Happy, Happy Valentines to all! I heart you… 😉
When the famous Hollywood director, Quentin Tarantino came over to the Philippines in 2007, it was a dream come true, he said so in interviews. He was here for more than a week in August, six years ago, attending the Cinemalaya Film Festival and the Tarantino Film Festival, both held at the Gateway Cinema in Quezon City. Cinemalaya means free cinema and its festival is held annually to celebrate and honor the makers and actors behind low-budget, independent film ventures in the country.
The Tarantino Festival, on the other hand, was organized in honor of the celebrated director, featuring movies Tarantino wrote and/or directed, screening of international, multi-awarded films and a week-long workshop in screenplay, cinematography and technical aspects of film-making. Gateway is a high-end mall with a movie house in Quezon City. The cinema was newly-opened that time, making it the best venue for a relatively high profile, colorful event.
Gateway was therefore flooded with local directors, movie actors, writers and film enthusiasts from all over the country for a week. During the event, Tarantino said that he has high admiration for Filipino directors, notably those who made films in the 50s and 60s. The period is known as the golden era of the Philippine movie industry, by the way. It is said that ours made headway first, long before India’s Bollywood, ahaha… 🙂
Director Tarantino told stories, him working in a video shop before entering Hollywood and spending considerable amount of time watching the films of respected Filipino directors Eddie Romero, Gerry de Leon, Pablo Suarez and Cirio Santiago… Directors Eddie Romero and Cirio Santiago were present in the festival. The former was a handsome actor and director in the old days but during the festival, one cannot help but notice, the director has considerably aged. The latter was a staunch businessman, known for his B-movies for international release, ahaha. Director Quentin proudly admitted that Death Proof was a rip-off of Santiago’s early film, The Muthers.
What I remember about the Tarantino films are, the blood and gore, the unapologetic sex scenes and, the way the movie creator brings on screen the minds of the crime perpetrators. The comfort room or the “commode,” as it is usually called in the Tarantino movies, is usually highlighted in his films. Often, there are bodies lying around – violated, mutilated and bloodied in the most horrible manner imaginable. And Director Quentin’s films, are usually about how things got that messy.
Or, how cold, calculating and “objective” the murderer was. Tarantino films often imply that we have the murderer in us… Thus, when I saw the famed director at Gateway, I was amazed at how relaxed and open he appeared and sounded. And, he is bigger (physically) than I thought… 🙂 He narrated stories about the Filipino films he has seen, the length he went through to get copies, haha, and he was lovable with his knowledge of Filipino actors and actresses – old and new, the famous and the obscure. He did and do watch our movies, interestingly…
Director Tarantino said that he thinks, there are two movie industries in the Philippines: the mainstream and the indie. The mainstream generally makes lighter-themed, big budgeted, starred in by known actors, tackles safe issues and makes more money. The indie, on the other hand, tackles high- risk themes, are low-budgeted, starred in by actors with less or no projects but, dares into less-traveled spheres of the film genre, even as the creators hardly make any money, ahaha.
According to the Hollywood director, it is Filipino indie films that offer quality and get awards in the international and regional film festivals. For him, the Filipino indie films have the potential in the international market, but why don’t the Filipino movie-going public patronize them? It was raised in the open forum: The commercial aspect of film making in the Philippines usually get the upper hand, as the movie-going public is more inclined to pay for and watch films that offer escape and entertainment. The issue was tackled, but in the end, Derek Tarantino was still puzzled and asking, ahaha.
There were so many known personalities in the week-long activity. There, I saw Dereks Tikoy Aguiluz, Wenn Deramas, Manny Valera, Gil Portes, Adolf Alix, Jr and the former vocalist of the famous band, Eraserhead’s Ely Buendia (with his wife), ahaha. In one of the movie screenings, the third of the Julie Delpy series, I sat next to Derek Gil Portes, hoho… The director looked and sounded bored, ahaha. After the movie, we had a light talk, asked me if I enjoyed the film. I said, yes, somehow… I mean, the third isn’t as good as the first two (Before Sunset, Before Sunrise), but pleasant enough. He gave me a look that seemed to say, I had much to learn as a film viewer, haha.
But Derek Gil Portes was nice and courteous, nicer than what one would ordinarily expect from a director who has made movies that earned awards and accolades, here and abroad. Well, am blabbering… All am saying, the recent weekend was a long one for us (Friday was holiday, to celebrate the end of Ramadan) and for the first time in four months, I got the chance to visit some blogs and watch a couple of indie films at Cinema One via the local cable. ‘Twas uneventful, rainy and the storm sure provided us more than the usual darkness and unremitting amount of rain, hehehe … 😉
* Small Voices is a film directed by Gil Portes, about a teacher assigned in a remote barrio.
Hello, people… 🙂 As I said before, Philippines is an aquatic country. Ours is a big grouping of islands and islets. We’re literally surrounded by water, just like Winnie the Pooh after the rain, hehe. The sad part, of course, is the fact that yours truly hails from an almost landlocked village. I would really have wanted to be born and raised in a place where one rises to the sound of the sea waves in the morning. That must have been cool. I mean, that is cool! Imagine, most seas are right beside mountains… So, if one’s by the sea, the mountain is likely, surely near or across. Two wonders of nature to nurture a child’s curious body and mind, eh… 😉
When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to see fishermen on the shore, doing what the apostles in the Bible were doing – arranging the fish nets so the fishing vessels could sail to the open seas. I was fascinated, nay, mesmerized, at what they were doing – making sure the nets are okay, all the equipment and tools are in and pushing the boat from the dock area to the sea… That was group work – lots of coordination, happy shouting and silent understanding among sunburned people. They seemed to love the muscle work required, the camaraderie among men and the smell and feel of the sea. There really were years of my life when I wished I could live among sea-faring people.
Anyway, if I were to be born again and in the Philippines at that, I would wish it to be in a village by the sea. At some points, I questioned why I was given birth in a watery country and yet, there isn’t even a river in our place, ahaha. There’s a creek nearby, though and my siblings, cousins and I had to make do – playing with silt, catching small crabs and removing moss from rock boulders. And, lying down the creek bed, allowing water to clean our bodies and relax our nasty spirits. I would later study high school in the city and the visits to the creek would be cut short, shorter than anticipated. In the new setting, there would be tap water, that’s the big news. 😉
Before I was enrolled in the first grade, I had the chance to visit my uncle’s fishpond in the nearby province. Along with my cousins, I was brought to the area during harvest season. There were thousands of fish still moving, squirming, struggling inside the nets. They were how the poet Neruda described them: silvery. I think that was also how Hemingway described those creatures – the bounty of the sea… Except, those fishes did not come from the big, wide, open sea. They came from the nearby lake. And, the fingerlings or fry were the cultivated kind – Uncle had a fish nursery. Anyway,’ twas fun to see them alive, close and too personal… I did not sleep well for four nights after the episode, haha. I remembered the eyes of the fishes, seeming to ask for my help… I did not eat fish my whole elementary years, that’s how bad… 🙂
Anyway, that was a long time ago. In high school, I would eventually learn to eat fish again… In the Philippines, the fish ordinarily eaten by our folks are the small kinds, people – anywhere from 50 grams to two kilos in weight. The world’s smallest fish (half an inch in length) can be found here, by the way, in Taal lake… The big and fancy fishes are for the moneyed people, the cultured folks and those with culinary schooling, ahaha. Actually, we don’t have many big fishes. The huge, giant ones are mostly tunas – the big-eye tuna (Thunnus obesus), and the yellow fin tuna (Thunnus alalungga) from the Batangas bay and even bigger ones, from General Santos city.
Tunas from the Batangas area are generally smaller and are sold in nearby provinces and in Metro Manila. GenSan city, on the other hand, is said to be the country’s tuna basin. Gen San port (and market) captures the biggest, the gigantic tunas (Thunnus albacares), aside from the big-eye and the yellow fin. The prime catch from the Sarangani Bay and from the nearby, wider, open seas in the South, make their way to GenSan market and are traditionally sold to U.S. and Japan to meet the demands for sushi, sashimi and other raw fish dishes of classy restaurants…
Gen. Santos city, by the way, is in Mindanao, down South. Locally, the Saranggani tuna is also called the barilis. The GenSan tuna maybe renowned, here and abroad, but the local tuna industry, has yet to make inroads… There is still a long way to go, before GenSan becomes a prosperous city, it seems… Manny Pacquaio, the world-famous boxer, is Sarangani’s representative, by the way. Or, as the people put it, “Congressman Manny, idol!” 😉
Around here, most people eat the head and the tail part of the fish, excuse me, my dear foreign readers… Usually, Filipinos eat the eyes of the fish, too. It’s not just the Greeks, folks. 😉 And, fish eyes are yummy. Of course, it’s an acquired taste… ^_^ By the way, in the big supermarkets, the fishes sold there are also packaged nicely – sans the head, the tail and the innards, hehe. Most are sold as fillets… In the wet markets, the fishes are sold cleaned and sliced (by the kilos) or whole and uncleaned (by piece, yet weighted).
About three years ago, sibling and I had the chance to watch a British reality show where the producers tried to introduce the participants to the food industry in U.K. They made the contestants trace the supply chain of the processed food products found in the shelves of big supermarkets. They were brought to several countries in Asia – to learn firsthand how to dress chickens in the factory, haha, to catch shrimps in the ditches and to see up close that fishes originally had tails and heads, so unlike the ones in the supermarkets… 🙂 Most of the participants had a change of heart afterwards. It was shown in the end – how they became better young adults, more appreciative of their parents… 🙂
Anyway, folks, let me introduce to you the famous fishes in my country –
Galunggong or mackerel is the poor man’s almost daily fare, around here. There are five varieties of fresh mackerel common in the wet markets in the Philippines. The most sought after is the round, elongated one – the horse mackerel (Decapterus maruadsi) or the roundscad. The other famous variety is the wide, striped mackerel, also known as the Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) or alumahan. Galunggong generally comes as your small fish, 100 grams a piece, on the average. Or, 10 to 12 pieces of mackerel in a kilo – enough for two meals – for a family of six. 🙂
It is often said that the quality of life of the Filipinos is measured by the price of the galunggong in the market, haha. Personally, I was not acquainted with galunggong, until I went to the metropolis for college (We have small tunas in the province and those were what we bought when we had money. Most days, running on a tight budget, we got the other smaller fishes, available only locally). By the way, galunggong is traditionally salted, boiled and cooked with garlic, onions, ginger and kamyas. The dish is known as “pinaksiw na galunggong.”Or, sometimes, just salt, plain vinegar and some tomatoes… This dish is known as “pinangat.”
Galunggong has indeed stuck with the Pinoys, through thick and thin. This rather small fish has seen the Filipino people through the post-American republic, the crisis of the 70’s, almost two decades of dictatorship and post-EDSA hardships… For ordinary lunch, the galunggong is usually fried and served with sauteed or steamed vegetables, together with ample amount of rice, hohoho… 😉 Around here, one would hear tales from middle-class and rich Filipinos – how galunggong has seen them though difficult days… ^^
Bangus or milkfish (Chanos chanos) is our national fish, one of our country’s symbols… Milkfish or bangus is a bony kind of fish (has two dorsal spines and 13-17 dorsal rays) , silver in color, has a small mouth and no teeth, ahaha. It is a marine, freshwater animal, found along continental shelves and islands (No wonder we have plenty of it ;)). Indeed, many coastal villages in the country have bangus… It is said that milkfish aquaculture originated in the Philippines, 800 years ago and was spread over the Indo-Pacific rim. Filipinos breed and raise milkfish several ways – in saline ponds, in fish pens and in cages (at sea).
The milkfish is a much bigger fish than the ordinary mackerel. Say, twice to 15 times bigger… Thus, it is also priced higher and is considered city people’s regular viand. By the way, bangus is another product that our country exports in bulk, by the tons… Most of the supply come from the Central Luzon area – in the provinces of Pangasinan, Bulacan and Pampanga… Bangus products are traditionally sold fresh, smoked or fermented. In the recent decades, they also come bottled, canned and frozen. By the way, one product stands out: Philippines’ “boneless bangus” or deboned milkfish, available in supermarkets here and also abroad.
Cooked milkfish is available in almost all eating places around here – in fancy restaurants, fastfoods, office canteens and in the roadside eateries… Just like the galunggong, it is usually prepared “pinaksiw.” Pinaksiw is fresh catch bangus, salted and fermented with vinegar, with some ginger, ampalaya (bitter gourd) and eggplants tossed in. It is well-liked among the Pinoys. Its sour-spicy taste brings out the fish’s natural flavor.
The other famous preparation is “sinigang.” Sinigang is a lot like the pinaksiw, minus the ginger, and there is more soup in the dish and more vegetables, haha. It has more more tomatoes, kamyas and tamarind and thus, tastes sour-spicy in a good way. 😉 It is the all-around, all-time dish preparation of the Filipinos – there is protein in the fish, and vitamins and minerals, in the generous proportion of vegetables and green leaves, not present in other dish preparations.
By the way, the milkfish is another food I would learn to eat only upon coming to the big city… A tip, dear people: The best part of the bangus is its belly, haha. Sinigang na belly usually costs more in restaurants, too… As an aside, the cheeks of the bangus is another soft, yummy part. To these days, the younger sister and I quarrel who gets to eat the cheeks… Actually, she always asks me if I’d be good enough to let her eat the cheeks of the bangus in my plate, haha. ^^
Lastly and not- to- be- missed bangus preparations: the daing and the relyeno. Daing means the fish will be cut in half and spread, for the whole fish to be fried crisply. It is famous for breakfast in the Philippines. Most Filipinos returning to the country from abroad have that in their wish list, ahaha… Relyeno, on the other hand, is stuffed bangus – the bangus meat would be taken out, ground and mixed with vegetables and spices – to be put back inside the fish again, before frying or steaming. With rice, relyenong bangus is heavenly… 😉
Another common fish around here is the tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Tilapia is another fresh-water creature and abounds in the country – in coastal areas, on fish ponds and even in homes with big backyards. In the last four decades, tilapia-raising has become a huge industry in the Philippines, much like the breeding and spawning of bangus… Philippine tilapia has also become an export product – cleaned and packaged or, in fillet form. Tilapia is another bony fish, unfortunately, and requires meticulous preparation, before serving… Well, if there is boneless bangus, there is also boneless tilapia, ahaha. 😉
As a dish, tilapia is available in the backstreet eateries, as well as, in the expensive restaurants in the Philippines. It may come in its usual fried form or “ginataan.” Ginataan means cooked with salt, coconut milk, ginger, garlic and some leafy vegetables and eggplants. The dish is quite popular – tasty, soft and a bit spicy. It is often eaten with plain rice – lots of, haha… 😉
In the recent months, I’ve come across tilapia served in certain restaurants – so carefully prepared and so nicely served, they are barely recognizable as our ordinary tilapia. They are excellent, thanks to the chefs who never stop innovating – to bring the common tilapia, before the watchful eyes and the discerning palates of the world… 🙂
Just saying, I have watched TV shows that show the tilapia as a pet fish or a garden-type fish, like the koi. Or, simply kept as ornamentals – in certain states in the U.S., in Japan and in some cities in Europe… This phenomenon has left me wondering about the peculiarities of cultures. You know, an edible fish that is not eaten by folks, but kept as decor or, something to afford variety in nature? Ah, am still wondering, hahaha. 😉
Our last fish is the tulingan (Auxis rochei). Tulingan or bullet tuna is also a staple fish in the Philippines. Am including it in the article for a very biased reason: It is my favorite fish. 😉 Tulingan is different from the huge tunas as it is rather small – 300 grams a piece on the average. Otherwise, just like the giant tuna, its fins are black and it has no scales.
Bullet tuna is available in the market most of the time and is affordable … I have cooked and eaten this fish countless number of times, am too partial, ahaha. My fave part is the black lining in its mid part – the fish cod. My favorite preparation is “sinaing.” Sinaing means boiling the cleaned and salted fish – over low and slow fire for several hours – with water, garlic and a few pieces of chili. It is very tasty, soft and the dish could be stored for a few days – without refrigeration.
In my family, most members are also fond of the tulingan. But unlike me who profess that I could eat tulingan as viand with two plates of rice almost everyday, haha, they want the fish deep-fried or ginataan or broiled, on certain days and occasions. Anyway, each to his taste, or, weirdness… 🙂
Anyway, tulingan has a close relative, known as the “tambakol.” The tambakol (Thunnus alalungga) is three to ten times bigger than the tulingan, yet about ten times smaller than the giant tunas for export. Tambakol is even tastier than the tulingan and its meat is tender – a good pork substitute for Spanish-influenced dishes. When bought fresh, tambakol is excellent for raw fish dishes and served on special occasions in my province… Somehow, tambakol is considered the better-off cousin of the bullet tuna… 😉
But tambakol is more expensive and often not available, unless one goes to the wet market very early, haha. At odd hours, one would come across “gulyasan,” or skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), the striped tuna favored in Japan and the Maldives. But for the Pinoys, or at least for the market-going folks like me, the striped tuna is considered the poor relative of tambakol and tulingan. However, fish vendors in the market usually pass it off as bullet tuna, to the unfamiliar. ^^
Generally, I would say that the ordinary Filipinos’ fish preference leans towards group fishes – mackerels and tunas – that abound in our oceans and tropical seas. There are only few healthy rivers around here, healthy enough to be able to host ample supply of fish and aquatic animals. But occasionally, we also do have some trouts and fly fishes in our wet markets. In the fancy restaurants, of course, there are different kinds – salmons, soles, seabass and tuna – prepared tastefully and served elegantly. Ahaha, that is, for folks with more discriminating palates and deeper pockets, hohoho. For the ordinary Pinoys, fish is commonly fried or steamed and eaten with a slew of plain, white, steaming rice… 🙂
We are a fish-eating people, am afraid. Methinks the British folks would envy us for that… 😉
The Philippines is an archipelago, composed of 7,107 islands.
The country has a territorial marine area of 2, 200, 000 square kilometers.
The Philippine tuna (export) industry brings in roughly PhP14 billion or US$337,719 annually (2010 data). It accounts for 12% of the country’s total fish production.
The Philippines is currently the 7th among the world’s top tuna producers. Philippines was 6th in 2008 and 4th in 2004.
General Santos City is called the tuna capital of the Philippines, where the bulk of tuna catch are taken before they are sold to international fishing companies for processing and shipment abroad and to buyers for distribution to different domestic markets.
The bulk of tuna fishing activities are concentrated at Moro Gulf, Davao Gulf, Celebes Sea, Sulu Sea, east coast of Samar and Western Luzon. Some fishing activities are also done at South China Sea during summer.
Tuna industry reports state that the Philippine waters is relatively overfished for sashimi-grade tuna or tuna for export. They claim that the fishermen have to venture farther and longer in the open seas to be able to catch huge tunas.
Reports have it, however, that the yellow fin tuna for the local market increased by 25% as of June, 2013.
The sashimi grade tuna for export is priced $9 to $10 a kilo on the average while huge tunas for the local market is priced between $6 to $8 a kilo.
There are six (6) kinds of tuna commonly found in our territorial waters – in the oceans, shelves and municipal shorelines.
The 1992-1994 Tuna Research Project, however, recorded 21 different tunas in Philippine waters, including the migratory kinds.
Commercial fishing of tuna employ the ringnetting method, purse seining and the traditional payao method.
Municipal fishing or small-scale tuna fishing in the Philippines still use handlines and gillnets.
There are three kinds of fishing in the country: commercial, municipal and aquaculture. Each kind contributes roughly one-third to the fish industry.
The biggest catch or production of commercial fishing is usually mackerel, geared to meet the demand of sardines factories.
Thank you very much for reading, all the best to you, guys… 🙂
Hello, people… 🙂
In the Philippines, two of the most commonly patronized fish viands are the tuyo (dried herring) and the galunggong (round scad mackerel). They are priced low in the market, compared to other fishes and have therefore formed part of Filipino meals through the years… It does not come as a surprise then, many Filipinos still think that the galunggong is the country’s national fish. On the other hand, some say it is the tuyo, with a sleight on how most Filipinos fare economically, “Tuyo lang ang nakayanan (Dried hearing is all that we can afford)” or, “Tuyo pa rin (It is still dried herring, after all these years).” By the way, both taste good, when paired with a cup of steaming hot rice, ahaha.
However, our national fish is the silvery bangus (milkfish), a fact that has been taught us in school, from the earliest years… But this piece of useful information escapes us often, for some reason. Bangus is a handsome aquatic animal and I would say, represents the country and its people with pride. Maybe, when the time comes that more households can afford to buy bangus, we will remember… 😉
My next post will be about the round scad mackerel and other fishes commonly bought and eaten in the Philippines, folks… Am afraid it is quite a long article, five (5) pages excluding the pics, ahaha. Next time you drop by, remember to have yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and some biscuits… It will be an interesting read, promise. 😉
Hope you are well, warm regards… ^_^
Remember when we first plunged into this blogging business, we hardly knew what to expect. Would there be readers, people who would be interested, who would care about what we do, think or whether we exist or not? Well, more or less, things were like that, in the beginning… And as we plodded on, we found out out that our sentiments are carried off to the shores, across the universe. And, some people, virtual, yes, but breathing, existing and writing actually care and share – our dreams. And, we are assured, somehow, that real people bother and we ourselves, do care… There are sweet souls in the universe – touching, moving and uplifting our beings – in more ways than we could have possibly imagined. I guess it’s time to thank some of them… 🙂
Am no good at tagging, as you know. But this time, yours truly was found by an excellent writer and editor, a Quaker and an advocate of living -up-the-world-in-your-village. It’s Mr. Jnana Hodson, folks… I have been reading in his site since his blog entry was featured on Freshly Pressed.
Didn’t have an inkling he would notice my presence. Or, at least give it a thought, haha. I mean, his writings run deep, in a way that leaves you asking, “Why can I not write that way? He says things so simply…” And yet, you know, the feat comes from nerve-wrecking encounters, complicated situations, and haplesss circumstances, haha. 😉
His writings seem to fend off the chaos, inside and out. The humble and quiet way they send the message across is admirable. He says it’s the Quaker in him. My suspicion, it’s also from other sources. Say, his Woodstock concert-going days… 🙂 Thank you for the nomination, sir Jnana. I am so moved, obliged and honored.
FIVE SUPER SWEET QUESTIONS
1. Cookies or Cake? Both? Cookies, but am willing to make an exception if the cake is banana, wink-wink…
2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla, two hands up.
3. Favorite Sweet Treat? Strawberry with whipped cream, please (ahaha, it’s not too sweet). Uh, uh, it’s chocolate, sometimes…
4. When Do You Crave Sweet Things the Most? Mornings, in my morning coffee.
5. Sweet Nickname? Last syllable of my name. People close to me tweak it a bit then, repeat it… By the way, it’s commonly done in the Philippines. You’ll often hear nicknames that come from one syllable repeated, hehe. Example? Lengleng, Dada, Bambam, and Toytoy. Even our country’s president go by the same token, hehehe. Guess mine… 🙂
My Nominees for the Super Sweet Blogging Award:
Drum roll. Dyaran, dyaran, dyaran! 😉
Her words touch softly and flow effortlessly, conjuring images of mountains in distant places, friends bantering over coffee and city scenes undisturbed. A native of Boston, sorrygnat has earned the right to claim the world as her stage. Her musings on life in the modern world and aging are lovely.
He is a software engineer who loves poetry and music. rkhouse‘s poems in high school found their way into his blog and they’re that – sweet. There are some recent works, on the challenges of being a parent and granddad.
There’s humor aplenty in nadia‘s writings, about foods, travel and places near and far. One can sense passion, lightheartedness and fun in the way she weaves her tales. Life’s to be enjoyed. And, photographed, according to her.
His thoughts and words seem to come from an ancient source. thetaleofmyheart talks about love, how the world seems to be in short supply of something it utterly needs. People need people, his writings seem to say. And, he does not mean it in the abstract.
akanedou‘s blog entries are picture series and yet, they communicate – sharply but softly. One can feel the sensibilities of the person behind the photographs. The artist brings out a scene from several angles, using different perspectives, showing various dimensions. So clever.
She is a proud mother of six. With a degree in Public History Research, beebeesworld serves slices of olden times through her short stories, poems and vignettes. Her works evoke silence and respect, for some reason.
She writes about women’s issues in a way that does not ask people to burn bridges and sever relations, but exchange goodwill and understanding, instead. cerirose, an African based in Paris, questions modern-day norms, even as her alternatives come in the form of intelligent yet gentle suggestions.
There’s idealism in the writings of june’sworld, who writes for the campus paper. One can sense a young man’s attempts to get to know the world, as he unravels the mysteries of the self and trudges his way through the everydayness of life and living.
Across the distance, one could feel alarnarosegray‘s words – touching, moving and asking one to reconsider – perceptions, points of views and habits. And, to spread love and sprinkle some humanity in the process. A bit of fun won’t do harm, she adds as an afterthought.
residentpatriot is an engineer and artist based in Japan. He designs car parts for his day job. On evenings, he takes the time to reconnect to his countrymen via blog, reminding fellows that citizenship is not a bad thing and civic-mindedness will pull Filipinos through tough times.
She has read thousands of books – poetry, fiction and anthologies. And sometimes, I am tempted to take that, against forkinmyeye… Except, when I read her works, I am convinced: Voracious readers make excellent writers. And beneath the blogger’s no-nonsense exterior is a soft side, it seems.
She is a Filipina, working overseas for a couple of years now. Her grasp of native Tagalog shows in her compositions. crazyfrog often mutters though, that words escape her… She prefers taking pictures of buildings, parks, landmarks and, make them speak to her blog readers.
It’s not apronheadlily‘s thing, being tagged… But every time I would make a list, her name is on it, ahaha. The teacher writes with a flourish, as if the words were artworks; has a way of infusing creativity into pictures.
Thank you very much, people. You have no idea how your words and kind thoughts brighten this side of the world. Your presence truly gladdens. I heart you. 🙂
In the Philippines, roadside stores and stalls abound. They dot our landscapes. See a highway? There’s a strip somewhere, just count 5, 10 or 15 minutes since driving and you’d likely come across one such. No kiddin’. Alright, maybe sometimes, it takes 20, depending on which part of the country you happen by.
It’s still an agricultural country, right? Meaning, about 10 kilometers from the highway, there are farms. And, there are farmers, of course… With their fresh produce – from the barns, the fishponds, the backyards and the farm proper (fruits and vegetables, mostly).
Oh, there is a municipal market somewhere, sure. But markets, with their usual traffic of people buying and hosts of permanent stalls and stores regularly selling, are for those who can forecast the supply and the demand. Roadside stores are for the tentative, the unsure and the undecided. You know, the willy-nilly, the-wind-took-me-here, I-happen-to-pass-by customers? There.
And, no worries. I mean, it’s the same on the other end – the vendors. They are seldom sure when the next batch of the crops will be displayed and up for sale, when the next bushels of the harvests will come in and if the fruits will have ripened by next week. They will see, see? They will try… In the meantime, why don’t you have a look and feel of what’s on the rack, huh?
So, the roadside stores are for the passers-by, the chance buyers, the momentists… Driving in a highway, at regular or even odd hours, could be an exhilarating experience, at times. There’s the stretch of road to be negotiated, the trees that seem to move, the colorful or unpainted houses along the way and the solitary soul walking or crossing – without even a hat!
And suddenly, there is your strip – with the goods piled one on top of the other – uniform, assuring and interestingly familiar. It’s not like a 7/11, no… The crew members do not wear uniforms, there is no cash register and there are no lozenges on the counter, haha. But there are weighing scales – the traditional, analog kind and when one’s lucky, there’s another – digital. And, the melons are waving… 😉
So, you and your companion make a stop. There is really no shoulder to park on… Vehicles zoom past you as the two of you get out of your car, you look at the compartment at the back, making sure there is enough space (as though you really intend to buy!) and you arrange your clothes to make sure you look alright, somehow… You look right and left, wondering if a former classmate, office mate or somebody you used to be interested with, happen by. As if…
It’s a very vulnerable feeling, standing at the highway to make a purchase in the middle of nowhere (it’s not really a nowhere, you know the name of the place) while every other motorist is happily on his way – to wherever. You take a few steps towards the goods that beckoned to you from the comfort of your seat, the air-conditioning and the certainty of getting there – to your wherever. The melon makes a greeting, nagmamaganda (feeling pretty).
Hey, people, it is officially rainy season, over here. The countryside in the tropics is enjoying a breather from the humidity, the heat and fury of the glaring sun and the soils are returning to their original dark brown. The farmers are planting, this time of the year… But they are also harvesting, yes. Thus, it is quite a busy time for their spouses, siblings or cousins, manning their stall in the highway. The roadside establishments are on business… 🙂
Here is one of the fruits that capture the motorists’ attention these days:
Lanzones (Lansium domesticum) or lansones is a tropical fruit from a tree that could grow quite tall, sturdy and old, haha. Over at our place, there are lansones trees older than me and even older than my uncles and aunts. But hey, it’s not very friendly to climbers… The body and the branches of the tree are very rough, they hurt the arms and hands of the enthusiastic, the curious and the daring, hehe. There are official and designated lansones climbers in the locality where they are typically grown. 🙂
Lanzones fruits, if I recall correctly, start ripening in June. But the peak of the harvest season is September. That is when the fruits are sweetest. But for some reason, lansones fruits flood the cities and towns starting in August – at the community Saturday markets, at the regular fruit stands, the supermarkets and, at the waysides… The lansones produce are put in a very light container called the kaing, made from an indigenous material. By the way, here’s another picture of the fruit-bearing tree…
These days, lansones still sell for ninety to one hundred pesos (P100) a kilo, (US $2.5, roughly) for the sweet ones. As days come nearer to August, the fruit’s price decreases, down to fifty, sometimes… But in the highways, lansones is always priced higher. Methinks, there, it does not go lower than seventy. Sometimes, lansones in the expressways go as high as P160/kilo. And, there is no guarantee they are sweet, ahaha. A buyer is usually allowed a taste test, though. But then, one bunch of lansones maybe your sweetest, the other not so. Oh, well…
By the way, the lansones tree is quite a useful plant, with a host of medicinal values. The dried peel of the fruit can be burned – to drive away mosquitoes. The bark can be used to treat diarrhea and in powder form, it can be employed to treat scorpion bites. It is a neat tree, actually. Perhaps, that is what you would also say, when you’ve seen one, up close… In the meantime, visit – the market, the basement fruit stand at your nearest mall or, head over the nearest highway and grab yourself a kilo or two – of this tropical treat. Not sure if they’re as sweet as they come, over at your location… But what the hey, go try some! If there aren’t, well… There are melons and mangoes… 😉
Happy fruit hunting! 🙂
We have plenty of old churches in the Philippines. Our gallant Spanish conquerors must have enjoyed the tropics, the smiles of women and the tinola (clear chicken stew with ginger and green papaya) so much and ensconced themselves prettily and long enough – in this charming group of islands… Ahah, let’s say, 333 years. 😉 That’s a whole lot of time – to propagate the Catholic faith, to build really thick and sturdy churches, to subjugate the natives and to sow their seeds around, ahaha. 😉
That’s not to say, am not guilty. I have at least one-third Spanish blood in my veins and my grandfather and father looked every inch, Spaniards. Their ancestry can be traced to the Southern region of that European country, the provincial part. And yes, they are short in physique, hairy and rather fierce-looking… But hey, the rest of the country is teeming with people who have Spanish surnames and Spanish-looking kababayans (fellow citizens), that it’s almost not an issue around here anymore – unless one is running for a public office. Then (like now, it’s election time here), people take care to point out the physicality of the candidates – who is mestizo and who is not…
Anyway, folks, that is just my round-about introduction to our topic – old churches in the Philippines. I had the chance to visit this church recently, two weeks ago… It is called the Taal Basilica or Basilica de Saint Martin de Tours, in the town of Taal, province of Batangas, about 65 kilometers, South of Manila.
This gigantic cathedral is situated atop the hill. Standing at the elevated church patio that now serves as the parking area, one could feel and almost touch the sky – amazing. Looking down, one could observe the flowery surroundings (lots of bougainvillea plants on old, old walls) and watch with awe the pueblo or the Spanish town of old – in this quaint, hidden setting…. Around the church compound are Spanish houses – darkened, peeling-off, really huge pillars and antique-looking windows. By the way, the ground floors of most villas appear like merchandize stores or warehouses for grains. It is said that they were homes to the pioneer Chinese-Spanish traders of the Southern Tagalog region, 300 to 400 years ago…
The historic town of Taal, a half millennium-old settlement, isn’t walled all around, as most ancient European towns are. Perhaps, there’s no need… I imagine the bandits, the lawless and the Chinese pirates of centuries gone by, would have a hard time laying siege to this corner of civilization. It is concealed, somehow and one has to pass by mountains to reach the place. As there were no concrete highways yet, 400 years ago, horses and men would be panting and breathless, by the time they reach the hilltop.
It is said that the Taal Basilica is the biggest Catholic church in Asia. But am not practiced in church history-telling, as the children selling candles are, that I will point you to the guy I borrowed the picture from. We went to this historical site upon the invitation of my nephew, who is studying to be a priest. He has finished college in the seminary and is now on his third year studying Theology (I suppose, it’s the equivalent of a Master’s degree in priesthood). So, he was our driver and tour guide for the trip, ahaha.
When we got inside the very old and really huge church, it dawned on me that I had already been there as a child. The altar and the vestry somehow looked familiar. I have been to the place before… Yes, our late mother, who was a cathechist, took me about 30 years ago – in one of her church visits or local pilgrimage.
Attached to the church is the parish priest’s residence – as the case usually is – an orphanage, and a school… The priest’s abode, of course, looked dark, foreboding and I was just waiting for the hunchback bell-ringer or the stiff-collared assistant, to appear anytime. The novels typically have them – faithful servants in custody of the key set and the institution’s secrets. To my dismay, no such interesting characters showed up… There was a well, though, at the back of the cathedral, where probably a lot of intrigues had been hatched, haha, and a parking area for the horse-drawn cab of the high priest. The latter is a photographer’s favorite, I imagine. You know – unattended corner, almost forgotten and with just enough light to lend the subject mysterious? 😉
By the way, the Catholic school right next to the old church looks like it has been built more recently – maybe, just a hundred years ago. Or, at least, it has been rebuilt… You see, within the town and close by, is the world’s smallest volcano. Taal Volcano is actually a cute mountain sitting within a lake and (yes) it also has a lake of its own – inside its crater… This artistry of nature is quite small, but terrible – it has erupted about thirty-three times in 450 years and has managed to destroy a couple of communities, churches and schools, ahaha. Thus, rebuilding is needed, every so often.
Anyway, the dear nephew was quick to point out, that particular school was where a local telenovela, One True Love, conducted its shooting. The lead character in the tv melodrama, Elize, supposedly studied in the school adjacent to Asia’s biggest cathedral. 😉
Outside the church, were the typical suntanned women, selling especially-designed candles, prayer books, devotion leaflets and abanicos (a fan made from palm leaves) to every churchgoer. There was also an old man selling brooms. My companions and I bought all three the man had and drove off to the next, smaller church. It was almost eleven o’clock, in the month of April and the sun was blazing hot.
Our next destination was Caysasay Church nearby… 🙂
Caysasay is situated in the old, rustic village of Labac, still in the town of Taal. This place of worship looks deceptively simple and small from the outside. There are beautiful plants in the yard and I was suddenly reminded – most priests did gardening, during their spare time. Some even studied botany and left scientific contributions in the field. Anyway, one particular plant from the palm family, stood out. I rarely see that variety, for some reason. But in the church yard, several of them grow and look like they have been there – since Spanish era, indeed.
After we have seen the inside of the church and after the children selling candles were through with their recitations of the history of the saints, the icons and the rituals of the devotees – we proceeded to the nearby Sta. Lucia Ruins and its miraculous water. The spot is a 150-meter walk – the ground was scorching and only the company and chatter of the vendor-children kept us about and alive. Meridian, I was melting and I thought – if being a Catholic meant enduring this degree of heat, then being a pagan or a mountain-worshipper, must be a fun alternative. 😉 By the way, each of us had an umbrella but it didn’t feel like we had any…
Anyway, here is the picture of the famed water, our local version of The Sanctuary of Lourdes in France… 🙂
The locally famous ruins is in the nook of a forest (lots of vines, vines) and there are wild profusions of shrubs and typical Philippine-countryside vegetations. It looked like they are being cleared by the local folks, periodically. By the way, the only way to get to the site is by burning, errr, by walking while the sun shoots all of you (ill-timed churchgoers) with all its mid-day fury, haha. 🙂 My older sister, with all the efficiency she has been known for in the family, made all of us drink our mineral water so she could fill them up, instead with water from the miraculous stone cavities. She thinks that even with heaven’s blessings, we should be prompt and try to secure as much as we can, haha.
Then, we recited the shortened version of the rosary, interviewed the man guarding the wells and had our pictures taken with the children candle vendors, doubling as local tourist guides… Going back to our vehicle, we were all feeling touristy, were it not that the sun was still relentless, unforgiving and bent to melt us all senseless. We drove to the town market to buy Taal’s famous suman (steamed sticky rice) and tapang baboy (treated pork meat). Along the way, we passed by so many shops selling burdadong barong made from telang pinyang husi. The product is the town’s pride.
By the way, did I mention that the only features I got from my father’s side of the family are the eyebrows and the facial frame? Otherwise, I am very much like my mother – native-looking, average nose and brown-skinned, through and through. Anyway, after the Taal trip, I was instantly a shade darker. And that, on top of my having traipsed around the Ilocos region (North of Manila, hotter), about three weeks earlier… Why, to revisit old churches, hahaha. 😉
I was then with another sister, who was foolish enough to plan a road trip in the hottest region of the country – just as summer was making known to all and sundry – how powerful a heavenly body the sun is… Here is a pic of one of the churches we visited in March, this year. This is located about 500 kilometers, North of Manila.
I was in the Ilocos region also, two years ago – with the younger sister. But we went to the place by plane then…The idea that we would be travelling by land this year seemed alluring (am a sucker for road trips), at least for a while … Just a few days before we were to leave for that trip, the all-embracing sun made its furious debut. I discouraged my sister against going. Too late, she was all set to go… By the way, Ilocos region is divided into two parts – South or Sur and the North or Norte. Anyway, Paoay Church in the North, as you must have noticed, is baroque in style. See the lateral view below.
The walls that buttress the structure are as thick as the fortresses in Europe, at the height of the medieval period. It isn’t like bullets and even cannons balls, could penetrate walls that thick, no. But there they are, layers upon layers of concrete – built to last till eternity, ahaha. Anyway, this church is a UNESCO Heritage site and is located in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Paoay is a 16th-century town and is the birthplace of our world-renowned former president, Ferdinand Marcos.
There is an old joke… When the Filipino people were rising up against his rule on the fateful days of February, 1986 (the event is also known as People Power), President Marcos told the pilot to take him and his family to Paoay. The atmosphere in the Malacanang Palace then was very tense and with all the commotions, the pilot misheard him. And, took them instead to Hawaii… There, Marcos spent his days as a sickly and disgraced president – to his dying moments… 😉
Anyway, one thing about the churches that the Spanish friars built in the Philippines, they’re usually on top of the hills. The logic seems obvious and practical – the hills provide grand and picturesque view of the communities surrounding, are generally windy and majestic and when you consider that they’re built on top of and amidst lush, rural villages at times when lorries, cranes and trucks were unheard of – some architectural brilliance and engineering wonders, indeed… 😉
Well, I speak as a member of yester century’s delinquent posterity. But even I have to admit – such settings are great for picture-taking, the church belfry always makes for a dramatic background, close up or afar and yes, in our movies, something always happens inside old churches – folks are threatened and saved there, an adulterous woman confesses to her crime and in some of its unfrequented, solemn corners — lovers pledge undying love…
But there is, of course, that bit of a consideration about rebels, a few centuries back. I mean, throughout the 333 years, every decade or so – some natives would rise up in arms and go around proclaiming: they would behead a bishop or two, or, set fire to the archbishop’s La Residencia… Thus, some precautions were needed. And a little elevation, plus a couple of hundreds of steps, always went a long way – in terms of seeing the coming visitors ahead and such. 😉
Spanish regime here was a marriage of the church and the state. You could say that it was almost theocratic – what with the archbishops and the Spanish Governor-General having churros con chocolate for merienda, almost everyday. And – dinners together, too. It stands to reason, the churches must be strategically located, as well as, conform to European aesthetics.
Now, more than one hundred years after our Spanish forbears have left and the rest of the world care to recognize the Philippines as a country already, no longer the province of the Hispanic Crown nor America’s colony (Philippines was U.S.’s first taste at colonialism), that prudent decision on the part of our Spanish rulers, hmnn, presents a little modern-day problem: for tourists… Especially for the likes of me, whose complexion does not need anymore tanning…
Those churches – several of them declared UNESCO Heritage sites and more are being processed, based on the recommendation of Western tourists enamored by their quaintness and magnificence – require lots of walking and a good amount of climbing — just to get to the front door. Yes, my dear readers… Those gargantuan, artistically-designed, astutely-built, terribly archaic and unarguably historical structures are for the ultra-violet rays-resistant wanderers and well-toned athletes. You heard me… 😉
I mean, come on, 500 steps is your usual, around here… Well, some high priests of yore opted for variety and decided in favor of garden-types – with only 400 feet of cemented footpath (uncovered) and a measly, 150-step stairs: for that dash of medieval grandeur… 😉 So, anyway, let’s take the average – 500 steps… Five hundred steps – with the glaring sun on top of your head, your back bathing from your own sweat and your skin, sticky and shriveling like raisins – to go see the door and lock of the church – up close and personal.
Five hundred steps to admire the wondrous architecture upfront: those sturdy columns, the ornately-designed beams, the paintings on the church ceilings, the diorama on the walls and the stained glass windows – what precision, how cleverly executed, what talent and devotion! Truly, if one had only listened more closely to the glib of that Humanities professor – about lines and curves and the need for beauty and harmony in life… And, instantly and despite the disconcerted self – you reflect on the legacy of the Spaniards, the tenacity of the Filipino people, the durability of our faith, etcetera…
And then, finally, to have your pictures taken, in front of the massive structure – with the blue sky in the background and the belfry some one hundred meters away – testimony to your wandering spirit and your survival skills (walking, climbing and beating the tropical heat in the summer). You – panting, dried-up and awfully devastated – flashing your V-sign oh-so-valiantly, before the camera. You tried to smile, with the afternoon sun shining directly upon your oil-rich, but still pretty/charming/commanding, excuse for a face… 😉
Just so your relatives, friends and classmates from years, years ago, could say, “Ang ganda naman! Saan ‘yan? Ganyan ka na pala kataba?” *
* How beautiful! Where is that? My, you’ve grown fat, I hardly recognized you. 😉 🙂