Friday, October 05, 2007

Pampanga: Watch the frogs hop at Pyestang Tugak

The City of San Fernando, Pampanga will end the Pyestang Tugak: 5th Annual San Fernando Frog Festival later today. This event is extra special to me since I organized the first one way back in 2003. Frogs are a unique part of Pampanga culinary traditions. And by organizing the festival, the city is ensuring that these traditions are preserved and promoted.

There is a traditional way of catching frogs called paduasan. In the early days, when the rains came, while the elders where busy planting rice, kids would catch frogs. This game eventually evolved into a specialized technique and skill. Catchers use a bamboo rod called the paduas. And at the end of the string, they attach a type of worm called bulateng tudtud or sleeping worm. Once the frog bites, its tongue get entangled with the worm, and the catcher is able to hurl it up in the air and lets it fall into a net called panyapu.

It was a common sight to see people lined-up on top of the pilapil or rice paddies with a paduas in one hand and panyapu in the other, patiently waiting for the frogs to bite. The trick was to move the paduas in a slow horizontal direction, as quiet as possible so as not to agitate the frogs, mimicking the movements of insects hoping on the water surface.

Of course, the festival features frog cuisine in the lutung tugak competition which is scheduled today. The most popular traditional dish is undisputedly betute (which is Kapampangan for tadpole) or deep-fried frog stuffed with minced pork or even frog meat. During the festival, HRM students battle it out in preparing new frog recipes in hotel worthy presentations; while ordinary citizens come up with the best tasting traditional dishes.

We also added some fun games for the kids with the papyalung tugak which includes frog races, longest jump and dress-up-your frog competition among many others. They even have frog mascots nowadays.

If you missed the one this year, don't forget to check it out next October. Thanks to Ching Pangilinan for the photos!

Heritage updates
Lim reopens historic Manila museum
This is great news for the City of Manila! The elegant Army and Navy Club National Landmark which Atienza turned into a bodega is now the Museo ng Maynila again. Congratulations as well to the revived Manila Historical and Heritage Commission!

Save the Mt. Guiting-Guiting ecosystem!
Help organize a G2 protest climb!

Sibuyan Island in the province of Romblon stands out. It's called the Galapagos of Asia because of its high concentration of endemic species. One third of the 46,000-hectare island is a protected area. It's also home to heavily-forested Mt. Guiting-Guiting which has as much as 75 percent of its forest cover intact, and beautiful and clean rivers. Guess what? Mining is in! Now isn't that stupid? Before leaving the DENR, Sec. Angelo Reyes approved five special cutting permits to clear forest land for mining activity despite the strong opposition of the island's residents. That's an estimated 59,000 trees to be cut! All for nickel, the country is giving up a more precious treasure, the natural heritage of Sibuyan Island.

Read the Inquirer article for more details about this catastrophic turn of events. It's about time mountaineers unite to end this foolishness before we lose Sibuyan's astounding ecosystem. Contact Pinoy Mountaineer at to support or help organize this climb.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Semana Santa Filipinas: Preserving religious traditions on the web and beyond

In 2006, a pair of like-minded youngsters from America and the Philippines hooked up online to exchange information about their passion for religious arts and traditions. From this chance meeting, the two — Victor Ancheta, 18, a Filipino art student of Houston, Texas and Robby dela Vega, 20, also a student based in Meycauayan, Bulacan put up Flickr a cybergroup called Semana Santa Filipinas (SSF). The initial intent was to create a visual reference of our religious traditions from all parts of the country, with content contribution from members. Simple discussion threads were also appended to the photos, so that more information and opinions can be shared among members.

Just over a year after its creation, the SSF cyber group now counts over 1000 santo enthusiasts from all parts of the world as members, with over 8000 photos in its photo pool and over 700 topics in its discussion board. SSF today is the most informative, progressive and largest group on the web, using the members’ collective passion and knowledge to perpetuate, propagate, and increase the devotion to Philippine Lenten traditions, thus ensuring that these remain a permanent and significant part of Filipino culture everywhere in the world. Members include students, executives, housewives, lawyers, doctors, cultural advocates, writers, priests, educators and parish priest workers, all bound by a common love for santos and religious traditions.

The group’s most noteworthy undertaking is the Sponsor-a-Santo Program, in which members pool their resources to give a devotional santo to a fellow member who may be financially challenged to own one, or to an indigent parish in need of images for veneration. For Philippine-based members, there are also the SSF heritage tours to look forward to. Recently, Mr. Conrado Escudero hosted an exclusive tour of Villa Escudero for Semana Santa Filipinas members, highlighted by a museum and church visits as well as a discussion of the current state of our devotional practices.

With a growing membership and an increased interest in the group’s advocacies, it had become imperative to organize a Semana Santa Realworld, a group of members dedicated to planning, actualizing and implementing projects in the real world. SSF RealWorld hopes to continue the photo documentation of local Philippine Lenten traditions (religious imageries, processions, vanishing arts and crafts) as well as the Sponsor-a-Santo Program, now on its 2nd year. Projects such as the Pilgrim Santo, outreach programs to benefit indigent parishes, heritage church tours of Pampanga and Pangasinan, santo exhibits and convention, book and CD projects are in the drawing board. And more are in the offing.

SSF has truly become a visual showcase of Filipino’s faith and unique religious traditions. Not a bad legacy from two youngsters who made it all happen just over a year ago.

To join Semana Santa Filipinas, please check

Related entries
Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga
Holy Week practices in the Philippines
Visita iglesia to our heritage churches

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rizal: Hinulugang Taktak, Daranak and Batlag Falls

This afternoon, we visited three waterfalls in Rizal. This was a spur of the moment trip which my Pinoy Mountaineer partner Gideon Lasco had been egging me on to do. We tagged along my brod, Bikoy Villanueva and another hiking buddy, Sai Sicad. Their proximity to Metro Manila make them perfect for a day trip. In fact, we did it in one afternoon. We were going to visit Daranak Falls in Tanay, Rizal. But on the way, we saw the sign to Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo City and decided to stop over.

Since it had just rained (or was still raining in some parts) the flow of the water was quite strong. It was a great sight. Hinulugang Taktak was a favorite excursion place for pilgrims who visited the Nuestra Senora de Paz y Buen Viaje in Antipolo during the olden days, thus the folk song "Tayo na sa Antipolo." Sadly, there was a lot of garbage and the falls itself distinctly smelled like detergent. I could just imagine how many women were washing clothes upstream because indeed, it was detergent since soap suds were forming at the bottom of the falls flowing to the stream.

From Antipolo, it was a quick drive down to Tanay. Daranak Falls was the first waterfall I remember visiting. It was a grade 6 camping trip. There are actually two falls, the main one and a smaller, but equally forceful one beside it, which both emptied into a single pool.

I didn't know that just a few meters away from Daranak was another waterfall, the Batlag Falls. It was fantastic!

It was a five-minute hike up to get there. There were two major falls actually which cascaded down into their own their own catch basins. The smaller one on the left looked like a bridal veil. While the larger one on the right was wider. The water from both pools cascaded further down over rocks and roots of trees, flowing into the stream which flowed to Daranak.

I think this was the best of the three falls. It was a good thing we visited on a weekday since we had all the falls all to ourselves. More photos in Multiply.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sarangani: Old houses and powder-white sand beaches in Glan, Sarangani

The next day, we drove to Glan, one of the southernmost municipalities of the island of Mindanao (Jose Abad Santos, Davao del Sur seems to edge it out by a few meters). In the town proper, we checked out the old houses which are mentioned in the DOT website. They have intricate wood designs but sadly, most if not all, have been neglected. The local government should do something about it since old houses in Mindanao are quite rare nowadays.

We then proceeded to Barangay Gumasa further down south to check the powder-white sand beach. Yes, you read it right, powder-white sand. It could be the next Boracay if the local government plays its cards right.

After a few hours of swimming, we drove back to Gen San to catch our flight back to Manila. But we passed by the provincial capitol in Alabel first to meet some officials.

Back in Gen San, we had lunch at Nadie's Chicken Restaurant. Then after fixing our check-in luggage which was all fruits, we went to the airport. I had 26 kilos of fruits with me. Even if I paid for excess baggage, it still came out way cheaper! I got lansones and suha at PHP25 a kilo and mangosteen at PHP30 a kilo.
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