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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Bolshy Bell of Pan-ay Church and my Baddiwad Self



I can simply say "The big bell of Pan-ay Church and my bad-ass self" but no, traveling gives you the opportunity to see the vast fantastic of this world and sometimes you kind of scuttle and struggle to find the right adjectives to describe certain things and places you see. In this case, I have to channel my best Alex impersonation and throw in a couple of "A Clockwork Orange" slang to fittingly put a title to this blog post. The Bolshy Bell of Pan-ay Church is said to be the biggest of its own kind in Asia. It was completed in 1878 and its main materials consisted of 70 sacks of coins, cast together to create such gigantic bell, which also - at that time serves as the town's warning sign whenever there's an impending pirate attack.

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As I dragged my Baddiwad ass inside the church, I saw a few people praying inside. Just to make it official that I was inside the house of God, I motioned for a sign of the cross and recited my default prayer - of good health and safety for my loved ones, a steady life filled with travels and awesome experiences, adequate wealth to barely supplement what I wanted in life and most of all, the ever present in each person's prayers, "Everlasting peace".

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Pan-ay Church was first erected in 1774, after the original structure was damaged by forces of nature and further restoration continued until 1884. It was designed with Baroque influences and highlighted by the facade made of coral stone and thick walls and floorings made of marble. A typically designed Spanish colonial church, its bell tower is located on its right side with large columns supporting the facade.

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I was looking around for the way up to the to see the dakong lingganay (big bell) which is said to weigh a total of 10.4 tons. When I saw two of the church's caretakers who asked me If I wanna climb the bell tower. I said yes and they happily accompanied me to the iron stairway. The view from the bell tower offers a great vantage point to see the quiet and charming town of Pan-ay - the former capital of Capiz and once the site of a thriving textile industry and a rum and wine distillery owned by the grandfather of former Philippines President Manuel Roxas.

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The necessary 'angry look' photograph by the landmark 
I rested for an hour at the bell tower together with the two caretakers, we shared a chatter the best we could since they both can talk fluently in Tagalog. The wind was blowing nicely and the more I felt like I needed to take a nap, but at that time a van rolled into the parkway of the church and came another set of visitors to which the two caretakers greeted with a warm smile. It was my cue then to go down and after taking a couple of my signature "angry looking" portrait with the bolshy bell of Pan-ay, I went down and proceeded to the museum just right next to the Church.

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I decided to come here as a sidetrip to my Roxas City trip, which itself is only a point of entry to my main destination which is Kalibo in Aklan. It was the day before the Ati-Atihan weekend and my flight touched down Roxas early that morning, while my companion Chie-Chie was just about to arrive later in the afternoon. So, I took a 10 minute jeepney from the town of Roxas to Pan-ay to get to Sta. Monica Church. 

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It was a bit cloudy that morning but fortunately the rain never showed up. If any, it just gave a somber mood but with enough dramatic backdrop as I stare at the Sta. Monica Church. The simple town went about its normal routine, with students passing by going to their school and others attending to their own thing. 

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Which got me thinking and wondering about mine? Am I really serious about a life of traveling? yes, definitely, as the thrill of seeing these places, landmarks and even getting close to a bell that is the biggest in Asia presents a unique feeling of sorts. There is a sense of victory amid reaching each destination and a sigh of  good gracious relief at doing so.

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I sat there wishing I could share the experience with someone, but doing so I realized it was I, that the strong walls of the Sta. Monica Church and its rich history and of the town of Pan-ay that has become the subject of its generosity with, even for a brief moment of that one January afternoon, it gave me something that is worth remembering for a long time.

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When I finally had enough of embracing the place, I sat near the road and waited for a jeepney going back to Roxas City, as the towns folk passed by with a simple nod of their head and an accommodating smile, I felt at home in an instant. All of a sudden the idea of retiring from a hectic life in the big city feels something to look forward to. This seemingly sleepy municipality and its bolshy church bell might add up to the long list of places I would be willing to settle into someday. Retirement or just plain burn-out from the norms of life, I could rest my head knowing I have a list of safety nets of places to re-settle into when that day comes.

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It was almost 2:00 PM and Chie's plane is about to land in an hour, someone told me that I could take the tricycle back to Roxas City for only 15.00 pesos. I took the trike back to Roxas riding on the back side by standing up and as the gush of wind pounced on my face I looked at the stunning countryside and was smitten with a feeling that, this is what I would love to do the rest of my life. 

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