25 June 2017

In Gentrifying Poblacion

Yep, I'm still here.

When I first moved to Poblacion three years ago, everything felt exciting. It was gritty, which I like. I know, I know. I was probably part of the initial wave of gentrifiers to settle in.

People have gone from raising their eyebrows at me (and saying a small prayer for my safety and wellbeing) to asking me to give them "Poblacion food tours". And I still enjoy living here, but am riding this emotionally confusing wave of being able to walk to a good cafe, seeing many friends all the time, dodging cars of youthful Instagrammers on their way to whatever loud party of the night, and witnessing old (admittedly mostly crappy) structures give way to nondescript buildings. With the zoning laws of Poblacion just revised to accommodate buildings above five floors, everyone is cashing in. It makes money sense to build and then wait until this last patch of neighborhood gets devoured by Rockwellesque development or the dormant glossiness of the Century Mall area.

Nonetheless, I'm still immensely grateful for / endlessly entertained by living in a non-gated, relatively safe, walkable area in Manila (a rarity) which still gets together to build its neighborhood float for the Holy Week fiesta. The religious icons used are passed down among "old" families and lent to the neighborhood folk for decoration and parading. Some are more than a hundred years old!

Also, our barangay marching band is unparalleled, probably because we do have loads of fiestas. One was supposed to happen today on the Pasig river, but was cancelled due to an abundance of water hyacinths.

Neighbors deciding what flowers to put on the float. 
More flowers.

Our street float, with La Casita Mercedes in the background.

18 November 2015


At the Poblacion market, a rocking chair frame with an office chair body. Lhazybhoi?

12 November 2015

Fishy Ferments, Makati Streetside

Since moving out of the periurbs and into the real-urbs, I've seen a greater level of spontaneous industry. The density of people here allows for more itinerant vendors and sidewalk enterprises.

Along my walk to Makati Avenue is a sometimes-stall selling dubiously colored Pangasinense bagoong and vinegar by takal (which roughly translates into scoop), measured out into very thin plastic bags.

A business built around migrant appreciation of regional food.
The pink colorant seeks to mimic the hue of tiny shrimp. No one gets it right.
An accessible dash of umami or sourness.

08 November 2015

Fishy Ferments

A not-unimportant part of fisherfolk income and local cuisine, and also our contribution to the world of savory protein ferments: fermented fish products, namely bagoong (a general word that also pertains to fermented shrimp paste) and patis (fish sauce). Not-unimportant because, as my former-fisher hilot (traditional massage therapist) claims, these salted and stored tiny fish usually ferment just in time to provide income during fishing's inevitable low seasons. Furthermore, they satisfy that key basic human need for savoriness. They are also very nutritious, providing a lot of calcium and whatnot, but that's information for a future post.

Sea salt, two types of bagoong, and patis. The first bagoong is bonnet-head terong, the second is a mysterious (to me) white sort, about which all vendors have a different story.

05 November 2015

Fishmongers' Containers

Here are various improvised containers that small entrepreneurs use to bring fish to the market.

Aluminum drums with perforated lids held down by synthetic rope strung through carrying handles. Smaller synthetic rope also pulls the larger rope taut.
Plastic tubs with tuna inside plastic.

A crate covered by styrofoam, which has seen better days and is sewn together by plastic straw. Carrying handles have been added to crate and covered by plastic tubing for more comfortable hands.

A drum much like the first photo, but this time with a wooden cover, which also provides ventilation.

08 May 2015

Fishy Interests and Hacking Tools

I generally avoid meat and fish sections of the market. Though I am not a meat eater, I wouldn't say I have a real flesh aversion (I stop and stare and have this inner dialogue about nature being amoral) but I do avoid the slippery, smelly, humid section. Anyone who has picked scales off their wallet after dropping it on the wet floor will understand.

A fishing boat off Currimao, Ilocos Norte.
But recently I have gotten interested in fisheries. Perhaps if you're from the Philippines, you already know that fisherfolk are considered some of most vulnerable, improverished people in our country. For a nation with a really long and varied coastline, that says a lot about living context-appropriately. A chef friend of mine has recently gotten involved with the Oceana campaign for sustainable fishing, and our recent trip together got me thinking a lot about underutilized marine species, and observing the fisheries sector in general.

Mallet, large knife with handle, chopping board, with fish segments.
When I would ask vendors in houseware stalls selling mallet-like heavy wooden sticks with ends wrapped in rubber what they were for, I was always told they were for smacking animal or fish heads to kill them. Recently, though, I noticed that cleaver handles were in short supply, but the dull thud from the rubberized sort of clubs allowed vendors to hack away at larger tuna-family fish. I have no doubt that these are also used for chopping pork or beef.

Handle-less cleaver on chopping board.

07 May 2015

Coconut Husk Circle of Protection

Newly cemented area in Dumaguete Fruit Market, protected by a circle of coconut husks and a bunch of camotes.

11 January 2015

Mountain Dew Neon Bottles on Trees

"Mountain Dew Neon Bottles on Trees" is a definite theme of my walkings-around recently. Many neon things appall me, including these plastic bottles, but the way people tie them onto trees is fascinating. Apparently, they don't light up or anything, but provide a soft glowing effect. The bottles are driving sales in India and Thailand.

In Poblacion, Makati.
Also in Poblacion, Makati.

24 September 2014

Kid Drawings

Random chalk drawings by kids around Makati. Every kid should have chalk.

Dangling earrings.

28 August 2014

Fun in Gate Fabrication

Every once in awhile, you see a gate or fence that is really rad (like these and these). After all, the cost of making something run-of-the-mill is often not too much less than if you apply a bit of personal touch. Luckily for us, gates here are hardly pre-fabricated, as lot entrance sizes are extremely variable, at least while the real estate market has not yet become completely (appallingly) homogenized.
An orphanage of sorts, somewhere in Muntinlupa.

Take this bunch of happy, armless children, making things look very cool but also there to give integrity to the flat sheet metal. I would maim for this gate, which I believe is the gate to an orphanage. Constraints in welding materials and economy make such "best effort" attempts at human form acceptable and admirable, kind of like weaves that have geometric animals or people that make us go "oh wow".

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