Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Ako ang hari sa bahay pero ang asawa ko ang alas.”

This everyday statement was meant to be a joke but it might as well reflect the matriarchal instincts of Filipinos in our sub-conscious minds. For really, Filipinos have been ruled by Rajas and Datus but it was the Babaylans or native priestesses whom they seek for decision making. The Babaylans were eventually demonized when the Spanish introduced their male god. But the Babaylans did not disappear, periodically resurrecting themselves into mangkukulams (the demonized version) and beatas (“blessed” women who dominated 17th-18th century religion) that later inspired other “cult” movements like the confradia, the masonic movement, the Katipunan, Guardia de Honor, and the like.

Today, the Babaylan’s presence is stronger than ever and is manifested in the Filipino Catholic’s devotion to the Virgin Mary. It makes me wonder why Filipinos would venerate a mortal (the Virgin Mary) more than God and the Son of God itself (Jesus Christ). Of the 19 major Catholic pilgrimage churches in the Philippines, only 5 are dedicated to Jesus Christ (i.e. Badoc, Quiapo, Cebu, Kalibo, and Tacloban). The following 14 other pilgrimage churches are dedicated to the Virgin Mary: Badoc In Ilocos Norte, Bantay in Ilocos Sur, Luna in La Union, Manaoag in Pangasinan, Piat in Cagayan, Gamu in Isabela, Ermita in Malate (Manila), Antipolo in Rizal, Pakil in Laguna, Caysasay in Batangas, Capalonga in Camarines Norte, Penafrancia in Camarines Sur, Joroan (Tiwi) in Albay, and Opon in Mactan Island. I have the opportunity of seeking the Babaylan’s blessings in these shrines of the Virgin Mary with the exception of that in Capalonga and Opon.

SHRINE OF THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (Piat, Cagayan). Piat was accepted as an evangelical mission of the Dominicans in 1610. During the evangelization of the Itawis region, miracles were attributed to an image of the Virgin Mary that was carved in Macau and subsequently brought to Nueva Segovia from Manila. In 1623, Fr. Diego Pinero (OP) initiated the building of an ermita for the miraculous image in an area between the pueblos of Piat and Tuao. It was later transferred to the church of Piat that Fr. Francisco Jimenez (OP) initiated to build in 1740. Fr. Ysodoro Rodriguez (OP) later made improvements to the church. In 1897, Fr. Santiago Capdevila (OP) added a silver altar and in 1898 started dressing the image of the Virgin Mary in gold and silver. The Diocese of Tuguegarao later abandoned the church after building a bigger shrine in the same place where the old ermita stood.

NUESTRA SENORA DEL ROSARIO (Manaoag, Pangasinan). Manaoag has been under the Dominican’s administration since 1605. Fr. Juan de Jacinto (OP) probably supervised the building of the first church that was made of light materials. Fr. Diego de Ballesteros (OP) initiated building a church at the close of the 17th century at a new site west of Baloquin but later abandoned this. Capitan Gaspar de Gamboa later had a brick church constructed that he donated to the Dominicans in 1722. In 1882, the renovation and enlargement of the church was started but was later demolished halfway into the construction after it suffered major damages during the 1892 earthquake. Fr. Hilario del Campo (OP) then later Fr. Jose Ma. Puente (OP) had a provisional church built while a new one is being constructed. This was, however, burned during the Philippine Revolution of 1898 before it was finished. From 1901 until 1906, Father Pacis, Fr. Cipriano Pampliega, Fr. Mariano Revilla, and Fr. Jose Bartolo supervised the rebuilding of the church. In 1912, further improvements were made and in 1926, the image of the famous Nuestra Senora de Manaoag was enshrined in the church. The church was gain improved from 1931 until 1932 under the supervision of Fr. Andres Duque before being damaged again during World War II.

National Heritage: The Lady of Namacpacan and a Capilla Passa

The town of Luna in La Union was founded by the Augustinians as a visita of Balaoan and was formerly known as Namacpacan. Fr. Mateo Bustillos (OSA) initiated building the first church from 1695 to 1697. This was probably destroyed and construction on what might be the present church started sometime in the 18th century. It was reinforced and improved in 1829 only to be severely damage in an 1854 earthquake. The church was again rebuilt in 1863. Fr. Marcelino Ceballos had the church restored and the convent enlarged in 1876. The Lady of Namacpacan, said to be miraculous, is enshrined in the church and crowned in 1959. The church --- dedicated to Sta. Catalina --- has been renovated several times since then. The entrance to the church features a capilla passa that looks like a fortress and a ceremonial archway. The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.

NUESTRA SENORA DELOS REMEDIOS (Malate, Manila). Maalat --- the old Malate --- was once called Laguio/Lagunoy. The Augustinians accepted it as a mission in 1581. A makeshift church was built in 1588 and, by 1591, a church and convent of stone was already constructed. The image of Nuestra Senora de Gracia --- brought from Andalucia, Spain ---- was enshrined in the church in 1624. Both church and convent were pulled down after sustaining damages during the 1645 and 1667 earthquakes. Fr. Dionisio Suarez (OSA) initiated rebuilding it from 1677 until 1679. It was completed under the supervision of Fr. Pedro de Mesa (OSA) in 1680. The church was damaged after being occupied by the invading British in 1762 who used it as a rear guard headquarters. It was rebuilt but again sustained damages during the 1863 earthquake. Fr. Francisco Cuadrado (OSA) had the church rebuilt in 1864 that was again damaged during a typhoon in 1868. Fr. Nicolas Dulanto (OSA) supervised its restoration and improvement from 1894 until 1898. The convent was demolished and replaced in 1930. Both church and convent were razed by fire during the liberation of Manila on 3-17 February 1945 where 5 Columban priests and thousands of Filipinos were massacred by the retreating Japanese invaders. The Columbans rebuilt the church from 1950 until 1978.

NUESTRA SENORA DE LA PAZ Y BUENAVIAJE (Antipolo, Rizal). The Franciscans were the founders of Antipolo. It was handed to the Jesuits in 1591. Fr. Juan de Salazar (SJ) had a stone church built from 1630 to 1633 for the image of Nuestra Senora dela Paz y Buenviaje that was brought from Mexico in 1626 by Governor Juan Nino de Tavera. The image became known as patroness of the galleons and had crossed the Pacific Ocean 8 times between 1641 and 1748. It was canonically crowned in 1926. The church was heavily damaged during the Chinese uprising of 1639 to 1640. Another one was built and destroyed during the earthquakes of 1645, 1824 and 1863. Msgr. Francisco Avendano later had the present church reconstructed that was declared as a national shrine in 1954. Fr. Pedro Chirino (SJ) and Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde (SJ), famed Jesuit historians, served in the church that is today venerated by pilgrims throughout the country.

THE VIRGIN OF CAYSASAY (Caysasay, Taal, Batangas). In 1603, a fisherman named Juan de Maningkad found what is now known as the image of the Caysasay Virgin while fishing in the river. The image was said to frequently appear in the place where it was found and, in 1611, a church of light materials was built in the area. This was replaced in 1639 by a stone church that was damaged during the 1754 and 1852 eruptions of the Taal Volcano. The church was rebuilt in 1856 only to be damaged again during the 1867 earthquake. It was later repaired and improved under the supervisions of Fr. Marcos Anton, the Italian painter Cesar Alberoni, and Fr. Agapito Aparicio. It has undergone renovations since then. The image of the Caysasay Virgin is enshrined in the church except on Fridays when it is brought to the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours.

NUESTRA SENORA DE PENA DE FRANCIA (Naga City, Camarines Sur). An early church, dedicated to the image of the Nuestra Senora Pena de Francia, was built around 1711 under the supervision of Fr. Miguel Covarrubias (OFM). This was replaced by the present church that was built around 1760 during the term of Bishop Isidoro de Arevalo. Repairs and improvements were done between 1877 and 1878 by Bishop Francisco Gainza.

LA VIRGEN MILAGROSA (Badoc, Ilocos Norte). Sometime ago, a group of lost fishermen found the images of what is now the La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc and the Sto. Cristo floating in the sea. It was said that the images decided where to stay by not allowing themselves to be moved. As it is, the Sto. Cristo stayed in Sinait and the La Virgen Milagrosa in Badoc where they remained enshrined since 1620.

The other pilgrimage churches which has been featured in earlier postings are the NUESTRA SENORA DE LA SALVACION in Joroan, Tiwi, Albay; OUR LADY OF CHARITY in Bantay, Ilocos Sur; OUR LADY OF GUIBANG in Gamu, Isabela; and the VIRGIN OF TURUMBA in Pakil, Laguna.

The Babaylan's Healer

Amang Lakay became a mangngagas during the early years of his marriage to Inang Baket. It happened when an old lady (the Babaylan?) befriended Amang Lakay and gave him a white bottle for healing spiritual and physical illnesses. Every late afternoon when day slowly fades into the night, Amang Lakay will wait in the window for the old lady’s visit. Amang Lakay’s white bottle healed many people in Almaguer but Inang Baket dreaded every moment of her husband’s daily rituals with the old lady that only he can see. Amang Lakay stopped being a mangangagas when he learned that all his children will die in exchange for his healing powers. Six of his ten children did die --- Soledad, Alicia, Febia, Antonio, Melencia and Leoncia. One of them is a child who looks like a monkey that was considered as their lucky charm. The first child to survive, Rosita, was born on April 7, 1932 in Almaguer.

One time, Inang Baket became pregnant again and gave birth at the same time with that of a neighbor. The neighbor died and during her funeral, Inang Baket asked the procession to stop so she could at least look at her neighbor, a request that the naseknans did not allow because it is dakes. When night came, Inang Baket heard a moaning sound approaching their house. It is the ghost of the neighbor. When the moans came nearer, Inang Baket got very scared. Amang Lakay, fearing for the health of his wife, took hold of a burarawit and chased the ghost away.

CREDIT: The Antipolo shrine illustration is borrowed from Norma Alarcon's "Philippine Architecture During the Pre-Spanish and Spanish Periods."

Monday, August 28, 2006


Inang Baket always have problems with her stomach. She will have two operations and it would be the cause of her death. It started just after the big war when her stomach suddenly started bulging and she became sickly. Nobody can cure her in the entire province of Nueva Vizcaya. Amang Lakay heard of a famed doctor from Ilocos Sur who might help and immediately prepared for the trip. The crops are not yet harvested and they have no money but relatives, neighbors and fellow Sabadistas contributed to so they can at least have fare money. Amang Lakay asked a neighbor to sell his carabao and instructed him to send the money to them in Ilocos Sur. The house and the younger children were entrusted to Auntie Ibang and relatives. It was the spirit of the amuyo.

They found Dr. Godofredo Reyes in Vigan, Ilocos Sur but they have no money to pay for the operation. Amang Lakay pleaded for the doctor to operate on Inang Baket. He promised to pay upon receiving the money from the sale of his carabao. Dr. Reyes agreed but there are no available anesthesia. Inang Baket had to endure every slice of the scalpel on her skin, and she passed out in pain when the knife began scrapping a tumor from her stomach which caused it to bulge. When she regained consciousness, the pain came back and stayed for weeks. She is lucky to survive. Dr. Reyes' five other patients with a similar case died after being operated. The good doctor will later serve as Ilocos Sur Governor.

They stayed for three months in Vigan while Inang Baket recuperates from the operation. They finally came home hitching a ride on a logging truck. The trip almost killed Inang Baket. She looked like death --- frighteningly thin, her mournful but soothing eyes dull with pain. But she would live for a long, long time.

Vigan is one of the oldest pueblos in the Philippines having been established by the occupation forces of Juan de Salcedo. The first parochial building is a chapel built by Augustinian priests in 1574 in the present site of the Cathedral of San Pablo. Vigan was then called Villa Fernandina after the King of Spain. The present church (i.e. the Cathedral) was built in 1641 and razed by fire in 1739. It was probably rebuilt and afterwards handed over to the Dominicans who transferred the Diocese of Nueva Segovia from Lallo, Cagayan to Vigan.

I always make a stop in Vigan whenever I have the chance. It is my way of saying thank you to the miracle and kindness of Doctor Reyes, and for another moment of basking in the well-preserved Ilocano heritage city. I took Bulan in my last trip to the Ilocos and told him the story of the miracle while walking around Vigan’s heritage district so he will not forget. We had a photo in the statue of the great Ilocana poet Leona Florentino.

Vigan is along a loop that includes the towns of San Vicente, Santa Catalina, and Caoayan. These 3 other towns are part of Metro Vigan and their magnificent colonial churches --- perhaps built by the Domincans --- is worth a brief visita iglesia.

Pedro Bucaneg's Mountain

The town of Bantay, which means guardian and/or mountain in Ilocano, stands like a sentinel in the entrance to Vigan. Another miracle happened in the town before Inang Baket’s time. One day at around 1580, a baby was thrown in the river and was saved by a Spanish priest. The baby survived but grew up blind. Despite this handicap, he eventually served as a teacher of the Ilocano language to Fr. Francisco Lopez (OSA) who translated the catechism of Cardinal Bellarmine that later became the first Ilocano book to be printed. He also translated the Doctrina Cristiana into his native tongue, co-authored the Arte dela Lengua Ilocana, and wrote the great Ilocano epic Biag ni Lam-ang. His name is Pedro Bucaneg. I will meet him in my childhood through a favorite poetry joust in the radio named in his honor --- the Oras ti Bukanegan.
Bantay was accepted by the Augustinians as a mission in 1591. Its church (dedicated to San Agustin) was also said to be the recipient of miracles through the intercession of the enshrined image of the Our Lady of Charity: during Malong’s Revolt in 1661 and Silang’s Revolt from 1761 to 1763 when the parochial building s were spared from a fiery destruction. During the Silang Revolt, the convent was used in imprisoning Bishop Ustariz and some priests until they were released after Diego Silang’s assassination by Miguel Vicos. The present church might have been the one that Fr. Eduardo Navarro had initiated to rebuild in 1870. Some years later in 1928, the ivory parts of the image of Our Lady of Charity were stolen and never recovered.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) The Vigan metropolitan cathedral; (2) Tatay and Bulan at the Leona Florentino monument; (3) San Vicente Church; (4) Sta. Catalina Church; (5) Caoayan Church; and (6) Bantay Church.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


If ever there is a most neutral dish category in the Filipino menu, I believe it should be the pancit. It is served in every occasion (birthdays, weddings, binyags, burials, fiestas, blowouts, what-you-have), it is very flexible (vegetarian or peppered with different meats, dried or soupy, boiled or fired/sautéed, hot or cold), goes well with almost anything, and familiar with almost every Filipino. It is the only dish I know that can transcend regional identities and represent the Filipino nation as a whole. For this matter, it should be the national dish.

Pancit was brought to the Philippines by Chinese traders. However, it did not fit into the fish-and-rice diet of the “natives” and was confined to the parian or Chinese settlements. When the Spanish came, they brought with them their frying pans, the science of food dressing (the guisa or mixing garlic, onion, tomatoes in hot oil), the art of the sancucha and recado, and various recipes that finally tore down age-old taboos on food. These elements developed existing menus one of which is the pancit guisado that soon became a regular table fixture. Soon enough, regional variations were created based on the available ingredients: pancit cabagan (from Isabela), la paz batchoy (from Iloilo), pancit malabon (ehem, from Malabon), the everyday mami and miki, sotanghon and pancit canton (the Chinese connection), misua, etcetera, and its newest evolution of pancit kanin (a favorite among tricycle drivers and those of meal budgets of P20.00 and below).

The Best Pancit in San Jose City

In our part of the world, the best pancit bihon (read: guisado) is served by Dacoco’s Panciteria located in Curamen Subdivision, Sibut, San Jose City. It is freshly cooked with the sauce (sabaw) dripping with every spoonful, garnished with the usual repolyo and carrots, blended with a mixed sahog of meatballs-quail eggs-pork bits, and spiked with a head of sliced calamansi. A plateful costs P30.00 and the busog/fullness is guaranteed to last until the next other meal. On nearby Del Pilar Street is arguably the best version of the lomi in Nueva Ecija at Donna’s Foodhaus and Restaurant. It was our favorite panciteria before Dacoco’s. We stopped going there when the owner started serving other things (beer and women) aside from the regular fare.

NOTE: Pancit photos taken by my Sony Ericsson K7001 mobile phone camera.


Beyond its haunting loveliness, Philippine colonial churches for me stands as monuments to a town’s story. Before the Spanish missionaries implemented reducciones (i.e. formation of communities to facilitate christianization and Hispanization), communities are scattered and determined by bloodlines (i.e. the clans or tribes). When the friars came, they established ecclesiastical missions as bases for their evangelization. Through the policy of reducciones, people were brought to live together in the missions to be bajo la campana or within hearing distance of the church bell. These missions later evolved into pueblos or towns and parroquias or parishes.

With the exception of the Franciscans, the missionaries who came to the Philippines and the representatives of the Spanish colonial government were awarded with encomiendas. This is a system where a certain area is entrusted to a group (in the case of the missionaries) or a person (in the case of soldiers and representatives of the colonial government). The encomienda include the people living within the designated area who are obliged to pay tribute (i.e. tax or rent for staying in the encomienda) to the encomiendero and the colonial government. This is the beginning of the hacienda system and the roots of the Philippines’ perennial agrarian unrest. Soon, people working in the encomienda/hacienda began to cluster together to form small communities. Because of their great distance from the pueblo, these communities have difficulty in attending church. So what the missionaries did was to conduct visitas in these small communities. Today, a visita means little chapels. It became the core in the foundation of future barrios.

Pueblos or towns that were established during the Spanish colonial era have a uniform lay out: a plaza as the town center with the church and the municipio fronting each other or standing side by side. This arrangement has been decreed by the Laws of Indies that was proclaimed by King Philip II in 1573. Among other things, it prescribed that plazas should be the starting point in the town building where the 4 principal streets shall diverge. After the plaza was the building of the church and other parochial buildings, then the government structures (i.e. Royal and Town Council House, the Custom House, and the Arsenal). The church and the government houses were built close to each other so they can protect each other in times of necessity. The remaining lots along and near the plaza were then allocated for shops and the merchants’ houses (where the ilustrados and principalias later emerged).

Thus is the beginning of most Philippine towns and Philippine history during the Spanish colonial times. The concept of the church or simbahan, however, is not new. Before the god of the Spanish was introduced, early Filipinos already have their own deities or anitos. It does not really matter what the anitos looks like; what is important is the concept and belief in a supreme being. As such, the “natives” have no problems moving from one god to another. When Legazpi came to Cebu, he was surprised to find an image of the Holy Child being worshiped by the “natives”. This became the Sto. Nino de Cebu that the “natives” continued to venerate even after being transformed as a Spanish god. Simbahan in the Filipino context means “a place of adoration”. The word and what it represents has remained intact through hundreds of years (the Spanish term for church is iglesia). Today, we see the fusion of the past and the present in the damaras that are built during festivals and wakes, and the abong-abongs for the pabasas during Lent. These are also the sambahans (i.e. a temporary house of worship) of the mag-aanitos.

CREDITS: Pictures on this posting are taken from Regalado Trota Jose's "Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines (1565-1898)".

Friday, August 18, 2006


Any day now, Mayon Volcano is poised to erupt. Its ironic why such a beauty is so destructive, why such soothing sight so fierce. According to legend, the volcano is where Daragang Magayon --- the most beautiful woman in Kabikolan --- was buried by her father Tiong Makusog. The burial mound kept growing until it was able to kiss the clouds where the spirit of Daragang Magayon’s lover Pangaronon dwell. Like the story of Romeo and Juliet, they were ill-fated lovers: boy saves girl, both fell in love, an asshole ruined things, girl has to marry asshole, boy tries to rescue girl, both killed by the asshole. The asshole in this legend is Paratuga who kidnapped Tiong Makusog to force Daragang Magayon to marry him. Both Daragang Magayon and her Tagalog boyfriend Pangaronon died in the botched rescue attempt. It is said that the Mayon Volcano’s eruptions are attempts by Paratuga to exhume Daragang Magayon’s grave to get back the jewels he has given her. Mayon is a shortened version of Magayon and in its slopes is nestled the town of Daraga who’s women are said to be among the prettiest in Bicol.

The province of Albay host some of the country’s magnificent but underrated colonial churches. I always wonder the dearth of historical markers in these fine churches. In other places, totally reconstructed/rebuilt churches have NHI markers (like Bula, Baao and Iriga City in Camarines Sur; and the churches of Manila with the exception of San Agustin church). My visita iglesia in Albay is my own way of atoning for this slight, and a prayer for recognition of these marvelous pieces of architecture so they may live forever. Our visita followed a loop around Mayon Volcano (via Polangui, Oas, Ligao City, Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Legazpi City, Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Malilipot, Tabaco, Malinao, and Tiwi in that order) giving us the opportunity of savoring its beauty on all sides.

PHOTOS: (1) Polangui’s Church of San Pedro and San Pablo, (2) the Church of San Miguel Arkanghal in Oas (built in 1825), (3) Ligao City’s Church of San Esteban, (4) Guinobatan’s Church of the Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion, and (5) Camalig’s Church of San Juan Bautista.

From Camalig, our group --- me, Pare Amor (Bulan’s ninong) and his sidekick Joey, and Pare Dante (Balong’s ninong) --- stopped by the Cagsaua Ruins because Dante who is from nearby Baao, Camarines Sur have never been there (so are we but we are from a distant region). The mission of Cagsaua was established by the Franciscans at around 1587. Fr. Francisco Blanco (OFM) built what are now the church ruins in 1724 that was buried during Mayon Volcano’s eruption in 1814. Cagsaua was eventually incorporated into the town of Daraga. I wanted to take a picture of Mayon and thought that framing it within the bell tower’s window will be perfect. Camera in hand, I climbed down into the bell tower but lost my footing in the slippery stones. As I tumbled down, I covered my precious Olympus Camedia with both hands to protect it from being smashed against the stones. I’ve had some cuts and bruises but except for a small dent on the lens, my camera is intact.

PHOTOS: (1) The old Cagsawa church and (2) inside the ruins of the bell tower; (3) Daraga's Church of Our Lady of the Gate (built in 1884); (4) Legazpi City's Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno (built in 1834); (5) the Church of Santo Domingo; (6) Bacacay’s Church of Santa Rosa de Lima; and (7) Church of Malilipot.

National Heritage: Tabaco City's Church of San Juan Bautista

We stayed overnight in Tabaco City’s San Miguel Island where we were invited as resource persons in a youth summer camp. I woke up early to watch Daragang Magayon slowly emerge from Parangonon’s clouds. She unfolded reluctantly, a regal and beautiful queen. The soft early morning light was good, the still waters of the sea and a moored banca just where I want them. I thought I was able to take a perfect picture of Daragang Magayon and Parangonon in tight embrace that day.

Tabaco was founded by the Franciscans as a visita of Cagsaua in 1587. It became an independent parish in 1664. The church was probably built before 1750 when it was handed to over to secular priests. It has been declared as a national landmark in 1973. It is one of the rare churches where the identification marks of the masons who built it are inscribed on the stones. The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.

PHOTOS: (1) Tabaco City's national heritage, (2) Malinao’s Church of San Joaquin and Santa Ana, (3)Tiwi’s Church of St. Florence the Martyr, and (4) the Joroan Shrine.

The visita around Albay’s colonial churches can be done within a day. My proposed route is Polangui as the entry point then just follow the itinerary discussed above and exit at Tiwi at the shrine to the Nuestra Senora de la Salvacion in Barangay Joroan (to be discussed in a separate posting) into Camarines Sur (passing through the towns of Sagnay, Tigaon and Ocampo in that order before reaching Pili). The Sto. Domingo, Albay to Sagnay, Camarines Sur stretch is a great ride (good roads, no traffic) and offers a magnificent view of idyllic coastal villages, lush terrestrial greenery, and the unspoiled azure waters of Lagonoy Gulf. The only problem I encountered is the lack of historical data about the churches that could have helped in mapping-out the visita. This is my usual dilemma on Franciscan-built churches.

As we left I Albay, I whispered a prayer for Lolo Piryong's lost child somewhere under the shadows of Daragang Magayon. God bless him or her.

We capped our visita with a side trip to Donsol, Sorsogon for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some butandings (i.e. whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world). The entire experience cost us some bucks (the boat rental alone is P2,500.00 for the whole day) but it was worth it.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Istak was a sacristan in Cabugao. His family lived on a farm that is part of the frailes' hacienda. One day, the old priest that Istak served was replaced by a younger one whom Istak later caught in a tryst with Capitan Berong’s eldest daughter. The priest dismissed Istak and told his family to leave the hacienda. Istak’s father appealed but was refused. In his anger, Istak’s father pummeled the priest to death with a silver crucifix then fled Cabugao. They eventually reached a place in the land where salt is made. But during the last leg of the trek, Istak’s father was lynched by a python and his mother swept away by the big river. Istak and his brothers settled in a place they called Cabugauan. There, Istak married Dalin and became a renowned healer. One day, a paralytic man came to town and asked for Istak. The man asked Istak to deliver a message to the President who is being chased by American soldiers. Istak did and finally caught up with the President in Tirad Pass where he and the famous boy general died in a battle.

That is the gist of F. Sionil Jose’s Po-on (which is the Ilocano word for tree or roots) that, in my personal opinion, is the best among the 5-book Rosales Saga. Its almost our story: Miguel Tomas stabbing the priest with a puyod and the escape to Piddigan in Cagayan Valley (the original destination of Istak’s family is the Valley); Lakay Burik’s youngest son eventually becoming a healer; and Lolo Porong dropping the last name of their family (Istak changed their family name from Salvador to Samson). It seems to me that during those times, those who are from Cabuago adopted surnames that started with the letter “S” (as in Salvador and Samson). Pablo Samortin and his wife Leona Salatan were from Cabugao and eventually migrated to Umingan.

Cabugauan today is a barangay of Rosales, Pangasinan. The town will be my take-off point in my search for traces of my ancestors in nearby Umingan. Rosales is also the base of 3 dear friends: Bagis Moi (who helped me in my Umingan foray) and Bagis Gelro who are both my fraternity brods and kumpares, and Pare Elias --- Bulan’s ninong and a key figure in me and my wife’s story, and who claims to be a grandson of F. Sionil Jose. Pare Elias and Bagis Gelro showed me around Cabugauan after they heard of Istak’s story. It is now a cluttered part of the poblacion and I wonder where would Istak’s place be, and his farm where the big snake gave him the power to heal.

Some 20 minutes from Rosales is the town of Tayug where Uncle Andring was born. He is a descendant of Manuel Ciencia who, I believe, is a brother of Esteban Ciencia. Manuel have 6 children: Mercedes Bacal, the spinster Perfecta, Arsenio who was a policeman in Quezon City, Uncle Andring's father Primitivo, and Lolo Piryong. They are first cousins of Esteban Ciencia's children: Cirila who married Emilio Galang and are now based in Marikina, Eugenio, and Lolo Porong (which is what Auntie Angeling can recall and tell me before she died).

As it would, I looked for and finally met Uncle Andring in a simbahan: at the Baguio Church of Christ where he served as a pastor and currently teaches bible classes. It was he who hosted my parents during their honeymoon so it can be said that I was made in Baguio. From him, I learned more details of my father's stay in Davao like the tubaan they frequented where they were known as Manila Boys; and other stories of our family like Auntie Angeling's secret visits to Camp Murphy where her boyfriend (before Uncle Doming) was jailed for being involved in the Hukbalahap movement.

Sometime ago, I was asked by a brod in Pangasinan to stand as a Ninong to his first child. On our way to the binyag, I took my family to a trip in Tayug and shared with them Uncle Andring's stories. At the church, we lighted a candle and said our prayers for those who were there before us. I prayed that someday, I will finally meet my relatives from Tayug. We passed by the town of Asingan on our way to the church of Rosales near Cabugauan where the binyag will take place. I showed Bulan the church and told him of the Philippine president who was born there.


At around 1956, Lolo Porong who just came back from working in Guam was convinced by his cousin Porfirio "Lolo Piryong" Ciencia to move to Davao City. Lolo Porong sold their property in Sta. Ana and settled in Davao along Claro M. Recto Street. Only father --- the only unmarried child --- went with them. I went looking for the street during my last trip to Davao and it turned out to be one of the city’s busiest commercial streets. It is on one side of the Aldevinco shopping center and within sight of the Marco Polo Hotel and Ateneo de Davao. Lolo Porong’s Davao of old is gone.

The only memory of my father’s sojourn in Davao is a photo of him dancing the calypso with his cousin Leah (Lolo Piryong’s daughter). His capidua Alejandro "Uncle Andring" Ciencia will join him there also upon the invitation of Lolo Piryong who made a bid to be a congressman in Davao but lost to the Almendras political clan. I will meet Lolo Piryong in Santiago where he later moved and continued his law practice.

Later at around 1960, Lolo Porong again moved to Bambang from Davao upon the invitation of Auntie Angeling. They will live with her and Uncle Doming in a two-story wooden house. The house is later torn down and replaced with an imposing two-story concrete building --- the upper floor as the residential part and the ground floor as the commercial area. It would be known as the Tinikling house after Uncle Doming’s beer house below. Auntie Angeling later sold the big house in Bambang and move to Sonsona in Almaguer after Uncle Doming died. That house was again sold after Lolo Porong died.

Enchanted in Camiguin

My last trip to Davao started in the island province of Camiguin. I was supposed to fly to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City but Pare Joey (one of my youngest son Balong’s ninongs) convinced me to rebook my ticket and take the plane in Davao instead. There’s not much to see in Cagayan de Oro and I wanted to see Lolo Porong’s place in Davao so I endured the 10-hour travel by ferry and car. I was wide awake when we passed through Bukidnon and imagined seeing Oyet’s Jongkoy and Melanie (characters from Isang Libong Alitaptap, Oyet’s first novel) in every person I see, and every tree and gorge that went by. By late afternoon, we entered a desolate stretch of the highway where houses made of woven coconut leaves cling precariously against the wind, and bare children tried to race with our car. The rolling hills stretch with endless fields of corn and there seemed to be a military checkpoint at every turn. The driver hit the accelerator. Pareng Joey told me we should be out of the area by nightfall. We were in MILF territory.

I was in Camiguin for the second time as a resource person of Social Watch Philipines’ Minadanao conference. It is a very enchanting island as the travel brochures claim. Frankly though, I won’t be staying for more that a week because it will be too boring by then. I went around the island in less than 3 hours and visited all the major tourist areas in half a day. I recommend the following itinerary: an early morning dip at the crystal-clear waters of White Island then a walk along the “panata” stretch; in the afternoon, a dip at the cool waters of the Katibawasan falls is a perfect prelude for an evening-long soak at the Ardent Hot Spring. I killed the rest of my 4-day stay by going around the churches. Three are worth visiting: the church of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Mambajao that was first built by Fr. Dionision Pueyo (OAR) in 1892 then enlarged and reconstructed in 1935 by Fr. John Pollock (SJ); the newly renovated church of San Roque in Catarman that was established as a mission in 1623; and the church of Nuestra Senora del Rosario in Sagay, established as a mission in 1749, that still maintained its original design.

In my first visit to the island, I took Ka Tolits for a walk along what I called the “panata” stretch --- a favorite haunt of devotees during the Lent season. Our first pilgrimage was in the ruins of the Gui-ob Church, destroyed by Mt. Vulcan’s eruption in 13 May 1871 at 6:20 pm, burying those who took refuge in its walls. Our next stop was the Sunken Cemetery that was swallowed by the sea during the eruption, then finally at the peak of Mt. Vulcan’s dead crater that can be climbed by following the trail of the 14 station of the cross.