Goodbye summer, hello fire trees!

firetree-closeup1As much as I love summer, I love it more when it draws to a close. Besides the end to the scorching temperature in this side of the equator, it also means fire tree season!

Fire trees (or flame trees, Delonix regia) is a flowering tree that grows in many tropical parts of the world, like the Philippines. Truth be told, I only began to notice it and its bright red-orange blooms when I was in college, where the university I attended and the other university I would pass by in my commute from Manila to Quezon City, both had these trees in relative abundance. By the time school would start in June, they would already be proudly displaying their cheery color amidst a blanket of green.

The same month though is also the start of the rainy season, and those bright blooms find themselves scattered on the ground not for long. But for a few weeks, we get to see them put a delightful display. And it never fails to make me smile.

Once, I wondered out loud why people didn’t plant more of them in the city, line streets with them. Just imagine how pretty it would be! A friend who grew up in a farm then told me that they are notorious for harboring higad (those itchy, hairy caterpillars) and fire ants. She had an unpleasant experience with them and obviously didn’t share my enthusiasm for fire trees. I guess any visions of hanami-like (cherry blossom viewing) activities were out of the question.

But potential higad-infestation notwithstanding, I still try to go out of my way to look at fire trees. Years ago in UP Diliman, I once chanced upon A. Roces Street when its fire trees were almost all abloom. It was late in the afternoon, the street was almost empty, and there were these trees just putting a sort of  bright, happy punctuation to an ordinary day.

I took a stroll down there again last Sunday. The fire trees had not yet all bloomed (or maybe they had and I missed them) but I still saw some of the flowers clinging to their branches.

Along A. Roces...

Bikers along A. Roces Street and under a fire tree

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Keep blooming, you can do it! Imagine when more of them are bright red orange

Heading out... along University Ave

Heading out, along University Ave

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Bye, fire tree, until next year

Hey look! History and architecture right around the corner

Whenever I travel and find myself gazing at some intriguing structure of some other city, watching also fellow travelers flocking to it, I find myself wondering: which places and structures back home merit the same admiration or at the very least, curiosity?

Manila or even the Philippines is usually not on the shortlist when it comes to eye-popping architecture. No, we don’t have pyramids, grand castles, and towering structures to take your breath away. (We have lots of beaches though, check this, this or this.) In the capital, most of the beautiful colonial buildings were destroyed during the World War II when the Americans dropped them bombs to finish off the Japanese.

When I worked for a teen fashion mag years ago, I sat next to one of the editors of the shelter and architecture magazines of the publishing company. Sitting next to her didn’t make me imbibe special architecture and design knowledge, but I did think of her when I posed that question to myself a couple of months back: Where in Metro Manila can you see historically significant Philippine architecture?

Aside from the historic churches and the old walled city of Intramuros built during the Spanish times that are typical tourist fare for Manila sightseeing, there are other areas with structures that are worth a look for the history they carry. Within a university campus, a residential neighborhood and even a cemetery, here are the places where Real Living magazine editor in chief Rachelle Medina recommends if you’re on the lookout for some historic pieces of architecture.

University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City

Aside from being one of the country’s top universities (not to mention a favorite Sunday running spot), Rachelle says that UP Diliman has the best example of post-war Philippine architecture all in one area. And they’re all made by some of the country’s national artists: Cesar Concio, Juan Nakpil, Juan Arellano, Leandro Locsin, among others.

Church of the Holy Sacrifice

The Church of the Holy Sacrifice is recognized as a National Historical Landmark

The Church of the Holy Sacrifice is likely the only church in the country created and designed by five national artists–Locsin for architecture, the River of Light floor design by Arturo Luz, the crucifix by Napoleon Abueva, and the Stations of the Cross by Vicente Manansala and Ang Kiukok. It stands out compared to other popular Catholic churches in the country (with their towers and columns) because of its circular shape, its concrete dome (a first back in the mid 1950s), and the location of the altar in the center. Continue reading

I run anyway

When I started running, I would wake up and couldn’t wait to run. I wrote that there will probably be days when I wouldn’t feel like running. Well those days came last week. I was on the 6th week of my 8-week beginner runner’s program and the thought of more and more minutes running before that one-minute walking break in between was becoming daunting. Even when I only had to go to the next room and turn on the treadmill, I was making excuses in my head about how much I could accomplish writing in those 30 or so minutes. But I ran anyway.

Sometimes the road seems so long.

And it wasn’t because I stopped feeling daunted by the minutes I had to run stretching longer and longer or that I could easily silence that voice in my head making excuses to not run. They were still there. (The voice especially gets loud at 5 in the morning on a weekend when my husband wakes me up to run.) But so were the goals. I was going to finish that 8-week program, join a 5k race, join a 10k, keep joining races, keep on running, build my stamina until I find myself running in Angkor Wat in December.

Other runners have said it, including Haruki Murakami, how running helps you to have clear goals–not just when it comes to running but to living your life. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful whenever I finish a run and feel one step closer to my goals. I’m grateful that even during those times when I feel like my legs are heavy and I can’t take another step, I run anyway. I take that step. Running helps me do that.

Another thing I'm grateful for when I get to run early in the morning--seeing the dark sky change colors

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”–T.S. Eliot