August 9, 2010
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April 4, 2010
A lot of people have said I have a very interesting job and I guess it is when you don’t meet the
Of course in the course of five years, I have had the opportunity meeting personalities – both big and small- who have walked with us or we simply just bumped into along the way. I count amongst them ordinary folks, artists, cooks, tv personalities, pre-school kids (always an adventure!), members of the academe, writers, ambassadors, wives-of- taipans, street kids (same faces), beggars (they’re suki) as well as non-showbiz celebs (always low-key) and the occasional people I love to hate.
Here are some of the more memorable personalities we have walked into lately:
I bumped into Secretary of Tourism Ace Durano while doing the BIG Binondo Food WOK last year.
Somewhere along the way the good secretary decided to turn a lumpia wrapper into a roti prata and flipped it in the air. What the …?!?
That said, he was a nice fellow and we talked a bit. I think his really keen on doing his job.
Next is the the former mayor of ManiLA (as he loves to spell it) who, in the run-up to the local mayoral elections decided to do visit Binondo and make his presence felt in the plaza across the church he restored (coincidentally, where we also start our Chinatown WOK). Gotta hand it to him, restoring the plaza revived the business around area but I still cannot forgive him for the Jai-Alai building along Taft Avenue in Manila 10 years ago. Oh, and may I add, changing of historic street names too. He listened in the first part of our tour while we were being filmed.
Have mixed feelings about the the guy.
And finally, here’s a memorable chance encounter with her excellency on a recent Power, Palace and a SHOT of Beer tour. While it is not the first time we bumped into her in this particular walk, our first few brushes left no tangible memories as shared through here, here and here.
Well this group (and they were kabalens too) was extremely lucky because not only did they get to meet h her excellency, but she actually stopped to have her photo taken with us. Easier said than done with some overzealous presidential security guards swarming around even at the palace grounds . In any case , I think they the photo-op alone made the day for our guests (not to mention the lovely museum tour and merienda)
I joined in the photo foray and that’s me just immediately on the top of her head.
I’m so glad she’s short.
So there, a day in the life of a walking tour guide.
August 13, 2009
A BIG thank you to Lonely Planet guidebook for your little blurb and having us grace (again) the pages of the LP Philippines 2009 edition.
We first made it to the 2006 issue and look forward to seeing Old Manila Walks again in 2012.
Also to Metro Magazine for the lovely double -page write up on Old Manila Walks.
You really captured the essence of every step we make.
And of Maricar Reyes too.
Finally, maraming salamat to Maxim Magazine for your meaty two- page spread feature.
Everybody inside looked really sexy.
But thanks anyways.
November 24, 2008
For a change, its really nice to have my fingers (instead of my feet and mouth) do the walking this time.
Sunday Inquirer Magazine
Wok-king with Anthony Bourdain
MANILA, Philippines – It started with a text message from artist-chef and fellow half-kabalen (from my matrilineal Kapampangan side) Claude Tayag. The message was deceivingly simple: “A US-based TV host is doing a shoot in the Philippines. I would like you to show him around Manila.”
Now showing someone around my city is something that I take to as naturally as fish to water. For more than three years now, I have been the main face and feet behind Old Manila Walks, a tour outfit that has taken countless numbers of enthusiasts chomping down Chinatown’s hidden alleys, poking around the Presidential Palace’s halls and discovering architectural gems inside a cemetery. For me, Manila is one big cultural smorgasbord and needs to dug into to savor her delights.
“It’s Anthony Bourdain,” Claude spills a few days later. Ok, so I know he’s a chef, and I saw him on television—but what I didn’t realize was how big his cult following is in this part of the world, until I walked with him in Manila.
The instructions from producer Jared Andrukanis were clear-cut and simple: for the show “No Reservations Philippines,” the Manila segment was to be as local as possible. No frills. No fine dining. Just the real deal best summed up in his own words, “gritty but tasty.” “Great,” I thought, Manila is a gritty place so that takes one off the list. Now I just have to take care of the tasty part.
So what constitutes a very Manila dining experience? For me it has to have variety, a fusion, a mishmash of various ingredients from our indigenous Malay (in all its sub-categorical forms, Tagalog, Kapampangan, Ilokano Bikolano, Bisaya, etc.) to the ones brought in by our historical contacts, the Chinese and the Hispanic—all flavors thoroughly mixed up on one delicious plate that is quintessentially Filipino. Think of eats at a typical fiesta spread: Pansit side-by-side with lechon, callos swimming in tomato sauce with finely chopped sisig. An endless supply of soy sauce and soda-marinated barbequed pork skewered on a bamboo stick. All the beer you can drink. Karaoke music in full blast! And finally, all these food spiced up with our people’s infectious happy spirit. To me, this defines my city’s dining experience, and this is what I highlight in any media shoot.
I came up with a list of places and restaurants that fit the required theme; places that I thought would look visually appealing while showcasing the flavors of Manila and Filipino cuisine to curious viewers. Only three places on my list were approved: Binondo, dampa and a tapsilogan. Short though it was, I felt all three places were strongly representative of Manila’s dining culture, while fitting the prescribed “gritty yet tasty” category. Quiapo was canceled due to time constraints; the Salcedo weekend market was crossed out because of the complicated logistics of filming “too many stalls in one day.” Finally, a pares-mami joint was edited out because I think it had to be shot too early at dawn.
I met up with Tony on a hot and humid Saturday morning. At about 6’5”, he has an imposing physical presence. We began our walk around Binondo. If ever there is a place built for walking and sustenance at the same time, it has to be old Chinatown. Not only is it a culinary paradise, but visually, the streets burst with local color and nuances of everyday street life. This corner of Manila is eye candy made from the city’s rich melting pot of people and cultures. In a market alley, Tony becomes the quintessential Caucasian tourist. Many would call out, “Hey Joe, here, here!” (complete with Cory-sign-framing-the-face pose). But some did recognize him. One lady’s jaw literally dropped in shock when she saw Tony coming out of the restaurant. Even a security guard from a grocery store recognized him “as the guy from that food show.” I would find out later that as word spread that Tony was in Manila, many geared up for Anthony Bourdain sightings. I was told of some folks who even camped out at his hotel just to get a glimpse of this alpha chef. I also know of people who drove all the way to Pampanga—one of the many shoot locations —the day before, just to catch sight of (and possibly have their books signed) by him. No wonder local fixer Rich Alindogan called me hours before the shoot, asking if I was coming by myself. Bourdain was prized meat and everybody wanted a bite of him.
After Binondo, next stop on our list was a dampa. Whoever thought of these dining establishments that combine the wet market “paluto” (to cook) concept and karaoke joint certainly knows the way to a Filipino’s heart. Food, family and singing sensations, what could be more Pinoy than this? In the end, the dampa in Cubao won me over with its clean and brightly-lit market, great ambiance, bamboo counter theme, banderitas and, of course, the very good market selection. Even Tony noticed how fresh the day’s catch was.
I had prepared five dishes that are typical Pinoy fare (and that I love to eat) but had to trim it down to three, one vegetable and two kinds of seafood. I gave specific and very strict instructions to the chosen “paluto” joint: “Do not over-sauce the dishes and do not overcook the vegetables!” However, the ensuing buzz going around was, did Tony eat balut? No, he did not, at least not in my segment. As much as I like this delicacy, I think it has been negatively overused to represent Filipino food. Worse, what they keep showing in Western television is the balut which most of us (including me) do not eat—the over-mature one with feathers, beaks and all the scary half-fertilized membranes. And besides, Tony himself admitted that doing balut again was so “last week!”
In the end, I was all smiles when the veggies I ordered came out perfect—all at once crisp, salty, bitter and sweet—perfect with rice. The seafood was even better. Tony looked like he enjoyed it so much he made simut to the last morsel. Over lunch, I asked him what he knew about the Philippines. “History-wise, I know some of our military involvement here.” What about the food? “What do you think of Filipino food so far?” He chews on the thought: “I’m still digesting everything, the culture has the multiple influences, and I’m finding the flavors to be wonderfully confusing.” Yes, wonderfully confusing, perhaps because ours is probably one of the truly global fusion cuisines out there, a true marriage of South-East Asian and Hispanic flavors, defined by our landscape, our history and our people.
Before we leave, I ask him one final question. “In the years that you have lived this culinary traveler’s life, do you get jaded with the food that you’ve eaten?”
His answer: “In parts of Europe yes, but never, never in Asia. How can you be? You can eat one new dish in China every day of your life. I’m starting to feel the same way about the Philippines.”
Spoken like a true culinary traveler. But for me, it’s all just another day’s work as a cultural ambassador to this city—and cuisine—of my affections.
And while we’re at it, a BIG thank you too to U.K.’s Motoring and Leisure magazine for the lovely write up on the Philippines, Manila and yours truly. Also for taking time to actually send me not just one, but two copies! Most of the time, writers and TV show producers/researchers knock at our doors for resource, reference and story features promising to send us a copy for our time but they almost never happen (this is also true with local publications and media). I’m glad M & L Magazine took the effort even if it meant mailing it all the way from London. Maraming Salamat!
October 25, 2008
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The first time I visited over five years ago and did what every every diligent traveler would do, cramming in and walking through all the major sites: the Washington Mall, the Smithsonian museums, the different memorials, the Library of Congress (superb!). I found out that even as I allotted four days in the city, I still did not have enough time to visit every major site hence I missed out on some sites my list: U.S. Capitol (inside), Jewish Museum (after all the museum bureaucracies, quite forgettable), the American History Museum and the Washington Monument (same bureaucratic stories).
For this second visit, I vowed not missed out on the U.S. Capitol and so from Manila, I made long distance call to the information office trying to get tour schedules only to be greeted by a repetitive and annoying answering machine. Talk about bureaucracy.
Tip: The Capitol guided tour tickets are given free service kiosk in front of the building (right side), they give out tickets until the run out. Tours run every half and hour so you have to be there on the designated time otherwise its back to the queue for a new ticket. Tickets are given on a per-person basis, meaning you cannot have someone get it for you.
The U.S. Capitol viewed from the front-right side. Very imposing indeed! There’s a long list of banned items (firearms are obviously on the top of the list) as well as food and drinks.
Upon entry, one is immediately to the center of the building…
A worm’s eye view of the dome. This huge, soaring expanse is easily one of the hallmarks the Capitol building. It is impressive for its cathedral-like proportions.
The Statuary Hall. This was the part when member’s of the group start getting giddy and start the endless camera clicks often veering away from the designated spots. NOT a good idea as you might find your way escorted outside the building.
The Dome and Statuary are the only two areas included in the tour, if you are, like me, a serious historical groupie, then spend a few more time exploring the inner sanctum. The Senate hall is open to the public and you can catch the US Senate in session and perhaps ponder a thing or two on how certain US policies affect world politics.
Just listen, no cameras please.
September 26, 2008
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Just a little THANK YOU note to Travel and Leisure Magazine (September edition) for your little shout out to my name on your Intramuros article. Quite a poignant piece on the Walled City, too bad the writer got our email wrong.
And better late than never, a big THANK YOU too to Brunei Airline’s MUHIBAH Magazine for your lovely feature on Manila…
as well as Old Manila Walks blurb with my million-dollar killer smile to boot!
Shucks, did my photo really deserved to be that big? ;op
MARAMING MARAMING SALAMAT!
September 5, 2008
I’m a big fan of travel literature and a good chunk of my bedside reading material belong to this category. But in as much as I like reading them, I rarely buy local travel magazines because I don’t feel like they have anything new to offer apart from the tried and tested travel narrative in the usual getting from point A to B writing fashion. And while some of the writing is good, I sometimes feel that the views of the writers or the places featured tend to be predictably too common. Okay , so Paris is beautiful but do you think we need another article to glorify her treasures? Sure, the writer probably loves the place but so do a million other people, is there a way of presenting a usual place without falling to typical cliches?
Enter the latest travel magazine to hit the newsstands, the aptly named Roam.
Roam is totally not what I would have expected from a local travel publication. For one, it is paper-packed (150 pages) and, at first glance, has a bit of an artsy-meets-MTV feel to it. I would go to as far as saying that its has comic-book quality to it (down to the size!).
I certainly found the lay-out design to be very edgy with hints of the tome Pinoy Pop Culture published a few years back. For its premiere issue, Roam dedicated all its pages to this city of my personal affection: Manila. By this, I mean it in her plural-mutated-sprawling-overbearingly huge form (not just the city of Manila) but the whole metropolis, all 600 sq. kms of it. And I’m sure, given the size of my city, you’ll easily find something to fill up every page.
Certainly, the contents were well thought of, a mish-mash of the usual Manila travel subjects- Intramuros, Chinatown, Quiapo et al. There’s also food reviews and the occasional emotional ramblings about a place. But what I found fresh were the unconventional stories. The Luneta Photographer’s club (they existed?) feature presents a human-face to these faceless wanderers in our city’s biggest park. Quezon City, Parañaque and Kalookan (!), places in the Metro you (and certainly I) didn’t think of as worthy travel stories also found their way in and definitely gave the theme another kick. Ditto with features Marikina (boonies for me), balut-making and Korean immigrants. All the articles made for an interesting read.
Some stories fell to the usual ‘predictably too common’ angle trap. The Intramuros article was ho-hum.
All said, a great read. Kudos to Roam for coming up with a phenomenal travel magazine.
And THANK YOU too for your little blurb about Old Manila Walks and yours truly in the Vintage Manila article.
Ditto with Real Living Magazine for their blog write up here.
And finally, while surfing for ‘my’ online presence (yes i do that), I chanced upon an interesting article about Binondo and this blurb about Old Manila Walks by the Straits Times in Singapore. Thank you, thank you!