I always take the Luisiana-Cavinti-Lucban way whenever I travel south because the travel time is shorter although the route is longer because of the minimal traffic volume. The refreshing scenery of rolling hills bordering the Laguna Lake and the cool mountain air also makes the travel stress-free and enjoyable. On top of that is a filling snack of Pancit Lucban from a panciteria just beside Lucban’s grand colonial church --- its freshly cooked saucy noodles brimming with an assortment of vegetables and sahog, and spiked with a large head of calamansi.
The town of Lucban after which this great pancit was named was established as a Franciscan mission in 1578. The first church was built in 1595 after it became an independent parish. The town was moved to its present site in 1629 where another church was built from 1630 until 1640 and was damaged by fire in 1733. The construction of the present church dedicated to San Luis Obispo was finished in 1738. Lucban is the hometown of Apolinario dela Cruz --- more popularly known as Hermano Pule --- who is acknowledged to be the first hero of Tayabas and the first King of the Tagalogs.
National Heritage Site: A Basilica with Neo-classical Altars
The Franciscans established Tayabas in 1578 and built the first church of light materials in 1585. It served as the capital town of Tayabas province from 1605 until 1901. The church was probably destroyed and was again rebuilt in 1590. The first stone church was built in 1600 and destroyed during the 1743 earthquake. A bigger church --- the present Basilica of San Miguel Arkanghel --- was immediately constructed in 1744. It was further enlarged in 1856. Improvements to the roof were made in 1894. During World War II, the adjacent convent that was being used as a Japanese garrison was damaged by American bombs. Despite the damages, the church remained largely intact. The church is said to be one of the most beautiful in the Philippines and features seven neo-classical altars. Tayabas also hosts the Bridge of Malagonlong --- one of the few remaining colonial stone bridges that was built from 1840 to 1850 under the supervision of Fr. Antonio Mateos (OFM). The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.
Right after Tayabas is Lucena City where Pancit Lucban is transformed into Pancit Habhab, wrapped in banana leaves, sprinkled with vinegar, and eaten minus spoon and fork. Lucena was established as an independent parish in 1881. Its church of San Fernando was built from 1882 until 1884. It was razed by fire in 1887 and was immediately rebuilt. Sometime ago, Uncle Manoling was walking one of Lucena’s busy streets when he was attacked and stabbed many times. Until today, the motive behind his murder is still unknown. Before that incident, Uncle Manoling lived in Sta. Ana where Abet met him.
Eight kilometers from Lucena City is the sleepy town of Pagbilao. Its ecclesiastical history started with a church of light materials that was probably built during the term of Fr. Cristobal Mortanchez (OFM) in 1688. The church, dedicated to Santa Catalina de Alejandria, was relocated to its present site in 1730 where another structure was probably built under the supervision of Fr. Francisco Xavier de Toledo (OFM). Fr. Victorino Peralija (OFM) initiated building a stone church in 1845 that was finished in 1877 under the supervision of Fr. Eugenio Gomez (OFM). This was destroyed during the war for the liberation of the Philippines in 1945 and was reconstructed under the supervision of Fr. Vicente Urlanda in 1954. Only the bell tower remained of the original structure.
Gumaca is the last town in Quezon before the Bicol Region with an intact colonial church that is acknowledged as the biggest and oldest church in the province. Its story started with the first church that was built in 1582, and its relocation to the island of Alabat in 1638 then to its present site after being razed by Dutch invaders in 1665. The construction of the present church of San Diego de Alcala was started in 1690 and completed in 1747 under the supervisions of Fr. Francisco de las Llagas (OFM) and Gobernadorcillo Diego Martinez Polintan. Fr. Francisco Corto (OFM) had it renovated and improved in 1866. Gumaca is the hometown of my boss, former Sen. Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tanada, who’s definition of a great snack is a delicious plate of Pancit Canton.