September 14, 2016

Intramuros: The Past & The Curious

     As the great Confucius said "Study the past if you would define the future." And yes, I do agree with him. I've always been fascinated with the past ever since I was young, history was my favorite subject growing up and Philippine history was my favorite of them all. I'm not an expert in all parts of our country's history, but if I can be boastful, I do know more than the average Juan. 

     My love for history was further fueled when I began studying inside the walled city of Intramuros. Every time I entered its walls, it warped me 400 years back, and every time I walked the halls of my college, I often wondered if I've walked the same path as the revolutionary heroes of the Philippines.

     My passion for history couldn't be contained by wondering, so I started wandering. I'd frequently go on solo walks inside the walled city, yes, on my own, usually every Saturday when I only had morning classes and I knew I saved enough money for the week to enter museums inside the walls. There are at least 8 museums inside the walls alone so I'd go to one every week. But there was one main museum that was the star attraction of the walled city, and it was Fort Santiago.

A replica of the Tranvia
     Now I have a lot of relatives in the U.S. of A. And it was so wonderful that they all came home to spend their vacation with us! Oh the wonderful chaos it created at home - The hectic schedule everyone had to commit to, the noise that started during breakfast up until the wee hours of the night with wine, whisky, and beer on our hands. My uncles and aunts and some of my cousins grew up here before moving to the states (except for some of my cousins who were born there)

   And luckily there was one Saturday that everybody was free. So then they wanted to go somewhere, and of course, me being a staunch lover of Manila city, I said "Let's go to Intramuros!" to which everyone agreed to. I hastily prepared an itinerary for them, I started with listing all the attractions and asked if they wanted to see something in particular. My cousins wanted to see San Agustin church because that's where their parents got married (San Agustin Church is a UNESCO world heritage site) and so I eliminated the minor attractions and drew out a final plan.

     So at 7AM (Yes, I scheduled our departure that early because we live 12 kilometers away from Manila [Yes, I count distance, too] and with Manila's dreadful traffic, it can mean at least 90 minutes of travel) we left the house and drove toward my beloved city. It was quite fun that my uncles and aunts still recognized parts of the street, they were all "oh, there used to be..." "hey, that was ______ before!" 

     We arrived an hour later (Thanks to a miraculous smooth traffic) and since it was still a bit early to go to the museum, we stopped by the walls in front of Lyceum University because it was where a few of the walls' Spanish cannons were still on display, though it is exposed to the elements. And after a few minutes of walking around, the sun's heat began claiming the land and it was time to go indoors. And so I took them to Fort Santiago, where they can have a crash course lesson on the life and works of our National Hero Jose P. Rizal.

They say that to capture someone's soul, take a stolen photo, and so I did. Look at their genuine, priceless smiles
     There were a lot of people visiting the fort on that day, good thing the weather became cloudy by the time we got in. So just like what a tourist would do, I told a bit of trivia I knew based from my own research (No, I didn't source Wikipedia, don't worry) but of course a professional tourist guide would be much better than me, but hey, this is my family, so I got you, fam.

At the Tranvia
My cousin Lee enjoying Banana Cue

  I would tell them things I know, but most of the time I just let them read on to the material available there, I didn't speak if I wasn't sure of my history, it's hard to misinform people, it would be a disaster.

     Fort Santiago has improved a lot compared to the first time I went there alone in 2008, I was a college freshman armed with a camera $2 and my I.D. to have a 50% discount. Back then there wasn't much that was going on in the Fort, it was just an old, dying place where it was treated as "some place where history took place...and where Rizal was imprisoned." - That was that, cameras weren't even allowed inside the main museum then. It was hot, dimly lighted, and HOT.

     Since 2008 I made annual visits to Fort Santiago (Even this year! I was just there a few months ago with other relatives from the states, greetings Militante Family!) so make that 8 years straight of visiting one place. And comparing it 8 years before? It's so much beautiful now, the landscaping was improved, there are coffee shops, photography studios and souvenir shops around. The grounds were kept clean and the most important change was the air conditioning. Yes, it's now cold and the reading materials were also improved to my delight!

One of the improvements inside: The Trial of Jose Rizal
Vast improvements for the display cases and reading materials
          I can say that Fort Santiago is really worth the visit now, especially for the young ones because some Pinoy kids today know Naruto and One Punch Man but has no idea who Juan Luna is. I always believe that our grasp in our identities as Filipino rely in our knowledge and understanding of our past. And if my uncles and aunts who are away from home grabs the only chance they get to visit the roots of the blood in their veins, why can't we? Us who are living here, the museums are open. I think it's time that schools stop field trips to malls and head to museums instead.

I got them to follow Rizal's final journey!
     And after 90 minutes inside of the Fort, we then went to San Agustin Church, luckily the church was open at that time because of a wedding. We didn't go inside the church's museum anymore because you'll need about 2 hours to really appreciate the artifacts there.

     After reminiscing the church and wedding bells, I took them to, well you know, of course, a Filipino restaurant, and yes, it's Max's (To Max's Management: That is not free advertisement, please send GCs.) We had the whole crew munching on chicken, beef, pork, noodles, I think we got all from the menu, even the desserts! And sorry if you didn't see pictures of the food, well we were so hungry.

     With tummies filled and energies replenished, we went to one final stop before we head home. Of course, it's a visit to Rizal Park to see the greatest Filipino (Until Today)

Here's the family, and that's the only angle where you won't see DMCI's Torre de Manila
     I'm glad I had a chance to take them there, it is different when it's family, but it is always a different experience when I tour someone around Manila. One thing is for sure, I won't ever get tired showing people my beloved city of Manila.

I found an old post World War 2 Photo of Fort Santiago and combined it with mine. Amazing how I took it at the same angle as the photographer who took it 70 years ago.


September 8, 2016

Hungry Critters in Binondo

     Manila is a city where you'll never go hungry. Ever since I studied here I've turned every stone looking for a great place to eat. But there will always be one place where I'll never be ashamed of admitting that it's my guilty pleasure to stroll around with food in my hand - and that is Binondo.

     Binondo is an ancient district just north of the walls of Intramuros, it was founded in 1594, just 30 years after the walled city was founded. It is where the Chinese settled, and so did their legendary cuisine, it was once home to the great Noodles and Siopao of Ma Mon Luk. 

     Today, the Chinese still reside here and with it, the food. I first discovered the wonders of Binondo when I joined the "Binondo Food Wok Tour" where hungry tourists gathered and went chow-hopping. After that, armed with a foodie map, I'd go explore alone, and sometimes with friends.

     This time, I went with 2 of my close friends who had never crossed Jones bridge to taste the wonders of Binondo, so without hesitation, I volunteered as a guide and off we went and crossed the bridge.

Me and my favorite noodle house
     For the benefit of all, I'd like to tell you guys that when you tour with me around Manila, I love sharing historical pieces about the place (I'm a history buff) because I'm so passionate about Old Manila and the rich history it had before the city's decay in the 1970s.

     Because it was traffic in Binondo district, we left the car in Intramuros and walked toward the food haven. I'd occasionally point to directions and buildings, sharing what it was before and when it was built and who were the famous people connected to such places. I don't know if they were interested at what I had to say, but I said it anyway, because baby I was born this way (Thank you Lady Gaga)

Jones Bridge
     Before I forget, I want all of you to know that I don't know the streets in Binondo, I just remember by memory where to turn to get to these places, so if you'll ask me how to get there, might as well just use Waze or Google Maps.

     The first food place I took them to was the "New Po-Heng" where they served vegetable lumpia, I always prefer to it as the appetizer. The place was inside an old condominium building, there's not even a signage to direct you inside. When we got inside, only a few tables were being served and because we came in the afternoon, the food tours had already stopped. And so I got our orders - 2 lumpia both cut in half (because the serving was enormous and I was afraid my guests for the day would have full stomachs)

New Po-Heng's Famed Vegetable Lumpia
     The lumpia consists of greens, carrots, a kind of nori, brown sugar mixed with nuts and of course, a wrapper. But what makes this appetizer a winner is the sauce (which is not in the photo, you have to find out for yourself!) The sticky sauce complements the lumpia and without question, they loved it. Our expense for the 2 lumpia? $2 (Php100) It's so cheap, right? 

     Up next was "Dong-Bei Dumplings" which I think is the most popular dumpling place in Binondo, I've heard many friends eating here and I won't argue with that, it is the best dumpling house in town. And why is that? Because they only sell dumplings! That's why they're so good at it!

Steamed 'Kutchay' Dumplings
     I really wanted them to try the shrimp dumplings but by the time we got to Dong Bei, (Around 5pm) there was really nothing left on the menu but the Kutchay Dumplings. I was quite disappointed that they won't get to taste what I wanted them to have but I guess there's always a next time for that. We opted to get 2 kinds of the Chinese Chives-filled dumplings - Steamed and Fried, and there were 10 pieces of each order.

     It is simply delicious, I have no words for Dong Bei Dumplings, they never fail me. I've brought a lot here and they all loved it. The good thing about Dong Bei is that you can watch them do their dumpling magic, they prepare it right in front of the window of their hole-in-the-wall, 2-storey unit, which the second floor houses the owners of the restaurant. Here's another trivia, the owners are from mainland China and so the recipe of how they prepare the dumplings are of authentic tradition, there's really no need to go to China to taste authentic dumplings! And the cost for the 2 plates of dumplings? $4 (Php 200) and we're almost full!

Trivia: Dani is my first friend in college
     We got a little stuffed in the waist area so we decided to take a rest first and let the critters of our tummies devour our food first before moving to the main event of the food trip.

Just missed the Fried Siopao
     I also wanted them to try the fried siopao, but because it was already nighttime, everything was sold out.

     And for the main event, it was noodles time! I accidentally found this restaurant during my 'research' in the net about Binondo (Whenever I'm bored or I have nothing to do, I usually read about the history of places and in this case, Binondo) and it became my favorite last stop in Manila. This is one of the few places where I can eat alone even if it's crowded, I didn't care, the noodles are divine.

Beef Kan Pan La Mien
     Lan Zhou's Kan Pan La Mien is their best seller and I would even recommend it for a Michelin Star, I swear it is that good! I drive and suffer Manila's traffic for their heavenly noodles. You have a choice of Beef, Chicken, Spareribs, and Seafood for your toppings and each choice comes with a soup. What I love about this place is that they have an open kitchen so you can view how they make their noodles and the serving is already enough for two, but since I want them to have the full "La Mien" experience, we ordered one for each of us. The noodles costs around $4 but it's really a bargain considering the serving, and yes they give free tea.

Death by Binondo

     I asked them how the food trip was and they said it was fantastic. I take pride in recommending food places because, you know, food is the extension of my soul.

     It was actually hard to walk back to Intramuros to get the car because by the time we finished the noodles, we couldn't move. We dragged our feet walking back slowly and stopping after a few hundred meters to say how stuffed we were.

     As you can see in the photo, I died from gluttony. It was a fun afternoon sharing the wonderful district of Binondo to my friends, and I'm looking forward to bring other friends here, even you! Yes, you who is reading this, just hit me up here, post a comment and let's schedule your trip to Binondo. Don't worry, I don't charge a tour fee, it's free, but you have to treat me! (Joke)

     See you guys on the next Bumpy Journey, cheers!

September 6, 2016

Let's ride again!

     Guess who's back? Back again? Bumpy's Back, tell a friend. Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Guess who's back, Bumpy's back!

     Hello everyone! I return to save you all from life's boredom. As you all know, my life is your entertainment. But before I get into things, please forgive my sudden disappearance way back in May 2014. I was "pre-occupied" with the journeys of life, I got into a lot of struggles in life. But hey, that's why my blog's called "the bumpy journey of life" and I am Bumpy.

     What's different with this ride compared to the first 7 years of blogging? (I started in 2009)

     I am now more open to all of you, I won't hide feelings so that you will get a taste of a raw, and unedited Bumpy, but I have always been honest to all of you, I just didn't share THAT much. But things will change from now on. AND I WILL TRY TO PROOFREAD MY POST FIRST, YOU KNOW I HATE PROOFREADING MY BLOGS (It's evident with so many grammatical errors during the first years of my blogging)

     So what the hell (or heaven) happened? 

     First, I got into a string of misadventures in my career in the advertising world, I worked in 3 different companies for the past two years. I was let go at a job as a Digital Marketing Assistant after 6 months (That was February 2015) due to having different creative ideas and strategies. And so I was jobless for 3 months, and without money coming in, the floodgates of my wallet became streams of rolling coins. I was actually offered an internship at a big ad agency, but there was no pay and the contract was for 2 months, I couldn't accept it so I reluctantly accepted an offer and went "client-side". Yes, I went client-side, I became a "traitor" to advertising practitioners. 

     But my work experience with this client-side company did me damage. It's not so much about the work load, I can handle that without sweat, it was easy, it was more about the people I worked with. I experienced "crab mentality" and I have seen people with skins made of tupperware. There was so much beaking around and backstabbing. And the corporate world was so different to the 'creatives' world that I was accustomed to. I'm not saying that all corporate companies are like this, but for my experience it was so difficult. I lost a lot of sleep because of it, I badly missed the advertising world, I missed the people, the freedom of casual wear and the unrestricted number of breaks and most importantly, I missed creating, innovating, and thinking about campaigns hoping to turn it into reality.

     So after 5 months, I walked out, happily. There was so much relief that I started to see rainbows and began hearing birds sing again, I was that happy that I got out of that horrible work place. There were a good few friends there, but I knew who were the snakes, I always knew.

     But then I got in an events & communications agency and I got to be a Copywriter! I always wanted to be a copywriter ever since I graduated in 2012. There were misses and hits, but I was always happy when my idea became reality, I was so fulfilled I didn't mind going home way past midnight and show up at the office the next day (but of course, if you know me personally, you know that frequently take naps in the office) - But the best of all of being a copywriter? We can drink alcohol to expand our minds during brainstorming. But all things come to an end, and just after 6 months, I had to move out again. My boss there was so kind (sometimes I think he was too kind) that he didn't even know how to let me go and so we ended up laughing our way toward ending my contract. He said I had the knack for copywriting (naks!) but I was at the wrong business, he said I should try Above-The-Line advertising and veer away from events. Of all the work places I've been into (I think it's 6 or 7) since 2012, I'm only thankful to three of them: My first job (proofreader), my first experience in Digital Marketing (What's up Makati!) and my last job - as a copywriter. And for the rest of the companies I've worked for, shut up nalang ako.

     My career's so wild right? Can't blame them though, I'm a Journalism graduate chasing the world of Advertising, as much as I love it, I think it will never be my home.

     And so I was jobless again and combined with a broken heart, I drank the months of May, June, and July away. Yes, I was literally drunk every night during May, I was drunk weekly in June and finally I was occasionally drunk in July. What can I do, I was depressed. But one day I finally decided to watch the film "Stranger Than Fiction", it's been in my laptop for years but somehow I always skip on it. The narrative of that movie inspired me to look at my past short story work and compare how the movie told the story and yes, mine sucked big time. But after a while the inspiration died, what else could I write? I'm was still depressed and comparing my short story to that movie was almost suicidal, so I just watched another stock movie which was "Midnight in Paris" - It was that movie that gave me the inspiration to revise my work and come up with stronger storytelling, and with the help of a friend (a friend who must not be named) we worked with character names and again with the help of some friends (some friends who must not be named) I had them read the draft which they gave mostly positive reviews (I hope they were honest, because I really needed the negative comments more) and I can say, writing 10,000 words in 3 days and cutting it into 7,000 was really extraordinary for me because I'm a slow writer. I think being a bum and having a long break (and heartbreak) did help me come back to my writing form.

     So because they loved the first part of my three-part short story, I wrote the second one a week after the first and I think it's quite as good as the first one. I'm still thinking about what to write for the third part of the story, so I'm really excited to finishing this personal project. I also plan on selling it, I found a cafe in Quezon City who supports independent writers and I hope I do get a go signal. Don't worry, I'll sell them really cheap, 3 stories for a price of 1? Not bad right? Cheers!

      So what am I doing now? I'm still doing advertising. But I only do it from 8AM to 5PM. I know have more time to make blogs for you, my beloved readers! I'm really quite surprised I still got an average of a thousand views every month without putting up anything for a long time.

     And because I went rogue on you guys for more than 2 years, I owe you guys a lot of bumpy stories, and I will give all the bumpy stories you all deserve to know. But please forgive me, I'll try my best not to leave you again. So will you come and ride with me again?

!Vamos Por Todo!