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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

WHEE! WHEE! WHEE!


CLICK ME!
A million thanks to ClickTheCity.com for the great feature. Well, it looks like a great feature. The sound card of my computer is broken so I have no idea what I sound like or what the hell I'm saying. But nevertheless, ClickTheCity is a great site. I always use them to check out movie schedules and for restaurant details.

And I'm not being a kiss ass. I really do use the site.

Click here for the site; click here for the clipcast. Thanks jay for the photo!

Monday, November 27, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!


MONSTER MOVIE!

C'mon Everyone. You only have two more days to go to watch "Ang Pamana: The Inheritance". It's a fabulous movie about homecoming Filipino-Canadians who are terrorized by the monsters which inhabit the old house they inherited from their grandmother. Completely shot in 35mm and set to super duper surround sound, it's perhaps this year's glossiest Filipino film. Done in English with subtitles under the spoken Tagalog parts, I highly recommend this film to any English speaking foreigner, and Filipino English language trainee who wants to learn more about Filipino folklore, traditional animism, and the "aswang". Highly recommended by the the MTRCB (Movie and Television Classification Board) for it's high production values, the film was giving an "A" rating, and now enjoys tax free status. (Above) Picture of the movie poster at the premiere in Shangri La Mall. (Below left to right), director Romeo Candido, actress Caroline Mangosing ("Lola"), actress Nadine Villasin ("Anna") , and Darrel Gamotin ("Johnny") being interviewed by MTV Philippines. The movie also stars Phoemela Baranda, Nico Garcia, Victor Neri. Their award nominated website can be accessed here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

OK. THIS WILL BE THE LAST...

Yes. I know. Enough with the Imelda posts already. But as the finale of Imelda Week here on Walk This Way, permit me to post these photos of myself, my wife, and Her Highness the High Hair during the Imelda Moment I had last weekend. Mucho mucho thanks to my friend, Daphne, for capturing it. I'll move onto another topic now...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! I THINK...

NEW YORK MUSINGS...

Dr. Fernando Zialcita, a professor of Philippine history at the Ateneo de Manila, once lamented that the Philippines and it's dominant culture seemed invisible. He believed that our country, with it's westernized ways, seems to be considered as an anomaly to the Southeast Asian region and is apparently "not exotic enough" to the eyes of the world to be given much attention. And due to this inability to peg Philippine culture among it's neighboring cultures, they just bypass it altogether. As an example, he said to look up most international publications on cultures of Southeast Asia printed in the last fifty years and one will see that great focus will be given to neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand but only minimal print will be given to the Philippines. And if the Philippines is mentioned at all, those features will only touch upon Philippine tribal and pre-hispanic cultures. the dominant Philippine lowland/Christianized culture created after 1600 won't be mentioned at all. It had become invisible.

That theory stuck to me as I thought about our presence in magazine publications in New York City (above). For the past few years and at any given month, one could open up just about any art or lifestyle or travel or events or cuisine publication and section upon section would be given to the arts, crafts, culture, cuisine etc... of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, et al. But aside from the "surreal" section ('Woman gives birth to fish') and world news events ('Terrorism!', ''Typhoons!'), the Philippines was given small notice if any at all. It seemed like the Philippines was becoming invisible in New York.

It was a was really a sad state of affairs considering that thirty years ago, thanks to Imelda's jet setting ways and real estate purchasing "savvy", the Philippines held a pretty high profile in the "greatest city on earth". Think about it. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, at any given time you could open up the Village Voice, The New Yorker, or New York Magazine listings section and you would see that the Philippines would be having: a) Architect Leandro Locsin guest as set designer for Martha Graham's latest ballet, b) a festival of handicrafts at Bloomingdale's Department Store c) a travel exposition at the newly opened Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue (above) or off the record, hosting a Van Cliburn private piano recital at the Philippine president's residential townhouse on 56th street between Lexington and 5th. (more on this below). It was apparent that the Philippines was the most dominant Southeast Asian culture on the New York cultural map beforing falling back into anonymity when we slashed the budget for public relations.
But after years of neglect, I'm glad to see that we are slowly creeping back to the surface in the New York City scene. With the latest performance of the Bayanihan Dance Company at the Metropolitan Museum, the feature of Cendrillon Restaurant's book, "Memories of Philippine Kitchens" (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang) as Vanity Fair Magazines Fanfair picks (above), and Imelda Marcos making it into the "Approval Matrix" of New York Magazine (below), it somehow seems were kinda poised to head back into the Big Apple's cultural consciousness once again. Bravo bravo to you all!
But then again, maybe just half a bravo to Imelda. Her position was still in the was "highbrow, despicable" area. And while we're on the topic of Her Highness The High Hair. Allow me to post some pictures I took of her former town house during my last visit to New York.

Actually, it was never Imelda's townhouse. It was always owned by the Philippine government and used as offices for our Ambassador to the United Nations since the 1950s. It was only refurbished as a residence by Imelda in in the 1970s after she moved all the offices to the more centrally located Philippine Center on 5th Ave. Today, half the property has been sold to the Czech government to use as their consulate (hence, the renovations).

Here is the entrance foyer with most of the original wall/ceiling details remaining intact. The place, although a bit dark, I am happy to report, is spotlessly clean.

Here is a picture of the Dining Room with a chandelier that supposedly cost U$one million. I'm not sure how true this is but apparently it once had real diamonds hanging from them. They are gone now.

The grand staircase. Then and now. Note the missing tapestry and antique candelabra. Apparently most of the good stuff went missing during the Cory Administration, when most of the furniture was "sequestered" by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

The piano room/sala. Note the mural works of peacocks behind Imelda are the same ones next to the fireplace. The murals are in current need of restoration (water damage) and would cost about U$50,000.00. The house itself is one of New York City's registered Historic Homes so I hope the funding for this comes soon.

Finally, a portrait of the living room and the current mistress of the house, Mrs. Norma Baja, the wife of Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations, Amb. Lauro Baja. She sometimes throws ballroom dancing parties at the townhouse when entertaining fellow UN diplomats ("Koffi Annan is an excellent dancer."). Most of the furniture is hers and will leave with her when their assignment ends. The chandeliers will remain though. "They belong to the Filipino People", she says. Thanks for the tour and the cookies. Charming charming lady.

Monday, November 20, 2006

MY IMELDA MOMENT...

Ok. So I finally met Imelda Marcos. And even though I really didn't want to - I did. Actually, I have refused quite a few offers to interview or meet Madame M in the flesh. Considering that I do a tour called "Living La Vida Imelda", a three hour tour about her life and the architecture that she commissioned, I really didn't want to contaminate my viewpoint by meeting the subject herself. The tour I do is based on our country's perceptions about the woman. It includes both the rumors and the realities, and I felt that meeting her would compromise the content. But nevertheless, last Saturday our inevitable meeting had come to pass.

The location was at the Philippine Plaza Hotel, the time was after my Quiapo tour, the event was the launch of her jewelry collection, and my outfit: Puruntong pants (cargo bermuda shorts), a sweaty red collared shirt, and dirty sneakers. I was totally wearing an inappropriate outfit for the launch of a jewelry line but who cares? I had just come from touring and I wouldn't have changed even if I was going to meet the Queen of England or the Pope. Admittedly, my invite came at the last minute (thank you Junjun for letting me crash the party with you) and I didn't have the time. Besides, my intentions to crash the party were pure. I wasn't planning to wolf down all their food or social climb any of the characters that were there. I was only curious about what her jewelry designs looked like - period. Bryanboy - Pahiram ng photo of the event above (Bryanboy - Can I borrow the photo above, please?) I forgot to bring a camera that night.

Anyhoo, Imelda sat across the room in a leaf green and pink butterfly sleeved terno, muching on chicken barbecue (boneless, of course) when I was suddenly motioned to come over by the hostess of the evening, Daphne Osena Paez. "O, have you ever met Imelda?", she asked? I said no and was just about to explain myself when quicker than you could say "Salvatore Ferragamo Balena Grey velvet sandals with fondente dark brown galuchet ornaments", Daphne turns to MIRM and says, "Mrs. Marcos, this is Carlos Celdran, he does tours of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Coconut Palace."

Then suddenly, everything got a little foggy. To tell you the truth, I kinda lost composure. When people say that the woman radiates an energy, it doesn't quite measure up to the act of actually meeting her up front. I could swear her hair was vibrating. I almost found myself courtseying.

And then... she opened her mouth: "Ah yes," she began, smiling at me with her rheumy eyes suddenly aglow with nostalgic thoughts. "I was talking to National Geographic Magazine yesterday about when Mrs. Marcos was still first lady." I love it. She talks about herself in the third person. "I was visiting the provinces and I saw people living in these little shanties. They were so ugly. So I told them, 'O pagandahin mo naman. ('Why don't you make your houses more beautiful?') and they told me, 'Maam, we cannot because we only have these simple materials of bamboo and coconut.'" Pause. Small bite into her chicken barbecue. Then, she continued, "So what did I do? I built them a coconut and bamboo palace to show them that even if you are poor, there is no excuse for being ugly."

How brilliant - I think. I then found myself apologizing for what I was wearing. "It's okay, she said without looking at me "I know that is how the young people dress nowadays." But after being introduced to my wife, Tesa, she turns to me and says, "So many beautiful people here tonight, birds of a feather flock together." Then a giggle. Then another bite of the barbecue.

After a few more shared words, her parting words to me were, "Remember to always set an example, mass always follows class, class never follows mass." before adamantly reinforcing that, "It's NEVER the other way around!"

Um. Ok. The fog had lifted.

Oh - and to be fair, the woman has a bit of talent. The pieces she designed were...Ok.

The next CCP tour is on November 24, Friday at 2:00pm and November 30, Thursday at 2:00pm. Meet at the CCP Figaro Coffee Shop across from the theatre entrance automobile ramp.

Next, my visit to her former town house in New York City...

PS. Thanks a gazillion to uber super duper sex therapist, Dra. Margie Holmes for the lovely shout out on her website. She really is too sweet. If you haven't checked out her great site yet. Log onto it now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS!
Stuff to do during the last week of November till Christmas
Gee. It's mid-November. I guess that means it's already Christmas in Manila. And it also means that the cultural events season is about to shift into high gear. It seems like there is something to do just about every night. Here is a listing of some of the stuff I want to check out this month:

The San Agustin Organ Festival
Date: November 28, 29, and 30

Time: 8:00PM

Place: The San Agustin Church, Intramuros

Description: For the 8th year in a row, the 18th-century organ at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros warms up it's pipes for your pleasure. Featured artists for this festival are the Spanish organist Juan de la Rubia and Filipino trumpetist Fredeline Parin. They will be performing with the UST Singers, Kilyawan Boys Choir, and the UP Singing Ambassadors. Bring a fan (no aircon) and a deep love for Baroque Music. Call 5266793 for details and nightly programme. Only Php300.00 and Php500.00 tickets left. Oh and check out this cool panoramic shot of the organ here. Thanks Fung Yu.

The Manila Cathedral Organ Festival
Date and Time:
December 1, 7:00PM
December 3, 2:00PM and 8:30PM

December 4, 7:00PM

December 8, 7:30PM

December 10, 6:00PM

Place: The Manila Cathedral, Intramuros

Description: Well, thank heavens the performances of San Agustin and Manila Cathedral don't overlap. World-acclaimed Belgian artist Luc Ponet performs on the newly restored organ (the largest in Asia I hear) in this five-day festival, joined by local virtuosos Armando Salarza and Jose Flores Jr. No worries for those who easily perspire, The Manila Cathedral is airconditioned. A million thanks to Diego de Cera of Las Pinas for restoring both San Agustin and Manila Cathedral organs. The nation is indebted to your expertise. Admission is free.

Confradia de Intramuros Grand Marian Festival
Date: December 3, SUNDAY

Time: Come at around 4:00PM

Place: All around Intramuros
Description: It is Intramuros at it's most beautiful. Come witness the annual procession of carrozas (illuminated Marian floats) which celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Almost 70 decorated floats will snake it's way around the walled city starting at the Plaza Roma. An absolutely awesome sight not to be missed for both Filipinos and foreigners alike. Be sure to bring a camera and wear good walking shoes. Arrive closer to sunset and stick around to catch the organ concert at the Cathedral. Thank you Robby dela Vega for the photos.

The Arturo Luz Festival
Feature: "Let There Be Light"

Date: November 22, 2006
Time: 6:00PM
Place: All around the Cultural Center of the Philippines

Description:
Ballet Philippines, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, and Tanghalang Pilipino each perform a ten minute piece in front of various sculptures and paintings by National Artist Arturo Luz located around the CCP premises. Wear something fashionable and dine at someplace classy afterwards, like Sala, or Lolo Dads. You know you want to after all that high art and modernism. This event is part of a larger festival that includes exhibitions of Arturo Luz's works at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Ateneo Art Gallery, the Ayala Museum, and the Design Center of the Philippines. Call the CCP at 8321125 local 1511 or 1512 for more details. Thanks Ramon 2002 for the photo.

The Opening of the G Hotel
Date: November 20, 2006

Time: All day

Place: 2090 Roxas Boulevard, Malate

Description:
Downtown Manila's first bonafide boutique hotel opens it's doors. Featuring decor by architect/designer Gerry Contreras (which is what the G stands for) and managed by the Waterfront Hotels Group (then again, the G could mean Gatchalian), this 50-room gem of a hotel features a striking lobby done in dramatic black and white, tastefully appointed rooms with modern Filipino furniture, and a penthouse ballroom good for 120 overlooking the waters of Manila Bay. Each room comes with a pantry and their rooftop poolside bar, Mirage, promises to be the epicenter of action for Manila's hipsters who are looking for the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail overlooking Roxas Boulevard and the sunset. Rooms start at U$100.00. Call 5280888.

ARTGRILL
Date: November 18, 3:00PM
Place: Mag:net Cafe and Gallery,
Katipunan Avenue, QC
Description:
Mag:net Cafe is happy to announce the holding of its first ARTGRILL. Come and witness artists, art writers, critics, academicians, gallerists, and collectors engage internationally acclaimed artists Manuel Ocampo, Sandra Palomar and Nestor Vinluan in an interactive dialogue. Although presentations will precede the dialogue, the audience is encouraged to view the exhibitions of the featured artists as well. Ocampo is at the Finale Art File (SM Mega Mall), Palomar is at Silverlens Gallery (2320 Pasong Tamo Ext, Makati) and Vinluan is at Mag:net Katipunan (335 Agcor Building, Katipunan Ave, Loyola Heights, QC). Their shows run till the end of the month. Admission is free.
For inquiries, call 9293191 (Malou)
or email magnetcafekatips@yahoo.com.ph
or visit www.magnetcom.ph.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

AND HE'S OFF...

Aside from the obvious entry of Ali Atienza (current Mayor Lito Atienza's son) into the race for Manila Mayor in 2007, it seems that it's only former presidential candidate, Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson who has officially announced his intention run against him. During a press conference this morning at the Manila Hotel (which was looking pretty shabby in the background by the way), he presented his platform/acronym (HOPE). H apparently stands for HEALTH (which I hope includes birth control and reproductive health services), O means ORDER (which I hope includes enforcing anti-vagrancy, anti-littering, and anti-noise pollution laws), P means... um... I forgot.. was it peace? productivity? Ooh. Sorry, I guess I wasn't listening very well (He is kinda boring to watch - no offense to him). And the E stands for Education (and I hope that means educating people about arts, culture, and the necessity for architectural heritage preservation). And aside from the irritating use of acronyms (which is just juvenile), the other thing that bugged me out about the press conference was his invocation of God. Apparently, running for mayor was not his decision but the decision of someone um..higher up. No comment. I will have no comment for a while either. I'm not sure which candidate to support just yet. I have to research the other candidates' platforms first. Hurry up, Borgy. I'm waiting.

Favorite moment of the press conference: when asked about Atong Ang and his testimony possibly linking Ping to the Kuratong Baleleng rubout cases, the senator replied that he is not afraid, "Let him lie and lie and lie until his nose reaches his toes." Sigh. Such elegant phrasing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

NOVEMBER NIGHTS!
Just received this in the mail today. Very cool. Another walking/theatrical experience opens up in Intramuros. Cool! The more the merrier I say. I'm definitely going to check this out.

The Department of Tourism and Intramuros Administration present "A Walk Back in Time: The Intramuros Theater-in-the-Round Experience" It will be a weekly theatre show about Philippine Colonial Culture and History. In addition to the show, there will also be a food festival, a lantern showcase exhibition, and chorale presentations. This event will begin on November 17 and the grounds will be open from 6-11PM at the Plaza San Ignacio in Intramuros, Manila. The theater show is directed by Chris Millado, written by Palanca awardee Rody Vera, and performed by the CCP resident drama company, Tanghalang Pilipino. It will run twice nightly (Fri and Saturdays only) at 8 and 9PM.

A WALK BACK IN TIME
Every Friday and Saturday
November 17 - December 23, 2006.
Plaza San Ignacio (next to the ruins of the former San Ignacio Church)

The event is open to the public and admission is free.

And to all you foreigners out there who are contemplating whether or not to watch because of a language barrier. No worries. The show is in ENGLISH.

PSS. A big thanks out to the website PINOYexpats for their lovely article here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

AMERICAN POSTSCRIPT...

It has been exactly ten years since I graduated from RISD and eight years since I moved away from New York City and the United States altogether. And to say that both places have changed since then is like saying that Filipinos "kinda" like pork. Back then, New York City still had porn on 42nd street, all restaurants still had smoking sections, CBGB's was still the center for rock and roll, and the World Trade Center Towers still stood. Meanwhile Providence (above), although charming, was an undeniably grey backwater rather unworthy of being on anyone's tourist map much less relevant enough to be used as a backdrop for such TV series as "Family Guy" and naturally, "Providence". Today, New York City is still an exciting albeit somewhat milder version of what it once was while Providence has taken an extreme turn towards gentrification. Now whether these cities have changed for the better or for the worse - I still have to decide. So allow me to reflect...
DIVINE PROVIDENCE:
I was amazed to see that the capital of a state once nicknamed the "armpit of New England" has finally gotten it's act together. Up until when I graduated college in 1996, the city had the reputation of being the closest thing to a third world country that one could find within the New England corridor. Rife with pollution, crime, derelict structures, historic site demolitions (above), retarded urban planning and a local government plagued with scandal, all seemed completely hopeless for the city. Former Providence "mayor for life", Vincent Albert "Buddy" Cianci Jr. (below, left), held onto office for almost twenty years and was rumored to have mafia ties. After being indicted in 2001, he currently is serving time for racketeering, conspiracy, and witness tampering charges - among others. But despite the odds which included an apathetic civil sector, an abandoned city center, and a corrupt government system, in just a little over a decade, Providence has miraculously shed it's tarnished image and has emerged as a shining example that proper coordination between the government, the private sector, and the arts community can completely transform a society. And all this was brought about by the most unlikely of pioneers, the controversial "Buddy" Cianci himself.
Despite Buddy's colorful/questionable political career, many credit him as the man who initiated the reinvention of Providence. It was he that began the reversal of decades of misguided city planning and it was no mean feat. Aside from having the political will to implement zoning and historic structure protection laws, he initiated the uncovering (above) and restoration of two rivers (the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck) that had been paved over in the 1950s. From 1992 until 1996, over 1,150 feet of roadway, asphalt, and concrete was removed (below) from over the river and a tree lined promenade and park were constructed in order to connect both sides of Providence through a green central core. Today, it stands as an amazing feat of American engineering, creating one of the most charming urban riverscapes in the United States (below, center).
And thanks to his vision of supporting the arts in order to create commerce (the mayor even offered artists income and sales tax exemptions as long as they move their studios and galleries into the downtown area), Providence is now reaping the rewards. Increased real estate values, a construction boom (above), and a thriving tourism industry thanks to Providence's version of the Mardi Gras "Waterfire" (below) are only few of the amazing changes that I noticed during this last visit. The once derelict and endangered historic areas of Providence (below, middle) now has it's 19th century architecture protected by a pro-active preservation society while designer furniture and clothing boutiques now line streets where crime and pollution once reigned supreme (below, bottom). It seems that thanks to Buddy's initiatives, Providence has successfully transformed itself from being a lackluster collection of abandoned brick buildings into one of the United States' most progressive and forward thinking small cities, complete with protected heritage architecture zones and an openly gay mayor.
Now to ponder whether Manila could emulate Providence's pioneering efforts is a moot point. The last time we let art and culture become part of our social engineering efforts was underneath the leadership of former Metro Manila Governor Imelda Marcos and look where that got us (and unlike then, Providence still kept it's moral core intact by eventually JAILING Cianci DESPITE what he had done for the city). Nevertheless, the lessons to be learned from Providence are real and substantial. Arts, culture, and especially architecture are undeniably integral to the development of any society's soul. Providence is proof of that. Providence has also proven that it's possible to correct past mistakes and set a city back on the right track. And if a tiny town like them can do it, why can't we?

Next. New York City.

TIME OUT!

STRIKING WHILE THE IRONY IS HOT...

Ok. I just had to stop my email editing and my backlog of blog draft writing to bring you this "What the F...?" segment. Was I hallucinating on mushrooms or did I see Imelda on the cover of the Philippine Star lounging by breakwater of the Philippine Plaza Hotel in a blue muu-muu with photographers all around her? Apparently not, according to the LA Times. According to them, her daughter, Congresswoman Imelda Jr. "Imee" Marcos and her sons (among them, androgynous Blue Soda spokesmodel, Borgy Manotoc), are all set to be launching the Imelda Collection, a line of retro-style clothing, accessories, and obviously, (throat clearing), shoes.

Read the article here.

And speaking of scary muu-muu, thank you Cynthia Dayco for sending me the lovely photos of last weeks cemetery tour. Click here for the album.

Friday, November 03, 2006

AMERICAN POSTSCRIPT...

REPORTING FOR DUTY...
And I'm back. Sorry about that. I just stepped out for a bit to take a cigarette break. On the other side of the planet. For a month.

Yup. I have been on vacation for one month. Wild. It's been four weeks plus since I last made an entry and my blog has fallen off the face of the earth (I am now in Yugatech Philippines' Top Blogs purgatory for my absence - Go ahead. Try to find me). Oh well. La dee da. Nevertheless, I was glad to take a break from all the blogging and the relentless unsolicited opinionating and now here I am, back in front of my keyboard ready to get back to work. Ugh.

Needless to say, all went well on my trip back to the United States to visit friends in New York City (above) and to attend my college reunion in Providence, Rhode Island (below). Moreover, I am also delighted to report that no untoward events happened to me at U.S. customs, no major diseases were contracted during the journey, and nor do I harbor any desire to move back to America at all (It's kinda hard to do walking tours about Manila when one is well, not in Manila). And as pleasurable as it was to spend an entire month just imbibing stimuli and only thinking about a life which existed offline, in real time and in the real world, like all good things, it had to end. Now here I sit in front of my genius of a mouse, ready to thresh out over 300 emails and post about how this current visit to the aforementioned cities stack up to my memories of them and to the city where I currently reside.

To be continued...