San Juan de Bolboc: More than Just Laiya!
When we say San Juan in Batangas, everyone would say–Laiya! Yup, this strip of cream white sand beach at this town has made this town a pilgrimage site for sun and sea lovers. From an obscure town in the southeastern portion of the province, it became an instant celebrity. Yet a lot of tourists or perhaps people in general took for granted the other San Juan, before Laiya went boom. Yes, I know it’s boring for the most, but the town center or poblacion itself is a treasure worthy of cultural recognition due to numerous heritage ancestral houses and buildings.
The first time I heard about this town’s cultural heritage was just only a few years back during our visita iglesia in Batangas. San Juan, they say, is a repository of old houses and buildings. Yep, that got me intrigued back then even though it’s far from Lipa. Too bad, we didn’t have time to visit due to its distance—40 or so kilometers from Lipa!
It was only through the Spanish archives that I’ve known more of San Juan de Bolboc. The current poblacion itself was a resettlement area, after the river have swelled in the area now known as Pinagbayanan (in English, “a former town”), the people moved to the current site of it. Maybe that explains why the municipio (town hall) and the parish church are not in its traditional plaza complex style—just my theory.
Anyway, the morning I left Laiya for Manila, I made sure I’ll stop by the town proper and have a glimpse of its heritage homes. Unlike Taal in the other side of Batangas, which features more of Spanish colonial-era houses or bahay na bato, San Juan’s houses are more of American colonial with a mix of Hispanic and of course Filipino. Mostly single-detached, the homes feature a variety of architectural styles that is reminiscent of the early 20th century. San Juan’s poblacion ancestral houses actually remind me more of Jaro and Molo in Iloilo City. Some exudes elegance through size and design; others were simple yet attention-grabbing.
I was expecting that the church and the town hall were at one area, around the plaza. But I was wrong. The town hall was several meters away from the church—deviating from tradition.
The municipio also made my head turn. It has the neo-classical look with its columns and a seal at its pediment. The town hall clearly states the year it was erected: 1928…with the name “Bolbok” instead of San Juan indicated. Well, the Spanish papers stated that the name of its town was San Juan de Bolboc.
On the other hand, the Parish Church of San Juan de Nepumuceno (hence the name of the town) is located further into town. Like most parish churches, they start with light materials then later replaced by stone. It was Padre Damaso Mojica (yes, Padre Damaso exists, but neither in San Diego nor perhaps his notoriety in Noli) who supervised the construction of the stone church in 1848. However, due the floods, the people abandoned the old town and constructed the current church under the Recollects in 1894. The church has a rather simple baroque façade with an old bahay na bato style convent beside it. Nowadays, this church gained spotlight as it was the “secret church” where celebrity couple Juday and Ryan Agoncillio got married.
It was just a quick round at the town proper. Actually I was looking for some lomi noodles to feast in, after my bad hangover from last night’s drinking with my colleagues. I was impressed by the number of heritage homes and sites in just a small area. It was my first time going here in San Juan de Bolboc and I’m surely will come back here to know more about this quaint town in southeastern Batangas. Maybe the magic of the sunrise that touched the old houses has given me this feeling of nostalgia perhaps.
I know, boring for most, but a treasure worth keeping for the rest of Batangueños and the patrimony of our country. Underappreciated or treasures taken for granted I may say. San Juan indeed is more than just Laiya!
For now, I have to rush to Lipa. Manong jeepney driver is waiting.
How do you get to San Juan Batangas and Laiya? Just click here.