Wood Carvers Town: Paete Laguna
Paete in Laguna is just a short 5-minute drive (or even a jeepney ride) from Pakil. Still within the local narrow winding road below the cliff. It’s somehow more bustling than Pakil on a high afternoon. Cool breeze still blows from the lake but the heat under the sun has somehow made it quite unbearable.
Paete is known to be the “Wood Carving Capital of the Philippines.” The tradition of pag-ukit dates back since time immemorial. Even the national hero, Jose Rizal, mentioned its works in one of his novels. The exquisite talent of the Paeteños have reached overseas with some of their works reportedly displayed and used in some countries such as the Vatican and United States. Even the name itself of the town, Paete, is believed to have come from the Tagalog word “paet” meaning chisel…obviously tool used for woodcarving of course, hehe!
The town’s center is a few meters away between the main town road and Manila East Road. Compact but bustling, the town center is reminiscent still of the reducciones or the plaza complex that the Spaniards imposed in establishing pueblos or townships to better administer the Indios of the past.
Along the way, there are some wood carver’s shops but most of them were closed. Probably because it was a Sunday afternoon. Upon reaching the plaza, the town hall and the old yellowish Spanish colonial church dominate the scene.
Santiago de Compostela Church
There was a mass being held at that time, so we didn’t have the luxury of going in or out or just taking photos. The facade though, still of baroque artistry, does have that “woodcarver’s touch in stone” as elaborate floral carvings dominate most. Floracious! Somehow reminiscent of baroque-rococo like that of Miag-ao though. And those spires on the top (called balustrades…please correct me if I’m wrong) of the pediment look like that of Chinese clouds.
And surrounded by floracious motif, is the seal of Santiago de Compostela, the town’s patron saint.
The church is made of yellow stone and was constructed under the supervision of the Franciscan friars starting 1646 under Padre Andres de Puertellano. From then on, it has been devastated several times by earthquakes. The current church motifs were completed around 1840. And the church suffered major damages in 1884 and 1937. But like the Paeteño spirit, it survived and now a glorious manifestation of the talent and strength.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of time to explore more of Paete’s town center or poblacion in which wood carvers shops abound everywhere.
I’ll go back to Paete once more. To explore more of its hidden wealth.
Now driving, onwards to our next unexpected destination: Lago Caliraya!
More photos of Paete and Pakil here: