Wednesday, April 29, 2009


And as it says so quite clearly up above, we (below) did go to The Manila Hotel last Monday to check out the launch of Dick Gordon's Volunteer Movement called "Bagumbayan" - "Bagong Bayan", or "New Nation". And true to it's name, the theme of the morning was all about "change" and "renewal", and "mobilizing society" to make those changes happen.

Red was the color of the day and some guns were brought out for all to see. Willie Nep was there. So was Joanne Zapanta and Rocio Olbes, and hey, even Arnel Pineda came in full force to give the Dick a hand (below).

Which all makes me think that Dickie is running for president. And if this is so. Hmm. I am not quite sure if I would cast my vote his way. Because despite all this talk about "renewal" there really wasn't anything new in what I saw. I mean, I like the guy and I respect his work with Red Cross immensely, but everything about the program seemed a little faded. From the musical tableau vivant opening number to the liberal use of Rizal iconography, the metaphorical "breaking" of a two storey styrofoam Fort Santiago gate to the choice of the Fiesta Pavilion itself - it was all so so so "I've seen this all before". But don't get me wrong, the guy is totally ace. He supports the Reproductive Health Bill, and is the reason why Intramuros came back from the dead in 2003. In an alternate world, he would be a great president. But for now, I just don't think he has the machinery nor the broad appeal to get people's imaginations running. But either way, Good Luck Dick! You do great work at the Red Cross. President or not. At least with the IRC, you know you got that one in your back pocket for keeps.

And as for the Manila Hotel itself. Well, the bones are still nice. Classic.

It's good to see the Mabuhay Palace Chinese Restaurant renovated as well.

And the pool has been given a makeover. Very cool. Love the VIP area under the tree on the top left.

And judging by noise above me, it seems that some rooms are being given a makeover too.

But even with all these new changes, why? Why? WHY? is The Manila Hotel still so fricking mediocre? I mean, there are so many things about the hotel that are just WRONG. Such lovely chairs like the ones by the pool should not have Microsoft word cut and paste letters printed out on coupon bond and folded over as a sign for ANYTHING! For crying out loud Don Emilio Yap. Why can't you hire a graphic designer and buy a proper laminator?? It's not like you don't own a newspaper already. Or better yet, stop pretending to be a hotelier and sell the damned property already. Or lease it out to someone else like Sofitel. Now they know how to run a hotel. Your maskipops ("anything goes") management style of the hotel is a total affront to it's heritage. But I'm sure someone has already told you that.

Final verdict:
DICK GORDON - Not getting my vote but he gets my respect and props.
MANILA HOTEL - Not getting my business but it gets my.. um.. nothing. The place still sucks and will take a great effort to convince me otherwise.


So I was at the Manila Ocean Park today. In fairness, it looks way better now than when it first opened a few months ago. It still feels like a construction site but the whole place is making a lot more sense. The ground floor outlets are now all open and there will apparently be a hawker style food court on the top floor overlooking the water soon.

But I digress. I went there because I hosted the launch of Hands On Manila Volunteer Vacations program. It's a really cool project where one can go on vacation in the Philippines while giving back as well. You could choose from environmental, heritage, and livelihood programs and spend it improving communities in Aklan (aka near Boracay), Mindoro (aka near Puerto Galera), Laguna/Batangas (aka near Manila) and Bohol (aka near um.. Bohol).

And it's so easy to do. All you need to do is:
1. Choose the program you want.
2. Schedule a Hands On orientation.
3. Book your travel.
4. Get your ass here and get down on it.

I even had a photo op with DOT secretary Ace Durano and HOM President Wynn Wynn Ong. Strange photo. Could someone please caption us three? I'm sure someone out there can think of something funny.

Anyhoo. For all you Filipinos around the world and those who love them, log onto the Hands On Manila site now and come on over to the Philippines, make a change, and have a mango shake by the sea while you are at it. More information and pictures here.


Billboards in Manila have always been well, wrong. Aside from being obstructive and annoying, most of the designs have been either inappropriate or just plain ugly. Blowing up a magazine print ad with a lot of words into a three storey format only just distracts motorists. Billboards should really be created with the context in mind to be effective. Which is why I was happy to stumble upon this project called Outdoor Gallery. Very Cool. Very very Cool. I'll keep my eyes peeled for these amazing billboard public art projects. And props out to Pilipinas Street Plan. Your walls in Intramuros are amazing. So good to see alternate types of public art in Manila. It's becoming more than just bronze images of dead people now. Check out other shots of Manila street art here, here, and here. We walk/kalesa by these walls (below) during every Intramuros Walking Tour.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Thanks Tanya for the great article in The Philippine Star.  Such a sweetheart she is. Love her. And I hope to see all of you at the Fort Bonifacio Art Tour next Saturday. Please remember to register. The tour is free so slots are very very limited. Read the article here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


A couple of weeks ago after Pope Ratzinger made his irresponsible and delusional remarks in Africa, I told the pope to "F*** himself" on my facebook status bar. And although I may have recieved a few irate messages from conservative readers, I'm glad now to see that I'm not alone in this matter. Just this morning, the artist in residence at The Living Room told me that the Belgian Parliament lodged a diplomatic protest against the Pope's remarks. Good for them! That man in the funny suit must be reminded that the world is not going to allow him to twist scientific data to promote myopic Catholic dogma. Really, why is the heirarchy so adamant against keeping up with the times? This backlash against the pope is absolute proof that the Catholic Church has got to start being relevant to today's issues lest they lose their following and become this weird cult that will only flourish among the ignorant and the insane. Naturally, the Vatican is not too pleased with Belgium.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Well, whaddayaknow? The Philippines has now lost the top spot. Apparently, we are NO longer Asia's most corrupt country. We are Asia's medium corrupt country. And all this improvement in just one year. Coolness. 

Apparently Indonesia and Thailand have taken our crown. Ugh. Feel bad for Thailand. Not a good year for them so far. I wish them the best these coming months...

Thanks for the info.


Wanna feel great about being Filipino? Head on out to SMX Convention Center beside Mall of Asia and check out Manila F.A.M.E. It's amazing what Filipinos (and the foreigners who love them) can do with coconut shells, capiz, resin, ash, newspapers, and a whole lot of imagination. It's like walking through a funky museum of really great things. That are for sale. To people who live abroad. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take many photos - and all the ones I managed to take sucked - so these few shots are all I am able to post. I especially liked all the stuff they did with Capiz shells. Check out the cool Capiz jar (below).

The Capiz Nipa hut.

And the Capiz Eiffel Tower.

I hear locals can buy stuff on the last day or can bid for the samples after the expo ends. Manila FAME runs until this weekend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


So, here's the Philippines answer to the best job in the world (assuming HIGH pay is not a factor).

The folks over at CANVAS/Looking for Juan are seeking a willing soul who can help document the building of the Philippines' Pacific Rim Friendship Park in the gorgeous island of Palawan. This project, best described as "Survivor-Meets-Habitat-for-Humanity", hopes to bring together architecture/art students from around the world who, together with counterpart Filipino students, will design and build a Friendship Park under the artistic supervision of leading artists, architects and urban planners - in only 30 days. Puerto Princesa City is providing the land. You can view the spectacular site they are allocating here:

Students from the US, Russia, Mexico, Japan, China and Korea will start arriving on May 2 and 3. We'll give them a tour of Manila on May 4. Then on May 5, they all fly off to Palawan to build the park. If all goes well, we will launch the park on May 30.

So... if YOU are that someone who can go with the group for the entire period from may 2-31 to take photos (or better, photos and videos), document, and blog at least once every day in May, then hit them up. You will also of course be expected to help with the building of the design - but your main responsibility is the documentation, photography/videography and blogging. You can interview the participants, talk about anything interesting during the whole process. Lots of room for creativity, meeting new people, and learning about new cultures.

Ah, and of course, the perks: CANVAS will cover your plane fare from Manila to Puerto Princesa and back, hotel stay, board and lodging for the entire month, and a MINIMAL stipend (at least P10,000.00, maybe a bit more if additional funds can be secured). What is practically guaranteed is that you will make new and lasting friendships (maybe more - who knows?), and definitely have a unique entry in your CV once this is over.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this adventure of a lifetime, please have them email Gigo Alampay ASAP at


Yo.Remember the project called BIOMODD?
Well, their fundraiser is tomorrow night.
The Living Room artist-in-residence Angelo Vermeulen will be DJ-ing.
So come on down, support an artist, buy a drink, 
buy a BIOMODD T-shirt and watch some art being made on the spot.
 April 17, Friday, 10pm, 
at M Cafe Greenbelt 4, Makati (across Ayala Museum).

Ms. Badkiss
DJ Drumlander
Tengal Drilon
Adrian Cuenca
Pilipinas Street Plan

And apparently, I'll be hosting the show.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


It is truly amazing how many clips there are of Filipino children belting out drag queen showtunes on Youtube. And don't take my word for it. Check out I wonder if Ellen Degeneres will be giving any of them a call soon.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Oh. My god. I'm not sure what I just saw and I'll probably hate myself for posting about it on my blog because it will only confirm it's existence - but have you checked out, "The Helium Club?" Wild. This show packs in some of the most amazing faces, fashion, music, and grammar produced by this country of 7,107 islands in a long long while. And by amazing, I mean not amazing at all. Supposedly the world's first online reality series (questionable), The Helium Club attempts to be a peek into the rarefied lives of Manila's five most fabulous faces currently on the scene (Tara, JV, Bianca, Kristine, and Martin). And although it tries to be the Filipino answer to "The Hills", it comes across instead as the surreal jologs love child of... of ... God, I have no idea. This baby is in a class of it's own.

Log onto their five minute trailer on facebook and check out how many levels of wrong this show descends. After opening up with the cryptic phrase, "Live side by side the excess of our society's newest youth powerhouse", it's all downhill. I mean, really, what does "youth powerhouse" mean? It doesn't make sense. Their copywriter should be fined for assault and battery on the English language, while the entire cast could be flogged for the improper use of the words "Prada", "Dude", "Hell, yeah" and "Rustan's". But even then, I would finish the trailer just to catch soon-to-be-classic phrases like: "Cats are better than men", "You snooped on my planner" and  "It just comes natural." Finally, it's all wrapped up with a photoshoot with BryanBoy (Does he even know he is in there? Yikes). I mean, what's going on? Is this a joke? It must be a parody of Manila's "high society" because endless shots of chubby Filipinos chowing down on North Park as they twang in worsh worsh just isn't ghetto fabulous, if you know what I mean.

So can someone please clue me in? If this is satire, then it's fricking brilliant! No director could ever come up with comedy so spot on that it begged to be mocked. But if it's not. Then, Wow. No comment.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


How cool. Check out this Newsweek link. Writer Alexandra Seno talks about bargains in the U.S. art market during these times of recession. I was super stoked to read about my friend, the photographer Steve Tirona's Imelda Collection Series making a cameo in the closing paragraph. Congrats to you and to Isa Lorenzo of Silverlens Gallery for bringing Filipino art to Pulse New York art fair. Thank you so much upsidedownview for the photo of the piece...

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I think it's time for me to take a break. I have been doing the same tour/show for the last five (or is it six?) years and I have reached my limit - for now. For the past 2,190 odd days, I have been wearing the same hat, plodding through the same boustrophedon, and mouthing off the same script, rain or shine. But don't get me wrong, it's not that my job has become stressful - I still believe I have the best job in the Philippines. It's just it has gotten a little, well, repetitious lately and needs to refresh itself. The tour has become so rote that I don't even hear myself speaking anymore. I assume this is how Lea Salonga must've felt after playing the lead in Miss Saigon for what - two thousand times or something? I'm sure she reached a point where upon uttering the opening lyrics, "I'm seventeen and I'm new here today", all she wanted to do was get postal. And who can blame her? After playing Kim for all that time, she definitely wasn't seventeen, and she was definitely not new there that day.

And just a couple of days ago, as I was being interviewed by the wonderful Tanya Lara about a tour I'll be doing in Fort Bonifacio on April 25, she asked if there was any interesting book or movie that I finished lately. And Good Lord. I went blank. I realized that I haven't taken the time out to read or watch films in hella long time. I haven't had fresh brain input in years! Which is why I'm rather glad to announce that I'll be taking some time off from all tours in May. I'll be off to Toronto and Vancouver to hang out with Fil-Canadian artists, to get back in touch with my visual artist roots, and to wander about a functional first world metropolis. I also indefinitely cancelled all Corregidor tours and Chinatown tours, and am cleaning out/evicting all extraneous stress/projects/people from my life. Oh, and I will also read.

Purchased from the bookstore that we know as National: Militant But Groovy: Stories of Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan; Huling Pytyk: The Art of Nonoy Marcelo (my former boss at Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas); Chaka Chronicles (a graphic novel about a fat girl who eats pizza) by Bobbi Jolbitado, and The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman.