Category: Manila

Font of Holy Water

Font, photo by PH Morton

Font of Holy Water

Near every entrance of a Catholic Church, you will often see a sculpture of a font containing Holy Water.

Catholics are encouraged to dip their fingers onto the font and do the sign of the cross upon entering the church.  The water symbolises baptism, being reborn to God’s will and glory.

The above fonts are particularly appealing, I think.  The water containers are sculpted as part or held by angels.

Peter took the photo when we visited the Santa Cruz Church in Manila, when we stayed at the Ramada Hotel in Binondo.

Ramon Ongpin

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

Ramon Ongpin

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

Ramon Ongpin, Photo by JMorton

A street named Ongpin in Manila has always fascinated me. The area is where there is a concentration of Chinese immigrants in the Philippines.

With them they brought their culture and traditions as well as their food and superstitions.

Ongpin Street is where to buy real high carat gold jewelries. It is the Hatton Garden of the Philippines.

Many Chinese have immigrated to the Philippines long before the Spaniards had colonised the Philippines for 333 years.

The Spanish rule ceased when pockets of uprising by the Filipinos from all over the country finally took place.  One of the biggest and most famous militant organisation was the KKK (Kagalanggalan Kataastasan Katipunan ng mga anak ng Bayan, in English, Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation), in short, Katipunan.

Apparently Ramon Ongpin, a prosperous Filipino Chinese businessman, bankrolled the Katipunan, making him a Filipino hero himself.

The plaque on the right side confirms this.  He loved his country, the Philippines, that he was such as philanthropist; very altruistic.  He was born in Binondo, Manila on 28 February 1847.

In 1883, he established a business which he called El ’82. It was the first shop to use fixed price in Colon Street way back in 1883. El ’82 (the ’82) shop was named after the year when cholera wiped out a great number of the Philippine population. As Feng Shui would have it, it was not about death but more of a rebirth of the country from the pernicious epidemic.

He was elected as the Lieutenant in charge of the white half-cast (mestizo/white children born of Spanish parents and Filipinos and Filipinos and Chinese).

When the Spaniards found out that he was helping the katipuneros (revolutionaries) by allowing the group to post their propaganda materials as well us funding their ammunitions, he was jailed in 1896.

He was truly a revolutionary at heart because he was jailed again by the Americans (the new colonisers who bought the Philippines from the Spanish overloads), when Ramon Ongpin continued helping the revolutionary groups.

Sacrista Street was renamed Ongpin Street as a way of honouring Ramon Ongpin for his patriotism and benevolence.

Another interesting fact about Ramon Ongpin is that he was the first one to wear the Barong Tagalog, national dress shirt of Filipino men (see above statue).  I have to admire his taste.  Barong Tagalog, the traditional creamy coloured ones, can make any man look presentable and yet I find that most Filipinos would rather wear a 2-piece suit with the ubiquitous ties, to social gatherings even during the hottest of weathers! Strange!

The Filipino Chinese Ongpin was more patriotic than the rest as far as wearing the ‘sariling atin’ constume. 🙁

Money Changer in Manila

@The Money Changer, Photo by PH Morton

@the Money Changer, photo by PH Morton

@the Money Changer, photo by PH Morton

When we went to the Philippines, Peter and I had P10,000 (10,000 pesos) each.  We read on the internet that one is only allowed to bring in P10,000 each but you can bring in $10,000 (or any other denomination) if you wanted.

Anyway with all the recent laglag bala (planted bullets) anomalies at the Ninoy Aquino International airport, we dare not bring in more than we should in terms of the pesos even though P20,000 will not get us much.  We did not want NAIA to have any reason to give us a hard time, do we?!!!

We used John Lewis in Brent Cross as opposed to the Post office, which was our regular currency converter.  John Lewis did a better rate.

So with our P20,000 and more pounds sterling in our pocket we went to the Philippines and had a real good time.

But it was really expensive.  Marilou, the dollar girl from LA, and I were always changing money.

We tried changing monies at SM (ShoeMart) and BDO (Banco de Oro) but we had to bring in proof of identity, which is a bummer (I refuse to bring my passport everywhere; I had a bad experience in Rome with snatchers) and the queue can be horrendous, plus the fact that their exchange rate was not competitive enough.

Luckily, there were a lot of money changers in Tutuban Centre, which is only a tricycle ride away from our mother’s house.

The one we used all the time is located near the Robinson’s Supermarket.  They don’t ask any question, and the rate is much better than SM and the banks.  And the place looks fairly safe; of course, you have to be aware of your money and belongings at all times, just like anywhere else in the world.

I was so happy the first time we changed money because the rate was so high, even higher than John Lewis’s but with the news that Cameron had finally named the date for EU referendum, the pound sterling plummeted quite a bit.  It was so good that our holiday was coming to an end by then and I had changed most of our monies.

Mall of Asia Arena Concert: Regine, Martin, Eric & Angeline

Mall of Asia Arena Concert: Regine, Martin, Eric & Angeline

My sister thought that it would be a laugh to attend a pre-St Valentine’s concert at the MOA featuring Regine Velasquez (who has been given the moniker of Queen of concert halls/stage and also being Asia’s Songbird), Martin Nievera (King of Philippine concert halls), Eric Santos (thought to be the one likely to take over from Martin Nievera) and Angeline Quinto (the crown princess from Regine). Thus the concert was called The Royals; a real soap opera!

The concert was meant to start at 8:00pm but no, nothing happened at 8, except being  bombarded again and again by advertisements of those sponsoring the concert.  This was literally over and over, again and again as if trying to subliminally indoctrinate you to go eat yourself lechon to high blood pressure and washed yourself afterwards with some baby products and then go shop for new designer gowns, after, of course, you have whiten your skin with Belo.

As the advertisements went on without cease, some officers from the Philippine Red Cross and Fire department started wheeling some rather overweight VIP moneyed patrons.  I must admit I felt really uncomfortable seeing moneyed people given so much deference from the donation/tax deductible funded organisations.  Surely the Philippine Red Cross has more worthy and pressing projects to attend to than escorting some individuals, who can obviously afford to hire a few minders to see them good anywhere, anytime.

To pass away the time as the concert did not feel to be starting any time soon, we started ‘celebrity’ watching.  We saw Vice Ganda arrived, followed closely by Aiko Melendez (according to my sister), who looked so lovely but so cold given the mottled skin from her black backless jumpsuit (i think). Poor woman, next time bring a cardigan, love!  We also saw the handsome ex-boyfriend of Sharon Cuneta, Rowell Santiago.

When the show did finally start, it was rather buoyant; it was of dancing girls and men from a Paris ball of the Marie Antoniette kind but given an extremely modern twist when the women started gyrating like vixen on heat, legs apart, showing their frilly knickers, simulating sex.

The four divas then started belting some of Queen’s hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock you, Somebody to Love, etc.

It was good but the public did not forgive easily after waiting so much time for the show to start.  Not many showed enthusiasm.

As the show progress, and as a node to St Valentine’s day, one of the men from the audience was given a chance to propose to his girlfriend. OMG, it was embarrassing, not for the girlfriend but for the boy – he started crying.  I was forced to shout, do not marry him 🙁  🙂

Guess what Regine, Martin, Eric and Angeline took time to enumerate and thanks their sponsors, the very same ones bombarded to the audience again and again before the start of the show.  Yeah, I am sure JLo, Madonna, Mariah Carey, etc would thank (NOT) Nandos, Versace, La Perla, etc while doing their concert.  Only in the Philippines.

The sound system at MOA was not very good. The acoustic was poor.  Basag (broken glass effect), sometimes the glorious singers sounded ngongo or when they hit the high notes, they stopped really singing as they sounded screeching and shouting.

It was so loud as well but having said that, I decided to close my eyes to really feel a Tagalog song being sung by Martin Nievera, I fell asleep instead but woken up by the gentle snoring by my husband next to me.  That was so funny.

During the show, the four singers bragged how they got to where they are, as only Filipinos can; so I did not notice their lacking of  humility.  It was my English husband who commented that the singers were rather ‘full of themselves’!  LOL

Peter like the 80s sound; that was really enjoyable – Sweet dreams are made for this.

Towards the end, they again started thanking the same sponsors, that without the sponsors the show would have not been possible, I think they got their priorities wrong, they should thank the audience for paying through the nose for the tickets and without the monies, there is definitely no concert.   We just had enough and started leaving in droves and not stayed for the encore, if there was even one.

Enjoyable but not of an international category!

Going to the Philippines? DON’T

Philippines 2012-2013 031Going to the Philippines? DONT!

Don’t get me wrong, the Philippines in itself is very beautiful country; mostly peopled with kind-hearted, hard-working, friendly individuals.

But the few Filipinos who are not, can turn anyone’s life upside down.

I was so looking forward to going back for a prolonged holiday in the Philippines, now that my husband and I are both retired from work (Yipeeee).  But what I have heard that is happening in the Philippines is enough to curtail the joy and excitement in my heart.

As much as the Philippines is one of the most beautiful places in this God’s Earth, with simply stunning white beaches, historical places, adventure-ful activities and bargain galores to be had, spending even a few hours in prison is not my cup of tea.

Philippines 2013 499

Apparently there is a securely inplace modus operandi by criminally minded individuals working in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the main airport of the Philippines.   A recent whistle blower has confirmed that this racket has been ongoing for at least 20 years.  It has only now come to light as more and more international tourists as well as hard-working Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are cruelly targeted.

What this hard-hearted syndicate working under  legal employment at the NAIA  is composed of various airport workers such as immigration personnel, airport police, X-ray scanners, baggage inspectors and porter, who are all in the know of this dastardly act of  surreptiously inserting a bullet or two into some unfortunate travellers’ luggage.  Of course the scanner would then pick up the existence of the bullet/s.  The perpetrators would then give the victim/s a choice of either being carted to the nearest police station or an on-cite fine of up to P80,000 (Philippine pesos which is equivalent to about $1700 US dollors).  For a number of years, many have chosen to pay up on the spot rather than face a tortuous prison interview or even encarceration for being fitted up.

It is only now that more and more are choosing to speak up, thank you internet, against this frightening corruption by airport/baggage workers.

Philippines 2013 501Even the United Nations (UN) have advised their staff to be aware of the LAGLAG/TANIM BALA (dropped/planted bullet) modus operandi at the Philippine airport/s.  They were counselled to be aware of their luggages, both the hand carry and checked-in ones at all times.  Use locks on these and preferably to wrap them in plastic sheetings or cling films to avoid tampering.

This current situation at the NAIA is even more tragic because the Philippine Government and high officials at the airport itself have dragged their feet.  Despite news going left, right, and centre of the heart-breaking anomalies at the airport, nothing much was done, instead it was said that the people with bullets confiscated were guilty.  Officials did not twig or bother to think why so many bullets were being confiscated?

I say again, do not go to the Philippines until the Government have done a major clean-up at the airport.  You do not want your precious holiday in the Philippines to be marred and ending up in cockroach-infested prisons, that is if you refuse to pay up! 🙂

Luneta – Rizal Park

Luneta – Rizal Park

Peter and I had so much fun when we went for a holiday in the Philippines during Christmas 2012 to the New Year 2013. We did go to a lot of places especially around Manila.

We went to Luneta, where Peter first visited in 1986.

The place was so different from what we remember. There were so much more people for a start. Every inch of the ground near an avenue of busts of Philippine heroes was occupied.

One thing that never changed was the Rizal monument. Jose Rizal still majestic in his pedestal, looking down on the people, who probably do not know much less care what he, Rizal, did in the past that he had to die heroically by firing squad by orders of the Spaniards.

Soldiers guard the monument 24/7.  The apparent reason for this tradition as told to us by my mother  (a well known urban legend) then was that in the dead of the night, Jose Rizal would take a respite from his vantage point atop the monument and come down to promenade along the beautiful Manila de Bay.  LOL

I later heard that aside from honouring the Jose Rizal,  the 3 stars embellished near the top of the obelisk are made of solid gold.


When I was young, the highlight of our week was a visit to Luneta on the weekends.  We would run in our best ‘going out’ clothes and shoes in the park.  Luneta was more than just a park, it was a treat to go there.   They used to play great band music at the Grandstand.  It was were you go to imbibe some culture. LOL.

Janet Napoles Sentenced to 20 -40 Years


Janet Napoles Sentenced to 20 -40 Years

Janet Napoles has been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.  She was sentenced with the penalty of reclusion perpetua (permanent imprisonment) which means she will serve 20 to 40 years at the Women’s Correctional  Jail in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.

But wait, Janet is not being permanently incarcerated for the pork barrel scam.  Her sentence was for the  serious illegal detention of her nephew and employee, Benhur Luy.  She kept Luy a prisoner, under lock and key, for three months at her condominium unit, because she suspected that he was defrauding her of her fraudulently transacted pork barrel.  😉

It was when Luy was rescued by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on 22 March 2013, that all hell broke loose as far as the scamming scandal of the pork barrel was concerned.  Luy spilled the beans of what was truly going on which resulted in some arrests and prison detentions of three of the most influential senators in the Philippine politics.  They are the old man, Juan Ponce Enrile, sexy (I don’t see it) Jinggoy Estrada and handsome (not bad, 🙂 I suppose) Bongbong Revilla.

I hope that this is only the start for Janet Napoles to atone for her many and expensive crimes.

I also hope that this is not a way of sweeping under the carpet, the other more serious matters of the P10billion (£151,716,105.30 British Pound Sterling or $224,997,200.00 US Dollar)pork barrel scam.  I fervently hope that there are no people working behind the scene, active in their machination in ensuring that the pork barrel scam is buried and forgotten and all the people involved will live happily ever after in their heavenly mansions.


Made in Manila

As many know, Filipinos work in most countries in the world.  Wherever they work and, certainly in the UK, Filipinos are regards as hard working, reliable,  law abiding, unobtrusive and friendly.
Many are overqualified (being university graduates) for the work they do mainly in domestic service.
To prepare these maids made in Manila can enrol in an academy, which would train them in anything housekeeping.
Many came to the UK as excellent trained  nurses and carers. Not so well known is  that the Philippines has excellent technical colleges & universities and  produced many computer technicians, programmers and coders who use their expertise around the world.
These workers, the carpenters, engineers, nurses, teachers and domestic helpers alike are known in the Philippines as  OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers).  They send millions of pounds to their families back home and contribute greatly to the national economy. Many international companies now outsource services to the Philippines too.

Trainee maids learning to cook

 Maids Made in Manila

Stephen Sackur, a BBC correspondent has recently posted an interesting article about these workers &  the growth in both the economy and population in the Philippines. Here is the article.

The Philippines has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia – but there aren’t enough jobs to go around. So every year the government teaches thousands of people the skills they need to get jobs abroad.

When I arrive at the state-run Housemaids Academy in Manila morning exercises are well under way. A squad of uniformed cleaners is poking feather dusters into all corners of the sitting room. In the kitchen trainee cooks are immersed in the finer points of salad preparation.

The academy has the feel of a soap-opera set – each room meticulously dressed to ape the reality of a grand residence. Below stairs is a classroom filled with old fashioned school desks. Here, I’m told, the trainee house servants take lessons in hygiene, respect and personal finance.

The Philippines government schools tens of thousands of maids, chauffeurs, mechanics and gardeners every year, with the express purpose of launching them into long-term service abroad.

For the state it’s a win-win. These economic exiles – there are are currently some 10 million of them – send back foreign currency which is the lifeblood of the Filipino economy. And the extraordinary exodus of labour acts as a safety valve in a country struggling to provide home-grown jobs for a population rising by more than two million every year.

“We are proud of what we are doing,” one of the trainee maids, Maria, tells me. “We are national heroes.” That was a phrase first coined in a government propaganda campaign, and it’s clear that the 20 young women now gathered around me – all immaculately uniformed and polite to a fault – desperately want it to be true.

“It can’t be easy leaving your families behind,” I suggest.

“We have no choice,” replies Evelyn, an elfin figure no more than 5ft tall. “I have a baby at home but no way to support him. The wages I earn in Kuwait will mean my mother can raise him.”

Many of the other trainees nod in sympathy – almost all, it seems, are facing the prospect of separation from their children for at least three years, possibly many more. Their reality will be prolonged servitude in an alien culture.

The mood in the academy has darkened. Half the young women before me are now weeping.

Trainee maids learning to clean
Trainee maids washing clothes

Alongside the remittances of overseas workers, there’s a new phenomenon keeping the Philippines economy afloat. It’s known as BPO, business process outsourcing – you could call it the rise of the call centre economy. More and more Western companies have moved their low-cost back-office operations to the Philippines.

“We’ve overtaken India,” Dyne Tubbs, a manager at Transcom call centres, boasts as we survey her army of Filipino telephonists handling calls on behalf of a UK parcels delivery company. It’s midnight in Manila, 4pm in London and the phones are red hot, as they will be until dawn.

Call centre

“British companies love us because our English is not accented. The brightest graduates from our universities fight to get a job here. We only take the smartest kids. And after we’ve finished training them they even get your British sarcasm,” says Tubbs.

One third of the Filipino population is under 15 years old. The country may have found a unique niche in the global economy but current rates of economic growth, though impressive, will not sustain a population projected to double from 100 to 200 million within 30 years. Which is why Jane Judilla may just hold the key to the Philippines economic future. Jane isn’t an entrepreneur or a politician, she’s a reproductive health worker who spends her days in some of Manila’s most squalid slums.


Thanks to a law pushed through by the government last year, she’s now permitted to offer the poorest Filipinos free access to condoms, the contraceptive pill, even sterilisation for women who want it. The Catholic Church, which commands the loyalty of 90% of Filipinos, fought the initiative tooth and nail but the clerics lost.

Judilla introduces me to Sheralyn Gonzales, a whey-faced woman of 30 with 10 children and another on the way. I ask Gonzales whether she’s happy. “I’ll be happy when I’ve had the baby and can get sterilised,” she says. “My eldest has dropped out of school, and we can barely afford to educate the others. I tell my children to have two kids, then use contraception.”

If the next generation of Gonzales’s heed her advice their country’s future is promising. If not, tens of millions of young Filipinos may find themselves stuck in a poverty trap, still dependent on overseas labour as a means of escape.

Pope Francis urges Philippine Government Leaders To End Corruption

All institutions are prone to corruption and to the vices of their members.
– Morris West (Australian Novelist 1916-1999)

Here is an interesting BBC news item, we hope the Philippine leadership take note and act upon speedily as would any upcoming Presidential hopeful in 2016!

Despite President Aquino making his own comments about the Catholic Church in the Philippines, more importantly, the  Pork Barrel PPAF, Napoles etc scandals still persist despite promises from Filipino leaders to deal with!

We hope His Holiness’s words will be heeded !

Pope Francis urges Philippine Government Leaders To End Corruption

 Pope Francis urges Philippine Government Leaders To End Corruption

Pope Francis waves to the faithful from his Popemobile as his motorcade leaves the Presidential Palace for the Manila Cathedral Friday, 16 January 2015 in Manila, Philippines.Pope Francis travelled to Manila’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in his ‘Popemobile’ on Friday

Pope Francis has urged Philippine leaders to end “scandalous social inequalities” and corruption during a welcome ceremony in Manila.

On the first full day of his five-day visit, he called for politicians to show commitment to the “common good”.

But President Benigno Aquino responded that many Catholic clergy had been silent about the abuses conducted under former President Gloria Arroyo.

And he said some clergymen were now too quick to criticise him.

“In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticise,” he said.

“Even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin.”

The pontiff arrived in the majority Catholic country on Thursday and is due to travel to the typhoon-hit city of Tacloban on Saturday.

The centre-piece of his visit is an open-air Mass in Manila on Sunday, which is expected to attract millions.

The Pope is on a six-day tour of Asia. Earlier in the week he visited Sri Lanka.

‘Voice of the poor’

Well-wishers line the streets to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis in Manila on 15 January 2015 The Pope received a rapturous reception as he arrived in Manila

Speaking at a welcome ceremony in the presidential palace, Pope Francis called for leaders “to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor”.

He said it was a Christian duty to “break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities”.

The Philippines, like many countries in Asia, has corruption issues.

Corruption activist group Transparency International put the Philippines at 85 in its latest Corruption Perceptions Index, level with India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Under Mr Aquino, the Philippines’ record has slowly improved.

Mr Aquino suggested the Church had not done enough to fight corruption under Mrs Arroyo, who is facing charges of plundering state funds and election fixing.

“There was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalised, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day,” Mr Aquino said.

Filipino Catholic devotees gather outside the Manila Cathedral as they wait to celebrate a mass with Pope Francis in Manila, Philippines, 16 January 2015Many people began waiting outside the cathedral in Manila for the Mass in the early hours of Friday
Pope Francis, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stand together during the welcoming ceremony Friday, 16 January 2015 at the Presidential Palace grounds in Manila, PhilippinesPresident Benigno Aquino (R) hosted a welcome ceremony for the Pope at the presidential palace on Friday.

Hula, Fortune Telling at surrounding Quiapo

“Did you know about the fortune teller who was also a contortionist?”


“She can see her own end.”

That, folks, is Peter’s rather pathetic attempt at a joke. 😉
I had an attack of nostalgia and went revisiting our enomous amount of photographs taken when we were in the Philippines.

I came across our photos when we went to Quiapo, where I had that bright idea of having my fortune told.

My mother and sister who do not believe in this kind of hokus pocus indulged my fancy nevertheless.

So went we looked for a manghuhula, a fortune teller.  They are usually scattered just outside the church, parked in their little bangkito (stool) waiting for suckers, sorry clients, like me! 🙂

She gave me a few choices of how my fortune would be told. As I was only after a quick sit-in and just to assuage my curiosity, I opted for the cheapest one. I turned down the special bath water to wash off evil spirits, and I also turned down the special stone to combat the evil eye and envy from people. 😉

Anyway, she said that I was going to meet my other half soon and that I was destined for fame and fortune, especially money.  I was apparently going to amass loads of it.

Well, during the reading of my palm, I was already married.  As for the loads of money… well I am still waiting! 🙂

Probably the manghuhula guessed that I was about to marry the foreign bloke, she thought had lots of money, who was with us .  She did not know that he is already married to me for so many years. 🙂  I supposed she did do her job of guessing! 🙂