Inay Candi, Mang Ardo, and Paracale's Gold

March 10, 2024 Travel

According to local lore, in 1809, the gold-rich town of Paracale faced a threat from Moro invaders. Inay Candi, wielding a golden sword, emerged from the local church and bravely repelled the invaders, safeguarding the town and its treasures.

Nestled on Camarines Norte's charming east coast, Paracale tells a tale of gold and resilience. 

 

I recently had the opportunity to revisit Paracale as part of the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines’ Domestic Tourism Invitational Program, co-organized with the tourism office of Camarines Norte.

 

We spent an entire afternoon getting to know this town after taking an overnight bus from Manila and making brief stopovers at two of Camarines Norte’s roadside falls – Busay Falls in Sta. Elena and Malatap Falls in Labo.

 

The town's name, derived from "para cale" meaning "canal digger," hints at its gold mining legacy. 

 

Our exploration of Paracale’s gold began at Gumaus Beach, where we observed the practice of 'pagkakabud' or small-scale gold mining. Following this, we headed to the town to explore a mini-museum showcasing some of Paracale's gold jewelry. Our final stop was a moment of reverence at the church, paying homage to Inay Candi, also known as Our Lady of the Candles or Nuestra SeƱora de Candelaria.


 

Gumaus Beach has recently gained popularity, attracting tourists, especially during the pandemic when people sought tranquil getaways. New resorts are gradually emerging along its shores.



Traveling to the Gumaus proved challenging, with our bus navigating narrow roads. We eventually transferred to smaller vehicles. However, the serenity that awaited us made the longer travel time worthwhile.

 

We visited Alm Pabirik Resort, which boasts a serene white sand beach surrounded by lush trees and a few open cottages. 

 

While our hosts prepared a boodle feast, I savored the serene ambiance, capturing moments of two fishermen and a little girl on the reflective beach during low tide.




Our lunch was scrumptious. It included grilled pork, chicken adobo, and sinantol (santol fruit cooked with coconut milk) on a bed of rice over a banana leaf. We also had mangoes with anchovy paste.

 

After lunch, we walked on the beach to meet Mang Ardo.

 

Mang Ardo, or Bernardo, practices traditional gold extraction as a 'magkakabud.' He extracts the tiniest form of gold (the size of a single sand particle) from the black sands using sluices and pans.

 

He pointed out our resort's location and lamented that he could have collected up to a gram of gold there and sold it for a thousand pesos. Being aware of the law, Mang Ardo understands that part of the beach belongs to everyone.





It’s a sad plight, and I see the disappointment in Mang Ardo’s eyes. I hope the resort owner realizes that having a 'magkakabud' like Mang Ardo becomes a learning experience for tourists, adding to the charm of the beach.

 

And I hope all stakeholders recognize that tourism should benefit the local community.

 

As a pastor and environmental advocate, Mang Ardo envisions a protected marine area in front of Gumaos Beach, emphasizing the delicate balance between tradition and ecological preservation.

 

After Gumaus Beach, we went to Paracale’s Gold Museum.


 

The museum displays handmade gold jewelry made by the residents to commemorate the Pabirik Festival, an event that celebrates gold mining in Camarines Norte. The jewelry includes intricately designed bangles, necklaces, and ear cuffs.




Our last stop was the Diocesan Shrine of Inay Candi.


 

Inay Candi (short for Candelaria) protects Paracale's gold-rich lands. 


The local people say the ni the 1800s, the Virgin descended from the altar and drove pirates who tried to raid the town back to the sea. They say the image has one missing finger, and the locals say the Virgin lost it while fighting the pirates on Paracale's beach. That is also why the Virgin has a sword instead of the Child Jesus.


I am thankful that, because I am part of the Tourism Promotion Board's invitational program, I not only got a guided tour of the church up to its bell tower, from which we had a magnificent view of the town, but we were also allowed to pay respect to the original miraculous image.




The old stone church is located in Paracale's center. It faces east and is vital part of the town's daily life and rich history.

 

We ended our day at Jose Panganiban, yet another gold-rich town.

 

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