Earth Hour

Monday, May 30, 2011

I think I have GAS

No, not that GAS! It's the dreaded G.A.S. or gear acquisition syndrome. It's the uncontrollable urge to buy one gear after another.

You see, I recently upgraded my DSLR.  My old one, though was still very much able needed to be updated.  Even before I got my new one, I already bought a neckstrap that has more padding than the one provided in the kit.

After just one use of the equipment, I decided that I must have a bag that I could easily tote when I go on a photoshoot.  Luckily, I found one for sale on my online photo group.

After a couple of weeks of shooting with my new camera, I found out that I have outgrown its kit lens.  I wanted something that can help me zoom further than the high end of my lens.  So I acquired a new glass that could reach more than double than what the kit lens could afford.  Who knows when I will want to go farther than what my current lens could take.

The more I shoot, the more I wanted to buy new gears.  I must have bought more gears since I bought this new camera than the entire time I have my old one.  

But the itch to buy more gears is becoming more unbearable.  Now, I want to buy a dedicated flash because on-camera flash has limited range.  I want to get prime lens because not only are they fast, they are more clear and have better bokeh than my present lens.  I'm thinking of a 35mm f/1.8 standard lens, a 105mm micro lens and a 10-24 mm f/2,8 wide angle lens.

In the near future, I would like to try my hand on portraiture.  This early, I am checking out available lighting equipment such as strobes, softboxes, etc, and also those seamless backgrounds that will give my photos a more, well, professional look.  I may also need to get a good portrait lens for this purpose like a 50 mm f/1.4.  I think the 35 mm and the 105 mm lenses are also good portrait lenses.  

Oh, and perhaps in a year or two I would be needing another camera body so I won't have to change lenses all the time during a photo shoot

Someone told me not to think about these gears too much.  He said the best way to get rid G.A.S. is to lay down on the bed and get a good sleep.  It doesn't help that much though because once on the bed, I start daydreaming of the gears I want to buy.  And the urge to acquire only gets stronger.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

LG Optimus 2x: Genius Smartphone

Today's phones are getting smarter and smarter.  Their makers are putting more and more features that help users of these phone more productive in their daily tasks.  But what makes a phone "smarter" than others?

For one, it must be able to do multitasking and allow switching from one application to another.  It must also have a high resolution camera and a full high definition video.  Since I always go online, it must allow me to go online fast when I needed to.

Enter Optimus 2x, the latest smartphone offering from LG.  It is the world's first dual core smartphone running on the powerful NVIDIA Tegra mobile processor.

This will help me a lot because this means it could do multitasking without going sluggish.  Thanks to the two processors in this phone, applications will also launch faster than in average phones.  Browsing the Internet will be a lot faster and means more sites visited than waiting for them to load.  I can check my email, update my Facebook site and then watch a video on YouTube.  And while doing all of these, I can still receive phone calls!  Now that is really smart.

Optimus 2x runs on Froyo Android 2.2 which brings a lot of additional conveniences, including over-the-air updating of apps and even music syncing. It also supports Flash 10.1, which makes for a more complete Internet browsing experience.

Another feature that makes me excited about this new smartphone is the 8-megapixel camera.  I love taking pictures but I cannot bring my DSLR all the time.  With this baby, I can even take pictures in low light situations, thanks to its LED flash.

It also has a full HD video camera, which records and plays back at full 1080 resolution. With this, I will be able to record my memories with better clarity including the sound because the Optimus 2x also supports HD sound.  I can relieve my memories and watch it on my HDTV since HDMI connectivity is likewise supported.

I could go on and on with the many features of the Optimus 2x.  Indeed, Optimus is more than just smart.  It's genius!  Visit for more information.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's the End of the World... Again

Today is the end of the world.

That is if we would believe the prophecy of Harold Camping, a radio broadcaster and author who claimed that today, May 21, Jesus Christ will come to gather His believers and bring them to heaven.  In the meantime, those who will be left behind will witness major natural disasters never before seen by humankind.

Camping's followers in the Family Radio Ministry wasted no time and took to the street to spread his warning.  In fact, I've been seeing this announcement  for months now posted on the back of city buses proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is coming today.

So how could Camping, an engineer, came up with this date with destiny?  He claimed he got it through his numerical calculations and passages hidden in the bible.  He published a book called "We're Almost There"  that is now available freely online.  Here he explained fully what the end would be like,

I am not buying it though.  Even Jesus Christ himself told his followers that nobody could tell when the Judgment Day is coming.

Well, if it's any comfort to his followers, their leader is not the first one to predict the end of the world.  Even the ancient people came up with their own doomsday scenario, especially when they saw something different in the sky like a comet or when planets align (which they do regularly).

I remember when I was younger, there was a group in the Philippines who actually went inside a cave and waited for the coming end of the world that was predicted by their leader.  Of course it didn't come and the group later claimed that their prayers helped to prevent it.

This won't be the last of these doomsday prediction.  The most "anticipated" of them all of course is the December 21, 2012 Armageddon predicted by the Mayan Calendar.  It's so popular that it a movie was made about it by someone who has a penchant for destroying earth in movies.   Science has already debunked this but people still choose to believe otherwise.

So what will I do on this supposedly last day of planet earth?  Why stay online, of course, and see the events unfold.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Taal Heritage Town: Agoncillo and Apacible Ancestral Homes

We also visited the other ancestral homes in Taal, Batangas.  These were the homes of Gregorio Agoncillo, Leon Apacible and Marcella Agoncillo.

The heritage house of Gregorio Agoncillo is in the middle of a busy intersection.  It is easy to see because among the houses in the area, it's the only one that's painted white.  A bronze statue of his uncle, Felipe Agoncillo stand in the front.  This uncle was instrumental in the signing of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War.

Unfortunately, there was no one there to show us around the house on our visit, so we were pretty much left on our own to explore the house.

At the entrance of the house are life size busts of members of the family.  One of the ladies was named Maria A.  Aguinaldo and it turned out that she was the wife of the first President of the Republic, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.

The house contains a lot of furniture and assortment of knick knacks that the owner has collected through the years.  I was drawn to a particular big wardrobe in one of the rooms of the house.  It was made of solid wood and looked more like a free standing trunk.  It has a huge mirror door which is quite ideal when choosing which clothes to wear for the day.

Like many homes of that era, there was a special nook for an altar where the family would pray together at night.  The Agoncillo Heritage house has several prayer areas with antique santos to boot.

The next house we visited belonged to another illustrious Batangueno, Leon Apacible.  Apacible was a lawyer, revolutionary and a delegate to the Malolos Congress.

The Apacible House/Museum was donated by his descendants to the Filipino government.  It contains relics of the country's rich historic past.  Upon entering the house, you will see a montage of pictures taken during the Spanish and American colonial times.

Tiles made from Italian marble covered the floor of the ground floor.  The stairs leading to the main living area was made of solid wood and was very impressed with the balustre.

Like most of the houses we've been to in Taal, the Apacible house was filled with antique furniture, paintings and other stuff.  The house, according to our guide, was a favorite vacation area for many of our illustrious historical figures.  Among the items that are truly worth visiting are handwritten letters from Juan Luna.

There are two curious artifacta in the house.  These are the giant shell and a picture above it of two babies sleeping inside a giant shell.  According to our guide, the babies in the picture were the twin daughters of Leon Apacible and yes, the shell they were sleeping in was the same one below it.  One of the girls died as a baby but the remaining one lived up to 93 years old and was the one who donated the house to the government.

The last stop of our trip in Taal was the house of another important Filipino, Marcela Agoncillo.  She and her daughter along with the niece of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, made the first Philippine flag while in exile in Hong Kong in 1897.  For this, she was called the "Mother of the Philippine Flag".

The ground floor of the house is like a history book.  There are panels depicting the evolution of the Philippine flag.  There are also panels tracing the lineage of Marcela Agoncillo.  That's where I found out that she's married to Felipe Agoncillo, the uncle of the owner of the Agoncillo heritage house.

At the foot of the stairs, one can see a depiction of the making of the Philippine flag.  The scene shows the three women working on the flag but they all looked sad.

Unlike the other houses, the Agoncillo house has an entresuelo.  During those times, guests are usually ushered in the entresuelo first where they are "filtered".  Only those that the owners deemed important and worthy of their time were allowed to go up the main living quarters.

On top of the stairs, the guests are first asked to stay at the antesala and opposite this place is a window from the dining room where the owner could see the visitor.

The main sala of the house contains the old furniture of the family.  Portraits of the family members also adorn the walls,  Like the Apacible house, the descendants of Agoncillo decided to donate their ancestral home to the government.

There's also a prayer area with antique icons.

There's a garden outside of the house where one can find a monument or statue of Marcela Agoncillo holding the Philippine flag.

Our visit was a really rewarding experience.  It was like getting a peek of how these illustrious people lived.  I'm glad that these house are made available to the public.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taal Heritage Town: Villavicencio Ancestral Home

There are other things to see in Taal, Batangas.  These are the old colonial houses that are still standing in the municipality.  Most of these houses, in fact, were witnesses to the many events of our country's history. We were lucky to get inside some of this former enclaves of the elite.

Our first stop was the Villavicencio House.  The house is an imposing bahay na bato built on a slope overlooking Balayan Bay.  It has a lush garden beside it surrounded by an iron-wrought fence.

We were lucky to meet the descendants of the original owner of the house, Gliceria Villavicencio, who personally toured us around the house.  We were informed that the house is still functional and is still being used by the family when they come to Taal.

As most houses built during the Spanish colonial period, the ground floor is a space reserved for the carriage of the owner.  It has now been converted to an office space. 

One thing's for sure, they don't make like this anymore.  The stairs, and the floors and walls of the second floor of the house are all made of wood.  Not just any wood but really hard, solid wood.

Our gracious hosts also explained that the walls of the house were covered by canvass, hand painted in Paris, France.  The tin ceiling, which is unique to the Villavicencio house among the heritage houses in Taal, was also imported from Europe.

Another feature of the house are the hallways or alleys surrounding the rooms. Our hosts explained that these halls have two purposes: one is that when there are many occupants in the house, some male members of the family would sleep there since there were only two rooms which were occupied by the female members; second purpose of these alleys was for members of the family to avoid being seen by guests they don't want to meet.

The main sala of the house is adorned by portraits of the original Villavicencio couple painted by Juan Luna no less.  Of course the ones hanging there are just copies with the original portraits stashed somewhere for security reasons.  From here, one has a great view of Balayan Bay.  Our host explained that Gliceria, who was a merchant, would look out of these windows to check whether any of her goods have arrived.

The Villavicencio home also played an important role in the Philippine revolution against Spain.  It was the meeting place of many clandestine meetings between Andres Bonifacio and members of Katipunan.  In fact, we were shown a trap door located under the wedding portrait of the couple at the far end of the dining hall.  This trap door was used by Bonifacio and his men to escape detection whenever the Spanish guards came to check on the family.  It led the Katipuneros to a tunnel that ends in a river nearby.

I am glad that Gliceria's descendants opted to preserve their ancestral home and open it to the public to give us a glimpse of our country's rich heritage.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Taal Heritage Town: The Churches

I read about the town of Taal, Batangas and its treasures earlier last month.  I decided to go there with my family to experience first hand the old churches, the preserved colonial houses and of course, the local cuisine.

Going to Taal is a cinch.  It's a two to three hours drive from Manila.  We went there on an early Sunday morning so traffic was relatively easy.  We took the South Luzon Expressway and exited through Sta. Rosa.  We headed for Tagaytay City and took the road leading to Lemery, Batangas, which is a very scenic route because you can see Taal Lake and its volcano on the left side.  One must really be familiar with the place because there are very few signage pointing the direction to Taal town.  

Our first stop was the Taal Basilica or the Basilica de San Martin de Tours .  The church, made of adobe and coral stones, is considered the biggest Catholic Church not only in the Philippines, but in Asia.  It was first built in 1575 by Fr. Diego Espina of the Augustinian Missionaries in what is now the town of San Nicolas.  It was destroyed by the eruption of Taal Volcano in 1754 and transfered to its present site in 1755.  It was destroyed yet again in 1849 by a powerful earthquake.

Construction of the new church began in 1856 and was completed in 1878.  It was declared a minor basilica in 1954.  

While the exterior of the church is already awe inspiring, the interior is even more beautiful.  Artwork covers the arches and column of the building.  The altar is also a sight to behold, with its tabernacle fashioned out of silver.

It's also good to know that this basilica has withstood the test of time through efforts of the people of Taal.  It is something that we Filipinos should really proud of.

Another must see church in Taal is the Our Lady of Caysasay Church, which sits beside the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps.  It is the shrine of the image of Our Lady which was fished out of the water by a native named Juan Masingkad in 1603.

Historical accounts say that when the image was found, it was given to a widow of a town official who placed it in an urn specially made for Our Lady.  However, the image would disappear at night, only to reappear the following morning.  This happened several times until the image disappeared one day and never found.

Years later, some women saw a reflection of the image in the river where it was found.  They looked up and saw her on a tree.  The women reported what they saw to  the parish priest who concluded that the image wanted to stay in Caysasay. In 1611, a church was built on the spot where Our Lady was found.

The story of Our Lady of Caysasay, including her apparitions to some native girls,  is depicted in a series of murals inside the church.  The image of Our Lady of Caysasay is encased in glass above the altar, with images of two angels on either side.

While the church may be smaller than the Taal Basilica, it is still filled with folk art.  Aside from the murals depicting the discovery and apparitions of its patron, visual representation of the passion of Jesus Christ fill the nave.  Just above the image of the Lady is a painting of the crucifixion.

The painting on the ceiling of the dome of the church depicts the Resurrection of the Christ on Easter Morning.

The people of Taal still believe that the Lady saved their town from the violent eruption of Taal Volcano in 1754.  In 1954, she was canonically crowned at the Basilica of St, Martin de Tours by the representative of the Pope.