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(lg2a) give me the dirty, the dingy, the dazzling new york city

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, news, people, religion, sports, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2010 by mijodo

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“This reminds me of Cubao, Quiapo and Makati altogether,” one sister declared.
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Yes it can be true. Just go to the heart of New York City – Manhattan that is, and you get a melange of all our iconic busy places in Metro Manila. The monumental glass buildings and skyscrapers, and fancy boutique glasswindows remind you of Ayala Avenue. The corner delicatessens, the quaint coffeshops and small emporiums, and the ubiquitous hotdog stands are reminiscent of the old Cubao, just before the posh Gateway Mall was built. Oh yes, the seedy, dirty streets, the incessant scaffoldings blocking pedestrians, and  the chaotic volume of people, crisscrossing the grid streets (which then Manila Metropolitan Commission Governor Imelda Marcos wanted to impossibly copy for the layout of Metro Manila )of Manhattan implore a Quiapo feel overall.
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“I will never come back here,” another sister threatened. She is happy to stay in a quiet suburb somewhere in the midwest.
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It is not only her who seems to be disillusioned by New York City. Aside from the disarray of Manhattan, some have outrightly warned of the bedlam that happens in the Big Apple such as frequent muggings and  the saucy attitude by the New Yorkers. There was even a time when all patrons were forcibly asked  to leave a store just because it was already closing. My sister pointed out such crudeness to a store manager. The store got some rude awakening from a Detroit diva there!
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But it is the diamond in the rough that makes New York special and iconic to many of us non-New York dwellers. The Statue of Liberty at the harbor, United Nations Headquaters and the Financial District appeal to those who have romanticized the ideals of freedom, harmony and capitalism. The beaches at Hamptons, the artifacts of the numerous galleries and museums, the runway fashion shows of designers, and the explosion of architecture connect highly to the desires and senses of the erudite, the avantgarde, the sophisticated, and the moneyed from all over the globe.
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But for many of us, hoi-polloi, including me, it is the razzle-dazzle of pop culture that makes us warm with delight in the City that Never Sleeps. Aside from the music and stories that are churned out from musicals and plays of Broadway and the numerous movies which featured the city, it is the weekly and probably daily television shows, old and new, that familiarize us with a piece of New York life. Shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City give the couch potatoes a weekly dose of insights regarding independence, fraternization and even perhaps fabulous urban living, aside from the quality comedic scripts that comeout from these shows. It is the involved appreciation of such shows that make travelling to this megapolis quite surreal and a definite treat for pop culture afficionados. 
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It is quite a testament to New York City, a city that has experienced trouble in the last few years, in terms of finance and security, of how it has remained on the top, for visitors and travellers passing by America.  No matter how shoddy and dirty New York is, the spotlight stays on that Big Apple.
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(lg2a) from silver to gold, from silver to blood

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by mijodo

Precious (2009). Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Tsotsi (2005). Hotel Rwanda (2004). American Beauty (1999). Shine (1996). Strictly Ballroom (1992). Places in the Heart (1984). The Big Chill (1983). Chariots of Fire (1981).

These are some of the films which have captivated the hearts and minds of the cineastes who have come to watch such  in the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF for almost four decades now.   Second to Cannes International Film Festival in terms of international media mileage and hoopla, TIFF awarded silverscreen flicks with the gold standard of excellence such that the results can be a barometer for Oscar wins in Hollywood. 

This year’s “seeming” Filipino entry in the festival is produced and directed by a Malaysian. A full length film, Pinoy Sunday which stars comedians Bayani Agbayani and Epy Quizon delves on a narrative of two men and a couch.  Somehow it is not sure how the audience responded to this film, but in recent years, there have been other Filipino Films which have garnered critical praises and plaudits in other international film festivals.

Moscow International Film Festival has awarded the International Critics Prize to Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador (2006) which centers  on the illegal numbers game, Jueteng.  Also, the Berlin Film Festival has honored Auraeus Solito’s Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005) which is on how a family of men copes tenderly on the blossoming of an effeminate gay boy in a slum environment.

The newest golden boy in Philippine cinema is Director Brillante Mendoza whose account of films gives hope and shock to the Philippine and international cinephiles. His slew of dark, bleak, and almost raw films such as Masahista (2005),  Manoro (2006), Serbis (2008) has received numerous awards and citations in different award giving bodies. But it is in Kinatay (2009) where Mendoza gets recognized as the avant garde director, and who has snatched the Best Director plum at Cannes Film Festival.

Body Heat (USA). Gallipoli (Australia). The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Great Britain). Smash Palace (New Zealand). 36 Chowringhee Lane (India). Oro, Plata, Mata (Philippines).
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These were the films which graced the defunct and much ballyhooed Manila International Film Festival (MIFF) in the early 80’s. It was a gargantuan project by Imelda Marcos who had wanted Manila as the international film market of the Far East. Again, just like any project of the Marcoses,the MIFF was seen as another whim and caprice by its project leader, Imelda.
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However just days before the MIFF was formally opened, almost 200 workers who sped up the completion of  the Manila Film Center Building at the Cultural Center of the Philippines reclamation grounds in Pasay, met their tragic ending, which news was heavily controlled by the government’s news agencies.
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Apparently, the scaffolding slab on the second floor had collapsed because of the shoddy and expedited work of the people. And the fast drying cement landed on the sleeping workers at the ground floor. Not many were able to escape catastrophe. For the few who were able to live and breathe under the rubble and cement, few had been taken out to actually survive and be brought to the hospital. There was not much time for rescue as the film festival was just days away.  There was little attempt to excavate people under the ruin. Some were left to die, and be finally covered with new cement. 
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The Manila International Film Festival did not prosper, even with the visits of then Hollywood A listers such as Brooke Shields, Jeremy Irons, and Imelda’s good friend, George Hamilton. The international film fest was staged only for two years. Years after that, blue films  were introduced without censorship and cuts in the film showings inside the Film Center. This was done to placate political rumblings in Manila.
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However such bomba pictures were said not to appease the ghosts of the construction workers inside the building premises. Imelda, and her Blue Ladies had even asked knowledgeable spiritual  advisors from Northern Mountain provinces to exorcise the haunted building of such malevelont dwellers, ready to avenge their untimely deaths.  One witness even mentioned that the ceremony had used live chickens and blood to cast out the restless spirits.
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Strange rumors had been active then, right after inauguration. The accidental Tagaytay death of Betty Benitez, one of the active handlers of the film festival, was seen as a seeming result of such payback.
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Had it been responsibly handled, MIFF could have been another prestigious film festival such as the ones in Toronto or even Cannes. However what remains of the Parthenon like – Film Center is just a reminder of a cavernous, sick excesses of the past and its proponent.

(lg2a) city of life

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, health, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, technology, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by mijodo

It has definitely been a privilege to crisscross North America, and see some great cities in this part of the world –  from the flashy glitz of Las Vegas to the can-do character of New York City. However it seems that there is a place in Canada which is esteemed to be the “most livable” among all the cities in the world. And if you happen to be living in Vancouver City, British Columbia, then you are one lucky dude.

However if you just happen to visit Vancouver, it is not difficult to be impressed with what it has to offer –  a working, thriving, and clean metropolis in the bellows of scenic landscapes and sea vistas.  People may be working hard in the city, but the city is not working hard on its people.  The city seems to be aware on how it  can assist its dwellers in making life accessible to convenience and prosperous growth. There is a web of trains and trams that bring its people to work and home – even right to its airport. Passengers don’t need to box out fellow passengers for valued commuter space, during rush hour as commuter crowd is quite sparse. 

It is quite possible  not to even own a car, if a bike ride (or even skateboard) is sufficient (and certainly efficient) for you. There is a bike lane that goes around the city. And however way you explore the city, there are always the surrounding mountains and Fraser River that accompany you, and make your stay, in awe of Vancouver and its environs such as Surrey, Richmond and New Westminister.

The temperate climate even during winters make the whole place bearable, particularly that one can delightfully see from the city snow capped mountain sites, around Vancouver.

Our Version Apparently, it is not only the transport infrastructure or the sceneries that make Vancouver on top of the surveys (one of which is Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey) as “most livable.”  Of course, prime importance are the economic viability of the place and the secured neighborhoods.  Such criteria may be applied on the cities within the Philippines.  And among such places, Davao stoodout, beating out Manila and Cebu City, as “most livable city” in a survey (http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideLifestyle.htm?f=2010%2Faugust%2F24%2Flifestyle3.isx&d=2010%2Faugust%2F24).

Just like Vancouver, Davao City is a bustling megapolis (considered the biggest city in the world in terms of sheer size) with a progressive economy, almost zero percent crime rate, and significantly less traffic hassle compared to that of Manila, Makati and Cebu City.  Since it is located in Mindanao, its weather condition has been mild and almost typhoon free.  Also like in Vancouver, Davaoenos enjoy the short distance access to many beaches, particularly in Samal Island, and the rustic settings of its many mountains, such as Mt. Apo, the tallest mountain within the Philippines.

City of New Life It is no wonder expatriates and newcomers, looking for  opportunities, with a kinder way of life, gravitate towards such cities, such as in Davao, but more particularly in Vancouver.  You right away get the impression that the city of Vancouver welcomes people from all over the world, but more particularly the Asians – Chinese, Indian, and yes, of course the Filipinos, wanting to have a peaceful, rewarding life.

The Vancouverites don’t discriminate. In fact they encourage the people from different nationalities and ethnicities to profess and manifest their own cultural identity without much hesitation.  There is no need to assimilate. Vancouver  wants its people to add on to the vastness of customs and conventions to form a “mosaic” instead of a “blend.” 

The city government offers all the aid and help to new settlers – particularly, to couples with children.  You are given housing assistance, especially if the family’s income may have difficulty with coming up with rental money.  If you are just starting out, this indeed is a sweet deal.

It is not sure if Davao does the same to its new lifetime guests, but for as long you are able to work, contribute and be a good partner in building both cities, then you and your family may just have the life you have been wanting for – a great and productive one. Welcome to the Cities of Life – Davao and Vancouver.

(lg2a) arks

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, letsgopinas goes to america, locales, nature, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by mijodo

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

Apparently, the Almighty has tasked his minions somewhat cumbersome set of responsibilities, caring for all organisims, roaming and swimming in the face of the earth. It was the old man Noah who was the first to fulfill such duty among the distinguished people of the Bible.  Although it could be argued that the Lord had to do some heavy prompting to Noah so that he and his family could bring along a male and a female of every animal species for eventual breeding and propagation , and be quartered in a large ark throughout the big flood.

In modern times, zoos can be considered akin to the Ark of Noah.  They are repositories of the most common to the most exotic and possibly, those in danger of declining population from kingdom animalia. However in recent years, zoos or even animal parks may have losing public relation points, particularly from animal right groups. These activiest see enclosures as places for restrained abuse and maltreatment despite the zoos’ initial purposes as innocuous public displays of menagerie for the curious and the animal enthusiasts – including kids.

Just this summer, my cousin, Al Depakakibo and his wife, Gisella, together with the kids and I strolled inl Detroit Zoo, here in Michigan. I got to see some creatures  – lemurs, otters, even kangaroos (loaned in by an Australian city zoo) which I have never seen in Manila or other city zoos I have been to in Asia.  I missed out on the polar bear and even the elephants which Detroit Zoo happens not to have at all (another cousin remarked that at least Manila Zoo has one).

All in all, Detroit Zoo seems to be just like any other zoo or wildlife park in any other city – a seemingly safe haven for animals to stay in for those endemic to the place or for those visiting on exhibit. Apparently, those touring kangaroos and other Australian domestic animals made me think about those giraffes, impalas, gazelles, zebras and other wildlife probably roaming and wandering about in the large expanse of Calauit Island in Palawan.

Apparently, such wildlife species have been token gifts by the Kenyan Government in the 70s when Ferdinand and his wife, Imelda were still in power.   Immediately, Calauit in Busuanga was deemed game preserve for these animals, together with species, original to the Philippines like anteaters, mongoose, Palawan monkeys, and bearcats.

The grazing animals seem to favor the rolling hills and plains, with plenty of warm weather. The Calauit Island Park’s attraction  was to become for the exclusively enjoyment of the family and friends of the Marcoses – a seeming safari for the Philippine elite. From a hundred or so heads, the population dramatically increased to some thousands, thus such animals running, travelling, moving together can be a sight to behold within that 3700 hectare area.

At the moment, ordinary tourists can now flock to the wildlife park, and is part of Palawan Island’s must-see.  After the Marcos era, the Calauit Island Sanctuary seems to be surviving although some years back a tv documentary revealed that mismanagement may have caused the marked depletion of the number of animals, and possible endangering the survival of the park itself.  Overpopulation and food scarcity for many of these grazing animals took a toll on the Calauit Preserve. On top of this, only one person did all the work for the whole area as there were no funds to hire more laborers and veterinarians!

I am not quite sure if such problems do exist at present. But by the looks of it, Calauit Park and its wild inhabitants are far from instinction. God and Noah should be quite pleased.