A lazy Saturday had me planning for a quick day escape. The city was starting to choke me so I was looking for a place where I can just enjoy the provincial feels and breathe in the fresh air. The province of Rizal was a good choice for this kind of quick and easy trip and I remembered on how much I wanted to visit again a Spanish-period church that was one of the most beautiful that I have seen in the country. Little did I know that the quaint town of Morong would spell out a different kind of fun.
Morong is the precursor of the present-day province of Rizal. This riverside town, along the shores of Manila de Bay, was first discovered in 1572 and was converted into a pueblo in 1578 by Franciscan missionaries. The towns of Baras, Tanay, Pililia, and Binangonan was under its jurisdiction. It was later re-structured in 1853 to become the Distrito de Morong with the towns of Jala-Jala, Angono, Cardona, Antipolo, Boso-Boso, Cainta, and Taytay added to its political jurisdiction. The present-day Morong remains to be a quaint and relaxing town. Except for a historical marker in town, it is void of any reminders that it was once a “kabisera”. It has managed to attract visitors by keeping its laidback and provincial vibe.
St. Jerome Parish Church (Morong Church)
The St. Jerome Parish Church, more popularly known as Morong Church, is a Spanish-period Catholic church completed in 1620. It sits on an elevated portion of the town that keeps it safe from flooding along the banks of the Morong River. The church is dedicated to St. Jerome and is home to two of the saint’s relics.
The bell tower and facade of the church is the most striking feature of the Morong Church. The baroque revival-style features intricate stone carvings that gives the facade an elegant and dynamic look. The belfry dominates the town skyline and an illuminated cross serves as a guide for fishermen on Laguna de Bay. Interestingly, the three-story facade was only built from 1850 to 1853 by Bartolome Palatino of Paete, Laguna and Chinese craftsmen.
The simple interior of the church stands out with its simple retablo. The dome of the church is both adorned by glass-stained windows and the paintings of the 4 evangelist - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A side door leads to a prayer chamber adorned by images of saints and the image of a dead Christ. I took notice of an artwork of Jesus Christ with a farm scene as a backdrop, however, there were no available information about the painting. The church’s altar is also home to two relics of St. Jerome. One is buried beneath the altar while the other relic sits adjacent to the image of St. Jerome on the left side of the altar.
Apart from its religious and aesthetic value, the church also played a role in history during the Filipino-Spanish War. The church became the last fortress of the Spaniards stationed in Morong after they were attacked by Filipino civil guards. It became the fort of the Spaniards before they surrendered to Katipuneros on August 19, 1898.
Not far from the church is a bridge where the original Morong bridge once stood. The Punta de San Geronimo was built from 1696 to 1701 under forced labor. The bridge, that arched over the Morong River, was made of adobe stones and cemented with sand, lime, molasses, and the juice of the puso-puso leaves.
The bridge was intentionally destroyed by Filipino guerrillas at the start of World War 2. The act only delayed the occupation of Morong by the Japanese. A steel and concrete bridge now stands on the site where the old bridge once stood.
Morong Old Municipal Hall (Comandancia) and Tanghalang Francisco Feliciano
I had no knowledge that Morong was once the capital of the precursor of the present Rizal Province. At the heart of the town stands the re-constructed Comandancia. The building, that was once made from adobe, served as the seat of power of the Distrito Politico-Militar de Morong. It was later used as a school building before it was torn down and re-built to serve as municipal hall of the town.
The Comandancia now serves as Morong’s town museum with the transfer of the government offices to the new municipal hall. It also bears the historical marker of the town of Morong. The marker outlines that Morong was once the capital of the province.
Adjacent to the Comandancia is an open space park that is known as the Tanghalang Francisco Feliciano. The town plaza, complete with an open space and a stage, serves as the a venue of town activities. It was named after the National Artist for Music Francisco Feliciano who hails from this town.
On one side of the plaza is a monument honoring the first Filipino to die overseas during an international conflict - Tomas Claudio. He also hails from the town of Morong and fought during World War 1. He met his demise while fighting in France and his remains are now buried at the Manila North Cemetery.
Duckling Society Park and Puking Bato
Located closer to the shores of Laguna de Bay, the Duck Society Park is a park located in the midst of the Morong’s rice field. The park is also popularly known as “Boulevard” and it is a favorite early morning and/or late afternoon spot for a quick run and stroll. The park gives you a panoramic and relaxing view of the town’s rice fields and the town.
The park also has an interesting rock formation called “Puking Bato”. A local shared with us that the rock formation, when cleared of grass, is shaped like a female genitalia hence the name. The rock formation also sits in the middle of the rice field and was covered with grass so I was not able to see the actual formation.
I still have to figure out why it was called the Duckling Society Park. My guess is that it is a location where you also get to enjoy bird watching because the fields are good locations for birds to swarm in. I think migratory birds, and ducklings, frequent the surrounding rice fields of the park. The park, located at the center of the fields, is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the views.
Cavalier Statue (Titing Kabayo)
Further away from the town center is another statue that locals refer to as the “Cavalier Statue”. The statue sits on the fork of the road that features an armored knight with a battle axe mounted on a horse and on attack mode. It has become the symbol of the Barangay Maybancal. Locals celebrate the Cavalier’s Day every October 25.
Bikers refer to it as “Titing Kabayo”. As to why they call it as such, I will leave it up to you to discover. Zooming in on the picture may provide you the answers.
Coffee Stop: Bukid Cafe
Rizal is a hotspot for coffee lovers with its wide selection of coffee spots and an addition to this growing list is Bukid Cafe in Morong. While most of the cafes in area boasts of overlooking views, Bukid Cafe provides a relaxing place that perfectly combines a cup of coffee and the beauty of Morong’s countryside. The cafe was a perfect way to cap a day of exploring the town.
Tucked within the fields of Brgy. Bombongan, Bukid Cafe offers a laidback place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee complete with the “probinsya” vibe. Think of it as an afternoon coffee session like you are at home in the province in the midst of the rice fields. You get to enjoy the rustic views of the Morong rice fields against the backdrop of Antipolo and Teresa’s mountainside. Definitely, a great place to wrap up a fun day of walking around Morong.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
If you are looking for a quick escape from the city that would give you that laidback vibe, Morong is a perfect roadtrip destination. Its old town charm and verdant rice fields views could easily snap you out of the city buzz and re-energize you. It slows you down and gives you that much-needed jumpstart especially when city life starts to choke you.
One good thing on this roadtrip was getting re-acquainted with one of the most beautiful church in the country and finding out that Morong was the original Rizal province. Well, you always learn something new on every trip. These tidbits of new information never fails to impress me and makes an old destination become more interesting. I guess, I found me a new “charging” spot that is close to Manila.
Getting there: You can take a jeep or an FX for Baras or Tanay at EDSA Crossing. This is a faster option rather than taking a Morong jeep that will pass by the towns of Taytay, Angono, Binangonan, ad Cardona. Ask the driver to drop you off at the junction of Morong where you can take a trike to the town center. Tricycle is the way to go around when you are in Morong.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.