Thursday, May 18, 2006


This is the accompanying arts and culture weblog of RADIOACTIVE ADOBO. It is a tribute to the musical genius and Pinoy pop icon Lolita Carbon of the band Salt of the Earth, more popularly known as ASIN.

This blog will carry reviews of stage plays, books and music as written for, or for Radioactive Adobo.

Comments welcome!

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


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The Cultural Center of the Philippines now has a new website - very user-friendly and visually pleasing as compared to its old one. Easy navigation is provided by drop screens if you point to the category you want to explore.

Visit it here.

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Friday, August 12, 2005


by F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature (2001)
(Speech delivered by F. Sionil Jose at Stanford, CA as Writer in Residence on May 5, 2005)

I am grateful to Stanford, to Prof. Roland Greene and the Department of Comparative Literature in particular for having me here as Writer in Residence, to Prof Ann Gelder who is looking after the details of this visit.

I am only too aware of this university's greatness, its trove of Nobel Prize winners. I have a bookshop and I know the distinguished publications of the Hoover Institute. Our best doctors in the Philippines trained here. As for Stanford's contribution to literature, in the mid fifties, your famous writing guru, Wallace Stegner, visited Manila. If I may brag we have the same editor, Samuel S. Vaughan, at Random House. Mr. Stegner correctly observed that there was yet no literary record of the Hukbalahap peasant uprising that was then winding down. I should have told him then―give me time for I was conceptualizing a novel on that subject.

I originally titled this talk "Revolution as Literature" but my wife said it may not sit well with an American audience. Certainly, it does not sit well with Filipinos. But I will digress into it just the same.

When we arrived last month, I was sent to a room where I was detained for about half an hour. When I finally joined my wife at the baggage claim area, we were the last passengers there. I will share with you my conversation with the Homeland Security officer who corrected my immigration form. He asked what I wrote and I said novels and articles on current affairs, politics and history. That started it. He wanted to know more about us Filipinos.

First, we are not Asians like the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Indians. The two great religions of Asia, Buddhism and Hinduism, responsible for the civilization and classical traditions of that continent never reached us although geographically, we are there. We are Christians who could have been Islamized if Islam came a few decades earlier.

I told the officer we are many islands and tribes. In the past were at war with one another. Much of that ethnicity remains in our languages, customs, and attitudes. And like the United States, we are a young nation.

I am here now to finish a novel which will help us understand our history better. The novel is about Artemio Ricarte the revolutionary general who refused to pledge allegiance to the United States at the end of the Philippine-American War in 1902. Yes, there was such a war which brought America to Asia in 1898–America's first colonial venture.

American soldiers in Intramuros

We became America's first and only colony. But not after more than 250 thousand Filipinos, mostly civilians were killed. In that war, America committed its first atrocities in Asia.

I have been working on this novel for so long, the research is flowing out of my ears, shackling my imagination. The English novelist, Robert Graves, advised an Australian writer to write the novel first then do the research afterwards. But I got that advice too late.

My five novels of saga are named after my hometown, Rosales. It is framed within a hundred years, from 1872 when three Filipino priests were executed by the Spaniards, to 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. This century is marked by peasant revolts. Through three centuries that we were ruled by Spain, peasant revolts erupted intermittently.

A word of caution to those who plan writing historical fiction: DUSK, the first novel in this saga has a real life character, Apolinario Mabini the brains in the revolution against Spain, the first anti-imperialist rebellion in Asia, and later on in the war with the United States. He was a cripple and I attributed his infirmity to syphilis as told to me by two venerable historians.

Wrong! When his bones were exhumed in 1980 as told to me by a much younger historian, Ambeth Ocampo, it was found he had polio. I confronted the two historians and both scolded me for giving credence to what they told me was gossip.
According to Ocampo, the upright Mabini opposed a scheme by some of the rich men who joined the revolution to raise money that would have enriched them but would have tainted the revolution. So they discredited Mabini.

The second novel in the saga is called TREE after the balete tree, scientifically named ficus benjamina linn. A scholar visited Rosales then returned to Manila to tell me there was no such tree in Rosales. Of course it is not there but is in many places in the country, in all of Southeast Asia. As a sapling, the young tree is soon surrounded by many vines. The vines grow to be the trunk of the tree itself; they strangle to death the sapling they had embraced; a very apt metaphor for so many of us.

Literature is myth making. For a young nation, it is necessary. Who can prove there was a cherry tree the young George Washington chopped down and couldn't lie about?

Myth makers or not, all artists are ego driven, impelled by, the human impulse to celebrate themselves in the most personal manner thereby achieving style and originality. They seek originality although in the end so many are just plain imitators of life and of other artists, sometimes doing willfully so, sometimes in blissful ignorance. But the self gets satiated with narcissism so artists attempt to transcend the self and transcendence becomes the motive for a more profound expression. I do not claim profundity; there is nothing deep in my motives. They are moored on the reality of my country, and fiction has difficulty catching up with that reality.

I use history to impress upon my readers this memory so that if they remember, they will not only survive, they will prevail. I also present a nobler image of ordinary Filipinos so that even if we are destitute, amidst the swirling tides of corruption, we can raise our heads. With memory, we can face our grim future with courage.
I created in this saga, characters like Istak, the farmer and healer in DUSK, his vagabond great grandson, Pepe Samson in MASS and real life hero from the underclass, Apolinario Mabini. These truths are often ignored by historians who focus on momentous events and big men but miss the "little people".

Critics call this effort revisionist, the formalists say I mangled the English language because I think in Ilokano, my mother tongue and write in English. Still others say I romanticize the common, the mundane. I hope I am shaping not just myths and hollow hallelujahs, but literature.

In 1955, on my first visit here as guest of the state Department, I spent an afternoon with the poet Robert Frost at his cottage in Ripton, Vermont. He was in his late seventies, but still writing. He belonged to that generation which included Mark Twain. They objected to the American occupation of my country. They argued that America, which won its freedom through revolution, had no right to invade a nation waging revolution for freedom, the first in Asia against western imperialism. The millionaire Andrew Carnegie even offered to return the 20 million dollars the United States paid Spain to acquire the Philippines.

Mr. Frost asked how that occupation turned out. I told him were it not for the public schools established by the United States, at that very moment, I would most probably be an uneducated farmer atop a water buffalo somewhere in the island of Luzon.

In 1972, I toured this country lecturing under the auspices of the Council on Foreign Relations. I told my audiences, if they did not suffer from historical amnesia and recalled the Philippine American War, they would have never gone to Vietnam. It was not communism they faced in Vietnam it was that impregnable force, Asian nationalism.

To be sure, strident voices in my country are critical of the United States. I sometimes join these out of frustration. Do not get us wrong: many Filipinos consider America our second country.

But we must wean ourselves from overpowering American influence, get rid of our American hangover induced by benevolent neglect. Our cultural workers must shed off the American veneer, which stifles creativity and use the mud at our feet, our folk traditions, our sweat and blood to build the enduring Filipino pillars that can withstand the onslaught of globalism and McDonald's.

I remind our writers about the "Flowering of New England", how Emerson, Walt Whitman and those innovative Yankees freed themselves from 19th century European romanticism to celebrate America and give America a granite cultural foundation.

It is not easy for us to do the same. History had done its nefarious job. Stanley Karnow’s book, "In our Image" sums up the colonial experience. The Americans wanted a democratic showcase and we eagerly complied. The result is a disaster. Your fault and ours.

More than ten years ago the Atlantic magazine editor, James Fallows visited us. After seeing the deadening poverty the callousness and perfidy of our leaders, he concluded that the obstacle to our progress is our "damaged culture." Back to our Homeland Security officer in San Francisco to illustrate this damaged culture. He had interrogated Filipinos wanting entry. He said flatly: "They are liars".
I told him they had to lie, to do anything to escape my country's poverty and injustice.

What had happened to us? After World War II, we were Southeast Asia's most modern, most progressive. Students from the region came to our schools. When I traveled, the backwardness everywhere amazed me. Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur were villages. The tallest structure in Bangkok was the Wat Arun. Seoul and Taipei were quiet, with horse drawn carts, bicycles and those low brick buildings left by the Japanese. These cities are no longer recognizable from what they were. Manila has skyscrapers now but everywhere is the slums that show how we have decayed.

The two faces of the Philippines

Thus, the massive hemorrhage of talent, the diaspora. There is no ocean going vessel without a Filipino on board, from the Captain down to the steward. An American diplomat had heart surgery in Washington performed by what he said is one of the top surgeons in America. He is Filipino. A Boeing executive told me Iran Air wouldn't get off the ground were it not for the Filipino technicians there. An Indonesian businessman said most of the banks and corporate headquarters in Indonesia are managed by Filipinos. A Singaporean architect pointed to the city's soaring skyline as the handiwork of Filipino architects and engineers. The United Nations headquarters would stand still if all those Filipina secretaries were absent. And what would happen to your health service if all those Filipino doctors, nurses and technicians left?

Filipinas in Hong Kong

Indeed, the Filipina is not just a maid in Hong Kong or a prostitute in Tokyo. We have become the proletariat of the world. This is our shame and our pride for as a European executive wryly commented: "You are such a wonderful people, why is your country such a mess?" Your Homeland Security officer said he knew of a Filipino retired general who was poor. I said that general should be investigated for unexplained poverty.

The "damaged culture" James Fallows pointed out can be repaired. In the fifties, President Ramon Magsaysay invigorated the Army to defeat the Hukbalahap rebellion. He cleaned up government, made it responsive to the needs of the masses. When he died in a plane crash in 1957, people in the streets wept. When Arsenio Lacson was mayor of Manila at about the same time, the city was safe, the garbage collected, the coffers were full. A year after he died, the city was broke.

The moral decay is a slow process exacerbated by the Japanese occupation when all the rules were thrown out and each man was for himself. The elite conditioned by colonialism collaborated all through our history with the imperialists. Like most of us, they imbibed the vices not the virtues of our rulers the sense of honor of the Spaniards, the enterprise and democratic ethos of the Americans, and the discipline and sense of nation of the Japanese. And like the imperialists, the rich Filipinos sent their loot abroad: the Chinese to China and Taiwan, the Spanish mestizos to Spain and Europe, and the Indios like Marcos to Switzerland and the United States. As the Spanish writer Salvador de Madariaga said, "A country need not be a colony of a foreign power, it can be the colony of its own leaders."
How then can we accumulate capital to modernize? How do we end this treason? How else but through the cleansing power of a nationalist revolution, a continuation of the revolution the Americans aborted in 1898. It is not only inevitable, it is righteous.

A mistake?

In 1986, we finally threw out Marcos in a bloodless revolution. But Cory Aquino who succeeded him turned it into a restoration of the oligarchy, not democracy as she claims. Sure, we have free elections and etcetera but these are the empty trappings, not the essence of democracy. That essence is in the stomach, when the Manila jeepney driver eats the same food served the President in Malacañang Palace.

Listen, when I was a child, the poorest farmer ate twice a day, but only in the three hungry months of the planting season. Today, the poor eat only once a day. They die when they are sick because medicines are expensive. Millions of grade school kids drop out because they cannot afford to continue. About half of 85 million do not have safe drinking water.

Two ongoing rebellions, one communist and the other secessionist have cost us billions of pesos and thousands of lives. If the communist wins and I know they won't, they will rule just as badly because they are hostage to barnacled habits of mind, to ethnicity. The real revolution has to start first in the mind and its wellsprings are not in Mao or Marx. It is in our history, in Mabini, in Rizal our national hero whose writing inspired the revolution of 1896. Its creed is articulated by the peasant leader Pedro Calosa who led the Colorum uprising near my hometown in 1935. It is this: God created land, air and water for all men. It is against God's laws for one man, one family to own all of them."

The American reformer, Wendell Phillips confirms the Colorums. He said, "If you hold land and land is in the hands of a few, you do not have a democracy—you have an oligarchy."

And this is our curse: an oligarchy that must be destroyed, whose allies are here in this bulwark of democracy.

Who, after all, was Ferdinand Marcos' best supporter, but Ronald Reagan. Can you understand now why America is so crucial to us and to those in the poor countries whose despotic rulers have alliances with American leaders? Washington wants peace and stability and so do we who are enslaved but that peace, that stability should not be the peace of the grave.

When we parted, the Homeland Security officer said I was the first Filipino he talked with the way I did. What I told him, which I have said here is also what I say at home. It grates the ears. For this, I have been accused of Filipino bashing, labeled a communist, a CIA agent, an opportunist. You name it.

In truth, I am just an old writer whose voice is drowned, unheard in the maelstrom that is my country. I end DUSK, the first novel in the Rosales saga with the battle of Tirad Pass in December 1900. To me, that battle is similar to Thermopylae in ancient Greece. There, Leonidas, the king of Sparta and his men died to a man defending the pass against the invading Persians.

In Tirad Pass, high in the roof of the Cordillera range, the 24 year old general Gregorio del Pilar and 48 of his men―most of them farmers died defending it against the invading Texas Rangers closing in on General Emilio Aguinaldo, President of Asia's first republic.

I remind Filipinos of Jose Rizal who, at 34, was executed by the Spaniards for writing tracts against them. As Prof. Roland Greene said, he was the first post colonial writer. In World War II, all of Southeast Asia succumbed so easily to the Japanese invasion. We didn't. Our valiant stands in Bataan peninsula, our bitter guerrilla resistance. These are forgotten.

I repeat, we are a young nation, carving our place in the sun. Young, yes but we have a past which exalts us, which tells us that we have a revolutionary tradition, and that above all, we are a heroic people.

In our search for social justice and a moral order, in our struggle to build a just society, we must rely on no one else but ourselves, endowed as we already are with a history that shaped our sinews and our genius. And from America, what will we ask of you? Nothing, nothing but your understanding and your compassion. But first, we must remember.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Was walking along Sta Cruz when I espied this kid finishing off a McDo sundae someone probably gave him out of pity. Siempre nahuli ako 'nung ale sa loob habang kinukunan ko ang bata. Dyahe! Baka akalaing pedophile ako, nyak!

If this is dinner, there's no likelihood for this kid to grow up healthy. If he grows up at all. This is already a very common scene infront of fastfood restos in the metro.

Once, while buying pan de sal at Julie's located in the village where I live, a little girl (ang dungis!) pulled my shirt and pointed to a chocolate cake (Php 8 only) on the counter.

What to do naman, ' di ba? Hay naku.


My favorite Filipino vocal group, The CompanY, celebrates its twentieth anniversary at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines from October 1 & 2, 2005, 8 p.m.

Keep posted

Thursday, July 07, 2005



I have emailed Ambeth Ocampo, Chairman of the Historical Institute of the Philippines, last year with questions regarding the 'royal' sash and decorations President Arroyo was wearing in Brunei to attend the wedding of Sultan Bolkiah's son. I have yet to receive a reply.

Anyone else who might know?

President Gloria Arroyo, the First Gentleman, and former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri

This particular sash is different from, say, other sashes worn by past Philippine Presidents (others were never seen to wear any, even in official portraits):

Military sash worn by Emilio Aquinaldo

The only other President who wore one, of course, is Ferdinand Marcos. At the moment, I can't find any photos of him wearing that. Wait, will this count?

The former President in the airconditioned mausoleum in Batac

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The former First Lady wearing the royal sash greeting their Imperial Majesties,The Shah and The Shahbanou of Iran

UPDATE on this blog:

Without meaning to, I finally found the answer to my questions in Manuel Quezon III's blog. Transcript:
Dylan Yap Gozum
July 3rd, 2005 17:28
Amazing! I’ve always been wanting to read on the Honors Code because there was a sash (red and gold) that PGMA was wearing during the wedding of Sultan Bolkiah’s son last year and I’m been trying to look for photos I can use to identify what it was.

July 3rd, 2005 18:09
Dylan -that was the Family Order of the Sultan of Brunei. When heads of state attend events for other heads of state, it’s a compliment to wear decorations from that head of state.

Dylan Yap Gozum
July 6th, 2005 19:46
Oh, wow! What an eye-opener, thank you. Looks like I need to read more on this stuff (i’d post your reply on my blog on the subject). Since I hardly catch your column in PDI, i sneak in here when I am able. Also, I can’t wait to get hold of a copy of the coffeetable book re Malacañan Palace. Once again, thanks for that one! Cheers!

July 6th, 2005 19:58
Dylan, ganito yan. The photo of Aguinaldo has him wearing a sash as commander-in-chief, in the spanish style. But not even he adopted the Latin American habit of having a presidential sash as a symbol of office. Whenever you see a President with a sash, its the ribbon of an order. My grandfather wore the sash of the Order of the Republic of Spain during his inauguration in 1935; no president wore a sash thereafter. Your photo of Marcos has him wearing the sash of the Philippine Legion of Honor, degree of chief commander, which was given him by the AFP in 1971.

So there. I felt stupid all of a sudden but hey, this is the only way we young people can learn - from the experts :-) Thanks again, MLQ3!

Sunday, July 03, 2005


When I was a kid, our every visit to Manila would always come with a short stop at museums, foremost of which are Casa Manila, the National Gallery (we still don't have a 'real' National Gallery 20 years since I first saw the Spoliarium!) and the Ayala Museum, then housed in the Locsin-designed bulding in what is now Greenbelt 2 and 3.

The former Ayala Museum

Do visit the new Ayala Museum's website

(Photos by

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


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Taking a break. I'm very tired. Quack.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


(photo courtesy of

I always make it a point to visit the Gallery Walk of SM Megamall. As a frustrated painter, I always stand in awe of works that have come forth from many a brilliant Filipino mind.

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Galleria Duemila: Home to the Philippines' best

I am somehow attracted to those by Augusto 'Gus' Albor (brooding but holds a typhoon deep within).

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Upward Duality (Gus Albor)

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Division (Gus Albor)

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Back in my college years in the Ateneo (Xavier University), I did all things possible to be able to escape one subject: P.E. Games. I was already on my 3rd Year and looking forward to the next year during which I will assume the Presidency of the University Student Council, attend the Xth World Youth Day in Manila and do the dreaded pre-graduation thesis among other things, so I decided to advance subjects during the Summer to de-clog my 4th Year.

P.E., unfortunately,is still part of the curriculum. For the life of me, I don't know why we have to learn how to swim (trunks required) and play ball (I only know baseball and it's not part of the list). Somehow, Mr.-Curious-Me found a loophole somewhere that allows me to skip P.E.. The catch is: join the Xavier University Dance Society. Not that I was crazy over dancing but doing folkloric sounds better than wearing trunks. So, there.

In one year, I learned to do Pandanggo sa Ilaw, Pasigin, Binaylan, the various Jotas and Paseos but on my valedictory performance as dancer (ugh! *shivers*), I was chosen to perform the role of Prince in the dance-of-all-Philippine dances: the Singkil.

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The Maranao legend of a princess skipping over falling trees during an earthquake imbues Singkil with a mantle of magic that this rousing dance scarcely needs. For with crossed bamboo poles whose claps rhythmically clash against the swirling of fans and swords and spears, Singkil weaves a spell all its own. Different interpretations of Singkil invariably present the regal boldness of a Muslim prince in counterpoint to the stoic bearing of a princess: agility, grace,ardor, a resounding climax...magic! ( by Rene Ner) Singkil is the Queen of all Philippine Folk dances!

The training was laborious, to say the least. I had to lose weight to be able to move faster (getting ipit by four bamboo poles wasn't exactly fun) and the trainor was losing his cool all the time ("Mabigat masyado mga paa mo, puñeta!!!").

I performed Singkil for the first time during the grand re-launching of the XU Dance Society to the city of Cagayan de Oro, and performed it once more (and for the last time) during the First XU Arts Festival (my brainchild as President, in lieu of the utterly brainless Miss Xavier).

Sigh. My first real contribution to the arts, circa 1996. Watching the Bayanihan perform it always brings a smile to my face.

Friday, June 24, 2005


I admit. I am a young old man, and I am not ashamed to be found in the presence of those who have lived in the glorious days of this still-floundering Republic, nor am I ashamed to admit that I actually desire to live in Sta Cruz once I have the chance.

But for now, while I neither have both chance and opportunity except to hear Mass in Sta Cruz or chat with my favorite Capampangan old-money seller near the foot of the bridge, I hark back to days gone by by visiting this lovely site: PUPU PLATTER: {a delectable selection of oriental appetizers}

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From Filipinas: 1847 by Jose Honorato Lozano (Manila: Ars Mundi, Philippinae, 2002.Hardcover, 285 pagesPhp 4,300.00, US $86.00ISBN 9719258101)

Proves that not only is the past exciting and fun, it still does matter in this age of ignorance and disgrace.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Serj is a former textmate but we've never meet. I have always known him to be an artist and, like me, has this thing for films especially Indie ones.

Here are some samples of Serj's work, and if you find them interesting, please do visit his site at

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I have always been fascinated with photography. I've taken lots of photos using my friend's Canon's SLR back in Ateneo, and although we have had no uses for them since the University publication can only take so much, the excitement of coming up with a magical outcome always takes away the anxiety and stresses of the day.

This may explain why my blog is peppered with photos. I have many friends who are complaining about it, which is a good thing because this means that they are not 'visual' people and prefer to read, but hey! Photos are exciting ways to portray life and events.

Through Shmardog, whose blog is linked to mine, I am introduced to the work of one of Manila's hottest photographers around, Jake Versoza. Do visit his wonderful blog at


Wednesday, June 15, 2005


By Dylan Yap Gozum, Seeing Things Differently

Nowhere has the pursuit of beauty been as obsessive as it is here in the Philippines. Short of being branded as compulsive behavior, the presence of over 20 local magazines covering its many aspects – art, architechture, cosmetics, fashion – plus the ubiquitous annual exercise of the progenitor of all beauty parades, the originally-religious Santacruzan, and the dozens of pageants for both male and female across these islands do not help ease perceptions that indeed, Filipinos adore beauty or are simply crazy about it.

The social aspect of this pursuit cannot be discounted due to the fact that the former First Lady Imelda Marcos (yes, her again) used it as one of the three pillars of her social transformation programs, the other two being the Good (kabutihan) and the Truth (katotohanan). The Cultural Center of the Philippines, as the stage upon which this social movement was to be launched, sports a logo using the ancient script alibata where one of the Ks represented Kagandahan – beauty.

The Madame who started it all

But have we really imbibed this culture of beauty?

Without missing a beat, we may have overlooked the fact that the theme of the 2005’s National Arts Month was Singing Gising: Crafting Identities for Social Transformation, wherein once again, art was presented as a tool for social change. How times change – or not. This seems to reflect the Renaissance period which, without doubt, helped change much of a Europe reeling from the dead air of the Middle Ages.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines: Has it helped in the Filipino's search for its national soul?
However, a Philippine renaissance definitely isn’t in sight yet because apparently, beauty does not inspire in us a pride of place or else we wouldn’t have allowed the destruction of our churches by ignorant priests, the defacing-in-the-name-of-improvement projects like that of the Insular Life Building along Paseo de Roxas (where did they put that lovely tableau?!), or smothered the world-famous EDSA in concrete, railroad tracks and pink fences.

Clean Roxas Boulevard but until when?

Two years after the Liwasang Bonfacio was renovated, vagrants and peddlers are back to reclaim the area. The days of lamps that light Manila’s bridges are numbered, with several already broken. If the 112th IPU wasn’t held in the capital, will PICC and the CCP ever get their much-needed repairs? Is the Filipinos’ concept of beauty twisted? Is our outlook on beauty short term? That we rather prefer to be well dressed, made up, and toting the latest of gears and yet allow squalor, pollution, and destruction to mar our landscape is a head-scratcher situation indeed.

The new Liwasang Bonifacio (Thanks to

The pursuit of beauty should inspire, fire up emotions, and set people into action. It should urge us to make a difference in our world. Could this possibly be the same driving force behind the reinvigoration of the formerly hostile streets of Manila into well-lighted spaces? Or the current move to resurrect the Metropolitan Theatre so it can be a venue for the arts-in-service-of-the-masa, for the common man? The art of creative writing, thank goodness, is being promoted once again, as are theatre and dance.

On the other hand, could this same pursuit also be the same raison d’être behind the fanatical habit of city fathers to cover up shanties with painted billboards, and sprucing streets overnight with palm trees and shrubs whenever foreign delegates are coming?

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Covering the shanties will not make them go away

Our sense of beauty, in this sense, is in a state of perpetual contradiction. Where do we draw the line between beautiful and plain? What is beauty exactly? Spanish houses are “old and scary” to the young, but “magnificent and historical” to their elders. There was even a time when we considered anybody in a Barong Tagalog to be getting ready for a funeral – his own, at that. Who has the definitive authority to judge which is beautiful?

Does beauty inspire a sense of pride in being a Filipino? It used to, yes, or else we wouldn’t have continued to ignore the amazing designs of our tribal fabrics while we drool over generic designer brand patterns. This tragic paradigm shift can best be exemplified by the dumping of the national costume by the national flag carrier in favor of the boring, corporate uniform for its stewardesses. PAL’s best marketing campaign, the SHINING THROUGH series, made truly evident the beauty and detail placed on that uniform which, like what the rest of the Southeast Asian airlines continue to do today, allows passengers the chance to “experience” the Philippines even before they get off the aircraft. What happened to that marketing plan, we will never know.

Major yawn.

As Imelda said, the attainment of beauty need not be expensive. I must agree, to a certain extent. Living in a country obsessed - and gifted - with so much beauty does make the enjoyment of it very easy to do. Although how we were able to surmise that Manila Bay’s sunset (or sunrise, for that matter) is the best in the world remains to be a mystery, maybe we can try watching the sunset in, say Samal Island in the Davao Gulf, and see if it does make a difference. Maybe it’s just a bias, or a perception. At any rate, I have had the chance to watch it from Pangasinan, with the South China Sea lapping at my feet. It was just as serene as it was grand. The best sunrise for me is still the one I saw onboard an early morning flight. Nothing like watching the clouds burst into flames in the morning.

The concept of beauty can indeed cover both ends of the spectrum. What may be beautiful for one may be hideous for the other.

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Pasig River: Manila has a long way to go before achieving the beauty that it once was

This proves that now, more than ever, the pursuit and concept of beauty goes beyond makeup, clothes and what-not. It goes beyond skin deep. Better yet, the pursuit of beauty should be a way of life and a celebration of life itself.
Only then can we be truly transformed.

Friday, June 10, 2005


I miss my 'Secret Manila' buddy Eliza. They'd been looking for her here sa cafeteria the other day, wondering aloud if she was my girl. If they only know Eliza, they'd go nuts.

Here are 3 previously unpublished photos of our escape to Manila. The black outfits were there for a reason, one of which was very obvious in this fountain photo I took of Eliza.
Now who would even think this was taken in Carriedo?!

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In Rome, not! This is the Carriedo Waterworks in Sta Cruz, Manila. The catch would be the coconut trees in the upper corner of the photo and the, well, haphazard way the electrical wires were done. Sigh.

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The original building of the Philippines' oldest savings bank, Monte de Piedad, opened by the Catholic Church in 1880 as a pawnbroking establishent. Bought by Singapore's Keppel in 1997.

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In my black chinoise(?) shirt looking terribly sleepy, with a train of the new LRT 2 line coming in behind me at the spanking-new Legarda Station. Everyone should try riding on this new line before it self destructs. Ooops.

Friday, June 03, 2005


What is it with Japanese novelist Banana Yoshimito that attracts the young readers of Asia?

With her first work, "Kitchen" she won the 6th Kaien Newcomer Writers Prize in November, 1987 and then the 16th Izumi Kyoka Literary Prize in January, 1988. Kitchen, my first Yoshimoto book, has two stories concerning a transsexual father and a boy who dresses up in his dead girlfriend's school uniform. Suicide is even discussed in her next book, N.P.

While suicide and extreme behavior are realities that Japanese society faces, I suppose it is the angst of the youth that she has captured well in her work. This rings true in all of Asia - making it Banana Yoshimoto's instant captured market.


Sunset at the Manila Bay

Elle es retrouvée! Quoi? L’Eternité. C’est la mer melee au soleil!”
(It is found again! What? Eternity. It is the sea mingled with the sun.)

from Alchemy of the Word, Une Saison en Enfer (Seasons in Hell)

Thursday, June 02, 2005



By Dylan Yap Gozum for Yehey! entertainment/books
In a chic restaurant in Geneva, the walls of which are adorned by paintings of Joan Miró and while seated on the very table film director Federico Fellini had dined, Maria stopped being a child and started becoming a woman – more aware of the ways of the world and more willing to face her fears.
In what may be Paolo Coelho’s first book on sex and about prostitution in particular – inspired by Irving Wallace’s 1970’s book Seven Minutes – lead character Maria embarks on a journey from the desolation of Brazil to the world stage that is Geneva, Switzerland with three things in mind: adventure, money, and finding a husband. Bored by routine in a small town in Brazil, Maria is offered a job in Geneva by a French impressario who, as it turned out, comes to Brazil often to recruit pretty women to work for his Cabaret Cologny in Geneva.
Upon her arrival, she discovered that she was to get only a tenth of the salary promised her, and she was bound to work for the cabaret for a year. Stucked, lost, without a future in sight, Maria went on to spend her one year watching television, thinking of Brazil, confiding in a Filipina, and falling in love with an Arab man.
Unfortunately, Love – the word that either brings the world to its knees, or exalts it – is currently not in Maria’s vocabulary. Knowing that she can pleasure herself without a man (she learned masturbation as a kid), she only lived to experience pleasure and adventure, not to love. But when she met a man on the pilgrimage route called the Santiago Road, she discovered the power that true love can bring.
Eleven Minutes opens us to a world many of us may never know or personally experience but despite this, Coelho is not judgmental. Rather, he provides the female character a chance to redeem herself.Once again, master storyteller Paolo Coelho spins a web of unparalleled literary gem only Brazilians could possibly create.
Fresh from the success of Cry of the Valkryies and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Coelho – known in all corners of the globe for his seminal work The Alchemist –finally returns with a story that tugs at the heart but is food for the mind as well. Direct to the point but with the occasional segue ways that make this work completely amusing, Coelho provides us readers a new way to have fun, relax, and get away from our own miseries.
Like the works of Latin American writers before him and even those by his contemporaries, his new work allows us readers to conjure in our minds endless adventures, sometimes even make little decisions for the girl Maria as if her life was our own, and we want to urge her to go on and reach for her dreams. This is a book of endless possibilities, following a manner of exciting story-telling style – definitely not a book you can put down. Add to the fact that Maria is a true living person, now living with two kids.
If you are sick of conspiracy theories and church-bashing literature that are so the rage these days, this is for you: a return to basic good storytelling, with humanity captured in a new light - not in an intellectual or snobbish way - but in a manner that appeals to your sense of personal conviction. It is not preachy – Coelho is, in fact, never preachy – but draws from your own life experiences.
Eleven Minutes challenges your beliefs, and questions the morals and values that you hold dear, and finds in you the necessary affirmation that yes, life is good, and that life indeed is how we make it.


"L'exactitude est la politesse des rois" (Louis XVIII) "Punctuality is the courtesy of kings."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


A female colleague came up to me today asking when I was to return to Cebu. Having just arrived from a quick trip there last February, I am still regretting that the humidity kept me from strictly adhering to my planned itinerary.

She also mentioned that she was brought to Aranos, my ‘secret’ restaurant, by a friend of hers. How shocking, really, to know that what used to be known only to a handful is now accessible to Manila people as well! Not being snobbish about it (yeah, nice try Dylan!) but it’s only one of the very rare places where you can have a quiet decent meal served to you by the owner’s lovely kids, and chat with the chef using your nivel cuatro español and not feel too embarrassed by the attempt (He speaks a better version of Cebuano than what Manila visitors call their attempt at inculturation).

The welcome rotunda when one reaches Carcar, south of Cebu City

A Spanish-period house in Carcar's town proper: creative reuse is possible

Cebu's churches remain unscathed from artistic adventurism by ignorant churchmen

But what struck me was the comment that Cebuanos have this penchant in transforming old houses into restaurants or something useful. A-ha! Finally, a good reason to get back at Manileños for taking over our ‘secret’ lair, tee hee.

Images from the destruction of Manila's SKY ROOM; with protesters

If the destruction of the Jai Alai building and the continued abandonment of Spanish and Americal colonial homes in Manila are any indication, one can simply deduce that Manileños have no amor at all for cultural heritage. The same can be said of Capampangans when, to our great horror, we saw this vacant lot in San Fernando on which the grand mansion of Jose Abad Santos used to stand. But we used to walk pass that house everyday when we were kids and marveled at how terribly huge the house was! The marker of the National Historical Institute didn’t even save it from commercial encroachment.

The San Agustin, the Philippines' oldest church, sports its original color. It is lucky to be still standing.

Yesterday, on my way back to Manila on an FX, I saw a sign posted to a pillar of the Doroteo Jose LRT station saying, “Old houses for destruction, call us.” I will not be surprised to find this sign posted on those wonderful Art Deco buildings in Sta. Cruz one day. That’d be the saddest day of my stay here, if ever.

A signboard like that in D. Jose would have caused a furor in Cebu but here? Ambot na lang dyud. How can the Cebuanos do it and not the Manileños?

Cebu's Lapu Lapu makes an appearance in Luneta: a reminder to Manileños?

You have to give it to the lilliputian groups like the Heritage Conservation Society to voice out their concern for the continued mismanagement of our cultural treasures in the capital but what is there that can actually be done? Nothing much, if at all. It’s always the same reason: not enough or no funds.

Thanks to the Intramuros Administration, a large part of the Walled City has been preserved. But wait until you see the squatter areas...

The Walled City surviving side by side with development

My verdict is: not enough imagination. Manila Mayor Atienza thinks lighting up his dying city with those horribly-expensive sparkler lamps is enough while along Taft Avenue, another colonial home gives way to a mall to house fast food joints for La Sallistas. And while father cleans Roxas Boulevard and Avenida Rizal, Councilor-son Kim Atienza, self-proclaimed art connoisseur, vandalizes the walls of Intramuros with his name in mnemonic fashion (like father, like son: Buhayin ang MayniLA, in their mad desire to inscribe their names on the city’s consciousness in perpetua).

Luneta Hotel along T.M. Kalaw: is it next?

Pray, what will happen to the Mayflower Building after Instituto Cervantes moves to its new home on T.M. Kalaw? And what to do with that beautiful bulding along Roxas Boulevard that used to house the Chinese Embassy? Will they be tearing down Hotel Luneta soon? (I have yet to take detailed photos of it).

Entrance to Arroceros Park, soon to be overtaken by a Teachers' Village

Farewell quiet days, cool shades, and fresh Pasig River breeze (yeah, right!)

Will the Manila Hotel ever to regain its former glory? Will Arrocerros Park eventually fall prey to the Mayor’s whims? When will the work on the future National Archives, the erstwhile Ayuntamiento, ever be finished? The same question goes for the Metropolitan Theatre. Will the City Hall return the four Amorsolo murals that used to adorn its walls?

Manila's destruction is our collective loss.

There are too many questions asked in the City of Man but the answers are not forthcoming. I can only echo architect Augusto Villalon’s call to please, please, have mercy on our heritage.

Manila Bay as seen from Roxas Boulevard: May bukas pa...

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Buhayin ang Maynila