Church of St. James the Great (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

Church of St. James the Great

After an early morning breakfast at the Capitol Resort Hotel in Lingayen, we again boarded our van for the premier tourism town of Bolinao, a major destination during our 3-day (April 4-6, 2011) Pangasinan Media Tour.  Here, it 69,568 townspeople speak the unique Bolinawen dialect.  This wasn’t my first visit to this paradise place, having gone there during a 2005 Holy Week break with my son Jandy and two friends at Patar Beach. Four years after my first visit, on May 7, 2009, super typhoon Emong (international code name: Chan Hom, packing winds of 150 kph with a gustiness of 185 kph) made a 7 PM landfall in Bolinao and, in less than an hour, damaged 80-90% of its houses, blocked roads with fallen trees, destroyed 95% of its aquaculture industry and killed at least 20 people (with 4 missing), mostly fish cage caretakers who stayed on their makeshift huts.

Municipal Hall

However, nothing could really bring a good town down and, through the cooperation of its townspeople, the town has somehow recovered.  We arrived in town in the midst of a high school graduation in front of the town hall and first visited its venerable Church of St. James the Great. This solid, stone church, built by the Augustinian Recollects in 1609, used to double as a fortress against attacks by pirates, the English, Japanese and Americans.  Today, this church (as well as 25 other churches) is listed by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure. 

The church interior

The church’s roof and ceiling were damaged during the typhoon but its roof and its trusses (now steel) have since been replaced though still ceiling-less. However, the impressive High Renaissance façade, with its weathered wooden santos in the niches, the bell tower and the beautiful, intricately carved retablos and pulpit remain intact.

Fr. Odorico Marker

In front of the church is a memorial marker which challenges the accepted historical fact of the March 31, 1521 first Mass held at Limasawa in Southern Leyte. Instead, the town claims that, in 1324, an Italian (from Friuli) Franciscan Fr. Odorico, en route to China for missionary work, encountered stormy weather and sought refuge at Bolinao Bay.  While on land, he celebrated a thanksgiving Mass and also baptized the natives, making him the first evangelizer in the Philippines.  The marker was donated by Italian priest Fr. Luigi Malamocco, 62, also from Fr. Odorico’s hometown of  Friuli, Italy.

Agew na Pangasinan (Lingayen)

Street dancing parade

After our visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag, we proceeded to the capital town of Lingayen and made a courtesy call on Provincial Information Officer Mr. Orpheus “Butch” Velasco at the Provincial Capitol.  We arrived in time for the Parada na Dayew, a grand parade of floats that was part of the celebration of the province’s 431st founding anniversary dubbed “Agew na Pangasinan,” now on its second year.  With the theme “Aliguas na Baley, Aliguas na Luyag,” the parade featured 22 participating local government units (LGU) and 12 colorful floats that showcased the various products and development programs and projects of participating LGUs.

The Lingayen float

The float parade, which included a colorful presentation of street dances with contingents clad in local costumes and accompanied by drum, lyre and bugle corps., commenced at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center, then followed a fixed route to Artacho St., Poblacion Area, Maramba Blvd. and ended at the Capitol. The floats, decorated with indigenous and recyclable materials, provided a glimpse of Pangasinan’s best products such as the sugpo (prawns) and malaga of Binmaley, the delicious and sweet tasting mangoes of San Carlos City, the savory corn of Sto. Tomas, the famous bagoong (fish paste) of Lingayen, the walis tambo of Bautista, the puto of Calasiao and the tupig of Laoac.

A drum and bugle corp
Provincial Tourism Office: 2/F, Malong Bldg., Provincial Capitol Complex, Lingayen, Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 542-8007 and 542-6853.  E-mail:

Museo de Nuestra Senora de Manaoag (Pangasinan)

Image of Our Lady

Last April 4-6, I was invited by events organizer Mr. Bernard Supetran to cover the Agew na Pangasinan Festival (the provincial foundation anniversary) of Pangasinan. Together with my photographer daughter Cheska, we met up with Bernard, Mr. Amadis Ma. Guerrero of Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mr. Vince Lopez of Manila Bulletin and travel blogger ( and good friend Mr. Mark Vincent Nunez  at MacDonalds near De La Salle University along Taft Ave. in Pasay City.  Along the way, we also picked up Lakbay Norte 2 colleague Ms. Kara Santos of Sunday Inquirer at Quezon City.   Our first destination would be the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag.  The trip took longer than expected as we made a wrong turn at Urdaneta City, reaching as far as Calasiao before we realized our mistake.  We backtracked and made it to Manaoag and the shrine by 1:30 PM.  

Museo de Nuestra Senora de Manaoag

I have been  to the shrine many times, the last time just 70 days ago during the first leg of my Lakbay Norte 2 tour, visiting its newly inaugurated Candle Gallery.  Time constraints then made us miss visiting its Museo de Nuestra Senora de Manaoag.  Now the opportunity presented itself.  The museum, first opened on May 10, 2000 (incidentally Cheska’s 10th birthday), was recently renovated and inaugurated again last April 21, 2010.  Its display includes an old carroza used to transport the image during her procession, an earlier pedestal, a collection of embroidered, pre-Vatican II chasubles, capes and a dalmatic (possibly dating back as far as the 17th century); a collection of monstrances, chalices, ciboria, patens and communion plates; silver candelabras with the unmistakable markings of the Dominican seal; an old wooden statue of St. Dominic; golden crown, staff, rostrillo, aureola and embroidered cape that are used to embellish the image; perfume bottles and pieces of jewelry.that adorn the statue of Our Lady.  

The “Church on a Hill” exhibit

One panel on the wall, “The Church On a Hill,” narrates the history of the town’s church. Another interesting display are the letters of the devotees who are seeking divine assistance for the many concerns of life, such as success, cure, enlightenment and relationship. At the center of the hall is a beautiful 3 ft. high ivory statue of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag mounted on a huge, carved wooden bulk of clouds from which three cherubim heads pop out. A visitor can write  prayers on pieces of paper  provided on a console table at the right side of the image.In front of the image is an antique wooden bench.  A mounted flat television on the wall depicts the history, the miracles and personal reflections related to Our Lady of Manaoag.  

Museo de Nuestra Senora de Manaoag:  Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag, Milo St. cor. N. Garcia Rd., Manaoag, Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 529-0249 and 519-2547.  Fax: (075) 529-0132.  Website: Open Mondays to Sundays (except Tuesdays), 8 AM-4:30 PM. Admission is free of charge but donations are welcomed to augment museum maintenance and education program.

Church of St. Peter the Martyr (Sual, Pangasinan)

Fr. Gabriel Perez began the construction of the town’s first church and convent (which was later completed by Fr.Juan Gutierrez) The church was completed by Fr. Pedro Villanova in 1870.

Church of St. Peter the Martyr

Church of St. Peter the Martyr

A second church, started in 1883 during the term of Fr. Felix Casas, was completed by Fr.r Eugenio Minguez in 1891 and later consecrated on June 8, 1893. It was destroyed during the liberation in 1945. 

The church's interior

The church’s interior

The present church is the town’s third.  Since 1949, the parish has been under the administration of the Columban Fathers.

The main retablo

The main retablo

Its fancy post-Baroque or Early Spanish Colonial Revival facade has a low entablature (which does not fit the classical proportions of the Renaissance style) and staggered placement of columns on the first and second levels (which provides an element of irregular rhythm). On the church’s left is the bell tower.

Retablo on the left

Retablo on the left

Retablo on the right

Retablo on the right

Church of St. Peter the Martyr: Brgy. Capantolan, Sual 2403, Pangasinan. Tel (075) 548-2072.

How to Get There: Sual is located 352 kilometers from Manila.

Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag’s Candle Gallery (Pangasinan)

Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag

After our very educational patupat factory visit in Pozorrubio (Pangasinan), we now boarded our special Victory Liner media bus for the long haul drive to Microtel Inn & Suites Luisita (Tarlac) where we were to be billeted prior to our Pinatubo trek.  Along the way, we made a short stopover at Manaoag, also in Pangasinan, so visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag (formally Nuestra Señora del Santissimo Rosario de Manaoag or Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag) and its newly opened Candle Gallery.  I have been to the shrine a number of times but this would be my first time to visit the Candle Gallery, built on the site of the old comfort rooms and canteen, to accommodate pilgrims who want to light candles as they make their humble petitions. The building, designed by Arch. Armando “Don” de Guzman, was only blessed December 7 of last year by Fr. Stephen Redillas, OP, the Prior of the Manaoag Shrine.

Our Lady by the Fountain at the Candle Gallery

Its centerpiece is an 8-ft. high wooden statue of Our Lady by the Fountain with the baby Jesus and the Holy Rosary in her arms, both sculpted by Nicolas Lugue,  and at its base is a fountain, its water cascading from the four sides of the rock base, guarded by four angels, and then down to a circular pool where the pilgrims may sit and reflect.   Above, naturally providing light to the image, is a glass skylight. Beside the Candle Gallery is the Blessing Area where pilgrims who brought or bought (from the new store that sells candles, rosaries, images of saints, spiritual books, etc.) religious articles, may have them blessed by a priest right after every Mass celebrated in church (3-4 PM).  It also accommodates the pilgrim’s requests for holy water and the blessing of their vehicles.The Feast of Our Lady of Manaoag is held on the third Wednesday after Easter but as Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag, it observes its universal feast day on the first Sunday of October.

Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag: Tel: (075) 529-0132.  Website: Victory Liner, Five Star and Dagupan Bus Line buses ply the 4-hr. Manila to Manaoag route. From Baguio City (Benguet), it is a 2-hr. drive.

The Patupat of Pozorrubio (Pangasinan)

Panutsa in sursur (coconut shells)

We had just finished an adrenalin-filled morning zip lining and driving ATVs at Pugad Pugo Adventure Park in Pugo, La Union and we were all tired and taking catnaps when we arrived at Pozorrubio, Pangasinan for a less tiring, quieter and more educational cottage industry observation tour as guests of Mayor Artemio Chan and Pangasinan Visitors Bureau (PVB) representatives Ms. Marion Puzon and Ms. Montserrat Escano.  This time we were to observe the making of  patupat, a uniquely Ilocano delicacy made from sticky rice called malagkit and wrapped in coconut or banana leaves.  The patupat of Pozorrubio is reportedly the best in the country. The factory, located in a large, open G.I.-roofed shack, was located right in the midst of a sugar plantation which was a short but quite muddy hike from the road where our special media bus was parked.

The  now motor-driven dadapilan (sugar cane mill)

The traditional method for making patupat starts with the dadapilan, the sugar cane mill.  For years, the mills were driven by carabaos but now they use motors.   Here, sugar cane is fed into the mill and pressed by its big iron rollers to extract sugar cane juice. At the same time, uncooked glutinous rice is poured into intricately designed, rectangular baskets or bags of different sizes made from banana or coconut palm leaves cut into even widths, then tied up and sealed.  The weaving of this basket is an art by itself. Using young coconut leaves with the midribs removed and knotted at both ends, the baskets are woven  with one leave overlapping the other, ending with two corners.  After the knots are removed, they are then joined to complete the basket. The baskets with the glutinous rice are then cooked and caramelized for at least 30 mins. in a large kawa or taliasi (cauldron) filled with a mixture of boiling and bubbling sugar cane juice and coconut milk, over a fire fueled by pressed sugar cane stalks. After boiling, the patupat are then tied together and hanged to drip. Soon, they would be ready to be served, cold or hot, and will be good for 3 days. On the other hand, the boiled sugar cane juice and coconut milk concoction, once thoroughly cooked and sticky, is poured into sursur (cut coconut bowls) then dried to be sold as panutsa or matamis na bao (brown sugarcane).  Thus, very little is wasted in the process.  The patupat has made Pozorrubio proud and is the star of the Patupat Festival, held annually in the town since 1999.

Boiling a concoction of sugar cane juice 
and coconut milk

Mayor’s Office: Municipal Hall, Poblacion, Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. Tel: (075) 566-7015 and 566-7020. 

Pangasinan Visitors Bureau (PVB): 33 Gov. Antonio Sison St., Lingayen, Pangasinan. Mobile number: (0928) 733-4798. Email:

Sison Cultural and Heritage Center (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

From the Provincial Capitol, Jandy, Cheska, Janet, Katrina and I proceeded to the just newly restored Sison Auditorium which was just a few blocks away. The pre-World War II Sison Auditorium, now the Sison Cultural and Heritage Center, was built from 1926 to 1927.

Sison Auditorium

Sison Cultural and Heritage Center

Formerly known as the Grand Provincial Auditorium in the 1930s, iti was a popular venue for zarzuelas and other cultural performances in pre-war and early post-war period.  The auditorium was later renamed after the late governor Teofilo Sison, the first Pangasinense to become secretary of National Defense.


From 2008-2010, it was restored and refurbished by Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. and was inaugurated on April 5, 2010.  The refurbished Neo-Clasical-style auditorium, now a venue for cultural activities in the region, was meticulously designed to compete with the best cultural centers in the land.  

Cheska "performing" on stage

Cheska “performing” on stage

This beige and white colonnaded building has a 7-bay loggia  with round, monolithic columns with Classical capitals supporting a semicircular arch.  Above each column are circular tondi (roundels) set in spandrels (the space between arches). Its intricately handcrafted interiors includes state-of-the-art lighting and a majestic chandelier, imported from Austria, hanging from the highest point of the ceiling.

The majestic chandelier

The majestic chandelier

Sison Cultural and Heritage Center: Capitol Compound, Lingayen, Pangasinan

Pangasinan Provincial Capitol (Lingayen)

The Pangasinan Provincial Capitol

The Pangasinan Provincial Capitol

At the Capitol Grounds, Jandy, Cheska, Katrina, Janet and I visited the Provincial Capitol.  Built in 1912 (one of the first to be built in the country) during the term of Gov. Daniel Maramba, this imposing “Potomac Greek” building is, for me, the most beautiful in the country.  We first saw it when we arrived at the town at night, its stately marble columns beautifully lit.

The beautifully lit Provincial Capitol at night

The beautifully lit Provincial Capitol at night

Surprisingly, it was open during this holiday and the caretaker allowed us to climb its exquisite spiral staircase to visit the Governor’s Office and  the Provincial Board Room. At the latter, we got to sit at the Vice-Governor’s chair, handle a gavel and “preside” over a meeting.

The winding stairway

The winding stairway

Cheska, Katrina, the author, Janet and Jandy at the Governor's Office

Cheska, Katrina, the author, Janet and Jandy at the Governor’s Office

Later, we went up the roof deck where Commonwealth Pres. Manuel L. Quezon used to host elegant receptions and parties before World War II.

View of the Capitol grounds and Lingayen Gulf from the roof deck

View of the Capitol grounds and Lingayen Gulf from the roof deck

Here, we had a panoramic view of the Capitol Grounds, Lingayen Gulf and the town. The west wing was restored after destruction by shelling in 1945.

Lingayen (Pangasinan)

After breakfast at the resort, we still had time to kill before leaving for Manila in the afternoon of Good Friday, so I decided to explore Lingayen town in detail, notably the Capitol Grounds.  Together with my children Jandy and Cheska, we also brought along our Hundred Islands companions (and resort guests) Janet and Katrina.

The Provincial Capitol Gounds

The Provincial Capitol Gounds

Lingayen has two architecturally distinct and culturally disparate districts, one Spanish and the other American.  The older, more populous Spanish section, which escaped the destruction of World War II, was built inland and clustered around the plaza with its municipal building and the market.

Urduja House

Urduja House

The newer American seafront district, built near the Lingayen Gulfis more spacious, with a promenade and wide-spreading flame trees. It consists of many provincial government buildings including the Provincial Capitol and Urduja House, all located in the Capitol Grounds.

Return to the Hundred Islands (Alaminos City, Pangasinan)

View of Islands from View Deck

The last time I’ve been to the Hundred Islands in Alaminos City, Pangasinan was way back March of 2005, Holy Week with son Jandy and 2 lady friends, and we only got to explore 3 of its islands, camping overnight at Marta Island. I considered this a poor batting average considering that there are 127 of these granite and scrub-covered islands and islets, a number of them having white sand beaches.  Again it was Holy Week and this time I, together with Jandy and daughter Cheska, found ourselves in Pangasinan, staying at El Puerto Marina Resort and Spa at the provincial capital town of Lingayen.  The resort offered day tours to the islands and we decided, especially Cheska who was a first-timer to these islands, to join the tour.  Our group included Fil-American Ms. Katrina Nogoy and Malaysian-American Ms. Janet Jun Siew Loh, both visiting school teachers from Japan.  Our guide was resort employee Mr. Viramel “Ram” Velasco. 

Lucap Wharf

The trip, via a van driven by Mr. Nixon Fernando, to Brgy. Lucap, take-off point to the islands, took all of 1 hour. Again, it being a long holiday, the wharf and every island with a white sand beach was packed with tourists.  Although I brought a 5-pax tent with me to Lingayen, camping on an island was out of the question.  However, we decided to explore beyond the normal tourist boat route which only included the partially developed Children, Governor’s and Quezon Islands, this time including the other outlying but interesting islands, paying a hefty PhP800 to do so.  While waiting for our boat, I made a short visit to Lucap’s Marine Museum which has a collection of corals and other marine life.  This 1,844-hectare national park, declared as such on January 18, 1940 through Proclamation No. 667, is believed to be the second largest marine reservation in the world with 2,000 species of marine life.

Lucap Wharf Marine Museum

The whole park can be readily covered, even by a slow banca, in half a day.  Most of the islands we passed are small (the smallest being less than 20 sq. m.), heavily-undercut at the base and have an elevation of 20 m. .  Many do not have trees to shade you from the sun and do not carry a name.  Some that do carry names are fancifully named after luminaries in the country (Marcos Island, Romulo Island, Quezon Island, etc.) while others are named after plants and animals that they resemble (Mushroom Island, Turtle Island, etc.).  An interesting photo opportunity was Cathedral Island, so named after its cathedral-like, fruit bat-inhabited cave with domed rock formations.  

Cathedral Island and Cave

Our first stop was Governor’s Island.  The island had white sand beaches on both sides but lolling around at the packed beaches wasn’t yet in our agenda.  Instead, all five of us decided to climb up the top of the island which, unlike 5 years ago, now had paved stairs and roped railings leading to a concrete view deck with railing (and packed with tourists).  What hasn’t changed, though, was the magnificent and panoramic view it afforded of this mini-archipelago said to have been formed from the tears of a prehistoric lovelorn giant who pined for his lost lady love.   The island also has a not-too-deep, sea-sculpted cave.

Marcos Island

Our next and longest stopover was Marcos Island.  Marked by mermaid statues, the island consists of 3 mounds, a 70-foot drop-off, a nice white sand beach (difficult to land on when the waves are high) and a helipad on the smaller dome.   From the beach, a well-marked trail, on the left, leads to the top of the island where its chief attraction is the bat-inhabited Imelda Cave which can be peered down from a blowhole above. Here, the adventurous and brave could climb down a wooden stairs to a ledge where they can cliff dive to the sea below.    

Waiting in line for our cliff dive
All five of us took a shot at it but the visibly scared Katrina and Jandy (although he knows how to swim) donned life vests just in case.  Upon hitting its suitably deep waters, we swam or clung to the cave walls, out to the cave mouth and back to the white sand beach.  Although Janet and Katrina only tried it once, we liked it so much that we went back for second shots (Cheska tried it thrice).  With our adrenaline rush sated, we finally settled down to lolling around in the rock-shaded portion of its beach. 
Cheska taking the plunge

It was now noontime and, after this exciting but adrenalin-sapping exercise, we were visibly hungry, our previous meal being an early breakfast at the resort.  We got back to our boat and proceeded to Quezon Island (at 25 hectares, the largest in this mini-archipelago).  This most frequented island was truly packed to rafters with tourists as it had, aside from its white sand beach, a pavilion for guests, stores (where one could dine) and toilet and bathing facilities (for a fee).  Again, it being a holiday, prices of goods bordered on the cutthroat but, hungry as we were, still ordered cooked Spam (at PhP250, twice that in Manila) plus rice (at PhP25 per cup) washed down with half-liter bottles of water (at PhP60).  The island also has a nursery for giant clams (locally called taklobo), a demonstration site for 300 clams dispersed here and at Children’s and Governor’s Islands, and all monitored on a regular basis. These, as well as the corals and mangroves, were rehabilitated through a program called “Marine Biodiversity Enhancement,”  a project of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) and the Marine Environment and Resources Foundation (MERF). 

Cuenco Island and its Cave
Backed at our boat, we passed by, but did not land, at the similarly packed Children’s Island which has a walkway and a calm, nearly wave-free shoreline suitable for children (hence its name). Cuenco Island, also called Quinco Island, was our last stopover.  This interesting island has two white sand beaches, on two sides, and a huge cave that passes through its center.