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Published: March 12th 2013
Sunset Viewed From AntipoloLaguna de Bay. This body of water -- the largest lake in the Philippines -- straddles Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna and Rizal. From this lake, water flows through the Pasig River which meanders around and across Metro Manila and drains into Manila Bay. It is said that 3,000 years ago, Manila Bay is connected to Laguna Lake but "broke up" as a result of disturbances along a major earthquake fault. He stands only at 4 feet 11 inches but Dr. Jose Rizal stands tall in every Filipino's heart. In honor of our national hero, the tallest statue was erected right in his hometown of Calamba, Laguna. You'd pass it on a roadtrip from Manila passing the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX), just 90 minutes driving south from Manila. In Calamba, one also finds the former home of Dr. Jose Rizal right beside the church where he was baptized. The hero's former home is now a Museum open to all. We have all heard of the UNESCO-declared heritage town of Vigan (Ilocos Sur in Northern Philippines). Likewise the other heritage towns of Silay City (in Negros Occidental in Central
On our way back circling Laguna de Bay, we stopped by Vieux Chalet owned by a Swiss married to a Filipina. Good food. Better still, perfect spots to view sunsets.
Municipal Hall in a little-known Plaza Mayor in a little-known heritage town: Pila, Laguna.
Visayas) and Taal, Batangas just a couple of hours drive south of Manila. But not too many have heard of Pila, Laguna just past the more famous towns of Calamba, Los Baños and Victoria. The town takes pride in having preserved its "Plaza Mayor" where the square is lined with trees and hemmed in by a 17th century church, a Municipio (Municipal Hall) and heirloom houses owned by the town's elite and illustrious members of society. In the town's Pila Museum, one discovers that the first dictionary in the local language was printed here. Interestingly, this Tagalog dictionary predates the first book ever printed in America. The centuries-old tradition and art of woodcarving has been preserved in this town named after "Paet", the local word for chisel. You can watch woodcarvers working on their craft while walking along Quesada Street leading to the church where all religious icons were carved by the local artisans. Unfortunately, the woodcarving business didn't yield enough to sustain it. Many woodcarvers had to search for other outlets for their craftsmanship. This search ended on many buffet tables of grand parties, posh restaurants and
Papier Mâché Sculptures in Paete, Laguna
The woodcarving capital of the Philippines -- Paete. Also regarded as Lanzones (a local fruit) country, along with its neighboring towns.
cruise ships. Ice sculptors count many former woodcarvers from Paete, Laguna. The legend goes that Pakil's lovely church was spared from destruction because clouds wrapped the church just when US bombing squads hovered over the town to drop bombs to flush out the Japanese invaders. The story continues that the Japanese invaders stayed away from Pakil and instead occupied the neighboring towns instead for fear of being attacked by ants. The area, like many other towns in Laguna, is famous for the local fruit called Lanzones -- a certified magnet for ants. They say the more ants, the sweeter the fruit. This same church is also the home of the Virgen de Turumba, whose image is enshrined in a tiny chapel within the church. Would you believe this religious icon has been gifted with 50,000 gowns by the faithful? (The country is pre-dominantly Catholic) Gowns are changed every 2 weeks and each worn gown is cut up into tiny patches for distribution to the faithful like an amulet. Wonderful stories. Lovely lake towns. Old churches steeped in history.
St. Christopher with ORIENTAL features rendered by a local artist, Jose Luciano Dans.
Art and culture surviving through the centuries. A quick day trip or roadtrip around Laguna de Bay. Easy to throw in more towns to visit, but these 4 is ideal for a quick round up lasting 6 hours or so. Go click on the headings for more details and photos. And yes, go hit the road now!
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