A Man of Few Words: Jesus and His Betrayal, Suffering and Death

Mater Dolorosa and Nazareno

Mater Dolorosa and Nazareno

The most painful kind of affront is that which comes not from our enemies but from our friends.

“It is not an enemy who taunts me– then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me– then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship.” (Psalm 55:12-14)

When Judas betrayed our Lord, he did it for 30 pieces of silver. Like our beso beso, which is a sign of intimate friendship/kinship, Judas turned-over the Son of God to the soldiers with a kiss.

Betrayal in our lives comes in different forms: gossiping, back-biting and conniving. We experience this pain done to us both from friends and family. It is so painful, divisive and traumatizing that sometimes, we don’t know what to say.

Jesus had nothing to say. Jesus was silent. Yes, He asked the soldiers if they had come for a thief because of their swords and clubs but those were His only words. The Gospel accounts do not describe Jesus fighting or shouting back.

From His arrest in the Garden of Olives, the disciples had left and abandoned Him. How many times have we felt this from people we thought and believed were our friends and family? In those moments when we needed them most, we were left to our own devices to quench our doubts and sufferings.

Notice how our generation has forgotten the great importance of solidarity and communal respect. We are taught by today’s culture to satisfy one’s happiness, to put one’s needs first. “If you aren’t happy, how can you help others?” We are the generation of “Disney” – pursue your own dreams no matter what. At first, it sounds right. But then ask yourselves: how about our families? How about our colleagues? How about our country?

“I want to wear this because this is my true self” – you strut a scandalous dress, a most peculiar look, a blue-dyed hair, a tattoo that envelopes your entire arm.

“I don’t care what others think of me.”

What does this indicate? We live for ourselves alone. At the end of the day, perhaps, even your parents, spouse, children or even God have no say in your life.

I will be honest and frank, and maybe even, hasty.

I have noticed these past few years how people would post or share how their relatives or loved ones have passed-on via Facebook or Twitter. And what do people do? They simply post a comment that goes “Condolences…” or even, horror of horrors, “life” it! I haven’t heard of people going to wakes lately, of bringing flowers, food or even Mass cards. I’ve even heard of peers saying things like, “I don’t like going to wakes because I’m scared” or “I think it’s bad luck to visit the dead”.

I have a classmate from high school who died in a car accident. I have never heard of any of my other classmates visit his grave. Because of the violence and death we are bombarded with in video games, media and social sites, we have been numbed and turned indifferent.

Yes, we are living amidst the vainest, most selfish and convoluted persons we can meet.

But like Jesus, the afflicted and scorned remain silent. Nobody complains, nobody says “Why didn’t my friends visit my parent’s/grandparent’s wake?” It is crass to do so, anyway.

And when Jesus was scourged on the pillar and thereafter, ordered to carry His cross to Golgotha, the people were shouting, screaming and mocking Him. They were actually called “an angry mob” in Scripture.

Pope Francis gave a very moving sermon last Palm Sunday and his question was simple, “Who were you in the Passion of Christ?”

Are you like the mocking crowds? Or the spectators who did nothing and simply looked-on. Who are you amidst the jeering?

Jesus remained silent throughout the carrying of the Cross. I admit, when the work at office becomes tough, I complain loudly. I even post it on Facebook. I rant a lot.

But when does Jesus open His mouth to speak?

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” – St. Luke 23: 27-31

Finally, when He was nailed on the Cross, only then did He raise His voice but by then, it was only the voice of resignation:

“’Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last.” – St. Luke 23: 44-46

Every time those words are mentioned in the Gospel during a Liturgy, the congregation is asked to kneel for a few moments of quiet reflection. It is a sign of profound sorrow.

Today, as we approach the hour of His dolorous way of the cross and death on the Cross, we too remain silent and reflect intensely on the question: Who am I in the narrative of the way of the Cross?

Do I help the Lord as He carries His cross? Am I like the good thief, crucified too, and offering myself to His salvation? Or am I like the crowds and spectators – shouting, jeering and apathetic to the pains of the Son of Man?

As the song goes, “Where were you when they crucified my Lord?”

Jesus was indeed a man of few words, almost silent, during the hours of his suffering and crucifixion. It is the sign of His perfect resignation to the Father. It is the perfect response of love.

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The Great Mandatum: Maundy Thursday Reflection

The Mass of Our Lord's Supper in UA&P Oratory

The Mass of Our Lord’s Supper in UA&P Oratory

Before the popular display of piety that is the Visita Iglesia, the faithful are asked to attend the In Coena Domini Mass or the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It is usually scheduled at around 5:00 or 6:00 PM just as the hot summer day is ending, just when the sun is setting.

It is a Mass that is profoundly meaningful, bathed in rich symbolism. In fact, through tonight’s Liturgy, Holy Mother Church affords us the experience of recounting and remembering three moving instances when the Lord gives His great mandatum or command – Love.

But more than the rites of this Liturgy, one must take particular note of the timing of the Liturgy. It happens before dark. Darkness is a metaphor for evil, for sin, ultimately, of death. It is the period of sorrow, of confusion and loss.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is the lumen de lumine, the Light of lights, whose arrival into the world was welcomed with the sky opening and the Angels resounding with the triumphant hymn of Gloria in excelsis Deo. But Jesus did not give His greatest command in the light. No, He entered into darkness to exclaim His mandatum.

The expression of His commandment didn’t come easily. He too had struggle. The Son of God also had His moment of anguish, doubt and suffering. He too was betrayed and sold like an object for 30 pieces of silver. In Gethsamene, His apostles fell asleep as He was wrestling with the Father’s Will, his tears of blood evident of His great pain and fright.

The sobering sight of the Cross veiled in purpled (Mt. Carmel Shrine)

The sobering sight of the Cross veiled in purpled (Mt. Carmel Shrine)

Alas, the greatest act of His commandment occurred when “darkness covered the land”: when He Himself, the Son of God, died.

Upon His death, He brought the mercy, love and salvation of man into the world. By assuming the lowest and darkest point of human life, and then resurrecting on the 3rd day, He defeats death, sin and Satan and raises our lowly state to that of His friendship.

As we begin our Maundy Thursday reflections and prayers, let us orient ourselves closer to tonight’s Liturgy where, as I have mentioned, the Lord’s Love is expressed in three rites.

First, there is the Rite of the Washing of the Feet where the Church commemorates the institution of the priesthood. Traditionally, it should be 12 priests whose feet would be washed after the sermon. However, in our experience in the Philippines, there has always been a lack of priests. Thus, it became the norm here that laymen will act as the Apostles during this Rite.

The transfer to the Altar of the Repose

The transfer to the Altar of the Repose

Why does this express the Lord’s mandatum? And how can it be connected to the Catholic priesthood? When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, His words were:

He said to them, “Do ye know what I have done to you?13 Ye call me, ‘The Teacher’ and ‘The Lord’, and ye say well, for I am; if then I did wash your feet—the Lord and the Teacher—ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given thee an example, that ye should do as I have done to ye.

By kneeling down, washing and kissing the feet of His Apostles, He has set the tone of the ministry of the priesthood – it is of service and correspondence to His teaching. The priest is His servant, the priest is called to serve others.

Secondly, this evening’s Liturgy commemorates the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist. Tonight, the Gospel account is that of the Last Supper when Jesus issued the greatest legacy of His Life – the Most Holy Eucharist. The Mass is a gift from the Lord – “the source and summit of all Christian life” according to Vatican II.

From the first Last Supper, the Mass through the centuries has repeated the words of institution:

“And as they were eating He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, this is my body.’ And He took a cup and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them and they drank all of it and He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the New Covenant which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’” – St. Mark 22-26

In the Last Supper, we hear the words that the Lord says that replicates His Love and His very presence. For us Catholics, we believe that He is truly present in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist – body, blood, soul and divinity. The Mass too is an expression of His mandatum or command.

In this Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priesthood and Eucharist are connected and related as two of the greatest legacies of Christ’s love. We give thanks that we partake and experience in the continued mission of Christ through these two institutions.

Finally, the evening reaches its climax during the Procession of the Eucharist to the Altar of the Repose. By this time, the sun has finally set, and amidst the somber sounds of the the crotalus or wooden clappers, the priest, vested in cope carries the Lord under a canopy held by men, to the Altar of the Repose. Incense wafts and the ancient Eucharistic hymns of Pange Lingua and Tantum Ergo are intoned.

The Altar of the Repose

The Altar of the Repose

What does this Rite mean? It is the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane. From the table of the Last Supper, He proceeds to the Garden of His sorrows where He doubts Himself and questions the Father. Yes, the Lord too wrestled with His Faith.

But alas, He assumes the form of a meek lamb and accepts the Will of the Father. His apostles fall asleep but He remained steadfast in prayer.

That is the final expression of His commandment: prayer. The prayer of Christ in Gethsemane is the prayer we must emulate – deep reflection, silent introspection and dialogue with the Father.

Tonight, don’t be carried away by the Visita Iglesia. In fact, tonight’s more important act of prayer is the Mass. As you participate in the Mass and in the Visita Iglesia, make sure to pray. It’s not about tourism and it’s not about cultural appreciation.

The last rite of tonight's Liturgy transitions us to the Passion

The last rite of tonight’s Liturgy transitions us to the Passion

When you go to the churches, immediately go to the Altar of the Repose, kneel and gaze at the Lord suffering, doubting, praying and ultimately obedient to the Father. His command of Love is a command to obey the Father Who is Love.

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The Scandal of Jesus Christ: Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion

Venerating the Holy Cross of Pakil

Venerating the Holy Cross of Pakil

When He was born in Bethlehem, Jesus was not placed in a 5,000-Peso crib. Mary and Joseph didn’t spend thousands of pesos for his birth in Makati Med or St. Luke’s. Neither was he dressed in branded clothes for infants. He didn’t have an Instagram account at 6 months old and neither did he have an iPhone filled with games and applications for toddlers.

The main retablo the Cubao Cathedral spruced up for today's Liturgy

The main retablo the Cubao Cathedral spruced up for today’s Liturgy

No – Jesus Christ was born in a cave and laid on a wooden manger. The same element of wood figures predominantly in Jesus’ death: the wood of the cross. The theme of humility plays a great deal in the life of the Person we consider “our Lord and Savior”.

Today, the Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion, He is welcomed by people waving palm leaves as He entered the holy city of Jerusalem not on a war horse with a retinue of soldiers and a marching band but on a donkey, the poor man’s beast of burden. Like them centuries before, we welcome Jesus – whether He’s portrayed as a baby or an adult man – with cheers and joy. We go to Mass, we pray, we make the Sign of the Cross; on application forms we indicate that we’re “Roman Catholic”.

In His birth and death, Jesus is welcomed by cheers and hymns. At His birth, the skies resounded with Gloria in excelsis Deo. Upon His entry to Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday, He was welcomed with shouts of Hosanna.

As we begin the Holy Week – which EWTN eloquently calls “the week that changed the world” – let us take time out for these days of intense prayer and contemplation. It is not the time to go to the beach and it isn’t even the time to “bond” with your family. No, as Catholics, we are given this time by Holy Mother Church to reconnect with God and with ourselves. Holy Week is a time of prayer, silence and deep reflection.

Traditionally, Holy Week is a time to think about Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. But in today’s Liturgy, it is good to see Jesus’ life and ministry as a message of humility.

Then after He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, being set down again, He said to them: Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’ s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. Amen, amen I say to you: The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them. – St. John 13:12-17

The scourged Christ at the Pillar from the Pagrel Collection of Don Luis Araneta, on loan to the San Agustim Museum

The scourged Christ at the Pillar from the Pagrel Collection of Don Luis Araneta, on loan to the San Agustim Museum

Humility

Holy Week is a time penance and abstinence, basically of self-denial. It is an opportunity given to us generously (annually!) to ponder on the life, teachings and example of Our Lord Jesus Christ and on His way of loving. One of the key messages, however, of Holy Week, which we really fail to recognize in this time of ours, is humility.

How can humility be possible when at the click or tap of a button, we are “followed” and “liked”? At the moment a dish is placed in front of us, with one click, we take a photo and broadcast it to the world. “100 Likes”, “70 retweets”, “2000 friends”. In this day and age of social media, we are all guilty of that feeling of recognition, acknowledgment, of self-importance.

Instantly, the world can turn us into celebrities. In a moment, our thoughts become quotes. What has become of “silence”, “privacy” and yes, “humility”?

Do we equate social media with pride? No. Social media is also as an extremely critical channel of information. It has saved and connected lives, facilitated the exchange of important news and also, heartwarming stories.

But we must admit that our current environment makes it more difficult to be humble. When the “likes” keep rolling, when the “comments” flood and when “selfies” become a daily habit, isn’t it more admittedly hard to be humble?

What does it mean to be humble? Jesus. Look and remember Jesus.

Amidst shouts of praise, He entered Jerusalem on a donkey and not a valiant stead. Instead of people brandishing swords and throwing coins, he was welcomed with palm leaves.

And ultimately, when He could have avoided the Father’s will and pursued His position as the Son of God, we see, hear, read and know that on Maundy Thursday, He accepted His cup – He was betrayed, tortured, killed and buried.

Humility comes in many ways but nothing is more moving but that of living lives in silent courage and fullness. What do I mean?

I know of people who relish and indulge in their work, who adore their daily tasks, who enjoy their lives without talking about it, without broadcasting it. How many stories have we heard of rich, affluent men and women who give so much without asking for anything in return? We know of stories of men who “shy away” from the limelight, who always know how to recognize their team mates and subordinates.

That is humility. Humility is doing one’s obligation in silence, in obedience, in full trust of God. When we speak of humility, we speak of silence – no fanfare, no vanity. Humility almost always leads to substance or character. Humility strengthens us, makes us learn how to be tough, to be courageous.

Evil begins when we start thinking of what people think of us. When we concern ourselves with pleasing and impressing others, that’s when we begin to be vain, selfish, proud, pompous, arrogant. We begin to find ways to always be ahead, above or before others.

In today’s rather lengthy Gospel, we hear the Passion of Our Lord and it has an underlying message of Jesus’ humble obedience to the Will of the Father. In atonement for our sins, the Son had to be sacrificed. Jesus assumed the full human experience in suffering and death. Yes, He doubted and negotiated with the Father, asking God if He can take away the burden. But Jesus, in the end, took upon Himself our vulnerability.

Jesus’ example of humility is something we ought to truly reflect on as we try to wrestle with the standards of the world. As we are bombarded by reality shows, Youtube celebrities and the dynamic exchange of personal information, we are challenged by the silent carpenter of Nazareth whose life changed the world. How can humility be so powerful, so moving, so inspirational?

The triumph of Christ

How does humility equate to triumph? Again, we have the example of our Divine Master. Jesus had to endure the full brunt of His Cross – he was spat upon, whipped, hit, cursed, denied and abandoned. His parents were denied room when Mary was about to give birth to Him. Imagine the pain of rejection and the confusing despair that might have enveloped Joseph and Mary.

Holy Week retells Jesus’ story of humility and triumph, how His life, sufferings and glory are intertwined with our salvation. Christ’s humility is showcased from Passion Sunday to Black Saturday. His suffering, passion and death tell the story of God assuming the lowest and most humiliating point of human life: its end. Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross speaks of His surrender to the Father.

But it is this very same act of humility that Faith helps us bridge and connect to triumph. The Sacred Mysteries are precisely those instances when God overrides human logic. When Jesus was raised from the dead, we experience the triumph of His humility, faith and love.

His triumph is the victory of self-less love. Easter Sunday is the day when the Father fulfilled His promise. Faith comes into play. When we trust in the Lord, when we follow His hard example of leading a life of humble goodness, we know and believe that like Him, we too shall be raised to eternal life. For the believer, humility is a critical element of faith. To take that great leap of faith demands a surrender to the Will of the Father.

Christ’s triumph should never be equated to getting a trophy or a citation. No. The triumph of Christ’s self-effacing love happens when people are converted, when people are comforted, when people feel loved.

The apotheosis of the Most Holy Name of Jesus as illustrated in San Beda Abbey's sanctuary. Painted by Salvador Alberich, OSB and Lesmes Lopez, OSB

The apotheosis of the Most Holy Name of Jesus as illustrated in San Beda Abbey’s sanctuary. Painted by Salvador Alberich, OSB and Lesmes Lopez, OSB

Passiontide and His Love

Remember how we opened Lent? We began with the imposition of ashes as the following words were said to each of the faithful: “You came from dust and to dust you shall return.”

Humility comes from the word “humos” which is Latin for soil. Indeed, it is the great tragedy of the human experience. We are capable to reach great heights but in the end, our bodies rot in the soil. Our legacies and memories may be remembered. A crater in the moon or a mountain can be named after you. But in the end, you disappear.

Think about it. We store up riches during the week and eat, drink and enjoy ourselves on weekends. In fact, our entire lives are patterned after that routine. But God can sniff the life from us as we sleep. How many stories have we heard lately of young men and women in their 20s unexpectedly die of aneurism?

We are all subject to the power of God or for unbelievers, of circumstance. Let us savor wisely the moments we have. Instead of you putting your eyes only on the prize, how about you open your ears to good music, your mouth to new food or your hands to help? Sometimes, we see people simply as “human resources” and fail to see that they can be friends. We read and study too much when we forget that our mom might need someone to talk to. We rave too much about the newest material things when we forget to ask our house help how her family is in the province.

Know the essentials.

People spend so much on alcohol – and suffer its effects the next day and forget that the money they’re spending can be spent for actually something that won’t cause a hangover. I’m not even saying “give to the poor”. Perhaps the 2,000 Pesos you spend in one night could have gone to your MBA or travel fund. Or yes, maybe some donation. Let’s learn to know what is good and pleasing to God, and from there, act.

Ultimately, humility leads us to love others more than ourselves. When we begin to live-out this very Catholic virtue, we begin to truly become sensitive and compassionate. Humility frees us from sentimentality, which is a sign of vanity and pride. When we’re humble, we begin to open our eyes to the broader horizon – there are more souls suffering, there are more people in need of help and attention. A true Catholic finds his joy and happiness in others. That is the sad truth for this generation which has been bombarded with the Disney concept of loving one’s self. YOLO does not apply to a disciple of Christ.

Christ’s love inspires, moves, compels and empowers generations of believers to follow Him. Indeed, Holy Week was the week that changed the world because from then on, the work of our missionary discipleship began. When the Apostles experienced Jesus both as true man and true God, they were overwhelmed with great love for Him and for everything He stood for.

Thus, we have the Church. From the line of the apostles, we are called to follow their footsteps in encountering Christ, in being moved to embrace Him and in so-doing embrace His call to missionary discipleship. Before we can claim we are disciples of Christ, we must learn to accept and love what He stood for. His manger and His cross show us the way of a true disciple: that of humble service, silent prayer and deep faith in the triumph of the resurrection.

Amen.

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Mt. Pinatubo’s crater: beauty, tragedy and grandeur

It's more fun in the Philippines: we love volcanoes with lakes or lakes with volcanoes haha!

It’s more fun in the Philippines: we love volcanoes with lakes or lakes with volcanoes haha!

In the great scheme of things, many events cannot be explained.

This past weekend, my college blockmates and I climbed Mt. Pinatubo, an apparently squat volcano. We all had initial perceptions of an imposing, terrifying, dark mountain that was waiting for us.

Our weekend began with us traveling to Pampanga on Friday night after our respective work hours with a classmate driving for us to our host’s beautiful home in Guagua. We slept there so that we wouldn’t have to wake up too early and make the trip all the way from Manila on the day of the trek.

With the Aeta children we met

With the Aeta children we met

D-day: April 5, Saturday, 5:00 AM. We woke up and in 15 minutes, left for Capas. Apparently, it was still a good 1 hour and half drive! The Tourism Office and base camp where treks are organized are located in Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac.

At our 4x4 before the actual trip

At our 4×4 before the actual trip

A view of the first stretch of the trek

A view of the first stretch of the trek

The adventure began on our 1 hour and a half 4×4 ride. Boy, was it a bumpy ride! We almost felt like we were going to be tossed out of the jeep! We made a quick stop at one point to marvel at the serrated mountain sides and have a photo op. We were so happy to take pictures with local Aeta children not for posterity but to extend also warm affections.

Serrated mountain sides

Serrated mountain sides

As soon as the 4×4 was parked among a strip of other colorful 4x4s, our trek began. It was an hour and half walk over very rocky and sandy terrain under scorching heat. I think it was a good 39 degrees that morning. Luckily, it was breezy and the sight and sound of a flowing stream was consoling.

A very happy and satisfied bunch

A very happy and satisfied bunch

Alas, when we finally got to see the crater, it was an experience of immense joy. It was majestic, it was beautiful, it was edifying. There was one last stretch to get to the actual shores of the crater but by the time we got to the crater lake, our exhaustion momentarily disappeared. We sat on the shore and just marveled at the grandeur before us.

Irony of ironies

Unfortunately (really, it’s a bummer), visitors CAN NO LONGER (yes they used to allow) swim in the lake. It would have been a fuller experience if we got a chance to wade in the lake and enjoy the sun in the water. We had to contend ourselves at staring at the tempting lake. We were also lucky that one of the few huts were vacated, thus, we were able to avoid the sun even for a few minutes.

A very happy author

A very happy author

The crater is mesmerizing but also, provocative. How could its current beauty mask its reign of terror in 1991 and years after? How could a peaceful lake now occupy the crater of a mountain that spewed toxic ash, altering the world’s temperature and destroying thousands of hectares of farmlands and transforming these into waste lands? Mount Pinatubo’s violent eruption changed/destroyed centuries of pastoral activity, rural life and even, history and heritage in what was once a very affluent region of hacienderos.

A trek path or a real reminder of death and destruction?

A trek path or a real reminder of death and destruction?

On the way back. This was my favorite strip during the trek; a seeming nook of peace and shade

On the way back. This was my favorite strip during the trek; a seeming nook of peace and shade

Lunch was very cowboy. We ate our baon of fried rice, grilled chicken and pork belly (liempo) with our hands. It felt so rustic hahaha!

A few cigs and minutes of rest, and at high noon, we began our descent. It was far easier, at least for me. By then though, two of our companions were already feeling fatigue and were sporting serious head aches. Good thing there was a stop where they were able to wash their heads and refresh.

It was going to be a rough ride from this pic on

It was going to be a rough ride from this pic on

The return 4×4 ride, however, was far too tiring! For some reason, the trip was longer and bumpier. It came to a point I asked our guide “Malayo pa ba?!” hahaha

Aling Lucing's along "da riles"

Aling Lucing’s along “da riles”

At the base camp, we relished the presence of an old pozo and pumped water to wet our heads, foreheads and necks. We then made our way to Angeles, excited to eat and experience Aling Lucing’s sisig.

Indeed, we pigged out at the clean and well-serviced carinderia - the so-called birthplace of the famous Kapampangan bar chow. Cold beer accompanied our hearty meal of sisig, grilled liempo and tenga (pig ears), delicious ensaladang inihaw na talong (grilled egglplants) with green mangoes, tomatoes, bagoong (fermented shrimps) and delectable buro (fermented rice).

A meal for champions (or feeling champions hahaha)

A meal for champions (or feeling champions hahaha)

Read post here: http://cucharatenedor.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/where-sisig-is-a-heritage-aling-lucings/

Porky, unpretentious, simple, delicious: Aling Lucing's sisig

Porky, unpretentious, simple, delicious: Aling Lucing’s sisig

Our day still ended in the water we so craved. Upon our return to our classmate’s house, we indulged by swimming in the warm swimming pool and enjoying a good bottle of Shiraz, a couple of cold Pale Pilsens, good music and of course, awesome company.

The morning sun over our cabana in my classmate's house

The morning sun over our cabana in my classmate’s house

The next day, we were treated to typical Kapampangan hospitality by my classmate’s family who prepared a sumptuous breakfast for us. They left before we even got to pack (as they had family obligations in Manila that morning) but managed to make sure we were taken care of. Now that is hospitality.

Pampanga’s bane a few years ago, now a source of tourism activity: Pinatubo.

An image of serenity

An image of serenity

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Laguna de Bay Trip: Provincial Charm, History and Art

A breathtaking view of La Laguna

A breathtaking view of La Laguna

Whew! It has been a while. Lately, I’ve been focusing my blogging time on Cuchara Tenedor, my new food blog.

Well, going back, this post will be about my family’s two trips around Laguna. We haven’t really completed the so-called “Viaje del Sol” and neither did we conform to the tour’s package but we tried our very best to retrace the different notable towns found around the once-majestic Laguna de Bay.

In our two trips, we visited Morong (Rizal), Calamba, San Pablo, Pililia (Rizal), Pakil and Paete. The most memorable, of course, were none other than Paete and Pakil.

What we saw there were things we haven’t seen in years: the genteel provincial life where the church, plaza and market were the main hubs of commerce, encounter and culture.

The churches of Pakil and Paete were remarkable. Rich in artistic history, we marveled in the two churches flamboyant wood carvings and interesting, old paintings.

I am unsure if the towns in Laguna de Bay utilize their respective cultural heritage to their fullest potential. They don’t seem to as compared to towns like Vigan and Taal. Sayang.

I did enjoy this stop in San Pablo though called Sulyap. There were two houses in the compound and a large, rather, imposing modern structure which houses a museum. It’s a very interesting, charming place. The museum is full of knick knacks and the place is teeming with Torres wine barrels because apparently the owners were the former importers of Torres wines in the country.

Kulawo na puso ng saging. Their best seller

Kulawo na puso ng saging. Their best seller

Pako salad with vinegar and red eggs

Pako salad with vinegar and red eggs

They also served good and reasonably-priced food. My favorite was the kulawo na puso ng saging. Really, really good: smoky and flavorful. Their pako salad was what I expected and liked: refreshing, light and salty.

I won’t write as much because the photos will speak louder. :) Enjoy your summer with a quick overnight tour of Laguna de Bay!

It starts here: San Geronimo Church, Morong Rizal. From the church's doorsteps, you have what could have been a majestic view of the lake.

It starts here: San Geronimo Church, Morong Rizal. From the church’s doorsteps, you have what could have been a majestic view of the lake.

The road to Laguna from Rizal

The road to Laguna from Rizal

We ate at this palaisdaan type of restaurant (abundant in this area) in Pililia, Rizal

We ate at this palaisdaan type of restaurant (abundant in this area) in Pililia, Rizal

Now this is Tagalog: Pancit Habhab

Now this is Tagalog: Pancit Habhab

Pakil Church

Pakil Church

The main retablo of the San Pedro de Alcantara (Pakil Church) enshrines the miraculous image of Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba

The main retablo of the San Pedro de Alcantara (Pakil Church) enshrines the miraculous image of Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba

Venerating the Holy Cross of Pakil

Venerating the Holy Cross of Pakil

High Philippine Baroque expressed splendidly in these wood carvings of a side retablo of the Sagrado Corazon

High Philippine Baroque expressed splendidly in these wood carvings of a side retablo of the Sagrado Corazon

Side altar for Our Lady

Side altar for Our Lady

Some commenters say that the church displays Philippine "rococo style". However, in reality, we never really achieved Rococo here

Some commenters say that the church displays Philippine “rococo style”. However, in reality, we never really achieved Rococo here

José Luciano Dans' Judicum Finale over the confessional. What a good reminder!

José Luciano Dans’ Judicum Finale over the confessional. What a good reminder!

Pakil Church used to be visita of nearby Paete. Franciscan Fray Pedro Bautista (who is now actually a canonized saint), designated the location of the church and convento.

Pakil Church used to be visita of nearby Paete. Franciscan Fray Pedro Bautista (who is now actually a canonized saint), designated the location of the church and convento.

Idylic view: the church of Paete, a town of artists, sitting at the foot of mountains

Idylic view: the church of Paete, a town of artists, sitting at the foot of mountains

Santiago Apostol Matamoros guards the facade of this church while numerous artworks of proud sons of Paete adorn the church

Santiago Apostol Matamoros guards the facade of this church while numerous artworks of proud sons of Paete adorn the church

José Luciano Dans, a son of Paete, painted this iconic native San Cristobal at the church narthex

José Luciano Dans, a son of Paete, painted this iconic native San Cristobal at the church narthex

Cielo, Tierra y Infierno by Dans

Cielo, Tierra y Infierno by Dans

Stone bas relief adorn the exterior of Paete Church

Stone bas relief adorn the exterior of Paete Church

The charm of Solomonic pillars carved on stone

The charm of Solomonic pillars carved on stone

Fooling around with my peeps hahaha

Fooling around with my peeps hahaha

The Paete santero and his work

The Paete santero and his work

An elderly woman making TAKA, those ubiquitous red (apparently multi-colored) papier mache horses from Paete

An elderly woman making TAKA, those ubiquitous red (apparently multi-colored) papier mache horses from Paete

My predilection for santos finds solace in Paete

My predilection for santos finds solace in Paete

Sadly, poor zoning have obstructed vistas of the lake

Sadly, poor zoning have obstructed vistas of the lake

Passing through Pagsanghan's welcome arch

Passing through Pagsanghan’s welcome arch

My beautiful Mama at Ugu Bigyan's home and work space

My beautiful Mama at Ugu Bigyan’s home and work space

Some of Ugu Bigyan's pottery artworks

Some of Ugu Bigyan’s pottery artworks

Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant's 1907 Restaurant and Casa Obando

Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant’s 1907 Restaurant and Casa Obando

An altar of antique santos and vessels in the restaurant

An altar of antique santos and vessels in the restaurant

View of ventanas upstairs

View of ventanas upstairs

Posted in GUIA: TOURS, VIAJES | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Manila of our Grandparents’ Affections: Videos of Pre-War Manila

A beautiful Filipino family on their wedding day. This is the marriage of my Lolo Francisco Joaquin to Mercedes de Jesus Verdote in a church in Manila, which surprisingly, I cannot identify. The photo is dedicated to Lolo Francisco's eldest sister and her husband, the parents of my own grandmother.

A beautiful Filipino family on their wedding day. This is the marriage of my Lolo Francisco Joaquin to Mercedes de Jesus Verdote in a church in Manila, which surprisingly, I cannot identify. The photo is dedicated to Lolo Francisco’s eldest sister and her husband, the parents of my own grandmother.

For many unfortunate Filipinos, their only ideas of pre-war Philippines (or Manila) were products of poorly-guided and rushed museum tours, a few “scary” black-and-white photographs and inaccurate Philippine period movies.

I find it a blessing that I had relatives, in particular, my late grandmother, who told me of many, many stories of pre-war Manila. I am also thankful for the grace of being able to have read beautiful (but heart-wrenching) books on pre-War Manila namely those by Purita Echevarria de Gonzales and Carmen Guerruero Nakpil.

It was a beautiful city – a city of affections. It was cosmopolitan but genteel, laid-back but pioneering, a city of pious devotions and fantastic parties. It was a hotbed of innovation especially in the field of architecture. It was home to beautiful people – ladies in the finest Filipiniana who can switch to the fashions of America at the time, with their hand-painted abanicos and lace veils from Spain, children who spoke Spanish, English and sometimes, Filipinos, gentlemen in sharksin suits, Panama hats and canes.

Intramuros was the religious and cultural capital but the rest of Manila’s arrabales (suburbs) including “far-flung” New Manila and San Juan have developed into precious, quiet enclaves for the country’s important families and personalities.

The majestic bay of Manila was sight of countless evening paseos where families, lovers, priests and nuns, ex-pats and tourists would enjoy the sea breeze as they met and exchanged pleasantries amidst the backdrop of Manila’s iconic sunset. By 6:00 PM, all of Manila’s churches will toll their bells for the evening Oracion or the praying of the Rosary and the Angelus Domini either in Spanish or Latin. Families, upon the conclusion of the Oracion, kiss each other (the beso), starting with the most senior member of the family. Evenings proceed to the comedor where families, dressed in their best, will enjoy dinners where only the best table etiquette was allowed. Before retiring, they enjoyed tertullias – gatherings in the sala where poems are recited, musical pieces are performed on the piano, harp or violin or where animated conversations are held.

Beautiful. Meaningful.

Those days are over. Today, Metro Manila has warped into an ugly city of roads, highways, gated villages, monstrous malls and more monstrosities. The values of the generations after have been dictated and controlled by an economic market obsessed on sex and materialism. Classical music has since been replaced by obscene and inane lyrics. Why, even the Catholic Mass, once the unwavering connection between centuries, has since changed.

We are grateful, eternally indebted, to the people who recorded these precious videos of a Manila we will never experience but should forever remember.

We remember, in a special way too, those murdered coldly during the Liberation of Manila. The horrors of that episode in the history of our country should never be forgotten. God, a movie on it should be due!

They should produce one that’s very similar in quality to Oro, Plata, Mata.

Below are now some videos that record the horrors committed by both Japanese and American indiscriminate bombing on the city. The Japanese killed, raped and coldly murdered Filipinos, Spaniards and other persons in a desperate and deranged effort to keep the city.

We need to remember that the city of Manila was not a city of beautiful buildings – it was a city of affections, of memories. The violence of the war tore out, with force, the soul of a city.

Posted in HISTORICA | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

One cuchara, one tenedor, one plato at a time: Experiencing the Philippine Christmas Holidays

One of many family reunions during the Christmas Season. This was during our New Year Steak Night at my papa Johnny's

On our side of the planet, in the sweltering heat of the tropics, amidst the stressful, fatal traffic of Manila, we celebrate the Christmas season with much meaning and pomp: traditional but consumerist, excessive and religious. Each dining table, however, becomes witness to nothing but the best in us Filipinos. We bring out our best culinary and hosting talents every Christmas, preparing the most laborious and complex dishes we are accustomed too.

My plate from our family reunion last 22 December

My plate from our family reunion last 22 December

It is good to note too that Christmas in the Philippines brings out our most Hispanic character. Family, Faith and Food all come together in a seemingly well-orchestrated manner, one that is oriented both by tradition and patrimony.

My plate during Noche Buena

My plate during Noche Buena

For our family, this is no less true. As a family that loves to both cook and eat, Christmas is an opportunity to dig deep into our family memories and bring to life, as much as we can, several of our grandmother’s recipes (just like any good Filipino family, I think!) and toil the days away in our kitchens.

My plate during Media Noche

My plate during Media Noche

We Filipinos maximize the Christmas season by having reunions with our former high school and college classmates, ex-officemates, barkadas (our friends) and celebrating lavish company (and your own department’s) parties. This year, due to the unfortunate tragedy brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda, many corporate parties were cancelled and department parties were much hush-hush.

My plate during our 1 Jan dinner at home

My plate during our 1 Jan dinner at home

READ MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG at CUCHARA TENEDOR, my food blog here: http://cucharatenedor.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/nexperiencing-the-philippine-holidays-one-cuchara-and-tenedor-at-a-time/

Faith, Family and Food

Faith, Family and Food

Posted in COMIDA FILIPINA, LA VIDA FILIPINA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments