28 September 2007

Important Dates I missed

Time is flying by so fast. Next week is October already! And as the days whizzed by, so did some important dates I was planning to celebrate but never got to do so:
1. Left Hander's Day, August 13th
I have known for a couple of years now that there is this special day especially for us lefties! But this year, I forgot to celebrate it. I already had plans for a simple gathering whereby all the guests will have to eat the left-handed way. Sayang.
2. This blog's third year anniversary, last July 2
When I missed this, I was already planning to ressurect my Baguio-Quezon blog and was thinking of celebrating the anniversary of that one.
3. Baguio-Quezon's third anniversary, last Sept 20
Busy busy busy!

Perhaps I just ought to designate one day before this year ends and I will celebrate all these! Unless I forget again...

26 September 2007

The horrors of war

I had a listless sleep last night.

I dreamt that I was running through the streets with bombs going off in all directions. Buildings and houses were being ravaged by fire. While running I can see Japanese soldiers slowly creeping up inside houses with large plastic containers in tow. I knew it contained gasoline; they found a new place to torch.

At another time I would find myself inside a large hall in the second floor of a building. Grenades were being thrown inside the house. Me and the other men, alerted to the danger, would grab the grenades and throw it out the window. Alas, before I could throw mine, it exploded right before my eyes.

And I saw men cramped up in the dungeons in Fort Bonifacio. The Japanese soldiers hurled gasoline at them, followed by a torch!

Men being bayonetted in shallow graves, or beheaded on a whim. Women raped. Children mercilessly killed....

The most shocking scene is the baby being grabbed from the mother and thrown in the air, and another Japanese soldier hitting the defenseless kid with the bayonette, impaling him to death.

The horror of war. It brings out the beast in humans.

I am just halfway through the book "By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II" by Alfonso Aluit, a day-by-day account of savagery and hatred in 1945. I solemnly hope that, for my kid, we will never see war again.

Aluit, Alfonso (1994). By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II 3 February - 3 March 1945. Philippines: National Commission for Culture and the Arts. ISBN 971-8521-10-0.

Related links:
World War II in the Philippines: The lasting effect on the Filipino people by Alfono Aluit

20 September 2007

A great outdoorsy adventure at Mt. Manalmon

Picking up from the spelunking adventure...

Manalmon is a really nice place. We went to the place via private vehicles (thanks Sir Sam!). From the point where the road forks up into Biak na Bato to the right and Manalmon to the left, the picturesque hills and trees would beckon to persevere in the 7km dirt road as butterflies flutter about. The trip ends beside the river basin. We were immediately enthralled at the wonderful sight! Clear waters with schools of small fish wandering about. At the shallow part of the basin, some women were doing their laundry, pounding the dirt off the hapless pieces of cloth while they would occasionally throw curious glances at us newcomers.

At the other end of the river is the registration area so we walked through the shallow water and rested beside the bamboos that rustled and swayed gently with the wind.
We had lunch here. Some campers were also in the area but there's more than enough space for all. Of course, we had the walang-kamatayang "adobo"! And Harry's sauteed veggies with oyster sauce! Yes!

We were staying in this area because we're batch 1 in this trip; Ruben and company had matters to attend to in the morning and will be making the trip at lunchtime so we were to wait for them. However, we calculated the time and determined that they were going to reach Manalmon by mid-afternoon so we decided to make the spelunking trip. We'll be back when they arrive. Which was exactly what happened. So with the group complete, we took a quick rest and proceeded to the trek.

The first nice thing that greets you on your way is the Manalmon Cave. This actually looks more like a natural tunnel, for you exit at the other end and continue on. The cave was a short one, and is unfortunately the victim of vandalism. Darn people who don't have anything else to do! Shame on you to write your names on the cave!

Ahem ahem. Sorry about that. Continuing with the story...

We crossed grasslands and canopied pathways and rivers. The trek is not really difficult. We were actually surprised when the guide led us to a plateau and said our trek was done. It was a wide expanse of tall, green grass surrounded by the mountains and the river below.

"It's a level zero trek!" exclaimed Ruben. We were so happy and surprised that it was very easy.
Going up to the first campsite

But when we asked the guide where the summit was, he pointed a long ways off. Which got us thinking, why not travel the rest of the way to the summit so we can see the view in the morning? Besides, this campsite smelled of goat pellets.

So with majority voting done (democracy ini), we resumed our trek. This time the path led upwards through winding pathways in dense vegetation and in grasslands. But still, we found the trek relatively fun and easy. And so the Mt. Manalmon trek became level 1 once more.

Taking a breather (and a grape or two)
Time to set camp and socials!
We awoke the next morning and the glory of God's work surrounded us. It was wonderful!
It's views like these that make the trek worthwhile.

17 September 2007

Taking back the Arroceros Forest Park

I have heard of the Arroceros Forest Park mid-this-year, during the feverish election period. Mayors were elected, and then Lito Atienza (the outgoing Mayor of Manila) was appointed Environment Secretary. This appointment was controversial because his name was associated with Arroceros Park and the Mehan Garden: the former a thriving mini-forest in within bustling Manila, the latter the city's first zoological and botanical garden. And by controversial I mean in the negative sense. More so because it refers to destruction. Which is ironic, when you think about his being appointed the Environment Secretary.

I just read this bit of news in passing, but seeing Arroceros Park and knowing what it once was is really very disturbing. It started as a project of then Mayor Lim in 1991, the place became home to to 8,000 trees (61 species) and at least 10 species of birds. But in 2005 Mayor Atienza ordered the construction of the City Schools Division Office within the forest premises, prompting the killing of about 187 fully-grown trees and thousands of young trees and decorative plants inspite of protests.

Last July 1, the Arroceros Forest Park was returned to the NGO (Winners Foundation) who was originally tasked for its development. While we were having our orientation from Winners, we can feel their passion for the forest and their pain in seeing the old trees felled a couple of years ago. They have, from the moment of destruction to the time they regained the forest, tried to take care of the vegetation despite gates and doors being closed to their faces but degradation was imminent. The once rich canopy fell to human destruction and storm.

Now that the forest is back in their hands, it's time to build anew and make do with the land spared of the building construction.

When our company announced that the next Community Awareness Project was to plant trees at the Arroceros Forest Park, I signed up. I was surprised that the place was accessible by LRT. I wish I had seen the place prior to the construction of the building that now faces the entrance.
The trees await planting

Clearing up the land of wild grass and weeds

Collecting green rubbish for the compost heap

I've run out of film at the end of the activity. Hmmmm....

If you or your organization wish to take active part in the regreening of the Arroceros Forest Park, contact Hands On Manila for details.

To visit Arroceros, simply take an LRT ride along Taft Avenue and drop off at the Central Station. This is very near the Metropolitan Theater. Ask around where the new DepED building is. That's where the Forest Park is as well. It's a stone's throw from the LRT station.

Related links:
Getting Our Heritage to Survive the Ages by Augusto F. Villalon, NCCA

Foundation to get back Arroceros Forest Park by Inquirer.net

Arroceros Forest Park regained by The Manila Times Internet Edition

Arroceros regaining its green patches--environmentalists by Inquirer.net

12 September 2007

Spelunking at the Bayukbok Caves

One thing I like about our nature trips is that there is always something new to see and experience. Waterfalls, rivers, dazzling sunrise views, caves. Caves are of special wonderment to me because there aren't that many caves to explore in our vicinity.

Trivia: I haven't explored Baguio's Crystal Cave yet! Although they say I'm not missing much because the place has been heavily vandalized and bereft of its crystals. What a waste of what could have been a wonderful tourist spot.

While we had experienced entering one in Dolores, Quezon, that one was a rather claustrophobic one. Traversing the cave involved walking half-stooped most of the time, which obviously made it a popular site during Holy Week as part of penance.

The Bayukbok Caves on the other hand, is located up north in Bulacan within the territory of Biak na Bato. Biak na Bato is a national park, and has an important place in our history involving Emilio Aguinaldo. Bayukbok Caves is located near Mt. Manalmon, also a popular trekking destination.

This is the Manalmon River. To the left is Mt. Manalmon, to the right is Bayukbok Caves. Choose your adventure!

It takes 2 hours on the average to explore the caves. There are areas whereby you have to climb or descend using a portable bamboo and rattan stairway provided by the guide. There are narrow passageways that test your body's flexibility. There are even areas where you are right beside the cliffs. It's an adventure like no other.

The adventure starts with a short, uphill walk to the caves. The rocks here are something else. They're jagged and really rough. It looks more like it was created from lava flow, or an ocean bottom rather than terrestrial.
Here's the start of the adventure: a narrow passageway...

... that leads to this place where you have to climb down using the rickety ladder! Yipee!
Ummm... guys.... how were you able to fit in through there?!

Wonderful stalactite formations abound, sparkling as we trained our headlamps on them.
This looks like a flimsy shot. haha. Help!

Indiana Jones, here I come!

Land, ho!

After two hours, we finally saw the light. Whew! Now, that was one unforgettable adventure!

10 September 2007

See the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin ... the most studied religious artifact in history. Kept in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, you have to visit Turin, Italy in order to see this controversial linen cloth bearing the image of a man who underwent a violent death. It has been long held to be the image of Jesus Christ himself and this has, lots of times, conflicted with science and at the same time showing astounding results.

Now you can personally view the Shroud of Turin as it makes its Philippine Exhibition! It has recently concluded its SM Pampanga leg, and is set for display in the following dates and venues:

SM Mall of Asia
The Pavillion (Ground Floor)
September 8 - December 9, 2007
10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.

SM City Davao
Entertainment Plaza (2nd Floor)
January 18 - February 3, 2008
10:00 A.M to 9:00 P.M.

SM City Cebu
Cebu Trade Hall (3rd Floor)
April 4-27, 2008
10:00 A.M to 9:00 P.M.

I learned about this at the Book Fair, and wish to share it with you. This is a rare opportunity to see Shroud of Turin. Details of ticket reservation and payment can be found at the Welcome to Shroud Exhibit website (photo credit theirs as well).

For the benefit of: Sisters of the Holy Face Congregation, The Holy One of the Lord Catholic Catholic Foundation, Inc., Diocese of Paranaque.

04 September 2007

Tired but Happy Feet at the Book Fair

My wife and I went to the Book Fair last weekend: she for work, me for book hunting. There were 7 aisles of booths chock full of books! Big name bookstores were there, as well as the publishers themselves.

Here's my catch for this year:
Indio Bravo: the story of Dr. Jose Rizal by Asuncion Lopez-Rizal Bantug, the granddaughter of Rizal's elder sister Narcissa. The basis of this book was derived from the manuscript of the Commonwealth Biography Contest entry Ms. Bantug wrote about her granduncle, of which she won third prize. Artwork is done by National Artist Bencab.

Supremo: the story of Andres Bonifacio by Sylvia Mendez Ventura. Through exhaustive research, Ms. Ventura documents the largely undocumented life of Andres Bonifacio up to his execution at the hands of his own Katipunero brothers.

By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II, 3 February - 3 March 1945 by Alfonso Aluit. Contains photos and day-to-day account of the war that left Manila in ruins.

I got these books because I became keenly interested in re-educating myself about our history, particularly about Rizal and Bonifacio. Phil, this is all your doing! :-)

The three books above cost me P350.00 from Bookmark. Great deal!

I was actually thinking of doing a blog on purely adobo stuff. Ask recipes from friends and relatives, cook it myself (not that I'm a great cook), and have a couple of "judges" try it out. And then I saw this book advertised in Yummy Magazine (which I buy occasionally just to look at the photos and work up my appetite). So I looked for this book at the Fair and here it is! I have read a first few pages containing anecdotes and the Filipino love affair with adobo. Did you know that anywhere in the country, there is a dish called adobo? There may be differences in preparation, but regardless of dialect, there is bound to be adobo in the region. It's unifying food! Who knows, I just might find myself mystified by the many ways adobo is cooked and try it out!

I was just taking a walk around when I spotted the spine of these books. Doctor to the Barrios! I read these back in grade school! And I loved these so much that I borrowed these more than once. It was like meeting old friends when I saw these books. I forgot Doctor to the Barrios in Baguio; I have started reading that. So I'm jumping to these other titles. They're stories about Rural Reconstruction Workers in the 70s, their life and experience with the Barrio locals. Very interesting reading.

To top it all, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dr. Juan Flavier wrote these books! I didn't know it was him back in grade school. I have high regard for the man.

See the book with the butterfly on it? It's about Advanced Origami. I took a peek inside and wow! The figures were amazing.

Alas. This was the book that got away. I ran out of cash. This one was 1,495 pesos less 20% discount. I'll save up and buy it as birthday present for myself.

I also attended a Filipiniana.net seminar which I thought was going to last only for a few minutes but turned out to be a full hour. Sorry, it was lunchtime and I was so hungry. At any rate, it was an interesting overview to the site, where you can view books and images for free, with mini-projects within. The virtual Blair and Robinson looks most promising.

It was another interesting Book Fair. Last year, I had craft books. This year, it's mostly material related to the Philippines. I wonder what will it will be next year.
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