December 30 is Rizal Day in the Philippines. It commemorates the death of Dr. Jose P. Rizal by firing squad in 1896 which made him a martyr of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule. So today I offer you a photo not of Metro Manila but of the province named after him. Rizal province is to the east of Metro Manila and has one city and 13 municipalities. It is hilly, situated as it is on the slopes of the southern portion of the Sierra Madre mountain range, and the weather is cooler than Manila's. It can actually support pine trees! They're on the scrawny side, but still. Because of Metro Manila's congestion and high land costs, the nearest municipalities of Rizal are seeing a lot of development. This photo shows some of the new subdivisions in Taytay. Next to Cainta, it is the nearest municipality to Pasig City, which is part of Metro Manila. In fact, Pasig City itself used to be the capital of the province of Rizal until it was made a part of the metro in 1975.
Just a reminder to all you CDP bloggers out there: If you haven't voted for the February theme yet, please do so! The poll is in the February Theme Day Poll forum topic. Please help spread the word too!
Metro Manila's king of the road, the jeepney, is open and sits about 14 people—two in front beside the driver and six on each side at the back. I saw this large, colorful jeep parked near Harbour Square one night and wondered about it. I knew that WOW Philippines is the flagship project of our Department of Tourism and it took a little web search to find out what this was. Basically, it's an air-conditioned jeepney—with more comfortable seats, I assume—specially made for tours of Metro Manila. There are several tour packages available, one of which brings you to the nearby province of Pampanga, but you can also buy a hop-on-hop-off ticket from hotel kiosks or from the tour facilitator inside the jeep. Jeepney Tours has a website which lists and describes all the stops and packages available. Though most of the hop-on-hop-off stops are in the cities of Makati and Manila only, one of these days I'll just hop on one of these jeeps and be a tourist for a day in my own metro.
Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
The very first photograph of my very first attempt to take pictures of fireworks. It was the only decent shot too. I couldn't quite get the timing right between the 'boom' and the click of the shutter so many of the photos were just of smoke. Ah well. I hope I'll have other opportunities to try again. This was part of the fireworks that greeted alumni of the Ateneo de Manila University during the 2008 Grand Alumni Homecoming.
At the end of the Christmas Eve Mass, baby Jesus is again taken out of His crib to allow the congregation to welcome and venerate Him, much as the shepherds and wise men did in the Nativity story. One person holds the infant and another holds the napkin to wipe the statue after each kiss. More than one statue is presented to the congregation for this ritual, otherwise it'll be Christmas day before everyone finishes.
The infant Jesus was installed in the crib that was empty at the start of the Christmas Eve Mass, which we call the Misa de Gallo. The term is quite inaccurate, actually, because gallo is Spanish for rooster, so it should refer to a dawn Mass. There was a time when Christmas Eve Masses were really held at midnight too, but nowadays, many are held earlier. The Mass we attended was at ten o'clock in the evening.
A Catholic priest friend once told us that if there is only one piece of Christmas decoration we could put up, it should be the nativity scene. Owing to the fact that Christianity was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards, we call the nativity scene by the Spanish name for Bethlehem, where Jesus was born: the belen. This is the nativity scene in the Ateneo Church of the Gesù. Since Jesus hasn't been born yet, the crib is still empty. The image of the infant Jesus will only be installed during the Christmas Eve Mass. In contrast to the modern and simple architecture of the Gesù, the nativity scene is very Filipino—at least during the Spanish colonial period. The clothes of Mary and Joseph are typical of the era and so is the building reproduced on the screen. The parol (Christmas star) is made of capiz shell, used extensively in handcrafted, decorative Filipino products from jewelry to home accessories.
After more than six months, I finally managed to get a photo of my other favorite coffee shop: Figaro. Unlike The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Figaro is a Filipino company and among the varieties it carries is our very own Barako coffee which is in a dangerous decline because of a bad infestation in the 1990s and tough competition from other countries. The Figaro Coffee Company is a member of a coalition of coffee farms in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite that is working to save the Barako (tough man) coffee, a Liberica with a very robust flavor. This is the Shangri-La Plaza mall branch of Figaro, located in one of the mall's very wide corridors and designed to look like a garden café, complete with marble tabletops, wrought-iron details and ivied walls. Though it's not in the photo, it even has a little fountain among the garden tables and chairs.
The last time I posted a picture of Bookay-ukay, a used-books store near our house, a couple of people commented that all they need now is to offer coffee. I don't think that'll happen any time soon, but can I offer you beer instead? No? Then what about some pizza? Flowers? Haircut? How about an hour or two of network games? Bookay-ukay is only one of several shops crammed into this converted house. There's a restaurant that turns into a watering hole at night, an inexpensive pizzeria that delivers, a flower shop, a salon that offers facials and massages aside from the usual hair and makeup services, an internet café, a review center, and even a graphic design studio and printing service. It's like a tiny strip mall. Except in exclusive subdivisions, Metro Manila's cities aren't very strict with residential and commercial zoning. Oftentimes, even light industrial activities are allowed in residential areas.
The Promenade of Our Lady and the St. Stanislaus Kostka Chapel of the Ateneo de Manila High School. Unlike the higher education levels, the basic education units (high school and grade school) of the Ateneo de Manila University are still only for boys. The low buildings on either side of the promenade are the classrooms of the 4th year students. I hear that the lights hang on the trees year-round but are only turned on during special events and occasions. This was at about 5:00 in the afternoon.
An hour later, this is what the promenade looked like. Even the chapel is outlined in lights! Please pardon the fuzziness of this picture—people and cars were beginning to crowd the driveway and I had a hard time getting a clear shot and couldn't take my sweet time about it.
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Say hello to Jollibee, the mascot of the Philippines' largest fast-food chain of the same name. Back in July, I posted a photo of its interior, which looks just like any other fast-food restaurant in any part of the world. It serves burgers, of course—it started as a copy-cat McDonald's before McDonald's came to the country. But if you look at the poster behind it, you'll see one of its most popular dishes, which also identifies the chain as being very Filipino: pansit palabok. Palabok is made of rice noodles, a seafood-based sauce, and topped with more seafood, hard-boiled eggs, green onions and crunchy tsitsaron (fried pork rind). The orange color of the sauce comes from atsuete (annatto) from the shrub Bixa orellana. And in case you're wondering about the title of this post, it's the reason why Tony Tan Caktiong and his family chose the name Jollibee for the small ice cream parlor they opened in 1975. With more than 1600 stores worldwide in the entire chain, I'm sure they're all very busy and very happy.
I once posted a photo of a dim sum cart found in many Chinese restaurants in Metro Manila. Here is one item that you won't find in that cart because they're steamed only as they're ordered: har gau, steamed shrimp dumplings. It's spelled in many different ways, actually—the problem of translating Chinese characters into Roman letters. We have further 'Filipinized' it into hakaw and that's the word you'll see in menus here.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I'd like to propose another, which I think is more appropriate to this day and age: the lack of financial resources. I spotted this wheelchair at the University of the Philippines Health Service. A monoblock plastic chair with sawed-off legs attached to a custom metal frame and what looks to be bicycle wheels. Cool, isn't it? And if you're wondering about the wooden furniture, join the club. The waiting areas are full of them—chairs, benches, tables and this screen being used to cover the circuit breaker panels.
Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
The entrance of La Vista Subdivision in Quezon City. La Vista is an example of what we call an 'exclusive subdivision.' Think of it as a gated community, with perimeter walls and an entrance gate with security guards. Unless you're a resident and have a gate pass, or you're a visitor and can tell the guards the name and address of the person you are visiting, you will not be allowed inside. Some subdivisions are stricter than others—if you're a visitor, you will be asked to leave an identification card and the guards will issue you a temporary pass. These subdivisions always have Christmas decorations at their main entrance gates during this season. I like La Vista's choice this year: a cascade of lighted traditional Filipino parol (Christmas star), white and simple, hung on bamboo poles. It's even prettier from the front, but I wasn't about to risk my life standing in the middle of Katipunan Avenue.
Two of the three condominium towers of The Columns Ayala, located at another corner of Ayala and Gil Puyat Avenues in Makati City, right across the RCBC Plaza. Like many of the newer office and condominium towers being built in Manila nowadays, the street level spaces of The Columns are cafés and restaurants open to the public. Behind the metal screen with the bamboo design are the parking levels for the towers' residents.
The Ateneo de Manila University's 149th anniversary yesterday was simply commemorated with a Mass in the evening. It was a school day after all. Last Sunday, however, there was a concert at the Church of the Gesù which gathered all of the music groups of the university and the Jesuit Music Ministry for the first time ever. "Take and Receive: The First Festival of Ateneo Music" featured the Ateneo Boys Choir, Dulaang Sibol, High School Glee Club, College Glee Club, Chamber Singers, Blue Symphony, Bukas Palad, Himig Heswita and Musica Chiesa. Each group performed only two or three songs each, but the concert was still two and a half hours. The grand finale was all the university choirs singing a special medley of "Take and Receive" specially arranged for the concert by Ryan Cayabyab, one of the Philippines' foremost music directors. "Take and Receive" is a liturgical song written by Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ which is based on a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus.
St. Ignatius' Prayer of Surrender Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.
On the 13th of June 1859, ten Spanish Jesuits arrived in Manila, almost 100 years after they were suppressed and expelled from Spain and all of its colonies. They were supposed to go on to Mindanao, the large southern island of the Philippines, for missionary work but since they were known in Manila as educators before their expulsion, they were prevailed upon by the city council and the Governor-General to take over a small private school for the children of Spanish residents. On the 10th of December 1859, the Jesuits began operating the Escuela Municipal de Manila. The school has undergone many changes since then—its name, the nationality of its Jesuit leaders, its mission and vision—but this is the date that the Ateneo de Manila University recognizes as its foundation day. One more year and the university will celebrate its Sesquicentennial, its 150th anniversary. The countdown has begun…
The upscale Power Plant Mall at Rockwell Center isn't content with just hanging Christmas ornaments from their ceiling—they've hung fully-ornamented trees! The Rockwell Center is a mixed-use 15-hectare project in Makati City which has, aside from the mall, several office buildings and high-end condominiums named after famous Filipino painters. Until 1994, the land was the location of a thermal plant owned by Meralco, hence the mall's name.
December 8 is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Many of the private schools in the Philippines are run by Catholic religious congregations, and since this day is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, these schools will all be closed. The Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the Ateneo de Manila and the annual grand alumni homecoming has traditionally been held on the Saturday closest to her feast day, rather than the school's foundation day. The celebration always begins with a Mass, held at the Church of the Gesù since it opened in 2002. This is followed by a procession to the high school covered courts, complete with candles, a recitation of the rosary, and an icon of Mary on a carroza (float) pulled by the men.
I love the spray of flowers placed on the carroza: all white anthurium, lilies, chrysanthemums and baby's breath.
There’s a photo in each post, but this is not just a photo blog. The descriptions are perfect for learning more about Filipino culture and life in Manila.
This is what Liz wrote about my blog when she added My Manila to the Blogs of the World section of Pocket Cultures. I think it's one of the best things anyone can ever say about what I'm trying to do here and I really appreciate both the write-up and the link. Check out Pocket Cultures—the blog was set up just last year by a group of friends from Europe and North Africa who share the same curiosity about different world cultures, with a special emphasis on the practical, day-to-day lifestyles of its peoples.
The 2008 Ateneo de Manila University Grand Alumni Homecoming last night, before the program started. From 1859 until the mid-1970s, the ADMU was an all-male school, hence the scarcity of women among the older classes in the foreground. The younger alumni were located at the farther end of the covered courts where the big, inflatable San Miguel Beer bottle is. Congratulations to the silver jubilee class of High School '83, the main host of this year's homecoming, and particularly to Dr. Sio Marquez, the head of the organizing committee. In the eight years I've worked during this grand reunion, last night was the first time I didn't go home starving and tired to the bone.
Many of the children during the Lights for Hope Christmas outreach party live in extremely dense shanty communities. A few of them didn't bother with the games or inflatable slides—they just reveled in having enough space to run around flying their colorful kites.
Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page and tour the skies of our beautiful world.
Meet some of the children during the Lights for Hope Christmas party. They are from the Leodegario Victorino Elementary School in Marikina City. As public elementary schools go, it's pretty well-off—the teacher-student ratio is about 1:44. I've heard of other public grade schools where the ratio is twice that! I think you may have guessed by now that our public school system is pretty bad, especially in the basic education levels. Meet Dave and Lari too. Dave Penny, the guy with the dimple on his chin, is with Up with People, an organization that started as a performing troupe in 1965 and now offers a six-month global education program which entails international travel, cultural immersion, leadership training and community service for young adults aged 18–29. Lari Sayo, the girl with the dimple on her cheek, is one of the organization's liaisons here in Metro Manila. A small group of the hundred participants were at the party, mingling with the kids and even joining some of the games. I don't know if the Up with People students are still here in Manila, but I hope they enjoyed their visit and learned much.
Enough lessons about the Philippines for now! We're going back to my little corner of the world today. Many student organizations in the Ateneo de Manila University are involved with poor communities and public schools—as tutors and catechists, in building houses and repairing classrooms, or in entertaining and providing companionship to terminally ill children. Every year, our office organizes the Lights for Hope Christmas party for these poor children, many of whom would never experience an afternoon like it otherwise. They are fetched by buses and jeepneys from their schools or communities and brought to a large field in the Ateneo where they have games with prizes, have a heavy snack, enjoy the inflatable slides and go home with heavily-laden goody bags—toys, chips and candies, yes, but also more practical items like underwear, shampoo and toothpaste. In past years, the number of children have been in the 300–500 range. This year, there were one thousand! (Alright, about 980—I saw the unclaimed hotdog sandwiches.) This wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of so many people and the fantastic coordinating skills of Lara. Thank you, everyone! Next year, we hope to gather 1500 children.
Some of the comments in my post yesterday has gotten me curious: How frequently does your country mint new coins and recall old ones?
THEME DAY: CIRCLES/SPHERES • The coins of the Philippines—not new and shiny, but dull, scratched and nicked from everyday use. Our currency is known to the world as the Philippine peso. 1/100th of the peso is called a sentimo or centavo. The three smallest coins in the bottom row are 25, 10 and 5 centavos. The three bigger coins are pesos and the figures depicted on them are all national heroes of the Philippine revolution against Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century. On the ten peso coin are Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini. On the five peso coin is Emilio Aguinaldo. And on the piso, probably the most used of our coins, is Jose Rizal.
Tomato and red egg: a simple and perfect accompaniment to my lechon kawali lunch. Until very recently, this small red tomato was about the only tomato variety available in our markets, and we use it both for cooking and for salads. Itlog na pula (red egg) or itlog na maalat (salty egg) is salted duck egg. Raw eggs are coated in a salt-soil-water mixture, stored for more than two weeks, washed, then hard-boiled. They are usually dipped in red food coloring to distinguish them from regular chicken eggs in grocery shelves and markets. At home, I usually chop the tomatoes and eggs and mix them together to form a salad. I love it with a big, fat, de-boned tinapang bangus (smoked milkfish).
I just realized that though I've featured quite a lot of food in my blog, I've never posted any Filipino food. So I've decided to share my lunch with you: lechon kawali. (Please pardon the plate—it's from our school cafeteria.) Lechon, or litson—if used without a second word specifying the meat—is a whole roasted pig and is usually served only during special occasions. Lechon kawali, which probably started as an attempt to replicate lechon at home, means pan-roasted pork, though it's not really roasted. It's pork belly with the fat and skin still on (very important!) boiled with salt, pepper and garlic until tender, drained and patted dry, then deep fried. (No, it's not very healthy at all, and I just know I'm going to get a scolding from my husband as soon as I publish this!) My dipping sauce was liver sauce, though some prefer a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and sili (capsicum pepper). Then of course, there's the ever-present rice, a staple of every Filipino meal. Rice here is not treated as a side dish—it's not meant to be eaten separately, but together with the main dish. Tomorrow, I'll show you what my side dish was.
Those who checked out my Magical blooms post in my other blog when I asked for help in identifying the flowers we have in our garden will find this image familiar. Thanks to Anty, an Indonesian who now lives in Ireland, I finally know what it is! It is Orthosiphon aristatus and is found mainly in Southeast Asia and tropical Australia. Its most common names are Java Tea and Cat's Whiskers. It turns out that this plant is medicinal—it is mildly diuretic and antiseptic, and good for the kidneys, bladder, liver and urinary tract. Now I need to find out how to prepare it to take advantage of its many benefits.
Harbour Square is a dining promenade located across the Cultural Center of the Philippines right beside Manila Bay. It has more than a dozen restaurants and cafés, and this is where my husband and I have an early dinner when we watch performances at the CCP. The three young ladies in black are waitresses, holding out menus and encouraging people to try whatever restaurant they're working for. Harbour Square is also where I've taken all my photos of Manila Bay so far. This was around 5:00 in the afternoon and the boat for the sunset cruise hadn't left yet.
Not transportation on water but transportation to carry water. In And not a drop to drink, I posted a photo of the water filtering station where we buy our drinking water. We don't really have to go there ourselves—the shop delivers using this motorcycle and custom side car.
Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Ayala Avenue is the main artery that runs through the Makati Central Business District. There used to be a time when almost all major corporations, local and global, had their headquarters here. Because of the traffic congestion and better tax breaks in other Metro Manila cities however, quite a few companies have moved their headquarters though still keeping a presence in this very important financial district.
Italianni's, a member of the same group of restaurants that owns T.G.I. Friday's, styles itself as a family-style restaurant, which basically means that their servings are huge! This is the interior of their Bonifacio High Street branch. The last time I ate there was with my sister and we had the Spinach & Artichoke Formaggio and the Grilled Squid Salad. Yummm!
The distinctive tower of the Manila City Hall, which was designed by Antonio Toledo in the 1930s. As seen from the passenger side of our car, through the windshield, from across Padre Burgos Street. Taking pictures while desperately trying not to be a great nuisance to my husband who was driving.
The University of the Philippines Health Service is a 50-bed primary care hospital located inside UP Diliman. For the students, faculty, employees and dependents of UP, consultations with physicians are free. For faculty and employees, the free service extends even after retirement—a boon in one's senior years when health care costs shoot up. Not being from UP myself, I do not know if other services like laboratory tests are also free. What I am sure of is that 'outsiders' may also avail themselves of their health services, and at a very low cost compared to private clinics, hospitals and healthcare systems. I had to bring our maid to the UP Health Service recently for a recurring fever and my bill—consultation with a family physician, complete blood count (CBC) and urinalysis—came to a grand total of only PhP315, just a little above US$6. She's okay now, in case you're wondering—the recurring fever was caused by a mild infection which just required an antibiotic.
Just a reminder to all you CDP bloggers out there: If you haven't voted for the January theme yet, please do so! The poll is in the January Theme Day Poll forum topic. Please help spread the word too!
The dining, shopping and entertainment promenade of Eastwood City frequently has bands performing in one of several plazas. The Eastwood Central Plaza is the biggest of them, with the stage, café tables and chairs under a huge tent. Many of the concerts held here are multi-band events, and this is where my husband and I discovered some great local jazz groups several years ago. The last time we were in Eastwood, there was a rock concert titled 'Boombox Live' and it was colorful, foggy and loud! Maybe a decade ago, we would have stayed and screamed along with the young ones but… We just took a peek then skedaddled out of there. I also had to do a little web search to find out if Boombox was the name of the event or that of a band. It was the event—the concert featured a dozen Filipino rock (Pinoy rock) bands. Boombox Live 2008 was in early October, hence the 'living sculpture' in the scarecrow costume.
I would just like to share a beautiful contest site with you all: World Challenge is an annual global competition aimed at finding projects or small businesses around the world which show enterprise and innovation at the grassroots level. I summarized the 2008 nominees in Creating hope. Please take the time time to read it or, better yet, please visit the World Challenge website. As a member of a blogging community that features the varied sights of cities and towns all over the world, I'm sure you will appreciate what these people are trying to do.
I've always associated this type of drawing and lettering with, well, punks. You know: non-conformist, rebellious, slightly violent teenagers. In fact, it's the type of drawing that I expect to see as graffiti in the seedier parts of the metro. What I don't expect it to be is a promotion for literacy. Bookay-ukay is the used-books store near our house. Yay for this new breed of punks!
Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
I'm not crazy about electronic billboards in general, but if they were all as tastefully done as this one, I may not mind them too much. Especially if there are no other billboards on the road—a rarity in Metro Manila. This is the only billboard I've noticed along Roxas Boulevard. I guess no one's willing to spoil the view of Manila Bay and its wonderful sunsets. I'm glad.
Café Breton is the only restaurant I know of in Metro Manila that specializes in crêpes and galettes. I've posted a photo of its interior in Sweet and savory in Bretagne and a photo of two of its galettes in Galettes. Now here is a photo of one of its crêpe chefs. I can watch them make those ultra-thin pancakes for hours—their speed and control is absolutely fascinating.