Urban art (may be NSFW)

The CBCP does not approve.



Classes were suspended on Wednesday in commemoration of the birth of Andres Bonifacio, leader of the (to some, unfinished) Philippine Revolution.

Where better to spend it than Intramuros (more popularly associated with the reformist Rizal), right? I’m such a historical dick.

The imposing clock tower of the Manila City Hall—and the ugly gray of SM Manila in the background.

Bunch of cannons.

Manong Guard getting his daily tabloid news fix. They still use the guard tower thingies as guardhouses.

Calesa convoy. If I remember correctly, a ride on one of these (including a guided tour) cost me and my family around P2,000 last year.

Just behind the outer walls, garbage.

Imagine the guardia civil and their lovers HHWW-ing along these walkways.

Fartsy strikes a pose. (That’s the Lyceum of the Philippines University tower in the background.)

Those are dormitories! Right within Intramuros! How charming. “Parang wala sa Pilipinas,” commented Katz.


If you look closely, you’ll see that street signs in Intramuros were placed on the walls of buildings and not on freestanding posts.

Chinese-language newspapers still enjoy wide circulation in the Philippines. Even the owners of the big hardware stores in my hometown read them at their desks, next to their abacuses. Copies of the previous day’s issue are used to wrap small purchases like nails and screws.

Not all of Intramuros is colonially quaint. Some alleys, such as this, are simply unremarkable.

And then there’s the vulgar (or the stark raving mad, we can’t be sure). “Putol ari ang sinomang umihi,” announces the poster. That’s Filipino for “Try to piss on this GI sheet wall and I’ll hack your penis off.” Right next to the sign is a poster announcing the activities for a Marian celebration of some sort.

Sige pa, aso! Umihi ka pa!” If you aren’t intimidated by threats of genital mutilation, then maybe name-calling will tame you.

I was surprised to find that there are neighborhoods like this one even within the walls of old Manila. I’ll bet you none of the tours pass through this part of town.

Katz was aghast at the sight, which surprised me because she grew up in the Metro. “If the squatters leave then Intramuros will look really pretty,” she quipped.

Yeah, but this way it stays faithful to the truth.

After quite some walking, we found ourselves on cobblestone streets instead of paved roads. How romantic.

Katz thought we should look for urban art.

Punks doing ollies and grinds in the soft light of dusk in what used to be the center of power of the colonized Islands. I hope the irony isn’t lost on them, because it’s really nice.

Ancient artifacts! One of the few remnants of the pre-bilog na hugis itlog (egg-shaped circle) era of Philippine history.

Me pointing out to Katz that over yonder is reclaimed land.

Katz got tired of walking. Actually she wasn’t particularly excited about the idea of taking a walk in Intramuros for Bonifacio Day. (“Pupunta pa ba tayo? Tinatamad ako, hehe,” said she when we met up at SM Manila). But I think she could tell that I really wanted to go, so she very politely agreed to stick to the original plan.

We’d been partly ambling around, partly trying to get to Fort Santiago with a little help from Google Maps. But when we got to the ballot boxes, we decided to go up the nearby wall and check out the view. A few minutes later I started back down the steps and asked her, “Aren’t we going to see Fort Santiago?”

Anong gagawin dun?” she asked, which was my cue to raise the white flag, so I said okay. We headed for the gate through which we had entered, on the side of the district facing the City Hall. The sun had begun to set by then.

Soon after we decided to head back it started to rain—a drizzle at first, then a quick but frantic downpour of enormous raindrops, until everything receded and a cool post-precipitation breeze swept in. Katz and I had to walk through puddles of water on cobblestone streets, amidst the voices of children and the chatter of people in a neighborhood just awoken from the hour of siesta, with light that was growing weaker and shadows that were growing longer.

It could have been any point in the history of the Walled City, and I would not have been any less happy.


After attending to church-related stuff last Thursday, Katz and I met up with Ditch and Sanse, her sisters, at this nice little ice cream parlor along G. Tuazon in Sampaloc, aptly called the Icecreamstore.

It’s a quaint place on a quiet corner of residential land. Nothing fancy: no airconditioning, simple seating, unadorned signage.

Katz and I split the Rocky Road float thing (pictured above), P40. We loved the ice cream scoop, but the drink itself tasted off, like cheap beer or spoiled coconut milk.

Sanse asked the nice ladies behind the counter about it, and they were kind enough to offer us another drink on the house.

Katz went for the cappuccino flavor, P50. They sprinkled corn flakes on top of the ice cream scoop, too!

September 14, 2011: one more reason to hate Manila

Manila is a mess. It’s a poetic thing to say in a literature or creative writing class, but not so much when you’re stewing in traffic on Padre Faura at 245pm when you should have been in the lobby of the Supreme Court for a class field trip at 155pm.

At 115pm I was in a taxi on Katipunan, on the way to the LRT station. At 125pm I was on the platform. While waiting for the train I called my classmate Elle to confirm the instructions I’d received earlier (train to Recto, transfer to Line One, train to UN Avenue). She handed the phone over to Angge, who told me I should have taken the MRT to save time. The taxi driver had told me the same thing, but we were already more than halfway to the Katipunan station and I wasn’t about to tell him to go to Quezon Avenue instead.

Angge said I could get off at the Cubao station and board the MRT from there. When I got to the MRT there was a hellish line to get tickets—I’ve never seen a working MRT ticket machine in my life, and apparently they don’t sell stored-value tickets—and I decided I might as well fall in, seeing as how I was already there.

While I was in line, a woman came up to my left and walked alongside me as the queue progressed, apparently trying to cut in front of me. I’m generally nice, but I have little tolerance for people who cut lines. I don’t care if you’re in a hurry or are running late for something. Unless you need immediate medical attention, the back of the line’s that way.

So anyway, this woman, she was walking alongside me, and we started to play this silent queue game. I started to position my body to block any attempts she might make to step in front of me. She must have noticed, but she tried hard to stay nonchalant about the whole thing, keeping her gaze squarely on the ticket counter, pretending to crane her neck worriedly and wiping her neck with a piece of tissue. In the end, though, I got to buy my ticket to Taft before she did. Victory.

Or so I thought. The MRT is almost always very crowded, and I had to squeeze in and stand all the way from Cubao to Taft. (It’s not as bad as Line 1, which requires passengers to inhale all manner of human stenches, but not as nice as Line 2, which, even during rush hour, is peaceful and roomy.) At Taft I flagged down a taxi and told the driver I needed to get to the Supreme Court.

“Sa Padre Faura ‘yun, diba?” he asked.

A tentative “opo” was all I could manage, because back in Diliman I only have to know which color goes where to know I won’t get lost. On Roxas Boulevard the driver confirmed directions with me, and I, finally surrendering to my geographical ineptitude, consulted Google Maps.

Google Maps, by the way, for all its amazing features, wasn’t able to give me driving, transit or pedestrian directions from Roxas Boulevard to the Supreme Court. It was able to tell me that the Supreme Court was indeed on Padre Faura, though. “Oo nga po, sa Faura nga po,” I told the driver confidently.

The next thing I know we’re in Robinson’s Manila, waiting to turn left onto a one-way street when I had a really strong hunch the gate I was looking for was the other way. But because I really can’t find my way around Manila, I trusted my driver.

Just two corners later we were stuck in traffic again, this time on the street fronting the Philam Life building. By this time the taxi meter was at P110, and my now-agitated driver said he would turn right to UN Avenue, but go no further. It must have been around 240pm by then, and I was running out of options, so I paid him and walked out of the taxi and into the clogged street. I remember thinking, “This is so like those Hollywood movies where the protagonist is running late and the window of opportunity he’s been waiting for the entire movie is about to close.”

So, not long after that, I went all the way with the Hollywood metaphor and broke into a sprint. I presented my ID to the guards at the first Supreme Court gate I saw. They told me I should go to the other gate. I said “okay” and continued my sprint, but, after seeing that I was now running along the fence of the UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences, went back to clarify that we hadn’t misunderstood each other. We hadn’t indeed, and I ran again. Past the UP Manila fence I finally saw the Supreme Court building, presented my ID to the partly confused dude at the guardhouse—he looked like an intern to me—who waved me off without fussing.

At 255pm I was in one of the smaller courtrooms in the building (the ones where division hearings are held), panting and perspiring, my ass sweat staining the upholstered pews of the highest court in the country.

Gawd, I hate Manila.