Sunday, May 31, 2009

Santacruzan in Naga City

When we visited SM City in Naga where we took our dinner at Graceland restaurant and ordered file copy of our photos at Fujifilm studio, we chanced upon a parade of sagala. It was the Santacruzan of SM in Naga. It was participated in by Kaogma beauties and the different queens with their respective escorts. They paraded around the mall with a marching band.

Santacruzan of Ilocos Norte

Santacruzan is a religious and historical pageant of beauties held in many places in the Philippines during the moth of May. This time around its in the province of Ilocos Norte. It is the joyous commemoration of the finding of the Holy Cross of Reyna Elena with her son Constantino.

Before I flew to Manila, I dropped by at the Capitol to witness even just a little of what they prepared for in the celebration of Santacruzan of Ilocos Norte for this year. It was participated in by the different towns of the province. What fascinated me most was the showcase of a muse clad in an Igorot inspired gown escorted by men wearing bahag. It was a creative way to display the indigenous culture and indigenous materials into the Santacruzan festivities. Celebrities such as Ritch Asuncion and Carlo Aquino were invited to grace the celebration and became part of the sagala. Hermana mayor this year was Atty. Amuerfina Salenda, a member of the provincial board.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Ilocos Norte Provincial March

It was my first time to hear the Ilocos Norte Provincial March during the celebration of the Ragrag-o Festival. It was interpreted by the Vintar Choir. This song was composed by Reverend Fr. Amador Foz. Following are the lyrics:

Probinsiya a balwarte

Sarikedked ti kailokuan

Ingget gasat nga ili

A ti Dios pinaraburan

Tattaom nagaget da

Iti lubong pagdidinnamagan

Kas katibker ka’t Cordillera

Sin-aw monaw a sarmingan.

Dakam amin nga anakmo

Di maikuspil ken mapagtalkan

Ingget tured toy puso

Nga agbiag ti pudno a dalan

Inkam amin agkaykaysa

A manalaknib pagsayaatan

Ipusta mi’t biag ken amin mi

Tapno agbalin a pagtamdan.

Ita saklolom, timmanor bannuar pagilian

Da Juan ken Antonio Luna

Ricarter, Aglipay ken Ablan

Da Marcos ken Escoda

Annakmo a kalalatakan

Nagan mo inkam iwaragawag

Iti amin a sangalubungan.


Ilocos Norte, tampok amianan

Sica’t tangsit Kailokuan

Ilocos Norte, tampok amianan

Sica’t tangsit Kailokuan

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Hollywood Experience

It was a big surprise for me that Oline, Cristy and Herell took me to Hollywood, the entertainment capital of Los Angeles. The word “Hollywood” is often used as metonym of cinema of United States. They treated me with an unforgettable experience of Universal Studios. It was before only a dream and now it was realized through the kindness of Oline. We spent the whole day here taking the rides and shows.

We started roaming at the City Walk. We saw the indoor skydiving and we enjoyed viewing the people doing it. It’s an experience of human body flight in a vertical wind tunnel. This is a little expensive and charges around USD60 per person.

Entrance to the theme park is USD 67 per person and is valid as annual pass. Inside the theme park, we went to the House of Horrors. This is a place of dark and windy terror maze where we saw Chucky, Frankenstein, Wolf Man and other scary characters. Most of the visitors especially the ladies like Oline and Cristy were screaming loud. When we got out they were gasping.

I had a ride alone at the Jurassic Park. I saw the different “living” dinosaurs and the 50-foot Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest land carnivores of all time. At the end of the tour, there was a gate that opened and we had a sudden treacherous plunge down into the 84-foot raft. It was the highlight of the ride and that shocked everyone. This was the reason that my companions did not join me anymore.

We tried the psychological thrill coaster ride at the Revenge of the Mummy. It is an indoor roller coaster that moves forward and backward. The track launched us in horrifying curves, drops and sweeping turns while we heard the mind-blowing horror sounds in a totally dark place. Everybody screamed.

Next stop was a show we watched at Terminator 2: 3D. All guests were assembled at the entrance hall for some talk and slide show. Later we went inside the movie room where we wore special eyeglasses to see the 3D film. We were taken into the machine-controlled world of Terminator. There were live human rebels that motor crosses and chases around the stage. New Terminator robots were unveiled from inside Cyberdyne Systems Corporation.

We went around and had taken some drinks and churros for snacks. We monkeyed around with Curious George by taking pictorials with him. Many children went to queue up for photo.

As a finale of our tour of the Universal City Studios, we enjoyed the live staging of Waterworld portrayed by Hollywood stars. It’s a hit motion picture that surged into life in a tidal wave of explosive action. There were so many death-defying stunts made by the actors. Explosions and shootings were made. Some spectators on the front line got wet because they were water gunned. This was an exciting and amazing performance show I’ve ever watched.

One day is not enough for Universal Studios. There were still so much to visit and see but we have to take our dinner at Beverly Hills. I was treated with a buffet dinner at Todai Restaurant. We enjoyed so much good food.

On our way home, we dropped by to Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Fame. There were so many stars on the pavement where the names of Hollywood stars were inscribed on them. Just across the street was the Kodak Theater, home of the Oscar Awards.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reunion in the Golden State

After seeing and passing by the deserts and rocky mountains of New Mexico and Arizona and 12 hours travel by Amtrak, I arrived safe and sound in Riverside, California. It is a state in the western side of US on the Pacific Ocean.

California is called the Golden State because of sunny climate and the discovery of gold in the olden days. It was formerly called California Republic before statehood and this is reflected on the state flag which was raised by American settlers rebelling against the Mexican rule. The area was colonized by Spain and the name was taken from “Califia,” a mythical paradise in Spanish romance. It is the third largest state by land area and with the biggest population in the US. It was accepted in the Union on September 9, 1850 as the 31st state and currently headed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The train was just right on timeI alighted at Riverside Downtown train station at around six o’clock in the morning. I got out of the station thinking that I could easily be seen by my childhood friend Porfirio Basilio, Jr, who was my classmate in elementary and high school but he went the other way. Nevertheless he saw me from the bridge of the station and called me out as Apiong. We warmly greeted and hugged each other. It was nice seeing him after a long time.

Pareng Jun droved me down for a quick visit to Riverside County Hospital where he works as a nurse. He showed me around to his workplace and introduced me to his colleagues and later took out a cup of coffee from the canteen. We proceeded to his house and I saw the mountains by the neighborhood which I requested to climb before we got inside his house. It was so peaceful and quiet at the top overlooking the entire Riverside. The city’s name was taken from the nearby Santa Ana River and this is the birthplace of the California citrus industry. I remember that California oranges were so popular.

I met his family for the first time with wife Bernadette and children Chelsea and Jeremy. Chelsea is my inaanak. I was even surprised that she showed me the list of his godparents from an invitation card that she keeps. I was the third one from his ninongs that she met. We dined together for breakfast. I was lucky to be served with adobo and tuyo which I missed a lot.

After freshening up, Jun took me to the house of Caroline Casingal, also our kababata who is married to Herrel Claudio, brother of our classmate Rowena. We warmly greeted and hugged each other. We definitely had a great reunion all the three of us plus the presence of Caroline’s sister Cristy who was also our childhood friend. They all work here as nurses. I also met her mother Tiya Conching and her two beautiful daughters Ashley and Isabel. Oline as we call her treated us for lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse. We reminisced the good old days over wine and good food. Then we went for shopping at one of the malls at Menifee.

The following day we went for another round of shopping at Promenade Mall at Temecula. I bought some souvenir shirts and later watched movies at Edwards Cinemas. This was my first time to try a US cinema house. I enjoyed the latest movie release of Fast and Furious with Cristy whereas Oline took her kids on a separate animated movie.

I did not expect that Oline, Cristy and Herell will be taking me to Hollywood. They treated me with an unforgettable experience of Universal Studios. It was a dream came true on this trip. I only heard of it and seen it on TV. We spent the whole day here.

On the last day of my sojourn, I thanked the wonderful family for my experience of the American Dream and bade them goodbye. I was fetched by Jun to show me around this time. We attended mass on an Easter Sunday at Corpus Christi Church in Corona Hills. Later, I witnessed the exciting Easter egg hunt by the children. Then we went for an early lunch at Cheesecake Factory then rested for few hours at their house. Jun and his kids took me to Downtown Disney and saw what was so American setting.

As Jun said that he has to feed me with Filipino foods before I go home to be acclimatized, he took me to a buffet eat all you can resto as they charged only US6 per person. Wow I was so full. I had so much of Pinoy foods before my flight. Later they sent me off to LAX airport and bade each other goodbye. All things simply have to end even if you hate it but I was happy to go back home equipped with those wonderful memories. I definitely had an adventure of a lifetime.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Enchanting New Mexico

I flew from Lima at almost midnight and arrived at Fort Lauderdale early in the morning. I waited for my connecting flight to New Mexico in the afternoon. Aside from an hour delay, it was a bumpy flight from Orlando to Albuquerque. It took us three hours to fly. I was so surprised that Southwest Airlines besides offering low airfares they really provided so much free snacks and drinks on board.

When I went out of the airport I did not expect that it was chilly and so I donned my jacket. I became excited to the thought of relaxing here since I had so much fun from my adventure especially in Peru. I was picked up by my host Jericho Ayson, my friend and former intern who had been working now for a year as physical therapist.

He even planned a trip for me to Colorado during my stay but the weather did not allow. There was an advisory of snow storm so he regretted. Nevertheless I had the opportunity to relax at home. I did cook meals and movie marathon.

The very highlight of my sojourn in New Mexico was our outing organized by Jericho and his friends Grace, Jun, Maple and Joel. Together with his group, we went to Rio Grande Zoo where we saw various animals. I enjoyed our visit to the section of Africa. We saw giraffe, elephants, camels, flamingos, zebra, the marine animals too and so much more.

Along the way to Santa Fe, I was fascinated by the desert, valleys and mountains that we passed by. We dropped by to Santa Fe Fashion Outlet for some shopping. Nike outlet was on sale so my friends shopped some items. Then we proceeded to the beautiful Old Town of Santa Fe.

It was amazing to see the old building structures which were made of adobe. It’s a mixture of clay, mud and straw which is baked under the sun. Most modern structures were designed in the Spanish or Pueblo revival style. We saw the buildings of Museum of Fine Arts, Palace of the Governors, Public Library and other museums. The façade of Basilica Cathedral of St Francis of Assisi was covered undergoing some renovations ready for its anniversary celebration. Before we left the place, we saw a wedding couple and entourage parading around the plaza accompanied by a Mariachi, a Mexican musical group.

New Mexico has a nickname of the Land of Enchantment and joined the Union in January 6, 1912 as the 47th state. It is located in the southwestern region of the United States with the largest population of Hispanics and American Indians I remember that this state was the site of the documentary film Miss Navajo I recently watched in the American Indian Museum in Washington DC. It’s geographically made up of desert. The air was dry. The old historic US route 66 passes through this state that runs 487 miles.

Then we went for an exciting dinner at Sakai Restaurant in Albuquerque. We went to the teppanyaki section where a chef cooked our food in a gas powered iron griddle or teppan. The chef made some exhibition such as tossing eggs alternately in the air and making onion volcano by slicing it and igniting a fire and lava came out by the use of sauce.

It was really a good time but I have to move on to the last leg of my trip. Jericho and Ces sent me off to downtown for I took the Amtrak bound for Riverside. It was a nice transportation besides offering cheaper rates it has spacious legroom and amenities such as canteen and a viewing room.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lima: The City of Kings

Just right after arriving in Lima from Cusco, I went with Rafa, whom I met in Machu Picchu, to check in and share hotel room with him and went straight to Miraflores. It is an upscale district and one of the wealthiest residential districts of Lima Province which is known for its shopping areas, flower-filled parks, garden, and beaches.

We visited Parque Kennedy, the central plaza in Miralflores. We have seen the Cartuja de Santa María de Miraflores Church and the beautiful mansion Casa de Ricardo Palma. Then we went to Peruvian Market where I shopped for some souvenir t-shirts. We met up with Angel and Juliet at the same park who later took us to Larcomar Shopping Center. We walked down to the Lovers Park which is a popular dating place for couples. A kissing couple monument is the landmark for this park fronting and overlooking the beach area or the Costa Verde. I have seen a few surfers on the water.

Then the three of us proceeded back to Lima to experience the amazing water fountain park called Circuito Magico del Agua. We visited almost all of the water fountains here, enjoyed the laser water show and we even played with the water by stepping over the fountains. I got wet and it was a fantastic experience. It was good that I have my newly bought t-shirt which I used to change my wet shirt.

On the following day, I had a tour by myself of Lima City. Armed with a city map, I took a bus to downtown. Lima is the capital of Peru and it’s the 5th largest city in Latin America. It was dubbed as La Ciudad de los Reyes or the City of Kings by its founder Francisco Pizzaro in 1535 making it the most important city in Spanish dominions in South America. The historic centre of Lima was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Lima is a Spanish pronunciation and is believed to be taken from the native name Limaq, a famous oracle.

I started my visit to the Congress building where I joined a group tour of the people from the jungle of Iquito. The guides showed us the plenary hall and the other features of the building. I met one of the congressmen. I have learned that the first Speaker of the House was a priest.

Plaza de Armas was the next stop I had. I was just in time for the changing of the royal guards at the Government Palace. The marching band was performing and the people enjoyed watching them at a distance from the gate. I walked around Plaza Mayor and I saw pigeons flew over and touch the water fountain at the center. There was also an old lady dressed up in traditional clothing. The colonial structure and facade of the Basilica Cathedral of Lima was impressive and that I went inside to check.

Then I went to hunt for a cevicheria for my lunch. Lucky I am that I found one near the Centro Cultural building that serves the best tasting ceviche for a good price of eight soles only. It was a great gastronomic treat.

Continuing my travel on foot downtown, I went to the slum area, the other face of the city. Then to Chinatown where I cooled off with the popular Peruvian drink the real chicha morada made from purple corn. I saw people clad in yellow vest at the side streets doing the transactions who were actually money changers.

My visit to Lima was practically a pilgrimage because of many religious sites I visited and that includes the beautiful Convent of San Francisco, Santuario de Nuestra Sra dela Soledad, Convento Santo Domingo, Basilica dela Vera Cruz and the Santa Rosa de Lima Church where I saw the dormitory and the well of 19 meters deep where Saint Rose tied a strong chain around her waist then padlocked then threw the key into the well. Since then believers threw in written petitions which I also faithfully did.

With many people telling me that it was risky to walk around Lima alone, I have proven that its safe and enjoyable exploring the City of Kings. Precautions nevertheless shall be taken into consideration. After three days of great sojourn in Lima, I flew back to US.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

El Asombroso Cusco

Cusco or Cuzco is a city in southeastern Peru. It is the historic capital of the Inca Empire. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1983 and designated as the Historical Capital of Peru.

When we arrived in the city of Cusco, I was awed by what I saw. Starting from the airport up to the hostel we were checking in at, it seemed that I traveled to another dimension of the earth. It looked so ancient. Despite the influence of modernity, I saw indigenous people still wearing traditional costumes and carry their babies or wares at their back using a cloth that they tie around their body.

The building structures were so old. Plaza de Armas is the ultimate attraction of the city. It’s a nice place to spend an afternoon. You will find in the square old churches where you can visit, stores and restaurants that you can shop and dine. The Cathedral, Church of San Blas, Santa Catalina Convent, Church of San Francisco, La Merced Church and Church of La Compañia de Jesus are the churches the can be visited here.

The walls of the plaza were made of Incan walls. I walked down the impressive old alley in the city. Most of the streets were made of cobble stones. Because of the narrow width, vehicles got on traffic and had difficulty maneuvering around. I even saw a unique animal called the llama which I saw for the first time.

It’s definitely a quaint city. It’s simply wonderful.

Alluring Anuplig and Inuwayan Falls

While attending the festival in Adams, I went with my group on a nature tripping. We went to see the beautiful Anuplig Falls which is 3.50 km away from the town proper. We walked to the site for an hour. It’s the same route we took when we went to Lake Linao. The water falls is of good height. There is a catch basin under the falls and another layer of small falls. Its water flows down to the Bolo river and out to the China Sea.

We swam and enjoyed its water. My companions went even diving. This falIs is so wonderful. It’s cool on the area because its surrounded by trees. The water is so crystal clear and it’s drinkable.

We also visited the Inuwayan Falls which is located 0.35km from the center. We walked to the site for 30 minutes. We did not take a dip because we just had pictorials at it. This falls is small compared to Anuplig. These are only some of the alluring falls that can be found in the town of Adams.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Ethnic Experience

We were lucky to have the very accommodating host, Manang Carmelita Abnasan who took care and planned activities for us during our stay in Adams. Aside from watching the program and activities of the festival, we were able to go on nature tripping to the mountains, rivers, hanging bridges and the beautiful falls of a paradise called Adams.

One memorable experience we had was the donning and trying on the ethnic costumes. These are available at the tourism office and can be worn upon request. Yapayao and Igorot costumes were the ones available. I chose the Igorot costume since I have to only wear the G-string and a chaleco. Its actually my second time to wear it and I wore this for the first time during a program in Japan. The ladies then got intrigued if I wore underwear.

Manang Lita was the one responsible for borrowing the costumes for us and she even took us to the beautiful Inuwayan Falls for our pictorials. There was even a traditional Yapayao house built just beside the falls and we made use of it as our backdrop.

I went to this trip with Mai and Angelo of Redemptorist Missionaries in Baclaran, Dustine, Kevin, Rodolfo, and Herson of St Clement Seminary in Quezon City. We definitely had a great ethnic experience.

Search for Mr & Ms Tribal Community

Another event during the Tadek-Bagat Festival in Adams was the search for the Mr. and Ms. Ilocos Norte Cultural Community (INCC). The four municipalities of Adams, Dumalneg, Carasi and Nueva Era fielded in their entries to the pageant.

At the first round of the pageant, candidates sashayed on the ramp displaying their colorful traditional costumes. It was so amazing to see the hand woven costumes of different ethnic groups complete with accessories.

They also walked down the ramp on their evening gowns and formal attires. Most of them were made and designed from abel cloth. The candidates also walked down in their casual attire and their sexy swimsuits. Various special awards were given out. After a series of pageant tests, six finalists were chosen to vie for the title and they all underwent a question and answer portion.

At the end the pageant the Muse and Adonis of Adams ran away with the title of Mr and Ms INCC. Runners up for Ms INCC were from Carasi and Dumalneg while Mr INCC were from Dumalneg and Adams.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tadek-Bagat Festival of Adams

A day after arriving back from the US, I went to Adams to witness the celebration of Tadek-Bagat Festival. The municipality of Adams hosted this year the gathering of Ilocos Norte Cultural Communities (INCC). The INCC is composed of four municipalities that include Adams, Dumalneg, Carasi and Nueva Era. These places are the homes of the tribal groups. The Yapayaos, Immallods, Kankanaeys Ilocanos, and Bagos are some of the groups immigrated to Adams.

Tadek and bagat are Yapayao words which mean tribe and celebration respectively. This year’s celebration had the theme “Panagkakammayet daguiti tribu, pataudenna ti progresso.” It means unity among tribes will result to progess.

When we arrived to Adams, there was a motorcade being conducted. Muses of the different sitios of the town were paraded around. It was followed by a program where calisthenics and folk dance showdown by local pupils were exhibited.

A cultural night was held depicting the migration of different ethnic groups in the town. The history of the municipality was also portrayed in the show.

On the following day, ethnic cultural presentation composed of songs and dances were made by representatives of Dumalneg and Adams. Carasi and Nueva Era did not make it to the program. Ritual dances were exhibited. There was even butchering of animals to offer during the ceremonial dances. This was my second time to witness killing of a dog. Some people were even shocked and reacted to it. But I think this is the only authentic way they can showcase their beliefs and traditions.

Santacruzan in Vigan

Following the calesa parade was the Santacruzan procession. A mass was held at the cathedral and the images of saints were paraded from the cathedral to the plaza down to the Heritage Street. There was of course the parade of beauties where the different lady characters of Santacruzan were present such as Queen of Sheba, Reyna Caridad, Queen of Virgins, Queen of Angels, Queen of Justice and a few more. Then a short program was held inside the cathedral.

Santacruzan (Festival of the Holy Cross) is a historical-religious beauty pageant held in most cities and villages of the Philippines during the month of May. It’s a colorful celebration during the Flores de Mayo. This joyful celebration is the commemoration of the search of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena or Reyna Elena and her son Emperor Constantine. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem, it was brought back to Rome and a thanksgiving celebration was held. This is where the festivity started .

This festival was introduced by the Spaniards to the Philippines and it became part of the Filipino tradition. Aside from the novenas conducted, procession, and pageant; a culminating activity is being held for the children to enjoy. It is called pabitin. It is a square trellis where goodies such as candies, toys, chocolates were hung by strings and these are being picked by kids by jumping while the trellis goes up and down. This activity was held at the Plaza Maestro where the different goodies came from the business establishments nearby.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Binatbatan Festival’s Calesa Parade

Binatbatan Festival of the Arts is being held in the Heritage Village of Vigan. It is usually celebrated in the first week of the month of May. The festival’s name was taken from the Ilocano term batbatin which means separating the cotton balls from the seeds from the local fruit kapas sanglay. They use bamboo sticks to perform this process. The cotton balls are used in weaving the textile abel. Binatbatan became a folk dance and the Binatbatan street dancing and showdown was the very highlight of the festival.

Calesa parade was also one of the events being conducted. Calesa is a tourism attraction in the city so annually they participate in showcasing their creative designs. There are more than 200 calesas in the city however, only 86 of them participated in the contest. Business establishments and organizations actually sponsor the decoration of each calesa. Decorations were so creative. They used indigenous materials such as the tobacco leaves, plants, corn, garlic, onions, and popular products empanada, longganiza, burnay and abel cloth.

I had the chance to talk to some of the kutsero or calesa drivers. One of them was Lakay Santiago who is in the business for 30 years now. He remembers that the fare then was only 10 centavos whereas now its already 50 pesos. A fee of 150 per hour is being charged to visitor for an hour ride around the city and nearby towns.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Batac Farmer’s Festival

The month of May is the time of festival celebrations in the Philippines. Most towns and even the barangays of the country celebrate its own fiesta. In Ilocos region alone, most festivals coincide with each other.

The City of Batac recently held its Farmer’s Festival to celebrate the contribution of the farmers to the community. We know for a fact that the main occupation in the region is farming. There were many livelihoods that a farmer is engaged into such as planting rice, garlic, corn, tobacco and others. The other one is raising different types of animals from the carabao that they use in tilling the land to the cows, pigs, chickens and many others that they sell or for their own consumption.

I had the chance to witness the different activities and games they set up for the celebration. Its so enjoyable to really see these traditional games and events. These were the carabao race, catching the piglet, catching the chicken, palo sebo, kadang kadang, carabao tug-of-war (pango) and the search for the best decorated carabao.

The event was held at the Government Center Complex. The different barangays fielded in their respective entries to the various categories. They started with kadang kadang with male farmers division and they were outdone by the women who spontaneously performed this game in their own division. There was no one who was able to get the prize at the palo sebo maybe because the bamboo pole was slippery with oil.

Another exciting event which everybody enjoyed was the carabao racing. There were five entries and they made one round of running. Two fell off from their carabaos and the other three successfully reached the finished line. There was a show of the unique and the best animals such as the huge rooster, goat with four offsprings, Brahman breed of cow with huge body and neck, and huge and clean carabao.

The catching of piglet and chicken were even more exciting. They had division for males, females and for the youth. They rumbled and stumbled to get the sole oiled piglet as they were sprayed with water by a fire truck. The piglet was the prize itself for the winner. There was also the tug of war of the carabao where it was just an exhibition since there were only two entries.

As the highlight of the event, I have seen the colorfully decorated carabaos. Some of the carabaos were body painted, some were dressed up like queens and the other accessorized with wings. They sashayed like models right before the audience and judges.