Malayo pa ba ang Mataguisi? (Is Mataguisi still far?)
Malayo pa po. Doon… (It is still far, there…)
We asked a middle aged woman walking with her child along the deserted dirt road somewhere between the town center of Pudtol and our destination, Barangay Mataguisi, where we were to visit a church ruin.
It was my first time to set foot in Apayao, my 79th Philippine province I’ve visited and, while we were traveling with my buddy, Eric, in northern Luzon during Holy Week 2012, decided to finally make the detour and take photos of the church ruins in Pudtol. But I have no idea of the distance, of the remoteness of this heritage site, remnant of the Dominican’s evangelization centuries ago.
Our hired tricycle was loaded with our things: backpack, camera gear, tripod but the problem was, our driver didn’t know where the place really is but with prodding and, probably his want for an income, he agreed. The dilapidated structures at Junction Luna gave way to vast ricefields and communities as we motored to the town of Pudtol. There, we asked for directions at the police station and was just told its near.
We headed to the direction of Barangay Mataguisi. Way past cemented and beautiful roads with wide open spaces dedicated to rice, to hilly contours and ascents filled with vegetation along dirt roads. Past winding rivers and bridges and hamlets. The scenery is just so beautiful and with the slight drizzle that happened, everything was glistening and colors were saturated.
Since we hired a tricycle for this trip and had no idea of the condition of the roads, we sometimes have to go down and push the vehicle up steep inclines, or, to balance and distribute the load, I have to sit and try to move my weight to the front part. In places where there were road development, we went down, and walked while the tricycle motored to a better section.
Distance in the provinces is relative. Five kilometers went past and it seems people we asked by the wayside always say, ah, there, its just near. We just saw the 10 kilometer marker, 15 and eventually 20 kilometers.
Such was our travel, tiring, uncertain but at the same time, we were enjoying the sense of adventure, the discovery. The disappointment of people’s answers and how it took us just added to the expectation and excitement. We were into the unknown. Where each curve and bend in the road slowly led us to our destination.
Mataguisi na po ito… (This is Mataguisi)
When we heard that, our heart raced. At last! we’re in this barangay! It was 22 kilometers from the town center and 42 kilometers from Junction Luna where we started our journey.
After getting lost, for a few meters, we went back, asked and registered at the police office and walked the few meters to the ruins.
It’s a small church ruin made from mamposteria (rubble and stones), a good way to tell its age which is usually around late 17th to 18th century and typical of mission areas. The construction is just simple, with a triangular pediment and an almost undecipherable bas relief.
After taking shots of the ruins and the area (for a post in my church blog, simbahan.net), at just less than an hour since we arrived, we started to hie off back to Junction Luna as we still have to be at Gonzaga, another municipality of Cagayan where we intend to spend the last few nights.
We missed our lunch, we missed our appointment but the experience we had in search of Mataguisi’s church ruin was just so memorable. Nevermind the hardships and uncertainty. It was well worth it.
There are two church ruins in Pudtol, Apayao. One at Barangay Mataguisi, this one, and the other at the Pudtol town center just beside the church. If you don’t have your own vehicle, tricycles are available for hire. For this trip, the initial agreement was P400 for a trip from Junction Luna to Pudtol town proper. But since it took us several hours over rough and difficult roads, I gave the driver P800 including tip.