December 31, 2012

Let there be light!

abaca fiber lamp In a few more hours, I will be looking at more lights than this single abaca fiber lamp at Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge.

Have a fantastic New Year's Eve!

December 30, 2012


Back in November, I posted a photo of the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. This is the reason why a lighthouse is needed in the area—nothing but cliffs and rocks all along the coast.
 cliffs and rocks along the coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte cliffs and rocks along the coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte cliffs and rocks along the coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte Well, okay, goats too. The rocks are hazardous to ships, and the goats are hazardous to drivers. The local government of Burgos ought to put goat crossing signs in their stretch of the Pan-Philippine Highway.

December 29, 2012

Bene, good, 좋은, masarap!

facade of Caffé Bene at Eastwood City Caffé Bene, a Korean coffee shop chain, is now in the Philippines. So far, they only have one branch, located at Eastwood City. I only had a sip of it, but their Misugaru Latte, a roasted multi-grain drink, is really good. I want to go back soon for a full mug, when I'm not so full from a leisurely lunch with friends—their enormous honey bread concoctions also looked very tempting.
 Weekend Reflections

December 28, 2012

The whole hog

Inside Glory Hogs restaurant (see yesterday's post) is a wooden silhouette of pork cuts with identifying numbers… pork cuts sign at Glory Hogs restaurant 
whose corresponding prices are listed on a chalkboard beside it. You choose which cut you want but you can't choose how it is cooked. And their basic method of cooking: fried. pork cuts price list at Glory Hogs restaurant 
To be honest, I found the prices too expensive for the size of the servings and there really wasn't anything special with their marinade or dipping sauces either. Even the frying left a lot to be desired—the skin wasn't perfectly crunchy. Glory Hogs has other dishes on their menu, though, and they actually sound more interesting than the novelty of having all the parts of a pig available in a restaurant. If we ever go back there, I'm going to choose from the non-pork menu.

December 27, 2012

Glorious pork

facade of Glory Hogs restaurant When a restaurant is named Glory Hogs, you just know what you're going to get on your plate.

December 26, 2012

White wafers

Christmas lights and decorations hanging from the cupola of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù The decorations hanging from the cupola of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù this Christmas season are called Neules de Mallorca, a traditional craft from the island of Mallorca or Majorca in Spain. They are cut-out paper disks with delicate designs which originally were edible wafers made of the same unleavened bread that Roman Catholic communion wafers are made of.

December 25, 2012


For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, 
which is Christ the Lord.
~Luke 2:11
 Nativity scene at the Ateneo Church of the Gesù The Nativity scene at the Ateneo Church of the Gesù

Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed 
and grace-filled Christmas.

Exie & Hilda

December 24, 2012

They came on a boat

Nativity scene on a bangka, an outrigger canoe In the Christmas Parks of the Ateneo de Manila University, the Jesuit Residence (where the Jesuits who work in the university live) and the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI, a Jesuit-run institute though not part of the university) were assigned the MIMAROPA region. An abbreviation for Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan, the MIMAROPA region is a long and narrow string of island provinces in the west central part of the Philippines. As you can imagine, boats are a major way of traveling around the islands, and the EAPI and Jesuit Residence's Nativity is set on a bangka, a small outrigger canoe which is the most common boat used in the country. The roofed shelter is optional and is usually found only on bigger boats.

December 23, 2012

Island view

facade of Kapuluan Vista Resort One of the resorts on the Blue Lagoon side of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte is the Kapuluan Vista Resort. Its designer used traditional nipa for the roof, and also used stone, wood and bamboo lavishly in its interiors.
 beach of Kapuluan Vista Resort beach of Kapuluan Vista Resort Unfortunately, the beach right in front of Kapuluan Vista isn't very nice. It is narrow and rocky, the water is full of seaweeds, and Blue Lagoon is several hundred meters up the muddy road. The name of the resort is apt, though, with beautiful views of the small islands just offshore.
 dining room of Kapuluan Vista Resort Though we didn't stay at Kapuluan Vista when we were in Pagudpud, someone had recommended their restaurant to us, so we decided to go there for lunch.
 tuna ceviche of Kapuluan Vista Resort garden salad of Kapuluan Vista Resort taco of Kapuluan Vista Resort We were not disappointed. Kapuluan Vista has its own organic herb and vegetable garden, so we chose dishes which make full use of that fact. The lightly-seasoned fresh tuna ceviche was wonderful, the garden salad was a delightful combination of textures and flavors, and the tacos were buried under the crunchiest lettuce. There was one thing our friend forgot to tell us, though: the servings are huge! Since we also ordered empanadas, we ended up doggie-bagging more than half of our order.

December 22, 2012

Boat to Bethlehem

Nativity scene in a vinta The Christmas Parks of the Ateneo de Manila University are also thematic, with each group randomly assigned one of the regions of the Philippines to incorporate into their Nativity scene. Probably one of the most challenging regions is the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). How does one sensitively depict a very Christian belief in a Muslim setting? By not making any direct reference to the Muslim faith, of course. The Nativity scene is set on a vinta, a traditional boat with a sail of colorful vertical strips which has long been used in the islands of Mindanao. And as an additional detail, Joseph is also wearing a taqiyah.

December 21, 2012


Aside from providing decorations for the campus for the Advent and Christmas seasons, the annual Christmas Parks project of the Ateneo de Manila University is meant to foster community, with the various offices and academic units building their own parks. As I mentioned in the bottlecap Nativity post, one of the requirements is to use recycled and indigenous materials. There is also a limit to the amount that each group could use to buy new materials, a sensitive and just requirement given that those same monies can be used for the many social outreach programs of the university. And to make sure that people do their best with the limited time and resources on their hands, the Christmas Parks was turned into a contest, with the grand prize being an amount bigger than the expense budget limit.
 Nativity scene of the Ateneo High School parents' Christmas Park One group, however, stated at the very start that they were going to build a Christmas Park but weren't going to join the contest—which basically meant that they were not going to limit their costs. The beautiful, delicate, life-size porcelain figurines alone probably cost more than the entire budget.
 Christmas Park of the Ateneo High School parents The group used indigenous products, though, with the most prevalent decorative item being coconut husks—on the ground and the ornaments on the tree. And while the members of the group chatted away and shouted directions from their picnic tables, their maids and drivers constructed and decorated the scene for them. I have to admit, there's a very big advantage to having a lot of money.

December 20, 2012


row of water meters in a metal cage Near the entrance of an alley which leads to a poor community, the water meters of a row of apartments are locked in a metal cage whose base is cemented into the ground. The cage helps prevent three things: coconuts falling on and damaging the exposed pipes, illegal tapping into the water line, and stealing of the steel meters for resale.

December 19, 2012


beams of Chinese pavilion at the Rizal Park with faded paintings Yesterday, I showed you the finely detailed ornamentation of the pavilions in the Chinese Garden of the Rizal Park. Unfortunately, the quality of the maintenance doesn't quite measure up to the design's magnificence. I noticed a few missing tiles and some of the paintings on the beams have been either been damaged or have faded. I hope the park can find the high-caliber artisans—and has the funds—to have them repaired.

December 18, 2012


ornate design details of the Chinese pavilions at the Rizal Park The detailed ornamentation of the pavilions in the Chinese Garden of the Rizal Park is amazing. Tiles, woodwork and painting—I cannot even begin to imagine how long it took to finish each structure.

December 17, 2012


nativity scene made of plastic junk This nativity scene was made by the personnel of the Ateneo de Manila University's Office of International Relations. The design concept is based on both mosaic and stained glass, but it is completely made of plastic junk—bottle caps and bottoms, straws, and ring binders—with a few broken optical disks thrown in. I find it absolutely fantastic!

There are sixteen nativity scenes around the campus created by the different units that make up the university. One of the criteria for their creation is the use of recycled and indigenous products. I have yet to walk around to take their pictures, but I'll be sure to post them here once I have.

December 16, 2012

East and west

The town of Pagudpud in the province of Ilocos Norte is gaining popularity as a beach vacation destination. However, its coastline is quite extensive and we found out, too late, that it is best to find out which direction the wind is blowing before choosing which beach to go to.
  Saud Beach in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte Saud Beach is the most developed (relative only to the rest of the town, of course) and generates the most results when doing a Google search for "Pagudpud resorts." It faces west and, because we arrived just when the Southwest Monsoon (habagat) was about to start, the wind was blowing sand all over the place and the current was a little too strong for beach bums like us who only stay near the shore. The habagat season in the Philippines is from May to October (or thereabouts).
 Blue Lagoon in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte During those months, it is better to stay at Blue Lagoon, which faces east. We drove the extra half hour needed to get there from Saud, and it was worth it. The water had the barest of ripples. During the Northeast Monsoon (amihan)—the other half of the year—this part of Pagudpud gets windy and the waters more turbulent, and it is better to stay in Saud.
  Blue Lagoon in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte I wish we could have experienced Blue Lagoon in the middle of summer when it would not have been overcast. There is a reason why it got that name, after all.

December 15, 2012

Sea and savanna

My two favorite pieces in Plet Bolipata-Borlongan's imagiNATION installation at the Ateneo de Manila University were also the most difficult to photograph.

octopus at Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNation' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University The bench of the octopi installation is under a large tree with no lights, so I only took a photo of the female octopus. I know it's a "she" because of her curvy, queenly crown; the crown of the male octopus is pointy and kingly.

giraffe at Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNation' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University The giraffes are long, thin, delicate, and spread out on a wide expanse of lawn, so I decided to focus on the gracefully bending neck and delicate legs. Yes, they're wearing sneakers and crochet lace knee supports.

December 14, 2012


pair of elephants with a bench at Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNation' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila UniversityAt Plet Bolipata-Borlongan's imagiNATION: Elephants are sturdy and can easily handle a teenager hanging onto them while carrying the rest of the gang.

December 13, 2012

Hear me roar

pair of big cats with a bench at Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNation' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University In her notes for imagiNATION, artist Plet Bolipata-Borlongan says that tigers, lions, and other big cats are fierce so she conceptualized the piece with the bathtub bench between their jaws.
 pair of big cats with a bench at Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNation' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University And yes, those benches are very comfortable, as my husband can attest.

December 12, 2012

Chilling with a kangaroo

pair of kangaroos with a bathtub bench at Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNation' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University At Plet Bolipata-Borlongan's imagiNATION exhibit, the kangaroos wait in expectation for someone to sit on the bathtub bench they are carrying in their arms before hopping off to a fantasy land somewhere.

December 11, 2012

Noah's ark

welcome arch to Plet Bolipata's 'imagiNATION' exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University Welcome to Plet Bolipata-Borlongan's imagiNATION exhibit at the Ateneo de Manila University, where benches similar to yesterday's bathtub loveseat now grace the gardens, flanked by pairs of lacy metal animals accented by crochet and painted soda cans. Plet's wonderland (installed earlier in the year at the Bonifacio Global City), however, was inspired by a serious occurrence: the calamitous floods that the Philippines experiences several times a year because of typhoons. From the artist's notes:
    The idea of rain brings me back to the story of Noah and his Ark:
      Seeing the wickedness of man, God commanded Noah to build an ark, a large vessel that would contain himself, his family and the animals of the world in order to save them from the Great Flood that would destroy as well as cleanse the world. (Genesis, Chapters 6–9)
    As a nation, we suffer yearly from a deluge of floods as the rain pounds on us. In the conclusion of Noah's story, when the floods subsided and God's anger abated, God promised Noah he would never send a flood again. I'd like my installation to be a reminder that we need not be afraid for God will keep us safe.
    imaGINATION is an interpretation of Noah's story. Except, instead of an ark, I use bathtubs which are also vessels. I combine life-size metal doodled animals with mosaic bathtubs. Instead of keeping people and animals afloat on water, they do the opposite and carry water. They serve as basins for cleansing and when unclogged, allow water to escape. The bathtubs are mini-arks that serve several functions: as reminders of how dual water can be—an element of both life and death, and as vehicles which can transport viewers into a world of imagination. The installation also offers solace. By sitting in the bathtubs, viewers are rescued from stress and strain which allow them to fully enjoy and appreciate the preciousness of life.

December 10, 2012

Extreme crafting

loveseat by Plet Bolipata-Borlongan A quirky and wonderfully comfortable loveseat by artist Plet Bolipata-Borlongan made out of an old bathtub covered with a painting, crochet lace and ribbon flowers. I couldn't include it in the photo, but the built-in lamp is shaped like a black top hat.

December 9, 2012

The long and winding road

Patapat Viaduct The Patapat Viaduct is an elevated, winding highway at the Northwestern tip of Luzon Island, which is the biggest island in the Philippines. The bridge weaves around coastal hills which mark one end of Luzon's Cordillera Mountain Range, and connects the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Cagayan Valley. The Patapat Viaduct needs a couple of viewing platforms along its 1.3 kilometer length, however, where tourists can safely stop to appreciate its construction, and enjoy the magnificent view of lush, steep hills and an utterly empty sea.

Bridges around the world: Sunday Bridges
Sunday Bridges

December 8, 2012


large white star decorating the Palma Hall of the University of the Philippines The majestic simplicity of a single, enormous white Christmas star is appropriate for the majestic simplicity of the main entrance of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) – Diliman's Palma Hall, with its soaring, three-story high rectangular columns. The building is named after Rafael Palma, U.P.'s fourth but first Filipino president, and is currently the home of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. The small but colorful stars flanking the stairs are suggestive of the young students which populate its rooms and corridors.

December 7, 2012

Only the best

marines guarding the Rizal Shrine From the 2007 Philippine Daily Inquirer article about the honor guards at the shrine of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal:
    Battle-tested in Basilan and Jolo, a certain brotherhood within the Armed Forces of the Philippines carries out a special kind of mission at the country's Kilometer Zero, where the "enemy" includes the scorching midday sun, heavy downpours, the call of nature, and all sorts of distractions from hecklers and curious promenaders.… The Rizal monument is the only statue in the Philippines provided with an honor guard. For decades, guarding it has been a role exclusively given to corporals and sergeants of the Marine Security and Escort Group (MSEG), mostly soldiers with at least a year or two of combat experience against Moro separatists or communist insurgents.

December 6, 2012

Of smiles and hearts

the Quezon City Sikap Buhay stall at the Blue Market social enterprise fair At the Blue Market social enterprise fair where I took yesterday's photo, I was immensely gratified to learn about Quezon City's Sikap Buhay Entrepreneurship and Cooperatives Office. More than just a microfinance program, the office helps its poor clients with business development and planning, and it also helps the micro enterprises find new customers and markets. In fact, their stall in the fair featured the handicrafts of several cooperatives and enterprises, which included bags, mats and picture frames woven from fabric scraps, used paper and foil packs. Less garbage for the city, livelihood for the city's poor, and useful products for their customers. Everyone wins.

December 5, 2012

Snack bags

bags made out of foil packsWould you believe that these woven bags are made of those plastic and aluminum foil packs that potato chips and their ilk come in? Several years ago, someone realized their potential for a livelihood project for the residents of Metro Manila's slums, especially those near garbage dump sites where used packs can be salvaged from. Habi (weave) Bags are made by the residents of Baseco, a huge island ghetto where the Pasig River flows into Manila Bay. The enterprise has the support of Oishi, a local (despite its Japanese name) manufacturer of snacks and drinks, which provides the weavers with damaged and scrap materials for their colorful and amazingly sturdy bags.

December 4, 2012


Wanlu's Dolphy marionette Dolphy, whose real name was Rodolfo Quizon, was a consummate entertainer, actor, singer and comedian who passed away in July just a a couple of weeks shy of his 84th birthday. He entertained millions of Filipinos for more than sixty years, and was so respected and beloved by people from all walks of life that he was honored with a National Day of Remembrance soon after his death. Wanlu the ventriloquist and puppeteer (see yesterday's post) made us remember Dolphy again with his marionette and the lovely song "Handog" (gift, offering), which Dolphy was fond of singing to his audiences, especially as he got older. I am translating it poorly, but the song begins with, "It seems like only yesterday that my dreams were so hard to reach. Because of you, I arrived at where I wanted to be, and I want to thank you, even with just one song."

December 3, 2012

Bless his big little heart

Wanlu the ventriloquist with the puppet Nicolo The children from the poor communities served by the Ateneo de Manila University—and this big little kid—who attended this year's Lights for Hope Christmas outreach program were treated to a wonderful performance from Wanlu, a puppeteer and ventriloquist who provides entertainment for many events, and who appears regularly in local television shows. Wanlu heard about the outreach program and volunteered himself and one of his sons, who is also a puppeteer. This puppet's name is Nicolo and he's an incorrigible joker, mercilessly teasing Wanlu every chance he gets. He also has the sweetest singing voice I've ever heard from someone made of wood.

December 2, 2012

Harnessing wind

Bangui windmills The Bangui Wind Farm is the first of its kind in the Philippines. Its twenty turbines are arranged in a single row along a nine-kilometer stretch of shoreline in the town of Bangui in the province of Ilocos Norte, which is at the northwestern-most tip of the big island of Luzon.
  tourists at the Bangui Wind Farm It has become such a popular tourist destination since its completion in 2008 that several bamboo and nipa huts offering refreshments, souvenirs (bamboo windmills, anyone?), and much-needed shade, have been erected on the beach where the dirt roads leading to the windmills end.

December 1, 2012

Mango fruit with leaves

one of our neighbors CITY DAILY PHOTO THEME DAY: MY STREET • This used to be quite a lovely clapboard house when I was younger. Then the original owners immigrated to the U.S. and the couple who bought it went into politics. That meant bodyguards and more rooms to accommodate them, so they built over the garage, and this was the result. The family has since moved to a more upscale, gated neighborhood where, last time I saw it, their new fortress is painted these same colors.

November 30, 2012

A symphony in blue

the Blue Symphony performing at the Sacred Heart Plaza of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù The Ateneo de Manila University officially opened its celebrations and events for the Advent and Christmas season last night, and we were treated to a lovely performance by the Blue Symphony at the Sacred Heart Plaza of the Church of the Gesù.

The student symphony orchestra is the youngest performing arts organization in the university, and they still need a lot of support from the community. None of the students are music majors (since the Ateneo does not have a music program) and there are too many instruments that are not represented; the organization does not have production or marketing teams yet; they are trained by a conductor gratis; and the kids need a formation program set up to help them deal with the challenges of combining their love of music with the demands of their academics, not to mention the emotional drama that is inevitable in any group of artists. Despite all these, however, the young and youthful orchestra has garnered much praise from those who have heard them perform, and I really hope that the university and its benefactors can give Blue Symphony the assistance that it needs to become a full orchestra that everyone can be proud of.

November 29, 2012

School artifact

1932 Philippine Jesuit bell The 1932 "Jesuit Bell," from the time when the Ateneo de Manila University was still located along Padre Faura Street in Manila. It is inscribed with the monogram IHS (iota-eta-sigma) from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, which also appears in the seal of the Society of Jesus.