Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Batangas: Visita iglesia to Batangas churches

Batangas is a great place for visita iglesia and a heritage tour. I had the chance to visit many of the churches of Batangas when I drove from Calatagan, Batangas to Quezon Province.

My starting point was the Cabo de Punta Santiago lighthouse in Calatagan which unfortunately, according to heritage advocates in Calatagan, lost a lot of its antique wood and bronze details while under the care of a local political family. I wonder if the items are now in their house. The facade has also been plastered with cement.

The Philippine Coast Guard suspended its Adopt a Lighthouse Program because of the Calatagan incident since it realized that it made a mistake in the program policy by disregarding the heritage conservation aspect. Anyway, I'll update everyone on the developments. The Philippine Coast Guard is evaluating the situation.

The first heritage church after Calatagan is the Balayan Church, a National Cultural Treasure. Although many other Batangas churches have better interiors, I think the NCCA has reasons for selecting this church. According to the NCCA, "It must be noted that by the 19th century, the seculars were already largely indio priests, hence, Balayan is one of a few examples of churches built under direction of the indio clergy. The interior has not changed much since the 1870s when a print showing the church interior was made, despite several superficial additions."

This church also figured in the national spotlight when a McDonald's was built on its grounds some time in 2002, thus covering the view of part of the convent. It sparked a lot of protests from the heritage community and concerned townsfolk. But there's no stopping Roman Catholic Church, Inc.

Balayan town itself has a lot of wonderful ancestral houses. I wonder why the National Historical Institute has not declared the town or at least its houses. It would have been nice if I had more time to appreciate the town, but I had to rush.

Calaca Church, in the next town, is also worth a visit. Plus it also has a number of noteworthy bahay na bato or old stone houses.

Nothing much left in Lemery. But its neighbor, the heritage town of Taal, a National Historical Landmark, is a treasure trove of heritage. Check out the Taal Basilica, also a National Historical Landmark, and the Caysasay Church. Don't forget to visit the ruins of Sta. Lucia, an older church where a well, said to have miraculous waters, could be found.

Taal actually has a good number of declared structures including the Leon Apacible Historical Landmark and Marcela Agoncillo Historical Landmark. If you do have time, make sure you explore the town to see its many ancestral houses. The town is also known for its barong cloth embroidery, especially the pina cloth. When I visit Taal, I always buy barong cloth.

Along the National Highway, you'll pass by the many balisong knife shops which Batangas is very famous for. And keep your eye open for the Taal longganisa stalls as well. I remember seeing them at the junction to Sta. Teresita town.

After Taal, there's San Jose Church, Ibaan Church and the Batangas Basilica. I got to pass by the San Jose Church which was on the way, as well as the Ibaan Church. But I skipped the Batangas Basilica to avoid traffic since I was rushing to Quezon.

At the end of the road, before you reach the towns of Quezon, is the San Juan Church. Just like in Balayan and Taal, the old houses in San Juan are also superb, many built during the early American colonial period when Art Deco was in fashion.

But San Juan is out of the way if you plan to go back to Manila. So unless you have a lot of time to spare, you might have to skip San Juan and visit the Lipa Cathedral and Carmel Church in Lipa instead. But if you are on the way to Quezon, it's definitely a must stop. The churches of Quezon is another story.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Tony Blair speaks at the Ateneo de Manila University

It's Ateneo's 150th year! So the University invited former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to speak at the Sesquicentennial Leadership Forum held today at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater at the Ateneo de Manila University. It was an invitational forum and I was lucky to get invited being Secretary of the Ateneo Alumni Association this year.

All I can say is that I am still awestruck after listening to Blair speak. He is such a great speaker! The title of his speech was "The Leader as a Nation-Builder in a Time of Globalization" where he talked about his experiences and how in today's world, no nation is powerful enough to move forward on its own. All our problems, from the fight against terror to global warming, all need a concerted effort and meaningful cooperation among nations if we are to succeed.

He had a great sense of humor and got us laughing a good number of times. And he was game enough to take off his coat to wear an Ateneo sports jacket! I'll try to get a copy of his speech.

Here's the news report from GMANews.TV in Filipino...

and in English...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Manila: Sta. Ana, Manila heritage lost to the malls too! Save Sta. Ana heritage!

Sta. Ana, Manila was the seat of the Kingdom of Namayan, one of three major kingdoms that dominated the area around the upper portion of the Pasig River before the arrival of Spaniards. The Heritage Conservation Society recently visited the historic district of Sta. Ana, Manila to familiarize ourselves with the place. Sadly, several historic buildings were being torn down to give way to malls.

The demolition of the Emilio Aguinaldo College, which was previously the Columban Fathers’ residence, former residence of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and birthplace of Student Catholic Action, is almost done. And the culprit is none other than heartless SM.

This is not the first time that SM raped our cultural heritage. They had previously demolished the historic Pines Hotel in Baguio City (at the same time cutting hundreds of trees) to build SM City Baguio; the San Lazaro Hippodrome to build SM City San Lazaro; and destroyed the fabric of the Manila civic and government center with SM City Manila built right beside the City Hall of Manila, where the historic YMCA once stood.

Doesn't SM know what adaptive reuse is and how developers in cities around the world use it to revitalize old districts, enhance the character of the place, increase attractiveness and business viability and protect heritage? Sadly, SM is building in a very critical area of the historic district and this will most definitely ruin the historical fabric of the place and the possibility of revitalizing Sta. Ana through tourism.

Another shocker was the ongoing demolition of the Sta. Ana Racetrack buildings designed by Architect Juan Nakpil, National Artist for Architecture. How would you feel if someone burned a painting by Vicente Manansala? Well, demolishing a masterpiece of Nakpil is similar to that! We were told another group was going to build yet another shopping mall. Do we still lack shopping malls in the country?

The shells of the buildings are still there and I am hoping that they preserve these and incorporate them into the shopping mall. That will be a great example of adaptive reuse if they do that!

When we visited Father James Reuter, S.J. at Xavier House also in Sta. Ana, he mentioned to us that the Jesuits plan to sell the historic property. Fr. Reuter was saddened since Xavier House is very important to the history of our country, especially during the 1986 People Power Revolution where it was a nerve center of media operations. Remember, without the radio broadcasts, there would be no People Power.

This was where Fr. Reuter directed the Radyo Bandido broadcasts of June Keithley. These broadcasts are part of the Radio Broadcast of the Philippine People Power Revolution which have been incribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World, UNESCO's program aimed at preserving and disseminating valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide.

I do hope the Jesuits do not sell the property because it might just become another shopping mall. The Jesuits had previously sold their church in Padre Faura which is now Robinsons Place Manila. I hope students and faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University appeal to Father Provincial not to push through with such plans if there are any. But in the end, I am not opposed to the sale. I am against any future plans of the new owner to demolish the structure.

Anyway, I'll be posting an account of our tour around historic Sta. Ana, particularly the Camarin de la Virgen in the Sta. Ana Church, a National Cultural Treasure.

Part 2: Camarin de la Virgen and more Sta. Ana treasures
Part 3: More on Xavier House and Sta. Ana

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Manila: Hermanos Deli Bar at Ortigas Home Depot

Tapas anyone? I've had a greater appreciation for tapas after my trip to Spain last year. Which is why I yearn for tapas every now and then here in the Philippines. I got to try out this new tapas bar called Hermanos Deli Bar at the Ortigas Home Depot (where Jay-J's Ortigas is). It's tapas with a Filipino twist which they call Tapas de Kastinoy.

My favorites would be the Calamari del Gobernadorcillo (dried calamari flakes with chili paprika), Bola-bola Paella dela Guerra (deep fried breaded paella rice with chili tomato sauce), Gambas de las Islas (shrimps sauteed in garlic, olice oil and chili), and Longganiza dela Revolucion (marinated Vigan longganisa with chili tomato). Also on the menu is Tapang Usa de Katipunan (smoked deer with pickled radish and wine vinegar)!

Although they have wine to accompany those great dishes, the Tapas de Kastinoy are best consumed with a bottle of ice-cold beer (there's San Miguel as well of a good number of imported beers). Check it out at the Ortigas Home Depot along Julia Vargas Avenue.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cebu: Visita iglesia to Southern Cebu churches

The heritage of Southern Cebu is wonderful! That's why in pains me to see so much of it desecrated in recent years. Let me warn you that as I introduce the wonderful heritage of Southern Cebu, I'll be ranting because of some stupid priests and local officials who have succeeding in uglifying the churches and other old structures.

Southern Cebu's heritage trail usually begins in Oslob. But after the Oslob Church and convent burned down last year (obviously someone was negligent, leaving the convent in the wee hours of the morning; I wonder where father was when the church under his care burned down), we decided to start in Boljoon Church, a National Cultural Treasure and a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage if ever they do expand the inscription Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

Sadly, it was raining when we got there so I couldn't take good photos of the facade. But at least this time, the restoration work on the retablo and ceiling was complete so I was able to take photos. They are still in the process of restoring the choirloft and pipe organ. Boljoon is no doubt a wonderful example of how to preserve heritage the right way.

Our next stop was Dalaguete Church which I skipped the last time. Sadly, the parish priest was in the process of desecrating the old altar. Yes, this was heritage disaster number two for the day. He removed wooden altar panels and replaced it with a cheap and hideous marble structure which does not match the retablo. He also touched the centuries-old tiles in the altar. CBCP, where are you when we need you?

Aside from that, the rest of the church is intact and worth visiting. I hope it remains that way. These priests waste church money on useless projects that desecrate heritage, doing more harm than good, just so that they could leave their mark, no matter how ugly. Such funds could have been used for the pastoral mission of the church!

Anyway, we made our way to Argao, another sad story. The church and municipio comprise heritage disaster number three and four. The main altar of the Argao Church was desecrated by the monsignor of the church. What happened to Cardinal Vidal when his favorite monsignor converted the polychrome altar into the biggest trophy case in the Philippines? And he used latex paint on wood. So the damage is close to irreversible! Wonderful polychrome statues of the archangels were painted gold! Talk about Midas' touch!

The Argao Municipal Hall is another sad story. We even featured it in the HCS calendar as a wonderful example of a Spanish colonial town hall with its clay tile roof still intact. Well, it's now a disaster since they sandwiched it in between two new buildings and bored holes on both sides to connect the new buildings to the original municipio. Not only that, they built a balcony in front. My God! Where do these mayors get their "bright" ideas? Argao could have been a UNESCO World Heritage site I was told. That's impossible now!

Our last church for the day was Sibonga Church which I also skipped the last time. It's another wonderful church with ornate ceiling paintings. It doesn't have a retablo though.

Of course, we already visted Carcar Church in the morning. The Carcar Church is another heritage disaster. Sigh! The priest and parish pastoral council built ugly pedestals for the angels they took down. The parish priest had previously taken down the angels which adorned the columns of the church, sparking an outrage from the townsfolk. But aside from that, the rest of the church is intact and grand!

There are even more churches between Carcar and Cebu City. If you have time, you can pass by San Fernando, Naga, Minglanilla, Talisay and Pardo on the way back to Cebu City. My next target when I do visit Cebu again will be a visita iglesia in Western Cebu.

Part 1: Bantayan Island, Cebu is rich in heritage and great beaches!
Part 2: Visita iglesia in Northern Cebu
Part 3: Lechon, chicharon and more from Carcar

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