Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wacky History Tours for Families

Jay Buenaflor, a 'stand-up historian,' tells families about Philippine history with a dash of jokes, role-playing, half and painful truths and general zaniness.  It makes the iPad generation interested in the past.  

With his trademark astute humor and banter with the kids, Buenaflor has been giving tourists and local families private tours of historic locales since 2011.

"Being a tour guide was the furthest thing on my mind coming back to the Philippines after 14 years in the US and Spain," Buenaflor said.  "I think being a juggling trapeze artist would have been more realistic, but, I'd just noticed that my kids had no way to access Philippine history in a manner that would capture their attention."

What started out as a series of activities for his daughter and son, then aged six and four years old respectively, turned into something quite extraordinary.  "First it was friends, relatives and then a friend took the whole thing quite seriously and let her friends know," he said. "Before I knew it I was contracted by a Montessori school in Quezon City."

His basic itinerary explores Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the Light and Sound Museum ("It's so kitschy - complete with animatronics - it screams, 'Only be in the Philippines!'  Think Disney version of Philippine history.") and side trips to San Agustin Church, The National Museum or Museo Pambata.

Buenaflor attributes experiential learning as the foundation he rests his activities on.  "Definitely, definitely the kids....and their parents....respond well when role playing and arts and crafts are involved.  They just find textbooks boring.  Heck, half of my guests probably don't know anymore what a textbook is," Buenaflor added.

He'd noticed that one of the things that kept people away from the historical core of Manila was security and traffic.  "I guess there's more than a kernel of truth in this whole 'gates of hell' thing,"  he added.  "Look, it's not exactly six hour traffic, but, yeah Intramuros can be a slug crawl to get to."

With that in mind, he decided to include pick up and drop off in his services.  "I take car of the driving and, plus, more importantly, you get to spend more time with me and my stories," he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

Buenaflor has decided to expand the scope of his tours to keep up with the requests of his guests.  "I've expanded into science-focused activities - we'd a day with a scientist that included a microbot workshop.  Yeah, it's as fun as it sounds," he said.

He made sure to include this gem:  "Don't let others tell you otherwise.  Metro Manila is more than just about malls.  It's been a while since I've heard my kids say, 'I'm bored.'  There's just so much to do here.  'Gates of hell' or not."

Jay Buenaflor can be contacted at 0923 702 2777 or

A minute to see what it's all about:

Group and Private Tours Available


- Pick up and drop off (depending on location and number of people)

- All entrance and guiding fees

- Fun activities and games

- Snacks and refreshment 

Itinerary 1:  Kids-centric and enjoyed by those with creative instincts.  Works for toddlers and tweeners.  

- Fort Santiago in Intramuros

- National Gallery at The National Museum:  Featuring the masters - Juan Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, Francisco, Legaspi among many others.

- Museo Pambata

Cost: P7,700.00 minimum of three persons / P375.00 per extra person

Duration: Four hours

Itinerary 2 

- Fort Santiago

- National Gallery

- Casa Manila


- San Agustin Church and Museum

Cost: P7,900.00 minimum of three persons / P395.00 per extra person 

Duration: Four hours

Itinerary 3

- Fort Santiago

- Light and Sound Museum

Cost: P8,500.00 minimum of three persons / P200.00 per extra person

Duration: Three hours

Itinerary 4

- Fort Santiago

- Light and Sound Museum

- Casa Manila


- San Agustin Church and Museum

- National Gallery


- Museo Pambata

Cost: P10,500.00 minimum of three persons / P545.00 per extra person 

Duration: Five hours

What you'll experience

Rizal Shrine - See a piece of history!! More specifically, see a piece of Rizal!! Yup, apparently, that urn below contains a piece of Rizal's vertebra:

Light and Sound Museum (click here for more info):

The Philippine treasure known as the National Gallery at The National Museum (more info here)

The reviews are in......

"...his interactive, entertaining antics ready to keep a rowdy bunch of students interested for hours on end. And it’s great!" says Spiral Sun here.  

Spunky Babe says, "...composed of gregarious story telling, fun role-playing and crazy antics" here.  

Dear Reader,

Thanks so much for checking out this blog.  The tours I do have been described as a "gem" and a "must do" by parents who've experienced my one-of-a-kind way of learning.

I've listed suggested itineraries above, but, do feel free to let me know you and your group's interests and let's together come up with one that works for everybody.




Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Afternoon In Intramuros

Philippine History 10 held its redux tour on March 13. With the question being the most memorable part of the day, the following magnum opuses (opusi?) were made....

Daniela Buhay, 6 years old, drew the calesa she rode on:

Mika of Woodrose Grade 2 drew the entrance to Fort Santiago:

Sisters Joe Buhay and Marga Cacho did this one about an enlightened hero. Still trying to figure out if that's me or Jose Rizal. hehehehe....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Caged Bird: A Children's Book

      A children's book about a country, a song, its writer and a musician.

Hoy, did you know that there once was a land that was clean, green and pollution-free?

Its beauty so captivating, its riches so bountiful and its people so warm that it lured men from different parts of the world. 

Let's fast-forward our story to 1929 (Parents: Use fast-forward effect here) when that land - now called the Philippines - was on its 364th year of being occupied by these foreigners.

This is where we find our writer - by all accounts, an unexceptional man who led an unexceptional life but who was rather exceptional with words (Parents: Re-do that sentence with a British accent.  We were, after all, under them for two years).  His name?  Huseng Batute.  Funny name, right?  That, of course, is his stage name (Parents: Explain "stage name") but in the interest of keeping you from getting bored we'll leave it at that.

He was a wordsmith - he and others had come up with something called balagtasan: a contest done in poetry (Parents:  Do an example of this - "Nananalig akong nagsisimula ang pamahalaan sa ibaba at kumikilos paitaas dahil.....") - who longed for his beloved country to be free.  To express this, he wrote a poem and asked a friend to write music for it. 

The song was about a country imprisoned and in poverty and pain.  Of a country that once had grace and tranquility but was now in sorrow and despair.  It longed to be be free...when its people would rise up and break free...break free from their slavery.  For a time when freedom would reign supreme.

Let's fast-forward our story, again, to a few more years - the late '70's (Parents: Fast-forward effect again).  Here we find a singer longing to write a patriotic song.  Try he did, but, it was the song written by our friend, Huseng Batute, that kept haunting him.  So Freddie Aguilar said to himself, "Instead of writing a new song, why don't I do a remake of that song."

So, Freddie approached his record producer and, after playing him his version, asked if he could record it.  The producer graciously asked Freddie, "Maybe you should sing something else.  Don't you know that song is now banned?"

You see, the Philippines, by this this time, was no longer held captive by people from other countries but was now under the iron fist of someone called a dictator - someone who had made life difficult for a lot of people.  The dictator did not allow certain songs to be played.  Certainly, you must understand, he wouldn't allow one about pain, suffering and a longing for freedom be played.

But, Freddie was determined.  Because he was determined, he found a way.  How?  He was able to have the WIFE of the dictator fall in love with his version.  I suppose, after this, the dictator couldn't do anything about it. 

The dictator - as you may understand - didn't make a lot of people happy.  One of those who voiced his complaint was a man named Ninoy.  Ninoy talked loud and clear about the wrongdoings of the dictator.  As you may understand, this did not make a lot of people happy, either.  One day, someone shot and killed Ninoy to silence him - forever.

Millions felt a great sadness and longed to say goodbye to Ninoy.  One of those who lined up for hours to pay respect was our friend, Freddie.  After Ninoy's family recognized him, they asked if he could sing the song that spoke about freedom.  He declined at first because he didn't have a guitar with him.  They asked him to sing acapella - without a musical instrument - instead.  This, he did, with much power and love that it brought tears to many. 

A few years later, the people would finally rise up and kick out the dictator.  This happened because they were no longer afraid.  Guess what?  It was our song that helped keep the faith in this struggle alive. 

Today, things are not yet so free with the Philippines.  We're still not fully free from poverty nor suffering.  There is still much great pain and sorrow. 

Perhaps, one day, with your help...yes, your help...this country will finally be free and the caged bird - the bird that cries in captivity - will finally break free. 

This is the song:

My beloved country
Filipinas is your name
Pearl of the Orient
Blest with unblemished beauty
But alas! robbed of your longed-for freedom
Always weeping in poverty and pain.

My country, Filipinas
Land of gold and flowers
Love has given her grace and tranquility
And her radiance and loveliness
drew rapacious foreigners
My country, they have imprisoned you
Thrown you into sorrow and despair.

Even birds who freely fly
When caged will struggle to escape
What more of a country endowed with
Would she not strive to break free?

Filipinas, my cherished land
My home of sorrow and tears
Always I dream to see you truly free.
How lovely it is to live in one's native land
If there is no slavery and freedom
reigns supreme

A people who are now oppressed
In the morrow shall stand up
The east will turn a fiery crimson
And mark the dawn of freedom.

For my father who gave me a brain, my mother who gave me a heart, my two wonderful kids, my wife who is raising them well, my cousin, Jeannine, who showed me love of country and to not fear Filipino music and finally to those who gave their lives so that we may all live free - J.B.

For my mother, my brother, Marcus, and Grandma and Grandpa - K.B.

JAY BUENAFLOR was born in the United States, grew up in the Philippines, worked abroad for 14 years and is back - for now - in the Philippines.  Wheww.  He lives in Paranaque together with his wife, Kelly, and two kids, Kara and Marcus. 

KARA BUENAFLOR was born in the United States and is currently in the process of learning to love the Philippines.  The interests of this seven year old include arts and crafts, history, reading and gymnastics.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Day At The General's

As scheduled, we visited General Emilio Aguinaldo's home where we declared our independence from Spain - check your P5.00 bill. We were joined by the Cariaso family of Paranaque - their daughter is Kara's batchmate.

Me starting off the tour:

Erin Cariaso and Kara by the "Dictator's" car (honestly, that's how he's mentioned in the Declaration of Independence):

Infront of the General - "Get of your high horse!"

Erin and Emilio:

This from the original Philippine Declaration of Independence text speaking about our Philippine flag: "The colors of Blue, Red, and White, commemorating the flag of the United States of North America, as a manifestation of our profound gratitude towards this Great Nation for its disinterested protection which it lent us and continues lending us." Kid you not. Love the "disinterested protection part." Guys, we've been had.

Anyways, thought it's a travesty that our flag is modeled after the "red, white and blue." Thought we should correct that. So, we came up with a "Design Your Own Flag" program:

Kara's Flag - Note the burger and the pants:

Nie Nie Buenaflor's (me Mom):

At Island Cove:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Few Hours At The Rizal Shrine

Spent a few hours at the Shrine in Calamba. Have no idea yet why they're called "shrines" - meaning, "holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped."

I think we have serious "cult of personality" issues here in the Philippines.

Is an okay place, though, it really does not get into the mind and being of the hero: What he stood for, why he was persecuted, etc. It's quite a tame place for a person who really was a force for change.

Joselito and Marcus:

Infront of the green house. Why is it colored green? As explained by the person responsible for having it turned green, National Historical Institute head Ambeth Ocampo: "The word "Rizal" comes from the Spanish “ricial” which describes a green field ready for harvest. It was hoped that after asking, “Why is Rizal’s house green?” the visitor will get a relevant answer: the green hues are meant to honor the memory of the Rizal family and their way of life."

So, there.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011