The Martial Arts of the World

It seems that our ancestors had a lot of time in their hands. They were able to create different martial arts that served different purposes: self-defense, physical development, and even spiritual focus. Check out the most famous martial arts of the world, and what makes them so special.

Brazil: Capoeira

Do the back flips now.

A form of war dance that African slaves created to learn to defend themselves, and to survive the harsh world in the hope that they would soon be set free from slavery. It is a form of martial arts that incorporates music and rhythm, making it look like a relaxed and beautiful dance. However, capoeristas back in the days would work as hitmen, as mercenaries, terrorists that spread fear all over Brazil. Today, you wouldn’t imagine a capoeirista winning a battle over a skilled policeman, as the practice of it is now purely to promote the Brazilian culture and to enjoy the art as an expression of oneself.

Mexico: Lucha Libre

Pro wrestling at its best

If you have watched the movie Nacho Libre, you would know how lucha libre works, both in terms of game rules andwhat goes on in the politics of the game. Basically, it is a wrestling match much like the ones that we see on American TV, only freer and with masks! And although it is illegal to remove the mask of your opponent, matches called lucha de apuesta, or betting matches, the end goal is to remove the mask of your opponent or to remove a patch of his hair. Lucha libre continues to be a popular sport in Mexico, making it the country with the most number of professional wrestlers.

China: Kung Fu

A form of martial arts that traces its history to legendary dynasties that existed more than 4,000 years ago, kung fu utilizes the body for combat and also for self-improvement, particularly of the qi or the energy within an individual. With its rich history, it has evolved from being a fighting method to an aesthetically appealing form of art that champions precision and excellent execution. Although some moves that are used in routine competitions look beautiful, critics say that such movements are in fact unnecessary and useless in actual combat.

Japan: Karate

There have been too many films and even video games that depicted karate as an amazing way to kill a person, to win a battle, and to show one’s skills. However, true karate practitioners say that the karate shown in movies are ambitious modification of the true martial art, which is actually all about self-discipline and mastery. Kids love the sport very much, perhaps because of its popularity in movies, cartoons and games. The good thing is that you don’t really have to go to Clark Airport and board a plane to Japan. There are a lot of karate schools even in Manila.

Advertisements

World’s Best Buskers: Where to Find Them

Busking is basically performing on the street and earning money while doing it. So what makes a great place to see buskers? It should be generous with loose change to drop into the busker’s guitar case or hat, and it should be rich with talent. Here are places in the world where you can find the most awesome street performers, and then wonder why in the world are they not famous internationally. Just a note though; there are no Asian countries listed, which means you can’t count on a Cebu Pacific seat sale for you to be able to watch excellent buskers. You’d have to spend on it!

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

This place is already a competitive area. They say that you can only busk in Amsterdam if you’re really talented, otherwise you should take your act somewhere else. Needless to say people in the area are so used to excellent performances every day of the week!

New York, USA

Image from subwaymusicblog.com

For a place that is very populous, New York makes it ideal for artists to strut their stuff. There are a lot of like-minded individuals on their way to their hipster work either organizing a concert for peace or designing shirts tat promote eco-friendliness. In other words, there is an atmosphere of fun, artistry and advocacy, things that you would not normally see in other places. New York is really that special.

New Orleans, USA 

The birthplace of jazz, New Orleans naturally has a talented bunch of street performers who can always count on crowds who do appreciate some good music. Aside from soloists with their guitars or harmonica, you can also chance upon a capella groups and small bands playing wind instruments.

Paris, France 

Image from steffe (flickr)

Here you won’t see a lot of musicians, but you can marvel at the finest mimes in the world. Stand transfixed at their antics and costumes, and make sure to leave some change. There are also a lot of street performers who dress up like statues and only move when you drop a change in their hats! Pretty fun, actually.

Berlin, Germany

Image by Cormac Mulhall

There are a lot of boheme performers in Germany, making it one of the most eccentric and interesting places to see different kinds of performances. Aside from musicians, you can also watch magicians and little circus acts all across the city. In fact, Berlin even holds a festival that showcases street talents from different parts of the world. You can say that Berlin is the world’s busking capital.

Love Lechon? Celebrate it with a Festival!

Got fiesta? Here comes Lechon!

Everyone, as in everyone, in the Philippines loves lechon. It’s the definitive fiesta food, the definitive birthday/wedding/Christmas/any occasion food. It is highly celebrated, in fact, that different towns all across the country decided to hold festivals all for the love of roasted pig. Check these out!

Talisay City, Cebu

Anthony Bourdain declared that the Cebu lechon is the best roasted pig in the world. Heavy words from someone who has literally traveled the planet for food! He should’ve visited on October 15th instead, so he can declare that the Philippines is the country that’s the craziest about roasted pig! This is definitely something different from the usually visited Sinulog Festival of Cebu. Come and celebrate and well, eat lechon!

General Santos City

Aside from being home to the People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao, General Santos City is also home to an abundant supply of swine. In fact, a lot of producers in the city supply to clients in as far as Luzon! To celebrate, the whole city holds a lechon parade every 3rd of July. Just this year, 41 roasted pigs were paraded around town! Surely everybody had a great time afterwards, eating the lechon with steamed rice.

Balayan, Batangas

From Visayas and Mindanao, we go to Luzon to continue our celebration of the country’s most loved food! Balayan, Batangas holds its annual town fiesta every June 24, to honor their patron saint John the Baptist. After the celebratory mass, everybody flocks to the streets and waits for the parade of decorated lechons placed on dressed up floats. Some lechons are dressed up as Lady Gaga, and some are even made to look like St John the Baptist! Imagine that! However, the most important part of the celebration is that the roasted pigs are enjoyed and shared with everybody for lunch. *wide grin*

La Loma, Quezon City

Although Bourdain and a lot of other foodies say that Cebu has the best tasting lechon, La Loma in Quezon City still remains as the lechon capital of the Philippines. It has the grandest (though a bit too commercialized) parade that shows pigs as chefs and TV stars. One float even had a pig’s head perched on top of what seems like a sexy lady dressed like it’s her honeymoon. The best part? Written on the float are the words “Pigtoria’s Secret.” If that isn’t worth your visit, then we don’t know what is. It’s an easy drive from any point of the Metro, so all you Manila people don’t have any excuse. If you’re from the provinces, well there are cheap flights care of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and other local airlines! See, no excuse at all!

The Colors of Pahiyas

Image courtesy of Pahiyas.com

Have you ever experienced the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon? I have, once, and I honestly want to go there again!

But when? The Pahiyas Festival happens every May 15, a summer day. This means that you should go there in your favorite tank top, shorts, and Toms. Just buy a wide-brimmed hat along the streets of Lucban on the day of the event.

Go where the colors are. Image courtesy of Pahiyasfestival.com

What should I expect when I go? Based on experience, a huge crowd of people who all walk in a single direction – to where the colors are. Pahiyas is characterized by houses and walls decorated by rice wafers, which are actually edible! Just don’t try to eat them off the walls, lest the people who labored in making the wafers and setting them up for the festivities maul you.

The famous Pancit Habhab

But what to eat? Actually, you can simply enter a house and take a bite of the rice wafers that they use as decorations. Those that aren’t used to prettify the houses are sweetened with sugar bits and then fried to crispy goodness. Don’t skip on eating pansit habhab too! It’s just like any Filipino noodle dish, but the catch is that you should eat it off a banana leaf and without the help of any spoon/fork/utensil. In a sense, what happens between the noodles and your mouth stays between the noodles and your mouth. Not a very glamorous way to eat, but where’s the fun in using a fork, right? Besides, everybody eats noodles that way; you’d end up being the funny one if you don’t do the same. Lucban definitely turns into an interesting place for foodies during the Pahiyas Festival.

Great! Why is the Pahiyas celebrated again? To some, it’s celebrated because it’s a day when streets turn into magical roads right off children’s books and imaginations. But the real reason for the event is to give thanks to the town’s patron saint San Isidro Labrador for giving the farmers a good harvest all throughout the year. Naturally, the festival is also done to ask the Saint for another bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Anything else I need to know? Nothing more, actually. If you know how a typical Pinoy fiesta goes, then you know how the Pahiyas Festival is celebrated. Basically, you’ll have overflowing food, processions held by devotees, and a celebratory mass to honor the patron saint. They say that the Pahiyas Festival is the fiesta to end all fiestas. Maybe somebody from Lucban said that.

Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out, whether you’re from a nearby town or from a far off place. It’s only around four hours away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, very accessible from Metro Manila.

Dreaming of USA

Inasmuch as I want to encourage myself to go off the beaten track if I ever get the chance to travel to the US, I just can’t help but think of the many sights to see. I’m quite sure that with a country as vast and as beautiful as the US, I’m going to have to first prioritize the must-sees over the off the beaten track and hole in the wall types of destinations. In fact, I already have a list of my must-sees, based on the photos that I see online, and on how much I want to see them. Create your list and let’s compare notes!

I want to be a part of it, New York.

  • New York. Yes, for me New York is a single sight that I need to see before I kick the bucket. Blame it on the hit TV show F.R.I.E.N.D.S., blame it on the Jay Z hit Empire State of Mind, but New York tops my must-sees list in the US. I can already imagine myself seeing the city from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. I can’t wait for my photo on the Brooklyn Bridge. *sigh*

The grandest of them all.

  • Grand Canyon. It’s not called Grand for nothing! The Grand Canyon has attracted local and foreign tourists throughout the years, and it sure does attract me good. Maybe it’s because of the many references to pop culture (hello 127 Hours!), but the Grand Canyon really deserves my Visa and airfare.

The subject of my travel dreams.

  • Grand Teton National Park. Another sight that has the word “grand” on its name, the Grand Teton National Park gives tourists a view that resembles the painting of the world’s best artist. Take the Jenny Lake route to get the best view of the Cathedral Group, a stretch of mountains that give the best subject for a landscape shot of the place.

Snow capped mountain, I like.

  • Mt. McKinley. America’s tallest mountain, Mt. Mc Kinley is worth all the flight, the expense and the time that you will give it. Its size and height causes it to always be shrouded by clouds, except in the morning. So troop to Wonder Lake early in the morning to get an unobstructed view of this majestic mountain. What’s more interesting is that it is located in Alaska, America’s Last Frontier and one of the most adventurous destinations in the USA.

Moments meant to be cherished but not shared, if you get what I mean 😉

  • Las Vegas. We wouldn’t have the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” if the place isn’t epic. You’d have to admit that although you’re not much of a fan of casino, gambling and party, just the thought of going to Las Vegas is more than enough to get you excited. After all the movies and pop culture references you’ve seen, heard and read about this iconic place, who wouldn’t want to be in it?!

Because going to the USA takes more than just saving up, booking a Seair flight, and filing for leave, you need to choose your destinations well. As you apply for a visa, cross your fingers and hope that the Embassy allows you to marvel at the sights mentioned above. Best of luck!

Southeast Asia Cross Country Trip

It’s one of my lifelong dreams to go on a cross-country trip in Southeast Asia. It seems pretty affordable (Americans say it’s freaking cheap; Filipinos, we just find it decently affordable), but personally I’d want at least a month traveling through these awesome countries! Join me as we take our pretend backpacks in pretend trains and pretend airplanes. This is my preferred route though, so nobody complains please.

Thailand: My main agenda is to eat authentic Thai food. I love Thai food made in Manila, I’d drop dead at the taste of it in Thailand!

A mixture of the new and old, that’s Bangkok.

  • Bangkok: the most happening place in Thailand; the heartbeat of the country

Island Getaway, Hideaway

  • Ko Phi Phi: the famous beach where the film The Beach (clever right?) was filmed. Based on what I saw in photos, Boracay is ten times more beautiful. But I still need to see it because Leonardo di Caprio. Get that?

Laos: I’m clueless about the place; I’m excited about the surprises!

Picturesque, isn’t it?

  • Luang Prabang: one of the most flocked places in the country, this place shows the fusion of French and Indochinese details, from the food to the arts.

Tubing down the river, I will.

  • Vang Vieng: where I will go “tubing” in the river and then buy for myself a souvenir shirt that indicates how successful I was in getting the task done. Everybody does this; why shouldn’t I?!

Vietnam: Seeing Saigon in person and visiting a country so significant in world history? 10 servings of Vietnam please!

Take me to yesterday.

  • Ho Chi Minh: This is the Saigon that the musical Miss Saigon sang about. Obviously. It is a place rich with the history of the Vietnam War, and a great venue for exploring the local culture.

Steeped in culture and fantastic sights.

  • Hoi An: It has a beach; it has bars where you and your friends can chill after a day of interacting with the locals. All in all, a very backpacker-friendly place.

Cambodia: I better pack a black tank top and cargo shorts, and then maybe my camera lenses can look like guns and ammo. Of course I’ll take my photo in Angkor Wat ala Tomb Raider! Angkor whuuut?!

My adventure begins here.

  • Siem Reap. For the Angkor Wat alone. This man-made marvel amazes all tourists with its intricate details and at its massive size.

Cosmopolitan Cambodia in my mind.

  • Pnom Penh: Cambodia’s Metro Manila, showing everything from poverty to holiness to culture and inequality. Prepare not only your mind but also your heart.

Malaysia: Aside from the famous Petronas Towers, what other exciting things can I expect in this country?

Commune with nature.

  • Penang: for a nature trip, check out the beaches around. For local culture, go to the different religious sites and marketplaces. For some history tripping, go to the British influenced Georgetown. What you get is a complete and colorful trip in such a little place.

Yes, twin towers!

  • Kuala Lumpur: For what else but the Petronas Towers and a souvenir photo?!

Singapore: Among all of the countries included in our cross-country trip, only Singapore has a check mark on my list. Because I’m a roller coaster junkie and also thanks to cheap flights to Singapore, I went to this exciting country a year ago with the main purpose of riding the Red and Blue Lines of the roller coaster ride called Battlestar Galactica. But of course, Singapore is more than just the Universal Studios!

Let’s shop, lah?

  • Orchard Road: After all the laid back sights and the grassroots culture in the last five countries, nothing else will make you feel more cosmo than Singapore’s Orchard Road. It’s basically a row of retail shops and other establishments.

Music in the Philippines

Music makes our world go round.

Everybody in the Philippines knows a tune or two. We’re born into the world with our mothers humming lullabies, our dads playing guitars during siesta time, and our friends singing made up play songs that go like this:

“Sasara ang bulaklak, bubuka ang bulaklak, papasok ang reyna, sasayaw ng chacha.”

There are a lot more variations to this nursery rhyme/play song, but the idea is that there’s a flower that closes and opens and that the queen enters and dances. As to why she chooses to dance the cha-cha, I’m not quite sure of that.

Point is, Philippine music is vibrant, rich and beautiful (although is sometimes absurd). If you’re interested in exploring this integral part of the Filipino culture, read on.

How It All Started

The Philippines is home to various cultures from around the world. Because a lot of explorers found the country to be beautiful, we have welcomed (although not always willingly) races and faces that came with musical instruments and notes to sing and play.

Who were they and what did they bring?

  • Indigenous folks. Before the Philippines was discovered by settlers, the native tribes were already playing their own music using instruments made of bamboo, such as tongatong and topayak. Most tunes were used in tribal practices, such as to offer thanksgiving to the gods.
  • Settlers. Neighbors from Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia contributed too, introducing string instruments and new note progressions.
  • The Spanish. Thanks to the 333 years they spent in the country, much of the music that we consider as “classic” are heavily influenced by music in Spain. Harana, for instance, is a courtship activity wherein the man plays kundiman, a tune resembling Spanish songs, to woo the love of his life. Other forms of music from Spain that rose in popularity include the rondalla, an assembly of string instruments played in harmony. Until today, such tunes and forms of performing music are widely popular in the country as subject matters and references, and not much in modern music.
  • The Americans. Of all the influences in Philippine music, the Americans had the most impact. In fact, as I’m writing this article, I’m listening to Beyonce’s latest album. Local artists can be loved not because they create great music, but because they perform American artists’ songs excellently. More importantly, much of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) songs are patterned from American tunes, both in terms of lyrics and musical genre.

What to listen to

If you want to listen to iconic songs that shaped Philippine music, here’s a list of tracks you must listen to:

  • Anak by Freddie Aguilar – translated into different languages around the world!
  • Pilipinas Kong Mahal – nationalistic song that is usually sung during a school flag ceremony
  • Paru-parong Bukid – folk song that portrays a Filipina maiden as a beautiful butterfly
  • Balita by Asin – referenced by the band Black Eyed Peas in one of their hits, this anthemic song tackles politics and its effects on the Filipino people
  • Any song by Eraserheads – the band defined and redefined Philippine music by introducing alternative, easy-listening songs with honest lyrics that are sometimes borderline brutal and frank. You shouldn’t be so surprised hearing their iconic songs in various places in the country, from the Caticlan Airport to SM Megamall in Mandaluyong. They are that famous.