Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mt. Humarap and Paete Church

It is officially the start of that season everyone's waiting for - SUMMER! Last year, The BACKPACKERS enjoyed this season in the provinces of Bataan, Oriental Mindoro and Benguet. This year, the group are expanding the celebration as we have plotted four instead of three Hirit Sa Tag Init Adventures.

The first official group summer adventure is in the towns of Paete and Kalayaan in the province of Laguna which involves an easy climb in a minor mountain, a visit to a century old church, dipping into a majestic waterfalls and a feast at a restaurant that serves exotic dishes! 

Unang Hirit Sa Tag Init 2013
Part 1: Paete Church and Mt. Humarap
by Weng Topasi


I'm fascinated with old structures. There’s something nostalgic about it. Last Saturday I was lucky enough to see one in Paete, Laguna. Amidst the humble houses of that small town stands St. James the Apostle also known as Paete Church. This 17th century church filled me with awe, this is what I usually feel when I see old houses and buildings. Maybe it has something to do with history, of how this big house of faith survived the test of time. Or maybe a reminder that everything changes and nothing really lasts forever. I was not able to tour the whole church inside because there was an event going on that day. The neighboring school was having their Recognition Day. This was my first time to witness such event inside the church that’s why I found it unusual. The main altar was surrounded by statues of different saints. There were murals on both  right and left sides of the walls but what really gave me the creeps was the painting on the right. It depicts the life after death, the cruelty in hell together with the devil on the bottom. Then there's the life with God on top. If I’m not mistaken it was painted by Josef Luciano Dans (an 18th century painter) entitled Langit, Lupa at Impierno. The painting was faded and nobody can deny the eerie feeling upon seeing this. For someone who has an eye for art this is really worth looking at. It reminded me of Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delight which also portrays religion.

The caretaker allowed us to go to the bell tower. Unlike other holy structures, Paete’s bell tower is not separated from the church. One must pass the narrow staircase beside the church door for you to go up to the second floor. From the veranda, I was able to take a glimpse of the church's structure inside. I noticed that the wooden ceiling was starting to have moss though the caretaker said that the ceiling was not the original structure anymore. The classy chandelier which lighted the whole place never escaped my eyes. Never dare to go to the bell tower alone especially if you are planning to go the rooftop. The room where the big bell is located was big enough but the narrow brick stairway leading to the rooftop was dark. The wooden floors were uneven and old which made it dangerous for us if we were not careful enough to watch our steps. Another thing to consider was the improvised wooden stairs that we must climb before reaching the rooftop door, termites already gnawed some parts of it so we had to be cautious enough to avoid a painful fall.

BP Nick summoning the town of Paete

Bell Tower modelling: Search for the next Kampanerang Kuba
with Mommy Weng, BP Angel and Ma'am Amber

Guest Leslie and BP Weng posing beside the century old bell

Guest Cecile, BPs Nick, Mon, Angel, Weng and Heinz
Enjoying the nice view of the town from the church's roofdeck
When we reached the top, we saw the whole view of the town including Laguna de Bay and the inviting Mt. Humarap. It was nice to feel the roughness of the adobe bricks on my hands, most of them are still intact. And while touching them, a thought came into mind. This church needs to be preserved not only because this is part of the town’s treasure but it is also part of our country’s history.


After our historical visit to the Paete’s cathedral, we started the trek to Mt. Humarap. It was around 4:30 in the afternoon. The rest of The BACKPACKERS and guests took the regular trail while BP Ivan and soon-to-be BP Kenji took another route using Bubu Chacha (Kenji's car). At a glance one can immediately say that this is going to be an easy climb…and that’s what I thought. The first time I heard Mt. Humarap was when BP Mon told us that this mountain was featured in Misteryo (a defunct TV show) so I did not really know what to expect except that there are three crosses on top. I noticed the cemented stairway, I thought this was just a part of barangay Ilaya Norte's proper. But as we went along I realized that this was the trail itself. I lost count on how many steps though I heard it was around a thousand. I admit I felt really tired climbing stairs rather than the slopes of a real mountain trail. My calves began to stiffen and I had difficulty breathing as we went up. Thanks for the cold wind and the sound of the waterfalls nearby. If also not for the sight of tall trees and the view of Laguna de Bay I would never have thought that we were climbing a mountain. Water source was never a problem, midway there’s a flowing water from a hose and a comfort room, and there were several rest stations also. Along the way we also saw men carrying packs of wood. I did not notice the time but it was already dark when we reached the top. We nearly got lost because we followed the small road after the stairs. Thanks to Ma’am Weng of Biyaheng Jologs she noticed the crosses on the right side amidst the darkness.

A deviation from the stairway - a bamboo crossing
BP Ghei, soon to be BP Mau and BP Mon
Ready for the second leg of the staircase
I was surprised to see how big the three white crosses were. Facing Laguna de Bay, they stood mighty and strong, like guardians looking over the whole town. Ivan told us that these crosses were built a long time ago when the town suffered from famine and then the people noticed that it stopped after putting those structures on top of the mountain. This place is nice for an immediate getaway from the busy city life without really having the hassle of getting dirty. Aside from the cemented trail, the campsite itself was a park. It was like a resort on top of a mountain. There were cottages and a comfort room. There were also faucets and a wash area. The overlooking spot was very ideal since you can see the town below. Weather that night was unpredictable but again luck was on our side because we were able to see a lot of stars. I was able to see three shooting stars during the happy socials.

The BACKPACKERS @ Mt. Humarap

BP Angel and the equally beautiful view

BPs York and Weng under one of the cross

A pretty morning to greet BPs Jovy, DeePee and Angel

BP Ralph at the altar

BPs Anna and Nick

The BACKPACKERS fetch BP Alexi who made it on the second day

A fragrant morning for BP Anna

Weng, DeePee, Ghei, Heinz, Mon, Ivan, Angel, Jovy, Nick, Ralph, York, Anna and Alexi
The BACKPACKERS in Mt. Humarap!

And of course this climb will never be more memorable if not for our guests who  willingly shared a part of themselves to us. Thank you guys!

Mau, Leslie, Cecile, Aries, Mommy Weng, Amber, Tim, Paul and Kenji
Thank you to our Unang Hirit sa Tag Init guests!

BP Ghei and guest Tim who is also a good photographer
Paul, BP Anna and Amber - bonding galore

Mau, Cecile, Aries, Mommy Weng, Tim, Paul and Kenji
Glowing altogether

a vintage Mau and Cecile
Weng, Leslie, Aries, Ghei, Amber and Nick

A Birthday Greeting on top of Mt. Humarap:

We also celebrated BACKPACKER DeePee's birthday!
Happy Birthday Mr. Dennis Piano!

DeePee's birthday shot

UP NEXT: Unang Hirit sa Tag Init part 2: Matabungka Falls and Exotik Restaurant

PHOTO CREDITS to: Angel, Tim, Ivan and Mon


Pondering Paodaolei said...

Wow! Just like you, I am in love with old structures that I dedicate two pages about them on my site, one for old houses and one for old churches in our country.


May I know how long was the trek to Mt. Humarap?



Hi Paodaolei!

Mt. Humarap is a very easy climb. It can only take you 1 - 2 hours to get to the three crosses. :-)