Archive for tom cruise

(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 (, 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.


Posted in history, locales, nature, people with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2009 by mijodo

lonely road at la paz sand dune

Cousin Mayette and I just had to go to our last destination after covering much of Ilocandia. It seems that every year, during summer there has been a place that we try to discover within the Philippines. Last year, it was the carved boondocks of Banaue, and then this year, it was the heritage places of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

It was imperative to go this area as our last stop, not necessarily antiquated by the colonial past, but spectacular just the same. It was the La Paz Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte. These hilly sands are just outside of Laoag City, thus after our quick tour of the Provincial Museum of Ilocos Norte, we had to look for a tricycle that should take us there.

“Mama, puwede bang dalhin mo kami sa La Paz sand dunes (Sir, can you drive us to La Paz Sand Dunes)?”I asked the trike driver who happened to passby.

The driver just responded with a quizzical look, not exactly knowing the place that I was referring to. Mayette had to intervene, and asked almost the same question but in a different manner, “Manong, saan po ba nagshooting si FPJ ng Ang Panday (Sir, where did FPJ shoot Ang Panday)?”

The trike driver recognized her question right away and was able to readily answer, “Malayo po yon, P300 daan po. (That’s far, P300 pesos for the fare)”

 We had no choice but to consent with the seemingly huge expense, despite the very uncomfortable ride inside his cab. We agreed with one trike driver in Vigan, Ilocos Sur as he had boasted that tricycle cabs in Vigan are much roomier, and can comfortably seat two adults. The ones in Ilocos Norte aresquat-like and small in proportion thus we had to squeeze ourselves inside the cab going to the dunes.

Panday and the Dunes. It was about a 15 minute ride from the busy streets of Laoag until we reached the place that was bucolic in character – dry, dusty, and sparse in residential homes. There was just one rough road, covered with seeming dust all over, and somehow was occasionally used. The place was desolate, but turned out to be the just the entry point to a more expansive locale, with mounds of fine sand all over, light khaki in shade, with thin layers of wild vegetation growing randomly. At this juncture, we had to get off the tricycle, and had the wide vista for ourselves.

Suddenly my mind had this vision of the iconic movie of “Da King” himself, the late and almost president, Fernando Poe, Jr or FPJ (for short) as had mentioned in Mayette’s query to the driver. In the epic series of all the movie installments (3) of “Ang Panday (The Blacksmith),” I would watch FPJ as the highly principled, Flavio, brooding and making a trek in this hilly area of La Paz, trying to find his arch nemesis, Lizardo, played by the unforgettable contrabida (movie goon), the late Max Alvarado.

The scale of the whole dunes brought about also the hugeness of the main characters to the moviegoers – both the good and the bad. La Paz Sand Dunes provided a striking backdrop to the fight sequences, usually sword battles, between the protagonist and antagonist together with his cohorts. It had been an impressive choice by FPJ who doubled as the director to employ the whole La Paz dunes as an important feature to the movie.  Its dryness and barrenness created a dramatic emphasis on the richness of Flavio and Lizardo’s personas. Since these outstanding and highly popular movies were made, the landscape of La Paz has become truly iconic – as if the whole breadth of the place was the third most important personality in such films.

Other notable movies which had the dunes as part of the backdrop were Nora Aunor’s Himala and Tom Cruise’s Born on the 4th of July.

Wind Power. My visualization of such films was cut short by a key question. “How did this happen?” Mayette asked, still dumbfounded by the powerful and poetic undulations of the dunes.

No one could answer it, not even the trike driver who was patiently waiting for us to crawl back to our little trike hole. Of course we would rather be enjoying the virtual limitless space of the desert where occasional boulders and strange looking trees were almost thoughtfully placed.

But if one is to research the internet, we can find out that dunes are basically formed by the incoming wind within perhaps eons of years. The geographic location of the La Paz area is just right beside the deep blue waters of the South China Sea and the winds coming from the coast push up the sand very slowly to create the dunes that can be used as protective barriers to wave surges coming in also from the sea.

And truly we saw the coastal line of the South China Sea running parallel to the extensive sand dunes of La Paz. It was a little too far from where we are, but we saw a couple of all terrain vehicles or ATVs that saunter at the beach front area. Apparently, the provincial tourism officials, together with the Department of Tourism promote the dunes to those wanting to explore a unique Philippine geophysical formation, supposedly only found in the province of Ilocos Norte, and have fun, driving through its atypical topography with such rides. It is said that one can rent out such ATVs also inside the premises of the exclusive Hotel Ilocandia nearby where a smaller portion of the sand dunes are found too.

Footprints in the Sand. During the heat of the midday sun, we decided to climb a high portion of the area, but our feet would sink into the loose ground, thus the ascent was a little bit tricky. Not really able to get to the peak, we chose to go back as we feared that the unusual afternoon showers even during the height of summer would stall our early evening bus departure for Metro Manila.

As I was just about to get out of the sands, I just had to make a last look back at the foot imprints Mayette and I had made. And I pointed out these tracks to Mayette. It was our trail from the high point where we came from. We knew that in due time such prints would be obliterated eventually by the winds coming from the China Sea, but I was deeply aware that such footprints symbolized also the tracks of all the interesting points of the Ilocos Region that we had been able to visit. We might have been gone to many remarkable and historical places within Ilocos, and the physical traces of our visit would have been wiped away thereafter, yet our memories of these places, including the La Paz Sand Dunes would never be erased for many years to come.