Years and years ago, we toured a Japanese friend of my sister around Batangas. Since there really isn’t much to see in Batangas City, we went to the bahay na bato of the Pastor family on Kalye C. Tirona. Bahay na bato’s are rare nowadays in the Philippines, being relics of the Spanish era when horse-drawn carriages or kalesas would be parked beneath the house. The house, which has been featured in countless magazine articles, is notable for being the site of an assassination attempt on then Governor (later US President) William Howard Taft.
I remember being impressed by shining wooden floors, the enormous windows which filtered sunlight through capiz shells, the gleaming wooden furniture and thinking back then what a lot of hands it must need to maintain. Since my mother had arranged the visit, we were fortunate to be toured around by Mrs. Pastor who, in the course of conversation, proudly showed off her daughter’s accomplishment: a book on ethnic Filipino fabrics.
Marian Pastor Roces’ Sinaunang Habi: Philippine Ancestral Weave served as my introduction to an oft-forgotten aspect of ethnic Filipino culture: traditionally woven fabrics. Admittedly, those who are most engaged in reviving interest in traditional Filipino fabrics are those who do not struggle to put food on the table. Like Senator Loren Legarda whose advocacy (she even wears traditional woven textile for formal events!) has borne fruit in the creation of a permanent Hibla Gallery at the National Museum.
Sorry to be so long-winded … I was reminded of Roces’ book today while reading about Jane Arrieta Ebarle’s exhibit of paintings based on Filipino weaving patterns. It made me sigh again for being unable to view the textile exhibit while we were in the Philippines last August. This is not Ebarle’s first Hibla exhibit and one can see that her art is – well, to me, they just flow and speak and I’d like them to hang on my mantelpiece (where a cheap Ikea canvass print is currently displayed).
Meanwhile, I’ve just discovered a traveller-foodie’s blogposts on Taal, Batangas. Now Taal is just a short ride away from where we live in Batangas but most Batanguenos rarely go there except to swim in the beach on holidays, visit Taal Church (otherwise known as the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, considered the largest church in the Philippines and Asia) as part of a visita iglesia, or to buy Filipiniana dresses with burdang Taal. It’s actually a picturesque town with narrow streets where one can buy a balisong at the public market.
Please note that the town of Taal, Batangas, and Taal Volcano atop the island on Lake Taal are separated by the town of San Nicolas. Taal Volcano is a tourist attraction that may be accessed via boat from Tagaytay. It has a long history of eruptions. It’s on my bucket list of hiking trails so I can get my hands on some real Batangas lava rock (maybe some day I’ll post a pic of my rock collection – it’s quite pitiful at the moment).
The lake itself is surrounded by the towns of Talisay, Laurel, Agoncillo, etc … and is home to the freshest tilapia that side of earth. I know because I still reminisce to the hubby about the simple dinner of rice and pan-fried tilapia one summer night atop the Thousand Steps in Cuenca (we haven’t tasted tilapia in more than a year because the hubby refuses to buy the frozen kind and I reminisce each time I get a craving for tilapia, one of the dishes I grew up on).
Ah well … reading those posts has firmed up my plan to plan our next stay back home so my kids can soak in the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines.
Note: Likhang Habi, a market fair of traditionally woven products is held each year by the Philippine Textile Council sometime around October.