Monday, July 28, 2014

Angono Petroglyphs - Part 2

It took a while for this Part 2 to be posted and I didn't want to delay this more considering July is ending soon and Part 1 was weeks ago. And so without further adieu, here's the second and concluding part of my feature on the Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan.

The site of the petroglyphs is just a stone's throw away from the museum building that also serves as an indoor lecture venue during rainy days. There is a platform that was constructed in order for visitors to be able to view the petroglyphs without disturbing or vandalizing the archeological treasures. Many years ago when the platform was not yet constructed and people had direct and close access to the petroglyphs and many have left their unwanted marks there.

The original path to the petroglyphs is a narrow trail at the side of the mountain.
A close-up from the previous photo reveals the stairs carved from the stone that made the site more accessible in the past.
Figures of people performing what looks like rituals or worship can be seen everywhere.
I couldn't quite decipher if there were other activities depicted in the petroglyphs.
Some figures though are grouped and seem to indicate entire families who probably worshiped together. However, most interesting in this photo is a depiction on the center-left of what were supposed to be giant land turtles that roamed the area.
Beneath the petroglyphs are more recent carvings on the rock. These were made by vandals including those who probably thought that leaving their own marks would ensure that these will also be preserved for "eternity." Their presumptions are likely to be true but then theirs will surely be remembered as acts of follies if not stupidity.
Another example of the vandalisms at the petroglyphs site can be clearly seen at the center of the photo.
The petroglyphs are carved on rock that is generally protected from the elements. The same protection was likely given to the people who came here for worship or whatever activities they did back in those ancient days.
Noticeable are the many holes on the rock face.
A look back at the figures etched on rock gives one an idea of the extent of the petroglyphs.
Many parts have been subject to natural weathering and we've been informed that the holes are natural and not man-made.
In some parts, there are plants already growing on the rock but these don't seem to be a threat to the petroglyphs.
We'll also probably be back here another time. Aside from the casino and resort hotel in the area, there seems to be some other attractions including, of course, the many art museums a bit further on in the Angono town proper.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toasted siopao

There's a current rage for toasted siopao. I first tasted one earlier this year when we purchased a dozen from Balai Pandesal along Commonwealth Avenue in the Fairview area. Customers have a choice between asado (a kind of stew) and bola-bola (meat balls or ground beef/pork). My father-in-law enjoyed the toasted siopao and told us that they were popular in his hometown of Naga City in Camarines Sur. 

We found another bakery, Bicol's Best, near our home and bought a couple of boxes for when we entertained the wife's office-mates one evening. One of her office-mates mentioned that there was another bakery located along Marcos Highway in Antipolo that's become popular with its toasted siopao. I decided to check this out one time on my way home and purchased a box for us to enjoy over merienda.

An acquaintance mentioned TatyStar Bakery located at the commercial center near the Filinvest East main gate along Marcos Highway. It is within the compound and is not visible from the highway.
The box contains 12 buns
A hot toasted bun doesn't look like siopao at all.
Inside is the prize - savory asado with egg
This toasted siopao is certainly something that should weather the fad tag. Of course, there will be those who would quickly join the bandwagon but I guess the really good siopao will eventually survive and outlive those who only wanted to make a quick buck from this trend. Others will perhaps just go back to the steamed original.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Aftermath of Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun)

Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) turned out to be a howler with powerful winds that knocked out a lot of trees, electric poles and other structures along its path. I took some photos of the aftermath of the typhoon and the work that followed afterwards, clearing roads of debris.

The main branch of our mango tree crashed into the street in front of our home. Fortunately, it didn't bring down the nearby powerlines or phone lines. And luckily, it didn't damage our home.
Debris are strewn everywhere and blocking the streets in our village.
We tried to cut and clear whatever we could of the branches to clear a path for people. We didn't have the equipment to cut the larger branches so we had to wait for village personnel for the major work.
Village personnel were right on the job and going around to clear the roads. They made quick work of the large branches of trees along the village roads and cleared the most roads right after the typhoon passed our area.
We only had to sweep away the leaves, small branches and chips of wood after the workmen did their job. The road was passable by vehicles by mid afternoon.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Typhoon acid test

As I write this short post, there is a typhoon approaching Metro Manila and Rizal. This will be our first typhoon since we moved to our new home in Antipolo. One of our criteria when we chose the location of our home was that it should be flood-free, meaning the area has no experience of flooding. We have experienced and survived some severe flood events including the record floods of Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009 and the freakish Habagat (monsoon) floods of 2012. Last year, as our new home was under construction, we experienced two more floods but with us already looking forward to moving out of our old home. Fortunately for us but unfortunate to so many that we were spared from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year.

And so, we will finally have what many would term as an acid test with Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun). This is the first significant typhoon of the 2014 season and the first of several that we expect to affect our area this year given the average number of typhoons passing through the Philippines in a year. While I am not worried about floods anymore, it is the winds that has me concerned. Strong winds are always dangerous as it can bring damage in a number of ways. I have no doubt about the sturdiness of our home but then there might be debris flying from anywhere that could bring about the damage. Hopefully, there would be no significant stuff carried by the winds that we expect to batter our area by early morning tomorrow.

Whatever the case may be, I implore on everyone living in the areas along the path of the typhoon to be ready, be prepared for what may or may not happen. You cannot say you're prepared until the rains pour in and the winds start howling. You can only confirm your preparedness once the typhoon passes and you make your assessment of what had actually happened. I think this is one case where it is always safe to expect the worst rather than be complacent.

Keep safe!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hinulugang Taktak

This is the first time in quite a while that the Clairvoyant and I have not taken a summer trip together. We have always had an out of town trip, usually in a seaside resort, including a couple of trips to Bohol, or at least a weekend trip to Tagaytay. During the time that she was based in Singapore, we did explore that city and even made a land trip to Melaka in Malaysia. This year, we were considering trips to Cebu or Davao but had to defer these in order to save money after paying for our new home while also just preparing to sell our old one.

We did, however, resolve that we would be exploring our adopted home city and province of Antipolo and Rizal. So far, there have been a lot that we have found with some being revisits to places that have been favourites like Vieux Chalet and Pinto, and others to places that we have planned to go to but were unable to for various reasons. Hinulugang Taktak is one of those places that are easy to take for granted as we pass through the area almost everyday because of our commutes. On Sundays, it is also along our route to and from the church, which is along Daang Bakal, the former railway line turned road that is historic in itself. 

The story of Daang Bakal and Antipolo's attractions are intertwined as it was only logical then and now that a transport system like the old rail service be along a route where the demand for transport was. Hinulugang Taktak was one of those places that were ahead of their time for being a major tourist destination that justified it being a stop along the rail line. It was supposed to be the second to the last station with the last one being the nearest to another important attraction (perhaps the most important  then and for more years to come) - the Shrine to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Hinulugang Taktak refers to a falls (Filipino term is "talon", pronounced the same way as the term for "jump") that is very accessible unlike other similar attractions in the province (e.g., Daranak Falls).

The Clairvoyant had been asking me where the falls were and I usually replied you could see it along the roadside. Unfortunately, there are also structures including a tall concrete fence along Daang Bakal that obscures view of the falls. Yesterday, I decided to make a quick stop at what looked like an unfinished view deck along Daang Bakal just beside the gate to what is being developed into a public resort. Following are a couple of photos of the falls itself.

Hinulugang Taktak as seen from the unfinished roadside view deck along Daang Bakal.
A closer look of the falls shows its alive and well though likely still polluted judging from the bubbles (soap suds or foam?) accumulating at the foot of the falls.
What we saw yesterday was very promising. Hinulugang Taktak had been neglected for a long time and there was a joke before stating that the falls should be renamed to Hinulugang Tak, referring to the trickle of water after the source had been blocked by debris, which mainly consisted of garbage.  It also stunk and the smell was attributed to the garbage, sewage and other effluents that were dumped on the waters. It is good that there is a project that seems to be focused on reviving the area despite what seems to be its slow implementation.

Now that the falls seem to be getting back to what it was during its more glorious days, perhaps there should be even more aggressive programs to ensure its preservation as well as to make the waters cleaner. The latter comment is pointed at the local government, which is responsible for making sure that the source river and streams of Hinulugang Taktak will not continue to be a dumpsite of Antipolo's many residents (especially informal settlers). Meanwhile, there should also be stricter control of development in the areas around the falls itself. This has been designated as a national park and all those who have encroached upon the land covered by the park should be demolished so as to preserve what was once and being revived as a heritage tourism site for the city and the province.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ramen or something like it

It's been raining the past few days and I proposed we try come up with dinner that's suitable (bagay) with the cool evenings we've had at our home in the mountain. I remember buying imported instant ramen from Japan. It was supposed to be tonkotsu ramen and though a bit more expensive than the Lucky Me's and Nissin's that are readily available in most supermarkets and groceries (even sari-sari stores), I knew from experience that imported noodle packs had more servings or quantity per pack compared with the less expensive local noodles. As we were not able to get the exact ingredients required for something that could pass off for ramen, we decided to check our stocks for items that would allow our dinner to at least resemble the ramen we do enjoy from restaurants. Our bottom-line was to come up with something good to eat while also getting nutritional meal. And voila! The outcome of our ramen experiment is pictured below.

The soup base is from instant tonkotsu ramen from Japan. We decided to customise our concoction with romaine lettuce and carrots. We didn't have pork so we also decided to substitute with the remaining tenderloin beef cubes in the freezer. We ran out of shiitake mushrooms but thought it would have been better with these the next time.
The bowls we used for the first time were from our recent explorations around Antipolo that took us to The Crescent Moon Cafe. There were surplus bowls from various clients of their pottery shop there for sale (by the kilogram!) and we selected a few pieces for times like these when the weather's just perfect for having hot ramen. The chopsticks are part of many that we have and actually use when we eat Japanese food at home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Early bird breakfast

The wife was raving about a small restaurant at The Fort Strip at Bonifacio Global City. One time that I took her to her office at BGC, we were too early and had to wait some time for the restaurant to open so we ended up in another restaurant so I wouldn't be late for my appointment. A couple of weeks ago, we finally had the chance to have breakfast together there and I'd say the food is real good and worth the wait. 

Arriving just before the restaurant opened, we noticed a big group of what appeared to be BPO workers who came out of the shift at the nearby parking lot. We thought they were probably just hanging out before they went their separate ways to their homes. But as soon as the restaurant opened, the big group flocked to the restaurant and immediately occupied a few tables. Fortunately for us, we were quite early and we easily got a table as there were only 2 of us. Other couples who followed also were also able to get table but subsequent groups already had to wait it out or had to be seated in separate tables.

The menu is designed like a news paper that's complete with articles aside from the food and drinks that you can order. The way they presented their menu reminded me of a restaurant in San Francisco, CA where the menu changed everyday and they printed out the menu for the day like it was a newspaper.
I suddenly remembered a trip with a foreign consultant where we opted to have noodles instead of the other foods available at a turo-turo at Batangas Port. He kiddingly referred to it as the "Breakfast of Champions."
Chorizo and mushroom risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano on top
Their version of the classic tapsilog - tenderloin tapa, fried rice and egg

Breakfasts at Early Bird is definitely worth waking up early for although they don't open as early as the proverbial early bird. That's good if you're working at the BGC but not if you're still headed to Makati or elsewhere afterwards. Price-wise, I think it's not for everyone (especially for those on a budget) as breakfast for one can easily set you back 500 pesos as compared with say breakfast at a fast-food restaurant. That amount though has value for money as the servings are just right and the food is really good. I will definitely be back and I say "I" because the wife works at BGC and could have a meal there with her colleagues whenever they could.


Monday, July 7, 2014


Yesterday evening, we decided to hang out at our lanai to enjoy the fresh, cool breeze while sipping some hot Chai tea. The Chai was a recent purchase from the supermarket. We haven't had Chai for some time as it isn't generally available from most supermarkets that we go to. What we had in abundance was green tea from our recent trips to Japan. The tea aside, we just wanted to have what the Clairvoyant called "unplugged" time to refer to not having our computers, tablets or even smart phones. 

We were talking about the old mango tree in front of our home when I noticed something blinking just beyond the tree and apparently just across from our home. I had no doubt that I saw some fireflies (alitaptap) within the lot from across our home and quickly pulled the Clairvoyant from her chair so she could also marvel at this rare sight. I say rare because fireflies are only found in places where the air is clean and so are often used as indicators for good environment. Fireflies haven't been seen in many places in Metro Manila including the UP Diliman campus, which is supposed to be one of the more pristine areas in the metropolis. We live in Antipolo and we picked this village over others because of the nice environment. The sighting of fireflies only affirms our choice and we definitely look forward to seeing more of these ubiquitous creatures while also contributing to make sure they stay and perhaps increase their numbers. Unfortunately, we couldn't take some photos of the fireflies as you need a good camera to be able to catch the few fireflies. It's more dramatic if there were a lot more fireflies. The latter cases are usually associated to local myths about enchanted areas.

This is what the lot across our home looks like during the day. There's basically a lot of different kinds of trees and plants including coconuts, bananas, ipil, and lots of grass - quite ideal for fireflies. Only also because the air in our village is cleaner than elsewhere.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan - Part 1

The wife and I decided to spend some weekends exploring Rizal province where we have resided for the past 10 years. In my case, I have lived in Rizal since 1976 when our family transferred from a humble apartment in Mandaluyong to what was mostly undeveloped lands in Cainta. Many of what are now major roads like Marcos Highway, the Manila East Road and Imelda Avenue were not yet built or were just dirt roads to the east of metropolitan Manila. 

There are many things to see and do in Rizal given its rich history and the many attractions the towns have to offer. Foremost and most prominent among Rizal towns is its present capital Antipolo, which has been the destination of so many people for pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Antipolo is now a highly urbanised city with a population exceeding 670,000 people. 

Last weekend, we decided to take advantage of the good weather to go see the Angono petroglyphs that we had heard and read about many times before. Previously, we hesitated to go as there was little information on how to get to the site. A couple of years ago, I chanced upon a sign pointing to the petroglyphs site when I attended a workshop at a popular resort-casino complex in Binangonan. Nowadays, too, there are many maps to refer to for trips like this and so we used both the Google Maps and Waze applications in our phones to guide us in our trip. Following are some photos of the petroglyphs site from last weekend:

Sign along the private road leading to the main entrance to the museum.
This tunnel was constructed to lay down a water line for a prominent resort, casino and golf course development in Binangonan , Rizal. The tunnel though had another benefit - a direct and convenient access to the petroglyphs. There's a guard posted at the mouth of the tunnel and he guides visitors to park near the entrance to the tunnel as well as provide information for the short trek to the museum.
Emerging from the tunnel, the walk to the museum was an easy one and it helped that we had fair weather that morning. I can imagine the path can get muddy on rainy days.
We didn't ask if the location of the tunnel was planned together with those in-charge of caring for the petroglyphs. However, I would assume that the developer of the resort did a decent effort of not disturbing or damaging the petroglyphs. Kudos to these kinds of developers for helping preserve and promote national treasures.
The grounds are well kept and along the left towards the museum, you can get a good view of the golf course.
The petroglyphs were discovered by renowned National Artist Botong Francisco while hiking and exploring with boy scouts along what were supposed to be cliffs or rock formations on the mountain. Access was limited to the trail and steps constructed for people to get to the petroglyphs. At present, the National Museum maintains a small museum relating the story of the petroglyphs as well as displaying some archeological and paleontological finds in Rizal.
This print out on tarpaulin tells the story of the petroglyphs complete with photos showing them after discovery and during studies conducted at the site.
Rizal Province's history goes way, way back to a time when the Sierra Madre mountain range of Luzon was home to  an ancient people and prehistoric flora and fauna.
Photos show studies being undertaken on the petroglyphs and the geology of the area.
Some snippets of the write-up on the tarp.

We should preserve these National Cultural Treasures and to do so means the government should cooperate with private sector including companies and maybe private schools who would have the resources to help preserve these treasures.
There are a few more curiosities in the small museum at the site of the petroglyphs including replicas of  plates and stones bearing old writings.
Replica of the Laguna copper plate with inscriptions
There is also a replica of the stone tablets found in Masbate Island.
Replica of one of the stone tablets found in Masbate. One tablet was even used as a doormat  prior to being reported and studied! Such finds could have been properly identified if people were educated about our culture and the possibility that there are treasures like these that we tend to dismiss as ordinary objects.

The Philippines has been trading with China for centuries and proofs of this relationship are the Ming Dynasty ware that has been found in Rizal towns along the Laguna de Bay.
On display also are petrified remains (fossils) of a giant land turtle and pygmy stegodon that used to inhabit the Sierra Madres

More photos and kwento in Part 2!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chocolate review: Valrhona - Grands Crus, discovering a world of taste

The Clairvoyant chanced upon boxes of four bars of our favorite Valrhona chocolates during one of her travels abroad. I won't be describing each chocolate anymore as I have written about these in past articles.

Talk about chocolate overload!

Alpaco, Tainori, Caraibe and Manjari all in one pack
Information on each chocolate bar at the back of the package
Inside the box, there are colourful descriptions of each chocolate bar.
Close-up of the "jackets" holding Caraibe (roasted nuts) and Manjari (red fruits) chocolate bars. You can just slide one through one end.
Alpaco (white flowers) and Tainori (yellow fruits) chocolates with their respective descriptions.