Moryonan and The Heritage Houses of Mogpog

October 17, 2014

mogpog marinduque, marinduque, mayor senen livelo, moriones, moryonan

I grew up compiling our family’s old photographs. My Nanay kept them underneath our sala’s table for our guests to see. One particular photograph that fascinated me was a snapshot of my eldest brother posing with a big red flag. It had a drawing of a fuming centurion and the name of B-O-A-C beneath it. I was already in high school when I found out that Boac is a town and that Roman soldier is the symbol of the popular Moriones festival.

I wanted to see where Moriones originated for the longest time. So, I had Boac in mind but when I read that Moriones actually started in an old visita of Boac, now an independent municipality called Mogpog—I had to go there first. The place must have some rich history behind it.

Mogpog is where Balanacan Port is located. The town center is about 30 minutes by jeep from the port. Upon arriving in the town center I headed straight to the municipal hall and asked for information about some of the old houses and families in town. I was greeted by a friendly chap who offered me a tour. We drove for about an hour before I found out that the man was actually the mayor of Mogpog!

Mayor Senen Livelo II knows the town’s history inside and out—like a book. It’s incredibly rare to meet a government official like this gentleman. I knew from the moment he started talking that he’s the right guy to ask questions. He had been reared around the traditions of the Catholic church and so were the children of his generation. This explains why the town has produced prominent Catholic priests. Like Cardinal Vidal, whose ancestral house is situated not far from the mayor’s house.

The area where the mayor’s house stand was the old site where children were trained in caton (Spanish texts used to learn how to read) and music. The mayor could read music and plays several instruments. He told me that he’s trying to find time to write down some of the oldest composition in town for the future local musicians. It was a Livelo who started a band in the early 1900’s. It had grown popular outside Mogpog and was playing to crowds as far as Manila.

The local government has mapped the town and recorded around 110 ancestral houses built in the late 19th century up to the 1950’s. Ludovico Badoy of NHCP (his nephew was once my free provider of NHI printed books!) was pleased to see how this rather remote town has a sundry of heritage houses. Oddly, there’s not one historical marker in town that commemorates the cultural legacy of Mogpog. Luzon Datum, which is a geographic reference point in Balanacan is an NHI marker that commemorates the role of the town in American’s map making efforts in the country.

The mayor brought me to an upland area where the first church was built. Like many old coastal churches in the country, it had been rebuilt and relocated. It is easy to see why the was where the pioneer missionaries built their church. It’s uphill and had a commanding view of the entire town. The modern church of Mogpog today is located about 500 meters from the original site. A former nun, Sister Nelia, from the old Mogpog family of Labao, now lives in the area. Unfortunately she was not home when the Mayor and I dropped by. Inside her house, according to the Mayor, is the old altar and some remnants of the old church. Mogpog observes important Catholic feasts honoring their patron saints. In May, they celebrate the feast of San Isidro, the month of August is for their Virgen del los Remedios.

I was told that the oldest house is in Gitnang Bayan which was recently heavily renovated . Impressive is what locals call Bahay Intsik which was constructed by a Filipino Chinese family whose ancestors reached Mogpog centuries past. I walked around town some more and saw numerous stunning examples of houses whose design are brilliant combination of Spanish and native architectural elements. The mayor told me that it’s a challenge to persuade people to preserve their ancestral houses as they are private properties. He tirelessly talk to his constituents not to renovate or demolish their homes.

According to the Catholic website of Mogpog, there are still “several traditions that are still practiced by the populace to date, such as Moro – Moro, Salubong, Buling-buling, Novicia, Pabasa and Moryon.” The mayor was kind enough to bring me to Sta. Cruz, which was a 30 – 45 minute drive from Mogpog. We passed by some picturesque hillside roads which had parts that was damaged by the recent typhoon. While on the road, the Mayor shared more historical trivia about his beloved town. “Ang buhay ng mga taga-Mogpog noon ay simbahan at musika, edukasyon galing din naman sa simbahan,” connecting the relation and history of the natives and the church. He told me about the oldest traditions in town like, Putong, was originally called Tubong. A devotion that is symbolized by a crown with flowers representing the number of years of a devotee’s panata. Putong in other towns are more of a festive welcome for tourists. Like the old Moryonan, these religious traditions, were acts of atonement and sacrifice in observance of the Christ’s passion.

Patricia Nicholson, an American researcher that stayed in Mogpog and whom the mayor know personally explains the difference between Moryonan and Moriones, “Moriones festivals ar eheld in most towns in Marinduque, and in the island’s capital, Boac, where a stahed performance of the story of the Passion — the senakulo — is a popular attraction, along with many entertainments during the week… Moryonan takes place only in the town of Mogpog. It is the original re-enactment of the legend of Longinus as the celebration of the Passion. It takes place as a series of religious rituals inside the church as well as the streets. The Moryons are not actors, but local people fulfilling a panata, a sacred vow, and the whole community is included in the process.”

Marinduque, a relatively small island, have three distinctive Tagalog accents. Theirs is still old Tagalog, profoundly influenced by religious literature and Spanish. Mayor Livelo believes that their Tagalog is still pure as locals speaks it straight. Surprising is that adapted old Spanish words are still used (like costumbres and fundadores). These are no longer used in other Tagalog provinces. Mogpogueños’s character are mild and courteous which, say the mayor, comes from their religiosity. The municipality is perhaps one of the remaining local governments that prays oratio imperata (regularly every Monday). Mayor Livelo believes that they had been spared from serious damages brought by the super typhoons because of their fervent prayers.

A modest two storey pre WWII house with wooden planks, ventanilla and capiz windows
Cardinal Vidal’s ancestral home along Calle Rizal. The Cardinal’s father is a former provincial treasurer. His mom was a religious educator.
One of the most intricately designed ancestral house which belongs to a Go descendant. Unfortunately, there are visible signs of deterioration on the upper floor and roofing
The impressive Bahay Instik (Chinese House) which does not look like a Chinese house for it is a wonderful example of a bahay-na-bato. The house is utilized to house shops.
Regardless of an old houses condition. you could still see the classic architectural designs that is common in the country in the late 19th century and early 1900’s.
Majority of the houses in Mogpog are great samples of early 1900’s island homes.
This house is said to be the oldest in Mogpog (late 1800’s).
Another 1900’s home along Calle Rizal
This house is located right beside the mayor’s house in Calle Rizal
Some of these mid 1900’s houses are still livable and are in good condition
A unique early 1900 house with a protruding veranda. A prominent judge was said to be the owner.
I was told that this was a bodega. The present owners proudly painted the date  (15 July 1949)when it was completed.
We must continue using our ancestral houses. This one is still occupied.
The present church and the venerated image of Our Lady of Remedies in Mogpog.
Mayor Jojo and myself striking a pose for posterity!


This blogger would appreciate information about the houses that appeared in the site. My intention is to record them here for everyone to see and discover. Mogpog is rich in heritage and by sharing these to both locals and visitors we honor the memory of those who left these priceless remnants of our history behind.

I’m writing a separate article for an interesting interview I had with a descendant of a Filipino-Chinese family about their Mogpog ancestral home. Their house is perhaps the best conserved ancestral house in town.

An American woman, Patricia Nicholson, who stayed in Mogpog wrote her thesis “Change and continuity of Moryonan in the context of Tourism : a case study of culture process in Marinduque, Philippines”. She stayed in town (for one year in the mid 1990’s) and according to the mayor has amassed a wealth of historical finds during her stay.  Her blog (click here) about the town provides some important historical infos.

Big shout out to Mayor Jojo Livelo Jr. for playing host cum tour guide. The humblest public official I’ve ever met — and a good historian, too. To his driver Rafael — salamat!

And to the welcoming manangs in the public market who supplied me with cheap but nourishing food!

Related blog: The Charming Go House in Mogpog

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