Wednesday, July 30, 2014

That ritzy barrio called Alabang

Glitz, glamour, and all the comforts of an on-the-go, round-the-clock lifestyle is what Alabang is all about. Once a forested barrio (barangáy) of Muntinlupà, it now has come to be one of the richest barrios not only in Metro Manila but in the whole country as well because this place is the site of many multinational companies and other well-known establishments in a beautifully landscaped setting. Simply put, it is the business hub, the lifeblood, of the entire City of Muntinlupà.

Walking our way to Easter Sunday Mass at the beautifully designed Saint Jerome Emiliani and Santa Susana Church whose steeple is at the background behind yonder trees.

So well-established, so popular, so urban, is the name Alabang that many people mistake it for a city when the truth is that it is included within the territory of Ciudad de Muntinlupà! And like in all humble beginnings, Alabang wasn't always like this. As mentioned earlier, the place was forested, infested with many hills of talahib, and pockets of farmlands. As a boy living in nearby BF Homes Parañaque, we used to pass by this barrio via the Alabang-Zapote Road whenever we go to my dad's hometown of Unisan, Tayabas. I can still vividly remember the scent of fresh air all around the area because of the abundance of greenery on both sides of the road (but fenced with barbed wire). The only commercial establishments I remember being there during my early childhood years were McDonald's, which then seemed to be on top of a hill (that part of the road was probably not yet elevated, or its being on a high place was probably just a childhood imagining), and Alabang Town Center.

Alabang's commercialization started in 1972 when the Madrigal family, owning 1.6 sq mi of land in the said barrio, offered to sell their property to the Ayala Corporation. Sensing more opportunities, the Ayala Corporation instead opted to a joint real estate development with the Madrigal family, to which the latter agreed to later on. The joint venture was a success, with more buyers exceeding the number of lots being sold, compelling the Madrigal-Ayala partnership to buy more parcel of land from various land owners in nearby areas. Development soon became inevitable.

Alabang has since came to be known as the "Macati of the South" because of its several multinational companies, malls, and other high-end establishments and entertainment venues. We frequent the place because of its proximity to our home, and it's less polluted compared to other places in Metro Manila. Even the area of Filinvest Corporate City still has large patches of greenery (which turns into crisp brown every summer).

The following photos were taken during our Eastern Sunday stroll in Alabang, Ciudad de Muntinlupà last April 20.

Iglesia de San Jerónimo Emiliani y Santa Susana.

Easter Sunday Mass at the Saint Jerome Emiliani and Santa Susana Parish Church.

After Mass, we went to our favorite mall, Alabang Town Center, for lunch and to just look around. We visit malls not to shop but just to pig out and enjoy the bright lights and sounds. Doon lang, masayá na camí. Simpleng buhay ba. =)

Going to our favorite mall, Alabang Town Center. This is the mall's side entrance which faces Theater Drive (near the Church of Saint Jerome Emiliani and Santa Susana).

After lunch, we were supposed to treat the kids to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (actually, I was the one who influenced them to watch the film; I confess to being a Marvel fanboy, hehehe!). But it was no longer shown there. So we headed towards nearby Festival Supermall to watch the flick. But before that, we passed by Northgate Cyberzone, home to numerous BPO industries and a five-star hotel.

Northgate Cyberzone is the information technology park within Alabang's Filinvest Corporate CityIt was there where I have spent many stressful but fun years as a call center guy and have built many friendships. My wife Yeyette and many of our friends still work there up to now. It was there, too, where I met this odd character by the name of Arnaldo Arnáiz who's in to saya de colas and vintage windows, hehe!

The five-star Vivere Hotel and the twin towers of  the Insular Life Corporate Center are found within Filinvest Corporate City's territory.

We then proceeded to Vivere Hotel, just a few steps away from Festival Supermall. Me and Yeyette have been to this hotel countless times already, but only to savor its breakfast buffet. We've never checked-in here before but we plan to do so together with the rest of the Alas caboodle, hopefully next year.

Vivere Hotel is into weird architectural design, something which only they can understand.

Imagine having a living room like this.

On our way to the 31st floor where The Nest is situated.

I doubt if Captain America would survive if he jumps from this height (the Winter Soldier did, hehe).

Here at The Nest, people can take part of luxurious food while enjoying a spectacular view of Laguna de Bay, the rest of Muntinlupà City, and beyond. 

Momay and Krystal gazing towards Northgate Cyberzone below. We were down there just a few minutes prior!

And since Vivere Hotel is right beside Insular Life Corporate Center, we thought of paying the place a visit. Besides, there's a recently installed historical marker there that I've been wanting to see for a long time.

On our way to the twin towers of Insular Life Corporate Center.

This is the only historical marker in Muntinlupà City. It was installed here on 25 November 2010 on the occasion of Insular Life's 100th year. Instead of installing this marker at its first building in Manila or Macati, management chose their Alabang site instead. I don't know why. At any rate, Macati and Manila's loss is Muntinlupa's gain.

Finally, it's Winter Soldier time on a summer at Festival Supermall!

The kids are raring to see Captain America and The Winter Soldier. They had no idea that I was more excited than them, hehe!

One thing we love about Festival Supermall is the abundance of trees surrounding it.

We arrived a bit early before the next screening, so we walked around first and had dinner.

Captain Jefe and his mighty carton shield! We watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier here in Festival Supermall, and it has since become my favorite film of all time.

For the complete photo album of our Easter Sunday visit to Alabang, Muntinlupà City, click here.

Now for my favorite part: history! What could be the origin of Alabang's name? Many years ago, during my first visit to the Rizal Shrine in Calambâ, La Laguna, I saw there hanging by a wall a blown-up replica of an old map of Laguna de Bay's western bay and its environs.

The name Río de Albán appears on this map which can be seen inside the reconstructed ancestral house of José Rizal in Calambâ (photo courtesy of Arnaldo).

As you can see from the map, the name Río de Albán (River of Albán) appears above Montinlupà. Comparing this map to modern ones will reveal that Río de Albán is situated exactly where modern-day Alabang now stands, and it corresponds to a river called nowadays as Mañgañgate River. To frequent visitors of Festival SupermallMañgañgate is the same turtle-teemed river you see along the covered walk leading towards the mall's northeastern entrance (that part of the river recently had a facelift and is now called River Park).

Admittedly, I do not know what Albán means, but I'm certain that it evolved from Albán to Alabang, just like the case of Cuyapo to Quiapò, or Tundun to Tondo, for instance. And I have no idea why Albán river is now called as Mañgañgate. But good ol' Arnaldo has this to say:

Reason led me to believe that Albán is the true origin of word Alabang. My friend was right. In this town, one could notice the usual changing of the spelling of last name and some places — efforts to convert into Tagalog letters name’s originally of Spanish beginning, like the popular last name "Buñe" becoming "Bunyi", the town name from "Monte" to "Munting". This has resulted to losing the word's inceptive meaning. There was a time when Muntinlupeños found it convinient to get rid of their Spanish sounding last name, the attitude of repulsion towards anything Spanish. 

Origins of words and names of places tell us stories of the past. It would make me really happy that a day would come when none of us can change this names no more. Let’s keep this name for they will tell the future generation what we were like. Sometimes the name tells it all.

A portion of Mañgañgate/Albán River which flows beside Festival Mall. This beautified portion is known as River Park. The site offers 11 unique dining concepts — from coffee shops to casual dining and post dinner options in an al fresco setting (photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin).

Whether we like it or not, industrial development is inevitable in a capitalist society. Be that as it may, we must not shun nature and heritage; Alabang, Muntinlupà has its share of both. They should always be at the forefront of any progressive venture to preserve the place's identity. To Filinvest Corporate City's credit (not excluding other corporate or individual entities involved), it appears that they are taking good care of many aspects of Alabang. My family is hoping that they preserve more of the place's verdant characteristics because they make Alabang worth visiting over and over again.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy 14th birthday, Krystal!

My dearest Krystal: remember what we have talked about this morning inside our parish church. La confianza es muy preciosa. Make your family proud of you. We love you so much. And have a very happy and blessed 14th birthday!

Krystal at the foot of the miraculous and historic Cross of Tunasán taken just this morning after all of us went to Mass and Confession.

Friday, July 18, 2014

35 V

♩ ♫ 35 years and my life is still | Trying to get up that great big hill of hope | For a destination ♬ ♪

"Mozart wrote so many works in his thirty-five years that it would take a lifetime just to write out the notes", said the late US musician Lukas Foss. "We literally do not know how he did it."

Well, here I am. Thirty-five and all without having written a single note yet. But hey, I won't trouble myself with that anymore. I'm already done with melodramatics this morning. This day is still awesome despite all of life's bull and the power outage we've been having since Typhoon Glenda wreaked havoc in our country last Wednesday. And because we still have no electricity, we also have no water supply. And because we have no water supply, I have been playing the role of aguador for the past two mornings, going to and from our neighbor's water pump carrying buckets filled with precious water to our already arid second-floor apartment unit. Afterwards, I bathed in the rain (the first since my unforgettable trip to Mindanáo last year). Then me and wifey treated our kids to their first ever buffet lunch at Cabalén here at Alabang Town Center! And yes, because of the said power outage, we're still here at this mall as I write this.

Feeling kinda Pampangueño here at Cabalén!

Power outage or no power outage, the first day of my 35th year is still electrifying because I am spending it with the people I love the most! =)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Biñán: The Industrial City of CALABARZON

The once iconic old town plaza. Despite attempts at modernity, it has lost its verve with the destruction of the Alberto Mansion, itself a timeless landmark in the area.

Any mention of Biñán will invoke images of José Rizal as a young homesick student, of the historic and controversial Alberto Mansion, of the delectable Puto Biñán, and of course, Splash Island. To history buffs such as myself, Biñán reminds me of a quaint town with a regal past, its opulent sector de mestizos filled with stylish ancestral houses, and its status as a major producer of rice and sugar cane in the Southern Tagalog region.

Then as now, Biñán stands as an economic heavyweight in La Laguna Province. In the early days, it was already known for its various enterprises and was a major rice producer. Its oldest barrios were also famous for their respective industries: Barrio de la Paz for its quality footwear; Barrio Malabán for its fishing endeavors; Canlálay for its special pinípig (crisped rice snack); Barrio Platero for its cloth hats and caps, and; Barrio San Vicente for its Puto Biñán, the famous Lagunense rice cake topped with cheese that is produced using largely traditional methods. Also, the manufacture of baquiâ (spelled nowadays as bakya) or "wooden clogs" was for many years a trademark product of Biñán. But with the loss of a market, the town focused on other products: fine and synthetic leather sandals and slippers.

Laguna Technopark Incorporated (photo courtesy of Ayala Land Premier).

Today, these barrios still produce the local products mentioned above. But the whole town now has morphed into a bustling first-class component city (it has been so since 2010) and is a choice modern industrial zone. Because of Biñán's industrious history, it is aptly known today as "The Industrial City of CALABARZON" (abbreviation for CAvite, La LAguna, BAtangas, Rizal, QueZON). With a land area of 43.50 km2Biñán is host to many well-known multinational companies. It has also been the choice site of property developers and entertainment venues as well as top educational institutions, thus continuing Biñán's legacy as a provider of undisputed quality education know since Rizal's time (no wonder he was sent there for his early schooling).

Laguna International Industrial Park (photo taken from the industrial park's official website).

Before the Spaniards came, the area comprising the Biñán of today was part of an ancient settlement called Tabuco (now Cabuyao). Ancient Biñán did not have a large settlement that resembled today's concept of a town, but it was inhabited sparsely by Tagalog natives. Life then was primitive as the people lived off fish, game, and fruits from the forest. With the arrival of the West, new tools and concepts were introduced which provided a cultural and spiritual revolution in Biñán, thus uplifting social life and thinking. In 1644, the place was turned into a hacienda by the Dominicans. Known as Hacienda de San Isidro de Biñán, it was dedicated to the planting of sugar cane with the smaller remaining land area reserved for the town and its barrios. An irrigation system, a large farmhouse complete with stables, a well, and an orchard were built. By 1747, Biñán was already existing as a separate barrio. And by 1782, it was already functioning as a town.

Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador. Constructed in 1690 and was finished four years later. Throughout the centuries, numerous man-made and natural disasters have altered the features of this church.

Yeyette inspecting the original image of Saint Isidore the Laborer. With her is Gian Litan of the Parish Youth Ministry of San Isidro.

The number of mestizos de sangley and mestizos de español in the town grew not only in number but in societal significance, so much that by the beginning of the nineteenth century, an Augustinian missionary observed that much of the town was in the hands of the affluent. The obvious imprint of this wealth can well be observed along Calle Jacobo Gonzales which runs at the left side of the town church: the grand old Philippine homes we affectionately call as ancestral houses of bahay na bató.

At the garden outside this house once stood the small school where Rizal had studied as a child. We've been inside the vicinity a decade ago (Krystal and Momay were our only children back then). But during our visit last summer, nobody was home to let us in.

Calle Jacobo Gonzales. There are many other grand old houses throughout Biñán, even outside the población. But  it is on this street as well as in Calle Pedro Paterno where you will find the largest and most stylish. Both streets comprise and area which was once known as sector de mestizos.

The Rizal Monument in Biñán's old town plaza (right in front of the ruins of the Alberto Mansion) is said to be the most beautiful. You be the judge.

One edifice that is worth mentioning about Biñán is, to my observation, not always being mentioned whenever the city's history is taught. And this edifice is the Church of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. During Rizal's stay in Biñán, this small temple was only a chapel and was just two years in existence. Unknown to many, this is the old chapel where he used to frequent. In his diary, Rizal wrote that during his last days in Biñán, he would walk from his place (somewhere in the población) to this chapel —skipping past the town church of Saint Isidore the Laborer— to pray. This chapel had a special affinity to Rizal's heart: his mother, Doña Teodora Alonso, was a devotee of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo, Morong (now Rizal Province). Rizal once traveled to Antipolo with his father to fulfill his mother's pledge — she made a promise to the Blessed Virgin (while she was still pregnant with Rizal) that she would make him go to the church in Antipolo one day to pay homage and as a thanksgiving if her pregnancy becomes a safe one. And so during his homesick days in Biñán, Rizal somehow felt at home in this chapel which is the namesake of that other historic church north of Laguna de Bay.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje, constructed in 1867.

The original image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage which belongs to this historic chapel-turned-church.

We'll be featuring more about this church in a future blogpost.

Krystal and Yeyette with the caretakers of the church (Richie, Christian, and Aling Cora). Thank you for the quick tour! We learned quite a lot!

Not far from Rizal's favorite church is another forgotten landmark: the farola or lighthouse, or whatever remains of it...

The forgotten Spanish-era lighthouse of Biñán. Sadly, it is now surrounded by illegal settlers. Nobody there even knows its importance nor why it is there in the first place.

This old structure is a few meters away from the lakeshore. A long time ago, an old port used to exist near the lighthouse. Ferries to and from Manila and other parts of La Laguna Province carried people and cargo across the lake. It was this same port which was used by a young José Rizal that ferried him back to his home in Calambâ after a brief stay in Biñán for his early schooling.

My wife feeling the old steel support of the lighthouse. Touching history.

But before we bore you to death with too much history instead of travel, let me and my family stop here and instead share to you our photos of our most recent visit there (April 19), as we feasted our eyes on the legacy left by the Biñán of olden timesAnd we are sorry to say this, but that could probably be our final visit to Biñán proper. Because it really pains us to see a neglected, nay, defiled, Alberto Mansion.

With various kids in Barrio Malabán which lies at the lakeshore. We found them flying kites while enjoying the very strong afternoon breeze!
We had freshly baked Puto Biñán here before going home.

Be that as it may, Biñán, especially its heritage and true identity, will always remain in our hearts. Not the industrial city but the Biñán of our forefathers is the one to be cherished the most.