Friday, September 15, 2006

Pangasinan: Another road trip in Pangasinan

I made another trip to Lingayen, Pangasinan today to attend to some business at the elegant Pangasinan Provincial Capitol. I left Pampanga together with my brods Ryan and Adrei at 6 a.m. We were rushing since we had to be there at 9 a.m. So the only stopover we made was at the Jollibee drive-thru in Luisita.

The fastest route to Lingayen is via Santa Ignacia and Camiling, Tarlac passing through the town of San Clemente before reaching the first town of Pangasinan which is Mangatarem. Camiling used to have a grand church, the oldest and largest church in Tarlac. But unfortunately, this heritage church got burned in April 1997. I noticed that Camiling still has a lot of heritage structures around the poblacion area. If the local government unit is able to do things right they could still save the character of the town.

As we entered Pangasinan we were greeted by some of the best views of the Philippine countryside. The rice crop was just about ready for harvesting so the fields were immaculately green with the rice grains at a golden brown. Behind the fields were the foothills of the Zambales mountains. If only we had time to stop over. Sigh!

Anyway, Mangatarem had a really old church and intact convento. You would immediately notice it because of its oversized turquoise blue dome. I promised myself to check it out on the way back. There were several Gabaldon schoolhouses and a colonial period town hall as well. The next town Aguilar had an equally impressive church as well as an intact covento very similar to the one in Mangatarem.

After passing through the town of Bugallon, we made a right at the intersection following the road to Dagupan. Lingayen was just a few kilometers away. You could immediately see the belltower of the church as you neared the capital town of Pangasinan. As you enter, you are greeted by several ancestral houses.

Although there are still a large number of heritage structures in the town, Lingayen is on the verge of transforming itself into another nondescript Filipino community without character. The stupid parish priest had demolished a centuries-old brick convento and replaced it with commercial stalls (left). The parish priest could have preserved the convento by employing adaptive re-use, altering the interiors to accomodate commercial stalls.

In the center of town is a modern public market. But just beside it is one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial period casas reales in the country (right) which is now used by the Sangguniang Bayan of Lingayen. If only the local government in Lingayen was able to regulate the designs of these new buildings. There is a proper way of building new structures in old districts. Scale and proportions are very important.

We finally made it to the Pangasinan Capitol after two hours and thirty minutes traveling. It was the second time for me to visit the building. And looking at the stately building which the provincial government painstakingly restored to its pristine condition gives me hope for heritage. The governor is in the process of landscaping the boulevard and open spaces that lead to the said building. For this I say, "Bravo Governor Agbayani!" It's sad that he is on his third term.

After our meeting we visited the beach right at the back of the Capitol which was the landing site of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Lingayen. On display are some World War II relics such as a fighter plane and a tank, as well as old photos in an exhibit area built by the LGU. We made our way to the fine gray sand beach which had a hotel and huts-for-rent.

We didn't have much time since we wanted to be in Pampanga before 5 p.m. So we made our way back after a quick lunch.

We were able to take photos at the Aguilar Church which was still very much intact except for the fact that they had replaced the old floor tiles with cheap marble. We really need to educate our priests and parish pastoral councils. I saw remnants of the black and white tiles outside and could imagine how much more charming the interior of the church would have looked with those tiles.

The ceiling, choirloft, pulpit and retablo were intact as well and I hope it remains that way. Right beside it was the original convento which except for the cement palitada inside, was very much the same structure. FYI, there is a proper mixture of palitada for these old churches and the current cement mixture is too strong and does not allow the structure to breathe.

After Aguilar, I can't remember what happened since I was too tired and lacked sleep having slept for only an hour the night before. So I was asleep for most of the trip back and thus missed stopovers at Mangatarem and Camiling. Oh well, maybe next time!
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