Showing posts from March, 2013

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

Being in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is like stumbling inside Hangar 51 in Indiana Jones - the secret warehouse where they store all the artifacts. The comparison is apt too, as the museum has 21 million specimen in its collection, probably even greater than its fictional equivalent.
As I was flying in to Chicago I still was not sure which museums to go when I land. I was deciding between the Museum of Industry and Field Museum, and I was glad that I chose the latter. It is motherlode for a geek like me who dreamt of being somebody like Indiana Jones when I was a kid. 

The museum has everything that can be possibly dug up from the ground, and grouped in 4 curatorial departments: zoology, anthropology, botany and geology. I plan to blog about the individual sections after this overview of the museum.

These exhibits encompass everything from dinosaurs and prehistoric monsters, mummies from Egyptian tombs, precious stones and metals, interesting specimen of rocks and mine…

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Numinous. That's basically what I felt when I first entered the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. This religious feeling of awe - said to be brought forth by the contact with the deity - is something that I rarely felt. The last time I had the same feeling was seeing Pope John Paul II during the World Youth Day in 1995 in Manila.
Maybe it was the solemnity of the mass, which was just concluding when I came in a cold Friday morning. Or maybe the sheer size and grandness of the basilica itself. Or the elaborate mosaic artwork intricately fashioned into the walls and domes of the cathedral, painstakingly done by artisans for decades since they started building basilica in 1914. Or even just the architecture itself that elicits admiration.

The seat of the archdiocese of St. Louis, Cathedral Basilica broke ground in 1904. Built in Byzantine tradition with Romanesque elements on the exterior, the cathedral was completed in 1914 and was consecrated in 1926. I went there on my last day in St…

The Penitents of Cutud

One of the oddest Holy Week tradition I have witnessed was the reenactment of the Crucifixion, in San Fernando, Pampanga. I went there to see it one Good Friday a few years ago, more out of morbid curiosity than religious duty. 
The reenactment, done in a small village called San Pedro Cutud, has become a sort of a gory sixty-year old tradition. It is not a sanctioned Roman Catholic Church rite, but more of a folk-Catholicism thing. The church actually frowns upon the practice. 

Scores of men - young and old alike, walk the streets barefooted in scorching heat, lashing themselves with whips spiked with bits of broken glass and nails. They splatter blood on themselves and to onlookers everytime the whips snap to strike their bare skin. My white shirt looked like a star map because of these splattered blood when I stood too close to them. 
The climax of the reenactment was the actual crucifixion of a volunteer, called a kristo, who walked to the small hill carrying the cross upon his back,…

Visita Iglesia

Visita Iglesia, or Seven Churches visitation, is a Roman Catholic tradition done during the Holy Week, in which the faithful visits seven churches as a sign of piety. This practice is popular in the Philippines, and it is usually done during Good Friday.
Here are seven churches in and around Metro Manila that you can visit during the visita Iglesia:
Basilica of San Sebastian (top), a neo-Gothic church located in Plaza del Carmen, in C.M. Recto Avenue, in Manila. Made of pre-fabricated steel imported from Belgium, it was constructed in 1891 with the help of Gustav Eiffel.

Sta. Cruz church, located in the Chinatown district, in Binondo, Manila. It was built by the Jesuits in 1619.

Manila Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila and the prime basilica of the Philippines. The present neo-Romanesque church, built in 1953, was elevated as a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1981. The first of the eight churches in site was established in 1571.

San Agustin Church, the oldest standing…

Review: Gogo In-Flight WiFi

Right now I am flying over the United States, from St. Louis to New York. I am aboard a Delta Connection/GoJet Airlines CRJ700. The aircraft is equipped with onboard WiFi which I am trying and using at this moment.
The setup is fairly simple. Devices are allowed one the plane reaches 10,000 ft. You open up you device's WiFi and fire up your browser. It will automatically load the Gogo page where you can sign up/in and choose your data plan. I chose the Gogo Flight Pass, which costs $9.95 and is good for the duration of the flight. If you spend the day flying on multiple segments with Delta, I think the All-Day Pass, for $14.95, is a good deal to have Internet access for the duration of your travel.

The flight to JFK is a little more than 3 hours so I think this is sufficient to entertain me for that time. The WiFi is free if you only want to connect to the shopping site

Once you successfully entered your payment details it will connect you right away. I was able to test…

Hockey Game at the Ice Zone

I've been wanting to watch to watch a hockey game in the US, after I've watched a couple of professional baseball games in St. Louis, a soccer match between the Philippine team and the LA Galaxy, and an NBA game in the Madison Square Garden, but the timing is always off. There's a hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks in St. Louis last Saturday but I was in Chicago at that time.

When I got back to St. Louis on Sunday, I went to a mall called St. Louis Outlet mall to meet some friends, and it turned out that there's a rink inside the mall called the Ice Zone, and the Blues use it to hold public practices.
Though I did not catch the Blues doing practice there, I still got to watch a hockey game there. The teams competing, the Blades and the Capitals, belong to the Adult League. The league runs three times a year, in spring, fall and winter, and each season is consists of 8 games plus the playoffs.

Even though they were not competing in a major league…

Cloud Gate, Millennium Park

I just came back from a weekend trip to Chicago, and during the short period that I was there I was able to visit a few landmarks, including the Field Museum, the Willis Tower, Grant Park and Museum Campus, and Millennium Park. 
Within Millennium Park is a sculpture that, according to Time Magazine, became more of "a destination than a work of art." That sculpture is Cloud Gate, and its magnificence warrant a blog post for its own.
Cloud Gate was the brain child of British artist Anish Kapoor. Made of polished stainless steel plates, the sculpture - inspired by liquid mercury - reflects and distorts the surrounding buildings and people that mill around it, giving a surreal and other-worldly reality to the viewer. Kapoor is said to have referred to it as a gate that bridges the space between the sky and the viewer [1]. It became my favorite public art as soon as I saw it. 

It is known to the locals as "The Bean" because its arch  shape is reminiscent of a legume. It is…

Helicopter Ride over Downtown St. Louis

This is something I've always wanted to do: fly in a helicopter. I found one helicopter tour operator in St. Louis the last time I was here but it was during storm season, so no flights were being made at that time.

The weather was perfect when I arrived here last Saturday, so straight from a 20-hour flight from Manila that involved plane changes in Nagoya and Detroit, I went to the riverfront where the helipad is located to sign up for a ride. 
After paying the fee ($65, including  taxes), and a short viewing of a safety video, I was ushered to the helipad to board the helicopter. The helicopter is a yellow Robinson R44, which can seat four, including the pilot. There were two others riding with me, a couple, and they chose to sit behind the pilot, giving me the front seat which I think was the best position to be.

It was a lot noisier than I thought it would be, although the headset help muffle the sound of the whirling propeller a bit. It was also a bit more jarring than riding in…