Monday, January 25, 2016

Ati-Atihan 2016: Sunday Mass and Final Day Festivities

The last day of Ati-Atihan starts with the Pilgrim's mass which is held at the Kalibo Cathedral at 7AM. A stage is actually set up at the church quadrangle and a very good sound system allows thousands of people at the plaza grounds to hear the mass. I was actually late because the last two days left me exhausted and I overslept yet again but I was happy that I still made it midway through the mass.

At the end of the celebration, the priest exclaims "Viva kay Sr. Sto. Nino" three times, and the crowd responds with a resounding "Viva" each time. The drums then started beating and xylophones sounds filled the air to signal the start of the morning sadsad. All the participating tribes were in the plaza grounds during the mass and it was cool to see them come to life once the music began.

Check out this video to see the end of the mass and the start of the sadsad:

Once again, I started taking photos of the parading tribes and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

During the mass, I saw someone at the cathedral bell tower. I decided that I wanted to go up there myself after the mass to take photos of the parades and enjoy the views. There was no sign that indicated it wasn't allowed to go up and the door to the bell tower was open so I headed up. The staircase starts out with more solid stone or concrete steps but as you get close to the top, you have to ascend a metal spiral staircase which is a bit rickety. It was then that I thought that access to the bell tower should be restricted (or maybe it is and the door was just left open somehow). It was pretty scary heading down the spiral staircase (I was happy and felt a lot safer once I got to the stone/concrete steps) but I am quite happy that I got to take some shots of the crowd from the top.

After spending about an hour at the plaza once the mass ended, I decided to join my relatives for breakfast at Uncle Jack's house. About a dozen of my relatives, most of whom traveled to Kalibo just to join the Ati-Atihan, were there so it was like a breakfast party. At around 11am, Uncle Jack headed out to lead the sadsad of our group of relatives. My two uncles and I were supposed to follow him but we couldn't find them on the streets. We then decided to just go to the house of Uncle Arthur (I call him Uncle but he's actually my grandfather's brother) for lunch.

By early afternoon, I started feeling really tired so I went back to my hotel to rest a bit (I actually fell asleep for about an hour and a half). At that point, I had missed the start of the final procession, and there wouldn't be an easy way for me to find my relatives on the streets of Kalibo anymore. I decided to just go back to Uncle Arthur's house to catch up with him and watch the passing parades. I stayed there for maybe a couple of hours and Uncle Arthur and I got to share many stories. I stayed there for maybe 1-2 hours before going back to my hotel and even after sundown, the processions were still ongoing.

It was an incredible and thoroughly enjoyable first Ati-Atihan experience for me and I will certainly be going back. Hopefully, next time, I will manage my energy well enough to allow me to join that final procession (it takes about 5-6 hours I was told, so you really need to be physically prepared for it).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hala Bira! Ati-Atihan 2016: Sadsad

The Ati-Atihan Festival is held in Kalibo, Aklan every January to honor Santo Niño. It culminates on the 3rd Sunday of the month. It actually inspired and served as the model for other festivals in the country, such as the Sinulog in Cebu and the Dinagyang in Iloilo which also celebrate the Sto. Nino. For this reason, Ati-Atihan legally holds the title "Mother of all Philippine Festivals" (read more about it in wikipedia).

While some festivities and parades start earlier in the week, the biggest and most important activities start late in the week. (See the 2016 schedule here.) I arrived in Kalibo on Friday early afternoon so I got there just in time to witness and join some of the major events.

When I checked into my hotel, I asked the receptionist what time the parades would start and he told me that they were already ongoing. He also said that the sadsad (or street dancing) with vibrant and elaborate costumes would start on Saturday at around 8 or 9am. While many parades are scattered around city, majority of them make their way to the plaza so that's where I went after I settled into my room.

It was my first time in Kalibo so I studied the map of the city center (which I checked online) to give me an idea of the layout of the land. Of course, asking around was still the easiest way for me to get from my hotel to the plaza. I arrived at the plaza at around 3:30pm and when I got there, I was welcomed by an endless stream of parading people and a cacophony of drumbeats and xylophone music.

The vibe was electric and while I had very little sleep and not a lot to eat that day, I was suddenly filled with a lot energy. I stayed there for about 3 hours, running around taking pictures of the sadsad, the crowds, and the Kalibo Cathedral and enjoying the atmosphere.

This lechon was still pretty intact when I first saw it on the other side of the plaza. :)

I had planned to wake up early on Saturday to catch the parades in costume but I woke up late and got to the plaza at around 1030am. By then, the parades in costume seemed to have already completed their rounds. I asked one of the vendors if there would still be an opportunity to see them and he told me that they would be going around again on Sunday morning after the Pilgrim's mass. I hung about in the plaza a bit to see a few more parades and take a few more photos before having lunch at a restaurant just a few blocks away. At around 1pm, while waiting for my food to be served, I heard a drumbeat that was steadily increasing in volume. I look down the street and I see a parade of people in full costume heading down and making their way towards the plaza! Cool!

This was the first parade in full costume that I saw.

Apparently, they all had another round to make that afternoon and it seems that they were starting again after lunch. Once my meal arrived, I ate it really quickly and then went back to the plaza. It was at that point that I saw one colorful parade after another. Check out my sadsad compilation video here:

Seeing all those people dancing down the streets in brilliant costumes was just so thrilling! I must have had a smile plastered on my face that entire afternoon. The sun was scorching hot but even that was not enough to stop me from running around the plaza, taking photos and dancing along to the drumbeats and the music.

Sadsad at the plaza

I don't normally take selfies but as I was there by myself, I ended up taking more selfies than I ever have in a short span of time.

Selfie time!

In the mid-afternoon, a few tribes completed their sadsad and some of them rested in the church grounds. I asked one of the guys from Tribu Bukid Tigayon if I could have my photo taken with his headdress and he very kindly agreed. Cool! :)

wearing the headdress of Tribu Bukid Tigayon

Later that afternoon, I visited my uncle, who lives in Kalibo, and my aunts who were both in Kalibo for Ati-Atihan, to give them some gifts from my mom. Thankfully, I passed by at the right time. They told me I should join them in the sadsad of our group of relatives. After watching so many different parades go around the plaza, I was more than eager to actually join one. We started at around 5pm and we finished our sadsad at close to 8pm. Even at that time, there were still a whole lot of people dancing around the streets and the plaza was still filled with people.

The plaza at night

My uncle and aunts told me that there was a party that night and they invited me to join them. However, since I wasn't expecting to join a sadsad, I didn't manage my energy for that and I had spent about 8 hours on my feet, walking, running and even dancing under the intense heat of the sun. I also knew that I had to wake up really early the next day to join the Pilgrim's mass (which I will write about in more detail in my next post) so I passed on the party invite and went back to my hotel to rest. I was exhausted and sunburned and my legs and feet were sore but it was such an amazing day.

Next: the Pilgrim's mass and the last day of Ati-Atihan

Monday, January 18, 2016

Visiting Kalibo for Ati-Atihan

Finally! I have now been able to visit Kalibo during Ati-Atihan!

I had been wanting to go to Ati-Atihan for a really long time now because my grandfather's family is from there and because of its cultural significance as one of the most important festivals in Philippines. I was actually supposed to go around 15 years ago but I ended up getting sick right before the trip so I couldn't go. My friends have started recommending that I join other Philippine events but I felt that I needed to go to Ati-Atihan first.

I actually also planned to visit last year (2015) but as I made an attempt to book a hotel, I quickly found out that I was reserving accommodations too late as all places to stay were unavailable. I have a lot of relatives in Kalibo but they didn't me too well (I am very glad to say that this has now changed) so I didn't want to inconvenience people who barely knew me by asking to stay with them. As such, I decided to postpone my plans to 2016. This time around, I almost didn't make it either. When I was looking for available rooms, I only found a handful. I quickly booked a room then I proceeded to book my flight. Now I just had to wait for mid-January to come around. :)

But on my date of departure, things almost went horribly wrong. I was so tired and I lacked sleep the entire week leading up to my flight that I slept through all my alarms and I woke up 2 hours before my flight which was on a Friday. Usually the worst traffic day of the week. I was in state of panic because I thought I was going to miss my flight. I got ready in a flash but it took around 25 minutes to get a taxi - not that long considering the day and time but given that I was running very late, I was getting frazzled. (I should download Grab Car, Grab Taxi, or Uber one of these days.) When I was finally in my cab, I started thinking of options if I miss my flight (I knew there was one more flight later in the day but I was certain it would be fully booked.) By some stroke of sheer luck (to compensate for my misfortune of waking up late), there was no traffic all the way up to Resorts World. It took 10-15 minutes to get through the airport road construction traffic but I made it 45 minutes before my flight, just enough time not to be bumped off. Thank God! (As it turned out, my flight was delayed by about an hour, but I still don't know if I would have been allowed to check in less than 45 minutes before the planned departure time.) When I finally checked in, I just breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I will write more about my Kalibo experience over the next few blog posts, paying special attention to the Ati-Atihan Festival.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

Under Pressure is my favorite Queen song, my favorite David Bowie song, and one of my favorite songs of all time. In fact, it's the 4th most played song on my iPod.

video uploaded by moreno cavanna

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

RIP David, Kuya Germs, Susan and Natalie

2016 has just started but even in this short period of time, the country and the world says goodbye to some very influential people:

David Bowie, the legendary artist known primarily for his music, succumbed to cancer just two days after turning 69. He had just released his album, Blackstar, on his birthday and people feel that this was a parting gift to his fans (and the world) since he knew he didn't have too long to live, as he had been battling liver cancer for 18 months already. While he was a prolific singer/songwriter and is known for songs like Let's Dance and Heroes, my favorite is his collaboration with Queen: Under Pressure.

German "Kuya Germs" Moreno passed away at the age of 82 last Friday, January 8, due to cardiac arrest. Kuya Germs was an icon and an institution in the Philippine showbiz industry as he paved the way for many stars to build their careers through shows like GMA Supershow and That's Entertainment. In more recent years, he became famous for his tagline "Walang Tulugan" in the late night show Walang Tulugan with the Master Showman.

Susan Calo Medina is known by many for hosting the local TV show Travel Time. This show has been on air for the last 27 years, making it the longest-running travel show in the country, and also the most awarded. She died of a heart attack on Thursday, January 7. She was 73.

And just one day before new year, singer Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat King Cole, passed away from congestive heart failure. A nine-time Grammy Award winner, she is known by many for songs like Inseparable, Someone that I used to love, Miss you like crazy, Starting over again, and her "Unforgettable" duet with her father.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Catching up with friends

The Christmas season may be over but early January is still a time for catching up. Shortly after new year, I met up with my friends Doms, Zaza, Denise and Katco - the people I worked very closely with for many years as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility organization at work - for lunch in Estancia Mall in Capitol Commons. It was my first time there and I like the this mall - it's not too big and it's very well lit. We had lunch at Wholesome Table (the food is good but I find it a bit too expensive) before moving to Larcy's for some cupcakes and coffee. It was too bad that a lot of other folks couldn't make it that day but I am happy that we were still able to meet up. As expected, so many fun, interesting and amazing stories were shared.

enjoying a cupcake and coffee at Larcy's in Capitol Commons

I met up with my college friends for lunch. This was our annual get-together and while normally we have it between Christmas and New Year, scheduling conflicts meant that we had to meet up in early January instead. As usual, we had a potluck set-up and knowing that I wouldn't get there early, I volunteered to bring dessert. (I still recall the year I volunteered to bring drinks and I was late; that was a bit of a disaster LOL.) I couldn't stay long so I missed a couple of our classmates who arrived in the late afternoon but at least I did get to see most of the folks.

A couple of days later, I met up with my friends from my previous job. Once again, this was part 2 because we already met prior to Christmas. But one of my friends, Che, wanted to meet up again because she felt that she left our previous get together a bit early to catch a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I personally hadn't seen her as well in a while since she wasn't able to join our 2014 Christmas party. We ended up having dinner in Wang Fu in Serendra (it's a really good and pretty affordable Chinese restaurant) before moving to Mary Grace for coffee and dessert.

Needless to say, I ate too much over the holidays and I have gained a bit of weight. I now need to start eating less to try and get rid off the excess kilos.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Super Saturday

What a full and incredible yesterday was. It started out with brunch with my friends Anna and Lala while Anna was still in town. Since I had plans in Jupiter Street for lunch, I asked if we could meet somewhere near there so we ended up enjoying food at Bizu in One Rockwell. I've had breakfast/brunch there before but Lala and Anna hadn't. They seemed to enjoy their food (and of course the great thing about Bizu is that if you have breakfast before 11am, you get a cup of coffee for free). Usually, I order their Eggs Benedict but I decided to try something different. I instead got their Apple Cinnamon French Toast. It was okay but if I do visit Bizu again, I may try the pancakes instead.

After brunch, I headed over to Jupiter to the attend the Christening of my 2nd cousin Miguel. Uncle Albert (he's actually my late grandfather's brother but my generation still call hims Uncle) is Miguel's grandfather and for the first family event I can remember, he was the only one of his siblings who was there. That meant there wasn't a lot of live piano and violin playing (my grandfather and his siblings could all play the piano and the violin very well) so to try and make things interesting, my grandmother Nanay sang while Uncle Albert played the piano. That essentially kicked off an entertainment-filled afternoon. Uncle Albert started getting people to sing karaoke and at some point, it was my turn to take the stage. Apart from my mom and my grandmother, none of my other relatives there had heard me sing before. I decided to sing John Legend's "All of me" and it turned out to be quite well-received so I was asked to do an encore (I decided to do Sam Smith's "Lay me down"). By then, it was mid-afternoon and I needed to leave to head out to my third event of the day: the birthday celebration of my friend Mike.

Mike was the one who introduced me to all sorts of board games and as such, he wanted to spend the day playing these games and introducing them to some of his other friends. The great thing for me was that we ended up playing games I had already played before, so instead of trying to figure out how to play, I was now in the position to try and figure out how to do better and even win. It turned out to be a solid day for me, since I ended up on the winning end more often than I had in the past. I played Blueprints twice: in the first game I lost miserably but in the second, I tied for first. I also played Splendor three times, and I won twice. The third time, we were teaching a newbie and a couple of us helped her figure out what to do so she ended up winning (and even then I ended up only a point behind). Heck, even in Ultimate Werewolf, I was able to help the villagers beat the werewolves. :) Possibly my biggest win though was in Rococo, a very complicated game that I had played twice (losing very badly once). This time around, I somehow ended up winning, beating very good players in the process. Awesome!

It was a tremendously long but full day. I felt it this morning though; I overslept and I felt very tired. :) It's a good start to the year and I hope the rest of the year follows suit. (With my plans the next few weekends, it looks like it will be.)

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Looking back at 2015

What I love about having my blog is that I am always able to look back at the highlights of the last year. As it is the start of the new year, I will uphold tradition and review some of the most influential moments of the last year.

Memorable moments:
My family celebrated Nanay's birthday at Prince Albert and a few months later, we revisited La Cocina De Tita Moning. I attended the 40th wedding anniversary of my aunt and uncle at Lemuria. I now have another godchild. I went to Pansol with my new team. I also spent a wonderful day in Thunderbird Resort in Rizal with some of my closest friends. It wasn't all good though. Early this year, both my grandmother Mama and Tita Nelia passed away. I also had surgery that left me hobbled for a month.

For the second year in a row, I didn't travel abroad. As mentioned, I visited Rizal, Pansol. I also went to Subic twice (in early October and then in late October). I almost went through the entire year without getting on a flight for the first time since 1997 but I ended up flying to Davao and Bacolod (where I got to see The Ruins) towards the end of 2015. All of these trips also allowed me to enjoy many food offerings from these places: Texas Joe's and Rachi Curry Corner in Subic, Kai Artisan s'mores in Davao, and 21 Restaurant, Ading's Pala-Pala, Calea, Felicia's, and Lord Byron's in Bacolod.

I enjoyed some really good meals, both in old favorites as well as in new places. Sadly, two places I enjoyed a lot and that provided memorable family moments are now closed: Brasserie CiÇou and Prince Albert. I revisited Lola Cafe + Bar and Va Bene. Aside from the many places I tried in Bacolod, Subic, and Davao, I also got to try Gino's Brick Over Pizza, Kafe Batwan and a few restaurants in Century City Mall for the first time.

I watched two musicals in Manila: Beauty and the Beast and Singin' in the Rain, both of which I really enjoyed. I also got to watch a lot of films during the year. Heneral Luna influenced me to learn more about Philippine history and visit local museums and memorials. My favorite film of the year? Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Hobbies and interests:
My board game "addiction" has been fueled by the advent of places like Ludo and DyceNDyne. I taught some friends how to play 7 Wonders and Ticket to Ride. I also met new friends with whom I have played a lot of new games like Istanbul, Gallerist, Fresco, Splendor, Orleans, and a whole lot more. I also played a lot more volleyball this year (I even competed in a tournament at work for the first time in years). I put together my coin collection, read a book for the first time since 2012, bought my 500th voucher, and even started shredding my old, confidential documents. I also stayed at the Intercon while it was still open.

Blog milestones:
I celebrated my blog's 10th year anniversary (with a cake and with a summary of my local and international trips as well as some of my other favorite posts). I also achieved a personal record month in March. Aside from that, 2015 proved to be my most prolific year, and is the only year where I posted more than 200 times (202 to be exact). I certainly won't maintain this blogging pace in 2016 as i do plan to slow down just a bit but this year was pretty breakthrough for me in terms of blogging.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year, everyone!

It was an incredible and eventful 2015 (I will be writing about this in more detail in my next post) and I am now looking forward to 2016. Before we fully jump into the new year, let us all enjoy the incredible fireworks display at the Sydney Harbor bridge.

video uploaded by City of Sydney