Thursday, May 31, 2007


I froze in my tracks in Liliw when I saw this. Wow! Didn't realize she has it in her.


Liliw is on the southern side of Laguna and rests at the foot of yet another mountain - the mystical Banahaw. It is said to be the Footwear Capital but again, footwear makers of Carcar in Cebu and those in Marikina City wouldn't be happy with this claim.

What the heck. Let's just call Liliw the Tsinelas Capital, shall we?Anyway, I'm glad to be finally here. This is my second stop here in Laguna in what is a dizzying tour of this beautiful province. There's just too much to see! And Liliw is one town no visitor to Laguna should ever miss. Founded in 1571 by Gat Tayaw, it is 17 kilometers away from Santa Cruz, Laguna's capital.

According to a story, Liliw got its name from a bird. It was said that Gat Tayaw and his followers decided to erect a bamboo pole and to name the town after the bird that would first alight at the top of the pole within four days. A crow, however, was the first bird to alight on the pole. A crow was considered bad and so Gat Tayaw and his men moved south and erected another bamboo pole. A beautiful bird alighted on the pole and sang, "Liw, Liw, Liw". Thus the town became Liliw.

Throughout the Spanish regime, the name Liliw was used. When the Americans came, it became Lilio since the Americans found it easier to pronounce it than Liliw. However, on June 11, 1965, the municipal council passed Resolution No. 38-S-65 which declared Liliw as the official name and spelling of the town to avoid confusion in pronouncing and spelling it. (Source: Wickipedia)

The historical relics of Liliw are compiled and found in Bahay Laguna that also houses some souvenirs and tokens of the late governor of Laguna, F. San Luis. This museum is found in Barangay Bungkol, Magdalena. It's a newly opened community museum where you can find samples of the great arts and crafts of the province. I hope to visit it soon when I return. No photos of the church for now. My camera ran out of battery on the way there, grrrr.

My hosts brought me here at YSL which turned out to mean YARI SA LILIW (Made in Liliw), ha ha! Don't you just love Pinoy humor?

Sandals here start Php 70 and can go up to Php 150 per pair. You can always ask for a discount.

The men's sandals surprisingly look very modern!

A Laguna native warned me about buying shoes in Liliw. They are said to be very uncomfortable. Maybe we should just leave the shoe making to Marikina, eh? The sandals are just to die for already!
For a few hundred bucks, you can bring home so much more from Liliw, but the experience is just priceless! I really hope to be back.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Welcome to Liliw!

Because of the thriving footwear industry in this quaint Laguna town, the local government through the encouragement of the Southern Tagalog Tourism Council conceptualized the Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival. The festival is dubbed as such in honor of the town’s founder - Gat Tayaw- and its major industry- tsinelas.

First held in April 5-7, 2002, the Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival was a raging success with no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attending. This 6-year old 5-day festival showcases street party featuring all night dancing, street dancing participated in by different cultural dance troops who perform native and traditional dances depicting the life of the early Liliweños in participation, Music in the Making, and the search for Mutya ng Liliw. The festival also showcases other native products such as uraro (arrow root) cookies and lambanog (coconut wine) and other local delicacies.

A visit to Liliw on regular days is already a treat for tourists but during the festival, it will be an experience to beat. (Source: Festivals of Laguna)


Welcome to Paete! To say that it is the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines (I hear dissent from the wood artists of Betis, Pampanga, he he!) would remove the focus on Paete's many other gifts. After all, woodcarving, even if it the town's main industry, isn't the only one that gives honor to its residents. Anyway, that title was given this town by a declaration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 15, 2005.

The best times to visit Paete would be in January, July, April and October. The Salibanda on the last week of January, the Town Fiesta on the 25th of July, the Cenakulo on Holy Week (I was told they do this every day of the Week!), and the Lanzones Festival in October are enough to satiate your festival fixations. (As an aside, Camiguin Island in Northern Mindanao also has a similar lanzones festival on the same month.) Also, do not miss the two versions of Salubong done by the Catholic Church and the Aglipayans. This will be on Easter Sunday, of course.

Ice carving is said to be held a day before the town fiesta. In fact, a lot of carvers who've run out of wood (as I said in a post below, there's an ongoing log ban) have worked on luxury ships as ice carvers. There are actually a lot more mini-festivals featuring Filipino martial arts (using 'arnis') and even a santol fest in August. Well, well, well! Looks like living in Paete is never a bore!!!

Baskets of paper mache lanzones line the main streets of Paete - a tribute to the town's many products - from wood to paper to lanzones!

Paete exists peacefully under the shadows of the Sierra Madre.

Note: Thanks, Tutubi, for the correction. I already wrote Sierra Madre when I posted this, but a local said last Sunday that it was Makiling. Haaay...


We visited the shop of the noted sculptor Luis Ac-ac. Unfortunately, he wasn't in the shop when we dropped by, but we did have the chance to see his works in a mini-gallery at the back of the shop.

The National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) describes him and his contemporaries as "Working within a genre dubbed folk modern and primarily in traditional sculptural materials" and "represent a stable romantic thread among sculptors carrying a torch for work portraying characters from local myth, excerpts of small-town tableau, and idealized images of Filipino heroes."

His shop, along with many other Paete landmarks, form part of Paete's "museum".

A carver begins work on panels ordered by a US-based client. Below are samples of Ac-ac's work:
This is one of a series of works on the older brother-younger brother theme. The magkapatids (siblings) are usually portrayed engaged in Filipino children sports.

Si Malakas at si Maganda. What's missing here is the bird that split the bamboo open to reveal, as the story says, the first Filipinos. Despite this, there seems to be a European quality to the way the couple were portrayed by the artist vis-a-vis the work done on the same subject by National Artist Carlos Villaluz Francisco a.k.a Botong.

I was thinking that this particular work by Ac-Ac might be interesting when cast in stone or bronze. It could be a nice gift to European governments when the Philippines celebrates something historic in Europe, say, 50 years of diplomatic relations. It would look awesome in a plaza or a lobby.

Incidentally, the Botong work - which he did for the 1953 International Fair in Manila under the presidency of Elpidio Quirino - was executed in wood by carvers from - where else? - Paete. The painting version is still, I think, with the Marcoses. It used to be displayed in their San Juan home. This information came from an article by Jaime Laya on the subject of the former First Lady's collections, but I digress.
Children at play.
Warming the bench. If you're not looking hard enough, you might trip on this sleeping boy and his dog.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Paete Church, circa 1950 (The Richard E. Alhborn Collection, Tulane University Latin-American Library)

I am visiting Laguna because of a project I am currently working on for the 83rd NCAA. The need for carved props brought me to this quaint town which lies at the foot of the grand mountain of Makiling.

Paete is home to the lanzones fruit, the ukit (woodcarving, paet means chisel), the bakya (Philippine woodenshoes), the gayly painted papier-mache called taka, the yo-yo and other toys.

Unfortunately, the log ban has started to put a strain to the woodcarving industry. I had a chat with a carver, Amang Conrado Angeles, and he said that a lot of wood that's available is actually illegal and some of them put their careers on the line just to get rare wood.

Of course, for firstimers to a place in any location in the Philippines, one must pay homage to the usual repository of the town's history and art - the local church.

The Paete Church, circa 2007. Paete achieved township in 1580 when a group of Franciscan Friars (OFM) built a friary there. With the friary came the Church of Santiago Mayor, Apostol y Martir (St. James the Great, apostle and martyr), built in 1864 and filled with century-old paintings and wooden statuaries that the people themselves made. This baroque mission church itself is worth the trip, both for its aesthetic value and spiritual significance. A piece of Campostela in the Far East, it is steeped in legends, stories of martyrdom, and memories of a people that bind them together through generations. ("Where is Paete?" by Marie Castillo-Pruden)

A glimpse of the Sierra Madre - her beauty endures forever.

I am a bit disappointed with the chandeliers. These must be replacements of old ones which may have been destroyed already.

The all-wooden cupola.

Like the chandeliers, I am stumped as to why for a town known for its craftsmanship in wood, the pulpit only looks like this. Again, there must be an explanation. The concrete (yes, concrete!) that's holding it up looks like a fairly new addition.

Buttresses hold up the entire structure. Paete has had its fair share of earthquakes in the past.

What's sad about the church is that it has been completely hidden from sight by a concrete stage facing the Municipio. Only by tearing that down can the church be appreciated again from the Plaza Mayor.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Mabuhay! Tuloy po kayo sa Laguna!

Laguna - Resort Province Of The Philippines

Laguna, Resort Province of the Philippines, is a haven of fresh and pristine bodies of water such as hot springs, lakes, and waterfalls. Most notable is Pagsanjan Falls, formerly called Magdapio Falls, referred to as “shooting rapids.” It is found in Cavinti, starting from Pagsanjan town. Another is Lake Caliraya, which is located between Cavinti and Lumban. The strong mountain breeze that blows from the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges and the distant Mount Banahaw makes the lake an ideal place for aqua sports like wind surfing, water skiing, sailing as well as game fishing. Laguna de Bay, Southeast Asia’s largest fresh water lake, stays pristine throughout the year due to regular rain showers.

Innumerable hot springs abound in the province, including the famous Hidden Valley Springs which is located in a secluded part of Alaminos town. A trip to Dalitiwan River, located in Botocan, Majayjay, is an exciting adventure because the terrain is rugged, as mountain lands go, and the cool water or river gushes through the rocks and boulders along the watercourse in sweeping currents. The mystical Mt. Makiling in Los Baños is an inactive volcano, rising to about 1,109 meters above sea level. It is indeed endowed with nature’s beauty, making it ideal for all types of nature tripping, from trekking to bird and butterfly watching and even camping.

Laguna is not only endowed with natural wonders. It also plays an important role in the country’s history as the birthplace of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, whose infancy and early manhood were spent in the towns of Calamba and Biñan. A number of churches of Spanish-influenced architecture in intricate Romanesque and Baroque design, mostly restored to their original elegance, are also found in the province.

The province is one huge showcase of Southern Tagalog craftsmanship. The town of Paete is famous for its woodcarvings, papier mache, and handmade paper products.Tree seedlings, sampaguita flowers, orchids, and exotic plants are big business. Cut flower farms are found mostly in towns of Calamba, Los Baños, and Bay. Sweet tropical fruits abound, such as the lanzones from Paete, pineapple from Calauan, chico, banana, mango, rambutan, and avocado. Add to these Laguna’s embroidered garments. Jusi cloth made from banana fiber is painstakingly, albeit deftly, transformed into beautiful pieces of clothing worthy of being tailored into the Philippine national costume, the Barong Tagalog. Shoes made from abaca hemp is a growing industry in the town of Liliw.

Owing to its nearness to Manila, Laguna is presently becoming the center of economic activity in the Southern Tagalog Region and the CALABARZON area. Business in the area is bustling as shown by the presence of several industrial estates designed for handling large scale firms engaged in textile manufacturing, electronics, food processing, industrial machines, and car assembly.

Laguna is situated 30 kilometers south of Manila and has a total area of 175,973 hectares. Laguna is bounded on the north by the province of Rizal, on the east by the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges, on the south by the Quezon province, on the west by Laguna de Bay, and the provinces of Batangas and Cavite.

Laguna has no pronounced seasons. However, it is relatively dry from November to April and wet from May to October. Climate is generally cool and gentle, even during the summer months. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year in the eastern and southern portions of the province, giving rise to an abundance and variety of flora and fauna.

Laguna has a total registered population of 1,747,000 based on the May, 2000 National Statistics Official Survey. The people of Laguna are known to be hardworking, highly motivated, good-natured, and friendly.

Language / Dialects
Laguna being part of the Southern Tagalog Region, approximately 99.22% of the population speak Tagalog. A minority of the population also speak Ilokano, Bicolano, and Waray. A significant portion of the working population can read and speak English and Filipino.


Monday, May 14, 2007


A jetliner leaves a trail of smoke against a clear sky.


Just left the National Library where I dropped off some officemates and friends who were attending the 2-day Storytelling Workshop with Alitaptap Storytellers Philippines. This is along T.M. Kalaw St. If you pass here often, you will see a huge mass of men congregating in this area every day. They are sailors waiting for news about their placements in international shipping companies. They come here to get news, chat with friends, try out their luck.

The Philippines, along with India, are the world's largest source of maritime manpower. According to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), one of out of 5 sailors in every ship plying the world's oceans is a Filipino. Most of our Filipino sailors are employed in Norwegian ships. They contribute the biggest share of the dollar remittances pie.

The Philippines began to institutionalize its formal maritime education in 1820 with the creation of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) then called Escuela Nautica de Manila, a government maritime school. However, the proliferation of various maritime schools offering different maritime courses was noted during the early and mid-70’s when the demand for overseas seafarers rose dramatically. As of 2002, 76 out of 118 maritime schools in the country have fully complied with international standards in maritime education. (Source: MARINA)

A year ago, the City of Manila built a center for our sailors so they can stay here without having to suffer under the heat of the sun, among others. There are also cheap lodging houses where sailors from the provinces can temporarily stay in while they await the processing of their papers. Former model Iliac Diaz opened a similar dormitory in Intramuros.


Delectable bite-size cinnammon bread from The Aristocrat Bakeshop.