Sunday, October 14, 2007

Manila: Malabon, Metro Manila's hidden gem

Today, I joined a tour of Malabon called "Halina lusungin natin ang Malabon" organized by concerned people of Malabon led by Atty. Monchet Lucas of Rufina Patis, Leona Nepomuceno of DOT, Terry de Jesus a home owner, and Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA.

Our tour began with a briefing and a sumptuous lunch at the Pescadores restaurant at Letre Road corner Dagat-Dagatan Avenue. We then proceeded to our first stop, the San Bartolome Church. I had high expectations for this church knowing that it was one of the untouched churches in Metro Manila. But to our shock, it's in the process of being uglified by the current parish priest who is not even a native of Malabon.

The current hard-headed parish priest, Fr. Ric Torrefiel, has all but listened to the objections of the local community about his kitsch and tasteless renovations. Sadly, he was the same priest who bastardized the interior of the old Concepcion Church, also in Malabon.

I hope the townsfolk of Malabon stops this priest from wreaking more havoc to this historic church by halting all their donations to this utter waste of church funds. Why don't priests simply focus on their spiritual role rather than push their parishioners to cough out money to satisfy their whims and caprices? That money is best spent fulfilling the pastoral needs and responsibilities of the church.

Members of the group were aghast! From a simple but elegant centuries-old church, Fr. Torrefiel has managed to turn it into a cheap, gaudy, tasteless, kitsch, cabaret-like interior enumerating some of the adjectives blurted out by those in the tour. On the exterior, he painted fake brick lines! And when we asked the tour organizers about it, they said that the more the local people stop him, the more he pushes for what he wants. Now where is the CBCP when you need it?

Anyway, after that depressing first stop, we walked to Betsy's Cake House to have a taste of their broas and view the works of the silent artist, Serafin Serna, a contemporary of Fernando Amorsolo.

We went from one house to another. The group first entered the Dionisio House. Then we moved to Concepcion to visit three Luna houses, the Borja House, and Paez House, as well as the Concepcion Church which Fr. Torrefiel had already bastardized. We also dropped by Dolor's Kakanin to check out their sapin-sapin.

We also visited the home and gallery of Angel Cacnio, an artist whose works have been used by the Central Bank on our bills and coins. From Concepcion, we moved to the Rufina Patis Factory, passing by other old houses along the way. Indeed, Malabon is a treasure trove of heritage, which is sadly deteriorating due to the annual flood and subsidence (sinking of the ground).

From Rufina Patis, we were served a sumptuous Malabon merienda at the Martinez House. Of course, there was pancit malabon, puto bumbong, puto sulot, bibingka, pichi-pichi, sumpia (in Malabon, lumpia is fresh, sumpia is fried, what we know as turon is called valencia and when you say turon, it means it's filled with mongo beans), kikiam and camachile biscuits (which we thought were tamarinds), among many others.

Then we moved to the oldest known house of Malabon dated 1861, the Raymundo House. Behind the house, we got to see the Malabon-Navotas shipyards. The two towns are separated by a strait (and not a river) since we always forget that Malabon and Navotas are islands. In fact, during the Spanish colonial period, they were totally detached from the island of Luzon. It was Imelda who reclaimed most of the lagoons around the islands, thus erasing their former charm.

From the Raymundo House, we attended the soft opening of the Bahay Parokiyano Gallery, a place for local artists to showcase their works. Indeed, this trip to Malabon was most worth it! Thanks to the organizers for inviting us, and filling both our stomachs and our minds. For more photos of Malabon and Navotas heritage, check out Richard's Multiply.
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