Thursday, October 19, 2006

CRABS AND COCONUTS

In 1987, a big issue raged at the High School Department of the Nueva Vizcaya State Polytechnic College (NVSPC). One of its senior students flunked 3 major subjects and will not graduate. The problem is the same student was one of the school’s top three performers in the National College Entrance Examination. The issue is whether to reward him a medal for this achievement when he will not be joining the graduating class. In the end, there was no medal --- a scenario that will be replicated many years later in another school in nearby Nueva Ecija.

And so it was that Abet fled Almaguer to escape the wrath of Kid Buntal. He first took refuge among his cousin soldiers in Fort Magsaysay and decided to be warriors like them too. But boredom made him restless and several weeks later, Abet made his way to Lilop in Sta. Ana, Manila. One day, Abet asked his Kuya Jerry to bring him to a bus station bound for the south. Several hours later, Abet surprised Uncle Kidlat with his sudden arrival in their camp in Baanan, Magdalena, Llaguna.

Uncle Kidlat’s outfit in Baanan is the 4th GHQ Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ GHQ Brigade. It is made up of composite forces from the army, the navy, the air force, and the constabulary. While waiting to be enlisted in the army, Abet spent most of his days doing errands for the soldiers’ wives, scrounging for snails and ilocano vegetables, and weaving coconut leaves for the extension wall and roof of Uncle Kidlat’s bunkhouse. During lull moments (and there were many of those), Abet spends most of his time in a river just below the camp where he built small weirs of river stones and caught freshwater crabs by throwing left-over rice and shredded coconut meat in the water, enticing them out of their holes. Abet was a pretty good climber and on weekends, he harvest young coconuts for soldiers who will be going home. In Baanan, coconuts were harvested through bamboo sukdals and have no pangals to assist climbers. But Abet climbs them effortlessly like a spider.

Later, Uncle Kidlat brought Abet to Fort Bonifacio to prepare for his army training. But then Col. Gringo Honasan launched his coup. Abet’s training outfit got involved and was eventually dissolved. With nothing to do, he went back to Sta. Ana where Kid Buntal found him and took him back home to Almaguer.

The sleepy town of Magdalena is located in the heart of “Inner Laguna” which is the most picturesque part of the province with its rolling hills and crisscrossing crystal clear streams. It boasts of a well-preserved colonial church that features a marker at the base of the convent’s grand stairs declaring that the stains covered with a protective glass panel is the blood of Emilio Jacinto who took refuge in the church after being wounded in an skirmish with Spanish troops in the nearby barrio of Maimpis during the height of the Philippine Revolution in 1898. The church, dedicated to Santa Maria Magdalena, was built in 2 phases within a period of 16 years: from 1829 until 1839, then from 1849 to 1855. Fr. Antonio Moreno (OFM), assigned as Magdalena’s first parish priest in 1921, probably started the construction. The bell tower was later added in 1861 while the convent was built from 1871 to 1872.


If one is traveling towards Lucban in Quezon province, the next town after Magdalena following the right fork of the road (the left fork leads to Majayjay) will be Liliw. It was once called as Lilio and was established as a Franciscan visita of Nagcarlang in 1571 until 1605. Its first church was made of wood and built in 1620. A stone church --- dedicated to San Juan Bautista ---was started to be constructed in 1643 that was finished in 1646. This was seriously damaged during the 1880 earthquake and was reconstructed in 1885. The church suffered minor damages when Col. Buenaventura Dimaguila liberated Lilio during the Philippine revolution against Spain. It was again damaged by fire in 1899 during the Filipino-American War, was repaired, and later again razed by fire in 1989.


Another right turn from Liliw is the town of Nagcarlan. In 1583, Fr. Tomas de Miranda (OFM) had the first church of San Bartolome in Nagcarlang built of light materials when he was assigned there as the resident priest. Aside from his zealous missionary work, Father Miranda also pioneered the successful cultivation of wheat in the upland areas of Laguna. In 1752, Fr. Cristobal Torres (OFM) had a stone church built to replace the early makeshift parochial buildings. This was damaged by fire in 1781 and repairs were initiated by Fr. Atanacio de Argobajo (OFM) and Fr. Fernando de la Pueblo (OFM). This is probably the present church. Fr. Vicente Velloc (OFM) initiated improvements to the church in 1845. He also supervised the building of the Nagcarlan cemetery and its underground crypt that was later used by Katipuneros as a secret meeting place during the revolution in Laguna in 1896.


National Heritage Site: A Catwalk to Heaven

Turning back to Liliw towards Luisiana or Lucban is Majayjay that was first established as an encomienda in 1571. The first church in the area was built of light materials in 1573 by the Augustinians in a place called Sitio May-it. This and the next three churches were destroyed by fire: the Augustinian church in 1576, the church built in 1578 by Fr. Juan de Plasencia (OFM) after the Franciscans took over, a stone church in 1606, and its replacement in 1660. Fr. Jose de Puertollano (OFM) had the present church of San Gregorio Magno built from 1711 until 1730. A typhoon damaged the church and repairs were made between 1839 and 1848. Fr. Gregorio Platero (OFM) replaced the roof with galvanized irons in 1892. American soldiers occupied the church during the Filipino-American War. In 1899, Emilio Jacinto --- the “Brains of the Katipunan” --- died in Majayjay from the wounds that he sustained during an skirmish in the adjacent town of Magdalena. In 1912, another major repair work was conducted on the church. The church remained mostly intact and features a catwalk called langit-langitan (i.e. “heaven”) above the ceiling that lead to the bell tower. The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.


On October 5 this year, retired 2Lt. Guillermo “Kidlat” Lazaro --- survivor of 27 years of war --- was side swept by a bus while on his way to buy cigarettes. He was 61 years old. He was buried with full military honors 10 days later in Almaguer.

PHOTOS (from top to bottom):
1) A monument marking the supposed bloodstains of the wounded Emilio Jacinto. The marker reads: "Dito napahimpil na may sugat ang katawan ng Hen. Emilio Jacinto ng Pebrero ng 1898 dahil sa labanan sa Maimpis, sakop ng bayang ito, laban sa mga kawal ng Pamahalaang Kastila. Ang mga dugong nakikita sa baldosa ay tunay na kanya."
 2) The site where Emilio Jacinto was wounded in Maimpis, Magdalena. The marker reads: "Sa pook na ito ng Maimpis binaril ng mga kawal ng Pamahalaang Kastila si Emilio Jacinto noong Pebrero 1898 kaugnay ng himagsikan ng Pilipinas noong 1896-1898."
3) The church of Santa Magdalena in Magdalena, Laguna.
4) The church of San Juan Bautista in Liliw, Laguna.
5) The church of San Bartolome in Nagcarlan, Laguna.
6) Entrance to the Nagcarlan underground cemetery.
7) Majayjay's church of San Gregorio Magno in Laguna.
8) The langit-langitan can be seen above the main altar of the Majayjay church.
9) Emilio Jacinto's Recuerdos de Patay in Majayjay. The practice of taking photos of the dead is common in some parts of Nueva Ecija.
10) Emilio Jacinto's grave in Majayjay. His remains were later exhumed and reinterred at the Mausoleo de Veteranos de la Revolucion then at the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park.
12) Uncle Kidlat's wake.

CREDITS:
Emilio Jacinto's Recuerdos de Patay photo was taken from Ambet Ocampo's "Looking Back" while that of his grave is from"Kasaysay: The Story of the Filipino People".

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