Tuesday, December 29, 2015



It took 22 years for me to realize that the towns of San Leonardo, General Tinio, Penaranda and the city of Gapan are not actually in District 3 but District 4.

That in fact, the only missing link to complete my biking diary of District 3 is the Church of St. Rose of Lima in, of course, Sta. Rosa town.

But I finally did District 3, and more, stopping briefly at Fr. Danny Cipriano's former church in Sta. Rosa for the mandatory "proof of biking", to San Leonardo and a roll of haunted NTI memories, to Penaranda and some of my naughty episodes, and to Gapan and a bowl of goto the way Msgr. Felipe Dayao would have served it.

That and General Tinio where we once trekked on cattle trails during the days of the National Stockfarm Campaign gave me and my biking buddies District 3, and reduced the last of unbiked Nueva Ecija towns to just three --- Jaen, Cabiao, and San Isidro in District 4.

But they too will be gotten someday...   

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


The plot of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" started right in the Louvre with the discovery of the murdered body of its curator, Jacques Sauniere,  right under the portrait of Dan Vinci's famous "Mona Lisa".

It was from there that Robert Langdon made his escape after sensing that the French police suspected him of complicity in the murder, with the help of Sophie Neveu, Saunier's own granddaughter, who took the wheels of the getaway car [an electric smart car which is the connection to COP 21] and drove in reverse along the sidewalk cafes and through the traffic of the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

At the end of the movie, Robert Langdon accidentally cut himself while shaving which gave him the final clue to the Rose Line, and the final resting place of the Holy Grail [Mary Magdalene's remains] under the inverted glass pyramid of the Louvre.

And that's all that there is to unlock Da Vinci's Code, and much more on the Louvre which is a treasure trove of paintings by masters some of which I was able to photograph including "The Coronation of Napoleon" [1807, by Jacques-Louis David], "Liberty Leading the People" [1830, by Eugene Delacroixc], and a possible Picasso.

There's a lot of sculpture too, from Egyptian to Greek to Roman, and I've never seen so many uncircumcised penises.

I was at the Louvre for almost four hours and tried to capture at least a glimpse of all that's there, which is impossible, since that will require another longer visit, and more unlocking, beyond Da Vinci's fictional code. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


It was over.

With a deft move that blindsided those who wish to counter, COP 21 President Laurent Fabius hammered the green gavel to a standing ovation and officially ushered the era of a new international climate agreement. 

And as it is, I embarked on my usual post-COP journey that brought me to the Church of San Servacio and Chichen-Itza in 2010 after Cancun, the Emmanuel Cathedral in 2011 after Durban, Suoq Waqif in 2012 in Doha which is actually a market because I was not able to find a mosque or a church, the churches of Stare Miasto in 2013 in Warsaw, and the historic center of Lima and the churches that came with it in 2014. 

With a number of possible churches and only a 2-day window, I decided to focus on the 8 most important churches of Paris that Mr. Google can offer.

Abbey of St.-Germain-des-Pres

My journey began through the now familiar Line 4 from Strasbourg-Saint-Denis to the oldest surviving church of Paris that was founded in the 6th century, once known as St. Vincent's Church in honor of the saint's relic that it used to house until it was rededicated in 1014 to St. Germain, Bishop of Paris, who presided over the church's first dedication ceremony in 558 AD.

The abbey today is simply furnished and only a handful of people were attending the mass when I visited, perhaps because the only curio it can offer is the tomb of the French philosopher Rene Descartes.  


A short train ride from there is the "Holy Chapel", a royal church built by King Louis IX in 1239 to house his collection of Christ's relics, including the alleged Crown of Thorns and then later alleged fragments of the Holy Cross and the alleged Holy Lance.

Wikipedia says that the church has "the most extensive 13th century stained glass collection anywhere in the world" which tells the story of the Bible.

Rodney whom we met in the labyrinth of the Metro and came with us to the Sainte Chapelle was actually on his way to the Notre Dame de Paris, which we have earlier visited, for the Gregorian Chant service, which we have not heard, so we tagged along, got ourselves high on the incense and the soulful Latin chant, before parting ways --- he to a lunch somewhere, us to find Napoleon's tomb.

Les Invalides

The Domes de Invalides is 6 minutes by train from Line 4 to RER C, and a long walk on a cold day with nowhere to pee.

We entered through the back (or was that the front) to a complex that was first built in 1670 as a refuge for old and sick soldiers, with a chapel added in 1679, and then the domed royal chapel in 1708.

In 1840, the remains of Napoleon was entombed in what is now the Domes des Invalides which is the former royal chapel, along with several noted Frenchmen including the generals Comte Bertrand and Geraud Duroc who fought with Napoleon, Marshall Ferdinand Foch, and the heart of Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban. 

The soldiers' chapel behind the domed former royal church is now the Cathedrale Saint-Louis-des-Invalides of the French armed forces.

It was the Arc de Triomphe and back to the Tour Eiffel from there but that is another chapter, another story, because my French visita iglesia continued the next day, solo as it was Ate Alice's flight, from Line 4 to RER B in Luxembourg, to the Pantheon that was scrapped by tired feet and cold weather from yesterday's itinerary.

Le Pantheon National

Obviously, the Pantheon was inspired by the Greeks and was started to be built in 1758 to house the relics of St. Genevieve before the aftermath of the French Revolution in 1791 had it transformed into a mausoleum of notable citizens of France and since then, many have been interred there including the philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau; the writers Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and Alexander Dumas; and the scientists Pierre and Marie Curie.

A replica of Leon Foucault's pendulum that was first installed under the Pantheon's central dome is also displayed near the altar. 

La Madeleine

Eight minutes away via RER B and Line 14 is L'eglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, one of the rare churches dedicated to Mary Magdalene.

The church had a colorful history: it was built on a former synagogue that was seized from the Jews in 1182 where the first church was built in 1722 before work on the present structure was started in 1763, stopped by the French Revolution, and finally completed and consecrated in 1842.

The beheaded remains of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were first buried in the grounds of the church after their execution in 1793, while Chopin had his funeral there in 1849. 


Finally, Sacre-Coeur Basilica, the church I almost never saw because I thought it was too far and I was too tired.

And it was actually a new church, having been completed only in 1914, built on top of the Montmartre which is the highest point of Paris, which means an uphill walk from the base of the hill to the church, and another 300 steps from the church to the dome where I took the last frame of my last day in Paris, not just for the sake of photography but as penance for missing our wedding anniversary five times in a row. 

I was doubly tired when I walked down to the Anvers Station for the train ride back to Strasbour-Saint-Denis via La Chapelle and the now familiar gates and platforms of the Gare du Nord. 

But I'm glad I came.

Of the 8 famous churches I gathered from Google, I was not able to go to Saint-Eustache, and would also learn that there is a Basilisque Royale de Saint-Denis where French royalty were buried.

Seven of eight ain't bad.

But there will be another day in Paris, and I got to leave something for another French visita iglesia...

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Kumbaga sa adobo, si Juan ay unti-unting pinakuluan sa toyo at rekado hanggang sa matuyo at magmantika, kaya sarsa pa lang ay ulam na, samantalang si Pilar ay parang adobong may sabaw na puede na din sana pero maagang umayaw, kaya nauwi kay Ignacio na ang katulad ay adobo ng kahapon lang natutong magluto.

Ang adobong manok at kanin na niluto pa sa Amsterdam ay biyaya sa panahon ng makunat na tinapay at embalsamadong karne, pagkaing kinalakhan at nakasanayan, kaya bago man ang kusinero at naiba ng konti ang rekado ay adobo pa ding humihimas sa lamig at pangungulila, at nagdudugtong sa kahapon at kasalukuyan.   

Nakakauyam ang araw-araw na keso at tinapay kaya kahit kuwartong amoy adobo ay nagkasya na ding panulak sa mga may pinanggalingan at dapat mapuntahan, sa mga inumpisahang dapat matuldukan.

Kahit na nga ano basta kulay adobo ay puede, kahit lamesang pinatungan ng gintong tuktuk na natalsikan ng nagmamantikang sabaw, dahil ang wika nga ay sa simbahan din tutuloy ang mahabang prusisyon. 

Ang mga sikat ay parang mga malambot na adobong baboy kapag sila ay pinapalakpakan at nililitratuhan, katulad ng mga reyna sa santakrusan na binihisan ng kurtina, at nilagang itlog na inihalo sa adobo dahil kinulang ng karne.   

Sadyang mahusay magluto ang mga Pranses dahil ang inihaw na manok at sabaw na ibinahog sa tirang kanin ay naglasang adobo, konting premyo sa mga mithiing muntik ng maabot, o naabot ng konti...

Monday, December 07, 2015


It was, officially, a working day off to brief the "minister" and the "ambassador" on the progress of the Philippines in the Paris climate negotiations.

The "ambassador" was not able to come, because her assistant vice-minister opted for the Louvre, but the "minister" was there together with the "solicitor general"

"MINISTER": I want fresh air. Can we get out of Paris for the briefing"?

That's how we ended at the Chateau de Versailles, previously Louis XIII's hunting lodge which the Sun King converted into a royal palace in 1661.

We talked adaptation while walking the many rooms of the palace amidst an annoying throng of tourists, stopping briefly at the Royal Chapel to relive the wedding of Louis XVI and the (in)famous Marie-Antoinette in 1770, trying hard to acquaint ourselves to what Wikipedia says as "the finest example of French Baroque architecture and ecclesiastical decoration" as we got to the adaptation goal, before the requisite photo-ops at the Hall of Mirrors where the French royalty held court as we hit the final notes on loss and damage.

Outside, a piece of the 800-hectare Gardens of Versailles beckon from the palace windows, our closest encounter because of a freezing wind that also cut short our exploration of the palace's most familiar vantage point. 

We wrapped up with tasks on developing language and following what, and a lunch of salted pancakes and wine.

But it was a fine Sunday afternoon so on the way back, after transferring from train to Metro at the Javel-Andre Citroen Line 10 Station, and from Metro to Metro at the Odeon Line 4 Station, I easily convinced the "minister" to disembark at the Cite Station supposedly to hear mass at the Notre Dame de Paris, the seat of French catholicism and the church most identified with of St. Joan of Arch, site of many royal marriages and Napoleon I's coronation and requiem masses for notable personalities and (in)famous suicides, and pray that we did not spent so much for nothing in the ongoing Paris climate talks.   

I suddenly wanted to pee real bad.

It's Christmas time in Paris, I'm cold and tired, and I miss my bike...