Archive for the travel Category

(lg2a) medium

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, interior design, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, religion, tradition, travel with tags , , , , on April 24, 2011 by mijodo

Happy Easter

(No article has been produced since these two words that I have written, many months ago, to acclaim the Lord’s resurrection from death and entry to heaven. I promised myself not to write until I come back home to get back my life.)

November 2, 2011

Some months ago, as my relatives and I trekked back to the iconic travel-must, Disney World in Orlando, Florida, we passed by this beautifully erected Catholic church in Hanceville, Alabama, in the farmlands of Cullman. This monastic church of  The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament was built by the adorably telegenic Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN (Eternal World Television Network).

After being instructed by the Lord to “build a temple” in 1995, Mother Angelica was able to finish the construction in 1999.  The church’s medieval appearance seems to be substantial in architecture, particularly with the fortress like form  of the Castle of San Miguel (a gift shop) fronting the church. Inside, the cavernous church, one will be able to draw the sense of awe and aspiration to be with God and the Creator. The interiors are rightly so grand and opulent (despite being run by the Poor Clare Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration, the congregation joined in by Mother Angelica) with marble floors, vaulted ceilings, and the gold leafed tabernacle. It is said that masses there are observed with a highly inspiring choir, orchestrated by the cloistered nuns themselves, behind the heavy altar grills.

As a sidenote, if you get to be in one of the masses, try to look for this youngish couple with all twelve kids in tow, all in their sunday formals (guys in dark jackets, and girls in laced short veils), and all sitting from youngest to eldest. The Pro-life advocates of the Church will be too happy to know this.

Testament. The church building and the media network themselves are testament to Mother Angelica’s own calling to serve God and his purpose. In the Philippines, a bastion of the Catholic Church, there have been many who have effectively used not only the pulpit, but the far-reaching, television and radio mass media to instill the values propagated by Vatican to access a bigger Filipino audience.

In the 80’s, the Dominican Father Sonny Ramirez  was the most popular priest with an affable demeanor, away from the cliched stringently inflexible personalities of priests in robes then.  Father Ramirez’s use of street language and fresh insights were utilized very well in  his own television show, Sharing in the City.

The Philippine Catholic Church has its own AM station, Radyo Veritas, DZRV which has its own league of priests, like Father Larry Faraon, and Monsignor Teddy Bacani that have disseminated the Word of God inside the Filipino homes and even outside the Philippines, mostly Asian countries (anchored by their respective Asian priests).

Through the years, there have been other religious personalities that have made waves and gained eminence in  media with their endeavors.  Music composers like Father Eduardo Hontiveros and Father Manoling Francisco, both Jesuits, have produced songs that have heavily penetrated the Filipino consciousness such as Papuri sa Diyos and Hindi Kita Malilimutan, respectively. Another Jesuit, Father James B. Reuter, although American, has been a strong ally of Philippine Theater, particularly in the 50s and the 60s, showing off Filipino thespic talents.  Too bad, his theater success , unlike songs and movies, is difficult to record and remember for today’s audience.

Lived Life. Many of the names that have been mentioned are quite lucky to find out their true calling in life – this time in preaching the name of the Lord, using the vast formats of media.  Such persuasions are gathered from the fired up passions of their hearts and the gentle murmurs that excite their minds. It is just a matter of action, and true perseverance before they get to realize all their lofty dreams, all their big aspirations.  But everything starts from saying “yes” to such calling – whether it is in the realm of religion, politics, business or other beliefs that are provoked by the spirit of a higher entity.

I come back to the Philippines, to my home country, fully knowing that this is where all my efforts should be realized. I just respond to my innermost desires and convictions, just like all those who were lucky to have known what they have been called for in life.  Abroad, my life was just a cruel negation of all my heart’s and mind’s interests. I had to constantly whisper to myself that I just had to come back.

As I arrived in Manila, on the day of the dead, November 1, 2011, my Easter has truly come. Now, I live.

(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!

(lg2a) enclaves of the rich and famous

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, history, interior design, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by mijodo

Oh to be famous and rich. Well I can comfortably settle for just being rich – in fact, filthy rich.

Cousin Barbara and I, together with some Los Angeles tourists,  hopped on to this white, open top, vehicle that should bring us to the hills of Hollywoodland and its environs. Again, just like what we had done at the Oscar grounds (https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/oh-oscar/), we became gawkers and probably even snoops of such exulted showbiz personalities and their real estate acqusitions.

Again, my cousin and I, make ourselves small, just by listening to such trivial celebrity information amusingly dished out to us by our driver/travel guide as we meandered in the uber exclusive roads within the Beverly Hills and Bel-Air Villages. But our first stop was where the famous Hollywood sign was perched on the top of the hill. Our driver mentioned that  in the 1930s one young aspiring actress who had been frustrated with her unsatisfying career, climbed up on one of the letters of the Hollywood sign, and leapt to her death. The following day, a letter arrived to inform her supposedly of a starring role on a film.

On a more fun note, the tour went through the houses and mansions of Hollywood and American society A-listers and some B celebrities, including Dr. Phil, Bob Barker of Price is Right,  Laurence Fishburne of CSI, Richard Gere, the late red head comedienne, Lucille Ball, and the prepubescent’s idols, the Jonas Brothers.  Each home is palatial, grand, and speaks much of the owner’s taste and requirements. At the outside, Nicolas Cage’s residence is romantic yet dark in tone, with patches of garden moss attached on its brick red facade. Celebrity heiress, Paris Hilton’s family residence has its name – West Haven, emblazoned on the perimeter wall.  Such shows the Hilton family’s self importance.  Even the guide, acerbicly asked us, “Does your house have a name?”

But whose ego is said to be as big as his Beverly Hills estate? According to our scornfully loquacious driver – it is no other than  Tom Cruise.  While tangentially passing by Tom Cruise’s place (we never actually saw his home at the top of hill, blocked by other houses), our driver mentioned that if Tom Cruise’s presence is inside the mansion, a white flag is propped up in his property.  Well during our trip, there is no flag to signal his actual stay in the mansion.

The story may just be one of the legends concocted by these enterprising travel guides to make the trip fun and interesting. Afterall, such big showbiz royalties don’t announce their presence just like that –  for obvious security reasons.  I am even wondering, how is it possible that such enclaves are open for curious tourists and outsiders to see, and possibly furthermore to inspect their actual garbage bins outside their homes (saw several at Richard Gere’s charming home.)

Certainly, homeowners of our own exclusive villages in Makati, Ortigas and Alabang will never allow such oglers in their territories. It is just too risky in terms of security, and too outlandish in terms of privacy. But yes in the Philippines, posh enclaves for the rich and probably infamous have burgeoned for several decades. The old rich , and even the ambassadors to the Philippines, may have settled in ritzy Forbes Park and Dasmarinas Village in Makati. The noveau rich may have opted to dwell in Ayala, Alabang or in the tall glass buidings of Fort Bonifacio.  But of course, there are still members of the family manning the genteel homes of Malate where the wealthy families took residence during the pre-war era.

While it is sure that these great big homes, whether in the Philippines or in Los Angeles, have happy families and individuals occupying them, there are still houses and haunts that have saddening and even paranormal experiences.  Our driver at the roadtrip had a serious tone when we passedby the last residence of Michael Jackson where he had been last taken out to the hospital for drug overdose. He also made mention of Marilyn Monroe’s apparition, visiting a favorite hotel – the Roosevelt Hotel at Hollywood Boulevard.  And just before his death, John Belushi’had gone to one favorite nightclub, the Guitar Center, and even ate his last meal – consisting of lentil soup.

And of course the tour would never be complete without the driver pinpointing where Hugh Grant made his scandalous mistake with a local prostitute – at the alleyways, near the KFC store. Oh, to be rich and horny, this time.

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) oh, oscar!

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, fashion, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by mijodo

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Forgive them, celebrity worshippers!” one mockingly said to another while they passedby a group of frenzied kibitzers hanging around to gawk on celebrities walking through the Oscar Award at the Kodak Theater last Sunday, February 27, 2011. In the cold Los Angeles afternoon, people still waited and sorrily grasped on wire fences, even if the Los Angeles Police were asking them to get out of the perimiter that divided the stars from the spectators who didn’t have the pass to get into Oscar territory.
——
Well admittedly, I together with my cousin Barbara, was one of those celebrity stalkers, hungry to gaze at some film superstars like Anne Hathaway or Steven Spielberg. But too bad, we never got to see anyone remotely well-known during our brief stake out at the very end of the red carpet where stretch limousines had dropped their celeb passengers, near the Hollywood Wax Museum.  Apparently even our hurried travel to some other parts of Los Angeles as tourists made us still awfully late in having  exceptionally rare, face to face encounters with showbiz A-listers.
———
Yups to some, the experience was lame, particularly that we never had seen even one notable personality.  But this annual affair is being shown to about 2 billion people, world wide, in 200 countries. And for us, just to be at the center of the hoopla was one distinct occurrence, never to be dismissed at all. Furthermore, Pinoys who are incredibly avid Hollywood movie junkies, are big about the Oscars such that the whole event is shown live on television, preempting morning and noontime shows in the Philippines.
——–
 For several years now, the Philippine movie industry has tried to submit films, worthy to be among the five nominees for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. In fact, Filipina ace star, Judy Ann Santos, even had an earnest campaign, costing her some precious Dollars, to include her movie, “Ploning,” among the nominees several years ago. Too bad, nothing came out of it.
——-
However, in this year’s edition, a handful of Filipinos have been nominated in their particular categories, including 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, nominated as Best Supporting Actress for the film, “True Grit.” Apparently, she lost to Melissa Leo of “The Fighter” though.
——
There have been interesting highlights and sidelights though within the Oscars presentation itself that should tickle the Filipino in us.  In 1993, at the 65th Oscars, Lea Salonga had a lavish production number with Brad Kane. They sang “A Whole New World” which was nominated for Best Original Song from the Disney animated movie, “Aladdin.”
——
In 1986, right after the EDSA Revolution, Jane Fonda had flashed a “Laban” sign on live Oscar television presentation just before she rattled off the nominees  for a particular movie category. Obviously, our revolution has gone Hollywood.
——-
Recently, even at the red carpet, big shot actresses sashay their stunning gowns that have been exclusively made for them by Cebu raised, Monique Lluhillier who is now based at Los Angeles. This year Mandy Moore proudly wore a creation of this now esteemed couturier.
——-
That afternoon, instead of getting excited about the personalities and their outfits on the red carpet, we had to make do at ogling at some bargained Oscar statuettes at $9.95 each on some souvenir shops along the boulevard.
——-
Then the following day, we decided to go back to the same site, hoping to get better posterity shots of the giant statue right in front of the Kodak Theater. But heck the efficient organizers had removed such gold icon early morning and the only reminder of the past evening was the installation of “The King’s Speech” as 2010’s Best Picture at one of the mini marquees that give out the theatre goers of all Oscar Best Picture Awardees since 1929 (see picture above).
———
Philippine movies may not have really won at the Oscars, but just like what the other losing nominees would say, “To be part of the Oscars, is like winning itself!”  Hence, just being part of this year’s Oscars presentation makes me and cousin Barbara winners, without necessary making a speech and “thanking the Academy.”

(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) what’s hot, chocnut?

Posted in artifacts, culture, food, health, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by mijodo

Don’t get me wrong, my mom was quite a conscientious mother when I was being reared as a child. But there were days when she would ask me to go to the nearby grocery to buy Nestle Chocolate Crunch bar as substitute viand to a plate of rice, particularly when the maid or help was gone, and she was too lazy or perhaps busy to prepare food. And truth to be told, I loved it when chocolate bar became part of the meal – nopes not just chocolate drink such Milo, Ovaltine, Chocolait or ChocoVim.

Of course if you were a kid of the 70s or the 80s, you would remember Serg Chocolate Bar or Nips (M&M’s pinoy counterpart).  Do you still remember Horlicks – that chocolate flavored discs, good for energy (well that is what my mom said to me)? How about those addicting Curly Tops by Ricoa? Or probably you would have good memories of those fascinating but strange looking fake gold coins, laden with creamy chocolate that melted and annoyingly smeared your clothes.

Yet there is no denying that when we were kids, and probably the kids of this generation, would prefer those imported chocolates, direct from the United States or even from those PX stores from Angeles, Pampanga then.

Kitkat (my personal favorite). Three Musketeers. Baby Ruth. Butterfinger. Milky Way. Mr. Goodbar. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Almond Rocha. Almond Joy. Ferrero Roche. Toblerone. And of course, Kisses. These were the chocolates of our colonial-mentality fixated youth.

So when the opportunity came up, from my sisters Jane and Christie, together with niece Ernestine, to passby Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey’s, Pennsylvania, I could not forego it since the trip would surely bring back the yummy-filled memories of  my childhood.

Just like a kid in candy store, I was in awe of how grand the whole area was as envisioned by Mr. Milton Hershey, the grand daddy of confectionery when he started his choco factory. The Hershey factories and corporate office have been located in several hectares or acreage of land. But thoughtfully, a covered mini theme park has been set up to welcome visitors, comprised mainly of families.

In such hall, there were movies that account of Mr. Hershey’s rise to chocolatedom. There were rides that show the processes of chocolate making. And of course, the best part was the Hershey’s store that showcased all the candy products and keepsakes alike. The place was like being in the wonderful world of Willie Wonka without the scary and mean Wonka wrecking you out for being troublesome.

Obviously, there is much love for chocolates by Filipinos, particularly the imported ones. But there is one truly Pinoy chocolate that can rival any of these American goodies in terms of popularity, and even possibly in taste.  Definitely, it is Chocnut or Tsoknut – that humble nutty confection that one can get at the corner sari-sari store for a measely peso per piece (I remember it at 25 cents per piece before).

There is a continuing love for this chocolate that started as  kids’ fare and now has become an important ingredient for sophisticated restaurant deserts – from cakes to ice-cream concoctions. Surely, this choco brand has become  part of the Filipinos’ consciousness that spells comfort and happiness. Sweet kisses to you, Chocnut.

(lg2a) next generation

Posted in artifacts, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, technology, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2011 by mijodo

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

"OH LORD"

Absolutely, the average Filipino when asked which possessions he needs to have in his entire lifetime would provide two answers:  his own house, and his own car.   Of course such wishes, particularly for a car, will be tempered by the income that he gets, and the other needs to be spent on for his family.  Hence, some of them will not even think of the most audacious and most incredulous automobiles to purchase, and might settle for any brand new, economy car.  Heck, probably, he even would get by with just repossessed secondhands.  But still the Filipino appreciates and gets excited about the newest and poshest cars, to come out from the delearships. If only the average Filipino can come to Michigan, be in awe of the  jawdropping, unbelievable, next generation of automobiles, while he attends the Mother of all Carshows – the North American International Autoshow at the Cobo Hall, at Downtown, Detroit.

The whole Cobo Center which used to be the arena for the Detroit Pistons has been a veritable red carpet to the assembly of stars, made up, of course by cars, trucks and vans. From Asia – Toyota, Honda, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai. From Europe – Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Mini Cooper, Audi, Volvo. From the US – Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, General Motors. From up and coming companies like Tesla and GEM to real deal manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari. It is every Filipino boy’s fantasy. It is every Filipina’s dream gift from her future mate.
Every square inch of the hall is a chance to ogle and peek in the future of automobiles. To many of the Filipinos who have no access to the leaps on comfort and styling in the new editions of vehicles, changes within the interiors of automobile are exciting to watch.  There are monitors that give the drivers accurate satellite information regarding position anywhere in the United States. This helps the drivers meander their way to their destination through the interstate expressways and neighborhood streets.  There is no excuse of getting lost here in the US. (But in the Philippines, our own tricycle drivers that ply within villages and barangays will guide lost drivers, to where the exact place is. That’s our own tracking device!)
Backseat passengers will not just settle with movie videos or television right behind the front seats. They will be able to fiddle their computers and ipads as they connect to plugs that energize such gizmos.  Some passenger cars even offer tables so that users will be able to employ such consoles.
However aside from the use of mapping device and the internet, there is one sure thing about many of these cars that showed up at the autoshow.  Manufacturers have tried to be more efficient with the utilization of  petroleum. Others have increased mileage with the use of gasoline and diesel or have used other sources of energy such as electricity.  It is the way of the future.  Electric car charging stations will be as common as gasoline stations.  Such change will significantly lower pollution, and decrease dependency on petroleum which has become less affordable  through the years. 
Electric cars and Hybrid cars have rolled out from Tesla with its Roadster. Other industry leaders have also produced such viable vehicles for the future like the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, and Volkwagen Golf E-Motion. Luxury brand Mercedes Benz has joined the bandwagon with its own E-Cell.
The change is a function of need more than want – increasing transportation demand and depleting fossil fuel or crude oil resource.  In this car exhibit, kudos to them, the few and elite car engineers and designers are paving the way for such transition to the next generation of cars for everyone – including the average Filipino.

2010 in review

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, technology, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2011 by mijodo

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 49,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 26 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 116 posts. There were 191 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 55mb. That’s about 4 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was June 20th with 430 views. The most popular post that day was ANOTHER FAMILY UNIT (Aurora Loft), good for four with dedicated DSL and PHONE line, starting at P1450 per night.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were pinoyexchange.com, sulit.com.ph, en.wordpress.com, mail.yahoo.com, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for manila ocean park, imee marcos wedding, bianca gonzales, apartelle in quezon city, and fashion.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

ANOTHER FAMILY UNIT (Aurora Loft), good for four with dedicated DSL and PHONE line, starting at P1450 per night February 2010
12 comments

2

and then, there’s room for more (at again half the usual hotel price)! September 2008
86 comments

3

hot pools of pansol August 2008
16 comments

4

the great classic cotton shirt September 2008
36 comments

5

the antipolo ambient March 2009
1 comment

(lg2a) way to go

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, technology, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by mijodo

 

It all started with a passion for photography, and some skill in writing.  Then I started to create a blog that should document all my travels , and probably show off a portfolio of pictures and articles which have been published not only in the world wide web but also in some of the more prestigious inflight and travel magazines that have literally crossed not only the shores within the Philippines, but across the whole globe.
—–
For many of the travel articles on this blog, Lets Go Pinas, the writing and photography are brought about not only by my interest and skills, but because of the circumstances that have brought me to many sections of the Philippines, and lately, to the vast areas of North America.
—–
Several weeks ago, I was invited by my cousin Barbara, and her husband, Eliot, to check on an idyllic community, west of Detroit, Michigan, using their Recreational Vehicle or RV. Basically an RV is a motorhome which can bring all the residential trappings as you go from one place to another inside a vehicle as large as a bus.  Our RV can accommodate probably about 4 people to sleep on its beds, even while the the RV is moving.  In  our vehicle, there is a full functioning kitchen and a restroom that can even supply heated water for showers.  Of course, there are amenities like the television, a comfortable couch, and table and chairs for dining. To travel the roads using such behemoth is truly a luxurious experience.
——
Just recently, another posh mode of transportation that gives that high and exhilirating feel would be gondola lifts that are propelled by cable lines usually on steep areas such as atop the mountains. This kind of vehicle provides the riders stunning scenic vistas of verdant mountains during summers or ice-capped mountain areas during winter times.
—–
However obviously, it is not always that I get to ride such deluxe transportation.  Many times, while travelling alone to create articles and photos for magazine publication, I get to employ lowly vehicles, such as tricycles which I usually get to rent for the whole day, at very minimal cost, to take me into the hinterlands. For me, these trikes -not the jeepneys – are the real kings of the road in the provinces since there are more of them that take you directly to the exact places, even if they are quite remote.
 ——
But for sheer excitement, the habal-habal of many island provinces in the Philippines takes the cake.  Again for some small fare, one can lease on such services of a motorcycle, and hop on at the back of the driver, and explore outlying destinations whether in the beaches or in the hills and mountains.  It may be a little dangerous as there is no gear provided just in case accidents occur. However definitely, using such motor bikes while my face is against the wind is already an adventure in itself.
——–
Many times, the proverbial line – the journey may be even more interesting than the destination itself – is quite true. I personally have collected some anecdotes and stories that have wiggled out during such trips.  One time, in Ilocos Norte, I had to ask my trike driver where La Paz Ilocos Dunes was.  But the driver seemed not to know where it was, or if there even was one around Laoag. So I had to describe it through another way – where Action King FPJ had done his epic movie classics: Ang Panday (series).  In a jiffy, he was able to bring me where I had wanted.
———–
By just constantly hiring tricycles throughout my trip to Ilocos, I was able to gather some quaint observation about the differences in tricycle sizes from one province to another,  The ones in Ilocos Sur are a lot roomier whereas the ones in Ilocos Norte may only fit one person inside their cabs, and one may even have some difficulty in getting out from the space as their trikes are short and squatlike. 
————
I have met some interesting and even familiar faces just by waiting out at the airports or bus terminals, boarding on boats and ships, talking with cab drivers and fellow bus passengers, and hanging on to dangerous habal- habal and speeding jeepneys for dear life.
————
However, it is most meaningful to share transport space with family and friends – from my great parents, Lita and Glicerio, constant, travel partner, Ate Mae in the Philippines to the people here in the United States and Canada, such as my sisters, Jane and Christie, brothers in law, Edgar and Rashid, beautiful niece, Ernestine, Uncle Isdoc and Auntie Lelita, Uncle Nary and Auntie Gaying, and cousins Al and Gisela,  Baby Liz, and of course RV owners, Barbara and her husband Eliot.  Thank you very much. Till our next trip together, guys. Happy New Year, and way to go, for Year 2011!