Friday, May 30, 2008

the Cacing Diaries #9

Month 3 + 3 weeks

It is easy to believe that infants develop distinctive personalities early. Our baby, Cacing, started showing her wily ways when she was as young as 2 months old. The older she gets – she is 3.5 months now – the more pronounced her interests and wonts become.

Like me, it appears that Cacing is a morning person. Between 5 to 5:30 AM, she’ll be up and about already, waiting for her playtime to begin. She starts the day by bouncing gaily on the lap of her nanny. After her morning bath at 8AM, she then would love to watch our laundry woman lather up a bubble storm. Bubbles just fascinate her and she’d be a happy camper watching them for an hour. Her morning routine also includes conversing with her mom and nanny although her responses are limited to unintelligible squeals and babbles. She enjoys exercising her vocal cords although we still could not figure out what she is saying. Just yesterday, for the first time, she projected her voice loudly when giggling.

She’d take a nap just before noontime for about 3 hours, interrupted only by the some feeding. Then, she’d resume her bouncing and babble play until it’s time for her 4PM bath.

She goes to sleep rather early in the evening, first for a stretch of 4-5 hours, which thankfully leaves my wife and I some personal time. By midnight, she’d ask for milk but would easily drift back to sleep for another 2 hours. She’d wake up at least twice more. We’d know as she would cry or make lots of noise.

My wife and I have already worked out a schedule. She’ll have evening duty and my post is after 1AM. I’ll have to make sure then that I take some nap late in the afternoon, or perhaps sleep early in the evening, so that I can wake up easily when Cacing stirs loudly.


A couple of weeks ago we received a stash of clothes from my sister and her friends in New York. So what better way to show our appreciation than dressing her up. This post is then for Lall, Malou, Tawana and Adrian. May you keep ‘em coming! LOL!

thank you Malou!
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/60s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 800, +2/3 EV
This is a 3-piece set- a pair of pants, a billowing dress and a matching turban. The ensemble is a gift from Malou, my sister’s good friend in NY. Thanks Malou!

the turban
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/500s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 100, +2/3 EV
Cacing looks mighty pleased trying on the turban. Her hair does get unruly sometimes.

chinky eyes
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/640s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 100, +1/3 EV
Here is Cacing and her sweet smile. She reminds me of my brother Jack.

bouncing baby
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 200, +1/3 EV
Cacing, this time without the turban and pants, in her bouncing mode. She looks like my sister Lall here.

evilette look
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/250s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV
She can be haughty occasionally. We call this her “evilette” personality!

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/500s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV
Here she is with her Amidala hairstyle, rubber bands courtesy of our helper. The clips are cheap too, at about P1 each.

Cacing in white
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/50s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 800, +2/3EV
Cacing still cannot sit or stand on her own so she is not versatile when it comes to poses. However, if she is comfortable enough, she can be a delightful model even when lying on her back. Here, she’s on her crib and flailing her arms in giddiness. I just have to be fast enough with the camera as in her exuberance and excitement, she moves too quick.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sunset Moments

This is an accompaniment of my sunrise moment blog. Sunsets remain the ultimate romantic moments, immortalized in many a movie scene, a storyline and a photograph. They remind us not only of day that just came to pass but also of another new one coming just around the bend.

Zamboanga del Norte, October 17, 2007, 5:28PM

The tidal flats of Jose Dalman in Zamboanga del Norte appear nondescript. But slather the rocky coast and the lonely waters with the colors of the sinking sun and you get affirmation that just about anyplace can be deemed romantic.

Jose Dalman
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/30s, f/3.5, 18mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV
Jose Dalman, Zamboanga del Norte, the Philippines

Canggu, Bali, Indonesia, November 11, 2007, 6:26PM

The place is Canggu and the occasion is Banyu Pinaruh. Although this ceremony of ritual bathing is prescribed during sunrise, the beach was still full of people until late in the afternoon as it was Sunday. After six, the sky started to dim and the crowd began to leave for home. The tide was just rushing back to shore and the sealine began to change. The ocean was seeking its own level and the earth can only oblige.

CangguCanon EOS 350D Digital, 5.00s, f/22.0, 24mm, ISO 100, +1.00EV
Tibubeneng Beach, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, February 3, 2007, 5:38PM

Surabaya is a historic city in East Java, known as a city of heroes. One of the most celebrated battles in Indonesia’s struggle for independence from the Dutch transpired in this city, specifically in Jembatan merah or the “red bridge”. Smack in the center of the old Chinatown district, the bridge remains busy and became a perfect spot for my panning experiments. I remember standing in the island in the middle of the road, cutting a figure in the busy late afternoon, hoping to catch fleeting scenes like the one below.

kid, waving
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/10s, f/5.6, 31mm, ISO 800
Jembatan Merah, Surabaya, Indonesia

Singapore, August 17, 2006, 7:06PM

I normally request for a window seat when I travel. I also check the direction of the plane so that if the flight is late in the afternoon, I’d ask for a seat facing west. It even pays to get a seat at the back of the plane to get a clear window view without the obstruction of the plane’s wing. Getting a clear and clean window pane is another matter. Luck always plays a part.

clouds on fire
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/200s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 400, -2/3EV
over the South China Sea, near Singapore

New York City, December 23, 2005, 4:42PM

New York City does not just qualify as a metropolis, it defines the word. Skyscrapers soar right vertically into the sky, traffic chokes mercilessly the concrete streets and lights flicker sizzlingly all night, all day. Laid on a grid, Manhattan is segmentized to upperside (northside), lowerside (south), westside and eastside. This makes it much easier to traverse on foot and simpler to orient when trying to capture the sun as it is about to set, need I say at the westside.

Gotham City
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/20s, f/20, 55mm, ISO 1600
NY, NY, the US

Kutuh, Bali, Indonesia, August 25, 2007, 6:27PM

Business can be mixed with photographic pleasure. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in the seaweed farms in Kutuh, Bali. Light was fading fast. The farmers have already left home and the boats were already tethered to shore. Empty cultivations lines confirmed the recent seaweed die-off . Replanting was ongoing. Tomorrow would be another day.

Kutuh gold
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 3.20s, f/25, 55mm, ISO 100, +2/3 EV
Kutuh, Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Photographing Philippine Mosques

In the 14th century, there was no Philippine nation, at least not in the political concept of a united archipelago of 7,107 islands under one government. What were extant were settlements and states called barangays, self-sustaining mostly but nonetheless trading on a regular basis with the Chinese, the Arabs and the Javanese. Islam was but a product of the cultural exchange with neighborhood islands that are now part of Malaysia and Indonesia in particular and Moghul India by extension.

Islam went far north in Luzon, even establishing a stronghold in Manila, although most of the islands remained animist with some elements of Hinduism and Buddhism. The fabric of history changed however when the Spanish came in 1521 and the subsequent imperialistic push of the Spaniards in the later part of the century became such a success that Islam’s hold in the country slipped. Today, Filipino Muslims comprise only about 5% of the population and are concentrated in the southern part of Mindanao.

The Muslim tradition in the South is understandably rich. In the 19th century, the power of the Islamic sultanate of Sulu was of significant import that its sovereignty extended as far as Sabah which it actually owned. Ethnologically, Muslim Philippines is not a single society but highly diverse. There are three main groups, the Maguindanao, the Maranaos and the Tausugs. Other subgroups are smaller and are marked by a different language and unique indigenous cultures, like the Samals and Badjaos of Sulu and the Yakans of Basilan.

Diverse they may be, these groups are united, firmly and inexorably, by religion. In this context, it became an exciting venture for me to photographically document the one identifiable symbol of the Islamic religion –the mosque or the holy place of worship.

I have been lucky to be a frequent visitor to the Sulu archipelago and these photographs specifically center on the mosques in Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province in the country. These gems are definitively lesser seen by the majority of the Filipinos, but no less outstanding for their distillation of the Islamic esthetics.

Mosque of Makhdum, Simunul Island, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

Islam was introduced in the Philippines by the Arabian missionary Sheik Karin UI Makhdum. He built the the first Muslim mosque in 1380 A.D. in the small island of Simunul just across Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi. Primarily fashioned of logs, the mosque in Tubig Indangan expanded as the population and the popularity of the religion grew.

Since its foundation, it still is a functioning mosque. Today, the mosque of Makhdum is a national monument and is an acknowledged mecca of the Philippine and Asian Muslim religious. Every Friday is a busy affair where scholars, students and the faithful gather as a community of believers.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/6.3, 34mm, ISO 100
the mosque of Makhdum, Tubig Indangan, Simunul Island, Tawi-Tawi province, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines

Simunul Makhdum mosque
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1000s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 100, -1/3 EV
full view of the mosque in of Makhdum, Tubig Indangan, Simunul Island, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

The Sheik Makhdum continues to enjoy local mythical status. His legend includes that of a powerful imam who can lift 3-foot diameter pillars. His remains is being claimed to have been buried by two separate islands, one of which is Simunul of course. Both graveyards are claimed to be “growing” or “rising” to this day.

old post inside Sheik Makhdum Mosque-1
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/5.6, 25mm, ISO 800, -1/3 EV
one of four remaining pillars inside the mosque of Makhdum, Tubig Indangan, Simunul Island, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

the Makhdum Memorial, Sibutu island, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

The “other” claimant as the burial place of the Sheikh is Sibutu island, a municipality that used to be part of Sitangkai, the last set of islands that is nearer to Sabah, Malaysia than the main island of Mindanao itself. In Sibutu now stands a colorful and still unfinished memorial in honor of the Sheikh. Behind the memorial is the graveyard of the Sheikh which is just a plain marked mound of dirt.

Makhdum memorial
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 100
Makhdum memorial, Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

the Mosques of Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

Probably the biggest mosque in Sibutu is the one in Tandubanak. Sporting a pink and green motif, it stands proudly alongside the narrow and singular road that bisects the island. Without any wide angle lens, it is difficult to capture the full breadth of the beautiful mosque so the next best alternative is to show how stately it stands out against the wooden houses of stilts that are typical of Tawi-Tawi.

mosque of Tandubanak
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/100s, f/11, 55mm, ISO 100
the Masjid of Tandubanak in Sibutu island, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

Sibutu is a poor municipality. Its main source of livelihood is the open seas, most importantly seaweed cultivation, as well as the more traditional fishing. The economic constriction of the community does not preclude the people from sprucing up their mosques. Below is a mosque in Ligayen with its dome made of hammered GI sheets. The paint is flaking but the crescent stands proud as always.

dome of Ligayen Mosque
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1000s, f/4.0, 75mm, ISO 100
the dome of the mosque of Ligayen, Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

Masjid Haji Imam, Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

Sitangkai is an anomaly even in Muslim Philippines. The 25,000 people or so living in Sitangki chose not to live in the speck of the island but rather on a network of house of stilts on the reef, connected by walkways and manmade causeways. The main population belong to the Samal and the Badjaos, both of whom find it unimaginable to live on “enchanted” and “wild” land (kappat). The island is where you can find though the graveyards, the military detachment, the schools and of course, the main mosque of Haji Imam, the oldest in Sitangkai. It features four tall minarets and a golden dome.

Masjid Haji Imam
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/100s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 100, -1/3 EV
Masjid Haji Imam, Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

dome of Masjid Haji Imam
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 6.0s, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 100
the golden dome of Masjid Haji Imam, Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

Musholla in the Capitol, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

To cap the tour of mosques of the province of Tawi-Tawi, I will end in its capital in Bongao. Being part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Tawi-Tawi has a provincial capitol building that has a musholla (Muslim prayer room) in its topmost foor. Flanked with watchtower minarets at the corners, the capitol is located on the hill overlooking the entire poblacion (town center).

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1250s, f/5.6, 37mm, ISO 400
a corner minaret at the Provincial Capitol of Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi province, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines

The musholla’s interior is modern and sparse. Its walls and floors are made of hardwood. As in mosques, this one has no furnitures. In the picture below, you can only see a clock, a Koran bookstand and several sajada prayer carpets.

Bongao capitol musholla
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 0.4s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 400
the musholla at the Bongao Capitol, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Road to Bromo, part 3

continued from the Road to Bromo

Bromo sunrise

The Bromo sunset experience was fabulous. While fog hang around from late afternoon through sunset, the air cleared up by twilight. We left as happy campers knowing that we were lucky. People go to Bromo almost solely for the sunrise experience which even locals admit to be a lot more colorful than any sunset. True word of mouth. We were alone that afternoon. Totally. And that made our sunset viewing divine.

After a quick dinner, we retired early as we had to get up before 5AM. Unfortunately, to my consternation, there was some misunderstanding with the driver, so we were picked up rather late. We only made it to the viewing deck of Mt Penanjakan a few minutes before the 5:31AM sunrise.

I was shocked! There were least a couple of hundred people crowding the small viewing deck. There was hardly a space for us to squeeze in. The rows of prime spaces in the bleachers were already filled with scores of photographers, most of them armed with the fanciest of tripods and longest or widest of lenses.

Unfortunately for everybody, the valley below was blanketed with thick fog. I asked around, and that magical 15-30 minute window before the Bromo sunrise famed for the shift of colors did not happen. It was a major disappointment for most. I guess we did not miss a thing despite our tardiness. Luckily, there were fleeting moments of clear skies. One just had to be quick to capture the elusive scenes in such a short window of time, such as this one taken exactly during sunrise.

Bromo sunrise
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 20s, f/16, 18mm, ISO 100
the Tengger massif exactly on sunrise at 5:31AM, the Bromo National Park, Probolinggo-Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia

After sunrise, the fog was weaving in and out of the valley. The visitors already got shifty. Some groups started to leave and luckily, I was able to grab a choiced spot which suddenly became free. Just about the same time, the air cleared up. Although any grand changing of colors already had come to pass, the caldera and the myriad of volcanoes were now in full display. Seeing the majesty of Bromo steadily belching white sulfurous smoke and Semuru blowing puffs of black gases against the blue sky was worth the aggravation.

Bromo morning
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/320s, f/5, 40mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV
the Tengger massif shot, shot some 30 minutes after sunrise, the Bromo National Park, Probolinggo-Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia

By about 6AM, the sun was up and we decided to call it a day. There is still the trek at the foot of Bromo so we asked the driver to take us to the valley. I would have loved to climb all the way to the top of Bromo but we just did not have the time. We had to get to Surabaya by noontime.

The journey from Mt. Penanjakan back to the Tengger massif flats was rough. Traffic was heavy in the narrow road and visibility was difficult. However, right there in our jeep, we were treated with surreal sceneries. The fog, for starters, was like a white cloud rolling at the foot of the Mt. Penanjakan where we just came from.

fog at Penanjakan
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/250s, f/8, 35mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV
a fog blanket at the foot of Mt Penanjakan, the Bromo National Park, Probolinggo-Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia

the Sea of sand

In thirty minutes time, we arrived at our pit stop, in the middle of the caldera. There were already at least twenty cars parked by the road. Joining the throngs of visitors who are ahead of us, we began crossing the lautan pasir, literally the” sea of sand”. Trudging on the fine gray volcanic sand was enjoyable exercise. I’ve never walked over lava plain before. It felt like I was on a beach of fine gray sand only that there were no ocean. The sun was glaring but as the elevation was about a thousand meters above sea level, the temperature was mild, bordering on cold.

lautan pasir
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/16, 55mm, ISO 400, -1.00 EV
the rows of 4x4 transports parking by the road of the Bromo National Park, Probolinggo-Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia

horseman of Tengger
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/22, 18mm, ISO 400, 1/3EV
a Tengger horseman with Mt Batok at the background, at the sea of sand, the Bromo National Park, Probolinggo, East Java, Indonesia

The first stop we made was at the Hindu temple nestled between Mt Bromo and Mt Batok, only about 10 minutes hike from the road where we parked. The temple was empty. Tourists were skipping it. As my Balinese friends said some prayers inside, I had plenty of time to take shots around the temple. Historically, the Bromo highlands became the haven of Javanese Hindus who were escaping from the wave of Moslem conquest in the 15th century so the towns around the caldera are still predominantly Hindu. I hear that every year, there is an annual grand ceremony where Tengger Hindus offer their agricultural offerings under a full moon. That would have been something to witness! Someday, I hope.

temple of Tengger
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/640s, f/16, 18mm, ISO 400, -2/3EV
the Hindu temple set against Mt Batok, at the sea of sand, Bromo National Park, Probolinggo-Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia

horseman by the temple
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/4000s, f/4.5, 85mm, ISO 200
a silhoutte of the entrance of the Hindu temple at the Tengger massif, the Bromo National Park, Probolinggo-Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia

to be concluded in the fourth and final part of the Road to Bromo.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Philippine Summer Destinations, part 2 (the isolation series)

True to the dictates of the word isolation, this series spells out my choices of summer escapes where you will be sequestered away from the madding crowd. Think of a hidden mountain resort, an exclusive privately owned island or a secluded retreat in the middle of the sea. Here in these nooks in the Visayas region, there can be no choice but to totally embrace what nature gives. Sometimes, we too can be willing exiles.

the sandbar of Bais-Manjuyod, Negros Oriental

This is the Maldives, existentialist-style. Imagine a sandbar in the middle of the deep blue sea, not more than 500 meters long during low tide and reduced to nothing when the tide comes back in. Three houses on stilts provide creature comforts but not much really, which is part of the sandbar’s adventurous charm. No electricity, just car battery-operated lamps. No running tap, just a barrel of freshwater. No radio nor television, just the sound of rushing waters and of course, the company you keep.

welcome to paradise
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/400s, f/8.0, 18mm, ISO 100, -1/3EV
the sandbar of Bais-Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, the Philippines

Inampulugan Island, Guimaras

I did not know that there is still a privately owned island in the Philippines, at least not one which is more than a thousand hectares big. The island is Inampulugan. Lying 40 minutes by boat from the southern town of Guimaras, Inampulugan is renowned as an eco-tourism haven years before the term was popular. The mountainous island is forested with hardwood, bamboo and coconut and dotted with centuries-old mangroves around its coast. It has beach coves, a cave, a mini zoo, a giant turtle sanctuary, a manmade seawater lake, an authentic WWII Japanese bunker and a thriving handicraft village. Now open to the public as the Costa Aguada resort, hideaway does have a name.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/50s, f/5.0, 18mm, ISO 200, -2/3EV
a manmade seawater lake, Inampulugan Island, Sibunag, Guimaras, the Philippines

Mambukal mountain resort, Murcia, Negros Occidental

A favorite mountain getaway in Negros Occidental is Mambukal. Nestled at the foot of the active volcano Canlaon, the resort juxtaposes the coolness of the highlands against the healing heat of its famous hot sulfur springs. Thanks to its seven waterfalls, rivers, lakes, jungle trails and bat sanctuary, adventure is also never far away. Mambukal is a favorite among nature trekkers who would gladly escape the bustle of the city for the cocoon of the wilderness.

before the plunge
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/30s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100
a waterfalls in Mambukal, Murcia, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

part of an ongoing series on Philippine summer destinations:
part 1 - Alegre (Cebu), Pandanon Island (Bohol), Siquijor Island
part 2 (the isolation series) - the sandbar of Bais (Negros Oriental), Inampulugan Island (Guimaras), Mambucal (Negros Occidental)
part 3 - (Pagudpud, Bantayan, Dakak)

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the Cacing Diaries #8

Month 3 + 1 week

It is a big day. Not only is it her monthly visit to the pediatrician, we've decided that today would be the day that she'll have her ears pierced. Infant piercing is customary in the Philippines. After much discussion, my wife and I agreed that 3 months is a perfect time. She still can't fully control her hands save for thumbsucking so she won’t be able to tug at her earrings and get any infection.

We had her doctor do away with the vaccine injection first. She did not flinch and did not cry. That was the easy part. The ear piercing was a different story though. She was getting sleepy and cranky. She was listless and we struggled keeping her still. Eventually, we just had to pin her head against her mom’s chest. Poor baby! But the doctor was swift and clinically performed her thing with the piercing gun. When we released her, Cacing, good girl that she is, stopped crying. The piercing was not much painful for her after all. She became all smiles soon after.

Isn’t she glamorous with her hypoallergenic pearl studs? In a month time, we can have her wear other kinds of earrings. Further down the road, on her own volition, she'll most definitely suffer more for this thing called fashion. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?

big smile
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/40s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 1600, +1/3EV
Cacing, the afternoon after her ear piercing, at home in Cebu City, the Philippines

shy smile
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/80s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 1600, +1/3EV
Cacing, the afternoon after her ear piercing, at home in Cebu City, the Philippines

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/100s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV
Cacing wearing a colorful colorful hairdo, at home in Cebu City, the Philippines

101 days

We were at the mall today when out of nowhere my wife suddenly mused Cacing is actually already hitting 100-days. I am not good in mental arithmetic – she is – so I counted the days on paper and lo and behold, it is. Exactly 101 days. That is 3 months and 2 weeks of joy for everyone.

Cacing has some other notables of late.

1. She would turn in the direction of a voice, seemingly, to engage in conversation.

2. She would squeal in delight and babble, rather loudly.

3. She would bear some weight on her legs. Her favorite preoccupation is being carried aloft with her feet touching the ground and she would playfully bounce!

4. Upon prodding and helping, she can grasp a rattle for a few moments and even play with it.
But as I’ve said before, I couldn’t wait for her to grow up. Tomorrow, I know, will bring more pleasure.

chinky eyes
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/320s, f/2.2, 50mm, ISO 100
Cacing wearing new clothes mailed from my sister in New York; shot at BTC, Cebu City, the Philippines

the pose
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/500s, f/2.2, 50mm, ISO 100
Cacing at BTC, Cebu City, the Philippines

mom and daughter pose
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/500s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 400, +1/3EV
Cacing and her mom, at BTC, Cebu City, the Philippines

and the puppetmaster squeals!
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/640s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV
Cacing squealing loudly when being bounced playfully by her mom; shot at BTC, Cebu City, the Philippines

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/640s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV
Cacing trying to babble her mom into a baby conversation; shot at BTC, Cebu City, the Philippines

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Magical Siquijor Island

Reputations can be cruel. The island of Siquijor in Central Visayas is a victim of its fame as the vortex of black magic in the Visayas, if not of the Philippines.

Stories of victims falling ill from a cursed look or a hummed oracion (incantations) run aplenty. As a child, I grew up with tales of my superstitions yaya (nanny) who professed that the deadliest mambabarang (voodoo practitioners) practice their craft in the island. Most recently, I have a professional basketball player friend who related to me that he suffered from a mysterious stomach malady after a basketball friendly in Larena. He only got well the next day after he visited a local village healer. Fact or fiction?

What is true is this. Every Holy Week, numerous mananambal (faith healers) from all over the Visayas and Mindanao would converge loosely in the hinterlands of Siquijor. There, in the “sacred” peak of San Antonio, these healers would perform ancient rituals and mix secret potions of herbs, coconut oil, earthen powders, reptiles and other ingredients as (e.g., flowers taken from processional carrozas), cooking them over a kawa (cauldron). The effective balaanong adlaw (sacred days) would start on 3PM Good Friday, immediately after the commemoration of Jesus’ death through Black Saturday and pre-dawn Sunday. The long-standing belief is that creatures of the netherworld, now free to roam the earth without heavenly watch, would grace the healers with their powerful presence, making elixirs, whether for the good or bad, more potent.

A former colleague in the Chemistry Department of the University of San Carlos where I used to teach claimed to participate in this convergence at Siquijor several times. A PhD in Chemistry Education no less, he came from a family of healers from Leyte, another island of renowned enchantment repute. The “knowledge” he practiced was handed down to him from past generations, who like him, had to perform secret tahas (religious sacrifice). Indeed he would always disappear during Holy Week and whether in jest or not, he would later regale us with stories of offering dances made in the crack of dawn – or was it full moon? – at bodies of water like the Mananga River in Talisay where he lived.

These are the stuff that anthropological studies are made of. Even the Siquijor government acknowledges the practices, harnessing them as an effective tourist draw for the island. Is it safe to assume the healers now have a healthy tolerance for strangers watching over their pre-Hispanic animistic rituals? Perhaps.

It is with a mixture of curiousity that I visited Siquijor then. As usual it was work-related and unforgiving as my official schedule was, I could not indulge my cultural interest and visit any of the famed healers, or even visit the mountain of San Antonio and its balete trees where rituals are performed.

What I found out however is an unspoilt island that brags of virgin forests, empty stretches of white beaches and religious and gentle people. The island is small. I was there practically only for half a day, arriving in the evening and leaving by noon. Four hours and we were able to skim the sights, from the port of Larena in the north, through the eastern coastal towns of Enrique Villanueva and Maria with its spectacularly wide Candaping Bay, the southern town of Lazi and its famous stone church and convent, the biggest in the country, to the popular beach resort town of San Juan.

Definitely, I need to revisit the place, during summertime I hope. And why not on Holy Week? I would willingly be enchanted in so many other ways.


Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/50s, f/5.6, 34mm, ISO 100
a flower garden in the Princesa Bulakna Beach Resort, Candaping Bay, Maria, Siquijor, the Philippines
phototip: Try a different perspective. Shoot straight down.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/25s, f/4, 85mm, ISO 100,
a fisherman and his son at barangay Candaping B, Maria, Siquijor, the Philippines
phototip: Invest time and effort to know your subjects and to get them at ease. After some conversation, I got them to pose for me, and I even used a tripod.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/250s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100
my mother gathering cosmos flower seeds at the Princesa Bulakna Beach Resort, Candaping Bay, Maria, Siquijor, the Philippines
phototip: I shot this at a low angle to highlight the flower patch.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1.3s, f/22, 47mm, ISO 100, +1.3EV
sunrise at Candaping Bay, Maria, Siquijor, the Philippines (unprocessed, uncropped photo)

fish pen
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/125s, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 100
a fish pen at Candaping Bay, Maria, Siquijor, the Philippines

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/60s, f/5.0, 18mm, ISO 400, -1/3EV
an old window of the hallway leading to the kitchen of the convent of San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor, the Philippines
phototip: Colored shadows always are interesting.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1.6s, f/5, 33mm, ISO 100
the Nuestra Señora Consolacion, San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor, the Philippines

Lazi retablo
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 3.2s, f/11, 18mm, ISO 100
the altar of San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor, the Philippines
That is an actual balcony at the base of the dome. A door can be seen off-center.

dress code
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/50s, f/4.5, 28mm, ISO 800
church dress code at San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor, the Philippines

Lazi church floor
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1.3s, f/11, 24mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV
the San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor, the Philippines
Note the original hardwood flooring which is rare

Lazi convent
the convent of San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor, the Philippines
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/80s, f/8, 18mm, ISO 100

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