Friday, February 28, 2014

The 12th Sampaguita Festival: Celebrating the Cityhood of San Pedro!

At long last, San Pedro Tunasán's rough and challenging road to cityhood has finally come to a victorious end with a mirthful bang of week-long revelry and homage to the sampaguita flowers!

new logo for a new city!

My family's adoptive hometown has now classily styled itself as "The City of San Pedro" but without forgetting the scented heritage which made it renowned all over the country: ¡la flor de la sampaguita!

San Pedro Tunasán is also known as the Sampaguita Capital of Filipinas!

San Pedro recently celebrated the Sampaguita Festival which ran from the 16th to the 23rd of this month. But the main event, or the festival itself, always falls on the 22nd of February, coinciding with the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. The festival, now on its 12th year, aims to promote tourism in San Pedro and to help revitalize the sampaguita  industry which used to thrive in the place. It's a tough job considering the fact that industrialization is in everybody's minds right now. And because of that, the sampaguita trade here is dwindling. Dwindling but (thankfully) still alive and kicking. And so the yearly festival helps to enliven it in the people's psyche. For what would San Pedro be without the sampaguita? History has made the two virtually inseparable.

This year's theme is all about cityhood because San Pedro was recently proclaimed as a charter city, on December 29, coinciding with the 66th birthday of the cityhood's main proponent, former Mayor Calixto R. Catáquiz.

The road to cityhood was a tough one since power-hungry individuals sought to divide San Pedro into two to satiate their intense thirst for political lordshipPresident Noynoy Aquino's approval of Republic Act No. 10420 (which converted the Municipality of San Pedro into a component city) last March 27 would have been rendered inutile had the troublemakers won in the now legendary "Battle for San Pedro". There would have been no plebiscite had they won. Unfortunately for them, San Pedrense patriotism and common sense dictated the course of history. The troublemakers, however, were able to oust Mayor Calex from his post through legal gobbledygook and perhaps through politicking (an unfortunate "political reality" lording over the rule of law, says the former mayor). But in the end, the contravidas had a dose of their own dirty medicine: it was legal gobbledygook itself which did them in because Lourdes Síbulo de Catáquiz, Mayor Calex's gentle but firm wife, served as his replacement in last year's hotly contested local elections. Mayor Baby won by a huge landslide. She then took over the reigns of leadership. A peaceful plebiscite for cityhood soon followed (on December 28), and the rest is sweet history for the whole of San Pedro.

Now it's PARTY TIME!

Why so serious, kids? Look at your mom!

Feeling Vhong Navarro... ¡biguián ng "foods"! :D

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I can still vividly remember the first time we moved in to San Pedro. It was on a hot summer day during the Philippine presidential elections of 2004. That was almost a decade ago. No disrespect to the former mayor back then, but the place was really topsy-turvy when me and my family arrived: potholes in major roads, rowdy vendors here and there, rugby boys roaming about, piles of garbage in sidewalks, the flesh trade, horrendous traffic, etc. Whether or not it is the fault of San Pedrenses themselves, command responsibility will always come to mind whenever new arrivals have a first impression of a place.

I can say that I am proud of having witnessed all the positive changes that has happened during the past decade. Objectives were set and carefully organized. And bit by bit, improvements were introduced and realized. Here's hoping that the people of San Pedro, whether they be native San Pedrenses or just immigrants like my family, will support the positive changes being pushed by the current leadership.

A hearty congratulations to Mayor Lourdes S. Catáquiz and her team. Of course, former mayor and now San Pedro’s First Gentleman Calixto R. Catáquiz shouldn’t be left out in the acknowledgments; all this was, after all, the brainchild of Mayor Calex when he was still the Sampaguita Capital’s chief magistrate.

With the motherly leader herself of the City of San Pedro: Mayor Lourdes "Baby" Catáquiz!


To be continued! In the meantime, please LIKE US on Facebook! ¡Hasta la vista!

The Alas kids with The City of San Pedro's "Action Man" himself — Citizen Calex!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Gen. Gregorio Lim Marine Base: "Borácay de Cavite"

The Philippine Marine Corps named this place Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim. Ternateños refer to it simply as "marine base". But we'd rather call it —and the whole of Ternate for that matter— as "The Other Side of Cavite". The municipality, most especially the territories outside the town proper, is really something else that is almost "un-Cavite" for those who have been accustomed to the urban side of the province (the most familiar image to many, I suppose). Whenever Cavite is mentioned, almost immediately the stark stolidity and coldness of concrete and infrastructure come to mind: there's the robotlike queue of vehicles at the toll gate of CAVITEX, moving as if they're in a conveyor belt; the mushrooming subdivisions and commercial centers of Bacoor, Dasmariñas, and Imus; the unswimmable waters of Ciudad de Cavite, Noveleta, and other coastline municipalities; the lonely humming of machines in the Cavite Economic Zone and other industrialized areas; the monstrous traffic jams at Aguinaldo Highway with its gigantic, unfriendly looking concrete electrical posts; Bong Revilla, etc. I could go on and on, but I think you get the sad picture already.

The blunt reality is this: much of Cavite seems to be a lonely place for tourism to thrive on. Well, there's Tagaytay, of course, but it's on a league of its own (at the back of many tourists' minds, they don't even place the city by the ridge vis-à-vis the general imagery of mainstream Cavite). However, when one thrusts further southward, way beyond the humdrum or urbanized Cavite, one encounters an undiscovered freshness of air that seems to have been surreptitiously kept away from the "curse of modernization". To this, Ternate says "hello!" — or rather, "¡Hola!" For Ternate (sans the modern architecture of homes) seems to have been suspended in time. Its mores, its values, its faith, its language, they are all there, still intact, still strong, simply waiting for curious urbanites to take notice and give them their overdue acknowledgement.

Puerto Azul and Caylabne Bay Resort may well be Ternate's gems in the field of tourism. But they cater mostly to the gilt-edged. Not all beach goers are from the gentility. So this is where Katungkulan* Beach Resort comes in.

The entrance to the marine base which also leads to its white-sand beach resort. With its intimidating reputation as a military barracks, who would have known that it has a beach resort that is open to the general public? Not us, and not to many.

Coming from the entrance, the well-paved road continues to fork upwards through thick vegetation (with lots of monkeys!). Nearing the beach proper, one will be rewarded with a view of the beautiful cove far below.

Among the locals, this place is more popularly known by its former name: Borácay de Cavite.

Just arrived!

Juanito could not contain his joy!

Krystal still feeling cold. We arrived here before 7 AM, and the cold northeast winds made the waters too choppy one might think there was an ice plant nearby.

♥ Warmth in the midst of cold breeze. ♥

Katungkulan Beach Resort faces the entrance, or the mouth, of Manila Bay. The islands of Corregidor and Fort Drum are in full view. And on a sunny day, the mountains of Bataán could be seen. This beach was formerly known as Borácay de Cavite because its whitish sands resemble those of that world-famous island resort in Malay, Aclán. Not as white, though, but fine enough for you to walk on a sunny day even without sandals; the sands won't hurt your soles, promise!

We used one of those cottages for free. Nobody was there to charge us, anyway. Maybe it's really for free.

Jefe, Juanito, and Momay having the time of their young lives. The waters in the beach front is very shallow, safe for kids to swim.

Little Juanito braving the gentle waves!

That's no ship in the distance. That's Fort Drum, a heavily fortified island fortress formerly known as El Fraile. A mere islet a long time ago, it was transformed into a steel-reinforced concrete fort by U.S. Army engineers and was named after Brigadier General Richard Drum. The island fortress resembles a massive concrete ship. Its purpose was to defend the entrance to Manila Bay. Fort Drum is already out of commission as it was heavily damaged during World War II. We hope to visit the island one day.

Eastern point of the cove.

Western point of the cove.

Whitish sands.

Since Katungkulan Beach Resort is virtually inside Marine Barracks GregorioLim, this could probably be the most secure beach in the country! Entrance is also dirt cheap: just ₱100 per person. And if I may add, it's also one of the cleanest we've seen because we saw low-ranking marines (privates I think they are called) periodically cleaning the beach front. It is recommended that you bring your own food. There is a carinderia there and you can order from them almost any Filipino meal you want; just give them money and order the food about an hour or two in advance, and they'll do the rest (at least, that is what they did for us). The only catch is that they charge a bit too much. So might as well pack some marinated barbecue and other similar grub for you to cook on your own (yep, grilling is allowed so long as you don't get to grill your own arms).

All in all, our day-tour beach experience in Ternate is a satisfying one! Highly recommended for the budget-conscious beach lover! The "military serenity" of Katungkulan Beach Resort —the "Borácay" of Cavite— will give you a new perspective on how you view this historical province.

Remember: summer's around the corner!


*Katungkulan (original spelling: catunculan) means "duty" in English. The name of the resort emphasizes and inculcates the meaning of the word into the minds of the Philippine Marine Corps, that it has a sworn duty to defend and protect the republic and everything else it stands for. So yes, you'll be safe here. Because the marines are not cops. =)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ternate: the other side of Cavite

Si no sabe mira donde a vine
No di yega donde quiere inda.
—Ternateño Chabacano Proverb—

And that's why we're back, and this time with the whole Alas caboodle!

The last time we were in Ternate was almost three years ago. But there were only three of us: me, Yeyette, and Krystal. Our main purpose during our first trip to Ternate was to document the town: its parish church, ancestral houses (we saw only one and it didn't even look that ancient), and its Chabacano-speaking populace (there were quite a lot of them!). But last February 16, all of us including our three boys journeyed to Ternate, this time for a beach escapade! It's because Yeyette's cough did not dissipate when we went to Manila Bay a week before. She was hoping that a gulp of fresh sea breeze would clear her lungs. But there was no breeze at all because of the unwanted easterlies. That's why she thought of visiting the sea once more. This time around, we really had to be in a beach somewhere near our home. We checked the map and decided to go to Puerto Azul. Yeyette had really wanted a cool gust of sea air (it has this "placebo effect" on her somehow), so me and the kids had no other choice but to comply. Not that we were complaining, hehehe! Life's a beach, lest you forget! Especially for kids! And to paraphrase Pinay Travel Junkie, it's summer when we say so. =)

We left San Pedro Tunasán very early, before 4 AM, because Yeyette was really after the early morning breeze from the sea. We were supposed to take a much shorter route, via General Mariano Álvarez and Dasmariñas (Caviteño towns that are just beside La Laguna). Unfortunately, there were still no jeepneys plying that route on that hour. So we had to drag our still sleepy selves all the way to Parañaque's Southwest Integrated Provincial Transport Terminal (in Uniwide Coastal Mall) for a bus ride going straight to Ternate.

Welcoming ourselves back to Ternate! The Chabacano message on the arch means "We welcome all of you wholeheartedly".

We arrived just a few minutes past six in the morning, dropping off at the junction of Calle Ventura (which leads to the town proper) and Governor's Drive beside a pasture . It was a freezing morning! The people were wearing sweaters and jackets when we got there. We asked around on how to get to Puerto Azul. We were dismayed to learn from the tricycle drivers stationed there that Puerto Azul's management does not allow them entry (why, Puerto Azul?). We just asked to be brought only to the entrance, and we'll take it from there. But they warned us that it's gonna be a long walk from the entrance to the beach proper. So they offered us another alternative: Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, popularly known as Marine Base, in faraway Barrio Calumpang.

I'm familiar with the place, the Wikimapia aficionado that I am. Judging from the online satellite imagery, the white sands seemed enticing enough especially for beach lovers like Yeyette. However, I wasn't really sure if people are allowed to come in. But the tricycle drivers reassured us that they've been bringing tourists there all the time. When we finally agreed, they charged the six of us for 300, double that for a two-way trip. Yeyette was able to bargain for a 50-peso discount. Later on, we realized that the fare was fair: our destination was so far that for a brief moment during the trip, I wondered if we were still in Ternate.

Yeyette and the boys packed the trike's sidecar while me and Krystal were seated behind the driver. The trike ride sliced through a smooth paved road which zigzagged through steep and high ravines and swished through thick forests. We were rewarded with a breathtaking view of Cavite's rural sceneries as well as its last remaining forest cover (the long and winding road we trekked upon was actually at the foot of the Pálay-Pálay National Park where the famous Pico de Loro mountain is situated). The relaxing trip to the marine base was coupled with a chilly morning air that we've been craving for in Manila Bay. But it got too cold it already hurt our feet (me and Krystal were wearing only sandals). I guess we got more than what we've bargained for!

We love roads like this! This lovely  highway leads to the marine base and passes by the entrance to Puerto Azul. It ends at Caylabne Bay Resort (we heard that it's undergoing renovation). We have seen no other road like this even in our adopted home province of La Laguna because there are long stretches of it without any roadside houses nor stalls which are typical nowadays in many provincial roads.

At the entrance to the marine base. My boys are ready for battle... beach battle that is!

The fine white sands of Katungkulan Beach Resort, the formal name given by the marines to their Borácay-like sanctuary (if they consider it as such).

Juanito, Jefe, and Momay enjoying the shallow waters.

After swimming, we visited the newly opened Kaybiang Tunnel, a 300-meter underground tunnel which connects Ternate to Nasugbú, Batangas.

By the way, a brief backgrounder about Ternate and its linguistic heritage: just in case one says that the whole province of Cavite is purely a Tagalog-speaking region, he should rethink this. To the northeast of the province, there’s Ciudad de Cavite with its senior citizens speaking Cavitén (a Chabacano variant). And at the southwesternmost tip of Cavite province lies this quaint fishing town called Ternate. But this is no ordinary town; like Ciudad de Cavite up north, this place is frequented by linguists, polyglots, and Hispanists because of the townsfolk language: Chabacano. But the Chabacano spoken in Ternate is different from its Cavitén counterpart. According to Dr. Evangelino Nigoza, the town’s historian and foremost defender of the language, Ternateños call their native tongue “Bahra”. The linguistic structure of Bahra is “another world” of its own. And in my opinion, it is rather more difficult for a Spanish-speaker to understand because Bahra is somehow influenced by the Portuguese language aside from the fact that Ternateños tend to speak it so fast (they seem to tweedle when they do so).

But why Portuguese? It is because Ternateños are actually the descendants of Malays from Ternate Island in the Moluccas archipelago. These islands were formally possessions of Portugal. The first Ternateños were brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards in 1663. These Malay recruits were called Mardicas or “men of the sea”.

There were two reasons why the Mardicas chose to leave Ternate Island: the island was highly volcanic, and; to help defend Manila from Chinese pirate Koxinga. Fortunately for Governor-General Sabiniano Manrique de Lara (who ruled the Philippines during those panic-stricken times), Koxinga fell ill and died. But the Mardicas never returned to their native land due to the place’s severe volcanic activity. Instead, they were given a spot in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) in Ermita, Manila.

It is perhaps during their brief stay in Bagumbayan that their language was further developed, for the people surrounding their little barrio, the Ermiteños, spoke Chabacano Ermiteño, Spanish, and Tagalog. However, frequent squabbles with the Ermiteños forced the Spanish authorities to move the Mardicas people to another place. Bahra de Maragondón (now Maragondón) in Cavite was chosen for them since the place was frequently attacked by Moro pirates. Anyway, it was agreed earlier that they were to help fight Koxinga in Manila. But since that never materialized, it was decided that their military services should still be used, but somewhere else.

In Bahra de Maragondón, the Mardicas settled at the mouth of the Maragondón River. But it was a swampy area filled with mangrove trees. These were cleared through the years, prompting them to till the soil. So aside from fishing, the early Mardicas were also farmers. They also intermarried with the natives of neighboring villages. They also built a watchtower which they called Mira — maybe that’s how they call a watchtower because in Spanish, the word "mira" is the present indicative (third person) or present imperative (second person) of the verb mirar meaning “to watch”.

In due time, the spot where they cleared away mangrove trees became the foundation of present-day Ternate. Also, they renamed their new home: from Bahra de Maragondón to Ternate, in memory of their former home in the faraway archipelago of Moluccas.

During the Spanish times, Ternate was just a barrio of Maragondón. Many years later, it became a separate town. In 1904, however, during the American occupation, Ternate was attached to the town of Náic. It became a separate town again in 1914.

Iglesia del Santo Niño de Ternate. It no longer has its original features. Ask World War II why.

Peaceful coexistence. The parish church is just perpendicular to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). But I hope that the IFI will soon come home to the Catholic fold because we are no longer at war against Spain. That's the only reason why they separated from the Catholic Church to begin with. So now, there is really no more valid reason why they should remain "independent"... I'm sorry, I almost forgot that this is a travel blog.

Small world! That guy with the cap immediately recognized us upon our arrival. Turns out that he's the same candle vendor in front of Lumbán Church whom we saw last month (find his photo here)! Yeyette asked if the lady beside her is his mom. The lady politely replied that she's the wife! I promptly left after taking this photo.

It is said that Ternate survived various turmoils in the history of Cavite: the Tagalog rebellion of the Katipuneros as well as the invasion of both Yankee and Jap. But it barely survived the American retaking of the Philippines, and that was during the closing days of World War II. Only seven homes survived.

Oddly enough, the original Mardicas families who transferred from Ternate Island, Moluccas, Indonesia to the Philippines were also numbered seven. These families are:

1.) De la Cruz
2.) De León
3.) Estéibar
4.) Nigoza
5.) Niñofranco
6.) Pereira
7.) Ramos

Their descendants still live today. And surprisingly, they all know the history of their ancestors! Glad to know that the people here are history conscious.

Momay and Jefe at the entrance to Barrio San José (right beside the public market) where most Chabacano speakers of Ternate reside. But we did not go here anymore because Yeyette was already tired.

We did not tour the town proper anymore like we did the first time we were there. We just killed time in front of the public market before going home, chatting with some Chabacano ladies (using Spanish) while feasting on halo-haló. This, my friends, is the other side of Cavite. Beautifully strange.

Click here for more photos of our Ternate adventure!


Up next: Ternate's humble beach paradise called "Borácay de Cavite"!