The Blog and Tour Schedule of Carlos Celdran. A man who is trying to change the way you look at Manila - one step at a time. Telephone: (02)4844945 Text/Cell:(0920)9092021 or Email: celdrantours@hotmail.com

Friday, December 30, 2005

SURREAL IN THE CITY...

DO YOU SEE WHAT IMEE? AND TOUCHING THE NOLI ME TANGERE...
Manila, truly the city where Franz Kafka wears a smile. If Philippine politics weren't already perversely absurd enough, someone sends me this link. Apparently, Ilocos Congresswoman Imee Marcos, former presidential daughter, Kabataang Barangay leader, and mother of sexually ambiguous denims model, Borgy Manotoc, has a fan named Joey. Click onto his site here. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or recommend a restraining order. The music selections are absolutely precious to say the least.
Photo: Borgy on the left, his mama on the right.

Oh, and Happy New Year and Jose Rizal day too, everyone. It's been 109 years since the man was put to death in Luneta for TRYING to tell us what was wrong with Philippine society through his books Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Let's hope we finally listen to him this year.

KVETCH! KVETCH! KVETCH!

Last month, I waved my "naughty finger" at the Sy family for their nouveau riche ways and for the construction of SM Baguio, perhaps the most culturally insensitive real estate act ever done on Philippine soil since Miguel Lopez de Legazpi burned down Raha Soliman's bamboo city back in 1571. But now I stand corrected. That distinction will now be shared with the Gokongwei family and the JG Summit group for the monstrosities that they unleashed upon Metro Manila. So in keeping with my current project of twitting Philippine taipans for their unsavory acts and/or investments, I shall now reprimand the Gokongweis in second person, so that I cannot be accused of saying things I wouldn't say to their face anyway. So here goes.

Dear Gokongweis,
After a recent visit to your mixed use developments of Robinson's Place, Pioneer Place, and Robinson's Galleria, I have come to the conclusion that they are the finest examples of how NOT to do a commercial development and that they are the UGLIEST buildings this side of the South China Sea without a doubt. And inasmuch as I admire your family for their hard work and talent for making lots of money, I'm afraid to say that other than that, it seems that your family has done very little to improve the local social condition, especially if we look at your real estate investments in Greater Manila as an example. For starters, the designs of the aforementioned malls are as interesting to look at as a plastic fork. With a look that is a cross between a Barbie Doll Coffin and a pile of pink shit, "tourist attraction" is not the word that comes to mind but more "depreciable real estate". First of all, the construction materials you use for them (specifically Robinson's Place and Galleria) are alarmingly substandard. It only takes one look at the crumbling parking ramps of Robinson's Place, the cracks on the concrete walls, and the greasy stinky sweatshop conditions of Summit Media in Galleria to make one wonder how much you scrimped in order to keep your profit margin up. Moreover, these buildings are also culturally and socially insensitive to the neighborhoods that surround them and one does not have to look further than Robinson's Place Malate to realize this. Your desecration of the beautiful Assumption Convent in Pedro Gil (Herran Street) is an act that can never be forgiven by Malate old-timers (Jeezus, you used the old chapel for meat storage) while the insular nature of the mall not only alienates the surrounding areas but have also contributed to the demise of Malate as a whole. Long time institutions next to you (like Alda's Pizza Kitchen on Adriatico and El Solidaridad Bookstore on Padre Faura are dying/dead due to the strain that the developments have put on traffic, water usage, garbage, and SEWAGE. Don't forget that the area you are building on now was not designed for the density of the development you forced upon it (thousands of new toilets draining raw sewage into a system designed for a third of that will not be a pretty scene I tell you). Robinson's Place is a SARS plague waiting to happen. And now with the construction of One Adriatico Place beside it, I pity any investor who buys a unit there because he will soon realize in a few years, that he has paid for a chokey, smokey, waterless, shit filled slice of hell. Literally.

And Kitty, if you are reading this, please pass this along to your cousins, hopefully they can still change the direction of things. If not, tell them to expect lawsuits and/or irate letters in a few years by unhappy unit owners. And i'll give you a free hint as to which direction they should go. Ask the Ayalas for a clue. Serendra and Greenbelt are the antitheses of everything the Gokongweis are doing. GOSH. Even the Ortigases are planting trees on their properties in Greenhills for crying out loud. They should get with the program. Being contented about becoming the third best of anything is not smart business, it's PATHETIC.

Photo: the graceless charm of Robinson's Place Malate.

Next: I pick on the Martels about Harrison Plaza, and the Gos for Grotesquo.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

HO! HO! HO!


MERRY CHRISTMAS, HANUKKAH AND KWANZAA TO ONE AND ALL! WHEE...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NO COMMENT...

METANOIA BY GOLLY WOW

Well there goes the neighborhood. To the sound of much applause and a mini prayer rally. Angelo King, philanthrophist and the owner of Anito Lodge, the Philippines' largest chain of "short-time" sex motels, is once again showing us that he is repentant for causing much misery in many marriages by voluntarily closing another one of his establishments. This one just happens to be right across my building on M.H. del Pilar. So surreal yet sincere. Love it.
Photo: Anito Motel M.H. del Pilar. Taken on December 17, 2005.

AND LONDON TALKED AND TALKED...

The weather was shite, but nevertheless, it came to pass that on December 19 at 630PM, "London Talking" the first art talk show - slash - open fora critique at the Living Room, was held. There was much art babble and much wine imbibement. Click here for more...

Photo: Yours truly on the left with artists Mark Jackson and Charlotte Webb.

Monday, December 19, 2005

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE!

Well whaddaya know. I found him. David Byrne was literally right above my head. Aint that a hoot? He was meeting with a bunch of Filipino filmmakers and journalists at director Butch Perez' apartment on the sixth floor of the building where the Living Room is located. Naturally, the subject of the evening was "Here Lies Love", his current musical work in progress about the life and times of Imelda Romualdez Marcos. Blogger Jessica Zafra and adman David Guerrero were the first on the scene to warm things up before writer Krip Yuson appeared to provide some anecdotes about the day Imelda awarded him his first prize for writing ("So young", she said to him as she handed him his trophy). Marcos' onetime documentarian, Egay Navarro and his wife Rica were also present to add to the conversation as were the photographer Neal Oshima and his wife Susan. But the real star of the evening was the inimitable Ms. Sol Vanzi, Imelda's onetime press secretary, who provided some interesting - and quite positive - tidbits about the Great Shoed One (did you know Imelda only had 1,500 pairs of shoes and NOT 3,000 as widely reported?). It was a rather fun evening although brief. We chatted over Cabernet, San Miguel beer, and cigarettes (he smokes American Spirits) before breaking up the group because he had to go eat chicken inasal at JT Manukan before going to sing karaoke with some of Butch's friends at IO. I guess he's having a good time so far. He leaves for Laoag and Leyte in a couple of days. Oh, and I saw the video work and heard the music for "Here Lies Love". It's OK. Hard to judge frankly as I was only able to view it on a laptop computer screen.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL KILL!
Chic Happens
An Explosive Celebrity and Fashion Insider Account
by Kitty Go

I know I really shouldn’t feel sorry for Kitty Go. As a wealthy, jet-setting member of Manila’s alta crowd and a relative of the Gokongwei clan of JG Summit at that, pity isn’t something that should really come to mind when thinking about the former editor-in-chief of Preview, the Philippines most brazenly designer brand centered glossy magazine. But ever since her controversial tell-all best-seller, “When the Chic Hits the Fan” – which from hereon shall be referred to as “The Fan”, - was released two years ago to terrible reviews but incredible sales, Manila’s media mafia (the subject of most of the book) won’t invite her to lunch, much less give a fair review of her second book, “Chic Happens” – the follow up to, ahem, the “Fan”. And at the end of the day, I really can’t help but feel bad about that. After all, she was just exposing how shallow, sallow, and hollow Manila’s upper crust and their lapdogs can be and just how shamefully they can conduct themselves. I really see a case of society sponsored censorship here so I shall try to rectify this matter by giving “Chic Happens” a review of my own. Ahem.

Kitty, even though we have never met, what I gathered about you so far is that you don’t wear designer fakes, you aren’t a hypocrite, and you desperately need an editor-in-chief of your own. In a nutshell, your latest book, “Chic Happens” is a semi-salacious collection of “fictionalized” events that have “supposedly” happened within the inner sanctums of Manila’s Most Beautiful and Damned. And although I have to admit the writing is way better than “The Fan” (the characters here are fleshier and the little Shakespearean tool of using a “play within a play” was a nice touch), the whole thing still needed Ritalin and an emergency liposuction to boot. And although some parts may be edgily chucklesome: “Like being the first girl in your class to grow breasts, JRo found herself in the whirlwind of professional jealousy”, some sections suffered from a verbosity rarely seen on the written page. Lines like: “OK, let’s order first because if we have to wait for those lesbians to fit into their Roberto Cavalli Jeans, we’ll have to wait until Hermes opens a shop here in the Philippines.” and “The Niveras also seemed to be having to step-back in their John Lobb shoes because rumors started flying faster than the Concorde ever did and gossip began stinging worse than the Botox shots, which the Niveras topped every month” are run on sentences that are at once outdated, confusing, cloying, and very annoying. And even if I read it voraciously from cover to cover, I can’t help but wonder if I only found it interesting because I already knew the people you were talking about. And if people don’t kinda realize that apparently these purported characters were supposedly Antoine Saint Diyego, Aryel Losada, Emilee and Selene Lopes, Josiefene Knocks, Andrue Gan, Jonattan Matthi, Meelet Manankheil, Sary App, Gretsen Bareto and Teena and Ryko O’campoe, would the book be just as interesting to them? And some parts are a little too harsh I have to say. Ok, perhaps the stories about some of the characters’ penchants for embezzlement and backstabbing might be a cause for alarm, but a lot of people you mention in the book only suffer from the harmless inborn crime of being baduy* at the very most. One could turn the tables and think of it as a case of the kulangot** calling the other one grey here. Because if you are going to start picking the noses of these folks, then I certainly hope your nostrils are clean too.

Maybe I shall meet you one day and find out for myself?

Verdict:
“Chic Happens” is an enigma and a dichotomy: at once badly written, but also impossible to put down.

Php265.00 at any National Bookstore.
*tacky
**booger

SOMEWHERE IN THE PHILIPPINES...

Well, waddaya know? One of my favorite artists/performance artists/musicians David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads is in town - somewhere. He is here to get more acquainted with the primary subject of "Here Lies Love", his musical work in progress about our flamboyant former first lady Imelda R. Marcos. He plans to tour Ilocos and to see Leyte as well. How do I know this? He said so himself right here. So fellow Filipinos, If you spot him on the street, make sure to treat him nice and let's hope he has a great time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ART! ART! ART!


ARTING AROUND
Done with your Christmas shopping? Click here for the four best shows happening in and around Manila this weekend and give yourself a nice, pretentious, intellectually stimulating break.

Thank you Chris Madden for the cartoon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

THE NIGHT WAS HOT! HAUTE! HAUGHT!



The Living Room Art Space, Malate's newest artist-run exhibition and performance space, opened last Saturday night, December 10, at 8:00PM with the works of UK collaborative artists, Jackson Webb on display. The party was a hoot and it's not too late to join in on the fun. Click here.

Above: Whiteboard Drawing (Poodle Lamp), Jackson Webb, Whiteboard ink on Whiteboard, 2005
Below: Whiteboard Drawing (Future Sculpture detail), Jackson Webb, Whiteboard ink on Whiteboard, 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

MALATE MUSINGS AND GOOD AGEDASHI TOFU

A couple Saturdays ago, the wife and I found a great new Japanese restaurant while we were strolling around a blessedly pedicab (a form of Philippine made bicycle cab) free Malate. Apparently someone somewhere paid the pedicab drivers Php1,000.00 and a cavan of rice not to ply their trade for the three weeks that the SEA Games were being held. What an idea. It only makes me think: Why can't they pay them do that everyday instead? Find some philanthrophist to foot the bill? Sounds like a bargain to me if only to rid our streets of those terribly designed things. Really. They are bicycles, they are great for the environment, but why are they such a nuisance in this town? Even in less motorized provincial towns, they are still a pain. Yoo hoo! Calling all Philippine designers out there! Redesign the damn thing to make it more pleasing to the eye and beneficial to society. Sigh... But I digress. Ahem. Tanabe is the real thing. Perhaps the best Japanese cuisine available in it's league within the Malate district. It's a step up classwise from DoSanKo on Mh del Pilar and definitely cheaper than Yurakuen at the Manila Diamond or Furusato for that matter. The tuna was red, the tempura wasn't Filipino sweet style and the wasabe was the real thing. The staff was extremely efficient and could even speak a bit of Nipponggo. The smoking section upstairs definitely had a classier feel than the downstairs area so too bad for the non-smokers. But most importantly, there were a lot of Japanese diners. Defitely a good sign when it comes to authenticity.
TANABE
Adriatico Circle, Malate. Right beside Cafe Adriatico. For Malate oldtimers, it's the same building as the former Moviola and Racks.

Friday, December 09, 2005

LONDON CALLING...AND TALKING TOO!


Jackson Webb

Soft Lighting
10 December 2005 – 10 January 2006

Artists Talk
19 December 2005, Monday
5:00PM (Sunset and Cocktails)
6:00PM Talk
Mark Jackson and Charlotte Webb of Jackson Webb give a talk about their collaborative paper lanterns currently on exhibition in a corner of the main hall and inside the small gallery. Moderated by yours truly and co-hosted by Philippine Star columnist/uber artist, Yason Banal . Do not bother attending if you are not into lovely views, great architecture, cocktails by a sunset, and lots and lots of art talk.

Log onto http://thelivingroom24.blogspot.com for more information or to confirm.

When:
December 19, 2005 - Monday at 5:00pm (Talk starts at 6:00 Try to catch the sunset.)
Where:
Unit 24, North Syquia Apartments, 1991 M.H. Del Pilar, Malate, Manila
It's right behind Aristocrat Restaurant on Plaza Sulayman.

Text 09262597506 to confirm or if you have inquiries.

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!

Oy! Does anybody out there know why there is a star of David hanging above the Fort Santiago gate in this turn of the century photograph? I don't remember the Israeli Occupation period in Philippine History so it really is quite a curious sight. I received this photo through an email being circulated by a man named Jeff Yap who is also wondering the same thing. Thanks man, for raising the question. And anybody out there got some answers to this? I wonder if it has any connection to the fact that right above the star is a wooden carving of Saint James beheading some Moors.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BEEN THERE. DO THAT.

THE BRITISH ARE COMING...
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the guy who wrote that wonderful Wallpaper* Navigator article on Manila, Chris Moss. Apparently, the Guardian Unlimited, UK's leading paper, just started up a site called Been There. It's a web guide full of travellers tips on the best places to stay, restaurants to dine in, sites to see, and ways to navigate a city. Chris was even kind enough to help us out by kick starting a Manila section with a balanced (leaning towards the positive - god bless his soul) review of the city of our affections. So follow his lead, log on now, inundate the site with your tips and photos, and convince the rest of the Brits that Manila (and the Philippines) ain't so bad.
Photo: Malate church on M.H. del Pilar at Plaza Sulayman.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

WHEE! WHEE! WHEE!

L-R: dancer Meg Sanchez, Yours truly, and restaurateur-actriz Nina Poblador
Scene I: Introduction to Manila

IT'S TIME TO PUT ON MAKEUP, IT'S TIME TO LIGHT THE LIGHTS...
And so it finally came to pass that the Intramuros "Talk to the Walls" tour as a cabaret occured last Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:00 noon for the Young President's Organization annual international conference. All went well. Frankly, I couldn't find a nicer bunch of presidents. Nobody threw tomatoes, nobody chewed gum nor chatted like a bunch of silly schoolgirls while the show went on. There was applause after every scene (some merely polite. some bordering on enthusiastic) and their comments ranged from; "Have you ever pissed anyone off by what you say?" (Hmmm. Obviously, he has never heard of Betty), to "Job well done, chap.", to "Nice pants." Oddest comment of the day: "Your commentary has given me a new found respect for the Philippines." (Why? Does this mean you had no respect for us before?) Either way, I think I'm a step closer from moving this thing I'm doing out of the realm of "tour guiding" to something much more in the vicinity of "art". It might not be a very big step though, but nevertheless, it's closer.

Scene II: Pre-Hispanic and Hispanic Periods in Philippine History.

Scene III: Chinese Influence on Philippine Culture into the American Colonial Period.

Scene IV: The Death of Manila in 1945.

Friday, December 02, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

THE LOVE PARADE
Although six of the seven original churches of Intramuros were destroyed in 1945, the original spiritual traditions of the walled city still lives on through their annual Grand Marian Procession. On December 4, Sunday at 4:00PM, come to the Manila Cathedral and watch 70 icons of the Virgin Mary, dressed up in their full splendor, taken out and paraded through the streets of Manila's original Spanish quarter. It will be a sunset procession which will surely bring to mind the beauty and splendor of Manila's genteel past; a window into the era before the United States forces and the Japanese Imperial army pummelled the physical manifestation of the Filipino heart and soul into dust. Bring a camera and sensible shoes. A must for any Manila visitor or resident. Make sure to pass by Ilustrado restaurant's open house celebrations afterwards for some refreshments.
Thank you maxpasion.com for the picture.

BOO! BOO! BOO!

Now, I'm not coming from any high horse here. Manila is not exactly the ideal template when it comes to civilized societies, but after these two issues, I really have to let out a resounding "Boo! Hiss! Spit!" to two of my favorite neighbors, Singapore and Thailand.

Singapore, you are such a developed society, why must you still condone state sponsored killings? If you were a backward third world state with mindless crime on a daily basis, I wouldn't be surprised. But you are now an economic powerhouse and a social development success story and capital punishment just doesn't jive with this new image. Really, it's issues like these that only prove you haven't come too far from the original barbaric port of pirates from whence you came. All the Grand Hyatts and Chanel Boutiques that line your boulevards will never buy you a heart or soul. Readers, click here if you want to lodge a protest against the killing of 25-year old Nguyen Tuong Van (who the state of Singapore hanged at six am today, December 2, 2005) . He was in transit for crissake...

And to Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand. You can just kiss my click here. Prove it. Jerk.

Thank you goldtoe.net for the boo! hiss! spit! picture.