Monday, October 29, 2012

A Weekend in Baler, Aurora Province

I was at Baler (Aurora Province) last weekend with peers and this was something we had planned like a week ago. Sadly on the day of our travel to Baler, our good old country is being soaked with heavy rains by the typhoon Opel. We pushed through anyway, with the hope that the weather will  be good by daybreak, since reservations were already made.

We left Manila around 2AM Friday, on a rented van. There were 11 of us, including the very reliable driver. We snoozed while cruising the North Luzon Expressway. When we got to Cabanatuan, it was still raining and heavy rains continued to pour at dawn as we traveled through the mountainous areas of Aurora, with  the twisties and cliffs and all.  It was a bit scary, really.

We got to Baler around 8AM and it was still raining. It's such a bummer to be at the beach on a stormy day! It's like the storm chose to follow us and do it's water dumping at Central Luzon. We spent the rest of the day  eating and driving around town, and had a little drinking spree before going to bed. It continued to rain after midnight. But when we woke up the next day, hallelujah, the sun was shining  and we finally got to do what we intended to do in Baler. 

So Here are some pictures by me and friends Patrick, Don, and Rina. Click on the image  to enlarge. ^_^

In our two-day trip, we had our late lunches at Gerry Shan's Place located along Quezon St., Brgy 2. I'm giving my two thumbs up for this restaurant for their P185/head buffet. That includes bottomless iced tea and around 20 different dishes to choose from. There's spaghetti, salad and dessert too! Perfect for the bohemian traveler. The breaded squid, sisig and kare-kare are my favorites!

We stayed at AMCO Beach Resort at Barangay Sabang. It's a pretty decent place for the budgeted vacationer. It has air-conditioned rooms and hot shower. A room with two single beds is just PhP900. If you're a group of three, you can share a single room. Just ask for an extra mattress for PhP150.

Baler is known to be the birthplace of Philippine surfing. Surfing lessons is just PhP350 and you can enjoy your new-found skill for an hour. I didn't try to surf but I think I would if we went to the beach late afternoon instead of morning. I don't want to be dark-skinned for the Holiday Season. ^_^

A safety reminder: In beaches where the waves are high and spontaneous, never try to swim to chest-high waters (unless you have a surfboard attached to you). The undertow of the waves will pull you to even deeper water. You can get exhausted and even drown before you could escape back to shallow waters. It almost got me!

I like the fiberglass murals at the facade of the Baler Museum and that's not the only cool thing you'll find. I love the few Ming Dynasty porcelain bowls and terracotta vessels taken from different shipwrecks.

You'll also find a just recently made collection of portrait paintings of  personages from the historical Siege of Baler (1898-1899), interpreted by artist Sherwin Paul Gonzales. Also you'll see costumes and props used in the 2008 movie Baler that starred Anne Curtis and Jericho Rosales.

Take the time to visit Baler Church and give thanks for the safe travel to Baler and for a safe trip back home. This historic church is where the Siege of Baler took place. The current structure was built in 1939 while  preserving the interior of the original structure built in 1611. Today, by the looks of it, you wouldn't think it's a very old church.

Across the Baler Church is the house of former first lady Doña Aurora Quezon, wife of the first President of the Republic of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. She has done so many humanitarian projects. In her honor, the province of Aurora was named after her, after her assassination by a communist rebel group. If you have time to spare you can go inside and snoop around. I wish they've put a lot of thought in restoring this house. I just didn't like the very fake-looking wood veneer finish of the exterior. 

Next to Doña Aurora house is a glass garage that housed this awesome 1936 Chrysler limousine. This was the official car of the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. I'm not really certain if this car can still be driven.

Actually Aurora has a lot more to boast. Like the Ditumabo Falls, the famous gigantic balete tree, and Ermita Hill. But we weren't able to go to these places because the access roads was closed due to damages caused by the storm last Friday. 

Well  at least we were blessed with good weather for one day in Baler. We headed for home in the afternoon and we got the chance to see the breathtaking mountainous landscapes of Aurora. We encountered roads that are almost completely covered by landslide mud and boulders. We realized that we actually took a risk in driving up the mountainous areas on a stormy day.

We got to Manila around 9PM and had dinner together before heading home. It was a tiring day but worth every kilojoule of energy.  ^_^ 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Visiting the National Musem, Part 1

Another trip to Divisoria last Tuesday gave me the chance to drop by the National Museum before going home. I arrived there around 3:30 PM and that gave me one and a half hour before they close for the day at 5 PM.

The admission to the museum is free for the entire month of October. You just walk in and register at the front desk and that's it.

You can take pictures but you cannot use flash. And don't even think of bringing a tripod. Hehe I was asked to leave my small tripod at the baggage counter.

So here are some photos for you. Click on the small slide film to enlarge.

So the very first artwork that you'll see is the grandest of all. The 128 year old  and approximately 23 x 13 foot oil painting, by our very own Juan Luna entitled Spoliarium. A spoliarium is a place in the ancient Roman Colosseum where the not-so-lucky gladiators are brought into, after losing in a death match. This painting took 18 months to finish and it won Luna a gold medal in the Exposicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid back in 1884. It is the Philippines' largest painting.

Opposite the Spoliarium is another large painting by Felix Hidalgo entitled La Tragedia de Gobernador Bustamante (The Assasination of Governor Bustamante). In the painting you'll find Spanish priests attacking the appointed Spanish Governor General to the Philippines. "Oh he must be one corrupt man", you would think. But Governor Bustamante was responsible for jailing a lot of corrupt Spanish officials, tax evading Chinese merchants and yes, even the powerful personages in the clergy who benefited from them. October 1719, the first People Power in the Philippines took place, led by Catholic priests, whose goal is to bring down the "evil" Governor Bustamante. Does this story of corruption, conspiracy and deceit sound familiar to you?

Anyways, enough of beautiful paintings depicting horrible scenes. There are 8 galleries in here. The first gallery that I checked out is my favorite. The contemporary feel of the orange walls and black-and-white checkered floors makes an interesting contrast with the weathered wooden religious statuary and relief. If you are fond of antique Christian rebultos, this gallery would be a treat!

In the other end of the orange gallery are old concrete and plaster statues and other relics. 

One of my favorite pieces in this gallery is this wooden sculpture, The Child Jesus Bearing His Sacred Heart by Graciano Nepomuceno. It is life-sized and was made in 1937. So nicely proportioned.

There's a gallery that is dedicated to our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. You'll find paintings and sculptures of him there. This painting entitled Rizal the Reformist, by Martino Abellana, was made in 1960.

There aren't so many items in the Jose Rizal gallery, but you will at least get to see art done by Jose Rizal himself, like this terracotta sculpture entitled Mother's Revenge, depicting a dog biting a crocodile to save her pup. You know, it would be nice to make cast reproductions of Rizal's small sculptures but that's gonna put the original artwork in a big risk of being damaged.

The gallery that showcased bones and taxidermy is my least favorite. Most of the skeletons are of domesticated animals. You'll find there the skeleton adaptation  of Rizal's sculpture Mother's Revenge. The gallery is a bit dim so as to emphasize lighted presentations. Kinda spooky. But the sperm whale skeleton is worth seeing.

Another gallery showcases works by Filipino Masters. This unfinished painting on an easel, in a set that includes an artist's chair and  service table, is by Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972)

 You will find more than one wall filled by Amorsolo's doodles.

This is a painting of the dude who did the Spoliarium, Juan Luna (1857-1899) by Fabian de la Rosa (1869-1937). De la Rosa is uncle and mentor to Amorsolo.

In another gallery you will find works by famous 20th Century Filipino artists such as the cubist painter and illustrator Vicente Manansala (1910-1981). This bust of him in bronze is made by Napoleon Abueva in 1998.

This abstract painting entitled Hills of Nikko is by Jose Joya (1931-1995). Joya is a National Artist Awardee and a former dean of the University of the Philippines' College of Fine Arts (where I should have studied hehe) I love the color and texture of this piece.

This is a closer look at Bencab's Manggagawa. Benedicto Cabrera (born 1942), AKA Bencab is a National Artsist for Visual Arts Awardee. He has been noted as "arguably the best selling painter of his generation of Filipino artitst."

Take a peak inside this grand hall that used to be the Senate Hall of the Philippines. Nice neo-classical interior. The wood parquet flooring gave it the Pinoy touch. This place would be awesome for mini conciertos.

There's a gallery that display probably hundreds of these illustrations of Philippine flora. These are done by Spanish botanist Juan de Cuellar between 1786 to 1797. These are the original illustrations in ink, tempera and watercolor on laid paper and they are a gift to us by His Majesty the King of Spain.

There's one gallery for our national costumes. You'll find those from ethnic groups as well as Spanish colonial  attires. I wish there were more though. The ethnic woven fabrics look interesting.

I didn't remember that the National Museum has another building. This building cannot be seen from Taft Avenue. I believe this is where the archaeological finds are kept. Too bad I didn't get to see it. It was already 5 o'clock. I'll come back soon and will try to get there early. So watch out for part 2 of my National Museum trip. ^_^

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nightcap at Barcino

Last Friday was really tiring for me and some of my peers. So last night we just chilled at Alabang Town Center and didn't go out of the city for some fancy dinner like we usually do on Saturday. The gang isn't complete last night anyway. Three were in Bacolod for the Maskara Festival and the others are just too tired to go out.

So for the four of us, it was just chattin' and laughin' in a coffee shop after dinner. But the coffee shop closes at midnight and we're not done with the night yet. Fortunately there's a Barcino wine and resto bar at the new area in  ATC that's along Commerce Avenue. A nightcap? Why not?

We had a bottle of Osado Shiraz red wine and a few bites which was on our friend who was feeling generous that night (Thanks Thryke!) A bottle was just enough for the four of us and cost only PhP 500. I'm no expert on wines but the one we had is really good. 

And so the chatting' and laughin' went on, this time with the feeling of affluence. Hehe

Monday, October 15, 2012

Visit the National Museum this Month!

So when was the time that you, my fellow Pinoy, last visited our National Museum? Me, early grade school is as far as I can remember. So that's in the early 80's. I remember walking in a single line with my classmates through the halls, seeing big old paintings, relics, and stuff that made me wide eyed in wonder but  never get to understand their value as a kid.

Well I hope I get to step inside those halls again this month, after decades! Admission is free for the whole month of October, in celebration of the museum's 111th year. The National Museum is open  from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Check out their facebook page. ^_^

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Was going to watch Hotel Transylvania the other day but it isn't being shown anymore. Fortunately there's the Flying Swords of Dragon Gate starring my favorite kung-fu actor Jet Li. I had no clue about the movie and was a bit worried because it might not be so great - like his previous one that I saw, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, where the few fight scenes were more magical in nature.

I'm glad that the movie turned out to be a good one. Nice fights, interesting characters, good plot, and the effects are cool. I've read that the 3D effects are done by the same creators of Avatar. Would have appreciated the cinematography more though, if the movie was dubbed in English. My attention was divided between the scenes and the subtitle.

I've also learned that the movie was released last year and it was a remake of the 1992 film New Dragon Gate Inn. There's also a 1966 film, Dragon Gate Inn. This recent film directed by Tsui Hark actually received numerous nominations in the 2012 Asian Film Awards.

There were just a few people in the cinema when I watched it. Looks like it's not getting a lot of attention by Filipino movie goers. They are all lining up at the other cinema showing Vice Ganda's movie. ^_^

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Visit to the Manila Art 2012 Fair

I like browsing through art magazines and books and be inspired by the works that I find in them.  Being at the Manila Art '12 is like stepping inside an art magazine where you get to experience the awesome artworks in person, seeing every square inch of detail up close.

Last Saturday is actually my first time to see a Manila Art fair. I'm not certain about how many shows they've done but they are already on their 4th year. This year's show opened in October 3 at SMEX and ended yesterday, October 6. I'm glad to be able to catch up. Here are a few snapshots:

It was such a treat for art enthusiasts and collectors alike. There were 40 participating galleries from across the country showcasing works by hundreds of artists. I saw paintings by familiar contemporary artists and also by Filipino masters. I seem to be drawn to authentic old school paintings and contemporary paintings with a nostalgic touch. 

Paintings very much outnumbered sculptures. Like any other art show you'll find a lot of awesome stuff but only a few will sweep you off your feet. And of course there were pieces that you tend to ignore hehe (a matter of taste).  But all in all, it was a great experience. Click on the images below for a larger view. Enjoy!