Thursday, 31 December 2009

Thanks for a Great 2009!

To: Ajjie, Aaron, Aris, Ben, Benjie, Bill, Billy, Booboy, Brian, Bryant, Caridad, Conan, Dania, Daniel, Darcy, David, Dee, Dennis, Dexter, Diwa, Doi, Donald, Don, Ed, Emil, Edson (and all the Cabalfin clan!), Erwin, Erwyn, Fil, Franco, Glenn, Greg, IƱaki, JaBari, John, Jappoy, Jason, Jong, Jeremy, Joel, Joey, John, Johnny, Josh, John, Kelly, Ken, Kit, Leah, Luis, the Malvars, Maki, Mark, Maricel, Miles, Mom, Marje, Nick, Norman (we pray you're safe!), Ombet, Reinan, Rex, Rhandy, Rick, Robert, Sean, Tim, Tony, Vinscent, Williard, Yucel and all the other people on both sides of the Pacific who helped to make 2009 a great year.


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A Wish for a Dear Friend

Edson and I received the troubling news on December 26th of six Filipino sailors who were found dead after the ship on which they were working caught fire off the coast of Venezuela. A very good friend of ours, Norman, is working on a ship which travels between Nova Scotia and Brazil. We are praying he was not aboard this ship.

Please keep "our son" and his safety in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, 25 December 2009

My Book on Mangenguey Now Available on Blurb!

A large, lavish book of my photography capturing the beauty of the paradise island of Mangenguey is now available!

images of mangengu...
By Jay Plogman

(US readers: Blurb is having a sale! Save $10 through December 31, 2009 using promo code GREATGIFT. Just click on the badge above to order.)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Oh, I Remember You!

Almost three years ago, just before Edson and I left the US for the Philippines, we had lunch with my father at a popular local restaurant in Cincinnati, named Ron's Roost, a restaurant rightly famous for its fried chicken. Edson loved it. Last night we returned to Ron's Roost after almost three years.

The waitress remembered us...specifically Edson.

After almost three years.

We figure he was the last, if not only, Asian at Ron's Roost.

We could've told her he was the president of the Philippines and she'd believe us. I'm not saying that to insinuate she's gullible, just that I'm quite certain over half the population of the US doesn't know the Philippine president is a woman, and likely couldn't find the Philippines on an unmarked map.

This afternoon we found ourselves at The Container Store, preparing ourselves for our move to our new place and decided we'll have to get ourselves some of their Lined Makati Baskets:They're now on sale for $19.99 - 29.99. Perhaps these will remind us of Makati?? Doubtful. But one never knows...three years from now, perhaps a few Lined Makati Baskets in our closet will remind us of our life in Makati.

Oh, I remember....!

Monday, 26 October 2009


For better or worse, the world's largest retailer is America's WalMart. I wonder if that was the inspiration for the Philippines' Walter Mart?

Yes, Walter Mart. It isn't so much a retailer as it is another mall concept, smaller in scale than malls by industry leaders SM and Ayala and located in areas of more affordable real estate. Walter Mart is not the "sosyal" place to shop, but a good place to go when you don't want to deal with hordes of egotistical social wannabees loitering about like they do at an Ayala mall.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


I find this ad funny. Note how it gives credit to the model. They've actually printed his name below him. Is that so you don't expect him to actually show up to build your house when you hire this company? Is he supposed to make you want to build a house with this company? That house?

I'm not asking...I'm just asking.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Variety Pack

Something to love about living in the US:
8-pack of chocolate donuts + household of 3 = doesn't last long.

Lil' Bit & Crew

Since moving back to the US a lot has happened here as well as in Manila. Keeping busy here has meant everything from getting a drivers license (again) to getting something to drive with said license to reconnecting with friends and getting Edson into sync with the system at University of Cincinnati, where he's on faculty.

Those first days here for Edson and myself were spent largely jet-lagged. Falling asleep at all sorts of inconvenient hours was OK, as being without a car in a place like Cincinnati means getting around is less than convenient, so we spent quite some time at home.

While at home we got to know our roommates Caroline, Figaro, and Gonzo rather well.

This is Caroline:I call her Lil' Bit because she's a lil' bit crazy. There must be multiple personalities going on inside her, as you never know which one you'll wake up to from day to day, or which one will be with her when she comes back into a room she's just left. She's the real character of my brother's three felines as well as the most vocal; mewing and mewing and mewing when she's not growling or hissing...and you never know which to expect.

She's also our little helper. She's quite good at holding pages open in books, although she tends to cover much of the page; making it impossible to read. Edson and I figure she's ensuring no wind will ever blow the page. Little does she realize the windows have been shut for weeks due to the cold. Lil' Bit is very handy when it comes to laundry, though. She usually will let me know when the load in the washer is done and needs to be transferred to the dryer if I ask her to do so when I begin the load. It doesn't work two days in a row though. All that work one day means she's lost out on some of the eighteen hours of sleep cats get each day, so the next day she's good for nothing.

This is Figaro:Figaro is the eldest of the three and the second-most vocal. She used to be extremely shy and until I returned to the US I'd never actually seen any more than her tail as it disappeared beneath the bed in all the times during any of the seven years I'd been to my brother's place. Now she's quite the socialite. She enjoys coming out to see Edson and myself, and loves getting brushed. In fact, she begs for it...but she will only allow it once she's in the bathroom. She's very picky.

This is Gonzo:Gonzo is the Ricky Ricardo to Caroline's Lucy and Figaro's Blanche. He's the long-suffering schmuck who remains quiet while the other two go about mewing and meahr-ing or hissing at each other. His favorite thing to do besides sleeping is shedding, which he (as well as Figaro) does rather well. The proof is in the vacuum cleaner each week.

He's here now reminding me he is also a good purr-er.

About two weeks ago they kept Edson and I company in the office area here as we scoured the internet for news of the typhoon and flooding in Manila. News of the event was hard to come by on television here, as the US news networks virtually ignored it until days after it happened and was then bearing down on Vietnam.

Caroline, Figaro, and Gonzo remind me much of some of the people I got to know in Manila.

I knew many people who have strong personalities and are a lot of fun to be around - real characters like Caroline. Caroline also loves posing for pictures; so she's a lot like some of the models and other self-professed cam whores I knew through my photography.

Figaro is the classic case of the quiet, shy person coming out of their shell at long last. I know several people in Manila who denied themselves true happiness for years or decades until they finally came out and began to live and love life. She is also the most regal of the three here. Her great posture also reminds me of the models and their posing abilities when I worked with them in Manila.

Gonzo is much like some of my clients in photography as well. Very quiet, some summoning up all their might to pose before the camera. Others as if emerging from their shell to shine, actually transforming themselves into another being for the duration of the shoot before returning to themselves and walking back into society the quiet, unassuming types they were before our session began.

Having the three around was also painful in ways. There are the stories written of widowers who lost their home to the flood...and their pet as well as they tried in vain to rescue it; watching as the rapid current swept their beloved pet away. They survived, but have now lost everything...and everyone...who mattered.

Edson and I were at our laptops for hours poring through pictures, articles, and videos of the massive destruction, feeling guilty we weren't there. We have a friend and an acquaintance who lost everything and know plenty of people whose homes were flooded. I've heard the stories from friends of being stranded in their second-story apartment for a day with no food (or bathroom), or being stranded on a rooftop for two days in the rain with no food or water. I've also read of some who felt the flooding was nothing more than something that ruined their weekend plans and I wondered if they ever thought of anyone but themselves. I've heard of friends helping their friends and neighbors clean up after the waters receded, sometimes traveling to get to the affected areas to assist in the cleanup efforts. They came home aching, but happy to have been one of the ones able to help...

...little helpers like our Lil' Bit...

(Hiss!!!), Caroline!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Coming to Life

It's one thing to go out and walk around through a new city in a new country and feel you're the subject of the One of These Things is not Like the Other song on Sesame Street. It's another to go out and walk around in the area where you were born and raised and feel the exact same way.

In metro Manila this would be due to my seeing others stare at me while I was out and about. Here it is like some surreal dream, where all the faces I've ever seen in movies have suddenly come to life. For my first two weeks back, every other person I saw had a face I recognized from somewhere; though I couldn't tell precisely where.

And, of course, everything and everyone was bigger, louder, taller, etc. as compared to just a few weeks prior.

This was all most evident at the Covington, KY Oktoberfest, September 12th and 13th. I went there with my longtime friend, Dennis. We've known each other since we were both seven years old.

The surreal dream was coming to life during a festival, of all things. Now I know what Edson was feeling when we would go to places like New York City and he would exclaim, I feel like I'm in a movie! Even though I was there, I still felt like I was watching; not really a part of it all.

Of course, I took pictures to share.

Rides for the kids:Lots, and I mean LOTS, of crafts:

(There were more crafts then food, whatever that was all about.)

Balloon fun!What festival is complete without balloons? Let's face it; what beer is for adults, balloons are for kids!

And of course, what is most important: Good food...

...and more good food...with good friends attached:
Thanks, Dennis!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

On the Menu Today...

If you're having any trouble interpreting, just think hooked on phonics!

For more fun like this, check out

Friday, 11 September 2009

One Last Look

It is just before 8am, the morning of September 2, 2009. Northwest flight NW80 bound for Narita has just departed the boarding gate. I'm half awake, but fully miffed that immigration never bothered to look at the Emigration Clearance Certificate I spent two trips over two days to Immigration in Intramuros, five hundred pesos and four bothersome cab rides (that added another six hundred pesos to the total) to get.

Upon takeoff I look down and see the color and patterns that make up the squalor of the squatter areas all around the airport, the already thickening blanket of smog over Manila, and I know I'll miss it. That gives way to the shoreline below, the ocean waves and ships upon it. Later I see the various greens of rice fields etched into the flatlands, forming outlines around the hills and mountains, then we're above the clouds and the Philippines is gone from view.

It's all just memories and photographs now.

And what memories!

And what photographs! (Over seventy-thousand!)

Hopefully the friendships will continue on. In this information age, keeping in contact can be as easy as a quick Hi! in an email or instant message. But we all know that often even that is forgotten.

Out of sight = out of mind.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There's an older Filipino woman seated beside me. She pulls out a large, hard-bound book, turns to me and asks if I brought anything to read.

No, I said. I can't concentrate on what I'm reading on airplanes. When I pick the book up later, I can't remember any of what I've read.

Me too, she replied. That's why I read trash.

So there you go. Next time I fly I'll be sure to bring along People magazine or one of those books on sale at 80% off by a conservative radio or television pundit. I could always put it to good use later propping something up or using its pages to light firewood...or leave aboard the aircraft for the crew to dispose of later.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In Narita there was a layover of three hours, which gave me time to enjoy a great bowl of ramen noodles. It isn't that I find there to be anything that spectacular about ramen, but when it is made in Japan, it is always better than anywhere else. The meat, vegetables, and quality of the noodles is so much better. Just waiting in line to order was enough to jar my memory and bring enough of my Japanese language ability back to place the order correctly.

It is here, and then again later in the US, where I realize again the pronounced differences in the passengers milling about. In the Philippines, many travelers were leaving the Philippines to start life anew in some other country, as thousands do every day. They are loaded down and carrying as much food from home as possible. Narita has a clean, cosmopolitan, technological comfort about it, as do its travelers. They do not stumble about awkwardly. They are dressed in a trendy, yet travel-smart style. Many Europeans are in the mix here. They can be spotted by the fit of their clothing. It isn't sloppy and baggy like Americans. Their hair isn't tussled and they walk with a better posture than most others. Almost all American air travelers look like they just rolled out of bed, are still in their bed clothes, and are still half-asleep. Those who don't fit that description are the ones trying to get groups of those who do (read: their family) to the proper gate on time.

After twenty-three hours in transit, I arrive at 7pm, September 2, 2009 in Cincinnati. The roads are amazingly empty compared to the congestion of Manila. The air is perceptibly cleaner. Tired from not being able to sleep at all the entire duration of the flights, I am able nonetheless to manage enough coherence to enjoy a 3way for dinner at Price Hill Chili with my family.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Many days later and I'm finally over my jet lag.

Here's a few memories from the last couple weeks in the Philippines: The great food at Amici:The guards at our Bank of the Philippine Islands' Columns branch:
Final workout in the Columns' gym, with Bryant, a.k.a. Bryan, a.k.a. Butch:Our going-away party in Bulacan:
Last haircut by the infamous Art:I probably should've waited until he was finished before taking the picture, but he had impatient clients in waiting.

One last lunch at JiPan in Glorietta 4. Delicious Katsu Curry for Edson and Omelette Rice for me!
One of our friendly guards at the Columns:The movers, packing up the last two and a half years of our lives:A final trip to the University of the Philippines Campus with Edson. For a change, the weather wasn't unbearably hot there:And finally, a sight of Manila disappearing from view:
So, you may be wondering: If Jay has left the Philippines, what will become of Musings from Manila? Will it end now?

No. Not quite. There's still a lot more stuff to include here; I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Of course, it will end eventually. Then you may find yourself directed to another blog. But for now, this one will continue. Although not from Manila....about Manila!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

On a dark desert highway...

OK, so today I went to Immigration to get something called an exit clearance certificate. This allows me to leave the Philippines. Without it, I'd be stopped at the airport and redirected to Immigration, which is about an hour to an hour and a half away to get one.

Needless to say, the person without one will miss their flight.

So I went today to get one.

The system for getting a visa renewal has been quite streamlined and now only takes one hour, so I was prepared for this to take about as long.

Silly me.

After being handed one piece of paperwork and filling it out I then had to have photocopies made from my passport, which is usual. Then I had to have 5 2x2 passport pictures taken. Fortunately they do it there and for just P100 ($2US). When I returned with that I was given three more sheets of paperwork to complete, including pasting of the 2x2 pictures and fingerprints all over each of the three forms plus an additional index card.

This all took an hour.

Then I submitted all my completed, photocopied, photographed, pasted, fingerprinted forms and was told I could return at five o'clock.

It was only eleven in the morning.

Six hours.

The cost: P500 for the express lane fee.

What's express about six hours?

Well, considering it does take the post office across the street two to three weeks to deliver our mail, perhaps six hours isn't all that bad.

But I had things to do. I couldn't wait six hours. And the thought of returning to pick something up at the precise time the offices are closing is just ridiculous.

So I didn't wait. I can return some other time.

But first I had to get all the black ink off my fingers. So I went to the men's room to wash it off only to find there's no soap in the men's room; not even a dispenser. There was however, plenty of stink from all the urine which covered quite a bit of the floor. That was lovely. Even worse is that the door sits propped fully open, so all passersby see and smell the stuff. (Keep in mind, this is a freshly-renovated building.)

I did the best I could to wash my hands. Like all other restrooms in the Philippines, there are no towels with which to dry your hands. There was also no electric hand dryer. So I left with semi-clean, wet hands, being careful where I stepped on the way out.

On the way home in the cab there was a tune running through my head. It's a tune I haven't heard in quite some time and it wasn't on the radio. It was the Eagle's Hotel California.It wasn't until it had been running around in my head that I realized the reason I was thinking of that song. It's lines in the lyrics:
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.

We'll see if I get out of here...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How to Speak / Interpret Filipino

Filipinos are often surprised that foreigners cannot speak Tagalog. It is often believed Tagalog is an easy language to learn. That could be true for the foreigner living in provinces here where little English is ever heard, but not in the metropolis of Manila where every third word in a Tagalog conversation is actually English. It is hard to isolate oneself from English if it is your native language and become immersed in Tagalog enough to get any real learning done.

Jokingly, one could simply mispronounce in stereotypical fashion some English words in ways that mimic the vernacular; such as switching the sounds for p and f in words. That's not what this post is about though.

This is more about how Filipinos use English to suit Filipino thought and/or customs.

Here's a few helpful phrases to keep in mind for anyone planning to come to the Philippines:

What you hear: I'll be there at 1:00.
What it means: I'll leave my house around 1:00.

What you hear: I lost my phone.
What it means: My phone was stolen.

What you hear: It's very traffic.
What it means: a. Traffic is heavy. b. I left late and I'm blaming traffic to cover my ass.

What you hear: For a while, sir/ma'am.
What it means: One moment, please.

What you hear: I will try to be there.
What it means: I will not be there.

I hope these are a big help for a new traveler or expat.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Babbling Boobs

Yes, Babbling Boobs!

No, this isn't about the usual babbling boobs - Sarah Palin and other politicians. This is about something a little different.

This is about the informative cartoon we received with our Meralco electric bill.

In it I found babbling boobs! Check it out:See?

She has talking tits! Well, maybe tit. Neither Edson nor I can spot the other.

Perhaps that's not a she at all. Could be a transvestite or transsexual. This is the Philippines, after all!

Note how the guy with the funny mustache points and laughs, liking the fact that they talk. Of course, at the top of the page he's seen checking out the lineman's ass...the same lineman who is later flirting with the, the cartoon.

I'm not going to bother with the talking house lizard. America has been long accustomed to a taking gecko (with British accent, of course) pitching Geico Insurance for over ten years. So talking lizards aren't so unusual, are they?

Bills aren't this much fun in the US, especially since all of mine had been taken care of on-line for so many years.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


Friday, August 21st, Edson and I headed off to the island of Corregidor. We'd talked about going to Corregidor for over a year, and now was finally the time to do it.

Corregidor today is a tourist location, but had been used by the Spanish and American colonists as a military fort, as the island effectively helps control traffic in and out of Manila Bay. Aside from a few newly-constructed buildings, the bombed-out remains and tunnels of the American fort are all that remain; a shrine to the tens of thousands of soldiers killed during WWII.

Here's the Middleside Barracks:Personnel of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment and the 91st Philippine Scout Coast Artillery Regiment were billeted in this barracks.

4 12-inch mortars like this one here make up Battery Way:Housing MacArthur's headquarters was the hurricane-proof Mile-Long Barracks, so named because if you were to run the length of each of its three 1,520 ft. storeys from top to bottom, you'd have run a mile:Beside the Mile-Long Barracks sits Cine Corregidor, a movie theater:The Pacific War Memorial was constructed between the ruins of the cinema and bachelor officer quarters. Part of the memorial includes the Eternal Flame of Freedom:One of the two 12-inch "disappearing" seacoast guns of Battery Crockett:You can read around the barrel that this 45 ton gun was manufactured by the Bethlehem Steel Company.

The scars of war show at Battery Crockett:Top view of the other of Battery Crockett's guns:
We did manage to choose a great day to visit Corregidor. Amidst all the scattered thunderstorms we've been having recently, we had a sunny day perfect for our outing.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Tearing Down

For weeks we've watched as the Sime-Darby building across the street form us in Makati has been gutted, in preparation for its demolition. Everything form inside has been torn out and sent out for salvage. Walls, wiring, flooring, everything. The building is just a post-modern 1960s shell at this point...and less and less of a shell with each passing day!

A few days ago (my usual late posting) we were awoken by the sounds of mallets striking concrete. The crews who had gutted the building are now (even as I type this) destroying the concrete roof of the building, exposing the steel reinforcements for salvage. And they do this by hand.

Look:Note also the protective footwear some are wearing -- flip flops!

These guys have been out there bashing those mallets into the roof now for almost a week. Every day. Eight hours a day. That's endurance!

The only thing that might be worse than standing on top of the building you're tearing down one bash at a time in your flip flops might be that you are also essentially living in it at the same time.


These guys don't go home. They live on site until the job is done. After they finish work each day, they clean up, eat, and do their laundry, which hangs on lines below the building each night.

If you check this picture closely, on the left you can see a small wooden enclosure at the bottom of the building:There's a water line there. The guys use this for their laundry and shower.

I do find it odd that it is located directly below, and in plain sight of, our 28-storey condo tower, with 114 units looking right down upon it. That's not exactly a good guarantee of privacy, seeing how there's no roof or door on the thing.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Only In the Philippines!

I was in Antipolo doing a photo shoot at a friend's place Tuesday. On the way home that night, as we were making our way out of his neighborhood I noticed a sign by the side of the road. Nobody would ever believe me if I just said I saw what it read, so here's proof:Given that this park is located on a very dark street in a very sparsely populated and remote place, I'm betting this park, like so many others around the world, is where many have lost their virginity!

Yes, keep Virginity Park clean - help clean up all the used condoms and wrappers.

Faith In Transit

Buses in the Philippines come in several forms: new, old, second-hand imports (from China or Japan), air-conditioned (freezer on wheels), air-conditioned with video (watch Hollywood's worst B-movies on pirated DVDs while riding in a freezer on wheels), and non-air-conditioned (also non-upholstered wood slats for seats). But they all have one thing in common: most eschew some religious message somewhere in or on them.

Here's one of my favorites:Yes, you read correctly. That is The Shrine of Jesus.

I know some Christian and non-Christian religions are against iconography, but I never thought the Catholic church and its love of religious icons would go so far as to include stuffed animals and fuzzy dice! Bingo cards, maybe. This bus is like a church festival on wheels!

I also like this second bus:Great is thy Faithfulness: those are the last words you see if your brakes fail while driving behind this bus at high speed. (Well, that or How's My Driving?) Actually, that's there probably due to the fact the thing is so old, faith is the only thing going for it maintenance-wise.