~Sen Sōshitsu XVI, 16th tea master of the Urasenke family
We finally have TWG Tea Salons in Manila. Those mostly yellow cans on the walls, reflected on the large mirrors of the dining area, are just a few of the more-than-a-thousand tea varieties available at the shops. To be honest, I find the food too expensive (though I've finally satisfied my curiosity about scones), but I'm just very happy that I finally have a place to go to for some good loose leaf tea. And as long as one doesn't buy their fancy cans, the cost of TWG's teas won't break the bank.
"We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing."
~Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), American novelist
On display at the 3rd floor of Greenbelt 5 mall are the gorgeous nito vine baskets of the indigenous Iraya Mangyan of the island province of Mindoro. The Ayala Foundation has committed to providing education and skills training to a community of Iraya Mangyan in the town of Puerto Galera, a popular beach and diving destination. Part of their commitment is to revive the traditional art of weaving beautiful and functional baskets made of nito (Lygodium circinatum), a forest vine. Sales of the baskets go directly to the families who weave them.
"If there's no chocolate in Heaven, I'm not going."
~Jane Seabrook, Furry Logic Laugh at Life
Theo & Philo chocolates are made of cacao beans and other ingredients sourced straight from local farmers. I confess that it is the first (and, so far, the only) Philippine-made chocolate bar that I like. Aside from milk chocolate and 70% dark chocolate, they have other flavors that are distinctly Filipino: siling labuyo (tiny, very hot chili), kapeng barako (a local coffee bean with a robust flavor), green mango and salt, pili nut and pinipig (toasted glutinous rice), and a few new ones which I haven't tried yet. Their gift boxes, which can hold 3 or 5 bars, are based on the colors of the Philippine flag.
"The strength of the team is each individual member.
The strength of each member is the team."
~Phil Jackson, American retired basketball coach
This is the team behind Team Manila (see yesterday's post), a graphic design studio which is now popularly known in the country for t-shirts and accessories with distinctly Filipino designs. The company was founded by college friends Raymund "Mon" Punzalan (fourth from the left) and Joseph Lee "Jowee" Alviar (the only guy in a white shirt), who both took Fine Arts in the University of Sto. Tomas.
"There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves."
~Jose Rizal (1861–1896), Philippine national hero
A couple of friends and I spent Philippine Independence Day, June 12, at the Ayala Museum. We got to silkscreen our own t-shirts courtesy of Team Manila, which brought its ScreenMachine for the event. In keeping with the occasion, the design they chose was a stylized Philippine flag with the year that the country declared its independence from Spain, 1898. The shirt in the foreground is still missing the red part, which is the pattern on the silkscreen frame on the right. Notice that the ScreenMachine just holds the tees and silkscreen frames—the printing still has to be done manually. In a country with a 7% unemployment rate and an 18% underemployment rate, I completely approve of Team Manila's production choice.
~Walter Scott (1771–1832), Scottish novelist, playwright and poet
The street cat which adopted the family next door to us likes to hang out on their window. The first time I saw it there, I thought it had gotten stuck by mistake and needed help climbing out, but I've seen it there on and off, days and evenings. Apparently, it finds its position quite comfortable.
One last post about our trip to Bantayan Island (see previous two posts)—the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, better known simply as Bantayan Church. The church had already closed for the night when we went to visit, but the caretaker graciously opened it for us when he found out that we had a priest in our group. The parish traces its history back to 11 June 1580 when the Spanish
Agustinians established it. The first church was destroyed when the town
was attacked by Muslim pirates in 1600. It was rebuilt in the same year
but was transferred to the management of secular priests. The current church was constructed in 1839–1863. Unfortunately, the plaque on the wall didn't say what happened to the previous building. The church's design is typical of other Spanish-era churches in the country. A portion of the roof was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan, but it had been repaired completely by the time we visited.
What makes Bantayan Church unique is the fact that it is made almost entirely of coral. Moss grows easily on them, but I think they just add beauty and interest to the walls.
And those walls are thick! I measured myself against the depth of a doorway, and I think the walls are easily six feet deep.
Our office trip to Bantayan Island (see yesterday's post) wasn't only for rest and recreation. The more important objective was team building. In our case, it was quite literal. Gawad Kalinga (GK), which means "to give care," is a poverty-alleviation and nation-building movement which builds houses and creates communities all over the Philippines for the poorest Filipinos. GK communities are known for their colorful houses, which is but the first step in the long process of poverty-alleviation. There is a young GK Village in Bantayan Island—named the Pope Francis GK Village—and we spent our first afternoon there. GK is completely funded by donations and powered by volunteers. The land for the Pope Francis GK Village was donated by the municipality, which increased the donation after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed many of the coastal villages in Bantayan Island. The houses are largely funded by Xavier School and the ERDA Group, both Jesuit institutions based in Manila. The simplest way of volunteering is by helping build houses, which is what we did. The boys did the heavy work of mixing the sand, cement and water. (I tried, but my arm strength is absolutely pathetic.) That's our big boss dude in the Hawaiian shirt. We passed buckets of the cement mixture for the floor of one of the units. Aside from volunteers, GK houses are built by their recipients, who have to log in 300 hours of labor and attendance in values formation workshops before they can move in. GK calls it "sweat equity." And the formation continues long after the beneficiaries receive their houses—necessary if one wants to build real communities and not just houses. Before we left, some of the children of Pope Francis GK Village performed a dance for us, a dance that they had been practicing for a big GK event.
To learn more about Gawad Kalinga, and maybe even donate or volunteer, please visit their website.
One week before the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA, which means "hope" in Tagalog) officially declared the onset of the rainy season, our office went on its annual teambuilding and R&R. Last year, we went to Boracay; this year, we went to Bantayan Island in the province of Cebu (which is also an island). From Metro Manila, it's a one-hour plane ride, two-hour van ride, and one-hour boat ride away. It was worth the long trip.
We stayed at Anika Island Resort in the small town of Santa Fe. It's right on the beach and the rooms are unusual because they're all made from freight containers. Needless to say, they all have airconditioners.
There are only a few resorts in Bantayan so it's very peaceful. There are still quite a number of fishing communities on the island and fish pens near the shore are not uncommon. We were able to buy freshly-dried danggit, naturally salted by the sea water, to take home to Manila. On our side of the island, the tide is very low in the mornings, but even when the tide is high, you can walk 200 meters from the beach and the water will only be waist-high.
We were told that there was a smaller island just off Bantayan where the snorkeling was good, so we rented a bangka to go there.
It's a really small island—basically a rock with some palm trees growing on it, with a tiny strip of beach on one end.
Welcome to Virgin Island! It doesn't have its own electricity or water, and all supplies have to be brought in by bangka. There are no resorts, either, though more adventurous souls are welcome to pitch tents on the beach and stay overnight. You don't have to go far from shore to to see schools of yellow and silver striped fish (I have no idea what they are), but you have to swim farther to get to the live coral.
For those who don't snorkel, Virgin Island also has a nice stretch of shallow water with no coral, rocks or sea grass—perfect for little kids.
"Art-making is not about telling the truth but making the truth felt."
~Christian Boltanski, French sculptor
Made of recycled stainless steel, "The Trees" by artist Reynato Paz Contreras stands in the middle of the park in the middle of the roundabout that is Burgos Circle in Bonifacio Global City. According to the artist, "The three trunks signify stability. The intertwining branches and leaves create a circular effect to symbolise the 'circle of life.' This sculpture represents the interrelationship of humanity and nature, and the vital role that each one plays. May it remind everyone to preserve the environment not just for today but for the future as well."
"That's universal—we all want to bring every good thing to our children. But what's not universal is our ability to provide every good thing."
~Melinda Gates, American businesswoman and philanthropist
These are just a few of the high-rise residential condominium towers in Bonifacio Global City. The shorter buildings are restaurants and shops around Burgos Circle, a roundabout with a park in the middle, from where I took this photo. Standing there, it was almost easy to forget that the Philippines is a third world country (or, to be politically correct, a developing country).