Touring Artsy Angono

The tricycle growled in frustration as it scaled the hill. The driver grinned and said, “Kaya hindi siya puwedeng puntahan ng tricycle araw-araw. Sira ang tricycle.” I smiled sheepishly as I contemplated the possible damage the trip would bring to his livelihood. But the driver knew what he was getting into. He said he knew where the National Museum was, and agreed to bring me there after I offered P400 for the jaunt. In fact, at the start of the journey, he pointed to the hill we were now traversing and announced, “Nakita mo yung bundok na ‘yon? Yung pupuntahan natin nasa likod ng bundok na ‘yon.”

As we crossed the hill, we saw villages, a resort, a golf course, and vacant lands. Then the driver espied a sign a few meters away from the road. We arrived at our destination.

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(Angono-Binagonan Petroglyphs Sign)

The destination – the National Museum the driver was referring to – was the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs. To reach the petroglyphs I had to enter a lengthy, man-made tunnel, and then tread a path that led to the museum and the rock wall with the carvings.

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(Tunnel)

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(Angono-Binangonan National Museum)

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(Viewing Deck of Rock Wall)

As explained by a poster in the museum, the petroglyphs were discovered by National Artist Carlos Francisco as he accompanied a couple of boy scouts in the area. He referred the matter to the National Museum, whose staff dated the carvings at around 3000 BC. It is said that that these petroglyphs are the oldest known works of art in Southeast Asia.

As I contemplated the vaguely animal and human forms etched on the rock wall, I said to myself whoever carved these drawings was truly my ancestor. I thought about the inept, boredom-induced doodles I drew as a grade school student, and made a comparison with the seemingly inept, probably boredom-induced petroglyphs standing a few meters away from me.

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(Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs)

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(Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs)

After idling about the viewing deck of the petroglyphs for 20 minutes, I decided to go back to the tunnel entrance to meet the tricycle driver, whom I instructed to bring me to Balaw-Balaw restaurant.

* * *

Late lunch at the Balaw-Balaw Restaurant, home of Filipino exotic dishes. I ate alone as the tricycle driver politely declined my offer to share my lunch, opting to wait outside. He gave me advice on what to order (“Masarap yung Nilasing na Palaka”).

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(Balaw-Balaw Restaurant – Entrance)

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(Balaw-Balaw Restaurant – Interior)

I was disappointed when a waitress told me that the only available exotic dish was Uok (Beetle larvae).  I was about to order when I suddenly had a vision of a writhing white grub. I decided to ask questions first.

“Yung uok, anong itsura niya’?”

“Ay pakita ko. Kuha lang ako ng buhay.”

I found the prospect of seeing my meal wriggling in terror unappealing. “Ay hindi bale na lang. Ano lasa niya?”

She giggled and averted her gaze. “Hindi ko pa po natitikman.”

“Ah. O sige. Isang order ng uok at isang order ng crispy fried itik.” I don’t know what larvae tastes like but I know one can never go wrong with deep fried fowl.

When the food was served, I put a piece of uok on my plate and gazed at its form for about 3 minutes. When I mustered enough courage, I put the cooked larvae into my mouth and started masticating.  A nearby waiter darted in front of me, picked up an imaginary uok from an imaginary plate, put it to his lips, and sucked the imaginary larvae. He said, “Sir, sinisipsip po yan. Makunat kasi kung nguyain.”  Not inclined to touch the insect (and fully aware of the irony of being repulsed by a creature I already put into my mouth), I simply nodded and replied, “Ok lang.”

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(Adobong Uok and Crispy Fried Itik)

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(Uok – close up)

The waiter had a point. The experience was akin to chewing gum, that is, if the gum was adobo flavoured, had a rough texture, and with a soft and oozing inside. I masticated five pieces before deciding to have a real lunch and consumed the entire plate of crispy fried itik.

* * *

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(Angono Wall)

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(Angono Building)

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(Angono Waiting Shed)

Angono is an explosion of design and color: buildings, waiting sheds, and walls are ornamented with art works.  There is a street which is a parade of relief sculptures made by Charlie Anorico;  a number of these reliefs are facsimiles of the murals of Carlos Francisco. I imagine an employee living in this area always late for work, as he is constantly distracted by the fascinating pieces surrounding him.

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(Relief Sculptures)

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(Relief Sculptures)

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(Relief Sculptures)

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(Relief Sculptures)

And the museums. The first I entered was the phantasmagoric Nemiranda gallery. Besides the paintings, I was greeted by human heads, creepy moriones masks, gigantic carabao masks, and a floating fish.

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(Nemiranda Gallery – Entrance)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

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(Nemiranda Gallery)

The other museum I visited was the Blanco Family museum. The gallery was akin to looking at an album depicting life in Angono, though the paintings differed from photographs in their carefully arranged forms and visual humour.

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(Blanco Family Museum – Entrance)

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(Blanco Family Museum)

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(Blanco Family Museum)

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(Blanco Family Museum)

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(Blanco Family Museum)

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(Blanco Family Museum)

* * *

Enchanted with Angono, I told myself that I would be returning during the Higantes Festival in November.

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