The town of CALAMBA – once a rural backwater, now a choked and noisy extension of Manila – hugs the coast of the southern tip of Laguna de Bay at the foot of Mount Makiling, just 54km from the capital. There's nothing to see in the new part of Calamba, just the usual malls, fast-food outlets and hundreds of din-making tricycles. The old town, however, was built in Spanish colonial style, with a shady plaza in front of a town hall and a church, San Juan Bautista. A marker inside the church indicates that national hero and revolutionary José Rizal was baptized here by Fray Rufino Collantes on June 22, 1861, and that his godfather was Fray Pedro Casañas. Rizal's stature in the Philippines, a country notoriously short of heroes, is such that a number of religious cults have sprung up in his honour, most of them professing that Rizal is the Son of God and will one day return to lead his disciples to salvation. One such group has its headquarters near the church, on Lecheria Hill.
Opposite the church is the house where Rizal was born on June 19, 1861. Now a museum (Tues– Sun 8am– noon & 1–5pm; free), the building is a typical nineteenth-century Philippine bahay na bato, with lower walls of stone and upper walls of wood, plus narra wood floors and windows made from capiz shell. The house, which was restored in 1996 for the Centennial of the Philippine Revolution, has a small stable for horses and storage for carriages on the ground floor, while the upper floor is the living area. All the rooms feature period furniture and there are displays of Rizal's belongings, including the clothes he was christened in and a suit he wore as a young man. In the garden is a bahay kubo (wooden) playhouse, a replica of one where Rizal used to spend his days as a child.
The big concrete jar at the centre of the town plaza next to the Rizal house commemorates an apocryphal story about how the town got its name. It is said that a Spanish civil guardsman met a young woman carrying a jar of water and inquired as to the name of the place. In her confusion she replied "kalan-banga" ("it's a water jar"), and scurried away.