Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Hong Kong's #OccupyCentral with Love and Peace

at the financial district of Hong Kong
"I must be getting really old,"said the big milestone celebrant Chiqui as we were finishing our drinks and heading out on foot to Central on foot. And she ended "...because my idea of fun is no longer to booze all night but to visit the protesters."

It was almost midnight when we reached Connaught Road and there were hundreds of people, mostly students, camped on the streets. We caught some sleeping on plastic sheets and cardboards, a few were sleeping in hammocks and others were actually set up in tents. There were different sections such as a study area offering tutorials in math and science, a speaker's corner, concert area and even an area to charge mobile phones and tablets.

This is now the scene at the business district in Hong Kong. The protesters call themselves "Occupy Central with Love and Peace," a civil disobedience movement initiated by a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

Early in January 2013, Tai demanded universal suffrage for the 2017 Chief Executive elections; this is, the right to nominate and directly elect the head of the Hong Kong government in reaction to the decision of China to screen candidates.  Apparently, his January 16, 2013 column in the Hong Kong Economic Journal entitled "Civil disobedience is the most powerful weapon" became the blueprint for Occupy Central. He wrote that the best way to protest is to mobilize 10,000 people to block the roads in the financial capital should the government screen candidates.

pro-democracy messages on the 'Lennon Wall"
For this year, Tai initially wanted to stage a three day sit in starting on October 1, but decided to stage it earlier on September 28, when students were pepper-sprayed and arrested.

The movement is now called "umbrella revolution' for the umbrellas used by the students to protect
themselves from police pepper spray.

I'm not sure how how long the protesters will last. As of today, I spotted in the news that the police will start clearing the barricades and tents to open a key road to traffic. I'm sure this won't be another Tianamen Square incident in 1986 and a peaceful solution will come out.

I'm glad that for Chiqui's birthday, we were able to experience this and show our support. We ended up writing a note and posted it on the "Lennon Wall," a colorful patchwork of thousands of sticky notes.

some sleeping on plastic sheets 
spotted one lying in a hammock
protesters camping out
area cordoned off to allow students to study

area set up to charge phones and tablets

Umbrella Man covered with colorful post-it notes with messages of support and solidarity 

Friday, 12 September 2014

it's all about Fascia!

Meet Dr. Adolf Brown. He is an applied kinesiologist based in Ubud, Bali and so far, one of the best anatomy teachers that I've ever met.

I've heard of 'fascia' before but this is the first time I've understood its importance and the relation between the physical and energetic bodies.  He defined fascia as connective tissues composed of microtubules containing fluid that is electrolytic. Fascia is the ground substance of the energy body. Another concept of how yoga, the physical body and energy body interact. The physical body is the vehicle for the energy body.

Yoga is really about awareness including body awareness, the ability to connect with the body. Dr. Brown said that 'the more we can see within the body, the more we understand the body, the deeper our yoga practice can be."

And to me, the most important thing right now for me in anatomy is fascia, the connective tissues that surrounds the bones, muscles, blood vessels, digestive track, organs and nerves which serves as an energetic communication system. What fascia does is measure electrical circuity to allow the prana, our energy life force to flow through our body.

The Spiritual Energy System by Alex Grey
To illustrate the importance of fascia, let me use Dr. Brown's example. He said that our bones are surrounded by fascia like, shirt sleeves surrounding our arm. The fascia condenses down and becomes ligaments which then connects to the fascia of the next bone. The muscles are surrounded by fascia that condenses down and becomes tendons and connects to the fascia of the bones. The organs are surrounded by fascia and held by ligaments onto the skeletal, and continues to the bones. The brains cerebral cortex is surrounded by fascia and blood vessels.

Part of what Yoga does is it reorganizes the fascia, it moves the fascia restrictions to allow the energy to flow. Unresolved emotional trauma can get stuck in the fascia and creates fluidic restriction which can then blocks the energy and can cause emotional breakdowns. One of the purpose of yoga is to mobilize spinal joints, open the fascia and process an energetic charge release.

The physical body is the vehicle for the energy body. The physical aspect of yoga is to create alignment in the body through the postures to open the energetic channels so that this energy can flow freely. Ultimately, the purpose of yoga is to develop alignment of our energetic body to get to higher states of consciousness and meditation.

And I say amen to Dr. Brown when he emphasized that "The most important issue in yoga is not flexibility and ability to do difficult postures but awareness. Awareness of the body and of the breath and awareness of the anatomical and physiological principles that underlie each posture. From awareness comes control, from control comes grace and ease."

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Here comes the rain again: Glenda out, Henry in

posted yesterday on Instagram
Typhoon "Glenda" (code name Rammasum) came and went. It was a 'fast' typhoon. As early as 3:00 am, I woke up with the sound of the winds howling, my wind chime going crazy and potted plants toppled down my balcony.

It was definitely a strong typhoon with sustained winds of 185 kph and gustiness of 230 kph. A report the day before said that "[It is] the strongest storm to threaten the country since Yolanda, a category-five super typhoon that wiped out nearly everything in its path when it crossed the central Philippines... On its current path, it will also be the first to score a direct hit on Manila in at least four years."

I posted a photo on instagram showing the aftermath of Glenda (clockwise from the top) Manila Bay, flooding infront of La Salle Greenhills in my hood, a tree crushed a parked toyota in Magallanes Village and the side of the newly-built Glorietta 5 peeled off.

avocado tree gone (photo via @RocaCruz)

Before noon, the winds started to die down as Glenda moved towards Zambales and eventually exited the country. Fortunately, not much rain was dumped in the city but the winds knocked down several trees, including century old trees even electricity pole lines. In fact, in our house, the trees in the backyard were knocked down including the giant avocado tree I planted ages ago. :-(

century-old tree in front of Kalayaan Hall in Malacañang Palace uprooted (photo via @willliardcheng)
a giant tree crushed a home in Quezon City
Right now, dark clouds are looming. There is a new weather disturbance brewing in the South Pacific and according to the US Joint Typhoon Watch Center, this may intensify into another tropical storm within the next 24 hours and will be called "Henry" (international code name "Matmo'). The system has maximum sustained winds of 130 kph and gusts of up to 160 kph.

Robert Speta of Western Pacific Weather warned that the model outlook "indicate a tropic storm possibly following the same track as Rammasun, with the same steering dynamics in place this would not be very far fetched."

Meantime, I'm going to charge my battery packs and keep praying that the storm steers up northward.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Rak of Aegis, original pinoy rock musical comedy

Bravo!!! This is Philippine Educational Theater Association's (PETA) second run of "Rak of Aegis," an original Pinoy comedy musical based on the songs of the band called Aegis.

I must be honest. I never heard of the band before and I'm not familiar with their music. In fact, I asked the guy who sold the souvenir program who the band was. He looked at me dumbfounded with wide eyes and said .. 1990s all-female rock band?... Halik (Kiss)? Luha (Tears)?  Bakit, Ako Ngayo'y Hate Mo (Why, Do You Now Hate Me?)..  "Ummmm... sorry" was all I can say.

Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed the show - the actors, the music including the well thought out set design with matching knee-deep flood waters and rain. Yes, there was rain and no, you won't get wet.

Performers that night were two-time gold medalist in the World Championships of the Performing Arts Kim Molina as Aileen, Robert Seña as Kiel, Kalila Aguilos as Mary Jane (Issay Alvarez alternates), Kaikai Bautista as Mercy and Arnel Ignacio as Fernan.

Director Maribel Legarda recounted in the foreword of the souvenir program, that two years ago musical arranger Myke Salomon jokingly said "kung meron Rock of Ages, dapat tayo Rak of Aegis." And the three of them together with Liza Magtoto, the playwright, created the musical.

Magtoto would listened to the songs over and over each day.  She said it was the line "ngunit heto, bumabangon pa rin" (But I'm here, still rising) from  Basang Basa ng Ulan  (Soaked through with Rain) that gave her the inspiration to create a plot out of the word 'resiliency" and "ulan" (rain) brought back images of  floods caused by the super typhoons.

She said "I remembered post-Ondoy relief efforts, during PETA's pyscho-social debriefing in Biñan, Laguna.  Two months after Ondoy, the place was still flooded. The shoe and sandal industry was almost gone, globalization had taken its toll as Crocs was in fashion. The mothers I interviewed suspected a subdivision causing the floods, although to this day, the speculation has to be verified. The government had no clear support for the local industry. Although Christmas was going to be bleak, the people didn't look so defeated."

guess who we spottled in the house - David Pomeranz!!
Indeed in 2009, Maricar Cinco reported that the townspeople of Malaban in Biñan, Laguna had to save other than their lives were "the sandals that floated around before the rising floodwater swept them away."  The town had 500 footwear producers and now, only 30 of them survived. In another report, it said over 114,700 people were made homeless and many lived on the top floors of their homes for up to four months, waiting for the flood to subside.

The playwright said that she didn't want the story to simply revolve around resiliency.  She said "But the narrative is more in tune with the songs themselves. This is to say, we bounce back when it comes to love. More than this societal background, most Aegis songs are about love - or actually, the loss of love. So the spine of the play is still this (losing and perhaps finding) love in the time of calamity."

I beg you...please don't miss this show!  It's fun, original and timely! The show will run until August 31, 2014.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Yin Yoga Meridian Class

Donna showing us the 'churn the butter' asana
I'm glad that my #HYTTManila co-teacher Jayme Timbol pulled me to attend Donna Esteban's Yin Yoga Meridian Master Class at Yoga+ Makati.

Each month, Donna conducts a two-hour class focusing on specific organs. And this Saturday, she focused on the kidneys and urinary bladder.

As you know, we have two kidneys located in the lower back. The kidney functions to remove waste products from the blood, regulate water fluid levels (works with the urinary bladder) and produce blood-vessel protein (angiotensin) to regulate the blood pressure. 

Donna said that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), aging signifies depletion of the kidneys. She stressed that the kidney is the basis for the body's reproduction and development; and receives and stores essence from the other organs. As our body's organs decline with age, the essence stored in the kidney depletes and eventually, our bones and tendons weaken, the hair turns gray, loss of memory, prolonged lower back issues, over fatigue and exhaustion to the point that there is no longer will. 

Meridians focus on specific channels that conduct energy throughout the body. If the flow is blocked, the body will not function properly.  As we age, she suggested an exercise to stimulate and balance the kidneys (watch video below).  

It is interesting to note that there were a lot of students in the class and I am pretty sure that most of them like me, have taken Donna's advise to heart and do the set of kidney exercises each morning. This just means that people are becoming more open to alternative healing modalities and now accepting yoga, specifically yin yoga, as a form of therapy. 

I am currently practicing kundalini yoga and one of the benefits of the practice is the ability to control and move energy. In kundalini yoga, applying the tantric/yogic tradition of Chakras or energy points in the subtle body, the kidney and urinary bladder including the reproductive organs and glands are part of the Second Chakra, the Sacral Chakra. This chakra is located at the lower abdomen below the navel and is represented by the Water element. The second chakra is the seat of emotions, where all our experiences associated with love and hate are stored.  The water element signifies the aspects of flow. It is said that if we are not fully connected to this chakra, physiological problems occur (which surprisingly is related to TCM) - lower back, ob/gynecological, pelvis, libido and urinary ; and emotionally, difficulty in creativity, manifestation, honoring relationships, obsessions, addictions, oversensitive, manipulative and  learning to 'let go' arise. The signs of a weak connection are jealousy, guilt, possessiveness and shallow relationships. 

Kundalini yoga has sets of exercises (or kriyas) and meditations to enhance the flow of the energy and address specific issues such as in this case, the kidneys, the urinary bladder, the second chakra. I'm confident that in due time, kundalini yoga will likewise be accepted as a form of healing modality. Meantime, I will continue learning and studying about meridians. 

Donna's next Yin Yoga Meridians Master Class is on June 14 (Liver and Gall Bladder) and July 12 (Heart and Small Intestine). 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in Manila!!

in trippy 1970s outfit
The best way to watch the opening night of the trippiest musical staged in Manila is to come in - what else,  drag! So we watched "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" all made-up and garbed in 1970s psychedelic outfits with matching falsies and wig (Tessa came in her biggest, fluffiest afro wig).

The musical is definitely a must-watch! I must hand it to Resorts World for getting top-rate actors - three-time ALIW awardee Leo Valdez, comedian and impersonator Jon Santos and Red Concepcion  - including seasoned performers such as Bituin Escalante, Pinky Marquez, Timmy Canlas, Michael Williams, Menchu Lauchenco-Yulo, Lani Ligot to be part of the ensemble.

(from left) Leo Valdez as Mitzi (n yellow), Red Concepcion  as Felicia (green) and Jon Santos as Bernadette (purple)

with happy campers Pinky and Gai
The story is about the adventures and misadventures of three friends - two drag queens and a transsexual - as they travel into the heart of the Australian outback in a pink-painted bus they named "Priscilla." Note that the musical is very Australian. The scenes depicted their homophobic bogans (redneck in American slang), aborigines and even a castrating pinay who can work on her muhlabanda. 

Get ready to dance all night as the musical plays top 1970s disco hits - Alicia Bridge's I Love the Night Life, Abba's Dancing Queen, Peaches and Herb's Shake Your Groove Thing, The Weather Girls' Its Raining Men, Village People's Go West, Tina Turner's What's Love Got to Do With It?and many more and including hits of Australian singer Kylie The Locomotion, Can't Get You Out of My Head.

The local production is directed by Jaime del Mundo. The musical will run for three months until July 13, 2014.

Friday, 18 April 2014

First #HYTTManila Hot Yoga Treacher Training

first #HYTTManila teachers and students 
"Trust the Process" that's what Dinah Salonga kept telling us throughout the ten weeks of the first Hot Yoga Teacher Training (#HYTT) program in the Absolute Yoga Series in Manila.

I must admit that I wasn't too sure if I would've lasted the training program - i.e. commit to attend all ten weekends plus keep up with my co-TTs who are younger :-).

Well, I'm happy to write that all twelve of us - Anne, Anthony, Bot, Carina, Chi (the youngest at 22), Edel, Ian, Janina, Jayme, Michelle, Sheila - survived! That's a total of 200-hours training from February 1 to April 6.

trying to complete the required 40-classes before graduation
Mind you, it wasn't easy. We were weekend warriors, up early to make the 6:30 am morning practice. The studio doors were shut at exactly 6:30am. Not to mention, we lost weight doing doubles per day just to complete the required 40 hot classes outside the weekend training (left photo). In fact, Anthony resorted to doing triples since he was migrating to Canada after graduation.

Amazingly, we managed to juggle our time between our work load, studying and practicing. Hats off especially to Jayme who was nursing her 4-month old baby and working at the same time.  And thankfully, we all passed the written exam and the peer class which served as our oral exam.

Anatomy class with Dr. JP Prado
Coming from someone who used to practice Bikram Yoga and Ashtanga, I find the Absolute Yoga series sort of a hybrid. It is similar to Bikram where the room is heated up to 39 to 40 degrees Celsius. However, there are more postures in the series, a total of 50 postures compared to Bikram's 26 postures.  There are also some ashtanga poses incorporated in the series.

The practice was founded in 2002 by Benjaporn Karoon Kornsakul. The philosophy is simple - according to Lucas Rockwood, one of the major proponents of Absolute, "Absolute teaches yoga as a form of mind-body fitness as a way to get in great shape and practice moving meditation."

Ryan, Dinah and Aisa
Looking back, I remember my lunch with Dinah in January. She sat me down and spelled out why I shouldn't miss the first TT program in Manila. This made me think of the time I first stepped on a mat which was way way back in 1995 in New York. After that lunch, I asked myself maybe it's about time to teach. I've been doing yoga for some time already. What really propelled me to commit was the quote from Yogi Bhajan "if you want to learn something, read about it; if you want to understand something, write about it; if you want to master something teach it."

The lead teachers of the first #HYTT were Dinah (head), Aisa Locsin-Winternitz and Ryan Chester. And the subject matter experts were Lucas (who via Skype), Pio Baquiran and Dr. JP Prado.

lab work updates on instagram

Our training sessions typically looked like this:

6:30 - 8:30 Morning Practice
8:30 - 9:30  Breakfast Break
9:30 - 12:30 Module /  PT
12:30 - 1:30 Lunch Break
1:30 - 3:30  Module / Lab
3:30 - 4:00  Break
400 - 6:00   Module / Afternoon Practice

The sessions focused on practice teaching (PT) and clinics to discuss each of the poses in the series. The subject matter experts - History, Philosophy, Ethics, Nutrition, Anatomy were included in between modules.
Potluck lunches
Group shot (photo credit: Edelweiss Tubog)

all twelve of us with our certificates
I am so grateful to teachers who drilled on us the importance of the dialogue to keep the class flowing and to relate to the students. And most especially grateful to my co-TTs, now co-Teachers and friends who I looked forward to being with every weekend. I'm going to miss our early morning yoga, the laughter during breaks, our lunches together and catch-up practices.

Right now, we're all slotted in the current class offerings at Yoga+.   I'm teaching at Yoga+'s Ortigas Branch every Tuesdays at 6:30am and do private classes as well. Here's a compilation of the photos I took throughout the 10 weeks. Click here to view. Happy viewing!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Emong Borlongan 20 years retrospective exhibit

with Emong and Plet at the opening, his self portrait behind
What a show! Congratulations Emong on your first twenty years retrospective "In City and Country (1992-2012)" at  the Ayala Museum.

44 paintings, each has a story to tell. If you sit down with him, he'll tell you the story and inspiration behind each painting.  For instance, the 1992 'Birheng Walang Dambana'  (Virgin without an altar) is about his friend whose girlfriend ditched him for a rich guy. He found an apt title from Victor Wood's song of the same title.

The 1994 painting "Lumang Litrato" which has never been exhibited before, is about a newly widowed elderly man whom he met and shared with him that he misses his wife.

Birheng Walang Dambana, 1992
Lumang Littrato (1994)
Emong's tatay with his  eacher 
The title of the show "In City and Country"  best describes the source of inspiration of his works - basically, the people that surround him and the hustle and bustle of his milieu. I was able to witness his genius [and also Plet's] from 1998 to 2002 when they were still living in the City, in Nueve de Pebrero in Mandaluyong where he grew up; and from 2002 to now, in Zambales, in the farm of Plet's family.

He said in an interview about his art "The human figure continues to be the focus of my works. The sound and fury of Manila street scenes have been the fitting accompaniment to the figures that graced my works throughout the years."

Self portrati in ID Picture (1995)  
Driver's Lounge (2011)

San Miguel Fluvial Parade (2010)
Of his life in Zambales, he said "I paint in a studio in the middle of a mango farm surrounded by the sound of a sometimes wailing sea and the chirping of the birds. My immediate environment within the home and in the outskirts of the farm presents an engaging scenario of various characters that I have mingled with. Not to mention my exposure to all my brother-in-law's pupils...There are religious rituals that give pomp and circumstance to the practice of the faith. And of course, there is the sea, a character in itself, that is sometimes disconcerting when my wife worries about "imagined tsumanis in her head" but is a refreshing blue field of delight on hot summer days."

Time flies by so fast. I remember meeting Emong for the first time in 1996. I was watching the concert of the Bolipata brothers in Sta. Ana Park and Plet introduced him to me. I was actually wondering what she was doing in Manila. The last time I saw her, she was happily studying at The Arts Student League and helping out as a paralegal in New York. She said she waiting for her US working visa.

the painting that started it all, Gabay (1994)
The following year in April, Plet was still in town. She invited me to CASA San Miguel, the arts center her brother Coke built in their farm, to join the 2nd Pundaquit Earth Day Festival. Both she and Emong were commissioned by Coke to do a mural. Both were holed up in Zambales as artists-in-residence. Plet's mural was to grace the entrance foyer while Emong's 13 x 18 feet mural was the centerpiece of the Ramon Corpus Concert Hall.

I can't forget that weekend. That Friday evening before heading out to Zambales, Plet was in tears because the star of the festival had an emergency and backed out. That meant, CASA didn't have a folk-rock concert to cap the festival. We found out that Joey Ayala was having a concert in Ayala and rushed to him. Plet, usually shy, gathered her wits and all thick-skinned, walked up to Joey after his performance. He must have sympathized with Plet who was still in tears because the next day, he showed up with his band in CASA.

So, the festival was a success... and the rest is history as the saying goes. By the way, Plet did get her visa, nonetheless stayed on. Of their first meeting, Emong said -

Emong's "In City and Country" exhibit will be on view until April 6, 2014. Don't miss it!

N.B. here's a painting of one of our dinners in Nueve de Pebrero (not exhibited, owner: Arthur).

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

10-min 2014 Chinese New Year Forecast of Marites Allen

with Maritess, Bianca and hostess with the mostest Tessa 
Love is in the air for 2014! And if you are not yet engaged, this year brings good marriage luck! This is the year to get married, start a new family and have another baby. That's the advise of Feung Shui master Marites Allen at Tessa's last Sunday.

I'm so happy that each year hostess with the mostest Tessa opens her home and celebrates Chinese New Year. Mind you, this is no ordinary party. Hers is complete with a lion dance, Chinese acrobats, her signature fun contests, Chinese dinner spread,  bazaar and a geomancer  - this is, Marites to boot to give us our lucky forecast for the year.

Feung Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of harmonizing the elements of any given space to assure good health and good fortune. The literal translation is wind-water.

There are 12 animal signs and this 2014, the animal sign is the Horse and basic element is Wood. Hence, this year is the Year of the Wooden Horse. which will commence on January 31, 2014 and end on February 18, 2015.

Marites warns that the wooden horse is quite aggressive and can be volatile. The best strategy is "to stay low key, be protected and risk taking should be kept to a minimum." All is not lost though because based on this year's paht chee,  she said that "there are positive indications for money-making and growth in the first half of the year."

Watch the 10-minute forecast of Marites:


The luckiest animal sign for the year is Sheep - this is, those born in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. The sheep are blessed with the Golden Deity Star and thus "everything is possible this year" she announced. So, if you have Sheep friends, stay close to them so you can get their positive vibes.

The most auspicious directions for the year are: Northwest, North and West, East is for mentor luck. South is lucky for wealth. However, do not face the South direction and do not disturb, dig or renovate because the Grand Duke Jupiter moves to the South this year. If you are facing this direction at home or at work, Marites recommends to carry a Tai Sui amulet. Good luck and Fat Fat Fat (for luck)!!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Day hike to Mt. Batulao (new trail)

Our destination, the 12th peak 
Brrrrr!!! It was freezing when we arrived at 7:30 am to climb the new trail of Mt. Batulao in Nagsubu, Batangas. Karen and Kebo, who just arrived from Geneva, were garbed in their winter coats while Marge and I were wearing bonnets, scarves and fleece. We didn't expect the cold weather, especially the winds.

The plan was to hike to the 12th peak, to the summit (812 meters in elevation) using the new trail  (left photo) and be back by noon to head to Tagaytay for lunch. That's two hours up and two hours down.

Mt. Batualo is easy to get to. It is located right at the border of Tagaytay and Batangas, about two hours drive from Manila. The jump off point is in Everest Golf and Country Club.

Warning though the climb can be pretty challenging. Most of the trail was made up of loose soil and at times, sandy gravel which made it quite slippery. Towards the summit, the last 2-3 peaks, we were clambering over boulder rocks. In case you don't want your hands to get cut or injured, wear gloves. We were  trying to grab anything that we can hold on to - weeds, plants, protruding rocks, name it -  just to get a grip and help pull us up.
loose sandy trail

clamber over rocks
It was particularly windy that day. We had to stop a few times to find our balance and even duck from the wind. Honestly, if I were a few pounds lighter, I would have been blown away and be rolling down the cliff!

at the summit with Karen, Kebo and Marge
The view from the summit was breathtaking! It offered a 360 degrees view of the whole of Batangas - the rolling green mountains, the blueness off the coast (my favorite dive site) and even Tagaytay Ridge.

After soaking in the view and inhaling the fresh mountain air, we settled by the rocks to enjoy some snacks. We chatted to a family seated next to us - note that they had in tow an 8-year old girl. The family said that they were going to traverse the mountain. This is, climb down using the old path. If the 8-year old can do it, anyone else can.

The downhill was easier but more treacherous because again, it's so slippery that one can easily slide and fall off the cliff.
Kebo rappelling down

Karen negotiating the descent
We got back right on time around 12:30.  The climb was manageable except for that day's windy condition. Marge though was surprised that trail was very slippery. She said that when she climbed last December, she could still get some ground traction. Now, it's all sliding down the trail.

I guess this is due to the number of people climbing Batulao in recent months. That day, there were over a hundred registered climbers. Note that the fee for climbers is P20 for the day and P30 for overnight campers. If you traverese the mountain, that's another P20 fee to pass the other side (or the old trail).

Antonio's Reuben sandwich 
After the climb, we drove to Tagaytay and stopped at  'Breakfast at Antonio's' along the ridge for some recovery food. The place was packed when we got there and had to wait for an hour to get seated.We ordered their signature green salad with balsamic dressing, fresh corned beef as main and salted caramel cheese cake as dessert.

On the way home, we dropped by Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm to shop for
the working bees of Ilog Maria
natural. organic bee products like soap, bee proposlis,  honey lemon vinegar, liniment, leather wax, beeswax candles, mosquito repellent,  etc.  The farm is located at Km. 47 along Aguinaldo Highway in Silang, Cavite. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to 5:30 pm.

As a side note,  if you're wondering why it's uncharacteristically cold right now here in the tropics, this strange phenomena is caused by the polar vortex.  According to Dr. John Holdren, President Obama's Science and Technology Adviser, "a [polar vortex] pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues... the waviness means that there can be increased larger excursions of cold air southward in the mid latitudes".  I stumbled upon his 2-minute explanation on youtube which I want to share with you:

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Black Nazarene from the balcony on Hidalgo St.

a devotee
The feast of the Black Nazarene is the biggest and longest procession in the country celebrated every January 9 each year. I've heard so much about it so when Mia invited to witness the procession from the balcony of her husband's ancestral home in Quiapo, I immediately said 'yes'. She did warn us though that we may wait long, until midnight.

I was actually quite nervous. That morning on TV, the news reported to expect millions of devotees to join the procession. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to make out of the devotees.

I was told that a devotee performs a panata a sacred promise to do the pilgrimage in exchange for a miracle. This may come in the form of a cure from a health problem, economic aid and whatever they are praying hard for. Their panatas must have been answered since the devotees are growing and now numbering by the millions.

Come to think of it. this devotion is no different from what I have experienced. I am a devotee of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran. When I was diagnosed with spondylosis (cervical slipped disc) in 1999, my upper left side was paralyzed. It was difficult for me to move. I couldn't bend, twist and walked with difficulty. My left arm was immobilized and I could only do things with my right. I was in pain. My orthopedist advised that I undergo surgery otherwise he said the recovery will take more than a year. That's when I started going to Baclaran every Wednesday to do the novena. In fact, one night, a friend (Rina) convinced me to kneel from one end of the church to the altar to, so to speak, speed up things. Believe it or not, in three months time after doing the novena, I was free from pain relievers and could move.

our view from the balcony on Hidalgo St.
It must be the same faith that drive the devotees - of all ages - to walk barefoot all day during the procession and trample on everyone just to touch or wipe [with a towel] the image. Those that I call 'extremists', carry the wood of the carroje (carriage) or the rope attached to it.

We waited and waited for the procession. I would peek out of the balcony from time to time, to check what was happening, As the crowd swelled, it meant that the Black Nazarene was coming close.

The temperature outside was strangely getting heavy. Mind you, January is usually cold at night, There was also a mix smell of sweat and urine wafting through the air. It was becoming more chaotic outside. One time I checked, I counted  six people who fainted and were being taken away in stretchers by volunteer medics.

a woman trying to touch the image 
At around 10pm, some of the guests wanted to go home.  They attempted to leave only to double back since there was way too much people and they couldn't move past the block to get to their car.

Around midnight, we could hear people howling and shouting "viva, viva, viva.."  I rushed out to the window and was absolutely stunned when I saw the procession. There were two rows of people pulling the ropes and moving snakelike from side to side. I don't know how they can survive being pushed, pulled and squeezed. I thought that only woman I saw in the sea of men was going to get strangled by the rope.

The crowd would mimic the movement and was moving side to side as well. Meantime, there were devotees who were stepping on the devotees, trying to climb up the carroje to touch the image. I've never seen anything like it. It's more of fanaticism than a pilgrimage.

The procession passed Hidalgo St at 12:30 am and arrived at Quiapo Church, a few blocks away at 2 am. The procession took a total of 19-hours. Thank god there were no casualties but at least 1,686 were injured.

Video of the procession from the balcony on Hidalgo St.: