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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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.

One Thing I Love in Manila

I am staying at the Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences and need to get to the Shangri-lah Hotel. I used Google Maps for directions. Walking turns out to be faster than catching the bus! Traffic in Manila? Nah! 🙂

The Walk is faster than the bus
The Walk is faster than the bus

Thomo versus the Volcano

Thomo looking, er, fulsomeI mentioned in an earlier post that I was spending some time by Taal Volcano in Taal Lake. I also promised that I’d post this picture of Thomo, relaxed, with the lake and the volcano in the background.

Yes, Thomo has retained his fulsome figure, in part from the philosophy espoused on his t-shirt.

Really, the Tagaytay City, Taal Volcano, Taal Lake area of the Philippines is just gorgeous and well worth a visit for a weekend.