It is less than a hundred days before Christmas and there is a festive reason to head now to Paete – the abundance of Christmas decors!
At the onset of the holiday season, one of the shops in this small town, M&E Paete Handicraft, otherwise close during the rest of the year, welcomes customers with delightful Santa Claus papier maches, Nativity sets and Nutcrackers made of fiber glass, and gingerbread houses tree trimmings, among other delightful Christmas ornaments. Divisoria retailers buy in bulk in Paete shops like M&E while celebrities also dress their homes with proudly Filipino crafts.
But beyond the Christmas ornaments, Paete and its environs have more offerings that charm the senses.
Paete in Philippine culture
Officially recognized as the Carving Capital of the Philippines, Paete is one of the towns of the province of Laguna that sprawls along the shores of Laguna de Bay and the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Named after the paet or chisel, the primary tool in woodcarving, Paete is renowned for its fine and exquisite sculptures that have graced the world. Today, the Paeteños’ centuries-old tradition of carving as well as painting live on as can be seen through shops selling sculpted religious images and home decors thriving at the heart of town. Aside from sculptures and paintings, specialty stores also offer affordable handmade paper-based products.
A day trip to Paete introduces travelers to arts, geography, history, and charms that are quintessentially Southern Tagalog. Once quenched by the arts of Paete, strolls and quick jeepney and tricycle rides carry travelers to more sublime reminders of history and gifts of nature.
The religious life of the town is centered on the parish church dedicated to St. James The Apostle. Founded by Spanish friars in 1580, the groundbreaking of the current Baroque-style church was in 1864. The parish church of Paete survived several earthquakes and witnessed human sufferings having been a dungeon and torture house during Japanese occupation.
The church’s facade features bas reliefs and a sculpted image of St. James slaying a Moor. In its interior, the retablos, paintings, statues, bas reliefs, and other fine details were all crafted by Paeteños making this church one of its kind in the country. Among the prominent features of the church are the 19th century murals of Luciano Dans, a Paeteño. His murals depicting saints and biblical images were executed on wood panels using natural color pigments mixed with volcanic ash and brushes made from fine cat fur. Sadly, the murals require adequate restoration work due to infestation of termites.
Neighboring Lumban and Pakil
Paete is flanked by the towns of Pakil and Kalayaan. Pakil is just ten minutes from Paete with tricycles as the primary transportation navigating both towns. Pakil has a long history of excellence in music that began in the 1850s and many of its sons and daughters have been catapulted to domestic and global music scenes.
Pakil is home to the parish church dedicated to St. Peter of Alcantara. The church is also the Diocesan Shrine in honor of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores or Our Lady of Sorrows of Turumba. Completed in 1767, the church construction followed the Corinthian and Ionic orders and possesses elaborately designed side entrances typical of churches in Laguna province.
Traveling via Laguna’s capital municipality of Sta. Cruz, Paete is preceded by Kalayaan and before that, Lumban, a town notable for its fine embroideries and being the location of Caliraya, the country’s largest man-made lake. While a getaway to Caliraya may take a day or two, a quick detour brings the faithful and explorer to the town proper and its parish church dedicated to San Sebastian. Established by Franciscans in the 1500s together with Pila, Lumban was the first Spanish town in Laguna and neighboring Cavinti, Pagsanjan, and Sta. Cruz were once part of it. Though San Sebastian is Laguna’s first stone church, it faced many destruction and the current adobe infrastructure was only completed during the American period.
Sunset by the Bay
Cap the day by spending the remaining hour at the mountaintop junction separating Lumban and Kalayaan towns. This point overlooks the Laguna de Bay and entreats travelers with a gorgeous sunset view. The junction won’t be missed as it is just along the highway marked by a picturesque park built by a local civic organization.
From Manila, travelers take a two-hour Sta. Cruz-bound bus. From the plaza of Sta. Cruz, look for Paete or Siniloan signboards and check the driver if he is dropping by Paete Loob. Henceforth, Paete is approximately 30 minutes away. If traveling via San Pablo City, also take jeepneys bound for Sta. Cruz. Before reaching Sta. Cruz in less than two hours, travelers pass by the towns of Calauan, Victoria, and Pila.
Take Paete home with you by buying a souvenir or two. During your day trip to Paete and neighboring Lumban or Pakil, if fortune introduces you to a little wonder or a yet to be discovered gem, do let Sebastian Pitbull know.