Batangas Bay

Batangas Bay

OUT OF TOWN TAYO. With a thought that summer will be over soon, what happens when five friends give in to a spur-of-the-moment invitation to go out of town? Our reactions range from running towards the laundry area and placing whenever available dry clothes from the washing line in a backpack, including the hanger to calling girlfriends to let them know of the sudden road trip.

One of us made a phone call to inform relatives that friends will stay over the weekend in the family ancestral home located near the beachfront of Batangas Bay.

Batangas Bay weekend

THE ROAD TRIP. A few hours before sunrise and without sleep, Ernan, Jepong, Ches, and myself were on South Luzon Expressway. Jepong was the driver. Ches suggested that we leave the windows of our mini van open during the entire trip to feel the provincial air. Ernan was our ‘knowledgeable’ tour guide who introduced us to some trivia when we passed by Canlubang and Batino exits. We felt the temperature suddenly turned nippy while at the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR Tollway. I told everyone that the cold air marks our entry to Lipa City.

In less than an hour, we entered Batangas City. We stopped by a roadside restaurant for generous servings of steaming lomi that is kept warm in four huge cauldrons. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch and its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver.

Batangas Bay catch

Batangas Bay industry

BATANGAS BAY. Jepong introduced us to his hometown. He recalls memorable vacations at his grandparent’s home that stood near the beachfront of Batangas Bay.

Batangas Bay is a natural harbor. It’s deep enough to allow big ships to park on its private and public ports. Along its coast are the towns of Mabini, Bauan, and Batangas City where large petroleum and chemical refineries and food processing zones thrive side-by-side with small fishing communities.

Batangas Bay boatman

Batangas Bay beach

OUR PLAYGROUND. The deep waters of Batangas Bay became our playground for the weekend. We were introduced to activities like swimming towards and then jumping off from permanent anchors used for securing big ships. During low tide, these moorings look like giant tornillos jutting out from the sea.

On Sunday, we took a small motorized paraw  that is sturdy enough to get us through the notorious waters of Verde Island Passage. At the tip of the bay, we discovered a pocket beach that we claimed as our hangout for the rest of the day.

Batangas Bay boat

Batangas Bay free beach

OUR POCKET BEACH. No entrance fee. No parking fee for the boat as well. It’s secluded. The pocket beach was a surprise. We gathered around our little camp under the shade of an ipil-ipil. We sat on wooden logs that our friend Nero (who came late to Batangas via bus) picked up from the shore. There, we redefined beach life as eat, drink, and take naps.

Our pocket beach is located at the foot of the pilgrimage site known as Monte Maria.

Batangas Bay Monte Maria structure

Batangas Bay Monte Maria

MONTEMARIA. Beyond the city of petroleum refineries is Monte Maria, a pilgrimage site where a towering statue of Mama Mary that said to be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero is envisioned to rise. From the bay, the base for the statue looks like the Tower of Babel. The vast pilgrimage complex has structures with function rooms, a church, a hotel for pilgrims -all have overlooking views of the seas and the mountains.

Near the statue of the Nativity is a huge boulder that shares the same legend with King Arthur’s Excalibur and Thor’s Mjölnir. It is said that the smooth rock is miraculous and cannot be moved even by a heavy-duty bulldozer. Pilgrims make wishes and leave coins in its crevices.  Some say the rock has alien origins but that’s another story.

Batangas Bay sunset

BATANGAS BAY SUNSET. An hour before sundown, we stayed in the area guarded by the miraculous rock of Monte Maria. There we watched boats ferry passengers to Puerto Galera in Mindoro. There we waited until the sun sets behind the mountain of Maribacan Island.

EPILOGUE. The sunset in Batangas Bay made our spur-of-the-moment out of town memorable and worth sharing. So next time someone ask you ‘out of town tayo!,’ don’t hesitate to give in.

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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RANDOM MARIKINA. We go to Marikina to jog on its racetrack oval or buy some fresh produce from its public market. We hear Sunday mass at the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church and have brunch at Rustic Mornings. There were afternoons spent learning local history in the Shoe Museum and from the silong of Capitan Moy ancestral house. And there were those memorable days having coffee and merienda with artists Isagani Fuentes and Lydia Velasco in their home studios.

For someone like me who passes by Marikina City daily going to work, I can share several travel stories about this charming and historic city. Here’s a collage of captions from our random travels to our neighbor city:

Marikina River

MARIKINA RIVER. From Katipunan-C5 road, Marikina is a bowl of land with Antipolo mountains in the east and Quezon City hills in the west. It has a famous river that runs through the heart of the city. It can turn green with waterlilies in the summer and outrageously swell due to torrential monsoon rains during the wet season. In December, there is a festive Christmas bazaar along its riverbanks.

In the olden days, Marikina River is an important waterway used by boat merchants for transporting passengers and goods. The Pasig-Marikina River route linked Manila to the lake towns of Laguna de Bay.

Marikina Jesus dela Pena

Marikina first mass

JESUS DE LA PEŃA CHAPEL. Located at Marikina River’s west bank is the ancient chapel of Jesús de la Peña. It is now a shrine dedicated to the first Catholic mass held in Marikina. The chapel was fittingly dedicated in 1630 by the Jesuits to the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador for in those days, Marikina is an agricultural valley that eventually became known as Hacienda Marikina.

With the expulsion of the Jesuits from the islands in 1768, the landed Tuason family won ownership of the vast Hacienda Mariquina.

Marikina Isagani Fuentes

Marikina artist Isagani Fuentes

ISAGANI FUENTES. A few walks from the Jesús de la Peña chapel is the home and art studio of Isagani Fuentes. A former high school teacher before becoming a full-time visual artist, Isagani paints his fondness for ancient pottery and bulol rice gods in contemporary style.

Just like his art, Isagani’s modern home is made-up of salvaged parts from his maternal ancestor’s house. He also collects vintage and pre-loved objects that he use as subjects and inspiration for his timeless art.

Lydia Velasco


LYDIA VELASCO. Laid-back, serene, motherly that’s the vibe when entering the home studio of art icon Lydia Velasco in Marikina. Surrounding her unfinished oil on canvas is a lush floral garden with several grottos where the modernist master spends time praying and painting, and entertaining her followers, family, and friends.

Tita Lydia is an important member of Kulay Marikina, an art guild that supports its young artist members by giving them exposure through art exhibits where their works are showcased side-by-side with the the guild’s senior members.

Marikina bell

Marikina Bayan

MARIKINA BAYAN. Though structures that we see today in Marikina are modern, there are some that were tastefully built to reminisce Marikina’s timeless cultural past. The Cityhood Park has a facade of a Spanish colonial building with twelve bells that chimes a song at every hour. Behind it is the Marikina Sport Complex that hosted local and international sports competitions and performances. On regular days, we come here to jog on it’s Olympic-standard racetrack.

Across the sports complex is the Marikina Public Market, the post office, and further are other buildings with images depicting Marikina’s shoe-making legacy.

Marikina Capitan Moy

Marikina Capitan Moy museum

CAPITAN MOY. Marikina’s culture hero is Don Laureano Guevara. He was a wealthy landowner, whom a grateful town of Marikina calls Capital Moy. In the process of unstitching the different sections and studying every welt, seam and cut from a pair of English shoes he brought home from Europe, he learned how to make shoes.

In 1885, Capitan Moy has set up a shop on the basement of his house. He made shoes and as his product improved, he hired and trained workers. Through this batch of workers propagated the techniques of shoe-making in Marikina. Capitan Moy’s shoe-making legacy led Marikina to become the Shoe Capital of the Philippines.

Marikina Museum

ADAPTIVE REUSE. For the country’s original shoe capital, a shoe museum must be one of it’s famous attractions. The Marikina Shoe Museum is housed in what used to be a rice mill owned by Doña Teresa de la Paz of the affluent Tuason family.

In 2001, the antique bigasang bayan was restored for adaptive reuse as a museum.

Marikina Shoe museum

Marikina Shoe museum collection

SHOE MUSEUM. So what’s in the shoe museum? There is a giant shoe made of pure leather. The central column supporting the roof is bedecked with vintage shoe lasts. There is a diorama showing a busy table where father, mother and elder children handcrafted shoes using traditional tools. In the olden days, shoe-making filled up the idle time between rice seasons in then agricultural Marikina.

The most controversial of the museum’s collection are the 800 pairs of shoes sequestered by the Philippine government from former first lady Imelda Marcos.

Rustic mornings Marikina

Rustic mornings

RUSTIC MORNINGS BY ISABELO. Along Isabelo Mendoza Street, a narrow alley at the back of the Shoe Museum is Rustic Mornings by Isabelo. Under any weather, food served here is like having sunny and happy breakfast at anytime of the day.

Whether its waffles and pancakes with butter and syrup, French toasts with bacon and sunny-side up or crispy hash brown and fried tawilis dipped in native vinegar, the experience of dining on wrought-iron furniture under a canopy of lush foliage with paintings of red flowers, climbing ceramic geckos and flying glass fishes will inspire anyone to say Good morning! mwah!

Marikna bahay na bato

TIMELESS ARCHITECTURE. Standing next to the Capitan Moy ancestral house is an elegant bahay-na-bato built some time at turn of the twentieth century. Its original owner was Thomas Chanyungco, a shoe-manufacturer who owned prewar brand Gandara shoes.

The Chanyungco House is just one of the remaining structures in Marikina that recall our timeless architectural heritage.


MARIKINA CHURCH. The grandest of all the old houses in Marikina is the Diocesan Shrine of the Our Lady of the Abandoned. The structure that we see today was built in the years between 1687 to 1690 by the Augustinian on a mission estate originally owned by the Jesuits.

With the expulsion of the Jesuits from the island, the ownership of Hacienda Marikina was won by the wealthy Tuason family and the mission was awarded to the Augustinians.

Marikina church

Marikina Juan Senson painting

CHURCH TREASURE. Central to Marikina church is the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados. The first image of the Virgin was destroyed during the Philippine-American War of 1898. The image we see today was carved in 1902.

Another interesting object inside the church is the 1921 painting depicting the Baptism of Jesus displayed at the baptistry. The painting is signed by Angono’s Juan SensonTandang Juancho was a painter of 19th century icons.  Only a few of his works survive today. National Artist Carlos  Botong Francisco was said to have first learned to draw and paint by observing Tandang Juancho work in his Angono studio.


NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LOS DESAMPARADOS. Most touching of Mary’s title is the Nuestra Señora de Desamparados which recalls how in the 15th century some good folks from the Spanish city of Valencia grouped together in response to a sermon from a priest by providing shelter and aid to the helpless (desamparados) -the orphans and the mentally ill. The charity work led to the founding of the first psychiatric hospital in the world, El Hospital de Los Locos.

The Santa Ana district in Manila and Marikina City have the oldest traditions of celebrating the feast of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados in the country every 12th of May.

EPILOGUE. So there, no travel itinerary is needed when going around this charming and historic city. Once you have set foot in Marikina Bayan or by its riverbanks, or after saying a prayer at the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church or after enjoying an all-day breakfast at Rustic Mornings, let your feet take you to where your heart wants to go and discover your own random Marikina.

 -Feast of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados 2015



The weather is hot in April but there is a nice little nip in the air as we approach Liliw one weekend afternoon. Just like other towns nestled at the foot of Mount Banahaw, the temperature dips in Liliw a few hours before sundown, making it an alternative summer destination.

Liliw has been known for its rustic resorts, tasty uraro cookies, and potent lambanog. Recently, the quiet Laguna town was recognized as the Tsinelas Capital of the Philippines with the launch of the Tsinelas Festival in 2001 to celebrate Liliw’s thriving footwear-making industry.

Coinciding with the Tsinelas festival that is held every April, the occasion is also dedicated to the town’s founder, Gat Tayaw.

According to legend, the town got it’s name from a bird that alighted into a pole-maker erected by it’s founder. The bird made a melodious sound of liw, liw, liw so Gat Tayaw named the new settlement as Liliw in 1571.

Liliw church

Liliw marker

At the time of the Spanish era, the Franciscan erected a church and dedicated it to San Juan Bautista. Baroque in architecture, the church has a brick facade and imposing bell tower topped by overgrowth.

With the turnover of the Philippines to the United States,  the Americans began a spree of renaming our towns for the sake of convenience in pronouncing them and Liliw became Lilio. But the townspeople passed a resolution declaring Liliw as the town’s official name.

The narrow street leading to the church is lined with stores selling tsinelas fashioned from leather and abaca. Displayed in every store front is a pair of giant tsinelas and overlooking this narrow street is a gigantic slipper making a glaring statement that Liliw is the country’s tsinelas capital.


Liliw is also famous for it’s uraro cookies. Making the best tasting uraro is no secret in Liliw. Uraro is arrowroot flour with butter and condensed milk, distinctly embossed with floral design and baked in a pugon fired by coconut husks.


Liliw pako

Aside from freshly-baked uraro cookie, sold in alleys are talangka, snails, sweet yam, and pako or fiddle-head fern that grows abundant in mountain streams.

Dealers of pako give instructions on how to make it into a refreshing salad by mixing pako with chopped tomatoes, onion, salted eggs, kesong puti, and home-made vinaigrette.

-Gat Tayao Tsinelas Festival 2015

Published in: on April 22, 2015 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante studio

The earth is revolving and all things broken will always transform into something good.

This statement is from a text message sent to me by artist Ral Arrogante after exchanging personal stories about life and relationships one afternoon in his studio.

Ral Arrogante bangka

Ral Arrogante works

When pieces of junk shop-finds like copper wires, aluminum sheets, parts of broken gadgets get into the hands of Ral, they are transformed into works of art whose images and themes have become the artist’s trademark in the local art world.

Fashioned from aluminum sheets and copper wires are miniature Badjao houses on stilts, house boats, food carts on wheels, dragonflies and beetles.

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante scrap copper

These imaginative creations that were put together from non-traditional medium for sculpture are just some of Ral’s favorites subjects and of those who admire his meticulous works.

Like his favorite medium, Ral took different corporate jobs after college that have no relation to his art before becoming a full-time artist at age 42. Today he is a respected artist who leads the Society of Philippine Sculptors and an active leader of the Art Association of the Philippines.

Ral Arrogante Don Quixote

Ral Arrogante Chinese junk rig

Ral’s workshop is located in three rooms of a multi-level parking space where he stores his junk shop finds side-by-side with his coveted creations. In one room, Ral showed us a Chinese junk with delicate sails made of copper sheets and a food cart on wheels made of recycled aluminum sheet used for printing broadsheets.

Ral thoughtfully works on copper and brass to fit his art because they don’t rust.

Ral Arrogante

Ral Arrogante fish

While the paint brush is for a painter, the chisel is for a wood sculptor, pliers, hammers, and scissors that come in different sizes and purpose are Ral’s main tools. In all his works, he uses his hands in twisting and bending copper and aluminum sheets, stitching pieces tight together using copper wires.

Attached in every artwork is a thin copper sheet where he assigns a number stamp to track his works and engraves his signature.

Ral Arrogante artworks

Ral started doing art as a kid. He created his first assemblage out of discarded objects he finds at home.

In another text message he said: I see myself in Joaquin, wanting to play with things that adults may not necessarily understand. Thanks again. -Ral

-Eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday | Eastertide 2015

N.P.A. Encounter

Nice People Around Majayjay

TOF viewers see me and Joaquin as they go through the photo-essays and read up on our travel narratives. But there are times I do solo travels too. I do this most of the time when checking out a place to make sure that it’s child-safe before taking Joaquin with me for another trip. Just like travels with my favorite travel buddy, I have equally memorable experiences as a solo traveler and here’s one:

It only took a few hours for a talented tattoo artist in San Pablo City to complete the Sarimanok on my forearm. I have lots of spare time to explore nearby towns nestled at the foot of Mount Banahaw.

Nagcarlan Church

Nagcarlan San Diego Alcala

A town that got it’s name from a local heroine, Ana KalanNagcarlan is a town famous for its underground cemetery and church. We’ve been to Nagcarlan before but just like our previous trip to towns that sits at the foot Mount Banahaw our outdoor photos were in the shades of gray because it was always cloudy. But the day was nice as well as the people.

While looking at the antique statue of San Diego Alcala, which said to be made from melted Mexican silver that became so abundant at the time of Galleon Trade so people make them into spoons, candelabra and arenola, an old lady offered to take a photo of me while I am acting like a tourist inside church. She was very kind.

Arabela Liliw


Next stop is a town made popular by its brick church, uraro biscuits, and sandals is where I had late lunch. Arabela is an Italian restaurant set in the silong of what used to be a sandals factory in Liliw. I was hungry and the food in their menu looks appetizing so I forgot about budget. When I receive the bill, I realized I didn’t have enough cash to pay for my orders.

I am thankful for the nice and trusting dining staff who allowed me to leave the restaurant to get cash from an ATM.

Majayjay Church

Majayjay Victorino de Moral

After a few minutes on a twisting mountain road, the jeep dropped me off in front of the old ermita in Majayjay. The popular history of this town is linked to the infamous parish priest, Fray Victorino de Moral.

Locals say that the friar must have used the large baptismal font to convert the natives to Christianity in order to increase the labor force to build its massive church and a bridge known as Puente de Capricho.


Majayjay belltower

Traditionally, Majayjay is synonymous to being far and secluded. In the olden days, they say that traveler sigh ‘hay… hay.. Majayjay.’

Not only that Majajay is far, this mountain town is located higher up than the previous towns. But I want to go higher so I requested from local children on their way to choir practice to show me the way to the ancient bell tower of the massive Majayjay Church. There, while listening to nice voices, I see Mount Banahaw covered with clouds.

Mount Banahaw covered in clouds

From Majayjay, I took the mountain road that connects the town to Lucban in Quezon Province where I had a new shave from a local barber shop.

Traveling the dark, winding mountain road as a lone passenger back to Majayjay from Lucban, only god know where when five men with armalites and two gallons of lambanog took the same ride. Uneasy me until one of them looked me in the eye and then offered “tagay?” Yes. It was in this trip from San Pablo, Laguna to Lucban, Quezon, I had a close encounter with the Nicest. People. Around.

Published in: on March 3, 2015 at 10:33 am  Comments (1)  

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