Rest In Fish: Tawilis

Originally authored on January 26, 2019

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What really caused the steady decline of endemic TAWILIS?

The proliferation of fish cages is way beyond the established carrying capacity which should just be 10 percent of the 94,000 hectare lake as against the current of over 60 percent occupied by big fishing companies. Of course, this caused the lake to reach the point where conservation efforts would no longer be effective.

The inventory of 76 migratory and endemic species were now down to 15 or less. The catch of the most endemic, TAWILIS dropped to more than 80 percent.

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In 2012, Supreme Court released the Writ of Kalikasan to stop the further issuance of clearance to fish cage operators. There was an unsettling issue in 2014 of Pusod Taal Lake Conservation Center where 28 commercial and backyard piggeries were illegally discharging animal wastes down Lipute River which is a tributary of Taal Lake. “Whatever happened to environmental laws?”

Barring the quality of water in Taal Lake, do the present overcrowding of approximately 6,000 cages located in different municipalities surrounding the lake spark the deterioration of TAWILIS quality if not, its mortality?



* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures

Baro Ng Tagalog

Originally authored on January 13, 2019

The fashion history of the Barong Tagalog as the Philippine national wear for men had evolved for more than four centuries. Although it retained its essential look since it was first worn, various factors have influenced its style and purpose.

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, ancient Filipinos possessed a distinct culture that distinguished them from other races. The Tagalogs of Luzon already wore a garment that was a forerunner of Barong Tagalog or Baro. In the historical account of Ma-I (pre-colonial name for the Philippines), the earliest known fact on the Baro was that Filipinos wore a sleeve-doublet of rough cotton cloth called kanga which reached slightly below the waist, was collarless, and had an opening in front. The doublet specified the badge of courage and social status of men. Red was for the chiefs and the bravest while black and white were for the ordinary citizens. The loins were covered with bahaque or G-String.

However, the attire of Tagalog men presumably those of the upper crust was made of fine linen or Indian muslin which barely reached the waist. It was a short, loose jacket called chamarreta without a collar and fitted with short sleeves.

On the other hand, men from the Visayan islands wore a moorish style robe (marlota) or jacket (baquero) made without a collar reaching down to the feet and embroidered in full colors.

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When the Spaniards came and started its colonization, the fashion changed drastically as their culture influenced the succeeding centuries of Philippine history.

The Ilustrados brought in their dressy shirts with a high Elizabethan collar trimmed with lace and adorned with gem or a big button. This kind of attire required the use of slippers if not shoes. It was extended just above the knees and worn with a thin sash across the waist.

Liberation Style

Originally authored on March 12, 2015

At least we were allowed a furlough from the stoking fear of seeing our heritage structures ultimately ending up in the dustbin of history. By a stroke of luck, Hanky Lee, owner of the holding company who acquired the once-ailing The Henry Cebu, one day, escorted his wife to a famous interior designer’s accessories and furniture store at #2680 F.B. Harrison. She was completely fascinated by its location.

The store is within the tropical oasis with old houses where creative people reside. Taking his own place in history, Lee offered a feasible proposal, settled the negotiation, and acquired the five old houses that would be turned in Henry Manila, “Liberation style” boutique hotel from preserved “post-war houses”. The target is a leisure and corporate market that wish to spend weekends in a hotel that has character.

Details convey a homey ambiance, a sense of nostalgia, and a feeling of individuality. The rooms boast the luxury of big windows, high-ceilings without the fancy of detailed moldings, the retained narra stairwell, the Baldosa tiles of graphic element, wrought iron chairs which adorn the veranda, and the pleasure of walking through the garden lined with indigenous plants popular in the mid-20th century await the guests. In view of the global trend in history adaptive reuse, this is an example of efficient re-purposing of old houses, sure to spur tourism in the country by giving back, if not, retaining the grandeur of old Manila.

* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures


The Silence of The Cauldron

Originally authored on June 5, 2016

Peddling nostalgia is a walk through the ancestral home of Dr. Alejandro Roces Legarda and Ramona Hernandez Legarda along San Rafael Street in Manila. This was where the moneyed gathered along the elegant neighborhood of art deco houses built during the Commonwealth era. You will find yourself caught in a time warp.

Buzz surrounds La Cocina de Tita Moning as an example of efficient re-purposing of old houses, thanks to a granddaughter, Suzette Montinola, who followed the global trend in historic adaptive reuse and devotes herself exclusively to make the house come alive again. Foremost is the planning and supervising of the meals that taste of the 30’s when the Legardas gave many dinners in this house.

Culture is indeed ingested well through the belly. The meal becomes the showcase of Filipino culinary artistry and the promise of an old world dining experience. The dishes are Tita Moning’s heirloom recipes. When she married into a family of cooking prowess, vowed to excel beyond them, and she did.

The Glamor That Was Yesterday

Originally authored on May 26, 2016

As early as 1521 and in the aftermath of Spanish colonization, jewelry such as crucifixes were used as tools to replace talismans and amulets worn by the native Filipinos.

To the converted Filipinos, wearing these jewelries was not a declaration of their Christian faith but more so a manner to adorn themselves while still in adherence to the austerity restrictions imposed by the Spanish regime.

During that era, gemstones were scarce, with only the upper class having access to them. Nevertheless, gold was in abundance which prompted the goldsmiths an opportunity to hawk their wares by producing only religious jewels. Various techniques to come up with different looks and styles like filigree locally called kalado or lace-like design; as well as the art of changing the color of gold was crafted.

Heritage in Resurrection: Lost Towns of Ilocos Norte

Originally authored on November 30, 2015

The hardest to find is not what’s far; it is what’s near.

After declared lost for centuries, the towns of Bangbang (now part of Bangui), Adang (now Adams), and Vera (still unknown) are expected to regain its existence. The yearning to locate them stemmed from Fr. Ericson Josue’s discovery of 1860’s document petitioning for the re-establishment of the town of Bangbang. For fear of tirong or pirate attacks, it was reported abandoned by the community and they transferred to parts of Bangui.

His initial research led him to clues where Bangbang may have been located – a valley near the Banban River in Bangui town. There is a cove where windmills are located and its terrain may speak of a good civilization because there is a river which faces the sea. The document revealed that Bangbang existed from the time of Spanish conquest in 1591, that even the ruins of the old church can be seen in the area. He also found traces of other visitas or peripheral missionary areas including Adang and Vintar.

All Is Not Lost! How Do We Rescue A Dying Language?

Originally authored on March 6, 2018

Much is to be learned from the culture of one of the Philippines’ ethnic group living in Mindoro Island, the Mangyan tribe. Preserved and documented, the Hanunoo, their ancient script (closely related to Baybayin) and their system of writing called Surat Mangyan are still widely practiced and taught.

Ambahan, a rhythmic poetic expression presented through recitation or chanting is engraved in bamboo tubes. Literacy is quite high and there is no danger of Mangyan literature dying in the immediate future.

The Waray language has been dissected and has designated its own orthography (writing system) which includes a uniformly accepted spelling manual, says researcher E. de la Cruz.

Ibaloi dictionaries and learning manuals are made available to local communities that sparked awareness among young Ibalois. A large section of Northern Luzon started publishing newspapers in the vernacular, according to Professor Jimmy Fong.

Federalism: Entering into the Future, Remembering the Past

Originally authored on January 23, 2018

Historical facts were obviously omitted or deliberately hidden in our history books. Until when can they be sidelined?
History reveals that federalism had long been desired by our forebears which had long been clamored by many regions and provinces.

No less than our national hero Jose Rizal had advocated in his time that the Philippines should be a federal republic. After his death, Aguinaldo pursued Rizal’s federalist idea which explains why the flag of the revolution and First Philippine Republic had the three stars within the triangle representing the major island groups constituting the archipelago as a federation.” (Historical Basis of Federalism, Rita Jimeno)