Friday, March 02, 2007

Manila: Protect the walls of Intramuros!

I got a text message yesterday. It was both good news (a response of Bulacan to the Bagac project) and bad news:
"1. Bulacan culture lovers have created TASK FORCE PAMANA to address the issue of vanishing old houses. The first meeting will be on March 8.
2. We have another concern and this is the project of Dean Barbers, PTA GM who is building a sports complex beside the walls of Intramuros. All these stupid undertakings done out of material selfishness must be put to a STOP! Let's do something to arrest this new travesty on Philippine history and culture."

The follow-up message I received states that sports complex is being built in the Club Intramuros area, in the driving range very close to the walls. The project, worth PHP85M, was done despite the disapproval of the PTA Board to which Barbers is answerable to, and a stoppage order issued by the Intramuros Administration. Barbers should not forget that Intramuros and its walls are protected by PD1616!

I saw photos of it at SkyscraperCity (courtesy of TheAvenger which I posted here) and they are shocking since the sports complex is being constructed right at the back of the Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago! Indeed, this desecration of our national heritage must be stopped! As PTA GM, Dean Barbers should know better.

Tell Barbers what you think. Leave a comment below.

* * *

Update (6 March 2007): The latest from the DOT is that Sec. Durano has already sent a memo to Barbers to stop construction because the project has no approval from the PTA Board.

If you're disgusted with corruption and these illegal activities in Manila, help stop the project by contacting/writing/e-mailing the agencies mandated by law to protect our built heritage resources, Intramuros in particular:

Hon. Joseph "Ace" Durano
Chairperson, Intramuros Administration
Chairperson, Philippine Tourism Authority

Prof. Ambeth R. Ocampo
Chairperson, National Historical Institute
National Commission for Culture and the Arts

Dominador C. Ferrer Jr.
Intramuros Administration
Palacio del Gobernador Building,
Intramuros, Manila 1000
5273155; 5275642; 5273084

Atty. Trixie Cruz-Angeles
Head, Committee on Monuments and Sites
National Commission for Culture and the Arts

Copy this entry and forward to all Filipinos who believe in the need to protect and preserve Intramuros!

* * *

Related articles
Stationary bandits in Intramuros
by Gemma Cruz-Araneta, Manila Bulletin
The arrogance of dimwits
by Bambi Harper, Malaya

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The P1 fare of Cebu Pacific is back!

I heard the promo is supposed to start tomorrow but you can now book P1 fares on Cebu Pacific for both local and international destinations! I just booked a trip to Puerto Princesa for my birthday and Tacloban during my sembreak. The roundtrip tickets, inclusive of taxes and fuel surcharges, were just PHP1967.84 each!

The funny thing is that news spreads fast. And even though they haven't announced it yet, the flights are going fast! A few minutes after I booked my flight, the P1 fare was no longer available for my Puerto Princesa flight. Oh well! Check out

Many thanks to Renz Ticsay for the info.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Benguet: The strawberry fields of La Trinidad

After an exhausting day the other day, and since I was on vacation, I decided to wake up late yesterday. Ching was up early since she had errands to do and meet some friends too. At 10 a.m., I passed by for her and Joyce at the Baguio Cathedral and from there, we drove to La Trinidad, Benguet to check out the strawberry fields of the Benguet State University.

We easily found the place. You simply made a left in front of the last gate of BSU where a large sign pointed you towards the strawberry fields. We had planned to pick strawberries but since a lot of people had visited the day before, all the ripe strawberries had been harvested already. If you picked your own strawberries, the price at that time was PHP200 per kilo. Anyway, we just walked around the fields and took photos.

Of course, the strawberries there were relatively cheap since they were in season and you were buying them at the source. One kilo of small strawberries was just PHP60. I got the larger strawberries for PHP80 a kilo. There were really large choice strawberries at PHP100 a kilo. I regret not buying more to take back to the lowlands.

The day before, while waiting for the parade, we had strawberry flavored taho on the street. Taho vendors added strawberry bits and syrup to it. In the BSU area, the sorbetero naturally had strawberry ice cream with strawberry bits. Yummy! I also bought a serving of fresh pinipig (or duman to us Kapampangans) which I had been munching on since this morning.

From the strawberry fields, we went the Benguet Provincial Capitol to meet up with Ryan. Before lunch, he brought us to the store of the Entrepreneurial Project of BSU to buy some local treats.

Aside from the staple peanut brittle, strawberry jam and ube jam (their ube jam is quite popular), you had pure arabica mountain coffee (PHP50 for 250g); honey products such as creamed honey, raw beepollen and propolis, and honey wine with herbs; yacon and bignay wine; yacon and lemon grass herbal tea, powdered roasted soybean drink; chayote champoy, santol candy and pineapple-papaya jam among others.

We then walked across the street to this hole-in-the-wall type of place for lunch at the Strawberry Fields Arcade at Gladiola Center in front of BSU. Jolly Yan Meals is hidden in one corner but people flock to it since meals are cheap but tasty. The “meat plus meat” package (two meat dishes or your choice) served with mountain rice and soup was just PHP45. Another option was “meat plus veggie” just for PHP35.

Anyway, I had to rush back to Pampanga to do some work. So after our trip to the store, we drove down via Kennon Road since we wanted to check out the scenery. Kennon Road is actually a heritage road and its stunning natural scenery should be protected from unsightly urbanization and vandalism.

And sadly, election graffiti was all over the place. Shame on ANC party for painting their initials on every single rock along the road! Same goes to candidates Defensor, Osmena and Pimentel whose names are also painted all over. Mike Defensor even has his non-biodegradable paraphernalia nailed to trees! I hope the Comelec acts on this immediately and issues an ultimatum to candidates and parties to remove the paint before other candidates follow suit as a result of their inaction. Let’s spare Kennon Road and the environment around it from all this election trash!

More photos in Multiply.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Baguio: Baguio City in full bloom for Panagbenga 2007

After all those years watching the parade on television and seeing photos of the colorful floral floats published in our national dailies, I finally saw the Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival) with my own two eyes. It was late when we decided to actually trek up to Baguio City to brave one of the biggest crowds that jampack the city annually.

Since hotels would have been fully-booked and buses filled to the hilt, we decided to drive up on the morning of the float parade, just in time to find a good vantage point for festivities. We left Pampanga at about 12 midnight. It was a sleepy but smooth drive given that heavy traffic was factored out of the picture. So we made it to Baguio close to 3:30 a.m. if I'm not mistaken. We took a quick nap at a place where some friends were staying and at 6 a.m., we were off to Session Road for breakfast.

Our plan was to try out the breakfast meals at Swiss Baker. But since they had a catering service that morning, they did not offer breakfast that day and we were left with the turnovers from the night before. As we were eating, we noticed that the sidewalk was slowly being filled-up so I rushed out to reserve a place for us. To make the long story short, we waited for close to two hours before the parade reached us. By that time, there was layer upon layer of people behind us. So it really paid to come early.

First came the city officials and the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy followed by the colors borne by cadets from the PMA. Then came two great floats from the Baguio Country Club and Chowking, both in the Hall of Fame. I especially liked the Chowking float which was very creative.

The parade was so orderly and there was enough crowd control and police to keep people within the rope on either side of Session Road. Of course, the floats which were out of place were those of the candidates. When the people carrying the letters CHAVIT passed by our area, everyone shouted "boo!" with their thumbs down. I thought it would have been the same reception when the float with the candidates passed by. But then, Cesar Montano was on it, so the boos became shrieks from fans.

For some reason, we managed to get out of the rope and find a great vantage point in front of the Baguio City Market. How we were able to do that without being noticed by the police is a trade secret. Haha! Anyway, we saw even more floats. I liked the ones from Greenwich and SM (even though I still could not forgive SM for demolishing the Pines Hotel and chopping hundred of pine trees on top of Session Road all in the name of money).

It was nearing lunch and the parade was not yet done. So we decided to call it a day and headed towards St. Joseph's Parish where my SSEAYP batchmate Tanjo Tambol was waiting for us. He treated us to lunch at Villa Cordillera which is of the best-kept secrets of Baguio (for the meantime). Managed by the Baguio Country Club, this hotel and restaurant offers a relaxing view of the green golf course and pine-covered hills.

I was surprised to find out that you could get a room for two here for as low as PHP1000. But that is an introductory price which would change by April. I regret booking elsewhere since there were rooms available when we arrived since as I predicted, everyone would have checked-out and were on the way back to Manila by Sunday afternoon. Anyway, lunch was great and the prices were quite affordable.

Since Baguio City was jampacked, we decided to stay at a spa for the afternoon. Spa Ultima at the top of Session Road was very recommended. We got a full-body massage for just PHP340! By the time we were done, it was already dark so we had dinner at the restaurant above the spa, Broad Meadows Cafe. But the food was nothing special.

After dinner, we went back to our inn to rest for a while. At about 10 p.m., we met up with my China-ASEAN batchmate, Dr. Ryan Guinaran who brought us to this cool hang-out called Kaffeeklatsch. The place was very homey with live acoustic perfomances entertaining the guests. The place was out of the way but it had its regular denizens which was not a surprise since it had a very cozy ambiance. After a few ours of chatting, we called it a night.

More photos in Multiply.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Manila: Kiong Hee Huat Chai!

We've always known the Cantonese version of the Lunar New Year greeting which is Kong Hei Fat Choi. It means "congratulations and be prosperous" and not "Happy New Year" as most Filipinos assume. But since most Chinese Filipinos trace their ancestry to Fujian province, the residents of Binondo are popularizing the Hokkien version which is Kiong Hee Huat Chai! This holiday is not only celebrated by the Chinese but shared by the Koreans (Seollal), Vietnamese (Tết), Mongolians, Tibetans (Losar), the Nepalese and the Bhutanese as well.

Yesterday was the eve of the Lunar New Year. As I was nearing the Binondo Church, I bumped into dragon dance group making its way along Ongpin Street. Anyway, my tokayo (Filipino term for person with the same first name) Manila streetwalker Ivan ManDy had a tour scheduled in the afternoon so I waited for him at the church lobby. He arrived at 2 p.m. together with two other bloggers, Anton Diaz and Sidney Snoeck. Anton and family joined his morning tour while Sidney bumped into their group. Since I've already been on his walking tour (check out this old entry on the Big Binondo Food Bowl), I decided to join Anton and Sidney for a walk around the place to look for some action.

And it wasn't difficult to look for dragon and lion dance groups since they were all over the place. The lion dance is often confused with the dragon dance. If it's just one or two people, it's a lion. We finally found a big dance group and decided to follow them since we figured they knew which shops to stop at. And our hunch was right since we were led to a shop with a load of firecrackers hanging in front of it.

All these groups were after the little red envelopes filled with money, called ang pao in Hokkien, which were taped on the ceilings of the shops. But one thing I noticed was that most of the dance groups were not Chinese at all, obviously outsiders after the loot. There were even ati-atihan groups who were quite aggressive, giving red envelopes to by-standers hoping they would put something inside for them.

Since the afternoon sun was quite hot, there were not that many groups yet. So we decided to rest a bit and have dimsum at President Tea House on Salazar Street near the corner of Ongpin. I had hakkao, polonchai dumplings, spinach dumplings, japanes siomai and taupe rolls. We saw the mango shakes on the other table and couldn't resist ordering for ourselves too. Thanks to Sidney for the treat! We also bumped into Señor Enrique there.

The shops outside were also loaded with fruits, "lucky" plants and new year decorations and good luck charms. Of course, tikoy was in abundance too. There were long queues to buy tikoy, hopia and other goodies at the more popular outlets.

We continued our walk and found even more action. Along Ongpin, the crowds were increasing as they watched the different groups perform in front of the shops. The shop owners would place a bowl of candies and coins in front of their shops for the lions to "eat." The lions would then "spit it" to the crowds who all rush in to grab the goodies. Of course, the end of the routine would be the lighting of firecrackers. In fact, the lions would play around with the other end of the firecraker belt, "biting" it with its mouth. This time, the fumes were just too much for me to handle and I ended up coping with an asthma attack.

At 5:30 p.m., we parted ways and I ended up joining the tail-end of Ivan ManDy's tour which was a visit to the Guan Gong Temple. After the temple visit, we made a left on Nueva Street (the Lord Mayor of MayniLA changed the name to Yuchengco), and entered this alley which is known as Carvajal Street. The alley is a food haven with its myriad of hole-in-the-wall tea houses and vendors who sell anything from fruits, vegetables, fish and other delicacies.

We ended up in Quintin Paredes and our last stop, the New Po-Heng Lumpia House in the Uy Su Bin Building. Of course, their fresh lumpia is healthy and delicious. After the tour, I asked my tokayo to accompany me to my favorite dumpling shop along Nueva Street, Dong Bei Dumplings. I took home frozen xie ping (fried stuffed pancakes) and chui kio (dumplings). From there, we went back to Ongpin where I bought a box of tikoy and ube hopia from Eng Bee Tin.

Anyway, got a lot of work piled up for school, work and my NGOs. Check out the rest of my photos in Multiply. Kiong Hee Huat Chai!
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