Archive for June, 2011

I have visited Greece twice but I missed the famous islands the first time around.  Just the same, that first visit got me all worked up in anticipation of the historical landmarks to be found in Athens, Delphi , Mycenea, Thessalonika.  The first time around, the highlights of my trip were decidedly Athens and Meteora.  The second time around,  the highlights were the islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Patmos and Crete.   Mykonos?  Well, yeah, it is one party island much like our Boracay (with windmills painted blue and white) but it pales in culture and aesthetics compared to the other islands.


There  is a day for the capital’s classical sights.  The Parthenon atop the Acropolis.  Straight out of a history book,  here I am staring at the crowning glory of all of Greece.  Ancient civilization.  The Erechtheum with its Port of Maidens. The beautifully preserved Theseum, Roman Temple of Zeus, Theater of Dionysus and the Agora where Socrates taught. Vistas of the Royal Palace and various buildings in the city contrast with the remains of a glorious past.  I was so hyped the whole morning. Knowing these colossal structures stood long before the birth of Jesus!  The books available at the Museum have photos of the remaining buildings with transparent overlay showing how the buildings must have looked before.  Amazing.  The Statue of Athena stood tall in the transparencies.  You just have to give it to the Greeks for giving birth to this civilization.  No wonder their tourism industry is flourishing.  Some inheritance they got!  In a way, I was afraid some of the structures may not  last long enough for future generations. At the time, I silently wished a second visit is made possible where these structures still remain. (Wish granted. Amen )  I also made another prayer that I continue to enjoy good health to be able to sustain my penchant for these adventures. (Another answered prayer. Amen)  Looking around,  I found quite a number of senior tourists experiencing difficulties scaling the steps.   Some gave up and started their descent.  A pity.  The highlight of the Parthenon visit lies at the top,  with the added bonus of a panoramic view of the sprawling metropolis. I remember sipping a cup of coffee in the Museum cafe, seeing how majestic the Acropolis looked from afar.  It is a no-brainer that the early Greeks set up the seat of their government on top of this mountain.  There was no way any army can attack from any side without being watched!

Meteora Rocks!

And then, there’s Meteora.  Oh, how I adore this place.  One can’t help communing with Nature in this open air museum.   Monasteries atop the rocks!  I cannot even imagine how those monks built these convents and monasteries atop these rocks.  Nor how the monks were put in cage-like nets to be pulled by fellow-monks atop the rocks to reach the monasteries.  I remember the first time I visited I stayed overnight in the nearby town of Kalambaka .  On a free afternoon,  I strolled around the town to find many friendly Greek men and women, always ready to offer you tea or if you’re lucky, ouzo.   Now ouzo is the equivalent of our “lambanog” in the provinces.  And much like the local folks back home,  the people here seem ready to pick up a conversation and idle the rest of the afternoon away, while nibbling on olives!

Not much has changed the second time I visited Meteora.  Yet, those stairs we scaled going up a number of monasteries seem more steep now.  That is the difference 13 years make!  Same vision,  weaker knees. Same enthusiasm,  not the same energy.  This discovery thus compels me never to stop making adventures while you still can.   It’s my personal mantra.  I dare you to prove me wrong! (Note: the last 2 photos are not mine.  My rusty P&S won’t do justice to the awesome views in Metereora. )

Sequel would be on the islands of Greece.  Soon………….

More photos to be found here:

No Senior Moments, I remember Greece 1996

Revisiting Meteora

Adieu, My Dear Friend

Imagine that
We’ve been friends for over 30 years
Through many sports
And many wine bottle corks.

There were dark breaks
Heartaches and pains
But will remember many good moments
All the laughter and cheers.

Of cheer we were never wanting
We certainly knew what fun meant
All those good times we had
Often carefree, other times careless.

Wish I hugged you tighter 
The last time I saw you
A more lingering buzz on ur cheek
To bid you adieu.

Rest now, my friend
You are in a better world now
Gone are the pain and sorrows
With our good Lord, you bask in joy ♥

And I thought that was the last sequel on my Bicol Holiday! 🙂



From CWC in Pili, Camarines Sur,  we first passed by 2 Churches in Naga before driving back to Manila.  A quick breakfast after, and we were on our way.  Having driven from Manila to Bicol via the Tiaong-Sariaya route, we chose to take a detour via the Tayabas-Lucban-Majayjay-Nagcarlan-Calauan route on our way back.  This way, we circled around Mount Banahaw before reaching the more  familiar  SLEX.


Truth be told,  I was itching to have lunch at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan  in Tayabas, Quezon.  The day of the Pahiyas Festival in  Lucban, Quezon , we passed by this eating place then crowded with far too many merrymakers.  The idea of dining on a floating raft appealed to me.  It should also be something novel for the grandchildren too.  You think I spoil them?  Naaah.  Just that I love keeping score of doing many “firsts” with them not-so-little-ones.   I look back at my childhood years, which are by and large kind of blurred now,  and remember mainly the “first times”.   So, let us just say I want to be remembered by these elves via these many “first times”.


Palaisdaan @Tayabas, Quezon



On full stomachs,  we decided to shake off some of those calories by visiting Kamay ni Hesus in the next town of Lucban, Quezon.   No, we did not walk all the way up.  Not enough energy for that.   But we stayed and walked long enough to feel a few calories lighter after visiting the Church ,  the souvenir shop , and saying our prayers.


Majayjay Church in Laguna


From Lucban,  we saw signs pointing left if one were to drive towards Majayjay, Laguna and pointing right if one were to drive towards Sta. Cruz, Laguna.   I made the decision to turn left.  And boy, was that one truly winding road around Mount Banahaw.  It may be the next town crossing from Quezon to Laguna, but forget Kennon Road.  Forget the “bituka ng manok” drive from Quezon to Bicol,  this is one LONELY drive towards Majayjay.  Lonely because we must have spotted only a couple of cars on the same winding road.  The public buses and jeepneys must have turned right, ei?  Well, they know better!


Inside Majayjay Church


Initially, we were awed by sights of Mount Banahaw and rice paddies laid out like mini rice terraces.  Not for long.  We were so eager to hit town after that lonely drive.  Ravines galore, I’m telling ya.   Never again.  You bet we all heaved a sign of relief when we found Majayjay Church, and most fervently said our prayer of thanks.


Beautiful Majayjay Church!


From Majayjay is another winding route towards Nagcarlan. Whoa, we are truly circling Mount Banahaw.   But this one’s more manageable.  Another 18th century church begging for an honest preservation job.  For sure,  these Churches are truly our heritage. No temples, no pagodas.  We have our Churches!  Ironically though,  I find half-hearted efforts , if at all, to preserve these heritage sites.  Breaks your heart.   😦


Nagcarlan Church


Thinking the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is right beside the Church,  we parked nearby.   Finding none, we asked the locals for directions.  Not too far away is the Underground Cemetery, another heritage site.  It was getting dark by this time and it started drizzling.   I didn’t ask the kids to go with me as I thought they’d find the place creepy.  Never mind that the underground crypt is a former secret meeting place among the revolutionaries then, and thus part of history.  With my nephew-in-law, I jumped out of the car and entered the “compound”.   There was a small chapel. No signs.  No directions. But we found a non-descript door leading to a stairs which we took to go to the underground crypt.  It is rather small, much to my disappointment.  Poorly lit,  it can certainly give you goose bumps.  We didn’t stay very long.  In fact, we had to hurriedly climb up as we heard some clanging sounds from the ground floor.   As it turned out,  it was 5 in the afternoon of a Friday night.   “Shop is closing”.   The caretaker, or gatekeeper was busy locking up the place for the weekend.  That , without checking if there was anyone down below?????


Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery


By the time we got out and ready to drive away,  we snapped one last photo of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery.  With that unconcerned gatekeeper putting the lock on the gate.  Imagine how it must be spending a weekend here.  Yay!  Now that would make for an interesting episode! 🙂



Days before our planned visit to Los Banos,  I asked my friends for any recommendations on where best to have lunch in the area.  Frankly,  I wasn’t in the mood for a typical Filipino meal of bulalo, laing, crispy pata or kare-kare.   Neither am I up to a burger or chicken inasal lunch.   Not this time, anyway.



Believe it or not,  I chanced upon a “tweeted recommendation” to check out Dalcielo right along the lone Lopez Avenue headed for UPLB.   Not one to search for a dining place somewhere off the road,  I readily decided we must give this one a try. Easy to find.  “Just look for those 2 huge orange umbrellas fronting the deli” — he tweets.   Oh, I love this online community.   So easy to source travel and dining ideas!   Just keep me out of politics and other social agenda, and I’m fine. So there we were, searching for 2 orange umbrellas.  Perfect markers!  You just can’t miss it.  And they have a parking area right beside it too!



We found Dalcielo a good half hour before noon.  Served us right.  We had the luxury of choosing our “corner” in the limited space, just before the noontime crowd sets in .  Maybe just 5 tables to choose from.   Yet, we have just stepped in a good meter or two ,  and I knew we would have a good meal.   The shelves were teeming with farm produce (cottage cheese, yogurt, what else?) and bakery products.   The chocolate cake looked so inviting I was tempted to make it my appetizer.  That, along with a cup of good brew.   There were cookies, cream puffs, cheesecakes,  lemon squares, sans rival .  We’re in heaven!



For starters, we ordered the local Fern or Pako Salad.  After that, we AGONIZED over choosing from among so many of our favorite dishes.  Till we settled …….  to have all, or share all.   Marissa, the owner, was ever so gracious.  It is only a small dining place with only one food server, with Marissa ruling the kitchen.  She would sneak in and out ,  each time surprising us with the aroma and presentation of our ordered dishes.  I just love their Lengua Estofado while my friend drools over their Callos.   The Lengua  had very thin, tender slices cooked to perfection.  The Callos had just the right spice to it — never mind that the portion was kind of small .   We all enjoyed the Seafood Paella or Paella Marinara. And we likewise shared the Grilled Fish, served on a bed of spinach.   The desserts completed our sinful afternoon.   Two kinds of sans rival: one which is sugar-free, guilt-free?   …. and the regular sinful one. We also tried the cream puff  with our coffee, along with the mango panacotta.   There is also a strawberry panacotta, which I must try the next time I visit.   As we left no room for more desserts,  Marissa so kindly gifted us with a slice of take-home chocolate cake.  Isn’t that a lovely gesture?  Even their coffee is soooo good.   We savored every morsel and bite of every dish and dessert we ordered.  Like nothing simply went wrong.   We were prepared to see Marissa and the lone waiter looking harassed and stressed out,  but they so cheerfully attended to our every whim and fancy.



For sure,  I will make another trip to Dalcielo.   It would be a good stopover (??) on my way to Paete , Pakil, Pagsanjan, Liliw  or some other interesting towns of Laguna.  Anything. Anywhere, for a reason to pass by this gem of a deli and bakeshop.

You may also wish to read my other blog  on Dalcielo and places to visit in this neck of the woods. Bon apetit!

Having visited the Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago and having read, this time with more meaning and passion,  Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios”,  I am all the more inspired to know our very own hero.  Where best to start but in his very hometown!

A man of many talents.  With the power of his pen, he stirred hope, courage and patriotism.  On a more personal level,  he drew inspiration as I now find myself on a quest to know him more.  Not as a national hero, but as the person he once was.  I want to know my Rizal as the poet par excellance.  I want to know what inspired him. What he saw as a little boy each time he looked out of the window of their big house in Calamba.  Why he called his dog Verganza.  What games he played.  What tricks he taught Verganza.   I want to know what was on his mind when he wrote those letters and poems with so much passion.

For sure, he wasn’t into poverty born.  The ancestral house in Calamba, Laguna attests to the stature of the Mercado Family at that time.   Yes, Mercado.  It was only when he started going to Ateneo that his brother, Paciano, decided to have him adopt the family name “Rizal” .   There is a story to it, but I am not dwelling on that.  The photo above somehow gives a good summary.  There is also a story on the meaning of Rizal (green rice stalks?) but I’m not going into that either. Nor why the house was given a fresh paint of green.

I want to know my Rizal as he was growing up.  With his dog Verganza in this big house in Calamba, Laguna right across the town church where he was baptized.   There was even a bronze statue of the young boy Rizal, aged 8-10 years old, with his dog in the lawn of the ancestral house that could only belong to an illustrado.   In the same lawn were the gravesites of his father and mother, whose remains were exhumed from North Cemetery, and reburied here.   Why North Cemetery?  It was only now that I learned that the family was forced out of this beautiful house soon after the execution of our national hero.  Having settled in the Chinese community in Binondo, Manila,  Rizal’s parents never had a chance to return and reclaim their lovely house in their lifetime.  They died, and were buried in North Cemetery.

Was he a good kid?  Was “tinola” really his favorite dish?   Was there another poet or novelist in the family?  I remember an old friend of mine, who had a writer/poet for a brother.  He recalled those days spent in the farm with his brother,  wasting time playing with the carabao,  or eating lunch of rice and dried fish under a mango tree,  or simply taking those afternoon naps while enjoying the afternoon breeze.  Same experiences.   Same childhood memories, he says.   Nearly the same age.  Yet this old friend of mine is amazed at how his brother can recount those experiences with so much poetic candor and eloquence.  As he puts it,   “he must be a hardcore romantic” to see the many hues of green of the fields,   to feel the wind wafting through the bamboo trees which bend ever so gracefully,  to sense the rhythm of the night sounds from a choir of insects, to feel the lullabye created by the afternoon breeze before dozing off to dreamland.   Yes,  Gat Jose Rizal must be a hardcore romantic himself.    A hero he was.  Is.  A romantic one at that.  For sure,  my quest would start with the love letters and poems he wrote and sent.   😉

Consider this a sequel to an earlier blog entry  to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival on the theme  “Rizal and Travel” hosted by Ivan Henares of Ivan About Town .  My earlier entry is titled ” Say Hello to Mi Ultimo Adios” .

I wasn’t meaning to write about our national hero and join the PTB Blog Carnival , thinking I needed to clear my backlogs first. But as it turned out, a couple of friends from TravelBlog visited the Philippines and had an extra day to spend in Manila. Thought I’d give them the drill:  Spanish-Philippines in the morning,  Chinatown-Philippines for lunch, and Hollywood (American)  cum “Urban/Modern” Philippines late afternoon till early evening.  The “Philippines-Philippines” episode can wait till they get their walking feet to Bicol starting with an off-chance,  late-in-the-season Butanding Interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon.

I enjoy meeting new friends.  Jan and Polona are from Slovenia and belong to my other “community” at TravelBlog. Young, full of energy, and eager to know the Philippines .  And I was just as eager to introduce our country, our culture to them. So we began the morning with a tour of Fort Santiago and a drive-through Intramuros.  The latter deserves another leisurely afternoon.

Fort Santiago

There are heaps of good write-ups on Fort Santiago.  And blogs matched with stunning photography of this “walled city”.  I brought my rusty Point & Shoot Camera just so I can take souvenir shots with my young Slovenian friends.   My young Slovenians surprisingly did their homework and knew enough about our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and about his last days in Fort Santiago.  No need for any history lessons.  These travelers, as opposed to tourists, know their stuff.   It was I who was sufficiently surprised.  Inside the Rizal Shrine ,  they took their time reading “Mi Ultimo Adios”.   I must confess I never went past the “Adios Patria Adorada, Region del Sol Quirida”  stuff.  😦

Amazingly, there was a translation of Mi Ultimo Adios in other languages.  Jan and Polona painstakingly read through some, especially the one translated in Czech.   Even as translated,  they were quite impressed with the many talents of our national hero.  Having visited many other countries,  they were pleased to find that our own is a man of peace.  And not another military chief or warrior who liberated the country from oppressors.  This gave another perspective of allowing one’s self to be impressed about the power of the pen.   How a philosophy, an ideology can move people . How it can enlighten and liberate an entire race to think on its own.   Of his many talents,  Dr. Jose Rizal certainly used the power of the pen to give life to common sentiments heretofore repressed.

There are times when I feel sentimental and wax poetic.  Moments when I find myself reading and taking pleasure in reading poems.   No favorite poets for me.  I read whatever takes my fancy.   But “Mi Ultimo Adios” ?  I never gave it a chance.  I do not know why.  Perhaps because it was part of the school curriculum and I associated it with the obligatory history lessons.   Thanks to Jan and Polona, I rediscovered the beauty, the wisdom and the rhythmic beat of Rizal’s patriotism in this farewell poem.

“I die when I see the sky has unfurled its colors 
And at last after a cloak of darkness announces the day; 
If you need scarlet to tint your dawn, 
Shed my blood, pour it as the moment comes, 
And may it be gilded by a reflection of the heaven’s newly-born light.”

Shame on me.  To have someone from a foreign land teach me a lesson on appreciation of one’s own.   This stanza was nearly “alien” to me. As I said,  I hardly went beyond the “Adios Patria Adorada” line.  Yet Rizal’s passion and patriotism resonated with these lines of poetic candor.

“If upon my grave one day you see appear, 
Amidst the dense grass, a simple humble flower, 
Place it near your lips and my soul you’ll kiss, 
And on my brow may I feel, under the cold tomb, 
The gentle blow of your tenderness, the warmth of your breath.”

Lovely. Simply lovely.  He may be a doctor of medicine. A hero.  A painter.  A sculptor. An engineer.   And more.  But in my book, he is  a poet par excellance.

This is my entry to the PTB Blog Carnival celebrating Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s 150th birthday with the theme “Rizal and Travel”, hosted by Ivan Henares .