In the midst of rapidly urbanized Metro Manila, Pateros is one of those places that are considered an “anomaly,” if that is the correct word to put it. For one, Pateros is, at this time of writing, the only remaining municipality in the metropolis. Then there is its land area, the smallest for a city/town in Metro Manila at 2.25 square kilometers, which itself is a factor as to why any cityhood plans for this town is a challenge. (those vying to become cities should at least have a land area of 100 square kilometers)
Perhaps because of these factors, Pateros still exudes a small town charm that has managed to withstand the rapid urbanization in the metropolis, especially the areas surrounding it. Nevertheless, it is nice to see such a town that has managed to maintain and somehow preserve its own character. Of course, when one speaks of its character, the first thing that comes to mind are the ducks and those balut and penoy eggs raised there. The town’s name itself stresses its heritage as a duck-raising community.
It is said that a Chinese trader introduced duck-raising in the town, as well as another industry which we will get to later. Since then, the town thrived thanks in part to duck-raisers who established themselves there. Unfortunately, the effects of urbanization in recent years such as pollution and residential incursion especially in surrounding areas made duck-raising in the town no longer viable. Thus, many of them chose to do their trade in villages close to the Laguna de Bay.
While the duck-raising activities have dwindled, duck eggs are still aplenty in Pateros. The town still remains as a balut capital, thanks to the numerous businesses based in the town that sell balut, penoy, and other duck egg varieties courtesy of the duck-raisers who still trade their goods in the town even if they relocated their duck-raising activities elsewhere.
Even the town’s main Catholic Church has a connection to ducks as well. The San Roque Church, originally built in 1819, is known also as a shrine to Sta. Marta de Pateros, the same Martha of Bethany in the Bible. While Martha was not known to be a duck-raiser, she became the town’s patron saint out of the townspeople’s gratitude as it was believed that her intercession saved the town’s duck-raising industry from a crocodile threat that occurred in the town during the 17th or 18th century.
As such, Martha became Sta. Marta de Pateros among the Pateros Catholics, one of those cases where something not indigenous to the country is given a uniquely Filipino twist, adopting it as one of their own.
To be continued….