AN EMPTY TOMB. I recall our family’s annual sojourn to Heart of Mary Villa in Malabon to visit the Sisters of Good Shepherd and the orphanage on mid-December. Once there, my parents would unload huge boxes of goodies from the van and spend the entire day talking with the nuns while me and my sister would run around the convent’s garden. By evening, my father would bring us to Ever Emporium in Caloocan to watch mechanical puppets present a colorful and animated Christmas musical up on the mall’s façade.

I have fun memories of our family sitting on Bermuda grass that covers the park across the mall, behind an empty tomb to Andres Bonifacio popularly called the Monumento.

Monumento Caloocan

ADVENTURE AT TROPICAL HUT. The monument stands on a rotunda at the northern end of EDSA. I remember as a child that the monument was surrounded by huge hand-painted movie billboards that we no longer see today. On our recent visit, the old-fashioned movie billboards were replaced by tarpaulin endorsing the latest products.

Our adventure to see the Monumento up close began at a nearby fast food joint. To cross from Rizal Avenue to the park was a struggle because of the non-stop flow of vehicles around the rotunda. A kind MMDA officer assisted us to cross the street and then, from a makeshift tent the park’s caretaker swung open the small gate for us.

Monumento inauguration

Monumento Bonifacio

TOLENTINO’S PHILOSOPHY. Inaugurated on November 30, 1933, the Monumento demonstrates Guillermo Tolentino’s philosophy that a monument must be factual and symbolical.

Illustrating his philosophy, the artist placed the sculpture on an octagonal base whose eight sides represent the eight Philippine provinces that first rose to revolt against Spain in the Revolution of 1896. The base ascends three steps suggesting the three centuries of Spanish rule.

Monumento sculpture

Monumento Andres Bonifacio

FILIPINO TEMPER. Historian Ambeth Ocampo explains that the reflecting pool on opposite sides of the monument serves as a reminder of the Filipino temper according to Jose Rizal in El Filibusterismo as mild and can be drunk but it dilutes wine and beer, extinguishes fire; heated it becomes steam, and ruffed it is the ocean; once it destroyed mankind and made the earth tremble to its foundation.

The 45-foot granite obelisk is crowned by a figure of the Winged Victory that could be a contribution of Italian sculptor Francesco Monti. The main sculpture shows 23 figures cast in bronze with a defiant Andres Bonifacio as central figure wearing a barong tagalog while holding a gun and a sangbartolome. Behind him is Emilio Jacinto. They are surrounded by figures that narrate episodes of the Revolution and allegorical characters that expresses nationalistic fervor in the struggle for freedom from colonial rule.

Monumento Tolentino sculpture

Monumento Gomburza

ALLEGORICAL CHARACTERS. Moving to one side are characters from the novel Noli Me Tangere represented by Pilosopong Tasyo holding on one hand a lifeless Sisa while his other hand is stretching out a clench fist. Next to it is a Katipunan initiation rite where katipuneros sign their oaths of allegiance in blood. There is a commemorative plaque with words written in Katipunan alphabet.

Opposite of the main group are martyred priest Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora showing one lifeless, another in waiting and one in the throes of death. Collectively known as GOMBURZA, the execution of the three priests ignited Asia’s first revolution against colonial rule.

Monumento Bonifacio Day

EPILOGUE. Andres Bonifacio was born on the feast day of San Andres Apostol. Traditionally, birthdays of saints and local heroes are not declared as holiday. Usually it is their death anniversary that is celebrated as in the case of Jose Rizal on December 30 and Ninoy Aquino on August 21. Andres Bonifacio is an exception.

Why do we celebrate Bonifacio’s birthday instead of the day he gave his life for his country? Until Bonifacio’s bones are unearthed, the Monumento remains an empty tomb.

30 November 2015
Feast of San Andres Apostol
Andres Bonifacio Day

Published in: on November 30, 2015 at 3:46 am  Comments (1)  

Carina Guevara-Galang

*This article was first featured in Issue 9 of Cake & Whiskey Magazine. Words by Glenn Martinez and photos by Jesse Abad.

Carina Guevarra-Galang

ART 19B. It was rush hour on a humid, tropical evening in urban Quezon City. Inside Art19B, an art gallery set at the heart of Cubao’s bohemian district, the air was cool. Bentwood chairs in one corner reminded me of vacations spent on the beach and the white brick walls with colorful drawings took me back to childhood. Gallery owner Carina Guevara-Galang shared the stories of the pieces in her collection with me, each one reflective of our Philippine life and culture.

One of my biggest idols in life was my lola Carmen Guevara, Carina reminisced. We would go to [art] exhibits and I would accompany her, and we would meet the most fascinating characters. She had a home which even then at a young age I already know was very special. I loved going there and being surrounded by beautiful things that obviously meant so much to her, not because they were expensive but because they’re part and parcel of who she was.

Carina Guevarra-Galang interview

Carina Guevarra in Studio

ON COLLECTING ‘BEAUTIFUL THINGS.’ With Carina’s early exposure to art, mingled with her own artistic talents at a young age, her own house eventually filled with paintings from floor to ceiling.

But collecting ‘beautiful things’ was not cheap: I need to unload some so I could afford the hobby, which gets expensive. Carina said. Friends would buy off me, and I would use the money to buy even more. So it really made sense to eventually open a gallery.

Carina Guevarra Norma Belleza

Carina Guevarra and Vic Galang

A COMMITMENT BIGGER THAN MARRIAGE. Carina is a chef by profession. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and came home to the Philippines to open several restaurants. Nowadays, her most refreshing times away from the restaurants, that Carina calls a commitment bigger than marriage, is when she’s on a trip to scout for art throughout Filipino villages.

When we are out [on our trips], the monotony of city living is broken. Manila’s traffic and crime can be very heavy and negative so when, in the middle of shanties, I meet an artist and amidst the poverty there is this incredible talent, it’s like a beacon of light. I love meeting them, learning of their process and quirks. The pieces become personal.

Carina Guevarra Noel Mahilum

Carina Guevarra Philip Badon

HISTORIANS OF THE PHILIPPINES. From conception, art is charged with emotion and memory, which is layered by the emotions and memories brought to the piece by a viewer. They are creative pieces borne out from the artist’s dreams and frustrations. And for Carina, Art 19B gives voice to those artists in her own backyard.

They are our voice, they are our historians, They will tell our story long after we are gone and they will tell the truth. Artists visualize our dreams, our fears, our terrors, our aspirations. They make physical what we cannot explain, what we cannot understand. They plant those seeds.

Carina Guevarra-Galang gallery

EPILOGUE. For those like me, who walk through the doors of Art 19B, Carina shares her passion not only for art, but for people.

I am a gallery owner but you have no idea how many times I’ve played therapist to my clients and artists. I guess the vibe of the place relaxes them enough to tell me very personal things about their live. So once we started talking, their lives mix with the art, and out conversation can last until 3 am.

-18 October 2015
Feast day of St. Luke, Patron saint of painters

Published in: on October 18, 2015 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Pakil Wood Shavings

Pakil wood shavings

ARTSY LAGUNA. Neighboring lakeshore towns of Lumban, Paete and Pakil share an unparalleled and unique craftsmanship. If Lumban Embroidery is sought after by the fashionistas and Paete Woodcarvings excites art enthusiasts, Pakil’s delicate art of wood shavings is admired both locally and worldwide.

Distinct to the rustic and quiet town of Pakil is the centuries-old religious ritual of the Turumba and an inimitable and delicate version of woodcarving, the art of whittling wood.

Pakil art woodshavings

Pakil wood shaving peacocks

WHITTLER’S CRAFT. No one can clearly recall how the art of whittling wood started in Pakil. Some local folks claim that an old man introduced the craft of whittling during the turn of the century. The skill has been passed on from one generation to the next.

Today’s master carvers encourage apprenticeship of interested boys and girls to make sure that this craft distinct only in Pakil continues to thrive.

Pakil wood shaving tools

Pakil wood shaving Conchita

CONCHITA’S DEXTEROUS HANDS. Conchita Mirabella has been practicing her unique skill of whittling wood since 1977. She showed us knives of different thicknesses and lengths that she uses to create flowers, butterflies, birds, peacocks, swan and fans with intricate details. Delicate filigree is whittled from a young, solid branch of a freshly cut lanite, batikuling, amlang, or quetaña tree. These types of wood are preferred for their malleability and lightness in both weight and color.

Conchita confidently demonstrated her skill. Using a sharp-edged knife, she first smoothens out the wood’s surface by shaving off the rough outer layers. With extreme control, she then carved in the wood with her dexterous hands. Resting down her tools, Conchita spread out the shavings and right before us, a flower took shape and she did all these steps in a matter of minutes.

Pakil wood shaving flower

Pakil wood shaving art

EPILOGUE. Some wood shavings are dyed while other are left in their natural bleached shade. Conchita’s wood shavings have become popular as gift items, party favors, and even Christmas tree trimmings. Some were mounted and framed to become souvenir items.

Orders have come from different parts of the world. There were occasions Conchita was invited to demonstrate her skill in other countries. And this is another amazing local talent we must be proud of.

Published in: on October 8, 2015 at 1:56 am  Comments (2)  

Balara Filters Park

Balara Filters Park

INTO THE WOODS OF QUEZON CITY. Finding an alternative route in order to avoid the terrible traffic situation in Metro Manila led us into discovering a place, deep within the forested area at the edge of Quezon City hills.

While passing along the winding road of Old Balara, we noticed amidst the overgrowth  and towering trees are fountains with  sculpture of cherubs and nymphs and post-war houses of wood in different stages of deterioration. This place is called Balara Filters Park.

Balara Filters Park fountain

Balara Filters Park filtration

BALARA FILTERS PARK. The Balara Filters Park is an old recreational area in Quezon City. It became a popular day-trip destination in the 1950s for its swimming pools, shaded picnic areas, and outdoor performances. Within the 150-acre park is the Balara Filtration Plant that filters and treats waters from the Angat, Ipo, and La Mesa dams in order to supply clean tap water to Metro Manila residents.

The park was closed to the public during the Marcos years. It was neglected for decades. It was rehabilitated by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and was reopened to the public by the Quezon City government in 2003.

Balara Filters Park Cerro de Carriedo

Balara Filters Park old gate

CARRIEDO HILL. On a cloudy and drizzly Sunday afternoon, we explored the Balara Filters Park on foot, beginning at what looks like an ancient water tower with a sign that says Cerro de Carriedo. We entered the park behind it through an ornate wrought iron gate.

The park had the feel of a ghost town with structures that visitors sans a tour guide can only guess what they are for and the inspiration behind them.

Balara Filters Park kalabaws

Balara Filters Park Windmill

 WINDMILL PARK. Within the park is an allegorical statue of La Intrepida personified by a local heroine riding a karitela as her chariot being pulled by two carabaos. Past the La Intrepida is the original water tank built by the Metropolitan Water District for the Balara community. After the War, a bigger water tank was constructed. The original tank was dressed as windmill.

At the edge of the Windmill Park is a bust of philanthropist
Don Francisco Carriedo y Peredo overlooking the modern filtration facility below the hill.

Balara Filters Park Carriedo Monument

Balara Filters Park Carriedo epitaph

THE CARRIEDO LEGACY. Before the Americans started building dams and filtration plants, the rivers continued to be the chief source of water for the city. For drinking, river water was crudely filtered through cloth in a tapayan and then clarified with tawas. Manila didn’t get running water until 1878, when the municipal waterworks was established by Governor-General Domingo Moriones with money from a fund that by then known as the Carriedo Legacy.

One of the obras pias of Don Francisco Carriedo y Peredo that he left in his will was for the building of a potable water system for the city of Manila. Don Francisco did not live long enough to see his legacy since he died in 1743. The Fuente de Carriedo in Plaza Sta. Cruz was built in honor of his pious work. A replica of the fountain by National Artist Napoleon Abueva is installed in front of the MWSS head office in Katipunan Avenue.

Balara Filters Park old houses

Balara Filters Park old classical statues

FOR WATERWORKS EMPLOYEES ONLY. We left Windmill Park when a security guard accosted us from taking pictures. He informed me that only MWSS employees are allowed at the Windmill Park on weekends. Only then I realized that we sneaked into an exclusive public park. So off we went to whatever we can see from the main road.

Past the post-war chalets that served as rest house and residences for waterworks employees during the 1940s. Most of them are in the stage of neglect. As we walked deep into the park, we heard the non-stop chirping of birds and crickets, occasionally broken by revving up engines from motorists. But when everything fell quiet, the experience in the park is like being transported back to a time when Quezon City was still wilderness.

Balara Filters Park Grotto

Balara Filters Park monument of the unknown

WORKER’S MONUMENT. The Balara Filters has a grim history. Many lives where lost when it was being built. In an open field is the Worker’s Monument. It is as a memorial dedicated to the employees who died during the construction of the filters.

Some residents living near the area claim to witness ghostly apparitions and hear voices from the woods calling out for help. There are other stories that are best told on Halloween.

Balara Filters Park Anonas Amphitheater

Balara Filters Park Amphitheater

ANONAS AMPHITHEATER. Near the viewing deck of the Worker’s Monument are the entrances to the ancient Anonas Amphitheater. Named after Gregorio Anonas, the first Filipino director of the waterworks, this venue serves as a mute witness to live performances of National Artist for theater and music, Honorata “Atang” de la Rama.

We can only imagine from the iron gates with whimsical Art Deco design the Queen of Philippine Zarzuela,  Atang de la Rama performing, Nabasag ang Banga from the popular zarzuela Dalagang Bukid.  Just like the Metropolitan Theater, the Anonas Amphitheater must be restored as a sacred ground for the performing arts.

Balara Filters Park Carriedo Fountain

Balara Filters Park Lion's Head

LION’S HEAD. The Balara Filter’s Park is not the usual public park to visit on a weekend because of the paranoid security personnel who kept accosting us to stop from taking photos. Their reason was it is a Sunday and picture taking is only allowed from Monday to Friday.

At the time of Mayor Sonny Belmonte, 21 million pesos was spent to rehabilitate QC public parks. Public funds was spent for the rehabilitation of the Balara Filters Park. There is interesting history to see here. Sayang that people are discouraged from exploring it on a weekend. It’s my lion’s head that prevailed to take pictures of what we can anyway.

EPILOGUE. And as we walk our way out of the woods at the edge of Quezon City, we sing these lines from a famous Broadway musical:

The way is clear. The light is good.
I have no fear, nor no one should.
The woods are just trees, the trees as just woods.
No need be afraid there…

Into the woods without delay, but be careful not to lose the way.
Into the wood who knows what may be lurking on the journey?
Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journeying.

Into the woods! Into the woods! Into the woods!
Then out of the woods and home before dark!

*An excerpt from the Prologue of Into the Woods
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Published in: on October 1, 2015 at 12:00 am  Comments (8)  

Queens of Lumban Embroidery

*This article was first featured in Issue 8 of Cake & Whiskey Magazine. Words by Glenn Martinez and photos by Jamie Barredo-Paruginog.

Lumban Embroidery

HISTORY OF EMBROIDERY. Morning sunshine generously streams through a narrow door inside the home of 61-year-old Lolita Lakbay-Rosales providing natural lighting while she moves in silent concentration over her labor. Her deft hands diligently shift the needle along the beginnings of a meticulously-embroidered piña fabric. In her living room, she is joined by other women from the neighborhood doing the same fine handiwork. They are all related by blood and by profession. They are the women embroiderers of Lumban.

Embroidery has thrived as a lively cottage industry in Lumban. Ask any of the women embroiderers how this needle craft was introduced to this lakeshore town of fishermen and farmers and nobody can give a definite history. Their answers would echo Lolita’s. I’ve learned embroidery from my mother when I was 13. My mother learned it from my grandmother. I taught my daughters and my husband to do embroidery.

Lumban embroidery pina fabric

Lumban Embroiderers family

EMBROIDERY IS KING. Lolita’s husband, Apolinario Rosales, shares the daily labor by stretching gossamer cloth over a rectangular bamboo frame locally called a bastidor. The delicate fabric is cleaned with soap and water and whitened with starch before it is placed under the sun to dry. Like most family men in Lumban, Apolinario casts his net in the nearby lake for that first catch at dawn. In the afternoon, his coarsened fisherman hands balance a tambor, the round wooden stretcher where the piña fabric is stretched out as tight as a drum, while he intricately embroiders rosettes and floral patterns.

Apolinario claims he learned embroidery by simply watching his wife Lolita. However, embroidery remains the turf of Lolita in the Rosales household. She is the only one who gives approval to Apolinario’s embroidery and provides directions on how to improve his style. As Lolita explains in jest every man of the house in Lumban accepts this kind of set-up because in our town embroidery is king and we women are the queens.

Lumban embroiderers

Lumban embroidery tambor

LOLITA’S DREAM. Before lunch, the women embroiderers leave Lolita’s living room to attend to their own families. We will reconvene in the afternoon, Lolita guarantees. In her kitchen, Lolita prepares guinataang hipon, a local delicacy of fresh shrimp, from Apolinario’s early catch, cooked in coconut milk.

Lolita proudly share that Lumban embroidery is equally sought after like the French and Belgian lace for its intricate and delicate design patterns. She reveals that it takes two weeks for her to embroider the size of a medium tambor. On one occassion she gathered the help of eight women embroiderers to work on a 20-yard fabric for a wedding gown. She earned 250,000 pesos ($5,000) for that project, which allowed her to send one her children to college. Lolita emphasizes, I wanted my children to earn a college degree so that they get regular-paying jobs in the city, because commissioned projects don’t come regularly.

Lumban Lolita Lakbay Rosales

STARS ARE UP. There are days when Lolita leaves Lumban two hours before sunrise to peddle her embroidered fabrics, including the works of her sisters and children, in the city. Their products end up in high-end stores as well as in people’s market like Divisoria and Quiapo.

She usually prefers to be paid in cash instantly because she needs the money to buy the raw materials like the yards of piña fabric and cotton threads in Divisoria. I leave Lumban in the morning when the starts are still up in the sky and when I return home after that long day, the same stars greet me later in the evening, shares Lolita over lunch.

Lumban Joy Rosales-Lobreda

A SHOW OF LUMBAN TALENT. Sheltered from the scorching afternoon sun, Lolita and the women embroiderers reassemble after lunch in front of a rural convenient store. On this day, they are joined by one of Lolita’s children, Joy Rosales-Leobrera. Lolita shares that when Joy was still in high school, she helped me complete my embroidery projects before she went to school. Joy is now married and with child, but still helps her mother with embroidery, as she did in high school.

Observing these women push the needle then pull the thread back through the shiny fabric is like watching a talent show. But these women are not competing for who makes the best decorative motif. Their goal is simply to produce the fine embroidery that Lumban is famous for.

Lumban Women Embroiderers

Lumban embroidery home-made

QUEENS OF LUMBAN EMBOIDERY. The sun begins to set in Lumban, casting the remaining light of day in front of the rural convenience store where Lolita and the women embroiderers insert the last decorative stitches into that meticulously-embroidered piña fabric.

As a day of embroidery work ends, these women attend to their husbands and children as grandmothers, mothers, sisters, cousins and daughters. In the morning, they will pick up their needles and cloth and begin once again as queens of Lumban embroidery.

EPILOGUE. The day I took a leave from work with my former boss, Jamie, we had no idea who to look for, which house to go for the interview and shoot. Our day in Lumban is all serendipity.

Thank you Cake & Whisky for giving me this assignment because I met the nicest people I know. We were treated in Lumban like extended family. All the warmth and kindness we experienced are felt on how this piece has turned out because it’s all from the heart and I dedicate this to the kindest people of Lumban.


Contact Lolita Lakbay-Rosales for her embroidery at +63.0920-648.24.40 or visit her at 018 Rizal St. Barangay Maracta, Lumban, Laguna Province, Philippines.

Published in: on September 22, 2015 at 3:21 am  Leave a Comment  

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