Tuesday, December 28, 2021

San Juan Beyond Greenhills: El Deposito Museum and More!

- Dec. 17, 2021, Friday.

- The only things I'd only ever known about Metro Manila's San Juan City were Greenhills Shopping Center, and the existence of a few reputable schools in the vicinity. Although I was sure that San Juan was more than these, I also didn't think too much about exploring more of Metro Manila mainly because of the worsening traffic in the recent pre-pandemic years. (It was way easier moving around abroad than here in my own backyard!) However, the recent opening of the El Deposito Underwater Reservoir made me decide to check out the historical past of San Juan City.

- My first stop was at the El Deposito Museum, built above the El Deposito Underwater Reservoir. The museum showed pictures and artefacts about the early water system of Metro Manila. Entrance to the museum is free but make sure to reserve your slot beforehand. Please check for details and announcements in the El Deposito Facebook page (click here). Your slot is good for the El Deposito Museum as well as the Museo ng Katipunan beside it.



Left: A reproduction of a water hydrant in Paco, Manila. Right: An original hydrant from Carriedo.

A diorama of the Pinaglabanan Shrine and surrounding buildings.

An American WW2 helmet found while excavating the water reservoir.

An old Pepsi bottle, also found while excavating the the El Deposito Water Reservoir.

- While the El Deposito Museum was opened in 2019, the main reservoir from where the museum was named after was opened just this 2021. The reservoir was built in 1880 to supply water to the whole of (Metro) Manila. It was used for other purposes during the American and Japanese colonial periods, but was abandoned until 2016 when the National Historical Commission of the Philippines started restoring the reservoir for tourism purposes. As excited as I was, the museum unfortunately announced the night before my visit that visitors were temporarily off limits to the main reservoir due to a pipe repair. I had the option of rebooking my visit but I decided to just go anyway since I don't always have a lot of leisure time. I could just visit again once they announce that the pipe has been fixed. 

The water reservior.

One day I shall visit without the stanchions and the papers on the floor. The papers have "under maintenance" printed on them.

My friends from Katipunan. (By the way, I work at a university along Katipunan Avenue, which makes this a well-intended pun.)

- After visiting the the water reservoir, I went to the Museo ng Katipunan which is right beside the El Deposito Museum. This museum opened in 1996 but went through a series of expansions and renovations; the current incarnation of the museum was opened in 2013. 

- The museum dedicated to the Katipunan is located in this spot because the area where it is located was where the Katipuneros fought against the Spanish as part of the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Thus, the area is called "Pinaglabanan," which means "battleground." Those who have read something about Philippine history will know that the Katipunan, led by Andres Bonifacio, was a group that wanted to gain Philippine independence from the Spanish through armed resistance. This was a contrast to the Ilustrados, with members such as Jose Rizal, who fought using the pen.

Prominent members of the Katipunan. The photo at the right is Andres Bonifacio.

Blood compact, as a sign of brotherhood.

Weapons used by the Katipuneros.

Dioramas depicting revolts by the Katipuneros.

The iconic tearing of the cedula.

Other Katipunan-related documents and relics.

Museum facade.

- A few steps away the two museums is the main square or plaza of San Juan, and the centerpiece of the Pinaglabanan Shrine. The statue at the center of the plaza is called "The Spirit of Pinaglabanan," dedicated to the Katipuneros who fought against the Spanish. It was made by lauded sculptor Eduardo Castrillo in 1974.

With The Spirit of Pinaglabanan.

It's made of brass.

The flame monument is also a memorial to the struggles of the Katipunan.

The City of San Juan, within the Pinaglabanan Shrine.

- Around the corner from the Pinaglabanan Shrine is the Pinaglabanan Church, or more formally known as the Saint John the Baptist Parish. The City of San Juan, formerly known as San Juan del Monte, was named after Saint John ("San Juan" in Spanish.) He is the patron saint of the city. The church was built in 1894, and experience numerous renovations and expansions throughout its existence. If you have been reading my blogs, this church might ring a bell because its facade was the inspiration of the chapel in Las Casas de Acuzar Quezon City - which I visited last month (click here to see.)

Pinaglabanan Church

Church interior....and look at that giant fan!! The fan reminds me of a huntsman spider.

- My final agenda for my San Juan trip was a little bit south from the Pinaglabanan Shrine. I decided to take a tricycle from the shrine since it would be faster. Equally historical ast he Pinaglabanan Shrine is the older Santuario del Santo Cristo, also known as the San Juan del Monte Church. It was built by the Dominicans in the 1600s, and was a victim of various wars and conflicts throughout the colonial years. It is also tied to the Katipuneros' history at some point as the Katipuneros sought refuge in the church during the Philippine Revolution.

Santuario del Santo Cristo.

I am proud of this shot because my whole body covered a not-so-nice-looking guard house. Haha.

Church interior.

- I didn't spend too much time in San Juan as I had a lunch appointment that day. I just thought that it was a perfect time to go to San Juan not only because of El Deposito, but because it was halfway between my house and my lunch appointment. However, I was really glad that I finally got to visit some of the most crucial historical monuments within Metro Manila! I'm hoping to see more in the near future!!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Tales of Illumina: To A World of Magic in the Heart of Quezon City!!

- Dec. 3, 2021, Friday.

- The newest otherworldly attraction in Metro Manila has finally opened its doors to everyone!! From the creators of Lakbay Museo (see here) and the Dessert Museum (which I have yet to visit), this time they're bringing everyone in a world of fantasy, magic, and mythology through Tales of Illumina!!

- Tales of Illumina, which opened to the public on Dec. 1, 2021, is located in Ever Gotesco Commonwealth, Quezon City. It's quite far from Lakbay Museo and the Dessert Museum (both of which are located beside each other at S Maison in Pasay). I knew about Tales of Illumina after my recent visit to Lakbay Museo, when the cashier at the souvenir store told me that I might be interested to visit. If you know anything about Lakbay Museo and the Dessert Museum, both of these "museums" are meant to be Instagram-friendly museums that encourage its visitors to take endless photos in its various rooms and photo spots. For Tale of Illumina, they highlight Philippine folklore and mythology, as well as two works of Philippine literature that don't shy away from elements of magic and adventures: "Ibong Adarna" and "Florante at Laura." Apart from that, it also draws some inspiration from other non-Philippine works of literature like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and perhaps even the Lord of the Rings. You may check other details such as opening hours and ticket prices through their website (click here). By the way, each person is allotted two hours total to roam around the premises.

- I booked a ticket for 2pm, and thankfully there was not a lot of people there. After all, it was a weekday and within its first week of opening. First thing I noticed was that it felt it strange for a big attraction like this to open in Ever Gotesco Mall because of the general crowd of the mall. However, I did see it somewhat fitting since the mall itself was shaped like a castle (and Tales of Illumina had a fantasy theme.) Another strange thing I noticed was that Tales of Illumina has two galleries/halls on opposite sides of the corridor. I later realized that it was because the two galleries of Tales of Illumina used to be two movie theaters located right across each other and were eventually repurposed.

Main entrance after the ticket booth.

Inside the main entrance.

The magical talking tree that refused to talk to me. This is found inside the orientation hall.

Found two lions located at the corridor between the two galleries. (They're supposed to be the two lions from Florante at Laura.)

- Upon entering we were told that the hourly show was about to commence, so we had to be whisked away to the second gallery instead of going to the first gallery as what people would normally do. The show was filled with performers dressed up as mythological creatures led by a person dressed up like a native American warrior - with feathers and all. (My inner self actually calls him a giant chicken.) Eventually there was....a prince (?) who had a duel with the giant chicken. There was also some aerial dance incorporated in the routine, which really impressed me. To be honest I wasn't really sure what was going on since the narrative was not clear, but I enjoyed the brief show tremendously. It actually reminded me of Cirque du Soleil's "Ka" which I watched a few years ago in Las Vegas (click here). (You may see clips of the Tales of Illumina show and Cirque du Soleil's "Ka" on Youtube if you'd like to compare.)

I like how they were able to add some aerial dance here.

The warrior (giant chicken) and the prince (?) having a duel.

Close up of costume.

The giant lady is named "Hiraya."

Each person/group can have a chance to have a photo with the performers!!

I was so lucky to have had the chance to go up Hiraya's hands! (One of the staff took my photo.)

Reminds me of Game of Thrones minus the swords.

Another "throne" with sword-like things and a three-headed dragon.

With a Bakunawa's head. A Bakunawa is a Philippine mythological serpent that is said to be the cause of eclipses.

- After the show I had the rest of the time to see everything. I started with the second gallery since that's where I already was. An impression I had with Tales of Illumina was that it wasn't too coherent. I knew and I was told that they wanted to focus on Philippine mythology but there were other rooms that just made me scratch my head. I understand that one of the priorities of Tales of Illumina was to make IG-worthy spots, and they were able to achieve that. However, I sort of wanted to see more significance in the rooms apart from aesthetics. I am comparing this with Lakbay Museo, where every corner of the "museum" was relevant to the theme of "traveling around the Philippines." By the way, the main exhibition of Gallery 2 was dedicated to "Florante at Laura."

Lost in a sea of white blooms.

When you step on the circles they play musical notes.

One of the many dioramas of Florante at Laura.

There was a room with fluorescent seesaws and rainbow ceilings. I'd like to call it the piƱata room because it looks like that.

I went alone so a salmon-colored "charmer" was kind enough to play with me.

Libulan, the deity of homosexuality in pre-colonial Philippines. The walkway next to them is dedicated to Libulan.

LGBT walkway. (This used to be just a plain walkway from the cinema's door to the stairs going to the seats.)

In a winter wonderland.

 - One of the things that I liked about Tales of Illumina was that all the ushers/staff, called "charmers," were not only in costume, but in character! They often have an opening spiel each time you enter a new part of the museum (is Tales of Illumina a museum or a park? Am not too sure. Their website does not say too.)

- Gallery 1 had a more forest look, and showed creatures and beings that Filipinos are more familiar with, like the Manananggal, Kapre, and the Tikbalang. There was also a walkway with giant mushrooms that made me feel like a smurf. It sort of reminded me of the Avatar movie too (the one with the blue people, not the one with benders.)

Into the woods.

A Tikbalang - a half human, half horse.

A Kapre with glowing red eyes. a giant entity that smokes giant tobacco cigars.

a Mangkukulam showing us how to do black magic.

I like this photo, it looks so hopeful despite all the scary creatures around the hut.

With one of the helpful charmers.

A Mangkukulam ready to eat people. We can't seem to find her lower half, maybe it has wandered off. HAHA.

With another charmer at the walkway with giant mushrooms.

- Gallery 1 also had a room that is sort of Harry-Potter-like where you can make your own slime concoction. You may choose to purchase your slime afterwards. You can also order your own "potion" at the bar, which are just fruit teas (100php per person). You can mix the flavors of the fruit syrups if you wish. I mixed blueberry and mango and I think it was a good mix.

Making my own slime mixture.

I would love to take home his headdress.

A charmer who has the same style as I did: orange.

It looks Harry-Potter-like.

At the bar drinking my non-alcoholic blueberry-mango mix.

This reminds me of an I-Spy book.

- The main exhibit of Gallery 1 showed scenes from Ibong Adarna. I wondered why the Adarna bird was color white when it was supposed to be a bird full of color. I liked the phoenix look of the bird though. There were other interesting rooms like the kaleidoscope room. By the way I failed to mention earlier that since the galleries were old movie theaters, there was a lot of going up-and-down the stairs. I think this is hard for those with disabilities. The main "theaters" were generally dark too, so people need to be extra careful when walking around. One of the other visitors I was with tripped hard on the floor. She tripped on a hump that (I nearly tripped on too). Good thing one of the charmers was there to assist since the person probably twisted her ankle; fortunately it wasn't her elderly companion who tripped! so I guess apart from having charmers serving as ushers around the area, there should be ways to minimize tripping and falling.

The kaleidoscope room.

Very late-2000s Generation-2 K-Pop aesthetics.

When you're trying to avoid work. (As fun as this room was - you are free to put colored stickers on everything - but I wasn't sure how it fit in with everything.)

Ibong Adarna.

I do not want to turn into stone. (If you know the story, you'll know that the beautiful voice of the Adarna bird makes people fall asleep. When it poops on you, you turn to stone.)

I am a baby Eagle. (Yes this is still part of Ibong Adarna although I can't really remember this part. Ibong Adarna was so long that the story became complicated in the middle until the end.)

A jellyfish room with metaphorical jellyfish. Also not sure about the sense of the room but I admire the creativity.

With another hall full of giant mushroom and fungi. Also, there is a hump near this area, please beware. The charmer I am with in this photo was very alert, and she helped the lady who tripped.

Another Game-of-Thrones-like area.

- I didn't realize that two hours flew by so fast since I was having too much fun inside Tale of Illumina. I underestimated the size of the whole thing and I really felt like I was in Narnia or some other magical world. I guess my attire also added to my whole experience. (What's new, I always dress with the theme wherever I go.) Upon leaving I also got to take some more photos with the performers, and the main "charmer" who happened to be the choreographer of the whole performance as well!

With the warrior (still calling it a giant chicken.) I want to take his costume home, I love love love it so much!!

Just like I'm part of the gang.

With the choreographer!

- Tales of Illumina definitely is a place to experience! It felt like walking into a giant storybook that had endless adventures and characters. I know it's specifically targeted to kids, but I think everyone can enjoy this place and learn a little bit more about Philippine mythology, folklore, and literature. As it just opened, I hope that more people will know about it. Believe me, it is a place unlike any other in the Philippines!!