Category Archives: Philippine flavor

Flood Weary in the Philippines

The recent spate of sad events in the Philippines — starting with Typhoon Ondoy on September 26th  — really kept me from adding to this blog.   But, after the tragedies and doing your best to help those affected, life goes on…

But back to the batcave and the rain/floods:  Though we can blame the unusual amount of rainfall on climate change, and the clogged drains on pollution, and denuded forests for the landslides, I always think… it’s been pouring buckets on this country forever!  We just never pre-plan anything here (except for the latest product launch and celeb debut, but I digress), and we never learn from from the past.

Just to prove my point, check out this vintage political cartoon from the 1931 Free Press (below):

Free Press Political Flood Cartoon

Deja Vuuuuu....

Hmm, except for the vintage cars and outfits, and a shark in the water instead of the seriously real crocodiles and snakes from the September flooding, this looks sooo familiar…



It’s World Population Day

Population cartoon from

June 11th is World Population Day

Whenever I hear the words ‘population explosion’, I always think of the Philippines.  When I used to live in Canada, this would always come up about the Philippines in my Southeast Asian Government classes.  Now, I don’t need to study facts or statistics, I simply need to leave my home to see children everywhere — playing on dusty sidewalks by busy intersections, clutching their young mother’s hand while she begs for money, sleeping in wooden carts in empty lots. 

I always wondered how one can live in this country and not even consider the idea of a reproductive health plan.  I am against abortion, but am pro-birth control.   Underprivileged women need the information and free birth control to help them gain control of their lives.  As a nation, we seriously need to keep our population in check if we are to begin the long process of eradicating poverty.

The Philippine Star details the story of the UNFPA (United Naitons Population Fund)’s 20th World Population Day:

[The UNFPA released a statment that] calls on governments to promote women’s reproductive health and prevent maternal and child deaths through family planning programs and the use of contraceptives. Even the person in charge of direct aid for the poor in the Philippines, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, is pushing for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill as resources shrink in the recession and the population continues to boom.

The UNFPA points out that an investment in contraceptive services could be recouped four times over in terms of savings in public education, health care and other social services. The UN agency also says that family planning alone can reduce maternal deaths by up to 40 percent.

So “Happy World Population Day” and may everyone in government seriously think about giving the Reproductive Health Bill a shot.  Just look out your windows, people!  Look.


Political Cartoon from 1937 shows this is not an new issue

Political Cartoon from 1937 shows this is not an new issue

Fabella Hospital still serves indigent patients free of charge.  It's known as Manila's "baby factory" as 20% of Manila's babies are born here.

Fabella Hospital, Manila's "baby factory" as 20% of Manila's babies are born here to indigent moms.

 Read more about Fabella Hospital HERE.

Pre-war Manila was so beautiful

I love looking at old photos.  Black and white photographs always evoke a sense of nostalgia in me, even if they’re of a history I wasn’t a part of.  Looking at old photos of Manila is especially interesting because the images capture a world that really seems forever lost to time.  As our grandparents’ and their friends’ stories go, these were the days when people shopped on Escolta wearing smart hats and white suits, when weekends were spent swimming and picnicking on the banks of the Pasig River, and when you got dressed to enjoy a night out at the Jai Alai Building’s Sky Room. 

To give a better sense of what pre-war Manila was like, I’m posting old photos of the Philippines that I found in the LIFE Magazine Photo Archives.   This amazing set of photographs was taken in November 1941 Manila, the week before the outbreak of war with Japan.  The days of calm before the storm…


The beautiful Jai Alai building, designed by Welton Becket, who also did the iconic Capitol Records Tower in LA:

The Welton Becket-designed art deco Jai Alai Building

The Welton Becket-designed art deco Jai Alai Building


 Watching a game of Jai-Alai:

1942 Jai Alai Game


The main commercial district, Escolta:

When men wore white suits...

When men wore white suits...


Inside a Manila Department Store:

Taken during the Christmas Holidays, a week before war with Japan...

Taken in late November a week before Pearl Harbor, stores were ready to celebrate Christmas.


View of the busy Sta. Cruz Plaza, Manila:

1942 Sta Cruz Plaza Manila


Japanese businesses still open:

1942 Japanese Bazaar


The Manila City Hall and its manicured courtyard:

1942 City Hall


Shopping at stalls near the Quiapo Church:

We loved tiangges even back then...

We loved tiangges even back then...


Lovely interiors of the Quiapo Church:

1942 Quiapo Church


Having lunch at the Manila Polo Club:

1942 Polo Club


Getting ready to watch a baseball game, Manila Polo Club:

1942 Polo Club


View of the clean, art-deco Quezon Bridge:

Note that we used to drive on the left side of the street

Note that we used to drive on the left side of the street


When men used to wear hats… a second-hand hat stall off Carriedo St.:



Manila Hotel swimming pool:



Ready for what’s coming- the popularity contest winner of the Manila College of Pharmacy smiles and shows her support for the boys:

1942 Winner

Where did Clairol Herbal Essence go?



I loved the long-haired ‘nature lady’ who used to grace the label of this shampoo.  She used to bathe in a forest and birds and butterflies would happily hover over her.  Clairol Herbal Essence came in a cool bottle, was a beautiful deep aloe green and most importantly, smelled so herbal essence good.  I found an old ad (above) and was surprised to also find an on-line petition demanding the return of Herbal Essence.  I wonder if the “Gee Your Hair Smells Teriffic” fans have the same passion.  These ’70s women are loyal! 

Speaking of Gee Your Hair Smells Teriffic, here’s something from the “You learn something new every day” department:  Did you know that after Jergens stopped making the popular shampoo in the US, that the only place it was available in the entire world was the Philippines?  According to this site:

By the mid-1980’s the products disappeared from [US] store shelves.  Jergens had discontinued manufacturing the product.  After that, the only place in the world where the items were still available was in the Philippines!  Jergens had licensed the product to a manufacturer in the Philippines, and up until today the product has remained available for purchase there!

Well… lucky us! 

Great pick-up line

"Gee, you look like my mom"

Philippines: 13th in Asia yet 14th Happiest in the World


Wealthy Singapore - but are they happy?

Below is the CIA’s list of the Top 10 Wealthiest Nations in Asia.  No surprise that Las Islas isn’t on the list but it was depressing to see that Malaysia, our former ‘not so successful’ neighbor (when I was a kid), is now at number 8.  It also says something that when I google’d photos of Malaysia, not one had a shanty, a mountain of garbage, or a half-dressed child.  But all is not lost, the Philippines stands at number 13, just behind China and ahead of  Kazakhstan(Borat’s home).  Not bad, at least we’re still ahead of Indonesia!

Top 10 List of the Wealthiest Countries in Asia  (c/o CIA World Factbook, rank based on GDP per capita)

  1. Singapore – 27,800
  2. Japan – 23,400
  3. Hong Kong – 23,100
  4. Macau – 17,500
  5. Brunei – 17,400
  6. Taiwan – 16,100
  7. South Korea – 13,300
  8. Malaysia – 10,700
  9. Thailand – 6,400
  10. Turkey – 6,200

Despite not making the Top 10 of Asia’s Wealthiest, the Philippines apparently ranks 14th out of 143 nations the in the New Economic Foundation’s Ranking of the World’s Happiest Places.  The basis for ranking being:

  • life expectancy (ours is 71 years)
  • people’s happiness with their lives (55% of Filipinos are apparently thrilled with theirs)
  • and environmental impact (hmm…) 

Costa Rica was crowned the happiest and greenest place on earth (take that, Disneyland).  The highest ranked Western nation is the Netherlands at 43, with the US at 114.   So yay to South America and to us:  Viva and Mabuhay!  Let’s dance!

Happy Filipinos

Happy Filipinos - sayaw nalang tayo!

Choose Sunflower Mayonnaise

sunflower mayo

I was so happy to see sunflower mayo finally available at the supermarket!  It’s under the Belle France brand and is very affordable – I think it was only P70 for the small bottle.   Just look for the word “Tournesol” (sunflower) on the label.  I’m not really a mayonnaise fan, but if I did have to use mayo for tuna salad, I’m glad I can finally buy a good one here.

Sunflower oil: 

  • Has no cholesterol
  • Is high in Vitamin E (which has antioxidant properties) 
  • Is low in saturated fat
  • Is known for its clean taste

Belle France seems to be a high-quality generic brand from France, kind of like President’s Choice products from Canada.  Belle France products are available at Rustan’s and Shopwise.  It’s great seeing affordable packs of gauffrettes, bottles of cornichons, tubs of sorbet and many other yummy items available to choose from.  My kids love bringing packets of the mini chocolate biscuits to school and having the frozen cordon bleus for snack time.  High carbon footprint concerns aside, I still think Manila needs more products like these : )

mini chocolate biscuits

Great Early Philippine Political Cartoons…

The book “Philippine Cartoons – Political Caricatures of the American Era 1900-1941” by Alfred McCoy and Alfredo Roces is a treasure trove of information on how things used to be.   Aside from the cartoons featuring the Manila Carnival, and the one about the passing of an ordinance in 1930 to get live pigs off the streets (!), I love these that depict public outrage at UP following the American example and allowing coeducation.  We’ve come a long way!


Wild kids dating and going to the movies

Coeducation = going to Pasay together... at 2pm!

Coeducation = going to Pasay together... at 2pm!