18 May 2019

Poblacion's Semana Santa Preparations (Circa Last April)

A splendidly painted backdrop by the samahang Alpha Spirits.

Before being dubbed "Williamsburgos", Poblacion was often referred to as "Old Makati" (the way we refer to Escolta and etc. as "Old Manila"), with its centuries-old church, wet market, and old homes. I was delighted to find out, rather belatedly, that Semana Santa or Holy Week in Poblacion is a super big deal not just for its residents but for devotees from all over the metropolis, who make their way here each year to view and participate in the procession and pabasa. I am fascinated by it all, but am actually late to the game of appreciating religious celebrations, so I hope you forgive me if I have inaccuracies or incomplete information.

Each neighborhood is loosely organized into a samahan (association) that builds and manages a kubol (literally, a kind of temporary shelter or booth) each with its own unique religious statue (or two). The kubol is actually a tableau that is to be part of the kalbaryo, a procession narrating Jesus' journey of suffering up until his crucifixion and burial. You will find constructed scenery of differing quality, sometimes just a single printed tarp as background, other times, an elaborate, perya-horror-house levels.

Everybody gathers around to watch the kubol construction.

The kubol is also the site of a kind of marathon pabasa–literally a "reading" of the pasyon, Jesus' life and suffering rendered into Philippine epic narrative form. It is generally read from a book and sung to some tunes commonly used for the purpose (most are played over speakers in MIDI form). The pabasa is activated on Holy Wedesnday (when a procession places a crucifix in each kubol) and ends on Good Friday. I heard that our local parish priest had called out in a disparaging manner that some people use recordings of the pasyon instead of actually singing or reciting it. Interesting how a syncretic element has become something of importance to the Church institution itself!

The pasyon "songbook". The text at the bottom states: "The path of the Lord is the path of love".
In the days leading up to Holy Wednesday, a fiesta-like atmosphere prevails. Streets are closed off, residents loiter around both the construction of the kubol and the decorations of carriages that will ferry the statues around during Holy Friday procession. But even before either the processions or pabasa begin, some casual drinking and loafing occurs at the newly "opened up" chunks of public space. There are always opinions being flung around about this floral arrangement or the color of some faux rocks.

Solicitations also abound at this time for things like construction materials, official samahan t-shirts, and refreshments for devotees burning the midnight oil at the pabasa. Our local samahan promised, in exchange for our donation, unli-coffee and the privilege to hang around anytime. And because Holy Week this year came right before the mid-term elections, mayoral and konsehal candidates topped the handwritten lists of donations that hung at almost every kubol, a soft form of campaigning achieved by donating around Php500-Php2,500.

Failed mayoral candidate Jun-Jun Binay tops this list of donors.

13 May 2019

Kamuning Branches for a Kalbaryo

A week before Semana Santa or Holy Week this year, a couple of men began pruning our neighbor's kamuning (orange jessamine) shrub. I stepped out to "salvage" some fragrant flowers and have a chat with them. I learned that every year they prune the tree free of charge, using the hardy citrus-like foliage to dress up their neighborhood kalbaryo in Mandalauyong.

Kamuning branches.


Abandoned nest.
I also got some kamuning fruit.

16 July 2018

Breakfast at Portabaga Falls, Santa Praxedes

Everything extremely fresh: sautéed-yet-tender eggplant, a fried egg (the way I like it the few times I have it––devoid of runniness), with tomatoes that were slightly tart and not savory.
Along the 5+ hour drive from Tuguegarao to the Santa Praxedes multipurpose hall (basketball court), we stopped at Portabaga Falls for a government-sponsored breakfast

It turned out to be a "pescetarian" spread––fried eggplant topped with those bright red northerly tomatoes, fried eggs, and some small fried fish (dilis). Literally a lighter, coastal version of the heavy meat-centric rice-and-beef versions that are usually available along the roadsides in the province. Save for the fish, everything was probably a tinge less savory than one would expect, but that is always remedied by the available sawsawan (this time it was soy sauce with vinegar).

Chafing dishes lined up for the buffet-style breakfast.
Eggplant with tomatoes, dilis, and more tomatoes.
Portabaga Falls and its pools. We didn't take a dip––it was way too cold.

19 June 2018

Tuguegarao Tricycles

There are cool things about Tuguegarao, but air quality isn't one of them. As previously mentioned, your lungs won't be particularly happy in the city. It seems as though all the outlawed two-strokes of the Philippines were sent there to die. In general, one of the most hostile-to-pedestrians small cities in the country. 

A typical Tuguegarao tricycle.

The milky smoke from two-stroke tricycles.


09 June 2018

Signs of Indian Life in Tuguegarao

There seem to be a few shops owned by Indians in downtown Tuguegarao. There is also an Indian food delivery service.

Tuguegarao Bombay Bazaar
Lachmi Department Store

06 June 2018

Tuguegarao Improvisations

I realized I hadn't been to an entirely new place in a long time.

I had been traveling, but to the same places all the time, and not really documenting anything, sometimes just going to the same spots everyday and watching the sunset. Going deep and getting accustomed and being pensive and actually a bit reclusive. Call it... Getting old? Not having a smartphone? Living in these times? Recent political events had left me feeling mentally dulled. As time passed, though, things remained consistently absurd enough to turn almost interesting, and I started taking photos again and poking my nose around like I used to.

Tuguegarao was a brief trip in March. I felt pretty much like my old self. It was the "entirely new place" thing, I believe.

Tuguegarao is a city neglected by its government. It is infested with cars and tricycles, and being a pedestrian is pretty tough. But its people are some of the nicest, and they've managed to shape their lives around an unplanned, vehicle-centric situation. Walking around is something of a healthy hazard (that's coming from a perpetually smog-enveloped Manileña), but during off-hours it's not so bad.

Anyway here are a couple of small things from there:

Repurposed plastic container tricycle accessory.
A bat sticker.
A cloth cover for exposed pipes.

Plastic cup inserts for holes on a gutter cover. Maybe things kept falling inside? Maybe it smelled bad?

05 January 2018

Ambulant Clam Vendor

A dude claimed to be selling abalones and scallops from San Narciso, Quezon. He hyped us up so hard that I forgot for a moment how actual abalones looked, and that scallop shells are, well, scalloped.

We ended up buying some "just for the experience" (I don't even eat the stuff, but I made abalone porridge with the non-abalones), and the guy shuffled away to his Korean restaurant suki. I suppose they are well aware what these clams are. I will update this post if I get to identify them.

Despite the misinformation, I am nonetheless pleased at this free agent making his way through our urban capillaries and hawking rural goods.


"Abalone" and "scallops". Check that wooden carrying stick though.

Cool how the net bag bunches up when he pulls the string to hang it back up!

03 January 2018

Backyard Farm Tobacco

Filipinos are lucky to have access to tobacco leaves in remarkably raw form. As in: whole leaves, recently harvested, then cured or dried. I am neither a smoker nor a chewer of the leaf, but I happen to be a compulsive buyer, because I am in awe at their limp, leathery goodness. As I have tried smoking a fat stick of chewing tobacco, and because I have recently heard (so it is still hearsay actually) that they are two separate types of tobacco planted here (and that you cannot smoke the chewing sort), I am motivated to pry more, and will do so in the following weeks.

Anyway, Siquijor Island has only one man growing tobacco. He sells it to smokers and to healers, who use it for rituals. He maintains the field next to his house and one nearby, and air-dries them by his front porch. He also tried to sell me large seashells.

A porch drying area, with a small workspace for this one-man operation.
The house, as seen from the street.
Everything is religious on this island.
Waste tobacco.
The farmer unties a sack of his cured / dried leaf stash.
Fresh leaves, just harvested and ready for hanging.


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