The town of Pakil, in the province of Laguna. Doesn’t ring a bell. Most probably not. You may be more familiar with the neighboring town of Paete, renowned for its great wood carvers and works of wood art. What surprised us in the trip through the Laguna Loop is the fact that the Pakil Church, or the St. Peter of Alcantara Church, looks better than the Church of Paete.
Pakil used to be a part of Paete. The marker at the side of the church, placed by the National Historical Institute, reveals that a church made of bamboo and nipa was built in 1676 when Pakil was separated from Paete. Construction of the stone church and convent started in 1732 and completed in 1767.
The church, therefore, is more than 200 years old. The marker at the other side of the main door commemorates the 330th anniversary from the founding of the St. Peter of Alcala Parish.
Other visitors may be interested in going to Pakil Church for reasons beyond visual. This place exudes an aura of peace and tranquility, a good place to pursue personal and religious reflection. This is a favorite stop of those who are on visita iglesia during Holy Week, specifically Maundy Thursday.
We dropped by the Pakil Church on the exit route of the Laguna Loop. It may be weird to use the word “exit” considering that it’s supposed to be a loop. However, we’ve designated Pagsanjan as the middle point. With San Pablo City as the entry point, the Paete-Pakil to Morong leg is the exit point of our Laguna Loop itinerary.
We arrived with enough sunlight on our backs. A number of tourist buses were ahead of us. Not a problem because the church is beside the town plaza, with the open basketball court providing ample parking space. A row of stores, selling pasalubong and what-have-you, divides the parking from the church. We have to cross the street, too, but a turtle can safely cross the street in this quiet town.
Across the street, bathed by the soft light of the setting golden sun, stands the impressive stone church of the St. Peter of Alcala Parish. If beauty/cosmetic companies are looking for the perfect model of aging gracefully, this is it.
Then there’s turumba. We’ve repeatedly seen the word in Pakil. Home of the Turumba, one sign says. We guessed that it’s a delicacy or pasalubong famous in Pakil. Like turon, perhaps. When we asked, we discovered that while we’re correct about the turumba being famous, it’s not food. It’s a form of dance-ritual.
The story goes that some fishermen caught an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their net sometime in the 18th century. The image became heavy and immovable as it reached the shore. The town people and the priest made a vow to make an annual pilgrimage back to the beach where the image and in time, they were able to carry it back to the church. The singing and dancing that accompanied the trip is what we now know as the turumba.
The annual celebration is called the Turumba Festival. It’s the longest fiesta celebration in the Philippines, held seven times a year between the months of April and May in honor of the Virgin of Sorrows. The first celebration is held during the Friday before Holy Week (Friday before Palm Sunday), also known as the 1st Lupi or Biernes Dolores. Then the 2nd Lupi (Pistang Martes, on Tuesday following Easter Sunday), 3rd Lupi (Pistang Biyatiko, on the 2nd Wednesday after Easter Sunday), 4th Lupi (Pistang Biyernes, on the 3rd Friday after Easter Sunday), 5th Lupi (Pistang Linggo, on the 4th Sunday after Easter Sunday), 6th Lupi (Feast of the Ascension, on the 5th Sunday after Easter) and 7th Lupi (Feast of the Holy Spirit, on the Sunday of Pentecost).
The image is also taken on a procession during the Pakil town fiesta (May 12) and the feast day of Virgin of Sorrow (September 15).
We didn’t know that a sleepy town called Pakil exists somewhere in Laguna. We didn’t know that this beautiful church has a rich history and appealing celebrations. Another reason why we should go out and experience the Philippines.