Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter at Tarlac

From Zambales, we headed to Tarlac to spend Easter weekend with my in-laws.  My sister-in-law's family was visiting from London, a cousin-in-law and a nephew were also here from Ireland, and other relatives from Manila also joined in.

Our Easter lunch was made up of, among other things, green mango salad, grilled fishes (my favorites and the three fishes Ches does not eat:  tilapia, dalag, and hito), liempo, ginataang seafoods, pinakbet, pancit, watermelon.  (I see you salivating, Ate.)  Yummy.  I love these native feasts at my in-laws'.  I like them a lot more than the lechon and other meat dishes we usually have at Christmas.  Ches always says part of the reason my in-laws adore me is that I eat a lot of whatever they feed me.  Hahaha.

We were planning to visit the monastery in the nearby town, famous because it houses a relic of the cross where Christ was crucified.  (It was actually the front page picture in the Inquirer this Easter.)  We've been wanting to go for some time, since we're always in Tarlac, anyway, and we thought holy week was the perfect time to finally do it.  But then Mommy said it's positively overcrowded during holy week, more so at Easter where people go in droves to hear Mass, so if we wanted to go we had to leave at 6AM to even get a decent parking slot.  Ches and I took one look at each other and decided:  it's a no go.  Hahaha.  

The monastery gives us just one more reason to go back to Tarlac this summer. 

No Tarlac visit is ever complete without communing with the pigs.
Boots likes to talk to the piggies and claims he understands pig language.
We call Jana Little Miss United Nations:
she  is Irish by birth, Filipino by blood,
and British by acquired citizenship.
We love her, but all get nosebleeds talking to her.

Kobe is my favorite among my nephews-in-law.
I was his ninang before Ches and I even got married.
He was only as big as Boots when they moved to Ireland,
and now he's almost as tall as me.
I need to load up on Star margarine.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Casa San Miguel



Babette and Dr. G separately told me to head to Casa San Miguel when they found out we were spending holy week in Pundaquit.  Both of them are friends of the Bolipatas, world-renowned artists who converted their ancestral estate into a museum, cafe, bed and breakfast, and school for artists.  I've read several of Rica Bolipata's books, thanks to Babette.  (I think they have the same writing style, actually - clear, lyrical, unpretentious.  Babette so deserves to get published like Rica.)

The house was huge and impressive, and a surprising mix of brick and wood.  I love that they left parts of it weathered and not fully renovated (whether they did so deliberately I'm not aware), to preserve the whole heritage look of the place.  The front looks almost spanking new.  I prefer the side where the parking lot is, that looks about ready to fall down.

My favorite part of the house is the wide balcony on the second floor with a bench that spans the whole length of it, and sheltered by old mango trees.  You can almost picture the Noli Me Tangere characters having dinner parties in this spot.  I also love the high wooden ceiling at the center of the museum.  It reminds me of our own ceiling in the attic (that I remember overshot our budget bcoz I insisted on the wooden slats), minus all the artsy fartsy stuff hanging from it.  Haha.  

I also like the vintage tiles of different designs.  They don't look like Machuca, but they look warm, ancient, and country.  Hence, I love them.

The boys' favorite is the cafe, of course.  It's over on the other side of the house from the parking lot.  There's an indoor and outdoor part where a lot of artist types hung out with their Macs and guitars and organic fruit shakes or whatever.  The boys ordered the cheese pizza and iced teas.  The pizza was well worth the long wait.

The centerpiece of the whole place was the 100-seat theater where apparently several international artists have performed.  A group of young violinists were rehearsing when we toured the theater.

We did the whole museum tour conducted by one of the able guides.  The modules include the history of Zambales (and an old painting of the Capones Island lighthouse!), the life of Aetas, books, shipwrecks, award-winning photographs of Zambales, etc.  It was fascinating how much the owners were able to build up from their own personal collection to come up with a unique museum within the house itself.

Casa San Miguel was definitely worth the trip further north of Pundaquit.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Anawangin Cove

I knew that Jon and family have gone camping in Anawangin a few years back bcoz they borrowed Yoshi's Winnie The Pooh tent (haha).  So I asked Jon for travel tips and he suggested we go for all-out adventure, ditch the resorts, and camp overnight at the cove.

Jon:  Pero wag kang umarte dun, ha.  Walang facilities.  May lumang CR lang.
Me:  So hindi pala ako pwede dun.  Alam mo naman, hindi ako  sanay sa hirap.

HAHAHA.  Says the girl who doesn't regularly sweat it out and shove her way around in mall sales.

I have to say - Anawangin has a different vibe from any other beach we've been to.  There was the old CR Jon mentioned, and a sink where campers washed everything from hands to seafoods to pet dogs.  There were tents as far as the eye can see, and people cooking their own food, walking around barefoot in the sand.  It does have its charms - but I don't like to pretend and have to admit I'm happy with my hot showers and Star Movies when I travel.  Hahaha.

I LOVE the pine trees, tho.  I read somewhere that they grew after the Mount Pinatubo eruption.  Ches said Manong Martin in fact mentioned that the sand in the cove is lahar from Pinatubo.  How beauteous is a beach that has pine trees?

We rented a spacious hut where we spread and ate our packed lunch.  Only P150 for the whole day, not harang like in other touristy places.

The boys trooped to the beach as soon as they finished their plates.  Hence, they came away from the cove looking like lechon again.  All of us did, actually.  We're a family that doesn't tan - we burn.  Happily.

Me, I got busy with a glass of halo-halo.  That there's a stall with shaved ice, nata de coco, evaporated milk, and the works detracts from the whole Survivor aura of the cove - but it's unforgivingly hot, and the icy, milky mix is perfect at only P40, so whaddahell, I will have my halo-halo.  Hahaha.

We loved the boatman assigned to us by the resort, Manong Martin.  He's old and spoke Ilocano and Pangasinense so Ches and I talked to him in these dialects.  He's so gentle and soft-spoken, and I told Ches he reminded me of my Lolo Manuel.  There's an Ilocano word for this kind of old men:  naanos, which I think is a mix of kind and patient.  I can clearly see Ches growing old to be exactly like this.

Anawangin is where the boys launched some of their classics.

Boots:  Mommy, what is Tagalog for 'swim'?
Me:  Langoy.
Boots:  Akala ko 'patatas'!

Yoshi:  Mom, you know, my favorite Disney princess is Ariel.
Me:  I like her, too.  Why is she your favorite?
Yoshi:  Bcoz she's the only one who's nearly naked!

Between these two, I get all the comedy I need to get me thru any day.

Capones Island Lighthouse

Also known as, The Reason We Went To Zambales.

I've found a way to simplify My Travel Bucket List:  one lighthouse a year.  I saw easily ten last year in Cape Cod, Cape Santiago in Calatagan, and the Corregidor Lighthouse.  2013 is the year of the Capones Island Lighthouse.

Capones is one of two islands within view from Pundaquit (the other one being Camara Island).  We just went around Camara without docking bcoz it didn't have a lighthouse.  Haha.

As soon as the tall white beauty showed up within view from our banca, I told Ches:  'I think I'm going to cry'.  But of course he knows I was already tearing up.  Such the drama queen.  I don't know what it is with me and lighthouses.  Maybe I was a lighthouse keeper in my past life.

The lighthouse is way at the top and to get there you have to climb uphill for a good 20 to 30 minutes.  We were lucky bcoz I had told Manong Martin (our boatman) what my motive was for going to Capones so he took us straight to the tail end of the island where the lighthouse is nearer.  Another group we met trekked for a whole hour bcoz they had come from the other side.  Gasp.  I don't think my three boys love me that much.  

And we're not talking a leisurely walk, either, but one that involves maneuvering thru huge and not entirely flat rocks, a flight of stairs, and a dirt path with wild, overgrown bushes that instantly make you think Blair Witch.

We came across this concrete structure halfway thru.  I don't know what it's supposed to be, but it looked ancient and precious.

I tripped along the way and ended up with bruises on my arms and legs.  So brilliant, me.  Oh well, like I always say - better me than my boys.

The view at the top was so worth it, tho.  It's the same perfect feeling I get visiting any lighthouse - like you're all alone in the world, just you and the sea and the lighthouse.

The lighthouse itself was in a sad state of ruin.  It just breaks your heart.  Cape Santiago and Cape Bojeador in Ilocos were better maintained, by a long mile.  The walls were falling apart, the roof caving in, the stairs rusty and already unstable, the whole place badly in need of a paint job.  I don't know how much longer the structure will even stand.  It could vanish right before our very eyes in a few years, like what happened to the Sisiman Bay Lighthouse in Mariveles, which was where Ches initially intended to take me to this year.  Last year I've decided I'm going to retire at 50, and from then on volunteer in a heritage conservation group.  Until then - Philippine Coast Guard, PLEASE DO SOMETHING AND SAVE OUR LIGHTHOUSES.

It's sacrilege to vandalize centuries-old lighthouses.
This makes me SO ANGRY.

Yoshi and I climbed all the way up, but the keeper was nowhere
and the door was locked so we couldn't go out. 

Rusty but still so intricate.

I'm just glad that the place is still up and we still got this chance to experience its grandeur and solitude.  Ruins and all, it's hard to deny the beauty and romance of the whole place.

Thank you, Capones Island Lighthouse.  My summer is already made because of you.