Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Ultimate Food Experience Vol. 1 (Meat, Salad and Buffet-style Restaurants Galore)

note: this was an email i sent to my friends when i was on vacation in the US two years ago (sent on 22 septepmber 2004).

warning: before you read this, make sure you have all the time in the world!

when i left manila, i was about a hundred and twenty-three pounds. when i go back there, i don't know...

i did not eat much on my first days here. but now that almost two weeks have passed, i just have to eat. i just made a resolution to restrict myself in buying the 99 cent chips (read: doritos, lay's) and king-sized chocolate bars in every corner store i pass. (ain't it a coincidence that right now i am listening to lea salonga singing, "o tuksooooooo, layuan mo akoooooohhhh!!!!!!!"

after the birthday party of my lola, there were a lot of leftovers. mostly lechon, embutido, menudo and callos. meat galore! my tita made lechon paksiw out of the leftover lechon. all of those food lasted for a week, and that's what we ate for lunch, for dinner... *groan*

last friday though, tito fred took us to this nice buffet-style restaurant called souplantation in monrovia for lunch. when you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by the salad bar. besides lettuce, there are other kinds of veggies you can't imagine are there --spinach, arugula, red beets, red beans, garbanzos...that's besides the ready-made salads and different kinds of salad dreassings. there is also the bread line -- cheesy foccacia bread, foccacia pizza, blueberry muffins, cherry-nut muffins, chocolate lava cake, buttermilk cornbread... i didn't pay much attention to the soup buffet but what i got was the yankee-style clam chowder and tomato-basil soup -- this is very chunky -- with lots of celery, carrots and small pasta. for dessert there's fruit -- melon, honeydew, grapes, watermelon plus very yummy cottage cheese. you can also make your own sundae. chocolate, vanilla and swirl (combination of the two flavors), then just add chocolate syrup and nuts or fruits -- just let your imagination go! you might notice that i didn't mention any meat here. that's because they don't serve it as an entree, just as a side dish. to all you vegetarians out there, this is the place to go!

tita emma's house, sun city:
my tita is allergic to everything you can imagine. besides nuts, dairy and some veggies, she also cannot eat meat. so you can just imagine what kind of food i eat here. mostly green salad, but anyhow, she bought food that we can eat, so that we won't be like cows grazing. hehe. we had very yummy dried tomato and cheese ravioli with pesto sauce, steamed asparagus (green and white) and string beans on our first night here, which was just last saturday. actually the food lasted until monday but what the heck, the ravioli tasted good as the days went by. ginja! yesterday we opened another package of ravioli, this time cheese and spinach... it didn't hearken to my taste. we also had baked fish, chicken potstickers, which are dumplings, and more salad. for as long as we are going to stay here, this will be how we will eat.

lael's restaurant, hyatt hotel san diego:
last sunday tita emma, my cuz christine and of course, my mum and i, drove over to san diego (christine lives and works there) after church. it was quite along drive but actually in was only for an hour but it felt like hours because we drove straight, there was no traffic at all, and the vista was almost the same, endless desert and hills with the occasional town. anyhow, we were very hungry for lunch by then so we drove straight to the port. we had the brunch in lael's restaurant in hyatt (yeah, baby!) because it is buffet-style. again. not that i'm complaining, coz at least they serve meat, which, of course, i got on my first plate --rack of lamb with mashed potatoes, blintzes with fruit sauce (cottage cheese-filled pancake and blueberry sauce), chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, and ham with 2 cheese slices. there are also these cute tiny 3 oz. bottles of tabasco sauce for the fresh oysters. one bottle i took, but not the oysters. for my second plate, i had -- well what would it be but dessert? amaretto cheesecake (mas ok ang chocolate kiss!), this creamy-crunchy pie that i forgot what its name was, 2 coffee-chocolate truffles AND chocolate mousse in champagne flute. hungry now????? i really wished you were also here so we could all savor the creamy texture and light flavors of those divine desserts. when i took my first bite of the cheesecake, i was the only one at the table with closed eyes, savoring it. good thing they didn't pay much attention to what i was doing. after that second plate i resolved not to eat again. in the afternoon christine treated me to snow bubble. lost in translation? this is, in plain tagalog terms, zagu/quickly. :) i had choco-cinnamon milk tea with bubble (black sago)

home style buffet, temecula:
i think i am getting sick and tired of buffet-style restos. last monday we had dinner at home style buffet. this was another of the many buffet-style restos here. at least the food is different, and delicious! here i had potato-cheese soup, bbq beef brisket (very tender and juicy) with sweet corn on the cob (m-m-m!) and cowboy grilled potatoes. second plate i had homestyle meat loaf, mashed potatoes, fried fish, and steamed carrots and string beans. at this point my tummy is practically hanging out of my jeans' beltline, i was that full! i just rested for a while for the food to go down and make some room for dessert -- chocolate pudding. ahh, heavenly!!! after that i made room for just one more -- frozen strawberry yogurt on cone. after that i cannot breathe anymore. i just had to undo the top button of my jeans just to breathe! i will never eat again. (of course you know very well that's so not true, but you know what i mean.)

ooh-kay! so ends the first part of this food experience series. there would be more to come, that is, if i would eat yummy-savor-deserving delights or be force-fed alien globules of unidentified food. hehe.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Aside from owning a pizza cart in a grocery store, my older brother also dabbles in small-time catering at times. (Personally he should have had a degree in HRM instead of me!). Needless to say, he has asked me dozens of times on how to prepare this dish or that sauce, and then he will ask me to help him. The last time he asked me to help was just a little over a week ago, when he got the job for catering the snacks for some people at a call center. Guess what? The snacks were hotdogs. (Hence the title of this entry. Am I creative or am I cree-ay-tive! ;-P).

This is what I've discovered while preparing a large number of hotdogs on sticks, especially when sticking those barbecue sticks in them: they give you a lethargic feeling. The sleepy-dreamy-wishy-washy kind of feeling. So never, ever do it when you have a low energy level! Make sure you have lots of energy. The only thing that held me up at the time was the enticing scent of cooking hotdogs. Fortunately, after all the slight burns and the torture of not being able to eat one, my brother's friend just gave me her share.

Hehehe. ;-)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More Manila Trips and Ramblings 3

(this is the last entry from my other blog that i'm reposting here)

New Po Heng Restaurant serves authentic Hokkien-style lumpia, which was served during the Binondo Food Wok. The same Chinese guy (who's probably the owner) whom I saw during the food wok was there and immediately asked us if we would buy "lohng-pia." We just politely declined and got bottled water instead. Soothing Chinese music floated from the speakers and we took our time contemplating where to go next. I could see that my mum was clearly tired and she looked ready to snap (we were walking for three and a half hours already by this time) so I was of two minds whether to continue walking or just take a taxi home. The look on my mum's face really had me wary! But she assured me that it's ok to continue walking and so, we decided to cross Jones Bridge again. I thought we would be continuing over to the bus stop (which was VERY FAR from where we were) but then right at the end of Jones Bridge was Intramuros already so we entered through one of the wall's arches and went up to the wall. We were on the strip where the Lyceum, San Juan de Letran and Manila High School are located. Anyway, we just walked along some parts of the wall and went down the ramp that was across from the Lyceum. There were history markers at the gate of each school we passed, and each mentioned that where the schools are now are the former sites of three of the six churches that were destroyed in the Battle of Manila. There were seven actually, but only San Agustin survived. And for the life of me, I could not remember those churches' names! Oh, well. There WILL BE another time.

And so we walked for a bit more and found ourselves standing in front of McDonald's. I remember seeing this while on a calesa ride when Yunhee was here, and thinking what a shame that a modern structure is inside Intramuros. Somehow it looks strange to the Spanish colonial period atmosphere. We decided to have merienda there and rest our legs as well before we went home. It was such a nice feeling to be able to wash my hands and face in the restroom after a long walk. At least I won't feel grungy by the time we went home.

We still had a little bit more of an adventure after we left McDonald's. We didn't know exactly where the buses going to Taytay would stop, so it took us quite some time before we got on one. We even passed through the Manila City Hall towards the LRT. I couldn't help but feel creeped out walking in there. I've read that the Manila City Hall looks like a coffin if viewed from above, with the clock tower as the candle. Click on this link to see for yourself.

After ten more minutes we finally got on a bus. The end.

At the first part or this series you might have noticed that I only mentioned the things I did for that vacation until Thursday. Well, it's because by the time get got home on Thursday afternoon I was so walked out so a Friday night out was out of the question. But then, walking around Manila was such an exhilarating adventure that now I can't wait for the next one. I'm already planning it, by the way.

More Manila Trips and Ramblings 2

If you really should know, I have an overactive imagination so I really tend to think about these kinds of things. Moving on...

Right at the foot of the bridge lay the imposing Manila Post Office. And as my impromptu mind cranked on, I decided that that would be our next stop. Besides, this is my chance to see it up close and personal (and internal. weeeeehhh. ). Well, the structure is very beautiful and I could really feel the "prewar vibe" emanating from its walls. On a whim I bought a postcard with different pictures of Manila on it and mailed it to my lola in the US. Aside from the workers and people mailing letters and packages, there was a group of little kids and their parents and yayas, presumably on a field trip. Well, lucky them. My mum and I weren't allowed to tour ourselves from top to bottom of the building. According to the not-too-friendly guard, it's because of security reasons. Too bad as the staircase is grande to my nearsighted eyes. I would have loved to go up and down those stairs. Well the stairs actually continued down to the lower ground level so at least we still got to walk down them and exited towards the promenade.

Well, the Jones Bridge was just a few yards away from where we were standing, so it's off to Binondo we go, baby!

While crossing Jones Bridge, I could see a very interesting looking ancient building along the bank of the Pasig River Binondo side. Hm. As you might expect, we went straight to that part of Binondo and found not one, but two ancient buildings side by side! (of course there are other ancient buildings in Binondo but these were the ones we went to). The first building we saw from the corner is now completely abandoned, complete with boards on the windows and chained giant wooden doors. Besides a small group of people gathered around a makeshift sari-sari store out front, there isn't any life at all there. How sad. However, the other building which I saw from the bridge still shows some signs of life as indicated by a small table (presumably the "front desk") with two guys who remotely look like security guards. Or maybe they're caretakers of the building, we didn't really ask. And as with our Escolta tour, we confidently walked up to the two men and asked them all sorts of questions about the building. From what we could pick up from them, the building's name is El Hogar and it's about a hundred years old already. The offices are only up until the second floor and the rest (3rd to 4th floors) are vacant. I went past the lobby and out into the "courtyard" in the middle and saw the grandest staircase I've ever seen in my entire life. Even grander than the staircase in Perez-Samanillo Building in Escolta. Though it was obviously old, it still shows its character through its wrought iron sides with wooden banisters and the tiles. The "courtyard" was a pathetic excuse for a courtyard, though. It must have looked really beautiful during its glory days, but as I looked up to the other floors, some doors to the other units have been padlocked and clothes were hanging on a wire. Some were even in the basins, soaking up the sun. Gawin ba naman daw labahan ang lugar. I thought that maybe the building was converted into apartments. Another sad thing about this "courtyard" is that it smells like imburnal. *sigh*

Then we asked the men if we could go up. Thank God they allowed us, and so we went up after a false alarm (mum misunderstood what the guy said about the elevator and she screamed out to me--and i was already in the elevator by this time--that it wasn't working. it was working.).

Going up there was probably one of the most out of the ordinary things I've ever done. There was this sense of adventure that I knew I would regret it if I didn't go up. I got off the elevator first once we reached the fourth floor and stepped back in surprise as there was another guy who wasn't wearing a t-shirt and was holding a pail and mop right out in the hall. We (well, my mum mostly) started to ask this guy more questions about the building. Of course he wouldn't know a lot about the building dating back from before the war, but he mentioned that the building is being used these days as a location for commercials and movies, mostly horror. Go there and you'd understand why. One of the commercials he mentioned was Ceelin Vitamin C for kids, where this CGI dragon was stalking a kid, ready to shoot darts of diseases but the kid was protected by the trademark Ceelin orange hat. When I watched the commercial for the first time I thought that the location looks a bit strange for an elementary school. Now I know why.

I left my mum still grilling the custodian and checked out every room whose doors are left ajar. There weren't a lot of things to see; just some wooden boards on the floor, wood planks leaning on the walls, and a lot of dust. The most interesting room in there was the one overlooking the Pasig River. Besides more plywood and other carpentry effects, there was this tan leather highbacked swivel chair facing the open window. For a wild moment I imagined it turning by itself to face me and a skeleton in a suit was sitting on it. I would have left it at that if there wasn't a tie-dyed t-shirt with holes on a hanger hanging on a wire spanning the width of the room.

At the end of the hall there's another flight of stairs that leads to another office. Though wooden and painted chocolate brown, it's obvious that this flight of stairs is old as well. I went down and round the other side of the hall, where, there was another grand staircase. Beside it is another elevator bank which isn't used anymore. I would have gone all around the hall if there wasn't this tapping and clanking sound coming from one of the padlocked rooms. Believe it or not, there were strange sounds. Imagination is one thing, but the real thing stirs the imagination even more.

And just as we did in Escolta, my mum and I went down the grand staircase. The edges of some of the stone steps have chunks chipped away. According to the topless guy, the workers used the stairs as a some kind of ramp for heavy stuff. Pathetic, huh. Whoever allowed the use of that stairs as a ramp must have no sense at all.

I emailed Ivan Mandy if he knew anything about El Hogar and the other building. He mentioned that what the guy said about El Hogar's age might be true, but it's possible that it might be over a hundred years old already. As for the abandoned building right beside it, it is the Pacific Commercial Building which was the former site of the original Citibank offices when it was still HQed in Binondo. He added that it was probably built in 1922 during the American colonial period. Nice.

After El Hogar we backtracked to Quintin Paredes Street. By this time our legs were getting pooped out and so we went to the New Po Heng Restaurant (which is the last food stop in Ivan's Big Binondo Food Wok) to rest.

More Manila Trips and Ramblings

(this was posted in my other blog on October 23)

October 2-6 marked a highlight in my otherwise bleak office life--a major holiday in Korea rendered us a WHOLE WEEK OF VACATION. My boss is human, after all. A lot of vacation possibilities crashed through my mind, each more enticing than the last. I met up with Yunhee at the Mall of Asia on Monday, went to SSS San Juan on Tuesday (we got our electricity back that day, btw! yay!), stayed at home on Wednesday, and... went to MANILA on Thursday.

Actually I didn't have any plans at all for that day, just that I wanted to go to Echague (now Carlos Palanca St.) in Quiapo, and then it's anything goes. At first my mum didn't want to go to Echague as it's a crowded place. But ever since I read Señor Enrique's entry about the street, well, I just knew that I had to check it out. To be honest I wasn't very excited about the self tour that my mum and I were about to do because my mum was hesitant about going to Quiapo; but the sense of adventure prevailed and so we set out for Quiapo on that sunny Thursday morning.

I really consider it Providence that there was a traffic along M. Paterno St. There were two buses, G. Liner (ordinary) and RRCG (airconditioned) already near N. Domingo, so I told my mum to make a run for it or else we would miss them. We got on the RRCG bus (of course!) and found seats at the end. Funny because I didn't know where we would get off, and finally a guy in a nursing uniform helped us by saying Mendiola because the conductor was also getting confused as to where we planned to get off.

Well, we got off at the street behind Mendiola going over to San Sebastian Church. I must say that the church is one of the most impressive structures I've ever been to. If my memory seves me correctly, this is the only church (Catholic) in the Philippines built of steel and is of Gothic architecture. In my opinion the exterior isn't that appealing to look at, but once inside, well, words aren't enough to describe it. Magnificent. Breathtaking. I was awestruck. I want to go up to the bell tower when I get the chance to go back there again. When we got back to the street and on to R. Hidalgo Street, my mum mentioned that one of the bastions of the Gonzalo Dynasty had a picture of herself taken on the very street we were on. Immediately everything I saw became black and white, with people were wearing 19th century clothes and calesas plying the street and my aunt posing for a photographer with a gigantic camera in the middle of everything, the church looming in the background.

Everything became in color again when I saw a small eatery and realized that it was almost lunchtime. Well, to eat there will never happen so I just stuck it out and marveled instead at the Spanish colonial houses lining the street as we walked along. This place can really be a good tourist spot; it can be turned into a heritage site just like the one in Vigan. At this point I wish I had brought my camera with me even if it's the click-and-shoot-and-wind type. The houses, all in different stages of neglect but still standing proud, have this certain appeal to me that was, well, really appealing. I could practically hear them crying out to me, "Please, restore us!!!!!!!" And inside I was crying along with them because I don't have the resources to restore them.

At the end of the street, reality set in again (meaning, hunger) and I saw--enter chimes and heavenly voices--Jollibee, Greenwich and Chowking! We opted to eat at Chowking and I had my usual merienda wanton mami and merienda siopao. My mum and I actually were on a budget, but still, she ordered the sweet and sour lauriat. HEHEHE. We contemplated where to go next. Well, we went under the Quiapo underpass and went up to the Quiapo church. I can finally say that I have seen the place up front where the "mystical" herbs (read: pampa-REGLA =P)are sold.There was a mass when we entered the church and the priest was just giving out the ostia to the churchgoers.

To be honest I was disappointed with the church's interior. Compared to the other churches I've been to, this one looks so... modern. It reminded me of Christ the King church in Green Meadows. Maybe my expectations were just too high.

Anyhow, from Quiapo we walked on to this street that I forgot the name of and when we turned left to Echague Street (finally!), we found ourselves directly under Quiapo Bridge. There are tiangges "ils tuls" (as in "ilalim ng tulay. yeah, i know.). Basically we walked towards where Ayala Bridge is and then backtracked when we couldn't see anything but some factories. As we went along the length of Echague (okay, okay! Carlos Palanca St! ), I kept a watchful eye for the places Señor Enrique mentioned in his entry: Excelente Cooked Ham and Kim Chong Tin Hopia Factory. What I missed in the entry was Vienna Bakery, that's why it didn't register to me at all when we entered the store that day. Anyway I wanted to buy something from the bakery but still, interference, interference. My mum and I had a very interesting conversation, though. As we walked away from the bakery...

Me: Ma, tandaan mo, ha. Vienna Bakery.
Mum: Ano?
Me: Vienna Bakery. Tandaan mo ang pangalan ng bakery para maisulat ko sa…

Ooh, yes. That was really my mum's reaction when she heard the name. So as expected, we went back a few steps and bought a loaf of cream bread. Yum, yum!!!

I am not exactly sure if Vienna Bakery came right after the hopia factory but what I do remember is that Excelente Cooked Ham comes right before it. That is, coming in from Quiapo Bridge. Anyway, we walked along for a few minutes more and lo and behold! We were already in Carriedo Street. But instead of going there, we crossed Avenida Rizal to Plaza Lacson and went on to Sta. Cruz Bridge, ehem, MacArthur Bridge. According to my research, Sta. Cruz was the name of the bridge before and during the war, but to commemorate the valiant deeds of the gallant five-star General Douglas MacArthur, they renamed it MacArthur Bridge after they rebuilt it. Cool, huh?

As we crossed the bridge (reminiscent of four years ago as my bro and I crossed George Washington Bridge from NJ to NYC), I savored the fresh wind from Pasig River and basically just taking in the sights in the North and South banks of the river: prewar buildings from Escolta, the Manila Post Office, etc. Also, just as it was when we went on a tour with Carlos Celdran, I could practically see and hear the American and Japanese warplanes swooping in from the blue sky, Howitzers pulverizing buildings to dust, and people screaming and running for cover.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Memorable Walk Down History Lane 2

Another thing that struck me the most in the tour was the way Carlos related the Philippine side of World War II, specifically the Battle of Manila. In the cool dampness of the San Agustin crypt in 2006, I could practically hear the Japanese and American warplanes of 1945 zooming above us, howitzers and tanks booming, the cries of the injured and dying, soldiers and civilians alike.

We are taken back again to the Spanish period as we went into the San Agustin church. My dream come true. No joke! It's amazing to learn that among the seven churches built by the Spaniards in Intramuros, it is the only one that survived the destruction of Intramuros during the war. Miraculous, isn't it? And it goes without saying that I so savored the opportunity of seeing conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi's tomb as well as the ancient tombstones on the church's floor and walls dating back from the 19th century. I have never seen anything quite like it in my whole life.

After San Agustin, we crossed the street over to Casa Manila. I have been to Casa Manila lots of times before, but having Carlos Celdran as a tour guide would forever change my view of this casa/museo. For the longest time I thought that Casa Manila was a genuine Spanish-era house along with the furniture inside it, but was mistaken. Maybe it's just my penchant for dilapidated, crumbling old edifices made me want to believe that it's so. The house was reconstruced after the war, so those hardwood floors aren't exactly what the ancient inhabitants of that place trod upon, right? And as for the furniture, well, they all (or most of them) came from the efforts of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos. I have to commend her for her efforts in building up cultural awareness...

Carlos mentioned that the whole place epitomizes the Filipino's jeepney/halo-halo mentality--something just has to be decorated even if the decors don't match. It's the Filipino's ingenuity that can fool the ordinary observer into thinking that it's one whole whole piece, but in reality it's a combination of bits and starts. Hm, that's one more mystery solved as to why Filipinos have an identity crisis.

Going on a tour with Carlos Celdran is definitely worth it. I have truly learned a lot more about Manila from it. It's a wonderful combination of history, theater and a bit of "insider's info" in which you'll learn some facts about Manila that you'd never think about. I'm sure you will also agree with Carlos's statement: "History helps clarify the chaos that is our capital city. Because if you cannot change the way Manila looks, history will help you change the way you look at Manila."

How true.

A Memorable Walk Down History Lane

For the past years, I've been hearing raves about Carlos Celdran's tours of Metro Manila but I haven't been able to join one. The people I've talked to who have been on one of his tours promised that Carlos will provide such a great learning experience as well as entertainment. And so, as aforesaid in my weekend report, I had the opportunity to join his tour of Intramuros, If These Walls Could Talk! last September 23. And what a tour that was!

It was a brooding morning as it was with the Binondo tour, but that didn't deter me from being in high spirits. The only thing that got me worried was when the taxi my mum and I rode got stuck in the perpetual Legarda traffic coming in from Nagtahan, and it was already 9AM at the time; the tour was supposed to start at 930.

When we finally got to the San Agustin Church, it turned out that we were the first ones to arrive. And when the other people who joined the tour came, all of us had to wait for quite some time before the tour began. It was quite funny coz the people who came in later wore worried looks on their faces because they thought they were late. Well, why am I not surprised that it's because of the traffic?

And now, for the tour...

It was such a sight to see Carlos in his costume: Barong Tagalog, shorts, sandals, and a top hat. He even had this bag of props and a radio, all of which were very helpful in his theatrical tour. We started out with singing the Lupang Hinirang, in which Carlos gave a trivia: the last few notes of the Lupang Hinirang are similar to the last few notes of France's national anthem, only backwards.

If there was a crash course of Philippine history, Carlos Celdran definitely is the man to give it. Yes, he had mentioned the obvious things from the time before the Spaniards came, plus some really juicy bits that we didn't learn from school. Take note our language, for example. As we Filipinos know, our language is a mixture of Malay, Spanish and English, the last two courtesy of the two colonial periods our country underwent. One example that Carlos gave was before the Spaniards came, we already had the concept of heaven, langit as we call it in Tagalog. When the Spaniards came, they introduced another concept: infierno--which is just one of the ways the Spanish friars of that time scared the Filipinos half to death. One other thing I remember most about what he said about the Spanish colonization of the Philippines was that those governor-generals who came here are just poor creatures who don't have the power; it's the friars who had it. Who could remember from their history lesson that the main reason why those good friars went out of their way to learn our language and dialects was to be able to understand what WE say while WE could NOT understand them? Hm, pretty sly for those messengers of God, no?

We also learned about the importance of the Chinese in Philippine history. Those Spaniards who were so insecure of the Chinese's abilities during that period made sure that their quarters was just one cannon shot away from Intramuros. That's also to insure that the Chinese won't even think of revolting against them. Of course they did, and thus resulting in several revolts that cost the lives of thousands of Chinese. And as the saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them, right? So if you go around Manila high society these days, you'd see more Asian-looking people than Caucasians.

In between walks inside the San Agustin museum, Carlos played some songs on a radio he brought along with him to enhance the "historical mood" as well as to emphasize on which colonial time he was talking about. We had enough time to explore Father Blanco's garden, which, I may say, I've wondered about all those times I stood along Calle Real, just outside the wall of the garden whenever I'm in Intramuros. I really love the feeling of being inside a historical structure such as this and even if I savor the sight of the crumbling walls more than the plants, I just love...

Escolta Trippings and Ramblings

note: this and the next five entries were previously posted in my other blog.

Escolta is the second leg of my Self-Get-To-Know-Manila tour.

Ever since I joined Ivan's Binondo tour, I have been interested in Manila's history all the more. Escolta was an optional part of the Binondo tour but as it would take us another hour and it was already late, most of the people (including me) in the tour opted not to go there anymore.

Now, I am not all that well-versed in Escolta's history; what I actually wanted to see there were the pre-war structures. But from what I've heard from Ivan and Carlos, Escolta was once the main business hub of Manila, the Ayala Avenue during the Spanish and American colonizations until it was destroyed in World War II. If I remember correctly, the exodus of the businesses from the Escolta to Makati began in the early 60's.

Two Fridays ago (September 15) I had the opportunity to go there as my boss was kind enough to give me and my coworkers a day off. And as I had no plans of staying in the house on that day, I decided to pull my mum along with me to that oh-so-enchanting/alluring stretch of ancient cement. So, alighting from the LRT2 in Recto on that hot, summer-ish day, we went on to the bridge and down to Avenida Rizal. The baby-boomer in my mum lamented that this wasn't the Avenida Rizal she went to in the 60's, when everything was still clean and not so crowded. I didn't notice much of Avenida Rizal as I was looking forward to getting to Escolta, but I do remember seeing some interesting old buildings as well as theatres that have obviously seen better days. I was enjoying myself, though. At one point I wanted to enter an abandoned building that's now occupied by some vagrants but was restrained by the baby-boomer. Anyhow, my mum told me some stories that in the olden times, she used to pass along Avenida Rizal with some friends and watch a movie in one of the theatres there or buy a pair of shoes in Carriedo and whatnot.

No sooner than when we got to Plaza Lacson did I restrain myself from screaming out loud. Just on the other side of the plaza lay the Escolta, and from the plaza I first saw the Prudential Bank Building. It was oh, so, impressive. It was all I could do to keep myself from running towards Escolta and absorbing everything in sight. I really wanted to scream like I did when my bro and I drove under Binondo's friendship arch, but then I was not in a car going to Escolta; I was walking with my mum, holding a cup of iced tea whose ice has already melted, on a street that's full of people.

Except for a few cars and trucks passing by, Escolta was pretty quiet at the time. My mum took me first to Calvo Building where there is a small museum. I don't remember seeing that, but in the hallway, there are framed old newspaper clippings, pictures and blueprints of the building dating back from when it was erected in 1933. At the end of the hallway there is a gateway leading to the promenade of Pasig River. That's a picture-perfect scene as it is directly across from the Post Office. Of course, that won't be complete without us going to the top floor by the elevator. The elevator was certainly old, with both doors operated manually. The doors of every floor leading to the elevator are operated with a lever, while the door of the elevator itself is this kind of sliding gate. The hallways of Calvo building are dimly lit, with high ceilings that only a person on a really high ladder could touch it. My mum and I went down the stairs, thinking of all the people from before the war who walked on these very same steps. We checked out each floor even though we know that each floor looks the same. The doorways to each office are really wide and the walls are made out of wood.

After the Calvo Building, we went on to the promenade. It was such a sight to behold, especially with the Post Office just across the Pasig River. Standing smack across it, the Jones Bridge was to my right while the Sta. Cruz Bridge was on the left. I could also see the FEATI with the words "Look up, young man, look up!" painted on it. The walk along the promenade was nice though it was hot and there were some vagrants lying around. Fortunately no one bothered us. We made a turn back to Escolta and this time, we went to the Perez-Samanillo Building.

In contrast to Calvo Building's dim and low lobby/hallway, the lobby of Perez-Samanillo Building is bright and airy. There are two heavy looking bowl-type chandeliers as well. I noticed that I was standing directy under one while waiting for the elevator and immediately thought about how would it feel if it broke off from the ceiling and landed on me. The elevator is also the same as in Calvo's, but with the exception of the floor indicators (i'm not exactly sure of the exact term). In Calvo Building, each floor the elevator is on is indicated in lighted numbers, whereas in Samanillo Building each floor is indicated with this clock-type hand which moves every time the elevator goes to another floor. I remember that there are some elevators in Grand Central Station in New York City like this one. My older brother and I even got stuck for a bit in one of them.

The last building that we entered is the Regina Building. This one is more modern-looking than the other two, but the difference is that the hallways are wide and bright with, of course, the high ceilings. As usual, we went up to the top floor by the elevator and went down by stairs, but this time only down to the fourth floor as our legs were already killing us.

All in all, this trip to Escolta is very enjoyable; I did not even feel the ache in my legs even when we rode the LRT. It's just unfortunate that I didn't have a camera along with me for this trip; otherwise I would have posted some pictures here. But when another opportunity comes along, I'll make sure to bring a camera even if it's not digital hehehe.

Also, this made me more aware of the sad plight old buildings in Manila are in; it's either they are just abandoned and left to rot or worse, torn down to make one more shopping mall that we don't really need anymore (look at Paco Train Station! what in the world did they do there?!). Those buildings that have survived the war should be taken care of by those in office; they are the only reminders that we have left of our heritage and if they're gone, how are the next generation going to learn about Manila's history, right? Pictures are nice, yes, but there's nothing like the real thing.