“Sometimes we are strangers to our own home.” – not a real quote, or someone might have said it before.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all have explored our own country first before we go to foreign places? Saying that there is a an awesome coffee shop beside the Louvre in Italy is grand, but saying there is an awesome coffee house in Lapaz Market, is thoughtful and kind of endearing. You get the gist. This brings me to a recent trip that Sneeze staffs had. In an endless pursuit of knowing thy country we set off to explore the busy, noisy and overpopulated Manila. And in the realization of the dream to be a travel writer like those lucky bastards from Lonely Planet, we are documenting a trip that may or may not have significance to you, reader.
Before the trip, we had a long list of places to visit. As fans of culture, arts and everything in between, we have all the bookstores, museums, bars and restaurants on the list. Little did we know that three days is a short, short time. So just like Adrien Brody in that Wes Anderson film, Darjeeling Limited, we decided it was only reasonable to “fuck the itinerary” (this one is a real quote from the movie).
The first day was spent getting out of the chaotic Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Yes, one could get lost in that sea of baggage and white people and besides trying to get a cab relies on sheer luck. No wonder some tourists end up sleeping on the benches outside the gates. I swear, when white people sleep on public places, they don’t look like they’re homeless.
Travel tip: When taking a cab from NAIA, don’t take the airport cab because they’re kind of expensive but if you’re rich, then dammit donate some money to the poor.
The night of our first day was spent in Tower of Doom, where we had our own Tower Sessions. Our version includes more of fangirl screaming rather than singing. The owner, Mr. Eric Perlas was so gracious in showing us around while we giggled over Urbandub’s instruments. Well, we couldn’t giggle over them since we went on a Thursday and they record from Mondays till Wednesdays, so we settled with Gabby’s guitars, Janjan’s dums, etc. Anyway they have the band members DNAs on them.
Life tip: When visiting a recording studio, check their schedule because you don’t know when one of your favorite bands may be recording.
Urbandub was recording that week, and they just finished their 12th track which means news for Urbandub fans, a new album is on its way. Too bad they won’t give us the album’s name even though we repeatedly tricked them into spilling exclusive information.
Now you might be wondering how Tower of Doom got its name, because yes, we have wondered about that a lot. So we asked Mr. Perlas about it. And it was kind of a fun story. When Tower of Doom was just starting out, they were sort of a travelling studio that the owner and his friends would just set up from one place to another. And when they finally got a place, it was on the 8th floor of a building. Bands started coming in, to record and to hang out, and every time they do, someone loses something, like a lighter would mysteriously disappear. It always happened that people started calling it Tower of Doom, and then the name caught on. So it wasn’t named after Lord of the Rings or some video games although there are Sandman graphic novels lying around their receiving area.
A lot of cheers were made that night, a lot of conversations were done and a lot of laughs were given when Mr. Perlas showed us the Postal Service audition video. The one with Aimee Mann, Duff McKagan, Weird Al, etc on it. The video was a real laugh, but it’s the kind of joke which you have to see it to laugh about it. Yes, go and Google “Postal service Audition Tape”, but first, don’t you want to know what happened on the rest of our trip?
Day 2 was Comic Book Day! In which some of us who can afford to buy rare comic book finds bought some copies, and some of us who just would like to get lost around the four level Fully Booked in The Fort snooped around the conversation of hipsters holding LPs of The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The multitude of books that surrounded us was oddly comforting. It is some kind of a book heaven where all your favorite books and LPs are assembled into forts to keep you safe and wishing you can take photos with them.
Lifetip: When the crew of a bookstore tells you “no picture taking allowed”, follow them. Or not.
We had a fancy Italian dinner that night. The one that is so expensive and you all have to share but you still ended up not eating all of the food.
We then went to see the bands I never thought I still would see, Greyhoundz and Razorback. Being able to watch Greyhoundz live is something, being able to watch Greyhoundz back to back with Razorback is another. It was like the music gods gave us a gift because we’ve been very passionate about music. Did anyone ever think Reg Rubio is as small as he is? He seemed tall when he sings. Razorback started their set with a cover of a cover, The Beatle’s “Helter Skelter”. As a Beatles fan, the pieces of my brain scattered all over the wall of the small swanky bar. I was mindblown. They’re the kind of band which you only watch in awe and you only sing along when the vocalist signals you to do so. Kevin Roy is a commanding front man. And Razorback is a creative band as evident in the instruments that you see in their set which can’t be seen on the sets of other bands.
We were all enthusiastic about our third day in Manila, by then we already grown accustomed to the survival of the fittest train rides and the cross or get killed roads. So off we went to pay our respect to the national hero, Jose Rizal. The Rizal Park is not what it seemed on textbooks, in real life it is pretty huge. Towering like he is the smartest man on the country is the statue of Jose Rizal, surrounded by his crew of fellow revolutionaries.
We also went to Quaipo, a place so sacred, it is dangerous to visit. The crowd is as huge as a huge music festival. People flock the church in the hopes of their wishes being granted. Whoever permitted commercial establishment to be built around the holy house was not in his sane mind when they made the decision.
Travel tip: When visiting Quiapo consider your bags as parts of your body because half of the crowd has the possibility to snatch your property.
I have a secret addiction; I am addicted to watching shows. It started with Stone Temple Pilots’ reunion tour in Manila. I’m proud to tell everyone that I lost my concert virginity to a band with songs like Sex Type Thing. This year, we decided we need to end our extended teenage years by watching Motion City Soundtrack. The band has a good following in the US since they are always on the recent Warped Tour lineup. They’re sort of a watered down version of Blink 182 and Green Day. Plus, the venue is standing room, it’s time we show people to respect the queues on the ticket booths.
Life tip: If a band you like plays SM Sky Dome, just go ahead and reserve a ticket. For sure it’s going to be worth it.
Everything about the venue screams true passion. Although most people would separate passion from punk, passion was clearly exhibited by the one-man road team of the band, the almost less than a hundred standing fans and the bands who kept the whole crowd jumping, screaming, singing and jumping, screaming and singing again. It was pretty small crowd for an international band but the magnitude of passion that rocked the venue was astounding. It is the kind that keeps you going to a show even though you know you’ll be broke for the next month.
The bonus part was She’s Only Sixteen opened the show. And man the vocalist’s chiseled jaw is chiseled. But in all seriousness, She’s Only Sixteen is a talented band. They’re a colored The Strokes/Arctic Monkeys. You should check out their songs.
The rest of the night was spent jumping from dinner to a few bottles of beer to more bottles of beer.
Travel tip: If you happen to find yourself in Cubao Expo, try to have lunch/dinner at Penpen’s Resto. An affordable restaurant owned by Ping Medina. The first time my taste buds met their liempo, it was love at first taste.
All trips always conclude into a tiring airplane ride home where everyone sleeps except those with high alcohol level in their system. I never won any of those games that they play during plane rides. Their games are so easy, if they ask out of this world trivia questions, I might have a chance of winning a keychain for my bag.
Travel tip: Do not drink before boarding a plane. You are going to thank me for reminding you of this.
It is good to explore places once in a while. Whether you take a trip alone or along with your friends, stepping into new experiences is always fun. If given a chance, I would take a trip every day of my life. Oh wait, I’m already doing that. I’m taking every day of my life as a trip. And hell, I am having much fun.