Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Europe: France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Vatican City, San Marino, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Andorra & Monaco 2011

Before I forget, I'm posting the summary of photo albums from my Europe trip last November 2011. We drove through Europe visiting France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Vatican City, San Marino, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. And I later took a train to Andorra and Monaco. Here are the photos from Eurpoe that have been uploaded to the Ivan About Town FB page.

November 8 - St. Gallen, Switzerland / Vaduz, Liechtenstein / Zürich, Switzerland
November 9 - Bern, Switzerland
November 10-11 - Florence, Italy
November 11 - Pisa, Italy
November 12 - Rome, Italy and Vatican City
November 13 - San Marino / Venice, Italy
November 14 - Ljubljana, Slovenia / Graz, Austria
November 15 - Budapest, Hungary / Bratislava, Slovakia
November 16 - Vienna, Austria
November 17 - Prague, Czech Republic
November 22 - Lourdes, France
November 23 - L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre, France
November 24 - Andorra la Vella, Andorra / Toulouse, France
November 25 - Monte Carlo, Monaco / Nice, France
November 27-December 2 - Paris, France
December 1 - Versailles, France
December 2 - Chantilly, France

Friday, February 10, 2012

Save the Misamis Occidental Capitol in Oroquieta City!

It's Architect Juan Arellano's week unfortunately! Another significant work of Juan Arellano could disappear if we do not put a stop to this nonsense. Architect Dom Galicia received a report early this week that the side wings of the prewar Misamis Occidental Capitol Building in Oroquieta City are being demolished.

The Provincial Government of Misamis Occidental is violating Republic Act No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Seeing an old photo of the capitol, Architect Toti Villalon notes, "What a beautiful Palladian structure the original was."

Here we go again! This time the local government is the proponent of the demolition! We appeal to Gov. Herminia Ramiro to stop this massacre of great architecture. We call on the people of Misamis Occidental to help us send the message across.

Thank you Gov. Herminia Ramiro!
Here is the recent update from Archt. Dom Galicia: To balance out the terrible news coming from the City of Manila, here is a long-delayed report on the March 28, 2012, meeting at the NCCA with the governor of Misamis Occidental regarding the fate of the Juan Arellano-designed capitolio.

Attendees were: NCCA Executive Director Emelita Almosara; Gov. Herminia Ramiro of Misamis Occidental; Arch. Raj Busmente, NCCA; Arch. Nelson Aquino, National Museum; Arch. Wilkie de Lumen, NHCP; Arch. EM Cuerpo and two members of his architectural team from the design-build firm of EM Cuerpo; Atty. Trixie Cruz Angeles, NCCA Legal Counsel; Ms. Kat Anuta, NCCA; Arch. Dominic Galicia, NCCA-NCMS.

After a lively yet cordial deliberation, direction was established regarding how best to respect and sustain the exemplary cultural and historical value of the capitolio, which served as the capital of a Free Philippines in the early days of World War 2. Gov. Ramiro instructed the EM Cuerpo design-build team to follow the NCCA recommendation to restore the Juan Arellano capitolio (including restoring the Great Hall, now subdivided into two floors and attic) and to house the expansion in a new separate structure to be built in the back. The new structure will act as a quiet background building, perhaps employing the lightness and transparency of green architecture. The Juan Arellano capitolio could one day house the provincial museum, of which there is none so far. The Great Hall could one day be used as the Session Hall. EM Cuerpo will submit three schemes for Gov. Ramiro's approval, with NCCA consultation.

EM Cuerpo raised concerns about the legal and Commission-on-Audit ramifications of the change in the design and the terms of reference. NCCA Legal Counsel Trixie Cruz Angeles allayed those concerns by explaining the power of the Heritage Law. NCCA would be preparing a letter to Gov. Ramiro which will serve as a document of rationale.

It was a remarkable demonstration of political will, once Gov. Ramiro made the decision to restore the capitolio and build a separate annex in the back. Generations will remember this decision of Gov. Ramiro. Not just Misamis Occidental, not just Mindanao, but the nation as a whole will be grateful.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Lakbay Norte 3: Dawel River Cruise in Pangasinan, Kart City in Tarlac & Pamulaklakin Forest Trail in Subic Bay

Bangus harvest in Dagupan, Pangasinan
On Day 6 of Lakbay Norte 3, we drove down from Baguio City to Dagupan, Pangasinan to try out the Dawel River Cruise. It's one of the newest attractions of Dagupan City after the local government cleared the rivers in the city of illegal fish pens.

The Dawel experience is similar to the Loboc River Cruise without the buffet lunch. But you can bring your own food of course. And since it's on a trial run, the local government is still offering it for free. But you have to book with them to make sure that there will be a boat that will leave during the day of your visit.

One of the side trips we made was to see how bangus is harvested. We also saw how the local community does mangrove planting to rejuvenate the mangrove cover of the area.

Pinoy Travel Bloggers in Dagupan, Pangasinan
At the port, we were feted with an inihaw na bangus (grilled milkfish) feast fresh from the catch we witnessed earlier. But that wasn't lunch since we motored to Matutina's Restaurant in Urdaneta for even more food!

From there, we proceeded to Kart City in Tarlac to enjoy an afternoon of karting. I didn't realize there was a go-kart establishment in Tarlac City. The group even had an endurance race which was a lot of fun! We stayed there until evening, enjoying the karaoke room until everyone was done showcasing their singing prowess.

The group was divided between Microtel Luisita and La Maja Rica Hotel. I stayed at Microtel Luisita. And like all my Microtel experiences, I really appreciated their chiropractic beds!

After breakfast at Microtel, we proceeded to Subic Bay. Our first stop was the Pamulaklakin Forest Trail to learn some jungle survival from the local Ayta community.

Cooking rice in bamboo or binulo
Ritz Tropical Spa in Subic Bay
Lunch was by the river also in Pamulaklakin. Before proceeding to Clark, we were treated to massages at the Ritz Tropical Spa.

Check out the video of Day 6 and 7 edited by Carlo Cruise. Also check out the photos of Lakbay Norte 3 in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Microtel Inn & Suites Tarlac
Luisita, Tarlac
Tel. No. +63 (45) 9851770 / Fax +63 (45) 9851975 / Mobile +63 (927) 7238454

Ritz Tropical Spa
Blk 76, Bicentennial Park
Rizal Highway, Subic Bay Freeport
Tel No. +63 (47) 2526088

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Manila loses Meralco Head Office in San Marcelino

Old Meralco Head Office as of 7:50 a.m., February 5, 2012 (Architect Dom Galicia)
Meralco Head Office before demolition (Architect Paulo Alcazaren)
It's being described as a travesty as vicious as the demolition of the Jai Alai Building! We just lost the Meralco Head Office in San Marcelino, Manila, an Art Deco gem designed by Architect Juan Arellano in 1936. Its facade has relief sculptures by Francesco Ricardo Monti. The Arellano-Monti collaboration makes the building even more significant.

According to Architect Paulo Alcazaren, the Meralco Head Office is "one of the key urban edifices in burgeoning Manila, the headquarters of the power and transportation company Meralco (Manila Electric Rail and Light Company). It was one of the most modern commercial buildings in Manila before the war and was designed in the Art Deco-streamline style. It had the country’s first air-conditioned office spaces (Carrier). The building’s most distinctive feature was a tall (four-story) sculptural relief by Francesco Monti."

On the Monti work, Architect Manolo Noche notes, "More than any other works by Monti, the 'Furies' is his one big commissioned bas relief that is not religious in nature. This should be declared a national work of art. If lost this is tantamount to artistic murder."

What saddens me even more is our helpless response to try to stop the demolition. It's about time we come up with a list of owners of recently demolished works of National Artists and renowned architects. It's really frustrating!

Alcazaren asks, "Why lose another heritage building? Why don't people see the value in conserving layers of history?" He adds, "[layers] without which we will eventually lose all ties to the past, all hope of a foundation for an urban future, a future that now seems destined to create placeless cites, soul-less buildings, devoid of history, culture or sense of identity, save those imposed by the gods of profit."

The fact that it is happening now, with RA No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 in place, is totally unacceptable. Maybe our legislators, especially the sponsors of the law, should start asking for answers. Have they given more teeth to an agency that doesn't seem to know how (or want) to use it? We need answers fast! The NCCA needs to file cases now!

Here's a close-up of the Furies by Francesco Monti being demolished as we speak. What are these ladies thinking now? What fury lies in store for Manila? Which side will win? Culture or commercialism? Heritage or the sledge hammer? A sense of place or a senseless, placeless city? (Architect Paulo Alcazaren)

Update (02/07/2012): Now that the dust has settled on the Meralco Head Office demolition and information is now more complete & clear, I realized that architects have a large responsibility in the preservation of our heritage sites. When the owner found out about the value of the structure, they stopped the demolition.

I hope the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) plays a significant role in the dissemination of RA10066 among its members. If there's anyone who should have understood the value of the structure, it's the architects. While they may not have had anything to do with demolition, they should have informed the owners immediately that there was a heritage building on their property. G&W Architects could have proposed an adaptive reuse of the Meralco Building as facade or entrance portal of the 30-floor all-glass building they were planning to build. At least the building would have had character.

As Dom Galicia points out, "There seemed to be no guidance from their architects regarding the value of Juan Arellano. The owners have stopped the demolition and Paulo Alcazaren is now going to try to convince them to recreate a replica of the facade, and to preserve remnants of the tranvia barn tracks."

Since it is not part of the competencies of the Manila City Engineer and his staff to know what is a heritage building or not (engineers have no training for that I would believe), we are now coordinating with the Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC) of the Ateneo de Manila University, which has been conducting comprehensive and intensive surveys and research on the built heritage of Metro Manila (NCR), to provide the LGU with that list. Too bad it's taking our government institutions so long to come up with a registry. Good thing the private sector is doing its share!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Lakbay Norte 3: Trekking in La Union & airsoft in Baguio City

Beachfront at the Kahuna Beach Resort
For Day 5, Lakbay Norte 3 visited La Union and Baguio. I almost forgot that San Juan, La Union had a high-end hotel for surfers and those who simply want to relax. We spent the night at the Kahuna Beach Resort. And I really enjoyed the facilities. Plus their surfing trainers come from Luke Landrigan's San Juan Surf Camp. So you get the best of both worlds.

Smoked Salmon Pizza at Thunderbird Poro Point
We actually arrived in La Union the night before, straight from Batac, Ilocos Norte. We first had dinner at the Thunderbird Resort Poro Point in San Fernando hosted by Department of Tourism Regional Director Martin Valera.

Surfers in San Juan, La Union
The group then proceeded to Kahuna Beach Resort to check-in and spend the night. Too bad we had to leave early the next day since the place was really cozy. After breakfast in Kahuna, the group drove to Bacnotan to visit the Holcim Plant to explore its ecotrail and plant trees in the property. Lunch was at the La Union Provincial Capitol before proceeding to Baguio City.

Victory Liner Terminal and Microtel Baguio
Calamares and Chips at Microtel Baguio's Te Quiero Tapas Bar
In Baguio City, we made a brief stop at the Victory Liner Bus Terminal where Microtel Baguio is located to try out Microtel's newest restaurant, the Te Quiero Tapas Bar.

Airsoft at the grounds of the Baguio Country Club
From there, the group went to the Baguio Country Club for an afternoon of airsoft.

The Manor at Camp John Hay
We spent the night at The Manor at Camp John Hay, another of our favorite hotels during Lakbay Norte 3. Dinner and breakfast the next day was superb!

Check out the video of Day 5 edited by Carlo Cruise. Also check out the photos of Lakbay Norte 3 in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa
National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo
San Juan, La Union
Tel. No. +63 (72) 6071040 / Fax +63 (72) 6071017

The Manor at Camp John Hay
Loakan Road, Baguio City
Tel. Nos. +63 (74) 4240931 to 43 / +63 (74) 4240945 to 47 / Hotline +63 (2) 5844911 / 5844892 / Fax +63 (74) 4240960
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