Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup in the Philippines

You can actually catch the World Cup here. But the atmosphere is not the same. Its kind of reminded me of the days in US when you can't even catch it on cable TV. But its a little better, there are a couple of places you can catch the games but no one is watching the games. I look like a freak watching the game at a bar here.

However, the live games are all at night which means I am usually at home already. I only catch the first game live except on the weekend when I can catch the later games.

There is a growing group of kids who play soccer here like in the US. But it will never match basketball or boxing in popularity. Maybe it can grow to a decent size like badminton here which actually have a sizeable folllowing with organised competitions. After all in the US, the popularity is growing and the US team looks pretty good although they got knocked out by Ghana. People don't remember how bad US teams used to be - they could not even qualify for the longest time.

I tried to describe what its like to Pinoys here about watching the games in SG or Malaysia. Remember S.Korea? So many people played hookie and watched it a bars and restaurant in the middle of the day, people did not even lie to their bosses about it and the bosses gave up enforcing any kind of discipline. I say imagine a Manny Pacqiao fight in the middle of a work day - that last for a month.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The best Music Scene in Asia

One of the best thing about my expat vagabond life is meeting interesting people. Its actually amazing some of the people I met. This week I met Dave Eggar. I did not even know of him until this week although I was a New Yorker for some six years.

Dave is prodigy musician from New York.  His resume is perfect but his music is inventive. When I heard him it reminded me of the first time I heard The Who, U2, Nirvana, people who broke the mold of new genre in popular music.  The more I hear his work, the more it reminds me of the very very best engineers in Silicon Valley that I have met - Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen, Dean Kamen. Dave is like them in the sense, his fundamental skills, his classical training, are as good as it gets and yet he is inventive and courageous, a rebel seeking to make new music and new ideas - just like the best of the best in Silicon Valley.

Listen to his classical skills.

Now listen to this.

He was here for one week playing in different clubs with some of the underground bands here. Did I mention that Manila have the best underground music scene in Asia?  That is saying a lot because I have been to places in Japan, Korea, China which also have some activities but here in Manila there is scene here that is closest to what you will find in the Village in New York.  Those who like these kind of music should check out bands like Drip, Sinosikat and sites like

To have met Dave Eggar here in Manila playing in a hole-in-wall rustic bar and discovering all these great bands is going to be one of the greatest memory in my life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taking short breaks and hanging out

I have mentioned before that I seek out greenery on the weekends to relax which is unfortunately in short supply here. In Malaysia, one of the way I relax is take a few hours drive to quiet nearby town or neighbourhood with some trees and grass and walk around stopping for snacks and coffee.  I also do it in Singapore with HDB neighbourhoods. I read an article from Harvard business school a while back that its good management practice to have these 'alone time' to reflect and collect oneselves.   I wanted a short break this weekend before plunging in back to work and missed that a lot.

I tried to think of places to do the same thing here and there just is not a lot of choices. I usually end up going to either Salcedo or Legazpi market on weekends for this. The place I work and live has lots of green space but choices for coffee and snacks is actually very limited unlike in Singapore and Malaysia. I usually end up at a fast food place for some pau and really bad coffee. I recently came across this small chain that serves donut and instant coffee in some neighbourhoods that its not quite the same as the ubiqutous mamak stalls and kopitiam in Malaysia

There is a lot of mall here to go to but its really crowded, the hours are very limited and after all its really about 'alone time'. Its one of the reason I do all my shopping early when it opens (8.30am). I can then go to the big foodcourts and just get some 'alone time' - it does not last long as the crowd comes in. (Did I mention that the malls here are really really crowded almost all the time. The only other place I have ever been that is equivalent are malls in China)

Actually I find it strange there are not more places to hang out given Philippine's Spanish history. Hanging out in plazas, gardens and neighourbood restaurant and tapa bars in Spain, morning, noon or evening, is one of the great living experience I have had. Pinoys certaintly like hanging out in places. Where I live, people hang out in the restaurants to wee hour of the night and during the hollidays.  There is a couple of breakfast/coffee places here on the weekend that is jammed packed every weekend as soon as they open at 7.30am  and people hang out until the sun gets too hot. Why they have not built it in the neighbourhoods, I don't get it.  Our elders in Malaysia and Singapore have been hanging out in neighbourhood coffee shops and markets for generations. The neighbourhood road-side wet market here called Palengke is very crowded early but the sites are usually badly maintained and no place to have a cup of coffee. Even their larger farmer markets have limited offerings early in the morning.

Its possible, its all American influence whose idea of hanging out is at a bar. But even in US, well New York, there is the neigbourhood diner (remember Seinfeld?) where I used to take long breakfast with unlimited coffee on Sunday, read the papers and then check out the local neighbourhoods.  But most of the US is just like here with malls and chain stores.  I don't get the idea of hanging out in Starbucks - the highly yuppie crowd just reminds me all the things I have to do and I keep thinking of work!

There are a couple of places sort of worth strolling around for example in Alabang township which is very nice but a bit far away but the crowd and traffic does not get maddening except near the hollidays. The Ortigas neighbourhood is OK on a Sunday morning but the crowd and traffic shows up before noon.  I walked the Roxas Boulevard by Manila Bay weekend mornings but again its downtown and traffic+crowds shows up pretty quickly. One of the better place actually is Intramuros which is the well-preserved historical Spanish city but I have been told its not safe to walk alone since its surrounding neighbourhood is pretty rough ones. There is Riverside Park in Marikina City which does not have much choices to get a bite. The University of Philippines Diliman which has the best green lungs in the city and the university dining places actually give some pretty good deals for a bite.

Maybe I just have to look harder...

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I think the raining season officially started this week. Philippine basically has 3 season (cool, summer and wet) and this is the third one. On Wednesday it poured really hard. Should have expected it since last week the humidity was really high. Its the first sign of rain coming.

Traditionally in the rural areas it means that the planting season has begun. Passing through the provinces a week before its no wonder I saw people preparing their fields. You can see padi-fields just an hour out of the city as Manila is situated in traditionally one of the most fertile volcanic plain the world.  It also marks the end of the major vacation period and children going back to schools.

The tourist spots are starting to clear out too.  If you want bargain on the most popular places, its time to shop but its not as much fun as during the peak season of Feb-May when there are parties everywhere. Its one of the problem of developing tourism here. We were at very nice place called Anvaya Cove two hours from here and it was a great place with a nice little beach, lush greenery surounded by high hills but there were only a few rooms. I was told because of the seasonal nature of the business, its really hard to make money.

When it rains here it can really pour and the winds can get scary with typhoon later on in the year. Right now most of the time the rain is just moderate and cloudy most of the time. The temperature is way-off from the last couple of month but there is some humidity. But when its cloudy and with light wind, its actually very nice. I don't mind light rain (I just do laundry more frequently) when I am not working. Its sort of therapeutic - like heaven washing away our little worries.