Monday, October 17, 2005

Pangasinan: Pangasinan's capitol, a beakon for conservation

Finally, something to write about after all those weeks of endless studying. It's sick when you don't have a semestral break and even worse that you're having midterms when everyone else is on semestral break. Oh the disadvantages of being in the only trisemestral course in UP!

I had wanted to write about my recent trip to Baguio in September, particularly Camp John Hay and its historic core but didn't have the photos as well as time to get myself to scribble some notes. So that made the lull longer.

Anyway, I joined Gemma Cruz-Araneta last Saturday, together with Archt. Jojo Mata and heritage photographer Karlo de Leon, during her visit to the Pangasinan Capitol Building in Lingayen, where restoration has been ongoing for the past three years. Jojo is the lead restoration architect of the project and we again saw each other on another out of town HCS trip quipping that we are indeed Gemma's faithful sidekicks.

We left Manila at 5 a.m. in order to get to Jojo's latest "obra mata" right before lunch and in time for us to meet with Gov. Victor Agbayani, Pangasinan's young and charismatic governor. The town of Lingayen is filled with heritage treasures. If not for that convento which was demolished by that stupid parish priest who pictured cash registers ringing with his new columbarium, everything would have been perfect. I'm surprised that the demolition did not raise a howl from Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Oscar Cruz who as archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga in the late 80s was responsible for the preservation of Pampanga's church treasures at a time when their sale by parish priests was so rampant.

The drive to the capitol was a charming sight. An elegant double-laned boulevard with a wide kalachuci-lined island in the middle that if landscaped would be a site to behold. At the end was the neo-classical capitol building of Pangasinan. Freshly painted, it is said to be one of the most elegant if not the most elegant capitol buildings in the country. And thanks to the efforts of Gov.
Agbayani, the building is about to be transported back in time as layers of constant and unsightly alterations by previous administrations are removed to reveal a priceless pre-war architectural masterpiece. Indeed, this will be a legacy for future generations, one that should be emulated by other provinces.

After going around the building, we were met by Gov. Agbayani who took us to other parts of the building which is still undergoing final touches to its restoration. This was followed by lunch at the governor's official residence just accross the street.

We discussed among others, plans to create local ordinances that would protect the capitol and other heritage structures all over Pangasinan. This would be an exciting breakthrough for heritage conservation since Pangasinan is the first provincial LGU to untertake such a project. It's sad that our provincial officials in Pampanga don't have the same level of consciousness as Gov. Agbayani. Oh well!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures at my Yahoo! Photos site.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Batangas: Taal, the town not the volcano

When we hear the word Taal, the first thing that comes to mind is the volcano, a classic image of the Philippine Islands, one viewed from the hills of Tagaytay City. What we rarely notice though is Taal, the heritage town, one steeped in history and heritage!

I've been to Taal several times but the town never fails to call me back. Maybe it's because of the quaint feel of centuries-old houses that line-up along the narrow streets of this former capital of Batangas province, the magnificent Taal Basilica or the miraculous image of the Virgin of Caysasay housed in a shrine close to a well with healing waters. Or maybe it is the elaborately embroidered piña cloth which I use for my barongs. And piña cloth did I bring home that day. Aside from the panotcha, bokayo, macapuno and kalamay of course!

I was invited by architecture students from Adamson University to join them on their tour. Jeremy, the president of the UAPSA Adamson Chapter, wanted me to give a word or two on heritage conservation in the hope that his fellow students would be encouraged to start a chapter in their school.

We arrived in Taal at about 10 a.m. just in time for a morning snack served by our host, Dindo Agoncillo, a man at the forefront of the heritage advocacy in Taal. What I have been in San Fernando for the past five years, Dindo had been in Taal for more than a decade. We stayed for a while at the Escuela Pia, one of the seven National Historical Landmarks in Taal! As Dindo mentions, Taal holds the record for having the most number of National Historical Landmarks declared by the NHI.

Anyway, it was empanada again... hehehe! But it was unusual since the filling was sotanghon!

After snacks, we went to the Municipal Hall, another National Historical Landmark, for a brief introduction on Taal and efforts to preserve it. This was followed by a walk around Taal, but I left the group for a while since the market called as always. I wanted to get my piña cloth early since I saw we didn't have time to do it in the afternoon given the jampacked itinerary Dindo had prepared.

I met up with the group again at the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, another National Historical Landmark, and reputably, the biggest church in Asia. The church was first built by Father Diego Espina in 1575 in San Nicolas. It was destroyed when Taal volcano erupted in 1754. In 1755, it was rebuilt at the present site but was destroyed again by an earthquake in 1849. Construction of the present church begun in 1856 supervised by architect Lucina Oliver.

Lunch was served at one of the Gabaldon school buildings. And a feast it was with the local flavors served buffet!

The afternoon begun with a walk along another of the heritage streets where restoration on several houses was ongoing. Of course, you could see that some were being done right since they had the right consultants. And others... oh brother! The results of the whims and caprices of their owners and their wrong notions of restoration, these abominations were an outright waste of good money. Sad to see houses rotting as well. That's the problem, we still have a few places with high concentrations of built heritage but no funds to restore everything. So they usually end up in antique or junk shops... sigh!

We went down the San Lorenzo staircase that led to the Caysasay Shrine. Lucky for us, the original image was there (the one in the altar is just a replica). Of course, the group of 160 students crowded around it. So I waited for everyone to leave for the well to get the traditional blessing from the image. This entails kneeling down while the image is placed on your head. Then you make your wish!

That accomplished, it was off to the well and its healing waters.

The last two stops for the day were two other National Historical Landmarks, the homes of Marcela Agoncillo, who is most known for sewing the original Philippine flag, and Leon Apacible, one of the delegates to the Malolos Congress.

All that walking got me real tired. So I just had to take a trike back to the bus. Pant! Pant!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Manila: Nibbling our way through Tsinoy town

It's another food trip! But this time the nibbling was closer to home. Yes folks, I joined Ivan ManDy's "The BIG Binondo Food Bowl" alternative Chinatown tour. Here is how my tokayo describes it:

Four hundred years of history and up to four hours of decadence!

The flavors of Old China are now in Manila. Come eat, talk, walk and then lose those calories as we explore the breadth, the width and most intimate alleys of Manila’s Chinese quarter!

We start, quite paradoxically, in a 16th-century Baroque cathedral while making our way down to a miraculous Chinese shrine! Take a peek at a traditional chocolate factory! Go Mama Mia over a mami house! Sing hurrahs to an authentic Hokkien lumpia! Savor the taste of an old panciteria!

We'll horse around the streets talking Filipino history, gorging Chinese treats and even checking out the district's Period architecture! Forget South Beach, it’s Tsinoy chop suey and more as we nibble our way down through Tsinoy town!

We all met up with my tokayo at the Binondo Church where we began the brief trip around Chinatown. Manila's Chinatown actually encompasses three Manila districts namely Binondo, Santa Cruz and San Nicolas. These were pueblos during the Spanish colonial period before they were combined with Intramuros and other towns to form what is now the City of Manila.

The Binondo Church was built in 1596. It had undergone many changes since then, having sustained considerable damage from earthquakes and other natural disasters. Most of the church was destroyed during the Second World War. Today the octagonal bell tower and facade are all that remain of the 16th century construction. The reconstruction of the present church was funded by the Catholic Chinese community, many of whom reside or operate businesses in the area. The church is now a national shrine and a basilica minore for San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint who was born in Binondo.

145_4522Our next stop was one of the few remaining chocolate factories in Chinatown along the main street of the district, Ongpin Street. We got to take a peek inside but didn't see much since they were taking a siesta. The only activity going on inside was the crushing of cocoa beans in preparation for processing them into the traditional chocolate tablets used for hot chocolate.

145_4528Mezzanine Cafe was our first food stop where we had the rice dish kiampong and fish ball soup, both from southern China where most migrants to the Philippines come from. The cafe is actually the only themed cafe if Chinatown, showcasing the volunteer firefighter tradition of Chinese Filipinos.

After the war, Chinatown was victim to devastating fires. The government was slow to respond to these fires forcing the Chinese Filipinos to form groups of volunteer fire brigades. Today, these brigades are not only located in Chinatown but also in other parts of Metro Manila. Patronizing Mezzanine Cafe means donating to these volunteer fire brigades.

145_4533145_4529145_4534After that tasty snack, we went for a brief stop in a Chinese drug store before moving on to our next food stop along Nueva Street, a dumpling and pancake shop, with recipes originating from northern China. The taste of the dumplings and pancakes actually reminded me of the Japanese gyoza.

From Ongpin Street, we took made a brief detour to Salazar Street to savor some tea eggs - eggs boiled in tea, and cold pancit from Taiwan. The pancit was great! Egg noodles with veggies and ham if I'm not mistaken.

145_4536It was back to Ongpin Street and off to our next food stop, a fried siopao shop. Nope, these sumptuous dumplings are not deep-fried. They are steamed and cooked on a flat metal pan, rather than the one with holes. It's called fried since the bottoms of the siopao are browned to a slight crisp.

We made a brief visit to the Philippine-Chinese Buddhist Temple along Kipuja Street, which Ivan M. explains is actually a Taoist temple. There he gave us a background on Chinese religious practices.

According to a write-up of the temple, "with interiors ornately outlined in red and gold, the temple is one of the most frequented in the community. A shrine to Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy ans Kuan Te Ya, god of businessmen, it is visited daily by countless worshippers to light joss sticks, offer food, or simply to seek for guidance from these deities."

From there, we walked to the next pueblo, Santa Cruz. As mentioned earlier, Manila during the Spanish colonial period was just Intramuros. Around it were several other towns, Binondo and Santa Cruz included.

Welcoming us at the end of Ongpin Street was Plaza Santa Cruz, with the grand Carriedo Fountain, built to honor the donor of Manila's first water system, Francisco Carriedo. At the other end of the plaza is the Santa Cruz Church.

On the right side of the church was Escolta Street, which at one time was the plush shopping area of Manila. Its art deco and beaux-arts buildings are a sight for sore eyes. The Heritage Conservation Society used to do an architectural walking tour of Escolta before called BEAUX PEEP!

145_4546145_4548145_4552The old ad went as follows: "The Heritage Conservation Society will be holding a tour of Manila's American-period financial district, the ESCOLTA. Relive the days of 1930's peace-time Manila with us as we guide you through some of Asia's oldest examples of Art Deco and Beaux-Arts Architecture. Some of the places we will visit are the First United Building, Burke Building, Regina Building, the Escolta Museum and the stunning beaux arts El Hogar Filipino by the Pasig River among others." The said buildings are indeed stunning.

Near the end of Escolta, and a short walk to the banks of the Pasig River are one of the best views of the Post Office Building. From there, it was back to Binondo and our last food stop, a hidden lumpia joint in the art deco Uy Su Bin Building where our tour ended.

That's it for now. Darn that controllership final exam on Monday. I'm going to miss this month's tour of the Chinese cemetery which Ivan M. aptly calls Mounds, Magnates and Mausoleums. More of my Chinatown photos here.

Old Manila Walks:
Related articles:
Pound the Binondo pavement with the Chinatown kid
Business in Binondo

Monday, August 15, 2005

Manila: Inside the walls of Malacañang Palace

I was at Malacañang Palace last Friday to attend the 6th International Youth Day celebrations and my awarding ceremonies as one of the UNAP Outstanding Youth Leaders for 2005. UNAP, which stands for United Nations Association of the Philippines, gives this award annually every August as part of the International Youth Day festivities. In the photo on the left is myself receiving the award from Presidential Daughter Luli Arroyo and Dr. Zahidul A. Huque, UNFPA Representative to the Philippines.

There were seven of us chosen to receive the award this year representing various fields of endeavor. I was recognized for advocacy in heritage conservation. At least that puts heritage conservation in the consciousness of young people one way or another... hehehe! I hope more young people join our cause.

Visitors are usually not allowed to bring cameras inside the palace grounds so I had to make do with the official photos of the event. For more on the colorful history and rich heritage of Malacañang, read Paolo Alcazaren's Philippine Star column State of the Palace.

Youth leaders awarded
Manila Bulletin 8/20/2005

With the theme, "Bagong Kabataan… BILIB Ako!," the United Nations Association of the Philippines (UNAP) 6TH International Youth Day Celebration was celebrated with Presidential Daughter Luli Macapagal Arroyo as guest speaker. Three hundred youth leaders attended the opening ceremony which highlighted young people’s initiatives in responding to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

One of the highlights of the celebration is the awarding of plaque of recognition to seven outstanding youth leaders, namely Ivan Anthony Henares of Pampanga for heritage preservation and cultural revival; John Rex Jardinero of Palawan for environmental education and advocacy; Juan Carlos Delos Reyes of Naga City for international understanding and volunteerism in Habitat for Humanities; Ramil Jaictin of Butuan City for youth empowerment through the mass media; St. Anthony Tiu of Manila for science and technology promotion and pro-poor community development initiatives; and Mario Marababol of Cebu for environmental conservation of marine resources and volunteerism for working youth program of DOLE. Thirty-seven youth leaders were nominated in the national search conducted in the last two months.

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