Friday, September 30, 2011

The Marvel That Was Manila Metropolitan Theater

* the façade of the Manila Metropolitan Theater

As one exit through one of the Intramuros gates near Colegio de San Juan de Letran, one can see a number of cultural and and historical treasures in the city of Manila. There is the nearby National Press Club office, the Pasig River, the Manila Post Office, and the Liwasang Bonifacio. Beyond this cluster of public fixtures is a curiously-looking structure, dressed in pale pink paint, found after you cross the street near Liwasang Bonifacio.

* a closer look at the Metropolitan Theater’s façade

Behold the Manila Metropolitan Theater or simply ‘Met’ to some homegrown Manila folk. The Manila Metropolitan Theater started out as a national venue for theatrical presentations. The building that houses the theater was designed by Architect Juan Arellano who came from a family of renowned architects dating back to the Spanish times in the Philippines (you read his short biography provided by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines or NHCP here). Later on, the Theater catered not only to local talents but also to international artists. Operas, pageants, and Spanish and English plays translated into Tagalog were some of the presentations held in that place. From the online biography of Juan Arellano, the Theater is described: “…as built in the modern style, with motifs of Philippine Flora – like a frieze of native mango and its leaves on its ceiling – as part of its decor.”

* the entrance doors of the Theater

Like many other buildings in the budding city of Manila, the Metropolitan Theater became an unwilling victim of World War II. During the so-called Liberation of Manila 1945, the structure was severely damaged by the bombings in the city. The damaged building became the temporary shelter of squatters (informal settlers in today’s terminology) and earned the moniker Besa Boxing Arena. Renovations were done in 1978 but as of this writing, it is quite obvious that much must still be done to actually restore the Theater to its former glorious state.

* some of the Theater’s façade details

Through online readings, I learned that parts of the façade decors were designed by an Italian artist while parts of the interior were designed by a Filipino artist. I may not be fully oriented in the events surrounding the eventual disuse of the Theater but the decay of what we could truly say as an architectural treasure is a sign of our general disinterest in the performing arts as well as visual arts. One does not just ignore one’s treasure. You keep it, secure it, and show other people how much you care for your treasure. The further people delay the renovations of the Metropolitan Theater, the more we entrench that ugly image about us, that we are not capable of taking care of a very important cultural, and indeed historical, heritage. Yes, we do have the Cultural Center of the Philippine with all its spacious halls and rooms but it is not reason for us to forget the ‘Met’. (It is for this reason that projects to save the ‘Met’ currently underway are encouraging moves.) This may be somewhat pessimistic in tone but it is my hope that it would make some ripples in the air and compel further the concerned individuals or groups to make the necessary actions now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tabako from Northern Luzon

Just recently I asked an acquaintance who made a tour of some parts of Ilocos Sur to bring back tabako as pasalubong. Although I was expecting this product in larger quantity, five pieces of five-inch tabako are good enough.

As the dried leaves turned into smoke, I am starting to anticipate a travel to Northern Luzon. It has been a while since my grandmother visited her relatives there in the north. I hope plans regarding a return trip (hopefully with a larger party) would be underway next year. Not just to obtain precious Northern Luzon products (walis tambo from Baguio, tabako and tuba from Ilocos, etc.) but also to learn more about the roots of this side of my family, their unique traditions (if any) and to pick up local historical tidbits as we go and visit places. This borders on daydreaming and so I will stop here. Ilocos: you’re my next tour target!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The 2011 Visit of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, La Naval de Manila to Colegio de San Juan de Letran Calamba

From the usual titles of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, La Naval de Manila visits to Colegio de San Juan de Letran Calamba (Letran Calamba for short), it seems that the visit of the Image has taken place a number of times already.

* the tarpaulin put up for the La Naval Visit:
Taunang Pagdalaw ng Mahal Nating Ina ng Santo Rosaryo
La Naval de Manila

* the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary,
La N
aval de Manila placed on the school lobby

* angels

* the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary,
La Naval de Manila at sunset

And this year’s visit attracted once again the devotees of the Image from around Calamba City. One slight change in this annual event is the entrance of the Image which is now from the back gate of the Colegio, close to Saint Albert the Great Convent. As I have only been recently acquainted on La Naval’s annual event, I shall share first some historical details regarding the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, La Naval de Manila which I obtained by reading through the souvenir booklet on the commemoration of the Coronation Centenary of La Naval (year 2007).

* Letran Calamba’s Tining Chorale group
performing during an activity for La Naval

* Tining’s choir director Mr. Lorenzo Gealogo

*(left) a member of Tining who rendered a solo performance;
(right) snapshots of Tining performance

Early accounts about the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, La Naval de Manila can be traced back to the devotion of the Filipinos to the Image during the threat of Protestant Dutch invaders in the Philippines, a devotion which exhibited the long existing faith of the early converted Filipino Roman Catholics to Mary as their intercessor.

* an image of the rosary made on Letran grounds
during the Living Rosary

* devotees trooping out of the main lobby
to join the procession after the closing rites

* the image of La Naval being escorted by devotees for the procession

The original image of La Naval was made in 1593 through the efforts of General General Luis Perez Dasmariñas to be given to the Dominicans in Manila. It came to my knowledge however that the La Naval image which visits Letran Calamba every year is already a replica.

The canonical coronation of the original La Naval image was held on October 5, 1907 after Pope Pius X responded positively to the request of the Dominicans to have the Image crowned as Patrona de Filipinas. Today the Image of La Naval is housed in Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lakbay Lahi sa Cavinti, Laguna 3: Roaming the Streets of Cavinti

This last entry in my Cavinti series collates the remaining observations I have noted plus a few accompanying photos. The poblacion is not the only place of interest in Cavinti. Perhaps the more popular spots are Caliraya Lake, a man-made lake found also in the mountainous area of Cavinti and Pagsanjan Falls which technically falls within the jurisdiction of the town of Cavinti. Or course I would love to visit these places and I hope I can do so in the near future.

* the tour jeepneys crowding a street of Cavinti

* façade of Cavinti municipal building
* silhouette of what could be an interpretation of “Inang Bayan”

* a simple monument commemorating the fighters,
both soldiers
and guerillas alike, who fought during World War II

The Houses in Cavinti

I was not able to find any old houses (that is, houses built around the time of the Spanish occupation in the Philippines) in streets around the town center. One might speculate that they either suffered the usual wear-and-tear or perhaps negligence or possibly destruction due to earthquakes recorded in the town’ history. Or perhaps during World War II. It was with regret that I did not look up on any information about this in the municipal library.

* some of the houses found in Cavinti

* Nakatagong Paraiso Resto-Bar;
an old woman told me th
at this bar has several stories underground;
too bad we were not able to see the interior as the bar was closed

Native Products of Cavinti

The good thing about the town of Cavinti is that it takes pride in its town-made products. At least for this one, we could commend the town’s current leadership for putting emphasis on the townsfolk’s capabilities.

A few questions about the town’s products led to a detailed discussion about the making of the town’s primary product: the sambalilo. It is a woven hat used mostly by farmer of workers in the mountains, easy to carry, and relatively cheap compared to the work hats. The material used for making the sambalilo is also found in Cavinti so there are no high costs put into the sale of the finished products.

In talking to the elders who indoctrinated me in the craft of sambalilo making, they said that the pandan leaves we usually use for our rice is not the real pandan. They call it pandan-pandanan. They say that the real pandan leaves are wider and have fine thorn-like protrusions that must be removed prior to the making of sambalilo.

The process of removing those little thorns is called “hininik” which one can easily understand given its root word. The next process would be to cut them (or baak” as they have termed it). Then the leaves must be sun dried (“bilad”) at least for a day. The next step would be to cut the leaves into four (remember that leaves are wide) or “linasin. Depending on the product in mind (banig, bag, place mat, etc.), the next step would be to put the cut leaves into the “ilohan” (the process would be called “ilohin”). The sambalilo actually has a number of parts but since I have rendered my notes on these incomprehensible due to the difficult task of understanding what was being said about the process and writing notes at the same time. Nevertheless, one thing I can share about a part of sambalilo would be the “puyo” which is the topmost part of the hat.

* Kalakal Cavinti atbp. Souvenir Shop, found in Brgy. Duhay

* some of the students who walked a good distance
just to visit Kalakal Souvenir Shop

* native products sold at Kalakal Souvenir Shop

The Town Library

Upon entering the municipal library, I felt like I was transported back into an earlier time. Posters and photos are hung up the walls: of the past town leaders, even of the past Congress of the country. There are collections of books which, however they may seem old and outdated given the rapid influx of new published materials into the academe, would definitely help any young Cavinti folk to get to know the Philippines and the world in general. I know of other libraries in other Philippine towns which are already closed or have devastatingly small collections of books. I even learned of a town which does not even have a town library! Thus I am quite happy to find the Cavinti library which still thrives despite the modernity that creeps into neighboring towns. The town may be somewhat rural in nature, but its people would not be left behind with these books. One can read books and reach places one only dreamt of in the past.

* a look inside the municipal library of Cavinti

* a giant sambalilo which won third place
during the last La Laguna Festival / Contest

* Rizal Monument found in a covered court in Cavinti, Laguna

* students polishing their write-ups after a half-day tour of Cavinti

In Summing Up

Besides the overhaul on my interview approach, our visit to Cavinti, Laguna made me realize more that the term travel as it is used these days is not only confined to visits to highly-commercialized tourist spots. Travel, as it seems to me now, is immersing into places and understanding their culture, their people, their history. After all, we go to places carrying different perspectives. This is now my disposition. Rural or urban, this is my concept of travel.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lakbay Lahi sa Cavinti, Laguna 2: The Cavinti Church

* the façade of the Cavinti Church

* Cavinti Church: built in 1621

* view of the church altar

* a close-up view of the image on the retablo
* view of the lower portion of the altar;
(inset) an image of
a saint found on the side

The story of the construction of the Cavinti Church has its parallel in the town’s oral tradition which I was able to learn from the elders I have interviewed during the Lakbay Lahi. The mountainous terrains of what is now Cavinti was said to be once part of the town of Lumban(g), found on the lower plains. Townsfolk used to go up to those part of the mountain to work. Once they found an image of a saint on a tree which they promptly brought down to town. By the next day, they would find the same image of the saint up there on the mountain again. This incident happened several times until they took this phenomenon to mean that the saint wanted them to build a church on the place. Thus, the Cavinti Church is now found on those mountainous parts.

* view of the pews and the church balcony in semi-darkness

* a marker of the church’s baptistery

* candle stands

* an image of a saint found on the side of the church

* the church’s bell tower viewed from below

Historically, the ecclesiastical administration on the town of Cavinti was under Lumban(g) until 1619 [from the marker found outside the Cavinti Church]. In 1621 the first stone church was constructed along with the convent. But the Chinese uprising in 1639 damaged the church and the convent [an interesting line of inquiry: the reasons of the Chinese uprising in those regions]. Eventual constructions of the church were also damaged, specifically due to the earthquake which happened in 1824. The church and the convent were repaired in 1851. Another earthquake, in the year 1880, caused the church tower to collapse and its wall to suffer cracks. Later, an earthquake in 1927 further damaged the church walls.

* this has an ancient feel to it

* do these stones form the original church’s walls? I wonder

* view of a buttress of the Cavinti Church

* an arc found inside the church

* a shade recently annexed to the church façade

Not a very lively story as it is full of destructions. But the reconstructions show the extent of the resilience and resolve of the people to maintain their place of worship in the town. Today the church houses the image of the alleged image from the oral tradition, placed on the higher portion of the church façade with lighting day and night. The lighting was put there in order to prevent the image from going down to the ground. Officially the churched is named Transfiguration Parish Church.

* a space on the church’s front allotted for the Stations of the Cross

* view of what look like very old stones for the walls
of the adjoining convent of the church

* elders/[volunteers?] doing some morning tidying up
of the church small landscape gardens

* an arc found as you enter the church grounds

In observing the place, the church is built on high grounds. Some said that they could actually see the top of the church from a distance. I believe the church could have been visible as far as the Cavinti Bridge if not for the trees and houses. Lastly, the church’s location and set-up is very similar to that Liliw, Laguna.

Next in the Cavinti series: the town’s environs.