Saturday, December 27, 2008

CDO Night Café: Post-Mortem?

When the two-day night bazaar has ended and the weary purveyors have all packed up and gone their separate ways, those with hefty profits having driven away a-celebrating while whose who lost in their enterprises are content with nursing their hurts, what is left at the scene?

These random shots in and around the plaza, scene of the excitement the previous two nights, starkly reveal an ugly underbelly of a city grown beyond its capacities to take care of many of its dispossessed citizens, many now reduced to being nocturnal denizens of the dark and seedy corners of the city and eventually uninvited tenants to the plaza.

Taken at about 7:20 am Sunday, the occupants of the plaza are shown in various sleeping positions allocating for themselves whatever little comfortable niches they can find, dead and unmindful to the flexing flurry of activities typical to an awakening city.

One elderly gentleman though asleep looks decently dressed and ready to travel, with his neat bundle of luggage serving as props to his arched body cozily adapted to the size and contours of a smallish plaza bench. A spot to sleep for!

Others in literally hard places – cold, dirty, and rough sidewalks, or concrete plaza benches not even comfortable enough for sitting in. Others go for the more spacious concrete benches near or surrounding the several statues of famous men revered locally and nationally.

Surprisingly one still senses the self-same stubborn peace and serenity we always associate with sleep, especially deep sleep, viewing their arched bodies and unwashed faces. Overall, showing the unmistakable signs of how hardy life is on the streets –deeply dirty clothes, badly sunburnt skin, and unnaturally aged faces showing even among the younger ones.

In other areas, clusters of neatly dressed young adults looking well rested and refreshed occupy the unused benches, happily giggling amongst themselves. Definitely not residents of the plaza and more like students waiting for their rides or friends to some happy excursions. The area is noted as a meeting place for those who signed up for white water rafting in the city’s now famous river.

Thus, everything appears well and good. And the city moves along to another day.

And lastly, another stolen shot - shooting back at yours truly:

Related articles:

Nite Cafe Revisited

CDO Nite Cafe - Still

Scenes Around Divisoria Park - 2

Scenes Around Divisoria Park - 1

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Princess – A Full-grown Lady?

Though not quite one year old yet in our best estimation, our resident mutt (a ShihTzu-Terrier mix) appears to be full grown in physical appearance. A truly mature bitch (proper in dog language) appearing ready to take on maternal responsibilities. Since she has not been neutered, there is nothing that can prevent her from exercising those – except with our firm and solicitous intervention.

She has been kept apart from the other noisy dogs in the neighborhood, getting only as close to them from our side of our grille gate, no more no less. No outside walks to fraternize with the neighborhood heavies. Her travels so far have been done as a passenger in our pickup truck.

We may have to learn more about the proper caring of mature bitches.

We will take it for now one day at a time.

Suffice it to say that all this time she has been a good dog – a good stay-inside guard dog and quite animated in her treatment of house residents. A high jumper and a definite enemy of neighborhood cats who stay outside our reach by roaming around rooftops. Some may even be stray or feral cats, but sight or smell of them turns Princess into a ferocious protector of hearth and home. At times jumping toward our perimeter fence to elevate herself even higher. Quite a neat move or trick for a dog quite challenged in size.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Loaves To Feed Four Thousand

While the Herculean effort may not approximate that of Moses single-handedly parting the Red Sea with a wave of his determined hand and staff, still this wide-eyed witness thinks it amounted to something like that.

For two days and a night, three bakers got their collective noses to the dough grind committing to bake a thousand pieces of loaf bread, sliced and packed, and ready to be delivered some 56 kilometers away where the appointed buyer intends to sell them on Christmas Eve.

First, one never realized the extent of the demand for sliced bread (locally referred to as American bread) during Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and maybe during All Souls Day, until one dips one’s fingers into the bakery business.

The typical Filipino is undeniably weaned on bread for a good part of his daily sustenance, for breakfast and for many for the two other meals of the day. But this is done with bread that caters to the local palate – like pan de sal, monay, elorde, pan de leche, pan de coco, francis, and a delightful array of assorted bread with assorted creamy fillings ranging from ube, onion, coconut, cheese, and food coloring.

But American bread or sliced bread? Never imagined that such would be the case. It appears to run counter to nativist Filipino traits or maybe even their hardy psyche. As far as I know the bland taste of American bread has never appealed to the Filipino palate raised on moist sweet bread, or even decidedly salty taste such as the pan de sal, which literally translated means, salted bread.

And why only on those dates mentioned? The prevailing lore is that the demand for American bread during those dates is so unexpectedly high, harangued local bakers are never able to fill soaring demands adequately from wholesale purchasers, but only during those special days.

Our initial order was for 2500 pieces of loaf bread and about 100 chiffon cakes. Another surprising turn in the local palate. Chiffon cakes have never been a preferred item during these festivities, locals preferring to consume traditional local pastries such as bibingka, rice cakes or puddings, and many others. Why suddenly a demand for a cake originating from some foreign land? Many cannot even pronounce its name properly.

And mind you, the prospective clients for these two items are not your regular city folks with their fickle discriminating taste, but those from the barrios and even hinterlands, who troop in droves to small cities to make their purchases for the holidays, but specifically for Christmas and New Year days. Relied upon with their stubborn adherence to long traditions of the past. Or so we thought.

Anyway, the final order was eventually pared down to 1000 pieces of loaf bread and 54chiffon cakes. But fare sufficient enough to feed at least 4,000 hungry people.

As neophytes to the business, we all chimed in collectively: why not? So the exciting process was started on the 21st of December and with strained efforts got done early afternoon of the 23rd.

The last loaf was removed from the oven by past 3pm, cooled, sliced and packed, and ready for transport by 4:30 pm.

The roundtrip took all of 4 hours, given the horrendous traffic leaving the city. And as God’s providential blessing the afternoon drizzle and eventually rain did not start until our trip back home. Or else, the rain could have soaked our precious cargo, exposed to the elements on an open bed of a pickup truck.

And so it was that the Lord said, let them recline on the grass and feed them with the loaves and fishes.

Now for the challenges that the New Year bash will bring.


The financial results are in. Not very encouraging in spite of the close guarding and monitoring in all aspects of production and sale. The "returns" approximating about 20% of total delivered almost sank the whole enterprise. But not quite, ending still on the profit side. Anyway, the unsold bread will be reprocessed either as toasted bread, or pie, or pudding. And the proceeds added to total sales.

So New Year's Eve will not see us getting excited about feeding another 4,000, until the "consignment" arrangements are modified and the table turned a bit in our favor. Right now all the risks are shouldered by the bakery, and none on the consignee.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where Is “Home”?

Silly question? One might think so. But not necessarily, given that global migration has never been as acute as the present time.

So, where is home?

26 percent said home is where they were born or raised. Another 26 percent said it is where they currently reside. 18 percent said it is where they have lived the longest. While 4 percent said it was where they went to high school.

These figures were gathered by the Pew Research Center for the US, a country noted for a populace almost addicted to wanderlust. Compared to as early as the 60’s when consistently about 60 percent Americans moved homes, the rate has gone down to its lowest at 13 percent for the 2006-2007 period.

Anyway, the more interesting issue is the question of “Where is home?” as judged by the US resident/citizen himself. Critical especially for a country like the US, composed mostly of immigrants. That is, residents or citizens born in another country and resettled in the US. For them, where is home?

Pew Research said that among naturalized citizens, the majority (that would be 50 percent plus 1 at least) considered the US their home. And for US citizens born abroad, the same rate applies.

Only a majority?

I suppose the concept and practice of dual citizenship could be a contributing factor. And the nature of culture could also be another determinant. But why the same among US citizens born abroad?

One neat trick I have used to disarm my old compatriots into revealing their innermost feelings has been to ask instead of saying “when are you taking a vacation to the old homeland”, “when are you going home?”. And if they give a straight-out answer without giving any qualifications about where home is, you know what they are thinking. And my experience has shown that almost to the man, they will make no such qualification, even if they have stayed in the US most of their lives, or their entire families are already in the US.

And personally? I myself find me in a quandary and would only feel comfortable when I say that both the US and the old hometown are my homes. While we now find ourselves, me and wife, spending more time in the old homeland, all our kids and grandkids are in the US and definitely call that home. But we do maintain our own residences in both places. We need bring only a piece of hand-carried luggage to start picking up our lives in either place.

But it would be interesting to find out how others handle this ticklish question.

BTW, while I off-the-cuff do not know of any such similar data for the Philippines, I would venture to say that only a small percentage of Filipinos move away permanently from their hometowns during their lifetime. Moving there involves more than just getting into strange places, one also has to reckon with strange dialects and customs. And down south, even with different religions or practices (Christianity, Islam, or aboriginal practices).

Aside from the more traditional reasons for leaving like study, work, or marriage, people movement could also be occasioned or forced because of deteriorating peace and order situation in certain beleaguered areas. And I say widespread poverty could also be a big constraint for many moving far enough to have better chances at livelihood.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Too Good To Be True

Arguably many in the US electorate made the historic vote to install Obama as the next president because of the many glowing promises eloquently demonstrated and bared during his long campaign for the presidency. The collective promise that almost sounded like a planned trip to the Promised Land.

But which Promised Land?

As it stands even before Obama can sit as president the idea of a Promised Land for the US is more like the Land of Perdition. Everything appears to be unraveling – from both the political and economic spheres. Needless to mention, we are beset with extremely bad news about most everything that affects us, and we appear to console ourselves with the less than consoling idea that things are not as bad as many think they are. Which may be true in some instances. So have we now geared down the road of unwanted mode of low expectations, rather than aim high in keeping with the traditional and expected adherence to the US as the land of exceptionalism? Locals would express it this way, about getting resigned with the consuelo de bobo prize.

Were the campaign promises too good to be true? And did the electorate those who voted for Obama at least realized a priori that those were out of reach?

Many pundits are now juxtaposing Obama’s case with that of the most current financial scandal involving Madoff and his very select country club clientele. – of promises too good to be true.

After all Obama in the grandest of eloquence promised to lead us out, among other things, away from the “eight years of failed economic policies of Bush” and to remold America back into its once adulatory global status. And almost with biblical references he made commitments to environmental changes that approximated to waving off the rising oceans and instantaneously creating jobs that would make avid green proponents proud. He even repeatedly promised to cut taxes to 95% of the population, and if one did not pay any taxes, just the same one would get a “rebate” check. And with regard to the war on international terrorism and nuclear arms proliferation, he came out as appearing to promise that unilaterally the US will dismantle its nuclear arsenal, as a grand earnest gesture to the rest of the world in the holy pilgrimage leading toward total global disarmament. Iran’s stubborn and pesky nuclear plans notwithstanding.

But now that campaign rhetoric has been consigned to archives of past elections, with the same haste as the physical reminders of the last elections such as campaign posters, banners, etc. had been promptly carted to landfills, (except maybe for car stickers for the winners which have eternal life spans all their own. Even saw one (Obama in ’08) plastered as accessory to a newly customized Toyota Land Cruiser here in the old hometown.), what are our reasonable and realistic expectations for the coming presidency? Or were we as the electorate ever reasonable and realistic in our expectations of both candidates, but Obama especially since he promised what amounts to the Promised Land, to many of us?

Can many of us be likened to the many educated, successful, and experienced clients who got had by the likes of Madoff and his cohorts?

Did they and we, a majority of us anyway, ever sensed that the glowing promises made were too good to be true? Not aptly backed with traceable and discernible records?

But anyway committed and made good with our foregone decisions?

Que sera.

Friday, December 12, 2008

CDO Nite Café – Still

The unavoidable lure of the sights and sounds of the nite café is likened to a siren’s wail, very riveting and quite difficult to shake off. So again, yesterday before the appointed hour of 5pm on another balmy Friday afternoon, I found myself sauntering about the plaza as it was slowly being converted into the weekend bazaar that the entire city has now been wont to expect. Credit this addictive thirst for experience to the fact that the building where I spend a good part of the day is barely a block away and is thus not mercifully spared from the mind-splitting ruckus that accompanies this weekend ritual.

Thus with my quick-draw point-and-shoot camera taut in hand and my well-cushioned walking shoes doing duty under my feet, I was off to the unorganized hustings, blithely positioning myself in vantage points to catch and memorialize the unfolding realities of the nite café – of many people in various moods and preoccupation, of cluttered disembodied parts of booths and tents and countertops, and of bursting at the seams huge bundles made of tarp, plastic, nylon, etc. randomly stacked all over the smoldering place holding what I presume are precious assorted merchandise to be unbundled, sorted, and displayed. Simply put and dismissed, of various items that most times defy description and can only evoke wonderment or incredulity.

Worth more than the clichéd a thousand words, the accompanying pictures again make up for what human language cannot aptly reduce to written verbiage.

Was first drawn to a little cluster of humans, gathered very tightly around a park bench and in rapt attention. About half of them wore the unmistakably clean and well-pressed uniforms of the local university (Xavier U) and the other half of unwashed giggling tykes. Clearly young family members of those merchants gathered for the nite café. Turned out the uniformed guys and gals were Civil Engineering students gathering polling data on how early kids start using logic in making their everyday decisions. One looking-distressed father in the sidelines was motioning for one kid being addressed to not answer the questions being asked. And I had wondered why. But before long the students were on their way to their school which is situated at the eastern end of the huge plaza, the venue for the bazaar. But not before I have had ample time to click on my camera. All the subjects unhesitatingly obliged.

And as I leisurely made my way amongst the crowds and the assorted accoutrements of their trade, the self-same wonderment in the past about what they were doing and how they were doing them revisited my mind and continued to amaze me. The following pictures pay tribute to their dogged tenacity and indomitable spirits. At times doing their thing in the middle of the street as vehicular traffic continued to zip by, unmindful of the clear hazards to both limbs and health. And remember all the fruits of their labor will have to be completely undone by the early morn of the following day, only to be repeated again for the second night. And then disassembled again for the second and last day.

Until the next Friday of the next week comes when the entire tedious process is repeated.

Coming To The US

Here are amazing visualizations showing immigration to the US from 1820 to 2007, taken from this site. Remember each dot represents a 100 people.

First a black and white rendition:

Immigration to the US, 1820-2007 from Ian S on Vimeo.

Now, in living color:

Immigration to the US, 1820-2007 v2 from Ian S on Vimeo.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Elvis Lives!

The King belts one out of the park - in sound and in looks.

Give a listen.

Welcome to fellow reunionists!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rustic Scenes

Trips to far-flung provinces like in the southernmost big island of Mindanao accord visitors with the long-lost vistas of rural living and communities typical in ages past. Of simple uncluttered lives, of coarse and crude structures, of primeval living habits and pursuits, of pure and unadulterated simplicity unaffected by the harsh marches of civilization and the suffocating influences of big crowded cities.

Like scenes and lives dramatically portrayed in the following random snapshots. Of crudely built houses, some on fragile stilts, built close to navigable waterways for easier access and travel. Of lives centering on some fishing and washing and bathing in the same water source, and even of drinking from it if needs be. Of miniscule homesteads, some areas planted to vegetables for consumption, some just as crudely fenced to keep animals and possible trespassers away. Some structures so crude and elemental that modern privacies are almost non-existent – from prying and judgmental eyes of neighbors and passersby.

One big exception. All these shots were taken in the middle of the bustling city of Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao, alongside the bridge that undoubtedly is the heaviest and most traveled among the city’s five bridges. This is the inappropriately named Marcos Bridge that connects the city’s eastside with the westside and serves as gateway to the western part of the province of Misamis Oriental.

And these unmindful residents are probably squatters on either private or public land. One harsh reality of daily living in a city like Cagayan de Oro, burdened by its own heavy loads of squatting and housing problems.