I visited the
Oyet told me to look for old church records: baptisms, marriages, deaths. I found these to be mostly intact --- bounded and yellowed parchment papers that ignited my rhinitis --- and managed to convince a reluctant parish staff to allow me to browse the archives.
I failed to find my grandfather’s name but came across several entries bearing the Ciencia Cruz surname. These were written in a flourishing script of old espanol that I tried to decipher with my deficient tagalog espanol. Somehow, I managed to catch the drift. I came for traces of my history and that is what I got. Nevertheless, it is enough material for me to confirm that my father’s side of our story originated in Obando, Bulacan. I was also able to construct a theory that we used to be called as Ciencia Cruz which later evolved into C. Cruz (there were no middle initials in the entries but the C. Cruz’s started to appear after the disappearance of the Ciencia Cruz’s). These discoveries gave me a mighty itch to prove my theory and unravel the mystery why my grandfather “fled (?)” to Umingan in Pangasinan, dropped the Cruz in favor of the Ciencia, find a job as an encargado of the Hacienda Gonzales, and married my grandmother who herself was a migrant from Cabugao, Ilocos Sur (shades of Po-on, and her maiden name started with an “S”).
This experience brought me to more churches in Umingan, where I was told that the records are stored in Urdaneta after the church was destroyed in the big war/dacque nga gubat and the only relic left was a big bell that was just recently recovered from treasure hunting thieves; and in Santiago, Isabela where my father was born and a new church was built over the old one. Later, I realized that I am really no match for the demands of the creative non-fiction that Oyet rubbed on us. I fell in love with those churches of “haunting loveliness” and forgot my hunt for the past. I have became a churchophile (i.e. Spanish era, extant or in ruins, restored or defaced, rebuilt or reconstructed).
With this new perspective, I discovered new (to me) historical nuggets on my Obando research. It used to be called Catanghalan and later renamed after the Spanish Governor-General Don Francisco de Obando y Solis Marquez when it was established as a pueblo in 1753; that its first resident priest is Fr. Manuel de Olivencia (OFM) who started building the church in 1754; that it has the rarity of having 3 patron saints namely Sta. Clara to whom Obando’s famous fertility dance originated, San Pascual Baylon who is the current focus of the town’s 3-day fiesta, and the Nuestra Senora de Salambao whose image was found by fishermen in 1763.
Obando is the hometown of my great grandfather Esteban Ciencia. I learned this from the anecdotes of dead aunts and uncles. In my files, I keep a photocopy of a document stating the baptism of Segunda Ciencia Cruz, daughter of Esperidion Ciencia Cruz and Juana Angeles of Barangay Primero, attended by her godparents Don Mauricio and Dona Josefa Conde Santos, Mateo and Pelagia Antonio, and a certain Dona Romana, and held on
6 June 1900.