0 Comments 23 April 2010


By Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Friends Sid, Fr. Ed and Mackoy have a project in the northernmost Quezon town, Gen. Nakar, facing the Pacific Ocean and close to the boundary of Aurora, and I am invited to tag along as they are aware I am interested in the ecotourist components of the trip.

First, we pass through Laguna, along Laguna de Bay, largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and I renew my acquaintance with a succession of scenic Laguna towns along the foothills of the Sierra Madre: Lumban, Kalayaan, Paete, Pakil, Pangil, Siniloan and Famy.

This phase of the journey alone is a treat for the tourist as well as pilgrim.

Most if not all of these towns have old, interesting churches. In Paete, famous for its sculptures, Last Suppers and papier-mâché, is the parish of St. James the Apostle, known to Paeteños as Santiago de Apostol, first constructed in 1646 but destroyed and rebuilt several times during the centuries. It has five ornate altars.

The church tilted a bit during the earthquake in 1990, and suffered damage. While doing repairs, carpenters removed a large painting and discovered a fresco showing St. Christopher carrying the child Jesus on his shoulders.

The church in Pakil has a main altar with a pantheon of 14 saints and is dedicated to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (Our Lady of the Sorrows of Turumba). The church is famous for the boisterous Turumba Festival, with the image of the Virgin borne triumphantly along the streets of Pakil.

A famous native son of the town is visual artist Danilo Dalena, whose paintings capture the mass of humanity and the riot that is the Turumba Fiesta. The festival is celebrated twice a year — around Holy week (March-April) and in September.

Once past the lowlands, we ascended the mountains and we were surprised to find the road well-paved and smooth, leading to the first northern Quezon town, Real. The province itself was announced by a boundary marker: Sulong (Onward) Quezon! The checkpoint was manned by polite soldiers in camouflage uniforms asking where we were bound for.

They, no doubt, wanted to make sure we were not NPA rebels, Quezon known to be an NPA bailiwick. The tourist need not fear, however, for the rebels maintain a low profile and do not bother visitors (unless they are in a military convoy). There would be a few more checkpoints along the way.

The scenery was distracting. This part of the Sierra Madre range is well-maintained, or so it appeared to those passing through. There were trees of various species all around, cold spring waters, mini-falls, valleys, rivers, and glimpses of Lamon Bay and Polillo Strait. But there was a caveat: signs proclaiming Danger Falling Rocks.

To the east, beckoning to adventure tourists, was the Polillo Group of Islands.

It was cool and windy even in the afternoon. There were a few communities along the way, with shops displaying well-crafted, sturdy and attractive bamboo furniture which were not cheap.

After Real came Infanta, an area hard hit by torrential rains, floods and landslides a few years ago. We began to descend and finally reached Gen. Nakar, a town named after a World War II hero, General Guillermo Nakar, who hailed from Barangay Anoling of the town.

The municipal Hall is a new, modern and imposing building, with stained-glass art above the lobby. The town, which has lots of breathing space (you can buy a lot and retire here), recently celebrated its 60th foundating anniversary. In the distance you can see the mountains of Baler, Aurora, which are also part of the Sierra Madre.

There, to my surprise, I learned that there are many tourist attractions in Gen. Nakar, although far-flung, and this makes them attractive to adventure tourists: mountains and beaches, notably Catablingan; forests where indigenous peoples dwell, their culture intact; coastal cliffs and rock formations, Kidadayaig Falls, Depalyong Falls in Barangay Sablang, and Tulaog Cave in San Marcelino.

Barangay Pamplona and Catablingan have beach resorts with lodgings.

In the forests of Barangay Pagsanjan is found the Raffleasia, one of the world’s biggest flowers; while in Barangay Banglos the fisherfolk are known for their wood sculptures. From the forests have come herbs which are made into medicinal products by women’s groups.

The best-known tourist destination in Gen. Nakar, says Municipal Tourism Officer Kareen R. Leynes, is Tulaog Cave, which is near Tulaog Beach. It is actually a cluster of caves which is 1 ½ hours by boat from the town proper. The indigenous peoples (katutubo) from nearby towns go there simply by walking several kilometers, being a hardy race.

They converge there on August 4 every year for their Pasasalamat or thanksgiving to their deity, Makidyapat. They rest, cook, hold ceremonies, pray, and stay there for several days. Visitors who go there to watch or document the proceedings should respect the culture and religion of the katutubo, for tribal lore maintains that outsiders who go there with bad intentions never return to where they came from.

Exploiters, you have been warned.


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