Friday, August 31, 2012

long weekends, Pippi Longstocking, and vacations

Two back-to-back long weekends in August. Yes, they came and went so fast that it may have felt like having the carpet pulled off from under one's feet. At times like these, I wish for more long weekends: lots more chances to lounge at home, to go on road trips, or to catch up on watching and folding my laundry. Just like my mom and my dad taught us siblings: 
Habang nagpapahinga, naglalaba, nagluluto, naglilinis. (In English: While resting, wash clothes, cook food, clean the house).
When Tuesday, the first day of the week following this last long weekend, rolled in, I somehow remembered Pippilotta Longstocking, the heroine in a series of children's books written by Astrid Lindgren. I first encountered Pippilotta -- Pippi, for short -- in a short story in grade school (through the Young America Basic Reading Program).

In the short story, Pippi wasn't attending school. She had decided to go to class one day after learning that her two friends, Tommy and Annika, took vacations in between school terms; because she didn't go to school, she didn't have vacations.

The point of the story, for me, was that vacations are special because they're not something being done everyday. Without the daily routine, a long weekend is not as extraordinary.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Professor Langdon, are you there?

In the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, Professor Robert Langdon got introduced to cryptologist Sophie Neveu and police officer Bezu Fache in one of the darkened and cordoned off hallways of the Louvre. Beyond the police cordon was the body of the late curator, Jacques Sauniere. 

Anyway, I got to think about the Da Vinci Code movie while I was at the National Museum. I had been attracted by the stained glass artwork in the museum so I thought of getting a closer look at them. That's when I stumbled into this vacant hall somewhere inside the Museum of the Filipino People. 

Perfect location for a movie set, huh? Yeah. The hallway reminded me of the Louvre as shown in Da Vinci Code film adaptation. Now all this hallway needs is parquet flooring and it could double as a really old museum. Or maybe not; after all, the floor in this hallway also speaks of the past.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

afternoon at the national museum (part 3)

Middens are locations were ancient humans threw away their domestic wastes (and may have acted as toilets, as dumps for food scraps and broken cooking and eating gear). These middens are treasure troves for archeologists because they give clues about ancient man's diet and eating habits (1).

At the Museum of the Filipino People, a shell midden indicates that the pre-historic Filipino (if he/she can be already called a Filipino) ate a lot of shellfish. This is far from surprising because the country has a very long coastline. That is thanks to the thousands of islands surrounded by water. According to the caption of the exhibit, shells last longer than bones and may provide more information for archeologists.

Ancient man's domestic waste dump

Somehow, I imagine that archeologists have to get their hands really dirty to understand what the ancient Filipino was up to. Imagine being excited about their domestic waste! I only shake my head at disbelief.

In the aftermath of the recent flooding in different parts of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces (2) and the avalanche of garbage in Baguio City last year (3), people have been abuzz with how to minimize waste. There's a renewed emphasis on recycling, on use of paper packages and reusable shopping bags, and on composting. However, these talks focus on waste material that are being generated now or are going to be generated in the future. But what will be done to garbage that already clog the drains and the esteros all over the city, apart from the usual garbage-collection-at-the-Manila-Bay drives?

Today's garbage mounds and clogged esteros may be the future
archeologists' dig sites.

That is one tough question. While I was looking at the shell midden, it got me thinking: our garbage dumps will one day be an archeologist's dig site. What conclusions will future archeologists make, with no clue about today's culture and eating habits, based on all the non-degradable materials in the future midden?


Saturday, August 25, 2012

afternoon at the national museum (part 2)

It must be difficult to be a tourist at the Sistine Chapel. One, the masterpieces are so intricate that I'm sure I'd look at the ceiling paintings for a long time. Two, there are so many things to see that I might be overwhelmed by all the artwork. Three, there are huge crowds all the time, surely, since it's a famous destination.

I've never been there; it's still in my bucket list.

The closest that I've been to the gawking-at-the-Sistine-Chapel-ceiling-experience, as of yet, was my visit to one of the National Museum's exhibits: various photographs or paintings of features of ceilings of old churches of Bohol. The way the artwork are displayed reminded me of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Yes, there are pieces hanging on the walls like normal paintings but there also are pieces that are suspended horizontally near the exhibit area's ceiling.

Alas, I couldn't lie down on the floor; that would just be too weird to the other visitors. I wish that I had a big mirror with me as I started feeling a strain on my neck.

The artwork are of saints and symbols of the Catholic faith as depicted in the different churches. Since I was looking up most of the time, I didn't bother looking at the captions found on blue circular labels stuck on the wooden floor. Actually, I didn't care too much about who or what is featured in the artwork; I was more interested in how the exhibit is presented.

As I entered the area, I felt like I was going inside one of the Spanish-era churches in Ilocos, just like in the summer Hum 2 class I sat at in 2000... half expecting Dr Paul Zafaralla to suddenly pop out of one of the corners.

Paintings in the ceiling. 

Paintings that seemed like statues found in side chapels or in niches along a church's walls. 

Paintings on opposite ends of the exhibit area. 

The only things missing at the time of my visit were the altar, the artwork behind the altar, the candle holders, and the smell of incense... then I'd really feel like I've stumbled into a church inside the museum! 

Congratulations to the team who developed this exhibit! Since the art gallery is closed at the moment, the collection here at the Kisame exhibit somehow made up for the artwork that I missed out on. I just couldn't remember the names of the people involved in it... and I couldn't find the information in the National Museum of the Philippines website.

Want to see these pieces of ceiling art? They're in the fourth floor of the Museum of the Filipino People, if I remember it correctly, just beside the biodiversity exhibit. The National Museum is found along P. Burgos St., Rizal Park, Manila.

Friday, August 24, 2012

afternoon at the national museum (part 1)

On my most recent Manila trip, I had nothing planned for after lunch. I thought that it would be cool to say hello to Juan Luna's opus at the National Museum so I went there after lunch. Unfortunately, the art gallery (the supposed highlight of my impromptu field trip) is closed until the end of September. So I contented myself with the more anthropological, historical, and biological exhibits at the Museum of the Filipino People. There were several exhibits there during my visit but none of them, thank goodness, became alive in broad daylight! 

In hindsight, I wish I had a guided tour. That would have been fun and informative. However, roaming the galleries on my own did allow me to take more time looking at the exhibits that interested me more and then scan the others that didn't interest me as much. This was fun too. One thing's for sure: going around the Museum of the Filipino People as an adult made me appreciate the richness and the roots of my culture a bit more.

A bit on what I learned during my afternoon at the museum...

The archaeological finds on display showed that there were elephants and rhinos once in what would someday be the Philippines. While I had read that in textbooks back in school, actually seeing fossilized remains made it all too real. I just could not imagine big mammals roaming the forests and the plains of Luzon, particularly since none of them are alive today. Were they eaten by pre-historic hunters? Or did they die out because of competition or loss of food?

In movies like The Pirates of the Caribbean, the pirate's life appears to be full of adventures, of mysteries, and of exotic locations. The exhibit about the San Diego, although NOT a pirate's ship, puts a more realistic spin to what a seafarer's life really was like in the 1600s. After all, the Philippines was literally the end of the world at that time (according to Carlos Celdran). Apparently, life at sea wasn't as cool and attractive as Captain Jack made it to be. According to the exhibits, the crew lived in cramped quarters, food and water had to be stored in huge earthen jars to make sure they last the entire journey, and not everyone ate off a porcelain plate.

I know that the Philippine eagle is one of the largest birds of prey around. But the stuffed animal in the museum, perhaps because it is stuffed, doesn't look as kingly and as intimidating as the live one I've seen on tv (duh!). Then there were the cloud rats and the flying mammals, the reptiles and the fish... Oh, and the plants too. There were dried plants, those inside bottles, those on cardboard... Basically, I felt like I was back in UPLB's Institute of Biological Sciences, looking at specimens along the corridors (cramming as much information into my brain) just before my Bio 3 final lab exam.

Nautical Highways
There's this globe, in the museum, that has lights tracing the trade routes involving the Philippines during the pre-Hispanic period all the way to the Galleon Trade era. It's interesting that most of the trade routes were on the western parts of the country, where there's territorial conflict between China and several Southeast Asian nations these days. The lack of trade routes on the Pacific side of the Philippines centuries ago made Carlos Celdran's words sink in visually: the country must have been deemed the end of the world back then... until Ferdinand Magellan successfully traveled from Europe via the Atlantic and then the Pacific. Then everyone learned that the world is round.

There are two ways to look at it: either the Philippines was the end of the world or it was at the center of it. Despite being at the very edge of the known world many centuries ago, trade was evidently booming. One just had to look at the contents of the San Diego to realize that a lot of finished goods from China were traded to Europeans via Mexico. But the trade route was far from safe. Mexican coins, lots of blue-and-white flatware, and gold items were amongst cannons, cannon shells (or bullets?), and hand-held weapons when the sunken ship was discovered. I assume that due to the dangers of the journey (or was it because women were deemed unlucky? -- another Pirates of the Caribbean reference), only men made the long trip to this side of the world. If there was a woman onboard, she would have been the statue of the Virgin Mary that these sailors always bring along in their ships.

And all that is just the tip of the iceberg that is the Museum of the Filipino People. Interesting, right? Seeing all these with fresh eyes (having been far away from a history textbook for almost a decade) has given me a renewed appreciation for and interest in my Filipino roots. I hope that a lot more Pinoys, not just foreign tourists, drop by to get more in touch with their cultural side.

Want to visit it too? The National Museum of the Philippines is located along P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila. Regular entrance fee at the Museum of the Filipino People for individuals is P100 but students and senior citizens have discounts. Tour groups have discounts as well (just check the website for details -- click on the link above).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

how much of the Philippines have I seen?

Judging by the image below, not much. Out of the 7, 107 islands, I've only visited six (Luzon, Marinduque, Boracay, Panay Island, Cebu, and Mindoro). I haven't even been to Talim Island, and that's close to where I live!

This just means that I still have 7, 101 islands to see and to explore just here in the Philippines. 

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

stop. look. listen.

This is one of the lessons I've learned when crossing railroad tracks. Along my morning route, I have to go past at least three crossings, with only one having a barricade that drops whenever a train goes by. The two others are along the national highway and are mainly manned by barangay tanods: if there's a train passing, someone stops traffic on both sides of the road. During my evening route, I have to cross at least two more. The unblocked crossings I pass everyday are quite dangerous; they have been the sites of several collisions between cars and trains already. I even had an almost close call a few years back near  what is now SM Calamba. The train just missed me by about five seconds!

So anyway, given the dangers of crossing train tracks when there are trains, I was appalled at seeing two vehicles in the Makati City area rush across the barricade just as it was dropping (with the second car being hit by the barricade on the roof). The train was just a few meters away and the two drivers decided they could risk crossing the rails! Take note that on the opposite side of the rails, the roads were packed with cars. They looked; they listened; but they did not stop.

Yes, traffic in the metro is bad. Yes, drivers in the metro compete for the tiniest gap between vehicles. Yes, everyone in the city is in a hurry. But no, crossing the railroad as a train approaches is not worth risking one's life for. In fact, by doing such a dangerous stunt, the two drivers endangered their lives, those of pedestrians and of train passengers, and of their fellow motorists. 

How selfish. 

How stupid.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cirque du Soleil's "Saltimbanco"

Last year, I watched Cirque du Soleil's Totem and KA with Mommy, Daddy, and Biboy. This year, I was determined to share the jaw-dropping experience with Anna, who wasn't able to join us watch the two shows. I made true a promise I had made myself last year: "Next time that the this circus is in town, I'm going to make sure I'll watch it."

Hoopla Inc. brought over an arena-type Cirque du Soleil production this year: Saltimbanco.

It is a vibrant show celebrating life (according to the website). If there was any form of plot in the whole production, I didn't catch it and I do not mind at all. The pop of colors, the amazing stunts, and the lively music were enough to keep audiences like me mesmerized throughout the two-hour program.

If I were to choose which of those incredible acts I liked the most, I would pick two: first, when Eddie  (the schoolboy prankster) went to the audience and picked an assistant to mime with him (while he and the band provided the sound effects); second, when four white-clad acrobats took to the trapeze and the bungee cords. Eddie solicited a lot of laughs from the audience; he was able to get a game participant and although a lot of the things he did were mimed, I'd almost believed that he was really drowning inside the comfort room or facing a roomful of lions. On the other hand, the acrobats made swinging on the trapeze look easy and the soaring in the air while attached to bungee cords effortless.

post-show photo op

Now that Anna had a taste of Cirque du Soleil, I think Biboy and I have recruited a new fan! Now, we have about twenty more shows to catch! I'm so looking forward to the next one.

Monday, August 13, 2012

old content, newly migrated: September 2008

In an earlier post, I've written about migrating old content from Multiply to Blogger. Here are the blog posts from September 2008. Happy reading!

September 21, 2008

September 18, 2008

September 15, 2008

September 4, 2008

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Migrating blog content from Multiply to Blogger in full swing

I've started blogging in Friendster. When I felt that it was beginning to look like an online gaming site, I began blogging in Multiply (this was in the same week that I've submitted my thesis manuscript for review). Then, a year (or two) back, I decided to give Blogger a try because Multiply increasingly looked like a shopping site. Since then, I've been constantly posting here. My posts here are also cross-posted to my Multiply site to keep the latter updated.

Multiply management has decided to transform the site into a purely online marketing platform. According to the announcement, the social network feature will cease to exist on December 1st this year. This is why I am currently moving old content from Multiply to Blogger. Today, I'm concentrating on the 2008 content so you may notice an increase if you look at the number of posts:

I'll be posting updates once in a while with links to newly migrated material. In the meantime, please enjoy!

I ought to get a massage...

I ought to get a massage.

That’s my mantra again Friday night and well into the graveyard hours of Saturday. Well, normally, that’s what I tell myself repeatedly when I drive myself to the point of exhaustion. It’s like an encouragement to something I would do in the future, a commitment if you will, when I am in between Points A and B and I couldn’t see how far off I am from B.

Curiously, I never find myself encouraging me this way when I am running or hiking, or participating in outdoor recreation. I deserve a massage normally sneaks into my internal dialogue when I’m stuck with paperwork, experiments, or anything that keeps me away from home way off hours because of an approaching deadline. There are telltale signs: my shoulders start cramping, my hands start getting tingly, and my back hurts for trying to maintain the right posture while sitting for long stretches of time.

The last time I heard myself justify a massage was back in 2008. I had been writing my PhD manuscript since December 2007; by the time June 2008 walked in, I was wishing that everything was already over. I’d contracted some infection that landed me in the emergency room in 2007; I looked pale, my eyes had perennial shadows under them, and I lost a few pounds in water weight. I hadn’t been in the salon for several months so my hair had grown up to my back and the make-up artist from Clinique was concerned about the state of skin (she dolled me up for a feature in Sense&Style that year). When I finally handed my manuscript over to the reviewers in September 2008, my academic supervisor lectured to me about writing your PhD manuscript is like a terminal illness. Trust me, in those last few days before deadline, I was thinking I was ready to die after submitting my manuscript (I’m lucky I didn’t because a few months after the submission came the review). I was truly on my last legs back then.

Have I actually gone to the spa to get a massage? Not yet. Not after my PhD phase had ended; and not yet now. After getting home from the University, I felt myself loads lighter, no longer burdened with the looming deadline. And now, I just don’t have the spare time. I’ll probably do it when I finish up early.

Here I go again

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

rainy day reminiscing

While driving home Monday night, I saw the beginnings of floods along the Los Banos rest area in Brgy Lalakay and the Bucal Elementary School in Calamba. Going through ankle-deep water (driving a vehicle at that), brought back memories:

Once upon a time, I was excited -- no, thrilled -- to go through flood water. There was a Saturday, back in college, when my family had to pick up my sister from the dorm. We braved through deep water in Makati; I actually enjoyed watching waves of floodwater wash over our old van. Then there were several times when the school service jeep, back in grade school, had to be driven through floods in Brgy Bagong Kalsada, Calamba, making big waves in the process. And I couldn't forget playing in the nursery school playground as muddy water churned into what my classmates and I then called the "Goya Fun Factory" (the Pinoy version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory).

Ah, the memories of childhood (well, and of early adulthood). But now, I know better, I believe.

Being in the midst of a flood is not fun at all -- it's dangerous, even -- especially when you're sitting in a car that's floating aimlessly in a flash flood and it took you eight hours to get home instead of the usual 45 minutes. My siblings and I remember enjoying the "tidal waves" of ten years past while our parents were worrying about the water getting into the vehicle. I also remember keeping my dad awake with recycled dinner table stories as we waited for the water to subside in the SLEX back when I was in grade school.

I now know the wisdom behind my parents' pieces advice about driving in a flash flood:
(1) Do not even think about crossing it.
(2) Turn the car around if you can; wait it out on high ground.
(3) Don't turn the AC while stuck in the flash flood.
(4) Keep your right foot on the accelerator when you're in the middle of a flooded road. Never ever take it off. In an automatic transmission car, that means that the left foot is assigned the brake pedal.
(5) Keep an overnight set of clothes, some water and food.
(6) If the car has to be abandoned in the middle of the road, disconnect the battery to prevent damage to the car's computer.
And the last tip, this one I got from Donald Villanueva after I've told my friends my flash flood story:
(7) If in the midst of a flash flood, open the driver-side window. That's the escape route in case you can't open the doors.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

keeps on going and going...

Yup, it's been raining for several hours now. The downpour is so loud, I initially thought that there's a stampede going on (hence, I couldn't sleep). Outside, the road is submerged gutter-deep in water. While it sounds really bad, the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH) of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) classifies the rain as "intense", not torrential. The doppler overlay shows the parts of the country that is pummeled by rain.

Photo is a screenshot of PAGASA's NOAH website at about 1am.

See all the red spots? These are the heavier downpours, according to the legend on the right. The red spots in the middle are situated on top of the Laguna area sometime between 12mn and 1am. I am sure that under one of those red dots is my family's house.

Everyone, please stay safe and dry.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

back in physiotherapy!!

back in rehab
So, I'm back in rehab for foot pain. A year since my previous set of physiotherapy sessions, I started complaining about the tendonitis again. I also remembered to tell the doctor about my recurrent stabbing knee pain. It's so random, I normally don't think too much about it (unlike the foot pain which is with me all day everyday). But when it does happen, I need some support while walking; hence the presence of the big, sturdy umbrella when I'm on long walks. Otherwise, I risk toppling over.

As was last year, I opted to take the physio sessions at the Los Banos Doctors' Hospital because (1) facilities are convenient to get to; (2) my current rehab doctor holds a clinic there once a week; (3) the therapists are very friendly chaps.

The sessions I'm doing now are aimed to strengthen my leg muscles and to alleviate the pain in the soft tissues. But aside from these, I'm going to train my legs and feet to adjust to uneven surfaces. This week, I got introduced to the wobble board. I wonder what challenges that, and the parallel bars, has for me.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I won a lanzones tree!!

my newly won lanzones tree
A raffle draw was done near the end of the PA3i-LB general assembly. I was really surprised to win a tree!

Well, it's not a tree YET. It's more of a seedling, or a sapling, I don't know which term is correct. The forestry experts who gave this as a prize told me that it will grow to be a lanzones tree someday. Then I just had to ask how to take care of it. They laughed as they said that I have to plant the tree in the ground first before I even think about taking care of it. Good point!

As I carried this plant back to the car, I remembered reading of Aragorn and Gandalf in the snow-covered slopes of Mindolluin. They found a sapling of the Gondor's White Tree and brought it back to Minas Tirith to be planted.

If Nimloth the Fair were a lanzones tree, the Elves and Men in Numenor would surely have enjoyed the delicious fruits. The King and the Stewards of Gondor would have too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

on hallowed ground

No, it's not All Souls' Day, though the sky looked forlorn that afternoon.

Cindy, Kuya Ferdie, and I had attended Kuya Dennis' daughter's seventh birthday party in Rizal, Laguna. Since the way back home would lead us to a a tourist spot, we took the opportunity to stop at Nagcarlan, Laguna's famous Underground Cemetery. The last time I'd been there before this side trip was when I was in grade school, so I can't really remember what it looked like... or if I had taken note of the church's features or was so engrossed with the creepy stories being told.

Anyway, during this trip, we were lucky that we were the only tourists taking a look. The guide at the church's doorway had no one to talk with and so we were able to interview him about the Underground Cemetery and the church.

pathway leading to the Underground Cemetery's chapel
inside the Underground Cemetery compound

It felt peaceful here: to walk along the brick path and to be surrounded by a manicured lawn. These, despite the proximity to the main road, just outside that gate. It even felt so far away from the hustle and bustle of city life, when in fact, the nearest city is San Pablo, just a few minutes away.

The church interior had this ancient feel to it; well, it literally has stood the test of time. The area, being sacred ground, was left relatively untouched by the Japanese during World War II. It had been the secret hideout of the Katipuneros during the Philippine Revolution. The crypt was also used as refuge by Filipino fighters during the Filipino-American War. The walls, the bricks, and the ceiling have a lot of stories to share... if only they could talk, right?