Mount Banoy


FIRST TIME CLIMBERS. I saw a poster in a neighborhood gym that describes the itinerary and schedule to climb Mount Banoy in Montalban Rizal. It looked inviting because aside from the jump-off point is barely an hour away from our where I live, the climb is scheduled on a weekend. I signed up.

One fine Sunday morning, first time mountain climbers JC, Edward, Karen and myself began our trip to the mountains of Montalban at sea level. After close to an hour of driving, we arrived at the jump-off point in Barangay San Rafael.


SAFETY FIRST. The jump-off point is also the entrance to Wawa Dam where visitors are invited to register and meet their mountain guide at the local tourism office. Here, we were given a list of activities from hiking Wawa Dam and entering Bonifacio’s Cave to trekking the mountains Pamitinan, Binacayan or Banoy.

Our local guide, Abner Mendoza encouraged us to buy rubber-padded gloves and sleeves for safety since we opted to trek Mount Banoy. Later in the day we found them very useful.



MOUNT BANOY. I have made several trips to Wawa Dam in the past but this is my first time to climb one of the mountains surrounding it. Excited, determined and clueless of what awaited us, our group began our trek to the summit of the highest of the three mountains. According to locals, banoy is Dumagat word for eagle. The peak of this mountain is said to be where the eagles eat and set their nest.

At 7:00 in morning, our local guide led us to cross the hanging bridge above the turbulent Wawa River where from a distance we see a silhouette of the mountain that we are about to climb partly shrouded in fog.



INTO THE WOODS. The first part of the trek we passed by a local community at the foot of the mountain. We walked deep into the woods under towering trees with interlocking branches that form a living canopy of evergreen. Occasionally, we would hear birds tweeting and see crawling worms and flying insects.

Our local guide explained that one can survive living in the forest by taking shelter in the caves and gather food by climbing fruit trees and digging for wild yams. Drinking water can be sourced for the several streams that lace the ethereal mountain.



THE LEGEND OF BERNARDO CARPIO. We rested beneath a massive wall of limestone. Mang Abner pointed out that this part of Mount Pamitinan is popular among rock climbers.

Here, our mountain guide narrated a story about the mythical hero Bernardo Carpio who is forever chained to keep the mountains of Pamitinan and Binacayan from colliding. It is said that whenever an earthquake occurs, it is caused by the giant trying to escape from the bowels of the mountain.



IT’S A HARD CLIMB. From the Pamitinan junction, we continued our trekking. This time Mang Abner instructed us to wear our rubber gloves and said in an a assuring voice that it’s going to be a harder climb ahead.

Sites and blogs about mountaineering describe the climb to Mount Banoy to be easy to moderate. For first time climbers, the slippery mud on river rocks, thorny branches, and sharp coral rocks are not easy or moderate at all. It is hard.



BONIFACIO’S MOUNTAIN. Upon our ascent to a spot half way to reach the summit, a spectacular view of evergreen mountain peaks greeted us.

Our country is rich in legends and history about our natural features. We took pictures with Mount Pamitinan’s summit in the background. There is cave in Pamitinan where a year before the 1896 Revolution, Andres Bonifacio with eight men inscribed on the cave wall what could have been the first declaration of Philippine Independence.



BUWIS BUHAY SHOT. Our veritable guide would volunteer to take our photos and would even give instruction on how we should position. We later learned that the mountain guides would compared their photos once they see them online and take the credit for the best shots.

There is one time when Mang Abner insisted that each of us strike a pose while at the edge of a protruding rock.  After some convincing I agreed then when I looked down, I blurted Kuya, Nah. It’s a deadly ravine. Then I looked down again. Nope talaga. Pass muna.



WELCOME COMMITTEE. After four hours of climbing and picture-taking, we approached the summit of Mount Banoy expecting to see an eagle in its nest having a meal, after all the mountain is named after the Dumagat word ‘eagle’ because the haring ibon is said to dine and sets its nest on the mountain peak. Instead, we were greeted by dragonflies, butterflies and bees and at 500 plus plus meters above sea level a breath-taking sea of green that is the Sierra Madre mountain range and primeval Wawa river and its gorge.

EPILOGUE. Everyone should climb a mountain once in while. After climbing a mountain for the first time, I realize that there is truth to the saying to Keep close to nature’s heart… Climb a mountain, spend a day in the woods, wash your spirit clean.

October 4, 2016
Feast of St. Francis de Assisi, patron saint of nature

Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 12:01 am  Comments (1)  

Quezon Memorial Shrine


THE CAPITOL ROTUNDA. As I stared over a cup of freshly brewed coffee on the kitchen counter, I began to crave for Pinoy breakfast. It being a nice day, we thought of having brunch in a park that is closer by. From San Mateo, we went to Quezon City. When approaching the Elliptical Road from Commonwealth Ave., three-column marble towers dominate the skyline. This is the Quezon Memorial Shrine.

The shrine is within the Quezon City Circle. In 1941, this 25-hectare rotunda was intended to be the site of the House of Congress. With the War, the death of President Manuel Quezon, and the new site to house the Legislature, the area was turned into a park and a fitting memorial to the Commonwealth President and the city’s founder.



A SHRINE TO PRESIDENT QUEZON. It was President Sergio Osmeña who initiated a nationwide contest for architects and artists to submit a design for a monument and resting place for President Manuel Quezon. The contest was won by Federico Ilustre who designed one of the most beautiful monuments in the country.

The monument has nationalistic and Masonic symbols. The wide staircase beginning from the base to the tip of the towers measure 66 meters represents Quezon’s age when he died. In Masonic traditions, a stairway is featured in first degree Masonic initiation ceremony to symbolize Jacob’s dream of a ladder leading upward to heaven. A stairway represents lessons learned in life. Columns are prominently featured in Masonic architecture. A group of three columns implies perfection.  The three winged-angels symbolize the country’s major island groups, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The towers stands on a triangle base with bas-relief on the sides depicting historic events. In the Masonry, the triangle has been a traditional emblem for God as popularly represented as the All seeing eye. In 1933, Quezon wrote a handwritten retraction from the Masonry after he reached the 33rd Degree.



QUEZON MEMORIAL MUSEUM. After a hefty brunch at Circles Cafe, we walked passed the taho vendors and the fitness buffs doing zumba towards the Quezon Memorial Shrine. A door at the base of the monument opens to a narrow corridor that leads to a museum.

In an extensive arrangement and display are artifacts and memorabilia that narrates the life and political career of President Quezon.



LIFE OF QUEZON. The walkway leading to the first gallery has an enlarged photo of a young Quezon as a comandante in Aguinaldo’s army during the Filipino-American War. Don Manuel Quezon became a household name in the 1930s when he became Senate President and later when he won the presidency of the Commonwealth.

As Commonwealth President, Quezon and his family were the first Filipino residents of Malacanang Palace. One of the galleries shows the arrangement of the original furniture in Quezon’s office.



COMMONWEALTH ERA. We spent a lot of time in the hall filled with artifacts from the Commonwealth Era. There is huge contraption that was used to stamp the seal of the Commonwealth on documents. There is also a gold-gilded ceremonial chest where the original copy of the 1935 Constitution was kept.

President Quezon was an undisputed leader that dominated this historic timeline called the Commonwealth Era where the US  established a ten-year transition period before granting the country an autonomous government that is run by Filipinos. It was an era marked by Filipinos ‘feeling secure under the mantle of the United State.’ What Nick Joaquin coined as Peacetime was abruptly ended by World War II.


QUEZON’S SARCOPHAGUS. President Quezon fled to the US during the Japanese Occupation and spent his last days bedridden. He died on August 1, 1944 from complications of tuberculosis. In 1979, the remains of President Quezon were interred in the national shrine.

Our tour of the Quezon Memorial Shrine ended at a narrow doorway that leads to the central podium of the monument where a stairway rises to the President’s sarcophagus.

17 September 2016
The day when Manuel Quezon won
the Commonwealth President post in 1935

Published in: on September 17, 2016 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ayala Museum

Ayala Museum

WHEN HISTORY COMES ALIVE. Philippine history can be a boring subject. Depending on how the topics are presented, stories about the olden times, how our ancestors lived, how our heroes died can be fascinating when it is entertainingly and creatively narrated. As the cliché goes, this is when history comes alive!

We were at the Ayala Museum for the first time to attend one of Ambeth Ocampo‘s weekend lectures. Home to ancient artifacts and well-curated exhibits that narrate our nation’s historical timeline, the museum is a fitting and potent setting for our country’s most popular historian to discuss about everything and anything about Philippine history.

Ayala Museum exhibit

Ayala Museum Damian Domingo

ART FOR ALL. The six-floor building has a permanent exhibit of ancestral gold that were unearthed from pre-colonial grave sites. While it is not clear when our ancestors first learned to mine gold, but the earliest gold artifacts date back as far as 500 BC. Visitors can view up-close priceless ancestral gold used as personal ornaments like barter earrings, anklets, bracelets, woven belts, necklaces and burial face ornaments that is believed to give its wearer greater privilege in the afterlife.

The museum has a collection of rare drawings from the 19th century album of Damian Domingo. Two of these albums are in the US and two are in local private collection. The Ayala Museum reprinted the Damian Domingo drawings in pencil cases, greeting cards, stationary and made the rarest art of a Filipino old master available for all to bring home.

Ayala Museum Chinese junk

Ayala Museum diorama

BOAT GALLERY. It is only in the Ayala Museum you can find a boat gallery that shows in miniature models a myriad of watercraft that sailed on our lakes and rivers in the olden days.

Chinese junks with its mighty sails and roofed quarters for its sailors transported traders to the different islands to barter goods. The royal galleons that carried the colony’s products to Mexico and in some occasions became warships. The cascos with awnings of nipa navigated the length of Pasig river and sailed the wide Laguna de Bay to ferry passengers and produce to the countryside.

Ayala Museum Declaration of Independence

Ayala Museum diorama exhibit

DIORAMAS. The timeline of Philippine history is visually narrated in 60 dioramas. The intricately detailed dioramas were made by unnamed craftsmen from the chisel town of Paete in Laguna.

The diorama exhibit is a good introduction to learning Philippine history because it highlights the significant events and important turning points that led to our natinoahood. However, this outline should not replace the main text we study in school, those details we research in our library and read from books because memorizing key dates and historic names and places do not make sense out of context.

Ayala Museum Ambeth Ocampo lectures

Ayala Museum Ambeth Ocampo

STANDING ROOM ONLY. It was standing room only when we arrived early at the Ayala Museum for the lecture. For more than an hour we learned and were entertained. We waited in line for our turn to have our copies of Looking Back to be signed. How come the weekend lectures of the Ambeth Ocampo are always jam-packed and sold out?

EPILOGUE. Here is an excerpt of my interview with Ambeth:

Traveler on Foot: You are undoubtedly the most popular Filipino historian of this generation. You have numerous followers, influenced and inspired a lot of Filipinos to appreciate our culture, art, and history. Can you now say that this is the life that you want? What else do you want to achieve in life?

Ambeth Ocampo: As the country’s former National Historian, as allegedly the most popular historian of my generation I’d like to think I took history from the ivory towers of academe and brought it down and returned it to people where it also belongs. I wanted to share my interest and enthusiasm for history by making it relevant to people. I am an accidental historian, I didn’t plan it. Many things in my life fell on my lap and I made the most of them. Skill is nothing without opportunity and I was blessed with both. I’m lucky that I like what I’m doing such that my “work” doesn’t seem like work at all because I enjoy it–and this shows.

Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Raul Lebajo

Raul Lebajo

SURREALIST’S HOME. The slow and long travel on the infamous EDSA traffic coming from the northeast going to the southernmost city of Metro Manila were all forgotten when we stepped into a surrealist artist’s home studio in Katarungan Village, Muntinlupa.

The sprawling garden and all three floors of the Raul Lebajo estate are creation spaces where still-life images of mutant flora and fauna and botanical creatures are expressed on mural-sized canvas and on small pieces of paper. 

Raul Lebajo painting

Raul Lebajo home

RAUL LEBAJO. Surrealism was a revolutionary art movement that began in 1920s. Foremost surrealist artists paint melting clocks, floating men, strange creatures that give life of everyday objects and things that question the reality of appearance. This art movement has endured and remains popular because of its ability to unite all cultures. It is surreal because it is like in a dream.

The name Raul Lebajo is linked to Philippine surrealism. He paints familiar creatures and objects we see around us every day but in fantastic colors and dream-like forms to express his message that we must be symbiotic with nature and stop being destructive of our environment.

Raul Lebajo drawing room

Raul Lebajo 2nd floor studio

ALWAYS OUT OF THE BOX. Going up to a flight of stairs, Mr. Lebajo led us to the drawing room on the second floor where he does pencil sketches. Facing the artist’s drawing table is a painting that made me feel claustrophobic. Starring at it for a while, the respected artist broke the silence by explaining the thematic message of the piece, kinahon ang tao so they are struggling to go out of the box.

At one corner is a collection of miniature earthenware from Luz Gallery. They serve as an endless source of inspiration. The huge painting and the collectibles give us a clue that no matter how surreal and out of the box Lebajo’s artworks may appear on canvas or on paper, they are firmly rooted in shapes and forms drawn from real, everyday objects.

Raul Lebajo 3rd floor studio

Raul Lebajo home studio

CREATIVE CLUTTER. Art supplies and unfinished works on canvas take much of the tall space on the third floor studio. Here, music from a small transistor radio fills the room.

A monobloc chair in one corner is painted with colorful dots. There is a display of action figures, a primitive bulol, and some disparate objects. All and the rest of the creative clutter we can only guess to have inspired the artist to play with forms that later appeared in his works.

EPILOGUE. We remain avid fans of our local talent and them having us in their home studio to listen to their stories, their opinions, and dreams, that experience is surreal.

Click here for more blogs about our visits to Filipino artists in their home studios.

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Lucky Salayog

Lucky Salayog

JUST GOT LUCKY. Two years ago, I found a broken santo in a dumpster. I brought it home and thought for a while what to do with it until sculptor Lucky Salayog took the armless statue of Jesus into his studio.

A month later, Lucky returned to our house with the sculpture. We were impressed at how he recreated the missing left arm with construction nails. He explained that the nails are symbolic of the passion of Christ. The right arm was fashioned from found metal scraps, a fitting metaphor for healing and renewal. What used to be an armless icon is now welcoming our visitors with open arms into our home.

Lucky Salayog artist

Lucky Salayog workshop

METAL SCULPTOR’S HOME-STUDIO. The Salayog home, located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre in Montalban, Rizal is Lucky’s studio. His workshop is located at the back of their kitchen where he assembles his sculptures made of found metal pieces. When creativity overflows, Lucky spills it out in his garage that is filled with junk shop-finds from metal doorknobs and springs to bicycle and motorcycle parts.

On living room walls are his paintings of birds and windmills. Currently, these are his favorite subjects, but it is in his sculpture that Lucky is best known for.

Lucky Salayog flying machine

Lucky Salayog exhibit

FLYING MACHINES. During our visit at Lucky’s studio, he was preparing for his first solo exhibit. His body of works is about man’s ingenuity, imagination, and dream of defying gravity to be high in the sky, above the clouds, reaching for the stars through flying machines.

Powered by a crank is a wind turbine with sails made from denim cloth. A screw-like propeller that brings to mind Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing of an air screw that was designed to compress air to obtain flight. There is an elaborate, complicated-looking contraption that powers metal oars to propel an airship.

dream to fly

EPILOGUE: DREAM TO FLY. On one afternoon this August, Lucky’s flying machines will grace our home with an art exhibit entitled Dream to Fly.

Click here for blogs about our visits to Filipino artists’ in their home studio.


Published in: on August 20, 2016 at 5:43 am  Comments (2)