Wednesday, June 5, 2019


Cabiao is a town in Nueva Ecija where Kapampangan is still widely spoken. That’s because it used to be a part of the province of Pampanga, until it was annexed to Nueva Ecija, along with  Gapan, San Isidro, Cabiao and Aliaga around 1848.

As such, many original Kapampangan families can still be found there, still speaking their mother tongue and living the ways of their  own culture. The Kapampangans were clustered in a place called Likod—so named because it was located at the back of the church—and it was here that the extraordinary devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes of Cabetican, Bacolor was introduced and propagated.
In  barangay Maligaya, a chapel now stands, where, a small, antique print of the Cabetican Lourdes can be seen atop the altar, framed in silver. The story of how this revered object of veneration came to Cabiao is told and printed on a small tarpaulin poster that hangs on the iron grill gate of the chapel.

In the 1930s, a Kapampangan woman named Gertrudes Dizon-Castañeda, had a reputation for seeing visions. Her granddaughter, Lucita Castañeda-Vivas, recalls that her Impong Tuding was often seen talking to herself, or so it seems. But in fact, her Impo claims that she was conversing with an old woman, whom she alone could see.

 One day, this old woman, as the story goes, asked her to go to Cabetican in Bacolor to look for a particular picture of a lady there —and to bring it to Cabiao. Impong Tuding obeyed her order, and even though she had no idea how to go to Bacolor by herself, she reached the barrio on the feast day of our Lady of Lourdes.

After walking all over the barrio, Impong Tuding found the picture of the lady. She was sure it was the right one, as she could not take single step after she had beheld it.  But by then, she had run out of funds to pay for the print, so she sadly returned to Cabiao without it.

To her amazement, when she got back to cabio and began unpacking, she discovered the small print of the Lady among her belongings, bearing the caption : ING MAPAGMALA NANG LARAUAN NING NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LOURDES. Daralangiñan da qñg Santuario Cabetican, Baculud (Pampanga)
Our Lady of Lourdes became the patroness of Cabetican in 1906, when the populace was hit by a pestilence. The devotion was brought to the Philippines by Capuchin fathers, who had a church built in 1892 in honor of our Lady of Lourdes. Sculptor Manuel Flores was commissioned to make  a statue of the Virgin, who appeared to shepherdess Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto in Massabielle, France in 1858.
The people of Cabetican asked for intercession from Virgen de Lourdes for the healing of the sick and to end the plague, which resulted in many miraculous recoveries.  A religious book to mark the miracle was printed by the printing press of Proceso Pabalan Byron entitled: “ING MALA NING VIRGEN LOURDES 1906, CABETICAN, BACULUD, CAPAMPAÑGAN. Qñg Mipnung Lugud Ampon Pacamal Mecopia ya iti qñg Imprenta nang  Proceso Pabalan Byron a Sinulat nang Jose Crisostomo Soto a Metung Munaman Sacsi qñgMesabing Mala Iniang ing balen Baculud Mirasnan ya qñg Salut …Ñgening Ala ne qñg Tau ing Sucat Ipanulu qñg Dios carin Panintunan
LOURDES PRINTS, bhy Byron, and an unknown lithographer
(Translation: “The Miracle of the Virgin of Lourdes, 1906, Cabetican, Bacolor, Pampanga. By all the goodness and love, we caused this story to be published in the printing press of Proceso Pabalan Byron, written by Jose Crisostomo Soto, one the witnesses to the miracle when Bacolor was hit by pestilence. Now that the cure is no longer in the hands of the people, it is in God that we search for a cure. ) 
That’s how the religious print of the Virgen  de Lourdes of Cabetican found its way to Cabiao, and for awhile was kept in Impong Tuding’s nipa hut. She hanged it on her wall and the picture inexplicably began to get wet. The more she wiped off the wetness, the wetter the picture got. Word went around the barrio about this unexplained that was deemed as a miracle, and soon people began flocking to Impong Tuding’s hovel to pray to Virgin de Lourdes from Cabetican.

The duplicate image of our Lady of Lourdes and the sacred but tattered print are now housed in a shrine that was built through donations to accommodate the faithful and the pilgrims who go there. The roof and ceiling were added in 1993.
Descendants of Impong Tuding are the caretakers of the shrine; they keep the premises clean, as well as sell candles for devotees to light. Cabiao and Cabetican, together with their Kapampangan faithful, have now been united by one Lady, who continue to shower them with blessings and graces, wherever they may be.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


The antique fever that swept Manila in the 1960s and 70s prompted the rise of numerous antique shops in such places as Vigan, Lucena, San Pablo, Iloilo, Bacolod and Zamboanga.  Though old Vigan was a primary source of antiques, what became the major antique trade center in the north was Baguio City. After all, Baguio had a ready market for these fine collectibles, home to many affluent families with large homes, and hordes of out-of-towners and international tourists looking for one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

The modern Maharlika Shopping Center and Marbay Building that rose  in the city’s famous market district became the home of popular antique dealers, known even to Manila buyers. Dealers like Felipe Estacio, Eddie Marcelo, and  Alicia Serrano set up shops there. Estacio also had a big branch along the highway leading to Benguet.

Pinky Garcia, a researcher who discovered early the marketability of ethnic antiques from the northern highlands like Kalinga furniture, weapons and bulols, set up her PNKY shop there. Daisy Gomes Locsin specialized in the black baskets of the Mountain Province that were a hit with American collectors. Soon, even Kapampangans like Francisco Lacap, trooped to Baguio to open their business in the summer capital.

When I was a student in Baguio in the mid to late 70s, the Marbay shops were all crammed with antiques and artifacts of the most bewildering and amazing variety.  Wooden and ivory antos were sold alongside bululs and anito figures. Spanish colonial trinkets and tribal heirloom beads could be easily had for the right price. There were old Ibaloi costumes, headgear, tribal wear, silver and gold jewelry pieces, primitive clay ware.

One would tire himself out just looking at thousands of Oriental plates, bowls, and jars, blue and white, Martabans, Sawankhaloks and Celadons. My interest in antiques was fired by my periodic visits to these stores, but alas, I could only afford the old gin bottles that were sold at 50 pesos each, discounted to 20 if you got more. Larger pieces like cabinets, almarios, tocadors and dining sets  could even be delivered for a small fee to Manila and any point in Luzon.

Even when I was already working in Manila, I would find time to drop by at these shops in the 1980s, during business trips. My last visit was in 2004, when I had to mount an event for a client at La Trinidad. With the antique trade dying in Manila, I knew it would not be long that Baguio’s supply would dry out too. 

Fifteen long years after, I returned to Baguio for another short visit—and of course, I was surprised at the changes the city had undergone. The mountain tops were crammed with houses, the city overpopulated. Burnham Park was one big parking lot and Session Road  teemed with pedestrians. There were overhead walkway that covered the city's landmarks, and tall structures that hid the cityscape, and for a few minutes, I could not locate Marbay, 

When I found it, I gave in to my urge to check my former haunts—and these pictures tell the sad story of Baguio’s antique trade. Less than a dozen hole-in-the-wall shops now populate the shopping center. I went there a little after 9 a.m., so many of the unites were still closed. I just peered through the glass walls and found a few genuine antiques sold side-by-side with many reproductions like furniture, Chinese ceramics and newly-woven baskets, cleverly aged with soot and wax polish.

The most popular shops—Tucucan—where I got my first antique santo for 90 pesos sometime in 1978—was still there, with a large stockroom on the upper floor, mostly reproduction antique furniture. Then, there was Globel’s Antiques, still hanging on, with an assortment of odds and ends. I looked around, but I could not feel the same skipping of my heart beat in my visits some 40 plus years ago, when the world and I were younger.

“All things must pass”,  Beatle George Harrison once sang, and I guess this is true for Baguio’s once bustling antique trade. It had its heyday, and I was glad and grateful for that vanished time, for “mine eyes have seen the glory”.