Saturday, 29 September 2007

Nuns on the Run

I attended a small Catholic college. Late each afternoon a van would pull into the circular drive in front of the administration building and several nuns would board it to return them to their convent. This was known as the "nun run".

Tonight at nine o'clock on our way back from dinner at Yellow Cab Pizza, Edson and I noticed a van full of nuns. On the side of the van it read "Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help". We noticed it because as it went through the intersection behind a police vehicle it slowed and suddenly made an illegal (see Jesus Didn't Drive (or "Drivers, Leave Your Catholicism at Home") post of Wednesday, July 18, 2007) left turn, with a nun at the wheel!

We noticed as she watched the police car ahead of her, then turn the van abruptly to the left at the last possible moment, turn her head and dash down the street, confident she had evaded the sight of the law.

But not the Lord.

Shame on you, Sisters! You are not abiding by the "Ten Commandments of Driving" Cardinal Renato Martino issued on June 19th this year. We might as well just toss out the entire Old Testament and its stories, like was done on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City (see blog entry below).

All of Christendom is falling apart and it is doing so from the inside out thanks to you!!!!

Next thing I know you'll be the driver at the red light I see pulling in front of an ambulance, sirens wailing, as it rushes towards Makati Medical Center; your van's bumper sticker reading "Jesus Saves". The patient in the ambulance better hope He does because that's the only chance they'll have in surviving, now that you've blocked the ambulance driver's ability to get to the emergency room on time!!!

Beware of nuns behind the wheel in Manila. They've left their vows and their faith at home when they get behind the wheel!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Roadside Trash

This seems an ominous sign in a supposed predominantly Christian country, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

So Much to Say...

...I just don't know where to begin!

I know! I'll let the picture do all the talking. Make up whatever you like and send it as a comment. I'm taking it easy and just posting the photo.

Oh, this stand is in the Ayala MRT station here in Makati. You pass by it to get to or from your train.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Because One Just Wasn't Enough

This is a common problem throughout all of metro Manila.

Sidewalks, when there are any, are often too narrow to be of any real use or blocked by a preponderance of poles carrying what seem to me to be way too heavy a load of wires. Some of the wires even hang down so low they almost touch the traffic passing below.

If it isn't an immovable, like the utility poles, it is the movable not knowing how to do so. On a sidewalk (or any walkway, for that matter) that can comfortably fit three people across, you will inevitably find three people walking towards you. Walking three abreast, of course! Ninety percent of the time, if one or more are men, it is they who will drop back allowing you to pass. If all three are women there is a seventy percent chance they will bump or bounce into you as they are completely unaware of the inability for said walkway to accommodate four persons across. It is a bit like those robotic vacuums

that bump into walls and furniture, spin around, and head off in another direction to clean more floorspace you are too lazy to get off the sofa and do yourself. Of course, the same behavior is seen in flies, ants, and other insects.

I realize that this may offend large numbers of readers, but it is something I have found to be all too true.

"Surely, those are just isolated incidents and you are overreacting", you say.

If only that were the case.

I have been noticing this for several months now, and it isn't getting any better.

It could have something to do with most of the people not being drivers. Drivers usually...usually...know which side of the road to drive on here. That doesn't mean it isn't common for you to see vehicles coming right at you on the street. But I digress... Drivers tend to walk on whichever side of a walkway they'd normally drive on on a road, thus leaving a clear path for oncoming pedestrians. That rule, that general courtesy, that sense of common-sense efficiency doesn't seem to apply in these cases. Just as the robotic vacuum can't see the walls, furniture, pets or people in the room, neither can these people see others walking right at them!

Some of it is due to text messaging. Pedestrians are so preoccupied with their texting they often run into or trip over things. I have been the unseen target of such. My fitness instructor, Bryant, noticed the bruise left on my arm after one such incident. I (and untold numbers of pedestrians and motorists alike) should be thankful they weren't driving!

It all gives good reason to heed Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, and choose the "one(s) less traveled by" when making one's way around metro Manila.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The Travels of Uncle Daddy

The past month has been one of weekend trips for us. September 1st and 2nd saw Edson and I busing it up to the northern part of the island of Luzon on an architectural tour of Ilocos. It was quite a demanding trip, with a lot to see and do, and where the bus actually left at 11pm on Friday the 31st and returned the morning of Monday the 3rd. So two of our three nights away were spent on a bus. It was a nice, new bus. However, the roads we traveled were not nice, new roads with nice, new drivers. You can sense the sleep deprivation already, can’t you?

Bright and (well, it would’ve been bright if it weren’t for the grey cloud cover and the drizzling rain) early Saturday morning we took in the Pindangan Ruins, remnants of the first church of San Fernando, built of coral stones by Spanish friars in 1674. All that remains today are the ramparts, which nature is seeking to reclaim.

An hour away (from the rain as well) was Sabangan Cove to see (and buy the wares of) a loom-weaving industry there.

Ten to twenty minutes further on was a stop at Sta. Maria Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The structure sits majestically atop a hill overlooking the town plaza. Eighty, or what seems like one hundred eighty steps later, we were feeling pretty majestic as well; if, by majestic, one means worn out and ready to collapse from heat exhaustion. Behind the church, and down eighty to one hundred eighty steps again (plus a good hike) are the lushly overgrown remains of the church’s cemetery and its chapel, looking much like the ruins of Cambodia’s ancient city of Angkor when the French first laid their eyes upon it in the nineteenth century.

Back on the bus (and four-to-five pounds lighter from perspiration) and we were on our way to another UNESCO World Heritage site: the city of Vigan. Vigan is a charming city where a multitude of blocks of heritage buildings have been preserved, horse-drawn carriages tour the weary walker around town, and they serve up some of the finest fried ice cream I’ve ever had.

Later, in Batac (where we were to spend the night), part of our dinner was the bright orange Ilocos empanadas for which Batac is famous. One of the best shops in town came out to our place of lodging and prepared them on site for us by a transvestite. The Ilocos empanadas are filled with grated green papaya, mongo sprouts, garlic, longganiza and eggs. Delicious, deep-fried delicacies indeed!

We visited Paoay Church, the Marcos Mausoleum (which I skipped), and the Sarrat Church and convent ruins all before lunch Sunday. The convent ruins are worth noting if only because the portion not in complete ruin is still being used, and has a satellite dish! An hour or so later we were at the Cape Bojeador lighthouse, constructed over a century ago and manned by a man who grew up in the lighthouse, and is the fourth-generation in his family to operate it.

The mid-afternoon (and final) stop on our tour was the beach at Pagudpud, where we had the chance to sit back and relax, and just wait for the sun to set.

The entire day Monday was spent sleeping off our whirlwind weekend adventure in a very non-moving bed.

Trips like that inspire one to not travel again anytime in the immediate future, so we waited a couple of weeks before leaving Manila again, this time just for an overnight stay with our friends Kit and Marje at the Mt. Purro Nature Camp, owned by Kit’s family. Kit brought her baby daughter, (my niece) Martina, and Marje brought along her daughter, Meghan. Edson brought me.

Now I had done a weekend photo shoot at the camp back in May when MTV Philippines used the camp to shoot a segment of their VJ hunt. While there, one of the VJ wannabees, Eri Neeman (seen here with Martina)

mistook me for Martina’s father. While I made it clear that I was not responsible for bringing Martina or any other child into this world, the damage had been done.

Martina has two fathers.

Tito (uncle) Jay had become a father. This was of considerable amusement to Martina’s biological father, Inaki, who now found him sharing the title.

I hadn’t seen Martina in two months. Since that time she has four teeth, can crawl, and now cries, something she had not done previously, much to the delight of her parents. Of course, as she gets older it will become more difficult for her to comprehend that she has two daddies and one is also her “uncle”. Yeah, I know what many of you are thinking: “You might be a redneck if…”. Well, let’s just say it’ll be interesting therapy sessions dealing with the topic of her daddy and her uncle daddy!

We settled on “uncle daddy” as opposed to the more awkward to say “daddy uncle”. Both sound like hip-hop names. (Yo! Yo! Yo! This is Uncle Daddy comin’ to ya from mah crib…!) I suppose we could say it as “U.D. Jay”, but that sounds a bit like either a university somewhere or a medical condition. We’re going with “uncle daddy Jay” for now. Hopefully my sister’s kids won’t be disappointed that I only get to be their uncle Jay. They’re living in Florida now, and that’s awfully close to a lot of rednecks!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Be Anonymous…or be Famous? Be Bench.

Sunday I received a text message from friends asking if I’d be interested in an invitation for two to the Bench Model Search Finals Night at the Araneta coliseum, as they had two extra for the event. Edson and I thought it sounded interesting, and said we’d go. Basically, the model search is a television show much like America’s Next Top Model, only here it is a search done for the Bench brand of clothing. See: www.benchtm.com

If you haven’t heard of Bench, don’t fret, it’s only because you’re either:
a) not Filipino.
b) not living in the Philippines.
c) not living in areas abroad with high concentrations of Filipinos that may thus have a Bench location.

Bench is basically the Old Navy of the Philippines. Male or female, child or adult; if you need jeans, polos, t-shirts, belts, socks, scents, sandals, hats, or underwear (and we must not leave out the underwear!) and you want to be in style, but are on a budget, Bench is a place you shop.

Why “not leave out the underwear,” you ask? Well, take a gander at their current ad campaign and its model, Jon Mullaly…er, Avila.

Jon had to change his name to something more locally ethnic once he began acting on television. And what’s more locally ethnic than a Spanish surname?! Don’t get me started there…this is about a model search. So, as you can see, the people at Bench have taken some notes from Calvin Klein’s advertising success and have these images plastered all over metro Manila two and three-stories tall.

Anyway, Tuesday, September 11th rolls around and, while the rest of the world is commemorating the sixth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, Edson and I find ourselves outside the coliseum at 6:20pm with our friends who had given us the invitation and thousands of others waiting in line at the doors. We had our glossy cardstock “Who’s gonna be famous next?” invitation No. 07216 in hand. All around us were scores of twenty-somethings, mostly male, followed by females and female wannabes.

A friend had mentioned to me that Filipino transvestites are among the ugliest, especially when compared to those in Thailand. Not being particularly well educated in comparative transvestite aesthetics amongst nations or cultures I’m just going to have to trust him on this and say that given the half dozen standing in line before us Tuesday night, he is correct. Perhaps only Gene Hackman in drag in The Birdcage (or Milton Berle in drag) could equal these unfortunates on the ugly scale.

At 7pm the gates of the coliseum were open and the dash began to exchange our invitations for tickets and find seats in our assigned level. Fast-forward one bottle of water, a box of popcorn, and an hour later and the show began. Lights, smoke, music, and dancers (minus inspired choreography) welcomed the mega-star hosts, Piolo Pascual

and Kris Aquino,

dressed in a suit and gown made from the same pearl-blue material.

Many musical dance numbers and catwalks by three-dozen dancer/runway models later, with a few appearances by the show’s six finalists, it was time to be serenaded by Piolo, then a duet with superstar Sam Milby

(Who’s from Ohio and has been Piolo’s partner in a sex tape, though all sides deny it. Piolo was married shortly after it surfaced.). Two of the remaining six finalists were eliminated, leaving the two what we thought to be most attractive women and the two least attractive men remaining.

More singing, now by star Christian Bautista

(whom Edson met before he was a star), and catwalks and it was time for the underwear competition. No, not the finalists in their underwear! All the other models; all mostly better looking than the finalists, and better at walking and dancing than the finalists, who’d only been walking and dancing for eight weeks, so I do give them benefit of the doubt. The finalists didn’t come out again until the winners were to be announced.

Kris Aquino had the honors in announcing the winners, shouting as if channeling Oprah Winfrey as an announcer at a professional wrestling match, “You are famous! You are famous! YOU ARE FAMOUS! Regine!”

I think everyone seated above us was related to Regine.

And everyone to our left as well.

And most of the people below us.

And the people below them.

Kris then announced the winner of the men, again shouting “You are famous! You are famous! YOU ARE FAMOUS! Carlo!”

The entire coliseum was related to Carlo, or wants to be, or wants to be in a sex tape with him, or him and Piolo, or him and Piolo and Sam. The people above us almost fell on top of us in their excitement, screaming themselves hoarse at the same time.

Truth be told, if it is touching stories that determine the winners of these things, Carlo has it. He was a chubby kid who has shed the layers of fat to become someone considered worthy of being an underwear model. Aw, doesn’t it make you all teary-eyed?

The one thing that upset me about the whole spectacle was that there were no pure, indigenous Filipinos on the stage. As is typical, only mestizo people are considered of ideal beauty here. Mestizo people are those who can trace a part of their genetic ancestry at some point to some foreign, usually Caucasian, origin. All of the contestants fit this category.

I felt sad that attractive indigenous people like my friend Jerry, seated just nearby me at the event, would never be on that stage wearing a pearl-blue suit or just their underwear. That mestizos account for a small percentage of the population is also annoying. No one really knows what it is, but one study put it at as little as 3.5%. I think they’ve left out a number that should precede the 3, not that I think it’d be any higher than a 2 at most. Because of their lighter skin tone and more sculpted noses, mestizos have a higher social standing and desirability than those without. The indigenous are depicted in television and movies as the poor, the vagrants, the criminals, and rural farmers.

Maybe it’s for the best. Being in a group that is not idealized, they have better things to do than worry about how good they look in their underwear on billboards and television. But in the way society has changed, is that realistic? Shouldn’t they be seeing themselves represented in a positive way in advertising and entertainment? Shouldn’t we be seeing it?

Be anonymous or be famous? Who’s gonna be famous next?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Of Doorbells and Dingbats

Cosmo Men -- Cosmo magazine's roster of 69 sexiest bachelors in the Philippines has just been launched.

That's right.

69.

Not 68.

Not 70.

I'm sure that's 69 with a wink. ;-p

When I saw the cover, pictured above, I was immediately reminded of something a dear friend here said before I arrived.

She said there weren't any good looking guys in Manila anymore.

To be fair, there are better looking guys in the list of 69, than our coverboy, Mr. Dingdong Dantes.

Yes, you read it right.

Go ahead and laugh (I am!).

Dingdong.

As Tracy Turnblad sings in Hairspray, "I can hear the bells...."

Dingdong.

Avon calling!

Dingdong.

Who you calling a 'dingdong'?

A boss of mine used to refer to a rather slow-witted co-worker as 'Dingdong'. Something like Archie Bunker in All in the Family calling his wife Edith a 'Dingbat'.

All kidding (and tears of laughter) aside, his real name is José Sixto Gonzales Dantes III. That's quite polysyllabic and it doesn't roll off the tongue (or memory) very well. He is popularly known as Dingdong Dantes (much easier to remember). He is a model, host, director, television and film actor. I doubt his real full name would ever fit on a movie marquee or billboard. He is also one of the highest paid and most popular actors in the Philippines. Being such, he is gracing the cover of Cosmo Men in all his naked glory.

Do they show Dingdong's dingdong? I doubt it. It's not THAT kind of magazine, and it would really upset the Catholic Church here if magazines did.

I just blog about "dingdong".