Malacanang Museum and Library (Manila)

January came and went without me visiting a notable Philippine museum and I wasn’t about to let February pass without visiting one.  It was with great anticipation that my family (wife Grace, son Jandy, daughter Cheska and grandson Kyle) and I was looking forward to visit the Malacanang Museum and Library, especially with my balikbayan aunt, Pacita B. “Paz” Layug, with Chinese-American friend Harold (a first-time Manila visitor), joining us, both on a short Manila stopover on their Asian cruise.  Also joining us was my sister Tellie.  We all met up at the Kalayaan Gate by 9:30 AM and our museum tour promptly started at 10 AM.

Malacanang Museum and Library

Malacanang Museum and Library

The Palace grounds, with its huge lawn and tress, and its buildings were truly imposing.  Behind it is the Pasig River. The handsome, arcaded museum, housed within the historic Kalayaan Hall (called Maharlika Hall during the time of Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos), the old Executive Building designed by Ralph Harrington Doane in the elegant Neo-Renaissance style and built in 1920, had the ambiance of an old and grand ancestral house, but warm and homey.

Malacanang Museum and Library (4)

Relaunched in 2003, the museum was, for the most part, restored during the term  of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and has been open to the public since then.  Photography was allowed but only one camera is allowed per group booking, so we choose  Jandy’s Sony AR-3500 digital SLR. Stickers were used to cover our group’s Smartphone lenses.

Plaque installed by National Historical Commission

Plaque installed by National Historical Commission

At the lobby, we met up with Mr. Brian Paul R. Luna, our knowledgeable and lively museum guide.  With his assistance, we learned interesting facts, trivia and stories that add to the many narratives about the Philippine presidents and the Palace during our 2-hour tour. He shared with us the rich history of each of the 9 stately, historically important and architecturally significant rooms in the country displaying the impressive legacies of the nation’s past presidents.

The author and Kyle at the Old Executive Secretary’s Office

The author and Kyle at the Old Executive Secretary’s Office

The well-maintained museum is organized by theme and by period. It features galleries and exhibits showcasing the heritage of the Palace and the Presidency of the Philippines as well as a well-curated collection of  artwork and furniture from the Palace collections.  The exhibits include the history of Malacañang Palace, featuring gifts, relics, memorabilia, artwork and photographs, principally at the ground floor rooms which are dedicated to American colonial era.  Most are paneled in hardwood and sumptuously carved by Isabelo Tampinco, a renowned Filipino master woodcarver, who also carved the wood and plaster ornamentation.

Table settings, in a regal royal blue accented with gold trim

Table settings, in a regal royal blue accented with gold trim

The first room we visited was the Old Executive Secretary’s Office.  It is now a display room for First Ladies (the “Official Hostess of the Palace”), from the time of Manuel L. Quezon’s own first lady, Aurora, to Luisa “Loi” Estrada. However, there was no picture of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.  On the left is the portrait of the controversial Imelda R. Marcos (also the only one with a bronze bust on display), the country’s most beautiful First Lady.

The Order of Sikatuna

The Order of Sikatuna

Also on display is the Grand Collar of the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja, usually conferred to Heads of State; table settings, in a regal royal blue accented with gold trim, used for official Palace events; and a sample guest book for official state functions and dinner (including the guestbook, encased in glass, signed by the late Pope John Paul II in 1972).

The guestbook, encased in glass, signed by the late Pope John Paul II in 1972

The guestbook, encased in glass, signed by the late Pope John Paul II in 1972

We all then went up a staircase to the Quezon Executive Office, said to be the first airconditioned office in the Philippines. First used by Pres. Manuel L. Quezon as his office, it was later used by Gen. Fabian Ver, the Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under Marcos During Pres. Corazon C. Aquino’s administration, it was transformed into the office of the Press Secretary.

Quezon Executive Office

Quezon Executive Office

Inside is the original presidential desk, elaborately carved by Tampinco; and the first state portrait of Quezon on the main wall, done by Leon Gordon, which was first hung in the Palace Reception Hall from 1937 to 1979.  Now preserved as an executive office, national and presidential flags, as well as the seal of the president, are displayed in accordance with protocol.

The main wall with the first state portrait of Quezon, done by Leon Gordon

The main wall with the first state portrait of Quezon, done by Leon Gordon

From this room, we moved on to the Roxas Cabinet Room, easily one of the brighter rooms in the Palace, with windows that opened up into terraces.  Named after Pres. Manuel L. Roxas, who first used the space as the Cabinet Room, the administrations following him used it for meetings and as offices. In 1981, it was converted into into the control room for President Marcos’ television studio. It is interesting to note that the Seal of the Republic is engraved on the backrest of the 8 chairs.

The Roxas Cabinet Room

The Roxas Cabinet Room

Next room in line during our tour was the Quirino Council of State Room, colored a shade of ivory, windows draped with heavy curtains and with gold-gilded lanterns lining the wall.  Constructed in 1937-39 as the Council of State Room, it was where the newly-reconstituted Council of State during the administration of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon met, a practice kept until the Diosdado P. Macapagal Administration. It was also here that the National Economic Council, today’s NEDA, met. Pres. Manuel L. Quezon preferred to have his cabinet meetings in this room, as did Presidents Elpidio R. Quirino, Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal.

Quirino Council of State Room

Quirino Council of State Room

Presidents Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, and Marcos also had important meetings in this room and it was here, until the Marcos administration, that officials generally took their oaths of office before the President of the Philippines. From the administration of Pres. Manuel Roxas until Carlos P. Garcia, all treaties and conventions entered into by the Republic of the Philippine and foreign governments were also signed in this room. Pres. Elpidio Quirino (on April 17, 1948, after the sudden demise of Pres. Manuel Roxas) and Carlos P. Garcia (on March 18, 1957, after the tragic death of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay) also took their oaths of office in this room.

Wall with portrait of Pres. Quirino painted by the late National Artist Fernando C. Amorsolo

Wall with portrait of Pres. Quirino painted by the late National Artist Fernando C. Amorsolo

During the administration of Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos, cabinet meetings were transferred to the State Dining Room (now the Aguinaldo State Dining Room) in Malacañan Palace, and this room was turned into part of a television studio in 1981. It was restored to its original state in 2003 and, on November 16, 2003, was renamed after Pres. Elpidio Quirino by virtue of Proclamation No. 501. On display here are furniture original to the room (perfectly matching the drapes), a portrait of Pres. Quirino painted by the late National Artist Fernando C. Amorsolo and sculptures, from the Malacañan Palace Collection, by National Artist Guillermo E. Tolentino.

The Main Hall

The Main Hall

From these rooms, we proceeded to the Main Hall, formerly the site of guest bedrooms when the building was first constructed in 1920.  During the early years of the Philippine Commonwealth, it was transformed into offices to accommodate the growing bureaucracy. In 1968, upon the directive of President and Mrs. Marcos, the area was cleared and converted into the Maharlika Hall (Royalty Hall), a ceremonial hall where state dinners, large assemblies and lavish parties were held.

Presidential busts

Presidential busts

In 1972, it was temporarily used as an evacuation center for the victims of a typhoon that damaged a large part of Central Luzon. On February 25, 1986, the front west balcony of this hall was where Pres. Marcos proclaimed himself the victor of the 1986 Snap Elections, took his last public oath of office and delivered his farewell speech.

Balcony where Marcos declared himself the winner of the snap election

Balcony where Marcos declared himself the winner of the snap election

The hall now houses the Gallery of Presidents of the Philippines together with a display of selected  State and Official Gifts to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Special Exhibit of Campaign Posters of the 1965 Presidential Elections.

Diosdado Macapagal Gallery

Diosdado Macapagal Gallery

Each President in the Gallery has his own bust as well as as a suit or a dress they once wore.  The suits and accessories of presidents, from Emilio F. Aguinaldo to Quezon, is quite interesting as, aside from their other artifacts of clothing, there was the predominance of walking canes, a sign of social status.

Carlos P. Garcia Gallery

Carlos P. Garcia Gallery

However, it is worth noting that none of our presidents grew mustaches, another sign of social status which ilustrados (Spanish for ‘erudite’ or ‘learned ones’) such as José P. Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar and Graciano López Jaena all grew.

Manuel L. Quezon Gallery

Manuel L. Quezon Gallery

Other clothing items on display include the riding boots of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay, necklaces of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and more.  As the incumbent president, and entire division is dedicated to Pres. Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III, complete with a life-sized image of himself which we took pictures with.

Posing with the life-size statue of Noynoy Aquino (6)

Posing with the life-size statue of Noynoy Aquino (6)

Also on display is the original, well-preserved blackboard, used by Gen. Fabian Ver and the other generals who were loyal to President Marcos, for planning their attack during the People Power Revolution.  It has a chalk-drawn sketch of the original plans, showing San Juan (Metro Manila), to diffuse the growing crowds along EDSA. On the right hand side is data with the names of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel V. Ramos.

State and Official Gifts

State and Official Gifts

Painting and sculpture that decorate Maharlika Hall are breathtaking, with pieces made of metal, bronze, and marble, mostly of Italian influence – Roman gods and goddesses or playful nymphs – all from the Marcos’ private collection.

“Nereids” (Las Nereidas) of Joaquin Sorolla

“Nereids” (Las Nereidas) of Joaquin Sorolla

Gifts and trinkets from visiting dignitaries are also on display.  There’s a statue of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dressed as a ship captain, with her hands on the helm and,  in the background, what seems to be the spirit of Jesus Christ guiding her. There’s one thing wrong with this statue though, she’s a tad too tall. Some of the more impressive collections come from the Marcoses, such as the library the former First Lady Imelda Marcos bought from the estate of Marie Louise of Austria (a.k.a. Maria Ludovica Leopoldina Franziska Therese Josepha Lucia von Habsburg-Lothringen), the second wife of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, and later Duchess of Parma.

Perseus and Andromache of Auguste Moreau

Perseus and Andromache of Auguste Moreau

There’s also the bronze statue“Perseus and Andromache” signed by famous French artist Auguste Moreau (1855-1919), and the painting “Nereids” (Las Nereidas) of Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), donated by Alma le Normand de Bretteville Spreckels and conserved and restored by the National Museum, Union Fenosa and Cooperacion Espanola in 2001.

Southeast Gallery

Southeast Gallery

From the main hall, we proceeded to the Southeast Gallery which displays the memorabilia of the late Pres. Corazon C. “Cory” Aquino, the nation’s first female president and the incumbent president’s mother.  A humble housewife, Cory was the only president, thus far, who did not hold any public office prior to being elected the Chief Executive.

Portrait of Cory, by Filipino artist Vincente Lopez Vito, Jr., using nails

Portrait of Cory, by Filipino artist Vincente Lopez Vito, Jr., using nails

On display are some photographs, paintings (including a portrait of Cory, by Filipino artist Vincente Lopez Vito, Jr., using nails), the awards she received during and after her presidency, campaign materials, and other artworks evoking her life and achievements.

Osmena Room

Osmena Room

The more feminine-looking Osmena room was, in my mind, the most amazing. The walls here, decorated with cotton candy pink, were lined with Champagne yellow faux stone stucco with gold accents; the chandelier was impressive and the very masculine black and red dining table was huge enough to evoke a sense of power. It was easy to imagine the many critical decisions that must have been reached in that room.

Osmena Room Plaque

Osmena Room Plaque

The overhead cement French frieze, also done by Tampinco, featured different Filipino landscape scenes amid cherubs, eagles and sea lions.  Between 1921 and 1935, the Cabinet Room served as the meeting room of the Governor-General and his Cabinet as well as other bodies, such as the Council of State (which included Sergio Osmena), chaired by the Chief Executive. On September 9, 2003, the 125 birth anniversary of Osmena, it was renamed the Osmena Room by virtue of Proclamation No. 463.  Its restoration was completed in 2008.

The Old Governor-General's Office

The Old Governor-General’s Office

The Old Governor-General’s Office, used by the various U.S. governor-generals during the American occupation was, as far as I am concerned, the room to see.  It has nothing to do with its origin but, rather, what it holds inside. Inside is the actual furniture set, including the desk used by Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos when, on September 21, 1972, he announced Proclamation No. 1081 declaring Martial Law, a grim date and an event that would forever alter Philippine history and the psyche of the Filipino people.

The desk used by Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos when, on September 21, 1972, he announced Proclamation No. 1081 declaring Martial Law

The desk used by Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos when, on September 21, 1972, he announced Proclamation No. 1081 declaring Martial Law

Here, we even watch the actual black-and-white clip of his TV broadcast on a 1970’s TV set.  Also on display is a reproduction of the text of Proclamation 1081, as well as facsimiles of important documents promulgated by former Chief Executives of the Philippines from Malacañang.

Reproduction of the text of Proclamation 1081

Reproduction of the text of Proclamation 1081

The Old Waiting Room, surrounded by old wooden hardwood panels and big mirrors from the Spanish occupation, with carvings of cherubs and eagles looking down from the walls,  showcases presidential campaign materials and paraphernalia dating back to the time of Manuel Roxas, the fifth president.

Old Waiting Room

Old Waiting Room

They include such items as the neon yellow Noynoy Aquino shirt, the bright orange “Erap Para sa Mahirap” (Erap for the Poor) jacket plus various materials from presidential candidates that didn’t win (posters of Jose de Venecia, Jr.Raul S. Roco, etc.). We also listened to “Mambo Mambo Magsaysay,” appreciating the rock ‘n roll element of this 1950s ditty that was Ramon Magsaysay’s famous campaign jingle.

The Presidential Studio

The Presidential Studio

Our last tour stop was the Presidential Studio, basically a function room that was officially last used in 2012 for the wake of the late Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Jesse M. Robredo.  Here, we had our picture taken behind the podium, carrying the official seal, which the President uses when he rehearses for the SONA (State of the Nation Address).

My family at the podium, carrying the official seal, which the President uses when he rehearses for the SONA (State of the Nation Address).

My family at the podium, carrying the official seal, which the President uses when he rehearses for the SONA (State of the Nation Address).

On our way out, we passed by the tiny souvenir’s booth near the exit door.  Here, you could buy some nice, affordable and unique souvenir items such as bags, mugs and T-shirts with palace’s logo, plus the usual stuff such as key chains and ball pens.

Our worthwhile tour, aside from showing us some amazing rooms and exhibits in the Palace plus some exquisite works of art, also added an insightful take into events that transpired within Kalayaan Hall, helping us  delve deeper into the symbolism and meaning of Malacanang Palace, a silent witness to the men and women who have led this nation, for better or for worse, for the past 100 years. Truly a tour for any history buff or for those who are simply looking to discover and learn.

Malacañang Museum and Library: Kalayaan Hall, Malacañang Palace Complex, 1000 J.P. Laurel, Sr.  St., San Miguel District, Manila. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9 AM to 12 noon and 1 – 3 PM.  Tel: (632) 784-4286 local 4945 or 4645.  Fax: (632) 784-4286 local 4722. Admission: PhP50 (PhP30 for students and senior citizens).  Website: www.malacanang.gov.ph.

Visits are strictly by appointment only and can be initiated by writing or faxing the Director at least seven days in advance.  The communication must contain the full names and nationalities (for foreign nationals, a photocopy of his or her passport main page must be attached to the reservation form) of all people included in the visit, as well as the desired date and time of the visit and contact information. This information is required for security clearance by the Presidential Security Group.  Once the communication has been received, the Visitor and Tours Coordinator at the Malacañang Museum will facilitate the request and confirm the visit. Confirming that the request has been duly received is the responsibility of the requesting party. Approval or denial of the request can be confirmed one day before the date of visit. Groups that are late by more than 30 minutes beyond their scheduled tour appointment shall not be entertained. They may, however, be moved to the next available slot by the Tour Coordinator.

Those not included in the guest list shall not be allowed entrance to the Palace grounds. Visitors to the Museum are advised to adhere to a smart casual dress code. Those wearing shorts, sleeveless tops, and slippers shall not be granted entry to the Palace grounds. All visitors are provided with a tour guide.

Photography is allowed, but is restricted to within the Malacañang Museum. However, taking video footage is prohibited without prior clearance from the Presidential Security Group.  All scheduled visits and tours are subject to rescheduling or cancellation on the advice of the Presidential Security Group.

Entrance is through the Kalayaan Gate. Visitors in private vehicles or by taxi can enter the Malacañang environs through either Arlegui Street or J.P. Laurel Street Entrances and either park or disembark in the Mendiola Street Car Park, after which a short stroll along J.P. Laurel Street will bring them to Kalayaan Gate. Visitors on foot can also arrive via the General Solano Street or San Rafael Street Entrances.

New Year Countdown at the Manila InterContinental (Makati City)

Fireworks (12)

For the third time around (the first was in the iconic Manila Hotel, followed by the Dusit Hotel), my family and I decided to spend New Year’s Eve in a hotel and, this time around, we chose to stay at the nearby InterContinental Manila (colloquially Intercon/ICM).  This 5-star InterContinental hotel, part of the longest operating international chain hotel in the Philippines, holds the distinction of being the first 5-star deluxe hotel in Makati and the second InterContinental hotel to open in Asia.

InterContinental Manila Hotel

InterContinental Manila Hotel

Designed by my uncle, the late National Artist Leandro Locsin, this 14-storey landmark hotel opened on April 11, 1969 as part of the overall redevelopment plan for Makati.It is owned by Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts Corp., Ayala Land’s wholly owned subsidiary. Conveniently located within Ayala Center (Makati Commercial Center years before), opposite the Glorietta, it is walking distance to 5 big shopping malls (SM, Rustans, Landmark, etc.), great restaurants, an MRT-3 station (Ayala Station) and cinemas. It still exudes the charm and elegant atmosphere of the old Manila I am familiar with.

Cafe Jeepney

Cafe Jeepney

 This old but well-maintained hotel has won numerous awards such as the “Best Hotel Kikay Festival” for “Festival Gastronomique le Kikay Bleu” in 1982 and 1983; the Green Globe Award for Outstanding Environmental Programs in 1998; “Outstanding in Community Involvement for Southern Asia” among InterContinental hotels in 2002; and the TTG (Travel Trade Gazette) Travel Awards as the “Best City Hotel” in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

Hotel Lobby

Hotel Lobby

In 1997, the hotel also placed first in Asia Pacific and third in the world in the D’Richey Report and, in 2007, it was voted by readers of Business Traveler Magazine Asia Pacific as one of the three top hotels in the Philippines.

Cafe Jeepney (1)

Cafe Jeepney (2)

Cafe Jeepney dining area

We all checked in at a spacious and comfortable 2-bed De Luxe room (Suite 839), one of 332 guest rooms that were updated in 2006. Incorporating traditional and modern Filipino design infused with a refined European touch, each room had warm earth tones and rich, walnut wood finish. it features individually-controlled airconditioning, flat-screen LCD cable TV, work desk with lamp, in-room safe, IDD/NDD phone, coffee/tea making facility, mini fridge, private bathroom with bathtub and free high-speed wireless internet.

Double Bed De Luxe Suite (Suite 839)

Double Bed De Luxe Suite (Suite 839)

The staff was polite, efficient and attentive to our needs.  The presence of pretty Ambassador ladies greeting guests at the entrance was a nice touch.  They also offer valet, airport transfers, currency exchange, tours, concierge, car rental, laundry and room service.  InterContinental Manila has 4 restaurants and bars that offer a wide selection of food and wines to suit every taste and to match the occasion.

Gambrinus Bar

Gambrinus Bar

The Prince Albert Rotisserie, a fine dining restaurant, offers gourmet French and Continental fare, classic wines and is best known for its tableside preparation of US prime rib and Crepe Suzette. In addition to the main dining section, the restaurant boasts of three dining salons for guests desiring more privacy. During our stay, they offered a special New Year’s Eve set dinner menu (PhP2,990++ per person) which included veal, duckling, and morel terrine and roast prime rib of Aberdeen Angus beef with baked potato, buttered garden vegetables and red wine sauce. A special à la carte menu was likewise be offered. Its impeccable service has reaped prestigious awards and numerous citations including Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Gustateurs ‘Trés Belle Carte” (Best Wine List) Award.

Sol y Sombra

Sol y Sombra

Café Jeepney, a favorite meeting place and watering hole for people in the news and those who write about them, was where we had our breakfast.  The evening of our stay, they offered a buffet for PhP2,000++ per person. Themed around the world famous Filipino jeepney, it features a mouth-watering spread of Filipino and international fare, a la carte and buffet style, including live cooking and carving stations.

Function Room

Function Room

The ground floor Gambrinus Bar, a venue to meet family and friends amongst the view of the poolside garden, offers an appetizing selection of a la carte dishes, bar chows and cocktails while listening to live music in the evening.  Sol y Sombra offers savory snacks, tropical thirst quenchers and cocktails by the poolside or inside one of the “bahay kubos” (nipa huts).

Club Lounge

Club Lounge

The Club Lounge, where we had access, offered breakfast and snacks throughout the day as well as happy hour in the evening.  It had a stunning view of the Makati skyline.  The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool (said to be the largest in Makati), an 800-1,000-pax grand ballroom, 7 meeting rooms (Bahia, San Lorenzo, etc.), business center, full-service spa (Suriya), sauna, gift shop, beauty salon and a gym (Gold’s Gym)..

Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool

Our room package (PhP9,888 net) also included a New Year’s Countdown for two, which started  8 PM onwards, at its Grand Ballroom, with free-flowing red and white wine, champagne, soda, iced tea, and a buffet spread of holiday favorites.

New Year Countdown (Grand Ballroom) (1)

 

New Year Countdown at the Grand Ballroom

New Year Countdown at the Grand Ballroom

Performing live music on stage was the all-girl (AJ Salvado, Jen Manalac, and Pia Diamante) Silk Band who rendered rhythm & blues and the best of OPM, from the 1970s to the present.  Right after the countdown, we watched the fireworks outside.

Family bonding at the InterContinental Manila

Family bonding at the InterContinental Manila

InterContinental Manila: 1 Ayala Ave., Ayala Center, Makati City, 1226 Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 793-7000. Website: www.intercontinental.com/Manila.

The Chinese Compound (Pasay City)

From My Mother’s Garden, we began the afternoon leg of our AAP-sponsored Pasay Media Familiarization Tour, proceeding, along F.B. Harrison St., to a compound where, upon entering its red main gate, I was instantly transported to another place and time smack in the middle of urban chaos, which makes for an interesting contrast.

The Chinese Compound

The Chinese Compound

Set amidst lush greenery is an interesting enclave of 15 post-World War II, medium-sized and nearly identical 2-storey houses.  All these houses, designed to facilitate air flow before the introduction of air-conditioning, have high ceilings, large windows and a second floor balcony.  Its floors are laden with Machuca tiles.

The boutiue hotel

The boutiue hotel

Formerly a residential abode for the Chinese owner’s large family (it is called the Chinese Compound), this tree-lined compound simply awed me with its old-world charm and serenity.  Some of these 1950s houses are just regular homes of people not connected to the artistic world  but several of the homes now house several interesting establishments such as the art gallery of Albert Avellana (Avellana Art Gallery), the atelier of top fashion designer Jesus “Jojie” Lloren and the furniture showroom (Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery- A11) of interior designer Eric Paras which occupies 2 houses.

Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery

Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery

Five of the houses are also being turned into a boutique hotel, an example of adaptive reuse.  It will have a swimming pool and a restaurant.  We all toured each of these establishments (save for the boutique hotel which was still being constructed) which made the compound an artistic hotbed ever since it was occupied by creative souls. All are filled with art, classic French crockery, rustic table settings and furniture and decor that channel everything from Art Deco to mid century to a more industrial style. The space is reputed to be a source for well-known interior designers all over the country.

An A 11 furniture showroom

An A 11 furniture showroom

The Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery, opened last January 2013, houses, in a home setting, many of Eric’s designer furniture plus some  items he brought in from elsewhere.  They include a double-tiered, mid-century side tables; metal-based furniture pieces such as an iron bed frame with a wood-framed screen upholstered in toile de jouy fabric; a mid-century ambassador’s chair finished in black; an antique writing desk refinished in a dark hue; table tops and shelving units with thick slabs of exotic wood; a 4-panel screen, hung with small artwork, made with old doors; low console table, for Eric’s line of lighting, made from an enormous wood column; a metal framed lamp, topped by a marble cylindrical shade, with geometric patterns; a marble wash basin filled with decorative woven rattan balls; a pair of side tables, topped with polished white marble, with hollowed wood bases etched with designs in a random pattern; a cylindrical center table base wrapped with metal strips in a loose weave pattern; and Eric’s collection of colorful ceramic accessories.

Another A 11 showroom

Another A 11 showroom

The Avellana Art Gallery, opened in 1997, specializes in eye-catching Filipino art. Its genteel old space was turned by Albert into a retro-modern gallery for the functional art.  The two floors are full of art, with the top floor being used for moving exhibitions, a perfect venue for new and more established artists.  At the entrance lobby is the sculpture “Love From Above” by Pidge Reyes.

Avellana Art Gallery

Avellana Art Gallery

Love from Above by Pidge Reyes

Love from Above by Pidge Reyes

At the atelier of Jojie Lloren, we were welcomed by the mild-mannered and pleasant designer himself.  We all listened to him at his spacious living room, sitting at contemporary chairs around an old round table. His atelier looks a bit French Art Nouveau, the compact space of his workshop made stylish and beautified, in the bayanihan spirit, by his close friends.

Listening to Jojie Lloren at his atelier

Listening to Jojie Lloren at his atelier

There were furniture pieces (couch, ceramic garden stools, etc.) from Eric Paras’ A11, a louver screen from Albert Avellana, a bird cage from designer James Reyes, and a chandelier from lighting designer Ricky David; all these things close to Jojie’s heart.  Jojie also added period pieces he bought from thrift shops along Evangelista St. in Makati. His display of Filipino religious includes antique Marian medallions ((that spell out his name) and modern Marian prints by Virgilio Aviado.  There are also paintings, including one from Popo San Pascual.

Reception area with a chandelier from Ricky David, couch from Eric Paras and louver screen from Albert Avellana

Reception area with a chandelier from Ricky David, couch from Eric Paras and louver screen from Albert Avellana

Despite the heavy Pasay traffic and braving the pollution and the gritty stretch of urban decay on that day, the sudden change of atmosphere, once inside this place of calm, was truly worth the extra effort.

Religious art collection of Jojie

Religious art collection of Jojie

Avellana Art Gallery: Unit A-19, 2680 F.B.Harrison St., Pasay City. Tel: (632) 833-8357. E-mail: avellana_gallery@yahoo.com.  Open Mondays to Saturdays, 10 AM to 7 PM.

Atelier of Jojie Lloren: Unit A-17 2680 F.B Harrison St., 1300 Pasay City.  Tel: (632) 556-4725, (632) 641-9347 and (632) 401-1194. Fax: (632) 896-7199. E-mail: lyorenne@hotmail.com.

Artelano 11 Furniture Gallery: Unit A-11, 2680 F.B. Harrison St., 1300 Pasay City.  Tel: (632) 832-9972.  Mobile number: (0917) 837-0115. E-mail: a_eleven05@yahoo.com.  

Automobile Association Philippines (AAP): 28 EDSA, Greenhills, San Juan City.  Tel: (632) 655-5889.  Fax: (632) 655-1878.  E-mail: info@aap.org.ph. Website: www.aap.org.ph.

AAP Travel: G/F, Sea Tower Bldg., 2332 Roxas Blvd. cor. Arnaiz Ave., Pasay City. Tel: (632) 551-0025.  Fax: (632) 551-0014. E-mail: info@aaptravel.com.  Website:www.aaptravel.com.ph.

CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino (Pasay City)

Diwa: Buhay, Ritwal at Sining

The Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture), an integrated humanities museum established in 1988, gathers together the works of Filipino traditional artists and preserves Filipino artistic traditions; studies and interprets these to provide a deeper understanding of Filipino national culture evolving with and for the people; and strengthens the people’s awareness of the integral, dynamic role of creativity and artistic expression in national life and culture.

Bpagapel (Maguindanawon healing rite)

“Diwa: Buhay, Ritwal at Sining” (Spirit, Life, Ritual and Art), a permanent exhibit, presents an overview of aspects of Philippine traditional culture and showcases significant Filipino artistic traditions as well as explores the development of Philippine art and aesthetics in the socio-cultural context.   

Komedya of Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija

Different artistic forms are presented as a result of the Filipino’s interaction with five conditions/concepts – Bayan (Nation), Buhay at Kamatayan (Life and Death), Kamag-anakan at Pamayanan (Kin and Community), Lupa (Land), and Kaluwalhatian (Divinity).

Ifugao House

On display are sunduks (grave markers) and models of indigenous houses (the Agta lean-to, the Higaonon treehouse, the Badjao houseboat, the Ivatan house, the Mandaya house, the Ifugao house and the Maranao torogan).

Sunduk (grave marker) of Tausug of Sulu)

CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino: 4/F, Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Bldg., CCP Complex, Pasay City. Tel (Visual Arts & Museum Division)(632) 832- 3702, (632) 832-5094 and (632) 832-1125 local 1504,1505 and 1508.  Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM to 6 PM. Admission: PhP40 for adults and PhP30 for students and children. If there are performances at the Main Theater, exhibit hours are extended up to 10 PM. Mobile number: (0920) 470-0690.  E-mail: ccp.exhibits@gmail.com.

CCP Collection of Traditional Asian Musical Instruments (Pasay City)

CCP Collection of Traditional Asian Musical Instruments

CCP Collection of Traditional Asian Musical Instruments

The CCP Collection of Traditional Asian Musical Instruments, another important permanent exhibit at the Museo ng Kalinangan Pilipino, displays a collection of Philippine and Asian traditional musical (stringed, percussion, woodwind, etc.) instruments.  The Asian instruments were acquired by the CCP from 1969 to 1986 through donations by a number of Southeast Asian and East Asian countries.

Interior

Interior

Indonesia donated a gender barung (14 bronze bars suspended by a cord over sheet iron resonating tubes in a teakwood frame), a bonang barung (12 bronze pots in two rows of six located in square openings in rectangular teakwood), a gender panerus (14 bronze bars suspended by a cord over sheet iron resonating tubes in a teakwood frame), a saron panerus (known by its nickname Peking, it is the smallest saron in the Saron family), a gong ageng (Javanese meaning “large gong”), a  gambang (a xylophone-like musical instrument), a saron barungsaron demung and a slenthem (a Javanese metallophone which makes up part of a gamelan orchestra).

Bonang Barung

Bonang Barung

Gender Barung

Gender Barung

The Chinese government donated a gu zheng (a plucked zither with 18 or more strings and movable bridges), a chung hu (a medium- pitched fiddle), an er hu (a two-stringed bowed musical instrument), a ti hu (a two-stringed bowed vertical fiddle), a pan hu (a “piccolo” version of the er hu), a ching er hu, a yueh hu (a bowed string instrument) and a hua pen gu (a flower pot drum).
China Exhibit

China Exhibit

Yue qin (China)

Yue qin (China)

Thailand donated a khaw-ng wong lek (or khong wong lek, a gong circle with 18 tuned bossed gongs), a khaw ng mong, glaw-ng that (drum with two heads stretched tightly and fastened down with pegs or nails), a ta pho-n (barrel-shaped drums with 2 heads) and a khaw-ng wong yai (or khong wong yai, a  circle with gongs with 16 tuned bossed gongs in a rattan frame and is played with two beaters).
Khaw-ng Wong Yai

Khaw-ng Wong Yai

Ta Pho-n

Ta Pho-n

South Korea, the latest to donate, contributed  an ajaeng (a large bowed zither having 7 strings), a changgo (or janggu, an hourglass-shaped, waisted drum used in traditional music), a taegum (or daegeum, a transverse bamboo flute with a distinctive sound), a komun’go (or geomungo, a traditional stringed musical instrument of the family of zither instruments with both bridges and frets), a hyang-p’iri (a cylindrical, double reed oboe), a tanso (or danso, a notched, end blown vertical bamboo flute), a chi, a kayagun (or gayageum, a traditional zither-like stringed instrument), a hun (a globular flute), a sogum (or sogeum, a small bamboo transverse flute) and a tungso (a comparatively long notched bamboo flute).

South Korean Exhibit

South Korean Exhibit

From Japan came the shakuhachi (a Japanese end-blown flute) and a biwa (a Japanese short-necked fretted lute, often used in narrative storytelling) while India brought in a tabla (a 2-piece percussion instrument), flutes and a  tavil (or thavil, a Southern Indian drum).

Japanese Exhibit

Japanese Exhibit

The Philippine musical instruments were donated by the late Dr. Lucrecia R. Kasilag, a National Artist for Music and a musical instrument collector for over 50 years.  She is particularly known for incorporating indigenous Filipino instruments into orchestral productions.

Philippine Exhibit

Philippine Exhibit

The instruments on display include a kudyapi (or kutiyapi, a two-stringed, fretted boat-lute), a gangsa (a single hand-held smooth-surfaced gong with a narrow rim), an octavina (a guitar-shaped Filipino instrument with a tuning similar to the laud ), a laúd (a plectrum-plucked chordophone), a bandurria (a steel-stringed, 12-stringed instrument), a bajo de unas (bass guitar), a bungkaka (a bamboo buzzer), a kubing (a type of jaw harp made from bamboo), a gabbang (a bamboo xylophone widely used in the southern Philippines), and the all too familiar guitar.
Banduria, Laud and Octavina

Banduria, Laud and Octavina

CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino: 4/F, Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Bldg., CCP Complex, Pasay City. Tel (Visual Arts & Museum Division): (632) 832- 3702, (632) 832-5094 and (632) 832-1125 local 1504,1505 and 1508.  Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM to 6 PM. Admission: PhP40 for adults and PhP30 for students and children. If there are performances at the Main Theater, exhibit hours are extended up to 10 PM. Mobile number: (0920) 470-0690.  E-mail: ccp.exhibits@gmail.com.

A Mind-Blowing Museum Experience

For her Christmas gift to us, my daughter Cheska gave all of us passes to the Mind Museum which she bought, at the discounted price of PhP450 each, from Deal Grocer.  As we were all busy during the holidays, Grace, Jandy, Cheska, Marve and I, with my 1 year old grandson Kyle, only availed of it right after the New Year.

The Mind Museum

The Mind Museum

This educational facility, the first world-class science museum in the Philippines, aims to foster the public understanding of science and art in a different light.  Formally opened on March 16, 2012 (after a Pre-Opening Ceremony that took place on December 15, 2011) and located on a 1.2 hectare lot within the 12,500 sq. m. J.Y. Campos Park, this PhP1,000,000,000 (US$ 23.5 million) museum was totally funded by private donations from corporations and individuals.

The 7 ft. high robot named KAL

The 7 ft. high robot named KAL

With Lor Calma & Partners as the building architect and Science Center Singapore as museum planning consultant, this museum has more than 250 hands-on, minds-on interactive exhibits, 90% of which were  designed and fabricated by Filipino designers, scientists and engineers to clearly and beautifully flesh out a science principle or fact in 5,000 sq. m. exhibition halls designed by master planner Jack Rouse Associates (recognized as among the top ten museum and theme park designers in the world).

The reception desk at lobby

The reception desk at lobby

The Mind Museum Store

The Mind Museum Store

This interesting, awe-inspiring building has a futuristic, space-age yet organic look based on cell growth and molecular structures.  Its innovative and sustainable design, mirroring the functionality of nature and contributing to more energy efficiency, features slanted exterior walls (to minimize sunlight entry), a specially curved roof (for more efficient rain collection) and strategic orientation (to utilize the shadows of adjacent buildings). The National Geographic Channel provided the required footages and stills for the exhibit.

The 1904 Richard Brasier Roadster

The 1904 Richard Brasier Roadster

We had 3 hours to interact and experience the science exhibits and we were allowed to take photos. Sony Philippines, itself a technology giant, enhanced the experience by providing top-of-the-line and state-of-the-art gadgets such as Bravia LCD television sets, touch screen VAIOs, and 3D Projector Systems. The rest of the exhibits are privately sponsored.

Aedi the welcoming robot

Aedi the welcoming robot

Beside the museum entrance is the 7 ft. tall KAL . Made with recycled vacuum cleaner parts, among other things, it is all about Environment Sustainability – how technology and  innovation (such as robotics) can be used to improve the quality of life.

The 10 Most Beautiful Experiments  Exhibit

The 10 Most Beautiful Experiments Exhibit

Within the lobby is a souvenir shop and a 9-horsepower, 2-cylinder 1904 Richard Brasier roadster, the first car to ever grace the Philippine roads.  It was brought into the country by the trading firm Estrella del Norte in 1904 and is on loan from Pilipinas Shell.

The Philippine Science Hall

The Philippine Science Hall

An anthropomorphic robot named Aedi (“idea” spelled backwards) welcomed us at the lobby and introduced us to the museum, informing us on what lies ahead.

The Atom Centerpiece

The Atom Centerpiece

Our first stop was the “Hall of 10 Most Beautiful Experiments,” a visual set of LCD displays of experiments based on acclaimed philosopher and science historian Robert P. Crease’s book The Prism and the Pendulum: 10 Most Beautiful Experiments in Science.

Jandy tries out the Van de Graff Static Ball

Jandy tries out the Van de Graff Static Ball

At the center of the museum is the Hall of Philippine Science which showcases the passion for science of world-renowned Filipino scientists, both here and around the world, via digital photographs featuring their lives and achievements, and local scientific endeavors spanning local issues such as sustainable communities, rice culture, etc.. Interactive stations here spew out random facts and trivia questions.

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

After this hall are five main galleries, Atom (has the most interactive exhibits), Earth, Life and Universe, stretching from left to right, at the ground floor, and Technology (the largest exhibit) at the second floor.

The gigantic Human Brain

The gigantic Human Brain

The Atom Gallery has exhibit pieces that show the strange world of the very small in terms of forces and particles. The Van de Graff static ball, where one can explore how electrostatic energy is generated and what effects it produces, is my favorite here.  When I touched the static ball, I experienced my hair standing on end.  Other interactive exhibits here include the Atom Centerpiece (a 3D visualization of the atom), Everything is Made Up of Atoms (a sculptural exhibit that shows the many levels of spaces inside a chocolate bar), Whirlpool (an enthralling exhibition of gravity and centripetal force), Carbon: Basis of All Life on Earth (a game area where guests can create their own allotropes), Periodic Table (learn about the 118 elements),  Electric Table: Magnets and Current, Energy Forms (convert kinetic energy to mechanical energy to electrical energy and then to heat), Newton’s Cradle (Isaac Newton‘s Third Law of Motion at work), Frequencies (see what a pitch looks like) and Shadow Box (leave your mark on the phosphorescent walls). 

Bernoulli's Principle at work

Bernoulli’s Principle at work

The Life Gallery provides us a deeper understanding of how life surrounds and inhabits us – from microbes to large animals and from DNA, cells to a giant, lit-up human brain model.  The latter, one of the largest exhibits in the entire museum, is a walk through exhibit where you can identify what brain part lights up when you sense, feel or think. Its other exhibits include The Human Story (a faithful replica of our prehistoric ancestors), Bernoulli’s Principle (the principle that explains how birds are able to fly), Whale Shark (a suspended life-size and life-like model of a whale shark, locally called a butanding), Small Worlds Within (a multi-media interactive program that will help guests learn more about cells) and the Web of Life.

The Butanding (Whale Shark)

The Butanding (Whale Shark)

The Human Story

The Human Story

The Earth Gallery tells of the story of the planet and our archipelago across the breadth of time. Stan, the most impressive towering exhibit in the museum, is the first permanent T-rex exhibit in the Philippines.  This life-sized replica of a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton was named after Stan Sacrison who, in 1987, discovered the most complete male T-rex in 1987 in Hell Creek Formation, South Dakota, USA. 

Stan the Tyrannosaurus Rex

Stan the Tyrannosaurus Rex

Nearby is an exhibit of petrified dinosaur bones and coprolite (dinosaur poop) while underneath the dinosaur is a fossil dig where visitors are allowed to dig, with pails and shovels, for their own fossils.  At its Nature’s Hourglass, a mini-theater that acts as a virtual time machine, we watched (with 3D glasses) a 12-min., fully animated 3D film, made by an all-Filipino crew, entitled “Birthplace,” that tells the story of Earth’s 4.6 billion year natural history and evolution.

The 3D movie "Birthplace" at Nature's Hourglass

The 3D movie “Birthplace” at Nature’s Hourglass

Other exhibits include Air (pass your hand over the sensor and watch a tornado form), Rock of  Ages/Mass Extinction (depicts the layering of the earth’s crust and illustrates the different geological ages and 2 of the 5 mass extinctions that have occurred over the span of earth’s history), Volcano (see how volcanoes erupt), Knowing Home: Floating Globe (watch a live feed that displays the current state of the planet earth), Spin Browser (watch plants grow or animals move in high speed or slow motion), Fungi: A One Billion Year Old Kingdom, and Beneficial or Harmful Bacteria.

Air

Air

On our way to the Universe Gallery, we passed through Tunnel Craft, a spinning, 2-way revolving tunnel, with moving imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope that simulated travel between outer space and earth but made us dizzy. 

Getting dizzy at Tunnel Craft

Getting dizzy at Tunnel Craft

The Universe Galley, which shows how we, with the tools we invent and innovate, are able to express our evolving humanity, features the mysterious vastness of the universe and holds clues as to where we came from and where we are going.  The centerpiece of this gallery is an unique, 8 m. diameter, 35-50-pax mini-planetarium that uses, instead of chairs, memory foam where visitors can lounge on to simulate literally lying on the ground and staring at the stars in the night sky.  Here, we watched films that discuss the other planets and starts, as well as debates, the existence of extraterrestrial life.  We also tried out pods where we could hear sounds from outer space.

The Space Shell - a mini planetarium

The Space Shell – a mini planetarium

Other exhibits here include Look at the Moon (an interactive wall display that shows the moon’s different phases, and includes other information about the moon’s cycle and path around the earth), The Lifetime of a Star (describes how stars are born and how they die), The Solar System, Dressed for Space (an astronaut suit) and Space Quest History (1990-2011).

Look at the Moon

Look at the Moon

Dressed for Space - an astronaut's suit

Dressed for Space – an astronaut’s suit

The Avenue of Life, the escalator to the second floor, was an exhibit in itself.  On the way up, we immersed ourselves in sights and sounds that showcased five of the Earth’s major habitats such as the temperate regions, polar environments, deserts and even the cold, sunless existence in the deep waters of hydrothermal vents.

The Avenue of Life escalator

The Avenue of Life escalator

The second floor, which houses mostly Technology exhibits, is divided into 5 sub-galleries – “Who We Are,” “How We Know,” “How Things Work,” “Here to There” and “How We Live.”  Here, we found a fun toilet display, an interactive presentation of an archaic Gutenberg printing press and a Timezone-like row of arcade consoles illustrating how video games (Pong, Pacman, etc.) changed through the years.

The Gutenberg Printing Press

The Gutenberg Printing Press

You would also enjoy the Laser Harp, the Night Vision Goggles Exhibit, MIMO (an in-house obstacle avoiding robot), Solar Bugs (shows how solar panels serve as power sources), Mathematics: Cars with Different Wheel Shapes, Mathematics: Elliptical Billiard Table (hit any of the two balls and it is sure to rebound and hit the other ball), The Malampaya Project (a representation of the discovery of 2.7 trillion cubic tons of natural gas near Palawan), Scents (check the scents in these spheres and see if you recall a specific memory because of it) and Beauty Symmetry: The Beauty is in the Phi of the Beholder (highlights the technologies that we come up with – in cosmetics, architecture, and art – to express the role of proportion in our lives).

MIMO

MIMO the in-house obstacle avoiding robot

The museum also has a 198-seat (with space for 2 wheel chairs) auditorium, 2 40-seat classrooms (Mind Pods), a 35-seat laboratory (Mind Lab) and an outdoor Science-in-the-Park where visitors can experience playful science through four-themed pockets: Music, Math, Living and Water.

The Malampaya Project

The Malampaya Project

All in all, we found ourselves thoroughly enjoying relearning about the human brain, solar system, and evolution in ways that we never did in grade school. Anyone, no matter how old, educated or well-read, even indifferent adults, will discover reasons to view, try out and marvel at the exhibits.

Cross section of a toilet

Cross section of a toilet

Mind Museum: J.Y. Campos Park, 3rd Ave., Bonifacio Global City, 1634 Taguig City. Tel: +632 909-MIND (6463).  E-mail: inquiry@themindmuseum.org and tickets.themindmuseum.org.  Website: TheMindMuseum.Org. Facebook: The Mind Museum. Twitter: @themindmuseum.

The Technology Exhibit Hall

The Technology Exhibit Hall 

The Universe Gallery

The Universe Gallery

Ticket Prices (with 3 hr. limit): adults (PhP600); children and private school students up to college (PhP450);  and public school students (up to college) and teachers with valid school ID (PhP150). Senior Citizen rebate will be given at the gate upon presentation of ID. Children 2 ft. and below are free.  Ticket time slots are 9 AM to 12 noon; 12 noon to 3 PM; 3 PM to 6 PM; and 6 PM to 9 PM.  An all day pass costs PhP750.

New Year at the Dusit Thani Manila

After a one-year hiatus, we returned to our new tradition of spending New Years Eve at a hotel, away from the noise (and the smoke pollution associated with it) of firecrackers and fireworks.  More so now as I have my one year grandson Kyle with me.  This time we spent it at the Dusit Thani Manila, right in the heart of Makati’s financial district.

Dusit Thani Manila

Dusit Thani Manila

Surrounded by malls (SM Dept. Store is right across), restaurants, bars and boutiques, its location, aside from its affordability (it was the most reasonably priced of the 8 hotels I checked out), is the hotel’s most outstanding feature, it being along EDSA, one of Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares, which abounds with buses, taxicabs and what have you. The hotel is also located about 200 meters from the Ayala MRT station.

View of EDSA, Ayala MRT Station and Ayala Center from our room

View of EDSA, Ayala MRT Station and SM from our room

Formerly the Manila Garden Hotel and, later, the Japan Airlines (JAL)-owned Nikko Hotel Manila, it was acquired by the Dusit group (one of over 22 properties owned in Thailand and overseas) in 1995 and was renamed Dusit Hotel Nikko. On April 2008, it was renamed Dusit Thani Manila.  The hotel underwent an extensive US$20 million renovation which included  a state-of-the-art monochromatic beige-colored repainting of its facade. In 2011, it won 15 prestigious trophies (including “Hotel of the Year”) from the Singapore-based Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (HAPA).

The impressive lobby with its gold leaf-covered columns

The impressive lobby with its gold leaf-covered columns

As I approached the hotel’s driveway, what first comes into sight is its Patrick Blanc-inspired vertical garden, with its 5-piece, 8-meter high green wall.  While bringing an aesthetic beauty to the surroundings of the hotel, it also has a significant impact on environment and atmosphere as it specifically lowers the temperature at the driveway, especially when the afternoon sun rays hit the entrance. Its water feature also helps cool the air that passes through the open spaces between walls. In recognition of these efforts, the hotel received a 2012 Silver certification by Earth Check, a globally renowned organization that grades environmental standards.

Room 1153

Room 1153

Our twin beds

Our twin beds

Upon entering the hotel’s spacious, impressive and tastefully decorated lobby (with its tall, decorated Christmas tree),  I noticed the lobby’s columns which were covered in real, elegant gold leaf, just like temples in Thailand.  While checking in (ultra fast to say the least), i was given a cold, herb-infused towel that refreshed me with its subtle fragrance.

My family

My family

We stayed in an luxurious de luxe room with 2 comfortable double beds (Rm. 1153).  Our room, like all the others (the hotel has 538 rooms) at Dusit Thani Manila, are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as LCD flat screen TVs with satellite channels, a work desk, minibar, mini fridge; in-room safe; coffee and tea making facility, air conditioning and free (and surprisingly fast) wi-fi. Our ensuite bath had a bathtub.  They even offered, free of charge, a Disney-inspired baby cot for Kyle. Some of the other rooms benefit from Executive Club lounge access which offers complimentary drinks and snacks.

The pyrotechnic spectacle seen from our window

The pyrotechnic spectacle seen from our window

Come 8 PM, we attended a New Year’s Eve anticipated mass at the Molave Room at the mezzanine floor. Though we didn’t avail of the the hotel’s New Year Countdown Package, we  were still regaled by the fireworks display from our hotel room window which faced EDSA.  As I enjoyed the pyrotechnic spectacle with my family, I thank God for bonding moments such as these and I also prayed that others would also experienced what I felt.

Breakfast at Basix Coffee Shop

Breakfast at Basix Coffee Shop

The next day, we had breakfast at Basix, the hotel’s ground floor, 24-hour coffee shop.  As the hotel was fully booked, tables and chairs were set up at the hotel lobby to accommodate the guests queuing up for a breakfast buffet of delectable international options.  It included cold cuts, ham, bacon, cheese, bread, pancakes, fruits, etc..

Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant

Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant

Dusit Thani also has 3 international restaurants.Western Tosca Restaurant, awarded “Most Exquisite Dining Experience” in 2011, offers Italian cuisine. UMU Japanese Sake Bar & Restaurant, awarded the  “Most Cosmopolitan Bar and Restaurant” in 2011 by HAPA, serves Japanese food and its private rooms offer views over the hotel’s highly-maintained and beautifully manicured  Japanese Garden and koi pond. The second level Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant, awarded “Most Authentic Asian Cuisine Restaurant” in 2012 by HAPA, serves authentic Thai dishes.

The Japanese Garden and Koi Pond

The Japanese Garden and Koi Pond

The hotel also has  meeting and banquet facilities; an outdoor swimming pool; spa (Devarana – awarded “Signature Spa Experience” in 2011 by HAPA); business center; VIP room facilities; flower shop; 24-hour front desk; barber shop; beauty parlor;  24-hour medical clinic; souvenir/gift shop; and wellness center (DFit).

Posing in front of the lobby's huge Christmas tree prior to leaving

Posing in front of the lobby’s huge Christmas tree prior to leaving

They offer express check-in/check-out; luggage storage, 24-hour room service; airport shuttle; laundry; dry cleaning; ironing service, currency exchange; shoe shine, car rental; tours; safety deposit box, massage and fax/photocopying service.

Kyle in his Disney-inspired baby cot

Kyle in his Disney-inspired baby cot

Dusit Thani Manila: Ayala Center, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 238-8888. Fax: (632) 238-8800. E-mail: dtmn@dusit.com.  Website: www.dusit.com.

The Urban Legend That is the Manila Film Center (Pasay City)

I was slated to attend a press conference launching the 75th Oktoberfest at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila but, as it was still early, I decided to park my Toyota Revo at the nearby, Parthenon-like Manila Film Center at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex.  Today, it is the venue, since November 2012 (and from December 10, 2001 until its lease expired in 2009), of  the Amazing Show, a Las Vegas-like song and dance extravaganza produced by Amazing Philippines Theater where all the performers are transgenders. A huge “Amazing Show” sign is now emblazoned on its facade.  It is popular with Korean tourists.

The former Manila Film Center

The huge lot in front of the center is all to familiar to me and my thesis mates (Cecilio “Ces” Carandang, Alfredo “Al” de Jesus, Clarencio “Shoti” Gonzales and Jane Dy) as it was our proposed site for U.P. College of Architecture thesis proposal – a National Museum Complex.  I have also been inside the center which, in its heyday, housed 6 360-degree theaters, 6 preview rooms for the Board of Censors, a film archive (to use the then little-known Digital Storage) and a number of offices.

Our proposed National Museum Complex site

Just last February 19, a 3-hour fire, which started past 7 PM, damaged the back of the theater but caused no casualties. Damage was placed at around PhP1.2 million.  This was not the center’s first brush with disaster as the center is more famous for the tragedy that happened during its construction, as well as its ghost stories, rather than for anything else.

The left side facade

The center had its beginnings in 1981 when then First Lady Imelda R. Marcos had the grandiose notion of turning Manila into the “Cannes of the Pacific” by starting the Manila International Film Festival (MIFF) which she slated to start on January 18, 1982. Her last major project at the CCP, Imelda passed over my late uncle and National Artist (for Architecture) Leandro V. Locson and, instead, chose Arch. Froilan Hong, also our professor in U.P., to do the design. Imelda wanted to recapture, through the Manila Film Center, the grandeur of Athen’s Parthenon through the application of modernist abstraction and vernacular intervention.  In fact, its design module was based on the Golden Section, a Classical proportional device.

The left side colonnade

The building’s foundation, supported on more than 900 piles reaching the bedrock about 120 ft. below, was set on newly reclaimed land near Manila Bay. Since the construction deadline was tight, 4,000 workers were employed to work, round the clock, in 3 shifts. About 1,000 workers finished the lobby in 72 hours, normally a job entailing 6 weeks of labor. Then, tragedy struck  on November 17, 1981, shortly before 3 AM, when scaffolding and wooden support for part of the second basement collapsed, causing at least 169 graveyard shift workers to fall and be buried or trapped under wet, quick-drying cement.

Front collonnade

Amid a blanket of security, rescuers were only allowed to go inside the accident site 9 hours after the collapse. One unanswered question is “In the rush to complete the project  in time for the MIFF, was fresh concrete poured over the dead workers and construction continued?”The Film Palace was indeed finished just 15 mins. before the opening amidst clouds of thick construction dust.  The unfinished roof was temporarily covered by hundreds of square meters of fabric. On opening night, the first film (out of 17) shown in the theater was the movie “Gandhi.” India’s entry, “36 Chowringhee Lane” would later claim “Best Picture” while Lyudmila Gurchenko won as “Best Actress,” Bruno Lawrence as “Best Actor” and Goran Markovic as “Best Director.”

The damaged pavement

The MIFF was to last another year but, instead of quality films, pornographic films were shown in an effort to gain a larger audience and, perhaps, to make up for the first festival’s financial losses. Later, in 1984, I would watch the premiere of Tikoy Aguiluz’ startling, controversial but highly-acclaimed first full-length film “Boatman” (Ang Bangkero), in its uncut version, at this very venue.  Peque Gallaga’s excellent and equally erotic thriller “Scorpio Nights” was also shown here. After the catastrophic, 7.7 magnitude July 16, 1990 earthquake that struck Manila and the rest of Luzon, the Film Center was abandoned due to it becoming unstable.

UniCellBio Clinic & Lab

Though now being reused (it also houses the UniCellBio Manila Clinic & Lab), the building still remains in a sorry state of disrepair, with broken glass panels and cracked, weed infested pavements, making the place incredibly spooky. In fact, there are stories of ghostly manifestations within the building that include apparitions; hearing of cries and moans; bleeding walls; and hands sticking out from under doors.  I would have liked to explore the condition of the building in more detail but it is now off limits to promenaders and joggers.  If only its 30-year old walls would talk, it would have a sinister and ghostly story to tell…..

Save the Manila Metropolitan Theater!!!

Just a day after my birthday, I joined my media friend Mr. Fernando “Rannie” Bernardo and Ms. Melissa Grace Dizon (La Consolacion College School of International Hospitality Management professor) in a group being assembled  by Mr. Lawrence “Rence” Chan (who hosts the Royal Postal Heritage Tour), of the Filipinas Stamp Collectors’ Club, that was to be part of a special documentary tour with the GMA 7 I-Witness team.  The documentary was to feature the sorry plight of the now-abandoned and unused Metropolitan Theater (fondly called “The Met”), for me a precious and stunning icon of the Filipinized Art Deco genre that needs to be preserved for other generations to see and appreciate.

The Manila Metropolitan Theater

Aside from Rence, Ronnie, Melissa  and I, our group also consisted of Ms. Ma. Fatima T. Flores (a B.S. Architecture student from FEU), Mr. Efren C. Taburnal, Jr.; Ms. Gemma Suguitan-San Jose (of the Southern Luzon Association of Museums); Ms. Maria Ronna Beltran (a blogger); Mr. Dong Despojo (Prima Camera Club); Mr. Noel Aguilera Acedillo (Prima Camera Club); Ms. Bettina Arriola (an art teacher) and Ms. Marian L. Barro (a U.P. Manila student).

Our documentary group

However, due to some miscommunication between GMA 7 and Rence, the scheduled tour did not push through.  Even worst, we were not allowed entry by the security guards.  Just the same, so as not to make this an exercise in futility, Rence proceeded to give us a moving documentary on the history of the Met. The theater, along the Pasig River and in front of the equally classic Manila Post Office, was designed, in  the Art Deco style (then a rage in the U.S.A.), by National Artist (for Architecture) Arch. Juan M. Arellano.

Inaugurated on December 10, 1931, it seats 1,670 (846 in the orchestra section, 116 in loge and 708 in balcony) and was the biggest in the Far East at that time. During its heyday as the “Grande Dame” of theaters, the Met played host to vaudeville acts, zarzuelas, operas, pageants, Filipino and Spanish plays, and performances by well-known artists such as violinist Maestro Jascha Hefertz and composer/conductor Dr. Herbert Zipper (who conducted the Manila Symphony Orchestra).

Severely damaged (losing some of its roofing and some walls destroyed) during the liberation of Manila in 1945, the theater was rebuilt, fell into decay in the 1960s (where it became an ice cream parlor, boxing arena, garage, motel and gay club) and was meticulously restored to its former glory by Arch. Otillo Arellano (Juan Arellano’s nephew) and former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos and rededicated on December 17, 1978.

However, it again fell into decay. Worst, a nondescript, 24-hour Park n’ Ride bus terminal and parking structure, with its accompanying itinerant vendors and equally unsightly food stalls, was built behind the theater by then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, compromising the theater’s once-privileged landscape.

Stained glass panels above main entrance
Detail of bas-relief curlicues

In 1996, it was closed due to a long-running financial dispute between the city government and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) over its ownership and management. On June 3, 2010, after extensive renovations (the main roof and 2 minor ones were repaired), it was again reopened by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim but again slowly deteriorated due to disuse, typhoons (Angela) and water infiltration.  Water and electricity has been cut off.  The main entrance is now home to the homeless vagabonds and its arcades are filled with garbage and stinks to the high heavens with urine.

Tiara-like pediment with minarets
The theater’s still exuberant and symmetrical exterior, with its tiara-like pediment with stylized minarets, has rectangular stained glass panels (by Kraut Art Glass of Germany), bas-reliefs with curlicues or mask-like chimeras; whimsical rope designs; friezes; colorful ceramic tiles; capiz shell main entrance lamps; intricate grille work at the doors and windows; and is also enhanced by sensuous, exotically-draped female statues, said to be Siamese dancers, done by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti (who lived in Manila from 1930 until his death in 1958). It used to house the Museum of Philippine Costumes and Dolls, a GSIS district office, an LBC branch and a travel agency.
 
Female statues done by Monti
Detail of column with capiz lamps
Theater arcade
Another statue by Monti
NHI plaque

Such a beautiful Art-Deco masterpiece deserves a much better fate and should not follow the demise of other gems such as the Manila Jai Alai Building and Meralco Building.

Manila Metropolitan Theater: Padre Burgos Ave., Liwasang Bonifacio (near LRT Central Terminal), Manila

Arroceros Forest Park: Manila’s “Last Lung”

I was slated to join a group being assembled  by Mr. Lawrence “Rence” Chan (who hosts the Royal Postal Heritage Tour) as part of a special documentary tour with the GMA 7 I-Witness team tasked to feature the sorry plight of the now-abandoned and unused Metropolitan Theater.  However, as I arrived very early, I decided to explore the nearby Arroceros Forest Park.

Arroceros Forest Park

Arroceros Forest Park

Located in the  middle of Manila, on the western bank of the Pasig River, beside the LRT Central Terminal Station and right beside the point where one end of the Quezon Bridge (formerly Puente Colgante) is situated, this small but valuable pocket of green is the only secondary forest left in the entirety of this noisy and polluted metropolis.

Quezon Bridge over the Pasig River

Quezon Bridge over the Pasig River

Upon entering its gate, I was literally transported to a different world as this 2.1428-hectare mini forest park was intended, by former Mayor Alfredo Lim, as a refuge of Manileños from the chaos and pollution of this rapidly urbanizing city.  In 1992, the city government purchased this abandoned riverside lot, for PhP60 million, from the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The park entrance

The park entrance

The park has a rich history, though, it being the site of a 16th and 17th century trading post where Filipino rice dealers in Pasig River engaged in barter with visiting Malay and Chinese traders.  The name arroceros was derived from the Spanish words meaning “rice dealer.”  Later, it became the site of the historic Fabrica de Tabacos. during the 19th century and, site of a military barrack (Estado Mayor) during the American era.

A man-made home for the birds

A man-made home for the birds

Though almost a half of its original area (and 70% of the trees) has been irretrievably lost to the concrete structure of the Manila Education Center of the Division of City Schools (another ill-conceived project, built in 2002, of former city mayor Lito Atienza), it still plays host to a diverse array of 8,000 ornamental plants (pink frangipani, palm fronds, etc.) as well as 10 kinds of city-dwelling avian wildlife (sparrows, bulbuls, etc.). Currently, the park is being maintained by Winners’ Foundation Inc. with the help of the Catholic Women’s Club.

The ill-conceived Manila Education Center

The ill-conceived Manila Education Center

To enhance the park’s visual appeal, some minimal landscaping was done, mostly in the form of walking paths, thus enabling visitors to walk within the park. The 61 varieties of trees in the park (labeled accordingly), which insulate the visitor from the noise, heat and pollution, include talisay trees (Terminalia catappa), acacia trees (Acacia confusa), narra trees (Pterocarpus indicus), mango trees, ficus rubber trees (Ficus elastica), mahogany trees (Swietenia mahogani) and Indian neem trees (Azadiratsa indica). Despite its diminished size, this accessible and calm oasis, the “last lung of Manila,” was still worth a visit.

Bridge over a pond

Bridge over a pond