Tag Archives: singapore

Creative Heritage Project

Now, I’ve seen Mcdonalds’ first concept store in the US but this easily tops that. This building is even older than McDonalds.

A Mcdonald’s restaurant operating inside a colonial era mansion in Bugis. That’s a great concept. A meeting between US pop culture and 18th century colonial Asia.

Now that’s a Mcdonalds.

I’m dreaming that we Filipinos would one day share this enthusiasm over heritage buildings. Heritage links us to our beautiful history and gives us a sense of identity. Something that is clearly missing in our materialistic society today.

We’ve become a people in a constant state of forgetfulness.

We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve what’s left of our past. They deserve to be reminded.

We have these fine examples of modern conservation. Singapore appears to get it. Here old shops and homes are put up to use. Why not embrace this kind of approach? After all, money can only last so long, history, now that’s forever.

An Old Art Deco Railway Station

This is as far my camera zoom can go. “The Four marble statues at exterior of building by the Italian sculptor Rudolfo Nolli, representing the four pillars of the Malayan and Singapore economy – Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry, with the initials FMSR (Federated Malay States Railways)”. — From Wikipedia (yes, you heard it right, I used wikipedia for research!)

I used to pass by this imposing old building in Tanjong Pagar (Lee Kuan Yew’s old constituency) on my way to work. While it appears interesting, I thought it was just some abandoned mid 1900’s structure waiting to be demolished. Little did I know was that it’s quite a historic place – it was the main Singapore station in the old Malaysian railway line. If I knew it then, I would definitely have gone down and see it.

The building has been gazetted as a historic place by the local government (that means they plan to conserve it). But today it’s temporarily inaccessible to the public. So it was with regret that I could only take photos of the building from its gates. From the photos I saw on the internet, the building have remarkable wall paintings and a beautiful lofty white interior. I heard that last year people were still allowed inside. The station was closed back in 2011.

The building is an Art Deco. A visual art form that I’m not very familiar with. What I know is that this movement was created for its pure decorative form. Unlike most of the great designs inspired by religious interpretations, Art Deco artists had a secular approach to design. Art Deco building has also become increasingly rare. Which is odd because most of the buildings that carried its design was built in the 1900’s. You would think that there’s still a lot of them around but most of these buildings had already given way to modern constructions (where Jai Alai used to be played in Manila is an example – Mayor Atienza proudly leveled that memorable building). While I don’t find it alluring (I’m poor in appraising art, so don’t worry) its historic value is of great importance. Such buildings shows layers of history our cities was built upon.

I don’t have all the information but I’m curious to know if the closure had anything to do with the dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over immigration offices or if the building has just outlived its usefulness. The train from here crosses the Johor Straits to Malaysia. There’s not a lot of train networks in the world that crosses a sea channel like this line. To this day, Malaysian railway enjoys the reputation for being one of the best in Asia. It’s not as fast as those train bullets but it offers that priceless nostalgic feel of traveling.

The Tanjong Pagar station was opened in the 1920’s. An interesting fixture in its facade are the marble human statues representing the economy of the Malay colony. It was created by an Italian artist known for his artwork around here in Singapore. The remaining railway tract and the stations arrival and departure platform are still in place  I’m sure they plan to preserve portions of it.

Another old railway station here is in Bukit Timah. I plan to see it this month. I saw some pictures of it and it reminds me of our old railway stations in the Philippines – sad is that while ours are more elegant and charismatic, most of these had already been removed.

Well, you know who to thank for that.

A copper clock. It’s amazing that everything is still legible even after these years.

The canopy of the waiting area. It’s interesting how detailed these are.

These thick iron bars are built to last. I wonder if these dents came from the battles during WWII. I remember the iron fences of Adamson in Calle Marcelino having bullet holes from that war. You could just imagine the sheer number of bullets that was exchanged during those battles.

You’ll never see these kind of design and quality again. They don’t make them like they use to.

January 2013

Water and Greens

Fresh air. Clear water. Good sun. Robbin’ monkeys.

Fascinating is how Singapore manages to allocate nature reserves in their already shrinking land space.

I recently visited the MacRitchie Reservoir to see some nature. And oh boy did I get up close with nature.

While walking along the reservoir, a foot sized monkey snatched the plastic bag I was carrying. It had my calorie rich choco cookies in it that I plan to eat while I’m out there.

The monkey didn’t even bother to run to the forest. Damn creature ate what he stole right in front of his victim!

Brings to mind those cruel bags and jewelry snatchers of Manila who’d steal in broad day light.

But those monkeys of MacRitchie are part of that watershed’s ecosystem. I actually find them cute. But I didn’t attempt to recover my item. They bite like hell. I know someone back home that got bitten. You don’t mess with these little f*****s.

Human contact has taught these primates to steal and scavenge for food in the garbage bins. Left in the wild, they’d forage for food on their own.

The food visitors leaves behind and scraps not properly disposed means easy food for these scrappy animals.

Feeding has been outlawed, with a stiff fine of 5 thousand dollars no one in his right mind would throw food intentionally to these monkeys.

Now, that’s what I call a good a deterrent.

But trouble is that the hudredth monkey has already figured out how to source their food from human leftovers.

Seeing these monkeys made me think about how close we really are to them.

He lost his lunch but he’s still a happy man.

This better be kept clean. This is our drinking well.

Planks, nuts and bolts for a board walk.

That’s not what you think it is.

Descendants of the ferns some dinosaurs use to feed from. They’ve been around for some time.

The sun fast setting over yonder.

Full cycle – death and then life.

Though not as smart as monkeys, ants, should get credit for folding leaves to make shelter.

Some trees are far more important than others. Not only did they spared this one, they designed the foot walk to go underneath this fortune tree.

A British legacy. The reservoir was named after an English engineer who supervised the development of infrastructure around the islands during his tenure.

The reservoir has boardwalk and trails built along its bank. The boardwalk are made of wood which makes it perfect for some running. The forest is opened to the public by wonderful trails that even children can safely enjoy.

I saw some kids lure fishing. I should try it one day. It looks fun – I need it. These days, my career seem to be heading the opposite direction. Stress comes to me in heavy dosages. Though I’m not one that goes overboard thinking about problems – a little fishing is good, I think.

Next time I’ll try to go to the other side of the reservoir. Equipped with a fishing rod and no longer carrying a bagful of cookies for safe measure…

The Island of Pulao Ubin and The Kampong

A kampong style house in Pulao Ubin


Pulao Ubin is perhaps the last place in Singapore where vestiges of the old kampong life in its pure form could still be seen. Kampong (or Kampung) are traditional Malayan villages typically made up of a mosque, rice fields and houses set on stilts. The kampong and the pre-Filipino Barangay shares remarkable similarities essentially in religion, architecture and customs. The former is much larger in terms of scope and organization compared to the latter, principally a grouping of extended family members that came to the islands in long wooden boats where it got its name.

We Filipinos adapted the word Kampong but used it to refer to a follower, a vassal or a subject . You might have heard your in laws call you a “kampon ni satanas”, aside from this phrase the word is rarely used. The old Tagalog version referred to the clusters of communities under a chief and the people were collectively called “kampon”.

Our prefilipino ancestors most likely used “kampong” like the Malays, but as it is common for historians to try to revise and make spectacular claims of discovery, they wanted the story to emerge distinctively aboriginal. They called it Barangay. Kampong, even to modern Singapore,Indonesia and Malaysia, are considered the original communities.

There are historians that subscribes to different schools of thought in immigration patterns. There are some that even rejects the idea of land bridges. I remember this being taught in school and now we’re not even sure if those land bridges ever existed. In the end, even if someday someone would be able to definitively prove where the migrations waves came, if there ever was communal migration, we would still have to understand that this does not prove the origin of our historical identity as Filipinos, or the unified nation we know today, but only the origins of some of our prehispanic population.

There’s a lot of words we share with the Malays that has taken a totally different meaning like “ulam” – to us are viands, to them, herbs that are eaten without cooking. Pulao is a word that’s also familiar because it is where we got “Pulo”, and they mean the same thing. We share more words with Malaysians and Indonesians than I ever thought. Working closely with them highlighted even the curious commonalities that otherwise I would have not noticed. Eating with ones hands is considered tradition. I noticed that they also call people (insisting like we do to “makan, makan” meaning “kain!” in our language) to eat with them. Their sweets (collectively called kui muih) closely resembles and tastes like ours. Another example is the steamed rice in leaves they call “ketupat”, which appears in our southern provinces as “puso”. The town where I rent a room was named after the movement of “hurling objects”, which in Tagalog is “pukol”. If we have remained in the faith of Islam and Spain didn’t enter the picture, we would be able to absolutely relate, culturally and linguistically, with these wonderful people.

I believe that places like Pulao Ubin remind people what it was like back in the day when people lived simply and relied on their community and faith to aid them through hard times. When you talk about the old way of life around here, this is it. There’s probably around 100 people left in the island and kampongs has almost completely vanished in this former colony. I believe modernity has taken away much of the old ways. It takes tangible proofs, like the houses in this island, to relive some of the traditions that had quietly died in their memories.

The island is just a short boat ride away from the central island. Granite had been quarried out of the island since the British times. Fishing and digging out granite were the chief source of livelihood in the island. There are talks of resurrecting the quarry operations. Although in the past years Singapore’s government has been promoting and developing the island as a tourism area with a great deal of success. The granite is among the hardest rocks known to man and is known to be good counter top kitchen material. The Piedra Blanca’s lighthouse (named as such by the Portuguese because of what appeared to be white rocks but were actually made white by bat droppings) was said to had been constructed with the quarried rocks from Ubin.

Pulau Ubin is home to some of the most beautiful wild animals in the country. Wild boars  roams freely in its forest. Monkeys hang on trees, noticeably observing people passing by. The Oriental Pied Hornbill, absent for some decades, has long since reestablish itself in the island. They somewhat became the symbol of the islands reemergence popular resident. In our country we have some of the most critically endangered horn bills, like the Sulu hornbill, considered among the top in the list or rarest birds in the world.

Another great spot to see in the island is the Chek Jawa, a wetland that has been left untouched for years until it was discovered in the early 2000’s. The government abandoned reclamation projects and instead created facilities for tourists to use in observing the wetland’s ecology.

The only stone house (made of bricks) in the island was built by a British officer in the 1800’s. It has been recently restored by the government. Not only that it’s the only English cottage style house in the country, it is also the only known house that was built in Singapore to have a genuine fire place.

Curiously, there’s this one huge boar that appears to be domesticated leisurely walking around the area near the colonial house. There’s a large population of this animal in the island. The only guys that’s keeping the wild boar population in check are these enormous reticulated pythons. Wild boar meat is lean and flavorful. An Uncle in Olangapo (he passed away a few years ago) hunted wild boars for its meat. If he’s alive and he happened to live in Ubin, I’m sure he’d destroy the islands ecosystem! He also hunted pythons and almost all kinds of animals that can be consumed! When I hear stories about hunters and hunting, I’m reminded of him. He don’t use guns, instead, he sets up traps which I found really fascinating. Some of the most exotic food: bats, eels, pythons and boars, we got to taste because of him.

Developing the island and opening it up to public housing is still currently being considered. Since it has been improved for visiting tourist, attracting attention to its wonderful ecology and great natural beauty, it could stay this way for some more time.

Filipinos boarding the boat off to Pulao Ubin.

Boats going back to the mainland jetty

Without the flag one would think that this to be typical low income Filipino home

Their version of a carinderia. Notice the Chinese dude checking out the Caucasian female.

A quite zen-isque pond not far from the rotunda and camp site gathering area

The observer being observed by a gecko. I wonder if this one is of any medicinal value?

Jalang matuwid. Daan to us is Jalan to them.

Like stray dogs in our metro manila, boars here freely roam

When your in the plane bound to Singapore, sightings of these enormous ships signifies that you’re not far from island state

Overgrown but shy lizards we call bayawak back home

A private jetty near the old British house

Pulut pukyutan

The house no. 1 where British officers once stayed


One of the best (realistic) heritage conservation programs in the world can be found here in Singapore

Old quarry grounds now lakes. Almost hidden and inaccessible to the public.

Hey hey with the monkeys!

An Azkal in the island

The busy port. Thanks to the booming tourism in the island.

Old Islamic Enclave in Singapore

An old Islamic school. Singapore’s heritage architecture shows a variety of styles and influences.

Lined up in a row. These shop houses, most probably, pre World War II, reflects Chinese and European architecture.

Colorful old buildings characterized by wide, adjustable windows and arched entrance ways.

Narrow streets that reminds me of old Binan. The narrow streets is a sign of expensive realty, as people had to make use and utilize available space as much as they can

This area have shops that specializes in selling traditional fabrics. This area is near the gate of the Masjid. Not far from here is what people call the central business district.

Solidly built heritage structures, now all shops.

White painted commercial houses preserved for the future generation

I saw a poster of the Sultan Mosque (locally known as Masjid Mosque) in the mall and found it wonderfully enchanting. A heritage Mosque in a middle of a bustling city. National day is just around the corner here in Singapore and the government has been heavily promoting heritage structures that represents the different groups and faith in the islands.  I got curious and thought it a good idea to see the mosque because like Manila, Singapore was once predominantly Mohamedan (for old Tagalogs Mohammed  is “Mahoma” hence the saying “Panahon pa ni Mahoma”).

Early this year I attended the National Library’s exhibit “Stories Behind Singapore Streets” (I think the exhibit is still on going) and found what local historian’s refers to as the “Raffle’s Town Plan”.  The British governor mapped and zoned the entire island during his time in the former colony. Such zoning (sectores) also took place during the Spanish era in Manila and all other progressive towns. To get a picture of how this worked back in the day one can visit Malolos which still have the names of the “sectores” as it was implemented in the old days.

Raffles is regarded as the pioneer of modern Singapore and I’ve seen books about his life on sale here. Singaporeans have a mature perspective about  their historical evolution and its influence in their modern lives. Around the country, you could still find street names after British royals, British war heroes and even English countrysides. They’re not bothered by these colonial things. What matters to them is what they’ve accomplished when they became independent from the British and Malaysia. Filipinos on the other hand are easily persuaded to give up their historical heritage and replace it with something else. We habitually, for example, change streets names as though they represent nothing more but alphabets. We don’t seem to understand the importance of preserving historical names.

I discovered that the mosque is surrounded by old shops and residential streets that I’ve never seen before. The mosque is located in the Streets of Muscat and Northbridge. This is not the original, as it had to be expanded because of the growing Muslim population. This present structure was built in the 1920’s, interestingly it was designed by a westerner named Denis Santry.

I was impressed by how they managed to preserve the area around the mosque. The district, known as Glam Kampong, is surrounded by towering buildings of is known as central business district. The coexistence of old and new here is something that has long fascinated me. How I wish this is the case in Manila! And I believe that this is possible back home only if we have the the vision to find use for our old buildings.

The pressure to develop space for urban use is real everywhere. Much more in Singapore because they have very limited space but what they do well is manage urban development in a way that it doesn’t harm their historical relics. We’ve seen how urban expansion devastated the heritage structures of Manila, which have bigger space and more options when it comes to urban planning. How Singapore has zoned out certain districts away from development is something we all can learn from.

I would not know that there was an old Muslim settlement in the center of Singapore if I have not seen this district. Although, aside from the mosque, the structures around the district does not appear to be heavily influenced by Islamic art. Its historical significance is that here, their royal and merchant ancestors showed the world the beauty of their culture and religion. This is the beauty of conserving what’s left of the past – it reminds people. The old houses and shops are now mostly commercial spaces but this is good because as long as these structures are utilized – they’ll continue to exist. Architectural reuse is something that our local government in the Philippines needs to catch on. Fast. Before we lose everything.

An old shop converted to a Mexican bar with Aztec inspired murals

An old building sandwiched between modern buildings. Some space eventually must be conceded to land development but historical houses must not be removed totally as they represent the different historical strata of each state.

Taken from Beach Road. At night, the place comes alive with some fine dining restos and pubs.

Motel here enjoys a better reputation than hours. This one, obviously an old building, now reused to accommodate transient visitors and lovers of course.

An old housing building converted to shops

An MMA shop housed in what used to be a small house! Brock manning the door!

One Morning in Changi Museum

Sign pointing to the museum

The replica chapel that has become a pilgrimage spot for veterans and their families.

Messages left behind by visitors. Some are moving dedications to fathers that died during the war…

This one, dedicated by a son to a father that survived the Changi gaol

They call this tsuru… when it reaches 1000, a wish is believed to be granted.

Another tsuru, paper cranes, this time with dedication written in Japanese

Growing up hearing stories about WWII, and reading about it, I learned that nothing good ever comes from wars as a child. Its a simple thought. With all the suffering and misery the wars has caused us, you’d think that we have learned to avoid it.

I recently visited the Changi museum and it brought back the memories of the stories told to me by my adopted grandmother, my father and all those elders I had the luck to speak with that survived that war. How I wish that the father of my mother is still around. He fought alongside the Americans during the war in Negros. It was a tragic irony that he endured and survived life as soldier and died in a vehicular accident after the war.

Changi museum became a pilgrimage site for former POW and their children who wanted to see the place where their parents and grandfathers were kept as prisoners during the war. It was moving to see the yellow notes with messages of remembrance and love coming from the families of the veterans.

The museum displays letters, photos, skeches and personal belongings of former POW’s of the gaol. The story of how Changi, a small relatively unknown village, became a vast internment camp in 1942 is told in one of the galleries. It was fascinating to see the replicas of the popular Changi Murals. The original are still around but because of its location inside the present prison its not open to the public. The books on sale in the museum gift shop was quite impressive but I had to content myself with hastily browsing over them.

The chapel in the courtyard, a replica of the churches the men built around the prison, has become a pilgrimage area for veterans and their families. In the center is a brass cross that was made by a former prisoner. There were several makeshift chapels that was constructed by the POW during their time in Changi. Chaplain Hughes explains the practice: “men who are employed in forced labor and growing weak… do not build Churches and worship in them unless they are persuaded that there is value in such toil”.

Having mentioned my grandfather, Elpidio Díaz, in this post I’m hoping that by chance somebody may come across this page and forward it to Celia Diaz-Laurel, widow of former Vice President Salvador Laurel. Documents related to my grandfather’s service in the war and other personal materials were kept in the old Bacolod house where he stayed with his uncle (Celia’s father). Back in the Philippines, I tried to get in touch with Mrs. Laurel but failed. It’s my hope that I could, at least, see these tangible evidence of my grandfather’s life. We don’t even have a photo of him. His things would be the closest we’ll ever come to a Lolo we never knew.

Spanish as Third Language… in Singapore

While Filipino politicians  continue to debate whether Spanish should be reintroduced in our national education, here’s Singapore, announcing “Spanish as a third language” starting 2014.

They intend to “develop a core group of Singaporeans to be proficient in Spanish to support Singapore’s efforts in exploring new growth opportunities and forging partnerships with Spain, Latin America and other Spanish-speaking countries”.

Singaporeans are very efficient planners. They see the big picture. Their reasoning is assessed based on what will benefit the country as a whole. A third language is optional. You get to pick what you like but you can’t skip it entirely.

The other “third languages” of the island state are French, German, Japanese, Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia. My nephew here, he’s 6, is now learning Chinese and would be taking up French in his next class. He speaks English and Tagalog well of course.

While they don’t have a tradition in Spanish they understand economics. The Singaporean government’s intention is “to increase the country’s attractiveness as a hub for Latin American companies looking to set up operations in Asia”. And this is nothing short of brilliant. Spanish has 416 million native speakers – that’s a big, big market to corner!

During GMA’s term, she pushed for the reintroduction of Spanish in Philippine schools. It stalled for awhile. Last I heard was it will be optional at selected private and public schools. Well, better than nothing. Senador Angara is a lone voice in the wilderness with his calls to “to incorporate Spanish into the basic education curriculum for good”.

Unfortunately, Spanish is not really popular among the common masses. Its one thing to make them understand of its economic benefit, another to have them embrace it. Reintroducing it as a regular subject in school entails losing votes. So its not really surprising that the main proponent of Spanish is a retiring senator.

I feel that not unless we push for it to be reintroduced and taught alongside English, starting in grade school, it will not succeed. A decade from now, we’ll see Singapore, Japan and Korea, surpass as in Spanish and with this, lose what could’ve been an advantage over countries that never spoke Spanish.

Source: “Spanish as third language from 2014”
Posted: 26 May 2012 1229 hrs Channelnewsasia.com

The Tropical Gothic Church of Sts. Peter and Paul

Gazetted as a national historic monument

Now that I’m back in this progressive island state I wanted to take a closer look into how heritage structures are conserved and protected around here. Economy is still growing and there’s the constant pressure to expand the commercial urban landscape. They have to compromise when it comes to developing land for residential and commercial use because of limited space, but somehow they manage to hold on and preserve the ones that counts which I find admirable.

I recently visited the elegant tropical gothic church of Sts. Peter and Paul along Queens Road near the MRT station of Bras Brasa. I saw it two years ago and was reminded of our San Sebastian church in Manila.

The traveler and the church in the background. Rizal visited this church in one of his brief stopovers.

I was surprised to see the church having some slight signs of deterioration. The wooden doors and the choir loft’s floor have termite damage and the white paint from its high ceiling has begun to fell off. It must be the tropical weather combined with the salty elements in the air that accelerates material decay. We have this same problem with our old churches in the Visayas. Since parishes back home are left to fend for themselves, most restoration works are sub par, and what’s sad is that I’ve seen some, although having the best intentions to help, render relics and structures irreparable damage.

The church of Sts. Peter and Paul will be restored soon. If there’s one thing that Singaporeans do well that is organizing projects and making them happen. Solicitations for funding is underway. Restoration works here go through proper reviews before it gets implemented. Can’t wait to see it back to its former glory.

Land of the Morning Online

I stumbled upon this site (click here) while taking my usual bus ride home.

The website, courtesy of ACM, blew my mind. When I got home I viewed the site in my desktop right away.

I remember seeing this exhibit in 2010. And now I’m seeing it online – exactly how I saw it during its opening.

The “Land of the Morning” exhibit was an amazing display of Filipiniana collections sourced from different collectors and institutions back home. That was the first time I’ve ever seen a  museum abroad exhibit art and artifacts about the Philippines.

This virtual exhibit captured everything during that week long event. Its fascinating what the Asian Civilization created. They figured out that the exhibit can be recreated in a virtual setting (museums everywhere should start doing this!). So long after the displays had gone back to the “Land of the Morning”, the exhibit continues – in cyber world. And this one is open forever – more importantly – its gratis!

Lee Kuan Yew @ 88

A couple of days ago, Lee Kuan Yew, one of the longest serving political leader in the region celebrated his 88th birthday. I’ve long admired his work and how he lived his life. There are very few, if any, that can match what this statesman accomplished.

I haven’t fully read his memoirs (The Singapore Story) only picking chapters. I would need to take a long vacation to finish it! The two part series is the story of LKY’s life and his involvement on how the island state was founded.

LKY’s discipline as a politician is impressive. I like the story of him (along with another colleague) attending a meeting with Malayan leaders. It was more like a party with food and gambling going on. It must have been strange for him because he’s not used to that kind of politics. He takes his role as a representative of his country very seriously and felt that such things are unacceptable. He stayed on and tried to press some official business but as soon as young attractive girls started coming to please the mostly Malay politicians, he and his colleague walked out!

One of my favorite chapter in the book is Chapter 43, entitled “Talak, Talak, Talak”. If that sounds familiar, its because it is the Malay word for divorce or the act of splitting from the spouse. To us Filipinos, it means something different–in literal Tagalog, “you talk too much!”. You hear this from fighting couples all the time.

The chapter discussed the eventual split of Singapore from the Malay federation. Looking back, I’m sure they now see this as the greatest event that ever happened in their history as this failed union with UNMO catapulted them to achieve what many thought impossible to pull off.

I would like to write about LKY’s view of the Filipino politicians he dealt with during his time but first, I have to finish reading the voluminous memoir of this great man. Not a lot of people know that he offered Marcos refuge at the height of the Philippine crisis where Cory was eventually installed as president. He once said that the inability of Marcos to solve the crisis was because he was “the problem”.

Singapore is a great country, and a young one. The generation of today’s Singaporean must never forget about how Lee Kuan Yew and his generation labored it into existence. They must steer clear from dangerous influences coming from the outside. There’s a reason why Singapore succeeded – they must continue to follow  their founding fathers ideals – and for us Filipinos, the Singapore story must be a lesson.

Kain, Kain…

A friend recently informed me of his website that showcases the food culture of Pampanga.He has been touring people around historical sites in Intramuros for years that I was a bit surprised to find out that he’s as equally interested in regional food culture.

There’s history in the food that we serve. Every local dish have its cultural, traditional and sociological impact in our society. Come to think of it, of all our traditions, food survives all sociocultural changes. We lose our local languages, dances, traditional costumes, house and even values but never our cuisine.

The reputation of Pampanga as a province of excellent provincial cuisine is deserved. They have the most creative cusinero’t cusinera. Their cuisine are so well loved that even in far southern provinces can find food houses serving sisig and chops of mekeni tocino.

If your up to the challenge you can try servings of exotic Campampangan dishes like: adobong camaru (crickets), calderatang barag (monitor lizard),  dog stew, duck stew (boiled in blood) and tinolang palaka. These dishes are proof of Campangan’s creativity and originality around the cusina.

Yes, that's me voraciously eating a local version of "Biriyani". The door welcomes patrons with delicious pictures of "biriyani".

I once ate a dish of flavored chicken and rice while I was still a college student. The curious young man I am, I inquired what it was. My classmate’s cook cum all-around-maid  said that it’s a favorite dish back in their home province. I later found out that the dish is called Nasing Biringyi. After some years passed, I never encountered the dish again until I landed in Singapore. The Malay have this dish called Nasi Biriyani [Indian’s have their own version]. Aside from the name, the taste was familiar. Almost similar to that dish I ate a decade ago.

How this dish traveled that far and survived as a tradition that goes beyond generations is a testament to the lasting cultural legacy of our ancestor’s food culture.

Like what my friend said, “Food is culture, culture is food”. This may sound like a chant coming from food addicts but no one can disprove the transcending influence of Filipino food.


One other common trait we share with Malay’s is that they always casually invite people they know to eat with them. They insist like we do. “Makan, Makan…” to them is “kain, kain…” to us. The words almost sounds identical. Not only do we have a lot of common words, our physical features and characteristics have striking similarities too. If it were not for the Spaniards, we would be closer today to the Malayan way of life.

Terracota Warriors @ ACM

Some of these “terrecota warriors” were recently brought to the Asian Civilization Museum. So last Saturday, I took some time to see what it is all about. This was the first time actual pieces were brought to SE Asia.

ACM has been providing great exhibits and programs about traditional Asian culture and history. Last year, we came to see “The Land of the Morning”, an exhibit that “explored  the identity of the Filipino people, created by the blending of indigenous local cultures and foreign influences”. One of the best museum exhibit about our culture and history that I’ve seen.

The Terracotta Warrior exhibit featured “one hundred artifacts from Shaanxi province in China. Besides terracotta figures, the display contains important bronzes and jades from the Qin state before the time of the First Emperor, Shi Huangdi. The Han dynasty inherited the legacy of unified China, and charming terracotta figures from this later period show how the First Emperor’s tomb influenced later burials.”

The Terracotta Warrior presentation was just awesome. From the looks of how many people showed up on its opening day, another successful exhibit. I’m no expert in Chinese history so seeing the exhibit was a great personal educational experience.

Line up!

The emperors horses in the afterlife.

These must be reserved livestock for the long travel to heaven. Or are they pets to keep the dead Emperor entertained?

More horse power!

Cheap Tickets!

No these are not the original terracotta warriors. More like hip hop warriors.

A terracota slave that must've been eating a lot of dumplings

The original excavation site of the emperor's burial "necropolis" with his warriors.

This one reminds me of a Chino friend from my old employer.

One of my favorite piece in display. An armor made of stone!

Is it an ox?

My shadow striking a pose. Camera flash are banned inside the building.

Botanic Garden of Singapore

I’m not really crazy about plants and gardening. I can remember trying to cultivate my own tomato garden and that ended up in disaster. I am, however, into nature and the outdoors.

When I’m around Singapore and the weather is not too hot I head out to the botanical garden – perhaps the most underrated tourist site in the island.

The massive iron gate of the garden (Cluny Rd. side)

The 150 year old garden have three small lakes, an open concert stage, wide open picnic grounds, long paved running paths and of course, an amazing collection of plants, orchids, trees and arts. It’s amazing how they’re able to maintain the place. Well, organization is what Singaporeans are good at. So it should come as no surprise that they’ve been successful.

Rizal had visited garden all the time that he had been in the area. It must have been a popular destination in the island even then [either that or Rizal was just crazy about plants]. It is said that without Singapore’s botanic garden the rubber industry in the Malayan peninsula would have never took off. The success of Asia’s rubber industry is attributed to the pioneering work of Englishman Nicholas Ridley, the botanic garden’s first ever director, in the late 19th century.

Back in our country, we should be proud that we had the first ever botanic garden in Asia. We had fields in modern Manila dedicated their for the studies and propagation of both local and foreign crops. In Intramuros, Padre Blaco’s garden had been legendary in discovering medicinal cure from humble tropical plants and perennials. Its unfortunate however, that we could no longer find these gardens. They now only exist in the pages of historical textbooks and imaginations.

A friend suggest that all of our problems can be related to our lack of historical sense. I think there’s some truth to his observation. How can you learn from something that isn’t even there?

The first time I visited the garden was in 2009. Recent news say that Filipinos has become one of the biggest tourist in Singapore. The city state appeals to many Filipinos who now have some spare cash for traveling.

Their tourism board are masters in marketing and promotion. Since most people picks their next destinations with their eyes, the Singaporeans made sure that the images and the message of what their small state can offer is out there.

I just hope that the Filipinos that visit Singapore will not forget to travel around their own country. Philippine tourism is not as strong compared to our neighbors, partly because of failed programs. There’s so much our islands can offer. We just have to get our heads together.

The orchid research here is a leading institute in the world. They recently named an orchid hybrid after Ninoy: "Ascocenda Benigno S. Aquino". Its yellow in color and has very few strands of leafs!

Nice pond with lotus flowers.

A man made cascading falls.

The botanic garden celebrating its nation's 46th year founding.

The swan lake. Here you'll find, well, swans. Turtles, koi and other types of fishes inhabits this wonderful lake.

Plenty of picnic grounds.

A theathre surrounded by water. Orchestra and other live performances are held here.

There are many spaces like this dedicated to certain types of plants. Salabat drinkers would've enjoy this one.

There are many birdwatchers in the area. The botanic garden serves as a sanctuary. This Kingfisher (a favorite) rest not minding the people around.

A beautiful sunset sky!

Visitor information here

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