What was it like in the
world of Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara? Were the images of saints
really dressed up as it was described in Kapitan Tiago’s collection?
What are the towns around the lake where the picnic was held, and was it
the same lake where Ibarra and Elias were chased? These questions can
be answered by taking a tour of the laketowns --
Antipolo, Morong, Paete, Lumban, and Calamba, Rizal’s
hometown -- and a visit to Fort Santiago, Casa
Manila, and San Agustin Church in Intramuros.
Intramuros, the walled
city, was laid out on a grid with 51
blocks within an uneven pentagon, it's massive walls breached by
and Spanish mestizos were allowed to live inside. Each night ,
drawbridges across the moat were raised to ensure the security. The
walls contained 12 churches, plus chapels, convents, monasteries,
palaces for the government buildings, schools, a university,
printing press, hospital and barracks. The elite dwelt in elegant
houses with wrought iron balconies and tiled roofs though the narrow
streets weren't paved until the late 19th century.
Baluarte de San Diego, one of the oldest fortifications in
Intramuros, was designed by the Jesuit priest, Arturo Sedeño as a
circular fort named in honor of the Nuestra Señora de Guia.
students in Manila, the tour could start at Intramuros (inside the
walls), which was originally the
of the Spanish colonial
administration until it was eventually extended outside the walls.
From the “walled city” grew the suburbs that became known as Old Manila,
which included Ermita and Binondo, where Kapitan Tiago’s banquet in
Chapter 1 of the Noli me
tángere was held.
[click here] Malacañan was the residence of the Governor-General,
built by the banks of the Pasig River that was an important artery for
water transportation at that time.
Malacañan, the residence of Governor-General as it looked in the 19th
The river was
not polluted then, and it was a source of livelihood for
fishermen as well as the source for drinking water. On the
shores of the river, near the city were various factories and
iron-foundries, above which are the residences of the wealthy
mestizos and foreign settlers, as well as Malacañan, the
residence of the Governor-General.
Three kinds of
boats plied the Pasig-Laguna route: the banca,
hollowed out of a tree trunk and often had a bamboo awning; the
lorcha which was a rather clumsy rowboat, and the
casco, that looked like a raft with its almost equal width
at both ends and was used for transporting heavy merchandise.
At Laguna de Bai, was also used a boat called the paráho,
grew out of the expanding city and soon included the old
municipalities of Pandacan, Sta. Ana, Paco, Singalong, Makati,
and Mandaluyong, all of which have waterways originating from
the Pasig River. Today these waterways are the smelly esteros
that have no resemblance at all to the vital canals that were an
integral part of the city of Rizal’s time. Its waters are black
and filled with unspeakable rotten things, and the river is just
a bit less polluted.
where Rizal spent his last days before he was shot at Bagumbayan
(now Luneta), is not far from Casa Manila, which is right next
to San Agustin Church.
The Rizal Shrine at Fort
Manila could very well have been a house where the affluent natives like
Kapitan Tiago had lived. It does not have an azotea but it has a small
balcony at the back from which one can look down at a little fountain in
the middle of a patio around which the rest of the house is clustered.
Most of the furniture, the décor, musical instruments, and the
accoutrements of the bedrooms, living room, and dining room are typical
of the period, but the toilet has a rather curious construction. The
toilet is not so big but there are two lacquered wooden toilet seats
connected by a board that seems to have been cut from the same plank.
One wonders whether two people play chess or dama as they do their
toilet business together.
Today San Agustin
Church is as much a museum as the large room that holds its numerous
antique religious and historical collections. The altar and pulpit of
the church is resplendent with the baroque décor that was typical of the
time. No wonder the church has become a favorite venue for fashionable
weddings. Among the museum collections are wooden and plaster images of
saints almost all of which are dressed in satin and velvet heavily
embroidered with gold and silver threads. Some of the images are
mounted on the “carosa”, the wagon on which was an elaborately decorated
platform for the image, just as these would have been included in the
religious processions during fiestas and high holidays.
The San Agustin Church.
To its side across the street is Casa Manila
San Agustin Church
(Note: Historic Picture)
Intramuros, the tour could proceed to Antipolo where people make a
pilgrimage to its patron saint, “Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous
Voyage”, as Kapitan Tiago and his kind had done in their time. Rizal’s
droll description of Kapitan Tiago’s devotion to this saint may be a bit
exaggerated, but it does mirror the attitude of many people towards
saint to whom he promised the most, and whose promises he was the most
faithful in fulfilling, was the Virgin of Antipolo, Our Lady of Peace
and Prosperous Voyages. With many of the lesser saints he was not very
punctual or even decent; and sometimes, after having his petitions
granted, he thought no more about them, though of course after such
treatment he did not bother them again, when occasion arose. Capitan
Tiago knew that the calendar was full of idle saints who perhaps had
nothing wherewith to occupy their time up there in heaven. Furthermore,
to the Virgin of Antipolo he ascribed greater power and efficiency than
to all the other Virgins combined, whether they carried silver canes,
naked or richly clothed images of the Christ Child, scapularies,
rosaries, or girdles. Perhaps this reverence was owing to the fact that
she was a very strict Lady, watchful of her name, and, according to the
senior sacristan of Antipolo, an enemy of photography. When she was
angered she turned black as ebony, while the other Virgins were softer
of heart and more indulgent. It is a well-known fact that some minds
love an absolute monarch rather than a constitutional one, as witness
Louis XIV and Louis XVI, Philip II and Amadeo I. This fact perhaps
explains why infidel Chinese and even Spaniards may be seen kneeling in
the famous sanctuary; what is not explained is why the priests run away
with the money of the terrible Image, go to America, and get married
(Chapter 6, Noli me tángere)
Click Here for the Text in
Our Lady of Peace and Good
The Morong Church
Next stop would be
Morong which, although not mentioned in the novel, has a church at least
a few centuries old, with its massive walls still intact and one can
imagine how the church must have been used as a refuge from the
piratical Moro raids. From the church tower, one could view the whole
of Laguna de Bai. The lake is often called Laguna Bay, which is quite
wrong because “bai” that means “lady” was anglicised into “bay” which is
a sea inlet almost in the shape of a half moon. Laguna (lake) de Bai,
therefore, means the lake of the lady that must have been a reference to
Mariang Makiling, the diwata of the Mt. Makiling overlooking the lake
This, then, is the lake in Chapter 23 where the trip of Ibarra and Maria
Clara together with their friends, escorted by the mothers and aunts,
naturally, was so charmingly described. Elias and Ibarra had an
encounter with a cayman (a kind of crocodile) that almost cost Elias his
life. The group went to the lake before dawn on a Sunday and Rizal took
this as another opportunity to attack hypocrisy:
The old women did not want
to visit the other corral but wished to return, saying that the day had
begun inauspiciously and that many more accidents might occur. "All
because we didn't hear mass," sighed one.
"But what accident has
befallen us, ladies?" asked Ibarra. "The cayman seems to have been the
only unlucky one."
"All of which proves," concluded
the ex-student of theology, "that in all its sinful life this
unfortunate reptile has never attended mass--at least, I've never seen
him among the many other caymans that frequent the church."
Click here for the text in
Today, there are no
longer caymans in Laguna de Bai, and the big fish corrals of wealthy
owners had diminished the area from which small fishermen can make a
living. Sadly, the lake is no longer as clean as it was in Ibarra’s
time. Industrial wastes from factories nearby have grossly polluted it
and organic wastes have made the lake one huge garbage bin. Even so, it
has remained beautiful. A small restaurant called the “Dalampasigan” is
built right on the shore behind the municipal hall of Los Baños, with
half of the dining hall extending about 10 meters to the water. The
tour group can make a brief stop here for an afternoon snack before the
last stop at the Rizal shrine in Calamba. In the afternoon light, one
does not need much fantasy to imagine how the merry group of Ibarra and
Maria Clara had enjoyed the ride in the “two large bankas fastened
together and picturesquely adorned with garlands of flowers, leaves, and
ruined cotton of many colors. Little paper lanterns hung from an
improvised canopy amid flowers and fruits.”
The church in Calamba,
the municipal hall behind it, and the public market nearby make up the
classic formation of towns during the Spanish period, but it is no
longer the “town center” which has followed the commercial area near the
national highway. Right next to the church is the Rizal shrine, which
is maintained by the National Historical Institute. This means that the
Rizal-Mercado family must have been wealthy enough to afford such a
location. The architectural style of Rizal family home is very similar
to that of Casa Manila and many other old houses that can still be found
in Calamba and Lumban in Laguna, as well as in some towns of Quezon
Province like Tiaong, Candelaria, and Lucban. At the back of the house
is a grove that must have had fruit trees and flowering shrubs during
Rizal’s lifetime, where the tour group can have an hour of recalling the
|The House at Calamba in which
Rizal was born.
If there is enough
time, the tour can have side trips to the towns of Lumban and Paete.
Lumban is the center for the manufacture of jusi and piña cloths that
are made into dresses, barong tagalog, mestiza dress, fans,
handkerchiefs, and even tablecloths and matching napkins. Paete is, of
course, famous for its woodcarvings.