Wednesday, December 26, 2007


My fave films/DVDs of the Year
1. Transformers
2. Ratatouille
3. 300
4. The Departed
5. Pan’s Labyrinth
6. Spider-Man 3
7. The Bourne Ultimatum
8. Blade Runner
9. the Kingdom
10. Blood Diamond
11. 3:10 to Yuma
12. 30 Days of Night

My fave TV DVDs of the Year
1. Heroes Season 1
2. the Sopranos Season 6
3. Battlestar Galactica Season 3
4. Flight of the Conchords Season 1

My fave albums/CDs of the Year:
1. Under the Blacklight – Rilo Kiley
2. A Weekend in the City - Bloc Party
3. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Spoon
4. Because of the Times – Kings of Leon
5. Zeitgeist – Smashing Pumpkins
6. Our Love to Admire – Interpol

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Paskong Pinoy Nga Naman

Noche buena. Well, there's another traditional Filipino way of celebrating the season... and that's corrupt people murdering journalists. The Big Santa up there knows who is naughty and damn evil. Kudos to the country's number one broadsheet for a great layout (underneath their Paskong Pinoy is another grisly headline).

Most Insane Things I've Ever Done

1. Went to Six Flags in Lake George, NY. The Steamin' Demon? The Boomerang? Dudes, these are serious coasters. Now when it comes to theme parks and rides, I'm like phony tough and crazy brave. In short... I've got an acute form of acrophobia. So going here was not only a waste of time but I swear it almost gave me a heart attack. I'm sticking to elevators.

2. Wore a New York Yankee Cap in Boston and (nearly) inside Fenway Park. What the F was I thinking of? To show Yankee Pride? Once I got down that bus from Chinatown and into Beantown I was in trouble. And to think those cops were just bustin' my chops. That was bleeping frightening.

3. Got into a rumble. It was Ateneo vs. UE 1990. This was Eric Reyes' last game in a Blue Eagle uniform. Had Richie Ticzon made both his free throws with almost no time left, Ateneo would have lived on to fight another day instead of getting eliminated. My best friend and I got into a fist fight with some UE supporters inside the Araneta Coliseum. Two of us against 10 of them.

4. SLEX 2001. First time in my life I witnessed a car crash like you see in movies complete with the flipping over and careening off the asphalt. We pulled up in front of the accident and I got off to help pull out the injured driver of one of the cars. Now the whole damn car was smoking badly and there was a hissing sound coming from the engine. Thank God it didn't explode.

5. I think I've watched Backdraft enough already. December 2007. Getting up on my roof and fighting a major fire with nothing more than a garden hose and some buckets of water.

6. It's raining bullets and death out here. 1989 Camp Aguinaldo. My brother and I were escorting a foreign journalist when shooting began between the coup plotters and government forces between Aguinaldo and Camp Crame. Most of the people around us were either dead or badly injured.

7. Driving from Hermosa Beach (taking the I-15) to Las Vegas (6 goddam hours with all that sucky LA traffic) with no radio and a goddam Gary Valenciano CD (we left a stack of discs from Death Cab for Cutie to Dave Matthews to the Killers in my friend's house) to keep us company. After about two hours, the CD became a frisbee. Thank God for the 24-hour Ihop in Barstow. The route is a mistake. So is it from Orange County. La Jolla and Santa Monica may be beautiful, but it's NY or bust for me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Slice of Greenwich Village in Cubao

The Cubao Expo as the former Marikina Shoe Expo is known by today is a curious but welcome oddity in the capital's second oldest commercial center (the first being Binondo). Tucked unobtrusively behind the old Rustan's department store, the U-shaped complex used to house stores by all the top shoemakers in the country. My folks used to take me there to buy my shoes for school (that I'd wear out in a month or two) until Shoe Mart (boo!) took away all the fun and gobbled up everything in sight.

But as the Araneta Center struggles to compete with the Serendras, Greenbelt 3's, and Eastwoods that have become the happening spots and hangouts of today's noveau riche, yuppies, and youth, the venerable junction of the metropolis still retains some of that old Manila charm in the vastly changed exposition area.

I would go there in years past to buy indie compact discs of acts like the Brownbeat All-Stars, Bad Burn, Moyg, and other veritable unknowns.

Bellini's Italian Restaurant has been a timeless favorite. A word on Bellini's. If you're a fan of Inter Milan, be sure you go there wearing the team colors. Mr. Roberto Bellini might give you a free treat. And we're both Zlatan Ibrahimovic fans (I'm a fan of Patrick Viera and Esteban Cambiasso too). In our case, it was some great Sicilian red wine. But our faves here are the Parma Ham with Arugula leaves pizza, the Salsiccia patsa, and ye good old favorite Caesar's Salad. Yum!

The new thrift and curio shops and eateries have made this part of town equal parts artists' haven and food lovers delight. They even have a cool coffee shop!

If you check out Grand Thrift House (they've been around since 1989, but moved into the Cubao Expo in 2004), tell the store's proprietors, the Alberto brothers James and Dunhill, that I sent ya! I got that old Iron Man comic reprinted by Goodwill here for A hundred bucks!

Sometimes I get the feeling that I stepped out of a time machine what with the pictures of the Beatles and James Brown hanging from the wall, old Fender Stratocaster guitars on display, and used books that make me miss the Rastro, that old thrift store in the old Shoppesville in Greenhills.

And if you're looking for those old Marvel Comic books that were reprinted once upon a time by Goodwill Bookstore, those old Bananas magazines, vinyl LP's by the Knack, Led Zeppelin, Pat Benatar, and the Who among many others, Coca Cola collectibles, toys, and whathaveyou, then browse around and hobnob. It's counter culture. It's alternative. It reminds me of Greenwich Village or St. Mark's in New York City. It's the old new Cubao Expo.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Transformers Animated

Making its way to Cartoon Network in the United States this December 26, 2007 is the new animated series. Hopefully, it will hit Asia in the first month of the New Year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Sounds of Christmas

It was while I was working for Universal/Polycosmic Records -- remember I was handling jazz and classical music -- that I discovered pianist John Boswell's music. I listened to his album Count Me In and instantly fell in love with his music. One of the key tracks of that album is apiece called "Do It Again" which he co-wrote with a then-young actor by the name of Robert Downey Jr. It's an instrumental piece but there's a rumored version with vocals somewheres with Downey Jr on vox.

I always thought of his music as sensitive and moving. Something you listened to when you were relaxing or sitting at home at night or enjoying some nicely brewed coffee.

A few months later while preparing my catalogue for the Christmas season, I saw his album Festival of the Heart. I readily gave it a listen since I knew what music he was capable of and came away really really moved. It's funny how we can say such things about Christmas music, but the way John renders traditional Yuletide carols is a deep deep experience. I've recommended this album over the years to different people and all of them have come away raving about it and it has become a season favorite.

I know we're just days away, but if you have a chance, download it or buy the CD. It is definitely worth it. Listening to his version of "the First Noel" I swear I could see the snow falling on Central Park from my West Side apartment as I wrap myself around a jacket grateful for its warmth and more so for the coffee mug in my hands.

I haven't really felt the season to be quite honest, but listening to this just made me nostalgic for the way I felt about this time of the year when I was a kid, made me think of walking the snow-matted fields of Princeton where I later made my home. It's Christmas. It's a time of remembering our Lord and feeling good about many things. Memories included.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Signing A Filipino Phenomenon

I worked as a Label and A&R Manager for Universal Records for a while back in the early 1990's handling mainly jazz and classical music. When the company missed out on the Eraserheads, Color It Red, Tropical Depression, and Teeth, I had enough and asked the late Bella Tan if I could scout and sign local bands since I was the one immersed in the local music scene.

The first one I signed was Datu's Tribe (out of UPLB and managed by my Ateneo Grade School classmate Patrick Reidenbach). Then I went after three outfits: Parokya Ni Edgar, Indio I, and Fatal Posporos. I was able to snag Parokya way ahead of everyone. In hindsight, it's a no-brainer, right? But back then, people weren't sure. It took balls back then to sign them and am glad I did. If Mrs. Tan wasn't too enamored of Datu's Tribe, then she liked PNE right away. They guys even at that age were consumate showmen. At that time, the band was then managed by another classmate, Ricky Santillan who then worked at Saatchi. He then left to work in Singapore and Richard Tan picked up the band. The rest is history.

See how young we were back then. I was wearing a WORLD YOUTH DAY tee featuring the band THE YOUTH (of "Multong Bakla" fame) and the late Pope John Paul II. Those were the days and am damn proud of Parokya Ni Edgar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grand Master Flash Yoda

This has got to be one of the coolest vids ever! Star wars fan here. Saw them when they first came out in the theaters and in many ways, I'm a bigger fan now than when I was a kid.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Become A Force in YM Messaging!

Man, I am having fun with this! Darth Maul, the Imperial Stormtrooper and Boba Fett are my favorites here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Transforming Marikina

It's amazing how the city of Marikina transformed itself from being one of the seediest places in the metropolis to a model of modern good governance (MCF is cool but BF sucks big time). It's even more amazing that the city government took inspiration from Hasbro's beloved toy creation for its Christmas motif.

There are some 40 of these "Transformers" throughout the city. There are five within the immediate area of where I live. I didn't have time to take shots of the other three because it meant walking along the middle of the road that splits into A. Bonifacio and Marcos Highway while the other is along the bridge overlooking Riverbanks while the other looked off (it was a carabao). But here are a couple.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Old Homestead

My late grandparents' house in the Tomas Morato area was always a fun place to go to. My grandpa -- Lolo Luis -- had this Philippine handicraft business where they'd export stuff to Japan, Europe, and America. My aunt, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist, Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, had this antique shop in the lower level of the house that gave the house an atmosphere and ambiance out of Old Manila. And I loved it. I loved the scent -- as long as it didn't smell of molds, dead air, and yucky stuff.

My Lolo Luis was an inspiration. After World War II, they had lost all their money, but he and my Lola were able to work really hard to put my dad and all his siblings in school (the boys in Ateneo and the girls in Maryknoll). And later, he would go around the country buying raw materials for the handicrafts business even to the point of sleeping on bancas in Romblon. Talk about toughness and resiliency. He -- like all my gradfolks -- made a huge impression on me. I certainly wish I was even half the man he was.

My grandparents' have passed away and the house and the antique shop are no more. For awhile there, the house was used as a location for shoots for movies such as Sanay Wala Nang Wakas, Maaalala Mo Kaya, and many others. Distinguished thespians from Cherie Gil, Dina Bonnevie, and Christopher De Leon have shot their scenes in the old house. Although I've never been a fan of Filipino films, I made sure to watch each and every one of the films that used the house as part of its location shoots. Hahaha. I was house fan boy! Maybe that's why I enjoy contributing to Homestyle Magazine.

Even my parents' house in Industrial Valley, Marikina was used for a Sonny Parson's movie (I forget the title of this lousy flick with good reason). Now that Parsons' movie wasn't widely distributed and the only place within my immediate area was in Cubao at the old Ocean Theater along EDSA corner Aurora Boulevard. It was a shitty movie house and the movie was quadruple that. I remember wearing a baseball cap and hiding my face lest someone I know see me entering this dingy and smelly hole. Now I had to endure like an hour and twenty minutes of a crappy film just to see our house that never came out (they edited out the scene). Hahahaha. Damn. Even now when we all talk about that at home everyone makes fun of me.

But back to my grandfolks' place in the Scout area. It's not what it once was. Tomas Morato now is like restaurant row and there's like rapid development around the area. The house has some squatters for neighbors and is a huge eyesore. My brother has decided to take up residence there rather than allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. He's made some changes and cleaned up the place. It's certainly seen some better days, but it's still not bad (except for the bathroom hahahaha). And by the way... that old telephone? Yes, it works. For real.

During my other younger brother's birthday last Sunday, I took some shots of the old house. The family has been debating whether to turn the tear down the whole lot and put up a ritzy condo while the other half of the Olivares clan opposes it. Like they need the money. If ever, they should preserve the place and re-decorate it.

Whatever happens, I took some shots that will always carry a piece of me, my dear departed grandfolks, and a slice of Old Manila.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Enchanted Movie

Ever since we saw the trailer for this movie we couldn't wait to watch it. Nothing like a Disney film to bring a smile and hearty laugh in times like this. The songs seemed familiar -- why not? It had genius Alan Menken of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast penning half of them (Stephen Schwartz was his writing partner here since Menken's former co-writer Howard Ashman passed away sometime ago).

Man, James Marsden was awesome. Hopefully, he'll get bigger roles after support ones in the X-Men trilogy, Superman Returns, and Zoolander.

I'm still not convinced that Patrick Dempsey is a good actor. Folks think of him as Dr. Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy but I recall the jerk Everett in the film With Honors (starring the beautiful Moira Kelly, Brendan Fraser, and Joe Pesci).

Amy Adams and Marsden turn in surprise performances here. And dude, any film shot in NYC has got to be close to my heart.

Check this film out, folks. It's not exactly a whole new world here (see Space Jam, Roger Rabbit, and other similar films), but it's a fun and refreshing film. An enchanted time in the theater.

Monday, November 26, 2007

King's Kebab Persian Grill

Mai and I love Greek and Turkish food. Hossein’s (along Makati Avenue & the Serendra), Behrouz (Wilson), and Arya (Promenade) are favorites.

We tried out this new restaurant along Katipunan Extension (just after Tomas Castro in Project 4 near Bite Club) called King’s Kebab Persian Grill.

We tried it out one Saturday (after having passed by for the past several weeks) and here’s what we thought of it.

It’s not air-conditioned and that’s a negative more so when the smoke from their grill goes inside and you wonder if you’ve been kebabbed yourself.

It’s small. Like eight tables that will seat 18 people.

The prices aren’t so bad. Here’s what we ordered:

Beef Tenderloin Kebab 99 per stick (Pork Tenderloin Kebab cost 69 per stick)
Kobideh Kebab 169
Sirloin Shawarma Rice 79 (too expensive for so little)
Grilled tomatoes 10
Coke Light 35 (highway robbery)

The Kobideh Kebab tasted like a burger patty and was somewhat disappointing. It’s not that it tastes bad. It’s okay. Not great. Not tripping the light fantastic.

It’s not bad if you live in the area and don’t feel like going to Wilson or Greenhills. Don't expect a great ambiance but I enjoyed it because of the free wi-fi.

Verdict: Behrouz has a lousy ambiance too but it’s still better in terms of food quality and portions. In terms of preparation, Arya and Hossein’s are still the best (which is expected given the prices). Stick to these three.

King’s Kebab Persian Grill
221-E Katipunan
912 2697

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Auditions for Rivermaya's New Member

This was the second interview I had with Rivermaya. The first was about two years ago at Dish where I had a long chat with former frontman Rico Blanco. I was actually prepping a story on the band's Atenean members -- Blanco and guitarist Mike Elgar -- when Blanco left. So the story changed to "where are we now?" The story should be out soon now that a new member has been announced. Congratulations to Jayson Fernandez.

Thanks to the band (Mark Escueta and Mike Elgar had a lot of excellent insights that should turn up great for the story) and to their manager Liza Nakpil for this.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Book of the Month

Kevin Sites is a man on a mission. Venturing alone into the dark heart of war, armed with just a video camera, a digital camera, a laptop, and a satellite modem, the award-winning journalist covered virtually every major global hot spot as the first Internet correspondent for Yahoo! News. Beginning his journey with the anarchic chaos of Somalia in September 2005 and ending with the Israeli-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006, Sites talks with rebels and government troops, child soldiers and child brides, and features the people on every side, including those caught in the cross fire. His honest reporting helps destroy the myths of war by putting a human face on war's inhumanity. Personally, Sites will come to discover that the greatest danger he faces may not be from bombs and bullets, but from the unsettling power of the truth.

About the Author
Kevin Sites has spent the past seven years covering global war and disasters for several national networks, including NBC, ABC, and CNN, and has helped pioneer solo journalism, traveling to and reporting from some of the world's most dangerous places. He is a recipient of the 2006 Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism. When not on assignment, he makes his home in southern California.

I saw Mr. Sites work some time ago and came away very impressed. Guess we have the same passions. So when I saw the book at Bestellers in Robinson's Galleria I snapped it up right away for Php 669.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cast Iron Guarantee

Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges.

Cool cast of a cool movie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stone Temple Pilots

Check out the guardians of the Wat Phra Keo, the Grand Temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

Admission to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Central Court of the Grand Palace is 250 Baht (roundabout Php 350). Note that the admission fee also includes an admission ticket to Vimanmek Mansion that can be used within seven days of your Grand Palace visit.

There is a strict dress code for visiting the Grand Palace. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is Thailand's most sacred site. Visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple.

Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves -- no tank tops. If you're wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entry that can provide clothes to cover you up properly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lunch and the Dancing Waiters & Waitresses

MK Trendi is a popular Shabu Shabu restaurant that has the ambiance of a retro fast food joint. The food's okay but what makes this a fashionable eatery is its dancing waiters and waitresses who perform a certain routine every hour. It's actually enjoyable. The music is like something out of those Dance Revolution machines at arcades.

Expats, tourists, and one Thai. For posterity at MK Trendi outside Siam Paragon.

Some of the ingredients for our meal.

Iced tea in a cool looking MK Trendi glass.

At the end of your meal, they provide you with a breakdown of all the calories, fat, carbs etc that you consumed.
Here's what we consumed for a 1,673 baht meal:
993.8 energy
61.2 protein
70.3 carbs
50.9 fat
6.1 fiber
1.7 sodium
289.9 calcium
10.0 iron

Was that cool or was that cool?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Grand Palace in Thailand

The Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang in Thai) is a complex of buildings in Bangkok that once served as the official residence of the king of Thailand. King Bhumibol moved the official royal residence to Chitralada Palace. So if the old palace is beautiful and every bit as grand then how much more the new residences? This is of me in front of the Chakri Mahaprasad Hall.

The palace complex sits on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. The other approaches to the palace are protected by a defensive wall of 1,900 metres in length, which encloses an area of 218,400 square metres. Further out from the wall is a canal, which was also created for defensive purposes, making the area surrounding the palace an island, known as Rattana Kosin.

It was raining pretty hard when we went there and it took about 45 minutes for the downpour to weaken into a drizzle. But even with the somber skies and the rain, the Palace looked so beautiful. The architecture and the minute detail put into the design and the construction are simply mind-boggling. Like the Egyptian pyramids, it must have taken a long long time to construct this complex.

Wat Arun is one of the temples on the way to the Grand Palace. If we had more time we would have gone to every one of them.

Check out the pouring rain in this shot. The statue seems amused by his predicament.

Mai and the mythological giant known as Yak.

Check out the miniature (if you can describe it as such) model of Cambodia's Angkor Wat. The real one is way huge and more majestic.