OCTOBER 15, 2008

Paete is a 4th-class urban municipality in the province of Laguna, Philippines. The 2000 census registers the town with a population of 23,011 in 5,101 households.

Paete (pronounced Pī-té, long i, short guttural ê) is a lakeside town located at the northeastern part of Laguna, along the shores of picturesque Laguna de Bay. It was founded in 1580 by Spanish friars Juan de Placencia and Diego de Oropesa of the Franciscan Order. It is believed that the earliest inhabitants were of Malay lineage, coming all the way from Borneo in their swift and sturdy boats called "Balangay". The town is made famous by craftsmen highly skilled in woodcarving and its embellishment.

Paete has come a long way from what Jose Rizal describes as that town from whose "carpenter shops" were issued images "even those more rudely carved" (chapter VI, Noli me Tangere ). Even now, its inhabitants (called Paeteňos or Paetenians) continue with their centuries-old tradition in carving and painting. Rizal would feel proud of the town's masterpieces, evident in statues, pulpits, murals and bas relief found in churches, palaces and museums all over the world--among them the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, the Mission Dolorosa in San Francisco, the San Cayetano Church in Mexico, the St. Joseph's shrine in Sta. Cruz, California, various churches in the Philippines and the Ayala Museum in Makati, Philippines. The official town hero is not a statesman nor a soldier but a woodcarver, the master artisan Mariano Madriñan, whose obra maestra, the life-like Mater Dolorosa, was honored by the King of Spain with a prestigious award in Amsterdam in 1882.

Holy Week in Paete: Paete's most spectacular celebration takes place during Holy Week. It begins on Palm Sunday with the re-enactment of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalam. The short procession starts at the Ermita Chapel where the priest blesses the palaspas (palm branch) of the faithful. The participants then slowly move to the church as manangs (religious women) put their balabal (shawl) on the street for the priest to walk through. This custom is called payapak. A mass is held and afterwards the 16th-century statue of the Dead Body of Christ, or Señor Sepulkro to Paeteños, is brought home to its recamadero (owner and keeper of said image). The images are owned by individual families and are passed down to succeeding generations.

For five days leading to Good Friday, the faithful kiss the exposed hands and feet of the Señor Sepulkro.

On Holy Wednesday, a procession is held with Paete's 53 life size images of Christ's Passion and Ministry on display. The procession goes through the town's narrow streets en route to the church. It stops three times to give way to the Salubong (meeting) which depicts three scenes of Jesus' passion and in which Paete's "moving saints" take part.

These are: the meeting of Christ and Mary, held at the church patio; the wiping of Jesus' face by Veronica, which takes place at Plaza Edesan; and finally, the encounter between Mary and Veronica where the latter shows the miraculous imprints of Christ's face on her cloth. This is held at the town plaza.

Maundy Thursday witnesses the dramatization of the Last Supper and Washing of the Disciples' feet and a night-long vigil is observed.

 The Aglipayan (Independent) Church meanwhile conducts its own version of the Salubong.

On Good Friday the Siete Palabras (Seven Last Words of Christ) are recited until 3 pm, the time of Christ's death. A short procession then goes to the house of the Sto. Entierro (the Interred Christ) to bring the supine statue to the church in the act of burying the dead. The Sto. Entierro is borne on the shoulders of the town's male devotees. It is said that if the carroza (carriage) felt heavy you have gravely sinned, and if it felt light, the opposite was true. It is then paraded through town in a solemn manner. Afterwards, the flowers that adorned the carroza are handed down to the faithful along with a piece of thread from the pillow where the Señor laid his head. The faithful seize these in hopes of a miracle or cure.

The townspeople burst out in celebration on Black Saturday and hold the Sabado de Gloria Ball.

On Easter Sunday the church re-enacts another Salubong--this time the meeting of Mary and the Risen Christ.

This annual event is not only a medium for Paeteños to display their religiosity but also a means to showcase the superb craftsmanship of their art. The week-long tableau is repeated every year and attracts a handful of visitors from all over the world.

The town of Paete was proclaimed "the Carving Capital of the Philippines" in March 15, 2005 by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.

View Ross Navarro's ICE SCULPTURES on the slides: 

Today many descendants of these skillful artisans have found a niche in the culinary world--ice sculpture, fruit and vegetable carvings done by dexterous hands of Paeteños abound on buffet tables of cruise ships and world-class hotels and restaurants.

Today the town thrives mainly on the sale and export of woodcarvings and taka (papier maché), tourism, poultry industry, farming and fishing.

How Paete got its name Before the Spaniards came, Paete was said to be a peaceful barangay under Gat Lacampauid. The Spanish friars had a tradition of naming towns they built in honor of saints. Paete was an exception. Legend has it that there was once a young Franciscan priest who was tasked by his superior to visit their newly-founded settlements alongside Laguna de Bay. The priest knew little about the terrain so he asked a native the name of the place. The latter misinterpreted the young friar, thinking that the former wanted to know the name of the tool he was using. He answered, Paét (chisel) --thus, the name Paete.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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