End of the Road

Salamat. Merci beaucoup. Thank you.

It’s the end of the road for this blog.

It has been a roller-coaster ride.

And now, it’s time to move on.

 

Fin

 

World Heart Day Fun Run

I ran 5K today in celebration of the World Heart Day.

The event was organized by the Philippine Heart Association – Cebu Chapter in cooperation with the Philippine Heart Center – Medical Alumni Society. Since it’s for the HEART, the singlets were in white and red.

It was a good Sunday run. About 1,600 running enthusiasts came for the event. The number may be small since there were also other fun runs scheduled at the same time. One run is organized by the University of San Carlos and the other one took place in Balamban, Cebu. There was also an Alay Lakad (Walk for a Cause) at the city center.

In celebration, let me just post here the article from a pamphlet of PHA.

HOW YOU CAN LIVE A HEALTHIER LIFE

1. Ensure a healthy food intake – Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and avoid saturated fat. Be wary of processed foods, which often contain high levels of salt.

2. Get active & take control of your heart health – Even 30 minutes of activity can help to prevent attacks and strokes.

3. Say no to tobacco – your risk of coronary heart disease will be halved within a year and will return to a normal level over time.

4. Maintain a healthy weight – Weight loss, especially together with lowered salt intake, leads to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major factor for approximately half of all heart disease and stroke.

5. Know your numbers – Visit a healthcare professional who can measure your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, together with waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index (bmi). Once you know your overall risk, you can develop a specific plan of action to improve your heart health.

6. Limit your alcohol intake – Restrict the amount of alcoholic drinks that you consume. Excessive alcohol intake can cause your blood pressure to rise and your weight to increase.

7. Insist on a smoke-free environment – Demand an tobacco ban and ensure your workplace is 100% smoke-free. Support the adoption of smoking-cessation services as these would encourage your employer to provide help to those wanting to quit tobacco.

8. Bring exercise to the workplace – Include physical activity in your working schedule – cycle to work if this is possible, take the stairs, exercise or go for a walk during your lunch breaks, and encourage others to do so.

9. Choose healthy food options – Ask for healthy food at your work canteen, or find nearby cafes or restaurants that serve healthy meals.

10. Encourage stress-free moments – while stress has not been shown to be direct risk factor for heart disease and stroke, it is related to smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating, which are risk factors for heart disease. Take time for lunch away from your workplace to get some fresh air and have regular breaks during the day – try stretching or exercising for 5 minutes twice a day.

Well these are just 10 suggestions. 10 Ways to be healthy. It’s entirely up to you if you want to achieve a healthy life.

Then try running.

10K

Nasa Dumaguete ako kanina. No. I was in Dumaguete for a couple of days. Work has made me visit Dumaguete again. This time, I hooked the travel with something that I could do over the weekend.

Kanina, merong ganito sa may Quezon Park.

About 8,000 ang naka green shirt at tumakbo para sa Milo Marathon. Lahat kami gustong mabigyan ng sapatos na green and white for free. Ay hindi pala. Libreng olympic energy drink lang pala.

Nagbigay pala ang Nestlé ng pairs of rubber shoes to 140 lucky students of an elementary school here. Some of them may have written their names on the white foot patterns. Somehow, there’s a bit of owning some social responsibilities here, though corporate-backed, it’s for a noble cause.

I joined the 34th edition of the Milo Marathon. I chose to join here in Dumaguete because I missed out the chance in the Cebu City elims and that of Tagbilaran. I’m grateful for some friends who’d helped me out in the registration.

It’s my first 10K race. The previous races that I’ve joined were 5K events.  This is a bit special. Personally I’ve turned the notch higher (or in this case, longer) but I just decided to try the 10K for bench-marking.

 

So I ran 10 kilometers in an unofficial time of 1:04:19. Not bad I guess.

I’ll keep on running.

Ang-Pa-Pa (Angono-Pakil-Paete in Reverse) Part 3 of 3

The group decided to skip this ancient artwork arguably done by the earlier inhabitants of Binangonan.

It’s the petroglyph which Carlos Francisco, a national artist, discovered in the 1960s. To reach the petroglyphs, one has to take a long walk to the hills and must pass through a network of caverns. The path is not well lit and since it’s almost sundown, it would be too risky, both for the students and teachers, to visit the petroglyphs, so everyone agreed to go back to Metro Manila and bypass it.

It’s because we spent much time in Angono. This town was dubbed as the “Arts Center of the Philippines” probably because of several well-known artists who lived here, including two national artists, one was Carlos “Botong” Francisco for the arts and the other was for music, Lucio San Pedro.

The town itself is studded with art museums. We visited one of which, the Blanco Family Museum.

A family of painters is not so common in the Philippines. But for the Blancos of Angono, theirs is a mix of innate and developed talents for visual arts. The patriarch had a formal schooling (from University of Santo Tomas) while the rest had none. They were just trained and taught by the patriarch, Jose “Pitok” Blanco. Each of the kids had undergone a serious ‘baptism of fire’ or according to the tour guide, a thesis for compliance, wherein they have to produce a huge painting of a chosen subject and theme. Most of the subjects are about rural life, ethnic or folk, with huge emphasis on the play of lights, the clarity of facial expressions and attention to details.

The artworks in the Blanco Family Museum were clearly arranged according to the individual family member, starting with the youngest up to the head of the family, and culminating at a gallery where the vintage red car is also displayed. The sequence for every artist was such: from his/her first artwork then to his/her ‘thesis’ masterpiece, which are oftentimes huge and overwhelming, then finally to his/her latest works.

The individual gallery would start from the small paintings and then to the larger ones and finally to the obra maestra which were in huge frames occupying much of the gallery walls. Jose Blanco’s celebrated artpiece is this one:

This is his depiction of the Angono Fishermen’s Festival. It’s a huge painting filled with countless human figures of varied shapes, ages and sizes. The faces are distinct and different from each other, details of the faces are also very clear. Truly impressive on the technical execution. It’s a fine example of horror vaccui.

Here are some other amazing paintings in the museum:

Technically, a great painting. I’d say that this one has a great composition. Once again, the drama is in the use of light and shade. This is also a very huge painting. One would be drawn to the subject that is the boy but one could also be amazed by his reflection on the water. What’s fascinating also is how the dog and the orchids were painted heavily in details.

Captured emotions. Bro Bear explained to his class how the play of light could generate the drama of the painting.  The composition leans to the subject on the right portion, the focus being the woman with her hands raised in surrender to the suffering yet hope still clinging to her soiled clothes, arms longing for deliverance from the conflagration.

Happy colors on a sullen theme (pic from rizalbiz.com). And even though the theme is about the eruption of Mt. Mayon, bright colors were utilized and blended with the play of light to balance the gray and the darkness of the theme.

An intermittent subject and the basis for the family logo. I was not able to take a clear picture of this painting. But it’s a proof of how the family is attached to realism and to the themes  related to rural life. The basket of fish reflected the way of life in Angono, a town which is also located near Laguna de Bay.

This family of painters were able to freeze through oil paints and canvases several Filipino festivals and rituals. Many painting were about the Moriones Festival, the Pahiyas, the ritual of harvest by the Igorots, etc.

There were also serious themes of mother and child, of mother giving birth – assisted by a hilot (midwife), of a fishing scene, of a natural calamity and potraits of non-current Filipinos. I did not see any painting about the present day scene. They mastered the art of realism, but their subjects were heavily anchored on the era where women were dressed in baro’t saya and the men were clad in g-strings, linen pants rolled up to the knees and camizas de chinos. The paintings were like still images or photographs because when viewed from a distance, they seemed to look so real.

The museum greatly reflects how prolific the family is. The tour was quite extensive and long. Visitors learned to appreciate an unspoken yet obvious advocacy by the late Pitok Blanco. It is the preservation of culture and recording through visual arts, the Filipino tradition and practices. Those who chose to walk through the galleries were not only reminded of how lives of the Filipinos were centuries ago but also, they were led to appreciate how this family dedicated their talents to contribute to the preservation of the Filipino identity.

Angono’s soul is in the arts. It’s scions had fan the flames of art appreciation. From the Blanco Family Museum, we proceeded to Doña Aurora Street found several blocks from the town park. The street is known for its murals, sculpted artworks on the perimeter walls of the houses that lined the street.

This pic was taken while I was trying to sing Lucio San Pedro’s Ugoy ng Duyan. I remember this popular lullaby because we sang this in most of UPSA’s practice session.

The musical notes and the lyrics of the song were placed on the blue wall behind me. I instantly recalled the tenor part of the song. Lucio San Pedro was proclaimed a national artist for music in 1991.

Doña Aurora Street is lined with various concrete murals.

If the Blancos preserved the culture and tradition through oil paintings, Botong Francisco preserved culture and history in the form of murals. The entire strip was adorned with his depiction of several historical and cultural events. His works can also be seen at the National Museum branch in Butuan, Agusan del Norte.

There were also some other murals in the strip.

Arts and culture vis-a-vis with the people of Angono, or at least in Doña Aurora Street in Barangay Itaas.  A lot of people take this street on their way to hear mass every Sunday. We saw people hurriedly walking through. We noticed by-standers gawking at our every move. We were staring at the murals and we took time to check if we knew the subject of every concrete art. We were quite envious.

The people of Angono are lucky to have these art forms. We’re just not sure if they fully appreciated what these art forms have preserved.

Hindi Malilimutang Pinoy Quotes

Dahil nung Sunday, nagkaroon ako ng ideya para sa susunod na composition ko.

“Si Val, si Val, si Val! Palagi na lang siya ang may kasalanan! Si Val na walang malay!” – sinabi ito ni Vilma Santos bilang Stella sa pelikulang “Saan nagtatago ang pag-ibig.” Ito’y hango sa komiks (Tagalok Klasiks) na ginawang pelikula ng Viva Films noong 1987. Sa panulat ni Gilda Olvidado, ang kwento ay tungkol kay Val (Tonton Gutierrez). May pagkukulang sa pag-iisip si Val. Kapatid niya si Rick (Ricky Davao). Nabuntis ni Rick ang girlfriend niya na si Stella. Iskandalo kung iskandalo. Dahil ayaw ni Rick ng iskandalo, pinilit ni Rick si Stella na magpakasal kay Val. Takot kasi siya na matanggalan ng mana. Ayun, Nireto si Stella kay Val.

Ano pa kaya ang mga di malilimutang lines mula sa Pinoy films?

Abangan.

Ang Pa Pa (Angono-Pakil-Paete in reverse) Part 2 of 3

From Paete, we moved to the next town which is famous for the Turumba Festival.

It’s a festival that is observed between April and May or within the Lenten Season starting on Palm Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. The pilgrims call it Pistang Lupi. The central focus of the celebration is the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores or Our Lady of Sorrows. A huge crowd, some are the sickly and the invalid, would flock to Pakil to sing and dance in prayer that is the Turumba.

The oil painting of the Mater Dolorosa at the right was said to be the painting that was found by fishermen in Laguna de Bay. Story has it that it was one of the relics from a ship that was wrecked in the lake; the painting belonged to a missionary.  The fishermen left the painting on a rock. The women saw it there and told the parish priest about the relic, which in turn gathered the sextons and the clergy and brought the image to the church. They carried the relic to Pakil in song, dance and prayer.

As for the etymology of the Turumba, several origins were suggested. It could have been derived from the local work “turo” and “umbay”. Turo means to point while umbay refers to the elegiac poem or that of a slow and mournful music for the dead.

Some would say that Turumba was the sound of a drumbeat when the image of the Mater Dolorosa was paraded in a procession around town. Devotees carry Her in an anda on their shoulders and paraded Her in the streets of Pakil. They are accompanied by people who stomped their feet, danced and gyrated in a song of prayer and to the two-step beat.

Turumba is said to be one of the longest festivals in the country because it spans to at least 7 weeks of song and prayer. There is also a Grand Turumba Festival held every September 15  in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows. Pakil also celebrates the feast of San Pedro de Alcantara every October. But the biggest drawer of devotees and pilgrims is the Turumba Festival in the months of April and May.

The sleepy town of Pakil comes to life during the Turumba Festival. The center of activity is the old church of San Pedro de Alcantara. It’s an 18th century baroque structure with a façade that has clearer ionic and corinthian details than it’s neighboring Paete church. The convento which now houses the parochial office is attached to the church’s left side.

The church itself is Pakil’s main tourist attraction. Huge crowd of daytrippers and students visit Pakil on weekends. Tour guides lead them to the old religious and art pieces that are mostly carved from or made of wood done by the town’s craftmen. There is also a huge painting of Judicium Finale similar to Paete’s. The retablos and the altar are also intricately designed. I was reminded of how we embraced horror vaccui or the fear of empty spaces.

  

 

Visitors marveled on the collection of icons, all 14 of them at the main altar with St. Michael the Archangel on top. Several sets of statues placed in ornate wooden niches can be found at the sides and at the ends of the transept.

One of the most intriguing artwork in this church is the Judicium Finale by the Paeteño Jose Dans. Daniel Murphy had an interesting article about the painting which deliberately depicted the stratum of hell with only women in it. A painting at the Paete Church of the same subject of El Cielo, El Paraiso, El Purgatorio y El Infierno didn’t have the same perspective of hell.

A few step away from the church is the ancestral house of Danny Dalena. A typical bahay na bato, the house was reconstructed and converted into a museum. It is said that some of his artworks are on display in the museum. Unfortunately, Mr. Dalena was not available at that time, so we just had to look at the house-cum-museum from afar.

In this town, the dying art of whittling can still be found. If Paete is known for its wood carving industry, Pakil was once known for its whittled products. There is a clear divide between carving and whittling. The former is more of a European woodworking technique while the latter is more of an American style. They differ also in the tools they use. Carving may use a broad range of chisel and carving tools while whittling only utilizes a knife to shave off wood. Others deem the art of whittling as more of hobby unlike the art of carving which has, for centuries, been considered as a profession. Carving they say is a more advanced form of craft than whittling.

We were led to a shop of whittled products a few blocks from the Pakil church. Mr. San Gaspar had already prepared his tools for a brief demonstration of whittling. Whittlers only need a knife and a stick. I saw how he patiently shave off portions and portions of raw wood. A slow yet delicate process of cutting and paring unnecessary layers of wood, it lead to wonderful shapes like peacocks, butterflies, flowers and fans.

The art of whittling should be passed on to the next generation of Pakileños, otherwise, it may suffer a similar fate as the Taka of Paete. A dying artform in the Philippines, I just wish that whittling will not be shaved off from wooden cup of local arts and crafts. 

Next and final stop: Angono, Rizal

2020VAL and the Naga Run

First time kong dumaan sa bagong subway ng Cebu City. Actually ilang beses na ako magpass-through pero mula south papuntang north lang. Pero first time ko pumasok from the north end ng subway.

Pasensya na sa accompanying song en español. Wag nang mag-sing-along baka ma dedo pati kayo. Tapos.

Tapos na siya after 48 years. Promise ng Cebu City government na matatapos na siya by August this year. September na ngayon, kaya pwede nang mag may-i-pass through.

Mahaba ang tunnel, almost 1km. Nag-loan pa ang government from JBIC para masimulan na ang proyekto last June 2006. Dahil subway, sa ilalim siya ng Fort San Pedro at Plaza Independencia dumaan. Long and winding ang drama ng tunnel with matching lights and security guards sa magkabilang dulo.

Dahil first time ko, napa-isip ako kung ano ang nasa dulo ng tunnel.

Actually, wala akong naisip.

Pero alam ko kung bakit kailangan kong magdrive down south. Ito’y dahil kailangan kong pumunta ng Naga.

Sosyal naman. Maglo-long drive ba ako papuntang Naga? Bakit di na lang ako lumipad papuntang CamSur. Teka teka lang. Eh bakit ako nagda-drive pagawing South eh nasa Norte and Bicol?

Nag-monologue ba? Hindi sa Camarines Sur ang punta ko. Kundi, dito.

Ito yung marker ng bayan ng Naga, Cebu. Ang parokya ni San Francisco de Asis. Sunday na sunday, kaya maraming tao. Pero hindi po ang pagsisimba ang pinunterya ko rito.

Malayo ang Naga. 18 kilometers from Cebu City. Isang industrial town ang Naga. Pero naging city na siya ngayon. Kontrobersyal nga ang cityhood nito. Wag na tayong maki-sawsaw. Baka mag-isip pa ang Supreme Court na i-reverse ang decision at ma-demote pa ang Naga sa pagka-city.

Naghanap ako ng parking space para kay ZeeWee. Dumaan ako sa plaza, sa city sports center, sa bagong city hall, punung-puno ng sasakyan ang parking lot. Inikot ko ang park, ang medical clinic, at ang police station sa tapat ng badminton court. Puno rin. Nagpasya ako na dun na lang sa tabi ng tennis court magpark. Na-realize ko, medyo complete and compact din and centre-ville. Kaya maraming tao dahil halos andito na lahat ng pwede mong puntahan, pwera lang sa palengke na naandun sa likod ng simbahan, pero walking distance lang.

Nauhaw ako. Kaya diretso ako sa isang barbecue stall na merong refreshment. Eh walang bottled iced tea, kaya GO na lang ako sa isang bote ng Mountain Dew. Habang hinuhugot pa ni manang ang malamig na softdrink, nagulat ako sa naapakan ko.

2O2OVAL. Confused ako kung 202 OVAL ba ang pagbasa or 20-20-VAL. Tinanong ko si manang.

Sa taong 2020 pa mag-e-end ang term ni Mayor Val,” reply ni Manang sabay abot sa akin ng yellow-green na bote ng softdrink.

Lalo ako na-confused. Bakit ganun? Ang alam ko, 3 years lang ang isang term ng alkalde. Bakit dito, 10 years in the making ang pagiging mayor? Nasa ibang planeta ba ako? May binago ba sa local government code o sa konstitusyon?

Hindi na ako nag-tanong uli. Baka lalo pa akong mauuhaw. Masyado na akong uhaw kaya sa mismong softdrink ko na lang binaling ang mga tanong ko.

Refreshing ang Mountain Dew. Turn around and walk away ako pagkatapos.

2020VAL! With conviction talaga. With confidence. Naka-contrata for 10 years. Ano kaya yun?

Siguro love-na-love siya ng mga constituents nya. O di kaya, magaling siyang public official. Dehins ko alam kung ano ang rationale behind the code. Almost everybody knows what the code is all about. Everyone in Naga. Except me. Naturalmente, hindi ako taga-dun.  Tinalo pa ang DaVinci code. Sikat ang 2020VAL dito sa Naga City.

Pano naman kasi. Halos kahit saan ka lumingon, makikita mo ang code na ito. 2020VAL is everywhere.

Sa utility truck.

Sa ambulance.

At pati sa tarp ng Naga 10K Fun Run.

Si Val, Si Val, puro na lang si Val. Si Val na walang malay. . . Ehem-ehem. Vilma Santos, saan nagtatago ang pag-ibig? 

Ayan. Ang sadya ko po sa Naga ay para sumali sa fun run na ito. Eh kasi ba naman, hindi ako nakapag-enrol sa Milo Marathon. Zerowena chance na sumali sa Milo run kaninang umaga. Bitterness is next to ugliness ako, kaya eto, nakahanap ng running event on the same day. Go ako dito.

Hindi totoo na walang malay si Val sa mga nangyayari. Andun nga siya nung magstart na ang takbo. Nagbigay pa nga ng short inspirational message. Andun din siya sa awarding of winners. Galing nga eh. Charter Day na, Birthday celebration pa, and with matching fun run. Bongga.

Pero in fairview, organized naman ang fun run. Maayos naman ang traffic management habang rumarampa kami sa highway ng Naga, sa ilalim ng matinding sikat ng araw. Merong water stations, meron ding marshalls. Carry lang, kahit pawis na pawis at pagod ng slight sa kakatakbo. Fun ba yun? Slight. Kasi andaming mga echosera sa daan. Halos lahat sila, naka-smile. Feeling artista ako dun.

Ako naman, first time mag fun run sa hapon. Most of the races kasi ginagawa sa umaga, starting early. Bukang liwayway ang tema.  I’ve tried the Energizer night race.  Siyempre iba yun. Hindi kailangan ang payong at sunblock nun.

For fun! For Fitness! For Recognition!

Go! I say For 2020VAL!

Echosz only. Di ko naman siya close eh.

I say, For the Life of Me!

Naga 10K Charter Day Run started at 4pm. Kaya alive-alert-awake-enthusiastic pa si Haring Araw. Naglagay pa ako ng Olay moisturizer sa mukha. Hindi naman umobra. Nilisan lang nila ang mukha ko while I ran the course. Pocari Sweat na ang visage ko 2Km into the race.

Mabuti naman at natapos ko ang 5Km na buo pa ang hasang ko at kumpleto pa ang sampung mga daliri, kamay-at-paa. It’s always a great feeling to reach the Finish Line. Iba talaga pag-nakatapos. Kahit di ko nabasag ang personal record ko, I was happy that I took part in that afternoon run. It was a different experience. Another singlet collected.

I’ll keep on running!

Mes Souvenirs: Les Champs, L’arc-en-ciel

Je vis dans un petit village. Il est situé loin du centre de la ville. Ma famille vit là depuis 1984. Notre maison est exactement près d’une ferme. Il est loin du marché et de l’église. 

Il y a longtemps quand j’étais petit, notre maison était loin de nos voisins. Nous avions quelques voisins alors. Il y avait peu de maisons dans le village. Il y avait moins de bruit mais plus de la musique de la nature. Le village était très simple alors. 

Je me souviens qu’il y avait un champ énorme de maïs. En été, les champs devenaient d’orés. Il y avait des collines derrière les champs. Je regardais souvent au de là des champs et parfois je devenais chanceux pour voir un arc-en-ciel. 

Je voyais que l’arc-en-ciel était au de là des maisons de mes voisins. Alors j’allais à leurs maisons et leu demandais et proposais de venir avec moi et le chasser. 

Mes amis et moi courrions vers les champs. Nous chassions l’arc-en-ciel et nous courrions vers, et au de là des collines. Nous pensions qu’il y avait un trésor prés de d’extrémité de l’arc-en-ciel. Il était comme capturer des sauterelles ou ramasser des araignées. C’était amusant. 

Nous jouions sous la pluie. Nous jouions à cache-cache dans les champs. Les tiges de maïs étaient grandes, et les feuilles étaient énormes et au loin. Le silence était cassé par notre rire et le gazouillement des oiseaux. Il y avait quelque vaches et taureaux là, et nous les montions et feignions qu’ils étaient des voitures. 

C’était de l’amusement pur. Mais le temps a passé, et le village a changé. Tous les champs sont partis. Ils ont disparu. Les champs étaient remplacés par des maisons. Maintenant, les enfants jouent dans la rue, sous le soleil, sous la pluie. Mais ils ne chasseront jamais l’arc-en-ciel comme nous le faisions.

Ang Pa Pa (Angono-Pakil-Paete in reverse) Part 1 of 3

Two old paintings of San Cristobal.

 

Or Saint Christopher. Same size, same concept but done differently. They were paintings on the wall, a few meters from the church’s entrance. The left painting was done on the adobe wall by a certain Luciano Dans in the 19th century. The saint with the little niño had oriental, indio features. The one on the right was rendered on wooden planks. The subject had european features.

Old murals of a figure that was taken off from the list of saints. But still, they are preserved in the very walls of the church in Paete. The artworks are two of the most interesting if not important paintings in the love-hate story of Christianity in the Philippines. The Franciscan missionaries didn’t like the depiction of a ‘native-looking’ saint. Hence they commissioned another painting of St. Christopher to hide the earlier painting. The painting on the left was said to be discovered only at the time when a restoration of the church began.The paintings can be found en la Iglesia de Santiago Apostol (church of St. James the Apostle) in this sleepy town of Paete in Laguna.

 

The town took it’s name from a local word which means ‘chisel’. It’s a small town, tucked between the lakes of Caliraya and Laguna de Bay and cradled by the extension of the Sierra Madre mountains. It is several hours away from Manila. It takes pride as the ‘carving’ capital of the country. The pait (chisel) became the primary symbol. Carving became the main form of life in Paete.

The local government and tourism office are pushing for activities to showcase the craftmanship of Paete. Widely known for their skills in carving, Paete is being pushed to highlight it’s once glorious woodcarving industry. Once glorious. The town has seen better days. Revival of its once glorious past is a tough act to do. A tall order.

Paete is now packaged as a place where a tourist could see a lot of things related to carving. The focal point is the church. Its façade alone is one of the most intricately carved edifice in the country, surpassed only (in my own opinion) by Miag-ao Church in Panay. The tour guides would say that the church is of the Philippine Baroque.

A closer look on the façade, one could see how the craftmen of Paete managed to carve intricate details to an otherwise plain stone church.

Paete is known for its finely crafted religious icons. Some of these icons ended up in several churches abroad, reaching as far as The Vatican and Latin Mexico. The religious statues varied in size yet they all have a uniform fine finish that were undeniably that of Paete.  One of the highlights during Holy Week, Paete has this unique celebration of the Passion of Christ. People knew of the moving statues of saints and other characters of the Stations of the Cross as they are paraded in the narrow streets of the pueblo.

The local government wanted to associate Paete with almost anything that involves carving. Tourists are then led to these:

Carving on ice blocks

Carving using farm produce

The visit to Paete culminates at a craftman’s atelier where he would demonstate his skills in the art of carving. The shops are scattered around town and are not actually clustered in one street. We were led to a small street behind the church where one craftsman willingly showed his knack for wood sculpting using the pait.

There’s a conscious effort to sustain this dying craft of Paete. A tall order indeed. The town is facing the harsh reality that supplies for timber is down. People could not just easily get wood from the Sierra Madre because of the log ban. It is dying because the skills are not handed down to next generation. Agriculture remains to be the major activity in town. People prefer to grow lanzones rather than learn and develop the skills in carving.

It is said that Paete used to be known for its papier mâché horses. They call it the taka, akin to piñata but only smaller and less colorful. It was once featured in a local children’s show. I remembered how the taka was made. Layers of paper and glue, one after the other, until the horse was formed. Some horses are painted in blue, some in red or yellow. It was for kids. It was a thriving business. Until it was murdered by several selfish businessmen who turned it to mass production.

The bakya (wooden slippers) business was big in Paete. So was abaca. But we won’t be able to find these items in town anymore. They, along with the taka, had become objects of Paete’s glorious past.

Next stop: Pakil, Laguna

Life-long Struggle to Come Out

In the blueprint of my LIFE, there’s a certain point in time where I’d just have to be ready to come out and be proud of who I really am. 

I have been living a LIFE that is not entirely me. I am living a LIFE that is scared of what others might think and say about me. I’m living a LIFE that is hugely lurking in the shadows of pretense. It’s a LIFE in the arms of fear.

Every single day, every single time. Questions dangled in my mind of whether or not it’s a phase, of whether or not it’s normal, whether or not it’s okay to be like this. I asked myself if this is what I wanted in LIFE. And every single moment, the questions are left unanswered.

LIFE may have been too different had I been born gay. I was born straight. I turned gay when I turned 16. The years in between had been the period of struggle of whether or not to accept that I am different.

After college, I got the courage to come out to a friend, only because he came out to me first.  If he hadn’t told me that he’s gay, I wouldn’t have the guts to tell him that I am too. If we haven’t crossed paths, I’d still be confined in my own closet and the naphthalene balls would have been my only close friends.

I was reluctant. I was very much afraid of how people would react if I’d tell them that I am gay. Such fear of rejection or distaste or despise is more like a leash that could strike and cut me deeply.  With such fear in mind, I carefully chose whom to tell it to.

I would have loved to be transparent through and through. But fear has gotten to me most of the times. I hid behind my beard, my manly gestures, and the masculine voice I set. I hid behind a mask. I would have been careful not to let my pinky stick out and apart from the rest of my fingers. I would have reminded myself to stop the pupils of my eyes from dilating whenever a cute guy passes me by, or gasp whenever I see a beefcake or a muscle bear roam in the mall.

I had been trying to control myself from giving out rainbow signals.  I always remember not to sway my hips as I walk. I’d played football and was forced to play hoop when my dad gave me a basketball as birthday present. I tried not to cry. My dad didn’t like the thought of boys crying. He said crying is for sissies.

Early in LIFE, I became aware of people’s concept about the homosexual. My mind was filled with thoughts that gays are men in women’s clothes, wear make-up and work in beauty salons. I somehow accepted the fact that gays are always the butt of jokes, the easy target for ugly tactics and gender slurs. I know it’s stereotypical. And out of fear, I began to question myself.

My dad once said that if he found out that one of his sons is gay, he would tie him up and hang him upside down from a tree. Dad was very traditional. If you’re boy, act like a man. We both shared the same name. He thought that I would grow up exactly like him. He thought that I would continue on with the family name. I thought if I were a boy, I should like a man.

I struggled hard. Disconcerted perhaps. It was a conscious effort to act straight and ‘normal’. I did not fit in. I felt awkward when I was in a group of boys. I felt giddy when forced to talk about my crush because I was not convinced at all that I got a crush on a girl. I would have wanted to be a member of the dance club, but I held back because it would have given the clues away.

I struggled less in high school, probably because I was focused more on the phases of cell growth and apopthosis than on my physical and mental development. It could have been the perferct time to decide on gender preference but I entered into the adolescent stage and the break-outs and skin imperfections distracted me more than my man-crushes.

The struggle continued on in college, but it ended when I finally found myself in the arms of my roommate.

I hid it from anyone until I decided to come out to him. It was an overwhelming experience. It was a conscious decision. I chose to give in, to let go, to give up on the struggle. Victorious or vanquished I didn’t know. But I was certain that it put a smile on my face. In the arms of my roommate, I felt relieved. It was to be my first time to open myself to someone. I released myself from struggle. I sprung myself to him and he secured me in his embrace.

He was the first person I came out to. My first time. My first kiss. My first embrace. It was the perfect moment to share a fraction of my LIFE. He was there when I tried to convince  myself that it’s okay. He took me out of my fear. He picked me up from my worries and veered me away from the puddles of my doubt. He cleared my troubled mind and in his arms, I was at peace.

We drifted away a few months after.

I found myself alone once more. The struggle resurfaced. I wore the mask again. The smell of naphthalene was pushing me back to my closet. The surriptitious aspect of my LIFE was tucked inside the box of darkness. I continued on with my LIFE of pretense.  Fear had taken me back. I thought I would remain a closet case forever.

I was shocked when my friend came out to me 7 years later. I admired his courage. He stirred me to come out. I told him everything. I told him about my roommate. I told him about my struggle. He told me that it’s going to be alright.

I was prodded to take off the mask and give up the struggle. I became less wary of what may be hurled against me. I no longer felt the need to be cautious of the way I walk, the way I laugh, the way I talk. I had my hair dyed several times and I hit the gym and toned up.

The years I spent working in an absolute macho environment had somehow automatically restricted me to come out in the open. No one in the office knew anything about my other life. But with the position I held, I thought it was not necessary to come out because I wanted to keep their respect and their trust in my leadership. I knew at that time that the struggle had resurfaced. And I had fallen back into the path of pretense.

In the blueprint of my LIFE, there’s a certain time that my roommate and I would cross paths once more. We rekindled the old flame, we picked up from where we left. We were together again, in our own little orphic world. But since we got reunited, plus the maturity and the level of understanding of what this wonderful relationship was all about, I began to open up to the people I know.

I came out to my sister first. She was in Manila that time. I told her while we were strolling the length of that mall in Mandaluyong. I told her that I’ll be meeting someone later, that I will be meeting up with my boyfriend. The shock factor for her was hearing the word ‘boyfriend’ which she uttered back to me. I nodded and told her that I have a boyfriend and that I would like her to meet him.

I expected for a long silent moment to follow. I let her absorb the shock; allowed her some time to digest and understand what she had just heard. We were in a very uncomfortable situation. At that time, I didn’t ask myself if it was the right time to come out to her or if it’s the proper place and moment to tell her. I didn’t plan it. It was spontaneous.

I broke the awkward silence and stopped her in her steps. I said to her that whatever I am and whatever I chose to be, whatever happens, I would always be her brother.  She hugged me and broke down in tears. The weight of my chest was unloaded and my heart felt the warmth of the revelation.

I said to myself that there must be at least someone in the family who should know me inside-out. Eventually, I would be telling my parents about me. But I could not gather the courage yet to tell them now. I fear their anger. I fear their pain. I dread the moment where I would have no other choice but to leave the house and live my life without them. I came out to my brother just last year, when I brought him along for my business trip to Iloilo. And two years ago, I opened up to my two other siblings by letting them read an article in my blog.

This blog had become my avenue and my means to let people know  and understand me. I used this personal blog to help me come out to my officemates, my close friends and those that I could trust. And since that time when I was reunited with my roommate, I have already told a lot of people.

For me, coming out is still a life-long struggle. A LIFE process. A wait-and-see event. It is also a journey, like any other. It begins with a single step, a single step away and out of the closet, a departure from fear towards the terminus of acceptance and happiness.