Who isn’t fond of Lego? It’s one of the toys of my childhood, but it’s been around for longer than I’ve been alive. My first experience with Lego was with my uncle’s toys, while my first personal set was one from the Paradisa series.
A few weeks ago, the Department of Tourism unveiled a huge Philippine map at the SM Mall of Asia. What made it amazing is that it was made entirely out of Lego. A local group of Lego enthusiasts called Bricks Philippines planned and built this over a span of three months. Their aim was to help promote tourism around the country by engaging people’s imagination using this timeless and well-loved toy.
The Philippines in Lego
Even though Mall of Asia was rather far away and good weather wasn’t guaranteed (it did rain), I went there with Drew and Julius just for kicks. Glad I didn’t back out, because it was really an impressive display.
Paoay Church and the Bangui Windmills
Basco Lighthouse in Batanes
Mayon Volcano and the Butandings of the Bicol region.
It ran for only a week, which wasn’t enough for folks in Metro Manila to see it. I asked on Facebook if there was a chance it could be set up in other locations, but it seems that there’s no plans of that yet. I hope they can show it around the country.
Sidenote: We saw some artists painting designs on t-shirts. So cool. Ganda talaga ng Pilipinas!
September seems to be my vacation/travel month. Two years ago I visited Sagada. Last year, I went to Baguio (which shouldn’t really count). This year, I surpassed my quota (if I actually had any) by going to three different places: Bicol, Tagaytay and Bohol.
It’s my first time to see Bohol outside TV and pictures and it’s a strong candidate for a place I want to retire to. Seriously. While some people prefer city life, I can happily survive in small, provincial towns. Given that I hardly go out most of the time, I hate pollution and traffic, it’s an ideal place. Not to mention that there’s Internet there too.
I was with fellow Plurkers Joiz, Jan, Shabby and Marco. We booked for three days and two nights at Linaw Beach Resort in Panglao island. Of all the places we asked, this was the one that replied rather promptly with all the details we needed. The pictures showed a rather nice place so everyone gave it their approval. When we got to the resort, oh my. It was worth every centavo. Downside: no complimentary breakfast. Everything else was good.
We were practically the only people there, although we did see some people from other resorts dropping by the restaurant for dinner and some visitors coming in the next few days. It was nice to have it all to ourselves. On the first day, we didn’t do much except to go around and take pictures. The atmosphere was so relaxing, I would feel drowsy every time I sit down (which was what happened some time after lunch). Sat down to read “Hunger Games”, then the next thing I knew, it was mid afternoon and everyone was gone.
On our second day, we went on the countryside tour around Bohol. That means no island hopping, nothing too tiring or adventurous — unless you count crossing that hanging bridge that had me screaming bloody murder when everyone started jumping and swaying. I did not relish the idea of falling twenty or so feet into the brown waters of Loboc River. Yes, I was scared. Very much so. :p
So, tour. It started off rather promisingly, especially with the Belgian guys. Headed off to the Chocolate Hills (too many tourists posing for wacky shots), then to the butterfly sanctuary (did you know that there are butterflies that are both male and female?). Took a look at some tarsiers (I kinda felt sorry for the little creatures), crossed that blasted bridge (twice), caused traffic along the man-made forest and went on the Loboc River tour.
My best friend Carmenez invited me on a trip to Legaspi, Albay. It had been years since I last stepped foot on my motherís home province and I jumped on the chance. A few days later, she asked if I knew of anyone else who wanted to go, so I took my brother Miks along.
The moments before the actual flight were rather tense. one reason was mostly due to my carelessness, and the other one was purely because of fate. But when the plane was in the air and we landed in Legaspi, we didnít really care and had a grand time laughing about it.
Day 1: Legaspi and Daraga It was Miksí first time to ride a plane, and his first visit back to Bicol after twenty years. He was roughly two years old when he first visited, and hasnít been back since. He said that the plane ride was rather short (less than an hour from Manila to Legaspi), but enjoyed it nonetheless.
Upon landing, we immediately whipped out our cameras for a shot at the tarmac, even though we were asked not to take pictures in the runway. Since there were not much activity, the airport personnel was a bit more accommodating.
We were able to get a ride with someone Carmenez knew from work, so we arrived at our hotel pretty quickly. Sampaguita Tourist Inn is located along Rizal St., and is easily accessible through public or private transportation. Itís relatively cheap and clean. Our room had three single beds, one bathroom, a TV with cable, aircon and fan. itís the bare essentials, but for P750+ per night, itís very good. Thereís no WiFi in the rooms, but thereís a free connection at the lobby. Thereís also a restaurant on the first floor, but I donít know how the food is.
After dumping our things and freshening up a bit, we headed out. Pacific Mall was our first stop, where we were told we can easily get rides to where we needed to go. A trike is P7 per person, but for some reason the drivers kept asking for P30 for the three of us. It wouldnít be so bad, but the total of those extra three pesos does make a difference.
Mall nanaman? Pacific Mall is a Gaisano mall, hence the familiar uniforms of the department store ladies. The funny thing was it was only a few blocks away from our hotel, and we couldíve easily walked to it. It houses several familiar establishments like McDonaldís, Jollibee, Bench, Penshoppe and National Bookstore.
We had lunch at Graceland, all because we thought there were two Jollibee stores in the mall, thanks to the mascot Qweenie. For less than P100, you get a full meal. Miks and I had lechon kawali with Bicol Express, while Nez had porkchop with laing.
Right on the second floor is the store my friends and I know and love so well: Booksale. Since I was with the friend who introduced me to it, we just had to pass by. Iím sure my brother rolled his eyes as we made a beeline for it. I purchased a book for Lolo, while Nez hauled in some pocketbooks at P15 each.
We finished running our errands and headed off to the Philippine Ports Authority office, where Nez met up with people she knew from work. We took a trike from the mall, which then dropped us off in front of the Naval base. Unfortunately neither the trike driver nor the security guard we asked knew where PPA was, so we were off for a long walk. We made some wrong turns but eventually ended up where we needed to be.
Most of Legaspiís government offices are located in one compound. I saw the Civil Service, DOST, DOT, LTO, Commission on Audit, DILG among others. There were other government offices outside the compound but they were more like satellite offices.
The Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga
We headed off to Daraga to see the Cagsawa Ruins. The last time I was there, it seemed like it was just a big field with the bell tower in the middle of it. Now thereís a gate, where you have to pay the entrance fee, plus stalls where you can buy souvenirs. Inside the compound, we ran into King, a young man who took us around the ruins and told us the story behind it. He was also really cool to take pictures of us, and gave us information on where we could go next. If ever you do stop by the Cagsawa Ruins, look for King.
Our next stop was Daraga church, which sits on top of a hill. Daraga was celebrating its fiesta the next day, so the church was all spruced up. It had an amazing view of Mayon, and thanks to Kingís tips, we were able to get great pictures of the church and the volcano.
It was late afternoon when we got back to Legaspi, so we opted to go to Bacacay the next day, after wakeboarding in CamSur. Instead, we freshened up and went downtown to look for the bus terminal. Legaspi has a busy downtown district, the only thing I recall ever seeing back then was LCC Mall. We took a walk around but didnít find what we wanted. We poked around an ukay-ukay store, and I finally saw the post office, complete with a really odd statue of kneeling headless man. According to my research, it was originally found along the townís port area and is a memorial to a guerilla hero beheaded by the Japanese during World War II.
Legaspi’s night life A short walk away is the Embarcadero, a waterfront development full of stores and restaurants, considered as the portal of nightlife in Legaspi. Much of it is still under development, and will house a hotel and spa as well as a IT park in the future. For now, it has enough to keep one entertained. We had dinner in Biggs Diner, one of Bicol’s popular food chain.
At first, Nez wasn’t impressed because it functioned quite like McDonaldís where you have to line up to order instead of sitting down then ordering from a menu. However, when our orders came, we didnít have anything bad to say about it. For the price, Biggís is well worth it. The servings are, well, big, and the taste lives up to the images that are posted on the menu board.
For a Monday night, there were a lot of people milling about. There was a boxing event, and there was a live band playing. Nez wanted coffee, so we looked around for a coffeeshop. No Starbucks or CBTL, instead, we saw La Mia Tazza. Like Biggís and Graceland, it is purely homegrown. Many of the drinks and the desserts have incorporated what Bicol is known for. I just tried tea, but I heard that they have drinks with pili nuts. My mom would love that.
We spent the rest of the evening listening to the band, then headed back to Sampaguita to rest as we had to get up early the next day.
I still managed to go around Dumaguete and see the sights, as well as taste their food and learn about the place. I had read up on it before I went, and I was given some tips on where to go by my online friend Zerisse, who is from Dumaguete. Still, nothing quite beats the actual experience.
On the plane again The only time I’ve been in a plane was when I went to Cebu last 2006. The experience was truly amazing, from the moment I arrived at the airport until the plane landed in Mactan. I still felt excited, as giddy as any kid who still finds wonder in something so ordinary (though I think flying is not an ordinary thing).
I was disappointed that neither Lolo Sal nor I got a window seat. The plane (we took Philippine Airlines) was a small one, with three seats at either side. I was in the middle, and Lolo had the aisle seat so he could stretch a bit. Occasionally, I’d peek over my seatmate’s shoulder to the world outside.
The weather wasn’t good when we left. It was raining really hard since the morning, and the flight had been delayed for nearly thirty minutes: first, the call to board was about ten minutes late, while the weather hindered take off for nearly 20 minutes. There were already five planes behind us and two ahead before we were cleared.
Other than that. It was a rather quiet flight. When the captain announced that we were descending, I took a look outside and was surprised that the plane was flying very low above the sea. That had me worried because my previous experience with flying had us above land at that height. Soon, the water was so close, I nearly asked my seatmate “Kuya, wala pa ba lupa?” The next thing I knew, I felt the thud of the plane’s wheels as it hit the runway. I learned then that the Dumaguete airport’s runway starts/ends at the shore of the beach. Continue reading →
For a while now, I’ve been wondering what’s the best way to describe the Filipinos. When you watch travel shows, most countries can be easily identified by their food, their costumes, their speech.
When you say Filipino… well, I can say that a Pinoy will have his or her own definition depending on where they came from. The old debate of what should be the national language is still up in the air and possibly no closer to being resolved than say, getting a cure for the common cold.
Be that as it may, it’s always interesting to see foreigners react to the Philippines: either through a travel show such as Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” or Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods” (we’ll also be seeing Bobby Chin visit the country soon); or through various blogs and comments online. I once talked to a lady from one of the middle American states (Arkansas, I think) who asked me about the country and was apologizing because she thought we still lived very primitively.
I was amused yet somewhat insulted too, but readily answered “Ma’am, had we lived in trees, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now.” I proceeded to tell her about how we live in the city, how I’m updated about the series Lost, that I just had a Big Mac the other day and gave her some websites she could visit to learn more about us. She was also surprised to learn that I have never been out of the country and credited Sesame Street as a huge part of my English language education.
Granted there’s still a lot of not-so-good stuff about the Philippines (specifically politics, but then again, when is that a good thing anywhere?) but the good stuff is more than all worth it.
What is Filipino? Anthony Bourdain asked this question to just about every person he met during the show, and more or less didn’t get a satisfactory answer until the end.
“Geography plays a prominent role in what you eat in the Philippines, maybe more so than in other places.”
I have to agree on this. Each region boasts of something that is way better than any other region’s even if you can find it there. For example, I’m a big fan of the Zambales mangoes, and am not ashamed to say that I don’t think Cebu mangoes outclass them. I’m not being rude, but basing it on my experience, especially since I grew up eating Zambales mangoes and not Cebu’s. I’m sure if it were the other way around, I’d be raving about Cebu’s mangoes right now.
Claude Tayag said, “You cannot be a Filipino first until you become Kapampangan first. Become yourself first.”
A lot of this is being taken out of context. Watching this particular part, I feel no offense when Claude Tayag said this. In fact, I can clearly understand what he meant. Many Pinoys belong to a specific region, with their parents and grandparents coming from the province. Myself is a product of the North with a bit of the South thrown in, so I’m more partial to places like Zambales, Pampanga, Baguio and… Bicol than anywhere else. Feed me something from other places and I’d say “Oh, that’s better in *insert place I love here*” This is were regionalism, a trait that is very much ingrained in every Pinoy. Wag na mag deny, dahil totoo naman ito di ba? We feel pride in where we come from, and we staunchly defend it.
What I feel that Claude is trying to say is the mere fact of embracing your roots — be you Kapampangan, Sambali, Cebuano, Bicolano, Davaeno — is the key to being Filipino. I don’t think it would be easy to define who we are if we don’t embrace who our ancestors are.
Face it, our country is one big melting pot, hugely influenced by Spanish and American culture. I always thought that if we weren’t heavily colonized by them, we’d be something like Malaysia or Thailand, given that we have similar roots, but since we were, well, this is who we are.
In fact, the way I see it, it’s a pretty much universal attitude. Anthony Bourdain said it, “I’m a New Yorker first, American second.” If you’ve watched so many travel and cooking shows like No Reservations, you’ll notice it. People, no matter where they live, are quick to say that their version of this food is better than any version you’ll find in their country… or anywhere else.
If anything, this episode of No Reservations would make you ask, “Who are the Pinoys, really?” I have long wondered why we didn’t have a culture where old traditions are very well preserved alongside the modern world. Look at the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans. Look at the Malaysians, the Thais and the Indonesians. Their past co-exists harmoniously with the present and when you ask their people who they are, they can tell you.
Perhaps I am not as lost as Augusto is, having grown up being aware of my roots, but there’s still the slight confusion of who my country is in the bigger scale of things.
Maybe, that’s what makes us who we are.
I say… There’s so much I want to say about this episode of No Reservations. I mean, it’s about the Philippines! How can I not comment on just about every aspect of the program?
But I must practice restraint. I don’t want to end up babbling all over the place (which I am wont to do in many cases). I love, love, love this episode, not just because it’s about the Philippines, but also because Bourdain touched a chord in me about our country and its people. One thing I learned about watching No Reservations is that if it’s good, Tony will say so. If it isn’t, he’ll say it too.
Granted, many people have commented that Augusto feels so restrained and isn’t as enthusiastic as he was in his video — and that they could’ve done better. Yeah, we all have that thinking, but hey, Augusto sent his entry, he got picked. You didn’t. We are all critics, but it has it’s time and place. Bottomline, the crew got what the needed, Augusto got to go home and the Philippines is once again brought to the world’s attention but this time in a very good light.
I think that says a lot.
Snippets Tony Bourdain loves sisig. Heck, he just about loved everything he had, including the pinapaitan, which personally took me a long time to even partially like.
Yehey, no balut. Not all Filipinos eat balut *waves hand* but I do love the fried day old. Yay for chicken balls! Yay for dampa!
Calamansi FTW! Neil Gaiman mentioned it in his blog when he visited back in 2005.
He referred to Binondo as “the oldest Chinatown in the world”, which I’m sure got the nod of many Chinese-Filipinos. I’ve always wondered why it’s never been featured in any of the travel sites I’ve been to, especially since Ivan said it’s as old as the city, which makes it some hundreds of years old. I love Binondo. I often went there with my grandparents, where my grandfather is often mistaken for another Chinoy (even though he doesn’t speak a word of Chinese).
I had a great time watching the Cebu segment. I remember my first time going to Tabo-an. We went there hours before our flight back to Manila to buy some danggit. We didn’t know that the smell of the dried fish would stick to us. Needless to say, we sat in the plane hoping that we wouldn’t be kicked out by the pilot halfway over the ocean.
You can never go wrong with lechon. I think it’s safe to say that even vegetarians break a bit when they are faced with lechon (and if they don’t, I marvel at their self-control).
Photo from: No Reservations Facebook
Lastly… Once again, I say, I want Anthony Bourdain’s job.