They came from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) to Bicolandia, 42 participants—mostly media persons and bloggers—riding in a caravan of, well, vans, to experience the interesting sights in the provinces of Quezon, Laguna and Rizal. It was the 2018 edition of the Luzon Cultural Caravan organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
The first stop of the tour was Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon, which is actually alongside the boundary of Laguna. This resort cum museum has historical significance. Here, at the turn of the century, revolutionaries against Spain and the United States were given shelter, although the owner was a Spaniard, Placido Escudero. And when Japan invaded the Philippines in 1941, Filipino and American soldiers retreating to Bataan were likewise provided sanctuary by Arsenio Escudero, son of Placido, and his wife Rosario Adap.
Villa Escudero is a celebration of Philippine life and culture. The employees are dressed in festive native attire, and there are cultural presentations. The museum’s façade is like a heritage church with wonderful religious and secular showpieces inside. The resort has bamboo- and palm-roofed cottages beside the long, narrow and deep lake, where you can see schools of fish.
In Laguna, the participants visited another landmark of religious and historical significance, the Nagcarlan church with its famous underground cemetery.
The caravan ended at Angono, Rizal, which bills itself as the “art capital of the Philippines,” and has an arts-conscious media man for mayor, Jerry Calderon, on his third and last term. Angono is proud of its many artists, notably National Artists Lucio San Pedro and Botong Francisco. The visit of the regional media men coincided with the lively festival of giant mascots, Higantes, which the town is noted for.
There were stops at the church of San Clemente, with its impressive retablo (altar piece) and at Angela Art Gallery and Inang Binas Coffee Shop, both owned by Joy Vocalan Cruz, (the latter has portraits of European classical composers because the owner is a piano teacher).
The closing ceremonies were held at Balaw Balaw, known for its native cuisine and, not least, gallery, managed by the family of the late visual artist Perdigon Bocalan. Discussions centered on Filipino identity. “Thailand and Taiwan have their own identity, so we should have ours,” said one participant. Another asserted that “we should know our history and culture.”
For many of the participants it was a discovery of the cultural, heritage and ecotourism destinations the Philippines (in this case, specifically, in Southern Luzon) is justly famous for.–CONTRIBUTED