A Travellerspoint blog

Traveling Without Moving

I test a Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens

Last week, Canon Philippines was kind enough to lend me a Canon 10-22mm USM lens to test with their latest camera the 30D. After all-day trigger happiness with the 30D, I slapped the lens on my lower-end 350D and went out on my building balcony to take a few dusk shots. I'm happy with the results, so here they are.





While these were just shot from where I work, they give out that sense of place I try to capture when I'm traveling.

All shots taken from the 31st floor of Jollibee Plaza, Ortigas Center, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Posted by didipusrex 20:08 Archived in Philippines Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Ermita by Night, Ermita by Day

For most of my life I lived in one of the few free-standing houses along that part of Pedro Gil Street within the boundaries of Ermita. It was the ancestral home, and at least four generations of Ayalas and Ayala-Samsons had lived there. I grew up here, in a district widely know to be the red-light district of Manila. On my daily trip home from school, the school bus would pass through Mabini and M.H. del Pilar, the center of all things sinful, and my youthful eyes would take in the glorious, gaudy debauchery of it all. Establishments like the ANZAC Club would have gigantic glass windows, through which you could see the strippers and gandy dancers plying their wares.

Once, freshly turned thirteen, I was accosted outside a hotel by a towering Caucasian man sporting a beard and tattoos. “Come here, boy. I’ve been waiting for you all morning!” The doorman, thank the stars for his alertness, rescued me and convinced the guest that I wasn’t the one he was waiting for. It was that kind of a place.

By night, Ermita is squalid, almost threatening. Homeless people sleep on the sidewalk, their arms clutching what little they own. Garbage and other urban detritus litter the streets, made painfully obvious by the unflattering glare of street lamps. The “wildly colorful” night life so widely advertised online is no great shakes, just a ragged collection of seedy bars catering to sailors on shore leave or Japanese Karaoke hounds. I passed a Japanese bar called the Gin Tonic, along M.H. del Pilar, and a seductively-clad lady flirted me a flyer, advertising the various packages offered by the bar. It also included the lady’s name and cellphone number.

By day, Ermita sings a different tune. It’s a bustling, busy place. In sunlit Ermita, you’ll find students from the University of the Philippines and other institutions of fine learning crowding the sidewalks and invading the malls, toting books and knapsacks and looking generally hopeful. In Padre Faura, you can eavesdrop on judges and other members of the legal profession having their breakfast at the small cafes near the courts. Then, there is the Solidaridad Book Shop, author F. Sionil Jose’s gift to the thinking Filipino, with its impressive collection of Filipiniana and volume upon volume of books on humanities, art and literature.

Walk along Mabini on a pleasant afternoon and you’ll find places like Casa Tesoro, home to several antique shops and galleries. More interesting finds from the recent past may be discovered further down the road in shops with names like Via Antica and Golden Salakot. Remember at times to pause and look up at the buildings you pass. While old and weathered, some buildings such as the Astoria Apartments and the Marilo Building still retain some of their Art Deco splendor. Just imagine peeling away all those old election posters and strip away the bundles of electric cabling and see Ermita as it used to be.

Our house is gone, torn down soon after our great-grandmother passed away. Looking up at the space where it used to stand, I marvel at the sight of the night sky. I grew up here, but I can no longer call Ermita home. Just a nice place to visit while the sun is still out.

Demolition in Progress

About the Writer
Karlo N.B. Samson escaped Ermita four years ago and is now living in the peachy pink city of Marikina, where litter is non-existent and leatherware abounds. He writes for various magazines, blogs like a man possessed and likes cats.

Posted by didipusrex 19:50 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Dr. Selflove in Baguio City***

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Products


Hello, my name is Karl. Let me tell you a little about myself. I’m 32, single, was born and raised in Manila. I run a small self-owned business. I listen to rock and electronic music. I am particularly fond of cats, hiking, travel, photography and scooters, in no particular order. And, up until a couple of months ago, I belonged to the glaring majority of men who couldn’t give a rat’s ass to personal grooming.
My morning ablutions consisted of a quick shower, using whatever shampoo was available and the sliver of last month’s soap, a dry shave using a dull safety razor and a zippy brushing of teeth. In the absence of a comb, which was often, I would run my fingers through my hair a few times and be satisfied. Spray on some deodorant, throw on some jeans and a ratty t-shirt and I’d be all set. Mirror? Who has time for that?
If you called me sloppy, untidy, or disheveled, I would deny it. Never mind that my hair would always be a mess, or that some grit would invariably collect under my fingernails, or that, by midday, my deodorant, trusted since puberty, had let me down. In my mind, I was like most other guys. I was all right. I was happy.
My singular experience with personal vanity at that point had been unpleasant. I was to cover the launch of Fashion Café’s local franchise for Men’s Zone, and I was to meet German uber-model Claudia Schiffer. I thought, I ought to look good. Perhaps I’ll have a facial.
Why I went to my barber, a man with big burly arms, heavily calloused hands and warm breath, for a facial I cannot now fathom. With a blunt tool wielded ungently, he prodded my face, seeking and eradicating blackheads and whatnot. That evening, with a face covered in bee stings, I met one of the world’s most beautiful women. I promised myself never to be superficial again.
Flash forward several years and I find myself in the mountain city of Baguio, covering another superficial event for Men’s Zone. This time, the launch of Nivea’s new line of skin care for men. Surrounded by beefcake actors and pretty-boy models, I took refuge among fellow members of the press. We were the normal ones, the real people, the salt of the earth. The rest were all (buzzword!) metrosexuals, not real people in any sense, but subjects to be observed from our journalistic, holier-than-thou point of view.
Our hosts kitted us out with samples of their new products: soap, facial wash, shaving cream, after-shave balm, moisturizer, and deodorant, explaining to us during the press conference the uses and benefits of each item. Why men would want clearer skin was a mystery to me. Were we not placed on this earth to till the land and make it bear forth fruit with our labors? Would not our labors bring forth hard callouses on our hands (like my barber) and furrows on our brows? Our rough, gruff exteriors differentiate us from the fairer sex – why would we want to blur that line?
That was the zealot in me talking. The reporter in me was dying to investigate, to find out the truth. So, despite my long-standing resistance to such frivolity, I let my curiosity get the better of me. In the bathroom in my hotel room, at two AM, I succumbed to the promise of clearer skin, deep cleansing, and that taut refreshing feeling that men love, applying all the products given to me in sequence. I showered with the soap. I used the facial wash. I put on some shaving cream and used a razor to shave along the grain slowly. I applied the shaving balm to my face and neck, then massaged moisturizer into my hands. And, even though I would be sleeping right after, I put on some deodorant.
I went up to Baguio City an unkempt man with oily skin and a musky odor. Three days later I came down a slightly changed man, straight to the arms of my girlfriend. “You look great,” she said. “You smell a lot better, too.” Then she kissed me.
Let’s admit it. A little superficiality is good for the soul.
Phone Booth near event venue

  • **I wrote this article over a year ago for a local Men's Magazine. I'm now slightly older, but still obsessed with facial care products for men.

Posted by didipusrex 23:57 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Rainclouds over Camiguin

Rushin' Round a Rainy Island


For the third time in half an hour, George the driver pulled the van over by the side of the coastal highway. “Dat is, uhm, White Island,” he stammered, pointing to a nondescript sandbar in the middle of the bay. “Its nays to go dreenkin der at nayt. Wantu teyk a picture?”

Perhaps a water-logged rainy day wasn’t the best time to visit the island of Camiguin, best known for its sunny beaches, but it was the penultimate day of my trip to Cagayan and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass. George, it was apparent, was eager to show me the sights he deemed interesting and kept stopping at the most unfortunate locations. “Teyk a picture?”

We took a sharp left and drove up a sloping road until we reached the entrance to Katibawasan Falls. Literally translated, Katibawasan means Itch Relief. I received a sheet of government stamps as I paid the disinterested ticket seller and hiked up the path. Déjà vu to almost two years ago when I visited the falls at Hinulugang Taktak National Park in Antipolo. Take a spot of natural beauty, add a concrete platform around it, with picnic tables and garbage bins visitors tend to ignore. I was glad to notice that Katibawasan smelled like a fresh spring morning, unlike Hinulugang Taktak which smelled vaguely of chemical rot. Try to block out the “improvements” that make Katibawasan convenient for run-of-the-mill tourists, frame it in your mind so you only visualize that which has been left untouched and Katibawasan is very pretty, narrowly cascading down some seventy meters into a small green pool.


A short drive later and we were at Ardent Hot Springs, the usual jump off point for a trek up Mount Hibok Hibok, a volcano that guidebooks say last erupted in 1951. Why is it that most hot springs in the country have the same attributes? Treacherous mossy paths leading down to public pools of gray concrete and stone and leading up again to dismal dirty toilets with no flush tanks beside grimy-floored changing rooms. It began raining again so I just sat under a leaky thatched roof and ate a tuna sandwich.


“How many people live in Camiguin,” I asked George as we drove toward our last two stops. He thought for a while and replied, “tu handred, maybe tree handred.” Thousand, I asked, or maybe families? “No, tree handred pipol.” Surely there were already more than that at the docks where the ferry landed, I thought. It was clear that I was miscommunicating and was secretly turning into a wise-alecky asshole. I shut up and let him continue talking. “Hir in Camiguin, der is no movie haws. Pipol hir watch de [pirated] dibidi (DVD).” He handed me a small round fruit the island is famous for, a lanzones. "Dis gud. Tray eet."

Just off the west coast of Camiguin is the Sunken Cemetery, which disappeared into the ocean following an earthquake in 1871. It is marked by an enormous cross standing on a platform. You view it from a lookout point beside the circumferential highway. Warning signs inform the visitor to enter at your own risk. Standing there, looking at the Sunken Cemetery feels like you are trespassing.


A few meters down the road from the lookout point are the ruins of a 17th century Spanish church which was destroyed in the same earthquake that submerged the already buried dead. Most of the church is underground and the walls and buttresses that remain visible are overgrown by foliage. Walking into the main hall of the church, I expected to timeshift back into the recent colonial past. I was, instead, assaulted by the sightof a new chapel being constructed in the middle of the ruins. It ruined the ruins. Past one of the side buildings I came upon a magnificent tree, its towering crown resplendent in beauty but marred just above its roots by screaming initials carved into its trunk. Why do people insist on doing things like this?


It started to rain again and as I crawled back into the van. Come here when the sun is out and it’ll be better. At least that’s what I hoped on the ride back to the pier. And thank God for the good lanzones.


Posted by didipusrex 23:53 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

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