The Gaston Mansion (Manapla, Negros Occidental)

Jandy and I arrived at the Manapla Municipal Hall by 10:30 AM.  Here, we met up with town councilor Marcos “Mark” L. Escalante, my nephew and son of town mayor Lourdes Socorro “Uding” L. Escalante, my first cousin, who was at the U.S. at that time. Mark drove us to Hacienda Rosalia, home of the Gaston Mansion and the Chapel of the Cartwheels, two of Manapla’s tourist attractions.

The Gaston Mansion

The Gaston Mansion

The mansion's lush garden

The mansion’s lush garden

We first stopped over at the Gaston Mansion.  Its resident and current owner, the secular priest Msgr. Guillermo “Gigi” Gaston, wasn’t around, being at Bacolod at the time of our visit, but the caretaker allowed us to look around the living and dining areas of the mansion.  Incidentally, the mansion was featured in Peque Galalga’s 1982 multi-awarded film Oro Plata Mata, where it was referred to as Hacienda Lorenzo.

The ground floor

The ground floor

Stairway to second floor

Stairway to second floor

This stately and elegant, 2-storey mansion, the  ancestral home of Jose Gaston, one of the sons of Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, and his wife Consuelo Ascona, was built in the 1930s.  They had 8 children.  It is set in lush, verdant and gorgeous garden of flowers, shrubs, trees, potted palms and herbs. Within the grounds are a now-disused swimming pool (used as hiding place during World War II), a Victorian fountain, a pond and a time-worn shoe house (which was used before as a playground).

Dining Area

Dining Area

Chess table

Chess table

Its second floor dining room, opening into a breezy azotea overlooking the garden, had a wooden floor, a high ceiling and large windows.  What truly amazed me was its antique, 24-seater wooden table.  All around it are cabinets filled with crystal stemware, antique silverware and fine china.  Buffet lunches, served by servants of the Gaston family, are also offered for paying guests.

China cabinet

China cabinet

Antique telephone

Antique telephone

Gaston Mansion: Hacienda Rosalia, Manapla, Negros Occidental.

How to Get There: Manapla is located 44.7 kms. (a 1-hour drive) northeast of Bacolod City.

The Ruins (Talisay City, Negros Occidental)

The highlight of our Silay Heritage Tour was our visit to The Ruins in nearby Talisay City.  Here, a wacky, English and Tagalog-speaking tour guide narrated to visitors the fascinating tale of The Ruins, injecting humor along the way.

The Ruins - the Taj Mahal of Negros

The Ruins – the Taj Mahal of Negros

The Ruins is what remains of the grand, 2-storey mansion that Negrense sugar baron, Don Mariano “Anoy” Ledesma Lacson (1865-1948) built in the middle of his 440-hectare sugar cane plantation in the early 1920s, following the death of his first wife, Maria Braga, a Portuguese from Macau who died in an accident while pregnant with their 11th child. Don Mariano is the youngest of the 8 children of Lucio Lacson and Clara Ledesma from Molo, Iloilo.

Our tour guide explaining the history of The Ruins

Our tour guide explaining the history of The Ruins

He later remarried, this time to Concepcion Diaz from Talisay, adding 3 more children to his existing brood of 10 (which included Rafael Lacson, the former governor of Negros Occidental). It became the residence of Don Mariano and his unmarried children. After drawing lots, Don Manuel’s sugar plantation was divided among the 10 children by his first wife Maria and  the mansion went to Mercedes Lacson who married Manuel Javellana from Jaro District in Iloilo.

The interior of The Ruins

The interior of The Ruins

Later, the land was again divided into equal parts among the couple’s 12 children and the 3.6 hectares that included the mansion was given to Ramon Javellana. Raymund Javellana, one of Ramon’s children, thought of restoring the mansion and converting it to a tourist spot but the mansion remained abandoned for 67 years until they started to develop it on May 2007.  On January 2008, it was officially opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

The main entrance

The main entrance

The 903 sq. m., 10-room (8 rooms for their children, a master’s bedroom and a family room) mansion, of Italianate architecture, has twin Neo-Romanesque columns with the first letters of the names of Don Manuel and Dona Maria engraved onto the mansion’s posts.  They actually looked like Es that face each other.

The mansion grounds

Cheska, Marve, Kyle and Grace at the mansion grounds

Facing the main door, the boys’ and girls’ bedrooms, at the ground and second floors respectively, were all located on the left side. The master’s bedroom and the family room were both located upstairs and facing west, on the left and right, respectively. A small arched window, between the kitchen and the dining area, facilitated the movement of food, minimizing the servants going in and out of the kitchen.

The "M" moldings

The “M” moldings

The picturesque mansion, one of the top 12 fascinating ruins in the world and the Taj Mahal of Negros, has many interesting tales to tell.  Its top edges also feature a shell-inspired decor which, in New England, indicates that the homeowner is a ship captain. At the glassed-in sunroom with bay windows, Don Mariano would be often seen sitting as he viewed ships that come and go along the coastal waters of Talisay. Maria Braga’s father was also a ship captain.  Again, in keeping with the marine theme, the mansion’s second story also features a belvedere, between the master’s and family room  and also facing the west, where the family would gather to watch the sunset.

The restaurant dining area

The restaurant dining area

Felipe, one of Don Manuel’s sons, supervised the continuous concrete mixing and pouring, done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  This ensured that the concrete was very compact and that no air got in, resulting in the high-quality strength of the structure.  The concrete mixture also incorporated egg whites which, to this day, visitors can still see the gloss or shine on the mansion’s walls because of it.

The remains of the stairs

The remains of the stairs

In 1942, during the Japanese occupation in the early part of World War II, the mansion was reduced to its skeletal frame when USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) guerillas set the mansion ablaze, with the consent of Don Manuel, so it would not be used as headquarters by the Japanese forces.

Detail of column capital

Detail of column capital

The mansion’s roof, ceiling and the 2-inch thick, meter wide and approximately 20.5 m. long, jointless wooden floors, extending from the main entrance up to the end of the dining area, were all burned during the non-stop, 3-day fire but the foundations remained standing, thanks to its oversized steel bar reinforcement and the meticulous way of pouring the A-grade mixture.  The original Spanish machuca floor tiles, the hardest and most expensive during that time, also survived.

Detail of arch

Detail of arch

The original, 4-tiered fountain outside the mansion was, in its heyday, surrounded by a beautiful lily garden maintained by a Japanese gardener who, following the burning of the mansion, mysteriously disappeared.   Today, its landscaped garden draws various inspirations – from formal English to Japanese-inspired gardens.

The original 4-tier fountain

The original 4-tier fountain

Viewed just outside the mansion, with a tree on top, is the chimney (simborio) of the muscovado sugar mill (where the juice of the sugarcane is extracted) of the family’s sugar farm. From the mill, the extracted sugarcane juice is then transferred to large vats, heated and then cooled to produce the sugar crystals.

Exterior detail

Exterior detail

Inside The Ruins is a semi-fine dining restaurant (offering Mediterranean cuisine), a mini-bar and a souvenir shop while around it are modern additions – an 18-hole mini golf course, a snack bar and newly built toilets that still use the mansion’s original septic tank.

Belvedere detail

Belvedere detail

Aside from tours and dining, The Ruins are also be used for special events such as weddings, family reunions, pre-nuptial pictorials, etc.  There are also a stall selling Erv’s sugar cane juice, camping and picnic grounds, bath houses and a pavilion. Also within the grounds is a 3 m. high obelisk,the Landmark Award of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineering (PICE). Too bad, we left at 5 PM.  According to our guide, you will see the building glow from the sunset around 5:30 PM.

The simborio

The simborio

The Ruins: Open daily, 8:30 AM to 8 PM. Tel: (034) 476 4334. Admission: PhP60 (adults), PhP40 (students) and PhP30 (children).



Bulusan: Eco-Tourism Haven (Sorsogon)

After our interview of AGAP-Bulusan, Inc. president Philip G. Bartilet at Lake Bulusan, Philip accompanied Bernard and I to the Bulusan municipal hall where we made a courtesy call on, and had lunch, with Mayor Michael G. Guysayko.  Like Philip, first term Mayor Guysayko is supportive of the environment conservation projects of AGAP-Bulusan, the rehabilitation of denuded forests and sustainable eco-tourism in the BVNP.

L-R: the author, Mayor Guysayko and Bernard

After lunch, Philip again accompanied us as we toured Bulusan town’s tourist attractions.  Our first stop was the town’s Church of St. James the Greater in Brgy. Central.  Located on a site called Punta Diamante (named after its diamond-shaped wall formation), it is dubbed the “Intramuros of Bulusan.”  Its walls were made of stacked up volcanic stones.

Punta Diamante

The church wasn’t old (erected around 1760, its Baroque facade was totally renovated in 1970) but the parish compound is enclosed by ramparts of the triangular, Spanish-era muralla (“stone fort”). Around the walls are burial niches and niches for santos (“saints“) while at one end is the equestrian statue of St. James the Greater and a wooden cross, above which is the statue of a standing Jesus Christ, with arms outstretched, on a pedestal.

A baluarte de piedra at Punta Diamante beside burial niches

Four baluartes de piedra (stone watchtowers”) can still be traced from the remaining walls near the shores of Brgys. Central, Dapdap and Mabuhay.  The church’s 4-storey bell tower (locally called kampanaryo), the largest of the 4 watchtowers, was believed to have been built in 1631 after the town was made an independent from Casiguran in 1630.  With 8 sides, the tower’s walls taper upwards in alternating piers. The ill-conceived 4th storey, housing the bells, is a totally inappropriate modern addition.

The church bell tower

From the town proper, we motored, 1 km. out of the town, along the Bulusan-Barcelona Rd., to the white sand Dancalan Beach in Brgy. Dancalan.  A popular swimming spot, the relatively shallow Dancalan Beach is lined with beach resorts and kiosks beneath the coconut trees that provide shade for picnickers.

The white sand Dancalan Beach

We also passed by the Dr. Jose Reyes Ancestral House and, from the vantage point of a bridge, the Bulusan River.  The 12 km. river, formed by the merging of the Dulipay and Malinang Rivers, and the Malugoy-lugoy Rivers, is a potential nature trekking area.  From here, we proceeded on our way to Lake Bulusan where Bernard and I were to do some leisurely kayaking.

The Bulusan River

Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum (Taipei City, Taiwan)

Within walking distance from Xinsheng Park is the Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum,  one of the few traditional courtyard complexes preserved in northern Taiwan and the best-preserved and maintained ancient house in Taipei City.  This traditional Chinese courtyard house, famous for its delicate carvings, was built in the southern Fujianese style which incorporates 3-sided courtyards, woods and gardens, all natural and shaped to embody the pristine elements.

Entrance to Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

In 1754, Lin Chin-Ming (also known as Lin, Yao-Kung), a native from Anxi County of Fujian Province, sailed across the strait to Taiwan with his family. The Lin family engaged in trade in northern Taiwan and, with the money they made, they built this big, very refined 5-annex house with a square at where No.141 of Siwei Rd. now lies. The main building was completed between 1783 and 1785 while the side buildings were completed, one after the other, between 1822 and 1823.  In memory of his hometown, the fourth son, Lin, Chin-Neng (also known as Lin, Hui-Kung) named the house as “An Tai,” representing Anxi County and Rong Tai Company, the company he founded in Bangka.

Paved Front Yard of Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

In 1978, due to its being located within the range of the project to expand Dunhua South Road plus its rejection as a historical site, the house faced demolition.  To save it, local activists petitioned to have the building spared as a cultural site. A blueprint containing every single measurement of the building was saved. The building was then meticulously dismantled, from decorations to bricks; stored safely and then relocated, piece by piece, to its current site at Binjang Park, in the shadows of the Jiankuo Expressway, in 1986.  In May 2000, it was opened  to the public as a museum and, in 2010, after its courtyard was extended, the museum became one of the exhibition halls of the Taipei International Flora Exposition.

Front Yard of Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

The house’s landscaped courtyard, layout of buildings, waterscapes (“the proportion of water, bamboo and house is 30%, 20% and 10% respectively”), artificial hills and plants are all done in accordance with feng shui and Taoism,  reflecting the ancient Chinese’s multi-directional views of nature and life. In the past, the house had a Toad Peak in front of it as its “Mountain of feng shui,” plus shielding hills on both sides and a wind-gathering flat square in front of the semi-circular pond. Today, to reinstate the feng shui landscapes of the old house, an artificial hill, called Gu Zhu Ming Shan (Artificial Clay Modeling Hill), was created, using wire-mesh concrete, in front of a flat square and 2 slightly raised grasslands were used to surround the square.

Gu Zhu Ming Shan (Artificial Clay Modeling Hill)

Past the imposing front gate is the large, crescent-shaped (the best shape for bringing wealth in terms of feng shui) lotus pond, another feng shui device. Its shining surface deflects negative qi from sweeping through the main portal.  It also had practical purposes as it was used as a defense line if under attack, for raising fish, to fight fires, supply water, keep a moderate temperature by cooling incoming breezes and adds to the splendor of the old house’s surroundings.  Flowers grown all have their own symbolism – noble character (plum, orchid, bamboos and chrysanthemum), eternal youth (pine and cypress), wealth (peony), self-respect (lotus) and relief (lily).

The crescent-shaped lotus pond

This 34-room, stone and brick house has elegant decorations; beautiful, sloping swallow-tail roofs (this flouted imperial rules as this roofing style was the exclusive privilege of high-level mandarins) and the stone and artwork used were brought by ship from Fujian.  The roof ridges arch upwards to form a swallowtail structure. The mansion has a south-north axis, with rooms on the right and left side of the courtyard.

Courtyard of Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum

Its front door has creative carvings of 6 dragons, representing the 6 sons in the family while the carvings of vases and bats carry the meanings of good luck, wealth and safety. Pillow-shaped stones, gate pillars and hollows for the door axles are all carved from a single piece of stone. Each door was equipped with a hidden lock. The front yard is paved with red, moss-free and non-slip stones that were used by mainland merchants to stabilize their big sailing ships

Elaborate wood carving

Carved on the pillars, made of Chingtou stones, is a couplet “To live with a kind heart and maintain the achievements of ancestors.” Chinese characters, signifying good fortune and longevity, are printed on the two sides. By adding anti-termite agents, the original Guanyin stone, Fuzhou fir wood, and local bamboo, reed and bricks have been kept intact.

The main hall

Beyond the entrance is an intricately carved screen wall to divert evil. The main hall consists of a colorfully adorned altar depicting scenes from Chinese mythology. The ancestors depicted at the altar are worshiped in an annual ceremony. Walking through the house, we directly experienced the lifestyle of the Taiwanese people 200 years ago as the interiors of the house are full of decorative details and antiques such as an earthen rice grinder, a stone mill, cupboards, a huge cooking hearth in the kitchen, an intricately carved wooden bed and a dresser.

Intricately carved wooden antique furniture

Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum: 5 Binjiang St., Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2599-6026, (+886-2) 2720-8889 (ext.6239) and (+886-2) 2598-1572. Fax: (+886-2) 2599-6521.  Open daily except Mondays and folk holidays (Chinese New Year, Tomb Sweeping Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival), 9 AM-9 PM (5 PM on Sundays). Admission is free.

How to Get  There:  take the MRT to Yuanshan Station (Exit 1), then hop on the bus 222 to the Xinsheng Park stop.

Home of Another Aguinaldo (Kawit, Cavite)

After my visit to the Aguinaldo Shrine, Jandy and I returned to our car and retraced our way back to Brgy. Binakayan, also within Kawit, this time in search of the home of where Baldomero Aguinaldo (February 26, 1869-February 14, 1915), Emilio Aguinaldo’s first cousin, lived as an adult. Baldomero was also a lieutenant-general during the revolution (he figured in the battles of Binakayan, Dalahican, Noveleta, Zapote, Salitran and Alapan), Emilio’s right-hand man and a member of the latter’s cabinet (Auditor General, Director of Finance, Secretary of the Treasury, Auditor of War and Secretary of War and Public Works).  He also helped draft and signed the Constitution of Biak-na-Bato. During the Philippine-American War, he returned to the battlefield as commanding general of the Southern Luzon provinces.   

Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine

Built with narra and molave wood in 1906 and now painted in pastel blue and white, this typical 2-storey country home of a gentleman farmer was turned over by his grandson, former Prime Minister Cesar E.A. Virata (who also happens to be the father of my U.P. classmate Steven) to the Philippine government in 1982. This shrine has a museum on the ground floor with a diorama of the Battle of Binakayan.  On the second floor are antique furniture such as a turn-of-the-century upright piano.  Opposite the house is the former kamalig(storage shed for produce), now a museum showcasing Cavite’s role in the revolution.  On the walls are photographs and drawings of Cavite’s military heroes.

Behind the house, in a quiet corner, is the family plot where Baldomero, his wife (Petrona Fauni Reyes-Aguinaldo), their 2 children (Leonor and Aureliano) and their spouses (Dr. Enrique T. Virata and Liwanag Virata) are all buried.  The shrine is now administered and managed by the National Historical Institute (NHI) which installed a historical marker here on June 12, 1983.

NHI Historical Marker
Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine: Brgy. Binakayan, Kawit, Cavite.  Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 AM to 4 PM.  Admission is free.  Lectures and guiding service can be arranged.

The Ancestral Houses of Pila (Laguna)

Pila Municipal Hall

Past the town of Victoria, we soon reached the Pila town proper (87 kms. from Manila) and its plaza lined with shady, giant talisay trees.  Surrounding it are quaint early 20th century, American-era ancestral houses and, finding them interesting, decided to make a long stopover here to explore the town further.  I parked my Toyota Revo at the Municipal Hall, a heritage building built in 1931 and faithfully restored by Mayor Edgardo Ramos.

Town Plaza

Pila is cited as one of the few intact examples of Spanish colonial town planning where the center of the town was the plaza complex surrounded by the church, tribunal, school and large ancestral houses of the town’s leading citizens.  On May 17, 2000, as a consequence of these efforts, Pila was declared as a National Historic Landmark (a status also enjoyed by Vigan City in Ilocos Sur, Silay City in Negros Occidental and Taal in Batangas) by the National Historical Institute (NHI) .

Pila’s ancestral homes

Unlike nearby Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan towns which were reduced to rubble by American bombing, Pila survived the ravages of World War II because American bombers failed to spot it.  Because of this great piece of luck, Pila still boasts of 36 19th century and turn-of-the-century structures, 28 of them ancestral homes.  Mostly located in Brgy. Sta. Clara, many of these ancestral homes, a good number of which belong to the Agra, Alava, Dimaculangan, Relova and Rivera families, have withstood the test of time and are still well-preserved, with fresh coats of paint with pastel and cream colors.  These home owners take great pride in town’s old world charm and their rich and varied heritage.  Once parked, Jandy and I strolled along the town’s plaza and its quiet streets, enjoying up close or from afar, the experience of seeing these stately structures that reflect a rich and varied architectural history.

Jose Agra Ancestral House

This lakeshore town, founded by Franciscan missionaries in 1580, has been given the moniker Lupang Pinagpala (“The Blessed Land”) and there are a number of reasons for this. In 1610, in recognition of the noble Pileños refined manners and genteel customs, this town steeped in history and culture was conferred the special status of La Noble Villa de Pila (“The Noble Town of Pila”), one of only five towns in the country accorded this honor by Spain (the others being Cebu, Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Libon in Albay and Oton in Iloilo). The town also survived the ravages of World War II because American bombers, on a bombing run to flush out Japanese soldiers, failed to spot it.  Nearby Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan towns were not so lucky, both being reduced to rubble.

Relova Ancestral House

In December 1993, the Pila Historical Society Foundation was established to preserve and maintain these remnants of a gentler way of life.  The foundation raised funds and, with the cooperation of the late Mayor Querubin Relova and the Sangguniang Bayan, undertook the huge task of demolishing and relocating new structures that detracted from the beauty, purpose and historical relevance of the original town plan.  Pila is cited as one of the few intact examples of Spanish colonial town planning where the center of the town was the plaza complex surrounded by the church, tribunal, school and large ancestral houses of the town’s leading citizens.

Rudolfo Relova Ancestral House

Many houses built during the Commonwealth Period reflect a shift in architectural styles, evolving from the massive bahay na bato (stone house) to the charming American chalet-style houses with touches of Spanish design elements, decorative Art Deco or Art Nouveau treatments.  Using more Philippine hardwoods and cement, all provide comfort, a respite from the tropical heat and a general feeling of airiness with their high ceilings; tall and wide capiz or paned-glass windows that allow the breeze to come in and woodcarvings on the ventanillas that allow for good cross ventilation. The living and dining rooms, on the second floor, are accessed by stairs that figure prominently in the facade.  The ground floors of many houses facing the plaza, formerly used as storage areas, now house cafeterias and shops.

Pila Historical Society Foundation: tel: (049) 559-0382 (Ms. Cora Relova).

Home of "The Other Rizal" (Los Banos, Laguna)

The Paciano Rizal Shrine

My next stop in my Laguna (Calamba City to Sta. Cruz) joy ride with my son Jandy was the charming resort town of Los Banos.  The town is famous for its hot medicinal sulfur springs that flow from the foot of Mt. Makiling and its present name is derived from the Spanish word for “The Baths.” These thermal springs were discovered in 1590 by Franciscan martyr St. Peter Baptist (San Pedro Bautista).   Today, most of the sulfur springs are piped into the pools and baths of the many hot spring resorts that line the National Highway.  This is the Los Banos that most people know and not many people know this town’s association with “the other Rizal.”

The old Los Banos Municipal Hall

To find out, I parked my Toyota Revo at the old municipal hall (a new one is being built along the National Highway).  Beside the town’s fire station is the inconspicuous retirement home of Paciano Mercado Rizal, Jose Rizal‘s elder (and only) brother who was also a revolutionary general (he led the defense of Laguna) and Emilio Aguinaldo‘s first Minister of Finance.  Though not as popular as the Jose Rizal Shrine in Calamba, this shrine, jutting out to Laguna de Bay, was built atop a hot spring in 1927 by Andres Luna de San Pedro (son of master painter Juan Luna) when Paciano’s original nipa hut was destroyed in a typhoon in 1926.

The back of the house

Rizal lived here, as a gentleman-farmer, with 2 helpers (with occasional visits from his grandsons, from daughter Emiliana, Franz and Edmundo), until his death from tuberculosis on April 30, 1930.  First buried in Manila North Cemetery, his remains were later transferred here, with full military honors, in 1985.  A historical marker was installed here on April 13, 1983 and the house was declared as a National Historical Shrine by the National Historical Institute on July 31, 1992.

Laguna de Bay

This modest American-style, one-bedroom bungalow was turned into a Japanese garrison during World War II, resulting in the loss of much of Paciano’s personal effects. Still around are some photos of his grandchildren, binoculars he used during the revolution, a pair of his shoes and a Quiroga bed.  Rizal’s spinster sisters Josefa and Trinidad are also buried in the sprawling garden which has a bronze statue of Paciano Rizal, on a pedestal, in his general’s uniform.  The shrine has a view of Talim Island. At the back of the house is the Paciano Rizal Park.

A Walking Tour of Mauban (Quezon)

The Municipal Hall

We finally arrived at Mauban, at the midst of its Maubanog Festival, by 4 PM and we made a stopover at the municipal hall were we all dropped by the Municipal Tourism Office and paid a courtesy call on Mayor Fernando Q. Llamas, the uncle of our good friend Lee Llamas.  Prominently displayed outside the municipal hall is an old cannon, 1 of 3 (the other 2 are at the Museo ng Mauban) bestowed by Spanish Gov.-Gen. Rafael Maria Aguilar to the town as a reward for the rescue efforts done for the Spanish friars captured by Moro pirates. The cannon were later used against the Spanish to effect the surrender of Tayabas to the revolutionaries in 1898.  All 3 were  restored on April 16, 2004.  

Traditional Mauban products

After our courtesy call on the Mayor, we  all dropped by the Mauban Product Development Office, beside the municipal hall, to check out the town’s traditional products such as finely-crafted nilala woven hats, baskets, slippers, wallets, bags, boxes, caddies, etc.;  delicacies such as pinangat, binalawan, pinais, tikoy, kalamay, pastillas, botarts, mazapan, suspiro, etc.; and nipanog, wine made with sasa (toddy palm nectar) instead of coconut and available in different flavors such as liputi, katmon, guyabano, mango, pineapple, guava, jackfruit, kalamias, tamarind and santol. Being a fiesta, booths selling these products, and more, were found in front of the municipal hall as well as along the major streets. 

Church of St. Bonaventure

While they were checking out the products, I took time out to visit the town’s present, modern Church of St. Bonaventure (the town’s patron saint).   This church underwent a lot of rebuilding since it was first built in 1647 and demolished in 1769.  The second structure, built in 1773, was badly damaged during the 1830 earthquake and rebuilt between 1836 and 1845.  The church collapsed during the July 1880 earthquake and the present church was built in 1891.  The bell tower, built in 1773, was seriously damaged during the 1880 earthquake and the portion that remained was partially destroyed again during the August 20, 1937 earthquake. 

Gat Uban Park

With the sun still up, we still had time to make a walking tour to Gat Uban Park, at the end of Gomez St., along the sea wall.  The park has a seaward facing statue the legendary Dumagat warrior and leader Gat Pangil who defended the town against ruthless Moro attacks.  Gat Pangil was also known as Gat Uban because of his gray hair (uban).  Accordingly, the town was named after the fact.  The well-lighted promenade area, with its gentle sea breeze, is a favorite meeting place for Maubanons. 

View from Rizal Hill Park

It was near sunset when we dropped by Rizal Hill Park (locally called Calvario Hill), along San Buenaventura St. in Brgy. Rizaliana.  To get to the top, we had a  choice of taking the shorter route (climbing a steep concrete stairway) or the longer route via a winding ramp skirting the hill.  Of course, we chose the latter.  At the top of the hill is a statue of National Hero Jose Rizal, erected on December 1912 by the Mauban Circle Association of Students.  The  park offers a panoramic view of the whole town.  In olden times, the hill was used as a sentinel post and a place for religious activities during the Spanish era, as headquarters by American troops, as an outpost by the Philippine Constabulary during the Japanese Occupation and, after the war, by the Civilian Emergency Administration.

Rizal Hill Park

Soon after our arrival,  Mr. Ludovico Badoy and Ms. Carminda R. Arevalo, Executive Director  and Officer-in-Charge (NHCP Research, Publications and Heraldry Division), respectively, of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), formerly the National Historical Institute (NHI), also arrived.  They supervised the installation of a historical marker recognizing the hill for its historical significance.  The marker was to be unveiled the next day, with Mayor Llamas and Mr. Badoy leading the ceremony.  It was now evening when we left the hill and, after dinner at the house of Mayor Llamas, we were billeted for the night at the nearby Llamas ancestral house.

Municipal Tourism Office – Municipal Hall, Poblacion, Mauban, Quezon.  Tel: (042) 784-1205 and 713-0314.  E-mail:

Rufino Pabico Ancestral House (Daet, Camarines Norte)

Rufino Pabico Ancestral House

The Pinyasan Street Dancing and Marching Band Parade, along Vinzons Ave., had now passed us by and, before leaving, Lee, TJ, Bernard and I decided to drop by the two-storey, maroon and white  Rufino Pabico ancestral house, the only remaining relic of early 20th century architecture in Daet.  On hand to welcome us was the 75 year old Francisco Pabico Temoner, the grandson of the original owner. Mr. Temoner, I would later learn, is a retired General Manager of  the Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative (CANORECO) and a acquaintance of my father-in-law, Mr. Manuel L. Sta. Maria, retired Deputy Administrator of the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Francisco Temoner at the grand staircase

Built in 1917 and the scene of high-society balls in the 1930s, the grand Rufino Pabico house was still well-preserved.  Within its well-manicured front yard is an octagonal fountain.  Like many typical bahay na bato (stone houses), it has a masonry ground floor and a wooden second floor.  Arches are predominant in front; from the ground floor colonnaded front porch, with its fluted square columns, all the way up to its second floor sliding capiz (oyster shell) windows, its arches decorated with intricate lacy (calado) woodwork.  That same woodwork can also be found above the windows and in the eave fascias. Between the window sill and the floor are ventanillas with sliding wooden shutters for additional ventilation.

The well-preserved interiors

The interiors are just as well preserved.  The grand stone staircase, with its marble steps, still has its rococo-style carvings while the alternately dark and  light-hued hardwood floor still retain their shine.  The ceiling is covered with wood carvings.  All these are complemented by a Cornish piano, pre-war chandeliers, wall paintings, vintage family photos and antique wooden furniture including silohiya (wickerwork)-covered chairs.  Novelties here include a now-unused wood-fired stove and a free-standing antique, enamel-covered cast iron bathtub.  

According to Mr. Temoner, during World War II, the house was used as a headquarters for the Japanese Imperial Army and, later during the Liberation, by American forces.  In 1995, a strong typhoon partially destroyed the house but it was soon restored to its original look. The house hit the limelight when it was featured in an article at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, written by our media colleague Amadis Ma. Guerrero.  Since then, it has been included in the list of places to see in Daet as well as in the province.  On June 19, 1997, the house was conferred the “Provincial Cultural Treasure Award,” as indicated by a plaque installed at the porch wall.   During the 2009 Pinyasan Festival, the Daet Kiwanis Club, the Daet Senior Citizens Federation and Reina Daetena hosted the Grand Tertulia de Daet at this house.

Rufino Pabico Ancestral House: Vinzons Ave., Poblacion, Daet, Camarines Norte

Malacanang of the North (Paoay, Ilocos Norte)

Malacanang ti Amianan

After our short stopover at Paoay Lake in Paoay, we now proceeded to the two-storey Malacanang ti Amianan (Malacañang of the North), one of the 29 former vacation houses of the Marcoses.  This was to be our last Lakbay Norte 2 tourist destination. Located uphill, on the first road past the Maharlika Hall of Fort Ilocandia Resort Lake Golf and Country Club, this hardwood mansion was built in 1977 by former First Lady Imelda Marcos, along the edge of Paoay Lake, to commemorate the 60th birthday of the late Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos and as a vacation home and cabinet meeting place.

The baby grand piano beside the grand staircase

After the Marcoses lost power in 1986, the property was sequestered and the Philippine Tourism Authority was given custodianship of the property for 24 years but had neglected its upkeep.  When Imee Marcos became governor of Ilocos Norte in 2010, she had the house restored at a cost of PhP7 million and inaugurated it again on January 1, 2011. During the restoration, all the wooden furniture sets and fixtures were reupholstered or repaired. Now a museum and a venue for grand weddings, private functions and corporate and theme events, it has a photo gallery of the late president  and displays some of the personal belongings of the Marcoses, life-size Ferdinand Marcos mannequins and Congresswoman Imelda’s Cora Jacob arm candy and other clutches.

Life-size Ferdinand Marcos mannequins

The museum was supposed to be closed during our visit, it being a Monday, but our media group was given special permission to visit by the provincial government.  Ms. Letty Buduan, who served the Marcoses for over three decades, and seven others keep the museum spic and span.  The narra floors were so shiny and the furniture dust-free.  In the past, visitors here included George HamiltonNora AunorGabby Concepcion, among others.  Nowadays, bus loads of school children and guests frequent this museum which offers a breathtaking and panoramic view of Paoay Lake, especially during sunset.

Formal dining area

This huge, 1,900 sq. m. mansion, on a  roughly 4 hectare lot, has nine luxurious bedrooms, two living rooms, two formal dining areas, two kitchens and two verandahs. Imelda Marcos’ bedroom, the largest of the nine, displays some of her handbags.  Imee and Irene shared a bedroom while Bongbong’s and the late president’s master bedroom were both located at the ground floor.  They all slept in canopied beds.  A baby grand piano is located by the staircase.

The verandah with its panoramic view of Paoay Lake

After our Malacanang ti Amianan Museum visit, we all boarded our bus as we headed back to Laoag City for our 9:30 PM return flight back to Manila.  But first, we had dinner at Texicano Hotel and there, said goodbye to our gracious hosts, the Ilocos Norte Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Malacanang ti Amianan: Brgy. Suba, Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 AM-11:30 PM.  Admission fee: PhP30 for adults and PhP10 for children.

Ilocos Norte Convention and Visitors Bureau: Room 2, Balay da Blas, 10 Giron St., Brgy. 7-B, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.  Mobile number: (0920) 269-1544.  E-mail:  Website: