Monday, January 27, 2014

Ilocos Norte: Paoay Church and Paoay's heritage houses

Diaz House, Paoay, Ilocos Norte
We're all familiar with the Paoay Church, one of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Most visitors visit the church, maybe have lunch in Cafe Herencia, then leave for the next stop on their Ilocos tour. But Paoay, Ilocos Norte has a lot of other interesting structures if you have time to walk around.

Paoay Church, Paoay, Ilocos Norte
Paoay Convento Ruins, Paoay, Ilocos Norte
Ever wonder where the convento of the Paoay Church is? It's on the left side of the church right across the street. Unfortunately, only ruins of the old convento remain. But they are interesting and worth a look nonetheless.

Duque House, Paoay, Ilocos Norte
On a parallel street, behind the ruins, is an American colonial house with a unique octagonal shape. Locals refer to the Duque House, built in the 1930s, as the Octagon House.

Diaz House & Carpio House, Paoay, Ilocos Norte
The Paoay Central School, a Gabaldon school, is on the other side of the church. The road in front of the school used to be called the Camino Real that linked Paoay with Currimao. On it are well-preserved Spanish colonial houses including the Diaz House and Carpio House.

Since you're in Paoay, it's now time for the best empanadas in Ilocos Norte. Guess where?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP) updated 01/26/2014

Spanish Colonial Era Municipal Building (Romblon, Romblon)
It's been quite a while since I updated the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP). I'm adding declarations made by the National Museum in 2012 and 2013, including Bohol churches declared after they were damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol on October 13, 2013.

Parish Church of the Holy Trinity (Loay, Bohol)
Fuerza de San Antonio (Romblon, Romblon)
Newly-declared National Cultural Treasures (Category I) include the Santo Domingo Church Complex and its Liturgical Objects in Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City (10/04/2012); the Twin Forts of Romblon: Fuerza de San Andres and Fuerza de Santiago in Romblon, Romblon (03/19/2013); the Parish Church of the Holy Trinity in Loay, Bohol, also a National Historical Landmark (10/22/2013); the Parish Church of the Santo Niño in Cortes, Bohol (10/22/2013); and the Motto Stella or Rizal Monument in Rizal Park, Manila (12/30/2013).

Parish Church of the Santo Niño (Cortes, Bohol)
Parish Church of the Santo Niño (Cortes, Bohol)
Both Bohol churches sustained heavy damage during the earthquake and were set for declaration when the earthquake struck. The declarations went ahead to allow the government to fund the restoration of the churches.

Three National Cultural Treasures were completely destroyed during the earthquake, namely the Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church Complex in Loon, Bohol, the Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Maribojoc, Bohol and the Balilihan Watchtower. The Balilihan Watchtower will be reconstructed. But it may be impossible to restore the two churches. This may lead to delisting in the future after undergoing the proper processes.

Old Provincial Building (Tagbilaran, Bohol)
Spanish Colonial Era Municipal Building (Romblon, Romblon)
Several Important Cultural Properties (Category II) were also declared namely the Old Municipal Building of Angeles City, Pampanga (06/12/2012); the Mauban Public Bath in Mauban, Quezon (07/14/2012); the Old Provincial Building in Tagbilaran City, Bohol (07/22/2012); the Spanish Colonial Era Municipal Building, Traida de Aguas and Bridges in Romblon, Romblon (03/19/2013); the Guyangan Cave System in Banton Island, Romblon (03/19/2013); Casa de San Fernando in San Fernando, Sibuyan Island, Romblon (03/20/2013); the Saint Augustine Parish Church in Lubao, Pampanga (10/28/2013); and the Parish Church of Santa Monica in Alburquerque, Bohol (10/22/2013).

Parish Church of Santa Monica (Alburquerque, Bohol)
A new category was created namely Significant Cultural Properties (Category III). The National Historical Commission of the Philippines has turned over the declaration of Heritage Houses to the National Museum. And these may fall under any of the three categories depending on their significance. The Category III structures include the Mauban Seawall in Mauban, Quezon (07/02/2013); the Chanuangco Sunico House in Binondo, Manila (08/05/2013); the St. John the Baptist Church in Garcia Hernandez, Bohol (09/27/2013); the First United Building or Perez-Samanillo Building in Escolta, Manila (10/23/2013); and the Holy Infant Parish Church, Complex and Convent in Valencia, Bohol (11/04/2013).

Holy Infant Parish Church, Complex & Convent (Valencia, Bohol)For the first quarter of this year, several declarations are going to be made including the Capul Church in Northern Samar; Gota de Leche in Sampaloc, Manila; the Lopez House in Balayan, Batangas; Colonial Period Lighthouses (a blanket declaration for all Spanish and American colonial period lighthouses) and the Mural Paintings of the Paete Church in Laguna. We will report the official designations as soon as the declarations are made.

We also encourage everyone to write the National Museum to request for declarations in your own communities. Bohol has been very active in writing the National Museum for declarations, which explains why it has had many declarations in the past few years.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Are you craving for an authentic Mexican taco?

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Cazo
What makes an authentic Mexican taco? Did you know that what many people consider a taco here in the Philippines is actually American or Tex-Mex. This is something I realized during my trip to Mexico where we got to eat at many neighborhood tacquerias. It's as authentic as it gets! A traditional Mexican dish, the basic taco is made with either a soft corn or flour tortilla, stuffed with various kinds of meat, as well as onions and cilantro, and served with lime for added zest.

Mexican Taco: Tacqueria El Paisa I, Queretaro, Mexico
Condiments are always included in any tacqueria. These include salsa roja or salsa verde (chili sauce), salsa picante (chopped tomatoes, onions, chilis and cilantro) which locals also call salsa mexicana or salsa bandera because the salsa contains the tricolor of the Mexican flag, guacamole (avocado sauce), and more lima (lime), cebolla (chopped onions) and cilantro (coriander).

Mexican Taco: Tacqueria El Paisa I, Queretaro, Mexico
Mexican Taco: Tacqueria El Paisa I, Queretaro, Mexico
The differences in the tacos are usually in the meat filling. It can have beef, pork, chicken, fish or shrimps. The meat can be grilled, spit-grilled, griddled, stewed, simmered or fried. Even the way the meat is marinated varies. You'd also often hear the term adobada. We had really great tacos at a popular tacqueria in Queretaro called Tacqueria El Paisa I which serves a wide range of tacos.

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Trying out tacos in various cities around Mexico, I've seen so many terms used like pastor (spit-grilled meat, carved to order), suadero (thin cut of beef from brisket), campechanos (combined meat specifically beef or bistec and pork, including longaniza or chicharrón), longaniza (sausage), tripa (tripe), alambre (meat cooked in a skewer then chopped), bistec (seared steak), cecina (salted and dried meat) and carne asada (thin slices of grilled marinated beef steak).

Mexican Taco: Tacos al Pastor
Mexican Taco: Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al Pastor stands actually look like they're selling shawarma. The vertical spit grills were said to be brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. But the flavors are undoubtedly Mexican. We had our first taste of Tacos al Pastor in Mexico City.

Mexican Taco: Tacos al Pastor
Tacos de Cazo is filled with meat simmered in fat and juices usually in a large metal container, that is sliced and heated on a griddle before serving. This stand in Mexico City was so appealing, seeing and smelling all the delicious meats cook in the metal vat of bubbling oil and juices. On another side of the stall, they also had Tacos al Pastor.

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
Many of the tacos we got to try around Mexico were Tacos de Asador or grilled meat tacos. These delicious tacos with assorted meats are from Palenque.

Mexican Taco: Tacos de Asador
There are also variations to the taco condiments like this taco served with avocado slices we had at a food stall in front of Teotihuacan. All this writing about authentic Mexican tacos is making me really hungry! I definitely miss Mexico even just for the delicious tacos!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Travel challenge: How to pack for a long trip with just 20kg

Have you ever wondered how to pack for a really long trip with only 20kg allotted for your check-in luggage? Wherever you’ll be spending several weeks on the road, such as a multi-country trip around Southeast Asia, Europe or South America, you’ll have to pack light and pack smart. Here are some tips to remember:

1. Weigh your empty bag
It’s important to know how heavy your suitcase is even before you place anything in it. Sometimes, the reason travelers have overweight baggage is because the suitcase was too heavy and big to begin with. Keep your suitcase at 5kg or less. That leaves you with 15kg which is still not much for a long trip. Try to find a suitcase made of light materials as well. Read more...

Mexico-Guatemala border crossing from Palenque to Flores

Rio Usamacinta, Frontera Corozal, Mexico-Guatemala Border
From Palenque, Mexico and its Mayan ruins, there is a border crossing into Guatemala to visit Tikal National Park for more Mayan ruins. You can easily book a trip from Palenque to Flores, Guatemala, the jump-off point for Tikal.  We left early in the morning on a van from Palenque to Frontera Corozal, a border town of Mexico. It's an exhausting five hour trip to reach the banks of the Rio Usamacinta.

Rio Usamacinta, Frontera Corozal, Mexico-Guatemala Border
As we arrived, only then did we realize we were the only ones on the van crossing the border. We were told to get our passports stamped at Mexican Immigration while the rest of those in the van were touring the nearby archeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak. The port for the border and the ruins is the same but the boats go in different directions.

Rio Usamacinta, Frontera Corozal, Mexico-Guatemala Border
We boarded a pump boat for the 30-minute ride along the Rio Usamacinta to get to the Guatemalan side. It was the first time I crossed a border by river boat. I was surprised that Guatemalan Immigration was not at the river bank but outside Bethel. We had to wait quite a while before a coaster took us to the Immigration outpost in Bethel.

Bethel, Guatemala Immigration
Philippine passport holders with US visas do not a need a visa to Guatemala. But I almost thought I would get denied entry since I did not have a Guatemalan visa and it was obvious they haven't seen any Filipino cross the border from there which was literally the back door. They had to confirm if I could enter. Finally, I got my passport stamp.

From the outpost, it was a two hour dusty and bumpy coaster ride through the hinterlands of northern Guatemala. Then it was another two hours on paved roads before we finally made it to Flores, the capital of El Peten, the largest and northernmost department of Guatemala. The trip from Palenque to Flores was a total of 10 hours.

Flores, Guatemala
Flores, Guatemala
The town proper of Flores is an island on Lago Petén Itzá, which you can reach by crossing a bridge. Travelers visit Flores because of its proximity to Tikal, the most visited Mayan ruins in Guatemala. But the town is quite charming with its cobblestone streets and colonial buildings.

Catedral Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios y San Pablo Itzá, Flores, Guatemala
Flores, Guatemala
The island is quiet and its quite easy to explore the entire town by foot. After finding a hostel, we explored Flores. The quaint character of the town was very pleasing. There are some interesting restaurants. The town's small church is actually a cathedral, the Catedral Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios y San Pablo Itzá. If you just want to enjoy the scenery, you can sit down at one of the lakeside hangouts and enjoy the cool breeze or even take a dip.

We booked our day-trip to Tikal and an overnight bus ride to Antigua Guatemala which we would catch after our visit to Tikal. We called it a night early since we had a long the next day.

Previous post: Pre-Hispanic City of Palenque, Mexico and Cascadas de Agua Azul
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