Thursday, November 24, 2011

On Changing History: From EDSA to Cory Aquino Avenue

With such a large House (literally the Batasang Pambansa), one will definitely have all the time to think of plans and dreams both serious and hilarious. And with the news that a certain congressman has filed a bill seeking to change the name EDSA to Cory Quino Avenue, that certainly falls under the label hilarious. If he cannot think of EDSA without thinking of Cory Aquino, then I certainly cannot think of Cory Aquino Avenue (if that really happen eventually) without thinking of the people's devastatingly low appreciation of our history.

EDSA is EDSA. Cory is Cory. To replace EDSA with Cory is to put Epifanio de los Santos’ contribution to the country to shame. Let us leave EDSA alone. No name changing can reduce the traffic and pollution in the place. Let us do away of making too much fuss over names.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reminiscing Scouting Days through Photos from a Film Camera

* Pransis in front of an old house near a seaside area
in Bo
ac, Marinduque

* during the Scout Youth Forum in
Marinduque National High Schoo
l, Boac, Marinduque

Scouting made my high school days very memorable. Any recollection of those years would not be complete without me mentioning the joys of hiking through hills and mountains; swimming, bathing, washing clothes, and even drinking from rivers; sleeping under heavy downpour; among others.

* scouts and scout masters from San Pablo City
during a parade in Teresa, Rizal

* Pransis with other participants in the parade in Teresa, Rizal

* Pransis with scouts from the Aurora Boy Scouts Council

I can still recall those formative camping when we were just being groomed as scouts during elementary days. I never thought that I would eventually march on a National Court of Honor, an event where scouts are awarded the highest rank a scout can receive, the Eagle Scout Award.

* scouts from San Pablo before
the National Court of Honor in Teresa, Rizal

* during the National Court of Honor proper

Perhaps scouting made me closer to the beauty of nature, something that I can still feel inside me, that’s why I tend to travel more to places. Our scouting adventures may not have been fully grounded on history but I daresay that they definitely boosted one key trait in me: the passion to explore more.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reminiscing our Trip to Tacloban City, Leyte through Photos from a Film Camera

* Pransis, haggard and lacking in sleep,
aboard a Philippine Airlines plane bou
nd for Tacloban City, Leyte

* Trailer Pransis at the Tacloban City airport;
notice how browny an
d skinny I was then

I have been browsing through my old documents in preparation for a contest that I will be joining this month. Rummaging through my old stuff necessarily included rummaging through old photographs as well. Of course we can very well remember that before digital cameras and DSLRs became the staple photo-capturing devices, film cameras (what we fondly call “de-film”) were the kings. From my old photos I was able to get a few which were taken during some of the travels I’ve taken. One intact set of photos I found was from our trip to Tacloban City, Leyte.

* view of the Leyte Landing Memorial
depicting the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur
to the Philippines in 19

* view of the San Juanico Bridge

* part of the San Juanico Bridge leading to the province of Leyte;
shot from the Samar province side

The trip to Tacloban City took place more than ten years ago, during my elementary days in fact. It was connection with a national press conference for elementary and high school students. It was a one-week activity but most of the time we were out visiting different tourist sports and sites in Tacloban City. The ones posted here are the only I was able to shoot because our elder companions did all the picture taking from their cameras. One memorable experience was crossing the San Juanico Bridge. We only did that because the tourist guide we hired had to pee. What a way to seek relief: crossing a magnificent bridge and knocking in someone’s house!

* posing in a dried fish store in a Tacloban market

* some of the companions in the Tacloban trip;
the one in the center and the one on the right
became my orgmates in college after 14 years

One advantage at least of these old photographs is their ease with which they transport us back to the past and allow us to see how we look back then and how much we have accomplished. For my case, I see these old Tacloban photos as a reminder of how big I have grown now (from that skinny little kid into a fat-bellied young man now) and how far I have reached so far from that simple trip (although I am yet to experience travelling abroad).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kulay ng Pitong Lawa Painting and Sculpture Exhibit in San Pablo City, Laguna

Upon receiving an invitation from the boyfriend of my cousin to see one of his paintings in exhibit in Ultimart in San Pablo City, Laguna, we went there to see his artwork.

* (left) “Still in Life 1” by Maryam Ballaran [acrylic on paper];
(right) “Blue” by Nica Francia [acrylic on paper]

* some of the artworks in exhibit

It turns outs that his work was part of a Painting and Sculpture Exhibit of Kulay ng Pitong Lawa Art Group based here in San Pablo City. Composed of San Pableño visual artists, the group showcased the artworks of:
Lito Ballaran;
Ed Gamo Jr.;
Maurice Panganiban;
Niño Malatag;
Zaj Galindo;
Jose Carlo Mendoza;
Wilmer Faylon;
JC Panganiban; and
Nicole Manzanero.

* the other artwork in exhibit

Two guest artists in the said exhibit were Nica Francia and Maryam Ballaran. The exhibit was actually part of a larger activity organized by Barangay ni Jose (BJAI) entitled “Pitong Lawa Pitong Sining”, a large part of which was composed film showings in the movie theatre at Ultimart.

* a painting entitled “Intonation”

* “Grief” by Maurice Panganiban

The group of artworks did not have any unified theme but their worth was seen right there as some of them were already sold. One undeniable realization from this exhibit is the fact that San Pableños are now building an art scene in the city. It may not be that ‘mainstream’ yet but one can see that appreciation of visual arts will soon be entrenched in the city. [Hopefully the same thing can be said of literature or literary groups. Lit crit group in San Pablo? Not unlikely.]

* some of the sculptures of Ed Gamo

* “Holy Face of Jesus Christ” by Ed Gamo

* “Birheng Dolorosa” by Ed Gamo

* “San Sebastian” by Ed Gamo

* the other sculptures of Ed Gamo

One distinct part of the art exhibit was the sculptures of Ed Gamo. Most of the sculptures in exhibit are in fact sold already. It can be inferred that some San Pablo residents are already art enthusiasts. Ed Gamo’s works were placed on the sides of the stairs leading up to the movie theatres. One turn-off only was the seeming hastened way in which they placed the labels for the artworks. They could have placed more appealing tags and not those oversized fonts. But I general, it was good to see sculpture works getting exhibited in public areas in San Pablo.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Of Souls and Saints 2: Visiting the Old San Pablo Municipal Cemetery

* one of the entrances to San Pablo Municipal Cemetery

* Trailer Pransis posing beside the grave of our relatives

Rereading the novel “Noli Me Tangere” (particularly the chapter about All Saints’ Day) has encouraged me once again to do my own visit of the cemetery and see first hand the activities (and traditions) that the Filipinos have come to keep and/or incorporate in remembering the saints and the dead. But a visit on All Saints’ Day (and sometimes even on All Souls’ Day itself) is no longer practicable primarily because of the number of people who troop to the cemetery and the high possibility of having your things lost or of getting yourself trampled (if you’re not smart enough to go with the flow of the people). I can make myself through easily in a large crowd but laziness took over and I opted to visit San Pablo City’s old cemetery a few days before November 1, dragging along my ever-reluctant sister. (As a further note, a new cemetery called ‘Memorial’ is found in Brgy. San Gabriel. I think there is also a new cemetery in the area of Brgy. San Ignacio.)

* views of the San Pablo Municipal Cemetery

The usual things can still be observed inside the cemetery: people selling candles and flowers; people asking you for painting jobs or people lending light bulbs (plus electricity lines of course) for those who will stay at night. Personally, I have never been a religious follower of tradition and so it looked somewhat awkward for us to visit our relatives’ grave without any candle or flowers to offer. In any case, I thought our presence was good enough.

* a towering Ferris Wheel in a perya put up near San Pablo Municipal Cemetery

As an observation, the overcrowding of the roads leading to the cemeteries is not caused by the number of people visiting. It is actually because of the stalls put up on the road sides. These stalls sell clothes, toys, slippers, shoes, tattoos, among others. As always, Filipinos find it a very good place to make some money. (One has to give credit for that trait of the Filipinos.) A makeshift fair (perya!) is also present along the road leading to the cemetery. Perhaps it is one of the reasons why I am always drawn to the cemetery during these days – I practically grew up visiting every perya sprouting in the city proper.

* an old house found on M. Leonor Street,
the street leading to San Pablo Municipal Cemetery

* Los Filipinos Bakery, still found on M. Leonor Street

* Fish-da Bakeshop, still found on M. Leonor Street

As an end-thought, what I missed doing is taking pictures of those big mausoleums inside the cemetery. I still have not come into terms with their presence. (But such musings can be reserved for next year.)

Of Souls and Saints 1: Children’s Trick-or-Treat

*candies we prepared for the children

* the children lining up for their candies

* the children posing for picture taking

Trick-or-treat (or trick-or-tricking) is an activity primarily done by children and is actually part of the celebration of Halloween. Although the celebration of the All Saints’ Day and the All Souls’ Day is somehow rooted in religion-related traditions, Halloween has its origins in pagan practices. But such differences are no longer relevant and are in fact largely ignored. That’s why we have trick-or-treat as part of these early November holidays.

What made the trick-or-treat I have witnessed quite amusing is its closer resemblance to a gift-giving or Christmas Day celebration where children just await for gifts of sweets. There was no threat of any ‘trick’ from the children. In the end, whether an event comes from heathen traditions or not, they are pardoned in favor of brief treats and pleasure for children. Children must always be happy, so they say.

Las Piñas (Saint Joseph) Church: Home to the Bamboo Organ

In so far as my several travels around southern Luzon area are concerned, I have learned that the constructions of churches coincided with the emergence of towns through the efforts of the Spanish conquistadores. And it was not different in the case of the town (and now city) of Las Piñas.

* façade of Saint Joseph Church, Las Piñas

“Las Piñas or Las Peñas?”: The Origins of the Name of Las Piñas

Translated as “pineapples”, the name was allegedly derived from the pineapples which came from the areas of Batangas and Cavite being temporarily transported to the town before they are distributed to the markets in the vicinity. But one refutal for this is the inscription on the bell now found in the museum adjacent to Las Piñas Church: SIENDO CURA DEL PUEBLO DE LASPEÑAS EL M.R.P. PADRE DIEGO CERA SE FUNDIO ESTE EQUILON ANO DE 1820” something that was taken by some quarters to mean that the town’s name was derived from the quarrying in the place at the time.

In any case, tracing evidences on either this pineapple activity or quarrying is engaging. Perhaps someone has already written something or someone is doing a research right now about them. It is only left for us, history enthusiasts, to go and look for the research outputs.

* a side entrance to Saint Joseph Church, Las Piñas

* some altars found inside the Las Piñas church

* candle stand

* a possible Las Piñas resident interned inside the Las Piñas Church,
one sign that the people there during
the Spanish times were of wealthy background

A Brief History of Las Piñas Church

Las Piñas was established as a pueblo in 1762 but was later separated from the parish of Parañaque in 1775. It was about 20 years later, on December 26, 1795, that Las Piñas’ first resident parish priest was designated to the place: Fray Diego Cera dela Virgen del Carmen. He spearheaded the construction of the town’s first stone church from 1797 to 1819. The famed Bamboo Organ was made from 1816-1824 which was composed of around 902 pieces of bamboo and around 129 tubes made of tin. Two earthquakes, one in 1828 and 1863, partially destroyed the church.

* view of the Las Piñas Church’s interior and main altar

Due to the series of earthquakes that happened 1880 [there were 5 catalogued strong earthquakes in the year 1880 (see reference below)], the church was no longer used for mass. Repairs were made in 1883 but it was never fully restored. The marker in the church is silent about the years from 1883 up to the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines during the World War II. During that time, it was used as camps for the hostages and as a makeshift hospital during the liberation period.

Through the joint efforts of the parochial community and the Historical Conservation Society, the church was restored to its former state from 1962 to 1977.

* behold, the Las Piñas Bamboo organ (front view and rear view)

The Bamboo Organ, the Bamboo King

The Bamboo Organ of course has its own story. Quoting from

“Padre Diego Cera began work on the organ in 1816, while the church was still under construction. Having previously built organs in Manila with some organ stops made of bamboo, he decided to built one using only bamboo for the pipes. Bamboo was abundant in the area and used for hundred of items. The organ was first heard in 1821 yet without the horizontal trumpets. He completed the work in 1824 after finally deciding to use metal for the horizontal trumpets whose character of sound he could not get with bamboo resonators. These bamboo resonators now stand as the rear facade pipes of the organ.
The final result conforms very closely to the classic Mediterranean organ, built in a style that essentially looked backward to the eighteenth century. It has one manual, divided registers with separate knobs for the bass and treble, horizontal trumpets in the facade, a few short pull-down pedal notes plus of course a few of the favorite effects: Pajaritos and the Tambor. It is a curious fact that the sound of many Spanish and Italian organs built quite late in this tradition have a unique charm, only emphasized in the Bamboo Organ by the choice of the material.

* entrance to Las Piñas Adoration Chapel

* possibly the first bell of the Las Piñas Church;
the second phot
o shows an close up view of the bell
with Fray Diego Cera’s name inscribed on it

Down through the years, earthquakes and typhoons damaged both church and organ. The first repairs were still done by Fr. Cera and later by locals who were trained by the builder himself. At the start of the 20th century, the organ is hardly playable. Several attempts were made just to keep it playing until an inevitable restoration is badly needed after the Second World War.
In 1972, through the efforts of the CICM priests of St. Joseph's Parish, Fr. Mark Lessage and Fr. Leo Renier, a contract for restoration was awarded to Johannes Klais Orgelbau of Bonn, Germany. The entire instrument was disassembled and shipped to Germany in 1973 and was restored under climatic conditions simulating those at Las Piñas. While the restoration of the organ was taking place in Germany, the church and grounds were restored to their original state with the help of the entire parish community. The restored organ returned home in March 1975 to a joyous welcome by the people of the Philippines. Since then the scene of many concert festivals, the Bamboo Organ is described by international organ masters as one of the finest old organs in the world. Its construction of bamboo is noted as being one of the major factors that gives it a truly unique and lively sound.”
* inside the Las Piñas Church museum

The Bamboo Organ is indeed a site to behold in the Las Piñas Church’s interior. Lodge up near the church entrance, the Bamboo Organ enthralls the visitors with its unique design and appearance. Combined with the ambiance of the place, reflection is very conducive for visitors, believers and non-believers alike.

* a statue of Fray Diego Cera found outside Las Piñas Church

* view of the patio in front of the Las Piñas Church

- Maso, Miguel Saferra, SJ. “Catalogue of Violent and Destructive Earthquakes in the Philippines with an Appendix: Earthquakes in the Marianas Islands 1599-1909.” Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1910.

[How to go to Las Piñas Church: Anyone wishing to go to Las Piñas Church and see the Bamboo Organ (whether you’re coming from Metro Manila or from the South Luzon provinces) can start from the Star Mall in Alabang (formerly Metropolis). Then board a jeep bound for Zapota Bayan and ask the driver to drop you off at the ‘Bamboo Organ.’ From Alabang you’ll find the church on your left side.]