Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Carol in Ilocos

Just a few days before Christmas, The Integrated General Parent-Teachers’s Association in cooperation with The Supreme Student Government of Ilocos Norte National High School staged a concert called Gratias! A Choral Celebration.

This has featured four choir groups consisting of Laoag City Children’s Choir, INHS Youth Choir, Samiweng Singers and the Coro Ilocano.

The Coro Ilocano is composed of choir conductors and singers headed and conducted by Robert Caluya. They sang Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jingle Bell Rock, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and We wish you a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Promising Rock Band

I don’t know why they call themselves as Hydrosepaluz but it sounds like a medical condition. We commonly knew it as the enlargement of the head. When they say big headed, it figuratively means having an attitude problem. But this promising rock band is a no-no. They are down to earth people. I personally met them during the Sunrise Festival where we jammed together at one of the banana que stands in Laoag City. They are so courteous and hilarious at the same time. They invited me to see their concert.

So when I went to watch them, I liked their music. They play different genre of music. According to them it’s a proto-experimental music. It’s enjoyable to listen to. It’s not heavy and the song is easy to understand. They sang Sa Gabing Ito and other songs.

This band originated from the province of Zambales. It is founded on October 2006 with its original members Makuri Makuru as vocalist and guitarist and bassist Rakizza. The new members are Juvy (Trumpet) and Buboy (Drums). They play on various gigs in Manila and other provincial areas. They do not dream to conquer the mainstream industry but only to share the music they love. So when you share something that you love, people will love it too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Indigenous Peoples' Celebration

October is the month of the indigenous peoples. It was on this month that the indigenous peoples’ celebration in Ilocos Norte was held at the Janssen Hall spearheaded by the Diocese of Laoag.

It was celebrated with the theme “Panagpaimbag ti napalabas para ti panagkaykaysa gapu ti nagbiduttan kadagiti kapuonan.” It means healing of the past to make reconciliation and unity among the peoples.

It was a celebration full of cultural value. The rituals and ethnic performances were showcased on this celebration. There was dancing, chanting and singing from the different groups of indigenous peoples.

In Ilocos Norte, there are four major towns inhabited by the indigenous peoples group namely, Adams, Dumalneg, Carasi and Nueva Era. Aside from this activity, they also hold an annual gathering every April that rotates on this towns. The other towns that have the IP groups are Vintar, Solsona, Pagudpud, Marcos, Dingras, and Bangui. Apayaos, Igorots, Itnegs and Tinggians were the first inhabitants of the province. Other groups are Yapayao, Kankanaey, Isneg, and Imalawa.

TIPS holds Kadaanan Photo Exhibit

The Ilocandia Photographic Society recently held its photo exhibit on December 16-18, 2010 at the Heritage Resort of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur. It was entitled KADAANAN: A Photography Exhibit on Ilocandia’s Old World Charm. This was a showcase of the vintage Ilocos. It featured photographs of the world heritage monuments, the old colonial fashion and other ancient practices of the Ilocanos.

This was held in time for the 5th Nakem International Conference with the theme Adal ken Sirib: Education to Cultural Diversity and Linguistic Democracy. It is a conference on the Ilocano culture and literature. It was attended by delegates from Hawaii, US mainland, Manila, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and other places.

The exhibit was opened by Caoayan Mayor Germelina Singson Goulart and MMSU president Dr. Miriam Pascua.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recitation of Daniw

A poetry and literature night was held at the Mariano Marcos Memorial University College of Teacher Education campus in Laoag City during the 7th Sunrise Festival. Supervisors and teachers participated in the recitation of daniw or poem. They interpreted the poems of Ilocano poets and writers such as Dr. Godofredo Reyes, Mr. Cles Rimbaud, Dr. Alegria Visaya and many more.

It was my first time to see recitation of daniw. It was fun to watch them deliver every line. It is totally different when you just read. When they recite with feelings, you appreciate it much more. All were written in Ilocano dialect so I had difficulty understanding some high falutin words but with recitation I can grasp the meaning. Most of the poems rhyme beautifully and some were funny.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Festival of Light: An Ephemeral Art

An ephemeral art is an art that lasts for a short period of time. It is transitory or short-lived. The festival of light held in Laoag City during the 7th Sunrise Festival is an ephemeral art. Some of the delegates includung us members of The Ilocandia Photographic Society (TIPS) joined and documented this very interesting activity. It was held in the wee hours of the morning at Padsan River under the Laoag bridge.

It was started at 4 in the morning with arrangement of pieces of coconut shells with wick made of linen or woven cloth and placed oil on it. They were scattered all over the river bank. The group also made a bonfire and started to light everything at the same time. Some of the lights were floated into the flowing water. The participants beat the drums and sang and chanted babanam kevalam which means love is all there is. While the rest danced. This is truly another unique experience.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pen Pen de Sarapen

Pen pen de sarapen is a popular children’s song in the Philippines. It’s been a long time that I did not hear this music until Emil Sanglay and Penpen performed this song during the 7th Sunrise Festival in Ilocos Norte. It has a new twist because they added lyrics with a very meaningful message in a new arrangements. The following is the lyrics of the original song:

Pen pen de sarapen,
de kutsilyo de almasen
Haw, haw de carabao batutin

Sipit namimilipit ginto't pilak
Namumulaklak sa tabi ng dagat.

Sayang pula tatlong pera
Sayang puti tatlong salapi

Kutsilyo means knife, batutin is stinky, almasen means warehouse and ginto't pilak is gold and silver. The verses don't make much sense but the words rhyme and are fun to recite. Filipino children sing this to select the person who's going to be the "it" in a game. This song is the counterpart of the English counting rhyme "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe."

The Andean Music

This genra of music comes from the Inca Empire before the European influence. The Inca Empire includes the people of Quechuas and Aymaras covering the countries of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. This music from South America makes use of wind and percussion instruments like the panpipe called antara or siku. I was able to play with t2is instrument wen I visited La in America. The}e instruments are constructed from aquatic reeds found in many lakes in the Andean Region. The sikú has usually two rows of canes and are tuned in either pentatonic or diatonic scales.

Lucky that I watched the performance of a guest during the 7th Sunrise Festival in Ilocos Norte. He was Alex Amador of Bolivia. He has performed several times during the event and everyone enjoyed his music. He played the panpipe, flute and other wind instruments.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Ethno Tribal Performance

During the celebration of the 7th Sunrise Festival in Laoag, the Kawangis ng Tribu of Palawan, a group of young people who has the big passion for music, came to perform. They did an astonishing number during the opening of the Saringit Art Exhibit at the Laoag City Hall Auditorium. Personally I and the crowd enjoyed their music very much. They used drums and other musical instruments such as tambol, agung, babandil, gangsa, kulintang, kudyapi, hegalong, babandil, atong-atong, solibao, dabakan, bungkaka, kubing, gabang, budyong, rainstick, seed, bamboo and brass chimes to deliver an exciting sound..

Ethno comes from the word ethnic and connected to moderno. Their music genra is a fusion of the tribal, traditional rhythms and the jive of the worlds drum beat. They adapt music from the different ethnic tribes such as the Palaw an, Tagbanua, Bagobo, T'boli, Muslim, and Igorot. This group of Kawangis is a member of the Maharliqa Artists and Wuiters Federatiou and has perforued in various events all over the country.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bunubun Children Street Art

It’s a historic feat that the province of Ilocos Norte has set a record for getting a large number of children and did a simultaneous street art activity. It’s actually a chalk art activity where some benevolent people donated various colors of chalk.

The Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation (MAWF) in cooperation with the Department of Education Ilocos Norte brought 2500 students infront of the Capitol Ground who participated in the said event. There were some 50 teachers who accompanied the students.

This is the very first time that a street art activity was held in the province. Children formed some groups while others worked individually. They drew landmarks of Laoag such as the belltower with the sunshine logo. They drew varied art designs.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ylocosining: The 7th Sunrise Festival

The 7th Sunrise Festival spearheaded by the Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation (MAWF) was held on November 24-28, 2010 in the province of Ilocos Norte with the theme Ylocosining: Hidden Treasures of the North. Several activities were held in the various towns of Ilocos Norte.

The event had a launching ceremony at the town of Badoc. The mayor warmly receives the entire delegation. There were 500 participants in this event with performers, visual artists, photographers, professors, poets, cultural workers and others. The participants came from different places such as Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Zambales, Iloilo, Cebu, India, France, Italy, Australia and Bolivia. A lecture on the life and works of Juan Luna was delivered by the curator.

The delegation was later taken to Paoay Church for a quick stop then to the town of Batac where a discussion and interaction with local students was held at the World Peace Center. It was followed by an exciting poem and literature night held at the Mariano Marcos State University in Laoag.

On its second day, an Ephemeral Art Exhibit on the Laoag Festival of Lights was conducted in the wee hours of the morning at the Padsan River in Laoag. Several coconut shells with gas mantles were lighted at the river banks. Some of them were placed on the flowing waters. Prayers and chants were offered then drum music was later played.

An opening ceremony of the Saringit Visual Arts and Photo Exhibit organized by artists Florence Cinco and Guijo Duenas was held at the Laoag City Auditorium. TIPS members were there to present their photos. Vice Mayor Domingo cut the ceremonial ribbon. Later, a rock concert was held at Batac with performances from different bands.

The third day was a folk and acoustic music concert held at the old plaza of the town of San Nicolas. There were performances from the local singers such as Rudy Corpuz. The Kawangis ng Tribu of Palawan, PETA group of Manila Pangalay Artists Circle, HydroSepalus, Emil Sanglay, Alex Amador of Bolivia and so many others have performed.

The fourth day was the Bunubun Children Street Art. There were some 2,000qstudents of theqprovince particupated in this cualk art event. Singising cultural night was later held at the Capitol in Laoag with the performances from a dance group from Pangasinan, Kiangan Cultural Troupe of Ifugao, Ilocos Sur Cultural Troupe, Saguday DanceTroupe, Northern Christian College Dance Troupe, Glasspoint, HydroSepalus, Unitiima and a lot more converge to showcase their talents in this festival.

On its last day and to conclude the event, a workshop on castle making, djembe, creative and fire dance was held in the town of Pagudpud.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Round of Thrilling Tumba

Tumba is a unique halloween tradition of the town of Paoay. It is usually held on the first day of November in time for the All Saint’s Day Celebration. It is not as common to other Ilocanos of other towns because everyone is busy on that day spending time and praying for their departed loved ones.

However, once you set your time to attend and witness this unique event its guaranteed that you’ll surely enjoy it. This year was my third. This time around not only as a spectator but the local government of Paoay headed by Mayor Clemente invited me to become one of the judges in the Tumba competition alongside with Engr. Neil Ratuita, Dr Constante Salasac and Dr. Joven Cuanang.

Tumba is a catafalque, tomb or altar. This is a long time tradition of the Paoayenos. According to the elders that I asked, since their childhood they have been witnessing this event yearly. It was just an exhibition before but they made it into a competition for around eight years now. Dr. Cuanang was his first time to witness the event and got fascinated. He wants this to be promoted and even suggested that youngsters shall be involved so that this tradition will be passed on to them. Even two of his foreign guests were caught in awe to see this event.

It used to be a competition among all the town’s villages and that takes so long to visit and judge. But this year they made a cluster of villages, fusing them together and represent as a district. It took us only three hours to visit and judge the ten entries.

There were so many things to see. They prepare a kiosk or room with the altar of course as centerpiece blanketed with crocheted linens. On top of it are the antique religious images plus the very old photographs of their departed loved ones. They place several lighted candles around it.

Umras or food offering is the main attraction since after the prayer everyone can take part in the food. We judges were given the privilege to get first. Aside from the basic umras that consisted of sinuman, pilais, baduya, etc., they also have grilled fish that consisted of catfish, mudfish, tilapia, bokto, gurami (which is rare now), river shrimps, roasted whole chicken, and so much more. The caratay took the attention of the foreign guest which she asked of me. I told her that it’s a hanging refrigerator. It’s a conventional way to hang an open basket to put all the cooked food inside to make it last long because of the ventilation.

The winner this year is the district of Nagbacalan where there was participation of young and old. The children were playing games outside, some oldies were cooking molasses in a big pot and the other old men were playing musical instruments while they sing. The crying women were on the replicas of tombs. There was also a casket we have seen in another district. Inside the kiosk were the old women clad in very old inabel clothes and black veils reciting a prayer with their rosaries. We have seen some of them wearing the old Chinese sandals.

They also had the side show which is like a carnival horror show. You have to enter in a dark room and you’ll get to see Frankenstein and other characters. You’ll get frightened indeed.

Mangarawwa is the term they call by taking some of the food. This tradition is very interesting for me because I learn each time I attend and of course I was able to take home a bag full of food.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

TIPS holds Saringit Photo Exhibit

The Ilocandia Photographic Society holds a photography exhibit entitled Saringit at the Laoag City Hall Auditorium. This is a photo exhibit of the Ilocano traditions and practices that will run from November 24-28, 2010.

This exhibit also features the painting and other artworks of artists from various places of the country in celebration of the 7th Sunrise Festival with the theme Ylocosining: Hidden Treasures of the North. It is spearheaded by the Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Masskara Festival

Its been a long time that I wanted to attend and witness this colorful event called Masskara. I had the chance this time because I was informed by my colleague Bryan in The Ilocandia Photographic Society (TIPS) that he was going with his friends. But I hesitated before because the airfare was so highly expenuive. It was goou that I found Zust Airline to bu offering a promo fare a week before the event. What I did is I landed in Iloilo and took the ferry to Bacolod. I must say, I saved a lot from this trip.

Masskara is a portmanteau word coined by Ely Santiago from the word mass that means multitude while cara means face. It’s a multitude of smiling face. Bacolod in Negros Occidental is branded as the city of smiles. It is known for its sugar cane industry and sugar cane is the main agricultural product. But when a crisis struck them in 1980 becaqse of all-time uow price of sugur due to sugar uubstitutes and a tragedy also happened where the marine vessel Don Juan carrying so many Negrenses including some prominent people collided with the Tacloban City tanker and sank in the ocean. Many people perished from this tragic accident with around 700 lives taken. These crises set the people in grief.

However, the local artists, local government and civic organizations joined hands together to pull the locals out of the pervasive gloomy atmosphere and thereby created and held the festival of smiles which is now known as Masskara.

I saw several groups that performed in the streets of downtown wearing very special smiling masks. Every participant wore the mask with a beautiful costume. Dancers gyrate to the beat of a Latin music. They make anew theme music every year. This year was Kari na sa Bacolod. The masks are made of resin or paper mache. Those were beautifully decorated.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The 7th Sunrise Festival

The Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation annually holds an arts and literary festival officially called Sunrise Festival. This is its seventh year to celebrate the talents of artists and writers with the theme Ylocosining: Hidden Treasures of the North. It is slated on November 24-28, 2010 in the province of Ilocos Norte.

This will be a showcase of great works of respected artists and writers as well as that of budding ones from the various organizations in the country. Several agencies are sponsoring this affair. The Ilocandia Photographic Society is one of the major partners of the said event.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TIPS holds a nude photo exhibit

After a tough nude photo workshop of the members and guest photographers, The Ilocandia Photogaphic Society is coming out with a nude photography exhibit entitled LABOS...of Fancies and Fantasies. This is a showcase of their great concept, hardwork and preparation shooting the alluring models in their barest and darest poses.

In cooperation with Pangilmania 2, the exhibit will be held on October 30, 2010 Saturday 5pm at the Pangil Beach Resort in Currimao Ilocos Norte. Everyone is invited to this one night engagement.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Seminar-Workshop on Journalism

Despite my hectic schedule during the launch of my book Around the Americas in 60 Days, I yielded to the request of the Department of Education Division Office of Vigan City through DepEd Laoag education supervisor Lloyd Rosquita to be one of the resource speakers for the Division Seminar-Workshop for School Paper Advisers and Campus Journalists. It was attended by around 300 participants from all the elementary and secondary schools of Vigan City.

I met education supervisors Marie Christine Reyes and Felipa Regaspi who organized this program. I was introduced to the teaching faculty members and other administrators.

I was tasked to lecture on photojournalism. I gave the participants tips on how to cover an unfolding event or story and even encouraged the photojournalists to always go on a photo shoot to hone their skills. I was surprised to learn and see that they use the film camera. It was imposed on them to use such to give them a good training on photography. I found that the participants enjoyed watching my photography slide show presentation. I later asked them to go on a shoot inside the campus and developed their film and layout them in the afternoon.

I also discussed feature writing. I shared my experience in writing articles and showed my published articles in the national dailies and magazines. I even showed to them my recently published book. They were inspired. I encouraged them to continue writing on whatever topics. Later, I demanded them all to write a feature article and selected the top 10 best articles.

This was a fun-filled seminar. The participants were so eager to learn. More training should be done for the photojournalists in handling and operating a professional camera.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Around the Americas at the Manila International Book Fair

I got lucky that my book Around the Americas in 60 Days was released just in time for the 31st Manila International Book Fair which was held on September 15-19 at the SMX Convention Center located at the Mall of Asia compound in Pasay City. My book was exhibited and sold here. Majority of local publishing companies and some invited foreign publishers participated in this annual event. That includes Central Books.

I was scheduled by Marie at the opening day for a book signing. I had to make a day round trip from Laoag to Manila to attend this exciting event. It went well. Just right upon my arrival at the site, there were media people from Net25 who were waiting for me. They interviewed me about my book and how was it published. My interview will be aired soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Launch in Cebu

Few days before my visit to Cebu City, my book Around the Americas in 60 Days was ready to be distributed. I asked Central Books to expedite the shipment of the copies before I came in. With this trip to Cebu, I grabbed the opportunity to launch the book. We held a very simple ceremony at the Central Books branch located at GV Building in P. Del Rosario St.

I invited Fr. Ricky Acero, CSsR, parish priest of Redemptorist to unveil and bless the book. He offered a prayer for social communication. Mai and Doi with some other people joined the program. I felt very happy when my guests bought two copies individually. I signed the books they bought. According to them, they will give it away as a gift to their friends to inspire them also to travel.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Around the Americas in 60 Days is off the press

Finally after a series of rigorous trials and challenges in publishing that this book went through, Around the Americas in 60 Days is now off the press. It has been released and distributed this month on all the outlets of Central Books located at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, Glorietta 3 Mall in Makati City, Ever Gotesco in Rector Avenue Manila, main office at 927 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City and provincial stores GV Building in Cebu City, Robinson’s Place in Iloilo City, Aldevinco Shopping Center in Davao City and at Limketkai Mall in Cagayan De Oro City.

This is a chronicle of the author’s solo journey to five countries that include United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru. Foreword of this book was written by Japanese Tatsu Sakamoto, author of I Made It (Bike trip around the World).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Muay Thai: The Art of Eight Limbs

On my first night stay in Chiang Mai, I watched a Muay Thai competition at Thapae Boxing Stadium which ran for about two hours. I saw a lot of foreigners coming in to see it. I bought a promotional ticket. Tables were all arranged around the ring and I was ushered in to a seat by a waiter. Everyone can make an order of drinks and some food.

Muay Thai is a traditional hard martial art from Thailand. It is country’s national sport. It is called the Art of Eight Limbs or Science of Eight Limbs. It makes use of kicks, punches, elbows and knees strikes establishing an eight “points of contacts.” A local practitioner of muay thai is called nak muay while a foreign boxer is called nak muay farang. I have seen about four Western practitioners. It’s thrilling to watch because it’s not only men that fight, women also do.

The formal form of this martial art employs two kinds of techniques. One is the major technique called mae mai and the other is the minor technique called luk mai. It is often an art of attrition where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is really a tough boxing art where injuries to the body cannot be avoided.

There are some ceremonies perform before the match or competition. A practitioner wear a cape with rolled headband before they climb up the ring. Some has to pray and others perform wai khru ram muay which is an action to show respect in Thai culture that is performed by the practitioners.

This form of martial art has been around for over a thousand years ago which was said to have started in Ayuthaya. This has evolved from ancient boxing called muay boran and a weapon-based art of krabi krabong which were used by Siamese soldiers during battle. Some of the esteemed skillful boxers were invited to come to live in the royal palace to teach the art to people of the royal palace. They were able to establish royal muay which is also called muay luang to protect the king, royal family and the country.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Oh My Chiang Mai

From Yangon, I went back to Bangkok to take my flight to the northern part of Thailand. We touched down in the afternoon at the local airport of Chiang Mai. I went out of the airport and looked for the regular transport to the town center. I paid only a small amount compared to the taxis on waiting.

I roamed around the city downtown. I saw the Tapae Gate which is a historical landmark. I saw many tourists walking around too. I went to see some food to eat then later went for internet. I scouted for travel agents who offer a good price for an elephant safari and a Chiang Rai tour. I found Boom travel with Pranee who speak English. She gave me a very reasonable rate. I got her tour package because she was friendly. Then I checked in at Chinda house which I rented one room for 200bath. At night time, I watched Muay Thai, a traditional martial arts, at Thapae Boxing Stadium. It’s thrilling to watch because it’s not only men that fight, women also do.

Chiang Mai is located in the Kingdon of Lanna or Northern Thai. Chiang Mai means new city and is popularly known Rose of the North. It is the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand. Its laid-back charm primarily attracts the visitors. It has cooler weather because of its mountainous base. The city is situated on the Ping River a tributary of the Chao Phraya River and its located 700 kms from Bangkok.

The following morning I was picked up by a van with a group of visitors from my accommodation on to a Chiang Rai adventure. We visited the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos shares border. After coming back to Chiang Mai in the early evening, I went to shop for some souvenirs at the night market.

Then a day after, it was my Elephant Safari experience which I enjoyed so much. It was very Thai to see many elephants. I went on a ride with an elephant going up and down the hills and crossing the river. Watched elephant show. Had bamboo rafting, visited a waterfalls, orchid and butterfly farm and the Lisu tribe village. In the early evening my good Thai friend Baralee Mesukh whom we call Cee, met up with me. She took me to the one of the oldest Buddhist temple called Wat Phra Singh. She treated me for a dinner with traditional Thai food at an old resto. We reminisced the good times of our ship experience in Japan and to other ASEAN countries. Lastly, she sent me off to the bus terminal. I bought a ticket and I was surprised to learn that they had a different year 2010 was 2053 for them. I bade her goodbye and headed back to Bangkok.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shinbyu: A Buddhist Novitiation

It was so fascinating to observe the monks. They live a vow of poverty so no luxury is being enjoyed. They have to ask alms from the people in the community for their group’s subsistence. Prior to living the religious life and following the monastic discipline called Vinaya, one has to undergo a novitiation ceremony.

As we ascended the topmost part of the Shwedagon pagoda using the long escalator and stairs, we meet a group of people going down who seem to be in a celebratory mood. There were three men carrying three individual boys in a decorated costume, leis, headdress and an umbrella. They were also made up yet with red lipsticks. I ran to find out what was the ceremony all about and was revealed to me that the boys were baptized to become monks.

A special rite of passage called Shinbyu is celebrated by many Burmese boys when they enter the monastery for a short time as novices or monks. The parents of boys really make it appoint that at their son’s age of 7 or older, they are admitted into Buddhist Sangha by performing this ritual ceremony.

Shinbyu has a symbolic procession and ceremony of exchanging royal attire with that of an ascetic. It follows the historical Buddha where he was born as a prince but left the palace to find the Four Noble Truths and achieve Nirvana. The boys are expected to stay at the monastery for the Buddhist teachings for a few weeks or longer. They can return when they reach the age of 20.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buddhism in Burma

Early morning around my hostel in Yangon, I saw young monks and old alike who were roaming the streets going house to house. They always walk on a single line. They were uniformly clad in their robes and holding pots to place the collected food and alms from the neighborhood. I heard that the monastery was just close by so they were always apparent in the community. These were some of the groups participated in the Saffron Revolution attributed to their robes’ color during the anti-government protests in 2007 against the fuel price increase as immediate cause.

Obviously with the presence of the pagodas in the country signifies the religiosity of the people and their adherence to the principles of Buddhism. The very landmark of the people’s faith is the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda where I witnessed people worship the images of Buddha. They pray solemnly with their hands clasped together and bow down. Some people hold and pray the rosary in their hands. I learned from a Catholic priest friend that all other rosaries of other faiths originated from Buddhism. I saw people who bath and pour water several times to an image of Buddha to bring luck in their lives.

I was amazed also that a multitude of young girls in robe and shaven heads was sitting side by side. They recited a prayer. They are novitiates to become nuns. Novice is called samaneri whereas a fully ordained Buddhist nun is called bhikkhuni. They are only fully ordained after reaching the age of 20. Samanera is the term for novice monk and fully ordained monk at age 20 to be called as bhikkhu. Both males and females follow the monastic discipline called Vinaya, a set of rules.

There is about 90% of total population of Myanmar affiliated to the Buddhism religion predominantly in Theraveda tradition. Collectively known as Sangha are the monks who are the venerated members of the Burmese society. The culture of the country is synonymous to Buddhism. Most of the events and festivals are related to their faith just like the water festival as a Burmese New Year celebration.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Myanmar completes ASEAN 10

I had to leave my hostel in Bangkok wee hours in the morning to catch up my flight at 7am to Yangon. I shared a taxi to airport with two of the guests who are also taking their early flights. It was a perfect timing to check in early. I met a lone Filipino passenger at the waiting area who was also bound for Yangon. He was LJ Pasion who will visit his mom, Ms Naida Pasion, director of an international NGO, whom I met when we arrived.

The Union of Myanmar or formerly called Burma is the largest country in terms of geographical area in the mainland Southeast Asia. It covers an area of 676, 578 sq. km. making it the 40th world’s largest country with a population of 50 million. It is ruled by a military junta. I would say that Myanmar completes my visit to all of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation 10 member countries. It does require a tourist an entry visa. I applied prior to my visit at the Burmese Embassy in Manila. Myanmar is the only country that requires visa among the ASEAN 10. They say that it was strict of people visiting the country but it was not obvious. I think only the journalists who are monitored because of some sensitive issues such as the long time detention of opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi.

The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw but the largest city is Yangon, formerly called Rangoon. The name was taken from the combination of two words, yan and koun which means enemies and run out of respectively. We landed at the Yangon International Airport which seems to be a brand new one. It is a modern airport. From there, I saw some Burmese men who offer a very cheap accommodation. I went with them because they have a big bus and had many backpackers who went with them. Along the way, I have seen beautiful landmarks such as Karaweik at Kandawgyi Lake, colonial buildings and the Schwedagon Pagoda. I checked in at Motherland Inn and a breakfast was served for free.

My Burmese friends Ye, Kay and Su whom I met in an exchange program in Japan fetched me at the airport and took me for lunch. Nyen went with our group. We had a nice conversation over some traditional food. We went on a cruise afterwards to the Yangon River with all the seagulls flying over and fed them with bread. I did some shopping for souvenirs at the Bogyoke Market. They also shopped some souvenirs for me. We visited Yele Pagoda and their homes in Kyaaktan and Bahan townships meeting their families.

On the following day, I went on a photo walk however, it was stopped by a stomach problem. I stayed at the hostel for the whole morning because of diarrhea. Later, at lunch time, I had a luncheon meeting with the Filipino community who are mostly working for international organizations such as United Nations and Save the Children Foundation. I again tasted some Pinoy food.

The highlight of my Yangon trip was my visit to Shwedagon Pagoda. It was so amazing sight. I discovered so much things about Buddhism when I met and talked to some monks in the area. It was another great experience and I think its worthy for another visit because of more exciting spots.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back to Bangkok

On my fifth time visit to Bangkok in Thailand, I went on a transit for which I am bound for Myanmar and a visit to Chiang Mai in the northern part of the country. I was alarmed at first with the Red Shirt protest issue however my trip went smoothly.

Bangkok is the capital and the primary city of Thailand, a country with a constitutional monarchy headed by the longest reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The country’s former name is Siam and it is the world’s 50th largest country in terms of total area. It covers an area of 513,000 Metro Bangkok has an area of 7, 761.50 sq. km.

Bangkok has the world’s longest place name with 168 letters. Krung Thep Mahanakon Anom Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok phop Nopphrat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Anom Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. This poetic name is abbreviated as Krung Thep meaning City of Angels. This is the full meaning of the long name: “the city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnabe city or God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly adobe where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishukarn.”

I checked in at a hostel called Discover where on a Friday, the owner usually hosts a party for the backpackers. It was a barbeque party where I met some of the Westerner guests. Prior to this, I spent my day going around downtown. I learned to go on my own this time. I have tried all modes of transportation that includes the MRT, tuktuk, motor taxi, boat & bus. I rode a government issued tuktuk which can take you to the landmarks in the downtown for about 30bahts only.

I visited a sacred temple called Wat Sitaram. It is located at Pomprapsattruphai District. The images of Buddha are pretty amazing here. I have seen the white Buddha and several stupas. I was taken by the tuktuk driver to the jewelry stores. I checked it but did not stay that long. I have crossed the Chao Phraya River by boat. From a distance one can see the beautiful Rama VIII bridge against the sunset background. At the station, I have seen few people buy food and feed the school of fish at the river. It was so amazing to watch them feed. The pigeons compete with the fish for the feeds.

The highlight of my visit to the city was seeing Wat Po. It is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha located at Phra Nakhon District just adjacent to the Grand Temple. The temple is the birthplace of the popular traditional Thai massage. It is home of the more than one thousand Buddha images. The reclining Buddha is gold plated with a measurement of 46 meters long and 15 meters high. It has mother of pearls on his eyes.

To cap my day, I treated myself with some Thai noodles and the papaya salad. This was just another great adventure.

13 Days in China on Manila Bulletin

The article, 13 Days in China was published in the Education section of the Manila Bulletin national newspaper on August 27, 2010. Here's the clip:

A Feature on Smile Magazine

I was featured on Smile, the inflight magazine of Cebu Pacific Airlines for the August 2010 issue. I was already featured before in the April-May 2007 issue in the same section of Local Life for Laoag Destination. Here are the clips:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Boklan Art

Boklan is derived from the Ilocano word Kabobokelan which literally means "where bounties of seeds are." This art is a symbol for the abundance, steadiness and hope of the Bigueños, a tribute for the bountiful harvest. The value meaning of this art is not just the image of the farmer and his carabao but also of his farm products including the seeds that make up a healthy community. This art showcases the unique spirit of support and cooperation among the stakeholders in community building through the arts.

We went to Nueva Segovia St and I have seen several groups of people busy designing and pasting the seeds on their canvas. They depicted a scene of happy people with the various landmarks and symbols of Vigan in their art designs. They made use of different kinds of seeds with different colors. Some of them were the yellow corn, black and white beans, green mongo, and red bugayong seeds. They painstakingly arranged and pasted every single seed in the board with white glue.

They started early in the morning and completed them late afternoon. These artworks really took time. They paraded the artworks at the city and were judged individually which one is the best.

This is truly an exposition of the bounties of land as well as the artistry of the locals.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carabao Painting and Pasagad Dressing

Karbo Festival is a fusion of carabao art painting and boklan art in celebration. It is still a part of the Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts. The theme was Sining at Kulturang Bigueno tungo sa Magandang Turismo.

We went to Nueva Segovia St. and have seen the farmers and their carabaos. Most people were busy preparing for the karbo festival. Some are doing the boklan art while others were painting their carabaos with colorful designs. They use the waterbase paint so it would be easy to remove from the skin of the carabaos. Some of the carabaos were painted with designs of burnay or jars while others are with the leaves of the bigaa plant, landmarks of Vigan such as the cathedral, belltower, and others.

The pasagad or sleds have been decorated with longganisa, burnay, a miniature tobacco plantation with some tricks on the well, old photos, frames, abel iloco textile, calesa carriage and other products of Vigan.

The entries were paraded along the streets. They have to water the road so as to cool off the carabaos especially that they wear paints on their bodies. It made also the road slippery and one carabao got skidded. It was good that it was controlled.

Ramada and Tres de Mayo

Tres de Mayo is a centuries-old celebration in the Heritage City of Vigan. Of course it is being held every 3rd day of May. I have witnessed this for the first time when I attended the Binatbatan Festival where my friend Glenn accompanied me to check this event.

In the morning, we attended the Holy Mass in honor of Apo Lakay, the miraculous Santo Cristo of the Simbaan a Bassit. It was said that in 1882, a deadly cholera epidemic was ceased through the intercesion of Apo Lakay. Since then, the Biguenos celebrate this day as a religious fiesta in His honor. Up to this time, pilgrims attend masses at the Simbaan a Bassit. The mass was celebrated in front of the church with the decorated ramada.

Ramada is a shade or canopy that bear different kinds of fruits. They hang their agricultural produce such as bananas, corn, garlic, coconuts, vegetables and they also add oranges and pomelos. Every barangay put up one ramada and it used to be a competition for the best decorated.
We went around the town andwe have seen decorated ramadas at each barangay. Later in the afternoon, games were conducted for the children to play and enjoy. Traditional ramada games were played such as the popular breaking the pot.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Abel Iloco of Vigan

As a result of painstaking process of binatbatan where one has to beat the cotton pods with bamboo sticks until the seeds are separated from the fluff at the initial stage of weaving plus other important procedures, a beautiful textile called abel iloco or inabel is produced.
Justify FullGlenn, my local friend took me to Rowilda’s loom-weaving shop in barangay Camangaan in Vigan City to show me how they do the weaving. I was surprised to see a very old woman who has been preparing the yarn or thread to be used in the weaving. There were several looms I saw in the shop manned by men particularly who were busy weaving when we arrived.

Rowilda shop is owned by the Panela family with Dominico and Milagros couple. They named it after their only child’s name. Dominico started his loom weaving business in 1977 equipped with his acquired skill from his ancestors. It was stopped for lack of capital and revived it in 1989 when he came back from working abroad. He bought some of the textile weaving machines of his neighbors when they started to move and work abroad. Rowilda has eight weavers that include the couple.

I have learned that dyeing of the thread is very crucial in the textile weaving. The people in the industry used to go to Mangaldan in Pangasinan to have their yarn or thread dyed with black plum which is locally known as sagut. Nowadays, dyes are all synthetic and chemical-based. They order their thread or yarn from Manila and Dominico does the spinning of the yarn so as not to produced tangles, if not it will be wasted. They kept on experimenting new designs and new products.

Products from the inabel include blankets, bags, bed linens, camisa-chino, bath towels and robes, hand towels, place mats, table napkins, runners and fabric for clothing material. Abel is also used in a glamorous fashion.