Savoring Pancit Liliw at White House Bistro in Laguna

White House Bistro is an ancestral house converted into Filipino dining restaurant. The house is also known as Polistico Mansion which was built in 1938 and reflect the art deco architecture style.

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White House Bistro also known by locals as Polistico Mansion

The ancestral house stood near the Liliw Church and footwear stores within the main street of the town.

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friends from San Mateo, Rizal province

In a recent tour of Tito’s and Titas of Manila which encompass the towns of Majayjay, Nagcarlan,Los Ba√Īos and Liliw in the province of Laguna.¬† Our group decided to have a light afternoon snack at this restaurant.

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collection of Asian mask and family photos hung in a portion of the wall

I think Chef Justin Sarabia of well- known Rural Kitchen in Makati is related to the owners of the mansion.

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menu board

The former ancestral house was converted into a restaurant and bistro around May 2015 and focused on serving Filipino specialties.

White House Bistro

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The white house bistro had several rooms which can be use to host between 12 to 25 people at any given time.  The entire restaurant can accommodate between 70 to 100 people at any given occasion.

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According to one of the servers, They are open for reservations and other functions.  The group tried pancit liliw, club house sandwich, pancit habhab and softdrink.

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They also serve value or combination meal. The furniture and fixture reflect a gentle era and minimal use of electricity with large windows and high ceilings.

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There is also a pasalubong corner where one can buy their special honey in bottle.

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Pancit Liliw

Pancit Liliw– This combines two types of noodles, sotanghon and miki noodles with sliced carrots, beans, slices of meat topped with chopped spring onion leaves. Php 250 per order ( can be shared between 2 to 3 people).

Some of their specialties includes fried chicken, crispy pata, beef kare-kare, tortang pako, chopseuy and Pancit Lucban.

According to the manager, The restaurant also serve Japanese dishes and there is a ice tea stall located at the ground level of restaurant.

Address: Gat Tayaw Street, Liliw, Laguna province

Contact Persons: Ms. Marianne Polistico or Mr. Christian Villegas Polistico

Contact: 0917-532-8075/ 0956-1290931

Operations: closed during Mondays, Operating Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 7:30 P.M. from Tuesdays to Fridays. However, it varies during weekends and holidays.

Due to COVID 2019 restrictions, the restaurant will only have take out and delivery.

Note: The author is not connected with the management of the restaurant. Menu prices quoted are subject to change without prior notification.

A Celebration of Rizal Memorial Stadium Thru Postcards and Commemorative Covers

Rizal Memorial Tennis Stadium is a complex of sports facilities built during for the hosting of the Far Eastern Games in 1934. The sporting event is the precursor of today’s Asian Games.

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 Rizal Memorial Tennis Stadium facade which buds of sampaguita- the unopened buds symbolizes coming of age

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Rizal Memorial Coliseum facade ( taken last November 20,2019)

The area in which the current sport complex stands which also included the Harrison plaza and adjacent area were supposed to be a park or green area according to the architectural masterpiece by Architect Daniel Burnham. However most of the planned green space or zones were not properly executed.

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Rizal Memorial Baseball stadium postcard

Currently it is located along Pablo Ocampo St. (formerly Vito Cruz St.) the Rizal memorial sports complex  was built was donated by the family of Vito Cruz.

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Rizal Baseball stadium facade

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Far Eastern Games

A total of four nations (China, Dutch East Indies, Japan, and host Philippines) participated in a total of eight different sports. The event also highlighted the 10th anniversary of the games.

World’s First Basketball and Baseball Stamps

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2 centavos, 6 centavos and 16 centavos commemorative stamps

The commemorative stamps and covers were issued which featured three sports baseball, tennis and basketball. The 2 centavos face value is the “ world’s first baseball stamp” issued by any country. While 16 centavos face value with basketball featured was the “world first basketball” stamps.

While the first baseball stamp in the United States was issued 5 years later in 1939, commemorating what was believed to be the centennial anniversary of the introduction and invention of the baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839.

The stamp were issued on April 14, 1934. All the three set of stamps were designed by Fernando Amorsolo ( future national artist for painting in the Philippines 1972) and printed in panes of 50, ( either 5×10, or 10×5) depending upon whether vertical or horizontal format of particular stamp) by Philippine Bureau of Printing with perforated 12. No watermarks.

2 centavos- yellow-brown 9 baseball players) -971,414 pieces . There were some color and printing varieties which old catalogs categorized them into U160a,b and c.

6 centavos ultramarine ( tennis player) -800,000 all shades of color. This also comes with 3 color and printing varieties.

16 centavos -violet (basketball players) -500,000 all shades of color. This comes with 162 a ( dark violet) and U162b ( variety -horizonal pair, imperforate)

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2nd  Asian Games from May 1 to 9, 1954 first day cover with Rizal Memorial Tennis Stadium on the left cache design.

Postcards

Postcards were popular method of promoting local tourist spots and man- made structures.

The postcards were printed in the United States and sold in bookstores in the country.  Architect Juan M. Arellano which designed the structure following the Art Deco and Streamline modern design. Some parts of the tennis court look like steam rudder of ships and train parts. Geometric pattern can also be seen in walkways and lobby of the stadium.

Ships and trains were some of the fastest form of transportation way back then.¬† It is good that the historic sports complex is getting a new lease in life. These stamps, postcards and first day covers issued to commemorate Far Eastern Games and Asian Games were celebration of our nation’s sports heritage.

Bibliography and References:

AFF Magazine ( Asociacion Filatelica de Filipinas )

Gibbons Stamp Monthly

Harrandine, Peter W.A. , Mc Farland and Company :Philippine Postage Stamp Handbook, 1854-1982:pages, 116 to 117. ISBN 0-89950-178-8

Palmer, F.L. The Postage Stamps of the Philippines. New York 1912

Scott Standard Postage and Stamp Catalogue

 

Amelie Hotel : Botique Hotel located at Manila’s Bohemian District

1667 Jorge Bocobo Street, Malate , Manila-Philippines 

Galleon Bar

Amelie Hotel is a 70- room boutique hotel which is located at¬† Jorge Bocobo street near Pedro Gil ( formerly Herran street ) near University of the Philippines– Manila ,¬† Robinson’s Place- Midtown Plaza, Philippine Women’s University , Philippine Christian University, Adamson University , United Nations, World Health Organization ,¬† Rizal Park , Intramuros and within one ride away from the historic Paco and Chinatown district of Manila. All these historical places are within 3 to 4 kilometers away from the hotel.

 photo courtesy of : University of the Philippines archives

Historic Street

Dr. Jorge Bocobo¬† (1886-1965) was a renowned Philippine scholar, lawyer, journalist, leader, and educator. He was the fifth president of the University of the Philippines¬† from 1934-1939. Known to be moralist and disciplinarian, he was influential in the development of education in the Philippines. He was the one¬† who translated Dr. Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo into English, was born in Gerona, Tarlac.

roof deck floor can accommodate between 70 to 150 people an an ideal place to host parties, debuts, valentine’s day , new year¬† parties and cocktails

According to one of the manager, The site of the present hotel used to be site of an old residential home , This is the first project of Ruygroup Hotel Corporation which is being built on land formerly occupied by the Uy ancestral home with art deco architecture . The hotel’s name was from the owner ‘s¬† grand-daughter named ” Amelie ” .

reception area with Mr. Dandi A. Galvez ( marketing and communication manager)

Amenities

Galleon Restaurant– named after the famed (Manila Galleon) trade that fostered goods and cultural exchanges between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico¬† by Mario’s Kitchen offers international cuisine sure to satisfy a wide range of palates .

linear art deco map

Galleon’s restaurant and bar serves , unique , familiar and fusion dishes . The restaurant provides all day , dining , room service and catering for functions and special occasions.

center piece leaf arrangement

In addition to spacious rooms, computer kiosks are available in the lobby as well as printing and facsimile services. There is a roof deck gym is also open to  guests.

Amelie Hotel Manila’s location in Malate makes it the perfect base for exploring the vibrant city of Manila and its neighboring cities. We are located just 13km from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and 7km from the Domestic Airport (NAIA Terminal 4).  The business districts of Makati and Bonifacio Global City are 12km away.

Deluxe 1

There are 37 Deluxe rooms  with a total area of 26 square meters . The room can accommodate  between 1 to 2 person.

Deluxe 2

DELUXE-2 rooms are suitable for families, friends or colleagues traveling together. The room accommodate between 2 to 4 persons with 33 square meters . There are 24 rooms available  . While Executive rooms can accommodate between 2 to 3 people with 9 rooms with 31 square meters .

group photo

We are quite fortunate to get invited by the resident PR and got a chance to meet the owners and staffs of the hotel.

Note: The author would like to ” Thank” Mr. Mark Abellon – brand manager , Ms. Mars Callo and the PR team for the invitation extended.

Main +63 (2) 875 7888 | Fax +63 (2) 995 3972

Address: 1667 J. Bocobo St. Malate, Manila 1004 PH

Website: http://www.ameliehotelmanila.com/

inquiry@ameliehotelmanila.com

Bulacan Culinary and Heritage Tour part 2

 

Malolos City , Bulacan province -Philippines

Malolos Cathedral also known as Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion Minor Basilica

After we toured the Malolos Cityhall, Our next stop was the Malolos Cathedral which is just a few meters away from the Barasoain Church . The church a neoclassical church completed 1817  destroyed by earthquake in 1873, burned in 1899, and was rebuilt 1902-1936.   A large Statue of  Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception stands out even from afar.

Malolos Cathedral interior

Since it was also the practice of rich dioceses during the Spanish colonial regime to name the church under Immaculate Concepcion.  The church is favorite place for weddings, renewal of vows and place for pictorials. The Malolos Cathedral convent served as the presidential palace of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, during the First Philippine Republic from September 15, 1898 to March 31, 1899.  Gen. Aguinaldo used the convent as his office.

Siar Tree ( Peltophorum pterocarpum  ) is native to tropical southeastern Asia  and northern Australia

Within its parking space stood  a living century-old tree  Freedom Tree ( Kalayaan Tree) which is a living witness to the Spanish revolution.  This is locally known as SIAR ,according to the locals living near the cathedral. This tree used to be commonly planted as ornamental shade tree within the plazas and main avenues with its bright yellow-colored flowers.

historical markers

Unfortunately, It also had its disadvantages, Since  it is a large tree РIt can be uprooted when there is a strong typhoon . The century-old tree was examined by tree specialists few years ago and its health is declining due to the bad practice of leaf burning near its tree trunk and thus it was prohibited .

Filipino statues during the revolutionaries represented by¬†Gen. Gregorio del Pilar , Gen. Isidoro Torres; Don Pablo Tecson, Fr. Mariano Sevilla, & Do√Īa Basilia Tantoco.

We went to the ka-mestizohan district .   It was patterned after the old intramuros area where streets are narrow and some of the rich Filipinos ( Chinese , Spaniards , Mexicans mix ) settled.

Pariancillo street

We walked the historic streets of Estrella and Pariancillo .  There is the the Ejercito House which was the Department of War of the First Philippine Republic.

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On the left side of  Pariancillo St. is the Cervantes House which is the Tiongson House with its intricate windows.  ( Pariancillo street was named after the famed Parian district of Manila ) This is where Chinese immigrants and localized Filipino-Chinese settled and allowed to trade before they were moved further north of the Pasig river . The early pioneers were the merchant and mestizos from Manila.

Gobierno del Pilar de Malolos building also known as Meralco building

The group also passed by GOBIERNO del Pilar de Plaza de Malolos or called
Adriano House has been beautifully restored and today and serves as the Meralco Building.  Unlike other buildings around the area, a visit within the compound requires a written permit since this is a private building .  There is a historical marker within the grand staircase in front of the old building.

It was then the Gobierno Militar de la Plaza. Now Just across it is a structure with
sealed half-moon balconies that once served as  jail or (carcel ) .

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casa tribunal walls with ferns and weeds

CASA TRIBUNAL served as town hall of  Malolos in 1859. its now a blank
wall only 4% remains of the structure.

Alberta Uitangcoy – Santos House

This is the 1914 Paulino and Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos House in Malolos, Bulacan.
our group were extremely privileged to visit the house of the acknowledged leader of
the group, Alberta S. Uitangcoy, “iDING”(1865). It is the home of one of the notable Women of Malolos who started a signature petition for Governor General Valeriano Weyler for women in Malolos to have a school in which they can learn Spanish¬† in 1889.

The lower floor used be a Pharmacy store

the house was burned down and a second house was built,  This second home, completed in 1914, is what we get to visit today. Within the grounds of the house, it had an old well.

 old well

The house was restored few years ago by Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. who’s fore bearers owned the house. Now, the house serves as a venue place, lifestyle museum.

The site also serves as an office for the foundation

The Women of Malolos Foundation Incorporated  ( WOMFI )or   (Kababaihan ng Malolos) relatives and kins were direct descendants of the original Women of Malolos whom Dr. Jose Rizal wrote letter.

 

Ms. Rheeza Hernandez briefing the participants

We were served hot pandesal, coffee and home-made ham in our brief stop-over at the house. We toured the rooms and their wonderful array of old clothes , furniture sets ,kitchen sets, commemorative pins and wood works.

Jamon de Bulakenya/ Hamon de Bulakenya 

Jamon de Bulakenya / Hamon de Bulakenya РIt is made from choice cuts of pork belly  ( liempo ) . The use of  pineapple juice ( 2 cups) , beer ( 1 cup ) , 1/4 cup wine , 4 tablespoon sugar , 2 tablespoon of salt , 1 tablespoon of prague powder .  They used to put salitre ( Sodium nitrate ) as preservatives but it was gradually changed.

The difference between this ham compared to the commercial ones that we have tasted , Is that it is mildly flavored and is quite tender. It might be due to the fact that pineapple juice were used for marinating the ham . (pineapple juice contains enzyme bromelian which tenderized meat ) The beer and the wine also somehow neutralized the taste of the ham. The ham is also available for sale at Bistro Malole√Īo.

pressed ceilings  / hammered iron ceiling  is locally called pinukpok , pukpok 

¬† Tin -plate ceilings were popularized during the time of Queen Victoria in England. These are mass produced from thin rolled tin-plate ‚Äď sheets of tin were stamped one at a time using rope drop hammers and cast iron molds.

They were traditionally painted white to create the illusion of hand-carved or molded plaster. Built to withstand the test of time,  many colonial era homes still bear witness to the durability of these ceilings, especially in the absence of moisture damage, which lead to corrosion.

I have seen some nice tin works on the Villavicencio house in Taal , Casa Manila in Intramuros ( probably bought from demolished colonial houses from San Nicolas district in Manila) .

a more colorful and elaborate pressed ceiling at the Santos -Bautista home

The simple interiors were made from choice hardwood panels gave way to white colored steel ceiling art work known as ” pinukpok ” or ” pukpok” by hammering sheets of iron to form intricate design patterns. ¬† It used to be imported from the United States or Europe in which the plates of iron were installed¬† at the the ceiling of rich aristocrat homes in the late 19th¬† to early 20th century .

wood mold with intricate pattern

When the rising cost of materials and technology led to local people copying the designs and technology of pressing tin , thereby reducing the cost of materials .  Hence towards the early 20th century there are more homes which were able to afford these iron ceilings.

Using hardwoods as molding material , locally trained carpenters would hammer out thin sheets of iron . They are still labor intensive to make and according to some seasoned architects and interior stylists . They cannot be bought by ordinary wage earners.

beside the present marker , now stood a modern mansion

Women of Malolos marker – an old house once stood

On the left are the ruins that mark the place where Jose Rizal’s historic letter
To the Women of Malolos was read.

Bautista-Santos House

The Bautista-Santos House is ornately sculpted with neo-classical touches is also known as the Secretaria de Fomento.

gazebo

It had a large garden with makopa trees , gazebo and neatly manicured lawn. According to one of the present owners of the house, the garden can be rented-out for special functions like weddings, pictorials and special events.

tour participants carefully listened to the architectural details of the Don Antonio Bautista house

There is a popular myths that if makopa trees were planted extensively in one’s backyard. There will be high chances that there will be spinster and old gentlemen in the family.

  side entrance

 Don Antonio Bautista was an aide of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. 

life-sized statue of Mother Mary dressed in period finery 

The house is indeed a treasure trove of old items and family heirlooms such as paintings done by well-known artists , antique vases, life-sized santos ( saints)

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There were a lot of furnitures , some of which are centuries-old

dining area

The living room area had a lot of paintings from known artists of that period.

Katipunan flag owned by Gat Andres Bonifacio

There is  an old Katipunan flag which is mounted on a wooden frame with shells and mother of pearls that was previously owned by Gat Andres Bonifacio and was kept by his wife Gregoria de Jesus.

The flag was given as a token of gratitude to Mr. Antonio S. Baustista when she visited  him on April 28, 1931 .

We then walked and passed several old colonial houses which dates from late 19th century to the late 1950 and 1960’s.

Dr. Luis Santos house

Another very interesting architectural wonder is the house of Dr. Luis Santos – He is one of the prominent personality and he is the son of Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos . The house was probably built around the early 1931 and was finished in 1933 . This was the start of the art deco style of architecture in the country.

marker

Don Luis Santos was an eye specialist who cured Maria Rizal ( sister of Dr. Jose P. Rizal) , Fabian dela Rosa ( artist ) and among prominent families of Malolos.

an area which is converted into a library

The house command a very imposing view of a bygone era which reflects the art deco architecture and with its dark wooden panel interiors  speaks of the affluence of the Malolos families of the early 20th century.

Participants of the tour  (  field of architecture and interior design ) assume that the owners had used 3 to 5 kinds of hardwood tree species .

 

 bookshelves  with an unidentified wooden female sculpture holding a lamp

Since our tour group were composed by architects, landscape professors, plant enthusiasts, heritage advocates ,  photo enthusiasts, travel , art historians and bloggers. The caretaker carefully noted some of our suggestion.

 

art deco elements and floral carvings on staircase supporting frame

An apotheosis was painted by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo

The magnificent art works done by Mr. Fernando Amorsolo solicited a lot of amazement from our group. The dark woods highlighted his pastel colored art works.

an old piano , family photos and a Fabian de la Rosa painting

Another master of Philippine painting is proudly displayed at the dining room area .¬† It is entitled “El Kundiman ” 1932 by Maestro Fabian dela Rosa. The painting shows a beautiful maiden in period traje de mestiza dress performing a kundiman song and entertaining visitors .

Fabian de la Rosa (May 5, 1869 ‚Äď December 14, 1937) is an artists ,uncle and mentor of Fernando Amorsolo .

sanggumay orchid painting

When the caretakers of the house opened the lights, it further illuminates the beauty of the paintings. It took us a while to marvel and gaze .

Some of the participants also marveled at the intricate art deco grill works and stained glass windows.

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peacock design steel works adorn the doors

Dr. Luis Santos bust and wooden sala chair

Some of the items we saw inside the house were given as gifts or tokens to the family by their friends and patients .

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Santo Entierro РDead Christ covered by purple cloth 

In one of the rooms inside the house, There is a place with a bed and a life-sized body of Santo Entierro which is covered in purple cloth .

The usual highlight of Good Friday is the Santo Entierro (“holy interment”), which is the name of both the rite and the wooden sculpture of the dead Christ lying supine used in the ritual.

 

fountain sculpture in the garden was done by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino

a pocket garden with ground orchids, pinsarai , miyagos and large taklobo as an added accent

The garden boast of several fruit trees like kamias, mangoes , santol , guavas among others.  Flowering plants included , ground orchids, portulaca ( Vietnam rose)  and a couple of native orchid species like Dendrobium anosmum ( sanggumay)  and Dendrobium crumenatum ( dove orchid )

 private altar where Our Lady of Lourdes is dedicated

Our group also marveled at the wood ceiling with floral and art deco elements .

 The bathroom is also very interesting part of the house . It was painted by Fernando Amorsolo and it created an illusion of being inside an aquarium or fish tank , according to one of the architects which join the tour. It is one of his rare works of art.
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spiral staircase
Beside the kitchen area, There is a door which had a spiral wooden stairs going to the third floor of the house. This is like the secret room of the house or viewing deck .
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outside view
According to the local historian ,  It is where violin was played during the owners time which serves as a form of entertainment . The room was simple and there are windows which command a magnificent view outside . You can see the surrounding houses and buildings.

The house is not open to the public and we have to pre-arrange our visit days and even weeks in advance.  We were supposed to meet the descendants of Dr. Luis Santos during our visit .

Unfortunately , the meeting was called off in the last minutes due to conflicting schedule .

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¬†Bistro Malole√Īo
After a short photo opportunity , the group decided to eat a late lunch at Bistro Malole√Īo– This is one of the culinary restaurant ” MUST” place to visit . The restaurant and venue place touted as the “Home of Authentic Bulacan Heritage Cuisines”. With the goal of preserving the traditional the traditional cuisine of Bulacan.¬† The restaurant opened its doors to the public on April 15, 2013
In fact , QTV Channel 11 a sister company of GMA channel 7 top rated show ” ANG Pinaka-YUMMY in Bulacan ” hosted by Mr. Rovilson Fernandez . Viewers and food critics ranked this place as number 2 in Bulacan province and hailed number 1 in Malolos . The restaurant can accommodate between 65 to 75 at any given time.
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Jacobina with white sugar on top – This is more popularly called ” Pinaso” meaning to burn or scorch
Jacobina is a special sweet biscuit pudding made from Jacob’s crackers ( imported from the United States) topped with white sugar and using hot steel turner scorching the surface, the white sugar will eventually turned into brownish in the process of caramelization or glazing.

 I usually refer this dessert as a type of pudding , but some would compare this as a mixture of leche flan , creme brulee or leite creme by the Portuguese.

 This reflect the influences of Spaniards, French , Mexican, Portuguese and Americans  gradually making it as our own unique dessert.
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Pinaso or Jacobina
Normally , this type of biscuit pudding is served only on special occasions like birthdays, debuts , Christmas , New Year or whenever there are foreigners or balikbayans . They usually get the best portion .
 There were a lot of theories and opinions with regards to the creation of this dessert. Some say that this is to extend the shelf life of the biscuits, since they are hard to come-by , hence every piece is important .

Others would say that egg yolks which were byproducts of construction during the Spanish era  were made into different kinds of delicacies . Egg white is normally added as a binding agent together with lime and sand.

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Mrs. Milagros Enriquez is well known and respected authority on Bulacan cuisines and food that were served to heroes and famous personalities
 
Ms. Rheeza Santiago Hernandez told us that most of the cuisine that the restaurant offers were authentic dishes that her aunt taught to the proprietors of the place.
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Our group were treated to a lunch buffet meal and a short lecture /demonstration on how to make the famous jacobina and sweet jamonado.
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mixed vegetables – chopseuy

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Our lunch buffet meal consists of Fried rice , Pochero ala Marcelo H. del Pilar
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Giniling na Baboy ala Cubana , Chopseuy , Tinolang Manok and Ice tea.
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tinolang manok

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Mr. Freddie Talbenito
The group were able to meet the proprietor of the place Mr. Freddie Talbenito who happens to be a coin and paper bill collector.
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Philippines banknote collections featuring Barasoain church
His collections of different banknotes and coins were added attractions to the place. I have him some interesting tips on how to improve his collections and tips on how to present his collection.
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crispy kare-kare
They also have their own family recipe which are¬† added to the long list of food that were favorite of our national heroes .¬† Examples¬† of the family owned-recipe are Seafood Bulaque√Īo, Crispy Pata Kare Kare , Bulalo Calderetta , Sweet Chicken
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sizzling chicken on platter
The restaurant also accepts catering for all occasions like birthdays, parties, debuts , baptism , conventions .
Address: 1 Valenzuela St., Bulihan Capitol View Park, Malolos, 3000 Bulacan
Phone:0942 824 7876 / Landline : +63 (44) 305-0645
Operational Hours:10:00am to 10:00pm Daily
After the hearty lunch and brief lecture , We went to another culinary icon and 2 more towns within Bulacan province.
Please try to visit these links:
Website Link:

References:

Hand-outs and leaflets provided by the Bulacan Tourism office .

Ocampo , Maria B.  Kalayaan tree: a living witness to Aguinaldo presidency, June 4, 1993

Enriquez, Milagros – Santiago : Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan, (Zita Publishing Corp., 1993)

Agoncillo, Teodoro. History of the Filipino People. Garotech Publishing, Quezon City. 1990.

Lansigan, Nicolas P. Living Links with our Past. Herald Printing Services, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. 1983.

Reopening of Manila Metropolitan Theater

April 29, 2010 ( Thursday) Officials of the city government¬† said that the Met‚ÄĒfondly referred to as the ‚Äúgrand dame‚ÄĚ of Manila‚Äôs theaters‚ÄĒis on its way to being restored to its former glory.

group photo of the stakeholders within the  Metropolitan Theater

According to old historical records, There used to be an old theater during the Spanish colonial period ( Teatro del Prinsipe Alfonso XII ) which was built near the present day Metropolitan Theater . The old theater was the main focal building within the large and sprawling Plaza Arroceros in 1862.

In 1862, the Teatro del Principe Alfonso XII was opened to the public and several foreign companies were hired to perform operettas, zarzuelas and three-act plays. On June 11, 1865, ‚ÄúLa Conquista de Jolo‚ÄĚ was staged there and it glorified the military campaigns of Governor Antonio Urbiztondo in the south, in 1750. Another play dedicated to the Spaniards who waged war in Jolo, Sulu¬† ‚ÄúUna Pagina de Gloria‚ÄĚ was presented in April, 1876.

Unfortunately, the Teatro del Principe Alfonso burnt down a few months after that but it was never proven that an irate Muslim had put it to torch.

Japanese tourist posed at the Mehan Garden circa 1900’s – from the private collection of Mr. Centeno

Several years later,  During the American colonial period in 1924 , When  a member of then Philippine legislature proposed that a theater to be constructed near the Mehan Garden formerly Jardin Botanico de Manila established in 1858. The botanical garden was considered to be one of the oldest botanical institutions  in  Asia after the  Indian Botanic Garden in Horah established in 1787 by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kyd.  Buitenzorg Botanical Garden (now  Bogor Botanical Garden) Indonesia  was established in 1817 .   Singapore Botanic Garden was established in 1859 about a year after the establishment of Jardin Botanico de Manila .

No one lambasted him for being a profligate elitist with misguided priorities . The proposal was first conceived in 1924 when Manila was not only known as ” Pearl of the Orient” but also dubbed” Milan of Asia” , reputed to be as charming as Paris . This city embraced four cultures Asian, European , North American( American colony ), Latin American¬† through Spain and Mexico¬† .

It took another 6 years to lay the corner stone of the theater on a selected spot within the 8,000 square meter Mehan Garden . Finally on December 10, 1931 the art deco inspired architecture of  brothers  Mr. Juan Arellano and Mr. Arcadio Arellano following the American architectural planner Mr. Daniel Burnham lured by the unique opportunity of designing in tropical Asia these proud edifice would symbolized the power and glory of the American colonial administration.

The tiara domed  with stylized minarets, sensuous female figures in exotic drapes, an exterior with whimsical rope designs, friezes and curly cues, the clashing ethnic -like chimeras and asparagus turrets, the total effect of the architecture is totally different from the other colonial buildings.

Adam sculpture by Monti

The sculptures in the fa√ßade of the theatre are from the Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti , who lived in Manila from 1930 until his death in 1958, and worked closely together with J.M. de Guzm√°n Arellano. Highly stylized relief carving of Philippine plants executed by the artist Isabelo Tampingco decorate the lobby walls and interior surfaces of the building. Murals by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, namely ‚ÄúThe Dance‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúHistory of Music‚ÄĚ adorned the lobby. ( now kept at the GSIS museum for safekeeping).

The stained glass facade was commissioned by Kraut Art Glass established by family patriarch Mr. Mattias Kraut . Kraut  company is famous for their art glasses since 1912 and the proscenium was done by the House of Pre-Cast.

a gallery of Filipino artists

The venue played host to vaudevilles , zarzuelas , performances by world re known artists like Jascha Heifetz, violin virtuoso were also also held within the theater.  Indisputably , the Metropolitan theater was the masterpiece of Architect Juan Arellano . He did it in Art Deco style which was the rage in the United States.

During its heyday, the theater could accommodate 1,670 people: 846 in the orchestra section, 116 in the loge and 708 in the balcony areas.

Manila Metropolitan Theater after the war circa 1945

Badly damaged during World War II,The theater became an ice cream parlor, boxing arena , garage, motel ,  gay club and eventually a squatter colony of about 50 to 70 families before it was rebuilt in 1978 by former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Popular variety television show hosted by Ms. Vilma Santos in the 1980’s to early 1990’s aired on GMA channel 7 provided the entertainment every Friday to the crowd . While several top Filipino celebrities made their debut at the grad dame, Its condition deteriorated in the ‚Äô90s due to several factors . First is the¬† water seepage¬† on Met’s roofing , Second is the strong¬† Bagyong Rosing¬† ( Typhoon Angela) which hit the capital city in November 1995 causing further destruction on the theater’s outer roofing.¬† The category 5 typhoon¬† wreaked havoc over Metro Manila, Calabarzon Region and Bicol Region.

The Met fell into decay and finally closed down in 1996 following a long-running dispute between the Government Service Insurance System and the City of Manila over its ownership and management.

In 2004, the GSIS and city government finally agreed to set aside their differences, and, with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, signed a tripartite agreement on a work action plan for the structure’s restoration.

Higantes provided a colorful backdrop to the festive atmosphere

Coincidentally , the Metropolitan theater was also featured in Philippine stamps ( Architectural Heritage series ) in 2003.

Almost P90 million, including P50 million released by President Macapagal-Arroyo, has been spent for the project.

Television host German Moreno has vowed to initiate fund-raising efforts for the Met , said Araneta. Lim added that they are also waiting for another P50 million promised by the President.

Author’s note: The author through the Filipinas Stamp Collectors’ Club in cooperation with Manila Cityhall , Museo ng Maynila , National Press Club , Intramuros Administration and Philpost conducts a regular free guided tours within the Metropolitan Theater grounds every third sunday of the month . Pre-registration is required¬† to those people/ groups who wanted to join the free guided tours.

For contact : (0919-3901671 )

Email: L_rence_2003@yahoo.com

Land line: Mrs. Josefina Tiongson -Cura (+632) 735-5001 monday to saturday 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM only !

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