Friday, 14 April 2017

Palm Sunday: Artsy Leaves And Religion

When I was a kid, on Palm Sunday, I always looked forward to getting my 'palaspas', or coconut leaves, that were woven and turned into artful forms, such as crosses, bird figures, triangular shapes, and cubes. 

I knew there was some religious significance to bringing these lukay, as we call it in Hiligaynon, to the church because they always ended up at my Nanay's altar. But for me, as a kid, I was fascinated by how a simple coconut leaf could be turned into artsy figures after some folding and creativity. And the artists who created those creative fronds I got when I was a kid lived in the haciendas. Their mastery of this art was just learned from neighbors.

Luckily, I always got mine from my grandmother, who always forced my relatives living in the farm to give me any artsy lukay I wanted. What can I say? My grandma spoiled me. Ha-ha-ha!

These palaspas were brought to the church to be blessed by the priest, and after the Mass, some people placed this at their altar at home, or at their door to keep away evil, and ward off gossipy neighbors and loan collectors. Ha-ha-ha!

This year, the palaspas carried by the Catholic faithful to the city plaza were mostly bought from the church grounds sold by enterprising 'artists' from the haciendas, who now knew how to monetize their art. For 20 pesos each, you can have your palaspas without having to climb a coconut tree. Ha-ha-ha!

At school, we were taught that the tradition of waving these palaspas came from the Bible when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was welcomed by people waving palm leaves. And since palm trees are scarce in the Philippines, we turned to what we have a lot: coconut trees!

Well, had Jesus been welcomed into one of the rural villages in the Philippines, He would have been greeted, not only with the waving of artsy coconut leaves, but also with fresh coconut water (or buko juice!) and freshly baked buko pie! And Jesus probably would never have left!

And that morning at our city plaza, where Father Bonsoy led his parishioners at the blessing of their coconut palaspas, I was just glad that the tradition continues. Although I no longer felt like having my own palaspas to wave, I was just happy I was there to watch a lot of people do.

So, did you have your artsy palaspas blessed, too?

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Oración: The Painting and The Prayer

I remember when I was a kid, when the church bells rang three times before dusk and after the afternoon Mass, everyone who was a Catholic would stand still when caught on the sidewalk and faced towards the direction of the parish church. If you were home, you'd stand up, turn towards the church, and murmur the prayer.

The bells called on the Catholics to pray the Angelus, or the oración, the reciting of three versicles from Bible verses. This practice, originated by monks in the 13th century, is recited three times during the day: morning, noon, and evening.

I remember when we recited the Angelus at school properly and loudly, and without haste and any bell ringing, it would probably take about three minutes to recite.

But I wondered. Why was it that when the bells of the parish church rang three times, the interval between the first ring, which signified the start of the prayer, and the last ring, was probably only 60 seconds?  Surely, with 237 words (yes, I used Microsoft Word to count the words) in the English version of the Angelus, one would have to really spill the prayer out quick, so as to finish the whole thing within a minute.

Was the person ringing the bell in a hurry to go home? Or, he probably thought those caught in the sidewalk were hurrying home. At least he was thoughtful.

And after the Angelus at home, we would make 'mano' (Spanish word for hand), or hold the hand of our matriarch, Tita Luz, and bring it to touch our forehead as a sign of reverence and respect to our elders.

These days, the Angelus is now broadcast from the church steeple in a recording by a male voice at around six in the evening. But wouldn't it be more inviting if it were a female voice which would lead the prayer? Perhaps, some lady with an angelic voice because, as the first versicle proclaims, "the angel of the Lord declared unto Mary", I would expect an angel's voice to be calm, relaxing, and, well, female. But I was taught that angels actually don't have any gender, but based on the paintings I saw of angels, they all look feminine.  

Oh, well. 
            (A family faces towards the direction 
              of the church to pray the oración)

But in this painting by the legendary Fernando Amorsolo, the family stays still, is facing the setting sun, and praying the oracíon. This rural setting amidst the rural and natural landscape is Amorsolo's signature, and here, in his play of light, his other signature, he shows us a Filipino family's moment of prayer and gratitude at the end of a day's work, bathing the scenery in greens, shadows, and calmness. Even the carabao seems to join in prayer as well. 

I grew up in the countryside with some days spent in the hacienda amidst fruit orchards and sugarcane fields. And this painting, when I saw it during my visit at the National Museum of the Philippines, brought back childhood memories of those days in Hacienda Dapdap when my grandmother brought me with her. Yes, there were a lot of carabaos, too.

And while the painting would probably even lead you to join the family in prayer, it's Amorsolo's interpretation and mastery of the art that enable you to connect with his portrayal of life and faith.

                            *   *   *   *   *


        (This painting by Philippine National Artist 
                for Painting, Fernando Amorsolo,  
                  done in 1959, was on display at 
          the National Museum of the Philippines)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A Philippine Heritage Home: Iloilo City's Camiña Balay Nga Bato

Visiting a heritage house always gives you a peek, not only into the former residents' way of life, but also into a culture's past.

I'm lucky I live in a place where a few heritage houses still stand, and in Silay City in the Philippines, I have been into a couple of its heritage homes: the Balay Negrense and the Jalandoni Mansion, and there's The Ruins in the neighboring Talisay City. But the latter is actually a hollow remnant of a mansion, bereft of furnishings and soul.

Luckily, I was able to visit the most famous heritage home in the Negros Island: the Gaston Family's mansion in Manapla. Together with my family, I dropped by one morning to visit Monsignor Guillermo 'Gigi' Gaston, who lives in the mansion. Compared to other heritage houses, which are now museums, the Gaston Mansion in Manapla is still a residence.

It has been featured in several period movies, the most famous of which is the classic Oro, Plata, Mata.



But across the Iloilo Strait, in Panay Island, specifically in Iloilo City, there are a lot of heritage homes, too. And during our trip to Iloilo City to watch the Dinagyang Festival, we dropped by Camiña Balay nga Bato in the Arevalo District of the city.

This heritage home of the Melecoton-Avanceña family was completed in 1865 (after a five-year construction), and stands on Osmena Street in the Arevalo District of Iloilo City, Philippines.


             (Batirol for making tablea tsokolate)


Thanks to my friend Wendy, who's from Iloilo, for suggesting this tourist spot as one of our stops during the Dinagyang Festival. We were able to tour this home and enjoy a cup of tablea tsokolate.

And thanks to Manong Junior for driving us around Iloilo that day.


(During the Spanish times, most Filipino homes were made of wood or nipa. Houses made of stones could only be afforded by illustrados, or the illustrious rich families.)



(This ancestral home is open to the public, and visitors are advised to call in advance to reserve if  they're coming in large groups. I just called an hour before our arrival to make sure they were open that day; and since there were only the three of us, we were immediately welcomed when we got there.)


(The bust on the corner is that of Ramon Avanceña, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines from 1925 to 1941 during the American Occupation. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by the US President, Calvin Coolidge. Justice Avanceña resigned at the start of the Japanese Occupation.)


(Even before the Spaniards came, local Philippine tribes already knew how to weave colored fabrics using banana, abaca and other indigenous materials, which they dyed into various colors. The more colors your woven fabric had, the more difficult it was to make. That's why only the rich tribe members could afford to wear such multi-colored costumes and had draperies in their homes. The Avanceña family made their fortune from weaving, and you can actually buy these woven fabrics, which you can wear as 'patadyong' or wrap-around dress.)



Mrs. Luth Saludes Camiña, the 4th generation member of the Melecoton-Avanceña clan and the lady in charge, welcomed us into her ancestral home. After I told her I was from Victorias City, she told me that she bought a lot of railroad ties from Victorias to make wooden floors because the molave wood from those ties were very strong and sturdy.


(The family's collection of bowls and plates include from the 12th- and 13th-century bowls, Mings, celadon, Vietnamese ceramics, and other priceless potteries. This proves that trade between the Philippine tribes and neighboring Chinese and other Southeast Asian settlements was active and flourishing centuries before colonial powers arrived in the Philippines.)

Looking at these centuries-old earthanwares, I think the makers didn't expect the user of their products to eat much. Perhaps, they underestimated some people's huge appetite. Ha-ha-ha! 

(This piano, according to Mrs. Camiña, has been providing entertainment and musical lessons to the family since 1895. During the American Occupation, this musical instrument was probably busy every night entertaining American generals and soldiers, whose night life might have been limited to singing and dining at an illustrado's house, as well as spending time with local lasses and mosquitoes in the dark. Ha-ha-ha!)

So if you're visiting Iloilo City in the Philippines, I highly recommend you drop by Camiña Balay nga Bato (Camiña House of Stone). You'll be able to get a glimpse of Iloilo's rich cultural past as well as the taste of homemade tablea tsokolate and pancit molo.

Here's the heritage home's Facebook page for details:

https://www.facebook.com/Cami%C3%B1a-Balay-nga-Bato-in-Iloilo-168040663293755/

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Professor Butch Dalisay And Writing in Hiligaynon

I met Professor Butch Dalisay in Seoul last year. Professor Butch is a literary giant with a truckload of award-winning works to his name. He's a professor at the University of the Philippines and is a Carlos Palanca award hall-of-famer, having won it 16 times. The Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature are the Philippine version of the Pulitzer Prize.
                  (Ambassador Raul Hernandez 
                   welcomes Professor Dalisay)

I'm a big fan of award-winning writers. Such creativity! And their solid grasp of the English language and writing styles! Perhaps, if only I were an English major, I would have felt more confident with my writing. But I majored in Economics and Accounting. So, instead, throw me your billions, and I will count them for you with my eyes closed. Ha-ha-ha!

I also remember my English teacher in college at La Salle, Dr. Elsie Coscolluela, who also has several Palancas to her name.

               (Professor Butch being presented 
              with a gift by Ambassador Hernandez)

But during Professor Dalisay's talk with us Pinoys in Seoul, he told us that the best Filipino novel won't be written in English, but in Pilipino. 

The Professor's right. The great novels of the world were originally written in the native tongue of the writer. So, perhaps, the Filipino writer who will eventually write this great Filipino novel is not an English major, but a Filipino major? Hmm. Does this give me a chance? Ha-ha-ha!

                    (Ambassador Hernandez with 
                     Professor and Mrs. Dalisay)


And as Professor Butch told us that Hiligaynon, or commonly known as Ilonggo, the dialect spoken in our region, is actually classified as a language, this gave me an idea. 

Maybe I should write one short story in Hiligaynon. Who knows? This could win me a Palanca some day. Naks! It doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

That day, I asked Professor Butch to autograph my copy of his short story Heartland, that won first prize in the 1982 Carlos Palanca Awards. 

I hope with his autograph, Professor Butch brushed his good luck on my future Hiligaynon attempt at a Palanca. 

Suguran tá karon magsulat.:-)

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Bot-ong Kag Tablea Tsokolate!


"Ay abaw! Kanamit guid sinâ!"

That would be a normal reaction of someone coming face-to-face with a plateful of bot-ong and a warm cup of tablea tsokolate.

Bot-ong is a Philippine delicacy made of glutinous rice that was cooked by steaming it with coconut milk while wrapped in coconut leaves. Some would sprinkle it with brown sugar, others would use latik, a sweet sauce made of grated coconut meat caramelized in brown sugar and coconut milk.

But for me, dipping a slice of bot-ong in a warm tablea tsokolate would be a yummier option: the chocolate flavor of the drink mixed with the bland, yet creamy bite of the soft, sticky rice in your mouth brings out a harmonious taste of home and culture.


"Ti, maka-on 'ta!"

Friday, 31 March 2017

Don Bosco's Mary, Help of Christians

I was rummaging through some old stuff when I stumbled upon this extra colored print of the painting of Mary, Help of Christians that stands right at the altar of the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice in Don Bosco Valdocco in Turin, Italy.

I had another copy of this print but after a few years inside a picture frame, it faded. I was glad I found this extra print. These prints I bought from the bookstore next to the Basilica in Turin.

So I brought it to the local shop that laminated photographs and had it encased in a sealed, sturdy, plastic lamination to prevent it from losing its grandiose colors. After all, the painter who created this masterpiece over three years had wanted everyone to see Don Bosco's dream in a resplendent presentation and in a spectacle of colors.

This was the description of the painting according to the Don Bosco website:

"The Virgin standing out in a sea of light and majesty, surrounded by a horde of angels paying homage as if to their queen. With her right hand, she holds the sceptre, the symbol of her power, and with the left, the child with its arms open wide, offering its grace and mercy to those appealing to the majesty of his mother.

Around and below them are the Apostles and the Evangelists in a state of s
weet ecstasy, almost exclaiming: ‘Regina Apostolorum, ora pro nobis’, they contemplate the Holy Virgin in amazement. At the bottom of the picture, there is the city of Turin with the sanctuary of Valdocco in close up and with Superga in the background. The picture’s greatest value is the religious ideal that makes a pious impression on whoever admire it."

This painting, as commissioned by Saint John Bosco himself from the Italian painter Lorenzone as he saw in his dream, now sits at the main altar of the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice, which was consecrated in 1868, and is the Mother Church of the Salesian Family from which every year missionaries leave for the farthest ends of the world.

This painting was granted a canonical coronation by Pope Leo XIII on May 17, 1903, that officially conferred on it the title of 'Mary, Help of Christians'.

Having been educated in Salesian schools since I was 6, I was very familiar with this picture. The image was everywhere at school and on estampitas given to us. This vision of Mary holding Jesus and a scepter, and standing on a white cloud and surrounded by angels, Apostles and Evangelists, and looking down on a big church, which I thought was St. Peter's Basilica when I was young, fascinated me. I only learned that the 'big church' was the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians when I read about the painting.

And when I had the chance to travel to Italy years ago, I made sure I visited our Salesian Mother Church in Turin. I thought, since I was already in the country, why not travel north to Turin for a couple of days? 

And on that morning when I sat in front of the altar of the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice (Basilica of Mary Help of Christians) in the Don Bosco Valdocco area of Turin, praying in silence and in awe, I could not believe where I was and the surreal vision that was before me.

From my memory of this painting during my schools days at Don Bosco in Victorias, to my pilgrimage to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, and then back home, bringing with me this colored print of the painting, I traced the path of countless Salesian missionaries who traveled from this Church and into the hearts of young boys, bringing faith, education and virtues of a Bosconian.

Mabuhay to all Bosconians all over the world!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: Kong: Skull Island

I thought the big ape was killed when he fell off the Empire State Building. It turned out, he was resurrected in this movie Kong: Skull Island.

Unlike King Kong, set in the 1930s and where Jack Black brought a complete team of film crew to the Skull Island, this time, in the Kong: Skull Island, Samuel L. Jackson brought a military team, instead of The Avengers.

And that team just didn't include ordinary actors, Jackson brought along Brie Larson, Academy Award winner for Room, and Tom Hiddleston, Loki himself!

Although the whole film revolved around Jackson's resolve to avenge the death of his dead soldiers on the big ape, I just kept on wondering why both the Russians and Americans weren't able to discover this island, when at that time, before the 1970s, both countries had already sent men into outer space.

Although the action scenes between ape and humans, and between ape and other big creatures kept me entertained, it was the costumes and make-up of these ethnic tribes living in the island that impressed me. Very creative. And you should see the graffiti art inside their hallowed ground inside an old ship. The tribesmen's acting though was just sad. The big insects in the film were better actors.

As expected, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston were credible even as they shared the billing with a furry primate in costume, and even as they hadn't bathed nor brushed their teeth in days while in the island. 

I preferred that 2005 King Kong film over this 2017 Kong: Skull Island. That was more enchanting and suspenseful, and made more sense.

In this one, Samuel L. Jackson was like Donald Trump, unreasonable and always thought about himself, when, in fact, there was something bigger (or bigly!) than himself. 

Go watch if you have nothing else to do.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: LIFE

The movie trailer of Life seemed like an alien experiment gone bad. Interesting, I thought. And since I love these outer space movies, I had to watch it.

Life is about a group of scientists, doctors and engineers living inside the International Space Station (ISS). They're supposed to be a very smart bunch. 

Smart...until they were outsmarted.

Fresh from the planet Mars, a pack of soil samples was delivered to the ISS and was tested by the resident doctor. And all the while I thought Matt Damon had already done this in The Martian, where he even grew some potatoes! 

And that's when the trouble started - when the doctor started experimenting on the soil samples and you just have to watch it how.

And that's also the time when I realized this doctor wasn't smart at all. First, this was an alien organism, and he wanted to immediately touch it? Didn't he watch Sigourney Weaver's Alien series?  Second, he could have just closed the valves for oxygen to deprive the organism of air and kill it!  Well, if he did, there wouldn't have been any movie, would it? Ha-ha-ha!

Ryan Reynolds, as the ISS engineer, was just his comic self compared to another astronaut, George Clooney, who was sarcastically witty in Gravity. They both died in space. Oops!

It was Gravity that probably gave us the idea that a lot of action could still happen in these space vehicles in outer space, where everything's in slow motion.

With these very expensive space ships made up of millions of pieces, it only would need one loose bolt to screw up the whole thing. And in this case, it only needed one Martian cell to make the movie. 

This wasn't a heavy drama movie, so we need not expect stellar performances. But in the end, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson left to share the screen with 'Calvin', the Martian, both reminded me of Sandra Bullock's last minutes in Gravity inside the Shenzhou capsule.

And did Jake and Rebecca's plan work? 

Unfortunately, I figured out the ending even before the landing. Ha-ha-ha! So, I wasn't that surprised, unlike the Vietnamese fishermen. 

As to how it ended, you have to watch it, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the voyage as well! 

                           *   *   *   *   *

I have no idea how large the ISS is when it's on land, but this movie gave me an idea to look for it in the skies when it passes over the Philippines. 

If you want, too, here's the ISS website to track its passage over your city:

http://iss.astroviewer.net/

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Summer Breeze....

"Summer breeze....makes me feel fine...blowing through the jasmine in my mind..."

That Seals and Crofts classic would probably also ring in your head when you're sitting comfortably by a huge fish pond in the countryside with the cool late afternoon breezes blowing around you.

This is why I enjoy being out in the countryside: the freshest air, the most serene of surroundings and the closeness to nature, where the only sounds you can hear are the birds singing and the leaves' swaying with the breeze.

In the Negros island, aside from the endless vistas of haciendas full of green sugarcane plants, the cool places where you can relax are the fish ponds, usually located far from the highway and hidden within the sugar plantations.

These fish ponds in boxes of water where thousands of fish are being grown provide a relaxing atmosphere that city folks would envy any day.

And here I am, thanks to a few titos and tita, lazily sitting on a bench right in the middle of a few quadrants of fish ponds under the blue tropical skies and with the cool, late afternoon breezes blowing from the north, and presented with a table full of barbecue, bread and a cold bottle of Coke! 
And as I take my first bite of the warm pork barbecue, we just let the summer breeze cool our spot, allowing it to waft the aroma of our merienda and "blow the jasmine of my mind".   

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Pinoy At The Movies: Logan

This is one superhero movie that doesn't feature cars being blown up, buildings razed to the ground by a mere stare, or a whole lake turning into a tsunami. 

Logan is not your typical super hero movie because this superhero is weak, drunk and got buried in the end!

Yes, the almost 200-year old Wolverine finally got killed in the end, unless, of course, somewhere in the future, the franchise resurrects him like the way they did to Charles Xavier.

If you are expecting a display of superpowers like in the other X-Men movies, you'd be disappointed. There isn't any Storm or Cyclops here, where a lot of CGIs were required in almost every action scene. Here, the only CGI was probably every time Logan shows off his shiny andamantium blades. 

Here, an older, aged Logan wasn't as strong and had a drinking problem. He lived like an ordinary human, providing stretch limousine services and had regular customers. He was also looking after two mutants. 

His ordinary life became interesting when a nurse from a mutant-producing corporation was able to track him down and made him a babysitter for his own mutant daughter. 

And what happened to him and his daughter?

Well, that's as far as I can go. You have to watch the movie to see the journey of the father-daughter tandem. And if you think engaging the Wolverine in a hand-to-andamantium-hand combat was scary, wait till you see how ruthless his daughter could be.

Like father, like daughter, I guess.

Logan will make you think how mutants just wanted to live a 'normal' life, and with a life spent among humans, there might have been a lot of painful kills here that you wouldn't necessary see in the other X-Men movies with comic book plots.

It will also make you think how you'll react to the next X-Men movie when Logan superbly humanized an X-Man, and succeeded in offering a superhero movie without a superhero.

Go watch it!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Roberto's: The Best Siopao In The Islands


                       (In front of Roberto's)

I wondered why my brother always asked for Roberto's siopao (steamed buns) every time someone in the family crosses the Iloilo Strait from Iloilo City to the Negros Island in the Philippines.

So, when I crossed the Iloilo Strait myself, I decided to find out why.
              (Long line at the take-out counter)


(A lady selling langka or jack fruit outside Roberto's)

Roberto's is a restaurant along Iloilo City's JM Basa Street, one of the city's busiest, that sells steamed buns and other popular dishes. But on my first ever visit during the Dinagyang Festival, what I discovered was that this restaurant was busy inside and out!

The line for the 'dine-in' customers was long, but the line for the take-out counter was even longer! I saw for myself how popular those siopaos were!


                           (Roberto's menu)

Not only were the dishes reasonably priced, they were good, too. Since my tummy was grumbly and complaining, I decided on fried rice with fried chicken for a fulfilling purpose, pairing it with some meatball on stick and fried lumpia.

We also took home siopaos in case the need for a midnight snack at our hotel arose.

And later that night, as I was munching down a siopao, I understood why the popularity of Roberto's steamed buns extended beyond the island of Panay!

            (Roberto's very busy take-out counter)
The size of the siopao is bigger than my clenched fist and the bun is thick with the filling firmly squeezed into it. And this was why Roberto's siopao was a bite above the rest: the savor of the cooked meat dish as the filling was flavorful that, as its sign on the counter suggested, the siopao didn't need any sauce.

Most siopaos require sauce in order to brighten up its flavor; Roberto's siopao doesn't need any. And that for me is even more convenient and efficient. Putting sauce can be messy and every time you need a bite, you have to drop more sauce on it.

    (My take-out siopao visited the next restaurant)

The meat was soft and the taste chicken and pork adobo mixed with chinese sausage and boiled egg were the most flavorful and efficient way to enjoy the rich culinary heritage of the Filipino-Chinese families.

Yes, when it comes to Chinese food in the Philippines, I defer to the menus offered by restaurants run by Filipino-Chinese families. They know what they are doing, or in this case, cooking!




When we left Iloilo for Bacolod, we had to stop by one more time. I lined up for a turn at the take-out counter and bought a few siopaos.

This time, the jumbo siopaos, along with their reputation, crossed the Iloilo Strait and went home with us.

So, the next time you're in Iloilo City, make sure you have time to line up (or dine in!) at Roberto's to enjoy its siopaos. 


Burp! :-)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

An Arachnid Education From The Real Spidermen And Scorpion Kings

               (The Bacolod Tarantula Keepers' 
                      exhibit at Victorias Plaza)

I remember playing with spiders when I was a kid. My playmates and I used empty match boxes to store the spiders. I never caught my own spiders because I got them from Melchor, a playmate who had a wider knowledge about spiders and street life.


                   (A bronze-colored scorpion)

So, when I stumbled upon an exhibit of tarantulas, scorpions, geckos and snakes right in the Victorias Public Plaza, those memories about my childhood days I spent watching spiders fight against each other on a long stick came back.

But this time, the spiders brought by the Bacolod Tarantula Keepers to the exhibit were not the kind that could fit into match boxes. They were the big tarantulas which were native to other continents.

                (Young visitors pointing to the 
                 unique creatures on display)

                 (Jake lending an albino boa to a 
               high school student for photo-op)
                 (The fascinating colors of the 
                  greenbottle blue tarantula)

At the exhibition, I spoke to July and Jake, the young advocates from the Bacolod Tarantula Keepers, from whom I learned that, in the Negros Island, we have our own native tarantulas!

Their objective, they told me, was to educate everyone, especially the young, about the need to respect these creatures in case they stumble upon them in the wild, teaching them of their harmless character when left alone. This is human nature; when we see a scary-looking creature which we know little about, we kill it.



(Let sleeping scorpions lie)

         (A papier-mache skull to add drama to 
       a tarantula's nest, very Indiana Jones-ish)

Little do we know that those creatures only fight back when they are threatened...by a human!

Just like most, I thought tarantulas are dangerous because of their sting. They were safe to handle actually as I had one crawl on my left hand, watching it quietly and slowly alternating each of its eight hairy legs as it navigated along a human visitor's hand.



                 (This Brazilian tarantula must be 
                       fluent in Portuguese)

I was fascinated by the beautiful colors of one tarantula, the greenbottle blue tarantula with legs of greenish blue and an abdomen of gold, which looked as though they were especially designed and colored to attract and fascinate. 

Although I was game to handle a tarantula, I stayed away from the scorpions, which were probably just happy to sting any intruder at their transparent cage. Although there was a small medical clinic five minutes away by tricycle from the exhibit, I'd rather remain a visitor, and not a patient. Ha-ha-ha!



       (A beautiful gecko in yellow-orange color that             reminds me of a very ripe Guimaras mango)

I remember seeing the movie Arachnophobia on cable TV, starring Jeff Daniels. It's about a South American tarantula that was accidentally brought into California, multiplied into thousands and attacked a small town. Although I'm sure those scared of spiders stayed away from the movie, it did pretty well at the box office. Arachnophobia, by the way, is the phobia of spiders and scorpions.

As I was sure none of those who visited the exhibit suffered from clinical arachnophobia, I, along with most visitors, appreciated the efforts of the Bacolod Tarantula Keepers in their advocacy of educating the public about spiders, scorpions, geckos and snakes.


Although we might not be stumbling upon a tarantula with a golden abdomen soon, or a gecko with yellow-orange skin, let's keep in mind that these fascinating creatures don't harm unless threatened. 

So, thanks to the Bacolod Tarantula Keepers T. Genus, Bacolod Tarantula Keepers BTK, and North Negros Tarantula Keepers, who I think are the real spidermen and scorpion kings, for the education and exhibit on arachnids.

And let's always remember what these groups are actively advocating: 

"These creatures are to be cared for, instead of being hated".
               (A lot of interested students visited 
                      the successful exhibit)