26 December 2012

Melaka Folk Typography

Not the Greek restaurant.

According to Google Translate, this means "Patience and perseverance / The success".

A majong shop!

18 October 2012

Secretly Recreational Jamu Drinking

Don't let the froth fool you...
Drinking jamu can hardly be classified as recreational. But then again, how often do we twenty-first century humans subject ourselves to slightly unpleasant experiences for the sake of our long-term benefits? It's like getting a tattoo. Your happiness is mutilated for a few minutes but you soon feel like getting another that is even more hardcore ugly-tasting.

Jamu is a blanket term for Indonesian medicinal formulations. We were hunting down some idli recently in Melaka when we spotted a makeshift stall apparently selling refreshments. We perused the little packets in a plastic bin and saw photographs and illustrations denoting ailments addressed or positive endstates after drinking some jamu.

Left, we concluded it was a woman with an aching back and not a rape scene. Right, virility via dried seahorse.
Aside from being an "unintentionally funny funny" enthusiast's dream, the packets symbolize something a phenomenon that evades many "developing country" cultures (save for India and a few more maybe?)-- the mass-marketing of "indigenous health products".

The jamu lady, dispenser of health and beautifying Indonesian products for immigrants.
From the smoky room of an herbalista or albolaryo (our local Filipino blanket terms for people who deal with leaves-as-medicine, or pigs' blood smearing-- yes, we lump them together) to an easily-distributed packet that can be sold anywhere and served by anyone with a few ingredients and a wire whisk. You wonder about the journey. This article describes fresh jamu in a wet market setting. I imagine a succeeding phase of commerce, of jamu propagated through market stalls of loose dried herbs and home-repacked plastic bags of powders, like you see in places like Quiapo.

A jamu packet for every need. Boxes are cut halfway to display the different types.
But this sachet-ization of jamu is something else. The just-add-water state is the easiest path to third-world domination (Nescafe, yes?). It has been attempted by energy drinks locally to limit transport, storage, and spoilage costs.

Powdered energy drinks and a jug of purified water, Manila streets.
All you need.
You begin by selecting the packet you like. If you can't read Indonesian, you can base it on the packet art, but sometimes that can be ambiguous, e.g.:

Be the strongest shadow-puppet on the block.
The lady at the jamu stall helped us select suitable packets, to do with virility and being a nice-looking female with shiny hair. She cut them open, emptied the earth-colored powders into a blender.

The biodiversity-reflecting muck that is jamu.
A kampung egg with a marvelously orange yolk.
Afterwards, she added a raw kampung (village, or non-industrial) egg yolk. Before you judge, raw egg yolks are, like, an original superfood, as long as they're "native" or backyard, with deep-colored yolks. Remember Disney's Gaston? Yes, from Davao to Romania, tales abound of grandmothers mixing egg yolks into great-tasting things like wine, sarsaparilla, and hot chocolate. But in jamu? You can't tell which bad taste is trying to mask which, apparently (I skipped it).

Mystery fermented syrup.
Then follow two kinds of fermented syrup, which were blessings, really. The lady topped it off with some hot water and ran the blender. It is worth noting that most of herbs and spices were obviously not water-soluble, so the beverage was a little grainy, like consuming a well-spiced German Christmas cookie without flour or butter.

It is also worth noting that I felt exceptionally great and bright-eyed the whole day despite all the eating that had taken place against my better judgement. Which leads me to conclude that megadoses of pleasure deserve megadoses of displeasure, which are in turn perversely pleasurable.

Want some jamu with those raw eggs, Gaston?

Cupholder. Now How?

Malaysian drink hanger, v. wire and screws.

Although I find it a terribly unsettling idea to put hot beverages in plastic bags, I also find it nice that we still live in a world where cupholders are just one kind of in-car beverage-resting thing.

29 September 2012

Melaka Dentist Signage Norms

Digital photo stickers of possible dentures.
Dental staff eats lunch in the background.

Say hoi! More digital photos of dentures and messed up teeth.
Handpainted dentures. Being young, I am frightened by screws in the mouth.

14 September 2012

Post-Hari Raya Snacktime!

Our spread. Where's the table? That's the table!
Because the Moslem population of the Philippines is somewhat geographically concentrated, we rarely witness non-Catholic festivities in the capital. Nope, no families dressed in the same color, no replicas of ketupat hanging everywhere. From what I gather from Malay friends, Hari Raya is their version of Christmas (i.e. a traditional celebration on steroids), with spreads ranging from humble to ultra-elaborate, with the accompanying consumer lunacy.

Feels like Southern Philippines.
We were welcomed into a farmer's home for some merienda. From what I gathered, these were leftover snacks from the bright festivities that had just dipped into the horizon. I didn't understand much of what they were saying, but there was a lot of laughter.

A platter of "cookies", rendang, murukku, lemang.
The food is a mixture of Malay, Tamil, and Western food. The cookies, in particular, are hard little versions of the sort of stuff you will find in Philippine bakeries-- garishly colored, very sweet, margarinized.

They turned to me and mouthed: "Malay Kool-Aid".
Vague flavor, generally sweet.

11 September 2012

No Shoes Inside

Ornamental / light-seepin' holes in the wall doubles as shoe slots.
Last week, we visited a few farmers outside of Kuala Lumpur. I like when people are leaning in to enter a house and they look like they are doing the cha-cha, but they are actually trying to remove one shoe using the other foot. I like that primarily because it is an indicator of the lovely "no-shoes" rule. It makes a house so low-maintenance, and you can sit on the floor more.

Car seat retires as porch seat, probably one where you can sit to take shoes off.

In Philippine provinces, they do this. What about going inside the famous Southeast Asian wet bathrooms, you ask? There is usually an extra pair of wet-slippers in the shower (which is also where the toilet is, without division). In other places like Sweden, where the model of cleanliness is definitely dry, there is nothing of this sort.

Everyone is gathered round to tell us to take our shoes off.

19 August 2012

Davao, Protection / Ornamentation

Taking off from the photos of ornamental protection in Manila, here are some from Davao.

Iron patterns.
Some of the most "contemporary" grilling I've ever seen.
Wrought iron, curvy shit topped with sharksfin climbing deterrent and vertical brick-like pattern.
Like rays of a sun.
Bamboo wallage to protect private space, with cross-section accent.

My favorite wrought-iron gate in the world.

14 August 2012

Ilocano Canvas Reuse

An old house has an old pillow covered by an old cotton banner.
And another.
Perdido Funeral Homes' garage features coffins covered by old flour sacks sewn together.


Dressed frogs.
The weekly market in Paoay features a few things that would make the ManileƱo throw up a little in his mouth. I am a slightly morbid non-meat eater who is often faced with things that make me shudder, but my cultural curiosity often outweighs any initial horror.

I can imagine siblings fighting over the frog segment that has the eggs hanging from them.
But also, the presence of frogs, ant eggs, and whatnot in the Ilocano menu is an encouraging diet that is "hedged"-- i.e. still includes a variety of species, in particular some that haven't quite made it into the industrial realm. Frogs or tokak from the rice fields are eaten just like chicken-- battered and fried, stewed in coconut milk or adobo-style.

There was a lady from Paoay, bla bla selling frogs, bla bla pink flower on slippers bla bla.

22 July 2012

Manila, Ornamentation / Protection

In Chinatown, the fire brigade's container office bears that spiderweb thing.
The world is a marginally nicer place because of patterns in protective wrought iron or concrete (or even wooden) grills. Less fancy urban areas employ more geometric, simple (cheaper) designs, but gated communities are not immune to this modern-day necessity. In fact, probably the only areas devoid of grillwork are located in the super rural, wooden-tungkod-window realm. These are some examples from the city of Manila.

Diamond patterns on a wrought iron grill protecting a wearhouse.

Concrete grills as a vertical accent for a fire escape?

Diagonal patterns on wrought iron grills protecting a personal storage extension.

Pretty scalloping on wrought iron window grills (with a provision for fire escape?).

21 June 2012


The silence is due to finding myself running three small companies, with some consultations as well. I look at this blog and think fondly back on the days wherein I was able to share photos and thoughts (and the accompanying research), and know that soon I will be back and a-posting again.

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