Monday, January 30, 2006


OK. Now that I've gotten your attention, you can take your mind out of the gutter. I'm only talking about Calle Escolta on the north side of the Pasig River in Manila. "Escolta" means "escort" in Spanish and is derived from the street's original use as a convoy route for the British Commodore when the Philippines was briefly British from 1762 till 1764. From the late 19th century up until the end of the 1950's, Escolta maintained it's reputation as Manila's poshest commercial district until the glitzy promise of pristine Makati took most of the glamour away. By the year 2000, Escolta was abandoned and a sad shell of it's former self, rife with urban decay. But today, with the improvement of the river water quality, the construction of a cobbled riverside promenade, and the completion of a river ferry station, Escolta is once again set to reclaim it's relevance. In addition, the opening of two car lots on Escolta and Tomas Pinpin Streets and re-zoning of street parking have eased the traffic congestion of the district - a miracle in predictably gridlocked Metro Manila. But best of all, all this can now be yours for just a few bucks. Stunning architectural masterpieces like the Perez-Samanillo (First United) Building (top), the Burke Building (2nd from top), Natividad Building (3rd from top), and the Calvo Building (below) are having a fire sale on their rental leases. From office units, studios, to groundfloor riverside restaurant spaces overlooking the stunning Manila Post Office, almost every square meter is discounted so that you can start your business without breaking the bank. The First United Building is even giving away free rent upon the signing of a lease! So go call the First United Building (tel. 2415150/2414865), the Burke Building (2430491/2415274) or the Calvo Building (tel. 2414572/2414762) so that you can learn more about this perfect opportunity to make money while saving heritage architecture at the same time.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


“All my life, I have been fascinated by the Filipina, how she holds power within our societal system, how she manages this power by quietly taking on pivotal roles, and how she uses this power to eventually come into her own,” says Lorenzo. “The result of her individual journey is what I am interested in: the strong, timeless Filipina with a humanity that transcends history and legacy.”

Isa Lorenzo, the owner of the fabulous Silver Lens Gallery at Pacific Plaza in Fort Bonifacio, now turns the attention to herself as she opens "Filipinas", a photo portrait series of thirty Filipino women who, through their achievements, best represent feminine power and guile in local arts, education, social work, civil society and politics. Curated by Deanna Ongpin-Recto, the series features such interesting personalities as ESTEFANIA ALDABA-LIM, TERESITA ANG-SEE, GILDA CORDERO-FERNANDO, and such twittering idiots as CORAZON AQUINO and ARMIDA SIGUON REYNA.

Opens on February 1, 2006 at the Main Gallery.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


And the game is called:
"Let's Figure Out Why Pedicabs Suck and Let's Think of Ways to Fix the Damn Thing."

I mean, it's a total contradiction. How in heaven's name did Manila's ubiquitous pedicab become such a source of frustration, fear, irritation, and derision when, in essence, it should have been the most positive contribution to Manila's transport system since asphalt. I mean, it's folk art, it doesn't use FOSSIL FUELS, it's entrepreneurial, it fits small side streets, and it employs unskilled labor. It really shouldn't be such a grand pain in the ass at the end of the day. So after much thought, I think I've figured out a few reasons why they suck, suck, suck - as well as a few solutions...
1.) The Cab - Being located on one side, the weight is not balanced out properly. This limits passenger/cargo load to small boxes and even smaller people. The lopsided load also makes it difficult to drive straight (the wheels are pulled towards the heavier side.)
Solution: Center the weight in the back. Like this.
2.) The Artwork - In most cases, too slapdash to be of any merit. It comes across more like egoistic graffiti than an expression of a folk tradition. Feels sometimes like you are riding a tatoo on the back of an ex-convict.
Solution: Hold decoration contests during town fiestas. Not that I'm saying we should take money away from the "Miss Gay Barangay" contests. But Lord knows money has been spent on sillier things. Either that, or keep more convicts in jail so that they don't decorate pedicabs.
3.) The Window - Too small. It creates feelings of paranoia. Also limits tourist potential as no views are offered for photo ops.
Solution: Go convertible. Like this.
4.) The Bicycle - Too small once again. Small wheels make it more tiring to pedal long distances.
Solution: Bigger bicycle.
5.) The Power Source Himself - Although usually cheery with great smiles, due to lack of organization and the absence of a published fare matrix, some drivers become rather opportunistic and do not quote prices consistently. Casual oversized shirt (if any at all) and open shoes portray an image of unprofessionalism.
Solution: Stronger rules in applying a price matrix. Application of higher standards upon the leaders of pedicab unions. Pedicab driver training in courtesy and road rules. Privatize.

Any other observations? Any other ideas about how else we can change the pedicab from a pain in the ass to an asset?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Or well, maybe just in "like" with them. Especially now that they are giving art away for free at the end of the month. Just lookie what I got in the mail.

We are pleased to announce that the Cultural Center of the Philippines will once more be mounting PASINAYA 2006: The CCP Open House Festival on Sunday, January 29, 2006 from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM in all its performance venues. The Festival will showcase the performances of the CCP resident companies such as Ballet Philippines, Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Philippine Ballet Theater, Philippine Madrigal Singers, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ramon Obusan Folkloric group, Tanghalang Pilipino, the UST Symphony Orchestra and other guest performers inthe fields of dance, music and theater. There will also be exhibits, film showings, food booths, a tiangge, and other special attractions.

May we invite you, your family and friends to come to the CCP and avail of the opportunity to watch the outstanding performances of our resident companies and other guest artists, view our exhibits and watch quality films FREE OF CHARGE.

Should you accept this invitation to be part of this festival, please confirm your attendance by calling 832-2314 or 832-1125 loc. 1606. For more information, kindly log on to the CCP website at

Sounds like a great deal to me. I'll make sure to pass by Grappa's by the breakwater for the sunset breeze and some Czech draft beer after watching the shows.

Thank you Manila Bay Environmental Project for the photo. Interesting site I might add...

Monday, January 16, 2006


It seems that all I have time to do nowadays is just bitch. Don't get me wrong. I'm perfectly grateful for many things in my life. My wife, my family, and my dog, for starters. But then there is also the wonderful weather we've been having lately (December to February is really the best time to enjoy the cool breezes coming onto Manila Bay), the incredible assortment of people that I meet on my tours (I probably have the best job in the Philippines right now - only flight attendants, toll booth operators, and prostitutes get to see more of a variety of people than I do), and the complete eradication of the TV station ANC and the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer from my life (I am proud to say that as a former innuendo-a-holic, I have been free from these two for over three months now). But one thing. One thing. The one thing that has consistently rubbed my turkey the wrong way, has been the restaurant I walk by on my way to my space on M.H. del Pilar in Malate: Aristocrat Restaurant.

So for my kvetch of the week I write to:

Dear Ms. Engracia Reyes,
Yes, I know that you are already dead. But it is probably better this way because you will hear what I have to say for sure. Remember that restaurant Aristocrat? The one that you founded back in 1936? Yes, the one on Roxas Boulevard next to North Syquia Apartments. Well, Ms. Reyes, in the name of all that is holy in this world, what the freak is up with that place? Each day I have to walk by your kitchen and the proverbial rectum of your establishment (the loading bay) and each time it is an experience akin to Dante's seven levels of hell. Please look at the two photos I have enclosed above and realize that right outside the area where you cook your food, where your employees hang out, and where I - and many tourists - have to walk by everyday, is a kiddie-pool sized puddle of the most fetid liquid I have ever seen or smelled in my life. The odor is that of sewage pipes in a slaughterhouse of skunks, and the color is that of cloudy green snot. The stuff is so toxic that it has eaten away at the cement grouting of your driveway. I am afraid of walking my dog by your restaurant lest his paws burn off from the toxicity. I once even witnessed a chihuahua-sized rat running out of there! Running! And running OUT! What the hey-ho scared it? Your food? Really. I know Filipino food can be bad for your health and can smell funny sometimes, but this is taking it to a whole new level. It's apparent that all you serve at your establishment is uranium and cat shit. And now that you are starting to franchise and expand, it's really time to professionalize operations and to employ international standards of sanitation as company policy, doncha think? So kindly let your descendants know of this problem please? Perhaps tickle their toes in the middle of the night or something? It's time to let them know that the day to clean up their act over at the mothership has come.

Thank you,
Carlos Celdran

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I am writing from the netopia in Harrison Plaza. Why? Because my computer has gone nuts and I haven't been able to answer my emails or make blog posts for the past few days. It seems my computer only hates hotmail and blogger and will hang or just take ten thousand years to do anything with those sites. All other sites run smoothly. WEIRD! It's apparently not a bug (I checked), nor a virus (I double checked), nor my messy desktop (which I methodically cleaned and compartmentalized yesterday like a good little bunny), nor is it evil spirits possessing the machine so I don't know where to turn. Would anybody out there know what's wrong here? Or perhaps give me the name of a good PC geek who does housecalls and can pull me out of this mess? I'm deeeesperate.
Thank you CartoonStock.

Friday, January 06, 2006


So David Byrne has up and left the country after three weeks of researching the life and times of flamboyant former first lady and fine footwear fetishist, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the subject of his new musical, "Here Lies Love". Thank heavens though, that he too is a blogger and the written account of his trip posted on his website gives us all-access backstage passes to his personal impressions about the land of the brown and the hysterical. His first entry about lesbians singing "Burning Down the House" at IO Karaoke Club to a tv screen that was showing - surprise surprise - a burning house - perfectly sets the surreal tone of his journey. Interesting photos and a benign cameo by yours truly are an additional perk. I truly wonder if he'll be back? Click here for more...