Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Heritage Lost: Bohol Earthquake 2013

Lives are most important, am still praying that more lives be spared with the still coming aftershocks of today's earthquake in the Visayan region of the Philippines. But let me just rant my sorrow on the treasures potentially lost forever: the 300+ old churches of Bohol; let me grieve for the realization that these treasures can never be rebuilt, can never be the same, to remain as pictures in my hard drive, webpage and never be seen again. My heart bleeds as the news keep streaming. I am still praying for people's safety...but if its not so much of a bother, please include the churches too...
The church of Loboc after the quake (Image on top courtesy of @Tokyodrastic on Twitter).  The Church of San Pedro in Loboc is the second oldest church in Bohol.  The Jesuits rebuilt the church in Loboc after their church was burned down in 1602. Rising from the ashes into a beautiful and bigger church in 1734, it became the second oldest church in Bohol. According to the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), it is a pilgrimage site for housing the tomb of the saintly priest Alonso de Humanes. The picture on the bottom is the façade of the church of Loboc I took just last year.
The interior of Loboc Church featuring its magnificent frescoes. With the façade and midsection part of the church toppled down, tell me...how do we save this? if it can be saved at all....
News came that the church in Loon was totally damaged by the quake. The Church of Our Lady of Light in Loon or the Nuetra Señora de la Luz is…or I guess was the biggest church in Bohol.  It was built by the Augustinian Recollects from a chapel to a massive Corinthian coral structure in 1753. I took the picture on the botton last year and I remember being worried. Notice the crack that ran along the side of the left bellfry? Guess it didn’t take long to see it damaged….but this? Levelled to the ground? It’s just plain heartbreaking (photo on top from the tweet of Lail Rara).  

Marvel at the interiors of Loon! The churches of Bohol are known for their unassuming coral stone structures but magnificent interiors, the Sistine-like frescoes will surely give you a neck ache (for making you look too long, too awestruck and overwhelmed). The image on the right shows the long frescoed ceiling and the colorful tiled-floor of the church.  The image on the right I fondly call 'a gathering of saints' in Loon. A different era from Baclayon, a different vision from Loboc....but now gone forever....
When we visited Loay church last year, the church was being cleaned, repainted, redecorated and landscaped. The local community evidently loved their church. The image on top from the tweet of Lail Rara toppled down not just the exterior façade of the newly-painted church, but also the hopes of the community in rebuilding their beloved church to its former glory.  The construction of Loay church or the Santissima Trinidad Parish was completed in 1882. The church, which was built from coral stones, has a belfry built a few meters farther from the main church but no longer functions now.
Loay is my personal favourite. It took me longer to take in the grandeur of the church. Perhaps it was because of its relatively plain façade and small built compared to its cousins the Baclayon and Loboc.  But lo and behold, as you walk through the door...the interior transforms everything around you and bring you back through time...another splendid work of art....but how do we save this now?  The treaures of Loay....the mural ceiling, the old pipe organ...the old Spanish religious influences written all over the church....yes, it was a time machine.
The Baclayon church, the most famous and frequented church in Bohol, sustained damage on its façade and belfry. The image on the bottom was from the tweet of Mr. Raymond Dracaza, the image on top was from my Bohol trip last year.  The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon is one of the oldest churches in the country and best preserved Jesuit-built church in the region.  It was completed in 1727 together with a convent that housed priceless relics of the past century such as an ivory statue of the crucified Christ, relics of St. Ignatius Loyola, a statue of the Blessed Virgin said to be presented by Queen Catherine of Aragon, and a lot more..
The colors of Baclayon...the altar, the aisle and the walls are awashed by multicolored lights emanating from its stained glass windows and lit up the altar.  
The church of Dauis in Panglao Island is the newest addition into the Bohol family of national treasures.  The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption became an independent parish in 1697 and was founded by Jesuit priests.  According to the NCCA, the church building was a mixture of Byzantine and Romanesque styles and included murals made by Ray Francia and Canuto Avila. The image on top I took last year, while the image on the bottom was from the tweet of Mr. Raymond Dracaza.
The interior of Dauis Church. It lacks the Damaso-like aura of old heritage churches, but its architecture and design equally splendid. The church also featured a well of water at the altar believed to bring on miracles for the believer and the sick. I hope the beautiful interior and well was untouched by the disaster...
I haven't seen the damage the church of Maribojoc sustained during the quake, still waiting for news but looking at its neighbor Loon, my heart is already breaking at the thought. Maribojoc church i also one of my favorites. Apart from the consistent beautifully-frescoed ceiling, Maribojoc features round windows...far from the traditional cornered ones from regular architecture. It's all about contrast - neo-classical in an old church....grand. Now tears are welling up at the thought of it all gone. 
The declaration of a site as a National Cultural Treasure is the highest recognition a country can bestow on its cultural properties. This means that the architecture and contents are priceless to our country's culture, history and arts. Its loss, therefore, is immeasurable...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Binondo Food Pre-Walk: A Gastronomic Introduction

Fresh from an inspiring talk on the cultural legacies of Manila, me and my friends decided to take a sampler treat of the Binondo Food Walk made famous by Mr. Ivan Dy of Old Manila Walks. I called it a pre-walk since number 1: it was decided on impulse but we also wanted to take that Old Manila Walk tours someday; number 2: we got hungry and we called our Chinese travel buddy to give us some leads; and number 3: we're here in Manila anyway so why not?

Binondo was established in 1584 by Spanish Governor Lius Perez Dasmarinas. It’s the Chinatown of Manila and once was the center of commerce prior to World War II.  With Manila levelled during the war, commercial establishments has since moved elsewhere; but other than the hardy Chinese still working and living there in Binondo, one thing remained strong, famous and reminiscent of its old glory: the quintessential Chinese food. The dishes, samplers, treats and delicacies that wafts deliciously in the air reminds you that it’s a quarter past 3 and it’s meryenda time!

Our first stop: Dong Bei Dumpling at Yuchengco corner Tytana Sts. just behind the old Binondo church. This very small eatery had been described as a small, unassuming hole-in-the-wall restaurant. #Dongbei #dumplings

Small yet the place offers many mouth-watering treats. We ordered the pork dumplings as recommended by our friend. #dongbei #dumplings

The dumplings here are prepared in the resto where you can see them. Its also a good thing because you can be assured that everything you order are prepared fresh. #dongbei #dumplings

I wonder what this will become, is it the pork dumplings? the xiao pao? #dongbei #dumplings
The roll of dough was flattened meticulously to get that thin dumpling wrapper consistency, then filled with pork, shrimps, etc, fried or steamed....the list goes on...#dongbei #dumplings

The fresh dumplings looked good enough to eat already....don't worry, hungry as I was, I waited for the steamed version. An order consisted of 14 dumplings.  #dongbei #dumplings
Steamed pork dumplings with chives....this was what we ordered. Well, I'm not really a dumpling person, I don't like the taste of extenders I do not know. But this? This...was beyond words. Not a foodie, so all I could pathetically come up with is DELICIOUS in many tones, enunciations, intonations, modulations, pitches and cadences! Sigh, I became a fan! I will be back! And this was just the start of our pre-walk... #dongbei #dumpling

Our next stop was Wai Ying Fastfood at Benavides St. Our friend recommended its tai pao or the mean, large siopao! #waiying #taipao
It started looking like a very Chinese dinner as I watched through the window. That duck and other sweet meats displayed there paired with the hot, piping mami noodles on the side made me want to order my favorite yang chow fried rice for a really, stuffy-yummy five-course Chinese feast! But hey, our objective here was the tai pao, so I reined in my horses.... #waiying #siopao

It started with a hot glass of clear tea....it washed our palates from the tasty aftertaste of Dong Bei, prepared our tongue for another gastronomic surprise #waiying #siopao
This is not a siopao, this is a tai pao. The difference, as far as I saw it, was the size. But like an energy bar, its power-packed with different fillings, from asado, salted egg, steamed pork and who knew what else. 'Twas not as big as a plate, just a little bigger than the jumbo-sized siopao. It tasted great, better than what I can buy from the foodcarts. Its very filling, very tasty but really more than enough for me. If you go here, better come hungry. #waiying #taipao
They sliced it already so it can be shared. The steaming tai pao is already dinner for two. #waiying #siopao

We also ordered siomai and hakaw but what I kept coming back to was the tai pao. I already had one of these so I was not really surprised. It was delicious. period. Loved it? yes. Will be back? of course! #waiying #siopao

We passed by this carinderia-like store on our way back to Ongpin St.. No we didn't eat here but I was amused at the mini-cauldron pots containing the food - terracotta style. Now that's uncommon these days. #ongpin
Our travel buddy's list contained these words: freshly squeezed sugarcane juice. Wow! that was good advertising. We really looked forward to that freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice (so much that all we had so far was the hot tea from Wai Ying, not even water because we looked forward to that juice!).  #sugarcane

The Juice....was nowhere! ha! maybe we were lost or they went home already. So we just contented ourselves with the freshly-peeled-sugarcane-cane that can be bought from carts along Ongpin St.. Well, to spare my delicate teeth I gladly donated my share with a smile and a thought "Happy chomping!" #sugarcane
Next stop: Fried siopao along Ongpin St. It was just a store not a restaurant with a lot of food goodies other than the fried siopao. #friedsiopao

The fried siopao were already packed by singles, sixes or dozens. It was a regular sized siopao with a slight sear in its underside, proof that its fried, not steamed. #friedsiopao
I wanted to taste this, Machang, a glutinous rice preparation with meat filling at the center and wrapped in banana leaves dimsum style. But, I was getting really full that time and we still had one more stop to go. Well, much as I would like to nibble on my small fried siopao, I just took it home as pasalubong to my loved one with a line prepared that went "Dahling, I intentionally bought this for you! smack!" #friedsiopao
Last stop for the night: Mañosa Restaurant along Ongpin St. A bit farther from the church, though good for burning all the food we ate earlier. Earlier on, those were appetizers and snacks. This place was for dinner. Our friend recommended its Maki and Makimi for a savoury finish. #manosa #makimi

Maki, a thick heavily flavored soup poured over breaded pork chunks with leaks to top it off. It has a full flavor, heavy in the gut too. Warning: need more gut space for these, would also need rice. #maki
Makimi was another dish we ordered, same with Maki on the soup and pork chunks but served with noodles. #makimi

It was already late when we gave up, too full to have another look on the list. Thankfully realizing that the Maki was the last recommended stop. Oh well, what a tasteful introduction to the Binondo Food Trip. We have craved to do this for the longest time. Finally, we had our round.
I guess every foodie and blogger in town already had this experience in their archives, I am still thankful that I got to do mine. Well, this was a pre-walk. Next time I wanted to do the real walk, know more about the places we went to, their history, their success stories and other food stops we never knew. Next time I hope to join the tours of Old Manila Walks with my friends to learn more, to experience more, to discover more, to eat more, to gain weight.....nah! let's stick to the discovering and experiencing.....

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post. Till next time. chow!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Mirror-Like Waters off the Coast of Aroroy, Masbate

Recently marred by a sea tragedy (A Roll-Off-Roll-On Liner sank off Burias Island last June 2013), Masbate is once again in the headlines but not for all the good reasons. Such tragedies affect not only the island's economy but also its potential as a tourism hotspot. It paints a frightening picture of turbulent waters, strong winds, mountain-high waves...not a very inviting idea for a relaxing vacation where the options you have are these ROROS or the thrice-a-week plane ride. Its sad because the three islands that make up Masbate still have that rustic charm, raw natural landscape and the slow, easy-going equanimity of provincial life.

I packed my bags for Masbate, not to gratify my sense of adventure or wanderlust....but out of duty for family and loved ones.  Masbate hasn't figured in my bucket list yet (partially because traveling by sea is really not a dream vacation for me!) so I just went sans my adventurous spirit and even dread the two-hour fast craft ride from Sorosogon's Pilar Port to the City of Masbate. 

Maybe it's that time of the year....but a week after a storm just checked in the bicol area.....or maybe it's geography, that shields the main island of Masbate from strong winds and heavy rain....but lo! and behold! my sea trip is as smooth as silk. Crossing Ticao Pass and Masbate Pass was as effortless as riding a banca on a lake. Even riding a tricycle along a bumpy road is more dangerous compared to cruising these waters. Ha! first time without the tears...

The glass-like stillness of the waters of Aroroy, Masbate
The mirror-like waters of Aroroy, Masbate at the northern tip of Masbate Island echoes my surprise to find a patch of very very calm seas in the midst of typhoon-magnet bicol region. I will definitely be back to discover Masbate more and try its foremost attraction...swimming with the manta rays...oh well, that's one for the bucktlist! and hope to find more....

Passing Ticao Pass, Masbate
The two-hour sea trip on a fast craft from Pilar Port to Masbate Port
The 60-seater bancas that travels from Pilar Port in Sorsogon straight to Aroroy, Masbate
Early morning at Aroroy Port
Preparing the banca for the two-hour trip to Sorsogon
These passenger boats carry everything, from beds, to produce to refrigerators...everyday scene at Aroroy, Masbate using my android phone
Fishing at Dawn, the view of Mt. Mayon from Aroroy, Masbate
Heading out to sea at sunrise at Aroroy Port, Masbate
Kids at sea, who's afraid to row? at Aroroy, Masbate
On the edge...of a boat, sunset at Aroroy, Masbate
Life at the Port, Aroroy, Masbate
This is the class of ROROs plying the route of Pilar to MasbateStill waters give you beautiful reflections....see? no waves at all!
A view of Mt. Bulusan as we near Pilar Port
I'll see you again Masbate....I'll see you on your Rodeo Festival and your Manta rays and your un-spoilt beaches...

That's me...enjoying my fast craft ride....and the sight of a dolphin frolickin' in the open sea....I will see you again Masbate!

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