Monthly Archives: October 2012

God bless NYC.

God bless all the places that were in Hurricane Sandy’s path, including the beautiful spots found by or near the Hudson River.  The view from the river gives a tourist a different perspective of NYC: the scale, colors, cultures, urban planning, restoration, architectural contrasts.  It’d be a shame if Sandy destroyed all these.

Halloween Movie Guide writes:

Horror cinema is a monster. Mistreated, misunderstood and subjected to vicious critical attacks, somehow it keeps lumbering forward, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. For some, horror films are little better than pornography, focused purely on evoking a reaction – be it terror, disquiet or disgust – with little thought for ‘higher’ aspirations. For others, they’re just a bit of fun: a chance to shriek and snigger at someone’s second-hand nightmare.

But look again, and the story of horror is also the story of innovation and non-conformity in cinema, a place where dangerous ideas can be expressed, radical techniques can be explored, and filmmakers outside the mainstream can still make a big cultural splash. If cinema itself has an unconscious, a dark little corner from which new ideas emerge, blinking and malformed, it must be horror.

Here are my fave horror films.  Most of them should make the cut for ‘the all-time best movies’ list, regardless of genre:

  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968).  Memorable for Mia Farrow’s pixie cut and the most frightening bunch of old people to appear on film.
  • Alien (1979)Also the best blurb:  “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
  • Birds (1963).  The film that heightened my fear of winged creatures and monkey bars.  I love Hitchcock’s precise camera work here; the absence of logic, resolution, and lengthy dialogues.  Great locale, too.  Bodega Bay in Northern California must be a nice place to visit.
  • Psycho (1960).  The film that’s been dissected and extoled for just about everything (direction, casting, photography, the shower scene, music, design, the mother-son love story, etc.).   For me, it’s groundbreaking for its pioneering use of drag as a scary prop.
  • Carrie (1976).  The movie is structured like an opera.  And it ends on a shrill note.
  • The Shining (1980).  There’s hardly any gore.  The terror is all in your head.  Shelley Duvall is brilliantly ugly when she screams.  The clickety-clack of Jack Nicholson’s typewriter is so terrifying that you’d thank Silicon Valley for inventing the soft keyboard.
  • The Exorcist (1973).  In high school, the Salesian priests forbade us from watching this movie.  It took two decades before I had the guts to see it.  I must have lost 250 calories after watching it.
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981). Scary, funny, scary, funny.  Very unsettling.
  • Shake Rattle & Roll 2 “Aswang” (1990).  I never imagined myself rooting for Manilyn Reynes.  When the townsfolk started their ritual for the virgin sacrifice, it felt so real.  Proves that all the computer wizardry can’t replace a great narrative and directorial technique.
  • Drag Me to Hell  (2009).  Ganesh has the scariest make-up since Regan of The Exorcist.  The basement parking fight scene is the best since Bruce Lee and John Saxon.  This is the horror film to watch if you’re not comfortable with real scarefests featuring ghouls and demons.  It’s fun actually. 

A creative director’s very creative home

My friend and co-worker Noel’s studio in Legaspi Village, Makati is all of 50 square meters.  ‘Small’ is relative here.  His place is big and brimming with creativity.

He started with a design inspiration – photographs of his ancestors from the 1920s.  His architect Leah Sanchez (who also helped me with my place) pinned dozens of photographs and letters to the glass dividers.  They frame the whole place very cleverly and make for great conversation pieces.  Several photos and letters once belonged to Noel’s ancestor, war heroine and pioneering food technologist Maria Orosa (a major street in Ermita was named after her).

The vintage-with-a-twist concept extends to a chandelier of old bottles of Choco Vim, every kid’s favorite drink/baon from the late 60s and early 70s.

Trompe l’oeil frames of old family portraits.

A coffee table with 80s political memorabilia.

The functioning table is made from repurposed drawers.

Noel likes collecting tailless amphibians; so I gave him a pair.

Even his rugs are vintage.  He got them from an auction.

Check out the piña table runners he converted into curtains.  A costly exercise but it achieved the probinsiya effect that he wanted.

More quirky stuff:

Even his bath is maximalist.  I love the mirror and the Charlie Co art on the right.

Even his tiny porch is filled with beautiful things.

He’d have to get the studio next door to fit all his books.

Bravo, Noel!

The tonkatsu obsession

Manila offers endless options for a great dining experience.  Right in my neighborhood, I don’t have to walk far to sample sumptuous Cebuano, French, Ilonggo, Persian, Ilocano, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Japanese cuisine.   There’s just one thing missing:  really good, melts-in-your-mouth tonkatsuIt’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but it’s an occasional indulgence.  For years, I had been searching for the perfect tonkatsu.  Nada – from Quezon City, Little Tokyo, Kamagong to the posh restos in hotels.

The search ended in Osaka.  The locals pointed us to Tonkatsu Ganko, a tonkatsuya or an all-tonkatsu place.  Ganko’s tonkatsu had the combination I had been looking for: the right amount of fattiness of the pork sirloin, the tenderness of the fillet and the crunchiness of the crumbed coating.  The sauce is also just as important.  At Ganko, you make it yourself by pounding the sesame seeds, and mixing it with soy and thick Japanese Worcestershire to the level of sweetness and spiciness you desire.

I wonder how Ganko could do it so well.  I think the ingredients are key to a great tonkatsu.  The sirloin must have been aged from a pig raised without stress.  Plus, proper preparation – the right oil, temperature and timing for the crisp coating.

Ganko’s version is further enhance by the fresh and crunch shredded cabbage, and the artful presentation/inter-play of brown, white and green.

I was told someone’s trying to bring in Dean & DeLuca, the high-end gourmet shop.  Who needs another deli?  Manila needs Ganko!

Exploring one’s country

The weekend trip  to Anilao was so enervating that I resolved to do more local travel.  I also realized that I made more trips abroad this year than in my country.  I did Cebu before that but it was all for work.  Should I be crucified then for spending more of what I saved abroad than for local tourism?

As a general rule, should one explore his own country first than experiencing other cultures?

We’ve often heard people say that we ought to learn more about our being Filipino first by exploring the Philippines.  Yeah, that’s partly true.  But I’ve also gained more understanding about our roots through interaction with other cultures.   In a social setting, I like observing how a Filipino behaves versus a foreigner, and all the nuances and deficiencies from either party.  I like the self-discovery – leaving all my fears, beliefs and complacencies back home, and seeing things about myself in a different light.

How about the issue on economics?  One must support his country more than foreign tourism industries?  I pay my taxes diligently.  I do my part even if that I don’t get much in return.  Since I’m not remiss of my patriotic taxpaying duty, I must treat myself to wherever I want to go.

I also think I can do my country good my traveling abroad and fostering goodwill.  I am a Filipino.  I am civilized.  I don’t live on a tree.  I am educated. (I remember an old couple from the Midwest asking me if we had universities in the Philippines!)

Nonetheless, I must travel more, domestically in the coming year.  Besides, I’d have fewer vacation credits next year.   That’s the only reason, at walang philosophical context.

If I had more time, I’d like to visit these places:

Apulit Island, Taytay, Palawan (pic by

Candaba Bird Sanctuary, Pampanga (pic by

The T’boli tribe in Lake Sebu, Mindanao

Batanes (pic by

Balay ni Tana Dicang, Talisay, Negros

Biri, Northern Samar (pic by

Sagada, Benguet (pic by

Then eat lots of oysters in Iloilo.