Christmas in Manila

I am getting close to my first Christmas in Manila. The Filipinos note that the festive, Christmas season is found in any month that finishes with the letters “ber”. It’s true. Christmas carols have been heard across the shopping malls since September. Christmas decorations have been available for the same period and Christmas gift wrapping has been available in the large department stores such as Landmark for that period as well (and by gift wrapping I am not just referring to the paper itself but also for the minions to professionally wrap gifts for you).

The Philippines as a whole is a fairly devote, staunchly Catholic country although there are sizable numbers of those that belong to a Protestant Church as well as a significant Muslim population. Christmas and the Mass are very important then.

The other characteristic of this time of year is the Christmas party. Everywhere has one. Venues will be booked out for parties until about 10 pm each night after which they return to their normal line of business. Parties will be held by companies for their staff; condominium management for the residents (with a separate party for “helpers and drivers” of the residents); restaurants will hold parties for staff; even bars will have staff Christmas parties.

I have been to three parties so far this season and there is a common theme. Filipinos love to exchange gifts, play party games, win raffle or game prizes, sing, and dance. The gifts are normally valued around $10 and are generally unisex so randomly distributed. There are a number of games based around the gifts such as a white elephant game where you can swap gifts, another where gifts can be stolen (swapped when someone is not watching) and others where the giving of the gifts is randomized by some left-right movement routine.

At this time of year, office corridors and spare spaces are filled with staff members practicing their dance routines, rehearsing songs or just planning the party games that will be played.

Yes, Christmas in Manila is a fun time and I am enjoying it!

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Philippine History – Now That’s Frustrating

I was in the National Bookstore again today searching for a book on a topic near and dear to the heart of me, history. Ancient history to be accurate. Philippine ancient history to be really accurate. From what I can see, Philippine History only seems to start around 1581 with the arrival of a Jesuit.

I kept checking history books and apart from being filled with what seemed to be polemic and chapters on how wonderful Filipinos are, some even had chapters on Jewish inventions, like Google, for goodness sake, in a book on Philippines History. There was nothing I would describe as objective history and certainly nothing on life here before the Jesuits.

Now I will admit I was only having a quick scan of the books, scanning the odd chapter and the table of contents but what I saw was not really all that encouraging for a view of life in ancient times. The word “pre-history” turned up a lot to describe everything before the Jesuits as no one could write then and the most useful thing I learned was that Barangay may have referred to a boat (thank you Jesuits for that piece of information) and four Filipinos turned up in Japan (two blokes and two ladies) in the 600s or 800s C.E., and they were not the first singing group to go there!

I would be happy if someone could point me to a decent history of the early Philippines but so far everything I’ve seen suggests that this may not be all that likely to find.

I think I need to find a bigger bookshop.

Thomo’s Manila Hole – 2

Yes, it is a bit of a mess but come Wednesday night, all will be well
Yes, it is a bit of a mess but come Wednesday night, all will be well

Back on 19 September 2014 I published Thomo’s Manila Hole which was a look at where Thomo’s Hole would be. Having been, as the actors say, “between engagements for the better part of the first six months of 2014, the next steps to getting Thomo’s Hole set up were held in abeyance, waiting the first full salary payment.

I received the first full salary payment.

So, it was off to SM Department Store (SM = San Miguel – yes, the same folks as the beer folks) and after a quick look, a suitable book/display case was located and purchased along with a computer table. The computer table will be the painting table eventually. I organised for is all to be delivered on Monday – yesterday.

I got home last night and nothing had been delivered so I thought “oh well, I’ll call them and yell at them tomorrow”.

At around 10:30 pm however I received a phone call letting me know that the delivery was on the way. It arrived about 10 minutes later. The best thing was that apart from getting the delivery on Monday as requested, the flat pack computer table was assembled before delivery.

The next photo of the Hole will be after everything has been put away!

Thomo’s Manila Hole

The boxes in the lounge room. Three boxes unpacked and four to go!
The boxes in the lounge room. Three boxes unpacked and four to go!

We moved last month. We slipped out of Singapore in July, sat around on the beach (sort of) on Batam Island and then came into Manila early in August. A month was spent living in a serviced residence – One Pacific Place in Salcedo Village to be accurate – where I was accused of stealing 6 coat-hangers! That was sorted.

Then, about 12 days ago we moved from the scene of the great coat-hanger robbery to an apartment in Legazpi Village. 10 days later our Balikbayan boxes arrived from Singapore.

The Balikbayan box is a box used by freight consolidators and forwarders to assist (for a handful of pesos of course) Filipinos overseas to send items back to the Philippines. We liked it because the charge for shipping was based on volume rather than weight and as a method of shipping items, especially if the items are packed well with the understanding that the box will receive rough handling, it was a $600 solution to a $6,000 problem.

Thomo's Current Manila Hole - just need to add a painting table and tidy up the storage as well as repair the incoming troops and we are away!
Thomo’s Current Manila Hole – just need to add a painting table and tidy up the storage as well as repair the incoming troops and we are away!

The boxes, all seven,  arrived so the last couple of days have been spent reacquainting ourselves with what we had rushed to pack back in Singapore. As expected, most of the damage fell on my painted figures. Everything else survived, in part because of Madam’s excellent packing (she maintains it’s the nomad in her where you are always packing for a move).

So, the next few days, my hobby time in the evening will be spent sorting and, I guess, super gluing items back together.

Thomo’s Hole is now in the middle of a soggy, but exciting, Manila!

Cheeseburger — Brother’s Burgers

Burger Brothers Cheeseburger - it's a chain but at $6.50 including chips and a Coke Zero, who's complaining?
Burger Brothers Cheeseburger – it’s a chain but at $6.50 including chips and a Coke Zero, who’s complaining?

Brother’s Burgers is a small burger chain in the Philippines. They have sixteen stores across the Philippines with one, fortunately, just up the road.

We were heading out to go to the Makati Marauders wargame club and decided to grab a bite on the way. Many eating places in central Makati were closed because it was a public holiday. Brother’s Burgers were the first eatery we came across that was open.

In we went.

Madam opted for the Extreme Bacon Burger whilst I went for my humble cheeseburger. I took mine in a meal which included chips and a Coke Zero for PHP 280 (about US $6.50).

The burger was served on a bun that was robust enough to hold the burger and the juice from the burger down to the last mouthful. There was a meat patty, about 250 grams in size on the bun with raw onion, tomato and an American processed cheddar cheese. On the top half of the bun was several leaves of lettuce. A slice of pickles rounded this out.

As with the Strand Burger, Romaine lettuce was used. Putting the top on, taking a firm grip on the burger and then biting, my taste buds were immediately titillated by the various flavours and textures. The patty was nicely seasoned and had been cooked well – cooked to well done but still juicy. Altogether, it was a nice burger and one I would happily grab for a sub $8 lunch again.

How did it rate against my baseline burger. To be honest, I think I prefer this one a little more so I would rate it 7/10. This was surprising as it is, after all, from a burger chain (although admittedly, a small chain).

Grab one!

Brother’s Burgers!

Cheeseburger — the Strand

The Cheeseburger from the Strand
The Cheeseburger from the Strand

The Strand is the restaurant attached to One Pacific Place in Makati City, Manila, where we are staying at the moment.

I thought I would start the great Philippines Cheeseburger hunt here and set this as the baseline burger. It was not a bad idea. As far as burger go, it was reasonable. The patty was seasoned giving a slightly savoury flavour. The patty was cooked so that there was some pink still in the centre and was therefore still quite moist.

The burger itself was served on a bun that held together until the last two mouthfuls although it was a little sweet – a problem with many foods in the Philippines.

On the bun was lettuce (Romaine was used), tomato, pickle, the patty, raw onion and a cheddar cheese. It was served with chips that had been lightly battered in some seasoning with a small side salad dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. The chips were interesting in flavour and texture, bending under their own weight as they were held up but overall, OK.

Cost was 375 pesos (about $9.00) and I’d rate this 6/10 as the baseline burger for the Philippines.

Philippine History

Well, it ain't historical but it is modern Manila - a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park
Well, it ain’t historical but it is modern Manila – a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park

We’ve sort of settled into Manila and after a couple of walks around the Makati City area I thought I would do what I always do when arriving in a new country long term, I had a look for a book on Philippine history. Two bookshops, both large and the only book I could find was on Philippine History after the Cross.

Now I know that there is a rich history in these 7,000 odd islands stretching back a number of years but published works in English on the period between pre-history and the Spanish arrival seem to be rare – or at least hard to find.

Given my hobby and love of Ancient and Medieval History in particular, this is kind of frustrating so I can see I will have a decent chunk of research to keep me amused as I learn more and travel these islands.

So, what do I know about the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines. I can summarize is as follows:

  • Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines around 30,000 years ago (yes, I know, that is pre-history)
  • They apparently came from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya
  • More Malayans followed over the years
  • the Igorots display today some of that older Malayan culture
  • a bunch of Austronesians also migrated in and generally took over from the Negritos
  • the ancient Philippines (say, from about 1 C.E. to 1,000 C.E.) were influenced by the Hindu kingdoms, then perhaps by the Chinese and Indonesian states they were trading with. This lead to:
    • the Rajahnate of Butuan and Cebu
    • the dynasty of Tondo
    • the august kingdoms of Maysapan and Maynila
    • the Confederation of Madyaas
    • the Country of Mai
    • the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao
    • these were small maritime states trading with China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
    • the remainder of the settlements were independent Barangays allied with one of the larger states
  • the period of Philippine history I am most likely to be interested in is that period following the creation of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is the first written document found in a Philippine language
More Historical - Gabriela Silang ("Generala") who was first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.
More Historical – Gabriela Silang (“Generala”) who was the first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.

The first interest in the local history will end about the time to the Spanish colonization and settlement, which began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition on 13 February 1565. He established the first permanent settlement of San Miguel on the island of Cebu. We will soon (I hope) be moving into an apartment in Legazpi Village, in Makati City, Metro Manila.

So, a lot of history to research. I expect the military history of the area is likely to mirror that of the Indonesia archipelago.

The hunt begins.

DeBAKLe 2013 — 15 February 2014 — The Army Painting Progress — Day 5

The Nubians Complete
The Nubians Complete

Day 5 and today was broken up into short painting periods – over lunch, over afternoon coffee, waiting for the baked beans to heat and so on. However, pretty much everything was done before today, all that was needed was the odd light touch-up and dry brush plus add an anachronistic touch for someone on Saturday to be able to say, “hey, Nubians never had [insert favourite anachonism]. Still, I think they look dark and menacing as they stand. I’m also quite happy with the way the dry terrain turned out. Looks sufficiently Sudanish!

My view of the Nubians
My view of the Nubians

My view of the Nubians is also nice and I hope this is the only bit I see of them, although I suspect I will see more of them running away than staying to fight the same day 🙂 Next task is to spend half an hour or so tomorrow looking for my rules. I also need to cut out some terrain pieces and nobble up a camp. And I need to buy my bus ticket so I can tell Dave where to meet me. I’m quite looking forward to DeBAKLe 2013, it will be good to catch up with the Broken Bayonets after the last time (that was 10 years ago IIRC). Lastly, I’ll leave you with a hawk’s eye view of the army.

A hawk's eye view of the Nubians
A hawk’s eye view of the Nubians

DeBAKLe 2013 — 15 February 2014 — The Army Choice 2

So, one batch of possible armies sorted and I am holding the Nubians and the B edouin Arabs as possible armies for DeBAKLe 2013. I found another box of DBA Armies – yes, I have a few laying around in the lead pile 🙂

This lot are from DBA army lists book 2 and 3. There are other armies here as well but they were all prepared for DBA v 1.1 (see how old some of my lead pile is?).

So, the next four contenders are:

Slave Revolt (Sparticus) 74-71 BCE II/45c
Slave Revolt (Spartacus) 74-71 BCE II/45c

Slave Revolt (Spartacus) (74-71 BCE)These figures are from Essex Miniatures and are list II/45c. This represents the slave army following Spartacus after he had walloped a few Roman Armies and had therefore acquired some Roman equipment and, along with the addition of some deserters, had trained some troops up in the Roman manner.

It is not a powerful army although it rates 242 on the rating scale. It could be 5 blade elements, 5 warband elements and two psiloi or one cavalry, 4 blade elements, 5 warband elements and two psiloi.

The warband can be effective and at the same time fragile. Running this with a cavalry general is an option. swapping the cavalry general for a blade general when facing non-horse armies is an option as well.

I like the idea of this one. The only thing missing is the Parthian!

Sui 581-623 CE III/20a
Sui 581-623 CE III/20a

Sui (581-623 CE)

These are really nice Essex figures and have a strike force of cataphract knights. They are backed up with some very ordinary foot troops however.

Their rating is 208 so not a powerful force by any means. Having said that, there will be a lot of figures on the table as this army can have 2 x 8Bw (16 bowmen on two bases) and must have 4 x 7Hd (4 bases of 7 infantry each). They are list II/20a.

These are tempting because of badness but will mean a butt-load of painting for DBA. Doug’s AAR from using the DBMM version of the Sui makes for interesting reading and whilst DBA is not DBMM, I think the problems with these two armies are the same.

Tang 618-755 CE III/20b
Tang 618-755 CE III/20b

T’ang (618-755 CE)

List II/20b are the T’ang. These were both contemporary to the Sui and the successors of the Sui. These are Essex Miniatures as well and also a lovely collection of figures. They rate higher, 250-274, than the Sui so are not so much rubbish. Like the Sui there is a lot of painting in this army.

It also is possible to field the T’ang as an all mounted army (the barbarians to the north were getting restless at this time) as well as a mix of cavalry and infantry.

Qura-Khitan 1124-1211 CE IV/15
Qara-Khitan 1124-1211 CE IV/15

Qara-Khitan (1124-1211 CE)

A book four army, IV/15 and an interesting one at that. These are also Essex Miniatures and like the T’ang, the army can be entirely mounted at 3 Knight elements, 3 Cavalry elements and 6 Light Horse elements. This rates at 294 and is quite powerful for a competition army unless facing elephants. Two of the Light Horse elements can be replaced but only with a Horde and a Psiloi reducing their rating to 273.

So, here are another four possibles for the DeBAKLe 2013 army. From this lot, I would be leaning towards Slave Revolt (who can resist “I am Spartacus!”) and the Sui (really crappy army but pretty, although a lot of painting).

Considerations continue! Hunting for more figures in the lead pile under Mama’s house.