The historical, Roman-style town gate or triumphal arch1 of the town of Pagsanjan, in Laguna, Philippines, is called Puerto Real, Arco Real, or simply the Pagsanjan Arch. It was built from 1878 to 1880 by the Pagsanjeños, under the supervision of Fray Cipriano Bac (a Franciscan priest), and Don Manuel de Yriate, as an expression of gratitude to the town’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is believed to have protected the town from bandits in 1877. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Pagsanjan Arch”.2
The National Museum declared this arch as a National Cultural Treasure3 on July 2017 because “it is an outstanding landmark and epitomizes the ideal blend between aesthetics and function.”4
The arch has three Roman arches, or gates, originally made of adobe, lime and carabao milk.
On top of the arch is the Royal coat-of-arms of Spain (called “escutcheon”) originally in gold and yellow, guarded by two red Castillan lions.2
You will definitely not miss it because it is along the main street, named Rizal Street (formerly called Calle Real), at the western entrance of the town, coming from the town of Sta. Cruz.
Back view, Pagsanjan Arch
This ornate arch has a very interesting story. It is said that there were many bandits (called “tulisanes”) during the last years of the Spanish colonization. A group of bandits, led by Tangkad, came from the nearby town of Majayjay, and was about to approach the western entrance of Pagsanjan, on December 8, 1877. A beautiful lady dressed in white, holding a shining sword, appeared before the bandits at the exact site of the current arch. She drew a line using her sword and proclaimed that the town was under her protection. The bandits immediately proceeded to the mountains due to their fear of what they saw.2
There was a witness to this miracle, a “sabungero” (cockfighter) called Mang Juan, an insommiac from a house nearby. He told the story of what he saw to the Spanish Cura (priest), who later told it to the government authorities and leading citizens of the town. As expected, all did not believe Mang Juan until they went to the exact site and saw the mark of the Virgin’s sword as well as Her footprints and those of the bandits. They then built a stone gate on the exact site and called it Puerta Real, or Royal Gate, from 1978-1880, and inaugurated in 1894 by Don Pedro A. Paterno5.2
The town arch was bastardized and defaced during the Japanese liberation so Pagsanjeños in Manila, through the efforts of historian Gregorio F. Zaide, a native of the town, obtained permission from the National Historic Institute (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines6) to restore the arch. This renovation was done under the supervision of Engineer Tito Rivera, and was completed in May 25, 1975.2
Philippine Historical marker, Pagsanjan Arch
So, the next time you visit the town of Pagsanjan to “shoot the rapids” with balikbayan family/friends, you can now tell the story about its arch! Filipinos, be proud of our cultural heritage!
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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:
1A triumphal arch is a monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road, associated with ancient Rome. The main structure is often decorated with carvings, sculpted reliefs, and dedications. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Triumphal arch.”7
2”Pagsanjan Arch,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagsanjan_Arch.
3A National Cultural Treasure (NCT) of the Philippines is a tangible (movable and immovable) or intangible heritage property declared by the National Commission for Culture and Arts1 and other cultural agencies such as the National Museum of the Philippines, National Library of the Philippines, and National Archives of the Philippines. Such declarations are authorized under the National Heritage Act of 2009 and recognized within the Cultural Properties of the Philippines by the Philippine government, according to Wikipedia page “National cultural treasure”.8 The title of NCT is the highest designation given to a “unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation.”9 See a coming post re this topic. See a related post: (I will place the link here for Short and Simple: WHAT IS A NATIONAL CULTURAL TREASURE IN THE PHHILIPPINES?)
5Pedro Paterno (1857-1911) is the second Prime Minister of the Philippines, politician, poet and novelist. He was the President (1898-1899) of the Revolutionary Congress and (1907-1909) member of the Philippine Assembly from Laguna’s First District, according to the Wikipedia page “Pedro Paterno”.10
6 The National Historical Commission of the Philippines is a government agency of the Philippines which is responsible for the promotion of Philippine history and cultural heritage through research, dissemination, conservation, sites management and heraldry works. It aims to inculcate awareness and appreciation of the noble deeds and ideals of our heroes and other illustrious Filipinos, to instill Filipino pride in the Filipino people and to rekindle the Filipino spirit through the lessons of history. Information is from Wikipedia page “National Historical Commission of the Philippines.”10
7”Triumphal arch,” accessed July 10, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumphal_arch.
8”National cultural treasure,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_cultural_treasure.
10“Pedro Paterno,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro _Paterno.
11”National Historical Commission of the Philippines,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Historical_Commission_of_the_Philippines.