There is a prevailing notion that Filipinos behave more than the usual when they are abroad. Me and my fellow Filipinos are more cooperative, more patient, more obeying and more respectful when they are out of the country.
But it is surprising to know that this better-quality characters seem to exist in a Filipino populace not living abroad but right here in the Philippines. It is so delightful to find out that such pleasant characters exists in a Filipino community here in the Philippines. I am talking about the heritage town of Taal, Batangas.
With the rise of animosity, distrust and hostility in Philippine society, it is now rare to encounter the pleasant events and circumstances that I personally experienced during my short visit in Taal. These encounters would normally be an impossibility and would normally not happen if it occurred in another place or town somewhere here in the Philippines.
At Caysasay Church, I and my friends were the only customers inside a store that sells religious goodies. I wanted to have a rosary and a small image of Nuestra Senora De Caysasay. I handed the attendant a five hundred peso bill. But the young attendant does not have any change for such a huge amount, he instead asked my permission that he would have to go out of the store to have the money changed into smaller bills. When I agreed, he stepped out and without any suspicion left his store all in our care and custody.
As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, the attendant would either call another person whom he trusts to man the store or would order us to get smaller bills for ourselves or would simply deny us any purchase because he doesn’t have a change for the huge bill handed to him.
On the day of our visit, we were unaware that it was the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. During this day, the locals of Batangas observes the tradition of splashing water to anyone they would see and encounter on the streets from morning until noontime. Getting splashed with water on this day is actually a symbolism of being baptized with Holy Water. While we were walking on the street of Calle M.M. Agoncillo, we were approached by a uniformed traffic enforcer (though there literally was no traffic on the streets) and told us to expect that people may splash or squirt water on us. That we would have to be mindful of the cameras and gadgets that we carry and not to get “pikon” (pissed-off) because it’s their province’s tradition.
As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, uniformed traffic enforcers would simply ignore our presence. They would simply not care. They may even be the first to laugh and mock us in case we got wet for not knowing the day’s tradition.
Casa Villavicencio, a pre-1850’s stone house turned into a private museum is one of our desired destinations in Taal. When we arrived, the house/museum was closed and indicated on a hanged signage that the house is only open to public every weekends. I nevertheless knocked on the humongous wooden door. When a young man who was passing by the street saw me, he called out one of the lady servants cleaning the garden of the museum and informed her that we were at the door wanting to enter. He told us to wait by the door to be acknowledged.
When the lady servant opened the old wooden door, she allowed us in but informed us that the house is closed to public on that day. But surprisingly, without my being too pushy she allowed us in and told us that we can pay the entrance fee at a student rate of 80 pesos per person. Except for me, my companions obviously no longer look like students but she explained that it is supposed to be 100 pesos but since they could not serve refreshments, we are given a discount. After letting us watch a short film about the legacy of the owners of the house, the servants left us for ourselves and we of course toured, marveled and enjoyed the preserved heritage of Casa Villavicencio all by ourselves.
As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, we will simply be ignored by passersby on the street and we will definitely be denied entry because their establishment is closed.
Aside from the marvellous preserved Spanish-colonial stone houses, another must visit in Taal are the churches. Two most popular of which are the St Martin De Tours Basilica and the Our Lady of Caysasay Church. In both visits, we were never approached by a “pulubi” (beggars). There seem to be no pulubi in Taal. Anyway, in both churches we were approached by smiling children (one for each church) selling candles. These children are not the typical pushy types found in other places in the Philippines. They simply offer us to buy their candles so that – according to both kids – we can solemnly pray for our loved ones. After our purchase, in both church scenarios, these kids accompanied us to the area where the candles should be placed and lighted. After praying, these young lads in both churches in their very welcome-y demeanour then told us where are the nearby interesting spots where we local tourists can proceed.
As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, street children or beggars would obnoxiously irritate foreign and local tourists. They would not stop until you hand them some money. And what is so heart-breaking is that oftentimes these children are victims/members of a loose gangsters or organized crime syndicates.
With all these remarkable encounters, I can assert the impression that Taal is my kind of Philippines. Taal definitely lives up to the country’s tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. And I just hope Taal remains the way it is today.
Oh? ‘San ka pa? Pasyal na.