Friday, December 30, 2005

SURREAL IN THE CITY...

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

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

KVETCH! KVETCH! KVETCH!

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NO COMMENT...

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

AND LONDON TALKED AND TALKED...

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2005

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE!

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

Saturday, December 17, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOMEWHERE IN THE PHILIPPINES...

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

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ART! ART! ART!


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

Thank you Chris Madden for the cartoon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

THE NIGHT WAS HOT! HAUTE! HAUGHT!



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

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

Monday, December 12, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

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

Friday, December 09, 2005

LONDON CALLING...AND TALKING TOO!


Jackson Webb
Soft Lighting
10 December 2005 – 10 January 2006

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

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

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

Text 09262597506 to confirm or if you have inquiries.

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BEEN THERE. DO THAT.

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

Sunday, December 04, 2005

WHEE! WHEE! WHEE!

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

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

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

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

Scene IV: The Death of Manila in 1945.

Friday, December 02, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

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

BOO! BOO! BOO!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THESE 7,107 ISLANDS...

FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES
It was a dark and somewhat ominous afternoon when I took Singaporean photographer Jimmy Lam around the bowels of downtown Manila. He was here to do research and take shots of one of Manila's most ubiquitous sights: street people. It's part of series that he is doing on street dwellers ALL over Asia. Naturally, I took him to the riverside area of San Nicolas directly across Intramuros, a place I remembered to be chock full of the "sleeping-in-trees-and-cooking-dinner-in-an-selecta-can" crowd. But when I got there, I was rather shocked to see the place being renovated into a park and promenade. Nevertheless, energies are never destroyed, only transferred. So there were still a few stragglers who refused to move and managed to live amidst all the construction. All was going rather normally with the conversations we struck with the people we met until...

I met this man.

He was part of a larger group that was catching a nap right by the tugboats near Manila Bay. A rather affable fellow; he was well-spoken, intelligent, and didn't smell like a street person. He also acted very dignified and was dressed rather well for Philippine street dweller standards (i.e, he was lounging in long pants, shoes, and a button down shirt, as opposed to walking about shirtless with oversized basketball pants pointing fingers toward an open mouth). He also had a fantastic smile.

And that's when I noticed he had fangs. Yes. Fangs. I asked him to pull his upper lip and yes, they were real as real can be. Sticking out from the front of his teeth, they grew right out of his gums. He said his mother, while pregnant with him, made "lihi sa pusa". Unfortunately, due to his soft-spoken Tagalog, I couldn't hear him well and still can't figure out whether the direct translation of his words meant "she had a fondness for cats" or "she had a fondness for eating cats" when she was pregnant. Either way, it was too bizaare to believe.

Until I asked him where he was from. "Siquijor". Ah. Ok. Of course. Silly of me not to realize that off the bat.

Then when I asked him what his name was and he replied "Carlos". I couldn't deal anymore. I had to leave. Too freaky for my blood. And I'm already freaky.


Jimmy Lam hard at work. He gave twenty pesos to every person he met. God bless his soul for objectifying them and compensating them for doing so. It was a really neat arrangement for both parties.

My parting shot for the day. Too bad there isn't much detail in the photo. There were flies all around his feet and his home which is the umbrella next to him. And if this photo doesn't scream out: "The Philippines has become a total train wreck so let's all just stop bitching at one another, get our act together and pull our ass out of this ghastly mess were in", then I don't know what does.

Monday, November 28, 2005

LONDON CALLING...

The Living Room will be previewing "Soft Lighting", an exhibition/installation by British collaborative artists Jackson Webb on December 10, 2005 at 8:00PM onwards. Log on to The Living Room for more details.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

KVETCH! KVETCH! KVETCH! PART II



While I'm still hot on the topic regarding my love-hate relationship with SM and the cultural insensitivity of the Sy family (I name them point blank here because SM is still a family run entity without a board of directors to keep them in check), allow me to post these two photos. The top photo is a 1957 shot of the original Pines Hotel located at the top of Session Road. The bottom shot is the exact same spot today. In fairness, the hotel burned back in the 1980's and was not razed by the Sys. But nevertheless, I still cannot forgive them for not respecting the original spirit of the area. SM Baguio altered the character of this quiet mountain town beyond repair by building a gargantuan, energy sucking, commercial wasteland on the very peak of a town that was originally built for only 50,000 people. Some even blame SM for the city's string of bad luck and for it's meningoccocemia outbreak because of the strain that mall has put on the city's resources. It's all very nice inside for sure, but sadly, the garbage it spits out has to go somewhere. And believe me, it's not going down the mountain. And ignorance is no excuse, look how successful Greenbelt and Serendra have been in mixing new urbanism and commerce.

I've recently learned from Baguio friends that the mall is not doing well and it warms the cockles of my heart. I will even be so bold as to curse it so that it may close. Baguio's tourism industry will never recover while that behemoth looms over it (or at least until they do a major, MAJOR renovation).
Thank you Time Magazine, Manila Times and kriyayoga.com for the links.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

KVETCH! KVETCH! KVETCH!

Now I'm not sure whether I should be afraid or excited, but at the very edge of Pasay City on Manila Bay, Henry Sy's gargantuan Mall of Asia is on it's final stages of construction. Rising up on land reclaimed from the sea, this gargantuan temple to consumerism boasts of a 20 hectare footprint and 381,000 feet of commercial space. Undoubtedly, the biggest in the land and arguably the biggest in Asia as it's name suggests. But aside from the bothersome issues of instilling first-world consumer habits on a third world society, inappropriate and garish architecture, and negative environmental impact (ie. garbage and pollution management, CO2 emissions from air conditioning systems and the utter lack of trees in the plan), what really makes me think twice about this place is the huge globe/sculpture right at the entrance driveway of the mall. Although China and the United States and Africa are well represented, I couldn't find the Philippines on Henry Sy's map. Bizaare. It really makes one wonder whether he really cares about the society he earns his money from. Don't forget, it was his SM Mall of Baguio, with it's ugly boxy frame and oppressive nature, that locals blame for the decline of their downtown and the ultimate demise of Baguio as a tourist destination.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

THESE PIPES ARE SMOKIN'!
It's the next best thing to time travel in the City of Manila. Come listen to the 18th century come alive as the San Agustin Museum holds it's 7
th San Agustin International Music Festival starting today, November 22, 23 and 24. This three-day musical event will feature the hottest in local and international sacred and classical musicians as the church's organ celebrates it's 190th year. Featured artists for this year’s edition of the music festival are Spanish organist Jose Luis Echechipia, the multi-awarded Mandaluyong Children’s Choir, and noted Filipino vocal and instrumental soloists.

The Barcelona-based musician opens the Festival on Nov. 22, as he plays the 18th century works by Heredia, Cabezon, Aranxo, Sola specially composed for the 18th-century Baroque church organ. He will also perform works by Handel with Reynato Resurrecion Jr., principal oboist of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.
The multiawarded UST singers under the direction of Prof. Fidel Calalang perform in the second part of the concert with their rendition of works by Rutter, Biebel, Laurisden, Stroope, Weimer, Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab and two Negro Spirituals by Hogan. On November 23, Echechipia and Resurreccion return to render a different set of classical compositions specially arranged for the organ and the oboe. For the second part, the internationally-acclaimed Philippine Children’s Choir from Mandaluyong, directed by Sebastian Trinidad, premieres sacred works by Filipino composer Alejandro Consolacion. The three-day festival draws to a close on November 24, with a performance at the organ by Echechipia, followed by the Ateneo College Glee Club and the MSO Chamber Orchestra conducted by Prof. Malou Hermo performing John Rut­ter’s “Magnificat” in celebration of the forthcoming Yuletide season. Featured soloist is Filipino soprano Katrina Saporsantos. All shows start promptly at eight pm.

Tickets are available at the gates of the museum at P500, P300 and P100. For more information, call 527 4060 527 4061 or 526 6794. Thank you manalang.com for the photo and to Malaya and the Manila Times for the details.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

HOT! HOT! HOT!

These guys are definitely going to make somebody a lot of money. With their cool, infectious grooves that are a mix of Brazilian samba, Indian ragas, electronica, and spoken word in French, English, Filipino, and Portuguese, there's definitely something that everyone can bite into. But the real center of it all - aside from the charming novelty of their nine-year old percussionist prodigy - is Nyko Maca herself. She is part poet, part capoeira teacher, and part Philippine showbiz glam. Add onto it the brilliance of her sensible lyrics and some Shirley Bassey moxy, and you've got an art band that's definitely on the verge of a take-off. Definitely one of the most interesting acts I've seen in a while and I'm a totally jaded bastard. Catch them now before the crowds get too big. Text 0917 5342816 for their next gig and make sure to see them and DJ Superstar Caliph8 at the opening night of my new art space, The Living Room on December 10 at 9:00PM.
Nyko Maca consists of Malek Lopez on keyboards and mixer, Rick Sanchez on Classical Guitar, DJ Madz Abubakar on the laptop, Jose and Jaz Dufourt on percussions, and naturally, Nyko Maca.

Friday, November 18, 2005

LIFE ON THESE 7,107 ISLANDS...

AND1 MORE THING...
First it was Cathy Freeman, and now the AND1 Mixtape Basketball Team to visit the Philippines. Quite a bit of athelete interaction for a man who has little or no interest in sports whatsoever. Nevertheless, as people without the celebrity factor thrown in, Cathy was a sweetie and the AND1 team was quite an affable bunch. Actually, most of the team were genuinely interested in our history and were rather inquisitive and attentive for people who might otherwise be thought of as mere "jocks". Half-Man Half-Amazing, the tall chap with the cap partly hidden behind Professor, the shorter caucasian fellow to my left, was even a teacher of special education (just like my spouse) for nine years before turning to basketball. To paraphrase Ms. Melanie Marquez, "Never judge a person because they are not a book." Besides, even though I have the attention span of a newborn cat when it comes to sports, I do however give my props out to AND1 and their mission to promote international relations, social development, and well, fashion.
AND1 Mixtape team will be playing at the Araneta Coliseum this Sunday November 20. Thank you to Arnold Gamboa for the Melanie link.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER...

Or at least till the next typhoon blows them down.

Last August, I wrote a post about the current urban renewal projects happening on the Pasay side of Roxas Boulevard in downtown Manila. And although I reported that the street pavement patterns were promising (In brick toned swirly designs ala Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro) and haughtily taunted Manila City Hall that the Pasay side just might eclipse the Malate-Ermita side of Roxas Boulevard in terms of architectural beauty - I shall now eat my words with a side of humble pie. The new lamps are finally up and they are, um...hideous? surreal? aspirational? I still can't find the words to describe it. All I know is that I can't use the words "pretty" or "tasteful". They make the Malate-Ermita lamps look positively sublime in contrast. Sigh. The jeepney-fication of Manila goes on. I guess that isn't a bad thing though. I'd rather have tacky than decayed any day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

ALL LIFE IS A STAGE...

Allow me this shameless plug as they are neighbors. And although I have never met them, I truly believe in supporting fellow artists and dancers within the downtown Malate area - so here I go.

THE MASTER CLASS
What good is sitting alone in your room? Come make money off your voice in musical theater. Come November 19 and November 20, Sunday, DWUTOPIA will be holding an advanced musical theater workshop on weekends to be taught by Sweet Plantado of the CompanY, the Philippines premier vocal ensemble. So call 5256810 or 0916-2967627, fill up a form, register, and prepare a song of your choice to sing on that day. And call quick as there are only 8 slots available at the bargain price of Php7,200.00 for 3 months worth of classes. A must for those of you out there looking to make that next step in their musical theater career. And believe me, there are musical theater careers available in Philippines no doubt. Aside from producing flourishing theatre institutions like New Voice Company, Trumpets, Repertory Philippines and Lea Salonga, the Philippines is perhaps the only country where you don't have to be gay to adore show tunes. Broadway music is opera for the Philippine middle class.

DWUTOPIA (Dancing Wounded Commune) is a dance arts place located on two blocks away my new art space, The Living Room in North Syquia. They are on the fourth floor of the stunning 1930's art deco Michel Apartments on A. Mabini Street near the Manila Zoo. Call them if you need to rent space for rehearsals, small performances, do yoga, or whatever.

Monday, November 14, 2005

AND BETTY'S BACK...

Oh my god. Would you believe the audacity of this woman? She emailed me back with an even bigger shocker.

Carlos,

Everyone is entitled to his opinion, we live in a free country after all! Do you have contact numbers for a tour guide that doesn't inject his into his program?

Thank You,

B***********

(The letter is printed as is. I think she meant to add "opinions" after the word "his" in the second sentence.)


Betty,

You are simply incredible.

First you insult the script I've written as being prejudiced, then call me anti-American, then now come back to ask for the contacts of OTHER TOUR guides?

Hello? Do you see something wrong here?

If you really were not interested in learning ALL THE ISSUES surrounding Philippine history, both the good and the bad, why did you even bother joining the ayala museum class? It seems you already know all you want to know. But since I am a nice guy - not really - I will give you the names of my personal favorites in order of my preference anyway.

http://celdrantours.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_celdrantours_archive.html


But no matter who you call, the facts will never change:
The United States (note I said U.S. - as in the government - and not Americans as in the people) destroyed Intramuros and DID NOT rebuild it. The United States killed almost half a million people in order to take the Philippines over in the early 20th century and the United States was not the saviour of the Philippines because The Philippines never asked to be saved in the first place.

Carlos
The Tour Guy who does these tours as a vocation and as an extension of his art.
I am NOT a travel agency.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

ANOTHER HAPPY CUSTOMER...


Oh dear. It seems that Mercury is definitely in Retrograde. I seem to be offending everyone. Last month a Spaniard walked off my tour and just today, I received this letter from a lady I toured last week. I was gonna blog about her but she beat me to the punch and wrote me first. Let's just call her "Betty".

Hello Carlos,

I am the American that was offended during the Crypt part of your tour.

Hi there. I had a feeling I would be hearing from you. Sorry for running off after the tour. You seemed beside yourself and very confrontational. I didnt feel it was proper to pursue our conflict with the entire class around us. But Im glad you took the time out to get back to me.


After some thought, these are the reasons: History is based in fact, but interpreted with perspective. I feel your personal prejudice was inflicted on unsuspecting and unprepared visitors to this country.

Unsuspecting. Unprepared. Agreed. Personal prejudice. I disagree. As the truism goes: "History is always written by the victor." Therefore ALL HISTORY BOOKS are written with an agenda or prejudice just as all journalism has a slant. It just so happens that for this tour it was mine. My apologies for the shock though. I never meant to offend. I may have been offensive. But I was not wrong.

Please realize that Philippine History is not a happy one. It has been a series of conflicts and compromises which until this day have not been resolved - within our own society and within our relationships with others that we have dealt with. You know, I even lightened things up a bit in order to make it more digestible. If you want heavy history. Read up on the part I purposely left out for diplomatic reasons. The Philippine American War. Half a million dead. Then you tell me if I was being nice. I think I was.

http://www.historyguy.com/PhilipineAmericanwar.html

Many of your antidotes

(I'm sure you meant "anecdotes")

were unnecessary and did not seem to be intended to amuse. For example: The fact that the Philippine national hero (Rizal) was picked by Americans to suit their own purposes and clearly not the choice of the people is only partially fact. Americans made the choice, but you are interpreting their motivation. If the Filipino hates the choice, why hasn’t it been changed? I would like to see them rise up and agree on a candidate. I believe the same holds true for the other national selections such as flower, tree, etc. I also understand the choice of National Bird has subsequently been changed by the people.

How nice of you to suggest what Filipinos should do once again. Listen. I didnt say he was a bad choice, did I? I only said he wasn't our choice. It has not been changed because we like him. I like him. I said so in my tour. Didnt you hear that? And as to why we havent made our own choices yet, it's simply because as a formerly feudal society who has always had decisions made for them, the greater majority would probably not make good choices to begin with. I said that too. I even made a reference to Filipinos choosing somebody flashy but incompetent like FPJ or Erap Estrada if given their own free will. Why were you only hearing the anti-American side? I talked about all sides. I really did. Ask anybody on the tour.


I felt an extraordinary emphasis was placed on the shortcomings and mistakes of America and Gen. McArthur, during WWll, while none of the Japanese generals were even named.

That's you not listening again. I specifically pointed out and showed a photo of General Yamashita. Didnt you see it? I was even more graphic about the atrocities the Japanese committed and none of the Japanese members (on the tour) complained. They know their history well, these Japanese. They know where they stand. Read up more about these topics now that I've piqued your interest.

I believe both parties made many mistakes during that war and an inordinate amount of time was spent on the damage done to the Filipino by Americans and not enough time spent on the benefits. The fact that Americans taught English to the Filipino did not rob them of their opportunity to gain Spanish culture, it taught them to communicate with the world.

I said the same thing too. Not only do I appreciate English, but I appreciate toothpaste, the public health, sanitation, education systems and all the economic growth they gave us. I even showed photos of how much we improved during the American colonial period. From the sleepy Spanish backwater to a vibrant city known as the "Pearl of the Orient" But I guess you did not catch that either.

It seems you heard only what you wanted to hear. I was very fair. And if it was insulting. I insulted ALL AND NOT ONLY the United States of America. BELIEVE ME. I am an equal opportunity offender. I didnt spare ANYONE. Not even the Filipino. The Americans were not singled out in my tour. That was only the way that you received it. Cant blame you, Ive had Spaniards and Catholics walk out too. My tour is not for the faint of heart at all. I never said that it was.

I do not believe that bombs were dropped to level Manila “just because they were left over.”

Another thing you misheard. "I brought these bombs all the way from Virginia, like Hell Im gonna bring them back." is a real quote. Heard by the grandfather of my wife, who was posted on the north side of the Pasig with the American forces while bombs were being shelled towards the walled city. I said nothing of the sort about "leftovers".

Another fact presented with a victim’s bias. I know personally an American soldier and a Filipino guerrilla whose first hand accounts of the war do not reflect the oppressor/victim relationship you paint.

Of course you did. Many former MILITARY MEN from that generation do see him as the saviour, but how many civilians from that conflict did you interview? Take my word for it, many from that generation also think otherwise - especially those whose relatives were killed by shrapnel or shot by American soldiers mistaking Chinese-Filipinos for Japanese like the Y******. Look. There are many sides to any issue. My interpretation of events just happens to be one of many. History should never be taught from one specific point of view, that would not make it balanced at all. Should the Nazi occupation be only interpreted from the German side? Or from the Jewish? NO. It should be interpreted by anyone who takes the time out to learn the facts. It's everyone's right. And by the way, I did not interview and research the point of view of one American and Filipino vet before writing my script. I interviewed and researched the points of view of MANY American and Filipino World War II vets before writing my script. And not only that, I am RELATED TO MANY civilians who died from that conflict - the ones who were the ultimate losers here. Truly. How dare you call us victims here. We lost the physical manifestation of our spiritual center (Intramuros, the city of churches) in a war that was not even ours to begin with. And nothing will change that at the end of the day.

One reality of the war fought in the Philippines was that many Americans suffered and died alongside Filipinos believing that they were helping to save a country that was being oppressed, regardless of what was driving the political machine. I object to the degradation of their memory. Reparations have been made and are continuing to be made to the Philippines at a great cost to America.

Dont get all drama queen on me. Like hell I degraded their memory. I am keeping their memory alive. I am telling a story that not many people - and judging from our present conversation - not even YOU know much about.

I want you to know that my husband and I are here by choice. His work coversthe entire Asia-Pacific region and we chose to live in Manila. We are not with an Embassy or call-center though these sectors have brought much needed employment and commerce to this country. You presented this fact in an “American Imperialist” tone.

Good for you. First, let me thank you for having the confidence to invest here (whatever your investment may be). But at the end of the day, I'm sure you didnt come here to give your money away so dont make it seem like you are doing charity work. All investments must have returns. And as for being anti-American. Please, with my American twang and my east coast Rhode Island School of Design education (which I paid for in full by the way, if you wanna play the "who is giving who money" game), to call me Anti-American is not only erroneous, it's more than impossible to prove.

Call me a liberal, call me a jerk.
But don't ever call me Anti-American.

Filipinos are enterprising, hard-working, well-educated people who commonly speak the language spoken by the largest number of countries in the world. So why are you presenting them as victims? Kawawa! Their culture was not “stolen” by conquering forces any more that any number of other world nations. It is the layering of cultures that makes the Filipino. It should be embraced. Energy should not be wasted on blaming; instead it should be spent fixing the current problems. Any and all of the institutions put in place by the Americans and Spanish that were not embraced by the Filipino could and should have been replaced by now. I love the Philippines and I know you do too, but I am saddened by the lack of responsibility taken by all levels of Filipino people. Filipinos need to learn how to say no! Yes, the common people are suffering while the current upper class is thriving. Do you see a historical pattern here? Many economic templates are available to help ease these burdens that are not being instituted.

I agree with everything you said in the last paragraph. So why are we even having this conversation?

Now I am on my “soap-box”, and that is exactly my point. I feel that if I were an international guest at one of your tours, I would be submitted to much more politically-biased information than is appropriate. I admire and appreciate your thorough preparation and flamboyant presentation, but please take a long hard look at the perspective you are presenting it with, and think about what kind of impression you are making on our international guests to the Philippines.

You are the only international guest that I know of who has complained in letter and for that I thank you. Maybe then the group was too big, perhaps you werent able to listen to me well enough. I apologize for any strong language that I may have used in this letter as well.

Thank You,

B*****

You are welcome.

I remain.

Carlos Celdran

Thursday, November 10, 2005

GIVE 'EM THE BIRD


A good friend of mine, Mike Lu of the WBCP is one of the handlers of this event. Go with him to look at birds, will you?

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) is sponsoring the 1st Philippine Bird Festival, a one-day event to raise conservation awareness through the promotion of bird watching and the responsible appreciation of nature. The Bird Festival, the first of its kind in the country, will be held on November 18 at the Crossroad 77 Covenarium in Quezon City. To coincide with bird walks in favorite birdwatching sites in Metro Manila, the Philippine Bird Festival also features an exhibit of bird photos and paintings, lectures, nature videos, merchandise and an arts activity center for children. 580 species can be found in the Philippines, of which 176 species are unique to the archipelago. The alarming rate of forest, parkland and wetland destruction poses a serious threat to the diversity of wildlife in this country, which groups like the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines hopes to arrest by promoting a love for the outdoors, conservation awareness and nature-friendly development planning.


The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines invites interested organizations and individuals as co-sponsors of this event. For more information text or call 0917-3350325 or email myckle@thenet.ph.

HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY!

It's the thirty-third anniversary of my birth. You may either send me messages of love and devotion or - like me - pretend that this day never happened. Believe me, it's easy. Ive ignored November 10 for three years consecutively now.

But in related matters, today is also the birthday of The Living Room. After a three year hiatus in Pasig City, these feet have decided to walk back home to Manila.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

ART! ART! ART!

ART IMITATING LIFE - KINDA...
A Coke vending machine with stools.
It's shameless advertising for a cavity inducing product with zero nutritional value. but nevertheless, I like it.

Very very Claes Oldenburg and way more enlightened than the crap we see foisted up on Manila's streets lately...

Photo: Taken on Roxas Boulevard fronting the Aristocrat Restaurant.

Monday, November 07, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

All points bulletin out for all you shoppers out there. This is next weekend. Forget the bazaars and screw the joy of giving this holiday season. Run out and buy yourself some pre-owned Guccis instead.
* Amina Aranaz * Analog Soul * Anna Pashmina * ARTifacts * Alta Redor * Aurora Esqueta * Babo * Bean Fashion by Michelle Go * Bespoke * Bottoms Up by Nikki Poblador * Benjie Angeles * Camadiv * Casa Amarilla * Ciara Marasigan * Cielo Frontreras * Classic Charmz * Coco Tres Manila * Cole Vintage * Emma Navarette * Daphne OseƱa * Get Dressed by Maia Laurel * Gifts of Maharani * Great Options * Gail Ong-Angeles * Ilaya * I Love You * Irene's Closet * Kate Torralba * Kathang Kamay * Kat Sta. Cruz * Keri Lyn Zamora * Leaf Fashion House * Lots Botique * Limited * L'air by Ria Tiglao * Margaret Guzman * Main Event Bags * Mimi Cosmetics * Mia Villanueva * Moroccan Lamps by Udsie Villafranca * Nanette de Guzman * New Yorker * Nicole Wisenhunt * Pazzy Marquez * Preview * Red Jasper * Raka by Kathee Garcia * Rainstorm * Reian Mata * Ruth & Esther * Sapato Manila * Sio Eng Yu * Shirin Indian Accessories * The Bead Shop * Viman Bags * Vintage Polka by Patty Eustaquio * Villareal Bags * Vintage Pop * Vicky Tensuan

RETAIL ARCHEAOLOGY
November 12, Saturday, 10am-10pm
November 13, Sunday 10am-9pm
Php100.00
The Rockwell Tent (next to the freestanding Starbucks)
Rockwell Center, Makati

Thursday, November 03, 2005

KVETCH! KVETCH! KVETCH!

BUGGING OUT!
Oh yoo hoo! Vilma Santos! Oh yoo hoo! Ralph Recto! Mayor Dimacuha! Governor Manandas! Whoever! May I please have a quick word with you?

I have walked trough some depressed areas in downtown Manila. Deep, dark, unknown areas that one might think would be a hotbed of disease and grime. But believe me. Nothing, I tell you, nothing found on Manila's streets could ever compare to the trash that I have seen lining the roads of your province. Now, not that I want to start a fight here (considering that one of your provinces main exports is knives) but what is it about you guys? Am I just taking crazy pills or are you a really filthy bunch? On the road that leads from Santa Rosa to Tagaytay to Nasugbu, the sides of the roads were strewn - nay - abound with trash in all forms. Plastic or organic; burnt or wet; loosely spread or tightly packed in plastic bags emblazoned with every possible fast-food logo one could think of. It was absolutely incredible. I cant' believe government officials nor residents haven't noticed how bad it's become yet. And don't any of you start blaming the tourists nor try to say that this is a new problem. The litterbugging also occurs on weekdays (low tourist days). It also happens on the roads leading to the City of Lipa and Batangas Port (essentially non-tourist destinations) and I've seen it get progressively filthier these past months. Even the sidestreets that lead up to the lovely Pontefino Hotel are hideously littered. It's so obvious that the local government - and it's constituents - have no sustainable plan when it comes to waste management and don't care whether or not they do either. And I know that being a litterbug is not an inherently Filipino thing. Puerto Princesa City is spotless, and Visayan roadsides are way better managed than yours. Even dirty smelly ol' Manila still bothers to sweep it's streets once a day.
So get with the program soon, guys, or run the risk of losing your highly lucrative tourism industry.

And before any Cavitenos and people from Laguna start getting smug. Your roads are a dump too.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

CARLOS RECOMMENDS!

LOVE FOR SALE
Manila's nocturnal scene has only become lovelier with the opening of the new "I Love You Store" on Makati Avenue. Managed by wundergirls Corrine Ching, Sharon Atillo and Mimi Sanson, I Love You now finds it's fashionable self in the basement of Pilar Place Building on Makati Avenue, far - but not too far - from their original digs at Cafe Saguijo in San Antonio Village. The ambience is fresh, the furniture is funky, and the conversations are artful. And aside from the post-modern designs of their in-house label Amazingrace, the I Love you Girls also carry vintage accessories, indie label music CDs, and currently have artscene badboy Kiko Escora on exhibition. Open from 2pm till 12 midnight, make sure to pass by and a have a chat with the girls after work, apres dinner, or right before clubbing at the gay playground that is Government next door.

7840 Pilar Place, Makati Avenue, Makati City, next to Aberdeen Court, Parking available along sidestreets.
Cell: 0915 9089797

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

OH THE LIFE ON THESE 7,107 ISLANDS...

I have seen the seventh sign of the apocalypse and it's located at the corner of Quirino Avenue and South Super Highway Extension. Ok. Maybe I'm exaggerating but the semiotic buffet of billboards you see above are definitely an omen augering the demise of something. On the bottom right hand side, we find Miss Kris Aquino - daughter of the late Marcos rival/senator/national martyr Benigno Aquino and GMA uber-critic/moralist/hypocrite/crappy president Corazon Aquino - hawking Bench underwear by wrapping herself in the oiled embrace of a Greek model. Meanwhile, one Pancake House advertisement to the left, we find the sexually ambiguous porcelain skinned Borgie Manotoc - love child of senator Imee Marcos and grandson of the late dictator/kleptocrat/killer Ferdinand Marcos and culture vulture/singer/shoe afficionado/former first lady Imelda Marcos - pushing his pants down to sell BLUE SODA jeans. Now, what does it say about a society when their political dynasties resort to doing overtly sexual ads for commercial products in order to maintain themselves in the public eye? Something pretty scary I'm sure. Really. What's next? Luli Arroyo pushing pantyliners?
Photo: Billboards on Quirino Avenue, October 2005