Monday, April 19, 2010

What will the airlines think of next?

Home Sweet Capiz

As a child growing up in Capiz, I was not impervious to taunts about the nocturnal forays of fellow Capiceños. When prodded I would turn defensive and point to an obscure town in a neighboring province as the true home of the “aswang”. If I had met one, perhaps I would not be writing this article as these creatures have wings and could easily outpace their victims. According to local lore, they often travel in groups making it difficult for anyone to escape alive.

The Philippine movies have done a superb job of perpetuating the legend of the half-bodied aswang they call “manananggal” in Tagalog (it means “natatanggal sa katawan” or detaches from the body). It seems these creatures are just like you and me during the day but by night, they emerge, just torso and wings, and fly away in search of human appetizers. Like Dracula, they bite the poor victim and suck his/her blood. Then before light breaks, they return to their lower half and become whole again.

Fascinating tales of the aswang have overshadowed the many delights Capiz has to offer its visitors. There are black sand beaches to sink your toes into, caves to explore, sleepy little hamlets to while the time away, churches that are poignant reminders of Spanish colonial rule and the freshest seafood in the islands. Capiz is, after all, the seafood capital of the Philippines.

Mantalinga Island

Baybay Beach stretches some seven kilometers along the northern Panay coastline. Restaurants on the beach afford a sweeping view of the sea and Mantalinga Island while savoring the sweet and succulent locon (prawns) or linagpang (tiny shrimp marinated in white vinegar and ginger) and boneless bangus (milkfish) off the grill. Fishermen set off for an evening at sea while others haul in their catch of the day and clean their nets on the shore in preparation for yet another day of trawling.

Locon (prawns)

A short drive from the capital, Roxas City, is the town of Pan-ay where the biggest bell in all of Asia is found. This bell measures 7 feet in diameter and 7 feet in height. It was cast from 70 sacks of coins donated by the local people. (Do I sense a connection here with the lucky number 7?). Eight bells of varying sizes lay silent in the Santa Monica Church belfry which may be accessed by climbing narrow and steep stairs. The view from the top is breathtaking. Green farmlands wrap the countryside as far as the eye can see. This church has withstood the elements since 1771 with its nine-foot thick walls that hark back to the Romanesque style of architecture predominant in Europe during the Middle Ages. Intricately carved hardwood retablos in the Baroque style adorn the main and side altars.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) Procession

Spelunking aficionados have their pick of caves in Capiz. The Suhot caves in Dumalag as the name implies, is reached by “passing under” the rock face which happens to be underwater. Spelunkers will have to swim in the cool, spring fed waters to get to the chambers on the other side. Above ground are the mouths to two shallow caverns. Before leaving the tree-lined streets of Dumalag, take time to see their parish church completed in 1872 and built from yellow sandstone capped by a blazing red dome. Note the scaled-down buttresses supporting the walls of the church.

Thank goodness the word is hardly out. In the nearby town of Jamindan is a little known area called Kalikasan and it is inside Camp Peralta. A precipitous and often slippery hike down the mountain leads into a canyon where the forest is thick with foliage and rumors of rare wildlife abound. Waterfalls rush down the mountainside forming a refreshing pool that is quite irresistible after the challenging descent. From here you can continue your trek to the other side of the canyon. It’s best to start early before it gets unbearably hot and humid.

When corporeal activities wear you down and you long to hang loose, then Dumarao is the ideal place to pass a leisurely afternoon. A profusion of bougainvilleas and gumamelas line the roadway where palay is laid to dry on a mat before it is milled. Strolling around the town plaza, one is treated to a field of colorful blooms and a charming pavilion. In the adjacent school grounds, children play raucously but they do not steal away the peaceful ambience of this clean and pleasant community.

Baybay Beach, Roxas City

We have only skimmed through some of the many wonderful surprises Capiz has in store for its visitors. There are more to whet the appetite. And don’t worry about the notorious appetite of its mythical inhabitants. Just wear a necklace of garlic cloves and you’ll stay unscathed.

Come to Capiz. It will bewitch you.

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This article was first published in the Manila Bulletin USA in March 2004.
Photos by Charie

Sunday, April 18, 2010


At the mall in Roxas City, the Kreyativo gallery is without peer. There are any number of unique things to choose from to furnish an elegant house. I've dreamt of owning one of their beautiful dining tables made of rich and heavy hardwood that probably weighs a ton. I can picture myself seated in one of those chairs with a straight back it seems uncomfortable but so aesthetically exquisite.

I was pleased to see a Kreyativo booth at the recently concluded 2nd Annual One Visayas Culture and Arts Festival. There were paintings and an assorment of furniture on display. The canvases were framed in Kreyativo's signature dark, distressed wood.

I wasn't able to get the names of the painters as the lunch hour attendant didn't have much information. But this can be verified at their gallery where the works of art on display have been thoughtfully selected. Kreyativo also has a factory in town where they create their unique furnishings as well as custom made orders.

Kreyativo is a welcome addition to high quality, handcrafted home furnishings market in Roxas City. For more info on Kreyativo check this link:

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Images by Charie

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gawad Kalinga

Gawad Kalinga homes in Bacolod

I don't know much about Gawad Kalinga (GK) but I've seen tangible results of their works. My masseuse first told me about GK in 2006 and I was impressed that she was able to get a house through the GK organization. She showed me her home in the outskirts of Roxas City.  It has two tiny bedrooms, a living room, a toilet with shower. The dining room and kitchen share the same space. Her house was built with the help of other GK residents which is a requirement in the construction of these homes. Anyone with a GK home must put in his time to help build his own house and those of others in the neighborhood. The property is usually donated as are the materials used in the construction. My masseuse's only complaint was that the title to her property had not been transferred to her name because there was a problem with the payment of real estate taxes pertaining to the entire GK project in her neighborhood and at the time we spoke, it had not been addressed. This issue was to be resolved by her GK neighbors which is why it was stalled.

GK's mission is "to end poverty for 5 million poor families".  It was founded in 1995 by Couples for Christ with the original intent to reach out to troubled youth in the Caloocan City area. GK has now expanded its mission to other countries like Cambodia. For more information about Gawad Kalinga, follow this link:

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Photo by Charie

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Art of Origami - At Narita Airport

In between flights at Narita Airport recently, I walked into this shop with interesting displays of origami art. The word, origami, derived from oru and kami means fold and paper respectively. But there's more to this than merely folding. I tried to follow the instructions on basic folding and couldn't get past the reverse inside and outside fold.  Imagine the work it entails to do the pond with the bridge and foliage seen below!

Or the temple and garden.  There are thousands of tiny pieces of colorful folded paper in these works. Only an artist with an eye for detail and loads of patience can achieve these results.

How much time it takes to complete one of these displays is anyone's guess. But it's a treat to see these well thought out displays of origami art. This is not just for children to enjoy but for big kids as well.


For help on getting started in origami, try  

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Images by Charie 

Friday, April 02, 2010

Post Trio - San Francisco

I noticed that there were quite a few searches for Dale Chihuly's glassworks on my blog lately. I'd like to share these photos I took at Post Trio Restaurant in San Francisco where we had our Christmas party last year. We had the Garden Room to ourselves so we had a fabulous view of Dale Chihuly's glass flowers. It's quite special.

Post Trio is just behind the St. Francis Hotel in the city's much visited shopping area, Union Square. Another irresistible feature of the restaurant is the stairs one takes to go down to the restaurant.  These stairs are for the confident who are unfazed by the scrutiny they receive from guests seated below.

My officemate had the New York steak above. I opted for the salmon dish. I remember a far better meal I had at Post Trio many years ago. It's not quite the same. But the service is still topnotch.

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Images by Charie

Abyan Restaurant - Roxas City

Abyan (meaning friend) is the latest restaurant to open in Roxas City. Located just across from the mall, it's easy to drop in after errands and beauty salon appointments. What a balm to find the neat and austere rows of tables and chairs after a harried experience of shopping at the mall.

There is a rotating gallery of paintings and photography at Abyan. In the photo above are paintings by local artist, John Alaban. These works are for sale but at the time I visited, most of the canvases were consigned to an art gallery in Boracay which is the famous neighboring island with white sand beaches.

For lunch I had the tangigue (shown above) served with rice and atchara (fermented raw green papaya dish).  While the tangigue looks brown, the inside is still a little raw and I prefer my fish well cooked. I previously had boneless bangus for dinner at Abyan and I think that was far more tasty than the tangigue.

My friend enjoyed the steak and it costs about P200.00. Only one other restaurant serves imported steak in town and it can be expensive, about P1,000.00 or more.

Check out this tempting vanilla ice cream delight with all the trimmings. It's as good as it looks. 


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Images by Charie