A #Laboracay Rant

Carlos Maningat writes:

“By bragging their #Laboracay escapade, they are also flaunting their skimpy ignorance of what Labor Day really is – which is about the massacre of protesting workers who asserted the eight-hour workday and other rights at work which most Boracay-goers are enjoying. But we cannot blame them, for their ignorance is only shaped by a socio-economic structure that is increasingly reversing the gains of workers’ movements and burrowing labour and unionism in oblivion.”

Ooooh, angry.

When I was younger, I would have probably said the same thing. Or close to the same thing: I would have railed on with complicated words and complex sentences. Then again, I’m in the twilight of my youth. I’m long past the sun and sand and surf and whatever you look forward to at the beach these days. I can happily lounge around the pool of some resort in hiking shoes if I have to, warming myself up for a date with the air conditioner and cable TV.

But this isn’t the reason why I “hate” #Laboracay. I have shallow reasons. That hashtag annoys the hell out of me.

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Vive La Rai, Le Rai Est Mort*

New Orleans, Louisiana. WrestleMania 30. 21-1: The Streak is over.

For many wrestling fans, ending The Undertaker’s 21-match winning streak at WrestleMania was shocking, perhaps even uncalled for. Just before that important client meeting half a world away, I was closely monitoring WrestleMania, expecting one of my childhood heroes – no, my childhood hero – to vanquish the cocky, arrogant Beast Incarnate called Brock Lesnar. It didn’t happen. After a battering and a bruising that involved finisher after finisher, kickout after kickout, The Undertaker – The Lord of Darkness, The Phenom – fell to Brock’s F5. 1,2,3. 21-1: The Streak is over.

Needless to say, on this side of the world, I was a bit more fired up for a pitch than I usually am.

I thought about it, watching the match over and over, letting the defeat of The Undertaker sink in and in the hope that somehow it makes sense. On the one hand, The Undertaker isn’t a young man anymore. It was a 49-year-old seven-time world champion fighting a 36-year-old three-time world champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion. On the other hand, for smart fans, maybe this is The Undertaker’s last match. For a man who has been so protective of professional wrestling, losing and passing the torch is the best way to preserve the integrity of the business.

After watching all 25 minutes of the match over and over again, and letting all that sink in, I see it a bit differently now.

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Misimpressions

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma called it a “misimpression:” whatever he said was not a summary of his position on the ongoing problems the people have with a crowded, frequently malfunctioning MRT. That perhaps includes his position on Metro Manila’s overpopulation and the MRT, that we cannot blame that on general manager Al Vitangcol.

That said: Secretary Coloma himself has a “misimpression” of the problem.

But Coloma is right, on paper: Vitangcol can’t be blamed for the congestion in Metro Manila. However, he can be (and should be) blamed for the problems of the MRT now, precisely because he’s general manager. The minimum expectation for any general manager is for jobs to be done, and done well. The train must be clean, comfortable, safe, and punctual. The fact that the MRT fails on all four of those counts – any regular MRT commuter can attest to that – means that Vitangcol isn’t doing his job.

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The Lunch Lady of Saigon

Saigon: a tide of motorcycles, tourists, and lately, American culture. Where East met West, both in war and peace. Where Old meets New, both in love and trepidation. Where Viet Cong hats and rubber-tire sandals meet iPhones and Louis Vuitton bags. This is where a Subway sandwich shop can coexist alongside a banh mi stand, where a Heineken is held at the same regard as the 333. This is where Victor Hugo, Sun Yat Sen, and Nguyen Binh Khiem are venerated alongside Uncle Ho, Quang Duc, and Ronald McDonald.

In Ho Chi Minh’s city, the world’s sharpest contrasts mingle together. It shows in the roads, the tourist destinations, and the food.

You spend a few minutes at the improvised cinema at the Cu Chi Tunnels listening to documentary/propaganda films about “American Killer Heroes,” and come back a few hours later to the densely-populated districts of Ho Chi Minh City dotted with Burger Kings and KFCs and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens. Here’s a country that swells with pride over its sound defeat of American forces in the Vietnam War, and swells with joy over the opening of McDonald’s branches.

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And then there’s the Lunch Lady, almost always preceded by the travels of Anthony Bourdain. He spoke of it in superlatives: the broth that the gods suckled from. Whether it’s in the crowded backpacker hostels of Pham Ngu Lao or the gentrified establishments of Ngo Duc Ke, tourists speak of Saigon’s best-kept secret with a certain veneration. For Bourdain: the Ibn Battuta of our generation. And for the Lunch Lady herself, Nguyen Thi Thanh: the unassuming lady whose pots and bowls have simmered more than one blog post – likely from intrepid foreign foodies – about Southern Vietnamese beef noodles.

I’m pretty sure that for every Lunch Lady recommendation, there would be a few more that would attest to the “best pho in Vietnam” (using the word “pho” loosely). The in-flight magazine suggested Pho Thin in Hanoi. Still others have told me not to wander far from Pham Ngu Lao, if all I ever wanted were beef noodles. And pho – beef noodles – aren’t too hard to find in a city that has been sustained by it through thick and thin. But the girlfriend – the biggest Anthony Bourdain fan I know – insisted on the Lunch Lady.

So off we went, braving the tide of motorcycles and tourists and American restaurants standing side-by-side with the ubiquitous coffee kiosks, in search for the Lunch Lady.

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