Showing posts with label Isabela. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Isabela. Show all posts

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Isabela: Visita iglesia to Isabela's heritage churches (Tumauini, San Pablo, Gamu, Cauayan & Alicia)

Isabela has its own share of Spanish colonial churches. Before the province was created in 1856, the northern part from Tumauini was part of Cagayan, while the south was part of Nueva Vizcaya. And I personally noticed that the churches south of Tumauini have designs similar to those of Nueva Vizcaya.

Unfortunately, the interiors of most of these churches have been renovated and modernized. So only the facades are worth the visit. But at least the five churches still have their facades intact, reminding us of southern Cagayan Valley church architecture, since it looks like priests in Isabela were not really after preservation of the province's old churches, Ilagan included (only the belfry of the church remains).

In the northern part of Isabela, only the San Pablo Church ruins and Tumauini Church, a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark, are left. The Tumauini Church or San Matias Church is most known for its round wedding cake belfry. It's arguably the most exquisite example of brick architecture in the Philippines.

The San Pablo Church, constructed in 1709, is the only one of the extant Isabela churches that is not made of bricks. It has a very massive belfry reminiscent of those in Ilocos Norte (Paoay and Laoag). San Pablo used to be Cabagan Viejo, with Cabagan Nuevo retaining the name Cabagan. So the church is sometime referred to as the San Pablo de Cabagan Church.

I was supposed to pass by San Pablo and Tumauini during my road trip. But a flooded bridge forced me to take the Roxas route. Unfortunately, Isabela was still recovering from the typhoon several weeks back. So I proceeded directly to Gamu. It was my first time to visit the churches of southern Isabela. And the Gamu Church was my first stop. The Gamu Church or Sta. Rosa de Lima Church was completed in 1734.

Although not a heritage church, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Visitation in Brgy. Guibang, Gamu is a popular pilgrimage site because of the image of Our Lady of Guibang. It's actually along the National Highway. So if you have time to stopover, you might as well do.

I spent the night in Cauayan City. But I made sure first to pass by the Cauayan Church or Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church before it got really dark. The facade of the Cauayan Church, built in 1825, is still intact. But the rest of the church, including the belfry, had been destroyed by war and earthquake and replaced by modern structures.

The next morning, I visited the Alicia Church or the Nuestra Senora de Atocha Church. Just like San Pablo, this used to be old town center of Angadanan or Angadanan Viejo. But with the change of name, it was Angadanan Nuevo which retained the name Angadanan. The present church was built in 1849.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ifugao & Isabela: Trip to Mayoyao, Ifugao

After six hours on an evening bus, I found myself in Santiago, Isabela at 3:30 in the morning. It was a good thing I took the deluxe bus of Victory Liner since the ride was really comfortable. It was my first major local trip since I got back after close to three months abroad. We were meeting up with the organizers of the Mayoyao harvest experience in Santiago. And together, we would make the rough trip to the remote Ifugao town of Mayoyao on a hired rickety bus.

Josh, the president of the group, is my colleague from the Cultural Citizens Program and we were together in Illinois last month. Since we had arrived in Santiago earlier than expected (our ETA was 6 a.m. but the deluxe bus travels non-stop), we were able to make an unscheduled stop in Magat Dam before making our way to Mayoyao. I had been there once before as part of a heritage tour of Cagayan Valley.

There's another dam called Maris Dam (short for Magat River Irrgation System) which we passed by on the way to Mayoyao. Both dams are at the boundaries of Ramon, Isabela and Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. We were able to take photos of the fishermen dwarfed by the smaller dam before proceeding.

It was a wonder how I was able to doze off during that long bumpy ride. The next thing I knew, it was 7:30 a.m. and we had stopped over in Ubao in the town of Aguinaldo for breakfast. In the olden days, Ubao was known as a hunting area. But that is no longer the case today. Aside from the fact that hunting deer is illegal, deer are scarce.

We were back on the road a little later. Again, I dozed off. But I tried to keep myself awake so as not to miss some good views since we were not passing by this road on the way back to Manila. Before leaving the town of Aguinaldo, we passed by a waiting shed where a woman was selling moma (betel nut) and hapid leaves as well as a local kakanin called pinang-it which is known as bakle in Kiangan. I noticed a sign which said the curfew in this area was at 8:30 p.m. You must be kidding?! Then it hit me that we were out in the middle of nowhere.

Occasionally, we'd pass by clusters of houses along the road with freshly-harvested palay in bundles being dried under the sun. And there are the scarce trips of jeepneys with people on the roof of course.

Then we started to see large clusters of rice terraces. We were finally closing in on Mayoyao's town center. Mayoyao is one of the five clusters of rice terraces included in the UNESCO World Heritage inscription Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, the others being Bangaan and Batad in Banaue; Hungduan (which includes Hapao and the Poblacion); and Nagacadan in Kiangan.

We finally arrived in Mayoyao close to lunch. It turned out, the trip from Santiago, Isabela to Mayoyao, Ifugao (together with the food and photo stops of course) was longer than my bus ride from Manila to Isabela! I endured seven hours on a rickety bus. We navigated through rough, bumpy roads, but what I saw at the end was most definitely worth the trip. Our activities would begin after lunch and a short nap. We needed to get some rest after that very long trip.

Part 2: Mayoyao Rice Terraces in Ifugao
Part 3: Rice harvest experience in Mayoyao, Ifugao
Part 4: Trekking along the rice terraces of Mayoyao
Part 5: Journey across the Ifugao heartland

How to get to Banaue, Ifugao
Florida Bus has a regular trip from Manila direct to Banaue. It leaves Sampaloc, Manila (Lacson St. cor. S. H. Loyola St.) at 10:45 p.m. Or you can take any bus that goes to Cagayan Valley and get off at Solano, Nueva Vizcaya where you can catch regular trips to Banaue and other towns in Ifugao. From Baguio, KMS Bus Lines and Ohayami Trans leave for Banaue at least twice daily.

How to get to Mayoyao, Ifugao
Take a bus from Manila to Santiago, Isabela (any bus to Cagayan or Isabela passes by Santiago). There are mini-buses from Santiago to Mayoyao which leave thrice daily at 6 a.m., 11a.m. and 3 p.m. From Banaue, there is one daily trip to Mayoyao from Solano which passes Banaue between 12 to 1 p.m.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Isabela: Nuang Festival in San Agustin, Isabela

I just came back from a trip to Isabela where I attended the 2nd Nuang Festival in the town of San Agustin upon the invitation of my SSEAYP batchmate Vice-Mayor Jules Lamug, whom I heard is currently the youngest vice-mayor in the country. San Agustin is the southernmost town of Isabela. But to get to it, you have to pass by Santiago City and the towns of Echague and Jones.

Although the roads to Echague and Jones are well-paved, once you leave the poblacion of Jones, you will have to drive through rough and muddy roads going to the town. Good thing there are new bridges being constructed since the current ones are too low and are easily susceptible to bridge closures when the waters of the Cagayan River overflow.

San Agustin is the top producer of Murrah buffaloes in the entire country which is why every September 27, a day before their foundation day or town fiesta, they hold the Nuang Festival, nuang is Ilocano for buffalo, to celebrate this feat.

This was not anything like the lavish city and provincial festivals that have become by-words of Philippine tourism. I guess it was a chance for me to experience a small town fiesta since the activities planned were the way most towns in the country celebrated their fiesta in the good old days.

The morning started with street dancing and a parade of buffaloes around the town. Each buffalo had a number since there were competitions to determine the best bred F1, as the Murrah buffalo is referred to. This was followed by native games for the kids such as sack races with bags of groceries at stake, as well as a pig catching contest, the prize being the poor greased piglet which the kids tried to catch. There was also a buffalo talent contest with the buffalo which could do the most tricks winning the competition. To break the tie, the buffalos were asked to sit down with the fastest being declared the winner.

Like in most small towns, the afternoon was reserved for the siesta which is what I did. Hehe! And a small town fiesta would not be complete without basketball games in the town plaza.

I was surprised that an old pre-war tradition was still being done in San Agustin. Unlike the current fiestas were we hold beauty pageants, San Agustin still organizes a carnival queen or popularity contest. Jules and I were kidding about it since they reverted back to the “dark ages.” Haha! The winner of the competition was the candidate who got the most number of votes, with each vote being purchased. And the coronation night was simply that since the winners were already pre-determined.

The entire town was literally there to watch the event. Traditional dances performed by the various schools of San Agustin opened the coronation night. Then each of the winners was called to march together with their consorts and entourage of flower girls, angels, as well as crown, scepter and sash bearers all in complete carnival queen regalia, up stage where their thrones were waiting for them. This is how pageants used to be done in the old days.

Anyway, the next day, the town fiesta, was marked by a grand parade with the queen and her court paraded around town on decorated floats. I didn’t stay too long since Milenyo was soon to unleash its wrath and I wanted to be back in Pampanga before it did.

And of course, since I was up north, I made it a point to eat tupig, their native kakanin, which is glutinous rice and other ingredients rolled up in a banana leaf and roasted over a metal plate on top of charcoal. So I ate some at stopovers on the way to Isabela and back home.

Cabanatuan tricycles are cheats!
As an aside to my story, here is a warning to travelers who may by chance find themselves in Cabanatuan City… beware of the tricycle drivers because they are cheats! On my way to Isabela, the tricycle I rode charged me PHP120 for a ride from the terminal to some point in the national highway! I tried to argue with him about it. But my mistake was I didn’t ask the price before I boarded so I had to settle for PHP80. The bastard!

I thought it was an isolated incident but on my way back to Pampanga, I took another tricycle in Cabanatuan from McDonald’s to the bus terminal which was about a kilometer or two away. This time, I asked how much. When he said PHP30, I frowned and walked away. Then he shouted PHP20 so I said yes. When I got off at the terminal, I gave him a PHP50 bill and he said I still lacked ten pesos. When I protested, he said it’s PHP20 but I had to pay for three people since I was alone in the tricycle!

This time I didn’t allow it and protested until he gave me the right change. Imagine, they charge even more than what an air-conditioned taxi would charge for the same distance. The nerve!

These incidents also show how remiss the local government in Cabanatuan City is in regulating and disciplining the tricycles there. Lest they forget they are notorious for having the most number of tricycles in the entire country, the City Government of Cabanatuan should then ensure that incidents like these would not happen by (1) requiring every tricycle to have a fare schedule posted for passengers to see and refer to, (2) posting fare schedules on billboards in tricycle terminals, (3) creating a hotline for complaints with contact numbers conspicuously posted inside the tricycles beside their registration number, and (4) imposing strict disciplinary measures for erring drivers and the associations they are part of (imposing measures on the associations will ensure that members will regulate their ranks).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cagayan & Isabela: Church heritage in Cagayan and Isabela

We were up quite early yesterday. Although our itinerary started with breakfast at 7 a.m., Karlo and I got up at 5 a.m. to check out the provincial capitol of Cagayan and take photos for possible inclusion in the 2007 HCS calendar.

One thing which surprised me was its distance from the town center since the tricycle ride took about ten minutes. It was actually at the border of Tuguegarao and Peñablanca and in the middle of nowhere. In fact, you first had to cross the welcome arch of Peñablanca to get to it. From the gates, we could already see that we were not going to be disappointed.

The capitol building may be the last untouched piece of heritage in Tuguegarao. It is in the center of a gated compound that is very well-maintained. In front of it is a large landscaped lawn which contains a relief map of Cagayan and an old fountain among others.

After taking photos, we went back to the hotel for breakfast. The group left the hotel at 8 p.m. for visits to the Cagayan towns further up north. First on the list was the town of Iguig which was famous for its Calvary Hills, a collection of life-sized tableaus of the Stations of the Cross scattered across the sprawling grounds of the church.

Sad to say, the façade of this old church was badly-altered. But the sides remained relatively intact. What is unique about this church are the “flying buttresses” found at the back of the church which are the only one of its kind in the country. I hope the priests realize that and do not touch it.

From Iguig, we proceeded to Alcala where an unpleasant surprise greeted us. In front of the red brick church was a billboard showing a modern interior in the works. Damage had already been done to the interior. The original wooden ceiling had already been replaced by galvanized iron sheets. You could also see that there were elements such as a choirloft which had already been demolished.

I immediately looked for the parish priest to talk to him before more damage was done. In fairness, the priest was quite receptive. He said they had been trying to contact the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for help but to no avail.

Now we see an oversight on the part of the government. The stakeholders do not have a direct line to the technical support that they need. I think it’s about time that the NCCA reaches out to these stakeholders by simply writing all custodians of heritage churches all over the country to let them know that technical assistance is available if you contact the NCCA, National Museum or National Historical Institute; and that they could get advice from the experts before they make any plans to renovate or restore a church. Writing letters to everyone to let them know that they're there to help is the least they could do.

You could also see that the priests lacked basic knowledge of what restoration was. The parish priest mentioned to us that the proposed altar design was done by another priest who was also into restoration. But obviously, the altar was not restoration. It was a modern replacement that did not match the age of the church. Priests really have to be educated, especially those who make these designs and claim that they are restorations.

Our next stop was the town of Gattaran. But we weren’t going to the town church which was equally quaint. If only we weren’t pressed for time, I would have wanted to stop at the town church as well. Instead, we visited the Nassiping Church ruins which was the church of Nassiping town before it was merged with Gattaran.

The stone side altars were quite intact. But a sad note was one of its bells was stolen last year, most probably by an antique dealer. I wish stealing these relics could be considered a heinous crime! These unscrupulous antique dealers should be shot by the towsfolk if they are caught carting away priceless pieces of heritage, to teach them a lesson. Check out the article in the PDI.

Our next stop was the town of Lal-lo which was also known as Nueva Segovia. It was the former seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia before it was transferred to Vigan in 1758. The story of the transfer is in the Vigan website.

But before visiting the old church, we passed by the Magapit Suspension Bridge which spans the Cagayan River. It was one of the most modern in Asia during its time. Another monumental Marcos project which lessened the travel time between Cagayan and Ilocos, it shows us how much Philippine infrastructure has deteriorated today. The DPWH should let architects and not engineers design bridges. That's if they want to rid themselves of the reputation of churning out the ugliest infrastructure in the world! The only recently constructed bridge worth praising is the Bamban Bridge linking Mabalacat and Bamban. But then again, that was a Japanese financed project. Hehe!

Anyway, the facade of the Lal-lo Church was similar to that of Alcala. In front of the church was an wooden cross encased in glass. According to the marker, it was planted there over 300 years ago by the Dominican missionaries who evangelized Cagayan.

From Lal-lo, we moved on to the next town Camalaniugan which housed the oldest Catholic bell in the Far East. Before visiting the church, we passed by another horno. Unlike the one in Tuguegarao which was obviously neglected, this horno was well-cared for by the local community. In fact, there were even signages pointing to the place.

When we got there, we were greeted by an horno which was close to 100 percent intact. Makeshift fences around plants in the area showed that this piece of heritage was very important to the local government and the townsfolk. Two thumbs up to them!

Next stop was the church. But we received a shock since there was a totally new church being constructed right beside the old belfry. I learned from Jojo that the one it replaced wasn't old either and the original church was lost maybe in the 1970s.

Anyway, we were disappointed when we saw the belfry since there was a big tarpaulin streamer covering the structure just like in Alcala. We were saying that the priest should have placed the streamer in front of the construction rather than on the belfry. I hope Fr. Camilo Castillejo removes his billboard from the belfry which is on the side of the oldest bell which dates back to 1595.

That was the end of our morning itinerary and it was time to move back to Tuguegarao. Again, if we weren't pressed for time, I would have wanted to visit the next town which was Aparri and find out for myself what this town, made famous by the Eat Bulaga jingle, is all about. Hehe!

We stopped by Alcala again to buy some milk candies made from carabao's milk. These flat candies are Alcala's version of the pastillas. Along the way, I think it was in Iguig, we also bought corn from vendors along the highway.

Back at the hotel, we packed our stuff and went down for a quick lunch before checking out. From there, it was a long drive to Isabela along the old highway to the town of San Pablo where ruins of an old church could be found. What is peculiar about this church is its size since it is unusually large for the community it currently serves.

According to accounts, San Pablo was a very prosperous town before which explains the large church. But as the years passed, people left and fortunes changed. And the church as well as other structures were left to decay. Today, only half the church is in use, having been covered by a makeshift roof and walls. It would just be too costly to restore the church entirely. But from the intricate brick designs, one could imagine its past grandeur as a center of life in Isabela.

From there, we went further south to Tumauini to visit the Church of San Matias, a national cultural treasure. Just like the Callao Caves, this was another famous image in books. And finally, I got to see it for myself. I was not disappointed.

The facade is said to be Pampanga's greatest contribution to Cagayan Valley heritage since it is said that Kapampangan woodcarvers were imported to create the moulds for the intricate and ornate brick tiles that adorned Tumauini and many other churches in the Cagayan Valley.

It's a pity Pampanga did not have an abundance of bricks because Tumauini was just breathtaking, each brick carefully planned and numbered to create this mosaic of ornate clay tiles.

Even the walls that surrounded the church plaza was generously decorated with designed brick tiles! Indeed, Tumauini deserves its declaration as a national cultural treasure.

Another unique feature is the cylindrical belfry which is designed like a wedding cake. It's the only cylindrical belfry left in the country today, the other one in Leyte having been demolished by you know who. Sigh! I wonder why Tumauini, and many other deserving churches, weren't included in the original UNESCO declaration which sadly only includes Augustinian churches. Hope they make it to the expansion.

Anyway, from there, it was off to Cauayan again for dinner at the Jambalaya Grill. But we stopped over in the provincial capital Ilagan to check out the biggest butaca or armchair which is on display along the national highway. After some fun shots on the giant wooden chair, we left for Cauayan.

We were there at about 5:30 p.m. just in time for early dinner. After dinner, Jojo made a synthesis lecture of the learnings from the past two days. Then it was off to Manila at about 7:30 p.m. We made a number of stopovers to make sure the drivers were awake. And one of them was near Balete Pass where I bought some perantes, the citrus fruit of Nueva Vizcaya. Although the best place to buy them is along the highway somewhere near Bambang if I'm not mistaken. We arrived in U.P. at about 5 a.m. Lucky for the students, classes were suspended in anticipation of the heavy traffic due to today's SONA. So I'm sure everyone went straight to bed. Hehe!

The rest of the photos are at and as well as in Karlo de Leon's blog.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Isabela & Cagayan: Nature at its finest in Cagayan Valley

Finally, I've reached the last two provinces of northeastern Luzon Island! Yes, we visited Cagayan and Isabela today. Just like the Ilocos trip in July last year, I joined the Arch 17 class of Prof. Jojo Mata for the semestral study tour organized by the UP College of Architecture HTC Lab.

We left UP at 10 p.m yesterday and arrived in Cauayan, Isabela at 6 a.m. just in time for breakfast at the Jambalaya Grill. After a hearty breakfast, we went to the Magat Dam in Ramon. Although I was surprised to see a sign along the road a few meters from the dam that we were in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao.

It was a massive structure which reminded me of the Marcosian-era of the Philippines, the last time when the Philippine government thought big. If there was one thing I would hand to Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, they left their legacies in architectural monuments such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines and massive infrastructure projects such as the Magat Dam. No other president after them left monumental legacies not including of course Ramos' white elephant known as Expo Filipino.

From the Magat Dam, we went straight to our hotel in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan to freshen up, get some rest and have lunch. After lunch, we went to the Tuguegarao Cathedral, a heritage horror which Jojo calls a "good example of a bad example!"

Imagine, they demolished the old brick convento right beside the church and replaced it with this horrible commercial structure and multi-purpose hall which is still under construction at this moment. Now you see why we can't entrust heritage decisions to some bishops because they themselves are at times the culprits.

That also happened in Lingayen, Pangasinan just recently. Instead of demolishing these centuries-old conventos and replacing them with horrible new buildings, the bishops could have contacted the NCCA or a conservation architect to consult them on how to do adaptive reuse of the conventos, meaning tranforming the interior of the conventos in order for them to serve the purpose intended for new buildings. In that manner, heritage is preserved and the bishops get the income they want.

Yes, the bottomline was income for the bishops since commercial stalls replaced the old conventos when the said stalls could have been integrated properly with the old conventos had they consulted. Notice also the water tank on top of the demolished part of the convento. You can really see how some priests and bishops treat our national heritage.

Tuguegarao is actually an urban planning disaster having transformed itself into another nondescript Philippine city without character. Not much of its heritage is left since Church and State seemed to have formed a perfect tandem in eradicating its rich past. Add to the fact that the roads are literally congested with tricycles. Yes people! After Cabanatuan, Tuguegarao follows with the most number of tricycle franchises issued. Driving in the city streets is a nightmare since the drivers treat the roads as if they were theirs.

We then visited a horno, an oven for baking bricks, in some forgotten corner of the city. I guess the city government has no plans of caring for the site since it's already hidden in a rundown residential area right beside a basketball court which is obviously more important to the people than this relic of the past.

But these depressing episodes would soon be forgotten as we crossed into the next town Peñablanca to visit the Peñablanca Protected Landscapes and Seascapes, in particular, the famous Callao Caves. The image of the caves is so popular owing to the little chapel inside a large cavern which receives sunlight from a natural opening above. Finally, I get to visit the famous caves. But the signature ray of sunlight wasn't there since it enters the cave only at a particular time of the day.

Getting up to the caves can be exhausting thanks to the 183 steps you have to climb to get to the top! But you will be rewarded with surreal rock formations that are very easy to explore.

After the caves, we went down to the banks of the Pinacanauan River for a boat trip that offered us spectacular views of limestone cliffs covered with lush forests. Indeed, this was a reminder that the Philippines had a lot to offer and if we let all of this go by neglecting our natural heritage, it's the next generation of Filipinos that would suffer.

I really hope illegal logging in this part of the country, particularly Cagayan and Isabela, is stopped. But we all know why it still goes on. If politicians in the area can't curb illegal logging, it's either they are weak and don't have the political will, or more plausible is that they are earning from it as well!

We went back to Tuguegarao to get our long-needed rest and for dinner of course. The next day's itinerary was mostly church heritage. I'm quite excited since I rarely visit the Cagayan Valley owing to its distance from Manila. Last time I visited was in 2002 during a conference in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. As part of the conference we visited the church in Dupax del Sur which is a national cultural treasure.

It looks like I'm close to completing the provinces of Luzon Island soon. With my visits to Isabela and Cagayan today, that leaves seven namely Quirino, Kalinga, Apayao, Abra, Aurora, Camarines Norte, and Sorsogon; plus of course six island provinces of Luzon which are Batanes, Occidental Mindoro, Romblon, Marinduque, Masbate and Catanduanes which I hope to visit in the near future. Hehe!
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