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I love to travel just to explore new things in life from breathtaking natural wonders, interesting historical sites, delicious food, friendly people and colorful culture. I treasure every moment in traveling by writing in my journal, taking photos and publish it in my travel blog.
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Walk in the Small Town of Woodcrafts

In a lakeshore town located in the foothills of Sierra Madre, there is a place popular for its artistic and embellished woodcrafts and colorful papier maches and it is considered as the "Art Capital of Laguna" and "The Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines." The town that I referring to is Paete, which is one of the lakeshore towns in Laguna de Bay surrounded by the towns of Pakil and Kalayaan.
The lush and verdant mountains of Sierra Madre in Paete. It also covered most of the
neighboring towns in Eastern Laguna.
The clean turquoise waters of Laguna de Bay with old wooden boats near the shore.
The busy scenario in the small town of Paete.
I made a visit in Paete just to complete the journey in the Laguna Loop and to have a glimpse of culture in this town. I had a twenty to thirty minute travel from Santa Cruz to this small town passing the busy streets and ascending slopes that offer a panoramic view of Laguna de Bay from the foothills of Sierra Madre. Then, when I came to the town proper, there are lots of woodcarving shops and woodcrafts stores everywhere. The town is also surrounded with the verdant and stunning mountains of Sierra Madre and the clear and aquamarine waters of Laguna de Bay. Therefore, Paete is a town where you can enjoy the art and nature.
Paete is the home of skilled woodcarvers. It is already part of their culture since the pre-Hispanic times.
The ornamented and artistic woodcrafts of Paete.
Paete came from the Tagalog word "paet" meaning chisel, a tool used for woodcarving. The town is also the home of skilled craftsmen and woodcarvers and it is the town where you can see plenty of artworks such as wooden statues, papier maches, pulpits, murals and bas reliefs. Most of these artworks were used in churches and cathedrals in different parts of the world such as the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. In 2005, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Paete as "The Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines."
Mariano Madrinan, the town hero of Paete because he brought honor to the country with his masterpiece.
Paete is also unique because of its town hero. In some places, the hero is a soldier or diplomat but here in Paete, the town's hero is a woodcarver named Mariano Madrinan. He created the masterpiece "Mater Dolorosa" who honored the King of Spain and won a major award in an exposition in Amsterdam in 1882.
An unfinished woodcarving but it is beautiful.
Religious images made of wood.
The colorful papier maches of Paete.
St. James the Apostle Church, Paete
Colorful paintings and murals are also popular in Paete which can be found in Islaw Art Gallery.
Today, the town is still famous for its ornamented woodcarvings and colorful papier maches, murals and paintings. There are many tourists who visited this town because they want to buy woodcarvings and witness the commemoration of Holy Week in this town. Paete is also known for its Spanish era Baroque church called St. James the Apostle Church.

Therefore, my experience in Paete is such a worthwhile visit because I appreciate the gifted talent in sculpture and painting of the natives as well with the fact that this is the town where you can appreciate the Filipino art and the observance of religious tradition during Holy Week in our country.

Activities: You can buy woodcarvings, paintings and papier maches in stores within the town proper. In addition, you can witness the Holy Week in this town and visit the Three Crosses in the top of Sierra Madre mountains.

How to Get There: From Santa Cruz, Laguna, you can ride a jeepney or drive through National Highway passing the towns of Pagsanjan, Lumban and Kalayaan. Then, turn right to J.P. Rizal Street in order to make it to the town proper of Paete.

Date of Travel: November 5, 2011 and December 18, 2011

Saturday, November 10, 2012

From the Colorful Ducks to the Heritage Plaza: Discovering the Lakeshore Towns of Victoria and Pila

When I am going to travel in the Laguna Loop, I always made a stopover to Calamba in order to ride a jeepeny, passing the towns of Los Banos and Bay via National Highway to Sta. Cruz. While the jeepney is passing in the National Highway, it offers the stunning view of the legendary Mount Makiling in the highways of Calamba and Los Banos up to the golden rice fields as well with the verdant trees and lush ornamental plants and trees in the corners of the street in Bay and Calauan. In addition, you can see the mountains of San Cristobal and Banahaw as you drive in the National Highway to Santa Cruz. It is always a route for me to pass the first two towns in the loop which is popular in ducks and poultry as well with the century-old houses and the heritage plaza in the town proper. 
The Duck Junction in Victoria-Calauan Highway.
As you enter the loop, the first thing that welcomes you is the monumental and colorful duck statues in the town of Victoria. It is one of the lakeshore towns in Laguna de Bay and  bordered by the towns of Bay in the west, Pila in the northeast, Calauan in the southwest, and Nagcarlan in the southeast. The town was formerly a barangay of Pila and it became a town in 1949 as the youngest municipality in the province. 

The colorful and huge duck statues in the Victoria-Calauan Highway.
As you enter the town, the huge and colorful duck statues in the junction of Victoria-Calauan road called the Duck Junction welcomes the travelers. This landmark symbolizes the richness of poultry industry through numerous duck farms and poultry products such as balut (boiled fertilized duck egg), itlog na maalat (salted duck egg) and kinulob na itik (deep-fried duck). In addition, the town is also popular because it is the location of the Detour task in the fifth season of U.S. reality show "The Amazing Race" where the teams accomplished flocking ducks to the cages and plowing the rice fields with the use of carabao.
The golden rice fields of Victoria in harvest.
When I visited the town, I noticed the golden green rice fields of Victoria that teemed up with the view of the mountains of San Cristobal and Banahaw from faraway. The people were friendly as well with the fact that every corner you can see duck farms and duck products store. Therefore, Victoria is a town which can competed with the Pateros in terms of the progressing duck industry in the town and you can enjoy the visit to this simple town because of the friendly people and the rural ambiance.
The view of the Shrine of Saint Anthony of Padua from the municipal hall.
Five to ten minutes away from the town of Victoria, you can reach the town proper of Pila where you can see the heritage houses which was built from the Spanish era. In addition, the plaza is very extensive and the church and the town hall were adjacent to each other which reminds me of the society during the Spanish period. Therefore, the houses located in the plaza represent the families who belong to the elite society.
Shrine of Saint Anthony of Padua or simply called as Pila Church.
Pila Municipal Hall which was built in 1939.
Before the Spaniards arrive in the Philippines, Pila and other lake shore towns in the Laguna de Bay are the oldest settlements in the area where archaeologists gathered artifacts which was dated during the Tang Dynasty. Then, the Franciscan friars evangelized the people of Pila in 1578 and they built a church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. In addition, the Philippines' oldest dictionary was published in this town in 1613. At the beginning of the 19th century, the church was transferred from Pagalangan to its present site because of frequent flooding in the area. Recently, the National Historical Institute declared the town plaza and the surrounding ancestral houses as a National Historical Landmark. In 2002, the Diocese of San Pablo, proclaimed the parish church of San Antonio de Padua de Pila declared as the Diocesan Shrine of Saint Anthony of Padua.
The heritage houses along with the progress and urbanization of the town.
The century-old houses in the town plaza.

As I walked in the town plaza, I noticed the old houses which was built in the Spanish era was still standing and also, I had a chance to visit the Pila Museum where I saw artifacts from the pre-historic era as well with the town pictures from the Spanish period. According to Filipino historian Luciano Santiago, it is the only town in the Philippines formally recognized as a historical site by both the church and the state. [1] Therefore, my visit here in Pila is all worth it because I feel the historical time travel by looking on the plaza which reminds me of the elite society in the Spanish period. After Pila, you can proceed to the neighboring town, the provincial capital of Santa Cruz.

How To Get There: From Calamba, you can take the National Highway passing the towns of Los Banos, Bay and Calauan which lead you to the town of Victoria and Pila.

Date of Travel: October 29, 2011

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trekking High to Majayjay: The Highland Town in the Banahaw

It was one of the most memorable commuting experiences I ever had. It was such a rollercoaster ride! It was funny yet nervous at the same time. I noticed that the tricycle driver did the sign of the cross as we proceed to the ascending slopes and descending zigzag roads that offer lush vegetation and dangerous gorges. However, I feel the excitement and the tension as I go along with the speed of the tricycle in passing the narrow zigzag road. In the end, I went to a long canopy walk in the thick forests of Banahaw to reach the simple yet beautiful waterfalls in the midst of the mystic mountain. These unforgettable travel moments happened in a rustic town in the Laguna Loop.
The welcome arch of Majayjay. You can pass the roads of the town that offers verdant and
lush vegetation from the trees and rice fields.
Located in the easternmost part of Laguna, Majayjay is one of the ideal venues for nature getaway. It is situated in the foothills of Mount Banahaw and the town stands 1000 feet above sea level. Majayjay was surrounded by the towns of Magdalena in the north, Liliw on the west, Luisiana in the east, and Lucban, Quezon in the south.
The historical marker of the town.
According to the ancient stories, the town has no adequate roads but there are curved slopes which lead you to the gorges. In order to solve the problem, the Spanish conquerors hired laborers and porters to construct sufficient roads in the town. However, because of the mountainous terrain, these people are exhausted and they produced a sound "hay, hay, hay" (sigh) while climbing the slopes of Mount Banahaw. That is why the town was named Majayjay: "ma" meaning many and "hay, hay" from the sound of sighing. It became a town in 1571 and Gaspar Osorio was the first leader of the town. In addition, the Brains of Katipunan, Emilio Jacinto, died in this town on 1899.
Saint Gregory the Great Church
When I visited this town, I went to Saint Gregory the Great Church. It is one of the National Cultural Treasures and one of the tallest churches in Laguna. It was built in 1571 and it was originally made of bamboo. It was constructed in 1616 to 1649 as a church made of stone. The church was rebuilt with high structure with the help of Father Jose de Puertollano which was renovated from 1711 to 1734. The church is also adjacent to the municipal hall where you can read the historical background of the town.
Tulay Pigue
A few walks away from the town hall, you can go to the unfinished product of forced labor. It is called as Tulay Pigue (Buttocks Bridge or Puente de Capricho). It is a narrow bridge which is supposedly used to connect the neighboring barangays and towns in Majayjay. You can go there after you passed the cemetery and dumpsite in the midst of lush vegetation and slippery slopes.
The canopy trail to Taytay Falls.
Taytay Falls
The cool water from the gushing cascades of Taytay Falls.
Majayjay is known for the most visited tourist destination which is the Taytay Falls. I went to a fifteen minute ride passing the zigzag roads of Majayjay until I reached the barangay hall of Taytay. Then I took the canopy trail to the falls while during that time it was raining. I felt the cold breeze and the abundance of vegetation as well with the pleasant view of verdant forests and the stunning mountain of Banahaw. When I reached the falls, the water was cold and clear from the cascading bliss of a two-storey waterfall. In addition, there are many tourists and campers during that time enjoying their time swimming in the fresh water of the falls. However, there are many bottles, wrappers and other form of trash left beside the river. Before, it was a hard task to reach the falls because there were no marked trails during that time. In 2008, the World Bank supported the promotion of tourism in Taytay Falls that is why we have concrete pathways to the falls.
Coconut plantations are very common in the highland town of Majayjay.
Rice fields in the mountainous terrain of Banahaw.
The women making their laundry in the river.
Aside from visiting the waterfall and historical sites, I also noticed the simplicity of life among the residents of Majayjay from using horses as a mode of transportation, the farmers are planting on the rice fields and the women make their laundry in the river. These things amazed me as a city person because of our identity as a Filipino living in a rural was still there in the modern days.

Therefore, my travel experience in Majayjay made me appreciate of the things especially taking care of our nature, remembering the history of our country, and the rural life of the residents. In other words, Majayjay is a town of adventure and simplicity. Let's aim high to Majayjay!

Tips and Reminders: There is a schedule for public transportation vehicles if you are heading to Majayjay. You need to wait for an hour before the jeepneys depart in order to reach the town. In addition, you need to drive carefully and safely because the road  to Taytay Falls is more on ascending slopes. The best time to travel or driving your vehicles in Majayjay is day time.

How to Get There: There are possible options to go to Majayjay. First, you can take a jeepney from Santa Cruz and passing the towns of Pagsanjan, Cavinti and Luisiana that takes you to the town proper. Second, you can take a jeepney from the town proper of Nagcarlan passing the town of Liliw to the town center or from Liliw, you can ride a tricycle to Majayjay. Third, you can ride a jeepney from Lucban going to Majayjay.

You can also read April 2012 post Navigating Laguna Loop: Majayjay in Perspectives in White Scratch Papers

Date of Travel: January 14, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Walk in the Historical Fortress

In the heart of Manila's oldest district, there is a fortress that was strengthened by history. You will take a walk in a clean and green park where you can see carriages (calesa in Tagalog term) which is the mode of transportation during the Spanish period. Then, you will make it to the bricked moat filled with water lilies and an old facade where history awaits as you enter the old fortress, Fort Santiago.

Located in the mouth of Pasig River in Intramuros, Fort Santiago is one of the most visited parks and historical sites in Metro Manila. The entrance fee is worth P50.00 for students and P75.00 for tourists. If you want to experience to ride in a calesa, you can pay P20.00 for children or students, P50.00 for tourists and P300.00 for Intramuros tour. 
Fort Santiago moat

Fort Santiago facade
Historical Background
Fort Santiago is the location where Rajah Sulayman, a Muslim chieftain of pre-Hispanic Manila. It was palisaded fort with bronze guns during the ancient period. It was destroyed by Martin de Goiti who fought with the natives in 1570. The Spaniards started building Fuerza de Santiago (Fort Santiago) in 1571 after the establishment of City of Manila which made as the capital of our country. The construction of Fort Santiago was accomplished from 1590 to 1593 headed by Governor General Gomez Perez de Dasmarinas and the gate was built in 1714. During the American period, the citadel served as headquarters of the U.S. Navy. It was destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945. Today, the 16th century military defense structure is one of the most visited parks and historical sites in Manila.

Following the Footsteps to a Historical Walk
The footsteps of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
As I entered the gate of the historical citadel, I noticed the metal footsteps which lead you to a journey which reflects our colorful past. These steps represent the footprints of Dr. Jose Rizal as he walked to Bagumbayan for his execution in 1896.
The memorial cross of Fort Santiago for the victims of World War II.
I followed the footsteps and it lead me to another place which is the Memorial Cross. This site marked the resting place of 600 Filipinos and Americans who were victims of atrocities during the last days of February 1945. They suffered from starvation and suffocation on dungeons. Near in the memorial cross are the dungeons or underground prisons where it is formerly a battery of weapons. 
The skyline view of Manila from Baluarte de Santa Barbara located at the mouth of Pasig River.
Then I went upstairs to go in the stone bastion called Baluarte de Santa Barbara. Built in 1593, it formed a part of the Fort Santiago and it commemorated the memories of the Second World War in Manila. 
The prison cell of Dr. Jose Rizal in Fort Santiago.
I also visited the Rizal Shrine where the prison cell of Dr. Jose Rizal was located in this area. In addition, the poems "Mi Ultimo Adios" (Last Farewell) and "Sa Kabataang Pilipino" (To The Filipino Youth) in different languages are posted in the museum as well with the different pictures and the objects he used during his lifetime.

Other Photos from Fort Santiago
A ruined brick building which is considered as the oldest building in Fort Santiago.
Media Naranja, located near in Baluarte de Santa Barbara
The ruined buildings.
Therefore, my visit in Fort Santiago helped me to reflect in our colorful past. In addition, this place served as a witness of our history from the establishment of Rajah Sulayman's kingdom in the pre-colonial times to the fortification of this citadel as a military defense site during the Spanish period. Today, it is one of the most visited historical sites among Filipino and foreign tourists. 

Date of Travel: February 12, 2012

Bounties of Nature and History in the Laguna Loop: Discovering Nagcarlan

In the foothills of the mystic Mount Banahaw, there is a town strengthened by history and heritage by its bricked structures preserved until the modern days. In addition, you can enjoy the bounties of nature through its lush vegetation, clear waters teemed up with cascading waterfalls flowing from the rivers of Banahaw, and stunning and verdant mountains bordered the historical town.

As you drive in the Laguna Loop, you should visit the town of  Nagcarlan. Located in southern part of Laguna, this town is surrounded by the towns of Pila in the north, Victoria in the northwest, Calauan on the west,  Magdalena on the east, Rizal in the southwest, Liliw on the southeast and Dolores, Quezon in the south.
The statue of Ana Kalang, as you enter the poblacion of Nagcarlan.
Nagcarlan was named after the rich and generous woman named Ana Kalang, who helped the people of the town. It become a town in 1583 under Fr. Tomas de Miranda, the priest who brought wheat seeds in our country.
The thick vegetation apparent from the wide plains to the stunning mountain.
Bunga Falls
The pure and clear waters in the town of Nagcarlan which is also connected to the neighboring towns.
The stunning Mt. San Cristobal from the highway of Nagcarlan.
In Nagcarlan, you can take your nature escapade here as well with outings in some various resorts in the town. In addition, you can enjoy the beautiful spots in this small town because it is bordered by stunning, green mountains of Banahaw and San Cristobal, the thick and verdant vegetation, and the gushing waterfalls flowing with the clear rivers and cool water from the mountains. Besides, you can experience an ultimate roadtrip through zigzag roads and slopes.
The way to Saint Bartholomeu Church which is bordered with palm.
The old bricks used as materials in the construction of the church.

Saint Bartholomew Church
You can also take a walk in the town proper especially if you want to take a historical tour. The first landmark is the Saint Bartholomew Church located in the poblacion. It was built in 1752 and it is one of the Baroque churches in the Laguna Loop. The bricked facade of the church as well with the solemn interior and the Baroque architecture proved that the church was strengthened by centuries.
A huge bell strengthened by years.
A small window from the belfry.
The bird's eye view of Nagcarlan from the belfry.
The church was also the location of the classic fantasy series "Kampanerang Kuba" starrring Anne Curtis. In addition, I had a chance to climb at the belfry. While climbing to the belfry, I noticed that wooden ladders are sturdy for many years but I feel afraid while going upstairs. When I made it to the top, I noticed the huge bell surrounded by the smaller ones and it is also rewarding that I saw the bird's eye view of the town from the top.
The bricked arch of Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery.
The chapel of the Underground Cemetery.
The octagonal grounds teemed up with green grass and shrubs and bricked road.
The niches located in the octagonal grounds of the cemetery.
The Underground Crypt.
A few walks away from the church, you can visit the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. It is one of the unique tourist attractions and historical sites in Laguna. It was built in 1851 by a Franciscan priest named Vicente Velloc. It became a secret headquarters of the Katipuneros during the Revolution in 1896. In 1981, it declared as one of the historical sites in the Philippines. As you enter the place, you will notice the bricked facade of the arch as well with the brick road going to the chapel and you can found the cemetery under the chapel. There are almost one hundred forty niches in the octagonal grounds and thirty-six niches in the underground crypt. The cemetery was a burial place of Franciscan friars, and former barangay leaders or cabeza de barangay during the Spanish era and prominent Catholic families in Nagcarlan.

My travel in Nagcarlan reminds me of the rich history during the Spanish era and the abundance of natural resources and hidden natural spots in our country. It is such a place to visit during our vacation as well with the fact that schools can use this as an itinerary for their educational field trip.

Tips and Reminders: According to National Historical Institute, the tourists are allowed to take pictures unless that they are not using the flash in your camera and they are permitted to publish pictures for public use. (Thanks to the tour guide who is knowledgeable and accommodating during my visit in Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery)

Hours of Operation: The schedule of visit in Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is from Tuesday to Sunday, starting from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

How to Get There: You can ride a jeepney from Santa Cruz passing the towns of Pagsanjan, Magdalena and Liliw and they will get you to the town proper of Nagcarlan. In addition, you can take a jeepney from San Pablo passing the town of Rizal.

You can also read December 2011 post from my blog Perspectives in White Scratch Papers entitled Navigating Laguna Loop: Nagcarlan

Date of Travel: October 29, 2011
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