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

June 6, 2011

Baguio redux

It has been three years since my husband and I went up to Baguio City. Located in the Cordillera mountain range, it is known as the Philippines' summer capital because the American colonial government would move there during the summer months to escape Manila's heat. Casa Vallejo was Baguio's first hotel, though originally built as a dormitory for government workers. It survived Japanese bombing during WWII and the devastating 1990 earthquake, and after laying in disrepair for many years, it was finally restored and reborn as a boutique hotel—with a restaurant, bookshop and spa—last year.

Casa Vallejo in Baguio City

The main reason for the vacation was our 15th wedding anniversary on June 1. One of my husband's former students, who lives a few kilometers away in the town of La Trinidad, sent us a beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies which I arranged in a vase I borrowed from the hotel, wrapping it in the sinamay (woven abaca fibers) and ribbon that the flowers came in. They brightened up our room wonderfully and made our stay even more special. Thank you, Sari.

bouquet of roses and lilies from Sari

June 5, 2011

Open steps

If I studied in either Ateneo de Manila University or Miriam College and had to cross this footbridge everyday, I would never wear a skirt!

footbridge between Miriam College and Ateneo de Manila University

Bridges around the world: Sunday Bridges
Sunday Bridges

June 4, 2011


The lampposts at the Rizal Park have two decorations which are reminders of our colonial past: the kalesa of the Spanish era

kalesa decoration on a lamp post in Rizal Park

and the eagle of the American era.

eagle decoration on a lamp post in Rizal Park

June 3, 2011

Empty cups

Inside the Eastwood Mall branch of my favorite Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. We were the only ones without laptops.

people with laptops inside Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

June 2, 2011

Light show

The building across Eastwood Mall—which looks to be specially made for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies if the staff dining areas in the round tower are any indication—has multi-colored lights running horizontally across its entire facade.

colored lights on a BPO center in Eastwood
colored lights on a BPO center in Eastwood
colored lights on a BPO center in Eastwood

June 1, 2011

Land under construction

THEME DAY: UNDER CONSTRUCTION • The Cultural Center of the Philippines (including Sofitel Manila and Harbour Square which are in the same complex), SM Mall of Asia (currently the 4th largest mall in the world), and many of the luxury residential condominium buildings in Pasay City with fantastic views of Manila Bay and its gorgeous sunsets, all stand on land reclaimed from the sea. And it looks as if the sea is still trying to get some of it back.

reclaimed land in Pasay City

What is man constructing all over the world? Let City Daily Photo bloggers show you. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.