Going Underground in Nagcarlan
A recent news on the TV that claimed that a piece of the Nagcarlan Church broke off had me scurrying to plan a trip to Nagcarlan. I had the same sentiments with its residents that if I did not do it now, I might miss out on seeing the church in all its glory. So after a week of delay from the original plan, our @viajerongpinoy team were off to go underground in Nagcarlan.
Just 20 minutes away from San Pablo City, Nagcarlan is an interesting find in Laguna. It has a natural mix of history and the wonders of nature. Nagcarlan, however, fails to get the attention of tourists because it still has to strengthen its program to get traction in the tourism front.
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
The weather was a bit gloomy when we reached our first stop – the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. The overcast skies and the blowing wind completed the ambiance for a cheap horror flick. The “Libingan sa Ilalim ng Lupa ng Nagcarlan” is a historical landmark in Nagcarlan and it is the only known underground cemetery in the country. Built in 1845 by the Franciscans, the cemetery is the repository of the earthly remains of locals during the Spanish period. Friars and prominent familes were interred in crypts that are located under the cemetery’s chapel.
The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is located along the main highway and it is quite easy to find. The huge lawn with the sight of its “kapilya” from the other end will definitely captivate you. It was already recognized by the National Historical Institute as a historical landmark and it is well-preserved and well-kept. The centrepiece of the compound is the small church where the underground cemetery is also located. Flanking the chapel are crypts which I am not sure if it is still in use.
The chapel was the place where the human remains of the dead are placed and blessed by the parish priest before being laid to its final resting place. The chapel now serves as a reception area of the cemetery-turned-museum. You could really see how old the structure is from the walls of the chapel. On the left side is the staircase that leads to the underground crypts.
The “basement” of the church served as the final resting place of prominent personalities of Nagcarlan. It was quite creepy as you step inside the chamber as you see tombstones surrounding you. A makeshift altar is found on one end of the chamber. Interestingly, the chamber also served as a meeting place for Filipino revolutionaries in 1896. Another popular story claims that the cemetery is connected to the Nagcarlan Church by a tunnel that you get to access through one of the crypts. When we asked the caretaker about it, he cannot confirm the story and, if it were true, the tunnel might no longer be accessible.
Just a few meters by foot from the Nagcarlan Cemetery is another heritage site – the Nagcarlan Presidencia. It was built in 1845 to serve as the seat of government of the Spanish local officials. The neo-classical design of the building make it stand out that it gives a feeling of dominance over the town. You just get the feel of authority just looking at it.
At present, it still in full use by the local government.
Food Stop: Kena-an
If you are up for a good meal, try the yummy dishes at Kena-an, just a few steps away from the Underground Cemetery. Our first attempt to take our meals there had us going out as the restaurant was full so we opted to just go around town and check out other restaurants. Interestingly, when you ask locals on where are the best places to eat, they would direct you to Andoks or 711, thus, we decided to head back to Kena-an.
I must say that Kena-an did not disappoint us. The simple interiors, similar to a school café, was in no comparison to the great food that they have to offer. A must try is their Baked Tahong. It had the sweet tangy taste matched with the salty taste of cheese. It was just perfect. You should also try out the Pancit Lucban matched with cassava cake.
A 20-minute tricycle ride matched with a 5-minute hike brought us to one of Nagcarlan’s natural attraction – Bunga Twin Falls. It got its name from betel nuts that once grew abundantly in the area. Cascading at a height of 15 meters, its main attraction are the two identical falls that cascade side by side into a deep basin. The basin is very deep that it is possible to do cliff jumping at Bunga Twin Falls. Local folklore claim that only the brave dare jump off from its cliff as others claim to have felt a hand pulling them into the catch basin which adds up to the adrenaline rush.
Bunga Twin Falls was definite beauty to enjoy and it is a favorite weekend destination by locals because of its rustic natural beauty. The cool and clean waters of the falls is enough to give you a relaxing treat for your tired body. Cottages were already set-up for the convenience of guests. They charge Php200 for the use of these cottages.
And yes, there were three brave souls who did jump off the cliff and they all came out fine so I guess the next challenge for me on my next visit is to jump off its cliff.
Yambo Lake is one the seven lakes of the nearby San Pablo City and is the other half of the twin lake tandem with Pandin Lake. Local folklore claim that the lakes were former lovers that became lakes because of a curse. You can check out my travel blog on San Pablo City’s 7 Lakes for the story behind the twin lakes.
Going back… after about 30 minutes of going through Purok 1 to Purok Nth, we finally made it to the shores of Yambo Lake. Interestingly, the lake is within the confines of San Pablo City but it can be easily accessed through the town of Nagcarlan. Honestly, it was only now that I had full appreciation of Yambo Lake. I have only seen it from the ridge that divides it from Pandin and it was only now that I have seen it upclose and personal.
Peaceful and serene, it was exciting to see Yambo Lake. It easily dislodged the other lakes to make itself my favorite lake among all the seven lakes of San Pablo. It is an ideal place to have a picnic and to enjoy the cool weather of the place. I even got excited with the prospect of camping out beside the lake soon. It offers a great panoramic view of the whole lake. It was a perfect place to have that solitary moment of contemplation, minus the blasting videoke, of course!
Nevertheless, Yambo Lake is a great place to visit just to slow down on life and enjoy a moment of peace and quiet.
Simbahan ng Nagcarlan
Nestled on top of the highest point in Nagcarlan is the San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church, more popularly known as the “Simbahan ng Nagcarlan”. It was the church making it to the headline news that prompted me to plan an immediate trip to Nagcarlan.
Established in 1578, the current Baroque-style stone structure was built in 1752 where the locals gave offerings of multi-colored stone and bricks during its construction. These stones and bricks now highlights the façade of the church with its arched entrance and windows. The belfry of the church is also an attraction with its bells bearing the coat of arms of the Franciscan order.
The interiors of the church was void of any fancy except for its altar that glowed in gold. Its main highlight was its two-tierred retablo and the images of saints. Too bad that we were not able to explore the church further because of the ongoing mass.
The sight of the church excited me. It was easy to see that the church does come with age. Too bad though that part of the structure eroded early February and the locals feared that the structure might be in the brink of collapse. I just hope that the church gets the necessary preventive maintenance to keep the structure intact for future generations to appreciate.
As always, my trips are not complete without the customary check on “pasalubongs” or take home treats. You really get a lot of interesting finds when you go around town. Now, for a guy like me who loves sweets, Nagcarlan is a treat because I got to bring home uraro and puto seco.
Interestingly, as we were going around Nagcarlan, we found a lot of supply of bananas and coconut and it comes at a cheap price. I did bring home a bunch of bananas during the trip.
Nagcarlan is a great destination to discover, whether it be a daytrip or an overnight trip. Its natural attractions, may not be as grand as the others, but definitely is comparable and exudes its own charm. These attractions remain untouched or its development is still on its early stages. I just hope that as these attractions get traction in the tourism front, its developments is streamlined towards a sustainable development.
I guess the tourism icon for Nagcarlan is the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. You get to see how well-maintained the tourist spot is since it is under the management of the National Historical Institute. The town is an old town that values its rich history. In fact, when you walk along the streets of Nagcarlan, old structures are still present… some in a bad state. The local government can still reinforce its touch on history by working on the Nagcarlan’s heritage sites.
Getting There: Nagcarlan is about 2-3 hours away from Manila via San Pablo City. You can take a bus for Lucena City and asked to be dropped off in San Pablo City. You can then take a trike to the city center and asked to be dropped off at the jeepney stop to Liliw or Nagcarlan.
These jeepneys pass through the town of Nagcarlan, about 30 minutes away. It passes through the Underground Cemetery where you can start your heritage walk. Going around in Nagcarlan can be done via tricycle. You can get in touch with Kuya Alex, our dependable tricycle driver/guide, when in Nagcarlan through (0998) 3953593.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.