Sunday, July 30, 2006

THE QUEEN'S PROVINCE


In 1855, the province of Isabela was carved from Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya through a decree of the Spanish King. It was named in honor of his majesty’s wife the Queen.

Isabela means many things to our family’s history. Before the war, Lolo Porong moved to Santiago, Isabela upon the invitation of Lola Senang’s relatives. Lolita “Auntie Loleng” Ciencia and later viuda de Salatan, and our father --- Pepito Samortin Ciencia --- were born there in the barrio of Agbannawag. Father will spend part of his youth in Santiago before eventually moving to Sta. Ana in Manila then Davao and finally Bambang. Auntie Loleng married in Agbannawag and stayed there. Before she died, Auntie Angeling told me to look for a missing branch of Lolo Porong’s bloodline in Santiago; he had a mistress and they had a child.

Another branch of the family, Jacinto and Virata Nicolas, eventually migrated to Isabela leaving our Inang Baket in Almaguer. Their daughters Pastora and Tinang settled in Roxas and their only son Ricky in a place called Mabalag. I once had a short vacation in Roxas and the memories I kept of it are the endless rolling cornfields, the big murky river, and a photograph of a relative with a venereal disease, swelling genitals and all. The sons and grandchildren of Pastora will periodically stay in the house in Almaguer. Those that I can remember are Uncle Ikling, Uncle Ermo and his 2 sons, the brothers Rudy and Pero, and cousin Vilma who eventually got married in Bambang.

Our own moments in Isabela will be 2 years of blissful innocence in Naguillan where Mommy was assigned to teach, where I will attend Grade 1, and where our youngest sister Sherrie Ann/Cheche was born. Another chapter will be the tumultuous interlude at the Adventist-run Northeast Luzon Academy or NELA in Alicia, a place cursed so that none of Lakay Burik’s descendants sent their for high school will never finish. With the exception of mommy who would also later work as an attendant at the Cagayan Valley Sanitarium and Hospital in Santiago where, she would later tell us, she saw a manto coming out of the morgue floating on air.



Alicia used to be the old town of Angadanan until the new Angadanan was relocated in 1776 to its current location near the Angaranan Creek. Fr. Tomas Calderon (OP) started building the present church that was inaugurated in 1849 and dedicated to the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. Part of old Angadanan’s history is about two brothers who became the main protagonists during the Angadanan and Camarag rebellion against the Spanish. One brother, Onofre Liban, was the Gobernadorcillo and fiercely loyal to Spain while the other one, Lagutao, was the leader of the rebels and became known as the “terror of Diffun and the mountains”. The old Angadanan was renamed in 1949 in honor of then Pres. Elpidio Quirino’s wife: Dona Alicia Syquia Quirino.


The northern town (now a city) next to Alicia is Cauayan where we spent many Saturday afternoons watching its cinemas’ triple film showings; away from the humdrum of NELA’s whole day of worship that is required for all stay-in students. As the name suggests, Cauayan was founded along a plantation of bamboos and established as a pueblo in 1739. It was relocated to its present site in 1768 to avoid the constant raids of the hostile Gaddangs and Igorots. Fr. Juan Prieto (OP) started building the present church (dedicated to the La Virgen del Pilar) in 1825 that was heavily damaged during World War II. An earthquake later toppled the top level of the bell tower. Cauayan gained prominence as the center of Dominican’s apostolate during the Spanish times.

Farther north near Naguillian is the town of Gamu, established in 1678 as the pueblo of Batavag. Due to its constant inundation by floodwaters and the balmy weather, it was later fused with the village of Itugod in 1741 and relocated to its present site. Its new name Gamu means root in Ibanag. The present church (dedicated to Santa Rosa) was completed at around 1743. Gamu also host a shrine for Our Lady of Guibang along the national highway.



National Heritage: Red Bricks, Cylindrical Tower 

Ilagan is the capital town of Isabela and the gateway to Tumauini from the south. It used to be known as Bolo and was established as a pueblo in 1619. It was again reestablished in 1678 after its own inhabitants burned it down to the ground during a rebellion against the Spanish in 1621. What remained of the Spanish-era church (dedicated to San Fernando) is the bell tower, built by Fr. Pedro de San Pedro (OP) and Fr. Joaquin Sancho (OP) from 1777 until 1783.

The Dominicans accepted the old Tumauini as an ecclesiastical mission in 1704. Its first church of nipa was built and blessed in 1707. The mission was later established as a pueblo in 1751 after it was relocated to its present site. The first church to be built in the new site was made of wood. Fr. Domingo Forto (OP) started building the present church of San Matias in 1783 with assistance from a master carpenter named Castillejos. The church was seriously damaged during World War II. Except for the convent, it has been faithfully restored and today is considered as the best and most artistic brick structure in the Philippines. Its unique cylindrical bell tower is the only one of its kind in the country. The church has been declared by the National Commission on Culture and Arts as a national heritage.

The farthest northern town of Isabela is San Pablo, once the site of the old Cabagan before it was divided into two pueblos in 1647 --- Cabagan Viejo and Cabagan Nuevo. Fr. Diego dela Torre (OP) started building the present church in 1709 with the assistance of two local craftsmen: Salvador dela Cruz and Ambrosio Calingayan. In 1888, Cabagan Viejo was renamed as San Pablo. It was the only church in Cagayan Valley to be built with soft stones that has hastened its deterioration. It has been in ruins since it was damaged during World War II and is currently being restored.



Crunchy and Soupy Pansit Cabagan

Cabagan is, of course, home of the popular Pancit Cabagan: a medley of stir fried freshly made noodles mixed with chicharo, Baguio beans, repolyo and topped with boiled quail’s egg and crispy lechong kawali or bagnet. It comes with a thick soy sauce-based soup which makes it different from other pansit versions. In the Philippines, noodles with soup are usually called mami. This is how the Aling Kikay’s Restaurant --- my favorite panciteria in Cabagan --- prepares it. I usually buy kilos of its famous noodles whenever I pass by Cabagan. They are great with any combination. I like mine sautéed with sardines (in tomato sauce), sprinkled with a slice of calamansi, and eaten with hot freshly cooked rice. That, I think, is how the pansit kanin came to be.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

THE EXILE OF INEANGAN AND OTHER STORIES


Lakay Burik and his wife Leoncia Calapit (our great maternal grandmother) have 5 children: Jacinto, Petra, Andres, Jose, and Antero.

Jacinto the eldest will marry Marcelina Vidad and among his many gifts while courting her is a hatful of bisukol. Jacinto plays a bamboo flute and is always invited to perform in weddings and burials. But most of the time, he will play his haunting melodies near the spring by the creek. Jacinto will become a teacher, looking honorable in his Americana suit. He died in Ifugao.

Andres married Manuela Tomas, a relative and a descendant of Miguel Tomas. He became a gold miner in Baguio, a job that would give him the pasma. When the sick Andres was brought home to Almaguer from Baguio, his youngest brother Antero waited for him at the bridge of the bassit nga carayan. Antero carried his brother home where he died in his arms.

Jose married Emay and eventually moved to Tabuk, Kalinga Apayao. He remarried to a Kalinga woman when Emay died. Josue also died in Kalinga Apayao. His grandsons from his second wife would eventually come back to Almaguer.

Antero or Amang Lakay is our grandfather. In the 1920s, settlers from Solsona passed by Almaguer on their way to Isabela. Among them is the family of Jacinto and Virata Nicolas. Their daughter Paula (our Inang Baket) have these whose melancholic eyes that seems to cry forever and Amang Lakay fell for her. They got married and have 4 children: Rosita/Auntie Ibang the foster mother, our mother Eufrocina/Uppris the teacher, Rogelio/Uncle Dugal the water master, and Guillermo/Uncle Kidlat the soldier.

Lakay Burik’s only daughter is Petra, the second eldest child. Petra married Gaspar Amador from Ineangan and theirs has been a difficult love story. Lakay Burik asked them to settle in Almaguer but Gaspar declined. Petra decided to stay with Gaspar and in anger, Lakay Burik forfeited her only daughter’s inheritance.

Ineangan and Almaguer are along the boundaries of the towns of Dupax and Bambang, respectively. Barrio proper to barrio proper is some 4 kilometers away. We have relatives there but I did not have the chance of connecting with them until my mother’s death. As a young boy, we used to walk to Ineangan and back with my boyhood friend Junie --- a great grandson of Andres Lazaro --- to visit his Apong. As a teenager, I come to treat Ineangan as a rival especially in basketball leagues. This rivalry later evolved into open hostility and many times, we were chased away from Ineangan by stones. I later learned that this rivalry already existed during the youth of my uncles and aunts. Those fights are actually between cousins. Perhaps it was a curse from Petra, getting even with her siblings who stayed in Almaguer and her denial of an inheritance. Petra will be the most durable of Lakay Burik’s children dying, according to family accounts, at 120 years old in Ineangan. She outlived all her brothers.


A National Heritage: Murals in Stone

Some 15 minutes drive away from Ineangan is the old church of Dupax dedicated to San Vicente Ferrer. Dupax was established in 1602 by the Dominicans for their mission among the Isinays and Ilongots in an area called Ituy between what is now Bayombong and the foothills of the Caraballo mountain range. The Augustinians, who briefly took over the mission in 1717, built a fort in Dupax that might have also served as a church and as a base for their pacification and Christianization campaign. Dupax was again accepted as an ecclesiastical mission of the Dominicans when they came back in 1741. Fr. Manuel Corripio (OP) initiated constructing the present church in 1775. The masons and master carpenters who built it were from Tuguegarao and left an imprint of their church in the silhouette of the Dupax church’s façade. The church features a baptistery and narthex pillars with finely carved stucco. Strong and beautiful, the church became the model for other churches built by the Spanish in Nueva Vizcaya, and in Carranglan and Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija. Slits in the outer walls of the church that were used in defending against constant attacks of the Ilongots are still visible today. It was declared as a national heritage by the National Commission on Culture and Arts. Dupax was later divided into 2 towns: Dupax del Sur and del Norte. The church stayed with the southern part.


My brother Sherwin/Eric will marry a local Dupax lass from Barangay Palabutan. My sister-in-law Juvie currently works in Hong Kong. They have two kids: Vince and Aya.

Friday, July 28, 2006

THE SECOND WAVE

Another wave of settlers from Solsona and Dingras in Ilocos Norte arrived in the 1920s. This group was led by Donato, Francisco, and Andres all surnamed Agcaoile; Calixto Atabay, Julian Duldulao, and Cecilio Gagate. They settled in what is now called as Sonsona (Purok 3), derived from its old name of “Kasolsonaan” in memory of their hometown in Ilocos Norte.

Most relatives from our maternal grandmother’s side are located in the Sonsona and the Amyanan part (Purok 1) while our bloodline from Lakay Burik are mostly concentrated in Purok 2 (where the Tomas ancestral house stands) and Abagatan (Purok 5, where most of Lakay Burik’s descendants are clustered). This fact made me conclude that the second wave of settlers was the spearhead of another group that will include the family of Jacinto and Virata Nicolas of Solsona --- my maternal grandmother’s parents. But they will only stay for a short time and continue their trek to Roxas, Isabela.

I visited Solsona on 17 July 2005 going through the Cagayan Valley to Ilocos route. The second Ilocos Norte town from Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan after Pagudpud will be Bangui and its huge wind mills. The town was established as an Augustinian mission in 1605. The first church was probably built around 1607. It has been destroyed by a succession of fires before the present structure was built probably at around 1829. This was again damaged by the earthquakes of 1880 and 1891, repaired, then damaged again during the Japanese occupation. Half of it has been restored and today serves as the church of San Lorenzo Martir.


From Bangui, the next towns will be Burgos, Pasuquin, then Bacarra with its “bowling acrobatic tower of Southeast Asia”, so called because of the church’s bell towel that tilted during an earthquake in 1931. The “acrobatic bell tower”, however, is no longer visible because the uppermost part finally crashed during the 1989 tremor. Bacarra is an old town having been established as the Augustinian mission of Dumaqueque in 1591 and later served as a base in the Christianization of the Apayaos. The present church, dedicated to San Andres Apostol, is said to be built in the 1830s and have been restored several times.



I turned left from the national highway in Bacarra towards the town of Vintar to have a look at the province’s oldest extant Spanish-era church mural decoration. The church was built in the 1830s and dedicated to San Nicolas Tolentino. It has been damaged by several earthquakes and rebuilt. Today, only parts of the brick walls remain.



The road from Vintar to Solsona is almost an hour of solitary travel along a mountain pass that seemed to be seldom used. I thought I was lost until finally reaching a stretch of tobacco fields where a farmer assured that I am on the right direction. Solsona is a cute little town bordered by the mountains of Apayao. The winds stirred when I arrived at the modern church, perhaps the ghosts of dead ancestors welcoming a family who will not forget.

Solsona is part of what I call the Nicolas-Lazaro-Tomas ancestral loop. Not far away are Miguel Tomas’ Piddig and Lakay Burik’s Dingras who, with Solsona, are the building blocks of modern Almaguer.

The road back to the national highway brought me to Sarrat, birthplace of Apo Marcos and his sidekick Gen. Fabian Ver. Cabayugan or Sarrat was established in 1586 as an Augutinian visita of Laoag. It boasts of a colorful and violent history: the whole town joined the Basi Revolt of 1807; rose up in arms again in 1815 during which the hated housekeeper of the parish priest, Rosa Agcaoili, was killed and dismembered; and revolted against the Americans in 1899 under the leadership of Don Pepe Ver. In 1910, the court returned Sarrat’s church and convent to the Catholics and a day later, the Aglipayan parish priest, Fr. Mariano Edralin, was found murdered. The beautiful church of Sta. Monica was started to be built by Fr. Isidro Champaner (OSA) in 1848. It is probably the biggest Spanish-era church in Ilocos Norte. Its original roof truss of logs is still intact.



Right at the corner of the road from Solsona and the national highway is the well-preserved church of San Nicolas. It was built in 1811. There is a story that during the revolution against Spain, Filipino troops led by Gen. Manuel Tinio tied up the cura paroco --- Fr. Victoriano Garcia Alonzo (OSA) --- in the bell tower. San Nicolas is the hometown of Pedro Almazan --- self-proclaimed King of the Ilocanos --- who, with Andres Malong of Pangasinan, Juan Magsanop of Bangui, and Gaspar Cristobal of Apayao led a rebellion against the Spanish. San Nicolas also host the locally renowned Dawang’s Eatery where I stopped for a late lunch of igado, paksiw (a soupy version of pinapaitan), tinuno, and their dinardaraan with crispy bits of bagnet.



I ended my sojourn to Solsona in Laoag City where I whiled time under the shadow of the San Guillermo Hermitano cathedral. Ylaua was established in 1586. Its present name Laoag is an Ilocano word that means light or clear. When Juan de Salcedo and the Augustinian missionaries first came to Ylaua/Laoag, they found a thriving settlement of 6,000 people clustered on a hill where they built the first church. The place was called Ermita and it is still known by that name today. The present stone church was probably started to be built in 1659. In the early years of its construction, the rebellious Pedro Almazan raided and looted the church. It has undergone several restorations since then. Not far away is its “sinking” bell tower, detached from the church by the city bustle and a strip of commercial establishments.

FUNDADORES

During the wake for my mother, I was able to hear stories on what Almaguer was before us. It was said to be a land thickly forested with giant balete trees, impenetrable and towering bamboo thickets, and hundreds of monkeys. The Isinays roam the laud part of the dacquel nga carayan while the Igorots are on the daya part. The two tribes are frequently on war against each other. Across the spring and the creek is the Igorot’s burial ground (what is now the Sadang property a house away from ours) where their warriors who died in their wars with the Ilongot’s are interred. A bassit nga carayan snakes between the Isinay’s and the Igorot’s haunts creating a defined boundary but useless defense against Isinay raids.


This land is what Fr. Teodoro Gimeno (OP) later tried to reduce, Christianize, and pacify paving the way for the arrival of Ilocano settlers.

Miguel Tomas and his brothers Potenciano, Leoncio, and Tomas came to Almaguer with 3 other pioneers. One of these is Vicente Ranjo where my childhood friend Roy is descended. Vicente hails from Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, origin of the famous Pasuquin biscocho. I passed by the town in one of my trips around the northern Luzon loop to have a feel of Vicente’s land. The Spanish-era church just beside the modern church is in ruins with no records when it was built and by whom. It was said that the church’s deterioration is a consequence of its being built through forced labor. It is still intact during the war because the Japanese used it as their quarters in 1944 where it is believed that many Filipino guerillas were beheaded within its premises.


The other 2 pioneers are Benigno Salamanca and Jose Labrador of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. Benigno Salamanca is the ancestor of the Salamanca clan just across our place. One of Benigno’s sons will later marry a daughter from the Cuaresma clan of Paoay, Ilocos Norte who are latter settlers of Almaguer. The Cuaresma brood will eventually produce 2 former mayors of Bambang --- Benjamin Cuaresma Senior and Junior. Benjamin Junior or Boyie was killed by NPA guerillas in 1987 and was replaced by his wife Bantie Cuaresma who served as town mayor for 3 terms, as a vice-governor for 1 term, and is now the incumbent governor of Nueva Vizcaya.

Also hailing from Cabugao are Pablo Samortin and Leona Salatan, parents of Lucena Samortin, our father’s mother and our Lola Senang. They eventually settled in Umingan where Lola Senang will meet Telesforo Ciencia, our Lolo Porong and at that time an encargado of Hacienda Gonzales. Their 2 eldest children --- Pedro “Lilop” Ciencia and Angelina “Auntie Angeling” Ciencia and later viuda de Miranda --- were born in Umingan. I visited their old place in what is now Barangay Bantog and learned that most of the Samortins evacuated to Barangay Diaz along the boundary with Talugtug, Nueva Ecija during the war, and stayed there.



I did my usual pilgrimage in Cabugao and said my prayers in its church dedicated to San Marcos Evangelista. It was an eerie moment: this is where Istak’s father (of F. Sionil Jose’s Po-on) killed the parish priest by beating him with a silver crucifix before fleeing to what is now Rosales in Pangasinan. The pueblo of Cabugas or Cabuyao, as Cabugao was once called, was established in 1725. Fr. Andres Canalejo (OSA) initiated building the first church between 1695 to 1696. It must have been damaged at certain times because it was reported to be reinforced, but most probably rebuilt, in 1824.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

THE ROAD TO ALMAGUER: FLEEING PIDDIG, HAVEN IN BAYOMBONG

The Spanish-era church of Dingras was destroyed by earthquake and fire in 1913 and has not been restored until today (I personally believe that it should have been left alone or another church should have been built instead if the present one across the ruins is not enough; I consider the restoration a cultural desecration). The author of what could have been the third church to be built by the Spanish in Dingras in 1879 is either Fr. Damaso Vieytez (OSA) or Fr. Ricardo Deza (OSA). It was once one of the biggest churches in the Philippines. Dingras is the birthplace of our great maternal grandfather Lakay Burik (aka Sixto Lazaro).



Enticed by his cousin Miguel, Lakay Burik decided to migrate to Nueva Vizcaya at around the first decade of the 1900s and settled in a place called Piddigan (later renamed La Torre in honor of the Spanish Governor Ramos de la Torre). Piddigan or La Torre is part of Bayombong that was established as a pueblo in 1739 by the Augustinians. It was, however, a Dominican --- Fr. Juan Crespo --- who started building the present church in 1773 that now serves as the diocesian cathedral and dedicated to Santo Domingo. Only the façade and the bell tower were left of the original structure.



Piddigan was so called because its first settlers were from Piddig, Ilocos Norte. According to family historians from my mother’s side, Miguel Castrovierde Tomas and his brothers killed the cruel Spanish priest of Piddig by stabbing him with a puyod. They then fled to Nueva Vizcaya, founded the barrio of Piddigan, and changed their names into Castros, Vierdes/Verdes, and Tomases. Miguel and his brothers became the Tomas branch. When the Americans invaded, they went back to Piddig to fetch their relatives to join them in Piddigan. That is how their first cousin Lakay Burik joined them.

I visited the church of Piddig (dedicated to Sta. Ana) on the same day I visited Dingras in 17 June 2005. In Dingras, I tried to commune with the spirits of my ancestors. In Piddig, I lighted a candle to hail the bravery of Miguel and his brothers and ask forgiveness for their deed. There are no records on when and who built the church but it is believed to be one of the earliest churches in the province of Ilocos Norte. It served as the headquarters of Filipino revolutionaries during the Filipino-American War, and by American forces during World War II. Piddig is also rich in local history: it was its conscripted skilled Tingguian archers who captured Gabriela Silang in 1762 and was the center of the 1806-1807 Basi Revolt led by Pedro Mateo and Salarogo Ambaristo. Its first Filipino parish priest, Fr. Jose Castro, became the country’s first Aglipayan priest when the Augustinians fled in the aftermath of the Filipino-Spanish War. Piddig is also the birthplace of Claro Caluya --- the “prince of Ilocano poets”, and Sgt. Teofilo Ildefonso --- the country’s only double Olympic bronze medalist.


Miguel did not stay long in Piddigan. At around 1906, he and some settlers relocated in a place near Bantay Sabon --- a forested area they passed along the dacquel nga carayan on their way to Piddigan where pure water bubbles from a spring that feeds into a creek with eels as big as a man’s leg. Lakay Burik again joined his cousin in this place where he cleared his dappat and raised his family. It is called Almaguer.

ORIGINS 2

The church of Bambang in Nueva Vizcaya is dedicated to Sta. Catalina de Sienna. My only interest in it before are the girls who went to the private St. Catherine’s School and the annual Simbang Gabi when we will jog the 5 kilometer distance from our barrio and back just to have some of the now extinct bibingka and puto bumbong. Later, I will learn that my Auntie Angeling (my father’s eldest sister, he is the youngest) had me baptized in the church on 9 May 1971, although I was supposed to be “born an Adventist” (my mother’s faith), and gave me a dual religion (triple if that short stint with the Mormons is counted). The church also shares a few of the “firsts” and “lasts” in our family history: it is Bulan’s (my eldest son) first and so far last job as a ring bearer during the wedding of my brother Sherwin/Eric who, for the record, was the first between us to bring home a wife (his girlfriend then) and the last to be get married in church rites (he first tied the knot with the girlfriend in civil rites) and the last great walk of our father who was by then semi-paralyzed (too much gin and women) but still insisted on walking the aisle with my brother.




With my becoming a churchopile, I discovered how dramatic was the entrance to Bambang from the south through the national highway zigzagging down from Magsaysay Hill, the church bell tower dominating the landscape starting from where the now beheaded lion of the Salinas Lions Club , before the traveler is swallowed by the creeping urban rut (announced by a short time motel right where the road bends into the town).

The Augustinians started the Christianization of Bambang in 1724 and were succeeded by the Dominicans who came in 1739. Bambang was established as a pueblo in 1737. Fr. Domingo Caro (OP) started building the church in 1772 that was said to be the biggest built by the Spanish in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. Today, what might have been the apse is gone which significantly reduced the church’s size. I lately learned that buried below the altar of the Lady of the Rosary was an Igorot woman --- Rosa Santa Maria --- who was one of Bambang’s two “flowers of sanctity”. One of Bambang’s parish priests --- Fr. Teodoro Gimeno (OP) --- established the village of Almaguer where my great maternal grandfather Sixto Lazaro of Dingras, Ilocos Norte settled during the early years of the 20th century.

ORIGINS 1


I visited the church of Obando, Bulacan on 27 October 2004. It will be the first of my visita iglesias that will span the island of Camiguin in Mindanao to Luzon’s northernmost town of Claveria in Cagayan. My late father told me that his father/my grandfather hailed from Obando and I went there to hunt for traces of my past.

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.