Archive for manila

(lg2a) enclaves of the rich and famous

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, fashion, history, interior design, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, news, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by mijodo

Oh to be famous and rich. Well I can comfortably settle for just being rich – in fact, filthy rich.

Cousin Barbara and I, together with some Los Angeles tourists,  hopped on to this white, open top, vehicle that should bring us to the hills of Hollywoodland and its environs. Again, just like what we had done at the Oscar grounds (https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/oh-oscar/), we became gawkers and probably even snoops of such exulted showbiz personalities and their real estate acqusitions.

Again, my cousin and I, make ourselves small, just by listening to such trivial celebrity information amusingly dished out to us by our driver/travel guide as we meandered in the uber exclusive roads within the Beverly Hills and Bel-Air Villages. But our first stop was where the famous Hollywood sign was perched on the top of the hill. Our driver mentioned that  in the 1930s one young aspiring actress who had been frustrated with her unsatisfying career, climbed up on one of the letters of the Hollywood sign, and leapt to her death. The following day, a letter arrived to inform her supposedly of a starring role on a film.

On a more fun note, the tour went through the houses and mansions of Hollywood and American society A-listers and some B celebrities, including Dr. Phil, Bob Barker of Price is Right,  Laurence Fishburne of CSI, Richard Gere, the late red head comedienne, Lucille Ball, and the prepubescent’s idols, the Jonas Brothers.  Each home is palatial, grand, and speaks much of the owner’s taste and requirements. At the outside, Nicolas Cage’s residence is romantic yet dark in tone, with patches of garden moss attached on its brick red facade. Celebrity heiress, Paris Hilton’s family residence has its name – West Haven, emblazoned on the perimeter wall.  Such shows the Hilton family’s self importance.  Even the guide, acerbicly asked us, “Does your house have a name?”

But whose ego is said to be as big as his Beverly Hills estate? According to our scornfully loquacious driver – it is no other than  Tom Cruise.  While tangentially passing by Tom Cruise’s place (we never actually saw his home at the top of hill, blocked by other houses), our driver mentioned that if Tom Cruise’s presence is inside the mansion, a white flag is propped up in his property.  Well during our trip, there is no flag to signal his actual stay in the mansion.

The story may just be one of the legends concocted by these enterprising travel guides to make the trip fun and interesting. Afterall, such big showbiz royalties don’t announce their presence just like that –  for obvious security reasons.  I am even wondering, how is it possible that such enclaves are open for curious tourists and outsiders to see, and possibly furthermore to inspect their actual garbage bins outside their homes (saw several at Richard Gere’s charming home.)

Certainly, homeowners of our own exclusive villages in Makati, Ortigas and Alabang will never allow such oglers in their territories. It is just too risky in terms of security, and too outlandish in terms of privacy. But yes in the Philippines, posh enclaves for the rich and probably infamous have burgeoned for several decades. The old rich , and even the ambassadors to the Philippines, may have settled in ritzy Forbes Park and Dasmarinas Village in Makati. The noveau rich may have opted to dwell in Ayala, Alabang or in the tall glass buidings of Fort Bonifacio.  But of course, there are still members of the family manning the genteel homes of Malate where the wealthy families took residence during the pre-war era.

While it is sure that these great big homes, whether in the Philippines or in Los Angeles, have happy families and individuals occupying them, there are still houses and haunts that have saddening and even paranormal experiences.  Our driver at the roadtrip had a serious tone when we passedby the last residence of Michael Jackson where he had been last taken out to the hospital for drug overdose. He also made mention of Marilyn Monroe’s apparition, visiting a favorite hotel – the Roosevelt Hotel at Hollywood Boulevard.  And just before his death, John Belushi’had gone to one favorite nightclub, the Guitar Center, and even ate his last meal – consisting of lentil soup.

And of course the tour would never be complete without the driver pinpointing where Hugh Grant made his scandalous mistake with a local prostitute – at the alleyways, near the KFC store. Oh, to be rich and horny, this time.

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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.

(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.

two tall

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, history, locales, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by mijodo

Lapulapu of Luneta Park. David of Davao City.

Two behemoth structures that call attention from their territory’s populace and guests. Two gigantic personas that awed and inspired their respective people at their respective time and place. One is from the pages of Philippine history; the other is  from the books of the Bible.

There is a replica of Michaelangelo’s statue of King David at the beachfront of Davao City. As written in the Old Testament, King David was the one who slung a rock at the forehead of the taller and much heavier Goliath who had been a menace  to Israelites.

And this tall structure made a commotion, a few years back among the politicians and the citizens of this economically progressive city of Davao. As the reproduction has David, nude and looming above the reflecting pool, some quarters wanted it removed; some, as a compromise, just required it to have some pants.

Apparently until now, the statue still depcits David in its naked glory, perhaps, just cooling his heels for the another round of fight, against censorship and prohibition, after the local elections this year.

Another controversial behemoth statue is the one at Rizal Park in Manila. Supposedly, this park should only honor, Jose Rizal, the Philippines’s national hero, and no one else as the park’s name implies, but apparently there is the great bronze figure of Lapu-Lapu, lording it over between the Department of Tourism and Department of Finance Buildings at the then known, Agrifina Circle of Luneta Park.

Some knowledgeable people of history and even landscape architecture raised voices against Lapulapu’s monument inside the national park. Some historians and chroniclers cited that Lapulapu had lead against the foreign invasion of the Spanish conquistadors, when the Philippines as a nation was not even created yet, hence Lapulapu should not be exactly called a Philippine hero yet. 

And some just didn’t like how the sculpture blends in with the aesthetics of the park, itself.  Lapulapu’s figure was too tall, and just did not create the balance and proportion with Rizal’s monument.

Apparently, regionalism deepened the controversy as some Cebuanos have taken the opposition to the marker as an insult to Visayans since Lapulapu had been a datu from Mactan, Cebu.

Whether such monolithic statues of King David or Datu Lapulapu have served well, in terms of beautifying and enhancing their respective places or not, there is no doubt such great people have affected other men and women to be wilfull and assertive against supposed enemies and antagonists.

crimson

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, history, locales, people, religion, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by mijodo

It was one day before the height of the activities for the fiesta of the Black Nazarene of the Quiapo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and St. John the Baptist Church. If you want to avoid the swarming of the crowd and the heightened passion for the reverence of the statue, then you better go there before January 9

And true enough, there were less people.  Last January 8, if you are around the vicinity of Quiapo Church, then you could  still feel  the anticipation of the devotees, milling around and inside the church, for the coming festivities. The church was full, during the almost hourly mass. Some had to contently wait outside the church premises. Security men, usually ardent followers of the Nazareno and in dark red shirts, were ready to make things orderly during the occasion.

Vendors were taking advantage of the need for Nazarene shirts, pendants, fans, face towels, hankies, and other chotskies, usually in predominantly maroon which is the color of iconic statue’s robe.

It is said that in 1606, the galleon ship from Mexico carrying the statue of the Nazarene burned (hence the Nazarene’s ebony color) on its way to the Philippines in 1606.   The statue’s survival, and the dramatic color change provided that mystic aura to the relic. Since then, people have sworn about the supernatural occurrences such as healing miracles, and positive changes in their lives  because of the Black Nazarene.  

Although the adoration for the Nazarene has been strong over several generations, it is in the last two decades that the media seems to have picked up the tumultuous, almost overzealous affection for the representation of the pitiable Christ, kneeling haplessly on his way to his Crucifixion.
There have been several mishaps, even deaths, related to the pushing, shoving and jostling for space near the truck that carries the life-sized statue from the start of the procession at the Luneta Grandstand, to the narrow streets of Manila, and eventually to its home, Quiapo Church .  Yet this obvious, almost fanatic devotion for the Christ’s image is how some Filipinos, clad in crimson shirts and barefooted, manifest willful need to show appreciation, and cleansing of past transgressions.

food trippin’

Posted in culture, food, lifestyle with tags , , , , on August 19, 2009 by mijodo

pastaice cream and rolls tomato, lemon and viandcanapecinammon bread

Food, glorious food. Food nourishes the body, and gives the vitality and vigor to enjoy life. Food is appreciated by the palate and the taste buds. But it should not stop there. Food should also be pleasing to the eyes, and should whet the appetite. And hopefully, photographers can come up with enticing pictures of the many varieties and assortment of the delicious, scrumptuous and fabulous food that we truly love and desire.

And sometime last week, I had the time to take some food images, under the helm of the most respected food photographer, Mr. Mark Floro. And with his words of encouragement, and lighting techniques, there is much chance that I should do more, after initial interests –https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/sideline/, and https://letsgopinas.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/coco-wonders/.

Hopefully the shots did provide the magic to crave for more pics. And hopefully it might interest you that I take some commercial photos for your food product. Let me know then (0917-9699894, 4180776), and let us have some more food trippin’ and food clickin’.