Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bad lighting

Manila is not lacking in street lamps.  They’re all over.  They’re just not lit all the time.  So they never serve their primary purpose of lighting public spaces sufficiently to deter crime.  City governments do spend on them, and officials have made loads of money off procuring them.  That’s sad.  That’s how pervasive corruption has gotten in the world’s happiest place.

And it’s just as revolting how ugly these over-priced lamps are.  In a larger view, they’re also a design element and must relate to the history and vibe of a place.  If you drive down Nagtahan bridge going to South Superhighway, you’d see a row of multi-colored Teletubbie-inspired lamps.  What has Tinky Winky got to do with Sta. Mesa?  Along Espana, there are lamps shaped like discarded Caltex oil containers, the ones that are also repurposed as tabo.  Dios mio, horrendous.  Espana is a historic place and deserves some respectable amount of elegance.

It’s been reported that Mayor Erap will soon replace the lamps along Roxas Blvd.  I just hope they’d be the first step in restoring the beauty of the bayside.

It’d be nice to have ornate lamps like the ones in Paris.  

But forget it — the more iron you bend, the more it’d cost us taxpayers.

So keep it simple and understated.

In the future, I hope to see a lot more funk in the artsy and modern sections of the city.  That would only happen if they’d leave the planning to real urban planners and engineers with good art sense.   I like this whimsical installation in Osaka.

Erap, you better do well.

Lessons from Istanbul

Istanbul had never been known for civil disobedience until the sit-in in Taksim Gezi Park started in May 2013.  Eventually, it turned bloody, with cops dispersing the protesters violently.  For several days thereafter, the citizens of Istanbul marched on the streets to protest the brutal eviction of the sit-in and continued to contest the urban development plan for the park.  It was also the Turks’ venue to raise related issues that the government had always encroached on—freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the values of secularism.  I thought that was admirable.  Their cause was clear and justifiable, unlike Egypt’s repeated occasions of civil unrest, always tainted by varying political motivations.

pic lifted from Wikipedia
pic lifted from Wikipedia

The Turks were brave enough to face armed men to save a park.   Last July, their government gave in to their demands and cancelled the plans for the park.   In the Philippines, we must save our future.  We are slowly uncovering a much graver problem: the institutionalized stealing of billions of taxpayers’ money by our supposed honorable senators and congressmen.

It feels like EDSA’s ancient history.  There have been several issues in recent years that we let pass.  The Ampatuan massacre.  Urban non-preparedness for Ondoy, Habagat and Sendong (Where were the lifeboats that could have saved lives?  Whatever happened to the Cagayan de Oro mayor who allowed structures to be built on waterways?).  However, online, we managed to have a Cybercrime Law passed sans the contentious libel provisions.

This time, it’s not just Sotto that we’re up against.  It’s a humongous institution of evil.  We must bring the outrage offline, and let our anger ring in the halls of Malacañang, loud enough for them to scrap the pork barrel altogether.  If we’re successful with this, us civil society could be powerful enough to move the government to action.  Then, we could move on to saving and building parks.

The Hardware Société

If you’re a brunch or breakfast lover, you’d be spoiled for choice in Melbourne.  I didn’t get insights regarding Melbourne’s obsession with breakfast and coffee.  I guess because Aussies chika a lot, and the chatter has to start in the morning.

Al fresco cafés are set up in laneways for the CBD crowd.   Had our first breakfast here in Flinders Lane.

We also sampled the brunch fare in Manchester Press, distinct for its funky and repurposed details.

But the best meal we had in Melbourne was at Hardware Société.  Thanks to our hosts Pinoy friends Manny and Kaoky who are now Melbourne residents, and Urban Spoon – the indispensable app for the best eats in Australia – my roommate Noel and I were led to Hardware .  It’s one of the top-ranked restos in the CBD.  We weren’t disappointed.

Hardware is found in a serene alley off Lonsdale.

The fare is French and Spanish-inspired.  Noel had Baked eggs with chorizo sausage, cherry tomato & thyme salsa, crunchy almonds, idiazabal ewes milk cheese.  He raved unabashedly about it for the next three days.

I had Charcuterie Coddled Eggs.  Our cheery waitress recommended it.  She was right — it was what kept the brunch lovers coming.  I almost cried because I knew I’d never eat eggs as good as Hardware’s again.

Curiously, the next table of three burly men, in dirty yellow overalls, ordered the same food.  They were construction workers!  They also had latte and cappuccino for their morning break.  Unthinkable in Manila.  How could I not admire this very egalitarian gourmet capital?

The Houses in St. Vincent Place

It’s so ironic that the richer places in the Philippines are the ones that care less about preserving cultural heritage.  Smaller municipalities like San Fernando Pampanga, Pila Laguna, Vigan and Bacolod make an effort to put old houses under Heritage Commission protection.  It was painful to visit Escolta in Manila last weekend.  The place was dirty, chaotic; its buildings, decaying.  What have you done to the nation’s capital, all ye politicos and Manilenos?

Mayor Erap, who’s been getting good press lately for clearing the sidewalks and  fixing the traffic in Manila, should set aside funds for architectural preservation.  Like, this art deco beauty of yore.

One of the best examples I’ve seen on heritage-listing is the row of houses at St. Vincent in Melbourne.  These were middle-class homes built in the 1860s and 1870s, and are now the most expensive pieces of real property in Melbourne.  They remind me of Mrs. Banks’ neighborhood where Mary Poppins just popped in one night to nanny for her kids.

St. Vincent, located south of the CBD, is a must-see if you get down under.  It’s also nice to visit on a sunny day when the smell of lavender fills the air.