Last Saturday, the food group hopped on a big bus and went on a long lunch at Claude Tayag's Bale Dutung (Wooden House). Many of us had met through blogs, and you'll find links to photo essays on Our Awesome Planet, Rants and Raves, etc. Check my link list to find the sites.
Since the food and the trip itinerary will be written about by others, my only addition to all this virtual discussion is to highlight a few things that we went through togeter. For instance, the tennis racket bed. Mr. Tayag is quite the renaissance man: painter, architect, economist, designer, chef. He built his house from bits and pieces over ten years, including buying a bowling alley in order to use the floor boards for his house. The entire walking space doesn't creak, and has a really polished look to it. I felt like testing a bowling ball on it, but I may want to go back to Bale Dutung in the future.
Going back to the bed, Mrs. Tayag was giving us a tour of the living quarters and we all commented on a beautiful curved hammock like bed in the living room. She shared how it was made of molded rattan which gave it strength, but a lightness that made it easy to move from outdoors to inner quarters. I thought it was from a hardwood, but she explained it would be impossible to bend the wood in the frame. The idea of the bed came from the design of a tennis racket, with hemp netting to give the mattress support. Everyone had a try on the bed, figuring out where their center of gravity was to get the perfect spot on the bed.
Along the upper reaches of the windows, the Tayags have set up a collection of sand from around the country. Brown, black, pink, coarse, fine. They've labeled the glass or plastic containers, and in one small corner, a long glass tube stands with layers of sand each identified by a small sticker.
Sculpture also plays a distinctive part on the property. You could say that the entire house is a big piece of sculpture, but he had several whimsical wooden pieces, colored like a child's wooden blocks or puppets, in shapes that made you think they were human or animalistic or perhaps expressive of anything you wished it to be. Elephant? Tree? Bonsai? Actually, there were two rather large dwarf tree stations along the upper balcony, one of a juniper tree, the other of palms, perhaps coconut palms.
According to Mrs. Tayag, the most photographed spot at Bale Dutung is Claude's collection of antique ladels, mostly wooden igorot or mountain inspired carved pieces. Tied to a rack, they make quite a display in the kitchen, raising the area from merely an outdoor cooking spot, to display case and museum.
Near the tables, there were 7 or 8 oddly shaped stools, that upon closer inspection are the seats used by coconut harvesters to remove the meat from coconut shells. I am at a loss to remember the term for them in Tagalog, but they might make you think of a saddle, except they are wooden in shape, plus they have stool like legs. at one end is a metal prong, where the coconuts are scraped. Each of these stools had distinctive shapes though. One looked like a pig, the other had a doglike quality to it, another for those interested in squatting over a lizard. There were seats perfect for small bums, wide bums, round, flat.
Finally, his last collection was his suka or vinegar aging. He sells aged suka with sili, but what was interesting to gaze at was the large glass jars filled with vinegar at different stages of aging. He also kept the cultures, the sediments, and the starters. Some looked like pale amber, the others like a dark, Guinessy brew. The jars are themselves antique pieces, he told us they had been used to hold chemicals in the 1800s and 1900s, brought in by ships by the thousands. Now, he stores his suka in them, and is always in the market for a new jar.
After a very long lunch (we stayed for over 4 hours), the troup left for a quick sojourn around Angeles. We stopped for tibok-tibok and candies, then headed into Fields Avenue for drinks. Seeing how close we were to Bohemia, I chose to walk over there (not realizing it would be at least 15 minutes before we got there, dodging the ladies enticing customers inside their brightly lit dens). 2 friends joined me for a walk, and we eventually found ourselves at Bohemia, which was looking quite empty for a Saturday night. All I wanted was bread, luckily they had loaves to spare and I brought back two hefty bricks home. Another set of friends then decided to follow suit, and walked without much guidance towards MacArthur Highway. When we finally picked them up they had quite a lot to say about their first peek into the red light district of Angeles. One guy was bugged by the sidewalk vendors to buy Viagra, and when he would demur was challenged "why? don't you want power?" Good thing he and his wife kept their sense of humor.