In romantic movies, we often see Valentine’s like a holiday — a girl wears an elegant dress to a candle-lit, warm-toned ambiance dinner with her significant other. In reality, not all couples want that kind of extravagant celebration.
In fact, people tend to have a laidback celebration because 14 February isn’t the only day where you can show your partner that you deeply love and care for them. Also, people nowadays know better than to appease the gods of capitalism.
But if you still want to spice things up a little this love month, here are other ways you can celebrate:
Staying in. Nothing beats the comfort of your own home. There, you won’t have to dress up and all that pizzaz. You can still have ambiance by doing your own setup with a personally prepared meal. Not only is it practical, it is special because you worked hard for it. Also, you can stay in your most comfortable state.
Street food food trip. Instead of steak and wine, why not opt for fishballs, kikiam or kwek-kwek? It’s definitely worth a try. Mercato Centrale in BGC caters to those who want to try these classic Filipino street fare. But if you’re a daredevil who’s willing to take risks (it’s not that risky though), there will always be random kuya vendors on almost every curb of the city selling all kinds of street food.
Strolling around historical places. Despite being in an urban area, there are still some places in Manila where you can roam around and still get a vintage feel — Intramuros, for example. The famous walled city is now lit with bright street lights which makes it perfect (and safe) for a late afternoon and night stroll. There are also some historical sites in the area where you’ll spend little to nothing to view. Also, the Intramuros Administration recently opened the Dungeons in Fort Santiago so that would be nice to experience as well. Not only is it practical, it’s also educational.
Also, the Parisian-inspired Jones Bridge is only a few steps away from “Intra.”
Get some vitamin sea. Since this year’s Valentine’s day also falls on a payday, why not go on a trip? There are plenty of beautiful beaches near Manila — one where a day trip would suffice. It’s also a nice way to destress from life’s everyday works.
Escape the escape room with your friends. Valentine’s day isn’t just for couples per se. You can also celebrate it with your friends and their significant others.
And instead of going on a double, triple or quadruple dinner date, why not test your courage and thinking skills by going in an escape room? Breakout Philippines is one of the places where you can experience being stuck inside a room where you’ll have to figure out how to escape using your intellectual skills. Not only is it fun, it can strengthen your bond.
Elsa Payumo: Beauty in service
Heads would turn whenever she attended conventions, congresses and milestone celebrations. Half a century and a decade later, she still draws attention.
She is the perennial Elsa Payumo, one of the most lauded beauty queens — and much more — of our time.
Having celebrated her 80th birthday just before the pandemic, she gratefully looked back on her life — with no regrets, mind you — as she recounted the series of events she experienced, through the perhaps-well-documented segments of her life under the public limelight.
After a happy childhood in Bataan, Elsa went to take up Voice and Piano at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music.
She became the muse of several organizations and deemed as a campus crush by many. Family and friends seriously motivated her to join the selection for Miss Caltex — at the time the beauty and brains competition to watch out for. This was the crowning glory, the absolute cream of the crop for anyone who wanted to be in the pageant arena.
She easily won the competition in 1963. Word of her victory spread like wildfire and she became an overnight sensation.
Known and adulated not only for her pretty face and sharp brains, complemented by her sharing and caring nature, she charmed and captured the general public through her continuous appearances as cover girl of several glossies, go-to ramp model for fundraiser fashion shows, and the choice of Filipino fashion designers and merchandisers for collaborations with foreign luxury brands.
Elsa was so popular that she was offered to be the next biggest movie star. However, she wanted to pursue more fulfilling avenues.
As the newly minted corporate ambassador of goodwill, she visited destinations she has never been to before, which gave her the opportunity to explore the country’s beautiful islands. She immersed herself into the nitty-gritty of airline flights, shipping sails, hotel accommodations, sightseeing schedules, courtesy calls, media interviews and the exciting world of hospitality.
Reckoning time, her heart whispered she wished to be part of the travel and tourism industry.
In interviews, she declared: “I realized there is more to life than the trivial concerns of the renowned. I want to serve the country with a purpose.”
Baron Travel Girl
A travel agency it was, where she pioneered women-led initiatives. With her influence, she launched the Baron Travel Girl, considered as prestigious as Miss Caltex.
She was then elected president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.
During her stint, she spearheaded the Outstanding Taxi Driver of the Year citation, which was later on adopted by the Department of Tourism itself and incorporated it into the Annual Kalakbay Awards.
Through her many projects, she was recognized as the first recipient of the Tourism Category of the Ten Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Award, which aimed to empower women.
She was likewise elected as a pro-people Makati councilor for one term.
Reversal of fortunes
Due to a reversal of fortunes — the lingering illnesses of family members, failed endeavors and loss of other business — Elsa let go of her material possessions and found herself in the biggest slump of her life.
At that time, she discovered Buklod ng Pag-ibig, founded by Fr. Pascual Adorable, S.J., a Catholic community that was instrumental in her healing through trying times. The Bible has been her constant companion through the years. She would always turn to the Holy Book for inspiration, guidance and answers.
She soon dedicated her time to Bible studies, prayer meetings and fundraisers. She held inspirational talks for the Balik-Samahan group of actors and delved into charitable ventures with her various groups of friends of beauty queens, Karilagan models, travel and tourism circles and the Nations Womens Group.
She recalled: “I was blessed by the Lord to win over a million pesos as a contestant in the TV game show Deal or No Deal, an amount I donated entirely to Buklod ng Pag-ibig.”
Fast forward to the present. Today, Elsa, at 80, is still as radiant as ever, appreciating glorious pasts, never forgetting her trials, and, with gratitude, gives back as much as she can to the community.
No doubt, she has found genuine fulfillment and happiness.
Viber Communities not just a marketplace
In the past six months, COVID-19 has turned life upside down.
The things people normally did —working, dining out, shopping, exercising at the gym, attending cooking class, going out with friends — stopped until further notice.
Home quarantine made people look for ways to find a sense of normalcy and community and manage anxieties at a time when physical distancing means saving lives.
Some Viber users didn’t let the pandemic stop them from bringing people together (safely, of course). Meet the people who created Viber Communities while in quarantine.
When KG Sison, a marketing consultant, saw an unanswered question about baking suppliers in one of the communities she’s part of, she decided to create her own. Homebaking community, though initially dedicated to baking supplies, evolved into a thriving support group that shared baking tips and more.
“We encouraged members to post their creations and freely ask baking-related questions. We wanted to be a legit community — a place where people talked and made friends instead of being transactional in nature,” she said.
KG pointed out that managing a community made her less lonely while in quarantine, emphasizing how the Communities have become a source of positivity for her and the members.
“Even our members have reported that the group has made them less anxious during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). It served as a form of social support for us and our members,” KG said, noting how webinars have been produced and future field trips planned. “We made friends. I think this was the greatest surprise and blessing that I gained from the Viber Communities.”
Since then, KG has lived up to being a superadmin, establishing other groups like Homecooking Community, Urban Gardening and MNL Sourdough Fam Community, all of which have the same community vibe — “less selling, more interaction.”
It wasn’t until recently that she decided to create the Homebakers Marketplace, providing Community members another venue to sell their baked goods.
“I use a variety of chat platforms, but I noticed that the general public uses Viber, and that means more reach. But more importantly, I find that there are less trolls on Viber because you need to have a phone number attached to an account,” she said.
With gyms closed, fitness enthusiasts were pushed to modify their workouts and do their routines at home. For those who didn’t have what they needed, the Gym & Fitness Marketplace MM Viber community became a life saver. This was where everyone who was looking for jump ropes and yoga mats, to more specific gym equipment like spinning bikes and squat racks, flocked to.
Created by Celina Payawal, an entrepreneur, after she noticed that there was no community dedicated to the fitness market, the group that was only supposed to cater to those living in Metro Manila grew to include members from Tarlac, Ilocos and Cebu.
Given the popularity of the messaging app in the Philippines, it’s easy for superadmins like Celina to connect with like-minded individuals and help sellers reach out to customers. It really was a no brainer for her, pointing out how Viber made sure that superadmins got the features they needed to manage their community well, from pinning posts, choosing notification settings, to deleting unwanted messages.
A major point for Celina was how Viber allowed community members to chat with each other without having to share their number. “It’s a safe place for all online sellers and buyers to transact with each other, since they don’t have to divulge their personal numbers, providing them both convenience and security,” she said.
Since the virus forced many stores and SMEs to close indefinitely, several entrepreneurs have been struggling to sell their products to a wider base. Terry Ilagan noticed this, and decided to create the Locale City Guide, a Viber community that catalogs essential items sold by SMEs. From auto shop services to face shields, members were welcome to sell their products from the safety of their homes.
Terry chose Viber because of its unlimited member capacity and easy invite features. He thought it would be a great way to sell a wide array of goods. Terry knew he was doing something right when sellers began reaching out to him to thank him for creating the community. “It may sound shallow, but being able to extend help by posting a seller’s homemade pastries and knowing that she made some bucks, gave me a pleasant feeling that lasted throughout the day,” he said.
One evening in March, Diane Jimeno was looking through a Viber community that gave residents of Bonifacio Global City a catalog of goods and services they could avail of over quarantine. She decided that her community, Acacia Estates, needed one, too, and decided to make it herself. The Acacia Estates Residents Community initially was dedicated to health updates on the pandemic.
But later, people began using the community as a way to sell their products. “We decided to just accommodate the sellers in the group, but the community kept on growing rapidly that having community updates related to COVID-19 was almost impossible to discuss,” said Diane. “This led us to decide to create another community called Acacia Estates Community and renamed the Acacia Estates Residents community to Acacia Estates Marketplace.”
Several of Diane’s neighbors began thanking her for giving them a space to do business. “Being able to promote micro and small businesses in the community helped people especially during these trying times,” said Diane. Though many were feeling the economic crisis of the pandemic, the people of Acacia Estates had a platform to keep their livelihoods afloat and support one another.
Meditations through Cloud 9
The goal was to do a 12-kilometer run from Pasig to Antipolo for practice and for meditation. While most gyms remained closed but quarantine rules have eased up, running outdoors as I’ve always done before the pandemic was a weekend thing to look forward to.
With health protocols still requiring social distancing, running a relatively long distance really allows me to stay away from people while keeping myself company, with my own thoughts, along the uphill route of Sumulong Highway.
As an insulin-dependent diabetic, I found running as a great therapy especially during this COVID-19 crisis, when confinement hardly allows people to do any physically active pursuit.
Weekend fun runs are still not happening. But as the novelist and marathoner Haruki Marukami said, “Being active everyday makes it easier to hear that inner voice.”
Even just one day a week of exercise as a routine would be very helpful in keeping body and mind strong.
The run was a breeze. Wide sidewalks provided safety. Not surprisingly, one or two runners on the road were garbed in tops that said “Finisher” from some major running event. Their slim bodies had belt bags and vests with bottles of fluids or energy bars.
There was camaraderie as runners passing each other would cheerfully say, “Go runner, go!”
The highway had a zone for motorbikes and bicycles. Oftentimes, riders would encourage the terra-bound as well. On that particular Sunday last week, the road seemed to welcome groups of joy-riding motorbikers on their way to Antipolo’s roadside eats while enjoying the expansive view of Metro Manila below.
Still, the rest of the motorbikes ridden mostly by couples continued to growl all the way to a popular hangout: Cloud 9 Hotel Resort, which happened to be the 12-kilometer mark of my run.
Originally a family-type place, Cloud 9 had visitors composed of various barkada and lovers who were probably out for a “gimmick” after enduring months of strict quarantine rules.
The parking space was full of bikes side by side. People, although wearing masks and face shields, walked alongside each other with hardly any space between them.
The hotel itself was closed and only the hanging bridge was open. This was where everyone gravitated to, which led to long lines of people waiting for their turn.
No one seemed to notice, or were interested in an area of the property called “Life Trail,” a forest park with a placard that said it’s “not for picnics but for meditation.” And so there you go — that itself was the stinger in a sea of Sunday thrill seekers.
But for this runner, it was a good place to cool down (before taking a bus ride home) and to breathe in the midst of full-grown trees and signages that had inspirational quotes. The Life Trail had a narrow concrete path that flowed around the trees and ended with easy steps towards the hotel building.
Chirping birds provided the restful ambient sound as one went through the quotes from philosophers, world leaders and even anonymous ones.
“Distance doesn’t separate people, silence does,” said Jeff Hood.
“We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have awaited in the darkness.”
“That man is richest when pleasures are cheapest,” said Henry David Thoreau. So true, I surmised as the happy accident of stumbling into Cloud 9 became the weekend’s highlight after the weekday’s dailiness of quarantine living.
The quick stay at Cloud 9’s Life Trail proved to be energizing and an inspiration for more runs and possibly, new travels to come.
Would you dare visit ‘Manila Bay Sands’?
Life under quarantine for the past six months must have been so boring to the city folks who flocked to Roxas Boulevard for a glimpse of the artificial white sand or dolomite that was being poured on the shore of Manila Bay as part of the government’s “beautification” project.
Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the white sand — it looked more like beige — was meant to discourage the further degradation of Manila Bay which, for many years, has suffered from pollution.
Netizens had a blast on social media as they poked fun at the fake sand. The memes dripped with sarcasm.
In one instance: a photo of Boracay and, below it, a snapshot of Manila Bay dubbed “Burakay.”
Somebody thought of an alternative name: Manila Bay Sands.
The thing is, a United States cement company and the Philippines’ Department of Health (DoH) said dolomite is a health risk.
The Texas-based cement supplier Lehigh Hanson said, in a 2012 safety data report (www.lehighhanson.com/docs/default-source/safety-data-sheets/sds-dolomite.pdf?sfvrsn=66124d22_4), that dolomite — which is used in the manufacture of bricks, mortar, cement, concrete, plasters, paving materials and other construction materials — may cause cancer and lung damage through prolonged or repeated exposure.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that dolomite can cause pain in the stomach and diarrhea when ingested.
Yikes! But wait, maybe that was the intention — to scare people from frolicking again in Manila Bay by pouring fake sand.
Gosh! We hope nothing happened to that lady in a red swimsuit who posed on the sand for pictures just before authorities closed down the area.
As for the curious mob that was packed cheek by jowl on the pedestrian overpass, God forbid anybody caught the COVID-19 virus.
What Pinoys’ travel wish lists reveal
With COVID-19 restrictions cautiously being lifted, the travel itch continues to grow stronger. Keeping their future plans aligned with calls to support local travel, Filipinos are dreaming of domestic destinations once allowed, according to Agoda.com.
Manila, Boracay, Cebu, Palawan and Batangas, figured prominently across different demographics for Filipinos, which include Couples, Solo, Family and Group Travelers based on Agoda’s top searched data for travel til year end.
Among these, travelers planning to go as a group are most keen to travel domestically with all their top 10 most searched destinations within the country. Meanwhile, Solo Travelers are the most willing to travel outside of the country, searching for deals in Tokyo (No.5), Bangkok (No.9) and Seoul (No.10) for when overseas travel is possible.
Globally, people want to go to Asia
While Filipinos are keeping it local, the rest of the world is looking forward to overseas adventures with Taiwan, Thailand and Japan emerging as the top searched destinations for travel until the year-end on Agoda.com.
Overall, Taiwan tops the travel escape searches list among all different traveler groups — from couples to solo travelers, and families or groups, beating last year’s champs — Thailand, which came in as the second most searched destination. Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea round out the top five, while the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Indonesia complete the top ten.
Agoda’s search data show distinctions between destinations searched by type of travelers, with Japan and Thailand taking second and third spots respectively, for solo travelers.
“While Agoda’s search data has seen a shift toward domestic destinations as regulations are being eased for domestic travel, people are still dreaming about international adventures. What Agoda’s data is showing us is there is still a hunger to travel. People are keen on exploring their own countries whether alone, with family, or with friends. They are also looking forward to visiting their dream international destinations once it’s safe to do so and are looking for the best deals for when that time comes,” said. Tim Hughes, vice president of Corporate Development, Agoda.
Flavors of the world baked in Manila
Are you ready for gourmet buns? Newly launched Don Bakes Manila brings some of the world’s best tasting flavors to the Philippines. With a fragrant offering of freshly baked breads inspired by travels to Italy, Japan and South Korea, the bakeshop is set to create a slew of more.
Don Bakes is founded by an overseas Filipino returnee together with his close traveling peers. Don has lived in five global hubs, traveled across four continents and 38 countries, and experienced more than 100 cities around the world. The founders love traveling and has an innate passion for food. Don’s work experience as a luxury hotelier developed his habit of dining at upscale restaurants cited in Michelin Guide, trying out Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants and Bars, seeking authentic local cuisine and experiences in each destination they visit.
When the pandemic began in 2020, Don stayed in Manila and started pursuing something outside his comfort zone as an overseas Filipino worker. As the quarantine and lockdown extended from weeks to months, Don and his close traveling peers started to miss riding airplanes and eating their favorite flavors from around the world. This is when they thought of bringing the taste of their most-coveted cravings to the Philippines.
Don Bakes takes pride in freshly baked gourmet Pan De Sal. Taking inspiration from travels to Kyoto, Pan De Aji has the perfect balance of matcha and creamy white chocolate. Naples — home of Pizza Margherita’s fresh basil, sundried tomato and cheese inspired the creation of Pan De Buono. Pan De Gustare brings the best combination of East and West in a box that includes both Pan De Aji and Pan De Buono.
Don couldn’t miss the Korean craze after falling in love with Seoul and so many K-dramas. Don Bakes Manila offers a filling, hearty, garlicky, creamy Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Bread suited for the discerning palate. Customers can book their worldly flavor via tinyurl.com/DonBakesOrders or messaging @donbakesmanila on Instagram.
Self-care travel emerges
Some trips are taken for the pursuit of culinary adventures, some for non-stop shopping and others for visiting family and loved ones. Alternately, some of us take trips for self-care — that is, relaxation, healing and wellness, where we can finally achieve our need to decompress and unwind in the company of nature. Thailand — one of the most visited countries in Asia for tourism — is a premier spot for Power Spot Tourism, containing many destinations where travelers can recharge and be more in touch with their well-being.
Self-care travel in Thailand starts with the wealth of quality beauty brands that travelers can enjoy. The country is home to the best skincare brands in the market, promising beautiful and healthy skin: Snail White, Malissa Kiss, Skynlab and Mistine are only some of them. Beauty and wellness often go hand in hand, and a trip to Thailand always mean you get only the best of both worlds.
After securing your beauty stash, it’s time to head to the main destinations for your wellness adventure. Thailand is composed of a multitude of “power spots,” a term used to refer to the sources of natural energy around us — may it be the sky, water, earth or anything surrounding us — that helps restore tired souls, revive minds and rejuvenate spirits. The Tourism Authority in Thailand invites Filipinos to visit three key power spots in Thailand, where they can enjoy different modes of nature.
Most of us focus on physical strength without acknowledging that mental wellness is just as important. Sometimes, our body might seem to function normally and properly yet we suffer from restlessness and the feeling of being unsettled and worrisome. For feelings like this, it might mean that our spirits need refreshing.
In Thailand, there are 28 tourist attractions that emit strong positive energy and can pave the way for your spiritual refreshment. These tourist attractions are further classified into five types, which you can visit step by step to gain a full revival of your weary soul. First, start from centers of faith such as the City Pillar Shrine in Bangkok — religious sites where peace, calm and the presence of higher spirits seem to engulf the space. Next, get close to tourist attractions near the river, where the steady stream of the river inspires tourists to go with the flow and allow relieve their spirits of inhibition. The Chao Phraya River, Bangkok’s major waterway, gives off such an experience.
From the river, tourists are encouraged to go up the mountain, such as Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai, the highest mountain in Thailand. Within the national park that contains the mountain, tourists can take walks, hikes and tours, breathing in the fresh air from the high altitude. Historical sites are next on the list, where travellers can get in touch with history, understanding that they are part of a bigger universe whose stories intertwine — Muang Boran or the “Ancient City” is a good location to experience this — it is only 30 minutes away from Bangkok. Finally, tourists are invited to experience the oceanic power by visiting places like the Krabi in Southern Thailand, where these incredible bodies of water may allow them to experience lasting moments of peace and calm.
They say that healing is achieved faster when one gets close to nature. It has been scientifically proven that prolonged stays in green spaces help one strengthen their immune system and blood circulation. Forest bathing is a term used to refer to immersing oneself in deep areas of nature — either to hike, savor the forest mist, drink water or tea, or simply pick a spot to savor the quiet while taking in the view. This is said to improve one’s physical and mental health.
Thailand’s selection of lush yet tourist-friendly forests allows one to retreat to nature and experience the wonders of forest bathing. Definitely nature’s form of therapy, tours in these locations not only offer cardiovascular exercise for travelers, they also provide a welcome respite from the bustling city life, allowing tourists to breathe and reflect. Travelers can plan their forest therapy trip according to their wellness objectives. A two to three-day trip is suitable to boost immunity, gain physical wellbeing and facilitate mental and physical healing, while a day trip is just right for those who would like to relieve themselves from stress.
Thailand promotes 16 power spots for forest therapy, where they can experience rest and respite for their five senses. One recommended location is Kanchanaburi Province, located in Western Thailand. This large province is known for its rich selection of national parks, containing jungles, waterfalls, rivers, and beautiful natural views. Nature activities in Kanchanburi are perfect for every kind of traveler: forest trekking, mountain biking, star gazing, and even rafting and canoeing.
From the soothing texture of fine sand, to the relaxing murmur of waves, it’s no wonder why people gravitate to the ocean when they want to take a break. The ocean is known to symbolize calmness, and the ocean water itself is known to be used in some wellness practices, such as soaking in seawater or the inhaling sea fog.
Soaking up the sun early in the morning is also the best way to absorb Vitamin D, which increases immunity from viral diseases. Furthermore, fun ocean activities such as surfing and kayaking offer a great deal of exercise and enjoyment whether you’re travelling solo or in a group.
Thailand currently recommends 16 spots for Ocean Therapy, particularly the town of Trat in the coast of eastern Thailand. Trat is well-known by tourists for island hopping, where travelers can visit and savor the unique sceneries each island in the area has to offer. Trat is also where one can get close to marine life: clams, corals and even mangrove forests abound in the area. Trat is also home to the only black sand beach in Thailand — and one of five in the world — where dipping feet into the sand can exfoliate and nourish the skin.
The Ko Chang District in Trat also provides Stand Up Paddling lessons, hiking to the Khlong Phlu waterfall, or visits to fishing villages in the area. Truly, a quick scan into what Trat can offer will leave no tourist without anything to do or discover.
Aside from these recommended power spots, other beauty and wellness spots can be enjoyed as well, so whether you’re interested in Thai skincare, spiritual refreshment, forest therapy or ocean therapy, there is definitely a destination in Thailand that will suit your desire to achieve well-being in your mind, body and soul.
A heritage town submerged
Dams are built to provide water for irrigation, home and industrial use and hydroelectricity. These structures are constructed on rivers and their junctions in and are normally located upstream.
However, in the course of history, a number of towns and structures have been submerged by dam projects when the need for their construction necessitated these dams to be erected in residential areas.
Such are the cases in a number of countries where submerged structures, normally churches, reemerge when water level is low.
Among the churches that were submerged by these water engineering projects include the 15th-century Krokhino’s Nativity Church in Vologda Oblast, Russia, in the 1960s; the French missionaries-built, Neo-Gothic, 1860s Holy Rosary Church in Kartanaka, India, which was drowned by the Hermavati Dam; and Reservoir in 1960; the Neo-Gothic church in Potosi, Venezuela, in 1985 due to the La Honda Dam and the old Petrolandia Church in Penambuco, Brazil, in the 1980s.
The 400-year-old Dominican church in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, gained prominence in 2015 when it emerged from the Benito Juarez Dam when the water level ran low. The dam was built in the 1960s.
Perhaps the most controversial of all these dams is the Three Gorges Dam in China, constructed from 1994 to 2003, which affected more than a hundred old towns and cities along the mighty Yangtze River.
In the Philippines, one classic example is the old town of Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija. It was submerged by the construction of the Pantabangan Dam in the 1970s, leading to a mass exodus of its residents to another area.
Located in the northeastern portion of Nueva Ecija and with cool weather due to its elevation, Pantabangan was founded by the Augustinians in 1701. They continued to minister the town until 1739 when it was passed on to the Franciscans with Fr. Andres de San Miguel as parish priest.
Its church of stone (rubblework) and bricks, dedicated to San Andres, was constructed under the direction and “indefatigable zeal” of Father Benito de la Pila with the help of the parishioners from 1837 to 1841, measuring 45 varas long and 14 and a half varas wide. Vara is a Spanish measurement which is approximately one yard.
Fr. De la Pila also constructed the town’s casa parroquial during the same period using the same materials.
In the mid-19th century, Pantabangan was noted to have a primary school, a jail and a casa tribunal made of bamboo and nipa.
What’s interesting about the church is that it contained a painted image of the Nuestra Señora de la Antigua, the venerated patron of the Binatangan mission located about two leguas (less than 10 kilometers) north of Pantabangan.
The image, along with two small bells and church objects from Bintangan, were transferred to the church of Pantabangan in the early 19th century due to a virus outbreak in the former, resulting to its depopulation.
Binatangan was founded as a mission by the Franciscans in mid-18th century and prospered until 1817 when the said outbreak struck.
Meanwhile, devotion to the image lasted until 1860. There is no available information yet on what happened to that devotion.
In the 19th century, the town of Pantabangan was noted to produce sugarcane, corn and rice with an abundant supply of wood for construction and furniture-making. The wood species found there include, among others, yakal, narra, kamagong and batikuling.
The town also had buffalo and boar products which were traded in the market of Gapan. The residents would return to Pantabangan, bringing with them textiles and other products that they needed.
It was not yet clear what happened to the church of Pantabangan, but by 1923, it was in ruins — roofless and with the second level of its facade to its pediment gone.
An image from the Luther Parker collection of the National Library in that year shows the church with a most likely makeshift chapel inside.
The lower level of the facade was possibly demolished in the following decades because prior to the construction of the dam, the church sported a new, simple concrete facade pierced by the main portal at the center and a pair of arched vertical windows on both sides. The Spanish-era side walls and the apse were intact.
About three decades ago, when water level was also low, church historian Regalado Trota Jose was able to document the ruins which was published in his book, Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines, 1565-1898 (Ayala Museum, 1991). The shell was still intact with the buttresses still visible.
The last time the water level was low and the church ruins became visible was around six years ago. Its recent sighting due to the low water level had social media abuzz and attracted boatloads of visitors.
The church is now completely leveled, most likely due to water pressure but remnants of which are still extant.
Aside from the church, the town’s temporarily exposed underwater heritage structures include a brick gate beside the church, a pedestal of the monument of Jose Rizal in front of what was then the municipal hall, the front gate with the adjoining walls of the municipio, the stairs of a hall, house parts and the old cemetery with its niches.
These tangible evidence of the town’s past are orthy to be recognized as one of the significant heritage sites in the country.
The old Pantabangan town’s declaration as a heritage site is going to be historic and unique, as it will be the first underwater, former terrestrial habitation area to be declared significant, with the hope that it will lead to its protection and, if possible, preservation.
Alden Richards’ lockdown learnings
In spite of various projects that continue to come his way, Alden Richards admits he has not been cushioned from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most celebrities and as a business owner, the GMA Network star is experiencing how the invisible enemy has taken a toll on various industries.
Alden talks about these matters in the documentary Lockdown: Food Diaries, produced by GMA Public Affairs and airing on 27 September.
The docu is a glimpse into the lives of workers in the food sector and highlights their courage and determination as they work to keep the supply chain running.
Lockdown: Food Diaries is Alden’s first project since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. The TV special was shot after Metro Manila was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
Alden and the show’s production team had to deal with the challenges of shooting under MECQ, making sure that they followed all the protocols of taping on location.
The actor — recently named as the Department of Health’s (DoH) Anti-COVID-19 Awareness Campaign Ambassador — notes the new normal way of stepping out of the house: “Before COVID, we only had to secure things like wallet, bag and car key whenever we left the house. Now we are used to wearing a mask, a face shield and bringing alcohol to sanitize the hands.
In the docu, Alden discusses “quarantine-born” food items and looks at how the pandemic has made a dent on the food industry, taking note of how Filipino ingenuity always arises amid adversity.
Alden also takes viewers to his restaurant and shows them the changes he had to implement.
He says: “This is my quote every day: the only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.”