Archive for December, 2009
Posted on December 18, 2009 - by Vic
Ever wondered what the widow of a former dictator does with her spare time? Or her shoes? In the case of former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, a shoe museum along J. P. Rizal Street in Marikina City (Tel. No.: 646 3787), has been built and dedicated in her honor to store part of her shoe bounty. The Marikina shoe museum is now housed in a proper house managed by the city government of Marikina, not just to showcase Imelda’s famous shoes but also to showcase the city’s own shoe brands, designs and also some other shoes of famous local politicians.
It is a fitting role for the woman whose place in history was ensured by an extravagant lifestyle that saw her amass 3,500 pairs of shoes while helping her husband rule our poverty-stricken nation. When asked how many pieces the city government has, more than 700 pairs of the famous collection are apparently kept in this museum. The shoe collection features shoes made by Italian designers like Salvatorre Ferregamo, Charles Jourdan, Beltrami, Bally of Switzerland and our very own, Maro brand by Mario Katigbak, which was formerly sold at Rustans Department Store.
It is also a clever marketing coup for Marikina City, a small town on Manila’s northeastern border. There isn’t a lot of tourism in Marikina, but there’s a lot of shoemaking, with some 40% of the town’s 550,000 people involved. What better way to promote the two than a museum filled with Imelda’s shoes?
Until now, the surviving shoe collection was kept at Malacanang Palace, more or less where Imelda left them in 1986 when she boarded into a helicopter with her husband Ferdinand to flee to Hawaii. It was the current Mayor of Marikina, Marides Fernando, who was then the First Lady of the city who had the idea of asking the government for permission to rehouse the infamous footwear collection in Marikina.
Sadly, there are only less than 700 pairs left from the original collection – what happened to the other 3,000 plus pairs, nobody seems to know – but there’s still enough to fill glass display cases lining two walls of the renovated 19th century rice warehouse.
Dressy Charles Jourdan pumps, comfy espadrilles, knee high leather boots, a shoe phone, all size 8 ½, compete for attention with photos of Imelda with other world leaders – Prince Charles, a French president, China’s Deng Xiaoping, Imelda and cigar chomping Fidel Castro of Cuba.
Squeezed forlornly into a corner, next to a small photo of the late president, are a few pairs of worn out-looking shoes that belonged to Ferdinand. There’s also a pair of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s shoes, Gringo Honasan, Juan Flavier, Teofisto Guingona, Emmanuel Pelaez and church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin’s loafers.
For educational value the second floor has displays of the shoemaker’s tools and a diorama of Marikina shoemakers. Personally, I’d like to bring foreign friends to visit. “It’s part of the country’s history.” A teacher at nearby Barangka Elementary School plans to bring her class to visit. But I ask, “do very young school kids know anything about the 21-year rule of Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos who allegedly pocketed between US$ 5 billion to 10 billion of the country’s wealth? “Not really,” the teacher replied. “But they still know who Imelda is.”
It seems the Marcos legacy is infamy, but the former first lady remains serenely unperturbed by the tag. She’s not at all embarrassed to be known for her shopaholic predilection. “They looked in my closets for skeletons, thank God all they found were shoes,” she was quoted during the opening of the shoe museum.
Posted on December 17, 2009 - by Vic
PALAUI ISLAND’S CAPE ENGANO LIGHTHOUSE – It might be Lonesome but Darkness will never fall in this Island
By Vic Albornoz Lactaoen
Photography by Teodoro L. Pelaez and Roberta Gonzales
The town of Santa Ana on the northeastern tip of Cagayan Province is one those interesting places to visit when you visit the province of Cagayan Valley. Although it has always been dubbed as the Gateway to the Pacific because of various reasons, it remains pure and welcoming to any visitors who come and visit the town. Of late, it is becoming to be popularly known as the game fishing mecca of the Philippines where various nationalities indulge themselves in the said sports in April of every year, and the home of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), an agro-industrial center.
But the town is likewise famous for its centuries-old Faro de Cabo Engano (Cape Engano Lighthouse) built by the Spaniards in the early 18th century located in the timber-rich island of Palaui.
Posted on December 17, 2009 - by Vic
The nomadic Aeta Negritos call the mountain Apo Mallari. But for people around the world, this volcanic mountain is more popularly known as Mount Pinatubo after having exploded its way into international prominence by blowing off its 300 meter cap, spewing fine ash 25 kilometers into the atmosphere, showering an area of 200 square kilometers and creating a crater of 2 kilometers wide.
Day became night as the volcanic haze circled the globe, creating magnificent sunset skies around the world. Typhoon rains mixed with ash to create lahar, a mud slew that gushed downhill burying everything in its path. It was the most violent volcanic eruption of the last century, practically obliterating the towns of Bacolor and Porac from the map, killing 550 and displacing thousands from their homes and farms. It left behind a lunar landscape beyond imagination.
It is for this reason that the Department of Tourism initiated a project to provide a livelihood project for the local Aetas and recently set up and inaugurated the Sapang Bato Information Center along Sitio Target, in Barangay Sapang Bato as a starting point for would be explorers to this interesting dramatic lahar wasteland.
The aboriginal guides carefully brings tourists to deep canyons and gorges with walls as well as to carefully selected campsites in order to prevent visitors venturing out alone to end up swallowed by innocent-looking pools which may turn out to be treacherous hot quicksand.
The number of trails to Pinatubo’s crater varies from time to time and even from day to day due to shifts in ash and sand masses. Most package tour guides follow the Crow Valley, a flat, long valley that leads right up near the rim of Pinaturbo’s crater. Other routes are seldom traveled and require climbing equipment and experienced guides as you are faced with negotiating a maze of narrow ash canyons. What better way than be guided by the expert Aetas who have lived around the volcano as long as time immemorial.
Hidden in the crater above this moonscape is a jewel-blue lake – an enhancing reward for intrepid explorers. The hike to the base of the crater is an easy 4-hour walk. Another 30 minutes of flowing a streambed brings you to the top of the rim. From here it’s a 5 minute scramble down to the lake for a nice warm swim. The ash and sand deposited by the eruption in a wide area around Pinatubo have created a magnificent landscape. The impressive terrain is criss-crossed with bizarre ravines, through which one can wander for hours. Other areas can be better explored with a vehicle, and for those who want to have the big picture, an aircraft will provide the perfect vantage point – which can all be arranged. There are half day and full day treks on offer, but only on an overnight expedition can you truly feel the soul of Apo Mallari.
Although the eruption of Mount Pinatubo had seemed like the end of the world at first, the local people particularly the Aetas with the help of the DOT, the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) and some other non-governmental organizations (NG0s), took a quick breather then rolled up their shirt sleeves and got down to making the best of the situation. The Sapang Bato Information Center is just one of the many tours to Pinatubo. Initially this idea was thought to be absurd, but those pessimists just had to eat their words later.
Posted on December 16, 2009 - by Vic
Batanes should appeal to hardy, outdoor types who enjoy hiking over hills and vales, swimming and discovering a unique local culture, rather than indulging in material pleasures. And forget five-star hotels, for you will not find them here.
This northernmost province is not only close to my travel interests but also because I had the pleasure of personally having known one of their prominent local artists by name of Pacita Abad. I have heard about her among art circles in Manila and Jakarta until we became acquaintances due to my public relations work with the ASEAN secretariat, a regional organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia.
I used to be based in Jakarta working as the information officer of the ASEAN, the regional political grouping of Southeast Asian countries. Another cousin Menardo Abad, or more popularly known as Jun, was also a colleague and my immediate boss at the secretariat. We were both living in Jakarta which afforded me to meet up with her on both social and diplomatic occasions. I remember on several instances attending her exhibit openings at private galleries as well as the national gallery in Jakarta, Singapore or Manila, where she represented the Philippines on several occasions.
It was however in Indonesia where she opened a big exhibit in Jakarta at the National Gallery, launching her collection of 45 Javanese folklore characters inspired dinner plates, cups and saucers. Like many of her endeavors, the plate exhibit was a first of its kind and the sale of this new art form was a welcome treat to the Jakarta art scene as well as Javanese curio collectors. The exhibition was a big success and established her name in both local and international art scene.
Pacita, as she was fondly known, established herself for her works in trapunto, which includes traditional textiles and local materials and seen from a distance, have the appearance of oil paintings, abstract with strong designs and colors.
It can be said that Pacita Abad was a prolific and eminent artist. She was fond of traveling, learning new things and taking inspiration from her visits. She has gone to Kerala in southern India three weeks after her initial radiotherapy course. She’s been to several art capitals in the world including Bali, Borubudur, Penang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Beijing just to observe and later on paint her impressions of the places that she has visited.
On the night of December 7, 2004, she passed away two months after her 58th birthday and three years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite her bout with the disease, she remained productive and full of life, never letting the disease crush her spirit. It is said that she never said a negative word during her brief remissions and considered her disease as a “minor irritation.” For Pacita, the best treatments were art and life – painting, listening to bliss music, drinking champagne with friends and travels are my best therapies,” she said.
In May 2003 Pacita went back to her native Batanes to oversee the groundbreaking of her new stone studio. Then she conducted exhibits in Indonesia, Norway, Finland and Sweden among others. The essay “Passion to Paint: The Colorful World of Pacita Abad” in her last book Pacita described her wonderful energy as one who could not be stopped. When her doctors saw her moving her right arm back and forth, she claimed she was just exercising her painting arm so she would be ready when she returned to her studio. Such was the incredible creative energy and joyful spirit of Pacita, coloring the world with an insatiable passion to paint.
The artist has made various exhibits abroad including the Washington Public Art Gallery, The Philippine Center in New York, the Hong Kong Visual Art Center and of course the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. In her life, Pacita has created more than 3,500 works of art.
Pacita’s studio in Basco is part of the Pacita Abad foundation, or the Fundacion Pacita, as it is locally know which was established to continue Pacita Abad’s artistic legacy. Visitors to the island must visit this latest attraction of the island province including its nearby lodging facility. It sits at the edge on one of the Ivatan islands where visitors can savor a sweeping view of a rocky ridge, the Babuyan channel and the South China Sea across the horizon. Her works are just mounted on tarpaulins and just describes the work and aims of her work. Aptly called The Fundacion Pacita, it “aims to support the development of committed painters, printmakers, sculptors and multi-media artists under the age of forty from emerging Asian countries, and facilitates the study and understanding of Pacita’s artistic career.
Posted on December 15, 2009 - by Vic
All I could hear were the trade winds rustling the coconut palms and the murmuring sea. It was one of those moments of complete bliss as I road my way through this luxurious resort property. Meanwhile, I was succumbing to the delights of Filipino hospitality softened by a warm welcome befitting a head of state. As I walked through the grounds of the Shangri-la Resort and Spa in Boracay, one immediately feels the authenticity, quality and choice offered by this global chain of hotels and resorts.
As befits their contrasting locations, this resort and spa offers a fabulous array of the best Asian-style spas with world class facilities. Among these, the authenticity, quality and choice offered by the Shangri-la Resort are so exceptional befitting their contrasting location. The spa treatments offered at the resort are also different, each reflecting the Asian ways of life. The resort which overlooks the Pacific Ocean has embraced the concept of “unmistakably contemporary Filipino” according to the general manager Andre Kretschmann. This is reflected in its well planned architecture, which follows the style of Filipino dwellings and the resort’s theme loosely translated, means purity of spirit, health and well-being. Its well known Spa brand, Chi is a unique retreat which features Indonesian, Tibetan, Nepalese, Thai and of course our own Hilot treatment version which the resort has popularized and has revived its popularity among the well healed Filipinos.
Just as when you thought that the paradise that is Boracay has been lost to the noise and nature pollution, this brand new resort property follows the same signature service and attention to details that has characterized every hotel and resort that the Shangri-la brand has stamped itself in the hospitality industry. Having been exposed to luxury travel and living, what is awesome about this resort is the way it has blended itself with the island’s magnificent surroundings, bringing nature into its fold and benefiting from its bounty. This reverence for nature already shows at first glance. The shaded lane that winds through the resort hamlet sets the scene for laid -back living. Upon my arrival at the Caticlan airport, a familiar staff whom I’ve met since the 80’s warmly greeted my arrival with my publisher and his wife who were my traveling companions on this trip. I discovered later in our brief conversation that it was management’s policy to choose most of their staff from within the group or surrounding region preventing the “gated community” feel that often permeates luxury resorts.
At my spacious suite overlooking the sea and the long golden beach, total relaxation, another or the resort’s bywords, comes naturally. It is difficult to summon the energy for anything more strenuous than a drink in the Alon bar near the beach and the infinity pool and a long lay slumber in the shade. But meals for breakfast and lunch at the Vintana restaurant offers a varied menu to rejuvenate the senses. Over lunch, I chose a simple but healthy Thai Tom yam soup, prepared the way I liked it- hot and spicy, a Caesar’s salad for my side dish with lots of salad dressing, and for my main course, the freshest tanigue fish catch of the day in the island, grilled and served with boiled potatoes and garlic salt. Having tasted these simple dishes, I still had room to try out their pasta offering which was located next to the soup and salad station. I took a sampling of their pasta station with a helping of a penne mixed with basil and seafood ingredients including shredded slices of shrimps and squids. The chef must have read my mind in making my pasta rich, thick and consistent with enough servings of virgin olive oil sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I couldn’t complain. After this hearty meal, I had my usual selection of freshly sliced mangoes to cap off my Shangri-la lunch together with a taste of their halo-halo with freshly cooked and sweetened fruits with shaves of ice and fresh milk. Locally known as the “queen of desserts,” it is one of the most popular desserts I have noticed foreigners have tasted when visiting the country.
Afternoon is the favorite time for guests like me to pamper their bodies, a habit I’ve developed living almost 19 years in Jakarta, Indonesia. Every weekend, it has been a regular habit to visit one of the neighborhood spas in my old area in Jakarta and get the usual ‘spa treatment.’ It is no surprise, that the Shangri-la group has embraced this lifestyle in their popular Chi Spa.
As I entered the award winning Chi Spa, it was immediately evident the spa is smaller in size compared to their other Chi spas in Mactan, EDSA, and Makati. However, the landscaping which has won awards in Mactan and EDSA could reap the same awards or even more in due time when travelers discovers that the Chi Spa is also available in Boracay. Going through their Spa menu, I came across some new treatment which has been introduced in Shangri-la Boracay’s Chi spa. Their treatment menu prices worth a try include the half day chi villa experience- 4 hours of special massage technique incorporating intricate hands movements from therapists who have been trained to maintain blood circulation, restore the natural balance and energy of the mind and body.
With so many choices, it was difficult choosing which treatment to sample so Junee Gayanilo, one of the health club supervisors recommended sampling the Chi Local Range of Body Butter Sampaguita or Body scrub Pomelo Camalmansi, or Cucumber Aloe After Sun Gel.
Today, with the advent of the “metrosexual” male, there is an increasing trend for men to take better care of themselves. I have noticed that The Chi Spa has taken advantage of this trend on the menu with their men’s skin care treatments including a choice of 45 minutes of element refresher facial, one hour of chi vitality facial or the men’s Philippine Herbal back treatment. The Chi Spa offers this special treatment for men, which take into account men’s physiology. These treatments are also more time sensitive and may be done over a shorter period of time.
As I headed back to the main lobby to meet up for dinner at the Sirena, the resort’s seafood restaurant on a cliff top above the crystal blue waters, I was eagerly awaiting to taste the combined creations of executive chef Geoff Simmons and executive sous chef Robert Davis. My dinner companions and I were not disappointed as we were treated to a generous sampling or “degustation” of the best dishes and meals we ever had this side of the island. I was struck by the subtle lighting from the ceiling shades, lampshade and the soft chill out music keeping the ambience understatedly hip.
Food falls into the nouveau contemporary category. It has a general mix of familiar infused with an international taste found in the menu which covers soup, salad, pastas, the grilled seafood to desserts. According to both chefs Robert and Geoff, guests from all over can have something to their taste, showing that both have done their homework well in the creation of the evolving menu and the growing patron returnees that has been seen frequenting the Sirena restaurant. If you are looking for a new dining destination with the charm of the island and the cuisine of an internationally run establishment, Sirena at Boracay Shangri-la is a place that shouldn’t be overlooked.
I am no gourmet, but simply know good taste when I see one. One feels that a great deal of study and research was invested in this restaurant, both on the part of the hotel management and the owners themselves who were flying the following day to check out another fine dining restaurant in the resort complex also due to open soon. Serena is one of the few world class dining establishments in Boracay which will slowly developed its own devoted base of clientele from all over the world given a few more months since it opened.
From the welcoming Solana bar to the charming and cool dining interiors of Serena, the ambiance exudes contemporary Filipino at its finest with a refined western influence. The layout of the restaurant, while being large, offers intimate areas for dining, overlooking other patrons and different areas of the restaurant from a distance and giving enough privacy to all diners.
Boracay Shangri-La seats on a 12.5 hectare piece of property with a 360 degree panorama of nature’s colors in constant embrace from the greens of the trees, the reds and oranges of the flowers, the white beach and the blue sea. And around sunset, one is treated to a kaleidoscope of all the hues of a setting sun. The resort has 219 rooms offering luxurious comfort to island visitors. The deluxe room were I was l billeted comes with a balcony and a magnificent sea view. The 36 villas, the smallest of which measures 108 square meters comes with a butler, private plunge pools and whirlpools or pergolas for alfresco dining. Coming soon, which I was privilege to get a peak at is one of the treetop villas with a command of the most fabulous view of the sea.
If there is an admirable reverence for nature outside and around the resort, the same concern for local culture is evident in the interiors designed by Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo of Hong Kong with interiors by LTW Design Works. Luxury villa accommodation is perhaps a relatively evolving concept in Boracay Island. The tourist market has been at the lower budget end, but it has slowly been building pace in the higher end of the market “especially with the entry of Boracay Shangri-la Resort and Spa,” notes Joy Wasmer, PR director of the Shangri-la Group. This resort offers something that isn’t available in many places around the island namely total beachfront villas or on the hill with magnificent sea views nothing short of breathtaking.
“Here in Boracay Shangri-la Resort and Spa, one is introduced to a show window for the new level of luxury resorts of Shangri-La in Asia,” Wasmer added. Management notes that Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa is the first of its kind for the Hotel and resort group and marks the beginning of a new journey for the company. Personally, a stay at the Boracay Shangri-La Resort and Spa is more than just a dream but simply a reality and a move up to a new level of Luxury.