Sunday, March 30, 2008

Silliman University

Silliman University was the first University founded in Dumaguete. Now one of many institutions of higher learning here, it retains the reputation as one of the most prestigious and rigorous Universities in the Philippines. Dumaguete is known a a University town, and Silliman is the keystone and flagship institution here.

Silliman University was founded by American missionaries of the Presbyterian Church on August 28, 1901, making it the oldest American university in Asia. Originally named Silliman Institute, an elementary school, it was started with funds from Dr. Horace Brinsmade Silliman, a retired businessman and philanthropist from Cohoes, New York. Silliman was an active layman in the Presbyterian Church.

The school began with 15 male students, four desks, two tables, and two chairs. The First President of the University was David Sutherland Hibbard of Lyndon, Kansas. His statue is in front of the CAP Building on Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete. The first faculty consited of Reverend Hibbard and his wife Laura. From 1901 to 1912, it was a boys school. In 1910, Silliman was given the right to confer degrees. In 1912, girls were admitted for the first time. In 1938, Silliman became a university, the first school outside of Manila to be granted university status.

Silliman has a main campus near the center of Dumaguete City, dotted by large acacia trees. The campus has a land area of 610,000 square meters. It originally faced the sea to the east and its gates are flanked by the portals which are now symbols of the university.

Other facts:
* The school is recognized by the Commission on Higher Education as being a "Center of Excellence" in nursing, teachers' education, and Coastal Resources Management.

* Silliman University is CHED Center of Development in Physics, Biology, Marine Sciences Mechanical Engineering, Business and Management Education, and Information Technology.

* The school is host to the annual Church Workers Convocation, a gathering of hundreds of members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines— from around the country.

* It is among the top 3 schools in physical therapy with outstanding board exam performance.

* Silliman is among the country’s top 3 centers for development in Business Education.

* The College of Agriculture ranked among the Top 3 schools in the country.

* The College of Performing Arts (formerly School of Music and Fine Arts) has produced great names in Philippine Music Education history. Among them are ethnomusicologist Priscilla Magdamo, violinist Gilopez Kabayao and baritone Elmo Makil. Silliman is also a pioneer in Choral Music Education in the country.

* The Silliman Information Technology program received 100% rating from CHED.

* Silliman is also recognized as one of the leading schools in marine biology in Asia with the Marine Laboratory as its home.

* Silliman is among the country’s Top 10 schools included in the annual BPI Science Awards for student achievement.

* Silliman has a continuing exchange student program with three Japanese Universities (International Christian University, Shikoku Gakuin University and Ferris University).

* Silliman is on the Top 10 List of schools in the Philippines listed as No. 4.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pulang Bato

Easter Weekend is a time to go swimming in Dumaguete. Many folks migrate to the beach, others to the swimming pools in nearby resorts. In any event, it is a time for family and renewal. What better way than to take a day off and go swimming?

I like cool temperarures, and Good Friday was blistering hot last week. We had not made reservations at a resort, and did not feel like fighting the crowds at the various beaches, so off to Pulang Bato we went. Where is Pulang Bato you ask? Well it is a little known small series of waterfalls in the moutains on the way to the PNOC Geothermal generating plant in Valencia. Recently upgraded with stone lined natural swimming pools, and a nipa pavilion, it is a small out of the way place you have to just know about.

Pulang Bato is the place of red rocks. The rocks are red stained from all the minerals issuing forth from the shear rock walls on the way up the small paved road to the falls. Many come just to bath in these waters for medicinal reasons. Bamboo tubes protrude from the rocks in certain spots, delivering the healing mineral waters to bathers. Further up the road lies the swimming area and water falls. The entire region is rife with volcanic stem vents and sulfuric mud slides.
To our surprise there were a gathering of students at the main falls, so not wishing to join in drinking with the kids, we ventured up the stone staircase to the upper falls. This tiny pool and personal waterfall was completely deserted. Ading and I enjoyed a refreshing dip and were quickly cooled down to a very comfortable temperature. After an hour or so we ventured back down the road stopping once at one of the mineral water springs so Ading could treat an insect bite. It was a nice quick trip, a good swim, and a pleasant afternoon. By the way they charge 10 Pesos per person to enter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Japanese-American-Philippine Shrine

1,200 meters above sea level, the Philippine-American-Japanese shrine is located at Barangay Sagbang, Built in 1977 to commemorate the spot where a heated battle took place in World War Two, it stands as a three nation memorial to this conflict’s end.
On 26 April, 1945 remnants of the 164th U.S. infantry went ashore at Sibulan, some five miles (8 km) north of Dumaguete, rendezvoused with a Reconnaissance Troop of the 40th Division, and in two days, attacked the 1,300 strong Japanese force entrenched in forbidding hill positions surrounding Dumaguete. One of these sites was where the shrine now stands in silent and all but forgotten tribute.

It is possible to reach the shrine by motorcycle in dry weather, but it is a dangerous and tricky ascent. There are actually two routes going to the shrine. One goes up from Balugo Valencia just outside Dumaguete, and the other goes around the mountain from Valencia, near Cassaroro falls. Either route is arduous, and should only be attempted by experienced motorcyclists. The trail winds up and down the moutain with up to 60% grades in some locations. Loose gravel and washouts are common. The safest way to visit is to hire a jeep or four wheeler to make the trip. Given that there are few signs indicating the way, a guide would be a good idea as well.

True to our adventurous nature… we traveled to the shrine with none of the above. And as a further testament to our adventurous spirit, we not only rode our motorcycles to the shrine, but made the complete round trip from Balugo, to the shrine, then on to Valencia! The ride was the high point of the trip as it turned out.

The shrine itself is in a state of serious neglect. Not that the property is not well kept, there is simply nothing there to give a clue as to what the place actually is. There are no plaques, (rumour has it the local Barangay captain took the monument plaque and put away for safe keeping??), no signage of any kind, nor anyone that seems to be on duty to collect the 10 Peso entrance fee. That said, the Japanese Shrine offers an incredible view of the Dumaguete harbour, Cebu, and Siquijor island. It is easy to see why the Japanese saw this as an excellent defensive position. It is a beautiful spot, but I am not sure everyone will have their expectations met if they are expecting any kind of organized presentation of historical information.
There is a monkey in a cage…

After hanging out and catching our breath from our motocross expedition up the hill, we decided to trek on to Valencia, hoping the road there would be even just a bit less difficult. It wasn’t. The hardest part was finding the road to Valencia, as the shrine access road was a dead end. We tried to ask the few folks at the shrine, all had varying stories as to the whereabouts of the road continuing to Valencia. I had a good idea that the fork in the trail we had passed a few kilometers down the road was the way. As it turned out, after asking several more passers by we came to the point where we had to decide. Back the way we came, or on to unknown parts in search Valencia.

It was a no brainer, on to the unknown we would go. The road was a bit longer in distance than our ascent, but the inclines were more mild, still, washed out dirt trails were the norm. As we turned and twisted towards Valencia throught the mountains, we were occasionally forced to stop just to take in the outstanding vistas presented to us. Finally we came to a concrete road and a stream forded by a bridge. We again stopped our bikes and enjoyed a moment at this last bit of primitive Philippines before trekking on to now nearby by Valencia.

After a kilometer or three, we came to the main road to Valencia. We stopped at Tejeros swimming area to have a beer at the restaurant located adjacent. Three beers later and a hot meal and we were recounting our newest adventure to ourselves and wondering how many others had followed our path.

Included as an imbedded video is a piece done by a Japanese television crew some years ago. The slide show is from our trip 3/20/08 Enjoy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taclobo Barangay Choppers

One gets to meet some good folks here in the Philippines. It's even better when through serendipitous events, two or more can be brought together to create something exceptional.

In this case my friend Alan had a motorcycle he recently purchased used transformed into a work of art by another friend, Newton.

Newton has been a motorcycle painter and repair technician for some years. I have known him to be talented and very creative with his work. When Al bought a chopped Chinese 150cc cruiser from another expat, he asked if I knew anyone who might be able to paint it and do some repairs. Newton had great mechanical talents, and could also paint. The plot was hatched.

Afew days later Al and I went to Newton's shop, and as it turned out he wasn't too busy at the moment. He was all ears and very interested in the project.

One thing led to the next and the bike was literally transformed. Pictures will do more to serve the result than words, so here goes. Newton has been excited about the prospects of doing more bikes, so who knows TBC may become a Philippine franchise.