Roots planted firmly on Paete soil
|No sooner had our teachers announced the
start of summer vacation than we would be home packing our bags for Paete. Wed jump
onto our aunts stretch jeepney and, for the next three hours, weave our way through
each of Laguna's tiny towns till we reached Paete - today's diversionary road was still on
the drawing boards. The town is small, to be sure, but for us it was one colossal
playground that was the best of them all. Wed frolic in the rice fields, ride wobbly
bancas on the wawa (lake), learn to swim at Black Hawk where the water was crystal
clear, feast on adobong ayungin for weeks on end . . . And wed come back one
summer break after the other, eagerly awaiting a new round of adventures (and
misadventures) in the land of sweet lanzones and master wood-carvers.
Paetes allure remains as strong as ever, and I never fail to visit the place each time Im in Manila. It is as if I am seduced by some mystical force. Okay, okay, lets drop the philosophical musings. I love the place because it offers a not-too-distant hideaway, because its woodcraft stores present a good buy every now and then, because the food is great, the air fresher, the memories worth going back to. I guess I love the place because I have my roots planted firmly on Paete soil.
Like most small towns in the Philippines, modernization has caught up with Paete. New concrete houses have mushroomed, VCRs proliferate, the main streets are well paved, a tennis court has been added to the scene, even the town plazas basketball court now sports a fiberglass backboard. Still, Paete retains its peculiar charm, nestled as it is between the Sierra Madre mountains and the Laguna de Bay, which gives one a choice of trekking uphill or riding a banca or both.
Friends and acquaintances tell me that they, too, have visited Paete at one time or another, lured by the century-old Roman Catholic Church, the wood-carvings and taka (papier mâché figurines) and, between August and October, the towns harvest of luscious lanzones. Indeed, Paete is a veritable tourist destination thats a mere two-hour drive from Manila, less so via the Rizal route.
Beyond the physical environment that makes Paete both cozy and touristy, it is its people who hold the greatest potential. Just the other month, I spotted from afar a huge taka that, on closer examination, turned out to be a cool imitation of an 800 cc Yamaha motorbike. I thought it was a long-overdue departure from the usual gaily colored horses it was a neat idea that would appeal to young and old alike. While strolling at SM Megamall in Pasig one recent afternoon, I was drawn into a gallery that featured a medium-sized woodcarving depicting a typical Filipino family. Not to my surprise, it was crafted by a Paeteño. What stunned me was its price tag 150,000 pesos although at the same time I felt proud thinking that a homegrown talent could command such a stratospheric price.
Six years ago the Cultural Center of the Philippines showcased the towns talents in a months-long exhibition, "The Paete Phenomenon". A few months back, 21 Paeteños held a group exhibit at the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum dubbed "Ukit Paete". In between, other Paete artists both famed and aspiring staged solo or collective shows in the Philippines and elsewhere.
Isnt it heartening to know that Paetes finest are not about to rest on their (or their ancestors) laurels, but are bent on carving a niche of their own?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bertrand Quesada is the second son of former newspaperman
Juan Quesada Jr. of Paete and the late Minda Luz Melendez of Cagayan de Oro.
He moved to British Columbia, Canada, in 1996 after spending four years in
Taipei as a business copyeditor and columnist at the English-language The
China News and associate editor at Peregrine Securities. Previously he was
with the Manila-based PTV-4 network and The Business
You can e-mail him at: email@example.com
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