|The mystical mountain of San Cristóbal as seen from Calle Cabunag. Modern homes dot the streets of the town proper but the aura is still inexplicably rural.|
From an outsider looking in, Candelaria town in Tayabas Province (now Quezon) seems to be in conflict with itself. Not that there is anything unappealing about the place, but like many towns on the brink of urbanization, Candelaria's countrified sensation which is invisible yet palpable in its somewhat detached air appears to be in friction with the times. This can be perceived (only, perhaps) by the incisive. And to such people, there seems to be the impression that the town still tries to cling to its original form, to its identity, to a past oft unrevisited. For who today visits Candelaria for the sake of pleasurable visitation? Like its neighboring towns, it too has been stricken by the pathogen of modernity coming from a burgeoning metropolis. To make it simpler, societal permutations brought about by passing Time has mixedly divided Candelaria into two identities: a hushed side (north of the national road) that is atypically contemporary in outlook but still strongly spiritual within, whereas the other part (south of the national road) which is still physically traditional, therefore supposedly bucolic, has become, also in an odd manner, bustling and brimming with economic flurry.
Which of the two should emerge victorious, should claim as the real Candelaria? The spiritual or the pragmatic? Or should they remain mixed in order to produce a new Candelaria?
Needless to say, it was the spiritual which led us to finally revisit Candelaria last March 2nd when Yeyette's officemate Mejean (and her husband Jaypee) invited us to the baptism of her first baby, Juone Justine Magboo y Peña.
|Baptism of Juone Justine Magboo.|
I say revisit since me and my family have passed by this town many times whenever we go to and from Unisan although we have never really trod upon its main ground (the town proper). That is actually the only recollection that me and my family have of Candelaria: it's merely the next town after Tiáong, a transit point whenever we go to my dad's hometown. We then took the invitation as an opportunity to walk around their town, and to see if there is anything worth visiting. Of course there is! :-) ¡Vamos a viajar!
|La Familia Viajera arrives at Candelaria at exactly 9:00 AM, just in time for the baptism. It was a long walk from our home in the City of San Pedro Tunasán. But hey, we made it, hehe!|
|Regina cæli, lætare, alleluia (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia).|
|Before entering the church, we saw this lady selling fresh honey! We bought a bottle. We were informed that this was produced in Barrio Bignay in nearby Sariaya.|
|Iglesia de San Pedro Bautista.|
Mass was still ongoing when we got inside the church. We asked around, and people kept telling us that baptism will start at 11:00 AM. We were puzzled because the invitation says 9:00 AM. And we forgot to record Mejean's cellphone number. Anyway, we took it as a chance to go to the town's famed old tower which is just nearby while waiting for the designated time.
On our way to the ruins of the Torre del Valle situated along the banks of Río Masín. This river and the tower is just five minutes away from the town church (via tricycle). It's actually just walking distance, but back then we didn't know. Sana palá nilacad na lang namin.
|The source of Río Masín is Monte San Cristóbal. Had we known there's a clean river here, we would have packed our swimming attire. Maybe next time.|
Torre del Valle is a six-storey tower built in 1928, during a time when the whole country was under US control but still Hispanic. The tower was said to have been built as a pavilion for the mansion of Don Juan del Valle and his family. Before his death, however, he ordered his son to have the family mansion demolished — except for the tower. Candelarienses today still do not know the reason for the owner's strange final wish. And this only adds to the eerie allure surrounding this picturesque tower.
|Aside from this tower, only the foundations of the old del Valle mansion remain. The whole property is now engulfed by thick vegetation. We were certainly not dressed for this one. But who cares? It was a fun climb!|
|We're at the topmost part of the tower. Behind Yeyette and Krystal are the mountains of San Cristóbal and Banajao. The whole población is visible from here.|
|Embossed flower designs carved in stone.|
Ants' habitat made of leaves from a nearby tree branch. If you see one, please leave it alone. Just take a photo.
|Leftover seeds from various fruits. Probably from birds and/or bats.|
|Ruins of the mansion are now hugged by thick greenery. Seeing its old foundations creeping out of the wild vines, grass, and flowers is reminiscent of scenes from Hollywood films and adventure novels depicting lost cities in jungles.|
|La Torre de la Familia del Valle.|
In the meantime, as we were enjoying ourselves doing selfies at the old tower, this was happening...
|(Photo courtesy of Mejean Magboo).|
So Juone's baptism did take place at 9:00 AM! But not at the church's main altar but at its chapel somewhere in the church's vicinity.
Now you know the importance of having a cellphone handy all the time. Blast it.
We stayed at the tower for about an hour. Then we went back to the church. But since it was still early (or so we thought), we decided to have some "light" snack in a comfy looking restaurant we found along the highway. It's called Hacienda Inn. But it's neither a hacienda nor an inn. All they offer is old-fashioned good food and friendly service!
We ordered some lomi (top left), pancít bihon (lower left), and clubhouse sandwich (lower right). Lomi is a Batangueño specialty, but it's normal fare here in Candelaria considering its proximity to Batangas. As a matter of fact, Candelarienses do sound like Batangueños whenever they speak (it should be noted that just south of this Tayabeño municipality is San Juan, Batangas, site of the famous beaches of Barrio Laíya).
Both my wife and daughter gave Hacienda Inn's lomi a five-out-of-five stars — they say that the lomi here is the best they ever had! While I do not share their opinion, it's true that Hacienda Inn's lomi tastes great. It has the right amount of soup thickness with generous ingredients.
And as we were finishing our second order of lomi, we heard the church bells ring. Mass has ended. It's already 11:00 AM.
We went to the church and there saw Yeyette's officemates. Instead of us surprising them, it was the other way around — Mejean informed us that Juone's baptism has just been concluded at a chapel behind the church, LOL!
|Left to right: Krystal, Yeyette, Mejean, Dhang, Jalidah, Angélica, Chel, Kmyl, and Rafaél.|
The guests then trooped to the Magboo residence in nearby Village of Saint Jude (or VSJ which is near the foot of Monte San Cristóbal) for the reception. Before going there, we asked to be left behind for awhile to explore the town church.
|La Familia Viajera con la Familia Magboo (Jaypee, Mejean, y su hijo Juone Justine).|
After exploring the church, off we went to VSJ for the reception.
|Krystal and Yeyette, with Arlene, Jalidah, and Arlene's son.|
|Standing (L-R): Rafaél, Darren, Dhang, Chel, Arlene, Mejean, Angélica, and Yeyette.|
Seated (L-R): Kmyl, Jalidah, Win, and Chel (with her baby).
And our very own Juanito perfectly and cutely photo bombed this one. =)
|What do our youngest son and Mejean's dad have in common? They're both called Juanito. =)|
|Yeyette with baby Juone Justine.|
After the reception, we said our goodbyes and went back to the town proper to hunt for Filipino ancestral houses called bahay na bató. We found very few. However, most are in good condition.
|Some old houses we saw at the town proper. Only a few of them remain.|
|Jefe and Momay in front of the Rural Bank of Candelaria, Inc.|
Do we recommend Candelaria as a place for heritage tours? Definitely. Its ancestral houses may not be as awesome or as imposing or as antique as those in Vigan (Ilocos Sur) or in Pila (La Laguna). But hey, a bahay na bató is a bahay na bató. And so long as the old tower by that verdurous river from Monte San Cristóbal and those bahay na bató beauties remain, then the walkatour is all worth it. Here's hoping that the local government of Candelaria will do something about its few heritage houses, especially that pretty tower by the Masín River. Because it's so hilariously disappointing to see such priceless piece of architectural heritage being left in the open for vandals to trample on. If Candelarienses are able to keep their town church spick-and-span, why not do the same to their heirloom tower which has also been witness to their town's evolution from an old-fashioned Hispanic pueblo to a first class municipality? Because in order for a new and stronger and modern Candelaria to emerge from this "conflict of societal identity", utmost respect should be rendered to the Candelaria of olden times.
Candelaria is worth walking for. It's not a mere transit point. Always keep that in mind.
See more photos of our trip to Candelaria by clicking here! ¡Hasta la vista!