A Tour of Valenzuela City

After the video documentary presentation on the life of Dr. Pio Valenzuela, I requested museum curator Mr. Jonathan C. Balsamo for a tour of the city’s historical sites using their open pickup.  Sandy, Mark, Ronnie and Violeta  joined us.  Jandy and Violeta stayed inside the pickup’s airconditioned cabin while Mark, Sandy, Jonathan, Ronnie and I rode on the open cargo area as we traversed the city’s very narrow streets exposed to the hot, late morning sun.

Arkong Bato

Our first stopover was at Arkong Bato (Spanish for “stone arch”), along the only road that links MacArthur Highway with the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).  This arch was built in 1910 along the old national road passing through the old town of Polo before the construction of MacArthur Highway.  It formerly marked the boundary of Rizal (where Malabon formerly belonged) and Bulacan (where Polo formerly belonged).  Today, it marks the boundary between Brgy. Santulan (Malabon City) and Brgy. Arkong Bato (Valenzuela City).

San Gabriel House
The former Valenzuela City Emergency Hospital

We next proceeded to the old town proper and made a stopover at Liwasang Rizal, the old town plaza with its own simplified replica of the Rizal Monument (its base somewhat shorter because the plaza’s grounds were elevated through the years).  Surrounding it are the old town hall (now home to the former Valenzuela City Emergency Hospital), the San Diego De Alcala Church and the old but still wonderfully preserved, 2-storey San Gabriel house (now home to Aida Carinderia).  The latter has capiz sliding windows, intricate woodwork and double roofs typical of houses built during the Spanish and American eras.  This house should be added to the list of the city’s tourist attractions.

Church of San Diego Alcala Ruins

Beside the church are the ruins of the oldest church in Valenzuela, built by Fr. Juan Taranco and Don Juan Monsod and later expanded and completed by Fr. Jose Valencia, aided by Capt. Juan Tibay, in 1632.  In 1852, the church was fully repaired and remodelled by Fr. Vicente but was razed to the ground during World War II.  Only the octagonal bell tower and the arched main entrance have been preserved.

Gabaldon-style building of Pio Valenzuela Elementary School

From the church, we also walked to the nearby American-era, Gabaldon (named after Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija, author of Act No. 1801, better known as the Gabaldon Act)-style schoolhouse of Pio Valenzuela Elementary School, one of a number of heritage schoolhouses, built in the Philippines between 1907 and 1946, that follow standard plans designed by American Arch. William Parsons.

Church of San Roque

Back to our pickup, we next proceeded to the San Roque Church which dates to 1763.  The church facade has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by statue niches and twin bell towers with pyramidal roofs.  The wall above the triangular pediment as well as the wings on the sides of the church are probably modern additions.  Our last destination in our city tour was the 2-storey Pio Valenzuela House.  The original house was, together with its antique furniture, razed during World War II.

Dr. Pio Valezuela House

The marker in front of the house erroneously identifies it as the birthplace of Dr. Pio.  He was actually born in Brgy. Tagalag, its actual location already unknown even to his relatives.  This house was where Dr. Pio lived and died.  Only a caretaker lives here.  The grounds of the house were partly flooded, a result of it being situated on one of the lowest parts of the city.  Valenzuela City is located on swampy land crisscrossed by rivers.

Historical Marker

Arkong Bato: Brgy. Arkong Bato
San Roque Church: Brgy. Mabolo
Pio Valenzuela House: Velilla St., Brgy. Pariancillo Villa

Museo Valenzuela (Valenzuela City)

I recently got an invitation from Lakbay Norte colleague and now La Consolacion College School of International Hospitality Management Prof. Melissa  Dizon-Dulalia to join a Lakbay-Aral tour of Valenzuela City with her students as guests of City Mayor Sherwin T. Gatchalian.  I brought along, as my photographer, my son Jandy.  We met up with Melissa and her students at La Consolacion College where a chartered airconditioned Genesis bus was waiting for us to bring us to Valenzuela City.    

Museo Valenzuela

Aside from the Melissa’s 42 Tourism Planning and Destination Development Class students, joining us were fellow media colleague Mr. Rogine de Mata Rogelio of Pilipino Mirror; travel photographer Nico Karabatsos; travel agents Mr. Sandy Mella Clamor (Managing Director of Emmaus Travel & Tours) and Ms. Bingbing Rubio (Pogi Travels); and Ms. Violeta  C. Imperial (founder of Nature Awareness & Conservation Club, Inc.).

Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian with media and travel agents
Mayor Gatchalian with La Consolacion College students

We all left La Consolacion College by 8:45 AM and arrived at the 2-storey Museo Valenzuela, beside the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, by 9:20 AM.  Here, we were joined by my good friend and fellow travel blogger Mr. Mark Vincent Nunez (www.mvlnunez.blogspot.com) and travel agent and Valenzuela City resident Ms. Rosanna Kho (Gen. Manager of Kho Travel & Tours).  

Museum curator Jonathan C. Balsamo

At the museum, we were welcomed by museum curator and historian Mr. Jonathan C. Balsamo who presented a video documentary, created by the City Cultural Affairs and Tourism Development Office (CATDO), featuring historical experts’ commentary on the life of local son and least depicted national hero Dr. Pio Valenzuela (July 11, 1869-April 6, 1956), Katipunan co-founder (together with Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto), mayor of Polo (the former name of the city) from September 6, 1899-February 1900 and Bulacan governor from 1921-1925.  The city was renamed after him on September 11, 1963.

Diorama – Pagkamakabayan and Paglilingkod
Diorama – Pagkamulat and Pagkilala

The museum, which gives public access on factual information on Dr. Pio, is among the major efforts of Mayor Gatchalian to prevent Dr. Pio’s deeds from dying in vain.  It has a bust sculpture of Dr. Pio and a permanent, full-dimensional diorama exhibit, opened last March 16, 2010, of the life of Dr. Valenzuela during and after the Philippine Revolution. The 150 hand-made dolls, fashioned out of resin and wire, were created by artists of the Balikatan sa Kaunlaran National Foundation, the same team behind the Pinaglabanan diorama exhibited at the Museo ng Katipunan in San Juan City. Also on display are the doctor’s memorabilia (clothes, old photos, awards, medical equipment, furniture, etc.).

Pio Valenzuela and wife Marciana de Castro
Dr. Pio’s clothes
The doctor’s medical equipment
Dr. Pio’s swivel chair

It also exhibits paintings of past Valenzuela mayors and a model of San Diego de Alcala Church.  Serving as the cultural and historical center of the city, the museum is also the repository of Valenzuela City’s rich heritage and provides a venue for cultural, historical and artistic presentations as well as seminars on national and local issues.

A picture gallery of Valenzuela mayors
Model of Church of San Diego Alcala

Museo Valenzuela: Fatima Ave., Brgy. Marulas, Valenzuela City, Metro Manila. Tel: (632) 291-0672.