MANILA, APRIL 17, 2006 (MALAYA) BY JIMMY CALAPATI - The Filipino Heritage Festival Inc. will celebrate this year’s Heritage month by visiting the historic spots of Bulacan, Laguna and Iloilo.

Proclamation No. 439 declared the month of May as National Heritage Month, recognizing the need to create a consciousness, respect and love for the legacies of Filipino cultural history.

On May 6, adventure-seekers will tour Bulacan’s old historic towns.

Picturesque and teeming with history, Bulacan is paradise to arts and culture buffs. North of Metro Manila, the province is home to a hodge-podge of attractions – centuries-old churches, quaint ancestral homes, renowned landmarks of great historical value, Filipino poetry, handicraft, as well as the country’s most mouth-watering sweets.

A visit to the museum-like town of San Miguel is on top of the itinerary. The Biak-na-Bato National Park, which served as the mountain hideout of hundreds of Katipuneros fleeing from Spanish forces during the Philippine revolution, will be the first stop. On this site, General Emilio Aguinaldo and his over 500 handpicked men established the Biak-na-Bato Republic in 1897, signaling the Philippines’ separation from the Spanish monarchy, and its formation into an independent state.

The town of San Miguel de Mayumo is known for its sweets such as tocino del cielo, pastilles de leche, candied fruits, yema and a host of other treats. San Miguel was once part of Pampanga, (Mayumo, after all, means "sweet" in Kapampangan). Participants of Lakbay Bulacan will have a taste of these goodies when they visit Sevilla’s Sweets, a sweet tooth’s paradise.

The next stop will be the 200-year-old San Miguel Church located in the heart of San Miguel, Bulacan. Built by Augustinian friars, the church is a destination of choice among pilgrims for its centuries-old religious images which include a statue of St. Michael the Archangel conquering the devil.

On May 13, the Heritage Month’s next stop will be Laguna.

Nestled between the Sierra Madre’s foothills and the great lake, Laguna has existed amid thriving communities for many centuries, pre-dating the Spanish colonial era.

Surrounding the town square of Pila are old bahay na bato homes dating back to the 1920s. In the town of Santa Cruz, a former private residence is now the Nineveh Art Space with a collection of over 50 contemporary art pieces from the Sevilla Collection.

At Lumban, the embroidery capital of the Philippines, where the craft has been handed down from generation to generation, there will be a brief shopping tour.

The Pakil church, one of the best-preserved in Laguna, is the home of Our Lady of Turumba, for whom seven festivals are held annually in her honor. The town is also the home of artist Danny Dalena, whose large family house has been turned into a museum. Pakil’s craftsmen’s forte is whittling (the delicate side of carving), whose workshops are on the edge of town.

A walking tour of Paete will give the study group the opportunity to inspect the intricate way in which the town’s history is tied to the chisel (pait). The church’s elaborately carved adobe façade, its retablos (reliefs) and large 17th century paintings on wood panels, their papier maché horses fashioned on old carved wooden forms, set Paete apart from other Laguna towns.

Majayjay’s link with the supernatural has to do with its proximity to the mystical Mount Banahaw. Its church is one of the oldest and the largest in the country. Unusually tall for a Philippine house of worship, its nave measures over 16 meters high. The central aisle is 60 meters long.

A walking tour of Jaro’s quaint ancestral homes and centuries-old churches, a parade of pretty Ilonggas, a sampling of delectable Ilonggo cuisine – all these and more will cap the month-long Filipino Heritage Festival dubbed Viva Zarzuela! this May.

Realizing that theirs is a culture so rich, Iloilo denizens have pooled manpower and resources to preserve their heritage, and have declared the entire month of May as Iloilo Heritage Month. On May 30 and 31, arts and culture enthusiasts will be treated to a hodgepodge of activities aimed at showcasing the renowned Ilonggo warmth and hospitality.

On day one, Maasin City’s Tultugan bamboo ensemble, as well as a rondalla group, will play a medley of Ilonggo tunes to welcome tour participants as they get ready for the adventure in store for them.

Topping the itinerary is a walking tour of Jaro’s charming houses. The Javellana-Lopez, Magdalena Jalandoni Museum, Jalandoni-Lopez Vito, and Hormillosa-Locsin heritage abodes will rouse visitor’s interest when they enter each home in groups of ten each.

After making the rounds of various cities, the zarzuela Ang Gugma ni Dansoy kag Rosing will be home at last when the Tourism and Performing Arts Society, Inc. perform the Ilonggo obra maestro. The presentation will showcase the Ilonggo lifestyle during the economic boom of the 1930s.

On May 31, a walking tour of various Philippine landmarks including the Molo Church and Convent, the Mejica Museum, the Iloilo Sinamay House, the Panaderia de Molo, and a number of old houses, await culture vultures.

Commemorating Queen Helena’s search for the Holy Cross, festival organizers will stage a Flores de Mayo. The parade of sagalas will make its way through the old central business district where historical architectural landmarks still stand.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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