La Liga de Tayabas

You can be sure that Jose Rizal himself would have approved of what went on in Tayabas city over the weekend. More than 200 public school teachers, government workers, historians, writers, artists, cinematographers, tourism workers, and students congregated at the foothills of Mt. Banahaw for the 8th Tayabas Province Studies National Conference; its theme was “Recording memories, recording heritage.” The Tagalog version is longer: “Kasaysayan, Pamana, Ugnayan, Ritwal, Alaala, Lipunan.”

For 200 years, there was only one Tayabas province, which, in September, 1945, was re-baptized Quezon, in honor of the late President Manuel L. Quezon who died during WWII. Then, Quezon was fragmented into three provinces– Aurora, Tayabas, and Quezon – due to the usual gerrymandering, I presume.

On day one, historical issues and heritage concerns were presented and to put everything in proper context, the first speaker, Dr. Vicente Villan (University of the Philippines) expounded on “Mula Anito Tungong Monumento: Dalumat at Pag-unawa sa Ideolohiya ng Pamana sa Kasaysayang Pilipino.” Mr. Edgar Sembrano (Philippine Daily Inquirer) followed with “Reporting on Heritage Hits and Misses in Quezon Province” accompanied by a visually stimulating presentation of 12 colonial bridges in various stages of decay.

After lunch, Ms. Anabelle M. Calleja presented “Reviewing Heritage and Tourism Program of Mauban” focused on Eden-like Cabalgete island. She had written me a letter when I was Tourism Secretary; I held my breath, as I couldn’t remember whether I had replied to her letter. She said that I did, promising to help them promote the island. Heritage is not only about antique houses and churches, Dr. Isidro C. Sia (UP College of Medicine) reminded us. His paper, “Mga Pangalan ng Lugar Bilang Salamin ng Yamang Likas ng Kalilayan” was about the amazing variety of medicinal plants found in Tayabas. For his part, Mr. Patricio Abuel (Master Teacher II, Lucban High School) presented, “Pagtatanghal ng Natatanging Ritwal ng Buhos-Tubig Bilang Kararanan,” an esoteric subject that I had never heard about.

On the second day, Mr. Ryan Palad, the moving spirit of these Tayabas conferences spoke about “Ang Debosyon Kay San Diego de Alcala,” to me an unknown saint, but the object of veneration for centuries. A teacher from Tayabas East Central School, Ms. Laurice de Asis-Zapata (Teacher I, Tayabas East Central School) showed a couple of videos, pedagogical aids she had made to illustrate her lecture, “Gamit ang ICT sa Promosyon ng Pamana sa Mababang Paaralan.” Then, Mrs. Freswinda Carillo (ret. Master Teacher) expounded on “The Gabaldon School in Barangay Kalumpang.” I was flattered when she announced that among her sources were my columns on the Gabaldon schools.

Dr. Gilbert Macarandang (De La Salle University, Dasmariñas) told us about how Tayabas was destroyed during WWII and the difficulties of rehabilitation. Arch. Jennifer Sanchez (Dean, College of Architecture, MSEUF) pointed out Lucena’s significant built heritage after which Director Felino Tañada teased the audience with film clips from movies of famous Quezonian filmmakers like Gil Portes, Mel Chionglo, the de la Cruz brothers, Don Escudero, to name only a few. Apparently, Tayabas is a favorite location for period films.

“Lutuan, Sayawan, at Inuman sa Tayabas” was Prof. Estelita Lianita’s (DLSU, Greenhills) mouth-watering presentation of “budin” and lambanong. It made us all hungry, so we demanded “budin” for merienda but reserved the firewater for the evening. Ms. Gemma Suguitan (Arella-Suguitan Museum), who was named after me, distributed an engaging glossary after her talk: “Katuturan, atalolong, Tayabas Tagalog.”

De La Salle University Professor Vijae Alquisola’s “Hiyo, hiyo Bata: Ang Ugoy ng Ideolohiya sa mga Oyayi ng Sampaloc, Quezon” was about lullabies (oyayi) which he has been painstakingly collecting for many years. He warned us about how lewd and shocking the lullabies can be and apologized for being “bastos.” He concluded that in the past, mothers expressed their anguish, rebellion, and resentment against their husbands through the lullabies they composed.

Most fascinating was Ms. Katrina Santiago’s story about her great grandmother – “Prudence, Tolerance, Courage: Concepcion Herrera Umali’s Narrative of Identity as Women in the Context of Tiaong” based on the diaries bequeathed to her family by the long-suffering lady.

Winding up the 8th Tayabas conference, Dr. Vim Nadera (Philippine High School of the Arts) presented “Tayabasining: Pamanang Likha at Likas sa Tayabas” and for the information of all concerned, Arch. Benjamin Empleo (Historic Preservation Division, NHCP) presented “Guidelines for the Conservation of Heritage Zones and Recognition of Historic Sites and Structures.”

I was the keynote speaker and many were pleasantly surprised that I stayed on, attended all the sessions religiously, participated in the discussions and joined the post-conference tour. Frankly, it is always intellectually invigorating to be among teachers who, in the spirit of Jose Rizal, have pledged their lives to educating generations of Filipinos.