San Miguel, Bulacan: Off-beaten Path Encounters with Angels and Heroes

By Eric Paraguya



(This one’s another post from my hubby Eric. Since his first post was warmly received, even by Our Awesome Planet (my gosh!) (check out his travelogue of Mount Pulag here), I coaxed him to write this one and just about every other travel we would have. We hope these will better inform you, my dear readers, on your next planned weekend trip. Enjoy! xoxo)
 

The quiet town of San Miguel, Bulacan is fabled to be protected over by Saint Michael, Heaven’s chief archangel. This act of bravery must have likewise inspired the folks of yesteryears to take up arms against Spanish oppressors. I happened to encounter both angels and heroes myself during my latest scenic roadtrip to San Miguel, Bulacan.

 
Saint Michael's statue in Banal na Bundok, San Miguel, Bulacan 


The rustic and peaceful landscape of San Miguel, Bulacan


San Miguel might not be the most famous town in Bulacan for tourists, but a number of attractions are set to place this town on the map especially for religious excursions and history field trips. 


I came to visit San Miguel after an invitation to spend a weekender by my brother’s fiancé, Jonalyn, who hails from this town. San Miguel is geographically the last town in Bulacan from Manila. We hopped on the Baliwag aircon bus from Cubao and travelled approximately 2 hours to reach the town (Fare: Php 131, one way).


The travel buddies: Mau, author, Jonalyn, Jacq


I was keen to observe the changing linguistic pattern of my co-passengers the farther we travel from Manila. Teka, nagiging mas malalim yata ang Tagalog as we travelled from a saint-named town to another. I finally tested my hypothesis right when the bus conductor glibly answered me back in Tagalog with the words “naintindihan” changed to “naunawaan” and “malaki ang San Miguel” to “maluwag ang San Miguel”. These phrases may be synonymous, but the latter are less often used in city colloquial speech. A pleasant epiphany of our country’s linguistic variety, if you ask me.



Sprawling with vast rice fields, farming is actually the town’s primary source of livelihood. It also happened that we stayed in Jonalyn’s house situated in the middle of the rice field, seemingly an “island” propped in the midst of their family’s farm land. Living in one of the country’s largest rice plantations has its benefits indeed, and we were blessed to enjoy freshly harvested rice in all of our meals there. Yum! Truly, this is the perfect place to binge on unli rice. Unli rice pa! Kanin pa lang, ulam na! Even my wife loved how they cooked rice there, one of the best she’s had she quipped. Jonalyn calls it “malata” while my wife calls it “sticky rice”.




Banal na Bundok: A Novel Pilgrim Site 


Probably one of the town’s newest tourist attraction, Banal na Bundok lives up to the challenge of creating a site that will cater to the needs of Catholic pilgrims, a promising “one-stop-shop” for the various Catholic devotions. It actually incited the Catholic traveller in me and allowed me to become quite reflective.
  


 The ascending stairs in the Station of the Cross

 "Christ forgives."


Aerial view of the Stations of the Cross, Banal na Bundok


Capitalizing on the town’s namesake and patron saint, the small facility uniquely features a statue gallery of the Seven Archangels. It was informative for me to know the names of the Archangels and the venerations for each one. Each statue of an angel features a prayer written in Filipino which one can recite while venerating on the picturesque figure.


The Gallery of Archangels; St. Michael's statue 
is housed in the small edifice at the top.

San Miguel Arkanghel, watch over us.





 "San Uriel, Hustisya mayor sa langit kaya't ang taglay ay timbangan at espada"

 "San Gabriel, Kalihim pangkalahatan pinagkakatiwalaan ng Diyos ng mga lihim na
gawa, taglay niya ay pluma"

"San Judiel, Tagapagbiyaya at tagapagkaloob ng awa ng Poong Diyos kaya 
ang kanyang taglay ay balutan ng mga bulaklak"



 "San Sealtiel, tagapaghain at tagapanalangin sa Diyos
ng anumang magaling na gawa natin. Ang kanyang taglay
ay incensaryo"

 "San Baraquiel, tagapag-alaga sa langit at lupa.
Siya ay taga-tulong at taga-ampon sa lahat ng kampon ng Diyos
kaya siya ay may dalang bata" 

"San Rafael, Mayordomo ng buong Diyos
kaya ang kanyang taglay ay isda at tinapay"


Here, you can also find life-size statues of the New Stations of the Cross. From the replica of the first station – the Last Supper, the journey takes you uphill to Christ’s resurrection, the last station’s replica. This spot, I heard, is reputedly gaining popularity among Catholic pilgrims which flock the site especially during the Holy Week. 

Some snapshots of the Stations of the Cross as follows.


The Last Supper


Agony in the garden


Jesus was sentenced to death


Scourging at the Pillar and Crowning with Thorns...


Jesus carries His cross


Jesus falls for the first time


Jesus was helped by Simon of Cyrene


Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem


The Crucifixion of Christ




Jesus with the repentant thief


Jesus dies on the cross


Jesus was laid in the tomb


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ



Standing at the top of the hill is the Basilica of the Black Nazarene, a shrine which houses a statue of the suffering Christ carrying the cross. Several feet away is a shrine dedicated to the Divine Mercy. Another shrine several feet further, one can  venerate Christ in the Sepulchre.


 Chapel of the Black Nazarene

 Chapel of the Divine Mercy






At the Banal na Bundok’s foreground is situated a walled large grotto for the different Marian devotions. A statue of Mama Mary was placed for each devotion, with each likewise featuring a prayer written in Filipino.


At the Marian grottoes.

 "Alaala sa Mahal na Birhen ng Guadalupe"



 "Birhen ng Fatima"
 "Maria, Mediatrix of All Grace"

"Birhen ng Rosario La Naval"





Cashew harvesting in Banal na Bundok


Several amenities are likewise mushrooming in this reluctant tourist complex – a refreshment area, a mini zoo, nipa stalls selling souvenirs, and a nearby grassland for tending sheep. Some of the structures are still undergoing construction which is a testament to this complex’s growing popularity.

 Exotic paperweights as souvenirs sold here.
 Some of the items sold here.


 We happened to meet some animal friends here, like these sheep.




 And lonesome donkey...


Trees of cashew also line the path to the mini zoo. It was 9 am on a Sunday and our group of 5 were the only ones in the area. Lucky for us, the staff permitted us to harvest the cashew fruits to satiate our curiosity for the source of the trailmix favourite. Otherwise at other times, cashew harvesting was prohibited in this area.


Cashew harvesting proved to be absolutely fun especially for the girls in our group. All along, I thought one can snatch the nut attaché from the fruit and munch it thereafter. Good thing, I was corrected before I tried that – the nut needs to be boiled first to be edible. Otherwise it would taste sappy. I tried to eat the ochre cashew fruit as well but I stopped at first bite. It is characteristically madagta but it oozes with sweet juice. I initially wondered why the cashew fruit is not popularly sold in fruit stands, after I tasted it I understood why.  


 My first encounter with the cashew tree.

 With cashew fruits ripe for the picking.




Jerry accurately captures my mouth’s reaction to the cashew fruit at first taste.


 



Several cashew trees down the path, we were reminded that our harvesting was in fact prohibited. So travellers, sungkit at your own risk. Or better yet, ask for permission. We did!





Biak-na-Bato: A split-rock glimpse of Philippine History


My wife told me she frequented Biak-na-Bato nature park during her grade school years when they used to visit here for field trips. For someone who was educated in the province, my only encounter with “Biak-na-Bato” was when I read it in my history textbook. My recollection even failed me when I confidently insisted, during our group’s convo in the car, that this is where Andres Bonifacio established the first Philippine republic! Haha!

 The mountain at the nature park that must have inspired the monicker, "Biak-na-Bato"


 Aguinaldo's monument.




Well, we realized we needed to brush on our history books again.  When we reached Biak-na-bato nature park, I later learned this was Emilio Aguinaldo’s hideout after he escaped Spanish captivity.  



The nature park is a huge 2,117 hectares of land, consisting of a cave network as well as river and trail systems with ecologic and historic significance. Most pertinent of the latter is Emilio Aguinaldo’s headquarters in one of the caves here, which is now named the Aguinaldo cave. 

 At the entrance of the National Park.


Since time did not permit it, we were able to visit the entrance part of the park which consisted of the hanging bridge and the pavilion. Entrance fee to the park is Php 30 for adults, and I was informed one needs to pay for the tour guide if you avail the service of one. And if you plan to take a hike in the nature park, you must allow at least 4 hours to comfortably do this activity.




The hanging bridge, sturdy as it is supported by metal cables.
 

The river below the hanging bridge where locals splash to beat the heat.



Photo op with the gang.

Some of the must-take-home pasalubong are the pastillas de leche (the toasted variety is heavenly!), and taro chips.

  


Jacq's favorite chips!



After the sight-seeing from the two places, we drove 30 minutes to Rustica restaurant located in the nearby city of Gapan, Nueva Ecija. By this time, we were already famished from the touring we did that morning, so we looked forward to have lunch. We needed to visit Rustica as well to have an ocular survey since my brother and his fiancé plan their wedding reception here. My thoughts: the venue can hold an elegant party and their kare-kare is divine. ‘Nuff said. (More reviews on Rustica, Gapan City in the future.)





“There was a time”, our tourist guide relates, “when you say that if you are from San Miguel, Bulacan, you must be a heavy beer drinker”. After a scenic trip to this town, I beg to differ. 

While they can drink away every beer to their heart’s content, I hope people will someday remember San Miguel more as a town teeming with promising attractions. Because I can truthfully say, there is indeed more to that that this town, where angels and heroes tread, can offer.

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 Some Useful Info


Budget:

Fare Key Figures

PhP 131 – one way, aircon bus fare from Cubao to San Miguel, Bulacan

PhP 1,000 to 1,500 – estimate of jeepney-for-hire taking you from the town center to Banal na Bundok and Biak-na-Bato; a jeepney fits a comfortable 18 passengers

PhP 500 – estimate gasoline consumption from town center to the above tourist spots and back




What to bring for a summer visit:

·         Wide brim hat

·         Sunnies

·         Water

·         Trailmix

·         Extra shirt




Tips:


·         Visit the Banal na Bundok early morning or late afternoon. It is too warm during midday with little amenities for cooling down, especially during the summer. In terms of evening visits, lighting facilities are reportedly present in the complex although I haven’t witnessed the night scene myself. 


·         If you are in for the hike, better plan the whole morning and afternoon for the Biak-na-Bato nature park and trail. The park is too vast (to the tune of 2,000 plus hectares) to be covered in one day. 




Cheers!

Eric

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Looking for more places to go to? Check out this Antipolo travelogue post from my sister blog, The Catholic Chic. Happy travels! <3




Comments

  1. Interesting read. I'll have to bookmark this and check if we can visit anytime soon. It seems best to visit San Miguel during the Holy Week though. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True! I hope we get to do a road trip soon kasi I don't wanna go without doing another trip with you! :) game na planuhin na yan!

      Delete
  2. Thanks Beryl. Yes I agree, it is ideal to visit it during the Holy Week. A welcome alternative to Quezon's Kamay ni Hesus. :)

    ReplyDelete

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