Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lasi, Laci, Lazi

Driving down the Siquijor roads was actually like being at the beach – not so many people to see! We moved on and by some Barangay called Campalanas my guide stopped at the road side and pointed me in the direction of a big big tree that it almost looked like a wall feted with a lot of vines.

I was told this was a very old tree that has been standing there for centuries now. So, by my request, WE went near it. I did not feel quite alright getting near it alone hehe! It looked a bit eerie in an uninhabited forest plus Charlie told me it was a Balete Tree and considered “enkantado” by the locals. The more that I got a bit apprehensive hehe. A lone foreigner (but he looked like he was a resident in this island) in a motorbike also came and made the sign of the cross before approaching the tree. I just thought, OMG, what is this place? When we got near however, something else caught my attention. The guide pointed to a small fresh-water pond just by the foot of the tree and there were a lot of little fishes. The water was quite clear I could see all the fish wiggling in there! Charlie says seldom that a visitor can take a clear picture of the tree’s entirety. Very true – since you’ll have to move far just to cover the whole tree in your camera – and by then, other foliage and coconuts will already be blocking the way hehe!

Soon we arrived on the town of Lasi, a more populous town than San Juan with bigger roads and more business establishments. No one can miss the big church and the even bigger convent, since the two structures are not only huge but the road passes between them. This is the ‘St. Isidore The Farmer’ church and convent. And yes, as you read posts, historical markers, etc., you'll notice that this town is sometimes referred to as Lasi or Laci - but the most common (and probably official name) is Lazi.

What a co-incidence! When we arrived there was also a service for another dead dude about to be buried! And like in San Juan, while the church service was in progress, some of the male folks in attendance were outside of the church either just milling around, smoking or even in a banter. So we headed down to the convent.

This is probably the biggest convent I have seen in my entire life roaming the Philippines. The front yard alone is quite a parcel of land bigger than many a town’s plaza! My driver went straight into the middle of the convent’s ground floor where there was a table manned by women who looked like church volunteers. One of them gave me a brief lecture about this place, told me that (thankfully) the museum is open Tuesdays till Sundays and the entrance fee is a mere P20. With my driver, now also serving as guide, I went up via the concrete and shiny clean grand staircase going to the second level of the building. Hey, aside from the walls and floor at ground level, I guess this staircase is probably the only other “concrete structure” in the whole convent. And I see that it is a new ‘fortification’.

What is up at the second floor? A wide expanse of nothingness made from ancient wood hehe! Well, it’s like a big big ballroom made of rough hard-wood flooring, big wooden window frames and sills, old hard-wood beams and a lighter kind of wood for the ceiling. Yes Amanda, if you count the board-feet equivalent of all those wood used, you could actually build a forest! And golly, the wood slabs used on the floors are real wide and long. That means those came from big big trees! They have a distinctly rough finish that they looked like haphazardly done. My guide told me that those were originals – and that in those ancient days, the wood was just chopped by big bolos until our forebears thought that was flat and acceptable enough to be laden as a floor slab. I even joked that if you asked the Miss Earth candidates to strut in this expansive ballroom with their high heels, not one of them would be standing after, and not only heels but even bones will surely break!

Most of the part that faces the church is this wide ballroom like area that seem to serve as the choir’s practice area or a meeting place of the women’s organizations or a children’s catechist school. But if you drop all of them in this place at the same time, there will still be enough space for the Knights of Columbus, the town council, the ‘tricycle operators and drivers association’ – even add in a high school reunion. That’s how big this place is! Oh, at the right side corner also facing the church is the priest’s quarters. It’s still big!

Well, there is hint that parts of the floor may have already decayed and were replaced with newer wood. This is mostly seen on that hallway going towards the dining and kitchen areas. But I could be wrong you know. Those might be originals – but I doubt. The wood here is kind of newer, lighter and narrower. And they are arranged not as very long slabs like in the ballroom but in diagonal fashion amidst square designs that look like gigantic wood parquet!

One thing is common; the edges of the wooden floors create slats or crevices where you can see through to the ground level. Don’t worry ladies even if you’re not wearing anything under that skirt. This floor is so high up from the ground that anyone standing there will not be able to easily make out what he sees through those slats. In many of them though, you cannot only drop a coin but even your cellular phone hehe! Enough of this big convent, let’s cross to the church.

Ah, when I re-entered the church, the funeral service was not yet done. But I saw that it was already in the communion part. Time was ticking on my tour so I got in – those people in attendance were up at the front pews anyway. My goodness! This is the first and only church I have seen where the floor (on ground level ha) is entirely made of wood. Nope, not your usual wooden tiles from the hardware nor the wood parquet of your condo unit! This is similar to that hallway over at the convent where they arrange the wood in diagonal fashion. And in here, for a design, they interspersed dark wood with light colored ones to give a striped kind of effect. I am describing the “original” look of the church floor of course, cuz if you looked now, it is obvious that the folks in this church have painted some of the light colored wood with a dark brown (or is it black) just to attempt to re-capture the original look and design. Still quite a feat am sure of that!

Whoa! We had to move!

For a chronology of stories on this trip, click the following article numbers:

01   02   03   04   05   06   07   08   09   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18
19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35


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