A cultural tour of Taal, Batangas Part 2 of 5

Here’s part two of  the Carnation Family Food Trip, hosted in cooperation with Appetite magazine. We visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay (which means kingfisher) and the miraculous Sta. Lucia Well.

Our Lady of Caysasay

Our Lady of Caysasay

We said hello to the penguin that stands outside the shrine (What the statue of an Antarctic bird is doing in a tropical country, I don’t know. It’s cute, though).

The Penguin of Caysasay

The Penguin of Caysasay

Visited the Basilica of San Martin

Basilica of St. Martin

Basilica of St. Martin


And had lunch at the Escuela Pia Cultural Center.

Escuela Pia Cultural Center

Escuela Pia Cultural Center

Where we were greeted by awesome Batanguenas,

Escuela Pia Greeters

Escuela Pia Greeters

And treated to lunch, which consisted of:

Adobo sa Luyang Dilaw (Adobo with yellow ginger, here quite milky because of the added milk (this is a Carnation trip, after all), though they had the original, milkless version too), Tapang Taal, Inihaw na Tilapia (grilled tilapia) and Bulanlang, a vegetable salad called Dinengdeng in the North




And various desserts, including minatamis na saba (sweetened bananas) my personal favorite being the champorado (chocolate rice porridge) served with ice cream and Carnation evaporated milk. I was fortunate to get the very last bowl. The champorado was thick, its sweetness provided by the accompanying ice cream while its texture was thinned by the milk. The rice was soft, but not gooey. I want to know who made it so I can kidnap him or hr and make her my official champorado cook.

Escuela Pia Desserts

Escuela Pia Desserts


But the best part of the meal was the coffee. Never have I tasted coffee so fragrant, good, you didn’t have to put sugar in it because it was naturally sweet. When I asked the servers where I could get beans, they looked at me as if I was crazy and said, “the market.” Now I know what really good coffee tastes like.

Interview: Budjette Tan

This is the first post in an experiment I am conducting where twice a month (hopefully), I post a short interview of a person whose work have a tinge or more of darkness about them (although I may branch out later), not about their work (because you can easily google those), but about their beliefs and experiences in the supernatural.

I am honored to have Budjette Tan, one of the country’s best known comic book writers and whose well-crafted works of dark fantasy I admire.

I hope you enjoy it. 

Budjette Tan holding a copy of Trese

Budjette Tan holding a copy of Trese

Alamat Comics co-founder Budjette Tan is nowadays known as the guy who created Trese, the comic book series that revolves around Alexandra Trese, a supernatural detective, a link between our world and the next.

Now spanning three best-selling books, Trese has managed to capture the imagination of many Filipinos, who avidly follow Trese and the Kambal’s – her twin bodyguards – hair-raising adventures. He is also involved with Underpass, a graphic novel published under Summit Books.

You can read Trese’s first seven cases for free at http://www.tresecomics.com

Do you believe in ghosts/ elementals? If yes, have you seen one (or more)? Can you tell us about it?

Yes, I do believe in such things. I have not really seen any supernatural creature or being, but my mother has told me enough stories to make me believe that they are real.

When I was still a baby of four or five months old, we supposedly lived in a haunted house in Merville. Strange things would be seen and heard by my relatives, the maids, and the driver. They talked about lights being switched on and off, getting calls on the intercom from rooms where there were no people, slippers moving by themselves, sights a young lady seen in the backseat of the car as the driver was backing out of the driveway. My mom and dad didn’t believe in such things. And then, one summer afternoon, after my mom gave me a bath, she noticed that the right side of my face wrinkled up like that of an old man. My right eye stared at her in defiance. She slapped my right cheek and commanded the spirit to leave me. And even though she slapped me hard, I did not cry but just stared back at her. She ended up praying the entire rosary before my face returned to normal.

A séance was held in the house and the medium spoke to two spirits, a father and a daughter, who died believing that the house still belonged to them. The medium explained to them that they were already dead and that they needed to move on. No other occurrence happened after the séance. (I’ve been planning to turn this story into a novel or a graphic novel. Maybe we’ll get to do it this year.)

When I was in college, strange things also started happening in our house in La Vista, Quezon City. I was abroad at the time all this happened and my mom called me up long distance just to tell me what they saw.
It was after dinner, my mom and dad sat at the lanai facing the garden – where we would see the usual moth fluttering near the spotlights and the occasional bat swoop down to munch on the moths. That night, a winged creature flew downwards and instead of flying back up into the dark sky, it stopped and hovered in front of the spotlight that lit the garden. The wings were attached to what looked like a human head that had no eyes, nose, or mouth. And where the ears should’ve been, the flesh-colored wings sprouted from the head and fluttered and kept itself floating. Before my mom and dad could do anything, the head vanished. And even though I was halfway around the world, sitting in a brightly lit room in the middle of the afternoon, I found myself scared to look out the window.

The Head was later seen by our cook and another maid. It was seen rolling, bouncing on the wall behind the kitchen.

At the time, the Spirit Questors were getting a lot of press. So, we invited them to do a quest in our house. Through the Questors, we found out the Head was actually a duwende – that they have the ability to change shape and they do so to play around with people. We also found out that there were two tribes of duwende living on the perimeter of our house. The Brown Duwende lived in the garden at the back. They were the “good guys”. The Black Duwende lived in the shrubs at the front of the house. They were the “bad guys”. The two tribes were trying to dominate the inside of the house.

Whenever the Brown tribe would win, good stuff happens to those in the house.
Whenever the Black tribe would win, bad luck happens. Which might have explained why my father’s business would have good years and bad years, said the Questors.

The Questors also met a diwata, who supposedly liked hanging around my mother and protected her from harm.
The Brown duwende requested that we keep the garden clean. They didn’t like it when we didn’t sweep away the dead leaves. They also asked if we could give them seafood and sweets every 5pm, which we left at the foot of a particular tree. We followed these requests and didn’t see the Head anymore after that.

Like I said, a lot of weird stuff has happened around me (seems like my mom is the magnet for weirdness), but I myself have not seen anything unusual. Probably, the only time I might have seen a ghost was when my father died. I slept in his room and when I woke up, I saw a shadowy figure seated at the couch. It was staring at me. It didn’t look like my dad. It was a thinner, slimmer figure. The figure vanished soon after I sat up and rubbed my eyes.

What’s the scariest place you’ve been to? Why was it scary? Did you end up experiencing anything supernatural there? Do you plan to go back?

Back in college, one of the urban legends we kept hearing about was the 13th house on 13 Street in New Manila. According to the story, a sale man / repairman / exterminator was called to the house. (The main character’s job changes, depending on who tells the story.) Even though he quickly found 13 Street, he could not find the house itself. After house #12, the numbering of the house would skip to #14. It was getting late and the sun was already setting. He was about to give up when he suddenly noticed that he was parked right in front of house #13.

He rang the doorbell and an old lady opened the gate. The lady was so happy to see him, that he had finally arrived, and he was ushered into the dimly-lit house.

The old lady supposedly showed him around the house and then wanted him to go to the basement. She said, she had prepared his favorite dish – adobo, supposedly. The lady smiled at the man and was trying to push him towards the door that lead downwards. The man panicked and gave some excuse about forgetting something in the car. He rushed out the door, out the gate and ran into his car and drove away as fast as he could.
The next day, he realized he forgot something in the house. So, he drove back and could not find it anymore.

One night, while hanging out at the 24-hour Mister Donut at Greenhills, one of the guys started telling this story again and after the story was told, we decided we just had to try and find the house for ourselves.

When we got to 13 Street, we saw that it was narrow road. So, to be able to implement a quick gate-away, we decided to drive into the street in reserve. While my brother drove the van, the rest of us were walking around trying to look for house #13. One of the guys had a camera and started snapping away, hoping that we’d catch some spirit or ghoul when the picture was developed. (We didn’t.)

And just like in the story, we could not find the 13th house. At a certain point, we just ended up scaring ourselves because a barking dog. We all jumped into the van and drove as far away as possible. We must’ve looked like the cast of Scooby-Doo that night.

We never did go back. Maybe we should try to look for it after all these years.

What’s the scariest ghost story you’ve heard?

I guess that story of me as a baby is the scariest one I’ve been told.

How has your supernatural experiences (even if they come in the form of secondhand stories) influenced your work?

Based on the things we were told about the duwende tribe in our house, that became basis for how things worked in the world of Trese.

The idea that these different enkanto and elementals group themselves into tribes, the idea that these supernatural beings can be dealt with or negotiated with using the right type of food came from those experiences. The idea that one’s career and life can be influenced these beings also came from those stories. The idea that a duwende can affect the lives of a household, became the jumping off point for things like, “Maybe the scions of Makati are so fortunate because they keep a tikbalang with them and maybe that tikbalang is living is in the tallest tower in Makati.”

What advice would you give someone who comes face to face with a ghost/elemental?

I think the advice given to “what would you do if you encounter a rabid dog / a bear in the forest / a snake in your basement” applies to what you should do when you encounter a ghost or elemental : DON’T PANIC. DON’T PROVOKE IT. RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

And one must not forget the great words of Winston Zeddemore: “…when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say `YES`!”

Again, you can read Trese’s first seven cases for free at http://www.tresecomics.com

A cultural tour of Taal, Batangas Part 1 of 5

Our Lady of Caysasay

Our Lady of Caysasay

This is a picture of the original statue of Our Lady of Caysasay, which can be found in the town of Caysasay (which means kingfisher) in Taal, Batangas.

I originally went there as part of the Carnation Family Food Trip ’09 (in cooperation with Appetite magazine), but I got hooked on the historical aspects of the town as well (The food part is a different post altogether).

Legend has it that the image was found by Juan Maningcad, a Chinese fisherman, while fishing in the nearby Pansipit river. He brought the statue to the town priest, who later gave it to a townswoman for safekeeping. They say that the statue liked to disappear from wherever it was kept, only to reappear at a certain well, now called the Sta. Lucia Well, whose water is said to have healing powers.

Our Lady of Caysasay devotees gather around mysterious puddle


When we entered the church, lots of people were gathered at the main entrance, where a puddle of water had formed. Because of this, people entering the church had to cross wooden planks set above the water for that purpose. A townsperson told us that the puddle had appeared a few days after typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) hit the province. Since it was a hot day and the townspeople claimed that there is no source of water underneath the foundation (or faulty pipes), many considered it a miracle. Our guide said that people have been coming from all over Batangas and the nearby provinces just to see it and collect some of the “miraculous” water. I don’t know if they ever found out where the water came from.

Exploring Quiapo with friends

I got to explore Quiapo today. Andrea and I met at the LRT 2 station and together, we made our way to Plaza Miranda where we met up with Geronimo. I had to dress down for the trip–a long sleeved shirt, loose jogging pants, my ratty yet reliable flip flops, and no make-up. Very comfy.

Our first stop was Evanglista Street, where you can buy all sorts of herbs, charms, and amulets. We found something to ward off witches (Pampawala ng Kulam), something to ward off evil actions (anting-anting), and something to ward off body odor (tawas). We were looking for “pamparegla” (menstruation [read: abortion] inducer) just to see what it looked like, but we couldn’t find any. Maybe if we had pretended that Geronimo was pregnant….

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We tried looking for the fortune tellers that used to hang out near the Quiapo Church but they were nowhere to be found. We also looked inside the said Church. Since there was a mass going on, we couldn’t walk around like we wanted. From where we were, we could see the image of the Black Nazarene, looking down at the congregation from its place just behind the altar.

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We moved to Hidalgo Street after, famous for its many photography stores and cheap film stock, where Andrea bought what looked like ten million rolls of film for her trip to Europe.

We had to cross the bridge to get to Globo de Oro Street, where we were going to eat, so we crossed under the Quezon Bridge where you can find lots of native goods for sale. I bought myself a straw bag with leather handles that’ll be great for summer.

We passed by Bahay Nakpil, a museum set in the Nakpil ancestral house where Gregoria de Jesus, Andres Bonifacio’s second wife, used to live. She was instrumental in her own right during the revolution, using parties as a front to conceal her husband’s secret Katipunan meetings. She also learned to ride a horse and shoot a revolver. After Andres was killed, Gregoria, aka Lakambini, married into the Nakpil clan. Some of her hobbies included fishing and carving house tools from pieces of wood. Now why didn’t we learn about her in history? It’s an old angst, the one about not having enough women in history books but as old as the complaint is, I still don’t see anything being done about it.

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After asking for directions to Globo de Oro, we found ourselves at our lunchtime destination, a little hole in the wall cantina called Moud Halal, a restaurant famous for its roast chicken. The three of us had ¼ chicken, rice, and a soft drink. The chicken was juicy; the rice, fragrant. It was a simple yet delightful meal, especially since it cost only 60 pesos.

What was interesting about our trip to Quiapo was that the streets were almost deserted because much of the population was at home watching the Pacquiao-Morales fight. Geronimo got a text message from New York saying that Pacquiao had won. We were in the mosque then, and he wasted no time telling everyone about it.

Which brings me to the most unexpected and interesting part of the trip, the Golden Mosque. Ismael, our impromptu guide, showed us around and explained the basics of Islam. He said that Filipinos, even if they were born Christians, are always said to revert to Islam instead of being converted into it (“balik-Islam”), because it was the predominant religion in the Philippines before the Spanish arrived.

We were objects of curiosity to the younger mosque-goers because a, we were Christians and b, because we were Chinese. We had to keep telling them that no, we may be Chinese by ethnicity, but we’re really Filipino. We may not look it, but we’re Filipino, too.

It’s amazing how you can cross from Catholic country to Muslim territory to Chinatown in a few minutes. After the mosque, we found ourselves having coffee in Panciteria Lido in Ongpin, in the heart of Chinatown. The lace was packed with old Chinese guys watching the delayed telecast of the Pacquiao-Morales fight.

People come from far and wide for the coffee in Panciteria Lido, which costs 40 pesos a cup. Andrea and I, the coffee freaks that we are, bought some ground beans to take home.

We all agreed that the trip was fun, and we’re raring to go on our next one. There’s talk of exploring Cubao next, maybe after the Chinese New Year. My only hope is that our trip coincides with a major sports event again, so that there’ll be less people on the streets. I wonder when the next Pacquiao fight is?

Moud Halal
827 Globo de Oro St,
Quiapo, Manila
(+632) 488-5006

Panciteria Lido
593 T. Alonso Street
Binondo, Metro Manila
(+632) 733 5260