In 2009, I finally visited the carvers’ town of Paete, in the province of Laguna, when the last time I was there was in the 1970s. The town of Paete had already existed before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1600s. They were surprised by the many carvers in the village that they named it Paete after the same name for a chisel. Since then, many great sculptors emerged from this small town.
However in this visit, I didn’t have time to wander this historical town, because we were actually taking shelter from Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana).
I returned once again in 2012, and I now took my time to look at the many historical pieces of art and architecture in this small town.
Here I am wandering the aisle of Saint James the Apostle Parish Church, which was built in 1864.
In 2009, I, along with two other teachers, took three sections of our students on a field trip (around 120 students) to see the historic towns of Paete and Angono, in the south of Luzon Island. What we assumed would be a safe trip under a category 1 storm, would soon became the most devastating typhoon to hit the island of Luzon in a century. Although a category 1 storm is usually seen as safe to travel due to the weak winds, the amount of rain that fell in that day caused massive floods that killed thousands of people and damaged billions in property and livelihood.
Among the teachers, I was the only one trained for emergency situations, so I had to create a plan that would keep us safe on the road, and keep the students’ calm. We couldn’t turn back, as all roads to Manila were flooded. So we just kept moving, looking for a safe place to bide our time.
This photograph was taken at 1 in the morning, as we parked our bus on top of the South Expressway Skyway, as we waited for the floods to subside. My plan worked quite well, as the students were in high spirits, yet eager to stretch their legs after being stuck in the bus for the whole day. We eventually returned to Manila by 4 in the morning, on the very next day.
Returning to Paete in 2012, I was saddened by the state of church murals, after years of neglect. Exposed to the elements, these 19th century paintings have succumbed to the weather and termite infestations.
This is a close up of Jose Luciano Dans’ 1850 mural, “Langit, Lupa at Impierno” (Heaven, Earth and Hell).
Jose Luciano Dans’ 1850 mural “Langit, Lupa at Impierno” (Heaven, Earth and Hell) as photographed in the 1980s. There are present efforts to restore these artworks, but there isn’t much of a budget available.
This is a close up of the damage to Jose Luciano Dans’ 1852 mural, “San Cristobal” (Saint Christopher).
1852 Jose Luciano Dans’ 1852 mural “San Cristobal” during a better time.
There are now efforts to restore these master pieces, but more has to be done to preserve our heritage pieces. And that includes the many ateliers of carvers in the town, who find business slowing down due to the mass production of the images of saints and other motifs that they would usually sculpt.