Thursday, January 31, 2008


Our friend, Doug Noble, who has visited 100 countries, once said that one of his favorite places is Sydney. I will admit that I had low expectations of Australia. I knew the history of the place, how it had been populated by English convicts in the late 1700s. And I was quite fascinated by a documentary (after a book of the same title), The Floating Brothel, about the women who were sent to Australia in the late 1700s - petty thieves, prostitutes, etc. and how along the way, they had turned the ship they were on, into a floating brothel. When they arrived Australia, a number of them got off the ship carrying babies in their arms. What was most fascinating was that many of these women went on to be respectable citizens, and in fact were ancestors to numerous Aussies.

Why I did not expect much from Australia was that I thought it'd be pretty much like any other English-occupied place. There's a sameness to them, really, the architecture, the culture. I have arrived at the conclusion that the English were/are master colonizers - they occupy a place and bring in their women so that families can settle the place. This happened in the U.S., South Africa, even remote Falklands. So I figured Australia would be something like England or Canada, with Churches of Christ and orderly streets, and pubs, and cars going down the "wrong side" of the road.

Well, Sydney has surprised me, and I'm quite crazy about it. I can't rattle off my reasons for liking the place, because a lot of it has to do with the feeling of the place. First, it is a city, but unlike New York, or London, or Paris, it isn't crowded nor frenetic. It's a relatively calm city, and yet the high-rises are there. Traffic isn't awful, and where we are - Hyde Park Inn on Elizabeth Street - we can walk to Darling Harbour, St. Mary's Cathedral, even all the way to Circle Quay. The city is clean, orderly, and yet people, probably mostly tourists like me, look laid back. There are quite a lot of immigrants: South Asians, Koreans, Filipinos, Europeans whose accents I couldn't place, probably Greeks. So, the place has a vibrancy and energy that's interesting and not boring.

The gardens are lovely, streets clean, standard of living clearly high, and - here's the quirky part - there are bats that come swooping down the city at dusk. They roost in the botanical gardens, and when the sun is down, fly all over the city. From our balcony, looking at the tops of the trees of the park in front, and the tall buildings across the way, one could imagine the place is Gotham City - it's a trip!

Yesterday, my classmate Rose Cuisia Franco, who has lived in Australia for 14 years, picked me up and we went to an antique shop. Then we went to the Rocks, an area developed by convicts, and which in the 1800s was the main drag in Sydney. It's been gentrified and now there are shops and restaurants, and it has an excellent view of the famous Sydney Opera House, and the bridge.

Today, the group of us (Lauren, Mike and Linda Ross) took the ferry to Manly Island, had lunch in the square fronting the ferry terminal, and listened to the Police band, which was quite good. They played mostly swing music, but also had some modern ones. Walked around the island, and got back on the ferry, did another round of the Rocks (my companions hadn't seen it yesterday), and hopped on the metro for a five minute trip back to our hotel.

Later that evening it rained and we watched it while eating pizza and drinking lovely Shiraz Aussie wine. We also watched the bats.

I'm quite charmed by Sydney.
This is Vegemite, that Australians love; they spread it on toast, on top of butter; it tastes like Brewer's yeast with soy sauce.

Top picture shows l-r: Rose Franco, Mike and Linda Ross, and Lauren

All for now,
Cecilia Brainard

tags: travel, tourism, Australia, Sydney, Vegemite, Cecilia Brainard

Monday, January 28, 2008


Even though I grew up in Cebu, I never knew that Cebu has quite a lot of Jose Rizal artifacts. It was Marily Orosa, who years ago when she was working on her coffee table book, Rizal, mentioned that she flew to Cebu to view Rizal artifacts.

Remembering what she had told me, today, the first day, I was relatively free, I went to the Rizal Library, which has a museum section, but unfortunately the museum is under renovation. The librarian mentioned that USP (University of Southern Philippines) has a lot of Rizal things. So I went to USP, and was astounded at the materials in their small Rizal Museum. I'll be posting pictures next month, so do visit this blog again. This museum has a couple of original drawings by Rizal of Josephine Bracken. One is quite fascinating - it shows Bracken in the nude, reclining on a divan. There are two angels near her, one hovering from the top, and one standing and (seemingly) staring at her stomach.

There were clothes of Jose Rizal, the complete set of Jose Rizal postcards made in 1909; bronzes (?) of Rizal; a receipt indicating the cost to print Noli Me Tangere, paid for by his sister, Trinidad; Trinidad's school report card; a very important revolutionary flag, and many more.

When I get around to posting my pictures, I'll give more info, but in the meantime, I just have to say it was a real treat to visit this museum. I was flabbergasted that Cebu has all of these national treasures.

These were acquired because a Rizal descendant married a Cebuano.

Now many people don't realize that Josephine Bracken lived in Cebu. After Rizal was shot in Bagumbayan, she married a Cebuano - an Abad, I hear, although I have to confirm this - and she lived somewhere in Old Cebu. Apparently, she taught school, some say, the Immaculada Concepcion. This topic is up for further research; very little is known.

All for now, from Cebu,

Friday, January 25, 2008


I've been bringing Mexican chocolate (for drinks) to the Philippines, and my friends have thoroughly enjoyed this drink. Filipinos are chocolate drinkers. When I was small, my mother used to buy chocolate tableya (tablets)and make chocolate drinks for us. For years, she used to send me tableya to the U.S., sometimes with great trouble. I told her not to bother when I discovered Mexican chocolate in California supermarkets: Ibarra, Abuelita, in the Mexican section usually, in bright yellow packaging.

The way I cook my chocolate, I simply add canned evaporated milk - 1 can per 1 round Ibarra tablet - and that's good for 3 cups, more or less. My friends here detect a cinammon flavor and some of them are totally addicted. Today my cousin (who had a taste last night) asked about the chocolate I had served.

The best recipe is to use 1/2 Mexican chocolate and 1/2 local Philippine chocolate (from Batangas or whereever). Philippine chocolate is pure, with a lot of uummphh, and when you mix this with the milder Mexican chocolate, you get something very tasty, something with "more personality."

Here in the Philippines, you can find chocolate tableya in supermarkets, in the baking section, I believe. The problem is you won't find Mexican chocolate here in the Philippines, so you have to get a friend in the U.S. to send you some.

This half-Filipino, half-Mexican chocolate drink is best served with local Filipino delicacies as puto, bibingka, suman, etc. Truly, it's a feast for a king, or queen.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I think that at some point the Philippines earned the designation of cell phone capital in the world. Or maybe it was another Asian country. I'm not sure now. All I do know is that cell phones are very popular in the Philippines. Virtually everyone has a cell phone. Texting is the primary mode of communication. In fact texting featured in a couple of those people revolutions - with news zipping through like wildfire to everyone, via cell phone.

My friends in the Philippines cannot go anywhere without their cell phones. It is like an appendage. They can text in the dark; they can text while driving. I have seen Mila and Darn text and drive on Edsa during rush hour - believe me, this is a harrowing experience!

There is an entire culture connected to texting: there is a new language, there is an etiquette, there are rules, and you have to know the technology as well. My friends think I'm mildly retarded when I don't know how to call a Cebu number (032- ) and when I don't know what to call to find out the balance of my load (1515). I don't know how to load minutes into my cell phone, so when I buy the load, I have to ask the vendor to put it in for me - his/her eyebrows rise when I ask (you retard, he/she must think).

Once I asked Darn something about texting that must have been very simple for the texting-savy, and she said, very calmly, "Baby, even children own cell phones."

To tell you the truth, I enjoy texting. It's not obtrusive. It's a bit like emailing. If something comes to your mind at 1 a.m., you can pick up your cell phone and text your message to the person, and it's out of your head, and you haven't disturbed the person either. It's also a way of connecting with my friends. And it's very inexpensive, with 1 peso, you can text someone.

In the US, I had the texting feature in my cell phone there, but the problem was that I didn't have texting-mates. I never used it, so finally we got rid of it.

I wl ad dat w textng my spelng has bcom vry bad.

Al 4 now,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Louie Nacorda, Val Sandiego, and some other Santo Nino devotees put up an exhibit of their beloved Santo Nino statues and images in SM Shopping center (reclamation area). There is another Santo Nino exhibit in the Cathedral Museum, and Nacorda et al had considered participating in that Cathedral exhibit, but they felt they needed more security guards for their prized statues and paintings. Apparently SM provided the three security guards, round the clock, for free, while the struggling Cathedral Museum couldn't offer the same.

The exhibit in SM had more statues and paintings with nice writeups, compared to the Cathedral Musuem's exhibit. However, the setting of the "bahay na bato" Cathedral Museum is more appropro for the Santo Nino Exhibit. In any case, both exhibits had a lot to offer.

My favorite in the Cathedral Museum was the the Santo Nino de Espina, an antique statue from Cusco, Peru, that shows the Child Jesus (in Peruvian garb) sitting on a chair, one leg crossed over the other, and the viewers can see that He has hurt his foot. In His hand,He holds a thorn in the shape of the Cross. I had several favorites in the SM exhibit, one of them a Spanish antique statue, around 4 feet tall, of the Child Jesus, in rich brocade clothing. There is another large statue of the Nino with curly blond hair - He looks almost like a female angel - and He has the sweetest face with a cleft chin. The SM exhibit also has a small Nino from Peru, the Sleeping Nino, which is quite charming.

Also in SM shopping center is the new Powerbooks bookstore, and to Cebuanos looking for my books, this bookstore carries quite a lot of my titles: Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America, Behind the Walls, Growing Up Filipino, A La Carte, Food & Fiction, and Cecilia's Diary.

The storm in Cebu seems to have gone, and gone also are the nightly Sinulog drumming and dancing in the various barangays (communities).

All for now, from Cebu,

Monday, January 21, 2008


The buzz in Cebu was that the prisoners of YouTube fame wanted to participate in the Sinulog Mardigras parade, and the officials seriously considered it. They couldn't ignore that these prisoners are in the top 10 of YouTube's videos and mentioned thus in Time Magazine. But in the end, the officials decided they are still prisoners and were not allowed to leave the confines of their prison house. However, as a concession, those who wanted to see them perform could go the Capitol at a certain time, catch a shuttle that would take them to the prisonhouse to watch their performance.

The talk is that the two prisoners who have muscled these now-famous dancing videoclips are in prison for "estafa" and for drugs - they aren't murderers or anything like that.

This year - 2008 - the Sinulog has been rainy! Saturday, it rained off and on for the fluvial parade of the Santo Nino, for the procession, attended by a million people. Roads were closed off, people crammed the procession route or joined the procession, and it was quite something to watch the people's faces when the Santo Nino in His carro appeared - the cheers, the waving, the energy were impressive. All of this during a heavy downpour.

The next day, Sunday, was mardigras day. The weather forecast was a strong storm, and talk was that numerous eggs were delivered to the Carmelites, as is the tradition, if you want to keep it from raining. The nuns apparently pray for dry weather and God knows what they do with all the eggs they receive. It was dry for most of the day, but it did rain in the afternoon, but the participants of the parade kept right on. Apparently 2 million people watched the parade.

Monday, the Casa Gorordo had a Sinulog Bisaya, danced by Evelita Diola and her troupe. This is the real prayer dance by an octagenarian who remembers what it was like in the 1930s. It's a very folksy, heartfelt dance, nothing glitzy like the Sinulog mardigras. I am not sure how to describe it, the drums still beat out the sinulog beat. The dancers are dressed as Spaniards and Natives, reenacting I suppose the origins of the Santo Nino, which had been brought to Cebu by Ferdinand Magellan. What was interesting was when the Evelita Diola, prayed verbally to the Santo Nino and she mentioned Don Mariano. Later, we learned that she prayed for my grandfather Mariano Cuenco, for whom she had worked in Colon, many years ago.

Stay tuned, dear Readers, stay tuned!

Pictures show:
Top: Joy Guerra, Louie Nacorda, Gavin Bagares, Gav's friend, and me in a post-Sinulog celebration;
Next: Terry Manguerra and me with Evelita Diola (in yellow)
Bottom pictures show Joe and Rita Suaco, and Chinggay and Joe Utzurrum

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I had an epiphany this morning that you can't take Manila seriously. Let me expand this statement. I was born and grew up in Cebu and didn't move to Manila until I was around 13 for high school and college. Even though I had my own pretensions, because my family in Cebu had prestige, had political connections, blah-blah-blah, I was slightly intimidated by Manila. For one thing the language, Tagalog, was something quite different from my first tongue, Cebuano. Even though English-only is debatable, I was relieved that the St. Theresa's nuns obliged us all to speak in English. At least my broken Tagalog didn't put me at a disadvantage. Another thing, and maybe this had to do with the girls' convent schools that I attended (St. Theresa's College, San Marcelino and Maryknoll College, Quezon City) - I did note the social structure (or stratification?), not only in school, but also in Manila society. Even though we backbited them, we (Theresians as a whole) looked with some envy at the girls who attended Assumption College because there were a lot of society girls among them - models, daughters of so-and-so. In fact the schools I attended also had name-people, but the Belgian and Filipina nuns at STC and the American nuns at Maryknoll College emphasized academics, so these daughters of so-and-so were only so important if they excelled in school. And because they had imbibed the nuns' values, they didn't end up in society pages as often as the other college girls did.

But it was there, I could feel it, for the 8 years I went to school in Manila - who was wealthier, who was prettier, who had more dates, who ended up in the society pages, etc. etc. - a constant social climbing. We paid attention to that, not to who was in the Dean's List.

And besides all that, the Tagalogs are generally more gruff, more rigid than the easy-going friendly Cebuanos.

Now, years later, I'm seeing Manila and Tagalogs in another way. The society columns still talk about the same families, and more noveau riche. Forbes Park and exclusive subdivisions and communities boast of huge houses or apartments. And people operate as if on different social strata, never meeting if so desired.

Well, now I look at all this and find the social stratification and pretensions interesting at best and pathetic at worst.

But really the way to look at Manila is with the eyes of a comedian. For instance, yesterday I witnessed this vignette: Picture a busy upscale department store in Makati - there's a Korean man, maybe in his early 40s, and a Filipina perhaps in her late 20s. They are in the lingerie section, staring at brassiers. There are racks and racks of them - to those who don't know, the Philippines exports lingeries - so this guy points out a padded blue brassier to the woman. The woman handles it, turns it over. It is thickly padded and the color is a vivid sky blue. She protests, "It is too big." The guy insists on it anyway, finally she disappears into a fitting room with the bra.

When I was younger, I might have turned away more quickly, indignant that here is this prostitute/call girl with some foreign man, and how disgusting the whole thing was etc. etc. That was the young Cecilia, trained forever by nuns, and highly judgemental - Sister Cecilia.

Well, yesterday, the older Cecilia lingered near the two to be able to listen and find out what was going on - yes, eavesdropped. And then, when I had figured it out, I had to hold myself back from laughing because the following thought flitted through: Oh my, it's like he owns a car and is buying accessories for it.

So, anyway, I thought about that some more and realized that there's a comic style to Manila. The people generally want to be important; each and everyone you meet will connect himself or herself with some politician - "So and so is my uncle." So many of them own cars, so much so that there is color-coding driving restriction. And at least here in Makati, there is such a Western slant, I see women wearing boots, and coats - yes, in this heat!

But there is the other childlike side, the crowds in church every evening at the end of a work day; and the cluster of employees gossiping, cracking jokes. I heard once that 80% of Filipinos are under the age of 30, or something like that - the gist was that it's a young population, and this is true. And many are trying to get out of the country to find better prospects: to Saudi, Hong Kong, Australia, United States, Canada, Europe. Every country I've visited, and I think I've been to around 40, has always had Filipino immigrants.

So the hurly-burly, the self-importance, the social-climbing can be looked at as amusing. At least I find them such, now.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Today, my friend Tillic picked me up and we took a cab to Quiapo - to Ilse D'Touls (Sa Ilalim ng Tulay) - where you can buy handicrafts dirt cheap. You must haggle even though their markup isn't that high. The shopping area is under the Quiapo bridge and near the famous Quiapo Church with the miraculous Black Nazarene statue, object of veneration to so many people that they have stampedes during the feastday of the Nazareno.

Back to the shopping center: outdoor stalls with quite a lot of shell craft, bamboo items, capiz shells, weavings, leather items. You can find lamps, bags, shell hanging dividers or wind chimes, tablecloths, napkins, knickknacks, carved wood, embroidered items, the list is endless. I picked up a lovely Filipina dress: handpainted kimono with skirt and panuelo for P1,500 - that's around $38; a nice beaded bakya (native wooden clogs) for P250 ($5); ebony back scratcher; shell pill boxes, woven purses, etc.

The best part was returning to Makati because we took the ferry down Pasig River. The ferry service is only two years old and it was the first time Tillic had taken it. It was wonderful! The terminals (except for Quiapo) were all quite nice, the ferries were clean and new, with a large screen for those who wanted to watch movies. I spent my time looking around because I'd never seen Manila from this vantage view. I'd read about Pasig being a major thoroughfare in the 1800s. In olden days one could take a boat all the way to Laguna. Jose Rizal writes about such a voyage in his famous novel, Noli Me Tangere. There are antique pictures showing the Pasig River with boats; the ancient steps on the banks are still there! There are also some old houses on the riverbank. And the ferry passes right by the Malacanang complex - that's all quite handsome. So, as we floated on Pasig for about an hour, we saw the Malacanang complex, warehouses, refineries, slums (yes, that too), and now and then some surprisingly intriguing mansions. Tillic was fascinated by the white birds that could fly forever that looked like small seagulls. They kept pecking at something on the water. I don't know if they were fishing, but we did see people fishing from the river banks, and also some children swimming. When we were young, the Pasig River was so polluted it had no fish; it was covered with green plants and a lot of garbage. To swim in the Pasig was tantamount to a cholera-sentence. Now, it's obviously cleaner.

So very fun! I highly recommend it, but don't have your hopes too high. It's not yet Bangkok, but I can see how in 5-10 years, this Pasig ferry will be quite a fashionable way to travel in the Metro Manila. Think of it: no traffic, no pollution, low stress - really you could take a nap, you could read, you could watch the movie - you can't do these things in a jeepney or taxi, you just can't because the frenetic Manila traffic is just too over whelming.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I listened to two mothers talking about their children, and they went on about their children being hyperactive - "super-kulit" is the term they used. Before this, they had talked about how picky their children are about food: one child didn't eat lunch at school and the mother had to give the kid Ensure in the morning and at night, and another child just ate fast food. I asked if fast food may have something to do with the hyperactivity and they both said yes.

We talked about how we didn't have fast food when we were growing up. Our snacks consisted of fruit and well, yes, sweets, but we didn't have Jollibee and McDonald and those stalls that sell assorted fried snacks.

I have noticed that there are a number of younger people who are heftier. When I was young and even now in provinces, people were/are generally more slender, sometimes too thin. I've always assumed that diet had something to do with this, in the same way I assume that the fast food diet is affecting the people in the cities where there's a proliferation of such food.

It would be interesting to see if there's an increase in diet-related health problems ever since the addition of fast food to the Filipino diet.


When I was a student at Maryknoll College in Quezon City, I used to drive down EDSA. And at that time EDSA had long stretches of fields so the feeling was that you left the city of Manila, drove through nothing until you hit Quezon City. Now, there's concrete jungle all along EDSA, and needless to say the traffic along that avenue is horrendous.

Today, it was particularly bad because there was a fire in a slum community. The cab driver said the area was called Guadalupe, and it was made of shacks - squatters' homes. He said this was the second time the area burned down; five years ago there had been a fire. The owner of the land posted many guards to try and prevent the return of the squatters, and the cabbie said there were a lot of fights, with people getting killed. The squatters managed to get back into that land and rebuild. Then, there was this morning's fire.

Dark smoke swirled up into the murky Manila sky. People stood on the overpasses to look at the smoke and fire. The firemen apparently couldn't enter this area and blocked the surrounding roads. I didn't understand this statement fully, but I'm sure that is what the cabbie said. The cabbie insinuated that the fire could have been arson, but he toned down his statement by saying it's hard to tell because these kind of dwellings are made of flimsy wood, with illegal electric hookups, etc.

It took 50 minutes for me to get from Makati to Pasig ordinarily, it would take 30 minutes. So this wasn't too bad. The highway going the opposite way wasn't moving at all. After my hour meeting, I found another taxi and the guy was distraught about what route to take to get back to Makati, since EDSA traffic was at a standstill. He wound around through Mandaluyong and back streets and I think he may have taken advantage of me some because the meter was 50% more than usual. A lot of confusing and unnecessary turns, back tracking in some cases. But never mind he got me back to Makati - and even though the dollar is WEAK, it's still a bargain to travel from Pasig to Makati for $4.

I was tempted to go to Ilse D'Touls (you have to pronounce this with a French accent; it should really be Sa Ilalim Ng Tulay [Under the Bridge]) - a down home shopping section for handicrafts, unbelievably cheap, but the place has an edge so when you go there you have to be prepared for purse-snatchers and other bad people. I didn't go to Ilse D'Touls; didn't feel like adding any more edge to my life today.

So I thought about going to Ermita, where neat antique shops and restaurants are, and where Frankie Jose's bookshop La Solidaridad is, but it's Friday and traffic is just extra awful Friday afternoons. So I'm holed up in Makati.

Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Signing off from Makati.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I've put a question mark after "red light district" because this place isn't like the red light district in Amsterdam, which is very forthright about sex for sale. The place I'm writing about is a section in Bel Air, Makati,where there are numerous bars, clubs, and hotels - and guys looking for girls, and girls in little short skirts cruising, looking for guys. The only difference here, is that unlike Amsterdam, the guys and girls trolling Bel Air can pretend they are looking for real love. In Amsterdam, I would think it would be quite a stupid man who would be looking for love in that red light district.

Seriously, here in Makati, I've come across a couple of older White guys looking for wives. Now, you are probably wondering what I would be doing in a place like this - and the answer is simple - I used to stay in place nearby and I used the internet cafes in the area.

The computers in the internet cafe I'm in right now all have cameras, for Skype users. I don't know if they still have the little rooms with the cameras, but a couple of years ago they did. A hairdresser named Lisa (a guy) had explained that these internet cafes have private rooms used by girls who do business via the internet. They apparently pick up clients from internet chat groups,and accept payment via Western Union. I will stop here and let the reader figure out what else transpires.

I mentioned this to my high school nun, Sister Consuelo, and she affirmed that such rooms do exist. She talked about an internet cafe in Cebu which she once used, and she wandered down a hall with little rooms! She asked the manager about those rooms, and the manager didn't give her a straight answer, according to her. So, my relaying to her what Lisa said educated Sister Consuelo about what happens in those little rooms. I think she may have gone back and scolded the manager.

All for now, from Makati's Redlight (?)District

Read also

Remembering the Woman in Amsterdam
From Hanoi to Ho Chi Ming City
Kenya Safari
Ireland 1, 2
Visiting the American Southwest
Visiting Colonial Mexico
My Love Affair with France
Grand Tour of Egypt 1 (visit also Egypt 2, 3
Maids in the Mist - Canada  (and visit Canada 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
Turkey 1 (and visit Turkey 2, 3, 4)
Brazil 1 (and visit Brazil 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
The Fascination Called China
Northern India in March 
Thailand and Cambodia

tags: Red Light District, prostitution, Philippines, Makati, Manila, travel, tourism holiday

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


How do you survive a 20 hour trip across the Pacific?
Here are some tricks: travel light, including your hand carry. Homeland security checks in the U.S. are quite rigorous now, so you're better off if you minimize your luggage. Besides, it's easier to move around with fewer baggage (Ha - a pun!). Also consider your footgear, because you have to remove your shoes at the X-ray section before you get into the "sterile" area of the airport. You're so much better off if you wear slip-ons, rather than lace-up shoes. And don't bother bringing water, gels, perfume, etc. in your hand carry. You risk having them taken away from you.

Next, a week before your date of departure, you should call your airline and request for either window or aisle seat. I myself like aisle seats; although some people like window seats.

Airline food is now quite terrible, so it's a good idea to throw in some snacks in your carry-on - seriously, the food I had in Cathay was supposed to have been sweet and sour pork and it was not edible. Some domestic airlines charge you a few bucks for snacks that are nothing to brag about. Some people like to bring an empty bottle of water, which you can fill up once you're past the security check area.

Bring a book or magazines to read in the airplane. There are movies to watch of course, but sometimes, it's just nice to read quietly.

In the airplane, make it a point to get up and walk around. Stretch, bend your knees, do a bit of exercise because those long trips are murder.

All for now!

(I'm in Manila - arrived without any incident. It's not that hot; in fact it's cloudy right now. More development in Makati, near the Greenbelt church. The dogs are still there; apartment fine. Oh, it's 40.87 pesos to one dollar.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cebu's Old Jesuit House of 1730

There is in Old Cebu a historic site tucked away in the Parian District of Cebu City, like a secret gem waiting to surface one day. It is an old Jesuit House or Convent built in 1730. Located on Zulueta Street near Mabini, this historic site has not been restored and is currently the Ho Tong Warehouse. But in the midst of the piles of steel and lumber, one can find vestiges of this ancient place. It is surprising but tourists from all over the world seek out this place, asking permission from the Ho Tong employees to see what is left of the place; the Ho Tong people generously oblige.

The history of the Jesuits in Cebu is fascinating. The Jesuits, also known as the Black Robes, came to the Philippines in 1581. By 1595, the Jesuits were in Cebu.

It was the Jesuit superior, Antonio Sedeno himself who founded a house in Cebu. Sedeno was a veteran missionary of 46. Like St. Ignatius, he had been in the military when he was young. He had gone to England as a page of the Duke of Feria when Mary Tudor was queen. On March 13, 1568, he sailed for Florida with a group of Jesuits headed by Juan Bautista de Segura. In 1572, Sedeno was the first Jesuit sent to Mexico, and it was while he was acting Rector of the college there that he was informed he was chosen as superior of the first Philippine Mission. Traveling with three companions, he sailed from Acapulco on the galleon San Martin on March 29, and arrived Manila in July. There Sedeno and his company learned Tagalog. After much hemming and hawing as to whether the Manila Jesuits would head the entire Far East or the Philippines, and as to what type of work they would actually do there, the King of Spain sent an order for the Jesuits to establish a Jesuit College where they would teach not only Spanish boys but also mestizos and sons of the ruling class.

Cebu, the site of the first Spanish settlement was not forgotten, and by June 30, 1595 Sedeno himself headed a small group composed of Alonso de Humanes, Mateo Sanchez and a lay brother to Cebu for the purpose of founding a Jesuit house there. The people received them warmly and promptly donated 500 pesos to them, which they used to buy a house near the beach. The city corporation donated adjacent land for a yard and garden. The trip to Cebu had been on an uncovered sailboat, exposing the Jesuit passengers to the stormy weather for three weeks. Father Sedeno became ill and passed away in Cebu on September 2, 1595. They buried him in the domestic chapel on the ground floor of their first house, but three years later, Father Pedro Chirino transferred Sedeno’s remains to the new Jesuit church.

The Jesuits went on and founded a free primary school that taught Spanish, Visayan, and Chinese students Catholic doctrine, reading, writing, arithmetic, and deportment. Grammar was added upon the Since 1596, the Jesuits had been administering a free primary school teaching Spanish, Visayan, and Chinese students Christian doctrine, reading, writing, arthimetic, and deportment, grammar.

In 1599 the Chinese Christians built a Catholic church in the wealthy Parian district in Old Cebu. This church was said to have been decorated with gold and silver. The Bishop of Cebu ordered the Jesuits to administer this church, which they did for a while. This was the Parian Parish church that stood at the intersections of Mabini, Espana, and Zulueta. The Jesuit convent was across the street on Mabini and Zulueta.

When the Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1768, the Jesuit House in Cebu ended up in the hands of others, including the Alvarez and Sy families. At some point, it had even been exclusive club in Cebu.

Here are some pictures of Cebu's Old Jesuit House of 1730, including the cut-coral wall. Here's a great link to Arnold Carl's site. Arnold has a great writeup about the architecture of this Old Jesuit House and more pictures and writeups about Old Cebu sites.

A lot of the information above about the Jesuits came from the Book by Father Horacio Dela Costa, The Jesuits in the Philippines.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


The rain in Southern California reminded me of rain in the Philippines. I don't know if the weather pattern has changed but when I was growing up the rainy season there was around June until October-November. It could rain daily for weeks at a time. If there was a typhoon, the rain and winds were horrific, so strong as to knock down huge trees and rip off galvanized roofing.

If the typhoon was strong, we got to stay home, so I actually have fond memories of typhoons. The memory is this: wind whipping leaves and branches outside, rain drumming on the roof, water, water falling down, and there I was in the house, warm and dry and reading a book. Now and then, if the typhoon wasn't too bad, and when I was older, my classmates and I would sneak off to see a movie - but only if the storm wasn't too bad. It truly was dangerous to be outside during a ferocious typhoon because electrical wires could sometimes be knocked down and live wires could be laying around exposed. The water would rise so that vehicles were half-submerged and traffic at a stand still. I recall having to wade through flooded streets in Manila. And since power outage was common, you had to stock up on candles, matches, and canned food. At this time, my mother made sure our drinking water was boiled to kill germs.

The first rainy season I experienced in California, I was surprised because Californians made a big fuss over what I thought was a drizzle. There Californians were, with raincoats and boots and umbrellas, and cars careening through the streets because of this itty-bitty rain. I remembered thinking that the rain in California didn't even have gender, whereas in the Philippines, rain could be male or female. Male rain came as small, steady raindrops that fell for a long period of time. Female rain came as large raindrops that came and went quickly. And we even had gay rain - the kind that we couldn't peg as male or female.

Once I was talking to an Irish about rain, and the person used quite a lot of adjectives describing rain. He used words like "lashing" and "cold" and "bitter" rain, and listening to him, I realized this person came from a place that also knew rain.

Right now, the rain in California is falling, and it's a good thing because of the drought we've had for years now.
Picture of flooded Manila is a watercolor done by Trudl Zipper, from the book Manila 1944-45 As Trudl Saw It.

Friday, January 4, 2008


We went back to Santa Anita Race track. Lauren wanted a repeat of his winning a trifecta the last time we were there. I was hopeful that the rain would invalidate handicapping and I'd have a shot, what with my picking horses by name or color. Not too many people at Santa Anita, and many horses were scratched. Well, the way it went, the favorites were winning, except for the last horse when we picked the favorites, and the long shot won. In short, we lost. But that is what gambling is all about. In fact I have an aversion to gambling; it has something to do with some family legend about some grandfather or great-grandfather who was a chronic gambler and lost tracks of property. But I'm open to occasional playing with slot machines or visits to the track.

The rain - it's falling in torrents! In buckets! And that's good, I think, because we've had a serious drought. The problem though is that the rain is falling so hard and is likely to cause landslides. The traffic coming home was bad; people in California are so unused to rain that they ride their brakes and do scary things in the sleek freeways.

Jay Leno - poor guy! He's missing his writers, and is struggling with writing his own material. I never thought writers would be sorely missed.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Here are some YouTube movies that I enjoy:

Thriller - Dance number performed by prisoners in Cebu (my home town) to Michael Jackson's Thriller

Funny Dogs - This will make you laugh out loud!

Talking Cats - Two cats
converse with each other - remarkable!

Battle at Kruger This is the one about the water buffaloes, lions, and crocodile - such drama!

And let me just comment on the two short movies I uploaded to YouTube, the one on Robert Brainard and the other on Merwyn Bergquist. I'm amazed that people are actually viewing these home movie clips. These videos are drawing more visitors than this blog, and I haven't even tried to draw visitors to them.

Hmmm, does this mean that people are more visual than verbal? Do countless number of people just sit around watching YouTube videos? And how do they even find "Robert Brainard" and "Merwyn Bergquist"? Are they Brainards and Bergquists who are surfing, trying to find Brainard-Bergquist video-clips? Are they some kind of voyeurs peering into other people's lives?

Hmmmm -

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Lauren mentioned the Reel Geezers, an older couple that does movie reviews in Marcia and Lorenzo, both in their 80s, were featured in today's Los Angeles Times. They do this Ebert & Roeper routine, that is they review movies, sometimes agreeing, other times arguing. They are charming. There is something endearing about these two. They have been involved in the movie industry all their
lives, and they continue to connect with movies by doing these reviews. A friend/contact of theirs uses two cameras to tape them. He edits the work to 5 minutes, which you can view in YouTube. Marcia and Lorenzo are not married to each other, and I imagine how they plan to see movies together, and arrange with the film maker to come in once or twice a month to videotape their reviews of such movies as: Juno, Darjeeling Limited, Michael Clayton, etc. Beats worrying about your high blood pressure or whatever ailments older folks get.

YouTube has been in mind recently. I've had a number of home videos, which I've been talking about editing for years. Finally my son bought me the right computer peripherals that connect the videocam to the computer and allow me to download the video into the computer. I downloaded a free program called MovieMaker II, which allows me to edit these home movies. It's remarkably simple, compared to how we had done things in film school - oh, so many years ago. Now, it's just drag and drop. I still have to learn more tricks of course; this technology is different, but I'm proud to say that I've put up two short home movies in YouTube under the name of Palhbooks. Look them up under the titles of: Merwyn Bergquist and Robert Brainard. The piece on Merwyn is her 80th birthday celebration - in 2005 (I did mention I'd been meaning to work on this!). The other piece is the last home movie I made of my father-in-law, General Robert Francis Brainard. He already had terminal cancer when I filmed this, and I didn't have the nerve to focus the camera on him for any length of time, nor to interview him. I should have. He died shortly after this filming.

And the third YouTube connection today was our viewing of the Battle at Kruger, about water buffalos, lions and a crocodile. It shows a pride of lions attacking a young water buffalo. A crocodile attacks the same buffalo, so there is a tug-of-war between the lions and the croc over the poor water buffalo. And meantime, the herd of buffalos regroup and attack the pride of lions. It is quite a fight! Around 25 water buffalos form a phalanx and surround the 5 lionesses. The herd of buffalo has a leader who steps forward to kick and gore the lionesses. Remarkable! And yes, the young water buffalo survived the attack.

See it all in YouTube.