Sunday, April 30, 2017

NORWAY CHRONICLE

May 1, 2017

Here is a summary of what our tour group did during the five days that we were there in far-off NORWAY. Click on the LINKS to read the details and view more pictures.


1. Day 1 April 22: OSLO
Holmenkollen, Frogner Park (LINK)



2. Day 2 April 23: OSLO
Oslo Fjord, Opera House, Kon Tiki (LINK)



3. Day 3 April 24: FLAM
April Snow, Fjord Safari (LINK)




4. Day 4 April 25: BEITOVEGEN: 
Dog Sled Ride and Wilderness Meal (LINK)



5. Day 5 April 26: OSLO: 
The Fram, Viking Ship, National Gallery Museums (LINK)




My Trip to NORWAY: BEITOVEGEN: More April Snow and Dog Sleds

April 30, 2017


Hiking Down to the Lake


We left our hotel in Fram early right after breakfast to make another three hour bus trip to our next destination. Too bad we did not have time to ride the famous Flåmsbana Railway through the mountains there. After passing through the Laerdal Tunnel again, we went off to another fork in the road that seemed to go around the fjord itself. The trip gave us more picturesque views of snow-capped mountains and the water -- scenes we thought we would only see in calendars. The houses we see along the roads going to Beitovegen were so desolate with nary a sign of human life. 


On the Frozen Lake

After a quick bathroom break at nearby supermarket in Beitostolen, we turned back to our destination for the day: Beito Husky Tours. We were met by a friendly Spanish lady named Elena who introduced their place to us. We then hiked down to the frozen Lake Oyangen where our husky sleds were waiting. Lucky my hiking shoes (not really meant for snow) were able to keep me upright during the long hike down the slippery snowy slopes. (Those who could not hike down could take a car down.)


Riding Elin's Sled
(Photo Credit: Alexander B.)

When we reached the frozen lake covered with a thick layer of freshly fallen snow, we had to wait for our turn for the sleds. Each sled pulled by a team of 8 Alaskan (NOT Siberian) huskies can only take 3-4 riders depending on the size of the riders. While waiting, we used the time taking photographs in this winter wonderland -- fun shots, action shots, snow angels, jump shots, dramatic emo shots -- the works.


View from the Sled

When the turn of my group came, we were assigned to the sled driven by a girl with golden braids named Elin. The dogs may look thin and wiry, but they were all very energetic in running on the snow and pulling our sled along for the ride. The surrounding scenery was breathtaking with the snowy mytical mountains of Jotunheimen National Park. The ride was done in what felt like 15 minutes only. We did not get to experience handling or actually driving the dog sled ourselves, as we were expecting. Nevertheless, most of us feel that this snow ride is THE main highlight of our trip to Norway

The Wilderness Meal is Served

After everyone had their turn at the ride, we all settled into a wooden structure with a fire burning and food cooking inside. This was called the Wilderness Meal, which consisted of a tasty sausage-vegetable soup with a main course of deliciously tender venison. I was very nervous about this meal at first, but after tasting it, I count it as one of the best meals I've had in Norway. After the meal, we all trudged all the way back up the mountain to the buses for our 5 hour trip back to Oslo. 


The Resting Huskies



My Trip to NORWAY: Day in OSLO 3: The Fram, Viking, National Gallery Museums

April 29, 2017

We visited the Akerhus University Hospital (or Ahus for short) in the morning. We were met by an RN in charge of these hospital visits who gave us an overview of the hospital, which was inaugurated in 1961. We also heard a talk by the MD in charge of infection control. After these short lectures, we were toured around the hospital proper. 

Ahus Exterior View

Ahus Interior View

The interiors of this hospital were also marked by the use of glass sheets and wood panels in their design, much like the airport and the opera house.  They used a number of robotic platforms in the transport of laundry and supplies, which were amazing to observe. They used robotic arms to move specimens in the laboratory. Their laundry system for the white coats used by the staff was also very impressive. 


Aker Brygge

For lunch we went to Sorgenfri, a restaurant in another section of the Aker Brygge wharf area, to dine. Like the other Oslo restaurants we ate in before, this restaurant also had ornate designs inside with a number of unusual bric-a-brac (including some pretty creepy dolls and mannequins) decorating its walls and ceilings. The salmon steak we ate here was exceptionally tasty.


Interior of Sorgenfri

In the afternoon, we returned to Bygdoy to visit two more museums there. The first one was the Fram Museum. Inside, we can see the Fram, a ship used in expeditions of the Arctic and Antarctic regions by Norwegian explorers Nansen, Sverdrup, and Amundsen between 1893 and 1912. According to its plaque, it is said to have sailed farther north and farther south than any other conventional sea vessel. In another section of the museum, they displayed the Gjøa, the ship used by Amundsen when he and his crew of six traversed the Northwest Passage (through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago) in 1906.




The second museum we visited was the Viking Ship Museum. It was exciting to see actual Viking ships there, along with a number of genuine Viking articles. However, there was little else to see in this place. There were not much display detailing about the Vikings themselves, how they looked like and how they lived.




After this, while the other members of our tour group were brought to the shopping district, I went on my own to a place I really wanted to visit -- the National Gallery. It was only about a three-minute walk from our hotel. The entrance fee to this museum is 100 NOK, similar to the other museums we visited today.  (This museum is actually free on Thursdays, but I did not want to take the risk of missing this chance of going there.)


Exterior of the National Gallery

All the paintings were only on the second floor, which was divided into 24 galleries, color coded according to period. The red rooms were for artworks from antiquity to the 17th century Baroque. The light blue rooms were about 19th century European Romanticism. It was in these rooms that I was astounded by the masterful realistic landscapes of Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857).


"Shipwreck On the Coast of Norway", 1832

"Hellefossen Near Hokksund", 1838

The dark blue rooms displayed the works from the late 19th century Impressionists. Of course the main highlight of the museum were the works of Edvard Munch in Gallery #19, which includes his two masterpieces: the unsettling "Scream" (1893) and the mesmerizing "Madonna" (1895). The yellow rooms were for Modern Art from the 20th century to 1950, which included three Picasso pieces. 


I went through the entire collection three times during the one hour that I stayed inside. There were also a couple of dramatic Gustav Vigeland sculptures ("The Dance" 1896 and "Mother and Child" 1907) I also liked very much. 



Our dinner this night was at the Egon restaurant near the Oslo Central Train Station. This place had a multi-level interiors, ornately decorated with musical instruments of all kinds. I realized that this area was the end of Karl Johans Gate street where a lot of shops were located, actually walking distance from our hotel about 15 minutes away by foot. The Opera House was just across another street from the train station.


Plaza Outside Oslo Central Train Station


One End of Karl Johans Gate


Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Trip to NORWAY: Day in OSLO 1: Holmenkollen, Frogner Park

April 28, 2017

Upon arrival in the airport of Oslo, Norway, it is very refreshing to see a lot of glass and wood paneling in their interior design. This is a recurring motif I would note in several of their newer buildings in the next few days that I was there.


Our tour guide is a guy named Luka (a middle-aged American man with no Norwegian blood), and he can really hold our attention with his commanding voice and interesting stories about this country we will be visiting. Norway is the second richest country in the world, with the money mostly came from their oil industry. He said Norwegians do not work and they actually get by with government pension. 

Norway is very proud to be a lover of its environment. Water is very clean and you can drink off any faucet. They are eventually going to do away with cars using diesel and gasoline. According to our guide, Norway is a very peaceful country with only 10 cases of murder since after World War II (although he did clarify on Day 4 that this statistic did not include the Utoya tragedy). 

When we first alit from the bus in Oslo city proper, it was really very cold. It was a bitter kind of cold that gave me chills, and this was despite our coats. It gave us an idea of how to layer up more to keep warm in the next few days. 


Christiana Restaurant

The first restaurant we ate in was called Christiana, named after the old name of Oslo.  The interior of this restaurant had Old World elegance, but it also contained a lot of unusual knickknacks on its walls. This was also a motif that we will see repeated in many restaurants we would visit next. The soup was a tasty salmon chowder and main course was a very tender duck entree -- an excellent introduction to Norwegian cuisine.

After lunch, Luka took us for a drive up to the highest point in the city called Holmenkollen where you can see the whole city in an overview. One of the remarkable sights there was the Holmenkollbakken ski jump, the site of multiple skiing competitions (including one Winter Olympics in 1952) since it began operations in 1892, continually being rebuilt and improved over the years. We saw a guest doing a zipline there, which looked really exciting.


Scandic Hotel atop Holmenkollen

The Ski Jump at Holmenkollen

The next place we visited was a park called Frogner Park, which was also known as Vigelandsparken, a park conceptualized and actualized by artist Gustav Vigeland. It is the biggest park in Oslo, and it is special because it was made to promote and perpetuate the value of family in Norway. According to Luka, it had been nominated several times to be included in the UN World Heritage List, but Norway had always declined the honor.


The Sprawling Grounds of Frogner Park

The most striking sculpture in the park is the towering (46 ft) Monolith of solid granite upon which was carved 121 distinct human figures. The original design was by Vigeland in 1927, but took three masons 14 years to complete. The plateau upon which the monolith was built contained 36 other statues all representing the theme of family relationships. 

Vigeland's Monolith

An impressive ring-like Wheel of Life sculpture was located at the northern end of the park. There was also a bridge connecting the main gate with the fountain area which had 58 more sculptures along its sides.  Two of the more memorable statues along the bridge is that of a Father with four babies, and the most popular one -- Angry Child. The vast expanse of this park and the fascinating statues make it a must-visit destination in Oslo.


Only after all these activities were we able to go and check into our hotel, the Scandic St. Olavsplass. Finally we get to lie down and freshen up after our long grueling trip, but not for long though. After an hour, we had to get to get up and walk to our dinner place, which was the Brasserie 45, for some chicken pasta. After that, we were given time to walk around the nearby streets before heading back to the hotel to call it a day.


National Theater

Fountain along Karl Johans Gate

Going back to the hotel about 9 pm





Thursday, April 13, 2017

OUR VISITA IGLESIA 2017: 7 CHURCHES IN RIZAL PROVINCE

April 14, 2017

Yesterday, we went on our yearly family Visita Iglesia in observance of Maundy Thursday. In previous years, we visited churches in Metro Manila. Last year, we went around Caloocan City and Malabon. In 2015, we visited churches in Bulacan province (LINK). This year, I decided to take the family to visit churches in relatively nearby Rizal province. Despite being familiar with their names, I believe this is the first time I am actually to be in these towns. 

1. OUR LADY OF LIGHT PARISH - CAINTA


The stone church of Cainta was first built in 1707 and completed in 1716. In 1727, Our Lady of Light was chosen as its new patroness. The church was burned down during the Filipino-American war. It was left in ruins for more than 60 years until it was rebuilt in 1966 with its original facade. When you enter the churchyard from the main road, you only see the side entrance near the altar. You have to go into the church and go out the front door in order to see its beautiful stone facade.







2. ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH - TAYTAY

Built from 1599 to 1601, the original church at this site was considered to be the first church built by the Jesuits out of stone outside Manila. That old church was damaged by typhoons, fire and the Philippine-American War, but was rebuilt and expanded after each disaster. It is interesting to note that St. Pedro Calungsod served as an altar boy in Taytay in 1666, serving as assistant to Blessed Fr. Diego Luis San Vitores, who was also martyred with Calungsod in the Marianas in 1672.








3. ST. CLEMENT PARISH - ANGONO

This church had humble beginnings as a chapel of a hacienda in 1751. In 1784, a big copper church bell was brought to Angono by the Hacendero Josep Blanco Bermudez. That bell is still in use at the belfry of the present church in Angono. The building of this present church began in 1877 and completed in 1930.








4. STA. URSULA PARISH - BINANGONAN

Google Maps seemed to be confused about the location of this church within the narrow streets of this town. It gave us wrong directions so we just followed the other cars going to the church. It was located near the busy marketplace area, but there were officials manning the traffic into and out of the churchyard. This church building with its elegant stone facade was first built from 1792–1800.







5. STO. ROSARIO PARISH - CARDONA

This was a small church along the main road. It had no churchyard it seemed, so people were just parking along the road, but local officials there were efficiently assisting pilgrims. This church was being totally renovated during this visit, both outside and inside. A point of interest is the park across the street dedicated to the heroes of various wars.







6. ST. JEROME PARISH - MORONG

There seemed to be only one entrance and exit into the churchyard which was up on a hill so traffic was backed up. I decided to just park along the street and we just walked up. The church frontispiece and belfry (built by Bartolome Palatino of Paete between 1850 and 1853) was absolutely imposing and intricately detailed. 







7. SAN ILDEFONSO del TOLEDO PARISH - TANAY

We were supposed to visit St. Joseph Parish Church in Baras town next, but we could not find the turn and totally missed it. So we decided to go further on along the road to the next town, Tanay. The traffic around the church was very well organized by the community. No parking within the church grounds, but there was enough parking in the streets around it. This magnificent old church was completed in 1783. The altar backdrop was the grandest among the churches we saw today, all in gold trim with three tiers of saintly statues on it.







On the way back to Manila, we drove through the zigzags of Antipolo and wanted to pass by the Antipolo Cathedral for a visit. However, the vehicular traffic in the area is already very heavy, with people parking in streets quite a distance away from the church. On our way back to the city along Ortigas Ave. that afternoon, we were already encountering the devotees who were doing their yearly trek up to Antipolo on food.