The Sleeves in Manila (Photo Gallery)

Hong Kong indie rock band The Sleeves came to Manila in advance of the release of their new CD and played three live sets. I caught them on May 5th when they stormed the stage at the Summer Noise festival held at the Century City Mall in Makati.

I knew these guys when I was living in Hong Kong. I’d shot them in HK clubs many times and even had them up to PASM Workshop for some studio shots 6 (!!!) years ago.

Photos of The Sleeves in Manila after the jump ….

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Update on Smoking in BGC

Following on from this post, there’s big positive news for smokers in BGC. [And please, no comments about how we should all stop smoking. It’s not like we don’t already know all that.] There are now almost a dozen temporary designated smoking areas in BGC where you can finally light up and chill out legally.

To recap: Philippines President Duterte signed an executive order outlawing smoking in a variety of public places. Then for whatever reason some cities decided to take it a step further, with Taguig being the most extreme, outlawing all public smoking except in “designated smoking areas” or DSA’s, because everything here has to be abbreviated. Taguig passed the law in 2017 and started enforcing it in April 2018, primarily in Bonifacio Global City aka BGC.

But they never made it illegal to sell cigarettes in BGC and dozens of stores, especially convenience stores, are selling them and presumably earning good money from doing so, and in turn that’s contributing millions in taxes.

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Help Me Smoke in BGC

I need your help. Please skip to the bottom to see my ask if all this stuff in the middle is boring for you.

I know, I know, I should quit. I know it, so no need for you to tell me that, okay?Okay!

President Duterte signed an Executive Order forbidding smoking in most public areas, not just indoor but outdoor as well – places like public parks, bus terminals and so on.

For whatever reason, some cities and towns in the Philippines are taking it one step further. Taguig (the city in Metro Manila that contains Bonifacio Global City aka BGC) outlawed all public smoking except in “designated smoking areas.” This means sidewalks. Streets with nothing on them except empty lots or construction sites. Outdoor parking lots. Everywhere.

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I’m One of the Top 20 Blogs in Manila

At least according to Feedspot, a web site that does these top 20 ranking lists of blogs by location and by special interest criteria. I hit # 9 on their list of Top 20 Manila Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018 based on:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

I’ll have to assume that in my case I made the list based on those last two bullet points. Many of the other sites on the list have hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter.

The other sites on the list are all English language sites. This may be a clue as to why none of their top 20 blogs cover local politics – even though most of these sites are run by local Filipinos, I’m sure there are thousands of Filipino language sites that cover the entire spectrum and it’s potentially dangerous for foreigners to be too outspoken when it comes to politics here, which is why I’ve steered clear of it myself. I’ve only come across one or two local blogs by foreigners that address politics head on.

Too many Manila blogs are all about sponsored posts – and it’s rarely mentioned that they’re sponsored. Most of the restaurant blogs are the worst offenders – restaurants invite food bloggers to events and comp them on food and drinks (and most won’t mention this). I’ve heard that some food bloggers will even try to threaten restaurants if they don’t give them free meals. Obviously I don’t do this kind of stuff. I’m relatively low profile – I don’t get calls or emails from restaurants to opening nights, I don’t get offers for free staycations in a hotel in exchange for a review, no one is mailing me products to review. I’m okay with that.

Anyway, thanks to Feedspot for including me on the list. I don’t post as often as I used to but I think I’m posting pretty decent stuff for the most part.


When You’re In the Philippines: Plex, Roku, Netflix, Smart DNS

Killing two birds with several stones.

Plex – Streaming Media Server

Up until this week, I would take all of the movies and TV shows that I downloaded, put them on a USB drive, carry that drive into the bedroom and plug it into my WDTV Live box. The box is at least six years old and while it still worked well it was pretty limited. Just the fact that it would take at least 3 minutes to boot up was bugging me, plus having to remember to unplug the drive, bring it from the bedroom to my home office, plug it in, copy files, unplug it, bring it back to the bedroom, plug it in, start up the WDTV again, it worked but it was kludgy. As for the “live” part of the box, while it could get Netflix, most of the other channels available were crap. There were no firmware updates and no way to add or delete channels or apps, including the Plex app.

I recently heard about Plex. Plex is free media streaming software that runs on PC’s, Macs, mobile, what-have-you. There’s a paid version that lets you store your files in the cloud; I didn’t need that. I downloaded it to my PC, installed it, told it which drives/directories to track, and it indexed everything.

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Dealing With Philippines Banks is a Giant PITA

Basically every expat in Hong Kong has an account with HSBC and then spends endless hours on social media bitching about how bad HSBC is. I’m not disputing that. But after dealing with HSBC in Hong Kong for 20 years and then moving to the Philippines, I can tell you that HSBC is a gold standard that Philippines banks are years away from reaching.

I’ve written before about my disgust with the Bank of the Philippine Islands aka BPI. It is the country’s oldest bank. It is not the largest bank in terms of assets held or market capitalization but it is the country’s most profitable bank. By almost any international standard it is a disgrace. Their marketing slogan is “Make the best happen.” It is just a slogan. Their branch windows proudly display a banner proclaiming that they won some best retail banking award in 2014, without mentioning that they seem to have failed to repeat that distinction in the years since then.

Filthy ATM’s that are frequently broken or “offline.” Waiting times in branches that can extend for an hour or more (which admittedly I am usually able to circumvent by using the senior citizen ploy). A web site that is frequently down, and when it is up, only allows for the most basic online transactions.

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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.