Miagao, Iloilo: Bridging Then and Now

The municipality of Miagao resonates in Philippine history and heritage primarily because of its famous Miagao Church (Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church) which is a UNSECO World Heritage Site. Aside from the majestic church, the town has two (2) more prized landmarks which made my visit truly unforgettable.

While on our way to Miagao (which is relatively far from the city), I remembered an incident in 2015 when I passed by the town for work and a colleague told me about the town’s historical bridges.

Big thanks to Google and my sharp memory, I was able to do a last minute research and locate the historical bridges of Britanico and Taytay Boni.

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Britanico Bridge

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Taytay Boni Bridge

The location of Britanico bridge is near the University of the Philippines Miagao campus, but we got lost while searching for it. There was a signage along the road, but we didn’t know where it was exactly located. What we saw was a signage of Sulu restaurant. We decided to enter the restaurant since it was lunch time already. As we were looking for our seats, we were surprised to see the Britanico bridge. It was an OMG encounter for the history girl.  It was a moment in time that I forgot about my appetite and ran near the bridge to see its beauty upclose.

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For someone like me who gets giddy about history, having an unexpected lunch date with a view of a 300-year old Spanish bridge was pure LOVE.

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On the other hand, the Taytay Boni bridge was not hard to find since it is located right beside the national road. Built in 1854, Taytay Boni bridge is the oldest Spanish bridge in Miagao. Taytay Boni is the name referred to the bridge by the locals, but it is also known as Puente de Boni. It was named after Taytay, a Hiligaynon (local dialect) word for bridge and the bridge construction foreman, Boni Neular.

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Taytay Boni was made from tablea or stone slabs from coral stones. If you take a closer look at it, you will notice that the slabs were built-in, which is somehow similar to hollow blocks.  The bridge is not passable to vehicles anymore because it was damaged during the 1948 earthquake.

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I still consider myself lucky because I was able to spend some time to appreciate its beauty and walk through it from end-to-end.

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Bridges are built to provide passage and connect destinations which are separated by a body of water or land underneath. Aside from its purpose, I find it fascinating that there are still historical bridges that serves another purpose – bridging the stories of the past and the present for heritage appreciation and conservation.

Fort Santiago, Manila: Where ‘History Girl’ was born

When someone hears, reads, and visits Fort Santiago in Manila, the first things that comes to mind are Jose Rizal, Intramuros, old penitentiary, Philippine history. But for Helen ‘Jhoey’ Naddeo, a self-confessed ‘history girl’ who’s also a certified Jose Rizal fangirl, Fort Santiago will always reminds her of Henry Naddeo, her father and the man who loved telling her a story of every place they have been to.

Fort Santiago will always be my favorite place aside from the its relevance to Jose Rizal and Philippine history (in general). It was the place where I started to fall in love with history and that’s all because of Henry.

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15 year-old Jhoey with 2-year old Jesseca in Fort Santiago, 2002.

Every time he would come to the Philippines and visit me back then, Fort Santiago would always be a part of his itinerary and our hang-out places. My young self back then finds it unusual and tiresome; but because he loves it there, I cannot complain.

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Fort Santiago, 2010

My father, an American citizen with an Italian lineage, would always tell me why Fort Santiago is important in Philippine history. Because of him I learned that it was an important defense fortress during the Spanish, American and Japanese colonizations.

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Jhoey, Henry, Jesseca, Shirley (2002)

Since the place has been part of our father-daughter bonding, my teenager self have started to see Jose Rizal as an awesome and cool hero. We would walk hand in hand around Fort Santiago and he would point out where Rizal was imprisoned before his execution and acted as my personal tour guide. He would also say good things about Jose Rizal as if he’s a Filipino.

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When I saw Jose Rizal again in Fort Santiago, 2010.

Back then, I am not yet obsessed and fascinated with Philippine history (as compared to now), but I loved Sibika at Kultura and HEKASI subjects already and surprisingly excelled on those classes. Yes, you read it right. I can still remember how my classmates hated those subjects because we had to keep in mind the names, places and dates about Philippine history just to pass the subject. I didn’t enjoy memorizing those things but reading and learning about it was fun for me.

Looking back, perhaps my father told me those stories (bits and pieces of Philippine history) for me to have a deeper appreciation of my identity and the relevance of my existence. Perhaps, he was the reason why I have a crush on Jose Rizal. Perhaps, when I learned that he was already in heaven I resorted to reading, exploring and loving history more because it reminds me of him. And it is too coincidental because my father died on December 30, the exact date of Jose Rizal’s execution.

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Jhoey, a certified Jose Rizal #fangirl

Yesterday was his birthday (November 12). I had to report to work for an ‘over time work’, but on my way to the office, I decided not to go to work because I wanted to have a peaceful and fun Saturday remembering him.  Yesterday, I had the chance to share a piece of my story – about my father to good friends (office mates) for them to know me better (because they always see my crazy, stressed and weird self).

Yes, I miss him every single day. The last time I went to Fort Santiago was on March 28, 2010, my 23rd birthday with my three – month old partner Dwight Enriquez. Looking back, Fort Santiago was our first heritage date/adventure. Back then when we were young, fit, relatively poor and struggling individuals. From Fort Santiago, Manila, we’ve traveled to many places already to fulfill my wanderlust for traveling and history.

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Jhoey and Dwight’s first heritage adventure in 2010.

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Back then when we were young, fit, relatively poor and struggling individuals.

I have been regularly visiting Intramuros for the past years and have planned to go back to Fort Santiago but never pushed through. This year, some of my office mates and I wandered around Intramuros. When we were near Fort Santiago, we realized that we were dead tired, decided to go home and just come back again soon.

Fort Santiago, it has been six (6) years already since I’ve visited you and it still feels like yesterday with Henry walking hand in hand. I have to see you again soon before I turn #flirty30 and relive the best memories of my life.

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#Throwback photo with my family, 2002

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The 23-year old Jhoey in Fort Santiago, 2010.

This is my story of Fort Santiago, Manila. The place where I found myself obsessed with Philippine history and overly emotional about recent events that concerns my country, its history, heritage and identity. The place that paved way to Helen ‘Jhoey’ Naddeo, a proud Filipino and history girl at heart.

How To Indulge Your Senses in Hanoi, Vietnam?

August 18, 2015: I will always remember that date because it was my first time to explore and engage in a different environment outside the 7,641 islands of my beloved country, the Philippines.

To get outside the seaboard and airspace of my country has always been a dream. When that dream became a reality in 2015, it felt oh so good!

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Prior to booking our flight to Vietnam, I don’t have much idea about the country aside from Ms. Saigon (musical play), and tidbits of information from the Vietnam War.

Because my heart beats for history and travel, my senses experienced a one-of-a-kind treat in Hanoi.

Touch. Hanoi has a chill vibe. Why? You can just walk around the city and it works smoothly even if it’s the capital city.

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It is a city that has so many trees, parks and walking spaces. I hate long walks, but the charm of the city was hard to resist. While walking, I saw its texture and personality through their preserved cultural sights and influences.

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Chinese and French are the two great influences that shaped Vietnam’s culture. Once upon a time, China occupied Vietnam which lasted for more than 1,000 years. While during the late 19th century, France colonized Vietnam. The French culture was injected when it was under the French occupation from 1883 to 1954.

The fusion of these two influences was perfectly melded.  This influence can still be seen in the architecture of their buildings and famous landmarks, their superb cuisine, and the country’s personality.

From Thang Long (Rising Dragon) to Dong Kinh (Eastern Capital), it was also referred to Tonkin (during the French colonial period) until it was renamed Ha Noi (Between Two Rivers).

Sight.  ‘Old meets new’ perfectly fits the city, traces from the past can still be seen in the city despite the massive damages it incurred from the bombings during the Vietnam War by the United States (in 1965, 1968 and 1972).

The historical sites and scenic wonders of Hanoi that we’ve seen are the following:

Lake Hoam Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword): Our first adventure in Hanoi was our visit to Hoan Kiem Lake. This historical landmark is easy to find because it is in the center of the busy streets of Hanoi.

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So, it is not just an ordinary lake. It has a famous legend- the Legend of the Restored Sword.

Legend claims in the mid-15th century Heaven sent Emperor Ly Thai To a magical sword, which he used to drive the Chinese from Vietnam. After the war a giant golden turtle grabbed the sword and disappeared into the depths of this lake to restore the sword to its divine owners, inspiring the name Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword). Source: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/vietnam/hanoi/sights/lakes-rivers-waterfalls/hoan-kiem-lake

Aside from the legend of the lake, the scenic sight of the Turtle Tower, Huc Bridge, and Ngoc Son Temple just makes it picture perfect.

Turtle Tower: It sits on the grass-carpeted Turtle Island (Dao Rua) that was built in 1886 as a reminder of the Legend of the Restored Sword.

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Huc Bridge: The Huc which means ‘morning sunlight bridge’ is probably one of my favorite landmarks in Hanoi. The Huc Bridge in red color just stands out as I enjoyed the view of Hoan Kiem lake.

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When I first saw it, it reminded me of Mulan (Disney movie). I envisioned Mulan walking on that bridge, and heard the song Reflection being played in my subconsciousness. And yes, I imagined Mulan staring at her reflection on the lake. That’s why when I set foot on the bridge, I really felt I was in my own little world walking, smiling and enjoying the moment (like a crazy person).

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Ngoc Son Temple:  The temple which means ‘Temple of the Jade Mountain’ was constructed in classical Vietnamese style as a homage to Tran Hung Do who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century.

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Temple of Literature: It was constructed to celebrate the doctorates and high rank scholars of Vietnam, and was also dedicated to Confucius. Quoc Tu Giam, the first university of the country was built within the temple in 1076.

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One-Pillar Pagoda: The name says it. The shrine sits on the top of a single stand. It was built under Ly’s dynasty by Emperor Ly Thai To after he envisioned it in his dream.

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Imperial Citadel of Thang Long: It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the country’s political center for 13 centuries and have served as the capital of Vietnam for eight years.

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In 2002-2004, excavation works took place and the artifacts found dated back from 6th to the 20th century. Some of the discoveries were bronze coins, ceramics and pottery from many places in Asia.

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Hanoi Flag Tower: An architecture work under Nguyen dynasty that still remains today. The nearly 200 years old tower was originally built as an observatory.

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Presidential Palace: It was built to house the French Governor-General of Indochina. It really stands out because of its yellow color. Also, the neoclassical style and elements on its structure are on point.

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Ba Dinh Square: It was originally developed by French, but its significance was marked on September 2, 1945 when Ho Chi Minh read the Vietnam Independence Declaration from the French Colonial rule and the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

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The square witnessed most of the country’s historical events which includes the funeral of Ho Chi Minh in 1969.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Since the funeral of Ho Chi Minh was held in Ba Dinh Square, his mausoleum was built on that area for him to be remembered.

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Hanoi Opera House: It is one of the city’s cultural centers. Its architecture was patterned from the European style during the Renaissance period.

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Tran Quoc Pagoda: It is the oldest pagoda or Buddhist temple in the city. Monks who have taught Buddhism to the public used to live at the pagoda. The pagoda, the landscape, and its location near the shore of West Lake makes it picturesque.

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Saint Joseph Cathedral: It was built 120 years ago during the French occupation. The Gothic architecture follows the design of Paris Cathedral.

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While walking around Hanoi, there was one thing I noticed right away- their major streets are filled with gorgeous flowers. Very impressive!

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I have not seen all the sites the city has to offer, but it was an experience I will truly cherish forever.

Smell. Since the Philippines was greatly influenced by the Spanish and American culture, it was a breath of fresh air for me to literally breathe a different air (haha), and explore a different culture.

Walking around Hanoi, I was not just able to breathe fresh air and smell the flowers on side streets, but I was able to inhale and absorb a culture far different to what I’m used to and have lived in for the past 28 years.

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Because of its uniqueness, the city’s signature scent –then and now from the cultural influences, historical landmarks, landscape of its trees, parks, flowers, people and the coffee culture made me overwhelmed with happiness.

Sound. Listening to a different language in a foreign land was an endearing treat. It was like a new music to my ears. They may not speak fluently in English, most actually had a difficulty understanding it, but the locals we got the chance to talk with are so polite (including taxi drivers).

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There was definitely one thing that surprised me in Hanoi (or Vietnam in general) – MOTORCYCLES! Motorcycles/scooters were the king of the road. You can see and hear the buzz of motorcycle engines almost everywhere (and in HUGE numbers). It was a crazy and amazing experience for me.

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For a couple of minutes, I had to stop, stare and observe how many motorcycles were on the street. Then, I suddenly thought – how can we cross the street without being hit?

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Years ago, I was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street, even when I was on the pedestrian crossing. Because of that incident, the trauma of crossing streets still haunts me. I really panic, squeeze the hand or arm of my companion, and sometimes holler a soft shriek out of fear. While crossing the streets in Vietnam, it was like a playing patintero (traditional Filipino game). Crossing and surviving the streets of Vietnam served as a therapy for me because I regained my confidence (a bit).

If there’s one major realization I had when I was in Hanoi, it was to listen to what my heart desires – to travel and explore other cultures.

Taste. My travel buddy and I are not certified ‘foodie travelers’. Since we were in Vietnam wherein food is a major attraction, we enjoyed the affordable food choices that it has to offer. Yes, affordable because we’re budget travelers.

Based from my observations, the best dining experience (coffee, rice noodles, beer) both by locals and tourists are at the side streets sitting on cute, small stools as you witness how the city life unfolds.

My travel buddy is a store manager in Starbucks Philippines by profession. I also used to work in Starbucks as a barista which makes us caffeine junkies. Coffee keeps us alive, and ties our relationship together (insert big smile).

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While in Hanoi, we definitely didn’t miss Vietnam’s coffee culture. Of course, we did not forget Starbucks Vietnam in our coffee adventure.

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In the Philippines, Starbucks is almost everywhere. With more than 300 stores to date, it is really a huge brand. While in Vietnam, it is a different story. Aside from the local coffee shops, the Vietnamese coffee shop chain, Highlands Coffee can be seen everywhere.. at every major street and every tourist attraction area.

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The best food trip we experienced in the city was to cook our food (literally) with Hanoi beer to squeeze in our own shindig because we don’t party (being a self confessed ‘tita of Manila’).

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To use the words of Lionel Richie: “Hanoi, I’ve just got to let you know” that my first out of the country was the sweetest experience EVER! Funding your own travel from hard earned money is unquestionably rewarding. But the feeling of liberty and adulthood while traveling (outside your comfort zone) just feeds the soul in ways I can’t explain.

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My Hanoi takeaways: a. traveling is the best reward I can give to myself, b. traveling is ‘addicting’ (once you’ve tried it, it cannot be stopped), c. traveling does the heart, mind, and soul not just good, but it makes it function at its best.

Why is San Joaquin, Iloilo an Indescribable Treasure?

If you’re in Iloilo Province and a curious history kid, it is mandatory to visit Southern Iloilo. Unfortunately, the town of San Joaquin doesn’t ring a bell unlike its neighboring town, Miag-ao.

In 2015, I passed by the town when I went to Antique province for work. When I saw a San Joaquin signage, I was certain that I have read something about the town that resonates with Philippine history. While on the road and thinking about it, we passed by the San Joaquin cemetery. And just like Celine Dion’s song “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”, I suddenly remembered why the name of the town sounds familiar.

I asked our driver and provincial colleague if that’s the famous cemetery to solve the puzzle pieces inside my head. When they said yes, I asked them to stop the car for a couple of seconds for me to take a photo of it.

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May 8, 2015: The day I first saw this beautiful treasure.

Seeing a heritage site up close makes me giddy. And oh boy, just the sight of that cemetery from the car made me joyful already. Then, I told myself – I shall return and explore this town someday.

Fast forward to February 26, 2016, I returned and discovered the indescribable treasures of San Joaquin.

Feels Like Heaven

It is extremely odd to find beauty in cemeteries. However, the Campo Santo de San Joaquin was an exception. The quaint mortuary chapel, the fresh air, and the clear skies during our visit was like a glimpse of heaven on earth.

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Campo Santo de San Joaquin: Not your ordinary cemetery

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Yes, I found ‘love’ inside the cemetery.

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A glimpse of heaven in Southern Iloilo

Few days before our visit, the cemetery was in the news because treasure hunters were caught digging for ‘buried treasures’. We’re still lucky because the cemetery was still open to the public, but a police yellow tape was wrapped around the octagonal chapel.

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The picturesque treasure of San Joaquin

It is really not surprising to see traces from the Spanish-colonial period in the province, since Iloilo was very much influenced by the Spanish culture and heritage.

The campo santo itself is one of the famous landmarks of the province. It was built in 1892 by Fray Mariano Vamba, the last Augustinian parish priest of the town.

Before we entered the cemetery, we were welcomed with open arms by a statue of Jesus on top of the gate. Interesting images can also be seen on the gate such as angel figures on both sides of Jesus’ statue, sculpted heads of cherubs, and a skull.

The red bricks, coral stones, and distinctive red domed roof; the intricate baroque architecture, its stone carvings and patterns are simply astonishing.

To reach and get a closer look of the chapel, I climbed the twenty step staircase. While on top, another breathtaking view amazed me. The overlooking view of the sea which is located across the main highway was another heavenly sight.

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After the ’20 steps’ climb, this view enchanted me.

San Joaquin Church

Most of the churches built (near the seas) during the Spanish era in the Philippines were made of sea corals and limestone. Same resources were also used for the construction of San Joaquin Church from 1859 to 1869. But, what makes this church a heritage treasure is its facade featuring the intricate bas-relief design about the Battle of Tetuan.

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Finally found San Joaquin’s other prized treasure.

The final battle of the Spanish-Moroccan War took place in February 1861. Upon hearing the great news of the Spanish victory, Fr. Santaren who was the parish priest and at the same time overseeing the construction of the church, ordered the Filipino and Chinese workers to craft a beautiful bas-relief version of the battle. The bas-relief mural Rendicion de Tetuan features military scenes and depicts the Spanish Army of Africa vanquishing the Moroccan Army. (source: http://www.choosephilippines.com/do/history-and-culture/3735/classic-church-iloilo-san-joaquin-parish)

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Can’t help but fall in love with the intricate design at the facade of San Joaquin Church

When the news about the Spanish victory against the Morrocan Army reached the town, raids done by Moro (Muslims) were a regular occurrence and posed a real threat to coastal towns of Panay Island. The bas relief design was created as a reminder and inspiration to the locals of San Joaquin with their own battles against the Moro raiders.

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The soot marks on the church was caused by the burning of the church in 1943. Col Macario Peralta, Panay guerilla leader ordered the burning of the church and houses during the Japanese occupation so that they could not use it.

As taught in Philippine history classes, polo y servicios (forced labor) has been a practice affecting especially the poor members of the society. This forced labor was usually employed in building ships and infrastructures. This beautiful church was one of the structures borne out of that during the Spanish occupation in the country.

If you have an eye for detail, you’ll see interesting statues on the facade aside from the bas-relief interpretation of the victory at the Battle of Tetouan. The statues of Our Lady of Sorrows (at the peak of the roof), San Pedro Regalado (left side of main door) and St. Francis of Assissi (right side of the main door) enhance and adds personality to the church.

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The moment when I felt that ‘heaven is for real’.

The Untold Treasures

San Joaquin also played an important role in Philippines history as the landing site of the 10 Bornean Datus way back Spain colonized the Philippines. The ‘Barter of Panay’ took place in this town as well.

It traces its ancestry to the barter of Panay Island by the 10 Bornean datus from the Ati King, Marikudo, during the start of the 13th century in the southern part of Iloilo which is Sinugbuhan, San Joaquin. (source: http://www.choosephilippines.com/do/history-and-culture/3765/must-visit-spots-san-joaquin/).

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Near the San Joaquin Church is the San Joaquin Gymnasium (Garinasium 1) adorned with sculptures and paintings depicting the ‘Barter of Panay’ and the landing of the 10 Bornean datu on its exteriors.

San Joaquin is not an ordinary town. Its history and influences from Malay and Spanish cultures make this place extraordinary. The heritage treasures I discovered from this travel truly left an indescribable feeling in my consciousness.  The kind of feeling that makes me want to do more ‘history adventures’ to uncover more heritage treasures.

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Dear San Joaquin, Iloilo, you are truly a prized treasure of Iloilo Province.

One Sweet Day in Buenavista, Guimaras

The province of Guimaras is world famous for its mangoes, but there is more to this island province aside from the golden fruit. The mangoes get their flavor not just from the nutritious soil, but also from the people of Guimaras, who are very sweet people by their own right.

Our overnight stay in Guimaras was an unexpected sweet treat from my regional colleague/friend who grew up in Buenavista, the oldest municipality of the province.

World class mangoes + sweet and hospitable treat + heritage town = We definitely got lucky!

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Guimaras’ Heritage Town

Buenavista is one of the five towns of Guimaras province. When the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, Gonzalo de Penalosa established a small settlement in the province in 1581.

The Spanish governor general was impressed by the location of the settlement and exclaimed ‘¡Buena Vista!’ (Spanish for ‘Beautiful View’). From then on, the town was named Buenavista.

When Christianity was introduced to the Western Visayas region, most especially in Iloilo province, it was only a short while before the religion also reached the island of Guimaras.

The Navalas Church (Parish of St. Isidore the Worker) built in 1880-1885 is an important historical site of the province. It is the oldest and only existing heritage church in Guimaras. The original edifice of the church made from coral mixed with rocks is kept intact, while the interiors and other parts of the church were already reconstructed.

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The view of Navalas Church under the belfry is simply breathtaking.

Aside from the church, the belfry about a hundred meters in front of the church still exists. Engr. William Pillora, the ‘sweet’ friend who also doubled as our personal tour guide, narrated that it used to have a big bell around four feet tall. The bell was made of copper with gold in the middle, and was so huge that when it tolled, the bell can be heard from across Dumangas, Iloilo (adjacent town).

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The Navalas Church belfry

The bell was stolen and believed by the people of Navalas to be dumped into the sea near Isla del Siete Pecados by Muslim invaders. The locals believe that it is guarded by sea creatures, so no one tried to recover it.

Roca Encantada and Isla Del Siete Pecados

As we wandered across the countryside, we also reached Roca Encantada, the heritage house of the Lopez family (one of the well known Filipino clans from Iloilo).

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Roca Encantada heritage house

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The stairway to Buenavista’s little heaven

In 1910, the house was built in honor of Doña Presentacion Hofileña Lopez. The National Historical Institute declared it as a ‘National Heritage House’ on August 14, 2002.

We were lucky because no one was home. We got the chance to wander around the house, enjoy the beautiful view of the sea, and catch the sweet embrace of the fresh air.

The house was built beside the sea and from there you’ll have an unimpeded view of the Isla Del Siete Pecados. It is a group of seven islands in between Buenavista, Guimaras and Dumangas, Iloilo.

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The travel buddy/photographer enjoys the view of the Siete Pecados islands.

While we were in Roca Encantada taking photos and enjoying the view, Engr. William shared an interested legend about Siete Pecados. The islands were believed to be the group of young boys who wanted to go to a party (Engr. William actually said ‘disco’) in Dumangas, Iloilo which was a boat ride away. Unfortunately, their boat capsized in the middle of their trip.  Instead of drowning, they were turned into islands, to serve as a lesson on disobedience (and also of the dangers of excessive partying). Interesting right?

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Mandatory photo op with the sweetest friend and tour guide, Engr. William (at the middle)

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Another legend says the islands are uninhabited except for the largest where a
Spanish lighthouse was constructed in 1884. Legend has it that the isolation and loneliness of the seven islands was a punishment for disobedience. (http://www.choosephilippines.com/specials/lists/270/buenavista-guimaras-list/)

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MacArthur in Buenavista

When we arrived in Buenavista, the first site I saw was the McArthur’s Wharf from the motor boat.

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McArthur’s Wharf in Buenvista (photo grabbed from http://www.buenavistaguimaras.gov.ph)

The wharf was named after him because he was responsible for the construction of the 7 km road from Brgy. Sto. Rosario to Brgy. Supang that leads to Buenavista wharf. The place is also a piece of history because when McArthur arrived in the town from West Point Germany, they were ambushed by the local guerillas.

Buenavista has a lot of history to tell including that of General Douglas McArthur during the American Regime, whose hat was shot by two locals who, had they shot only an inch lower, would have altered the course of history.http://www.buenavistaguimaras.gov.ph/index.php/about-buenavista/brief-history

Brgy. Supang is also one of the historical sites in Buenavista because a US reservation camp was built in the area after it was captured by MacArthur and his troops.

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McArthur’s Headquarters in Buenavista (photo grabbed from http://www.buenavistaguimaras.gov.ph)

The transformation of Buenavista in terms of engineering was made possible by MacArthur and his team. The  infrastructures they built are still being used by the people today.

Indeed, Buenavista stayed true to its name through the years. It is still a charming town with a beautiful view and an interesting story in Philippine history that needs to be told, re-told and be known for.

I still have four more towns to visit and explore in Guimaras soon. For a one-day adventure, the taste of Buenavista was one of sweetest adventure to date.

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Buenavista has so many beautiful views. The town’s name says it all. 

There’s More to Love in Dipolog City Aside from their Bottled Sardines

One day in Dipolog City is NOT enough, I repeat, NOT enough. The city caught me by surprise. I was not very keen on exploring this city because my interest and love of Philippine history and Jose Rizal steered me towards Dapitan.  Dipolog City was just a typical side trip, and after I explored the city, the word REGRET flashed inside my head.

Nevertheless, the chance of exploring this city for a day did not just surprise me, but it fascinated me as well.

History and its Flavor

Dipolog was once a barrio of Dapitan. After years of appeals and disputes, it became a town, and later on a city. Dipolog is known for its sardines industry, in fact it is called the ‘Bottled Sardines Capital of the Philippines.’ Aside from their famous bottled sardines, the city’s history filled with rich flavor delighted me.

As I walked along the heart of the city, I saw a landmark (in front of the city hall) which is known as the ‘Three Prominent Pioneers Statue’. The three pioneers that helped shaped the city and its charm are Hon. Pascual T. Martinez, first municipal mayor; Rev. Fr. Nicasio Y. Patagan, first Filipino Diocesan Priest of Mindanao; and Eugenio Magarte, a farmer and author who introduced the Margate System of Planting Rice (Known also as intermittent irrigation and drainage.) 

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The Three Prominent Pioneers Statue

Near Dipolog Boulevard, I saw a cross in the middle of the street. It was the Sta. Cruz Marker – the spot where the migrants from Bohol landed and established their settlement in early 1900s.

Aside from being a thanksgiving altar to God by the early settlers for their safe travel from Visayas, people believed that it protected them.

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Sta. Cruz Marker

During the old days, the seas surrounding Visayas and Mindanao were plagued by pirates. These pirates would periodically come and raid the settlements near the coast. Legend has it that ever since the cross was planted, the attacks stopped. It is believed that the cross created an illusion wherein the pirates could only see the cross but not the houses nearby. (Source: http://dipolog.com/place/sta-cruz-marker)

Formerly known as the Punta Corro, the Sta. Cruz Marker, is the oldest landmark in the city, which is across the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, albeit one and a half kilometer away.

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Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral

The exterior design of the cathedral will make you stop and stare its façade made of marble. While its exteriors exude modernity, the interiors of the church especially its altar retained their original look.

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Interior photo of the Cathedral from Dipolog.com

Historical accounts mentioned that its original altar was designed by Jose Rizal while he was in exile in Dapitan. The sketch of the altar was believed to be inspired by that of San Ignacio Church in Manila. (Source: http://dipolog.com/place/our-lady-of-the-most-holy-rosary-cathedral)

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In between the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral and street that will lead you to the Sta. Cruz Marker is a pretty garden park.

Boulevard of Dreams

Even though I missed the gorgeous sunset along the Dipolog Boulevard, I still enjoyed the horizon of Sulu Sea.

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Dipolog Boulevard

It is a perfect sweet escape to enjoy the sights, stroll along the beach and enjoy the cafés and restaurants along the boulevard.

The cherry on top of my Dipolog visit was my discovery of Chapters Book Café. It is very refreshing to experience local cafés (sorry Starbucks) and Chapters Book Café was a sweet, afternoon delight encounter. The moment I entered the café, it felt like I was Alice in my own wonderland.

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Chapters Book Café: It’s a whole new world in Dipolog City

The coffee was good, but the experience was great. You can either grab a book to read or have your own pictorial in every corner of the café. I opted for the latter. No one (in my belief) would just sit there and enjoy their refreshment. I bet all of its customers have wandered around, sat on every couch and took a snap (just like me).

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My favorite corner inside the café.

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Sakura in Dipolog City

The Dipolog Boulevard (of Dreams) would have been complete if I have experienced the night scene. Yes, I am still regretting my less than 12 hours visit to the city. Maybe one day, I’ll get the chance to explore the iconic boulevard and learn more about its story.

Whole Lotta Love for Sardines

I love sardines and Mindanao has the home court advantage as it is a good source not just for tuna, but also sardines.

Any Dipolog travel will not be complete without trying their famous Montaño Bottled Sardines. It will NOT disappoint you.

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Photo from Montaño Sardines Facebook Page

Interestingly, Montaño Bottled sardines also has its share of history in Dipolog.

For three generations, the Montaño family which started from Concepcion Macias Montaño developed a sardine recipe from the fishes in their waters. It was given first to family and friends, and received good feedback. When the demand increased and people clamoured for a taste of the famous sardines, the Montaños started production in their very own home.

Her son started to market the sardines in 1970, and the rest is history. It is now an important product and heritage of Dipolog City.

The bottled sardines and Chapters Book Café were unforgettable, but there’s more to enjoy and love in Dipolog City – with its array of flavor, and most especially its flavorful history.

Just Like Love, Dapitan City Is Worth a Visit

Walking along the streets of Dapitan (with street names such as Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, Leonor Rivera, and other names associated with Jose Rizal), with serene atmosphere and surrounded with heritage houses, it felt like I time traveled back to the 19th century.

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Interesting street names in Dapitan

The city is closely linked to the great Philippine Hero- Jose P. Rizal because he was exiled in this quaint town from July 17, 1892 to July 31, 1896. What makes this town special were his contributions which can still be seen and experienced by the tourists and history geeks (like me).

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Rizal’s Legacy in Dapitan

Even though Rizal was on exile he still got lucky – he won a lottery!

On Sept. 21, 1892 the mail boat Butuan was approaching the town of Dapitan carrying lottery ticket No. 9736 jointly owned by Captain Carnicero, Dr. Rizal and Francisco Equilior (a Spanish resident of Dipolog, a neighboring town of Dapitan), which won the second prize of P20,000 in the government-owned Manila lottery. (Source: http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/634455/rizal-lottery-winner-1892, Rizal a lottery winner in 1892)

His share of P6,200 was used to purchase a 10-hectare agricultural land in Talisay, where the Rizal Shrine is located. He gave part of his winnings to his father (P2,000) and to his friend Jose Basa (P200), who smuggled copies of his novels from Hong Kong into the country.

Rizal was one lucky man because I have never ever won any lottery or raffle throughout my entire life. Big thanks to his winning because it played a significant role in Dapitan’s transformation.

During his four year exile, Rizal changed the lives of the townsfolk by building key structures like a clinic, a school and a water supply and distribution system which can still be seen inside the Rizal Shrine.

Rizal’s place in Dapitan was also inspired by his favorite park in Spain, the Parque del Buen Retiro.

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Casa Residencia: Rizal’s home

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Casa Redonda: Dormitory to some of his pupils. Then later converted into a clinic where George Taufer, the foster father of Josephine Bracken was operated on his eyes.

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Casa Cuadrada: Pupil’s dormitory. Underneath the hut served as a work place or his pupils.

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Casitas de Salud: Hospital houses for male and female patients

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Water System: Aqueduct and dam

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Mi Retiro Rock: Where Rizal wrote the first few stanzas of ‘Mi Retiro’ (My Retreat) while sitting on the rock. Also called as the ‘Lover’s Rock’, it was Rizal and Josephine Bracken’s favorite date spot. 

Yes, the sights inside the Rizal Shrine are very ordinary- different kinds of trees and plants, replicas of the old structures once built and view of the sea. However, when I stepped inside, remembered and understood its significance not just to Rizal, but to the community it served (then and now), it felt really great. He really changed the lives of the people in that quaint town.

It was during his exile when Dr. Pio Valenzuela (one of the Katipunan members) visited him on June 21, 1896 and informed him about the Katipunan’s plan to launch a revolution.  As taught in our Philippine History classes, Rizal objected the proposal and stressed out the importance of strengthening their cause by getting backup from the rich and influential people of Manila first. It was also during this meeting wherein he suggested Antonio Luna to lead the military operations of the revolution because of his knowledge of military science and tactics.

Can’t Get Enough of Rizal

Yes, I saw him everywhere– his statue, name and works can be found all over the city. One of which is the Punto del Desembarco de Rizal, the site where he landed from the steamer ‘Cebu’ in 1565.

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Rizal’s Disembarkation Site

In front of the shrine, I saw a 20-foot cross which was built to symbolize the propagation of Christianity in Dapitan. The natives of Dapitan were converted into Christianity when the Augustinian friars arrived.

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The 20-foot cross in front of Punto del Desembarco de Rizal

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Punto del Desembarco de Rizal facing Sta. Cruz beach

The identity of the city and its people was transformed with the leadership of Rizal. It is a fact that he was not just a doctor and writer. Among all his talents and achievements, he was also a licensed land surveyor. Because of his knowledge in civil engineering, he built the dam and water system of the town (which can be seen inside the Rizal Shrine).

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Relief Map of Mindanao

One of the most visited sites in Dapitan is the Relief Map of Mindanao which he constructed with the help of his favorite Jesuit teacher, Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez.

It is a huge map of Mindanao (roughly 900 square meters) which Rizal used as a tool to teach history and geography of the area to the community. It doesn’t just end there. They also beautified the town plaza by placing oil lamps as street lights and by planting white santans, red gumamelas and acacia trees.

When I saw and walked around the map, I was impressed once again with Rizal and his brilliant mind. It’s really cool to learn about geography when you can actually walk through the places (provinces) as if you’re traveling.

Right in front of the Relief Map of Mindanao is the St. James Church, where Rizal would hear mass during his exile. A marker can be seen inside the church, it is the spot wherein he usually stood while hearing mass. I was impressed by the interiors of the church specifically the orange accent in the ceiling. Aside from its charm, it is hypnotizing and will draw you in to stare and look at it closely.

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St. James Church interior (left) and exterior (right)

The church and the Old Rectory (Jesuit Mission House) are heritage landmarks of the Christianization in Dapitan. In 1892, the rectory was designated to be Rizal’s official residence while in exile but the conditions imposed on him were too much that he instead lived with Captain Ricardo Carnicero. (Source: http://www.dapitancity.gov.ph/index.php/tourism/landmark/item/14-saint-james-church)

Aside from his famous novels and poems, he wrote a treatise on kulam (hex) while in Dapitan. Entitled “La curacion de los hechizados” (The treatment and cure of the bewitched), this work explained the psychological treatment for kulam.

I have read about Rizal and kulam from Ambeth Ocampo’s book “Rizal Without the Overcoat”. Then, I remembered it again when I read about it inside the Rizal Museum.

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Rizal’s treatise on ‘Kulam’

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Interesting pieces inside the Rizal Museum: wooden table and board he used for teaching (left), and fascinating information about his community school (right)

More to see aside from Rizal

Not far from the city plaza, I saw a well-preserved heritage house – the ancestral house of Aniano Adasa built in 1900. It is one beauty that cannot be missed. It now houses the Dapitan Tourism Office. Seeing heritage houses are bonus treats as you wander around the city.

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Adasa Heritage House

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If you want to have a break from your heritage and historical adventure, Gloria de Dapitan is the answer. It is a one stop place to unwind from array of restaurants, movie house, bowling alley and rides inside Fantasy land.

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Fantasy Land in Gloria de Dapitan

Dapitan is a small city so it’s best to walk around or rent a bicycle to experience the whole serene retreat. And it was during that trip that I got to ride a bicycle again (after 10+ years).

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Survived (with no bruises) a bike tour in the city

Discovering Dapitan and learning about Rizal’s contribution to the city really cemented my admiration to him. Unfortunately, the city is not a popular travel destination in the Philippines. When my friends learned about this travel, they even asked ‘why in Dapitan?’ with weird looks on their faces. It’s sad reality, but despite its remote location and unpopularity, one thing’s for sure- just like love, it’s worth it!