At long last, I finished this article. Yey! This took place many weeks ago when I joined the grade 1 students of Raya as they explore and witness the beauty of Laguna and the craftsmanship of its people. It’s just that busyness or maybe also laziness got in the way.
We had a jam-packed schedule. We left the school early in the morning wanting to do a lot. Unfortunately, we were greeted by heavy traffic so we had to adjust our plans. You can just imagine the never ending “Are we there yet?” hirit of the kulit kids. The more they felt heart broken when we finally reached Laguna but then we had to find a different route on our way to Pakil because of the high water that prevented the van from moving forward. Most parts of the bucolic place was flooded due to heavy rains in the past few days. Good thing Teacher Sarah who hailed from Laguna was there as our dependable tour guide.
After more than a 2-hour drive, we were able to reach our first stop. The Whittler Arts and Crafts of Pakil. Yahoooo!!! And wow! It’s like a mini paradise with all the nice and seemingly real displays that they sell at very affordable prices. We were surrounded by vivid colors that call happy thoughts everywhere. There were flowers, fruits, vases, statues, boxes and many other home decors. And yes, since it’s almost Christmas, Santa Claus was all over the place. Our eyes went big with amazement.
All of them were made from wood. They call the process whittling. These snooping eyes we have even went bigger when Kuya showed us how they do it. His hands worked like magic. The tiny piece of quetaña wood with the aid of a sharp knife was transformed into a lovely bird in just a few minutes. Lucky Anya got it. 🙂 The others however did not hesitate to spend a part of their precious baon to buy something nice and pretty for their families. Daniel bought so many gifts for himself and his parents. 🙂
Next we went to Paete. And in this special place we saw their old but still beautiful church. There was a friendly guide who briefly explained the history of the town. I sat there listening and at the same time looking at the retablos. The last time I saw them was when I was in college touring with my classmates for our Art class. I was still swept away. Then the same man in front told us about the old painting situated at the back. They are planning to have it restored. It’s been there since the time of the Spaniards. Too bad the termites are attacking it and the painting that was once in its glory and rich hues is now dilapidated and is almost in ruin. The residents of Paete are asking for donations from the kind visitors who go to their place.
Outside the church, is a small table filled with taka works. Taka is the Filipino word for paper mache. It’s been a popular industry in this small town. Quickly, Ate showed us how it’s done. First, tear the paper into smaller pieces. Get your mold (which can be ready made) and put a small amount of wax on it. This is to easily take off the paper when dry. Soak the paper into a bowl of home-made glue which is basically gawgaw and water. Put the paper onto the mold one at a time. Press hard to make sure there are no bulges. The goal is to see the mold’s perfect shape. Add more layers and wait for it to dry. When done, slowly take off the taka from the mold. You may add paint to make it look more real. The Rayans gladly took the chance to showcase their artistic gifts. Excitedly, they used their small hands to make their own masterpiece.
When the session was over it was already lunch time. We took a short walk towards a small eatery. There, our empty stomachs were filled with foods that were served with love. Some kids brought their own lunch. Those who didn’t feasted on the crunchy shanghai while the others could not hide their heart’s content with the hot and yummy pancit served on their tables. As for the teachers, nothing can beat the energy brought by rice. As in madaming kanin with sinigang na manok and sweet and sour fish to match. We needed much to compete with the kids super high energy, you know. 🙂
When everyone’s full, we walked again this time to get back to the van. We could not help but admire the many other taka works being sold at the shops we passed by. Every now and then, no matter how we wished to hurry, we would stop and take a peek at the treasures inside each store. And we were all in awe. Here’s just one of the breath taking works we saw. Thanks Teacher Jobelle for letting me use the pics.
We’re still overwhelmed by the beauty of the takas when another work of art presented itself to us in the small town of Lumban. We visited Burdahan. It’s a tiny place that caters to world class embroidery carefully woven on piña cloths, some of which were interestingly dyed with inviting colors. What a beautiful shop filled with beautiful dresses, carves, barongs, and even bags made more attractive with their intricate designs. One of the staff told us how they do their job. The owner even showed us pictures of some stars who wore their gorgeous clothes. I wish to go back to this some other time not feeling guilty of buying something I really like. 🙂
Tired and again hungry we all felt came mid afternoon. But the best part was yet to come for we’re on our way to Aling Taleng’s Haluhalo. Yumyumyum! The once quiet store, was in an instant filled with hustle and bustle the moment we arrived. All credit to our ever rowdy kids whose excitement is quite contagious yet still unparalleled. We waited patiently, but more eagerly. And when the glasses of haluhalo were finally right there before our eyes our glee level went super high. Wow! The kids’ joy was too much to handle more than the cold ice, sugar rush and the perfect blend of the all the ingredients at hand. We stayed there for almost an hour, bought some more delicious treats, and then got ourselves ready to go home.
Again what a loooong trip. It was even made longer this time around, because it’s Friday. The long line of cars slowly inching forward was completely a depressing sight especially when one is exhausted and too eager to lie on bed. We were in fact there too long it’s already dinner time. The children were complaining their hungry and there’s nothing left to eat anymore. Luckily Teacher Jobelle still had some crackers which she generously gave to the kids. And what happened next was a sight to behold. Surely, it will stick in my mind. All of a sudden the children are searching their bags, inspecting their food containers, making sure there’s nothing left inside. After a few minutes, there were food all over our small place. Jaco brought out his biscuit that’s salty and spicy (He super likes spicy food) but the kids didn’t mind. There were peanuts and cookies being passed around. Kiev opened her container and offered the chicken that her mom cooked. The kids huddled in a small circle while eating the leftover kanin with their bare hands even when there was no ulam left. Teacher MJ and I were both laughing the whole time. Kawawang mga bata. When everything has been shared and finished, the kids were recharged. They were noisy again, and having their own party with Gabe’s torch as their disco light. They were waving their hands up and down, dancing to the music they proudly sang. Quite an adventure we had!
We reached Raya at 7:30 pm if my memory served me right. There were parents waiting, children laughing (some crying), and stories that can’t wait for tomorrow. Well I have my own story, too. For that day, I saw many hands. Hands at work, hands that tire, hands that rest, and hands that work again after a little while. There were those hands that took us safely on their wheels, hands that showed us magic is real. There were hands that served, hands that made, hands that can restore. Busy hands, loving hands, hands you can’t ignore. There were hands that fed and hands that led. There were hands that shared their little joys.
I know my hands can do more. What can your hands do?