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

Monday, July 31, 2006

GOODBYE AND THANK YOU!

It's been a busy month over at The Living Room. Although no artist talks/exhibitions were held, the place was still abuzz with guests who share my objective of changing the way we look at the misunderstood City of Manila. First to check in at the end of June were Barcelona residents, Gabriel Diaz (above) and Miguel Trillo (below). Gabriel Diaz is an affable journalist of Uruguayan descent whose last assignment was in Sierra Leone. Miguel Trillo, the more serious one of the duo, is a photographer obsessed with documenting the urban avant-garde/demimonde and the characters that dwell within. They were both sent over by Casa Asia to create a visitor's guide to Manila's alternative scene. They visited places as diverse as Imelda Marcos' Shoe Museum in Marikina, the I Love You Store, Cubao X, Club Mwah, and seedy little strip joints below the LRT Monumento station in Caloocan. We anxiously await it's publication. Some of Miguel's portrait work are posted below; some more are posted over here.

And bringing up the end of the month was Christian Razukas, the bespectacled fellow featured below. As the film programmer of the Louis Vuitton Honolulu International Film Festival, he flew into town for a few days just to check out the goodies on display over at Cinemalaya Film Festival held the CCP. And apparently, he was very pleased. A very charming fellow, he claims to have fallen in love with the city and hopes to be back in town again to check out other film festivals. Check out more about the scene surrounding the HIFF by clicking onto their blog here.

We hope this isn't the last time we see these guys over here in the town everyone loves to hate. The Living Room wishes you three a fond farewell for now and "Mabuhay!"

Oh. And thanks a million Doug for the fantastic post. Wish my tummy didn't look so big though...

Friday, July 28, 2006

BEIRUT BEFORE AND AFTER...

Manila is a city of reinvention. Either through the forces of nature (earthquake, typhoons...) or through the forces of man (World War II, lack of heritage architecture protection laws...), Manila still finds itself caught in a neverending cycle of death and rebirth. Another such city is Beirut. Like Manila, it was also one of the world's most beautiful cities. And like Manila, it too finds itself being pummeled to the ground by the hands of both fate and man. So in honor of this city that was once called the Paris of the Middle East, let me link you to Downtown Beirut, a site that shows you how Lebanon managed to pick itself out of the ashes of hell and how they are sadly finding themselves slipping back into it once again. Note: The second link is very graphic. Not for the faint of heart at all.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOG...

I just cleaned out my blogroll. And aside from removing sites which haven't been updated in the last three months (My regrets to all those who are gone), I also included two new sites to make up for the loss. The first one coming from At Maculangan and the second one from Peach Abubakar (and At once again) for Marikina Shoe Expo (aka Cubao X).
The first one, called "Life Is Almost Perfect" (top three photos) is the photoblog and random musings of At Maculangan, photographer, vegetarian, and husband of fellow blogger Art World Muse (above). Some shots were taken locally, lots were taken in Spain, and all of them are pretty wonderful in their own right. Some interesting shots to check out are the family portraits, the black and white lomograph of dogs mating, and some everyday scenes of Barcelona.
Meanwhile, "Cubao X", the other new blog on my list is not so much a personal dialogue as it is an expression of a zeitgeist. The Marikina Shoe Expo (not to be confused with the City of Marikina itself) is the epicenter of the Manila's edgiest art scene. In less than five years, this one-time footwear wholesale market tucked away behind the Rustan's Superstore now houses alternative exhibition spaces like the Chunky Far Flung Gallery & Cafe, Black Soup (above - with chairs), PABLO, Future Prospects (below with former The Living Room resident, Jenifer Wofford), and shops like Bespoke and Vintage Pop (bottom shot). The blog, "Cubao X" hopes to be the liason and between the galleries/artists/creative entrepreneurs of Marikina Shoe Expo and the general public both here and abroad. I just hope that the contributors of this blog will soon post the addresses of each space, post directions on how to contact them/get there, and update their activities schedule religiously. This site - just like the Marikina Shoe Expo itself, shows a lot of promise. I really hope it lives up to it.


Log onto the sites here and here

And thanks Meg for the lovely post.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

WHEE WHEE UM...NOT SO WHEE...

Aside from the one 103 comments I received in my Inbox, here are a few more reviews for the article, "It's The Hacienda World As We Know It".

Some were good:
I read your article and found it enlightening to say the least. I was not offended by it at all, and did find parallels in my growing up in Manila/Pasay. My grandmothers were Filipinas, and grandfathers were Americans who transplanted to the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. Although I left the Philippines for greener pastures, I do treasure the years I did spend there, particularly my formative years. Thank you for writing the article.
CCC

I was forwarded your treatise (treatise daw!) on the rise and fall of the Kastilaloy wannabes. Being a fellow part-Spanish, part-Chinese, part-Filipino (read: mongrel!), I thought your piece was hilarious. And perhaps more importantly (but only just), it was so true! Especially so as a full-time stock-market watcher. Apart from the Ayalas, and to a much lesser degree the Lopezes and the Aboitizes, I am always asked by foreign investors: "Where have all the Spanish gone?" And my answers run along the same lines as your piece's -- though clearly in much less... eloquent fashion. I feel the economics of the Tisoy's near-extinction from the local business sphere is summarised thusly: "the Spanish are asset-rich, the Chinese are cash-rich." Which is the PC way of saying Tisoys are lazy so-and-so's with an over-inflated sense of entitlement, while the Chinoys are hungry, cunning, agressive bastards (in the best possible sense). I forwarded the article on and got one telling reply: "Well he's getting ultra heat from this and its only beggining. He obviously hit a lot of big sensitive nerves." From a super Tisoy, obviously. Major sense-of-humour failure. I love it. Good on you for speaking your well-informed mind!
RG

I read your controversial article with much interest and I was able to relate. As for those who don't agree, puh-leeeeeeease! You are most right and as for other mestizos you talk about, the american-mestizos ARE very different, they have a lot more backbone...I think you are doing a very commendable job in getting filipinos acquainted with their own culture (something that seems to be sorely missing in this country.
CS

But among the (very few) positive letters I recieved, this is by far my favorite one. By a man named Josemi (above) who used to work for the Intramuros Administration (an institution close to my heart because I am in Intramuros everyday.) It's not often that I meet other Tisoys with a fondness for the walled city. Too bad he isn't here to complete the work he started.

!Hola Carlos! I am Jose Miguel Razon living here in Vancouver, Washington. My cousin Tany Garcia who lives in la Madre Patria, Madrid sent me your article. I am very impressed. Como sabes, I am Spanish-Filipino and I thoroughly enjoyed your openess and objectivity in your article.. as well as the historical nuances. The obliteration of Intramuros... yes, that was the focal point cuando todos tuvimos que ir a muchas otras partes. I worked for the Intramuros Adminsitration as an archival transcriber and translator form 1985-1987 and my old boss, Fr. Merino handed me stacks upon stacks of archival material just waiting to be transcribed and translated. IA is probably not existence any more... or is it? I worked under Sonny Tinio... but those were the old days. I felt then Carlos that I had in my hands (though photo copies of archival texts from the Museo Historico Militar and Archives of the Indies) that I was doing something noble to perhaps rekindle our rich hispanic past. I left the Philippines in 1987 headed to NY, NJ and then Montreal , Canada and then Portland, Oregon.. then to California and then here now in Vancouver. I work for a financial company handling all their Spanish accounts. What can I say? You write with so much lucidity and accuracy peppered with your winsome love of the English language. I've forwarded your article to my family in Australia who will no doubt appreciate what you had written, again with so much clarity and you also wrote as a third person.... taking in all the impressions that people mentioned to you. I am 49 years old and single and love living in the US because I can speak Spanish here and, cono, get paid for it. When I talked to one of my clients (who was from Argentina) she asked me where I was from. I told her. She said , "ah para un filipino usted habla muy bien espanol" so I told her that I am of Spanish ancestry (and Italian and Swiss and British on my Mum's side) When I tried to explain to her where the Philippines was, she replied, "ah si.. las Filipinas esta al lado de CUBA y Puerto Rico!!!!!!" I calmly explained to her where the Philippines is located. Your article bordered on hilarity which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing was exaggerated and you hit the nail right on the head! My love for the Spanish language was fired up in 1979 when I wanted to take avanced courses at the Centro Cultural de la Embajada de Espana and I finished the course. I spoke the espanol de casa and wanted more. I began to work as a free lance tour guide after that for major tour agencies. I would like to contribute essays and such and I think that your Walking Tour of Intramuros would be something to get involved in too.
Sinceramente y kita kita....
Josemi

Sure Joey, contribute away!

But needless to say, most opinions about my essay were, well, not so good. The negatives flew in fast and furious, some coming as far away as the United States.

Celdran is no sociologist, and his use of rash generalization abounds in this article. If he opened his eyes he would see that this UNIVERSAL PENCHANT for being superior to the next guy is a societal ill existing in most countries, not exclusive to his streotyped mestizo ... the Anglo vs. all non whites and every ethnicity in the US...the Anglo vs. the blacks in apartheid throughout Africa... the anglicized (ala Michael Jackson) blacks vs. the more African featured blacks everywhere... the haves vs.the have-nots... the Christians vs. the Moslems... the Christians vs. the Jews... the notion that the Arian race is supreme.....it is all a sad state of affairs that prejudice exists in many forms...and people should be free to carry any passport they so choose and speak any language at the dinner table they are most comfortable with as long as they don't grandstand their theories as though their thoughts are original, as if they are privy to the inner feelings of every mestizo or fellow human being enabling them to judge why people behave the way they do...his generalizations about the "mestizo" are prejudiced and reminiscent of a friend in XXX whose half white daughter is not black enough (reverse prejudice)...as I recall a most gracious Enrique Zobel, visiting my parents when I was a child in Honolulu and clearing the table and insisting on doing the dishes!!! A man of his social stature happily doing the dishes!!! The epitome of the wealthy Manila mestizo unfairly streotyped in Celdran's article spoke great Tagalog, loved this country, never considered himself too good to do menial tasks like he did at our home if need be, was gracious, humble, generous and kind, worked hard and played hard, and what is so wrong with that???? Celdran is presumptuous and may I say blind to the notion that many a non mestizo marvels at the" fairness" of a newborn baby " ay ang ganda, ang puti puti ng bata", "ang bilog ng mata!" "ang tangos ng ilong"...I have heard those lines repeatedly over a lifetiime. It is wrong to cheat, wrong to be a bigot, wrong to think you are better than the next guy, wrong to abuse power...and you can be guilty of these things as a mestizo or not.
CH

My reply:
Thank you for your opinion. I'm glad to see that this article - although not in it's finished form nor printed yet in any journal as of yet - has provoked some reaction here and wherever FILIPINOS (not indios, not tisoys, not chinoys, not ifugaos, - BUT all FILIPINOS - are located. But first, allow me to apologize for any offense you may have taken from the article, but what I said still stands and I cannot retract my words even IF I wanted to. But nevertheless, allow me to clarify some points you brought up.

"If he opened his eyes he would see that this UNIVERSAL PENCHANT for being superior to the next guy is a societal ill existing in most countries, not exclusive to his streotyped mestizo."

Nothing in the article mentions that I believe ONLY Mestizos are privy to such insularity. Read it again and you will see that I have no claims as it being a sole "mestizo" value. So now that that is clear, I am glad to see that you agree with me that perhaps "some" mestizos share this UNIVERSAL PENCHANT.

"Celdran is no sociologist"

Another thing we both agree upon. I am quite flattered that you might think so but unfortunately, I am merely a man who threw his observations and opinions up in the air, and wherever and on whomever it fell upon, I can once again only offer my apologies.

"Celdran is presumptuous and may I say blind to the notion that many a non mestizo marvels at the" fairness" of a newborn baby " ay ang ganda, ang puti puti ng bata", "ang bilog ng mata!" "ang tangos ng ilong"...I have heard those lines repeatedly over a lifetiime."

"A man of his social stature happily doing the dishes!!!"

OK. Two comments that have me dumbfounded and I must admit that I don't know how to react to them at all. Please correct me if I am wrong. But in the first statement, it seems that you are proud of "puti" (white sharpnosed) features being considered as "better" or superior to non "tangos ng ilong" (brown flatnosed) features? And in the second comment, you seem thrilled about rich people taking pleasure in cleaning up after themselves? I am sorry, but no genetic features should ever be considered as superior to another and cleaning dishes is not like feeding the poor or building schools either - it's a basic chore every human being should know how to do. Frankly, I have nothing to say about these two comments all. As a matter of fact, I wish you could elaborate upon them for me. Lastly, please realize that my "rash" generalizations are rooted upon the opinions that I have heard and observations that I have made within that sector of society. The "Spanish Mestizo" of this new millenium (light, dark, and wannabees included) have completely insularized themselves and are totally out of touch with the rest of the Philippines. This NEW generation of upper middle class Spanish mestizos are nothing at all like the generation of the "gracious" Mr. Enrique Zobel which you remember so well (and some might say that is a good thing). Believe me, I did not create these characters or stories out of thin air. They are composites/archetypes of what I have experienced and heard in the thirty three years of living in Manila as a SPANISH MESTIZO himself. And I do not say "SPANISH MESTIZO" proudly nor with shame - I say it only as a matter of fact. In the end, my opinions will perhaps never be compatible with yours due to generational differences and/or upbringing. What I see here is that we can only agree to disagree for now. Nevertheless, thank you for your spirited response. I am glad that my article gave you the opportunity to think long and hard upon this issue.

Our correspondence then got heated and took a really bad turn:
Carlos, sorry to have upset you... the original response did not seem to bother you coming from what you thought was a man, but somehow, realizing i was a woman...you seemed rather disturbed...curious... 1) Not wanting to belabor this too much further...I wonder if most people would find humor or novelty at the thought of Donald Trump doing the dishes as a dinner guest ... your image of the mestizo as a spoiled brat, so to speak, implies that someone like EZ would think this beneath him, and my memory of this wealthy, powerful man doing the dishes stood out, not really having ANYTHING to do with the color of his skin or his heritage. Sure, anyone should be able to do the dishes for himself, but the fact that he did, a man who probably never does, shows not every upper crust mestizo is above menial tasks, as implied in your characterization of Inaki ...it came to mind after your mention of the Todas and the Sorianos. 2) Re the reference to non mestizos marveling at the "puti" and "tangos"...I am merely countering your characterization of the matriarch in Inaki's family who seemed to have disdain for the more native look...it works both ways...I frankly think the kayumanggi is exotic and beautiful. Where you deduced that I felt otherwise is merely in your imagination, because I never said it! The main point I make is that your tunnel vision, negative take on the mestizo is not exclusive to them and is such a screaming generalization...it does not offend me, it just annoys me that you seem to think you can conclude and point out that all these negative character flaws can be attributed to the mestizo and not just any spoiled Filipino of privilege, or for that matter any spoiled elitist in any country... As a result, I feel your article is frivolous...that is just my personal opinion...enough said.

Luckily though, the writer of the aforementioned letter and I ended on amiable terms. This is after all, the blogosphere and all opinions are simultaneously valid and inconsequential.

But not only did I manage to offend folks from way across the seas, I also managed to offend those as close as from within my own family:

M, Mr.M makes a good case in point. It is commendable that his rebuttal has focused on the merits of the persons stated and not on the divisive nature of the article. Needless to say, Carlos' actions have been upsetting to myself and my family included. I apologize to your family for any resentment that may have arisen from his writings.
A RELATIVE OF MINE

Some likened the essay to popular literature...
It truly is offensive!!!... The Celdran article panders to the masa reading public ... without regard to history and truth ... it touches on half-truths, legends, exaggerations, gross errors, etc. ... makes for a no-brainer, funny, interesting reading (for an educated person who knows the difference) but can hardly qualify for what one would call a researched piece or a literary gem (and poses problems for those who don't know better) ... can we say Da Vinci Code? Read more on a thread here...

While others wondered from where the hell I'm coming from...
Do you also have Spanish blood? How do you feel about the chinese invasion of the Philippines? Doesn't it bother you? I feel you did a who lot of generalizing about the mestizos from the Philippines. Everyone has a right to an opinion but fact is fact. We are not all like the Elizalde or Ortigas who went astray. JD

My reply: I know the Ortigases and Elizaldes and trust me, there are more out there who have gone astray way farther than they did.

So at the end of the day, what's done is done and I cannot retract the words that I have written, all I can do is own them and apologize to all out there were offended by it while simultaneously thanking those who thought that the essay was a real eye opener about the current state of ALL Philippine-based Spanish Mestizos and their wannabees (and not just that of only ONE specific mestizo individual/family/group in particular).

This essay and this issue have now been put to rest. Don't expect any more replies from me regarding this but please do feel free to talk about it among yourselves though.

Hasta Lluego. Regular fluffy programming will continue tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2006

OYE! QUE MONADA!


Since I'm on a roll regarding all things
Tisoy, I was tickled the color rosa to find this video on the Maarte blog. It's an animation short about the history of the Philippines in Spanish done by Dent Productions. And although it may be a wee bit simplistic and a smidge inaccurate (the Philippines was colonized by the United States for MORE than ten years), I still find the whole thing too cute for words. For an English version, click here.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

AND THE LOVE FEST CONTINUES...


Wala lang. Just received this on a post that I did long ago. It's from a Visayan lady studying in the University of San Carlos (my father's alma mater) in Cebu. And although she was off to a rough start, the letter really hits a good stride towards the end. Moreover, I simply like this letter because it's effusive yet sincere and is an excellent indicator of what non-Manileno's in her age bracket are thinking and the English that they use to say it. It seems that the silent majority has finally found the words they were looking for. Nevertheless, I'm sure a lot of you out there would disagree..

I especially like the new way to create a smiley face on the bottom of the letter and thank you Cebu Ceboom CeBlog for the cartoon.

hello I am Gesal Marie Arnoza a Political Science student of the University of San Carlos, here in Cebu City, and as a student of this great department, I am here to share what I have. Gloria have done so much in our Country, If people use inquiry first, read the news paper and look at both sides of the coin, I think we will have lesser people complainig against Gloria and we will be to arrive at a better act of judgement. Well first Gloria said her sorry already, and I think no other Politician can be that honest like Gloria! The opposition? Look at them thay always complain! Can they just not stop? According to my Politcal Science proffessor Sir Poca, The Opposition are just tigers who wants to impeach Gloria the dragon, and when Gloria would be gone, the opposition would be become the new dragon again. Oh come on, can they not see the discernible events happening? They are only augmenting things up! They keep on opposing and complaining, do they not know that Gloria has done a lot of things for country? Our GDP increased, many homeless people were sheltered, and even death penalty was abolished( there are still many more) But despite all these Gloria still tries her best. And some people hates her becuse of EVAT? Oh aome on, do they not know that she is doing this to improve our economy? We have a very high foreign debt, do they not know that? And they blame her fot the increase of our oil prices, well no matter who are President will be, our oil prices will really increase, don't blame Gloria blame the countries are exporting oil. Anyway for the Opposition, Instead of opposing and wasting the money used during their meetings and sessions. I pray that our politicians may turn back to God for enlightenment and for all of them to work together for the improvement in the standard of living of every Filipino, I hope they will see how far behind ( light years ) are we with our neighboring countries, how severe is our miseducation, how high is our poveryt rate and how worse is our economy. I hope there will be unity and harmony in our Politics. I am a Filipina and I am hurt with our status quo , with our present situation. I pray that we will all see and work togehther in the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You (",)

Monday, July 10, 2006

LEARN! LEARN! LEARN!


THE MASTER CLASS
For all those out there looking to join the ranks of the overeducated, fellow blogger Watergirl and the folks over at PAEF are throwing this gig next monday.

World MBA Tour
Manila
Monday, July 17, 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Makati Shangri-la Hotel
Participating Schools:
Australia: Brisbane Grad School of Business
France: HEC MBA
Italy: MIP - Politecnico di Milano
Spain: IE (Instituto de Empresa)
Singapore: Universitas 21 Global
UK: Manchester Business School
and of course,
USA: Columbia Business School, Hult International Business School, Ohio State University, Fisher's College of Business, Hawaii Pacific University, University of Michigan Global MBA

Online Registration is free: www.topmba.com
Admission to the event is free.
Contact Mila Tan at the PAEF office for details:
www.paef.org.ph
Phone: 812-0945

Thanks cartoonstock.com



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

FILIPINO AMERICA TALKS!

TALK TO ME BABY!

And so it came to pass that the third Artist's Talk at The Living Room came to be. And if I must say so myself, it was perhaps the most successful one so far. The artist of the evening was the current artist-in-residence, Miss Jenifer Wofford, a Fil-Am multi-media artist from Oakland, California, US of A (pictured above chatting with yours truly.)

It was one of the best attended talks, too. The crowd topped off at - ooh, say, around twenty-three. Naturally, that number includes our dear helper, Susan (pictured above, peeking behind Jenifer who is beside my wife Tesa (L), the TLR technical director Denis Lagdameo (R)).

Fellow bloggers, Micketymoc (above on R) and his better half, Minette, as well as Watergirl and her friend, Ashani arrived bright and early. Meanwhile, bringing up the rear at the end of the talk were Susanne Lenz, Tilman Baumgartel, upstairs neighbors Butch, and Coco and Baby of Lumiere. Surreal moment of the evening: PR maven Junjun Poblador swanning in with recently outed Pinoy Brother survivor, Rustom Padilla. I know, wha...why is he here? I really don't know. Just wished I took a picture, though. It isn't very often when post-modern art discourse and Philippine showbiz meet and match.

So after a rather OK sunset on Manila Bay (there have been better ones), we all had a few beers and watched slides of her early sculptures (above). Afterwards, there was a screening of her video works, Cucaracha Motel, Flipflop on a stick, and Chicksilog. Some of the topics discussed that evening were: sculpture vis-a-vis two-dimensional work, the state of art education in the California public school system, feminism, the Filipino diaspora, nurses, her mother, my mother, and someone else's mother, and of course, the joys of her collaborative work with fellow Fil-Ams Eliza Barrios and Reanne Estrada in the renegade performance art trio, Mail Order Brides. It was a good talk, deep but not too pretentious; provocative but non-confrontational.

So after hoo-ing and hah-ing and way too much posing for photos, things finally wrapped up at around ten pm. Some headed off to the Preview Rock Glam party at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, while most of us just retired upstairs for some impromptu pasta.

All in all, I can say art is alive and well in downtown Manila. Hope to see more of you out here at the next artist talk.



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

PIMP IT BABY!

Oh man, looky looky what I found outside the parking lot of the San Agustin Church! It's like, the ultimate souped up mega-machine to drift around the City of Manila in. I mean, Check it out, dude. It's an oversized, fully air-conditioned, fully loaded jeepney that possesses headroom high enough for a person to stand in. That's so wild. I mean, really, just picture yourself in it, floating around like a boat on a river, with tangerine seats and marmalade tires. Along with you are rocking horse people gobbling on marshmallow pies, drifting past flowers that...

Oops. I digress.

Not being able to help myself, I then knocked on the door, took a look inside and asked the driver at which points does this super-sweet psychedelic vehicle stop. He then turned to me with the sun in his eyes and answered quite slowly: "I go to NAIA, the National Museum, Ayala Center, Coconut Palace, Intramuros, Tiendesitas and pretty much every significant commercial and historical site in Ortigas Center, Makati, and downtown Manila, man." Groovy. Just groovy.

My apologies to the Beatles.

Call Tel. 6870310 or 6874851 or 6345255 to ask how to get onboard.

And also, thanks to yabangpinoy and mahamondo for the shout. Sorry that I have been so busy, I can't possibly post about you in detail. But who knows, maybe you'll get a few clicks from this.

Monday, July 03, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

To all Filipinos and their afficionados:

Bored? Then why not look for the roof of your house on earthgoogle. Or better yet, check out MetroManilaMakeover and help them improve our presence on the site by logging on here.

Thank you Roby, Hundred Years, and Anton for the links.

WHEE! WHEE! WHEE!

The Living Room would like to shout out "Congratulations!" to former artist-in-residence, Antoni Abad (above, in pink shirt), for being one of the winners of the Prix Ars Electronica 2006, an international competition which seeks out the best in Cyberarts. His winning entry in the field of digital communities, was www.zexe.net/barcelona - an interactive site in which 40 people with disabilities used mobile phones to photograph their daily lives on the streets of Barcelona. With the help of Multi-Media Messaging, they created a map of every obstacle they came across. Check it out here.

Mabuhay ka, amigo. We hope to see you in Manila again soon.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

MY WRITINGS ON THE WALL...


HERE WE GO AGAIN!

A couple of weeks ago, due to some technical, aural, moral, and ethical miscalculations on my part, a draft of this essay was made public. It was only online for a few hours but yet it managed to elicit much response from areas as far as Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately, due to this error, the article is now useless to the PCIJ Journal (So sorry Sheila, you can refund the check), the publication for which it was intended. So in order to complete the cycle and to not waste a perfectly good 2000 word essay, here is the article as I want it to be read, with the opening characters now more complex and believable than the last one's hastily made example, and - the grammar corrected. And even though the characters may have changed - trust me - the essence of the article remains the same. My sincerest apologies to all who were hit by the last draft, and my apologies in advance for those who may be hit by this one.

IT'S THE HACIENDA WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: THE DECLINE OF THE FILIPINO SPANISH MESTIZO AT THE DAWN OF THE MILLENIUM

Overheard in Alabang Town Center: "Shet, dude. I'm a cono kid daw. But that's ok."
Inaki Ibaturralde seemed like he had it all. Young, tall, fair, and good-looking, he was a Makati born, Alabang bred, English speaking, Spanish swearing, mestizo of Basque descent. After his secondary education in Manila's premier Opus Dei school, he spent his college years in California, before taking the position of Senior Vice President at his father's Ayala Avenue trading firm at the tender age of twenty eight. In 2003, he married Chavelli Lazarriaga, another fair skinned mestiza with an equally fair family name who worked in Manila's fashion industry. They were wed in a highly publicized ceremony at the San Antonio in Forbes Park and were expecting their second child by the end of last year. Life couldn't seem any more charmed. They were the "IT" couple of the Polo Club and Punta Fuego set; golden examples of Manila's young "alta" society and the touchstone for couples in Manila's millenium generation of de buena familia Spanish mestizos in Dasmarinas Village and Ayala Alabang.

But underneath this espadrille-wearing, tanned-while-jet-skiing-at-Tali facade, something was amiss over at the hacienda, so to speak. Apparently, Inaki had developed a taste for inhaling copious amounts of cocaine. Not an easy habit to cultivate, mind you, as such imported indulgences are mainly available through clandestine deals done in five star hotel rooms at U$350.00 a pop as opposed to the Php1500.00 per-bag-on-the-street-corner deals for it's local "masa" counterpart, "shabu" (Crystal Metamphetamine). And for the past few years, Inaki miraculously managed to keep this sordid detail under wraps - from both wife and family - until things started unravelling - and quite messily at that - at home.

It was only a year after his third wedding anniversary that Inaki started acting out of sorts. Due to limited access to family bank accounts, Inaki had resorted to "shabu" and the addiction had taken it's toll. Inaki looked bloated and sweaty at business meetings and his habit of locking himself into the downstairs den (sometimes for up to two days) was something which began to concern his young wife. Nevertheless, his habit remained overlooked - perhaps subconsciously - by those around him until last Christmas eve when his mother's maid found drug paraphernalia (crystal pipe and a roll of tinfoil) in the front seat of his car while transferring Christmas presents to the tree. So after a rather audible confrontation, Inaki was banished from his wife, family and their digs above his mother's garage to fend for himself. Nothing was heard of him until a month ago, when a segment on the evening news revealed that Inaki had knifed a tricycle driver in United Paranaque while in a frantic state of paranoia. Today, he sits in a rehabilitation center in Bicutan, his wife now settled in the United States with both children, far away from the scandal and shame. The golden boy now tarnished in the eyes of the upper crust - an outcast from the walls of his city.

Now although the aforementioned is merely an extreme composite of characters, sadly, Inaki's story is not a rare one one among the families of Manila's todo insular, Royal Ambre scented crowd. His story is that of a promise unfulfilled; a morality tale about the importance of restraint and self-confidence and an image symbolic of the state of Hispanic Filipinos the 21st century. It's a metaphor about his ancestry, that of Spanish mestizos, also known as "tisoys" or "cono kids" - a monicker derived from their habit of peppering conversations with the aforementioned "c" word. They are a people that have lost their footing in this world, and have no idea how to go about standing up and finding it once again.

But how did the "tisoy", once a proud, plentiful, and productive breed found freely grazing and settling in the open districts of Ermita, Malate, Pasay, and San Miguel, fall so far from the status that they enjoyed in the Philippines for hundreds of years? From the 19th century until the mid-seventies, the "tisoy" and his culture were ubiquitous to the Philippine landscape. From the hallways of the country's corporations to the billboards which trimmed our highways, the images of Spanish mestizeria could be found managing multinational corporations or modelling the latest fashions. Manning shop counters at the Escolta, counting cash behind bank windows, or serving coffee in the sky, mestizos and mestizas were everywhere. But in an amazingly ironic turn of events, from being the dominant culture which the populace yearned to emulate, they now find themselves marginalized and struggling to find their position in a Filipinas that has decided to fully embrace it's Asian roots in the twenty-first century. Just turn on the television or watch a movie and the glaring irrelevance of the mestizo will immediately stare back at you. Gone are the days of the artista male romantic lead in the mold of Rogelio dela Rosa, Edu Manzano, or Gabby Concepcion. Even mestizos de entresuelos (mestizong bangus or quasi-mestizo mestizos) like Kuya Germs Moreno or Redford White are also fast disappearing from the showbiz firmament. It's obvious that the white skinned, aqualine nosed template has ceased to be the pinnacle of male physical aspiration and in it's place we now find the chinky charm of the late Rico Yan or the moreno mein of Piolo Pascual. And instead of living near to their forefather's ancestral lands near the walled city of Intramuros, Spanish mestizos now find themselves commuting back and forth from the newer gated districts of Makati, Paranaque, and Alabang. The displacement of their home and their culture was a cruel fate that had crept up without warning. But how did this come to be? Nobody can say for sure. One can only hypothesize.

Perhaps it's because they lost their home?
Overheard at a tour from a guest: "These mestizos really liked their walled cities.."
It was only when I heard this statement that I realized the concept of the "gated community" is something that has always been integral to the personality of Manila. The notion of a society that is "within" and one that is "without" is still as prelevant today as it was in the times of Jose Rizal. Just replace the subdivision security guards with the guardia civil and the Household helpers ID/Community Tax Certificate with the cedula and it's Noli Me Tangere with a cheaper wardrobe budget. But although the system still remains, Intramuros - the city where this system originated has been gone for over 61 years now, destroyed in February of 1945. In a battle between the Japanese Imperial army and the US Armed Forces at the close of World War II, this 400-year old Spanish designed walled city, and the most overt physical manifestation of Spain's influence in the Orient became the central war theatre within the capital. After a month of heavy fighting, this city made of coral, volcanic ash, and wood, inspired by designs from France, Madrid, and England, was pummeled to dust; the largest and only specimen of Spain's presence in Asia wiped off the face of the earth. Most everything we see today, with the excepton of San Agustin Church; is a post-war reconstruction. And not only was the walled city obliterated; but the Spanish mestizo residential enclaves of Ermita, Malate, Sampaloc, and Pasay were left in ashes, their fair skinned residents massacred and buried in mass graves. Even the "tisoy" commercial playground that was Escolta in Santa Cruz - a place so patrician that salesgirls even had to speak Spanish - was reduced to rubble. It was really after this period that slow migration of the surviving mestizos began. Perhaps driven away by the bitter memories of the war or by the encroaching displaced rural poor, they first wandered off into the promised - and gated - land of Makati suburbia in the 1950's, then into newer, flashier digs in Ayala Alabang in the 1980's. But for those mestizos who ended up in the more middle class spectrum of the social ladder by the 1970's, there were the gates of Merville and BF Homes to keep the sweaty toiling extramuros communities at bay.

Eventually, with the coming of President Marcos, things would come to a head for the mestizo. Although the martial law era can be perceived as oppressive on one hand, it was also a period when a cohesive Malay identity was established for the Filipino through the cultural efforts of Marcos' New Society Movement. It the first times in Philippine history that the Malay Identity was truly celebrated in all aspects of Filipino life. Government programs, cultural events, and even public architecture all had to celebrate this newfound yet ancient identity promoted by the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or The New Society Movement. Ako ay Pilipino. We're here, we're brown, get used to it. And it didn't only show in the architecture, it showed in media as well. The mestiza look of Rosa Rosal and Gloria Romero was out, and it was the morena template of Alma Moreno and Gloria Diaz that became the "wet look" of the moment. It was at this period that many "tisoys" ended up leaving altogether, moving away and settling into happy white-collared/white-colored existences in Australia or the United States, the promise of a new start and identity beckoning them away from their Philippine past.

Perhaps they lost their entitlement?
Overheard at a couturier: "Mestizos were never taught how to work.."
A rather shocking statement but one that cannot be dismissed because it really is a peek into the preconceived notions many Filipinos have about their Hispanic counterparts. Myth number one. Spanish mestizos are lazy. Myth number two. Spanish mestizos are all heirs with endowments and assets. Both not necessarily true. Mestizos dicks have never been bigger, they've only been whiter. Just as Spanish mestizos have never been richer, they only seemed like they were. Perhaps this sense of entitlement came about because historically, Spanish mestizos have never really been part of the manual labor force. Occupations for tisoys were pretty much white-collared and handed down to them as a birthright; some careers even assured way before they were out of diapers. For the rural mestizo, all he had to do was wait for harvest season to come round and the income would almost generate itself. And at the end of it all, when daddy died, the land - and workers on it - were all his to possess. And for the urban mestizo, all he had to do was depend upon Manila's old boy's club run by The Ateneo/La Salle/et al alumnus association to assure them of the exact same jobs that their fathers also toiled. But now, Spanish mestizo founded corporations like Philippine Airlines, and San Miguel Corporation are out of their original owners hands (The Todas for PAL, the Sorianos for SMC); and now have to restructure themselves away to be competitive in the modern world. Some tisoys found it harder to compete for that same job in a system now based on merit than on who was their dad's fraternity brother. And due to this, quite a few them decided to forego the hassle of asserting himself and finding a new identity within this revamped society, and instead take the alternate route of migrating into the promise of a tabula rasa in cities like San Francisco or Sydney (See the last part of previous paragraph).

Or maybe they just never wanted to be here in the first place:
Once told to my face: "Ay, Carlos. Mestizos. They're all liars."
The most freaky of all the statements I've heard, but once again, perhaps it rings true. Could it be that the Spanish mestizo, who never felt neither at home in the Philippine archipelago nor in the Iberian peninsula, could be cursed to roam the world never to find his stead? Cursed to forever live in gated communities with all the insularities it brings? After all, Inaki's family was so detached from the fact that their family lived in a Southeast Asian country in the Pacific that they even maintained their Spanish passports and spoke Spanish at the dining table. His own mother would go out of her way to let everyone now that their family was NOT to be considered part of the brown-ness which surrounded them. She once commented about her other, darker daughter-in-law: "Oye, Es guapa. Por una Filipina." ("She is pretty. For a Filipina.") Aesthetically, The Ibaturraldes were known for their fondness of bullfighting posters, ashtrays which said: "Fuma menos, cono" (Smoke less, expletive meaning vagina), and for the blue and white porcelain tile emblazoned with the words: "Dios Bendiga Cada Rincon en Esta Casa" (Lord Bless Every Corner of This House) hanging above their front door; mandatory household items for the aspirationally Iberian. And with this lack of desire to integrate - both culturally and aesthetically - perhaps we can say that the Spanish mestizo doesn't want to be at home in the Philippines at all. He would rather embrace the romantic notion of an Occidental Philippines that cannot be, than to become part of the Oriental Philippines which exists before him right now. And with this decision to deny the context which surrounds oneself, comes the corresponding consequences: The insecurity of never being accepted and the paranoia that someone out there is always trying to get you. Time to build those walls again.

Carlos Celdran, 33, is a married, part-Spanish, part-Chinese, part-Filipino performance artist but is considered by most to be a dyed-in-the-wool cono kid even though his Spanish sucks and he hates Lengua Estofada. He does walking tours of the old city of Intramuros and other Manila historic districts. His tour schedules and other opinions can be found on http:celdrantours.blogspot.com

LIVING LA VIUDA LOCA! AND HI MOM!

Madame Marcos turns seventy-seven today.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY IMELDA!

Oh, and also, Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.