30 June 2009

Leftover Homes

Empty capiz panels are pretty sad.

Walking around the Quiapo and Binondo area, you find some gems of houses that retain certain features we could very well explore for more comfortable living in these tropics. They are frequently in poor condition, but provide a sense of how urban living evolved for Manila denizens. High ceilings, large windows, boxy rooms.

A corner house all boarded up.

Capiz panels still in place, with a Jollibee tarp marring the view, basically.

Capiz windows were made using the shell of the bivalve Placuna placenta. The latticed apprearance of window panels commonly associated with Filipino-Spanish architecture is a result of the what is a convenient and good-sized square that you can cut from hundreds of capiz shells. Naturally, these are smaller than those you would find in countries doing the whole glass windows thing at the time, where mollusk growing size was not a limiting factor.

Empty capiz panels also make me think of mosquitoes.

Just a note: I have a special interest in them windows because the house I live in is a former capiz shell factory, and the general area I live in (fairly coastal) was probably a competitive supplier of window material to the more urban Manila area.

Balustrades on an overhanging second floor.

Below the large sliding capiz and wooden windows are usually smaller sliding panels which open up into a balustrade of wood or wrought iron. These are called ventanillas, from which children can hang out and watch the street. In my own grandmother's house, I would squeeze myself through the sliding doorlets and into a wrought iron "cage" overlooking the garden, and sometimes fall asleep. The ventanilla can be left open for fresh air if you, for some reason orthe other, don't want to open the larger window.

Details on the awnings.

These practical applications are useful to think about. How much of them have been rendered useless by the pollution from cars, the loss of trees and air passageways for ventilation, and the blocking of light by taller buildings? How we are currently using our streets gives hints of hostility towards these beautiful, low-energy designs. But as long as some of these under-appreciated beauties are peeking through the boxy cement buildings, we can learn a lot just by walking around.

A carved door with an opening with iron ornamentation above, meant for ventilation in better days.

29 June 2009


I'll be back soon, fellows. Just sorting stuff out.

25 June 2009

Space Ship Jeepney

(A previous jeepney ceiling post can be found here.)

Retro space ship (or cheap motel)style. Shiny mirrors, a little television screen.

20 June 2009

A Suave Shoe Repairman

Preparing for a day's work-- the sign doubles as a cover for the compartment containing old shoes and more. That is obviously not Alex doing the fixing.

I finally took a photo of this repairman's stall that I often pass. The sign says:
Repair / Alex / Mr. / Swave
Shoes / Shine
Umbrella / Payong
Bags / Zipper
Water Jag
The use of the slashmark is actually pretty effective in compensating for the poor handwriting (spacing problems, perhaps). There is only one word translated into the native language (payong means umbrella), while the rest would be understandable to any Tagalog speaker. In all, it's pretty charming and straightfoward.

(Although I do wonder how the same guy repairs water "jags", and what kind of water jugs he can mend with the same tools he uses for the other goods on the list.)

This Alex fellow chose to give himself a nickname "Mr. Swabe", another way to spell "Mr. Suave". This persona infiltrated national consciousness five years ago as Parokya ni Edgar launched their 70s-inspired song (see video below), which then brought about a movie with a protagonist called Rico Suave.

(You can also find an English translation of the lyrics on this blog.)

19 June 2009

Urban Fence

This one is hard to jump over.

A wooden fence (with a bit of PVC pipe) tied together to block an entrypoint at the Magallanes jeepney dropoff area in Pasay. It is similar to, and may have been built by some of the many migrant laborers in Manila familiar with building, fences around rural homes and farms.

18 June 2009

Jeepney Cleanliness Tools

Rolled tightly and tucked above the long rearview mirror spanning the width of the driving chamber. Below it, "God Bless Our Trip".

Jeepney drivers keep an arsenal of circular cleaning rags, actually sewn from a bunch of scrap fabric. I've lately been observing how they store these while not in use.

Like cinnamon rolls, they look even more fantastic when different colored cloth is used.

Just four rags, and just sort of put on top of the mirror, near a Jesus sticker.

17 June 2009


Using agricultural waste material as protection while shipping.

Maximizing use of sack by providing a "hat" made of dried sweet potato vines.

Crate of bananas protected by (under the rope) pieces of banana trunk.

16 June 2009

The Beetles

Where are we? What are we doing here?

I was walking down Asuncion and, beside the jackfruit vendors, spotted moving nuggets, which turned out to be salagubang or scarab beetles.

Two plastic baskets filled with crunchy crawlies.

They eat leaves.

The lady selling seemed almost like a circus trainer, making the insects crawl up her arm and replacing them on the surface of her container, putting a few back into the bed of banana leaves. She said they were harvested in Batangas, where they are abundant in agricultural areas.

Bling bling.

"Adobo, with vinegar, soy sauce and garlic, or just gisa (sauteed)", the lady answered in Tagalog, when asked how they are prepared. Personally, I'd like to see meat-eaters begin to consume more of these non-industrial, harvested sort of things.


O, Muffler Tree!

I like how auto shops display tambuchos on iron stands, coming up like pine trees or fishbones.

The Spanish word tambucho was originally used in a maritime context to mean bulwark, then some part of a kayak. Somehow, it is what we use down here to refer to mufflers, those magical, sound-cancelling apparatus for cars and motorcycles.

The piece has its place in Philippine comedy and popular figure-of-speech-formation. I come from a childhood when clunky automobiles ruled the street. Not uncommon were broken (or missing) mufflers that made cars sound comically noisy.

I've heard snoring people being likened to bus and jeep tambuchos, which are the worse in more ways than one-- "smoking like a tambucho" is our local version of the expression "smoking like a chimney". Doesn't say much about our emissions regulations.

Stockholm in the Summertime

Public art.

Ah, Sweden. Where things decompose very slowly, where comparatively few people (to someone raised in chaos) roam the streets, where bars close at 2AM, where the food is creamy, people are polite, and the train is always on time.

Ingmar Bergman Festival outdoor installation. Big hand.

I have a love for Stockholm that is contrary to my warmth-loving constitution, because I love both its walkability and its people. I find the latter to be quite crazy on the inside.


Random bathroom.

A thermometer outside the hotel room window. Truly a novelty.


Green Party exhibit at the Central Station.

Their former Mayo Uno protest site.

08 June 2009

Death by Creamy Dessert

Swedes like their berries and cream. The former grow wild in the many forests, while the latter is due to their long-standing relationship with cows.

Slices of ice cream (yes) and some berries with panna cotta.

Cloudberry pie with accompanying bowl of cream.

Cheese cake with some berries and cream yet again.

05 June 2009

Wooden Cards

One of our hotels had magnetic room cards made of thin wood instead of plastic. I realize this may look like some kind of advertisement, but it is pretty cool.

03 June 2009



Sweden is not exempt from creepy empty towns and suburbs. My last time around was in a few big cities and pretty rural areas, so I was a bit shocked to be situated in some sprawling, Lidl-fed areas.

Movie set.

Härnösand is, in all fairness, a beautiful town. But the buildings seem extra stark and eerie with the general lack of people. It seems like large movie set, where nothing is actually produced locally, except for the activity at customer service centers. People I spoke to talked of an exodus towards surrounding cities, as well as a reliance on institutional guests who are staying in the town.

Old photo of the harbor town.

You can catch a live webcast of its town square here.

Where are the people?

A gift!

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