Saturday, April 04, 2009

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are in Boracay?!

Rumor has it that celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are going to the new Shangri-La Resort in Boracay. And they'll be staying at one of the resort's priciest suites I was told! It also reached me that they chartered a SEAIR plane to get there. But friends from SEAIR aren't confirming the news. Again, it's unconfirmed but news from the grapevine is the couple chartered the plane using the name Frangelina, an Armenian princess or something.

Could Pitt and Jolie have entered the country undetected using the Dornier Do-24 ATT seaplane which can land straight in Boracay? Just a backgrounder, in February 2004, a restored and re-engined Do-24 ATT was used by a UNICEF mission to assist children in the Philippines. Upon completion of the work with UNICEF, it is now run as a special charter airliner by South East Asian Airlines. I wonder if they used that! If they did, such style, such substance! Can people in Boracay confirm if they are really there? Watch out for a couple in a large hat and dark shades!

But maybe not, since I got more news that Brangelina flew with at least eight bodyguards (three of them female), all dressed in beach attire! And that the conditions of the special charter flight was that the SEAIR crew should not mind the passengers. I want to go to Boracay! SEAIR take me there too!

Anyway, if it is true, the fact that the couple chose Boracay as their vacation destination this time around is reason enough to celebrate. That means the Philippines is slowly entering the mainstream global tourism market. We've been so left behind by all our neighbors, it's about time we take our rightful place with all the beautiful beaches, natural scenery and colorful heritage we have here! I do hope Brangelina have a nice time here in the Philippines and come back to see more.

Around Clark: El Kabayo & Puning Hot Spring

Who said Clark Freeport was all about leisure estates, duty free shopping and golf? Well, aside from eating, and eating, and eating, there's more to Clark than most people know. Today I got to try two recreational activities one can do while in Clark. And Andy Smith and Andi Manzano of Qtube were there to join me as I explored Clark.

One of those activities is horseback riding at El Kabayo Riding Stables. While you can take the horse around the area, if you are adventurous and up to the task, why not go for a ride down to the Sacobia River and enjoy the lahar canyons created by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption?

The trek can last for hours. But for those who love the outdoors, it's worth it. Well, we got to ride on the horses around Clark. But since we didn't have much time, we decided to save the Sacobia River for another day. I'm definitely coming back!

For the second activity, we moved to another side of Clark to board 4x4 vehicles that would take us to the Puning Hot Spring. It's in the ancestral domain of the Aetas so you'll get to meet a lot of them as you make your way to the hot spring. In fact, the employees of the Puning Hot Spring are mostly indigenous Aetas.

The ride is an attraction in itself, passing through lahar canyons and small streams in Sapang Bato. In fact, some canyons were so narrow, we were driving on the water. The ride from Station 1 to 3 was about 30 minutes, bumpy but exciting!

Station 1 is the Base Camp and has a garden restaurant. Station 2 is the spa and massage area. While Station 3 is the hot spring itself. As we neared Puning Hot Spring, we could feel the water of the stream warming up as we splashed our way through.

At the Puning Hot Spring, we got to go near the source which was a steaming hot waterfall. The water in the stream was close to 90 degrees Celsius. They divert some of the water into various pools with different temperatures ranging from 40 to 70 degrees Celsius. There are eight hot pools and one cold pool. So if one pool is too hot for you, you can take a dip in the next one.

The Puning package costs PHP3,000. And that includes buffet meals, the 4x4 ride from Garden Restaurant to the hot spring and back, entrance fees to the hot spring and use of the facilities, sand steam (that's where they bury you up to the neck under volcanic sand), body mud pack, and a foot massage.

Next up is eating, eating, and eating at C' Italian Dining and Azur.

El Kabayo Riding Stables
Gil Puyat Avenue cor. Panday Pira, Clark Freeport Zone
(045) 4990920, (02) 8523117

Puning Hot Spring
Sitio Target, Sapang Bato, Angeles City
(045) 4990629, (0920) 8664246 & (0919) 3392795
(0917) 5360618 - Korean

Part 2: Around Clark: C' Italian Dining and Azur Bistro & Bar

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Manila: Visita iglesia to Makati City (Metro Manila) churches

Here's a visita iglesia closer to home. After our trip around Sta. Ana, I decided to visit various churches in Makati City. There are two heritage churches plus an old chapel which I heard was no longer used as a chapel. But many of the churches in Makati are very noteworthy. One of them is even designed by a National Artist.

The main town church of Makati is the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul (Poblacion). The original retablo is there but we were shocked to see new embellishments which overpowered the simple charm of the church. some of these interior designers have this wrong notion that more gold and burloloy is wonderful. They should be given a lesson in Heritage Conservation 101.

Nearby is the Nuestra Senora de Gracia Church (Guadalupe Viejo). This was bombed during WWII and what is left of it is the facade. This used to be a huge church complex.

The Sanctuario de San Antonio (Forbes Park) was built by the Franciscans after their mother church in Intramuros was destroyed during WWII. Except for the Augustinians, most religious orders moved out and established their headquarters elsewhere. In the main altar is a war survivor, a statue of St. Anthony from the original San Francisco Church in Intramuros.

In Greenbelt is the Chapel of Sto. Nino de Paz, commonly called the Greenbelt Chapel. It floats in the middle of a pond, and is surrounded by green. Robinsons should have done that to the Jesuit Church in Padre Faura.

The Greenbelt Chapel was designed by Architect Willie Fernandez and later enhanced by Jess Dizon who rendered the circular pattern of the building. You will also notice works of renowned glass sculptor Ramon Orlina, who fabricated the ceiling, tabernacle, altar, the large cross at the entrance, the sacristy, and the God the Father image on the dome.

The St. John Bosco Church or the Don Bosco Church (San Lorenzo) is another work of art designed by Architect Jose Maria Zaragoza. The statues that adorn the church were done by sculptor Eduardo Castrillo.

Saint Andrew Church (Bel-Air) is a work of National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. But I felt, for some reason, that the exterior of the church was a bit neglected.

Other chapels and churches you can visit are the Guadalupe Chapel in the BDO Building, a building also designed by Leandro Locsin. I'm not sure though if it will be open on Holy Thursday. Then there's the St. Thomas More Chapel (Rockwell) at the Ateneo Professional Schools. I know Assumption College (San Lorenzo) also has a nice chapel. Another school chapel would be the one in Colegio de San Agustin (Dasmarinas).

Finally, another Locsin masterpiece that will surely be missed is the Church of St. Alphonsus Mary Ligouri (Magallanes) which burned down some years back. A new, but equally impressive church was built, designed by heritage architect Dominic Galicia.

Related entries
Visita iglesia to our heritage churches
Holy Week practices in the Philippines
Visita iglesia and more Holy Week practices in the Philippines
Visita iglesia routes for Holy Thursday

Manila: Camarin de la Virgen and more Sta. Ana treasures

Sta. Ana, Manila has a huge potential to become a cultural tourism destination if proper planning and urban renewal is undertaken by the local community, with focus on its build heritage. The Heritage Conservation Society went on a quick tour of Sta. Ana to assess the area.

We all met at the Lichauco Residence, the Lichaucos being our hosts for the morning. Of course, right beside their wonderful house, the Emilio Aguinaldo College was almost gone. But despite this setback (I still pray SM will see the light and make sure the facade of their new supermarket will conform to the historicity of the district and not build their hideous box type malls), Sta. Ana can still be enhanced to highlight its remaining heritage structures.

From the Lichauco Residence, we walked to Xavier House next door. I've already mentioned this in a previous post and we all know that it will be up for sale soon. Again, this is a major heritage structure of Sta. Ana, most especially because of its history.

After meeting with Fr. Reuter, we boarded a coaster that took us around Sta. Ana. The district has two plazas namely Plaza Calderon and Plaza Hugo. Plaza Hugo in particular was of great interest to the restoration architects in our group since it can be developed as the tourism center of the heritage district with sidewalk cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and bed & breakfast inns.

We then proceeded to the Sta. Ana Church where former NCCA chairperson Jaime Laya talked about Sta. Ana heritage its possible conversion into a heritage tourism district. The highlight of the day was the visit to the Camarin de la Virgen, the dressing room of the Virgen de los Desamparados right behind the main altar of the church. This was recently declared a National Cultural Treasure. And when you're in the room, there's no question why it deserves the designation.

The room is used when her vestments are changed for the observance of the Sta. Ana fiesta on May 12 and other special occasions. On the ceiling are eleven large mural paintings on wood depicting scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus, said to be the oldest paintings in the country. The statue of the virgin is a replica of the original one in Valencia, Spain which I saw last year. Legend has it that to christen the new image, they allowed both images to touch before sending the new one on its voyage to Manila.

Beside the church is the Taoist Temple which also has an image of the Virgen de los Desamparados. Again, with the proper gilding, this will definitely become another attraction. We ended the tour with lunch at the Lichauco Residence.

The Heritage Conservation Society will be organizing a Heritage Tourism Workshop in Sta. Ana from May 27 to 30 to help the local community of Sta. Ana and other heritage communities in Metro Manila plan their heritage tourism programs. It's open to the public. Just call the HCS office at 5212239 for details.

Part 1: Sta. Ana, Manila heritage lost to the malls too! Save Sta. Ana heritage!
Part 3: More on Xavier House and Sta. Ana

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Manila: More on Xavier House and Sta. Ana

The Jesuit Philippine Province came out with a statement today on the sale of Xavier House which I quote in full below. I too was disappointed with the Inquirer article after I found out there was no truth to the rumor that SM had purchased it. SM was never in the picture when we discussed Xavier House. So I was surprised when the article came out yesterday claiming they had talked to someone from SM who confirmed the purchase. I thought they did their research properly.

SM confirms it purchased the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) property last year. Although they deny they had anything to do with the demolition, note that the demolition took place in December 2008 and was completed only last month.

Anyway, on Xavier House, the goal now is to move forward and find a win-win situation for all. As a result of the e-mail exchanges in the heritage community and the Inquirer article, concerned groups are trying to come up with proposals for the property, possibly raise funds to purchase it or propose something to the Jesuits to make it economically viable, thus producing a steady income stream. I will keep everyone updated since the the local community in Sta. Ana will be meeting over the weekend to discuss what to do next.

Statement of the Jesuit Philippine Province on the "Sale" of Xavier House
In its issue of 31 March 2009, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) ran a front page article on the ‘sale’ of Xavier House that demands some clarifications, not only because of its misstatements of fact but also on account of the innuendoes and implications it fosters.

1. The article falsely claims that a done deal has been made between the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus and the SM Group for the purchase of the Xavier House property. The Provincial and Province Treasurer are quoted as denying this; but a source from the SM Group (conveniently left unnamed) is produced to state the contrary. In no uncertain terms the article adopts the latter as the correct version. This is not true. The Province has had no contact with the SM Group, has not even gotten to the point of putting the Xavier House property up for sale.

2. The PDI article also tends to misrepresent the whole issue as if it were nothing more than a money-making scheme. It brushes aside the reality that the Province is in real financial straits, exacerbated by the ongoing world financial crisis. The rising costs of medical care for our senior and infirm Jesuits and formation for our younger men have taken a toll on province resources. These resources are dedicated to almost a third of Philippine Jesuits who are in formation, and an even bigger group of some 110 who are over 70 years of age, 61 of whom are 80 and above. Along with this, the Province also has to support other works that are not self-sufficient. It is unfortunate that people do not realize that the Province is not Ateneo de Manila or Xavier School, and that funds do not come out of one big pot that is commonly shared.

3. Fr. James Reuter, with whom I spoke this morning, is very much dismayed at and disturbed by the PDI article. He lamented the distortions it presented and the picture of him and of the Jesuits that the article unfairly painted. Father Reuter continues to affirm that the Society of Jesus he entered almost seventy-five years ago has always cared for him and will continue to do so to the end. He well knows that despite all difficulties, the Philippine Province remains committed to make sure that all our Jesuits in our different communities are provided for and attended to.


Part 1: Sta. Ana, Manila heritage lost to the malls too! Save Sta. Ana heritage!
Part 2: Camarin de la Virgen and more Sta. Ana treasures
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