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Gat Paguil and Prince Carlos at the Pangil Town Plaza

Most have heard of Pakil but not Pangil. In fact, when I suggested that we could go to Pangil to photograph Lenten penitents, my husband did a double-take and asked, “Pakil?” as though, perhaps, I had mispronounced the name of the town. Pangil and Pakil are two distinct towns in Laguna. If you take the Manila East Road, Pangil is right after Siniloan.

When we reached Pangil a little after noon on Good Friday, we had to ask the locals where we could likely find penitents. We were given directions to the church across the municipal hall. Entering the plaza, I noticed the municipal hall at once. Municipal halls in rural areas can be such interesting architectural structures because they are often more attuned with the history of the place. Pangil’s municipal hall is a modest unpainted two-story structure with verandas reminiscent of the Spanish colonial era.

Town Plaza, Pangil, Laguna

The church across the plaza from the municipal hall is modestly sized too. And old. It would have been nice to capture the church in its quaint rural setting but political agenda got in the way.

Red Cross volunteers were stationed under a tent bearing the faces and names of officials. Despite the unfortunate tent, the Red Cross volunteers were friendly and helpful. I asked where I could find a comfort room and they pointed me to the municipal hall. The municipal hall offices were closed (Good Friday is a public holiday in the Philippines) but the building was open. A caretaker guided me to the comfort room which I found clean. I remembered to thank the caretaker on my way out.

Pangil Church, Laguna

As for the church, I had to photograph it from an angle to remove the ugly tent from the camera frame.

How old is the church? According to an unofficial Laguna website, the church site was established in 1587 but what you see in the photo was built after World War II because the church on that site was destroyed by storms, earthquakes and American Air Force bombs and the church had undergone reconstruction at least three times.

Standing in the plaza between the church and the municipal hall are two statues.

Statue of Gat Paguil at the town plaza, Pangil, Laguna

There are three versions about how Pangil got its name. The third version refers to Gat Paguil, a local chieftain. According to the plaque beneath his statue, he was the leader of a rebellion against the Spaniards that arrived in the area in 1571.

However, if you search the web for “Gat Paguil”, you will find references that he was the chieftain of Pakil and San Pablo. Whether there is only one Gat Paguil in Laguna history and he was the chieftain of an area that covers what are now several towns, or whether there was more than one Gat Paguil that lived in the area, I am not sure.

The confusion is confounded even more by a claim that, in San Pablo in 1571, Gat Paguil welcomed the party of Captain Juan de Salcedo who wanted to trade with the Aetas who were exchanging gold dust for “necessities.” That’s not very rebellious, is it?

Whatever his real politics with regard to the Spanish colonists, Pangil regards Gat Paguil as a leader of a rebellion against colonizers. This reverence for a rebellious chieftain becomes ironic with the presence of the second statue in the town plaza.

Statue of Spain's Prince Carlos at the Pangil town plaza

Prince Carlos was the son of King Philip V of Spain. According to the plaque beneath his statue, between 1724 and 1727, the young prince stayed at the church convent. Upon his father’s death, he assumed the throne as King Carlos III. During his reign, “he commissioned the sending of the statues of Senora de La’O and the Sto. Nino de La’O to the pueblo of Pangil as a way of showing his gratitude and appreciation accorded him by the inhabitants of the town.” That’s a direct quote. If there is any grammatical error, it isn’t mine.

Curious, isn’t it? A local chieftain who supposedly rebelled against the Spanish colonists and a Spanish prince who later became king are accorded the same reverence and importance in the town of Pangil.

Written By

I travel to eat, drink and learn new cuisines. Between trips, I write travel stories and share travel-inspired recipes. That is my idea of retirement with purpose.

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