Sunday, October 28, 2007


Although I officially became a churchophile in October 27 of 2004 with a pilgrimage to Obando, I have been in the shadows of churches all my life. Piddig is of course the watershed that created a river of tales which after traversing Cabugao, Pasuquin and Bayombong and intersecting with the down streams of Obando in Umingan, Tayug, Santiago and Sta. Ana emptied in a magical place called Almaguer.

But before my visita iglesia were 4 magnificent colonial churches that heralded my initiation into churchography. During that time, I have always wondered why I seem to be naturally drawn to churches. I am not religious and I don’t go to church but on the road, these magnificent structures would beckon irresistibly. It would be later before I realized why.

I got the chance of visiting Bohol in July of 2003 when I attended a program conference in Panglao Island. Our gracious hosts must have realized that it will be the only chance of seeing the province for most us and dedicated one full day for a “field trip”. Chocolate Hills was of course the first destination then a trip back via the Loboc River in a floating restaurant where we got to see some tarsiers. We also went down Alona Cave (said to have been named after Alona Alegre who once shoot a movie there with FPJ) and dropped by the Sandugo Site where Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna did their blood compact. Tired but happy, we were on our way back to the resort when we passed by the Baclayon church. I insisted that we stop. My companions don’t want to but finally relented when I told them that it was where Cesar Montano proposed to Sunshine Cruz.

In 2004, I accompanied Ka Tolits Tambalo --- chair of the national farmers’ group SAKAHAN --- to a trip in southern Philippines for a series of consultations with their provincial affiliates. It was Ka Tolits’ first trip to Cebu City (mine too) and he asked me to show him around. So I found a map and walked our way to the Cebu City Museum, Pres. Sergio Osmena Museum, Casa Gorordo which is said to be the oldest house in the city, and Calle Colon which is the oldest street in Philippines. I planned the route so it will culminate in 2 magnificent colonial era churches: the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica del Sto. Nino Minore. Nearby is what is said to be the original wooden cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan when he arrived in Cebu in 1521; and Fort San Pedro which said to be the oldest, the smallest and the most well preserved colonial era fort in the Philippines.

From Cebu, we took a brief plane ride to Bacolod City. And while Ka Tolits was having his meeting, I slipped out and found my way to the old cathedral. We had a pala-pala dinner that night on my account as my atonement for “escaping”.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):

BACLAYON, BOHOL. Before Sugbu, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi first landed in Bohol in 1565 where he made the famous Sanduguan or Blood Compact with Datu Sikatuna in what is now the town of Baclayon. Thirty years later, Fr. Juan de Torres (SJ) and Fr. Gabriel Sanchez (SJ) came back, established a Jesuit ecclesiastical mission, and built the first parochial buildings. The present church was built by the Jesuits in 1727. The Augustinian Recollects later conducted improvements (or retouching?) between 1768 and 1801 when they took over the mission.

METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL, CEBU CITY. Cebu was made into a diocese in 1591 three years before being elevated as the first Philippine city. It was one of the first 3 Philippine dioceses along with Nueva Caceres in Naga and Nueva Segovia in Lal-lo. Another church was probably built for the diocese aside from that dedicated to the Sto. Nino. This might be the 2 churches that were reported to have been successively destroyed in the early years of the 18th century. The present church was built between 1730 and 1734.

STO. NINO BASILICA, CEBU CITY. The mission of the Sto. Nino de Cebu was established in 1565 right on the day that the expeditionary forces of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the Augustinian Fr. Andres de Urdaneta set foot on the island. This makes Cebu the first Spanish ecclesiastical mission in the Philippines and probably in Southeast Asia as well. It was elevated as a city in 1594 making it the oldest Philippine city too. In 1561, a Spanish soldier named Juan Camus found an image of the Sto. Nino (that was probably a gift from Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Queen Juana) being venerated by the natives. Fr. Diego de Herrera (OSA) probably built the first church on the site where the image was found. This was razed by fire in 1566, continuously rebuilt between 1605 and 1626 by Fr. Pedro Torres, burned down again in 1628, until Fr. Juan Medina (OSA) finally replaced it with a brick-and-stones building. The church was probably damaged in 1729, defectively repaired in 1731, then probably torn down and replaced by the present structure by Fr. Juan de Albarran (OSA) in 1735. The construction was completed in 1739 with the venerated image of the Sto. Nino finally installed a year later. The church was improved in 1782 and again in 1889 by Fr. Mateo Diez (OSA).

BACOLOD CITY, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL. The mission of Bacolod was probably established by Bishop Mariano Cuartero (OP) in 1756. It was elevated as a city in 1848 making it the 4th in the whole of Negros island at that time. After being assigned to Bacolod in 1871, the Augustinian Recollects built the present church between 1876 and 1882. The church was declared as a cathedral in 1933 and underwent repairs/improvements in 1936.

Monday, October 22, 2007


On the road, I always make it a point to feed only on the local (or regional) cuisine. Why go to Jollibee for lunch in Cagayan de Oro when I can have Chicken Joy back home anytime I want? This sometimes miffs my traveling companions who have to endure walking with me looking for the perfect lunch at 1:30 in the afternoon.

But this is usually the case for lunch and dinner. Finding a breakfast on the road is more difficult because the turo-turo and carinderias where local food is usually served opens up late in the morning (except the 24-hour bus and truck stops). And since I usually start my travel early in the morning when traffic is light and the sun more forgiving, there is no choice but fast food breakfast fare for me. But it better be Chowking or its brunch.

I don’t really like the Chowking fare because it’s too greasy for my taste. I go there for their classic beef-wanton noodles and asado siopao. I eat it Chinese style with bamboo chopsticks, slurping the soup straight from the bowl after every bite of siopao sopped in their wonderful sarsa. In the city, I go for Pan de Manila’s filling pandesal in lieu of the siopao. And sometimes, I can’t resist indulging myself with a bowl of Fiesta Halo-halo for the finale. At 8 o’clock in the morning.

A Taste of Thailand

Wife once asked me if Thai noodles are really good. So we went hunting for a Thai restaurant and found Oody’s at the Market! Market! Mall in Taguig. We ordered Phad Thai.

“How was it?” I asked.

Masarap”, she said while picking on her Thai noodles. “Pero mas masarap pa rin ang pansit canton ko”, she added.

I agree.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) My Chowking protocol of classic beef-wanton noodles, siopao and iced tea. (2) The heavenly hot pandesals of Pan de Manila. (3) Phad Thai’s main ingredient is stir-fried rice noodles garnished with tokwa, hipon, manok strips, fried scrambled eggs, and toge and flavored with patis, sampalok juice, crushed chili, ground mani, a slice of lime, and a leaf that my friend Ponga has described as “lasang putang-ina”.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The mission of Bauan was founded as a visita of Taal in 1590. It was administered by the Augustinians from 1596 --- when the first church was built at the slope of Mt. Maculot along the southern shores of the Taal Lake --- until the end of the 19th century. Another church was built in 1667 probably under the supervision of Fr. Jose Rodriguez (OSA) when it was relocated to Durungto. The church was again relocated in Lonal (or Loual) in 1671 by Fr. Nicolas de Rivera (OSA) who probably had a new structure built. The last relocation was in 1692 (or 1690) in its present site during the administration of Fr. Simon Martinez (OSA) who probably had a new church built that was damaged during the typhoon of 1694. Fr. Ignacio Mercado (OSA) had this rebuilt from 1695 to 1697. The church again suffered damages and was replaced by a stone structure during the administration of Fr. Blas Vidal (OSA) from 1700 to 1710. Fr. Jose Vitoria (OSA) --- who also introduced the cultivation of indigo in Bauan --- initiated building the present church in 1762 that was continued until 1856 during the administrations of Fr. Jose Trevino (OSA) and Fr. Hipolito Huerta (OSA). It was completed under the supervision of Fr. Felipe Bravo (OSA) in 1881. From there until 1894, final decorations were supervised by Fr. Moises Santos (OSA) and Fr. Felipe Garcia (OSA). The church is said to be the most artistically built in the province of Batangas during that time. Father Bravo was also an imminent botanist who put up a museum of natural history and collected rare books that were lost when the church was razed by fire during the Philippine revolution against Spain in 1898. The church was probably rebuilt and again destroyed by fire in 1938. It has been restored since then.

The Krus, the Dingin, and the Subli

Five years after the establishment of the ecclesiastical mission of Bauan, a giant cross made of anubing (i.e. a local hardwood) was found in a dingin (i.e. a sambahan or place of worship) near the village of Alitagtag that was said to have protected people of Bauan from pestilence, locusts, droughts, volcanic eruptions, and Moro raids. Based on a document found in the Bauan Cathedral Archives in 1790, Castro y Amoedo stated that the cross was made in 1595 from a very strong post of a demolished house and erected in the village of Alitagtag to drive away a plague of ghosts. The cross was described as 2.5 meters in height with a 1 meter crosspiece. It featured a golden sun embossed with a human face with radiating rays where the arms intersect (shades of anito worship). The cross was also said to walk around the village (perhaps while driving away the ghosts) and that water gushed from one of its arms.

The miracles attributed to the cross attracted many devotees and a decision was made to move it to the bigger Bauan parish church. However, one priest tried to bring the cross to his church in the capital town of Taal but was prevented from doing so when “the sky became cloudy, and it began to thunder and emit dreadful lightning bolts”. Before its enshrinement in Bauan however, the cross has decreased in size because devotees has chipped away pieces of the cross that were made into miniature replicas and were worn as necklace talismans. A Fr. Manuel de Zamora was also reported to have cut more than 1/3 from the foot of the cross (that were perhaps made into more miniature replicas) and distributed in Manila where a number of miracles were reported. What was left is what is being venerated today in the Bauan church.

The town, the church, and the cross were later moved to a place called Dungarao to escape the violent eruptions of Taal Volcano, then to Loual (or Lonal) , in an unidentified place in 1689, and finally to its present site near the sea in 1690 (or 1692). Today, the people of Bauan pay homage to the cross by dancing the subli. It is said that the subli preceded Christianity in the Philippines and is in fact a (pre-Spanish?) religious ritual. And people still go the dingin or sambahan (where the cross was first erected) to pray.

Source: Thomas R. Hargrove’s “The Mysteries of Taal: A Philippine Volcano and Lake, Her Sea Life and Lost Towns”.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1) BAUAN, BATANGAS. The Holy Cross of Alitagtag is enshrined and venerated in the church. The Alitagtag mentioned here is actually a barrio of Bauan whom I have mistaken to be the town. That is how I missed the cross.

(2-3) ALITAGTAG, BATANGAS. I went to the church of Alitagtag with the intent of finally seeing for myself its famed holy cross. I found a cross on the right corner of the lobby but was told that the real one is at the nearby Nagbukalan Shrine.

(4-6) NAGBUKALAN SHRINE, ALITAGTAG, BATANGAS. The holy cross displayed at the Nagbukalan Shrine in Alitagtag, Batangas is said to have been found the well beside the shrine. I thought I finally had the right cross until I learned that the real one is in Bauan. I’ve been also told that the holy crosses of Bauan and that of the Nagbukalan Shrine are magkapatid.

(7) CUENCA, BATANGAS. Cuenca was established as a town at around 1875 or 1876, and as an independent parish in 1879. The church was built before 1879 when Fr. Guillermo Diez (OSA) had the convent constructed. Fr. Dionisio Ibanez (OSA) had the convent enlarged and the cemetery built in 1887. The church was probably rebuilt, renovated, or repaired because a temporary church was built by Fr. Mariano Calleja (OSA) between 1893 and 1898 who, with Father Ibanez, also promoted the cultivation of cocoa in the area. I passed by this church on my way from the town of Alitagtag.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


He is the web that connected us together: from his childhood friend Winan and the boy who ran away but came back; to poet and loyal friend Ayet and the days of LAHAR; and Verjun during the siege in the lost church of Puncan; and the folk artist husband-and-wife team of Tolits and Tita and the legend of Mingan; and Reggie and that riotous overnight concert in Amoranto; and Jun’s first novel of a one million five hundred seventy-five thousand and three hundred forty-nine stars; and Sir Ben who dared us to stop dreaming and start writing; and Cesar’s travel journal, Minalungao and stories from Iraq; and Kimat T. Amianan for the now lost poetry and the friendship that withstood the challenge of time.

His first Palanca brought us together in an impromptu gig in a garage, then later a despidida lunch of bulalo and San Mig Lights in a Caanawan restobar, which gave birth to the idea of a local creative writing workshop and the pedro_bucaneg group, now inactive after a hot start-up burst, and lately being revived by the 4 burats.

Then a second Palanca.

And another night.

For the love of his poetry…

In retrospect, it was the image of a vengeful Bona scalding her idol with boiling water that offered deeper and richer metaphors. Nora Aunor swam effortlessly back and forth between the elements of water in her life and on the screen: selling drinking water in train stations at an early age to fetching water in the slums to bathe her idol. The element flowed freely from poverty to servitude to retribution. The name of her hometown Iriga originated from the Nabua dialect, “I raga”, meaning “there is land”, alluding to the higher grounds where the pioneers settled to escape the wrath of the great floods. Nora's pair of shoes were enshrined in an empty aquarium and the thought of sedimentary remains came to mind. Resting on pebbles, the pair of shoes might as well have found its place on a dry riverbed, with Norman Maclean's famous last words in his memoir, "A River Runs Through It", carved on the rocks: "I am haunted by waters." Excerpted from the 2004 Palanca winning essay “Devotion”; read by Louela Orden-Frias.

Baka sakali iyakan mo ito.
Pero alam ko hindi.
Last 2 stanzas of the poem “Ang Totoong Dahilan Kung Bakit Limang Araw Akong Mawawala” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in March 1993; read by Verjun Dilla.

Bilin mo’y matatagpuan na lang kitang
nahihimbing sa ilalim ng mga tulay o
sakayan ng bus; paalala mo’y palagi
kung iipunin ang palahaw ng mga sanggol
at ingay ng mga kumakalam na sikmura,
at kapag sa aking bintana may nakita
akong anino sa mga kalsadang hindi
matapos-tapos, patatahimikin mo lahat
at patatahanin ako.
Excerpted from the poem “Ang Binatang Hindi Dumudungaw sa mga Bintana” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 31 July 1994; read by Reggie Gaboy.

Ang naaalala ko lang noon ay palagi kong inaabangan sa komiks kung ano ang mangyayari kay Bakekang, ang paborito kong nobela. Lalo na noong manganganak na siya at hindi tiyak kung ang isisilang niya ay magmamana sa kapangitan niya o sa isa sa dalawang Amerikanong sumiping sa kanya (isang itim at isang puti) o halo ng lahat ng ito. Hinihila ko ang mga araw. Ang tagal niyang magbuntis. Gusto ko na siyang manganak. Excerpted from the Filipino essay “Patotoo sa Pelukula ng Batang Nagpakasakit”; read by Tita Martin-Circa.

Anak, ang aklat pala ni San Pedro ay listahan lamang
mga nawalang labada: ang pulang medyas
na sa Baguio mo pala naiwan. Napulot, binenta, hiniram
at naiwan na naman at mula Iloilo ay nakarating
sa Pangasinan.
Third paragraph of the poem “Para sa Iyo na Trenta Anyos na ng Umibig” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 31 March 1996; read by Ayet Blancas.

Up until the age of twelve, I turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica merely for reference. But I knew they were special. They were unlike the illustrated books I read at school or those that my father bought for me. I suspected that the dark leather-bound covers compiled secrets of vital importance. On its pages, I tracked down alphabetized and indexed information, the uninitiated mind perpetually on the verge of new discoveries. Each time I reached out to pull a volume, I grew taller. I carried its immense weight with a mixed sense of pride and a vague melancholic feeling that I would no longer be the same when I put them back on the shelf. I will be transformed. I will no longer be ordinary. I will carry secrets inside me. I will have powers no one will know about. Knowledge will be my refuge, my armor and my weapon when the world turns itself against me. Excerpted from the 2007 Palanca winning essay “Lost in Childrensville”; read by Fely Rose Manauis.


I am now writing this down with my right eye patched.
Fired ten shots and missed all.
I thought it would be enough to serve as my final payments.
I thought I could come out clean.
Before I went to see the doctor I watched movies
went out with friends, shopped, struggled to write
cleaned my desk, replenished my garden with new plants
read books – and it is amazing
it is amazing that all the while, I was looking at the world
so clearly with a bullet lint, with specks of gunpowder on one eye
and I did not even know it.
Tomorrow they will remove the bandage.
I wonder how my right eye will react to the sudden light
I wonder how it will look at the world and what it will see.
Excerpted from the poem “Guns” from the “Father Poems” anthology published in 2004; read by Kimat T. Amianan.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) His sister Lannie receiving the Palanca grand prize in his behalf (photo was taken by Lannie’s husband). (2) Tungsten candles dance while (3) Jun and Vee play the kubing. (4) The Friases, (5) Verjun Dilla, (6) Reggie Gaboy, (7) Tita Martin-Circa, (8) Ayet Blancas, (9) and Fely Rose Manaois. (10) Clockwise from left: An autographed copy of “Devotion”, a folio of his works, a clipping from the Sunday Inquirer Magazine circa 2004, and the invitation to his 2007 victory party.