Heritage is history with love 
By Bea Zobel Jr.
Inquirer News Service

MONDAY, Feb. 9,  2004,  was a marvelous day. I went to bed happy that night my faith in my country restored.

I had spent the weekend in the diving resort of Solana in Anilao. My friends and I decided to stay until Monday as we wanted to visit Taal, Batangas. Except for a long overdue, unfinished national road, everything else was perfect.

We started the tour with a visit to an example of Philippine Art Deco architecture. This was the municipio of Bauan with its unique decorative elements. Then on to Bauan church, home to a beautiful wooden cross covered in silver. This cross is the centerpiece of the Batangas dance called "Subli." Finally we arrived in the town of Taal.

Our first stop was the Basilica of San Martin De Porres. This is a huge church with lovely neo-classical altars. Stepping out of the church's cavernous interior, we paused to admire the 19th century houses encircling the town plaza. Most interesting were a pair of three-story homes.

Next we went to visit the two houses of Doņa Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio (oof! what a mouthful!). In one of these houses we were greeted by a fantastic lady, Baby Joven Quiblat, the great granddaughter of Gliceria. I was surprised by the bright, lively colors of her home. It seems that many interiors in 19th century Philippines were decorated with such sunny hues. This was the influence of Victorian palettes.

Never in my wildest dreams would have I ever thought we had houses painted like this. Baby and her husband had gotten the masterly advice of none other than art scholar Sonny Tinio to help preserve and restore the old house, thereby honoring the memory of the great grandmother. The fact that they carried out the restoration to pass down this showcase of history to their children, Joanne, JM, Michael and Matthew, truly moved me.

This family was aware of the necessity and importance of conveying its culture and heritage to the next generation so that children will have roots in their own country. It was important for the family to share a piece of its past, which hopefully the children will in turn pass on with great pride. Indeed, heritage is history preserved with love!

Resource center

I do, however, understand that many families cannot do restoration if they wished to. The expense involved in preserving historical homes is truly great. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someday a center or school could be set up where traditional building crafts can be taught?

This way, families like that of Baby would have a resource center that they could easily go to for assistance. What a dream!

Who was Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio?

She was one of our heroic Filipino women who actively contributed her money and energy (as well as ships!) to the revolution against the Spaniards. In recognition of her valor and contribution to the revolution, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo named her Patroness General of the Revolutionary Host when the Philippine Republic was proclaimed on June 12, 1898.

We were likewise graciously allowed into Doņa Gliceria's other home, which has also been restored and preserved by Baby's cousin.

My stomach soon started growling and we were taken to lunch at Gregorio Agoncillo's house, another beautiful historic home. We were joined by Mayor Cabrera who had to patiently listen to me while I went on and on about the heritage programs I had seen.

Two ladies who were also very involved in heritage programs, joined us: Aya Tankeh and Mini Alcasid (who happens to be the mother of pop sensation Ogie Alcasid). Ms. Alcasid's other son Tony completed our party.

I ate food typical of Batangas, especially of Taal: adobong dilao, maliputo fish (which they had taken three weeks to find), pork roasted on coconut husks, bulanglang (a vegetables stew)... (I feel hungry again.) Interestingly they ate roast pork with rice flavored with chocolate.

What a better way to digest our food than shopping? We went to Natividad S. Noche's needlecraft shop and bought out her whole stock! It was marvelous to see a handicraft shop so alive.

Her son Chito thankfully came back to Batangas and now handles the business. The walls are covered with pictures of Ms Noche receiving awards. Her shop was at its peak in the Marcos era as men had to wear barong to office.

Today the Noches distribute their raw materials to some 300 people who embroider for them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more ladies were made to wear embroidered ternos? Can you imagine how many jobs we would create?

We ended our tour with Calaca church. I was dragging my feet as I entered through its wooden doors, thinking I was going to be a witness to yet another attempt at repainting our once resplendent interiors.

Can you believe it, I screamed as I looked up! I think the people deep in prayer were just about to throw me out for fear I was a mad foreigner except they soon heard "Beautiful, beautiful," as tears were running down my cheeks.

Okay, a little theatrical and straight out of "Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas," but I was overwhelmed! The rose-hued ceilings had been left untouched. I could finally sit down with a smile on my face and be wrapped in this piece of Spanish-Filipino history intact.

On our way back to Makati, the car screeched to a halt as we were determined to get down at Colettes' Buko Pie Pasalubong Stand. This stand sells all the delicacies of the surrounding provinces.

But what I loved most was the stand! All done up with bamboo!

I dream: Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a shop selling beautiful handicrafts from all over the Philippines displayed in a sophisticated fashion? Maybe someday! But that day of Feb. 9, I truly experienced an example of what we do right in the Philippines-our culture and heritage lovingly preserved by the local community.