Sunday, 23 December 2007

Holiday Lights

If you've made it this far, you've already seen the nice lights strung up on the trees around our swimming pool.

Most days lately the water has been awfully chilly, but it is just about perfect at night for us to be able to relax after dinner on those new teak chaise lounges or at one of the tables. It beats spending time indoors on a nice night until the urge to watch another three or four episodes of Desperate Housewives kicks in and we rush back up to our unit on the 14th floor.

This is about as Christmas-y as it gets for us around here. Oh, there is the Christmas tree in the lobby downstairs, but we don't spend a lot of time in our lobby for it to really influence our feeling of Christmas. It's just a traditional tree. It doesn't spew the fake snow (styrofoam pellets) out the top like the trees at SM department store did.

Yes, "did".

They sold out!

SM sold out of those awful, tacky things!

There's just no underestimating the tastes of a consumer society.

I'll stick with the joyous tranquility of the scene around our pool.

Merry Christmas, all!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Day After

What do you the day after you stay out until two in the morning at your office party?

Well, if you're us, you start by sleeping in a little bit.

Then, to avoid the frenzied crowds at Glorietta (Yes, the crowds are back, despite one-quarter of the mall still being closed due to the blast.) we headed off to brunch and a movie at Mall of Asia.

I should pause right now to inform you that we've been reading quite a few other blogs recently, and we've noticed many of them revolve around what the bloggers eat and where. They like to photograph themselves at all the restaurants they patronize, including the food. I don't know why this is. They just do it.

For a time I thought it was because they really didn't have anything worthwhile blogging about, but felt people wanted to know where they ate and what they ate there. Perhaps it is to rate the establishments, much like the Mobil guide. Of course, it could also be for documentary purposes in the event of food poisoning.

So, in this spirit of taking pictures in restaurants and posting it for the world to see I write today's blog entry.

We began at Burgoo, then window shopped while waiting for our movie to begin. We decided on Enchanted. We wanted something that would make us feel good. Disney's always been good at that, and Enchanted is no exception. It's one of those films where, from the moment it begins, you know it's going to be good.

The first thing you see is traditional, hand-drawn, classic Disney animation. Despite the technical wizardry of the computer-animated films from Pixar and others, nothing comes close to capturing you like real, old-fashioned animation. Suffice it to say, we enjoyed the film.

Edson also enjoyed the big sketchpads that cover the tables at Burgoo.

Sitting in a dark theatre watching a movie doesn't exactly take a lot out of you, but it did make us want to go get a bite to eat, so we headed to a shop specializing in chocolate desserts.

Dark Chocolate with Baileys and Dark Chocolate with Kahlua cakes! Yum!

Right about now there are probably more than one of you out there wondering why if this is my blog about my interpretations of life in the Philippines (blah blah blah...) that I'm not in any of the pictures.

Well, I'm the photographer, that's why.

I know that in this, the "MySpace" era, everyone is supposed to go around snapping pictures of themselves at arm's length everywhere they go, but that isn't me and this is the blog entry about pictures in restaurants, not pictures taken at arm's length. Although that sounds like a fine idea, and one that I may pursue sometime in the future.

Although you may want to remind me about that, since to me those kind of pictures rank right up there with those people shoot of themselves looking in their bathroom mirrors.

Instead, I'll share with you the shot from Mall of Asia of the sunset over Manila Bay...

...and the five o'clock crowds coming and going at Mall of Asia.

Monday, 17 December 2007

CIBA '07

Join Edson and I as we are taken back in time by Sherman and Mr. Peabody in the WABAC machine...

We're going way back (WABAC) to December 8th. Okay, being only a week or so off, that's not so far back; but read this months or years from now! Then we're talkin'!

That was the night of the Cadiz International Baso Awards. Cadiz is the company where Edson is working a part-time job. Baso is tagalog for a drinking glass. The awards night is a year-end office party. The awards part of it is rather reminiscent of the MTV Movie Awards. Each has unique awards, to say the least. At MTV you have the award for Best Kiss.

The CIBA has Best Grind.

No, grind or grinding doesn't have anything to do with the practice of architecture, although if the building you are in now can't tolerate people grinding in it, you probably ought to leave. The Cadiz offices seem to be quite grind-worthy from the video footage shown of their staff members grinding over and over again, either by themselves or with others. Maybe I ought to pause here for a moment to note that of the many meanings of the word grind, I'm referring to its dance-related least that's what the videos conveyed. I only assume those shown grinding returned to their cubicle to do actual work once the video ended and that other variations of grind and grinding were not involved.

Edson was part of a team up for that award. If you know him, that comes as no surprise. But he/they didn't win it.

He did win an award, however.

Best Newcomer, or, as the frosting on the awarded drinking glass is etched, Best New Comer.

Like so many other office parties at the end of the year, a band was hired for entertainment. This had to have been one of the easiest gigs this band has had. Not only were there the interruptions in their sets for the host and hostess to greet everyone, introduce the awards, and hand out awards. Some of the office members themselves are musicians and did their own sets. So, the hired band had over an hour-long break between sets sometimes. I'm no musician, but I'll bet the idea of being able to go out and catch a movie in between sets sounds pretty good to a lot of people who are!

Here's our band (the hired one) "hard" at work.

One of the Cadiz Band singers caught in a very Joey Ramone-esque way.

No, these aren't the real Pussycat Dolls. What? You didn't think they were? Oh....

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Christmas Time is Here Again

Christmas Time is Here Again

Yes, it is indeed time for Bing Crosby to sing White Christmas, the only time of the year anybody anywhere listens to Burl Ives, and of course, an endless plethora of putrid poetry put to music. Why must so much good holiday music go unheard while malls and radio stations inflict well-meaning Christians with unfortunate vocal abilities and Mariah Carey on us? And will somebody please go slap the producers who thought of making euro-inspired dancey, dare I say, almost polka-ish mixes of some of the worst Christmas music ever recorded?

All of metro Manila has been listening to this since late September. (Yeah, they start early here!)

At SM department store, Christmas trees spew "snow" out the treetop that trickles down, eventually being collected in the large bowl in which the tree sits, only to be sucked up and out the top again.

In the Philippines it is felt that Christmas here is somehow distinctly second-rate when compared with America and Europe. White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, even Santa Claus and his sleigh, are all rather unlikely imports to a nation where, this December 12th, it is 87 degrees Fahrenheit! Filipinos think they're missing out on something. Yeah, missing out on the likelihood of needing to wear multiple layers of undergarments, sweaters, parkas, scarves, and gloves to stay warm! It's nice every now and again, but I'm enjoying it just the way it is, thanks!

In fact, just yesterday it was around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and I was having coffee with my friend Noel at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the Convergys building. Actually, I wasn't having coffee. I was having a "mixed blend" iced chocolate, which has no coffee in it whatsoever. But it doesn't seem right to say I was having "mixed blend iced chocolate", especially at a coffee shop. It doesn't roll off the tongue very easily. In fact, a lot of people say they "had coffee" even when they didn't drink anything at all! Just being in a coffee shop while their friends and others around them have coffee seems to be reason enough to say they "had coffee".

And no, this time we were not talking about food. Aside from looking at the menu at a restaurant, I don't recall ever talking about food with Noel. We were talking about something apparently far less interesting, since I can't remember what it was when we noticed someone walk past the window outside wearing a wool skull cap, gloves, and a parka. He was followed by a man perspiring in slacks and short-sleeve button-down shirt who was fanning himself with an envelope. Now, if you're cold enough to wear a parka, gloves, and wool hat when it is 85, you're prepared for global warming! If you're like the man behind him, you are clearly not, like the rest of us.

Anyway, all this is just to lead you up to some pictures I thought you may, or may not be interested in seeing of metro Manila during the holidays.

Along Ayala Avenue:

At Greenbelt:

Commuters, traffic and lights:

The tree at Mall of Asia, decorated completely with poinsettias, gold glass balls, and teddy bears. Underneath notice the Cartoon Network Snow-ville area, where fake snow is blown onto poor unsuspecting children while their snap-happy parents take their pictures.

And on the other side of our tree we have St. Nick in his shiny satin suit and poly-fiber beard. Nobody charging parents $10 or $15 to have their child's picture taken. Just kids sitting on Santa's lap while mom or dad uses up some more space on the memory card.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Pump It Up!

I've been procrastinating in downloading images from my camera, so this is a bit late. Let me take you back to November 22nd. That was a Thursday, for those who need to know. My friend Allan is big into bodybuilding and imported supplements right now. He texted me the week previous asking if I'd like to go to the Mr. & Ms. Philippines World & Universe Qualifier. "OK, sure," I texted in reply.

Not since my time living abroad in Japan in 1997-1998 had I met another who was so much into bodybuilding. I was working in Imabari, a small town in Ehime prefecture on the island of Shikoku when I met a woman by the name of Angela. She was an English expat who met and married a Japanese man. Kenji was his name if I remember correctly. She met him at her friend's wedding reception when he came over to the table where she was seated. The groom was a bodybuilder and had invited Kenji and some of his other bodybuilder friends to be guest posers at the reception. Angela was introduced to Kenji that night while he was busy flexing, wearing a Tarzan-like loincloth. He had participated in the Mr. Ehime contest and won and was busy trying to bulk up to a higher weight class when I met them.

I agreed to meet Allan at six at Robinson's Galleria (mall) and took a bus from there to The Music Museum at Greenhills Shopping Center. We figured since the event was scheduled to begin at six, if we arrived and took our seats by six-thirty we'd be on time in Filipino time. We were right.

Our celebrity hosts were actor/singer Carlos Agassi and Sports Unlimited host Dyan Castillejo.

Allan and I were quite convinced that neither were given much in the way of preparation or direction prior to walking on stage. Whatever was on the scripts in their hands seemed to be it. They were the hosts and it was up to them from there on. That's okay, they're in show business. Too bad nobody thought about rehearsals for the athletes though. The poor guys (and gals) hadn't eaten since eight in the morning. Time and again Dyan and Carlos would ask the athletes to come on stage or leave the stage and they'd all just stand there, as many as forty seven at a time. Just standing there looking at each other.

Marks were another problem for the athletes. You know, those little X marks made in tape on a stage so people know where to stand? You do. The athletes didn't. They'd be bumping elbows doing their poses because only two or three of five knew where their mark was.

I figure it must have been their hunger. After all, it couldn't be that they're all stupid or that steroids could impair their ability to comprehend simple instructions. Stage fright? Maybe. You would be too if you stood on a stage wearing so little. The attire of all forty-seven combined couldn't have weighed more than a pound.

Somewhere in that picture there are up to seven women. Two looked more like men than women, and received hoots from the audience members to that effect.

Sports of all sorts have long been dominated by men. Women have found it hard to break into sports and women's leagues of sports have often been challenged financially due to the difficulty in finding an audience, both at the events themselves as well as media coverage, whether that be live broadcasts or even a mention in the nightly news sports report. In an economically challenged Asian nation, this is no easier. The women received little enthusiasm from the audience and Carlos had to go above and beyond his script when it came to bestowing praise on them and encouraging audience attention and participation in applause.

One particularly interesting thing about the night was just in noticing the use of the bronzer on the athletes.

Filipino people, like all Asians, are extremely obsessed with lightening and whitening their skin. Women (and even an occasional man) are regularly seen carrying umbrellas over their heads. No rain. Sometimes even if it isn't sunny. It is such a habit to them they instinctively lift one over their head despite the time of day or weather conditions.

L-Glutathione use is also seemingly rampant in trend-obsessed metro Manila. Billboards, radio and television commercials encourage people to buy these whitening pills. The vitamin C and zinc in the pills also enable them to be marketed as health supplements. Let us not forget that only whitening pills can reveal the true beauty within.

Excuse me while I vomit.

So, it seems a bit odd that bronzer is applied to people who, for the most part, have a beautiful natural bronze to their skin to begin with (that they are unhappy with), only to cover up their new, lighter skin with bronzer.

Carlos really stood out that night. At one point Dyan was chanting to Carlos, Take it off! She encouraged the audience to join her, and all did. Carlos is also a fitness/bodybuilding buff it seems. And he has really light skin. Really light. It was blinding when he capitulated and removed his shirt to the delight of the audience and other bodybuilders. I believe he is only a shade or two darker than Michael Jackson, he's so white.

The evening wore on as athletes from one category after another came out to compete, each more starved than the previous. By nine-thirty we were also feeling starved ourselves. We had one luxury the athletes did not. We could get up, leave, and go do something about it, which we did.

We made it across the street to Teriyaki Boy where we indulged in a lot of tofu and tempura and teriyaki well before other audience members who bothered to stay for the final rounds, comparisons, and pose downs.

Days later, my fitness instructor Bryant, enjoyed the pictures from the event. He would point at each athlete and say "steroids, steroids, no steroids, steroids..." It was a good time. Fun. A new experience. And, with a theme titled The Gallant Filipino Warrior of the World and Universe, something I won't forget, especially now that I've put it here in the blog.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Pics of the Day

Some pics from the Quezon Avenue MRT station...

...and what is around the station.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Basketball in the 3rd Round?

I'm no sports fan. If you know me, you didn't need me to tell you that.

Anyway, I was with one of our security guards and my fitness trainer watching a basketball game on television Friday night and the graphics on the screen kept flashing "3rd Round".

It didn't take me too terribly long to realize that is NOT a term usually (How about EVER!) associated with basketball. In fact, I can safely say it has eluded even comedy writers. Usually they stick to people (usually women) confusing baseball and football terminology. It's a bit writers have been doing since the days of I Love Lucy and continue to this day because it is such a convenient crutch once they have run out of original dialog and story lines.

This was a professional, live broadcast and, despite our hardy har-hars of laughter, this was not the most amusing part of the game in progress.

It was the teams.

The two teams were, and I am not making this up, the Magnolia Beverage Makers vs. the Pure Foods Tender Juicy Giants.

Read it as many times as you like. Go ahead, I'll wait. It doesn't change, does it?

Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Close your eyes (not just yet...keep reading) and imagine a bunch of guys preparing fountain beverages, mixed drinks, or your local coffee house barista going at it against tender juicy giants, which are hot dogs!

Just from the sounds of the names you'd expect the beverages to get "spilled" by the sausages, but noooo...Friday the latte had drowned the wieners 90-45 by the time I walked out of the room just a few minutes into the "4th Round", which is a boxing term, for those unaware. Boxing, thanks to Manny Pacquiao, is to the Philippines what sumo is to Japan and soccer is to Brazil; a reason to stop everything and watch. Thus, any battle between two teams is likely to be viewed in the colorful language of both that sport and boxing intertwined.

I still can't help but laugh at the poor announcer trying to utter Tender Juicy Giants over and over as they fell further and further behind on the scoreboard!

And that's not the only amusing item of note this week. Our second comes from Music 1, a Philippine CD/DVD chain:

While browsing through their selection of CDs I noticed two titles by Xavier Cugat under the Pop/Rock category.


Since when?

No wonder I have trouble locating the CDs I want.