Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Batangas: Preserve the town plaza of San Jose, Batangas!

Here is another attempt by a local government unit to build a structure on a town plaza. As the plaza issue rages in Antequera, Bohol, the Municipal Government of San Jose, Batangas bared plans to construct a new municipal hall on the town plaza itself. And the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has again made clear its position that building on historic town plazas and open spaces is not just prohibited by law, it denies the right of every community to access free, open spaces. Below is a copy of the second letter of the Chairperson Ma. Serena I. Diokno of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on the issue.

Let's support the citizens of San Jose, Batangas as they unite to protect their historic town plaza. San Jose has a green town plaza with a lot of flowering trees. Surely, the mayor has other places to build his new municipal hall. I wonder what's going on in Batangas and mayors seem to be on a building spree for new muncipal halls. Don't forget to like the Preserve the San Jose, Batangas Town Plaza page on Facebook and spread the world!

19 September 2011

Hon. Etiquio M. Briones
Municipal Mayor
San Jose, Batangas
Dear Mayor Briones,

This refers to the proposed construction of the San Jose Municipal Building within the municipal plaza of San Jose, Batangas.

We have already made our position clear on this matter, which is not only known to the public but which many citizens support.

One again, we urge the Honorable Mayor to retain the plaza as a free, open space. This is more than a matter of law or technicality. This is a matter of our nation's historical resource that we, as public servants, are bound by duty to preserve. The concept of an open-air town plaza dates back to the 16th century, when various royal ordinances decreed the layout of towns with the plaza right in the center, accessible to all. The plaza was so crucial to the life of the town that the Spanish colonial government stipulated the shape and size of the plaza and the structures that could be built around it, specifying "that no other structure can be built next to them excepting such as... [to] contribute to their commodiousness or beauty" (Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 5, 1922). Your proposed municipal building will shatter the beauty of the plaza and deny the residents and citizens of San Jose (and others who visit San Jose) access to free, open space - a right they , and future generations, ought to enjoy.

For these reasons, I reiterate: the National Historical Commission of the Philippines strongly opposes your plan to put up enclosing structures within the town plaza and is prepared to use the means and resources available to it to keep the plaza open and free. I invite you, Mr. Mayor, to work with us in keeping our heritage and history alive.

Thank you, sir.

Yours truly,

Dr. Maria Serena I. Diokno

Note: Aerial photo of the plaza sent by Gracia Ona is by Jun Comia.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Batangas: Save the Bauan Municipal Hall & Bauan East Central School!

The Heritage Conservation Society - Batangas Chapter found out that the Bauan Municipal Hall, an exceptional Art Deco building in Batangas, is scheduled for demolition next month. If this is true, it violates Sec. 5 (f) of Republic Act No. 10066 which prohibits the demolition of structures fifty years or older without the approval of the NCCA. There is also a proposal to demolish the Bauan East Central School for the construction of a terminal.

These buildings in Bauan, Batangas are architecturally significant. According to Architect Dominic Galicia of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage and NCCA Committee on Monuments and Sites, "There's a remarkable story suggested by the architecture of the municipio and the school. The Art Deco details of the municipio are exceptional, speaking of the wealth of the Commonwealth era. And those municipio details also inform the details of the school, as if to say 'let's spread the wealth.'

"The decorative screen of the central bay of the main facade is the most elaborate, with its stylized depictions of agricultural products. The decorative screens of the flanking bays take that theme to a further level of stylization and abstraction. The furthest level of abstraction seems to be reached at the clerestory screens of the school.

"Now, whether there was an actual and literal link between the architecture of the municipio and the school - for example, was the school designed by an architect who apprenticed at the firm that designed the municipio, etc., or was the architectural profession back then just that much more in tune with the genius loci or spirit of the place that all structures shared a responsiveness to it - I don't know.

"But what I do know is that if those structures are demolished, what will replace them will most likely not hold a candle to them. They won't even strike a match. Much of what my profession builds today oscillates between the vacuous and the vapid."

According to Architect Melvin Patawaran of DepEd's Heritage Schoolhouse Conservation Program, "The [Bauan] Gabaldon has a unique callado design and has a nice vista from the street as it is placed on higher ground." He adds that he plans to recommend the Bauan East Central School for inclusion in next year's conservation program.

We appeal to the Municipality of Bauan, Batangas to rethink their plans and incorporate this unique Art Deco facade in the new municipal hall they plan to build. There are so many restoration architects from the Heritage Conservation Society and ICOMOS Philippines who can give sound advice to the LGU on what to do.

Don't forget to like the Save the Bauan Municipal Hall page and help spread the word! Let's preserve the Bauan Municipal Hall and Bauan East Central School!

Update (10/08/11): We just found out from Prof. Gerard Lico that the Bauan Municipal Hall was designed by Architect Juan Arellano, one of the early masters. He designed major landmarks in Manila including the Metropolitan Theater, Post Office Building and Legislative Building (now the National Museum) among several others nationwide. With this important piece of information, efforts to preserve the Bauan Municipal Hall must be pursued more vigorously.

Update (10/10/11): The Heritage Conservation Society has written Mayor Ryanh M. Dolor of Bauan, Batangas to stop the planned demolition of the Bauan Municipal Hall because it violates RA No. 10066. Text of the letter is below:

8 October 2011

Municipal Mayor
Bauan, Batangas

Dear Mayor Dolor:

Re: Impending Demolition of the Historic Bauan (Batangas) Municipal Hall

On behalf of the concerned citizens of Batangas and the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS), we sincerely urge you to stop the planned demolition of the Bauan Municipal Hall scheduled on October 15, 2011.

The Bauan Municipal Hall is an exceptional 1930s Art Deco building attributed to the great Filipino architect Juan Arellano, who also designed the Legislative Building, Post Office, and Metropolitan Theater in Manila. This makes Bauan unique and culturally important which can be used to enhance the town’s economy. Related to this, by Republic Act 10066, known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, the Bauan Municipal Hall’s age and architectural significance make it an Important Cultural Property protected from demolition without the approval of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

We in the HCS are not against the construction of a new and larger municipal building in Bauan. Instead of demolishing the existing building, however, we propose that it be repaired, renovated and integrated into the new structure to accommodate the space requirements of the municipal government. This approach, called Adaptive Reuse, is practiced in many cities all over the world. It has proven to be an effective means of conserving valuable heritage structures, thereby preserving the city’s unique and distinctive identity, while at the same time accommodating the construction of new structures to meet contemporary needs of the community.

The HCS, as the government’s strongest ally in the conservation of heritage assets, urges you to stop the planned demolition, and to consider the alternative of Adaptive Reuse.

Yours sincerely,

Nathaniel von Einsiedel

Gemma Cruz-Araneta

cc: NCCA-CMS, NHCP, NM, DOT, DILG, Provincial Government of Batangas

Update (10/20/11): Below is the report of the HCS inspection team

October 18, 2011


Inspection Team:
• Nathaniel von Einsiedel, President
• Ivan Anthony Henares, Vice President
• Rene Luis Mata, Treasurer

Based on the earlier actions taken by the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) regarding the planned demolition of the existing Bauan Municipal Hall, the HCS was invited by the officials to Bauan to inspect the building and discuss the matter. The HCS team travelled to Bauan and met with the following Bauan officials:
• Atty. Bienvenido Castillo, Former Municipal Mayor
• Atty. Antonio de Lacy, Jr., Municipal Administrator
• Engr. Sebastian Cabral, Municipal Engineer
(Note: Mayor Ryanh Dolor was unable to attend the meeting because of his recent tonsillectomy.)

Also present were Mr. Derrick Manas of the Batangas Heritage Conservation Society and Voltaire Altavas.

Key Findings:
1. The HCS team was very impressed with the distinctive Art Deco architecture particularly the facade, and the fact that it was in good condition. According to Architect Rene Luis Mata, the façade of the existing municipal hall is original and clearly a Juan Arellano design because of its striking similarity in degree of detail to the Metropolitan Theater.

2. The HCS team also noted the addition of certain features to the original structure, such as the concrete canopy over the main entrance to the building, the precast concrete sun baffles on what used to be openings of the front corridor of the building, the concrete eaves over these openings (presumably to prevent rain from entering the openings), and concrete decorative pillars supporting the eaves. These additions were reportedly made in the 1960s.

3. The HCS team found the inside of the building to be in urgent need of improvements. There were people sitting on the floor, suggesting the lack of space to accommodate visitors conducting business with the municipal offices. There were a number of offices without windows. The entire interior reflected the building’s old age and need for additional space.

4. The HCS team also noted that demolition of parts of the interior has started, although the facade remains untouched.

Major Points Discussed:
1. The HCS team reemphasized its recommendation that the facade of the existing building be retained and integrated with the proposed new building based on the very high heritage value of the existing building and the fact that the design of the new building can still be altered to enable this integration.

2. Arch. Mata cited that among three known municipal buildings designed by Juan Arellano, namely Bauan, Jaro, and Sariaya, the Bauan Municipal Hall was the most outstanding. Ivan Henares added that it would be most beneficial to Bauan if it were conserved as it can catalyze the tourism industry of the municipality.

3. Atty. De Lacy and Engr. Cabral explained that the building burned during the Second World War, and that repairs were made to make it usable. They mentioned that subsequent additions were made to the facade in the 1960s, and because of these additions, the building is no longer original and, therefore, not covered by the provisions of RA 10066 (requiring that buildings 50 years and older cannot be demolished without the approval of the NCCA).

4. The HCS team explained that regardless of whatever was added to the façade, the basic building is still original, because it is still the same façade built in the 1930s. New features added to a heritage building do not make it less older than it already is. The team explained that these additions can be easily removed so that the façade can be restored to its 1930s look.

5. Atty. De Lacy expressed their concern that the integration of the existing building’s facade and the new building might entail additional cost. The HCS team explained that this can be avoided by properly designing the integration.

6. The idea of relocating the façade of the existing building to another location on the site was brought up by Engr. Cabral. He cited his concern about the high cost of doing this. The HCS team agreed that such a move will indeed be costly, and that it is not advisable to relocate the facade anyway because doing so violates the principles of heritage conservation. Atty. Castillo added that transferring the façade may cause damage to it.

7. Engr. Cabral also brought up the idea of incorporating a replica of the facade on the new building. The HCS team explained that this idea runs counter to the fundamental principles of heritage conservation as cited in the Venice Charter (see Annex).

8. Atty. Castillo suggested that HCS, the NHCP, and Archt. Quin Baterna, the architect engaged by Bauan to design the proposed new building, meet as soon as possible to come up with the appropriate design integrating the facade of the existing building with the proposed new building. He emphasized the importance of coming up with a solution that would meet both the needs of Bauan for a better and bigger municipal hall and the objectives of HCS in conserving the existing municipio. The HCS team agreed to this and assured the Bauan officials that it will do its utmost to make sure that the construction schedule for the new building will not be affected by the preparation of the integration design.

Next Steps:
1. HCS will meet with the Historic Preservation Division of the NHCP & Archt. Quin Baterna to help them come up with the best solution for integration of the Art Deco façade with the new municipal building.

2. After the integration of the façade into the new municipal hall, the HCS will assist Bauan in formulating a tourism program in coordination with neighboring LGUs.

Prepared by:
Nathaniel von Einsiedel
Ivan Anthony Henares
Rene Luis Mata

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thailand: Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket & Sukhothai

Thailand was the first country I traveled abroad to without my parents. Complete with the necessary DSWD Travel Clearance, I flew to Bangkok in 1996 to attend a high school student council convention in Pattaya. I've been there numerous times since including memorable visits on the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) in 2002 and for the Thailand Medical Tourism Blog Contest last year, when I finally got to visit Chiang Mai. I was back again this year. And after years of wanting to visit Phuket and Sukhothai, I finally did. Here are photos from Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Bangkok, Phuket and my visit to Chiang Mai last year.

September 17-18 - Ayutthaya and Bangkok, Thailand
September 18-20 - Phuket, Thailand
September 21 - Sukhothai, Thailand
September 23 - Bangkok, Thailand
November 23 - Chiang Mai, Thailand
November 24 - Chiang Mai, Thailand
November 25 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cagayan de Oro: Food trip at Butcher's Best Barbeque, CDO Night Cafe, Candy's, Bourbon Street, Sentro 1850, Steve's BBQ & Del Monte Clubhouse

So where does one eat at when in Cagayan de Oro? After that whitewater rafting trip or that day-trip to Bukidnon, I'm sure we're all hungry. And it's good that Cagayan de Oro has a lot of options and choices. So here's CDO for our Food Trip Series.

There's the CDO Night Cafe every Friday and Saturday night. I also visited Butcher's Best Barbeque, Candy's and Bourbon Street in Limketkai, Sentro 1850, and Steve's BBQ. Although in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, the Del Monte Clubhouse is also popular among tourists.

The roads around the plaza in Divisoria are closed every Friday and Saturday night for what is called the CDO Night Cafe. I remember when I first visited CDO in 2004, the Night Cafe was just a new idea. But way back then, it already attracted a lot of people. Today, it's an even bigger enterprise with more food stalls, mostly grilled meats and seafood. But you'd find the occasional ulam and tasty CDO lechon as well.

Speaking of barbecue, Butcher's Best serves good and affordable grilled meats as well. Try their Original Pork BBQ and Pork Sisig. But my personal favorite is the Grilled Angus Beef Belly (Php80) which is really value for money.

When I asked readers for suggestions, Candy's in Limketkai topped the list. Halibut with Fresh Sea Scallops (Php875) was among the highly-recommended dishes. I was told I should have tried the pizza too. Among the dishes we had were the Roasted Chicken with Panzanella (Php345) served with roasted capsicum, artichoke hearts, fresh orange slices, yam, tomatoes and seasoned with warm honey vinaigrette; and Baby Back Ribs (Php345).

For dessert, we tried out their Ice Cream Cake.

Also in Limketkai is Bourbon Street Cafe which serves New Orleans cuisine. I got to try their Cajun Tacos (Php180) and the Beignets with Caramel Sauce (Php110) which they are quite famous for.

Jet Jeff suggested two more restaurants in Limketkai namely Kagay-anon Restaurant and Country Steakhouse (they serve ostrich meat) as well as La Vetta for a gourmet experience.

For more streetfood, Mckoi Pernia suggests chicken a la carte (yes it's a cart) that sprouts around the Cogon Market after 8 p.m. His favorite is Steve's which has now moved to their own restaurant along J.R. Borja Extension near Limketkai. He adds that he remembers 3 a.m. post-gimmick meals at this one particular carinderia inside the Cogon Public Market which serves piping hot Humba and Balbacua (pork knuckle soup).

Another place we had dinner at was Sentro 1850. Among the dishes we ordered was Ima's Kawali (crispy deep fried pork belly with liver sauce and spicy vinaigrette) and Grilled Balinese Swordfish. Sentro also was an interesting selection of foreign beers.

Although not in CDO, visitors to Cagayan de Oro troop to the Del Monte Clubhouse in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon to try their steak. I missed this the last time. So I made sure we ate here on the way to Dahilayan. Yes, we had steak for breakfast!

Well, I didn't have time and space to eat at every place interesting. But here are more suggestions from Jet Jeff. He suggests the old noodle houses of CDO which have been serving customers for decades. There's Yees Kitchenette along Cruz Taal Street, La Paz Batchoy along Capistrano Street, and Bagong Lipunan which now has several branches. He adds "We should support these establishments as they are part of our city's cultural heritage. A few years ago, Ah Fat Bakery, which was one if not the oldest in the city, closed down. They baked salted bread or pan de sal in a brick oven."

Speaking of heritage food, make sure to try binaki or steamed corn cakes when you are in CDO. It's one of the best native snacks I've had. I wonder why it isnt't as popular as it should be. You'll know what I mean when you taste it. Manny Gaerlan suggest that you try also the different home-grown brand of hams such as Oroham, Slers and Pine. Anyway, that sure made me hungry again! Time to schedule another food trip to CDO!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cagayan de Oro: Whitewater rafting and the Dahilayan Adventure Park

Earlier this year, I flew to Cagayan de Oro to try out the famous CDO whitewater rafting courses and visit Bukidnon's newest adventure attractions, the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park. Little did I realize that I would be back again this month for more fun!

Straight from the airport, we motored to Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon for the trip to Dahilayan. But we made sure to stopover the Del Monte Clubhouse for breakfast (I missed this when I was here in January). Yes, we had their famous steak for breakfast! I'll discuss more about the food we had in another entry.

From there, we went through the Del Monte pineapple plantations and Camp Phillips to get to Dahilayan, quite close to Mount Kitanglad. The Dahilayan Adventure Park is famous for the longest dual-cable zip line in Asia. While the Dahilayan Forest Park has a host of recreational facilities and activities including ATV and buggy rides through a challenging but fun off-road course around the park, Astrozorbit and Aquazorbit rides, and picnic grounds among many others things to do.

After finishing our activities, we had lunch at Cowboy's Grill (popular choices are grilled lamb or ostrich) before proceeding back to CDO. Anyway, here's more information on Dahilayan.

The next day, we did the Advanced 1 whitewater rafting course along the Cagayan River. The last time, we simply did the Basic course. There's also Advanced 2 and Extreme which I'll definitely try next time. The jump-off point for the Advanced 1 course is at the highway boundary between CDO and Bukidnon.

It was a fun morning as we went through at least 21 rapids. To mute the monotony, we did some crazy stuff too such as surfing the rapids. The guide would signal everyone to stand up on the raft during select rapids. And if you don't balance well, everyone tumbles down the raft too which is equally fun.

Sometimes, the raft would slam a large wave which makes things even more exciting. When you reach calmer areas, the guide would allow you to jump off the boat for a swim.

At the end, lunch awaits. It will all depend on the arrangements you've made or the tour company you've booked with (there are two end-points). But you'll definitely be hungry by the time the trip ends. So make sure you've arranged a sumptuous lunch. Ours was none other than CDO lechon, tuna panga, pansit and binaki (steamed corn cakes), one of the best native desserts I've ever had. Here's more information on whitewater rafting in the Cagayan River.

Dahilayan Forest Park
(0917) 7154399
Accommodation: Family Suites (4 to 6 persons) Php5,000; Standard (good for 3) Php2,800; Twin (good for 2) Php2,800; Deluxe (good for 4) Php3,200; Barkada Room (minimum of 10) Php400/person
Activities: Buggy Ride Php800/person; ATV Php500/person both inclusive of Php100 entrance fee; Astrozorbit and Aquazorbit Php250/person; Bungee Trampoline Php150/person; Tree Top Adventure Php250/person

Dahilayan Adventure Park
(0922) 8801319
Accommodation at Pinegrove Mountain Lodge: Family Room (good for 6) Php5,000; Standard (good for 3 with free breakfast for 2) Php2,800; Deluxe (good for 3 with free breakfast for 2) Php3,200; Suite (good for 3 with free breakfast for 2) Php3,500

Swift Travel + Tours
14 G/F Pelaez Sports Center, A. Velez Street, Cagayan de Oro City
(088) 8573897 / (08822) 727629 / (0922) 8333136 to 38

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Pampanga: Food trip at Aling Lucing Sisig, Camalig Restaurant, Everybody's Cafe & Nathaniel's

I've decided to start a Food Trip Series with a food trip I had with my students in Pampanga. This is a list of restaurants and dishes we ate in Pampanga in a day (actually one afternoon). I think everyone gave up after the fifth restaurant. We visited the Historic Camalig Restaurant (Armando's Pizza), Aling Lucing Sisig and Halo-Halo sa Corazon in Angeles City; and Everybody's Cafe and Nathaniel's in San Fernando.

Most of the restaurants we visited are decades old. And testament to their iconic status are the many framed newspaper and magazine articles proudly displayed in the restaurant walls.

When at the Historic Camalig Restaurant, make sure you order Doy's Kapampangan (longganisa, salted duck egg (ebun buru), onion and pickle relish; large 13" P397). It may sound like a weird combination; but everyone who has tasted it says it works. Another personal favorite is All The Way (pepperoni, ground beef, green pepper and mushroom; large 13" P397).

Aling Lucing Sisig is a must in any Pampanga food trip. Did you know that sisig as we know it today was born here? Sisig is actually an old Kapampangan dish made from sour unripe fruits, particularly for pregnant women. But it was Aling Lucing who created the modern day sisig from the oversupply of unwanted pig heads from Clark Air Base. She grilled the pig cheeks then minced them, tossed in some minced liver, onions and sili as well, and flavored the dish with kalamansi.

So how did it become so popular? I believe it was Trellis which first introduced sisig to Manila. It obviously took Manila by storm. And the rest is history.

But nothing beats the original! Sisig at Aling Lucing in Angeles City clearly shows the sisig in Manila is only second best. Note that Aling Lucing Sisig has only one branch, that's at Crossing (right by the railroad tracks) in Angeles City. Note that those in malls and elsewhere are not hers.

For dessert, we trooped to Halo-Halo sa Corazon in Nepo Subdivision. Of course we had halo-halo. The Corazon version has beans, halaya or pastillas, macapuno, saging and mais. I'll talk more about halo-halo in another post. There's the Razon's (Guagua) and Kabigting's (Arayat) version as well.

From Angeles, we motored south to San Fernando to visit another iconic restaurant, Everybody's Cafe! Morcon would be their showcase dish. The drippings alone are to die for and is best eaten with rice.

There's actually a lot of traditional Kapampangan food in the display which you just point out. I'd usually have Pako Salad. But there's also the oh so healthy (maybe not), crunchy and chewy Chicharon Bulaklak (deep-fried pig intestine) for starters, perfect when dipped in vinegar.

My students also enjoyed the fear factor dishes. There's Kamaru (sauteed crickets) which some of my students found surprisingly good and perfect beer food, good old Pindang Damulag (tapang kalabaw/pickled carabao meat) and Betute (deep-fried stuffed frog).

To end the tasting session at Everbody's Cafe, we had the Tsokolate Batirul. I was so excited to sip the warm, rich, thick and frothy tsokolate eh, I forgot to take a photo of it!

Our last stop is relatively new, but now the equally famous Nathaniel's along Gapan-Olongapo Road (Jose Abad Santos Highway). To those who've tried the Buko Pandan Juice at Nathaniel's, it's heaven!

Dinuguan (Tidtad) in Pampanga is the best! My students were raving while they were having their share at Nathaniel's. And their Siomai with a twist is also good. Soft and juicy we know. But crunchy inside too?! Nathaniel's siomai has water chestnuts.

Finally, Puto Pao is among Nathaniel's best sellers. The lines that day were long! People going home to Manila passed by for their pasalubong.

That's just the first installment. Watch out for the next food trip!
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