Travel and Tourism

Santa Rosa: A many-splendored place

- Nonia D. Tiongco -

MANILA, Philippines - Reflecting on the town of my birth, and five generations before me, and now the city of my retirement (from academic work, estate management, coordinator of ex-patriates’ projects), seeing the garden abloom once again with the onset of rains, birds chirping, white butterflies fluttering, the soothing drip-drop from the indoor fountain, I cannot help but affirm that Santa Rosa ay bayang pinili ng Panginoon na pagkatiwalaan ng biyaya (was chosen by the Lord to receive his blessings).

I grew up in a veritable living museum — the church, school, municipio and plaza all within short walking distances — and the ancestral house (one of nine in the poblacion), home to generations of strong, determined, community-involved family members, a continuum of the creative minority without which a society cannot grow, be relevant or responsive.

 Santa Rosa was once part of Biñan. Then it became a city via a plebiscite on July 10, 2004. It is also the site of the 23rd SM Mall, which opened on Feb. 16, 2006, out of 39 all over the country. SM’s presence here joins the pattern of trail-blazing we take pride in.

Santa Rosa’s two irrigation systems watered 2,000 hectares, 5,000 acres at a cost of P342,000 (1910 American Colonial Government assessment); there were two-crop per year cycle in contrast to the one-crop schedule based on sahod-ulan. The men were spared from forced labor and probably the roots of dysfunctionality in the Filipino psyche. Some of the anak ng Santa Rosa were Maria Carpena, the first Filipino recording artist in 1912; Dr. Andres Tiongco Zavalla, the first Filipino neurosurgeon; Atty. Domingo Tiongco Zavalla, delegate to the Commonwealth Constitutional Convention; Dr. Jose Zavalla Tiongco, who topped the Medical Board Exam of 1936; Celerino Castillo Tiongco, president of the Sakdalista Party and presidential candidate in the 1935 election. And now, in the third millennium, Santa Rosa is the investment capital in Southern Luzon and the next-wave city.

Our recent appointment with history was Sept. 20, 2005 for the unveiling of the historical marker on the Cuartel de Santo Domingo, which was the 1877 headquarters of the Guardia Civil, meant to check social banditry or tulisanismo.

The media blitz that followed the launching of “My City, My SM” had the Santa Rosa Studies Center receiving numerous requests for food trips to savor our specialty foods — Bok’s ice cream, Aling Nene’s okoy, Eder’s kalamay kuwit, Loleng’s kilawing puso, Mipuy’s sinukmane and cultural trips to our ancestral houses.

Watch out for the relaunching at SM City of Baraka, our unique food and trade fair launched in April 2002 by the Rotary Club of Santa Rosa Centro (with charter president Chit L. Lijauco) and the Santa Rosa Medical Society (with Dr. Kitty T. Miranda). It also won for our club from Rotary International the first Public Relations Award in 2003, under my term. We also turned Baraka into the annual summer activity of the town. The word comes from a Mexican word that means “stall.” In Santa Rosa, we use pupunta sa baraka to mean to go to market.

In the quaintness and quietude of my garden in our 4,000-sq.m. compound behind what used to be the Casa Hacienda (destroyed in the fire of 1923 and the dreaded garrison of the Japanese Occupation, now the elementary school), keeping me company are a white-stone angel by the gate and a stone lady painted pink. Both are creations of local sculptor David “Igan” Dia to all who knew him, who refurbished in 1925 the Bantayang Bato of 1850, made the 1931 Santa Rosa Arch, and the 1959 statue of Jose Rizal in the plaza. In the 21st century, with the 2006 renovation of the plaza, the Rizal monument now stands tall and proud with the distinction of having the highest pylons in the Philippines (18.3 meters from the ground), second in the world, three inches short of the Rizal monument in China (home province of Domingo Lamco, Rizal’s forefather who settled in Tubigan, Biñan, Laguna).

My twice-weekly walk of two hours I do in the comfort and safety of SM, interspersed with taking in a movie, doing the groceries, bonding with friends, looking for knick-knacks, or any other reason is more than enough reason for me to go to SM.










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