Thursday, July 24, 2008

Roaming Ilocos: Batac

Another 20 minutes or so of the bus zooming from San Nicolas, I found myself standing in front of the Ricarte National Shrine in Batac. The what? Yes, you read correctly. There is such a thing. Not that the shrine was in my list since as said in the previous entry, I just wrote ‘whatever’ across the name Batac. Meaning, there is no other place I have to see, other than those I already know. But where I got off, I saw this national shrine, so I went to see the place.

It has a big building with library and museum, there is even a veterans’ office and there is such a big big park/garden. At the back of the building near a wall is a big big admirable carved mural. I am not sure if it is made of wood or cement due to the color used. But I would think it is cement because it sits out in the open and under the elements. In any case, it is such a wonderful depiction of the Ilocano life and I wonder why it was erected there just back of the building and near the perimeter wall. Oh yes, this is still the compound that is dedicated to General Ricarte.

Who is he anyway? Ah, I had to read the National Historical Institute’s description. General Artemio Garcia Ricarte was born in this town, graduated with Bachelor of Arts at San Juan De Letran, holder of a certificate for primary instruction and was principal of San Francisco De Malabon Primary School in Cavite. Why was he enshrined anyway? Well, he was also Brigadier General of the Magdiwang Faction and was chosen Captain-General by the Tejeros Convention. So what? Well, he was captured by the Americans in 1900, was banished to Guam, refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to US Government. Returned to this country from Japan during World War II and died in Kalinga.

What I found amusing about this monument is that he is an anti-American hero of a people in this country who were first to mass-migrate to the US (starting with Hawaii, then various places in mainland)! So this general’s ideals did not pick much on the Ilocanos eh?! Well, at least they made this shrine for some to remember him hehe! There are few heroes in this country who are exulted for having taken to the helms during the Fil-American war after all! See?! I always have my little discoveries everytime I roam. So I walked onwards following the highway as I could already see my next stop.

The municipal hall of Batac was next on my walk. But what can I say, its modern block of a building that doesn’t flick any interest in my head. Unless, there is anything worth a visitor’s time inside that building hehe. But that is what I have noticed with municipal halls in this part of the country. They're just buildings, blocks (as concrete as possible) with a design that does not incorporate their culture, traditions, products whatever. So Cotabato City's is still the most fantastic to me hehe! Look at this building, strip the name and it could look like just about anything - a school, a hospital, a bank or even a funeral home! Di ba?!

Further and across the road is a towering thing that is the Marcos Monument. Its not really that tall but it has been erected very close to the side of the road such that a person standing front of it would really have to look vertically upwards hehe! Yep, its him, the famous son of Batac, Ferdinand Marcos. And equally amusing is the Department of Tourism’s welcome signage that says “Marcos Monument” and under it the phrase “Daytoy Ti Bannawag”. Actually that same phrase is what FM himself wrote at signed that is the sole inscription on metal you will see at the foot of the monument.

First I thought that Ilocano phrase was supposed to be a translation of “Marcos Monument”, but I had second thoughts since I have seen a magazine named “bannawag”. Plus, how could he write it himself for a monument of himself hehe. Plus I sense that the “ti” is a linking verb in Ilocano grammar just like the English “is”. So I asked around for a translation and learned that "bannawag" literally means "dawn". However, a friend txtd me, the same word can also metaphorically mean "future" or "enlightenment". So “Daytoy Ti Bannawag” probably means “This Is The Dawn”, "This Is The Future" or "This Is The Age of Enlightenment" hehe. Hmm, whatever! At least I almost already know what it means! By the way, this monument sits on a small park that is by a river. And across the river is…. Yes, the Marcos Mansion. But let’s do that later.

I instead crossed the highway diagonally across from the monument to their church. Yep that is the Immaculate Conception Parish more simply called the “Batac Church”. The outside of this church is dominated by the colors pink and white. It looks beautiful in its own right, but one could not help but compare it to the other churches of Ilocos that look more ancient and “heavy” in their unpainted original materials. For the curious me though, it is an inviting church just the same. So I went in.

Ah, this is one of those churches where a lot of pillars line the center aisle such that they naturally block the view to the altar if you sat at the pews outside the pillars and nearer the side doors. Remember the Molo church and others? Something like that. The sides of this church are also thick walls like many churches in this country where the windows, though big, are high up and out of reach of even Yao Ming hehe! Hey the pillars along the aisle do serve as posts to conveniently install speakers and electric fans. Nice enough. I do like those hanging lamps. They are epic looking but the lights in each are modern CFLs. Am not sure what to make of the ceiling esp the central area that has some design above the aisle. It looks like a heat trap. Not sure too if I like the crucified Jesus hung too high up by the ceiling because what they have at the altar is a glittery retablo with three images of Mama Mary. Well, this still is a fine old church.

Crossing back to the monument area, and crossing the river via that bridge with a tongue-twister name, I step unto the Marcos Mansion. Its still the same house from my last visit and I still maintain it is NOT a mansion. That word was I think just coined by Marcos political opponents to which probably even their own staff have started using after his death. I can boldly claim that the ‘ancestral houses’ of my grandparents on both sides are definitely bigger and even more beautiful than this wooden ‘mansion’ – that is talking about the glory days of these wooden houses. Well, okay, the Marcoses of today have started making everything about the house concrete in order to preserve it. But so will I of my grandparents’ houses – if I win the lotto hehe! My point here is that even this house is being hinted by the political opponents of the Marcoses as something he has also stashed from the peopple. Like hello, this was residence of his father when the elder Marcos was congressman. Read the last two words again and think if Ferdinand didn’t have the privilege of living in such a house – which again, to me is not at all a mansion.

Alright there is something new… entrance to this house is not anymore by the side of the highway but on what should have been back of the house in its original setup. But that is (I think) for safety and security of residents and visitors alike. Imagine, last year I happened to have seen 5 big tourist buses lining that side of the highway from the bridge and all those Taiwanese and Hongkee tourists were in danger of being hit by buses and other vehicles hehe. Ah, inside the house, everything seem still the same – the many Marcos family memorabilia all around. But now there are some areas of the house that are off limits to visitors either because of renovation or being used as an office or abode of some family members.

I like those 5 sheets of that Malacanang letterhead where FM wrote about ‘dictatorship’. Should be a good discussion topic if I were still back in school hehe!

Hmm, need I talk about the mausoleum behind the house? Its still the same “no picture-taking please”, where everyone who emerges from it say it’s a wax statue of FM. So what else is new hehe!

This was my last thing to see in Batac, then I walked back to the street to catch a jeep for Paoay.

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