26 November 2008

Editing Memories

Get rid of the not-so-special persons!

Photo editing services are going beyond re-touches to removing and inserting persons into the picture. Even the regular Juan with no Photoshop knowledge can have a reasonable one done at the malls.

As kids, we had fewer photos than they do and will, but our collections from back then were definitely more "honest". I have stronger memories of events (and their details) that were photographed, for obvious reasons.

Those whose families own digital cameras now will have a lot of "honest" pictures on file, though they will most probably only print the most palatable ones.

Person removal and also placing kid against a Trapper Keeper-like background.

I know a lot has been discussed about the "digital generation" who are online and presenting their lives realtime, bla bla. But what about those who don't have full access to digital?

Those with no regular access to digital cameras might just end up only with few but highly altered photos, depending on how much premium people put on editing, as well as how cheap and common it will become as a means of shop differentiation (in the "dying" field of photo printing).

Many of those who don't own digital cameras borrow them from relatives or friends during special occasions. As alteration gets cheaper and more widely offered, I wonder if it will become as common as adjusting brightness or saturation or whatever? I wonder what effect this will have on childhood memories of these people?

25 November 2008

Playing Burglar

Eat him!

In the Legazpi Market parking lot, this guy was being trained to act like a burglar for K-9 tear-you-apart classes. The all-black attire and him whacking various surfaces with a stick was supposed to set him apart from all other human beings.

Bad day at work + no clothing allowance.

I'm not sure how many burglars actually exhibit this kind of behavior, and I didn't know what the chances were of the dog lunging at my throat if I got too near. These are just things you just don't know.

Jumps up a truck. I am officially fearful of police dogs.

21 November 2008

Outside, In Front

One breaks against the wind, the other against the fatigue of the red-eye bus trip from Puerto to El Nido. Wide open spaces, I miss you.

20 November 2008

Stiff Lizzy

Little boys huddled around something is always a good sign!

I remember playing with dead animals, or at least poking them with sticks. Unless you are a kid with the habit of capture-and-torture, these are one of the few times you can use satisfy your curiosity without fear of any unpredictable reactions (biting you or thrashing aound-- both are frightening).

Examining usually elusive reptiles up close, seeing how stray cats' hair have a multitude of different colors but form an illusion of a singular muddy hue... These are the privileges of an observant child.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that seeing dead animals is important to a child's understanding of life and death.

18 November 2008


Toys, combs, wallets, socks.

Roving vendors are essential to life in our cities. These manlalako (peddlers), provide cheap stuff outside of the formal economy. I see their zone as an area where entrepreneurial ideas can be tried out at minimal or no cost, making them potentially some of the most flexible and responsive businesspersons out there.

Takatak boy (man) selling cigarettes, and candy.

A cashew vendor waiting to get on the bus.

The simplest ones are those who carry their products on their shoulders and in their hands, no carts or anything. Many weave through the city traffic selling guavas, boiled quail eggs, water, cigarettes, nuts, etc.

Broom vendor in a subdivision.

In the residential areas, vendors walk around with fresh fish, vegetables, taho, ice cream, bread, native products.

An enterprising peanut vendor in the auditorium during the summit proceedings.

Recently I was waiting for my turn to speak at a summit in Cabanatuan. One man was selling peanuts out of a bucket in the auditorium. Just as I spotted him and thought "how cool!", plotting on how to catch his attention and score a snack, the moderator asked him to leave.

17 November 2008

Jeproks and 70's Balbal Rock

This "jeproks" kalesa, with the typical Mexicannish religious art and metalcraft.

During the late 60's and early 70's, young Filipinos messed words up a lot into unique balbal (street slang) versions, many of which are still in use today, sometimes in jest. A common method would be to divide a word into syllables and shake the arrangement up, putting one in front of the other. Sibat became "batsi". Burat became "ratbu". Malabo became "bomalabs". And of course, pare became "repapips".

The young parents of our clan made such versions of our names when we were little. As a result, my cousin Miko is still called "Komiks" at times, while Ruben is "Benru" (later, "Benruboobs", unfortunately for him). I have one too-- "Yabebs" for Bea-- but more common was "Beng-Beng", created using another Filipino school of creating words out of fairly decent names.

Mga long hair ng Juan dela Cruz Band.

is (arguably) the most common of these words, immortalized in rock n' roll by the Juan dela Cruz Band. These days, it is used to refer to any old hippie, but back then, it actually pertained to youngsters from the Projects of Quezon City.

After Manila became congested and destroyed by the war, Quezon City was declared the new capital of our nation. The Commonwealth Government pushed for the creation of the People's Homesite Corporation, which was to oversee the creation of dense but livable housing for the city's workers. Something of a barrio obrero, as Manuel Quezon was quoted as saying. This gave birth to to the many Projects, which would later on house government workers, laborers, and other beneficiaries. Their children would go to the surrounding schools and universities.

The density led to a vibrant youth culture, with sidewalks reportedly alive and full of the new "freedom" of the times. These youngsters made up a substantial portion of the JDLC Band's concert attendees, and sometimes they would do sort of a roll call of Projects 2, 3, and so forth, or simply ask "Kumusta na kayong mga taga-jeproks?"

The song that drilled the term into our craniums, "Laki sa Layaw" essentially does what much music of that era does: protest about how the youth are stereotyped, and poke fun at common criticism of those hippies with loose morals.

An alternative explanation is that jeproks is a modified and shortened form of the phrase "jeepney rock". This pertained to the long-haired rockers who listened to the classic rock commonly played in public transportation at that time. (Supporters of this hypothesis claim that the binaliktad na Projects was just a happy coincidence.) It may be that the now-senior ones are the few that still blast Deep Purple and Anak Bayan in their jeeps.

That works too.

12 November 2008

Sama Dilaut Street Beats

PVC pipes, old milk cans, rubber.

My friend from Mindanao, a new Manila transplant, recently sent me an SMS: "Badjao race is everywhere."

True, they turn up everywhere, sometimes selling pearls from their boats along various coastlines. Once, off a rocky Batangas beach, I shared a small meal with a Badjao family. They cooked it over a small fire inside their boat.

Their clothes, some of which were of other clothes sewn together.

In our metropolis the young "sea gypsies" bring songs to smoky, busy intersections. Some of them have tambol skills unparalleled. They roam the sidewalks or sit on jeepney steps, singing and making beats with their hands, which fly in the air like "whut".

Another drum shot.

One day I had the fortune of hanging a bit around a group of them. They spoke with heavily accented Tagalog, telling me how they live in the large Muslim settlement of Maharlika, and play on the street to earn a few coins. After I asked them where they were from, a young girl started pounding on her drum and went into song, wrenching my gut with a beautiful, haunting verse about life on the streets.

A bit of merriment.

The energy was not unlike Roma songs by little girls on Italian trains. Or Indian street children music.

Squinting from the sun.

Days after, I can still hear her voice in my head, and my humming is a poor copy of the unusual scale she used.

I have no romantic notions of these street tambolistas. Some people would generalize them as professional beggars, lazy people. They are obviously subjected to many of the stereotypes that initially nomadic peoples like the Roma (proper term for who we know as "gypsies"), especially by those who encounter them more frequently, in other regions of the Philippines.

Written by an adult for the group.

There are more and more people saying that the word badjao is actually an incorrect (and inappropriate) term for the Sama Dilaut. Click here and here for very interesting information on them. Certainly us landlocked, sedentary fellows fail to realize how much different their context is-- in terms of lifestyle, economy, ideas of property, social organization. It truly is worth a few minutes of your time.

The next time they run up to you with a song, you may listen better.

11 November 2008

More Kakanin Breakfasts

Cheap, heavy rice eats from the nearby palengke.

A neat little suman with glutinous or malagkit rice cooked in a bit of coconut milk. Banana leaf opened up, sprinkled with grated coconut and a chunk of raw sugar.

Malagkit rice with copious amounts of coconut milk and tied in a banana leaf like a little coin pouch. Unopened one on the left, wide open on the right. Super moist!

10 November 2008

Stopping Spillage

Carabao milk at the FTI market.

Challenging the assumptions of cork or bottlecap superiority, these tightly rolled banana leaves are used to plug used gin bottles now filled with fresh carabao (water buffalo) milk. They work really well. I turned a couple of them over and they stayed dry.

07 November 2008

Basta Driver, Sweet Lover

Roughly translated: "The mistresses of MGP Trans Employees are not allowed to ride."

Drivers and conductors are labeled as promiscuous or "macho". These labels are applied generously also by themselves to themselves.

And why would they not be ladies' men? Drivers could grow to be smooth-talkers, as they encounter busloads of women a day, are away from their wives for extended periods of time, know "the ways of the world", are toughened by the road.

What else might make them sought-after?

The daughter of someone I knew had an affair with a married driver, and her whole family benefited from the arrangement. Working in Manila, they were able to send money and goods to faraway Bicol regularly and free of charge. The kabit had unlimited free rides and unprecedented mobility, usually absent from those who migrate to Manila for low-paying jobs.

"As long as I'm with you."

This brought to mind stories I heard when I was in Cabanatuan, the "Tricycle Capital of the Philippines" (and quite possible The World). There we find a subculture of women who pry on tricycle drivers, and offer certain physical pleasures, in exchange for free rides, cellular phone credits ("Load Warriors"!), and thrills.

Not that I'm depicting this as prostitution-in-kind (there could be some truth to drivers' self-proclaimed "good lover" skills), but there is probably a very real economic dimension in play here. Getting around in a poorly-planned metropolis/country takes a lot of money (relative to your average wage). Owning a jeep (or the skill to drive one) increases the chance for relatively stable employment. And so on, and so forth.

Jesus Jeepneys

Little buildings? Robotic heart rates? What does the Bible tell you?

Santo Nino.

05 November 2008

Suman In Tsokolate

Breaking the fast in the best way possible.

Every Saturday, a kakanin or rice snack vendor from Batangas sets up shop in the nearby market. He brings superb suman sa lihiya, which is a glutinous rice cake made with lye water, and greenish from the banana leaves it is boiled in. If sodium hydroxide in food sounds freaky to you, eating this just might change your mind. Lye-- traditionally derived from wood ash-- is found in Chinese noodle, century eggs, etc. It creates a too-alkaline environment for bacteria.

This type of suman, like our national daily pan de sal, has gotten considerably smaller throughout the years. So have the packets of brown, wonderful thick sauce made of raw sugar (panocha) and coconut milk.

Nevertheless, I rejoice at their arrival. Last weekend, I got some grated coconut, used some of it to make cream to thicken some cacao up, used some to sprinkle on the suman and mix in with the sauce. After awhile came the inevitable dunking of into chocolate.

What's better than suman sa lihiya?


Suman sa lihiya all dunked and bothered in cacao.

Modern Tanda

They use what is free and in abundance. These days that includes lotto tickets.

Lumpia or spring roll wrappers are sold from large piles in palengkes (wet markets). The uninitiated will assume they are sold by piece, but will eventually be asked how many tanda they want.

Tanda, in Tagalog, means "marker" or "reminder" (in older Southeast Asian, "the end of a loincloth"). In the world of lumpia, this is usually a thin strip of banana leaf hanging from the edge of every 10 or 12 wrappers, making it easy to lift a bunch at a time. At our nearby market, to buy one tanda means forking over about 7 pesos.

04 November 2008

Pure Sweetness

Fresh molasses from Negros. It came in a little bamboo cup (chopped from a nodule), covered by a dried banana leaf. Good enough to eat pure and off a spoon.

03 November 2008


Boredom alleviation tools.

Undas, or Araw ng mga Patay ("Day of the Dead"):

On the first of November, Filipinos flock to the cemeteries to honor the deceased by getting together, eating on mats and grass, making balls out of melted candle wax, catching up on each others' lives, telling stories about the late greats, making syesta on a grave, and saying the rosary somewhere in between. One thing about this country is that solemn moments are few and far in between.

Here are the gentlemen plying the streets, hawking things that get us through the morbid marathons.

Cowboy hat proliferation.

For the heat or the rain.

Orchids for the dead.

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