Thursday, December 28, 2006

Caleruega Road Trip

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Ever since I first saw an internet photo of the chapel in Caleruega in Batangas, I've always had this fantasy of driving up there and seeing it for myself. I almost had that chance a couple of years ago when a friend and former colleague, Pia Arcangel, got married there. Unfortunately though, I couldn't make it to the wedding. I don't know if it was because I was so enamored by how pretty the place looked in that photo or if I was influenced by the wonderful stories of how gorgeous the place really is from the people who've been there, but for some reason, the desire to see Caleruega so consumed me that I vowed it would be one of the first places I would go to when I get my own car. (It actually became an agreement of sorts I had with The Man Upstairs).

Tuesday, December 26, I finally mustered the courage to drive up there on my own. My family wanted to come with me but I told them it was something I needed to do by mself. (Besides, we already spent Christmas in Tagaytay, going to see the mini zoo at Residence Inn and going hiking at Picnic Grove. Both places were packed; I do not recommend going there to spend a quiet Christmas with your family). Tagaytay is less than an hour away from where we live in Cavite. I left our house at about 10am and, with quick stopovers for gas and asking for directions, finally got to Caleruega at a little past 12nn (okay, so I'm a slow driver, give me a break, I've only been driving a couple of weeks).

A wedding had just finished when I parked quite a ways off from the church. Some guy even came up to me and asked if I already knew the directions to the reception! (I should've just went along with it, could've gotten a free meal...) After paying an entrance fee of P20, I discovered Caleruega is every bit as beautiful as they say it is. The chapel itself is tiny, I'm guessing only about a hundred people can sit comfortably inside. The brick facade, I found out later, is a reproduction of the original chapel in Caleruega, Spain. The area around it is filled with just the right kinds of plants and flowers, almost making it seem too picturesque and perfect to be real. Almost.

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Inside, the majestic stained glass altar is a sight to behold, especially with the noontime sun behind it. (Too bad my lousy camera phone couldn't do justice to it).

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The scenery outside is just as spectacular. Miles and miles of lush greens and rolling hills, and Taal Lake off to one side in the distance.

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Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one bewitched by this place; scores of couples, apparently looking for (and finding) the perfect place to get married, were also walking around the property. Apart from the chapel, Caleruega is also a retreat house and its facilities can also be used for workshops and seminars.

On my way back, I passed another quaint chapel just a few minutes away from Caleruega. The open-air and circular-shaped Chapel on the Hill, as it is called, is just as interesting and almost as beautiful, where one can breathe in fresh mountain air and take in the awesome view of miles and miles of green hills. Too bad I wasn't able to take pictures. A quick stop here if you're going to or coming back from Caleruega wouldn't hurt.

Now I can finally scratch that off my list of must-do's and must go-to's. I'm already looking forward to the next road trip...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rockstar dreams fulfilled...somewhat

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So that's what it's like to be a rockstar

A couple of weeks ago found me up onstage with a microphone in front of me at Mag:Net Katipunan, one of the steady hangouts of budding artists and musicians. But, instead of bursting out into song, I had the pleasure of reading aloud a poem and an excerpt of a short story I wrote. Yeah yeah, not very rock star-ish, I know, but it was close enough. It was the culmination of the four-week "hanging out" writing class I attended facilitated by Sir Krip Yuson. Alongside the "hanging out" songwriting class under Cynthia Alexander, we were asked to read our works aloud in front of a good-size audience.

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Rock star mode

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With "classmates" Caroline Howard and Timi Nubla and "prof" Sir Krip Yuson after the reading

Mag:Net is offering the same hanging out classes next month, I think. I might sign-up again. I highly recommend others do so too. There are worse ways to spend Saturday afternoons than "hanging out" with writers, songwriters, musicans and other artists. I think they added a scriptwriting workshop conducted by Ricky Lee.

And in the interest of providing my readers (yes, all four of you) with a semblance of what I learned in class (and on the off chance the person I wrote it for will get to read it) here's the poem I read during our, er, "graduation." (Keep in mind that I consider myself more of a prose guy. I'm a bit uncomfortable writing poetry, and I'm the first to dismiss lovey-dovey poems on longing and heartbreak, but this one practically wrote itself. Plus if Sir Krip thought it was good enough to be heard by a roomful of complete strangers, then who am I to judge?)


The sheets are crumpled and restless
the pillows downcast and forlorn.
The journal I keep on the nightstand table
Is tear-smudged, exhausted and torn.

I wish I could turn you off
as easily as the lightswitch
near my bed
because then
I won't have to worry
about going to sleep
and seeing you in my head
almost in a hurry
without my consent

Throwing punches underwater
casting nets in a fishless sea
I dread the thought of sleep tonight
When I see only you, not me.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Highlands High

The closest I have ever come to playing golf was practicing my swing with a kiddie club set in my cousin's house in Japan when I was 11 or 12 years old. Last weekend though, I found myself on the fairways of the Tagaytay Highlands, trying not to make a complete fool of myself in front of some Aussie friends from work. It was really like a being a fish out of water, with me bravely trying to swing a 3-iron so it would at least hit the ball further than a few feet away. (You know you're not really doing well when even the girl caddy who looks like she's barely out of her teens is giving you golfing tips).

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My caddy Jhen-Jhen (yes, those 'h's are really there) took this shot

At the end of the day though, it was exhilarating just to be there, breathing in fresh, honest-to-goodness mountain air instead of noxious, asphyxiating black soot from Metro Manila's streets. For a change, it was relaxing to see greens all around as far as the eye can see, and the Taal lake and volcano in the distance, instead of the concrete and asphalt jungle of Makati.

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The third hole (I think)

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By the 11th or 12th hole, we were a bit exhausted. Our caddies though were as cheerful as ever.

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Driving the golf carts was fun!

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View from our unit. That's Taal lake in the distance

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The Tagaytay Midlands course is about several hundred feet straight down from our balcony

I don't even know how I scored (at least I got a two-over-par on the 17th hole, I think), but my Aussie mates think I actually got better with each hole we played. If that's the case, golf is definitely something I'd like to try again. Anybody out there with a club membership?