Laguna comes on top of the getaway list of the Metro Manila populace particularly during the summer months when jeeploads of tourists flock to the province’s resorts. The ease of access either through the South Luzon Expressway or via Rizal province along the Manila East Road also makes it a popular Visita Iglesia route during the Holy Week. One can visit all the stops in this article with a very early start from the capital, but luckily for this road trip we got a headstart by starting from our house in Calamba.
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is one of a kind as it is the only cemetery in the country with a crypt and chapel located underground. Established by Franciscan missionaries in 1845, this cemetery also has a chapel for the final rites before burial. I was able to descend to the crypt when I first visited the cemetery on a field trip back in college, however it was closed when we dropped by on Black Saturday (regular schedule: Tuesdays to Sundays, 8am to 4pm, free).
Liliw and Magdalena Church
The next town from Nagcarlan, Liliw, is known for its footwear industry. The town center’s streets are chock-full of various shops selling different kinds of slippers and shoes. Tucked at one end of town away from the shoe-shopping crowd, stands Liliw’s pretty red brick church. The St. John the Baptist parish church dates to its founding in 1605, and is partly a reconstruction following an earthquake in 1880 and fire in 1898.
In neighboring Magdalena, the St. Mary Magdalene church stands proudly in front of the town plaza. In addition to being the spiritual center of the town, the church is also a mute witness to history as it was here that revolutionary hero Emilio Jacinto hid from the Spaniards after being wounded in battle in 1898.
Lunch at Exotik Restaurant
Our lunch stop was at exotic Exotik Restaurant in Kalayaan. The more adventurous will drool at Exotik’s menu – bayawak (monitor lizard), snake, frogs, among others, but we were not feeling too daring at that time so we settled for (a rather tame) ginataang pating na may malunggay and the ever-reliable pork sisig. I ordered a glass of sago’t gulaman to cool down from the heat.
Pakil and Paete Church
Driving north from Exotic restaurant, Pakil’s St. Peter of Alcantara parish church is known for the image of Our Lady of Sorrows enshrined in the church. The Turumba festival in Pakil commemorates the Virgin Mary’s grief during the Passion of Christ, and occurs on seven separate days around Easter as well as on the feast day on September 15th.
Two kilometers south of Pakil, Paete’s woodcrafts earned the town its monicker as the woodcarving capital of the Philippines. The town’s prized craft is evident in the interiors of its parish church dedicated to St. James the Apostle. The church’s exterior is equally elegant with its baroque style. The facade looks like a cross between UNESCO world heritage sites Paoay and Miag-ao churches, although on a smaller scale.
We made a quick detour up to the shores of Lake Caliraya to soak in the afternoon breeze. The lake was built with the damming of Caliraya river in 1939 to create a hydroelectric power source for the region. Today, the area is popular for fishing and watersports such as jetskiing and windsurfing.
At the end of our road trip on the way back to Calamba, one can’t miss the huge duck statue at Masapang junction. The town of Victoria has a thriving duck and balut industry, roadside stores usually have a basket of balut for sale. It’s would be wise to buy a few, as you’ll probably be stuck in the Manila-bound traffic at Los Baños and Calamba if you’re traveling on a busy weekend.
- Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
- Liliw (St. John the Baptist) Church
- Magdalena (St. Mary Magdalene) Church
- Exotic Restaurant, Kalayaan
- Pakil (St. Peter of Alcantara) Church
- Paete (St. James the Apostle) Church
- Lake Caliraya