Masada: the Last Fortress

Masada, which means “fortress” in Hebrew, is a place of history, defiance, triumph and tragedy all rolled in one. About three months ago, we had the chance to visit this place.

After Jerusalem, Masada is the second most visited site for tourists in Israel. This fortress became a symbol of pride for the Jewish people, as it was their last stronghold against the Roman invasion.

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Masada is located at the western end of the Judean Desert. Sitting on top of an isolated rock plateau, with surrounding cliffs as natural barrier, it is understandable why it was so hard to conquer it.

Today, it does not shun intruders, instead it even invites guests to come for a visit. To get to this fortress though, you have to ride a lift.

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There is also a trail going through stairs that you can hike from the bottom of the valley to the top of the cliff.  This route is for the more adventurous souls, and definitely you need to be in excellent condition to go up this way.

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After reaching the top, we feasted on the spectacular view around us.

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Masada is overlooking the Dead Sea valley which is the lowest point on earth.

Photo below is the Dead Sea which is about 430 meters below sea level, while the height from the valley floor below to the Masada fortress is 450 meters. So even though it looks that this fortress is at such a height, in actuality, it is at sea level.

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While we were on top of the cliff, we saw some paragliders sailing above the Masada fort. I would say this is far more cooler way to tour Masada, that is through a bird’s-eye view.

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King Herod the Great built the Masada fortress as a refuge for himself. Not only as a fortress, but on the northern part of it, separated by a wall from the fort, is a residential villa for the king.

Below is what remains of a palace court.

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Even what was left were ruins, it can be noted that this king’s palace was such a lavish place during its heyday. Photo below is one of the terraces of the king’s villa.

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King Herod the Great found a way to bring water to this fortress. Not just that it was in the middle of a desert, but also bringing up water to such a high place took a lot of engineering, logistics and possibly enormous brute labor.

Below is what remains of a large bath house.

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This specific room is the caldarium, where the suspended floor was supported by rows of low pillars, so hot air from the furnace outside, can be blown under the floor and through clay pipes along the walls, to heat the room to the desired temperature. In other words, it was the sauna! Who would have thought sauna was existing already more than two thousand years ago?

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After Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 CE, a group of Jewish rebels, zealots, and their family, held the fort of Masada. According to history written by Josephus Flavius, the Romans established camp at the base of Masada, and the fort was laid in siege. The Romans constructed a ramp from thousands of stones and beaten earth against the western wall of the fortress. It was said that part of the ramp were bodies of dead Roman soldiers, who died during the battle.

Below is the photo of the ramp the Romans built to conquer Masada.

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Finally in 74 CE, the Romans moved a battering ram up this ramp, and breached the wall of the fortress.

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The tragic story of Masada was when the Jewish defenders realized that it was apparent that the fortress would fall and they would be conquered, they decided to commit a mass suicide. There were almost one thousand men, women and children. They chose to die from their own swords than be conquered.

Those Jewish defenders casted lots to choose 10 men who would kill the last survivors. And then the last Jew killed himself, before the fort finally fell to the Roman invaders.

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Masada, a mighty fortress by a mighty people. Yes, it was breached and invaded. But never conquered.

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(*all photos taken by pinoytransplant)

 

 

 

Walking Through Old Jerusalem

In our trip to the Holy Land, we walked inside Old Jerusalem. It is a walled city that roughly covers one square kilometer within the modern city of Jerusalem. It’s a place that has been, and still is, the center of constant clash of powers throughout history.

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The city of Jerusalem have been surrounded by walls for its defense since ancient times. These walls have been destroyed several times but also have been rebuilt through the ages depending on whose occupying the city.

Since Biblical times, the walls of Jerusalem have been well-known. Photo below is the tower of David, old Jerusalem’s citadel, located on the western side of the walled city.

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Most of the walls that exist today is from the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century, when Sultan Suleiman decided to fully rebuild the walls.

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Entrance through the walled city is through several gates. Currently there are eight open gates to the city. The ninth gate, the Golden Gate, is blocked and closed, as according to tradition, is awaiting for the arrival of the Messiah.

Below is one of the gates leading to the old city. I believe this one is called the New Gate.

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We entered the city through the Jaffa gate and began our walk inside the old city.

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Perhaps the most known part of Jerusalem’s wall is the Western Wall, or also known as the Wailing Wall. This is considered sacred by the Jews, believed to be the only remnant of the wall that was part of the Second Jewish Temple, rebuilt and renovated by King Herod the Great, and was destroyed by the Romans. (The first temple was built by King Solomon and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E.)

The Wailing Wall has been the site for pilgrimages and a place to pray for the Jews, where it is believed that one has immediately has the “ear of God.” Below is part of the Wailing Wall.

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Walking through the narrow streets and alleys inside the old city gives you a feeling that you’re walking through the pages of history.

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Most of these small streets are only passable by walking.

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Though there are very narrow alleys that cars can drive through.

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There is also a part of our walk that we went through market-like alleys. As a Filipino, I feel like I was in Divisoria or Tutuban in the Philippines.

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There is food, spices, jewelry, and other merchandises as you can imagine.

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There is even this Holy Rock Café. Only in Jerusalem.

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But perhaps the most visited locations in Old Jerusalem are the churches and religious sites.

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A famous path for pilgrims and visitors is the path known as Via Dolorosa, or Way of Suffering. It is also called the Way of the Cross. This path is believed to be the path that Jesus took from Pontius Pilate’s court, to Calvary, and finally to his tomb.

On this Way of the Cross are 14 stations where significant events were believed to have happened. However, many of these locations were based on traditions only, rather than hard facts or archeological findings.

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Above photo is station V, where Simon of Cyrene was compelled by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus. Below are other stations we passed through.

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We also passed this church, the Holy Sepulchre Church, which by tradition is the site that encompass both Calvary where Jesus was crucified and the tomb where he was buried.

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As expected it was packed, and there was a long line of people waiting to enter this church.

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It will be unfair and I will not give the real picture of Jerusalem if I only mention the famous sites for Jews and Christians. In fact, if you view Jerusalem from afar (see the very first photo), the most conspicuous structure is the golden dome, known as the Dome of the Rock. This is a Muslim shrine believed to be the site where Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Below is the Mosque of Omar, which is adjacent to the Church of Holy Sepulchre.

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Definitely Old Jerusalem is a place that provides a passageway to the storied past. It is also a crossroad of the past, present, and perhaps even of the future.

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It was quite an experience for me walking through Old Jerusalem, adding my footprints in the thoroughfare of time.

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(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Rewriting History

After almost half a century on this earth, I can say that I have been a witness to many milestone events. Spending half of my life in the Philippines and the rest in America, I would say that both of these places are seeing current events that history experts probably never imagined would happen.

This I can say for sure, as I have seen it happened: people who hated you today, will embrace you tomorrow. And people who revered you today, will curse you tomorrow.

As the saying goes, “the only constant in this world is change.”

Take for example the changing political landscape in America, where I reside now.

Who would have predicted that someone like “the Donald” who many considered as a joke, and many would not take him seriously as a presidential candidate, even in his own party, would end up taking the highest office of this country. And he won it in a convincing fashion too.

If you listen to all the hurled insults during the campaign period, you would think this world is out of its mind. Or maybe it is. A circus act? Racist? Sexist? Fascist? True or not, it does not seem to matter.

The people have spoken. He is the elected 45th president of the United States of America.

Politicians, especially from his own party, who have tried to distance themselves from Trump before the election, are now backpedaling trying to align with the new elected leader.

How would America be under President Trump? Let’s just wait for the history to write itself.

Then let’s go to the current events in my homeland.

As good students of history know, the former President Ferdinand Marcos was deposed and expelled by “People Power” revolution in 1986. I was in college at that time, and been an eyewitness and even a part of that historic event.

Who would have imagined that after three decades, he will be embraced again by the same nation that derided him as a dictator, and would consider him now as a great president and a hero, finding his final resting place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

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And who would have thought that a name that has been synonymous before to a hero, or a name even toyed to be considered as a saint, would be the same name that many people would find now as unfavorable.

What changed?

But to be candid, people are restless and are always craving for a change. Unless that change that they clamor for is brought in, their loyalties would change. And that’s very understandable.

Whatever happened have happened. The events of the past did not change. It is the perception of the people that have changed. Whether it is right or wrong, I don’t know. Nor am I in a position to pass judgment.

Perhaps let’s just wait for the history to rewrite itself as the years go by.

 

Pilipino Idioms of Nineteen Kopong-kopong

Recently a friend of ours has been posting article links in his Facebook about expressions that we grew up with. I find it quite interesting.

Our vernacular is rich with idiomatic expressions that would confuse the uninitiated to our native language. Or maybe even us who grew up speaking Pilipino, have no idea where these expressions came from.

Here are some of them.

1. Pahanon pa ni Limahong. Or pahanon pa ni Mahoma. Or since Nineteen Kopong-kopong.

All those expressions mean that they are from such a long time ago. Example: Iyong mga damit mo, old-style na, panahon pa ‘yan ni Mahoma. 

But who is Limahong? Or Mahoma? Or who or what is Kopong-kopong?

Limahong or Lim Ah Hong is a Chinese pirate who invaded the northern part of the Philippines and tried to seize the city of Manila from the Spaniard in 1574. So he was a real person from such a long time ago. Definitely before our time.

While Mahoma is actually Masaharu Homma, a Japanese Imperial Army general.  He was well-remembered for his role in the invasion and occupation of the Philippines during World War II. What may endeared General Homma to our people is that he ordered his troops to treat the Filipinos not as enemies but as friends, and respect their customs and religion. Thus we still say his name in our idioms.

What about Kopong-kopong? Is that a person?

Kopong is actually an old Tagalog word and also an Indonesian word that means empty, or nothing, or zero. So kopong-kopong is coined from the year 1900 which has two zero (00), thus Nineteen kopong-kopong.

2. Pagputi ng uwak

Literal translation means “when the crow turns white.” This just expresses something that will never happen. The idiom is similar to English expressions like “when pigs fly,” or “when hell freezes over.”

To use this expression in a sentence: Babayaran ko ang utang ko sa iyo pagputi ng uwak.

By the way, there’s a film that was entitled, “Pagputi ng uwak, pag-itim ng tagak” release in 1978, starring now governor of Batangas, Vilma Santos, and Bembol Roco. I did not see that film nor do I know the story plot of the movie. But during that time who knew that Vilma Santos will someday be a governor? So can we say “pumuti ang uwak?”

3. Aabutin ng siyam-siyam

Siyam-siyam (or literally nine-nine) is a term used for the annual prolonged rains brought about by the southwest monsoon or “habagat” weather system in the Philippines during the months of May to September.

The old folks believe that this rain system takes nine days and nine nights and is what they are waiting for. Especially farmers, as it makes the fields soft, and therefore easier to plow and to plant rice.

It also used to mean a long wait.

To use this idiom in a sentence: Inabot ako ng siyam-siyam sa kakahintay para makasakay ng jeep.

4. Mabilis pa sa alas quatro

This means to leave in a mad rush.

In the old Manila, in Lawton at the foot of Quezon bridge, there was a huge factory, the Insular Ice Plant. It had an imposing 10-storey chimney. It also had a loud siren. The siren goes off at 7 AM to indicate start of work, at 12 noon to indicate lunch break, and at 4 PM to indicate end of work.

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Insular Ice Plant

So at the sound of the siren at 4 PM, you can just imagine the dash of the workers too eager to leave work.

To use in a sentence: Nang dumating ‘yung naniningil ng utang, umalis siyang mabilis pa sa alas quatro.

5. Wala kahit sinkong duling

This has something to do with the 5-centavo coin, which is the lowest value coin besides the 1-centavo. The 5-centavo coin back in the days was much larger (20 mm in diameter in the 1960’s) and can buy you something, unlike today, it is much smaller (15.5 mm) and practically has no value.

Singkong duling literally means a “cross-eyed 5-centavo.” A person who is cross-eyed sees a double image of the 5-centavo coin. One image is real, but the other image is not. Thus sinkong duling is a non-existent 5-centavo coin. It’s a mirage.

So if a 5-centavo has very little value, how much less is an imaginary image of it.

Use in a sentence: Hindi man lang ako binigyan ng balato, kahit sinkong duling.

6. Magsunog ng kilay

This means to study hard or staying late up night studying.

This idiom came from the fact that during the olden times, when there’s no electricity yet, people use only gas lamp (gasera), oil lamps, or candles to read when it is dark. It is then understandable that when a person is reading for a long time near an open flame, there’s a possibility that his/her eyebrows will be singed or get burned. Thus “nagsusunog ng kilay.”

I can just envision that the most studious students during those times have no eyebrows left. Whoever invented the eyebrow pencil must be a very good student!

7. Kalapating mababa ang lipad

The term is a euphemism for a prostitute.

During the American occupation, there is a place in Tondo Manila, which is a red-light district called Palomar. So before Malate, Ermita, P. Burgos, and EDSA of today came about, there was Palomar in Tondo.

The word paloma means dove or pigeon in Spanish, while Palomar means a pigeon-house. So the women offering their leisure service were called palomas de bajo vuelo or low-class birds. Thus the expression “kalapating mababa ang lipad.”

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So there you have it folks. I hope you have learned something, as I did, looking up these interesting history and facts of our colorful language.

(*photo from Pinterest.com)

Gurang Ka Na Ba?

Gusto mo bang magbalik tanaw sa nakaraan? Halina’t sariwain natin ang mga karanasan noong tayo’y bata pa. Ilan kaya sa mga ito ang naaalala mo pa? Ang munting quiz na ito ay para sa mga bata noong dekada 70-80’s.

 

1. “Nasaan ang tibay mo?” Ito ay isang commercial tungkol sa:

A. semento

B. tsinelas

C. bangko

D. beer

 

2. Ang Bazooka na nabibili sa sari-sari store ay:

A. iniinom

B. ipinapahid

C. pinipiga

D. nginunguya

 

3. Sangyon sa kanta ni Dingdong Avanzado, magkano raw ang kailangan para makatawag sa telepono?

A. trenta sentimos

B. singkwenta sentimos

C. tatlong bente-singko

D. apat na bente-singko

 

4. Ano ang mga kailangan para makapaglaro ng tumbang preso?

A. lata at tsinelas

B. tsinelas at patpat

C. patpat at goma

D. lata at lubid

 

5. Ang laser sword ay ultimatong sandata ni:

A. Mazinger Z

B. Voltes V

C. Power Rangers

D. Voltron

 

6. Sino ang hindi kasama sa pelikulang Bagets?

A. William Martinez

B. Herbert Bautista

C. Aga Mulach

D. Richard Gomez

 

7. “Hindi lang pampamilya, pang sports pa!” Ito ay commercial ng:

A. sports bra

B. kotse

C. rubbing alcohol

D. gin

 

8. Ano ang hindi pelikula ni Fernando Poe Jr?

A. Umpisahan Mo, Tatapusin Ko

B. Anak ni Baby Ama

C. Ang Panday

D. Kapag Puno Na Ang Salop

 

9. Ano ang hindi laro sa Game and Watch?

A. Octopus

B. Egg

C. Space Invader

D. Chef

 

10. Saan mo narinig ito: “Boom tiyaya boom tiyaya boom tiyaya boom!”

A. isang Filipino rap song

B. isang commercial ng shampoo

C. sayaw sa Eat Bulaga

D. sa isang larong pambata

 

11. Sino ang gumanap na isa sa anak ni Dolphy sa show na “John en Marsha?”

A. Vandolph

B. Janice de Belen

C. Maricel Soriano

D. Niño Mulach

 

12. Sino ang hindi player ng Crispa?

A. Atoy Co

B. Manny Paner

C. Bogs Adornado

D. Philip Cesar

 

13. Alin ang hindi kanta ni Sharon Cuneta at Rey Valera?

A.  Kung Kailangan Mo Ako

B. Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko

C. Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos

D. Maging Sino Ka Man

 

14. Anong pangalan ng first airconditioned bus sa Metro Manila?

A. Love Bus

B. JD liner

C. BLTB transit

D. Philtranco

 

15. Anong department store ang may palabas na gumagalaw na mga mannequin tuwing Pasko noon?

A. Ali Mall

B. Harrison Plaza

C. C.O.D.

D. Rustan’s

 

16. Anong sagot sa bugtong na ito: “Isda ko sa mariveles, nasa loobs ang kaliskis.”

A. sili

B. galunggong

C. sardinas

D. atis

 

17. Noong martial law, tuwing flag ceremony, anong kanta ang inaawit pagkatapos ng “Lupang Hinirang?”

A. Bayan Ko

B. Bagong Lipunan

C. Leron Leron Sinta

D. Mga Kababayan Ko

 

18. Anong laro ang may kantang: “rikitik-kitik and a blue black sheep?”

A. shato

B. Chinese garter

C. Monkey, Annabelle

D. prisoner’s base

 

19. Ano ang “Student Canteen?”

A. karinderia sa Iskul Bukol

B. isang noontime TV show

C. isang bookstore

D. isang night club

 

20. Ang radio broadcaster na nagpasikat ng “toning water” ay si:

A. Joe Taruc

B. Rey Langit

C. Johnny Midnight

D. Brother Mike

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(For correct answers please see comment section.)

Score:

16 or above: isa kang tunay na batang dekada 70-80’s.

8-15: maaaring hindi ka pa ipinanganak noong 70-80’s, pero may alam ka sa history.

7 or below: maaaring matanda ka na, at naguulianin ka na rin.

From Much to Mulch

Here lies our once proud and perfect tree,

Once adorned with lights and decoration,

Nestled underneath were our precious gifts,

Once the center of attention and conversation.

But now, it is left on the side of the road,

Abandoned. Waiting to be recycled,

Waiting to be mulched, what will be left

Is just a memory.

Our gifts and adornments too will pass,

Life is so fleeting, just like a Christmas tree,

Even perfect ones will fade

Into distant history.