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Cornelio “Jojo” Rañeses: Keeper of Lucban, Quezon’s well-kept secrets

Although I am a Quezonian myself—having been a native of Lopez, Quezon—I was and am still fascinated by Lucban, the other town in the province.

You might not believe it but it was only two weeks ago that I stepped in totally into the town. The previous times I would only pass by the place when I would hurriedly buy stuff Lucban is famous for like its longganisa.

I would only hear stories about the idyllic community and the impressions it would give me were cool like its climate and the refreshing greens around.

Until I bumped into Cornelio Rañeses, a dyed-in-the wool Lucbanin (as each citizen of the town is called, etymologically from the word lukban, a variety of pomelo and the suffix in which signifies a resemblance to the object which is now the name of the place) that I learned a lot about his roots and his home. Actually, it wasn’t an accidental encounter with Cornelio, better known as Jojo but a scheduled meeting through another Lucbanin, Maria Rañola.

Photo taken from Cornelio Rañeses Facebook account

At the time, Jojo was in the thick of things campaigning for a local council seat but he just the same gave us his precious time to discuss a visual project on Lucban.

Unfortunately, Rañeses wasn’t lucky about his attempt to return to the Sangguniang Bayan.

But everything has settled now and he has come to terms with his defeat.

Mt. Banahaw

He won just the same by being so generous to share his thoughts and experiences to his kababayans and the peoples outside his locale about his beloved town and still retained his being the president of the Lucban Historical Society, a non-profit, non-stock organization composed of Lucbanins who are committed and dedicated to the pursuits of discovering, rediscovering and preserving the arts, tradition, culture and history of Lucban not only for the present generation to treasure and learn from but for the benefit of the future townsfolk of this bucolic countryside.

Photo taken from Cornelio Rañeses Facebook account

LHS is one of the major agencies in Lucban where most visitors of the town initially pay their visits to get a glimpse of the community and its heritage. For instance, just recently, during the Pahiyas Festival last May 15, 2019 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach got to share her vision of restoration of significant heritage in Lucban. Even it was an unannounced and apparently a quick, sudden schedule on the part of Pia, she was able to make her appearance a distinct one by going first to the Lucban Museum constructed and maintained by LHS. One of the advocacies of Wurtzbach is to support the conservation of national heritage of Filipinos.

Jojo accommodated the beauty queen with aplomb. “Ms. Wurtzbach was impressed by our gathering of materials for the museum,” informed Rañeses.

Many of the Museum’s artifacts are donated by residents of Lucban. Some of the memorabilia in the repository are war gadgets during the Japanese time, farm tools, vintage photos of past leaders of the town, old typewriters, decrepit piano, silverwares, religious items, jars, books etc. which are the testaments of the Lucbanins’ passion for things important to advance life.

Most noticeable among the mementos are personal collection of the former mayor of the town, Retired General Clemente Placino who is still very much lucid talking about his exploits during the Japanese war and his leadership at the Integrated National Police in Camp Crame during the Cory Aquino administration.

General Placino was one of the top officials during Fidel V. Ramos’ stewardship in Camp Crame and they were allies during the EDSA Revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Photo taken from Cornelio Rañeses Facebook account

When Placino was elected mayor of Lucban, it was during the Ramos regime and many support of the administration was extended to the local government.

Rañeses is the key to open many well-kept secrets of his pueblo and there are many which he will reveal in the documentary film “Lucban: The Story.” 

Although it is already written in many accounts and spoken in many local stories, Jojo still reiterated that Lucban came from the word lukban when foreign invaders in the old days, even in the pre-Hispanic days, discovered the fruit as a landmark of the place they were treading.

According to Jojo, he comes from a family of simple folks who subsisted on agriculture like planting rice and making buntal (a very fine fiber from palms) hats.

Yes, the Rañeseses are true-blooded Lucbanins.

As a matter of fact, the Rañeseses are the pioneers of Lucban as he has already witnessed the flourishing of his clan in the entire town.

“Hindi talaga mawawala ang migration sa bawat bayan kaya marami na ring bago rito sa Lucban (Migration cannot be avoided in every town that’s why there are also many new faces here in Lucban),” quipped Jojo.

Despite the burgeoning population of Lucban, citizens like Jojo sees to it that they maintain the uniqueness of the municipality by preserving old traditions and welcoming the new ones however conflicting but they see to it that everything is balanced.

According to him, Lucban is the seat of arts and culture in the region. “We are called the Arts Capital of Quezon because of the many indigenous arts and culture

“What I miss most in Lucban is the appearance of the young people making mano (getting the hand of an elderly and placing it in one’s forehead) to the old people,” said Jojo who has been a stickler to the nitty-gritty of courtesy among the youth.

Lucban is also known as the Summer Capital of Quezon Province no matter the threat of climate change.

“Dati, talagang napapaliguan pa ng mga bata ang mga kanal dito. May paliguan din dito na ang linis-linis ng tubig (Water canals here used to be bathing places especially by the kids. There was also a swimming park here where the water was indeed clean and clear),” recalled Jojo.

“Pero ngayon, marami nang dumi sa mga kanal. Sayang. Sana, maibalik ‘yong mga araw na makakapaligo at makakapaglaba ang mga tao sa kanal sa linis ng tubig (But now, the water canals are polluted. It’s regrettable. I hope we can bring back the days when the townsfolk can take a bath and wash clothes in the canals with clean water),” sighed Rañeses.        

Jojo never says die.

As leader of the community, he sees to it that everything is in order even if he isn’t in the town council.

He also never stops dreaming about the progress of Lucban.

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