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Pakil Through the Eyes of a Balikbayan

by Chris Montes
of Moonachie,New Jersey

        Pakil, Laguna is a small provincial town, in a small corner of the Philippines, which is a small island in a small corner of the world. The town is so small, quiet, and unobtrusive that itíd really be quite easy to miss if youíre just passing by on the highway. But to miss Pakil is to miss out on a gem. Besides being the very inspiration for the creation of Pakil East and the former home for so many of us, Pakil is the quintessential Philippine province. From its narrow streets, beautiful antique houses, its ancient church, and up to its lively plaza, Pakil exudes a sense of timelessness and grace. Even as houses change, children grow and people come and go, the small hometown essence of Pakil still remains the same.

         Life in Pakil flows down to a trickle. Youíll immediately notice the absence of such modern day distractions like malls, arcades, and nightclubs there but Pakilís strong point has never been in its ability to entertain the masses. Its beauty and charm comes from its ability to teach you to appreciate the basic things in life. Without distractions, everything seems so fresh and so new to your eyes and without distractions, life never seems to get stale or boring. Laughing with friends, eating a good meal, seeing a beautiful girl, or listening to a funny story never seemed to get old on me. Be simple at heart and learn to appreciate lifeís simple pleasures and I assure you that Pakil wonít disappoint you in any way.

        But even more important than earthly matters, there exists in Pakil a strong spirituality. The Turumba, the sermon at Mt. Ping-as, Holy Week are but a few examples of this guiding spirit. Faith is a lesson thatís taught very well in Pakil and even though I admit that Iím not the best Christian in the world, I couldnít help but feel a sense of admiration and wonder at the love, faith, and hope that the townspeople have in God and in heaven. During a sermon on the peak of Mt. Pingas, I vividly recall the priest pointing out to the overhanging clouds overhead and saying how close heaven seemed to us as if we could just reach out with our hands and touch it. In Pakil, amidst the faithful, atop the mountain and with loved ones, I too believed.

        I donít think words can do Pakil enough justice. Visiting Pakil and the Philippines have been such enlightening experiences for me and I canít stress enough how grateful I am for being given the chance to visit. Iím not going to kid you and tell you that everything is fine and well there. Life is hard, corruption and crime are rampant, and a lot of people are suffering but amidst the pain and chaos are people that we love. Even throughout the darkness they still shine through and now I finally understand why so many Filipinos voluntarily leave everything behind to work in a foreign country just so they can earn money to send to their families. Pakil and the Philippines taught me love, sacrifice, dedication, and commitment and its inspired me to become a better person up to this day. Itís a lesson that I will keep in my heart and will never ever forget.


      Christopher Montes is my cousin who lives in  New Jersey. He migrated to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He went on a vacation  to the Philippines in 1999 and 2000 after 8 years in U.S. He is currently taking up biology in college and hopefully pursue a career in medicine. 






The dancing Virgin
of Pakil, Laguna


I WAS fascinated by the swaying of the bodies in tune with the music, the waving of arms and the chanting of the loving phrase ''Turumba, Turumba sa Birhen!'' And so they came old men and women, young people and children from the town of Pakil down to Intramuros for the Marian procession last Dec. 5.

There we were from the lowlands fascinated by it all and more convinced that our love for rites and traditions would save us eventually from spiritual destruction. At the center of all this was the Blessed Mother, whose feast day we celebrate today (Dec. 12) under her title Our Lady of Guadalupe.

 Caught by a fishing net

The history of the Virgin of Turumba in Pakil begins when one Friday morning, some fishermen trying their luck along Laguna de Bay caught something on their nets. It was a 9'' x 11'' icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is said that when the fishermen tried to row the other way going to another town, the boat would not budge. It was only when they rowed the boat toward Pakil that the wind caught the sail and on they went.

It was Sunday when the fishermen reached the shore. By then, people had gathered. As if guided by the Virgin herself, the men carried the icon with the people following in a procession. They danced while parading.

The icon was enshrined in the church of San Pedro de Alcantara which was run by the Franciscans. The day was Sept. 15, 1788.

Since then sets of nine-day novenas called ''lupi'' have been said on Viernes Dolores until September. After every ''lupi'' is the dancing of the ''turumba.'' People from far away come to Pakil in fulfillment of a panata or to ask a favor.


The article "The Dancing Virgin" is an excerpt from an article published in the Sunday Lifestyle Magazine of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
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site by: vladimir valero
Copyright © 2001
Revised: March 07, 2001 .