Friday, July 25, 2008

Tsukiji: Tokyo’s Largest Fish Market

With the love of Japanese people eating sashimi and sushi, Tsukiji Market is the largest fish market which you can find in Tokyo and even best known as one of the world’s largest fish markets that handles over 2,000 tons of marine products per day. Just imagine that load everyday. They sell not only fish but other products like fruits, vegetables, meat and others.

It has become a major tourist attraction and some of my friends like Sonia and Zhuyem of Costa Rica went there while we were attending a Young Leaders Forum in Japan in 2005. I failed to join them since I was not that keen to visit it but when I saw the pictures and videos, it was amazing and really worth to see. It’s very spectacular to watch the Tuna Auctions that happen very early in the morning.

With the inflock of numerous tourists in the market every morning, it has caused friction among the market workers and tourists for the interference or distractions created by a sheer number of spectators that is why they restricted it and designated a viewing area for the guests. Just last April 2008 they have designated 5am to 6:15am as public viewing time. They have set rules to follow such as no flash photography allowed.

The action usually starts at around 5 o’clock in the morning when buyers are admitted onto the showroom floor. Here, rows upon rows of frozen tuna are meticulously examined by expert hands in search of the highest quality meat. Soon after, the scene erupts into a panic of calls and responses as buyers seek to outbid one another for the choicest fish.

Tsukiji Market can be accessed from Shinjuku Station to Tsukijishijo Station by taking the Oedo Subway Line directly for 20 minutes and costs 260 yen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Beat of Japanese Taiko Drums

The month of July has been declared as the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month and different cultural performances in Filipino and Japanese have been held to commemorate this event. I would like to make a tribute too to the Japanese culture with this blog entry.

Taiko refers to a wide drum in Japanese. However, outside Japan, the word is used to refer to any of the various Japanese drums. This is a stick percussion instrument that has been used in Japanese music traditions.

In the year 2005, I particpated in as a representative of the Philippines to the 21st Century Youth Leaders Invitation Program in Japan, we were treated with a taiko drum performance in the prefecture of Fukushima where we were welcomed with a sumptuous dinner. It was a great audio sensation. The performers were so energetic to beat the drums with their bachi or sticks.

In the early history of taiko, it was used in martial arts and court style music called Gagaku which can be heard in castles and shrines. This was also used during battles where marching pace is determined with the sound of the taiko drum and to motivate the troops.

The modern taiko was established in 1951 organized by the 84 year old Grandmaster of modern taiko Daihachi Oguchi, who just passed away last June 27 for he was hit by a car while crossing a street in Japan. His very first actual Taiko ensemble was referred to as kumidaiko since he put together different sizes, shapes and pitches of taiko as played by several performers.

In this age of technology you can hear the taiko drum music being played in the Sony Playstation 2. This is such an incredible preservation of the music tradition. Passing from the ancient time to the modern age.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Daklis in Currimao

Fishing is a traditional occupation in Ilocos since it is a coastal area. It is an activity of catching fish employing various fishing techniques that include netting, trapping, angling and hand gathering.

Daklis is an Ilocano term for net fishing. They employ the use of a huge fish net to catch. Last December I had the chance to witness daklis in the town of Currimao wherein the townsfolk help each other pull the big net for more than two hours under the scorching heat of the sun. Everyone was enjoying the activity most especially when they were nearing the catch and the fish start jumping on the net. This particular documentation took place infront of the Sitio Remedios Resort owned by Dr Cuanang. Also witnessing the daklis was National Artist for Visual Arts Bencab.

In this particular daklis, the catch was the fish monamon usually made into a kilawin or prepared raw by sprinkling it with calamansi juice, ginger, onions and some tidbits of tomatoes. It is popularly used in making bagoong.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Damili is pottery. It is an Ilocano term for ceramic products made of clay. The town of San Nicolas in Ilocos Norte is known for its pot-making industry. Its government annually holds the Damili Festival in celebration for their main product. From the good clay soil material they use, they produce earthenwares of different shapes and sizes. Uses range from tablewares to decorative objects. They create vases, cooking pots, stoves, statues or images, and other formed or deformed figurines.

Pottery is ceramic ware made by forming clay into different shapes and heating them up or firing them to introduce into a permanent setting which results to hardening and increased strength. Red earthenwares are usually painted with red dye whereas black earthenwares were burned. Unfired objects are often termed as greenware.

The first stage of pot-making is gathering clay soil, wetting it with water and kneading. The potter then shapes this through the turntable and potter’s wheel or kick wheel. Last stage is the drying up or firing of the material. Firing of the material produces irreversible changes in the body and only after this method that can be called pottery. These earthenwares are usually marketed in Laoag City during the market days of Wednesdays and Sundays.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tam-awan Village: A Garden in the Sky

This village is located in the north of Quezon Hill in Baguio. It could be difficult to find but with the help of the signages, it makes it easier to locate. It is situated at 366-C Pinsao Proper Baguio City. One can take the Quezon Hill – Tamawan or Longlong via Tam-awan jeepney ride from Kayang Road at the Baguio City Market. There is an entrance fee of Php20 for adults and Php10 for kids.

This is a model village set up by the Chanum Foundation to make it accessible for the people to see. It has seven Ifugao huts and two Kalinga houses. A few of the traditional Ifugao huts were even knocked down and brought here. I was just amazed by the simplicity of the compact houses made up of indigenous materials such as hard word that lasts a lifetime, cogon and timbers. There were no nails nor hardwares used. There is a periodic re-roofing of the houses. In the interior, I observed that the beds were just near the stoves to serve as heater at the same time.

This is also a venue for art exhibits, workshops and cultural performances. The huts are also available for accommodations with a rate of Php500 per person. It would truly be a unique experience to stay in cool and traditional houses. It will certainly be a commune with nature as this village is endowed with mountains, plants, trees and spring. This village has almost touched the sky.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Fourth of July Weekend in Baguio

I went up to Baguio City yesterday upon the request of my sister-in-law Myrna to guide them tour the city. She was with her boss Taiwanese Ms Chang and her ward Mimi for a short vacation in the country. My mom Loreta and brother Jonathan with a certain driver went to join us also. We fetched our guests at the Victory Liner terminal at 5pm and later checked in at Hotel Veniz located at Abanao Road. Its off season so there was a discounted rate given. It was Php1565 for a standard aircon room for a night. There was a catch on the breakfast they serve. Its only the first morning that they include the breakfast free of charge. Succeeding breakfast is to be paid.
I was forced to familiarize myself with the sites in Baguio and their locations so I took a map from the tourist information center situated at the bus terminal of Victory Liner to serve as guide.
We went at once to the Burnham Park where we walked around and later rented a pedal boat for Php100 good for 3 persons. We had just a couple of rounds around the water. We proceeded later to SM Baguio to take our dinner.

We had breakfast. We were caught in the traffic jam along session road since there was a parade of American war veterans together with girlscouts and boyscouts which I presumed to be the celebration of the American- Philippines friendship day. We had first stop at the Baguio Cathedral where we attended a first Friday mass. The church was jampacked with pupils from Saint Louis to which I guess were the sponsors for the said mass. We took some photos.

Next stop was at the Mines View Park. There were scanty people in the area attributed to off peak season and the rainy days. My mom and I rented each the Igorot costumes for Php10. Its wonderful to be wearing the traditional or tribal costume. Then we moved to the Mansion House where we took some photos infront of the gate which was a miniature of the gate of the Buckingham Palace in London. Went inside the garden. We later got on to horseback riding at the Wright Park where we paid Php150 for half an hour service of the horse for unlimited number of persons to consume the 30minutes.

We just went inside the Club John Hay where we saw the beautiful American houses or villas and proceeded to the Philippine Military Academy. We saw some of the cadettes on a structured movements. We took photos from the Melchor Hall and the tree house and even with a cadette on uniform.

We took lunch at McDo at SM then we proceeded to Tam-awan Village, a traditional village composed of old houses brought down from Ifugao. There were exhibits of art pieces.