Sunday, April 08, 2012

Batanes: From a Wish to Reality

Back in my elementary school days, in Grade 4 to be exact, one of my favorite lessons in Social Studies is Philippine Geography. For the said topic we discussed the different regions that comprise our astonishing archipelago. One of the provinces that caught my attention, at the tender age of 10, is Batanes located in Region II (Cagayan Valley Region which is located at the northeastern part of the Philippines). Our textbook described the province as a small group of islands at the northern most part of our country. It is where the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) merges with the vast Pacific Ocean.  I saw illustrations of the vernacular houses of the Ivatans (the indigenous inhabitants of Batanes), the head gear called vacul, their main produce like garlic and root crops. I can relate to the experience of the Ivatans being visited by Typhoons (I spent early years of my childhood in Bicol where typhoons are familiar acquaintances), I was intrigued on how is the weather there, what does the view of the seascape up north looks like? That lesson in Grade 4 started my curiosity with the province, a wish was formed: that someday I’ll get to go there and see for my self the northern most province described in my text book. 

Years went by and I got to see various photos of the province, read about it in the broadsheets, watched documentaries, got a glimpse of it in one of the local movies, read about more of its geography and the interesting culture of its people in books specially in college. I kept a copy of an article by Dr. Florentino Hornedo, a well known with regards to Ivatan studies (an insular himself), describing in narrative his hometown of Sabtang which is one of the municipalities of Batanes. That article is very detailed even if it is not that long, reading it I felt that I was with the author in his visit to his hometown. Batanes is one of the places on the top of my list when it comes to travel destinations.

An opportunity came during my third year in college. We can choose between doing a summer coursework in Metro Manila or in Batanes up north. I was so happy learning about this opportunity. I silently prayed, hoping that I’ll get to go to the smallest and farthest northern province that summer of 2010. The expenses of joining the trip to Batanes is quite hefty specially the airfare. 

I was in Manila, one cloudy afternoon, when I received a text message that made me so happy. It was a go signal from my mother that I can join the group that was going to Batanes that summer! An answered prayer! Another blessing came when we learned about the Batanes airfare promo of SEAir for the Travel Tour Expo! Our batch got a huge discount (half of the regular all-in fare expenses) with regards to airfare. Excitement goes higher as the days before our departure gets near! I counted the days and read more about the province.

We got a very early morning flight to Basco, Batanes on the 22nd of April, 2010. I ensured that I will be on that flight to one of my dream destinations: I left our home the night before (April 21). I joined some of my also excited classmates in a mini camp out at the Old Domestic Airport that evening. We spent the time waiting eating, playing games, chit chat, a perfect bonding moment before the most awaited trip that summer.
At last the time came for us to board the plane after waiting for nearly 8 hours (because of our excitement). The morning was perfect and we all hoped for good weather up north in Basco. This flight is also special for me because for another reason: it’s my first air travel much more I am on my way to one of the places in my wish list way back in elementary!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Travel Nostalgia: From Bulacan to Manila then on to Batanes (Part 1)

In traveling we experience a lot of new things, most of which are very memorable. come and join me as I travel back in time and with the help of words retell a memorable journey from historical Bulacan to the northern crown jewel of the Philippines - Batanes.

It was a fine April evening in 2010 when I stepped out of our front door. A warm breeze was at play brought by the mighty river that passes by our backyard. Nervous and excited, a prayer uttered before I heaved a blue sports bag and a sturdy back back down the steps of our porch and across our yard. Nearly at the entrance of our compound I looked back and savored the familiar view of home. It will be nearly three weeks before I see this sight in my beloved province of Bulacan. 

A tricycle stopped a few minutes after I reached the asphalted community road. the ride was fast and a bargain at Php 13 at one way. I reached the national road with ease, checking my old wristwatch showed that I am on time. I do have a rendezvous at Manila at 9 o'clock in the evening. I waited for a while, luckily a unit of Victory Liner came. The evening is young, with lights illuminating various structures by the road, choosing a seat by the window is a sure treat.

The bus made its way southward. I got a glimpse of the Provincial Capitol of Bulacan which looks more stunning at night and the tree-covered park adjacent to it located at Malolos City. I wish i also got to see a night view of the historic Barasoain Church that evening but its not along the way. A couple of minutes the bus made a stop and  hawkers came in selling various ready to eat treats, some of which you can only sample while in Bulacan. The most famous example is the Malolos Ensaymada, a sumptuous snack aboard a bus for only Php 20 each!

The bus entered the North Luzon Express way (NLEX) nearly half an hour after I boarded the bus. Travel alon the NLEX is fast and smooth, it is said that it is comparable to the ones in abroad. In the blur caused by speed I got to see various model of cars, provincial  buses that I tried to guess to where they are going, colorful lighted billboards, and large gleaming stop overs along the way.

The NLEX is connected smoothly with EDSA. Before I knew it the bus was circling its way around the rotunda graced by the mighty scuplture depicting Andres Bonifacio. From the bus window I saw the said monument made by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, flood lights bathing it with a dramatic glow. When you see that mighty landmark you are 100% sure that you are now in "Monumento" in Caloocan City.

To be continued....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Unang Sulyap sa Pambansang Museo (Unang Bahagi)

Ito ang unang blog post ko na isinulat gamit ang wikang Filipino. Tungkol ito sa isang  lugar na espesyal at naging bahagi ng aking buhay kolehiyo kung saan marami akong natutunan at mas nakilala ko ang kalinangan (culture) nating mga Pilipino, ang Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas. Isang pagpupugay ito sa paggunita sa  isang siglo at dekadang pagkakatatag ng National Museum.

Museum of the Filipino People na bahagi ng Pambansang Museo

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Malolos City: Bulacan's Mural of History

When Malolos City is mentioned the first landmark/destination that comes to mind is the Barasoain Church due to its historical significance,  its popularity as the church depicted in 10 peso bill (no longer in circulation, another item for collectors). Buses carrying tourists visiting the church are a common sight. 

Other than Barasoain Church there are other interesting attractions to visit in Malolos City especially for those interested in history and the arts. Malolos City is home to the largest mural in the Philippines during its time of creation called "Kasaysayan ng Bulacan". The floor to ceiling (almost) mural greets visitors as they step inside the lobby of the Gat. Blas F Ople Hall-Sentro ng Kabataan Sining at Kultura. 

A Mural of History

The title of the huge artwork,"Kasaysayan ng Bulacan", captures the full essence of the subject of the mural. Within the area of the mural the elements of history are weaved-time, place, people-into a coherent piece.  It is a grand tableau of the colorful history of the province and our country as well. 

Pre-colonial trade and the ever present rivers of the province
at the left part of the mural

The Ayala Triangle Gardens of Makati City

The Ayala Triangle Gardens is conveniently located amidst the very busy Makati Central Business District (Makati CBD). The triangle shape of the area is because of the three major thoroughfares that bounds the gardens: Ayala Avenue, Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. It is very accessible from the various offices, of walking distance from malls such as Greenbelt, Glorietta, SM Makati, it is a leisurely stroll from the Peninsula Hotel and the Filipinas Heritage Library. The Ayala Triangle Gardens is a private park, maintained by Ayala Land, wherein the public can jog, stroll, relax, visit the site for free.

It is one of my favorite places to visit while in Makati and one of the best parks I have seen in the Philippines. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Batanes: The San Jose Church of Ivana

Ivana, April 2010. I am very interested in visiting Catholic churches since the tender age of 6, most likely because of a strong Catholic upbringing. Catholic places of worship are often historical places, architectural visual treats, and repositories of various works of art that are reminiscent of different periods. Catholic churches are always present in almost all of the municipalities and cities in the Philippines thus making them interesting destinations to visit.

While waiting for the falowa (round bottom-hulled boat used in the Province of Batanes) that would take us to Sabtang Island, I visited the San Jose Church of Ivana. The church is adjacent the Port of Ivana and the famous Honesty Store of Batanes. The Church of Ivana has a stunning location by the sea, on a clear morning you can see the Island of Sabtang.

Church Facade (2010

Monday, October 10, 2011

Makati City: “Diversities” at the Artist Space of the Ayala Museum

 Do you want to get a dose of art while exploring the Ayala Center in Makati City? Want it for free? Then the Artist Space of the Ayala Museum is the answer!

Artist Space is a gallery that features works of both Filipino and foreign artists, exhibits usually change at least once a month.

I got an opportunity to visit the said part of Ayala Museum more than a week ago. On view was an exhibit called “Diversities”. The exhibition featured recent (2011) works of twelve Filipino visual artists:

-Monnar Baldemor
-Aaron Bautista
-Joey Cobcobo
-Carlos Francisco II
-Honesto Guiruela III
-Derrick Macutay
-Dennis Montera
-Tad Pagaduan
-Herbert Pinpiƈo
-Christian Regis
-Marga Rodriguez
-Isidro Santos

“Diversities” as the name of the exhibition suits the show as a whole. The name suggests a plurality of diversity; the art works on view are diverse in various ways. One of these is that the creators of the works of art displayed are twelve different artists. Each with his/her own world view, memories, characteristics, sources of inspiration that became part of their craft.

Another differentiating factor lies in the media (materials used) chosen by the artist. It ranges from acrylic on canvas to mixed media (from natural objects such as wood to household objects such as buttons and spoon).

The size of the paintings also played its part, varying from 24 x 36 inches to as large as 36 x 48 inches (3 feet x 4 feet). The choice of colors is also diverse: the gallery is then adorned by a mix of warm and cool colors. Various subjects were showcased by the artists who were part of “Diversities”. Some canvases focused on familiar but important issues such as “poverty, nationalistic wreckage, and the overcrowding of human population” (David Lock, 2011). Things that are hidden from sight like those residing within the human soul were given form in abstraction by some of the artists (Lock, 2011). “Diversities” is a celebration of the different things that Filipino artists can do (Lock, 2011).

Although differences are very evident in the exhibit there are also similarities that can be seen such as their being Filipinos and that they expressed their thoughts. The fruits of which are the works of art that gallery viewers like me behold and appreciate.

The location of the gallery and the Ayala Museum as a whole is very accessible to the public. I hope that exhibits like “Diversities” would continue to be showcased in easy to reach venues such as that of Artist Space. Art provides relaxation, insight, inspiration to those who see it.
Aside from enjoying wonderful works of art at the Artist Space, you will also get a good view of the fountain area of the museum from the large glass windows of the gallery.

When spending leisure time at the Ayala Center (Greenbelt, Landmark, Glorietta) why not drop by and spend a couple of minutes at the Artist Space. Admission is free!

The exhibit opened on September 15, 2011 and was on view until September 28, 2011. Artist Space is located on the Second Floor, Glass Wing of the Ayala Museum, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street, Makati City. How to get there: The gallery is very accessible from the Metro Rail Transit Ayala Station via the elevated walk way passing within SM Makati, Glorietta, Landmark, and the Greenbelt Malls. The entrance to Artist Space is a minute of walk away from Powerbooks Greenbelt 4 Branch.

For more information about the Artist Space and the Ayala Museum kindly visit their website by visiting this link.


Lock,D. 2011. Diversities (exhibit brochure). Makati: Ayala Museum.

Bulacan – Flat Butchi for Merienda

One of the benefits of being in the province is the affordable price of good food. I chanced upon a merienda peddler on a bicycle and bought a kind of native pastry that I rarely see.  I got 2 pieces of flat and saucer-like butchi for Php 5.00 each. The typical butchi is round with generous coating of sesame seeds.  The butchi for my merienda (snack) is coated with sugar and has tasty mongo bean filling inside. It is a delicious and healthy match for coffee or tablea (native chocolate), a treat for a relaxing afternoon in  Bulacan.

Each town has its own merienda (snack) fare to offer. Go ahead, taste the local flavor as you wander in our interesting country, the Philippines!