A bastardized arch

March 11, 2017

The Arco Real, or the Pagsanjan arch, was erected in 1878 to 1880 through the supervision of Franciscan friar Fray Cipriano Bac- a two-year effort by its residents and serves as an expression of gratitude to the town's patroness, the Lady of Guadalupe. The three-arched town gate bears an escutcheon of Spain's royal coat of arms, originally in gold and red, and flanked by two red Castilian lions. Natural stones were used, affixed together using lime and carabao milk. After the town's liberation from the Japanese forces in the Second World War, municipal authorities, perhaps in a very gay mood, had the arch painted in pink and erased the word 'PAGSANJAN' and the date of its construction and replaced it with 'WELCOME'. The other side was inscribed 'THANK U, COME AGAIN'. By the mid-1970's, renowned historian and then town mayor Gregorio F. Zaide spearheaded a move to restore the arch to its former glory, aided by funds supplied by affluent Pagsanjan townspeople who are residing in Metro Manila. 


A few years ago, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines analyzed the structure and discovered cracks on the town's venerable gate. This is how it looks today- with elements added after its most recent 'renovation', including applications of lime washing applied on top of the original adobe stones, and stenciled to approximate the running bond pattern of the said stones. This unsightly faux brick pattern is prevalent in the Philippines, and even a historically important piece such as this is not exempt from it. The cracks were filled with limestone and adobe powder. As of now, the applied plasters are chipping off and may be exposing the gate to further deterioration, as there is reason to think that the flaking portions carry with them bits of the original materials as they fall off. The installed barriers are also questionable as they seem to serve no particular use. If the authorities installed these under the presumption that it enhances the appearance of the gate, then the results come way short of expectations. Like the plasters, they too are in stages of decay.


 Here is the same arch, from an old postcard. Regrettably, I have so far not been able to find out the year the original photo was taken.






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