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 the our 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  Leave a Comment  

Bantayog ng mga Bayani

Bantayog ng mga Bayani 1

MARCOS HORCRUX. A piece of furniture at the Malacanang Museum screams a dark history. It is a chair where Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared Proclamation 1081 on the 21st of September 1972. Two days prior to that national broadcast, Marcos has already placed the Philippines under Martial Law. This granted him the authoritarian powers that he claimed necessary to eliminate the violent overthrow of the republic and to initiate reforms under what he would call the New Society.

As the dictator, Marcos closed down Congress, sequestered big businesses and mass media, centralized the police and army, arrested his critics without due process and silenced those he considered enemies of his administration.

Bantayog ng Mga Bayani memorial wall

Bantayog monument

WALL OF REMEMBRANCE. I belong to a generation that can only learn about this dark episode in our history from reading books and making pilgrimages to places where the violence and the heroism are remembered. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City is our version of the many holocaust museums around the world. But instead of Hitler and the Nazi regime, Bantayog ng mga Bayani tells about the heroes and events during Martial Law and the Marcos regime.

Standing on the beautifully landscaped park designed by National Artist for Architecture Ildefonso P. Santos is the Inang Bayan Monument. The 45-foot bronze sculpture by Eduardo Castrillo is like Michelangelo’s  La Pieta depicting Inang Bayan lifting a fallen martyr. A portion of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios is inscribed at the base of the monument. A black granite wall with the names of those who fought the repressive regime that ruled the country from 1965 to 1986 are immortalized in the Wall of Remembrance.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Mural

BANTAYOG MUSEUM. Aside from materials that are available today, the things I knew about Martial Law, its key players and history were based from stories narrated to me by my parents. I remember a story told to me by my mother about an uncle and how he managed to slipped out of the country to escape mass arrest and avoided torture from military men. Looking at the exhibits at the Bantayog Museum made me realize that not everyone is as fortunate as my uncle.

It has been observed that Filipinos are too forgiving and too forgetful. The museum’s objective is to help people remember one of the darkest moments of our past, learn from its lessons and make sure that it never happens again.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Museum

Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Marcos

THE MARCOS DICTATORSHIP. Ascending the stairs from the museum lobby, leads to the main gallery. The first thing that greeted me was an enlarged picture of President Ferdinand Marcos with Imelda and the first family during 1965 oath taking ceremonies. Surrounding the enlarged picture are images with captions that illustrate poverty, torture and violence inflicted on protesters, and another one that explains why Marcos and Hitler are alike.

Marcos became president in 1965. During his term, the national debt grew and this was left to the Filipino people after his dictatorship. Martial Law destroyed the balance of freedom and established a culture of fear. The Marcos dictatorship was intended to rule for life to enrich its leaders and the cronies through ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the Filipino people.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Diokno

Bantayog ng mga Bayani FQS

BOMBING THE OPPOSITION. At one corner stands a life-size cut out of the eloquent opposition leader Jose Diokno speaking before a mammoth crowd during the 1971 political campaign rally at Plaza Miranda, which ended in tragedy after two grenades were tossed onstage wiping out the senatorial line-up of the opposition party.

Marcos proclaimed Martial Law thirteen months after the gruesome carnage at Plaza Miranda. Opposition leaders that survived the Plaza Miranda bombing were arrested in the first hours of the dictatorship.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Jail cell

ARRESTS HERE AND THERE AND EVERYWHERE. A dimly lit corner leads to a replica of a prison cell of activist Father Jerry Aquino. He was detained in Camp Bagong Diwa for speaking up against the Marcos regime’s excesses and for opposing the building of Chico Dam in the Cordilleras. The prison cell was cramped with a small bunk bed and toilet bowl.

Marcos kept his political enemies under tightest security in military camps nationwide because of the fear that they gain public sympathy.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Snap Elections

Bantayog ng mga Bayani People Power

THE ROAD TO EDSA. With increasing civil unrest, failing economy, uncontrolled corruption of cronies, a hostile international media, the murder of popular Senator Ninoy Aquino, the fraudulent snap election and the mutiny in the military, the tide turns against the 20-year rule of Marcos.

The historic narration of events at Bantayog Museum culminates with the exhibit depicting the triumphal 1986 EDSA Revolution with the image of Our Lady of Fatima sitting atop a replica of a military tank set against the backdrop of mass protesters.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Hall of Remembrance

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Macl-ing Dulag

HALL OF REMEMBRANCE. From the main gallery, I was led to a room that shows morbid images of dead people and the description of how they met their violent deaths. The Hall of Remembrance gives tribute to those who who died because they revealed the evils and truths of the Marcos dictatorship and fought for the restoration of freedom.

Under Martial Law, there were about 75,000 +++ human rights abuses that were documented and proven.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Fr. Valerio

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Quimpo jr.

DESAPARECIDOS. Among those who met their violent death were Emmanuel Lacaba who was shot in his mouth, Liliosa Hilao who was poisoned with acid, Antonio Hilario was buried alive, Soledad Salvador, Resteta Fernandez and Fr. Nilo Valerio were beheaded. A series of pictures showing Jun Quimpo Jr. singing with a guitar, with a toy gun and a photo after being shot.

Carlos Bernardo del Rosario, a political science instructor at PCC (Philippine College of Commerce now PUP), has held different positions in various movements in opposition to the excesses of the Marcos regime. He was last seen putting up campaign posters inside the PCC campus and was never found despite search efforts. His disappearance was the first case of the Desaparecidos.

EPILOGUE: NEVER AGAIN. The relics and exhibits at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani give names to the countless that died in the hands of a dictator, his family and his friends. But what is the point of revisiting the past? Do we have to own the pain of those who were raped, tortured, and killed during that oppressive regime? Can’t we just move on? We do not need to fan the flames of hate today. But we have to remind generations the valuable lesson that evil exists because good men do nothing.

While it is said that history is written by the victors who have hung the heroes, thus our oral and written history may be revised, but the Truth we shall all be answerable to the Higher Being.

-Feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe,O.F.M. 
patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, journalists, and the pro-life movement


Published in: on August 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm  Comments (3)