THE GIANT TRADITION
As I wrote here, we left Bale Dutung at 5:30 PM and headed back to San Fernando to watch the Giant Lantern Festival. Gladly, the tour organizers were able to get us VIP seats. Hence, it was a relief to be seated visually comfortable enough to appreciate more the lantern fest. I must say that these are literally giants that did beat the fancy lanterns I’m oriented to.
The (giant lantern) entries from each of the nine competing barangays were displayed by threes. The competition came into two phases, (a) that each lantern was showcased individually in its interpretation (lights synchronization) of own chosen music or set of songs (b) that three lanterns were showcased simultaneously using the same song. Being part of the audience, the second phase is visually more interesting (and challenging) since you will be comparing three interpretations at the same moment. While that would entail further strategy for the lantern makers since their very own have to stand out among the entries simultaneously played and adjudged.
The creativity of the Kapampangans since this festival started in 1904 is overflowing. I remember I joined the audience in exclaiming, “wow!” in each particular surprising synchronization of lights with the tune. Here’s a sample video of giant lantern showcase.
Though there were stand outs, I found all the entries amazing. Amazement bigger than the lantern itself. Through time, it’s definitely getting grander (I’m thinking if the time will ever come for them to go back to basics). I assume that the cost is probably higher than the prize, or will just coincidentally break even. But it’s a treasured tradition that as Kapampangans claim, ‘we will continue, even if there’s no reward’. The mindset of the locals is amongst the many things that make San Fernando the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.
HENCE, IT IS CALLED THE HOUSE OF WOODS
The five-way lechon that we had in Claude Tayag’s house is just half of the picture of our visit there. I didn’t expect there’s much justification to why Bale Dutung (Kapampangan term for House of Woods) in Angeles City is called as such.
As we walked towards the dining area, we were greeted by the gracious Mary Anne Tayag, Claude’s wife. (Here‘s an interesting story of how they met.) You would also find a banga, big almires, capiz curtain and vinegar display (with one aged 10 years already).
Before and in between the five-way lechon feast, we got to check the kitchen and the surrounds. These classic utensils are amongst my early favorites.
(L) Perfect for a siesta, (R) Would you know what is it?
As I was organizing the photos that I took, I noticed that I almost dissected this spot. This was taken during the demo of suman making. Take note of the house at the background.
In that same house in the preceding photo, you will notice the duyan (swing).
As I checked the area further in between the feast, I took this one which I fondly called Duyan at Sili. Claude is famous for his chili sauce amongst the other stuff that he offers (e.g. inasal marinade, etc.)
Still around the same house, is a wooden puppet seemingly guarding the area.
Now, here’s an odd item on the other side of the house near the stairs.
We were not able to get inside it though. I am still curious what’s in it.
After finishing the dessert at past 5:00 PM, we were allowed to check the place’s (main structure) second level. The stairs at different sides of the residence reminded me of old movies, ancestral houses, and many others.
“My santos are very small because they were the inexpensive ones. I never ambitioned to collect the ivory santos. I really wanted folk in terms of santos and textiles.”
While the house is aptly called (and known), here’s how it started. In one of the recent interviews with him, it was reported that:
People come to Bale Dutung and ask him if this was the Tayag ancestral home because it looks old. It’s not. “Eighty percent of the materials used were scrap and I built it from scratch,” he says.
He started collecting old lumber and adobe blocks as early as 1980. One day, he happened to pass by Mabalacat and saw the parish church being torn down. He negotiated with the priest to sell him all the wood, stone and iron grills instead of throwing them away, and in the end Claude paid more for the hauling than the materials themselves.
“It was still an empty lot and I would store them here,” he says. “At any given time, I knew what I had and what I lacked. Whenever I would have money I would buy materials. Even when I was in college, I already had a concept in mind. I wanted a barn house. I read Architectural Digest articles on successful actors who had houses and barns in upstate New York and I wanted one, too.”
Claude is an artist more than a chef. Here’s one of the paintings in the gallery which is being sold. See more here.
It’s more than satisfying to spend time in Bale Dutung. Great food + great place + accommodating house owners. We could not ask for more.
The next Ultimate Kapampangan Tour will be on 14th of February to coincide with the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Make your reservations now by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Bale Dutung experience alone, you may inquire from Mary Anne Tayag through email@example.com and she can be reached at 0917-5359198 or (045) 888-5163. Strictly by reservation, minimum of 12 persons at P1,500 each.