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Food and Yenning in Iloilo (Part 2)

continuation of Food and Yenning in Iloilo (Part 1)…

While enjoying the afternoon coffee at Madge, I mentioned to Chito my particular interest to visit Museo Iloilo and Janiuay Cemetery.  Got the following description at Asiatravel.com about the two places of interest:

Museo Iloilo
An impressive collection of Iloilo’s cultural heritage which includes stone age native pottery; fossils; jewelry; burial sites; trade pottery from China, Annam and Siam; era photos. Mementos and war relics; a British sunken ship; Spanish-era Filipino sculpture; and modern art done by Ilonggo artists and craftsmen.

Janiuay Cemetery
Built in 1875, this famous Spanish-Filipino cemetery is made of cut stone and fossil rocks and features three imposing stairways and two Gothic doors. Its is 32 kms. from the city.

He told me it’ll take a long while to reach the cemetery but he’ll gladly accompany us to the museum. So I guess the tombstones and idea of grave rubbing will have to wait for another visit back in Iloilo.

For non-travelers like us who aren’t used to the grandeur of famous museums, Museo Iloilo was indeed already impressive. It wasn’t that big and one can tour it for a short 15 to 30 minutes.

As a souvenir, I bought a couple of era photos while Bachie bought a number of Iloilo tote bags. Displyed in the next room across the entrance are several paintings by local artists. I particularly like the works of a certain Alex P. Ordoyo in watercolor. Below are samples of this work on exhibit.

But the best art I saw and probably the photo of the day is a mixed media composed of art on canvas and my two band mates fooling around.

… and this amazing monument of Benjamin Button.

After the half -hour museum tour we headed back to Highway 21 hotel to rest for a couple of hours while we wait for Ian Zafra, our session guitarist, who flew from Cebu. It’s been so long since he last joined us on stage and we’re quite excited to see him again.

In our hotel room, reunited with Ian.

He arrived at the hotel just in time for dinner accompanied by two friends based in the city named Patrick and Roy. They brought us to a place called Ramboy’s Lechonan and Restaurant, ordered Sinigang, Lechon and Sizzling Seafoods and had a few beers while catching up. We continued drinking and singing the night away back in our hotel room. A great day, it was.

to be continued…

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 4)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 3) - November 14

Procrastination is probably one of the most common problem people have in their day to day life. Including myself, that is. After having experience with procrastination, I realized procrastination itself causes more pain than actually doing what I suppose to do. Everytime I check on our blog pages and see posts that are meant to be continued without ever reaching a conclusion, it gives me a pang of remorse. So today I’m making a deal with myself to JUST DO IT.

FIRST NIGHT AT THE ESPLANADE

We had a great day since we landed in the city. Walking the streets of Singapore and doing some food tripping and sight-seeing. By the time we got back at the hotel we hardly had time to rest and wash up to catch Techy Romantics’ set. We missed it! By the time we reached the Concourse, Carlos Castano was already setting up.

At the entrance.

We met other artists from the Philippines and some friends who are already based and working in Singapore. I also had the chance to meet Rebecca Lincoln, a freelance music journalist, who was the first one to write about The Camerawalls and recommend us in a music blog called Power of Pop.

with Rebecca Lincoln.

We roam around the area feeling the vibe and checked out the Arena where we are suppose to perform the next day. In our hearts, we felt extremely lucky to be chosen to perform on the best and biggest stage, with a good time slot. We secured good seats and watched a Singapore superband called Typewriter. Pretty good. But the hightlight of our night was when Jon Auer went onstage and jammed with Typewriter and sang songs from his band The Posies like “Flavour of the Month”. Now that’s in your face POP!

Jon Auer of The Posies jamming with Singapore's Typewriter at the Arena.

POST GIG FEASTING

When the music ended, excitement of the evening still floats in our heads. The night was young so we decided to indulge ourselves with their local beer and delicacies. Chili Crabs and dimsums in a 24-hour open food court near the Grand Pacific Hotel. Tiger Beer simply contributed to a perfect nightcap.

Delicious Chili Crabs

Tiger Beer and assorted Dimsums

“An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger, or a beer.”  - Confucius

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 3)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2) - August 20

The past two weeks have been a little tied up and I’m lagging behind on blog updates especially the ones from Singapore. I mustered enough drive to rummage into my files and resume this compendium of episodes during our trip inside the Lion City.

Alice In Bali Lane

Along the street of Bali Lane opposite Golden Landmark.

Bali Lane is one of those little streets in Singapore (like Haji Lane) that seem edgy and spirited during the night gauging on the kind of shops one can find along the streets. Too bad we manage to pass on a bright afternoon. Apparently it’s the area where one can find Straits Records, the local underground record label and gathering place for Singapore’s indie bands and music lovers.

Alice of Alice88th

We did a stopover in one of the convenience store to grab some bottled drinks. Ian Zafra chanced upon a shop called Alice88th that display what seems like punk clothing and went in to check it out. We followed after a few minutes and found him chatting with a bubbly owner of  the place predictably named Alice. Turns out its a Japanese Sales and Rental shop of clothing and accessories with themes ranging from Anime, Manga, Gothic, Lolita, Punk, Party and Masquerade costumes even wigs, shoes, dolls and much more.

She was the most conversational person we met or probably was quite eager to engage in one judging on the fact there isn’t much passersby during those periods. So we stayed there for a bit checking out both odd and pretty items for sale. You can see what’s in store here: http://alice88th.blogspot.com

In between testimonies and recommendations (what do do and where to go) for first timers in Singapore, our exchanges also covered the story of her beloved cat Ming-ming. The subject was brought up when we noticed a cute but snob feline friend roaming around the store while I pointed at a photograph of a cat displayed in one of the glass display table. Surprisingly she told me the one in the photo was a different one and only looks identical to the cat she currently houses.

Alice's beloved cat Ming-Ming. Lost but never forgotten.

She lost her cat when she left Ming-ming under her neighbor’s care, caged and all during a long trip outside the country. She was never treated that way and her theory is based on the trauma and agitation her cat experienced. So when the opportunity for escape presented itself, Ming-ming left and was nowhere to be found. It was an agonizing three months of grieving and searching, even spending some days sleeping on the sidewalk just to find her. Alice told us she almost went crazy, couldn’t eat and sleep. It was never the same without Ming-ming sharing her bed during cold nights.

Alice's new companion. Closely resembling Ming-ming.

The sad tale was preceded with lighter diverse topics I can no longer recall till we bid her goodbye and invited her to our gig at Esplanade. We continued our course following Ophir Road going Northwest and crossing Victoria Street, Rochor Canal Road and Jalan Besar till we reached our next stop – Little India.

Little India Walkabout

At Serangoon Road, Little India

Along the way we entertained ourselves watching people and buildings, taking more photos, occasionally conversing with stray cats and mingling with a bunch of pigeons. We notice something odd in some residential high-rise buildings. A number of them have at least five removable pole fixtures protruding from the  lower portion of their apartment windows which tenants use to hang dry their clothes. A rather unusual find.

I found an illustrated walkabout of Little India on the back of our city map and we all decided to follow it. It begins at a point besides Tekka Market/Center along Serangoon Road.

Little India is another ethnic neighborhood in Singapore with cultural elements of Tamil people. Tamilians are a linguistic and ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India. The language, literature, art and architecture have been given classical status. They have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilizations on Earth.

From Tekka Market we crossed Serangoon and went inside Little India Arcade – a labyrinth of shops selling all things Indian (arts, crafts, sweets, snacks, medicine). As we march along the busy streets we marvel at the wealth of the culture.

Strolling inside Little India Arcade.

Another thing we noticed everywhere we go are installations on the streets of tents with food offerings, Chinese lanterns and pots for burning items like paper. Antonette, our roadie, explained that in Chinese tradition, August is a month of bad luck where activities like weddings and traveling are suspended. Further research led me to sites explaining the Chinese Ghost Month – the most inauspicious time of the year.

The Chinese seventh month, usually August, apparently is the most ill-fated time of the year. It is called Ghost Month, and its climax is the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. Like a one month holiday for the dead during a time when spirits of the dead wanders, Chinese offerings and prayers are taken seriously anywhere in the world. Even in the streets of Little India.

Performances are also common to entertain the dead. We went near one of the stage and took notice of two young Chinese kids rehearsing on a Hammered Dulcimer and some drum percussion.

A stage in one of the streets of Little India with young Chinese kids rehearsing.

A hammered dulcimer.

The lovely sound of the dulcimer made us pause for a while to observe and listen. It’s a musical instrument typically trapezoidal in shape with strings graduated length are stretch on the sounding box and is played by being struck with hammers or mallets made of wood. First time I heard and seen it being played in close proximity that I even have to ask what instrument it is. If you are curious what it sounds like watch the clip below.

We finished a third of the walkabout route before deciding to head back to Dunlop St. to find an authentic place to eat. Our excitement level is still high but the 5 hour walk around the city already made us a little worn out. Funny enough, Bachie (our drummer) is already complaining of blisters.

We found a nice random place to eat called Sakunthala’s which serves a variety of South Indian cuisine. Later on I found out it won various recognition from the media. Lucky for us to find such a place in the busy streets of Little India. We tried their Mutton meal, a Poori Set, Chappati and Massalla Onion. True enough it was the best tasting Indian food I’ve ever had.

Masalla Onion

Mutton Murtabak Meal

Chappati

Poori Set

A renewed strength swept over us after that orgasmic delight. Dusk was falling rapidly as we left the restaurant heading back to our hotel happy and contented. Along the way we took a different route and found ourselves walking along the road where the Sri  Krishnan Temple and the Goddess Of Mercy Temple were located and brightly lit. It started to drizzle so we hurried along to rest for a a couple of hours before we catch Techy Romantics’ set plus other bands at the Arena in Esplanade.  - continued at Our First Day In Singapore (Part 4)…

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 1) - August 20

The Camerawalls along one of the streets of Singapore.

Arab Street

Singapore has a diverse population made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Caucasians and Asians (of various descent). It isn’t a wonder to find shopping and ethnic districts like Arab Street, Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Road and Marina Bay. We were able to do a walking tour of two of them before the day ends.

Our food trip in Bugis Street was preceded with a walkabout around the vicinity of Arab Street  just a few blocks away. Arab Street interestingly illustrates the Arabian culture. You can easily find conservatively dressed Muslims, beautiful old shop houses lined up on the streets and marvel at the largest mosque in the country – the Sultan Mosque – easily identified by its golden domes.

 

The grand Sultan Mosque.

Some of the many old shophouses common in the district.

Right across the Sultan Mosque is the famous Zam-Zam, one of Singapore’s best know restaurant for all sorts of Muslim-Malay food, which serves their legendary Murtabak (a type of stuffed pancake eaten with curry). Too bad we’re still full from our last meal.

One of Singapore's best known restaurant famous for their Murtabak.

Along Kandahar Street was a long line of street food vendors selling items quite unfamiliar to my eyes. I spotted a table that sells mini Otah-Otah. I asked what it is to which the vendor replied, “Fish cake made of mackarel”. I have never tasted fish cake so to my curiosity I bought some and shared it with the others. It’s spicy and is an acquired taste. I can do for one more hadn’t we moved along.

Later on I found out that Otah-Otah is also sometimes called Otak-Otak. Otak means brains in Indonesia and Malay. (Very close to the Filipino word “Utak” with the same meaning)  and the name of the dish is derived from the idea that the dish some what resembles brains, being grey, soft and almost squishy. Otah-otah is made by mixing fish paste (usually mackerel) with a mixture of spices. The mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf that has been softened by steaming, then grilled or steamed.

 

Otah-otah - a cake made of fish meat.

At Bian’s  Cafe

We chanced upon a cozy looking coffee shop along the same street and decided it’s about time for some caffeine in our system. We took our seats and was greeted by the very nice Chinese owner named Bian Huibin. While we wait for our order he offered us a book to browse: “The Sidewalk Beauty – The Stray Cats Of Singapore” – a photographic journal that pays tribute to Singapore’s street cats. Over 200 pages of beautiful cat photos with humoring captions. We notice most of the cats’ left ear in the photos are snipped. His website mentioned that in an attempt to curb the proliferation of stray cats, most of the strays have been sterilized. The snipped left tip on their ear is the mark of their surgery.

It took awhile before we found out he’s the author/photographer of the pictures in the book. Very entertaining for cat lovers like us. (I have one at home name Doro, Law has one named Bassline, both Ian Zafra and Antonette has one too and Bachie has a dozen!) Quite interesting is the author’s biography:

Bian Huibin graduated from the Faculty of Music at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in 1985, having majored in Percussion and minored in French Horn. In 1991, he graduated from the Beijing Film Academy Photography faculty, having majored in Feature Film Photography. He has been in Singapore since 1995 upon invitation to work in television production here. Since then, he has produced numerous advertisements and documentaries. He is currently the Artistic Director of Hetian Film Productions.

It’s very humbling that a man of his stature is serving coffee and drinks to his customers. I admired him for that. For more photos and info about his book visit straycatsofsingapore.com and singopera.com.sg. I went inside his shop and found a lot pictures on the wall of chinese opera singers in costume. He told me his wife is a Chinese Opera singer and instructor.  Chinese Opera is an old form of drama and musical theater in China with roots going back to the third century. Upstairs is Singapore Chinese Opera Museum (SCOM) in which Bian is also the museum director.

Relaxing at Bian's Cafe below the Singapore Chinese Opera Museum along Kandahar Street.

The Sidewalk Beauty - The Stray Cats of Singapore

Clementine with Bian Huibin (Photographer/Author of The Stray Cats of Singapore)

Some merchandise items from The Sidewalk Beauty.

A chinese opera doll at the entrance of Bian's Cafe and Singapore Chinese Opera Museum.

A wall full of opera singers' photos.

Bian and I had a difficult time conversing since he is not well-versed with the English language. But graciously tried to explain the things he do, showed me around a bit and opened his website for me to browse. He also showed me a sample clip of an actual chinese opera he produced. He asked about my music and I showed him our site and in no time at all the whole coffee shop was blasting “Canto De Maria Clara“, one of our songs from the debut album. And when it was time to say goodbye we took pics and exchanged cards for future correspondence.

A photo in one of the alleys of Arab Street district with the Sultan Mosque at the background.

Children’s Little Museum

There’s wonderful pedestrian area on Bussorah Street located right behind the Sultan Mosque. There are shops and cafes there. Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke. We also checked out a vintage shop called Children’s Little Museum. It has items from 1950s to 1970s. A very nostalgic and enjoyable find!

Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke.

Children's Little Museum - Singapore

A Wurlitzer Jukebox

Bruce Lee and vintage Tellies.

Orange everywhere?

Miniature Vespas!

The Beatles, classic radio and ashtrays.

Old Timepieces.

A place to drool and marvel.

Continued at Our First Day in Singapore (Part 3)

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 1)

A few months ago we were mighty thrilled to receive an inquiry from Esplanade exploring The Camerawalls for Baybeats 2010 and privileged enough to eventually be included in the line up. It’s our first regional gig outside the Philippines and I would like to share some of the things we did and experienced during our three-day stay in Singapore from August 20 – 22.

Day 1 – August 20

Eat, Pray, Love

We left Cubao, QC at 3am after a brief sleepover with the whole band at Antonette’s place. Her brother Anthony graciously woke up during witching hour to drive us to the airport. Checking in wasn’t much of a hassle. We killed some time beside a dimsum shop on the second floor of the airport while waiting for boarding time. Coffee and small talks while Ian Zafra (SATI) reads a soft bound copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A memoir that chronicles the American author’s trip around the world after her divorce and what she discovered during her travels. A New York Times bestseller with a film adaptation starring Julia Roberts. Both I have yet to read and see.

I tried to sleep on board but was distracted by the most number of sneezing and coughing. A dreadful chorus producing an awful discomfort coming from all sides. One more hour… I  hope I don’t catch  any unwanted virus that would hamper my singing the next day.

We arrived at Changi International Airport 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Our artist liason officer was already waiting for us. Nice girl named Clara Ang. She gladly welcomed us and during one of our short conversations she asked if we smoked. I said “No”.  “Great. Easier for me,” she replied.

My entourage: Ian Zafra, Bachie Rudica, Antonette Maniquis and Law Santiago.

We rode a coaster with Chicosci, another fellow musician from the Philippines and went to our first stop at Esplanade where we stored our musical instruments at assigned dressing rooms. Roads will be closed the next day for the first ever Youth Olympic Games – an international multi-sport event featuring athletes from ages 14 to 18. It would be such a drag to do a 15 minute walk from our hotel to Esplanade carrying our equipment.

Also I finally met Christie Chua the program director who invited The Camerawalls a few months back. Had a little chat with her and learned that Baybeats Festival is on its ninth year. Gave her some copies of “Pocket Guide To The Otherworld” to sell at Esplanade shop during the festival. According to her, normally the weather in the country is fairly warm and humid. But we notice that day it’s particularly cooler accompanied with patchy drizzles. Best time to go for a walk and see some parts of the city.

St. Joseph’s Church

We went straight to Grand Pacific Hotel to check in and freshen up. Got a hold of a free Singapore Island map at the lobby before we went up the elevator. We were tired from lack of sleep but excited at the same time since it’s our first time in the city with only a few hours to kill each day to do other things not related to Baybeats.

The hotel along Victoria Street is ideally near a lot of places and is situated right inside the heart of the district. Transportation is easy with buses, cabs and MRT lines. We decided to walk instead to see the sights and find a good place to eat that’s cheap and authentic. Heading northeast along Victoria St. we saw our first stop – St. Joseph’s Church. A gothic styled Roman Catholic church built in the early 1900′s by the Portuguese mission. The building’s very attractive and the place boast of beautifully-crafted stained glass windows.

St. Joseph's Church along Victoria Street.

Bugis Street

We went pass Middle Road and crossed Manila Street till we reached Bugis Street. A once famous tourist spot in Singapore for a nightly gathering of transwomen and transgender sex bazaar culture. A colourful and unique era that ended in 1980s during the redevelopment of the place into a retail complex of shopping malls, restaurants, nightspots and back-alley vendors plus the underground construction of the Bugis MRT station. It is now billed as “the largest street-shopping location in Singapore“.

The New Bugis Street

After going thru sections of food, clothing, apparels, watches, fruits, even a sex shop stall, we found ourselves in an alley full of small street restaurants with a common dining area in the middle for customers. The combined scent of dishes after dishes being prepared and served signaled a retreat to one of the tables near Cui Xiang Yuan restaurant. We soon realized how hungry we were. We ordered Chili Chicken, Mushroom Chicken, Seafood & Beancurd Soup, Seafood Rice and they were absolutely delicious. Or maybe we were just famished.

Chili Chicken with Rice

Seafood & Beancurd Soup

Mushroom Chicken with Rice

First meal of the day.

The food is rather cheap and authentic. It was a good idea to check out that alley. Enough to prep us for another couple of hours walking around the place. We further looked around before deciding to hit the streets once more towards our next destination – Arab Street. - continued at Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2)

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