Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Dear Shubert Ciencia,

I read your blog notes about the churches of the Philippines and I was wondering whether you could give me some advice. My name is Thomas van der Walt and I am a lecturer at the University of South Africa. In February, a colleague and I will be visiting the Philippines where we will conduct a children’s project with the South African Embassy and where I will participate in a conference on children’s museums at the Museo Pambata in Manilla.

I had been to the Philippines before, in 1993 and 2001, but those visits were restricted to Manila and Cebu. As far as Manila is concerned, most of my time was spent at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. I also made two short visits to Intramuros.

Since my hobby is visiting World Heritage Sites, I would like to visit some of the World Heritage Sites of the Philippines this time and this is where I hope you can help me. It is very difficult to get information here in South Africa.

We will stay in Manila Hotel for a week during the conference and project duration on 17-25 February and therefore will not be too difficult to visit Intramuros and the Church of Agustin. I had been there before but want to visit it again.

In addition to the time in Manila, we have one week in which we can travel and I was hoping that you will be able to give me some advice of what will be possible and what not. We would of course like to see as much as possible. We will arrive in Manila on Sunday (9 February), leave, and have to be back in Manila on Friday evening (15 February).

And then of course, there are the sites in Luzon. I would like to visit Vigan and the rice terraces of the Cordilleras. I know Vigan should be fairly straightforward --- we will travel there by bus (maybe you can give us some advice on the practicalities, which bus service should we use, how should we book our tickets, how can we find out departure times).

But what about the rice terraces of the Cordilleras? How do we get there? Should we go there before Vigan, or first to Vigan and then to the Cordilleras? How much time do we need for this trip? I read about a 15 kilometer walk from Banaue to the tribal village of Batad. Which of the four clusters should we try to see: Banaue, Mayoyao, Kiangan or Hungduan? Should we travel by bus to one of the bigger town in Luzon and hire a car there to travel from site to site?

And then there are the Churches: San Agustin Church in Paoay and Santa Maria Church. Will it be possible to include a visit to Paoay in a side trip?

Unfortunately the Miag-ao Church is out of question although apparently beautiful!

And then of course the Puerto Princesca Subterranean River National Park. Should I be able to stay a day or two longer after the conference? I would like to go Puerto Prinsesa. I suppose the best way will be to fly there. How much time do you think I need? I suppose a boat/ferry will take too long?

Tubbataha Reef National Park is out of the question this time.

I know I am asking a lot, but I hope you can help a bit. If at all possible, I hope we can meet while we are in Manilla!

Kind regards.

Prof. Thomas van der Walt
Department of Information Science, University of South Africa
0003 Unisa, Pretoria, South Africa

Profile: The Church of Bacoor, Cavite

The ecclesiastical mission of Bacoor was established in 1752 and administered by the secular clergy who probably had the first parochial buildings built. In 1872, Bacoor was handed to the Augustinian Recollects then back again to the secular clergy. Fr. Mariano Gomez of the GOMBURZA Martyrs served as a parish priest of the church for 48 years.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Thailand 1 would always be my most memorable journey. It was my first trip abroad where I got to pamper my churchophileness in the magnificence of Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Po in Bangkok, and Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. It was really more of a subsidized tour rather than the training that it was supposed to be. I had a good time.

Thailand 2 and Thailand 3 were more subdued with the excitement tapering considerably since the first encounter. The plus of the second was staying in the the old city district within walking distance of Wat Arun and Wat Saket and a myriad of interesting symbols of the city and its country. The third was more of a long walk to the Erawan Shrine, getting lost in the red district of Sukumvit, and treating Oyet P to an impromptu pabinyag feast of broiled dalag. He was ninong to my Balong but cannot attend the christhening in Nueva Ecija.

I could have passed Thailand 4. Its been only a week since coming back from an exhausting journey across the United States. But really after being there 3 times and travelling to 7 other countries, I seemed to have lost the hots for Thailand. Except that I was supposed to hooked up with Oyet P in Bangkok. And there is still the mystery of Wat Trimit to discover.

The last time I saw Oyet P was some 8 years ago. He brought me a bottle of Absolut Vodka for pasalubong and treated us to a hike to Minalungao Cave where I backpacked a case of San Miguel Beer and Arden walked in his Electrolux Man splendor. We were supposed to eyeball during my US trip but he had to fly to Asia on the same period.

Oyet P just won the grand prize in the essay writing category of the 2008 Philippine Free Press Literary Awards. That carries a hundred grand cash prize and I thought we could drink the night out with some of it. Perhaps Frank C who will be in Laos during that time can come too and finally have real time with him. I only briefly met him once at the High Country Inn in Baguio City, and he was quite tipsy, before our big climb to Mt. Pulag in 1993. My contacts with him after that were sporadic: a phone call when I was trying to get in as a PDI correspodnent, emails for the Mondo Marcos project, and periodic exchanges via our blogs.

Well, Oyet P left Bangkok before I came. He did meet Frank C in Laos. I learned a lot about climate change though and again proved myself mamartek par excellence by downing with some friends 2 bottles of Jack Daniels plus Singha Beer for the Pinoy hugas ritual at the Brown Sugar Bar along Lumpini Park, and waking the next day as the only one not hanged over. It rained on my last day, and I misinterpreted the details of my flight back to Manila. Wat Trimit will have to wait.

PHOTOS EXPLAINED (top to bottom): (1) The conference's group photo as taken with my Nikon D40 by a waiter of the Amari Boulevard Hotel; (2) the night of the Jack Daniels in the Brown Sugar Bar along Lumpini Park, and; (3) waiting for the flight back home (me at the left, Tambuyog's Pepe Tanchuling in the middle, and Oxfam's Mike Llanes at the right) at Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi International Airport.