May 26, 2008

WS #38: Stairway


I forced myself out of bed earlier than usual last Saturday morning so I could make it to Agrifina Circle in Rizal Park by 10 am. I've been to the Louvre, the British Museum, many other museums in foreign lands, even the Egyptian Museum! But I had never, in my 34 years as a Filipino, ever been inside the galleries of our very own National Museum. I know, right? Sad! It boggles my mind that this was never included in any of our field trips in school.

Well I'm proud to say that this photo I'm submitting above for WS#38 was taken inside the National Gallery of Art, one of the two main buildings that make up the National Museum (the Museum of the Filipino People is the other). I joined John Silva's tour together with about thirty or so other people, and I'm really glad I did. It was a very entertaining and educational 3 hours well spent. If you're interested, he has more tours scheduled in the month of June. (see blurb below). Proceeds from tour fees fo to John's I Love Museum foundation whose goal is to educate Filipino students about the importance of the arts by bringing public school teachers to the National Museum and to their local museums.

Morning tours of the National Museum in Manila are being offered in the coming weeks. Led by the museum’s senior consultant John L. Silva, the three-hour tours encompass the 15 galleries of the Museum of the Filipino People where a highlight is the collection devoted to the Spanish galleon San Diego and its treasures; and the National Gallery of Art with its massive original of the “Spoliarium” by Juan Luna.Remaining tour dates are June 7, 11, 21 & 25. They start at 10am and end at 1pm, priced at 700 pesos for adults and 500 pesos for children up to 18 years. Information: John Silva, phone +63926 729 9029, email

May 14, 2008

Carlitos' Way

Carlos doing Quiapo

I've gone on many of Carlos Celdran's walking tours, some more than once, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about the Philippines or who simply wants to be entertained for a few hours. Because much more than just a tour guide, Carlos is a highly-entertaining street performer.

Save for the photos I've taken while on his tours, this post isn’t going to be about that. If you're looking for information about his tours, please click on this link and this one. Neither is this going to be about my experiences on his tours because you already know I'm a big fan. He's been written about countless times by bloggers and has even been featured on television shows both here and abroad, even making it to Time and Lonely Planet.


Instead, I’d like to share with you some interesting tidbits about Carlos' past and personal life that most of you probably don’t know. There was quite a few items I had to leave out because they’re not meant to be published and I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining his reputation. ;)

Intramuros collage

If These Walls Could Talk collage

As early as the 5th grade, Carlos designed his own cards with the cutest caricatures and witty sayings. I remember the first one I ever received from him, I think it was for my birthday, and I was amazed! It looked like the work of a professional graphic artist rather than that of a 10 yr old. At that moment, I knew this guy was going to be famous someday.

He slept through school. Literally. As you can imagine, this amused his classmates but drove his teachers batty. He got away with it, because each time they caught him sleeping and tried to get him with a difficult question, he managed to answer it correctly.

He knew a whole lot about anything and everything without having the slightest ‘know-it-all’ attitude that usually comes with the territory. You can talk to him about anything!

He swallowed mayonnaise by the spoonfuls just to gross us out.

He once shaved off our girl friends hair on stage, for art’s sake.

Carlos was the youngest cartoonist of the Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas. He had a funny comic strip in Business Day & Manila Chronicle called Bar Sins.

He played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Metropolitan Theater, but was rejected when he auditioned for the Miss Saigon London cast.

Quiapo collage

The North Bank tour collage

Whatever is the opposite of OC, that’s Carlos. His room and car looked like mini-landfills.

He’s the man responsible for the designs of the then famous Island Spice T-shirts. With the profits he made from the shirts, he replanted an entire forest in Mindoro, single-handedly driving the trees across the channel.

In between all the careless partying and beach-bumming that made up our high school life, Carlos was already an active member of the Haribon Foundation.

His bathroom mirror had “Lose weight, Charlie!” written across it in permanent marker.

While everyone around him was going through teenage angst, and struggling with the trials that come with puberty and high school, Carlos was just…..steady. Nothing fazed him. He was our rock, and that was always comforting.

And I bet you didn’t know Manila’s favorite tour guide CAN SING! During the Battle of the Bands, he treated us to a fantastic rendition of Hotel California!

Chinatown collage

All the way down to Chinatown collage

His first car was a silver VW bug with a green stripe that would noisily announce his approach from 2 blocks away.

He was our comedian, our jester and our clown without even trying to be.

He’s been known to take his dog with him to a meeting with one of the heads of a big corporation.
He secretly dropped out of UP to live like a hippy in Baguio.

He was already frequenting Penguin and Cosa Nostra long before Malate became a popular bohemian hang-out.

When he had used up all his allowance, Carlos would borrow small change from different people in school, in the pretense of using it to make a phone call, until eventually he would come away with more food from the cafeteria than those who donated their change

La Vida Imelda collage

Living La Vida Imelda collage

Our friend John claims you could count on Carlos to lock his keys inside his car especially when it was raining cats and dogs, and most definitely lose his parking ticket as well.

He once dated a 250 lb lady doctor whom he painted nude, before he married Tesa. But he himself also posed nude for other artists while in college at RISD.

Carlos is a genius. He’s like the Rain man, but not quite autistic. Just a naturally tremendously talented artist and intelligent person.

But those who know Carlos and know him well, will attest to the fact that he was the one person you could count on to cheer you up no matter how down and out you are, because within a minute in his presence you’re sure to be laughing your butt off.

Carlos doing Chinatown

Carlos shows us how it's done - at a temple in Chinatown

Carlos 2

HS Grad Picture

Follow these links for some articles on Carlos:
Carlos Celdran is changing the way you look at Manila - by Pepper Marcelo
A Walk through History - by Trina de la Rama
Walk the Talk with Nostalgia - for Go Negosyo
Local Heroes - by Irwin Cruz

May 12, 2008

WS #36: Three


My dear niece turned three last weekend and we had a nice intimate party for her at her my sister's garden. There was all the good stuff of birthday parties including games, prizes, presents, and yummy party food. After she blew out the candles on her cake, and as soon as night fell, her uncle brought out a torch he made especially for her, which when lit glowed a beautiful number 3 for the number of years she's livened up our worlds. Happy birthday, dearest N!! I love you bunches! :)

For more Weekend Snapshot entries, click here.

Also, for those that inquired or those who are interested in these torches, (they can make words out of it too), send an email to Freddie: .

May 6, 2008

Playing dress-up with my cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes with maple pecan frosting 2

How many of you were told time and again not to play with your food? There you were, still a little munchkin, sitting at the table with your mind on other more interesting things than what's on your plate. You're pushing the peas around with your fork and there's a bored look on your face, which is likely resting on the palm of your left hand, when the stern reprimand comes. Sound familiar?

Yes, we were taught well. Instilled deep in our bones are proper table manners and good etiquette that spared us many a embarassing moment later in life. And with maturity comes freedom. The freedom to play and have fun and express ourselves, as with the food we create. Our toys may have changed over the years but one thing is certain, we never get too old to play! So when I saw these Silly Feet silicone baking cups, I just had to have it. I mean, look at those bright pretty colors they come in. Hey, Barbie isn't the only one who's gotta accessorize! My cupcakes could use some new shoes too. :)

I made a dozen of these cupcakes to take to my sister's house for a party she was throwing. I baked 8 cupcakes in regular paper cups, and used the silicone cups for the other 4 which I saved for my sister's kids. Those in the Silly Feet are not really meant to be eaten like regular cupcakes, you'll have to use a fork for these, but that doesn't make it any less fun to eat! I thought they looked adorable and the kids got quite a kick out of them so you can bet I'll be playing dress-up with many more cupcakes in the future.

The recipe is from Buttercup Bakes at Home by Jennifer Appel, owner of the popular Buttercup Bake Shop in Manhattan. The delicious cookbook which has separate chapters for cookies, quick breads, layer cakes, pound cakes, cheesecakes, pies & tarts, puddings & icebox desserts, baking with kids, and of course cupcakes was a birthday present from dear Joey who had snuck a peak at my Amazon wish list for gift ideas. Thanks again, Jojo! :)

These cupcakes are quite light, that is until you slather on the scrumptious frosting. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sweetened shredded coconut to be swirled into the frosting along with the pecans but I didn't have any at the moment so I left that out. It still came out wonderful.

So get in touch with your inner child and play with your food. It's fun! And because I said so. ;)

Chocolate cupcakes with maple pecan frosting

German Chocolate cupcakes with caramel pecan frosting

To make the cupcakes, you'll need:

2 oz. Baker's German's sweet chocolate - I used Callebaut dark gianduja
1/4 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 deg.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate with the water, stirring to melt the chocolate completely. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar using medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, beating well until combined. Add in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on the high speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the batter until no streaks of white are showing.
Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners (or cute silicone cups) to about 2/3 full. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Be careful not to overbake, as this cake has a lighter texture than most.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. Spread on Caramel Pecan Frosting.

For the Caramel Pecan Frosting, you'll need:
3/4 can evaporated milk
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

In a large pot, whisk together the milk and egg yolks. Stir in the sugar,butter and vanilla extract. Stir continuously over medium heat about 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened and bubbly and golden in color. Remove from the heat. Stir in the pecans.
Transfer to a large bowl and cool until room temperature (about 2 hours until it thickens to good spreading consistency). Spread the frosting over tops of completely cooled cupcakes.

May 5, 2008

WS #35: Mother Nature's works of art

Matabungkay Sunset 2

Matabungkay Sunset 3

I'm still enjoying the 'hangover' of yet another wonderful weekend at the beach. Because Thursday was Labor Day and hence no work, a group of us took Friday off as well and headed out to a friends farmhouse by the ocean. There we lounged around in the pool, played with the kids, cooked paella outdoors under the rain, feasted on gorgeous Filipino food on banana leaves, chased crabs, picked fruit from the trees and just enjoyed the fresh air and rustic environment around us.

I couldn't decide on just one photo for this week's WS, so I went with these two which were taken on the same afternoon, no more than half an hour apart. One shot from the shore, and the second one shot from the driveway leading up to my friends house. Mother Nature is still by far, the world's most talented artist!

Check out the rest of WS #35 entries here and if you haven't already joined and want to, click here. :)