[ The Assumption-Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation charity tour of Laguna II: 13 August 2011, Saturday. 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., for the benefit of the poor students of the Assumpta Technical School in San Simon, Pampanga. Organized by A-MRMF president Rosalie "Salie" Henson-Naguiat, former presidents Josefina "Nening" Pedrosa-Manahan and Jacqueline "Jackie" Cancio-Vega, and A-MRMF volunteer Augusto "Toto" M. R. Gonzalez III. ]
The tour group assembled at the parking lot of the Santuario de San Antonio church, Forbes Park starting at 7:30 a.m.. We left promptly at 8:00 a.m..
Because we were fetching Ayala Alabang residents, we dropped by the Shell gas station, southbound SLEX. Many of us, Chichi Litton Laperal, Salie Henson-Naguiat, and I among them, went to “Starbucks” to buy coffee, pastries, and sandwiches, and of course, to use the bathrooms. In a few minutes, AA residents Vina Alava-Pelaez and her son Zeke arrived and we proceeded to faraway Pila, Laguna.
During the drive, I [ in my capacity as A-MRMF volunteer co-organizer and guide ] gave the tour group a precis of our day, what we would see, what would be noteworthy / important, what we could forego. I explained that our biggest problem with the A-MRMF charity tours was that there was always so much to see, wherever we went, because that was just how beautiful our country, the Philippines, was. We had only listed Pila, Nagcarlan, Liliw, and Majayjay towns in Laguna as our destinations for the day but we actually wanted to bring them further to Magdalena, Pagsanjan, Lumban, Paete, and Pakil towns, which were equally interesting and wonderful destinations.
I explained to the tour group that Pila was already a flourishing and important Malay settlement by the time the Spaniards arrived in 1571. Pila, Laguna in its present form began in the early 1800s when the “fundador” / founder Felizardo de Rivera transferred the previous town in Pagalangan, nearer Laguna de Bay, to his Rivera family’s hacienda de Santa Clara, located on higher ground, organized a town plaza with a church, municipal hall, “principalia” houses [ all Rivera relations ], and donated the outlying properties to the poor townsfolk.
Because Laguna province was where national hero Jose P. Rizal was from, we asked his descendant Atty. Ramoncita “Minney” Ver Reyes [ great granddaughter of his eldest sister Saturnina Rizal de Hidalgo ] about him as well as other places in Laguna, aside from his hometowns of Calamba and Binan, that figured in his life. She acceded and regaled us with Rizal family stories. It was from those spontaneous discussions with Minney that A-MRMF hit upon the idea of organizing a “Rizal tour” featuring places associated with Rizal, both in Manila and in Laguna.
It was an entirely pleasant and chatty drive through Calamba, Los Banos, Bai’, Calauan, and Victoria towns to historic and elegant Pila, Laguna and we arrived promptly at 10:00 a.m. as scheduled.
Manuel Rivera house. We met up with our generous hostess in Pila, Filomena “Monina” Rivera.
Pila church. What money and taste, and taste and money, could do.
Pila museum closed on weekends!
We proceeded to the Teodoro Alava house along the town plaza.
After the Teodoro Alava, we proceeded to the Lorenzo Rivera house,to the immediate left of the municipal hall, also along the town plaza. We marveled at the several lovely, albeit sad, Holy Week processional images in the prayer room of the house.
We rode the coaster the short distance to the Paz Rivera-Madrigal house.
There was a beautiful, fruit-laden, “santol” tree which looked like a Christmas tree!!!
What was fun about these A-MRMF tours was that there were several instances of pleasant surprises, even for us volunteer organizers. There were, inevitably enough, beautiful things that we saw for the very first time!!!
Lunch at the Manuel Rivera house at 12:00 p.m. courtesy of Monina Rivera. Traditional Pila food: “Malaking isdang talakitok na may mayonesa,” “Ginataang maliit na hipon na may kamias,” “Lechong kawali na may sarsang atay,” “Ensaladang Pako na may kesong puti at lilang bulaklak na may sarsang suka, bawang, at paminta,” and steamed rice. “Minatamis na saba” stewed plantain bananas for dessert. “Dinuguang baboy at puto” for merienda.
On to Nagcarlan. 1:30 p.m.. It was a delightful drive through ricelands and forests and a thousand shades of green, flowing rivers, cascading streams, and gurgling brooks with mountain fresh water… beautiful Philippines!!!
Nagcarlan underground cemetery. There were novena prayers for the their “Santo Entierro’s” upcoming feast day. There was an amiable lady guide who accompanied us to the underground crypt and explained its history. It reminded us all of the catacombs in Rome.
Despite the rainy season, it was quite dry in the underground crypt.
Zeny, the A-MRMF secretary, took pixes in the underground crypt and there were “white shadows” in the pixes. Spooky!
As the tour group was leaving the Nagcarlan underground cemetery, we came across a vendor in his tricycle selling “santol” fruits of the big “Bangkok” variety for the unbelievable price of Php 10.00/xx per kilo, or just about Php 2.50/xx each! They were practically free!!! Nobody could resist and the “santol” vendor’s stock was bought out and everyone returned to the coaster, happy with their heavy haul!
On to Liliw for the famous footwear shopping.
The slight rains and drizzles did not deter the tour group at all — they simply unfurled their umbrellas and soldiered on! — from heading to the main shopping street and sampling Liliw’s justifiably famous footwear market…
“Badong.” Buy Filipino!!! Many of us treated themselves to a pair or 2, even 3 or 4, pairs of nice-looking, reasonably-priced, everyday, casual footwear.
“Arabela’s” cafe. All of us just had to visit this famous Liliw landmark of good food and cosmo bohemian chic. Some of us managed to have a drink and a bite. After all, one can never go to Liliw, Laguna and NOT visit “Arabela’s” cafe!
Leaving the church, Ane Miren [ Ugarte-Aboitiz ] de Rotaeche-Dowdall, Nening Pedrosa-Manahan, Minney Reyes, and I were charmed by a small, 8 year old boy selling packets of edible young “pako” ferns for Php 10.00/xx each and, wanting to encourage his hard work and entrepreneurship, we bought all of his stock.
As we were getting ready to leave Liliw, an assiduous male vendor of “kesong puti” from Santa Cruz town kept on offering his goods: 2 luscious, tempting pieces traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and shards of tree bark for Php 100.00/xx. They compared favorably in size and density to those of UP Los Banos’ dairy products store at Php 55.00/xx per piece of similar size. His efforts were not in vain as the ladies Nening Manahan, Ane Miren Dowdall, Salie Naguiat, et. al., kept on buying 1 or 2 as they boarded the coaster. He was soon followed by an equally assiduous male vendor of fresh-looking, fragrant “longganizang Lucban”: 1 string of 12 pieces for Php 100.00/xx. His efforts were not in vain either as the ladies Nening Manahan, Chichi Laperal, et. al. kept on buying 1, 2, even 3 or 4 strings of “longganizas” as they boarded the coaster. The ladies kept on buying “kesong puti” and “longganizang Lucban” until the stocks were finally sold out. The 2 vendors must have been happy with their big sales for the day!
On to Majayjay. It was another delightful drive through forests with a thousand shades of green, cascading streams, and gurgling brooks with mountain fresh water… how beautiful the Philippines is!!!
Majayjay, up in the mountains of Laguna, was the Baguio, the de facto summer capital during the Spanish era. Spanish officialdom and clergy liked to spend some time in cool Majayjay every now and then, usually staying at the Majayjay convent and in the better houses.
Majayjay is the ancestral town, “seat” if you will, of the old Ordoveza family of Laguna. As early as the late 1500s, their progenitor Lorenzo Pangutangan, who waxed rich from shipping, trading, and financing, was already established in a big “bahay na bato” there. At some point in the 1600s, the surname Pangutangan was hispanized to Ordoveza.
Ordoveza descendants Vina Gala Alava-Pelaez and her son Zeke were delighted to visit their ancestral hometown for the first time.
We arrived at the ancient, historic, and incomparably beautiful Majayjay church. We arrived just a few minutes before the 5:00 p.m. anticipated Sunday mass. I pointed and emphasized to the group the important, 1600s-1700s bas-reliefs of the Immaculate Conception, with the attributes of Mary in her litany [ "Tower of Ivory," "House of Gold," "Ark of the Covenant," "Gate of Heaven," "Morning Star," etc. ], the Crucifixion of Jesus with Mary and John, and on the opposite wall, another of the Crucifixion with many figures. I also pointed to the magnificent baptismal font of carved stone [ of Philippine "adobe" or Chinese granite ], probably from the 1600s. Also splendid were the still-original main altar and the 2 side altars [ in marked contrast to the reconstructed ones of Liliw, Nagcarlan, Pila, Lumban, and Pagsanjan towns ], in hybrid Neoclassical style dating from 1800 at the earliest, albeit repainted and regilded with metal leaf.
Everyone admired the very old “kalachuchi” frangipane trees just outside the side portal of the church. The whorled and gnarled roots reminded Minney Reyes of a scene from Dante’s “Inferno.”
[ I quietly remembered with a smile the A-MRMF tour of Laguna I in 2009 when Regina "Giging" Jalandoni-Garcia easily took hundreds of pixes during that memorably happy trip. ]
On to Lumban. 4:45 p.m..
“Step-Rite,” Pagsanjan. Buy Filipino!!! Again, many of us treated themselves to a pair or 2, or even 3 or 4, pair of nice-looking, reasonably-priced, everyday, casual footwear.
“Aling Taleng’s” ‘halo-halo,’ Pagsanjan. “Tumbong” was the distinctive ingredient.
We finally left Pagsanjan town at 7:40 p.m.. We encountered heavy traffic along Santa Cruz, then Los Banos, and Calamba. Our return to Makati was delayed.
Because we were dropping off AA residents, we dropped by the Caltex gas station, northbound SLEX. AA residents Vina Pelaez and her son Zeke got off there and we proceeded to Forbes Park, Makati.
Back at Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park. 9:45 p.m.. Because of the heavy traffic we encountered along Santa Cruz, Los Banos, and Calamba, we were 45 minutes behind our scheduled arrival in Makati.
Every A-MRMF tour is able to send a poor, deserving child [ or even 2 ] to the Assumpta Technical School in San Simon, Pampanga for free for a year.
As we always say, to have been able to send a poor child to school for a year, to have been able to see wonderful places, to have shared a day of adventure, joy, and laughter with happy and generous spirits, to have had a whale of a time in the process, there is no better deal in life!!!