Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Tribute to Sydney Opera House Architect

Almost a week after posting the World Heritage Site Sydney Opera House in this blog, it was reported on the news that its designer and architect Jorn Utzon passed away at age 90 on November 29, 2008 at his home in Copenhagen Denmark.

He unexpectedly won the competition to design the Opera House where he submitted design which is a little more than preliminary drawings and described it as genius by Eero Saarinen, one of the judges as he could not endorse any other choice.

The structure was completed and opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. He was neither invited to the ceremony nor his name being mentioned. He was awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Sydney for his notable work in 2003 where it was accepted by his son as he was ill to travel to Australia.

He died and never saw the Opera House on its completed form.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Side Trip to Batam Island

After my travel to Australia in 2006, I went to Batam Island. I took a ferry from the Singapore ferry terminal. It was less than an hour ferry ride to the island. Most people from Singapore and Malaysia spend their weekend to this place since they can avail of cheap commodities and services.

Batam is a city in the Riau Islands Province of Indonesia known for its free trade zone located 20km of Singapore’s south coast. It has various resorts, night clubs and karaoke bars.

Upon reaching its port, I went straight to the malls looking for some stuff and they were really of cheap prices. I ate bakso, a local soup as recommended by Aya Mansuri. I rented a motorcycle with a driver to tour me around the island and it was fun.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sydney Opera House: A World Heritage

The Sydney Opera House is an arts complex building with expressionist modern design style of architecture. This was designed by Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect. It is one of the world’s most distinctive 20th century buildings and one of the world’s most famous venues for performing arts.

This was inscribed into the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on June 28, 2007. This is the landmark of Sydney or Australia in general that captivates everyone just like me. It was awesome. I went around it and simply amazed me. Just imagine the design where the roof was outstanding. It’s a pre-cast concrete ribbed roof. The construction of this building was completed in 1973.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Paoay Lake and the Festival

The 1st Return of the Great Cormorant to Paoay Lake Festival was held today at the view deck of Nagbacalan, Paoay in Ilocos Norte through the initiative of Dr. Petrus Calupe, a physician who built his retirement house near the area. From the time he settled here he observed many birds flying over the waters of this legendary lake and was able to monitor these birds for several years and counted and identified them according to their species. Locals have also been witnesses to the migration of these birds in the area. The Philippine ducks are commonly and easily seen here with an average of 600. The cormorants are also commonly seen here with around 10 of them.

This is an event aimed to celebrate the healthy environment of the Paoay Lake because it is being visited by migratory and local birds. This is a sign of a bountiful lake and a thanksgiving is just necessary.

According to its legend, this is a place where a village sank due to flood. It is being told that if someone goes into the deep, one can see the shadows of the houses and buildings. It is also believed that the catch of the fishermen are the fishes adorned with jewels who were the inhabitants of the ill-fated village.

Inspirational messages were delivered by local officials. An educational forum conducted by Dr Calupe, bird watching by the telescope as enjoyed by everyone, drawing contest were some of the activities held. Kayaking is also promoted as one of the prospective activity. Two kayak boats are available to the public for rent. This place is perfect for family picnics or dating place for couples since sheds are also available for rent.

This is surely another interesting tourist attraction since Paoay town will soon be named as one of the important bird’s sites or areas of the Philippines.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Australian Aborigines

This is a class of peoples identified by the Australian law as a race indigenous to the Australian continent. There is a total population of 517,000 of Aborigines or 2.6% of the total population of Australia. Northern Territory has the biggest population with 32.5% where I have seen many of them at Darwin City.

My first encounter with them was at the mall where a group of them performed a cultural presentation wearing G-string and with body paints. They were so warm and love to pose for photo ops. However, I have seen some of them just walk around on barefoot on the streets. There are already Aboriginals who are mixed race. Some of them are prominent personalities who became member of the Senate, rugby and basketball players, artists, actors, singers, musicians and in many different fields.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Journey Down Under

A vast and huge country that make up as world’s smallest continent is Australia. Being referred to as the land down under for it lies in the southern hemisphere of the globe. This commonwealth nation has a total of six states with two major mainland territories. Canberra serves as its capital. I visited two key cities namely Sydney, largest city located in New South Wales and Darwin, a city at the top end of the Northern Territory. I traversed the continent from north to south.

I flew to Singapore via Tiger Airways from Clark airport where I had a stopover. I was fetched by my good friend Raja at the Changi Airport. I stayed at his place with his family for overnight. I met again Ibu Intan and the rest of the family. The next day, I had a half day tour around the city.

20-Hour Sojourn in Darwin

Later in the evening, Raja and wife Linda sent me off to the airport. I was a bit anxious for it was my first trip to Australia. I looked around and saw the queue at the check in counter. Neither an Asian nor a Filipino was there. All of them were Caucasians. Luckily, I’ve seen and met at the passengers’ lounge two Filipinos, Fr. Gilbert of Cavite and Loida of Bulacan who just met each other a few minutes before I approached them. They were both flying to Darwin.

Loida lives in Darwin. She shared to us her Aussie life and identified what to see and expect from the city. The city was named after Charles Darwin, a renowned naturalist and thinker associated with the theory of evolution by natural selection. Fr. Gilbert was going on a personal trip much like of my trip and itinerary. He had a trip a little longer of a day than mine.

We flew out at around 11PM and arrived 5 hours later. Darwin’s time is an hour and a half ahead of Singapore. It was already dawn when we touched down at the Darwin International Airport. The moment we disembarked from the plane, it was an unbelievable feeling to set foot on another strange country, an outback which is one of the wealthiest and developed nations. It is an enormously huge country. I was informed by Loida that the immigration was strict with regards to dairy and poultry products so she advised us to declare if we have any. This made me worried since I had cheese, chocolate powder and other food snacks on my backpack. I was held at the immigration, they checked my bags and its contents. They sequestered the cheese and chocolate powder drink. Besides that, the immigration officer even asked me several questions about my personal details and my purpose in visiting Australia. He was surprised to find out that I’m visiting for only four days which was unusual for Filipinos since most stay either for a month or even longer.

After the interrogation, the officer concluded that I’m consistent and confided to me that he has a Filipino wife. I was the second to the last passenger to go out of the immigration area. The incident pressured me for I thought they would not let me in. Loida’s group became stressed of waiting for me to come out so Doraieh came to see me. Loida introduced me to Doraieh, also a Filipino, who fetched us.

We first stopped at Ofelia’s house. She was one of their close friends. Her house being a military shelter is highly elevated. She is married to military man and got one child. We went up the house, freshened up and rested. After relating our travel stories, we were then taken to Skycity Casino for our buffet breakfast. It was Loida who treated us. We took photos around and went to a nice site on a bayview. We were being told that nobody swims in that area since it was infested by crocs.

After dropping off Loida to her house, Doraieh drove us to her home and cooked lunch for us. We talked about ourselves and discussed about charitable works.

We went around the city and it was very hot, having a temperature of 40C. Darwin City is the capital of the Northern Territory, a huge slice of outback. I saw some aborigines walking and running around in barefoot. I noticed some establishments to have industrial fans which emit a spray of water to cool you down. Afterwards, we went to the mall and we luckily saw an ethnic dance performance by the aborigines. Their bodies and faces were painted with white art designs, wore red g-strings and headbands. While dancing they made some chants. They displayed long arrows. It was so indigenously entertaining.

We went to shop some souvenirs. I bought Darwin T-shirts and boomerangs. I saw didgeridoo or didjeridu, a wind musical instrument of the indigenous Australians. This is sometimes called a wooden trumpet or “drone pipe.” It comes usually in cylindrical or conical shape and has a measurement anywhere from 1 to 3 meters in length with most instruments measuring around 1.2 meters. Then, we went to the port and saw the marine vessels and luxury cruise ships docked in the area.

Later in the day, we went to the popular Fisherman’s warf wherein you can watch school of fish of different variety especially the moon fish rumble as you throw and feed them with fries. All of them rushed against each other to catch. With enjoyment of the sound of water, fresh air and the sunset at the port, coupled with an order of some fish and fries especially popular barramundi fish meat with few bottles of beer capped my day in Darwin.

My group sent me off to the airport at 11pm to wait for my trip at 1:30am bound for Sydney. I thanked the group for their wonderful hospitality and bade them farewell. I boarded the Virgin Blue airlines connecting via Brisbane to Sydney. Some mild turbulence was experienced along. You could just imagine the vastness of the land traversed for a flight of 6-7 hours. It was a trip from North to South of the huge country.

Sydney Explore

We touched down at the Sydney International airport at 9:30am. The time here is half an hour ahead of Darwin or 2 hours ahead that of Singapore. I bought at once a three-day pass ticket at the MRT station which costs AUD100. This was good for unlimited bus rides, MRT, and ferry or cruise valid for 3 days. I took MRT using the ticket then rode the Sydney Explorer bus in the morning.

I made my first stop at the Circular Quay, location of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. These were the popular landmarks of the city. I was awed by the beauty of these structures especially the Opera House which has a unique architecture, an expressionist modern design created by a Danish architect Jorn Utzon. It is one of the most distinctive 20th century buildings of the world and has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

I took a city map and hopped from one point to the next. The sights were just amazing. I even had a photo taken with the person dressed like Captain Cook at the port. I rode the Bondi Explorer for beach tour. I dropped by to the world famous Bondi Beach. There were lots of people coming to this place in their swimsuits and surfboards. Wow it’s indeed an incredible sight.

Later, I went for a romantic harbour night cruise where the sight was just spectacular, so romantic with all the night lights glowing everywhere especially on the bridge and opera house. I met foreign tourists in the ferry particularly an old Danish couple who went to see Australia before they expire in this world.

After a long day tour, I went to Blacktown at 11pm and searched my way to my host’s place at Newton Road. It was indeed an adventure to go around, search for the house at uncertain time. I was blessed that I traced it easily following the house numbers. I knocked the door then, someone opened it and I was welcomed by Jessie, my friend’s friend. He received me cordially and led me to my room.

The next day, after a breakfast with Jessie, I went back to the city. I went for another round of cruise but it was on a daytime. The sight was totally different at night. I saw birds hovered above the water and the ferry. I saw a moveable bridge that automatically lifted up as we passed by underneath.

I went back to the Sydney Opera House for a close scrutiny. You would really be amazed to see it up close. Its incredibly outstanding as the asymmetrical designs of the roof were put up together. Numerous people flock to visit this structure. Later, I went to the Royal Botanic Gardens, to Queen Victoria Bldg and museum, the Market City, Sydney Town Hall, Darling Harbour, Sydney Olympic Park, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and to the Sydney Chinatown. I ate and enjoyed Chinese noodles here. Proceeded later to the Circular Quay and stood by at one of the corner as I enjoyed my ice cream. I listened to an acoustic singer who performs in a corner where passersby drop few coins in appreciation of his music. I went home late at 12 Midnight.

Packed my things and had breakfast. I bade Jessie goodbye then met up with my friend Hilda’s mother, Tita Vicky. She toured me to the Blue Mountains. It is a popular tourist destination approximately 48km west of Sydney with the Three Sisters as its main attraction. I rode skyway, the cable car and the train where I spent AUD 29 for the scenic world rides. I had seen the coal mine exhibition. We had a bus ride down to the Katoomba Scenic Highway where the driver served likewise as our tour guide. It was humid in the area.

We went back to the city to catch my flight to Darwin. We flew out at 7pm. There was scanty passenger on board Virgin Blue so I was able to find empty seats to lie down to. I had to get up every now and then since we experienced frequent turbulences during the flight. We arrived in Darwin at around 1am and had to wait for my flight at 5:35am bound to Singapore.

I arrived past 9am in Singapore and just took the MRT to Raja’s place in Kembangan. I had a side trip to Batam Indonesia on the following day and then next day, Aya Mansuri sent me off to the airport for my flight back to Philippines.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Filipino Love Song

Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin is a nostalgic song. This is a romantic song perfect to serenade your special someone. I remember that we performed this song in Japan and on the ship Nippon Maru while we participated in the program Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program.

This song was composed by Aaron Paul del Rosario and interpreted by various recording artists.This was performed based on the arrangement of Arnold E. Zamora by the Manila Concert Choir at Northern Christian College Auditorium in Laoag City. The lyrics is as follows:

Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin

Mahal pangako sa iyo hindi magbabago
Ikaw lang ang iibigin ko
Kahit ikaw ay lumayo at masaktan ako
Asahan na di maglalaho

Ang pag-ibig ko’y tanging sa iyo lamang
Kung kaya’t giliw dapat mong malaman

Minsan lang kitang iibigin
Minsan lang kitang mamahalin
Ang pagmamahal sa yo
Walang hangganan
Dahil ang minsan ay magpakailanman

Minsan lamang sa buhay ko
Ang ‘sang katulad mo
Ako rin ba’y iniibig mo
Dinggin puso’y sumasamo
Sinusumpa sa iyo ikaw ang tanging
dalangin ko.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Filipino Medley

Another wonderful rendition of the Manila Concert Choir was the Filipino Medley from the arrangement of E. Laureola. I am just wondering why its titled this way since most of the songs
were Ilocanos and on the last part was the only Visayan song. Anyway, the lyrics are as follows:

Pamulinawen, pusok idengam man
Toy umas asog, agrayo ita sadiam
Panunutem man di ka pagitutulngan
Toy agayat agrayo ita sadiam

Issem adiak kalipatan
Ti nasudi unay anagan
Uray sadin ti ayan, lugar sa dinoman
No malagip ka, pusok timabang-a ran!

Manang Biday, Ilukat mo man
Ta bentana ikalumbabam
Ta kitaem toy kinayawam
Ay matayacon no dinacasian

Siasino ca nga aglabas-labas, ditoy
Jardin co pagay-ay-mac
Ammon ngarud nga balasang ac
Sabong ni Lirio dipay nag-ucrad

Denggem, adding tabilinenca ta incanto
Diay sadidaya
Agala canto bunga’t mannga, lanzones
Ken adunga kita

No nababa di mo gawaten,
No nangato di ca sukdalen
No naregreg di ca piduten ngem
Labas labas am topay laeng
No naregreg- basam topay laeng

Iliili tulog anay, wala diri mo nanay
Kadto tienda bakal papay,
Iliili tulog anay.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Ilocano Folksongs

The songs Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing & Pong Pong Guinapong were performed by the Manila Concert Choir at Northern Christian College Auditorium based on the arrangement of Fabian Obispo. The following are the lyrics:

Tsu run tsu run run, tsu run tsu run run,
Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing
Nasamsam it ngem jasmine
Kasla sabung nga a pag-ukrad,
Iti bulan ti Abril

Ti ayat ti maysa a lakay,
Aglalo no agkabao
Napait, napait, napait nga makasugkar
Pong pong ginapong, parya, kamatis,
Tarong, pakbetek ton parbangon,
Balunek a mapan talon.

Idiubingak a bassit, ina lan na ken pipit
Inak idamdarumgis, iti rawis ti kamantiris.
Pm pm pm pm p p pm. Pm pm pm pm p p pm. Pm!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

An Afternoon of Music with Manila Concert Choir

I just attended today the concert of the highly-acclaimed Mania Concert Choir (MCC) at the Northern Christian College (NCC) Auditorium. NCC President Ceasar Agnir brought the whole group to Laoag City to perform before the Ilocanos free of charge. This was highly commendable since it brought back much love, joy and appreciation for music by the community.

MCC is a group formed more than 5O years ago and it’s a world renowned choral group. It is headed by their president Prof Leonor Briones of the University of the Philippines who is a former National Treasurer. Dr Romulo Pizana, a professor of mathematics of the same university is the conductor. They are composed of people from different disciplines and of varying ages with 19 years old as the youngest of the group.

Their repertoire was a melange of spiritual, classical, Tagalog and Ilocano favorites. Their voices were so powerful and mesmerizing. I had the chance to enjoy their rendition particularly of the Ilocano songs and captured it on video.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

9th Governor’s Ball

Last Saturday, I attended the 9th Governor’s Ball held at Siera Madre Ballroom of Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel in Laoag City. This event was a fundraiser of the provincial government to support the projects and activities of the Museo Iloko.

Duhat wine and basi with cornick were served at the corridor. Dr. Jovencio Cuanang and some other VIPs were around chit chatting. Almost everyone was in his or her elegant Filipinia and abel suits.

Governor Michael Marcos Keon gave a speech opening up the affair. He greeted the guests such as Congressman Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and wife Atty. Liza Marcos, Ms. Irene Marcos Araneta and the officials of the province. He talked about his projects and accomplishments.

The highlight of the event was the awarding of the Gameng Lifetime Achievement Awards to three selected individuals who excelled in their craft, which contributed to the enrichment of the Ilocano cultural heritage.

Consuelo Castillo or fondly called Nana O’o is 94 years old who is revered as spiritual guru. She is an expert in offering prayers for the deceased at the time of death to its 9th day, 1st month, 6th month and first year anniversary. At her age she still has the sharp memory to recite the litany.

Raymundo Gaspar, 83 years old, builds calesas since 1960. He designs and creates the wheels to the body of the calesa. The third awardee was Gloria Cocson who is an expert in the field of emapanada making. She may even be called the empanada queen since she is in the business for so long. These are people who contributed in the Ilocos heritage. It is their wish to pass on the legacy to their children so that they continue what they have started.

Dinner was served with roast beef, barbecued spare ribs, assorted cold cuts, fresh garden salad, steamed rice, carbonara pasta, potato salad, poached fish in ginger and onion sleeks, desert of maja blanca and fresh fruits. I was surprised to see on the table mamaen composed of the boa and gawed placed on top of a miniature ulnas. Likewise the decorations on the stage and the entrance door caught my attention since it was palms with eggplants, tomatoes, okra, string beans to represent as flowers. It was creative.

Ballroom dancing was the last part of the program as enjoyed by most guests.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sigay Fishing at Dos Hermanos

When we went to Dos Hermanos Island, I saw some fishermen doing their catch in the waves. They call the fishing as sigay in Ilocano vernacular. These men used bamboo as their fishing pole or tool with some bait at the end of the string. They carry with them rattan back bag or called baki or alat in the local dialect to shell in their catch.

Just to make a documentation out of it, Alaric and I braved the sharp coral rocks to walk through and the splashing waves that made our shorts wet . I was even apprehensive that my camera might drop or get wet. Fortunately, it did not. I had the chance to interact with these fishermen. One of them caught a couple of fish called ap-apukol. He told me that he can instantly catch and sometimes it takes a while.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Blue Lagoon

We had a side trip to another alluring site which was the Blue Lagoon located in the same Baranggay Balaoi of the town of Pagudpud. It is another wonder of nature. This is branded as Boracay of the North since it has fine white sand and pristine water. Its name Blue Lagoon truly lives to its name as it displays a perfect view of blue sea reflecting the sky’s deep color.

This virgin paradise of the North does not only offer beaches but also caves such as the Bantay Abot cave, the Dos Hermanos Island which is eye catching, and the hills.

We had our lunch of Ilocano dishes consisted of igado, chicken adobo, steamed rice, ensalada and inabraw at Hannah’s place. It is an accommodation facility with a number of villas to occupy. These are concrete buildings with galvanized roofings. They offer amenities such as swimming pool, bar and restaurant.

Enchanting Kabigan Falls

Yesterday, we had not only a nature tripping but also an environment advocacy activity since we from the Green Ilocos Norte and Network Advocacy (GINNA) group headed by our president Shermon Cruz with members Alaric, Judelyn, Freda, Jennifer, Pauline, Arnel, Andie, Neil and Dr. Julius went to visit the Kabigan Falls. We went there with the objective to survey the status of the waterfalls and be of help in the conservation of this natural wonder. We were assisted by the tourism officer Jose Morata of Pagudpud to get to the place.

The term “kabigan” was derived from the word “kaibigan” or “magkaibigan” to which has its own story to tell about the origin of the place. Kabigan Falls has an approximate height of 87 feet with a concave basin underneath to catch the water perfect for the guests and tourists to swim at and enjoy its water. The water was totally very cold when I took a dip. I never wasted time to savor the beauty and wonder of this site.

We trekked for about 30 minutes starting from the highway which has a distance of 1.8km. It has an easy trail to follow, a thick foliage to keep you shaded and you have to cross a couple of streams originating from the waterfalls. Along the way, you can view panorama of the mountain ranges, the rice fields, some carabaos, exotic plants and fruits. The said waterfalls is located in Baranggay Balaoi in the Pagudpud town of Ilocos Norte.

This is exactly an amazing treasure of Ilocandia. A sight to behold. It is our prayer that it can be conserved for the future’s generation to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Ride with a Tuk-tuk

The auto rickshaw or tuk-tuk is a chief mode of transportation in the countries of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other parts of the world. The tuk tuk, popularly known as rickshaw is a motor vehicle with a cabin attached to the rear. This is an urban transport for hire. This is popular in places where traffic congestion is a problem. This can also be found and widely used in China, India, and other Latin American countries.

On my previous visit to Indochina, I was able to ride tuk-tuks in Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Pehn, Siem Reap, Vientiane and especially Bangkok. It was all a great ride experience. I had a relaxing ride when I visited the temple complex of Angkor wherein we hired a tuk-tuk with a driver by the day and toured us around. The tuk-tuks come in different forms and designs. In Siem Reap they are generally the style of motorcycle and trailer whereas in Phnom Pehn, it is one piece. They are comprised of steering, tank, engine with a covered tray mounted at the back. It can carry 6 people. Lao tuktuk looks like that of Phnom Pehn while Ho Chi Minh looks like that of a Siem Reap tuktuk. The one I tried in Saigon was an unmotorized. Passengers sit infront of the driver. The counterpart of tuk-tuk in the Philippines is called tricycle.

In Thailand, my foster Mom Noi together with my foster brothers Ronald of Philippines and Pangna of Laos took us to a tuk-tuk ride in downtown Bangkok. It was a wonderful experience since you get that real feel of a city ambience up close.

I remember, the tuk-tuk was even used in the commercial ad of James Bond or Pierce Brosnan featuring the visa credit card. He used the card to pay the driver for a dilapidated tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuk has been used in so many films such as in the James Bond movie.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Umras To Appease the Spirits

Umras is a tradition in the province of Ilocos Norte. It is a term used to refer to the method of offering ritual of prayers and food for the loved ones who passed away. The locals especially the older people believe that with this practice they are able to help appease the spirits and make them closer to God. It is also a way to honor and remember dead people.

This tradition is usually observed during the first month, seventh month and first year death anniversary and also on All Saint’s Day (Defunturung). The market in Laoag City is full of these items on sale on halloween. Based on my interviews with the elders, there are different components of the umras which comprises the dudul, pilais or pinais, sinuman, baduya, busi or pop rice, balisongsong or patopat, linapet, linga (black sesame seeds), binuelos, gawed, apog, muscada, basi, softdrinks, mamaen or boa, uncooked rice set on a crucifixion form with itlog (fresh egg placed on its top), tabako where the leader of the praying team takes home this rice after the session.

The table where they place the atang is half covered by manto or the black and the other half with white linen. There are 12 plates offered usually filled up with the food. Some would arrange the food in the plate in a tower form. For practicality nowadays, six plates would do. These are arranged in the said table in front of the altar. The prayer is then begun. Some people believe that the atang should not be eaten whereas others enjoy eating it. They vigil the atang or it is being watched or monitored by a person overnight. They remove the atang before sunrise. Some eat a part of the atang and burry in the ground some portions of it. Usually the one who recites litany or leads the prayer is an old woman preferrably a widower.