Back from the Philippines


It’s been a week since I got back from a three-week trip to the Philippines and I’m finally getting over my jet lag. Last year, my wife and I went to Japan and it was a full two weeks before my body re-adjusted to California time, so I’m grateful for the quicker recovery this time.

I’m still processing my emotions and memories of this latest trip to the motherland. Long story short, our visit was nothing short of amazing and life-changing and we were fortunate to spend time in two of the top three islands in the world.

Like my last trip in 2010, it feels like going home, even though I’m far removed physically and culturally from the land of my parents and ancestors. I’ll write more about this at some point, but for now enjoy a few photos of sunset Boracay (above), the Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, pine trees in Baguio City, and our lunch stop at the Secret Beach in El Nido (Palawan).




Day 313: FPAC 2015

Tinikling at FPAC 24

Tinikling at FPAC 24

This year’s Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture was a smaller, one-day event at the historic El Pueblo building next to Olvera Street. My wife and I had planned on going when it began at 10am, but ended up sleeping in and didn’t get there until lunch time.

Thankfully, the weather was much milder than a year ago, when the festival spanned two days during an unexpected heat wave in October.

Like last year, I wasn’t too impressed with the food; it was okay, but not representative of the best of Filipino fare. I’m sure there are too many laws and/or permits needed, but it would be great to have roaming food vendors selling taho or barbecue sticks like in the Philippines.

Still, kudos to all of the volunteers who make this event happen. It’s always a terrific celebration of the best of the Filipino arts and cultural community and this year was no different; it was a blast.

We didn’t catch the morning performances, but we saw a few of the afternoon acts after we had checked out all of the booths. Some of the acts we enjoyed: the Prime Note Ensemble, Odessa Kane, the SIPA dance crew, and other outstanding musicians and dancers.

My wife and I always love the traditional songs and performances and we were thrilled to hear our favorite love song “Dahil Sa Iyo” not once, but twice. The first was a traditional rendition and the second was part of a hula performance.

The best part of any Philippine cultural event was saved for last: the tinikling. Check out my short video of this traditional dance on my youtube channel.

Day 238: Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Currently streaming on Netflix is Metro Manila, an excellent film about a family trying to escape poverty in the Philippines.

Driven by economic despair, a rice farmer moves his wife and two children to metro Manila, where he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities the city will provide. He and his wife quickly discover that predators of all types lurk in every corner of the slums they live in.

Lead actor Jake Macapagal is outstanding as Oscar Ramirez. He’s the moral center of the film and has a quiet dignity about him that stands above the chaos of the big city. John Arcilla is solid as Oscar’s co-worker/mentor Ong, a grizzled veteran with a secret that will change Oscar’s life. The character Ong reminded me of someone who could easily be found in a John Woo heroic bloodshed movie.

I’ve written about a few of the movies on the AFI 100 list this year and Metro Manila reminded me of The French Connection in a few ways: it captured the grittiness of Manila, just as The French Connection did with New York. Both movies were smack dab in the middle of a world full of moral ambiguity.

Day 237: Grilled Squid

Grilled Squid at Gerry's Grill

Grilled Squid at Gerry’s Grill

It’s been five years since I’ve been to the Philippines and one of the things I miss the most is the inahaw na pusit (grilled squid). Today, my wife and I happened to be in the Artesia area so we had an early dinner at Gerry’s Grill.

Gerry’s is known for its grilled squid and I loved it the Philippines. Their restaurant in Artesia is one of two in the U.S. (the other in Northern California) and I’ve had it bookmarked on Yelp for a while.

The interior reminded me of the Gerry’s I’d been to. We tore into the grilled squid as well as the tuna steak and wolfed down the garlic rice.

The verdict? While not exactly like the Philippines location, it’s close enough in flavor that I’ll be back soon.

I’ve also tentatively started to plan my next trip the mother land.

Day 232: Throwback Tree Thursday

Baguio, Philippines

Baguio City, Philippines

For Throwback Thursday (and a belated Tree Tuesday), here’s a photo from my trip to the Philippines five years ago.

Most people’s first thoughts on the Philippines are of heat and beaches … and Manny Pacquiao. When I was there, I felt the heat, hung out at a few of the beaches, but never saw the Pac Man. I missed him by a few months; he trains in Baguio City before finishing his camp in Los Angeles.

The high altitude of Baguio is perfect for training; fighters in the U.S. do the same thing at Big Bear, California. Baguio reminds me of Lake Tahoe, with its plethora of trees and mild weather. It’s just one of many beautiful places in the Philippines; one I miss a lot and I can’t wait to see again.

Day 223: Homeland


San Miguel Beer


It was a warm day today and it made me think of the time I spent in the Philippines. It’s been a five years since I made it back to the land of my ancestors; sometimes it feels like I was just there, other times it feels like I haven’t been there since I was a kid.

One of my favorite memories from five years ago was going to the beach with my cousins. We rode a tricycle there, all of us packed onto every available inch on the vehicle. Once at the beach, we unrolled our blanket and opened up our beers. A few of us jumped into the ocean, while the rest of us hung out sipping San Miguels, listening to music, and snacking on a bag of fish chips and a few freshly sliced mangoes.

My cousins regaled me with stories about our family and shared history. I loved hearing about how well my lolo treated the people in his neighborhood. He always made sure people had a good time, but more importantly, he took care of the servers and other hired hands. Coming from humble beginnings, he never forgot where he came from and didn’t look down at those who worked menial jobs.

I like to think that wherever he is, he’s still taking care of others like that. Or sipping on his beloved Crown Royal whiskey and keeping an eye out on his grandkids and great-grandkids.

Day 70: Pac Man


Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao


Today was the only pre-fight press conference for the Pacquiao-Mayweather bout on May 2nd. They probably could have done without doing any publicity for the fight, since we’ve had five years of Mayweather making excuses the best fighters of this generation going back-and-forth in the media and social media.

It was less than two months ago when I wrote that the fight would never happen and that if it did, then Mayweather would win via a do-just-enough-to-sway-the-judges decision. During today’s press conference, I found it interesting that Mayweather referenced the Hagler-Leonard superfight in 1987.

I was a huge Leonard fan going into the fight, but also liked Hagler, thanks to him being in the greatest fight I’ve ever seen, Hagler-Hearns. It was what a superfight was supposed to be: two top fighters going at it. No controversies, no referee involvement, no crooked judges, and in the end, we got three of the greatest rounds in boxing history, with the Marvelous One victorious.

Hagler-Leonard was hyped to be the same thing, but it wasn’t even close. All we got was Hagler’s odd decision to switch to orthodox for the early rounds, Leonard stealing rounds with late-but-ineffective flurries, and a still-disputed split decision for Leonard. I was rooting for Leonard that night, but even I conceded that Hagler was the better fighter that night. I was just as stunned as anybody by Leonard’s win. He pulled a fast one on the judges and the boxing public that night: he fought in spurts, doing flashy work to influence the decision. But his best work might have been the pre-fight psych job he did on Hagler: why else would Hagler switch from his natural southpaw stance? He thought he was outsmarting Leonard, but Leonard already had Hagler going away from his strengths.

Here’s what I think Mayweather’s thinking. Five years ago, Manny was in his prime, a lightning-quick fighter with thunder in his fists. Mayweather wants his perfect record intact, so he throws the red herrings of PEDs, drug testing, Bob Arum, etc. until Manny wears down after a few years. Just as Leonard waited for the right time to face Hagler (Leonard retired before they were supposed to have their first superfight, leading to the Hagler-Hearns classic, and after the Hagler-Mugabi war, Leonard unretired), Mayweather thinks he can psych-out and out-defense Manny.

And this is what is going to lead to Mayweather’s first professional loss.

While both fighters are past their primes, it’s Mayweather who’s going to wish they’d fought five years ago. Freddy Roach said that Floyd’s legs are a bit shot and the last time he said that, Manny sent Oscar De La Hoya into retirement. It’s true that Manny isn’t the powerhouse he once was and ever since he beat Miguel Cotto, he’s been on the downside of his career.

However, Mayweather hasn’t fought anybody with fists like Pacquiao. Fighters age and lose their speed, but not their power. Manny won’t throw those crazy 11-punch combos anymore, but he can sit down on his punches and punish Mayweather, who won’t be able to shoulder-roll and out-quick Manny. After eight rounds of getting hit like he’s never been hit before, Floyd will go down for his first loss in the 9th round.

And next year around the same time, we’ll all pay another $100 for the Pacquiao-Mayweather II pay-per-view.

Day 28: When Manny Met Floyd


When Manny Met Floyd. Photo from

I saw the Manny Pacquiao documentary last week. Since I’m a huge Manny fan, I knew I would love the film. There was nothing in it that was new or relevatory for us diehards, but casual or non-fans will appreciate the boxer’s rags-to-riches story. It’s the classic underdog tale, with an extremely likable protagonist.

Of course, these days, you can’t say Pacquiao without mentioning Floyd Mayweather; there have been talks for years about a Pacquiao-Mayweather superfight. My brother said it when the idea was first floated by the media and it took me a while to agree with him: this fight will never happen. No matter what the terms of the fight are, Floyd seems to come up with another excuse: blood tests, purse splits, promotion companies … nothing is ever just right for Floyd.

In recent weeks, supposedly there have  been increased talks between the camps, which led to last night’s interesting moment at the Heat-Bucks game, pictured above. The two best fighters of this generation met at courtside and exchanged numbers.

Will they finally meet in the ring? Frankly, I no longer care. Both fighters are past their primes and the only thing either fighter gains are enormous paychecks. Yes, it’s the match that fans have wanted for years, but it won’t be anything like what it could’ve been five years ago. No matter who wins, it’ll always be, “Well, if they would’ve fought in their primes …”

Back then, Pacquiao would’ve destroyed Mayweather: Floyd has never fought anybody with Pacquiao’s devastating combination of speed and power. It’s the speed that generated Manny’s vicious punches: it’s those bombs that you can’t see that do the most damage.

If they fought now? I’ve got Floyd by a boring decision. He hasn’t sustained as much damage during his career and he’s perfected the win-without-risking-too-much style of boxing. As the years have passed, Manny has slowed down. He still has bursts of quickness, but nothing like what he showed against Ricky Hatton or Miguel Cotto. The wars and the devastating knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez certainly didn’t help his speed. Physically, I don’t think Manny could make Floyd fight his fight anymore. He’d probably try to box with Floyd, which is exactly what Mayweather wants. Pacquiao is at his best when things are chaotic in the ring, especially after he gets tagged and bangs his gloves together, as if to say, “Okay, now we’re fighting!”

It’s a shame, too, since anybody who loves fighting loves Manny. He’s a bit reckless in the ring, but that’s what appealed to so many boxing fans: he’s a throwback to guys who fought to win. It’s a big difference from boxing not to lose.