Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Rizal Day!

The networks will definitely be congested beginning tomorrow. Besides, it would be more meaningful to greet people today. So to all my friends... Happy Rizal Day! May Rizal's martyrdom remind us to love our country and be proud to be Filipinos!

Here are some of the lesser known quotations from Rizal's writings:
"They could serve the country more if they were in the Philippines. To serve our country, there is nothing like staying in it. It is there that we have to educate the people, it is there that we have to work." - Letter to Jose M. Basa, January 1889

"A nation wins respect not by covering up abuses, but by punishing them and condemning them." - The Philippines a Century Hence, La Solidaridad, 15 December 1889

"People and government are correlated and complementary. A stupid government is an anomaly among a righteous people, just as a corrupt people cannot exist under just rulers and wise laws. Like people, like government, we will say, paraphrasing a popular adage." - The Indolence of the Filipinos, La Solidaridad, 15 September 1890

Rizal in the news
Rizal joins ranks of Dickens, Austen
"JOSE Rizal’s 'Noli Me Tangere' has been published in a new English translation and released worldwide by Penguin Books, one of the major publishing houses of the English-speaking world, under the Penguin Classics imprint. The publication effectively canonizes the novel as one of the classics of world literature." All I can say is... wow!
National hero a prisoner of myths
This article by Ambeth Ocampo talks about and debunks urban legends on Rizal, such as the one which says he was the father of Adolf Hitler, and another that he was Jack the Ripper! Talk about imaginations running wild!

Heritage watch
China urged to stay away from case of Chinese ‘poachers’

Congress urged to probe poaching in Tubbataha Marine Park

I knew something like this was going to happen. It's a good thing the local provincial and church leaders as well as environment stakeholders in Palawan are not letting down their guard.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Manila: Inside, outside and on the walls

Today, we did a walking tour of Manila's San Nicolas and Intramuros areas. Since Manila Streetwalker Ivan ManDy was free that afternoon, he took me, Karlo and Maricris around Binondo and San Nicolas. But before that, how could we resist not eating in Chinatown? So lunch was first on the agenda.

My tokayo brought us to Benavides Street which is fast transforming itself into a restaurant row. Lunch was at the Hiongso Chicken Restaurant which we were told was value for our money. And my tokayo was indeed right because we had a big bowl of hot and sour soup (they say it's good for three to four people, but this is the size they serve at Chinese restaurants for ten people!), honeyed pork spareribs, peppered beef tenderloin and Yangchow fried rice all for PHP430. That's about PHP100 for each of us and we were so full!

After that, it was time for the walk around San Nicolas. As Ivan ManDy writes, "In San Nicolas we have what is probally Manila's single largest concentration of period houses and mind you, not the 'old-new' (bagong-luma) wannabe architecture that characterizes much of Intramuros. This is as true as it can get.

"On a personal note, I can honestly say this district is special, not just for every true-blue, heritage-loving Manileño but personally for this walker who, as a child, spent his early years amidst these beautiful wooden houses, playing on the very streets while sucking in the atmosphere of commerce, dark esteros and the overpowering smell of onions.

"These days, the historic properties are still there. Though diminished substantially, they still provide a backdrop of what old Manila looked, felt and smelled like in the days of our ancestors. What revolutions, earthquakes and a world war didnt destroy, our 21st century cavalier attitude eventually will. It's a conststant battle between the old and new, commerce and culture, development and destruction, why can't we get these acts together?"

Yes, it was one of the few Manila districts which survived the Second World War. But we are fast losing it. In fact, Ivan said that twenty years ago, San Nicolas was even more grand and a lot was lost since then. Another avid traveler, Sidney Snoeck, rated his visit to San Nicolas a 10 out of 10. He says, "Even if they are in a far state of decay those 19th century old houses have still a lot of charm. I saw a lot of lovely windows, doorways and panels decorated with stars & flowers."

"This district has probably the biggest collection of 19th-century houses that still exist in Manila," Sidney writes. "It seems that those houses are just waiting to be demolished. Actually I saw quite a lot of new buildings being constructed. It is too bad that the owners of those marvellous houses don’t have the money to renovate them. My advice is to visit this neighbourhood as soon as possible and take a lot of pictures. I fear that in ten years time the whole neighbourhood might be just another concrete jungle. I feel bad because I know it will not be saved for future generations. Sad, very sad," he adds.

If only our local officials could see the potential of the heritage architecture in this area when rehabilitated properly. Living in these grand and charming old houses were actually informal settlers. So much potential when only if Manila's policy-makers were forward looking! The Manila districts outside the walls are still worth saving.

From there, we trooped to Intramuros to check out the books at Tradewinds. At 5 p.m., Ivan calls us to let us know he was free to join us at Intramuros. So we went to the Baluarte de San Diego area. Believe it or not, it was the first time I actually walked on the walls. To find out where that is, check out this Intramuros Virtual Map.

According to Jose Victor Z. Torres in his book Ciudad Murada: A Walk through Historic Intramuros, "There were seven gates in Intramuros (not including Fort Santiago): Postigo, Santa Lucia, Real, Parian, Isabel II, Santo Domingo, and Almacenes."

"The city had 32 streets: Aduana, Almacenes, Anda, Arzobispo, Audiencia (now part of Gen. Luna), Basco, Beaterio, Cabildo, Claveria, Escuela, Hospital (now part of Cabildo), Legazpi, Maestranza (disappeared after this section of the walls was demolished), Magallanes, Muralla, Novales, Postigo, Real del Palacio (now Gen. Luna), Real, Recolletos, San Agustin, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan de Dios, San Juan de Letran, Santa Clara, Santa Lucia, Santa Potenciana, Santo Tomas, Solana, Urdaneta, and Victoria.

"Intramuros had nine bastions: Baluarte de San Miguel, Medio Baluarte de San Francisco, Baluartacillo de San Francisco Javier, Baluarte Plano Luneta de Santa Isabel, Baluarte de San Diego, Baluarte de San Andres, Baluarte de San Francisco de Dilao, Baluarte de San Gabriel and Baluarte de Santo Domingo as well as small fortifications like Revellin del Parian, Revellin de Real de Bagumbayan, Revellin de Recolletos and redoubts like Reducto de San Pedro and Reducto de San Francisco.

"Within the city there were seven churches: Manila Cathedral, San Agustin, Lourdes Church, San Ignacio, San Francisco, Santo Domingo and Recoletos..."

As Ambeth Ocampo writes, "The above shopping list ends with hospitals and schools. Just reading it makes one imagine Intramuros at its height, before the Americans destroyed it during the Battle for Manila in 1945."

We actually went up through the Baluarte de San Andres since the guards wouldn't let us in at San Diego since a wedding reception was on-going. From San Andres, we were rewarded with great views of Manila's American colonial architecture from the Central Post Office, Manila City Hall, the former Legislative Building and Finance Buildings (now the National Museum), and the Department of Tourism. It was obvious what big idiots we have in the Manila City Hall since they allowed several buildings behind it to rise higher than the charming city hall building itself, ruining what would have been a grand and elegant vista.

Anyway, it was fun watching the sunset and we walked the walls back to San Diego, sneaked past the guards and exited through the entrance the guards didn't want to let us through. Hehe! I'll try to do that again some other time, this time walking the entire length of the fortifications of the walled-city!

Save Corregidor!
There was this e-mail message circulating about something happening in Corregidor. I didn't want to react to it immediately since I knew the people who were involved and wanted to ask for their side first before I made any shout-outs. It turns out, the e-mail message was one-sided and the only thing that was true about it was the fact that the government is not giving any attention to Corregidor!

Leslie Murray af the Filipino American Memorial Endowment writes, "Amazing how UNESCO can save the terraces and the churches, and here we have vestiges of one of the most famous chapters in recent history on the doorstep that could bring in a whole niche market of visitors (WWII survivors' and fatalities' families, historians, etc.) to a site that really turned the tide of that war. And nobody, until now, has seemed to care."

Indeed, we are wasting the potential of this island. In fact, I think the World War II Memorials of Bataan and Corregidor should be nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The A-Dome in Hiroshima is in the list already.

Heritage watch
Finding the past in Alegria
A bridge breathes its last
Now this is totally stupid! The article says: "Alegria used to be the only town in Cebu that had two bridges figuratively spanning the colonial period. One was the remnant of the only Spanish-era arched stone bridge in Cebu, the other a 1913 bridge built probably built by the famous American colonial engineer Eusebius J. Halsema when he was public works chief in Cebu.

"Both are long gone now as they were torn down without much ceremony by a conservation-deficit contractor three months ago. Vice-Mayor Verna Magallon, chair of the local Tourism and Heritage Council, fired off protest letters as a result but these were for naught. When we met her for lunch last week, she told us that the Sangguaning Bayan invited the contractor twice in order to learn about its plans. But the contractor never showed up and the bridges are now nowhere to be found." That contractor is one big idiot!

Thanks to Manila Streetwalker Ivan ManDy for photos of San Nicolas and to Karlo de Leon for taking our photos in Intramuros.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Manila: Battle for Manila

As I've mentioned time and time again, Manila was devastated during the Second World War. Thus, with so much lost, the architectural heritage left standing today should be preserved for future generations of Filipinos. Just to give you an idea of the destruction, check out this 1945 footage of the only urban battle in the Pacific, where Manila was flattened to the ground. Today we wage a battle to preserve Manila's heritage!

Thanks to Hawayano of SkyscraperCity for uploading it on YouTube!

Heritage watch
Sino poachers caught with endangered fish in Tubbataha

BFAR to escort Chinese vessel out of Tubbataha?
Kudos to the Tubbataha Management Office for enforcing national and international laws with the arrest of poachers in the protected reef. Let's just hope no government official will throw his weight around and intervene for the fishermen and vessel owner.
Baguio City starts 1,000-day countdown to 2009 centennial
Now this is good news for Baguio City! The organizing committee has "decided to celebrate Baguio’s centennial as a three-year continuing advocacy for policies that would protect its American and Ibaloi heritage."
Facelift for Taguig lakeshore
This is great news for Taguig City if they are able to revive the old town district! It's good to hear that the legendary Napindan Lighthouse is finally getting the attention it deserves. Wow! That's a lot of good news for Philippine heritage today!

More from Ligligan Parul
While doing my rounds of YouTube, I found a video of the giant lantern of Barangay San Felipe, this year's champion. It was only now that I was able to review their first round routine and was impressed even more since the interplay of lights was simply exciting. Notice that they use the traditional marching band music. I'm going to get footage of the first round routines of the three winners from InfoMax8 so watch out for it. Anyway, here is the video.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to all!

Aklanon - Malipayon nga Paskwa ag Mahigugmaon nga Bag-ong Dag-on!
Asi - Maadong Santos Paskwa ag Masadyang Bag-ong Tuig!
Ata - Maroyan na Pasko woy Kaopia-an ng Bag-ong Tuig kaniyo't langon mga sulod
Bikol - Maogmang Capascuhan asin Mamura-way na Ba-gong Taon sa indo gabos!
Blaan - Pye duh di kaut Kristo klu munt ug Felemi Fali!
Binubolinao - Marigan Nabidad
Boholano - Malipajong Pasko ug Maajong Bag-ong Tuig

Cebuano - Maayong Pasko ug Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig!
Chavacano - Felices Pascuas y Prospero Año Nuevo con todos!
Dibabawon - Marayaw na Pasko aw Bag-ong Tuig kaniyo tibo na mga soon!
Gaddang - Mangamgam Bawa a dawun sikua diaw amin
Hiligaynon - Malipayon nga Paskua kag Malipayon Nga Bag-ong tuig!
Hungduan - Maphon au nitungawan. Apo Dios Kituwen baron di toon
Ibanag - Mapalupaguiya nga Pascua
Ibaloi - Eshadsak ja Paskua! Eshadsak ja Badon Tawen!
Ifugao - Malinggop an Baro an Tawon
Ilocano - Naimbag a Pascua ken Naragsac nga Baro nga Tawen!
Kankanaey - Gawis ay Paskua ya Nalagsak ay Balo ay Tu-en!
Kapampangan - Masayang Pascu ampong Masaplalang Bayung Banua kekayu ngan!
Mandobo - Mepiya Pagasaulog sa pagka-otawni Jesus aw maontong kaling Omay!
Mangyan Buhid - Fiya Pagpasko
Mangyan Hanunuo - Mayad paq Pasko
Mansaka - Madyaw na Pasko aw malipayong Bag-ong Tuig kamayo, mga lumon!
Masbatenyo - Malipayon nga Paskwa
Onhan - Mayad nga Paskwa kag Masadya nga Bag-ong Tuig!
Pangasinan - Maabig ya Pasko! Maliket ya Balon Taon!
Romblomanon - Malipayon nga Paskwa kag Masadya na Bag-ong Tuig!
Sambal - Maligayang Pasko at Masayang Ba-yon Taon!
Subanen - Piak Pasko pu Piag Bago Tawn!
Surigaonon - Malipayon na Pasko sanan Bag-on Tuig!
Tagakaolo - Madyaw Pagsalog sa Pagka-otaw ni Jesus
Tagalog - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!
Tala-andig - Maayad ha Pasko daw Bag-ong Tuig!
Waray-waray - Maupay nga Pasko ngan Mainuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tuig!

...wishing for a united Filipino nation this Christmas!

Heritage watch
The lack of funds is hampering efforts to restore our world famous rice terraces. Check out the PDI article here. According to the article, "the (UNESCO) team 'noted with concern' that little progress was made to implement the recommendation of two teams that visited the terraces in September 2001 and June 2005 that called for the preparation of a comprehensive conservation and management plan for the terraces.

"The teams also asked for the allocation of steady funds to address the challenges, to be drawn from the conservation plan.
"Unesco said the 'corrective' measures on the rice terraces must be ready by the end of 2007 as a condition for the removal of the terraces from the list of endangered world heritage sites."
It adds, "Unesco earlier included these terraces in the endangered list after its inspection teams found out that the terraces have deteriorated due to uncontrolled construction of houses, erosion induced by climate and abandonment of the terraces by the farmers."

Imagine, the government is proposing a PHP1.29 trillion budget and yet it spent less than PHP1 million for the Ifugao Rice Terraces, a national cultural treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site. I hope the NCCA speeds up the release of the PHP50 million rehabilitation fund. And even better, I hope Congress increases the budget for the restoration of our heritage!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Heritage updates

Heritage bills in the Senate
The Sub-committee on Education, Arts and Culture created a Technical Working Group (TWG) tasked to do the following:
1. Prepare a draft bill that will integrate and harmonize the essential elements of a National Heritage Protection measure from pending bills before the Committee on National Heritage;
2. Request additional position papers from various stakeholders, including but not limited to, artists and conservation architects, archaeologists and biologists, conservationists, historians and Muslim and ethnography scholars;
3. Review all the existing laws, presidential decrees and treaties with regard to protection and conservation of Historical, Natural and Cultural Heritage in order to have a systematic body of conservation laws.

The Heritage Conservation Society is among the members of the TWG. It is in this regard that we would like to ask for position papers on the said Heritage Bill. Please send them to Thanks!

Heritage watch
Iloilo plaza can’t be altered without NHI green light

Heritage conservation awards
I just received a call for nominations for the 2007 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. The awards were established "to recognize the achievement of individuals and organizations within the private sector, and the public-private initiatives, in successfully restoring structures of heritage value in the region."

To be nominated, the restored structure must be at least 50 years old; privately owned or leased; restoration must be the result of private initiative or a public-private partnership; and restoration must have been undertaken within the last ten years and put into viable use for at least one year prior to the award.

We were thinking of nominating the restored Gabaldon buildings under the Heritage Schoolhouse Restoration Program of the DepEd and HCS but since it is financed and owned wholly by government, they are not eligible for nomination. You might know of conservation on other structures which deserve to be recognized. Deadline for nomination in March 31, 2007. Visit for more details.

We've won three Honourable Mention honors namely Nielson Tower, which is now the Filipinas Heritage Library in 2001; Gota de Leche Building in 2003, and the Far Eastern University Manila Campus in 2005. Other nominees were the Balay Negrense Lifestyle Museum - Don Victor Gaston Y Fernandez Ancestral Home, Silay City; Fule-Malvar Mansion, San Pablo City; Orchid Garden Suites, Manila; Zaragoza Mansion, Vigan; General Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit, Cavite; Syquia Mansion, Vigan, IIocos Sur; and the Santos-Andres House, Antipolo City.

Grants deadline nearing
Just to remind everyone, the deadline for nominations to the World Monuments Watch for 2008 is on January 15, 2007. Announced every two years, the World Monuments Watch list of 100 Most Endangered Sites calls international attention to cultural heritage sites around the world threatened by neglect, vandalism, armed conflict, or natural disaster. It fosters community support for the protection of endangered sites and attracts technical and financial resources to assist in their rescue. More than 75 percent of the sites have been saved or are well on their way, thanks to timely intervention. To download the nomination form, click here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Manila: Old street excavated in Plaza Cervantes

Wow! I was just talking about the walking street in Guangzhou, China (left) where they accidentally discovered several layers of older streets while excavating for a redevelopment project. The nice thing about it was that they covered it with glass. And it is now an attraction of the walking street.

Well, they just discovered an old street in the old business district of Binondo! I first heard about it at the Senate hearing on the heritage bills yesterday morning. But like most heritage sites in Manila, I was already resigned to its obvious fate. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I read the short article below in the Philippine Star. In fact, I'm still in a state of shock! Has Mayor Lito Atienza finally seen the light? What do you think?

Atienza orders artifacts secured
The Philippine Star 12/19/2006

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza has ordered Plaza Cervantes in Binondo secured following the discovery of what appeared to be centuries-old artifacts dating back to the Spanish era.

A pipe-laying crew of Maynilad Water dug up a portion of what appeared to be a cobblestone street several days ago.

Atienza instructed City Engineer Armand Andres and Museo ng Maynila officer-in-charge Monina Santiago to coordinate with the National Historical Institute "to ensure that not a single piece of what would be a precious legacy is damaged or pilfered."

Binondo was Manila’s main business district during the Spanish colonial era.

Related articles
Binondo artifacts safe
Artifacts' preservation sought in city ordinance

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pampanga: Ligligan Parul and more from Pampanga

I was at the Giant Lantern Festival yesterday. I've attended every year since 2001, missing only the one last year. But before going to the festival, I toured my guests, Anton Diaz (Our Awesome Planet) and family to nearby Betis and Bacolor Church. To know more about the churches, check out an earlier blog entry here.

Anyway, after the brief tour, we rushed back to SM City Pampanga since we didn't want to join the mad rush to the festival, which would mean heavy traffic and no parking. So we decided to wait it out in SM. Since we were all hungry, I took them to a branch of the popular San Fernando restaurant called Partyland. They are most known for their buffet lunch, merienda and dinner and the cost of each varies. For just PHP109, you get an eat-all-you-can merienda which includes local favorites such as dinuguan and puto, ginataan, arroz caldo, tokwa't baboy, turon, palitaw, pancit palabok, lumpia, and spaghetti with the Filipino twist. If you think that isn't enough, the package includes the halo-halo bar too!

By 6 p.m., we walked to the venue at the back of the mall to check out the lanterns while there were no people, and to get some good seats in the reserved section. There were already people waiting in the venue, also to reserve good positions to view the twelve giant lanterns. I got to chat with a lot of old friends and relatives while waiting. Of course, sculptor Toym Imao, son of National Artist Abdulmari Imao, was there since he designed the trophies. They invited me and Anton to check out their Marikina studio which I hope to visit soon.

What I did now expect was a movie promotion from 6 to 7 p.m. which was annoying due to its obvious political overtones. What is even more despicable is they covered the backdrop of the Giant Lantern Festival with large posters of the movie and its lead stars, a family of Pampanga politicians. Things like those have no place in the Giant Lantern Festival since it pollutes the atmosphere.

The organizers were irked too when they saw the posters and had them removed as soon as they were done. I was told that this timeslot was requested by SM for a program. When I was chairman of the festival in 2003, I declined offers of SM for celebrities to sing before the festival. SM argued it would attract people. But I said, it was not needed since people came to watch the lanterns whether there was a celebrity or not. It makes the festival so commercial when you add those sort of programs! This is an old Christmas tradition of the city and the best way to set the mood would be a marching band playing Christmas songs, the way it used to be before SM entered the picture.

Anyway, it was a great show as always. We had a lot of celebrity and diplomat judges and guests such as Senator Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez, French Ambassador H.E. Gerard Chesnel who chaired the Board of Judges, Tina Monzon-Palma, and Inquirer founding chair Eugenia Duran-Apostol among others.

As I was watching, I remembered how much the festival had changed since I was a kid. Although I lived in Manila at that time, the entire family always slept at our grandparents' house in San Fernando for Christmas Eve. The lantern festival used to be held after the midnight Mass in a small square beside the church. And the lanterns danced to the music of a live marching band. Smaller lanterns used during the lubenas and the barangay patron saint were also brought to the venue.

After the festival, the giant lantern of our barangay, San Jose, would pass by the house on the way home, in a procession together with the smaller lanterns and the image of San Jose on a carroza, accompanied by a marching band. And those in the house would usually ask who won since the rivalry between San Jose and Del Pilar was still very strong then, with Del Pilar usually winning and San Jose placing second. Those were the days!

It looks like my lantern appreciation skills worked well tonight since the three lanterns that I predicted would win, all made it! Congratulations to Barangay San Felipe, and my friend, lantern-maker Roland Quiambao for winning this year's competition! Their winning streak was broken only last year when they placed second. Hats off as well to second-placer Barangay San Pedro and Barangay Del Pilar which placed third. But all the twelve entries deserve praise for the effort they put in the lanterns. So what's the prize? No cash, just a trophy. More than the cash, it's barangay pride that is at stake. And I hope it remains that way, a community effort where everyone pitches in, hoping to win top honors at the annual festival.

Above are photos of Barangay Santo Nino. Imagine, that's just one lantern! You can still catch the giant lanterns sans the crowd from December 17 to 20 at Paskuhan Village, December 21 in Barangay Sindalan, and December 24 in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando. Call the City Tourism Office at (045) 9615684 for more information.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pampanga: Ninoy and FPJ death masks on display in Pampanga

I was at the Center for Kapampangan Studies yesterday afternoon for one of my regular visits which have been rare nowadays due to all the work and traveling. I got a copy of the Atin Ku Pung Singsing (Millennium Version) MTV which they produced and uploaded it in YouTube. On our way down, I realized that the death masks of Ninoy Aquino and Fernando Poe, Jr. were on display at the Center. So I checked them out.

The masks were done by National Artist Napoloen Abueva. Abueva said he was very careful when he cast the mask of Ninoy since his face had a lot of blood. In fact, you could still see the swelling, some of the bigger wounds and the spot where a bullet exited on his chin. FPJ's mask was more defined since Abueva did not have to deal with the same situation as Ninoy.

You may be asking what the hell is the death mask of Fernando Poe, Jr. doing in the Center for Kapampangan Studies. Now this is something I'm sure you did not know... GMA and FPJ are townmates from Lubao. Haha! No kidding!

It turns out, FPJ's mom Bessie Kelley was born in Candaba, Pampanga. Her full name is Elizabeth Gatbonton Kelley. She is the daughter of Arthur Kelley of Iowa, USA and Marta Gatbonton of Candaba. I was told that Arthur Kelley, for the longest time, was a resident of Lubao because of his interests in the Pampanga Sugar Mill (PASUMIL) in neighboring Floridablanca. In fact, there are Kelleys who still reside in Lubao up to today and rumor has it FPJ visited his cousins occasionally.

What a coincidence! GMA and FPJ are both Kapampangan and Pangasinense! I wonder why FPJ's Pampanga roots never came out during the elections. All of a sudden, all of us at the Center became silent, looked at each other and realized it was the 2nd death anniversary of FPJ. And we were looking at his death mask! Now that's another coincidence.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Manila: Save Manila's old markets too!

All our ASEAN neighbors take pride in their old markets. In fact, they go out of their way to preserve and even restore them. As a result, they are popular destinations among locals and tourists alike.

Kuala Lumpur still has its Central Market, an Art Deco building which is very popular with tourists. It is in fact a declared heritage site of Malaysia and even has its own website, complete with the story of its near demise. The website notes that "it became the first case for large scale adaptive re-use of a building by the private sector after plans to demolish it were scrapped following public protest." It adds that the market "is unlike any other soul-less modem shopping complex in the city."

Singapore has the Telok Ayer Market. Just like its counterpart in KL, this is a declared national monument of Singapore. When tunneling work for the MRT began in 1986, instead of demolishing the market, realizing the historical and architectural value of the market, Singapore dismantled it and put this heritage treasure in storage. It was rebuilt as soon as the MRT tunnel was completed.

Now for Manila. We got this message from Archt. Richard Tuason-Sanchez Bautista of the NCCA: "I happen to pass by three Markets in Manila: Central Market, Quinta, and Paco. All have sign boards that mention about a new market that will be erected in the same site. Quinta is already partially demolished, and demolition is on going. Paco Market, which is among the loveliest market will go the same way."

Above is a photo of the Paco Market which was built circa 1910, courtesy of Archt. Bautista. In the inset is one of the Art Deco buildings that surround the Paco Market. This area, with several Art Deco buildings still standing, would have been a great place for rehabilitation and urban renewal efforts if Manila's planners and engineers were only forward looking.

Mayor Lito Atienza, for the love of Philippine culture, please stop destroying the architectural heritage of Manila!

* * *

Update: I just got a text message from Archt. Bautista who immediately called an engineer from the Manila City Hall. According to him, they will repair parts of the markets and re-layout the place, but not demolish. Let's hope and pray that this is true and that they will not modify the exteriors of these markets. But Richard added that based on what they have done before, such as the Trabajo Market, they changed the entire structure!

I also got to speak with Archt. Lorelei de Viana of the NHI who said that Paco Market must have been designed by Archt. William Parsons. Same goes for the Arranque Market which the City Government of Manila has already altered beyond recognition. So we better make sure Paco Market is preserved!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Issue on transfer of heritage structures makes front page

Check out the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Pio Chapel and Bagac project issue is discussed. This is an example of how a community and an entire province can unite to save its architectural heritage. Indeed, this is good news for Pampanga which celebrates its 435th anniversary today.

New ‘old town’ of heritage houses fuels furor
By Tonette Orejas

PORAC, PAMPANGA -- Sitting on a bamboo bench by the roadside, 86-year-old Felicidad Lising let out an expression of outrage her neighbors in the village of Pio here do not usually hear from the mild-mannered grandmother.

“Ay Dios ko! E ustu ita (Oh my God! That’s a wrong thing to do),” Lising said, casting her droopy eyes on the village’s 145-year-old Catholic chapel.

It has unsettled her, she said, that the chapel has been bought and destined for transfer to Bagac town, Bataan province. Read more...

The second part of the special report has been published. Check out
‘Old town’ for posterity, says developer in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I would agree with Acuzar on the point that he is not breaking the law since the structures are not NHI-declared. That simply means that the NHI is slow and is not doing its job since Acuzar himself admitted that two of the structures he is currently transferring are historically important! Which is why he wants to keep quiet about it first so that it doesn't raise any howls until the transfer is completed. I also agree with his chief architect Joel Rico that most of the heritage laws in the Philippines only ensure protection, not funding. Which is why Congress better enact the heritage bills fast!

But sad to say, Rico is not a trained restoration architect. Even if Acuzar says houses are transferred "as is," visitors to his project have commented that the houses were not assembled properly.

The main issue here is not simply the transfer but the fact that Acuzar is actively shopping for old houses, trying to woo the owners into selling their properties to him! How ironic that he mentions Scandanavia where "culture is preserved in structures." If he was indeed to follow the example he cited, structures should remain where they are, preserved together with the environment they were built in!

As I always say, the best way to preserve a structure is to educate the local community about its importance to the history and heritage of the place, as well as its economic potential if preserved properly.

I would have more respect for Acuzar if instead of uprooting all these structures from the communities where they form an inherent part of the historical and cultural fabric; since he has all the money to spend anyway, he should instead build replicas! In that manner, communities get to keep their heritage.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Public hearings for cultural heritage and tourism bills scheduled at Senate

The Sub-Committee on Education, Arts & Culture of the Philippine Senate is set to discuss the following bills on December 12, 9:30 a.m. at the Sen. L.M. Tañada Room 2/F Right Wing:

1. House Bill No. 5577 – “An Act Declaring the Municipality of Carcar in the Province of Cebu as a Cultural Heritage Zone” (Photo of Carcar Church left)
2. Senate Bill No. 54 – “An Act Providing for the Protection and Preservation of Philippine Cultural Heritage and for Other Purposes”
3. Senate Bill Nos. 282, 725 & 2252 – “An Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of All Objects of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Philippine Water”
4. Senate Bill No. 576 – “An Act to Promote Filipino Education and Heritage Through the Establishment of Philippine Community Schools Abroad for Children of Filipino Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos”
5. Senate Bill No. 913 – “An Act to Provide for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Filipino Heritage Among Filipino Overseas Through the Teaching of Filipino Language and History, Assistance in the Establishment and Operation of Philippine Schools and Filipiniana Resource Centers Abroad, and the Creation of a Committee on Heritage and Culture for Overseas Filipinos, and Appropriating Funds Therefor”
6. Senate Bill No. 1089“An Act to Promote the Protection and Conservation of the National Heritage, The Creation of a National Heritage Commission, and Providing Penalties and for other Purposes”
7. Senate Bill No. 2123 – “An Act Providing Mechanisms to Regulate the Import, transit, Export, and Repatriation of Cultural Property into and From the Philippines”
8. Senate Bill No. 2386 – “An Act to Provide for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Filipino Heritage Among Filipinos Overseas Through the Teaching of Filipino Language and History, Assistance in the Establishment and Operation of Philippine Schools and Filipiniana Centers Abroad and Establishing a Trust Fund Therefor”

You can read the HCS Position Paper for the said hearings here.

The Committee on Tourism joint with the Committees on Environment & Natural Resources and Ways & Means is set to discuss the following bills on the same day at 1:00 p.m. at the Sen. C.M. Recto Room 2/F Right Wing:

1. House Bill No. 187“An Act Declaring Malibik-Libik Falls of the Municipality of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Province of Cavite as a national tourist spot and for other purposes
2. House Bill No. 574“An Act Declaring the Island of Lahuy, Covitas, Guinahuan, Luksuhin, Malibagan and Masag, of the northeastern coast of the Municipality of Caramoan, Province of Camarines Sur as tourist zone
3. House Bill No. 591“An Act Declaring the Atulayan Island of the Municipality of Sagnay, Province of Camarines Sur as a tourist zone
4. House Bill No. 786“An Act Declaring the Island-towns of Biri, Capul, San Antonio and San Vicente, all in the Province of Northern Samar as eco-tourism zones
5. House Bill No. 2072“An Act Declaring the Province of Bohol as an eco-cultural zone” (Photo of Chocolate Hills above)

6. House Bill No. 3234“An Act Declaring as a tourist zone Barangay Consocep in the Municipality of Tigaon, Province of Camarines Sur, providing for the priority development thereof and for other purposes” (Photo of Tumaguiti Falls in Consocep left)
7. House Bill No. 3417“An Act Declaring not less than seven hectares within or around the vicinity of Malabsay Falls within the territorial jurisdiction of Naga City or its environs as a tourist zone and prescribing for its priority development
8. Senate Bill No. 772“An Act Granting certain incentives to resident Filipinos who will travel to domestic tourist destinations and for other purposes

* * *

Update: The public hearing at the Senate was cancelled at the last minute because the senators had to attend the Bicam in Batasan. It just shows the effects of all this unnecessary politics on their real job which is to legislate new laws that will benefit the country. Sigh! Anyway, the hearing was reset to next Monday, December 18.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Manila: Save the Jose Abad Santos High School and Rajah Soliman High School!

After a judge junked a TRO plea to stop the demolition of the Jose Abad Santos High School (JASHS) and Rajah Soliman High School (RSHS), two heritage schools in Binondo, it's time to campaign again to prevent another heritage disaster of Atienzic proportions!

Senators Alfredo Lim and Jamby Madrigal had "asked the court to declare null and void a city council resolution authorizing Atienza to enter into an agreement evicting JASHS and RSHS from their present site in Binondo," the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. Lim added that "the transfer and conversion of the two schools would destroy the historical and cultural significance of the area, which used to be known as Cuartel Meisic." For the significance of the Cuartel Meisic area, check out this article.

According to article, the senators also pointed out that "another resolution would give way to Megaworld Corporation to convert the site to be vacated by the students “into a commercial complex, under the (guise) of a housing project condominium structure, (complete) with several business establishments.”

Things you could do to help
1. Write a letter to Mayor Lito Atienza with your thoughts on his latest heritage rampage. His e-mail address is You could tell him too not to use Manny Pacquiao to get votes for his son while you're at it.
2. You could also call his office at (02) 5275191, 5274974, 5274989, 5279536, 5279538 or 5274939.
3. Write a letter to the editor. You could send it to the Philippine Daily Inquirer at or; Manila Bulletin at; or Manila Standard at or
4. Visit a church and pray that Mayor Atienza sees the light.
5. Blog about it! Forward this link to all your friends and contacts.

Related articles
Meisic Cuartel going down in history
Local gov't selling school campuses
Lust for silver triumphs over Filipino heritage
Kwentong Kalye: Meisic, Alvarado and Reina Regente

Friday, December 01, 2006

Northern Marianas: More fun under the Saipan sun

A trip to Saipan would never be complete if you do not set foot on Managaha Island, which most tourists consider as the most beautiful spot in Saipan. Surrounded by a pristine white sand beach and cobalt blue water, the view of the island and the surrounding ocean was nothing but stunning!

Before visiting the island, we boarded the Submarine Sirena owned by Pacific Subsea. As they say, you can dive into Saipan's beautiful aquamarine lagoon without ever getting your feet wet and explore the wonders of this spectacular tropical underwater paradise from the large viewing ports of the big yellow sub. Indeed, this was another way of exploring the world under the ocean, and in style since you were in an air-conditioned submarine!

It was funny that the color of the submarine was yellow and our group was thus singing, “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine…” while going on board. Sirena is the only genuine U.S. Coast Guard approved submarine in the Northern Mariana Islands. Under the water, you'll see coral formations, colorful reef fish, sea turtles, and manta rays. We also got to view the sunken wreck of a Japanese warship from World War II.

After one round in the sub, we boarded a ferry which took us to the island. Excitement levels were high as we neared the island since the view of the water and the islands, and the nearby reefs was so picturesque and postcard perfect. No matter which side of the boat you were on, the panorama was stunning for all 360 degrees.

When we got on the island, we first proceeded to the Tasi Tours area to get our snorkeling gear. The water around the island was shallow and the nearby reefs provide some really great opportunities to meet the marine life. Before we got in the water, we too a short walk on the white sand beach in front of the activity area and took some photos.

It was then time to jump in the water to snorkel. The guys on the island gave us fish food so that we could meet the fish up close. We were swarmed by schools of colorful fish when we released the small pellets. But ooops! I found out it was illegal to feed the fish in CNMI. I wonder why they encourage tourists.

You’ll never go hungry on the island since there is a Managaha Lunch Buffet to keep your stomachs filled. In the afternoon, while waiting for our ferry back to Saipan, we got some lounge chairs and took a quick nap under the shade of coconut trees.

We had dinner at Café at the Park where world cuisine meets the Pacific. Their food is a fusion of world-class recipes made with local ingredients. Our meal consisted of hanger steak and blackened parrot fish fillet with potato crouguet and salsa. And the mango sorbet they served for dessert was simply divine! Again, they had WiFi Internet access. Hehe!

We had to rush to the 9 p.m. cocktail show at SandCastle Saipan at the Hyatt Regency. Indeed it was a great show! Hats off to illusionist David Womach and the rest of the cast. I was especially dumbfounded as I watched the Chinese acrobats bend their bodies in extraordinary shapes I never thought humans were capable of doing.

No doubt, there is so much more to see and do in this island paradise and the other islands of the Northern Marianas. But I am most certain that the five days spent in Saipan was five days utilized to the fullest. And I am looking forward to my next adventure in the Northern Marianas.

I'll be back in the Philippines tomorrow, and back to school and more work. Hehe! Check out my photos at

Photo credits: Karlo de Leon who took most of my photos, Jodi Madridejos and Cheche Lazaro.

Philippines featured
I was delighted to read in the in-flight magazine of Continental Airlines that Manila is one of eight cities featured in the article "The List: Eight great places for a laugh." Seattle tops that list.

The entry for Manila reads: "According to a 2005 global survey. Filipinos - with their care free que sera sera ("bahala na") attitude and lack of words for depression and boredom - are the happiest people in Asia. Shiny Jeepney taxis ride to scores of street parties throughout the city and outskirts for endless revelry, raucous dancing, and crazy costumes. Festivals center around water fights, a parade of enormous lanterns and suckling pigs sitting in chairs, houses dripping in fruits and veggies, water buffalo races, and the best-dressed tuna. Other attractions include the Banaue rice terraces and the unofficial pastime - karaoke."

Funny but most festivals alluded to are in the outskirts of Manila like the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, Pampanga; Parada ng mga Lechon of Balayan, Batangas; Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon; Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Bulacan; and the Tuna Festival of General Santos City way down south.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Northern Marianas: Fun, fun and more fun in the Marianas

It was water activities for me today. In the morning, we went fishing. The Marianas Visitors Authority had arranged for us to join a fishing trip offered to tourists. As always, there were Filipinos in the crew of the fishing boat. The fishing rods and bait are provided on board.

We arrived at the port in time for the 9 a.m. departure of the boat. The trip to the fishing area near Managaha Island was about thirty minutes. The water was so blue and so clear, you could see the white sand at the bottom. As soon as we anchored, the captain of the boat gave us a signal when we could drop our lines. We had approximately an hour before the captain would ring the bell again for us to stop fishing.

This was one way to relax and enjoy the blue waters off the island of Saipan. The only thing I wasn't happy about was the fact that it was a bit short since I enjoyed the great ocean views as well as the warm breeze that hit the boat.

We were back at the port shortly before 11 a.m. where the MVA vehicle passed by for us. We then joined the Probe Team crew while they were interviewing another successful Filipino businessman in Saipan. Aside from a hardware store and small department store, he also owned the only Jollibee Store on the island. Yes folks, Jollibee is already in the Marianas! And we dropped by to check out the products. It was weird seeing your favorite Chicken Joy and Regular Yum quoted in US dollars.

Lunch was at Tony Roma’s. This time, I made sure I didn't eat too much so I ordered salad. Our plan for the afternoon was more activities in the water courtesy of the Saipan Grand Hotel. But we first joined the Probe crew at the Saipan World Resort to watch a taping of an upcoming Koreanovela. Check out the previous entry for more details.

Since the hotels are beside each other, we simply walked back to our hotel via the beach, for our appointment with the jetskis. It was so much fun! After a few minutes on the jetskis, we went snorkelling to check out the remains of some tanks near the hotel beach.

Dinner was at D’Elegance Café, another Filipino restaurant which insisted that they invite us for dinner. After that, it was a short walk to the shopping areas such as DFS, Urban Outlet and Paseo de Marianas.

Every Thursday, the Paseo de Marianas is very much alive because of a Chamorro cultural show and night market. I hope we have cultural shows like these in our tiangge areas such as Greenhills, Market! Market! or Tiendesitas since it is an added attraction for tourists and locals alike.

I really felt I was in the Philippines while I was walking around since you could hear Filipino being spoken all over the place! Plus, most of the stalls at the night market were owned by Filipinos and you could see so much Filipino food such as dinuguan, bopis, arroz caldo, laing and even grilled delights such as barbeque, tenga ng baboy, adidas, etc. I was also surprised to see tupig being roasted there too! It turns out, it is known locally as apigigi and might have been brought there long ago by immigrants from Pangasinan.

But what made Saipan different from the Philippines was that it was much cleaner. For some reason, Filipinos when abroad, follow the law. I wonder why we can't do it here, especially the littering part since if everyone puts his garbage in the right place, we won't have have problems such as unsightly piles of garbage. Oh well!

Check out my photos at

Northern Marianas: Koreanovelas are shot in Saipan!

I had another fun day in Saipan today. We went fishing in the morning and jetskiing in the afternoon. But right after lunch, we watched a taping of an upcoming Koreanovela entitled "Nice Woman, Bad Woman" at the Saipan World Resort. And we also got to take photos with the stars who included Lee Jae-Ryong, Sung-Hyun Ah and Jun Jae-Yong.

It turns out there are a lot of Koreanovelas shot here in Saipan. So if you're a die hard fan of these Korean soaps and can't afford a trip to Korea, you can catch your favorite Korean stars here in Saipan. There are direct Continental Airline flights from Manila to Saipan so start planning your trips. Hehe! Just contact the Marianas Visitors Authority in Manila at (02) 8481512 for more information.

I'll blog in detail when I have the time. But for now, I need to get some rest. Hehe! So in the meantime, check out my photos at

OT: Please vote for the documentary of my brod RG Publico for BBC Best Documentary of the Year. The title is Sierra Leone: The End Of A Nightmare. Last day to vote is December 4. To vote, click here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Northern Marianas: Saipan and the Second World War

The Northern Mariana Islands were witnesses to the poignant events of the Second World War. From shipwrecks and rusted tanks off its shores to the sites of fierce battles and tragic episodes, the Marianas stand as a memorial to this sad chapter of world history. Among these sites is an airfield on the island of Tinian, where the B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay set forth on its mission to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Today, we visited several sites and memorials on the northern tip of Saipan. After breakfast at the hotel, the group first made its way to the Marianas Visitors Authority where we met with their managing director, Perry Tenorio. After the brief courtesy call, it was off to the Last Command Post in Banadero Cave, which is next to the Okinawa Peace Memorial, just below high cliffs. It was here that General Yoshitsugo Saito ordered his men to take seven lives for the emperor, then committed suicide. In front of the memorial are World War II relics including a light Japanese tank and several guns.

From the Last Command Post, we went to Suicide Cliff, an 800-foot cliff where hundreds of Japanese soldiers jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to the invading American forces. Simply looking down at the bottom of the rock face and imagining the drop was eerie.

The group then made its way to the Bird Island. Known as Islan Maigo Fahang or "island of sleeping seabirds" to the locals, it is a small stone islet in a secluded emerald bay that offered a stunning view to visitors.

We made a brief stopover at the Grotto, a deep limestone cavern which is connected to the ocean by several passages. It is a thrill for scuba divers who are out for adventure. The entrance also forms a natural pool that is also a popular swimming area. As locals say, it’s like swimming in the ocean sans the sunburn. It was quite tempting to take a dip, especially seeing the other tourists having so much fun. But we weren’t there to swim though and moved on to our next destination which was Banzai Cliff.

A breathtaking bluff overlooking the ocean, visitors to Banzai Cliff would be oblvious to its tragic past if not for the markers and memorials commemorating the sad event which took place there.

Japanese civilians, encouraged by Japanese troops who told them that they would be killed and raped by the Americans, committed suicide from this sea cliff. Women and children plunged to their deaths in plain sight of American soldiers who pleaded with them in Japanese not to jump.

Lunch was at a popular restaurant and café called Coffee Care. One thing I liked about the place was its picturesque view of the ocean and Managaha Island, a really great place to relax and unwind. It’s also a haven for web addicts like me, since there is free Wi-Fi Internet access.

For my meal, I ordered Blackened Chicken, which was pan-fried boneless chicken breast seasoned with cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic and wine, served with fresh tomato salsa and linguine aglio olio. As we were waiting for our meals, they served us cream of broccoli soup while we played around with the crayons on the table, unleashing our creativity with the doodles we made. After that filling lunch, they brought us gargantuan servings of their mouth-watering desserts.

We then made our way to the south of the island, right beside the airport to visit the remains of the Bomb Storage Magazine. While the rest of the group was taking shots around, I was initiated by the staff of the Historical Preservation Office into the betel nut chewing culture of the islands. Known as nganga to us Filipinos, the betel nut, mixed with lime and pepper leaves is a potent source of euphoria for those who like chewing on it. After a minute or two, I felt a surge in my body temperature as my body released a sudden flash of sweat.

I was floating as we made our way back to the hotel. We just had a few minutes to freshen up and get dressed since we had to rush to the port for a dinner cruise on board the yacht Stars and Stripes.

We arrived just in time for the 5 p.m. departure. What a way to cap the day, watching the sunset on a cruise! On board, a Filipino performer rendered some songs in various languages since we had Koreans and Chinese on board. The guy really knew how to entertain and we had so much fun listening.

The food was great too! They had salads and chicken, beef and fish on the buffet table. While the bar served flowing drinks such as soda, juices and beer. Dancing followed dinner and it was obvious that all the passengers were having a blast!

We then made our way back to the Saipan Grand Hotel to get some rest for even more activities the next day.

Photo credits: Karlo de Leon who took most of my photos, Jodi Madridejos and Cheche Lazaro.
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