Sunday, November 5, 2017

Taken with Taguig City

Snuggled inside my buddy’s Juke as it sped on an avenue surprisingly not congested with cars, buses and trucks (because it’s an early Sunday morning), I kept glancing out the window, looking for anything new that has risen in recent months along the boulevard named after the fifth chief executive of the republic, President Manuel Roxas. 

A popular destination inside Venice Grand Canal Mall 

A slice of Bonifacio Global City

Yikes, it’s been a while since I’ve been to our destination—where else but the highly-urbanized city of Taguig—and I couldn’t help but wonder at the plethora of surprises that await me!

Taguig’s unusual name has long intrigued me. In a metropolitan region where cities were either named after a peculiar flower, a pre-war president, a meandering river, a revered saint, and what have you, its name is unique in its own way. I thought there’s no tall tale surrounding it until I stumbled upon the city’s official website. As I had surmised, its appellation was also the end-result of the conquistadors’ difficulty in enunciating some words in the native tongue!

Skycrapers inside BGC dot Taguig's skyline

When Spain colonized the country, a small settlement known today as Taguig became a pueblo under the jurisdiction of imperial Manila. Taguig’s early inhabitants were known for their skills in threshing rice after harvest, thus, were referred to as taga-giik. In 1571, conquistador Ruy Lopez de Villalobos and his men, along with some church leaders, went there and interacted with the locals. As expected, they found it hard to pronounce “Taga-giik”, opting to shorten it to “Taguig.”

In the early 1900s, Taguig was incorporated as one of the municipalities of Rizal Province. Years later, it was attached with other towns like Pateros and Muntinlupa under Rizal before all three of them came into their own as independent municipalities. In the mid-1970s, the town was placed under the jurisdiction of the National Capital Region. Thirty years later, it became a full-fledged city.

Earlier that day, my friend Juju, who’s been based in Mandaluyong for years now, fetched me from my hotel near Rizal Park in Manila (Geez, a bank exec no less for a chauffeur—can you beat that? LOL!), taking me for a brekkie at one of his favorite hangouts in Taguig—the ritzy Bonifacio Global City or BGC.

I’m not really keen on gravitating towards what I consider bailiwicks of the hoity-loity but I have to make exception for Taguig because I have grown a certain fondness for it. Almost six years have passed since I’ve seen BGC (also with Juju, if my memory serves me right), an eclectic bohemian “city within a city” that never fails to dazzle visitors with its skyscrapers, condos, malls and plazas. 

If I’m not mistaken, I’ve been there on two earlier occasions. Still, the thought of stepping into it for the third time thrilled me no end. En route to BGC, I wondered what’s in store for me in the business hub and pleasure ground of the filthy rich that’s known for being avant-garde, cultured and exquisite yet cordial, soothing and uplifting. I guess I’ve been taken with Taguig the moment I saw its most popular destination years ago.

Seeing it anew, I felt the sudden urge to head out into the confounding mazes of the posh enclave, stroll around the concrete jungle on foot, stroke the well-manicured grounds, and smell the sweet temptations that wafted all over the place. Sometimes, it feels so refreshingly good to just pass time gawking at those wonderful pieces of art dotting the entirety of what’s become one  of the newest homes of international and local business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.

Touted as “the next Makati”, BGC has metamorphosed into the choice location of numerous multinational companies, financial institutions and other commercial establishments. Many of its thoroughfares have turned into little versions of New York’s Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Broadway or Fifth Avenue as huge business firms and conglomerates have built their corporate headquarters in the prime buildings dotting BGC’s roads.

The iconic Specific Gravity

For this dabbler of the arts, it was exhilarating to see and capture on camera some of the most amazing examples of street art that are embedded in strategic places all over BGC. Unlike its counterparts found in museums, street art is usually displayed in roads, walkways and buildings, making it more accessible and available to the ordinary man in the street.

"Specific Gravity" at night


Imagine the sheer delight of this wannabe photog as he laid eyes anew on Bonifacio High Street. Indeed, it was delightful to see one of its iconic fixtures, Specific Gravity, the suspended boulder fountain showcasing “the connection between the audience as a mobile participant and their primordial affinity to gravity.” Nothing seemed so spectacular about it at first but the longer I stared at it, the more I found it fascinating. 

The boulder up close

Incidentally, the one-of-a-kind structure is but one of the numerous pieces of public art found in BGC, which also include other interesting ones bearing esoteric names: Wonderland, Pilandok, Pangako, Magic in Manila, Presence, Kasalikasan,  among others.

A public art at Wonderland

A replica of the famous Grand Canal

A guide around the Venice Grand Canal

And what bumpkin could dare miss dropping by that eponymous mall that gives visitors a sneak preview of what Venice, the most popular City of Canals, looks, feels and smells like? Certainly not this mallrat! Drawing inspiration from one of Italy’s most romantic cities, the Venice Grand Canal Mall has undoubtedly raised the bar for fashion, dining, shopping and entertainment in the country with its fabulous Italian sights, sounds and smells!

At first blush, everything about BGC would seem to define what Taguig is, especially to many a starry-eyed promdi like me. Of course, I’m quite aware there’s more to it than its cosmopolitan enclave. There's definitely more to it than meets the eye!

Gondola ride, anyone?

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this land where the most skillful “threshers” of yore once lived. So, I’m looking forward to knowing more about all the stuff that makes this city of about 800,000 people tick. God willing, I’m going to accomplish that in the next few weeks. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Doting over Don Salvador Benedicto in Negros Occidental

It was the perfect easy-like-Sunday-morning kind of joyride that will probably hold me spellbound for some time. En route to San Carlos City where my hosts, Jim and Minnie, along with their son, Migs, were taking me on a quick tour, the panorama that was unfolding before our eyes was captivating to say the least, reminding me of the stunning rarities and serpentine roads leading to Baguio, the Summer Capital of the Philippines.

A breathtaking vista of mountains, valleys, rice terraces and a river

A glimpse of Mt. Mandalagan while passing by Murcia

We had just emerged from a seemingly never-ending expanse of sugarcane fields with Mt. Mandalagan at the background as we passed by the town of Murcia. With cool aplomb, the SUV we were riding began slithering its way along a well-paved zigzag road that overlooks the lush valleys and lofty mountains of Negros Occidental, or Neg Occ, for short. Geez, I was speechless as I gasped in awe at the exhilarating wonders of nature that came into view!
A little over an hour down the road, my hosts told me that we were stopping over every now and then so that I could take pictures of the magnificent scenery up ahead. The photographer in me was thrilled no end! Mind you, the gracious couple had to rearrange their schedules that day so that they could take me on a tour to the northern part of the province—I can’t thank them enough for that!

In minutes, we reached the Lion’s Park View Deck along the highway where Jim pulled over—the perfect spot for capturing the view hundreds of feet below us. Minnie said I should take as many snaps as I can for posterity’s sake. So, armed with my smartphone and digicam, I hopped out of the SUV. Minnie followed me, offering to take my pictures.

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Stretched out before us was a breathtaking landscape of verdant mountains blanketed by thick forests, fertile valleys planted with crops, a meandering river and a neat array of rice terraces in one part of the gently sloping terrain. To the right, I saw what looked like a small chapel surrounded by a garden—Padre Pio’s Garden—neatly tucked several meters down below.

Padre Pio's Garden


Truly a sight to behold, the picturesque scene is one of the natural treats that had me doting over that part of the province. Snapping out of my trance, I started shooting here, there, and everywhere—wary that I may not have another chance to go back and shoot such mise en scΓ¨ne. Minnie was also busy capturing my every move, telling me to pose once in a while.

Such was the awe-inspiring surprise that greeted me that day—the same wonder of nature awaiting motorists whenever they pass by the serene town named Don Salvador Benedicto a.k.a. DS Benedicto or DSB, for short. Dubbed as the “Summer Capital of Negros Occidental”, DSB is one of the 19 municipalities, along with 13 cities, that make up the sugar-producing province.

Pine trees adorning both sides of a highway in DSB

Perched at 675 m (2,214 ft) above sea level, the town in the highlands, situated 47 km away from Bacolod City, got its name after the province’s late Vice Governor Salvador Benedicto, who played a big role in creating the revolutionary government when Negros Island was occupied by Japanese forces at the height of World War II.

DS Benedicto, which came into being in 1983, was formed by merging the secluded villages of two towns and one city that weren’t given much attention given their distance and inaccessibility. From what I’ve gathered, these included two villages from Murcia (Pandanon and Igmayaan), three from San Carlos City (Kumaliskis, Bunga, and Pinowayan-Prosperidad) and another two from Calatrava (Bagong Silang-Marcelo and Bago-Lalong).

We continued with our sojourn until we reached a portion of the pothole-free highway with huge Norfolk pine trees lining both its sides. Jim again pulled over, giving me another chance to take some photos of the amazing landscape. From where I stood, I saw a nearby forest of evergreens. I walked towards it. Minnie followed me. Again, more pictures with the pine trees as backdrops.

Our last stop was at another view deck overlooking the cigarette-shaped Malatan-og Falls, another must-see in the province. As I stood there, the cold breeze caressed me, giving me the same chills I’ve experienced in Baguio and Tagaytay! I looked at my phone for the temp reading—a shivery 18 °C! No wonder everyone who’s made it to DSB before me was doting over the natural wonders of the “Little Baguio” of Neg Occ!

The cigarette-shaped Malatan-og Falls

I’ve barely scratched DS Benedicto’s surface. If given the chance to go back to Neg Occ, I’d certainly love to explore this amazing town to the hilt! When that time comes, I’d like to go on a trek to Malatan-og Falls; bask in the breathtaking rice terraces; take a bath in the alluring Talos River, explore the organic farm of Rapha Valley; commune with nature at Villa Ica; and much, much more! Geez, I can’t wait to do these stuff in the future! 😍😍😍