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An Autumn Glow

An Autumn Glow



Just a day short. Waiting to pick up my elves today and then, just one more day. Tired from a week of exams, but giddy with excitement over the summer break. The chapel in school is where I wait for them. A good spot under the trees which by now seem to have an “autumn glow” after a couple of hours of rain. Kids even had fun standing under one tree as it sheds off its tiny orange-y flowers as the wind blows. 


Summer beckons. What’s the plan, the elves ask? Well……






Been here. Done that. Posted photos here and there.

When friends called to ask who arranged our trip, or that they didn’t know you can swim (in the pool) and go bamboo-rafting in Villa Escudero, I began to realize that many go there just for the lunch by the falls and the cultural performance. Some didn’t even bother to do the museum tour where one finds centuries-old carrozas (floats), religious icons, family memorabilias (Escudero family), the Filipino alphabet, currency and doll collections from all over the world, and so many other antique collections of the Escuderos.




Kundiman Singing+ Carabao Ride in Villa Escudero


Narrow Bamboo Rafts. Great for rowing! Villa Escudero.



In my earlier blog on Villa Escudero, I highly recommended this trip to balikbayans, foreign guests, or simply to families longing to show their young children how life was in earlier times. It’s both a nostalgic and educational trip for the young and adults. The statues to be found there may not look so appealing but they showcase many Filipino traditions and lifestyles. Here’s where you can recount those stories of your younger days to the little ones or those born and grown in foreign lands who only read about them. The statues leave better memories. They complement the stories!




Physical (Rowing) and Soothing at the same time. Villa Escudero.


Lunch is served! By the falls. Villa Escudero.



The highways make these trips a breeze. You can leave as late as 8:30am, driving through SLEX and ACTEX till you reach the boundary of Laguna and Quezon. Soon after you pass the boundary marked by a Welcome Arch, turn left towards Villa Escudero. You register and pay P1,400 for a day tour which includes a Museum Tour, lunch by the falls, carabao rides, use of facilities like swimming pool and bamboo rafts. Senior citizens get a hefty discount and pay only P1,000!




Cultural show at 2pm. Villa Escudero


Performers are ALL employees and their kin. Villa Escudero



Arriving way before lunch, we did the Museum tour then took the carabao ride to bring us to the lunch area by the falls. Lunch was platefuls of grilled fish, chicken and pork belly, caldereta (beef), salad and banana cues! After lunch and while waiting for the 2pm cultural performance, you can take a dip by the pool and/or take one of the narrow bamboo rafts and exercise those arm muscles amidst a grand view of the cottages and trees by the water. Soothing yet physical, the activity renders you longing for a glass of halo halo or young coconut juice to savor while watching the dancers perform on stage.




Villa Escudero dancers.


Cultural show’s choreography by national artist Obusan, no less!



The cultural show ends at 3pm. Early enough to drive a few more minutes from Villa Escudero to visit Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Workshop. Getting here was a challenge. The only landmark from the Maharlika Highway driving further past Villa Escudero was the Petron Gas Station and Iglesia ni Kristo on your right. Soon after passing them, take a left and look for Alvarez Village. Ugu’s workshop, gardens cum dining place is on your left. No signs, but easy to spot the red brick one-story house with a sprawling garden as soon as you enter the village.




Ugu Bigyan Pottery workshop. Tiaong. Quezon.


Patis Tito. Formerly Kusina Ni salud of Viajes del sol fame. San Pablo City



From Ugu’s place, we drove back towards San Pablo City to check out Sulyap Cafe. On our way there, we found a sign towards Patis Tito, formerly Kusina ni Salud. Really, finding these Viaje del Sol spots is quite a challenge. We had snacks here of suman (glutinous rice) and another forgettable “kakanin” and sat there watching how unkept the place was. Guess they spruce up the place only for big groups. I hope.




Patis tito. Ex-Kusina Ni Salud



By the time we reached Sulyap Cafe after missing several turns and U-turns, we were tired but still full from the merienda. We visited the art gallery inside before an intended supper there, but found the place too gloomy to spend dinner time there. Dark, gloomy, nearly haunted. Maybe the place is suitable for romantic dates. Not for us. So we chose to simply drive back to Manila instead.




Patis Tito


Patis Tito. Kusina Ni Salud. Viajes del sol.



The entire trip to Villa Escudero with sidetrips to Ugu Bigyan, Kusina ni Salud and Sulyap Cafe & Gallery lasted from 8am to 8:30pm. Not bad. It’s a good roadtrip….. Just arm yourself with a good dose of patience looking for these spots with hardly any markers. Happy driving!




Patis Tito. Resto and garden.

Ugu  Bigyan's Pottery Workshop.

Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Workshop.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe. San Pablo City. Viajes del Sol.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe. San Pablo City. Viajes del Sol.

I’ve long left an 8am to 8pm stressful job to do the things I WANT to do. Not that I didn’t enjoy my banking career. But 27 years is enough, with the last 2 years not as exciting nor enjoyable as the first 25. Besides, I have long planned an early retirement. So I worked like a horse, burned myself out, and decided to quit at 47 years old.




“Married Man’s Trail” in Ketchikan, Alaska. Allegedly, the path taken by men seeking “pleasure” after a visit to the town’s brothel.



Two weeks after my self-imposed retirement, there were offers to tempt me to make a 2nd stab either in the same field or in a career completely different from what I used to do. It wasn’t in the plan. Nor in my destiny. It’s been 13 years now. And I’ve since made journals of my travel adventures, musings and ramblings.




Batanes. The northernmost island province of the P hilippines!



I have travelled. Slept and got off the bed way too late. Enjoyed my breakfasts. Met my friends more leisurely and more frequently. Read more books. And blogged. I like blogging if only so I keep “records” of my adventures. For me, it’s no different from my diaries. Reminders of what I’ve enjoyed and the stuff that rendered me nostalgic. Sentimental, even.




Bromance? Mai Khao Beach. Phuket. Thailand.



You can say blogging allowed me to express myself. Or remind me of the trips I made, the food I ate, the new friends I’ve met. They’d be my reminders when I’ve grown tired of walking mindlessly, seeking adventures or just growing weak on the knees to navigate a few meters. BUT IT IS MORE THAN JUST PRESERVING THE MEMORIES. Cliche that it is, you can say it’s the journey more than the destination.




Corregidor. Philippines. The rock fortress island packed with history and war memories.



Let me explain. I have been writing since I knew how to use a pen. The best childhood gifts for me consisted of diaries, books and fancy stationery. My mother found a penpal for me since I grew tired of playing with my dolls. BUT I NEVER EVER HANDLED A CAMERA, NOR OWNED ONE, TILL I WAS IN MY 40′s. My earlier travels went undocumented. Visually, that is. My family cannot understand how I can visit Europe to spend 6 months there on a borrowed camera. Worse, I scrimped on the shots and only had a few to show. Mostly of landscapes without moí.




Victoria Falls, sandwiched between Zambia and Zimbabwe.



I still don’t take as many shots, especially of myself. Nor do I own any of those humongous DSLRs. But I do enjoy snapping photos now. With pen and camera, I AM NOW MORE APPRECIATIVE OF DETAILS I WOULD HAVE EASILY DISMISSED BEFORE. A rainbow. Children at play. A bubbling brook. An insect. Flower details. I am happy with my amateurish photography skills. Just a bit jealous whenever I find stunning photography especially of places I’ve been to. “Why didn’t i take a shot from that angle?” ….. I ask myself.




Don Salvador Benedicto. DSB for short. Negros Occidental.



I don’t take shots to display any photography skill. My earlier blogs will tell you that. Modesty aside, my more recent blogs have better photos. The “journey” made me pay more attention to details. I enjoy human interest shots best, but I’m too slow to capture many lovely moments. Thank God my iPhone is ever-handy and takes quite decent shots, or I would have missed a lot more. So yeah….. I blog to express myself. To chronicle my “highs”, and to capture those memories too.




The Cotton Castle of Pamukkale. Turkey.

Yellow and Blue Scarves mean “handle with care”. Yellow for the young kittens and Blue for the grumpy ones. Found one with a blue scarf but he wasn’t grumpy at all. Perhaps, the little meow is just feeling unwell. No flash photography lest you startle them. Pay 8,000 won and you’re good to pick your free drink and stay for as long as you like.







Now, where to find them? It is very near our Nine Tree Hotel in Seoul’s busy Myeongdong district. But if you are staying elsewhere, take the metro to Myeongdong. (Bet you’re going anyway, for some shopping) Exit 6 and walk towards Coffee Bean and Pizza Hut along the main street. Take the narrow street on your left and look out for the cat mascot. He’s there most days and nights. Or keep looking up — Cat Cafe is on the 6th floor of the building behind Pizza Hut.







These kitties are simply adorable. Housebroken, clean, and playful except for a few “lazy” ones. I suggest you go after dinner so you limit yourself to the free coffee, tea or chocolate. Order some baked goodies and you may draw more than the desired attention from those feline creatures. Better to order some treats instead, if you are really into cats.







Also, be sure to put your stuff in those plastic bags you’d find where you leave your footware and don house slippers. “Curiosity kills the cat” must have a good basis. One kitten persistently tried to get its head into my bag. Goodness know what caught its interest. Be ready too with cats jumping from the upper shelves into the chair beside you, or right on your table. I’m saying this as a warning lest you scald yourself with your hot beverage.







My nieces went back a second time after our visit. I’m good with just a single visit. But for cat lovers? Playing with cats plus free coffee for 8,000 won ($8) is good therapy after many shopping rounds. Go!







Oh, btw, Myeongdong is such a busy shopping and dining district. Meow Theraphy is highly recommended for serious shoppers. ;-)





Out A Third Of The Year 2013

In 2013, I spent nearly 2 months in Sydney and even slightly longer in Madrid. A good third of 2013. And that excludes those weeklong trips to Mongolia, Phuket and 2 trips to South Korea. I blogged like crazy ….. Just like when I stayed nearly 3 months homebased in Madrid back in 2012. Whenever I get back to Manila, I always long to do a trip to some exotic place. Preferably those sites below the tourist radar. There is a long list. So much to cover and discover in our own backyard. And as always, the local trips draw more hits!


Trek to Mount Pinatubo.






I struck off Batanes, Sagada, El Nido, MassKara Festival, Transfiguration Monastery in Bukidnon, Divine Mercy Shrine in Misamis Oriental and a trek to Mount Pinatubo off my bucket list which continues to grow longer. That list has its own life! I made a few “insignificant”, impromptu daytrips just outside Manila to entertain friends. And I’m surprised such trips drew much more attention and appreciation. Perhaps because many, like me, thought they were “insignificant” and were later pleasantly surprised. Maybe because they’re very doable and demands less planning and time. Or it could also be because these out-of-town trips were really good finds — a discovery that many (like me) have initially dismissed as “ordinary”.




Half-Buried In Lahar. Bacolor, Pampanga.


MassKara Festival. Bacolod. 2013.



The travels abroad have acquired a certain “routine”. Sydney and Madrid meant “family time” and homebase for many day and out-of-town trips. Twice doing it in Madrid, yet the 2 experiences can’t be branded or dismissed as “the same”. Because the 2nd time was timed with the Christmas Season, I enjoyed immersing myself in Spanish traditions and culture. In both Sydney and Madrid, my day trips were to such sites below the tourist radar. No crowds. Great sites. Reasonable prices.



Winter in Australia.


Autumn in Korea



My Seasons also got me confused, swinging from summer in the beaches of El Nido and Phuket to Philippine winter version in Batanes, to “end of winter-early spring” in Mongolia to “mild winter” in Sydney back to sweltering summer heat in Bacolod’s MassKara Festival to autumn in Korea down to honest-to-goodness winter in Madrid. You can say I’m done with winter last 2013.



Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Christmas In Madrid

Christmas In Madrid



From Traveller to Storyteller. That’s moí. In groups, out with friends, home with family or ALONE. I do enjoy my travels. I realize some of my friends do wonder why I continue to wander. I wanted to say I have not lost my capacity for joy and discoveries. I wanted to share that I continue to believe and trust and enjoy life’s simple joys, appreciating the kindness of strangers, and discovering how “little” I know of the world around me. Good health, joy in solitude paired with the unceasing thrill of meeting “angels” in my solo travels, these are God’s gifts. I appreciate them, and my gratitude expresses itself in the joy I feel. I remember meeting a Brazilian couple in the lovely town of Chinchon. They said nothing happens by accident. We got on the same bus because we were meant to spend the afternoon enjoying the medieval town and the village folks. I couldn’t agree more.



Three Kings Parade. Madrid. 2014.

Three Kings Parade. Madrid. 2014.

Football Game at Estadio Bernabeu.

Football Game at Estadio Bernabeu.



The year 2013 was marked by many firsts. Too many to list here without running the risk of boring you. It is also the same year I turned 60 so maybe, that calls for a separate blog. Like 60 “firsts” as I turned 60. How about it?

Having fallen ill on my last week in Madrid, I opted out of trips outside the capital and skipped on long walks. Truth is I lost much time just staying in, homebound with coughing fits. Must be the cold spell.




One of Lazaro’s favorites, it is among the first art pieces you’d encounter. No attribution. Bought in Paris from the Marquis de Salamanca’s Collection.


That’s Señor Lazaro right in the middle. Financier, Journalist, Publisher, Art Collector.



By the time I’m well enough to step out, I was reminded not to overdo it. So how about this less-visited museum. No crowds. Below the tourist radar, but highly-recommended for its art treasure and exquisitely-arranged collection.




San Diego de Alcalá. By Franccisco de Zurbarán. 1651-1653.


Look up!



Not too far from the U.S. Embassy in the fashionable district of Salamanca is Palacio Parque Florido. That’s how the estate is called. The museo housed in the Galdiano Mansion is actually where the childless Lazaro Galdiano lived with his Argentinian wife, Paula Florido. Along with the estate given over to the Government is Señor Galdiano’s impressive collection of paintings, sculpture and other works of art. This one generous intellectual obviously collected without regard for cost. The rich and famous…. and brilliant and classy, may I add. Oh yes, not all those with fame and wealth have intellect and errrr, class. This Galdiano couple did.




The Young Marchioness of Roncali. Madrid. 1838. So young. So elegant.


Another reason to look up!



The couple collected as a matter of personal taste rather than societal dictates. Both Lazaro and his Argentinian wife acquired art pieces like they were perennially on a shopping spree. Moving from Madrid to Paris to New York must have fuelled, stepped up their acquisition mode that every room in this neo-Renaissance 3-storey (or was it 4?) mansion was tastefully done and adorned with art. Even read that some art critics of that time dismissed their collection as “barbaric”, whatever that means. I like that they collected even those art pieces without any attribution. Or that the pieces done by less popular artists didn’t have to compete for more prominent space on the walls, and yes, ceilings, of the lovely mansion. Going from room to room, hall to hall, floor to floor is an adventure. The next step, always a pleasant surprise. The frescoes on the ceilings are magnificent. The Goyas on exhibit pale in size and popularity compared to those in the Prado, but still manage to delight. The portraits present a study in contrast….. from the aristocratic ladies sitting for their portraits to the more relaxed but nevertheless elegant poses of young sitters.




Christ at the Column. Michelangelo Naccherino. 1550-1622. Italian School. Marble.


Young Christ, a late 15th century “Leonardesque” painting traditionally attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Oil on Beech Tree Panel.



A painting of an adolescent Christ intrigued me. It is my first time to see an image of a younger Jesus. Same with the more detailed and morbid painting of the head of San Juan Bautista. Was it really Leonardo da Vinci who painted the young Christ? Or was the painting done by one of Leonardo’s student protegés or apprentices? Just like the controversial “other Mona Lisa” in Museo del Prado, Da Vinci continues to stir controversy centuries later. As for Saint John’s head, this painting was originally listed in the 1570 Medici inventory. Such anatomical details! 




Head of Saint John the Baptist. Another “lost original” by Leonardo da Vinci?


Christ Child With Cross of the Passion. No attribution.



Sometimes, a museum visit gets “personal”. I felt that way when I visited Museo Sorolla. Same here. And there’s even less crowd yet more collections! Could the more “intimate experience” be attributed to the fact that the Museo was a former lived-in residence? That its collection was personally handpicked by its owner-collectors, and in the case of the lovely jewelry collection, even worn and lovingly cared for? Good vibes in this museo, for sure.




Goya’s El Verano (Summer). 1786.


Entombment of Christ by Goya. 1771-72



The Museum closes early, and is closed every Tuesday. If you’re doing the rounds of Madrid’s museums, you’d be happy to visit this on a Monday when most other museums are closed. It is easy to spot along the posh Calle Serrano farther away from the shops near the corner of Calle José Abascal. Lastly, don’t forget to ride the glass and wood elevator. I did. Alone. Seated like a queen on the velvet bench inside the tiny enclosure. :-)




Wood and Glass Elevator in Museo Lazaro Galdiano.


Museo Lazaro Galdiano. Madrid.

Back when I was a first time visitor in Madrid, I took my breakfasts in the hotel. Easily, that sets you back 7-10€ daily. I scrimped the second time i visited. Did my groceries and made my own breakfasts. Then the 3rd and 4th time around, I knew better.



Desayuno means breakfast in Spain. Not their most important meal of the day, but just as interesting as it is simple.


Tomá Cafe. Best coffee in town. 5 stars!


While I’m not about to dismiss the Churros y Chocolate in Chocolateria de San Gines, which honestly appeals to me more as midnight or late afternoon snack, I’d like to share some happy breakfast discoveries here. Feel free to click on the link for more photos, details and directions.



Typically, my breakfast here is only 2.50€ for a cup of cafe cortado y bocadillo. This photo shows my breakfast of coffee and roscon de reyes, a typical 3 Kings Day pastry. Costs 3.50€ for this special fare.


A typical desayuno from audrey’s: cafe y empanada.


For best coffee, it’s Tomá Cafe ☕️. Their alfajores is also good on the lips, but feel your hips grow while munching one. Audrey’s Panaderia is just round the corner so it easily became a go-to for bocadillo, croissant and empanada fixes.



Brie con tomate breakfast in Toast Cafe where I was the sole diner. I must be too early?


Cafeteria HD ain’t much to look at from outside, but you’d like the vibe here. I’m told they serve good burgers here.


Spaniards don’t really take breakfasts “seriously”. That works well with me as I do enjoy hearty luncheons. I care about my coffee and would settle for a good molleta con tomaté in Cafeteria HD or brié in Toast Café. Those are typical Spanish fare for desayunos. Other times, I settle for brunch in some mercado where I can stay longer people-watching while downing cups of my favorite black liquid, or while deciding whether to order more tapás. Mercado de San Anton, Mercado de San Miguel, Mercado de la Paz and Mervado de Maravillas come to mind.



Mercado de San Anton. My new favorito.


Mercado de San Miguel, still one of my favorites.


Of course it’s tempting to see those 1€ bocadillos or sandwiches and maybe take a couple “para llevar” to eat in some park or square. But I’d advise you against it only because desayunos can be a happy leisurely affair that hardly costs you. I even found one coffee shop offering 1-1.50€ complete breakfast (Mercado de Provenzal) and another with an extra glass of freshly-squeezed naranja (2.50€) at Cerveceria de Padron. Great deals.



Mercado de la Paz. People-watching or jamon-watching while enjoying your desayuno.


Tempting, yes. Not the best, but really cheap, huh?


Much depends on how you feel first hour in the morning. You either save your appetite for lunch and thus settle for a simple breakfast, or take a full breakfast to energize you for long city walks. Take your pick. Mine varies from very simple, simple, hearty to delightful. The last is when I take the sweet Spanish pastries for breakfast. In Christmas, there were loads of them!



Want to show you a 1€ breakfast of good coffee and a tostada media con tomate.


And here’s a 2.50€ desayuno with a glass of freshly-squeezed naranja. Coffee in a glass.


Dulces de Navidad is how they’re called.  Snack food. But don’t take my word for it. I dropped in on a few pastelerias for breakfast to indulge myself 🍰🍪🍮



Ensaimadas here are not like what we have locally. Tasted more like creme puffs to me. But I love their turrones and their polvorenes con almendras (almonds)!




Or you may simply choose to have your Spanish chocolate con or sin churros after all. There’s Chocolateria de San Gines as I mentioned, or Valor. But I’m also happy with my chocolate from the lovely Estado Puro or Pabellon de Espejos. Your choice, really.



See that smile? Churros con chocolate does that to any child. Valor.


Just 2.50€ for a cup of chocolate here in Estado Puro. You’d love their very spanish interiors here.


I know. Too many choices for a “simple desayuno”. The idea is you’d never find it a problem looking for a breakfast place around Madrid. Cheap too! Most offered below 3€. If you need more “complications” deciding how to spend your waking hours, here’s more. 😉



It’s an ice cream place but I ‘ve tried their coffee here. Another choice for you when you want to jump from desayuno to sinful dessert.



Many Spaniards celebrate the Feast of the Three Wise Men — alright, 3 Kings, if you like — more than they do Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the Twelfth Night of Christmas! The Eve of the Epiphany. No Papa Noel in dear España. No Santa Claus entering homes through their chimneys. Rather, the Three Kings from the Orient are the bearer of gifts. And Spanish niños y niñas wait until January 6 for their aguinaldos. Even decors show the 3 kings climbing up Spanish balconies bringing presents. Sí, you can say the Spanish traditions take off from the Bible more literally and meaningfully than Western practices. Christmas is all about the Belén where the star is the Infant Jesus. New Year’s is all about the countdown and the eve’s dinner is called Noche Vieja (literally, old night) and it’s considered good luck to eat “doce uvas” or 12 grapes as one welcomes the New Year. And Christmas Season ends with the Feast of the Three Kings.




Meet Melchor.

Meet Caspar. Or

Meet Caspar. Or Gaspar.



Melchor, Caspar (or Gaspar) and Balthasar (or Baltazar). They’re the stars in this street parade in many major cities and towns all over España. I was fortunate to be in Madrid for the entire Christmas Season 2013-2014, and didn’t miss any of the festivities. But I agree with many Madrileños. The most festive and extravagant is the Cabalgata De Los Reyes Magos. There are many floats, marching bands, majorettes, horsemen, acrobats, cartoon characters, fireeaters, fairies, clowns, but you have to bring tons of patience waiting till the street parade reaches your spot.



Meet Balthasar. The last of 3 floats bearing the magi.

Meet Balthasar. The last of 3 floats bearing the magi.



The Cabalgata parade weaved its way from Nuevos Ministerios through Plaza Colon area, towards Plaza de Cibeles where we waited and claimed a spot when there was still light on this winter day. We waited through an early sunset,  hardly sensed twilight because of our excitement, joined a crowd of many locals who came ready with food baskets, toys to amuse their toddlers and young children through as long as 4 hours of waiting, blankets (yes!) and even ladders (si!). We prayed for good weather since it rained for 2 days prior, and we got it the whole day till mid-parade when it started to drizzle. But Madrileños came prepared. Raincoats out, umbrellas up. No one is losing his temper here. The anticipation is only matched by the fierce cold weather. I wrapped myself good, but still too cold for my shaking bones and freezing fingers.



This kid played, ate, and waited. Then she slept midway through the parade.

This kid played, ate, and waited. Then she slept midway through the parade.

The rains won't stop this street parade!

The rains won’t stop this street parade!



So much revelry. The fairies, the clowns threw away candies or dulcés to the crowd. Some costumed marchers broke away from the parade to say “Hola” to the delight of the kids and not so young. An acrobat gowned in white was tied to a bunch of balloons (and roped down to a bunch of “controlling men”) doing her stunts up in the air, sometimes just right over our heads until she soars high again, against the lovely backdrop of the Palacio de Cibeles.




The “up” lady in white.


Let the “up” lady soar high!



There were many floats outside of the carrozas ridden by the three kings. Obviously designed to grab young spectators’ interest, I also noticed how some floats incorporated environmental concerns for everyone’s wise consumption. Watching these carrozas pass us by, it is hard to think the Spanish economy is having a crisis. But it is certainly money well-spent. The sponsors who funded the floats certainly enjoyed media mileage, having been watched and appreciated by both young and old in the crowd. Locals, as well as visitors like me.




Environmental Management. Go GREEN.


Biggest babe tonight!



And lest I forget, those marching bands making beautiful, bouncy music while swinging and dancing with their instruments were really fun to watch. Same with the pageantry of seeing horsemen…. an entire cavalry joining the parade. The horses, and sí, those horsemen all looked good. You’ve got to hand it to the organizers for making this event so orderly, so organized, and most of all, SAFE. I heard about the tragedy that struck one Cabalgata in Malaga (where a kid ran to pick up some dulcés and was ran over by one of the floats) but the organizers certainly had these concerns in mind. The Policia, the Bomberos, even the street cleaners who manned the tail end of the street parade sweeping their way through were equally crowd drawers.







Thank you, Madrid, for this experience of watching this festivity and putting more meaning to this Feast of The Three Kings! He disfrutado mucho! Gracias, Madrid. 





That’s how the article was headlined. Packing the Estadio Bernabéu for the Champions for Life Charity Match to raise funds for UNICEF’s Program to help children affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The charity match played between the big football stars of Spain from the Western and Eastern Regions was scheduled last December 30, 2013 and raised 550,000 Euros! That’s about P30 Million.




The 80,000 seater Estadio Bernabéu in Madrid.


The December 30, 2013 Charity Match raised 550,000€ or about 30 million pesos.



I don’t know anything from Adam when it comes to football. Talks of Sergio Ramos, Álvaro Morata, Iniesta, Quini,  Beñat, Iñigo Martinez, Gabi, Raul Garcia, Iraola, Jesus Fernandez and other football greats didn’t ring a bell for me. But here I am, watching a 7pm match in the stadium that Real Madrid Football club calls home. My only clues that the players are big stars come from this boy behind me who’d invariably call out their names and ask for a “camiseta”. I assumed that’s the equivalent of a fan asking for the player’s jersey.




Saved! Just as UNICEF aims to save the children affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines. Muchas Gracias, UNICEF, España, the Football Stars.


It was a friendly match, but players are players and everyone wants to see a good game played.



The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu can seat over 80,000 spectators. The stadium is about half full with families watching from grandpa to grandkids in strollers. Seated in front, you are about 3 meters away from the nearest security officer from a security team who have the “ill luck” of watching the crowd rather than the game. They only stand up, presumably to watch the crowd better, everytime a team scores. GOOL! those 4-letter words flash every time a player scores a goal. But not GOAL. Here in España, it’s GOOL.




That’s Alvaro Morato wearing the white “camiseta”. He scored an impressive “bicycle” goal to the crowd’s delight.


This is Sergio Ramos, also from the Real Madrid Team.



It was a chilly night. The man beside me had a small bottle of wine that he sucks from time to time. He also littered our common space with watermelon seeds. Pepitas, to the locals.  But despite the cold, everyone was in good spirits. For a good 5 minutes, the crowd stood to “wave” around the stadium.  Thought it would never stop! 




Sergio Ramos counts many fans among the Spanish football aficionados.






The mood was very festive. At the start of the game, they even played Christmas carols.   Though a friendly match, there were daring runs, impressive saves and goals. Quini and Morata got the loudest cheers for their memorable goals that night. What a thrill! And that’s coming from someone who watched a football game for the very first time!  






Not this time. It’s a GOOL!


Three meters away, maybe even less. Hard to watch the game knowing the security officers are missing the thrilling game ;-)

Once home to the royals, one of the few remaining houses — called Casas Colgadas — in the medieval town of Cuenca, Spain is the location of a highly-regarded Museo de Artes Abstracto Español. The establishment of this Museum of Abstract Arts in the 1960′s is credited mainly, if not exclusively, to one man. Fernando Zobel y Montojo. Born in Manila, Zobel belongs to a prominent Filipino-Hispanic family in the Philippines who also happens to be a passionate art patron and artist himself. Together with a couple of Spanish artists — Gerardo Rueda and Gustavo Torner — he realized his dream of a Museum and added significantly to this lovely town’s cultural offerings.


Museo de Artes Abstracto Español (Museum of Abstract Arts) in Cuenca, Spain.


The Museum is housed in one of the Casas Colgadas or Hanging Houses of Cuenca, Spain.



Cuenca is only a 45 minute ride on the AVE fast train from Madrid’s Atocha Station. You can do this as a day trip but you’d miss out seeing the medieval town especially its Casas Colgadas and Puente de San Pablo illuminated at night. Train ticket costs 28€ each way but what you’d spend, you’d save on more reasonably-priced meals and admission tickets to art museums and cathedral museums. I have no illusion I can cross the Puente de San Pablo in the dark (that’s what it promises!) guided only by the lights from under the bridge and the dramatically-illuminated hanging houses which include the Museum of Abstract Arts with its wooden balconies jutting out of the rocky ridge, hanging over the Huecar gorge. No. Crossing it in daylight at -5 Celsius with windchill is more than what i need. Besides, it is a deep gorge! If you have altitude problems, remember to look ahead. DON’T ever ever look down. And yes, walk fast towards the other end. ;-)





The bridge : Puente de San Pablo crossing the Huecar Gorge in Cuenca, Spain.



But the simplicity, warmth and novelty of this Museum comforts you. Fernando Zobel is so loved in this heritage town that it named its railway station in his honor. Beat that! From the station you can ride 2 buses to Plaza Mayor (#12, then #1) or hail a cab for around 12€. In less than 20 minutes, you find Cuenca’s best attractions within and around the square. Just behind the Cuenca Cathedral (another must-see!)  is the Museum of Abstract Arts, housed in one of the Casas Colgadas, as if riding on the spine of a rocky ridge of this former Moorish fortress. Inside, abstract art in painting and sculpture compete with another “abstraction”. The windows and balconies show the bridge (Puente de San Pablo) crossing the Huecar Gorge with the former convent, now a parador, in full view across the gorge.




One of the “abstractions” inside the Museo: prized view from the balcony of the Casa Colgada or Hanging House. Cuenca, Spain.


Abstract Art by Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)


Inside the Museum of Abstract Arts. Cuenca, Spain.



I must confess I am not a big fan of abstract arts but Zobel’s modernist art is quite distinct. Like a signature style, he uses surgical syringe in some of his paintings to produce those long, sharp, more defined lines. It is likewise interesting to note that Zobel finished medical studies in the University of Santo Tomas before completing his studies in Harvard University (history & literature) where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. From medicine to literature & history, to art. In his lifetime, he visited many Museums to view the works of art masters and drew inspirations to create “reactions” in abstract forms. He also helped, tutored and nurtured the careers of then budding Spanish modernist painters like Antonio Saura, Antonio Lorenzo, Eusebio Sempere, Martín Chirino López and many others. These protegés’ works are also on display in this Cuenca Museum.




Abstract Art by Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)


Abstract Art by Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)



At the risk of sounding shallow, let me say that I do find Fernando’s notebooks cum sketchpads as interesting as his obramaestras.  The notes and sketches are very neat and detailed. Like there’s “order” in his art. Hardly any smudges or erasures. Like he gives his art a lot of thought before committing himself on paper. And his handwriting? Fluid strokes from this brilliant artist.




Notebook of Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)


Notebook of Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)


Notebook of Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)



For all he has accomplished, no less than the King of Spain bestowed upon Zobel the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes in 1983. A fitting tribute to one man who dreamed and helped many along the way. A year later, Fernando Zobel died of a heart attack while visiting Rome, Italy. His remains were buried in his beloved Cuenca, in a hill overlooking the Huecar Gorge which gave him inspiration for many of his landscape paintings. In 2006, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit by then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for his contributions in the arts.




Abstract Art by Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)


Abstract Art by Fernando Zobel. (1924-1984)



On a final note, let me again say that I have no pretensions over my art appreciation but I am extremely proud that a Filipino (yes, born in Ermita and a citizen of our country!) gained the love and respect of the people of Cuenca, even the entire nation of Spain and yes, the rest of the world in the field of art. The visit to Cuenca was prompted more by the fame and respect bestowed upon Fernando Zobel de Ayala y Montojo, more than the medieval town’s other cultural treasures. I was adequately intrigued that this heritage town so honored him to name their train station after him. Arriving at Fernando Zobel Train Station in Cuenca lets you off on a good start. And then ……. lets you finish with pride in your heart.


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