Monday, August 31, 2015

TRAVEL | Liwaliw sa Liliw: Where everything closes at six

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The red-bricked St John the Baptist Church in Liliw, Laguna.

It was five in the afternoon already when we got out of the heavily vandalized but still impressive Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery and proceeded to the town of Liliw, also in Laguna province. No thanks to our laziness we found ourselves rushing once we found a parking spot, as darkness was just minutes away.

Liliw is a fourth class municipality that is probably best known for its slippers and shoe industry, a place relegated to but a quick stop to many an excursionist's itinerary. I may have intentionally sought out Liliw from the comforts of our little retreat at Sitio de Amor in San Pablo but it's a shame I only had about an hour to see the town before it got dark -- and everything closed.

Nonetheless, here's what I managed to check out in that very limited time.

Saint John the Baptist Church
With a striking red brick facade, the St John the Baptist Church of Liliw is a beautiful piece of baroque architecture, its old world charm only enhanced by moss and stray plant growth (though they also cause gradual damage to the building).

Unfortunately its beauty does not completely shine through because newer additions on the church grounds, particularly the string of white statues of different saints, mar the structure's otherwise glorious view. It's a shame, actually, and evidently it's another one of those church developments that haven't been thought through by their proponents.

Where it's a grotto with an image of Our Lady of Lourdes that I normally see on many church grounds, in Liliw's case it's a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that stands next to the belfry. On the floor and fence around it are slabs of concrete with hand and foot markings and nameplates, presumably of donors. Unfortunately -- again -- it wasn't properly thought of. There's supposed to be a nice mountain backdrop behind it but wasn't put to good use. And what's with the electrical wire dangling in front of Our Lady's face? And the cheap "Bawal maglaro dito" (Playing here is prohibited) sign?

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With all those white statues around, it's hard to get a good photo of the church in its entirety.

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Looking back at the entrance to the church grounds.

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A stained glass image of the Divine Mercy somewhere along the church's facade.

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Ugly dangling wire and tacky yellow sign ruin this sight.

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Donor, donor on the floor and wall.

Whatever's been happening elsewhere on the church grounds, it's a good thing nobody messed with the actual church's design. I wasn't able to take proper pictures of the church's interiors because a mass was ongoing but it's really beautiful here.

The main congregation area is a long rectangular space whose walls are a mix of stone and red bricks, and where two rows of chandeliers hang from the ceiling. There are three multi-level gilded altars housing nearly two dozen religious figures. Even from the door where I was standing, the altars evoke a sense of awe, in my case at least. Its old pulpit is also still gorgeously intact.

To the right of the main hall (when facing the altar) is the adoration chapel, while on the left is another chapel dedicated to San Buenaventura. This is also where believers light candles and offer prayers.

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I didn't risk stepping inside lest I burst into flames.

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Zooming in from the door, it's a really beautiful church, don't you think?

The footwear shops
The way I saw it, most of the shops selling locally made shoes, sandals, and slippers, are on Gat Tayaw Street. With just a few minutes to spare I wasn't able to find anything for me here, except for a pair of flip-flops. Kwittiegirl, however, scored a few bargains like slippers that go for 3 for Php 100. Never mind that the quality's not really good but 3 for Php 100? Talk about cheap thrills!

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One of the shops along Gat Tayaw Street.

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Badong, arguably Liliw's most popular footwear store. Those are all shoes hung on the wall, by the way.

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An image of Gat Tayaw outside Badong. The guy founded the town.

By the time we got to Badong it was already closed for the day. Yes, they -- along with every other store -- close at six. Maybe I'll have better luck with shoe shopping next time.

Giant footwear
It seems quite common for stores here to have a pair of giant slippers as decor, with which tourists delight themselves for photo ops. But it's not just the stores that have them, I realized.

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Waiting for the prince that never came. Poor Cinderella.

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A giant high-heeled shoe inside Liliw's municipal hall.

Old houses
It may not be like Pila (a town in Laguna known for heritage houses) but I was glad to have spotted a few old houses in Liliw. And it's great that they seem to be in very good condition even if some of them aren't exclusively residential abodes anymore. In some of these houses, the ground floors have been leased out as commercial spaces and are now either restaurants or pharmacies.

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Spotted this nice house that's partially occupied by a drugstore chain.

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Still in great condition, and I'm loving the paint job.

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The municipal hall. Okay, I'm not sure if this is an authentic old house or just patterned after one. Either way, I like it.

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Definitely not Hispanic but it's still a beautiful house. And since it looks like something from the 70s or early 80s, doesn't it qualify as old yet?

Dinner at Arabela
A really small place but with good Italian food. No wonder it's a hit with visitors. (You can check out my Arabela restaurant review to learn a bit more about this place.)

***********************************
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So long, Liliw.

It was already dark outside when we finished dinner. Everything was closed, even the ATM! Well at least 7-Eleven wasn't. I left Liliw with a resolve to come back and spare her a little bit more time next time, time she rightfully deserves.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 28Aug2015: Joggers with a fly

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Our little girl always wants to be part of the scene.

With t-shirts being de facto Friday wear at the office, the sight of someone in a buttoned shirt comes as a surprise to many. In my case colleagues were wondering why I was, in their own words, "so formal," at least until they noticed that I was wearing joggers and sneakers.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

DINING | The popular Arabela Italian Restaurant in Liliw, Laguna

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Already closed for the day and waiting for the last few diners to finish.

Arabela seems to be the top of mind choice for dining in Liliw, Laguna -- at least among visitors to this small town that's probably best known for its shoe and slippers industry. Sometime last month we had the chance of going to Liliw, however rushed, and predictably picked Arabela for dinner.

Here's a brief rundown of our experience.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 20Aug2015: Dressed up for 'Buwan ng Wika'

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Duck face: check!

No, it's not Christmas and that is not a Christmas tree behind me. I mean, yes, it's a Christmas tree but my crazy colleagues and I have since put all sorts of stuff on it and playfully christened it the "Tree for all Seasons." I think I should post something about it one time, if only to show you our brand of insanity. Now anyway, the tree right now is decked up for Buwan ng Wika (Language Month, particularly for the Philippine national language).

Meanwhile at work, we at our department have decided to dedicate a whole day where we're all garbed in traditional Filipino costumes. I see kids at school and their teachers do it, some even once for each week of August. Now why would school children have all the fun? Because of the absurdity of the idea, however, we put a little twist to it, which was to incorporate traditional pieces into our typical Friday wear so everyone would at least feel some level of comfort. Yes, it's a Thursday but since it's the last working day of the week, thanks to a holiday, then by an unwritten company rule it becomes a Friday.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

ART | Ignore the Noise: A testament to Dino Gabito's genius

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Signature Gabito. One of the pieces on display at Ignore the Noise.

It was a painting at furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue's showroom at Hive, one of a shrouded figure set against a black backdrop and that seemed to jump out of the frame. The figure was unmistakably human, kneeling, head bowed and with one hand clutching his chest, like he was defeated, devastated or something. There was a certain creepiness to it that spoke to me, appealed to me. It was hauntingly beautiful and I was completely mesmerized.

I would later learn that the painting was the work of a young artist named Dino Gabito, and that he had just held his first solo show on the same month I saw his painting at Hive. It drove me nuts that his show, which was aptly called Shroud Ides of March, featured several more such paintings of shrouded figures, more so when I found out all his pieces were sold out -- and that there is a long wait list for his works.

Seventeen months later Gabito is now holding his second solo exhibit dubbed Ignore the Noise at ArtistSpace at Ayala Museum. It opened last Friday, August 14, and we were fortunate enough to be invited.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 13Aug2015: The lazy look

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Traffic's building up outside as everybody else is making his way home while I... just look on.

A lot of office people probably are at their most "formal" on Mondays, gradually relaxing a bit each day until the run-up to Friday. Not that I did the formal to casual route this week but I was simply in a very relaxed mood today outfit-wise.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 04Aug2015: Shut up and dress up

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Sorry, I had to crop you out, guys.

Last week we played a little dress-up at the office with our team. Our work environment isn't really known for strict corporate-style dressing and people normally go with comfort that's unfortunately beset by a dire lack of imagination. So a colleague brokered the idea of dressing up as a team, where the ladies must wear a dress and the guys must put on a tie, maybe even a coat. I don't know but the last time I tried bringing back the tie was in February, and I haven't worn one since.

For some inexplicable reason -- and quite surprisingly -- everyone agreed to it, including treating the whole team to coffee and pastries in case of non-compliance. I guess people secretly wanted to dress up after all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

DINING | Faustina's Los Baños: Tiny place that packs a punch

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Outdoor seating at Faustina's in Los Baños.

I nearly forgot about this already until I browsed through some photos. A lot of you may have already known about Faustina's in Los Baños, Laguna but allow me to share our restaurant experience nonetheless.

Design and ambiance
At first I thought Faustina's was another one of those restaurants serving Filipino dishes, that it's this big, popular place with a traditional Pinoy ambiance. After driving through side street after side street per Google Maps's instructions, we finally made it in front of a white, contemporary low-rise building. And there was none of that typical native styling I cluelessly expected.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

TRAVEL | The haunting but nearly wasted beauty of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

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Remnants of a once glorious past.

Forgive me for the rather depressing title but that's exactly how I would sum up my impression of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan, Laguna. It was my first time to visit. (I know, shame on me considering it's not really that much of a drive from Metro Manila.)

But at least I finally made that trip. We were comfortably holed up at Sitio de Amor in San Pablo at the time but managed to force our butts out of bed and drove to Nagcarlan and later, Liliw. Nagcarlan is a 45-minute or so leisurely drive from San Pablo and you'll reach the cemetery before hitting the town proper. It's on the left side of the road right across a Shell gas station.

Declared a National Historical Landmark in the 1970s, the cemetery dates back to Spanish colonial times and is regarded as the only underground cemetery in the country. Following the declaration, no more burials were allowed in the cemetery; the last one was in the early 80s. It is currently under the supervision of the National Historical Commission.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

TRAVEL | Nobu Hotel City of Dreams Manila

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Stylized backlit mural clearly exhibits the Japanese aesthetic of Nobu Hotel Manila.

Sometime last June we got to spend a night at the fairly new Nobu Hotel at City of Dreams Manila. Only less than 3 months since it formally opened, it holds the distinction of being the first Nobu Hotel in Asia (Hooray for the 3rd world!). Coupled with the Robert de Niro association, my expectations were of course high.

Here's a rundown of our experience.
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