Sunday, December 11, 2011

photography workshop for a hundred pesos only!

Any photographer worth his salt has a bag of lenses and a strong portfolio.

I have two in my bag: a Canon EF 70-210 mm telephoto (on loan) and the 18-55 kit lens. For the portfolio part, a few published works if that counts.  

one of my early published works (for Guess) that graced the Lifestyle spread of Cebu Daily News in 2003. The one in beige is Miss World-Oceania Ma. Karla Bautista

But there's one thing I must admit: I shoot using full auto button! Stop laughing now. So, what gives? In college, I actually majored Broadcast Media so basic photography course as elective for one semester goes with the territory. As far as I can stretch my memory, all the lecturer ever taught were things I could easily learn through Idiots Guide to Photography like ASA, ISO, rule-of-thirds and composition techniques, white balance, shutter speed and aperture opening or f stop. But never a formula. I mean, I see photography as an art form so it calls for a rigorous discipline (as foundation) that comes close to baking-- exact measurements and all the right ingredients. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the showdown: Manila vs. Cebu

For the frugal traveler, both cities appeal easy on the pocket. But the question begs: which city will snatch supremacy in the battle as tastier, livelier, cheaper and friendlier to the traveler on a shoestring budget?

Now, let the showdown begin!

Street Food
The adventurous traveler will be rewarded with isaw, fishball, balut, adidas, helmet, betamax, kwek-kwek and silog in every street in Manila with high pedestrian traffic. In Cebu, there are barbeque sa larsian, siomai sa tisa and larang sa pasil. These food are best eaten in a dingy side street under the blanket of fumes from passing cars. Be reminded though that street food here may not be as clean as the ones you would find in Bangkok, KL or Singapore. So, who's the winner for the cheaper thrill (I doubt on the tastier part) and for on the street food experience?

 verdict: Manila

bleu cheese+truffle+bacon burger at KRI

What's the yardstick for a perfect burger? It's difficult to say. I am not a foodie and the only credential I have as food critique is that I can tell the difference between too sweet and too salty. Tongue-in-cheek aside, I think I've stumbled upon one burger which I think will measure up to some standards.

Good burgers are not easy to find in small town Dumaguete. I've been here long enough but still haven't found that one perfect piece of poison, I mean, burger. Through word of mouth I have tried some. My verdict: either those burgers had too much char in charbroiled or the flavor was a tad too uninspired. Let's not even begin with Mc Donald's quarter pounder or Jollibee's champ burger because my standards are way too different. The beefy taste, the thick and juicy, juicy, juicy patties of Brothers Burger, Burger Joint or Flame It or that Mos Burger in Singapore--they actually set the lead for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

caffeine fix and a slice of heaven in Sans Rival Dumaguete

For less than a hundred pesos, I already have my cup of java, a piece of silvana and a slice of sans rival.

my slice of heaven called sans rival. sinfully delicious!

This is one nice thing about living in a university town with a strong cultural spirit, everything here is cheap but good taste and a little bit of class is never thrown to the backseat.

Sans Rival is a welcome departure from the typical modest small town food shop. The price leans toward office workers and students but the set meals which are changed on a daily basis lean toward first-rate western flavors. It's actually a class all its own. All these years every lunch time, it's one of the few neighborhood cafes I see in Dumaguete that is always filled to the rafters by the local patrons and the occasional transient guests.

my cup of kahlua java with marshmallow on top!

Monday, December 5, 2011

So, where exactly is the best lechon in Cebu?

It’s somewhere North and it’s open on Sundays only. 

My discovery came rather late. Travel writer Boboi Costas already featured the lechon four years ago in a travel magazine based in the UK. A couple of friends raved about the lechon in their facebook status updates early this year but I dismissed it-- either it was way too far from where I lived or I’ve just become too jaded maybe.      

One lazy Sunday morning, the opportunity presented itself. I found myself dazed in a backseat of a car headed North (of course, I’m kidding on the dazed part). The traffic was moving smooth and the sky was spotless. In less than 30 minutes, we arrived in a busy intersection, parked in front of a school and walked across the street to where the stalls are. The area is hard to miss being located in a town hall ground.

There were about five stalls with sellers barking (in a typical friendly Cebuano kind of way) to try their lechon! Decisive moment na to. In lightning speed, I had a quick light bulb moment “the best lechon should be almost gone by now!” At the end of the row, near where the fruit stand was, a man was busy chopping the few remaining parts of the lechon while the lady beside him wrapped some. I made a beeline and ordered half a kilo (P180.00). He asked me if I wanted to put what looked like the natural juicy and oily goodness of the lechon that dripped during the roasting process. I said hell, yes! and ordered puso--rice wrapped in coconut leaves.          

The smell of grilled fish wafted in the air. I was tempted to check-out more stalls at the back—more fruits, rice cakes and seafood. Fresh is written all over the place! I got a kilo of mango (P70.00) and a pack of fresh seaweed (P25.00).  These are makeshift stalls that go full operations on Sundays only, so freshness is really guaranteed. 

We drove for a few minutes and found a good place by the beach. I gingerly opened the pack and topped it with the sauce. First, I shoved one meaty slice into my mouth. It was tender, juicy and succulent. The flavor was perfect! Then, I chipped off a portion of the golden brown and crispy skin. I was taken aback! My mouth just had an orgasm! Food porn! It was hard to tell, was it the meat or the sauce that made all the difference?  Regardless, I have debunked my own claim that nobody does lechon better than Talisay or the new lechon in the block—they have become either too salty or overrated. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Apo Island homestay and dive (and yes, the rates are cheap!)

By far, nothing beats Mario's in Apo Island. For non-divers looking for a place to stay, Mario's offers clean and decent beds with en suite toilet and bath at very reasonable rates. It's a simple two-story affair with windows and terraces that open to the aquamarine sea--home to a teeming sea turtle population and healthy hectares of coral reef. It's not a beachfront property, but its location in an elevated part of the island affords a nice view and cool sea breeze.

As you might have already heard, in Apo Island it's not only about cheap lodging rates, the best dive spot in the world but its people as well. They make each stay bursts with good memories. My couchsurfing friends Gringo Benedicto and Chris Keung who went to Apo and stayed at H and H can attest to that. The kind people of Apo Island make the experience memorable. The owners of Mario's Homestay and Diving, Mario and his wife Mila, are such a very nice couple with ready smiles like the warm tropical sun.

Friday, December 2, 2011

where will happiness strike next?

I share exactly the same moment when my grandmother I call Nanay came home from the States after 20 long years. She left in 1991 when I was about to graduate elementary school. She had never came home since then. Finally, in October this year, she found her way home bringing with her the joys and pains of living abroad.

Airport + Homecoming + Family + Coke = Happiness
*warning: makes you shed buckets of tears. get your hanky or tissue ready.

The family saga simply does end there. Life is not a fairy tale after all. The drama continues but I am glad my Nanay, Papa, Mama and the rest of my family (who haven't gone far yet for greener pastures abroad) will be together this Christmas.

Have a meaningful Christmas everyone!

true mark of a gentleman

Experts from the world's best airport arrived to help the world's worst airport. The team of experts from Changi Airport have assessed already the conditions and problems of NAIA Terminal 1.

Meanwhile, the word war between Cobonpue's team and DOTC Sec. Manuel Roxas is coming to a close. Looks like better days are ahead of us. I can't wait to see the day when my country's gateway, NAIA Terminal 1, joins the league of best boutique airports in the world! #philippinepride 


Here now is the statement released on behalf of Cobonpue's team:

“The whole issue over the NAIA 2 has been been blown out of proportion and has distracted people from the original issue: the need for a better airport that we can all be proud of. It is clear now that there has been misunderstanding regarding this issue and we wish to convey to Secretary Roxas that we are not questioning his integrity.

“It has come to our attention that the DOTC intends to first concentrate on the structural and electro-mechanical problems of the facility. We see the rationale behind this and respect the DOTC's decision.

“We also understand that in the course of their work in analyzing, writing up and finalizing the complete rehabilitation plans for the facility, the DOTC has consulted other professionals. We also respect this decision as this within their prerogative.

“We would like to thank our leaders for giving us the chance to be part of the national project that is the NAIA 1 rehabilitation.

“They had sought our help, and as good citizens, we heeded the call. It was and still is our belief that an airport that falls beneath international standards can be transformed into a source of national pride.

“We would like to thank those who supported our vision of a beautiful airport that is truly Filipino. if even for a moment we succeeded in showing our country's leaders what is possible, and shared with our fellowmen our vision of a safe, efficient and beautiful airport, then we are happy to have made this effort.

“We now leave everything we have started in the hands of our leaders. We will be here if and when they need us, as we believe it is our duty to share whatever talent God has bestowed on each of us for the good of our country.

“After everything that's been said and done, we remain hopeful that the promise of a functional and beautiful airport will be fulfilled and we will finally have the airport we deserve, one that we can all be truly proud of."

A year closer to the dream of a beautiful, efficient and distinctively Filipino airport!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

2012 Official Philippine Holidays

Have you planned your 2012 weekend getaway already? Just today, The Office of the President through The Official Gazette of Malacanan Palace issued Proclamation 295, s. 2011 (see below). Six long weekends, baby! Seat sale alerts, where are you and your dirt cheap seat sale tickets!? Maka book na nga!



WHEREAS, Republic Act (RA) No. 9492, dated July 24, 2007, amended Section 26, Chapter 7, Book I of Executive Order (EO) No. 292, also known as the Administrative Code of 1987, by declaring certain days (specific or movable) as special or regular holidays;
WHEREAS, RA No. 9492 provides that holidays, except those which are religious in nature, are moved to the nearest Monday unless otherwise modified by law, order or proclamation;
WHEREAS, RA No. 9849 provides that the Eidul Adha shall be celebrated as a national holiday;
WHEREAS, the EDSA People Power Revolution, which restored and ushered political, social and economic reforms in the country, serves as an inspiration to Filipinos everywhere as a nation and as a people;
WHEREAS, on January 23, 2012, the Chinese nationals all over the world will celebrate Spring Festival, popularly known as the Chinese New Year, which is one of the most revered and festive events celebrated not only in China but also in the Philippines by both Chinese Filipinos and ordinary Filipinos as well; and the joint celebration is a manifestation of our solidarity with our Chinese Filipino brethren who have been part of our lives in many respects as a country and as a people; 23 January 2012 may be declared as a special (non-working) day without detriment to public interest;
WHEREAS, Friday, 2 November 2012, falling between Thursday, 1 November 2012 (All Saints Day) and Saturday, has been traditionally declared a special (non-working) day throughout the country;
WHEREAS, to give full opportunity to our people to properly observe All Saints Day with all its religious fervor which invariably requires them to travel to and from different regions in the country, Friday, 2 November 2012, may be declared as a special (non-working) day without detriment to public interest;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution as President of the Philippines, do hereby declare:
SECTION 1. The following regular holidays and special days for the year 2012 shall be observed in the country:
A. Regular Holidays

New Year’s Day
Maundy Thursday
Good Friday
Araw ng Kagitingan

January 1 (Sunday)
April 5
April 6
April 9 (Monday)
Labor Day
Independence Day
National Heroes Day
Bonifacio Day
Christmas Day
Rizal Day

May 1 (Tuesday)
June 12 (Tuesday)
August 27 (Last Monday of August)
November 30 (Friday)
December 25 (Tuesday)
December 30 (Sunday)
B. Special (Non-Working) Days
Chinese New Year
Ninoy Aquino Day
All Saints Day
Additional special (non-working) day
Last Day of the Year
January 23 (Monday)
August 21 (Tuesday)
November 1 (Thursday)
November 2 (Friday)
December 31 (Monday
C. Special Holiday (for all schools)
EDSA Revolution Anniversary
February 25 (Saturday)

SECTION 2. The proclamations declaring national holidays for the observance of Eid’l Fitr and Eidul Adha shall hereafter be issued after the approximate dates of the Islamic holidays have been determined in accordance with the Islamic calendar (Hijra) or the lunar calendar, or upon Islamic astronomical calculations, whichever is possible or convenient. To this end, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) shall inform the Office of the President on which day the holiday shall fall.
SECTION 3. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shall promulgate the implementing guidelines for this Proclamation.
SECTION 4. This Proclamation shall take effect immediately.
SECTION 5. This Proclamation shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of thePhilippines to be affixed.
Done in the City ofManila, this 24th day of November in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Eleven.
By the President:
Executive Secretary


Sex, Travel, Prostitution, HIV-AIDS and Olongapo City

Today, the world remembers those who have suffered and perished from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS. joins the commemoration of World AIDS Day 2011 and it supports in the intensified campaign for the prevention and proper treatment of HIV-AIDS.  

The City of Olongapo, once a very flourishing US Naval Base was also home to the biggest prostitution industry in the Philippines. Today, the streets are no longer as vibrant and many bars have since folded up after the last US Naval fleet left  in 1991.

12 years ago, Olongapo in numbers :
home to 300 bars and nightclubs
6,000 registered prostitutes which swell to 16,000 when the fleet is in.

Two million visitors and $68 million a year spending
"Amid the garish bars that cater to American servicemen here, a young prostitute with spiky pink hair greets a circle of acquaintances with the reminder, ''Hey, we're dying.''

The young woman and her acquaintances are among the 26 prostitutes who have tested positive for the AIDS virus among the thousands of women who work the lively streets outside Subic Bay Naval Station.

Many of the 26 remain at work even as they wait for the symptoms of illness to appear. Rather than ban them from the bars, Philippine officials have encouraged the infected prostitutes to have their customers use condoms. The officials acknowledge that many of the women still work the streets."

The sad reality :

''This town is not built on prostitution, it's built on poverty,'' Mr. Dick Gordon said, noting that the earnings of Olongapo's entertainers support poor families throughout the Philippines.

''Who is the real prostitute?'' he asked. ''The girl who is impoverished or the guy who uses her?'' If the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had had a mayor like Richard Gordon, he might have talked something like this.

Over a root beer at the Chatter Box bar, Mr. Gordon mentioned those Biblical cities, which often come up in conversations with officials here. He described them as populated with ''a bunch of sinful people materially oriented and doing all sorts of sexual promiscuity.''

But of Olongapo, he said: ''There are realities here. I have my ideals and I try to get as close to them as I can. Half a loaf is better than none.''

The Mayor was face to face with one of the harshest of those realities the other day as he sat in a small room with seven young women and one man who became infected with the AIDS virus during their work at the bars. They were not yet ill, and the most painful symptom for them so far was loneliness. Fears of Ostracism

None had told family members, and all walked in fear of meeting the prostitute with the pink hair, because she might identify them in public.

One young woman had tried to tell a priest during confession about her infection, but she said the priest had not wanted to hear of it.

Another had traveled to her home in the south to deliver her baby and had been isolated in a hospital storage room marked with a sign reading, ''Beware: AIDS patient.''

A third said she had finally worked up the courage, after eight months, to tell her live-in American boyfriend of her condition. She was waiting for his ship to return. Like the others in the infected group, she said the only men with whom she slept were Americans. The Navy says American servicemen are tested for the AIDS virus before they arrive in Olongapo.

But outside the small room where the victims met, fear of AIDS seemed hardly to have touched Olongapo. A Feverish Rally

After an hour, the Mayor left the small room for a meeting at the local baskeball court with a group of 3,000 prostitutes.

The women, some with their half-American children, greeted Mr. Gordon with the youthful jubilance of a high school pep rally.

They screamed in pleasure as he told them, ''There are no ugly women, only women who do not know how to look beautiful.''

Playing cheerleader, Mr. Gordon cried: ''What does the Mayor not want?'' ''Abortions!'' they shouted back. ''What does the Mayor want you to use?'' Mr. Gordon cried.

''Condoms!'' the young women bellowed in chorus.

During a lively question period, the women voiced their concerns over unregistered prostitutes, abusive employers and overcharging by taxis.

But the most burning of their questions came near the end: ''When are the ships coming in again?''

When the Mayor said maybe next month, he was greeted by the loudest cheer of the day.--lifted from the archives of New York Times

The last few lines make you smile and at the same time send a pinch in your chest.

NAIA Terminal 1: the saga continues!

First, there was a pro bono proposal which got everyone excited. Then came the 1 billion budget approval. Imagine how the news must have painted big smiles on every Juan's faces. At biglang nagkagulo na! Eto na, the government dropped Cobonpue's group in favor of the original firm that designed NAIA Terminal 1--Locsin and Associates.

Then came this statement:

"Bloggers branding NAIA the worst airport were homeless gays.

Naturally, they complained the NAIA women’s toilets are inadequate, there’s nowhere to lie down, no kneepads in restrooms in any case.

But so long as an airport performs immigration and customs functions, who cares if it does not do anything else?

Well, people with no authority who told Pineda, Layug and Cobonpue they could remake the airport.
Nobody, who is anybody, notices the airports they pass through. My best friend, mining magnate Ronnie Zamora has travelled the world. After immigration, he said, the airport is just a blur when Ritz, Four Seasons, Mandarin or Shangri-la whisk him away. What about the toilet? He has done his business in the plane.

Travelers flying economy, in tight seats, with smelly toilets, want to get as far from the plane, as fast as they can.

I killed the idea of doing anything to an airport that already works well.

But no, the finicky insist on a brand new airport we cannot afford or the old one remade according to Architectural Digest.

Mar Roxas has publicly proposed various prospects. He publicly considered a brand new, Changi-scale airport in “Famfanga.” He publicly talked of selling NAIA to pay for the same. Now, he has openly decided to spruce up NAIA without turning it into a garden paradise as some suggest. Trees and birds are bad for planes. He has conducted his thinking, and made his decision, in full public view and hearing. How much more transparent can you get? Locsin made the airport, who best can restore its original state?

Come now Cobonpue, Pineda and Layug — 3 famous interior designers and furniture makers.
Layug pioneered postmodern furniture. Cobonpue designed Angelina Jolie’s baby’s bassinet. Pineda has his admirers. They have been working 8 months on a redesign and redecoration of the airport, with plenty of shrubs. Why? No, not the shrubs, but why did they do the work? They had no contract, or even formal contact with, former DOTC Secretary Ping de Jesus or his successor today. Who put them up to it? The 3 designers fingered but did not name Cabinet members with no connection to DOTC or the airport.

Justice in this country being what it is today, where possibility is fact, suspicion probable cause, proposal a crime, and probability proof beyond reasonable doubt, I accuse the Cabinet members who approached Cobonpue and company of redecorating and refurnishing their homes for a deep discount or free, hinting the 3 could redo the airport.

I move for a subpoena to issue to Pineda, Layug and Cobonpue to reveal the names of the officials who put them up to undertaking unauthorized work.

I move for search warrants to look for furniture coming from Pineda, Layug and Cobonpue in the homes of these Cabinet officials.
I move for a subpoena duces tecum for documents showing deliveries of deeply discounted or donated furniture to them.

Without regard to the returns, I move for the detention of the officials who approached Pineda, Layug, and Cobonpue with a false commission to redo the airport they had no authority to undertake.
I want a watchlist hold-departure order on these furniture avid Cabinet men in case they escape with the furniture.

Keep well, thank you."--Teddy Locsin, Jr., Teditorial, The World Tonight on ANC aired on 29 November 2011.

Today, December 1, Kenneth Cobonpue and his team will hold a press conference concerning their design for NAIA Terminal 1.

When will: all the talks end, the truth out in the open and the real renovation work begin?

remembering Old Palace and Chiang Mai



December’s cold breeze
It pins me under your sheets
Your back forms an arc

For W