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Philippine Airlines has nonstop direct flights from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.  (Google image)


By MARILYN ABALOS
Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter


It was the Heart of the Filipino I flew to Manila to attend my school homecoming at St. Paul University of Manila.

Many thanks to Philippine Airlines and Josh Vasquez, I was able to meet up with those close to my heart in Manila.

The direct flight of PAL from New York to Manila is the most convenient means to travel.

Fifteen fly time hours straight is the way to go!

No more 18 hours to Korea, Taiwan or Japan plus hours wait time before another three hours to the Philippines.

Quite a number of Paulinians enjoyed their flights to Manila on PAL.

Premium Economy was a special treat with spacious seating, comfortable leg room & delicious food.

Regardless whether you are in Economy, Premium or Business, the PAL service is indeed exceptional, warm and heartfelt.

Indeed, it is in those formative years of youth where you find your heart, be it vocation, ambition, childhood dreams.

After 30-40-50 years, the heart finds memories, successes and loss.

We embrace the past, celebrate the present and move forward to the future.

Conferring with Philippine Department of Tourism in New York, Susan Del Mundo and Joey Chanco, I was able to pursue simple wishes of the heart while in the Philippines.


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Jeepney in Guimaras. In photo are (from left) Emily Pimental, Techie and Jim Gonzalvo, and the author (Marilyn Abalos).


Now the fun begins!

Following my heart, the pulse of family, I took a trip to Iloilo, the home of my parents.

It was a refreshing excursion to walk the streets and wade the waters where family have trekked and trodden.

The singsong melody of the Ilonggo dialect on the streets, in the stores, or at the wharf was reminiscent of the loving murmur of family.

The abandon eating of pulpy mangos is a vivid childhood experience.

What fun it was to visit Guimaras Island, the Mango Island in Iloilo with a few of my classmates.

Famous for producing one of the sweetest mangoes in the world, Guimaras mangoes are served at the White House and Buckingham Palace.

You will have to go the Mango Island in May to enjoy the month-long celebration of Manggahan Festival.

Mangoes are fun!


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View of Punta Fuego.


Be still my heart as I viewed the vista of Taal Volcano in Tagaytay with classmates.

From the luxurious suite of Summit Ridge Tagaytay, I savored the panoramic sight.

You could take a shuttle bus from the Summit to Talisay Village where you could take a boat ride in Taal Lake to visit the Volcano.

Once on the volcanic island you could hike or ride horseback to the summit.

Thanks to Jose Marie Quano III, Group GM of Summit, and staff for their generous hospitality.

My heart soars from the mountainous rim of Tagaytay to the cliffs over the Philippine sea in Punta Fuego.

Another site where my class celebrated post homecoming outings, there are residences, private beaches, golf and boat rides from the yacht club.

Cruising on these waters from the Yacht Club was a special treat.

Funny that Punta Fuego is described as the flame shape headland in Batangas while the word “Fuego” is attributed to “Fire,” a command given by Spanish captain to shoot its cannons against the Dutch in 1600.

You can image the sunsets are fiery in this seaside community of Punta Fuego.

This writer has come to realize that there are beaches and mountain resorts, old churches and historical sites, we can enjoy in the Philippines.


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The author in Tagaytay.


And then there’s Manila.

What fun can be had in Manila!

My heart skips a beat at the hustle and bustle of the first city I have come to love.

Consistent with my interests is the arts and cultural institutions Manila has to offer.

I am in heaven when I visit the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Roxas Boulevard.

It was an exciting adventure to tour the National Museum of the Philippines and the Ayala Museum.

I usually catch a show presented by Repertory Philippines and PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association).

Nina Capistrano Baker, Project Consultant of the Ayala Museum, arranged to have my class visit the museum in Makati to view the Philippine Gold exhibition and Retrospective of Francisco Coching.

It was with great pride to see the pre-Hispanic gold items on display.

It reflected the sophistication and commercial impact of Philippine society at the time.

(Readers may recall that Nina, along with Asia Society New York and Manila, brought 100 pieces in exhibition in 2014-15.)

Courtesy of Ana Labrador, Assistant Director of the National Museum, we were able to see Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” winner of the Exposición Nacional de BellasArtes in 1884, at the National Museum of Fine Arts.

It currently hangs in the main gallery of the first floor greeting visitors as you first enter the museum.

The painting recreates the scene where dead gladiators are stripped of swords and clothing.


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Spoliarium at National Museum in Manila. In photo are (from left) JR Museum Guide, Marilyn Abalos, Elena Reuda, Patsy Schultz and Maripaz Calero.


Citing symbolism, Jose Rizal said that the Spoliarium, “embodied the essence of our social, moral and political life: humanity in severe ordeal, humanity unredeemed, reason and idealism in open struggle with prejudice, fanaticism and injustice.”

(Our tour guide said that Luna’s painting actually inspired Rizal to write his classic novel “Noli Me Tangere.”)

In addition, we enjoyed a private tour of other artists who were contemporaries of Juan Luna.

Noli Me Tangere, the Opera, will run March 8-10, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

(SEE SIDEBAR ON NOLI, THE OPERA.)

CCP is celebrating their 50th Anniversary.

Year-long activities have been planned to commemorate CCP’s Golden Anniversary.

This writer would hop on another PAL flight to Manila just to catch CCP.

Some of the cultural events at CCP include: March 8-10, Opera, Noli me Tangere; March 22-23, Ballet, Tales of the Manuvu, Ballet Philippines; April 13, Film, Tanghalang Sta Ana: Martir sa Golgota (Passion Play); April 26-28, Drama, Baka Naman Hindi Virgilio; May 4 & 18, Classical Music, Symphonic Sunsets at Makiling, Los Banos, Laguna; and May 11, Film, Babae sa Septic Tank.


***


Yes, this writer would leave again on a PAL jet plane to Manila — the heart of the Filipino.

To capture the heartbeat of the land — its natural beauty of the countryside.

To open my heart to the delights and pleasures of the culture and arts the Philippines continues to offer.

To paraphrase the lyrics from another song: “When I come home to you...Your golden sun will shine for me!”


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The majestic Tagaytay.

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