Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Iglesia Ni Cristo celebration of its centennial at the ‘world’s largest indoor arena’

Note:  This essay appeared in slightly different version in the 25-31 July 2014 issue of FilAm Star, a weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA. This blogger/author is the paper's special news/photo correspondent based in Manila.

“Central” on Commonwealth Avenue is where students of New Era University and the University of the Philippines get off the bus or FX van when they go to their respective schools.  It actually refers to the nearby Iglesia Ni Cristo [INC] Central Temple, an eye-catching landmark with towering spires in a wide gated compound, the INC Central Office and the New Era University are also found.

When we first saw the billboard announcing the INC Centennial Year in front of the Central Temple, we thought that the July celebrations would be held there.  We imagined a massive gathering of INC members along Commonwealth, bigger than those who attended their charity walks or medical missions that caused traffic to come to a standstill.

Then we heard that the grand celebrations would be held at the colossal structure rising in a wide sprawl along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx).  This is a 140-hectare complex that straddles Bocaue and Sta. Maria of Bulacan province that INC calls Ciudad de Victoria (City of Victory).

For some 30 months since 2011, we saw what would become the Philippine Arena assume its gigantic form: “the world’s largest indoor arena.”  According to the webpage of the architectural designer Populous of Australia, this building “pushe[d] boundaries of arena design ... the vast scale create[d] technical challenges, especially as it is a one-sided bowl.”

Reports say it cost $175 Million or about Php 8.7 billion from contributions of INC members.  Aside from Populous, Burro Happold, a British professional services firm, was contracted for structural engineering, and the Korean firm Hanwha E&C for construction.   That it was designed and built to withstand strong tremors and strong typhoon winds was tested when it escaped unscathed from the strong winds of Typhoon Glenda that hit the area four days before inauguration day

Ticket to the green section of the Arena.
We guessed right that our niece Hilda from Toronto would be coming home for the centennial.  She came home with her young daughter in time for the inauguration of the Ciudad on 21 July, and her husband and son would be arriving for the grand celebration on 27 July.

Hilda briefed us that not all INC members would have the opportunity to attend the programs at the Philippine Arena.  She was lucky, she said, that she got a ticket for the 21 July event. All of them in the family already have their passes for the grand event on the 27th.

She was able to see the guest of honor, President Benigno Simeon A. Aquino III, from her perch at row 49, lower tier-B at the green sector of the Arena, and listen to his words of appreciation to INC, his invocation of love from John 13:34-35 and Matthew 25:40, and his gentle poke at his critics.

Pres. Aquino and INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo unveiled the inaugural marker, which bears the latter’s summary account of what the Ciudad is all about. 

“Built and developed by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ) through the New Era University,” Manalo said, “the Ciudad de Victoria Complex is a testament to the Church’s support for the promotion of Philippine culture and arts, sports, and eco-tourism. This multi-purpose complex serves as the venue of the Iglesia Ni Cristo Centennial Celebration and stands as a symbol of its triumphs and achievements through the help of the Almighty God.”

“Its centerpiece, the Philippine Arena, and the adjacent Philippine Sports Stadium, both opened this day. Ciudad de Victoria will also showcase the Philippine Sports Center and other various establishments,” he added. 

Populous said that “[t]he building’s capacity is its challenge. ... the arena has been master planned to enable 50,000 people to gather inside the building and a further 50,000 to gather at a ‘live site’ outside to share in major events.” 

The Philippine Arena colorfully lighted on the eve of the inauguration.

The architectural company further envisioned that “[t]he arena will not only hold major church gatherings, it will also operate as a multi-use sports and concert venue, capable of holding a range of events from boxing and basketball to live music performances. There are clear sightlines from every seat on each tier, even for various arena configurations such as church ceremonies, boxing, tennis, concerts or indoor gymnastics.  The overall vision of the masterplan will eventually see inclusion of shopping centres, a hospital and large scale residential developments.”

The inauguration was “part of the commemoration of the 100th year of the Iglesia ni Cristo’s establishment on July 27, 1914,” the marker read.

Interior shot showing the 55,000-seat structure of the Arena.
The INC history tells us that their first local congregation was established in Punta, Sta. Ana, and it was officially registered with the government on 27 July 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo, the first Executive Minister.  When he passed away in April 1963, INC had already ecclesiastical districts all over the country. The first overseas mission was established in Hawaii – the Honolulu Congregation, with the first worship service officiated on 27 July 1968 by Bro. Erano F. Manalo, the Executive Minister at that time. That was the start of the worldwide expansion of the church.

In his Proclamation No. 815, Pres. Aquino acknowledged that the INC is “the the largest home-grown Christian church in the Philippines ... [it] has made significant contributions in bringing spiritual maturity, spreading the love of Christ and nurturing the religious life of the nation since 1914 ... [and it] has spread its ministry in at least one hundred two (102) countries, hence its centennial celebration is a worldwide event.”   He declared Year 2014 as Iglesia ni Cristo Centennial Year through this proclamation “in order to enhance awareness of [INC’s] contributions in national development.”

It must be noted that 27 July every year has been a special national working holiday as provided by Republic Act No. 9645, the short title of which is “Commemoration of the Founding Anniversary of Iglesia ni Cristo Act”, after it was signed by then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009. 

It became a special non-working holiday when President Aquino approved Joint Resolution No. 2 of Congress declaring 27 July this year as such to commemorate the 100th founding anniversary of the church.

Every Filipino is aware that the INC has become a significant part of Philippine social and political life. Politicians are said to seek INC endorsement during elections because the popular belief is that they choose candidates to support as a bloc during elections.  But there should be more than this.  Executive Minister Manalo said the Arena would also be open for use by Filipinos of other faiths and even by international groups or communities for international gatherings and events.  Thus, hopefully, with Ciudad de Victoria’s Philippine structures – Arena, Stadium, Sports Center – being open also people of other religious faiths, better socio-cultural relationships will be fostered, and prejudices and urban folklore with religious undercurrents deconstructed. 

The Iglesia Ni Cristo Central Temple along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

Postscript:  Carlos Antonio Santos-Viola, classmate of National Artist for Architecture Jose Maria Zaragoza, designed and built the Iglesia Ni Cristo Central Temple and other INC churches all over the country.  He evolved the unique architectural design that uses 20th Century geometric forms and garnished with Gothic and Baroque lines. He remained a Roman Catholic while working in harmony with the Iglesia Ni Cristo. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Was there a Negative Nora Aunor Effect on President Aquino’s Approval Rating?

Note: This photo-essay appeared in a slightly different form in the 18-24 July 2014 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA.  This author/blogger is the Special News/Photo Correspondent of the paper in the Philippines.

A fan with a framed autographed picture of his idol.
Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun), the strongest storm so far to hit the Philippines, left Metro Manila late morning Wednesday, 16 July, with a power blackout that lasted till the first hour of Thursday.

The Glenda effect as monitored by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and other government agencies may be in the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Simeon Cojuanco Aquino III on 28 July 2014.  After all, he met with the Council the day before the storm, and he was reported to have expressed satisfaction on the preparedness of all concerned agencies.

For sure, the SONA will highlight the controversial PDAF (the discretionary Priority Development Fund available to members of Congress), and the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Department of Budget and Management defined as a “stimulus package under the Aquino administration designed to fast-track public spending and push economic growth”).  

On 01 July,  the Supreme Court unanimously declared key portions of the DAP unconstitutional: the creation of savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and their withdrawal for implementing agencies, the “cross-border” transfers of savings from one government branch to another, and the allotment of funds for items not found in the General Appropriations Act.

The impact of the SC decision on public opinion through the media and the social networks had President Aquino deliver a national address on Monday, 14 July, to explain his side to his constituents (mga minamahal ko pong kabababyan, ang aking mga Boss"). He said that they will file a motion for reconsideration before the high tribunal.

The presidential address drew mixed reactions but many believed that they have not felt any of the benefits that are supposed to trickle down from the DAP. The negative reaction added to the public dismay on Aquino's rejection of the resignation letter of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad during the Cabinet meeting on 12 July.

01 July was also the day Aquino explained why he rejected the nomination of Nora Aunor as National Artist for film. There was public uproar for an explanation after her exclusion from the list recommended by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to receive the Order of National Artists award.

Although he expressed admiration for Aunor’s acting ability and her Cinderella story, he admitted that the reason was drugs:  “naconvict po sya sa drugs,” he reportedly emphasized.  Her lawyer in the United States was quick to retort that she was never convicted of a crime involving drugs in Los Angeles.  

In some way, Nora Aunor was a typhoon that hit Malacañang.

National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera & TOWNS awardee
Atty. Lorna Patajo-Kapunan go through the Supreme Court
decision on the National Artists controversy of 2009.
While she is now enjoying the overflow of support from fans and various sectors—two forums have been held in Ateneo de Manila and the University of the Philippines, for example, she appears to have contributed to the drop in the approval rating of President Aquino for the second quarter of 2014.

On the same day that he addressed the nation on the DAP controversy, Pulse Asia Research, Inc. also shared their findings on Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings from the June 2014 Ulat ng Bayan national survey. 

The Pulse Asia summary reads: “ A little over one in 10 Filipinos (14%) expresses disapproval for the work done by the President in the past three months as well as distrust in him. Presidential disapproval scores range from 7% to 18% in the different geographic locations and from 12% to 22% across socio-economic groupings. In terms of distrust figures, they vary from 9% to 17% across geographic areas and from 12% to 24% across socio-economic classes. Residents of Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon as well as those in Class ABC are most critical of President Aquino (17% to 22%) and most inclined to distrust him (17% to 24%). These figures do not differ in any significant way from those posted by President Aquino in March 2014 at the national level as well as across geographic areas and socio-economic classes.”

This is the result of survey fieldwork using face-to-face interviews from 24 June 24 to 02 July 2014. According to Pulse Asia, this was the period when the Filipinos were preoccupied with various issues most of which pertain to the PDAF and the Janet Napoles court cases. 

Pulse Asia listed 13 issues.  Item 4 is “(t)he decision issued by the Supreme Court (SC) declaring several acts under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional for violating the doctrine of separation of powers and the constitutional provision which prohibits the inter-branch transfer of appropriations;” and item 12 is “(t)he controversial decision of President Aquino to reject the nomination of Ms. Nora Aunor as National Artist for Film.”

Poster photo courtesy of the Nora Aunor
for National Artist Movement.
The SC decision could not have been the contributing factor since it came at the end of the survey period.  Surely, the controversial PDAF and Napoles cases were the significant influences in the negative responses of interviewees in the survey.

It is possible that there was a negative Nora Effect on the Aquino’s approval rating.

In fact, the Nora Aunor for National Artist Movement is sustaining support for her through a signature campaign. The target is one million signatures hopefully to be gathered so that she can be proclaimed in a public gathering as the “Pambansang Artista ng Mamamayan” before or after the official proclamation in Malacañang of Alice Reyes, Cirilo Bautista, Francisco Coching, Feliciano Francisco, Ramon Santos and Jose Maria Zaragoza as National Artists. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rehabilitation of esteros & other Pasig River tributaries

Note: This photo-essay appeared in slightly different version in the 11-17 Jul 2014 issue of FilAm Star, "the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America," published weekly in San Francisco CA.  This blogger/author is the Special News/Photo Correspondent of said paper in the Philippines.

Estero de Vakencia: then and now.
Photo from Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.
The thought that this river should be brought to life again has not left us after enjoying the ferry boat ride on the Pasig from Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City to Plaza Mexico in Intramuros on two fine sunny days in early June (FilAm Star issue 276).

We’ve read about the core program of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) chaired by Ms. Regina Paz. L. Lopez, the main thrust being the restoration of the 47 tributaries of the Pasig comprising esteros, creeks and other waterways. 

These tributaries are distributed in nine (9) clusters in “The Strategic Development Framework for Tributaries (2014-2016)” under the Pasig River Rehabilitation Master Plan:  Cluster I (8 Manila esteros); Cluster II (7 Manila esteros, which includes Aviles, Sampaloc, San Miguel and Valencia); Cluster III (8 Manila esteros including Paco and Santibanez); Cluster IV (5 creeks in Mandaluyong and Makati); Cluster V (5 creeks and in Pateros and Taguig); Cluster VI (4 tributaries in Pasig); Cluster VII (3 creeks in Mandaluyong and San Juan; and Cluster VIII (4 creeks in Quezon City) and Cluster IX (3 creeks in Quezon City). 

The named esteros in the Manila clusters have already been totally or partially completed, and these were what we wanted to see. We’ve had enough of seeing clogged esteros or creeks in going around Santa Cruz, Quiapo or Binondo.

The Estero de San Miguel boardwalk.
Estero de San Miguel. We first did a solo exploration of this estero from the foot of the LRT Station on Legarda to Arlegui Bridge, the gateway to Malacañang.   We walked on the floating boardwalk just like the students going to or coming from their classes at Centro Escolar University or the V. Mapa High School.

This portion of the estero was generally clean and garbage-free, and we noted the floating islands of vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) that spell the slogan “Clean Water Soon.” These grasses are phytoremediators; and when planted close together, they can filter out sediments and decontaminate heavy metals. Viviter is used worldwide for slope protection and soil erosion control.  

At the end of the board walk, a block from Arlegui, is an antique-looking stone pedestrian bridge to the mini-park behind Centro Escolar. The view from here is a row of houses all painted green, which we thought to reflect the spirit of environmental protection.

Jericho Von Miranda, PRRC media and communications head, was our amiable guide during our second journey to another sector of Estero de San Miguel.  This time, our pathway was the easement between the tributary and the residential houses. Easements had been transformed into linear parks bordered by green plants and other ornamentals. Through PRRC’s ecological training activities, homeowners became River Warriors who are responsible for making the estero and the linear park ecologically sound.

The rehabilitated Estero de San Miguel was inaugurated on 04 June 2014. Around Php52-Million was spent for dredging, installation of the floating boardwalk, development of linear parks, river bank improvement, slope protection and phytoremediation.

The 2-km long Estero San Miguel has yet to be completely rehabilitated. We noted, for example, that there are still houses of informal settler families (ISFs) built along or over the waterway.  Miranda informed that their relocation is a major component of the PRRC master plan.

Top photos (left to right): Esteros de Sampaloc & Aviles.
Bottom (l to r): Linear parks along San Miguel & Paco esteros.

Estero de Aviles.  Our walk on the linear park was about half-kilometer, the length of the waterway itself, and almost at the end is the barangay hall.  Where this hall now stands, according to Miranda, were the houses of ISFs who amicably accepted to move to relocation sites outside Manila.

The rehabilitated Estero de Aviles was inaugurated on 07 July 2013.  About Php6.2-Million went into dredging works, linear park development, and the construction of the barangay hall and the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).
Estero de Paco.   This estero is more than two kilometers long.  During the walk, we chanced upon river warriors cleaning up areas that were flooded the night before because of the heavy rains.

The rehabilitated waterway was inaugurated on 11 January 2012, the first to be completed and thus serves as template in the rehabilitation of other tributaries.  Php20-Million went to the cleaning and rehab of the estero and of the century old Paco Market.

Tarpaulin posters of the old estero heavily clogged with garbage provide a very strong  contrast to what we saw: clean waterway with active island reactors-aerators surrounded by lush green plants and river warriors on their rafts busy in their cleaning tasks.  The three island reactors worth Php5-Million generate oxygen to help restore aquatic life in the waterway.

River Warriors maintaining cleanliness of the esteros of Paco
(top & bottom left photos) and Santibanez (bottom right).

Estero de Sampaloc and Estero de Valencia.  Our sight-seeing was confined to Estero de Sampaloc via the well-kept linear park along the kilometer-long tributary. We skipped the shorter Estero de Valencia for another time.   Both rehabilitated esteros were the latest to be inaugurated on 11 June 2014.

The rehabilitation involved not only riverbed dredging, desilting works, and riverbank development but also relocation of some 400 ISFs in Bulacan.  We noted a serious commitment among the homeowners to keep their linear park “yards” clean by proper management of their household wastes (“Tapat Ko, Linis Ko”).

Estero de Santibanez. This short tributary (about 400 m long) was the last in our guided tour.  It lies close to the Malacañang Park. 

We found this waterway a refreshing sight.  The water seemed fresher than those of other esteros, concrete planters were built to wall the linear park from the estero, and there were three boats that the river warriors use for cleaning operations.  These boats are also used for livelihood:  for a fee, visitors may have some fun boating around the waterway.

The rehabilitated estero was inaugurated in November 2013. Php13.69-Million was used for infrastructure development.  The estero was dredged, the three-meter easement was restored and developed into a linear park, bioremediation was initiated, and community volunteers were trained as river warriors. The easement restoration involved relocating ISFs.

It was a pleasure to note that homeowners there tended “little gardens” on the concrete planters with signage boasting that “this garden is cared for and loved by this family.”  A friendly ambiance pervades among the residents living near this tributary.

The PRRC spearheaded  the rehabilitation of the above six esteros.  It had the ABS-CBN Foundation Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig (KBPIP), Local Inter-Agency Committee (LIAC) and the City of Manila as major partners.  PAGCOR, Metrobank Foundation and DPWH had distinct participation in specific estero projects.  The Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) was involved in the relocation of informal settler families.

PRRC began with 16 esteros in Manila and Quezon City, and seven new project sites were added these year involving 140 barangays in Manila: the esteros dela Reina, Magdalena, San Lazaro, de Vitas, Kabulusan, Sunog Apog and Maypajo.

There are informal settler families to be relocated, and PRRC intends to start the process by the third quarter of this year. 

Relocations pave the way for recovering the three-meter easements and developing them into linear parks, walkways and greenbelts.  PRRC calls them Environmental Preservation Areas (EPAs), which can serve as “buffer for public safety and river protection.”

It will take some time, but the vision is of Pasig River becoming alive once again with the complete rehabilitation of its 47 tributaries.

Postscript. Throwbacks.

Plano de Manila y sus Arrabales [Plan of Manila & Suburbs] 1898 shows the
esteros & other Pasig River tributaries.  [Source: Perry-Castaneda Library Map
Collection, University of Texas at Austin available from]

‘There are many canals or esteros emptying into this [Pasig] river,” the American Express Company described in their guide to Manila and the Philippines (1933), and “[t]he strange and brilliantly colored “cascos” and the long and narrow “bancas” move slowly up and down the canals.’

National Artist Nick Joaquin delved farther into the beginning of his “Manila, My Manila” (1999): “...this delta was not a solid hunk of ground ... [but] a jumble of small islands between which ran the rivulets that we call esteros.”

In his “Almanac for Manileños” (1979), Joaquin describes Trozo as “a Little Tondo in the 1870s”, a marshland “traversed by three great waterways: the Estero de San Lazaro, the Estero de la Magdalena, and the Estero de Tutuban or Teneria ... deep running estuaries, navigable, and connecting through the Pasig with the hill country north of Manila. When the mountains there were still densely forested, loggers rolled the timber they felled down the Pasig and into the esteros of Trozo, which became a lumber-yard area.”

It’s the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal who defined the role of the estero, specifically the Estero de Binondo, during his time:  “the Binondo creek ...plays, as do all rivers in Manila, the multiple roles of bathing place, drainage and sewerage, laundering area, fishing ground, means of transport and communication, and even source of potable water, if the Chinese water hauler or peddler finds it convenient (Noli me Tangere, Soledad Lacson-Locsin translation).”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

'Wet & Wild' Parada ng mga Lechon in Balayan, Batangas

Note:  This photo-essay appeared in slightly different version in the 27June-03July 2014 issue of the weekly FilAm Star, "the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America," published in San Francisco. This blogger/author is the special photo/news correspondent of the paper in the Philippines.

Getting ready for the parade? or the feast tables?

I had to wake up very early on 24 June for the two-hour trip to Balayan.  A very Pinoy breakfast of suman sa latik, bibingka and tamales with a choice of Batangas barako coffee or thick tsokolate was waiting for us—a busload of Pinoy and a couple of FilAm tourists--at Casa del Rey, a social venue constructed along the architectural lines of vintage houses of the affluent families of the Spanish colonial times.  Balayan still has several heritage houses, preserved or reconstructed, to show off.

We were joining the Parada ng mga Lechon at 9 o’clock, and we were prepared to get wet so we brought extra clothes to wear after the revelry around the plaza and the Kanluran side of town.  Our tour organizer provided us plastic raincoats but I decided to use it for shielding my camera instead.  Our companions were receiving loud jests from folks armed with water pistols, water hoses, and pails of water because of their covers.  In many instances, I had to ask a water warrior to target some parade participants for a photo-op.  I was not spared though of this ‘baptism by water’ but they had the gracious courtesy of giving me the splash at the back for the sake of my camera.

This wetting day is supposed to echo the baptism of Christ by his cousin San Juan in the river Jordan, but the celebration in modern times no longer carries that religious connotation.  It’s simply a wet holiday in Manila, and towns and cities named after the saint where no one is spared the dousing; walang pikunan, eh, the Batangueno would say.

How the wet revelry of June 24 and the parade of roasted pigs came together is a unique story with strong socio-economic colors.

From the folklore that our Balayan host Ms Annette Martinez-Mejia told us, a social divide between the Kanluran (western poblacion) and Silangan (eastern) areas of the town existed in the olden times.  The working class resided in Kanluran and the affluent families in Silangan.  Hence, the heritage houses that still stand today are in the eastern side.

She said that Balayan has always been celebrating thanksgiving on June 24. Only the rich could afford a lechon, well, until one day when one working class family had a child coming home with a college degree, and the father had a lechon carried around Kanluran as a show of pride and thanksgiving.  That’s how the working class started joining the thanksgiving ritual of a lechon parade, our host narrated.

A Balayan citizen told me that Kanluran is actually the center of the celebration; hence, the parade goes mainly around this part of town.  The official version actually confirms this Kanluran thanksgiving tradition.  “To the poor people of Balayan, the parading of lechon in the plaza ... is the best show of thanksgiving and veneration to their patron saint. ...  As the years passed, as more and more people from the Kanluran district received blessings or became successful, more and more lechons were paraded every June 24. ... Starting in 1959, the the elders of the Kanluran district organized the Hermandad San Juan Bautista (Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist) to oversee the celebration of what has come to be known as the Parada ng Lechon  ...”

We expected to see almost a hundred lechons on parade. We counted less but we saw more still being roasted or being consumed at eating booths of families, neighborhood clubs and barkada groups along the way.  It seemed that beer and lechon were consume-mates everywhere.   There were make-shift stage platforms along the parade route where local live bands displayed their musical prowess to revellers. 

Our lunch was again very Pinoy:  crispy lechon, of course, dipped in the chef’s own sarsa mix, kare-kare, and the unique Batangas culinary fare of sinaing na tulingan.

A revisit of the town’s historical past came after lunch.

 On my own, I took time after the parade to photograph the antique church and the old bells in the convent yard. The convent itself was built along the lines of an affluent house during the Spanish era.

The official story on Balayan church says that the Augustinians put up a chapel in 1572, and the Franciscans constructed a new one 1575. The Jesuits headed by the famous chronicler Fr. Pedro Chirino also rebuilt the church in 1591. The stone church that we see today dates back to 1748. It was blessed and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in 1795.  A bell at the courtyard with the inscription ‘San Nicolas de Tolentino’ shows that the parish belonged to the province of the Recollect Order for some time.

Costumed lechons!

The centerpiece of our historical heritage tour was the Lopez ancestral house, now a museum.  This was preceded by a historical presentation by a Balayan fellow, Emmanuel Martinez. We could have visited the heritage house of the Martinez family but there were still water warriors everywhere and we did not dare getting doused again.  We visited a reconstructed heritage house owned by Ross Sison, a relative of our host, to show a typical arrangement of a Balayan affluent household of the old times, and here the ladies were given opportunity to try the baro at saya of yore.

The Lopez of Balayan, Batangas Foundation calls the family house Casa Grande that includes the gardens, stables and granary.  Their family derived their wealth from rice, sugar and shipping. They were involved in the Philippine Revolution, and “[took] part in the events of 1901-1902, important years of Philippine-American solidarity when American anti-imperialists joined forces with Filipinos working for independence.”  The book ‘The Story of the Lopez Family’]Boston, 1901, republished in 2002], “contains translated letters by Clemencia, Sixto, Mariano, and other [Lopez] siblings that remain some of the most enduring documents of the arguments for and against American colonization.” 

The house was owned by Don Sixto Lopez, a contemporary and close friend of Dr. Jose Rizal. It's said that he secretly distributed Rizal's El Filibusterismo. According to historical accounts, he was the secretary of the Philippine Mission to the United States in 1898 to ask for American recognition of Philippine independence. Although he surrendered to Gen. Arthur McArthur, Sr. during the Philippine-American War, he was deported to the US where he remained in exile for many years because he refused to pledge allegiance.

His sister Clemencia, on the other hand, is said to be the first Filipina to visit the White House where she pleaded with President Theodore Roosevelt for him to end her brother's exile and to send him back to the Philippines.

Still on display at the Casa Grande are historical panels from "War & Dissent: The U.S. in the Philippines, 1898-1915" exhibition that was presented by the foundation at the National Museum four years ago. The exhibition was produced by the Presidio Trust of San Francisco. The texts and accompanying illustrations and pictures provide visitors esp. teachers and students an "eloquent testimony to the dissenting and assenting voices that ushered the Philippines and the United States into the twentieth century."

Before going back to Manila, we were set to go to the aplaya (beach) for a feel of the fresh air from Balayan Bay. Again, the dread of water warriors veered us to the modern mini-park by the bay, the Boardwalk, where we had a view of the emission towers of the Calaca coal-fired power plants in the neighboring town. 

This bay provided the impetus for the development of what became the Batangas province. Balayan was a shipping port, and many families like the Lopezes drew their wealth from shipping and marine trade.  According to history, Balayan was originally designated a town by a royal decree in 1578, and became a province for 151 years until 1732 covering the area that would become the provinces of Batangas, Marinduque, Mindoro, southern parts of Laguna, Quezon and Camarines.

This bay sustains the production of the town’s iconic product that can be found in Pinoy kitchens all over the world: Balayan bagoong (salted fish).  The bagoong makers are said to have a secret ingredient that they mix with the salted dilis that makes their product distinct from those made in other provinces like Pangasinan.

Historical glimpses plus our complementary gifts from our host family—Balayan bagoong, panocha and tsokolate balls—made our fun-filled wetting at the Parada ng mga Lechon very unforgettable.

Balayan's Basaan Na! Pistol Warriors.