Thursday, June 28, 2007


Thanks to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Magazine for printing this one:

The 8 Best Kept Secrets of Manila

1. Best Secret Garden - Arroceros Forest Park - Snuggled by the MacArthur Bridge next to The Manila Metropolitan Theater in downtown Manila, the controversial Arroceros Forest Park is a calm oasis amidst the madness that is downtown Manila. And although it was given to the City Schools of Manila Division during the term of Mayor Atienza, the park has recently been promised back by mayor-elect Mayor Lim to it's former caretakers, the Winners Foundation. Environmentalists and Cultural Heritage advocates in Manila are delighted that the park can now be opened up to the public and that the foundation can once again continue their efforts to re-green a lot that was once occupied by an office building until the 80's. No word yet about what will happen to the teachers who still hold office there. Thanks tornandfrayed for the photo.

2. Best View of Old Manila - The Baluarte de San Diego. Located at the southernmost corner of the City of Intramuros, this is one of the most breathtaking views of Luneta Park and the Ermita district beyond. Just walk over to the corner of Muralla Street and Sta. Lucia, enter the archway that leads into the garden, and you will find a little adobe staircase that will take you to the top of the walls. Best time to go is at sunset. Bring a bottle of wine and some cheese if you can and watch the sky change colors along with the rest of the university students who knew this secret well before we did.

3. Secret Shopping District - Rizal Avenue - I put this on the list because I'm pretty sure that a lot of you readers out there still haven't checked out this lovely little corner of our capital's fabric. Formerly the quintessential picture of urban blight, Rizal Avenue was retrofitted into a pedestrianized retail zone in 2004 by the aforementioned controversial Mayor Lito Atienza. Today, hot dice hopia, vintage clothes, tools, electronics, bolitas, accessories, shoes, and housewares are all on sale inside the charming mid-20th century structures that line this promenade. And for those needing the conveniences of a mall, there is even a Chowking, a Goldilocks, a National Bookstore, and a Robinson's Supermarket if you are so inclined. Accessible by both LRT and MRT lines, it is a perfect example that a pedestrianized Manila is a civilized Manila. Really, why build more ugly energy sucking malls where only one entity makes money when we already have a pedestrianized commercial zone where street life and commerce can work side by side? But hurry though, I hear Mayor Lim is planning to rip out the pavement and give the area back to the jeepneys soon.

4. Best Secret Art Deco Rendezvous - Orchid Garden Suites - Located on Vito Cruz (now Pablo Ocampo) in Malate, Orchid Garden Suites is the perfect little boutique hotel that could. Formerly the Roces Mansion, this charming art deco treasure was adaptively re-used into a hotel almost ten years ago. And despite being Manila's first "boutique" hotel, the structure doesn't seem tired in the least. Their lobby is still as classy as ever while all of their 89 guestrooms have recently been refurbished to evoke that "Old Manila" feeling. The higher suites with a sunset view are perfect for a romantic getaway, their conference facilities and close proximity to the PICC make it perfect for business meetings, while their swimming pool and large rooms make it ideal for family accomodations. Don't forget to drop by the groovy Tutso Bar at the top of the Mansion/Lobby wing. Perfect for happy hour if you are in the neighborhood. Orchid Garden Suites Manila is located at 620 Pablo Ocampo Sr. Street, Malate, Manila, Philippines Telephone 523-9870 523-9860 523-9836

5. Best Bar - Oar House - Opened in 1978 by retired US navyman, Chuck Monroe, it is perhaps one of the last old school bars left in the rapidly changing Malate landscape. Now owned by a former regular, Nonoy Tan, the Oarhouse still lives up to it's promise of serving warm food and cold beer to a new, much younger clientele. On any given night, you could catch a photo exhibit (it is turning out to become quite a photojournalist hangout), shmooze with actors from the CCP, or chat up a Peace Corps Volunteer. Wilson,a Malate bartender veteran from the days of Blue Cafe on Nakpil, is more than ready to share a friendly word, or mix a deadly Margarita. Leave the diet at home too. Their Pork Wiener Schnitzel and Balbacoa (Bone marrow stew) are definitely worth the trip downtown. They also have a blog run by Ben, a dedicated habitue.

6. Best Little Restaurant - Ambos Mundos - Aptly called Ambos Mundos (which means "both worlds"), this little restaurant is literally a combination of the past and the present, the east and the west, the Philippines and Spain. First opened in 1888 by Spanish immigrants, the Gaudinezes, Ambos Mundos could be arguably Manila's oldest restaurant (unless of course, somebody knows another that's older). Originally located on Echague (now C. Palanca), right beside Plaza Goiti (now Plaza Lacson) before settling at their current location near the Rizal Avenue MRT-2 stop, near the corner of Florentino Torres and C. Recto St. (formerly Azcarraga). Their menu is definitely Rizalian in flavor. Written on a chalk board out front, their selections are strictly old school Manila fare, a mix of Philippine and Iberian specialties with paella prices looking like they came from an era long forgotten era as well. But aside from the Nick Joaquin chic decor: I.e., Spanish plates, bullfighting posters, carved narra details,and capiz lamps, most importantly, their staff was friendly and their San Miguels came to the table ice cold and immediately.

7. Best Secret Snack - The Diamond Hotel Ensaymada - Although the Hotel itself has been looking kinda faded as of late, it cannot be denied that the hotel can still draw in a crowd. Not a bad feat considering that it's a fifteen year old hotel that has not undergone any major refurbishments at all. But this aside, I'm pretty sure it's the ensaymadas at the Kohikan Cafe on the Lobby Level that keeps everyone coming back for more. Generous in size, perfectly fluffy, smeared with ube and dripping with butter, it is perhaps the most insane ensaymada served this side of the South China Sea. So sinful is this pastry, I feel almost guilty telling you about it. Have it toasted till the top is brown and take it with a cup of KOHIKAN coffee just to push the experience over the edge.

8. Best Little Museum - The GAMABA Museum - Located on the fourth floor of Tesoro's Handicraft Shop on A. Mabini in Ermita, this one-room display honors the life and achievements of the National Living Artists Awardees of the Philippines(Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or Gamaba). Drop in and learn the life and techniques of such traditional artists as Master Blacksmith Eduardo Mutuc and Bagobo master Weavers Lang Dulay, Salinta Monon and Haja Amina Appi. You could also check out the history of T’boli tinalak, or Hanunuo Mangyan script - including the ambahan poetry by apprentices of the late Ginaw Bilog while perusing over authentic Maguindanaon kutyapi lutes and Yakan gongs by musical geniuses Samaon Sulaiman and Uwang Ahadas. And if you like what you see, Tesoros' will be selling their works downstairs with the proceeds going directly to apprenticing a new generation of traditional artists. Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ask the sales ladies on the ground floor to assist you. Tesoro Building located at 1325 A. Mabini Street, Ermita, Manila, Telephone: 524-3936 to 40.

And here is my ninth secret that didn't get into the papers because I'm not sure if Benjie wanted the word spread too far.

9. Best Secret Little Party - Wine Hour at Friendly's Guesthouse - Not only is Benjie Garcia's Friendly's Guest House the most reasonably priced accomodations in downtown Manila, but his weekend Wine Hour is proving to be one of the most fun parties that you haven't been invited to yet. Thrown every early Saturday evening by Benjie himself, the wine flows and so does the conversation. The crowd is usually an eclectic mix of backpackers, volunteers, Peace Corps on leave, and artsy locals. A great place to warm up your party pants before walking out to enjoy the Malate night.

I would also like to send out fuzzy feelings to the fabulous Dorothy Bangayan of the Davao Sun Star (A great Non-Imperialist Manila based English daily and it's accessible online) for her fabulous article on Old Manila and to Scott Berlin for his fantastic shout out in Triton Travellers Webpage. You are really too kind to include me your top ten things to do in Manila. Log onto the Triton site here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A million thanks and a fuzzy hug to British collaborative artists Jackson Webb from all of us here at The Living Room for mentioning us in their press release. These two artists, Charlotte Webb (yes, we know she has the same name as the book about the spider and the pig) and Mark Jackson co-partner their works under one name. They graduated only last year from Chelsea College of Art and are now exhibiting at Standpoint Gallery in London (along with Filipino artist, Yason Banal). These two will always have a special spot here at The Living Room. Their show, "Soft Lighting", was our first exhibition ever.

Standpoint Gallery
45 Coronet Street, London N1 6HD
Exhibition open:
6 July - 4 August
Private View:
Thursday 5 July, 6-9pm
Gallery Open:
Wednesday – Saturday, 12-6pm
Old Street, Exit 2 (Northern Line – Bank Branch)
55, 67, 149, 242, 243 020 7739 4921

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


As always, better late than never. Kindly allow me to introduce you to the "artists-in-residence" of The Living Room for the months of May and June 2007. For the month of May, we had Mr. Jean Claude Girard (above), Swiss architect and partner of past Living Room resident, Marlyne Sahakian. He was in town for just three weeks after spending time in Australia researching the Sydney Opera House. And despite his short stint, he managed to hold a lecture (below) about the fascinating history of this Australian icon last May 11, 2007. Some of the topics discussed: The life of it's architect Jorn Utzon, Utzon's amazing designs for the Opera, Utzon resigning before the completion of the structure, and the analogies between the SOP and our very own CCP. This is Jean Claude's second trip to Manila and we certainly hope it won't be his last.

And for the month of June, allow me to introduce Miss Sally Gutierrez and Miss Yong Soon Min. Both are in town for the Trauma Interrupted exhibition at the Main Gallery of The Cultural Center of the Philippines (which I highly recommend that you all visit asap). Sally was in the 1999 Whitney Independent Study Program, graduated with a Masters in Media Studies from the New School back in 2000, and currently works in video. Yong Soon was also a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program and is currently chair of the Department of Studio Art at University of California Irvine. No artists' talks were held but a lovely party was held before Sally's departure (that's when these two photos were taken). Sally is now back in Madrid, Yong Soon is in South Korea for a short visit, and we miss them so.


Okay, just when I thought I heard the worst of it when it came to government development plans in the heart of downtown Manila, I stumble upon this. If the government's permission to construct a hideous sports complex in Intramuros, an inappropriate oceanarium in Rizal Park, and a high rise condominium in Adriatico circle seemed like the height of administrative chutzpah/neglect/idiocy, how about these current plans to destroy the Manila Zoo? Just yesterday, I read about the newly elected officials of Manila City Hall charmed by the idea of selling off Manila Zoo to developers for a basketball coliseum (and from what I hear from insiders in city hall, a luxury condominium complex too - someone please confirm). All with the blessings of vice-Mayor-elect Iskho Moreno and Rep. Amado Bagatsing. What the hell? I mean - yeah, I totally agree that the place should have been shut down years ago and all the remaining animals sent off to the much more humane Avilon Zoo in Rizal. But really, a condo and basketball coliseum? Think of the parking problem. And what about those gorgeous trees inside the zoo?

How about this as a better idea? Let's ship off all the animals to Avilon for some fresh air, let's tear down the concrete walls, open up the space to the public and convert the zoo into the Manila Botanical Gardens. Wouldn't that be lovely? Let's even get Mayor Lim's favorite charity, The Winner's Foundation to oversee the conversion. And as a complement, let's convince the Martels of Harrison Plaza (above) to take out a massive loan and redevelop their shopping complex next door so that it takes full advantage of the bayview across and mini forest. Let's tell them to ask the Ayalas for some advice. It would be great to see something like Greenbelt or Serendra overlooking the Manila Zoo trees and South China Sea sunset, donchatink? And, hey - there is even enough room for a luxury condominium too! Because I mean, c'mon, Martels, what the hay? Even the Ortigases and the Aranetas have redeveloped their properties. You are the last to get on board. You own the fricking Philippine Tatler for crissake and your flagship real estate is, well... gross and unbefitting for the "cream" of Philippine society. By the looks of the place, you guys might as well own Tempo. Sorry. My apologies to Tempo.

Thank you ajanem for the photo.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Fresh from the sparsely attended but so-much-fun-you-were-a-loser-not-to-be-there success of Playlist Manila night, Geek Chorus ushers in the schoolyear with yet another stupid event for smart people.

Geek chorus presents:

Powerpoint as Performance Art Night
Saturday, June 23, 2007, 9:00pm
The Living Room
Unit 24, North Syquia,
1991 MH Del Pilar, Malate.

There will be two main features for Powerpoint Night. The first will be the Performance Powerpoint division which will feature Eight Powerpoint Artists making a quick three minute presentation on any subject of their choice. Prizes will be awarded to the best presentation, the most original content, the worst use of transitions and clip art as well as other categories that we'll think up of on the spot.

The second category for Powepoint night is the Open Category. Teams of Three (3) people shall be assigned to present a Powerpoint Presentation that they have never seen before. Roles shall likewise be assigned at random to each team member (for example, CFO, HR Head, Boss, Wife, Motor Pool Division Chief, etc.). The most convincing and funniest presentation wins.

Note:You cannot compose in Keynote then export to Powerpoint. The use of Keynote will not be allowed. Let's keep this nice and amateurish, please. Slots are open for the Open Category and the Performance Powerpoint category. Email us at

Oh, and the night will apparently be hosted by Jojo Alejar.

You can make reservations by texting/calling 0917 8861080. Entrance fees are on a donate-what-you-wish basis. BYOB (Bring your own Booze).

Monday, June 11, 2007


Trauma, Interrupted is a multi-pronged project composed of a series of workshops, an international exhibition and a series of artist talks aiming to explore the link between trauma, art and healing. Violence, racism, the cycle of poverty, community displacement, the stigma of leprosy, and even nightmares are only a few of the issues that will be addressed by artists from such countries as the United States, Korea, Japan, Spain, Ireland and of course, the Philippines.

And for all of you out there with a weak constitution when it comes to these things. No worries about the "heaviness" or "seriousness" of the topic. Some of the works are even humorous.

Log onto this website for their list of activities, exhibitions, and workshops. Opening cocktails are on June 14, 2007 at 2pm at the Main Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines

Two of the artists, Miss Sally Gutierrez and Miss Yong Soon Min, are both staying at The Living Room and we are tickled pink to have them.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Living La Vida Living Room
It's been busy lately at The Living Room. Not only did we have a talk on the history of the Sydney Opera House by May architect-in-residence, Jean Claude Girard, but we also had fabulous features in three Manila publications. First off was the inspired fashion shoot called "Who's Afraid of John Herrera", featuring a couture collection by the aforementioned designer (above). With stylings done by Norman Crisologo, hair by Paolo Lopez, make-up by Mitch Lim for Guerlain, and photographs by our neighbor, Juan Caguicla, the project was a definite labor of love. It took two days to wrap the entire west side of the apartment in brown craft paper and almost an entire week to remove it. Naturally, the results were stunning. Perhaps the most creative shoot I've seen in print this year.

Next up was a feature in Manifesto, one of the newest - and most promising - men's lifestyle magazines to be printed locally in a long while. The article, called, "Brazilian Wax Lyrical" was written by Vanni de Sequera, and featured Brazilian DJ - slash - model, Rose Fernandes (above). Shot in only one easy evening by Xander Angeles, Ms. Fernandes was styled by Millet Arzaga and had her hair and make up done by Janet de Rama and Xeng Zulueta respectively. And such a good sport that Rose. Whether it be cramming her frame into the kitchen sink or posing topless over the garage driveway, this classy lady did her job with grace and good humor. Manifesto May issue is still available on newsstands.

And last but definitely not the least was the Mega Magazine fashion shoot called "Luca". Shot by model - slash - photographer Sara Black with hair done by Nante Alingasa and make up by Cathy Cantada, this eight page spread was definitely my favorite. And not merely because it featured the clothes of Filipino designers Chris Diaz and Anthony Baughman, but because of the special cameo done by my dog, Bogart (above). Definitely a keeper in my books. May issues of Mega are still available on newsstands. It's the one with Alessandra de Rossi on the cover.

Once again, thanks guys for the letting the The Living Room be part of your creative process. It was definitely a privilege.

To book The Living Room for photo shoots, events or accomodations (our newly appointed room featured above). Call or text 0917 8861080 or email


So sad. I just realized that one of my favorite hotels in Manila closed down. It seems that the Chan family has closed their Hyatt Regency on Roxas Boulevard for now, their hotel overshadowed by the glitzy new Hyatt Regency and Casino in Malate. And although the Roxas Boulevard Hyatt was looking kinda tired and frayed around the edges during it's last days (remember the Hyatt 10?), I still liked the hotel a lot because of it's classic 60's Leandro Locsin design and the fact that they had real Fernando Amorsolo paintings hanging in their lobby. Their food was also really great and their service warm and homey. It felt like you were staying in your grandmother's house. That is, if your grandmother was a wealthy haciendera who lived in a mansion in North Forbes Park. The Hyatt Regency was also the venue for many a high school memory. I remember dancing the rigodon de honor and 18 roses at Lisa Chan's debut and watching Side A band at the Calesa Bar in the lobby (my cousin Sony managed them). Here's to hoping that the Chans find someone new to run this structure as a boutique hotel instead of selling it to some clueless developer. It would be a shame to lose another structure by a National Artist for Architecture for such a reason.

The Hyatt Regency (formerly the Sheraton Manila) in the early days (above and below).

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Wanna buy bad architecture? If you are looking for what could possibly be the worst planned residential/commercial condominium development and the most blatant example of false advertising ever, look no further than the Malate Bay View Condominiums now pre-selling near Remedios Circle in Malate (above).

Planned by a certain Mr. Tanlymco of Malate Bay View Mansions Development Corp in Binondo, the same developer who brought you the stunningly garish and still pretty unsold Malate Royal Apartments (above) at the corner of squatter paradise San Andres Street and Adriatico, this proposed structure will rise 38 storeys (yes, you read right – THIRTY EIGHT storeys) upon the site currently occupied by “The Library”, “Fab” and “Korea House”.

And aside from it’s fugly and inappropriate design by a certain Eduard Co Tan (note difference between actual location (above) from the background drawing(top), the oversized, overpriced Malate Bay View (around Php5million for 79sq.m) comes WITHOUT coordinated sewage planning with the government, WITHOUT thoughtful consideration for the environment around it, and WITHOUT an assured bayview at all to boot (the property faces EAST, not west - and any building can be built to block the view of the water since the developers DO NOT own the adjoining lot).

But that aside, what concerns me most is Mr. Tanlymco’s intentions to squish almost 40 concrete stories on a footprint area that is less than 1,600 square meters in a neighborhood unprepared for the pressures it will create. In comparison, think of a building roughly the height of Essensa in Fort Bonifacio being stuffed into an area a little over the size of a professional soccer field and a half in an area designed to have the density of a suburban subdivision. Now, I might be a bit alarmist. But doesn’t that sound like bad planning and engineering to you too? Moreover, it is being built on soft sandy soil by Manila Bay. It just doesn't seem smart. My fearless forecast: CLICK HERE.

And aside from destroying the low rise quaint character of Adriatico Circle, imagine the logistic nightmare it will impose upon the neighborhood. On a street that less than 40 meters wide and an alley measuring even LESS than that, Mr. Tanlymco plans to pack a building that will house a minimum of 600 residential units, 200 cars, and more than 1000 residents flushing their refuse down a minimum of 700 toilets into an inadequately designed century old sewage system. Adriatico Street will run with sh** no doubt. And if you think that weekend night traffic along that street is bad enough already, think what it will be like when their multi storey commercial area (without accompanying parking I’m sure) attracts even more cars and people to their corner of the world. And in order to maintain structural stability, I assume that they would have to dig at least six storeys under Malate’s soft surface. One can only imagine the structural damage it will do to the charming Malate Pensionne and CafĂ© Adriatico next door – as well as revenue lost by the construction noise and pollution compromising their outdoor seating. But most of all - and this I cannot overemphasize, the building is way too tall for it’s tight location. PERIOD.

So if anyone out there is concerned, do what I did and call MBMDC at 5360333 or 5362355 and tell them how shortsighted and greedy they are for attempting to pack a 38-storey building on a lot/street way to small to accommodate it. Tell them I sent you. Let's hope they'll change their mind and shorten the building to a decent ten storeys. Either that, or let's fly this by Manila City Hall. Maybe Mayor Lim would be the best guy to consult regarding this matter.