Monday, July 28, 2008


I took this photo today, at around noon. As you can see, I am still a beginner at photography, so please forgive any compositional or technical 'imprudence' on my part. Hopefully, with my new camera, I will be able to post more original content. There is a slight window of chance that I will be free on Wednesday or Thursday, so I may just post some photos of old colonial churches. Watch out ;).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Santiago Matamoros

In Spain, the 25th of July is celebrated with great pomposity as the feast of St. James the Great-- or, as he is popularly known there, Santiago Matamoros. The epithet Matamoros literally means 'Moor-slayer', and was appellated to the saint by the Spaniards during the Reconquista. The story goes that, at the eve of the battle of Clavijo, the saint appeared to a soldier in a dream. The next day, on the battle itself, the Christian armies-- being vastly outnumbered-- were greeted by the sight of a knight astride a white horse. It was St. James himself, riding through the enemy hordes and slaying the Moors. To this day, many Spaniards shout 'Santiago y cierra Espana' (St. James and strike for Spain) as a battle cry.

The photo above is from Fort Santiago in the Philippines, taken from Fra Lawrence's ever excellent photostream.

"St James the Moorslayer, one of the most valiant saints and knights the world ever had ... has been given by God to Spain for its patron and protection."
- Cervantes, Don Quixote

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some Observations

I have been very busy these past few days. I've taken an interest in photography again after the longest time, so I enrolled myself at a basic photography class. Although I have to say, it was a bit difficult, because I am a masochist, and stuck to using my old, very old, nigh ancient, Canon EOS 500-- in film, of course. I was a bit disappointed because the pictures, when they were finally developed, seemed to be hazy, not so much as a result of poor skills but because there seems to be a leak in the camera that let light in. Very disappointing. Luckily, a place nearby is selling the new Canon 450D DSLR at a mere Php 42,950, complete with a basic wide-to-normal lens (18 to 55mm). That's less than a thousand US dollars, good enough, I guess.

I've also taken two of my old lenses to the cleaners. One is a Tamron 35mm to 105mm, the other is a Sigma, 28mm to 200mm. The latter is lacking a lenscap so I can only imagine how much that is going to freak out the shop's proprietors.

Also, I find it strange that I seem to be asked all the time whether I had a permit to take photographs in public. Yesterday morning, I was shooting at the uberchic Greenbelt Mall (and I use that term loosely, as it is really more a lifestyle center) when I was approached at least three times by two different guards if I had permission to take photos of the mall's public space. The same thing happened when I went to Manila Bay that afternoon. I wasn't aware the city officials owned the sunset. What's really irritating about the Greenbelt incident is that the patriarch of the family that owns it, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, is himself a photographer! The Zobel de Ayalas are quite possibly the wealthiest family in the Philippines; the immediate branch, based in Manila, is worth at least $2.6 billion; the Spanish based part of the clan (who own Sotogrande, the most exclusive, most expensive address in Spain), at least $1.7 billion. Another branch also based in Manila is worth almost $700 million (I think the Zobel side).

Slight Edit: I just came back from said mall after picking up something for my sister. I had to pass through it to get to the train, so I thought I might as well enjoy the experience... There was a Bang and Olufsen store there, which REALLY excited me, as I have admired their products for a long time-- but the prices are murder. I was looking at a pair of headphones which cost something like Php20,000 (around $400++). Wow, that is expensive. There were cheaper products to be sure, but the prices remain relatively high. If I only had the money... :(

Finally, after six long years of agonizing waiting, Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is open. The new airport is one of the more infamous white elephants of the Philippine government; its opening is good news, especially now that tourism here is booming (again). Although the 3 to 4 million visitors we have every year hardly compares to the tens of millions that visit Thailand and Malaysia. Ay, politicians can be so stressful. Would that they were buried in the Film Center instead of all those workers.

On a Starbucks, at 10:04 pm: Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah' starts to play. A man in his thirties cups his face in a corner; an elderly American couple sweet talk each other; a housewife, with a worried look on her face calls her son, only to be screamed at; a newly graduated employee, clad in an ill-fitting shirt, romances his girlfriend; a man sits alone in the far corner, his drink before him, untouched. He is carrying the weight of the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Thousand Words

Found this on the Skyscraper City Forums.

The caption reads:
"Brother Jose Marjabacas and Col. Walsh look at the remains of the Father Superior of the Philippines. Trying to escape from a tomb in which a number of priests and sisters were held prisoner, the Japs shot him. 1945"

Link: Wartime Philippines

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bit of Nostalgia

Growing up, I never really understood when my parents and grandparents would wax nostalgic, and reminisce about the 'good old days' of the Philippines before the Marcos era. Hearing them talk, you would sometimes get the idea that Manila might as well have been an American city back then. Sadly, the distance of time, memory, and shame, have all but rendered this vision a dream. So it is indeed chilling when I see videos like this-- made in 1955, back when my grandparents had the honor of living in the second most powerful economy in Asia, only next to Japan. It's haunting, really, how times have changed.

EDIT: I know it's a commercial for Coca Cola, but I still think it provides a valuable glimpse into the past.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Woman Scorned

I was at my friend Guada's home the other day along with some people I haven't seen in a long time. They lived in a rather affluent suburb south of Manila, in a large, spacious mansion filled with antique family heirlooms. You see, Guada and her family are what you and I would call 'old money'; in fact, she herself is descended from a long line of Spanish-Filipino mestizos, which, to this day, carries quite the social capital here.

Usually when one talks about mestizos, the overwhelming mental image that appears is that of a life of consummate ease and affluence. So, amidst the gleaming marble floors and priceless works of art, and beneath a giant crystal chandelier imported from Belgium in the late 1800s, our friend told us a story that was, frankly, iconoclastic.

When Guada's family moved into that suburb some 20 years ago, there weren't a lot of people who lived there yet. So they were able to build big, grand, and expensive. The house was truly gigantic, and was surrounded by an immaculate sea of green, and had numerous trees as well, creating the illusion of some secret garden or a pocket paradise. One the first people who moved there, according to her, was a Spanish couple, exceedingly wealthy, and 'tienen cara de Dios', meaning they were also very good-looking. The lady was tall, at least 5'10, and possessed a classic beauty at once timeless and relevant; the husband was also tall, dashing, a veritable conquistador in stature, apparently expensively educated in England and Switzerland, and whose aristocratic ways charmed all who met him.

It was an open secret that the lady kept a closet full of couture, from local designers and venerable European houses alike. It was likewise acknowledged that the dashing groom was an excellent sportsman, and whose collection of classic cars was the envy of many. Living next to such a charmed couple, Guada's family, usually very low-key, took pride in being seen with their new neighbors.

Everything went well until that fateful day...

Guada awoke one morning to find the dashing groom running scared from a seemingly supernatural foe. Her room had a view of the next door couple's spacious lanai, but it was only then that she exploited this fact. A shout, followed by the sound of something heavy crashing to the floor, followed. Out comes the lady, her hair still in her curlers, wearing a very matronly 'duster' (a 'house dress' popular with spinsters, usually very cheap and tackily designed), a cleaver in her hand. In crisp and crackling Tagalog, she shouted at her husband: 'P----g ina ka, ilang babae na ba ang binalahura mo? Tarantado!' (approximately 'You son of a b-tch, how many women have you perverted? Damn you!') which she then followed by a litany of curses in Spanish. The poor husband was quaking! The lady ordered her maids out and told them to pick up rocks with which to hit her philandering husband on sight. But it was the senora herself, wielding one of her husband's expensive golf clubs, who scoured the vast garden... While she wasn't able to bludgeon him, she did make mincemeat out of that golf club!

But that was not all, the Lady, incensed at the countless adulteries if her husband (all of which she seemed to have found out about in the same day), escorted herself to the garage, where, in a fit of rage worthy of Godzilla, she smashed the windows and windshields of many a classic Jaguar, BMW, and even a priceless Aston Martin!

The next day, however, it was as if nothing had happened at all-- the elegant lady appeared once more in public, ever charming, dressed in all her finery and jewelry. The Poor Husband, nowhere to be seen, had been 'grounded' by his wife for the rest of the week! LOL!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Tantum Ergo Sacramentum

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Very Strange Cult

I've seen my fair share of strange cults, heck, we even have them in the suburbs of Manila, but the Suprema de la Iglesia del Ciudad Mystica de Dios in Mount Banahaw takes the cake. It's even named after the cult's leader! Mr. Sidney Snoeck has some fascinating photos and essays in his website, My Sari-Sari Store. I love the pics of the 'Mass' and their 'iconography'. Very creepy, if I do say so myself.