July 7, 2014

A delightful fortress

Ayala Museum
"Museums should be places where you raise questions,
not just show stuff."
~William Thorsell, past Director & CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum

This is the side of the Ayala Museum which can be seen from the park in the middle of Greenbelt. Only the ground floor has windows. The windows on the second floor do not open to the museum but to a walkway connecting two of the buildings of the mall. Other than that, the rest of the building looks like a fortress, and it probably is, given the priceless artifacts exhibited in the museum. One of their permanent exhibits is Filipino garments from the 19th century, some of which are painted on the walls of the walkway.

See murals from around the world in Monday Mural.

July 4, 2014

Pebble park

Greenbelt "My life is full of mistakes.
They're like pebbles that make a good road."
~Beatrice Wood (1893–1998), American artist and potter

A wooden bridge connecting two of the buildings of Greenbelt, a large retail complex in Makati City, seen through the trunks of some very tall and skinny palm trees. I like how Ayala Land used light and dark pebbles in this part of the park—they make the ground look like freeform art.

July 3, 2014

Tea for three

TWG Tea Salon & Boutique "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
~Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Macarons, scones and finger sandwiches to go with our mandarin orange oolong tea at a TWG Tea Salon & Boutique.
 Weekend Reflections

July 2, 2014

The golden pond

koi "Alive without breath, As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking, All in mail never clinking."
~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Just a few of the hundreds of koi we saw in the ponds of Greenbelt, the large retail complex in my Lush post from the other day.

July 1, 2014

Peace, love, sandy feet

Virgin Island in Bantayan, Cebu "If there is a heaven for me,
I'm sure it has a beach attached to it."
~Jimmy Buffett, American singer-songwriter

CITY DAILY PHOTO THEME DAY: CELEBRATING SUMMER • In an archipelago composed of more than 7,000 islands, summer isn't complete without a trip to the beach. Manila no longer has a beach—when our parents were young, it did—so we have to travel a few hours to get to one. This is the beach of the tiny and undeveloped Virgin Island just off Bantayan Island in the island province of Cebu.

June 29, 2014


Greenbelt "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap
but by the seeds that you plant."
~Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), Scottish novelist, poet & essayist

It is easy to see how Greenbelt, a large commercial and retail complex in Makati City, got its name.

June 27, 2014


TWG "A cup of tea is a cup of peace."
~Sen Sōshitsu XVI, 16th tea master of the Urasenke family

We finally have TWG Tea Salons in Manila. Those mostly yellow cans on the walls, reflected on the large mirrors of the dining area, are just a few of the more-than-a-thousand tea varieties available at the shops. To be honest, I find the food too expensive (though I've finally satisfied my curiosity about scones), but I'm just very happy that I finally have a place to go to for some good loose leaf tea. And as long as one doesn't buy their fancy cans, the cost of TWG's teas won't break the bank.
 Weekend Reflections

June 26, 2014

Weaving life

nito baskets "We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing."
~Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), American novelist

On display at the 3rd floor of Greenbelt 5 mall are the gorgeous nito vine baskets of the indigenous Iraya Mangyan of the island province of Mindoro. The Ayala Foundation has committed to providing education and skills training to a community of Iraya Mangyan in the town of Puerto Galera, a popular beach and diving destination. Part of their commitment is to revive the traditional art of weaving beautiful and functional baskets made of nito (Lygodium circinatum), a forest vine. Sales of the baskets go directly to the families who weave them.

You can learn more about—and support—the Ayala Foundation's Iraya Mangyan Project here.

June 25, 2014

Mall creatures

Leeroy New's Garden of Earthly Delights "The real world is where the monsters are."
~Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

"Garden of Earthly Delights" in The Gallery of Greenbelt 5 is artist Leeroy New's latest exhibition. I have featured some of his works before: the alien on a tumor, a spiky red balete, and two lovely young ladies in fluorescent plastic. His work is unmistakable and can seem more like creatures from nightmares. An article in Circuit magazine's website about this exhibit is quite educational. Even after reading it, though, I still wouldn't want any of his works in my home.

June 24, 2014

Painting flags

“bookmark” "When you set a good example to the world, you become a flag waving on the skies of the entire world!"
~Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish playwright and novelist

At the Ayala Museum Philippine Independence Day event, there were also two bookmark painting stations. The bookmarks were pre-printed with the current and some historical Philippine flags, all of which only use the colors red, yellow, blue, black and white. Of course, we just had to sit down to paint some.

June 23, 2014

Theology & Philosophy

Theo & Philo artisanal chocolates "If there's no chocolate in Heaven, I'm not going."
~Jane Seabrook, Furry Logic Laugh at Life

Theo & Philo chocolates are made of cacao beans and other ingredients sourced straight from local farmers. I confess that it is the first (and, so far, the only) Philippine-made chocolate bar that I like. Aside from milk chocolate and 70% dark chocolate, they have other flavors that are distinctly Filipino: siling labuyo (tiny, very hot chili), kapeng barako (a local coffee bean with a robust flavor), green mango and salt, pili nut and pinipig (toasted glutinous rice), and a few new ones which I haven't tried yet. Their gift boxes, which can hold 3 or 5 bars, are based on the colors of the Philippine flag.

June 21, 2014


Team Manila "The strength of the team is each individual member.
The strength of each member is the team."
~Phil Jackson, American retired basketball coach

This is the team behind Team Manila (see yesterday's post), a graphic design studio which is now popularly known in the country for t-shirts and accessories with distinctly Filipino designs. The company was founded by college friends Raymund "Mon" Punzalan (fourth from the left) and Joseph Lee "Jowee" Alviar (the only guy in a white shirt), who both took Fine Arts in the University of Sto. Tomas.

June 20, 2014

Octopus arms

Team Manila t-shirt printing machine "There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves."
~Jose Rizal (1861–1896), Philippine national hero

A couple of friends and I spent Philippine Independence Day, June 12, at the Ayala Museum. We got to silkscreen our own t-shirts courtesy of Team Manila, which brought its ScreenMachine for the event. In keeping with the occasion, the design they chose was a stylized Philippine flag with the year that the country declared its independence from Spain, 1898. The shirt in the foreground is still missing the red part, which is the pattern on the silkscreen frame on the right. Notice that the ScreenMachine just holds the tees and silkscreen frames—the printing still has to be done manually. In a country with a 7% unemployment rate and an 18% underemployment rate, I completely approve of Team Manila's production choice.

June 19, 2014

Don't ask

cat "Cats are a mysterious kind of folk."
~Walter Scott (1771–1832), Scottish novelist, playwright and poet

The street cat which adopted the family next door to us likes to hang out on their window. The first time I saw it there, I thought it had gotten stuck by mistake and needed help climbing out, but I've seen it there on and off, days and evenings. Apparently, it finds its position quite comfortable.

June 18, 2014


One last post about our trip to Bantayan Island (see previous two posts)—the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, better known simply as Bantayan Church.
 Bantayan Church The church had already closed for the night when we went to visit, but the caretaker graciously opened it for us when he found out that we had a priest in our group. The parish traces its history back to 11 June 1580 when the Spanish Agustinians established it. The first church was destroyed when the town was attacked by Muslim pirates in 1600. It was rebuilt in the same year but was transferred to the management of secular priests. The current church was constructed in 1839–1863. Unfortunately, the plaque on the wall didn't say what happened to the previous building. 
 Bantayan Church The church's design is typical of other Spanish-era churches in the country. A portion of the roof was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan, but it had been repaired completely by the time we visited. 
 Bantayan Church What makes Bantayan Church unique is the fact that it is made almost entirely of coral. Moss grows easily on them, but I think they just add beauty and interest to the walls.
 Bantayan Church And those walls are thick! I measured myself against the depth of a doorway, and I think the walls are easily six feet deep.

June 17, 2014

Team building

Our office trip to Bantayan Island (see yesterday's post) wasn't only for rest and recreation. The more important objective was team building. In our case, it was quite literal.
 GK Village in Bantayan Island Gawad Kalinga (GK), which means "to give care," is a poverty-alleviation and nation-building movement which builds houses and creates communities all over the Philippines for the poorest Filipinos. GK communities are known for their colorful houses, which is but the first step in the long process of poverty-alleviation. There is a young GK Village in Bantayan Island—named the Pope Francis GK Village—and we spent our first afternoon there.
 GK Village in Bantayan Island GK is completely funded by donations and powered by volunteers. The land for the Pope Francis GK Village was donated by the municipality, which increased the donation after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed many of the coastal villages in Bantayan Island. The houses are largely funded by Xavier School and the ERDA Group, both Jesuit institutions based in Manila.
   GK Village in Bantayan Island The simplest way of volunteering is by helping build houses, which is what we did. The boys did the heavy work of mixing the sand, cement and water. (I tried, but my arm strength is absolutely pathetic.) That's our big boss dude in the Hawaiian shirt.
 GK Village in Bantayan Island We passed buckets of the cement mixture for the floor of one of the units. Aside from volunteers, GK houses are built by their recipients, who have to log in 300 hours of labor and attendance in values formation workshops before they can move in. GK calls it "sweat equity." And the formation continues long after the beneficiaries receive their houses—necessary if one wants to build real communities and not just houses.  
 GK Village in Bantayan Island Before we left, some of the children of Pope Francis GK Village performed a dance for us, a dance that they had been practicing for a big GK event.

To learn more about Gawad Kalinga, and maybe even donate or volunteer, please visit their website.

June 16, 2014

Last hurrah

One week before the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA, which means "hope" in Tagalog) officially declared the onset of the rainy season, our office went on its annual teambuilding and R&R. Last year, we went to Boracay; this year, we went to Bantayan Island in the province of Cebu (which is also an island). From Metro Manila, it's a one-hour plane ride, two-hour van ride, and one-hour boat ride away. It was worth the long trip.
 Anika Island Resort in Bantayan Island We stayed at Anika Island Resort in the small town of Santa Fe. It's right on the beach and the rooms are unusual because they're all made from freight containers. Needless to say, they all have airconditioners.
 low tide at Anika Island Resort in Bantayan Island There are only a few resorts in Bantayan so it's very peaceful. There are still quite a number of fishing communities on the island and fish pens near the shore are not uncommon. We were able to buy freshly-dried danggit, naturally salted by the sea water, to take home to Manila. On our side of the island, the tide is very low in the mornings, but even when the tide is high, you can walk 200 meters from the beach and the water will only be waist-high.
 outrigger of a bangka We were told that there was a smaller island just off Bantayan where the snorkeling was good, so we rented a bangka to go there.
 Virgin Island just off Bantayan Island It's a really small island—basically a rock with some palm trees growing on it, with a tiny strip of beach on one end.
 welcome sign at Virgin Island Welcome to Virgin Island! It doesn't have its own electricity or water, and all supplies have to be brought in by bangka. There are no resorts, either, though more adventurous souls are welcome to pitch tents on the beach and stay overnight.
 snorkeling at Virgin Island You don't have to go far from shore to to see schools of yellow and silver striped fish (I have no idea what they are), but you have to swim farther to get to the live coral.

beach at Virgin Island For those who don't snorkel, Virgin Island also has a nice stretch of shallow water with no coral, rocks or sea grass—perfect for little kids.

June 13, 2014


'The Trees' by Reynato Paz Contreras"Painting is so poetic, while sculpture is more logical and scientific and makes you worry about gravity."
~Damien Hirst, English artist

This is what it looks like underneath "The Trees" of artist Reynato Paz Contreras (see yesterday's post). They don't provide a lot of shelter from either sun or rain, unfortunately.

June 12, 2014


'The Trees' sculpture "Art-making is not about telling the truth but making the truth felt."
~Christian Boltanski, French sculptor

Made of recycled stainless steel, "The Trees" by artist Reynato Paz Contreras stands in the middle of the park in the middle of the roundabout that is Burgos Circle in Bonifacio Global City. According to the artist, "The three trunks signify stability. The intertwining branches and leaves create a circular effect to symbolise the 'circle of life.' This sculpture represents the interrelationship of humanity and nature, and the vital role that each one plays. May it remind everyone to preserve the environment not just for today but for the future as well."

June 11, 2014

A different world

Burgos Circle in Bonifacio Global City "That's universal—we all want to bring every good thing to our children. But what's not universal is our ability to provide every good thing."
~Melinda Gates, American businesswoman and philanthropist

These are just a few of the high-rise residential condominium towers in Bonifacio Global City. The shorter buildings are restaurants and shops around Burgos Circle, a roundabout with a park in the middle, from where I took this photo. Standing there, it was almost easy to forget that the Philippines is a third world country (or, to be politically correct, a developing country).

June 10, 2014

American nostalgia

jukebox "Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were."
~Marcel Proust (1871–1922), French novelist

A gaudy and lovely Rock-Ola jukebox at the American 1950s diner-themed Johnny Rockets in Bonifacio Global City.

June 9, 2014


1904 Richard Brasier Roadster "The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound."
~Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980), Canadian philosopher of communication theory

This 1904 Richard-Brasier Roadster was the first car to roll on Philippine roads. It was built by French and Belgian manufacturers Georges Richard and Charles-Henri Brasier, and has a 9-horsepower, 2-cylinder engine. It was first brought to the country in 1904 by the trading firm Estrella del Norte. It then passed through many hands until 2006, when Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation acquired it as part of its commitment to preserve artifacts that are part of our culture and heritage. It is currently on loan to The Mind Museum at Taguig.
~Text edited from The Mind Museum's sign

May 29, 2014

Postcards from Cambodia: Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat silhouette One of the few things I was willing to wake up at an ungodly hour for was to watch the sun rise over Cambodia's greatest treasure: Angkor Wat, the City of Temples. 
 sunrise reflection of Angkor Wat First a Hindu then a Buddhist temple complex, Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II.  
 Angkor Wat It is the largest religious monument in the world and its perfect symmetry is a wonder to behold.
 one of the outer galleries of Angkor Wat The main temple of Angkor Wat is composed of three rectangular galleries, each higher than the next.
 relief on the wall of Angkor Wat's galleries Every inch of the walls of each gallery is covered in elaborate bas-relief scenes from Hindu mythology and literature.
 steps to the highest terrace of Angkor Wat Angkor Wat's Temple Mountain, its central and uppermost sanctuary, is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hindu mythology.
 view from the highest terrace of Angkor Wat From the uppermost terrace, one can see across the lower galleries to the bridge which crosses the moat around Angkor Wat, and all the way to the outer wall.
 Buddha sitting on a Naga at Angkor Wat The image of Buddha in the uppermost sanctuary depicts him seated on the coils of a Naga. Legend says that Buddha was so deep in meditation, he did not notice the storm that began raging around him. So the Naga coiled itself under Buddha to raise him from the muddy waters and bent its seven heads (one of which is broken here) over him to protect him from the rain. Of all the temples in the Angkor district of Siem Reap, only Angkor Wat was never abandoned and it is still an active Buddhist temple today.

May 28, 2014

Postcards from Cambodia: Angkor Thom

Bayon Temple The Buddhist Bayon Temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century and stands in the middle of Angkor Thom, the capital of the empire of King Jayavarman VII.
 Bayon Temple Its most distinctive feature is its multitude of towers, each bearing a serenely smiling face on each of its four sides.
 Bayon Temple The gigantic faces bear a striking resemblance to the statues of King Jayavarman VII, which have led some scholars to believe that they are images of the king himself. Others believe that they are representations of the bodhisattva of compassion.
 royal palace at Angkor Thom Older temples in Angkor Thom survive. The three-tiered Baphuon Temple, built in the mid-11th century, was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
 Celestial Temple at Angkor Thom The 10th century Phimeanakas Temple is located within the walls of the royal palace. It is associated with a very interesting legend which involves the king and a Naga, a mythological creature in the form of a snake which, in Cambodia, has seven heads.
 Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Thom Angkor Thom's kings had a long stone terrace which they used for public ceremonies and audiences. It is now known as the Terrace of the Elephants because of the parade of elephants decorating the surviving portions.