Sunday, March 28, 2010

Banaue Backpack Photography - Lagalog's Gallery

For a change, Lagalog's captures take a backseat to the wonderful captures of our participants all taken during our recent Backpack Photography 101: Banaue Workshop.  Out of the images submitted to us, Ferdz and I made our individual choices.  I took the liberty of labeling them as I saw fit.  So sit back and enjoy these captures.

Abie's "Line Dancers"
© Abie Co
I love the way Abbie was able to frame the three dancers in a dynamic way without getting the other photographers into the frame.  It's almost like inviting the viewer to join the dance.

Agnes' "Lagoon Reflections"
© Agnes Goze
I really love the symmetry/asymmetry of the capture. I knew Agnes was up very early to get this shot.

Araceli's "Silip Kid"
© Araceli Habaradas
Patience has its rewards and Araceli was real patient in waiting for the opportune time to capture this one.  I think the expression, lighting and impact say it all.

Joy's "Dance of Joy"
© Joy Vega
This is spot-on dynamic, with Joy catching a fleeting moment of intensity, the frozen dancer seems ready to move anytime.

Loid's "Mga Bata sa Bintana"
© Loid Billones
I love the mood of this picture.  The wandering eyes speaks volume of the emotions of the kids.  Proof that your point and shoot can take dramatic captures given a good eye and timing.

Nids' "Zen Reflections"
© Nids Agillon
There's a very painting-like quality about this capture that I find very Zen-like.  Nice to stare at especially after a long, stressful day.

Miake's "Mumbaki"
© Miake Acedilla
By zooming up close to the face, Miake was able to show the expressive face of the tribal dancers' leader while showing details of his brightly-hued garb and headdress.
Ros' "Girl in Waiting"
© Ros Rosalia
Using a point and shoot, Ros was able to capture a moody image; she used the diminishing lines to lead the viewer's eyes from the subject to the distant brush.

Steph's "Ifugao Toothy Smile"
© Steph Rosalia
Armed with her point and shoot, Steph took an "in-your-face" route in capturing the expression and features of this Ifugao woman.

 Travel with us as we conduct a workshop in haunting Batanes this June 24-27, 2010.  For details, click here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Banaue Backpack Photography 101 Workshop: From Aparnga-o to Hapao

I keep waking up in the middle of the night because of the biting cold.  Mind you, I'm not susceptible to feeling cold as I can stand taking a bath using the tap water in Banaue town proper but I guess the 5-6 degree difference in temperature really leaves me shivering.  It's not just due to the elevation I was told but also the way the pine trees soak up the moisture during the day and their leaves release them during the nighttime that make the mountains where the Banaue Ethnic Village is located really, really cold.  But the rewards are aplenty -- the absolute silence, the redolence of pine leaves, and the beautiful scenes that greet your eyes when they open come morning.
Oh, going up and down the rolling terrain to the meeting/mess hall can take some getting used to but I guess that prepared us for our Hapao trek.  The Hapao terraces are in the municipality of Hungduan, some 20 or so kilometers and over an hour's jeepney ride away from Aparnga-o.  From the viewdeck, the terraces look like overlapping stacks of greens. The fair weather augured well for us as the pathways to the terraces were dry.  After a packed lunch at the Hapao viewpoint, we descended to the terraces with the full might of the midday sun upon us.

DESCENT TO THE LIVING TERRACES.  There were some parched portions that seem to have been affected by the dryness of the season but for the most parts, a lot of the areas we've passed through were green with month-old rice plants, and seem well-irrigated.  

It's really an edifying experience to walk through the terraces instead of just sighting them from afar.  Up close, you can see that that the terraces aren't just areas where only rice and other vegetation grow but rather where people actually live in.  The rice paddies are alive with fishes.  The terrace walls are lined with mint and other useful plants.  The pathways are frequented by amiable dogs and playing children.
PHARMACY BY THE TERRACES.  Mang Jun, our veteran guide, lets us take our time in shooting and admiring the terraces.  It was wonderful to have a very knowledgeable guide as at one stop, he pointed to a plant growing on a terrace wall for our closer inspection.  It turned out to be mint which we happily chewed on and sampled.  It would make a good anti-diarrhea treatment when boiled and drank as tea.  Chewed, it beats your commercial breath freshener any day.

On another stop, he pointed to stalks of Horsetails which when boiled is good treatment for urinary tract infection.  There's no Mercury Drug for miles and miles around but you can say there's a virtual pharmacy growing right there on the terrace walls.
SHOOTING THE RIVER AND SINGING OCEAN DEEP.  Greeted by a bevy of friendly dogs, we stopped by the Giovanni's Resort which lies near the banks of the Hungduan River.  Here, we waited for the sun to dip a bit lower so we can practice long-exposure shooting by the river.  In the meantime, we whiled away the hours chit-chatting, playing with the friendly dogs, befriending the friendly children who acquiesced to posing for the camera (make it cameras).  It's nice to see the girls experiment with long-exposure shots that we seem to have forgotten the time.  It was nearing dark when we made our way back and up the main road, passing by houses and even a church in the middle of the terraces.   There was even karaoke singing wafting in the air, a time when Abie, Joy and I joined in, finishing off stanzas of the Cliff Richard ballad, "Ocean Deep". In the creeping darkness, our jeepney made its way back from the hotter clime of Hapao to the growing cold of Aparnga-o, all occupants bringing home their stash of cool images and happy memories.  Be sure to take a camera with you! If you're looking to buy one try with these coupons here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Banaue for the Backpack Photography 101 Workshop

Believe it or not, the photo above is the view from the outhouse restroom of the Banaue Ethnic Village, the venue for our recently-concluded Banaue Backpack Photography 101 Workshop.  While Metro Manila was simmering in 33-35 degree temperatures, our group had to bundle up when the mercury drops to 17-18 degrees in the wee hours of the morning.  I'm already missing that cool, chilly feeling as I write this in the afternoon heat.

9, 2, 3, 2.  9 participants joined us in our first-ever workshop -- all of them women coming from disparate fields, which was a pleasant surprise (there was in fact, one male registrant who had to cancel due to work).  We were joined by 2 Canon Selphy portable printers (ES3 and ES30) during our 3 day workshop.  And there were 2 facilitators, myself and my best buddy, Ferdz Decena of

It took awhile before we were able to mount this as we were thinking of concepts that would be fresh, novel and inspiring in between assignments and other work matters.  As backpackers, we thought of imparting what we learned from the field and underscoring the importance of not just taking shots of postcard-pretty scenes but also of imbibing a sense of culture and the spirit of the place as well as encouraging a deeper appreciation and understanding of the locals that inhabit it.
IMMERSION.  Making the Banaue Ethnic Village our home for three days was a conscious effort to help our participants find themselves in a place that recalls the living spaces of the Ifugao.  We lived and slept in Ifugao huts faithfully constructed according to the old ways, with only a bit of convenience (futons and blankets on the floor and a solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling) thrown in.  

Hot water was heated in a huge pot over a wood-fired stove (hence, the fragrant aroma wafting in the air while waiting for hot water for bathing).  Bathing and answering the call of nature were done at an outhouse with a breathtaking view of Mt. Polis (who minds the austere T&B when you have this view).  At night, a bonfire provides extra warmth as well as extra incentive to huddle and chit-chat.  When the temperature drops in the middle of the night, it becomes easy to forget Manila's humidity and heat and concentrate on rolling into a ball and staying as warm as possible.

On our first afternoon, we were treated to a lecture on the evolution of Ifugao houses by former Hungduan Mayor, Andres Dunuan; the performance of a tribal group recreating the dances and rituals of the Ifugaos as well as acquainting us with the practices of a mumbaki (tribal priest) which included the offering of a live chicken.  Some of the girls even gamely joined the tribal dance.  

We were collectively amazed by how the mumbaki opened up the chicken with surgical precision, draining it completely of blood while preserving the bile which the mumbaki showed us was in good condition -- a good omen for our trip and workshop in the days to come.

READ MORE ABOUT IT.  To read more about our Backpack Photography 101 Banaue Workshop chronicles by Ironwulf, click here.

BATANES WORKSHOP. Join our next workshop in Batanes on June 24-27, 2010, for details, click here.  Seair is celebrating its 15th year anniversary and is giving a P1500 discount on Batanes flights up to May 15 -- a good time as any to check it out. 

SPECIAL THANKS.  Thank you Canon Philippines for loaning out two Canon Selphy portable printers, the ES3 and ES30 which performed beautifully during our workshop, as well as to the Banaue Ethnic Village & Halfway Lodge for being our gracious hosts.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Banaue: Hapao and Hungduan under the rain and in the mist

The rains persisted the following day as if some heavenly faucet was left running overnight.  Another lovely day to stay indoors with cup after cup of java but not ideal weather to take some snaps and attend to some business deals that needs to be arranged.  The viewpoints closer to Banaue town proper with their elevation above a thousand meters would likely be shrouded in fog again. We decided to venture farther out and lower -- 15 kilometers north to the Hapao rice terraces in the municipality of Hungduan.

HANGING AROUND HUNGDUAN.  The rains have rendered the dirt roads muddy, wayward rocks made navigating tricky.  We bounced and jiggled in the tricycle we rented, often wondering if the tricycle will make it through in one piece (the same goes for us, with not a few bumps in the head to show for it).  With the inclement weather, I thought we had the road and views to ourselves.  Apparently, a French couple, a Japanese guy and a group of Cebuanos thought the same thing.  And why not?  The Hapao terraces are breathtakingly beautiful.  Instead of appearing like stacks of terraces, these look like overlapping palettes of greens.

BEYOND HAPAO TO HUNGDUAN. Since we were already in the Hungduan municipality, we thought of escaping the crowds and going all the way to the Hungduan terraces just five kilometers away.  As it turned out, those were the bumpiest five kilometers in our whole trip.  And since the Hungduan terraces viewpoint rises to over a thousand meters, the lower-lying terraces were shrouded by heavy fog.  We pass by the 2,642 meter Mount Napulawan where General Yamashita of the Japanese Imperial Army sought his final refuge in WWII.
The viewpoint was nearly desolate save for a boy peeking through a window (probably wondering who's intruding in the quiet of midday) plus a handful of chickens and a lonely dog.  We found a sari-sari store peddling instant noodles and promptly decided that lunch would be a steaming bowl of noodles plumped up with whole eggs.  Funny how ordinary fare becomes a special treat given the place, weather and circumstance.
SOMETHING TO LIFT THE SPIRIT.  Alas, the fog didn't lift after an hour but we found something to uplift our spirits.  

Walking further down the road, I found kids playing under the shade, with dogs and chickens as company.  Outside hung freshly-laundered disposable baby diapers -- either a testament to the remoteness of the place or the resourcefulness of the locals.  We went to the poblacion where cracked fields now lie over several inches of rainfall.  The seedlings will survive, said our guide cum tricycle driver, Reynald.  Cold comfort to know that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Banaue for a rainy weekend

The rains first greeted us when the Florida bus made a stopover for midnight snack in Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya.  The crisp cool air blended with light rainfall took not a few of our fellow passengers by surprise.  By the time we arrived in Banaue, the light rain has become the drenching kind.  Photographers don't usually see inclement weather as good news but with the onset of El Niño, we welcomed the rains like manna from heaven.

Just the other day, Manila newspapers' headlines screamed "Ifugao declared as calamity area".  With an upcoming workshop in Banaue, we were dreading what we may see. There were conflicting stories from the locals -- the rains were a result of cloud seeding said one; it was just one of them strange days when it rains out of season we heard from another.  But one thing was for sure -- some of the fields were drying up but not yet to a calamitous point save for some areas like Lagawe which is known for its red mountain rice as well as the highly-valued Tinawon rice (appropriately called heirloom rice by people who know their rice) as well as other places like Batad ang Bangaan.

In any case, the cool temperature (20-21 degrees) was welcome relief from Manila's dry, 36 degree heat.  With the rains, holing up in the room, drinking coffee while surfing the net (oh, SmartBro's signal wavers but otherwise available there) or simply doing nothing becomes hard-to-resist temptations.  When it rains, the fog imparts an ethereal quality to the trees in the distance, the houses on the mountainside.  Things (and time) seems to come to a standstill. Why, even the grasshopper that I took fancy on remained unmoved despite my incessant up close shooting.
Being here on business means doing what you have to do early so you can have more time afterwards to chill out.  Stepping out into the rain from the lodge, we found one local sleeping on rounded pieces of pipes. (We went off to Aparnga-o, some 6 kilometers from Banaue town proper where it was even colder) When we got back 3-4 hours later, he was still at the same place as if the world stopped and time stood still even as the rain continued its pitter-patter. If that's not a real world concept of chilling out (or should I say, a most pragmatic way of not putting this kind of weather to waste), I don't what is.

Info:  Florida buses ply the Manila-Banaue route twice a day, leaving the terminal near the corner of España and Arsenio Lacson (formerly Gov. Forbes) in front of UST at 9.15 pm and 10.45 pm.  Fare is P450/pax (around $10) for the bus with restroom.  Travel time: around 8 hours with one stopover. 

Seeing the ampitheater-style rice terraces and the waterfall of Batad is a nice option when you're in Banaue. To read about it, click here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Salcedo and Legaspi Markets: Makati's weekend moveable feasts

I must admit, one of the interesting aspects of living in Makati, near the central business district, is the proximity to most of the things you need.  Within walking distance are the malls, supermarkets, and eating places.  It's so convenient, it can spoil, nay, lull you to complacency.  Weekends when I am in town (ever since I went freelance, they've become more often that I would want them to), I wouldn't want to wander far from home if I can help it.  Hmmm, it must be weekend sloths like me who somehow inspired the creation of Makati's weekend markets.

TGIS. Come Friday night, the parking lot along Tordesillas Street empties itself of cars that crowd this busy place every working weekday and white tents take over.  If you're looking for fresh produce, it's nice to drop by first thing Saturday morning when the Salcedo market opens at 7am.  While much of Makati is still under bed covers and the temperature is cooler, you can have a pick of the freshest fruits and vegetables.  The lunch crowd swells at 11 onwards, eager to feast on a wide variety of fare -- from local regional favorites to international dishes (interestingly, I found Burmese food in one stall and Turkish fare in another).

Salcedo market was created five years ago as a venue for selling fresh produce and homemade specialties.  At present, it has expanded to include food from all over, including fresh and dried seafood, exotic plants, and a carryover from our childhood days -- the sorbetero (mobile ice cream seller) and cotton candy maker on wheels.  Now, if I get food cravings and can't travel, enjoying my favorite authentic budbud kabog (millet cake) can be as easy as strolling over to Salcedo on a Saturday.  It's a nice place to acquaint yourself with delicacies from places you may never get to visit.
EVER ON SUNDAY.  If you miss the Saturday market, you can make amends on Sunday by going to Legaspi.  It may seem like one and the same but my impression is there are more regional food fare available at Salcedo while more organic stuff abounds in Legaspi.  The latter is no suprise as the organic market section was way ahead of its time, maybe an anachronism, created 16 years ago by organic pioneer and champ, Mara Pardo de Tavera.

Aside from the fresh produce, there are curiosities elsewhere -- like the Zen toiletries that lend the air with fresh, fruity redolence, reflexology slippers that resemble those used in Batanes for reef fishing, and leather sandals handcrafted while you wait.

The Salcedo and Legaspi markets are the closest to a wet market the CBD can have.  The first is a macrocosm of the Philippines told mainly in gustatory terms and the other, an organic haven in a largely, chemicals-pervaded world; one offering a feast for the tummy, and the other, a feast for the other senses.

The Salcedo Saturday market is held along Tordesillas Street in Salcedo Village near the Makati Sports Club • The Legaspi Sunday market is held at the parking lot along Herrera and Salcedo Streets in Legaspi Village • Both are open from 7am to 2pm
Read more about Mara Pardo de Tavera's pioneering crusade for the organic movement and the organic market at Legaspi Village here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seair InFlight Feature: A Manileño's Manila Part 4 with Yael Fernandez

When the Department of Tourism embarked on a project to find and train a new generation of guides, more than a hundred people applied. Some 51 were interviewed and only 24 applicants qualified for the Mabuhay Guides Foundation Course, and Yael Fernandez, was one of the applicants who succeeded and passed the course, giving her one of the highest qualifications usually afforded a UK professional tour guide. She now works for Mabuhay Guides and reveals to us some of her favorite spots in Manila.  To contact Yael, call +63901/ 928 2512 or email
Yael recommends:
MALACANANG MUSEUM - Located at the heart of the Malacañang Palace Complex, at the Old Executive Building built in 1920. Moving from one exhibit to the next is like leafing through the pages of Philippine political history – from the Spanish era displays at the Old Reception Room Gallery to the EDSA People Power Revolution mementoes at the East Staircase Gallery. The Gallery of Presidents of the Philippines at the Main Hall on the second floor with its huge collection that includes official state gifts to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a must visit. Try out Dy’s “Power, Palace and a shot of Beer” tour covering Malacañang Palace Museum, San Miguel Mansion Row, Plaza Liga Anti-Imperialista, Legarda Mansion and Basilica de San Sebastian. Due to the Palace security procedures, you have to book at least five days in advance.   

Tour is on weekdays only. For public visitors, a regular fee of P50 is charged; visits are strictly by appointment only; fax the Director, Malacañang Museum at +632/ 784 4286 loc. 4722
BANGKO SENTRAL NG PILIPINAS MUSEUM - A visit to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Money Museum is a walk through of a number of galleries dedicated to periods in the country’s history, with a narrative relating the development of the Philippine economy parallel to the evolution of its currency. The museum also showcase select paintings from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas art collection as well as artifacts. On permanent display are collections of coins, paper notes, artifacts and monetary items found in the Philippines during different historical periods. Yael recommends seeing the gold collection located in the basement.  

Bangko ng Sentral ng Pilipinas is located at A. Mabini cor. P. Ocampo St., Malate, Tel: +632/5247011.
AYALA MUSEUM - For over forty years, its handcrafted dioramas continue to impress visitors but the Ayala Museum really has so much more to offer. For the price of admission alone, the Maritime Vessels collection of finely crafted ship models paying tribute to ancient boats is worth every peso you pay. Add to that the museum’s fine arts collection, a veritable trove of priceless masterpieces which includes paintings by Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and Fernando Zobel, representing Philippine art from the late nineteenth to the twentieth century.  Not to miss is the People Power Revolution live exhibit, retelling the story of the country coming together in the 80s to overthrow the oppressive Marcos regime, a revolution that held the world spellbound and restored the Filipino people’s dignity.  

Museum hours from Tuesday to Friday: 9am-6pm; weekends: 10am-70m; closed on Mondays • Artist Space is open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm; weekends: 10am-7pm • 3rd Floor Shop is open during gallery hours, Tuesday to Friday: 9am-6pm; weekends: 10am-7pm

To read the other parts of this Manileño's Manila series, click here: Part 1, Part 2 with Carlos Celdran or Part 3 with Ivan Man Dy.

To read more about Lagalog's Malacañang Museum experience, go here.

Attribution: Article culled from Seair InFlight Magazine February-March 2010 issue • All text and photos by Oggie Ramos • Layout and art direction by Jocas A. See.  For subscriptions, call (+632) 840280


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