A spectacular shoreline facing the waters of Tayabas Bay had put the town of Padre Burgos on the map, so to speak, since the late 19th century when historian and writer Juan Álvarez Guerra raved about the place in his book, From Manila to Tayabas.
According to town historian Ryan Panganiban, Padre Burgos used to be called “Laguimanoc,” a reference to the coastline’s shape that resembles a chicken (manok).
Another version of the origin of its former name is that hawks (lawin) used to fly around the area to snatch young chickens. Locals would warn each other by raising chickens whenever hawks would appear, yelling “Lawin-Manok!”
A decade after it became a municipality on 1 January 1917, the town council changed its name in honor of Fr. Jose P. Burgos (one of the three Filipino Catholic priests executed by Spanish colonial authorities in 1872.)
“We don’t know yet how it was decided to name our town after Padre Burgos since he was from Ilocos Sur and we don’t have much record of his connection to our town,” Panganiban said. “My guess is (it was) because during the time of the Americans, displaying Philippine flags was prohibited. So, as an act of defiance and to show patriotism, a lot of towns were named after Philippine heroes.”
For four days, we went around Padre Burgos, mostly aboard a motorized boat, from one coastal barangay to the next.
Locals said Borawan Island’s white sand is similar to that of Boracay and its rock formations to those of El Nido in Palawan. The comparison is exaggerated, but still, Borawan, especially its circling stretch of shoreline, is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. On the day we visited, we found tents being pitched on the other side of the island. “Don’t worry, we’re setting up each tent away from each other. There’s still social distancing even with tents,” a local guide said.
The island’s carrying capacity has been lessened since the pandemic. Visitors are required to reserve a slot online and, at the time of our visit, Covid rapid tests were required.
A sense of solitude covers over 700 meters of shoreline in Mangayao. This quiet camping spot leads to a mangrove and a migratory bird observation area, as well as a view deck where one may spot several migrant bird species.
St. Rita de Cascia Parish Church
The town’s old parochial church was built on top of a hill more than a century ago (on the other side of the town). When Padre Burgos celebrated its 100th founding anniversary in 2017 — following a tradition of building a new parochial every 100 years — the officials opted to build the Sta. Rita Cascia Parish Church atop this hill. A good spot to get a meditative vibe is on the church balcony that faces a mountain range.
Located within a 10-hectare farm owned by a couple who worked for three decades in Libya. The farm itself is a good picnic destination, but cap it off with a dip in the soothing waters of Hinguiwin Falls to make your pit-stop here more memorable.
San Vicente Beach
Almost bare-looking and inhabited only by a small community relying on fishing. San Vicente Beach’s long stretch of shoreline evokes solitude and bliss. Pitching a tent under one of the trees and facing the calm waters should give you a Zen kind of escape.
Next to Borawan, Dampalitan Island is another favorite beach camping site, thanks to the rows of pine trees lined parallel to its shores facing the turquoise waters of Tayabas Bay. This beach used to get crowded, in pre-pandemic. Nowadays, tents and campers are properly distanced from each other, giving you more space to frolic and relax. I hope they keep up with this current set-up to preserve the beauty of the place longer.
Simply referred to as ‘Burol’ or hill, this is a perfect spot to catch the sunset while sitting or lying on a patch of grass in the company of a few friendly cows. From here, you can see the magnificent Tayabas Bay, Pagbilao and Borawan. You can also see a cemetery on the opposite hill facing the sea. It is interesting to note that the location of the cemetery plays into an old belief that when a person dies, his or her soul must cross the ocean to the other side.
A very interesting local product in Padre Burgos, is the woven fan made of the raffia fiber sourced from the buri palm (same family as the anahaw palm). Its circular shape and popping colors are a welcome variation from the classic and typical heart-shaped Filipino “pamaypay” we’re accustomed to. These are made by the members of the Kinagunan-Ibaba Women’s Association (KIWA) in Brgy. Kinagunan-ibaba, Padre Burgos, Quezon.