Saturday, October 29, 2005

One with God and Nature

tagaytay tagaytay

We've always looked forward to our yearly Holy Retreat in High School. The ones in Tagaytay were even more so because we found the place perfect for its quiet and solitude.

Over the years, Tagaytay, also known as the Volcano Island, has become popular as a vacation area because of its proximity to Manila. Unlike Baguio which is farther and quite expensive especially during peak seasons. Tagaytay, on the other hand, is only about an hour drive from the Philippine capital. There, one can enjoy the cool climate and spectacular views of the Taal Lake. There is also the public park, Picnic Grove, with its quaint nipa hut cottages overlooking Taal (a great picnic spot!), great bargains for the local produce and horseback riding.

picnic grove

Going there for a retreat was also great. It has not earned the title of "Center of Spiritual Retreat" for nothing.

Our school, which was administered by the Augustinian Recollects, accordingly built a retreat house there. It was a spacious, low-lying building in a grassy hill. For Retreats, we stayed in a dormitory since there were at least 50 of us students with our Adviser and CLF teacher who was also an AR nun.

There were activities and sessions where we were made to commune with God and ourselves. There were a lot of moments of self-examination and quiet reflections. Of course, the requisite therapy of release in the form of crying was also very much present.

With prayers and reflection and the ever-present fun always in a group (of girls, too), we always found it to be a great time for healing and rejuvenation. No spa, expensive or otherwise, can ever compare to it. To be sure, it was one of the things I missed most in a Catholic school when I went to UP in college.

Our good teachers also made sure that we get to pass by the local market whenever we were there. That way, we get to spend all those allowance and bring home pasalubongs.

So, for locals and tourists alike, be sure not to miss this great haven. Tagaytay is truly nature at its best.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Nice Spot by the Bay

baywalk baywalk at nite

Manila Bay has always been famous for its spectacular sunsets. Many a photo has been taken of its darkening sky streaked with the last rays of the fading sun. The beauty of it used to stop there because no one dared to stay long on that darkened boulevard with the shady characters it might attract. That is, until the good mayor of Manila had the wisdom to fix the place up. Brightly colored lights were put up, the road fixed, several establishments set up and voila! The place becomes an instant tourist attraction. Crowded by people not only during the day but on nights as well.

It has actually become an "in" place where the youngsters and the young at heart go out for a night of fun by the sea with additional attractions thrown in such as good food, cool drinks, live bands, stand-up comedians, mimes, karaoke and a lot more. And, it's all pretty much affordable considering the availability and the variety. You can even go at it free just by strolling along the Baywalk. But, that is, of course, for the fierce of heart with all those tempting amusements all laid out.

It is truly heartwarming to see the place looking so lively and teeming with people. And, judging by the additional establishments and attractions that have sprung up, it must be pulling in a lot of money, which is really good for our working Filipino and our flailing economy.

So, if you're free and want to have fun at a pocket-friendly price, round up your family and friends and head on over to Baywalk. It promises to be truly a nice spot by the bay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Lost Grandeur

the met

The Metropolitan Theatre, or the Met, was truly beautiful when I first saw it with my classmates back in 1991.

Going there to watch the play "Ibong Adarna," we simply walked there from our school, Colegio de Santa Rosa, in Intramuros. The Met was a small but stately building nestled in a busy intersection between Quiapo Bridge and the Manila City Hall.

Standing there, we gazed at the Met. It was said to have been built in 1935 by Filipino architect Juan Arellano and was made famous by its beautiful art deco designs. The facade alone was very interesting with the stained glass and female bronze figures at the top's entrance. The interiors were even more eye-catching with murals and paintings and gilded walls.

Set in such ambiance, we found the play wonderful. "Ibong Adarna" instantly became more than the drab and dreary textbook to us with the characters come to life. My classmates, who were no more theatre afficianados than I, suddenly became one. Then and there, plans to see the play again were made. I do believe that the young male actors also had something to do with it.

It was a wonderful theatre experience. The next three years that we came back to watch Florante at Laura, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, were the same. We couldn't get enough of the Met. There we first realized that we can be more than the mall-frequenting, book-wary and culture-shy youngsters that we were.

But, now. The Met that we knew and loved was no more. It has gone to ruins. Almost deserted, the walls crumbling and the interiors dark and frightening, it's hard to imagine that it was once the grand theatre of the Philippines. Thronged by people and patronized not only by the Philippines social elite but by students and common people as well.

It is hard to pass by the Met without feeling sad about its state of disrepair. It's almost like seeing our very own Parthenon crumbling into ruins.

It was said that there are plans by the Manila City Government to rehabilitate the Met, but that was announced on billboards about 3 or 4 years ago and it still has not happened. I have not even seen the beginnings of said reconstruction. I do hope they'd hurry and put their proposed plans into action. Rehabilitating the Met would be a coup and everybody would be glad to see it running again. For not only is the Metropolitan Theater an architectural beauty but a historical landmark as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

At a Cost

A young man poised for life, a father of four young children, a simple lumberjack, they and a lot more (toll at 2,000 according to CCN count), dead in the war in Iraq.

It seems impossible to imagine that in our world now, full of technological breakthroughs and amazing discoveries, the act of war, that of sacrificing human lives for a cause, still exists.

Of course, conflicts abound. With a great number of people in this world and developing different cultures and perceptions, it is bound to arise. But, people have become more intelligent and diplomatic that we tend to go for the lawful way of resolving conflicts. That is why the concept of war has become almost an atrocity.

Terorism and violence brings the same feeling of revulsion. To combat these are the reasons cited by the US President for going into the Iraq war.

For us Filipinos, US and their war would seem much too far to bother ourselves with. But seeing articles about their mounting casualties, the families left by their dead soldiers, brought home the fact that, these too, are people. Much like us. I can only hope and pray that we don't go to war, ever.

I can only imagine what the women in America whose husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers go through in fear of their men's safety. More so with those who have lost their men in the war. My heart goes out to them.

I am no expert in international relations but surely the pain and suffering brought by war to a country's citizens should be enough to tell their President that it's not such a good idea. And, that maybe, just maybe, there's a far more nobler cause to fight for: To be able to simply live with the people one loves most.

Monday, October 10, 2005

My Lola

I cried last night.

I was watching the evening news when they featured a story on grandmothers doing a pageant thing. It brought such sharp memories of my Lola that I teared up. She died of pneumonia last August at age 73.

My Lola loved to dress up and was an active participant of many a parish festivity. She even became a proud Ginang ng Parokya at one time. Of course, that was for the benefit of the indigent parishioners.

My Lola was an avid taker of social and political issues that it was a long standing joke between us that she should have been the UP student and not I, her erstwhile politically disinclined granddaughter.

But, she was much, much more than the rally organizer, striding activist, and barangay official. She was, above all else, our beloved Lola. Our staunch supporter, our NO. 1 fan, and our family's champion.

I don't know how else I can describe her, except that, none of her family members, from her children, sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great grandchildren would not have been well and good today if not for her.

I am able to walk unaided today because of her. She paid for my leg operation. I finished college with a great deal of help from her. My brother is alive today because of her. She paid for his huge hospital bill when he was attacked by unknown assailants when he was in his teens. My father did not go blind because of her. She helped pay for his eye operation and supported us when he was unable to work because of it. All of her relatives and her friends have in one way or another been helped by her.

She was a fighter and I have always looked up to her. When she became seriously ill last January, it was really hard for me to accept it. When she miraculously came out of it and went home, I could not bring myself to see her suffering. I seldom went to visit her and I deeply regret that now.

But I love her and I know she knew that. Though we wanted for her not to suffer anymore, the sadness, the pain of her loss is still there.

Don't worry, Lola. All that you've taught me by example I have taken to heart. I will always put my family first before anything. I will work hard and value my career. And, always I will put my heart to anything I've set myself to do. Just like you did.

We know we'll be okay because you'll be looking after us from up there. Like you always do. Thank you, Lola.