December 31, 2011

Simple blessings

Catharanthus roseus
Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) grows in our garden all year round with absolutely no effort on our part. White is more common but we get pink ones like this every now and then.

Wishing you all a beautiful and peaceful 2012.

December 30, 2011


handwoven coin purses from Bicol
Colorful coin purses made of handwoven fabric from the Bicol Region. Selling in the streets of Manila for six pieces for one hundred pesos—about 38 U.S. cents per piece, or less than five dollars for the dozen in this picture.

December 28, 2011


ornate mirror at Café Ysabel
The ornate mirror, ceiling and angel sconces at Café Ysabel in the City of San Juan. Unfortunately, the effect is a bit marred for me by the presence of the flanking speakers and large airconditioning units.

December 27, 2011

Not under

Honda Cars Philippines showroom
Instead of a gadget that can fit in your pocket, how about a Christmas gift that can fit you inside it? The Christmas tree itself will fit inside some of them.

At the Quezon Avenue showroom of Honda Cars Philippines.

December 26, 2011

For your white and blue

blue and white parol hanging from the cupola of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù
Blue and white parol hanging from the cupola of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù. The title is a line from the alma mater song of the Ateneo de Manila University, whose school color is blue.

December 25, 2011

O holy night!

The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
~John Sullivan Dwight

our Christmas tree
May your homes shine with the light of the Star of Bethlehem and your hearts be filled with the joy that the birth of our Savior brings.

Christmas Blessings

Exie & Hilda

December 24, 2011


Nativity scene at the Ateneo Church of the Gesù
The belen, or nativity scene, in the Ateneo Church of the Gesù. It looks like Jesus will be born in the woods this year.

December 23, 2011

Under the Christmas tree

small Christmas tree and Apple logo at Liteware Computers
A new toy for Christmas, anyone?

Liteware Computers is an authorized Apple seller and service center, and is housed in two small converted apartment units along Kamias Road in Quezon City—a rather noisy and dingy area full of tiny shops selling hardware and automotive supplies. However, it offers some of the best prices for Apple products in Metro Manila. I guess their overhead costs are not as high as those big and fancy Apple stores located in high-end shopping centers.

December 22, 2011

The carol of the winds

Banda Zapat performing in front of the Ateneo Church of the Gesu on the first day of Simbanggabi
Simbang Gabi (night mass) or Misa de Gallo (Spanish, which literally translates to rooster's mass and means dawn mass), is a traditional novena of masses before Christmas that many Filipino Catholics practice. Among Catholics, a novena is a nine-day devotion to obtain special graces. Simbang Gabi at the Ateneo Church of the Gesù started on December 15 with a performance of Filipino and foreign Christmas carols by the Banda Zabat brass band a few hours before the evening mass. Banda Zapat comes from Gapan City in the province of Nueva Ecija, 92 kilometers away.

December 21, 2011

A most welcoming host

tree with different plants growing on its branches
I like how some people grow plants on the branches of trees. The trees don't seem to suffer for the presence of their guests and the variety of leaf shapes make everything even more interesting. Just don't ask me what tree or plants they are, okay? :)

December 20, 2011

Silver snakes

extensible exhaust tubes at Ye Dang Korean Restaurant
It took me some time to realize what these silver tubes hanging from the ceiling of Ye Dang Korean BBQ Restaurant were. I'd never seen extensible exhaust tubes before. Necessary in a restaurant where the barbecue is grilled at your table.

December 19, 2011

Sun and rain

looming storm clouds and a golden sunset
I guess this photo is a good summary of the kind of weather we have in the Philippines—sun and rain, that's it. It's just a matter of degree.

The Mindanao cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, and smaller towns around them, have been devastated by floods caused by Typhoon Sendong (international code: Washi) and the death toll is now more than 500. If you can spare a little, please help the 8000 families who have been affected by the floods. The most convenient way to donate is online through the Philippine Red Cross' website but if you want to know about other options, please leave a comment and I will try to give you more information. Thank you.

December 18, 2011

For the greater glory of God

Loyola House of Studies
The Loyola House of Studies is the home of Philippine Jesuits-in-training (through their Juniorate, Philosophy, Theology, and Tertianship years), and their faculty and formators. This iconic facade of the building, which was built in 1965, overlooks the Marikina Valley.

December 17, 2011

欢迎 | Welcome

entrance of the Chinese Garden at the Rizal Park
The arch over the entrance to the Chinese Garden of the Rizal Park. If anyone knows what those four characters mean, I'd appreciate a little language lesson.

December 16, 2011

December 15, 2011

Tiny cheeseburger

The Goose Station's French macaroon 'cheeseburger'
The Goose Station's playful French macaroon (bun) with chocolate ganache (patty), candied fruit (cheese) and mint (lettuce).

December 14, 2011

Hidden in plain sight

Uy-Chaco Building in Binondo, Manila
Because of the district's hustle and bustle, and the inadequacy of Philippine rules about building signs, it is easy to miss the pre-war architectural gems of Binondo, Manila's Chinatown. The Uy-Chaco Building, which houses the Binondo branch of Philtrust Bank, stands right behind the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch. I've featured the arch in the past, but it wasn't until several years later—and a relatively long wait for the people I was meeting with—that I noticed the building. Information about it on the web is contradictory; it was either built in 1914 and designed by Samuel C. Rowell or built in 1930 and designed by Andres Luna de San Pedro.

December 13, 2011

December 11, 2011

To stay together

rosary made of parol at the East Asian Pastoral Institute
A rosary made up of Christmas parol surrounds a Filipino family praying together in a nipa hut, at the lawn in front of the East Asian Pastoral Institute.

December 10, 2011

Death by trampling

wooden relief at the top of Fort Santiago's main entrance
The wooden relief at the top of the 16th century main entrance of Fort Santiago in Intramuros depicts four natives being trampled under the hooves of a Spanish conquistador's horse.

December 8, 2011


upper-middle class houses in Quezon City
Modern, upper-middle class houses in Quezon City typically stand on 200 to 300 square meter lots with hardly any room for a garden.

December 7, 2011


U-turn along Katipunan Avenue
In an effort to ease the flow of the metro's badly congested traffic, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) decided to close off most national roads' intersections and put U-turn slots instead. Their positioning are trial-and-error experiments, so the MMDA has to use non-permanent and moveable road barriers. Looks like someone tried making a U-turn from an outer lane and is being issued a ticket.

December 6, 2011

After the party

late night at RE BLUE TION
Ateneo de Manila University's school color is blue and the Class of 1986 graduated right after the People Power Revolution, hence the name of this year's grand alumni homecoming: RE BLUE TION.

December 4, 2011

Portugal, Italy, Philippines

Santuario de San Antonio
Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati City, is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Franciscan friar who died in Italy.

December 3, 2011


taxi driver in a 'Burberry' jacket
No taxi driver in the Philippines can ever afford a real Burberry jacket on what they earn.

December 2, 2011

Black on silver

photographer David Fabros at work
At the party celebrating the silver anniversary of Ateneo de Manila College Class of 1986, professional photographer David Fabros—a member of the class—took portraits of lucky early blackbirds gratis.

December 1, 2011

And life goes on

at the bottom of the pedestrian overpass on the North side of Philcoa
A typical scene near major public transportation hubs in Metro Manila, with jeepneys, vendors, graffiti and glued-on announcements on footbridge pillars, thick and tangled utility cables, and people texting.

June 20, 2011


Of all the mementos and historical artifacts in the "Rizal in Ateneo, Ateneo in Rizal" exhibit (see yesterday's post), this small, unassuming alcohol burner caught my fancy the most. The day before his execution on December 30, 1896, Jose Rizal was visited in prison by his mother, sisters and nephews and he whispered to his sister Trinidad that there was something hidden inside the burner. When it was given to his family, they discovered a folded piece of paper on which a poem was handwritten by Rizal. Untitled and unsigned, it is known popularly as "Mi Ultimo Adios" (My Last Farewell). The images in the background are of a replica of Rizal's prison cell inside the Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago, Intramuros. The alcohol burner is on loan to the Ateneo Art Gallery from the family of Estanislao Herbosa, a nephew of Jose Rizal from his sister Lucia.

alcohol burner where Jose Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios was found

For those interested in reading the poem, here are a few links:

June 19, 2011

Happy birthday, Pepe

Today is the 150th birth anniversary of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal, and Filipinos all over the world are celebrating it, not just today but throughout the year. Rizal studied in the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, which is now the Ateneo de Manila University, and the school will be commemorating his life and works with exhibits, lectures, books and performances until December. These activities were launched last Friday with the opening of the "Rizal in Ateneo, Ateneo in Rizal" exhibit at the Ateneo Art Gallery curated by foremost Rizal scholar and historian Dr. Ambeth R. Ocampo. This 1930 bust of Jose Rizal at the entrance of the exhibit is by Philippine National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino and the background is an image of the ornate entrance of the old Ateneo in Intramuros.

Rizal in Ateneo, Ateneo in Rizal exhibit at the Ateneo Art Gallery

June 17, 2011

The best medicine

PETA Theater's "Care Divas" ran from February to March of this year, but it proved to be so popular, it extended to April and is being performed again this June and July. It is a musical comedy about five transvestite Filipino overseas workers in Israel at the time of the Intifada (not specified, but I assume it was the second). During the day, they are caregivers for elderly Jews, but at night, they metamorphose into fully made-up, high-heeled drag queen club singers. The themes that the play explores include migration, homelessness, relationships, alienation and identity—in the most melodramatic, outrageous, hilarious, loud and bittersweet manner. Just the way most Filipinos like their storytelling.

Care Divas actors with fans at the PETA theater lobby
This was the scene at the theater lobby after the play. It was the first time I saw theater actors here mobbed like they were rock stars!

June 16, 2011

Food trip

My last post about our short vacation in Baguio City is about the one thing that many Filipinos consider essential to a good vacation, wherever it may be: food. And Baguio has a plethora of places to eat, from tiny eateries along busy roads to elegant and romantic restaurants, any of which might offer regional or international cuisine. So here are some of the places where we ate; but no photos of the food—fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view. :)

Our room at Casa Vallejo came with breakfast for two at their Hill Station restaurant everyday. We just had to have dinner there once too; their specialty dishes are all slow-cooked.

Hill Station restaurant at Casa Vallejo in Baguio City

PNKY Travel Café is owned by a family that loves to travel. The menu is very international but the recipes have all been tweaked to take advantage of Baguio's wonderfully fresh vegetables and fruits.

PNKY Travel Café in Baguio City

Forest House Bistro and Café: warm interiors, elegant place settings, a beautiful mountain view, and absolutely gorgeous salads.

Forest House Bistro and Café in Baguio City

There is nothing fancy about Vizco's Restaurant and Cake Shop, which is located on Session Road, Baguio's central and busiest thoroughfare. Just good, solid and inexpensive pasta and pizza, and lots of cakes. The restaurant itself is small, but they seem to be one of the most popular caterers in the city.

Vizco's Restaurant and Cake Shop in Baguio City

The dishes of Café by the Ruins are chosen to feature some of the best natural ingredients of the region but that does not necessarily mean that the recipes themselves are regional, though some are. It also has a lot of vegetarian options, which I think has to do with the fact that many of its regular clientele are artists and writers.

Café by the Ruins in Baguio City

June 15, 2011

Oh, the indignity!

Early one morning in the little plaza in front of the Baguio City branch of Barrio Fiesta restaurant.

figurines being arranged in front of Kamayan restaurant in Baguio City

June 14, 2011

Big tent

Not that we approve of it, but my friends and I agree that their mall in Baguio City must be the best-looking of all the SM malls that we've seen. The ones in Metro Manila (and in most other Philippine cities) look like gigantic concrete bunkers with a little glass thrown in. We figure it's all because of the full-length balcony and the tent-like roof.

SM City Baguio

June 13, 2011

Mountain life

Tam-awan Village in Baguio City is a replica of small Igorot village for people who have not and cannot travel into the interior of the Cordillera mountains.

Tam-awan Village in Baguio City

Some of the huts in Tam-awan Village are not reconstructions though. A few are original Ifugao and Kalinga huts from the 1920s and 1950s which were transported and reconstructed on the site. In keeping with the beliefs of the Cordillera tribes, at least one bulol (rice god—see previous post) guards each of the huts.

hut with bulol in Tam-awan Village in Baguio City

The terrain of the lot where Tam-awan Village is located is also faithful to the mountainous locations of Cordillera tribal villages; so is its layout, which means walking up and down narrow mud and stone trails to get from one hut to another. Even with the support provided by intermittent bamboo rails, it is not easy when it has just rained and the short but steep trails are slippery.

steep, muddy trail in Tam-awan Village in Baguio City

Tam-awan Village has also become a center for contemporary Cordillera art, with exhibits all year round and art workshops which, like the village, help foster an understanding and appreciation of the Cordillera culture and heritage. A few of the huts are used as galleries and many artwork are also displayed in the café.

café in Tam-awan Village in Baguio City

I liked many of the artwork displayed in Tam-awan Village's galleries, but what really caught my eye were these two moss-covered stone bulol in front of the café. I especially like the fertility goddess with a plant growing on her head.

two moss-covered stone bulol in Tam-awan Village in Baguio City

June 9, 2011

Inculturation | Interpretation

The BenCab Museum just outside Baguio City is a treasure trove of sculptures and carved functional objects from the tribes who call the Cordillera mountains home, and of Filipino contemporary art, many of which feature traditional symbols and elements from those same tribes, which are collectively called the Igorot. One of the most prevalent and powerful symbols among the objects and artwork in the museum is that of the bulol, the rice gods. Despite the difficulties that the highland terrain impose, the lives of the Cordillera communities center around rice cultivation (five of the region's 2000-year-old rice terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Rituals and sacrifices to the bulol were made to ensure abundant harvests and protection from natural calamities. The antique hardwood bench below has two bulol carved on the backrest. The artwork displayed above it is Leonard Aguinaldo's "Bulol Mandala" (rubbercut, 2002, 91 x 91 cm).

Ifugao bench with bulol and Leonard Aguinaldo's Bulol Mandala at the BenCab Museum

June 7, 2011

Artist's paradise

Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera, BenCab, settled in Baguio City in 1986 after living in London since 1969. His current home and studio is located a few kilometers away from the city, in the town of Tuba.

the home of BenCab

Beside his home is the BenCab Museum, a repository of the artist's varied collections, with one floor dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art by emerging Filipino artists.

the BenCab Museum

BenCab's house and museum are located on the slopes of a ridge, at the bottom of which is a rocky stream, which he has harnessed to naturally water his garden and organic farm, and even to create a pond. Benguet's elevation, the stream and the ridge collude to create a perpetual fog in the area, and the sound of running water is the perfect background for an artist creating and a mortal appreciating.

the garden and farm of BenCab