Why Do I Travel?

Why do I travel? Over three decades ago, you wouldn’t imagine me traveling the way I do now. Even during my Holy Week school break, when just about everybody was out in the provinces having a great 4-day vacation, I was spending mine at home.  So why do I do it? For many, it’s to fulfill a dream of seeing the world, for others it’s for education, earning a living, to prove to oneself you can do it or simply just for the hell of it.

Father and son on Mt. Makulot

Father and son bonding on Mt. Makulot

I did so when I was already married, and a father to boot, and I did it for the most fatherly of reasons – to show my autistic son Jandy the beauty of this country and world, through travel and immersion, and not imprison him to the confines of a home, school or, worse, a mental institution.

Contemplating my future on the Rockies of Mt. Makulot.  Who would Have thought I would be a writer?

Contemplating my future on the Rockies of Mt. Makulot. Who would have thought I would be a writer much less an author?

October 27 to 29, 1999 would be one of the few times father and son would be traveling alone, this time on a 3-day odyssey to circumnavigate Taal Lake, visit the Southern Luzon heritage town of Taal and culminate it with a climb up the 1,145 meter high Mt. Makulot, Batangas’ highest mountain.

Mt. Makulot, Batangas' highest mountain.  The campsite is on the mountain's shoulder on the left

Mt. Makulot, Batangas’ highest mountain. The campsite is on the mountain’s shoulder on the left

Being an architect, first and foremost, our visit to Taal town brought me, up close and personal, with some of the country’s Spanish and American-era vernacular architecture (churches, ancestral houses, historical buildings, etc.) and the need to preserve them as part of the country’s patrimony so that future generations would live to see and feel them the way we see and feel them today.  I also got to experience, firsthand, the deep religiosity of the Filipinos.

Taal's Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, the largest in the Far East

Taal’s Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, the largest in the Far East

A somewhat scary experience was our overnight stay in the town’s Casa Punzalan, an ancestral house converted into an inn.  We were the only boarders that night and the caretaker left early because he was feeling sick and locked us within for security, with our permission, of course.   That wasn’t the scary part.  The ghosts of Taal’s past being where we were was.   Thus, it was a great relief when the sun came out that morning and the caretaker unlocked the inn’s main entrance.

Jandy in front of the Chapel of Our Lady of Caysasay

Jandy in front of Taal town’s Chapel of Our Lady of Caysasay

The climb up the campsite on the Mt. Makulot’s shoulder, on the other hand, introduced us to the joys of mountaineering and camping.  It also showed me how unfit I was, huffing and puffing, as we went up the mountain, more so when I saw a woman carrying a heavy load of long bamboo stems and a man laden with two backpacks and an icebox full of soft drinks, all slung on a pick.  We never made it, past the campsite, to the peak that day, it already being very late in the day to do so.  However, we did so, four months later, on another climb with Jandy plus four other companions.

Casa Punzalan.  We stayed at the second floor corner room.  We survived the night.

Casa Punzalan. We stayed at the second floor corner room and survived the night here.

Barely three months after this memorable trip, I decided to write about this unique father and son bonding experience and sent the drafts of two articles to Ms. Rosario “Chato” Garcellano, travel editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI). On January 20, 2000, a memorable day for me, my first article “Makulot Beckons” came out on newsprint.  I have become a travel writer!!! This was followed three months later, on April 2, by “Taal: The Grande Dame of Batangas.”

Jandy at our room in Casa Punzalan

Jandy at our room in Casa Punzalan

After two more PDI articles, I had a much longer stint as a travel writer for TODAY (now Manila Standard TODAY).  It was during this time that I decided to raise the bar a little higher and add additional feathers on my hat by becoming an author – compiling my four published PDI and 28 TODAY travel articles into a book entitled “A Philippine Odyssey: A Collection of Featured Travel Articles,” published by New Day Publishers in 2005.

A framed copy of "Makulot Beckons" - my first published article (PDI)

A framed copy of “Makulot Beckons” – my first published article (Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 20, 2000).  That’s Jandy on the upper left corner of the article

From all these firsts, came four more travel books on Boracay and Philippine churches (a favorite topic of mine), national shrines and museums; copy editing stints with two publishing houses; development of a travel website (Biyahero: A Philippine Travel Portal, www.biyahero.net) with 3 other friends, my own travel blog (B.L.A.S.T. – Benjie Layug: Adventures of a Savvy Traveler, www.benjielayug.com), more travel writing stints with different newspapers (I’m now with the Business Mirror) and magazines (COLORS, Business Day and 7107 Islands Magazine); lots of media invitations to cover and promote Philippine travel destinations; and now, an urge to travel, here and abroad, when the opportunity presents itself.

My first book “A Philippine Odyssey: A Collection of Featured Travel Articles.”  That's me with daughter Cheska on cover

My first book “A Philippine Odyssey: A Collection of Featured Travel Articles.” That’s me with daughter Cheska on cover

A love for churches awakened by my visit to Taal town inspired me to write this book

A love for old Philippine churches, awakened by my visit to Taal town’s two churches, inspired me to write this book

All these because a concerned father wanted to see his son break out of the prison we call autism.  At such a young age at that time, my son has packed in more adventure than what most people would experience in their lifetime. Today, though still classified as autistic, my wife and I have seen him graduate, one small step at a time, from grade school, high school and, finally, college where he finished two degrees – Multi-media Arts and Tourism Management.  He sometimes joins me in media familiarization tours as my photographer.

With my family at the launching of my fourth book, September 18, 2010, at SMX Convention Center

With my family at the launching of my fourth book, September 18, 2010, at SMX Convention Center

Talking about a life-changing experience, that 3-day moment in time when a father bonded with his son changed my life forever.  Today, Holy Weeks are no longer stay-at-home experiences.

A Warm Libertad Welcome (Antique)

After merienda at Le Palme Beach Resort in Pandan, we said goodbye to our host Ms. Gigi Bautista, who had to fly back to Manila, and return to our van for the 12-km. drive to the next  town of Libertad where we were to have lunch at the residence of Mayor Norberto P. Raymundo Jr..

Our motorcycle escort

Our motorcycle escort

As we entered the poblacion, welcome banners and a motorcycle escorts, with tour guides on board to accompany our van, greeted us.  They first accompanied us to the Municipal Tourist Information Center before proceeding to the mayor’s residence.  This town really pulled out all the stops to welcome us.

The banig welcome banner.  A nice touch

The banig welcome banner. A nice touch

Libertad is noted for its banig weaving and another sign, this time made with banig, welcomed us at the mayor’s residence.  After introducing ourselves to Mayor Raymundo, another feast awaited us for lunch – grilled tuna, adobong pusit, freshwater shrimps, etc., plus dessert of ripe mangoes.  The eating goes on and on.

Adobong pusit

Adobong pusit

Freshwater shrimps

Freshwater shrimps

Grilled tuna

Grilled tuna

Standing out among the guests was, aside from Clelia, was another foreigner – the bearded and thin Tony Liakhovetsky, an Israeli from Haifa.  This hardcore guy, who speaks 6 languages, has literally hitchhiked his way around the region.  Checking on his Facebook account, he came from Japan and Taiwan before entering the Philippines and exploring Luzon and the Visayas.  Korea is next in his itinerary.

The hitchhiking Tony Liakhovetsky (photo from his Facebook page)

The hitchhiking Tony Liakhovetsky (photo from his Facebook page)

We were invited to observe an actual banig making demonstration, explore Maanghit Cave and watch the sunset at Pucio Point, but before all that, I had to buy a pair of trekking sandals to backup my damaged pair.  A policeman brought me to the town’s market on his motorcycle but, as there were none available, I had to settle for rubber flipflops.

Media group with Mayor Raymundo (center, in red)

Media group with Mayor Raymundo (center, in red)

How To Get There: Libertad is located 143 kms. (a 4-hr. drive) from San Jose de Buenavista and 77 (a 1.5-hr. drive) kms. from Kalibo (Aklan).

A Night of Original Kinaray-a Music (Tibiao, Antique)

From Tibiao Fish Spa, where we freshened up, we proceeded, come evening, to Tibiao town proper which was in fiesta mode, it being the Maninihon Festival, a celebration of the town’s pottery industry.   We first proceeded to the home of Tibiao Mayor Gil B. Bandoja where we had a hearty 10-course dinner.

Dante M. Beriong

Dante M. Beriong

After dinner, we all proceeded to Tibiao Plaza where we were to watch, together with students of UP Visayas (Miag-ao, Iloilo), the Istorya Kanta Kinaray-a Night, a showcase of original Kinaray-a music (OKM). On hand to perform was OKM pillar Dante M. Berong, a Sangguniang Panlalwigan (Provincial Board) member and multi-awarded Kinaray-a music composer and artist, who is dubbed as “Panay’s King of Festival Theme Songs.” During the Philippine Independence Centennial celebrations, his composition “Mabuhay ka Pilipino!” was chosen as the official theme song on January 23, 1997.

The Teatro Burulakaw Dance Troupe

The Teatro Burulakaw Dance Troupe

Dante, who started writing song in the 1970s, got his inspiration to sing Kinaray-a songs from Mr. Bernie Salcedo, the “King of Kinaray-a Music.”  Bernie started the trend of composing Kinaray-a songs way back in 1969 when he was just a teenager.  Aside from Dante, Bernie also influenced OKM artists Sammy Rubido, Mark Quintella, Noel Tabo-Tabo, Noel Alamis and Edmund Infante.

Teatro Burulakaw dancers in hip-hop mode

Teatro Burulakaw dancers in hip-hop mode

Kinaray-a music, heard not only in houses in Antique but also in Iloilo, has grown to an artistic proportion that Antiquenos have learned to appreciate and enjoy.  By stressing the importance of love of Antiqueno culture and its people, Dante and other OKM artists have lifted OKM to the next level.

Our host Flord with Ms. Lin-ay kang Antique 2012

Our host Flord with Ms. Lin-ay kang Antique 2012

Accompanying Dante on stage that night are the talented dancers of UA (University of Antique) Teatro Burulakaw Dance Troupe who seemed to be having fun, even as they provided rhythm and movement to Dante’s songs.

Dante serenading Ms. Grachele Mae Managuit

Dante serenading Ms. Grachele Mae Managuit

A performing artist invited to various events and places, Dante’s great performance and enthusiasm during the Istorya Kanta Kinaray-a Night easily won the crowd as well as us as he sang songs from his albums (Antique, Antiqueño and Mauli Gid Ako Sa Antique) including  Katahum Kang Antique, Araguy Inday and Pangabuhi sa Uma.  Also gracing the evening was Ms. Grachele Mae Managuit, Ms. Lin-ay kang Antique 2012, who was personally escorted on stage by Flord himself and serenaded by Dante.

Dante, Mae and Teatro Buralakaw wows the crowd

Dante, Mae and Teatro Buralakaw wows the crowd

It was quite late in the evening when we left Tibiao Plaza and, as we had a very full day of activities tomorrow, we now traveled the 17 kms. to the next town of Culasi where we were checked in at Paragon 88 Beach Resort.

How To Get There: Tibiao is located 73 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista, 12.6 kms. from Barbaza, 17 kms. from Culasi and 89 kms. from Brgy. Caticlan (Malay, Aklan).

Gen. Leandro Fullon National Shrine (Hamtic, Antique)

From Tobias Fornier, we were driven, together with the other students, 22 kms. to the next town of Hamtic where we made a 15-min. stopover at Gen. Leandro Fullon National Shrine in front of the municipal hall and near the Church of St. Monica. Gen. Fullon, born in this coastal town on March 13, 1877, was a young student at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila, when the Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896.

The equestrian statue of Gen. Leandro Fullon

The equestrian statue of Gen. Leandro Fullon

He was made the commanding officer of the Visayan revolutionary forces by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and was sent, on September 6, 1898, with 140 officers and 350 men, to liberate Panay Island.  On November 22, Fullon’s forces captured San Jose de Buenavista where he set up a revolutionary provincial government.

Narration of the life and times of Gen. Fullon

Narration of the life and times of Gen. Fullon

During the Philippine-American War, he also fought the Americans, together with Gen. Martin Delgado, but was forced to surrender, together with his officers, on March 22, 1901.  When the Province of Antique was created by virtue of Act No. 114, Fullon was appointed, on April 15, 1901, as the province’s civil governor and served until his death on October 16, 1904.

Burial plaque

Burial plaque

His life-size statue, designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, was unveiled on March 13, 2004 by the National Historical Commission during the occasion of his 137th birth anniversary.  On October 16, Fullon’s 100th death anniversary, his remains were transferred, from La Paz Cemetery in Hamtic, to the base of the monument.

Hamtic Municipal Hall

Hamtic Municipal Hall

Church of St. Monica

Church of St. Monica

My visit to the general’s shrine was made more memorable by the fact that he was a distant relative, our common ancestor, both on our mother’s side, being Wo Sing Lok (or Sin Lok) from Amoy (old name for Xiamen, an island located in the southern part of Fujian Province at the mouth of Jiulong “nine dragon” River in China) who arrived in the Philippines and permanently settled at “Parian,” (now Molo) in Iloilo City. In 1780, Sing Lok was christened as Agustin Locsin when he married Cecilia Sayson, a mestiza daughter of an Ilongga and a sangley (local Chinaman), who were both devout Catholics. The Locsin clan began from this union.

How To Get There: Hamtic is located 7 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista.

Sagada Weaving and Souvenir Shop

Come morning, after breakfast, it was time to check out at our inn for our return trip to Manila. We all boarded our hired jeepney and made our way, out of the poblacion, along Sagada’s narrow, Bontoc Road which was filled with parked vehicles and people, it being market day.  

Sagada Weaving & Souvenir Shop

Past the St. Theodore’s Hospital, the traffic began to ease and we were soon on our way. We made a stopover at the Sagada Weaving and Souvenir Shop.  This pioneering weaving firm is one of the town’s biggest employers. Here, we got to interview Mr. Ezra Keithley Aranduque, the owner who showed us around the weaving area (his weavers were on leave, though, it being the holidays).  This venerable Sagada institution, an offshoot of the now-defunct weaving business of Lepanto Crafts established in 1968, was started in Sagada by the late Andrea Bondad (Ezra’s mother) in 1978. The cloth was originally woven from thread obtained through trade with lowlanders.

With Mr. Ezra Aranduque

Today, they produce and sell, at reasonable prices, quality products hand-woven by backstrap looms, such as backpacks, purses, hats, ponchos, shoulder bags, wallets, slippers, blankets, place mats, table runners and other products.  They also sell traditional Cordilleran clothes such as tapis (traditional-style Igorot skirts), wanes (men’s g-strings) and bakget (women’s belts with tails).  All these are also sold in select stores in Baguio City (Benguet), Bontoc, Kalinga and Apayao.

Jocie tries out a loom

According to Ezra, his weavers use traditional, intricate Cordilleran designs which consists mostly of vibrant red and black stripes on a white center panel with additional red, yellow, black and green motifs such as oweg (snakes, a fertility symbol) and tekka (lizards, a symbol of longevity) running through it.  Rivers are represented by zigzag lines, and mountains and rice paddies by triangles.

Sewers at work at the souvenir shop

The tapis, wanes and blankets are woven using 2 distinct patterns – the simpler kinayan or the more elaborate and popular pinagpagan.  They spent more than one month to produce just 28 m. of this durable and strong, handwoven fabric which has vanished from handwoven fabrics produced in the region. In 2011, the Bureau of Trade Marks of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the Bureau of Patents has granted Sagada Weaving patent certificates (IPO Certificate of Registration No. 4-2009-006672) for its local design described as consisting of a diamond and 2 half diamonds forming an X design of any two colors.  The Bureau of Patents also granted Sagada Weaving (Patent Registration Nos. 3-2009-00441 to 00446) exclusive rights, throughout the country, to make, use, sell or import an industrial design which consists of  6 color combinations with diamond and X designs.


Finished souvenir products

Sagada Weaving and Souvenir Shop: Bontoc Road, Nangonogan, Sagada 2619, Mountain Province.  Mobile number: (0918) 927-6488 and (0919) 557-1431 (Mr. Ezra Aranduque). E-mail: weavings@sagadaweaving1968.com and sagadaweaving1968@yahoo.com.  Website: www.sagadaweaving1968.com.

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.

Sto. Domingo: Birthplace of the Sarung Banggi (Albay)

The next day, Bernard and I left the Governor’s Mansion in Legaspi City and took a jeep to Quick & Hearty for a buffet Filipino breakfast.  Here, we met up with Mr. Martin A. Calleja, head of Bicol Adventures Philippines and Viento de Mar Beach Resort in Bacacay. After breakfast, we made a short stopover at the DOT Region V office at Rawis where we met up with Regional Director Maria O. Ravanilla.  From here, we made the short 11.5 km. drive to the nearby quaint town of Sto. Domingo.

The author with Bernard and Dir. Maria Ravanilla

Sto. Domingo, formerly called Libog (a corruption of the Bicol term libot meaning “roundabout”), is nestled at the foot of Mayon Volcano. The town is noted for its numerous beach resorts along the jet black sand Kalayukaii Beach in Brgy. Kalayukaii, located 3 kms. east of the town.  At the Spanish-era (the former tribunal and presidencia built in 1832) municipal hall in Plaza Pugad Lawin, we made a courtesy call on Mayor Herbie  B. Aguas.

The municipal hall and fountain at Plaza Pugad Lawin

Also at the plaza, across the fountain and municipal hall is the picturesque Church of St. Dominic Guzman, the town’s most prominent landmark.

Check out “Church of St. Dominic Guzman

Church of St. Dominic Guzman

The town is also the birthplace of Potenciano V. Gregorio (May 19, 1880-February 12, 1939), the composer of the famous local ditty Sarung Banggi (meaning “one night”), the best known song in the Bicol dialect, on May 10, 1910.  The 8-day (May 18-25) Sarung Banggi Summer Festival, which features a folk song festival, immortalizes this love song and pays tribute to its illustrious local son.   His ancestral house was burned when a fire hit the town in 1961.

Potenciano V. Gregorio Mausoleum

On May 2005, Mayor Aguas, together with then Albay Gov. Fernando and First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, had Gregorio’s remains exhumed in La Loma Cemetery and brought home to Sto. Domingo for a municipal vigil and reinterred at the town’s cemetery with military honors. In 2006, a mausoleum and his bust, also at the town plaza, was erected and his remains transferred there.  In 2010, Gregorio was declared a municipal artist by the Sangguniang Bayan.

Mayor’s Office: Municipal Hall, Plaza Pugad Lawin, St. Domingo, Albay.  Tel: (052) 435-1357.
Department of Tourism Regional Office V: Rawis, Legaspi City.  Tel: (052) 435-0085 and 482-0715.  Fax: (052) 482-0712. E-mail: dot_bicol@yahoo.com. Website: www.wowbicol.com.

Ang Nuno Artists Foundation Gallery (Angono, Rizal)

After my interview with Nemi R. Miranda, Jandy and I moved next door to the Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant.  This restaurant, made famous by Andrew Zimmern in Discovery Travel and Living’s “Bizarre Foods,” offers truly exotic cuisine such as sautéed ants and crickets, wood worms and frog cooked adobo style, Soup No. 5 (cow butt and testicles),  adobong uok (beetle larvae), among others.  Andrew tried the last two.  However, having already taken lunch, we weren’t there for the exotic food (Maybe next time).  Rather, we wanted to explore the Ang Nuno Artists Foundation Gallery  at the second floor.

Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant

Luckily, Andre, the restaurant manager (and also an artist) son of the late artist and sculptor Perdigon N. Vocalan, was there and he granted us permission to explore the gallery upstairs. The dining area is already a gallery of sorts, with colorful paper mache sculptures and paintings (with subjects ranging from basket of fruits to mythical creatures) all around the patchwork property.  Outside, soda bottle lanterns hang from trees.

Upon climbing the spiral staircase, we were ushered into an impressive repository of Philippine treasures that showcases Filipino heritage through colorful papier mache, antiques and artworks by Perdigon, his sons Andre and Rembrandt as well as other independent and budding local artists and craftsmen from Angono and other Rizal towns.

A collection of wood sculpture and furniture

The accomplished Vocalan was influenced by the late National Artist and Angonon Carlos “Botong” Francisco (November 4, 1912 – March 31, 1969) and his  various paintings, sculptures and woodcarvings, inspired by Filipino traditions and legends,capture Angono’s rich cultural heritage as well as depict folk stories and characters like the kapre (a menacing creature that seeks refuge in big trees), duwende (goblin)tikbalang (demon horse), manananggal (a woman with the ability to detach the two halves of its body at the waist), and the like. He also depicted women in all their glory and beauty.  Thereare also several depictions of the Mother and Child.

Dining table with tapayan above it

The gallery, a reflection of Perdigon’s eclectic taste, also has an impressive collection of antiques and religious objects such as statues of saints (some just heads without a body), a complete tableau of the Last Supper and a Santo Entierro (statue of the dead Christ). There’s also a collection of antique furniture including folding chairs, a complete dining table set (with earthen, knee-tall jars or tapayans hanging above it)  and a huge, intricately carved wooden door.

Tableau of Last Supper

I also took a peek, via a spiral stairway, at the third floor which houses a workshop  where huge, colorful masks of the higantes for the Higantes Festival are made. In 1987, Perdigon conceived the idea of the Higantes Festival.  He advocated having more higantes (papier mache giants) in the town fiesta by coordinating with the barangays of Angono to come up with higantes that will represent their barangay. Miniature papier mache dolls, great examples of Filipino folk art, are also made here for souvenir hunters.

More wooden sculpture
Ang Nuno Artists Foundation Gallery: Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant, 16 Doña Justa Subd., Phase I, Brgy. San Roque, Angono, Rizal.  Tel: (632) 651-0110 & 295-2698. Mobile number: (0923) 714-4209. E-mail: balaw2x@yahoo.com. Open daily, 10 AM-10 PM.

Nemiranda Arthouse (Angono, Rizal)

After lunch at a Shakey’s outlet in Taytay,  Jandy and I proceeded to the next town of Angono, the “Arts Capital of the Philippines.”  Using the only Angono map I had, I tried to find the Nemiranda Arthouse/Atelier Cafe only to find out it wasn’t where its supposed to be in the map. I finally resorted to asking the locals.  That worked and soon enough we found the place, a lofty old wood, bamboo and concrete house converted into a home-studio with a prominent signage at the street corner.

Nemiranda Arthouse/Atelier Cafe

I entered the arthouse (also known as “The House of Myths and Legends”), via a side gate, into the coffee shop where I was welcomed by Katrina, the painter daughter of 62 year old local artist Nemesio “Nemi” R. Miranda (popularly known in the art circle as Nemiranda), who was currently touring some children around the art gallery. I was hoping to interview Nemiranda, but Katrina told me that I just missed him as he left on his motorcycle.  She gave us free rein to tour the extensive, 3-floor art gallery ourselves.  A massive, larger-than-life, pastel blue stone mermaid (sirena) is prominently placed above the art gallery’s arched entrance.

Art Gallery entrance

A Fine Arts graduate of  University of Sto. Tomas and a disciple of the late noted Angono artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, this highly figurative artist’s artworks employ figurative realism  (which he calls “imaginative figurism”) wherein the human form is drawn from pure imagination. Nemiranda’s work inevitably evolves around the female form and it is vividly seen in almost every artwork that we observed. These include mother and child sketches, mermaids, nudes (Nemiranda is also deemed as an erotic painter) done in different styles, women giving birth, nursing mothers, etc..

Nemiranda’s exhibit of “Imaginary Figurism”

Other stunningly beautiful paintings depict random subjects such as rural life (families in pastoral scenes, etc.) and subjects from local folklore such as mythical creatures and nature goddesses.  On display at one section are wood carvings of the “Stations of the Cross.” Also on display are artworks by Nemiranda’s 5 sons and daughter Katrina as well as fellow artists from Rizal.

Wood carvings of the “Stations of the Cross”

We also saw Nemiranda’s impressive collection of local and international awards, proof of his countless unparalleled excellence and achievements in the arts.   At the end of the gallery are some art pieces for sale. This veteran artist has launched over 35 solo art exhibitions in various parts of the world and was commissioned to do monumental sculptures and mural paintings throughout the country.

Sculpture of a pregnant woman

Some of Nemiranda’s popular and impressive commissioned works includes the “History of the Philippine Army,” a relief sculpture located at the parade ground of Fort Bonifacio; the EDSA Shrine Mural (along with 14 other Angono artists), muted murals interpreting and depicting the 4-day  People Power revolution in the main chapel of the EDSA Shrine; the EDSA II Relief Sculptures; “The Way of Mary,” a 20-relief sculpture of the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, from EDSA Shrine to Antipolo Shrine; and the 40-ft. high “Crucified Christ” (unveiled in Tacloban City in 2002), the map of Leyte interpreted as a sculptural island shaped by nature into the image of the crucified Christ. His paintings also hang in the many prestigious homes and offices, both here and abroad.

A collection of Nemiranda nude paintings

Jandy and I were still exploring the art gallery when Nemiranda finally arrived.  We were introduced to him by Katrina and I proceeded to interview him at length. As a true-blooded Angonon, Nemiranda has been instrumental in making Angono as the “Art Capital of the Philippines,” making great contributions in promoting the town’s rich heritage. The Arthouse is also part of Nemiranda’s mission to nurture the artistic consciousness, not just for the Angonons, but for all Filipinos as well, conducting, for years on a regular basis, lectures, guiding services and painting workshops designed to inspire the youth who, by talking to Nemiranda and watching the artist go through the creative process, might see how an idea can grow into a finished work of art.

Some of Nemiranda’s numerous awards

In 1975, Nemiranda  founded the renowned Angono Ateliers Association, the first in the town to popularize sculpture in concrete (started in 1970).  He was also chairman of the Angono Tourism Council and the promoter of the town’s Higantes (“giant”) Festival and the fluvial procession dedicated to San Clemente, Angono’s patron saint. He also institutionalized the Nemiranda Family Art Museum, the Angono School for the Arts and the Nemiranda Atelier Café, all catering to the development, promotion and growth of the Angono art community.

The author with Nemiranda
Nemiranda Arthouse/Atelier Cafe: 10 Doña Elena St., Doña Justa Village, Brgy. San Roque, Angono, Rizal. Tel:  (632) 651-0109-10. Fax: (632) 651-3867. Email: inquiry@nemiranda.net and nemi_miranda@yahoo.com. Website: www.nemiranda.net. Admission fee: PhP30.

Panumpaang Bayan (Tanza, Cavite)

From the Tejeros Convention Site in Rosario, Jandy and I were back on the road again, this time proceeding to the next historical town of Tanza and on to its church and convent.  Over a hundred years ago, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo also followed our lead, proceeding, after his election as President of the revolutionary government in Tejeros, the day before, to the town’s parish convent hall (now called the Panumpaang Bayan).

Parish Convent Hall (Panumpaang Bayan)

Here, around 8 PM on March 23, 1897, Gen. Aguinaldo and Gen. Mariano Trias took their oath of office in a solemn ritual, before Fr. Cenon Villafranca, as President and Vice-President, respectively, of the revolutionary government that replaced the Katipunan.  The next day, around 1 AM, Pascual Alvarez (as Director of the Interior), Severino de las Alas (as Director of Justice), Emiliano Riego de Dios (as Director of War) and the reluctant Artemio Ricarte* (as Captain-General or General-in-Chief), one by one, also took their oath of office.  The first cabinet meeting also took place here.

*It was said that Ricarte was forced to take his oath of office so that he could leave the place unmolested.  In fact, he signed a protest regarding this, stating that he could not accept the position of Captain-General because the election in Tejeros (Rosario, Cavite) did not reflect the real “will of the people” and that he took his oath because he feared for his life.