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Because Taiwan = Relax

Got a cheap Eva Air flight to Taipei (around 7k!) a couple of months back for the Holy Week so I grabbed the chance to head back to my favorite Chinese city.  This coming from the heels of my Yangon trip just 2 weeks back and what should have been a Batanes trip last week.  I gave the latter up.  It was just too much.  

At the Starbucks at the corner of Chengdu and  Kunming now.  Check-in at the hostel ain’t happening till 3pm.  Perhaps, some study time is in order while deciding what to do.

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Rainy Day in Chiang Mai: Brunch at The Garden, Another Massage, Sunday Market

After doing the laundry (see my other post), I headed to The Garden, an 8-minute walk from the hotel and highly recommended at Trip Advisor.  The rain shower hadn’t ceased yet so walking generated a little heat as it was quite cold.

The Garden That’s Really a Patio

Well, if you’re thinking of a garden with lots of plants and outdoor seating, The Garden was really someone’s (the owner’s) patio surrounded by potted house plants and next to a garage.  In fact, I was seated a few steps from a parked vehicle and moto.



In spite of this, the checkered cloth covered tables and wooden benches and the overall homey feel of the place still managed to make it cozy.


I ordered toast, omelette, sausage, pan-fried potatoes with onion, and coffee.   Food was good, servings quite big, and the coffee was served with steamed milk.  Big big plus.  Breakfast also came with a small glass of orange juice.  Everything was just perfect! 


 It was such a quiet enjoyable breakfast until a not so elderly man came from the house, sat at a garden chair by the moto, and started watching tv on his gadget.  In a single instance, my tranquil morning ended.  Such a pity because I could have sat there the entire morning drinking coffee.  Just rested for a few minutes then paid my bill and left.
Headed to the old town and followed the sound of music instruments playing to Wat Phan Po where a children’s group was playing.


Took a Grab car to Chaya Spa for my 5pm appointment (Uber was at 1.7 surge rate) and was fetched by a guy with his wife and baby girl in a Honda CRV. Had another 2-hour hot oil massage.  The masseur wasn’t as good as my previous one, though.  The rain showers were still falling when I came out of the spa and took anothet Grab to Thae Phae Gate.

Walking (while trying not to step on another person) at the Sunday Walking Market

The length of Ratchadamnoen was packed.  The rain showers were probably falling without hitting the ground.  It was almost impossible to see the goods on the opposite side of the street.  Ducked into a wat where street food vendors had set-up. Ate this crab dumpling.


I wanted to eat some more but the place was crowded.  Headed to Wat Phan Po to eat some more.  The children were still performing.  Got some sausages and fried pork.  How to eat them at outdoor seating without getting wet?

Bought all of my gifts at the night market.  Everything was cheaper here.  I suddenly felt cheated after comparing the prices of some stuff I bought at the day market at Wat Phra Singh a couple of days ago.  Also noticed the discrepancies in prices between stalls.  The bookmarks were at TH 10/piece and TH 100/12 pcs while another stall had them at TH 30/piece and TH 100/4 pcs!  The fruit-shaped soaps were TH 39/pc at stalls closer to Tha Phae compared to TH 79 at stalls further down the road.  It was food that generally had the same prices.

The stalls started dismantling past 10pm as the crowd was thinning out already.  

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Puppet and Opera

The Hungry Ghost Month is a good time to be in Georgetown as you can get  a glimpse of some Penang Chinese (who are Hokkienese) practices.  Last night, we watched a potehi (glove puppet) performance at the Lee Jetty.   A small stage had been set-up at the parking space by the entrance. 

The performance started a few minutes past 8. The small crowd was mostly people from the ICTM conference.  Admittedly, the novelty soon wore-off and I was quite bored as I couldn’t understand a single word.  The puppets also didn’t move much, staying rooted in their position.  

Behind the scenes was more interesting as we could see the elderly couple singing and manipulating the puppets.

It was waay past dinner time and my tummy was really grumbling. We ducked to a nearby noodle shop.  On the way back to the hotel, we came across a Chinese opera.

It was fun to watch even if we couldn’t understand a thing.  Unlike the potehi show, this one had more audience.

Nearby was a large shrine.

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La Preciosa

La Preciosa is the other restaurant to go to for Ilokano dishes. The others are Saramsam and Herencia Garden Restaurant.

We arrived in time for lunch and was fortunate to immediately get a table for 7 at the ground floor annex.

The beef pinapaitan was good and had none of the scummy taste that usually accompanies the dish. The serving was a disappointment though. There was too much soup and too little meat. Makes you want to scream, “harang!”

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The chicken kare-kare Ilokano arrived in bright orange. It was quite tasty but the color and the texture of the sauce makes it look like it came from a mix. Or did it?

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The sinaglaw na tilapia was better. It didn’t try to be something it couldn’t be.

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The dinardaraan had chunks of chicharron but it was quite bland.

The best dish that we had was the crunchy deep-fried pig intestines. It tasted clean and was very crisp.

For dessert, we tried 7 different cakes including their best-selling carrot cake which was covered in freshly-grated carrots. The buttercream icing was good but the cake itself lacked moisture and spice. It was almost bread-like. Fortunately, the icing was thick enough so it helps moisten the cake. Much better were the cheese cakes.

I wasn’t too happy with our meal at La Preciosa. Saramsam was better. I’ll probably just go to La Preciosa for dessert.

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Sarap at Saramsam

Tucked in a side of Balay de Blas is Saramsam where you can have Ilokano classic dishes such as pinakbet, higado, or lauya. Their bagnet is crisp is served with tomatoes.

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The dinardaraan, the Ilokano version of dinuguan, is unfortunately dry.

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The poque poque is really good. Even my friend who makes a mean version of this dish agrees. It has the right amount of moisture from the tomatoes and the eggs.

What Saramsam is famous for, however, is their pizza versions of these dishes. We only got to try the Pinakbet Pizza which was generously topped with slices of eggplant, okra, tomatoes, sitaw, and mozzarella cheese.

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It is served with diluted bagoong, a condiment not associated with pizza but trust me, it’s really good.

Saramsam’s innovations doesn’t end with pizza. There’s Katil which they bill as Ilokano fondue. Fried bananas and kamote are served with hot molasses.

 

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Those Cute Ifugao Kiddos

For those of us familiar with the Cordilleras and its people, we’ve always known how good-looking they are. Well-chiseled faces, smooth skin, and almond eyes are distinct features. Good-looking adults must then come from cute kids.

At Bgy. Bocos where we spent two days documenting dances, we were surrounded by the cutest kids.

Here are the kids assembling at the grounds of the Adventist church for the parade last Wednesday.

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This dark-skinned kid is probably the offspring of a mixed marriage. Very cute!

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More cute kids.

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There they go at the parade.

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At the fiesta grounds of the old baranggay hall, the kids competed in performing traditional dances.

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The next day, we went to Bgy. Uhaj to video kids of the School of Living Traditions in their dances and songs.

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This afternoon, at the main viewpoint, we had a really informative conversation with a local who was carrying his 10-month old baby girl.

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The Many Faces of a Bulol

Taking a look at traditional Ifugao sculpture is an interesting way to understand the people’s culture.  The Museum of Cordillera Sculpture is the perfect place for this. The two-storey house holds a vast and precious collection of both traditional and modern Ifugao sculpture.

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There are also pieces from other groups such as the Bontoc, Iwak, and Kalanguya.  The oldest in the collection interestingly is not from the Cordilleras but from eastern Samar, a depiction of an owl-god sculpted in the 16th century.

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It’s an insight in the animist beliefs of the people that Spanish colonizers tried to eradicate but which some villagers continued covertly.

But it is in the bulol that I was most fascinated with.

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One of the most interesting things I learned  is that bulols actually have faces! Most of us are accustomed to mass-produced bulol sold as souvenirs which all look like they came from an assembly line. Seeing the ones displayed at the museum, I learned that bulols usually take on a composite face of the owner’s ancestors.

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Far from having a generic look, they have very distinct features.

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They’re also anatomically correct.

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Not all bulol are seated either. Some may be dancing.

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Or standing.

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What all these show is the personal devotion by which the Ifugao bulol sculptors create these sacred icons. 

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Banaue Day 3 and an Instant Recognition Day

Day 3 here in Banaue and its getting colder and colder. It rained last night and this morning, I woke-up to this sight from our bedroom balcony.

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It’s also day 3 of having buffet breakfasts and dinners at the Banaue Hotel.  At least, the selections change everyday.

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This morning, Lilymae and I swore we’d have a la carte for dinner but when the documentation team arrived late this afternoon from Manila, we couldn’t resist joining them at the buffet. I feel like a pig being fattened for a festival.

Lilymae and I headed to the baranggay hall  after breakfast to speak to the kapitan about documenting the fiesta. When we arrived, it was recognition rites for the daycare kids and we were invited to come-in. The last-time I stumbled into grad rites was 20 years ago in Panay. After hiking for about 5 hours, we arrived at the community and were promptly asked to join the  graduation march reserved for parents and esteemed guests.  Anyway, the recognition rites was short and sweet and the graduates were cute in their white robes and cardboard togas.

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After the rites, we were invited to a lunch of rice and pork stew.  We were still quite full from the breakfast but we couldn’t decline.  It was yummy, by the way.  We did get to speak with the kapitan and also managed to arrange a performance by a group of kids for documentation purposes.

We spent the afternoon buying some stuff to take home. Got a nice blanket for 2k which was selling 3.5k at the shops at the hotel.

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Arriving in Banaue and Meeting the Youngest “Mumbaki”

We pulled into Banaue past six yesterday morning. The Ohayami bus was comfortable and the driver drove at a safe speed (important at the blind curves) so I managed to get some sleep.  There were many foreign tourists on the bus which was good. After registering and paying Php20 at the terminal, the bus conductor pointed us to the free shuttle to Banaue Hotel. Lilymae and I were the only passengers!

Our room was ready so we were able to check-in immediately and help ourselves to the buffet breakfast.

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Aahh. If all fieldwork were like this, I can do this year round.

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Our bedroom view.

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Highlight of the day was going to Ujah for Lilymae to interview one of her key resource persons, Rey, a mumbaki and kagawad.  Only 19 years old, he is a storehouse of traditional knowledge and culture.

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We also saw his nephews playing with traditional Ifugao toys.

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Windows, Doors, and Passages: Peering into Bagan’s Temples

I love temples for their sense of calm and mediration. They have a spiritual energy unlike other places of worship. Even if they’re just ruins, they continue to emanate the religious fervor of a thousand years.

I also love taking photos of doors, windows, and passageways. To me,  they are means by which temple architects use to bring spiritual awe and ecstasy on pilgrims. Doors are entryways to experience Buddha while windows connect the secular world with the spiritual inside. Passages are labyrinths of faith in which pilgrims journey into the spiritual sanctum of the temples.  It is all these I have tried to capture in Bagan.

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A Buddha figure in Dhsmmanyazi

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