Wednesday, January 28, 2015

San Pablo Cathedral Makeover Commences

The long-awaited makeover of San Pablo Cathedral has now begun! And in its initial renovation we see here that beauty lies within. Who would have thought that the cathedral is much like the church in Liliw? The story of its overhaul is worthy to be followed.

A Souvenir from Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Pacheco

* a brochure of Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Pacheco given to us;
on the cover: Jubilee Cross (2000) and Lakeshore Madonna (1996)

While rummaging through my stuff and storing them away from vermins, I pulled an old brochure of a Filipino artist we met many years ago. He’s name is Rafael Pacheco, more often called ‘Ka Paeng’ or ‘Paeng’.

To refresh my mind I went back to my records and found that he visited San Pablo City, Laguna way back in September 2001 and had a short talk and show of talent at the now defunct Carlito’s Restaurant and Art Gallery. We were kids back then, able to draw, sketch, and paint and so were invited to meet the artist (many thanks to our high school officials back then who allowed us many things to explore).

It is widely known that he is self-taught and went to pursue a painting technique that would soon be attached to his name: the finger painting technique. I remember Ka Paeng as a big man with big arms and how he made a finger painting on a large canvas with music to accompany him. I vaguely recall that it was an integral part of his creations.

Searching on the internet, I am glad to learn that he is still around, albeit old, and already has an art gallery named after him. It is my hope that we could go to his place Morong, Rizal to visit him and see his artworks.

Another Morong Artist

As I went through the notes and praises on the brochure, I was more than surprised to learn that Pacheco and another artist, whom I personally knew and who figured greatly in my life, are town mates. He’s none other than McLarry San Antonio. And though his life was cut short because of an illness, he left an inspired family and a body of artworks that are only waiting to be seen by the Filipinos. I shall soon write about this other Morong artist.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Old Philippine Banknotes to be Demonetized this 2015

The ‘old’ Philippine banknotes issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or BSP is set to be demonetized this year 2015. Labeled as the New Design Series or NDS, these old bills (such as the ones you see in the photo above) will be replaced completely by the New Generation Currency or NGC at the start of 2016. This NGC series is the latest of the set of paper money released which we are using already.

This move by the BSP is in accordance with the provisions of the so-called New Central Bank Act and aims “to preserve the integrity of Philippine currency.” The replacement will use improved security features for our bills.

For additional information regarding the replacement, demonetization, among others, you can visit the Media Releases section of the BSP website here.

Afternoon Stroll in Perez Park, Lucena City, Quezon

 * the man behind the park: Filemon Perez

A longish vacation gives one relative freedom and ease to move or act at his or her own pace. Particularly on travel. And so while almost all of the free TV channels are covering the visit of Pope Francis, an unplanned trip to Lucena was done. Target? that big park in the city proper that I have seen in my mother’s photos when she was young: Perez Park.

* posing opportunity

Perez Park lies on the wide grounds right in front of the Quezon Province Capitol. The land was donated by the family of Filemon Perez, a celebrated governor and public servant in his time but more importantly, a native of Lucena. 
  * park views

* a special space for President Quezon in Perez Park

This big park is divided into what I will call sections. The first section (on the extreme left if you are facing the provincial capitol) contains amenities for children and young people: swings, seesaws, climbing bars, and a small circular space for skateboarders. (That last one is unfortunately absent in San Pablo.) The second and third sections generally contain what you will find in a park such as wide grounds for children to run and stone benches. The last section has a big fountain (which I suppose would be impressive when turned on owing to its size) and a monument for the late President Manuel Quezon, himself a native of the province. Behind his larger than life statue is a reconstruction of one of his famous messages. Entitled “Message To My People”, it speaks to the Filipinos of the Philippines and its meaning and value for them. This was probably penned during the wartime.
* the imposing Tayabas, now Quezon Province Capitol Building

Quezon Provincial Capitol

Standing imposingly nearby is the Quezon Provincial Capitol, on the grounds donated too by Atty. Filemon Perez. It used to be called Tayabas Capitol. It was concretized based on the plans and designs by the architect consultant provided by Public Act No. 1637. By 1930, it was refurbished and enlarged at the same time during the time of Governor Leon G. Guinto. The renovation was finished in 1935 during the term of Governor Maximo Rodriguez. It was destroyed during World War II but was fortunately restored through the U.S. Philippines Rehabilitation Act of 1946. When Republic Act No. 14 was enacted that changed the name of the province to Quezon it was finally named Quezon Provincial Capitol.
* sunset view in Perez Park

For someone in need of a breather in the south, then Perez Park is for you.

[How to go to Perez Park, Lucena City, Quezon: If coming from Metro Manila, you need to board a bus bound for Lucena. You can drop off at Brgy. Gulang-Gulang or what people call Diversion. From there, you need to board a jeep bound for ‘Bayan.’ This jeep will pass by Perez Park and you simply have to ask the driver to drop you off near the place.]


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Musing on Pope Francis and His Philippine Visit

* a rosary from Vatican I obtained from an intimate,
one of the several religious items in my collection
A rock star. Pope of many firsts. People’s Pope. Lolo.

A multitude of names.
One Pope.

In a research seminar I attended many years ago, it was mentioned that a collection of titles for someone or something only manifests the fondness of the people to it. And it is apparent for this so-called Modern Pope. And the recently concluded pastoral/apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines not only made a number of historical firsts for the papacy but also showed how people can unite themselves for an individual.

One can talk of the possibility that some simply treated him in the celebrity-like manner. One can talk that some just sort of rode on that hype of the papal visit. One can talk that some took advantage of the events to earn a few pesos for themselves. But whatever the negativeness that might be thrown, what was MOST evident was that their faith, the Catholic faith, took form again behind the very image of their leader, the pope.

It would be hypocrisy not to admit that in one way or another, his presence, his demeanor, his actions and his silent gestures, made us stop for a moment and made us reflect on our belief, on our faith. As a follower on TV for five days (mainly for current events reasons), his message on the concept of compassion, though very, very simple, pierced my indifference on religious concepts. Yes, I agree: mercy and compassion goes beyond simply pulling out a few coins and giving them to the beggars on the street. It moved me to look outside (almost quite literally) and re-assess my views on giving and receiving, something that a hardcore biblical exegesis would take months, if not years, for me to fully digest. It was the universality of the idea that appealed to me. True, most of his messages (his homilies, to be more precise) were grounded on Roman Catholicism, but one does need a clearly delineated religious membership to understand his messages, particular that one on compassion.

The papal visit might prove to be instrumental for the Catholics to renew or strengthen their faith. But being a universal figure, his visit would hopefully inspire the nation (regardless of social standing) to look to their side and to start caring for others outside of their own personal comforts.

Images from the Feast of Saint Paul the First Hermit in San Pablo City, Laguna

* ano ba ang pista ng walang perya?

* first morning mass on the feast of Saint Paul the First Hermit

* one of the nightly processions for Saint Paul the First Hermit
 * chicks for sale on the city's streets during the fiesta

2015 Mardi Gras Street Dancing Competition, San Pablo City, Laguna

Viva San Pablo, Coco Festival!

In my three consecutive years of documenting this annual event in San Pablo City, Laguna, I have seen the ever-changing colors of the dancing costumes, the elaborate floats parading on the streets of the city, and the intensity of the street dancers themselves. And this year’s installment of Mardi Gras was no different.   

Bright colors invaded the streets together with the almost frenzied dance movements of the participants. From elementary school kids up to college students, all swayed and gyrated to the music of the Mardi Gras. The same coconut tree parts were still visible in the costume designs but additional implements were added such as high poles, the image of Saint Paul the First Hermit, fans, jeepneys, among others.

Even the floats seemed to be in a level-up mode. There are more school participants and more pakulo to make the floats attractive to the beholders. There were the usual beautiful young ladies and handsome gentleman up front; freebies and fliers; and the very clever use of prominent cartoon and movie characters that proved to be very popular to children. Beyond these embellishments the parts of the coconut tree was still present in all of them.

Just a few comments and suggestions: First, it was good that the ‘waiting area’ for the floats were transferred from Mabini Street to Rizal Avenue. This move practically decongested the area the corner of Mabini Street and Zulueta Street where they were used to be situated. Also, it enabled smooth transition of the dance groups. The use of ropes to isolate the dancers from the general crowd also helped in giving room for the presenters to fully make their moves.

But due to the number of spectators, not all can actually come near and watch all the dancers. Big screens are suggested to be erected along the Mabini Street area, along Rizal Avenue near the Lions Club welcome arch, and near the main stage of the Coconut Festival on the city plaza. That way, not everyone have to squeeze through the throng just to see the Mardi Gras dancers in person.

As a whole the Mardi Gras proves to be a strong magnet for tourists and local citizens in taking part in a celebration of the coconut tree and the city’s patron saint.