Thursday, August 11, 2005

Manila: Our teachers teach us to cut trees

This could well be the phrase students in the City of Manila are uttering with the example being set by their teachers at the Manila Division of City Schools, a willing accessory to Mayor Lito Atienza’s cutting of centuries-old trees in the Arroceros Forest Park. “Old Manila’s last lung,” as Sylvia L. Mayuga puts it in her Philippine Daily Inquirer article dated April 17, 2005, Arroceros is the one of the last patches of green in a city made filthy both environmentally and politically.

And Mayuga could not have put it any better, “Where the reign of corruption is perfectly matched by traffic and pollution in all forms, sheep-like malling and commercial hype everywhere one turns, there's rare pleasure to be had among old trees that have somehow survived successive building booms burying nature under more steel and cement everyday.”

News last Friday of Manila City Hall’s rampage thus dealt a painful blow to efforts for sustainable urban development in a city which received the lowest ratings for quality of life among twelve metro cities nationwide in the most recent AIM Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project in 2003.

A stone’s throw away from SM City Manila, another of Atienza’s urban disasters, Arroceros is located at the foot of MacArthur Bridge. Untouched for many years and “discovered” by then Mayor Alfredo Lim and environmental advocates from the Winner Foundation in the early 1990s, the park was a 2.1 hectare inner-city oasis filled with century-old narra, molave, balete, rubber and acacia trees. By 1994, the foundation was able to plant an additional 3,500 saplings from 55 different species. To make the long story short, the area became a self-sustaining forest ecosystem, giving high hopes "that the area can regenerate itself into a mature forest ecosystem," according to a 2003 survey of the park.

Then comes Atienza and his so-called Buhayin ang MayniLA program. For several years, Atienza had been successful in desecrating and eradicating important cultural landmarks in Manila such as the Sky Room – the four-story art deco Jai Alai building designed by noted architect Welton Becket, Mehan Gardens, the YMCA where SM City Manila now stands, and the San Lazaro Hippodrome, which gave way to another of Henry Sy’s prefab monstrosities.

If not for heritage advocates, even the stately Army and Navy Club could already be another shopping mall. John Silva recalls that in year 2000, “[Atienza] tried to destroy the Army Navy building, now the Museo ng Maynila, and to gobble up the adjoining Museong Pambata by attempting to put up a boutique and shopping mall.”

The Arroceros Forest Park was next on his list.

“Don't tell me about the ecosystem; Manila has enough parks,” Atienza was reported to have said. “Why, I even ordered discounts on Manila Zoo entrance fees for Manila residents!” After effectively building a Park and Ride facility on Mehan Gardens, the lord mayor of MayniLA now wanted to construct a teachers’ dormitory in Arroceros. For any rational mind, it is difficult to fathom the explanation that the Arroceros Forest Park is the lone available site for teachers' quarters in Manila.

What disappoints reason is the fact that it was the Manila Division of City Schools which applied for a DENR permit to cut trees in the park. Can these public school teachers continue to face their students and teach them time-honored values such as caring for the environment?

Workers from Manila City Hall started balling and cutting trees last Thursday following orders from “higher ups.” By the time the Winner Foundation and the media had arrived, two trees had already been felled. They were however able to save a century-old narra tree which was next in line.

With this blatant disregard for the quality of life of his constituents, Lito Atienza should rename his program “Patayin ang MayniLA.”

Imagine that things like these are allegedly happening as well in the UP system. The Office of the Environment Ombudsman recommended last month the filing of criminal and administrative charges against UPLB Chancellor Dr. Wilfredo David for the alleged illegal cutting of two hardwood trees inside the LB campus last year, said to be worth P210,000. But that is another story. [Philippine Collegian, Vol. 83, No.6, 11 August 2005]

Related Articles
Conservationists battle to save Manila's forest park
Winner spirit blazes on for forest park
City Hall begins cutting trees at Arroceros Park
Old Manila's 'last lung'
Illegal logging case vs UPLB head endorsed

Write the DepEd Superintendent
Division of City Schools
City Hall, Manila
527-5218 / 302-6736 / 527-5184 / 527-9910 / 302-6735

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ilocos Norte: More notes on empanada central

Sorry it took quite a while for the second part of my empanada binge. School work just piled up. Lucky for me, I'm on a six day weekend! I don't have classes on Tuesdays and Fridays. Classes were suspended by the administration last Thursday for President Roman's investiture and were suspended again on Monday due to the closure of Commonwealth Avenue. But it's a declared non-working holiday as well making it a double whammy on my professors' class schedules... hehe!

I could not believe my craving for Ilocos' sumptuous fritters is still alive since I really made it a point to buy an empanada at Ilocos Empanada in Katipunan last night.

Anyway, back to the Ilocos trip...

DAY 2. After breakfast, our first stop for the day was the third UNESCO World Heritage site in the Ilocos provinces, the Church of San Agustin in Paoay. On Paoay, Toti Villalon writes, "Built in 1710 under the direction of the Agustinian order, the ensemble of the church and detached bell towers are truly majestic in scale when viewed from the edge of the plaza that faces the ensemble. Detached from the church façade the bell tower tapers as it rises from the ground in a fashion reminiscent of a pagoda. The stone façade is plain at the bottom. Light, elegant decorative carving is applied close to the top of the pediment. A row of feathery stone finials that seem to gently brush the sky with delicate Oriental strokes accentuate the triangular top of the pediment. The earthquake protection system in this structure is probably its most dramatic feature. Exaggeratedly thick buttresses protrude quite a distance from the ground to be countered by a smaller volute near roof level topped by a stone finial. Swirling upwards to the sky, the massive stone buttresses take on a magical lightness."

Ivan_in_paoayI not only went around the church but took a quick walk around the vicinity. I did not want to take photos of the Spanish-period municipio since they were currently constructing an annex on one of its two azoteas/balconajes or whatever those are called. Sigh!

Beside it was the Gabaldon school building of Paoay. One thing I noticed about Ilocos towns is that they have small houses but massive churches and belltowers detached from the main church. Whereas in Pampanga, there are magnificent and elaborate mansions but smaller churches. Jojo Mata later explained that in Ilocos, most churches also doubled as forts, serving as protection against Chinese or Moro pirates. The massive belltowers were built at a distance to protect the church from damage in case the tower collapsed during an earthquake.

Since we didn't have that much time, I wasn't able to visit the other side of the church where one could find the ruins of the church convento. Maybe next time.

Next on the itinerary was the "imperial birthblace" of the Marcos clan back in Batac. Reinventing family heritage is what has been done in Batac, a result of the dillusions of royalty of my fraternity brod, President Ferdinand E. Marcos and First Lady Imelda R. Marcos. Since the Marcos Mausoleum is in Batac, people often mistake the town for his birthplace when he was actually born in Sarrat. The museum of another fraternity brod, Marcos' chief rival Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, finds itself in a similar situation being located on the Cojuanco property of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac City rather than the Aquino hometown of Concepcion, Tarlac.

Batac underwent a sort of metamorphosis during the Marcos administration to make it appeal to the fantasies and edifice complex of the former first family. And the Marcos Mausoleum is the pinnacle of that folly with the mortal remains of the late dictator preserved and enshrined there. The advanced wax preservation technique used to keep his body intact was employed in the hope of pushing the Marcos legend beyond Philippine shores, putting him side by side with other powerful leaders such as Vlademir I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh whose embalmed bodies have been preserved for future generations.

After paying homage to the Apo, it was off to the provincial capital, Laoag City to visit the Museo Iloko, the obra mata, I mean maestra of Archt. Jojo Mata. The award winning project, the adaptive reuse of an old Tabacalera building, gives visitors a glimpse of the culture of Ilocos Norte. After that brief tour, we were given time to loiter around Laoag. So it was off to the plaza for photos.

Img_4457One sad thing about Laoag is the new symbol that welcomes you. Before, it was only the massive sinking belltower which one saw while traversing the bridge that brought you to the town proper. Now you have golden arches as well. The local government should be hanged to dry from the big yellow "M" for allowing such an incident to happen. They should follow the lead of UPLB officials who raised hell and ordered the removal of the large golden arches which were installed near the entrance of the UPLB campus.

After taking photos, it was back to the dap-ayan where the bus was waiting. And another two servings of empanada! With my stomach filled, I had to skip the picnic lunch we were going to have in Sarrat, the birthplace of Marcos, which was put on the social map as a result of the elaborate and costly wedding of Irene Marcos to Greggy Araneta.

Img_4459Img_4474The facade of the Sarrat Church actually collapsed together with the belltower during an earthquake in the early 1980s. It was repaired just in time for the Marcos-Araneta nuptial. Beside it is a huge convento and a complex of brick ruins that used to house government offices such as a courthouse and jail. Labels to rooms read "Torture Chamber" and "Garrote Room" reminding visitors of the grim happenings that used to occur in the place. After lunch, it was off to Pagudpud with a brief but important stopover in Burgos.

Ivan_lighthouseIvan_overlookingA UNESCO World Heritage hopeful under the listing "Lighthouses of the Philippines" and if those proposing their inclusion get their act right, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos is simply stunning, a solitary masterpiece majestically perched on the foothills at the northern tip of Luzon. As people well-versed in UNESCO selections would say, it's a matter of packaging if you want to get listed. Believe it or not, the city of Rome was rejected when it applied the first time mainly because they submitted the whole city which had a lot of alterations already. But the current listing shows that they selected important sites in the city now listed as the Historic Centre of Rome.

Dsc_7485Some people are proposing to have all the lighthouses declared. But part of application is proof that a site can and will be preserved. Some lighthouses are already in bad shape. And these rotten eggs may become the reason for the rejection of the whole lot. It would thus be better to pick say three or five of the best examples of Philippine lighthouses for submission to the UNESCO list. That way, the pitch would be more managable with lesser opportunities for scrutiny from the UNESCO experts.

Batanes had to learn the hard way with their rejection last year. In fact, the islands were a shoe in for listing. But the provincial government played know it all, or in the vernacular, nagmarunong! They felt they could do it on their own and purposely did not contact the Philippine experts who had been hard at work preparing the application for Batanes. To make the long story short and to put it bluntly, they fucked up the application requirements.

Dsc_7496Dsc_7548Nothing was to stop us from a dip in Pagudpud after Burgos. Nothing except the windmills of Bangui which led to a five minute stop. And a storm brewing which brought waves lashing along the shoreline! But despite the intermitent downpour and gray skies, a swim in the beach was a fun finish to the Ilocos tour.

It was now time to begin the trip down. But not without a stop in Laoag's dap-ayan for more empanadas! Hehe! The stopover was actually for those who wanted to buy bagnet but I had something else on my food list, two empanadas for dinner. After a brief stop in our dorm in Batac, it was back to Manila and straight to class. We arrived 9 a.m. Monday, just in time for me to cram a paper and attend my 10 a.m. class.

More Ilocos Norte photos at my Yahoo! Photos. Thanks to Karlo de Leon for photos of myself and the empanadas... hehehe! You can check out his photos at

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ilocos Norte & Ilocos Sur: Empanada binge!

Dsc_7557Yup, I had not one... not two... but seven of those empanadas which Ilocos is most famous for! For urban denizens like myself who rarely make that long trek up north, I might as well savor as much of the local flavors as my stomach could handle.

I left for Ilocos 9 p.m. last Friday together with an Arch 17 (Philippine architecture) class I was sitting-in with. Good thing the heritage conscious professors are friends of mine - Jojo Mata, Paolo Alcazaren and Nonoy Ozaeta. So to make the long story short, I got to tag along.

The schedule was quite tight. We intended to leave the night before but since most of the students had a physics lab class they couldn't miss on Friday, we had to cut the trip short by a day. Our first leg on the itinerary was a 3 a.m. stop at La Union's Oasis Resort Hotel to continue our brief sojourns in dreamland while the bus was stopped. Our tour organizer Tracy explained that sleeping while the bus was in a complete halt had a different effect. Breakfast was at the same place. So we all got up at 5 a.m. for the usual 'silog morning meal.

Img_4363Img_4364The first real stop was just a few kilometers away. Popularly known as the Pindangan ruins, these are remnants of the first church of San Fernando, built of coral stones in 1674. The area was actually the old center of a settlement that was to become today's San Fernando, La Union.

Upon seeing the ruins, we quipped, had these been in the City of Manila, Lito Atienza would have had it demolished under his so called "Buhayin ang MayniLA" program, maybe turned into another park & ride facility or another school building he could actually place elsewhere. For more on Atienza's infamous heritage destruction movement, you can visit the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) blog.

143_4365The Pindangan ruins are themselves an example of heritage issues between players such as the church, state and concerned groups. The ruins are owned by a Catholic organization, as they are within the grounds of a convent. The issue here is how the local goverment could manage the ruins from a heritage conservation point of view given that the ruins are on private property, belonging to a private religious institution.

Right beside the ruins is Balay ni Atong, residence, studio and home gallery of Ilocano artist Al Valenciano. After college in Manila's De La Salle University, Al had already "started working on his desk as an auditor at the Philippine Commercial International Bank in Metro Manila’s Wall Street District, [when] his past tugged at him incessantly that to ignore it would have been impolite."

His write-up continues, "By this time his family maintained a second residence in La Union south of Laoag City and still four hours away from Manila. The La Union home is at the corner of the rice field. Adjacent to it is the ruins of a church built by the Spanish friars in the 1700s. What are left are ramparts overgrown by tall weeds, some of its sections, the favorite nesting place of expectant sparrows. The church has been a marker of many symbols. This is where Atong resolved to go back to his interest in painting."

With this done, it was back to the bus, back to sleep and back to lala-land

Img_4369An hour or so away was our next destination, Sabangan Cove in Ilocos Sur, known for its abel Iloco loom-weaving industry. What greeted us at this once beautiful beach was an Atienzic local government project! Atienzic is a term which heritage advocates quip when they see projects with the Atienza penchant for destroying spectacular views and heritage sites. The sorry sight was a concrete boardwalk with numerous hideous concrete commercial huts lining the beach.

143_4382143_4372A few minutes north was a UNESCO World Heritage site. As Toti Villalon puts it, "The uniqueness of Filipino church architecture was honored by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by inscribing four churches in the UNESCO World Heritage List as the Baroque Churches of the Philippines." And for Ilocos Sur, it is the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Sta. Maria. The National Historical Institute also declared the church, used as a fortress during the Philippine Revolution of 1896, a National Landmark.

Ivan_in_sta_maria_churchAccording to Villalon, "Built in 1765 under the direction of the Agustinian order, the ensemble resembles a citadel sited on the crest of a solitary hill rising above one side of the Santa Maria town plaza. The architectural ensemble presents its side and detached pagoda-like bell tower rather than its façade to the town. Thick contrafuetes (buttresses) are attached to the walls, reinforcing the structure against earthquake damage. The bell tower is constructed a distance away, protecting the main church structure from possible earthquake damage. Approached on foot by ascending a long, wide flight of piedra china, steps that rising from the edge of the town plaza, the small, cramped plaza at the top of the steps is bounded by the church façade that faces the convento, enclosed by an arcaded bridge that connects both structures."

Img_4387Most people don't know that the UNESCO site stretches to the other side of the hill, where the ruins of a hidden cemetery could be found. Trekking to the place was a blast from tomb raiders since we had to brave the tall weeds and foliage that covered most of the path. But we weren't disappointed with what we saw.

143_4398What disappointed us was that several large trees were cut, allegedly on orders of the vice-mayor. In front of the stripped part of the hill were a group of men with shotguns. We let the authorities in the NCCA know about it since this is a UNESCO declared site.

That was up the hill to the church, and down the hill to the cemetery. And then back up the hill and down to the bus... pant, pant, pant! We were off to another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Historic Town of Vigan.

Img_4402Img_4404Img_4410The photos from Vigan could speak for themselves. But let me point out that this beatiful heritage city is not without faults. And McDonald's, Jollibee and Chowking are among the culprits. The ruins of a magnificent seminary were demolished to give way to these "signs" of progress. If you were to ask me, the solemnity and elegance of Plaza Salcedo should have been preserved. Now, these three fastfood chains stand side-by-side with the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Paul, the Arzopispado de Nueva Segovia, the Ilocos Sur Capitol, the City Hall of Vigan, and other important heritage structures in the vicinity. The people responsible for this desecration of heritage should be burned at the stake!

Img_4417Img_4415Img_4420While the students enjoyed (or despised) the "amazing race" planned for them in Vigan - they had to look for a painting of the Basi Revolt in the Burgos Museum, mold a clay pot the traditional Ilocano way, have a photo taken at the Quema House, measure the perimiter of Plaza Salcedo using a one-foot wooden ruler, draw the retablo of the Vigan Cathedral and identify all the santos, and eat five Vigan empanadas and a bag of chichacorn among others... hehehe! - I went straight to the market to buy woven blankets.

Back to the bus, back to sleep, and off to Batac where we were to spend the night. Batac is said to produce the best Ilocos empanada. So after dinner, we went to downtown Batac to savor the fried delight Batac is proud of. Heaven indeed!

Dsc_7558Time to disect the famous fritters with empanada anatomy 101... the shell is made of rice flour with orange food color to make it "attractive." The bright orange color makes it look artificial though and coupled with the oil, can turn-off any health-conscious individual. But together with a filling of grated green papaya, mongo sprouts, garlic, longganiza and an egg, this delicacy fried to a crisp is scrumptuous and irresistable! And don't forget to eat it with the vinegar-chili dip made from pure sukang Iloco.

After having two that night and taking a short walk around the plaza, I realized that there was an empanada variety unique to one of the shops. We all know about the double special - that's two servings of egg and longganiza in one empanada. But one shop had a jumbo - the usual ingredients plus crushed hotdog! So I just had to try it, which raised my empanada tally for the night to three! Simply superb!

Lot's of school work. To be continued...

For the meantime, you can visit my photos at

Thursday, July 14, 2005

From the architectural to the national: preserving our heritage

Did you just come back from that long-deserved vacation in your home province? Maybe you and your barkada recently arrived from a road trip up north to Baguio, the Cordilleras, and Ilocos? Or was it down south to Bicol? It may have just been to nearby Bulacan and Pampanga, or to Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, the Southern Tagalog provinces we collectively call Calabarzon? Or was it a plane or boat ride away to Iloilo, Negros and Bohol, or cosmopolitan Cebu and Davao?

IlocsurviganSo what is with this roll call of Philippine tourism destination when the summer break is already over with tons of academic requirements just waiting around the corner? More than just offering a vacation option, each of these destinations showcases a unique aspect of Philippine culture. The heritage houses such as those in Vigan, Taal and San Juan in Batangas, Sariaya and Silay, the ornate baroque churches of Bohol and other provinces across the country, the unique upland culture of the Cordilleras, and the rich and colorful Muslim way of life down south in Mindanao, all have their own vital contributions to the endangered fabric known as the Filipino identity.

What is Filipino then? What is being Filipino? Are you proud to be Filipino? These are apt self-reflections that are most relevant at this juncture as the Filipino nation remembers the assertion of its freedom. Indeed, these are fundamental questions Juan de la Cruz must answer if he is to progress as a nation.

The identity of any nation is always dictated by its culture, the way of life its society adheres to. Specifically, it is a system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that fuse a society together. This system is what members of society utilize to cope with everyday life.

That however is just one definition of culture. American anthropologists, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, published a list of 160 different definitions of culture in 1952, indicative of the diversity of the anthropological concept of culture. John H. Bodley, Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University summarized their list under eight general definitions namely: topical (culture consists of everything on a list of topics, or categories, such as social organization, religion, or economy), historical (culture is social heritage, or tradition, that is passed on to future generations), behavioral (culture is shared, learned human behavior, a way of life), normative (culture is ideals, values, or rules for living), functional (culture is the way humans solve problems of adapting to the environment or living together), mental (culture is a complex of ideas, or learned habits, that inhibit impulses and distinguish people from animals), structural (culture consists of patterned and interelated ideas, symbols, or behaviors) and symbolic (culture is based on arbitrarily assigned meanings that are shared by a society).

Bodley mentions that a minimum of three components are needed to form what we call culture. These are “what people think, what they do, and the material products they produce.” He adds that “culture also has several properties: it is shared, learned, symbolic, transmitted cross-generationally, adaptive, and integrated.”

Despite the broad coverage of cultural definitions, focus will be on culture as social heritage. In particular, concentration is on tangible cultural properties that transcend generations and their inherent potential to become symbolic and serve as fervent unifying symbols that would guide the Filipino nation in its search for an enduring national identity.

In her book A Cultural Worker’s First Manual, Felice P. Sta. Maria defines cultural heritage as “the totality of cultural properties preserved and developed over time and passed on for posterity. A people’s cultural heritage is their national memory.”

A cultural property, according to Sta. Maria, includes all forms of human creativity by which a nation can reveal its identity. Tangible ones form the physical expression of the national memory or the cultural heritage. Among these material symbols mentioned by Sta. Maria are historic sites and structures such as the numerous baroque churches, mosques, and elaborate ancestral houses, as well as buildings and groups of architectural and engineering works that include gardens, plazas, parks, forts and fortifications and historical ruins.

An old formula
One part of our Philippine cultural heritage, albeit intangible, are proverbs which are commonly called salawikain. In fact, one is so overused, it has become cliché: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” But despite the repeated mention of these lines, do Filipinos actually listen to the wisdom the lines try to impart?

It must be stressed over and over again, to such a stubborn Filipino nation which places foreign cultures on pedestals higher than its own, that it will not progress as a nation if the development is superficial. If Juan de la Cruz embraces urbanization and modernization by getting rid of what makes him or her Filipino, moving forward would be pointless. The nation may look perfect on the outside; but inside it is empty. Its soul is dead.

Architectural heritage forms a large and visible part of tangible Filipino culture and identity. However, these historical structures are constantly faced with development pressures. And as a result, they are sacrificed in the name of progress.

The country is proud for example, that Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage site and yet the remains of a grand centuries-old seminary was demolished in the said city, replaced by fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Jollibee. It appears McDonald’s was not content when it prominently positioned their golden arches on the grounds of the Balayan Church in Batangas, one of the 26 churches declared by the National Museum in 2001 as National Cultural Treasures. The stewards of church property simply could not resist the allure of extra income.

In Banaue, one would see concrete buildings and shanties on the rice terraces instead of the traditional Ifugao houses. Another site inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (known as payo to the Ifugao) are also included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.

PineshotelYmcaThe charming Pines Hotel at the top of Session Road, a remnant of Baguio City’s hill station legacy, as well as the pre-war YMCA Building beside Manila City Hall were both replaced by gargantuan SM malls that could have been placed in some other location. They not only clutter the historic skylines, but contribute as well to the traffic and pollution problems both areas are experiencing.

Imagine how many pine trees had to be cut to build that mall in Baguio City, which according to a World Bank study, was said to have the worst air quality among key Philippine cities! The deterioration of the quality of life of these areas is just too much a price to pay for the greed of a few individuals.

Ilocnorbojeador03Sfdopasudeco_1137_3753_1Pampapalitsulipanbr02Built heritage resources, according to Prof. Rene Luis Mata of the UP College of Architecture, also includes what is called industrial heritage, a category which includes train stations, lighthouses, sugar and rice mills, ice plants, factories and bodegas, bridges, irrigation systems and canals. “We are unfortunately unaware of this heritage category,” says Mata, “and they are often the first to go. The technical advances of a period in our history are worth saving, too."

Indeed, if Filipinos do not learn to look back and value the past, the nation will never reach its destination. In fact, it can be noticed, more often than not, that countries which fight hard to preserve their culture and architectural heritage are those which progress more completely. Just take a look at other ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and even Vietnam, where in their key cities, architectural heritage is very much protected. When Vietnam and China were actively desecrating their heritage in the name of a new cultural revolution, their economies were in shambles. Today, the world is witnessing a complete turnaround.

These Asian countries may be spending millions of dollars to restore their old buildings and heritage sites but are able to cash in on their investments with millions of tourists arriving at their doorsteps annually. But more than the returns on investment, these cultures are able to strengthen their national identities. And despite the influx of tourists, they are still able to maintain the original settings and cultural landscapes that tourists flock to visit.

In the Philippines however, tourism is becoming a curse mainly because we have yet to understand why tourists come to our country in the first place. When going abroad, Filipinos look for shopping areas and malls most of the time. That is why by building shopping malls, the country in general thinks that tourists will start arriving as well. That is not at all the case! Tourists visit a country more so to experience its culture, savor the food, visit cultural and historical sites, and not to simply shop in malls! And yet Filipinos destroy these unique aspects of Philippine culture in the name of progress, in the hope that tourists will come and visit. If the Philippines will not change that mentality, it should not be surprised why it gets the crumbs of the tourism industry, one which according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is regarded as the biggest in the world ahead of automobiles and chemicals.

As UNESCO puts it, “It is a well-known fact that tourism can be a deadly foe as much as a firm friend in the matter of development.” The institution adds, “Considering the economic might of the tourist industry, careful attention should be paid to this many-sided phenomenon with its global repercussions. The impact of tourism is such that progressive strategies are vitally needed in order to prepare the ground for genuinely progressive international, regional and local strategies.”

Juan de la Cruz can find his identity only when he can truly declare himself culturally independent. “A group, society or nation achieves cultural independence,” Sta. Maria writes, “when its own culture remains as secure and intact as it wishes it to be. It achieves cultural independence when its people have the strength and maturity to select what they want or need from the past, the present and the projected future.” She adds, “Every generation will have to decide how to manage change, how it will alter its culture. Everything changes. Cultural development is concerned with the quality of change people make for themselves.” And heritage conservation plays a big part in the selection of what Filipinos need from their past.

Why conserve heritage?
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) defines conservation as “a multi-disciplinary means of safeguarding the country's historico-cultural heritage to suitably adapt it to the needs of the society.” Specifically, heritage conservation, according to Sta. Maria, “is action taken to protect cultural resources especially those from the past.”

Heritage conservation continuously connects us to our past by keeping significant structures, historical and cultural sites and settings intact. According to the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS), a non-stock, non-profit organization advocating the protection and preservation of our architectural heritage, “our built heritage is evidence of our political history and socioeconomic development; it reflects our shared values, and is tangible proof of Filipino excellence and creativity.”

Our architectural heritage thus becomes a catalyst for a strong “pride of place” Filipinos must have within ourselves, by “arousing cultural and historical awareness, which often advances cultural tourism.” According to the group “Built heritage can be recycled for contemporary, adaptive re-use, thereby preserving the cultural charm and traditional character of our cities and towns. Heritage conservation enhances progress and modernization: from urban revitalization and community housing, to the revival of traditional crafts and the stimulation of entrepreneurial activities.”

By advocating the protection and preservation of our built heritage, cultural and historical sites and settings according to the HCS, the nation would be upholding the Philippine Constitution which states that heritage and culture should be developed and preserved for national identity.

The mission of the HCS is to “be the prime mover and advocate for the preservation of Philippine built heritage resources in order to contribute towards the establishment of a Society that preserves and values its cultural heritage through advocacy and volunteerism, project implementation, education and information.” It envisions “a Filipino society that values and preserves its cultural heritage in order to instill pride of place and strengthen Philippine national identity.”

Cultural advocacy according to Sta, Maria “is the act of calling attention to cultural concerns.” She adds that in the Philippines, cultural advocacy is in its early stages. But it is however vital for communities, local and national organizations and other concerned groups and individuals to engage in such an advocacy if the right to culture and the proper directing of support to cultural development is to be protected.

Heritage can be something ordinary
Architect Augusto F. Villalon, an HCS member who writes a regular Monday column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, mentions that “high level of achievement does not equate to only what is grand and monumental. The ordinary and the everyday equal, and many times surpass, the grand and monumental in level of achievement.” Villalon continues, “The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera cannot be the grand monument they are recognized to be without the support of the farmers who live, plant, harvest and maintain the site. Unrecognized for being the true heroes of the rice terraces, their lives revolve around the site.

“It is their ordinary, everyday environment, taken so much for granted, that many fail to realize it is an internationally recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. For the residents, it is just their home. Like our Ifugao brothers, we are surrounded with so much of what we consider ordinary and everyday that we fail to realize their value.”

For the coming weeks, the Philippine Collegian will be featuring these places we have always considered ordinary. And there would be no better place to begin with than the architectural heritage of the UP Diliman campus. With the centennial of the University of the Philippines just around the corner, it would be most proper to revisit these sites scattered in the various campuses of the UP system, and look beyond the facades, taking a much deeper look into their history and contributions to the heritage of the entire nation.

If Juan de la Cruz is indeed to progress as a nation, he should stop being cynical about the country and put his money where his mouths is. Juan de la Cruz must cease the unnecessary and incessant complaining and start doing his or her share, tangible efforts, to uplift the standard of living of the entire Filipino nation. But before such concrete results could be achieved, the country rid itself of the habit of simply complaining which is so rampant even in this campus, and rebuild a society with “pride of place” as it is called. In other words, Juan de la Cruz should start being proud of his country if he or she wants it to move forward. And being proud is not just saying that one is proud of the country, but sincerely making sacrifices for it.

This regular feature on the rich cultural heritage of our nation is the Philippine Collegian’s own contribution to building a Filipino nation with “pride of place.” Being the premier state institution for higher learning, the University of the Philippines must take the lead in strengthening nationalism and patriotism among its students if the country is to prosper and move forward. A Filipino nation grounded on its identity is the only hope Juan de la Cruz has. [Philippine Collegian, Vol. 83, No.1, 14 June 2005]

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pampanga: More heritage and cuisine from Pampanga


Day 2 (Saturday)
Even the breakfast served at Holiday Inn was a Kapampangan experience designed especially for the group. On the buffet table were meat products from Pampanga such longganiza, tocino, and pindang damulag.

After breakfast, we brought the group to one of Pampanga’s well kept secrets, Furniture City in Mabalacat, Pampanga, which is a factory complex of furniture exporters and manufacturers. It was a bargain delight for our avid shoppers in every showroom we visited with export-quality furniture made available at dirt cheap factory prices. Among the showrooms visited were those of Vienna Furniture (contemporary and craftsman furniture using local treated wood and other native materials such as sulihya and rattan) and More Than A Chair (classical wood furniture with a touch of modernism, combined with upholstery, rattan, bamboo, leather and a wide choice of local and imported veneer wood), and samples of furniture from Angeles City manufacturer VICO Design (modern eclectic sculptural iron furniture combined with unique painting and texturing, upholstery and resin) and Diretso (run by a Dutch group based here in Pampanga, specializing in modern contemporary upholstered furniture combined with wood and iron), with its factory in Del Rosario, City of San Fernando.

140_4078For lunch, the group trooped to Abe’s Farm Pampanga, the Mt. Arayat hideaway of Larry Cruz, the man behind the successful LJC Group of Restaurants. Journalist turned restaurateur and bon vivant just like his father, the late Pampango writer and painter E. Aguilar Cruz, Larry could be credited to have single-handedly revived the lackluster Remedios Circle in Malate way back in the late 1970s into a chic trendsetting landmark, with his flagship Café Adriatico.

140_4095Greeting us were a variety of appetizers that included Pampanga’s famous garlic peanuts, kilawing tanguingue (skewered fresh tanguingue fillet marinated in palm vinegar), crispy salted baby shrimps, squid tactics (slices of squid quickly fried and sprinkled with brown garlic, green onions and sweet and spicy sauce) and sinuteng hinubarang kuhol (escargots sautéed in olive oil with garlic and chilies). On the menu as well were balo-balo (fermented rice and shrimp) and mustasa, a salad combination of wansoy (coriander), kamatis and quesong puti, and a hearty and invigorating sinuam na mais (corn soup with chili leaves). And for the main course were lechon paella, Mt. Arayat crispy crab (slices of fat crispy crab covered in a mountain of fried garlic), crispy tadyang “D Original” (marinated beef ribs deep-fried to a delicious crispiness), and bamboo rice (rice with bamboo shoots flavored with chicken, shrimp and wood ear mushrooms). Dessert featured a selection of Magalang sweets and fresh fruits.

After lunch, the group proceeded back to the hotel to freshen up and prepare for the afternoon and evening itinerary.

140_4044First on our list was the centuries-old Betis Church in Guagua. Nicknamed the “Sistine chapel of the Philippines” because of its wall ceiling murals, it is the second oldest church in Pampanga and one of the 26 churches declared by the National Museum as national cultural treasures. A two-minute walk from the church is the restored David House, ancestral home of sociologist Randy David, which they christened Bale Pinauid or Bahay Pawid.

Next on our list and a short drive away from Betis was the half-buried San Guillermo Church in Bacolor. Entering what was once the largest church in Pampanga, visitors go in the church through the choirloft windows, and are greeted inside by beautifully restored retablos dug up from several feet of lahar. The citizens of Bacolor take pride in their rich heritage which is why they painstakingly excavated the ornately carved wooden main and side altars which are now back to their pristine condition.

Villa de Bacolor was the capital of Pampanga from 1754 to 1904, and at one time served as the capital of the Philippines from 1762 to 1765 when the British invaded Manila. Once Pampanga’s best preserved heritage town, it was completely buried in lahar in 1995. Today, remnants of Bacolor opulence are now housed in the Museo de La Salle, a “Kapampangan” museum in Dasmariñas, Cavite, where the Santos-Joven-Panlilio house and its contents were transferred before the town was buried by lahar. The museum also contains pieces from the celebrated Arnedo-Gonzales clan from Sulipan, Apalit.

From Bacolor, the group motored to the City of San Fernando, the provincial capital of Pampanga. Downtown San Fernando is home to the city’s historic poblacion which was zoned into a heritage district in 2004 by its Sangguniang Panlungsod. The first stop was the City Hall of San Fernando where the group boarded kalesas that would take them to some of the heritage houses along Consunji Street.

San Fernando is one of the few, if not the only urban area in the country where motorized tricycles are prohibited from entering the town proper. This is why the kalesa is still a major means of transportation around.

The first heritage house on the list was the Santos-Hizon House, a turn-of-the-century Victorian-style house built by the couple Teodoro Santos and Africa Ventura. It was later purchased by Maria Salome Hizon, a volunteer of the Red Cross during the Philippine Revolution. The property was acquired by her brother Ramon Hizon and is currently owned by the heirs of his son Augusto Hizon.

A short walk across the street brought the group to the grand Hizon-Singian House. This bahay na bato was declared a heritage house by the National Historical Institute in January 2003. Currently owned by the heirs of the late businessman and civic leader Gerry H. Rodriguez, the house was built in 1870 by the couple Don Anacleto Hizon, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando from 1877-1879 and 1886-1887, and Victoria Singian de Miranda y de Ocampo. It was later occupied during the 1896 revolution by Spanish General Antonio Ruiz Serralde, appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as a military hospital and barracks from 1943 to 1944, and served as headquarters of American General Walter Krueger of the 6th American Army during the liberation period until the end of 1945.

At the Hizon-Singian House, cocktails were served featuring an exciting array of Kapampangan inspired hors d’oeuvres and drinks created by Kai chef Gilbert Pangilinan, himself a true-blue Fernandino. Pica-pica included tocino, brown rice and itlog na maalat stuffed in tomato, chicharon Guagua with atchara, kilayin baboy on bananas, and gatas damulag rice with hipon.

Serenading the guests were members of ArtiSta. Rita, a Kapampangan cultural group headed by Whiplash and Miss Saigon choreographer Andy Alviz, who transformed the ambiance in the centuries-old house into a that of a turn-of-the-century party. The group had successfully released a CD of Kapampangan music with a second one to be launched very soon.

After the well-received musical presentation, the group again boarded their kalesas that took them to the last stop for the night, the charming Lazatin House, another of San Fernando’s NHI-declared heritage houses. Built in 1925 by the couple Serafin Lazatin y Ocampo, sugar farmer and former president of SFELAPCO, and Encarnacion Singian y Torres, the house was appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War to serve as a residence of the 14th Army Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, General Masaharu Homma, in San Fernando, Pampanga.

140_4062Behind the house was an air-conditioned function hall which was stylishly decorated with local flora enhanced by long garlands of fragrant sampaguita, the perfect setting for the candle-lit sit-down banquet featuring dishes from all over Pampanga prepared by Pangilinan and the kitchens of Kai. On the menu was lumpiang papayang hubad, pako salad, chicharong bulaklak, pindang damulag, paksiw na pata, lengua, morcon, alimango in taba ng talangka, lagat kamias at hipon, and fried hito with buro.

To cap the evening, the best desserts were ordered from all over Pampanga which included the popular tibok-tibok (made of pure carbao’s milk, this is Pampanga’s version of maja blanca), plantanilla (sweetened coconut rolled in egg crepes) from the Dayrit-Santos famil y, tocino del cielo(a richer version of leche flan) of the Lazatin clan, sansrival and ube halayan.

Day 3 (Sunday)
After being served another array of traditional Kapampangan delicacies for breakfast such as tamales and suman bulagta from Cabalantian in Bacolor, the gargantuan ensaymadas of San Fernando (which have a diameter of about 8 inches) topped with shredded queso de bola, and empanadang kuliat, the group went for a scenic helicopter tour of Mt. Pinatubo’s crater.

For some last minute shopping, the group passed by the showroom of AWECA Weavers International (Pampanga’s leading wicker furniture and basket manufacturers and exporters) in Pulung Bulo, Angeles City. Clients of the company include Marks & Spencer, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Macy’s.

Lunch was at the C Italian Restaurant by Chris Locher along Fields Avenue. As columnist Amado Doronilla describes the place, "Be adventurous, expect the unexpected, and you will not be disappointed in this exceptional Italian Restaurant."

Fields Avenue is actually home to an array of international cuisine to suit every fancy. If you are adventurous and if you have the time, one should try out the many restaurants along this street.

After the exciting Italian lunch, it was off to Manila. The weekend adventure may have ended, but Pampanga continues to beckon to everyone, with more adventures waiting to be discovered. Now that it is just 45 minutes away from Manila along the North Luzon Expressway, Pampanga is now a very accessible mainstream tourism destination. Other tour options include a river cruise along the Rio Grande de Pampanga where one can simply enjoy nature or visit the centuries-old churches that dot the river banks, go angling or even kayak in the mangroves of Masantol. For more information, you can e-mail Pampanga Heritage Tours at or call the Center for Kapampangan Studies as (045) 6259620/8888691 loc. 1311.


Boating in the mangroves of Masantol, Pampanga: myself, my kabatch Mark Jomalesa, and UP Maroons players Marvin Cruz and Kenneth Robin in Feb 2004

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