Category Archives: Muntinglupa

To España (via Philippine National Railroad!)

In Alabang, PNR staffers told passengers that they could only accommodate those who bought tickets from an earlier time. The rest would have to wait  for two hours for the next ride. Yes, not efficient but if you don’t have any options you’d be happy to wait. Well,  air conditioned Metropolis Alabang is nearby so those passengers can go inside and idle their time away.

No not madre españa but that frequently flooded area named after the Iberian motherland.

The journey felt like an attraction ride. It ran steady at 20 kilometers per hour as it wildly swayed from side to side. Not to disparage efforts our government is taking to modernize our train network but like its current speed—it’s too slow.

To this my mother said, “mas mabuti na yan kaysa wala”.

But let me point out that even in its current condition PNR benefits many of our countrymen. The trip from Alabang to España was under an hour. That’s faster than taking any other public transportation today.

During the ride, I stroke up a conversation with a farmer from Tanauan. An OFW from Saudi who decided to come home to farm. He was headed to Pasay to buy pesticides. He dreams that our trains would one day connect his beloved Tanauan, hometown of the hero Mabini, to Manila.

“Pare, maybe not in our lifetime, but who knows?” I told him.

I went to a public elementary school in Makati where many of my classmates lived “home along da riles”. Our school was near the Buendia Station. Our teachers would pause from teaching as trains blasts their thunderous horns.

We played in and around the railroad. I noticed how scant and unkempt my friends houses were. They were illegal settlers along the railroad. Their shanties stood in stilts with the canal below serving as sewage. But what made an impression on me was how happy they were even living in that condition.

Rail work begun in 1887 under British direction. The asset was transferred completely to the Philippine government during the American administration. Since then it went through its phases of development.

Our PNR stations these days are devoid of the former elegance and grace it once had. We never had grand and wide stations like those in old Europe but they were lovely. They look pretty and there are a few of them left, like Paco and San Fernando (Pam.), though slowly crumbling to their deaths, scattered along our old riles.

Our trains had its good days. The line north referred to “Sugar road” while the south transports “Sugar, forest products and petroleum.”

History teachers tells us of Rizal’s letter praising the women of Malolos. Well, he visited the town via our railroad. He then proceeded to see friends as far as San Fernando. This was a century ago. The crumbling stations along the north has been waiting for the trains return.

When? that depends on how determined our government wants to put us right back on track (there’s the pun).

Recent developments under Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” vision looks promising. It comes as one of the bigger items in the infrastructure build up. The railway sector get a big pie with 1 trillion pesos (this budget includes the MRT).

The north would be extended all the way to Malolos (from Tutuban). Then another 55 kilometer railway reaching Clark in Pampanga. So you can alight from Clark airport and go straight to Manila.

To the South, from Tutuban the railway would run once more and reach Los Banos. I’ve been dreaming of riding an overnighter train to Bicol since I was a little boy. I wonder when would I finally get to ride one—I’m almost 40 now!

While I was on vacation a few years ago when visited Quezon province I saw the old railroad cut through an intensely green rice paddy (if memory serves me right I was in Unisan). Imagine if you were on a comfortable train ride going down south and you wake up seeing something like that?

Aside from moving goods and people, there’s tourism money for the PNR and towns it serves. A reliable and working train network is good for local economies too. One of my favorite travel show is “Japan Hour,” it is basically people riding trains to visit towns in the province.

The plan to establish a train running near the Laguna De Ba’y was drawn during the American occupation. Another plan that would have benefited us if it were carried out (much like the Burnham plan for Manila) to its conclusion. Due to massive population growth in recent years all you see today are houses.

Experts say that trains would contribute in dispersing the population out of Manila. It improves local economies. People would build their homes outside Manila if there’s an efficient public transport. This is something we haven’t realized yet because we have a failed rail system.

How we ended up with a mismanaged railway system? We all know the answer to that. The same answer why we ended up with poor infrastructure all over our islands.

I now live here in Singapore where the slightest delays in train arrivals makes the evening news—and theirs I feel is one of the best in Asia. They demand the highest standards from the people that runs their train system. I imagine having the same trains going in and out of our cities, taking us to our provinces, north and south, to see relatives and spend fiesta holidays.

Sana lang we get to see it in our lifetime. Sana.

 

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Meet up with Dr. Legarda

 

I had a senior moment a few days ago. I accidentally deleted the original post “Meeting Dr. Legarda” (December 2017). I tried googling caches of the blog online hoping that there’s a copy out there somewhere to no avail. And so, I’m starting from scratch.

 

I wanted to ask Dr. Benito Legarda Jr. a few questions and have my books signed (a personal favorite is his compiled writings “Occupation: the Later Years”). I’ve enjoyed and learned so much from his work over the years. So I messaged (on FB) him last year, sometime November. To my surprise, the nonagenarian responded! He told me to let his secretary, Ms. Fe, know when I plan to visit. I first met Dr. Legarda in person in a seminar at the Instituto Cervantes a few years ago.

I started reading Dr. Legarda’s articles and books in college (1996). I was not really into WWII history then but I heard stories about it all my life. One consistent storyteller in our home was our father. He imparted to us unforgettable stories of life, death and struggle in wartime Negros. My father passed away last August. He was 10 years old when the war came to our shores. I told Dr. Legarda that reading his stories now brings memories of my late Father. His stories echoes Papa’s memories of the war in his  home province of Negros Occidental.

Another person who shared memorable wartime stories with us was the late Doña Amparo (affectionately called Mommy in Calle Bagtican). I refer to her as my “adopted grandma” not because she took care of me (although she sometimes did) but because she was really the first person who introduced me to culture and arts. She placed my feet on the door of lifelong quest for education on Filipino history. Doña Amaparo came from an affluent family. The last American director of Iwahig was her dad. They used to own parts of Cartimar and where Pasay Chung Hua now stands. One story that I’ll never forget (this was also shared by one of her granddaughter during her eulogy) was when she was placed inside a bangâ (but I believe it must have been a tapáyan because this had a wider opening and a wider base) when the Japanese inspected their home in Pasay. She was so slender and small that she not only fitted inside the earthen jar but stayed there for at least an hour until the Japanese left!

—-

After signing my books I posed a few questions to Dr. Legarda. He had some allergy that afternoon so I decided not to stay long. The first question was how he feels that WWII history is not a popular subject among our youth. He said “prominent families collaborated with the Japanese then… many of them still in power today.” He cited former President Noynoy Aquino whose grandfather, Benigno Aquino Sr., was director general of the local political party the Japanese created.

Dr. Legarda’s observation made sense. How can a President like Aquino recount and promote the heroism of his people during the war when his very family colluded with the enemy who had Filipinos killed by hundreds of thousands?

The late Dr. Andrade said that he had reasons to believe that many of the collaborators families still received benefits to this day. The Japanese are known for their commitment to their word. Gen. Ricarte’s children received allowances and scholarship in Japan long after his death in the highlands of Luzon.

My next question was if he heard of Japanese running other towns with kinder hands. “Yes, but they were certainly not here in Manila.” He then shared statistics of deaths in Manila. We went on to talk about Ambassador Rocha who survived the Liberation of Manila when he was only 7. The good Ambassador made it his advocacy to promote the remembrance and study of the events that transpired during the war. Dr. Legarda wrote an informative tribute to the Ambassador when he passed two years ago.

My family’s experience, on my Dad’s side, must have been an exemption. They were treated fairly by the Japanese. But this came with a heavy price. When the Japanese left San Carlos (Negros), they were hunted by Guerrillas. They were excessively brutal my Father said. So cruel that they buried a grand uncle alive!

Before heading out, I thanked Dr. Legarda and told him that “I can’t tell my father’s wartime stories to my son, it’s impossible. But thanks to your books, I don’t have to.” He smiled and said, “it will, they’re good substitutes.”


#AngLarawan: not a film review

We Filipinos complain about the sad state of our film industry. But when a good local film comes out it doesn’t get the support it deserves.

Ang Larawan, adapted from Joaquin’s Portrait of an Artist as a Filipino (1952) is as good as it gets.

A friend remarked, “sadyang mababaw daw tayong mga Filipino.”

I don’t agree—I’ve seen artsy foreign films get noticed by moviegoers and receive rave reviews from local film critics.

Perhaps a more acceptable explanation is this:

We lack the education and exposure to Filipino art and history. We limit our children with what television offers (and lately, social media). We bring them to malls and beaches, rarely to museums, plays and art classes.

It is time that we read Filipino literature to our children. Many of our great writers remains unread.

 

Déjà vu!

The late director and National Artist Lamberto Avellano’s adaption (A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino 1965) was snubbed as well when it came out in . It closed after 5 days because of poor attendance. It starred his wife, Daisy H. Avellana as Candida. Like her husband, she’a a National Artist awardee.

Joaquin’s classic first appeared in Weekly Womens Magazine. Before it was adapted to film, the play was popular among theater viewers. It run for 160 shows which is considered the longest in Filipino theatre history.

Avellana was said to have approached Atty. Manuel “Manny” De Leon for support. The LVN boss was curious if Manila would see it—if there was such “intelligentsia” that would see the film. He produced it but they would be disappointed—the film flopped.

Ang Larawan Comeback

I intended to watch the film in SM Muntinlupa. It was pulled from their cinema the day I was about to see it.

The film critics and awards it garnered has put winds on its sails. Now cinemas started showing the film once more (after being pulled out in many movie houses during its first week). I saw in TV Patrol the other day that people has started buying tickets—bravo!

Thoughts on Joaquin

Guillermo Gomez Rivera, who used to play Don Perico (in one performance, a boozed up Joaquin howled and cheered from the audience), told me that the entire play is Joaquin’s interpretation of what happened to identity as people—we had a truncated culture.

“That was the termination of something beautiful (our culture and identity)… we perhaps would never see it again,” Gomez told me. Paula, Candida and the Father, the maestro, died defiant against a fast changing world.

Contra mundum! 

One of my biggest regret was not meeting Joaquin. I would love to pick his mind (but he’s not into interviews I was told). Filipina writer based in Chile, Elizabeth Medina, told me that she once requested for an audience with Joaquin.

“Too bad Nick Joaquin didn’t “pescarme” (hindi ako pinansin) when I called him in Manila in 1997. He didn’t realize, that’s all that I was asking him, to mentor me, that I was genuine. But then it means that he was not meant to be my mentor,” She said.

Seeing Joaquin’s work articulated visually by artists and even students today is personally gratifying. I’ve been a fan for so long that it feels good to see his following grow in number (among my generation and the so called “milleneals”).

My only other wish is that Filipinos dig deeper, contemplate on the message Joaquin conveys through his stories and characters. He is to me, the conduit to our glorious past forgotten.


Pinoy style toponymy

A young local politician told me that the origin of Alabang is the word abang (tagalog for “to wait”). Bandits during the Spanish era use to ambush unsuspecting people he said.

Legends are more appealing than real history. The small Rio Alban (the one in Festival Mall) gave her name to Alabang. Boring story, I know, the legend’s more catchy.

Three years ago, I blogged about the origin of Muntinlupa’s barrio names. Many were surprised that all had botanical word origins.

Most stories about how places got its name are fabulated. They’re mostly “alamat” (legends) but Filipinos takes them as facts.

Pre-colonial Singapore were populated by Malays that had the same practice. They had a profound admiration towards nature and named places to honor it.

The names of the two towns I call home here, Punngol and Tampines, had natural and botanic origins.

Two years ago, we moved to Tampines township. Its name came from the tree “tempinis”. An ironwood variety, like the rare hard Philippine mangkono.

Punggol town got its name from an old Malay word. It was a method of gathering fruits from trees by hurling clubs. Our ancestors adapted the word in tagalog, “pukol”, which generally means “to throw”.

You see, the intangible historical links are there, we only need to pay attention.

Some other places Malays named after plants here are: the heritage district of Kampong Glam, after the tree Gelam. Kranji (I wrote about its WWII site here) from the keranji tree. Sembawang, Katong and many others.

The popular Filipino hangout place, Orchard Road, got its name from trees that used to lined it. What kind of tree? according to local historians, nutmeg. Not far from Orchard there’s a street called Nutmeg.

In the Philippines we call nutmeg as tanghas or duguan (from the red flesh the covers the seeds). The seed is dried up and grounded. It is used as spice and skin medicine.

I grew up in a street called Bagtican (white lauan). I knew even as a child that it’s a tree but never saw one until 9 years ago in Los Baños. It’s a threatened tree because of market demand.

Why knowing the real story behind places names is important?

Well, for one it dispels ludicrous myths that people ends up believing—and studying toponymy (ah, the scientific and fancy name of the study of places names) is a gateway to history.

Try researching where your place got its name and you’ll go into a history rabbit hole!


Japanese Memorial Garden in Muntinlupa and other WWII stories

My brother trying to read some of the Japanese letters engraved in stone. We visited the Japanese Garden in Muntinlupa last April.

I took my brother to Muntinlupa’s Japanese memorial two months ago. Like many locals he has never heard of it.I have written a couple of blogs (here, here) about this solemn garden. I thought he’d like it because of his familiarity with Japanese history.

He recalls his wife’s story about Hiroshima. How her ancestors suffered after the atomic bombing. As is often the case, innocent men, women and children were the biggest casualties. Its status as a minor city actually contributed to it getting picked by the US. Destroying Tokyo would cripple the country for a longer period.

In the book, “The Untold History of the United States,” Filmmaker Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuzniak proposed that the atomic bomb was no longer necessary. The two suggests that the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a warning to other expanding nations. The message was clear—America intends to dominate the post-world war.

Isn’t it an irony that the most active nation in stopping other nations from developing nuclear technology is the only country that has used it to destroy two cities?

* * *

The Japanese occupation reminds me of my parent’s horrific wartime stories. Experiences made my father swore never to return to San Carlos in Negros Occidental again.

One particular ghastly memory of Papa was watching his uncle being buried alive in broad day light. He said his uncle never begged for his life but asked to be shot—the guerillas refused to do so. These criminals were never punished after the war. My father recalls his chance encounter with one of them in the 70’s. He literally bumped into one of them while crossing Cubao!

My father lost his mother and a younger brother too. Lola got sick while they were hiding near Kanlaon. When she died they made a shallow grave intending to give her a proper burial after the war. When they returned the forest had reclaimed everything. They spent days trying to locate the grave. They never found her.

* * *

The indefatigable writer Sionil Jose believes that the Japanese deserved what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My brother, a US military man, believes it was a mistake. When I told him that some historians believes that Japan was far from surrendering he said “with all the force and leadership they had then it was just a matter of time”.

I recall a story from the archivist Ernie de Pedro of Japanese soldiers planting rice in Ilocos. Men who volunteered for the job asking only for some food and water. He believes that these men were most likely farmers. Planting and harvesting must have brought them some sense of normalcy as it recreated their former lives.

Not many people know that the Pedro Diaz school in Muntinlupa (which made news recently because it sits on top if a fault line) was name after a community leader that was executed by the Japanese. The Japanese memorial in Bilibid was said to have been where the last hold outs were captured.

Not far from where I live now is Punggol beach. The Japanese killed Chinese men they suspected of collaborating with their enemies in its shores. There’s a marker there that reads “On 23 February 1942, some 300-400 Chinese civilians were killed along Punggol foreshore by Hojo Kempei firing squad. They were among tens of thousands who lost their lives during the Japanese Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians…”

* * *

Now, going back to the Japanese garden. I was delighted to find it improved. It now have comfort rooms. The shrine, with all those colorful linked paper cranes, was striking in its serenity and symbolism. The Japanese dedication in honoring their war dead is something to be admired.

Let’s all wish this amiable fella the best of luck. I believe he’s five years away from being released from imprisonment. He probably lost that front teeth from rioting inside. Nah, he seems like a nice fellah really.

We run into one of the guys that maintains the garden. He was welcoming and assisted us during our visit. These guys are “living out” inmates tasked to look after certain area around Bilibid. They can freely go out of their cells. I gave him a ride back to the gates of the prison and kidded him, “you can take the ride all the way to the town and no one would notice!” To this he replied in Tagalog “Hindi po Sir, malapit na ako lumaya, 20 years na ako dito po eh.”


Behind the Names of the Barangays in Muntinlupa

muntinlupa, tunasan, putatan, bayanan, buli

I was contacted by this cable TV show to talk about the streets of Binondo last week. I was referred to them by my friend Glenn, of the popular blog, Traveler on Foot. So, I was reading up on the history behind the street names in that old suburb a day before the supposed interview date. I was on my way yesterday when I got a call from the producer that they’re rescheduling everything. Since the whole thing got me started on the history of streets and places, why not write something for Muntinlupa–we’ve lived here for more than two decades. I’m sure the new generation and those who happened to moved in recently are clueless about the origins of the names of places here.

What’s Putatan? Buli? Bayanan? Alabang? where did these names came from? what are they? what do they mean?

Natives had this custom of identifying places after plants or trees that abundantly grows in it. They’re not as vain as we are who would name places after our personal interests. They like using botanical references. Like Sampaloc, or Talisay, common names of towns across the country. The street where I grew up in Makati is called Bagtican, teak in English, also known as lawaan. Manila, after the plant nilad. Manggahan, mabolo and niugan are usual names for barrios. The list of places named after plants is endless. When I was in Malaysia, I was surprised they have this old custom as well. It is probably from our common ancestors where we got the tradition.

This seal of Muntinlupa was designed by one of Fernando Amorsolo’s son–Manuel Amorsolo. The seal shows the year it became an independent municipality (1917) and the year it became a city (1995). However, the official record is that it became a municipality in 1918. The nine stars are the city’s barangay. (photo from wikipedia)

In Muntinlupa, it’s the same. Almost all barrios were named after plants.

Buli, pronounced as bulé, near Sucat, in English is palm. But our version of this palm produces an edible fruit that Tagalogs consume. Its scientific name is corpha elata and is indigenous in Philippine soil. The bulé could no longer be found in present day Buli, but the name suggest that it was abundant in that part back in the day.

There’s Cupang, a tall tree that grows up to 30 meters. It is native in parts of Indonesia and South East Asia. Malaysian have places named after this plant too, but they spells it as Kupang (like tanjong kupang). It also produces a fruit, similar to that of an ipil-ipil but bigger, the seeds are boiled then consumed.

There are two Alabang in Muntinlupa. The affluent residential Ayala Alabang and Alabang, the business district of the south metro. Both owes its name after Rio Alban, the river that runs across Festival mall. You could look up maps of old Tunasan San Pedro and find Rio Alban as the most prominent landmark in the area. I find it amusing when people insist that Alabang was from the word “Abang” because the area, as these people claim, was once controlled by brigands that would hide behind the bushes and ambush travelers. We have so many of these accounts that does not have any historical basis but they’re more entertaining than the factual historical accounts, so people enjoys spreading them.

Alabang also brings to mind those college classmates who lives in Tunasan, Buli and Bayanan but when asked where they live they’d respond, Alabang, like clockwork. If you say Muntinlupa, you get teased then. I’m not sure if people still ask, “saan sa Muntinlupa? sa loob o labas?”

There’s an interesting detail that curious Muntinlupa locals notice. They ask if Bayanan was the ancient pre-filipino town center while Poblacion was the Spanish era town proper?

The Spanish era Poblacion was the town proper all along. It used to be near the lake, where the church was first erected. The church was later moved near the new main road and Bilibid Nuevo. Where the church was located is where the town proper is in old Philippines. The Tagalog word bayan is equivalent to the Spanish word Pueblo or town, but there’s no basis that tells us that Bayanan, became the town proper at any point in Muntinlupa’s history.

In fact, it was named after a plant as well.

Bayan, or báyan (memecylon ovatum) also known as palumpong (which also means shrubs), produces lilac flowers and have rounded leaves. You could still see these plants around. The place was named after báyan the plant , not bayan the town—So, Bayanan, literally means a place where báyan grew in abundance. Its flowers and leaves are believe to have antiseptic qualities.

With the exception of Alabang, Sucat and Poblacion, all barangay names in Muntinlupa had botanical origins. Hopefully, one day, the city hall would collect these plants and trees for the locals to see.

Another barrio, Tunasan, once part of the Friar estate collectively known as Tunasan San Pedro, was named from the lotus-like plant called túnas. Known for its medicinal uses, it flourished in that part near the lake.

Believe it or not, Putatan, is also a name with botanical origins. In old Tagalog, pútat, means new leaf or growth. An area where leaf, sap or branch has develop. It must have been where young trees were seen and planted. I could still remember seeing rice fields and vegetable plantations in the area when we first arrived in 80’s. There were fruit bearing trees too. Now all of that land had  been developed. I hope this dismisses rumors that Putatan was where the brothels were in the ancient times!

Putahan naman yun’ hindi Putatan.


The Past Reminds

Pretty churches in a row…

I dedicated a corner in my room  to the churches of Spanish Philippine Intramuros. I have eight church photos placed in four small frames. Out of all of these churches, only San Agustin survived WWII. Manila Cathedral was rebuilt after the war while San Ignacio still lies in ruins.

Why are these photos so important?

The memory of these churches is a reminder of how our ancestors discovered freedom and salvation in Christ.

They’re so beautiful. All of them. No wonder writers like Nick Joaquin wrote so much about them. How I wish all of them are still around.

On to a different topic.

Looked at the damage this paella took from me! By the way, Las Paellas Cafe in Festival Mall Alabang is the best place to eat paella in south metro. They also serve paella marinara and paella negra. I would eat them all in one seating if they were not that heavy in the gut!

I treated myself with a huge serving of Paella Valenciana late this afternoon! The last time I tasted this dish was in high school. My mother used to cook this Spanish dish during special occasions. And hers was a cumpletos-recados-kind of Paella. It’s tedious cooking but all of us his boys loves it. I particularly enjoy it when there’s  a generous toppings of sliced-egg.

But my mother has ceased to cook this dish because not only is it time consuming to prepare, she noticed relatives and visitors (especially the younger generations) prefers  those highly commercialized foods. What was once part of high Filipino cuisine has been replaced by cheap, easy to cook dishes.

From Paella to sweet economical spaghetti with bits of processed meat? How did that happen?

Well, I think I’m going to have to learn to do Paella!


The Tide is Turning…old DOH building will rise again!

Old DOH Building will be back

Something’s special is happening in Alabang. The entire Filinvest mall is getting a facelift, but, this is not what I’m all excited about. The planned inclusion of the old DOH building as part of the improvements is the thrillin’ news here!

A few years ago, I would bike around the area and wonder what fate awaits the condemned art deco building. I blogged about it (here) and I remember taking pictures of the building in several occasions (and this bothered those vigilant sekyus).

I thought that it would be nice if they could find a way to save it. Maybe, ‘reuse’ it as part of their properties attraction. Well, that day has come!

The entire area has been undergoing development. The bars and restaurants (on the left wing of Festival Mall) that became favorite grounds for merry makers is now temporarily closed. I was told that their planning some kind of a ‘lifestyle’ development in the area with the old DOH building as a center piece.

I can’t wait to see what the final project would look like.

I haven’t researched the history of this building yet (partly because I really thought they’re demolishing it) but from what I heard is that this used to be the HQ of the topical medicine research arm of DOH (don’t quote me here!). They use to have snake pits and farms around here for research. They have cattle freely roaming the vast scrub land until the government decided to sell the land. The old DOH building is an elegant art deco and the thing that I really like about it is the monument that sits in front and in the middle of the facility—an enlarged replica of Rizal’s ‘The Triumph of Science over Death‘.

The old DOH building in Civic Rd. Filinvest Alabang

This building along with Bilibid prison, in my estimation, was built in the same era. Which puts it in the 40’s, if not early 50’s. So I was wondering why the government never bothered to protect it after they sold the property! They just took the money and run away—typical government I should say. If the Filinvest group were insensitive with heritage this old building would just be a pile of rubble today.

Back to the Dark Ages for Muntinlupa

Now that Muntinlupa’s back in the hands of Jaime Fresnedi, I’m expecting things to go back to the ‘dark ages’. Fast. The traffic has deteriorated in Alabang (not there when San Pedro was mayor). Garbage is everywhere these days. The usual signs of back to business—business of doing nothing—is, well, back to business.

It’s still early but this guy has been in reign for almost a decade before the young San Pedro kicked him out two elections ago. And the reason why he was replaced was that Muntinlupa kept regressing under his watch. I could remember the cheap street lights he installed—I could see more with a candle on hand. I don’t think Fresnedi’s a bad guy, I actually believe he’s nice. I once saw him stand right beside his BMW in that charismatic fellowship center near Susana. But I don’t think much of this man as a leader. The 90’s and the 2000’s saw two different Muntinlupa, one that was stuck as a tier 2 city, the other a prime city. Aldrin San Pedro help create that ‘prime city’ condition—Fresnedi was the tier 2 guy.

And those guys that vouched for Fresnedi is pretty excited about his arrival. The other day, while I was buying some veggies in Muntinlupa ‘Bayan’, this guy selling eggplant was using plastic bags. I told him that’s not allowed and with a huge smile on his face responded, “kay San Pedro yun Ser, Fresnedi na tayo.”

Perfect. Now we’re really sliding back to the pits!

Aldrin San Pedro was beaten by a few thousands. Not a majority win for Fresnedi but a win none the less. San Pedro allowed his opponents to feed the public with malicious rumors of corruption allegedly perpetrated by his family. If he had a good PR team, these nasty attacks would’ve never caused his candidacy harm. It must have been his confidence—he did well and trusted that the people would want to have more of progress. Hmmm, not really. San Pedro forgot that Philippine politics have the same dynamics as that of local showbiz. Those little lies could get you fired—and he got his you-know-what fired. Here’s hoping that, if it’s not San Pedro, let’s pray we get a young guy, progressive politician next time. Anyway, these Biazon’s shifted away from San Pedro so they could make their move in the local elections next time, if this Ruffy fella run, maybe him but if San Pedro gives it another run, maybe him again.


The Night Goes on in Muntinlupa

A poem by two Japanese prisoner of war made into a song by popular Japanese artist Hamako Watanabe in the 50’s. The poem was dedicated by prisoners, Gintaro Shirota and Masayuso Ito, to their executed comrades in the hills of Muntinlupa. “Muntinlupa”, the song, was said to have been the reason President Elpidio Quirino pardoned the remaining Japanese prisoners (at time of the signing he was in the US seeking medical attention). He was quoted saying “We share the destiny to be good neighboring countries”  after signing the release papers .

It must have been difficult for Quirino who lost his wife, children and other members of his family in the hands of Japanese soldiers. Add to this traumatic incident was his imprisonment and torture. His pardon was a magnanimous act of kindness that our leaders these days can learn from. I could just imagine how difficult it was for him to offer friendship to those who took part in committing unspeakable atrocities against his family and country.

Buddhist Archbushop Shuhin Kagao, who was assigned by the US as chaplain to the Japanese soldiers in Muntinlupa, met Quirino and presented him with a music box that plays the song “Muntinlupa”. It was a gesture that was appreciated by the president according to his surviving daughter Victoria (a town in Laguna was named after her). Hamako Watanabe gave the music box to Kagao as a gift. The latter decided to make it a present to President Quirino who pardoned the Japanese soldiers.

Muntinlupa was never forgotten by the Japanese. Their government through their provinces of Gunma and Nagano, are active contributors in developing the city of Muntinlupa, especially during the years of Mayors Bunye and Fresnedi.

I’m uncertain what happened to the two Japanese men who immortalized Muntinlupa with their poem. Former Mayor Bunye’s family is said to have become close friends with these men. Shirota and Ito funded the tomb of the Mayor’s father after his death sometime in the 70’s.

The Japanese Shrine... with one less statue of a god. I like paper cranes beautifully bounded and left to hang on the side.

Recent visitors

The flag that hangs in the cottage of the Japanese cemetery

Changes

The first time I visited the Japanese cemetery in Muntinlupa was three years ago. I was fascinated to discover that countless Japanese makes the pilgrimage to this isolated cemetery every year. Its location is far from being accessible. These visitors rents a ride up to the hill where the local and the Japanese cemetery is located.

Today, there are twice the number  of houses around the vicinity since the last time I visited. I was told that these families where relocated around this area from their former dwelling alongside the railroad.

Such relocation bring with it some problems. When I last visited there were two stone gods (not sure if they call it a Buddha). Now, only one remain. The caretaker told me that thieves took it – and now they fear that the bell (like the one you see in Japanese Shinto shrines) would be next. To prevent this, they have to secure it in a discrete location and bring it out when there are visitors.

The polite caretakers are convicts who has been respectfully taking care of the Japanese cemetery for years. They are not paid for their services. They’re happy to receive words of appreciation and small donations. The man I was talking with has been a prisoner for almost his entire life. He finds it fascinating that Japanese would fly all the way to the country and visit the isolated cemetery while he, “still alive, has not received a visitation from family in Davao for the longest time”.

New roads are being built in the area. I don’t even know where they’re headed. Daang Hari is now accesible through the roads that before only served Bilibid and the small communities in the area. It would not be long before the area around this famed prison complex would be made residential and commercial. In fact, I believe it already started.

Muntinlupa in Youtube

If you want to hear Muntilupa below is a rare video of the Ms. Watanabe singing it. Thanks to the uploader enka1414 today’s Muntinlupeños can hear this rare Japanese song that came from a poem written by two Japanese prisoners longing for their familiesand homeland. I was told that Japanese visitors of the Japanese Cemetery sings “Muntinlupa” in the garden cottage (where a folder containing the lyrics hangs) to this day.

The way the Japanese remember their war dead is something that I’ve always admire. We can learn a great deal from how they value the sacrifices of their fallen soldiers.


Dinner @ Hapchan Alabang

The team enjoying some Chinese chow

We had our little get together slash “despedida” last Friday at Hapchan. I was totally entertained by the funny stories. Takes my mind out of the “now”. It was a simple dinner and everybody had a great time and bloated guts!

This team will always have a “lugar especial en mi corazon”. Hired all of ’em – first time I was able to assemble my own team. What a great two years it has been!

At the dinner table, the conversations revolved around the funny stuff  and our exciting mad crazy office lives. Well, ok, maybe work is not really that exciting. Kind of depressing actually but these guys are just awesome to work with. You forget about the bad stuff. They bring in the light and sunshine every time!

Throughout my stint in the company I learned a great deal from my staff. All along I thought I was the teacher, little did I know that I was the student.

I’m sure they’ll be alright without their crazy boss around. It’s a bittersweet feeling to be leaving but my work is done, now, they have to create their own expeditions.

These guys have the potential to go very far. It’s all there for them to enjoy!

Plus ultra!


Life is a Great Sunrise

beauty that needs no words...

I don’t know if its the thought that I’m a month away from leaving the building (I recently resigned) that gave me a more appreciative eye but you know lately I’ve been seeing a lot of these breathtaking sunrises over Laguna de Ba’i. Truly a wonderful experience.

Over the years,  I developed this habit of looking at the sunrise before leaving the office. Except during stormy days, I always make it a point that I look and take a photo. They’re never the same. The explosion of colors that appears every morning spattered across the sky and hills of Morong is just amazing.

A pure delight.

Stream liners (in the 1800’s) once serviced the towns around the lake. This brought unprecedented growth to the southern Tagalog provinces. People coming as far as Tayabas and Bicol would send their products to Manila using this route. A ferry service will have a great impact on how people move today. But the forces behind the toll ways and oil would not allow any competition. That’s how they do it, they provide you with no other option but to go their way. If government is not owned by these special interest group it would push for viable alternatives people can use – we all know that’s not going to happen. Government no longer belongs to the people but to these corporations who have them inside their pockets.


This Morning

Took some pictures of the lake and the people that spends their time either exercising or fishing around it during Sunday morning. Its  nice seeing this area getting some attention from the local government. It wasn’t like this before.The area now have a school and sports hall. Though short, the paved road that goes around the area is good enough for some biking.

This San Pedro guy is progressive in his politics. This young mayor is bringing in some fresh ideas and good planning. I like his initiative of banning the use of plastic bags. When I heard of it I was thinking that it will never be enforced. Another useless law. Then the local government started closing down stores that violated the plastic bag ban. The recent store to be shut down is  KFC at the corner of Zapote Alabang rd near the market. Though the closure deprives me of my KFC fried chickens and zinger sandwich, the message is clear.

No one is above the law – even big business.

Makiling really looks like a woman lying on her back.

Boat fishermen heading out to the lake at the break of dawn.

The water lilies. Why haven't anybone thought of that as a good band name, I don't know.

Recreational fishing around the lake. But no "catch and release" here. What's caught goes straight to the frying pan.


This Morning around New Bilibid

I was biking around Bilibid this morning. Since it has been raining these past few days, I took advantage of the little sunlight we got.It did not last long. I have to pedal back home around 1o am.

I’m not sure if Jamboree lake is the smallest lake in the country but locals proudly claims that it is. Is it even a lake? If it is, I think it deserves to be promoted a tourist spot where people can picnic and stroll around. It can give the city a different look and feel.

There are also some WWII relics around the area. The site is where some of the fiercest battle in Muntinglupa area took place. Not far from the lake is a hill where sentenciado Japanese were all executed. The Japanese government had built a beautiful memorial there.

Imagine how nice it would be to have bike and running lanes around the lake.

Jamboree Lake - There’s not a lot of nature to see around Muntinlupa. Something it shares with most of its neighbors. Breathing places are fast diminishing. But here in Muntinlupa, there are still spots where people can commune with nature and enjoy some fresh air. Even in summer water here never dry up.

Fishermen in the smallest lake in the country. They’re using fishing nets while there are men that were using airguns with improvised small spears attached to line.


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