Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pangasinan: Driving to the edge of Pangasinan

Another road trip today. It's so difficult when you don't have a digital camera so I had to rely on my mobile phone. I was in Rosales, Pangasinan this morning to do some research. And I decided to finish my work here in Bolinao right by the beach. At least the atmosphere is more relaxed. And I was able to check mail thanks to my brod Sasa Miralao who is a marine biologist at the Bolinao Laboratory of the UP Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) which has WiFi access. Hehe!

It was quite a long but leisurely drive from Rosales to Bolinao. It takes you from the southeast to northwestern tip of Pangasinan. I made a stop at San Carlos City since I was attracted by its old church (above). Lo and behold! It was very much intact but there was evidence of ongoing renovation which could be potentially destructive. Will someone please tell these priests and parish pastoral councils to stop touching all these heritage churches. In fact, they were painting the old floor tiles white. Duh! That is not the way to clean tiles!

After San Carlos was Calasiao. The old church and convento, and even the lot around it was very well- preserved. But for crying out loud, they plastered the walls of both buildings with cement! Strike two for the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. It was then off to Binmaley (both photos on the right). Really nice church! Red brick like San Carlos and Calasiao. But when you enter, another horror renovation... modernized to look like some European church. Please, please... we have our own church heritage to be proud of here in the Philippines. Let's keep these old folksy Filipino churches Filipino! Strike three!

It was off to Lingayen, the provincial capital, which I featured in an earlier entry. Hats off to Gov. Victor Agbayani for restoring the provincial capitol. But thumbs down to the Lingayen parish priest who demolished a charming brick convento, replacing it with a new shopping arcade right beside the church! Strike four for the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan! I'm surprised Archbishop Oscar Cruz is allowing this to happen under his watch, especially since during the time he was Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, he moved heaven and earth to create the Archdiocesan Archives and Museum. I hope he puts his foot down and stops this destruction from continuing in his jurisdiction. More than the jueteng, I think he should keep his eyes on the whims and caprices of these construction-frenzied priests. Again, stop touching heritage churches! And if you plan to restore them, get technical support from the Heritage Conservation Society, NCCA, NHI or National Museum.

Ligayen still has a lot of government buildings intact, as well as charming houses along the streets of the poblacion. One of these is the old casa municipal of the town (above). Beside it is the the provincial jail which is a heritage building itself (right). I hope Gov. Agbayani is able to convince LGUs in his jurisdiction to follow his lead.

It was off to Alaminos City, home of the Hundred Islands National Park. And just like the rest of the churches I passed by, the interior of Alaminos has been modernized beyond recognition. But there are still a number of well-preserved houses which have been put into good use. At least these owners are doing adaptive reuse without knowing they are!

Since it was already late, I decided to forego the Hundred Islands visit for another day. Bolinao was still quite a distance away. But the trip was most worth it. I was greeted by an old limestone church in the poblacion which looked like a fortress (left). Sasa met me there and we both went to the Bolinao Lighthouse in Patar which was about thirty minutes away (below).

The view from the foot of the 1905 lighthouse was spledid. It would be nice to watch the sun set on the South China Sea from there but we didn't want to drive in the dark so we went back to town after taking some photos.

On the way back, we stopped along a bridge to take photos of the mouth of the Balingasay River, which the Municipal Government of Bolinao declared a marine protected area in 1999. The initiative to protect this marine sanctuary came from the local government unit (LGU) for which they won the Philippine Wetlands Conservation Award in 2004. Had the LGU not stepped in, Balingasay's mangrove area could have been a part of the quarry area of a cement plant complex proposed by an international consortium of companies or damaged by environment-destructive fish pens and fish cages.

For dinner, we had street food at the plaza. I bought their native kakanin (rice cake) which they call binungay. It's suman (glutinuous rice cake) roasted in bamboo. They sell it in various sizes depending on the diameter of the bamboo stalk. And they have a funny way of opening it. According to the tindera (hawker) you had to smash the bamboo container by either pounding it on a rock or slicing it open with a bolo in order to eat the rice cake. So smash it we did. Hehe! Like most suman, it is best eaten with ripe mangoes or coco jam. I also had isaw baboy and manok (roasted pork and chicken intestines), mami (noodle soup) and fried chicken as well.

After I checked-in, we went straight to the UP MSI so that I could check mail and type my blog entry for today. Tonight, I work on the project I need to finish. Tomorrow, I join Sasa to nearby Santiago Island to help him out with his sea cucumber experiment. Then its back to Pampanga after lunch via Zambales.

How to get to Bolinao, Pangasinan
Victory Liner and Five Star have several bus trips from Manila to Bolinao daily. Trips begin at about 7 a.m. and leave at intervals of 2 to 3 hours.


  1. Maybe those priests need to be informed on how they should renovate their churches. Maybe there is no bad intentions, just ignorance!

  2. Actually, there are some priests who are really hard-headed no matter how much you educate them. Once they are set on a renovation, they couldn't be convinced otherwise. I mean the CBCP supposedly has a commission on church heritage but no one really respects or listens to it. We'll try to talk to the archdiocese.

  3. Hi Dalsa! How are you? Thanks for visiting. See you in San Fernando soon.

  4. Anonymous14.4.06

    Hi Ivan!!! I like your article. Just so happened I want to go to Bolinao. You've described a good potential itinerary for me and the family, unfortunately, there's no map for me to follow. At least, as a summary? Hehe Thanks anyway. Next time, a map of your daily progress and the sites you've seen would be nice. They will really come in handy.

  5. Anonymous1.12.06

    hi! reading your blog entries, i can't help but notice your exasperation with how local priests renovate their churches. i feel the same way. we went to ilocos to visit the churches (and pagudpud of course!) and we were quite disappointed at some of the churches. i wonder where the people who renovated and repaired them got their ideas? hindi bagay and hindi consistent sa original design ng church. hindi ba nila alam na hindi maganda yung itsura ng church sa ginagawa nila? sayang talaga..

  6. Anonymous5.3.07

    Hi Ivan,
    Since you know alot more about Pangasinan, do you know any old church there that is worth visiting? I'm planning to go to Bolinao but want to stop at old churches along the way (Tarlac and Pangasinan). Thanks

  7. Hmmmm, in Tarlac, their only preserved prewar church was gutted in a fire and that's the one in Camiling. You should pass by Calasiao and maybe Mangatarem, Aguilar and San Carlos on the way to Bolinao.

  8. Hi Ivan!

    I'm Arabela Arcinue, Pres. of Pangasinan Heritage Society, Inc. Our group is very disappointed with Archbishop Oscar Cruz because despite our pleas, he traded heritage for money. I'm referring to the Bishop's Palace, the pre-war episcopal seat of the archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan that is now a commercial bldg! It was not the fault of the parish priest but that of Fr. Ferdinand Guiang, the then Director of St. Columban's College with the approval of the Archbishop. This school started using the repaired palace in 1954. I said "repaired" because it was bombed during WWII but the exterior and interior walls of the ground floor were left intact. Lingayen was one of the first towns to be evangelized in 1572 and the town, being a royal encomienda, was made a "cavisera" and still is up to now. So there are several important landmarks here, foremost of which is the CASA REAL (1850s)that was used as office and residence of the "Alcalde Mayor" (Governor during the Spanish regime). NHI has granted our request to make this a national historical landmark (still have to install marker) but Gov. Victor Agbayani is not enthusiastic in repairing it. You should see the interior - ornate ceiling, piedra china floors and stairway, but is in dire need of repairs. The present capitol used to be white since its inauguration in 1919. We showed the governor the very first picture taken of it but Architect Mata painted it gold! (sigh...) The governor also demolished the concrete bamboo trellis built in 1935 (work on this was rushed to welcome Pres. Quezon) at the entrance of the Maramba Blvd. to give way to Don Daniel's monument. Wish they incorporated it in the new design (another sigh...)

  9. Anonymous28.4.07

    Dear Ivan,

    Please ask Ms. Arcinue to make sure of her facts first before she says anything with respect to the Archbishop's Palace. It is church property and we have no jurisdiction over it. The new agreement with the Holy See will help in the future, though. If the Palace is being used as a commercial space, it is the church's prerogative. Morality issues are not our expertise. Also, the school's administration must be cleared first. Is it the same entity as the Palace? In conservation ownership is an important factor.

    So also with Casa Real in Lingayen. The Governor had indeed requested me to check on the condition of the building as a possible venue for a Museum. Problems uncovered: Ownership goes to the Mayor of Lingayen? Also: there are presently several government agencies holding office in the building, including a trial court. The Governor will find difficulty finding appropriate areas to transfer them. Turf wars again. MONEY is also a perennial problem. The Governor will have to deal with the Sanggunian for funds. If the Society can push for Casa Real's declaration, that makes it eligible for public funds. They can also lay the groundwork for the setting up of a proper Museum for Pangasinan. Such museums run best as private foundations, not government subsidized. How could she miss the City jail and the old American Period Protestant Church next to it? Also: the plaza is a mess, and the church convento long gone.

    The present color of the Capitol building which is yellow ochre, not gold, was based on existing paint evidence found in the nooks and crannies of the structure during restoration. Evidence must be based on actual proof. Black and white photos of the American period are notorious for this.

    I was not consulted with respect to Maramba Drive.


    Jojo Mata

  10. Dear Architect Mata,

    If you read my blog again, I did not say that the Prov. Gov't has jurisdiction over the Bishop's Palace because I know for a fact that it is the property of the Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese. That is why I mentioned the name of the Archbishop.

    Sorry, I might have confused you when I proceeded to mention Casa Real without paragraphing the text. The owner of this building is the Provincial Government of Pangasinan per Tax Declaration dated 2000 that is in our file.

    When we brought up the significance of this building (being the 1st provincial capitol) to Gov. Agbayani in 2000, and upon our suggestion that it should be conserved and would do well to house a museum, he formed Task Force Museum with him as the Chairman and me as the Vice-Chairman. We invited NHI architects to inspect the premises and they agreed that the whole town plaza compound including the prov. jail, bishop's palace (this was the church convento)and the Protestant Church should be declared a historical landmark.

    NHI came up with a resolution in 2002 granting our request to declare a national landmark. Upon instructions of the Governor, Legal Officer Atty. Geraldine Baniqued, invited the representatives of all the gov't agencies holding office there and told them about the plans and that they should start looking for a place to relocate. But you're right, ARch. Mata, the problem is lack of funds...from the Prov. Gov't. And from NHI. We would try our luck with Gov. Espino. We hear that he wants to promote the use of the Pangasinan language. We can safely conclude then that he wants to preserve Pangasinan heritage and culture! Cheers to that! Thanks for your inputs. 'Hope to meet you and Ivan someday.

    Belle Arcinue

  11. For Architect Mata:

    Correction: I missed to type the words CASA REAL in my sentence "NHI came up with a resolution in 2002 granting our request to declare___________ a national historical landmark."

    Belle Arcinue

  12. Anonymous30.8.07

    Hi! More Power to all!!
    Great site!!

  13. Anonymous7.4.08

    i'd be sinning in saying this, but..many of our priests are against our Church! instead of fulfilling the the fure of the church's continuity with the past, they're destryoing it! GRRRRRRRR...i'm from san carlos but i didn't much became happy with the renovation....

    dave arjie

  14. Anonymous7.4.08

    sorry for the wrong grammar...i was carried away..

    i'd be sinning in saying this, but..many of our priests are against our Church! instead of fulfilling the the future of the church's continuity with the past, they're destroying it! GRRRRRRRR...i'm from san carlos but i didn't much become happy with the renovation....

    dave arjie

  15. The community really has to speak out to avoid uglification. But the sad part is, most of those in the provinces do not know it when their parish priest is doing them a great injustice.

  16. Anonymous27.11.08

    Here it is... simply put... the Catholic Church is corrupted ever since its inception... where do you see in the Bible priests go to be so wealthy?... that chalices in the Vatican have to be in gold? there structures and clothes have to be of the best kind?... simply money making... :)

  17. Anonymous24.4.09

    i just seen ur blog of ilocos,, this coming mond. were going there i hop so to see all the beautiful places u've been.. tnx for the blog


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