May 30, 2009

The Igorot dances a paralytic

Biag Gaongen is currently my favorite male dancer in Ballet Philippines. He traces his ancestry to an Igorot tribe from Sagada in the Mountain Province, located in the Cordillera mountain range, which is also where Baguio City is nestled. During the 2008 Gawad Buhay! awarding ceremony back in February, Biag performed an excerpt of his role as Apolinario Mabini in the full-length dance "La Revolucion Filipina." Like Andres Bonifacio yesterday, Mabini was also a revolutionary against Spain's colonial rule and he wrote the Philippines' first constitution. He contracted an illness early in 1896, the same year the Philippine Revolution started, which resulted in the paralysis of his legs. All of Ballet Philippines' dancers are trained in classical ballet but every year they have at least one performance where the movements and choreography are closer to Filipino ethnic and tribal dances than ballet, hence the bare feet. I have to admit that I like those performances better than the classical ballet pieces—they are so much more primal and, therefore, emotionally powerful.

Biag Gaongen, a dancer of Ballet Philippines
Biag Gaongen, a dancer of Ballet Philippines
Biag Gaongen, a dancer of Ballet Philippines
Biag Gaongen, a dancer of Ballet Philippines
Biag Gaongen, a dancer of Ballet Philippines

We're off for the weekend (it's our 13th wedding anniversary on Monday!) so I'll see you all again in time for the City Daily Photo June Theme Day. The July poll is still ongoing and the results so far are very tight. I hope all the CDP bloggers will go to the forum to vote—your two choices can still make a big difference! Happy weekend, everyone!

May 29, 2009

Father of the Philippine Revolution

Liwasang Bonifacio, the park in front of the Manila Central Post Office building, is named after Andres Bonifacio (b. 30 November 1863, d. 10 May 1897), a leading founder of the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation), or Katipunan for short, a secret society which aimed for independence from Spain through armed revolt. Bonifacio's story does not end well, but for his role in the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule, he is considered one of the country's national heroes. Maybe it is respect for a man of humble origins who rose to greatness that stays the hands of vandals in the park, but instead of spray-painting it on, graffiti is written on pieces of paper which are then stuck onto the monument.

monument of Andres Bonifacio in Liwasang Bonifacio

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Sky Watch Friday

May 28, 2009

Corregidor: The views

Though the views from the top of the Spanish lighthouse must be really amazing, it's not really necessary to go up its steep spiral steps to appreciate the views around Corregidor Island. It is only 5 square kilometers (about 2 square miles) in size after all. This is what it looks like through the tinted front windows of the ferry as we're arriving. Corregidor is shaped like a tadpole and the bulkiest part of the island would be the head.

view of Corregidor Island from the ferry

Corregidor Island divides the mouth of Manila Bay into the North and South Channels. This is the view of the North Dock, North Channel and the hills of the Bataan Peninsula from the entrance of Corregidor Inn.

view of the North Dock, North Channel and the hills of the Bataan Peninsula from the entrance of Corregidor Inn

From the other side of the hotel, you can see the South Dock, South Channel and the mainland of the province of Cavite, which Corregidor is a part of.

view of the South Dock, South Channel and the hills of Cavite from the dining room of Corregidor Inn

Another view of the South Channel, this time from the Japanese Garden of Peace. The island on the left is Caballo Island, also known as Fort Hughes. Caballo and two other islands in the South Channel—El Fraile (Fort Drum) and Carabao Island (Fort Frank)—were also part of the harbor defenses built by the Americans.

Caballo Island, also known as Fort Hughes, in the South Channel as seen from Corregidor Island

The tadpole's tail as seen from the Eternal Flame of Freedom monument. The tip, separated from the rest of the island by a narrow channel of water, is called Hooker Point.

the tail end of the tadpole-shaped Corregidor Island

Saying goodbye to Corregidor Island from the ferry's open deck as the sun sets over Manila Bay.

Corregidor Island from the back of the ferry during sunset

And thus ends my Corregidor Island series. Thank you for coming on the trip with us! CORREGIDOR ISLAND SERIES #7 OF 7

Duh. I registered this post for Watery Wednesday, forgetting that it's already Thursday! My job's getting to me…

May 25, 2009

Corregidor: The tour facilities

The best way to tour Corregidor Island on your first visit is to take one of the packaged tours of Sun Cruises. The day tour only costs Php 2,150 (US$ 45) per person and that includes the two-way ferry trip, guided tour, buffet lunch and Malinta Tunnel show. Going through the guided tour even just once will make the experience of the island so much richer. The ferry station in Manila is beside Harbour Square in the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex and the ferry most often used by Sun Cruises for the Corregidor trip is the M/V Sun Cruiser II. It takes the ferry about an hour and fifteen minutes to cover the 26.6 km distance between Manila and Corregidor.

M/V Sun Cruiser II

Nothing fancy inside the ferry, just seats for 285 people in two air-conditioned levels. There's a snack counter and an open area on the upper deck. The three rows in front of us were all Japanese tourists and there were also a lot of Americans (some of whom were in the U.S. Armed Forces), a Spanish family and a few other Europeans.

inside the M/V Sun Cruiser II

Lunch is served at the Corregidor Inn, the only hotel on the island. This is also where you stay if you decide to take the overnight package.

Corregidor Inn

The bus which takes you on the guided tour is designed to look like the electric trams that were used extensively on the island during the American period. Malinta Tunnel still has the trolley line's double tracks and you can glimpse what remains of the tracks beside the roads and under the vegetation all over the island.

Sun Cruises' tour bus designed to look like a tram used in the Corregidor Island tours


May 24, 2009

Corregidor: The Spanish lighthouse

Even during the Spanish colonial period, Corregidor Island figured prominently in the history and defense of Manila because of its location at the mouth of Manila Bay. The Spaniards used the island as a fortress of defense, a penal institution, a signal outpost and a station for customs inspection. 'Corregidor' comes from the Spanish word corregir which means 'to correct.' None of the Spanish structures survived the American era and the wars, but the Spanish lighthouse, originally built in 1836, was reconstructed on its original site. It stands on the highest point of the island, which is 191 meters (628 feet) above sea level, and my husband says that the views from the top of the lighthouse were fantastic. I'm afraid that I didn't bother. After a day of walking, I couldn't bring myself to climbing up a steep, narrow, spiral staircase anymore. The little red speck up there beside the door is my husband waving for the camera. The base of the lighthouse is a small museum, and the signpost outside lists distances (in kilometers) to different cities around the world: Manila 26.6, Hong Kong 693, Singapore 1497, Tokyo 1719, Sydney 3044, Cairo 5704, Madrid 6672, San Francisco 6972.

Spanish lighthouse on Corregidor Island


May 23, 2009

Corregidor: The memorials

I found myself with some time to finally finish my Corregidor series, and it turns out that the timing is quite appropriate. The U.S. is observing Memorial Day on Monday and many Americans died on Corregidor Island during WWII. So my dear American friends, this post is especially for you.

For many reasons, Filipinos consider General Douglas MacArthur a hero. Corregidor Island was his headquarters during the Battle of the Philippines in 1941–42. When he was ordered by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to relocate to Melbourne, Australia when the Japanese attacks were getting worse, he considered resigning his commission and staying on as a private soldier in the Philippine resistance. This is his twice-life-size statue near Corregidor's Lorcha Dock, which was believed to be MacArthur's departure point for Australia on March 11, 1942. He spoke his most famous line "I shall return" in Australia, not the Philippines, and he did—on October 20, 1944 in the province of Leyte.

General Douglas MacArthur's statue in Corregidor Island

The unenviable task of defending the Philippines after the departure of MacArthur fell on General Jonathan M. Wainwright. It was he who had to make the agonizing decision to surrender to the Japanese on May 6, 1942. He was the highest-ranking American prisoner of war held by the Japanese until his liberation in August 1945. Throughout his captivity, he agonized over his decisions in the Philippines and felt that he let his country down. I can only imagine what he felt when President Harry S. Truman awarded him a Medal of Honor on September 10, 1945.

General Jonathan Wainwright's memorial in Corregidor Island

Of course, there were also many Filipino soldiers who fought and died alongside their American counterparts. This is the Filipino Heroes Memorial with the statue of the Farmer-Soldier, which is representative of what most Filipino soldiers truly are even until now. The low, stone walls of the memorial are covered with fourteen friezes depicting different battles fought by Filipinos in defense of their motherland, from the Battle of Mactan in 1521 to the People Power Revolution in 1986.

Filipino Heroes Memorial and Farmer-Soldier statue in Corregidor Island

In all wars and battles, soldiers just follow orders from their officers who in turn also just follow orders from their governments. Corregidor Island is big enough—and I like to think that Filipino hearts are big enough too—to accommodate a Japanese Garden of Peace. The garden has a 10-foot tall Buddha and a Shinto shrine, relics of Japanese weapons, and this small plot with stone lotus leaves with little brass plaques engraved with Japanese characters around a lotus flower (the grass was dry last April but it must be beautifully green now). When the American and Filipino troops recaptured Corregidor in 1945, all the Japanese who died on the island were buried in this area. The bodies have since been exhumed and sent home to the soldiers' families, and the Japanese Garden of Peace was created to provide family members, friends and countrymen who visit, a place to pray, remember and reflect. And yes, many Japanese visit Corregidor Island every year, both young and old. A small monument in the garden ends with the line: "We ardently pray for… everlasting peace throughout the world." Amen to that.

portion of the Japanese Garden of Peace in Corregidor Island

This statue is named "Brothers in Arms" and the plaque in front of it reads, "In these hallowed surroundings where heroes sleep may their ashes scatter in the wind and live in the hearts of those who were left behind. They died for freedom's right and in heaven's sight theirs was a noble cause." It stands in front of the Pacific War Memorial, built by the United States government and completed in 1968, which is dedicated to the "Filipino and American fighting men who gave their lives to win the land, sea and air victories which restored freedom and peace to the Pacific Ocean area."

Brothers in Arms sculpture in Corregidor Island

The dome of the main structure of the Pacific War Memorial has a hole which lets light fall on the circular altar underneath it. The altar is engraved with the words, "Sleep my sons, your duty done… for freedom's light has come. Sleep in the silent depths of the sea, or in your bed of hallowed sod. Until you hear at dawn the low, clear reveille of God."

altar in the Pacific War Memorial in Corregidor Island

If you walk beyond the altar to a door opposite the entrance, you will see a concrete path with narrow pools at the sides. On its walls are large marble slabs engraved with the names of all the countries and islands where the Pacific War was fought, and all relevant dates and battles. At the end of the path is the 40-foot tall, steel "Flame of Freedom" created by the American sculptor Aristides Demetrios. At the base of the sculpture, there is a small sign that says, "To live in freedom's light is the right of mankind."

Flame of Freedom sculpture in the Pacific War Memorial in Corregidor Island


May 22, 2009

Black and white

North Park's congee with crystal prawns and fried wonton wrappers looks fantastic when they serve it to you.

North Park's congee with crystal prawns and fried wonton wrappers

Of course, after you've mixed everything up, it just looks like the rice porridge that it really is. But it's still yummy!

North Park's congee with crystal prawns and fried wonton wrappers

May 21, 2009

They are definitely not tree-huggers

On Monday, I showed you some of the beautiful acacia trees that are still numerous in my little corner of Quezon City. This 'corner' is actually an academic district which includes the University of the Philippines – Diliman, Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll College) and Ateneo de Manila University. The road which connects these three is Katipunan Avenue, which used to have a narrow island which separated the main road from a side road that gave motorists safe access to the commercial establishments and condominiums on one side of the road. That narrow island used to be lined with beautiful acacia trees too. Then about four years ago, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) started cutting down the trees. Of course, the students, faculty and employees of the schools and the residents of the subdivisions in the area raised a massive howl of protest. To make a long story short, the MMDA was forced to stop cutting the trees but by that time, only the trees at either end of the road were still standing. On February 13, 2009, my husband and I went home from work as usual and those few remaining trees were still there. On the afternoon of February 14, we saw these men hacking the curb of the island and all the trees were gone! There was a sign that said that the trees were not cut down but removed with their roots and planted elsewhere. Where? No one knows. How deep do you think the roots of Monday's 60-year-old acacias would be? How big a hole do you think they would leave behind? The holes I saw looked to be about one meter (3 feet) in diameter and depth. The MMDA did not give the communities here any warning or information before the trees were uprooted in the middle of the night and the early morning of a Saturday when most students and faculty weren't around because there were no classes. The MMDA has not released any information or photos to reassure the communities here that the trees were planted and are thriving in their new home. This is my first story about the MMDA but it won't be my last.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) workmen clearing road rubble after uprooting acacia trees along Katipunan Avenue

May 20, 2009

Pastel neo-classical

On my third and final trip to the Philippine Postal Corporation last week, my officemate and I arrived early for our meeting which gave me time to cross the street to the Liwasang Bonifacio (Bonifacio park) to take a photo of the entire façade of the Manila Central Post Office building. The plaza with the huge fountain, located in the middle of the park, is named the Central Fountain Park of Manila, but I don't think anyone actually calls it that. Everyone just calls it Liwasang Bonifacio or even by its name during the American period: Plaza Lawton.

full facade of the Manila Central Post Office building with the fountain of Liwasang Bonifacio

Natural or man-made, take a refreshing dip in Watery Wednesday.
Watery Wednesday

May 19, 2009

More than just pancakes

The first time I ate pancakes from Pancake House sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, I was transported to heaven. They were the fluffiest pancakes I have ever had and I was amazed by the whipped butter they were served with—so easy to spread! I'm not a kid anymore, whipped butter no longer seems miraculous, Pancake House is now owned by a large corporation which owns many other restaurant chains, and when we go to any of their branches, I'm more likely to order a salad than pancakes, but every time I look at the menu, I'm always tempted to order their fluffy cheese or sweet corn pancakes. And sometimes, just every now and then, I give in. And I still think they're the yummiest pancakes in Metro Manila. Pancake House's walls have always been wallpapered with movie posters, which was a delight to me when I was much younger. I also find it comforting that the new owners retained that tradition.

interior of Pancake House

May 18, 2009

Safe again

I've already posted several photos of acacia trees in this blog. In my little corner of Quezon City, they are still quite numerous and they are also the largest and most magnificent of the trees I see here. Someone commented in one of those previous posts that these acacia trees harbor lots of higad, those fuzzy, spiky caterpillars whose tiny hairs can cause extremely itchy and painful allergic reactions. That's very true. But with higad season (around March or the beginning of summer) over, it's safe to walk underneath them again. These acacias line Roxas Avenue in the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines.

acacia trees in U.P. Diliman

May 17, 2009

Wood and stone

Because Ateneo de Manila is a Jesuit university, there are many small chapels and prayer spaces around its campuses. I've featured the Church of the Gesù several times, the St. Stanislaus Kostka Chapel of the high school and the Immaculate Conception Chapel of the college. This tiny chapel in the lower ground floor of the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center is my favorite because of its simplicity and its serene lighting. When the stone and bamboo fountain is on, it's perfect for prayer and meditation. For a tiny chapel (it can only accommodate about thirty people), it has quite a long name: the Prayer Room of Jesuit Saints and Blesseds.

Chapel of Jesuit Saints and Blesseds at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center of the Ateneo de Manila University

May 16, 2009

Purple Engine

Parked on a street at one side of the Binondo Church was this purple fire truck of the Fil-Chinese Paco Volunteer Search & Rescue Brigade which serves the Paco and Binondo areas of the City of Manila. It is a member of the Association of Philippine Volunteer Fire Brigades, Inc., which has twenty members from Metro Manila and another seventeen from the rest of the Philippines. The Purple Engine is a gift of the owner of Eng Bee Tin, which has been producing traditional Chinese delicacies like hopia and tikoy since Mr. Chua Chiu Hong (b. 1912) set up his first stall in Binondo. To survive stiff competition in the 1980s, the company had to learn how to innovate its products. The first, and still the most popular, of its new products was the ube (purple yam) hopia, hence the color of its donated fire trucks.

purple fire truck in Binondo

May 14, 2009

On to the next car

At an intersection in front of the golf course inside the Veterans Memorial Medical Center compound in Quezon City, a lady was selling rags made out of fabric scraps and some kids were begging. The car's windows remained determinedly closed, which means she didn't sell any and the kids didn't get a single centavo. This intersection is very near the large squatter community I showed you last month and this scene is quite common all over Metro Manila.

lady selling rags and kids begging

May 13, 2009

Splish splash sploosh

In the mall that doesn't look like a mall that is Eastwood City Walk, this fountain stands in the middle of a round plaza called Fuente Circle surrounded by cafés and restaurants. The powerful jet actually produces waves in the basin and causes the water to splash out the sides. I love the sound it makes.

Fuente Circle fountain in Eastwood City Walk

Natural or man-made, take a refreshing dip in Watery Wednesday.
Watery Wednesday

May 12, 2009

A lesson in marketing

Despite the popularity of commercially produced gin, rum and beer, certain regions in the Philippines still produce their unique, indigenous liquors. Of course, with questionable manufacturing hygiene, much of the liquor cannot be marketed locally, much less internationally. In the past two decades, small companies have taken it upon themselves to produce commercially acceptable Philippine local liquors so now it's not too difficult to buy tuba, lambanog (which is 80–90 proof) and basi in Metro Manila. The company that produces these two went one step further: it hired the services of the Institut Oenologique de Champagne to create a coconut wine and refine the basi so that they could be accepted internationally. Malakan'yan, which was specially commissioned for the 1998 Philippine centennial, is a wine made from the water of young coconuts. The bottle is handcrafted from real coconut shell which makes each piece unique. 1807 is basi, a sugarcane liquor native to the Ilocos region. It is named after the 1807 Basi Revolt when the Ilocanos finally rebelled against the Spanish colonial government for expropriating the manufacture and sale of basi.

bottles of Malakan'yan cocovino and 1807 basi

May 11, 2009


I don't know if this was supposed to be an office or condominium building, or what company was constructing it, but it has been standing unfinished behind the Quezon City Hall for more than a decade. An eyesore and a waste.

tall unfinished building behind the Quezon City Hall

Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Odd Shots Monday

May 10, 2009

Away from it all

When my husband and I attended his cousin's wedding in Tagaytay City, we stayed overnight in Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite rather than driving back to Metro Manila late at night. If your idea of an ideal vacation is doing absolutely nothing in beautiful surroundings, or maybe walking around with a book, plopping onto a comfortable chair in a quiet spot, reading for a few minutes before falling asleep for one of many refreshing naps, then Hacienda Isabella is for you. Its bedrooms don't even have TV (which is of no consequence to us since we really don't watch TV anyway). We were three small family groups and our rooms were in the Casa Blanco which has a patio filled with cushions and pillows just begging to be laid down on.

Casa Blanco patio in Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

Hacienda Isabella is a four-hectare farm resort with several houses and cottages scattered throughout the property. The main house, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, has a wide veranda where banquets and performances can be held.

veranda of the main house of Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

The main house serves as the resort's reception and dining area. There are several long dining tables and the food is served family-style with the platters placed in the middle of the table. The main house also has several bedrooms.

interior of the main house of Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

Part of the view from the veranda of the main house overlooking the two-tiered lawn, another house with bedrooms and a vine-covered gazebo.

view of the lawn from the veranda of the main house of Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

You may have noticed by now that Hacienda Isabella is also an antique-lover's paradise. The entire resort is a showcase for all the collections that the owners have acquired through the years: furniture, birdhouses, lamps, paintings, luggage, doors, glass panes, even old wooden beams. This house had shelves filled with antique typewriters, still and video cameras, movie projectors, radios and other small equipment.

sitting area of a house filled with antiques in Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

A single-bedroom cottage perfect for honeymooners, whether on their first or their fiftieth.

a single-bedroom cottage in Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

Hacienda Isabella has a large swimming pool in one corner of the property. But if you're still not tired of doing absolutely nothing, this little screened cabana just off the pool with two day beds is waiting for you.

screened cabana with daybeds in Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

For those who just have to do something, Hacienda Isabella has a billiard table in a roofed, free-standing patio. Aren't these old ice-shavers just lovely?

free-standing patio with billiard table and antique ice-shavers in Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite

I would like to apologize to any City Daily Photo administrators who visit this blog if I've been posting so many out-of-town photos these past two months. We don't normally take so many trips outside Metro Manila and it has been an exceptional privilege to show off some of the beautiful places here, just two to three hours drive away. And I haven't forgotten that I still owe four more posts for the Corregidor Island series. Soon, I hope.

Urban or rural, natural or man-made, take a sightseeing tour of our world's diverse scenery!
Scenic Sunday

May 8, 2009

From a ferry

A rainy day sunset taken from somewhere in the middle of Manila Bay. I'm not sure, but I think the hills are those of the Bataan Peninsula, which separates Manila Bay from the South China Sea. (If someone can tell me how to take photos of sunsets without getting that red spot, I'd really appreciate it!)

sunset over the Bataan Peninsula from the middle of Manila Bay

Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page and tour the skies of our beautiful world.
Sky Watch Friday