Road Trip to Rizal

Rizal Province, the Philippines

December 30, 2008

Let the road lead you. That’s the guiding principle of a good road trip.

Road Trip with Ki

One lazy December day, Ki (my fellow “road-tripper”) and I did just that. For Manila urbanites, an out-of-the-blue road trip was mostly a toss between going north or going south. Going east was hardly even regarded as an option. (Going west would mean embarking on a boat trip.) But on this day, we headed eastward with no particular destination, no compelling reason other than to follow the road.

We drove the stretch of Marcos Highway, past dense suburbs and malls, wondering where the dead-end was. There was none; it just gradually lost lanes as it traversed the sparsely populated beyond. The eight-lane city highway in Metro Manila eventually shrunk into a two-lane country road. It was in this winding highway that we found ourselves alone for long stretches, meeting only an occasional jeepney or motorcycle.

The Long and Winding Road: Beyond Marcos Highway

Ki was anxious we might run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, as there seemed to be neither town nor gas station in sight. There was a small variety store (sari-sari store in the vernacular) that sold gas in one-liter Pepsi bottles. Ki bought one, just in case. After all, we didn’t know how much longer we needed to drive to see a town.

Zigzagging the highway on the slopes of the Sierra Madre mountain range offered spectacular views at every turn: forests, foothills, limestone cliffs, and the placid blue of Laguna de Bay beyond. The forest was densely verdant, seemingly pristine. We passed by a few resorts and inns here and there, but the area looked mostly untouched by development, a fact that considerably added to its rustic charm.

A hill of undulating cogon captivated us – it was both a static and dynamic sight.

Mt. Tarangka: Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Rizal Province

A small roadside store conjured up images of South American countryside. Ki and I fancied we were in the Bolivian Altiplano.

Cherry Store and Coffee Shop at the Sierra Madre

A row of motorcycles parked by a cliff, overlooking the rolling terrain, was like a scene straight out of the Latin American film Motorcycle Diaries.

Parking with a View: Sierra Madre, Rizal

A pair of flowers blooming by the road provided a shocking red accent on the shades of green around.

Redolence in Red

After an uncertain hour on the road, we finally drove into the old town of Tanay. As with most Spanish-style towns in the Philippines, at the town center stood an imposing stone church.

Tanay is an Open Book!
San Ildefonso Parish Church @ Tanay

Seemingly unremarkable, the San Ildefonso Parish Church‘s facade belied its rich rococo retable. We found the interior of this centuries-old church colorful and charming – quite whimsical, actually – a stark contrast to its stone-cold exterior. The bas-relief Via Crucis panels on the walls of the church offered a curious twist. The scenes were updated to the 18th century, and they conjured up the Spanish era in the Philippines rather than the time of Christ in the Holy Land.

Pulpit in San Ildefonso Parish Church, Tanay
The Passion of the Christ: Bas-Relief Panel in Tanay Church

The church’s silence was broken only by the occasional pitter-patter of the prayerful who would come in for a quick rogation and a quicker exit.

Praying Woman @ Tanay Church
Ki
Me

By the side of the church, I heard sobbing sounds. I peeked outside and found a boy slumped by the door. Whatever he was praying for, he agonized for it.

A Cry in the Dark
Comin’ Out of the Dark

The hillside town of Morong was our last stop; it was saving the best for last. The lovely St. Jerome Church came into view, perched on a hill. Originally built in 1615, the church had been renovated over the succeeding centuries but retained its antiquated allure. Unfortunately, the church’s main portal was locked.

Baroque Beauty of St. Jerome Church in Morong, Rizal

The neo-baroque facade was eye candy enough: richly detailed with bas-relief and adorned with miniature statues and a mural. Said to have Mexican and Chinese influences in its design, it was a testament to our strategic location at the crossroads between these two maritime trading countries.

Full Frontal Facade: St. Jerome Church in Morong, Rizal
By the Portal to the Past: St. Jerome Church in Morong

Finally, it was sundown when we made our way back to the city by the shore of Laguna de Bay. Road trips on a whim like this offered the most interesting discoveries. Pleasant surprises could be had in places that figured below everyone’s radar. Rizal Province was so near Metro Manila, yet mainly undiscovered as a drive-through getaway and a peek to our past.

It was Ki’s birthday; it was also Rizal Day, the death anniversary of our National Hero. It dawned on us that the road trip, although unplanned, was a fitting way to celebrate the life of Jose Rizal – by rediscovering our cultural heritage in the province named after him.

End of the Road (Trip)
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40 thoughts on “Road Trip to Rizal

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    1. Thanks! 🙂 The fun in travelling is in learning about yourself and the world. I’m a teacher by profession, but I become an eager student on the road. 🙂

    1. Hahaha and we didn’t even know what the Bolivian altiplano really looked like! We just thought that poncho-clad people and a herd of llamas wouldn’t look out of place there.

    1. Thanks for the correction, Meister! I’ve always wanted to go on one of your Illuminati tours but stacks of papers I need to check would not allow me. But one of these days, the opportunity will certainly present itself.

  1. The pic with a caption “praying lady” is so artistic and touching. Its good to read your blog, so informative and i am humbled by your style of writing.

    1. I am touched by your comment, Inno. So encouraging, especially since I don’t earn from this. Every compliment feels like a hundred bucks. Thanks for making me richer…in spirit. 🙂

  2. you know i m from tanay rizal too but i m here now in Canada i really like you photo shot that is really nice tanks to you i see again the church you are really good photographer next in batangas ibanan or burakay

    1. Maraming salamat, Michael. I don’t think it’s possible to get a bad photo of Tanay Church. It’s a lovely church. I do hope I can go to those other places you mentioned. Anyway, drop in again, ok?

    1. @Elal: You took fine arts but never took it seriously?! What a waste! 😀 I also regret not taking my History, Humanities, and PI 100 (Rizal Studies) – actually all my classes – seriously in college. They would’ve helped a lot in blogging now, hehe.

      @Romelo: I guess so, just give credit where credit is due. With a link to this blog. 🙂

    1. Thanks Noel, Enzo, and Chris! I just love taking snapshots with my digicam. I’m no pro and have no plans of being one. But your appreciation is very much appreciated. 🙂

    1. Gee thanks, Blair! That sobbing boy…I really wanted to ask why he was crying, but a part of me also didn’t wanna pry. I figured it was just between him and God and it seemed like I was intruding into a very private moment. My shyness got the best of me in the end, but I regretted it. I might’ve done something to help…or at least I could’ve comforted him.

    1. Wow, I’m overwhelmed by the photo love! Thanks much! 🙂 But just a fluke. I don’t always get it right. Chamba-chamba lang ako.

    1. @Travel Junkie Mommy: Oh, there are beautiful baroque churches everywhere in the Philippines, it seems. In Laguna alone, there are more than a handful. Do explore this part of the country. Kaya yan in just one weekend. You can stay overnight in a quaint B&B.

      @Simurgh: Charm – wow, that’s more than what I bargained for when I snap these shots! Damu guid nga salamat. 🙂

  3. The church is really beautiful. Too bad i was not able to see the actual church when I was in Tanay Rizal. At first glance, I thought this was in malolos. =) Para kasi barasoain church

  4. AJ, this is priceless! I love your photos on the Churches and people you see. Super love the prose in which you woven your stories and how your destination has become one that enriches you culturally. Sana we can travel together in the future too.

    I am captivated by the old lady in the pews and the little boy infront of the church.

    1. @Chin: Yet another reason to go back to Tanay then. Ako naman, I have Morong Church to go back to. I’m curious how it looks inside.

      @Doc Wends: Your comment IS priceless! I sure hope somewhere down the road we can be on the road together. 🙂

  5. Pictures are fantastic. It’s worth going to a road trip when you know there is a beautful church and other sceneries waiting for all of you. Road trip + Sound Trip = Very nice trip! Keep blogging!

  6. Beautiful photographs. This kind of post makes me wonder why I didn’t tour the whole Pinas when I had the chance. Now, I am much far away and I can only wish I could go home and see the whole Philippines before my feet could tell me that I cannot anymore.

    1. Awww sadness, Julie Ann. But I’m sure you’d still have a chance to see some parts of Pinas. You can easily squeeze in a quickie tour of Rizal and Laguna when you come here for vacay. They’re not that far. And remember, it’s more fun in the Pinas. 🙂

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