Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘history’

Breathing Adventure: Travelling Back In Time At Las Casas (Bataan, Philippines)

I think I have fallen in love. No, not with some Prince Charming or some knight in shining armor. I have found basking myself in the glory of history. It’s a place where the past is immortalized through houses of grandeur, their stories resonating in my pure, Filipina soul. By the time I have stepped back into reality, I was never the same again. I think I have just left a piece of my heart in Las Casas.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a place owned by Jerry Acuzar, one of the most succesful and richest men in the province. It was built in 2010 but it is continually being developed until today. 

To get there, one has to take a three to four-hour bus ride from the Genesis bus station in Cubao going to Balanga (that would be Php200) and about an hour’s jeepney ride from Balanga to Bagac (Php50). Then, take a Php50 tricycle ride to the very site. I recommend you to leave at around 7 am even if the check-in time is at 2 pm. We were very lucky because our jeepney driver had agreed to take us straight to the resort while charging us only Php80 per person.

Stepping through the gates of Las Casas is like stepping back in time. It embodies everything Filipino, right from the building structures, the camiso de chino and the baro’t saya the staff are wearing to the true blue Pinoy values they are exemplefying. Their friendliness and hospitality are very welcoming for us. I even felt a little embarrassed when they have asked us to carry our bags to our room.

I couldn’t contain my excitement because everything is overwhelmingly IG-worthy. By the time we have entered our overnight abode, I screamed. With that, I was ready with my OOTD. I have to make sure I’d jive well with the place.

A jeep would carry us from the reception, to our quarters and to the little village where las casas (yes, the place literally means “the houses” in Spanish) stand. All houses, which were restored or remodeled, have story to tell. Some of them are linked to our national heroes, some had horror stories but others will just simply bring childhood memories of your old grandma’s house where the smell of burning leaves waft in the morning air. I assure you one day is not enough for all of these tours and activities.

One of the tour guides demonstrating some of the most curious things that could be found in an old house.

A room full of curiosities

Many statues like these playing children are placed in the village

Murals that replicate the works of great Filipino artists in one of the houses.

It would be good if you spend an overnight stay on the weekend because they have cultural shows on Saturdays and special activities on Sundays. One of them was the carabao race, which we have missed unfortunately. Still, we were able to watch a play at the end of the tour, which is about the value of the Filipino.

The carabao parade! We should have followed them to see them race. 🙂

Nighttime at Las Casas is very romantic. I don’t mind not having a date because the sound of the singing violin from afar is enough to melt my heart. If you’re wondering where that sound came from, that was from the open Italian restaurant in the village.

I warn you the food in this place is quite pricey but I can also assure you it won’t disappoint you. You just have to choose whether you like Filipino or Italian cuisine. We have chosen Filipino food because it is good for sharing (one viand costs around Php300-Php500 but a cup of rice is Php50). It is very fulfilling because it is tasty and it is really heavy in the stomach.

Ginataang langka

Liempo

Breakfast is just as good as dinner. Oh, the breakfast buffet is part of our overnight package so we can have as much bread and coffee as we want. I would say again the food is satisfying and superb. It’s enough to keep us going through the rest of the day.

That’s daing na bangus with eggs and fried rice, paired with lomi, fruits and coffee, along woth bread and jam. Who says we’ll be hungry the whole day?

The sea was not swimmable because the waves were dangerously strong. Don’t worry, there’s a small pool near the beach where you can waddle for a morning swim. 

Even after check-out, we can still tour the place in the afternoon. We did not miss the kalesa ride (about Php75 per person) but we were not able to take the balsa ride (which should have been at Php250) because it was beginning to drizzle. We’d rather horse around the rest of the day.

Meet Makisig, the strongest horse in town. I couldn’t imagine him carrying six ladies around town. 🙂

As always, we took a visit at the souvenir shop. I would have loved to take a picture while wearing a traditional Filipino dress at their Photography studio but the minimum price is Php800 to Php900! Nah, forget it. It’s not my pre-nup yet. 

Surprisingly, we only remembered to take a bite at around 3 pm (I told you the breakfast is superb!). Let me remind you that puto (rice cakes) at their snack bar costs at around Php110 for every five, small pieces. Kikiam (a type of Filipino dumpling) costs at around Php90! Oh well, we’d be willing to try it for the sake of experiencing them.

We ended the tour (and the picture taking) past 5 pm. If you don’t plan to bring a car at Las Casas, advise you not to leave the place around that time because there would be no more jeepney going to Balanga. The last jeepney trip would be around 4 or 5pm. The tricycles did take us to Balanga but it’s a bit expensive. 

The gateway to the beach.

We all had our hangovers when we had left the place. If only we could stay longer. The place and the experience Las Casas offers are very satisfying. I’d recommend you to take a room for six if you’re going with a large group because that only costs Php10,800 or Php1800 per person during the weekdays (rates are more expensive on weekends). It would be great to visit the place with your best travel buddies.

From the left Tina, myself, Lans, Ross and Ritz…all aboard to new adventures.

What I love most of all in Las Casas is its tag, “Pride in the past, hope for the future”. Such houses are rarely found in the cities. It is sad many modern Filipinos do not have a sense of history. I admire Mr. Acuzar for keeping the Filipino spirit alive by rebuilding these houses. I hope it is not only the experience the visitors would bring home. I hope everyone who visits Las Casas would also carry the vision Mr. Acuzar has in preserving the Filipino heritage.

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Movie Perspective: Revealing the Reeking Societal Cancer in “Heneral Luna”

heneral lunaI was never been a fan of General Antonio Luna. Known for his infamous temper, I ever wondered why he was enlisted in the roster of Philippine heroes. At the first week of the “Heneral Luna” screening, I dismissed it as another average period film. Until the social media buzzed with endless accolades for the film.

Although oozing with curiosity, it took me four weeks before seeing it. Notwithstanding the fact I watched it without a date (which I never ever had yet), I got more than what I’ve bargained for.

Much of the movie plot revolves on the Philippine revolution, which coincided at the close of the 19th century. Here was General Luna, pompous and ready to defend his principles — in a defensive move. Not the wimpy kind of general who would shrug his shoulders when the government was ready to deal with the American conquerors, Luna was stubborn to push the Westerners off the newly instituted Philippine Republic.

His ways in disciplining his soldiers, mostly the cowardly ones, and his laid back fellow generals was offensively harsh to many of them. Those who resisted his orders were immediately slapped with Artikulo Uno: those disobedient to the general’s orders can be subject to punishment and death without undergoing military court.

His defense on his stance offended many of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s cabinet members. This had triggered a conspiracy to eliminate the headstrong general. But one thing made Luna’s name forever etched in the pages of history was his love for his Motherland. Never mind the women that he had, the rough way he dealt with his enemies and even allies. Until the end of his life, he was brave enough to stand as a man for his country’s freedom and not for his selfish priorities.

With the the film’s quick plot, I was surprised when it ended after almost two hours. In a short span of time, every historical personality became much alive, and even personal, by the way the actors portrayed them. John Arcilla, who played the role of Luna, convinced me that the general was more than a rash character from my school textbooks. His eyes had this hint of madness that made Luna look much like him (add it with the general’s mustache). Yet, he had also embodied the other dimensions of his character very clearly.

No need to impose how realistic this film should be, as the facts in this part of Luna’s life was well narrated even with a few symbolisms, especially his assassination. (Oops, sorry for spoilers) Jerrold Tarog, the director of his film, had been ingenious in weaving history and relating it to our social consciousness. He had reintroduced a tragic but praiseworthy figure once forgotten in our classes. With that he brought an awakening to a demoralization that has never been cured until now.

This film showed us more than Luna’s character. Though it was not proven in history who killed Luna (though most viewers had implied it to be the president himself), his death had shown how much we are still dealing with the so-called cancer of society: treachery, greed, and selfishness. As Luna was eliminated by Filipino soldiers, the film revealed how his own countrymen was ready to put away unity for the sake of their own selfish agendas. So it is with our society today. I’ve seen this scene many times with our leaders, eliminating one another through character assassination. But I believe it’s not only hitting the political arena, but it goes out to all of us, as well.  Luna’s question echoes to many, “Kaya natin magbuwis ng buhay sa pamilya pero para sa isang prinsipiyong makabayan? (If we can sacrifice our lives for our own families can we not do it for our country?)”. What I got was more than a story, but a reality that we have to tackle and address.

I once thought that Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal (1998) was the best period film my generation could see. Jerrold Tarog had proven himself a genius in recreating a period film, making it worthy for Oscars. It brought back my faith that we Filipinos can create noteworthy period films that can be entertaining, mind-opening, and worth the sacrifice to see it.

Behind the Yellow Confetti

I know it’s a week late but let me share how memorable it is to be a part of another historic moment.

Twenty seven years after the first EDSA People Power Revolution, a law to compensate every human rights victim under

Pres. Aquino signing the Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 at the People Power Monument at EDSA last Feb. 25, 2013

Pres. Aquino signing the Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 at the People Power Monument at EDSA last Feb. 25, 2013

the Martial Law has been signed. The Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 has been signed by President Aquino at the very People Power Monument last February 25.

To give a brief description of this law, this enables the compensation of the human rights victims under the Marcos regime between 1972 to 1986. This is for thus to restore not only their memory but to recognize the agony they endured and for the later generations to remember the ordeals of this era. A more detailed description of this law can be found under the Official Gazette website: http://www.gov.ph/downloads/2013/02feb/20130225-RA-10368-BSA.pdf

I have heard various accounts of when the state was under the Martial Law. Some claimed tough and terrible times. Others said it was just as normal as it was. While there were people who claimed that being under the Marcos regime was peaceful and generally did not want to take into account the horrible part. I wouldn’t conclude at this point who’s right, though. But it was a privilege for me to have had a short encounter with the Martial Law survivors last Monday.

One of them was Boni Ilagan, vice chairperson of the anti-human rights violence group SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detention at Aresto). For a short moment, I asked him to recount a bit what he experienced during the Martial Law. By 23, he was arrested, tortured, and kept in a secluded place in almost a year. He cried injustice on what was done, as he was not put in a regular detention facility, being an activist against the regime. Yet, what happened to his sister, Rizalina, was more tragic. After being arrested with ten others in Southern Tagalog, her body was never found. Some of those with her were found dead in separated areas in Luzon.

An army tank at the reenactment of the "Salubong", when civilians and soldiers "met" in a peaceful clash that made the 1986 revolution a memorable and a historic one.

An army tank at the reenactment of the “Salubong”, when civilians and soldiers “met” in a peaceful clash that made the 1986 revolution a memorable and a historic one.

Twenty seven years lapsed; the signing, Ilagan said, was a success. After the Marcos regime, four administrations passed and yet no such law was taken into effect. Ilagan mentioned to me that this act was filed in the legislative for more than a decade and only until now it was a dream for those who yearned justice. Yet, it was only the beginning, he said. There’s more to battle. This is just one step to end impunity and human rights violence.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson and also former human rights victim Etta Rosales agreed with this statement. The Philippines is the first in Asia to sign such a law in recognition of human rights victims. She hopes this would become a model for the world to push through to end impunity.

As I then talked to young people after the celebration, I observed how most of the younger generation do not understand the ordeal that these older activists must have gone through. I asked a few (rowdy and pretentiously shy) students how would they fare if we don’t have this freedom we’re getting. I got generally general answers: we’re not free. They tried to get details on how it would have been but on the general note, they can’t move the way as they do now.

I don’t blame them. I don’t understand the Martial Law ordeal either. I was already existing on the face of the earth for only a year when the sea of yellow fighters stormed the streets ready to sacrifice their red blood for freedom. These young people are decades apart from the time a renewed constitution was forged for them.

I remember how bleak it was to “witness” history through textbooks (that keep on being updated) alone. Museums try to recreate accounts dramatically to make sure we will not forget. Survivors would tell us in pain and tears for us to feel what they felt then. But if we take our present for granted, we will never remember. It is up to our generation to remember and recount the ordeals of history.

History never repeats itself. It is up to us to repeat history. Most of us find this subject in school boring because we were not a part of it. Yet, we don’t realize that we are living in historical times. Historical accounts became legend because it was either destroyed or was totally ignored. If there’s one way to warn the younger generations of the mistakes of the past, it is only through a re-account of history. But it is up to us, and for the younger generation, to heed the cries of the past and those who lived in the past.

After the "salubong" took place.

After the “salubong” took place.

My heart felt bad for some of the young students who kept on picking flowers from the army tanks and taking pictures while Pres. Aquino was speaking. Perhaps, they were not briefed about protocols and respect to the leaders of our nation. I wonder what would it be if we were threatened by nearby soldiers to shut up and listen to the president? They must not have understood that this freedom should never be taken for granted to the point of showing nonchalance to figures of authority. I wonder what difference one would react if he came from a threatening environment to a freed atmosphere. What character he must have exemplified!

As the yellow confetti showered the streets of EDSA, I hope everyone would not think of the People Power as merely a celebration or a sensationalized propaganda. Behind the yellow brand that is being blasted in public every February 25 are stories doused in red blood. We celebrate so as not to forget. We celebrate so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past anymore. I hope every young person would realize this. I hope every young ones in my generation would remember and listen to the voice of the past.

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