Celebrate Tacloban 2012!

Tacloban is in festive mood. A week before Tacloban Day on June 30, the city’s event spots are jampacked with activities and people.

I am not quite sure how should I call the celebration as I’ve heared Sangyaw, Kasadyaan, Parayawan, Pintados. I think it is safe to say “pista sa Tacloban”. Locals here call fiesta as “patron”. So while Cebuano says “mamista” they will say “mamatron”.

If one ask if I am talking about a religious or government activity – I would say, I don’t know. Political faces and lining up with images of Sto. Nino.

While we must enjoy and celebrate with these cultural and political activities, let us not forget that it all start with religion. The Holy Child should be at the centerpiece. Among the religious activity are the Balyu-an Rites and the Fluvial Procession. For Cebuano like me, this sounded like Sinulog. But unlike Sinulog, there is too much politics here.

My sangkay (friends) here told me that Pintados is a Leyte Province festival, while Sangyaw is Tacloban City’s pet activity.

Last year (2011), when I still have not even considered Tacloban as my next ‘to-visit’ place, national media carried news about Pintados street parade that was blocked (read as not allowed) in City streets. This year, Pintados men decided not contain their activities in Leyte High School Grandstand.

One must understand the status of politics between Leyte Province and Tacloban City to understand the situation. And also, one must know that Tacloban City is now independent from Leyte Province. If not with sour relationship among provincial and city officials, the June celebation must be very meaningful. While the it’s undeniably festive, the month-long celebration become meaningless. It looks like politician’s grandstanding.

Politicians here take all the opportunities to show-off. In Balyu-an for example, gigantic tarpulin show the faces of the City mayor and his wife. In RTR Plaza (also named as Pintados – Kasadyaan Plaza), the faces of province officials are at the stage making it appear like there is meeting de avance rather than a festival. For those who have not known, province men hold their activities there as they own RTR Plaza.

Even the holy Sto. Nino church is not spared. Faces of politicians are hung at its wall like telco’s unlimited call and text ads. Are they selling their faces?

I think yes because even during Holy Week, at the Calvary Hill, the faces of a party list representative who reportedly aspire to become Tacloban City mayor are at big tarps and tent.

I see nothing wrong with elected officials greeting “happy fiesta” but when it is clear even to 14-year old that their intention is to get more votes to the upcoming election, the tarpulin with their faces and greetings become a shit.

Let’s not spoil our day with politics though. As this is my first time to witness how the people here celebrate, I would rather enjoy and anticipate joy!

I went to Astrodome (they call it Astro) to see the rides at the Carnival in Astro grounds. I may try some of the rides before it closes on July 7.

For several occasions, my sangkay and I spend some time in Balyu-an where there is Parayawan (practically means celebration). There is live band every night and of course beer because the whole area is San Miguel Beer’s Teritoryo. I have to mention the grilled foods too! I must also mention that it’s city’s pet because of the faces of Tacloban City’s politicians that are displayed there. Besides the hosts of the activities there never fail and keep on mentioning names of such politicians. I am drowned with politics here, I told one of my friends in Mindanao.

In RTR, the activities are quite boring and the hosts sucks. Yikes! They are even aired on TV. RTR activities are province-pet so I wonder why Leyte Province don’t get better hosts for their activities. But setting them aside, we surely enjoy with beer and food there, too!

Unless I have thousands of pesos ready to be disposed and I don’t work the whole week, I cannot join or witness 80% of the events and activities.

Perhaps, the most worthy to mention is the Parade of Lights on June 29.

If we could remember how our senators explain the impeachmet trial of CJ Corona, I would also say the the celebration here in Tacloban is quasi-religious, quasi-political.

Let’s celebrate Tacloban!

Tacloban City: More than 4,000 Homeless in Sagkahan

It should have been an ordinary Sunday. But it was a tragic day for the people in Barangay 60, 60-A and 61 in Sagkahan, Tacloban City when a big fire left more than four thousand homeless according to reports.

When I heard the news, my sangkay (close friend) and I prepared to see the area and these were  (see images below) what we saw.

Fathers, brothers, and even children like the three children below tried to salvage anything that can be sold or can be used.

Many people came to see the site even there are still remaining burning pieces. I believe the authorities had done investigations – the reason why people are allowed to inspect the site.

People also started to cordon small areas – most likely the site where their houses used to stand – a hint that they will soon rebuild their homes.

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Must see in Tacloban

Many things to see, many people to meet, a rich and unique culture to assimilate!

I shouted this out in private when I arrived in Tacloban City and began breathing its still clean air. Tacloban, now categorized as highly urbanized city, still has the look and feel of a component city. Except in some isolated areas, the city is generally clean.

At first, Tacloban looked like just other cities in the Philippines I have visited. Life is not as complicated like those in metropolitan areas. Later, I began to see and feel what makes Tacloban different from other cities.

The downtown buildings looked like those in Manalili – Colon area in Cebu City. The building designs speak of its age. Tricycles are jamming the downtown thoroughfares, and people are crowding in “pirated” alleys to get the best pirated copies of movies. I think presidential adviser for political affairs Ronald Llamas would be safe to buy pirated stuff here because no one may recognize him.

Just like other cities, people are not segregating garbage and just throw bags-full of rubbish of any kind along streets. Thanks God, garbage collectors never fail to get the rubbish. And just like other cities, people in Tacloban have “a little” water problem. And politics is not a good as others, too!

I have not judged Tacloban based on those things. I only saw a little and I need to see and experience a little more.

On my second week here, a trainee from Cebu arrived. It was good for me to have a Cebuano fellow who equally love discovering people, culture, and places.

While having coffee talk at Robinson’s Mall, an idea popped up. Then we decided to rent a car and stroll around. Our priorities was to go to “must see” in Tacloban and nearby places.

McArthur Monument (Leyte Landing Memorial) in Palo, Leyte

Palo, according to a new friend has very good Tuba (coconut wine) but what makes it famous was the landing of Gen. Douglas McArthur during liberation in World War II. McArthur Monument’s backdrop is the equally famous Leyte Gulf, the setting of one of the largest naval battle in modern war history.

How I wish I could talk to the waters that race from Leyte Gulf to kiss the breakwater at McArthur Monument. I would ask the water how it feels to become part of history.

Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum

I had no idea what Sto. Nino Shrine was except that our driver who also served as our tour guide told us that Sto. Nino Shrine is tourist destination in Tacloban.

As we paid the entrance fee, I thought it was a religious museum as the entrance is facing the elegant chapel.

But I have not seen many religious relics. I saw, instead, political past and the elegance and extravagance of the 20-year rule.

Sto. Nino Shrine is one of the many structures conceptualized and built by former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

TaclobanBoard.com told readers:

The Museum consists of 13 rooms, each housing different objects and relics, arranged according to certain themes. There are also several precious art paintings, ranging from religious images, depictions about Filipino mythology and classical pieces by Fernando Amorsolo.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the paintings of Amorsolo but I saw one by Malang.

I learned later, after reading books about Imelda Marcos by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa,  a small house of Imelda and her family used to stand in the same place where Sto. Nino shrine now stands. I think Sto. Nino Shrine was built to erase some remarkable memory of Imelda’s past.

Price Mansion

The Price (Walter Scott Price) mansion now houses some offices and used to be the CAP office. One must not expect the mansion to be as beautiful and elegant as Boracay mansion of former President Joseph Estrada or as modern-looking as the mansions of Ampatuans. Price looks old and stressed. Creepy, I told my companion.

But for one who has the eye and heart for history, Price Mansion is such a beautiful place even if it looked like being abandoned by its loyal servants. The mansion took an important part in history having become Mc Arthur’s shelter during his stay in Tacloban.

McArthur’s room is rich in war memorabilia. I have seen disturbing and inspiring was images and war documents as well. I promised to get back to the place to have better view of World War II.

San Juanico Bridge (Marcos Bridge)

A college friend once told that “the longer, the bigger, the better” and when we talk about things the question should always be “is it big?”; “is it long?”. If yes, then the thing becomes “must see” and “must feel”.

Perhaps the length of San Juanico Bridge makes it famous or perhaps because it is Marcos’ bridge of love.

Whatever the reasons of people, my reason is simple. I just want to see it and cross it (to give me the feeling of a conqueror).

San Juanico Bridge was our last point in our 4-hour tour. We had not stopped ourselves from getting out of the car at middle of the bridge and took pictures (using mobile phone) even it rained that time.

My adoration was not with the bridge. I was falling in love with the strait where the bridge crosses – the San Juanico Strait!

After crossing the bridge, we went our way towards Tacloban City.

Tacloban’s Attraction

There are others we missed but I have visited few days later like Balyuan. I learned that there used to have watch tower in the place. Now, a beautiful Balyuan Ampitheater stands in the place.

Recently, I learned that there is an issue on ownership of the called as Balyuan Property, a 24 hectare property where the Tacloban City Hall stands, the Balyuan Ampitheater and many other city offices. The property is claimed by Province of Leyte. I am uncertain on the future of Balyuan.

Another places to visit are Family Park, Leyte Park, and Sto. Nino Church.

There are many other places to go. Tacloban has fine restaurants, good hotel, and hospitable people.

Perhaps the best place to visit is the home or ordinary family in Tacloban. From that home, we learn much about this city.

Dine out or Take in?

Take out or dine in? This commonly heard line is often unnoticed. Except when the one who say it is extraordinarily attractive, I would not bother to answer verbally. Most often, my   non-verbal actions are enough.

I was not in a popular fast food chain so I expect less. But the lady who serves food at a small carenderia near Gomez Street (Tacloban City) had high regards to carenderia eater like me and treat us as if we’re in a customer-focused fast food chain.

Without saying a word, I “told” her my order. She looked at me as if asking why I was not saying a word then said, “take out”?

Still without saying a word, I “told” no. She paused a moment then loudly said, “ah, take in”

Wonderful! The lady makes me smile.

To sail through San Juanico Strait

San Juanico Strait must have been created with divine creativity.

I saw few images of the strait from books but I hadn’t thought that I would be mesmerized when I see it myself.

Until now, I haven’t touched it but it is enough for me that I have seen its beauty closely one time when I (with a Cebuano friend Roy) crossed San Juanico Bridge for the first time.

Just for today, it is enough that I could feel serenity while looking at the calmness of its water. It is so beautiful when viewed from Calvary Hill in Barangay 39 (Tacloban City).

I would reserve the day when, for the first time I would sail and touch its waters.

Almost everyone in the country must have heart San Juanico Strait as it made famous by late President Ferdinand and first lady Imelda Marcos when made the bridge of love into reality. It’s the San Juanico Bridge as it is known today.

San Juanico strait is a narrow strip of blue and calm water that separates the beautifully and divinely sculptured mountains of Samar and Leyte.

I never rest my curiosity. Deep within I have an ambitious desire to sail through San Juanico Strait. I am not a sailor but I could be one when I am given divine chance.

It’s a curious thing that I asked the world of magic to transform me into a small boat, so I can sail San Juanico. But not even my dawn dreams would give in.

It’s a curious thing that I become so obsessed with a body of water when I am afraid of the deep. Have I gone there before (in my past life)? And if I have life after this life, would I get obsessed with it still?

I know someone, someday would come and sail with me through San Juanico Strait.

Tacloban valituskouro

I flooded my friends’ inbox with my complaints – at least during my first three-weeks stay in Tacloban. Thanks to my good lord, none of them complained that I complain too much!

Now that I feel comfortable in the city, I started to realize how funny and petty my complaints were.

I am not the only one who complained in Tacloban. Folks have their own bagfull of complaints. I overheard complaints about city’s water, garbage, and arrogant tricycle drivers. My acquaintance here was ranting about the entrance to department store inside Gaisano. Entrance there should have been at the right just like the store’s main entrance. His problem – he always exit at the entrance! Funny man!

Radio stations inherently host people’s complaints. And barbershops,too. Complaints are like non-stop music – about politicians, about husbands, about neighbors, about internet connection, name it!

Just imagine the world if all of us complain about anything and everything. I have read how the Finnish couple tried to help so that the world hear common complaints. They help organized complaints choir worldwide! Valituskuoro” means “Complaints Choir” in Finland. I am not sure if there is complaints choir in the Philippines. If none, I hope it would start in Tacloban.

You should not blame me for having many complaints. Look, wouldn’t you complain if your room mate would fart like machine gun at the time when you’re dozing and dreaming? Who wouldn’t complain if people laugh because you did not understood “bunay” (a Waray word for egg)?

There are still many things to complain: beautiful girls have boyfriend; smart ladies are married; et ecetera, et cetera.

My friends, Dennis and Agnes, did not get tired reading my complaints. Now, I am giving them a break. No complaints this time. I just send to them my observations.

I admire Dennis and well as my friend Ringo. I seldom hear their complaints. Maybe they just don’t articulate it or maybe they have broad understanding and don’t find little things worthy to be complained about.

How about you? What are your complaints?

Crucifixion of an Unknown Man

On my way to Calvary Hill in Barangay 39, at Rizal avenue, a curiously noisy crowd was coming. I saw group of men hurting themselves. There is a term for this one but I cannot recall it.

One man wearing white was carrying a big cross. I think it was very heavy to carry. But he looked holier than the rest who were wearing red.

It looks like a dramatization of what happened more than 2,000 years ago.

Later (after I was through at Calvary Hill), I went to Magallanes street because I learned from a tricycle driver that the man wearing white would be nailed to the cross.

As expected, there were already many spectators when I arrived at a corner in Magallanes Street (Tacloban City). There were television cameras, and a lot of people were getting pictures of the white clad man now nailed in the cross. His head was crowned with “Panyawan” not thorns.

The man became an instant celebrity. I did not know what he was up to but he did was extraordinary.

I thought his hands and feet were bleeding but it was not. I asked if the nails were real and yes, they were. The unknown man (I did not bother to ask who he was), looked very tired. His expressionless face was intriguing. What he was up to, why he is doing such difficult task. I learned that it was not the first time this man submitted himself to crucifixion. Why and why were the questions I kept to myself. Maybe soon, I could talk to this man.

Crucifixion during ancient times was a “deliberately painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead” (see Crucifixion at Wikipedia). The most famous person ever crucified was Jesus Christ. But the unknown man I am talking about could be also famous. Media for sure would carry this story.

After few minutes, the nails were pulled off. The man then walked away from the cross.

Curios kids and grown-ups gathered to check if he was alright.

On his way home, his left foot was bleeding. People gathered around his to see and to take pictures of the bleeding foot. One man tried to stop the bleeding. I was just watching nearby.

I walked away, still unable to reconcile why this thing must happen. Maybe soon, I could talk to him and learn from him. Who knows?

Calvary Hill at Brgy. 39

Friday. I went to Calvary Hill in Barangay 39, Tacloban City.


Entrance to Calvary Hill

Please see the pictures in the gallery. I will write more about this later.

An Ciudad han Tacloban

When I hear Tacloban, there are two persons that come into my mind; the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Gen. Douglas Mc Arthur. Little did I know that there are hundreds and thousands of people whom I should know to appreciate how Tacloban becomes as it is today.

It was late in the evening when I arrived in Tacloban. For me, the city was just an ordinary Philippine city – nothing special. In the morning the following day I began to say “good”, “nice”, and “okay”. I was beginning to explore Tacloban.

After few days of peaceful life in the city, I was beginning to appreciate the kindness of its people and the beauty of the city. Perhaps the serenity of this highly urbanized city made me feel comfortable.

An Ciudad han Tacloban (means the city of Tacloban) blog is the least thing I can contribute to the city that take good care of me.

There are still many things to see, many things to discover and many people to know.