Category Archives: Arts and Culture

#208 Sari-Sari Store

As ubiquitous as the jeepney, the sari-sari store exemplifies quintessential Filipino entrepreneurship. But more than an example of the Filipino’s knack for commerce, the sari-sari store is the lifeblood for many low-income families and is one of the anchors for the Philippines’ so-called ‘underground economy.’

Sari-sari store (sari-sari is Filipino for ‘variety’) is convenience retail or a neighborhood  Mom & Pop store operated right from the living room extension or front yard by many families in order to supplement their income. From urban centers such Metro Manila to remote villages in the countryside, visitors to the Philippines can find sari-sari stores even in the most unexpected places.

Goods sold are basic such as sachets of shampoo, soya sauce, rice, assorted candies, soda drinks and beer to mosquito repellant. Small retail purchases or ‘tingi,’ (literally “in small amounts”) is the rule of thumb or mode of buying in sari-sari stores rather than the exception. ‘Lista,’ slang for buying in credit is also possible in a sari-sari store, a significant role played by the store owner in temporarily bailing out families running out of cash.

The sari-sari stores also serve as a meeting point in the neighborhood where gossip and the latest news are traded, a casual meeting point for the locals or simply as an information desk to passing strangers and visitors.

Mabuhay ang sari-sari store!


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#206 Burnay

Aside from preserving Vigan’s ancestral houses, the people of Vigan also struggle to continue with  the traditional way of making burnay or unglazed earthen jars, an industry that survived hundreds of years since the Spanish colonial era.

The burnay is made of clay mashed by carabaos (water buffaloes) and mixed with sand. Unfortunately, the more convenient electric kilns are displacing nowadays the dragon kilns where the burnay jars are baked, leading to the slow demise of a centuries-old tradition in Vigan

The burnay jars have small openings while those with bigger mouths are called wangging. In the early years, the burnay, also called tapayan or banga, was used for storage of water, rice grains, basi (sugarcane wine) and condiments like salt and bagoong (fish paste).

Burnay jars are also used to ferment vinegar that comes from the sweet sap of the Arenga Pinnata, a sugar palm tree more commonly known as “kaong.” According to locals, Arengga vinegar tastes better if stored in burnay jars than in plastic or metal containers.

Long live the burnay tradition!

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#199 Dinagyang Festival

Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo City Wikipedia photo

The Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo City, Philippines held on the fourth Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog in Cebu and the Ati-Atihan in Aklan

The Dinagyang is held both to honor the Santo Niño and to celebrate the arrival on Panay of Malay settlers and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the Atis, the original settlers in the island. The festival began after Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez of a local Roman Catholic parish introduced the devotion to Santo Niño in November 1967. In 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was brought to Iloilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez as a gift to the Parish of San Jose. The faithful, led by members of Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter, worked to give the image a fitting reception starting at the Iloilo Airport and parading down the streets of Iloilo.

 The Confradia patterned the celebration on the Ati-atihan of Ibajay, Aklan, where natives dance in the streets, their bodies covered with soot and ashes, to simulate the Atis dancing to celebrate the sale of Panay. It was these tribal groups who were the prototype of the present festival. (From: Wikipedia)

Long live Pinoy festivals!

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#196 Miag-ao Church

The Miag-ao Church in Iloilo province was built in 1786 by Spanish Augustinian missionaries and was declared in 1993 as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Baroque Churches of the Philippines.”

On the front facade, which is flanked by two watchtower belfries, one can see the unique blending of Spanish and native influences (From Wikipedia). The central feature of the bas-relief facade is a large coconut tree which reaches almost to the apex. While an integral part of the Philippine landscape, the coconut tree is also the subject of lore. On the church’s facade the coconut tree appears as the “tree of life” to which St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus on his shoulder is clinging to. The lesser facades feature the daily life of Miagaowanons during the time. Also depicted are other native flora and fauna and native garb.

The church and its watchtowers were also built to defend the town and its people against raids by the Moros, thus the church has thick walls and, reportedly, secret passages. Indeed stretching along the Iloilo coast are defensive towers, but none that equal the size of the Miag-ao. It is because of this defensive purpose that it is sometimes referred to as the Miag-ao Fortress Church.

Mabuhay ang Miag-ao Church!

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#194 Paete Murals

Detail of the Paete Mural attributed to Dans

The 19th century Paete Mural is attributed to Paete artist Jose Dans (1805-  ca. 1870), a true son of Paete who used color pigments mixed with pulverized volcanic ash and brushes fashioned from cat’s hair.

At the Pate Parish Church in Laguna are two works by Dans, probably one of the earliest recorded painters in Philippine (colonial) art history.  The work “Langit, Lupa at Impierno” (ca. 1850, or Heaven, Earth and Hell), is a three-level painting which shows the Holy Trinity, Mary the Mother of Christ, saints, the Seven Blessed Sacraments and a macabre depiction of hell. The second painting is entitled Purgatorio (Purgatory) which shows the eight punishments the soul passes through for cleansing before reaching heaven.

The mural fascinates with its intriguing and disturbing details,  graphically showing the eight forms of punishment.  Writer Jose Dalisay described the mural as:  “From the entrance, the two on the left depict San Cristobal (St. Christopher) fording a river with the Child Jesus on his shoulder; on the right is a towering, phantasmagoric rendition of Langit, Lupa at Impyerno (Heaven, Earth and Hell).

“The artistry in all three works is superb, the kind of detailing and nuancing you could mull over for hours, seated in a chair in front of the painting. However, all three — indubitably national treasures — are in dire need of restoration.”

Mabuhay ang Paete Murals!

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#193 Blood Compact Memorial

The Blood Compact Memorial in Bohol


The Blood Compact site in Bohol marks the place where the Spanish colonist Miguel de Legazpi and the Bohol chieftain Sikatuna made a pact.

More than 40 years after Magellan’s death, Spain sent in 1564 four expeditions to establish colonies in the Far East, and to pick up a share of the lucrative spice trade which is under the control of the Portuguese. Legazpi attempted to sail to Cebu but was thwarted. He then decided to head to Mindanao but inclement weather forced his fleet to the direction of Bohol. 

In Bohol Legazpi was also given a hostile welcome since Portuguese raiders a few years back have raided the Visayan seas, plundered Bohol and killed or enslaved about one thousand of its inhabitants. But with the help of a Malay translator, Legazpi persuaded two chiefs of Bohol, Datu Sikatuna of Bohol and Datu Sigala of Loboc that they were not Portuguese, and had come in peace, and not to plunder or kill. This convinced the tribal kings (big mistake!) to end their hostility and enter a pact of friendship.

On 16 March 1565 (or March 25, records are vague due to the Georgian calendar reform in 1584), Legazpi and Sikatuna performed the now famous blood compact, probably not far from the modern town of Loay. This event is still celebrated in Bohol every year in June with the Sandugo (One Blood) festival every July where balls, dances, beauty pageants, fairs, sports events, and the re-enactment of the blood compact to signify the friendship formed between the Boholanos and the Spaniards.

Mabuhay ang Bohol!

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#185 Manunggul Jar

The Manunggul Jar is designated as a Philippine national treasure and is on permanent exhibit at the National Museum in Manila.

A so-called secondary burial jar, the jar was found in one of the chambers of Tabon Cave in Palawan. Dated from about 2,800 years the jar was found by National Museum and US Peace Corps volunteers in March 1964. The faces of the figures and on the prow of the boat have eyes and mouth rendered in the same style as other artefacts in Southeast Asia of that period. 

There is a depiction of sea-waves on the jar’s lid, and experts attribute this decorative style to the Sa-huýnh-Kalanay Pottery tradition of Southern Vietnam. The steersman’s oar is missing its paddle as is the mast in the center of the boat, against which the steersman would have braced his feet. This symbolizes that the figures are travelling to the next life. Secondary burial was fairly common in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia until quite recently, according to experts. In secondary burial, only bones were placed in the jar and the jar itself is not buried.

The Manunggul Jar is an important archaeological artefact providing insights into prehistoric Philippines. It shows the early Filipinos’ concept of death and their belief in an afterlife and that there were means to communicate with their dead relatives, a tradition that is still practiced by many indigenous groups in the Philippines (from Wikipedia).


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