Monday, March 30, 2009

the Virgin of Guadalupe- a Philippine-Mexican connection

As historical bloodlines go, Mexicans and Filipinos share an interminable affinity, thanks to the same conquistador- Imperial Spain. In an almost physical sense, the two cultures were bridged by a navigational galleon “hi-way” which persisted for 250 years, from 1565 to 1815. This commercial link between the cities of Manila and Acapulco bloated the coffers of Spain, promoted an eventual immigration by the tens of thousands and in the process, inevitably and deeply acculturated the two racially divergent nations.

Guadalupe on cardboard
a glitter-laden stamp of the Virgin of Guadalupe at the Guadalupe Cave, Cebu City, the Philippines

Guadalupe at Naga
a statue in a grotto in Naga, Cebu

Take language. Do you know that the Tagalog word “palengke” may have originated from the Mexican “palenque”? The synonymous “tiangge” is likewise derivative of the Mexican “tiangui”. Mexico was also the likely source of the agricultural products which still carried the Castilian names like achuete, cacao, calabaza, camachile, camote and chico. Even the Mexican monetary standard, the peso, was adopted in the Philippines. In return, the Philippines exported products and the name terms for the Philippine mango, nipa and the coconut wine “tuba”.

Guadalupe on canvas
an image printed on canvas at the Guadalupe Cave

Guadalupe on cloth
a banner with a painted image of the Lady, the Church of Guadalupe, barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City

In religion, the Mexican influence could no more be demonstrated by the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This representation of the Marian apparition in 16th century Mexico is in fact the Patron Lady of the Philippines at large and of Cebu in particular.

guadalupe giant statue
a giant statue at the Guadalupe cave, Cebu City, the Philippines

guadalupe in plaster
a plaster figurine at a grotto in the cave of Guadalupe, Cebu City

In Cebu City can be found an eponymously named barangay where a replica of the Guadalupe image from Spain was said to have been long venerated. According to accounts, when the Filipinos revolted against the Spanish in the end of the 19th century, the statue was thought to have been lost in the skirmishes but a local devotee hid the centuries-old statue in a mountainous cave. Several years later, it was discovered intact and unscathed and the place is now named Guadalupe.

reflections on Guadalupe
the statue of Guadalupe in the Church of Guadalupe, Cebu City

ray of light
Guadalupe on wood, the Church of Guadalupe, Cebu City

All throughout Cebu, the Virgin can be found in various forms, from life-size statues, sculptures, prints and doll-sized figurines to even cardboard prayer stamps. As it turns out, the Virgin unwittingly has become the epitome of “primitive” religious art – as opposed to classical Roman – not just Mexico but also in the Philippines. Ethnic expression has found a home.

Guadalupe sa langub
the main altar inside the cave of Guadalupe, barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Philippine Summer Destinations, part 5

The good news is that the forecast of La Nina rains has been lifted. The Philippines will have normal summer after all! The season is expected to be hot, dry and sunny, just as we like it.

Where to head off to get some cool relief from the heat? Here are three more suggestions.

Samal Island, Davao del Norte

It’s officially known as the Island Garden City of Samal or IGaCoS. Really. Campy, yes, but true to its name which means to embrace in Cebuano, the island offers the obligatory white beaches (there are more than 20 resorts), several waterfalls (the prettiest is Hagimit), a world famous bat cave, mountain climbing trails, mangrove forests and orchards of sweet exotic fruits. Best part is, the island is only 10 minutes away by ferry from Davao City. This is paradise just a stone’s throw away from the big city.

the Hagimit falls in Penaplata, Samal Island
Canon EOS 5d, 1/12000s, f/4.0, 17mm, ISO 100

welcome to Paradise Island
for locals, the Paradise Island Resort is perhaps Samal island’s most popular resort
Canon EOS 5d, 1/12000s, f/4.0, 17mm, ISO 100

Panglao Island, Bohol

The island of Panglao is the “it” destination in Bohol. Immaculate fine sand, steep limestone cliffs, caves with underground streams, a bee farm, and two 19th century stone churches are just some of their come-ons. Boholanos are also known to be gentle, soft-spoken and hospitable. The island is conveniently across the capital city of Tagbilaran, connected by two slipway bridges. It too can be a take-off point to other destinations like the famed reef island of Balicasag.

the famous Dumaluan beach offers an expanse of white sand and clear blue waters
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/1250s, f/7.1, 7.1mm

colorful ukulele souvenirs at stalls in the famous Hinagdanan Cave
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/30s, f/5.0, 7.1mm

Mactan Island, Cebu

My home island of Mactan should be in the top list of summer destinations in any book. The stretches of white sand in the east (Marigondon, Maribago, Agus) and north (Punta Engano) are home to some of the best five star resorts in the country. Diving, water sports, island hops, spas are just one of the islands renowned attractions. Historically, this is the island where Magellan eventually met his match. In the shallow coast of Mactan was where he was killed in the famous battle in 1521. Lapu-Lapu City, the official name of the island, is no sleepy town. It is the location of the biggest and busiest export processing zone of Cebu and of course, the biggest international airport outside of Manila.

kayaks, Punta Engaño, Mactan, Cebu
kayaking is popular in Mactan
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/1000s, f/3.2, 7.1mm

facing the sunset
this limestone obelisk in Mactan commemorates the victory of the local chieftain, Lapu-Lapu, over Magellan
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/125s, f/2.8, 7.1mm

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eating out without meat at Big Mao

a Lenten special

Fasting and abstinence are fundamental expressions of penitence for Catholics during Lent. In all Fridays in the entire stretch of 40 days from Ash Wednesday up to the Holy week, the faithful are urged to skip meat (pork, beef, even chicken) in favor of more ascetic fare- fish.

Lo Han Chai noodles
Lo Han Chai noodles- the noodles come in bone dry but rehydrates beautifully in the soy-infused thick sauce; Php 140
Canon EOS 350D, 1/160s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 500, -1/3EV

Giving up meat is easy for me. I abstain not just on Fridays but for the whole duration of Lent. Conveniently for me, during this season, restaurants in the Philippines would typically expand usual their set menus to include more fish and seafood fare.

braised beancurd w squid and 3 kinds of mushroom
braised beancurd with squid and 3 kinds of mushroom- mushrooms and tofu are always my favorite all year round’ Php 250
Canon EOS 350D, 1/300s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 500, -2/3EV

In Cebu, a favorite destination for me for price, taste and service is the Big Mao Chinese restaurant which has branches in Ayala Terraces and the Crossroads Banilad. As you can see here in the photographs, I missed nothing much in terms of variety, flavor and experience.

crabmeat and shrimp fooyong
crabmeat and shrimp fooyong- this is a richer and more savory Chinese version of the omelette; Php 180
Canon EOS 350D, 1/80s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 200

birds nest soup
bird’s nest soup- there could some chicken bits here so this is not for the meat teetotaler but this is one hearty comfort food for many; Php 95 for a bowl for 3-4 persons
Canon EOS 350D, 1/80s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 320, +1/3EV

lightly coated fish fillet with milky sweet corn sauce
lightly coated fish fillet with milky sweet corn sauce- the sweet creaminess is not for everybody but the fish is fried to perfection (brittle crisp outside, succulent soft inside); Php 260
Canon EOS 350D, 1/125s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 500

prawn crackers
crispy prawn crackers- this trademark appetizer comes in free
Canon EOS 350D, 1/160s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 500, -1/3EV

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Friday, March 27, 2009

an Iloilo Visita Iglesia

a Lenten Special

Lent calls for atonement and spiritual reparation. It is an occasion for one’s inspection of life and its vagaries. During this forty day period called cuaresma vast numbers of Catholic Filipinos practice numerous traditions that are considered acts of penance. One such popular custom is the Visita Iglesia.

Visita Iglesia, or literally church pilgrimage, is the practice of going to seven different churches. Often but not exclusively performed during Maundy Thursday, the faithful follow penitential rites and recite the Stations of the Cross in each church.

Last year, in a trip to Iloilo, I went around the heritage churches of the province and I was able to finish an entire loop of seven churches outside the big city. In time for the season of introspection, let me embark on a photographic journey of these magnificent monuments of faith. This is my Iloilo Visita Iglesia

the Church of Sta Monica, municipality of Pavia

Romaneque in its solidity and Byzantine in ornamentation, this church is the only church in Iloilo made of redstone as opposed to furnace-fired bricks. The façade is dominated by three archway portals, simple vertically slit windows at the side and by the pediment and rose windows.

Pavia Church
Canon EOS 350D, 1/1250s, f/5.0, 21mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

the Church of San Nicolas de Tolentino, municipality of Cabatuan

Constructed in the mid-1800s, the church is the largest red brick structure in the Visayas. The central façade is plastered in white and is contrasted by the bare red bricks at each side. Influences of Tuscanic, Baroque and Neoclassic design pervade throughout the architecture.

Cabatuan Church
Canon EOS 350D, 1/400s, f/3.5, 18mm, ISO 200

the Church of Sta Barbara, municipality of Santa Barbara

This stone church made its mark as the headquarters of revolutionaries during the Filipino-Spanish war in the Visayas in the late 1900s. The Baroque Renaissance gem has a convent which is striking for its use of pierced-and-cut hardwood ornamentation and geometric Moorish patterns.

Sta Barbara
Canon EOS 350D, 1/200s, f/3.5, 24mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV

Sta Barbara convent
Canon EOS 350D, 1/125s, f/3.5, 21mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV

the Church of San Juan Sahagun, municipality of Tigbauan

Outside the church retains its Old World exterior- cut coral stones, a giant triangular pediment, a three-story campanario, arched windows and doors, a pyramidal roof, and intricate carved lace-reliefs around the central door. Inside though, modernity pervades- steel trusses, Byzantine-like folk mosaic and marbled floors. The late renovation has its share of critics and followers, with little in between.

Tigbauan Church
Canon EOS 350D, 1/250s, f/5.6, 22mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV

Tigbauan Church altar
Canon EOS 350D, 2.50s, f/8.0, 18mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

the Church of San Nicholas of Tolentino, municipality of Guimbal

Its yellow igang stone makes this late 18th century church a standout. Elegant, delicate and uncharacteristically light looking, this showcases elements of Greek, Oriental and Moorish design.

Guimbal ChurchCanon EOS 350D, 1/200s, f/6.3, 18mm, ISO 100, +2.0EV

Guimbal Church icon
Canon EOS 350D, 1/100s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

the Church of San Joaquin, municipality of San Joaquin

The gigantic pediment is its crowning glory- deeply carved, animatedly ornate, with an expressively militaristic storyline to boot (the triumph of the Spanish army against the Moroccan in Tetuan). Made of limestone and white coral stone, it is one of the select 26 churches declared by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts as a national treasure.

San Joaquin Church
Canon EOS 350D, 1/1600s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

San Joaquin Church pediment
Canon EOS 350D, 1/200s, f/5.6, 27mm, ISO 100

the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, municipality of Miag-ao

The best for last. There is only one UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Visayas and it is in Miag-ao. As one of four Spanish-era churches officially inscribed the international honor, the church is a masterpiece of Earthquake Baroque, with solid buttresses, 3-feet walls and massive belltowers. Its most famous features is the high relief carving on the pediment. With motifs like the coconuts, guava, papaya, vines and tendrils, it is a dramatic articulation of tropical art.

Miagao Church
Canon EOS 350D, 1/100s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 400, +2/3EV

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

the Way of the Cross: remnants of the burnt Oslob Church

a Lenten Special

Exactly a year ago, on March 26, 2008, tragedy struck. The beautiful 19th century stone Church of the Immaculate Conception of Oslob in South Cebu caught fire and burnt to the ground.

3 Jesus falls for the first time
III. Jesus falls for the first time

6 Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The story reads like any fire disaster in a developing country like the Philippines- short circuit due to poor maintenance, highly flammable materials and non-working firetrucks just across the church. Needless to say, a heritage fortress church, once the pride of the south, went down in flames. Basically left standing were the columns and walls of rugged coral stone and cracked plaster. Thankfully – and most say miraculously – the 150+ year old relief carving of the Inmaculada Concepcion survived the fire.

8 Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

In our visit to Oslob last month, it is clear that despite exhortations to rebuild the church within a year, the structure remains a hollow and unfinished version of its old self. Work is in progress but it obviously is still too slow.

10 Jesus is stripped of His garments
X. Jesus is stripped of His garments

It is the season Lent, a time for prayer, penitence, abstinence, fasting and sacrifice. In commiseration of the Passion of Christ, here is a photographic remembrance of the past glory of the church: the only six remaining extant carved reliefs of the Way of the Cross.

12 Jesus dies on the cross
XII. Jesus dies on the cross

Someday, in the near future, belief is strong that like the crucified Christ, the church shall rise up. From death comes resurrection.

13 Jesus' body is removed from the cross

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the Cacing Diaries #32

questions on bringing infants on board a plane: answered!

My wife and I need to be convinced that Cacing will do just fine in the multiple plane rides to Bali next week so about 2 weeks ago, the entire family (me, Dia, Cacing, my mom and Cacing’s yaya or nanny) went to Davao.

by the Davao City airport tarmac
arriving at Davao- my mom, Cacing and her nanny, my wife

Cacing, being about one year and a month old, hasn’t yet been able to travel out of Cebu. This was to be her first plane ride and we were uncertain.

glee in paradise
glee in Paradise Island Resort, Samal Island, Davao del Norte

Do we have to pay plane fare for infants? Domestically, for unseated babies up to 2 years old, the answer is no. International carriers ask for a steep fee though. We paid Cathay Pacific about $200 for infant fare for the Cebu-Hong Kong-Surabaya round trip.

Daddy's Little Angel
it’s the shirt…

What documents should be bring upon check-in? As a rule to prevent baby trafficking, airlines normally require parents to bring copies of the marriage certificate and the birth certificate. At Cebu Pacific, we were not asked these documents though perhaps because we all were traveling together as one family.

smiling in the boat
She immensely enjoyed the wind sweeping over us in a boat ride at Samal Island

Can we bring formula milk inside the cabin? Typically, liquids and their containers should not exceed 100mL but there are provisions special for infant formula and water for babies boarding a plane. In our case, domestic inspection was relaxed.

safari girl at Davao airport
Cacing is beginning to get comfortable with hats and no longer tries to remove them from her head

Will she be asked to wear a special seatbelt? No, she wasn’t given any. We did receive an infant safety flotation device to keep during the entire duration of the flight.

Would Cacing be disturbed by the compression inside the plane? Cacing was drowsy and was already sleeping soundly when we boarded the plane from Cebu to Davao. She slept like a log and only woke up at the tailend of the flight. She was curious at seeing the view outside when we landed and probably had no idea that we were not in Cebu. On the way back home, she was awake and seemed to have noticed the change in pressure as she tugged on her ears for awhile. We quickly had her drink some water and milk off the bottle so that helped. She did not cry at all. Excitement overtook her.

1st plane ride- asleep!
Sleeping fitfully in her first plane ride ever

Perhaps these all bid well for our trip next week. There’ll be some new complications of course. Aboard jumbo jetliners, cabin compression would be more pronounced and the Hong Kong-Surabaya leg would be about 5 hours not a short one hour hop.

juggling the lights at San Pedro Cathedral
inside the San Pedro Cathedral, Davao City, the Philippines

Then there are the numerous challenges in airport transit, hotel changeovers and late night arrivals. The hope is everything would turn out fine. We always have to look at the bright side.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

my 10 most guilty pleasures in Bali, part 2

…continued from my 10 most guilty pleasures in Bali (part 1)

6. get my dose of Haagen Dazs

It’s foreign, it’s exorbitant, it’s even unhealthy but what the heck, I want this sinful indulgence: Haagen Dazs. Best place to enjoy this American delight – don’t be fooled by the Scandinavian-looking spelling – is at the eponymously named café in Kuta Square, just a few paces from the complex’s flagship department store of Matahari. Scoops are about $2 and sundaes with magnificent sounding names like New York brownie special and the Royal Monte Carlo start at $5. I told you it’s obscene but I want it.

Haagen Dazs
the shop can create special sundaes for you based on your selection of ice cream!
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/640s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO100, +1.0EV

the Royal Monte Carlo
the Royal Monte Carlo made of rich tiramisu and coffee ice cream with layers of walnuts and almonds chunks
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/30s, f/5.6, 50mm, ISO 800

7. watch the sunset at Tanah Lot

It may be trite and over-marketed but the hype of the sunset of Tanah Lot is well-deserved. Little can be said that won’t scream a photographer’s dream: a temple perched on a small mushroom of a rock island in the roaring surf facing westward to the Indian Ocean, with hillside promontories to boot. Nothing could be more picturesque. Or romantic. Our wedding dinner was held here so this will always be a special place. I still visit this place whenever I can. Never, never boring.

Tanah Lot
golden sunset at Pura Tanah Lot, Tabanan, Bali
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/200s, f/4.5, 31mm, ISO 100, -1/3EV

the sun sinking behind the Tanah Lot temple

8. watch a cultural performance

For first time visitors, do not leave Bali if you haven’t taken a slice of Balinese culture. Seek and enjoy a traditional dance performance. There are numerous troupes in the towns of Ubud and Gianyar with regular scheduling (ticket should be about $5 a person). I know that a lot of these view-for-pay performances are commercially adapted to the needs of the tourists, meaning they are distilled to be short but flashy, but they provide an insight to the psyche of the Balinese. I have friends in Bali so I often egg them to take me to a banjar or village with a temple anniversary or a rite to celebrate so I get my fix for free. The Balinese live through arts and when they congregate, they entertain their children, the youth and themselves by showcasing homegrown dances, songs and other arts. Foreigners are welcome all the time. All you need is just politely ask to come in.

Kusumba performance
local girls entertaining a communal gathering in Kusumba, Klungkung
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/80s, f/7.1, 33mm, ISO 200, -1/3EV

the fan
on occasions, festivals are organized with free public performances like the one here in the annual Nusa Dua Fiesta
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/125s, f/5.6, 180mm, ISO 1600, -1.0EV

9. play badminton or tennis

With photography taking most of my free time in Bali, I admit I no longer could squeeze my obligatory couple of hours of sports. There was a time when I was a tennis nut. I even have a tennis racket which I deposit at a friend’s house in Denpasar which must be gathering dust now. On occasions, I go to a badminton courthouse in the big city too and practice on my smashes, lobs and drops. Honestly, if there is one country where you would like to be drilled on your badminton skills that would be Indonesia. People live and breathe badminton and you could only learn from the best.

Patty Schnyder
when I don’t play tennis, I sometimes would be a spectator. A WTA tournament is scheduled usually between September to December, participated by big names like Patty Schnyder
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/5.0, 230mm, ISO 1600, -1/3EV

Lindsay Davenport
… and Lindsay Davenport
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/640s, f/8, 255mm, ISO 1600

10. shop at Sukawati

I confess, I am an inveterate souvenir shopper. I’ve graduated from little disposable trinkets to functional houseware and supplies. Handicrafts from Bali are essentially conversation pieces in the Philippines- they are different, colorful and gorgeous. From handwoven bamboo fruit baskets to full relief Ramayana carvings, Bali has a lot to offer and there is no better location to scour for treasures than the biggest and liveliest art market in Bali- Sukawati. I actually enjoy getting lost in the jumble of stores, whether inside the main art market building or in the surrounding streets. There’s another building just across which houses food comestibles and household items catering mostly to the locals and the goods there are worth a try. Just one caveat: be careful on overspending. Think about your baggage allowance, which nowadays are at 20kg domestically and internationally within Asia. Too bad. There’s just so much to buy in Sukawati. All the time.

Sukawati baskets
brightly colored fruit baskets for sale at Sukawati, Bali, Indonesia
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/250s, f/8.0, 24mm, ISO 400, -1/3 EV

ikat blankets anyone?
ikat blankets can be a bargain if you know how to haggle
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/20s, f/2.8, 7.1mm

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