Sunday, June 29, 2014

The longest day in 2014: June 21

June 21st was the longest day of the year. I found myself agreeing when I noticed last night that I hadn't switched on the car's headlights while driving past 6:30pm in Manila. In other parts of the world, the sun is normally far from setting at 7pm, yes... But where I am, normally the night starts at 6pm.

Longest day... Indeed. 

I go out with friends (Ate Bing, Ate Mary, and Man) to visit Dr Jose Rizal typically on his birthday (June 19). Sticking with the history theme, we also visit museums and art galleries to soak a bit more about our cultural heritage. AND we go on a food trip.

This year, June 19 did not work for us, so we decided take our dose of cultural education on the 21st. It proved to be a really long day for me. In fact, this weekend turned out to be a series of really long days. Our route took us to where I've been at least once before but I didn't mind because I learn new things on different visits. Here we go:

San Agustin Museum

I've been to the museum once before the church got renovated. And, I must say, this visit was a much better experience than my first time to drop by! Back in 2006, I thought that the museum should start improving the way it preserved the relics... Eight years later, I find out that the museum's entrance fee was worth it. I was very happy to note that some of the more precious pieces were behind glass boxes; the books were protected in (what I hope are) airtight containers.

Panoramic view of the hallowed corridors of the San Agustin museum.

Walking through the museum was just like walking back to early days of Spanish colonial rule. I could not believe that I was actually staring at a copy of Doctrina Christiana, the first book printed in the Philippines! It's not the original (from 1593) but might be a reprint from the 17th century. There were translated versions as well (in Philippine languages). Paintings done on wood (rather than on canvas) lined the corridors of the museum while statues of saints and Biblical figures, in wood or some other material, were all over the place. Priests' robes and the tapestries used during processions were preserved through the centuries. I was just amazed at how good the people from long ago were at keeping their things in tip-top shape.

Then there's the church itself. Up on the choir loft, I watched the end of a wedding ceremony (including the entourage picture-taking part) while marveling at the wooden carvings on the choir members' chairs. The church's ceiling may not be as grand as Saint Peter's (which I haven't been to yet) but was intricate nonetheless.

The view of the San Agustin Church from the choir loft. 

It's a wonder how San Agustin has stood the test of time, sans one belfry. I am particularly happy to see that the facade had lost it's pink hue. I hope that the restorers would give the facade a design fitting for the oldest standing church in Intramuros.

Coco Bango Cafe and Restaurant

Right across the San Agustin Church, this restaurant was a discovery for us. We stuck with the Filipino theme as hard as we could. Our lunch was tinolang manok, a squid dish, and chicken ala pobre. Man, as always, took care of taking food photos for posterity.

We all had a good laugh throughout lunch as we struggled directly translating food names to Filipino. For instance, how awkward do 'patpat pang mahirap' and 'manok na mahirap' sound when used as translations for steak ala pobre and chicken ala pobre, right? Then there's 'niyeluhang tsaa' for iced tea. I can't remember how we moved from there to the translation of seat belts into 'sinturong pangkaligtasan'.

Not content yet, we tried Spanish-English translations too. For example, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was the founder of Manila City. In Spanish, that title is fundador de la ciudad de Manila, right? Google Translate, right?

And when push came to shove (we were running out of Spanish and Filipino words to translate), we shifted to French restaurant names... Tous les Jours means everyday while Le Couer de France means the heart of France according to Google Translate. But the French pronunciation stumped us all!

National Art Gallery

The National Museum opened the art gallery two years ago but this is the first opportunity I had to visit again. Frankly, I was wowed with how the museum looked... I felt that it's becoming at par with the museums I had visited in other countries! First off, just look at the huge banners heralding the Manansala masterpieces and the works of the Escuela Taller. I thought I was entering Ocean's Twelve's Galleria D'Arte de Roma but no... the real-life museum was much much better. :)

And inside, the wooden floors made me imagine (again) that I was in Da Vinci Code's Louvre Museum because of the parquet flooring... sans the dead museum curator/Priory of Sion top honcho, of course.

Enough of the imagination and the comparisons. I was fully aware that I was going to see Juan Luna's Spolarium but when I actually saw it, my jaw dropped. And my first words, as I stared at it, were the same words I've said more than twenty years ago when I first saw it: What a huge painting!

Viewers of Luna's "Spolarium" and Resurreccion-Hidalgo's "The Assassination of Governor  Bustamante"

I had thought that this was the highlight of my National Museum experience, I was wrong. There was another art piece that made my day: Vicente Manansala's Bayanihan.


The transparent cubism style of painting made the subjects appear to be in motion. Lively pinks and blues of the subjects' pants contrasted with the yellows and browns of their torsos and of the bahay kubo that they were carrying. The painting was alive. Jaw-dropping moment number two.

Publiko Eat + Drink

Dinner came in the form of pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken and rice. After a day of immersing on all things culturally Filipino, we entered the more cosmopolitan aspect of Filipino culture. Publiko's vibe was more of a pub where people can eat and talk... music wasn't so loud; the place wasn't dark at all. My sister said it's a watering hole. I, on the other hand, thought that the food could totally stand on their own. Dinner was delicious! Kudos to the chef!

Anna caught up with us at this stage. I wanted to have her with us for the music portion of today's cultural educational tour. Hehehe.

Cheesecakes by Guy

My second time here! Promise, the cheesecakes were heavenly (Man's words... I quote him here). Instead of the cheesecake milkshake, like during my previous visit, I got the ChocNut cheesecake. Yum yum! And just like in my previous visit, the servers were really good. It's like being at a friendly neighborhood cafe. Maybe this resto has that homey vibe because Eastwood City has residential areas surrounding the offices. 

I am definitely going back for more cheesecake. :)

Fete de la Musique at Greenbelt 3
My first attendance at this annual musical event was quite an adventure. Anna had wanted to watch the world music performances in a French restaurant near Jupiter St, Makati but we couldn't find the venue (and I didn't like the vibe of the area and parking looked like a pain) so we went to Plan B, Fete's main stage in Makati: Greenbelt 3.

We got there in time for the performances of dub/experimental musicians Caliph 8 and Red-I. The performances were enjoyable (I am starting to appreciate techno versions of what I think sound like ballroom music) but it was a challenge to be an enthusiastic audience member after going round Metro Manila for more than 12 hours! 

We didn't finish Red-I's set as it went passed midnight because we had to pack up and go home.

The longest day indeed. And I had spent it outdoors. :)