A Glimpse of Old Saigon

Formerly called Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, still retains a bit of its French colonial charm. These photos were taken on my first visit to the city in late 1999. I am off to HCM today for a quick leisure and business trip. I am extremely excited to catch up with my best friend (we're like sisters), Christine, and her family and explore the new changes of this bustling metro.
 Ho Chi Minh City Hall
(Hotel de Ville de Siagon)
built in 1902-1908
The Gothic building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 1886-1891. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area.

On 7 October 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert laid the first stone in an inaugural ceremony. The construction of the cathedral took three years. The two bell towers were added in 1895. All the original building materials were imported from France. Tiles have been carved with the words Guichard Carvin, Marseille St André France. Some tiles are carved with the words "Wang-Tai Saigon". Many tiles have since been made in Ho Chi Minh City to replace the tiles that were damaged by the war. There are 56 glass squares supplied by the Lorin firm of Chartres province in France. The cathedral foundation was designed to bear ten times the weight of the cathedral.

to be continued....



A few days ago, Stacey Bewkes of Quintessence, posted a photo of the necklace I made for her. Thanks Stacey for the shoutout! Now that it's officially summer and I'm 877 nautical miles (1625 km) from the equator, I've been wearing a lot of coral. 
I joyfully take out old pieces and sometimes rework them,
Or make something new and mix them all up
with pieces I've bought from my travels.
 Another old favorite that I can't part with is
Joanna Lhuillier's white bag with the most delightful
beaded marine treasures.
 My It-Bag for naughtical adventures....
corals found combing the Batangas shore
summer 2010


Paisley Party


[peyz-lee] noun, plural -leys, adjective
 1. a soft woolen fabric woven with a pattern of 
colorful and minutely detailed figures
2. a shawl, scarf, tie, or other article made of this fabric.
 3. a silk print simulating this fabric and weave.
4. Also called paisley print- 
 a pattern resembling the design or figure on this fabric or material.
The New Oxford American Dictionary, page 1229, provides the following definition of the word:
paisleya distinctive intricate pattern of curved, feather-shaped figures based on a pine cone design from India. ORIGIN – early 19th century, named after town of Paisley, Scotland, the original place of manufacture.

1834, from Paisley,  town in southwest Scotland,  
where the cloth was originally made. 
The town name is lit. "church," from M.Ir. baslec
itself from L. basilica  (see basilica).

Persia is credited as being the first country known to have created boteh designs that have since come to be known as paisley motifs. Boteh is an anglicized version of the Hindi word, buta, which means “flower.” These stylistic shapes were incorporated onto the surface of fabrics that originated during the Safavid Dynasty of Persia (1501-1736).

Later, the design was quite popular with Iranian weavers during the Qajar Dynasty (1795-1925). Paisleys made a comeback in the 1960s, and most especially, in the 1990s when they were utilized in wallpaper, ties, and other wearing apparel. In earlier times, Kashmiri (paisley) shawls were given as part of a dowry, or for a ceremonial occasion.
Paisley Motif Has Roots in Shawl Making

The patterned shawls with paisley motifs were woven in Kashmir, a fertile valley in the Himalayas, since about the seventeenth century, according to Susan Meller in the book, Russian Textiles: Printed Cloth for the Bazaars of Central Asia (New York: Abrams, 2007).
Members of the British Army served in India in the second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849) that established British control via an annexation of much of the Punjab. The soldiers brought home Kashmiri (cashmere) shawls and as a result, the popularity of paisley designs soared and lasted for approximately one hundred years, not falling out of favor in Europe until the beginning of the 1870s.
Hand loomed and hand woven goat hair was originally used to make paisley textiles. The weavers used a twill pattern in which the warp was alternately wrapped, creating an uneven surface. The natural fiber used was collected wool called shah tus or King's wool. That soft fleece was highly prized and was saved to create the highest priced shawls.

Going through my pile of sentimentoes, I found these postcards that I've loved forever. My soul sister and dear friend, Christine Laddaran-Chua, brought them back after her study abroad program at Oxford in the early 90s. One of these days, I will take them out again, perhaps frame and hang to be admired or use as just because note cards to send to loved ones.
definitions taken from dictionary.com
brief history from Patricia L. Cummings


Southern Treasures

A few months ago, Maricris Encarnacion, my Where at Cebu editrix who wears many interesting hats, gave me this assignment for the May-July 2011 issue. It's been a long time since I've visited a few of Cebu's notable heritage churches. No doubt, I am looking forward to revisit while I'm in town. Amazing photography by Erwin T. Lim, one of the top photographers in the country.

"Cebu is the earliest European settlement established in 1565 by Spanish conqueror, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, making it the oldest city of the Philippines. The city counts its beautiful old stone churches in the South part of its historical treasure trove. Albeit overlooked and somewhat languishing in different states of disrepair, they fiercely remain woven into the fabric of people’s lives. Royal Spanish ordinances from 1573 specified that the principal church should be visible from all sides and be above ground level in order to “acquire more authority”.  The Church was the largest property owner in colonial cities so urban space was planned around it." --- M. Te, Where at Cebu
"Let’s start 40 kilometers south of the city, Carcar, named after a town in northern Spain. Here sits the second oldest church of Cebu, St. Catherine of Alexandria Church. Built in 1858, it took 16 years and three friars to finally finish it. The minaret shaped twin bell towers of solid geometric pylons act as buttresses but are integrated as part of the simple façade. Embellishments are limited to the geometric flora on the spandrels, the blind rose window below the upper recessed arch and the carved Augustinian symbol above it. It is noticeable that all the twelve apostles were carved in white except for Judas, who was done in black. Fr. Manuel Rubio Fernandez who was instrumental in finishing the church construction executed the refined touches. It would be ideal to have a tasting of Carcar’s famous chicharon (pork rinds), ampao (rice crispies), and bucarillo (caramelized coconut strips) before moving on." --- M. Te, Where at Cebu
"The architectural style leans toward Spanish or Mexican Baroque. The first master builders and artisans mainly came from Mexico where the Spanish colonization started. Special conditions of the country were considered:  typhoons and earthquakes, tropical weather, termite attacks, and human invasion. This led to the christening of Philippine church architectural style, “Earthquake Baroque”. Furthermore, integration of Chinese and Muslim forms and style elements are visible. The technique of air-dried red brick made from a mixture of coral lime and/or loam and sugar cane juice was learned from the Chinese. Moorish elements or Mudejar style are evident in grills and balustrades, bas-relief carvings, and minaret like bell towers." --- M. Te, Where at Cebu
"The municipality of Argao, 26 kilometers south of Carcar, is named after the sali-argaw trees that grew in the area. St. Michael the Archangel Church was constructed in 1734-1788. Valuable artifacts, the original altar, figures of angels sculpted on its brass-studded portals still remain. The 5-storey belfry, considered one of the best in the Philippines, was constructed in 1830. It has 8 bells, 5 of which are still in good condition, a clock, and an organ built locally by Spanish or Mexican organ builders. It is one of the remaining fourteen pipe organs and one of the 3 in Cebu built between the Spanish Baroque (17th  century) to Neo Gothic (19th century) periods. The now unplayable instrument has wind chests and channels constructed from a big piece of narra wood. Religious murals on the ceiling were executed by two of the best church muralists, Canuto Avila and Reynaldo Francia, during the early 20th century. The simple rectangular façade is divided into three levels and segments with the use of Corinthian columns and horizontal cornices surrounding its beautifully arched entrance. Before leaving Argao, make sure you take torta to go for the car ride. They are known for the dense cakes made with egg yolks, pork lard, sugar, flour, and leavened by fermented coconut." --- M. Te, Where at Cebu

"The oldest stone church of Cebu is in Boljoon, Church of Patrocinio de Maria, and 37 kilometers south of Argao. Founded in 1599, a fire in 1782 decimated the first structure that had a gorgeous painted ceiling. The town is in a picturesque cove on a sliver of land between the sea and rocky hills. With topography prone to Muslim attacks, a blockhouse or dakung balay was constructed along with the church. It is a sizeable quadrangular fortress made of meter thick coral stonewalls and tile roofs. Artillery equipment and a telegraphic system were installed in the fortress for protective measure. Today the blockhouse serves as the bell tower."--- M. Te, Where at Cebu

"An organ installed in 1880 at the choir loft still remains. Intricate carvings and bas-relief adorn the interiors. A communion rail with ornate silverwork was stolen from the church. Its square belfry built in 1701 still exists today without its silver bells. Stolen during a raid and never recovered when the Muslim vinta (vessel) allegedly sunk because of their weight. The Boljoon Church portrays the best sense of the Philippine colonial past truly making it a cultural treasure. It was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1999." --- M. Te, Where at Cebu

"Often, we travel far away to marvel at the conspicuous but there is much to appreciate from off-the-beaten-path journeys. Cebu’s historic churches are a repository of our rich heritage and culture. One can add a historical bent on a Visita Iglesia during Semana Santa and get extra mana credit. Filipinos are a superstitious lot and strongly believe that a wish made during the first visit to a church is always granted. Armed with a healthy dose of wishful thinking and Proustian wisdom along the way, ---“the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”; a heritage hopscotch to the South is strongly urged." --- M. Te, Where At Cebu



Despite being semi-packed days ago, it took me awhile to decide what to leave behind yesterday. Its incredulous to have separation anxiety with my desk. I wanted to pack my reading pile too hoping that I'll finish them all this summer. When I realized that I would have to give up non negotiable accessory space in my suitcase, that idea quickly went out the window. Suddenly, the thought of a Kindle appealed to me for the first time but I'm still old school when it comes to holding a book in my hand and dog-earring pages.
The lunar eclipse also did a surprise number on me. I couldn't find my camera and a jewel box with precious contents which really got me all worked up.
I'm fervently hoping that the blue crocodile box will surface sometime soon.
It was hard to leave Charlotte not knowing where it is but the warm send off and profusion of tight hugs consoled me some.

My NYC layover was harried as I ran around to get a couple of things and dropped by Tenpenny for a quick meal before heading to JFK. Recently reviewed by Sam Sifton of the New York Times, the tables on my row all came after reading it.
We compared notes and each bite packed a lovely flavorful punch. The couple who sat next to me went twice within 4 days.
Perhaps it was Tenpenny's signature cocktail unforgettably called, The Unstrung Harp, with a chaser of prosecco, I was ready to melt into my seat by the time I boarded.
7 hours later, I woke refreshed after days of mad rushing.
Cathay Pacific's entertainment selection has always been topnotch. Normally so restless,  I can only do movie marathons on long haul flights.
 film 1: An Education - a coming-of-age film I've been wanting to see 
film 2: Love and Other Impossible Pursuits - heartwarming family drama
film 3: Incendies - a brusque and riveting tale about war and family
read the Sagittarius chapter on Susan Miller The Year Ahead 2011
Finally used up all my 15 hours and landed in Hong Kong, 
my favorite airport. 
very user friendly and great duty free shopping
showered, bought a Father's Day present, lounged
3 hours later, I boarded for my 2.5 hr flight to Cebu
I remember an exchange with my dear friend, Cornel Chiriac, 
while we were on the way to 
Santiago de Compostela last Sept 20, 2007.
Buckled up on Ryan Air's sardine seats,  he said, 
this is my favorite part as the plane ascended to meet the sunrise 
and Frankfurt-Hahn grew small beneath us.
I, on the other hand, have always loved the landings, 
the speed rush before the grounding halt. 
Just how I would run to a loved one and stop at a hug.
 Plane to plane. City to city 
Just like the first time.
flight soundtrack: So Far Out to Sea and Barefoot
The latest album, Giants by Chicane, has its signature ambient hits and some cheesy trance. Still love it tho and brings back memories of wild abandon in many sunny shores and seeing them live in Manila.

*photos are from personal archives*