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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

MUAH HA HA HAH.

Remember the hell hole of a money changer (above) that "hypnotized" me last April? (Check out the archives). Well, take a look at it today (below). Now although the building was an OK example of mid-century Filipino architecture and I really should feel a little sorry about it's demolition, I still felt great (in the shallowest of ways) seeing the home of these chiselers being chiseled to the ground. Now of course I do realize that energy - most especially the negative energy of cozenages like this one - can never be completely eradicated but only transferred, I truly wonder what other street corner in the metropolis these defrauders are darkening right now.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...

Allow me to introduce you to the latest guest/resident curator of The Living Room for September and October, Miss Marlyne Sahakian. Marlyne is pretty much a one-woman curator, technical director, promotions manager, and exhibition space packed into the frame of a world-travelling five foot three inch Armenian-American woman in her late twenties. She comes to Manila with a full agenda and a suitcase full of art. Literally. Marlyne will be working for the next two months as an environmental consultant for SPM International in Smokey Mountain Tondo while putting up a travelling exhibition and art salons at The Living Room. Her current project is called:

All the Art I Can Fit In My Roller-Skate Case,
Manila, Philippines, Sept/Oct 2006
A one night exhibition and art talk at the Living Room
with curator Marlyne Sahakian

Opening cocktails and talk:
SEPTEMBER 15, 2006
Friday
6:00PM
The Living Room
Unit 24, North Syquia, 1991 MH del Pilar, Malate

Featuring works by Bruce Allan (UK), Achot Achot (Armenia), Thomas Bonny (Switzerland), Nathalie Brevet et Hughes Rochette (France), Claudia Camposs (France), Valentin Carron (Switzerland), Veronique Collignon (France), Valerie Dantas Mota (Brazil), Hugo Fortes (Brazil), La Fratrie (France), Archi Galentz (Armenia/Germany), Carl June (Switzerland), Adrien Missika (Switzerland), Ines Raphaelian (Brazil), Behrang Samadzadegan (Iran) and Vazo (Armenia).

She also looking for Filipino artists who would like their art to travel back to Geneva with her. Contact her at: marlynemail@mac.com for any inquiries.
More information about this project and her past curatorships are on this site:

www.conchaconcha.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 24, 2006

HERE WE GO...

And so it came to pass that Domina Jane and Mike Aquino met last night at The Living Room for an interview/photo shoot for an upcoming issue of FHM Magazine. Whips, chains, fetishes, and issues of Philippine sexual repression, self-confidence, self-expression, power, and control were discussed as the photographer Weng Barleta clicked, the stylist Myca Velarde primped, and director Jun Poblador barked away. She really hopes to see you all at the talk next Friday, September 1 at 9:00PM. Only five slots left. So don't make her angry and text 0926 2597506 to make your reservation NOW.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE...

Interesting day. While going along my regular route in Intramuros, an older Italian man and his Filipina wife listened in and decided to tag along. After the tour, I chatted with them for a bit and found out that the man was Stefano Piroli, former design head for luggage at the luxury brand, Gucci from 1971 until 1991 (the year when Gucci would have a major creative revamp top to bottom thanks to Tom Ford) . When asked about what he thought of Tom Ford and the new direction of the fashion house, Stefano only replied "Yes, I know Tom Ford but I don't see him anymore." Um. Ok. Fine. The most interesting tale was about the time in 1973 when Imelda Marcos ordered a set of personalized luggage and jewelry cases ("Of all sizes and plenty of them...and with all of these little tiny drawers", he said.) Apparently, all suitcases, trunks, and cases had to be done in the colors of blue and red with gold details ("The colors of the Philippine flag she wanted.") and the orders flown by charted Philippine Airlines jet ("arranged for personally by that nice "Mr. Toda"). Sigh, I know this anecdote isn't something that should make me wax nostalgic but nevertheless, it's nice to remember that Philippine Airlines was once one of Asia's leading airlines and that they actually had regular flight service between Manila and Europe.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

WHEE! WHEE! WHEE!

Thank you Senor!

A lovely review of the Intramuros Tour by blogger Senor Enrique. Miss Chuva, please note that I finally disposed of that ugly orange bag which everyone hated. My new one is a brandless but spacious multi-pocketed leatherette mailbag bought for Php450.00 at National Bookstore.

Monday, August 14, 2006

TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN!

A few months back, I received a very interesting text from a British man. He asked me where my tour schedules were listed, which restaurants in Manila I would recommend, and if I knew any place in Manila where he could find an S and M club. Yes, you read right. S and M club. Truth be told, I was stumped. I believed that if there was any one type of club that didn't exist here, it was that. We have gay clubs, lesbian clubs, ballroom dancing clubs, hiphop clubs, karaoke clubs, - but strangely enough - NO S and M clubs. Naturally, I looked upon this as a challenge and texted around only to realize that here was pretty much NO aboveground S and M scene here at all. I felt truly embarassed as a Manileno. This was only proof that Manila was not as well rounded a metropolis as I thought. I mean, any world class megalopolis worth it's weight in salt should have an S and M scene, no matter how small. Something definitely had to be done.
Then, of course, the fates provided.

Enter...

Domina Jane of San Francisco and Los Angeles
Mistress of fetish/BDSM/Disciplinary Arts.
Guest lecturer at The Living Room for September
Unit 24, North Syquia, 1991 MH del Pilar.
September 1, 2006
9:00pm to 11:00pm

A former dominatrix by profession, Ms. Domina Jane has agreed to pander to all our inadequate souls and hold an introduction/workshop on Fetish/Bondage/BDSM to educate us on the intricacies of this way of life. The night will include but not be limited to: a Fetish Frame slideshow; Shibari - The Art of Rope Bondage - an explanation/demonstration of D/S: Dominance and Submission and S/M: Sadomasochism; plus a lecture on Safety on the Edge: Safety Tips for Kinky Play. Volunteers necessary.

Please bring open minds and an attitude of curiosity and willingness to learn something new. Malicious behaviour disallowed. One wrong move and the mistress will seventy six
(evict) you from the apartment. No questions asked. All sign ups must be above the age of 21 (IDs checked at the door), and a nominal donation of Php450.00 will be collected as a gift for the mistress and to pay for drinks. However, the refreshments will only be provided if you're good. Only 30 slots available. Dress in fetish wear if you wish. I won't. Leather doesn't look good on me.

Email your reservations to: celdrantours@hotmail.com or text: 0926 2597506.

IN MEMORIAM...

FOR YOUR INFORMATION...

Remember this post? Well, that lovely theater that I mentioned, The Deluxe Chinese Movie Theater, has now gone by way of The Odeon, The Avenue Theater, and The Galaxy. While nobody was looking nor caring, it was demolished and is now a gated a parking lot. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Pretty soon I'll have to phase out my Binondo and Chinatown tours. It's just getting way too fricking ugly on that side of town to be worth touring.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

KVETCH...KVETCH...KVETCH

ET TU, LJC?
A few months back, I lamented the downmarketing happening all over the district of Malate. Gone is the neighborhood's gentility as the age of the karaoke jolog now descends upon everything like a noisy fog. It appears that the entire neighborhood unanimously decided to aspire for a lower standard - save for the exceptions of Penguin Cafe, Oarhouse, and Cafe Adriatico.

Unfortunately, that list must now be revised. It seems that Cafe Adriatico has decided to shed it's classy image and join the rest of the kabaduyan (tackiness) which surrounds it and "reinvent" itself as something more and "appealing" to a "younger" market. Although the food might be the same, it's the little details which were changed that alter the entire image, ambience and experience of Cafe Adriatico. I mean really, it was already bad enough that they changed the downstairs flooring from the lovely original vigan ones to the current beige bathroom tiles but why - oh - why in heaven's name did they change the waiters' uniforms to hot orange (top photo, corner) and dispose of the lovely menus with the charming drawings of the Fondue girls (above)? What were they hoping for? That we would look at those butt-ugly cheese ball uniforms/powder blue clip art menus and say, "Wow! Look! How trendy! Gee! Now I'll definitely come back more often!" Who was the monkey who thought of this? Was he the same primate who designed their clunky website? They both seem to have a common color and theme. And the images of the Fondue girls were so iconic, practically the logo of Cafe Adriatico. Don't even get me started about what a mistake it was to get rid of them. LJC, these are majorly majorly wrong moves, dudes. Rethink your strategy. Do you still want to maintain yourselves as the touchstone of bohemian sophistication in Malate or do you now want to be a Jollibee? I think the answer is easy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS...

MAKATI AVENUE MON AMOUR

It's no secret that I just love love love the I Love You Store (above) But as of late I've been discovering that the neighborhood - especially the areas within a fifteen minute walking radius from the I Love You - is turning out to be quite lovable as well. Aside from the easy picks of Barrio Fiesta (where the cooks and waiters sing - Makati Ave cor. Valdez Tel.8994020), Gulliver's Steakhouse (Great Eastern's affordable alternative to the Intercon's Prince Albert), P. Burgos street (where we all know is still the best place to find...a taco salad - Filling Station Diner: 5012 P. Burgos St. Tel: 897-2053), and the Museo ng Makati (which I have never entered but looks interesting from the outside), here are a couple of other places I discovered:

KARMA
The Jetsons and Studio 54 have a joint garage sale. Moderist furniture from many decades stuffed into one basement store (above). Although some stuff you find here might be recognizable from the Evangelista Street flea markets, what sets this place apart is that everything is curated. Almost everything here is something I would have chosen myself actually. It's not as cheap as one would hope but haggling is permitted. Besides, everything is in pretty good condition and you are paying for real period pieces too. Most of the furniture were originally manufactured in the Philippines in the mid-2oth century. I especially love the original cane and hardwood office chairs nicked from the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Check out their website here.

AFFETTO CAFE
A very cute little cafe (above) located on the second floor of a building right between The I Love You Store and Karma. The ambience is eclectic, the music is jazzy, and the espresso is as strong a three dollar snort of crack. They also serve Italian cheese and cold cuts. As of this posting, wine and alcohol are not served but they said that they are working on their license.

Tel. 8903194/92
7838 Makati Avenue

And all these places stay open till late (8pm for the cafe, midnight or so for I Love You and Karma), so one can feasibly check these places out right after work, right before going to club at Government, or before going to P. Burgos to look for that...taco salad.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

UPDATE...UPDATE...UPDATE...

WALA LANG (Nothing Really)

Just announcing that there will be a "sudden" tour of Intramuros next week on Thursday August 17, 2006. The tour will start at 2:30pm. Hope to see you at the ticket booth of the San Agustin Church.

Oh. By the way, I advise catching one of my tours soon as you can if you haven't tried one yet. Due to an increase in the price of practically everything, I will be raising the price of my tours in October.

So come and get it while it's cheaper. Please also note the new office phone number on the header.

Cheers!

Monday, August 07, 2006

SIGH... SIGH... SIGH

I knew it was going to happen one day and that day was today. Just this morning as I was warming up at the gym, a small, balding, effeminate man approached me and asked, "Are you Carlos Celdran, the guy who does the walking tours?" I said, "Yes I am." And he said, "I'm DL. I own the Avenue Theater." Now I must admit, my heart did rise to my throat a bit when I heard that. This was gym time, my personal time to relax, and I was in no mood to get into an argument about his/his family's decision to destroy a piece of our history. Surprisingly though, he did not come across as antagonistic and instead kept asking me questions about the history of the building, even asking for my contact details. I told him the Avenue theater was the only survivor of WWII on that side of Rizal Avenue and directed him to my blog to see photographic proof (which I posted above to make it easier for him to find). But even more surprising was how he went on about how some of the first FAMAS award ceremonies were held there and how it was designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil. Jeez, if you knew it was such a historic building, why in heavens name did you tear it down? Judging by your fancy cellphone, it's obvious you don't need the money that badly. And as he rambled on, I kept wondering to myself why this man was being so cruel to me. Why was he bringing up the subject of the Avenue Theatre when it was no secret that I thought his family was despicable and deplorable to tear it down. I mean really, why even start talking to me? You already made your blood money off the carcass of this building, now you want to make a friend? Get the f*** away from me. However, I soon realized that he was not doing this out of malice, but only because he was clueless about the relevance of the building and about Philippine architectural history. His ignorance and lack of art and the culture in his life became even more evident when he said to my face: "You know the Odeon Theatre? I tore that one down too." before smiling as if expecting some form of approval from me. I felt sick. But whether he approached me with intent or simply because he lacked emotional intelligence, the end of our conversation spoke volumes about how the loss of our heritage architecture can be linked to the Philippine elite's disconnection to the history of the country which earns them their money. After I peppered our entire conversation with terms like "absolutely shameful", "tragedy and waste", and "doing a disservice to our nation" without getting the smallest rise out of him, I finally had to ask "Don't you feel any remorse about tearing down our heritage architecture?" He simply shot back, "No. I didn't grow up here" before going back to his treadmill screen to watch TVE (Television Espanola).

Saturday, August 05, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS! PART 3

DAY 1 - 2 - End
At precisely 2:30PM, the Sun Cruiser will ferry the day tourists back to Manila. The island will be even quieter than before and everything will seem like a scene right out of the 2000 Oscar Award Winning Miyazaki animated feature, Spirited Away.

The time has come to do absolutely nothing.
And to see absolutely no one.

THINGS TO DO ON CORREGIDOR:

Walk around the island. Bump into no one.

Roam around the hotel and check out their newly varnished floors (above). Bump into no one.

Check out where Douglas MacArthur escaped from the Japanese (above). Amazing how historical sites look so much more, well, un-historical when you get up close to it.

Take the van to the highest point of the island, Topside. Walk back from Topside. Wander around the bombed out Corregidor Theater (above). Bump into no one.
Corregidor is a nature preserve and a protected historic shrine. There are no local communities on the island. Which explains why the island is so quiet. And why there is no crime.


Walk around the ruins of the barracks.

Walk around the batteries.

Walk around the Pacific War Memorials. And still, bump into no one.

Check out the Filipino War Memorial. Bump into no one.
Unsolicited Opinion: Among all the monuments on the island, I have to say that this is definitely the ugliest. Tsk tsk. Shameful. C'mon Senor Francisco Manosa. You did a good job with the hotel. What's your excuse for this flat grey...whatever. It's hideous. It's lame. It's hot, and extremely corny. Tear it down please and replace it with something more thought out.

Ahem. But I digress.
Check out the Spanish Lighthouse and it's solar panels (Very Cool).

Oh yeah, Corregidor is a Spanish word pala. It means magistrate or something like that.

Walk around the Japanese Peace Garden. Meditate a bit.

Marvel at the jungle as it consumes the ruins.
Bump into no one.

Walk down a lonely seaside road.
Look at craggy cliffs in the distance.

Prance through the woods.
Watch monkeys.

Watch birds.

Corregidor is a birders wet dream. From what I heard, the aviary is closed (above. Note the lack of birds) and most of them have been released into the wild. Even Birdwatch has released raptors on the island. Good job, guys.

Oh and did I say, BUMP INTO NO ONE.


In the late afternoon, I recommend a tram tour through the haunted hospital grounds before catching the sunset.
At this point, Crack open the purchased Yellow Tail and packed cold cuts and cheese.

After dinner, the highlight of the weekend, The Malinta Tunnel night tour with Edward, their star guide extraordinaire (Sorry, no picture. None of the ones I took of him came out). He was funny in a light and inoffensive way, gave everyone little costumes (Yours truly in regulation helmet with flashlight, top), knew his stories inside out, and kept his energy on a consistent level throughout. No wonder he was chosen Tour Guide of the Year/Employee of the Year or something like that. On his tour, you'll walk through bombed out tunnels, relive some key moments of World War II, and even get to see the bones of Japanese soldiers (middle shot) scattered among the rubble.

On Day 2, you can watch the Sunrise and do everything over again, or just laze by the pool with the Sunday paper and a San Miguel Light like I did.

Oh. And for all you serious cyclists - and you know who you are - biking is now possible on the island. Their former bicycle concession is gone and now you can bring your own. Just make sure to bring a helmet, pads, and to sign their waiver. You also must also check if there is space on the ferry for your bike (collapsible bikes preferred). Call the number at the bottom of the page for more information.

Final Analysis:
Although inextricable from it's World War II past, I discovered that it is actually possible to experience Corregidor as a legitimate tourist destination worthy of an overnight stay (like Tagaytay, Batangas et al) and not merely as a five hour controlled experience. An overnight stay in Corregidor is a must-do for any tourist staying in Manila for more than five days, for any expat who doesn't want to go to far away from the city on the weekend, and FOR EVERY FILIPINO - simply because they should. Corregidor is also very kid friendly.

RAINY SEASON PROMO
(valid through August): Weekend (Sat -Sun)
Twin double sharing Php 2,000.00/pax
Published rate (for the whole year): Php 2,500.00/pax

Inclusions: round trip ferry transfers, guided tour, shrine-terminal-entrance fees, buffet lunch on the first day, accomodation at the Inn
Contact: Kristine Castro 5268888 loc. 9502 for more information.

Friday, August 04, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS! PART 2

DAY 1 continued...
Arrival on the island was at about 9:15. Still a full day ahead. I was thrilled pink to realize that while all other passengers were herded off to begin their tour of the island, my "fellow consultants" (In the cheesy picture below: The Living Room technical director Denis Lagdameo, fellow tour guide Greg Dorris, and my wife, Tesa) were whisked off in a separate van to be leisurely checked into The Corregidor Inn (above). I even had time for a half-hour nap before venturing out. Yes. Not feeling like a lemming on the island. Plus one hundred points for the weekend. Definitely.

And I have to say, although the inn was designed by Arch. Francisco Manosa, the man who gave us such overwrought works as the Puerto Azul Beach Resort, the Coconut Palace, and the uber-hideous Our Lady of EDSA Shrine, I have to commend him for using a design (below) appropriate to the context of the island's history. The wide balconies, Machuca tile flooring, large windows and mix of Spanish and American colonial motifs reminded me of the old Army Navy Club in Manila. Quite unoffensive. Almost lovely. Even the check in counter had fresh Hibiscus (gumamela) plucked from the hotel gardens (Sorry. No picture. Just take my word for it.)
However, the lobby, like most other lobbies in the Philippines, was a little cluttered. Luckily, it did not suffer from other Philippine interior decorating sins such as horror vacuui and grimy neglect. In fact, the lobby was rather spotless. It bore no fried pork smells nor the scent of burning plastic. The only niggling issues I pointed out were that the barstools were in an awkward location - hindering flow into the dining hall, their bric a brac was in desperate need of rearranging/refreshing, and their gift shop was spilling out into the TV lounge area. But truth be told, even I must admit that I was being OC about this. Nevertheless, as we speak, Sun Cruises is resolving these issues. Hopefully, should any of you decide to take up their discounted overnight deal this month - and only this month- all of these little things I mentioned would have already been addressed. The scene below has been cleaned up and does not exist anymore.

Even the rooms of the inn were a trip back in time (below). The "capiz" windows (which were really fiberglass), rattan beds, and lack of a television set helped me imagine that I was staying at pre-war US Army Officer's quarters in Clark Air Base. As I said ealier, "US Military Chic". Even the chunky box airconditioner seemed quaint in it's slight obsolescence (Frankly, I was ecstatic that they even had air-conditioning at all). Unlike many other fellow Filipinos, I didn't find the hotel eerie or spooky. But then again, this was my perception while the sun was high.

At night, things are a completely different matter (above: hallway taken at 10:00PM). Can you say, "The Shining"? Just look down the hall and imagine two bloody girls (literally) chirping the words, "Come play with us...". All we need is a very nervous Shelley Duvall and the scene is complete. But don't get me wrong. One man's spooky scene is another man's serenity. I believe the reason why most fellow Filipinos consider the Corregidor Inn eerie is simply because the hotel is far too quiet for Filipino tastes. Personally, I consider the lack of noise (white or otherwise) to be a GREAT thing. For anyone out there who values the art of silence, I'm telling you, Corregidor is the place to be. Turn off the aircon, open the window and the only sound you will hear will be the hush of nightwinds and the cluck of random crickets (and perhaps the hum of your neighbor's airconditioner). For the record, I eventually turned the aircon back on and I experienced NO - I repeat - NO paranormal activity during my entire stay at the hotel.

A quick inspection of the grounds. The hotel has a pool (above). Don't worry, the ugly little Nestle boards flanking the boulder have already been removed. There is also talk of planting ferns on the boulder and turning it into a garden feature instead.

At the bottom of the hill next to the hotel, there is a cute little chapel with cool retro/modernist hardwood confession booths. Hello, a wedding on Corregidor. Now that's an idea. Very edgy (photos above). Beside the chapel, there is hostel for students/budget travellers and a recreation center with billiards and a bar are located right across each other (below).

The hotel has no spa but massage room service is available (No review for this). At noon, we joined the rest of the tourists at the restaurant for a buffet lunch and serenade. The musicians were stupendous. The buffet was well, satisfactory but not really my style.

Then, again, I'm really not the man to judge this lunch as I am a firm skeptic when it comes to the concept of "buffets" to begin with. Luckily, they had an ala carte menu. I ordered a clubhouse sandwich (I saw some American Vet eating one at the table next to mine) and I was very pleased. It was just like the sandwiches they used to serve at the Army Navy Club in Manila. Nostalgic. "US Military Chic" once again. I also learned from Kristine at Sun (5268888 loc. 9502) that for those who want to bring their own food (vegans, kosher, halal, or whatever), The Corregidor Inn can cook/heat/store your food for you at Php100.00 per kilo. Corkage for wines imbibed on hotel premises is Php500.00 per bottle. But then again, I found it unecessary to bring any as we found Yellow Tail for sale at their recreation center for Php250.00 per bottle. Fabulous. I recommend that you bring your own cold cuts and cheese to the island if you wish to add a touch more civility to the experience.

But in fairness to the island, they got their breakfasts right. My eggs were done perfectly crisp on the edges, just the way I ordered it and the portions were generous (above). The coffee was also brewed and NOT from a sachet as one would expect in most provincial establishments. Unfortunately, no one in our group ordered the western "continental" breakfast. But judging from what I saw on the neighboring tables once again, the quality wasn't too far from ours. Sun Cruises also tells me that they are working on expanding/improving the choices and standard of the island's cuisine (and the improvements should be completed by the time this blog hits print). I await with baited breath the arrival of hamburgers, hotdogs, milkshakes, or any other American style fare. Think: the menu of Army Navy Club/Manila Polo Club/Manila Golf Club or any other club established in the Philippines during the American Colonial Era. "U.S. Military Chic" once again and in total keeping with the history of the island.

Last photo: The best seat in the house. Get there early to grab it.

Next. What to do on Corregidor.