Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Around Clark: Kambingan in Bayanihan Park

Only the Pampanga locals knew that right beside Bayanihan Park in Angeles City is a small row of restaurants which serve different dishes of goat meat. But now, these kambingans have become very popular after Anthony Bourdain visited them when he was in Pampanga.

They serve kalderetang kambing, pinapaitan, sinigang na kambing and kilawin among other things. Craving for goat meat? Then Pampanga is the place. And there are more food choices in Pampanga than visitors could ever imagine!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

FAQs on church heritage conservation in the Philippines

The Heritage Conservation Society hosted a second lecture on church heritage conservation at the Museo ng Maynila today. Speaker was Fr. Milan Ted D. Torralba, canon lawyer and heritage advocate.

There have been several pontifical statements on the importance of church heritage conservation. Pope John Paul II, in his motu proprio Apostolic Letter Inde a Pontificatus Nostri (25 March 1993) says, “Indeed, by its very nature, faith tends to express itself in artistic forms and historical testimony having an intrinsic evangelizing power and cultural value, to which the Church is called to pay the greatest attention.”

Fr. Ted points out that among the underlying causes for the depreciation of Philippine ecclesiastical cultural heritage are (1) misinterpretation of Vatican II or misreading of the objective intent of the Council Fathers that led to confusion, neglect, miseducation; (2) McDonaldification or Disneyfication of the Filipino; and (3) the mystification of tourism as end-all and be-all ("The falsification of authenticity in favour of tourism is a very serious issue." - Richard Engelhardt, 31 March 2008)

In his lecture, Fr. Ted quotes Czech historian Milan Hübl, “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture new culture, invent a new history. Before long, the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.”

Fr. Ted mentions that a Filipino Jesuit priest once asked, “Why preserve or restore Philippine colonial churches when these are symbols of oppression, inequality, and injustice?” So here are some FAQs of church heritage conservation on the side of the Roman Catholic Church which I lifted from his presentation (with his permission of course) and my comments in parenthesis:

What is the cultural heritage of the Church?
The cultural heritage of the Church is that essential part of her religious patrimony or legacy handed down from its very source and summit, Jesus Christ, to which such heritage is directed.

Its pastoral function is to serve the Church of Christ as effective means of catechizing and evangelizing, as affective instruments of fomenting the sense of the Last Things. In a sense and to a certain degree, it is (quasi-)sacramental and ecclesial.

Who are accountable for Philippine ecclesiastical cultural heritage?
1. The Roman Pontiff, by virtue of his primacy of governance, is the supreme administrator and steward of all ecclesiastical goods (Can. 1273)
2. Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church
Art. 99 – The Commission has the duty of acting as curator for the artistic and historical patrimony of the whole Church.
Art. 102 – The Commission lends its assistance to particular Churches and Bishops’ Conferences and together with them, where the case arises, sees to the setting up of museums, archives, and libraries, and ensures that the entire patrimony of art and history in the whole territory is properly collected and safeguarded and made available to all who have an interest in it.
Art. 103 – In consultation with the Congregation for Seminaries and Educational Institutions and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, the Commission has the task of striving to make the People of God more and more aware of the need and importance of conserving the artistic and historical patrimony of the Church (Apost. Const. Pastor Bonus, 20 XI 1992)
3. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is the permanent organizational assembly of the bishops in the Philippines exercising together certain pastoral offices for the Christian faithful of their territory through apostolic plans, programs and projects suited to the circumstances of time and place in accordance with law for the promotion of the greater good offered by the Church to all people (cf. Can. 447; Vatican II, Christus Dominus, No. 38, 1; John Paul II, Apostolos Suos, No. 14).

What is the role of the CBCP Permanent Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church?
The Permanent Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, according to Sec. 10 of the By-Laws in the CBCP Statutes (21 October 2000), shall:
1. Promote the cultural heritage of the Church as an invaluable aid to evangelization and catechesis
2. Foment research on and understanding of the ecclesiastical cultural heritage
3. Serve as a consultative body on the scientific conservation of cultural ecclesiastical goods
4. Initiate and sustain collaboration between the Committee and similar government and/or civic agencies involved in the care, conservation and appreciation of the cultural heritage of the Church
5. Act as official liaison with the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in the Apostolic See
6. Undertake projects in different dioceses or prelatures upon invitation or authorization of, and collaboration with, the ordinaries (bishops) concerned.

Can the CBCP reprimand, or even call the attention of, bishops and/or priests who are perceived to have neglected the care of the ecclesiastical cultural heritage? Can the CBCP order the immediate stoppage or termination of renovations of ecclesiastical heritage structures presently on-going in the dioceses and parishes in the Philippines?
No (Please see the related question below on the process of filing legitimate complaints with the Roman Catholic Church. Note that you can also file cases in the proper courts based on the laws of the Republic of the Philippines since all colonial churches are at the minimum, declared by the National Historical Institute as Classified Historic Structures under NHI Resolution No. 3, 22 October 1991. That's if the priest and the bishop don't scare the judge into believing that Saint Peter won't let them in Heaven if they decide against the Church. Article 428 of the New Civil Code provides that "the right of an owner over his property is not absolute but is subject to certain limitations established by law")

Can the CBCP create a comprehensive list of all heritage churches in the Philippines in aid of information?
A qualified yes (I hope the CBCP starts this list)

Can the CBCP Plenary Assembly empower its Permanent Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church by giving it the sole authority to approve any restoration, construction or further improvements of heritage churches, and by granting it the mandate to order the stoppage of any restoration, construction or further improvement that it deems damaging to a heritage church?

Who then has the final say on the proper care of the cultural heritage of the particular churches in the Philippines?
The diocesan bishop who will base his episcopal decisions on Canon Law governing the proper care and wise use of the ecclesiastical cultural goods of his particular church, and on concrete pastoral exigencies circumscribed by time and place.

And so, if there are legitimate complaints against the judgment or decision of a priest or the diocesan bishop as regards the care of the ecclesiastical cultural heritage in his own particular church, to whom can the said complaints be lodged?
1. Against the decision or action of a parish priest, first to the parish priest. Otherwise, appeal and recourse be lodged with the diocesan bishop (When you write a letter to the bishop, make sure you are able to say everything in one page. More than one page will not be effective)
2. Appeal against the judgment or decision of the diocesan bishop should be lodged with the authority placing such judgment or decision, which is the diocesan bishop himself.
3. Hierarchical recourse against the decision or action of the diocesan bishop can be brought before the metropolitan (or archbishop) of the ecclesiastical province, or directly to the Holy See (You can copy furnish your complaints to H.E. Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Via della Conciliazione 5-7, Rome, Italy 00193, fax no. +39 0669884621, or e-mail address pcbcc@pcchc.va)

What now then is the role of the CBCP in protecting and curating the ecclesiastical cultural heritage of the local Church in the Philippines?
1. The CBCP can gently remind the bishops of the universal canonical legislation on the care of the ecclesiastical cultural heritage as a pastoral service assisting them in this emergent apostolic action of the Church that does hold a primary priority.
2. The CBCP, through its Permanent Committee, assists the diocesan bishops in their task of superintending the ecclesiastical cultural heritage in their respective sees by promoting the work of their diocesan commissions for church heritage thereby helping these to assume their proper obligations on heritage care and utilization.
3. The CBCP promotes awareness, sensitivity, appreciation, and valorisation of the ecclesiastical cultural heritage by precisely advancing and supporting the non-formal formation activities of its Permanent Committee expressed through the conduct of the biennial national conventions, regional fora, symposia, and such like settings, and the publication of its journal on cultural heritage studies, the Pintacasi.
4. The CBCP can formulate complementary norms (local canonical legislation), manuals, policies, or guidelines to govern the proper care of the cultural heritage of the particular church in the Philippines. The initiative began with the International Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of the Philippines on the Cultural Heritage of the Catholic Church in the Philippines signed on 17 April 2007 and which entered into full force on 29 May 2008, following the exchange of the instruments of ratification.

What is the philosophy behind of Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage Management?
We conserve heritage – ensuring its security from theft, survival from disaster, and safety from mishandling – for the primordial purpose of maintaining and perpetuating its faith (religious/theological) significance by which such heritage is valued.

The connecting line that links the artistic-cultural processes of Christian inspiration and Faith itself is the reference to Jesus Christ. He is culmen et fons (culmination and source) of all heritage of the Church.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pampanga: C' Italian Dining serves breakfast for the first time!

C' Italian Dining usually opens in time for lunch. But for our Ultimate Philippines tour, we requested Chef Chris Locher to serve breakfast for us. Chef Chris mentioned this was the first time he was serving breakfast. And he sure did not fail to impress.

One the menu was (1) assorted home made freshly baked breads, banana and chocolate muffin, assorted imported jams, honey, muesli and juices, coffee, tea, fresh milk and chocolate milk, fresh fruit platter, (2) fritata with three kinds of cheese, (3) slowly wood fire baked fresh giant white mushrooms, baby white onions and sun ripe tomatoes, (4) home made Italian sausages, honey baked ham and herb smoked pork loin roasted in olive oil, (5) smoked salmon and (6) butcher steak (U.S. Angus beef) char-grilled with fresh rosemary served with Florentine style white bean stew. Everything was as expected, unbelievably good!

Related entries
C' Italian Dining is simply superb!

C' Italian Dining, another sumptuous dinner!

Pangasinan: Patar Beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Patar Beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan is another Pangasinan beach worth visiting. It's actually one of the more popular beaches in Pangasinan, with a good number of resorts in the area. And their numbers are growing. It's very picturesque with strong blue waves lashing at the cream sand along the shore. We left Anda early in the afternoon to proceed to Bolinao, look for a resort to stay for the night, and enjoy our second beach for the day!

In the center of Bolinao town is the centuries-old Bolinao Church (the parish is celebrating its 400th year this year). In front of the church is a marker pushing forward the claim that the first Mass on Philippine soil was celebrated in Bolinao Bay in 1324 by Blessed Odorico, a Franciscan missionary on his way to China, who took refuge in Bolinao Bay during a storm.

The last time I was in Bolinao, I visited the U.P. Marine Science Institute and stayed in a hotel in town. This time, I made sure we stayed at Patar Beach. The beach is actually several more kilometers from the town proper. And along the way is a long row of resorts that offer accommodation ranging from nipa huts to pricey hotel rooms and beach villas.

On the way to Patar Beach is another iconic attraction of Bolinao, the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse. The lighthouse, constructed in 1905, is one of five major lighthouses of the country and the second tallest after Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

Patar Beach is actually at the end of the road. Resorts usually charge you PHP30 for parking and you can enjoy this really great beach. There are also huts for rent for the day. Just a warning though, while the cream sand on the beach feels really great, once you get into the water, it becomes rocky and it's difficult to walk on.

If you want to stay right beside Patar Beach, there's only one decent resort there, Treasures of Bolinao, where we chose to stay for the night. And they capitalize on the fact that they don't have competition with really high rates. They have a nice elevated walkway where you can see Patar Beach from end to end or view the picture-perfect Bolinao sunset.

The rest of the resorts in Patar Beach only have basic accommodation such as nipa huts. But if you're willing to drive back to Brgy. Ilog Malino, there are more choices such as Puerto del Sol, another high-end resort.

Part 1: Tondol Beach in Anda, Pangasinan

How to get to Bolinao, Pangasinan
Victory Liner and Five Star have several bus trips from Manila to Bolinao daily. Trips begin at about 7 a.m. and leave at intervals of 2 to 3 hours.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One more case for heritage jurisprudence!

Remember the sports complex being constructed in 2007 by former PTA GM Robert Dean Barbers right beside the walls of Intramuros? It turns out, heritage won the case last year. And I only found out about it after Bambi Harper casually mentioned this to me at a U.S. Embassy event last Holy Week. So I asked her for a copy of the decision.

The case was filed in Regional Trial Court Branch 52, Manila (Civil Case No. 07-117444). The decision is seven pages long, legal-sized paper. So it will take quite a while to retype it. But here are some interesting excerpts which I believe will become basis for future cases on heritage issues:

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (through Intramuros Admnisitration Board of Administrators represented by its Chairman, Secretary Joseph M. Durano), Petitioner



Petitioner through the Office of the Solicitor General assails via this Petition for Prohibition with prayer for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a Writ of Preliminary Injunction the construction of the sports complex undertaken by the public respondent, Hon. Robert Dean S. Barbers, General Manager, Philippine Tourism Authority through the contractor, private respondent Basque (should be Bosque) Construction Corporation.

Petitioner claims that the project was undertaken by the respondents without the required permit and locational clearance from petitioner in violation of Section 3, Rule VIII of the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of Presidential Decree No. 1616 and that it also violates the pertinent conditions embodied in the Memorandum of Agreement entered into by them sometime in 1981.

* * *

Moreover, although admittedly, the project site is on a parcel of land owned by the public respondent, Article 428 of the New Civil Code provides that "the right of an owner over his property is not absolute but is subject to certain limitations established by law". Under the Memorandum of Agreement entered into by petitioner and PTA, the properties ceded to PTA under PD 1763 shall be utilized and developed strictly in accordance with the charter of petitioner, its development plan, its rules and regulations and such other policies as the Board of the herein petitioner may formulate. On the last page of the said Memorandum of Agreement, the signature of the then President Marcos appears immediately below the entry which reads "upon authority of the President". It clearly appears then that the execution of the Memorandum of Agreement was in accordance with the mandate of PD 1763.

It follows that the project did not comply with PD 1616 requiring a permit and developmental clearances from petitioner. It also violated the Memorandum of Agreement between petitioner and the public respondent which has the force of law between them. It will be noted that petitioner here is the Republic of the Philippines suing through IA Board of Administrators represented by its Chairman Secretary Durano. Under PD 1616, the Intramuros Administration is mandated to restore and develop Intramuros as a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. Indeed, Intramuros has been priceless heritage for the City of Manila and a major historical landmark of the country. It is our nation's link to the past. Clearly, the construction injures the rights of Intramuros Administration and the nation as well. The court shares the view of petitioner that it is every Filipino's right to have a part of the national heritage like the Intramuros wall protected, preserved, restored and enhanced. Also, for those reasons, the court finds the arguments of the respondents untenable.

* * *

WHEREFORE, let a Writ of Prohibition issue directing respondents to cease and desist from continuing construction of the sports complex. The Writ of Preliminary Injunction earlier issued is hereby declared permanent and respondents are also ordered to demolish the illegal construction at their expense.

With costs against the respondents.


Manila, Philippines, April 7, 2008

Presiding Judge

Related entry
Protect the walls of Intramuros!

Related articles
Stationary bandits in Intramuros (Gemma Cruz-Araneta, Manila Bulletin)
The arrogance of dimwits (Bambi Harper, Malaya)
Ugly side of Tourism Authority revealed (Manila Times)
Former PTA heads want Gen. Mgr. Barbers charged (Manila Times)
What is behind Barbers’ insistence on this project? (Manila Times)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pangasinan: Tondol Beach in Anda, Pangasinan

Tondol Beach is definitely the best beach in Pangasinan and perfect when the tide is low. The last time I visited the beach, the tide was a bit high. So it wasn't a really great view. So I made sure to come back again when the tide was lower.

It's a five to six hour drive from Manila to Anda, Pangasinan. You'll go through Camiling and pass by Lingayen and through Alaminos (stopover at the Hundred Islands anyone?). It's on the way to Bolinao, right after the town of Bani.

The bad part about today was that low tide was at 1 a.m. And we were scheduled to arrive in Tondol at 10:30 a.m. Make sure you check what time low tide is. We decided to take the risk and we were not disappointed. The sun was perfect (the best time to visit is in the morning to early afternoon). By the time we arrived, the sand was already underwater. But thanks to the clear blue sky, Tondol did not fail to impress.

What I like about Tondol is the powder ivory white sand. In fact, there is an island one kilometer from the shore which you could walk or wade to. And it's powder white sand all the way. When the tide is low, you can pick a spot in the middle of the water and just sit down there the whole day. So if there is any beach that can claim to be the Boracay of the North, it's Tondol! But why even claim such a thing? Why are we always content with being a copy of the original when each beach is unique.

Tondol is actually a public beach and entrance fee is only PHP5. You can rent large huts for PHP200. For now, there aren't any good resorts to stay in so the best option when visiting Tondol is to stay overnight in neighboring Bolinao which is about 45 minutes away.

Travel advisory
As of this writing, the bridge in Bani is under construction and they let cars pass through a detour which is really long and rough. So if you're bringing a car, one option is to pass by Mabini. That's a longer detour but roads are paved all the way. The other option is a short-cut detour near the bridge for light vehicles that was built by some enterprising locals. They charge a PHP20 toll fee for you to pass through a dirt road built through private properties. It saves you a lot of time.

Pangasinan: Visita iglesia to Western Pangasinan churches

Pangasinan has a lot of heritage churches. And it being a really big province, the churches are scattered all over. One route is the Western Pangasinan route from Camiling, Tarlac to Bolinao, Pangasinan. I noticed old churches in the towns of Mangatarem, Aguilar, Bugallon, Lingayen, Labrador, Alaminos, and Bolinao.

The first stop is the church in Mangatarem. You can't miss the Mangatarem Church because of its large green dome. The convento beside it is also intact but renovations have been done to the interior.

Aguilar is a next town. The Aguilar Church is very much intacts since the simple ceiling paintings, its wooden retablo and the convento are still there. I hope it stays that way.

Bugallon does not seem to have an old church. That's because the old town church is not along the National Highway. You'll have to enter Brgy. Salasa to see this old red brick church. The Salasa Church even has remnants of its old perimeter wall still standing.

Since I started late in the afternoon, I stayed in Lingayen for the night. It's a coastal town and if you're very observant, you'll notice some colorful birds every now and then. The Lingayen Co-Cathedral (its co-cathedral is in Dagupan). This one is a depressing story. And it is a blatant example of Roman Catholic Church, Inc. which I mentioned in the visita iglesia in Batangas post.

The centuries-old convento was demolished and a commercial structure was built to replace it, all under the watch of Archbishop Oscar Cruz. I expected much more from Archbishop Cruz. This incident is very sad.

When in Lingayen, make sure to drop by the Pangasinan Capitol and Lingayen Beach which is famous because of the MacArthur Landings during the Second World War. Several years back, even the Spanish colonial Casa Real was still intact. But a typhoon blew off its roof and it's now in a very sad situation.

On the way to Alaminos, you'll pass by the town of Labrador. I noticed the church was a bit old but I wasn't able to stop to investigate it further. Alaminos Cathedral, just like many cathedrals, has been renovated inside. It's sad because many of the old houses are still intact. I wonder when they demolished the orginal municipio because the plaza would have made an interesting cultural tourism attraction.

I hope Mayor Hernani Braganza realizes the strong potential of Alaminos, not just as an eco-tourism destination, but as a cultural and culinary destination. I'd really enjoy it if some of those old houses were converted into restaurants that serve Alaminos longaniza among other things! It would be a great stopover when visiting the Hundred Islands or Bolinao.

At the end of the road is Bolinao Church. I'll talk more about Bolinao in a different post. But worth mentioning is that it is challenging the claim of Limasawa as the site of the first Mass in the Philippines. Records say that it was Italian missionary Blessed Odorico who, on his way to china, said the first Mass when he took refuge in Bolinao Bay during a storm in 1324. The claim further mentions that he even baptized several locals making him the first evangelizer in the Philippines.

You can also do the Central Pangasinan route which takes you to Manaoag, Calasiao, San Carlos and Binmaley among others.

Part 2: Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan
Part 3: Tondol White Sand Beach in Anda, Pangasinan during high tide

Catanduanes: Puraran Beach is surfing capital of Catanduanes

Puraran Beach in Baras is the surfing capital of Catanduanes so to speak. Some refer to the Puraran surfing wave as Majestics. From Virac, there are jeeps which regularly ply the Virac-Baras route. So as soon as I finished my breakfast, I was off.

It's best to ask before hand what times the trips leave. I had to wait a while before the next trip left but at least I got to pick a seat since I was early. If you take the Virac-Baras jeep, you'll have to hire a tricycle in Baras proper to get to Puraran. Another jeep passes by Puraran itself. But I had to wait for another two hours before it left Virac.

After the town of Bato, the roads get rough (they're still in the process of paving the roads now). When I arrived in Baras, I asked what time the last trip back to Virac left. It turned out, the last trip was leaving is a few minutes since it was a weekend. Crap! Now what?

The tricycle to Puraran is about PHP150 (they said it was the standard rate). Since I needed to be back in Virac the same day, he offered to take me back all the way for more cash. Looks like I had no choice anyway. It's common practice, especially among foreign tourists, to hire a tricycle all the way back to Virac because of the scarcity of transportation.

It's not surfing season yet. But Puraran has surfing lessons for beginners during the summer months from April to June. Majestic's Beach Resort offers surfing lessons: PHP150 for the instructor whole day (but I doubt beginners would last for even half a day) and PHP150 rental of short board per hour. By September, the waves would be too strong for beginners and that's when the real pros come over.

I was surprised I was the only local visitor that afternoon. Everyone else was a foreigner, either from Australia, the U.S., or Europe. It's a wonder why foreigners hear about these great places before most locals do. Puraran Beach is a stunning landscape of cream sand and rock formations. I hope I could come back!

Majestic's Beach Resort
(0919) 5581460
PHP350 per room (nipa hut)

Puraran Beach House (LGU)
(0920) 3199742; (0917) 8041020
PHP450 fan room; PHP650 A/C room

Part 1: Around Catanduanes: Virac and Bato

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Philippine festivals and other cultural celebrations

Philippine festivals or fiestas are among the most colorful in the world! I recently got to read the book "A Year of Festivals: A Guide to Having the Time of Your Life" published by Lonely Planet. It features the most unique festivals in the world. The first thing I did was to check how many Philippine festivals were featured.

There are five in the book, two of them in San Fernando, Pampanga! The five were the Feast of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo, Manila), Ati-Atihan (Kalibo, Aklan), San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites (San Fernando, Pampanga), MassKara Festival (Bacolod, Negros Occidental) and the Giant Lantern Festival (San Fernando, Pampanga). There should have been more since the Philippines is known to be a country of colorful festivals!

That's what I've been saying about making sure festivals are unique. Festivals that cannot be found elsewhere are those which attract attention. With so many festivals and events flooding the Philippine fiesta calendar, I decided to pick my favorites from the crowd and came up with my own list of unique festivals worth visiting. Most definitely, these festivals have become iconic symbols of the towns and cities where they are held annually.

January 9 | Quiapo, Manila
On this day, the centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene is pulled through the streets of Quiapo by male devotees clad in maroon, in an intense mammoth procession. This has been a tradition for over two centuries and some people who have touched the Nazarene during the procession claim that they have been healed of their diseases.


Third weekend of January | Kalibo, Aklan
Held every January to commemorate the feast of the Santo Niño, many consider the Ati-Atihan Festival as the Mother of all Philippine Festivals. Among the wildest, if not the wildest of Philippine fiestas, revelers paint their faces with black soot and wear bright, outlandish costumes as they masquerade and dance in revelry around the streets of Kalibo to the beat of ambulant ethnic troubadours. This is the original street dance fiesta of the country and many of the later street dance festivals in honor of the Santo Niño were inspired by Ati-Atihan.

The origins of the festival are said to date back to the 13th century when a group of Malay datus fleeing Borneo purchased land from the local Ati people. This agreement was commemorated with a celebration, where the datus and their people painted themselves black to honor the Ati people. This was later converted into a religious celebration with the arrival of the Spanish.


Third weekend of January | Cebu City
The Sinulog Festival is one of the grandest, if not the grandest, and most colorful festivals in the Philippines. It is held in honor of the Santo Niño. Just like the other Santo Niño festivals, it features a street parade with participants in bright-colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets, and native gongs. The day before the parade, a fluvial procession is held in the morning with the image of the Santo Niño carried on a boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City. In the afternoon, a more solemn and larger procession makes its way around Cebu City.


Fourth weekend of January | Iloilo City
Another Santo Niño festival, the Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held the weekend after Sinulog and Ati-Atihan. The festival is also characterized by street dancing, frenetic stomping of feet to the beat of ambulant ethnic troubadours.

The festival saw its birth in the late 1960s but was just confined to a parish. It was in the 1977 when President Marcos ordered various regions to come up with festivals that would boost tourism that the Dinagyang as we know it today began to take shape. In fact, as a testament to how it has grown and evolved, Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines.

February | Baguio City
Panagbenga, or the Baguio Flower Festival, is month-long annual flower festival held in Baguio. The first one was organized in 1995. The next year, it was renamed Panagbenga, a Kankanaey term that means "a season of blossoming, a time for flowering." The highlight of this festival is the Floral Float Parade usually held during the last Sunday of February (or first Sunday of March).


April to May | Pakil, Laguna
The Turumba commemorates the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary with seven pistang lupi. The first pistang lupi is held on the Friday before Palm Sunday (the first of two feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and the seventh is done on Pentecost Sunday. During these days, the image of the Nuestra Señora de Dolores de Turumba is borne on an anda and brought around the streets of Pakil in a procession amidst dancing. Other processions are also held aside from the seven pistang lupi, the last being on the third Sunday of September, the second feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin May.

The schedule for 2009 is Unang Lupi (Biyernes de Dolores, April 3), Ika-2 Lupi (Pistang Martes, April 14), Ika-3 Lupi (Pistang Biyatiko, April 20, 21 & 22), Ika-4 Lupi (Pistang Biyernes, May 1), Ika-5 Lupi (Pistang Linggo, May 10), Extra Lupi (Pistang Pakileña, May 12), Ika-6 Lupi (Pistang Pag-akyat, May 22), Ika-7 Lupi (Pistang Pagpanaog, May 31), Ahunan sa Ping-as (May 30), and Domingo de Dolores (September 20).

Good Friday | Marinduque
A pageant of wooden masks called morion, the Moriones Festival is celebrated in the towns of towns of Boac, Mogpog and Gasan. Men are colorfuly garbed and masked as Roman centurions. The festival culminates in the reenactment of the beheading of Longinus.

Good Friday | San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando, Pampanga
The San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites is arguably the cultural event most visited by foreign tourists. It's mentioned in almost every guide book about the Philippines. It's actually the center of bloody flagellation practices that happen in Pampanga every Holy Week. The very first crucifixion happened in 1962 as part of a passion play of the barangay. Ever since, more and more penitents followed suit and thus began a cultural practice that went beyond ordinary flagellation.


May 14 | Pulilan, Bulacan
An annual festival held the day before the feast of San Isidro Labrador, it features hundreds of decorated carabaos and colorful floats parading along the streets of Pulilan, a celebration for a bountiful harvest.

May 15 | Lucban, Quezon
An annual celebration to celebrate the feast of San Isidro Labrador and to usher in a bountiful harvest, homes in Lucban are decorated with the town's agricultural products. The most distinct of these decorations is the kiping, a brightly colored rice dough rolled into thin wafers and shaped like leaves. Other decorations include fruits, vegetables, grains and straw hats.

Also visit the Agawan sa Sariaya and Mayohan sa Tayabas the same afternoon in the neighboring towns. The highlight of Mayohan is the famous agawan ng suman in honor of San Isidro Labrador.


May 17 to 19 | Obando, Bulacan
A three-day festival where childless couples, praying that they bear children, do the pandango or "fertility dance" on the streets of Obando as a procession carrying the towns patrons Santa Clara, San Pascual Baylon and the Nuestra Senora de Salambao, makes its way around town.


June 24 | Aliaga, Nueva Ecija
To commemorate the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the people of Brgy. Bibiclat, Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, transform themselves into mud people or taong-putik. The ritual, called Pagsa-San Juan, begins at dawn when devotees wear dry banana leaves or vines, smear themselves with mud and walk the streets to ask for alms in the form of candles which are lit at the plaza.


June 24 | Balayan, Batangas
Another celebration to commemorate the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the town of Balayan parades dozens of lechon (roasted pigs) in outlandish costumes. Imagine roasted pigs wearing wigs, sunglasses, hats, and clothes! And just like in any fiesta for San Juan Bautista, expect to get wet!

June 28 to 30 | Apalit, Pampanga
A three-day fluvial festival, the Pampanga River comes alive with gaily decorated motorboats and colorful bancas during the feast of Saint Peter. At the center of the fluvial processions is a lavishly-decorated pagoda mounted on a barge that carries a centuries-old ivory image of Saint Peter which the locals call Apung Iru.

Third Saturday of September | Naga City, Camarines Sur
A festival honoring the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Patroness of the Bicol Region, on the last day of the celebrations, the image is returned to the Basilica in a fluvial procession along the Naga River. The procession is lit by thousands of candles from devotees in boats escorting the image.

Weekend nearest October 19 | Bacolod City
The MassKara Festival is held every October to celebrate the Charter Day of Bacolod City. The festival features carnivals, fairs, and a Mardi Gras-like street parade of costumed and masked dancers. It was first held in 1980 during a period of crisis. The local community decided to hold a festival of smiles, because the city is the City of Smiles, in order to pull residents out of the gloomy atmosphere.

Second Sunday of October | Quezon City
The La Naval de Manila is a grand procession held in honor of the Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario (Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary) along the streets of Quezon City. Before the destruction of the grand churches of Intramuros during the liberation of Manila, this tradition was held in the walled city. The image is said to be the most lavish and most celebrated Marian image in the country, and is brought around preceded by carrozas of St. Joseph and various Dominican saints.

November 23 | Angono, Rizal
A festival held in honor of San Clemente, it's one big party around the streets of Angono with a loud, rambunctious, and wet & wild Mardi Gras-like parade (it's actually a procession). The procession culminates in a fluvial procession in the Laguna de Bay. Higantes are colorful paper mache giants measuring about ten to twelve feet in height.

Saturday before Christmas Eve | San Fernando, Pampanga
The date of this spectacular festival is a bit confusing but it's usually held the Saturday before Christmas Eve but not too close to it (so that would be sometime between December 15 to 21). The festival features close to a dozen 18-foot lanterns made by competing barangays of San Fernando. Each lantern is fitted with thousands of light bulbs that are controlled manually. The dynamic interplay of lights and color that precisely moves with the rhythm of music is unbelievable! It is because of these giant lanterns and the San Fernando lantern-making industry that the City of San Fernando has been dubbed the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18 is International Day for Monuments and Sites

Every April 18, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) celebrates the International Day for Monuments and Sites. There is a different theme every year. And this year, the theme is "Heritage and Science." There are two major streams which is covered here: "one being the role that science (and the scientific process) has played in the creation of heritage, and the other being the contribution that science (and technology) offers to the study of heritage."

So what heritage resources become the center of attention with this theme? As ICOMOS mentions, "A structure like the Ironbridge (UK) clearly shows the influence of science and technology in its construction; not only the bracing that disperses the load but also the mining, smelting, transport infrastructure and organised labour components that made the structure possible. The Temples of Angkor (Cambodia) not only illustrate an understanding of astronomy, but also of hydrology, mechanics and the requirements for tools suitable for the quarrying of the stone, placing the blocks, and the execution of the reliefs and frescos. The site of Maritime Greenwich (UK) is noted for its association with the science of astronomy and the determination of position and time; whilst being architecturally significant, it is primarily a monument to scientific endeavour. It is also a monument to the practical application of science, as the manufacture of the transit telescope and the precision timepieces depended on the availability of suitable materials and tools. Fundamentally, without science and technology, no monument or structure could exist."

It's sad that the buildings in Manila which would been a perfect fit for this theme were destroyed during the war such as the Manila Observatory and the Bureau of Science Building (said to have some of the best laboratories in the world during its time). But there are a lot that still exist dating back to pre-colonial times such as the Stone Agricultural Calendars of Dap-ay Guiday in Besao (Bontoc, Mountain Province) which are National Cultural Treasures. Even the Ifugao Rice Terraces are a testament to advances in agriculture at that time.

The San Sebastian Church, a church made of metal, is also a testament to the science and technology behind its construction. I'm sure there are more examples out there. Do you have any?

Here are some ideas for celebrating April 18. I know it's too late for most heritage organizations to organize anything now. But you could keep this in mind for next year. Besides, we don't have to wait for April 18 to do all that because everyday is a heritage conservation day! In fact, May is Heritage Month in the Philippines!

The ICOMOS Philippine National Committee is meeting today at the Escuela Taller in Intramuros to celebrate the day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Catanduanes: Around Virac and Bato

Catanduanes is most known for being a surfers' haunt. But I heard the island province also has a lot of beaches worth visiting. I took a morning flight and after sorting things out at the airport (I usually look for a place to stay only when I arrive, especially if I feel there won't be that many people), proceeded to my hotel and got settled shortly before lunch.

I decided to visit the old church in Bato for the afternoon and a nearby waterfall. The only thing I don't like about public transportation is that you are never assured of the time you actually leave, especially if you have to wait for other passengers to arrive. Bato, the next town, is just 8 kilometers away. And I felt the wait for the jeep to leave was longer than the actual trip. Little did I realize that tricycles also ply the route and cost just as much.

Anyway, Bato Church is said to be the oldest in Catanduanes. I was told there was another old church in Caramoran. But to get there, I had to take a four to five-hour bus and stay there for a night. So it was not an option. While the Virac Cathedral is mostly new, with the bell tower being the only remaining part of the original church.

Bato Church faces a river and you can see it from the oppostie side as you approach the town. The exterior is well-preserved. But the inside has some alterations. I was hoping to see an old altar but was disappointed.

After walking around the church (there's nothing much to see in the town proper itself), I took a tricycle to Barangay Cabugao, the jump-off point for Maribina Falls. The road to Maribina Falls is right in the middle of Virac and Bato proper at KM4.

The hike to the falls from the National Highway is just 10 minutes. And the road all the way is concrete. So if you have a vehicle, you can drive all the way there. I was expecting it to be emply since it was a weekday. But I realized it was already summer vacation. So the place was jampacked. But the clean water did look enticing for a swim. Maybe next time!

I was back in Virac by mid-afternoon. Since there was nothing much to do, I decided to hire a tricycle that would take me to the beach area of Virac which was 30 minutes away. Jeeps don't go there so you're left with no choice but to hire your own transportation. The scenery along the way is beautiful. I especially liked the view of the hills in Brgy. Sto Domingo (it reminded me of the limestone karst I saw in Guilin, albeit smaller in scale).

The beach I visited was in Brgy. Batag. And I got free entrance to the resort since the hotel I stayed in also owned it, and offers free entrance to its guests. On a clear day, you can see Mayon Volcano from this side of Catanduanes.

Anyway, I wanted to be back in town before dark. So we made our way back. At least I got to sleep early since there is really nothing much you can do in Virac. Tomorrow is exciting since I'll be going to Puraran Beach.

Catanduanes Midtown Inn & Cafe
(052) 8110527 / 8111526

Rakdell Hotel
(052) 8110881

Part 2: Puraran Beach is surfing capital of Catanduanes

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eid al-Adha declared national holidays

The two-day Eid al-Adha is now among our national holidays. President Arroyo formally signed an executive order declaring November 27 and 28 this year as national non-working holidays to allow Filipino Muslims to celebrate the Islamic festival, Eid al-Adha. This will give way for more Filipino Muslims to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the hajj. That also means a four-day weekend from Friday, November 28 to Monday, November 30 (Bonifacio Day).

The annual Islamic celebration, the exact dates of which are determined by Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, signifies the culmination of the hajj. Eid al-Adha, the second major Islamic festival, is celebrated by an estimated 10 million Muslims in the country.

The other major Islamic celebration is Eid’l Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan. This year, it will fall sometime during the last week of September. For a complete list of holidays this year, read Philippine holidays and long-weekend schedule for 2009.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pampanga: Another Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga

Good Friday and I'm usually in San Fernando, Pampanga. I spent my summers in San Fernando as a young kid and thus got exposed to the city's bloody rituals every Holy Week. Hundreds of flagellants or mamalaspas would pass in front of our house in the days leading to Good Friday.

There are four kinds of penitents or magdarame in Pampanga. In San Fernando, most of them are mamalaspas, whipping their bloodied backs while making their way around the city. At times, we'd see a mamusan krus or a penitent carrying a cross in the opposite street with his band of tormentors making such a ruckus, pushing and hitting the poor soul. Then there are the magsalibatbat or penitents who crawl on the street, bearing the burning heat of the scorching pavement and hot summer sun.

It was only recently that I've seen the kristos, penintents who are nailed to the cross, in Brgy. San Pedro Cutud (there are three crucifixion sites in San Fernando, the other two being Brgy. Sta. Lucia and Brgy. San Juan). The first time I visited Cutud, I told myself, it was going to be the last. It's dusty and unbearably hot at the burol. But I'm resigned to the fact that I'll be there often since friends always ask me to accompany them to the San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites. So I found myself in Cutud again this year, this time with even more friends.

We got back at our house at 3 p.m. and had a really late lunch. The solemn Good Friday procession of the Sto. Entierro makes its way around the heritage district at about 6 p.m. This is something which tourists should see as well. After the procession, we had sumptuous dinners (let me stress it's with an "s") at the different heritage houses, hopping from one house to another. For some reason, Good Friday in San Fernando is one big fiesta when families gather and meet. And while abstinence is evident in the feasts, fasting is not! Even during Holy Week, Pampanga lives up to its name as our country's culinary capital.

For more details on Cutud and San Fernando, Pampanga's Good Friday traditions, read Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga and Crucifixion rites held in San Pedro Cutud every Good Friday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Manila: My Mother's Garden (The Garden Room) has a visiting chef

My Mother's Garden (formerly The Garden Room) now offers Australian fusion meals with Melbourne-based chef Joey Veloso at the helm. My Mother's Garden is the residence of National Artist for Architecture Pablo S. Antonio now made available for private bookings.

Chef Joey is a grandson of the National Artist himself. Some of his signature dishes include an Italian Caesar salad with prawns, chicken kebab salad, a Filipino-Australian potato salad using local Tuguegarao longaniza, Vietnamese baked chicken and a Portuguese chicken using Indian spices and Portuguese ingredients.

We got invited for a sneak preview of the fusion cuisine. And here's the feast they served: (1) Sri Lankan curry chicken with grilled baby corn, capsicum and pita bread; (2) Portuguese chicken (peri-peri); (3) North African chermoula salad (which I thought was pinakbet salad because of the similar ingredients); (4) Filipino Caesar's salad with tahong, sweet ham and capers; (5) Tuna Niçoise salad; (6) Caribbean wild rice (red, black and white rice) with dried mangoes, pomegranate, raisins and nuts; (7) Spanish pasta with Tuguegarao longaniza, paprika oil and olives; and (8) Vietnamese beef with sweetened peanuts and sweet chili. The flavored soda was also refreshing.

The good part about it is that you can actually customize the menu to your own preferences. Here is a previous entry on My Mother's Garden.

My Mother's Garden
2650 Zamora Street, Pasay City
(02) 8318407, 6315054, 4859244
(0917) 6008886

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Manila: Italianni's introduces its summer dishes

Easter Sunday, I wonder where we'll eat for dinner. I just realized I have a long lists of food experiences to write about. We got invited recently to try out the new menu of Italianni's which they are offering exclusively for summer. They have five new dishes which we all got to taste.

There's the Costina Brasatta (braised ribs), Manzo di Arrosto (roasted rib eye) and Marinata del Manzo di Arrosto (beef pot roast), Pollo con Rucola (chicken with arugula), Spiado del Pollo e Dei Pesci (fish and chicken skewer), and Pesci in Vino Bianco (fish fillet in white wine). Each dish is served with spaghetti aglio e olio and grilled vegetables. Catch these dishes only this summer!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cavite: Corregidor Island overnight trip via Sun Cruises

Corregidor is not just a memorial to the heroism during the Second World War. Today, it's truly a destination. And I hope it gets more attention. Just two weeks after my recent day-trip to Corregidor, I decided to come back, this time for an overnight trip and more exploration. I tagged along Gideon so he could map out some trekking routes.

I wanted to see all the attractions off the usual tour route, especially the artillery batteries off the beaten track. And when you stay overnight in Corregidor, you can do a lateral tunnel tour in total darkness! And I'll make sure I do that!

We took the first Sun Cruises trip to the island. I slept the whole trip going there and the whole morning at the Corregidor Inn since I did not have any sleep the night before. So Gideon hiked up Malinta Hill on his own.

After lunch, we hired our own vehicle so that we could check out the different artillery batteries at our own pace. First stop was Battery Morrison. The grass was a bit tall and obviously, it wasn't that visited. Battery James is nearby. But what remains is just the concrete structure. It's gun, like in most of the gun batteries near the shore, have been stolen and sold for scrap. It's really sad hearing these stories of theft.

We also visited Battery Way and Battery Hearn which is on the regular tourist route. What people don't know is that Battery Hearn has a twin called Battery Smith. In fact, Hearn was part of Smith before it was renamed Hearn.

We then visited Battery Wheeler which reminded me of Battery Grubbs. Battery Geary is also popular because it still has live ammunition stuck inside it even after it was hit and exploded during the war. Just a few meters away from it is Battery Crockett.

The last Corregidor gun battery we visited today was Battery Ramsey. There was nothing much left of it since it got hit as well during the war. But at least parts of the gun are still there. I took a nap the rest of the afternoon. If you want peace and quiet, Corregidor is definitely a good candidate.

My plan was to join the night tour of Malinta Tunnel lateral tunnels. But that was canceled since it was raining and the other guests at the hotel decided not to push through. So let's just say I got to sleep early that night.

The next day, I was off to more exploration. I finally got to visit Kindley Airfield near the tail of Corregidor Island. It's the site of the infamous Jabidah Massacre which saw dozens of young Muslim trainees slaughtered to protect a military secret. It would have been lost in history had one of the youth not survived to tell the tale.

There was one gun battery with its guns still intact. And that's Battery Cheney. But to get to it, you have to hike a bit and you'll have to go through some tall grass. But that was fine with me. It also reminded me of Grubbs and Crockett.

On the way there, you'll see some Japanese caves by the beach. there are many of these holes all over Corregidor which the Japanese built to protect themselves from attack.

Anyway, I decided to push through with my Malinta Tunnel tour now that it wasn't raining. Even if you do it during the daytime, the place is pitch black. So you could imagine what the soldiers and their families had to go through during the war, especially when there was no power.

It was a good thing I was wearing a hard hat since I bumped my head several times! Some of the tunnels are really narrow and low, especially those which were damaged during the liberation of Corregidor. We got to visit the hospital as well. My guide pointed to a large wooden door with grills which served as a prison for those caught stealing the guns.

The overnight trip was really fun and most definitely worth it. I want to come back again to explore more of the island. Maybe they could establish more trails which people could visit. And I hope Sun Cruises opens up more ferry schedules so that people could visit the island anytime they want.

Part 1: Corregidor Island day trip via Sun Cruises
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