Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beach Pandan - Think Green Thursday

If not for its strange-looking red-orange fruit that resembles a pineapple, I wouldn't have paid attention to this shrub that were growing at the shores of Cagbalete Island. Locally known as Pandan-Dagat (Beach Pandan or Pandanus tectorius), this screwpine is abundant along seashores throughout the Philippines according to a DTI website. It naturally grows on mangrove margins and beaches, and is never found very far inland. We had woven pandan sleeping mats at home when I was growing up, but this was the first time that I've seen pandan-dagat in its natural state.

But I know that this screwpine is a source of livelihood to many craftsmen and women in our handicraft industry. Leaves are collected from the wild then dried, they can be dyed and woven into baskets, bayong, hats, placemats and sleeping mats. The unassuming leaves can also be transformed into something unexpected---like these ecologically-chic bags designed by Filipina designer Cora Jacob.

Bag photos from

Woven pandan are also crafted into home decor products like desk accessories, jewelry boxes, functional trays, even small furniture---from a humble beginning to something extraordinary.

But with sea-level rise and extreme climatic shifts, there's a possibility that this shrub may not be as abundant as before if we don't do anything to preserve and restore its habitat. Sure, local designers and craftsmen are addressing the global call for earth-friendly products and continue to find ways to work with our natural environment. Individually though, we need to be sensitive in maintaining biodiversity wherever our feet may take us, or nature's gifts like pandan-dagat would be disappear forever.

persistent young sprouts

bayong, or traditional bag woven from pandan and palm leaves---
reintroduced to hopefully replace plastic shopping bags

Posted for Think Green Thursday

Litratong Pinoy: tulay (bridge)

Ang Tulay ng Malagonlong sa Tayabas, isang tulay na bato na ginawa noong 1840 at natapos noong 1850. Isa sa mga nalalabing tulay na bato sa bansa na ipinagawa sa panahon ng pananakop ng mga Kastila.

Ang ganda nga ng tulay na bato na isa sa mga landmarks ng Tayabas. At nakakatuwang isipin na buo pa ang tulay na ito pagkaraan ng 159 taon. Lumakad ako sa ibabaw ng tulay na hindi na pinadadaanan sa mga sasakyan. Tao at mga kalabaw na lang yata ang tumatawid dito. Parang nabawasan lang ang ganda ng tulay na bato dahil sa isang bagong tulay na itinayo sa tabi nito.

Para makakuha ng mas magandang litrato, bumaba ako sa ilog kung saan may mga naglalaba pa. Mabuti naman at wala masyadong pagbabago sa ilog na 'to...malinis pa rin ang tubig. Madadaanan ang tulay galing Tayabas papuntang Mauban, Quezon.

The Malagonlong Bridge in Tayabas, a charming stone bridge constructed in 1840 and was completed in 1850. This is one of the remaining stone bridges in the country that was built during the Spanish colonial times. One of the landmarks in Tayabas, the stone bridge was indeed beautiful. And it's amazing that it still stands after 159 years. I walked across the bridge where motor vehicles are no longer allowed to pass for safety reasons. The bridge was a grassy, muddy trail and it looked like only carabaos (water buffalo) and people have crossed this bridge for a while now. If not for the new bridge constructed beside it, the old bridge would have been perfect. I decided to go down to the river to take better photos. And I found these two ladies washing clothes. It looks like nothing much has changed around this place...the river is still clean. This old bridge is along the highway in Tayabas going to Mauban, Quezon.

naglalaba habang naggi-girl talk ang magkumare
the new Malagonlong Bridge

Posted for Litratong Pinoy

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mauban pier (part 2) - Watery Wednesday

More watery scenes at Mauban pier taken on Maundy Thursday. Townsfolk were enjoying the early morning sunshine and fresh air at the pier.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

~ Mark Twain

Posted for Watery Wednesday

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Red Roses - Ruby Tuesday

Red, white and black make up for a dramatic interior. Ideas that were wondrously executed by a furniture company at the recent Manila FAME, a trade event for the home and fashion lifestyle held at the SMX Convention Center.

Posted for Ruby Tuesday


Himala by Rivermaya

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fort Santiago - Weekend Snapshot

Two weekends ago, I was an accidental tourist in Fort Santiago. It's been more than a decade since I visited the old fortress. I brought an American friend there once upon a time, then a client from UK. Driving from Caloocan on late Sunday afternoon after attending the first birthday party of my niece, together with my mom and my friend S, we stopped by the Manila Cathedral then walked towards Fort Santiago to cool off. It was a hot and humid afternoon.

Fort Santiago, or Fuerte de Santiago in Spanish, is a defense fortress built for Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, in 1571. It was named in honor of a Spanish patron saint, James, Slayer of the Moors (Santiago Matamoros), whose wooden relief decorates the main gate of the fort. Fort Santiago is part of the structures of the walled city of Intramuros. One of the oldest and most dramatic colonial buildings in the Philippines, Fort Santiago was built to guard the entrance to the Pasig River. The site where the fort stands was originally the settlement of Rajah Sulayman, a Muslim chieftain and the last ruler of pre-hispanic Manila. The original structure made out of log and earth was destroyed in the Spanish-Chinese War of 1574-1575. It was in 1589 when the Spaniards constructed the fort using hard stone and finished in 1592. It became the main fort for travels and spice trade to the Americas and Europe for 333 years. The famous Manila Galleon trade to Acapulco, Mexico started sailing from the Fuerte de Santiago.

The fort is protected by 22 feet high walls, with a thickness of 8 feet and a gate measuring 40 feet high. The gate of Fort Santiago was built together with the military barracks in 1714. It was destroyed in the Battle of Manila in 1945, and was restored in 1982.

Fort Santiago was used by the Spanish as its base of power, which they wielded unforgivingly. It housed the military, Spanish officials and dignitaries and also served as a formidable prison with infamous dungeons and torture chambers. More recent memories of tyranny include the legacy of wartime Japanese occupation, when Philippine freedom fighters suffered and died here. In another cell block, American POW's were left to be drowned by the rising tide. This fort was one of the rumoured resting places for the legendary wartime trove of Yamashita's Gold and the victims' final resting place has been much disturbed by treasure hunters.

my mom, checking out the dungeon

The prison in Fort Santiago also held in confinement its most famous prisoner---Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero, until his execution on December 30, 1896. It was during his final days in Fort Santiago when Jose Rizal wrote his death poem, Mi Ultimo Adios.

Rizal's cell---the former Cuarto de Repuesto

Now embedded onto the ground in bronze, are Rizal's final footsteps from his cell in Fort Santiago to Bagumbayan where he was executed by a firing squad.

Rizal's final footsteps

At the heart of Fort Santiago is the Rizal Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to Rizal's lifework and home to various memorabilia, books, manuscripts, artworks belonging to the martyr. It's a pity the shrine was already closed when we got there that Sunday afternoon. I would have loved to see the relics of our national hero---one of his vertebrae, the first draft of his novel Noli Me Tangere (1887) and the original of Mi Ultimo Adios.

a statue of Rizal at the Plaza de Armas

The brick ruins are part of the oldest building in Fort Santiago. Built in 1593, the structure was a barracks for Spanish soldiers. During the American period, army officers and their families lived here.

Plaza de Armas at dusk

The Fort Santiago I visited that Sunday was a lot better than the Fort Santiago more than 10 years ago. The fort is now well-maintained, the rest rooms and grounds are clean---a national shrine every Filipino can be proud of. Fort Santiago may have lost its old grandeur after World War II but its significance to our culture and history should not be lost on us.

Posted for Weekend Snapshot

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sky-Watch, Friday: a tropical storm in summer

Dark clouds over Mauban as our outrigger boat left the pier. Scud clouds loomed across the horizon as we approached Cagbalete Island. There was no storm forecast but as unpredictable as our weather has become, I was not surprised to see thunderstorms in the middle of summer.

Posted for Sky-Watch Friday

Food Friday: Fabulous Sea Food

sweet and sour lapu-lapu at Dampa

Don't ignore fish and other sea foods when you're browsing on a menu or planning your weekly diet. Sea food, especially fish, is fabulous food---lots of variety in taste and texture, versatile and low in saturated fat, also low in calories, the perfect healthy food.
  • Oily fish (Mackerel, Herring, Sardines) contain Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat which can help to reduce total blood cholesterol. Omega-3 in the diet protects the heart and circulation and may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
  • Medical studies have shown that Omega-3 oils play an important part in aiding the development of our brains.
  • Sea food contains an abundance of essential minerals - iron, zinc, iodine and selenium.
grilled squid
  • Fish is a good source of Vitamins helping to maintain healthy nerve tissues, strong bones and teeth and a glowing complexion.
  • Fish is a low fat and/or good fat source of protein, essential for the healthy growth and maintenance of muscles and body tissues.
  • As well as your brain, your love life could benefit from eating sea food as part of a healthy diet. Shellfish such as oysters have a reputation for acting as an aphrodisiac!
oysters, my favorite aphrodisiac, este appetizer pala

Source: Weight Loss Resources

Posted for Food Friday

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Think Green Thursday: uprooted trees

It's amazing these trees are still alive---but not for long. And yes, the oceans are rising! These uprooted trees by the coastline of Cagbalete Island are evidence of global warming resulting to shoreline retreat in many smaller islands across the country. Fisher folks In Cagbalete told me that their coastline used to be thriving with lush vegetation and a couple of meters away from the current shoreline. In the past few years, however, waves have been surging the elevated coastline during high tide, causing soil erosion, uprooting trees and slowly swallowing the beach-front. Clearly, a low-lying island like Cagbelete is at risk of being submerged by rising sea level.

Living in an archipelago of 7,100 plus islands, I was alarmed when I read the WWF report a couple of years ago that about 1,000 islands in the Philippines may sink because of global warming. Although the government has been calling for tougher goals in fighting global warming, everyone should do his/her share, or we'd end up losing one third of the archipelago and become environmental refugees. If we don't take this seriously, then we'd better start looking for another island, in case the one we're in would be written off the map in the next few years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wet 'n Wild in Cagbalete Island - Watery Wednesday

towering coconut trees

Indeed, a tropical vacation in Cagbalete Island was rejuvenating. In the afternoon and early morning, I've walked the long shoreline of sandy beach and found a gem of a beach house! It can be easily missed because of tall dense trees that almost covered the facade of the house. The beach house is owned by a retired couple...and because I was nosy, I was given a grand tour. The house was mainly made of wood and bamboo, furnished in heavy wood furniture. The bathrooms and kitchen are modern---there was even a bath tub in the upstairs bathroom. There were 3 bedrooms on the ground floor and a loft for the masters bedroom. They also have their own power generator. A few meters from the main house is a pavilion with huge molave and kamagong dining furniture. I wondered how they transferred those furniture from Baguio to the island. Oh, the house can be rented, too, according to the owner. And I have their contact details.

Lavina's Aguho Playa

The remoteness of this island is a blessing. There were no bikini open, no loud house music, and no videoke parties. We feasted on fresh sea foods, enjoyed the laid back lifestyle and passed the time by doing nothing. What a heaven!

This is our tent that we rented for 300 pesos (roughly $6.00) a night. There were two mattresses and pillows inside. Everything was cool and dandy---I even fell asleep early (which is not normal for me) until around 1:30 am when I woke up to the rain drops on my face! Yes, it was a rain storm and it really poured. Our mattresses soaked, pillows drenched, even our bags were wet! The rain water flowed into our tent, strong winds outside, it was very cold as we grappled with a flashlight and tried to salvage our bags. Who would think of bringing a rain coat in the middle of summer? It was actually hilarious! Mother Nature has ways of reminding us to be always prepared.

My friend S abandoned ship and took refuge in a small chapel with a monoblock lounge chair. The couple in the neighboring tent ran to the dining area together with the rest of the campers. Guests in the cottages continued to dream and some didn't even know we had a rain storm. While I, the girl scout, stayed inside the tent, slept on one side to avoid getting soaked from the mattress and slept through it. And I don't know how and why, but the wetness didn't bother me...nothing could ruin my vacation! I woke up happy and refreshed. S slept the whole day and complained of a headache (yes, we packed a packet of paracetamol).

sun-bathing standing up
a young surfer
a cute beach bunny
the soloist
our anchorman
the cowboy on his early morning ride
afternoon catch---for our dinner

More watery scenes at Watery Wednesday