Saturday, April 28, 2012

Coming Home to your City of Dreams

Karla Delgado, a creative writing teacher at the Ateneo de Manila is one of the featured literary writers in Ruel del Vera's Connecting Flights, an Anvil publication 1st printed in 2009 about Filipinos writing from elsewhere in the world.

Karla writes about her revisit to her favorite city, Barcelona in Spain where she studied in high school. She compares the experience with Philippines cities like Baguio where she grew up and in Manila where she is currently staying.
She describes her visit as a spiritual renewal recharging from the drudgery doing chores as a mother and teacher in Manila. Concluding her short essay, she reveals her insight when it was time for her to leave. She shared, she "discovered a place of tears, a spring of wellness where it allowed her to face the fear that lurked within about crossing into a parallel reality."
Just like us travelers, we have our own city of dreams, a place which allowed us to be ourselves laveshing us with all its resources for our appreciation. It could be our hometown or our summer destination or a memorable mountain or a nature spot. 

In my case, rich memories suddenly surge back when I revisit the UP Diliman Campus, the UP Los Banos open fields, Basco in Batanes, Dumaguete in Negros, Tuguegarao in Cagayan, Sagada in Mt. Province, Kabayan in Benguet to name a number of memorable domestic places. Recalling these moments, I can resonate to how it is to come back home to, borrowing the writer's lines, "thousands of kilometers away from Manila, I have come home to myself." For it is in breathing these places, we come to better appreciate who we are.
Read the essay or get the book.

Karla P. Delgado, "Breathing Barcelona," in Connecting Flights, Filipinos Write from Elsewhere ed. Ruel S. De Vera, 95-100.  Manila: Anvil, 2010

Saturday, April 14, 2012


An alternative destination when the expressways are clogged.

Artificial lake occupying a 1,050 hectare area
It is accessible from Metro Manila (about 82 kilometer, 1 1/2 hours), yet possesses water resources, whether man-made or natural.
Caliraya strikes you as a serene place as you spot the calm lake, feel the gentle wind, walk through the Japanese garden and sense the uncrowded habitation.
It gives a top view of the Laguna de Bay and the profiles of the mountains Banahaw, Cristobal, Makiling, Calauan, Makban at the South West.

For the 1st timers, the initial sight of the Lake comes in as a surprise. It is not visible from the Laguna National Highway connecting Lumban to Kalayaan and the zigzagged Lumban-Caliraya-Cavinti road as it is perched at the ridge of the Sierra Madre. Only when you reach the elevation of 1,066 feet above sea level that the lake is revealed to you.

Water Level Gate

Torri, a scaled down Japaense Arch

So much has been written about the construction of this man-made lake which is linked to the power supply of a hydro electric dam in 1939 by the US Army. During the war in the mid 40's, there was a struggle between the Americans and the Japanese on the use of the facility causing damage. Eventually it was rebuilt by the Japanese.  In the 60's, ownership was pinpointed to 3 families. A garden was built by the Japanese government in the 70's to honor those who perished in the war. Sometime in the 80's the area was made more accessible to the general public via the opening of access roads.
I have no recollection when in the 90's I 1st drove up to Caliraya.
What I recalled though was an image of a rainy windy and cold morning painting an impression that I was in a faraway place so different from the place of work.
Google Earth Image Capture
I remembered also exploring to find waterfalls close to the Japanese garden to catch my climbing friends but ended up going in circles the whole night until I was led back to the garden via the main road.

In January 2009, with 172 other Coca-coca associates, our group supported the tree planting activity at the Caliraya watershed in Cavinti as part of the Haribon Foundation environmental conservation movement.

Since then, whenever where was a window to drive down to Laguna, I would always include Caliraya as part of the destination.

Why did I choose to revisit this year? For now, merely for the accessibility. In the near future when there is a deeper affinity between me and the lake, I may have other reasons to visit Caliraya.
Fotos courtesy of M. Averia

Monday, April 09, 2012

Respite from the City. Quick Escape

Idyllic Laguna
Friday this Holy Week provided an opportunity for a respite from work, urban traffic and routine chores.
Unsettled feeling of long weekends spent without an out-of-town trip usually shows up the week after. This is made more pronounced when friends are not available for any physical nor none face-to-face communication.
Thus it is good judgment to pull out of the city regardless of cost and distance to recharge and to breathe in a whiff of different air.

Paete Church Tower
In the past decades, extended weekends were spent at Mt. Banahaw via Tayabas in Luzon, Mt. Talinis in Dumaguete in Visayas via Cebu, or Mt. Guiting Guiting in Romblon in Luzon. More recently, it was in San Teodoro, a small quaint fishing village in Mindoro and in Baler, Aurora, all in Luzon. At times, with the luxury of prior planning, we would fly to Ho Chi Min in Vietnam, board a vessel to Borneo to climb Mt. Kinabalu.
There were moments when out-of towns were simply imagined while watching Living Asia and Discovery Channel over cable television just to provide an image of an open field, a mountain or the open sea. Done out of helplessness, it was meant to fill in a void.

Pilapil overlooking Talim Island

Conveniently, there are the nearby provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, Rizal and Laguna which provide a quick escape from the Metropolis. Travel time, as short as an hours' drive is enough to dramatically change the landscape from concrete to wood, cement to soil. Without the hassle of cramped space, mass movement and transport terminal gateways, these destinations accessible by land travel offer an equally attractive respite.

Station of the Cross Scupture

This April, welcome to Laguna described by Sampaquita in the song early 80's  as a place where winds blowing from the nearby bay, nestled against dreamlike mountains and lush forest in a land area with golden rice fields set in a vast expanse of the sea - "Hangin sa tabing baybayin Parang pangarap na tanawin Bundok na kagubatan, gintong palayan Malawak na karagatan."

Candle Offering
It ends with a statement Laguna offering a different perspective which will awaken your emotion with its beauty -"Ibang paningin ang mapapansin Na gigising sa 'yong damdamin Malalagyan ka sa 'yong nakikita'Pagkat walang kasing-ganda."
Fresh Fish and Vegeatables for Lunch
The one-day travel was contained to Kalayaan where the man-made Caliraya Lake sits, towns of Paete and Pakil, known for the century old baroque churches, woodcraft and sculpture, Siniloan up to Mabitac, gateway to Laguna from the East side.

Join our travel with fotos provided by Miko Averia. 

Biernes Santos

The Gift of the Inner Light

St. Peter Square
A day travel can likewise be a spiritual journey.  Without spirituality, respite is only temporary. The sights and sounds of people, churches, artifacts, food and nature prepare us for a better appreciation of Easter.
As I returned back to the city for the balance Holy Week activity, the message of Fr. Arnel Aquino's Easter Message said at the Cenacle Sisters' convent lingered in my mind. It centered on the Inner Light. It is this light founded on Christ that keeps us going despite the darkness we face.  It is in us and cannot be extinguished.

Stairs leading to the Cumbento

The inner light is the gift of the resurrection. To quote "This is the gift of the Resurrection—the gift of Christ nevermore to be bound by space nor time, flesh nor fragility.  So that as Spirit, he may be with all of us at the same time, forever."

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Flashback to 245 years ago

Flashback to 245 years ago in 12 hours travelling 250 kilometers by land
3 Krus atop Sierra Made Paete

Reconstructed paintings at the Ceiling of the Pakil Church
2012s’ Holy Week coverage flashed back to years 1767. 18th century was significant as this was when the churches of Paete and Pakil in Laguna were completely constructed. These churches, known for the preserved architecture and tableau reenacting the Lenten rituals were the targets of our destination. In the company of intrepid traveler Marc and photographer Miko, decades were reviewed in passing on Good Friday to commemorate the sufferings of Christ in the culminating week of the Holy Week season.
Sacritan in a rush for the 3PM rites

The one-day activity which started at 6 AM in C5 ended at the same spot after completing the loop that brought us to SLEX, around the Laguna de Bay up to Antipolo and up to Metro Manila at 6 PM.

Like our usual Luzon land travel when resources and information are within reach, this memorable event was just finalized the Maundy Thursday night before when a quorum was established. Transportation was available, camera, maps, GPS were in place and more importantly, a destination mapped out. Time was a constraint though and each of us had P 650.00 to spare for that day (covering breakfast and lunch and travel related expenses).

Pulpit posted againt solid concrete walls
Bloodied Penitent
As in the past years, travel time was in contrast to the uncomfortable and prolonged Wednesday and Thursday travelling conditions reported on media. Traffic was light including pedestrian volume at the holy sites. There was just a slight delay when we encountered the start and tail end of the Sto. Entierro (the Interred Christ) procession in Pasig along Ortigas Extension and in Makati along Kalayaan Avenue.

 Crosses at the foreground and background
Horses out of paper mache

Challenges that confronted us were not physical or logistical in nature but mental requiring decisions. We made hard decisions on questions like: “Where will we eat breakfast? (in Jollibee Lumban.) "There is a slow tricycle in front of us, should we follow the solid yellow lane restriction?" (We did.) "How much tip should we give to the parking aide at Jollibee Lumban? (P 7.0 in coins). "Do I drink a Coke or Wilkins distilled water?" (Both.)

At the Caliraya Surf Kamp, “Do we stay for the cold breeze or proceed with the church visit?” (We did stay for a while.) At the Capati restaurant in Paete, “Which fish do we order, Tilapia or Bangus? (We ordered both and were fresh and were so good!)

"Should we take Teresa or Angono on the way back?" (Teresa per Marc’s GPS.) "Should we stop for fruits along Mabitac?" (Lanzones is not in season, pina may not be sweet, only lakatan is in view, certainly not langka.) Planning to reach the Tatlong Krus of Paete, we asked, “Should we trek via the JP Rizal or drive via Longos, Kalayaan?” (a 30 minute ride via Longos and a short 5 minute trek.) "Do we do this again?"
Stoned Wall and Solid Side Doors
These situations were of course exaggerated to dramatize the pleasant 12 hour Good Friday trip where we saw the significance of the Spanish influence on Philippine history, the kindness of  local folks to strangers including police authorities who saw to our safe journey, the meaning of Christ’s absolute sacrifice for our salvation and ultimately our appreciation for our humanity.  During serious moments, we did not forget the 4 P's of Prayer: Pagpuri (Praise to our Creator), Pasasalamat (Thanks for the Gift of Family, Work,  Good Health, Friendship), Patawad (Asking for Forgiveness), and Paghingi (Favor and Guidance).

Stop Over Kitchenette after the Caliraya side trip
Travel whether long hauls or short land trips are valuable for the enriching experience. When travel triggers traditions that date back in centuries, they serve a valuable landmark. When it fulfills, it gives value to friends.

Happy Easter!

Similar maps seen in Garmin GPS and 3G Phones

Using Google Earth Version

Fotos courtesy of Miko and Marc

Lord, you know me better than I know myself.
Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.
Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.
Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.
Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation, and closed myself off from you.
Help me in the day to come, to recognise your presence in my life, to open myself to you, to let you work in me, to your greater glory.

San Pedro de Alcantara Church housing Nuestra Senora Turumba

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Thinking of Writing About

Returning back to Makati

A Friends' Travel Blog

A student blogger who aspires to travel any where in the world to see, experience and learn from what he sees.  Site is a visual blog and has a special documented section on Kalbaryo.

Exchanges between the anchor newscasters

I am impressed with the probing exchanges between the anchor newscasters of the news program "State of the Nation" over Channel 24 and their field reporters like Joseph M., Dano T and others. While initially they do not answer the questions directly, they weave a mini story in their reply to show their mastery of the subject eventually addressing them satisfactorily.

I likewise have the same assessment with the reply to the follow up questions of Julius and Ces directed to their Bandilla reporters.