30 December 2009


Names in wire.

I'm not sure how it is where you live, but if you grew up in the Philippines, remember the time when it was sort of cool to have braces? I'm not sure what transpired, and who clever tintoothed adolescent was able to reverse the stigma and create some kind of strange allure to attach to the stainless steel wire in their mouth.

Anyhow, here's someone making something good of the goods (or, one more skilled street artisan). Joseph will take a roll of dental wire and manipulate it into your name in under five minutes.

Joseph at work.

He makes personalized "pins" to attach to your bags or lapels, or pendants to hang on a necklace.

Long chains to the left of some "common Filipina names".

A kid gets his name enclosed in an electric guitar.

When he's not servicing customers, he's fashioning the actual chains of the necklaces. He also makes the wire part of earrings (not sure what those are called, sorry).

The electric guitar variation.


More earrings.

During the Christmas season he can sell all day by the road without being apprehended, but for most of the year, he does it only during the evenings. I "commissioned" him to do my name on a necklace (for 70 pesos). It was pretty mesmerizing-- but don't take my word for it:

28 December 2009

Cut-Outs in Signage

Plastic folders form solid letters.

Looking for a bathroom at a gas station near the airport, I came across a tiny room with a guy selling prepaid cellphone credits. As this guy is the property administrator with only a few tenants, he apparently has a lot of time on his hands and makes the colorful signs himself.

The guy, giving me a tour of his masterpieces.

For some signs (such as that in the first photo), he uses colorful old plastic folders, which he patiently cuts into letters and tapes onto a surface. He showed me an in-use folder, and even snipped me a sample.

From this folder he cut me a sample, which, unfortunately, I've tossed.

For other signs, he uses promotional stickers from the automobile products at the gasoline station. At this point I thought, boy, yes, he has a lot of time on his hands, and am charmed by his extensive attempts at advertising. I am actually tempted to purchase prepaid credits that I don't need.

From stickers, two-color assembly.

More of the folders, with a mixture of promotional posters.

26 December 2009

Baiting the Mud Crab

Quezon sinantol with a claw from a mangrove crab.

Mangroves are great. Serving as mediators between water and land, they provide for a rich ecosystem and a unique way of life that straddles both surfaces. I live in an area that was once a mangrove system, but now "developed" into something of a peri-urban mess.

The still waters of Infanta.

Everyone's got a boat in the shared garage.

However, in the still waters of brackish Quezon, the mangroves still present the opportunity for a sort of hybrid between farming and wildcrafting-- a set-up where nature puts in much of the energy into a sort of muddy, aquatic forest, and man manages the process.

Bait guy by the tiny dock.

Mud crabs or alimango are cultivated in pens around the nipa groves, with open slats to ensure the flow of water and nutrients.

Their whole life is not with the crab "farmer" though. The "seeds" or young crab are caught around the mangrove using cages with bait. Small fish that have no market value are caught from the river and prepared for attachment to the nylon cage.

With a wastewood chopping board.

Taking a bunch of tiny fish...

... and hacking them to chunks for easier inhalation by hungry mud crabs.

Tying on to the cage.

Tied up and ready to go in the nylon room of eventual captivity.

The cages are submerged and mud crabs collected when they enter. They are transferred to pens and fed "waste" fish of little commercial value, kitchen waste, snails, entrails, and sometimes coconut. After only about 15 days, their price at the market would have increased, as they are heavier and more succulent than their purely wild brethren.

The bamboo cages along the waterway.

The pens look unobtrusive and even beautiful, due to their materials and gentle repetition. Like the methods that employ them, they fit in with their natural setting, and have short feedback loops that can inform of abuse or exploitation.

Though I don't eat crabs, I enjoy thinking about the grace of a system like this. As opposed to the "brute force" of factory farms, which apply so much energy and chemicals in producing an egg-to-drumstick chickens and whatnot, societies that are supported by mature ecosystems like mangroves and forests can "outsource" some of the processes to nature-- reproduction, birth, some feeding, and a lot of the cleaning of the pens.

Children playing Chinese garter by the crab pens.

A few days in captivity is not very taxing on energy systems, human effort, and the animal. To improve on these systems is something local governments should prioritize, instead of declaring them primitive. Likewise, to translate our fascination into workable lessons we can apply in our own lives, and to give communities pride in their ways of life, is something we should all prioritize.

Merry Christmas From Your Postman Tony

A bundle of asking, created without computer printers or risograph machines.

Christmas is probably the best time of the year for rubber stamp makers, who create the tools for mechanical gift envelope reproduction used by our service providers and bearers of bills. Thousands of small white envelopes stamped with greetings are handed out on regular delivery routes and, hopfeully, handed back with a bit of money.

Some analogue clipart.

Probably a shared greeting stamp and a small individual name stamp.

22 December 2009


I'm still not sure if it blows in or out, but cool. Held in place by a sheet of plywood.

How do you cool a vehicle with no windows? With no possibilities for airconditioning in jeepneys, the best is to rely on cross-ventilation and bursts of speed. This guy helps things along by installing an exhaust fan by his window, removable upon entry or exit.

A far shot, Eurotel-abouts.

15 December 2009

Selling Fragrance

A vendor with two variants: sampaguita with ylang-ylang and with kamya.

I've always wondered why the Philippines, in all its aromatic plant glory, does not have much of a fragrance industry. I found an acceptable answer from a friend's book onlocal healing, which pointed out that most "aromatherapy" in the country traditionally uses fresh leaves and flowers, which are available year-round due to the tropical weather.

With no need to distill a relatively non-perishable substance, the Filipinos would themselves aromatic steam baths by boiling leaves or "smoke" a plant by putting it over charcoal.

Filling the air with tiny bits of essential oil.

And they also made garlands! It is a good night when you roam around a garden or a street trying to figure out where a sweet smell is coming from. It is also a good place where you can buy a garland on the street to hang on your car window, bicycle frame, or religious statue.

Preserved from the heat in a styrofoam cooler.

While many depend on chemical fragrances and globs of mysterious car "freshening" substances for their olfactory needs, these vendors of inexpensive garlands serve as a reminder of another severed relationship with nature, or the plant species that have co-evolved with us through the centuries.

11 December 2009

Another Skirpron

Selling fish on bilaos atop old paint buckets.

I spied another skirpron along the streets of Metro Manila and thought-- should I start a skirpron renaissance? It seems just the thing to introduce into modern kitchens. I shall make myself one this week and give it a whirl.

07 December 2009

Technological Holdover

Waiting for clients a la Lucy Van Pelt.

Notary publics are all over the metropolis. Along Malate, they effectively utilize colorful handpainted signage and broken typewriters to alert passersby to their presence. The imagery plants itself in your subconscious, which is the point I guess, because everyone in the Philippines needs something notarized every once in awhile.

Busted typewriter.

I asked one of them if I could use their typewriter for old times' sake, but he laughed and said it was broken-- when they get a client's details, they shuffle down a hallway, type the affidavit (or whatever) out on a computer, and return with a printed, signed, stamped document.

A notary public hiding under the table?

01 December 2009

Type on Streets

Rice warehouse of Mindoro bigas.

A recent trip down south and the handpainted text along the road.

A cacao and coffee stall in Mabini. Eating a chocolate ball right now.

Another regional reference. Pangasinan Woodcraft, looking like Western Union.

"D'Almighty Ruler". Yep.

Jeep itinerary.


I'm back home. It feels wonderful. Before I go back to posting stuff I'm gonna cavort a bit in the garden and lay in my bed.

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