San Nicolas, Batangas

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San Nicolas is along Taal Lake and is the smallest town in the province of Batangas. It is so small for it was part of the town of Taal, and only became a separate town in 1955. Inevitably, its history is closely linked to Taal.

 

The largest basilica in Asia which now stands in Taal is actually Taal’s second basilica.

 

TAAL’S FIRST BASILICA

(from WIKIPEDIA) “In 1575, 3 years after the founding of Taal town in its old site near the shores of Taal Lake  work began on the construction of its first church by Father Diego Espinar (O.S.A.) with Saint Martin of Tours as patron saint. The church was rebuilt in 1642 using stronger materials but in 1754, it was destroyed along with the town of Taal in the largest recorded eruption of Taal Volcano This event led to transfer of the town and the church farther away from the volcano to its present site atop an elevated hill facing Balayan Bay. The ruins of the previous church can still be seen in San Nicolas.”

The first basilica is now nothing but ruins, but is the most interesting spot in San Nicolas that draws visitors to this little town. I did a copy paste of the church ruins history posted outside of the ruins.

Noticeably, the structure is principally made of corals, just like how most of the churches in southern Luzon and the Visayas were made.

 

One can not help but visualize how the church stood in its glory days even as there is now nothing except its shell.

 

Today, statues of saints have been erected outside of the walls of the ruins.

 

GATEWAY TO TAAL VOLCANO

While the town of Talisay is the default gateway, loading hundreds of visitors onto boats for a visit to the volcano island, the town of Nicolas lays claim to being the real gateway. They are the closest to the volcano, about 3-4 kilometers away, and a mere 30 minute boat ride.

The promenade that the town has built around the lake draws visitors for a view of the lake, the volcano, and Mt. Maculot on the background.

 

 

 

 

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN SAN NICOLAS

Other than taking a boat ride and trekking Taal, here are two interesting things to do in San Nicolas.

Have lunch at the local restaurant serving the very rare maliputo, a fish species caught only in Taal Lake. On one visit, I had one cooked two ways (a portion was grilled, the other portion made into sinigang). And the famous tawilis. Unfortunately, they do not have these everyday. Try your luck.

(photo taken by my friend Bobby Taron)

 

BIRD SANCTUARY 

(photo taken by my friend Bobby Taron)

I did not experience this myself. But the tourism poster at the maliputo place indicated that this is a special attraction in San Nicolas.

 

 

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Apayao Province: Adventure Destination

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In my books, Apayao is a top adventure destination. It is so raw that very few travelers venture into this northermost Cordillera province. Admittedly not an easy destination. But its remoteness adds to the adventure.

 

Apayao is bounded on the north and on the east by Cagayan. That is why it was, for a time, part of Cagayan. To its west is Ilocos and Abra. To the south is the province of Kalinga which was, also for a time, part of the Kalinga-Apayao province.

One would think that the asy access would be from Ilocos. There is none. Or from Abra. Think again. Apayao is accessed via Cagayan Valley, from the toen of Pamplona, in particular.

Thus, the adventurous visitor will have to travel all the way to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, cross Patapat, and drive on to the Cagayan towns of Sta Praxedes, Claveria, Sanchez Mira, and Pamplona. The junction in Pamplona leads to the first and most progressive town of Luna, Apayao.

One must make arrangements for accommodations before traveling to Apayao as there are not many. Again, that is characteristic of places where one goes on an adventure.

PLACES TO SEE

Marag Valley  is a haven for adventure travelers. Proceed to the Tourism Center in Marag Valley which is easy to find because it is within the barangay’s basketball court. Make arrangements to tour the Dupag Rock Formations, the Hanging Bridge, and the Manacota Underground River.

Dupag Rock Formation

If you are extremely fit and athletic, take the hard route. As for me, I felt that the easy route was actually hard. Wear shoes or sandals with great grip and traction as the rocks could be slippery. Do not go without a guide, as you will need him/them as human ladders.

The rock formations are accessed after crossing a shallow river.

 

 

Hanging Bridge

Not quite an adventure, but definitely a must see, even just for photography. A hut on the foot of the bridge serves as Visitors Center. List down, and make a donation. You can also arrange a picnic on a floating hut on the river.

 

 

Manacota Underground River

This is, to me, the better one of the two underground rivers in Apayao. Hike for 1.5 kilometers, crossing the same river 7x moving from one side of the river to the other, because in some parts the other end would be rocks and boulders where you can not hike. One river crossing would be nearly waist deep. Make sure you wear quick-dry shirts and shorts

Second river crossing was waist deep. And 5 more river crossings after this.

The reward from the long hike is the beautiful mouth of the river. Going in is even more pleasurable, as the narrow boat navigates in between rocks and boulders INSIDE THE CAVE. No this is not like Puerto Princesa.

The end of the underground river cruise is a beautiful spot that looks like paradise. You may want to swim there, or just stay to immerse in the beauty of nature.

Lussok Underground River

This is easier to access. We parked our 4×4 right into the grounds where the tourism desk is. There is also a toilet for visitors here. Access is easier as there is no hike, but the roadworks have not been completed so we drove our 4X4 onto a shallow river and muddy roads. 

The cruise into the cave is steadier, as the boat has a balancer (bamboo poles on its side, but not really outriggers. It was so steady the guide stood on the other end of the boat. 

Start point for spelunking

Pudtol Ruins

This is found behind the Municipal Hall of Pudtol, within the school compund, right beside the church. This was an old Spanisg church built with the intention of Christianizing the indigenous Isnegs. Another church ruins can be found in Mataguisi, a different barangay in Pudtol.

Where to Stay

Star Jewel
Hands down, it will have to be Star Jewel. The proprietor, Josefina, is a retired nurse. Basic accommodations, but nice and clean, and airconditioned. meals can be arranged. The dining room is folksy, and there is a videoke for free use of guests.


Another Option
Big groups may want to stay at the cottages operated by the Tourism Office. Each cottage can have as many as 10pax for P2,500 a night. There are many such cottages, each one with its own dining room and a living area.


Contact the Toursim office thru their facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/apayaotourismoffice/

 

Pudtol Church Ruins in Apayao

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Pudtol is about 20 minutes drive from Luna town proper.

Do not ask the locals about the ruins. Chances are they are unmindful of its significance. To get there, ask instead for directions to the Pudtol Municipal Hall, and you will find a church and school at the back. On the right side of the church are the ruins.

From online sources, the church  was built in the 1600’s by Spanish missionaries to convert the locals, known as Isnegs, to Christianity.  Today, the Isnegs comprise a good majority of the indigenous people of the province of Apayao, even if about half of its population are Ilocanos. At some point, this church was abandoned, and eventually deteriorated. Today, only the ruins tell of that story about early attempts to Christianize the indigenous tribes of the cordilleras.

Within Pudtol town, there are two church ruins – – the other one in Mataguisi. I actually went to Pudtol as a side trip on my way to Kabugao, and for some reson missed mataguisi, in spite of seeing the Mataguisi signs early on.

Pudtol can be visited on its own from Luna town. But if one is on his way to Kabugao or to Kalinga Province, then Pudtol will be an easy side trip since it will be on the way.

Lubuagan, Kalinga’s Most Historic Town

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Most stories about Kalinga revolve around the tribes, the tattooed women, about Wang-od, and inevitably about the rice terraces that compare well, and some claim better, than Banaue and Battad.

Not many visitors to Kalinga look at the town of Lubuagan, mostly bypassing this town en route to Tinglayan. Or onward to Bontoc. They do not know what they are missing.

Not many know that this 4th class municipality was once upon a time the capital of Kalinga. And, in fact, was the seat of the First Philippine Republic when then president General Emilio Aguinaldo based himself here for 73 days from March 6 to May 17, 1900, before his escape and eventual capture in Palanan, Isabela in 1901. He actually celebrated his 31st birthday in Lubuagan, his then seat of government. Consider, too, that Spanish rule was never established in Lubuagan in the 300 years that the Philippines was ruled by Spain. Very impressive history this town has.

Today, a monument of General Aguinaldo is found facing the municipal grounds. It is due for fixing up in preparation for the installation of the marker from the National Historical Institute, scheduled next year.

General Aguinaldo faces what is now the town’s plaza

On my visit to Lubuagan, I was regaled with stories from the town’s very young but also very knowledgeable, and charming tourism officer, Ms Ansharina Odiem. Most of the information I am sharing came from her.

Also referencing from wikipedia:

“The colonial Civil Government notably beginning with the administration of Lt. Governor Franklin Walter Hale (1907) up to the Commonwealth government is considered the golden years of Lubuagan, the capital town of the sub-province of Kalinga.

Lubuagan at that time was the center of education, culture, commerce and trade. The founding of the Kalinga Academy in 1927, a secondary school run by American Missionaries and the St. Teresita’s School, founded even earlier in 1924, a Catholic Primary and High School managed by the CICM Belgian Missionaries bolstered the luster of Lubuagan.

The Japanese Imperial army occupation came to Lubuagan in May 1942.

In 1945 during the war of liberation, Lubuagan was bombed by American planes resulting in the destruction of the Lubuagan Central School which was then occupied by the enemy. The big and beautiful St. Peter’s church of Lubuagan which resembles the Saint Peter’s Basicila of Rome with its high dome, the father’s convent and two more buildings within the compound were all burned to the ground. Lubuagan was once the capital of Kalinga sub-province before Tabuk rose to its present status as the center of learning and government activities. It is also in Lubuagan where the first instruction of higher learning (College) in the old Mt. Province was established.”

old, but repainted

If one is not into history, Lubuagan would still be a good visit for tourists and photography enthusiasts. The town has extensive and scenic rice terraces (Pon-e Rice Terraces and Gapis Rice Terraces) cut into the mountains, rising 2,000 feet (610 m) from the Chico River bed.

The Linas Heritage Homes
Lubuagan is also famous for its heritage homes. No small wonder – –  it was once the province’s center of commerce and, therefore, a showcase of affluence in its time.

Laga Festival

Lubuagan is famous for the Mabilong Weaver’s Village where backstrap weaving is the method, as opposed to loom weaving. Thus, Lubuagan celebrates the excellence of their weaving industry every year, on March 6, coinciding with the day gen Emilio Aguinaldo came. “Laga” means weaving.

Mabilong Weaver’s Village, located along the road, is the center of the ethnic weaving industry in the province. It showcases colorful ethnic backstrap weaving. Here, one can see how the intricate ethnic designs are made and how the colors are mixed. Souvenirs can be bought from the weavers.

I bought a lady’s belt from a store in Pasil, sourced from the Mabilong weavers. The other items are also on display in this souvenir shop in neighboring Pasil.

I did not then realize that one can spend a day or two in this small town, so on my next visit, I have listed down the following, from wikipedia (Other Attractions)

  • Awichon Mesa, a plateau situated at Brgy. Upper Uma, 2 km from the town proper and between Pasil and Lubuagan, is an archaeological site where bones of a prehistoric elephant were found. It was also the landing site of American forces during World War II.
  • Cadamayan Falls, at Brgy. Western Uma, serves as the natural boundary of Pasil, Lubuagan and Tinglayan and can be viewed from the road.
  • Tiwod Spring, the “Fertility Twin Spring”, is believed to be a God-given gift for couples who have not yet had children. Couples who take a bath every morning here and drink its waters will soon bear children.
  • Unexplored Tongango Caves, located just above the poblacion, consists of several chambers connecting the mountains of Lubuagan, Sumadel and Tulgao.

Accommodations

Had I known there were places for me to stay, I would have stayed in Lubuagan. So for prospective visitors, here are the options:

Homestays: JBC Inn, Henrich Homestay – both located at Barangay Poblacion. MA-K Homestay located at the Mabilong Weavers Village. And at Awichon Cultural Village, one of the  attractions on the top list, visitors can sleep in the Kalinga authentic houses.

Average rates range from 200-300/head . Awichon Cultural Village is probably P500 per head. These can be verified with the town’s tourism office.

How to get there

Lubuagan is 50 kilometres fromTabuk, and 460 kilometers north of Manila.

 

 Contact the Lubuagan Tourism Office :

http://www.lubuagan.gov.ph

email: lubuagen@yahoo.com (this was not misspelled, the locals pronounce Lubuagan as Lubuagen, thus this email address)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 23, 1901.

Our Lady of Atocha in Alicia, Isabela

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“Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine: there is not a Spaniard of public importance for a thousand years who would not kneel to ask her help. Her gowns are made from the bridal gowns of queens; yet no shrine better demonstrates how little it matters where we rank in the world or what we do for a living. One of her supplicants asks her for victory for his armies, one for rain for his thirsty fields; Our Lady of Atocha answers all, impartially and lovingly. “( lifted from http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/our-lady-of-atocha.html)

The Our Lady of Atocha Church sits in the town of Alicia known for its Pagay festival, a first class municipality in the province of Isabela. It was completed in 1849 and has been declared by the Department of Tourism as one of the country’s religious tourist destinations.

As Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine, Our Lady of Atocha in Isabela looks every inch a Spanish church.

 

 

 

 

Our Lady of Pillar Cauayan, Isabela

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Dominican missionaries declared Cauayan a full-fledged parish in 1741, dedicating it to  Our Lady of the Pillar commonly known as the NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL PILLAR.

The church was first constructed using bricks and galvanized roofing. This was later damaged by an earthquake.

It’s a beautiful combination of old and modern architecture. The exterior part of the church is well preserved while the interior was renovated and glorified with a beautiful painting on the ceiling showing the coronation of Virgin Mary.

 

 

 

I also took a look at the church from inside looking out into the entrance.

Today, it is a very well-preserved architecture of red bricks, with its imposing facade.

 

Church in Ilagan, Isabela

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Saint Ferdinand Parish Church

Tracing the history of this modern-looking church, I found out that around 1696 and 1700 Fr. Miguel Matos, OP, built the Ilagan church made of stone and bricks. A typhoon in 1866 destroyed the roof of the church. Desiring to make the church bigger, Fr. Pablo Almazan, OP, demolished the solid walls of the church, which, unfortunately, was never built. The walls of the church today are of modern make. It is known to house one of the oldest bells in the region. The church is dedicated to the patron saint, San Fernando.

The facade is impressive and spacious. This is the only time where I wanted very much to photograph a church that is not centuries-old. I went inside, and the church interiors looked spectacular and grand.