Very little was left of Manila after the battle between the Americans and Japanese came to an end. One survivor was the Church of St. Augustine, which dates back to the 16th Century. I couldn’t go into the church proper due to the wedding and Sunday mass that followed, but the museum was open. Inside the cloisters’ dark and somewhat gloomy passageways were some interesting treasures, and a feeling eerily reminiscent of similar churches in Spain.

As befits a nation with over 7000 islands, fishing is a big part of the exhibits at the National Museum of the Philippines People in Manila. Unfortunately, being an artisanal fisherman using traditional fishing gear is an occupation that is getting harder every day.

┬áThe National Museum of the Philippine People is a quiet, dark, cool spot (a little too dark) in Rizal Park on the edge of what little remains of old Manila. It’s full of archeological and anthropological treasures from all over the country, including an entire room all about rice, a textile exhibit, as well as objects from the most distinctive groups in the country. Unfortunately I got there late on a Sunday, and didn’t find the room with the treasures from the sunken Spanish galleon until closing time. Next time!

Filipino food is underappreciated in the US, probably because there are very few Filipino restaurants. It’s quintessential grandma cooking, with some unusual menu items, but generally tastes that are easy on western palates. I had two great meals in Quezon City today, first lunch with colleagues at Wooden Spoon, Tripadvisor’s top restaurant in the city. The three dishes we shared were (top then left to right) bicol express (slightly spicy pork in coconut milk, kare-kare (slow stewed beef in peanut sauce, and my current favorite), caldareta (spanish influenced beef stew) and some kind of stuffed vegetable dish. All were excellent, and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. My solo dinner was at Romulo Cafe, more upscale atmosphere, with lots of stainless and glass and waiters in white shirt and ties. It’s Tripadvisor number 15, for what it’s worth. I had one of my new favorite dishes, ensaladang pilipina (steamed or boiled vegetables plus egg with bagoong, shrimp paste). The vegetables included okra, radish, and green mango. I ordered (on the waiter’s advice) an adobo-style chicken in coconut milk, a dish I haven’t had before. Despite his protestations that he had brought me that dish, it was clearly bicol express once more. I didn’t argue since I like it almost as much as kare-kare. Both dishes were very good. And to be clear, upscale in this context means $12.25 for the two dishes plus rice and a San Miguel. Lunch was 27.50 for the four dishes plus rice and multiple glasses of iced tea, so really about the same prices. No one here (or in the US) knows why there aren’t more Filipino restaurants in the US. Whatever the reason, I hope that changes soon!

A week in Andalusia: Granada VII—not the Alhambra

Seriously, Granada was temporarily the capitol of united Spain after the final defeat of the moors. It has a grand neoclassical cathedral, lovely medieval cityscapes, a remnant of a moorish caravanserai and bath, and a fun market. And yes, 1492 marked both the conquest of Granada and the deal with Columbus. Plus the expulsion of the Jews, but that’s another story.

A week in Andalusia: Granada VI—Views

There’s a lot more to Granada than the Alhambra—there’s views of and from the Alhambra!

A week in Andalusia: Granada V—Alhambra Ceilings

Did I mention the ceilings?

A weekend in Andalusia: Granada IV—Tiles

Of course the tilework in the Alhambra is wonderful too, especially when combined with intricate plasterwork. Supposedly Escher was inspired by his visit to the Alhambra. Makes sense.

A week in Andalusia: Granada III—Alhambra plaster closeups

A big part of the Alhambra’s charm is the geometric designs in plaster that decorate walls, ceilings, and columns throughout the building. Vestiges of color hint at the magnificence that was.

A week in Andalusia: Granada II: The Court of the Lions

Arguably the most serene space in the Alhambra.