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MAJAYJAY, LAGUNA (MAHAYHAY) LOCATION Majayjay is a fourth class municipality in the province of Laguna, Philippines. It is located at the foot of Mount Banahaw, and stands 1,000 feet above sea level. It is 120 kilometres (75 mi) south of Manila, and bounded by the municipality of Magdalena on the north, by Lucban in Quezon province on the south, by Luisiana on the east, and by Liliw on the west. According to the latest census, it has a population of 24,791. Majayjay is politically subdivided into 40 barangays. * Amonoy * Bakia * Balanak * Balayong * Banilad * Banti * Bitaoy * Botocan * Bukal * Burgos * Burol Coralao * Gagalot * Ibabang Banga * Ibabang Bayucain * Ilayang Banga * Ilayang Bayucain * Isabang * Malinao * May-It * Munting Kawayan * Olla * Oobi * Origuel (Poblacion) * Panalaban * Pangil * Panglan * Piit * Pook * Rizal * San Francisco (Poblacion) * San Isidro * San Miguel (Poblacion) * San Roque * Santa Catalina (Poblacion) * Suba * Talortor * Tanawan * Taytay * Villa Nogales (Poblacion) HISTORY Indigenous residents use to call it Malay Barangay. The Spanish colonial government made it a town in 1578. During this period, Malay Barangay was one of the most populated settlements in the newly founded province.
It competed with Bay and Pagsanjan during the selection of the province’s capital. The popularity of this new town grew instantly during the Spanish period. Its location at the foot of the mountain gave it an abundant supply of fresh mountain spring water. Four rivers flowed through the town. They were Initian, Oobi and Ula, from the towering mountain, and Balanac from the falls of Botocan where all the three rivers meet. Botocan Falls and the town’s breathtaking sceneries were uniquely famous. Europeans and wealthy natives from Manila frequently visited the town.
However, the road to Malay Barangay was tough. Guests have to be ferried from Manila through the Pasig River to Laguna de Bay. Land travel began by mounting on horses through a path in the forest, and then borne by natives in hammocks on the way up to Malay Barangay. As to how Malay Barangay got its name Majayjay, residents assume that Spaniards found it difficult to pronounce Malay Barangay. Early colonizers may have shortened it to Malay-ay, until it became Majayjay. Legends, however say that it was the difficult journey to Majayjay, which gave the town its name.
Tired travelers sighed, “Hay! ” after scaling a cliff, “Hay! ” after ascending a hill, and “Hay! ” after crossing a raging river. Thus, guests referred to the place “Mahayhay,” meaning, many sighs. Spaniards spelled it “Majayjay. ” Immediately after the conversion of the natives of Malay Barangay, a make shift church was built near May-it River. Fire destroyed it in 1578. Believers built a new church made of bamboo and cogon thatch to refurbish the former. However, fire again razed it to the ground. This time, the faithful built a stone church, but it again smoldered to ashes.
The residents wondered. In spite of the repeated incidents of fire, the image of their Patron Saint, San Gregorio Papa Magno remained miraculously unscathed. Through the efforts of Padre Jose de Puertollano, contributions enforced from parishioners, and forced labor of the natives, a new elegant church rose in Majayjay. It took nineteen years, incalculable donations and countless lash marks that scarred the backs of languid natives to finish the church. The church’s completion in 1730 put it in the list of the most elegant churches in the province. The St. Gregory Church
IN RETROSPECT, Christianizing Filipinos was the other side of Spanish conquest of the Philippines. Memories of this period are enshrined in colonial churches an Augustinian priest fondly calls angels in stones or messengers from heaven. The 280-year-old St. Gregory Church of Majayjay in Laguna not only bears the endearing term but also serves as one of the living testaments to the strong religious overtones that blended with the colonial rule. The pioneer evangelists in the Philippines were Augustinian friars who were not only preachers but also excellent architects and planners known in Spain during that time.
They arrived in the Philippines in 1565 with the expedition of Legaspi and Urdaneta. The rest followed, with the Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans and Augustinian Recollects. How they carried out their missions is a chronicle of dramatic events that culminated at the end of the regime in 1898, in a legacy of 326 towns established, each with a church and 2,237,446 converted souls. Pale-skinned strangers In 1568, five Augustinian priests came to Majayjay accompanied by Juan de Salcedo, a nephew of Legaspi. The town was a small village in the middle of a scrubland at the end of steep and winding trails.
In the beginning, the villagers were skeptical, viewing the pale-skinned strangers with strong suspicion that they came to rule their village. Their chieftain named Gat Yantok turned down the conference and with his men walked away, murmuring war. Seasoned in Mexico in handling this kind of situation, the missionaries left humbly but came back later with porters carrying luggage containing food, clothing and other items which they doled out to the natives as tokens of goodwill. They also attended to the sick.
Continuing with this act of largesse, the Spanish missionaries finally won the hearts of the natives and conciliated them into embracing the Christian religion. Gat Yantok and his men had no choice but to join the mainstream. And as Christian converts, they even participated in a mass circumcision which was part of the initiation rites of the Christian religion. Majayjay was founded as a town in 1571, so named because during that time one had to gasp for wind and say? Hay? Repeatedly while scaling steep hills that led to the place. Majayjay derives from the Tagalog word mahayhay, which in English means many? hays.?
The foundation of a town included the construction of a church and convent which, as directed by Ordinanza de Fundaciones de Pueblos, should be in a conspicuous spot far across the horizon. The Ordinanza was referring to the town plaza where the gobierno was also located. First church The first church of Majayjay was made of bamboo and boxo or dried cogon grass and built by the Spaniards on the west bank of May-it river in 1571. Given its light materials, it was later destroyed in a fire. Four others that were built through 1711 used lumber but were also destroyed by fire, except for one that simply crumbled down.
Now wary of similar incidents, the Augustinian planners drew an architectural plan for another church that would survive for ages. The church would become today? s St. Gregory Church, named after San Gregorio Papa Magno of the early papacy. The St. Gregory Church is built of adobe stones with red tiles and prime lumber. At a construction cost of P26, 000, it took the natives of Majayjay 19 years to build it, until 1730. At the onset, the workers who included women were barely paid so that a few of them evacuated to the nearby province of Tayabas (now Quezon).
To prevent other workers from fleeing, the priests implemented a fair wage system and scheduled construction work outside the harvest and planting seasons so as not to hamper the agriculture of the natives. No record shows the accounting of salaries paid for the construction of St. Gregory Church, but if patterned after the Sto. Nino Shrine in Cebu, where the workers received a total of P399 in five years, they must have received a total of P1, 500 in 19 years. Particularly during wet days, mishaps often took place during the construction of St. Gregory Church, resulting in injuries or deaths. Upon its completion in 1730, St.
Gregory Church was considered the biggest in the Philippines. During its inauguration that year, a canon was fired in the presence of prominent colonial figures. Among the noted visitors was a wealthy European named Fidel Villaraza who came from Valencia, Spain. Senor Villaraza was fascinated with a beautiful native girl and later married her. From their marriage came the now large Villaraza clan in Majayjay. Romanesque Colonial churches in the Philippines are described as Romanesque or Baroque or Gothic in architectural style. The St. Gregory church is Romanesque, with its massive features and rounded arches.
This style thrived in Western Europe in the 18th century. Completing the colonial structure is a monastery laid out in the traditional L-shape, where ecclesiastical events were held. St. Gregory Church has a three-story hexagonal bell tower, its main bell weighing approximately 3,000 kilos, delivering a thunderous peal reverberating at a radius of 3 kilometers. The nave is rectangular, above which is the pulpit and a clerestory where the choir loft is. There is a mysterious dark hole that looks like a cave on the west side of a dim alley on the ground floor of the monastery.
Since after the Spanish era, no one has dared explore it because, it is believed, danger lurks inside. According to town mayor Tino Rodillas, lore has it that the dark hole leads to a tunnel running hundreds of meters southward, ending in a ravine. The tunnel, the old folk believed, served as the secret route for Spanish military officers who wanted to leave town without the people knowing it. Some time ago, some religious items in the reliquary dating back to the galleon-trade era went missing. The loss caused public uproar, but was soon forgotten. Puente Del Capricho 9TH-CENTURY Spanish photo of Puente Del Capricho In Majayjay, Laguna The thing is an ancient ruin of a weird, huge arch. It stands forlorn at the base of a steep ravine walled in by a thick jungle and the Olya River in Majayjay. It’s a tall arch, moss-covered, with wild ferns and creeping vines growing in its cracks and crevices. Below is a dark green lagoon where we swam and frolicked naked when we were young boys many moons ago. Villagers made a makeshift bamboo footbridge attached to the abandoned arch. It is used as a shortcut by village people going on foot to the town of Majayjay.
Old folks say the construction of the arch stopped abruptly in 1852. It was part of a three-arch bridge that would have shortened the route to Majayjay. Tales of political and clerical intrigues spun wildly, involving civil engineers under Governor General Urbiztondo and the hierarchy of the Franciscan religious order in Intramuros. The dual rule of the Spanish colonial government of civil administration and Christian evangelization of the archipelago sometimes overlapped, resulting in the confusion of accountability as exemplified by the scandalous and aborted bridge in Majayjay.
At the center of the controversy was Fray Victorino del Moral, cura paroco of Majayjay, who supervised the construction of the bridge in the early part of 1852. Fray Del Moral, a Franciscan priest, was a strong presence in town. Young, energetic, outspoken and a disciplinarian, he was an old-world missionary evangelizer whose gospel oratory and administrative skill played important roles in the progress of his parish and the whole community. Evangelization The Franciscan order, to which Fray Del Moral belonged, was the second biggest group of friars who arrived in 1578. They took over the vangelization of the towns around Manila and Laguna de Bay all the way to south Luzon, including the Bicol region. The Franciscans built many beautiful churches, bridges, roads and dams. Many are still existing, such as the churches of Majayjay, Paete, Pakil, Lucban and Tayabas. In the Bicol region, they built Naga Cathedral and many others in Sorsogon. They also established charitable houses and hospitals such as San Juan de Dios and San Lazaro hospitals. The aborted bridge that Fray Del Moral supervised in the ravines of the Olya River acquired two descriptive tags, which became famous.
To my ancestors and the people of Majayjay, the bridge was called “Tulay ng Pigi” (buttocks bridge), to honor our ancestors who worked on the bridge—and got whacked on their buttocks. Latecomers for the job were given a dozen whacks with a paddle. There’s a strong suspicion that the work stoppage was a boycott, in protest against the physical punishment endured by laborers who reported late for work. Government representatives sent by Governor General Urbiztondo filed a report which devastated the pride and honor of Fray Del Moral.
The report cited ignorance of scientific studies and engineering principles in the construction. The report strongly recommended the demolition of the bridge and construction of a new one based on proper project studies with engineering and architectural planning. As an insult to Fray Del Moral, the report further said the bridge building should not have been placed under the management of persons who do not have the engineering know-how and scientific knowledge. The Manila authorities gave the bridge a mocking title: Puente del Capricho, “bridge of whim. A Celebrated Traveller By the 17th century, Majayjay was already famous for its church, one of the oldest in the Philippines, making it a popular destination among travelers and pilgrims. At that time, the travel from Manila was quite complicated. It involves a boat ride up the Pasig River across Laguna de Bay then a ride on a hammock borne by native bearers up the slippery hillside to the town. Yet despite the hardships, Majayjay hosted Manila officials and guests, including some European royalties.
Visitors in those days stayed in fine stone houses along the main street and around the plaza. A traveler during the American period was so captivated by Majayjay that he ordered a road constructed from the town to Botocan Falls (currently use by the National Power Corporation to harness hydroelectricity). The celebrated traveler was Governor and later US President William Howard Taft. Today, a journey to Majayjay is an easy drive over good roads, though lodging is a problem. While the elegant ancestral houses are still present, they seldom open their doors to strangers.