Welcome to My Blog

This contains snippets of my journeys from the most mundane to the most exciting. This will contain some reviews as well, mostly of hotels and places visited. At times, this could be filled with gripes and frustrations but in all, it will most likely show how truly fascinating life is from my vantage point. My personal mantra, however troubled or distorted things may seem to most, is rooted from the movie "3 Idiots" - - All is Well. Thus, I am a fervent believer of limitless possibilities. Live well. Cheers!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Pampanga 'Culture Shock' Experience: A Food & Heritage Tour





January 3, 2013 is a memorable day for me because it is the first time I got the services of a local tour company, cultureshock.ph. Here is how I stumbled into this tour company. My mom asked me to bring  my relatives somewhere for sight seeing because they will be flying back to the US and Germany soon. I figured that since my mom wanted them to experience history and culture, perhaps I should seek the aid of those who are experts in the field of tourism.  As soon as I chanced upon culture shock's blog (cultureshockph.wordpress.com), I contacted the point person right away and after making the necessary arrangements, here we all were  in front of Starbucks Petron, Katipunan transferring to a white tour van (with custom built seat padding inside for better comfort) rearing to experience a good time and have a deeper appreciation of our country.  

Here are some snippets of what we visited:

1st Stop:  Borromeo House of Atching Lillian

From L to R Clockwise: Fil, Yey, Walt, Tour Guides, Sophia,
Garry, & Don (Where am I? Oh right, I'm the photographer.)
We were welcomed by Atching Lillian to her abode. With the welcome drinks and her friendly demeanor, we couldn't help but be excited with what's in store for all of us.

Here are a few things that I have gathered from her:  (a.)  she initially did not like to cook but had to do so because this is what was required of her at that time (b.)  her mom is a good cook (c.) she became a home economics teacher (d.) she eventually liked to cook (e.) she believes in sharing her knowledge about cooking to others (f.) people back in the day prayed when they cooked. This sort of like served as a timer to them.  For instance, if a dish was supposed to be ready in 10 minutes, then they will say a prayer that is 10 minutes long.

Dinuguan
Conversation with Atching Lillian
Sisig
Then came lunch, we had several dishes but I would have to say that this dinuguan dish (right) and sisig (bottom right) are my favorite of all the dishes served to us. I actually had seconds (couldn't help it). I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.
     After eating, I took a photo of a streamer I saw right behind us and Atching Lilian said that she received this "Most Outstanding Kapampangan" award alongside bigwigs in business and politics.
Most Outstanding Kapampangan
Awardee for 2012
She even claimed that Manny Villar approached her to say that he appreciated her speech dedicated to the unsung heroes of the kitchen.  She jokingly shared that he probably said that because that was the only phrase she said in her entire speech that was not kapampangan.
After eating lunch and chatting about various topics, Atching Lillian ushered us into her outdoor kitchen for a baking demo.  She shared to us the life of St. Nicholas de Tolentino, her San Nicolas cookies, that molasses instead of sugar was used in the past for baking, and that salt, back in the day, was actually blessed before it was used for consumption. She pretty much reminded me of my own grandmother, a diva when it came to baking and cooking.
Atching Lilian's signature lines would be "tantya tantya" (guess/hit or miss) method which she said when she referred to how to get the flour to having the right consistency.
Here's Uncle Garry (Baumgartner) trying his hand in placing the dough on the mold using a pilon (rolling pin).
Cookie Mold (This is really ancient.)


Uncle Walt (Smith) also made a similar attempt to create a perfectly formed cookie.

San Nicolas Cookie when formed






From Left to Right: Walt, Yey, Me, Fil, Issa, Atching Lilian, Garry, Don, & Sophia
After this first stop, I was really excited to experience the rest of this unique trip.

2nd Stop:  Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish in Sta. Rita, Pampanga








This is one among several churches we have visited and I must say that from the outside, this, same with the other churches, looks quite unassuming but when you go inside, you see very imposing, almost opulent looking structures that houses God and the different saints.  In Sta. Rita Parish, we also had the chance to see a first-class relic of Sta. Rita de Cascia. A patron saint for lost and impossible causes, she was an Italian Augustinan nun who entered the convent when she became a widow.


 
I thought the mural was absolutely breathtaking.  It was the first time I saw a relic and it is held in such high regard that it is encased in some sort of jewel.  I said a little prayer to Sta. Rita.  My relatives on the other hand, got to speak with the parish priest.
 

The church had a marker which the priest pointed out. It mentioned that on August 11, 2012, a typhoon struck this church and the water level (flood) was at a certain level.
3rd Stop:  Ocampo Lansang Delicacies

In the Philippines, many homes double up as home businesses where the entire family helps out in doing the work. We were brought to Ocampo Lansing Delicacies D'Original for a quick visit of the owners' home/workplace. Below you can see the entire family involved in
making "Turones de Casuy." They also make sansrival, sweet tamarind, and other pastries.  This is one hardworking family. I hope more Filipino families will be entrepreneurial like them.

Lola, Lolo, and Son-in-Law (just guessing)

Preparing the Goods
4th Stop: San Guillermo Parish in Bacolor, Pampanga
 This church is quite known because it sunk in lahar (ash) after the Mount Pinatubo (volcanic) eruption that took place in 1991.











Above, you will see how the altar area looked really tall and the church's structure really high. On the right, you can see that the altar is no longer as high. In fact, the personal guide (and church volunteer) shared with us that they had to dig up this entire structure above and for the ceiling (below), they had to remove the roof to make the ceiling appear high.

This is how small the window is now.
 
On the outside, this is what is San Guillermo parish is reduced to in size. But seeing this structure and its adjacent museum tells a lot about the Filipinos' resilience when it comes to  facing various life challenges. The Mount Pinatubo eruption did not stop its people from rising from the ashes, starting anew, and rebuilding their parish and community. The beautiful paintings below are some proofs of the Filipino spirit. 

Ash Stricken San Guillermo Parish

 The guide told us that every time someone takes a photo of this (right), some sort of image would appear out of nowhere. You decide if you actually see something. 









This wooden "clapper" is used in the place of a"bell" during holy week. 







Don and Sophia
Ninang Yey

Artistic Shot...Not!

I would have to say that this particular artwork in the San Guillermo Parish Gallery/museum is my personal favorite.  I wish I could bring it home but since I can't, I just settled to take a photo of it as a remembrance.

Additional Information you might want to know about San Guillermo Parish:
1. This church is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage  site.
2.  Originally, this structure was 12 meters high.
3.  San Guillermo is actually St. William the Hermit
4.  "May Bukas Pa" (There is still Tomorrow) where "Santino" starred some years ago was shot in this Church.
5.  Because of the airing of the soap opera "May Bukas Pa," many (according to our guide) entered priesthood during this time.
6.  This church was established by Agustinian Priests

 5th Stop:  Betis Crafts Inc.
Betis is a furniture store located in Guagua, Pampaga  and from the outside, I wasn't really expecting much.  I was thinking that this is probably another typical furniture shop and boy, I was mistaken. Betis is actually a massive furniture company that exports across the globe. In fact, the one who toured us around the place told us that their furniture is being carried by stores like Neiman Marcus. 
 To your right is my dream living room.  Isn't it amazing? I was even told that some Filipinos would buy furniture from Italy and have it imported here in the Philippines only to find out that what they bought is actually made in the Philippines.  I'm glad Betis has a sale sometime in August and every August thereafter.  This, according to the guide, is their lean season.  I pray that one day I can afford to buy similar looking furniture.  I love nice furnishings, that's for sure.



Here's my photo (on the store's window display).


Here's the staff of Betis at work.  Get this, they also make furniture made of gold.  

Here are some wooden cabinets that they are prepping to export to Europe.  
 Finally, here is my daughter, Sophia.  She was also very thrilled like I was to see the lovely furniture around.

Wish I could just take my pick and write out a check for whatever amount my favorite furniture costs, but no, not this time.  Soon, it will be mine.  Bwahahahaha!  Sorry, I got carried away.


This brings me to the conclusion that Filipinos are extraordinarily talented.  It makes me all the more proud to be Filipino.  By the way, we also had the most delicious banana fritters with some sort of apple sauce and wheat grass juice courtesy of Betis Crafts' management.

6th Stop:  Betis Church Guagua, Pampanga
 
This church was probably the grandest of all the churches we have seen here in Pampanga.  Known as the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines, its ceiling mural (above) is really very beautifully done. The craftsmanship of Betis woodworkers is quite evident in the altar and other areas of the church (see window woodcarving left).

This was capped off with dinner in a local restaurant with exotic food (like crickets and frogs).  Sorry, I don't have photos of these. Even with my aunt convincing me to give it a taste, I really could not muster to take a bite of unique delicacies although the food presentation was really nice.

My "CULTURE SHOCK"  experience was really worth it that I am excited to actually experience their other tour packages here in the country.  Sometimes, we spend so much in our desire to visit various sites and scenes abroad but here in the Philippines, there is much to see other than big malls, other commercial sites, and beaches.  I love it!