Archive for August, 2007

best. t-shirt. ever.

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I’m not much of a fashionista, but I do seem to have two growing collections of shirts that entertain me endlessly:

1. Shirts with built-in ties

2. Shirts with Filipino stuff on them

The end-all be-all of Category 2 right now is the shirt below. It’s even taken over the spots usually reserved for my vintage ‘Playboy Club of Manila’ polo, and my vintage ‘Ito ang Beer!’ San Mig ringer tee.



It expresses my feelings towards these two metropolises more succinctly than I could ever ramble on about on my own. ( The hater in me kind of wishes it said “NOT” instead of “MORE THAN”, but then, it’s not as if I really hate New York. I mean, it’s not its fault it’ll never be as great as Manila.)

Got it at a T-shirt stand in Robinsons’ Place, Ermita/Malate. I thought it was part of the T-Shirt Project collection (which is also endlessly entertaining, and full of painful puns a la Arcega, and made for some good gift-shirts), but it appears not. (The label says “Happy Days” as its brand, which got me nowhere with Google. Anyway, nice Filipino T-Shirt Person, wherever you are, thank you for designing this. You’re funny and awesome.)


I’m posting about my t-shirts now.

Stop me if this gets out of hand.

August 19

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Yeah. I know. Running behind. However, it’s a special date.

August 19 is the birthday of Ogden Nash, Coco Chanel, Orville Wright, Malcolm Forbes, Gene Roddenberry, Jill St John, Tipper Gore, Jonathan Frakes, John Stamos, and Lil’ Romeo, to name a few.

It’s also the birthday of Presidents Manuel Quezon and Bill Clinton.

And, most importantly, it’s also Mike Arcega and Jenifer Wofford’s birthday!


(photo courtesy of Sisig Syjuco)

Mike and I only figured this out last year, and so we had our first joint birthday sesh in 2006. A small group of us met up just past midnight on the 19th. We went to Li Po, in Chinatown, and then to My Canh, my fave V-N joint, so that I could order my favorite dish, #35, on my #35.

Arcega and Woff tearing off the 18 at My Canh, 2006:


Woff and Arcega celebrating European cookie brands, 2006: (and what does it mean that these cookies are brown on the outside, white on the inside, hmmm?)


This year, most of the Galleon Traders (and the folks that love/put up with them) converged upon Johanna and Chris’ house for a mini-reunion/birthday party. Since I had just gotten back from Manila the night before, it was wonderful to see everyone again, and to trade stories, and horse around and catch up. Johanna and Chris were amazing hosts, cooking up all of this amazing Filipino food, and even baking a pineapple upside-down cake, complete with little Jenifer and Mike paper galleons!


Mike and Stephanie, glowing strangely:


Christine, making halo-halo with the fancy Fly-Snow(tm):


Ken Lo, Mike Yap, Emily, Rick, Mike all b-balling (check out the street sign behind the post):


When cake-time came, Mike and I got into position on the floor to race each other to the candles.


What you see in Mike’s face below is his reaction to one of the paper Galleons catching on fire because of the candles:


Galleon Traders, Traderettes, and Trader-lovers:


Since Sunday evening birthday parties are notoriously rowdy, it was only a matter of time before someone busted out the balloon-animal inflater-thing, and started making sculptures.


Aw, yeah. That’s how we roll, here in Cali.

Ken Lo, being ornamented by George and Suzanne. (photo from Stephanie)


Stephanie (on behalf of the GT-ers) presented me with the sweetest album of Galleon Trade photos:



(pic ctsy Stephanie) Awwww…I love it!
It was a perfect home-coming: we’re all so stuck on each other now, given the experiences we shared in Manila. Vocab lesson! Your words for the day, that all of the Galleon Traders seem stuck on, in the best ways: bayanihan, and communitas.

Pack it up

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Ok. So this blog is moving its way through Kubler-Ross’ various stages of loss (mostly denial), and is now attempting to deal with being back in the US. Does the fact that I’m still scanning for cheap airfare deals back to Manila mean I’m not quite ready to move on, though?

You know, there’s no better swansong to an amazing experience like Galleon Trade than hanging around a Manila air cargo terminal and dealing with customs. Since the captain always goes down with the ship, it was my duty to ensure that the remaining Galleon Trade art all got sent safely back to California.

After spending a long, stormy day in Malate, making a variety of phone calls with the help of the lovely Leslie, struggling to figure out how to send the artwork back home, it turned out that Philippine Airlines’ own air cargo was by far the best deal. (Almost all of us flew Philippine Airlines to and fro.) They didn’t even flinch when I tried to explain about the two empty glitter-covered balikbayan boxes (for every other shipper we called, balikbayan box + glitter + empty= does not compute). Best of all, the work would be shipped on the same flight I was taking, so even if I had to wait a couple of days to pick it up in the US due to customs, it would be home, quick-style.

Got all the work wrapped up safely, bought a couple of cheap suitcases at Robinson’s (it was raining too hard to even consider using a cardboard shipping box), and got to packing. I was able to pack a significant portion of the art into my two check-in bags (and could actually take one person’s art in my carry-on bag). The remainder: 2 heavy mailing tubes, 2 glittery boxes, and 2 cheap, nasty suitcases, were lugged down to PAL air cargo by Romeo and I a few hours before my flight. (Romeo=extremely patient friend).


The air cargo folks were a little uncomfortable with this dubious looking pile of stuff (and yes, I did have to explain yet again about why I was paying to send empty boxes home), but they were really nice about dealing with an unusual load. This, of course, did not make anything move any faster, however. I can now tell you all you need to know about dealing with air cargo, export declaration forms, Philippines customs, U.S. customs, and various sub-categories of shipping and receiving. It’s super-fun cocktail party conversation. I swear.


Here’s the cheery interior of the office where they fill out the export declaration forms. Apparently, they can only complete these forms by typing with one index finger on one hand. I was in here forever.

I was at PAL cargo for easily a couple of hours before leaving to check in for my flight. While at check-in, I was told that I was requested to return to cargo to review my questionable contraband with a customs agent. Gulp. As soon as he saw on my form that I was shipping paintings, he wanted to cut open every box I had (gaaaaaah) to see what I was sending. A little bit of fast-talking, a few charm-school tricks, and (most important), the offer to show him photos of all of the work from my laptop, and he let me off the hook. Everyone down at cargo was really nice, and apologetic that they had had to drag me back for the inspection.

Back to the terminal, back to the plane, and back to California, where I picked up my checked-in Galleon Trade baggage in the midst of the usual overload of luggage.


The stuff that went via air cargo was placed on hold for a couple of days, but was released pretty quickly. The US customs agent was prepared to give me a bunch of grief, too, but ended up being cool about releasing the goods after I explained the project to him. It’s really hard to explain to anyone, anywhere, why one would spend money to ship art for a non-profit, grass-roots arts exchange exhibition. I’m learning.

For all of the years that I’ve been a proud backpacker and light luggage traveler, scoffing as fellow passengers waited for bag after bag at the carousel, I’ve now met my karma. I’ve never had to deal with so many bags and cargo. It actually wasn’t that hard: just funny and new, dealing with all the stuff. Big lesson on international arts exchange: do your homework about costs and customs issues. It all worked out fine for Galleon Trade, but the learning curve was a little on the steep side…

The Second Visitation

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

As I sit here at home, broke and unemployed, I console myself with living in my memories of glamour, drama, and touching greatness. (cue: Norma Desmond scene, Sunset Blvd.)

My last Sunday in Manila, Carlos invited Megawati, me, Juan and Romeo to Pink Kitchen, a breast-cancer awareness fundraiser for I Can Serve at Rockwell Tent that one of his family members had organized. We figured, being sensitive folks in support of a great cause (and also a cause that involved copious amounts of delicious food) that we would go, and represent.

Lo and behold. Seated front and center was the Lady herself, yet again. Carlos, ever the irrepressible social butterfly, greeted her and made introductions (while delicately and hilariously fending off accusations and outings being made by Imelda’s daughter about Carlos’ Imelda Tour). A camera emerged, Carlos’ brother took the picture, and the rest is history.


Carlos, Mega, Imelda, Wofford (Thanks for the pic, Celdrans!)

And yes, she grabbed my hand for the photo opp.

Having had The Encounter, we settled down as best we could, and got to eating. The Pink Kitchen was essentially Rockwell Tent, filled with gourmet food booths where you would go and pick whatever delicious thing you wanted to eat, and pay with pre-purchased “money”. We got to gobbling, when, wouldn’t you know it, Mrs M decided to start making the rounds, sitting down one table away from us:


I couldn’t control myself. Romeo and I went back over to her, and asked if we could take a picture with her AGAIN. She graciously acquiesced, and that, ladies and germs, is how I got the photo below…


So, yeah. Since I’ve also gotten my photo taken with Phyllis Madonna (my other patron saint, of sorts), and got to eat bootleg Planter’s Cheezballs in Manila in copious amounts, this just about rounds out my life’s goals. I sent the pic out via email to a bunch of friends, and the 3 questions that kept coming up were:

1 . Is that a wax mannequin?

2. What’s up with the stains?

3. What shoes was she wearing?

And while I can confidently say that she was most assuredly NOT wax, I have no hard and fast answers for the other 2. And lay off the shoe questions, anyway. Is that all you people know about history, or what?

To be fair, the shoe story is the iconic example of the excesses of the Marcos era. And I, like most folks who care about the Philippines, have learned a thing or two about all associated history and controversy. In having my photo taken with her, I guess it comes down to something that came across really strongly in Imelda, the 2003 documentary by Ramona Diaz: you can despise the woman, you can adore the woman, but you can’t deny the almost supernatural charm and charisma she wields. She’s an icon, love her or hate her. I’ve got to say, having gotten to spend only a few minutes with her, she really does have it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s weirdly powerful.

Maybe the stains are her way of keeping it real these days.

I dunno.

Megamall Hijinks

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Posting out of sequence: the event below happened in early August. Well, I’m not that linear, anyway.

So. Even though most shows in Manila are less than a month long (sometimes only 2 weeks), and there are at least one or two openings/parties associated with each show, there’s been a recent trend towards having closing parties, to boot. Case in point: Poklong Anading’s closing party for his show, “Light Suffers if There’s No Place to Fall From,” at Finale Art Gallery. Conceptually, it made a lot of sense to have a closing event, given the work on exhibit. Christine Wong Yap wrote smartly about it on her blog:

Megamall closing. I had the good fortune to attend the closing reception of Poklong Anading’s exhibition at Finale Gallery in Megamall in Manila. (Yes, there is a mall called Megamall, and yes, it’s common and unsurprising for Manila’s commercial galleries to be located there. The location is apt, since malls offer a clean, air-conditioned escape from the chaotic, humid streets outside.) Poklong makes top-notch object- and photography-based relational art. On display at the closing was a back-lit, life-sized photograph of viewer’s backs as they packed the narrow storefront gallery during the opening. Inside, an oversized mousetrap made of neon and cement hummed with an audio track of chatter. I thought the work was elegant and smart. It expressed Poklong’s ambivalence on the social nature of art openings and the commercial context of the gallery (mall signage could be seen in the reflection of the windows in the photograph, and it was mimicked in the neon sculpture). On another level, to look at the photo resulted in a curious effect of being physically outside of the gallery as well as the a circle of opening attendees photographed.

Christine, Mike, Stephanie, Rick and I went to the closing, and of course had a blast.
Steph’s photo of the inside of Finale (above): empty, except for the mousetrap sculpture:

On opening night, folks crowded in to see the object, and Poks took a picture through the gallery’s glass front of everyone inside. He then printed it life-size, and installed it in the gallery window.


(Steph’s pic above)

Which we then editorialized (Rick’s pics):



Woff, Arcega, Cobangbang, Anading, Syjuco, Wong Yap

There was a lot of hanging out, talking and mixing it up with the friends who dropped by. Poklong got all fired up about showing us photos on his laptop of Martha Atienza‘s possible artist compound in Bantayan, Cebu.



Always fun to have a family photo, gathered round ye olde Powerbooke, dreaming our dreams…

Seeing the photos of course got us all fired up about the idea (not having actually met Martha yet, of course)…but then, Manila being a tight-knit community, I ended up meeting Martha at Green Papaya a week later…she’s a really interesting artist. Half Dutch, half-Filipina, but unlike certain half-breed Wofflers, was actually raised in the Philippines. When I got to spend a bit more time with her, she showed us a bunch of cool work on her laptop (not yet on her website) that’s destined for an installation in Holland.

The art scene in Manila is super close-knit, and friends really seem to support one another in a family-oriented way. There are always things bubbling, but it really feels like all of the amazing potential there is coalescing into something big. Maybe it’s just a maturity piece: late 20-somethings/30-somethings finally coming into their own, and being ready to make something bigger happen. Same there as here, perhaps. It seemed like just during the month we were there, various international curators, dealers and other artists were drifting through our friends’ studios, which was pretty exciting to hear about.

Anyway, Megamall was closing, so we made our goodbyes, and trundled off to the elevators. Almost all the shops we closed and dark by the time we split, and the mannequins on one of the islands were draped for reasons unclear to us.


I ended up seeing this on other after-hours mannequins at another mall later on, so I can’t classify this as a uniquely MegaMall moment. Still, this was a far more poetic presentation than elsewhere, what with the ominous lighting, the dark clothes, and (best of all) the shorts.

Shorts are funny sometimes. I can’t really explain why.

the storm settles

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Whew. I’ve been back in the U.S. for 5 days now, and I’m still in something of a state of arrival. I think that getting over an amazing trip is akin to the supposed timeline for getting over a break-up: fully half the length of the relationship has to pass before one gets over it. That means I’ve got about a week and a half to go.

Lest my last ominous post have anybody wondering, yes, I’m fine, Manila survived. Typhoon Egay blew things this way and that: I was holed up in Malate, just watching the rain and wind go from vertical to horizontal, and back again. The windows in the Living Room were chained shut, to boot:




Kind of beautiful, really.

The storms broke here and there long enough for me to go out and see a few friends one more time, and to take care of Galleon Trade closing business.

Peewee had to leave town unexpectedly, so I went out to Green Papaya to say goodbye and talk about a few things with him (hello: world reading this blog: Peewee is the BEST. Such an honor to work with him, and to just enjoy his general awesomeness), and all the usual suspects showed up, as serendipitously as always seems to be the case here.


MM, Lena, Maria, Rita, Renaud


Lena, Marta, Poks, and that one guy I like whose name escapes me Jun! Jun Sabayton. Hi, Jun. Sorry ’bout dat.


Even though Renaud Proch (visiting from the U.S) was scheduled to come out to the Living Room the next night, of course he showed up with everyone else, which was a nice pre-emptive introduction. Got to see him again less than 24 hours later in Malate, for a rollicking long night of debating, art talk, general tsismis, and the usual revelry:


Ramby, Renaud (who’s working that pillow!), Carlos, me, Romeo (looking very suspiciously at something)

Aaaand then back to Green Papaya a day or two later, to officially deinstall the Galleon Trade works that were there.


Apeed and I took everything down. Most of Megan’s panels stayed behind with Green Papaya, for Peewee to distribute however he sees fit. Reanne’s tape was all delicately removed from the wall, and packed up for Italy (she starts a residency program there in September). Apeed’s patching became its own ghostlike artwork:


The show compacted down quite easily, all things considered. It’s always a little sad looking at packed bags, but somehow, since I had to take care of shuttling all work back to the U.S., I was pretty happy to look at a small pile:


That’s everything: Mike, Reanne, Stephanie, Christine and Megan’s works, all reduced down to two suitcases, a duffel, and two glittery, empty balikbayan boxes wrapped in plastic. The glitter from Christine’s project has now trailed across half of Metro Manila, down the hallways of the Sy-quia apartments, in and out of multiple taxis, an air cargo facility, and Philippine Airlines, and now my own living room once more.

Since taking down Rick Godinez and Enrique Chagoya’s works at Mag:net High Street had been blissfully easy (basically, Rock and his staff took care of everything, because they’re cool like dat: I showed up, and Rock and I went out and kicked it over coffee) earlier in the week, the last Galleon Trade show to take down was Katipunan, which was also reasonably easy.

I couldn’t carry all the work back to Malate in one cab in stormy weather, so I went back out to Katips the next night to pick a couple more boxes up, and say my goodbyes as the crew hung out during Gerry Tan’s install for his follow-up show:


Gerry, Rock, David Grigg (a painter from Australia who’s done exchange shows with Manila folks, too):




Rock, David, Woff, Gerry, Lena, __, Ringo, Jayson, Manuel, ___ (my bad, sorry bout missing names).

I got seriously choked up, leaving Katipunan that night. The warmth and hospitality everyone showed us was just too wonderful: even though on some levels, I haven’t gotten to know folks that well these past two summers, I can honestly say that it’s truly rare and wonderful to encounter people who bring such unselfconscious warmth to a situation. I get attached!

Most Americans, and certainly most folks I know in the Bay Area, have lost this art of being genuinely hospitable and relaxed. I could attribute it to how busy we get here in the U.S., but that’s really not much of an excuse. It’s just not a priority to simply spend time with others. It is harder here, to be sure, but I also feel like people have just stopped seeing hang-out/social time as useful. Oy. (I’ll ruminate on this a bit more, and get back to you with some thoughts on the matter.)

Still backlogged on posts and reminiscences: I give myself until the get-over-it deadline of one and a half weeks from now to finish up my Manila posts, and move back into the present tense.


Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

At 2:00 a.m. today, Typhoon “EGAY” was located based on satellite and surface data at 550 kms Southeast of Aparri, Cagayan (16.5 ºN, 127.0ºE) with maximum sustained winds of 185 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 220 kph. It is moving West Northwest at 11 kph. Moderate to strong southwesterly windflow prevailing over Luzon and Visayas.


(That ominous red blob is heading west, right into the Philippines. Gulp.)

mo_space opening

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

In between Boracay and Palawan, we were back in Manila for one night to catch the inaugural exhibition at mo_space, Mawen and David Ong’s new art and design space at Bonifacio High Street. Big group show, many of the usual suspects implicated, great fun. Yahoo, new art venue in Metro Manila! The show was entitle “I have nothing to paint and I’m painting it,” and was co-curated by Nilo Ilarde and Roberto Chabet.


Nilo Ilarde, co-curator of the show


work by Roberto Chabet


Lena in front of Jayson’s painting…


…Jayson in front of Jonathan Olazo’s piece.


Monday, August 13th, 2007

Before I get back to Manila’s wonders, I’ll throw in a handful of the rest of the vacation pics. P and I came back to Manila for one night to go to the opening of Mawen Ong’s new gallery and design store, mo_space (more on that later), then left punishingly early the next morning (4:45 am on a hangover) for the only daily flight to El Nido, Palawan.

The flight from Manila stopped for about 20 minutes in Coron, where we all got off the plane and wandered around on the runway for awhile. Cause that’s just what you do in Coron.


(It was about 8 am on aforementioned hangover.)

The flight from Coron to little El Nido was another 40-ish minutes, where we arrived at what is, as far as I’m concerned the greatest airport I’ve ever been at in the entire world.


After tumbling off of our 18-seater, we wandered over to the arrival hut, and past the airport’s hammock garden:



Whereupon we took a 45 minute banca ride into the out-of-your-gourd beautiful Bacuit Archipelago, and the Dolarog Resort (this view, from the porch of our cottage):




Each day we went out on banca trips to various islands in Bacuit:






The problem with blogging from the Philippines is that it feels consistently impossible to articulate the utterly, surreally beautiful, over-the-top wonders this place has offered up this trip. Not so bad as an exercise in futility, though, actually. Thank goodness for photos, which hopefully fill in some of the jaw-droppers. And even the photos suck, compared to actually being there.

Every other image I took felt like somewhere I’d been dreaming up images from for a long, long while. A number of places felt like scenes straight out of the Point of Departure series I’ve been working on.

More photos still to come.


Sunday, August 12th, 2007

So I’m back in Manila now, after a good little vacation. The last of the other Galleon Traders, Megan, leaves tonight, so it’s just me here until the 18th…

Pirate and I took a few days and went to Boracay: gorgeous as ever, a bit stormy on the weather front, but a good place to begin to decompress from Manila–not too slow, not too fast.
Despite how ever over-run with package tourists and concrete it’s gotten, Boracay miraculously still manages to preserve its charm. It’s the kind of place you can keep hyper-actively sporty-busy at, party yourself silly at, or just chill out and do nothing at, without there being too much of a conflict. It’s definitely gotten a bit pricier as the luxury resorts have started muscling in, but it’s still tolerable.

We stayed at Francis Tayengco’s place, Angol Point, where I’ve stayed on previous trips: it’s just far enough out of reach of the nuttiness to be peaceful, and it’s right on the beach.


Breakfast and the best mango shakes in the world were next door, beach-side, at Blue Mango.



Yay, hotsilog breakfast!!

Hey Jude in the evenings had decent cocktails and a great DJ, even when it was pouring rain one night:


I think that this might actually be my last trip to Boracay, but I’d still recommend it for most folks. It really helps to know where to stay, and how hectic that area is.