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Our First Day In Singapore (Part 4)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 3) – November 14

Procrastination is probably one of the most common problem people have in their day to day life. Including myself, that is. After having experience with procrastination, I realized procrastination itself causes more pain than actually doing what I suppose to do. Everytime I check on our blog pages and see posts that are meant to be continued without ever reaching a conclusion, it gives me a pang of remorse. So today I’m making a deal with myself to JUST DO IT.

FIRST NIGHT AT THE ESPLANADE

We had a great day since we landed in the city. Walking the streets of Singapore and doing some food tripping and sight-seeing. By the time we got back at the hotel we hardly had time to rest and wash up to catch Techy Romantics’ set. We missed it! By the time we reached the Concourse, Carlos Castano was already setting up.

At the entrance.

We met other artists from the Philippines and some friends who are already based and working in Singapore. I also had the chance to meet Rebecca Lincoln, a freelance music journalist, who was the first one to write about The Camerawalls and recommend us in a music blog called Power of Pop.

with Rebecca Lincoln.

We roam around the area feeling the vibe and checked out the Arena where we are suppose to perform the next day. In our hearts, we felt extremely lucky to be chosen to perform on the best and biggest stage, with a good time slot. We secured good seats and watched a Singapore superband called Typewriter. Pretty good. But the hightlight of our night was when Jon Auer went onstage and jammed with Typewriter and sang songs from his band The Posies like “Flavour of the Month”. Now that’s in your face POP!

Jon Auer of The Posies jamming with Singapore's Typewriter at the Arena.

POST GIG FEASTING

When the music ended, excitement of the evening still floats in our heads. The night was young so we decided to indulge ourselves with their local beer and delicacies. Chili Crabs and dimsums in a 24-hour open food court near the Grand Pacific Hotel. Tiger Beer simply contributed to a perfect nightcap.

Delicious Chili Crabs

Tiger Beer and assorted Dimsums

“An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger, or a beer.”  – Confucius

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 3)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2) – August 20

The past two weeks have been a little tied up and I’m lagging behind on blog updates especially the ones from Singapore. I mustered enough drive to rummage into my files and resume this compendium of episodes during our trip inside the Lion City.

Alice In Bali Lane

Along the street of Bali Lane opposite Golden Landmark.

Bali Lane is one of those little streets in Singapore (like Haji Lane) that seem edgy and spirited during the night gauging on the kind of shops one can find along the streets. Too bad we manage to pass on a bright afternoon. Apparently it’s the area where one can find Straits Records, the local underground record label and gathering place for Singapore’s indie bands and music lovers.

Alice of Alice88th

We did a stopover in one of the convenience store to grab some bottled drinks. Ian Zafra chanced upon a shop called Alice88th that display what seems like punk clothing and went in to check it out. We followed after a few minutes and found him chatting with a bubbly owner of  the place predictably named Alice. Turns out its a Japanese Sales and Rental shop of clothing and accessories with themes ranging from Anime, Manga, Gothic, Lolita, Punk, Party and Masquerade costumes even wigs, shoes, dolls and much more.

She was the most conversational person we met or probably was quite eager to engage in one judging on the fact there isn’t much passersby during those periods. So we stayed there for a bit checking out both odd and pretty items for sale. You can see what’s in store here: http://alice88th.blogspot.com

In between testimonies and recommendations (what do do and where to go) for first timers in Singapore, our exchanges also covered the story of her beloved cat Ming-ming. The subject was brought up when we noticed a cute but snob feline friend roaming around the store while I pointed at a photograph of a cat displayed in one of the glass display table. Surprisingly she told me the one in the photo was a different one and only looks identical to the cat she currently houses.

Alice's beloved cat Ming-Ming. Lost but never forgotten.

She lost her cat when she left Ming-ming under her neighbor’s care, caged and all during a long trip outside the country. She was never treated that way and her theory is based on the trauma and agitation her cat experienced. So when the opportunity for escape presented itself, Ming-ming left and was nowhere to be found. It was an agonizing three months of grieving and searching, even spending some days sleeping on the sidewalk just to find her. Alice told us she almost went crazy, couldn’t eat and sleep. It was never the same without Ming-ming sharing her bed during cold nights.

Alice's new companion. Closely resembling Ming-ming.

The sad tale was preceded with lighter diverse topics I can no longer recall till we bid her goodbye and invited her to our gig at Esplanade. We continued our course following Ophir Road going Northwest and crossing Victoria Street, Rochor Canal Road and Jalan Besar till we reached our next stop – Little India.

Little India Walkabout

At Serangoon Road, Little India

Along the way we entertained ourselves watching people and buildings, taking more photos, occasionally conversing with stray cats and mingling with a bunch of pigeons. We notice something odd in some residential high-rise buildings. A number of them have at least five removable pole fixtures protruding from the  lower portion of their apartment windows which tenants use to hang dry their clothes. A rather unusual find.

I found an illustrated walkabout of Little India on the back of our city map and we all decided to follow it. It begins at a point besides Tekka Market/Center along Serangoon Road.

Little India is another ethnic neighborhood in Singapore with cultural elements of Tamil people. Tamilians are a linguistic and ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India. The language, literature, art and architecture have been given classical status. They have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilizations on Earth.

From Tekka Market we crossed Serangoon and went inside Little India Arcade – a labyrinth of shops selling all things Indian (arts, crafts, sweets, snacks, medicine). As we march along the busy streets we marvel at the wealth of the culture.

Strolling inside Little India Arcade.

Another thing we noticed everywhere we go are installations on the streets of tents with food offerings, Chinese lanterns and pots for burning items like paper. Antonette, our roadie, explained that in Chinese tradition, August is a month of bad luck where activities like weddings and traveling are suspended. Further research led me to sites explaining the Chinese Ghost Month – the most inauspicious time of the year.

The Chinese seventh month, usually August, apparently is the most ill-fated time of the year. It is called Ghost Month, and its climax is the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. Like a one month holiday for the dead during a time when spirits of the dead wanders, Chinese offerings and prayers are taken seriously anywhere in the world. Even in the streets of Little India.

Performances are also common to entertain the dead. We went near one of the stage and took notice of two young Chinese kids rehearsing on a Hammered Dulcimer and some drum percussion.

A stage in one of the streets of Little India with young Chinese kids rehearsing.

A hammered dulcimer.

The lovely sound of the dulcimer made us pause for a while to observe and listen. It’s a musical instrument typically trapezoidal in shape with strings graduated length are stretch on the sounding box and is played by being struck with hammers or mallets made of wood. First time I heard and seen it being played in close proximity that I even have to ask what instrument it is. If you are curious what it sounds like watch the clip below.

We finished a third of the walkabout route before deciding to head back to Dunlop St. to find an authentic place to eat. Our excitement level is still high but the 5 hour walk around the city already made us a little worn out. Funny enough, Bachie (our drummer) is already complaining of blisters.

We found a nice random place to eat called Sakunthala’s which serves a variety of South Indian cuisine. Later on I found out it won various recognition from the media. Lucky for us to find such a place in the busy streets of Little India. We tried their Mutton meal, a Poori Set, Chappati and Massalla Onion. True enough it was the best tasting Indian food I’ve ever had.

Masalla Onion

Mutton Murtabak Meal

Chappati

Poori Set

A renewed strength swept over us after that orgasmic delight. Dusk was falling rapidly as we left the restaurant heading back to our hotel happy and contented. Along the way we took a different route and found ourselves walking along the road where the Sri  Krishnan Temple and the Goddess Of Mercy Temple were located and brightly lit. It started to drizzle so we hurried along to rest for a a couple of hours before we catch Techy Romantics’ set plus other bands at the Arena in Esplanade.  – continued at Our First Day In Singapore (Part 4)…

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2)

continuation of Our First Day In Singapore (Part 1) – August 20

The Camerawalls along one of the streets of Singapore.

Arab Street

Singapore has a diverse population made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Caucasians and Asians (of various descent). It isn’t a wonder to find shopping and ethnic districts like Arab Street, Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Road and Marina Bay. We were able to do a walking tour of two of them before the day ends.

Our food trip in Bugis Street was preceded with a walkabout around the vicinity of Arab Street  just a few blocks away. Arab Street interestingly illustrates the Arabian culture. You can easily find conservatively dressed Muslims, beautiful old shop houses lined up on the streets and marvel at the largest mosque in the country – the Sultan Mosque – easily identified by its golden domes.

 

The grand Sultan Mosque.

Some of the many old shophouses common in the district.

Right across the Sultan Mosque is the famous Zam-Zam, one of Singapore’s best know restaurant for all sorts of Muslim-Malay food, which serves their legendary Murtabak (a type of stuffed pancake eaten with curry). Too bad we’re still full from our last meal.

One of Singapore's best known restaurant famous for their Murtabak.

Along Kandahar Street was a long line of street food vendors selling items quite unfamiliar to my eyes. I spotted a table that sells mini Otah-Otah. I asked what it is to which the vendor replied, “Fish cake made of mackarel”. I have never tasted fish cake so to my curiosity I bought some and shared it with the others. It’s spicy and is an acquired taste. I can do for one more hadn’t we moved along.

Later on I found out that Otah-Otah is also sometimes called Otak-Otak. Otak means brains in Indonesia and Malay. (Very close to the Filipino word “Utak” with the same meaning)  and the name of the dish is derived from the idea that the dish some what resembles brains, being grey, soft and almost squishy. Otah-otah is made by mixing fish paste (usually mackerel) with a mixture of spices. The mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf that has been softened by steaming, then grilled or steamed.

 

Otah-otah - a cake made of fish meat.

At Bian’s  Cafe

We chanced upon a cozy looking coffee shop along the same street and decided it’s about time for some caffeine in our system. We took our seats and was greeted by the very nice Chinese owner named Bian Huibin. While we wait for our order he offered us a book to browse: “The Sidewalk Beauty – The Stray Cats Of Singapore” – a photographic journal that pays tribute to Singapore’s street cats. Over 200 pages of beautiful cat photos with humoring captions. We notice most of the cats’ left ear in the photos are snipped. His website mentioned that in an attempt to curb the proliferation of stray cats, most of the strays have been sterilized. The snipped left tip on their ear is the mark of their surgery.

It took awhile before we found out he’s the author/photographer of the pictures in the book. Very entertaining for cat lovers like us. (I have one at home name Doro, Law has one named Bassline, both Ian Zafra and Antonette has one too and Bachie has a dozen!) Quite interesting is the author’s biography:

Bian Huibin graduated from the Faculty of Music at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in 1985, having majored in Percussion and minored in French Horn. In 1991, he graduated from the Beijing Film Academy Photography faculty, having majored in Feature Film Photography. He has been in Singapore since 1995 upon invitation to work in television production here. Since then, he has produced numerous advertisements and documentaries. He is currently the Artistic Director of Hetian Film Productions.

It’s very humbling that a man of his stature is serving coffee and drinks to his customers. I admired him for that. For more photos and info about his book visit straycatsofsingapore.com and singopera.com.sg. I went inside his shop and found a lot pictures on the wall of chinese opera singers in costume. He told me his wife is a Chinese Opera singer and instructor.  Chinese Opera is an old form of drama and musical theater in China with roots going back to the third century. Upstairs is Singapore Chinese Opera Museum (SCOM) in which Bian is also the museum director.

Relaxing at Bian's Cafe below the Singapore Chinese Opera Museum along Kandahar Street.

The Sidewalk Beauty - The Stray Cats of Singapore

Clementine with Bian Huibin (Photographer/Author of The Stray Cats of Singapore)

Some merchandise items from The Sidewalk Beauty.

A chinese opera doll at the entrance of Bian's Cafe and Singapore Chinese Opera Museum.

A wall full of opera singers' photos.

Bian and I had a difficult time conversing since he is not well-versed with the English language. But graciously tried to explain the things he do, showed me around a bit and opened his website for me to browse. He also showed me a sample clip of an actual chinese opera he produced. He asked about my music and I showed him our site and in no time at all the whole coffee shop was blasting “Canto De Maria Clara“, one of our songs from the debut album. And when it was time to say goodbye we took pics and exchanged cards for future correspondence.

A photo in one of the alleys of Arab Street district with the Sultan Mosque at the background.

Children’s Little Museum

There’s wonderful pedestrian area on Bussorah Street located right behind the Sultan Mosque. There are shops and cafes there. Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke. We also checked out a vintage shop called Children’s Little Museum. It has items from 1950s to 1970s. A very nostalgic and enjoyable find!

Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke.

Children's Little Museum - Singapore

A Wurlitzer Jukebox

Bruce Lee and vintage Tellies.

Orange everywhere?

Miniature Vespas!

The Beatles, classic radio and ashtrays.

Old Timepieces.

A place to drool and marvel.

Continued at Our First Day in Singapore (Part 3)

Our First Day In Singapore (Part 1)

A few months ago we were mighty thrilled to receive an inquiry from Esplanade exploring The Camerawalls for Baybeats 2010 and privileged enough to eventually be included in the line up. It’s our first regional gig outside the Philippines and I would like to share some of the things we did and experienced during our three-day stay in Singapore from August 20 – 22.

Day 1 – August 20

Eat, Pray, Love

We left Cubao, QC at 3am after a brief sleepover with the whole band at Antonette’s place. Her brother Anthony graciously woke up during witching hour to drive us to the airport. Checking in wasn’t much of a hassle. We killed some time beside a dimsum shop on the second floor of the airport while waiting for boarding time. Coffee and small talks while Ian Zafra (SATI) reads a soft bound copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A memoir that chronicles the American author’s trip around the world after her divorce and what she discovered during her travels. A New York Times bestseller with a film adaptation starring Julia Roberts. Both I have yet to read and see.

I tried to sleep on board but was distracted by the most number of sneezing and coughing. A dreadful chorus producing an awful discomfort coming from all sides. One more hour… I  hope I don’t catch  any unwanted virus that would hamper my singing the next day.

We arrived at Changi International Airport 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Our artist liason officer was already waiting for us. Nice girl named Clara Ang. She gladly welcomed us and during one of our short conversations she asked if we smoked. I said “No”.  “Great. Easier for me,” she replied.

My entourage: Ian Zafra, Bachie Rudica, Antonette Maniquis and Law Santiago.

We rode a coaster with Chicosci, another fellow musician from the Philippines and went to our first stop at Esplanade where we stored our musical instruments at assigned dressing rooms. Roads will be closed the next day for the first ever Youth Olympic Games – an international multi-sport event featuring athletes from ages 14 to 18. It would be such a drag to do a 15 minute walk from our hotel to Esplanade carrying our equipment.

Also I finally met Christie Chua the program director who invited The Camerawalls a few months back. Had a little chat with her and learned that Baybeats Festival is on its ninth year. Gave her some copies of “Pocket Guide To The Otherworld” to sell at Esplanade shop during the festival. According to her, normally the weather in the country is fairly warm and humid. But we notice that day it’s particularly cooler accompanied with patchy drizzles. Best time to go for a walk and see some parts of the city.

St. Joseph’s Church

We went straight to Grand Pacific Hotel to check in and freshen up. Got a hold of a free Singapore Island map at the lobby before we went up the elevator. We were tired from lack of sleep but excited at the same time since it’s our first time in the city with only a few hours to kill each day to do other things not related to Baybeats.

The hotel along Victoria Street is ideally near a lot of places and is situated right inside the heart of the district. Transportation is easy with buses, cabs and MRT lines. We decided to walk instead to see the sights and find a good place to eat that’s cheap and authentic. Heading northeast along Victoria St. we saw our first stop – St. Joseph’s Church. A gothic styled Roman Catholic church built in the early 1900’s by the Portuguese mission. The building’s very attractive and the place boast of beautifully-crafted stained glass windows.

St. Joseph's Church along Victoria Street.

Bugis Street

We went pass Middle Road and crossed Manila Street till we reached Bugis Street. A once famous tourist spot in Singapore for a nightly gathering of transwomen and transgender sex bazaar culture. A colourful and unique era that ended in 1980s during the redevelopment of the place into a retail complex of shopping malls, restaurants, nightspots and back-alley vendors plus the underground construction of the Bugis MRT station. It is now billed as “the largest street-shopping location in Singapore“.

The New Bugis Street

After going thru sections of food, clothing, apparels, watches, fruits, even a sex shop stall, we found ourselves in an alley full of small street restaurants with a common dining area in the middle for customers. The combined scent of dishes after dishes being prepared and served signaled a retreat to one of the tables near Cui Xiang Yuan restaurant. We soon realized how hungry we were. We ordered Chili Chicken, Mushroom Chicken, Seafood & Beancurd Soup, Seafood Rice and they were absolutely delicious. Or maybe we were just famished.

Chili Chicken with Rice

Seafood & Beancurd Soup

Mushroom Chicken with Rice

First meal of the day.

The food is rather cheap and authentic. It was a good idea to check out that alley. Enough to prep us for another couple of hours walking around the place. We further looked around before deciding to hit the streets once more towards our next destination – Arab Street. – continued at Our First Day In Singapore (Part 2)

Our Baguio Exploits (Day 2)

The house at noontime.

February 6 – Day 2

I woke up around noon and the house was pretty quiet. Turns out we’re now divided into two groups. We’re one Camerawalls’ member short with me, Ian, Pao, Sarah and Cheska being left behind to snooze some more. Law join the group of The Bernadettes and our roadies Antonette and Odette with their own spree of shopping for souvenirs and food tripping. Before I continue, let me share an account of what the other group did thru a written contribution by our host Antonette:

When Clem asked me what we did on our 2nd day in Baguio, I laughed. I remembered how crazy and fun that day was. It was around 10am when I was awakened by the noises made by the Angeles brothers just outside the bedroom I was sleeping in. I was rooming with Daphne and Clem — Daph ready to go, while Clem was still all curled up in his bed. The weather was really nice and I wanted to sleep in more but I realized it was our 2nd and last day in Baguio. I want to make the most of the trip since I only get to go to Baguio once a year.

It was almost 12NN and we were all hungry. The Bernadettes, Law, Daph and I decided to go together. Clem, Ian, Cheska, Paolo and Sarah stayed in the house and left late in the afternoon. Instead of playing it safe and going to SM for lunch, we all voted we head to Burnham Park and eat in one of those carinderias were the locals go. We almost ordered everything that was offered to us. All dishes that were served to us were cleared in less than an hour – we were THAT hungry.

Not wanting to waste any time, we headed to the market right after lunch, where we bought the “usual” Baguio pasalubongs – walis tambo, broccolis, strawberries, Sagada oranges, chorizos. The highlight of the trip in the market was when I said we need to buy coffee. But isn’t Batangas the coffee producing city of the Philippines? I thought so too, but years ago, a coffee produced from Benguet was introduced to me by my dad. I am pretty good with directions, but that time, I didn’t want to waste any time, I decided to ask for directions on how to get to the part of the market where they sold coffee. After asking one of the vendors, I was told, “Pag-akyat niyo, madali na lang hanapin. Amoy kape kasi.” True enough, we just followed the smell of the coffee! I was supposed to get the Sagada roast but I was told it was too strong that’s why I opted for the Benguet Robusta and Arabica for my dad while the Angeles’ bought Sagada roast.

We then headed to Camp John Hay, specifically in Mile-Hi Camp where the shop called Everything Nice was located. I went in the store and only found chocolate chip cookies in the rack. A bit disappointed, but hopeful, I came up to the lady in the counter and asked if there’s any chance they’ll have new batches of chocolate crinkles to be delivered before 7PM. There is no way I am coming home to Manila without those crinkles I promised my brothers.

The nice lady made a quick call to their main office and said informed me that I can come back at around 4PM for the crinkles. But we didn’t leave the shop empty handed. Paolo bought cinnamon rolls and ensaymadas while Odette bought brownies, which by the way, was all eaten before we reached our next destination – Baguio Country Club.

No, we aren’t members of the country club. Odette just wants her raisin bread BADLY. On our way to the country club, being the sneaky tandem that we are, Odette and I had our battle plan. The security was strict. We were stopped in the entrance because we didn’t have a sticker to prove that we’re club members. I stuck out my head in window and told the guard that I need to inquire something that was wedding related. We waited for 5 minutes before we were let in. We were instructed to look for a certain person that we could talk to. Of course, we had to show ourselves to the events manager – he was expecting us. It’s a good thing that I really needed to talk to him about some wedding-related businesses. And after the 5 minute-meeting, Odette and I headed in the bakeshop. She bought the 2 remaining raisin breads. Mission accomplished!

We finished off our shopping and food tripping by heading to Mines View and Good Shepherd, we also had to go back to Everything Nice to pick up my chocolate crinkles.

It was getting a little cold and we all decided to head back to Gibraltar to pack, relax and wait for Clem and the rest. We also had strawberry wine and chorizo by the fireplace. Before leaving the house, we had our usual “class picture” (minus Andre who left right away, after the gig) in the living room and outside the house by the staircase. – Antonette

A nice recap. While they we’re busy doing all that our group took our time and had a more laid-back, random itinerary. I started my day with a 30 minute jog back and forth Gibraltar St. passing by a lot of Koreans doing horseback riding at Wright Park. As I traverse along the pine road I keep passing by an area with a lone street vendor selling grilled corn on cobs. Couldn’t resist to urge to take some home so I ordered a few continuing my jog as I wait for it to be ready. Grilled, buttered and salted to taste.

Couldn't resist to take some home.

Sharing my corn cobs with coffee on the side. Our brunch at 2pm.

I received an invite by JB Bautista (President of University of Baguio) for his little daughter’s birthday celebration at Jollibee automatically determining our first stop for the day. Jada is so cute and adorable in her boots and blue dress. We enjoyed watching the kids during the program while chatting with some of the dads about the joys and pains of parenting.

Before we left Jenny (the celebrant’s mom) gave us some kiddie souvenirs (which i gave to my little niece when I got home) while JB, to my surprise, handed me a Morrissey tour shirt!

The Birthday Celebrant

Party Girls

Birthday Treats!

We went straight to Mines View Park to buy some “pasalubong” (treats) to bring home to our friends and relatives. I spotted a “Taho” Vendor selling strawberry flavored taho uncommon in Manila and Bulacan and couldn’t resist to indulge in this signature sweet. Taho is a Philippine snack food typically made of fresh soft tofu, arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup) and pearl sago (similar to pearl tapioca). But the variety in Baguio uses strawberry syrup instead of arnibal.

After checking out a number of shops and scanning the area of the overlooking portion of the park for any changes and developments since our last visit (hardly any, except for added stalls), we headed back to the house. It was already dark.

Taho.

Souveniers at countless shops at Mines View Park

Getting dark so we pose for our last shot at Mines View.

The fireplace was blazing when we arrived and we gladly joined the rest for a few more drinks and chit-chat before we packed our stuff and get ready for the long drive home. As Antonette mentioned, any Lilystars gathering isn’t complete without taking our usual “class picture.”

Coffee and Crinkles by the fireplace.

The mandatory family pic before we say adios.

Our adventure doesn’t end there since we were invited by The Edralins to their gig at Gilligans. Our final stop before we leave the city intoxicated. We were probably the rowdiest group in the bar indulging to jamming requests and singing along to familiar tunes performed as we cheered the night away with unlimited booze courtesy of JB Bautista. T’was a great night. After the gig we all bid our goodbyes and left with a lasting grin on our faces that will eventually be drowned in sleep as we finally hit the road back home.

The Edralins

Jamming at Gilligans.

Poch & Paolo of The Bernadettes + Ian Sarabia as Oasis chorus boys.

Turbo Goth performing Bizarre Love Triangle.