The Philippines
Originally, visits to my wife's home country--and now my home since 2015
(more about my travels--and life--in the Philippines)

First Burial Place of Jose Rizal, Paco Cemetery, Manila

I have come to admire "The Great Malay," Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines' greatest national hero. I have been slowly reading his works; I have read one print biography and one online, and several biographical articles; and I have walked the route from his place of incarceration to his place of execution, where the Spanish authorities--on charges of insurrection--took his life on the morning of December 30, 1896.

In the picture above, the effigy stands in the space where Dr. Rizal was incarcerated; the steps indicate the path to the execution ground.

He is fascinating, multi-talented, and multi-faceted. An unchallenged national hero for over a century, and yet riddled with ambiguities. There are even messianic sects, such as the Rizalistas, who believe he will come again to save the Philippines in her hour of greatest need.

Anyway, in my research I had learned that the monument in what is now Rizal Park, near his execution site, was not his original resting place. In fact, the Spaniards had spirited his body away and buried it in secret to prevent a cult of martyr-worship.

Borrowed from Chapter XI here

But friends of the family discovered the location: formerly a cemetery, these days known as Paco Park. They paid a worker to mark the grave with Dr. Jose Protasio Rizal's initials in reverse, as seen above. (There's an interesting account of a "local" man helping some Spanish researchers locate the park here and here.)

The Paco area adjoins Malate (where we were staying), so we set off on foot. Soon, however, my companions (my wife Lila and our friend Adam) declared "this is ridiculous" and we hailed a cab. (I didn't argue with them.)

The park itself is beautiful, atmospheric. The curved walls encrusted with old crypts give an odd, comforting feeling.

And the round Chapel of St. Pancratius is like the jewel in the lotus.

The (alleged) former site of Dr. Rizal's burial is well-marked, and well worth a visit.

Kidlat Tahimik

During our honeymoon in May of 2007, Lila and I and our friend Adam headed up to Baguio, where Lila went to university.

We had lunch the first day at a restaurant that's part of what I call "Baguio's Vegetarian Dining Trifecta." Oh My Gulay is a veg restaurant and artspace (article and photos at Pinoy Travel Blog). More pics in Lila's Flickr album. (The other restaurants in the "Trifecta" are Bliss Cafe, owned by our great friends Jim and Shanti Isla Ward, and the venerable Cafe by the Ruins.)

Lila and Kidlat

While Adam and Lila were looking around, she ran into her old professor, Kidlat Tahimik, who has a part-interest in the restaurant.

This guy is a real a character, a promoter of the concept of the "true Filipino," uncowed by European culture. Part artist, part film director (one of his films was distributed by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Films), part shameless showman, he believes (according to his wife's book, Kapwa) in a return to simplicity, to traditional values, to "collective sensitivity."

For example, he calls the television "The Trojan Idiot Box," and sees it inculcating non-traditional values in the (addicted) viewers. He considers rejection of the television to be part of a 500-year "cultural resistance" on the part of Filipinos against European imperialism. (Yet, he produces video.)

When we met, he promised us a copy of the book by his wife, Katrin de Guia. When I picked it up the next day, I was delighted to discover two things.

First, his inscription read, "To Lila and James: The search for our artistic sariling dwende [inner strength] and for our Indio-genius strengths goes on...just as the way plotted out in Comm 122 [Lila's class]. Kidlat Tahimik."

And second, Dr. de Guia starts the chapter on Kidlat with references to Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade, both of whom I've studied and written about for years.

It was a great honor to meet this "icon" in the Filipino art and cultural scene.

Banaue Elders

Lila took the first shot below. I used hers because it's about eleventy times better than any I shot.
Old folks from the Ifugao culture sit out where the tourists can see them. It'sexpected that a tip will be offered.
The practice is not without controversy. Some see it as a demeaning use of tribalelders. (I suspect it's not the people who benefit from the tips who feel that way;it's a poor area, and every centavo helps.)
But they seemed happy to be there, chatting and chewing betel together.
These other fellows certainly don't mind being gawked at. They are numerous statues of Bulol, a local rice god/guardian (but see this). Usually made of wood, these stonefellows seemed especially grave.
I like this picture. It reminds me of a kids' puzzle: "How many presidents can you find drawn in this tree?"
How many Bulols can you find in this picture?

The Rice Terraces of Banaue

Last summer, Lila and I visited the Cordilleras, the mountain range in northern Luzon Island that is still largely inhabited by indigenous peoples.
We were headed for Sagada, where we saw little due to a poorly-timed typhoon.
But in Banaue, site of the World-Heritage rice terraces, we got an eyeful.
This post and next I'll show you a couple of things we saw. Mostly the pictures will do the talking.
This time, the land:
The view from our hotel room
A church in the fields
What it's all about: planting rice in a terraced field