Visita Iglesia 2015: Ars et Fides

A view of the belfry of San Agustin from the clausura

A view of the belfry of San Agustin from the clausura

Visita Iglesia, an ancient Roman practice of visiting 7 or 14 devotional churches as a form of penitence, is traditionally done on Maundy Thursday after the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper. Pious activities during the Visita Iglesia may include reciting the 14 Stations of the Cross (1 or 2 stations per church) or reciting the Holy Rosary. Traditionally too, those who do the Visita Iglesa pause at the churches’ respective Altars of the Repose, a make-shift altar that temporarily keeps the excess consecrated Hosts to be distributed during the Good Friday Liturgy. An altar of the repose represents Jesus Christ’s agony and solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Until 70 years ago, Manileños completed the Visita Iglesia within the historic ciudad murada (walled city) of Intramuros, which hosted the mother churches and “headquarters” of the pioneer Spanish religious orders, and these were namely:

PRE WAR SAN AGUSTIN

the Iglesia de San Agustín (Augustinians),

The pre-war San Francisco. Located on the same plaza perpendicular to this church was the Venerable Orden Tercera's chapel

The pre-war San Francisco. Located on the same plaza perpendicular to this church was the Venerable Orden Tercera’s chapel


Iglesia de San Francisco (Franciscans),

Pre-war San Ignacio Church

Pre-war San Ignacio Church

Iglesia de San Ignacio (Jesuits),

The neo-gothic pre-war Sto. Domingo Church, one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines

The neo-gothic pre-war Sto. Domingo Church, one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines

Iglesia de Sto. Domingo (Dominicans),

San Nicolas de Tolentino, the mother church of the Recoletos, was the biggest church in Intramuros before

San Nicolas de Tolentino, the mother church of the Recoletos, was the biggest church in Intramuros before

Iglesia de San Nicolas de Tolentino (Recollects),

the chapel of the Monasterio de Sta. Clara (Poor Clare nuns),

Pre-war Lourdes church, the last church to be built in Intramuros
the Iglesia de Nstra. Sra. de Lourdes (Capuchins) and the

Manila Cathedral, the mother church of the Philippines and the seat of the Archbishop of Manila. These were located practically next to each other. After the Liberation of Manila, however, all but the San Agustín were mercilessly destroyed.

Nowadays, Metro Manila citizens have more choices for the Visita Iglesia. Both pious devotees and non-practicing individuals do the Visita Iglesia for a myriad of reasons. Some do it out of tradition, some simply to have something to do on a holiday with their loved ones. At any rate, here are 7 suggested Metro Manila churches one might find interesting to visit on a day that seems to become more and more an opportunity to travel and reconnect with our capital’s cultural heritage.

These churches represent different kinds of religious charisms and art styles. Some are historic shrines of devotions while others are associated with mysterious folk practices.

The Manila Cathedral's facade as seen from Plaza Roma

The Manila Cathedral’s facade as seen from Plaza Roma

Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción de María (aka the Manila Cathedral)
Address: Cabildo corner Beaterio, Intramuros, Manila

Destroyed during the Liberation of Manila in 1945, the current building was rebuilt in 1958 through the efforts of the first Filipino Cardinal, Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos. The 8th cathedral building to stand on the same spot, it was designed in the neo-romanesque style by a team of Filipino and Italian artists under the supervision of notable Filipino architect Fernando Ocampo. Technically, the Manila Cathedral as an establishment has been around for 430+ years.

Three Popes have celebrated Mass here: Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and most recently, Pope Francis. Beneath the cathedral is the crypt where past archbishops of Manila are buried. The reason why this church is important is because all the other archdioceses and dioceses in the country were technically established by the Archdiocese of Manila. The church also houses the biggest pipe organ in Asia.

San Agustin Church

Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción de María de San Agustín (aka San Agustín Church)
Address: Gen. Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila

The sole structure within ancient Intramuros to have survived the bombings during the battle of Manila, San Agustín is also the oldest stone church in the Philippines (founded in 1571). Any visitor will be captivated by the church’s splendid trompe l’oeil (literally play on the eye in French) paintings, which were done by Italian opera background painters Giovanni Alberoni and Cesare Dibella. The paintings give the impression that the ceilings and walls are carved when in fact, they are painted.

The interiors of San Agustin as seen from the coro

The church and adjacent monastery (which is now an impressive ecclesiastical museum) are important witnesses of history. In a side chapel at the altar, the remains of the founder of Manila, el adelantado Miguel López de Legaspi as well as other Spanish conquistadores are kept in a tomb. Near the entrance, at the Chapel of the Assumption, are the remains of the pioneer members of the Roxas-Zobel-Ayala-Soriano clan, a revered family in the world of Philippine business. In 1898, Governor General Fermín de Jaudenes signed the surrender of Manila to the Americans in one of the rooms in the convent.

In 1993, San Agustin Church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Quiapo Church

Basílica Menor del Nazareno Negro (aka Quiapo Church)
Address: Quezon Boulevard, Quiapo, Manila

Home of the famous Black Nazarene, Quiapo church is a devotional church that attracts millions of pilgrims during the fiesta of the said image of the suffering Christ every January 9. It is also at the very center of Quiapo, a pulsating district in Manila filled with vendors and different kinds of establishments.

The current structure was designed by the celebrated Manileño architect Júan Nakpil after a fire partially destroyed the church in 1928. In the 80s, the aristocratic architect José Ma. Zaragoza was tasked to expand the shrine. Both Nakpil and Zaragoza hail from buenas familias closely related to Quiapo.

The devotion to its most famous icon – the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno – began in the 1700s when it was brought to Manila via the Galleon Trade. Although some believe its dark complexion is due to a fire in the galleon, many have said that it is dark simply because it was carved from a type of dark wood commonly used in Mexico. Millions of Filipinos relate to the image of the suffering Lord, and have attributed miracles to the image for centuries.

The dome of the all-steel San Sebastian church. Notice how rust has eroded the paintings on the dome.

The dome of the all-steel San Sebastian church. Notice how rust has eroded the paintings on the dome.


Basílica Menor de San Sebastián (aka San Sebastián Church)
Address: Plaza del Carmén, Quiapo, Manila

The San Sebastián Church is one of the most interesting structures in the Philippine capital as it is the only all-steel and first pre-fabricated church in the country, and in Asia. Maintained by the Recollect friars, the current San Sebastián was designed by Don Genaro Palacios, head of city works, and was completed in 1891.

The steel parts were bought from the Societe anonyme des Enterprises de Travaux Publiques in Brussels, Belgium and were shipped to Manila in 8 steamships. Upon arrival in Manila, Belgian architects and engineers supervised its assembly. On the other hand, the original, not to mention, intact stained glass windows were purchased from the German Henri Oidtmann Company. The interiors were painted to resemble jasper and marble by members of the Escuela de Dibujo, Pintura y Grabado. Some of the notable artists who helped decorate the church were Lorenzo Rocha, Isabelo Tampingco and Félix Martínez.

The interiors of San Sebastian

The interiors of San Sebastian

The San Sebastián Church is the oldest seat of devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Brown Scapular. Currently, the church is being threatened by its most fearsome enemy: rust.

Abbey Church of Our Lady of Montserrat (aka San Beda Abbey)
Address: Mendiola Street, San Miguel, Manila

The glorious painting on the apse of San Beda Abbey

The abbey church of the Benedictine monks was completed in 1925 by the Swedish architect George Asp. Located along a street that has witnessed countless rallies, the monks’ abbey church is an oasis of beauty and peace that is not known to many. The neo-gothic structure is beautified by paintings on its ceilings and sanctuary by two Spanish monks, Dom Lesmes Lopez, OSB and Dom Salvador Alberich, OSB.

The church’s apse is decorated with a glorious illustration of the Apotheosis of the Most Holy Name of Jesus while at the center of the retablo made of cider wood is an image of the Santo Niño de Praga. It is also good to note that the church’s marble furnishings are made of Carrara marble, a bespoke Italian type of marble.

San Beda Abbey is a majestic sight when it is illuminated

San Beda Abbey is a majestic sight when it is illuminated

Dedicated to the Black Madonna of Montserrat (la morenata), the abbey church hosts solemn liturgies celebrated by Benedictine monks. Not many know too that St. Maximilian Kolbe, a martyr killed in one of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, actually said Mass in this church during his stopover in Manila.

La Naval Procession at Sto. Domingo Church

La Naval Procession at Sto. Domingo Church

National Shrine of Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de la Naval de Manila (aka Sto. Domingo Church)
Address: Quezon Avenue, Quezon City

In pre-war Manila, the fiesta of the revered ivory image of Nuestra Señora de la Naval de Manila – la procesion de procesiones – was a big holiday in the city, and was the start of the countdown to the Christmas season. Sadly, the beautiful gothic church of Sto. Domingo in Intramuros was the first casualty of war when it was bombed by the Japanese in December 1941. The miraculous image of La Naval was fortunately spared during the bombing because it was kept in a vault. From 1941 – 1954, the image of La Naval was temporarily housed in the Santísimo Rosario Church within the University of Santo Tomás.

In 1954, the new Sto. Domingo church was completed in Quezon City under the supervision of Arch. José Ma. Zaragoza. The new church is a cavernous structure designed in the Spanish California mission style and is currently the biggest church in Metro Manila.

The imposing Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City

The imposing Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City

At the entrance of the church are bas reliefs of the story of the Battle of La Naval and of Sto. Domingo all done by Italian UST professor Franceso Monti. Eight colourful murals retelling the life of Sto. Domingo are located in the nave of the church and these were painted by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco. Above Francisco’s murals are images of the Four Evangelists painted Antonio Llamas García, a popular portraitist among Philippine high society and a professor of art at UST. The church is beautifully illuminated through exquisite stained glass windows by Galo Ocampo.

Sto. Domingo is the biggest church in Metro Manila; it can get very warm inside on some days.

Sto. Domingo is the biggest church in Metro Manila; it can get very warm inside on some days.

In 2011, the National Museum declared Sto. Domingo as a National Cultural Treasure.

The cloistered monjas of the Royal Monastery of Sta. Clara

The cloistered monjas of the Royal Monastery of Sta. Clara

Real Monasterio de la Inmaculada Concepción de la Madre de Dios de las Monjas de Sta. Clara (aka Monasterio de Sta. Clara)
Address: Katipunan Ave., Quezon City

Immortalized in Dr. José Rizal’s Noli me tangere, the Monasterio de Sta. Clara is the oldest convent of nuns in the Philippines, and in the Far East. It was established by the Servant of God Jerónima de la Asunción, who at 14 years old, met the great Carmelite saint and reformer Teresa de Ávila. At 64 years old, she vouched to establish the first convent for women in Spain’s farthest colony, the Philippines. On a stop-over in Seville, her portrait was painted by the famous court painter Diego Velásquez. The said painting currently hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Sor Jerónima de la Asunción and the pioneer Poor Clare nuns finally arrived in the Philippines from Toledo, Spain after more than one year.

According to Fr. Rene Javellana, SJ, the Monasterio de Sta. Clara in Intramuros was considered “living death” because when a woman entered the enclosure to become a nun, she was separated from the rest of the world with a 30-foot high windowless wall. The only sign that there were women inside Sta. Clara would be the occasional hymns heard along the street as one walked by their monastery.

Monasterio de Sta. Clara

For centuries, it has been the practice of groups and individuals to offer eggs to the nuns of Sta. Clara to ask for prayers especially for good weather. Some say that the origins of this practice was the fact that the Spanish description for egg white is “clara”; thus petitions for clear weather was accompanied by offerings of eggs.

Like many religious orders, the Poor Clare nuns decided to leave Intramuros after the traumatic violence of World War 2 destroyed their 300-year-old convent. The nuns rebuilt their monastery in 1950 in Cubao, Aurora Boulevard cor. Katipunan. Until today, throngs of pilgrims go to Sta. Clara to offer eggs and ask the prayers of the enclosed nuns for various reasons.

If you are feeling extra pious or energized to do 14 station churches, you may also add to your list: Santuario del Sto. Cristo (San Juan), Carmel of St. Therese (Gilmore, New Manila, Quezon City), the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Broadway, New Manila, Quezon City), St. Joseph’s Chapel of Perpetual Adoration aka Pink Sisters (Hemady, New Manila, Quezon City), Immaculate Conception Cathedral (Lantana St., Cubao, Quezon City), Oratory of Sancta Maria Stella de Orientis (Pearl Drive, UA&P, Pasig City) and Santuario de San Antonio (McKinley Road, Forbes Park, Makati City).

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Recent Intramuros Tours

Calle Urdaneta, Intramuros, Manila

Calle Urdaneta, Intramuros, Manila

Ever since I took my tours seriously, I’ve focused mainly on the San Miguel area.

Part of Alex Romualdez' were my tour guests recently. Here they are in front of the sanctuary of San Beda Abbey Church.

Part of Alex Romualdez’ were my tour guests recently. Here they are in front of the sanctuary of San Beda Abbey Church.

My tour in the said district usually includes the Basílica Menor de San Sebastián (commonly known simply as San Sebastián Church), which is Asia’s only all-steel, pre-fabricated church,

When we visited, a Benedictine monk surprised us by opening all the lights of the Abbey Church. The lights showed the grandeur of the small church, and it was a treat for my guests.

When we visited, a Benedictine monk surprised us by opening all the lights of the Abbey Church. The lights showed the grandeur of the small church, and it was a treat for my guests.

Our Lady of Montserrat Abbey Church (or San Beda Church), the National Shrine of St. Jude, a view of the the Malacañang Palace, Teus, Goldenberg and Laperal Mansions, Machuca Tiles office, San Miguel Pro Cathedral and Casa Roces. All these San Miguel tours end with a hearty merienda at La Cocina de Tita Moning at a Legarda house in Calle San Rafael.

The group on top of Puerta del Parian

The group on top of Puerta del Parian

Intramuros' walls during sunset; the Lyceum at the back

Intramuros’ walls during sunset; the Lyceum at the back

More often than not, when a group asks for an itinerary, San Miguel is on top of my list. However, when a group asks for a specifically Intramuros tour, I do concede.

Puerta de Reina Isabela II

Puerta de Reina Isabela II

And I also concede that the Walled City’s charm never tires me. It’s always a joy to bring people around the old capital of the “Pearl of the Orient Seas”. Intramuros, once the bastion and stronghold of the Spanish empire in the Far East, is a story of glory and massacre, of beauty and death. And today, we are continuously hoping, that a new chapter of hope and resurgence will finally happen.

A view of San Agustin church's belfry from the convento's clausura.

A view of San Agustin church’s belfry from the convento’s clausura.

2015 is the “Visit the Philippines” year. Thus, the rehabilitation of Southeast Asia’s most European walled city is a necessity. Currently, we are looking forward to the fruits of the Intramuros Administration’s pedestrianization policies and the opening of the Intramuros Ecclesiastical Museum, which will be housed in the reconstructed San Ignacio church. As we speak, the former Mother Church – the sueño de oro – of the Jesuits is being rebuilt.

A view of the Manila Cathedral - the Mother Church of the Philippines - from Plaza Roma

A view of the Manila Cathedral – the Mother Church of the Philippines – from Plaza Roma

An oasis of beauty: San Agustin's inner courtyard

An oasis of beauty: San Agustin’s inner courtyard

Lately, I have toured guests in Intramuros and they have all been very enjoyable groups! The most common questions were:

1.) Why is Intramuros seemingly bereft of tourists considering it is the old capital?
2.) Why are there so many dirty parts?
3.) How come there are very limited food choices?
4.) Why were the ruins not preserved or conserved?

Tree tops seen from the ramparts of the walls of Intramuros

There was no easy answer to their questions. One reason though which contributes to the seeming stale experience in Intramuros is urban sprawl. It’s too cut-off from the high-traffic areas which are frequented by locals and even foreign visitors (i.e. Makati Central Business District, Araneta Center, Ortigas Business District, and Bonifacio Global City).

The stunning view of San Agustin Church from the coro or choir loft. Notice the marvelously painted (yes painted, not carved!) ceiling.

The stunning view of San Agustin Church from the coro or choir loft. Notice the marvelously painted (yes painted, not carved!) ceiling.

The clausura of San Agustin is sadly the only cloister left in modern Intramuros. After the Battle of Manila, the churches and convents were destroyed either by artillery fire or demolition.

The clausura of San Agustin is sadly the only cloister left in modern Intramuros. After the Battle of Manila, the churches and convents were destroyed either by artillery fire or demolition.

At any rate, my guests still tell me how they enjoyed and learned so many things about Philippine history and cultural heritage through my tours in Intramuros. Usually, my tours start at Plaza Roma then we proceed to the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church and Museum, Plaza San Luis then we pass by the Ayuntamiento, the Intendencia, the Maestranza, the Puerta de Isabela II, then we pass by el Colegio de San Juan de Letran and from there, we walk ON the walls (Muralla), passing the Puerta del Parian and exiting at the baluarte (bulwark) in front of the Lyceum. My tours usually end with meriendas or drinks at the Skydeck of the Bayleaf Hotel, which offers breathtaking views of the Manila Bay. It’s a wonderful experience to watch the iconic Manila sunset from the said restaurant which gives you a 360 degree view of the city.

Benny and Jeane at the San Agustin Musuem.

With Benny and Jeane at the Bayleaf Hotel's Skydeck with the Manila City Hall at the background.

With Benny and Jeane at the Bayleaf Hotel’s Skydeck with the Manila City Hall at the background.

For your Intramuros or San Miguel tour needs, don’t hesitate to reach me at 0917-4690717.

Intramuros' skyline just after the sun had set.

Intramuros’ skyline just after the sun had set.

Manila despite its countless problems and ugly/dangerous areas has so numerous nooks of beauty and inspiration. It’s always a joy for me to bring people to those places hicieron ayer.

A view of the National Museum complex from the Bayleaf Hotel's Skydeck

A view of the National Museum complex from the Bayleaf Hotel’s Skydeck

#VisitthePhilippines2015
#VisitPHL2015
#Itsmorefuninthephilippines

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Visit the Philippines 2015: Pearl of the Orient Seas

Paoay Church, Ilocos - A UNESCO World Heritage Site

I am a proud agent in the enterprise of Philippine tourism and heritage preservation. Although I facilitate my tours on freelance, by-request-only terms, I still actively promote our heritage, culture and history through my works as a writer.

But more than anything, the thing that any Filipino can do to truly promote our culture is by actually visiting the places that give us immense pride and deep joy in being Filipino. What do I mean? By actually visiting the Philippines’ towns, cities and regions can we truly be its foremost promoters. No amount of tourism campaign can ever succeed if the locals of a country are not engaged in the business of tourism.

Sunrise in Batangas

With the prevalence of cheap airfares and roll-on, roll-off ships, we should partake of the shared responsibility of visiting and talking about our country’s countless gems. We are the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” for many, many reasons!

Pako Salad. Pako is a common fern in the Luzon island and is a favorite salad. Its dressing is usually a light vinegrette.

Pako Salad. Pako is a common fern in the Luzon island and is a favorite salad. Its dressing is usually a light vinaigrette.

Our culture is an interesting mix of Malay-Chinese-Hispanic-American as well as organic movements; a truly Hispanic country in Southeast Asia with a robust Latino flair tempered by Oriental sensibilities and enhanced by a predilection for anything North American.

The nave of Our Lady of Montserrat Abbey Church or more commonly known as the San Beda Abbey was painted by two Spanish Benedictine monks, Salvador Alberich, OSB and Lesmes Lopez, OSB. The abbey church is daily open to visitors and is located along Mendiola Street, Manila.

The nave of Our Lady of Montserrat Abbey Church or more commonly known as the San Beda Abbey was painted by two Spanish Benedictine monks, Salvador Alberich, OSB and Lesmes Lopez, OSB. The abbey church is daily open to visitors and is located along Mendiola Street, Manila.

Indeed, our country is a place to behold, a nation of ironies but of undoubted natural charms and an archipelago dotted with man-made beauties.

Sinigang na Sugpo. Noted and venerable food writer Doreen Fernandez assertred that the Sinigang, a sour soup in the Philippines, is the country's national dish. It is a refreshing soup that usually contains seafood, pork or beef. It is paired with fish sauce with chilis and calamansi (local lime) as its dipping sauce. Other dishes that complement it are pancit guisado (stir-fried noodles) or deep-fried vegetable lumpia (spring rolls). Of course, Sinigang is best eaten with heaps of steaming rice!

Sinigang na Sugpo. Noted and venerable food writer Doreen Fernandez assertred that the Sinigang, a sour soup in the Philippines, is the country’s national dish. It is a refreshing soup that usually contains seafood, pork or beef. It is paired with fish sauce with chilis and calamansi (local lime) as its dipping sauce. Other dishes that complement it are pancit guisado (stir-fried noodles) or deep-fried vegetable lumpia (spring rolls). Of course, Sinigang is best eaten with heaps of steaming rice!

For those who intend to visit Manila and need help from a tour guide, yours truly can be at your disposal every weekend. You may simply send me a message and from there, we can plan something. My favorite itineraries are Intramuros and the San Miguel districts. I’ve toured several groups already in the said areas and I’d like to believe that all my participants in my tours learned a thing or two about the old capital of the Philippines.

A festival float from the MassKara Fiesta in Bacolod

A festival float from the MassKara Fiesta in Bacolod

For more information though on other Philippine destination, it is best to check out this website: http://itsmorefuninthephilippines.com

Just for inspiration’s sake, here are some of the most beautiful and breathtaking places I’ve seen in my beloved homeland. I truly hope you #visitthephilippines this 2015!

Mabuhay!

For nature lovers, we have adventure-filled mountain treks and fantastic bodies of water. Indulge in your love for nature and let our Philippine landscapes and vistas (well outside of Manila definitely) take your breath away.

Banol Beach, Coron, Palawan

Benguet Region in Northern Luzon is a haven for mountaineers and lovers of indigenous cultures

Benguet Region in Northern Luzon is a haven for mountaineers and lovers of indigenous cultures

Caramoan Islands, Camarines Sur, Bicolandia

Caramoan Islands, Camarines Sur, Bicolandia

Kayangan Lake, the cleanest fresh water lake in the Philippines, Coron, Palawan

Kayangan Lake, the cleanest fresh water lake in the Philippines, Coron, Palawan

Laiya, Batangas - just 3 hours away from Manila, the coast of San Juan, Batangas is dotted with numerous resorts

Laiya, Batangas – just 3 hours away from Manila, the coast of San Juan, Batangas is dotted with numerous resorts

Una vista de la Laguna de Bay

Malcapuya Island, Palawan

Mayon Volcano, the perfectly cone-shaped volcano in Albay, Legaspi

Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake

Mt. Pulag, the highest point in Luzon, the biggest island in the archipelago of the Philippines

Mt. Pulag, the highest point in Luzon, the biggest island in the archipelago of the Philippines

Tagaytay Lake which houses the smallest volcano in the world, Taal Volcano

The coast of Ternate, Cavite

For cultural-heritage lovers, the Philippines offers a unique experience in the Southeast Asian region as being the sole Hispanic and Catholic country in the area. From houses built in the arquitectura mestiza style, to Philippine Baroque churches, to our practices (i.e. fiestas, Christmas, Semana Santa (Holy Week), etc.) to our languages, the Philippine archipelago is home to rich history, art and cultural heritage. However, the experience of the Liberation of Manila (1945) left the country an irreparable “black hole” that can’t be ignored by Manila visitors because that chapter in our history robbed us of irreplaceable cultural heritage.

We are going through a lot of societal tumult because of “development”, and cultural heritage is quickly being threatened. It’s time to visit and support the Philippines’ heritage!

Balay Negrense - the Gaston House in Silay, Negros. This is open to the publc. For more:  http://www.balaynegrense.com/

Balay Negrense – the Gaston House in Silay, Negros. This is open to the publc. For more: http://www.balaynegrense.com/

Blackbird - the first airport in the Philippines was recently transformed into a posh restaurant that serves excellent Western, Asian and fusion dishes.  It is housed in the only art-deco building in the Makati Central Business District.For reservations, call (+632) 828 4888

Blackbird – the first airport in the Philippines was recently transformed into a posh restaurant that serves excellent Western, Asian and fusion dishes. It is housed in the only art-deco building in the Makati Central Business District.For reservations, call (+632) 828 4888

Calesa - the two-wheeler horse-drawn vehicle was the common mode of transport in the Philippines before. Currently, you can still find calesas in Intramuros and Ermita (Manila) and in Vigan.

Calesa – the two-wheeler horse-drawn vehicle was the common mode of transport in the Philippines before. Currently, you can still find calesas in Intramuros and Ermita (Manila) and in Vigan.

Calle Crisologo, Vigan is the most famous street in the Northern region because it is lined with turn-of-the-century houses that best connect us with our Hispanic colonial past

Calle Crisologo, Vigan is the most famous street in the Northern region because it is lined with turn-of-the-century houses that best connect us with our Hispanic colonial past

Cebu Cathedral, an example of Philippine Baroque architecture

Carcar Dispensary is the municipal museum of Carcar, Cebu, a heritage town south of Cebu's capital. It is dotted with several old houses.

The fiesta of Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila is a 9-day religious festivity that commemorates the miraculous victory of the poorly-armed Spanish galleons against the strong Dutch navy that threatened to invade the Philippines in the 1600s.

The fiesta of Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila is a 9-day religious festivity that commemorates the miraculous victory of the poorly-armed Spanish galleons against the strong Dutch navy that threatened to invade the Philippines in the 1600s.

The  Basílica Menor de San Sebastián is the only all-steel, prefabricated neo-gothic church in Asia. To support its conservation, pay the church a visit!

The Basílica Menor de San Sebastián is the only all-steel, prefabricated neo-gothic church in Asia. To support its conservation, pay the church a visit!

Manila Cathedral, the mother church of the Philippines from which all subsequent archdioceses and dioceses sprung forth

Manila Cathedral, the mother church of the Philippines from which all subsequent archdioceses and dioceses sprung forth

San Agustin Church, Intramuros is the only pre-war surviving structure. It is a direct link to the majesty of pre-war Manila.

San Agustin Church, Intramuros is the only pre-war surviving structure. It is a direct link to the majesty of pre-war Manila.

Hacienda culture is prevalent in the central provinces of Visayas especially in Negros and Iloilo. This is the Lopez Mansion in Jaro, Iloilo.

Hacienda culture is prevalent in the central provinces of Visayas especially in Negros and Iloilo. This is the Lopez Mansion in Jaro, Iloilo.

Manila Hotel, an American-era gem

Manila Hotel, an American-era gem

Betis' parish church is considered the "Sisten Chapel of the Philippines" because of the colorful paintings that adorn its walls and ceilings.

Betis’ parish church is considered the “Sisten Chapel of the Philippines” because of the colorful paintings that adorn its walls and ceilings.

Pakil Church, Laguna is one of several churches in the Laguna provice which boasts of exquisite church interiors. Pakil's church is home to Our Lady of Turumba which draws thousands of pilgrims every feast day.

Pakil Church, Laguna is one of several churches in the Laguna provice which boasts of exquisite church interiors. Pakil’s church is home to Our Lady of Turumba which draws thousands of pilgrims every feast day.

The Philippine Post Office is an imposing neo-classical edifice built during the American period.

The Philippine Post Office is an imposing neo-classical edifice built during the American period.

Plaza San Luis was constructed by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos to give Filipinos a tangible experience of how residences in pre-war Manila were like. It is located accross San Agustin Church and Convent.

For food lovers, Philippine cuisine is a a pretty symphony of Hispanic, American, Chinese and Malay-influenced dishes. Unlike other Southeast Asian cuisines, Filipino flavors are not as spicy nor strong. Philippine cuisine can be characterized as something that prefers balanced flavors. We may balance out strong flavors either by adding an ingredient in the dish or complementing it with an appropriate dipping sauce (i.e. soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, shrimp paste, etc.) or side dish (i.e. pickled papayas, pickled mangoes, salted eggs, etc.).

Today also, the Philippines’ metropolitan cities are witnessing a boom in Filipinos’ taste in various cuisines such as Japanese (specifically ramen), Korean or Middle Eastern.

Chinese cuisine has long occupied a place in Filipinos’ culinary preferences because even historical records would show that the Spanish colonizers loved to go to the Chinese ghetto (Parian) to have their meals. Indeed, Chinese cuisine in the Philippines is very savory because it also adopted Western and Latin ingredients brought over during the Galleon trade.

For Filipino cuisine to be best appreciated, though, people would still suggest that you find a Filipino family to host you for lunch or dinner. Sunday lunches in countless Filipino families are still important weekly gatherings that start at noon and extend until dinner time. Filipino hospitality and generosity are best seen and experienced on the family table which is often laden with dishes that speak of the country’s rich natural resources: fresh fruits, seafood, savory meat dishes and decadently sweet desserts all proclaim the archipelago’s bountiful lands and seas as well as its colorful heritage.

Native chicken cooked adobo style with gata (coconut cream). Adobo is the process of cooking with vinegar, garlic, pepper corns, bay leaf and sometimes, soy sauce.

Native chicken cooked adobo style with gata (coconut cream). Adobo is the process of cooking with vinegar, garlic, pepper corns, bay leaf and sometimes, soy sauce.

Bagnet is a common pork dish in the Ilocos region . It's pork belly deep-fried to crisp perfection. It is used too as toppings to other dishes most commonly with the Pakbet, a dish of vegetables stewed in shrimp paste.

Bagnet is a common pork dish in the Ilocos region . It’s pork belly deep-fried to crisp perfection. It is used too as toppings to other dishes most commonly with the Pakbet, a dish of vegetables stewed in shrimp paste.

The Philippines is haven for seafood lovers because of the availabilty of seafood.

The Philippines is haven for seafood lovers because of the availabilty of seafood.

A Sunday lunch of fresh vegetables, sinigang (our sour soup) na Lapu-Lapu, grilled pork belly (liempo) and grilled squid stuffed with tomatoes and onions.

A Sunday lunch of fresh vegetables, sinigang (our sour soup) na Lapu-Lapu, grilled pork belly (liempo) and grilled squid stuffed with tomatoes and onions.

The Spanish connection: fluffy ensaiamda with queso de bola from Mrs. Cunanan, jamon serrano and cheddar cheese. This is a common snack among more affluent Filipinos.

The Spanish connection: fluffy ensaiamda with queso de bola from Mrs. Cunanan, jamon serrano and cheddar cheese. This is a common snack among more affluent Filipinos.

Leche Flan

Laoag Longganisa - the longganisa is our local version of chorizos or sausages. These vary from the sweet to the garlicky, from the lean to the fatty.

Laoag Longganisa – the longganisa is our local version of chorizos or sausages. These vary from the sweet to the garlicky, from the lean to the fatty.

Aling Lucing's Sisig - the world famous sisig is a popular bar chow in the Philippines. It's basically a sizziling platter of grilled pork cheeks, liver and ears with lots of garlic, onions and chilis served with a local lime called calamansi.

Aling Lucing’s Sisig – the world famous sisig is a popular bar chow in the Philippines. It’s basically a sizziling platter of grilled pork cheeks, liver and ears with lots of garlic, onions and chilis served with a local lime called calamansi.

Batac Empanada - the Ilocanos' version of the empanada which is a common meat pastry in former Spanish dominions, is wrapped in paper wrapper and stuffed with sausages, egg, green papayas and other spices. It is dipped in a strong vinegar common in the Ilocos.

Batac Empanada – the Ilocanos’ version of the empanada which is a common meat pastry in former Spanish dominions, is wrapped in paper wrapper and stuffed with sausages, egg, green papayas and other spices. It is dipped in a strong vinegar common in the Ilocos.

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A Sunday Afternoon in Manila

The Central Post Office - once the office of my great grandfather

The Central Post Office – once the office of my great grandfather

There’s more to Manila than its monstrous malls and its faddish crazes. Although there is much to be desired from our heritage sites, they are still there – needing both badly needed maintenance and visitors.

Several Sundays ago, my sister and I left our house in Cubao at around 2:00 PM to enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the old Walled City and its peripheries. We began at the Metropolitan Museum then skipped to the Manila Central Post Office then finally crossed over to Intramuros, entering through the Puerta del Parian.

We basically circled Intramuros.

Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the oldest secondary level school in the Philippines.

Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the oldest secondary level school in the Philippines.

We started at Letran, made a left towards the Dominican quarter and frolicked around the beautiful Maestranza. Afterwards, we took a while absorbing the haunting Intendencia edifice, a skeleton of an old important building which could be restored and turned into either a bazaar or even a cool-concept cafe or night club.

La Intendencia - the former Customs House and Treasury

La Intendencia – the former Customs House and Treasury

Tastefully reconstructed, the former Ayuntamiento now houses the Bureau of Treasury

Tastefully reconstructed, the former Ayuntamiento now houses the Bureau of Treasury

Afterwards, we plied Don Andrés Soriano Avenue and found solace from the unrelenting rays of the sun under the shadows of the impressively reconstructed Ayuntamiento, which now houses the Bureau of Treasury. The Ayuntamiento was the former City Hall of Manila (conversely Intramuros) and also housed the Real Audienca de Manila or basically the Supreme Court. When the Americans established their version of the Supreme Court, it was still initially housed in the Ayuntamiento. Because of its renowned generous use of marble, it earned its nickname of “the Marble Palace”. It was bombed during the Liberation and was turned into a parking space. It was only a few years back when the project to reconstruct it was turned into a reality. It’s a handsome edifice today.

Calle Real now known as Gen. Luna

Calle Real now known as Gen. Luna

Plaza Roma, of course, is a place to unwind and take photos. We noticed that there were many, many foreign tourists that day and we were really pleased to see them.

Plaza Roma with the majestic Manila Cathedral Minor Basilica serving as background

Plaza Roma with the majestic Manila Cathedral Minor Basilica serving as background

From the Manila Cathedral, we walked along Luna street and of course, stopped by the San Agustin Church – the only structure left standing after the violent Liberation of Manila – and cooled down within the shade of Plaza San Luis.

Calle Urdaneta, near Plaza San Luis, across San Agustin

Calle Urdaneta, near Plaza San Luis, across San Agustin

That’s where the amiable staff of La Cocina de Tita Moning, headed by Trining, called my attention! They were so happy to see me. They brought halo-halo from the house for Carlos Celdran’s guests.

Walking around the area near the former Dominican quarter of Intramuros

Walking around the area near the former Dominican quarter of Intramuros

After Plaza San Luis, my sister and I went further down Juan Luna and took a left at one street I forget the name of, which leads back to the Puerta del Parian. We then climbed the walls of the muralla and took many pictures of the ramparts as well as cannons and the view of Manila City Hall.

A lazy Sunday in the old Walled City; a calesa passing by

A lazy Sunday in the old Walled City; a calesa passing by

At the muralla rampart (Baluarte de San Francisco) overlooking the neoclassical corridor

At the muralla rampart (Baluarte de San Francisco) overlooking the neoclassical corridor

Apunte! Fuego! Nice perspective shot.

Apunte! Fuego! Nice perspective shot.

We capped off our day on top of the Bayleaf Hotel, specifically, at their Skyview Deck, which has marvelous views of Manila’s glorious bay and well, err, its less attractive city.

A fantastic view of the National Museum Complex - part of the neoclassical corridor of Manila - from the Bayleaf Hotel's Skydeck

A fantastic view of the National Museum Complex – part of the neoclassical corridor of Manila – from the Bayleaf Hotel’s Skydeck

The buildings, billboards and other hideous structures truly destroy Manila’s skyline. But at least, one can still see some of the more notable elements of Manila’s neoclassical corridor starting from the Manila Central Post Office down to the National Museum.

The sun setting over the Manila Bay across the old walled city, bereft of its formerly numerous towers, domes and spires

The sun setting over the Manila Bay across the old walled city, bereft of its formerly numerous towers, domes and spires

At night, one can marvel at the illuminated buildings from afar, probably Makati but feel a tinge of sadness for the dark edifices in Manila that were unlit.

Night time view from the Bayleaf Hotel Skydeck

Night time view from the Bayleaf Hotel Skydeck

At any rate, it was truly a unique, different way of spending our weekend.

My sister got super tired after our walking tour but she thoroughly enjoyed…most especially since it was my treat!

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Our Ignorance, Our Failure – Manileños and Threatened Heritage

Our shallowness causes us to see no alarm in what is happening at a national shrine.  Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

Our shallowness causes us to see no alarm in what is happening at a national shrine. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

What do you call a people ignorant of its heritage?

How do you approach a society that is apathetic on things related to its culture and history?

R. Hidalgo is a good example of how urban life in Manila has degenerated due to countless factors. This street used to be the poshest residential street in the country before. Now it is a den of thieves, criminals and countless urban dwellers.

R. Hidalgo is a good example of how urban life in Manila has degenerated due to countless factors. This street used to be the poshest residential street in the country before. Now it is a den of thieves, criminals and countless urban dwellers.

You get shallowness, materialism, poor taste – you have stupidity. In the metropolis we live in, the general daily human experience has evolved into a deeply banal routine bereft of any immersion or exposure to a living cultural heritage. Traffic, pollution, billboards, the inanities of local TV and radio shows, our lack of parks, open spaces, our dead river and polluted bay, why even our language and practices (especially our malling culture) – these all contribute to the “bobo-fication” of our people.

Our parks are inhabited, unsafe and smell of urine and feces.

Our parks are inhabited, unsafe and smell of urine and feces.

Wala na ba tayong ginawa kundi mamili? Kumain ng ramen? Manood ng sine? Makinig ng contemporary music?
Wala na ba tayong nagawa kundi pag-usapan ang traffic at ang MRT? Wala na ba tayong nakita kundi mga nakahubad na katawan sa EDSA?
Will we live our lives continuously seeing the same celebrities’ gigantic smiling faces on our thoroughfares?

What could have been a postcard-worthy vista of Ermita Church is now an impossible dream due to the buildings.

What could have been a postcard-worthy vista of Ermita Church is now an impossible dream due to the buildings.

What is the key that will break us free from all these symbols of our kababawan?

Culture. An appreciation, an embrace of our cultural heritage, integrating it into our urban planning and our public policies will break the chains of our ugly metropolitan experience.

The Manila Metropolitan Theater, the jewel of Philippine Art Deco, is now in squalid condition. What used to be the site of many plays and parties is now a scary place to go to at night.

The Manila Metropolitan Theater, the jewel of Philippine Art Deco, is now in squalid condition. What used to be the site of many plays and parties is now a scary place to go to at night.

These recent weeks, however, Manila’s cultural heritage has again been making news not for anything positive but because of various threats that continue to deride its important place in society.

The grand Manila Central Post Office is now threatened with closure. Lord, help us if we demolish this neoclassical masterpiece.

The grand Manila Central Post Office is now threatened with closure. Lord, help us if we demolish this neoclassical masterpiece.

We have lost so many countless structures and art works due to wars, poor urban planning and natural calamities. But we have also elected/selected persons or patronize organizations and companies that proactively destroy or alter our heritage as a people. What is more distressing is the passivity of the great population! Alas, we have entered into the vicious cycle that will be so difficult to break.

What will be the chances of our city saving its heritage structures when you have a generation of citizens born into a city with no sense or indication of heritage?

There is hope, there is inspiration. The Padilla Mansion, which has recently been restored and opened as a multi-functional art gallery by Manny Padilla is a beacon of hope in R Hidalgo, Quiapo and to the rest of downtown Manila.

There is hope, there is inspiration. The Padilla Mansion, which has recently been restored and opened as a multi-functional art gallery by Manny Padilla is a beacon of hope in R Hidalgo, Quiapo and to the rest of downtown Manila.

Examples of desecrating, tampering or blatantly destroying our cultural heritage speak of our incapacity to elevate our appreciation for loftier ideas or causes. It describes what we are as a people: shallow.

The Roces-Legarda-Tuason-Prieto-Valdes clan is doing a great act of service to the district of San Miguel through their two restaurants, Casa Roces and La Cocina de Tita Moning, inspiring more Manilenos to appreciate their heritage. Friends, it can be done!

The Roces-Legarda-Tuason-Prieto-Valdes clan is doing a great act of service to the district of San Miguel through their two restaurants, Casa Roces and La Cocina de Tita Moning, inspiring more Manilenos to appreciate their heritage. Friends, it can be done!

It is a dream indeed for many to fight against corruption or to fight poverty. It is a noble cause to work hard, spending countless hours in the office for one’s self or for one’s family. Through your own hard work, you are able to travel, try new restaurants, buy the latest gadgets and clothes and buy houses or condominium units that have filtered environments.

Where does cultural heritage play in all of these? Well, in our current situation, none.

In cities like Singapore (ironically more cosmopolitan than ours), Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Madrid, London, Montreal, and so many others, cultural heritage is a daily experience. From preserved edifices, classical concerts, dignified monuments, amazing vistas and even street signs, many aspects of urban living abroad touch on or optimize cultural heritage and patrimony.

La Cocina de Tita Moning makes diners and visitors experience life in genteel Manila through the recipes of Ramona Hernandez Legarda aka Tita Moning

La Cocina de Tita Moning makes diners and visitors experience life in genteel Manila through the recipes of Ramona Hernandez Legarda aka Tita Moning

The recent news of the construction of the Torre de Manila, a monstrosity that will now destroy the skyline that serves as backdrop to the Rizal Shrine, the demolition of portions of the Army Navy Club, and the eventual uprooting of the Simon de Anda rotunda (though this one is not really bad) all speak of our ignorance or apathy towards the finer details of heritage.

Students of Escuela Taller Intramuros help conserve Ermita Church. Escuela Taller Intramuros was founded by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID).

Students of Escuela Taller Intramuros help conserve Ermita Church. Escuela Taller Intramuros was founded by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID).

How will our country move forward if the first thing we impinge on “for the sake of development/progress” is the very soul of our country – our culture?

Enough is enough.

Urban Sketchers Manila sketches in Quiapo

Urban Sketchers Manila sketches in Quiapo

It’s also about time that the vanguards of cultural heritage preservation step-up their game. It’s no longer enough that we work within the comforts of familiar territory – our advocacy groups, the academe, social media groups. It’s about time we become more courageous enough to follow the footsteps of our first heritage conservationists, those who stood up for the Jai Alai Building, the Mehan Gardens, etc. Younger heritage conservationists or aficionados should distance themselves from developing images either of “elitism” or at the other extreme being “hipsters/indie” because both will not help the cause. Solid foundation – research, experience, continuous study – as well as the basic skills of corporate professionals (marketing, customer orientation, finance, strategic planning) can prove tactically helpful for the cause of cultural heritage preservation. Enough of the whim, enough of being reactive and enough of being “artsy” because the time will come when the places we love to simply take photographs or talk about or paint or draw will just disappear.

Giving a talk on Hispanic Manila at the Bahay Nakpil, Quiapo

Giving a talk on Hispanic Manila at the Bahay Nakpil, Quiapo

We need to do so much more to protect the tangible, and most importantly, intangible aspects of our story as a people.

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Must-read: “Manila: A Memoir of Love and Loss”

Manila: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Manila: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Last Saturday, before hearing the evening anticipated Mass, my dear friend Mika sent me an SMS that went “Oye, vas a asistir a la Misa? Tengo EL LIBRO.”

Immediately, I replied “MUCHAS GRACIAS”.

The said book was Purita Echevarria de Gonzalez’ “Manila: A Memoir of Love and Loss”, a book I have long wanted to read. When I was in college, I bought a copy for myself but stupidly misplaced it. I still remember the stinging feeling of devastation when I realized I lost a jewel. When she told me she had a copy of the said book, I asked her if I could borrow it and voila!

Yesterday, I finished the book in 2 sittings. I wasn’t prepared for the heart-wrenching story the author laid-out so eloquently in just a few pages. I was imagining a virtual repeat of Carmen “Chitang” Guerrero-Nakpil’s “Myself, Elsewhere”.

But how could stories from that time be anything but a repeat?

They weren’t the same. Each Manileno who had to go through the “Liberation” had his own experience, view, mindset of the horrors of that time.

It is about time we immortalized those long-kept memories of a generation formed by peace, war and liberation. Their insights and memories, their opinions, why their very lives are witnesses to the lowest and highest points of human history.

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Amidst darkness, the Glimmer of Faith: Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel 2014

The carroza of Our Lady before the Mass

The carroza of Our Lady before the Mass

16 July 2014 would go down in modern Manila urban history as the day when Typhoon Glenda wreaked havoc on the city with its powerful winds that ripped-off malls’ facades, caused glass doors and walls to break, tearing-off tarpaulin advertisements and uprooting ancient trees.

There were cars that were squished by big branches and houses’ roofs blown away by Glenda’s torrential winds.

But much worse was the black-out that the entire metropolis and neighboring provinces most especially Cavite endured. Large portions of the city suffered black-outs for long days while some even suffered water supply interruptions.

The main altar was modified for the feast and it was beautifully done. It was just sad to note that a crucifix was not prominently located. It should have been placed in the middle of the altar.

The main altar was modified for the feast and it was beautifully done. It was just sad to note that a crucifix was not prominently located. It should have been placed in the middle of the altar.

16 July, however, is an important date for me and countless devotees as it is the solemn feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the patroness of the Brown Scapular.

On that day, as I have practiced for years, I went to hear the fiesta Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Broadway, New Manila, Quezon City. I actually still went to work that day but by 3:00 PM, I headed back to Quezon City. By then, we still didn’t have electricity. By 5:00 PM, electric power had returned to our barangay, thus I was expecting that New Manila too would have electricity by then.

By the Liturgy of the Word, darkness had enveloped everyone inside the church.

By the Liturgy of the Word, darkness had enveloped everyone inside the church.

When I arrived at the church, it was quite dark. I thought that maybe they were just saving the lights for the fiesta Mass.

But as the Mass proceeded well into the Liturgy, and as the evening grew darker, it was obvious that the entire festivities will be celebrated in darkness.

True enough, the homilist (the new Parish Priest of Carmel) admitted that we will finish the Mass in darkness as the generator exploded only 10 minutes before the Mass!

The altar before the Mass

The altar before the Mass

But the good priest delivered a very good homily that truly encapsulated the experience.

The theme was the “dark night” – a very Carmelite theme, I must say.

The statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel sits gloriously on top of her throne. Light emanated from her seat, just like how she had inspired and continues to inspires devotees through the centuries.

The statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel sits gloriously on top of her throne. Light emanated from her seat, just like how she had inspired and continues to inspires devotees through the centuries.

In the darkness of our lives, we experience the moving glimmer of Faith that burns and warms the hearts of countless souls through the centuries. The power of Faith was indeed best described by the experience.

The faithful do not relent, they will not surrender the glimmer of joyful faith.

The faithful do not relent, they will not surrender the glimmer of joyful faith.

In the cavernous shrine, only the sanctuary was lit. Candles and emergency lights provided the only signs of brightness in the very spacious and high church.

Carmelite brothers preparing for the procession

Carmelite brothers preparing for the procession

Hundreds of people remained and finished the rites and it was truly a showcase of Faith.

It was a beautiful experience in honor of our beloved patrona, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Viva a la Virgen del Carmen!

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