April 30, 2010


The roof detail of the curved facade of TriNoma mall in Quezon City against a clear blue mid-morning summer sky.

curved roof and wall of TriNoma mall

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

April 29, 2010


Capitol Hills Golf & Country Club is one of the most popular golf courses in Quezon City. It is located beside three of the richest residential subdivisions on this side of the city: Capitol Hills Subdivision, Ayala Heights and Ayala Hillside Estates. I can understand wanting to be near a golf course if one were a golf enthusiast, but choosing a lot within striking distance of a golf ball does not look like a very smart decision.

residences around the Capitol Hills Golf & Country Club

April 28, 2010

Porcelain and artillery

The San Diego was a 16th century galleon, a three-masted trading ship built in 1590 in the province of Cebu by Spanish, Chinese and Filipino shipbuilders. It used different kinds of Asian woods and was about 35–40 meters (115–130 feet) long, 12 meters (39 feet) wide and 8 meters (26 feet) high. It had at least four decks and could hold about 700 tons of cargo.

model of the 16th century galleon San Diego

In November of 1600, the San Diego was refitted by the Spanish colonial government to help fight Dutch corsairs who were preying on ships entering Manila harbor. The battle took place in December and resulted in a draw, with one Dutch ship, the Mauritius, catching fire, and the San Diego, which was still laden with cargo and overloaded with the added artillery and ammunition, sinking.

model of the 16th century galleon San Diego

Antonio de Morga, who led the Spanish fleet and survived to write about the attack in his book Sucesos de las islas Filipinas in 1609, only mentioned that the San Diego sank somewhere south of Manila Bay.

Antonio de Morga

It was not until 1991 that the San Diego wreck was discovered off the town of Nasugbu in the province of Batangas. In 1992, the galleon was excavated with the help of hundreds of people of different nationalities and the support of the Philippine, French, German, Spanish and American governments.

diorama of the San Diego underwater excavation

To date, the San Diego shipwreck is the Philippines' most important underwater archeological discovery. Of the more than 30,000 artifacts found in the shipwreck, 5,000 are now in the Museum of the Filipino People. The artifacts include Chinese porcelain, Japanese swords, European cannons, helmets and astrolabes, and Mexican coins. Understandably, the San Diego collection is one of the museum's most extensive and important exhibits.

some of the artifacts from the San Diego displayed in the National Museum of the Filipino People

April 27, 2010

Cash flow

The sari-sari store is a distinctly Filipino phenomenon. At least, I've never heard of any other country that has anything like it. Literally, the word sari-sari just means "variety" and they are variety stores, though in a limited way—they sell snacks, canned goods, toiletry products and stationery supplies from rooms and kiosks usually built into the owner's home. But what makes them different from convenience stores and supermarkets is the fact that you can buy everything by the piece—one piece of candy, one cigarette, one foil pack of crackers and, in this particular sari-sari store, one egg. We have a word for it: tingi. The closest English word I can think of is piecemeal. And it doesn't end there. You can't afford a 100-sheet pad of paper? You can just buy ten sheets. You just need a single serving of soy sauce, vinegar or cooking oil? They will pour out what you need from the bottle into a little plastic bag. At least, that's what they used to do when I was younger. Manufacturing companies have addressed the cash flow problem of the majority of Filipinos by packing liquid, cream and gel products into sachets, and they're all available in sari-sari stores too.

sari-sari store

Jacob dear, you once asked me in my Happy at Home blog if we have large refill bottles of liquid soap. Not in retail stores, unfortunately. As you can see, our products tend to go the other way, size-wise.

April 26, 2010

Nothing else

How important is food in the social life of Filipinos? When we say "restaurant row," we mean it literally. This is the restaurant side of the Greenhills Promenade in San Juan City, in the same complex as Metro Manila's most famous tiangge (bazaar).

restaurants at Greenhills Promenade

How time flies! April is almost done and I'm again reminding all CDP bloggers about our next theme day. The May 1 theme is Statues, and have you voted for the June theme already?

April 25, 2010

Le Français dans un barong Tagalog

Meet the gentleman behind the wonderful service of Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, its general manager Jan Michel Gautier. This Frenchman, who is always in a barong Tagalog, has lived in the Philippines with his family for twenty years, though his expertise in the hotel and restaurant industry takes him all over the world. Michel must really love sunsets. He works in an island with beautiful sunsets over Tayabas Bay; in Manila, his home is on Roxas Boulevard, right beside Manila Bay with the best sunset views in the entire metro.

Jan Michel Gautier

April 24, 2010

Bellarocca: That special touch

As I mentioned yesterday, meals are not always served in the main dining room of Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa. Once while we were there, breakfast was served in the seaside pavilion. On our second night, many of the guests were treated to dinner on the beach.

dinner on the beach at Bellarocca Island Resort

But for couples, ahhh! The resort management and staff take extra pains to make their visit one of the most romantic that they will ever experience, setting up candlelight dinners for two in one of the resort's many private and scenic spots. On our first night, our dinner was in the small cabana beside the infinity pool (photo three in my Water, earth & sky post). On our third night, we were served dinner on a small patio on the second floor of the main clubhouse. I don't have photos of ours, but we saw this set-up for another couple on the roof deck of the marina when we went there to watch the sunset.

dinner for two on the marina's roof deck at Bellarocca Island Resort

You know those guest information cards that hotels ask you to fill up the first time you check in? After our dinner on the 'secret' patio, Jan Michel Gautier and some of his management team came out to greet me a happy birthday with this specially-baked chocolate cake. It was still the 17th, but Michel said that he didn't want to wake us up at midnight.

my birthday cake at Bellarocca Island Resort

As if that wasn't enough, when we went back to our room we discovered another birthday greeting on our turned down bed, written in flowers rather than chocolate icing. And just to emphasize how the resort staff think of every little detail, they first placed a tablecloth on the comforter before laying down the flowers and petals—no plant debris on the pristine bedsheets. And that little package near the pillows? Every female guest went home with a natural canvas Bellarocca tote.

a floral birthday greeting on our bed at Bellarocca Island Resort

I hope you enjoyed my Bellarocca series. I still have tons of pictures of the resort and of Marinduque but I think I better go back to posting photos of Metro Manila before Eric throws me out of CDP. If you feel disappointed about that, just imagine how we felt when we had to come back home! BELLAROCCA SERIES #6

April 23, 2010

Bellarocca: Body & soul

Aside from swimming and golf, what else is there to do at Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa? Aqua sports, of course. You've already seen the kayaks on the beach in my Water, earth & sky post the other day. You can also choose to go snorkeling or windsurfing, and the aqua sports center also has jet skis and aqua scooters.

the aqua sports center, seaside pavilion, guardhouse and terraza at Bellarocca Island ResortBecause of the unusual mix of clouds here, this photo is especially for Sky Watch Friday.

You can take the hobie cat out for a sail, like the three women out there in the distance. If you choose water skiing or a banana boat, you'll be towed by one of these boats in the marina.

the marina at Bellarocca Island Resort

If peace and quiet is what you crave, Bellarocca has a meditation sanctuary, which is also where wedding ceremonies at the resort are usually held.

the meditation sanctuary at Bellarocca Island Resort

The main spa of Bellarocca is still being constructed, but I think that it cannot beat the location of the remote spa. It is set on one of the highest points of the island and the view is magnificent. Of course, to appreciate the view you have to be able to stay awake during a relaxing massage. Can you?

hilltop remote spa at Bellarocca Island Resort

One of the best experiences at Bellarocca: the dining. The food is excellent. As usual, we found the serving sizes too big for us, especially since we enjoy having more than just one course; the staff were kind enough to split all the dishes for us, which we really appreciated. I love these wooden arches at the entrance of the main dining room, though we didn't have all our meals here. Tomorrow, my last Bellarocca post, I will show you where some of our meals were served.

main dining room at Bellarocca Island Resort

Of course, Bellarocca also has more sedate indoor activities; it has a library and a lovely billiard table, and every room is equipped with internet access and a home theater system. But who wants to stay indoors on an island resort this gorgeous? BELLAROCCA SERIES #5

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

April 22, 2010

Bellarocca: Mediterranean dream

All the buildings of Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa are built in a distinctive Mediterranean style and guests have different options for their accommodations. The most luxurious are the garden and cliff villas, which have one and two bedroom versions. Each villa has a living room, kitchen and dining room, a veranda (for garden villas) or balcony (for cliff villas), and an outdoor deck with a private pool and jacuzzi. The villas are perfect for those who want a truly private vacation.

a villa at Bellarocca Island Resort

The two bedroom terrazas, built as duplexes, are all located on the ridges of the island and have the best views of Mt. Malindig. They have the same features as the villas, the only difference being that terrazas do not have private pools and spas.

cliffside terrazas at Bellarocca Island Resort

I think that this particular cliffside terraza has the best location of them all, being on the northwestern tip of the island, with a magnificent view of the sun setting over the ocean while retaining its view of Mt. Malindig.

cliffside casa at Bellarocca Island Resort

Currently being finished are the garden-view casas, which have one to three bedrooms. They are scheduled to be available to guests by the end of this year.

casas at Bellarocca Island Resort

Last, but definitely not the least, are the hotel rooms. Adjoining the main clubhouse of the resort, the hotel offers standard rooms, junior suites and suites. I say "definitely not the least" for the hotel rooms are every bit as luxurious as the bedrooms of the villas, terrazas and casas; they just don't have living and dining rooms, though the suites do have sitting areas. There is also a lovely lap pool at the hotel if you don't feel like taking a golf cart down to the seaside pavilion and infinity pool.

lap pool and hotel rooms at Bellarocca Island Resort

I said at the beginning that the one and two bedroom villas are the most luxurious accommodations at Bellarocca. That is true only as of now. In a few more weeks, the three bedroom residential villa will be finished and that will be the most luxurious of them all: a wooden outdoor deck with patio furniture, pool and spa; three huge bedrooms with home theater systems and bathrooms with whirlpool baths; two large living rooms, one on each floor, with sleek modern couches and home theater systems; a full kitchen; and a roof deck with magnificent views on all sides.

the three bedroom residential villa at Bellarocca Island Resort

Our accommodations at Bellarocca were for a standard hotel room, for which we had a gift certificate; it was part of my prize for winning second place in a contest last year, and I would like to thank JM Zozobrado for inviting me to join that contest. My husband and I were the only guests to arrive last Thursday (we purposely schedule our vacations for the middle of the week because there are always fewer people) and Bellarocca's general manager, Monsieur Jan Michel Gautier, upgraded our room to a junior suite, so I would also like to thank him—for the room and for many other things which I will still write about. I also owe a debt of gratitude to John Tanjangco, whom I have never met or even talked to; he knows what for. Thank you, John, and bless you. BELLAROCCA SERIES #4

April 21, 2010

Bellarocca: Water, earth & sky

Because Bellarocca Island is a rock, the beach is quite small and the shoreline's incline is steep. The rough coral and rocks which the beach is composed of make me suspect that the island is young too, geologically speaking; the water has not had time to grind the pieces into fine powder. It's not very comfortable for bare feet, but I commend the resort management for not importing fine sand from other islands, a practice quite common among more environmentally-insensitive beach resorts in the Philippines.

the beach at Bellarocca Island Resort

When the tide is high, which is most of the day, the sea flows onto the lower steps of the stone stairs which lead from the seaside pavilion to the beach.

sea water flowing onto stairs during high tide at Bellarocca Island Resort

I love the beach and I'm a pretty good swimmer, but I have to confess that I have a great fear of being bodily in deep ocean water (I'm perfectly fine in boats), which means that I spent most of our water time in Bellarocca's infinity pool. I love how its deep blue tiles match the color of the deep sea, though it did make my heart race the first time I saw it. Quite deceiving really, since the deepest part of the pool is only four feet (1.2 meters).

the infinity pool of Bellarocca Island Resort

This was my favorite poolside deck chair. I love the canopy and the chair can be swiveled to face either the pool or the ocean.

poolside deck chair at Bellarocca Island Resort

Mount Malindig on the main island of Marinduque dominates the view both from the pool and the beach. It is a potentially active volcano and its last eruption, whenever that was, is evident throughout the land trip, with large boulders made of volcanic rock strewn by the roadside. Bellarocca Resort maintains a 9-hole golf course at Malindig's foot—that little white dot is the clubhouse. I think that the volcano's deep rifts and craggy top make for a fascinating study. BELLAROCCA SERIES #3

Mount Malindig as seen from Bellarocca Island Resort

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

April 20, 2010

Bellarocca: Getting there

By air. This is our Seair LET L-410 Turbolet 19-seater plane at the gravel runway of the Marinduque airport. Aside from Seair, the only other local airline with flights from Manila to Marinduque, which only takes half an hour, is ZestAir.

Seair LET 410 at the gravel runway of the Marinduque airport

By land. A customer relations staff of Bellaroca meets guests at the airport with cold drinking water and cold towels. A van will take you through two Marinduque towns, Gasan and Buenavista, to the dock closest to the island. The 45-minute trip over concrete, asphalt and gravel roads will give you views of small towns and tiny fishing and farming villages typical of rural Philippines.

a small town in Marinduque through a van's windshield

By sea. A five-minute ride in one of the resort's motorized rubber boats brings guests from the dock (yes, this is it) to the island. The bangka (an outrigger canoe with a motor) at the end of the dock is used by resort staff who commute daily from Marinduque.

Bellarocca's rubber boat

Welcome to Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa!

Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa seen from the rubber boat

Oh, and if you'd rather come in a charter or private helicopter, the resort has its own helipad. I believe they can provide docking services for private yachts too. BELLAROCCA SERIES #2

April 19, 2010

Beautiful rock

This is where my husband and I were 'marooned' during the past four days: the gorgeous Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa. The resort opened only in 2009 and is perched on a tiny, rocky island off the bigger island of Marinduque, a province south of Manila located between Tayabas Bay and the Sibuyan Sea. This photo hardly does Bellarocca justice but it is my only photo of the whole island. However, I did take lots of pictures at the resort, so we will be spending the next few days there. BELLAROCCA SERIES #1

Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa

Thank you to all those who still visited and left comments on my blog during the days that we were away. I also hope that all our blogger friends in Europe are home safe and sound. The resort had no newspapers and we do not watch TV, and though it has internet connection, we didn't bring a laptop so I only got to read about Eyjafjallajokull when we got back.

April 18, 2010

Sweet treats

Today, I decided to share with you a couple of the pastries that we brought home from Sofitel Manila's Galette Patisserie & Chocolaterie: an exotic fruit tart with berries, grapes, pineapple, mango and dragon fruit

exotic fruit tart from Galette Patisserie & Chocolaterie

and a strawberry and chocolate mousse with white and dark chocolate leaves (which I think look like lopsided bunny ears)…

strawberry and chocolate mousse from Galette Patisserie & Chocolaterie

just because today's my birthday. :)

April 17, 2010

Behind bars

The Door by Conrado Mercado, aluminum and brass relief, 152 x 203 cm, 1973. Even back in my college days, this was one of my favorite social realist pieces from the Ateneo Art Gallery. Very powerful. And painful.

The Door by Conrado Mercado

April 16, 2010

Big business

Skin whitening products are big business in the Philippines. Except for those with strong Chinese or Spanish blood, most Filipinos are medium brown (kayumanggi) to dark brown (moreno). Needless to say, many Filipino women are not happy with that fact and go through great pains and expense to lighten their skin tone. In fact, we're the only country I know of that advertises glutathione as a skin whitener rather than an antioxidant or detoxifier. The neighboring Laneíge (South Korean) and Shiseido (Japanese) stores in Trinoma caught my eye because their most prominent window displays are for skin whiteners.

Laneìge shop in Trinoma

Shiseido shop in Trinoma

I find it especially ironic because the tourists who come to our many beautiful beaches spend hours and days sunbathing trying to get the darkest tan that they can get.

April 15, 2010

The palace of the governor

The Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros is a 1978 reconstruction of the 17th century Spanish Governor-General's residence and office. The original building collapsed in the devastating June 3, 1863 Manila earthquake and was abandoned when the Governor-General moved to Malacañang Palace. Currently, the Palacio del Gobernador houses some government offices and is the home of the Intramuros Administration.

Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros

April 14, 2010

In our neighborhood

This is a typical section of our village's main road and shows well the wide mix of residents in our barangay. On the left is a big house, probably with no garden at all because the house takes up the entire lot; the house isn't new but it is very well maintained. Next is a smaller house almost hidden by the repair shop on one side and a profusion of plants on the other; the owner of the house either owns the repair shop or leases out the space for extra income. On the right is a bakery, which also sells softdrinks and other snacks; no fancy pastries and cakes here—just soft buns of different kinds: plain, buttered and sugared, or flavored with ube or chocolate. Our main road is supposed to have four lanes but as you can see, the businesses have staked out parking spaces from the outer lanes.

a small section of Maginhawa Street

April 13, 2010

Broccoli trees

Walking around the perimeter of Timberland Sports and Nature Club (see yesterday's post), an office mate pointed out these trees on the slope of the next hill. Since it is the middle of summer in the Philippines, most of our grasses and plants are brown, pale, thin, dry or downright bald, so these trees are striking for their lush, bright green leaves. They were too far to identify with any certainty, but another office mate said that they looked like broccoli and thus were they christened.

trees that look like broccoli from afar

Kidding aside, my guess is that they're mango trees.

April 12, 2010

Lazy day with a view

For our office's annual summer outing, we spent one day in Timberland Sports and Nature Club in the town of San Mateo in the province of Rizal. It is on one of the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range and has a spectacular view of Metro Manila.

outdoor dining area of Timberland Sports and Nature Club with a view of Metro Manila

Timberland is a members-only club and is 45 minutes away from Quezon City. It has a wide range of sports and leisure facilities and except for a few small details, it seems that the developers have remained true to their vision as presented in the scale model.

scale model of Timberland Sports and Nature Club

Can you locate where this garden is in the model?

garden between two wings of Timberland Sports and Nature Club

I'm sorry I don't have more photos of the club, but it's as my title says: I decided to indulge my lazy side that day. Swimming pool, whirlpool bath, steam bath, sauna—and my camera isn't waterproof.

April 11, 2010

The resurrection and the life

This hopeful image of the resurrected Christ greets visitors and mourners at the entrance of the crypt of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in New Manila, Quezon City. The odd lighting pattern comes from the fact that the columbarium is in the basement of the church and fluorescent tubes had to be installed behind the panels. Nevertheless, I think that the stained glass is beautiful.

stained glass panels at the crypt of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church