Thursday, June 28, 2007


The great reckoning is only 3 months away but the Prophets and Dreamers didn’t care. They are going to the legislature or die trying.

It was not exactly a kink-free process especially for Bertong Langis. Many days before, he was part of a select group assigned to engage Project A+ along with She Man and the Dragon Lady. The first conclave is still fresh in his mind: a legend called RR to his right and a sweet smelling pregnant goddess to his left, both of them asking him from time to time just what the heck is being thundered from the podium.

Bertong Langis gave it his best as in every assignment. He should not have tried so hard. When the elders decided to disengage Project A+ after a series of blinding skirmishes, he found he could not let go. He really would not if not for the pleadings of the Godfather.

And so it was that the great experiment called Pinatubo (to grow from below, not Apo Mallari’s famous volcano) was begotten. It placed 17th but were 30,000 ayes short of a place in the legislature. Many like us believed we won and formed a group of 38 sore losers.

A thousand and ninety-five days later, the great experiment was again roused from oblivion. Another dream was hatched after an overnight ritual of political sorcery in a hidden cove of the Zambals. Perhaps, the potion was not fully brewed. Or Bertong Langis was sleeping during the incantation. What is clear is the Prophets and Dreamers had been had by the Snubbed Nosed Diva.

In his rage, Bertong Langis defiled (like a sex-starved maniac his amigos said) anything that sounded, smelled or looked like the great experiment. He had never felt so good after…

Profiles: The Churches of Bula and Pili in Camarines Sur

Bula’s first church was destroyed by fire in 1676 and the second one by a typhoon in 1700. The present church was completed in 1706, and repaired in 1876 and 1885. It has been extensively renovated since then.

The Church of Pili, Camarines Sur

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Bulan (i.e. Juan Gabriel) was born 9 years ago at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Cabanatuan City. He’s got 2 names like his younger brother Balong (i.e. Juan Pablo). They share the first one which means “fight for right”. Bulan’s second name is in honor of my favorite Latin American novelist (Balong’s was after a poet who is also a Latin American).

Almost 108 years ago near the hospital where Bulan was born, the great military tactician Gen. Antonio Luna was summoned by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who was then president of the Philippine Revolutionary Government. But Mi Presidente was not around. His Kawit Company (predecessor of today’s PSG) whom General Luna previously ordered disarmed for disobedience was. This ignited the general’s famous temper and one thing led to another. End of the story is General Luna and his aide Col. Paco Roman were killed/ambushed/executed/assassinated by the troops of Mi Presidente allegedly on his orders. This act led to a rift between the Ilocano and Caviteno revolutionaries, and the birth of Pangasinan’s Guardia de Honor to avenge Luna’s death. General Luna’s nom de guerre is Bulan. It is a tribute to his Ilocano heritage that Bulan was (nick)named so.

It seems that Bulan was born with the wind in his feet. He too gets bored staying in one place. He too loves to travel.

Sama ako ‘tay. Magbe-behave ako. Pramis,” he would say whenever he senses another biyahe in the making. And I always take him if it is possible. He was a companion in some of my visita iglesias.

One time I took him to a trip around northern Luzon. We had a brief stop in Vigan where I told him about a miracle that happened there many years ago. He was introduced to the greatness of Vibora and Padre Aglipay in Batac (and the infamy of the Apo). And we walked the beach of Claveria together while shooting back the story of Lakay Burik and the legend of Almaguer.

In Apayao and Cagayan, we pretended to be archeologists sifting through the mysteries of ruined churches. He would like to be one someday (he will be a scientist before that then a CSI, a seismologist, and as of now a meteorologist after). In Isabela, I showed him the school where Abet of Almaguer spent 3 years of his tumultuous adolescence, and the hospital in Santiago where Lola Mommy once worked.

What makes me happy is he shoot good photos, keeps a diary and reads a lot. Someday, we will create his blog. I promised him that…

PHOTOS EXPLAINED (top to bottom):

(1) Gen. Antonio Luna (downloaded from

(2) Tatay and Bulan at the bust of the Ilocana poet Leona Florentino in Vigan.

(3) Batac’s monument to its son Gen. Artemio “Vibora” Ricarte. He never surrendered to the Americans.

(4) Bulan at the Patapat viaduct in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

(5) Tatay and Bulan’s footprints in Claveria, Cagayan.

(6) PATA RUINS (Claveria, Cagayan): The ecclesiastical mission of Pata was established in 1596 by the Dominicans. Its people were the first to accept Christianity and the first to build a church in Cagayan Valley. The ruins were built during the administration of Fr. Miguel de San Jacinto (OP) and Fr. Gaspar Zarfate (OP). The community and the church of Pata declined in importance when Aparri was established as the main port of entry to Cagayan Valley. .

(7) PUDTOL RUINS (Pudtol, Apayao): The Dominicans established Futol in 1604 as their first mission in Apayao. The church was built during the administration of Fr. Pedro Jimenez (OP) in 1684 and was designed as a fortress to protect the mission. It was abandoned in 1815 due to the ferocity of Isneg attacks.

(8) CAMALANIUGAN RUINS (Camalaniugan, Cagayan): The ruins might have been the third church that was built before 1746. It first lost its convent during the later half of the 19th century to the overflowing waters of the Cagayan River. In 1898, the church was damaged during a typhoon and was never rebuilt.

(9) NASSIPING RUINS (Gattaran, Cagayan): Nassiping was established in 1596 and became a major town by serving as the rest and supply station of travelers going upstream and downstream the mighty Cagayan River. There are no records on who built the church. The town and the church declined in importance after the town of Fulay (i.e. the present Alcala) was established. Despite its deteriorated condition, the church is still being used as a chapel today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I first saw Jaen bleed during the 1998 election when I was assigned there as a PPCRV volunteer. Guns bristled and the air smelled of fear and uncertainty.

It was like that in 2001 and 2004, and in between elections.

Bullets again sang Jaen's violent rhapsody during this year's election. It was a shooting war. The earth trembled with the blessing of warm blood. The heart quivered. And the COMPACT International Observers' Mission was there to witness Jaen's story unfold. The election is over but it doesn't end...

Profile: The Church of San Pablo, Laguna

San Pablo delos Montes or formerly Sampaloc was accepted by the Augustinians as a mission in 1586. Fr. Mateo Mendoza (OSA) probably supervised the building of a makeshift church made of light materials during that time. Fr. Hernando Cabrera (OSA) supervised the construction of the first stone church probably around 1618 to 1629. This was probably destroyed because Fr. Juan Labao (OSA) initiated building the present church in 1680 that was completed during the term of Fr. Francisco Eloriaga (OSA) in 1714. Don Juan delos Santos carved the magnificent retablo. The church became known as being the richest and most ornamented in the whole Philippines from 1737 until 1794 when it was handed over to the Franciscans. Fr. Peregrin Prosper (OFM) supervised restoration work and improvements to the church from 1839 until 1858. It was damaged during World War II and was reconstructed from 1948 until 1954 under the supervisions of Fr. Juan Coronel and Fr. Nicomedes Rosal.

PHOTOS EXPLAINED (from top to bottom): (1) My 1998 PPCRV ID, (2) Meg Manubay’s photo of the guns and money recovered by the police after a shooting incident in Jaen a day before the election, and (3) the church of San Pablo, Laguna.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


“If you have been to Ifugao and have not seen Banaue, you have not been to Ifugao. But if you have been to Banaue and have not been to Batad, you have not seen Banaue.”

Sir Marlon who spent a few years supervising PRRM’s program in Ifugao once told me so. And perhaps, he is right.

Batad boasts of an unspoiled amphitheater-like stoned-tiered rice terraces that is arguably better than that seen (now unseen because of the clutter of souvenir shops) from the Banaue view deck.

And we from PRRM have the fortune of having a field office right at the doorstep of Batad --- the sleepy village of Bangaan where Raymart Santiago and Rachel Alejandro shoot the movie “Mumbaki” (in fact, Joel Torre’s clinic was the PRRM field office and I literally rubbed elbows with Raymart in an encounter along the narrow terraces).

Batad is an hour away (barring land slides and rains) from Banaue via a single lane rough road precariously etched along the steep slopes of the mighty Cordilleras. From Bangaan will be another 3-hour trek but those who don’t dig long hikes can take a ride to the saddle then walk the rest of the way within an hour.

Our trek to Batad in 1999 was our own way of celebrating Arden’s stag party. We decided to take the long haul the next day and spent the night in Bangaan where we met a Fil-Am and his Jap-Am wife who initiated us to a mind-boggling hash experience.

We reached Batad before high noon. After a quick lunch, we lolled along the magnificent terraces on our way to the Tappiya Falls --- the biggest waterfall of the Cordillera. We had a refreshing cool dip then we just sat and gazed at the enchanting show of such a marvelous cascade.

It was the trip back when all hell broke loose. It rained. Cramps hobbled Amor and Arden (who refused a wheelchair and limped his way to the altar during his wedding). We made it back to Bangaan by nightfall. Everything in us hurt so we decided to cancel the next day’s planned trip to Sagada. But we have seen Batad and that made us very, very happy.

Last April in the heat of the election madness, Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell was hiking her way to Batad when she disappeared. Her body was found 10 days later since her reported disappearance and a local has since confessed to the crime. It is a very unfortunate incidence and we hurt for the gentle and kind people of Batad. I pray for the soul of Julia while hoping that Batad would be able to recover fast from the tragedy.

Profile: The Church of Alaminos, Laguna

PHOTOS EXPLAINED (top to bottom): (1) A traditional Ifugao house in Batad with the famous stone terraces in the background; (2) Bangaan as seen from the PRRM field office; (3) the grand Tappiya Falls (from the left, that’s Andring, Arden and Dojoe); and (4) the colonial church of Alaminos, Laguna.