Saturday, January 26, 2013

Estudio Damgo - Week 9

This week we are back onsite at Malaunay.  The main tasks of the day are to finish the digging of the septic tank, cement plaster finish the hallow block walls, and assemble the form-work for the rammed earth wall.  The soil from the septic tank is transferred to tarps to sort out the larger stones from the dirt, the dirt is then dried in the sun to be used as the aggregate for the rammed earth mixture.

Efren assists Cheyenne, Leigh, and Rhea by lifting the bags of dirt from the septic tank hole.  The excavation is near complete.  This is the biggest man-dug hole (by shovel) I've ever witnessed.  Good job team!

Von is separating the stones from the dirt, so that we can use the soil as the aggregate to the rammed earth cement.

Rick, Jay, and Efren form the rammed earth wall which will be ready to pour the following day.

One of Foundation University's shop guys is cement plastering the Comfort Room (CR) interior wall.
Comfort Room is what Filipino's call the restroom/water closet back in the states.

Ray demonstrates how to remove a nail properly without wrecking the hammer or denting the board.

Form work is in place for the rammed earth pour.  We are using a 6:1 ratio of 6 parts dirt to 1 part cement.

Students hard at work.

Ray, Rick, and Cheyenne take a break from construction and discuss the door details for the building.  As part of the Estudio Damgo requirements, each student is responsible for detailing and managing a portion of the design which is divided into the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) standard format.  In this case, Cheyenne is responsible for Division 8 of CSI - Openings; which includes windows and doors.

The school is set in the rural foothills of Negros Island.  The hallow block wall is erected at the edge of the existing school play yard creating a distinct boundary and edge in this rural setting.  No need for a chain-link fence, because the building serves as a fence to the play yard.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mass Up Dumaguete!

Bike enthusiasts gathered for the first Critical Mass cycling ride on the streets of Dumaguete, Friday, January 25.  I organized the event similar to other Critical Mass groups from Seattle and Chicago which I have been a part.  Rallying for healthy and environmentally safe mode of transportation goes against the grain here in Dumaguete, where motorbikes and pedicabs rule the road.

Keeping in tradition of other Critical Mass rides, the group met at 5:30pm at Foundation University's main gate to ride during the peak of rush hour traffic.  The route took the mass on Jose Romero's busy highway, around Robinson's (the local shopping mall), the coastal boulevard, weaving through the commercial core and finishing at Hayahay for fish tacos and San Miguel national brew.  The first Critical Mass was a great success.  There were a total of 15 bikers enjoying a fun-ride together, welcoming the weekend, and charged to roll on for the next ride to happen Friday, February 22.

*Critical Mass is an event held on the last Friday of each month in over 300 cities world-wide for the purpose of cycling in a group and advocating for bike-friendly streets.

Above: I announce the Critical Mass message to ride in support of bike-friendly streets. Photo by Hersley-Ven Casero

Group photo of all the first-time Dumaguete massers.  Everyone was very excited! Photo by Psy Duck

Ching Amistoso and Amy Villanueva smiling big during the ride.  Props to Amy, she participated in the mass being 7 months pregnant!  Shows that the easy bike ride is good for all to join and support the cause.  Photo by Hersley-Ven Casero.

This shot shows Dumaguete's city seal along the famous coastal boulevard.  Photo by Hersley-Ven Casero.

Skateboarders even came along for the ride while we were passing through the Silliman Campus.  Photo by Hersley-Ven Casero.

We finish at Haya Hay. Group Photo by Psy Duck.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Estudio Damgo - Week 8

This week we took the Estudio Damgo team to the Bamboo Foundation of the Philippines where we learned how to assemble the bamboo trusses.  The Bamboo Foundation, located in Dauin, is a sustainable program to teach Filipinos how to grow and harvest bamboo.  They also show techniques on preserving and treating the bamboo for longevity, and they demonstrate the variety of ways to work with different species.  Estudio Damgo is using two different species; tinik and butong.  We're using tinik for the truss and it will be made into  exterior wall screens, called skeleton bamboo screening.  To make the screen, the tinik is cut longitudinally along the grain keeping and revealing the node connections.  This portion of the bamboo is then installed and secured at the top and bottom in a bamboo frame.  The half round bamboo sections left over from the skeleton screen will be assembled and installed as exterior corrugated panels.  The butong bamboo species is larger and more straight and is used for the columns.

The finished bamboo truss mock-up.  Photo by Ray Villanueva.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Chiang Mai New Year

After relaxing and visiting with relatives in Bangkok, I flew to Chiang Mai to meet Jef and Andre to ring in the New Year.  Chiang Mai is a mid-sized, university city located in Northern Thailand.  It's at a higher elevation than Bangkok and is nestled at the base of a mountain.  The air is cooler and the pace of the city is mellow.  Chiang Mai attracts many visitors who are on a spiritual path.  Buddhist temples are littered throughout the city and a very famous temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, is located outside of the city in the mountain along with the famous Phuping Palace (pronounced poo ping palace!). Taking advantage of the slower pace, I enrolled in a full-day Thai cooking class.  What a treat! My goal, to bring these tasty tips back to the Philippines...
Jef and I sampling the panang curry we just made.  WOW!  so good.  Panang curry is mashed with peanuts, which gives it a smoother, lighter/fluffier, slightly sweet and creamier texture.

The ingredients for Tom Yum soup all chopped up.  I was surprised on how little ingredients we used to make our serving sizes.  Realizing now, that when I cook, I chop too many vegetables... a little goes a long way.  Love the round cutting board made from a sliced tree trunk.

The following day, I rented a motorbike and ventured out of the Chiang Mai.  I stopped at a resort/lunch spot where hundreds of grassy open-air huts are propped along the river for the intent to relax the day away.  Many family and friend groups were doing just the same on New Years Eve day... Next to me, a group was playing a soft guitar melody that I could simply lay back while taking in the gentle breezes off the river.

Visiting the famous Wat PhraThat Doi Suthep Buddhist temple.  This was a very popular place on New Year's Eve.

 A steep ascent to the temple.

Monks singing into the New Year.

Enjoying the striking contrasting golden hue against a Prussian blue sky!

After my time at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, I headed back to the city center to celebrate New Year's by lighting off luminaries in the streets of Chiang Mai.  This was such a magical scene.  There were so many luminaries in the sky that they started forming new, twinkling constellations that could be viewed all over the city.    

 The full moon shining over us all accompanied by the constellating luminaries below.

Happy New Year!! Fireworks and the moon welcome 2013.  My experiences in Thailand have elevated my taste buds.  Thai food eaten anywhere else, does not compare to what they serve in Thailand.  I felt a distinct difference between Buddhist and Christian-rooted culture.  Thailand in general feels more peaceful, refined, delicate, and feminine.  Soft, yet colorful ornamentation depicting lotus flowers and other floral, organic patterns are restful and inspiring images for me.  And I never would have imagined seeing all the gilded spires to the sky!  Those forms have a lasting impression for me, changing my perspective on Buddhist practice, temples serving as conduits transforming universal energy for the purpose of reaching enlightenment.  A beautiful theory anyway...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Buddhas in Bangkok

After we spent three days in Cambodia and seeing Angkor Wat, the traveling trio (Jef, Andre, and myself) crossed the border into Thailand.  The border is like being in a herd of cattle.  The "no-man's land" between Cambodia and Thailand is a mishmash of tourists, local merchants, and congested traffic transporting goods between the two countries.  I was happy to finally cross over into Thailand and settle into a vanpool for a three plus hour car ride to Bangkok.

This bicycle trailer is peddled by hand rather than by foot.  This man is hauling who-knows-what across the border from Cambodia to Thailand.

Border Crossing, get in line!!

In Bangkok, I separated from Jef and Andre to meet up with relatives living in the city.  This was a great way to visit this modern place described as the tropical New York City.  I treated myself to three days in a nice hotel where they upgraded my reservation to a two room suite, equipped with kitchen and spa free of charge.  What a respite after living for two months at the alumni house in Dumaguete where I have been sharing the space with two other residents and the occasional, temporary visitor.  I was very happy to enjoy three days alone in a quiet, serene setting and enjoy the modern comforts and time with family.  I recommend those planning a trip to Bangkok to stay at The Silom Serene Hotel.

Meeting up with Scott after a good night's rest, we made our way to the historic old city where all the palaces and temples were built along the river.  Here, I was amazed by the jeweled and gilded facades.  I was surprised to see spires reaching to the sky and equally impressed with the extensive amount of precious materials used to clad the temples.  The temples are like conduits to collect universal energy.  The spires remind me of lighting rods atop tall buildings to channel electrical currents down to the ground, yet, in this case, the temples are all clad in gold - a perfect conducting metallic material for channeling such energy.

 A crowded river boat transports us from the city center to the historic palace and temple district.

 Gilded spires everywhere!

Decorative ornamentation detailed with jewels.

Outside the temple of the famous "Reclining Buddha" is a small shrine to offer blessings and prayer before entering the temple.

This is the largest reclining buddha ever.  The core is made from clay bricks creating the mass of the form and covered in a layer of gold.  This Buddha measures 43 meters long and 15 meters high.  This sculpture portrays Buddha's transition to enlightenment.

Waiting for a river boat to take us back to the city center.  It was common to bump into monks all over Bangkok.  A reminder to stay present, enjoy life, and that there are many different ways to live and experience our world.  

The Japanese District in Bangkok.  The night life here was famous for raucous and risky behaviors in the past, today, it's mellowed quite a bit.

My wonderful hosts: Scott Branson and Mary Baker.  They showed me the best parts of Bangkok.  My taste buds are also Very Thankful! Here we are enjoying a late dinner of traditional Thai food; including, panang curry and tom yum soup!  YUM!!

Enjoying a rooftop cocktail over Bangkok and under a full moon to boot.  Bangkok, I will visit again, soon.