Monday, March 26, 2012

Camarines Norte: Overnight at the Calaguas Islands

The Calaguas Islands are no doubt the crown jewels of Camarines Norte. With pristine white sand beaches and almost no development, this is as pure a beach can get! Just a week after visiting Bicol, I found myself in Camarines Norte, the gateway to Bicolandia.

Thursday, March 1, 2012
I joined a chartered bus of the Photography Roadtrippers who were also on their way to Camarines Norte. We left Cubao at about 8 p.m. and found ourselves in the town of Paracale, Camarines Norte early the next morning.

Friday, March 2, 2012
Paracale is one of the three possible jump-off points for the Calaguas Group of Islands. The other two are Vinzons (most of the islands are part of Vinzons) and Daet. But I was told Paracale is the closest.

The boat ride from Paracale is usually an hour and thirty minutes. But today, the waves were a bit rough. And we also had to deal with some wind and rain on the way. As a result, the really bumpy ride took close to three hours. But that's to be expected given that Calaguas is already in the Pacific Ocean.

There are several islands which form the Calguas Group. And our destination was Mahabang Buhangin Beach in Tinaga Island, the largest of the Calaguas Islands. The view of the white sand beach and aquamarine blue water as we approached Mahabang Buhangin erased all the discomfort I had to deal with while on the boat. It was paradise!

Note that there are no accommodation facilities in Tinaga Island or anywhere in the Calaguas Islands. So you'll have to pitch your own tent or sleep on the sand. The Camarines Norte Tourism Office has available tents and they helped us set-up camp. They also prepared lunch for us. Yes, you'll also have to bring food and cook on your own. So it's really best to coordinate with the tourism office if you want someone to prepare food for you and your group.

After a sumptuous lunch, the only afternoon option was siesta time. It was too hot to get anything done (plus the weather was very unpredictable, from really hot to strong rain showers at times), and with no electricity, mobile phone signal, much less Internet access, there really nothing much to do except enjoy the scenery and be one with nature. It's been quite a while since I've spent hours doing nothing. And that was fun!

One thing I regretted though was I wasn't able to bring a comfortable sleeping bag or a small pillow at the very least. Sleeping in the tent without one was quite an ordeal and I ended up waking up several times later that night since my back hurt. So if you're not used to sleeping on a hard surface, make sure to bring a small pillow when visiting Calaguas. Or you can just ditch the tent, sleep on the softer sand and enjoy looking at the stars on a clear night. Just make sure you don't get caught by high tide.

By late afternoon, it was time again to take photos. Dinner was again prepared for us by the tourism office. If not for the flashlights some members of the group brought with them, we would have eaten dinner in total darkness. So make sure to bring a lamp or two for your group when staying overnight. It's also been quite a while since I slept early. But with no Internet connection, I really had not much of a choice.

Saturday, March 2, 2012
We were up quite early. But after breakfast, I went back to sleep as others in the group took more photos. I really enjoyed the much needed rest I had in Calaguas. We were supposed to go island-hopping to visit the other islands. But since we were running late, we had to rush back to Paracale. Thank God the water was calmer than the day before and the weather much better. So we made it back in less than two hours.

From Paracale, we proceeded to Bagasbas Beach in Daet where we were to stay for the night. But of course, we made sure to stop by the old Paracale Church for some photos.

Visit the Ivan About Town FB page for more photos of Camarines Norte. Thank you very much to Camarines Norte Governor Edgardo A. Tallado and the Camarines Norte Tourism Office for inviting me to visit their beautiful province.

Camarines Norte Tourism Office
Provincial Capitol, Daet, Camarines Norte
Tel. No. +63 (52) 7213087 / Fax No. +63 (52) 4402013

Manila: P.F. Chang's in Alabang Town Center

Ivan Man Dy and Ivan Henares with Chef Philip Chiang
This is a long overdue post on our sumptuous lunch and dinner experience at P.F. Chang's in Alabang Town Center last January. Being the Tsinoy and expert on Chinese food, Ivan Man Dy did the review.

Here is the new kid in the Chinese restaurant block!

We went to the launch and opening of the latest franchise to land in the Metro: P.F. Chang's China Bistro at the Alabang Town Center.

Shrimp with Candied Walnuts
Northern Style Spare Ribs
Truth be told, to consider P.F. Chang's as another Chinese restaurant is inaccurate. This place is as Chinese as the San Francisco fortune cookie as it serves mainly Chinese food for the American palate. The decor is decidedly Hollywood with its super-high ceiling, mood lighting and cocktail bar atmosphere. Think Friday's with a Chinese-themed presentation and menu. Definitely not your traditional Chinese round-table atmosphere.

And the like the American chop suey, the food is a hodgepodge of Chinese-inspired regional types such as Pekingese (Northern Chinese), Mongolian, Shanghainese, Cantonese, Sichuan and Hunan. For appetizer, we had the Chicken Lettuce Wrap which was an interesting twist from the ground pork original that we are accustomed too. We noted how ergonomically shaped the round cuts of the lettuce that turned into mini 'leaf saucers' for easy wrapping of the chicken.

Dynamite Shrimp
Chang's Spare Ribs
Another popular favorite is the Dynamite Shrimp that's served in cocktail glass and packs a spicy punch. The Barbecue Spareribs is not quite Chinese but is tasty and of good quality nonetheless with the meat falling off the bones immediately as you sink your teeth in it.

Oolong Marinated Chilean Sea Bass
Then there's the Oolong Marinated Sea Bass over a bed of kay lan leaves. I've always loved gindara (sea bass) and the fish itself is a winner for me. The kay lan provided for a nice crunchy and leafy touch to the dish. We also sampled the other house specialties that included Wonton Soup, Kung Pao Chicken, Shrimp Honey Dew and Chicken Noodle Soup.

Chang's Chicken Noodle Soup
Kung Pao Shrimp
Our dinner at P.F. Chang's was definitely something new especially from the perspective of our home-grown Tsinoy taste bud. If you're hankering for a new interpretation of your usual Chinese fare, then P.F. Chang's is a place worth trying.

With Chef Philip Chiang and Michael Welborn
The men behind P.F. Chang's in Alabang Town Center: Genaro Perez Diaz (Director of International Marketing), Michael Welborn (President of Global Brand Development), Chef Philip Chiang and Archie Rodriguez (President & CEO, Global Restaurant Concepts)
For more photos of the P.F. Chang's opening last January 17, 2012 and the sumptuous dishes we got to try for lunch and dinner, please visit the Ivan About Town FB page.

P.F. Chang’s
Alabang Town Center
Tel. No. +63 (927) 5333445
http://pfchangs.com.ph/

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Camarines Sur: Wakeboarding at CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC)

Wakeboarding at the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) has long been a popular watersports activity in the Bicol Region. From Donsol, Sorsogon, we drove all the way to Pili, Camarines Sur, where CWC is located, right in the compound of the Camarines Sur Provincial Capitol.

As soon as we got there, we checked-in at the Villa del Rey Cabanas.

Villa del Rey Dwell Homes at CWC
Villa del Rey Containers at CWC
There are several options for accommodation at CWC, from the high end Villa del Rey Villas (Php6250) and Mansion Suites (from Php2700 to Php5000), to Wood Cabins (from Php2750 to Php3750), Dwell Homes (Php3750) and Cabanas (Php1700), to the lower end Containers (Php1500), Tiki Huts (Php1100) and EcoVillage (as low as Php350).

Since it was getting dark, we went straight to CWC Cable Park to start wakeboarding. There are several options for everyone's wakeboarding capabilities, including a beginners cable for first timers, and a cable where many pros from around the world train, owing the the great facilities and very affordable rates.

Rates begin at Php125 for the hourly rate during the day, and Php175 at night. There is also a half day rate of Php370 (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 to 5 p.m.), whole day rate of Php610 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and night rate of Php500 (5 to 9 p.m.). Equipment rental (lifevest and helmet) is Php40 per hour, Php90 half day or Php140 whole day with a Php500 deposit.

I tried wakeboarding at the beginner's cable. And after an hour trying, I'm definitely sure I'll the leave the pro cables to the pros for now!

How to get to CWC
Take a flight to Naga Airport which is actually in Pili, Camarines Sur and take public transportation from them. Or you can take a bus to Pili and get off right at the gate of the Camarines Sur Provincial Capitol.

More photos of Albay, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur in the Ivan About Town FB page.

Thank you to Director Verna Buensuceso and Christie Navarro of the Department of Tourism Team Europe for arranging the trip of Nellie Huang and Alberto Molero of WildJunket.com to Bicol! Thank you also to Director Maria Ravanilla and Amy Detera of Department of Tourism Bicol Region, and Donsol EcoTour for their valuable assistance and warm hospitality!

Camsur Watersports Complex
Provincial Capitol Complex
Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur
Contact Number: (054) 477 3344 / (054) 477 3349
Fax Number: +63(54) 477-3347
Mobile number: +(63) 917 8954156 or +(63) 999 8893697
E-mail: villadelreyreservation@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Camarines Norte: Calaguas Islands, Bagasbas Beach & Apuao Islands

Camarines Norte, in particular the Calaguas Group of Islands, is becoming a popular destination for those who are looking for pristine beaches. With no facilities, you can spend the night in Calaguas under the stars, on the sand or in a tent. I got to visit Mahabang Buhangin Beach on Tinaga Island recently where we stayed overnight.

During the same trip, I got to visit Bagasbas Beach in Daet, and the different islands off the coast of Mercedes, particularly the Apuao Islands. I'll share more information in detail in the next posts. But in the meantime, here are photos of Camarines Norte in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sorsogon: Whale shark (butanding) interaction tours in Donsol

Whale shark or butanding (Photo from Dir. Maria Ravanilla, DOT Bicol)
Donsol has become a popular destination for visitors to the Philippines because of its whale shark (Rhincodon typus) or butanding interaction tours. From Legazpi City, we drove to Donsol, Sorsogon which was about two hours away.

As soon as we arrived, we proceeded to the Donsol Visitors Center to register and do the necessary briefing. Upon arrival at Donsol, all tourists have to proceed to the Donsol Visitors Center to log, register and pay the required fees (Php100 for Filipinos and Php300 for foreigners; Php3500 per boat). You will then be required to watch a briefing video.

If you arrive in the afternoon, it's best that you do this upon arrival to avoid the lines the next morning, which is what we did. Boats leave only in the morning starting at 7 a.m. Although some boats leave early in the afternoon, there's a smaller chance to see the whale sharks since their feeding time is usually over.

You will also be given a boarding pass, after which you wait for your boat assignments and proceed to the boats when given. If you register the afternoon before, you immediately proceed to the boarding pass and boat assignment stage the next morning.

Each boat has a butanding interaction officer (BIO), spotter and a crew. Make sure to discuss your trip with the BIO. If you have your own snorkeling gear and fins, make sure to bring them. If you don't have any, there are a lot available for rent. The fins are necessary to be able to keep up with the whale sharks. I tried swimming without the fins once and it was quite challenging.

After registering, we proceeded to our accommodation. I was billeted at Villa JoLee (rooms start at Php1500 a night). After settling down, it was free time. In the evening, we went firefly watching in the Ogod River.

The next day, we were up early. Although we got to leave at 7 a.m., we were told the whale sharks usually come out to feed at 10 a.m. It takes an hour to get to the feeding area. So the best time to leave really is between 8 to 9 a.m. Unfortunately, we only got to see a glimpse of one butanding in the 5 hours that we were out at sea. The last time I was there in 2007, we saw four. For a detailed account of the Donsol experience, read Butanding and firefly encounters in Donsol, Sorsogon.

How to get to Donsol, Sorsogon
By bus from Manila, you could get off at Legazpi City (10 hours) and hop on a van or hired vehicle at the Legazpi Bus Terminal going to Donsol, Sorsogon (1 to 2 hours). Or you can take a bus directly to Sorsogon City (12 hours) and take a jeep or van to Donsol from there (1 to 2 hours). By air, you fly to Legazpi City. At the airport, hired land transport is available but not cheap. Alternately, you can take a tricycle at the airport to the Legazpi Bus Terminal and hop on a van to Donsol from there.

More photos of Albay, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur in the Ivan About Town FB page.

Thank you to Director Verna Buensuceso and Christie Navarro of the Department of Tourism Team Europe for arranging the trip of Nellie Huang and Alberto Molero of WildJunket.com to Bicol! Thank you also to Director Maria Ravanilla and Amy Detera of Department of Tourism Bicol Region, Donsol Municipal Tourism Officer Nenita Pedragosa and Donsol EcoTour for their valuable assistance and warm hospitality!

Donsol, Sorsogon Tourism Office
Mobile No. +63 (919) 7070394 / (921) 9699544
E-mail: nenitapedragosa@yahoo.com

Villa JoLee
Mobile No. +63 (908) 5606666 / (929) 1505658

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lakbay Norte 3: 4x4 ride to Puning Hot Spring, Camalig Restaurant & Prado Farms in Pampanga

Now back to Lakbay Norte 3 and this long overdue post on Pampanga and Clark Freeport. From Subic Bay, we motored to Clark Freeport via the SCTEx and proceeded straight to Veranda Restaurant in Mimosa for a dinner hosted by the Clark Development Corporation.

Junior Family Suite at Hotel Vida
Driveway of Hotel Vida
After dinner, we checked-in at the Widus Resort and Casino (Hotel Vida) where we were given spacious and cozy Family Junior Suite rooms, perfect for our last night on Lakbay Norte 3. We were treated to a sumptuous breakfast spread the next day at their restaurant.



Our first activity for Day 8 was a visit to Puning Hot Spring. Mount Pinatubo may have wreaked havoc on Pampanga and Central Luzon. But its effects have become tourist attractions with the Mount Pinatubo trek to the crater lake, 4x4 rides through lahar fields, and spas that use the therapeutic benefits of the heat and sulfur from the volcano.

Puning Hot Spring is a perfect example of that, with therapeutic hot sulfuric water distributed to various pools in the complex, plus an exciting 4x4 ride through lahar canyons and streams to get there. Yes, the 4x4 ride is an attraction in itself. The pick-up point for the Puning Hot Spring experience is at Mini Stop near the Sapang Bato Gate of Clark. From there, it's about 45 minutes to reach the pool complex. But the adrenaline rush driving through steams, narrow canyons and lahar fields will greet you first.

Sulfur sand shower at Puning Hot Spring
After a dip in the warm pools, you hop back on your 4x4s to proceed to another facility for the sulfur sand shower, where you will be buried up to the neck under volcanic sand from Mt. Pinatubo. After 15 to 30 minutes, you take a cold shower and proceed to the lounge chairs for a sulfur mud pack all over your body. After the mud pack, it's another shower and then you're set to go home. Notice that the employees are local Aytas since the spa is actually part of their ancestral domain. And part of the agreement is that manpower will come from the local Aytas.

Doy's Kapampangan Delight at Camalig Restaurant
Back on the bus, we proceeded to the Historic Camalig Restaurant for Armando's Pizza. Of course, on the lunch spread was my favorite Doy's Kapampangan Delight (longganisa, salted eggs and pickle relish), All the Way, and Marco's Three Way.

Pathway between the theater and library (Photo from Prado Farms)
From Camalig, we proceeded back to the SCTEx for our trip to Prado Farms in Lubao, Pampanga. Although there's a Lubao Exit, the most convenient exit is actually Dinalupihan.

Pistou, Longganisang Guagua and Pandesal
Free Range Lechon stuffed with Duck and Herbs
Prado Farms is a former LPG facility that was converted into a bio-dynamic farm and charming activity venue, complete with function halls, a theater, and even its own hotel dormitory. It's perfect for workshops, retreats, reunions and other functions. We had merienda which included some Kapampangan favorites of the Gutierrez family which owns the facility such as Pistou (Ground Pork), Longganisang Guagua and Pandesal (from Apung Diung) and Free Range Lechon stuffed with Duck and Herbs. The duck that was stuffed in the belly of the lechon was used for the Duck Sotanghon Soup that was served later in the day.

Robinsons Starmills Pampanga
Our last stop before proceeding back to Manila was Robinsons Starmills Pampanga for some outlet shopping. Check out the photos of Lakbay Norte 3 at the Ivan About Town FB page. Also check out the video of LN3 Day 8.

Thank you to Lakbay Norte 3's corporate sponsors: North Philippines Visitors Bureau, Victory Liner, MNTC/NLEX, Department of Tourism, our fuel partner Petron, our bus wrap provider Elite Ads Corporation, creatives from ActivAsia, Blue Cross Insurance, onboard snacks and drinks courtesy of Universal Robina Corporation and Robinsons Land.

Widus Resort and Casino (Hotel Vida)
5400 Manuel A. Roxas Highway, Clark Freeport, Pampanga
Tel. No. +63 (45) 4991000; Fax No. +63 (45) 4990979

Puning Hot Spring
Sitio Target, Sapang Bato, Angeles City
Tel. No. +63 (45) 4990629, (920) 8664246 or (919) 3392795

Historic Camalig Restaurant
292 Sto. Rosario Street, Angeles City
Tel. No. +63 (45) 3225641 or 8881077

Prado Center for Renewal and Development (Prado Farms)
Gapan-Olongapo Road, Prado Siongco, Lubao, Pampanga
Tel. No. +63 (920) 9030964; E-mail: pradofarms@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

FAQs on why cement should not be applied on heritage churches

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about cement and heritage churches. Members of the clergy are not aware that covering heritage churches with cement actually does more damage to the structure rather than protect it. This is also true for most built heritage made of adobe, brick or coral stone.

Interior of Paracale Church
In fact, during my recent trip to Camarines Norte, I noticed the exterior of the Paracale Church was covered with cement and the inside walls were moist and covered with moss. No wonder they complain that painting the interior was useless. The water seeped inside since the cement prevented the stone from breathing, blocking the water from evaporating outside.

Lime and cement plaster being applied on Vigan Cathedral (Photo from Shawi Cortez)
Right now, there is news about the cementing of the facade of the Vigan Cathedral which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage property, causing a lot of distress within the conservation community. It turned out to be a mix of cement and lime which may be acceptable in certain situations but not recommended since it makes the mortar brittle.

So what's all the fuss about cement? Here are some FAQs which can help us understand the damage cement can do.

What kinds of intervention cause damage or deterioration to an adobe, brick or coral stone structure?
According to Dr. Fernando Zialcita, peeling off the lime plaster (paletada) or applying a cement coat are not solutions. They actually cause more damage. He says, "Peeling off the lime plaster will expose the bricks to deterioration. On the other hand, a cement coating, being too dense, may keep the brick from breathing and cause its deterioration."

He adds, "The problem is that there has been a break in the transmission of traditional technology. This occurred after WWII. The spread of reinforced concrete caused builders to think that its principles could be applied to all types of buildings. And that they were always superior. Wrong!"

What damage can happen to a stone structure that is covered by a layer of cement?
Conservator Tina Paterno recounts her experience with the Sta. Ana Church which was covered in a layer of cement, "I remember knocking on Sta. Ana's walls, and localized areas were indeed hollow. The adobe is pulverizing at the surface, where water migrates when it wants to evaporate but can't do it quickly enough; so it is trapped right beneath the cement."

Stucco and Paint Restorer Tats Manahan, who worked on the Sta. Ana Church, adds, "The hollow sound in Sta. Ana was due to the pulverization of the adobe beneath the Portland cement which was a good inch or more. When we chipped off the cement, there were hollowed out parts of the adobe. The degradation was due to the water seepage from a leak on the roof, which was fixed first before applying the lime plaster, which was done in the standard three coats with the prescribed proportions of lime and sand on each strata."

Architect Dom Galicia agrees, "Portland cement does not allow water to escape, causing the stone underneath to turn to powder and the stability of the structure to be compromised."

How does one protect an adobe, brick or coral stone structure?
Paterno says the solution is the re-application of lime plaster. But it all depends on the material though. If a coral stone or light adobe structure was covered with cement, peeling the cement coat would be good for the building. Then re-application of lime plaster should follow.

Lime and sand paletada being applied on the Malate Church (Photo by Richard Bautista)
Is there a formula for mixing lime with sand? Is there a formula for how much lime to apply on a building?
According to Manahan, the general formula for the paletada mix is three parts lime and one part sand. But again, a structure must be properly studied and documented first to determine the situation and later decide on the solution. It is the degradation of the wall which will determine the sand grain and lime grind, and how much of the mixture to apply.

From the results of the documentation, you will also determine whether to chip off the old paletada, which may or may not be needed depending on the stability of what is existing. If it is still okay, one may leave it there, then apply an initial foundation that will blend in the old and new paletada before actually applying the new layer.

There are several variables and one needs someone trained to determine the proper approach. It must be stressed that you have to analyze the surface first to determine the need. There is no clear cut formula. But Manahan stresses that one thing is certain, you never stabilize an adobe or brick structure with cement. That is never done.

And you should avoid mixing lime with cement as well. That is called bastard lime which doesn't work for most adobe and brick. Manahan points out, "The reason why the use of Portland cement is discouraged for use in heritage buildings is because it is too strong a material to be put on top of natural stones like adobe. The softer lime and sand mortar is more compatible with the porosity of these stones. However, a Portland cement, lime, and sand plaster mix is acceptable for newer buildings using modern materials. It's great for granite grouting, for example."

She adds, "Mixing cement with lime causes brittleness of the mortar. It flakes off in large chunks, lifting off from the roughcoat, pretty much like uncooked kropek. Escuela Taller does not use cement and lime, but lime and sand. Christian Aguilar and I did the standard mix for Escuela Taller since both of us are instructors there."

Students of Escuela Taller applied a protective coat of lime and consolidated the walls of the Almacenes Reales in Fort Santiago. The final coat is yet to be applied. (Photo from Escuela Taller)
Who can be approached for advice on the proper materials, manpower and technology for the restoration of facades?
Escuela Taller is one possible source of skilled manpower. Escuela Taller "is a school that teaches trades within the construction industry, more importantly those that will help in the restoration of Intramuros and other built heritage sites in the Philippines. It was established through a grant from the Agencia EspaƱola de CooperaciĆ³n Internacional Para el Desarrollo (AECID) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, with its partners: the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Intramuros Administration (IA)." Their students and graduates have been trained in the proper application of lime coating among many other skills. You may contact them at escuelatallerintramuros@gmail.com.

Aside from government cultural agencies, the Heritage Conservation Society and ICOMOS Philippines also have members trained in conservation. You may contact the two organizations through their respective e-mails: info@heritage.org.ph and info@icomosphilippines.com.

Pasig Cathedral before work on the facade started in April 2006 (Photo by Christian Aguilar)
Pasig Cathedral in October 2006 after the lime plaster was completed (left) and with the new colors and plaster in June 2011. Notice the yellow, white and red combination based on historical colors during the Spanish colonial period (Photos from Christian Aguilar)
Won't applying a fresh coat of lime or paletada make a heritage structure look new?
In reaction to the lime washing of the Daraga Church, Archt. Manolo Noche comments, "True that sometimes the process of conserving may result in a sort of shock factor with the resulting finished product, as with the case of Daraga, Pasig, San Agustin, when a new coat of palitada was applied. But one should ask, are we to preserve what we are familiar with or preserve what is to ensure the continuing legacy of a patrimonial structure. Lime washing will definitely make the building appear white. But as I always say, give it time and it will start to turn grey, with all the pollution in the atmosphere. Personally, I find the white wash on Daraga rather pleasing and reminds me so much of the mission churches in California, which are all white washed."

Speaking about the Daraga Church, there were a lot of negative reactions to the lime washing of the facade. Archt. Rajelyn Busmente of the NCCA explained the process and methodology:

"In February 2009 the walls were cleaned by the NHCP.

Northern facade of the Daraga Church on April 27, 2009 (NCCA)
Northern facade of the Daraga Church after restoration (NCCA)
"For Phase I, conduit was the Municipality of Daraga and point person was Archt. Ana Lorilla under the supervision of National Museum. [Work] began on May 15, 2009 on the wall that faces Mayon, which included the following scope of works:

1. Mechanical and chemical cleaning
2. Repointing of loose stones
3. Repair and water proofing of concrete gutter / Removal of asbestos pipe, replaced with PVP Pipe.
4. Repair and consolidation of rubble stone and masonry / Restoration of stone sculpture and engravings
5. Restoration of buttresses
6. Lime plastering and lime wash

Main facade of Daraga Church on February 15, 2010 (NCCA)
Main facade of Daraga Church on April 14, 2011 (NCCA)
"For Phase II, implementor was Bicol Consortium for Development Initiative, Inc. and point person was Archt. Ana Lorilla under the supervision of the National Museum. The main facade scope of works included:

1. Mounting of scaffolding
2. Removal of cement plaster
3. Mechanical and chemical cleaning
4. Removal and loose stones and plants
5. Restoration of sculpture and engraving
6. Lime plastering
7. Repair and consolidation of stones
8. Lime washing

"The basis for restoring was done through study, research, laboratory testing, and sometimes experimentation. If the church was with paletada, then we put back what it had on, what others may call as Reverse Engineering. If it does not have paletada, further studies are done if the stones might need paletada and then this is placed as protective skin layer of the building.

"The lime wash had caused a culture shock amongst the community and tourists since most people are not familiar with lime wash, comments such as, 'Why did you paint the wall of Daraga Church white?' was a common question.

"The NCCA admits to the lack of public information drive in preparing the community and the tourists as to the visual impact that conservation and preservation does to the eyes. After 243 years of non-restoration, of course this is what will happen if it looks new again.

"In April 13-14, 2011, NM, NHCP and NCCA went to Daraga to meet with the Mayor to explain the buffer and core zone importance of a National Cultural Treasure. On the same day a forum with the media and public forum was also conducted explaining that what was done to the church was to protect, preserve, conserve and restore it so that future generations will be able to still have the heritage to enjoy. Painful as it may seem to most people even to the community who seemed to become angry, it is the scientific method and will continue to be done to all the National Cultural Treasures and other heritage churches that require paletada.

"Hope that more people would come to understand what heritage conservationists are doing to protect heritage and eventually accept it. I honestly believe we have a long way to go."

On the Vigan Cathedral, Dr. Zialcita confirmed that "Arch. Fatima Rabang, who has worked with the Committee on Monuments and Sites of the NCCA, is using a mixture of lime and cement. Not pure lime, rather with some cement admixture. Then Ricky Trota Jose texted me that Fr. Rory [Reyes], who is in charge of the entire project, says he is using a lot of lime sourced from the town of San Ildefonso. Fr. Rory too is a heritage buff, whom some of us know personally and admire."
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