Time flies! I’ve been holding off starting my gifts, until I realized Christmas is just around the corner. You see, since last year, I’ve been doing DIY (also known as labor of love) gifts for my family and friends. I’d like to think it’s more special that way, plus I’m not keen on squeezing into the malls of Metro Manila for my Christmas shopping. I’m a late bloomer, having discovered the perks of Pinterest and viewing the tutorials in YouTube just mid of last year. I was so excited to give them a try. So for 2017, my DIY gifts comprised of crochet coasters, linen sprays and roll on scents.
This year, I’ve experimented and practiced on bracelets (beads), foot soaks, and perfume. For the bracelets, I was inspired when my friend Pam made me one – that motivated me to study how to do them too. I sourced my materials from Quaipo in the heart of Manila – there’s a street there called Villalobos Street just outside the Quaipo church that is a crafter’s haven of beads, charms, and so much more. I’ve only been there twice – my mom brought me there for the first time and I was overwhelmed with the rows and stores of items, that I promised myself to go back, which I did, a week after. Sometimes I’d have to search for long because I’d get distracted by other beads that would give me an idea of a totally new designs, that I’d remind myself to stick to the plan. The best time to go is after the morning rush, and before 4 PM when the streets of Metro Manila will become more congested. Sundays and Fridays are the busiest days, I was told by the vendors, as people go to Quiapo church. Needless to say, those days are off my list too. I’m itching to go back this week because I ended up buying the wrong charms for a design I’m completing. But as holidays draw nearer, the more busy Quiapo gets to be, so I’m summoning all my EQ and opted to purchase online. Yep, I should have done that before, but then the thrill of hunting through hundreds of good (and very cheap) finds would have been lost. I was in a trance as I asked about the prices of the merchandise in Quaipo (example, for a string of crystal beads where I could make 3 bracelets, it would cost me P60, or a little over US $1). And then, there are the bottles and boxes for my packaging – my mom bought these cute little hanging car diffuser bottles for less than P18, and they cost P29 at a store near my home – I was shocked to see some online retailers sell them for thrice the price). I bought these really cute pens for such a bargain – and they sell four to five times more in the malls! I am currently working on a way to convince D to go with me to Quaipo after the holidays because I’d need an extra pair of hands next time I go back – to check out the wood handicraft and local souvenirs.
For foot soaks, I’ve been using my DIY versions for some months now and I wanted to give it to my girl friends to share the relaxing feeling (and the heavenly scent). I got the ingredients online for this one – epsom salt, sea salt and Himalayan salt. I am using my favorite blends from my stock of essential oils.
And lastly (and the one I’ve been holding off on from making) is the perfume. I stumbled upon a packaging outlet store at a nearby subdivision and that’s where I get my bottles and scents from. It so happened that for a minimum amount purchased, they provide perfume-making class. I attended this late December last year, and since then planned to use what I learned in making this year’s gifts. I held off because I couldn’t find the glass cylinder I purchased online – I needed those to measure the ingredients. I guess, I’d have to go find one now so I can get them started.
Making the gifts is my form of meditation because I focus on making them right. Just like how I feel when I’m focusing on my art. When I did the foot soaks and the bracelets, I didn’t notice the time. I just had so much fun!
I’ve been honing in on my art skills, and I’m keen learning any medium that I can. Earlier this year I’ve participated in an acting workshop, attended basic drawing and oil pastel class, did a bit of coffee painting, practiced water color and acrylic painting, and most recently I’ve enrolled in a semester of Minhwa classes. Minhwa is a traditional Korean art using painting as a medium. My teacher, Teacher Yoon, said during our orientation that Minhwa was art done by the common people, when they expressed thoughts and depicted everyday life through painting. Usually the subject is an animal or flowers. They use vivid colors when painting.
The class that I am attending is held at the Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines in Bonifacio Global City at Taguig. For 12 Saturdays I would go to class and paint for 3 hours. I always look forward going to class because I quite enjoy mixing colors, deep breathing while painting, and listening to the different genres of music that Teacher Yoon plays. I have fun focusing on my work and I would barely notice the time when I start painting.
Because I am a beginner, I was given flowers as subjects of my paintings. My other classmates who are more seasoned animals and landscapes as their subjects. We use hanji (Korean paper) and a mixture of Korean oriental painting colors. The paint is similar to acrylic when it comes to its vibrance, and its texture is similar to water colour. I would do two layers of paint to make the colors pop out more. Like water colour, I would let the first layer dry first before I apply the second layer. The paper is thin and absorbs water quickly. It also takes just a few minutes to dry. Teacher Yoon created the wood frame for both of my paintings.
Overall I find the class worth my time, and I look forward to enrolling to other semesters so I can do more paintings. There is another class being done in the Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines and it’s called Mooninhwa. I’ll try to find out what the difference is and see if I can also enrol to that class next semester.
I usually write about my Top 5 favorites in places that I go to, and I’ve always wanted to write about my fun-filled two weeks in Chicago when I kicked off blogging. The reason I’ve procrastinated is because I struggle to choose just 5 favorites about The Windy City.
To give a bit of a background: the first time I got see Chicago was 13 years ago, when I went to Illinois for a short business trip. Back then, I squeezed in what I could for only about 3 days, on weekends. Despite the short trip, I was already mesmerized by the vibrant city. It was also my first visit to the United States, and at the time it was autumn. Coming from a tropical country with only 2 seasons (dry and wet) and mostly hot and humid all year round, I quickly fell in love with autumn – the cool temperature, and the beautiful colors of the changing leaves. Subsequently, almost all holidays I had with D fell around the autumn months.
Except for the second time I went to Chicago, this time a sort of longer trip. It was winter of 2008 and we spent time with relatives. Winter is an interesting season for D and me – but we decided we’d stick to our autumn holidays.
So this year, first time after 10 years, I visited Chicago once again. It was almost summer when I went, so I had a share of the changing temperatures from cool to warm. I went to Chicago after my solo travel to Montreal. I stayed with my aunts for two weeks and was able to spend more time with relatives during this trip. I’m very thankful to my aunts Jane, Salud, Bel and Zeny; uncle Oscar; cousins May, Juvy and Mike: they warmly welcomed me to their homes, showed me the beauty of their city and allowed me to get to know Chicago more up close and personal.
my cousin, aunts and their family friend – they were all very hospitable and made my visit to Chicago quite memorable
a photo of my aunts and uncle, who welcomed me warmly and took me in during my latest trip to Chicago
Chicago’s Art Scene
I first visited the Art Institute of Chicago when my cousin Juvy and I did the Big Bus Hop-On and Hop-off tour. Prior to going, I read that this museum was rated one of the best museums by TripAdvisor for some years now so it definitely was a must to visit. The grand entrance was beautiful, with its lion statues. There were friendly staff and maps located everywhere in the museum which really helped as the museum was big and one could easily get lost. My favorite exhibits were the Impressionist, New Contemporary, Medieval and Renaissance art galleries. We only spent a couple of hours in the museum and I would love to go back. I think I’d need at least a full day to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorites works of art were The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, and the portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol.
Old Guitarist oil painting by Pablo Picasso
Andy Warhol’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor
French Impressionist painting by Monet
Self Portrait of Vincent van Gogh, 1887
I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) which my niece recommended. She said I wouldn’t miss the steps to the entrance of the building. She was right – and I just had to take a photo. I got to visit the MCA during their free museum day. I find contemporary art interesting and this was a good place to start exploring.
The next museum where I had free entrance to was the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). I had to do a bit of research before finding this museum and including it in my To Go To – I understand it was not as well known as the first 2 museums I went to. It’s in the Loyola University at N Michigan Ave, near the Old Water Tower. This is my second favorite museum, next to the Art Institute of Chicago. Their gallery was small, but I really liked their exhibits. At the time, there was an exhibit by Gregory Beals called They Arrived Last Night; and a photography exhibit by Tonika Lewis Johnson called Everyday Englewood. I was looking at the photos by Gregory Beals and there were moments I teared up. The photos were very captivating, and they incited a lot of emotions from me as a viewer. The permanent displays at the third floor had a lot of religious relics. Photos were not allowed inside the museum.
Another way that I appreciated art in Chicago was whenever I stumbled upon street art. Here are some of the delightful street art finds while walking the streets near Wicker Park:
Nike Running mural by Hebru Brantley
Bear Eating Pizza
Walking in the parks
Top of mind when it comes to Chicago parks is the Millennium Park. Been here four times (I went twice during this last visit, bringing my friend Paolo with me) – and I never get tired of it. It’s a nice place to stroll, or take in the surrounding buildings’ architecture. In every visit, I watch the water being squirted by the different faces displayed at the Crowd Fountain; and take selfies at the Cloud Gate (also known as The Bean).
The Bean, an iconic structure in Chicago’s Millennium Park
Millenium Park, Chicago
Walking distance to the Millennium Park is the Grant Park where Paolo and I gazed at the Buckingham Fountain.
The Lincoln Park is somewhere I had to commute to from my aunts’ place at Wicker Park. I took the bus with a ventra card to get there and it was worth the trip. The park was big, and I did have a good long lovely walk. I got to the Lincoln Zoo – I try to avoid zoos as much as I can but this was the last stop of the walk along Lincoln Park. In this zoo, I saw the lions sleeping and I wondered if they could really have a peaceful sleep as the kids around me were shouting at them – this was the part that broke my heart.
Wicker Park was walking distance from my aunts’. It’s a small park close to a lot of good restaurants (like Stan’s Donuts where I got my bagels from; Goddess and Grocer where I got a healthy salad snack; and cafes). I’ve been curious about this because I remember a movie starring Josh Hartnett entitled Wicker Park. I liked that movie.
A few minutes’ walk from the wicker park is the 606 trail. It is an elevated trail for bikers and runners and I also saw an art sculpture along the way.
Last on my list is – and I’m not sure if this falls under the parks category – the Garfield Observatory. It showcased different plants and flowers – I was quite overwhelmed by the pretty blooms from different seasons!
Diverse Architecture and the Chicago Skyline
A good way to see the most of Chicago’s architecture is through the hop on and hop off bus tour, and the Chicago Architectural River Cruise. The river cruise gives a good vantage point and the guides gave detailed information about the buildings’ histories. One of my favorites is the historic Old Water Tower.
For the Chicago skyline views, the best place in my opinion is to view it from the museum campus, next to the Adler Planetarium. I go here every single time I am in Chicago and like the Millennium Park, it never gets old. Other places for the skyline view are the Navy Pier and Lincoln Park.
Paolo and I also did the Riverwalk. We stopped several times to appreciate the buildings along the river, and also to enjoy the sunset next to the City Winery. I also met a cute dog being walked along the City Winery – he’s sooo adorable!
Riverwalk view Chicago
Pao and me at the Magnificent Mile
This was a super awesome surprise welcome gift to me by Mike and Juvy – I was ecstatic!! I’ve always wanted to watch a U2 concert so I was pumped when Juvy showed me the tickets. I literally cried tears of joy. We watched it at the United Center. The concert’s production was high tech and spectacular. Left me humming to Beautiful Day every morning during the rest of my trip. I’m actually listening to a U2 playlist in Spotify as I am typing this blog now.
U2 in Chicago
Snacks before the concert
First baseball game I’ve ever watched live. I remember how I used to like playing baseball in high school. It was fun (and surreal) going to the Cubs vs Giants game – there were stores selling shirts, caps and other items around the area; beer and hot dogs were overflowing; and the fans were dressed up to their teams. Some of the fans were seated on the rooftops of the nearby buildings – hats off to them because it was so hot that day yet there they all throughout . There’s a park outside with a huge screen playing the game.
Ready for the Giants vs Cubs game at the Wrigley Field
Cubs vs Giants game
Two weeks isn’t enough as there are just too many things to do and explore in Chicago. Still, I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to visit this city once again and spend time with relatives and friends. Next time I would love to watch some theater plays or shows and spend more time in the museums (visit more of them too).
I’m sure next time I go to Chicago, I’d come across more spectacular finds (just like the giant pretzel from a bar I went to with my cousin – I was just speechless in awe!)
I’m a day late in responding to nancy merrill photography’s A Photo A Week Challenge: Reflection. I know the theme had already changed for this week (I will respond to that too – they photo challenges are quite fun). But I just couldn’t let the theme on Reflection pass! I realized as I was digging through old photographs that I did have some photos for this theme. So here they are…
My take on Reflection: I love the dramatic effect of reflections on water.
These are are photos taken from travels D and I made from over the last decade. They were all taken by D as he has the eye for good shots.
The first one is a photo of Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. It is also called Rokuon-ji, and is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights. When we got here, there were throngs of people getting off tourist buses. We intentionally rented a B&B close by in the hopes that we could get there early before the tourists do – we were wrong. Good thing is that the lines of tourists move quickly. The sun was not yet fully shining at the time, but nevertheless it was a sight to behold.
This next photo shows the reflection of the pyramid at Louvre, Paris. It was just after sunset and at the time, we were using our digicam. It took a lot of shots to get this one.
And lastly, a photo of the reflection of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I’ve always wanted to go back to Siem Reap because there were too many temples I have yet to see. At the time we went there, we were only able to see the bigger, more popular ones. I saw tourists riding bicycles as their modes of transportation to temples and I would really love to do that someday. I also like Siem Reap’s simplicity, and the friendliness of its people.
Seeing Kyoto, Paris and Siem Reap were a dream come true. We were just simply in awe by the culture, architecture, and landmarks of these cities.
There’s something about Japanese arts that fascinate me, so I grab all the opportunity that I can to be able to learn more about them. I’ve been closely following the Facebook page of The Japan Foundation, Manila, because they are one of the organizations that provide the opportunity for keen learners like me to get to know the Japan culture and arts more. Some of their events that I participated in are the Japanese Film Festival and The Spirit of Budo Exhibit.
Until a couple of nights ago, I have never heard of Butoh. I quickly read through the internet and found that it was a theatre-type dance that defied Japan’s modern dance scene. It was originally referred to as Ankoku Butoh which means ‘the dance of utter darkness’. Butoh was founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno in the 1950’s, post the World War. Kazuo Ohno, whose Butoh was perceived as powerful and at the same time ambiguous, performed until he was more than 100 years old. He died in 2010 at the age of 103.
poster of Kazuo Ohno for La Argentina
Takao Kawaguchi, who had never watched Kazuo Ohno perform live, studied every movement through watching Ohno’s video taped performances. Early this week, I watched Takao Kawaguchi’s performance entitled About Kazuo Ohno at the Power Mac Theatre in Circuit, Makati City. The 1SA event, a Solo Arts Platform, is being held from October 20 to 28, 2018. This is a joint effort of The Japan Foundation, Manila; Fringe Manila; and, the National Commission for Culture and Arts.
drawings by Takao Kawaguchi
The performance kicked off at the second floor lobby of the theater, where Takao Kawaguchi did movements using props like a ladder, hose, rags, tattered clothes. He led the audience to the third floor towards the theater. The guests were then greeted by the ushers and were advised that the solo performance was 110 minutes long, and there would be no intermission. Cameras and mobile phones were not allowed to be used inside the theater.
Takao Kawaguchi performing for the audience at the lobby
Takao Kawaguchi danced several notable performances of Kazuo Ohno – like Admiring La Argentina (1977); My Mother (1981); and Dead Sea, Ghost, Wienerwaltz (1985). In between the dances he would be changing clothes in front of the audience at the left side of the stage. The one dance that stood out for me was The Dead Sea. There was a time I felt like tearing up, watching Takao’s minute movements and expressions. While he danced I wondered if Butoh was very complicated to master because aside from having no beat to follow, I observed every muscle of Takao was flexed all throughout the performance.
After the performance, there was a Q&A and Takao was asked if he considered himself a Butoh artist. He said that his intention was to copy Kazuo Ohno’s movements exactly and perfectly. He does not consider himself a Butoh artist, rather, he sees himself as a performer or as a dancer. What was going through his mind while he was performing was how and when the commands of each movement should be executed. He leaves it to the audience to interpret the movements. Whether the audience sees what he does as Butoh or not, he is fine either way. For Takao Kawaguchi, Butoh denies to be called something – it rejects definitions.
Overall I found Butoh to be surreal, intriguing and interesting. I’d like to watch more performances like this. I’m grateful to be given the chance.
Aside from my passion to travel, I love learning new things. Recently I have started taking French language classes online and I was so eager putting my (minimal) French to practice, such that I impulsively included a detour stop over at Montreal, Quebec, from my original Los Angeles to Chicago route. Aside from my (over)confidence that I will be able to talk fluently with the locals, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had enough air miles to cover my additional trip. I took it as a sign and next thing I know, I was already booking my accommodations too within that one sitting. I chose a room along Rue St. Denis, near the Jean-Talon Market.
And so one fine day, I bid adieu to my mom, who was vacationing to the US with me, and hopped on a Delta plane from LAX on what would be the start of my first ever solo travel in North America.
Efficient, Reliable Transportation
When I landed at the Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, the first thing I looked for was the vending machine where I could purchase the 3-day STM pass for Montreal’s Metro. It cost me $19 and I thought it was such a cool deal because I was able to use it at the 747 bus that brought me from the airport to the AirBnB, and I was able to make full use of it going around exploring Montreal. The Montreal Metro was very easy to navigate, and their timetables were reliable. I also took the 747 bus going back to the airport.
Churches and Cathedrals
The first church on my list that I visited was the Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. From afar, the church was a sight to behold, situated on top of a hill. Though I was quite tired from my very early morning flight, I pushed myself to climb the hill and was able to get a good panoramic view of the neighborhood. I spent about an hour inside, and learned a lot about its history through the printed displays.
Inside the Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal
The next church I went to was the oldest Catholic church in Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica. I went here on my second day, as I timed it going to the Old Montreal Port. The entrance here was $16, and they only accepted cash. Now I didn’t have Canadian cash with me yet, and it was a relief that they accepted US currency (note that no exchange rates applied). One description I can think of when I think about the Notre Dame Basilica is – magnifique! I was astounded by the interior’s intricacies. The stained glass was a spectacular sight. There were guided tours that ran every 20 minutes or so. I thought the Sacre-Couer was very serene. Taking of photos was not allowed at the Sacre-Couer, and it’s kind of sad that some tourists still took photos anyway….
The Cathedral of Marie-Reine-du-Monde, in the heart of downtown, is the last church that I visited in Montreal. I was amazed by the interior of the church – it was vast and had a beautifully painted ceiling. Now, let me digress just a bit: as soon as I got to Montreal, I realized I still have A LOT to learn regarding the French language. I participated in the celebration of mass here, and it was in French. Though I did not understand anything at all during the mass, I’d say the service was very heartwarming and solemn.
Dorchester Square, Montreal
Basilique Marie-Reine-Du-Monde Cathedrale
inside the Basilique Marie-Reine-Du-Monde Cathedral
A Walk Along the Old Montreal
A visit to Montreal won’t be complete without going to the Old Montreal. It was a lovely stretch of cobble-stoned streets, lined up with little shops, cafes, and historical landmarks. I had a quiet afternoon walk, stopping every once in a while cherishing the quaintness of the place.
my well worn shoes while exploring the streets of Montreal
Old Montreal and its cobblestone streets
outdoor cinema at the Old Montreal area
cobblestone streets of Old Montreal
One of the buildings that caught my eye because of its grandeur was the City Hall, also referred to as the Hotel de Ville. The first City Hall was built in 1878 and was destroyed by fire on March 3, 1922. The present building was erected on the same site and opened on February 15, 1926. Entrance was free and there were some literature about its history. I was also able to get a glimpse of a courthouse.
Montreal City Hall
Montreal City Hall
Courtroom at the Montreal City Hall
Montreal City Hall
Parks and Squares
It was mostly sunny when I visited Montreal, and I loved the vibe and energy of the people around me. My landlady said people would go out and make the most out of sunny days. I would attest to this as I did see a lot of folks on a picnic or just hanging out when I took a stroll through La Fontaine Park. It was a big park with a lake.
Right across the Cathedral of Marie-Reine-du-Monde is the Place du Canada and Dorchester Park. I spent time relaxing here, after a day’s walk. It was calming watching squirrels and birds, and the people walk by during rush hour.
Place du Canada
Place du Canada
Another quaint square is the Phillips Square – perhaps my most favorite of all because of the beautiful flowers that surrounded the place. There were stalls in the square and close by was a Tourist Information centre.
Phillips Square, Montreal
Tulips at Phillips Square
Incredible Street Art
My eyes had a feast of street art which I found in all corners that I went to during my short stay in Montreal. I also saw a lot of the murals and street art along Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
Montreal street art
Next time I go back to Canada, I’ll make sure to bring D with me so we can explore Montreal together. There is so much more of the city that I have yet to see for myself, and hopefully by then I would be more proficient on my French. Montreal – ville fantastique – à bientôt!
There are lots of reasons I enjoy visiting Melbourne: very good coffee that I find in every corner of the city; fusion of food (and readily available healthy options) that fill my different cravings; beautiful gardens and (and sometimes hidden) lane ways; and the thriving art scene.
The coffee, food, lane ways and gardens deserve blogs of their own – which I intend to write soon. For now, I will focus on the different art venues that I was able to explore during my last trip to Melbourne. I always started at the Federation Square – a central location for Melbourne’s arts and events. It is near the Flinders Street Station and a tourist information centre.
This was the first on my list, as I have read a lot of reviews about the lanes in Melbourne that are famous for the street art. From the Federation Square, I crossed Flinders Street to the cobblestoned Hosier Lane which was filled with colorful street art. A few blocks away is the AC/DC Lane (you won’t miss it with the paintings on musicians), and the Duckboard Place where I saw murals.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Right next to the Federation Square is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). They have different exhibitions but I was only able to go to the permanent exhibit called Screen Worlds. Entrance here was free. The exhibit was very educational and interactive. I saw the evolution of the moving image like TV, film, video games, and digital art. My favorite in this exhibit is the Time Slice which created a 360 degree animation of a pose that I made. The technology is similar to the one used in The Matrix where Keanu was dodging a bullet and he seemed frozen in the shot.
Cate Blanchett’s costume and Oscar on display at the ACMI
evolution of music media, displayed at the ACMI
displays at the ACMI
piano display at the ACMI
Nicole Kidman’s costume from the Moulin Rouge
Costume worn by Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
Replica of car from Mad Max 1979
National Gallery of Victoria
Locals call this the NGV. There are two sites of the NGV – the first one is called the Ian Potter Centre near the Federation Square, and the second one was a few hundred meters away from the Flinders Street Station, across the Yarra River. I went to the latter, and explored the permanent exhibits. NGV houses many art collections from Asia, Australia and Europe.
NGV art display
art display at the NGV
There are many other places in Melbourne where one can find art. I was also able to watch a couple of stage plays, the last one being The Rocky Horror Show at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
I remember seeing a couple of quirky and unique sculptures along Docklands when I was aboard the free city circle tram. It’s a shame I cannot find the photo of this one sculpture that caught my eye – it’s a cow up a tree. I’ll look for it again and take a photo when I go back to Melbourne.
Back in the day, Baguio was considered a summer destination. Because it is located at a higher elevation, it is cooler there than in Metro Manila. But then, a trip to Baguio took a longer time of planning and preparation – because the drive was about 8 hours. Now, thanks to the new highways connecting Manila to the northern part of Luzon, driving to Baguio takes normally just about a little over 4 hours.
D was always hesitant to go because he had been hearing horror stories about the bad traffic and the pollution. After months of convincing he finally agreed to drive with me to Baguio provided we go on a Sunday (with the hopes that tourists coming up for a weekend getaway would be going home to Manila by then) and I have to book a hotel away from the city center. I reserved our rooms right away before he could even change his mind.
So very early Sunday morning we drove northbound, enjoyed the views of rice paddies, took a couple of stops for breakfast and took photos of Mt. Arayat and some bridges.
We checked in at Forest House Bed and Breakfast, which was a close drive to Camp John Hay. Our room was cozy with an overlooking view of their backyard garden.
This was our first stop, because I cannot get enough of museums. And pretty much because it was also the farthest from the city so we drove there first. Bencab Musuem exhibits the works and collections of Ben Cabrera, a National Artist, renowned for his Philippine contemporary art. If not for D, I would have spent a whole day admiring the different paintings and artwork. We also spent time appreciating the view of their garden and koi, and the adjacent hills.
The Bell House
Walking inside Camp John Hay was reminiscent of what I saw Baguio as when I was a child. Though there are new establishments, it was not crowded and I am glad the place is still filled with hundreds of pine trees.
Inside Camp John Hay is The Bell House. My understanding is that it used to be a residence when the Philippines was still a colony of the USA. Nowadays it stands as a museum. It has an amphitheater next to it, which was beautifully lined with flowering plants. I had fun taking photos of the amphitheater.
The Bell House is big and the atmosphere inside was light and airy. D and I began exploring the house going separate ways. I was amazed at how the furniture was maintained and preserved. As I walked out the patio I pretended I was living in the 50s and wondered how I could have made each day productive without my gadgets back then.
There was also a secret garden next to The Bell House. I can’t recall if it was called ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’. We were just told by the museum staff to check it out so we did. It felt almost magical as I walked through the garden, with trees and mist enveloping us.
A visit to Baguio will not be complete without going to the market at the city center. Sure, it was crowded, but it wasn’t as crowded as, say, Mall of Asia or Megamall on a payday weekend sale. We could still walk comfortably around, though we had to be careful of our belongings because we had to, as signs around the market would say, Beware of Pickpockets.
We bought vegetables and fruit, which sell much cheaper in Baguio compared to Manila. I was able to get all my salad ingredients here. For fruit we got strawberries and native berries. We also bought jam and ube (purple yam). We took a Grabcar on our way from and back to the b&b because this is one part of the trip that D would not have the patience driving to. Traffic wasn’t bad but parking would have been.
Now going here entailed use of our car. Atop Dominican Hill is the old and abandoned Diplomat Hotel. The spooky facade and the mist surrounding the place makes it a popular go to by tourists seeking some ‘scary’ thrills. Its history is narrated next to the entrance. It was built by the Dominicans as a vacation house on 1913. It was then converted to a school and named Colegio Del Santissimo Rosario from 1915-1918. During WWII it served as a refuge for families and Dominican priests from 1942-1945. In 1945, the Japanese used it as their last stand until it was bombed by the Americans. After reconstruction, it became the Diplomat Hotel which operated from 1973-1987.
Laperal White House
Since we were in the mood for scares we also went to the Laperal Guest House. We passed this anyway as we headed to the Pink Sisters’ Convent and Chapel. One wouldn’t miss this mysterious-looking old white house. I heard ghost stories about this place, even saw some documentaries about it many Halloweens ago. Unfortunately they were closed at that time so we weren’t able to get in.
So those are my five favorite spots in Baguio. I’d say it was worth driving to, and though it wasn’t as secluded and pristine it was decades ago, I was still able to enjoy the sights, the food and the cool temperature with my D.
I was ecstatic when my cousin Juvy hosted what would be my first ever paint and wine party with the family during my recent trip to Chicago. Any chance for me to paint on a canvas is gold. More importantly, I suppose there’s something about doing art together that makes a gathering more intimate.
That Friday night, we headed to the Bottle & Bottega studio in Park Ridge, IL. The venue was nice and spacious, and I loved the different paintings displayed. It was BYOB and BYOF so my relatives brought wine and assorted platters of delicious finger food which we enjoyed while our work space was being set up.
The front desk of Bottle & Bottega in Park Ridge, IL
Our BYOB items
Our project for the night was a landscape showing a river running through a valley, and the medium that we used was acrylic. Our instructor Sonny demonstrated each step. At first I thought the landscape was going to be complicated and I surprised myself for being able to finish it within the three hours. I’m quite impressed by my cousins’ finished work. They said they were beginners, but their paintings were so good!
Focused on our paintings
Proud of our masterpieces
My cousin said she noticed I got pretty quiet when we all started painting. I think I always do, when I start holding on to a paint brush. I tend to be too focused in the moment; it’s like a form of meditation for me.
I am so happy we did this, and I’m thankful to Juvy because it’s one of the most enjoyable things I did during my US trip. I would love to do this again; perhaps I’d arrange one in Manila when my sister and brother-in-law come over to visit. It’ll be fun!
I love going to museums and stare at works of art for hours. There are even some paintings or photographs that make me tear up. I love art, but I admit I still need a lot of practice to become an artist myself.
Because I’m trying to hone my artistic skills (or try hard to draw out any artistic talent in me), I have enrolled in several workshops: drawing & oil pastel, acting, and Minhwa (Korean painting). I found an art school that conducts classes for all ages near my home – the Luna Art Workshop. Because I was a beginner, I took the basic drawing and oil pastel class which was composed of 8 2-hour sessions (total of 16 hours). Included in my enrollment fee are the drawing materials: a sketchpad, pencil, eraser, 24 color oil pastels, and Canson mi-tientes art paper.
On my first day, Teacher Ted taught me the basics of drawing using my sketchpad and pencil. At first I was a bit shy because I was the only adult in the class, but later on I relaxed as Teacher Ted patiently guided me and gave me feedback and tips. The atmosphere in the studio was light and soft music was played, making the students at ease. I practiced drawing shapes, created a pencil gradient, and drew still life objects. I was advised to keep practicing my drawing even at home, so I tuned in on some YouTube and Pinterest tutorials for inspiration. I even started bringing a small notebook in my purse for my doodles.
The following days were dedicated for oil pastel drawing. I was able to make two still life objects, two landscapes (using cool and warm toned subjects), and 2 portraits.
Canson mi-tientes has two sides: rough and smooth, and I drew on the smooth side of the paper. What worked for me was starting with a light sketch before adding the colors and fine-tuning the details.
Of the themes, I was most comfortable drawing still life objects.
While I love landscapes, I am still not an expert in doing my own drawings or paintings. So this is something that I continue to practice as much as I can. For now, I still struggle on warm-toned landscape subjects. My goal is to be able to draw or paint a beautiful sunset soon.
Portraits were the most complicated ones for me. I tried my best drawing a model, but ended up making something that looked like a cartoon. Teacher Ted was very encouraging, and he said that I did not need to perfect the features of the model, otherwise it would look like a photograph.
I’m glad I found Luna Art Workshop, and my teacher was very supportive. I believe it’s never too late for me to learn so as long as I keep practicing and getting guidance and feedback. My dream is to be a watercolor artist some day so I’m grabbing all the chance I can get to attend these workshops, or spend at least an hour a day to draw or paint at home.
September 29 was National Coffee Day, and my husband and I were blessed with an opportunity to participate in an activity hosted by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Alabang. This was in line with their #HappyCoffeeBeanMonth celebration.
I admit I love my daily caffeine fix, but you won’t get an intelligent answer from me if you ask me to describe the aroma or acidity, and what’s the difference between Arabica and Robusta. Thankfully, the first hour of yesterday’s event was focused on talking about that: the history and basics of coffee. We also did a hands on activity on coffee cupping, which allowed us to taste and describe different coffee products of CBTL.
The next part of the activity focused on coffee painting. This was what caught my attention to begin with when I signed up for our slots, as I’ve recently been honing in on art. I have not seen coffee art before, so I was pumped for this workshop.
Rev Cruz facilitated the coffee painting activity. He is a children’s book illustrator and had been using coffee for his art for almost five years now. It all started when he was on an all-nighter wrapping up on work when he accidentally spilled coffee on his nearly finished watercolor painting. The coffee spill turned out to add a beautiful effect on his art, and since then he has been using coffee stain as one of his mediums of painting.
For the coffee painting workshop we were provided with a paintbrush, pieces of watercolor paper, paper plate, and a sketch. Rev first made us practice making our own shades of coffee stains. He then shared tips on blotting and correcting, and drying the layers before adding on a different coat of paint. We used two practice sheets of watercolor paper before working on ‘the real’ project for the day, where we had to come up with our own artistic interpretation of the sketch that was given to us. Afterwards, all paintings were displayed for everyone to see, and Rev chose three winners based on the practical usage of the tips he shared during the workshop.
Overall, I’d say this was the best event by CBTL that I’ve joined so far. We went over time but I was having too much fun that I didn’t notice the time. Yesterday’s event gave me a deeper appreciation of coffee, connected me with the participants, and allowed me to discover a different medium for art. I can’t wait to practice more on my coffee painting!