PhotoWorld Asia 2017, PAF Museum & Manila Chinatown

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It’s that time of the year again for my annual appearance as self-invited VIP in the long-running photo fair, exhibition, convention, workshop & seminar. My first time at the event was in 1995 when it was known as PhotoWorld Manila. After skipping it for about a decade, I have been there continuously without break for the past fourteen editions; which I have reasons to believe is a record, for what it’s worth, for a non-local visitor.

As the Official Opening is perennially set on the last Thursday of January, I was always able to avail myself of cut-price deals on no-frills LCCs or Low Cost Carriers. Currently there are three (indigenous CebuPacific and Singapore-based TigerAir & JetStar Asia) operating around a total of eight direct daily flights from SG to Manila and vice versa. For those who want to be pampered with more bells & whistles, the two legacy carriers of Singapore & Philippine Airlines have another eight scheduled, with prices starting from above SGD200 during occasional promotion periods.

My bookings were made variously between three and ten months in advance with all-inclusive return fares ranging from SGD90 to 140. For 2017, because Lunar New Year falls on Saturday, I headed home the night after the Opening which is LNY eve. A longtime professional photographer friend, Charlie Lim who is also a very frequent visitor and sometimes speaker was scheduled to present his masterclass on “Light Paintography” on Saturday afternoon, which I obviously had to miss.

The exhibition venue at the Glorietta Mall in the Ayala Center, Makati.img_20170126_172724IMG_20170127_103717 e.jpg

I first met the originator and prime mover of the yearly photographic showcase in 1992 at Photokina in Cologne, Germany when she was there seeking support for her upcoming major project. Mrs Eduviges Huang who had previously graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography (name shortened to Brooks Institute from 2007) in the U.S., was then set to form the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation (FPPF) in 1993 which brings together 54 photo clubs and associations across the whole of the Philippines. FPPF Chairperson Mrs Huang’s lauded efforts towards getting individuals to be trained in art through photography predate PhotoWorld Manila/Asia.

It all began after the cataclysmic 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo when she organized a seminar on basic photography, aimed primarily towards helping the unfortunate victims. Though, as it turned out, none of the targeted people enrolled, enthusiasts from many walks of life did; overwhelmingly. They ranged from office types, doctors, engineers, teachers, priests, housewives, movie stars; professionals or otherwise.

Now at a still very energetic 74 of age, Edi as she is popularly known had and continues to, assiduously attend to the details of the annual gathering of trade industrialists and professional & hobbyist lensmen. What fueled her to keep at it through the ups and downs of the economy was, and still is the extreme satisfaction she derived from making the people at the exhibitions and conventions happy all through the past quarter century.

Numerous distinguished Guests of Honor had graced the Ribbon-cutting Ceremonies through the years; among them in recent times are 2014 Classic Mrs. Asia International Global Joyce Peñas Pilarsky and Batangas province Governor Vilma Santos. The latter, a former longest-reigning movie queen referred to as the Star for all Seasons, completed her third and final gubernatorial term in mid 2016 and is now a Member of the Philippine House of Representatives (equivalent to SG’s Member of Parliament) or Congress.

VIPs & Guest of Honor, Miss United Continents Philippines 2015 Anabel Tia, standing by for the 2017 Ribbon-cutting Ceremony. The lady in pink jacket at the front is Cynthia C. Lazo, a Director from the Department of Tourism, Philippinesimg-20170127-wa0004-e2

Miss Tia viewing and commenting on the winning entries at the photo exhibition.img_20170126_164829-e

….and on stage listening attentively as the pair of crooning songbirds belt out their numbers.img_20170126_184736-e

Meanwhile elsewhere on the exhibition floor, another pretty lady is all ready to hand out some sweet desserts….errr, mundane product brochures.IMG_20170126_171554 e.jpg

PAF Museum. As was the case at the Bangkok Photo Fair eight weeks earlier as recounted in a previous post, I headed for an aviation museum the very next day. It was another visit that I had kept putting off going but since the ball had been rolled, I followed through, finally.The Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum, initially founded as Marcos Museum on May 1974, is located within the grounds of the Villamor Air Base (formerly known as Nichols Air Base) adjacent to Manila Airport’s Terminal 3.

Museum building of the Philippine Air Force inside Villamor Air Base. Nice.img_20170127_113822-e

For those who welcome the option of getting there the low cost way, take a jeepney for 7 Pesos from near the Taft MRT station. The frequent ubiquitous jeeps as indicated by its sides and on a little board on the windscreen that says “Nichols” will come out from under the buildings west of the foot of the overhead bridge from the MRT station in Pasay. It’s a short ride of less than 3 km.jeepney-map-e_ink_li

There will usually be passengers disembarking at Terminal 3. Stay put and wait till the jeepney move on and turn left at the road bend, and then get off. To make sure, let the driver know you want to alight at Gate4 right after he continues from T3. (Fair use of Google maps & images here)museum-map-e_ink_li

The museum is on the immediate right of Gate4 of Villamor Air Base. Just tell the guards you are going there and you will be let through without fuss.img_20170127_122709-e

Coincidentally, on my visit, the museum proper was closed for renovations but that was a minor issue as the aircraft park behind it is where most of the exhibits are situated. The grounds are well kept and so are the planes as evidenced by a group of workers repainting the Vought F-8 Crusader shipboard supersonic fighterjet, nicknamed “The Last of the Gunfighters”. There are a total of sixteen aircraft of various shapes and sizes, including three choppers. It is a nice venue for a picnic. The place also sometimes plays host to events such as weddings, social gatherings and baptism rites.

Google is again your friend. Here you go:paf-museum

Through the blue-tinted glassed walls of the closed museum building, I spied half a dozen classic planes on the floor and hanging from the roof. The most “modern” of these are a SIAI-Marchetti trainer (there is another one at the open display area) and the sole jet among them; the T-610 Super Pinto or T-610 Cali. A little older is a piston-engined WWII veteran, the North American P-51 Mustang. There are also two truly vintage biplanes, one of which is the Boeing-Stearman Model 75 primary trainer. There are sections inside the museum that showcase PAF’s heritage, aviation history & science & technology, as well as a function room and a mini cinema. I had no choice but to leave checking these out for another day when it reopens its doors to the public.

A group of school kids was having an excursion at the park when I arrive shortly before noon. Soon thereafter, they were ushered off by the teachers/guardians for lunch and were not seen again.img_20170127_114607-e

A statue of military aviator Colonel Jesus Antonio Villamor takes centre stage in the park. In 1982, Nichols Air Base was renamed to honor this fiercely patriotic and highly decorated war hero.IMG_20170127_115504 e.jpg

The Japanese NAMC YS-11A turboprop airliner holds fond memories for me as I had flown on it once; in 1979 from Legazpi City to Manila. There was no door to the cockpit, just a curtain. I remember seeing the captain arguing with the co-pilot and then whacking the latter on the back of the head. A stewardess thereupon hurriedly drew the curtain closed and went in, presumably to mediate. Hilarious if not for the safety implications. Anyway, this particular example below was used as VIP transport for the Philippines President and family from the early ‘70s to early ‘90s.IMG_20170127_115842 e.jpg

The Douglas C-47 military transporter is part of the DC-3 family of airliners, popularly referred to as the Dakota. First introduced in 1936, over 16,000 in total were eventually built and quite a handful is still flying to this day.img_20170127_115256-e

It flies, it swims, its an amphibian…..the versatile Grumman HU-16 Albatross flying boat.img_20170127_120140-e

The prolific Bell UH-1H Iroquois, nicknamed Huey from its original designation of HU-1. Above 16,000 examples were built in its three decades of production beginning from the 1950s.IMG_20170127_120313 e.jpg

The unremarkable Sikorsky SB-62B/HH-52A Seaguard and its earlier, more illustrious stable mate  S-58/H-34 Choctaw.img_20170127_121438-eimg_20170127_121556-e

Vought F-8H Crusader undergoing repainting works. The fleet was permanently withdrawn from service in 1991 after being badly damaged by the Mount Pinatubo eruption.img_20170127_120905-e

Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter. An enduring design, it was the low cost supersonic fighter of the sixties and seventies. Cheap and good, eh?img_20170127_120356-e

North American F-86F Sabre and F-86D Sabre. Nearly 10,000 frames of all F-86 versions were produced. They were all outwardly very identical except the all-weather D variant which shared only 25% commonality with the rest. IMG_20170127_121105 e2.jpgimg_20170127_121356-e

The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, developed from the very successful F-80 Shooting Star fighter, was the world’s most widely used jet trainer.img_20170127_121024-e

A foursome of prop trainers clockwise from top left: (1) Cessna T-41 Mescalero is the military trainer developed from the civilian Cessna 172 Skyhawk which is the most produced aircraft in the world at more than 43,000 units. (2)North American T-6 Texan. (3)Beechcraft T-34 Mentor. (4)North American T-28 Trojan.

The North American P-51 Mustang is an immortal icon of WWII and the Korean War. It’s sitting proudly in all its restored glory in a nice newish building. Hanging behind it is the T-610 Cali.img_20170127_122319-e

Over 10,000 of the Boeing-Stearman Model 75 primary trainer were rolled out from the factory floors in the 1930s to 1940s. After the Great War, they went on to serve in the agricultural, sports and aerobatics arena. It also became a popular performer in wing-walking at airshows. At the top left-hand corner is again the T-610 jet trainer and light attack fighter. This particular example had a not-simple background. It is the Filipino-built version of the prototype T-610 Super Pinto which was in turn developed and modified from the Temco TT-1 Pinto. That original Super Pinto prototype, numbered 233, was acquired, complete with technical drawings & production rights, to kick start a local aircraft manufacturing industry. It was subsequently lost in an evaluation flight which led to the termination of the industrialization program. That was almost forty years ago. Back to the Cali on display, it was initially numbered 234 but seemed like it has now adopted the 233 of the first unit, maybe in homage.img_20170127_122431-e

“Flying” above the SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 is what I surmise to be a replica of a Wright Brothers Flyer, possibly the third model.img_20170127_122300-e

Across from and a little northeast of Gate4 is Resorts World Manila. It opened many months before its sister Resorts World Sentosa, and the latter’s new hires were sent to RWM for on-the-job training. Oh, by the way unlike our RWS, there’s no entrance fee for both foreigners and locals. Just for fun and to while away the hours of a very early landing years ago, I registered for and received the free Membership Card. img_20170127_123422-e

Chinatown. The world’s oldest Chinatown is located in the Binondo District, with its beginnings in 1594. For a long time up to WWII and before the rise of the modern Makati City as the national financial powerhouse, one of its main streets, Escolta functioned as the commerce and finance centre of Manila, and by extension, the whole of the Philippines.

Dubbed the “Wall Street of the Philippines”, many banks and insurance companies still populate the stretch till this day. During the 1980s recession and debt crisis, it actually played a determining role in the disparate Peso-USD exchange rates that resulted from the massive currency black market. The subsequent involvement of moneyed Chinese-Filipino businessmen rallied by then Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin who established the “Binondo Central Bank” helped stabilized the situation.

The main drag running through the heart of Binodo in a wide arc northwards is Ongpin Street and this Chinatown is often referred to by that name which is an eponymy for revolution supporter Don Roman Ongpin who was demised 105 years ago at the age of 65. Among his prominent descendants are great grandsons Roberto Velayo Ongpin and Jaime Velayo Ongpin. They had served as Minister of Trade & Industry during the Marcos era and Cory Aquino’s Finance Minister respectively.

This is a real living, breathing Chinatown, warts and all, as opposed to the “septic tank” rebuilt-for-tourism, renovated showroom piece that was drawn up in ivory tower boardrooms which we are shoved upon in the Little Red Dot. Oh sure, there’s progress as seen in modern developments dotted here and there but they are organic and a natural amelioration that did not try to reinvent tradition. There is no superficial pretense or “true lies” or “alternative facts” (phrase coined infamously by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway on January 22, 2017) at work here; just plain and simple everyday life lived by everyday people. A worthwhile destination not that far away to immerse in the disappearing authentic, gritty world.

The Arch of Goodwill at the eastern entrance of Ongpin Street. Situated opposite is the Santa Cruz Church which originates in the early 1600s. In between them is the iconic 19th century Carriedo Fountain. There is a 20+ year old exact replica that took a year to construct, in front of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System building in Quezon City.IMG_20170123_104250_HDR e.jpg

Despite the grime and the occasional potholes and buildings that have seen better days, riches are also openly evident, especially in the form of the multitude of popular gold ornaments shops along the narrow streets and inside the confined precursors of shopping malls.img_20170128_023947-e

Another welcome arch to Binondo, this at near the western end of the curved Ongpin Street.img_20170123_101429-e

I was there on LNY eve and decorations were up along some sections of the main street.img_20170123_100746-e

New Year goodies on display at sidewalk stalls.IMG_20170123_100923 e.jpg

Nian gao or glutinous rice cake and known as tikoy locally. There are many flavors available, such as white sugar, brown sugar, yam, pandan and corn as can be discerned by their colors.

Restaurants and cafes are all over the place. There’s always one to suit any budget. Most of them serve – no prizes for guessing correctly – Chinese or to a lesser extent, Chinese-Filipino food. I’ve eaten there in all sorts; predominantly fast food joints and hole-in-the-wall eateries and once in a tinted moon, a fine Chinese restaurant. During the half dozen years straddling 2010 when I stayed there often, my favorite was this mid-sized two-storied place called MXT or Maxim Teahouse; mainly for their dim sum and mini steamboat. Very reasonable price and tasty food. I noticed it now goes by Mei Sum Teahouse. Same name spelt differently in the Roman/Latin alphabet.IMG_20170123_102628_HDR e..jpg

Ah, my abode then was a low-cost Chinese hotel with really friendly staff that I came to know very well. Very basic and old rooms but clean and safe. There used to be a casino inside but I only popped in for a look-see as I ain’t no gambler. It was renovated and renamed as Good Life Hotel a few years ago but I have not stayed there nor patronized the nearby Mei Sum Teahouse since the makeover.IMG_20170123_103209_HDR e.jpg

Right at the western end of Ongpin stands the landmark 16th century Binondo Church. It has been renovated and rebuilt many times over the centuries, the latest major effort being the mid 1950s. Current pic on the left and one of almost five years ago on the right. The spruced-up exteriors include the new coat of paint on the stone wall which was earlier in its natural state.

The unique purple fire engines that can be spotted all over Binondo are privately owned by corporations and individuals, and are manned by volunteers. Some are garaged inside buildings whilst others like this example nestling by the church are parked along roadsides. The convenient and beneficial arrangement is a legacy from bygone eras when fires break out often, both accidentally and through fraudulent attempts to claim insurance payouts. IMG_20170123_100517 e.jpg

Binondo is one of the very few areas in Manila where one can take a ride in a kalesa or horse-drawn carriage. The Spanish colonists first introduced them into the Philippines in the 18th century, initially for noblemen and high officials. They are still in limited everyday use in some provinces.IMG_20170123_095959 e.jpg

A dirty sight of Chinatown. Still, it’s not as filthy and smelly as our Singapore River before the big cleanup in the late seventies that took ten years and cost 170 millions in the SG dollars of the day. IMG_20170123_101541_HDR e.jpg

Beyond the western edge of Chinatown and a few hundred metres north from the western end of Ongpin Street is Divisoria district, known for its amazingly wide range of retail and wholesale of affordable goods. There are malls galore offering bargain-priced products from China and elsewhere. Real stuff and knockoffs can be found side by side. This is where you pay for what you get and get what you pay for. They are generally honest businesses who don’t try to pass off imitations as the genuine article. Stalls by the roadside sell the cheapest stuffs whose quality could sometimes be suspect.

The clustered numbered malls like 11/88, 168 and 999 are good bets. Though navigation could be confusing amidst myriad narrow corridors overflowing with boxes of goods, it’s still a reasonably comfortable experience thanks to the generally adequate air-conditioning. Shopaholics can expect to spend the best part of the day perusing the bewildering arrays of just about everything under the sun….and the moon. The area is not called “the mecca of value shopping” and “the mother of all markets in Manila” for nothing. If hunger pangs strike while on the “sacred mission”, not to worry as there are many foodcourts littered all over the malls. Shop till you drop but caveat emptor.

On Soler Street; 168 to the right, 999 to the left and 11/88 a little beyond, on the right.IMG_20170123_081954 e.jpg

From the other end of that section of Soler Street, with 11/88 now on the left.IMG_20170123_092337 e.jpg

Recto Avenue side of 999 Mall. On the right is another good place to immerse in; the Tutuban Center Mall which was converted from the former Tutuban Central Station in 1993. Nice to spend some time here, if not for the shopping, then at least to soak in the sights of the ornate cast iron structures of the more than a century old ex train station’s preserved interior.img_20170123_091515-e

Interior of one of the numbered malls; 11/88.

A hundred plus metres to the east of Carriedo Fountain lies the conveniently located Carriedo LRT Station. A tad further on is historically rich Hidalgo Street – named after the great 19th century Filipino artist Félix Resurrección Hidalgo – in Quiapo district, an old Manila downtown. Once regarded as Manila’s most beautiful street over a century ago, it became a mecca for photographers of all denominations. A variety of shops offering equipment, accessories, consumables, finishing, framings and repair services line the two sides, vendors of a mélange of other wares crowding the thoroughfare notwithstanding.

To make the “photographers’ haven” closer to heavenly, the “Hidalgo Project” initiative by commercial photographer John Chua was carried out with governmental support in 2006 to rid the vendors and make Hidalgo Street great again. The road was transformed into a beautiful uncluttered walkway for leisurely strolling and shopping; both of the window and actual variety. However, that makeover lasted only for some years and slowly but surely, the vendors crept back to de-beautify it and head it to the same old mishmash. What gradually went wrong? Probably because its easier to build than to maintain. Ah well, at least the phoenix had risen from its ashes for a while. Will it rise again? Who knows?

The cluttered-again Hidalgo Street of today.img_20170127_143102-e

And backing up to the front end of the street. What does this augur? For the better or the same old, same old? One can only Hope.IMG_20170127_142333 e.jpg

There are tons of interesting places near Binondo that I had been to previously but did not on this trip. As such, there are no pictures to show (too time consuming without guarantee of result to try to dig out the previously taken images). Yeah, there are many pretty photos out there in the web but google for them if interested. I post only pics taken by me or by acquaintances, with their permission.

There is something called copyright which many are either unaware of or worse, choose to ignore. That’s them and their choice. Me and the people around me respect the issue of intellectual properties; especially that concerning photographs by individuals. (As for the Google maps & images that appear in my posts, Google allows it under fair use: https://www.google.com/permissions/geoguidelines.html). With this little unsolicited moral rambling out of the way, I will run through in just words the worthy nearby sights to visit.

The Quiapo district I previously mentioned is a little cousin of Divisoria, at least as far as shopping is concerned. The character is more mixed here, with a couple of major mosques mingling with temples and churches. Muslim visitors would feel at home here. Quiapo is also synonymous with the Minor Basilica or Quiapo Church of the Black Nazarene fame. The Procession of the Black Nazarene in early January (a life-size image of Jesus carved from ebony wood) is a huge annual event for Catholic devotees. The crowd had ranged from hundreds of thousands to multiple millions.

‘This is the place where the dead lives better than the living’. That’s a remark from one of the guys in our group when I first visited the Chinese Cemetery way back in 1979 as we passed through the squatters’ ramshackle abodes outside the fenced and gated community of the departed. Inside, its like a little township replete with actual solidly-built houses and mansions lining the streets. Plenty of those “dwellings” are air-conditioned, with beds, sofas, kitchen and other peripherals for comfortable earthy subsistence.

Visiting friends and relatives would spend many hours and even overnight with their lamented dear ones who are no longer in the temporal earthy world, particularly during All Souls’ Day and Qingming or tomb-sweeping periods. The cemetery, founded in the 1850s by prominent Filipino-Chinese Lim Ong and Tan Quien Sien aka Don Carlos Palanca Tanchueco, is around three kilometers to the north of Chinatown. A must-visit venue though a good number of the houses had fallen into varying states of disrepair as I witnessed on my last viewing about four years ago.

Two kilometers westward is the notorious Smokey Mountain rubbish dump in Tonto district but unless you are seriously into garbage, I wouldn’t recommend heading there. Wait, the waste landfill and the surrounding slum had become history for some two decades now, phew! Not quite. A new second Smokey Mountain twenty kilometers as the crow flies, northeast in Quezon City’s Payatas district had taken over the fishy smelly business. The Payatas Dumpsite has become the Philippines’ largest open garbage heap. Many of the tens of thousands of scavengers had migrated over from Tonto to continue making their improvised living.

Just a kilometer south of Binondo, across Pasig River is the walled city of Intramuros (Spanish for “within the walls”) and inside it, Fort Santiago.The over 400 year-old wall enclosing the then district of about twenty crisscrossing streets laid out in a grid, began to be constructed after being taken over by the Spanish to be their Philippines “capital”. Wars, natural disasters, age and neglect relentlessly ravaged it, and its final rebuilt occurred in the mid 20th century when it was declared a National Historical Monument.

Fort Santiago, at the northwestern-most corner of Intramurous was built to defend the walled city. Philippine national hero, José Rizal was imprisoned in the fort prior to his execution by the Spanish in 1896. The firing squad was composed of Filipino conscripts of the Spanish Army. However, there was a “backup” detail of Spaniards ready to shoot the local shooters should they fail to fire on the signal. His shrine there is well worth a looking over.

Rizal Park/Luneta ParkRizal park.png

The extensive Rizal Park, among the largest in Asia’s urban areas, can be seen just beyond Intramuros’ southern walls. I remember the old musical dancing fountain, which has been rehabilitated some five years ago, very well. My slide, shot in the evening, of the colorfully lighted sprouting waters against a deep blue sky won me the second prize of a valuable wide angle lens in the only photo competition I ever entered, far back in 1980. A stone throw northeast from the fountain is a massive relief map of the Philippine Islands and near surrounds in an artificially crafted lake.

In the opposite direction rise the imposing Rizal Monument obelisk and in front of it is Independence Flagpole – the tallest such by law in the Philippines – and the Kilometre Zero marble marker where all distances from Manila begins. As an aside, remember our very own SG milestone markers of yore that began to disappear in the seventies with the adoption of the metric system? Those granite distance indicators of 1, 2….10 and so forth (with smaller intermediates of ¼, ½ & ¾) all radiate from the former General Post Office at Fullerton. Most of their full height of almost 2 metres was buried in the earth with only the engraved top of 350mm showing (the full miles ones are taller and broader but I don’t have the dimensions), but I digress.

Want to visit the entire Philippines without stepping out of Manila? Yes you can; by heading for Nayong Pilipino within a hundred metres northeast of the Japanese Garden. This very much smaller version of the Philippines-in-miniature, with replicas and scaled-downs of famous landmarks, was only opened recently to make up for the closure of the sprawling original adjacent to Manila Airport Terminal 2 and its ill-fated planned replacement in reclaimed land along southern Manila Bay many years ago. There’s also a somewhat bigger ten year old Nayong Pilipino in Clark, 80+ km north of Manila.

In and around Luneta Park – its other name by which is actually more locally known – are many other attractions that include – but not limited to – the Chinese & Japanese Gardens, Flower Clock, Orchidarium & Butterfly Pavilion, Quirino Grandstand, grand old dame Manila Hotel and family-oriented Manila Ocean Park. Nestled inside the latter is Makan Makan Asian Food Village.

Does the name ring a bell? It should, and that’s because its consultant and the man who was tasked with setting it up many years ago is none other than Makanguru K F Seetoh of Makansutra fame. From there, continue south along the further kilometers stretch of Roxas Boulevard overlooking Manila Bay where the sun sets spectacularly against the imposing masts of majestic moored yachts but let’s not get too far away…..for now.

dads-world-buffet1-downsizedDid I make more than some passing mentions of food so far? I guess not, so here goes; from Manila and a bit beyond:-

As per the usual tradition, not long after the Official Opening, the group of organizers and VIPs adjourned a floor above to a sumptuous dinner at DADS World Buffet. The extravagant spread features calories-laden dishes from diverse cultures across the globe. The cuisines of China, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Greece, Italy, Spain, America, Brazil, Japan, and of course the Philippines are represented. The only pic I took was of my filled plate at our table. It’s so much that despite inadvertently skipping lunch, I had no room left for dessert except the Filipino delicacy Puto Bumbong, a steamed purple-colored sticky rice cake shaped like little logs and liberally self-sprinkled with brown sugar, butter and freshly-grated coconut. Dinner prices for your pick of everything in sight is below 900 Pesos(SGD25), with approximately 16% and 28% lower costs for just Japanese or Filipino buffet respectively. It’s not fine dining, far from it, but really good scrumptious food with huge diversity of choice at great value.img_20170126_193740-e

At the lowest end of the price spectrum is street food of which there is much to ogle at. Here’s a fast snack on the go; from one of similar franchises whose carts can be usually seen in malls and along roadsides. Three dainty bite-sized dumplings on a mini oval paper plate for the princely sum of only 10 pesos or SGD0.29. Another franchise stall on the left, Lugaw Republic, sells tasty porridge. cam00657-e

I usually take the redeye flight on the outbound, to arrive in Manila before or around dawn, and make a beeline for my fave brekky at a Jolliebee outlet. It’s 150 Pesos (SGD4.40) a set that consists of Palabok (plain noodles topped with egg, pork, pork crackling, shrimps & shrimp sauce), a piece of succulent fried chicken (imo more finger licking good than KFC’s) and drink of choice. img_20170123_075330

Another of my must-eat local dishes is Sizzling Sisig. It has a long history but the current popular iteration is a national dish originating from Pampanga province, a short distance north of Manila. Primary ingredient is pig’s ears, jowl & cheeks. On the left is what I had at a foodcourt. The other is my own whipped up version at home when I craved for it with my next Philippines trip months away. Roasted pork belly is substituted; paired with Filipino-style garlic fried rice, and condiment.

A late night snack for two; of barbecued fish and roasted chicken washed down with a local beer. On the left is another of Crispy Pata (deep fried pig knuckles), a very popular main dish or beer food.

Yeah, I know, its mainly unhealthy grub but I’m addicted to it all and more, on every trip. What to do? Let me retell a little story that was narrated to me long ago, and there are variations of it out there. A sixty year old man was at a medical checkup and suddenly asked his doctor who’s also a friend: “How long more can I live?” “Well, if you abstain from your alcohols and fatty foods, you have maybe another twenty years or more” was the answer. Unfazed, the man continued, “And if I don’t?” The doctor remarked; “Five years at the most.” “With a big smile, the man then blurted; “My friend, I rather do what I want and go sooner than to suffer for the last twenty years of my life!” I rest my case.

More fatty sin! My ¼ kg portion – at 500 Pesos a kg – of whole roasted piglet called Lechon Baboy, Cebu style. Comes with dips of a liver sauce concoction and vinegar with chili. Masarap(yummy)!img_20170125_091359-e

My regular Lechon stall. Besides pork, they also do chicken, calf & lamb. This pigsy being chopped up weighs about 25 kg; after its fiery final journey. It was a fast & effective but fatal way to slim down.img_20170125_090724-eimg_20170125_090506-e

This is even more unforgivable! Inihaw na Liempo or grilled pork belly. Awesome!! The stall that I have been patronizing for more than 10 years does not have tables to dine in, so its takeaway to the hotel room. Having no proper utensil is not an insurmountable problem. I always eat it together with piping hot Pandesal, a Filipino bread roll of Portuguese origin. It’s velvet soft and chewy inside, with a thin crunchy crust covered in finely ground bread crumbs. To my palate, it’s the best bread I have ever come across in the four continents I’ve been to. It can be found in just about every Filipino bakery but most of them are cold which are not as great to the taste though still passably good. The shop that I got my regular fix from sells the fist-sized delights straight from the oven at 2 Pesos apiece. That’s six SG cents. I usually gobbled up to five at one go for dinner.img_20170123_202722-e

The same Liempo as above being earlier grilled to super crispy perfection over a bed of smoking hot charcoal. The boss personally cooked it for me as only he knows exactly how I want it done which is really, really not to be recommended to the health conscious. That said, a health nut who once accompanied me on my indulgence had kept admonishing me nightly but on the fourth occasion, he couldn’t resist the aroma and duly surrendered to order one for himself.img_20170125_182054-e

Ok ok, this is a (slightly) more balanced meal; a similar Liempo but accompanied with salad and noodle soup dishes this time round.imgp2441-e

After all that epicurean immoderation, how about some medicine to counter the ill effects? Just pulling some legs here. The image below is of one of many generic medicine chain stores that are all over the Philippines. I do drop by one of these outlets now and then to top up on my small inventory of pills at home; for cold, cough, fever, and muscle pain. Good and cheap alternative to the all-in-one Panadol tablet when you caught just a single or couple of maladies. You down exactly what is needed; not more, not less.img_20170125_100634-e

One for the road. Fancy a luxury limousine to drive or be driven around in? This aged but fine Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II has been spotted sitting in a nearby province in the last two years or so. The current owner just might be willing to lower his expectations should your interest be aroused. Drop me a line if so 🙂

 t-me-cropped-smallMusings & scribblings from the Darkside

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