March 31, 2014

Benedictine diary

new mural in the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat "Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."
~Pablo Picasso

After eight years painting the interior of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in San Miguel, Manila (see previous post), Dom Lesmes Lopez and Brother Salvador Alberich left the back wall blank. There may have been a reason for it, but whatever it was, contemporary Benedictine monks did not like "the ugly white wall." So they commissioned the Italian painter Francesco Giannini to create a mural for it, one showing the story of the Benedictines in the Philippines. Working from his hometown of Peschiera del Garda, Giannini spent one year drawing detailed drafts and another year for the actual painting. The mural was inaugurated and blessed in June of 2012.

March 30, 2014

Benedictine masterpiece

ceiling of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat "When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece."
~John Ruskin (1819–1900), English art critic

The Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat was built in 1925 to serve Manila's Benedictine monks. It is more popularly known as the San Beda Chapel because of the college which the monks operate on the same grounds. The Spanish monk-artist Dom Lesmes Lopez, assisted by Brother Salvador Alberich, spent eight years from 1931 to 1939 painting the chapel's vaulted ceiling and arched walls.

March 29, 2014


chandelier made of pails "Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable."
~George Washington Carver (1864–1943), American scientist and botanist

More creative pieces of decoration from The Breakfast Table (see previous post): a chandelier made out of metal pails, and tin cups and mugs used as planters.

Between the pails and the cups, I half expected to see a cow for some really fresh milk.

March 27, 2014

Blue jeans

denim place mats "Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola."
~Diana Vreeland (1903–1989), fashion editor and columnist

The funky denim place mats of The Breakfast Table look like they're made from recycled jeans.

March 25, 2014

A rose and a lion

San Sebastian Church rose window "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Swiss American psychiatrist

In keeping with its neo-Gothic design, the San Sebastian Church (see previous two posts) has several beautiful rose windows. I'm not sure who the saint in the middle is, but if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say it was Mark the Evangelist, who is sometimes depicted with a lion and whose symbol is a winged lion.

March 24, 2014

Ecclesiastical heraldry

“trompe l'ooeil ceiling at San Sebastian Church "Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions."
~Joyce Carol Oates, American author

The trompe l'oeil ceiling over the entrance of the San Sebastian Church (see yesterday's post) includes some of the heraldic symbols of Catholic bishops: the miter (headdress) in the middle, the crosier (staff), and Patriarchal cross.

The chandelier is real.

March 23, 2014

Steel Neo-Gothic

San Sebastian Church "Negligence is the rust of the soul,
that corrodes through all her best resolves."
~Owen Feltham (1602–1668)

The Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, better known simply as San Sebastian Church, is believed to be the only pre-fabricated steel church in the world. Designed by the Spanish architect Genaro Palacios, it was built in 1891 using steel sections made in Belgium after earlier churches built on the site since 1611 by the Augustinian Recollects were destroyed by earthquakes in 1859, 1863 and 1880.

Though it may be earthquake and fireproof, the all-steel San Sebastian Church—which was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1973—suffers from another problem: rust. It is humid in Metro Manila no matter what the weather is and it rains almost half of the year. The City of Manila, where the church stands, is also very near the sea. After more than a hundred years in those conditions, the steel's integrity is threatened and the church is slowly undergoing restoration.

March 22, 2014


clean Pasig River "We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations."
~David Brower, environmentalist

After fifteen years, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission is finally beginning to justify its existence. We walked by this clean estero (which means estuary but has come to be used for all creeks connected to the river) in the district of San Miguel in the City of Manila. If I wasn't with a group hurrying to a particular destination, I would have liked to take a walk on that neat floating sidewalk.

The Pasig River stretches for 25 kilometers through Metro Manila, and its banks are lined with the shanties of informal settlers and factories with poor waste disposal practices. Its rehabilitation will take a long time, but this idyllic scene in the middle of the teeming city gives me hope that we might actually be able to do it.

March 21, 2014


“Poco Deli's German Sausage Sampler "…there are more different sausages in Germany than there are breakfast foods in America, and if there is a bad one among them then I have never heard of it. They run in size from little fellows so small and pale and fragile that it seems a crime to eat them to vast and formidable pieces that look like shells for heavy artillery. And they run in flavor from the most delicate to the most raucous, and in texture from that of feathers caught in a cobweb to that of linoleum, and in shape from straight cylinders to lovely kinks and curlycues."
~H.L. Mencken (1880–1956)

This is the single-size sausage sampler of Poco Deli (see yesterday's post): 1 large and 4 small sausages, with homemade sauerkraut and bagel chips. This is just too much meat for one person, so my husband and I shared it. You can choose from a variety of handcrafted sausages—we chose kielbasa, nürnberger, and chicken sausage. I found the nürnberger (the small sausage dotted with black pepper) disappointing partly because I found it too dry, but the kielbasa (the big one) was absolutely delicious. Even the humble chicken sausage was particularly tasty. Poco Deli has a pretty good selection of beers and wines, but we love their Citrus Delight—it's a refreshing contrast and a great complement to such rich food.

March 20, 2014

Martha Stewart would approve

Poco Deli "Everywhere I go, I always look for creative entrepreneurs, whether it's artisans and craftsmen, small farmers and gardeners, or restaurateurs who use fresh, locally sourced ingredients."
~Martha Stewart

The tiny Poco Deli in Kapitolyo, Pasig City has a special mission: to serve only premium, all-natural food and drinks made in small batches by dedicated artisans. This is true for their sausages and smoked bacon, pizza and pasta, steak, cakes and ice cream, and beer and wine. With the notable exception of the wines, almost everything is also proudly Philippine-made. This dedication to everything artisanal translates into some of the richest and most deliciously unique flavors I have ever encountered. Gorgonzola and fig ice cream, anyone?

March 19, 2014

The stars, like dust

starry ceiling "Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie

The star-dusted ceiling of the Universe Gallery of The Mind Museum in Taguig City. With a handful of planets thrown in for good measure.

March 18, 2014

War in heaven

sculpture of Saint Michael slaying the serpent "Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back."
~Revelation 12:7

In the courtyard of San Miguel Church (see yesterday's post) stands this 12-foot cold cast bronze sculpture of Saint Michael slaying the dragon, which symbolizes the devil, created by Florante Caedo.

March 17, 2014


San Miguel Church A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Church of San Miguel, in the district of the City of Manila with the same name, traces its history back to 1603. The current church, however, was only built in 1913. From 1946 to 1958, it became a pro-cathedral when it served as the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila after the Manila Cathedral—the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception—was destroyed during WWII. In 1986, the church was designated the National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels.

March 16, 2014

Rising from ashes

Taal Basilica "Disasters work like alarm clocks to the world,
hence God allows them.
They are shouting, 'Wake up! Love! Pray!'"
~ Criss Jami, American poet and essayist

The Basilica de San Martin de Tours, located in the town of Taal in the province of Batangas, is the largest known Catholic church in Asia, standing 88.6 meters (291 feet) long and 48 meters (157 feet) wide. Designed by Spanish architect Luciano Oliver, construction of the church started in 1856 and finished in 1865.

The history of the Taal Basilica, as it is more popularly known, and of the town itself, is much older, however.

Taal was founded by Augustinian missionaries in 1572, in what is now the town of San Nicolas. The first church was built in 1575 by Padre Diego Espina. Then in 1754, the entire town was destroyed during one of Taal Volcano's largest eruptions. The town was then relocated to its present site and construction of a new church began in 1755. That church was destroyed by a strong earthquake in 1849, but the town survived, thankfully.

March 15, 2014

Gentle giant

butanding "A closed mouth catches no flies."
~ Miguel de Cervantes

Though whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), known locally as butanding, have very large mouths, they are plankton feeders and are no threat to humans (the reverse is not true, unfortunately). This slow-moving filter-feeding shark is the largest known fish species still swimming in our seas. The migratory path of these gentle giants take them near certain areas of the Philippines, driving local tourism. A life-size butanding replica is displayed—along with many other creatures—in the Life Gallery of The Mind Museum in Taguig City.

March 14, 2014


Aedi, the Mind Museum robot "Robots have been in the deepest oceans, to Mars…
but your living room is the final frontier."
~ Cynthia Brezeal ScD, Director, Personal Robots Group,
Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Say "Hello!" back to Aedi ("idea" spelled backwards), the robot who greets visitors to The Mind Museum in Taguig City.

March 13, 2014


Mind Museum "There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million."
~ Walt Streightiff

The Mind Museum in Taguig City, which opened in 2012, is a non-profit educational project of the Bonifacio Art Foundation. With 5,000 square meters of floor space, it is the first science museum in the Philippines that we can be proud of. Its aim is to promote public understanding and appreciation of science—in a decidedly fun and interactive way. Especially commendable is the foundation's desire that the museum's wonders be experienced by public school children. (For those who are not aware of it, public education in the Philippines is terrible.) Ticket prices for public school students are a fraction of regular ticket prices, but since this special rate is still too high for most of them, the foundation has a special donation portal for people to sponsor the visit of public school students.

March 12, 2014

Academic center

Centro Escolar "You educate a man; you educate a man.
You educate a woman; you educate a generation."
~ Brigham Young

Centro Escolar University was founded in 1907 by two women, Librada Avelino and Carmen de Luna, who had dreamed of establishing a center of learning for Filipino women. Originally called Centro Escolar de Señoritas, it became a university in 1933. They also educate young men nowadays.

March 11, 2014

Sharp objections

barbed wire barricades Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process,
gradually changing opinions,
slowly eroding old barriers,
quietly building new structures.
~ John F. Kennedy

Despite the presence of the Mendiola Peace Arch (see yesterday's post), barbed wire barricades are still clustered around the gate leading to the district around Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines, ready to be deployed at any time.

March 10, 2014

Hope for peace

Mendiola Peace Arch "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable."
~ John F. Kennedy, Remarks on the first anniversary of the Alliance for Progress,
13 March 1962

Mendiola Street in the City of Manila has been the site of many protests—some of them violent and bloody—against the government because of its proximity to Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines. It is also within the informal district known as the University Belt, so named because of its high concentration of colleges and universities. In 2010, the schools around Mendiola Street, including Centro Escolar University in the background, pooled their resources to build the Mendiola Peace Arch. The consortium hopes that the arch will remind protestors that the area is also the home of many schools and will encourage them to conduct their rallies in a peaceful manner.

March 9, 2014

After silence

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salcedo Park "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
~ Aldous Huxley, Music at Night and Other Essays

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) performed last night in a charity concert at the Jaime C. Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati City for the continuing rehabilitation of towns devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which is locally called Typhoon Yolanda.