“Paracale, Town of Golden Faith”

It was the day when the Miss Universe was held in Manila when we visited the town of Paracale. At first I was not excited at all. Honestly, my heart told me that I would rather watch the live telecast to see Maxine Medina gets the crown than to go somewhere else. But since I will be once again with the crew and host of MagTV na Oragon by ABS-CBN Regional Network Group, I decided to give it a try. It’s not always that I will be with these guys from ABS-CBN and relive my dream of being a real journalist.

Well, it turned out that even if Maxine won the Miss Universe crown, going to Paracale was the best decision I’ve made that day. I found out that it is more than just a mining town – that there were a lot of things that we can do here and discover.

We were lucky when we visited because it coincided with the week of the town fiesta and their annual “Pabirik Festival”. After our usual courtesy call to the town mayor, our first stop was the jewelry exhibit. Here all the entries for the annual jewelry design contest were exhibited. I was amazed by the size and artistry of the jewelries made of gold. Paracale has this unique jewelry design that is so detailed and intricate. It was really reflected in the various entries in this year’s competition.

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We had our lunch at El Minero Restaurant near the Palanas Bridge. It was cozy place with native ambiance. We had our fill of Chop Suey, Pancit Canton and Buttered Chicken. The meal was really delectable but I was looking for a local delicacy like the “Humbang Paracale”.

el-minero

We went to talk to the Barangay Captain of Poblacion, Hon. Rio Paliza to know about the history and culture of Paracale. When we came to his office, I was amazed on how he patiently restored the old photographs of the people of Paracale. It was indeed a rare privilege to meet a person who not only love his culture and heritage but did something real about it. In other words, he walked the talk. For one he helped produce a coffee table book – Inay Candi: Bearer of the Light to inspire devotion to Inay Candi by young Paracaleños. He was one of the photographers of this coffee table book which was launched during the canonical coronation of Inay Candi as Patroness of CamNorte. He said that he too experienced a personal miracle from Inay Candi when his Dad recovered from a near death experience. His Dad told him that a woman cloth in blue and had a sword saved him. That miracle strengthened his faith and deepened his devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Candelaria.

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Our next destination was a small jewelry shop that manufactures handcrafted gold jewelries. Here we observed how jewelries were made from gold wires. Paracale jewellers were highly skilled and devout craftsmen thus it became one of the important livelihoods of Paracaleños. Their intricate designs were inherited from their ancestors so this kind of skill needs to be preserved.

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For our second day, we watched the Pabirik Festival’s Street Dancing Competition. There were 5 competing schools. All of them gave their best during the street parade and during the judges’ presentation. They showed different interpretations of the myth of Inay Candi and the pabirik or gold panning. In the end it was Paracale National High School who emerged as the champion in this year’s competition and got most of the minor awards including the Best Costume and Choreography.

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After lunch, we headed to Paracale Church for a rare privilege of seeing the original image of Inay Candi or the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria. Seeing the old and miraculous image of The Blessed Virgin Mary gave me goosebumps. It was mesmerizing and really touched my heart. Inay Candi is actually older than the image of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia of Naga City. The parish priest told us about the myth that keep the strong faith and devotion of Paracaleños  – that Inay Candi went down from the altar and fought the Moros invading the their land. I saw the hand of the image with a cut finger. It was believed that it was the proof of her fight with the Moros; that no matter how the parishioners tried to restore it the finger kept falling off so they let it that way. Maybe she wants it as a reminder of her love to Paracaleños. It is not the physical image that gave me the goosebumps but its strong presence that is beyond words and can only be felt.

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For me, one of the must see heritage site in Paracale is the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria Church. It is one of the oldest Catholic churches in the Philippines. It is now more than 400 years old. I was amazed by the superb design of its retablo, the altarpiece. It was perfectly preserved that I cannot help but took a selfie and told my friends about it. I felt like I was in an old church somewhere in Spain of Portugal. The whole church was well preserved and taken care of by devoted Paracaleños.

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Our third day was devoted to exploring the eco-tourism destinations of this town. With the help of councilor Amelia Oco, we were able to visit the beautiful island of Maculabo. We woke up early from our cozy room at Paliza del Rio Tourist Inn where we spent the night, then we headed to the island. We had our quick breakfast of hot pandesal on our way going to the fish port where our motorboat was waiting. It was still dawn when we boarded the motorboat. We saw the sun just appearing in the horizon when the boat headed to the island. It was around 6pm. The ride was quite bumpy but exciting and not dangerous. It was just enough to sustain our excitement and sense of adventure.

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We circled the whole island to get the thorough view and saw the beautiful rock formations. We landed to the beach after one hour. We excitedly unloaded the motorboat and felt the white sand on our feet. I can’t help but gave in and swam in the clear blue water to my heart’s content. Well, technically it was not a swim because I just dipped myself and got wet while running away from the waves. I really enjoyed every minute of it and what really made my day was when I saw a rainbow between the island and the sea which was so awesome. What I found unique in this island was the presence of white coral rocks which complemented its white sand beach. After more selfies and jumpshots we headed back to the mainland.

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After a short rest at Paliza del Rio Hotel we headed to Pulang Daga Beach Resort. This time we don’t need to travel by boat just to enjoy a fantastic semi-white sand beach. It was just near downtown of Paracale and can be easily reached by any land vehicle because the road is now cemented. The view was spectacular. There were beautiful cottages that can be rented if you want to stay overnight.  The water here was calm and perfect for swimming or just relaxing in the sand. Most of the time, it was not crowded unlike other beaches so you can just unwind and commune with nature.

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Finally we watched the fluvial procession. It was raining but even that cannot stop the deep and strong devotion of Paracaleños to Inay Candi. At that moment they were united in paying homage to their Patroness.

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As much as I wanted to put Paracale, the Town of Gold in the title I cannot comprehend why inspite of its vast resources mainly in gold is the hard truth that it is still a 3rd class municipality. Maybe the real treasure of this town is not gold but their faith – their faith in God and in themselves. From what I saw from our 3 day exploration, it is better for them to slowly transform their town into a tourism site, protect their environment and become an agricultural/fishery town. If mining is really helping them, then the town should be rich by now because it was ages ago when they started exploiting their gold and mineral deposits. Where do all these gold go? Who really benefited from them? Maybe it is time for a different approach. I hope that Inay Candi will lead them to what really matters in life.

So I say let’s help them. Let’s go and visit Paracale. Explore this town so we can transform it into Pilgrimage and Heritage, Farm Tourism and Eco-adventure site. “Parto na sa Paracale”

 

Cresencio B. Adlawan

Provincial Tourism Operations Division