Sierra Madre backdrop as we paraded on the lake

The Batcave

We stayed at a friend’s house which was amazingly at the center of everything. In just one night, we were able to roam around almost the entire town by feet! That’s how close by everything was. I have a growing appreciation for the small town feel, like how it was in Baler.

Terminal
HM Bus Terminal in Cubao 

I found this blog about bus lines with pretty good info about HM Bus’ operation (and other bus lines that cater Laguna), since no company website can suffice as of Feb 2013.

Only in Paete (The Carving Capital of the Philippines)

The place could also be the art center of the country with a good chunk of people earning a living by their natural knack for producing arts and crafts.
Paete could be one of those underexposed, potentially good tourist spots, just about 4 hours away from Manila.

If you have the inkling for wooden furniture, carved home decor, or anything wooden and/or sculpted, you must be heading now to this little town hidden at the end of Laguna.
I had no expectation going back here since my first trip was not at all a good experience. But boy was I surprised as the town unveils a Vigan-ish, Intramuros-y, Venice kind of feel as we stroll at night. There was a stretch of local arts and crafts stores which could be a good come-on for tourists, an artsy cafe in between showcasing painting on canvas for sale, and a show store for one of the country’s best production designers and props makers!
It helps that the size of it gives a vibe of community and that the weather was cool and dry enough to walk around and explore. Some details of the town whispers creativity as subtly demonstrated by their lamp posts, signages, and house windows. I saw two churches which I instantly noticed as good venue for nostalgic weddings.

 

Of course they couldn’t just use a non-carved wooden signage, could they?

 

They have murals that I guess anyone from their streets can curate- because it seems like everyone is an artist

Wawa Park

Taken from my tricycle ride. There’s something about boats that’s poetic

 

Wawa is a local term for lawa, which is Filipino for lake. 


St. James the Apostle Church

 

Imagine a small town with an unbelievably beautiful church architecture, which seems misplaced beside a local school and houses because they’re so admirable that they may just pass as one of the UNESCO heritage sites. Paete gives you that.

Tatlong Krus

Tatlong Krus (3 Crosses)– a reminder of the day in the Christian world when Jesus was nailed on the cross with 2 other sentenced thieves
Then you have Sierra Madre to hike or ride a motorbike to for a top view of nearby provinces. Tatlong Krus (3 Crosses) stand tall on Mt. Humarap of Paete (one of the mountains of the Sierra Madre ranges) aptly named as it faces the town as well as Laguna de Bay. Pilgrims flock here during the holy week and tourists lay down for picnic and peace. My friend said torches are lit on each of the crosses that may be seen from down town, maybe as a good reminder of the what happened in Calvary.

Sunset on Sierra Madre

The Experience

Salibanda (Saliw sa Banda)- Feast of Sto Nino

Overview was a vision of San Juan’s feast wherein you get randomly thrown water on the street! Well it was that, and more. Devotees lifting the Sto Nino were dancing to the upbeat tunes played by the town band. People in their houses were prepared with hoses and drums of water ready to attack anyone without care, and then they chant “Bawal magalit, Salibanda!” (Don’t get mad, it’s Salibanda). I had my camera wrapped in a rain coat when someone courteously asked that I please raise the camera, and then went on to pour the whole pitcher of water on my head. Sounds fun, boy was it really fun and cold!

 

People, young and old, were armed with toy water guns as the festivities licensed them to shoot just about anyone. It was exhilarating as you don’t get to experience the instant camaraderie on ordinary days.
The Sto Nino was paraded on the lake and back to the town for people to praise
License to spill
Water Battalia Royale!
Old and Young interchanging roles. This old man (L) mercilessly ended my dry state.
Devotees of the Sto Nino

 

The band, all wet but still playing

 

Water can’t stop this granny devotee

 

Even foreigners have joined the festivity
Children waiting for the homeowner to throw candies and other goodies while being fired with water
I shoot him, he shoots me

 

It is these kinds of trips that make me go on. The bliss of experiencing the unique local culture, seeing random smiling faces like they’re glad to have you back home, and the youth that curiosity of the unknown brings– these make me perpetually believe that I am born to continue with this travelthon; these preserve the child in me, these remind me of humility and humanity. These are why I travel.
I couldn’t be more thankful I have friends who have welcoming homes, and friends always ready to go.
: j