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Perpie in Pinas 2009: “puli kami sa iloilo” (going home to iloilo) – part four

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On the sixth day of our stay in Iloilo and we were now starting to feel weary and a bit homesick. Not that we miss dad and brother, not really. It’s just that mom wanted to get back to her daily routine, while I was yearning for my bed, again. Well, make it my entire room already.

We decided to slow down and parted ways to do our own thing. Doing her most favorite hobby, mom went out to the public market to buy rare finds. I stayed in the hotel for a dip in the pool. Actually, I don’t like swimming at the beach that much. I just like to hang around, feel the sand, the wind and the heat of the sun, and enjoy the view. After the hefty food splendor, I can already feel the heavy bulge that I sense the need to swim in laps to burn these calories, pronto.

Late afternoon, mom asked me if I wanted to visit other towns, this time at the north side, especially Zarraga. Upon hearing that familiar place, I said yes.

If the church in Jaro is perceived as more patriarchal, Molo Church on the hand is dubbed as a feminist church in the Philippines. It is because female saints stand on each church’s pillar. This church earned the moniker “women’s church” because of the presence of 16 images of women saints inside. The centerpiece in the retablo is the image of Sta. Ana, the patron saint of Molo.

The Molo Church is one of the most familiar landmarks of Iloilo. Built on 1831, the church stands as a reminder of Iloilo’s rich history and a monument for Ilonggo artistry.

The Molo exudes a blatant expression of Gothic-Renaissance architecture, the one of its kind outside Manila. The interior is a fusion of Gothic and Romanesque architectures, there is a constant alternation between the overpowering features of Gothic and the recessive characteristics of Romanesque.

The interior is rich in Gothic elements. There are five gothic altars which are made of wood while beautiful paintings dominate the walls. There is also a pair of interestingly decorated pulpits contrast the entire structure.

The Spires of Molo are yet the most interesting colonial skyscrapers in Iloilo City aside from the Neoclassic Belfry of Jaro.

Molo church is very sturdy and has survived fires, earthquakes, and artillery barrages in 1945. Molo church was made as an evacuation center for the civilians during WWII. One tower is said to have been destroyed by the Americans after suspecting it was used for military purposes by the Japanese during the Second World War. The bells still bear the scars of bullets shot at Philippine resistance fighters in the second world war. The National Historical Institute declared it a national landmark in 1992.

In front of the Molo Church are the district plaza and its bandstand, a typical feature of Western Visayas towns.

Off we went to Leganes and we visited the town’s church, the Church of San Vincente Ferrer. Declared as a diocesan shrine, the imposing baroque structure stands facing the town plaza as it struck passers-by with its captivating beauty. The facade is an elaborate example of the usual baroque church common in the Philippines and in other countries around Europe. Without the canopy, the facade would have shared a lot of similarities with the Church of Saint Theresa in Lithuania. Though it was just recently rebuilt, the architects and engineers did choose the best details that could make an astonishing facade that depicts nothing else but elegance, faith, and magnificence.

When I was researching over the Internet, there was nothing much to read about Zarraga. I just got to know about it when dad was invited to visit this town for the inauguration of the monument of General Poblador, who apparently is, my great, great grandfather! Oh, holy cow! Who wouldn’t get excited to see my lolo (grandfather) still standing firmly after hundreds of years eh? Peace Lo!

Upon reaching Zarraga, the first familiar place to visit was definitely its church. After a few minutes of prayer and picture-taking, I immediately ran and searched for my lolo’s monument. I first found this statue near the municipal hall, which I joked about. I said it waved back at us when we dropped off, with a thought that it’s my grandfather’s. It turned out a different one. Oops. Sorry, wrong statue.

So we started asking around, and we later found him on the other side of the road, at the town’s plaza. For a few seconds, I was dumbfounded and gave him nothing but a blank stare. Sorry to say this, lolo, but I was expecting you’re wearing something, uhm, a bit more fashionable and trendier! Then I suddenly realized that such an outfit of his was a trend at his time. Sheesh. How inconsiderate I was! So I did ecstatically rush towards him as if I could hug him tightly and he’d hug me back. Hey, you couldn’t blame me, I was a proud apo (grandchild).

Apparently, our family is a known bunch of revolutionaries during the Spanish and the American eras. And surprisingly, the most popular of them all in the family is no other than the Joan of Arc of the Visayas, Teresa Magbanua.

Teresa Magbanua is a native of Pototan, Iloilo. During her childhood, she was someone described as a tomboy or lesbian for she enjoyed the company of boys over girls. She enjoyed boy activities like climbing trees, riding horses and water buffalo. She was the one defending her brothers when they got into fights. This behavior put concern on her parents who sent her off to a local finishing school and two colleges in Manila.

She returned to Pototan after her studies and began teaching. She transferred to the town of Sara where she met a wealthy landowner who became her husband. She left the teaching career and focused on the plantation where she helped in managing the farm. She had the opportunity to get back to the activities she loved most when she was a child–riding horses and practicing her marksmanship.

When the revolution began in Iloilo, her brothers: Pascual and Elias joined the Katipunan and became leaders. Elias became a Major in the revolutionary army albeit he was only a teenager while Pascual became a Brigadier General in the same army.

Teresa was indeed destined to be a heroine. Her desire for deliverance and love for her country kept burning inside her heart that despite the objections of her husband, she enlisted under General Perfecto Poblador who was her uncle. The General first refused to take her in, seeing weakness in her being a woman; but she objected and showed her determination, making her uncle to heed.

She did prove herself. She commanded a group of equally patriotic men who would attack under her every command. She was called “General” although wasn’t really designated. She fought against the American forces in Jaro in 1899, never declining until it was really futile. She disbanded her men and returned home.

She felt lost when her two brothers died. It was a product of treachery made by Filipinos who were behind the assassination. Elias died at the age of 19 from the bullet of a Filipino guide who was working for the American forces. Her brother Pascual’s death was even more tragic because bandits murdered him. They threw his body into the river and was never recovered. It was believed that the reason behind the murder is jealousy for Pascual’s successes.

When Japan attacked the Philippines, Teresa sold all her property to help finance the guerrilla forces. She migrated to Mindanao and died in 1947 in Zamboanga.

Moving on, Zarraga also prides itself as pantat country. I just noticed on the street what this place is also known for—mudfish! It was my first time to eat pantat inasal, and luckily I survived. Well, I was able to finish 3 and was even craving that we decided to bring home a few more. No wonder why dad likes this fish, too.

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