"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the muddy trek to buruwisan and lanzones falls

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks."
-- John Muir

28th of january 2012
a walk to remember in siniloan, laguna

what was supposed to be a usual "walk in the park" to see buruwisan falls at the southwest border of the sierra madre turned out to be quite an ordeal of a trek up and down through mud complete with drizzles and a head-on adventure against armies of what-i-refer to as the limatik liberation front.

when you're just looking at the pics, the adventure may not look like we had difficulties but trust me when i say that this was far from being a mere walk in the park. this one cost me a visit to the hospital, no joke. ;-)

it was the last saturday of january and i reckoned it was a good day to be out. our group of six -- kat, tony, onad, bren, mati, and i -- started our outdoor adventure early that day. we left metro manila at around 6 o'clock in the morning and got to the jump-off three hours after in brgy. macatad of siniloan, laguna by following the commuting directions we learned from online sources.

the sights we saw during our tricycle ride from the siniloan public market to brgy. macatad 

we got off the tricycle at the intersection where we saw a "buruwisan falls" welcome banner on top of a waiting shed. one of the locals, kuya rey, approached us and offered to be our guide. since we were all first-timers in the area and we are supporters of local tourism, we agreed for him to help us find our way to the falls and back.

jump-off, this way |  the signage at the small intersection. 

from the intersection, we hiked a short distance along that road indicated by the "this way" arrow to get to a canteen. although we were eager to already start our trek to the falls, we first had to buy food for our lunch. five of us -- tony, onad, bren, mati, and i -- ordered beef pares rice meals while kat ordered a pork pares rice meal. our "take out" lunch cost each one of us 50 pesos only.

then, off we went to the falls. our trek started with a leisurely hike on a paved road, to the side of which was a strategically placed "discover siniloan" banner featuring two other falls in the area -- lanzones falls and batya-batya falls.

a "discover siniloan" banner for lanzones falls and batya-batya falls

our guide, kuya rey, taking the lead

after a short walk, we arrived at the building where we needed to register-and-pay 50 pesos each before we could proceed any further.

the registration hall for trekkers to the falls
brgy. macatad, siniloan, laguna

the location of the registration building is next to a stream which hikers need to cross in order to get closer to where the multiple falls are nestled in upland siniloan, a trekking destination known as mt. romelo. before we crossed the stream, we took a sidetrip to kuya rodel's place just to pay him a courtesy visit. kuya rodel is that guy mentioned in pinoy mountaineer's feature article on mt. romelo. his property stands very close to the registration building and is difficult to miss.

the facade of kuya rodel's property (a farm) in siniloan, laguna
this photo was taken while mati and onad were buying their supply of korniks

after we crossed the stream, we realized what we had gotten ourselves into -- not a mere walk in the park to see waterfalls but an arduous day climb through mud, mud, and mud. with the the rains from the previous days and the day's drizzles, the uphill path was very uneven, muddy, and slippery.

a walk in the park? not quite ;-)
what i saw when i looked back after thirty minutes of trekking

during a trek, i'd normally be able to take out my DSLR camera at some intervals and take some snapshots but not that time. i didn't bother. i was preoccupied with saving my energy and i was busy maintaining good footing on the muddy ground we were walking on. i only managed to take pictures using my camphone.

after an hour and a half of walking on muddy terrain, we reached a stopover-slash-house where we gladly took a rest and bought fresh buko (young coconut). we also took this chance to free our footwear of unforgiving mud.

"are we there yet?" | after 1.5 hours of "walk in the park, muddy trek edition"
if you make a stop here, you can buy fresh buko (P15 each) and softdrinks (P20 each) 

after almost two hours since we crossed the stream, we finally reached a point where we could see the hills and mounds of the sierra madre where the falls are hidden. while it was comforting to know that we were closer, we were also made aware that we were still a long way away from what we were after -- the sight of the waterfalls! we were already feeling very tired of the mud that clung to us at our every step and we were not yet even halfway. hahaha!

a photo of where we were going taken from where we were
about one-third of the way from buruwisan falls
kuya rey pointed this out --- over that hill, that's where the final path (to the falls) is!

when the mud that stuck to the soles of our footwear became all too much -- causing us to either lose balance and skid and delaying us further, most of us finally opted to walk barefoot through the muddier portions.

walking barefoot, dealing with mud | destination: buruwisan
my trek buddies: tony as boy dungis, kat as inday dungis,
bren as boy pawis, onad as boy limatik, mati as boy putik

however, mud wasn't the only problem. we started seeing limatik (blood leeches) "shooting" off the mud -- there's a lot of them along the path!!!  there's a thriving community of them bloodsuckers and we weren't even prepared for them.

we thought we could get respite from the sight of the limatik armies by avoiding the mud and taking the greener paths but we were wrong. there's even more of them waiting in the greens for their unsuspecting warm-blooded victims and they successfully did get to us. a surprise attack by the limatik liberation front, it was. ugh!

they -- the limatik -- are nasty little creatures with outstanding acrobatic skills so do not undermine their ability to get to your skin. there was a moment when i really looked at them and they seemed to perform a wave in unison, as if giving a salute to their onlooker. flirty parasites!

walking in the rain | beautiful scenery with all the greens
this trail is best avoided as this is limatik haven -- super plenty  of bloodsuckers here!
don't be deceived by the beautiful scenery ;-)

we finally reached the campsite three hours after we left the registration hall. since we were only there for the day hike and not to stay overnight, we immediately proceeded to buruwisan falls -- an exhausting walk away (at least, for the starving) and a steep way down from the campsite. we were hungry and ready for lunch but we all agreed that we would go down to see the falls first before we could feed ourselves.

so walk further, we did. then, we exerted our muscles some more by going down a wall of rock-and-roots to finally behold buruwisan falls with our own eyes.

my mud-soaked feet, the trail down to buruwisan falls,
and the roots that one has to hold on to

this steep trail is a "shortcut"to buruwisan falls
it's a wall of rock and roots

when we finally got to the foot of the wall safely, we looked around and allowed our eyes to feast on what we went there for to see -- buruwisan falls! after taking some pictures, we took our rest and had our lunch while sitting/standing on the rocks scattered on the natural poolside of the falls.

the 180-ft high buruwisan falls | siniloan, laguna

tempted by the sight of clear, flowing water, i decided to remove my trekking pants (i wore shorts underneath, hehe) so i could properly clean off the mud. i soon started shrieking when i saw blood running down my legs -- multiple bloody limatik suck-bites!!! ewwww, yuck! i thought members of the limatik army only got as far as my exposed feet but noooooo. they got as far as close to my knees. ulk.

worse for me, clotting didn't happen right away even after the limatik left my skin -- by the time i removed my pants and saw blood, there was no limatik in sight but the bloody wounds were clearly limatik suck-bites and each one of them was still bleeding!

i later learned that those nasty limatik release anticoagulant when they attach themselves to their victims -- hence the continuous bleeding, delayed clotting.

the bleeding limatik suck-bites on my legs
only 3 are visible in this photo but there were 2 more at the back of my right leg

since we were already in the area and lanzones falls was just a short trek away, we set aside thoughts of how tired we were from our muddy trek. we walked further, crossed the river, walked past a meter long dead snake, and walked some more through water & on rocks to get to lanzones falls. 

the 70-ft high lanzones falls | siniloan laguna

we asked kuya rey how the falls got the name lanzones and he said it was because the shape of the cascade is similar to the shape of the leaf of the lanzones. (note to self: we have a lanzones tree in iligan, i should check the shape of the leaves of that tree to verify this information.) the other explanation is that (and this is according to the mt. romelo feature article in pinoy mountaineer) lanzones trees are plenty in the area. buruwisan falls, on the other hand, got its name from the type of hardwood that grew along the banks of the romelo river.

our guide, kuya rey | a very colorful caterpillar we found in front of lanzones falls
and a portion of the wall of jagged rocks facing lanzones falls

if the muddy trek to buruwisan and lanzones falls gave us a difficult time, the muddy trek going back to the jump-off proved to be even more difficult. the muddy, slippery, and uneven downward sloping path was not giving us traction and we were constantly sliding, skidding -- it was like mud-boarding minus the board. after kat and tony fell on their butts a number of times, they finally decided to stop walking on their own and took a chance at guided horseback riding. 

i was determined to walk all the way back and refused to be tempted by the horses. i was trying to enjoy that energy-demanding muddy trek, despite the slides and the near skids, the strain on my lower limbs, and the threat of getting more suck-bites from those i-really-wanna-squish-them-dead limatik. however, so much for my 'best laid plans'. pft. things took a turn from bad to worse for me when i slipped and, in the process of saving my balance, the sole of my bare left foot accidentally hit a sharp edge of a rock jutting out from the muddy trail.

i felt an intense pain and was forced to position myself close to the ground, just to manage the unwanted sensation. i thought pain was all there was to it until onad pointed out the blood that began to mix with the mud -- oh nooooooooo! my left foot got injured at a most inopportune time!!!

i asked onad to examine the sole of my left foot for me and he couldn't tell me right away the real deal about it because he didn't want me to faint. haha. he merely confirmed that i was wounded so i asked him if it could cause my big toe to be cut off and he said no. that relieved me a bit but the sight of so much blood mixing with the mud definitely did not give me relief. (i later found out that, when onad first examined my wound, he saw a lot of blood gushing out of the wound. "bumubulwak-bulwak" was the word he used to describe it.)

with mud all around us and knowing we were still a good 1.5-hour walk away from the jump-off, we merely applied pressure to the wound to control the bleeding and cleaned it with my drinking water. i put a pad of clean wet tissues and tied a strip of plastic cellophane around the wounded portion of my left foot to keep the make-shift cushion in place. talk about third world emergency remedy, bow. i wore my strapped sandals and, then, i started walking again. by this time, my legs were already sore and shaking from having to keep my balance and avoiding skids and the sole of my left foot was throbbing with pain. it was a very, very uncomfortable walk -- that squishy feeling (as mud seeped in and bathed my wound in almost every step i took) was creating bad images in my mind.

it was close to sundown and no horses came our way anymore. i had no choice but to continue walking through mud (and horse manure, no doubt) with my injured foot.

kat and tony -- thanks to the horses -- were the first ones from our group to return to the registration building. onad and bren followed. mati and kuya rey kept me company. i walked on despite the mud and pain because i knew that my injury was dictating the pace of our group. it was already dark, around 6:00 (or was it 6:30?) in the evening when we finally got back. only then did i have the chance to clean myself and my painful wound with mud-free running water. it's a good thing they have comfort-slash-changing rooms at the back portion/riverside of the registration building.

since bren brought a decent first aid kit, we were able to clean my wound with real antiseptic (betadine) and put terramycin. with we, i mean to say that bren did the cleaning, i did the wincing, and the others looked on and shared their thoughts on how the wound should be dealt with. hehe. for good measure, we covered the wound with elastic bandage -- we were still in siniloan, laguna and quite a long way from home -- there was no way i could get rid of the fresh wound just like that and my injured sole needed a cushion because there was more walking to do.

the next day, 29th of january 2012, i  brought myself to the hospital and sought proper medical attention. i then wrote: yesterday's adventure with kat, tony, onad, bren, and mati was... too much for one day! :) my "badges" of courage include: 11 limatik marks, 1 incision on my right big toe, and 1 painful lacerated wound on my sole just under my left big toe with some neighboring abrasions and a bruise. go figure! today, i was given 3 injections: 1 short-acting anti-tetanus shot, 1 for skin test, and 1 long-term anti-tetanus. plus, i was given prescription for cloxacillin, mefenamic acid, and mupirocin and the option not to report to work for 1-2 days. go figure, again!

two weeks later, i still had walking difficulties because the lacerated wound on my sole happened to be a major pressure point -- with constant walking (since i did not stop myself from doing my usual daily activities), it took a long time to heal.

don't get me wrong. despite the trau-matik (trauma + limatik + putik) experience, we still had much fun! :D

p.s. lesson learned from this adventure? do not keep native guavas in the pocket of your trekking pants. hehe.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

POTO fan girl-ing!

"In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came. 
That voice which calls to me and speaks my name; 
And do I dream again? 
For now I find the phantom of the opera is there inside my mind!"
-- lyrics, The Phantom of the Opera

my ticket to see the phantom of the opera (POTO) was bought months ahead of the scheduled august-to-september 2012 staging of andrew lloyd webber musical in manila. thanks to friends and technology, my ticket was secured at 10% off during the pre-selling period back in april while i was crossing the babuyan channel and quite preoccupied with safely returning to the mainland, haha.

04.09.12 POTO tickets! 

among other things, i was so excited to see the chandelier crash! what a wonderful treat, i was able to experience more than that! for one, the staging of the underground boat scene -- with the water and reflections on the water -- was beyond what i imagined it would be. plus, a lot more really jaw-dropping treats ;-) 

i've long been a fan of the voices of phantom but things definitely go to a whole new level when you actually see the characters popping in and out of the scenes and singing live! 

waaaaaaaaaaa ahhhhhhhhh i've become incoherent watching, hearing the phantom sing. awesome, really awesome performance! great stage presence and outstanding voice dynamics. i've become a crrrazy fan girl ahhhhh waaaaaaaaaa he's amazing! waaaaaa he's still singing in my head and i could probably scream with giddiness all night into my pillow :D  

to the point of being unfair and, this i won't deny, my expectations were really sky high but the phantom of the opera exceeded them.

the entire production with all the special effects on the floor up to the ceiling is best appreciated when your vantage point is from a higher elevation but not too high nor too far directly in front of the stage. :) this we learned from those who've seen the musical in london's west end and on broadway. the advice proved to be useful and it proved to be very true. 

i don't regret the seat location we chose -- balcony 1 center (B205 and B206 right in the middle of the second row) for the gala show. the choice we made was fantastic and very rewarding. t'was very, very worth it! :) the experience of watching things unfold was... mind-blowing!!! everything was well-executed, effortlessly brought together, and collectively rendering that over-all feel that things were happening with the touch of a genius. i conveniently forgot that the main character is actually dark and shady!

it's such a grand production done with precision and meticulous care, you really don't want to miss anything -- not even those at the back portions of the stage floor. 

09.15.12 with persia at the tanghalang nicanor abelardo | CCP theater along roxas boulevard

see that big picture of the stage with text overlay? that pretty much describes the view from my middle seat in the second row. visual treats and movements at the front all the way to the back of the floor and close to the ceiling are visible without risk of giving the spectator a stiff neck or eye strain. plus, there's the benefit of enjoying well-balanced acoustics on that spot.

p.s. ang galing-galing at ang ganda-ganda talaga, promise! sobrang sulit!!! i knew i got more than what i paid for right from the start, when i got goosebumps watching the intro to opening scene transition.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

walking around basey in samar

"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."
--Henry David Thoreau

28th of august 2011
destination: basey, samar
"a quaint little town," according to one online resource
this is part 1 of a three-part series on basey, samar

we – yoni and i -- arrived early on a sunday morning in basey, samar. we included it as one of our stops during our 3-day leyte-samar tour because we were excited to see the caves and to experience our own sohoton natural bridge national park adventure. since we arrived early, we had time to walk around and learn more about the place first-hand with our own senses.

basey is one of the municipalities along the southwestern coast of samar in the eastern visayas region. it is a 30-to-45-minute trip by land from tacloban city with crossing the beautifully designed san juanico bridge as part of the roadtrip joys along the scenic countryside route.

where is basey, samar?
image source: google maps
(i provided the red label)

basey, despite the spelling and the supposedly implied ey sound for the ey vowel-consonant combination, is really pronounced as ba-sai as in ba-*sigh*.  the name originated from mabaysay or baysay, waray words for beautiful and beauty, respectively. the name is said to be in honor of bungansakit, a legendary beauty of the late 16th to early 17th century settlement in the area.  basey, while it is a deference to bungansakit, also represents the place, which was known then -- as it is known now -- for its natural beauty.

the 53, 272-hectare territory of basey covers coastal areas, inland plains, hills, mountains, & rivers and is home to fascinating caves, waterfalls, and extraordinary limestone formations. with its covered area, basey is the largest municipality in the province of samar. the geographic make-up of the place allows the population to engage mostly in agriculture and fishing for their livelihood.

basey is partially urban, mostly rural. the sunday morning local vibe that greeted yoni and me in the poblacion area of basey was warm and uncomplicated. people in the marketplace and those who were on the streets went about their morning activities in a hurried but still leisurely pace -- you know what i mean? let's just say that watching them was relaxing.

we walked along the roads of the poblacion and allowed our attention to be caught by the sights -- glimpses of countryside warmth and the serene basey municipal life. by the sidewalk, there was a modest-sized pig being roasted and two men watched over their lechon-in-progress. some pedicabs were on standby, their drivers waiting for passengers. like in other agricultural places, portions of the roads less traveled were utilized as driers for harvested palay grains.  a typical basey-tacloban-and-vice-versa van was parked and it probably wasn't scheduled for a trip that day.

walking around basey

the church of jesus christ of latter day saints in basey is the most unique church structure of mormons that i've ever seen. i'm used to seeing their churches all over the country and they always have wide lawns and basketball courts. their church in basey, however, is very different and could easily be mistaken for a very western-inspired modern-day residential building.

the church of jesus christ of latter day saints in basey

as we walked on, we passed by the signage for the local dating daan coordinating center there and got confused by the location -- it was on a corner and had curious surroundings.

ang dating daan coordinating center signage
which road to take? one roadside of that corner had cockfighting roosters
while the other roadside had a leashed pig :)

despite being already partially urban, basey has an undeniable old country feel. rightfully so. the place happens to be one of the oldest municipalities in the philippines. it was already recorded as a fluorishing settlement as early as 1591.

when you're in the poblacion area of basey and you happen to look up, the belltower of a very old church will most likely grab your attention. that structure is difficult to miss as it really dominates the area. the church sits on a top of a hill that overlooks san pedro bay. it's the st. michael the archangel parish, a coral church from the spanish colonial period. it is a distinct historical landmark of basey which has remnants of a fort as part of its surroundings on the hilltop.

the belltower of st. michael the archangel parish
a church from the spanish colonial period

yoni and i didn't miss our opportunity to examine the historical structure up close. we went up the stairs leading to the church and spent time looking around. it is a beautiful and interesting old structure, to say the least.

black and white | the st. michael the archangel church
a 17th century roman catholic church in basey, samar
the facade of the church masks its two-storey nature. the belfry
is located at the left wing of the church and provides a panoramic view of basey.

view of the belltower from the left-wing stairs
the bells are engraved with "basey" and date back to 1858

view of the old church's left entrance
as seen from the right entrance

interior of the st. michael the archangel parish | basey, samar

some old church details | st. michael the archangel parish

the national historical institute marker 
church of basey

the 1987 national historical institute marker for the church has this to say about it:
"a former parish of the jesuits under the diocese of cebu in 1591 and the dagami religious house in 1656. built with strong foundations by the jesuits in honor of st. michael the archangel. it was transferred to the care of the augustinians in 1768 and to the care of the franciscans in 1795 but assumption of their post and ministry did not happen until 1804. renovated and the belfry, stone convent, and walkway were constructed along with the cemetery and chapel by fr. domingo de madrid in 1845. destroyed by a typhoon in 1880. roofing was replaced with galvanized iron by fr. vicente gutierrez in 1894-1896. became a mission headquarters and center for doctrina christiana teachings. a fort during spanish period. meeting hall and where plays were staged during japanese occupation. evacuation camp during the liberation period."

just a short walk from the old church is the basey municipal tourism office, where arrangements can be conveniently made for the sohoton natural bridge national park adventure -- boatride, going to the caves, and the natural stone bridge tour included.

the basey municipal tourism office
open even on sundays :)

aside from being the stop of choice in the area for getting details on the caves and all the other attractions in samar, the basey municipal tourism office also has displays of basey mat products.

basey is not only known for wonderful caves and limestone formations, the place is also known for mat-weaving.

basey produced the world's longest mat in 2008. it was a two-something-kilometer long, one-meter wide mat made by the local weavers as part of their fiesta showcase. the guinness-worthy mat is no longer in the municipality because they donated it for the use of the ondoy victims in 2009.

weaving in basey is a way of life. it is a tradition that has been handed down from generations, even way before the coming of the spaniards. the mat or banig from basey are testaments to the discipline of the talented basaynons who industriously weave by hand thin pieces of dried sedge grass (Fimbristylis sp) locally known as tikog, which grow abundantly in the marshlands.

a basey mat product | a wall decor

a basey mat product | vintas

the resulting mat products are of good quality, very creatively designed, and often made bursting with vibrant colors so much so that their purpose goes beyond being sleeping mats. they are also used as materials for wall decors, bags, slippers, furniture matting, dividers, lampshades, etc.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

getting to know the angono petroglyphs in binangonan

"History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard.
It is a poem with events as verses."
--Charles Angoff

9th of june 2012
history, culture, and art appreciation day on a june 2012 saturday
a day for seeing the angono-binangonan petroglyphs (in binangonan, rizal) and visiting balaw balaw specialty restaurant and art gallery (in angono, rizal) among other things (like an afternoon drive and a nighttime drive through very slow moving traffic)

the angono-binangonan petroglyphs: the earliest pre-historic rock art in the philippines

many, many, many, many years ago (read: around 3000-2000 B.C.), somewhere in the elevated portion of what-eventually-got-referred-to (at some point, at least) as the common boundary of angono, binangonan, and antipolo of rizal province, human and animal-like figures were engraved on a wall of massive rock.  defined by an overhang and a shallow cave-like opening, the rock had volcanic origins and its surface was soft enough, chipping upon contact with tougher materials, but the wall as a whole remained resistant enough to preserve carved patterns with the passing of the ages.

the angono-binangonan petroglyphs: pre-historic rock art

for a long, long time, the existence of pre-historic rock engravings in rizal province, the cradle of philippine art, were not part of the public's attention. this changed in 1965 when carlos "botong" v. francisco, the renowned muralist from angono, rizal, reported to the national museum what he and a group of boy scouts discovered during a field trip  --  "a cave with drawings of a primitive quality."

the cave turned out to be a rock shelter and the drawings became known as the angono petroglyphs, with petroglyphs being the apt term for the 127 pre-historic carvings scattered on the 63-meter wide wall of ancient rock. in 1973, the site was declared as one of the philippines' national cultural treasures by virtue of presidential decree no. 260.

site of a natural cultural treasure | part of the 63-meter wide wall of the rock shelter

how to get there

according to the national museum's archeological sites and branch museums division (ASBMD) page for  the angono petroglyphs, "There are three two-hour routes from Manila to Rizal province. The northern route runs from Caloocan City to Marikina City. The middle route runs from EDSA to Pasig. The southern road passes through the town of Parañaque." 

for commuters, the blogspot of binangonan tourist attractions has this: "Take a metro bus, taxi or jeepney to EDSA/Crossing or the Farmer’s Market in Cubao, Quezon City and proceed to the jeepney or FX terminal within the shopping area. These vehicles are bound separately for Antipolo, Taytay, Cainta, Binangonan, Angono, and Tanay." once in binangonan, hire a trike... but... but... the roads going to the site of the petroglyphs are steep! check first with the driver if his trike can make it -- some can, most can't.

to get to the angono petroglyphs, our trio -- kat, bren, and i -- followed the directions shared by supernormalgirl. very, very useful! :)

the landmarks we saw along the way which assured us that we were on the right track
(1) angono, art capital of the philippines and home of the higantes festival
(2) the angono marker in brgy. san isidro (3) just after the guard station along east ridge avenue
(4) the pretty tunnel leading to thunderbird resorts and casino, and
(5) the motorpool garage of the eastridge golf club

coming from the welcome tunnel of thunderbird and eastridge along east ridge avenue and col. guido road, there is an "angono-binangonan petroglyphs" marker on the left side. 

the marker along east ridge avenue-slash-col. guido road

just follow the direction of the yellow arrow leading to a dirt track. the motorpool garage of eastridge golf club is just nearby and the site of the petroglyphs is just a short walk away -- through a tunnel, around a bend, and along a straight path to the building of the binangonan branch of the national museum.

the oldest known work of art in the philippines and a national cultural treasure

the name "angono petroglyphs" is somewhat a misnomer. the rock shelter is located three and a half kilometers southeast of angono and it is already part of the municipality of binangonan of rizal province. since the name of the site already stuck and striking out "angono" from "angono petroglyphs" will only create confusion, present-day signages and references to the site use "angono-binangonan petroglyphs" and "angono petroglyphs in binangonan."

the marker

in order to reach the angono-binangonan petroglyphs, one needs to walk inside a 109-m long tunnel that cuts through a part of the hard, rocky mountain. this tunnel was constructed in 1996 and was finished in 1997 by expert igorot tunnelers/miners, who were especially commissioned by the national museum to make the process of making the dug out passage ecologically-friendly.

the tunnel leading to the angono-binangonan petroglyphs
(1) the entrance, (2) the exit, and (3)-(4) impressions on the ceiling of the 109-m long tunnel
they are marks of expertise of igorot miners who were commissioned to finish the tunnel in 1997.

inside the man-made tunnel

at the other end of the tunnel is a bend and further along the path is finally the welcome signage and the on-site museum, which was established by the national museum in 1998 to emphasize the cultural significance of the petroglyphs and to showcase the cultural and artistic heritage of the province of rizal.

the welcome marker: angono petroglyphs in binangonan

the binangonan building of the national museum: an on-site museum

the on-site museum is 240 meters away from the entrance of the tunnel. it houses a small exhibit and a collection of artifacts related to the petroglyphs and pre-colonial life. the building serves as the reception and registration area for the visitors of the petroglyphs, collectively regarded as the oldest known (and existing) work of art in the philippines.

the entrance/access fee to see the petroglyphs is 20 pesos per person but students get to pay only 50% -- 10 pesos each.

beyond that viewdeck, shaded by the canopies and lush greens,
is where the petroglyphs are
197 meters above sea level

the viewdeck is just a short uphill walk from the on-site museum.  it was constructed to keep visitors from touching the rock and degrading the existing ancient engravings. this was not the case before and there were some who actually thought it was cool to leave their own marks -- yup, not all engravings on the rock shelter are B.C. petroglyphs. some are contributions of modern-day vandals (read: mga pasaway!).

modern-day vandals' contribution :(

the petroglyphs and the rock shelter are also vulnerable to erosion and other natural occurring processes. in fact, the ground on which the rock shelter stands is showing tell-tale signs of shifting down and parts of the wall are riddled with holes. the holes are due to the roots of the trees that grew on the volcanic tuff.    

sharing space with the carvings on the ancient wall of rock are holes

according to the national museum, the site of the angono-binangonan petroglyphs is a highly significant cultural landmark and is listed in the world inventory of rock art. there is a collective effort by the national museum of the philippines, the world monument fund, american express, the department of tourism, and antipolo properties, inc. to preserve this national treasure which was recognized in 1996 as one of 100 most endangered sites in the world by the world monuments watch program of the world monuments fund.

getting to know the angono-binangonan petroglyphs
kat and bren with the on-site guide and information officer, mr. roden t. santiago

if you want to see the petroglyphs, know that the viewing days are mondays to sundays and the on-site guide & information officer's rest days are tuesdays and wednesdays. it is better to visit when he (mr. roden t. santiago) is around so you can interact with him and learn more about the petroglyphs. i suggest that you get in touch with him if you're planning to see the petroglyphs because he can provide you the many options and details on how to get there.

some online resources (read: blogs) say that DSLRs are not allowed at the site. let's correct that: DSLRs are allowed there. sir roden said so. plus, the management is open to allowing overnight camps in the area (i say, vandals and those who-don't-know-any-better are not allowed!) but just beware of the dahong palay snakes because the area has them.

should you take time to go and see the petroglyphs (why not, right?), take time also to visit balaw balaw specialty restaurant and art gallery and try their dishes in #16 don justo, doña justa village, angono, rizal.

we did!

what we ordered
balaw-balaw punch, ginisang balaw-balaw, ensaladang mangga, adobong baboy ramo, and tapang usa

balaw balaw specialty restaurant and art gallery
it's a restaurant and gallery in one!
remember, angono is the art capital of the philippines :)

balaw balaw, by the way, is a "delectable appetizer or sauce... made from small shrimps mixed with gruel and angkak, an herb that gives reddish coloring. the mixture is preserved in an earthern jar for three days."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

once upon a nighttime photowalk in biñan city

"come on, ride the train 
it's the choo choo, ride it, woo woo
come on, ride the train, it's the choo choo train"
- c'mon 'n' ride it (the train), lyrics

it started with a train ride...
14th of august 2010
EDSA (makati city, magallanes near mrt magallanes station) 

"first time mo?" 

that's what i told myself as i approached the ticket booth. it was a fine saturday afternoon and i had just alighted the bus that took me from batangas to metro manila. i felt like a child going to school for the first time. one of my sweaty hands was holding on tightly to the strap of my tripod bag and my other arm was supporting my red backpack.

i was concealing the excitement that overpowered whatever apprehensions i had as i handed out my money in exchange for a ticket. for the regular commuter in the metro, maybe it was just another 10-peso ticket but, for me, it was special. it was the ticket for my first ever PNR commex train ride! hahaha!

the philippine national railways (PNR) is the state-owned railway company in the philippines, which operates a commuter rail service in manila and in the bicol area. if metrorail (lrt 1) is the yellow line, megatren (lrt 2) is the purple line, and metrostar express (mrt 3) is the blue line, the PNR commuter express (commex or cx) is the orange line, which provides passengers the train ride option along the route from tutuban and alabang.

my first ever PNR commex train ride was pleasant and comfortable. i was at the EDSA station and my destination that afternoon was 10 stations away, tutuban. eventhough i was on my own and eventually got myself surrounded by so many strangers as soon as i boarded the train, i did not find my solo adventure daunting. the commex service train's silver-colored hyundai rotem DMU coaches appealed to my senses. they looked brand new and safe and the airconditioning was working good -- something which was not lost on me especially during those stops when the coaches got heavily packed with passengers from all walks of life, it seemed.

when the train arrived at the station in tutuban, i got off. i stood for awhile on the platform and ended up gawking at the old train parked near the brand new-looking train i'd just left. the old train had blue coaches that looked decrepit but the sight of it got me excited. it was the reason why i made the trip to tutuban, after all.

seeing PNR's old blue commex train with my own two eyes was an assurance that, indeed, i arrived at the right station and somewhere inside the terminal building were people i knew who were waiting for me -- the members of the d60krew!  we were excited to feed our curiosity and to finally experience riding this relic of a train from tutuban to biñan.

from tutuban to biñan city

"This walk first started out as an orientation on the PNR COMMEX train that plies the Tutuban to Biñan route. We were already familiar with the new air conditioned trains that we rode during the WWPW PNR Leg, but the blue and gold COMMEX train is a relic that refuses to give in to time and age. Since the return trip to Manila was in the morning after, we thought it would be best to spend the night in Biñan shooting.” 

our group, the d60krew, gathered at the tutuban station which is just behind the tutuban mall in divisoria to catch the train ride that would take us to the city of biñan for a price of only 24 pesos per head.

while the PNR mainly uses airconditioned hyundai rotem DMU coaches for the regular commex service in metro manila,  an old non-airconditioned train is used for the once-a-day commex run between manila and  biñan city in laguna, around 2 hours and 15 station stops apart.

the train left the tutuban station according to schedule shortly after sundown. the ride was a totally different experience from the usual mrt and lrt rides. it was a totally different experience from its airconditioned PNR commex counterpart, too. while there was room to move and there were small counters between chairs that faced each other like in those trains in the movies, the chairs in the non-airconditioned coaches were not that comfortable. nevertheless, with the d60krew family, i got to enjoy the ride and was able to relish the experience of what it's like to be in an old, old train that still runs. yey!

inside the blue PNR commex train | the old train

during that ride, some of us were able to personally relate to the truth in this statement: "traveling on the old trains meant taking a chance as the coaches got thrown rocks or worse, plastic bags loaded with urine (or excrement)." it's safe to stay away from the windows and side doors when the train passes residential areas -- some urchins with nothing better to do might just be on standby on the railway side and throw something at the train. thank goodness for the grills that the PNR installed on the windows, we got initial protection from being hit with embers and broken pieces of hollow blocks -- no excrement. fortunately for passengers traveling on the new trains with airconditioned coaches and closed windows, they are shielded from crazy projectiles.

except for those moments when we got surprised by debris, most part of the trip was good and worth repeating. our group arrived in biñan safe and happy.

destination: biñan city, laguna

the city of biñan is about 34 kilometers south of manila and is a first class component city in the province of laguna. biñan used to be a municipality but she earned her cityhood in early 2010 by virtue of republic act 9740 and became the fourth city in the province of laguna after san pablo, calamba, and sta. rosa.

at the station in biñan, we were met by the municipal special action group (MSAG), a special arm of the office of the mayor of  biñan city. we were led to two vehicles and taken to mcdonald's at olivarez plaza for a dinner treat before our 9pm-to-4am photowalk. now, that i've shared those details, i need to emphasize something: a very impressive and humbling reception!

ate bambit of the d60krew wrote a letter to seek permission for our photowalk. the office of the mayor of the city of biñan responded graciously and gave our group permission to photograph their place at night. normally, a permit is just a piece of paper that could be shown to prove that an appropriate clearance was sought and approved. we got more than that. definitely, more than that.

the krew has landed. some of the d60krew members in mcdo | biñan

when we arrived in biñan, we were shown generosity and hospitality which were truly remarkable and beyond expectations. the MSAG was our security detail during our stay in biñan. the mcdo meals which we ordered got paid for thru arrangements made by ms. roseann gonzales, administrative aide of the office of biñan city mayor marlyn "lenlen" b. alonte-naguiat. during our overnight and sleepless stay in biñan, we were never left wondering where to go or how to access what nor did we end up worrying about our safety or the safety of our cameras as we walked around -- our escorts were very accommodating and responsible. the people we passed by and who passed us by were kind and friendly as well.

we really never expected all of that. it's wonderful how a simple act of courtesy such as sending a letter to seek permission begets an incredible show of hospitality. until now, i get to look back and really say, "that was very awesome!"

a vibrant biñan 

"The result: a more vibrant Biñan than anyone has ever seen, as caught by the lenses of the D60KREW ... and two Canons "

that night was not my first time to be in biñan. i've been to the place before but i never really stayed long enough, i merely passed by. that night, i had time -- time to observe, time to walk around, time to look at the old houses and the rise of the new establishments, time to see people as they went about, time to watch vehicle lights, time to take pictures, and time to allow the nighttime local vibe to sink in.

when the d60krew finally walked the streets of biñan in the poblacion area or the bayan, our first landmark stop was at the back of the house of maestro justiniano cruz. there is a rizal in biñan historical marker there because it was where jose rizal, the national hero, received his first formal schooling in 1871.

the rizal in biñan historical marker

i'd like to think that our escorts really made sure that we would never miss dr. jose rizal's first formal school -- it was the first landmark they led us to.

the d60krew taking their respective spots to shoot pictures of an old house across the street

we saw old houses and structures here and there -- attention-grabbing living memories of the old biñan that a young jose rizal also saw in his lifetime. it's a pity i wasn't able to get the family names of the owners of the houses -- except for the house of perlas and the alberto house, i could not identify which house is which in the pictures i took.

if you have the patience to read this account of the families of the old biñan and be acquainted with the street names, then perhaps, when you find yourselves in biñan, you will be able to identify the houses better than i could.

the old house across the street | this is the house in front of the 'rizal in biñan' historical marker
 the house of perlas: a decrepit bahay na bato from the spanish colonial period
the spanish era building beside jose rizal's first formal school
another old house that still stands

among the old houses in biñan, the most popular is, perhaps, the alberto house, a grand spanish colonial mansion, a bahay na bato with tile roof, built using materiales fuertes and strategically located in the old town center just in front of the present-day city plaza.

the alberto house of old  biñan is still the alberto house of present-day biñan 

estimated to be around 200 years old, it was the house of rizal's maternal grandfather, lorenzo alberto alonzo, and, therefore, his mother's ancestral home. the house is all the more historically significant because rizal lived there from 1870 to 1871 when his parents sent him to biñan for his first taste of formal education.

the alberto house as seen from the second floor of the old municipal hall

just near the alberto house and also facing the city plaza is the old municipal hall of biñan, which now serves as a police headquarters and a museum in the making. when we were there, there were photos and displays -- visual souvenirs -- of the rich history of biñan.

the century old municipio: the old municipal hall of biñan

along with the san isidro labrador parish church, the old municipal hall (also known as the century old municipio) stands on the west boundary of the city plaza.

next to the old municipal hall is the pamilihang bayan ng biñan, regarded as the largest public market in the province of laguna and in the CALABARZON region. we took the chance to shoot some pictures at the public market and saw with our own eyes how alive it is even at around 1, 2 o'clock in the morning.

pamilihang bayan ng biñan
the public market of  biñan
this vegetable vendor paid attention to my camera | public market of  biñan

our group's favorite subject that night was, without a doubt, the rizal monument at the city plaza and understandably so. the city plaza -- the jose rizal monument plaza -- is the major landmark of the city of biñan.

the jose rizal monument plaza in biñan city's poblacion as seen from the old municipal hall

the statue of rizal is located right at the center of the plaza, surrounded by the san isidro labrador parish church, the century old municipio, the multi-purpose covered court, and the alberto house.

long exposure shot no. 1 |  the jose rizal monument plaza of biñan
long exposure shot #2 |  the jose rizal monument plaza of biñan
a closer look of the rizal monument

the rizal monument in biñan is notable because it is one of the oldest monuments of jose rizal in laguna and also one of the very first rizal monuments in the country. when it was erected before the 1920s, the rizal monument in biñan was the second largest, next to the one in luneta. even with the unveiling last june 2011 of calamba's 22-foot statue of the national hero, which is now the largest rizal monument to date, the biñan monument remains as one of the largest monuments of rizal in the country.

the d60krew in  biñan! :)
check out our biñan thread in digital photographer philippines here:
 "The D60Krew Walks Binan at Night"

it was around 4 o'clock when i thanked the municipal security action group and the rest of the d60krew and took my leave. i was heading back to batangas while the rest of the d60krew were going to take the early morning (and only) biñan-tutuban train of the day to get back to their respective homes in manila. i boarded a south-bound jeepney with a very grateful heart for the wonderful experiences i had despite having to endure sleeplessness -- the PNR train rides and the overnight photowalk in biñan!

i know that i only walked and saw a small portion of biñan. there's more to biñan that you and i have yet to see.

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