebels of our modern times seeks refuge in the mountains. But how they seem to have vanished is a mystery.

A silent witness to the towns history

The Moro we see today in Manila trace their roots back to the South. They were not the Mohammedan that Legazpi drove out of Manila.

Thankfully, a town, Morong, can still remind us of this history. Not unless our bright politicians rename the quaint municipality.

There are very few extant old houses now in Morong. The plaza is where you can find some of them.

The town is unique because unlike the usual pueblo where you’ll find all  historically significant buildings in the vicinity of the church. The church is perched on a hill while the plaza and the municipio can be found right across the river if you’re coming from San Geronimo.

A town almost as old as the capital city

America in Moro

Morong is one of the first towns (together with Antipolo) to be taken from the Filipinos in this parts during the Filipino American war.

More than one hundred years ago Elihu Root describes Morong’s industry: “A mountanous country, abounding in stone quarries, banks of jasperated marbles and gold beds. Much rice and sugar cane are raised.”

Usually, American observations are scouting reports of the industries present in each town.

July 4 reported Philadelpia Times: “Americans swept the Morong peninsula, wins two battle and takes the the town of Morong and Antipolo”. This begun the pacification and eventual control of the Yanqui in that beautiful peninsula.

A wall build to last

The Hero of Morong

The town produced the first Filipino casualty in WWI. A native of Morong, Tomas Mateo Claudio, studying in America he  joined the US Marines to fight in Europe. He died in France and to this day is celebrated as Morong’s greatest hero.  A monument of Claudio can be found in the plaza. A main street and a school is also named after him.

Old Traditions

Cultural celebrations in Morong are among the liveliest in the entire country. During Lent they parade “Santos” on their streets. It is considered having the most number of processionals icons in the province. Christmas is celebrated based on traditions that has come down through generations.

Pistang Morong. I found jeeps with this sticker of the iconic Morong church.

Morong’s old traditions persist even in this modern complicated times.

They speak with an Tagalog accent exceedingly rare. Possibly an accent that is still present in other parts of Provincia de Morong.  How different is it with the other Tagalog provinces?

I’ve encountered many Tagalog accents and it looks like Morong’s is a bit milder, more laid back.

Yglesia de San Geronimo

The main reason for my visit is to see what many consider as the most fascinating and significant church facade in the province. A look reveals much of its history and origin.

Church and convent of San Geronimo. The flame trees were beautifully blossoming around the church yard.

On top is a dedication to its Franciscan builder. “Esta portada se construido ano 1851 y 52 siendo cura parroco el R.E.F Maximo Rico”. Local historians suspect that Chinese converts were the ones commisioned to finish the facade and the tower. This could be accurate as they have had a history of doing such works for the Church.

One of the gate lions, whom many consider proof that the bell tower was built by Chinese artisans (but usually these gate lion guards comes as gifts from Chinese converts like the ones in Sn. Agustin) had been stolen. Only the male version is now left.

Only goes to show just how cruel some of our kababayan are.

The church (and according to old people much of the town) was damaged during WWII. Much of the facade had been restored. How it was restored and by who – is not clear.

Inside the church there are still wonderful relics that has been part of the church from the beginning. Like the ukit of the Baptism of Jesus. The choir loft appears to be still the original construction.

The bell tower and facade is full of symbolism, and some say, hidden meaning. The Franciscan coat of arms, the four angels and what appears to be Mexican art can be found on it.

Recently, they’ve been gifted with relics of their patron St. Jerome. The Vatican, recognizing their devotion to the scholar saint gave them with two first class relics.

I’m sure that Morong locals are conscious of their heritage, both natural and historical, I hope they preserve what’s left for their children.

Mabuhay ang bayan ng Morong!

The Masonic Memorial Clock in Luneta

Right across the monument of Jose Rizal is a simple memorial dedicated to the Masons.


Yes, that secretive group that has been source of countless rumors and conspiracy theories. Some even go as far as accuse these men of satanic worship. I couldn’t say if they do or don’t.

Quijano de Manila once said, “there’s a granule of truth in every myth”.

But these men do really have some strange rituals that for someone outside would be shocking and frightening.

I guess this mystique is why stories about them are interesting. I believe they intend to keep this shroud of mystery, it makes them more influential, they attract curiosity, confusion  – even fear.

The memorial clock was unveiled during the centennial celebration. Its still working, unlike those public clocks you see around Manila that are left to rot. Aside from the shape of the memorial, which is obviously masonic, the thing that interest me was the quote from Presidente Emilio Aguinaldo engraved in a bronze plate.

“Masonically inspired”, he said.

Now, that’s great stuff for conspiracy theories!

But aside from this statement from Aguinaldo, masons were deeply involved in executing the design of war against Spain since the beginning. So the Philippine revolution, being a masonic initiative is no longer a “conspiracy theory” in the accepted sense.

But like most of our mason heroes, Presidente Aguinaldo was hardcore (borrowing from Kung Fu Panda). He takes his membership seriously. Just look at the picture below. Yep, that’s him on that strange looking gown seating on what appears to be an enormous wooden throne complete with engraved Sphinx on the sides(?).

Aguinaldo in his Masonic costume

But some of the more popular names: Plaridel, Quezon, Kalaw and Rizal (although many dispute this) returned to being Catholics before they died. Most of these people thought of reconverting while on their deathbeds. Of course, they’ll say these things never happened!

What a secretive bunch these people are…

Cutest Rizal Monument everrrr…

Even Rizal would've like this one!

I’ve been around the country  and I’ve yet to see a municipio or a city hall without a Rizal monument. Is there a law instructing all local government to have one?

I’ve seen some odd ones, some really old ones (early 1900’s), some neglected and some that doesn’t even look like the hero – but of course you assume its him.

One of my favorite is this one that stands in front of a remote municipio of San Fernando in Camotes Island. Not only does their monument really looks like the hero the monument and its environ is very well kept. Who ever maintains the small park deserves a job in Malacanan Palace!

Another detail that caught my attention was the color of the pedestal where the lifelike statue of Rizal stand. Did they picked green because of the meaning of the hero’s last name?

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