Intramuros Revisited

Ipe and I have a shared love of architecture and museums and as is often the case when we find out we have a free weekend on our hands, our feet brought us straight to Intramuros.

San Agustin Church and Museum

Scale model of the San Agustin Church, Convent and Seminary

Now, this has always been our first stop whenever we visit this part of the city. Why? Apart from the obvious sentimental reasons -we got married here nearly five years ago – San Agustin is the oldest in the country, and for us, simply the most beautiful church. It was completed in 1607 under the Augustinian Order, and while the facade is too simple and even austere that you might easily dismiss it as just another old structure, the interior more than makes up for it.

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s tomb

Built in the form of a Latin cross, it has 14 side chapels  – as was the case in those times, the priests celebrate their masses individually, hence the need for multiple chapels – each with a patron saint. The floors and walls of each side chapel serves as burial grounds for prominent citizens in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed, here you can see the headstones of the Ayala/Zobel/Roxas ancestors and heroes Juan Luna, Pedro A. Paterno and Trinidad Pardo de Tavera. It also contains the tomb of Miguel López de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo and Martín de Goiti.

View from the choir loft

But probably what makes the church so grand is the intricate rompe-l’œil ceiling  which was painted in 1875 by Italian artists Cesare Alberoni and Giovanni Dibella and the  16 crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling that all vie for your attention. It also has an ornate pulpit carved from narra on the right side from where priests in the Spanish colonial era would give their homilies. 

Father Blanco’s Garden, found inside the church compound  and surrounded by the seminary, is a very popular reception venue (but one of the reasons why we didn’t have ours there was because they only have one accredited caterer).

Father Blanco’s garden, seminary, convent

Hubby and I were actually looking for the ruins, where we had a photoshoot after our wedding; but sadly, we were told this had been converted into a building and the courtyard closed off. Back in 2006, this portion of the compound can be accessed by couples getting married at the church, for a minimal fee. Too bad it’s gone now. Anyway, here’s a photo of one part of it:

Ruins at San Agustin
From bottom left: The Refectory, adjoining crypt, old carved altars

Few people are probably aware that the cloister on the right side of the church is a museum (or if they are aware, few would probably bother to even go). But if you’re a museum freak like us, I would recommend this place. There is an entrance fee of Php 100 but you can freely roam around two floors of religious artifacts, paintings, and exhibits.

The ground floor walls are lined with numerous paintings and on each corner you can find a retablo. At the time of our visit, they have an exhibit of Father Urdaneta (pictures were not allowed in some of these, so I didn’t risk taking any, lest I be shooed out). The crypt where Augustinian fathers and church patrons are buried is also on the ground floor, adjoining the refectory. Now, I don’t know if this was the set-up back in those days, but I find it rather creepy to have your dining hall beside dead people. 😛

not-so-winding staircase

A grand staircase made of imported stone steps from China leads to the second floor.  The walls are lined with religious paintings as well and one painting particularly haunts me whenever I see it – the painting of a seven-year old boy who was martyred by crucifixion. I can’t remember his name right now, but the painting hangs near the first landing of the staircase to the second floor.

The dome ceiling of the staircase gives me goosebumps – it closely resembles a sink hole, except that it’s above you and I am morbidly afraid of sink holes, especially now that we are having all sorts of natural calamities.

SInk-hole looking ceiling

On the second floor are more religious and historical artifacts – jar collections, paintings, vestments, and an exhibit of the churches built by the order since they came to the country. In case you are not aware, almost all the wonderful churches we have were built by the Augustinians, most notably the Paoay and Sta. Maria Churches in Ilocos, which, together with the San Agustin and the Miag-Ao in Iloilo, make up the four baroque churches of the Philippines inscribed in the Unesco World Heritage List.

The choir loft is also a thing of beauty as the seats are made of  hand-carved  molave dating back from the 17th-century.

lectern with old cantorals from the 16th century, pipe organ and carved molave seats from the 17th century

View from a window on the ground floor facing the courtyard

A word of warning though: if you plan to tour the museum, do come wearing flat shoes. It took hubby and me three hours to finish everything. There is a snack bar on the ground floor where you can sit and have some cookies and tea, all at reasonable prices. 🙂

Puerta Real

A few meters away from the San Agustin, indeed, at the entrance to Intramuros itself, is the Puerta Real, or royal gate, which the governor-general of the time would use as his private entrance to the walled city. It boasts of a moat and a tunnel leading to the garden itself. 

Moat and tunnel of the Puerta Real’s main gate
the side gate of the Puerta Real – there are also artifacts on either side (where they used to store gunpowder)

There’s a path leading to a second level of the garden, where you get magnificent views of the city – Manila Hotel and the Club Intramuros golf club.

Puerta Real, as with all gardens in the area, is an in-demand reception venue – in fact, we had ours here! It can accommodate almost 400 guests on the side facing the main road, and around 100 more on the other side (the two are separate by a one-meter wide bridge).

Baluarte de san diego

A few steps away from the Puerta Real is another garden – the Baluarte de San Diego. It’s actually connected if you can walk on the small path on the walls of Intramuros, but portions of it have been closed off, for safety reasons, so the only way to reach it now is by going back out in the street. A minimal entrance fee of Php 75 is paid at the entrance for the upkeep of the garden (on a side note, I wish they would do the same for the Puerta Real which needs an overhaul).

Entrance to the Baluarte de San Diego

The stone steps leading to the Nuestra Senora de Guia

The oldest stone fort in Manila, the Nuestra Señora de Guia, is found here, consisting of a round tower looking out at the bay. Designed and built by Jesuit priest Antonio Sedeno, It soon crumbled due to poor quality and the ravages of the British invasion in 1762 and destroyed  during World War II.

Side staircase leading to the garden
what remains of the tower of the Fort

The Baluarte de San Diego has a well-maintained garden, with a fountain, gazebos, and bonsai garden. It also has newly-built comfort rooms for tourist and for when there are special events. 

This garden has seen much improvement from say, three or five years ago – for me, it is now a perfect venue for a wedding: historic and romantic at the same time. 🙂

Plaza de Santo Tomas

Our last stop is the old Dominican compound in Intramuros – this is where the old Santo Domingo and UST used to be located. There isn’t much to see here, but being Thomasians, we feel compelled to visit this monument whenever we’re in the vicinity. Plus, if you ever wondered what the UST and Santo Domingo church looked like before they were destroyed in the 2nd World War, then this is your chance – there are markers with images of old photographs on them.

The Plaza de Santo Tomas in its heyday:

The Santo Domingo Church, pre and post war. I would have loved to see the pre-war church – its Gothic design is very rare in our country. In fact, I can only think of one Gothic church intact: the San Sebastian in Manila.

The Arch of the Centuries (this is now located in the present campus along Espana):


I just wish the government would do something about the plaza – cart vendors line the gates and vagrants lie within the plaza itself, with two of them lying right beside the monument like sleeping sentinels. 

Touring the Manila Cathedral-side of Intramuros took us more than five hours in all, and that’s just about half of the noteworthy sites. There’s still Fort Santiago across the street from the cathedral, and numerous museums, Chinese houses and dungeons converted to restos which are all worth another visit. And of course, Luneta or Rizal Park(though it’s already outside the walled city). I think I’ll stick to the restos and Luneta for my next visit. 🙂

The World According to Joey 032811

Last Saturday…
Joey: Mom, you promised we’ll go pasyal on Saturday.
Me: Ok, I’ll ask your dad to take us pasyal.
Joey: Ok, but I need to wear outside clothes.
Me: No need, we’ll just go out and ride the car around the neighbourhood and then go back home.
Joey: But mom, that’s not pasyal. That’s just one ride. Pasyal means you’re going far, far away, and out of the car and walking.
While driving out of the gate:
Joey: Turn right! (right goes to the main road, left goes to the inner parts of the compound)
Daddy: No, we’re turning left.
Joey: (Silent, mulling things over) But daddy, this is not pasyal. You’re just giving me one ride. I need to pasyal and go out of the car! Turn right!
As I was dressing up yesterday to go out with hubby, Joey comes in and this conversation takes place:
Joey: Mom, where are you going?
Me: (thinking if I tell him we were going out, he will cry) To the office. Daddy will drive me there and we’ll come back for you later.
Joey: What day is it, mom?
Me: Sunday.
Joey: Then why are you going to the office on Sunday, mom?
Me: (speechless)

Movie: Sucker Punch

Two thoughts ran through my mind as soon as the closing credits started rolling: first, was I really so dumb that I couldn’t figure out what the title means? and second, how the heck did the movie, for all its special effects and bombtastic action scenes, manage to become dragging not even midway through it’s less than two-hour screen time?
And hot on the trail of those thoughts, comes the nagging sense of trying to convince myself that I didn’t waste my money because the effects were spectacular. And there you get the gist of the movie: there ain’t any story to tell. 
Set in the 50’s, the movie started interestingly enough, with Baby Doll (Emily Browning) being sent to an asylum by her stepfather who cruelly beat her sister to death after their mother’s death (which was never  established if through murder or sickness) to prevent her from telling the truth and to get her inheritance. Unfortunately enough for our heroine, the institution is being run by a sinister-looking sleazy guy, who unknown (I assume) to the actual doctor of the asylum, accepts patients whom others would want to get rid off, and forges the signature of the doctor into authorizing lobotomy on a number of such patients. Baby Doll learns she is scheduled for one five days from the time she is committed.
From there, the movie starts to go nowhere but into several layers of fantasy which initially prompts comparisons to Inception: Baby Doll lapses into a dream world where the asylum is a brothel and she and the other patients are “dancers” who must please their clients to earn their keep. This world draws comparisons again to another movie: Moulin Rouge. As she (and presumably the other girls) dances, she enters a third world where she and the girls she befriends in the brothel, are warriors with samurais, big guns, and robots, with just one goal: fight the bad guys to get a certain treasure. 
Now, it’s clear enough that these fight sequences are symbolic of how the girls plan and manage to collect the five things they need to escape the asylum – map, fire, knife, and key,with the fifth item to be discovered when need: a purpose. 
And that’s the entire story. We know nothing about the other girls other than their names: Rocket (Jena Malone), whom Baby Doll rescues from the cook and had run away from home only to end up in the asylum, her older sister Sweet Pea (played by Abbie Cornish who reminded me so much of Alexa Davalos who had in turn, played Andromeda in Clash of Titans last year),who followed her sister to keep her from trouble, Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung, who had played Chi-chi in Dragonball the movie). Other than those tidbits I mentioned, there is nothing more known of these girls or how they ended up committed. And as soon as I figured out there was no story to be told, hour and a half began to feel like an eternity.
As a visual treat, this movie’s a success – after all, the director is no less than Zack Snyder who gave us the gore fest 300 a couple of year ago. And I am quite absorbed with how flawless Baby Doll always looks like, as if she were the doll she was named after.
But ten minutes into the movie and I have this generalization formed at the back of my mind:  this movie is nothing more than a live-action, anime-inspired soft porn aimed at men who have a fetish for school-girl types and/or a bit of sadomasochism. If that was the aim, it succeeded as I could not help but squirm in my seat every time Baby Doll shows up in her skimpy skirt ala-Sailormoon or when she prepares to do her sexy dance (which, surprisingly or not, we NEVER get to see). While I commend the seamless transition between realities, I could never understand why Baby Doll would choose to imagine being in a brothel or in an old-fashioned sci-fi war in her dream landscapes. Or was she secretly a sexual pervert?
It has the vibe of Inception/Moulin Rouge/300/Shutter Island all rolled into one, but for all its ambitions and parallels to those great movies, it never approximates even half of the accomplishments and merits of any single one. And so, I am left dejected to try and convince myself that the money I paid for yielded returns in the form of the special effects.
* Images from Google

Gelle and Joey’s Wedding: 032011

Just got home from the very lovely wedding of Gelle and Joey. I’ve actually been looking forward to this for quite some time as I  think I haven’t seen the two of them since I was in SG almost two years ago, though of course, Gelle and I have managed to keep ourselves updated through YM and email. And I know she’s been planning for this perfect day and I can’t help it – her excitement is contagious and I just basically love weddings!
Loved the food: prawns, carrot rice, beef and lechon, and lots of dessert!

Loved the details:
Loved the bride’s gown (and the entourage):

With P&G friends:
I was a reader during the mass and was told by the coordinator that tube tops are not allowed – you need a shawl, if ever. So panic set in the day before the wedding when I realized that I had nothing to wear as all my dresses are tubes! Ended wearing the only dress I could find in my closet that would fit the requirement. Whew!
dress, Promod; pearl necklace, ring and bag, Accessorize; earrings, Parfois; sandals, Charles and Keith

I loved the couple’s entrance number for the reception. I’ve seen a lot of these on youtube and I know a lot who would have loved to attempt it (I actually attempted it but Ipe put his foot down; my high school best friend Mheng pulled it off in their wedding although only the groom sang) but this one is really touching and funny at the same time. It’s a good thing I had my cellphone video on ready, surprisingly, and was able to record it:
I loved the on-site wedding video – the best I’ve seen so far. Even Ipe was impressed and he’s usually suplado when giving out praises. 

A very beautiful wedding – I almost wanted to cry during the father/daughter and mother/son dance and the parents’ speeches. 
Best wishes to you, Gelle and Joey!

Food Coma Weekend

I know I’m supposed to be on a diet in preparation for summer and of course, it’s the Lenten season and I should fast. But, I will have to restart my diet another day. 
Friday night, had dinner with my teammates from my former employer at Cyma. I had suggested we eat here since we’ve always taken Jerry to Filipino restos in the past so I figured it would be a nice change to have something different (although I couldn’t really vouch for the authenticity of the food since I’ve never been to Greece). And since it was the first time for all of them, we got a little carried away with the orders -we realized it was too much even before the appetizers were laid out: tons of pita bread with tzatsiki! For those who don’t know, tzatsiki is a yoghurt and cucumber dip so it’s a bit sour and cool to the tongue at the same time. 
We also had moussaka, a no-brainer, after all, if you’re gonna try a cuisine might as well start with the national dish right? Then chicken adobo, spinach pasta and zucchini and gyros. I especially liked the zucchini – I never tasted this veggie before but it tasted lovely. 
I wanted to have dessert after but we were too full I decided to just skip it. Though I did manage to hit Fully Booked – and got the latest book in the Vampire Diaries series (well, the 2nd to the latest). 😛
Saturday night, Ipe and I had the usual “mamam”  with UST friends, as titow Jere would say it – at Banana Leaf at Powerplant. Loved the fried tilapya with sauce and the shrimp/mango with chili sauce. And I got the chrysanthemum tea shake to boot! A lot of people don’t really like this tea, but I find its taste perfect, even when I was a kid. It taste like brewed flowers, kinda like drinking a floral perfume. Ok, I’ll stop there as I realize that sounds sort of weird.

Watched a movie after, World Invasion: Battle LA starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Neyo and Ramon Rodriguez (I kept thinking where I saw him then it hit me – he was Shia Labouf’s sidekick in Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen). I am not really a fan of disaster movies; I only watch them when I have nothing to watch ON cable. But Aaron Eckhart was superb as the Staff Sergeant who was forced to lead a team of marines after their lieutenant died, not to mention easy on the eyes too. But the plot is tired, and the entire movie reminded me of Independence Day. So, I’d say, the movie would have bored me to death if I didn’t find Aaron kinda handsome. 😛

Because the baby is now a little boy

It amazes me how time flies and Joey has grown from a baby, to a toddler, to a young kid.
Little signs that he’s growing up such as insisting that he go out wearing outside clothes (as opposed to inside clothes), or getting mad when we play with him and let him around the house in just his undies (he shouts: but people will see me!) or refusing help by saying, I can do this all by myself. And every night, Joey and I get into a semi-argument on where he would sleep, as he now insists on sleeping in his own room (his yaya sleeps there but we have a single bed with pullout). Usually, I convince him by saying babies need to sleep with their moms, but now, the tide goes against me and I have to reverse the argument by saying, mommies need their babies to sleep beside them at night, appealing to Joey’s protective nature.
He even begs now to go to school – he has been for the past year since taking trial classes last summer, saying he’s ready now for school. I remember Joey coming home with his lunchbox contents intact if it’s a sandwich or rice and hotdog, but everything eaten if it’s a chocolate chip cookie and tetrapack juices. He justifies this saying his schoolmates don’t eat rice at school (remember, he was just three years and two months at this time, and yet he already knew what peer pressure felt like).
I know I should be proud; raising a kid is no mean feat. But sometimes, I feel tears forming in my eyes because I know a lot of things will slowly change. I keep telling him I need to hug and kiss him as often as I can now because when he grows up, he won’t let me do these things anymore. And sometimes, I just wish time could slow down a little bit so I can catch up a bit.

The World According to Joey 031611

Last night:
Me: Joey, why do you always sleep late at night?
Joey: Mom, I can’t sleep because I think too much.
Me: (speechless for a bit – how can a four-year old kid think too much?!?)
Joey: (sensing I was at a loss) Mom, I think too much because you and dad tell me not to talk or move too much at night time. So I think too much.
Me: (natuluyan na ko’ng speechless)
After a fight with Daddy:
Me: Joey, did Daddy hurt you?
Joey: No mom, he just hurt my feelings. (to dad) Dad, don’t hurt my feelings again, okay?

My mother-n-law came to visit us earlier today and Joey didn’t want her to go. Below exchange was relayed by hubby to me:
Daddy: Lola needs to go home because tita Katkat (my youngest sister in law who just started working) needs her mom to cook her food.
Joey: But tita Katkat is a grown up. She can cook her own food.
Daddy: But tita Katkat needs her mom to clean the house.
Joey: But tita Katkat is a grown up. She can clean the house.
Daddy: But tita Katkat needs her mom to sleep beside her. 
Joey: But I’m four and sometimes I sleep all by myself in the other room because I’m four years old!
Daddy: (well, speechless by this time)
Continuation of the above exchange:
Lola: (sensing the argument was getting nowhere) Joey, come let’s go to sleep. I’ll sleep beside you.
Joey: Can you sing the song my mom sings for me?
Lola: I don’t know your mommy’s song. But I have a special song just for you. (starts singing) Sleep my darling Joey, mom and dad are far away.
Joey: (interrupts singing) Don’t say daddy’s far away – he’s already here!

Joey playing games/typing his name using my laptop

Busy Weekend

Attended two birthday parties over the weekend – one grown up and one for kids. 🙂
Saturday night was spent with old college friends for Meg’s birthday:
With Varsi friends for Meg’s birthday treat
 On Sunday afternoon, the kiddo and I trooped to McDonald’s at the Fort for a teammate’s kid’s birthday:
Too bad though that Joey was in no mood to join the games. He was probably tired and hungry coz he was in a much better mood after eating two chicken wings (his and mine!). 
How was your weekend? 🙂

Domestic Diva: Cookies!

Since I switched companies a few months back, I’ve recently found some time to explore my domestic side and re-discovered how much I love cooking. It has always been there, I know, and even when I was busy with work, I’d find time to whip up something for the family on weekends or every morning if I get to wake up early enough. 
I’m not a good cook, mind you. My maternal grandparents were both wonderful cooks, I have an aunt who prepares to-fie-for feasts on holidays and my parents both prepare good food (well, my mama does if she forgets her being health-conscious and doesn’t skip on all the seasoning). But somehow, those genes got lost – or maybe I got replaced in the nursery? 😛
Anyway, I’ve been cutting up recipes from magazines for so long and I figured It’s about time I put our oven to good use. I was beginning to think it would rust away as it had never been used in the five years we’ve had it. Plus, I wanted to make sure Joey eats healthy snacks while I’m away. But of course, just baby steps so I settled on making good old oatmeal cookies for my first foray into baking.
3/4 c quick cooking oats
3/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts, chopped
1/4 c butter
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp iodized salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1) Preheat oven to 375 F (191 C – good to find out I still remember some of my conversion skills, ha!).
2) Beat all ingredients. I didn’t have a beater so I just mashed everything with a trusty big metal spoon, and finally doing it by hand to make sure everything is mixed well.
3) Grease cookie sheets and drop the mixture on the cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly brown.
I did little improvisations with the recipe, using Nesvita instant oatmeal, Queen all purpose flour, anchor unsalted butter and almonds instead of raisins and walnuts as the original recipe called for. And I added a dash of cinnamon to the batter. 
Well, what do you know? Hubby and the kid loved it so much and so did my kiddo’s friend from next door. So much that they ate up a lot and just left me with one piece. 🙂
That inspired me to move on to another recipe – chocolate chip cookies. 
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 c chocolate chps
This time, I used Pillsbury flour , magnolia butter, and Ghirardelli chocolate chips. And I suggest cutting down on the brown sugar by half – get just 1/2 c instead of 1 whole cup. Got myself new measuring cups and a manual mixer (I’ll get the electric one next time – figured it’s exercise anyway).
Procedure’s pretty much a breeze. Just preheat the oven to 165 C, sift flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Then in a another bowl, cream together butter, white and brown sugar, add in vanilla and the eggs then mix in with the sifted ingredients (flour, etc). After everything’s mixed well, stir in the chocolate chips. Then put them in greased cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.
So, two straight weekends of ruling the kitchen! I’m thinking of doing this again next weekend – it takes about 20 minutes  for the oatmeal cookies and 30 minutes for the choco chip ones, including prep time so I really don’t have an excuse not to, especially when I still have all the ingredients.
This summer, I’m thinking of being more ambitious – I want to make carrot cake with fondant icing. Something which I’ve been wanting to do since forever. I’m still searching for some good recipes online though. Wish me luck!