Archive for the nature Category

(lg2a) to rise again

Posted in culture, events, food, health, history, letsgopinas goes to america, locales, nature with tags , , , on March 30, 2013 by mijodo

ysla cover mike dario
It has been a while since I truly last posted here. I am in a middle of work that just exhausts me during weekdays and I just want to finish a book that I have started about two and a half years ago, right after migrating to the United States.

Now the book YSLA is complete. And I would like to think it is worth all the time. My intention has been to start a series of books that should encapsulate familiar words and themes to most young Filipinos living abroad most of their lives and who may have little idea about their heritage.

And hopefully YSLA does that through the eyes of three teens, Amiel, Mayumi and Ian who are marooned in an island full of surprises and terror, and eventually finding out the island’s history and their own culture and values. The Manananggal, the Tiyanak and the new set of colonizers move the story forward for these youngsters, pitifully stuck in another time and place.

Please get a copy of the ebook YSLA if you are outside the Philippines from Amazon.com, itunes and Barnes and Noble. And if you are within Philippines, get it from Flipreads.com.

Follow me at this Facebook account – https://www.facebook.com/mikedarios.ysla?ref=tn_tnmn

After this book YSLA, who knows I may rise again back here in this blog or even at another book for the series.

Happy Easter everyone!

(lg2a) smallville, new york

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, history, letsgopinas goes to america, locales, nature, people, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by mijodo

“Have you been to a place, far away from it all…?” – from the song Lost Horizon of the movie musicale with the same title.

This is how I felt all throughout when I stayed at that upstate locale, Jeffersonville in the state of New York for almost two months for a job stint.

There is a sense of isolation, a sense of being alone, specially so that there is not much of a distraction from any of the popular fastfood area, or  from any of the large shopping malls and groceries within this small village.

For those missing the citylife, it is almost cruel irony, that the borough of Manhattan, the world’s financial district, and densely populated by famous skyscrapers and megastructures is merely about 3 1/2 hours away.  However for the unfortunate ones who don’t own cars, it will take several hundred bucks for a one way taxi-ride, and that is – if there is one willing to take you there.  For a direct bus ride from the area, you have to thank the Jeffersonville Bank (the lone bank in the entire area) to sponsor one bus that should take 60 people for a bustrip to the city. And this momentous excursion happens every three months – once for every season at a reduced price of 30 dollars – two way.

However if you are not into the grime and fast paced city living, then surely you will take in all what you can from leisurely life of Jeffersonville.  From a good vantage point, there is the stretch of mountains and hills all over to envelop your visual sense.  Then trek down the scenic waterways  and probably, have a canoe ride at Delaware River.  Admire the architectural Americana of houses and inns that will transport your imagination to Jefferson’s storied past, settled in by mostly Eastern Europeans.  Saunter and buy something for yourself in several of the eclectic mix of antique shops, themed restaurants and one mini-grocery in what the community calls “Downtown.”

Overall, this is a sleepy town, no doubt. This is where you cocoon yourself to take that hobby of potterymaking, photography, or probably, in my case, blog writing to further level. This is where you consume sleep and rest without distraction from any of the urban excesses such as traffic, pollution, noise and even excessive workload.

But it is not everyday snoozetown at Jeff (nickname for the place).  Every so often, the relaxed routine at Jeffersonville is punctuated by activities that should excite its dwellers, and should invite tourists and guests to partake in.

During the summer month of August, at nearby Bethel Woods Center of the Arts, there is a number of rock and pop bands dishing out their musical wares to celebrate the Woodstock phenomenon in year 1969.  Today, people flock to this museum cum open air auditorium  overlooking the original farmland where the now iconic, three day rock festival happened, and enjoy the spirit of the legendary musicians and bands that participated before – Joan Baez, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and a lot more.

And during one weekend in October, frenzied photographers take pictures and create photoessays about the lives of people inside Jeffersonville.  Eddie Adams, a native of this place and Pulitzer Prize winner for an iconic Vietnam news photograph, created a seminar of sorts for those interested in documenting life in still pictures some years ago. A hundred students still attend this important annual lecture-workshop series that is graced by professionals from National Geographic, New York Times, Sports Illustrated in furthering their eye for photojournalism.

Surely there is no Filipino community in this area, unlike perhaps Manhattan or even Queens. But in the very heart of Jeffersonville, there is a motley crew of Filipinos working and caring for many of its ageing and psychologically challenged residents.  The owners and workers of Jeffersonville Senior Living have accommodated their guests with the unique Filipino way of giving utmost kindness and servitude. Jeffersonville may be remote and out of the way, but to its denizens and the Filipinos staying for the meantime, just like the Burt Bacharach song suggests, it is  “Lost Horizon.”

Lost Horizon

Have you ever dreamed of a place Far away from it all
Where the air you breathe is soft and clean And children play in fields of green
And the sound of guns Doesn’t pound in your ears  (anymore)
Have you ever dreamed of a place
Far away from it all
Where the winter winds will never blow
And living things have room to grow And the sound of guns Doesn’t pound in your ears anymore.
Many miles from yesterday before you reach tomorrow
Where the time is always just today
There’s a lost horizon, waiting to be found.
There’s a lost   horizon Where the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears anymore.

(lg2a) bakya mo, van gogh

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, fashion, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2011 by mijodo

Somehow this blog has reached Dutch country – Holland, Michigan, that is.

Cousin Barbara, and her husband, Eliot,  invited me to go aboard their recreational vehicle to visit the quaint city of Holland, about 190 miles, West of Detroit, or about 2 hours and 30 minutes of  drive while enjoying the lavish accommodation and some good conversation inside the behemoth vehicle.

Apparently, at that time, we missed out on some pretty tulip blossoms which usually make their abundant presence felt during the month of May. But I knew aside from the tulips, there would be other attractions that could be seen in this settlement, founded by the Dutch settlers that arrived mid 19th Century to establish their own religious sect, outside Holland – the country, that is.

And most definitely, there is a wealth of Dutch knowledge to be had at Neli’s Dutch Village Theme Park. Costumes, dances, music, and food which includes their famous cheese are all featured by young kids that come from generations of Dutch people who braved settling to this area.  The theme park and other Holland City landmarks celebrate the famous people from Holland where arts and crafts are salient part of its culture.

Famous Flemish painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer have their works featured at Holland’s museum while there is a depiction of Vincent Van Gogh, painting his famous “Sunflowers” series inside Neli’s theme park.

Aside from the windmills that create power and  the charming blue and white ceramics, it is their use of a pair of klompen that can generate some smiles and heartening guffaws from us outside of Holland.

Klompen are those danish wooden clogs, used during the olden times for farming and everyday use, specially for wet and damp grounds. It may feel hard on  the feet, but the wearer has put on thick socks for convenience. Today, klompen is just a reminder of Danish culture and tradition (even for folkloric dancing), and has become a favorite tourist souvenir kitsch, particularly the miniaturized ones.

In the Philippines, we have something quite similar – the bakya. These are wooden strapless sandals that were for everyday use, by women in their kimonas or other Filipino traditional dresses, particularly in the 1950s. Unlike in using the klompen, the Filipino women didn’t need to use socks or stockings when putting on the bakya hence it may be inconvenient on the feet. Hence the bakya production dwindled when the more comfortable rubber slippers were introduced.

But then bakya made a comback in the late 1970s up to  the early 1980s when the lowly bakya was adopted by a Filipino brand, Happy Feet. The bakya became a rage for the college crowd that went almost subversive against the elite shoe fashion brands from Europe.

During the 70s and 80s, the women and even the more avantgarde men happily wore bakyas for them to be seen as cool and unpretentious. However bakya, particularly in 1950s was synonymous to the hoi polloi or the masa hence Filipino director Lamberto Avellana angrily coined the phrase “bakya crowd,” particularly for the Filipino audience that appreciated low brow movies which the National Artist never subscribed to when making films. Today, such derogatory phrase has moved on to just one word – “bakya” – that is to describe a mentality that is unhip, unfashionable, unsophisticated and unclassy even outside the realm of movie preference, again, associated with the Filipino masses.

Are Van Gogh and his art bakya? Sosyal!

beyond the waves

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, health, history, locales, nature, news, people, technology, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2011 by mijodo

 (Author’s Note:  I wrote this article and took the accompanying pictures, for a certain publication about two years ago. And about a week ago, somehow I decided that this article about Aurora  Province where a tsunami had taken place in the 18th century would be posted for this blog around this week. Uncannily, in Japan, last Friday, a major earthquake and a tsunami happened. Subsequently on the same Friday, another tsunami, although relatively small, affected Aurora Province) 

“I am going to Aurora,” I stated.

 “Ah, in Quezon,” almost everyone chorused.

“No, it is Aurora Province,” I said emphatically.

 Apparently Aurora has not been a part of Quezon for some decades now. But no one seems to know about this important factoid except perhaps people from Quezon and Aurora provinces. Quezon province is named in honor of President Manuel Quezon, the second president of the Philippine Republic who was born though in Baler in 1878. While Aurora province is named after the wife of President Quezon, the former Aurora Aragon who was born in Baler too in 1888. And during the Spanish period Quezon and Aurora provinces constituted the whole province of Tayabas.  In 1946, it was President Roxas, the fifth President who had renamed Tayabas into Quezon  Province and it was the legislative branch, Batasan Pambansa which approved the independence of Aurora from Quezon in 1979.

 Aurora Province has eight municipalities – Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Dingalan, Dipaculao, Maria Aurora, San Luis and Baler. Maria Aurora is the only non-coastal town of the province which is largely bordered by the Philippine Sea at the east. And the town is named after the only daughter of President and Mrs. Quezon. Baler is the capital of Aurora, and is most famous for its beaches having large waves, terrific for surfing (Read https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/dude-wheres-my-surfboard/). But definitely there is more to this town other than the huge water undulations.

 Museo and the Garrison Church. First stop should be the relatively new Museo de Baler, a repository of the artifacts and work of art, significant to the town of Baler and its people. Here one can readily see a short history and important moments of its town through the bronze mural sculpture by National Aritst Abdulmari Imao at the museum’s façade. Outside at its rotunda, there is a steel statue of President Quezon, sitting relaxly, yet still assuming an elegant posture, welcoming the patrons and guests of the museum. Outside too at one of the pocket gardens, there is a nip hut supposedly a replica of where Mrs. Quezon was born. At its steps toward the main door, a facsimile of a cannon during the Spanish era is carefully placed.

 Inside the airconditioned museum are mementos from the rich cultural heritage of Baler’s past decades. There are santos and religious articles, and a picture of its seeming old church. There was a number of swords displayed, showcasing the artillery during the Spanish period. At a corner are antique pieces of churchbells which are important to the history of Baler as they were used to warn people of impending bad weather and even possibly – calamities.  

 Just several streets away, one can find the austere architecture of the Baler Church. It is simple looking, with post Spanish period motif. Apparently there had been an old church, made out of coral stones in the same place where the present church is. It was smallish, compared perhaps to other antiquated churches during that era, but just the same it was a symbol of the Spanish supremacy in Baler. That former church structure had been solid witness to a striking historical drama that started in July, 1898 and finally ended in June, 1899.  

 During this time the 300 year Spanish regime was already about to close by surrendering the Philippine Islands to the Americans. Apparently there had been a breakdown in communicating the news about the Spanish Government withdrawing its troops and authority over the Philippines to the political stewards and military authorities in Baler thus the soldiers and cleric decided not to abandon their hold of Baler and held fort in its church. Filipinos and even Americans had tried to persuade and convince those who were holed up in the building to abandon their cause and surrender. But the Spanish military fought it out for eleven months. And in the end many of those unwilling to give up had died either of diseases or by gunfire. This historical narration is identified as the Siege of Baler.

And recently there has been a Filipino movie produced, inspired by this account, aptly titled as “Baler.” Although the movie set of the film was mostly done elsewhere, the producers of the film have donated props and replicas used during the making of the movie to Baler Province. These are the cannon, swords, and a picture of the reproduction of the old church of Baler. Some of these are now displayed in Museo de Baler.

 To the Hill. Baler, together with the whole of Aurora, is a typhoon stricken area as the storms and tropical cyclones originate from the eastern section of the Philippines, most specially from the Pacific Ocean. Many times this part of the country will be the first ones to experience such howlers.

But there are other misfortunes that Baler has experienced through the centuries – and these are tsunami waves. Apparently there was a huge tsunami in 1735 devastating much of Baler, then known as Kinagunasan. Only seven families survived. It is told that these families ran up the Ermita Hill and escaped the floods. Among those who luckily had gotten out of the lowlands on time was the Angara family which lineage produced political luminaries such as Aurora Governor Bella Angara Castillo and Senator Edgardo J. Angara, and their father Juan Angara, three-time mayor of Baler.

Sadly, there was a recent one too – in 1970. And the waves along its coastline created extensive damage and deaths to the province as well. And the marker at Sabang Beach memorializes the event. In that same marker, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warns that another occurrence of this disaster can just happen. Possibly, but not hopefully, the churchbells of Baler Church will ring again to warn its residents to flee their residential homes and run toward Ermita Hill.

Today, Ermita Hill is used as a vantage point for a panoramic view of the expanse of Baler Bay and the Philippine Sea. One can trek on foot or use a tricycle toward its viewing decks to appreciate the coastlines and be entranced with the moving tides of the ocean.

In the area, there are spanking new structures that the local government has built. With red bricks as main construction finish, similarly used in Museo de Baler, a platform stage is created as a focal point for the open-air arena. Now Ermita Hill can be a site for performances and large gatherings. At the back of the stage, a mini-zoo is being completed, with monkeys and sea eagle as initial collection.

The Indigenous and the Natural Setting. Baler is home to two groups of indigenous people – the Dumagats and Ilongots. The Dumagats are sea-farers while the Ilongots are head-hunters. Both tribes have been scarce to the streets of Baler as they have hied off to the remote outskirts, mostly in the mountains of Sierra Madre. Many of their indigenous colorful art and artifacts are being exhibited at Museo de Baler. And when there are festivals and fiestas in Baler, the Dumagats graciously attend, and even showcase their cultural dance to an appreciative audience.

Once in Aurora, you cannot run out of places to go to and not get mesmerized with its natural setting offering. In Baler, aside from the waves of Sabang Beach and Cemento, one can travel to Digisit at Barangay Zabali, just several kilometers away from Cemento, and be enthralled with large boulder rock and coral formations sitting on shallow waters of the beach. It is a dramatic seascape where considerably large waves are broken by these protective barriers. In some parts of the shoreline, sea shells  and pebbles delicately scatter around. In other portions, dark smooth stones with sharp edges abound, making the place menacing and foreboding.

But of course, this fearful sensation dissipates as you drink a couple of cold bottles of beer in one of the shacks being rented out. Some of these charming huts are just positioned to have a good view of the waves crashing into the stones.

Necessities. For food, Gerry Shan Restaurant at the main thoroughfare of Quezon Avenue is just the  place to be in – good food, ample servings, easy on the budget. As you check out the menu, there is a wide array of Filipino and Chinese entrees in this amiable place. Try their garlic chicken with buttered vegetables and mango shake – all for only 100 pesos. Of course another alternative is Bay’s Inn restobar at Sabang Beach, right in front of those surfing waters. Just stone’s throw away, there is Corrie’s for some baked goods.  Sample its carrot cake; it is moist and chewy. There is even wi-fi for those lugging their laptops.

Just in case, you are  low in cash, there are two ATM machines – at Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank right across the Kapitolyo.

So if you are not fit, not qualified or just not interested to surf at Sabang Beach, there is still much more to Baler,  Aurora and its waves. By the way, remember that Aurora is not in Quezon.

(lg2a) slush

Posted in artifacts, fashion, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, technology, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2011 by mijodo

A log cabin house is blanketed with pristine white snow.  Holiday lights, running along the edge of the roofing, brighten even more the icicle drops that form on the same roofing border. Heavy snow clings on the tree branches that frame the house where you can get a glimpse at one of the windows, of the smoldering cinder at the fireplace. Such scene warms your heart, particularly when you see that amusing snowman, seemingly cajoling you to play around too in the snow covered frontage. What wintery wonder!

The whole scenario may be idyllic Christmas card pretty, particularly for us, Filipinos in tropical Philippines. But the truth of the matter is, snow may only be a good backdrop for photographs.

Some, particularly my family here in freezing Michigan, consider snow as nuisance. During winter, one needs to shovel or snow blow the driveway lest your car gets stuck at the garage. Every homeowner is required to have the front pedestrian walkway clear of snow or else, someone becomes involve in a litigation, just in case a person slips. (I, myself, embarassingly tumbled when I stepped on glassy ice at a parking lot. But how can I sue my parish church!?)

During winter season, the roads are quite icy hence driving has to slow down dramatically.  And you need to be ready with the ice scraper and sometimes the plastic shovel, once the flurry of snow cloaks your car and submerges your tires into 8 inch snow. We are not even talking about winter storms or blizzards that can cause havoc to property and people – with at least 12 inch of snow precipitation.

It may be sartorially sharp for you to buy the snazziest winter gear – including, trenchcoats, beanie caps, sweaters, and scarves, to wear for those holiday parties.  But to don a litany of accoutrements – bodywarmers, long socks, winter boots, gloves, jackets, caps, just to bring out the trash in bitingly cold nights, can be quite annoying and cumbersome.

Of course, you can revel with delight in outdoor winter games and sports –  skating on park rinks, or skiing on mountain slopes. But for those who are athritic, or don’t have enough flab and fat, they may not relish the frigidly cold temperature that the snow brings along. That innocent looking snow can be quite nasty. Thank goodness, eventually such white snow will melt and turn into dirty, murky slush that you just want to get rid of soonest.

By February 2, animals, like groundhogs in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania, customarily become prognosticators of how long winter season will be. According to such landbeaver prediction, Spring comes in early this year, 2011.

(lg2a) give me the dirty, the dingy, the dazzling new york city

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, news, people, religion, sports, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2010 by mijodo

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“This reminds me of Cubao, Quiapo and Makati altogether,” one sister declared.
—–
Yes it can be true. Just go to the heart of New York City – Manhattan that is, and you get a melange of all our iconic busy places in Metro Manila. The monumental glass buildings and skyscrapers, and fancy boutique glasswindows remind you of Ayala Avenue. The corner delicatessens, the quaint coffeshops and small emporiums, and the ubiquitous hotdog stands are reminiscent of the old Cubao, just before the posh Gateway Mall was built. Oh yes, the seedy, dirty streets, the incessant scaffoldings blocking pedestrians, and  the chaotic volume of people, crisscrossing the grid streets (which then Manila Metropolitan Commission Governor Imelda Marcos wanted to impossibly copy for the layout of Metro Manila )of Manhattan implore a Quiapo feel overall.
———
“I will never come back here,” another sister threatened. She is happy to stay in a quiet suburb somewhere in the midwest.
——–
It is not only her who seems to be disillusioned by New York City. Aside from the disarray of Manhattan, some have outrightly warned of the bedlam that happens in the Big Apple such as frequent muggings and  the saucy attitude by the New Yorkers. There was even a time when all patrons were forcibly asked  to leave a store just because it was already closing. My sister pointed out such crudeness to a store manager. The store got some rude awakening from a Detroit diva there!
————-
But it is the diamond in the rough that makes New York special and iconic to many of us non-New York dwellers. The Statue of Liberty at the harbor, United Nations Headquaters and the Financial District appeal to those who have romanticized the ideals of freedom, harmony and capitalism. The beaches at Hamptons, the artifacts of the numerous galleries and museums, the runway fashion shows of designers, and the explosion of architecture connect highly to the desires and senses of the erudite, the avantgarde, the sophisticated, and the moneyed from all over the globe.
————
But for many of us, hoi-polloi, including me, it is the razzle-dazzle of pop culture that makes us warm with delight in the City that Never Sleeps. Aside from the music and stories that are churned out from musicals and plays of Broadway and the numerous movies which featured the city, it is the weekly and probably daily television shows, old and new, that familiarize us with a piece of New York life. Shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City give the couch potatoes a weekly dose of insights regarding independence, fraternization and even perhaps fabulous urban living, aside from the quality comedic scripts that comeout from these shows. It is the involved appreciation of such shows that make travelling to this megapolis quite surreal and a definite treat for pop culture afficionados. 
———–
It is quite a testament to New York City, a city that has experienced trouble in the last few years, in terms of finance and security, of how it has remained on the top, for visitors and travellers passing by America.  No matter how shoddy and dirty New York is, the spotlight stays on that Big Apple.

(lg2a) arks

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, letsgopinas goes to america, locales, nature, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by mijodo

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

Apparently, the Almighty has tasked his minions somewhat cumbersome set of responsibilities, caring for all organisims, roaming and swimming in the face of the earth. It was the old man Noah who was the first to fulfill such duty among the distinguished people of the Bible.  Although it could be argued that the Lord had to do some heavy prompting to Noah so that he and his family could bring along a male and a female of every animal species for eventual breeding and propagation , and be quartered in a large ark throughout the big flood.

In modern times, zoos can be considered akin to the Ark of Noah.  They are repositories of the most common to the most exotic and possibly, those in danger of declining population from kingdom animalia. However in recent years, zoos or even animal parks may have losing public relation points, particularly from animal right groups. These activiest see enclosures as places for restrained abuse and maltreatment despite the zoos’ initial purposes as innocuous public displays of menagerie for the curious and the animal enthusiasts – including kids.

Just this summer, my cousin, Al Depakakibo and his wife, Gisella, together with the kids and I strolled inl Detroit Zoo, here in Michigan. I got to see some creatures  – lemurs, otters, even kangaroos (loaned in by an Australian city zoo) which I have never seen in Manila or other city zoos I have been to in Asia.  I missed out on the polar bear and even the elephants which Detroit Zoo happens not to have at all (another cousin remarked that at least Manila Zoo has one).

All in all, Detroit Zoo seems to be just like any other zoo or wildlife park in any other city – a seemingly safe haven for animals to stay in for those endemic to the place or for those visiting on exhibit. Apparently, those touring kangaroos and other Australian domestic animals made me think about those giraffes, impalas, gazelles, zebras and other wildlife probably roaming and wandering about in the large expanse of Calauit Island in Palawan.

Apparently, such wildlife species have been token gifts by the Kenyan Government in the 70s when Ferdinand and his wife, Imelda were still in power.   Immediately, Calauit in Busuanga was deemed game preserve for these animals, together with species, original to the Philippines like anteaters, mongoose, Palawan monkeys, and bearcats.

The grazing animals seem to favor the rolling hills and plains, with plenty of warm weather. The Calauit Island Park’s attraction  was to become for the exclusively enjoyment of the family and friends of the Marcoses – a seeming safari for the Philippine elite. From a hundred or so heads, the population dramatically increased to some thousands, thus such animals running, travelling, moving together can be a sight to behold within that 3700 hectare area.

At the moment, ordinary tourists can now flock to the wildlife park, and is part of Palawan Island’s must-see.  After the Marcos era, the Calauit Island Sanctuary seems to be surviving although some years back a tv documentary revealed that mismanagement may have caused the marked depletion of the number of animals, and possible endangering the survival of the park itself.  Overpopulation and food scarcity for many of these grazing animals took a toll on the Calauit Preserve. On top of this, only one person did all the work for the whole area as there were no funds to hire more laborers and veterinarians!

I am not quite sure if such problems do exist at present. But by the looks of it, Calauit Park and its wild inhabitants are far from instinction. God and Noah should be quite pleased.