When I want to go out of town with either friends or relatives, never did it enter my weird thoughts to go to the province of Bulacan. All the while I thought that there is no interesting place to go to in Bulacan. But my perception of the place totally changed when I and my officemates did a one-day tour of the province. Thanks to Renn and Kuki the true-blooded Bulakenyas who proudly and generously toured us around.
Out first official stop was a visit inside the house and shop of Arnel Papa in Marilao. Arnel Papa is a well known fashion jewelry and accessories maker who owns a shop at high-end Greenbelt 5 in Ayala Center, Makati. He accompanied and showed us his shop just located at his backyard where craftsmen would polish, carve and whittle various metals and indigenous materials like roots of trees, snake skins and carabao horns to transform it into fashionable women’s accessories. Mr. Papa even humbly showed us his most recent collection of clutch-bags which are to be featured in his upcoming summer collection in New York.
For our Bulakeño lunch, we were taken to Nena’s Restaurant located in Bulihan, Plaridel whose dining huts were atop an enormous catfish farm. I especially dug unto the specialty of the joint like Fried Itik (duck), Kare-kareng Itik, Adobong Igat (eel) and deep-fried half face of a hog which I glugged down with fresh Buko Juice.
The next stop was the historic Barasoain Church – the very church featured at the back of the 10-peso bill. Adjacent to it was the Barasoain Church Museum which features the serene figures of the Holy Mother in various representations, sizes and grandiose clothings. Included in the same vicinity was the preserved and official carriage of the 1st Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo. Across the church yard our group proceeded to Barasoain Bakeshop to raid the popular Bulacan delicacies.
In my personal view, the highlight of the tour was when we entered the ancestral house owned by Mr. Des Bautista, a popular visual artist and well known figure of the province. The old house is 132 years old which contains what could be considered antique treasures of Bulacan. It was the house where numerous Pinoy movies were shot like Tatarin and Lola Basyang. I can’t help but marvel the beauty of the house as well as its priceless contents. The ceiling alone is already a valuable piece of art. There were numerous drawings by Amorsolo and paintings by Edades hanging on the walls of the house. The prayer room is the most intense and mind-boggling part of the house. It contained a huge figure of the Virgin Mary crowned and dressed in metallic gold with elaborate sophisticated designs being surrounded by numerous life-sized angel figurines and golden flower ornaments.
After which, we went on a short walking tour to peep into the glass walls of the majestic Sto Niño chapel built by Mr. Des Bautista. During the short walk, we were able to view on the regal architectural wonders of the ancestral houses of the Tantocos and the Lopez-es.
We took a short ride to go to Inang Wika (Mother Tongue) Street in Malolos to meet the renowned Pastillas Wrapper Artist, the 87-year old lady named Luz Ocampo. Lola Luz showed us some of her works and demonstrated her ability to intricately scissor a bunch of Japanese paper that would turnout to become an elaborate design of wrapper of the sweet and milky pastilles. She also presented some of her finished works with different designs – a bahay kubo(nipa hut), a gumamela flower, a mag-babayo (unhusked rice pounders), a sampaguita flower. One sad note however is that her craftmanship will not be handed down to her children and grandchildren since no one in her family is interested to learn how to do it. Another art work of this old lady is when she presented her sweetened dayap (lime). A bottled delicacy made of intricately designed dayap skin submerged in sweet syrup.
The tour did not end there, after another short ride we reached one of the oldest churches in Bulacan – Nuestra Señora La Virgen Immaculada Conception to say a short prayer. Along the way, we witnessed a procession of a figure of the Virgin Mary being paraded solemnly along the streets of Malolos. As a last stop, we entered Citang Eatery where we bought another batch of Bulacan-made delicacies. I was so impressed with Lola Luz that I bought a big slob of pastillas de leche and an order of Bulacan’s version of hamonado.
There were a lot to see still in Bulacan according to Renn and Kuki. But with this one splendid tour all I can say that it was fun, enriching, impressive, unique and regal! It’s truly a feast for the senses.
Trip na triiip!