Angono: Exotic Food, Taka and Petroglyphs

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July 1st 2011
Published: July 2nd 2011
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Ang Nuno Artists Foundation GalleryAng Nuno Artists Foundation GalleryAng Nuno Artists Foundation Gallery

Also known as the Balaw Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery. Tucked in Angono, Rizal , just some 30 kilometers away from Manila.
They make for a very strange combination. Exotic food, as in "bizarre" in the words of Andrew Zimmern. "Taka" as in the art of papier mache. And the Angono Petroglyphs.

It wasn't my first time in Angono's Balaw Balaw Restaurant. And even before my first visit, I have heard enough about the exotic cuisine offered in this specialty restaurant cum art gallery. Artist Perdigon Vocalan has long gone; but his wife carries on the tradition so to speak. Angono is famous for its artists and Balaw Balaw seems to have lured many of them to this dining place for both eats and art talk. Around 100 of Perdigon Vocalan's paintings and those of other folk artists are displayed in the 2nd floor Museum above the specialty restaurant along with various sculptures and woodcarvings representing the rich cultural heritage and folklore of Angono, Rizal.

Call It A Food Adventure

It was too early for the dreaded "sawa" (snake) and "bayawak" (monitor lizard) dishes. That was some relief. 😊 I may be adventurous with food but I will most definitely have second thoughts about putting that stuff into my mouth. Instead, we partook of the "maruya" --- fried banana cooked
Higantes FestivalHigantes FestivalHigantes Festival

A borrowed photo. Effigies of the Spanish landlord of Angono and his family and cohorts parade all over town every Nov 23 during feast day of San Clemente.
with some flour and smothered with sugar. This I like. The ginger tea called "saluyot" that went with it was a perfect match. Reminded me of those afternoon snacks served by my grandmother back when tea was served in a bowl rather than an earless mug or tea cup.

The place is called "Balaw Balaw" after that very Tagalog side serving cum appetizer or sauce made from "alamang" (tiny shrimps) mixed with rice and some herb called "angkak" to give it a reddish coloring. Fermented for some 3 days, this side serving goes well wrapped in "mustasa" or mustard leaves, and eaten with anything grilled like fish or meat. Some actually use it like one would use "patis" ( local fish sauce ) with their "sinigang" or sour broth.

Would you believe there are 12 kinds of sinigang (sour broth) in this food establishment? I do remember having tried in the past this sinigang dish with fish native to Angono-Binangonan-Baras-Tanay area. Sinigang na kanduli ("kanduli" is a kind of catfish) is good. I also liked the grilled "hito" or catfish. And the fried "dalag" (mudfish or snakehead fish) fished from the nearby Laguna Bay with its yummy
Hands on the Hips for my MasterHands on the Hips for my MasterHands on the Hips for my Master

The papier mache dolls resemble the Spanish landlords of the Angono locals tilling their lands. Mestizo features and hands on the hips are sure give aways.
roe! Although they serve it, this place entices you to be more adventurous outside of the usual or traditional Filipino dishes like kare-kare, kaldereta, and ihaw-ihaw. Not to forget, there is also the Fried Itik--- the tagalog version of the famous Peking Duck. So, what are you guys having? As for me, I'm quite content with the maruya, ginger tea, and an hour's look-see around the 2nd floor Art Gallery and the 3rd floor craftshop for the "taka".

The Art Capital of the Philippines and the Higantes Festival

Angono boasts of 2 National Artists: the late muralist Botong Francisco and the musician Maestro Lucio San Pedro. Many of the Angono artists, including Perdigon Vocalan, were influenced by the late Carlos "Botong" Francisco who died in 1968. Some of his works can be found at the Manila Hotel (the mural "Fiesta", 1947) and at the Manila City Hall (the "Threshers", "Pounding Rice", and "Muslim Bethrothal").

On the other hand, the Angono National Symphonic Band exists, though not too many have heard of it. Maestro San Pedro inspired many musical talents through his guidance of this band. His most famous musical piece is "Sa Ugoy ng

The art of papier mache, local version. This is the same method used in making those effigies used in the Higantes Festival.
Duyan"(translated "Rocking of the Crib or Cradle") with lyrics from the equally famous Levi Celerio, immortalized in a woodcarving or wood sculpture to be found in this Art Gallery . San Pedro passed away in 2002, almost on the same date as Botong Francisco. Foreigners may not be able to relate to this, but every Filipino heart is touched by this melodious song and meaningful lyrics about a child pining for his mother and fond memories of a mother's lullaby as her child sways in a cradle or baby hammock.

We sat for a few more minutes to watch how "taka" is made. Frankly, it is your usual papier mache but instead of vases, bowls, jars, or picture frames, this Angono art flourished to a form that the Higantes Festival of Angono is now celebrated every November 23. The "Higantes" (literally translates to "giants") are actually giant caricatures made of papier mache. Effigies of Spanish masters which are paraded around during the fluvial town fiesta. Folklore has it that the caricatures are those of the Spanish landlords for lands tilled by Angono locals. This explains the sharp features in the "higantes" masks and dolls, and the almost-typical
Angono-Binangonan PetroglyphsAngono-Binangonan PetroglyphsAngono-Binangonan Petroglyphs

Technically in the area of Binangonan, the rock carvings of humans and animals here date back to 3,000 BC.
hands-on-the-hips representations crafted by the Angono folks. It is said that in a way, the art of mask-making was an expression of how locals view their "masters" or landlords. I have never been to its fiesta , but it should be interesting to witness one this coming November 23. Amazing how local folks turned papier mache into an art in this neck of the woods. The papier mache masks certainly bear a resemblance to long-ago mestizo landlords. The arrogant placement of the hands on the hips is the perfect give away.

The Angono Petroglyphs

Although the site is technically part of the nearby town of Binangonan, Rizal , it is more commonly called Angono Petroglyphs by locals. Interestingly, the petroglyphs were discovered by no less than National Artist Botong Francisco back in 1965.

The rock art dates back to circa 3000 BC, making it the most ancient prehistoric work of art in the country. There are 127 rock engravings of human and animal figures, and collectively counts among the World Inventory of Rock Art. I honestly expected much of this visit, and must confess to a sense of disappointment to find a short stretch of rock carvings. But then again, I do not pretend to have the "eye" for art , as did Botong Francisco who discovered this place in one of his aimless walks around his town.

Another Time for Other Museums

Angono being the Art Capital of the Philippines (may I add, "contemporary art") , boasts of other museums and art galleries in the area. An art gallery mine, you can say. There's the Blanco Museum, Nemiranda Arthouse and Cafe (i just love it when artists run cafes and restaurants to lure art lovers), the Hernandez Studio, Tiamzon Gallery, The Second Gallery and the Juban Art Studio and the Village Artist Gallery. But one can only visit a few in a day trip. So, another time perhaps. For now, I sense art and culture overload. 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Tunnel to the Petroglyphs Tunnel to the Petroglyphs
Tunnel to the Petroglyphs

From Eastridge Golf Club, one takes this tunnel to get to the site.
Higantes FestivalHigantes Festival
Higantes Festival

Celebrated every November 23rd on the feast day of San Clemente. (This is a borrowed photo)
The Specialty RestaurantThe Specialty Restaurant
The Specialty Restaurant

Quite easy to miss, actually. But for sure, you can ask around for directions. Via Ortigas Avenue and Manila East Road, just go straight towards Binangonan. Travel time is about one hour from Metro Manila.
Balaw Balaw RestaurantBalaw Balaw Restaurant
Balaw Balaw Restaurant

Home of exotic food ranging from "sawa" (snake) to "bayawak" (monitor lizard) ---- truly a must-destination for Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Food.
Inside Balaw Balaw RestaurantInside Balaw Balaw Restaurant
Inside Balaw Balaw Restaurant

As you go up the stairs to the 2nd floor Art Gallery, you pass this artfully-designed corner.
Most Certainly a SpaniardMost Certainly a Spaniard
Most Certainly a Spaniard

This mask is most certainly that of a Spaniard, not of a Filipino.
Contemporary Art of Perdigon VocalanContemporary Art of Perdigon Vocalan
Contemporary Art of Perdigon Vocalan

About a hundred paintings , sculptures and woodcarvings of Perdigon Vocalan, along with some Angono artists. Most were influenced by the art of National Artist Botong Francisco.
Workshop on the 3rd FloorWorkshop on the 3rd Floor
Workshop on the 3rd Floor

On the 3rd floor of Balaw Balaw Restaurant is this Workshop where taka dolls are crafted, displayed and stored for the next Higantes Festival every November 23.

3rd July 2011

Hi Tita Lili, I remembered taking this Angono tour for my Humanities class in College, definitely one of the most memorable Philippine travel experience. Our tourism agency should definitely put their efforts on marketing this artsy and cultural side of the Philippines, and its not very far from Manila.
3rd July 2011

You have peaked my interest
I have no explanation but the Philippines has never held a tremendous amount of interest for me until I met you. I now regret we didn't make it there on our around the world trip. I guess I'll have to start planning an adventure in your part of the world.
10th July 2011
Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs

Hi tita Lily, I always wanted to see these petroglyphs. Thanks for posting ! One of my aunt lives in Binangonan Rizal. I asked her to take me to the petroglyphs the last time I went for a visit, but unfortunately she's not aware about their existence.
27th October 2012

great and amazed
great picture this year i make it appoint to see the beauty of angono rizal.

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