The Phrases You Hear Most Often in The Philippines

For me, #1 is “Ay, sorry!”

#2 is “Wait for a while.”

#3 is “TRAFFIC!” (mostly spoken by taxi drivers when you tell them where you want to go)

Some other suggestions from friends on Facebook:

“Any additional?”

“Hello mum sur” (If my understanding is correct, Tagalog pronouns do not have genders. As a result many Filipinos become confused with proper genders when speaking in English.)

“Out of stock.”

“Not available.”

Those are some that come to mind immediately. Which ones did I miss? Which ones are your favorites? Send me some good ones and I’ll add to this post.

If I Could Turn Back Time

When I was growing up, my cousins lived in this building on Central Park West.

Those of you with sharp eyes will recognize that unique awning – this where Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis all lived in Ghostbusters. My cousin Shirley and her family lived in this building for decades. She was my mother’s lifelong best friend, owned a second apartment in the building, and right around the time I was born offered to sell that apartment to my parents for $25,000. My father rejected the offer saying, “Who buys an apartment?” Years later, many years later, when my cousins finally sold that apartment, they sold it for $5 million. Sigh.

I’m reminded of that almost every day because almost every day I see a building complex here in Manila called Serendra.

Built by Ayala, when it opened in 2004 it was the first luxury residence in BGC. A couple of years after it opened, when there was a dip in the local economy, I’m told that a lot of people who bought condos there needed to raise cash and were looking to unload their places fast and cheap. “You should buy a place here,” my friends said. “Why would I buy a place there? I’m never going to live in the Philippines!”

More fool me.

Every time we would come out of SM Aura, I would look across the street and think to myself, I could have been living there. And for the past four months, my office has been right across the street from Serendra. I see it every day. I go downstairs for a smoke, I look across the street, and, well, that’s life.

As it happens, my company leases an apartment there for out-of-town visitors. It’s a small studio apartment just a short walk from our office. And, just this week, I was able to convince them to let me stay there for two nights. So for the first time I’ve actually been able to walk around inside the complex. Here’s the pool, looking down from where we’re staying.

They claim that 65% of the land area is dedicated to landscape and “amenities”. Here’s a couple of shots as I was walking to work this morning.

Not too shabby, eh? Living here wouldn’t suck.

Back when my friends were telling me to buy a place there, I think the price of a 2 bedroom was around P5 million (roughly US$100k). Now a 2 bedroom is going for over P20 million. I saw an ad for a penthouse (3 bedrooms, 405 square meters, private pool) for P195 million – almost US$4 million!

Of course I can’t turn back time. I can’t send a message back to my (slightly) younger self. I can only look across the street and sigh.

Breakfast At Antonio’s – Paradise Found

Part 1 – A Great Pastrami Sandwich

I’m Jewish. I’m Jewish and from New York City. That can mean many things, but one of the things it definitely means is that I crave a good pastrami sandwich. Living in Asia for more than 20 years, my first meal when visiting New York City has always been a pastrami sandwich.

I never had a favorite between Katz’s, the Carnegie Deli or the Second Avenue deli. The latter two are now gone. Here’s a video from Hour Philippines TV (!) about why Katz’s is the king.

more after the jump

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Shopping in the Philippines Sucks

I’m really struggling with the Philippines at the moment.

You might ask me, “You’ve been living there for three years, you were traveling there regularly for almost 20 years before you moved there, why now?”

I know the answer to that. It’s because I haven’t left the Philippines in over three months. For most of my time based here, I was traveling an average of once a month. No more.

And since my return from 6 weeks in the U.S. last year, I’ve started doing something I hadn’t done before – commuting to an office 4 days per week. 6 miles, 10 kilometers, up to 2 hours each way.

As a result, lots of little things are starting to pile up and wear me down. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to next week, which I’m taking off, and for which I’m mostly planning to stay home.

One of those little things is how much shopping can actually suck here. I used to love shopping here because the shopping malls are so huge. But I didn’t “need” them then – they were a way to kill time when visiting here.

Now I have to face the fact that most shops appear to manage their supply chain as if it was 1968 instead of 2018.  And how imported goods are more expensive here than in Hong Kong. And how a lot of stuff that one could find in three seconds in Hong Kong can’t be found here at all. It’s a combination of ridiculously high customs fees on imported goods, VAT on all sales, and unreliable logistics companies. Major brands can’t be bothered to offer their higher end products here because they perceive there is no market for them – maybe they’re right.

Three months back I was looking for a simple USB cable that I knew every store in the Wanchai Computer Centre would have in stock. No one in the SM Mega Mall Cyber Mall had it. I could have ordered it online from Lazada and then wait three weeks for it to be shipped here.

When I wanted to buy a soundbar for the bedroom, I discovered that not one of the then-top-rated models was sold in this country. When I needed a new computer monitor, ditto. Criterion DVDs and Blu-Rays are not sold here (I save a lot of money as a result).

Yesterday, there was this on Twitter:

Tom Colicchio, in case you don’t know the name, is a big name chef from NYC, with a chain of restaurants that mostly have “Craft” in the name. He’s also the head judge on Top Chef, a show I’m hopelessly addicted to.

Eric Ripert is a French chef living in the U.S. He’s the executive chef at Le Bernardin, one of the most famous restaurants in the world.

The waffle maker shown in the photo is a “smart” waffle maker from Breville. You pour in the batter, dial up what you want to make, and the appliance figures out when it’s finished on its own.

Not that I’m that big on waffles, but I was curious. Breville does distribute some of their products in the Philippines, so I checked it out and, not really surprised, they don’t offer it here.

So I looked a bit futher. The Breville BWM640XL, the four slice version, retails for US$350 and is selling on Amazon for US$218.

You can find it on Lazada, for prices ranging from US$540 to US$700. The smaller, two slice version, is being sold for US$420 and up.

Luckily I can live without having waffles at home, or if I had to have them, I could settle for a “dumb” waffle maker. And this country has a ton of problems far more serious than my being able to find decent home appliances. It’s just the whole principle of the thing that cheeses me off.


Philippines – Life in a Divided Subdivision

Some random thoughts on life in a divided subdivision ….

Another weekend where I did sweet f.a. – met a friend in the village on Friday night for a beer, on Saturday got out to the supermarket, had a slice of pizza, and otherwise stayed home in front of the computer and in front of the TV.

And while on the one hand that may sound boring as hell, after 2-1/2 hours per day on the weekdays fighting traffic to and from work, I’m generally not in the mood to get in the car on the weekends. I think about it, I look at Waze, I see how some place I might want to go to that’s 10 miles away will take an hour or more and I start to think, what’s the point? So I stay in my home in my village.

The village (or subdivision, as they call it here) that we live in is huge. How huge? I’m told it’s the second largest subdivision (a walled, gated residence village) in the metro area. It’s so large that it spreads across three cities, only one of which is actually part of Metro Manila (Pasig). There are more than 5,000 houses here, spread across 10 different phases, the oldest of which date back more than 25 years. Before this was a “village” I think it was mostly rice fields.

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Photo Gallery – Subculture at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival

Last Saturday I went to the Pinoy Muna festival staged by Rakrakan. 120 bands, 6 stages at the Aseana City concert grounds in Paranaque.  Here are photos of my good friends Subculture.

More photos after the jump.

Other Pinoy Muna Festival photos – Shotgun Combo and Leanne and Naara

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Photo Gallery – Shotgun Combo at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival

Last Saturday I went to the Pinoy Muna festival staged by Rakrakan. 120 bands, 6 stages at the Aseana City concert grounds in Paranaque.  Here are photos of Shotgun Combo.

More pictures after the jump.

Other Pinoy Muna Festival photos – Subculture and Leanne and Naara

Continue reading “Photo Gallery – Shotgun Combo at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival”

Photo Gallery – Leanne and Naara at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival

Last Saturday I went to the Pinoy Muna festival staged by Rakrakan. 120 bands, 6 stages at the Aseana City concert grounds in Paranaque. I arrived quite late and only took pictures of a few of the bands. Here are photos of pop duo Leanne and Naara.

More photos after the jump.

Other Pinoy Muna Festival photos – Shotgun Combo and Subculture

Continue reading “Photo Gallery – Leanne and Naara at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival”

Pinoy Muna! Rakrakan Festival Rakista Radio Photo Preview

Last night I went to the Pinoy Muna! Festival at the Aseana City Concert Grounds in Paranaque. 6 stages, 120 bands.

Here’s a quick preview, two shots of the band Shotgun Combo, more to come ….

Side note: this was my first time shooting this type of event since getting the Fujifilm X-T2 last year.

On the one hand, walking around carrying a bag with a camera body and 4 lenses was much easier than last year when I was walking around a similar venue with Nikon equipment. I’m sure my bag this year weighed half as much as last year.

On the other hand, a lot more missed shots, a lot more of the camera hunting for (and not always finding) focus, and also wishing I had some different lenses (either different focal lengths or other zooms) in my bag, though I don’t do this often enough any more to justify spending money on more gear at the moment.

Anyway, it was a great event and I had a wonderful time. I need to get out more!