Las Piñas Nature Church


NATURE CHURCH. In the vast concrete jungles of cities, we find modern structures that show deep respect for the environment and our culture. In Las Piñas City there is the Parish of Mary Immaculate, a church built within a modern residential subdivision.

It received a sobriquet as Nature Church because its architect used wood, anahaw, and thatch as main building materials and left the existing fruit trees and natural landscape, including the nearby creek undisturbed.



MAÑOSA DESIGN PHILOSOPHY.  The Nature Church verbalizes the design philosophy of Architect Francisco Mañosa who has been for decades championing indigenous Filipino architecture. Some of the notable Mañosa structures that we see today are the Coconut Palace, The EDSA Shrine, San Miguel Corporation headquarters in Ortigas Center, Pearl Farm Resort in Davao and the stations of Light Rail Transit 1 on Avenida Rizal.

At the Parish of Mary Immaculate, we immediately identified the Mañosa signature style in the church complex such as the pitched roof that is made of 40,000 interwoven anahaw leaves. This is a distinct design element and traditional material found particulary in the bahay kubo.



FILIPINO CRAFTSMANSHIP.  Materials found in nature are the traditional medium for Filipino craftsmanship. Anahaw leaves are woven to become functional abanico. Wood is carved or left in its original form to become fine furniture and sculptures. The endemic capiz shells are placed within the grids of wooden-latticed window panels of traditional houses.

In the main church of the Mary Immaculate Parish, translucent capiz shells were fashioned into lanterns in the form of doves. The altar is made from a marble slab resting on dried madre de cacao driftwood. Logs and tree trunks were recycled to function as church pews.



EPILOGUE. Beside the main church is a chapel with similar native elements. Here, we found flocks of birds resting on the huge madre de cacao chandelier and some stray cats sleeping on top of the organic pews. And just like the humans praying before a replica of the San Damiano Cross at the main altar, these creatures found a sacred refuge under the shade of interwoven anahaw leaves.

-2 November 2016
Día de los Difuntos

Published in: on November 2, 2016 at 2:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Manila American Cemetery


MCKINLEY ROAD. Serious, simple, and sprawling, this is the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Established a decade after World War II in what is known then as Fort McKinley, it is the largest resting place for American service men outside the United States.

The best way to reach the cemetery from EDSA is to go under the canopy of interlocking branches of old acacia trees along McKinley Road passing by the entrances of the Manila Golf and Country Club and the Manila Polo Club and then Sanctuario de San Antonio in posh Forbes Park.


FORT MCKINLEY. Historically, McKinley Road linked the Neilson Airfield to Fort McKinley. After World War II, Neilson airport was decommissioned and the Zobel de Ayala family converted the airport runways into Ayala and Makati Avenues and developed the surrounding area into today’s Makati CBD. Years later, Fort McKinley was renamed Fort Bonifacio.

From Lawton Avenue, like soldiers standing in formation the row after row of simple, white Carrara marble crosses can be viewed through the fence enclosing the cemetery.



AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENT. Pass the unmarked marble headstones of  American soldiers who lost their lives in defense of the Philippines and East Indies during World War II is the American Battle Monument. The circular marble mall was designed by architect Gardner A. Dailey.  Etched on walls are the names of soldier whose dead bodies were never found. A bronze flower is placed next to the names of soldiers whose remains were later discovered.

The Philippines was a US territory when the Japanese began its surprise attacks to country. From 1941 to 1942, thousands of USAFFE troops and Filipinos died while defending the country from the invading Japanese forces.



WAR STORIES. There are large mosaics that recall the significant actions of the USAFFE in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. This part of the memorial where one can chance upon a war veteran retelling his experiences during World War II.

On Good Friday of 1942, the Japanese launch their final offensive. The battlefield was at the foot of Mount Samat in Bataan, where the USAFFE made its last stand.  After a week, the USAFFE forces surrendered to the Japanese. The Filipino-American prisoners of war were forced to march from Bataan to San Fernando Pampanga. This in history is known as the infamous Death March.


ART DECO CHAPEL. The cemetery chapel is decorated with bas-relief sculpted by Boris Lovet-Lorski. The façade depicts allegorical figures of Liberty, Justice and Country.

Columbia crowns the zenith, holding a child. Inside the chapel is a beautiful mosaic of flowers forever living in Art Deco style.

Published in: on October 23, 2016 at 4:50 pm  Comments (2)  

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