Monday, December 11, 2006

What's in a Name

I very rarely play these games but My Japanese Name intrigued me, very inscutable. What it all means is well beyond me . Thanks to Slither Dude [Komatsu (little pine tree) Takumi (open sea)] from a very pinay blog for pointing in this direction on a wet Monday morning.

For "The Expat"
My japanese name is 坂本 Sakamoto (book of the hill) 一真 Kazuma (one reality).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

For "Pissedpoet"
My japanese name is 井上 Inoue (upon a well) 聖人 Masato (sacred person).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

For " Henry Bateman"
My japanese name is 吉国 Yoshikuni (good fortune country) 海斗 Kaito (big dipper of the ocean).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Beer na Beer

In the great Aussie tradition of a coldie when the day’s labour is done I have been buying these stout hearted fellows a beer to celebrate the damage done to my humble abode. And of course being the true egalitarian that I am, I join them.

Now not being a beer drinker, I mean anything that you have to freeze to make palatable is a worry, this could be considered the ultimate sacrifice. A full bodied red preferably from shiraz grapes, although a cab sav will suffice if pushed, is my poison of pleasure. But in this departure from the usual with this small bribe to get them to return the next day, OMG they can’t leave the house like this, I have discovered Red Horse Beer and it aint too bad. Although it does have a kick more like that of a mule, but who would buy Red Mule Beer? As Eddy, who drinks San Mig Light, says, 3 of those and its sleepy bye byes time.

For your information, which is more than you probably need, I am typing this to the tune of the dull thuds of falling masonry and the rattle of falling mortar. Its going to be another evening of cleaning the house with a shovel.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

You Want Sawdust with That

Our 60 year old house is finally getting a well deserved make over. What Typhoon Milenyo couldn’t do a few weeks back when it tempted our roof to visit foreign climes the builders have succeeded to do in a couple of days.

From morning to night there is banging and crashing, sawing and nailing with quite pauses at merienda and lunch and sawdust, sawdust every where, yep even there. Below are some pics of the devastation and the happy crew who brought us this

And so for the next 3 weeks, ye gods!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where’s the Number – Part 2

Being a Globe subscriber I was able to procure a free copy of their telephone directory and as hinted at in the first Where’s the Number it lists only Globe subscribers. To the best of my knowledge there are a least 5 companies supplying telephone services to Metro Manila and with PLDT having 4 directories that means for a comprehensive listing of the telephone network 9 directories are required.

The service you are connected with will give you a directory free of charge and according to a bloke at the Philippines Directories Corp, the mob who print the directories, the others can be purchased at 1000 pesos a pop. Can’t see too many people shelling out the odd 8000 required.

Then there is the wonderful confusion of actually looking up a number. If the number is unknown it is a good bet that their service provider will be even less known. Perhaps one should ring them to find out which book they are in, mmmm not sure that is going to work.

Globe’s Yellow Pages are a joke, according to them there are only 2 photographers and 1 doctor in Metro Manila whilst according to PLDT there are 30 photographers and 72 doctors just in Makati. But being a Globe customer I would never know about the PLDT businesses and consequently never contact them by phone. Hello, who is shooting themselves in the foot?

One white pages directory for Metro Manila and one or two (depending on physical size) Yellow Pages is the way to go. Will cost the telephone companies less, will increase their revenue and make life a lot easier for the rest of us. As the old saying goes, less is more.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why There are so Many

Yesterday was Lola Rosa's funeral. She had been teetering on the edge for a couple of months and finally succumbed a week ago. After lying in state whilst friends and relatives paid their respects for the week she was off to her final resting place.

The hearse followed by a stream of mourners on foot headed to the Parish Church of St Peter and Paul just off P Borgos St. There a mass was held for her departed soul and a communion for the faithful although your humble scribe was a tad disappointed that there was no lamb.

After the ceremony the hearse followed by its ambulatory throng headed off on its 2 mile trek to the South Manila Cemetery. Once there Lola Rosa’s coffin was placed in her waiting tomb which was sealed and the attending mourners then decamped back to the Zenaida Street compound for sustenance and discussion of the days events.

It is not an uncommon event in the Philippines to attend a funeral. In the short time I have been here, a little over a year, this was my third, which brings to a total of eight I have attended in my 50 odd years of shuffling about on this mortal coil. They being the mother of one of the best beloved’s friends and a distant cousin on the best beloved mother’s side of the family.

It is a well documented fact and one that I can attest to through personal experience that after a funeral significant others are drawn closer to each other with an intimacy that is more intense than at other times. With this in mind and taking into account the size of Filipino families and the frequency of funerals it is little wonder that the Philippine’s population is growing at an exorbitant rate. Especially in the light of the dominate arbiter of social values only answer to birth control being abstinence.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where's the Number?

Finally,I got my grubby little paws on the latest telephone books, hoo-bloody-ray. For me gentle reader the telephone book, especially the Yellow Pages, is my life line in my pursuit of an income. When a service or a product is required I let my fingers do the walking.

I also use the internet for searches for suppliers but it is a technology that Philippine businesses have yet to embrace seriously. Listings are few and far between and those who have websites, including government departments, are littered with out of date information, dead pages and phone numbers with the dreaded “this number is not in use” recorded message – aaargh.

Thus getting the books was long awaited. The four volumes distributed on behalf of PLDT are a tad on the slim side with the residential listings coming up with just a few thousand over a quarter of a million listings in a city of ten million people.

Interesting? Is it like the internet that the telephone is a technology yet to be embraced by Filipinios? I think not, in our compound there are 4 land lines and up to 12 cell phones. I suspect that in the PLDT phone book only PLDT listings are included. Which would explain why, as a Globe customer, we are conspicuous by our absence.

Now in my experience PLDT is not the brightest light in the harbour and only listing their subscribers in their telephone book confirms this suspicion. They make their money from people making phone calls and it stands to reason that the more choices available the more calls can be made and the more revenue generated. By only listing their own customers they are shooting themselves in the foot.

If this methodology is also applied to the business listings the situation becomes even more ludicrous. If as a PLDT subscriber I am looking for a supplier who happens to use a different telco their existence will never be known to me and my potential conversations and faxes to them will be more lost business for PLDT. Not to mention the hindrance that this puts on business growth in a macro sense as business is all about communication.

This would seem to be the case, as the PLDT business directory is a slimmer one than the residential which is the direct opposite of my experience of other telephone directories where the yellow pages are double the thickness of the white. It will be interesting to see if the newly released Globe phone book applies the same limitations?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The New Yorker – a reprise

This gentle reader is a tale of woe, a cautionary tale along the lines of one swallow not making a summer. As reported in an earlier post the best beloved, number one son and your humble scribe are great fans of Pizza Huts New Yorker pizza.

Thus on a balmy Saturday evening with more time on our hands than is good for one we decided that pizza was the meal of the day and for a change of scenery we would visit the scene of the crime, so to speak. We would eat in at Pizza Hut. We arrived, after a casual stroll, at the establishment with a modest bottle of Spanish red tucked under one wing and settled ourselves at a laminex table in the eat in section.

Memories from the past flooded back from my time in Melbourne and Johnny’s Green Room with its robust home cooked Italian fare and bare kitchen tables. Why it was called Johnny’s and Green was a mystery, it wasn’t green and I never met a member of staff who answered to Johnny. But the food was plentiful and the booze was cheap even if served under the table.

Our menus arrived and the first disappointment of the outing arose. There was no New Yorker on the eat in menu. Ah well the deep pan supreme looked pretty good and, yes they could add some olives. Disappointment number 2 followed in quick succession, they didn’t have any wine glasses. Ah well on picnics I have drunk wine from jam jars so water glasses would suffice.

It is a little known fact that you, dear reader, will now discover through the exploits of The Expat that 2 out 3 Pizza Hut waiters don’t know what a cork screw is. The knowledgeable third waiter was sorry to inform us that the restaurant didn’t have a cork screw. A pizzeria without a cork screw. Memories clattered to the floor and were crushed under the foot of the departing waiter. This was turning into a Pizza Hut story of the Australian kind.

When our pizza arrived the analogy was complete. The deep pan Supreme tasted like the soggy cardboard concoctions that the chain had been serving to Bruce and Sheila for years and had me avoiding them like the plague when living in Oz.

Ah well the New Yorker is still a damn fine pizza, will just have to get them to deliver. And I know there will be a cork screw, a couple actually. Perhaps I should lend them one, then perhaps not.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The First Tuesday in November

The first Tuesday in November is almost upon us and being an even numbered year means there are two horse races to watch.

The annual event is the horse race that stops a nation. At 3pm next Tuesday (1 pm for those in the Philippines) for 3 minutes Australia will come to a stand still as all eyes are turned to the Melbourne Cup. Now in its 145th consecutive year “The Cup” is one of the world’s riches horse races with a prize pool in excess of $5 million AU dollars. The city of Melbourne has a public holiday and at the cups home, Flemington Race Course, the champagne, huge hats and fashions in the field create a carnival to keep gossip columns alive for weeks.

On the other side of the Pacific the red and the blue will do battle in the 2 horse race known as the Mid Term elections. For some time now the candidates for either side have been calling each other names and belittling their opponent’s policies. If the red team wins it will be business as usual, should the blue team win it will come as no great surprise if the US President was on the blower to Gloria seeking impeachment defense strategies.

When the dust settles on the gallopers in these 2 events the honest winner will have four legs the rest will be politicians.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A New Yorker?

A shopping strip or mall without a Pizza Parlour or three is a rarity here in the Philippines. The major chains with their home delivery being the main culprits and now that we are in the throes of home renovation this food service is one which we are availing ourselves.

Our current favourite is the so called New York pizza. Pepperoni, bacon, olives, mushrooms, bell pepper, tomato sauce, Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese, how close it is to its name sake is anyone’s guess. Ah olives, Kalamartta olives to be precise, mmmmm, teamed with tomatoes, zesty cheddar, some crackers and a bottle of red, a meal fit for a king, but I digress.

With change from 500 pesos, 3 tired munchkins can dine on this motor bike delivered meal with scant regard for the washing up. We have tried three brands to date, Pizza Hut, Dominoes and Yellow Cab.

Topping this lot is Pizza Hut, their New Yorker is a good pizza from a chain although their web site (you can order online) has a variety of prices for the same item, don’t worry the highest price is the one they will charge. Dominoes, a very large chain in Oz but with only one shop here, don’t actually have a New Yorker as such but they will make one with the required ingredients if requested, the end result is OK, but one feels their heart isn’t in it. Yellow Cab comes in at a very poor third, way too much MSG resulting in a raging thirst an hour or so after consumption.

You are, so the saying goes, what you eat and MSG just says to me cheap, tasteless ingredients. Now where to find some plump, fresh Kalamartta olives?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Eye Sore or What

Driving into Manila on the South Luzon Expressway at night, as I did a few weeks back returning from the Batangas Weekend, is like entering a fun filled fairyland of bright lights and eternal dreams. On either side of the highway are huge billboards, all brightly lit expounding the delights of all types of products to fill a consumers heart with joy.
It was a ride down a tunnel into the unknown but one that was friendly if you have the cash, by day they look kinda tawdry, especially those that flank the EDSA.

Given an open space with passing traffic here in the Philippines and there will be hoardings erected. On the median strip that flashes past at eye level to towering monsters vying with the high rises to block out the sky they extol their virtues of all and sundry. From the benevolence of the local political incumbent to the quite dogs foot fetish each has its pitch in a graphic language that reflects the aspirations of their intended audience.

Want to know how where you fit within your society these silent sentinels will tell you. Those to which you have a positive reaction, emphasize with, those that offend or annoy, they are your barometer. Which fiction resonates, which repels, for they are fictions, but like all fiction are based on reality.

The beautiful babes gathered round the bottle of booze has more than a grain of truth to it as many a bloke with one or three too many under the belt will attest, although, perhaps not till the next morning. The heels that lengthen and accentuate do compensate for what nature has forgotten to lure the moth to the flame.

They may dress our hard facts in glittering vestments but the facts remain. And as we stagnate in an EDSA grid lock the visuals will at least match the babble from the radio.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Finding Not Killing

Yesterday was the 4th World Day Against the Death Penalty with events organized around the globe to bring an end to state sponsored murder. Like slavery this muddled thinking that leads to the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of our neighbours is slowly going the way of the dinosaur. The Philippines was the latest country to see the light when in June this year it abolished the killing of its citizens as an official policy.

When a state condones the killing of its citizens it is a no brainer that the citizens of that state will adopt the same behaviour for the resolution of their personal grievances. The USA re-introduced the death penalty in 1977 and as at 2002 the homicide rate per 100k people was 6.1 from a low of 4.7 in the 50’s via an all time high of 10.7 three years after the its re-introduction in 1980. Compare those figures north of the border in Canada where the death penalty was abolished in 1973 where the homicide rate has been steadily declining to an all time low in 2003 of 1.7 per 100K people.

The Philippines with a homicide rate running at 3 times that of the US will hopefully follow the Canadian trend but one suspects that the real deterrent will be detection and prosecution. And this is the arena in which a lot more work needs to be done. The host of unsolved murders of journalists and political activists must be addressed for the country's leaders to be taken seriously.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More Milenyo

A couple more pics taken and subsequently worked into art from Milenyo to see them all go here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An Uninvited Visitor

It is only now that we are getting our lives back together again after Milenyo paid us a fully blown visit last Thursday. The strongest typhoon, cyclone, hurricane, call it what you will, to hit Metro Manila and the island of Luzon for over a decade. Although not a Katrina it did manage to dispatch 26 good souls to meet their maker in the city and another 40 in the provinces.

After changing its name to Xangsane it headed off to Vietnam leaving those of us not quick enough to get into pubs with generators to spend 3 nights by candle light and phone less especially after the cell’s batteries went flat.

Typhoon Palms

At the height of the storm a section of our roof decided it had enough of Manila and then was a good time to see the rest of the world. After rigging a tarpaulin to minimize water damage it was onto the roof to replace the missing iron to dissuade the rest its mates from joining the exodus. The next day was spent cooking perishables to extend their un-refrigerated use by date, 3 cheers for gas stoves, and affecting more permanent repairs to the roof than could be done in the wind and rain.


Now 120 hours after the event life is back to normal, the debris is being cleared away, schools and all government departments are back at work and I’m back online.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Succumbed at Last

I have so far avoided participating in the blog past time of listing my prejudices which are referred to as memes, a title that bears little resemblance to the cultural phenomenon identified by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. But as I, from time to time, pontificate about movies here I thought that Morgan’s Movie Meme which I happened across at I Am Woman, See Me Blog is appropriate in so much that my movie prejudices will give those who read my pontifications an understanding of where I am coming from. And consequently be able to accept my ramblings as gospel or reject them as the ravings of a demented ratbag.
So without further ado, into the deep end.

1. The last movie you saw in a theatre, and current-release movie you still want to see.
For me the cinema, hard top, theatre, call it what you will, is the best place to view a movie, preferably seated centre in the first few rows right down the front, so close that my peripheral vision is filled with the action. I picked up this habit at the first Star Wars movie were being last in at a sell out screening it was the front row or stand. Being that close the opening sequence was amazing. I was hooked and have been ever since, it is just the best place to lose yourself in a movie and the noise of lolly wrappers is almost unheard. At live shows, my preference is centre in the six rows from H to N, that’s where the director and the designers usually sit when putting the finishing touches to the show.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the last movie I saw in a cinema and its saving grace was Johnny Depp. Depp is without doubt a damn fine actor with some remarkable performances under his belt, Edward Scissorhands, Don Juan DeMarco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Pirates without him would have been a totally forgettable film, Jack Sparrow was a wonderful character who Depp made very believable in an otherwise ridiculous movie.
The current crop of new releases leaves me pretty cold.

2. The last movie you rented/purchased for home viewing.
As an actor Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood but as a director he has produced some interesting films. From High Plains Drifter, Mystic River, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County to the most recent to be added to my collection, Million Dollar Baby. When he is directing and acting, Eastwood puts the film first and allows his co-stars to steal the scenes and the awards and Morgan Freeman does that whenever they are together in MDB. Though I do feel that Unforgiven was more deserving of a Best Picture Oscar than Million Dollar Baby. MDB’s final scenes were just too predictable.

3. A movie that made you laugh out loud.
John Cleese is a comic genius who can draw laughs with both his words (written and spoken) and his actions. His writing and performances in TV’s Faulty Towers still leave me out of breath after repeated viewings as does A Fish Called Wanda. From the black humour of an animal lover inadvertently killing an old lady’s pet pooches via the verbal jousting between the psychopath and the anal retentive lawyer to the visual escaping in all directions at once when confronted by the psychopath are so well done that the laughs escape even when you know its coming next.

4. A movie that made you cry.
I am an Aussie Bloke and consequently I don’t cry at the movies. If pushed I will admit to getting the odd lump in the throat that requires a clearing cough or two during poignant scenes like wanton destruction of the buffaloes in Dances with Wolves.

5. A movie that was a darling of the critics, but you didn't think lived up to the hype.
Sofia Coppola is not in the same league as her Dad but it is still early days for her. Her Lost in Translation is pretty much summed up by its title. Bill Murray looked uncomfortable in his role of the aging and bored movie star a not too dissimilar role to that he played in Groundhog Day with great aplomb and Scarlet Johanson as the neglected newlywed didn’t have the screen presence to carry the role. The idea was interesting but the visuals didn’t do much to help the screenplay which was heavily dialogue driven.

6. A movie that you thought was better than the critics.
Stanley Kubrick is amongst the mighty of movies with a string of films that are house hold names, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut but his most beautiful movie Barry Lyndon is virtually forgotten. This film version of Thackeray’s novel is a visual masterpiece, scenes evoking Gainsborough paintings come to life on the screen, often lit only with candles and using a specially made camera lens these scenes are like no others in their breath taking beauty. This film is a feast for the eyes and the story whilst not outstanding is strong enough to last its 3 hours.

7. Favorite animated movie
It has been some years since I last saw the 1940 version of Fantasia but it lingers in my memory like no other movie. The music and visuals are so in tune with each other that they become a perfect match. Even that bloody sanctimonious mouse finds a role for which he is suited. I haven’t seen the 2000 remake but think it would be hard pressed to improve on the original.

8. Favorite Disney Villain.
I am not a great fan of Disney movies. They are too saccharine for my taste and more often than not they murder childhood favourites with their dumbing down approach, especially their treatment of AA Milne’s wonderful characters, grrrrrrr. That being said the water bucket carrying broom in Fantasia certainly does piss off the mouse, whether an animated inanimate object can be a villain is a moot point.

9. Favorite movie musical.

Whether All That Jazz is a musical I’m not sure, it certainly has musical numbers but they are dance orientated rather than show tunes. I suspect it is more of a fantasy bio pic of how Bob Fosse would like to be remembered. He did make the more conventional musical Cabaret which for my money has to be one of if not the best musical ever made. Although set in the 1930’s and made in the 70’s there is a timeless quality to it that makes it just as relevant today, perhaps even more so considering world events. It confronts head on issues that are still alive and doing well today and extols one to become involved as the lyrics from the title song say “What good is sitting alone in your room, Come hear the music play”.

10. Favorite movies of all-time (up to five).
Oscar Wilde said “We are all in the gutter but some of us look at the stars” and this sums up the Werner Herzog film Fitzcarraldo. The first time I saw this movie I walked out of the screening with hope in my heart and an exhilarating feeling of joie de vivre. If a man cannot move mountains he can at least drag a steamboat over one. Add to that a score that features recordings from Enrico Caruso, the greatest tenor to ever open his mouth.

It is inconceivable that I could watch a movie so many times and not tire of it, but such is the case with The Princess Bride. A fairy tale of romance, action, adventure and parody, lots of parody that puts the viewer in an imaginary world that seems real. It reaches out to the kid in us all and feeds the adult with a dry humour that fits the action and the story like a favourite pair of jeans.

There is only one word to describe Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, masterpiece. A stunning adaptation of Joe Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with lines from Eliot and Kippling poems it is a movie to be experienced. Unsettling and inconclusive as it is it has the ring of truth to it along with some scenes that have become hallmarks in movie history.

When the patient cures the doctor you have something special on your hands. Such is the case with romantic comedy Don Juan DeMarco. With Johnny Depp playing against Marlon Brando it is an intelligent and witty film. Doctor: ... why do you think Dr. Mickler is Don Octavio de Flores? Don Juan: Why do you think Don Octavio is Dr. Mickler?

Bob Fosse only directed 6 films with Cabaret being his best known. But his fictional, fantasy bio pic of his own life All That Jazz is a much more interesting flick. Having had more than a passing association with show biz I suspect there in lies its appeal for me. It has some of the best dance sequences I have ever seen on film with the final number being a tour de force in both its imagery and intention.

Thanks to Lizza for bringing this to my attention. And the following has nothing to do with movies except that I like it and it is a break from all these bloody words.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Rush ID shops are almost as common as cats in the commercial areas of Metro Manila and trust me there are lots of your humble moggies out there on the streets. This land is obsessed with 1x1 and 2x2 colour photographs, signed on the back and attached to any and all official and semi official documents.

From renting a post office box, the application for which must have a photograph of all who may receive and/or retrieve the mail, to opening a bank account, 2 1x1’s signed on the reverse, please, a photograph of the claimant is mandatory. A resume without an attached photo won’t even be read. Thinking of registering a business name, 2 2x2 recent, less than a year old, signed on back photographs of the registrant, please, even if the application is being handled by a third party.

From kiosks in malls to small store fronts in shopping strips you can get your mug shot taken and processed within the hour and walk away with a fist full of likenesses with change from 200 pesos. Just look for the Rush ID sign and you’re in business.

Hand over the required number of pics along with the rest of the forms and be prepared for the staple through the frontal cortex. Interestingly the only application that doesn’t require a brace of displayed pearly whites is for marriage. And I’m just not going into that one.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Weekend in the Country

When we left the sealed roads and hit the dirt our journey became a roller coaster ride in slow motion. Our party of 9 had left Manila in a Toyota Hi Ace, which fortunately was equipped with air con, some 3 hours earlier. We headed down the Southern Luzon Expressway hung a right onto the Calabarzon Expressway to Lipa City then through to Padre Garcia, a left at Rosario and then a right at the San Juan Municipal Hall to the dirt road heading for the Barangay of Laiya Aplaya in deepest Batangas.

Louie Almarez was the leader of our troop and it was to his home province that we were headed, for some weekend relaxation, his cousin’s wedding and a game of basketball. He has a house in the neighbouring Barangay of Calubcub II which is well off the beaten track. An idyllic rural retreat nestled in rolling hills surrounded by coconut palms, banana and bamboo trees, and farm lots carved out of the tropical rainforest.

We arrived at his aunt’s house in Laiya Aplaya just before midday and Filipino hospitality kicked in with a brunch of local seafood and rice for the travelers amidst the preparations for the nuptials the following day. The afternoon was spent at the Kabayan Beach Resort frolicking in a warm tropical sea, snoozing whilst a gentle breeze kept the heat at bay, shots of brandy with sprite chasers, karaoke and merienda of spicy chips and ube pastries.

Upon our return to the 50 odd houses, a dozen or so Sari Sari stores, the half dozen dirt roads, church, basket ball court and 3 tricycles of Laiya Aplaya we caught the slaughter and butchery of the pig that was to be breakfast on the morrow. After a dinner of rice and seafood at a second aunt’s house we headed off to Louie’s house to watch the sun set through the fronds of the rain forest and sip gin with sprite chasers. The bamboo bed was not as hard to sleep on as first impressions would have had one believe.

The sun streamed through a cathedral of green as the morning mist slowly dissipated and the hamlet of Calubcub II came to life. Hot sweet coffee fired up the neurons before the chill of the hand pumped water from the deep well cleared any remnants of sloth from proceeding night. Although it was Sunday there was business at hand for the locals as caribou pulled carts and plows to fields to earn their keep.

After the completion of our morning ablutions we headed off to the wedding breakfast of Louie’s cousin, Helen with her new husband Limuel. The porker that drew the short straw the day before was presented to guests in a mouth watering array of dishes amidst a continual barrage of announcements of best wishes for the happy couple and the generosity of their relatives and friends. Around mid morning the festivities were starting to wind down and the serious business of the trip was at hand.

The most common feature of all the barangay’s in this part of Batangas province be they of 10 or 50 houses is a church and a basketball court, more often than not with them sitting cheek by jowl. It should also be stated that when it comes to basketball, Louie will more than likely dribble off this mortal coil. That 2 others of our party were team mates in Manila it was little wonder that we adjourned the 100 meters to the local basketball court after the breakfast festivities. With 2 locals to make up the numbers and a purse of 150 pesos the visitors did battle with the locals under the late morning tropical sun.

The victorious visitors with their entourage in tow rolled out of town to spend a couple of hours on the water in a friend’s bangka before returning to the rain forest hide away for a late lunch and a relaxed afternoon of not doing very much. After merienda we once again loaded ourselves aboard the Hi Ace and bid adieu to roller coaster roads and headed back to where the rubber hits the asphalt.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tough Being Poor

One of the first things I noticed upon arrival in the Philippines was the proliferation of motel sized goods for sale. All the single serve sachets of general household goods ranging from shampoo to the ubiquitous 3 in 1 coffee, sugar and whitener. The staple goods of trade for the Sari Sari stores, of which there are thousands.

Within 20 yards of our front door there are 3 Sari Sari stores all selling essentially the same things and all with a steady stream of customers. The supermarket we patronize the most also caters to the Sari Sari stores and on weekends getting through the checkouts takes considerably longer than filling the cart. It is not uncommon to see shoppers with 2 or 3 carts full of a dozen items of this and a dozen items of that and all of them individual servings.

Being affluent enough to buy my coffee by the jar, milk by the carton and sugar by the 2kg bag a cup of coffee costs me 2.8 pesos. A 3 in 1 sachet from the Sari Sari store costs 6 pesos. For so many Filipinos the concept of a weekly or fortnightly shop is not an option, spending 500 pesos for a months supply of coffee just isn’t in the budget. Consequently the least able to afford to do so pay the top dollar for their purchases.

Sari Sari Store

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Revenge & A Butchers Stall

It’s tough living up to expectations when one is a national of the world’s only super power. Ensuring that the degree of respect one feels is ones due through association is a heavy burden for the individual. This pride makes it very hard for the said individual to admit that there own actions were their undoing while the collateral damage done to others is just their tough luck.

An American associate was the manager of a Korean business employing Filipinos. His knowledge of Korean and Tagalong was to say the best limited and his understanding of the cultural differences was superficial if not hackneyed. The American approach to running the business was the only way he knew and fitting these Korean and Filipino round pegs into the American square hole was increasingly becoming a big ask.

So much so that after five months in the job his most often quoted throw away line was a request for ideas to get himself fired. That this became a self fulfilling prophesy was another home run for positive thought. As so often happens when this homer makes it into the bleachers the prospect of no more monthly pay checks quickly takes the gloss off a recently acquired life style. That the actual dismissal was a messy affair was not surprising although his actions at the time indicated he jumped rather than being pushed and his dropping of an unfair dismissal complaint just reinforced this impression.

When an appeal for his old job fell on deaf ears, revenge was all that was left. In that long stereotyped Kentucky hills pastime he made it his mission to put the business out of business. That his inside knowledge has aided his cause does call into question his managerial expertise by allowing the business to be vulnerable under his watch. If he succeeds the collateral damage will be the Pinoy employees, the Korean owner will just pack up and go home.

To misquote an old saying, you can take the boy out of the trailer but you can’t take trailer out of the boy. Funny but it reminds me of another good ol’ American boy, must be something in the water.

The following pic has nothing to do with any of the above; it is a new style I am working on.

Butchers Stall Guadalupe Market

If you would like to see more from this series pop over to The Expats sister site pissedpoet pics.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Food & Wine Italian Style

I am a great fan of Italian food, always have been, well for as long as I can remember. I also have a great fondness for Italian wines with Bolo Bordalino Classico being up there with Brown Brothers Shiraz in my top wine stakes.

Back in the 70’s, whilst living in Melbourne, Australia, my regular dining haunt was the Neopolatano Restaurant in that Italian of Melbourne burb’s Carlton. On a weekly basis over a 2 year period I worked my way through their menu more than once and experienced the delights of their extensive wine cellar.

Whilst traveling around since then I have looked for its equal without a lot of success. I came close in New York at a small restaurant in Greenwich Village, the name of which escapes me at the moment, but not quite. Well dear reader I think my search has been rewarded here in down town Santiago Village if last night’s repast is anything to go by.

I had been intrigued by this restaurant for some time, I suspect that it was the bottles of wine in the window that caught my attention. So last night with the best beloved in tow I ventured inside Caffé Maestro to sample their wares.

There is very little about Caffé Maestro that is café orientated, it is a restaurant with fine dining in mind. From the cloth table cloths and napkins to the attentive service of the staff that hit just the right note in the delightfully cozy brick surroundings with original art works on the walls. The expectation created by this décor flowed over to the food which is very much in the Italian home cooking style.

First to arrive was a basket of warmed pita bread with the choice of pate, butter or finely diced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and garlic to nibble on whilst we perused the extensive menu. Pasta and pizza variations abounded along with a good selection of antipasti, a hand full of soups, meat and fish entrees, a couple of risotto and joy of joys a selection of fresh pasta.

It was from this latter selection that I chose the potato gnocchi with 4 cheese sauce which was definitely home made and one of the best gnocchi’s I have had and the sauce was perfection. My best beloved had the spaghetti with bacon, tuna, and porcini mushroom sauce which she found to be exceptionally tasty with the spaghetti being al dente to an agreeable firmness. For afters we had a tiramisu, which unfortunately had seen the inside of the chiller for too long and a panna cotta, a full cream custard with walnuts and caramel sauce which was to die for.

We washed this lot down with a bottle of Chianti Placido, which although a pleasant enough wine was in no way deserving of its price tag. A $AU65 wine it was not, even allowing for a restaurant mark up. The food prices at Caffé Maestro, with pastas in the 300 to 400 peso range and the meat and seafood dishes in the 600 to 700 peso range, are value for money. But the wine list is outrageously expensive especially if the wine we had is any indication. That being said we were advised that bringing one own’s wine is acceptable and with corkage at 300 pesos should definitely be considered.

We shall return and in the not too distant future to explore the Caffé Maestro’s menu further although it will be with one of our favourite wines tucked under one wing.

Monday, August 14, 2006

During the Wet

The rain here at this time of year can and often does make it seem like one is living in a water fall. Without warning a sluice gate opens and half the South Chins Sea is dumped on Manila with a deafening roar if you are inside and a soaking, even if armed with an umbrella, if outside. Thankfully it is still warm, if it was cold as I once associated with this type of weather it would be intolerable.

Consequently the opportunities to get out and about with my camera have become somewhat restricted, water and camera is not a good mix. This inactivity has given time for reflection and to go through the archives of images from dryer days looking for the gems hidden amongst the dross that were missed when first edited.

The reflection resulted in the following response to a forum discussion about Artistry vs Technology at the Passion for Pixels web site.

Enthusiasm - if I'm not interested/excited about what I am doing why would anyone else be?
Intuition/observation - you've gotta see or feel the pic before you can take it and often for me it is a fleeting moment that requires me to shoot fast without thinking about it. I also take a lot of pics because I am not always sure what it is that has attracted my attention, it might be the light or the composition or the colours or an expression or a situation whatever. Later I can look at the results of the day’s efforts when time is on my side and then decide what works and this maybe anything up to 6 months after the event.
Visual Literacy - Learning what makes a pic hang together and how great artists have broken all the perceived rules and understanding how and why they did. Kinda like training for your intuition and once learned can be forgotten and left up to your intuition to use what it sees fit.
Working knowledge of my tools - I am a PS junkie consequently my camera is a device for capturing initial images to work up with the software. When I was working with brushes, oil paint & canvas I had a camera which I used as an instant drawing device, I guess things haven't changed all that much. I have had a 2M, a 4M and currently have an 8M DSLR each had/has it limitations and its good points but I have been able to make salable works of "art" with all of them. What I like most about my DSLR is that it always tells me when the lens cap is on, the others didn't.

The trolling of the archives resulted in the “Are We having Fun Yet” pic a couple of posts ago and this one of the Café Society a la Greenbelt. Both were taken in much dryer times at the beginning of the year.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Of Hammers, Pots and Kettles

The political elites that oppose the President, Gloria Arroyo, are once again sharpening their knives and orchestrating a second attempt at impeachment. Again a very blunt instrument is being used for political purposes.

Expecting a partisan house of elected representatives to produce a verdict that is anything other than one which serves their own interests is like expecting the snake and the mongoose to become bosom buddies. Matters of fact are best left to an independent judiciary where the evidence for and against can be weighed without the necessity of pandering to the whims, both real and imagined, of an electorate.

Three of the four issues included in this current impeachment process fall into that category, the legality of executive order 464 and proclamation 1017, the President’s responsibility for the killing, arrests and detention of political dissenters, and whether illegal contracts were entered into. The seriousness of these issues surely requires they should be determined on facts rather than political grandstanding and emotion.

But if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. Although one can’t help but speculate that these issues could raise the political temperature enough to precipitate a re-run of January 2001. When the then President, Joseph Estrada, escaped impeachment only to ousted by People Power II and be replaced by the current President.

The fourth issue of electoral fraud including the use of public funds for Arroyo’s campaign is the most appropriate for consideration by politicians. This issue stems from the highly publicized distribution of PhilHealth cards just prior to the election and the placement of elected officials mug shots on infrastructure construction billboards. Well, every serving politician in all the democracies I can think of is guilty of this one in one form or another.

My favourite is from the last election in Australia. The government of the day gave, for each child under 16 years of age whose parent was a welfare recipient a $1000 tax free gift. Not once, but twice, first in July, then again in September prior to an election in October. I wonder whose vote they were chasing?

It is one of the perks of being in office, reminding your electorate of your largess and the benefits you were able to bring to them through your hard work in the corridors of power. Something of value must be offered to even be considered as potentially worthy of a vote. Hence the popularity of the pork barrel much beloved by both Congress and the Senate.

Should these august chambers find the President guilty on this charge it would surely be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Some Time on my Hands, Thank God.

My 2 Korean students have returned home and once more my time is my own. Well until another takes their place with the desire to learn English from a native speaker as we who happen to have been raised in this language are referred to.

It has been an interesting and rewarding experience. It had never previously occurred to me that being able to speak my mother tongue was a meal ticket. The revisiting of texts that I hadn’t visited for some 20 odd years was most enjoyable and instructive. At times I wondered if I didn’t get more from their study than my students.

Vicky and Michelle were 11 and 10 respectively and I was charged with instructing them in reading and pronunciation. The chosen books for their instruction were The Wonderful Wizard of OZ and Peter Pan. As an adult the imagery their authors brought to life through their use of the language was a delight. Reading them out loud and seeing the girls’ reactions inspired me to perfect a skill I hadn’t used since my own rug rats were toddlers.

True we did need to stop to investigate the meanings of many of the words. Elaborating the nuance of meaning between wonder and delight for youngsters for whom English is a second language was an interesting challenge. Though through pantomime, common references and the words context in the text something of their meaning was transmitted.

I wish both of them futures as bright as their eyes and their smiles on a summer’s day and hope that the exposure to the Aussie drawl isn’t too great a hindrance in an American accented Korea.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Observations After a Year I

I have been here in the Philippines just on a year now and it seems appropriate to reflect upon and offer some very presonal observations about how I am finding living in this country.

The most noticeable is the low level of anarchy that permeates daily life here. From the jumble of overhead cables supplying electricity and various forms of communication through jeepneys and buses that start and stop on the whim of their passengers to the short term take over of the street when the house is too small for the assembled throng.

This level of personal freedom is achieved through the Filipinos’ tolerance for and of their neighbours. In Australia, the land of my birth, there is a paternal ethos at work that ensures there are myriad of building codes that must be adhered to for the simplest construction. Buses (there are no jeepneys) will stop only at certain places which are predetermined by faceless bureaucrats and although a party in the street is possible, it will require 3 months of planning and a fist full of government permits.

There is a price for this freedom. Things in the Philippines are often chaotic, especially the traffic, although the evidence of road trauma is a lot less than in Oz. There, in the City of Perth, which has a population one twentieth that of Manila, it is a rare week not to see a couple of seriously bent cars as one moves about that town. Here in the Philippines I have seen perhaps 4 or 5 in 12 months.

There also seems to be less examples of road rage, a phenomenon that is exploding in first world countries. The tolerance exhibited by Filipinos accepts that the other road users have a right to be on the same piece of tarmac and consequently impede ones progress. Although they will go for the open space with gusto when one presents itself.

This turn the other cheek attitude doesn’t mean that the Filipinos are meek and mild. They have an agenda that they will peruse with vigor it is just accepted that those around them have the same and it is respected if not agreed with. When agreement is reached, they can move mountains as the 2 People Power revolutions ably demonstrate.

For me coming from a highly regulated first world country this is a breath of fresh air. This level of personal freedom is envigourating although learning to accord the same to my neighbours does take some doing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Are We Having Fun Yet

Fast food restaurants like Jollibee and Maccas are a popular venue for kids birthday parties. This pic was taken at one such event, her expression says it all, di ba?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Congratulations Mr Swift

This is a first for me, 2 posts in one day, but today sees an event of such momentous proportions that it cannot go past un-noticed. Perhaps it may also have something to do with the restrictions imposed by the weather...... whatever.

The second best blog on the net is celebrating 7 months of posts and 100,000 visitors, both on the same day.

A very big congratulation goes out to Jon Swift. Your number of visitors is very well earned and also very well deserved. Following in the tradition of your name sake you have made the world and for sure the internet a much better place, perhaps even a better place than it deserves to be.

If you dear reader havent read Jon Swift do yourself a favour and do so, the link is on the right.

It's Raining

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It's raining on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

This verse by RL Stevenson sums it all up. The Wet as it is known in the northern parts of OZ is alive and well and living here in Manila.

My brolley has become my best friend. Last Monday I forgot it and whilst riding the first jeep of my daily trip to the Academy the heavens opened. The 100 meter dash from the jeep to the boat I catch to cross the Pasig river was just long enough for me to start doing my drowned rat impersonations.

The up side was that unlike being drenched in Oz where at this time of year my teeth would be chattering in very quick order, I was only wet. Two more jeep rides and half an hour in the air-con and it was a distant memory.

The rain does make the traffic more interesting in the Chinese sense. Manilas reputation for chaotic traffic goes up a notch when it rains, where all those people are going escapes me.

Last week when Typhoon, if your in Asia, Hurrican, if your in the Americas, or Cyclone, if you’re an Aussie, Florita or was it Bilis was slipping past Luzon and heading out to sea to do what they do when no one is watching there was some serious rain. I had to visit the tailor at the Poblicion market and it was all but deserted. An area that is usually teeming with life as the picture below shows was reminiscent of an Aussie country town fair that someone had forgotten to publicize.

Another of life’s unanswerable questions for this bemused Aussie which perhaps my more knowledgeable readers maybe able to cast some light.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Learning Tagalog

I have started teaching English at a Korean school here in the Philippines. I started last Monday, hence the reduction of posts on The Expat but being a native speaker it is quite lucrative. OK by Filipino standards, very lucrative.

There are a lot of schools here teaching English to Koreans of varying ages. Learning English is a very big deal for the Koreans and as the Philippines is considered an English speaking country a lot come here to learn. It is just so much cheaper and easier than going to the States.

Working closely with my mother tongue has high lighted the differences in pronunciation that one must adopt when speaking Tagalog. It would seem that 2 letter syllables are all the go, whenever possible.

Take for example the Tagalog word for thank you, ‘salamat’. For an English speaker it would be pronounced sal-a-mat, wrong. In Tagalog it is pronounced sa-la-mat with the emphasis on the second syllable. Likewise with the tagalong for ‘how are you”, Kumusta. The Aussie pronunciation would be Ku-must-a, wrong again, in Tagalog it is Ku-mus-ta, with again the emphasis on the second syllable which is pronounced like puss in English rather than pus.

Say the word the wrong way and for the majority of Filipinos it is unrecognizable. When I pronounce my surname, Bateman, in the English way of Bate-man, I get a lot of blank looks and rustling of papers. Pronounce it as Ba-te-man and I am found amongst the hundreds of others with ease. Not that I mind this pronunciation of my name, sorta sounds like a super hero, faster than a speeding snail, able to leap double Leggo blocks in a single bound, etc etc.

Although learning the pronunciation linguistics of Tagalog does make my head hurt. Now if I could make use of my super powers and find a nice brick wall to smash down with my forehead…………

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Street Basketball

Street Basketball games are a common sight around the barangay. When traffic comes down the street the game is suspended until it has passed and then the players pick up where they left off.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dining in Style in the Outback

It had to happen; an Aussie just couldn’t resist attending an Australian themed restaurant in the heart of Manila. And overall the experience was a very positive one.

When I walked in the door I felt I was walking into an up market Australian pub with its prominent U shaped bar set up in the fashion that so many are in the land of the kangaroo. As this flood of nostalgia swept over me so too did the realization that by Philippine standards it was not going to be a cheap night out. Although by Aussie standards it would be reasonable.

With the best beloved and number one daughter and son in tow, we elected to dine in the up stairs non smoking section. It too had a bar dressed in the Australian fashion if a little smaller than the one down stairs. Your humble scribe was heartened to see a selection of red wines nestled on its back wall.

Once seated and with the wine list in my hot little hand it was a pleasant discovery to find a selection of Australian reds, if a some what limited one. I did find it rather amusing that the most expensive wine on the list, coming in at 1710 pesos (about AU$45), was an Oxford Landing Shiraz. This wine is available in Oz for around the AU$7 to $11 a bottle from the off license and is very much considered a second choice wine. At the other end of the list was a Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Cab Sav which is a bloody good drop and at 995 pesos (AU$26) it is about its bottle shop cost in Australia. Needless to say we went for the better wine at the better price.

The menu is littered with Australian references from Kookaburra wings to Land Rover steaks via walk about soup and ribs on the barbie. We went for the Kookaburra wings for starters which are actually deep fried chicken wings that come as mild, medium spicy and hot spicy and served with a partially melted blue vein cheese dip. Our waiter, Anthony, was on the ball enough to notice that we had varying tastes regarding our spicy tolerances and arranged for a variety of the wings to be served on his own initiative which was greatly appreciated.

My best beloved and I chose a half slab each of the ribs on the barbie for our mian course. The slab reference being how package beer is purchased in Australia, a slab being 24 cans of the amber fluid in a cardboard carton and a half slab being, well half that amount. The ribs were succulent and topped with a home made barbeque sauce that complimented them very nicely. They were served with Australian chips, the thick long ones which were just like those from the land of my birth, not those skinny shoe laces certain fast food joints call fries. Number one son and daughter ordered grilled pork chops with rice and buttered corn and chicken on the barbie with rice and veggies respectively.

It has always been my contention that the best compliment you can pay a chef is to send your plate back as near to clean as is possible without actually washing it. All our plates went back in that condition as did the rib bones.

For afters we had Brownie a la mode, a warm chocolate brownie served with ice cream, cream and chocolate sauce. It is truly a dessert you can feel landing on your hips as it passes the lips. The one we were served was a monster which we 4 were only able to demolish through the determined efforts of the number one son.

Shall we be returning to the Outback, you’d better believe it. Although expensive with steaks running out at a 1000 pesos plus per serve, the quality of both the food and the service is such that for value for your peso you would be very hard pressed to find its equal.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fiesta Time

The last 2 days of June were somewhat noisier than those that surrounded them. It was Fiesta time in the Poblacion district of Makati city, that part of the Philippines I call home.

For a couple of weeks prior to the festivities bunting had been stretched across the streets announcing its impending arrival. Situated in the parish of St Peter and St Paul, the feast days for these saints was the excuse for the residents to spill out onto the streets and party. The samahang (street councils) had organized activities to entertain the kids and after the downing of enough San Mig for the adults.

The most notable activity of the second day of the fiesta was the marching bands. Twice they paraded through the streets. Marching girls with flags in the lead followed by drum and xylophone bands or silver bands all dressing in colourful uniforms enticing the residents out of their homes to join the party.

After the second parade the bands congregated in the town square, which is more of a triangle, and there they each played in turn. Each band presented a couple of tunes, the associated marching girls performed their routines whilst the traffic on JP Rizal Avenue, which runs through the square, waited patiently for them to finish.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Strange Company that PLDT Mob

PLDT the major Telco in the Philippines has been receiving some bad press of late. Over at the Sassy Lawyer’s Journal (see the link on the side bar) the Sassy Lawyer has been having a moan about the slow ASDL speed they are giving her and my web hosting service has been sending out emails stating that the lack of service their PLDT subscribers are experiencing isn’t their fault.

Fortunately I am not a PLDT subscriber, although that was through their efforts rather than mine. When I first arrived here and wanted to upgrade the telephone connection for the house to include an internet connection PLDT was the company I first approached. The existing pre-paid connection was with them and they are the biggest and were conducting a relatively aggressive marketing campaign for their internet services.

They told me that because a previous resident at the compound had skipped off owing them 6000 pesos they couldn’t convert the pre-paid connection into a post paid connection nor connect the internet until the out standing 6000 had been paid. My explanation that I was a new customer with no connection to the previous customer fell on deaf ears.

Left with no alternative, I wasn’t paying somebody else’s 6 grand bill, I went across the road to Globelines. Within a couple of weeks Globe had run a line down the street and we had our post paid telephone and an ADSL connection. The ongoing service has been good and in one instance outstanding. When we requested a new modem they had a technician on our door step within an hour of making the request.

Whenever I think of PLDT I still shake my head in disbelief. Not only are they still owed the 6000 pesos, which I figure they will never get, but they have missed out on the thirty odd thousand pesos I have shelled out over the last 10 months for my phone and net connections. Go figure?

Now, if I could only get an up to date telephone directory……………….

Monday, June 26, 2006

Kalentong St

This shot was taken from the back of a jeepney a couple of days ago. It is of Kalentong St on the out skirts of Mandaluyong in Metro Manila. For me it is the quintessential look of shopping strips in this city.
The more astute readers will have noticed a change in my pics that have been appearing here on The Expat and on its sister blog pissedpoet pics. The letter box or panoramic style of presentation has me in its thrall at the moment. No doubt this will change but not that I can see in the near future. I trust gentle reader you enjoy viewing this style as much as I enjoy making them.
If you see a pic here that you just can't live without they are available as fine art prints from and can be printed in sizes ranging from 10" on their longest side up to 40" on the longest side. Online ordering details and more information about them are available there.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Come Sit Awhile

I had the opportunity to visit the Diliman campus of The University of the Philippines last Tuesday. Let me state up front, I like universities, especially those with a pretty campus and the Diliman campus is pretty to say the least.

It very much has the feel of a park, a tranquil spot in the Hurley burley that is metro Manila. Although it is more than a park as it has an obvious life of its own. With some 20,000 students coming and going there is constant movement on its leafy streets. But there is also time to sit and think, to enjoy the beauty of ones surroundings.

One can’t help but notice that the layout of this campus has been designed with this in mind. Broad avenues with well developed trees provide shade from the tropical sun along with broad expanses of grassed areas that entice you to sit awhile.

It truly is a place where you can sit and hear yourself think if that is your disposition.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Food, Food, Glorious Food.

The kitchen had a very nice holiday last weekend, apart from breakfasts it was ignored.

On Friday we made a return visit to the Banana Leaf restaurant at the Power Plant Mall. My thoughts about this eatery can be seen in “Off the Banana Leaf” post. We were joined by friends visiting from Oz and in true Aussie fashion had a very enjoyable evening, in fact we were the last to leave. If we had stayed any longer I suspect we would have been locked in over night.

On Saturday the Best Beloveds boss treated the staff to lunch and your humble scribe was invited to tag along. Dampa Sa Libis is a fish market with a restaurant attached or a restaurant with a fish market attached, take your pick. Needless to say, you eye ball your meal in its natural state which is then whisked away to the kitchen. A short time later it appears on the table dressed up by the chef to tempt the taste buds.

Being more of a turf than a surf man I am not in a position to judge the quality. But, watching the gusto with which my companions attacked the crabs, prawns, fish and octopi it was obvious, even to my untrained eye, that there was very little to complain about the chef’s skill. I had a simple fish steak which although a tad dry was quite enjoyable and my companions were correct, it did taste a bit like chicken.

Sunday was the 9th day after the passing of my Best Beloved’s uncle and in keeping with tradition a food party was held in the compound. Ate Bebes’ house was the designated venue and a mountain of food was available. Thin noodle pancit, thick noodle palabok, bar be cue pork, pitsi pitsi, puto and cochinta was loaded onto the table and relatives from near and far came in waves during the day and into the evening.

Monday saw a return to a normal state of affairs although resolutions about dieting did seem to be placed high on the agenda.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Filipino Send Off

One of my best beloved’s uncles died last Friday and over the past few days the family has been holding a wake. Up to 4 generations have been gathering at the uncle’s house where he has been lying in state.

His coffin has the place of honour at the front of the compound, but such is the size of the gathering that marquees had been erected in the street outside the house. There family members congregate after paying their respects. Food and soft drinks are regularly dispensed, gossip is exchanged and games of chance are played.

On the evening I attended there were 2 games of poker being played by the adults, albeit for low stakes, and a game of bingo for the kids. Visiting relative’s cars blocked off access to street on either side of the marquees.

There was no animosity from neighbours at this restriction to free access to their homes. In fact, a group of neighbours manned the entrance to the street advising motorists to find an alternative route.

Friday, June 09, 2006

English - It's a Second Language

These thoughts came to me yesterday whilst talking with the doorman at the Globelines Business centre in Makati. I was asking about telephone directories and as he answered my enquiry in English I could see him translating in his head from Tagalog. It is a process I am very familiar with as I take my faltering steps in my adventure with this islands home grown language.

Across the archipelago there a several main indigenous languages and I suspect more dialects than you can poke a stick at. Here on the island of Luzon it is Tagalog, in Cebu it's Cebuano which has more in common with Visayes and the Mindanao region than with Luzon. The official national language is Pilipino, however I have rarely heard it spoken. English is the language of government and the judicial system.

English is also the language of the moneyed elite. As a professor from the University of the Philippines, when arrested by the police for his part in the demonstrations during February’s Sate of Emergency, is reported as reminding himself to speak in English with his captors. The implication being he would receive kinder treatment in their hands if they thought he was well connected and the best way to get that impression across was to avoid Tagalog.

But for the average Filipino, like the Globelines doorman, English is very much a second language. How this plays out in the burgeoning call center industry servicing the US market is an interesting question. Being a phone jockey isn’t the employment that attracts the finest minds.

Until I have learned to think in Tagalong my mastery of the language will be far from complete and I venture that the opposite is true.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Schools In

Once more across the 700 islands the streets of the baranays are safe once more. Well up till 2 in the afternoon.

Not only is it the start of the rainy season, but last Monday the new school year started. Around 6 am jeepneys and tricycles were awash with girls in their check skits and white blouses and boys in their dark pants and white shirts as these ‘eager” students head for first class of the day.

From 6.40am until 2pm the Philippine education system tries to instill the rudimentary skills of Filipino, English, science, social studies, and mathematics that will enable its charges to pursue a tertiary calling. For anyone who wants a half way decent job here a tertiary education is essential.

From now until April next year, except for a couple of weeks at Christmas and term breaks this will be the week day scenario. Once more the streets will be safe for vehicles, well at least for a few hours a day.

Edit: As Bob from Mindanao pointed out, there are over 7000 islands in the philippines, I stand corrected for that missed typo at the start of this post. BTW you can see his photo blog at

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Off the Banana Leaf

Located in the basement restaurant area of the Power Plant Mall, the Banana Leaf is a very popular eatery. With an extensive menu that consists of a selection of Asian dishes from Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

At 7.30ish on a Friday evening, our party of 4 had to wait for 20 minutes for a table to become available. That they are able to seat a table 4 times in an evening would be doing their bottom line no harm at all.

As the name suggests, diners are given, instead of a plate, a square of banana leaf to eat from. Looking akin to a place mat, it took this Kano a couple of minutes to overcome the ingrained reticence to eating off the napery.

The food is served in individual bowls for each dish which we all shared. We started with Thai spring rolls which were of the large variety and very tasty if a little too oily for my taste or perhaps more correctly, my fingers. Perhaps a few more minutes draining after leaving the deep fry would have alleviated the problem.

The Nasi Goreng rice was delightful, so much so that a second serving was ordered, nicely sticky and coloured with saffron with an interesting assortment of additives that made it a pleasure to eat on its own or as an accompaniment for the other dishes. These included a pork Malay curry which had a good kick to it even if the meat was a little on the tough side. The chicken Hong Kong curry was milder but still flavoursome, the beef spare ribs in black bean sauce hit the spot even if a little light on with spare ribs. The highlight of the meal was the fried noodles with pork chop, the chop had been de-boned and sliced into bite size pieces, mixed with the noodles and their assorted flavourings to make a mouth watering treat.

The menu included a wide selection of soft drinks and a couple of the local brews. A wine list is also available with half a dozen whites and 7 reds. Six of the reds are merlots or merlot blends, which is not high on your scribe’s favourites list, and the one Cab Sav was out of stock.

Fortunately a couple of minutes walk away is a Rustan’s supermarket which sports a decent cellar. With corkage at 300 pesos a bottle of 6 year old French Bordeaux from there came in at around the same price as the listed wines and accompanied the meal very nicely.

All in all, it was an enjoyable repast. Good food, good company and good wine, what more can a person ask for?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Getting the Hang of Things

Had the occasion to catch a cab home from the Makati CBD yesterday. I usually ride the jeepneys, they are cheaper and a whole lot more fun. But being loaded down with packages, as I was, the thought of that lot on a crowded jeep was not inspiring.

As I stepped into the cab with my 6 bags of goodies, the lone Kano into the lions den, I swear I saw scenic route flit across the driver’s eyes. Advising the driver that the destination was in the vicinity of the Makati City Hall, which is due north from the CBD, gleaned a nod of recognition and verbal confirmation that JP Rizal was a good street to head for, off we went.

North into the traffic of Makati Ave, this is good I thought. At the second intersection we turned left into a south westerly direction, Ok missing the 24/7 heavy Makati Ave traffic is good. But after a couple more turns to the left the scenic route pesos came to mind.

A gentle reminder to the driver that if we continued in this direction we would end up at the wrong part of JP Rizal drew a mumbled comment about Makati Ave road works, but we did turn east. Shortly there after we started down the Zapote jeepney route from were I was able to direct the driver as to the best route to the house.

That I was able to give the latter directions in Tagalog helped although my first instructions were in English, my Tagalog wasn’t up to that one. Upon arrival at the house the driver’s English didn’t depart to some foreign land where change has never been heard of. He just started pulling it out from his stash, the fare was close to what it should have been and I was a happy camper, I let him keep the change.

He had tried it on, I had turned him round without any loss of face, I was happy and his smile when he drove away indicated he was happy with the extra pesos in his pocket.

Monday, May 29, 2006

At Least it Wasn't the Butler

Ninety two percent of the eighty five million Filipino population are Christians with eighty percent being Roman Catholics. They take their religious duties seriously some to an extent that could be called fanaticism. During Holy Week in Pampanga Province some Filipinos indulge in flagellation and some even braver souls are crucified for as long as they can stand the pain.

Consequently it comes as no great surprise that 4 of the 10 Glorietta Mall screens are showing continuous sessions of The Da Vinci Code. Admittedly it isn’t the box office bonanza that Mel’s Passion of Christ was, but then it doesn’t have the same graphic appeal. Who would have thought that if you scratch Mel Gibson you’d find a Filipino from Pampanga Province?

Howard sanitizes the gory bits with his Happy Days approach to film making. The Da Vinci Code is Indiana Jones meets Happy Days and the mix don’t work all that well when the humour is left on the cutting room floor. It is little wonder that Cannes gave it the bum’s rush.

I must admit I haven’t read the book. Airport Literature is not my preferred reading material except when stranded between flights. This fortunately hasn’t happened since Dan Brown released his best seller. The last time it did happen I managed to down both of Mitch Albom’s novels, Tuesday’s with Morrie and The Five People you meet in Heaven, along with more Starbucks than is good for one. But that is another story.

To give the master mind behind the code his due, Dan Brown’s taking a hunt for buried treasure, mix in some mud to throw at a sacred cow, add a reluctant hero, a beautiful heroine who is more than she seems, an evil genius and a misguided flat foot and you have the recipe for a good old fashioned pot boiler. When the sacred cow takes the bait and bellows long and loud, best seller here we come, not to mention a lucrative movie deal.

The movie itself is ok, in a who done it sort of way, which if there are no other pressing matters will keep you seated until the final reel. Although I was sorely disappointed that Harrison Ford didn’t make an appearance. Tom Hanks just doesn’t have his rugged good looks nor his laconic humour, but perhaps folks the latter wasn’t his fault.

My other gripe with The Code was the ending, well more precisely the number of endings. A false ending can give a nice kick to send you on your way, but 4. Really Ron how many sets of steak knives do you think I can use.

The final word on The Code must go to my best beloved, who unlike your scribe is a card carrying Christian although not of the Roman persuasion. Her 4 word comment as we left the cinema was “I don’t believe it.”

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Construction Site Greenbelt Makati City

A new building is under construction at Greenbelt. At the time of writing I have no idea what the finished building will be. But it is a good sign that this bit of abondaned dirt is being turned into something.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

American Splendor

Although the film American Splendor has little to do with Philippines, apart from the fact that I watched it for the second time on cable whilst sitting in my lounge room in the Philippines, it is a very good film.

American Splendor is a bio pic which tells the story of the cult comic book writer Harvey Pekar. A file clerk who created a series of comic books about his very ordinary life in Cleveland, the trials and tribulations of man who sees himself as a victim. Unable to draw, he wrote the books and a variety of artists illustrated them. His graphic novel about his battle with cancer went on to become and award winning best seller.

What makes this movie stand out from the crowd of bio pics is how successfully the producers included the comic book style in the film. There are sequences told in comic book frames, in animation, live action with actors playing the characters along with appearances by the actual people being portrayed. The skillful blending of all of these facets makes for an interesting portrayal of the relationships that influenced the creator of American Splendor.

I have seen it twice now, once of the big screen and a couple of days ago via cable. There is enough meat in this film for at least another couple of viewings which pushes it up into my top ten. If you get the chance to see it, take it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

To Much of a Good Thing

I had a photo shoot over the weekend for ice cream in the Philippines. With a couple of models in tow we went in search of this summer confection.

A hundred meters from the house we hit our first ice cream opportunity. A street vendor with his colourful cart was headed in our direction. These guys ply the streets either with hand carts or on bicycles, ringing their bells or playing the same 6 to 8 bars of music ad nauseam.

Selling what is colloquially known as dirty ice cream they have a range of 4 flavours. The best explanation to the dirty reference I have been able to find is that this ice cream is made by hand often by the vendors themselves as opposed to the store brought variety which is made in automated factories. The flavours available are the purple ube, the orange mango, the off white with dark brown chunks chocolate and the off white cheese ice cream. For 10 pesos you can get a cone with a combination of 3 flavours.

Charlene and Grace attacked their cones with gusto little realizing, as this was their first food shoot, that by the end of afternoon the mere mention of ice cream would have them heading in the opposite direction. Once finished, a jeepney ride took us into the heart of Makati City to the hallowed halls of the Glorietta Mall.

Our first stop was at “Dippin Dots” which touts itself as being “Ice cream for the future”. Here the girls purchased a regular (small) tub of what looked like Hundreds and Thousands on steroids. But, instead of being hard candy that sticks between your teeth it was melt in the mouth ice cream. This was gone in a matter of minutes with a spoon full or two for Kuya Henry.

A short stroll along the avenues of shops and eateries that is the Glorietta Mall saw us arrive at the ‘Food Place’ within whose confines resides the Ice Monster. Apart from selling ice cream and iced fruits they also sell the Filipino delicacy of iced confection delicacies Halo, Halo. It is basically a mixture of sweet preserved beans (red beans and chick peas), coconut meat, jackfruit, pounded dried rice, sweet yam (ube), leche flan, shreds of sweetened plantain, filled with crushed ice, milk or coconut milk and topped with ice cream.

The Ice monsters version left something to be desired and after a few spoons full and a couple of shots it was consigned to the trash, much to the horror of the girls at the Kano’s sayang. Another stroll through the crowds of the mall and after a couple of wrong turns we found ourselves at the fast food Mecca of Glorietta adjacent to the central atrium.

Passing the Mc Do’s, the KFC’s et al we headed for Chow King. A subsidiary fast food franchise of the big daddy of Filipino fast food franchises, Jollibee. At Chow King one can get, if not the best, the most photogenic examples of halo, halo. It arrives, a mouth watering treat in a fluted plastic bowl big enough to satisfy a man sized hunger.

Grace and Charlene did their best but were forced to concede defeat a third of the way through. With some 80 odd shots on the disc I was happy to call it a day and the alacrity with which the girls agreed indicated that ice cream was off the menu for the next few days.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Its on Amazon

Finally, 3 weeks after publication The Streets Of Manila is listed on Amazon. This book is a selection of up to the minute photographs from the streets, the malls and the markets the the Philippines capital. They were all taken between August 2005 and February 2006. From demonstrators confront police during the state of emergency on 24th February to the calm of the Pasig River as dawn breaks over Mandaluyong, it's all there.

To see The Streets Of Manila on Amazon click here.
To take a peek inside the covers click here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mediterranean Tastes in Metro Manila

In the tradition of that special Sunday in May we, myself and number one son, treated the best beloved to dinner at a restaurant of her choice.

Her choice was Café Mediterranean at the Power Plant Mall and a bloody good choice it was too. From the moment we walked in and were assailed with the exotic aromas from the kitchen to leaving with our doggie bag it was a lovely repast.

As the name suggests they specialize in Greek and Italian cuisine. For starters we shared an assorted platter of tit bits, humus, falafel, Greek meat balls and kalamata olives steeped in olive oil with warm pita bread on the side.

For mains, I had penne pasta with a ham, sun dried tomato and cream sauce served with a balance that ensured the sauce didn’t over power the taste of the pasta, although the garlic bread accompaniment could have had a closer involvement with the clove. The best beloved had mousaka which came with buttered rice. It was her first taste of this Greek dish and although she couldn’t finish it at the time what was left did make for a lovely lunch the next day, so I have been told. The gusto with which number one son attacked and demolished his spicy chicken and butter rice ensured a good nights sleep for the chef.

This was all washed down with a Spanish red of mixed parentage and although not remarkable was a pleasant drop. Being served in water glasses did remind me of the Greek restaurants I frequented in the southern Greek city of Melbourne. And being served at room temperature earned them several brownie points.

The all up cost was a very modest 1500 pesos (about $AU40.00). Will we eat there again? The next time we feel the need for a break from Filipino fare it will be high on our list of priorities, there are a couple of dishes on their menu, I for one, would like to try.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pondering Manila's Traffic

It seems to be a generally held opinion that the traffic in Manila is at best chaotic and at worst mayhem on wheels. This is not only voiced by visitors and expats but also the locals although with the latter group there seems to be a certain pride tingeing the assertion.

With some 20 million people trying to get from A to B on streets of which the majority were built before the invention of the horseless carriage, it is to be expected there will be a level of congestion. But my ponderings whilst biding my time as a jeepney passenger in yet another traffic snarl have brought another variable into the equation.

I guess I should admit that I am no longer a driver and since my driver’s license expired a few months back and I felt no compunction to renew it, it is a lifestyle I shall maintain for the foreseeable future. Being a street photographer, zipping around in a tin can at 60 kilometers an hour meant I was missing far too many photographic opportunities. The fact that my car had died and would require an injection of 2 grand, that I didn’t have, made the decision to employ shank’s pony and the public transport system a lot easier. Once I recovered from the withdrawal symptoms it turned out to be quite a smart move, I got a lot of otherwise missed photos and the savings funded 3 overseas trips.

Now that the walking habit is fully ingrained and as I make my round the streets of Manila one of the most notable observations is the Filipino’s affinity with their streets. From the time they can walk the street is an extension of their home, a play ground, a meeting place with friends, an ever changing vista to watch and contemplate in quiet times. Games of pool and basketball, practicing skate board jumps or just hanging out, the street outside the front door is where it happens.

Very little attention is paid to the vehicular traffic on these side streets that The Filipinos call home. When a vehicle comes along it will announce its arrival with toot on its horn. Then the residents will temporarily stop their activity, let the car or truck pass and then resume where they left off.

Now take this ingrained attitude of “it is my street” and put it behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and it is little wonder that there is a blatant disregard for other users. The only other city I have experienced with similar traffic is New York and there I am led to believe there is a similar affinity with the streets, especially in the inner city neighbourhoods.

From my experience of inner city living in Australian cities where in the majority of cases the residents tend to live their lives off the streets and there the traffic seems to be somewhat more orderly. There is no empirical evidence to support this contention, it is just my observation and speculation, for what it is worth.