February 28, 2013

Three-story artifact

old spectroheliograph at the Manila Observatory 
The cylindrical building of the Manila Observatory was constructed to house one instrument, a spectroheliograph. Developed by George Hale in 1890 for his senior thesis in MIT, the spectroheliograph is an instrument used in astronomy and astrophysics to take photographic images of the sun.
  old spectroheliograph at the Manila Observatory
This 1960s spectroheliograph is three stories high. Modern ones no longer need an entire building to house them.
  old spectroheliograph at the Manila Observatory
The Manila Observatory no longer uses this spectroheliograph, but ideas to convert or repurpose it all proved to be too expensive.
  old spectroheliograph at the Manila Observatory 
A museum offered to buy it from the observatory, but the board of directors decided to say no. It is an important part of the history of the Manila Observatory and the Jesuits in the Philippines, after all.

February 27, 2013


detail of the facade of the Manila Observatory The decorative facade of the Manila Observatory (see yesterday's post) composed of patterned cement blocks is so mid-century modern, I just had to take a photo of it. The JHS or IHS underneath it is a Christogram and marks it as a Catholic institution. The red and yellow circular symbol right over the doorway represents Sol, our sun, and I will show you why it is there tomorrow, which will also explain why the building is cylindrical.

Quite fitting for this photo too, since all my images end up with red or pink sunspots every time I shoot into the sun—which was straight up in this case, since it was noon when we visited the observatory.

February 26, 2013

Not astronomy

Manila Observatory This is the building in the Manila Observatory complex (see yesterday's post) where most of the research programs are located. These cover the earth, air, climate, and ionosphere (important for radio communications), and the observatory also has departments dedicated to geomatics (mapping), and instrumentation and technology development.

February 25, 2013

El Observatorio de Manila

Manila Observatory The Manila Observatory is a research institution established by the Spanish Jesuits in the Philippines in 1865. Since 1963, it has been located in the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University, and though it shares some of the university's faculty, it is a completely separate legal entity. This is the building that can be seen from the street, but it has never been where the research was done. Until a few years ago, this housed the Jesuit scientists assigned to the observatory, but they have since been relocated to two other residences in the campus. Nowadays, the rooms in the building are rented out to small NGOs and even to the university—the Ateneo's Environmental Science Department is here.

February 24, 2013

BKK: The story of Thai silk

One of the places we visited in Bangkok last November was the Jim Thompson House. James Harrison Wilson Thompson was an American soldier who settled in Bangkok after World War II. He is credited for almost single-handedly reviving the silk industry in Thailand by creating an international market for it and improving the quality of the handcrafted silk. After 22 years in Thailand, in 1967, he and some friends went to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia for a holiday; he went out for a walk and never returned. Up to this day, no one knows what happened to him.
 the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The Jim Thompson House, now a museum, is made up of six traditional Thai houses which were put together into a single house with a Western floor plan. The red color of the house comes from a natural preservative painted on the teak wood.
 silkworms at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The silk process begins with these squirming silkworms, the larva or caterpillar stage of the domesticated Bombyx mori.
 cocoons at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand After eating pounds of mulberry leaves and molting several times, silkworms enter the pupa stage and wrap themselves in a cocoon made of raw silk.
 cocoons being boiled at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The cocoons are boiled to make the silk easier to unravel. Of course, the heat also kills the silkworm inside the cocoon.
 raw silk being spun on a reel at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The unraveled, raw silk being spun on a reel. Vegetable dyes were traditionally used to color silk, but the results were not consistent and the colors fade after many washings. Jim Thompson introduced modern, color-fast dyes and processes to Thailand in the late 1940s.
 a wooden loom at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand A traditional, wooden weaving loom loaded with red and white silk thread.
 the spirit house in the garden at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand Like all Thai houses and buildings, the Jim Thompson House also has a spirit house at a corner of the property—in the garden and overlooking the canal. The complex also has a restaurant which serves fantastic Thai dishes, and a shop with some of the loveliest silk scarves, ties, and clothes that I have ever seen and touched.

February 23, 2013

And stay out!

textured concrete house with faux tile roof Similar in style to the house yesterday, and probably built around the same period, this house caught my eye because of the varied yet neatly-planted shrubs in its frontage, and the castle-like stone accent at the corner. Even the small windows remind me of arrow slits in fortifications. What look like tiles on the roof are actually pre-painted galvanized iron sheets, which are more affordable and easier to maintain than real tiles. Almost all houses in Manila (in all urban areas in the Philippines, actually) are walled and gated—with a big gate for cars, and a smaller one for people. The pedestrian gate is usually where the door bell is located, and some, like this one, have a mailbox built in.

February 22, 2013


textured concrete and brick house The textured, unpainted concrete used on this house is typical of buildings in Metro Manila constructed during the 1970s, but I like the addition of brick accents, and the iron and wood gates. Vine-covered stone privacy walls can still be found in many upper-middle-class neighborhoods.

February 20, 2013

Too many choices

stalls at the Greenhills tiangge It started as an occasional bazaar, but the huge Greenhills tiangge is now almost all-year-round, and airconditioned too. It's the breaks that are now occasional, so some stalls can be changed to reflect the season (like Christmas or school opening). This is just one corridor of the bazaar, which regularly has sections for shoes, clothes, jewelry, and home accessories. The tiangge is now celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year, and the special section (which I wasn't able to take a photo of, unfortunately) included Chinese delicacies, and all manner of figurines and charms meant to bring luck during this Year of the Water Snake.

February 19, 2013

False advertising

sign of Jack's Loft Dessert Bar I think Jack's Loft Dessert Bar should be sued for false advertising. If you eat there often (not just desserts, though their rich and creamy baked cheesecake is reason enough to visit), you'll never be as skinny as their stick figure mascot, nor will you be able to climb a loft easily.

February 18, 2013

Oodles of doodles

wall of doodles at Pino Resto-Bar At Pino Resto-Bar's original location, they had one wall covered in doodles. When they transferred to their current, bigger place, they commissioned the same group to doodle on a wall again.

See murals from around the world in Monday Mural.

February 17, 2013

BKK: First glimpse

mural at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Apirport This intricately detailed temple scene is just a small portion of the mural at the baggage claim area of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.
 painters working on a mural at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Apirport The richly elaborate mural covers one entire wall, and a couple of painters were still working on the last few panels when we went to Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, last November.
 steel and glass at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Apirport Except for decorative details like the mural and some sculptures, however, the industrial steel and glass architecture of the airport can make it seem like anywhere in the world. Which is probably reassuring to people who travel a lot.

See murals from around the world in Monday Mural.

February 16, 2013

Rabbit food

sign of Pipino vegetarian restaurant Because of the popularity of their vegetarian dishes, the owners of Pino Resto-Bar (see yesterday's post) decided to open another restaurant, strictly vegetarian this time. It is located just above Pino and is called Pipino. Aside from being a play on the original restaurant's name, pipino is also the Tagalog word for cucumber. You can always order from Pipino's menu if you eat at Pino, which is what I did the last time we were there. I don't think it works the other way, though.

February 15, 2013

Pino Pinoy

sign of Pino Resto-Bar I first posted photos of Pino Resto-Bar back in 2008 when it was new. It's still around, and has even moved to a bigger place—and still in the neighborhood, thankfully. After all these years, though, it was only yesterday that I noticed that the asterisk separating "resto" from "bar" in their logo is actually the 8-rayed sun of the Philippine flag.

February 14, 2013


Black Soup Cafe Black Soup Cafe may be small, but it set aside space for musicians to perform in, and welcomes exhibits from artists, whether established or new. I love that. The restaurant's full name is Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace.

Whatever your interests are and whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a wonderful day with your loved ones. Happy Valentine's Day! :)

February 13, 2013

On a mission

sign of Miriam College When I was much younger, Miriam College in Quezon City was called Maryknoll College, after the missionary Maryknoll Sisters who founded the school. For most of its history, it was a school exclusively for women (and I think it is again, but I'm not sure). Management of Maryknoll College was transferred from the religious order to lay administrators in 1977, but it was only in 1989 that the name was changed. "Miriam" is the Aramaic name of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the school's patron, and is also a tribute to Sr. Miriam Thomas Thornton MM, who devoted fifty years of her life to the school. Miriam College has academic programs for preschool up to postgraduate levels, offers adult education classes, and has a school for the deaf.

February 12, 2013

Monsters in the forest

outdoor stage for Entablado's production of Labaw Donggon: Ang Banog ng SanlibutanEntablado, one of Ateneo de Manila University's student theater groups, is ending its season with a musical titled "Labaw Donggon: Ang Banog ng Sanlibutan," which is based on one part of a 28,000-verse epic poem from the island of Panay called "Hinilawod." The epic tells of the adventures of a goddess who chose a mortal to be her husband, and the adventures of their three sons, the eldest of whom is Labaw Donggon. Entablado chose to stage the play outdoors, selecting an area of the campus with a bamboo grove, which they integrated into the set. It was a great idea, and made Labaw Donggon's adventures feel more real.

My little camera couldn't handle the movement in the low light, so if you want to see photos of the equally fantastic costumes, visit this album in Entablado's Labaw Donggon page in Facebook.

February 11, 2013

Cool dude

Last week, I posted a photo of one of the more-than-life-size cut-out figures being used in the Ateneo de Manila University to prepare people for the new one-way traffic scheme. That exercise to ease traffic inside the campus begins today, so here is another one:
 cut-out sign with Fr Jett Villarin SJ Meet the new university president, Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin SJ, whom everyone calls by his nickname, Jett. He took over from the previous president, Fr. Ben Nebres, just two years ago, in 2011. Fr. Jett is a physicist with a doctorate in Atmospheric Sciences from Georgia Tech, and he just turned 53 last January 30.  

For the curious, his sign translates as "Follow the advice of parents and teachers. And the new traffic scheme." Today, we find out how well it works.

February 10, 2013


Nami Resort in Boracay Nami Resort in Boracay is located on Diniwid Beach, on the other side of the island from the inundated White Beach and Willy's Rock which I posted the last two Sundays. The cottages are built on the side of a cliff, and though the walk down to the beach doesn't look easy, the view from the rooms must be fantastic.

February 9, 2013


colorful foo dog The most colorful Chinese guardian lion—also known as a foo dog—I have ever seen protects an artist friend's studio and flower shop. This particular lion is male, since his paw is on the world. Female guardian lions have their paw on a cub.

February 8, 2013

Small but terrible

batibot chair We call this small and simple bent iron and wood chair a batibot chair. Batibot means small but strong, which is an apt description of the chair. I think they're charming, but they're not very comfortable, especially if you're big or tall. They used to be found in even the humblest homes and streetside eateries, but have mostly been replaced by plastic monobloc chairs (that are equally uncomfortable but far less charming). The chair design has been around for a very long time, but other than that, I don't know anything else about it. Do you have a chair similar in design in your country? What is it called? I know curiosity killed the cat, but I hope not this time.

February 7, 2013

Not Kevin

the sculpture 'Mr. Postman' in front of the Manila Central Post Office building "The Postman" (yes, that really is the name of the sculpture) standing in front of the neoclassical building of the Philippine Postal Corporation's headquarters.

February 6, 2013

Green glass

glass-enclosed stairwell of the Museum of the Filipino People
The Museum of the Filipino People, an archeological and ethnographic museum, is located in what used to be the Philippine government's Finance Building. Built in 1926 in the neoclassical style, it suffered extensive damage during WWII and was reconstructed soon after. It underwent renovation again in the late 1990s to early 2000s when the museum was moved into the building, and one section is covered in distinctly modern plate glass windows.

February 4, 2013

A spoonful of sugar

The Ateneo de Manila University is implementing a one-way traffic scheme in the campus on February 11. The information campaign started in mid-January using every means available to the university's communications office. The most unique and fun of them all are the signboards all over the campus:
 cut-out signboard featuring Ateneo women's volleyball players More than life-size cut-out standees of students, athletes, teachers, and the university president himself, serve as directional signs and cajoling reminders about the traffic scheme. These two lovely young ladies are members of the women's volleyball team. I took this photo last Saturday, so the number should be down to 7 by now. Honestly, how can one stay irritated about the change when faced with such beautiful smiles?

February 3, 2013

Willy's Rock

Willy's Rock in Boracay This volcanic rock formation with a Marian grotto near the shoreline in Boracay is nicknamed Willy's Rock because it stands in front of Willy's Beach Club Hotel, one of the island's pioneering resorts (established in 1975, long before Boracay became a byword for summer beach vacations). I've seen pictures of it fully exposed, but during high tide in the southwest monsoon season, it's a wet walk to get to the rock.
 Willy's Rock in Boracay And what do people do when they get to Willy's Rock? Why, take souvenir photos of themselves, of course!

February 2, 2013

Touched by the sun

trees The view which greeted me when I stepped out of our office building a little before 6:00pm yesterday, taken above the roads, parking lot and cars. A few trees across the field not blocked by buildings had taken on a red glow from the setting sun.

February 1, 2013

Color wheel

rainbow-colorer umbrella CITY DAILY PHOTO THEME DAY: UMBRELLAS • You won't have to look for the rainbow after a storm when you carry a rainbow around with you.