Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Architect Pablo S. Antonio to be given state funeral

Here is a press release for the state funeral for National Artist for Architecture Pablo S. Antonio. Everyone is invited to attend the ceremonies at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani which will begin shortly before 12 noon on Friday, October 20, 2006.

Update: The widow of Pablo S. Antonio passed away October 10, 2006. The state funeral has been postponed to next month and is tentatively scheduled for November 24, 2006.

State funeral for National Artist Pablo S. Antonio
Pablo S. Antonio, who was posthumously awarded National Artist for Architecture in 1976, will be given a state funeral on Friday, October 20, 2006 and his remains transferred to the Libingan ng Mga Bayani on that day. His widow, 96-year old Marina R. Antonio, will be the recipient of the flag in the formal military ceremony.

The remarkable life of Antonio is one of determination triumphing over adverse circumstances. Born on January 25, 1902 and orphaned at an early age, the young Antonio worked at the Bureau of Public Works while still in high school in order to put himself through school. Dropping out of college for the opportunity to work on the construction of the former Legislative Building (now the National Museum), his brilliance was noted by Engineer Ramon Arevalo who paid for him to study architecture at the University of London. Having worked while studying for many years, Antonio was so adept at the practicalities of construction that he completed the five year course in just three.

Upon returning to Manila he immediately embarked on a career spanning four decades, with many of his greatest works built from the very beginning—the old Ideal Theater, the Far Eastern University buildings, the beautiful Ramon Roces Publications building (still standing on Soler corner Calero, Quiapo) and the White Cross Orphanage on Santolan Road where it has been recently confirmed that the relief in front of the building is by Italian sculptor Francesco Monti. Post-war, his works include the Manila Polo Club, original Manila Golf building, the first houses of Forbes Park and many more.

A book on his life and works has been completed and is beginning to go into production. Being published by Vibal Publishing, it is slated to be launched on January 25, 2007, Antonio’s birth anniversary. The book will share with the public the inspiring story of his life and works. In order to cover manuscript costs, advance orders for the book are being taken. Those who prepay for their copies now get their names printed in the book as supporters of the project. For inquiries contact project editor Vicky Veloso-Barrera at 4102279, (0916) 5165035 or at

It is the hope of the Antonio family and other avid conservationists that with the release of the book more awareness would be created of our country’s cherished landmarks, and that those under threat, including Antonio’s Manila Polo Club, be preserved and protected.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Isabela: Nuang Festival in San Agustin, Isabela

I just came back from a trip to Isabela where I attended the 2nd Nuang Festival in the town of San Agustin upon the invitation of my SSEAYP batchmate Vice-Mayor Jules Lamug, whom I heard is currently the youngest vice-mayor in the country. San Agustin is the southernmost town of Isabela. But to get to it, you have to pass by Santiago City and the towns of Echague and Jones.

Although the roads to Echague and Jones are well-paved, once you leave the poblacion of Jones, you will have to drive through rough and muddy roads going to the town. Good thing there are new bridges being constructed since the current ones are too low and are easily susceptible to bridge closures when the waters of the Cagayan River overflow.

San Agustin is the top producer of Murrah buffaloes in the entire country which is why every September 27, a day before their foundation day or town fiesta, they hold the Nuang Festival, nuang is Ilocano for buffalo, to celebrate this feat.

This was not anything like the lavish city and provincial festivals that have become by-words of Philippine tourism. I guess it was a chance for me to experience a small town fiesta since the activities planned were the way most towns in the country celebrated their fiesta in the good old days.

The morning started with street dancing and a parade of buffaloes around the town. Each buffalo had a number since there were competitions to determine the best bred F1, as the Murrah buffalo is referred to. This was followed by native games for the kids such as sack races with bags of groceries at stake, as well as a pig catching contest, the prize being the poor greased piglet which the kids tried to catch. There was also a buffalo talent contest with the buffalo which could do the most tricks winning the competition. To break the tie, the buffalos were asked to sit down with the fastest being declared the winner.

Like in most small towns, the afternoon was reserved for the siesta which is what I did. Hehe! And a small town fiesta would not be complete without basketball games in the town plaza.

I was surprised that an old pre-war tradition was still being done in San Agustin. Unlike the current fiestas were we hold beauty pageants, San Agustin still organizes a carnival queen or popularity contest. Jules and I were kidding about it since they reverted back to the “dark ages.” Haha! The winner of the competition was the candidate who got the most number of votes, with each vote being purchased. And the coronation night was simply that since the winners were already pre-determined.

The entire town was literally there to watch the event. Traditional dances performed by the various schools of San Agustin opened the coronation night. Then each of the winners was called to march together with their consorts and entourage of flower girls, angels, as well as crown, scepter and sash bearers all in complete carnival queen regalia, up stage where their thrones were waiting for them. This is how pageants used to be done in the old days.

Anyway, the next day, the town fiesta, was marked by a grand parade with the queen and her court paraded around town on decorated floats. I didn’t stay too long since Milenyo was soon to unleash its wrath and I wanted to be back in Pampanga before it did.

And of course, since I was up north, I made it a point to eat tupig, their native kakanin, which is glutinous rice and other ingredients rolled up in a banana leaf and roasted over a metal plate on top of charcoal. So I ate some at stopovers on the way to Isabela and back home.

Cabanatuan tricycles are cheats!
As an aside to my story, here is a warning to travelers who may by chance find themselves in Cabanatuan City… beware of the tricycle drivers because they are cheats! On my way to Isabela, the tricycle I rode charged me PHP120 for a ride from the terminal to some point in the national highway! I tried to argue with him about it. But my mistake was I didn’t ask the price before I boarded so I had to settle for PHP80. The bastard!

I thought it was an isolated incident but on my way back to Pampanga, I took another tricycle in Cabanatuan from McDonald’s to the bus terminal which was about a kilometer or two away. This time, I asked how much. When he said PHP30, I frowned and walked away. Then he shouted PHP20 so I said yes. When I got off at the terminal, I gave him a PHP50 bill and he said I still lacked ten pesos. When I protested, he said it’s PHP20 but I had to pay for three people since I was alone in the tricycle!

This time I didn’t allow it and protested until he gave me the right change. Imagine, they charge even more than what an air-conditioned taxi would charge for the same distance. The nerve!

These incidents also show how remiss the local government in Cabanatuan City is in regulating and disciplining the tricycles there. Lest they forget they are notorious for having the most number of tricycles in the entire country, the City Government of Cabanatuan should then ensure that incidents like these would not happen by (1) requiring every tricycle to have a fare schedule posted for passengers to see and refer to, (2) posting fare schedules on billboards in tricycle terminals, (3) creating a hotline for complaints with contact numbers conspicuously posted inside the tricycles beside their registration number, and (4) imposing strict disciplinary measures for erring drivers and the associations they are part of (imposing measures on the associations will ensure that members will regulate their ranks).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

2007 HCS Calendar

The 2007 HCS Calendar featuring heritage provincial capitols, city halls and municipios, is now on sale. For more information, contact:

Heritage Conservation Society
G/F Museo Pambata Building
Roxas Boulevard, Ermita
Manila, Philippines
Tel. +632 521 2239
Fax. +632 522 2497

For a closer look, you can download a pdf file here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Camiguin: White Island and more of Camiguin

My day started quite early today. I woke up at 5 a.m. to take a pump boat to White Island. The habal-habal had offered last night to take me around the entire island today for PHP400. And I thought it was worth it since we would start at 5 a.m. and I wouldn't have to worry about the gas since it was included.

So from the pension house, it was a few minutes ride to the beach closest to White Island which is in Yumbing if I'm not mistaken. Unlike White Island, the sand in Yumbing was very dark because of the volcanoes. The usual charge for a pump boat to the island was PHP400 but I got it at PHP350. It was still kinda dark when we left for the island not just because the sun wasn't up but since it was quite cloudy that morning.

White Island is a sandbar about two kilometers from the beaches of Agohay and Yumbing. It is also known as Medano Island.

When I got there, the island was in the shape of a horseshoe but I was told that its shape changes depending on the tide. This uninhabited island offers visitors a stunning view of Mounts Hibok-Hibok and Vulcan. I noticed some bamboo and nipa tents, wooden benches and tables on the sandbar. I would later learn that these were set up by some enterprising residents of Camiguin who sold coffee and breakfast to early birds like me, lunch, snacks and drinks.

I bought for myself a kilo of lansones for breakfast. It would be a shame if I did not try out the lansones in Camiguin which is said to be the sweetest in the country.

As if to taunt me, it started drizzling. From White Island, you could clearly see the rain clouds drenching Camiguin Island. It's a good thing the rains didn't last long and the sun finally came out before I left.

I didn't stay too long on the sandbar since I had a lot more to do for the morning. So by about 8 a.m., I was back on Camiguin Island.

After freshening up, it was off for a trip around the island. Camiguin province only has five municipalities and you could visit all of them in just two hours. Here is a map of Camiguin which you could refer to while reading. We first went around Mambajao to check out some old structures.

From Mambajao, we went southwards towards Mahinog. We stopped over in Barangay Tupsan, the last barangay of Mambajao to take photos of the Borromeo House completed in 1928. I was tempted to go inside to check out the house but I didn't have much time since I had four more towns to visit.

In Mahinog, we again stopped to take photos at Hubangon where there were more old houses. You can't miss the white and chocolate brown Pascual Lim ancestral home (below right) built in 1924 since it had Chinese characters on its facade.

Near the boundary of Mahinog and Guinsiliban, we passed by the Taguines Lagoon, which some say is man-made but is actually an old volcanic crater. It is used primarily as a fishpen but has a floating restaurant, lodging facilities and a conference hall. Aside from that, there was nothing much to see in Mahinog.

As we neared Guinsiliban, the road moved further away from the coast and we were treated to some inland forests. But we would find ourselves near the coast again as we nearned the town proper. Along the way, it started to drizzle again! What wierd weather since it would rain, then the sun would come out, then it would rain again. Oh well!

There were more old houses in the poblacion of Sagay. But the most popular landmark of this town is its coral stone church completed in 1882. The facade was still intact but like in many Philippine churches, the priests did a good job in erasing most of it since the inside looked more like a multi-purpose hall than a church to me. Sigh!

We then proceeded to Catarman and the first thing I noticed in the town proper was the old municipal hall which had three years on its facade - 1912, 1917 and the last one was covered but it was somthing like 1928. They have a newer municipal hall a few meters up a hill, which is quite old as well, and its good they preserved the old one which is now the local civil registrar.

In front of the new municipal hall is a 1928 monument of Dr. Jose Rizal (below). Attention to it is however obscured by a satellite dish in front of it as well as a tall wire fence right beside it. There were also a lot of old houses in Catarman.

From the town proper, we proceeded to the Sto. Nino Cold Spring four kilometers away. I didn't intend to swim but I guess it would be nice to check it out. The resort had a pool measuring 25 meters by 40 meters and half a meter deep of cold spring water sprouting from its sandy bottom. I'm sure it would be fun swimming here during a hot summer day. But looking at the cold water on a rainy day wasn't quite enticing.

Next on the itinerary was another cold spring resort, the Soda Swimming Pool in Bura which was known for its bubbly soda-like water. I should come back during the summer so I could appreciate all these cold therapeutic springs. By this time, the sun had come out again. At 11 a.m., we were back in Mambajao and I asked the driver to take me to the old houses near the market area (below).

Obviously, I could not take a jeepney or van back to Benoni since I would miss the 12 noon ferry back to Balingoan and a later ferry would be cutting it too close to my 5:30 p.m. flight. So I accepted the offer of the driver to take me there for an extra PHP100 which is the habal-habal rate from Mambajao to Benoni. On the way back to Benoni, I noticed the sign to Katibawasan Falls. Arggghhh! I completely forgot about it and I had planned to visit it today. But since there was no more time, I was resigned to the fact that I would have to see it when I visit Camiguin again.

We got to the port just in time since they were already pulling the plank. Had I arrived a minute later, the ferry would have left! I didn't even have time to buy Camiguin's famous pastel!

From Balingoan, I took a van to Tagoloan where Simone was waiting for me. I had lunch at the hospital since she was still doing her rounds. Only then was I able to savor the pastel, which is actually a dinner roll filled with yema. Although they come in different flavors now but you will have to buy them in their shop in Mambajao. We left the hospital at about 3:30 p.m. which gave us just enough time to drive to the Lumbia Airport for my flight. And now I'm back home, back to reality and back to work. Until the next adventure!

More photos of Camiguin in Multiply.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Camiguin: Island born of fire

Camiguin is the second smallest province of the Philippines both in size and population. Only Batanes is smaller. But with a population density of 232 people per square kilometer, it is the 16th most densely-populated province.

There are two ports in Camiguin that receive ferries from Balingoan, the one in Guinsiliban which is used by those with vehicles, and the one in Barangay Benoni in Mahinog which is the main passenger terminal since it is closer to Mambajao. There is another port in Barangay Balbagon, Mambajao but this is for Cebu-bound ferries. The fare from Balingoan is PHP100 plus a PHP7 terminal fee. The trip takes approximately an hour and 15 minutes. We left a little past 2 p.m.

I arrived in Benoni at about 3:30 p.m. and took a jeepney from the terminal to Mambajao for PHP26. The trip was about 30 minutes. While on board the jeepney, I was floored by the number of ancestral homes still standing in Camiguin. The province continues to retain its character and old world charm. I would later learn after reading the DOT website that "Camiguin Island is famous for its ancestral homes gracefully dotting the streets all over the island" as well as its eight volcanoes which is why it is referred to as the island born of fire.

I got off in the poblacion area and asked people at the municipio where I could find cheap lodging. Good thing there was a pension house a few meters away. I got an air-conditioned room at the GV Pension House good for two people for PHP500. A non-aircon room is PHP350.

After freshening up, I went straight down to find a ride around town. I wanted to see as much as I could before dark. The hotel staff were very helpful and they got me a habal-habal which would take me to the sites in Catarman as well as the Ardent Hot Springs for just PHP300. It was worth it since he took me around for about 4 hours. The going rate for renting a motorcycle for 8 hours is PHP500 and that doesn't include gas and a driver.

Our first stop was the Sunken Cemetery in Barangay Bonbon, Catarman. On the way, I saw even more ancestral houses (above). As we neared Cataraman, I was treated to out of this world vistas of the Camiguin coastline, Mount Hibok-Hibok and Mount Vulcan Daan (left) up close.

The sunken cemetery used to be part of the old capital of Camiguin. According to local historians, Mount Vulcan had four recorded eruptions. It was the third eruption in 1871 that sunk Cotta Bato and its cemetery under the sea. Remnants of the structures and gravestones were still seen during low tide but the fourth eruption in 1948 buried the area deeper by around twenty feet. In 1982, a large cross was built on the solidified lava to mark this old gravesite that has become known as the sunken cemetery and one of the world’s most unique diving sites since the coral-encrusted tombstones can be visited by divers.

After a few photos, we went to the ruins of the old church which was on top of a hill. The marker calls it the church of Cotta Bato, but some accounts call it the old church of Gui-ob. The walls, and parts of the belltower and convento are all that remain of this church.

We then went back to the pension house so that I could change for the visit to Ardent. The hot spring was six kilometers from the poblacion in Barangay Tagdo, Mambajao. It is the most popular of Camiguin's hot springs. In the resort is a natural pool of about 40 degrees celsius coming from the bowels of Mt. Hibok-Hibok. The best time to go for a swim is late in the afternoon up to the evening, it closes at 10 p.m., so that you could really appreciate the warm water. You pay a PHP30 entrance fee.

While I was getting “warmed” up, it started to rain. So I stayed in the water a bit longer hoping the rain would stop. But it didn’t. So I decided to have dinner at the place. The food was nothing great and quite expensive. It was not worth it. If it only stopped raining I would have eaten dinner in the town proper.

Since it didn’t seem like the rain would stop, I decided to leave when the rain started to weaken. All I could remember was that I was shivering all the way back since I was soaking wet, the temperature was quite cold, and it was drizzling. I went straight to bed as soon as I got back to the pension house since I lacked sleep and I needed to be up at 5 a.m. the next day.

More photos of Camiguin in Multiply.
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