Sunday, August 23, 2009

Looc's Old Houses and Hermana Mayor

I have never gone (well, not yet) to Looc’s Marine Sanctuary nor felt the refreshing breeze of the famed Poka and Roda Beach Resorts in Kawit. I haven’t stayed long enough to rediscover the town’s beauty and explore the natural wonders hidden behind its age-old caves and rocks. I didn’t get the chance of bathing into its celebrated waterfalls and river nor I did have an opportunity to see with my very own eyes the treasures thriving in the bosom of its bay.

But Looc is a town I frequently pass by every time I pay visit to my in-laws who are staying in the northeastern coast of Tablas. Looc has a very clean and well-maintained public toilet, so every time the jeepney stopped over the place, I usually dismount to respond to nature’s call. The utility woman there was very accommodating, kind and friendly.

One time, my wife and I visited Looc. She was an alumnus of Looc National High School though she is from Santa Maria (Imelda). Her landlady back in high school, Lola Bading, died and we decided to stay there until the interment. There were several good stories told of the old woman - her selflessness and her devotion to church activities; her being a strict and organized landlady. My wife once told me that Lola Bading used to keep all the empty tin cans of sardines they had for meals. She placed this in a sack and kept outside the house. In 1993, when my wife graduated, Lola Bading gathered all the sacks of tin cans and muttered, “Nakakapa-valedictorian man gali ang sardinas.”

My eyes just got tired of looking around while my wife was busy chatting with friends she hadn’t seen for some time. The following morning, just before breakfast I asked her to join me stroll along the streets of Looc. It was also an opportune time for us to rebond as couples since our little princess was left to her lola.

My wife began to narrate the funny experiences she had on the familiar structures and streets we passed by. She began pointing here and there, her classmate’s house, their hide-out, etc… until I noticed something. Looc is a big town, the center of commerce in the south, they say. Not only the area is big but the houses that lined up are mostly of Hispanic style, bigger and more splendid than other old houses in Odiongan. These were pre-war structures and some date back during the Spanish regime. I was awed at the sight which I ignored for so long in my passing to this town. I got my cam and started taking pictures of these houses. An old woman told us that several houses are still standing in Sitio Barosbos which is a few walk east of the public plaza.

True to her words, Sitio Barosbos might have been once a village for the rich. The pictures above tell so much how fascinated I was to this little discovery. I saw several houses. I wasn’t aware of their styles and designs. All I know was these are landmarks of the town’s past.

Passing by my wife’s friend’s house, I couldn’t keep my excitement but ask for any fiesta souvenir program of Looc or any flyer. I was suddenly interested to read the town’s history. I did. But unlike other souvenir programs, I noticed that the one I’m reading was different. I got a hunch actually that Looc has something which other towns don’t have. Passionate to discover what it is, I asked my wife’s friend why such big attention is given to the town’s queen - a fully colored picture covering the entire page with a feature article on the other side plus the design of the gown she’ll wear on the coronation night. Queens here must have been very rich!

My wife laughed. She knew it. She told me I was precisely right. In Looc, they don’t conduct search for so and so. Becoming a queen depends on the bidding. The queen’s family will shoulder all the expenses during the coronation night and prepare a banquet for all the visitors. I overheard her friend saying, “ala Hermana Mayor.” I didn’t understand it though.

As we approached Lola Bading’s place, relatives had already gathered preparing for the necrological service. We prepared ourselves as well. While the procession began, I couldn’t keep out of my mind the possible significant link between Looc’s old houses and the ‘a la hermana mayor’ culture that is still in practice today.

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