Monday, June 30, 2014

Chio Sai Siong Hong Kong Temple 石狮城皇公廟 in Manila Chinatown

Chinese New Year celebrations in Manila Chinatown have become extremely crowded, commercial, and in a way, adulterated – with the unwelcome aswangs, drag queens and ati-atihan groups going around and asking for money (they are obviously out of place); sometimes, I lose motivation to experience the festivities. But I was pleasantly surprised that outside Chinese New Year, there are other colorful celebrations in Binondo, Manila, such as temple feasts, if you know when and where to look for them (dates change with the lunar calendar too).

One of them is at the Chio Sai Siong Hong Kong Temple 石狮城皇公廟 where they celebrate annually the "birthday" of the Taoist deity Siong Hong Kong 城皇公, whose devotion originates from Chio Sai or Shishi City in Fujian, China. I realized San Fernando, Pampanga also has its own Jeosay Shinhongkong Temple meaning the forebearers who brought the images to the Philippines may have come from the same hometown.

So on Araw ng Maynila (good thing it was a holiday, no traffic), we were in Binondo first thing in the morning to watch a colorful procession leave the temple, go through the streets of Binondo and Santa Cruz, and return to the temple on Tomas Pinpin Street. It had all the makings of a community celebration without any trace of commercial advertising. Rather than brave the crowds on Chinese New Year, fight for space to watch the lion and dragon dances, or jostle for limited seats in our favorite restaurants, this was perfect! No tourists taking selfies here!

Fireworks announced the start of the procession. It was led by the temple banners, followed by the first carroza (yes, a Catholic carroza borrowed from the Binondo Church) with several Taoist deities with sampaguita leis. The drum and lyre band of Philippine Sun Yat Sen High School came after. It was quite amusing hearing the band play "Happy Birthday" every now and then for Siong Hong Kong.

Performing in the middle of the procession were lion and dragon dances.

Devotees bearing on their shoulders the century-old image of Santo Siong Hong Kong 城皇公 on a small wooden platform then followed. Everyone was in red!

At the end of the procession was yet another Catholic carroza with two Taoist deities, one of them Hu Din Ma. You could definitely see the fusion between different cultures here in the Philippines.

Back at the temple, the images were brought inside one by one beginning with Siong Hong Kong. They seemed to follow a particular order of entrance into the temple. Candies and coins were thrown for good luck. And the community partook of cha mi sua or misua guisado once the ceremonies were over.

Thank you to Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks for letting me know about this! Since the celebration follows the lunar calendar, dates vary every year.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kenyir Lake in Terengganu, Malaysia

Believe it or not, Tasik Kenyir or Lake Kenyir in Terengganu, Malaysia is man-made. It's the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia, created when the Kenyir River was dammed for a hydroelectric power station. The 260 square kilometer lake is home to many species of freshwater fish and wildlife. Plus hill above the water level became 340 small islands creating a spectacular landscape. And that makes it worth a visit!

It's great that the local authorities were able to protect the local fish species which are abundant in the lake. At the visitor's center, there are aquariums where you get to see some of them up close. Around the lake is said to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. In fact, it is another gateway to Taman Negara.

To get around, you need to take a speedboat since the lake is really vast and the attractions quite a distance from each other. Some of the islands have been developed into resorts and there are several of them to choose from, perfect getaways for those who want some quiet time with nature.

Some of the islands are being developed into gardens and scientific research centers such as the Kenyir Tropikal Garden (Taman Tropika), a research and development center for tropical fruits, particularly wild and endemic fruits which are in danger of extinction, and the Orchid Garden (Taman Orkid) which features Malaysian and ASEAN orchid species. There are also a Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Herbal ParkRambutan Garden and Heliconia Garden that have been created or are in the works.

There were a good number of orchids in bloom in Taman Orkid which was on several islands connected by bridges. The garden is a research and preservation center for both local and international species.

One of the highlights of a trip to Lake Kenyir is a visit to the Kelah Sanctuary at Sungai Petang (Petang River). The presence of the Kelah fish or Malaysian mahseer (Tor tambroides) is an indicator of excellent ecological balance since they only thrive in rivers that are clean. You actually get to swim with the Kelah fish which rush to you, giving you a soft ticklish nibble. They are so friendly, you can catch them by hand.

Before returning to Kuala Terengganu, we stopped by the Kenyir Elephant Village just in time to watch them take a bath in the river.

How to get to Lake Kenyir in Terengganu
There is a direct bus service from Kuala Lumpur to Lake Kenyir which departs at 9:00 p.m. daily. The Tasik Kenyir Express departs from Hentian Putra. Fare is RM44.10. For more information, you can contact Nikaniaga Sdn. Bhd +60 (9) 8221276 or Hentian Putra Counter +60 (3) 40444276.  

Lake Kenyir is 55km from Kuala Terengganu. A taxi from Kuala Terengganu costs about RM100.00. There are also regular buses to Kuala Berang from Kuala Terengganu (RM8.00 per person). The taxi from Kuala Berang to Lake Kenyir is only RM50.00. But it's best to book a package via travel agency.

At present, there are approximately 70 boat operators providing boat services within the lake. All boats are located at Gawi Jetty. Aside from the regular boats (maximum of 8 people), double deck houseboats are also available (maximum of 12 people).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

PLDT Home DSL's "Ask Diego" getting good following

PLDT Home DSL recently launched a new TV commercial featuring Diego Ledesma, a bright, handsome and witty young boy. How he stole the heart of many was unprecedented. The PLDT Home DSL commercials always center on family to show how important family values and strong connections are at home.

For this new series, the Ledesma family is featured. Their claim to fame began with seven-year-old Diego, who now has tens of thousands of fans on his advice column on Facebook, “Ask Diego.”

The Ledesmas are the perfect fit for the commercial because they are the ideal example of today’s young, urban family: tight-knit, enjoys doing things together online using multiple gadgets simultaneously to help one another out. That’s where PLDT Home DSL’s limitless and reliable family-sized connection really comes in handy. This kind of strong connection helps keeps the family together, in more ways than one.

Some people initially raised their eyebrows at the thought of a child being on Facebook, but upon learning that values is paramount in the Ledesma household because his parents monitor the page constantly, Diego started getting so many questions on topics ranging on love, studies, and bullying, all the way to vacation and business ideas. Before he sees the questions, Paolo and Lara delete offensive content, and sometimes answer the more difficult questions themselves. Then they help him type out answers, especially when he asks about how to spell words. On occasion, Diego also gets ideas for answers from his Ate Trisha.

Check out "Ask Diego" on

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Isaw at Mang Larry's in UP Diliman

Isaw at Mang Larry's in UP Diliman
As a student in UP Diliman, I grew up enjoying isaw at Mang Larry's. His stand used to be right in front of our freshman dorm. He's moved now to the empty lot between the swimming pool and UP Law. And his booth has noticeably leveled up. But he still serves the same favorites we enjoyed back then.

From left to right, there's atay ng baboy (pork liver), isaw baboy (small pig intestines), isaw manok (chicken intestines), pork barbecue, tenga (pig ears), special isaw baboy, balun-balunan (chicken gizzard), botsi (chicken esophagus) and goto (large pig intestines). He has two sauces, sweet brown sauce and spicy vinegar. They also serve siomai too! Lines can be long, but it's worth the wait. Enjoy!

Here's a list of where to eat in UP Diliman!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

What is happening at the Bohol churches after the earthquake?

When the earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu on October 15, 2013, the entire nation lamented the destruction of our heritage. But alas, Filipinos are often quick to forget. Several months after the earthquake, are people even asking what is happening at the Bohol churches?

There's a lot of work that needs to be done. Work on all churches is still in the retrieval stage. The National Committee on Monuments and Sites of the NCCA visited Bohol last week to check on the status of the churches. The team visited Dauis Church, Dauis Watchtower, Cortes Church, Maribojoc Church, Punta Cruz Watchtower, Loon Church, Tubigon Church, Baclayon Church, Loboc Church and Loay Church. Except for the Tubigon Church which is not declared, all heritage properties are National Cultural Treasures. Before you look at the current situation, here are photos of the Bohol churches before the earthquake for comparison.

The portico facade of the Dauis Church collapsed during the earthquake
The nave and altar of the Dauis Church are relatively intact. Major damage is on the left and right transept 
Damage to the left transept of the Dauis Church
Damage to the right transept of the Dauis Church
The portico facade of the Cortes Church collapsed during the earthquake
The nave of the church is relatively intact with cracks on the walls
Damage to the left transept of the Cortes Church
Damage to the right transept of the Cortes Church
The Maribojoc Church was totally destroyed during the earthquake
The interior of the Maribojoc Church
A portion of the left lateral wall of the Maribojoc Church that still stands gives insights on the manner and materials used in the construction of the churches
Coral stones are carefully retrieved from the ruins of the Maribojoc Church and properly numbered for any future reconstruction
Student volunteers assist the National Museum and the parish in numbering, cleaning and storing artifacts and materials retrieved from the Maribojoc Church
The Punta Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc sustained significant damage during the earthquake. Inscriptions on top of the main entrance were unfortunately destroyed
The Loon Church was totally destroyed during the earthquake
An employee of the National Museum prepares labels for the retrieved stones
The once majestic Loon Church has been reduced to rubble
Coral stone retrieved from the Loon Church and rubble that is left of the once majestic church
The facade and nave of the Tubigon Church collapsed during the earthquake. Unfortunately, the Tubigon Church is not declared so no government funding can be budgeted for its reconstruction
A few panels are all that remains of the ceiling murals of Tubigon Church 
Portions of the ceiling murals of the Tubigon Church are piled on one side of the church
The portico facade and belfry of the Baclayon Church collapsed during the earthquake
Fortunately, the interior of the Baclayon Church is still intact. But work needs to be done to prevent any further damage from future earthquakes.
Loboc Church was the first declared National Cultural Treasure in Bohol. It sustained major damage during the earthquake
The pipe organ was among the elements of the Loboc Church that were spared from damage. But it needs to be retrieved immediately since the lateral walls that contain it are not stable
Major damage to the lateral walls and ceiling of the Loboc Church and convento
The pediment of the Loay Church collapsed during the earthquake
Fortunately, most of the damage to the Loay Church is limited to the portico facade. The nave and altar remain intact but there is damage to the left transept
Damage to the facade of the Loay Church and the buildings around the church
Hopefully funding allotted for the reconstruction of the churches is put to good use immediately. The parishes of Bohol have been instructed not to touch the declared churches. And yet several months after, progress on the retrieval and reconstruction, particularly for NHCP-assigned churches, is unsatisfactory according to Fr. Ted Torralba who was with us during the assessment. While funding is available, it will take political will to hurdle all the bureaucratic processes. In the meantime, Bohol continues to wait for the much-needed assistance that was promised to them months ago.
Related Posts with Thumbnails