March 31, 2009

Don't freak out please

Probably the most popular party dish in the Philippines is the lechon, whole roasted pig. One can buy lechon by the kilo in several places around Metro Manila and if the party is big enough, one can buy the entire roast pig. At the party, it is laid out on a table and someone—a waiter in this case since it was a catered event—chops it up to serve to guests. The crackling skin is doled out carefully because almost everybody loves it. After the meatier parts have been served, the waiter carves out the remaining meat from the bones and puts them on a platter. The head is displayed too, proof that what was served was the entire roast pig and not just a kilo or two. Lechon is usually served with liver sauce except for the ones from Cebu, a province in the Visayas which is an hour's plane ride away from Manila. I don't know what Cebuanos use to baste it with, but their lechon is very tasty and does not need any kind of sauce. Cebu lechon is what Anthony Bourdain had when he came to the Philippines and as of February 16, 2009, it is number 1 in his "Hierarchy of Pork."

lechon pieces on a platter with the head of the roast pig

March 30, 2009


I've always found the stuff that taxi drivers place on their dashboards fascinating. There was that one who had a whole bunch of stuffed toys hanging from a sun visor, and now this: a robed and veiled Virgin Mary and a resin mermaid au naturelle with her hair positioned just so.

the Virgin Mary and a mermaid on a taxi's dashboard

Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Odd Shots Monday

March 29, 2009

Subic Bay

I wasn't able to post a photo last Thursday because I went with my sister and nieces to Subic Bay, a couple of provinces north of Metro Manila. Subic is an excellent, natural harbor surrounded by hills covered with thick woods, and is located between the provinces of Bataan and Zambales. It used to be the location of the largest American naval base in the Pacific before the Philippine government asked the U.S. government to close it in 1991. Now, it is the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Aside from its obvious industrial and commercial use, Subic Bay is a popular weekend destination for Manila residents because of its eco-tourism theme parks, beaches and duty-free shopping. This is just a small portion of the bay. In the foreground is the old base's airport, now the Subic Bay International Airport, which was FedEx's Asia-Pacific hub before they closed it in February 2009 to transfer the operations to Guangzhou in Southern China.

Subic Bay

Urban or rural, natural or man-made, take a sightseeing tour of our world's diverse scenery!
Scenic Sunday

March 28, 2009

Late night movie

The fruit smoothies and shakes of Fuzion Smoothie Café are unusual compared to those of other Manila restaurants and cafés. They don't add sugar and don't use ice. They only use fruits flash-frozen at the peak of their ripeness, addressing both problems at once. This is their space in Trinoma mall, just outside the cinemas on the 5th level. It's kind of creepy walking in a dark and empty mall after midnight, which is what happens when we watch the last show. And we always tend to watch the last show. I've already caught one of their after-hours cleaners here.

Fuzion Smoothie Café in Trinoma mall closed for the night

March 27, 2009

Little palace

The interior of the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz or the Binondo Church. I wish I knew more about it, like who designed it or if it replicates the interior design of the old church, but I can't find anything about it. All I know for sure is that everything that you see here is post-WWII, unlike the facade and bell tower from the previous post.

interior of the Binondo Church

March 25, 2009

Chinoy church

Soon after the Spaniards settled the Chinese who converted to Christianity in Binondo in 1596, the Dominicans built a church for them. This was destroyed by a British bombardment in 1762 during their brief occupation of Manila. In 1852, a new Binondo Church was built on the same site with an octagonal bell tower which echoes Chinese architecture and design. The church was severely damaged during WWII but the facade and bell tower survived. The rebuilding and reconstruction of the church was done in several phases and took a long time, from 1946 to 1984. Binondo Church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, is also known as the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, named after the Philippines' first saint, who was born of a Chinese father and a Tagalog mother. He served as an altar boy in the original church and was tortured and killed in Japan in 1637 for refusing to renounce his faith. He was canonized in 1987.

Binondo Church

March 24, 2009

Anthony Charles Lynton

Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was the speaker at the fourth Ateneo MVP Center Leadership Forum yesterday and I was privileged to be among the 1,200 people invited to the talk. I had a great seat too: not orchestra center because the first few rows were reserved for important people and the rest of it was immediately filled up, but the first row of the left side which turned out to be right in front of Mr. Blair's podium! His topic was "The Leader as Nation Builder in a Time of Globalization." The topic was specially chosen by the Ateneo de Manila University for its 150th anniversary whose theme, The Ateneo Way, comprises excellence, spirituality and nation-building.

Tony Blair at the Ateneo MVP Center Leadership Forum
I'm not going to say anything about the lecture itself because I've already seen three articles written about it and will just point you to them. The articles of John Nery, a journalist and columnist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are "Blair: The battle is about Islam" and "Her Britannic Majesty’s loyal texter." The article of Rick Olivares, an alumnus who writes regularly for the Ateneo de Manila website, is "Tony Blair: An ordinary human being in an extraordinary situation." And the article of Joaquin Alonzo Narciso, a young high school student, is "Servant-Leaders as Nation Builders." After the lecture, Mr. Blair was presented with several gifts which hold great meaning to the university: a replica of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus carved by Philippine national hero Jose Rizal while he was a student in the Ateneo; a set of books collecting the essays and homilies of Fr. Horacio de la Costa, a historian and the first Filipino superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines; and, probably a first for the university during a formal occasion, an Ateneo de Manila jacket.

Tony Blair wearing an Ateneo de Manila University jacket

March 23, 2009

Used, used and used

At the Penguin Café Gallery in Malate, Manila while the next band was setting up their equipment, a DJ would be spinning some vinyl records. Aside from a shiny new player, he also had one old beat up player. And take a closer look at his lamp. It's made out of an empty can of mushrooms.

dj at Penguin Café Gallery

Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Odd Shots Monday

March 22, 2009

Playful breeze

The plaza and fountain in front of the main entrance of Robinsons Place Manila, part of a large chain of malls in the Philippines. This entrance is along Pedro Gil Street in Ermita, Manila. It has other entrances on two other streets, but I hear they're not as pretty.

fountain at the main entrance of Robinsons Place Manila

My sister and her three young daughters are arriving tonight for a visit again, this time for two weeks. Actually, she's here to get some much-needed dental work done. Even factoring in the cost of the airfare, she says it's less expensive to get it done here. I guess there's something to that medical tourism that our Department of Tourism is pushing. Like last October, I will try to post photos regularly and visit as much as I can, but if I can't, then you all know why. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

March 21, 2009

Bubbly chicken

Since it opened in 1945, Max's Restaurant has been known for almost only one thing: its crispy, tender, juicy fried chicken. Drop the diet and forget about cholesterol because you just have to eat the skin of this one. Instead of regular potato, Max's fried chicken is served with kamote (sweet potato) fries. Sweet potato has a higher nutritional value than the common potato and is popular as an inexpensive snack food among Filipinos. My favorite accompaniment to their fried chicken is their pancit canton. Named for the southern Chinese province of Guangdong (Canton is the anglicized form) where the original egg noodle dish came from centuries ago, Max's pancit canton is topped with vegetables, pork, shrimp and chicken, including its lamang loob (innards), which makes it even tastier. Don't worry if you can't eat those—I can't either and just push them aside. And for a refreshing drink, a tall glass of buko pandan shake: fresh young coconut, milk, sugar and ice run through a blender and served over cubes of pandan gelatin.

Max's fried chicken, pancit canton and buko pandan shake

Max's Restaurant has always been popular in Metro Manila for large family parties, and I thought this would be an appropriate post because one year ago on this date, I posted my first photo in My Manila. Back then, I had no plans of making it a daily photo blog because I already had Happy at Home. I only joined City Daily Photo two months later, and silly me even registered the wrong email address so I couldn't get into the author forums until I emailed the Eric of Paris Daily Photo and he corrected my information. Thanks again, Eric! And thank you to all of you who have made blogging such a wonderful experience for me—for your comments, your appreciation, and more than anything else, for your own blogs. I truly enjoy all the blogs that I visit because of the fantastic photos and the wonderful information that I learn—about history, lifestyle, customs, architecture and nature. What some people assume as ordinary can be so fascinating to me because it's so different from my experience. When people write about their country's painful circumstances, I am always humbled and shamed, and reminded and challenged to see beyond myself and try to do some good. For all of these, and much, much more, thank you. Now dig in!

March 20, 2009


Notice in yesterday's photo of the train station that all the people within view are women. I'm not sure about the two LRT lines because I've rarely used them, but in the MRT, the first set of cars are reserved for women, children and senior citizens. If a child is accompanied by a male guardian, then he can stay there too. When I'm traveling alone, I always stay in those first cars. The sisterhood of women may really just be a dream, but I feel much safer there than in the other cars, especially during rush hour when people are packed like sardines.

inside the MRT

Now, all you CDP bloggers rush on over to the forum and cast your votes for the May theme! Don't forget that you can choose two. And do you have your yellow photo ready? Yellow is the theme for the first of April!

March 19, 2009

My station

Metro Manila, which is about 636 square kilometers in area with more than 12 million inhabitants, only has three light rail lines. Two lines belong to the Manila Light Rail Transit System and one belongs to the Manila Metro Rail Transit System. Together, their daily ridership totals less than 1.5 million people, so it is not surprising that traffic congestion remains one of the metro's biggest problems. The three lines have color codes but everybody just calls them the MRT, LRT-1 and LRT-2. This is at the MRT's Quezon Avenue station, where I begin and end most of my train rides.

Quezon Avenue station of the MRT

March 18, 2009

Funny face

Manila Ocean Park's underwater tunnel is quite short compared to those of other oceanariums around the world. It is only 25 meters (82 feet) in length. But for Filipinos like me who will never be able to scuba dive for one reason or another, it is still a real treat. It was awesome to just stand there and watch all the fish swimming around and above you. It was the first time I saw the underside of a stingray, with its mouth and gills.

underside of a stingray

Natural or man-made, take a refreshing dip in Watery Wednesday.
Watery Wednesday

March 17, 2009

Get them while they're young

Back in January, I posted a photo of the main gate and facade of Claret School of Quezon City. It has a second gate on a different road, which I think is closer to the preschool classrooms because the metal letters to the right of the tree read "Claret Childhood Center." If the mural is also a sign, then that little structure with the red roof is the vocation office of the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines.

secondary gate of Claret School of Quezon City

March 16, 2009

The Eew! factor of TCM

When we visited Chinatown in Binondo, one of the many places we went to was a drugstore that sold ingredients for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Many cultures all over the world have their own body of herbal medicine lore, but TCM goes beyond herbal medicine and many of its ingredients are exotic, to say the least. Not so exotic but it brought out an exclamation of "Eew!" from me nevertheless, is this dried common house gecko (we call them tuko because of the distinctive sound they make). TCM states that it is good for the lungs, kidneys, blood and digestive system. Depending on what disease is being treated, it can be used alone or with other ingredients, and boiled as a tea or ground into powder. TCM is based on the idea of balance—yin and yang—and dried geckos are always sold in pairs, one male and one female. Traditional Chinese Medicine seems to be a field that even modern medical doctors and researchers find fascinating, maybe because it actually works. But I can't imagine drinking gecko tea. Can you?

a pair of dried geckos used in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Odd Shots Monday

March 15, 2009

Where the excitement is

For those with more upscale sensibilities, I'd recommend the bars of Greenbelt in Makati City rather than those of yesterday's Remedios Circle. Greenbelt is a sprawling, low-density mall divided into five sections filled with high-end shops, restaurants and bars. This is one place where you'll see those designer clothes, bags and shoes, not just in the shops but actually worn by the multi-racial night creatures who frequent the place. This is Greenbelt 2 and there were no people in the restaurants yet because I took this at 6:30pm. If this is the kind of lifestyle you enjoy, consider the houses on top of this strip. They even have their own parking garage just below them (mostly hidden by the tree tops). They're called The Residences at Greenbelt, the same name given to the three condominium towers rising behind them (only one can be seen here, still wrapped in netting).

Greenbelt 2 and The Residences at Greenbelt

March 14, 2009

The last of the bohemians

Since the 1980s, the tiny Penguin Café Gallery in Malate, Manila has played host to many of Manila's artists, whether as performers, exhibitors or customers. The more boho ex-pats—Asians, Americans and Europeans—seem to have discovered it too. No carefully made-up, perfectly coiffed women and men here, with their designer bags and shoes. All you'll see are jeans, t-shirts, leather bracelets and lots of wooden beads. On nights when several bands perform, people spill over onto Remedios Street where hawkers sell cigarettes and a variety of street food. Penguin Café Gallery is the one with brown posts with hanging plants, under and to the right of the two large signs (neither of which is theirs).

outside Penguin Café Gallery at night

March 13, 2009

The taxman cometh

It may have a different name in your country, but I'm sure you'll understand when I say that this is my most hated building in Metro Manila. This is the head office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, located in Quezon City.

head office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue

Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page and tour the skies of our beautiful world.
Sky Watch Friday

March 12, 2009

Patron saint of youth

I have featured the St. Stanislaus Kostka Chapel of the Ateneo de Manila High School twice already, and now, here is the Jesuit saint for whom the chapel is named. Stanislaus Kostka was born of a noble Polish family in October 28, 1550. While studying in a Jesuit college in Vienna, he decided that he wanted to enter the Society of Jesus. The superiors at Vienna were hesitant to accept him, fearing the wrath of his father. So Stanislaus decided to appeal to the superior general in Rome. He walked from Vienna to Rome, a distance of 763 kilometers (474 miles) as the crow flies. He was accepted into the novitiate of St. Andrew in late October 1567. He had only spent ten months in the novitiate when he died in 1568, at the tender age of 17, on August 15, the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

statue of St. Stanislaus Kostka at the Ateneo de Manila High School

March 11, 2009

Friends forever

Welcome to Binondo, Manila's Chinatown. When the Spaniards founded Manila in 1571, they kept the Chinese immigrants outside the walled city of Intramuros. Those who converted to Christianity were given a parcel of land across the Pasig River in 1596 and allowed to govern themselves and it was called Binondo—from binundok, which means mountains or boondocks. Those who did not convert were kept within range of the fortress city's cannons. Before WWII, Binondo was Manila's center of business and finance. Many banks and financial institutions moved to Makati after the war, but even until now, Binondo remains an important center of trade for Chinese merchants. (Please pardon the dirty windshield!)

Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch in Binondo, Manila

March 10, 2009


Much of the Philippines' rural areas still do not have electricity (or running water, for that matter). Private power distribution companies focus on urban areas of course, so it becomes the task of the government to make sure that rural areas get a dependable supply of power. With about 7,100 islands—almost half of which are populated—it's an enormous task for any government and is made more difficult by the fact that the Philippines is a third world country battling development problems on multiple fronts. The agency mandated to provide financial, institutional and technical assistance to rural electric cooperatives is the National Electrification Administration whose head office is located in Quezon City.

head office of the National Electrification Administration

March 9, 2009

The better to eat you with, my dear

The Manila Ocean Park is Metro Manila's first ever oceanarium with an underwater acrylic tunnel. It only opened in March 2008 and I finally got to visit it last week. This is a Giant Arapaima (Arapaima gigas), whose natural habitat is the Amazon River basin in South America and is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. I forgot to ask how big this particular one is but it looked like it was about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. Aside from other fish, it also eats other small animals, like birds. The Giant Arapaima tank can be found in Manila Ocean Park's Agos (flow) section, featuring fish which can be found in rivers.

Giant Arapaima in Manila Ocean Park

Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Odd Shots Monday

March 8, 2009

Garden gate and topiary

From director Ricardo G. Abad's notes on Tanghalang Ateneo's staging of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, translated into Tagalog by Jose F. Lacaba:
    Aristophanes staged Lysistrata at a time when Athens, his beloved city state, had just lost a major battle against Sparta and was slated to suffer more routs catastrophic enough to end the golden age of Ancient Greece. That Aristophanes would write a comedy about a horrific war, and a sex comedy at that, testifies to the playwright's irreverent spirit and his powers to think out of the box.… So angry must Aristophanes have been that he took what at that time was an absurd idea, housewives as change agents, and gave these women the task of making men end the war.
This is the set that Gino G. Gonzales designed for the play. I know that it's a cheeky way to commemorate International Women's Day—and a unique entry for Scenic Sunday too—but I think Aristophanes would have approved.

Gino Gonzales' stage design for Tanghalang Ateneo's Lysistrata

Urban or rural, natural or man-made, take a sightseeing tour of our world's diverse scenery!
Scenic Sunday

March 7, 2009

Elegant underpass

An underground pedestrian tunnel was built a few years ago to allow people to get into the Quezon Memorial Circle without having to risk life and limb crossing the eight-lane road that surrounds the park. Named the Belmonte Underpass after the current mayor, it is well-lit and elegant enough to serve as an exhibition hall. Which is exactly what Quezon City Hall did with its photo exhibit of "Quezon City in the Making." What should have taken me a couple of minutes to cross took half an hour, but I really enjoyed it.

Belmonte Underpass with a photo exhibit

March 6, 2009

Urban tropics

You know you're in Metro Manila when you see coconut trees along the road swaying in the breeze under a bright blue summer sky filled with fluffy white clouds—beside utility poles with messy, tangled cables. Taken during an afternoon stroll around our neighborhood.

coconut trees and utility pole

Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page and tour the skies of our beautiful world.
Sky Watch Friday

March 5, 2009

Charming, but…

Eastwood City Walk's concept as a shopping area is charming. It was made to look like a cobblestone street lined with three-story buildings on both sides. In truth, it's really just two long buildings connected on one end, but they change the design of the facade every few meters. Each building has wide promenades and even the second level has open corridors so you can look out over the 'street.' There are also balconies in some of the third level spaces to reinforce the illusion of being in a genteel European street. Unfortunately, what makes Eastwood City Walk charming is also the reason why it never succeeded as a shopping area. With the heat and humidity of Manila, no one wants to walk up and down those open corridors to go window-shopping. How many people actually go shopping with a particular item or store in mind? A few specialty shops are still there, plus some cafés and restaurants, but they're all only up to the second level—I haven't seen a shop on the third level in years.

shops at Eastwood City Walk

March 4, 2009

Vietnamese rice bowl

Zao Vietnamese Bistro's Zao Bowl features two of its most popular dishes on a bowl of rice or noodles (your choice). The crispy spring rolls are made of minced pork, glass noodles and mushrooms. Minced spring onion (scallion) and crushed peanuts are spooned over the charred barbecue pork and chicken. And everything is served with fresh bean sprouts, lettuce and basil, pickled carrots and turnips, and a small bowl of Vietnamese dipping sauce. Yum!

Zao Bowl

March 3, 2009

Jorge de Leon's gift to Manila

This was my other choice for my March theme day post: one of the stained glass windows in Malate Church depicting Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan River with the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove. I actually like the colors of this photo much better. A dark interior with bright daylight outside brought out the brilliant colors of the stained glass very well. Unfortunately, I do not know anything about Malate Church's windows—who the artist is or when they were created. The only thing I know about this panel is that it was donated by someone named Jorge de Leon, as it says at the bottom.

Malate Church stained glass window depicting the baptism of Jesus

March 2, 2009

Open iPod

Spotted in Tomato Kick, the restaurant that turns into a bar at night, located in the house that was converted into a tiny strip mall. Don't like the music? Plug in your own iPod.

iPod plugged into speakers

Find more Odd Shots—or post your own—at Katney's Kaboodle.
Odd Shots Monday

March 1, 2009

Something old for something new

THEME DAY: GLASS • During the 1930s, the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University was along Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila. All of its buildings were destroyed during WWII. When the Jesuits rebuilt the campus, they also built a circular chapel on the grounds. In Germany, Fr. Raymond Annable, S.J. found a set of stained glass windows depicting the Stations of the Cross and the walls of the chapel were designed specifically for them. In the 1950s, the university's main campus was moved to its current location in Loyola Heights, Quezon City and the Padre Faura land was sold to John L. Gokongwei, one of the Philippines' wealthiest businessmen. Fifty years passed before the light of the sun shone through those stained glass windows again, when they were installed in the Church of the Gesù in 2002. They provide a beautiful backdrop to the church's unique holy water font, made out of a single piece of volcanic rock with a water circulating system built inside it. Reflected on the stained glass panels is the crucifix over the altar and the windows of the two other sides of the pyramid-shaped church.

stained glass windows and holy water font of the Ateneo Church of the Gesù

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