San Rafael is a town in the Philippines which shares a violent history with the rest of the country on two remarkable occasions — during the Spanish colonization and towards the end of World War II. It was at San Juan de Dios Church (St. John of God Parish) where a battle ensued between Spanish Cazadores and local insurgents (including women and children) of the town that resulted in a blood bath of almost 800 Filipino bodies. In another incident decades after, Japanese soldiers unsparingly detonated dynamite-tied bodies of local captives in dire fear of being overtaken by American troops who landed in the distant province of Leyte.
The modern day town of Bulacan now sits at peace with its past and at a close proximity to Metro Manila, roughly 2 hours by private car. Everything that the brutal past glorified, its locals no longer romanticize. They merely continue to learn from it. As a matter of fact, a so-called Angel Festival is being celebrated every September 29 to promote benevolence among residents in honor of the Christian faith’s Seven Archangels, namely Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael. The festival eventually culminates with a parade of heavenly-looking kids in angel costumes.
Floating Diner at Angat River
St. John of God Parish Church
Local tourists in other places may dismiss the whole province to not be worth one’s visit only because they are yet to learn of San Rafael. You’ll be surprised that there are actually a lot of things to enjoy in this river town as I experienced during my spontaneous weekend visit.
How did I enjoy my recent visit of San Rafael?
Reflecting At The HistoricalSt. John of God Parish
While recently booked at the gorgeous Glass House of the newly-opened San Rafael River Adventure, I was encouraged by its staff to visit the nearby church since my arrival was on a Sunday.
The church is a 10-minute drive away from the resort. I was told that it’s next to the local market where I planned to buy fruits for my companion for lunch since the resort restaurant is still being built. Unfortunately, the market was closed. The church, however, was still open for a scheduled wedding ceremony. Had I known that there was a museum next to the church, I certainly would have checked it out also. I ended up just walking around the patio or courtyard behind the museum.
I would later on learn from the resort staff that I should have also checked out a space off the side of the convent where a mysterious blood-stained wall is being referred to by locals as a remembrance of the Noli Me Tangere character, Crispin (mentioned in Jose Rizal’s famous novel) which they believe to be a real person tortured to death in the area.
It will be interesting to revisit the town this September 29 for the Angel Festival to witness the parade of kids in angelic costumes.
Riding the ATV in San Rafael
Jet Ski ride at Angat River
Riding A Watercraft AtAngat Riverand ATV In The Countryside
Angat River is estimated to be 30 feet deep which makes it placid. It runs through the town of San Rafaelseparating one barangay from another over a distance of a kilometre. It’s where locals routinely fish in the morning as I witnessed during my ride of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) next to the riverbanks. I also saw a few more locals fishing when I rode the Jet Ski from the dock of the San Rafael River Adventure. On foot from dry land, the river is picturesque in the golden hours of the day.
Enjoying A River Cruise
Another way to experience the placid AngatRiver is over a delicious meal of Bulacan delicacies (sticky sweets likeSapin-sapin andKalamay) aboard the floating diner of the San Rafael River Adventure. The intrepid dining experience is the only river cruise in this part of Luzonbecause the body of water of the town is still considered clean and pleasant to traverse. The river cruise is safe as passengers are required to wear lifejackets and there’s a restroom for emergencies. Also, there’s a crew on board with a speed boat tugging the entire shebang. The ride culminates with a view of a nearby a habitable islet that locals refer to as Dela Fuente Island.
San Rafael River Adventure
The next time you’re heading to Baguio Cityor anywhere in Central Luzon for a spontaneous getaway, make a side trip to Bulacan’s San Rafael. You’ll be surprised to discover that you can consider it to be your destination instead.