April 5, 2015. A visit to a Disney theme park in one city didn’t seem to be enough for my folks, we just had to go to another Disney theme park in Tokyo, Disney Sea. It would have been the more interesting theme park visit because it deviates from the classic Disneyland blueprint. However, the rains and the cold really dampened the mood, after seeing most of the park’s sections, all we wanted to do was go home and stay dry.
Tokyo Disney Sea, unique to Tokyo, is made up of seven themed “ports of call”–Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and American Waterfront.
April 4, 2015. Our third day in Japan was spent with a tour group with a half-day itinerary to two of the city’s iconic landmarks — Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) and Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). In between, our shuttle made brief drive throughs of other landmarks in the city.
In Meiji Shrine we were fortunate to have witnessed a wedding ceremony and a miyamairi (宮参り, literally “shrine visit”) a traditional Shinto rite of passage for Japanese babies.
December 15, 2007. That night, after picking up some barbecued grub from JunJun’s Restaurant along MacArthur Highway in San Fernando, we proceeded to the grounds of SM Pampanga, to its ampitheater to be exact, to witness the annual Ligligan Parul or giant lantern festival.
I was quite surprised to find out that the choreographed flickering of the giant lanterns’ lights are manually controlled by large rotating cylinder conductors with adhesive-tape patterns that dictate when and what color of lights would go on and off. That magnificent display of lights that flicker and dance with the music is manually controlled?? Wow! Add to that, of course, is the intricate design and the hundreds of light bulbs that went into the creation of the lanterns. (Our Awesome Planet has a blog entry on how he witnessed the creation of these lanterns, with nice photos to prove how awesome it really is). Now this lantern-making is a skillful craft Kapampangans and other Filipinos can be proud of. Eight barangays of San Fernando joined the competition in this year Ligligan Parul 2007. Brgy. Telabastagan won first place, Brgy. San Felipe won second, and Brgy. San Nicolas third.
December 15, 2007. I think this is probably the highlight of the entire tour. After visiting churches and ancestral houses, the tour masters Ivan Henares, Ivan Mandy, Anton Diaz and Spanky Enriquez took us to the Bale Dutung home of Claude and Maryann Tayag in Angeles, Pampanga for their famed exclusive lunch experience. Oh boy. Who would’ve thought a slow delightfully satisfying lunch for four hours is possible. It’s not the type of lunching where you devour your food because it’s just so good, rather, it’s the type where you just keep eating and eating at your own delightfully slow pace in such a cozy ambience and a cool environment. The crispy pritson was my favorite. Aside from that there was also pako salad, binulong na manok soup, pritong hito, kare-kareng dagat, sisig puso and pata mole. There were of course, the excellent sauces that come with everything. The taba ng talangka was my favorite. Our rice, on the other hand, came in cone shaped wrapped banana leaves.
In between servings, I had to leave my seat and walk around the house to make room for more servings, which was equally delightful, with the warm and peaceful ambience and all the wooden art pieces and other such furniture. I also found myself being engaged in conversations by Maryann and Claude, who were very hospitable, accomodating and generous hosts.
Also present for lunch with us was Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio.
December 15, 2007. After visiting Bacolor Church, we proceeded to Guagua, Pampanga to visit Betis Church. It’s apparently one of the oldest churches in Pampanga, and it’s also certainly one of the most ornate. The church’s ceiling is painted with tableauxs of biblical scenes. Fortunately for everyone on the tour, we also witnessed the processional of some couple’s wedding. It must’ve been amusing for the foreigners with us.
On the way to our next destination, we were treated to one of Pampanga’s best-kept secrets–buko sherbet from San Jose in San Fernando City. The stuff is only sold in gallons, so we had an entire barrel of shaved ice and salt, buried in which is a tin can with five gallons of cold buko sherbet. I must have had five servings of the stuff the entire day. Our next destination was an ancestral house in San Fernando City’s ‘heritage district‘ owned by the heirs of one of Pampanga’s old-rich families. It was a very pleasant visit. The Hizon family gladly welcomed us inside and toured us around their well-preserved and fully-functional home. I wish more heritage structures, particularly centuries-old houses, were like theirs–fully functional homes and not some museum filled with displays of antique items. I don’t think one could normally go inside the ancestral houses in the heritage district for visits. We were gladly welcomed in the Hizon home because one of our tour masters, Spanky, was a Hizon. Hehe.
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December 15, 2007. Last December 15, Saturday, I joined the Ultimate Kapampangan Show-off tour of Anton Diaz, Ivan Henares, Ivan Mandy, and Spanky Enriquez. I only got home earlier (or morning) at almost three in the morning from another all-nighter frat party and my brod Ivan H., asked me to be at 6750 in Makati by seven in the morning a few hours after to meet with everyone else with the tour. With an hour of sleep, I was able to make it on time from QC. Anyway, we left Makati shortly after half past seven and arrived in Pampanga just before nine in the morning.
Our first stop was the town of Bacolor, Pampanga. The town, over much of the 90’s, was almost completely buried under more than a dozen meters of lahar from the Mount Pinatubo eruption of 1991. After having deserted the town for years, people have been coming back to rebuild their communities. The town church, or the upper half of what’s left, is now being restored and renovated. Inside the church, there is a small section that serves as a museum, with photographs of the parish and the town during its better days. In fact, things were so much better before, Bacolor served as the temporary capital of the Spanish colonial government during the short British occupation of the archipelago.