Monthly Archives: October 2013

Manufacturing Celebrity

Photo courtesy of the - The Official Website

Photo courtesy of the – The Official Website

I’m writing this tale because I’m sick to death of so many injustices, and a sadness about a strange syndrome here in the Philippines where foreign looks is a key to gaining celebrity status. I am British and wish to not be hurtful towards someone like Phil Younghusband, but what can I say when he plays his game not too well on the pitch and becomes such an opportunist off it.

He was raised in England of an English father and a Filipina mother. Yet he’s been prepared to eat from the bottom of the tank and therefore became a part of everything that is wrong about celebrity culture in the Philippines. Not just because he rode the tide of interest in his foreign looks but because he so undeservedly became a created celebrity. In fact, the question I’m asking is how did he become a celebrity at all? I don’t begrudge a man a career, just as long as others know that that is exactly what it is about, a man’s career. He seems to be entitled to it mainly because he plays the game, and I don’t mean football, but because he’s half foreign which makes him a great package for advertisers. He has stepped into a world of celebrity which in his case is built on being foreign, because if you examine his career, it really doesn’t stand up as anything.

He turned professional at Chelsea back in March 2005. He was with Chelsea from the age of 9. That’s not too unusual these days in the world of football. I will give credit where it is due and say that being taken on by a rich club like Chelsea is no mean feat. His youth career was impressive enough but there must be thousands of half decent youths around eagerly signed by clubs just in case they are missing a talent. What happens after is where the real test is. Well putting it briefly he never really made the grade. No first team appearances
not even when he was farmed out on loan to top flight Danish club Esbjerg. Chelsea obviously never fancied him and he was cut loose presumably after being told, we don’t think you have what it takes, son.

Okay, I’m not holding any of this against him as he is far from alone at not making the grade. It’s a tough business and unfortunately it never happened for him in England. It would appear nobody else came in for him out of the million or so clubs at all levels worldwide so time to change life plan, and change life plan he certainly did.

The Celebrity Creation

Photo courtesy of Phil Younghusband's Instagram account

Photo courtesy of Phil Younghusband’s Instagram account

So how does a footballer that has failed to make the grade as a professional become a celebrity in the Philippines? That’s an excellent question and I’m not sure I know the answer. In a country desperately short of footballers of any quality, he managed to become selected for the Philippines national squad, the Azkals (derived from a local term for street dogs).

Some time after he came to the Philippines he joined a local outfit San Beda before moving on to his current club Loyola Meralco Sparks.

I’m not sure of the timing but somewhere before in all this, he and his brother James began a football academy acquiring Phil level 2 UEFA coaching badge, and James level one. Not sure whether this was started by sponsors or whether the academy was a venture of the Younghusbands’ own.

Along with his brother James, Phil Younghusband enjoyed virtual automatic selection for the Philippines national squad which they were entitled to through their Filipina mother. No real controversy there as the Philippines does have a shortage of quality footballers; it’s simply not a football country.

Then as fortune would have it, the Philippines football team, somewhat starved of any success for many years reached the semi finals of the 2010 Suzuki cup which was a 2 leg affair with both legs having to be held in Indonesia in front of crowds of 70,000 for the first leg and a massive 88,000 for the second leg. The reason for this was that no stadium in the Philippines was up to the minimum standard meaning for larger tournaments they could not play on home soil. The Philippines lost both legs 1-0 and they enjoyed a new lease of life and suddenly in a country that hardly knew what football was, the Azkals suddenly became a huge focus of the local media.

The story virtually petered out from there as regards the football. What seemed to happen next was the Azkals became marketable with the Younghusbands being the most marketable of all due to their foreign looks. It would appear that Phil very happily took up his new new role. Suddenly, sponsorships from television and other leading companies of the whole Azkal’s circus meant that
football became second to the modeling career and brand endorsements. Other members of the squad who were equally as talented as footballers weren’t as marketable as they’re full blood Filipinos. Phil and James went from strength to strength becoming brand endorsers especially Phil.

Phil with Angel Locsin (taken from his Instagram account)

Phil with Angel Locsin (taken from his Instagram account)

His celebrity status was then taken up a notch by an alleged relationship with leading Filipina actress and singer Angel Locsin. Both had the same sponsors
and I have no idea about the validity of that relationship or whether it was simply contrived as it does seem to be the way of things when creating marketable packages such as Phil Younghusband.

Then the inevitable story after the relationship has run its course, the split up. With many products to endorse onboard and after interviews on celebrity TV about the relationship with Angel etc, a career is cemented and I think you know the rest.

What happened to the football in all this, I have no idea. It seemed to be becoming secondary as the Younghusband brothers got deeper into brand endorsements. The inevitable happened and Philippines national coach Michael Weiss, a German whose job it was to actually select a national football squad, decided to not include them in his plans. It seemed extracurricular activities being the reasoning and you can’t really blame him.

I may be missing something but the rest of the squad doesn’t seem to be overly brand endorsing and still play for the Philippines. The ones of full Filipino blood probably the most overlooked when it comes to demonstrating ways to avoid the white stuff on your shoulders along with other things.

What’s the point behind this tale of formerly unemployed footballers becoming celebrities in the Philippines? Well, I will allow you to connect the dots yourself, but I can’t help but wonder how Filipinos must feel watching the glorification of a character built on not success but on having brand-able foreign looks. Strangely, out of the two, it was Phil who appears to have stage managed a greater career out of it whilst his better looking brother James has not been as manufactured.

I also tell you this to point out something a little ugly within Filipino media culture. I have no idea where this leaves the football. How long will it last? Time will tell.



Filed under Impressions, Manila, Philippine Football, Philippines

Feeding Your Face

There are a lot of choices for food where Korean, Chinese and Japanese are popular with locals along with local cuisine. If you are not the type that likes to indulge in the local food, then there are many restaurants that cater to western tastes. But you’re in the Philippines. It would be tragic to not even try some local food.

The Rice Mountain

Filipino food is often served with mounds of white rice. I think that single fact is why some visitors get a food block with local cuisine. I was always used to plenty of rice long before I got here, but I used to be a little overawed by the sheer volume of it they would have with their meal and many places offer unlimited rice and I was astounded they would ask for more when I thought it too much in the first place. Filipinos are used to eating this way and who are we to say that’s too much. It doesn’t seem to bother them; it’s what they are used to. However, to a westerner, it’s a lot of white rice.

Many dishes are saucy but they tend to eat some dishes fairly void of sauce with just a dash of gravy such as fried chicken which of course would be served with a generous helping of rice. For some tastes, that’s a lot of flavour extraction being taken out the food due to mounds of rice. It doesn’t suit a lot of western tastes but I got used to it and now I’m inclined to eat large amounts of rice myself.

Local food is often served with a thin broth which some use to moisten the rice. I prefer to simply drink the soup. The simple way around the dryness you find with some meals is just ask for more gravy which is usually freely available. If it’s too much rice for your tastes, you don’t have to eat it all. I picked my way through standard Filipino cuisine, tried out many eateries and over time, Filipino food grew on me. I simply found what I liked and homed in on it.

I don’t eat pork or seafood, meaning I have had to sidestep some of the food here. However, based on the word of those that do enjoy seafood then it’s worth seeking out at one of the many seafood restaurants scattered around. Local as well as international style seafood is abundant and worth a try as many restaurants specialize in this type of cuisine.

Don’t Be a Poof; Eat the Stuff

Many places are a little rough and ready but that’s the Philippines. Some of the less trendy places serve great food. Many westerners stick to the malls as regards restaurants but beyond malls there are a lot of choices. A meal is inexpensive compared with the west of course but you are going to pay more for western style dishes and eating in malls generally. When you find out how much these poor guys have to pay to have a place in a mall, you will see why.

This is all the more reason to try out the local delicacies and to try looking beyond the malls as you can eat very well and cheaply too if you know how. It’s simply trial and error. Look for evidence that the establishment has at least half decent standards of hygiene. Clues can be found by generally observing. Many places don’t have CRs (comfort rooms is the term for bathrooms and toilet) as people set up food eateries in all kinds of places. Just get ready for such things; it’s no big deal, it’s how the Philippines is and getting too sniffy means you miss much of the real Philippines.

Most places are fine but remember, you’re not in Seattle now; just toughen up a little.

In the more backstreet types of establishments, some don’t have flush toilets which are fairly common in the Philippines, and often not a urinal. The usual way is to throw a bucket of water down the toilet after use. Always carry a little bottle of alcohol or hand cleanser with you just in case you find the toilet facilities a little lacking.

I’m not saying to totally drop your hygiene standards, but the way it is here people sell food from anywhere. Toilets and somewhere to wash your hands are not always available.

You can find many reputable restaurants and not so reputable ones all over. Being someone on limited cash, I became a frequent diner at the less reputable ones. I haven’t died yet so it can’t be as bad as all that.

My advice is to take some risks. It’s the way it is here in that people sell food everywhere and many establishments that serve good food can seem a little rough and ready by the standards a visitor may be used to. Be open-minded as you really could be missing some treats.

Street Food

Manila Street Food
Street food again is another matter and many are concerned about the hygiene aspect of eating from a street vendor. Frankly, it may be advisable to avoid but my standard is, if it’s freshly cooked, I will eat it but if it’s left there standing, I don’t bother as often the food is not protected from flies. I have no problem with street food as long as it’s covered. Not all places concern themselves with such details. My advice is making sure that the food is covered, and if so, go for it.

Literal street food meaning food items sold on the sidewalks are chicken, beef, and pork kebabs, as well as fried chicken skin and chicken feet. Commonly sold on the streets are squid and fish balls. Personally, I have my doubts about their authenticity as I’m fairly certain neither squid or fish have testicles but what do I know. #joke

You see various fried banana entities like turon, bananacue and maruja, as well as fried sweet potato chips/fries, and even camotecue, which is sliced sweet potato deep fried in sugar and on a stick. Then there is lumpia, a kind of spring roll which varies slightly by region as regards ingredients that can be vegetarian, you dip them in vinegar, enjoyable and cheap; and there is the pork and shrimp version called shanghai. The other common street nibble is simply peanuts.

I had some confusion when I saw what looked like chocolate on a stick being grilled. Turned out, it’s actually pig’s blood formed into square pieces which really had me thinking they was trying to grill chocolate.

Eating Around Where Food Abound

This is just an intro into local eating. I don’t pretend to be a foodie but I have found quite a few dishes which I enjoy.

I’m not a huge fan of the national dish of Adobo which can be chicken or pork. There again, it depends who has cooked it as I’ve had some delicious Adobo before but sometimes it can taste a little unimaginative and to my taste, salty. When nicely cooked and seasoned, it’s worth trying. As everywhere, you get good cooks and bad ones. I always remember a place where I enjoyed my food and return. I’m rather partial to Beef Kaldereta, which is just a beef stew with tomatoes, carrots and potatoes added; simple but tasty. Similarly, Beef Mechado, I’m rather fond of along with various dishes in Gata, or coconut milk, which may be sometimes spicy like the Bicol Express, and all served with rice. I don’t personally eat pork so that’s a treat I miss out on.

Many Filipinos are a little shy of hot and spicy foods and much of the food tends to be savoury. However, when eating in most street eateries, you may find the choice of cut for the chicken to be a little disappointing. To keep prices down they use the cheapest cuts which unfortunately mean a lot of bone and skin. Personally, I find these cuts of chicken to be false economy. It may cost less but you won’t find too much chicken amongst the bones and skin. It can seem sometimes as if they have just smashed it up. You get what you pay for, I suppose, and the average meal with rice in most eateries is around 60 pesos, around a dollar and a half.

Chicken InasalThere are places that offer better prepared grilled chicken dishes like Inasal. This is not just grilled chicken; it’s a specialized method originating from Bacolod, better explained here by an expert.

There are many things I don’t go near due to not eating pig, duck or seafood (no, I’m not Jewish). When I’ve been in some provinces, I’ve seen little tiny baby ducks grilled on a skewer, which are newly, hatched baby ducks which are welcomed into the world by electrocution before being marinated and grilled.

Also commonly seen is the Tokneneng, which are Penoys (boiled duck eggs) dipped in batter and deep fried, often coloured bright orange. There is also the Kwek-kwek which is a version of Tokneneng, butt uses boiled quail eggs.

Let’s not forget the famous Balut, duck eggs which are boiled alive and fermented. In fact, the Balut man comes around in the evening and remains popular with locals. It’s alleged to give you fertility. No, I haven’t tried it; I’m not that adventurous. Whenever I’m feeling down, I just remind myself how lucky I am by not being a duck in the Philippines.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Impressions, Philippines

Defining a Sex Tourist

Writing this post is obviously going into a minefield. It feels as if I’m opening proceedings in a court. But who’s on trial? Well, before I start the trial, let’s begin by defining the charge. The definition of a sex tourist seems to have got muddled. So, let’s begin with simply that. What is a sex tourist?

The obvious thought that comes to mind is one who abuses. This is an international issue and it’s not just something related to tourism. But do abusers come to the Philippines to abuse? Well, of course it happens, as it happens around the globe, but when somebody actually travels thousands of miles for a specific kind of abuse then that is an obvious sex tourist.

I have no idea as to whether or not the Philippines attract child abusers for example. I think its possible purely based on my own knowledge of that it gets offered. Only on very few occasions I hasten to add but I have been approached by shady characters as I spoke of in my article, Two Girls a Boy and a Goat, Please, and been asked if I wanted ‘young’. I never asked for details but I can only assume that means illegal age so yes, I guess it’s here and offered.

I don’t really have any idea how many people would travel thousands of miles for easy access to this kind of abuse. I’m sure it goes on and they are obvious sex tourists of the worse kind. So where does the definition get murky beyond that?

Age Gap

Well, I would say that people’s perceptions of relationships between foreign men and Filipina girls get cheapened in some people’s eyes; not just here, but equally abroad. A classic example of this is when there is a noticeable age difference which is commonly seen. The dirty old man (DOM) label is automatically banded about by people here and abroad; it’s taboo in many cultures.

But these relationships are not abusive. It may be for the wrong reasons sometimes on both sides but both parties agree to it and it’s not fair to assume it’s always because of money. Of course, that is sometimes the motivation of some but nonetheless, they agree and it is not abuse.

Many older guys over 50 and more settle here with a young Filipina wife or girlfriend possibly 30 years younger than he is, and in some instances, even larger age gaps. This does happen more times than is comfortable for some observers, but sex tourist?

I couldn’t claim anyone going into a consensual relationship with someone younger is abusing. I’m sure some would say its abuse because they are taking advantage of the girl’s poverty. Well, the girl was living before she met him, so how can anyone say that she had to do it, it’s her choice. It may be a route out of poverty for some, but that again is her choice. If the nature of that relationship becomes abusive, well of course that’s another matter. But it’s not the age difference that is at issue there; it can happen when they are the same age, too.


Internet PornNow, as is the case with many things online, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. The bad is that many men from abroad are just interested in the internet as a vehicle to obtain sex. Some men both foreign and local can be abusive online in many ways; I’m sure that’s obvious.

As many Filipinas actively look for relationships online, these types tend to prey on local girls here. There are a lot of Filipinas online searching for varied reasons. Some are genuine romantics and some are financial opportunists. The volume of Filipinas online means that they are often targeted by these types of men. There is no doubt that the internet is misused by many. But many men of all persuasions are perfectly genuine and are simply looking for a partner; same goes for the girls.

It’s the age of the internet and it’s no worse than going to a bar to meet someone or a dating agency. The internet has made finding potential partners easy and there is nothing wrong in that. However, somewhat unfairly, there is a sense of mockery from some within these shores and abroad about the nature of such relationships.

Strangely, often the same type that sneers at internet long distance love sees nothing wrong in finding girls in a place where you can’t be heard, i.e. a nightclub. It’s a simple fact that people can widen their search these days. There is nothing wrong in finding a partner online in this day and age.

It’s sometimes too hasty and has a faint smell of desperation from both or either parties. The world is full of lonely people and loneliness sometimes leads people into making bad decisions. The majority are perfectly capable of not making those mistakes. Again, subjects of stereotyping, people forget that it’s not done for the wrong reasons every time, there is still such a thing as love no matter how cynical some can be.

The dangers of internet relationships lies in the fact that people can be whoever they want to be on the internet. I can be an ex-footballer who owns a restaurant, flies a hot air balloon at weekends and has a racehorse of my own. Sadly, it wouldn’t be true. I’m just a fat lazy old hippy who has very little of anything. Point being I could be anything and who’s there to disbelieve me.

I cannot account for abusive people, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt to most. It’s a small world these days and 20 years ago, people didn’t have Facebook. Facebook is commonly a medium for meeting people. Chat rooms are not as busy these days so online abuse I imagine has decreased.

A big reason why online relationships or communications gets a bad reputation with some is because the amount of online abuse from men whether foreign or Filipino is high. When chat rooms were more fashionable then serial wankers would spend hours online. In real life, they have to hide their abusive nature as it has repercussions. Online they feel empowered, especially when the person he targets is far away and cannot do anything other than block him. That happens after the abuse.

It’s normally simply a matter of an over-interest in sex and expecting webcam titillation in return for sometimes only promises.

Sometimes, I suspect that some of the mockers know too much; it’s a hypocritical world. It’s the internet and it’s a fact of life that sex is all over it. This encourages abuse. People forget that normal people use the internet too.

Gay Tourism

In other countries, there is still prejudice regarding homosexuality. Prejudice is not as widespread as it has been in the past and it varies from country to country. But even some more open-minded people, have a subconscious prejudice still alive in their heads. Subconsciously they think of gay as something a little dirty. With others, it’s not subconscious; it’s full on, and they regard it as something sordid and not right. This gives people the idea that gay men through their eyes, are not quite clean, good and even think of it as sordid.

So within that culture, the stereotype is that someone going to the Philippines that are gay is going for a naughty time only. There is plenty of prejudice towards gays and it magnifies to be something seedy in their way of thinking. Well, gays just like anyone else have varied reasons to visit the Philippines.

The Philippines has a high percentage of men that are gay. Being gay in the Philippines does not mean you’re free from prejudice, but it’s more open here than most places, and in some respects, it is much more accepted. Naturally enough, this attracts gay visitors who have relationships with Filipino men and even those that come to enjoy the gay scene here. Yes, sometimes I’m sure that involves sex as is common within the gay scene. It’s not always about one-to-one faithful relationships. That’s the gay scene the world over.

But that subconscious thought which is in many people’s minds where they regard anything to do with gay as a little sleazy, tends to overshadow their thinking. They only think about the sexual nature of such relationships and lifestyles. This has people thinking that they go only for sex. That may or may not be true, it depends on the individual. But I have explained the reason why many gay men come here from abroad; it’s because that there are many gays here. It’s not rocket science to work out that would mean many gay people will come. Sex tourist? No, it’s a fact of life. But it feeds into prejudices so therefore is spoken of negatively.

It has planted a seed in many heads which has them thinking that it’s all for pure sex and that the Philippines is some kind of haven for that. Again, let’s not assume anything. Often, it’s a relationship of their own choosing and it’s wrong to allow prejudices to earn someone a tag as a sex tourist.

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire

Now I will step into what I believe to be the most common kind of sex tourism. It’s not even illegal here or anywhere else for that matter. If we are to define sex tourism as people who travel to abuse, then this category is by far the biggest offender. They are the liars or should I say them that travel to acquire sex on false promises. The abuse is that they simply lie to get it which is something totally absurd and says a lot about these characters.

If a man travels all this way after possibly months of lying in online conversations just to fool someone who he will marry them, help them or take them abroad with him. He could definitely be rightfully tagged as a sex tourist. After the few nights in a hotel room, he disappears or returns home with no intention of meeting his promises; this is an all too common form of abuse here.

The purpose of all this deception is nothing other than to be able to obtain sex. This is not a category of sex tourist that people think of, but I don’t know why that is, as these are by far the most common offenders, and of course they break no laws in doing it. All I can say to that is that if anyone reading this is guilty of such actions, then can I ask, were you that in need of sex that you had to travel so far and tell lies? Are you actually that ugly and cannot find yourself a sex life back home. I will let you decide what their reasons are.

The Verdict

Well, the trial ends and I haven’t gone into other aspects mentioning prostitution and those that use them and foreigner-owned sex businesses as well as girly bars designed for titillation. These are all matters for another day.

But if I was the judge in this strange trial, I would find the people who are with partners much younger not guilty of being any kind of sex tourist. Those that travel thousands of miles simply to have sex I would definitely find guilty. There is more to life than sex and it’s a little disturbing some would lie and cheat and spend hard-earned money traveling so far just to have that.

Its time people actually had a clearer definition of what a sex tourist actually is. This is only my account. I’d be curious to know your thoughts. It’s a topic submerged in stereotypical thinking and often unfair. Yet the real villains seem to not get mentioned, the deceivers. Filipinas are mostly very real girls. Of course, they can be abusive on another level too and again that’s another article. This article focuses on those that travel for sexual purposes. What I ask people to consider is that most of us don’t. Don’t label as is too commonly done. It’s far too easy to label without knowledge. Keep the definition down to those that abuse and those that don’t. I think it’s fair to say most don’t. You can call the ones that do what you like; I don’t seek to defend them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Impressions, Manila, Philippines, Travel

Days Out in Metro Manila

I sometimes feel such a fraud as here I am, an Englishman, with a 20-word Tagalog vocabulary and I’m telling you about Manila and the Philippines. Yes, hands up, I should stand aside and let a real expert in to take over this blog.

Well, I will even go as far as to confess that much of the time I’ve been here over the last 7 years have been spent lying on my fat arse making me even more unfit to report. So all I’m offering really is an account of how it’s been for me. So maybe it’s time to start putting you in touch with some more authoritative people and give you a few links so you can explore for yourself.

Probably the best known tourist guide as well as social activist for want of a better term is Carlos Celdran. I hadn’t been here all that long when I saw a program on the Living Asia channel.

The program in question featured Carlos on a tour of Chinatown. It may have featured more as I joined the program late, but what I watched had me spellbound. Not only does he give you incredible information, the guy is pure entertainment. I plan to go on one of his tours myself. I have no idea why I haven’t done so already; just one of those things.

Carlos is fully aware of the contradictions in Filipino culture and graphically highlights much of this by pointing out the mixing of Chinese, Catholic and native tradition and tells it how it is. I can honestly say it was a mesmerizing watch. I’m certain that going on one of his tours would be all the more entertaining than simply watching him on TV. On his website, he also lists other guides that you can consider but I think Carlos is terrific value for money and you will return back to your accommodation knowing a lot more and have a far better understanding of Manila life, its people and culture.

Ordinary Living

I’ve eaten here and there; loved it, hated it, and it’s been okay sometimes, but to tell you the names of the places I would have to run back over old ground. I’m in the process of doing that and that’s another article for another day. Personally, I am not a TGI Fridays type. Nothing wrong with it and it’s very much used by expats and visitors alike and the food is yummy, but it’s out of my price range.

I personally tend to eat out of local eateries which are just about everywhere. You’re never far from food wherever you go in Metro Manila. It’s not what many who are here for a brief stay would probably be interested in but it’s very much a piece of real Filipino life. The nice restaurant or should I say more up market places are out of the range for most ordinary Filipinos sadly. There are many who can afford it and I tend to find if the food was cheaper, then the beer was very expensive. Sometimes it’s the other way round. When I say expensive, even the more up market prices are a lot less than what we pay in our home countries.

Eateries are simply where everyday Filipinos eat maybe in their lunch break. Some eat exclusively at such places as they may be residing in a dormitory which possibly lacks cooking facilities. Many working locals not only do an 8-hour day or often more; they also have a 2-hour commute to and from work taking an additional 4 hours every day out of their lives. Food in eateries is cheap therefore a natural lure for the overworked underpaid populace of Metro Manila.

I’ve got drunk in local videoke bars, tramped around every mall and touched on many areas. But on most occasions, I simply chose places randomly for better or worse.

It definitely has its moments, if you spend all your time in the hotel bar or eat in quality restaurants; the only locals you will experience will be the waiter.

Virtually anywhere in Metro Manila, you are never far from a mall. Some are large, some small, some old and some new, but none are as huge as the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, Metro Manila. MOA is the biggest and not only good for shopping, but eating, drinking, cinemas, a convention center also an amusement park, events venue with over 10,000 capacity, and it even has an ice rink.

Malls are everywhere. They can be quieter on weekdays between paycheques especially, and teeming at weekends, especially the weekend after payday.

Some have indoor market areas selling mostly clothes and general haberdashery, mobile phones, laptops and tablets generic or otherwise. Outdoor stalls are never too far away from any mall as retailers hope to take advantage of the passing crowds selling everything from street food to jackets and DVD’s (pirated, of course).

Some malls are up market and some old and decrepit. I find some of the older ones as enjoyable as the modern ones having less emphasis on the usual brands, and where you can find ukay-ukay stores among school supplies, DVDs, musical instruments and pretty much everything. If you’re as Kuripot (tight-fisted) as me, then the overruns and sometimes second-hand stock in ukay-ukay stores are a great way to find something different at often incredibly cheap prices. If you’re not too snobbish and think wider than branded clothes, you can find items for as low as 50 pesos and even less sometimes.

DivisoriaMarkets are everywhere too and also very much a feature of everyday life for Filipinos. The main wholesale area is Divisoria in Chinatown where you will find cheap imports as well as fruit, veg, wet and dry goods, and just about anything else from electrical to paper and curtains at possibly the cheapest prices in the whole of the Capital. In fact, pretty much everything is at Divisoria, the most significant market in all of Metro Manila. It is not just a market in the traditional sense, as it has stalls alongside stores in a variety of malls from old to new. The more traditional outdoor market is worth braving the excessive crowding for, and after spending a few hours at Divisoria, there is no shortage of interesting places to eat.

However, a word of advice. Only yesterday I wasn’t cautious and fell prey to a very talented thief. I had a backpack thrown over one shoulder. I felt a mild movement from my bag, barely noticeable. I thought at first someone passing by behind had lightly brushed past and thought that was what I had felt. I turned around and only saw the usual crowds walking by, nothing unusual but noticed a front zip was open. Straight away I knew what had happened and I had a cellphone in there. Before I checked, I knew it was gone. I had been warned to be careful when in Divisoria as pickpockets and snatchers take advantage of the crowds. Best advice is if you have a back pack, wear it on your chest where you can see it. Don’t keep a wallet or phone in a trouser pocket. These thieves are damned good, be very careful.

Other prominent markets in Metro Manila include Farmers market in Cubao, Quezon City, Blumentritt, Manila, Commonwealth again in Quezon City.

Beyond these markets are 100s of smaller neighbourhood markets and unofficial ones that seem to spring up along every highway, unused corner or bridge.

Many here kill time in Malls even those without money. I’ve seen crowds of 20 watching the pictures on the display TVs in shop windows just to pass time. Malls are far more than shopping. They are where everybody meets, dates and enjoys the free air-con. Some come to use the chapel and some even come to shop, you may be surprised to know.

Market (Palengke) is a little more hard-core jostling with crowds, carts and tricycles and definitely more tiring, but still a great way to see some real life here whilst grabbing bargains and pigging out all at the same time.

Naturally enough you’re going to hear “Hey Joe” 30 times over and some traders may raise the price when you enquire, but mostly they don’t, and the same in stores.

As much a day for watching than spending and a great view into people’s lives here, should you want to see. But there again, you could sit in TGI Fridays but it’s your choice.


Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippines

Metro Manila, the Positive Post Some Desire

Blindfolded writerAllow me to begin on a serious note. Criticisms have not been much really and I could possibly be accused of making too much of it. But after having posts deleted from a group and comments from people (never directly to me) with some complaining my posts have a negative tone and requesting my posts not be allowed into certain groups, well this is my simple answer to you.

Also, to a very unpleasant expat group that objected to me because somebody who blogs for no money is apparently spamming. As it’s the internet, I thought it was normal practice to share your blog. This blog I write for free and I have not even earned a cup of coffee nor did I get a doughnut for anything I have written. I do it because I love to write and because I want to see something good come out of it one way or another.

I also ask that group of people who believe I am doing their country down to actually read the posts and not make judgments after the first paragraph. Also, remember I am writing about Metro Manila predominantly. After I get to spend a day on the beach lying with other fat whities like myself then maybe I will say it’s great. As nobody is inviting me to paradise, I write about Metro Manila. I invite anyone to correct me when I’m wrong, and said that from my very first pieces.

However, to emphasize my point, I will give you what you want for today if only to show the ridiculous nature of your claims.

Metro Manila, Paradise on Earth

When I wake in the morning, often awaken by happy dogs locked in cages, and screaming, lovable, adoring children whose ever smiling fathers are blasting music from a tricycle, I often think how great life is for 12 million lucky people.

As I open the window and fill my lungs with smog, I often say to myself, thank you lord for giving me the opportunity to be in a place where anywhere will seem like paradise after. I’m lucky just like the other 12 million happy smiling inhabitants of the metropolis.

Not wanting to miss any of the excitement of a thriving buzzing city, I step out where happy adoring locals are shouting out “hey Joe” and laughing at me simply because I’m foreign. Delightful and makes me feel so good to be alive.

As I skip down the road happily, playing a game of “don’t fall down that bloody hole”, I enjoy seeing the piles of garbage that only go to show that the good people of Manila have empty bins in their houses, and share the contents of their lives with all of us.

It’s time to catch the bus. I go to the smiling sari-sari store owner on route to get some personal requirements and I’m quaintly told how they cannot change a 500 peso note. But still, it reminds me how lucky I am to have a 500 peso note for them not to be able to serve me due to the simple, adorable characteristic of not knowing that businesses actually operate using money.

So I merrily wait as 12 buses pass me by full, and eventually manage to catch one that has a space on the dashboard for me. I chat with locals whose breath and armpits are in my face, where else can you be so close to the people who are so accepting of my armpits and arse in their face, too.

Whilst traveling with my head lodged in an armpit, I notice a downpour which refreshes the air and brings down the smog; it’s going to be a lovely day. As I step off the bus into 2 feet of water, I have the opportunity to soak my feet.

Even more delightful, I then have an opportunity to be bounced off a polluting stainless steel jeepney, and enjoy all the cultural significance of being run down by a vehicle with so much history behind it. By now, I’m full of the spirit of living in a thriving city and heartily smile at the children who charmingly ask me for money. I notice other little darlings who selflessly pick up all the plastic to keep the city clean. Where else can you see so many little abandoned children happily trying to survive? Life is good and I feel so lucky as I am not in the shoes that they don’t have.

Smell the Coffee

I was going to go on as I was enjoying myself for a while but I think I’ve made my point. Before offense is taken, please note this is a spoof post and none of it is meant. It’s just trying to say that if I’m going to write about one of the most overcrowded capitals in the world where poverty is rife and that it is that way due to controlling interests of the elite whom local people give power to then it’s not going to be easy to say solely positive things. I don’t know what’s outside others’ windows but I’m in Metro Manila, and that’s what I see every day, how do I not mention it or skip past it.

I am searching out positives and I always offer explanations for some of the crazier things that go on in this collection of cities. My purpose is to do good by reporting what for me is the truth. Anyone is welcome to challenge me and if you’re a member of the elite or have a certain position in society then I guess life is more positive.

I am fully aware of history and know there are many good things to do here. What I am eventually going to promote are some of the more novel and interesting things about Metro Manila. That won’t come quickly as I’ve only posted 23 pieces to date, this being number 24. I wish people would read the about section of this blog where I explain that this is primarily designed to introduce foreigners into a difficult to comprehend culture and make some attempts to give a little reasoning for some of it. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing and I have expressed that this is written to guide outsiders through culture shock and help them accept and adapt as well as promote mutual understanding. I still vehemently deny the accusations of just a very few. I just thought this was the right time to say it.

I am not a travel agent. I am not trying to book people into resorts and get paid for it. I have no reason to lie, I just write and I do not only say negative things. I believe the few critics I have had, had only read selective pieces where the subject matter was not meant to be positive, but simply an account.

A Filipino just today decided to blame me for all the wrongs of the British Empire, too. I had to remind him I wasn’t there, it wasn’t me. Doubt he got it though. In other words, I feel things with some are getting distorted. I ask people to read all my posts before they rush to judgment. But above all, please don’t ask me to not see much of what is happening whether good or bad, it’s not my fault.


Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippines

The Unquestioned Philippines

Sat at home in our home countries, it is doubtful many of us give much thought as to why Filipinos work abroad so much instead of in their own country. We most likely believe it’s a simple matter of poverty alleviation. Well, in a nutshell that would be a correct assumption, but I doubt very much if many of us really do not think about the impact that has on those left behind, nor do we think of why they left in the first place other than for more money. Breaking up families because of poverty is a sad fact of life for many here. Of course, not everyone who leaves is immersed into poverty either. Everyone has his own story.

In our relatively comfortable world, we possibly even frown at how easily they can leave kids behind all for the want of money. Well, the truth is that it’s not always about just wanting money as in just to be wealthier. It’s often about keeping a family fed back home. The real story is often very different to what too many of us assume it is. It’s too much of a simplification to say it’s just about money. In essence it’s often true, but sometimes it’s more about having the chance to earn some. When people are leaving kids behind, it’s usually because of need, and of course, some are fortunate enough after long petition processes to take their offspring with them.

Most do not leave for high salaries by the standards we know. The majority of overseas Filipino workers are low wage earners depending on where they are headed. But that low wage is simply a lot more than the nothing wage some earn in the Philippines. Those in jobs in the Philippines are often massively short of the national minimum wage. There is a minimum wage but more often than not many are not on it, they are well short of that figure.

Some go to advance their careers and were previously doing okay in the Philippines but want the chance to further their skills and prospects, but for many it’s more about need and not want.

We probably seldom think of the hurt and pain of being separated from your family and the difficulties this creates. I doubt if many ask themselves, were they heartbroken when they left? We most likely think that when they get a job in another country, everyone is happy and it’s a great thing for that person and they are lucky. Again, loosely speaking, this is true in some respects as regular income means a fed family back home and the ability to actually make some plans for the future.

When you arrive and see the Philippines for yourself, you very quickly start to realize why so many want out. This country lacks opportunities for professionals let alone the non skilled sector. It’s engrained into the culture that your best prospects are to get out. It’s sad but that really is the thinking of many here; it’s a mentality that is not without some justification. They have had quite a few decades of no hope.

The Myths of Revolution

Much of the impressions I had of the political culture here were based on an event which the world labeled a people power revolution where a baddy was forced out of office and went into exile and the nation was saved by the mother of the nation who selflessly took up the mantle to lead a people out of dictatorship. Well, I’m not going to stir up any nests, but I will say that a dictator was toppled and forced into exile true enough. But I also soon learned that the EDSA revolution was reported terribly outside of the Philippines and even within, and a fairytale was fed to the world by journalists, and to this day, it remains a badly misreported event.

As much as I’m tempted out of anger to give an extremely opinionated account of the possible reasons as to why things are so hopeless for so many here, I shall resist. But what I am saying is to possibly question some of the ideas you have about this country. You will soon learn that much of what you thought is simply wrong.

Of course I have an opinion but I’m consciously trying to minimize it. The real objective of this piece is to have outsiders questioning things about what they believe. In short, I’m suggesting you rethink everything that you thought and take another look. I will resist links that only serve to back up my opinion but let’s say a revolution that was organized by the elite for the elite has only benefitted the elite. Some of the alleged heroes of the peaceful EDSA revolution could possibly be better described as not truly heroic. This is not a defense of Marcos; he left the country branded as the second most corrupt leader in the modern age and with a lot of justification to earn that label. But I’m also saying that events after his exile are not quite what some believe. The revolution was widely covered in the world media at the time; the follow-up stories were neglected.


There are many unsavoury aspects to the Philippines. If you plan to settle here, you will need to understand much of what you are observing. It really does help though if you at least have some idea of the reasons some things can be a little bit difficult here. The circus of politics has played a large part in that. I hope you find out a little for yourself without me preaching opinion. Keep an open mind when you read the modern-day history and don’t always believe in fairy tales. Corruption continued unabated and is still as rampant despite noble speeches.

This place is obviously malfunctioning on many levels for a million different reasons. At the same time there are hopeful signs, many in fact and it’s not all about gloom and poverty, but it’s there and never far away in some form or another.

When you go out to eat, most likely you are going to get served by someone well under minimum wage, on a temporary contract designed to keep them far below minimum wage and they are doing better than most. That’s what you will be seeing from the sidelines.

Empty your head of everything you thought you knew before you got here. Many tend to think of Filipinos as simply economic migrants seeking nothing other than citizenship in another country. What they forget is that they are individuals with unique stories and circumstances, and it’s not always so joyous to get out.

Stereotyping all overseas Filipino workers as people who just want to earn more money means you’re unable to recognize them as individuals. Consider that they possibly left kids behind and missing them like crazy. They are not just economic migrants; they are people often undergoing their own heartbreak at being separated.

Next time you see a Filipino in your country doing a low paid job somewhere, just try to imagine that they just may be experiencing the heartbreak at having to abandon their families to be able to feed them. If you can be bothered to learn a little about the politics of the Philippines, try to find out why this happens. If you learn that, the EDSA revolution has another darker story not talked of in the world media, or the media here. I won’t say more as that’s how you get yourself in trouble with the authorities sometimes, especially if you’re a foreigner. And that is something else for you to think about.


Filed under Impressions, Philippines, Politics

Freddie Aguilar

Freddie AguilarI always intended to start this series of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) featured artists with this guy. Recent controversies will never detract from the fact Freddie Aguilar has always been an innovator and although from the older wave of OPM, writes socially conscious quality folk music that is Filipino to the core. Let’s not get carried away with judgments. The man deserves credit for his achievements. Only God can judge regarding the controversial story about his love life, but man can judge his music.


Noong isilang ka sa mundong ito
Laking tuwa ng magulang mo
At ang kamay nila ang iyong ilaw
At ang nanay at tatay mo’y
Di malaman ang gagawin
Minamasdan pati pagtulog mo
At sa gabi’y napupuyat ang iyong nanay
Sa pagtimpla ng gatas mo
At sa umaga nama’y kalong ka
Ng iyong amang tuwang-tuwa sa iyo

Ngayon nga ay malaki ka na
Nais mo’y maging malaya
Di man sila payag
Walang magagawa
Ikaw nga ay biglang nagbago
Naging matigas ang iyong ulo

At ang payo nila’y sinuway mo
Di mo man lang inisip na
Ang kanilang ginagawa’y para sa iyo
Pagkat ang nais mo’y
Masunod ang layaw mo
Di mo sila pinapansin

Nagdaan pa ang mga araw
At ang landas mo’y naligaw
Ikaw ay nalulong sa masamang bisyo
At ang una mong nilapitan
Ang iyong inang lumuluha
At ang tanong,”anak, ba’t ka nagkaganyan”
At ang iyong mga mata’y biglang lumuha ng di mo napapansin
Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali
Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali
Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali…

Freddie Aguilar


Mula nang magka-isip ay nagisnan ko ang problema
Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, akin pang makita
Tuloy pa rin ang digmaan
Kalat na ang kaguluhan sa Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Mga mamamayan doon ay takot ang nadarama
Hindi malaman kung ano ang gagawin sa tuwi-tuwina
Mga taong walang malay
Madalas na nadadamay sa Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Pinoy kapwa Pinoy
Ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Hindi na ba maaawat
Hindi na ba matatapos
Ang solusyon ba’y digmaan sa lupang pangako
Hindi na ba masasagip ang mga kapatid natin sa Mindanao
Hindi na ba masasagip ang mga kapatid natin sa Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Pinoy kapwa Pinoy
Ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao

Pinoy kapwa Pinoy
Ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao

Mindanao, Mindanao

Freddie Aguilar


Tingin sa iyo’y isang putik, larawan mo’y nilalait

Magdalena ikaw ay ‘di maintindihan
Ika’y isang kapuspalad, bigo ka pa sa pag-ibig
Hindi ka nag-aral, ‘pagkat walang pera

Kaya ika’y namasukan, doon sa Mabini napadpad
Mula noon, binansagang kalapating mababa ang lipad

Hindi mo man ito nais, ika’y walang magagawa
‘Pagkat kailangan mong mabuhay sa mundo
Tiniis mo ang lahat, kay hirap ng kalagayan
Ang pangarap mo, maahon sa hirap

[Repeat REFRAIN]

Magdalena, ikaw ay sawimpalad
Kailan ka nila maiintindihan
Magdalena, ikaw ay sawimpalad
Kailan ka nila maiintindihan
Magdalena, Magdalena

Ibig mo nang magbago at mamuhay na nang tahimik
Ngunit ang mundo’y sadyang napakalupit
Hanggang kailan maghihintay, hanggang kailan magtitiis
Ang dalangin mo, kailan maririnig

(Photos courtesy of

Leave a comment

Filed under Philippine Music

Where Next?

(Photo by

(Photo by

Blogging is boring and I must be the ultimate bore to be doing it. But hey, it’s no worse than stamp collecting so give me a break, OK. Blogging about the Philippines, well yes, I ask myself, why on earth? Well, I’m a coward for bungee jumping, but I’m a warrior for talking shit online. Writing about a country with many imperfections and an oversensitive populace is not just difficult, it’s dangerous. Today, I’m really going to give it a go; I’m going to talk some serious shit. No controversies, just a little clearing of the mind before I carry on what I’ve started.

So right now, I’m in a state of confusion about how to carry on with this blog. I think it’s time to get this little boat I’ve set afloat on some kind of course. When I started this blog I thought just do it (no endorsement intended). I had no idea where it would go or if it would ever come to serve any purpose. I just wanted to do it. I just want to try things, let things build, develop and just see which way the wind blows it.

I’ve had a million thoughts of things to do with this blog, and they are mostly just loose ideas. Yet, at this point, I’m just another foreigner wittering on about failings, mindsets and giving amateur advice to potential visitors. Well, that’s where I’m up to so far.

This post is trying to explain that I don’t really have any solid aim, and I am still floating around the blogosphere building content and finding a course to steer. I have every intention of changing that in due course, I’m just not sure how yet.

What I hope I can achieve is to give local people, business and those that don’t have the means, opportunities. If you are selling something, I hope I can help you sell it. If you are job hunting, I hope I can put you in the frame and give a little platform to show yourself. If you’re going into business then I hope I can put you in touch with people to help you achieve it. Above all, I want to build some understanding between people here and us foreigners and see if we can actually learn from each other.

I also don’t want to be silenced by the ‘write positive or leave’ people. I intend to continue writing about the difficulties that people have here and I want to address so many issues such as animal cruelty, power for the sake of gain, and encourage people to learn for themselves the real history of this country and not the doctored version put around not only by this country’s agenda-motivated media but by bad, lazy reporting abroad.

Amongst all this I want to try to take on board suggestions and ideas from my growing readership. There are many things to appreciate this country for and I hope I am still writing this blog as the good news grows. I’m sure some of the changes desired by the people will influence changes here. I’m praying the families that control and virtually own this country think about reforming themselves. That’s not something at this point I’m overly optimistic about. I’m hoping I can encourage the people to think hard about the people they put into power. Common sense would solve many of the problems here; people need to know that sometimes, it’s their own doing. If you vote for slave masters, you will always be slaves.

Foreigners have their own ideas of what to do to fix the Philippines. Locals probably see it as interference. However, I really do believe exchanges of thinking can be healthy. We, as outsiders, really do have to try to relate to how things are done here and up to a point, accept it. Locals need to consider that sometimes, things could be done a little better. It’s no pissing contest, just trying to learn from one another.

What I’ve learnt so far from people here is that you must have patience to survive and let things go as getting mad only hurts yourself and doesn’t change anything. What I’ve tried to show people here is that if you want changes, then it’s you that has to change it. Combine the two together and you’re patiently complaining. Sounds silly, I know but what I’m trying to say is that to make anything better you really do need to speak up. That is where locals fail. What we need to learn from locals is that there is a way to do it without calling people stupid and making demands as well as appearing superior. That’s sometimes where we fail. We cannot change a culture simply because it doesn’t fit in with our thinking of how things should be.

So what’s the point of my talking shit and having no firm topic to discuss today? Well, over the last 40 days, I’ve just been writing, building and now I think it’s time to up the ante a little. I want to add a Facebook page so that topics and ideas can be shared easier. I want to try to empower by presenting local arts, events and alternative adventures for visitors here. Also for god’s sake, will somebody here feed me so I can introduce some unfashionable eating places? I could even handle a day at your resort if invited and reporting it. No, I’m not going to endorse nonsense. But I’m sure there are many unknown, un-thought of things to do which will make visitors time here just a little more worthwhile. Also, there are many pieces by other writers that are helpful and informative; I shall be leading you to them so you can learn for yourself.

So allow me this little time out post which is simply for me to re-group myself and put up a sail to encourage the wind to blow me somewhere. I still don’t know where I’m going with this. But that for me at least is just adding to the adventure.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippines

Is There a Joke in It?

JokeI have often thought what a difficult job it must be to be a comedian in the Philippines as they have a particularly amusing habit of having to announce a joke. When you’ve asked questions and got to the bottom of it, it’s again just one of those things which is easily explained and many of the assumptions as to why this is are not what they seem. Allow me to be a little clearer.

I was baffled as to why people here often say “joke” at the end of the sentence. It can be said in a variety of ways; sometimes to cover embarrassment at what they had said, or often simply to announce that it was meant humourously.

The covering embarrassment aspect is a difficult one to explain so bear with me. If someone compliments you, chances are they may kill the compliment by saying “joke” at the end to cover the embarrassment of having complimented you. It’s as if saying something nice about you causes an after-blush at having said it, so they say “joke”. I won’t pretend to fully understand it but the best I can do to explain is to say it’s possibly due to shyness. It’s like saying “I like you” then following it with “not really” to mask their embarrassment of having flattered you. Yes all very confusing.

That’s one way that joke is used at the end of a statement but the other use of saying joke is a little misleading too. I used to think that perhaps they had trouble working out what is funny and what isn’t and needed telling. I was utterly confused by the “joke” at the end as after all shouldn’t we know that without being told.

However this was simply my misunderstanding and Filipinos are not missing the joke as often as it seems nor are they explaining that it is a joke literally. So why do they need to announce it’s a joke?

Well it’s nothing more than a punch line which is commonly said after a humourous comment.

It’s a little like the old music hall drum roll at the end of a one liner in painful British music hall jokes which later was turned into saying boom boom after the punch line. Well, with Filipinos it isn’t necessarily after just one liner’s, it’s just announcing a joke, a little like canned laughter (which is used frequently on TV and radio here).

Why am I bothering to explain this? Well its one of many sources of misunderstanding between foreigner and Filipino. It’s a silly thing but I for one thought that they simply didn’t know a joke until they were told to laugh. Well it’s true up to a point but that’s common in many cultures. Americans invented canned laughter, British in days gone by would say boom boom, Filipinos say joke.

Sometimes it’s said to cover an unflattering remark or mild insult; they cover it by saying “joke” after. It’s as if to reassure you they are teasing and it wasn’t meant offensively. Confused? So am I.

The moral of this tale is, don’t assume it’s down to any kind of inability to recognize humour, it’s just something they say.

Filipinos laugh long and loud and are generally a happy people without meaning to sound cliché, but they are. Regardless of their willingness to laugh, sometimes they are not always going to get some of our humour. There is an excellent chance they will be taking your words literally and sometimes offended due to misunderstandings in what you have said. It’s happened to me dozens of times.

English is not their everyday tongue.If occasionally irony sometimes passes them by; I think it’s entirely forgivable when you consider that English is not the first language.

Being a silly European fellow, I had quite a time whilst learning the importance of “Joke” when I was teasing or just making a funny remark. Thinking myself to be a bit of a comedian I would happily make remarks which could be teasing the person or just generally being a fool. You would not believe the amount of times I unintentionally insulted people and wouldn’t know it.

In instances where it has happened with me, it could possibly be because of the crossover between English and how they comprehend English and not realizing I’m not serious. They tend to take your words very literally in their interpretation. When you think about it, it’s obvious as English does not come natural, it’s taught.

Although Filipinos have the talent to learn English as well as their various dialects and nearly all speak Tagalog, it’s asking a lot to expect them to fully comprehend the abstract in English with ease, as the abstract is often a feature in humour.

It’s not something entirely due to misunderstanding English as they do the same amongst themselves and you always hear them saying “joke” after they have made a funny or tease even in their own dialects. It’s just something they do and its open to misreading it from our side as foreigners.

However, you have to realize that the potential for misunderstanding or simply not getting you in the first place is far higher with someone speaking in English to them. We don’t always make it simple for them in how we put things in humourous conversations.

It’s totally impressive that even those with basic schooling in many cases still have some grasp at least of English. But you have to remember that where there is any degree of difficulty in understanding, they are going to take the literal meaning first before the abstract can be understood. You say “joke” at the end and they will re-process your remark and chances are no offense will be taken and they will see the joke.

This may seem a tedious point to write about, but I do so because it’s one of many areas where things are not as they seem and the likelihood for misunderstanding is high from both sides.

I’ve had conversations with other foreigners who have stated that Filipinos are dumb as they don’t know a joke until you say it’s a joke. This is harsh and misconstrued on the part of the foreigner, and I admit that I myself believed for a while that our humour was just not translatable to them. Sometimes that’s true, but assuming they say joke because they don’t know it’s a joke unless told is a major discredit to the Filipino. It’s just us not understanding the context that saying “joke” is used.

So if you’re trying to be funny, say “joke” at the end. Just be aware that some do not understand your humour, but many do and once you say “joke” at the end, they will probably laugh anyway just to be polite, but inside they may be saying to themselves, “what’s this cranky foreigner talking about”.


Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippine Transportation, Philippines

OPM of the Masses

Brownbeat Allstars at Radio Republic's Instagig at B-Side

Brownbeat Allstars at Radio Republic’s Instagig at B-Side

Why on earth would an aged, old hippy from England set about writing a piece about Filipino music? My honest answer is I have no idea other than lately I’ve been inspired.

It was Karl Marx that said “religion was the opium of the masses”. Well, I’m sure as hell not getting into that debate. It’s James, the blogger from England that is saying “OPM is the driving force behind musical change”. I am more than happy to get into that debate. Something has happened; the doors have been kicked open and so many good bands, musicians and talent have broken through.

Just a few years ago, I would not have said it was not possible. 8 years on from my first visit here, I’m discovering some great sounds, good music with originality something that I had previously been hard pushed to find.

There has grown a thriving alternative music scene that would not have got a look in just a few years ago. What’s changed? Well, possibly a young population of educated, internet savvy music lovers who, due to the internet, had broadened its horizons, is what has changed. Some of this change has come about because of an Original Pilipino Music movement that has forced the industry to rethink and real talent is pouring out.

Good music and especially anything original was suppressed by a stale, money and fame-oriented entertainment industry which had sold its soul to the corporate contract. If any of them cared about being innovative, then they would get little backing and would have to sacrifice their art for exposure.

Sadly, there were many around that were only interested in fame and would play the industries game. Why would the TV companies whom are not known for bold visions take a gamble on anything new when the cover singers were a safer bet?
It was all about getting the contract from big companies to endorse their products and in return, they would promote their gigs. Established artists lived forever being signed up right, left and centre for endorsements, and the people knew only them and showed little desire for change.

Unlike other countries, artists could not rely on album sales as the mainstay of their income. From what I’m told, CDs were not big sellers here. To make a good living as an artist, you needed to do shows, and more so, endorsements. As in all things, that usually spells the death of art.
It became tiresome watching endless pre-pubescent little wannabes with little talent manufactured by TV companies and record labels that had no idea. The end product that was nothing worthwhile was being heard, nobody was brave enough to give any of the newer upcoming bands exposure and the business was dominated by agents who were only interested in turning out starlets like sausages for the consumption of a populace that was so used to it; they ate up all they were served.

Throughout that time, waiting in the wings was a whole crop of talented musicians who was getting no support and to become known would have to sell their soul to mediocrity for the chance to appear on TV to an unappreciative audience that was only interested in faces that sing covers, usually badly. From established artists to the new wannabes, TV would turn out endless dross.

Now I confess that I’m no expert and I’m even speculating a little, but my guess is that there was an audience growing that had grown up with the internet. They were discovering international music that was out of the box. At the same time, the OPM scene was being born.

To say it was born over recent years isn’t quite accurate. There was an old wave of Filipino artists from the 70s to the mid 90s that was tagged as OPM but many of the names associated as OPM artists was little more than American sound-alikes who rarely sang or wrote anything that could be defined as Filipino yet strangely they fell into the genre described as OPM.

Over recent times, the OPM definition progressed to mean Filipino artists that write their own material and not covering western songs which in the past had been much of what the old wave artists did. The emphasis seemed to shift to meaning more about Filipinos writing original compositions. It could be in English on occasion, it would matter not; it was original and written by a Filipino. The concept was embraced by some aspects of the music establishment and the door opened for a wave of fresh new talent that could write, and in effect, this produced innovation. From rock to reggae, from folk to hip hop, a whole wave of new music came to the fore.

Ang Bandang Shirley at Radio Republic's Instagig

Ang Bandang Shirley at Radio Republic’s Instagig

Ok, much of it was still unoriginal in style, and it would be hard to define any of it being particularly unique or having a Filipino sound, but music here has always had outside influences and that’s no different to many musical cultures throughout the world. Some of the hip hop that has risen over recent years most definitely does have a style which could be described as uniquely Filipino. However it’s defined, the result is a new wave of fresh artists with much originality, innovation which meant throwing off the copy culture of old.

OPM has been around a long time and much of the early music was perfectly credible. However, the stale industry helped to degenerate the form and they held a lot of power. It seemed OPM was music by nationality only and became a pointless flag waving exercise which in reality only served to degenerate the musical culture. It feels to me that the new wave of OPM has finally conquered and some great music is now being aired.

Aspects of OPM can be a little disingenuous and now it seems the old enemies of musical culture are now waving the OPM flag and it seems sometimes that every radio station seems to be claiming the mantle of being the original OPM station. From some of those making that claim, it’s a little laughable and the term is now being used like a brand which isn’t good in my opinion. It’s in danger of losing its meaning. Some radio stations are claiming to be the fathers of OPM, but actually have been musical culture assassins. Some have been true to their course, such as RadioRepublic.PH. In its early days, they have featured old and new wave OPM but seem to have got on course with establishing the truer definition of OPM.

For me, personally I don’t care if music is Filipino or foreign. The only definition I care about is good music, no matter where it was from. Due to the nature of the music industry in the Philippines previously, it was often not good music at all. The good thing about the new wave of OPM music that has been let off its leash is its quality. Some class acts have broken through. They may not aspire to be international megastars but no matter. Music here now has become Filipino again and the old elite have had to adapt or die. The new music is much more the OPM of the masses. It has allowed those that play for the love of music to step into the limelight and the ones that seek fame only are still there but less significant.

I’ve been enjoying this musical journey so much that I’m going to showcase some of it from time to time. I will be adding music of interest from Filipino artists on this blog. The music industry of the Philippines has done a great disservice to musical culture in the past. It’s great to see the quality begin to shine through.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippine Music, Philippines