Friday, August 31, 2007


Interesting article today. Although the bars and restaurants on the BayWalk have been closed down - apparently, new ones are going to be established inside Intramuros to replace them. Sounds like a good idea I guess, but this won't be the first time that this has been tried. Around six years ago, the walls of the city were rented out to restaurants and bars but sadly, everything failed. Although a lot of establishments there were high end and world class. (my favorite one being the defunct Sanctum Unmasct Bar), none of them really took off the ground. The business development plan was hampered because of protests by conservationists (damage to the adobe) and a case that was filed against the developers (for renting without bidding). That was a shame though because I don't think the restaurants should have been removed. The developers should have been fined and punished, the restaurants should not have been singled out by protestors. Just like Baywalk, stricter measures should have been taken to not deface the adobe walls, assure bidding transparency, and to maintain order. The baby should have not been thrown out with the bathwater. I really hope Intramuros gets it right this time around. Perhaps with Lim and Durano in the picture, the squatters will be relocated, services will be improved, and the ridiculous government bidding process streamlined. Really, those are the only reasons why the any place will never take off inside Intramuros. Any right minded businessman would never put up a hospitality venture in a place with hardly any water, a counterproductive bidding process (the winner is never really based on merit), lousy parking, and with a shabu infested shanty town only a stones throw away.

Thank you, dboy, for the picture.

Thursday, August 30, 2007



It is indeed an honor to be chosen as one of Manila's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs this year. I will definitely be there at Philamlife Building (one of my favorite modernist structures in downtown Manila) to accept the award on September 7.

I am so glad that I registered my tours as a sole proprietorship instead of as a foundation. I really believe our culture can sell. Our culture has value and can be profitable. Artistic and Cultural endeavors should never be considered as a charity case for dole-outs.

Once again. Wow. Thank you.


Check out their website here and learn about their advocacy of promoting entrepreneurship among Filipinos.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I promised myself that I would not talk about Malu Fernandez and her horrid article here and here. I am trying to change my ways and not kick a hog while it's down and out. But being the hypocrite that I am. Here I go.

Frankly, it seemed like there was no point in talking about Malu. After all, knowing this woman almost all my life (our fathers both work in the same hospital), what happened really didn't come as a surprise to me nor to many who knew her. Really, think about it. If I was an overfed, overcompensated, unwanted baby who was never as pretty or popular as her older sisters and parents, than maybe I too would end up bitter enough to demand an advance on my inheritance and spew out poisonous banter to no end. But I consider this current situation to be completely understandable in her case though. She really couldn't help herself.

After all, we must realize that Malu was not bred in a vacuum. She is a result of an entire lifetime of people around her condoning her bad behavior. (In fairness to her family though, I only heard vile things come from Malu and nobody else. None of her sisters, nephews, uncles, and aunts etc... have said anything close to the point of view that Malu seems to so have proudly shared with us all - or at the least, none of them have said anything directly to me so far). And just like any spoiled child, Malu can't be fully blamed for the value system that she acquired. She is a victim of a social/sosyal disease and the friends who indulged her. After all, when she said her friends found her article hilarious, I believe her. Now I'm not saying that she is representative of most members of the Philippine elite but let me tell you right now that she is definitely not alone in the matapobre (kill the poor) department.

In fact, what happened to Malu could happen to quite a few other members of the upper classes. Just last week, I heard that some of her other friends were commenting how she kinda "took the bullet" for everyone, so to speak. And this I consider as a sign of how detached the Philippine rich (and their wannabes) are from the realities of our country. I mean really, the Philippine elites are a completely blessed bunch who do not know or care just how blessed they are. Just look at the PIPC scandal. Some Singaporean guy named Michael Liew runs off with U$250million from the pockets of the Pinoy perfumed class and both our country and it's economy are still standing. Php250 million! That's almost the entire Gross National Product of the Solomon Islands or the cost of a brand new international airport and yet nary a dent was put on our currency nor our stock markets. This only proves that that the Philippine elites have the financial capacity to pull the country out of poverty but yet it's their apathy and lack of priorities that prevent them from using this money to achieve social progress.

And if anything, Malu is clear and tangible proof of that.

So there you go, Philippine elites. Get your act together. Prove to us that you aren't also a bunch of Malus.

Thank you analyn for the picture.

On similar matters - kinda. Check out Sidney Snoeck's photo essay on our country's rich and poor and the news that Couples for Christ divorced Gawad Kalinga. Good for GK, I'm definitely sure they are going to be better off and gain more international/local support if they remove religion from the picture and embrace a more secular tone to their mission of alleviating poverty.

Friday, August 24, 2007


For my segment on this Sunday's episode of Urban Zone with Daphne Osena, I chose the stunning Beaux Arts classic, The Luneta Hotel (above) as the starting point of my feature on "Walking around Historic Ermita". Left in disrepair and infested by squatters for almost ten years now, I was shocked to see activity happening within. The sight of the structure wrapped in yellow "CAUTION" cordons and construction workers hauling out bags of rubble made my heart race. "Good god. I knew this day would come.", I thought to myself. "Someone is finally tearing this beauty down." But when I asked the lady with a clip board behind a desk on the ground floor when the demolition would begin, she said, "Hinde igigiba. Irerestore ang building." (they aren't going to tear it down, it's going to be restored." "Whoa. Cool. No way! That's amazing", I said. But when I inquired who was doing the restoration, she replied, "Hindi ko pwede pang sabihin." (I can't divulge this information.) Well, whatever the case, I'm glad to see that there is still hope for this amazing structure. And if anyone out there has any information regarding this matter, please send it to me because this is really good news. And good news is hard to come by these days. Urban Zone will be shown around midnightish this Sunday August 26.

Oh. And Dominador Ferrer has finally been removed from his position as the Executive Director of Intramuros Administration. Hmmm. I wonder who GMA will choose next to spearhead the restoration and development of our historic walled city? Read another article about that here.

Thank you brownpau for the photocollage.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Okay, I was able to keep calm about the removal of every stall on Roxas Boulevard, the return of Carriedo Street and Avenida Rizal to the jeepneys, and the overall dull mood Manila's been having these days, but to hear that dear old Mayor Lim is now going to remove the fountain in front of Malate Church for "desecrating" the spirit of Rajah Sulayman, now that is just way way way too much and I gotta flip my wig.

Dude. What the hell? The fountain too "festive" for you, Mayor? Get realistic about Manila, Mayor Lim. The rich ain't coming back. Former high end establishments like Sala, Garlic Rose, Bravo, and their patrons have all packed their bags for malls elsewhere. And in the absence of a middle class, we need fountains, and lights, and commercial activity to add life to the area. Not only for safety but also to provide jobs for people, ok? And that comment about Sulayman only shows you how ignorant you are of Manila's history. The Plaza Sulayman is not a shrine. It's a park. Rajah Sulayman never lived or died there. That plaza was formerly a beach and then a school building before becoming Plaza Sulayman in the 1970's. Do you want to put the school building back? Do you want to bring the beach back? Is that how far you want to reverse things in Manila?

Just fix the fountain, Mayor. Make it simpler, more elegant, and more electricity and water efficient. DO NOT remove the fountain. It cools the concrete plaza down and adds delight to an otherwised hard-edged, vagrant-friendly area. C'mon - do we want the shab dealers back there? Because unless you add some life, those are the only people who are going to hang out there. Just like they did during your first term.

And HCS and Winners. Get with the program too. The mayor works fast so you guys have to work even faster. You are the only ones with the Mayor's ear right now. A lot rests upon you guys.

Hey, Mayor, if you want to make Malate more family and tourist friendly, why not the crack down on the unscrupulous money changers of Malate first? My friend Sidney just got swindled only LAST week! Get rid of them first. Get your priorities straight.

The hundred days are nearing an end, Mayor. Get with the program. So far, you have only proven that you can regress. Prove to me you can take us forward.

UPDATE: Things about the Lim Administration that scare me. This missing person and yet another reversed pedestrianized promenade by the Pasig River and Intramuros. Things that confuse me about the Mayor. Apprently, the only thing that he is in agreement with Mayor Atienza about is a lack of concern for family planning and birth control (read number ten on his platform). God help us all under Lim. God help us all.

I really want to like this Mayor. I really do. He isn't making it easy.

Then again, perhaps I should shut up soon before I go missing too.

Friday, August 10, 2007


When I first heard that Mayor Lim was going to ban alcohol and close down the performance stages on Roxas Boulevard because they were too loud, I was elated beyond belief. For three years I had to live with the shrilly strains of a karaoke machine until four am on a daily basis and the thought of a more "family-friendly", noise pollution-free Baywalk thrilled me to no end. But now I see that not only did he remove alcohol and bands, but the Cafe Adriatico, the Fruitas Fruit Shake Stand, The Ice Monster, and EVERY concessionare on the boulevard and Plaza Sulayman, I am once again in doubt of the wisdom of our new Mayor's decisions. Just last night, when I passed by the area, Roxas Boulevard was once again dark, deserted, scary, and littered only by the shadows of street children, stray dogs and vagrants. Sigh. Easy come. Easy go. Mayor Lim, I'm still not feeling you. Your first one hundred days are nearly up and you still haven't convinced me that you are a better choice for Manila. Time to get your groove on. So far, I just think you are a stuffy old goat who just killed the party. A cheezy, crowded party - yes. But it was still a party nevertheless...

I wonder how the businessmen who owned the concessions feel as well. I would definitely be p*ssed off if my contract was suddenly cancelled and my shop unceremoniously removed for reasons that were beyond my control and the "fault" of the previous administration.

C'mon Mayor, you could have just regulated the place better, you didn't have to kill it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


The Galleon Trade Artists etc...
Left to Right:
Juan Caguicla*, Mike Arcega, Reanne Estrada(front), Ria Limjap*(back), Claire Light (front), Jennifer Wofford (back), Megan Wilson, Maria Taniguchi*(foreground), Eliza Barrios(front), Carlos Celdran*(back), Romeo Candido*, Christine Wong Yap, Gina Osterloh, Stephanie Syjuco, Norberto Roldan*, Rick Griffiths*, Dennis Lagdameo*, Santo Niño*(far right)

Please allow me to introduce you to the California based artists and writers (and their Filipino friends) who graced our fair city with their presence. They all made their way here to the Philippines for a group show/artist talk/exchange called "Galleon Trade", organized by the intrepid Jenifer Wofford. Currently on exhibit at Green Papaya Art Projects and Mag:Net Katipunan and High Street, these artists truly raised the bar when it came to artistic collaborations. Not only were they talented, eloquent, and organized, but amazingly, they were all charming as well. They truly tickled Manila pink. It was a privilege hosting them at The Living Room and I certainly hope that this isn't the last time we'll see them around these parts. Pseudo Vanity Fair photograph above done by Juan Caguicla.

For the lowdown on the how everything went, log onto the following sites and blogs:
R+D blog
Claire Light blog
Stephanie Syjuco Photos here
and here
Megan Wilson


I guess I was in a bad mood yesterday. I just had to tell this guy to f*** off in my own way.
Dear Carlos Celdran,
P*** of the G*** I*** in Manila gave me your e-mail adress cause Iv got some questions about Manila. My name is M***, I m a photojournalist from Germany. At this moment im planing a new photoproject in Manila. Please read the following expose:

Exposé of the future project
Living spaces - The bat people of Manila
They are snidely called bat people. Their houses hang under the bridges from Manila. They are baskets which are hung on the concrete bridge and fixed by old ropes from the harbour. Most of the bat people are migrants from the villages of the Philippines. Like hundreds of thousands of others, they try to find a job without losing their dignity in the slums. They hope the bridge is just a temporay step towards the “real life”. However, the only job they can find is to clean lorries. They get paid 20 Pesos. At the moment, there are 900,000 day labourer in Manila who wrestle through life like this every day.

The bat people are depressing symbols of our times. Never was mankind richer and never was misery and hunger bigger than now. The results are well-known: Every day 100,000 people die because of hunger or its consequences. People migrate into the cities and slums are being established. According to UN calculations 3.35 billion people are going to live in cities in 2008. In 2050 it will be 6 billion people – or two thirds of humanity. Half of this number will live in slums.

With my photography I show, for many years now, people dealing with conflicts and existential problems. Through my work I want to enlighten and build a public awareness for people living in poverty and misery. I want to bring back the people and their living conditions into the public perception. For this I only will document what is actually there. I work with the instruments of the classical photo repotage. No staging of the situation should be performed. Next to the photographs I plan to interview the portrayed people. Later on, the interviews will appear as quotes to the photos or in the text belonging to the work.

I see this work as a building stone of a multipiece series about the human living space in our society. This work is connected with a former series, dealing with people trying to get out of the second-class society their own.

My Questions: Do you know this bridge? Are there still living people at this time? My information are from the last year.

Thank you so much for your help,

My reply:
Thank you for emailing. P***! Yes, wonderful lady. Actually, it won't be too hard to find "bat people" in Manila. Just along Quirino Street in Malate near the highway or under the Jones bridge and Quezon bridges in downtown, you will find several. But please don't take it personally if I refuse to take you there. It's not that I have personal reservations about the safety of the area. It's just that for the past few years, it seems that everytime I get a request from a western photojournalist to do a project on Manila, it's always about the slums and squatters and I am sick of it. It's as if the Philippines has nothing else to offer except poverty and social injustice and it's quite insulting to tell you the truth. For personal reasons, I do not wish to take part in another project that will only perpetuate the image of my country as "poor" and "pathetic". The picture of a child with flies in a Philippine slum is an old one and I yearn for the day when one thinks of the Philippines and that would NOT be the first image that would come to mind. For the past years, all the journalists who wished to show the "human" side of Manila and the heart wrenching poverty only succeeded in confirming our country as a "basket case" and a land of "horrors", leading to the loss of respect for our society (especially for those like me, who seek to improve it). I have always been so confused about why is it that the negative side of Manila is what a lot of photographers and journalists are interested in. My request to these people in the past to show a balanced picture of Manila (a good side, as well as a bad one), has always been met with confused stares. It's as if Philippine middle class values, arts, heritage, and beauty in the "normal" sense isn't beautiful to them or worse, it won't sell. To many, the Philippines has become the cliche/easy picking for the grotesque and I will not enjoin this cause. Once again, my apologies if I offended you or seem a little politicized or upset, but poverty and bat people is NOT ALL that we are about.


Nevertheless, I did send him a link to the remedios foundation, the organization that helps provide family planning services to the bat people who live under the C3 bridge in Tondo.

I mean, really, if this project wasn't just for personal work but for a charity, I would have given him a chance and not ragged on him so much. But if this guy isn't going to invest anything in our society other than the photographs he'll take, he is just carpetbagging for his own professional benefit. And I hate that.


Yay. Our underground scene is fast going above ground. A million congratulations to Up Dharma Down for their feature in Time Magazine Asia. But yeah, I knew they were gonna be big. I loved their single, "Maybe" and the video of the crazed woman running around National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin's classy (and now shuttered) Hyatt Regency and their "Flicker" video from the movie, "Ang Pamana" was shot at my art space, "The Living Room" last year. It's great to see them finally being given notice in the region. Really, Up Dharma is just a drop in the bucket that is Manila's vibrant music scene. We really are more than just hotel lobby cover showbands.
Here are shots of Up Dharma Down with director Romeo Candido at the "Flicker" shoot (above). Read the full article here, watch the full video of "Maybe" here, and "Flicker" here.

Monday, August 06, 2007



“An Evening of Interpretive
Dancing and Drumming”

With special Guest

9:00 pm - midnight
25th August 2007, Saturday
(date has been moved from the 11th)

The Living Room

Unit 24, North Syquia Apt., 1991 MH del Pilar, Malate


0917 8861080
Entrance is free but donations are more than welcome.


I need not lament that Manila's scene lacks edge. Only one year after the lovely Domina Jane showed us how to tie things up at the Living Room, Sensei Shinobi73 will show us how to tie things down over at Robinson's Apartelle.

WHAT: Introduction to Shibari, A Lecture and Demonstration
WHEN: 25th day of August 2007, Session starts promptly at 7:00 pm
WHERE: Robinson’s Apartelle along EDSA
FEE: P600.00 per person

The event will be limited to only thirty (30) slots.
Walk-ins not permitted.
Confirmations and prior payments absolutely necessary.
Email tetsubo73 @ for payment details.
And only email tetsubo73, my site does not take reservations.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I believe that Manila can be a reflection of your state of mind. Being a city of extreme contrasts it’s easy to see how it can become an intense personal experience. Manila can be chaotic and spiritual, dirty and divine, gritty and gorgeous all at once. If you don’t find beauty and poetry here, you will never find it anywhere.

Named after a white flowered mangrove plant and founded 327 years ago by the Basque conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, it’s hard to believe that the gargantuan Metro Manila of today was once a little Muslim village ruled by a man named Rajah Sulayman.

Soon enough and not without friction, Rajah Sulayman’s Malay Islamic system gave way to Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi's Christian rule in the year 1571. Then for the next 300 odd years, Manila, now known as “Intramuros” (within the walls in Latin) would stand as the seat of Spanish power in the archipelago.

Its grand government offices and soldiers controlled the state while its priests and majestic cathedrals controlled the soul of the islands now called Filipinas (after Rey Felipe II). Its original wooden walls would be replaced by carved volcanic tuff as its bamboo huts and mosques would accede to seven baroque Catholic Churches surrounded by mansions made out of limestone, hardwood, and seashells.

The city would grow in size and perception towards the end of Spanish rule. By the 19th century, the term Manila meant the surrounding districts outside the walled city as well, the extramuros (outside of the walls) to the original Intramuros. These areas included the Chinese immigrant district of Binondo, the retail quarter of Santa Cruz, the native intelligentsia and culturati borough of Quiapo, and the elite neighborhoods of San Miguel.

The advent of the American Colonial Period in the year 1898 would see extraordinary change in the city of Manila. In the year 1898, at a cost of 20 million dollars and the stroke of a pen upon a treaty from Paris, the Philippines would be suddenly passed on to the United States.

Within the first decade of American occupation, Manila would reflect the influences of the new conqueror. Fresh from his success in designing Washington DC and Chicago, premier American city planner Daniel Burnham would revamp Manila’s central core.

Telephones, Toothpaste, Ice Cream, and Coca-Cola would be introduced to society and Intramuros’ southern districts of Ermita, Malate, and Pasay would be converted from a row of seaside huts into a civilized collection of art deco and neoclassic structures, connected by wide roads and accentuated by parks and rotundas.

Then just as quickly as the new structures and beliefs replaced the old ones, Manila would once again find itself in transition in the year 1945. But sadly, it would be a turn from which it would never recover. A victim of the battle between the United States Forces and the Japanese Imperial Army, the city of Manila would be brought to its knees through sword, and artillery. More than 120,000 would be lost, and only the San Agustin Church would remain standing in the original walled city of Intramuros.

After the madness of war, the madness of reconstruction ensued. From the 1950’s onwards, Manila grew at a radical rate. Greater Manila now includes the former provinces of Makati, Quezon City, Pasig, Paranaque and Muntinlupa. Their inclusion heralding the transition of the business and residential districts away from its original riverside core.

In the late 1960's, Manila would not only expand inland towards the Sierra Madre mountains but outwards and over the South China Sea as well. Snuggled right up to the city upon reclaimed land stands the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, a development commissioned in 1969 by Former First Lady Imelda Marcos dedicated to the promotion of arts and international understanding. She would also commission the restoration of the walled city Intramuros in 1979.

I heard someone once say the Jeepney is the perfect metaphor for the paradox that is Manila. Is it beautiful or is it grotesque? Is it inefficient or is it entrepreneurial? Is it just a common utility or is it a progressive work of art?

Perhaps. But personally, I think that Manila is more like the Halo-Halo, that afternoon snack made out of a mind boggling myriad of sweet beans, flan, shaved ice, and ice cream.

Manila is a reflection of how different flavors can make up a greater whole, and how too much can sometimes be a very good thing.

Thank you urbanblog for the halo halo photo. Article to be printed in the Sofitel Manila Magazine