Manila Central Post Office

NOSTALGIC FOR CHRISTMAS CARDS. Times are changing. There are more and more things to be nostalgic about. As a child, receiving and sending Christmas cards signaled the happiest season of the year. I remember my folks would start writing Christmas cards in lengthy notes and sending them to the post office as early as November so that our relatives in the US would receive them in time for the holidays. By December, I would regularly open the mail box attached to our gate (a feature we rarely see in contemporary houses today) to gather the sealed envelopes and peel off the stamps.

Nowadays, we receive holiday greetings through instant text messages and emails most of the time, in a form of copied or templated greetings. We seldom write Christmas cards in all seriousness and send them via the post office. Longing for childhood Christmases, I went to the Manila Central Post Office a few days before Christmas to send some greeting cards to friends just like how my parents and grandparents did it in the past.

POST OFFICE BY THE RIVER. The Manila Central Post Office is located in what used to be a sprawling Plaza Arroceros that extended far to where the Metropolitan Theater and Manila City Hall now stands. It was renamed Plaza Lawton during the Commonwealth Era and recently as Liwasang Bonifacio with a monument to the revolutionary leader, Andres Bonifacio as the centerpiece. At the rear of this impressive building, is the primordial Pasig River flanked by Jones and MacArthur Bridges. To build a post office by the ancient river was strategic during an era when goods and mail were transported via steam-powered vessels.

Bathe in mid-morning sunlight, the monumental structure glimmered like a Roman temple to an important god. The entire length of the main building is elevated from the road by a flight of stairs that leads to a magnificent colonnade guarded by sixteen Ionic columns.

THE BURNHAM PLAN. Past the arcade, people enter into the vastness of the main lobby through a march of doors and transact in the tall grilled windows. Clean, elegant lines, graceful and dignified this iconic building is a manifestation of the Burnham Plan.

The Neoclassical style dominated the architecture of government buildings during the American years. The Manila Central Post Office was merely a part of a greater design by Daniel Burnham. The famous urban planner was sent to the Philippines in the early 1900s to draw a plan for a modern state capitol. Burnham’s ambitious design for Manila was to mirror Washington D.C. with a Capitol Hill that would rise along Taft Avenue facing the bay (A tasteless Torre de Manila occupies this area today), a reflecting pool in the center with the Rizal Monument at the Luneta end. Just like the National Mall, government buildings would be arranged in a formal pattern around this quadrangle. Of the proposed neoclassical structures for Manila, only the Legislative, Finance and Agriculture buildings that now house National Museum complex, and the Manila Central Post Office were completed.

OBRA NI JUAN ARELLANO. The US-trained Filipino architect, Juan Arellano designed the Manila Central Post Office building. His works include the original Jones Bridge (with allegorical figures in Beaux Arts style that we can only see in old photos), the Legislative Building, the Metropolitan Theater and other iconic structures that represent the architectural face of the American Era around the country.

Construction of the post office began in 1926 under the supervision of the engineering firm Pedro Siochi and Company. The post office sustained heavy damages during the Liberation in 1945 but it survived the hasty reconstruction a year after the war. The postwar building still bears the chastity of the original and stands as a memorial to Arellano’s magnum opus.

AMERICAN TROPICAL. After depositing my mail, I started exploring the building for the first time. Though European in look and feel, the post office building is designed for the tropics. Generous light and air at main lobby streams through the grillwork and awning windows above the doors. The ornate grillwork is repeated in the staircases that leads to the upper floors of the five-floor building.

The two semi-circular drums on each end of the rectangular mast is topped with half domes. An atrium lends natural light to the parcel and registered mail sections. The highly decorated ceiling and wainscoting are attributed to the sculptor Isabelo Tampingco, whom Arellano often worked with.

POSTAL AND PHILATELIC HISTORY. A postal museum is set in one corner of the main lobby. Displayed were equipment used by the post office in earlier times to weigh and postmark letters and packages. Also on exhibit is a maquette of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) Monument by French sculptor Charles René de Paul de Saint-Marceaux that shows five Beaux Arts figures floating around the globe representing the continents. The granite and marble monument was erected in 1909 at the UPU headquarters in Switzerland.

The postal museum occasionally hosts a philatelic congress to display collectible stamps. Special tours were conducted to retell the beginnings of the postal services in the country. The first post office was established in Manila in 1779. It was housed in the Aduana by the riverside of Intramuros. The first postage stamp was issued in 1854 bearing the profile of the reigning monarch of the time, Isabela II. The word Filipinas first appeared on stamps in 1872 with King Amadeo’s portrait. The last stamp issues by Spanish colonial government bears the image of the boy king, Alfonso XIII in 1898. During the Philippine Revolution, crudely printed stamps were issued with the word Filipinas and emblems of the Katipunan. In 1906, the US Insular Government issued its first stamps. Images of Jose Rizal and paintings of Fernando Amorsolo appeared in stamps during the American Era. During the Japanese Occupation, stamps were used for cultural propaganda with text that says Congratulations/Fall of Bataan and Corregidor 1942. Stamps in this period also bear a juxtaposition of the images of Mayon Volcano and Mount Fuji with text in Nipongo.

LOCK BOX. At the side of the postal exhibit are stairs leading to the Lock Box area at the lower floor. Post Office (PO) boxes were popular alternatives to mailing addresses. Lock boxes can be rented for a fee.

Doors at the lock box section leads to the back doors that opens to a wharf by the Pasig River. Urban legends says that the lock box section were used for tortures and as a prison during the Japanese Occupation.

EPILOGUE: MONUMENT TO SELF-GOVERNMENT. A fitting finale to that mid-morning trip to the Manila Central Post Office is to view the heroic statue of the mamang kartero facing the flag framed by the Arellano’s columns in homage to the couriers that delivered greeting cards that gave me happy memories of childhood Christmases.

In the fast internet age, it maybe a hard sell to keep the tradition of sending mail through the post office. However, Arellano’s neoclassical magnum opus must be preserved as a monument, a tasteful reminder to generations of that time when Filipinos were being readied for self-governance and democracy.

– January 14, 2019 | TOF 11th Year Anniversary

Published in: on January 14, 2019 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

A Cultural Tour of Metro Manila

FESTIVAL DAY.  An hour before sunrise, the palengke in Cubao and Divisoria begins to swell with early shoppers. The prayerful flocks inside the churches of Quiapo, Baclaran, and in the Sta. Clara Monastery in Quezon City. The rising sun lights up the preserved ruins of Intramuros and the elaborate façade of the Metropolitan Theater and the National Museum. In EDSA and Makati City, there is a choking traffic from the morning and afternoon rush hour and anarchy rules on the streets where sidewalk and roving vendors offer a wide-variety of street food from boiled and skewered bananas to santol and green mangoes with bagoong. There is a festival in front of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

From morning to sundown, Metro Manila is exploding with so many flavors and things artistic and cultural to experience so we asked artists, writers, and fellow travelers to provide us with a personalized cultural guide to our beloved national capital.

MANILA IN 24 HOURS. Famous for his contemporary rebulto on wood, Thirteen Artists Awardee and serial creative Riel Hilario provides this itinerary:

My 24 hours would start mid-morning at 10 AM. Breakfast in Intramuros area. San Agustin Church and its Museum, then its the Masters Hall at the National Museum. Lunch at the esteros of Binondo. Head out to Makati to the Pasong Tamo galleries. On to Ayala Museum and merienda at M Cafe. An easy walkabout in BGC. Head south to Conrad Hotel for some drinks. Sunset watching at the Bay. Perhaps a gala show at the CCP. So end the night there or back in Makati. Next morning, breakfast in Greenhills. Some galleries in the area. Exit Manila before lunchtime.

MANILA’S MERRY MIXES. Food historian and award-winning writer, Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria shares:

Sample folk food. Some names may sound Spanish or Mexican but the dishes have a Filipino heart and soul: tamales made with coconut milk; adobo cooked in palm or sugarcane vinegar; sourish and brothy sinigang; the savory, boiled, meal-in-a-pot pochero with native banana, cabbages, sweet potatoes and a flavor-layered eggplant relish; kare-kare oxtail stew with subtleties from peanut and annato. Don’t pass up a morning cup of thick chocolateh served with a sopas ranging from budbud or suman (finger shaped rice or millet with coconut milk and wrapped in palm or banana leaves), buttery ensaymada, or biscuits baked in a wood-fired oven. And don’t miss afternoon merienda with its array of baked goods ranging from street breads to fancy egg yolk-rich yema puddings.  Halo-halo, mix mix, a symphony of syrupy fruits, beans, custard and ice cream to which have been added textural punctuations like pounded and puffed rice called pinipig. Philippine rum and brandy are internationally acclaimed. Liqueurs from island citruses dayap, dalandan, and kalamansi and tuba wine from coconut palm stamp island happiness on the tastebuds forever.

A DOSE OF CULTURE. Staunch heritage advocate and the man behind FEU’s vibrant student concert performances, Martin Lopez recommends:

Start and end your day at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Build up your appetite by following the joggers around the CCP including up and down the main driveway. Cool off and have breakfast at Pancake House in Harbour Square across the CCP Little Theater. Return to the CCP to see what is on exhibit. Then, cross Roxas Boulevard and head to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and spend a couple hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. You can have lunch there. If you can still take in one more museum, spend the afternoon in the National Museum of Anthropology or the National Gallery of Art. Alternatively, you can spend your afternoon walking the cobble stoned streets of Intramuros. Catch the sunset from the roof deck of the Bay Leaf Hotel. You can have cocktails and dinner there. Finally, return to the CCP for a performance in one of its halls.

MANILA I’M COMING HOME. Artist, writer and editor of the iconic 10-volume Filipino Heritage, Alfredo Roces regularly flies from Sydney to Manila to attend art shows and meet fellow artists shares: 

Last time I was in Manila we did a quick tour of museums. As we were in Urdaneta Village we started with Ayala, then the CCP, then the Met and then the National Museum. That was interesting. I would say try to add Intramuros, Fort Santiago-San Agustin Church. Catch some current events. We saw the Artfair and an art auction. Divisoria is interesting.

EPILOGUE: MANILA SUNSET. So there, a personalized cultural guide to Metro Manila from our country’s art and culture authorities. So find some time to explore our national capital until sundown and watch how the tropical sun paints the city with that unrivaled incandescent golden glow that makes us sing:

Hinahanap hanap kita Manila
Ang ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga
Mga jeepney mong nagliliparan
Mga babae mong naggagandahan
Take me back in your arms Manila
And promise me you’ll never let go
Promise me you’ll never let go
Manila, Manila
Miss you like hell, Manila
No place in the world like Manila
(Manila by Hotdogs)

Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Casa Manila Museum

LIFESTYLE OF THE DE BUENA FAMILIA. Life was predictable. In the early light of morning, the Don rises for a cup of thick chocolate and then proceeds to the despacho that is located at the entresuelo to dictate a letter or two to his scribe. It was very rare for a Don to pen anything by himself in the olden days. He then goes to the comedor to meet with his family for breakfast.  At early noon he goes to the zaguan where the carruaje awaits him for a trip downtown to transact business. At one in the afternoon he returns home to eat lunch, after which he takes hours of quiet siesta in the cuarto. At four, he rises for merienda that the mayordoma has prepared for him at the airy caida. As afternoon’s end is near, he takes his family to ride with him in the elegant barouche for a paseo just outside the walls of the city. When the Angelus bells rang from the sixteen chapels and churches of Intramuros at six in the evening, all would stop for the oracion and the family returns to the house to continue reciting the rosary in the oratorio.

From seven o’clock onwards, the family receives visitors for an evening of brandy and tertulia in the sala mayor. The comedor is reset for hot supper at eleven. The guests leave the Don’s house before midnight. The Don lights his last cigar for the evening at the azotea while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobble and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his great voice booming through the night, Guardia serno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o. Lights out.

A NOSTALGIA MUSEUM. The last lines of the previous paragraph were lifted from one of Nick Joaquin’s short stories who in many of his works has romanticized the genteel lifestyle of the de buena familia living in Pre-War Intramuros.  A similar story line is conveyed in each room of Casa Manila. This nostalgia and lifestyle museum is a reproduction of a bahay-na-bato that was built during the Spanish Colonial period, restored by a wealthy bachelor Don in the 1880s. He loved to entertain and eventually he married, had his extended family and servants stay in the house until the 1920s.

While the structure and the story line were newly conceived, the museum’s contents are centuries-old. The Furniture and Furnishings in Filipino Ancestral Houses were sourced from old homes and were arranged in each room in an evocative setting. Entering the casa through its main portal, which is directly accessible from the cobbled Calle Real felt strangely like walking into a cold and damp dungeon. The wooden door is wide and tall enough to allow the passage of the carruaje to park in the zaguan. The zaguan is paved with piedra china. These blocks of white stone were originally used as ballast of galleons. There is a wrought-iron bastonerang de hierro in the zaguan. Facing this 1880’s neo-Renaissance cane and hat rack is the main stairway.

THE DON WORKS FROM HOME. Ascending the stairs led to the entresuelo. This space has low ceiling because it is sandwiched by the ground and second floors. It houses two guestrooms and the home office. The Don opens the guestrooms in the entresuelo for his country cousins or a bachelor uncle. The bedrooms are furnished with a four-poster bed, a painadora with mirror and wash basin and a low comoda that also serves as bedside table.

The entresuelo has a long bench that resembles a church pew called a capiya. Tradespeople and tenants sit here while waiting for their turn to make a call on the Don who is also a landlord. The Don transact business in the despacho that is furnished with bookshelves, an executive desk, a caja de hierro, a gilt vargueño for keeping stationery and land titles, and a special escritorio made with double flip top so that the Don and his business partner could sign important documents while facing each other.

KAPAG GALING SA PARIS, WALANG KAPARIS. Up the second floor is the main living quarters. This space has a familiar feel to it probably from the books I read that vividly describes life in the olden days or from those out-of-town trips as a child to a great grand uncle’s house where we would climb a narrow staircase that lead to the spacious caida.

In the days of the Don, guests are welcomed at the caida. Here, new acquaintances are expected to by overwhelmed by envy from the grand murals, exquisite paintings, and ostentatious display of wealth through fine furniture like the ball and claw marble top center table and object d’art which are all imported from Europe. Like most de buena familia of that generation, they believe in the adage Kapag galing sa Paris, walang kaparis.  The Señora and her niñas spends much of their days in caida playing games like sungka and doing embroidery while the Don trains his son to play chess or demonstrates his moves as a master chess player on the same table.

TERTULIAS AND BAILES AT THE SALA MAYOR. As I entered the sala mayor through the tall double doors, I wondered how people in the olden days survived living in ancestral houses without the benefits of air-conditioning or electrical lighting. The answer: the tall ceiling and grand windows that allow gentle breezes and generous sunlight to fill the rooms. Light is filtered by the translucent capiz window panels and fine floral traceries on the transomes.

The Don opens the sala mayor only to old friends and important visitors. On evenings, faint laughter from the gentry and flutter of abanicos are heard while the host and guests casually lounge on choice seats: mariposa sofa, divan, butacas and sillons for the tertulia. The tertulia is a set of impromptu performances where everyone gathers around the music nook to watch the Señora and a lady guest recite poems and play music from the piano or the harp. The Don hosts bailes usually on dia de su santo, saint’s feast days and during special occasions where a string band opens their evening performance with a sharp rigodon and in between the poetry readings and singing with waltzes, habaneras, danzas, and fandangos.

ORATORIO, CUARTOS, AND APARADOR DE TRES LUNAS. Off to the side of the grand sala are the bedrooms that can be accessed by passing through the oratorio. Here, the Don, his entire family, including household servants squeezed into the prayer room with statues and relics of saints in a neo-Gothic altar for the recitation of the Holy Rosary.

Dominating the master bedroom is the towering aparador de tres lunas. This particular piece is a known status symbols in that period.  The massive three-door narra cabinet, surmounted by a crown of fretted scroll work is named for the mirrors attached to its doors.

THE COMEDOR ON CHRISTMAS DAY. As I walk into the dining room, I imagined this long table where every family member and invited guests were feasting on sumptuous Yuletide meals. It is generally believed that food must be abundant on the table on Christmas Day and New Year’s midnight meal to bring good fortune in the following year. The requisites of the Christmas table are the pavo or stuffed turkey with truffles, pate de foie gras, olives, red peppers, minced meats and sausages, almonds and chestnuts and the hamon en funda flavored with cinnamon, bay leaf, pepper, and glazed with panocha. The conchinillo asado that is so tender a plate is used to cut the meat instead of a knife is the table centerpiece surrounded by paella, estofado de lengua, fritada de carne, relleno de cebollas, and golden brown empanadas.

The Don is lucky to have invited guests from Pampanga who brought him sans rival from Sta. Rita and pastillas de leche from Magalang to add to the tocino del cielo, dulce de cajel, carmelito and imported turron and mazapan desserts. The diners were particularly fond of the intricate designs of stylized flowers and leaves, birds in mid-flight, a nipa hut, a provincial lass, a farmer pounding rice accompanied with names, season’s greetings and messages found in the pabalat or pastillas paper wrapper cutouts that were dangling from the four-tiered fruit tray.

COCINA. The kitchen is hectic in almost all hours of the day, especially on days when the Don had to entertain on a grand scale during fiestas or on special occasions and when hosting meals for a visiting royalty or fellow de buena familia.

At the center of the cocina is a plain long table that serves both as dining table for the servants and work table for ironing clothes using the prensang de corona and for kneading dough to make breads and cookies.  It is also used a chopping board. The main feature of the kitchen is the stove on a low stone table where clay pots and iron-cast pans are held up by three stones and a pugon with its bulbous dome. Fire wood is used for both pugon and stove. Also a standard in kitchens of the olden days were the paminggalan and banggera. The paminggalan is the slatted cupboard in the corner used for storing leftover and preserved food. The banggera is an extended window sill made of wooden slats where newly-washed plates and glasses were racked to dry in the wind.

TIME-HONORED KITCHENWARE. Found in the cocina are the Classic Filipino Kitchenware that remain charming and nostalgic of the culinary traditions of the olden days. The Don gives away home-made cookies with figure of the Augustinian saint so the kitchen has a mould where the dough is pressed into it to make the Curative Pan de San Nicholas. On the table is the brass chocolatera and batirol used by the trusted mayordomo in making thick chocolate-eh for the Don’s desayuno.

Other time-honored kitchenware found on counter are the baskets used for winnowing rice, storing and transporting produce and fish from the market. There is a kudkuran with the head of a lizard used for grating coconut meat. There are copper kettle, brass calderos, and cast-iron pans that were already used in kitchens as early as 1609. There are wooden sandok in a kamot jar, which was used for fermenting liquids and condiments. Its name came from the scratch-like parallel indentation on the pot’s shoulder.

KITCHEN EXTENSIONS. At the side of the kitchen are the washrooms. The toilette is in a small room. It has two box-like contraptions of plain wood with a hole at center that functions as the toilette seat. The bathroom is in much larger room to accommodate huge Martabana jars for storing water and the bathtubs.

Located just outside the kitchen is the azotea. This outdoor space functions as a service kitchen for butchering fowl and laundry works. There is a pocket garden in the azotea of mostly culinary herbs and medicinal plants that are grown in terracotta and glazed pots: oregano, lemongrass, chives, pandan, chili labuyo, wansoy, kinchay, spring onions, and sabila are the requisites.  In one corner of the azotea is the aljibe, a water cistern that gathers rainwater used for washing. The Don would sometimes have a quiet time in the azotea to catch some fresh air while smoking cigar and looking at the courtyard below.

ESCAPE TO THE ZAGUAN. The back stairs in the azotea functions as an emergency escape route in case of fire or social upheavals. It leads down to the courtyard and the zaguan where the Don keeps a carozza used in processions and his fleet of vehicles; a caruaje for daily use, an elegant coach or barouche to show off during paseo, and a jitney for excursions and long drives to the countryside. The first two are horse-powered. Fine stallions are housed in the cuadra located in one side of the courtyard.

The Don had a fountain and water feature built in the courtyard where goldfishes and waterlilies thrive. In some occasions, table silver and jewelry are lowered in the slimy bottom of the fountains and albije to hide them from the tulisanes in times of upheavals.

EPILOGUE: BLOG INSPIRATION. It was dark when I stepped out of Casa Manila into the cobbled street of Calle Real where a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds, save where an evil old moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable the window. While from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobbles, and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his voice booming through the night: 

Guardia serenoo-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o!

There is a wealth of literature to share about life and the values in the olden days that can serve as our guide for the future and how to act with intelligence, taste, and morality in the present. My inspiration and references for this blog were from Nick Joaquin’s short story May Day Eve, Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s books Turn of the Century and Philippine Food and Life, Doreen Fernandez’ and Martin Tinio’s essays in the book World of 1896, Fernando Zialcita’s iconic Philippine Ancestral Houses, Governor Jaime Laya’s Letras y Figuras, and Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria’s books Household Antiques and Heirlooms and The Governor-General’s Kitchen.

-Eid al-Adha | 1 September 2017

Published in: on September 1, 2017 at 9:26 pm  Comments (3)  



MEET THE PILGRIMS.  Traveling with friends I haven’t seen in years is a special occassion to touch base and recall the good old days when we were in what used to be an all-boys Catholic school in Mendiola.  The itinerary set for us by Moses, who came to town after recently passing the bar exam in Australia covers a thanksgiving pilgrimage in Manaoag, lunch in Alaminos, dinner in Pampanga, and several hours on the road. The pilgrims aboard two SUVs rendezvoused at a 24-hour burger joint along NLEX. In the one SUV were Moses, Niño, JM,  Rod, and myself. In the other were Traj, Laica, Lailani, Mickey, and Casey.

At 5 a.m., like rowdy school children on a field trip, we rolled northwest through Bulacan and the last town of Tarlac to reach urbanized Urdaneta City.  We knew we were in rural Pangasinan when the monotonous view of rice fields and sugar cane plantations were broken by alternating vistas of nipa mangroves, fishpond, and stalls selling freshly harvested oysters along the highway.



SITIO SANTA MONICA. The town of Manaoag was originally named after the mother of the saint that founded the Augustinian order. The Augustinians established Sitio Santa Monica in 1595 and was succeeded by the Dominicas in 1605.

Wedding rites were being held when we arrived in Manaoag Church at mid-morning. Under the enormous, octagonal dome in front of the main altar were a couple exchanging I do’s before the ivory image Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Manaoag.



THE LADY WHO CALLS. How the town was renamed
Manaoag is narrated in a folk story. A farmer on his way home from a day on the field was surprised to see a glowing tree that took the shape of the Virgin Mary. A voice from the apparition instructed him to build a church on the site. He rushed to the mission house to report the message but he was dismissed by the friar. The story of the apparition spread throughout other towns and soon pilgrimages were made on apparition site of the Dinad Apo ya mantatawag (the Lady who calls). The phrase was eventually made shorter to Manaoag.

Just like the generations of pilgrims who came to the town of Manaoag, our group whispered our prayers to the Lady who calls.



PILGRIM RITUALS. It has been a tradition among pilgrims to light candles with their petitions at the candle gallery behind the church. Prayer candles with printed image of the Virgin are sold by ambulant vendors and at the church’s souvenir shop. Some votive candles come in different shapes and colors.

At the souvenir shop, pilgrims buy statues of the Virgin, rosaries, and bottles of coconut oil that is believed to be a cure-all for different illnesses. Some bottles sold along the roadside contain roots and sundry objects infused in oil. Pilgrims gather around a priest stationed near the holy water dispenser to have their religious articles blessed. Some pilgrims request the priest to recite prayers and sprinkle holy water into their vehicles.



THE ROADSIDE EMPORIA. Outside the church complex is a kaleidoscope of local colors, flavors, and shapes from the yellow green banana leaf wrapped around the yummy tupig and the glossy golden basket that contains the patupat, an Ilocano version of suman to the sweet chico pineras and cylindrical rootcrop called togue.

From the roadside emporia, I finally choose to bring home an alat basket with its flexible bamboo cone lid called the hasang where freshly caught fish is dropped into this wide-shouldered fish creel.



LUNCH AT ALAMINOS.  With our souls nourished and tummies starving, we left Manaoag an hour before lunch and raced further into Pangasinan to Alaminos, a town famous for the Hundred Islands. But for a group of hungry friends, Alaminos will forever be synonymous to the warm hospitality and sumptuous lunch prepared for us by Hecson Lee.

For lunch, Hecson served us with food to die for begining with the papaitan. Paired off with steaming, fragrant rice, the shrimp and crabs dish were heavenly. The longanisa, the bangus, and the chopseuy are found elsewhere but the fliar and flavor is endemic only in the Alaminos home of Hecson Lee. Before leaving, our thoughful host gave each of us a personalized souvenir.



PALUTO IN PAMPANGA. We reached Angeles City to meet our friend Harvey just in time for dinner. A well-loved public servant, councilor Harvey served as our student council president back in college.

Just like how we were back in the day, we exchanged stories and reminisced college days while we feasted on Kapampangan-style paluto of chicharon bulaklak, liempo, bulalo, pork and chicken barbeque, stuffed hito and squid that Harvey personally selected for us from a smorgasbord of meat and seafood.


EPILOGUE. Just like for most of us with the Christmas season, December is a busy time for councilor Harvey especially a week before the Lantern Festival in San Fernando. We’re thankful we found time to reunite.

Harvey proposed to set another get together this time at Abe’s Farm in Magalang or at Atching Lilian in Mexico or witness the Mal a aldo on Good Friday. He promised to give us the front seat to this bloody street theater in barrio Cutud. With all these, we found another reason to gather for another roadtrip just like how we did in Manaoag and Hecson Lee’s Pangasinan. Pampanga is an equally interesting province waiting to be explored with friends.

-10 December 2016
Feast of the Our Lady of Loreto | Human Rights Day

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 7:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Intramuros Grand Marian Procession

Grand Marian Procession

FIESTA OFICIAL. There are two dates in December that were assigned by the Catholic Church as holy days of obligation, one is the birthday of Jesus on the 25th and the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion on the 8th. I remember back in grade school when the 8th of December was declared as fiesta oficial and our teacher would remind students to go to mass on that day.

In the Spanish colonial days, everyone attended the solemn
Te Deum at the Cathedral in Intramuros. In the evening, the Walled City was illuminated by candles from carrozas carrying images of the Blessed Mother and from every window hung the blue and white colors of the Virgin.



GRAND MARIAN PROCESSION. The tradition continues to this day in Intramuros as the Grand Marian Procession that is usually held on the Sunday closest to December 8. Venerated images of the Blessed Virgin from Piat to Zamboanga are brought out from the church’s altar and from private homes to Intramuros for this annual congress of magnificent carrozas and images of the Virgin Mary dressed in extravagant embroidery studded with gold thread and gemstones and ostentatiously accessorized with gold and silver fittings.

The procession is the longest and most flamboyant religious parade of different representations of the Mother of God in country. Images are accompanied by joyful marching bands and colorful folk dancers complete with fiesta props.

Grand Marian Procession Consolacion y Correa

Grand Marian Procession Piat

MARY LAND. The Marian cult in the Philippines began with the finding of the image of the Lady on top of a pandan bush. According to the legend, when Magellan arrived in Cebu, he presented to the wife of Rajah Humabon the images of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The converted queen chose to keep the Child Jesus. The image had become the venerated image known as the Sto. Niño de Cebu. In 1571, the a member of the Legaspi Expedition found the image of the Virgin Mary enshrined on a screw pine on a beach in the village of Lagyo. It is believe that this is the same image that Magellan presented to the queen years earlier. This image is enshrined in Ermita Church as the Nuestra Señora de Guia.

From the Nuestra Señora de Guia, a Marian cult multiplied in different parts of the country as the Nuestra Señora de la: Inmaculada Concepcion, Consolacion y Correa, Paz y Buen Viaje, Santo Rosario, Medalla Milagrosa, Dolores de Turumba, Soledad de Porta Vaga, Piat, Pronto Socorro, Perpetuo Socorro, Buensuceso, Regla, Desamparados, Divina Pastora, Porteria, Carmen, O (La O of Pangil), los Remedios, Pilar, Peñafrancia, Manaoag, Casaysay, Salambao, Aranzazu, Montserrat, Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Estrella, Angeles, Gracia, Rosa, Candelaria, Caridad and so on.

Grand Marian Procession Aetas

Grand Marian Procession Ina Poon Bato

OUR LADY OF THE AETAS. In Zambales, there is legend about the image of the Blessed Mother that antedates the arrival of the Spaniards. According to the legend, an Aeta chieftain named Djagig was resting after an unsuccessful hunt when he heard a woman’s voice calling Djagig take me home. Turning around, he found an image of a woman perched on a rock. The chieftain took it home but his disappointed wife threw it into the fire but the image did not burn. Djagig announced the the miracle to his tribe. When the first Recollect friars came to Zambales in 1607, they went to the Aeta village to see the famous wooden icon. The friars were surprised upon seeing the image of the Blessed Mother that came before them.

The image was brought to the parish church. It stayed there until the Philippine Revolution when a group of katipuneros killed the parish priest Fray Julian Gimenez and brought the image to an Aglipay Church. In 1976, a Columbian priest commissioned famous santorero Maximo Vicente to sculpt a replica of the
Ina Poon Bato.

Grand Marian Procession Intramuros


EPILOGUE. As we have seen in the Intramuros Grand Marian Procession, there are hundreds of icons of the Blessed Mother all over the country that are enshrined and venerated in churches and are in custody of families and private individuals. Each are surrounded with legends and stories of miracles like Pakil’s Turumba, Quezon City’s Santo Rosario de La Naval, San Mateo’s Virgen de Aranzazu, Antipolo’s Virgen dela Paz y Buenviaje and so much more.

But more than the many ways we call the Blessed Mother and the several ways we celebrate her fiesta, it would seem of the several wishes and pleas from the people described as pueblo amante de Maria many have been granted in the mysterious workings of prayer to the first follower of Jesus Christ.

8 December 2015
Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion

Published in: on December 8, 2015 at 12:01 am  Comments (1)