March 31, 2010

Beat the heat

The waterfall feature of Sofitel Manila's lagoon-shaped swimming pool. Exceptionally tempting right now since the Philippines is in the middle of summer, which usually begins in March and ends in May.

waterfall of Sofitel Manila's swimming pool

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

March 30, 2010

What would you have done?

Aside from the motorized tricycle, another way of going short distances in Metro Manila is the pedicab, a bicycle with a customized side car for passengers. I was going to a place where I've never been to before and the barangay tanod (village law enforcer) I asked directions from told me that it was quite far and suggested that I take a pedicab. Aside from the fact that the place turned out to be only about 300 meters away, I felt sorry for the poor man who was huffing and puffing by the time we got there (the road was on an incline and I am heavier than a sack of rice). Needless to say, I walked on my way back, but the thought that I deprived someone of the fare I would have paid does not sit well with me either.

a view of the road from inside a pedicab

March 29, 2010


Friday, March 26, was the awarding of the 2009 Gawad Buhay!, the Philstage Awards for the Performing Arts, at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This is only the second year of the award, which recognizes and pays tribute to Filipino artists in theater—plays, musicals and dance. Depending on how it's accented, the word buhay can mean life, live or alive; in this case, the name of the award refers to the fact that the award is for live performances.

the CCP Little Theater stage for the 2009 Gawad Buhay!

The awarding was broken up into several sets, with various groups performing excerpts from their 2009 season. The most electrifying performance for me was that of Ballet Philippines. Candice Adea, who won a Gawad Buhay! for Best Female Lead Performance in Dance, and Angel Gabriel danced an excerpt from Evacuation, choreographed by Bam Damian. (Please pardon the noise and fuzziness of this photo; the conditions were almost too much for my little camera and I was forced to maximize the ISO.)

Candice Adea and Angel Gabriel of Ballet Philippines performing at the 2009 Gawad Buhay!

To showcase the works of Filipino visual artists, and also as an added incentive for theater groups to strive to garner awards every year, the trophies of Gawad Buhay! will always be different. The 2009 trophy is created by Don Salubayba from Davao City. It portrays a dancing bulul, the rice god of the Northern Philippines' indigenous peoples. The three faces of the figure represent music, dance and theater.

trophy created by Don Salubayba for the 2009 Gawad Buhay!

A notable difference between this year's awarding ceremony and last year's is the number of artists who attended. Last year, it was easy to organize the small group onto the stage for their photo. This year…

winners of the 2009 Gawad Buhay!

Chaotic is a mild word to describe what happened during the photo opportunity, but I love it. Half a dozen performing arts groups on one stage, happy faces showing pride in their awards, and a gaggle of friends, relatives and colleagues trying to get photos. As a scriptwriter friend told my husband after the ceremony, the artists now own the awards. And that can only bode well for Gawad Buhay!, Philstage and Philippine performing arts.

For those interested, Gibbs Cadiz posted the complete list of 2009 Gawad Buhay! winners in his blog.

March 28, 2010


The beautiful stained glass window of Pinaglabanan Church, the St. John the Baptist Parish Church, under the peak of the ceiling between the narthex (entrance hall) and the nave (where the congregation sits). The biblical passage written on it is from the letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians, chapter 2, verse 10: "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth."

stained glass window in Pinaglabanan Church

March 27, 2010

There will be darkness

SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City is currently the Philippines' second and the world's fourth largest shopping mall, with a floor area of 390,000 square meters (4.2 million square feet) in 42 hectares of land reclaimed from Manila Bay. Tonight, this whole area will be plunged in darkness, at least for an  hour, for Earth Hour 2010.

SM Mall of Asia at night seen from a distance

Earth Hour
8:30 P.M. • SATURDAY • 27 MARCH 2010

See what's reflecting what at James' Weekend Reflections.
Weekend Reflections

March 26, 2010

In my barangay

Last year, I showed the entrance to our barangay center, which includes our local government unit's offices and meeting hall, a senior citizen center, playground and sports facilities. The covered basketball court gets transformed into our voting precinct during elections. The small yellow building on the right is a gym which, for a small fee which goes into its maintenance, any resident can use.

covered basketball court and gym of the U.P. Village East barangay

March 25, 2010


I remember Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City when a three-story building was hardly to be seen in its entire length. Now it has several twenty-plus-story residential condominium buildings and the highest ever yet, 35 stories the last time I looked, is under construction. I really hope that the students of the three universities along Katipunan don't end up facing a solid wall of these in the future.

the 38-story Berkeley Residences being constructed along Katipunan Avenue

Just a short note to all Filipinos who get to read this post: Please remember that it is your district councilor, aside from the city mayor, who gives approvals for any changes in land classification and use. It is not just the candidates running for national government positions that you should care about—please study your local candidates carefully too. Vote wisely this May.

March 24, 2010

No bathing

Remember the photo of TriNoma mall's facade which I posted two weeks ago? This is what the little stand of trees looks like from the curved walkways on the upper floors. There's a small fountain in the middle of it. What you can't see because of the trees is that the four sides of the fountain are cordoned off. My guess is that the mall administration was having problems with too many kids (and even adults) trying to bathe in it. TriNoma is right beside a large squatter community, after all.

TriNoma mall street-level fountain

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

March 23, 2010

Another first

The Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) is an international Christian radio network that broadcasts programs in 130 languages. Founded in 1945 by Americans John Broger and Robert Bowman, it set up its largest Asian base in the Philippines and it went on air in the country in 1948. The offices, homes and dormitories of the missionaries of FEBC Philippines are in Valenzuela, one of Metro Manila's northern-most cities, bordering on the province of Bulacan where their transmitters are located. (This is just a back-up transmitter.)

Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) Philippines

I have to say that blogging about Metro Manila has given me so many new experiences this past year, not the least of which was getting invited by FEBC (702 DZAS in Manila) as a guest in one of their radio programs last week. Meet Lem and Lj, the hosts of the Monday to Friday "Pinoy Espesyal" (Filipino Special) program. Lem and Lj are so natural that the interview felt just like having a discussion with friends. I think I still sounded nervous though, because that booth is cold and I couldn't stop shivering!

Lem and Lj, hosts of the radio program Pinoy Espesyal in 702 DZAS

When they were winding up the show, I was able to take a photo of CJ, their radio technician, in his booth. It's a good thing I keep my camera's shutter sound off—I didn't notice the 'on air' light until I downloaded the photos.

CJ, the technician of the radio program Pinoy Espesyal in 702 DZAS

I'd like to thank Lj for this singular experience, and I hope I didn't do too badly. It was great meeting so many nice people in FEBC and it was wonderful walking around their large and green compound. It didn't feel like it's in the middle of busy and crowded Valenzuela City and I'll post photos of it soon.

March 22, 2010

It's just a job

Working in a university with so much youthful energy can be a source of many surprises. I stepped out of our building one afternoon and came upon these two clowns having lunch under the small bamboo grove beside our office. One of the student organizations had organized a show and party for the children of the poor community that they work with. I wonder what the clown on the left is thinking. He looks quite pensive.

two clowns eating lunch under a bamboo grove

March 21, 2010

Sticky rice

Sapin-sapin is a Filipino dessert made of malagkit (sticky rice) flour, sugar and coconut milk, and cooked by steaming. The different colors come from additional ingredients (and food coloring) which give the basic recipe different flavors. Depending on the cook, these could include ube (purple yam), corn, sweet potato and even squash (think pumpkin pie). Sapin-sapin means layered, and slicing into the white pieces will reveal at least two other layers with different colors and flavors. This particular sapin-sapin features a center of biko, another sweet glutinous rice delicacy. If you like coconut, you can sprinkle toasted coconut flakes over it or, better yet, latik—the result of heating coconut milk until the oil separates from the solids.


Because of it's festive colors, sapin-sapin is popular Filipino party fare. So what better way to celebrate My Manila's 2nd anniversary than with something sweet and very Pinoy. Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful encouragement these past two years—it is because of you that I have managed to continue blogging for this long. It has been a joy showing you Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines, telling you about our customs, history and art, and all other manner of things (even the not-so-nice ones), and I hope that you've found it enjoyable too. Again, thank you.

March 20, 2010

Turn of the century modern

This is the front of Crisostomo, the restaurant of chef Florabel Co where we celebrated my husband's birthday last year with a full-course Filipino meal. Reflected in its windows are the umbrella tables of a neighboring coffee shop, the palm trees in the plaza of Eastwood Mall where the restaurant is located, and one of the many high-rise condominium towers which completely surround it.

facade of Crisostomo restaurant

See what's reflecting what at James' Weekend Reflections.
Weekend Reflections

March 19, 2010

Platinum and dark blonde

Walking along the alleys of Binondo, Manila's Chinatown, I came across a vendor selling… what the heck is it? I was promptly told that it was buhok ng mais (literally, hair of maize)—corn silk. I did a little research and it seems that corn silk is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to prevent kidney and gall bladder stones, and for treating various urinary tract disorders. It is also a diuretic and has anti-diabetic properties. Impressive. I'll be willing to try infusions of corn silk, but I still say no to gecko tea.

dried corn silk

March 18, 2010

Old guard

The security guards in the historic walled city of Intramuros are dressed in uniforms patterned after those worn by the Guardia Civil during the Spanish colonial era.

Intramuros security guard in a Guardia Civil's uniform

I have one question though: did they have rubber boots back then?

It's that time of the month for me to bug CDP bloggers again! Our theme for April 1 is Red and the May theme day poll is up—don't forget to vote!

March 17, 2010

Pun-ny no. 2

Wok Inn. A Chinese restaurant with several branches in Metro Manila.

Wok Inn
"I love to hate puns," says Hilda in Manila.

March 16, 2010

Last look

The small Ateneo Art Gallery holds the distinction of being the first museum in the country dedicated to Philippine modern art. The gallery was established in 1960 when Fernando Zobel de Ayala (b. 1924, d. 1984) gifted the university with a large collection of works by postwar artists. An even smaller room in the gallery always displays selections from the Zobel bequest. The whimsical artwork on the left is a hand-colored lithograph by Lithuanian-born American artist Ben Shahn (b. 1898, d. 1969) from 1952 titled "Boy Eating Ice Cream."

part of the Zobel collection in the Ateneo Art Gallery

Because the gallery is small, very few pieces from its permanent collection—paintings and sculptures—can be displayed. During the few weeks in a year when the larger room does not have a special exhibit, the gallery staff brings out more pieces from the permanent collection to display. The large yellow abstract painting in the back is by Philippine National Artist for the Visual Arts Jose Joya (b. 1931, d. 1995) from 1958 titled "Granadean Arabesque."

Ateneo Art Gallery

Yesterday, March 15, marked the last day of the gallery in the rooms in these photos. Thanks to the construction of the new Rizal Library, the Ateneo Art Gallery is moving into the spacious first floor of the library's old building. I can't wait to see their new space when the renovations are done and they re-open.

March 15, 2010

One night of surprises

Thanks to a classmate from my university days a long time ago, Chinoy Eater (who irritatingly still looks like she's in her early twenties—no fair!), I was invited by Patricia Tan of Events 100 to "One Night Only" last March 4. The minimalist invitation only said that it was cocktails at the Hampton Room of Astoria Plaza in Ortigas Center, Pasig City but Patricia mentioned in her email that it was also a celebration of Astoria's 9th anniversary. Intrigued, since I've never been to such an event, I asked my husband if we could go and he said yes, so we did. When we got to the hotel, the first thing that caught my eye in the Hampton Room was the wonderful light fixtures, an arboreal fantasy.

lighting fixture of the Hampton Room of Astoria Plaza

The room was set up with a small stage and a large video screen, so I immediately figured, correctly as it turns out, that it was a media event. Before the presentations, we were invited to have some cocktails. I just loved how the hotel staff laid out the forks to look like a palm frond, complete with green lights to heighten the effect.

forks laid out to look like a palm frond

My husband loved their crème brûlée. Isn't the presentation just so pretty? And the mirrored surface of the cocktail tables made everything look dazzling.

Astoria Plaza's creme brulee

The purpose of the media event was three-fold. First, Astoria launched its new logo, cleverly embedded in an ice sculpture. Second, they introduced their newest celebrity endorser, Boy Abunda, who is one of the most famous and sought-after talk show hosts in the Philippines. And third, they announced the re-opening of Astoria Boracay. Located in the world-famous Boracay Island, with its fine white sand beaches, in the province of Aklan, the resort used to be known as Boracay Gold Crowne. The Astoria group acquired the resort in 2008, extensively renovated it, and the new rooms and facilities will be available this April, just in time for summer. In the photo are Astoria Plaza Hotel Manager Ping Regalado, Boy Abunda and Vice President for Operations Vivian Ng.

Ping Regalado, Boy Abunda and Vivian Ng with Astoria's new logo

For attending the event, the guests—tri-media practitioners and bloggers, all—were given laptop bags and made official members of Astoria's First Club, which means that we will be invited to anything new that Astoria has to offer (more photos for me—whee!). And the best surprise of all, we were also invited to stay at the new Astoria Boracay for three days and two nights—double whee! Would you believe we've never been to Boracay? I know, pathetic. So we are definitely looking forward to the trip later in the year. I'm already so excited! I wonder if the resort will have chairs as unusual and lovely as these ones in Astoria Plaza's lobby…

unusual chairs at the lobby of Astoria Plaza

March 14, 2010

Third generation

The history of the St. John the Baptist Parish Church dates back to 1894 when the Spanish Vice-Royal Patron of the Philippines issued a Royal Decree establishing the parish of San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist). In 1896, the church was designed and constructed by architect Luis Arellano. It was damaged during the Philippine-American War at the turn of the 20th century but was restored soon after. In 1951, the church was expanded under the direction of architect Otilio Arellano, a grandson of Luis, who kept the original nave and facade. Most Manila residents know the church better as Pinaglabanan Church, after the street in San Juan City where it is located. The two figures flanking the doorway are San Pedro (Saint Peter) and San Pablo (Saint Paul).

Pinaglabanan Church

March 13, 2010

Historical tour

The tram-bus used for tours in the historic walled city of Intramuros recalls the days when the city had a tranvia system. During the Spanish era, the street railway cars were horse drawn and operated by the Madrid-based Compañía de los Tranvías de Filipinas. Then in 1905, during the American era, it was turned into an electric street tramway system operated by the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company. This tram-bus was parked inside the Puerta de Santa Lucia (gate of Saint Lucy), one of the original entrances to the walled city. Built in 1603, the gate was destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945 and restored only in 1982. Reflected in the rear window is one of many new buildings in Intramuros built using Spanish architectural designs popular in Manila during the 18th and 19th centuries.

tram-bus in Intramuros

See what's reflecting what at James' Weekend Reflections.
Weekend Reflections

March 12, 2010

Bright and sunny

Sometimes, I walk out of our house and see this sunny yellow Volkswagen Beetle parked near our pedestrian gate. It probably belongs to a friend or relative of our neighbor because I don't see it everyday. It looks quite well maintained though I've noticed a few rusty spots in its trim, especially on its 'eyelids.' It's such a bright and cheerful spot of color on our black asphalt street that it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle

March 11, 2010

White and blue

THEME DAY: THE TENIN TECHNIQUE • I've posted quite a lot of photos of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù but, until today, never of its side—with air vents rather than regular windows. The angled passageway leads to the corridor just outside the front of the church. Kneeling on a tree root under a large acacia tree to take this photo, you also get a bonus: seeing how dry and brown the crabgrass of our campus gets during the summer months.

view of the side of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù

Today, the City Daily Photo blogging community pays tribute to Eric Tenin of Paris Daily Photo. Five years ago today, Eric started his one-a-day photo blog of Paris. He has never missed a single day and he has inspired many people from all over the world to create daily photo blogs of their own cities, fostering friendship and understanding along the way. Eric has become known in the community for his low angles and skewed compositions, and our imitation of his style today is our way of celebrating and thanking a wonderful person and a great blog. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.

March 10, 2010


When I posted photos of the lovely suite that we stayed in at the Sofitel Manila over the Valentine weekend, I mentioned that the rooms were just the start of a fantasy. The pampering continued with an evening appointment at the hotel's luxurious Le Spa. This photo of the spa's lobby was taken from the reception desk, looking out towards the corridor.

lobby of Sofitel Manila's Le Spa

We were a few minutes early for our appointment, so my husband and I were led to the wonderfully scented and relaxing waiting room…

waiting room of Sofitel Manila's Le Spa

where we were served sweet fruit tea in a black iron pot, with warm moist towels to wipe our hands.

tea served at the waiting room of Sofitel Manila's Le Spa

When our spa room was ready, we were led up a stairway. You may have noticed by now that I have a fascination with lighting fixtures, and I just loved the pattern created by the bamboo shades on the landing.

bamboo lighting fixtures at the stairwell of Sofitel Manila's Le Spa

The stairs led to a smaller lobby on the second floor, where all the spa rooms are located. You can see the open doorway of one on the right.

second floor lobby of Sofitel Manila's Le Spa

The dimly lit couple's room has a large bath strewn with rose petals overlooking the hotel's gardens and lagoon-shaped pool.

couple's massage room of Sofitel Manila's Le Spa

The pressure used by my masseuse was just right for me, but my husband says that he would have preferred a heavier and more vigorous treatment.

March 9, 2010

Triangle North of Manila

Ayala Land, the company that developed the beautiful Anvaya Cove, also has several malls in Metro Manila and in other urban centers all over the Philippines. In general, their malls are the loveliest and most architecturally interesting in the metro, as we've already seen with Greenbelt 4 and Greenbelt 5 in Makati City. TriNoma is their first mall in Quezon City and though I've already featured one of its fountains and the island Starbucks at its rooftop, this is the first time I managed to get a photo of its curved facade at the corner of Mindanao and North Avenues. I took this on a weekday two hours before the mall opened and the hordes of people usually found at this entrance haven't arrived yet.

curved facade of TriNoma mall

March 8, 2010

Story time!

The Filipino sarsuwela is a dramatic form that is rooted in the 19th century Spanish sainete, a comic skit with music, and zarzuela, a play that alternates song and dance with dramatic prose. Its typical theme is romantic love and "Walang Sugat" (no wound or not wounded), the play that I mentioned last month, features the problematic love between Julia (Laura Cabochan) and Tenyong (Arman Ferrer), who have been friends since childhood.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Julia and Tenyong

The sarsuwela typically incorporates commentary on the social, political and economic issues current at the time of its writing or performance. When Tenyong's father is arrested by the Spanish army as a rebel and dies in jail after being tortured at the order of the friars, Tenyong decides to join the revolutionary army to avenge his death.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - the death of Kapitan Inggo

Julia's widowed mother does not approve of her daughter's relationship with Tenyong. She has higher hopes for Julia, wanting her to marry Miguel, a rich but stupid nephew of the parish priest. While Tenyong is away, the mother pressures Julia to accept Miguel's proposal of marriage.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Miguel courting Julia

The sarsuwela usually features more than one pair of lovers. The secondary pair is typically the earthier and more comic relationship, compared to the main couple's loftier and purer love. In "Walang Sugat," the lusty and comic foil is provided by Lucas (AJ Constantino), Tenyong's manservant, and Monica (Delphine Buencamino), Julia's maid.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Lucas and Monica

Miguel's father (Mike Coroza), is a widower, and one scene shows him courting Julia's widowed mother (Sonia Roco), trying to convince her that they can still experience love and companionship in their old age.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Julia's mother and Miguel's father

When Julia receives a letter from Tenyong's general that her lover has died fighting, she finally says yes to marrying Miguel. On the day of the wedding, a heavily bandaged Tenyong is wheeled in on a cart. He is pronounced by a medic to be on the brink of death and the parish priest is called to hear his last confession. Tenyong announces his dying wish: to be married to Julia before he dies. Thinking that Julia will be widowed immediately and that her marriage to Miguel will still push through, Julia's mother and Miguel's father agree.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Tenyong dying at the church

I think you can guess what happens after the wedding ceremony: Tenyong jumps up from the cart, walang sugat! And during the final dance, the director Ricky Abad makes one grand gesture that would not have been out of place during a performance more than one hundred years ago: the church's facade opens up into a sunburst containing the words of the Malolos Constitution, which established the First Philippine Republic.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - the finale, Julia and Tenyong with the declaration of independence

The wonderfully quirky, cartoon-y set, which emphasizes the lighthearted and comic aspect of the sarsuwela rather than its political and social commentary, was designed by Philippine National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal, faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University's Fine Arts Program.