Apung Susing’s Temple & Burial Grounds, Bale Batu
Hidden at the foot of Mt. Arayat in Pampanga, Philippines lies a large pyramid like compound that looks like it was created in 9-14th centuries by the Hindu and Buddhists of Java. However it wasn’t created by someone from an empire in Java nor is it really that old. The hand made temple was actually built in the course of 4 decades starting from the 1960′s by a Kapampangan artist named Jesus Padilla, or what he was known as by his peers, Apung Susing.
Apung Susing built his temple and burial grounds with his own money and work. According to his wife, Apung Sitang, they would work on Bale Batu for 3 months of the year during the dry seasons and stop once the rainy season arrived. On their 1 hectare land they owned they planted a variety of fruits and crops and harvested them to sell to locals and their neighbors. From the money they earned they would use it to buy all the materials needed for the construction of the temple.
With no prior architectural background or education he drew plans of the temple and created it with pulverized mountain rock and cement in a formula he received from his grandfather. This has actually stood against the forces of time and nature such as earthquakes that happened in the region. You will know you are at the entrance when you see the balete (banyan) tree growing on top of an arch of a stone gate. To me this symbolizes this as very spiritual as the balete is a tree that is found to be a spiritual place in every ethnic group in the Philippines, where it is believed to house spirits and thus it’s disrespectful and stupid to desecrate one or climb one without permission from the spirits as you are inviting them to maliciously harm you. The balete tree on top of the gate symbolizes you entering the temple and burial grounds of Apung Susing who is now with the spirits and ancestors, marking it as a spiritual space.
There are a few stories from those who have visited the temple and burial ground and according to Apung Sitang, signifies that the spirit of her husband is still there. One such event is when those who visit the temple try and take pictures outside or inside the temple and get blank white photos. She says that in order to take photos you must first request the permission of Apung Susing to take them. Others have felt cold chills while passing by the temple.
After decades of hard work and artistic passion, Apung Susing died peacefully in March 2007 at the foot of his temple where he is now buried and his spirit still lives.