Antipolo’s Art Oasis

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PINTO ART MUSEUM

THERE IS A place in the craggy urban foothills of Antipolo, Rizal that I suggest you visit when you’re in Manila because it is a fertile spot for everything art.

The place is called Pinto Art Museum being managed by the El Refugio Arts & Sciences Foundation, Inc. at 1 Sierra Madre Street, Grand Heights Road, Antipolo.

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Antique cylinder phonograph.

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Isn’t this little man just the cutest as a preternatural art piece?

HOW TO GET THERE

I was staying in Makati when I went there with a friend. So, from where I was, here’s what can help your direction problem. Apparently, this is the fastest route to the place even under usual traffic.

  • Get on Carlos P. Garcia Avenue/C-5 from Kalayaan Flyover and 32nd Street
    • Head northeast on Makati Avenue towards Pedestrian Lane
    • Turn right onto Paseo de Roxas
    • Turn right onto Buendia Avenue/Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue
    • Keep left to continue on Kalayaan Flyover
    • Continue onto 32nd Street
    • Keep left at the fork to continue toward Carlos P. Garcia Avenue/C-5
    • Keep left, follow signs for Pasig and merge onto Carlos P. Garcia Avenue/C-5
  • Follow C-5 and R-5 to Ortigas Avenue/Ortigas Avenue Extension in Taytay
    • Merge onto Carlos P. Garcia Avenue/C-5
    • Take the ramp to R-5
    • Continue onto R-5
    • Turn right onto Ortigas Ave/R-5
  • Proceed/continue on Ortigas Avenue Extension Drive to Sierra Madre in Antipolo
    • At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Ortigas Avenue/Ortigas Avenue Extension
    • Turn right onto Grand Heights Road
    • Slight right onto Sierra Madre Street

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WHAT’S THERE

Paintings are the most commonly displayed art objects inside the museum, but exploring its other galleries would also bring visitors to very interesting and uncanny two- or three-dimensional representatives, and other art works.

There are functional decorative arts (antique and modern collectable items); framed photos from years past; installation arts that can really transform a visitor’s perception of maybe any space where they can be presented; and a lot of prints that you can tell are original and not photographic duplication.

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It’s not tiring to move from one gallery to the next since it is surrounded by pocket gardens. Shade trees that keep the sun off and make the environment cooler are also everywhere.

And if you’re really, really tired and you want to rest your feet, they have beds placed in inconspicuous spots in these small gardens. You can sit on them with your favorite afternoon cooler.

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In conversation.

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One of the galleries I like the best has rooms that are particularly engrossing. The first room we entered holds about 6 or 8 miniature sculptures of women in conversation with soft music playing and female voices that actually talk in the background. Anyone entering should be making little or no noise so they don’t disturb them.

Be aware. There’s even a reminder for silence in this room.

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The other room is “For Adults Only.” This room holds the nude visual arts that are not for those who would cringe at the sight of a woman’s bare body on top of a man on a canvass.

My friend and I didn’t speak with each other while inside this room. If there’s anything, I was having a conversation with myself as it reminded me about that one particular conversation I had with an artist a long time ago.

This guy, whose name I forgot, talked to me about Pierre-Auguste Renoir being his favorite artist, especially in the portrayal of feminine sensuality.

I look at a nude. There are myriads of tiny tints. I must find the ones that will make the flesh on my canvas live and quiver. – Pierre-Auguste Renoir

He said Renoir’s paintings, which explode with vibrant lights and intense colors, make really, really beautiful art out of intimate and straightforward compositions that normal human beings would not appreciate as many are dogmatic about nudity.

I didn’t grasp what he was telling me then because then, I wasn’t into art so much. I was young and naive about paintings and all that, I was only interested in reading novels.

But… why not nude art? It’s beautiful, anyway.

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The Pinto Art Museum simply behaves like a maniac where the expression of human creative skill and imagination is concerned.

OH, BY THE WAY… IT HAS A RESTAURANT

Yes, the museum has a restaurant that serves food to anyone hungry after going through the galleries. It is, for me, something all museums should have.

I’m not a big pizza eater, but the one we ordered with Vigan longaniza was an unforgettable taste. I can’t get over it. The garlicky and salty flavor of this prided longaniza, and the oil it packs after frying… all goodness in the mouth!

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Pizza with Vigan Longaniza

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A title like “Truffle Fries.”

So, whenever in Manila, think: the malls are not the only places to visit. Give them the cold shoulders for a while; Antipolo is nearby, head there, and visit Pinto Art Museum.

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Dirty Hairy Kind of Day

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

PRIMO WAS BAD-TEMPERED this morning because I did not allow him to go out of the house to follow my mom, who was brought outside for fresh air and some sun by her caregiver.

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My poochikin.

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Primo the Poogle Dog

A 50/50 mix of purebred Poodle and a purebred Beagle, Primo feels like he’s the ultimate protector of my mom, who is sick with diabetes and now undergoing dialysis twice a week. Whenever he sees Rhoda (my mom’s caregiver) pulling the wheelchair out of its nook, that’s also the time he would make sharp barking cries.

But Poogle dogs are not protectors. If there’s anything, they’re watchdogs or alert dogs fit for owners, who do not want the responsibility of powerful guard dogs like Chow Chow, Belgian Malinois, Giant Schnauzer, or Doberman that have menacing barks and fierce bites.

I want a Giant Schnauzer too… sigh…

Primo is just the perfect dog for me with his wavy coat of black (with streaks of gray and white) hair, playful temperament, and affectionate personality. He’s very, very smart and learned fast when we taught him to sit, lay down, shake hands, stand, jump, and stay put to receive his food.

I used to give him his bath, cut his nails, clean his ears and all that, but the chores have eventually become too much for me since two months ago. Giving him a bath is literally chasing him inside my bathroom, and cutting his nails is like doing the same to a pachyderm.

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Today, instead of doing the usual dog grooming chores myself, I decided to bring him instead to the Dirty Hairy Pet Salon near the Provincial Capitol Compound area. I had to hold and carry  him well enough on the way for fear that he would do something crazy to escape and run around.

He’s done that once, and he was nearly hit by  a car. Fortunately, the driver was quick enough to step on the brakes. I can’t live with the same nightmare again, please.

When we reach the dog grooming salon, I had to warn the guy to be observant because Primo is cunning during events like this, and knows skillful acts to escape his watcher. He would pretend to bite but not really sink his teeth (only to scare); and he would keep still when told, but the second he gets the chance and you’re not looking, he would run fast away and give you a hard time catching him.

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Aw, look, ma… no tricks or crazy antics for me today.

However, at the grooming salon when we were truly inside, Primo gave me the surprise when he didn’t do anything crazy at all. He just surrendered himself to the groomer, and didn’t try to break free. He’s irritated when I’m cutting his nails, but to the groomer, he was very submissive, I was happy 🙂

AT THE GROOMING SALON, I SPENT PHP1,130.00 or US$ 23.7590  :

  • PHP400.00-PHP450.00 for all grooming services
  • PHP450.00 for Frontline Plus Anti-flea solution
  • PHP30.00 for low-calorie dog treat
  • PHP250.00 new dog water bowl

I am so glad there’s Dirty Hairy now in Puerto Princesa. Not bad for Primo 🙂 and well, my sanity. And I don’t mind a monthly Dirty Hairy kind of day for my poochikin.

Singapore: Lights & Shadows

IT’S BEEN SAID THAT “black and white photography can give certain scenes a striking, timeless quality when done well.” This is particularly true to street photographers, who use light and shadow as whip hand in their images.

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I know someone, who is good in street and B&W photography, and she’s a Filipina, who used to work as a nanny in Hong Kong. Xyza Cruz Bacani has gone a long way. She’s been to a lot of places with her forte, doing projects left and right, and sharing lectures about her experiences into the world of monochrome photography.

I consider her my idol in the genre. Here’s her site http://www.xyzacruzbacani.com/

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I like B&W, it’s just a hard nut to crack that’s why most of the time, I find myself straying to landscape, or food, or portrait photography. It requires lines, shadows, and shapes, and it’s difficult to pay attention to those all the time.

The first time I did black and white photography was in Hong Kong. In fact, one of the images I have got exhibited a long time ago in Manila. The exhibit was arranged by avid street photographers in a popular Pinoy rock bar near the University of the Philippines.

That photo was of a Hong Kong resident, who was loading several small tanks of liquefied gas to a waiting delivery truck. I have framed that photo, and it’s still hanging on the wall in our living room.

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Light and shadow, lines, curves, patterns are not the only thing to remember when doing monochrome photography. There must also be texture.

Texture is the consistency of the surface detail of the photo, which is often overlooked by photographers. So guilty. The more there are irregularities on top of your image, and as long as they are stable and steady, the more your image becomes visually interesting.

Maybe, after getting a little bit of upper hand in long-exposure photography, it would be a lot of B&W next.

Old Habit & Singapore (Part II)

THERE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER in Singapore, whose LE photography works are really outstanding. His name is Thomas Leong.

Check his Flickr account, and you too, will be amazed by how much passion, how much love he gave to his creative photos. https://www.flickr.com/photos/soulfly7/

It’s actually embarrassing to bring his link here, knowing that you can all note the dissimilarities between our LE works. Nonetheless, it’s saying to get better in what we want to do, we have to feed our curiosity; we have to look for someone who can influence us, inspire us to do something about our own creativity.

That’s Mr. Leong to me. Who knows, I might meet him next time?

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LIGHT SHOW from the Sky Park at the Marina Bay Sands.

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In one photo. The SINGAPORE FLYER, the Lotus-shaped ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM, and the MARINA BAY SANDS from across the bay.

There are a few basic tips that I take with me every time I journey into the photography genre.

  • A sturdy tripod is very, very important, especially if you’re on a really slow shutter speed and it is windy around you. Make sure it is standing on an even and solid ground. A tiny shake of the apparatus can make a whole lot of difference in your desired result.
  • Wide angle lens with the smallest aperture need.
  • You may also opt to use a cable release or remote
  • Use INFINITY focus.
  • Bulb or Manual on the mode dial.
  • 5-30 seconds shutter speed.

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Composition is the most important thing in any genre of photography. Don’t just shoot your camera, look for a new concept of the same view in front of you. You’ve got to do it. Otherwise, what sets your photo apart from the others, who have stood in front of that view with their cameras?

At the end of the day, what will always matter is if you’re able to provide your viewer with a different perspective. Did your photo give them a new POV? Did it invite interest or curiosity?

That’s what matters.

The deadliest deadline I gave myself to learn long-exposure photography was three years ago. I’m starting all over again, I hate long breaks. But when this is all done, what I will do is to look back and think once in a while about how long it took me to really learn.

That way, I’d have a habit loop.

 

Old Habit & Singapore (Part I)

GOOD OLD HABITS never die.

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I’ve been telling myself now that I’ve started to mind my blog site again. So, thank you L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant and Pho 88 for kicking out the blogger in me that had slowed down and hibernated for a period of time.

I’ve long ago considered that blogging is a freedom channel for me to be opinionated once in a while. There are a lot of things happening in my environment, lots of places I’ve visited, and it’s a struggle to keep quiet and not write about how I experienced them.

ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE. Sharing an old photo of myself taken in Cambodia. I posted this because it’s one of the few, where I’m carrying my old reliable camera on my neck.

Keeping quiet is not something my profession would welcome, anyway. No, I’m not blogging about politics. Too many bloggers already doing that, I’m not about to join the bandwagon.

There is a need to be careful because, who would want another libel case in court that would take years to resolve? I’ve had two in the past, and it took around 10 years for them to be sorted out.

That’s another story.

What I want to do, really, is to share photos from my recent Singapore trip. My return there is something I will never forget since I was able to win back my love and passion (two words) for photography. Yes, even my photography had to take a back seat for a while; had to occupy an inferior position in my priorities because more pressing life matters took control.

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The MARINA BAY SANDS 5 star luxury resort hotel, “the world’s most expensive stand alone casino property” in Singapore.

The following photos you’ll see are called long-exposure (LE) shots. Long-exposure photography is a genre that I find very interesting as it always has the potential to produce amazing luminescent results if one knows how to shoot right.

If you want to hit the mark when you’re firing a gun, you should know what you’re doing so you won’t miss it. It’s the same fundamental truth in LE.

I don’t have the LE mastery yet. But I will get there eventually. And soon. Please.

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Singapore’s CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT at night with the imposing lotus-shaped ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM on the left side from where I was standing across. The museum is located in the integrated resort of Marina Bay Sands in the Downtown Core.

In the Lion City, when photographers want to take long-exposure shots of the Marina Bay Sands (and the other futuristic building structures there), their best opportunity can start happening the moment the blue hour (La hora azul) sets in around 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.

Time zones are bizarre old things, aren’t they? In the Philippines, we sometimes see the sunset early. In other places, like Singapore, they see it late.

Same time zone with the Philippines; different sunset time.

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THE SHOPPES MARINA BAY SANDS’s reflection on the pond water after long exposure shot.

TO BE CONTINUED. I’ve got to go for now. More photos to share later 🙂

Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant

DID YOU KNOW that in Vietnam, you can’t eat your food and then leave your chopsticks lying vertically over your bowl (or plate) of rice or noodles when you’re done?

Did you know too, that doing the same in China would contract-in-displeasure the eyebrows of the residents as it is how they position their incense sticks whenever present in ceremonies honoring the dead, or burying them?

Or something like that. I’m not too sure.

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A small bowl of PHO BO at Pho 88. It’s a Vietnamese rice noodle soup with fragrant herb leaves served separately with calamansi, and beef meat. 

Did you know further that if you don’t want to get in trouble with any of your Vietnamese friends (perhaps I should try one day just to make sure), then you must call to mind not to tap your chopsticks on your bowl for it will bring misfortune, and it means you’re convoking the dead?

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I HAVE TO GET ME ONE OF THESE. Tuong Ot Sriracha, or rooster sauce in Vietnam, actually originated from Thailand.  It’s made of “chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar,potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum.

It is really our own eating beliefs and traditions that matter. But of course, it wouldn’t hurt to observe and do as they do, right? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese people do.

The reason I had to remember what I learned about the eating culture of the people of Vietnam was because I was with some friends in this new restaurant called Pho 88 along J. Rizal Avenue the other day.

Sometimes I have that habit of tapping my chopsticks lightly on the bowl when I’m talking about something passionately. But not always.

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Ha Chi Lhan, the pretty owner of Pho 88. The place does not seek attention where it is located so, one has to be really on the alert.

Pho 88 is Pho 88, according to owner Ha Chi Lhan, because 1988 was the year she started to work in a bank in the coastal city of Nha Trang in Khánh Hòa, on the South Central Coast of Vietnam.

It was her Filipino husband, who brought her to open Pho 88 after residing for a while in Silang, Cavite. The husband was not there to meet with us, but whoever he is, it’s good decision to bring Ha Chi Lhan to move to this city.

Another restaurant that serves real Vietnamese food is good news to me although in Puerto Princesa, there are about two I really love to visit once in a while. One is located in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, the other is in Barangay San Jose — quite far from where I live.

I wanted to order Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup) since its photo on the resto’s simple menu looked steamy and pretty with the chicken meat all lined up on one side, herbs on top of them, and a slice of chili.

But it wasn’t available; the kitchen staff apparently forgot to buy chicken from the market that day.

I don’t know. Tsk!

An old Vietnamese friend, who came to Palawan a few years ago as one of the boat people, told me that you can gauge the goodness of a Pho by the intensity of the flavor that’s rustled up in the stock while maintaining its clarity.

I wanted to prove. Unfortunately…

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This popular Vietnamese dish is not heavy in the belly so, go for it when you’re in Puerto Princesa.

Every time I go to a new Vietnamese place, I like comparing how each cook their Pho. This is the reason why I wanted the Pho Ga. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the Bun Thit Nuong cold noodles upon learning from Ha Chi Lhan that the noodles they used were imported.

Except for the meat and some spices that can easily be bought from the public market, all their ingredients are imported from Vietnam.

The food junkie in me couldn’t help but also order Banh Mi Thit Heo, bread with pork and veggies inside. Bahn Mi is all kinds of bread to the Vietnamese; bahn is bread and mi is wheat. Popular to them is the baguette or French bread.

So, if you’re in an authentic Vietnamese dining place, and you ask to be given Bahn Mi, and the food attendant asks you next what kind you would like to have, then you’ll know they can give it to you with different fillings. Pulled pork, fried or grilled chicken, barbecued pork, beef, and yes, even crazy tuna spread.

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VIETNAMESE ICE COFFEE: On Pho 88’s menu, they come in two blends — Cafe Sua and Cafe Sai Gon.

After our good and light meal, we couldn’t leave as there were still good stories to tell and laugh about. So, one of us decided to try Pho 88’s two ice coffee blends — Cafe Sua that uses the traditional French coffee drip, and Cafe Sai Gon.

Both blends use coarsely ground dark roast coffee, and they’re so good!

So, what sets apart Vietnamese cuisine from the rest of the others in Asia? For me, I think its really the amalgamation of spices, colors, love and passion of cooking, fresh ingredients, and the minimal employment of oil.

Isn’t it that Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest in the planet?

We went to Pho 88 at past 12 noon, and left around 3 p.m. because Wednesday is WOW date for all of us. WOW meaning Women of Wednesday.

I’m going back there for my Sriracha sauce.

Pho 88 is okay with reservation. Call them at 09271521706 and 09279378729.

 

L Element Asian Fusion Cuisine

Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.- B. Frankel

THERE’S A NEW dining place in Puerto Princesa that serves authentic Asian fusion cuisines, and it’s called L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant owned by Manila businessman  Laurence Lau.

Laurence is a Filipino entrepreneur, whose mother is Malaysian. He was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Hong Kong. Yes, three countries that love to cook, and are food capitals in the world’s largest and most populous continent.

So, why not a restaurant that serves traditional dishes from these three countries, and maybe more like Vietnam and Taiwan.

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SEAFOOD TOFU SOUP

In this city, and I could probably say anywhere else in Palawan, there is simply nowhere to go when it comes to your favorite bona fide Asian fares. Most times, your Chinese stir-fried noodles is frustrating for the reason that the restaurant where you had it couldn’t cook it the way you wanted it cooked.

At L Element, you have to try the Taiwanese Beef Noodle with Barbecue Sauce because it is simply the best. The noodles are not mushy and oily, and the chef was generous enough not to scrimp on the beef meat as one of the main ingredients.

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BEEF IN BLACK PEPPER SAUCE

Another dish I enjoyed so much at L Element in the three times I had been there so far, is the Beef in Black Pepper Sauce. Three times there, three times ordered the same dish because the meat was tender, and the bite of the black pepper sauce on your palate is really habit-forming.

It’s beyond explanation why I love it.

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VIETNAMESE FRIED SPRING ROLL

Another best-loved Asian cuisine there is from Vietnam, the Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls that is pleasingly crispy outside and firm on the inside. One of the restaurants in Puerto Princesa that serves this really good is located in Sta. Lourdes.

So, it’s nice that when you don’t have a lot of time to travel far, there’s a place nearby that offers it on its menu.

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CRISPY & JUICE FRIED CHICKEN

The photos of the food I posted here are those I have already tried at L Element. If you get the chance to see its menu, you’ll find that there are more to choose from. I, myself, have to try the recipe the chef has for crabs as I am also very fond of crustaceans.

Next time!

However, the Beef in Black Pepper Sauce… I wouldn’t be raving about it if it’s not a dish that more than satisfied me.

If you’re planning to visit Puerto Princesa soon, and you’re looking for a place with Asian fusion cuisines that are flavorful and easy on the pocket, then don’t miss L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant.