Manila Cathedral and Random Musings

The last time I ventured inside the vast Manila Cathedral was when I was in 2nd year college and had no idea of the historical relevance of the place. Yesterday, I bore witness to the grand re-opening of Manila’s cultural and religious jewel, the seat of the Catholic influence in the whole Philippines and a great heritage treasure we should cherish regardless of religion or absence of.

How beautiful is that?

How beautiful is that?

The Manila Cathedral sits at the center of Intramuros, the historic walled city, in the gardens of Plaza Roma in front of the Fort Santiago. It is one of the last cultural buildings that had retained its former glory and grandeur. Unlike the San Augustine Church, the original Cathedral didn’t survive the bombing of Manila during WW2 like most of the city’s old Hispanic buildings. Much of the old church was destroyed but the original plan and design were retained for old times’ sake.

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Even before the destruction of the churches in Cebu and Bohol due to the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck Visayas last year, it is already a great concern for the church administrators and Manila city officials to preserve the Cathedral for future disasters. Starting from 2011, the Cathedral was closed for retrofitting so it can withstand strong shockwaves from earthquakes. Donations and pledges are made and after two years, the Cathedral is now ready to open its doors to the local worshipers and foreign tourists. Undoubtedly, it will be another precious collection to Intramuros’ rich heritage for non-Filipinos to see.

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Stained windows

Stained windows depicting the patron of Manila, Immaculate Concepcion

A replication of the Pieta

A replication of the Pieta located at one of Cathedral’s inner chambers

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Forgive the blasphemy but I have to say this: Manila Cathedral, you are a heck of a sexy architecture and I hope your glory lives as long as there is still a Philippines.

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Random Musings 

The reopening of the Cathedral provided an excuse for a small college barkada reunion. And when you’re in a historic, solemn place with your nerdy, history-buff friends, discussions and stories are bound to be serious, if not philosophical.

Jayson, wearing his green-striped polo shirt tucked in his pants, has to sneak away from his work as a reporter to the local paper just to catch the event. When it comes to Philippine history, he’s the rockstar ever since our college days. Rene (my other friend) and I can only listen and nod agreeably when he’s spewing angry tirades and rants about anything from people ignoring and ambushing the performing Rondalla dancers once the doors of the Cathedral are opened, to the conspiracy involving the Bangsamoro peace deal. He knows the history of Intramuros in the palm of his hand and if there’s anyone who loves Manila inside and out, despite its blatant flaws, it’s him.

When you’re with a friend like Jayson, you will feel guilty of not being Filipino enough. He’s as precious as a heritage building: Few but true. That’s the most poetic description I could think of about a friend.

So late at night after the mass, as we strolled around the cobbled pathways of Intramuros, getting drunk over the mellow streetlights and melodic clamps of moving calesas, we engaged in our favorite pasttime of asking ourselves of what had gone wrong in Philippine history that condemned us in this culture of mediocrity and inferiority.

And the reason why I wrote down this anecdote is because of Jayson’s tirades. According to his lengthy but interesting exposition, even before the Spaniards came, the islands are already governed with several clans and tribes, each had the habit of waging war and killing each other off. In pre-Hispanic Manila alone, there are already three kingdoms thriving: The Kingdom of Maynila, Tundo and Namayan. Tribes across Luzon pledges loyalty to the Kingdom of Manila, but they are ruled autonomously, each with different leaders who seldom cooperate with each other.

“The Spaniards didn’t understand the complexity of the political system in the archipelago.” Jayson explains. “They didn’t understand that there’s a culture of strong regionalism in each island, in each province. Most people recognized Lapu-lapu as a hero of Cebu but Cebu and Mactan are ruled by different datus then and each held a bitter grudge against each other.”

What the Spaniards did, Jayson explained, is they rounded up all these kingdoms, tribes, clans, islands in one country in such a rush despite the obvious disagreements and grudges, hoping the hodge-podge would call itself a nation.

“Nasa dugo na ng mga Pilipino ‘yan.” (It’s in our genetic code). Jayson continues. “We inherently sided with the community than pledge our support to the greater society. That’s why we have political dynasties ruled by rich families  in each region or province until now. It is in our nature to be ‘loyal’ to this people. The lack of education didn’t help our situation.”

That observation can only come from someone who spent so much time thinking about the Philippines, and there’s no question that Jayson is like that.

The discussion moved from Filipino society to the Spratly Island tension against China. Rene pointed out that if there’s one thing that unites Filipinos, it’s the presence of a common enemy perceived as an invader or a bully, as what majority call China these past few weeks.

“Well, at least we have to thank China for that,” I quipped. “Without China the ‘bully’, we would be busy pulling each other down.”

“Mabuhay China!” we cheered, and a couple who were busy making out at the corner just sent us weird looks.

We enjoyed the sated calm that follows after the orgasmic discussion. Who knew having threesome could be so gratifying?

 

Traveliries: Leyte Three Months After

Ormoc Port, Leyte

Ormoc Port, Leyte

The first thing I have noticed are the coconut trees.

My first absurdly hilarious thought was that they were all suffering from a terrible haircut, their leaves frozen in mid-air as if time had stopped and they are left in that state even when the world began to move around them. You can easily tell the direction of the strong winds when Yolanda came. And how everything remained the same even after she left.

Before Yolanda, my view of Leyte was through the traveler’s eyes, just like everyone else. There’s nothing in my mind but the McArthur Monument, the San Juanico Bridge, the bustling fish port, the laidback and seaside life that is so common with Visayan cities. These thoughts didn’t come to me when I landed to the typhoon-ravaged Leyte the very first time. There were no statements, just questions. Are people getting enough food? How are they recovering? How are they all coping?

What happens now?

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A church undergoing a major renovation after Yolanda slammed it down.

Leyte, a simple place with beautiful pampas that stretched from miles and miles. How could a sweet place like this fell on the path of destruction that took so many lives?

Coconut trees with bad "haircuts"

Coconut trees with bad “haircuts”

But even if the coconut leaves remained frozen, the people continued living.

A school beside the road en route to Tacloban.

A school beside the road en route to Tacloban.

How can you expect people to move on with all these debris lying around?

How can you expect people to move on with all these debris lying around?

Shops and malls are opened. The port in Ormoc has become busy once again. The marketplace is bustling. The men are carting off construction materials for their homes. Everyone is moving on. The sky is clear, the sun is high, the clouds nowhere to be found…even the gummy tropical heat is mildly comforting because it’s familiar. Everything is normal. I could have been in any province of the Philippines.

Heritage houses also fell victims to Yolanda's wrath.

Heritage houses also fell victims to Yolanda’s wrath.

Everywhere in Leyte bears the physical scars brought by Yolanda, even a hundred days after the Typhoon, yet people remained steadfast despite of it all, and I don’t think I could ever find a more resilient people.

I’ve been asking myself all throughout the ride. What do these people did to deserve Yolanda? Why such a high price to pay just for a ‘lesson learned’? In Leyte, there are more questions than answers. And as cheerful and steady the people are surrounding me, I still felt helpless as I ever did on the day Yolanda came to Samar and Leyte, sitting safe and sound inside my office far away in Manila while monitoring the latest updates. No powers of empathy can make you feel of the terror these people had gone through.

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“It was a price we need to pay,” Juvs, our Waray host, said. “We have underestimated the storm and the surge it brought. We used to think that we were veterans when it comes to typhoons. One storm and it’s all back to normal. Until Yolanda. Now, even a tiny bit of rain can scare us all off.”

The wind was singing. One victim recounted. It was a shrill cry that would send shiver down your arms. It was the longest hour of our lives.

The memories, just like the coconut leaves, would remain frozen in their minds, haunting them when the sky begins to cry. Embedded in their lives. The fear is constant, an ever-present spirit that haunts them whenever the sky is gray and pregnant with rain.

We passed a cemetery along the road. An unpleasant smell lingered all over the place, and beside the gate, an ancient Acacia tree, the once-mighty guard of the dead, has fallen. Yolanda didn’t left a stone unturned.

“We are sending aids.” I told them in a way of slightly uplifting their spirits. I wished they could have taught us in college what should we say to people who lost so much in one day. What will you say? You were not there when the storm came. In times of grief, sometimes, words are just not enough. “The whole world is focused on you. Everywhere in the world, they are all sending aids.” But for how long?

“Good, because many of us would rely on the relief goods for a very long time.” they smiled wryly. What I noticed about Warays, or Filipinos in general, is the way they squeeze in the humor out of otherwise life-threatening experiences. Before long, the harrowing orderal is buried by laughter over the stories of fake NPA attacks and oversized shrimps that offered them a magnificent feast (“Para kaming di nabagyo!”) when the ocean retreated. In the end, It only occurred to me that they’re not laughing it out, they are merely focusing on the funny parts. The sad ones, they just kept to themselves.

They were curious on what the people outside Leyte knew about the number of people who perished that day.

“How many people died according to the news?”

“7,000″ I answered. According to the latest figures from the government and the media, ’bout 6,000+ people are officially declared as fatalities of the typhoon and it was already a big estimate on its own.

They shook their heads in wonder and dismay “Not even close.”

We passed a collapsed astrodome in Palo, Leyte that had became a temporary sanctuary of those fleeing from the storm. It was its first and last service to the community.

“About 10,000 people alone died in there.” they said.

The astrodome that became the final resting place of thousands of people.

The astrodome that became the final resting place of thousands of people.

“We’re angry not because of the slow government response, or the stinky NFA rice they gave to us,” Ate Juvs continued as we neared to Tacloban city. “We understand that no country in the world is prepared for Yolanda. We’re angry because they lied with the body count. For them it’s just numbers and figures. For us, it’s family and friends….loved ones we’ll never see again.”

“I wish the dead would haunt them” another one said piously.

The destruction grew more apparent when as we go nearer to Tacloban City.  Ormoc, Carigara, Palo…Tacloban. What of other provinces? How many people truly died in Samar alone? In northern Cebu? In Aklan? In Coron, Palawan?

“Why would they lie with the numbers?” I asked aloud. During the Ondoy incident in Marikina last 2009, rumors kept circulating that they lied with the number of casualties too. Why would they lie? To save face? To avoid international backlash?

But no country is prepared for Yolanda, right?

“Once they released a more accurate estimate of the dead, they said that UN will have to take over Leyte. And to be honest, we have no problem with that. For the relief distribution…the rehabilitation efforts. Until everything is back to normal, we want to be under the UN.”

And that means no more foreign and local donations to be pocketed by government officials, I thought cynically.

I said, “Oh, c’mon. You just don’t want to share all the goods with the government!”

“Waray-waray na nga, kukurakutin pa nila!” they replied back with a smile. “Waray” in Tagalog means ‘wala’, as in nothing.

We all laughed while we rode along the roofless houses, the dilapidated schools, the piles of debris, the unmoving coconut leaves.

Because we can only laugh through it all.

Because though the uncontrollable disaster, the loss of many lives, the injustice of  it all…. in the end, resilience is the only thing we have it going.

Yolanda bunkhouse

Yolanda bunkhouse

 

Tacloban airport resembling a bus terminal :(

Tacloban airport resembling a bus terminal :(

Getting ‘Lost’ in Cebu

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Wander-lost – a strange habit of exploring a new place without giving any thought to where you are going. You go where your feet will take you. The challenge is to blend in with the locals and act as though you’re not getting lost.

When I landed on Cebu for the very first time, I thought it was a bit of anti-climactic. All my life, I’ve been itching to get there for reasons I can’t explain to myself, and here I am, my feet firmly planted on the Mactan International Airport, eyes scanning the big ‘Welcome to Cebu‘ billboard, unable to fully grasp it all.

I remembered just roughly a year ago, when my grandparents and I were walking along the bay at the coast of Dumaguete, enjoying the Visayan sun and the salty breeze, when a cousin suddenly pointed to a long island over the orange-caked horizon. “That’s Cebu Island” he said in broken Tagalog. I gazed over it and it occurred to me how its haughty spine of mountains is turned away from us; a place so near yet so distant.

I’ve always toyed with this crazy idea in my head that I am destined to spend the rest of my latter life in Cebu. The desire is still there, a very strange one at that, since I was born and raised as a Tagalog and Bisaya sounds Chinese for me. The thought of having to migrate to a thriving city full of history, surrounded by people who don’t speak your native language, holds a unique appeal as far as my adventurous spirit is concerned.

The taxi driver we got from the airport gave a brief tour around the city as we ride to the hotel. He discussed the things and activities to do in Cebu in almost perfect English, and pointed out the must-sees around the city like a seasoned tour guide. I smiled to myself, thinking how a tourism of the city falls not only on the burden of tourism officials or tourism slogans, but also with the civilians as well. You ought to show to the tourists that you are excited for them to enjoy your city. Back in Manila, my friends and I used to hang-out in Plaza Roma at Intramuros and we would smile and wave earnestly at the tourists, hoping to our hearts they would have a good time….. and that their bags or cameras or wallets won’t be stolen.

It was past 6pm when we reached the hotel. I decided to have my Wanderlost adventure in downtown Cebu despite the hour. No GPS, no Google Search, no car, no map…Just plain instinct. A lot of you would probably criticize me for safety reasons, but this sort of aimless traveling fills me with thrill just like roller coasters or ziplines do.

First stop: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. I took a jeep en route to downtown Cebu to the Cathedral, remaining silent throughout the ride as I listened to the rapid but mellowed Cebuano language being spoken inside the jeep, picking up important phrases for my memory. It’s indeed a strange feeling…to get lost in the sea of strangers whose language is a bizarre music to your ears.

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The belltower is now under construction

The cathedral is undergoing some kind of renovation. No doubt for it to withstand future tremors.

The Cathedral is indeed, is magnificent in its own right. Bathed in soft golden light of the plaza, a reverent silence would fill you just by looking at the church itself. Since there’s a mass going on, I was unable to take pictures of the interior of the church, but the grandness of the facade is enough. This church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, a standing echo of Cebu’s deeply-rooted Catholic roots, just as The Manila Cathedral is for the Manilenos. It’s a big relief that the church itself has been spared from the deadly earthquake that struck Cebu and Bohol last year.

See, even the street reminders are in Cebuano. They are fiercely proud of their language :)

See, even the street reminders are in Cebuano. They are fiercely proud of their language :)

As far as my geographical knowledge of Cebu is concerned, Magellan’s Cross would be just nearby the Cathedral. And after several minutes of wandering around, devouring the sights, I finally found it at the front of the Municipal Hall.

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The Magellan’s Cross is also under renovations, but that didn’t stop me from capturing the sacred relic in my camera. On the ceiling, paintings depict the arrival of Catholicism in Cebu island and how the Spaniards were able to penetrate the Philippines through Cebu.

Reflections on Spanish colonialism of the Philippines: During my elementary and highschool days, we are conditioned to think that the Spaniards back in the old days oppressed the Filipinos (indios) and we have to hate them for it. Perhaps it is to glorify the heroes of the revolution or the Filipinos who sacrificed their lives for our independence. Kind of like hating the bad guys in the movies. But I’ve long stopped thinking that colonialism is all-bad and pure evil. Spain formed our nation. Without them, I can’t imagine ourselves being united under one flag. It is out of their selfish interest, yes, but they made it possible to unite us all. I have to credit them for that.

Next stop is the Capitol Building. Going to the Capitol would mean riding through the downtown Cebu area. When traveling alone in Cebu, you can get a guy to let you ride in a motorcycle. It’s a mode of transportation that’s popular in Visayan provinces, and I have yet to see it in Luzon. Rate of fare would be around P20-P50.

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The Capitol: The heart of the whole province of Cebu.

The Capitol is a European-style building that sits in the middle of a busy intersection, facing toward downtown Cebu. For some reason, I have yet to see the Philippine flag being waved in front of the government buildings, which is pretty odd. Who knows, maybe it’s just flag wash day.

It struck me how Cebu is rapidly growing to be the Manila of the South. More and more skyscrapers fill the horizon, there is a constant hustle and bustle of people, and the streets are busy until midnight. They even have huge billboards and giant LEDs on the side of their buildings, kind of like little New York. Traffic and security is also a growing problem. What’s different is probably the absence of mass transportation system, which the government should focus more on. Taxpayers in Cebu and Davao and other parts of the Philippines carry the burden of maintaining the public transit systems in Manila, so it’s time to let them get a share of their taxes by developing major infrastructure projects in their area.

A colonial building preserved for modern use. Kilig! :)

A colonial building preserved for modern use. Kilig! :)

I decided to walk some more in downtown, watching as the shoppes close for the day. I’ve heard that when it comes to nightlife, Lapu-lapu city would provide more entertainment, but it was getting pretty late to tour the whole area. I contented myself with the promise of returning here once more, this time of my own time and expenses, to fully enjoy what the other cities have to offer.

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Cebu’s City Hall

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Cebu night scene

The only downside of Wanderlost adventuring is that, you don’t have any idea where to buy the pasalubongs. You don’t know where the cheapest place to eat, or the affordable souvenirs are. Despite that, I accepted the regrets of the Wanderlost Adventures. They would serve as motivation for me to return to that place again, this time going to the places I have missed.

You would ask, by the end of the day, if Cebu matched itself right into my own views of it and reinforced my desire to settle there in the future. Well, I barely scratch the surface, but I can imagine myself as a resident of the area. Sure, there are some issues in terms of security, traffic and congestion, but I can live with that. I wasn’t raised in busy Manila for nothing. Just as long as Cebu retains its historic roots, its livability and the warm Visayan hospitality, I’m willing to live here as a lone Tagalog in the the throng of proud Cebuanos. Well, until I should be able understand them, at least.

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On that note, could you give a must-see place in Cebu I definitely shouldn’t miss? Next time I’ll go wandering in Cebu, I’ll start from there :) Thanks!

Reviving Intramuros (and our other heritage stuff)

I’ve always been a big fan of colonial homes and old buildings. Maybe it’s the ‘lost’ Filipino identity in me, or I’m just being my overly sentimental self, but seeing colonial buildings turned to fashionable restaurants or boutiques, or preserved as residential homes in a modern neighborhood immediately restores my faith to my kababayans and businessmen who pushed through the idea of ‘reviving’ some sort of history in their establishments.

The heritage building Vigan attracted foreign and local tourists alike because of the way how history is cooperated with the modern times. (Photo courtesy of Agnes Manalo)

The heritage city of Vigan attract foreign and local tourists alike because of the way how history is cooperated with the modern times. (Photo courtesy of Agnes Manalo)

Manila, particularly, the walled city of Intramuros, has always been close to my heart. During my internship at the Manila Bulletin, I’ve had the fondest memories of wasting my time on top of its historic walls.  The walls are oozing with an undefinable sacred ‘feel’, like being in the presence of something ancient, something that had witnessed the most cruel and triumphant moments in history. The rocks would whisper their secrets, and just by touching them, you are infused with memories of a thousand-year old history: Fleeting images of the richest Spanish families promenading inside its walls, the final walk of Jose Rizal from Fort Santiago to the park which will be later named after him, the Rape of Manila that signaled a new, cruel era of Japanese occupation in the archipelago during WWII, and the tragic Liberation by the American forces that almost erased the whole Manila on the map.

1851 map of Intramuros

1851 map of Intramuros

Intramuros Baluarte

The Bastion of San Diego constructed in 1644.

Even way before that, Intramuros was part of the Islamic Kingdom of Manila during the 14th century, ruled by various Datus and Rajas, constantly involved with countless skirmishes against its neighboring kingdoms across the island of Luzon.

Puerta de San Lucia Gate at Intramuros during 1899 (Photo courtesy of John Tewell)

Puerta de San Lucia Gate at Intramuros during 1899 (Photo courtesy of John Tewell)

The Ayuntamiento before WWII (Photo of unknown source)

The Ayuntamiento before the so-called ‘Liberation of Manila’ (Photo of unknown source)

A portrait of Manila in 1684 by Alain Mallet

A portrait of Manila in 1684 by Alain Mallet

Despite Intramuros’ rich history in the heart of Manila, The Global Heritage Fund identified Intramuros as one of the 12 worldwide sites “on the verge” of irreparable loss and destruction on its 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage. That’s why when a friend invited me to a talk discussing the plans for the revival of Intramuros, I quickly accepted the invitation. 

Photo Courtesy of HCS-Y. Stay tuned for My Filipinas 3.0!

Photo Courtesy of HCS-Y. Stay tuned for My Filipinas 3.0!

The talk doesn’t only involve Intramuros, but the Philippines’ other historical and cultural heritage as well. It was organized by the Heritage Conservation Society Youth, a group of young people dedicated to the preservation of our country’s worn-out buildings that are much older than your grandparents.

As I made my way to the venue, which is at the Manila Collectible located behind the Manila Cathedral, I stumbled upon excited groups of tourists gearing up for their tour inside the walled city. It struck me then how valuable Intramuros is to the tourism driving the City of Manila and the country as a whole. Intramuros is like the Philippines’ answer to UK’s Bloomsbury Square, or France’s Paris. Whether it looks splendid or terrible, the tourists would immediately include Intramuros in their itineraries because of its important role in this fascinating, almost-Hispanic-but-quite-Asian country’s history.

Intramuros Administrator Atty. Marco Sardillo was the first one to speak. He is a rather excitable man whose words about his grand vision for Intramuros, at first, seemed ‘too good to be true‘. But as time goes by, his energy seemed to infect us as he discussed the 1973 Tourism Plan sponsored by the Spanish government to revive Intramuros’ former glory. Over the years, phases of the Plan had long been delayed, but new officials are doing their best to sustain and improve the plan in these changing times.

Democratizing the space and making the roads more inclusive is one of the phases of Intramuros Development Plan. (Photo courtesy of GreatMirror.com)

Democratizing the space and making the roads more inclusive is one of the phases of Intramuros Development Plan. (Photo courtesy of GreatMirror.com)

In a somewhat ambitious plan, sir Marco talked of ‘democratizing’ Intramuros’ largest and major streets, almost like that in Netherlands or France where you share the road with the cars or bicycles. In his own words, the streets of Intramuros will be considered pedestrian-friendly when a 6-year-old kid will be safe to walk around it. Also part of the overall face-lifting is the establishment of underground cabling, thus eliminating the electric posts and bulky, tangled wires ruining the view of the buildings.

The major phase in the development is the redesigning of Plaza Roma, in front of the Manila Cathedral. During the Spanish times, the Plaza Roma is actually built as the center plaza of whole Intramuros. Think of Vatican Square or the Trafalgar Square. Sir Marco and his team are pushing for the idea of earth-balling the trees and turning the place into what it was originally meant to be.

This is the Plaza Mayor/Plaza Roma during the Spanish times. See how open and fresh it was compared to what's now. (Photo courtesy of skyscrapercity.com)

This is the Plaza Mayor/Plaza Roma during the Spanish times. See how open and fresh it was compared to what’s now. (Photo courtesy of skyscrapercity.com)

Plaza Roma now (Photo courtesy of skyscrapercity.com)

Plaza Roma now (Photo courtesy of skyscrapercity.com)

There’s also the talk of plans involving the former moat surrounding the walls. Because the moat is now a golf course, Intramuros officials planned on installing magnificent lighting on the walls to signify the importance of the moat. Although if I were given the authority to do so, I would happily get rid of that stupid golf course and transform this into a public park or some sort of a water reservoir to divert floodwater from Lagusnilad and other nearby areas. My actual message in this blog post is: Get rid of that damn golf course! 

One of the parts I’m excited about is the reintroduction of tram buses inside Intramuros! The administrators are already finalizing an acquisition of two tram cars which are currently being modified to run through electric power without the use of cables.

Tranvia in Manila (Photo courtesy of Philippinehistory.org)

Tranvia in old Manila (Photo courtesy of Philippinehistory.org)

Okay, I know these plans may seem to be too far-fetched. I’m a dreamer, as well as a realist, but this is definitely something I could look forward to. For starters, there are already plans in motion for renovations of buildings around Plaza Roma like the Manila Cathedral and Ayuntamiento area. We all hope the revival of the ferry system later this year would also improve the tourism around the Pasig River area along the Maestranza. Cultural advocates like Sir Carlos Celdran, Manila Collectible Co. and the Heritage Conservation Society Youth team are doing their best to highlight the importance of the city in representing our 7, 107 islands bounded together by a colorful, indigent history. Let’s show our support too!

There are also great things I’ve learned from the other speakers, and they all opened my eyes to the importance, real importance, of our cultural heritage. As the Austrian art director and guest speaker Kratochwill said, “When you grow up in a heritage architecture, you will start to appreciate it. They (Filipinos) don’t have contacts in it.” Heritage buildings do not only add ‘culture’ or ‘beauty’ in a place, or serve as a historical reminder. It also awakens a cultural and national consciousness among the people, that somewhere in their hearts, they found a shared connection with history that has long been lacking in their identity as a nation. And I hope someday, we can be truly proud of that heritage, no matter how painful our history as a people may be.

An old hotel in Iloilo around 1900s

An old hotel in Iloilo around 1900s

The government of Spain has agreed to support the restoration of the hotel. See how stunning it is!

The government of Spain has agreed to support the restoration of the hotel. Look how stunning it is!

To the revolutionaries of today: ‘Never lose that vision’ (An EDSA People Power Reflection)

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Image from presseurop.eu

We’ve all come a long way from the dark regime of totalitarian and dictatorial sovereign (well, at least most of us. Hello North Korea), and now I guess it must be a global understanding that freedom is absolutely necessary for educating and nurturing an entire country and its people. As the world wars and countless revolutions have taught us, the price of chasing freedom is very high, and it would be a shame if it only manages to give light off a tiny spark that bends and quiets down at the slightest breeze.

Roughly 28 years ago, our parents and grandparents marched to the streets of EDSA, envisioning a better, brighter future for us the younger generation so we can have much more freedom to live,  to strive for our dreams without social/political suppression, to speak freely our minds and adapt different ways of thinking and to be free from the corrupt, nepotistic rotting system. It all sounds well and good. Our intoxication for freedom continues to burn on, and we cherish it. We pride over it. We always bring up that Article 3, Section 4 as our defense when someone tells us to shut the hell up. It’s a free country, after all. (With great freedom comes great responsibility, though. Too much freedom will eventually lead someone to believe that a Machiavellian iron-fist rule is the right way to go. Anarchy has a tendency of breeding future dictators)

For that, I should be at least thankful with EDSA 1. No one’s going to shove you in a sack and gun you down at an abandoned lot just by saying ‘The Government sucks!’. It’s  pretty ironic that this so-called freedom is now being endangered by the online libel clause recently legalized by the Supreme Court days before the 28th Anniversary of EDSA 1, but that’s another matter.

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I wouldn’t say EDSA I is a failure of a revolution. It’s an honest fight for democracy as far as the people are concerned. But the higher powers has to ruin it all, and what we got in the end is an unfulfilled revolution

But as EDSA I taught me and the younger generations over the years, freedom is barely the answer to everything. It didn’t change our country’s social and political problems. We have one of the freest learning environment and education experience in Asia but more than half of the population are ill-educated. We continue to turn a blind eye to the faults around us, from our neighbors who can’t get enough of the karaoke on a Monday night to the leaders of this country who kept stealing our hard-earned taxes right in front of us. We have a rich history of freedom and democracy but we didn’t learn from it.  Look at us now. With our outdated, ill-prepared Constitution. With our twisted sense of morality and fanaticism. With our stagnant educational system that rarely encourages critical thinking. With our overly sensationalized, news-hungry media. 28 years ago and even much later before that, the Filipino people have paid a precious gift for freedom, but somehow along the way, we lost sight of that vision why revolutions are conceived in the first place. (My only hope is that social media and the internet can change the trend in our political and social scene somehow)

You can’t have a revolution that would only last for a day, or a week, or a decade. The drive is continuous; the momentum may weaken but it still has to move on that collective goal all the people aspire for. Revolutions cause deep internal changes than just being a political/social upheaval. Revolutions die without a vision, just like what we had. That vision should last for future generations. When that vision fades, or dies, or when people gave up on it, then everything that has been sacrificed for that vision is in peril of changing nothing.

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So to the people of Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela and other countries clamoring for a total change in their respective countries, let me tell you this: your battles are far from over. To the revolutionaries of today, the fight is just beginning. You would think the overthrowing is the difficult part but no, it’s what comes after that’s most crucial…the pivotal point. Anyone can light a fire but it takes something more to sustain it. Once the spark ignites, you must feed it, sustain it, and even when things quiet down, it must always be there, burning in calm intensity.

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On the side note, a Canadian expresses his/her strong sentiments during a protest. Classic Canada :D

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Why we are sober in your parties

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Yes, we’re boring. Yes, we’re not interesting. Yes, we’re not the life of the party. But just because we don’t party hard enough, or dance enough or get wasted enough means we’re not really enjoying the party. In fact, we enjoy it a lot, during and especially, the after part. Here’s a little poem why:

You’d easily dismiss us

When the room is in full swing

The wallflowers

In a scandalous bouquet

We’re there, but not there

Clutching our wineglasses (or red cups, it makes no difference)

unto our chests like a lover’s heart,

Eyes on the people,

not to our drinks

You’d see us standing in dark corners

Beside the clandestine kisses,

the clashing of tongues,

the catch in their breaths

Wondering why on earth

every wild kiss has to be this loud

Or you’d see us standing

in the middle of a dance floor

Amid the chaos of sweat

wheezing laughter, drunken howls

slurred moans, orgasm cries

Through the hazy smoke of

animalistic euphoria

We’re there

And we’re still human

Cruel enough to amuse ourselves

with your excusable sins

We don’t give life to the room,

nor we desire to catch your eyes

We are the invited guests

watching from outside,

We may feel belong or not; it doesn’t matter

We like to be in two places at the same time

We are ever-searching

The walls and shadows have our ears

Senses attuned to secrets that may leave your lips

To any untoward action

It’s because it is our hobby to wait long

Talk less

Sip little

With glasses raised to our lips

An open salute to someone

for ardently making the night more memorable

(At least for us)

For being atrociously dull,

you may chide us,

mock us,

laugh at us,

But we’d only smile politely

Continue to watch

And in the morning after,

when your memory of the night

is no more

While ours stayed on

Your eyes avoid mine for a reason

Worry not, we’ve sworn

Our lips are sealed

parting only for the shadow of

a merest knowing smile,

Perhaps with a little bit of scorn,

For that night, that part of you,

we will take note,

We may have a use for it

later on

Modern Filipino slangs on Love and Relationships

Photo courtesy of PUP Stolen Shots

Photo courtesy of PUP Stolen Shots

It goes without saying that we Filipinos are one of the most expressive people in the world. Most of us are ready to indulge in any kind of emotion, and love is no exception. Love takes a special case due to our innately romantic nature and the need to shower our special halves with affection and warmth.

The new generation and introduction of technology brought an interesting development to the Filipino style of dating. Slangs and witty-callings are introduced by young teens to be ‘hip and cool’, but still remaining true to their heartfelt intentions. These words have been entrenched with our popular culture and conversation, so for those who don’t know, this is a list with a twist to help you get on with the times and take a glimpse of the Filipino wit.

Ander – short for ‘Ander the saya’ and a corrupted word of ‘under’; refers to a relationship when the the girlfriend/wife is the one totally dominating. It is important to understand the Philippines’ patriarchal roots so this slang may come off as sometimes an exaggeration by the ones speaking it.

Bitter – describes a person who has a seemingly obnoxious attitude and/or cynical point of view on love and relationships. Catchphrase: “Magbebreak din yan!” (They’ll eventually break up) At most, they’re just kidding around so don’t take them too seriously.

Chatzoned – When you and that person chats for the entire night but unable to get a proper conversation going when you’re facing each other the next day. (Or worse, you two both act as if the other doesn’t exist.)

DOTA o ako? – DOTA is a mega-popular online game among the youth which had caused small squabbles among lovers. The girl sometimes find it more difficult to drive away her boyfriend’s attention from an online game instead from other girls; When confronted by this question, this is the hardest question a guy has to face and the most heart-wrenching choice he has to make (especially if he and his guys are in the middle of a rebansa)

First Blood – commonly used among young men that probably has online game references; an act wherein they have taken the virginity of the girls they slept with and usually boast about it among themselves, as if they did something ultra-badass. (I hate this kind of men…..do you?)

Friendzone – this is too sad of a word to define

Haba ng hair!” – literally translated as ‘your hair is long’, refers to a girl with many admirers. I don’t have any idea where did the phrase came from, its context probably came from the fairy tale ‘Rapunzel’ (Note: This is also applicable for attractive short-haired girls. Just appreciate the irony.)

Harana – an old custom where the male suitor serenades his object of affection; used to be a form of courtship in the old days, although some people report it’s still very much alive in far-away provinces. This is a rare thing nowadays so if even if you have a voice of a dying cat, girls would still this quite romantic, so I suggest you should do this at some point in your relationship.

Kilig – that tingling, pelvic-wrenching, lightning-like jitters that ripple across your body like some sort of electricity. There are various types of kilig among the ladies, there’s the kilig with face-splitting grin, kilig accompanied by small jumps or silent kilig where you act so indifferent on the outside but screaming in joy inside (Tsundere-like)

Ligaw – Filipino term for earning the love of your object of attention; it shares the same spelling but different intonation with another root word, ligaw which means getting lost or not having any  slightest idea where you’re going. Having been around with boys who were too clueless on dealing with courtship problems,  frankly I don’t see any difference in the meaning between the two words. (See Torpedo.)

Makaraos – originally a word that denotes overcoming a great difficulty in life, this generation has now reduced the once nobly wholesome term to sexual gratification.

Mamanhikan – In the Philippines, it’s a beloved tradition for the girls to introduce their suitors to their parents as a sign of respect and approval, so when a girl invites you to her house after a few days of dating, don’t expect to get on her pants…. she just wanted you to meet her parents you pervert (Good luck with overprotective dads)

Marriage Booth – that diabolical creation during your highschool days, when your friends enlist your name and your crush and you have to spend the next hour tied up to each other, thinking of ways on how to kill your friends for what they did but super kilig inside.

MOMOL – acronym for Make Out, Make Out Lang; slang term for teens disguised as a witty, phonetically white lie. Refer to the sentence below:

Sentence: Nay: Nasaan ka na?

Ikaw: MOMOL lang kami ng boyfriend ko.

Nay: O sige, uwi ka nang maaga ah. (Mom mistakes MOMOL as magmamall, a favorite Filipino pasttime of going to the mall.)

* SHOUTOUT to Moms, now you know!

MU – or short for Mutual Understanding wherein both parties agree that they ‘like’ each other but refuses to take the relationship to a new level for various reasons like avoiding a total commitment; roughly comprises 80% of the drama in Facebook.

NBSB – No Boyfriend Since Birth. Or as local comedian and resident pogi Ramon Bautista aptly pointed out, No Valentines Since Birth. Also can be called NLSB: No lablife Since Birth.

Pakipot – a term usually used by most male suitors when the object of their attention refuses to take the relationship in a whole new level; the so-called Maria Clara of this age. The hard-to-get type. The one you either give up pursuing or end up chasing for as long as it takes.

Panagutan mo ang anak ko” – This line has been widely used in most Pinoy teleseryes which means that once you committed the horrendous act of pre-marital sex and your girlfriend ends up pregnant, there’s a 80% that both of your parents will marry the two of you off.

Silay – a Tagalog euphemism for ‘stalking’

(guilty)

Torpedo- Guy/Girl who are usually stuck in the Friendzone, Seenzoned, Silayzoned who will insist to you that it’s okay for them to love their object of attention at a distance, but you both know that’s a lie.

Tulay – literally translated as bridge to help the suitor earn the love of his object of affection; in the simplest term, the wingman. There are certain dangers on using a tulay to court someone as there’s a big chance that the wingman and your object of attention may fall for each other and you may end up being the miserable third wheel. So stop acting like a torpedo, don’t use the tulay and do the swimming to get her yourself!

Valentine’s Day – a.k.a Red Day; aka Flower and Chocolate Day; aka the day Motel managers are happy; aka the day wherein the Department of Health and organizations have a proper excuse of distributing free condoms to the hormonal-crazy public; aka Independence Day for happy Single Ladies/Men/In-betweens; aka Self-Awareness Day for unhappy Single Ladies/Men/In-betweens; aka the ‘Why don’t you have any Dates for the 14th?‘ Interrogation Day by nosy relatives and friends directed to people contented of being single and unavailable.