How do you define “stay-cation”?
More than staying in the comforts of your home or in a plush city hotel, I am defining “stay-cation” in a different way. That is discovering the nooks and crannies of Metro Manila’s 16 cities and its lone municipality. For the year 2015, I, together with a couple of friends, will be going to the different “hot spots” of the metro and our objective is to discover the interesting spots of Metro Manila. Welcome to Explore Manila!
Originally called Polo, Valenzuela City is an urbanized first-class city located north of Manila. The city was once part of Bulacan and was known as Polo because is surrounded by rivers giving it an impression that the place is an island. It ranks number 13 in the list of cities with the highest population in the country and 119 in terms of its size. The city was later renamed to Valenzuela in honor of Pio Valenzuela, an esteemed Doctor and Katipunero during his time. The internet claims that there are no known tourist spots in the city with the exception of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima to which we disagree.
Well, let me welcome you to Valenzuela City!
Simbahan ni San Roque ng Pulo
Just like the town of Obando in Bulacan, Barangay Mabolo bursts into colorful festivities every May 12 where the unmarried devotees dance the street, praying to meet their partner. A short transcript, in front of the church, gives the details as to how these festivities began.
Apparently in 1763, the British forces occupied the church as they were in pursuit of Simon de Anda Y Salazar who was said to be bringing with him the country’s treasury. The locals, fearing for their safety, hid in the forests of the area. When the forces abandoned the church, the locals immediately headed back to the church and, as a form of thanksgiving, started dancing, singing, and merry-making. And that started the yearly tradition of street dancing in veneration to their Patron Saint San Roque.
The simple exteriors of the church show the simplicity of the area. I felt that I was in the province, and not in the city, as it looked like a simple “kapilya”. But do not be deceived by its simplicity as the church is a mute witness to the unfolding of the country’s history.
The simple interiors of the church complement the exteriors. The white altar is the main highlight of the church and the image of San Roque is its central figure. The church has gone through a lot of renovations and has been elevated to address the persistent flooding in the area.
Getting there: You can take a bus from EDSA with the signboard Malanday. Ask the driver to drop you off at Malanday. From the bus stop, you can take a tricycle directly to San Roque Church.
San Diego de Alcala Belfry Ruins (Barangay Polo)
In Barangay Polo stand the ruins of the belfry of the San Diego de Alcala Church. The church was completed in 1632 through force labor. However, the church was later destroyed by bombs during the Japanese occupation. What remains standing now is the belfry alongside the new church structure.
Getting there: From the San Roque Church, you can hire a trisikad, a commuter ride powered by a bike, to get to San Diego de Alcala Church in Barangay Polo
Valenzuela House (Barangay Polo)
A couple of blocks away from the San Diego de Alcala Church is the home of a Dr. Pio Valenzuela, one of the leaders of the Katipunan who started the revolution against Spain. It was in his honor that Valenzuela adapted his name for the city. In his memoirs, he mentioned having met with Dr. Jose Rizal in Dapitan to discuss the proposal to buy arms from Japan and the starting the armed revolution against Spain.
The house where he was born sits idly with stagnant water submerging the floors of the house. It was not what I expected it to be. Except for a historical marker, one would not even notice the house and would care about the history behind it. Sadly, the house is unoccupied and has been left to the forces of nature. I felt bad looking at a site that is of historical value, especially for this city, that was left in disarray.
I just wish that the local government can do something about the preservation of the house.
Getting there: You can walk along Palasan Road towards Pio Valenzuela Street.
Arkong Bato (Barangay Arkong Bato)
The welcome arc was built in 1910 to demarcate the boundary between Bulacan and Rizal. This was even before Metro Manila was established or the construction of the North Luzon Expressway. This stone arc welcomes travelers from the north to the Rizal province to which Manila was once part of.
I was so eager to see Arkong Bato considering that it is a century old and have also been a mute witness to famous personalities who crossed the arc as they travelled. Unfortunately, the historical arc had a tarpaulin of a local politician on its top façade. I think that is just a simple desecration of a structure that is of historical value.
Getting there: You can take a jeep heading to “Tatawid”. You can ask the driver to drop you off Arkong Bato Stone Arch.
Valenzuela City Hall and People’s Park
The People’s Park in Valenzuela was just opened in February of this year. It features an open space park, an amphitheater, and even a mini-zoo. Visitors are greeted with a large “Valenzuela” sign just right outside the park and it is a great spot to have your pictures taken. The wide open space and its cool park design made our creative juices to flow so we took the time to take awesome and funny shots to the delight of the locals.
The City Government Center stands alongside the People’s Park. We never got the opportunity to go around the complex as it is closed because it was a Saturday.
Getting there: You can take the same jeep to “Tatawid” and ask the driver to drop you off at “Tatawid”. You then take a tricycle to McArthur Highway. Then you take any jeep going to Caloocan and ask the driver to drop you off the People’s Park. No worries, it is not hard to miss.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima (Barangay Marulas)
The shrine sits on a quiet neighborhood and its exterior design stands out from afar. A distinct design of the church is its pointed top which makes it look like a crown if viewed from the front. With blue windows as exterior highlights, the shrine looks magnificently beautiful.
But its external beauty will not prepare you for the grand interiors of the church. The interiors had a tinge of blue hues which gives visitors a calming effect. The altar is the main attraction of the church with its intricate paintings having the image of Our Lady of Fatima as its centerpiece.
Getting there: From the park, take a jeep to Monumento and ask the driver to drop you off at Fatima. Cross the street and the church is about a 3-minute walk from there.
Museo Valenzuela (Barangay Marulas)
Just right beside the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, is a museum that houses the valued artifacts of Valenzuela City and its journey to where it is now. It also sponsors symposiums and seminars that are sponsored by the city government.
The museum was named after it famous son, Dr. Pio Valenzuela, and the city have installed a bust on the museums yard in honor of their town hero. Unfortunately, we were not able to view the exhibits and collection because the museum was undergoing renovation.
Valenzuela is an old town that witnessed the unfolding of our country’s bloody history to achieve the freedom that we all enjoy now. Sadly, most of these historical sites that we have visited have remained in ruins or has been left to the mercy of nature. Worse, others get desecrated just so local politicians can get into the psyche of their constituents. It is a sad state to be in when we fail to recognize and put value on history that gave us the identity as a nation.
I just hope that the government can put the needed attention to preserve these historical sites in Valenzuela and for the rest of the country.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.