If you think a cemetery tour is macabre, don’t. Ivan Man Dy, who reintroduces Manila’s older districts, explains why, and talks of lotsa interesting things to learn about the city that never sleeps.
I worked in a museum in Intramuros for 10 years. I basically took the experience of being in a museum and turned it into a tour of Manila. I’m born, raised, and still live in Manila, and have enjoyed the city’s history ever since. I’ve also done volunteer cultural heritage work since forever.
We created different thematic tours that told the history of the city. There are city tours for Manila, but they’re a bit generic.All they do is they tell you “this is the place, here’s when it was built, and here’s who built it.” None of them explored the different facets of Manila’s history.
Manila is more than just Intramuros. There’s Binondo, which is very close to my heart (because I grew up there) and Quiapo na hindi nadi-discuss (never talked about). For me, Old Manila Walks is a way of explaining the significance of these neighborhoods and its buildings to the public. We wanted to tell the narratives behind these districts so people would understand their value and the reason why we want to preserve their structures.
We’re in old Manila, hence the name. We do tours in Intramuros and Chinatown, and “walks” are lakad lang. We’re not telling the history of the Philippines; we’re focusing on the history of the City of Manila itself. You’ll notice in our tours that we do not talk about Dr. Jose Rizal or Andrew Bonifacio. My hope is that when they (people who join our tours) leave, they understand a bit more of the history of the city.
Manila’s old districts are similar yet they are different. Take Binondo. It has marks of Spanish colonial history, but there are Chinese elements to the district. That story is part of Manila’s history—one that’s not taught in school. It’s why people are not aware of the history and heritage of these districts. For us, it’s [the thematic tours] one way of telling the narrative of these places based on the communities that live there.
I like doing all the tours. The Chinese Cemetery tour is more of a quiet tour that tells history through architecture. I love architecture. The Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino) element in the tour is basically immigrant history.
Our Intramuros tour is a primer of sorts, because if you come to Manila, this is your first stop. It’s like a general history of Manila. Binondo is different because it has a mix of Chinese immigrant history. Our San Miguel – Malacañang Tour, on the other hand, talks more about political history.
I like the old neighborhoods. If I want peace and quiet, I go to the walls of Intramuros. Fort Santiago has been renovated and now looks good at night. I like the modern stuff, too.
Manila is great, but it’s a hard place to like, especially when you look at transportation.
– Ivan Man Dy on the city of Manila
Santa Ana district is quite interesting, even if no one has done a tour of it. They have a church and several old houses. Quiapo is another place that people should consider visiting. There’s already a tour for Quiapo that includes the San Sebastian Church, the only church in the country made of steel. Quiapo has a different flavor compared to other districts. It has a mix of religion because of the Black Nazarene, the traditional Tagalog culture, and a touch of Mindanao from the Muslim Quarter.
I’ve been to a lot of provinces in the country, and I like these places in particular: Bacolod. I have friends there and I like the city’s architecture; Dumaguete, and Laguna, especially the towns that look like quaint villages. I like cold place like Tagaytay and Baguio. I’m also very familiar with the Ilocos Region because I’ve been there many times for work.
I like walking in big cities around the world. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Georgetown in Penang, and Kuala Lumpur pique my interest. I like European cities like Vienna. I think people like them because they’re walkable, have their culture intact, and have a rich heritage that’s better preserved compared to ours. Manila is great, but it’s a hard place to like, especially when you look at transportation.
Batanes is beautiful. I’ve been there four times and I like going back for its serenity and the beauty of the place. When I was in Batanes, I liked our stay at Fundacion Pacita. I guess you can say I also like rustic landscapes because when I go abroad, I often join tours that go to the countryside. I’m not much of a beach person; I prefer mountain scenery, freshwater, and cold places.
That said, I loved it when we stayed at Club Paradise in Coron. I’ve also stayed at Sulyap Gallery Café, Boutique Hotels, and Restaurant in San Pablo, Laguna.
These five things never leave my travel case:
Contact lenses and glasses
Small umbrella. I use them rain or shine, and I don’t like wearing hats.
Snacks like small packs of peanuts. I’m the type of person who might skip a meal because I’m absorbed in seeing the city.
Who is Ivan Man Dy?
A true blue Manilan, Ivan is the man behind Old Manila Walks and has over two decades of experience working in the cultural field, which includes being a heritage activist, museum docent, school instructor, features writer, television personality, researcher, expert speaker, tour operator and book author. He has a master’s degree from the University of Santo Tomas, and has received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award from the municipal government of Manila.
Christmas maybe from the West, but the parol is truly Filipino.
The West may have developed the idea of Christmas, but the Filipinos have embraced it possibly more than the rest of the world. Case in point: the Philippines having the “longest Christmas” in the world, with decor and the holiday spirit kicking in as early as September.
A quintessential part and perhaps the most unique symbol of Christmas in the Philippines is the ever-present parol, a five-point-star-shaped lantern usually made of bamboo sticks and colored paper.
Taken from the Spanish word farol (meaning lantern or street light), its origins are said to date back to the early 1900s in Pampanga. First made by Francisco Estanislao, its base design, a five-point star pretty much stay unchanged since its inception.
Materials used vary from simple—bamboo sticks for the frame covered by papel de hapon or colored cellophane—to complex—steel, white or stained capiz shells, and a bunch of wires and circuitry. You can find at least one parol by the façade of Filipino home, or as part of the holiday decor beautifying streets of busier metropolises like Makati.
If you’re looking for the best designs, look no further than San Fernando City in the province of Pampanga. Lantern making in this city is an art and a livelihood, and is best embodied in the annual Giant Lantern Festival, held a couple of weeks before Christmas in December annually.
The basics Get there. Take a Partas or a Victory Liner bus from these transport companies’ terminal in Cubao to get to San Fernando, Pampanga. Travel time is about one hour.
We’ve got a vengeful barber going around for the best travel deals to a certain island for a fruit festival before seeing a celebrated artist’s works of art. Confused? Scroll down to understand.
Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
October 11 to 27
A musical that’s not for the faint-of-heart visits Manila as the unjustly exiled barber Sweeney Todd (Jett Pangan) makes his way into The Theatre at Solaire for revenge on a judge who was very much into his wife. He “operates” out of his old apartment with the help of Mrs. Lovette (Lea Salonga), who has taken a liking to the now-vengeful barber. The Theatre at Solaire, Solaire Resort and Casino, 1 Aseana Ave., Entertainment City, Paranaque City; Ticketworld.com.ph
Travel Sale Fair
October 11 to 13
There’s nothing like scoring a travel deal that seems impossible to get, which is why people flock to travel expos. Get a headstart on your travel plans for 2020 and block off October 11 to 13 for Travel Sale Fair 2019, happening at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. Find the best travel deals at amazing prices to destinations you used to only dream of being able to go or want to revisit. World Trade Center, Pasay Extension cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Pasay City; Travelsalefair.com
October 20 to 27
It only happens once a year: a week-long celebration of Camiguin’s top export. The annual thanksgiving festival, which happens every third week of October, gives you a taste of Camiguin’s culture with events like Street Dancing, presentations, an agro-industrial-tourism trade fair, various sporting events, and their search for the Mutya sa Buahanan. The lanzones may not come as often as they used to, but this festival reminds the people of Camiguin to always be thankful for their annual harvest. Camiguin
Van Gogh Alive – The Experience
October 26 to December 8
See works of celebrated artist Vincent Van Gogh come to life at Level 4, One Bonifacio High Street this October as the Bonifacio Arts Foundation, Inc. brings you Van Gogh Alive – The Experience. The touring exhibition from Grande Exhibitions has delighted audiences in 50 cities worldwide and promises a different way of seeing Van Gogh’s most celebrated works of art, like the Starry Night and the Potato Eaters. Level 4, One Bonifacio High Street, One Bonifacio High Street Park, 5th Ave, BGC, Metro Manila, Tickets: Php750 for adults, Php450 for children, vangoghalive.ph
Make your Holy Week vacation more interesting by actually engaging in Holy Week activities. *wink wink*
Going on a social media purge as your penitensya (penance) or beach bumming in places like Boracay or Palawan for the Semana Santa is well and good, but don’t you ever get tired of the same trend every single year? Why not go on a simple summer holiday where you can enjoy your vacation AND still experience something relevant to Holy Week festivities? We have rounded up ideas for your Semana Santa escape.
Barotac Viejo, Iloilo
Iloilo isn’t the first place that pops into people’s heads when it comes to answering the question “Where should I be this Holy Week?” It’s not as popular a destination especially that crowd favorite Boracay is merely on the northwest part of the island. But the sleep town of Barotac Viejo may just give you something new.
The little town is known for having a community that is takes their Holy Week seriously by mimicking the Passion of Christ. The townspeople themselves have been performing the Passion play, with “passion” Hiligaynon every Good Friday for almost half a century in their annual Taltal sa Barotac Viejoand it’s a delight to watch.
Places to see: Bucas Grande, Old Iloilo City, Miagao Church, River Esplanande, “Little Baguio” (Bucari) Things to do: Party at Smallville, Walk along Iloilo River Esplanande, Island hopping at Concepcion
Bantayan Island, Cebu
It’s an island north of the Cebu mainland that’s become popular for its stretches of fine-sand beaches that is expected to see an influx of tourists this Holy Week. What people shouldn’t miss while in the island paradise is the annual Pasko sa Kasakit, a simple celebration of the stations of the cross, but with a twist where the images in the Station of the Cross are supersized and paraded around.
Places to see: Alice Beach, Camp Sawi, Kota Beach (all in Santa Fe), Malapascua Island, Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island, Kota Park Things to do: Biking, snorkel, freedive/scuba, beach bumming, tour the town of Bantayan for heritage houses
This island is starting to blow up more for the views you’ll get than what happens here during Semana Santa.
Siquijor, known across the country as a home to witchcraft and mysticism, but locals have since shed that image and now proudly celebrate their folk healing expertise with the annual Folk Healing Festival, taking place during the last few days of Holy Week. Get yourself treated by local healers or witness how they make various concoctions with the promise of curing almost anything you can think of—yes, including heartaches.
Places to see: Century-old balete tree, Salagdoong Beach, Paliton Beach, Kagusuan Beach (extremely hidden, possible that not even the locals know about it) Things to do: Go around the island on a scooter, visit a ranch, hit the island’s peaks on a mountain bike, snorkeling, beach hopping
If there’s a Holy Week destination that’s never left off any list, it’s Marinduque. Known as the geographical heart of the Philippines, it’s basically an island that’s made itself known for a festival that celebrates a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ: the Moriones Festival.
Most of you will know what this festival centers on commemorating Roman soldier Longinus, who stabs Jesus on the side, witnesses His resurrection, tells the Romans about it, and (gruesomely) gets his head chopped off. This part is often depicted in their version of The Passion play, which talks about Christ’s last moments before He eventually passes on.
Places to see: Tres Reyes islands, Mt. Mataas, Boac, Palad Sandbar, Ungab Rock Formations, Bathala Python Cave Things to do: Visita Iglesia, Beach hopping
It’s the piece de resistance of a list of Holy Week destinations, and something that’s also been a source of controversy as to whether or not it should be considered a tourist attraction. We’re talking, of course, about the MaleldoFestival in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga.
The Maleldo Festival is the full (and very real) re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion. Yes, it’s the whole 10 miles: the garb, the Crown of Thorns, crying depiction of Mary Magdalene, people marching on the streets whacking their backs with things that make them bleed, and someone actually getting nailed to a cross that they’ve been carrying for several miles.
Places to see: Mt. Pinatubo, Subic Bay, Sandbox at Porac, El Kabayo, Skyranch Pampanga, Nayong Pilipino Things to do: go on a food trip, adventure activities, Visita Iglesia
Yes, you read that right. It’s an option for those who don’t want to go out of the city yet still want to witness something that only happens once a year. The citizens of Makati, particularly those who live in the restaurant-and-bar hub that is Poblacion, stage a parade commemorating Lent.
They hold a grand procession every Holy Wednesday (closed roads, of course) and put up booths with life-size depictions of The Passion of Christ. Another plus: some establishments stay open even during Holy Week!
Places to see: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish (one of the oldest churches in the country), Circuit Makati (but hold off on that after Holy Wednesday), art galleries in Poblacion Things to do: staycation at one of the many hotels in the area, food trip, pub crawl
Batanes is an island of superlatives but its natural wonders are only a portion of what it has to offer for its people called the Ivatans are what make it even more beautiful, and the chance to immerse with them the one to give meaning to your Batanes holiday.
Our featured Ivatans with model Jayanne Aldanese in Uyugan, a village in Batanes that looks like it’s from a fairytale book.
We draw attention to three Ivatans who show us their way of life, their quirks, and why to them Batanes will always be their home. More so, they give us a glimpse of the Ivatan character—respectful and kindhearted, family-drawn, God-loving, holistic, creative. The list goes on. We follow each of them for a day.
Here’s our tale.
The faithful laborer
Tess Vargas Castillejos is a retiree who is now living the life that she’s always dreamed of
When Tess Vargas Castillejos retired from her post as Department of Trade and Industry Batanes provincial caretaker in 2012, she made the big leap, switching into a full organic lifestyle. She’s turned to organic farming and gardening, which makes her feel connected and happy.
Tess has been famous for cultivating clitoria ternatea—a perennial evergreen climber that produces blue flower—and being the first in Batanes to turn this blue flower into tea. She’s also making waves as a farm-to-table entrepreneur, cooking and serving meals right at her centuries-old home. Her ingredients for cooking are straight from her farm.
Up at the crack of dawn
Tess looks exceptionally energetic for someone who only had 30 minutes of sleep—visiting friends came over for dinner and stayed until past midnight. She wakes up at 3am to prepare for her lector duties at the Sto. Domingo Parish of the Immaculate Conception Church, where daily masses start at 5am.
She gets up pretty early to start her day.
Like many Ivatans, Tess is a devout Catholic and one can tell by the religious items in her home. After the dawn mass, she heads back home for breakfast. Today, it’s chayi (local lychee) salad, lunyis (pork slowly cooked in salt and garlic and fried in its own fat), mashed
sweet potato and a mug of coffee.
Tess’s lack of sleep barely registers as she happily chats about her plants. It brings her joy knowing that whatever she cultivates will benefit the environment and her neighbors for she likes sharing her harvest.
Gather them blue flowers
Every day, Tess walks to her 897sqm farm, which she and her two staff tend. It’s where you’ll see rows and rows of bushes peppered with blue flowers. She’d pick the mature ones.
Tess and her flower pickers are able to collect seven to eight kilos of flowers a day, and such amount can be attributed to the growing demand for her tea.
Tess’s love affair with blue flowers started when her late husband, who used to gift her with blue orchids, passed away. In his passing, she found a way to cope with her loss through gardening, and found the blue flowers most fascinating.
In no time, her organic blue tea became an instant hit especially for tourists, fetching at Php3,000 (USD60) per kilo of the tea-ready dried version.
Hearty noontime meal
Harvesting eight kilos of flowers is tedious so Tess usually finishes at noontime. There are days when she eats packed lunch at her farm when her early morning check requires more farm work like clearing pathways, pruning the shrubs or spreading organic fertilizer.
Today, the task is only to pick blue flowers and produce to cook for lunch.
Back at home, Tess whips up a healthy homemade meal—beef broth with blue flowers, green rice, cucumber sesame salad and the leftover from breakfast. Dessert is boiled cardava topped with mango cream made from scratch. All these are served in beautiful plates—part of her chinaware collection. After the hearty meal, she serves us palek (Ivatan wine), which she concocts too.
Afternoon siesta, and more labor of love
Tess tends to her freshly-picked blue flowers
After lunch, Tess takes out her babies—the newly harvested blue flowers—and spreads them out on an improvised bed. This is her version of curing so that the flowers do not entirely lose their color once she places them under the sun. The process of drying blue flowers includes overnight curing, sun drying until the petals are crisp, and winnowing to remove small dirt and small particles.
In between, customers stop by to pick up their orders. A couple swings by to discuss with her their wedding’s catering arrangement as Tess also caters for intimate events. She opens her home to host private dinners but with three days’ notice.
Finally, Tess gets some shuteye.
At 4pm, she gets up, takes the sundried blue flowers back into the house, and spends the rest of the afternoon packing the winnowed flowers.
Capping the day’s work
She spends most of her afternoons picking flowers
At night, Tess’s routine includes saying a short novena prayer, preparing dinner, and watching TV or meditating in her garden. At dinner, she gives us a taste of her magic by serving us slow-cooked beef, blue rice, green rice, crispy adobong pata (pork thigh cooked adobo-style then crisp-fried) and squash soup. Dessert is millet pudding topped with cream and orange slices and it’s the yummiest that you’d have.
The well-rooted adventurer
Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney is a well-traveled Ivatan who now lives in Switzerland with her family. She never forgets home
When she was young, Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney, Bing to family and friends, had learned to live independently especially when she went to college in Manila—hundreds of miles away from home. But when she got married, even her adventure-loving self still had to adjust to six years of traveling to different parts of the world due to her husband’s line of work. She met all kinds of people, experienced different cultures, and had a fair share of rough times that came with living from country to country. When they settled down in Switzerland was when she decided it’s time to come home to Batanes every year no matter what. Batanes is home and there’s not a single place quite as special as it.
No two days are alike
Bing loves spontaneity and does not want to confine herself to plans. Whenever she’s home in Batanes, there’s never a routine that she sticks to. There are days she wakes up late because of a previous night out or she’s up really early excited to explore the island.
Close to the summit of Mt. Matarem
Today, she’s off to an early start, waking up at 6am to prepare to hike Mt. Matarem. She boils saba banana, buys hot pandesal (local bun) and brews her coffee. On ordinary days, a steaming mug of coffee is enough for her morning fill but today is an exception for she’s set to climb the second highest peak in the island albeit not her first time to do so. She’s already summited Mt. Matarem thrice in the past years but the promise of great views from the summit always calls for one more.
Quiet island life
Bing with the love of her life—her mom
On the road, Bing talks about why she would always come back home to Batanes every year. She says it’s the warmth of her fellow Ivatans, the joy of being able to decompress and relax, and the much, much simpler way of life—a stark contrast to her life in Switzerland.
She likes to refer to herself as an island girl who will always be captivated by beautiful sunrises and sunsets, rolling green hills, the crisp mountain air. As a child, she would spend her weekends on the beach with her friends or have picnics in their farm. They would cook
root crops, climb mabolo trees to eat fruits or pick alunot (local plum).
Growing up on an island, which was once isolated with no electric supply, means they rarely got to taste ice cream. She recalls how, as a student, she would travel by foot from one town to another because transportation was almost nonexistent.
Going off grid
When she finally reaches the jump-off point, Bing gleefully walks along the first part of the trail that opens into a pastureland that leads to a section where you’ll think fairies may magically appear. She pauses to take in the view of wild trees. This part is dense with greenery, and flora and fauna. Aside from the surreal views, Mt. Matarem also gives her a chance to switch off from the world and immerse herself in the beauty of nature. As soon as she summits, she marvels at the island’s fragile beauty, making her fall in love with Batanes even more.
Ancient settlement, revisited
Sun’s up at Idjang
After a fulfilling hike, Bing grabs a quick lunch in preparation for her next activity: hiking up her favorite spot in idjang this afternoon. Bing’s grandparents own an idjang—her aunt inherited it later on— in the southeastern side of Basco, an ancient hilltop fortress once used by her ancestors to protect themselves from tribal wars and Japanese invaders. It’s one of the places where she has fond memories of growing up.
From up until where the van can manage, she takes a 10-minute hike on a trail leading to the mountain fortress. She reaches the base of the idjang—the spot they were allowed to go play and have a picnic as kids for the top of it were deemed sacred grounds.
Dinner for keeps
Bing caps her day with a nice dinner with her mother and sisters. Her mother, who is already in her nineties, regales with stories about their life during the Japanese occupation era.
One of Bing’s goals is to write her mother’s memoir thinking that it would be her way of paying tribute to how her mother gave so much to secure her future.
After dinner, Bing gets a text invite for a get-together As expected, she’s not one to pass.
Young at Art
John Lorenz ‘Vorz’ Portez is a quiet presence and one of the youngest in Batanes’ thriving art scene
John Lorenz “Vorz” Portez is a soft-spoken 20-year-old acrylic painter who dreams of following the footsteps of Austrian artist Voka and Ivatan artist Randalf Dilla. He likes exploring colors thoroughly, oftentimes resulting in dynamic, spontaneous and bold strokes reflecting in his works. He calls his art spontaneous realism and is fond of showing the depth of human emotions through portraits of Ivatan elders.
A young artist’s mornings
Vorz in his element at his home studio
Vorz wakes up towards noon and he has his reasons. After having his morning cup and the light is better is when he picks up his brush and canvas.
The Portez’s family room is Vorz’s makeshift studio. Noontime is quietest so it’s when Vorz starts painting. But his creative energy peaks at night when everything comes to a standstill. Solitude, to Vorz, is integral in his creative journey.
As a full-time painter, Vorz enjoys doing his artwork at a leisurely pace—one thing that he’s unable to do when he was in school. He went to college for two years and stopped given that the course he took—drafting—lured him away from painting.
His project for today is Mahatao lighthouse. The lighthouses in Batan Island are also among his favorite subjects because he sees them as a metaphor of hope, light and home. In his current collection are 15 paintings of lighthouses in different interpretations.
Pride and little big dreams
The work Vorz is most proud of is his winning piece entitled Abus Pandan A Saray (Walang Katumbas na Tiwala) that shows a young Ivatan taking off the blindfold of his elder in the hope of guiding the latter through the changes that are taking place in the island. This artwork is put on display at Galerie Du Tulaan at Fundacion Pacita.
Drawing inspiration from an old Uyugan house
Vorz dreams of opening his own exhibit one day at the Ayala Museum in Makati, like the other members of Yaru nu Artes Ivatan (Bayanihan of Ivatan Artists), a collective of local artists which he’s a part of.
Although a great part of his day is spent painting at their new home in Basco, Vorz still goes out in some afternoons for a breath of fresh air.
The Tayid Lighthouse—the subject of the day’s painting lessons
Back in the days when they were still renting a house in Mahatao, his break from painting would be to hang out with friends. And when he wanted a moment of solitude, he would go to the Mahatao lighthouse, White Beach, or trek Mahuruhon to gather his thoughts and conceptualize for his next piece.
His constant companions were a sketchbook and a pen. He would sketch movements, landscapes, life, ideas, and things that catch his attention in one of his many strolls.
One of his favorite stops for inspiration today is White Beach. His attempt is to capture the tumbling of the waves in his sketchbook.
With his Yaru nu Artes co-artists
His next stop will be the old Ivatan house in Uyugan, which has always fascinated him. He revels in the traditional pattern of the house but points out that the now cemented facade was once made of stone. The house has always been his inspiration whenever he wants to artistically render Batanes’ old stone houses.
When the weather is good, he would go to the Basco lighthouse after feeding their pigs. From the lighthouse’s view deck, he’d watch the interplay of sunset colors, which he would later on translate into acrylic on canvas.
Life outside art
Vorz with his dogs in their Mahatao home
Life outside art means taking care of his eight dogs and tending the backyard pigs his family raises in Chanarian. He would go to their old house in Mahatao daily to feed and play with his dogs because he couldn’t bring them to their new home in Basco. At home, he helps out in chores as any son would. After dinner, as soon as everybody retires to bed, he’d go back to the company of his brush and canvas and paint the night away.