Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Surprise Wetland!

Our goal is the edge near the horizon!
One hour up, still a long way to go!
In our trip to Ilocos, we had lunch at Saud Beach in famous Pagudpud. I knew that the 'kids' (students) will surely try to 'enjoy' the beach to the fullest. So I eyed the beach line at the other end of the cove, It apeared to almost reach the horizon.  I asked Prof. Vic Dul-loog if it would take forever to reach it.  He estimated 30 minutes by foot. I asked friend Pinky if she wanted to try our luck in walking up to the beach's edge.  She affirmed and we started walking after the hefty lunch, around 1:30 PM.

The way back!
Pinky on the beach with faint Bangui at the background
The students were already in their swimsuits when we passed the part were they planned to swim. We steadily made our way, making steps at the edge of the water but the wet sand's weight was becoming too much for my slippers and my ankles to handle.  We decided to shift walking at midpoint, between the wooded edge and the waterline, but at this point our feet sank deep into the sand. It was proving to be such an ordeal. One hour later we have not reached the halfway mark. 
The Bangui windmills at the other end of the horizon
We decided to turn around to make it back by 330 pm, which was the time given for us by our guide, the deadline to go back to our hotel.  A hundred meters from the farthest point, we again decided to enjoy the view, which included a panorama of the faraway Bangui windmills lining the opposite beach. We sat on the hot sand admiring the Pagudpud sun and the wind on our hair.

While Pinky tried to take snaps of the faint hint of the windmills, something caught my eye in the oposite direction.  Beyond the coconut trees, which was way behind our backs while looking into the water, was another body of water...a lagoon.  And unlike the expected flora of the coastal landscape we were immersed in, this one had aquatic plants...coastal wetland! It had cattail (Typha angustifolia) populations which I see mostly  in inland freshwater ponds. Quite a surprise for me.  It seems Ilocos never runs out of things to discover!
Saud Beach's coastal wetland

Saturday, September 7, 2013

In the Dwarfed Garden Once More

The iconic Kapurpurawan view 
Now a horse landscape
It was also my third time in Kapurpurawan (Ilocano for whiteness) rock.  I am always fascinated by the landform and its landscape even though it is slowly deteriorating with the addition of attractions, just to make it tourist friendly. Now they have a pedestrian walk and a horse path going to the white rocks. When I first visited, I wore out the soles of my slippers walking through the jagged edges of the craggy surface. It in itself was the adventure as the ordeal took me almost more than 20 minutes.  Now you glide your way to the end. They removed the rough part, the fun of the experience. 
The many pools against the dwarfed greens
Dwarf linu
Bantigue looking like grass
This time I still took the same amount of time because I was admiring how beautiful the landscape still is.  It is indeed a unque one, with species which I know as large trees or shrubs were growing much smaller, almost hugging the ground.  Almost all the surrounding landscape has dwarfed flora, probably because of the limited soil, the strong winds and the turbulent influx of tides. Small tree species like bantigue (Pemphis acidula), linu (Scaevola taccada) and Sophora tomentosa are growing like ground covers. The bakong and pandan even grow taller than the trees, which was quite ironic. 
The dominant bakong
Plant from family Compositae
The extreme naturally bonsai trees (if you could still call them that as they do not appear like trees at all) add an air of mystic to the varied landscape of Ilocos Norte.  I just wish they would stay that way longer.  I would hate to see more structures and hardscape erected to the detriment of its natural environment.

White rock Kapurpurawan is famous for

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The New and the Hidden Prayer Gardens

The grand Paoay Church
The new prayer garden
Religious icons integrated in landscape
Last weekend was my fifth time in Ilocos since 2006.  In the last three years, I braved the almost 10 hour travel time to see the region yearly. But what I realized is that everytime I go back, I discover something new, even in the areas I have visited before. 

I have been to Paoay Church 3 times and this year I found that the beautiful historic church has a new addition in its grounds. A new prayer garden was erected at one side where the large imposing buttresses are.  The massive structure got complemented with a strong color palette of landscape massing and flowering ornamental plants.
Pathways are rustic flanked by color contrasting plant massing.
Reminds me of a medieval rustic garden
The new garden was a pleasant surprise. It reminded me a little of the physic garden, which I teach in my L Arch 1 classes.  The physic garden originated in the dark ages and were common in  monasteries of medieval Europe.

I found a couple of native plants in the plant selection, but it would have been much more meaningful if more of the Ilocos flora was integrated. But as it is the garden is a very interesting attraction, making the trip to Paoay more rewarding even for us non-first-timers.
Bantay Church near Vigan proper
the famous belfry
The chapel by the ruins
I have also visited Bantay Church in Vigan 3 times.  In last weekend's trip, we were given a mere 10 minutes to take pictures of the church and its famous bell tower.   I almost skipped going down the van if it weren't for a much needed short visit to the boys' room. Accidentally, I stumbled upon the Bantay Church's 'Chapel by the Ruins', hidden in the almost relic parts at one side of the church proper. 

The space I discovered was quaint and very much secluded, perfect for contemplation and meditation.  I wonder if people knew about this space, hidden in a corner of the church, overshadowed by the iconic belfry.  
An outdoor contemplation space, a different experience.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Last Hurray for L Arch 148

At the steps of the Burgos lighthouse
On the Kapurpurawan rock formation
L Arch 148 is a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture subject dealing with Park Design and Recreation. It is one of my favorite subjects when I was an MTLA student.  But come next year, the subject will be scrapped and its topics will be merged with the major design subjects.  This year's student batch will be the last to undergo a collective study of park systems.  Thus they are ending it with a bang with 2 major field trips, the first leg commenced last weekend bringing 16 students to the far north province of Ilocos Norte and the city of Vigan.
In Vigan at last!
Against the white background of Kapurpurawan
In Malacanang of the North
The objective was to come up with a scholastic assessment of possible design recommendations for a park system network in Ilocos.  Of course the trip would not be complete without the guidance of the equally fun-loving landscape teachers.  The adventurous gang was headed by the L Arch 148 adviser Prof. Beth Espino.

I have been to this part of the globe before, so my interest (apart from chaperoning) was to see how the students would react and interact with the natural and manmade landscapes.  The three-day immersion brought us from church landscapes and institutional gardens to unique and natural landforms, providing a varied and interesting array of attractions for tourism and recreation. Looks like the class have their work cut out for them.  Though there are a lot of stuff to include and tackle, I am quite sure they would not run out of ideas for this one, since  the mix of the natural and the designed will hopefully make their assessment an interesting read come semester end. 
At the top of the heap in the sand dunes
Jubilant in Pagudpud

Monday, August 26, 2013

Memories of My Dad

My dad on his 80th birthday
I have not been blogging for weeks because of a sad thing that happened last month, my Dad passed away.  I am not very close to him but he is a strong presence in my life. In my childhood I regarded him as a formidable character, always the pillar at my mom's side. Though I was much closer to my mother, I never realized a life without my dad, till now.  

I could not remember having a serious conversation with my dad though, probably because I am a menopause baby and that we have a large generation gap. I could recall going on some necessity trips to the provinces, with him at the driver's seat and I staying at the passenger side.  We usually stay silent or we had short talks that were frequently not sustained.  But one thing I remember was him humming or singing a tune while driving. My memory of his 'Mocking Bird's Hill' version ala Nat King Cole is still fresh and vivid. I probably could understand his love for music more because we share the same passion to sing as a pass time. 

In his last birthday celebration
When my Mom died a few years ago, we had some differences.  I never really got to know him outside of being the strict and serious father. But it appears that he had a side which was blind to me at least. 

In the past days I have learned that my dad lived a full and colorful life which mostly I did not see with my own eyes. I relived it in the stories, the memories of the numerous people who came to his wake and the others who talked to me about him after his death.  Some of them, I have not met before but they have recounted the same thing, my dad did what he wanted to be happy, without any regret.   I believe he did because he was happy till about the day he was called out of this world.  No, he was not living it large and luxuriously.  His joys are simple, driving, going around and at the end of the day, having some TV time.

Despite everything, I will very much miss my dad. I will remember him when I hum and even sing, which is becoming similar to how I rememberhim doing it. Even in the mundane, the way I sneeze remind me of him. It is sad but life has to go on.  He would want it to be that way.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Like Giant Moths to a Flame

Colorful lamps in Tandag City baywalk
Numerous moths falling on the ground
Atlas moth?
On our second night in Tandag City, Albert and Minnie invited us to see the City's baywalk, which is one of the new attractions there.  Tandag's baywalk is way smaller than in Manila's Roxas Boulevard, but it offers cool fresh breeze coming from the clean Pacific Ocean.  The only similarity to Manila's baywalk are the fancy street lamps that display really bright colors (appealing to the masses but might be too flashy, at least in my book). But the small stretch do have its share of nightlife, in the form of restaurants luring people with grilled sugbu. We walked going to the baywalk.
Close up of moth
2 moths on one post
A weird thing happened on our way.  When we passed by a brightly-lit lamp post in an intersection, something big fell on my head.  It was not a heavy object but its size was startling.  But before I could check what it was, two more of the same thing fell in front of me.  When I gathered my composure and had the chance to examine the unidentified object, I was surprised to find that these were atlas moths or what we familiarly call as mariposa (or at least something similar).   

The moth spot
It was quite a while since the last time I saw the large moth in Metro Manila (maybe even as far as my childhood years). But at that particular moment I saw three.  It was unusual because that was probably the most of the moth I saw at one instance. But what was more unusual was that they seem to have suicidal tendencies that night.  Another 3 moths fell a few meters ahead of me. I examined all of them and they were less animated, exhibiting minimal movement.  I tried to wait for them to fly away but even with prodding, they did not budge anymore. I was curious about the moths, so we stopped a few more moments to observe what would happen. Pinky and Albert were jokingly referring to me as moth CSI.  Apart from a few more moths falling, the moths appear to be dying or dead. We decided to proceed with our walk.
Numerous spots on posts
On a higher spot on post
A few minutes we reached the baywalk. The cheesy lights are all on, lighting up the extent of the seaside attraction, in effect giving a festive feel. On the surface of the lamps' diffusers were very  prominent spots, seen even from afar.   I was amazed to discover that these were also numerous atlas moths, probably attracted by the lights, literally like a moth to a flame.  That night I probably counted more than thirty, but there were more on the distant lamp posts. 

The mariposa moths in the baywalk were not falling like leaves, like in the intersection a few minutes earlier.  But they were flying low and do not seem to mind the presence of people. I wonder if this is the real behavior of atlas moths.  I have nothing to compare it to as I have even a vague recollection of my last Manila encounter with the moth.  I was however thinking if this is still a common scene in most provincial towns, the strong undeniable presence of the native giant moth.   In my next visit to Tandag,  I am hoping to spot more of the moth gracefully fluttering its delicate impressive wings. I would not want to see them dropping down the street, even if by chance this is the moth's natural behavior.
Dead moths are scattered on the street the following day
On our way back, we passed by the same route and found a few more dead moths on the street.  I still have to know the reason behind this...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Terrific Views of Tandag!

Coastal Tandag
Colorful boats
My friends braving the steep steps
Quick Post: We climbed the hundred or so steps to the top of the Tandag City grotto and discovered the beautiful view of the coastal city. The sleepy municipality (compared to most cities especially Manila) has a romantic feel into it, with the colorful bancas and the silhouette of not-so-tall buildings. The church bell tower seems to be one of the highest structures, as in most provincial towns.

Bat trees
The limestone mountain covered with greens
View of the river
But on the other side of the grotto, you will find limestone rocks still very much covered with trees and greens.  The big trees still remain as home to some big fruit bats that fly out at dawn (watching them is a pastime for my friends from 6 to 7 PM). That is what you don't see anymore in most provincial areas.