The not-so-historic town of San Pedro in Laguna hopes to lure tourists and history buffs with the rise of an orchard and a museum devoted to former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel.
The Laurels, who own a house in the remote and uphill village of Holiday Hills, opened the gates of their property to the public during the blessing of Laurels’ Garden on Nov. 18, Doy’s 84th birthday.
“This is the most beautiful place in San Pedro so far,” said Mayor Calixto Cataquiz, who was awed at seeing fruit trees grown in such a bustling, urban municipality.
The place is so serene that one can finish reading a book under the trees in no time, he said.
Putting up the museum was the idea of Laurel’s widow, Celia Diaz-Laurel, who had worked on the renovation since 2011. In an earlier interview with the Inquirer in February, she said the museum-and-garden project was her way of giving tribute to Doy and their 54 years of marriage.
“I knew how much Doy loved this (place) and yet when he asked me to come with him, I would prefer doing other things and staying in Manila. When he passed away, I felt guilty,” she said. Doy died of lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 76.
Celia said she was incredulous when her husband bought the property back in the 1970s. She said the former vice president spent most of his quiet time writing poems here, specially after the Senate was closed down during martial law.
“There is so much to show,” Celia said of the museum. She said there were things about Doy not known to many people, particularly the younger generation.
The museum, with a floor area of more than 100 square meters, keeps Doy’s memorabilia—from plaques to news clippings—that the family had kept in their former residence on Shaw Boulevard.
Doy’s study, which the family has preserved after his death, was reconstructed piece by piece.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was guest during the museum launch, remembered Doy as a staunch leader of the opposition against the dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Also present during the event were Laguna Gov. Jeorge “ER” Ejercito, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, National Commission for Culture and the Arts director Emelita Almosara, and several former Philippine dignitaries.
“Did you know that the oath-taking of President Cory (Aquino and Vice President Laurel) was delayed for an hour or two? We had thought that Malacañang was blocking it, only to find out that their vehicle had broken down. That’s how poor the opposition was at that time,” Binay said.
Doy is also remembered as a champion debater. “I don’t recall having seen him reading a speech. They were always extemporaneous. Vice President Laurel was really tailor fit to discuss all the issues presented to the people,” Binay said.
Provincial Board Member Neil Nocon, who personally helped out in the construction of the museum, said the Laurels had agreed to open the museum to the public soon although they had yet to finalize the schedule and entrance fees.
Nocon, who chairs the committee on education, tourism, history, arts and culture, said Laurels’ Garden would be part of the study tours of provincial government employees and students.
According to Cataquiz, the museum is a welcome development to boost tourism in San Pedro. The town, known to pilgrims for the Shrine of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre and to traders for the once thriving sampaguita industry, does not have any other place that could lure tourists or nature lovers.
Barangay chair Ronald Orlain said the expected influx of tourists could create small businesses among the residents.
“Laguna is a very historical province, (but) I didn’t expect to find something like this in such a bustling town,” said provincial tourism chief, Michael Aburquez.