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San Juan: Journey back in time
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Jaser A. Marasigan
Date: 2003-01-22
The old acacia trees that line the streets of San Juan in Batangas evoke images of the past and were once silent witnesses to the meetings of Katipuneros who fought with the Spanish soldiers under Gen. Malvar.

The numerous stately mansions and historical landmarks create a beautiful nostalgia setting which reflects the town’s illustrious past, considered then as a very aristocratic town.

One of the founders of San Juan is the Salcedo/Quizon family. Their ancestral house was built in the 1920s and is popular for its unique wood carvings.

The wood carvings in the house created by a certain “Pedro” in 1930. It is said to be one-of-a-kind because of its intricately designed, not just front but also back carvings. The original statue of the town’s patron saint carrying a lying cross, San Juan Nepomuceno (Patron Saint of all Confessors of the World), can also be found in the house and is estimated to be over a hundred years old.

We also went to the place of Jose Rizal’s nephew, Capt. De Leon Mercado, which is considered as the most beautiful ancestral house in the town.

The 100-year-old ancestral home of our tour guide Bilog Lopez, has a collection of old jars from the late metallic era, around 900- 1200 A.D. and some old frames made of brass. His father, Eusebio Lopez, Sr., who was appointed judge of the People’s Court and a ConCon (Constitutional Convention) delegate during the time of President Manuel Roxas, has an impressive pre-Spanish collection of letters and stamps, the oldest of which is dated around 1700s.

“Simbahan ni San Juan Nepomuceno”, built in 1843, is the town’s first Catholic Church. Built with nipa and bamboo, its original site was in Pinagbayanan, formerly San Juan de Bocboc.

Its delicacies and specialties such as “panutsa”, “calamay”, “pilipit”, “pinaltok” and “bilo-bilo” are among the “pasalubong bestsellers”. San Juan’s potteries and “lambanog” (fermented coco wine) are also popular export products.

Jessie Palutnaw, a potter, sells their products between R8 to R25, smallest and biggest, respectively. According to him, San Juan has enough clay deposits, in which a person can produce approximately 200 pots a day, depending on its size. The biggest takes 30 minutes to mold, three days to dry and another three days to “cook” in a “pugon”.

Laiya Coco Grove Beach Resort is producing its own “lambanog”. Mel Guevarra, a native of Bulacan, is one of the “mangangaret” (local term for coco farmers) in the resort for two years now. He said that the distillation of “tuba” takes at least 24 hours, then it is boiled in a “cooker”, delivered to the market and sold for wholesale.

Often referred to by foreigners as the “devil’s wine”, lambanog has been traditionally the life of every Filipino’s celebrations especially in the provinces.

Aside from its long shoreline and pristine mountains, San Juan also has one of Batangas’ richest ecosystems characterized by dense mangrove forest, marine and wildlife species.

Mt. Daguldol and Naambon Falls are the top tourist attractions in the area.

Daily trips to Mt. Daguldol, with guides, porters and horses for hire, are available. It is one of the highest mountains in the province with an elevation range of 672 meters above sea level.

Naambon Falls is known as a picnic and relaxation site. It is approximately a one-and-a-half-hour-walk leading to the secluded and undisturbed series of falls.

Located 43 kms. east of Batangas City, San Juan is accessible by land via a Southstar Bus. Day tour packages are available, call Adventure Tours and Destinations at tel. no. 245-4854 for details.


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