Monday, June 30, 2008


Weekends are the getaway from the grind of the weekday. We work from Monday to Friday, occasionally Saturdays, and attempt to regain some of the flux back on Saturday and Sunday. Catch up on sleep, clean the cat box, bring the dog to the groomers and vet, visit a few sales, read, watch tv, have breakfast with friends, and even get last minute dinner invites from friends who you don't see in ages. All of that in the pot, stir, and hope for something positive for a Monday morning.

However, I don't feel that this morning. I feel all betwixt and bothered and bewildered, unfortunately no pal joey. My dog was all ok till Saturday when we noticed wet doggie doo. Two days of that and then reduced appetite. The doctor recommends adding some lactobacilli to her diet (Yakult), and if we still have a problem by tonight, then I bring her in to the vet tomorrow.

I also can't find my *&!%#@ passport! If there's one thing a traveller panics over, it's losing the official document. I'm trying to get it renewed before trips later this year and now I can't find the doggone thing. Dogs and messed up Mondays. I'm going for a walk.

Friday, June 27, 2008

One more game

I need a serious shot of caffeine. Right in my veins if you please. Against my better judgement I went to watch the semi-finals of the Eurocup, Spain vs. Russia. Two a.m. Why can't the football gods be kind to those of us in Asia? We love you football gods, but honestly, I'm just glad this is only every two to four years, otherwise I'd be dead with caffeine and stress.

Thank goodness Spain won. I'm thrilled, totally looking forward to the finals. It's Germany vs Spain, two powerhouses of European football, and a game that mirrors the North-South personalities of the game itself. Spain isn't as soulful as Brazil, but they tend to be spunkier, and far less predictive than the Germans. The team also has a tendency to choke. In the last three World Cups the Spanish team has either been eliminated in the first or q'final rounds. Even though they may do well in their group, they can't seem to get the psychological force of a team and win! This year will be different! Tens of thousands of heads are being prepared for a clean shave if Spain wins (this is the promise, online petition, of the fans of the Spanish team). What's a mere hirsute lock of hair for regaining Eurocup glory?

My friend M didn't get to go to the Eurocup as she had planned, so she's here in Manila, suffering with the rest of us, and as with most of our annual mini-competitions, we have our bets on. Since I called Spain early on, she's forced to take the side of the Germans, who only has one player she actually likes. I already know where she's going to take me for my winner's meal after Sunday!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

G, N, or B?

Puttering around Greenbelt 3, I popped into Music One, shocked! Shocked I tell you! First, they've cut off half the space, and the entire store looks dreary and grey. I was probably only 1 of 4 customers wandering the shelves. Has downloadable music and movies caused this or simply the malaise of running a brick and mortar store in the city these days?

Perhaps the reason for people staying away has to do with the lack of expert sales knowledge. I asked for three cd titles, they eventually found one of them, but the other two were just too much for the saleslady. She went up and down the racks looking for the name of the group. A true lost soul, she first thought the group's name, Gnarls Barkley, was a person's name. Started by checking the B's, then with a bit of prodding that it wouldn't be sorted by "last name", she went off to the N's. Oh dear. I figured Yael Naim would not be any easier to find. When she asked another salesclerk, he gave her a look that said "why are you asking me?" No, these are not the right people to ask for alternative music titles. Off to Amazon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movie trailers

After work today, I went to Glorietta to watch a movie. Perusing the shows on offer, I decided on Get Smart with Steve Carrell, it was about to start in 10 minutes, while Made of Honor had just started. I wasn't into catching The Hulk, even with Ed Norton. After I get my ticket, and buy a chocolate shake at Dairy Queen, I enter the darkened theater, and search out an empty chair. I can hear the trailer playing, but it's only when I'm ensconced in my seat that I realize it's the X-Files movie trailer. Hmmm. Dana's hair sure is long and Mulder looks older. Storywise, it looks confusing. The guy from Mrs. Brown has blood coming from his eyes! A lot of frozen ground. Still confusing. Ooo Mulder is about to kiss Dana! Got to see the movie if only for that.

Huh, Star Wars? I didn't know they had another episode to show... wait a sec, it's all animated. And weird. Yoda looks ok. Hey, Jabba! What is this story all about... Obi wan, Christopher Lee? Ah Clone Wars. I see. Nope, not watching it. Looks like a badly animated Saturday cartoon.

Dark Knight. My oh my. It's sad, and a tad creepy to watch Heath Ledger in white face. Why does Michael Caine have to take on such minimal roles like Alfred? He's got two Oscars and he's playing Alfred. Sheesh.

Baz Luhrmann's Australia. Nicole looks good in it, no dancing or singing though.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm not in Kansas for sure

It's a rare day when I want to write more than one post on this blog, but my brain's full of stuff these days, thinking, worrying, imagining, creating. But a few moments ago, I was staring at my shoes and wondering why I have this thing for flats lately. Ballet flats, leather, suede, and plastic. I've suddenly accumulated around 6 pairs in the last year - two from a local shoe company that custom made my flats for me including a bespoke brown pair that I chose specifically for it's color, another black ballerina flat and a purple suede one in San Francisco, then a pair of blue crocs, and a few days ago, gold Melissa sandal flats. The latter two pairs are sort of completely out of my normal routine. I was anti-crocs for what seemed like forever, partly due to what was an ugly design. But I walked into the store a few weeks ago, saw this design and bought them. They won't work with everything, but I sure do wear them a lot with grey and black clothing, plus anything in shades of pastel.

The gold sandals by the Brazilian company Melissa is also another case of impulse shopping. Do I need gold shoes? No. Do I need another pair of flats, well, not really. And do I think plastic shoes are the best thing for my feet in this tropical, muggy climate? Er. Ok, no. But they're cute! And the kicker, they came in my size! And when I put them on this morning, I felt like I needed something shiny, glittery, which would leave a faint golden trail wherever I go today to boost me through the day. It's been a long, difficult week, and gold shoes, impulse or no, are just the thing to make me contemplate happier moments. So far, I've been told by three seperate people today that I look really good; I'm going to tap my gold shoes' heels together.

Brit soul

If you believe the music writers, there's a new brit invasion on the music scene (segue - why do they call it an invasion? It sounds like a bee hive taking over, buzzing away, and I never matched British singers to bees. Do the Brits call the omnipresent American movies an American swarm? Locust swarm that eats away at the very fiber of one's fabric.), this time led by female soul singers. The biggest of them all is Amy Winehouse, but on her heels are the trio soloists of Duffy, Adele and Gabrielle Cilmi (they were labeled The New Amy's by the music critic of the Times). I enjoyed listening to Amy Winehouse, and had to avoid reading all her news nonsense since it sort of detracts from enjoying her talent. Of the three new girls, Adele sounds the closest to AW, that same Billy Holiday vocal angst, hints of the 50's and 60's rhythm, although I'm not sure if Adele sports a funky hairdo since I've only heard her songs. I caught a tv performance of Duffy a month ago and have sought her songs online. My favorite of her songs is Rockferry from her debut album of the same name. Mercy is the big breakthrough hit from the album, but Rockferry resonates with me. I can see her in my head wailing that song. I like sad songs.

I've seen but have not bought a copy of the new Coldplay album. I was a fan of their first two compilations (Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head), but wasn't keen on their last output (X&Y). Instead I refreshed my fandom of Radiohead's older album Ok Computer and the most recent album In Rainbows. It didn't hurt that Johnny Greenwood is a genius who composed the soundtrack for There Will be Blood. Discordant and haunting.

When you're stuck in a hospital, music can be the only balm to get you out of a funk.

Laughter is the best medicine

Last night my sister and I were by my dad's emergency room bed waiting for his room assignment, and I looked up and told her "this looks new" pointing up to the pneumatic tube snaking around the ceiling. Even with our cumulative exhaustion, we couldn't help but giggle. We've been at the hospital's ER three times in the last 6 months, twice for my dad, and once for my mother. The waits can be rather lengthy, so you tend to notice when they've added new stuff. And the pneumatic tube is not subtle. I think it's a rather nice innovation for a hospital that needed a way to get information up to the rooms or the billing center a lot faster. We've had to wait over an hour in the past for a simple bill, because the elevators were taking too long, or because they had to wait for one piece of paper from one office to get to another.

We continued to chuckle as we came up with the idea that the hospital should give families that end up using the facilities a lot some kind of "mileage points", each confinement or visit earns certain points and you can use it for discounts at the restaurant, or maybe to offset the cost of less serious medical services. Let's say, 1000 points for a confinement, and after 10,000 points, you can get one free diamond peel at the dermatologist. We calculated that in the last six months, we've spent enough to pay for our entire family to travel to the US and Europe. Sayang ang miles!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cyd Charisse, RIP

I grew up watching MGM musicals like they were candy. Loved them so much, and they were the perfect escape from the heat, the dust, the tropical storms. And they all seemed so exotic to me, a child living in Martial Law controlled Manila. My mom hooked me onto the musicals through Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and with the advent of Betamax, we'd go through the shows and the shows about the shows (That's Entertainment 1 and 2, and I'm not talking about that local variety show). The bubble gum love stories, the poufy hairdo's, Ester William's synchronized swimming numbers, and of course the great dancing of both Kelly and Astaire. While Astaire had Rogers on his arm for several movies, Kelly was a soloist, who paired up with some lovely partners, but none was ever as leggy or sizzling as Cyd Charisse. I loved Cyd Charisse. Loved her in the dream sequence in Singing in the Rain. Who cares if Debbie Reynolds won Gene in the end? I wanted the brunette hot mama in the sparkly red cocktail dress with a slit up to her neck to win the wayward boy who was gonna dance. And even if she didn't have a single speaking line, you knew they were the ones meant to be, except she was eventually stolen away by her coin tossing gangster boyfriend.

Another great Charisse movie is The Bandwagon, where she was Astaire's partner (they also worked on Silk Stockings, a musical remake of Ninotchka, with Greta Garbo in the original Slavic role). Bandwagon's famous solo dance piece of Astaire has him dancing on the ceiling and walls, the set designers created a revolving room for the action. But my favorite duet with Astaire and Charisse is a simple moment where they take a horse drawn carriage through Central Park, she's wearing this simple and gorgeous white dress, and they dance their pas de duex through the gardens. I can see her skirt swinging in the air as I write this, with Astaire languidly (for he was never one to look like he exerted himself much) leading the way back to the carriage and into the night. (She was in the movie version of Brigadoon with Kelly, but her accent was sort of difficult to take. Great costumes though!)

She was quite tall unlike the other ballerina turned actress, Leslie Caron. I suspect Cyd couldn't wear heels much when dancing with Astaire or Kelly otherwise it would have looked odd. Her voice was dubbed in most of the musicals, but who cared if she wasn't really singing, it was her dancing that made her a star. I remember my mom telling me that Cyd Charisse had the best legs of any movie star, the story goes that she had them insured for a million dollars, a massive fortune in those days.

Both Astaire and Kelly are dancing up in heaven, and Cyd has gone up to join them, forever embedded in my childhood memories as the woman in red and white, smoking the long cigarette, or twirling through the twilight.

Green river

As a child, I had nightmares about falling into the Pasig River, for even in the 70's it was already known as a polluted body of water. In my nightmares, I would be running along the concrete banks and would lose balance and fall into the brackish blackness, waking up just as I hit the water.

The Pasig has not had a break in a long time. Factories and squatters have released so much chemical and organic pollutants into the water for decades. Plans to rehabilitate it are constantly being mentioned by civic groups, and former First Lady Amelita Ramos was once at the forefront of a Pasig clean-up project.

From where I sit in any vehicle passing over the Pasig through a bridge or two, the water is black, usually filled with garbage, and occasionally you catch sight of the Pasig Ferry, that takes commuters from Makati to Manila. Very rarely do I see rowers punting about, although friends have told us about their experiences in rowing teams taking their boats out onto the river. This morning, waiting through traffic, I looked out over the river and saw that it was covered in waterlily plants. I call them waterlilies but am not quite sure what aquatic plant they are. I've never actually seen them flower. But I do know they swarm over the river and seem to sprout overnight. This morning was such a case, I know I hadn't seen any yesterday, but this morning, swathes of the green plants made the river look rather festive and healthy. I don't know if they are good for whatever fish remain in the river, or if they suck up any nutrients for plants that kill algae (if said plants are managing to thrive in the Pasig). But as a verdant flotilla, they are a prettier sight than watching pink plastic bags float along the water.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hong Mei

How do you describe a fruit not grown locally, rarely available, that has a short shelf-life much less harvest period, and doesn't have a local counterpart? Berry-like, with dark red fruit, and exterior that looks like bumps which turns out to be rods protruding from the pit, lightly tart, juicy. The flavor has been compared to strawberries, cherries, but I don't think they fit. Texture is more like raspberries, no aroma, it's all in the tart flavor and juiciness. Ah well. That's hong mei for you. Hard to pin down.

I was visiting my parents and saw a bowl of the dark, blood red globes, my eyes lit up and instead of turning down dinner, I decided to corner the bowl for myself. My father had found a vendor in Binondo selling them and knowing how rare it was to find the fruit, bought a few boxes. My mother had never had them before so he gifted a box to her. She ate a lot last night, she told me. I haven't seen hong mei since I lived in China, so this was a treat! I ate four before I gave the bowl back to my dad. But he promised to buy me a box when he went back into the maze of Manila's chinatown. In the meantime, I'll savor the 3 pieces my mom put into my bag before I left. My hongmei baon.

Monday, June 09, 2008

10 (books) a week

A couple of weeks back, I popped into Buy the Book, a used bookstore near work, and ended up with 9 books; a subsequent visit to Powerbooks and Fully Booked saw three new books in my pile. If there was such a thing as Books Anonymous, I'd definitely have had to call my sponsor.

As of today, I no longer have any new books to read. I finished the last one this afternoon, and am now faced with picking up some books that I never finished a few months ago or re-reading books.

Most of the books I galloped through were not very good, they would fit into the category of mystery potboilers, written in relatively hackneyed fashion. 4 of the books were by the same author, who I will avoid like the plague for being one of the worst writers I've ever had to skim through.

Finishing up the last book today, I felt like I had mental heartburn. Like a bad burp that needed releasing. Reading all those books in a short time, averaging a book a day, felt like I was on a summer retreat without the benefit of being by the beach, sipping a tropical cocktail with an umbrella. I know I have to return to reading something with relative weight and strong writing to shake the feeling of fogginess. I know there's a copy of something by Joseph Conrad somewhere in my stacks.

Buying books, I have come across a lot of different kinds of booksellers, particularly among used booksellers. I prefer those who don't bug you, ask or offer to help if you need it, but mostly keep their opinions to themselves unless you ask them for suggestions. I remember one seller in Philadelphia who was kind enough to offer a stool when he saw I was seated on the floor going through the stacks. And when I finally went to pay for books, he and his partner pointed a few more books to look at which gave me more reason to wile away the afternoon. And there's Pendragon books in San Francisco, where I've found hard to find books with the help of their professional and outstanding bookcrew.

Unfortunately, a local bookseller doesn't seem to understand that customers need space. At a local farmer's market, there's a stall that sells used books, the owners (a husband and wife team) hound you when you try to look at their wares. The husband will tell you (over your shoulder) when he bought the book, when he read it, and what he thinks about it. If I were rude, I might turn to him and say "Do you think I care?" but I am not about to do that. He will then point out that if you buy one book, they'll throw in 2 books for free (all for the convenient price of P500 for the bundle). As you try to escape from the harangue, he will then point out the other things they sell, pottery, jewelry, and herbal tonics. The hard sell, I don't buy it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Four women, a van, and a short road trip. Whatever could we end up talking about?

9:20 am "Oooo, Obama clinched the nomination, remember this moment!" "So thrilling, so historic, but my son wanted Hillary!" "Really? Why was he for her?" "He's only 10! But he told me that as a woman I should be for Hillary - 'Mom, you're a strong woman, so Hillary's the candidate for strong women' - I told him it wasn't so simple..."

9:35 am "Did you hear about Richard Quest?" "The CNN guy?" "Yeah! He got caught with drugs and what's that called when guys strangle themselves when having sex?" "Oh, you mean what happened to Michael Hutchins?" "Who... oh the INXS singer... yeah, autoerotic something. Wait, you mean Quest is dead?" "No, but he had a rope around his neck and his hoohoo, and he was caught in Central Park, what an idiot!" "Well, he's probably not that well known in the US, so cruising Central Park might have been the safest place for him!"

9:50 am "Look at all the lush greenery out there, is that the Candaba Swamp?" "Yeah, it looks uninhabited, no?" "Good for the egrets, or am I confusing them with herons? White birds (flaps arms)." "Egrets." "Lahar probably destroyed so much of the swamp though..." "Let's hope they don't start building houses here." "Overpopulation is going to creep up on this space, blink of an eye, gone! (with a snap of the finger)" "Yeah, too many people having too many kids, time to advocate a one child policy like China!" "You're joking right?!"

After arriving at our destination and attending to the work related details, we started back for the big city.

2:30 p.m. "Look how green it is here, it's not like this in Manila, it's so grey and sooty." "Maybe we should suck up our trash and pollution and shoot it up in the atmosphere" "What!!!" "Well, didn't you read the new theory of multi-universes? We could send our trash to the universe that will welcome and recycle!!!"

3:30 p.m. "Her lashes are soooo fake, and did you see how perfect her nose is? Major Belo!"

3:40 p.m. "A friend of a friend told me that Iglesia ni Christo churches will turn into spaceships when the world goes to pot and take their faithful worshippers out into space." "No way. You joke." "No, M, you've heard of this right??" "Yeah I have heard a rumor to that effect." "This Singaporean artist wants to do a documentary on the INC churches but can't get approval from the higher ups in INC." "No duh. Secret society yada yada..." "I taught the Manalo grandson, majorly confused. Won't talk about the family, but he's the blacksheep of the family." "The Sing guy is obsessed with INC." "Artists are crazy."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fresh donuts

There's a wonderfully detailed article about breakfast and all sorts of delicious looking breakfasts available in the New York magazine. The series on breakfast includes a interesting piece about why we should eat breakfast but it also notes how often most adults skip the meal. Another follow up deals with all sorts of breakfast cereals, and there's a piece just about coffee. While I agree that in the US, breakfast is primarily a solitary chore to cook and eat, leading one to grab and go, part of the problem may lie in the less than appetizing options for healthy breakfasts. Why should it be limited to cereal and milk, or a bran muffin? I love Asian breakfasts - congee with toppings, soup noodles, chinese crullers with soy milk, a spicy bowl of pho, fried rice! Eggs, meat, vegies, pickles even. Garlicky, fruity, hearty. You can eat it leftovers, but better to eat something fresh and newly made no? A favorite breakfast is garlicky fried rice, a couple of yokey eggs, and crunchy dilis or dangit. Have some hot chocolate with it too!

On a recent market trip, I went to a few suki's - the coffee stand, the piaya man. Now, I was reading a recent post about the best piaya in town. My favorite piaya is the freshly made disks at Salcedo. Go around 8, and you'll find the piaya guy cooking them fresh on the flat cooker. Hot and sweet, they match the acid bitterness of the coffee bought a couple of stalls down. On this visit, I was buying empanadas (also a good breakfast option!) for my folks when I saw the vendors cooking up hot and fresh doughnuts, 8 inch logs of doughy goodness, dropped into a baking sheet of sugar before wrapped in wax paper for the customers waiting. One lady before me bought 10 of them! I was determined to try them out, for what fresh donut doesn't taste wonderful? I'm not one for the overly sugary doughnuts of many large multi-national brands, but something made right in front of me, and eaten hot is always a great way to start the day. I bought three, one for me and two to give to my parents. The doughnut is not round, it's a log. It's puffed up from the cooking, and dangerously hot to the tongue. But after a few moments after its sugar dressing, melted a bit on the surface, I take a bite and have that moment of mouth-stomach-brain contentment. What does it take to make someone happy? Sometimes it's just as simple as frying some dough and dusting it with sugar. Add a cup of coffee, and watching other people walk by. It's not rocket science, and it doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Scientific body artt

Tattoos are a symbolic essence of beliefs, emotions, needs, wants. These scientists wear their beliefs on their skins. (See mom? Tattoos are not ju stfor pirates and prisoners!)

Sunday, June 01, 2008


I'm probably late in coming to this realization: a new Xfiles movie!!! I knew there was one being made, but I didn't realize it was going to be released so soon, July 25, 2008! I'm so thrilled, that it's now my summer movie goal for the year. I think there's still time to get the new puppy used to a new name... Dana.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies