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Nov 082017

This is my Google Maps timeline for the day I flew to HK from Manila. It was 1,149 km (according to Google Maps. See lefthand column. Click on photo to enlarge.)

This is my 4 minute video journal for my trip to Hong Kong last October 8 to 10, 2016:

(choose 720p HD quality on the lower right hand corner for a higher quality video.)
One of the first things I did upon getting there was buying a sim card so I had data on my phone- essential for using maps to get around. I didn’t buy a prepaid sim card from the airport. I got it from one of the Filipino stores in World-Wide Plaza in central (Hong Kong has a lot of Filipino migrant laborers). It was real cheap because it didn’t have unlimited data. I think it had 2 GB, but it’s more than sufficient for me for three days. The airport sim cards all offer unlimited data packages, but HK$88 felt like overkill for me since it’s only three days. This cost me only HK$30 I think.

prepaid Hong Kong CSL sim card

I have a dual sim phone.

Past Central, near the mid- Levels, there’s this really cool narrow alley with neat graffiti. I saw a small post with graffiti on it, took some photos, then noticed that there’s an even longer wall up the stairs it with more. I passed it on my walking up to the PMQ (00:17 time stamp in the video journal above).

hong kong graffiti

stairs to the right

It’s on the left side of this photo. In this photo, I was actually shooting this woman pushing her cart uphill, the graffiti wall just so happened to be on the edge of it. This was a really steep climb, she’s really incredible.

woman pushing cart uphill, Hong Kong, October 2016

These are the graffiti pictures:

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Street Scenes:

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Stanley Beach:

This is one of my favorite tourist spots in Hong Kong. That’s why it rates its own album.

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Pay Phones:

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Click here to see more photos from this trip on Flickr.

 Posted by on November 8, 2017  Tagged with: ,
Jan 152017

dog on a push cart with plastic bags
dog perched on a push cart with plastic bags, Quezon City, Philippines, October 2015

rooster 2
rooster, Fairview, May 2016

monkeys on the side of the road 13
roadside monkey, Subic, April 2016

cat behind grilles of a corner store 2
cat behind grilles of a corner store, Makati, Philippines, October 2015

stray cat nestled between rocks 3
stray cat nestled between rocks, Manila, April 2016

k-9 handler and dog 1
K-9 handler and dog, Makati, January 2016

white dog looking up
Shanghai, China, April 2016

Dec 152016

street tableau
Quezon City, Philippines, March 2016

Dec 072016

Jump to: Day 1(views of the rice terraces from different viewing decks) |Day 2 (Market Day + Downtown) | Day 3 (Batad Village)

In August 2016, I went to Banaue, Ifugao Province. It’s 371 kilometers north of where I departed in Quezon City.

371 km drive

371 km drive

Here are 28 of my favorite images from the trip that didn’t make it into the trip log albums below:

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Click here to see more photos from the trip on Flickr.

Too long, didn’t read version -> Watch this video:

Day 1: 26 August 2016

I got to Banaue around 5:15 A.M., so I was really groggy. The hostel I stayed in sent a tricycle to fetch me, and I went to sleep upon getting to my bed 5 minutes after. I stayed at a hostel called Banaue Homestay on the main road.

(click to zoom in)

Parts of the ride were pretty horrible. The problem was not the bumpy roads, but the fact that it was zigzagging all over the place. One of my first purchases in town upon waking up was three tablets of carsickness medicine for the ride home.

I walked around a bit and grabbed a late lunch at the Las Vegas after waking up.

(click to zoom in)

Around 2:45 PM, I hired the hostel’s tricycle to take me on a tour of the different viewing stations set up for tourists to photograph the Banaue Rice Terraces.

The first spot was at the Hiwang Village. It involved a very mild hike of around ten to fifteen minutes. (5 photos)

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The next viewing stations were at the:

a.) View Point (4 photos)

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b.) the National Food Authority View Deck (where the sign proclaims that the view of the rice terraces printed on the 1,000 peso bill was taken here) (4 photos)

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c.) and the Main View Point. The signs are all hand-painted. (8 photos)

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That night, I had dinner at a cozy little lodge downtown called Sanafe. The place had a lot of old school photos and antiques.

Day 2: 27 August 2016

Saturday is the town’s market day. People from surrounding villages gathered downtown to buy and sell hard goods, livestock (mostly poultry), fresh vegetables, seafood (probably captured elsewhere as Banaue is landlocked), shaved ice desserts, grilled fast food, etc. (13 photos in slideshow below)

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– 13 second video clip of market day

I stayed for a couple of hours until it started raining around 1 PM, then I hightailed it back to Banaue Homestay.

I ventured back downtown late afternoon and hung out at the Uyami Green Lodge to have late lunch and read. I also had dinner there before heading back early evening.

Downtown is made up of two to three streets below the main road from the hostel I stayed in. You can access it via a road sloping down, or a narrow stairway.

Here are four photos of downtown at night.

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Day 3: 28 August 2016

I hired the hostel’s tricycle to take me to Batad. It’s a town around an hour away from the hostel that also has rice terraces. There’s a half hour hike from the last bit of paved road where we had to park the tricycle to the ticket booth. Then another half an hour from the ticket booth to various spots where you can sit and catch your breath on rickety benches. You can opt to hike another hour or so more to reach a famous waterfall, but I abandoned that plan an hour after hiking downhill.

(8 photos in slideshow below)

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The first ten minutes were on super rocky and muddy ground with a lot of gaps in between. I kept worrying I would fall down and never be heard from again. I don’t know how the locals seem to be able to hike it with just flip flops. It was quite slippery due to the rain.

I would pause every so often to catch my breath. Luckily, after the scary first ten minutes, there were paved stair steps to walk on.

You can opt to keep going down into the actual rice paddies and houses below, and then cross to the other side to the waterfalls I mentioned above.

There is no way to reach this part of town via any motorized vehicle, just on foot. Not even a bicycle.

After Batad, the tricycle took me back to my hostel where I rested. Left Banaue around 6 PM and got back home before 3 AM.

Nov 302016

barbershop with a motorcycle parked in front of it
Quezon City, Philippines, May 2015

green barbershop in Altura, Sta Mesa, Manila 3
Manila, Philippines, April 2016

cebu barbershop 1
Cebu, Philippines, January 2016

Nov 302016

Zoom In

scooter delivery

scooter delivery, Tainan City, June 2007

Oct 302016

security guard standing by the door of a corrugated tin wall
security guard standing by the door of a corrugated tin wall, July 2015

San Miguel beer crates in trucky
San Miguel beer crates in truck, October 2015

Oct 152016

punk's not dead written on a house- 4-4
house that says Punk’s Not Dead, Fariview, Quezon City, May 2016

blue house with pink flowers
blue house with pink flowers, Quezon City, Philippines, May 2015

big mansion in the middle of nowhere in Tagaytay
mansion in the middle of nowhere, Tagaytay, January 2016

Standard Photo Engraving building 4
Standard Photo Engraving building, Quezon City, March 2016

closed store-2
closed store, Fariview, Quezon City, May 2016

Oct 082016

bamboo on top of a motorcycle covered with a tarp
Quezon City, Philippines, October 2015

Oct 012016

coca cola painted on store with a woman on a bench

San Juan, Philippines

click here to see more of my House of Soda photos

Sep 262016

vulcanizing shop at night 1

Makati, Philippines, May 2015

Sep 202016

fuck yeah and height markers on wall
Mandaluyong, Philippines, November 2015

Sep 102016

Jehovah’s Witness jeep with a sign that says “The Watch Tower”:
top view of blue jeepney with The Watch Tower written on it
March 2016

tricycle that says Gift of God:
tricycle that says Gift of God-2
May 2016

Jeep that says Thanks God:
Thanks God sign on a jeepney
Quezon City, Philippines, April 2016

truck that says God Gave Me You:
truck with mud flap that says God gave me you
Subic, Philippines, April 2016

Aug 202016

seven new additions to my street side grotto collection (click link to see more!)

white street side grotto behind a Mormon temple 1
November 2015

blue virgin mary grotto with pictures
June 2015

virgin mary grotto behind grilles- makati - at night 2
January 2016

blue street side grotto across a Mormon temple 3
November 2015

green street side grotto 2
March 2016

small blue virgin mary grotto 2
November 2015

street side grotto, Matimyas St. 3
December 2015

Aug 152016

falling coconuts sign 3
Caution: Falling Coconuts, Quezon City, February 2016

warning- falling tree branches-2
Caution: Falling Branches, Quezon City, Philippines, May 2016

 Posted by on August 15, 2016  Tagged with:
Jul 302016

street key duplicator
Shanghai, China

key duplicator
San Juan, Philippines

both April 2016

Jul 152016

Stars and Stripes + Jesus on a jeepney, Quezon City, Philippines, April 2016

tricycle with an anime character 1
Japanese manga character on a tricycle, Quezon City, Philippines, May 2016

jeepney with convoy written on it 1
Jeepney depicting a truck with the word “convoy”, March 2016

Jul 042016

I met Flip One after he commented on a couple of my graffiti posts online. He invited me to watch him paint a wall in Taytay, Rizal. He wanted to do an homage to Wild Style, but written in baybayin, the precolonial Filipino alphabet.

This is the video of the day we met and shot Wild Style in Rizal. 8 minutes 42 seconds:

This is the 37 second time-lapse version for those of you in a rush:

Links to the stuff mentioned in the video:

  1. The story of the two Montana paints
  2. Wikipedia entry on baybayin, the precolonial Philippine writing system Flip One wrote his piece in.
  3. Flip One took me to this great wall in Marikina before we headed to Taytay to paint. Please click here to see the photos and video I took there.

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Jul 042016

I met Flip One after he commented on a couple of my graffiti posts online. He invited me to watch him do a wall in Rizal, but before we headed there, he took me to Buenviaje Street, Marikina, where there was a really long wall covered with great graffiti. I would never have seen this if he hadn’t brought me there, because I am very rarely in Marikina.

video length: 1 minute 19 seconds | YouTube link | Vimeo link

Please watch the videos I made of him painting the aforementioned wall in Taytay, Rizal:

Panoramic views:

Click to read information on Tado, the man memorialized in the piece above.

Close up views of each individual piece. Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

Jun 302016

truck typography
November 2015

old red car parked on the side of a street
March 2016

blue and white VW car
November 2015

car in front of a structure with a domed roof and cracked wall
March 2016

Jun 152016

jeepney at night
September 2015

jeepney interiors
March 2016

Jun 102016

I first shot the graffiti on the walls surrounding this basketball court one night last year, in September 2015.

basketball court graffiti at night, Mandaluyong

When I passed by again in May, I saw that some of the pieces have been changed, so I made it a point to go back and shoot it. Also, it looks more vibrant when photographed at daytime and my 2015 photograph of it was made at night. During the day, it looks like this:


Barangka Drive graffiti panorama, Mandaluyong City, Philippines

This section on the upper right of the wall impressed me a lot.

Please CLICK the thumbnails to view close up photos of the individual pieces:

Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 2016

Jun 052016

Watch a two minute video of me shooting the two parking lots:

They were both in parking lots along Quezon Avenue. As I mentioned in the video, the first piece was difficult to climb and access due to the rocky obstacles in front of it. So I don’t have close up shots of the individual pieces.

Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Quezon Avenue parking lot graffiti, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

These were outside:

This are some wide angle shots of the graffiti in the second parking lot:

quezon avenue graffiti panorama

Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Click the thumbnails below to view details of each piece:

May 312016

ice truck 2
April 2016

ice truck 3
December 2015

ice truck 1
December 2015

ice truck 1
April 2016

ice truck 6
December 2015

May 172016

November 2015 to March 2016:

9 de Pebrero, Mandaluyong, Philippines

two faces with letters 9 de Pebrero, Mandaluyong, Philippines, November 2015

basketball court graffiti at night- panorama

basketball court graffiti at night, Makati, Philippines September 2015

flying horse graffiti, San Juan, Philippines March 2016

flying horse graffiti, San Juan, Philippines March 2016

Hemady Street, New Manila, Philippines, March 2016

Hemady Street, New Manila, Philippines, March 2016


zoomed out view of the photo above


San Juan, Philippines, November 2015

zoomed out view of santolan graffiti


corner of Roces and Tuason Streets, Quezon City, March 2016

san juan, philippines

Aurora Boulevard, May 2015


Aurora Boulevard, December 2015

Click to see the evolution of this Aurora Boulevard wall from 2013 to 2015

More of my graffiti photos here.

May 112016

Topics: photos of strange signs, animals on the street, Shanghai, & more!

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Newsletter #4!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

This will be my first newsletter for 2016, so it will have more photos than usual. The photos in this letter were taken from January – May 2016. Please be patient and wait for the photos to load.

I was in Shanghai last month, so this newsletter will have a little extra foreign flavor. Click here to read my post about it.

I photograph signs a lot and there was a bumper crop of them the past few months since it was national election season. I’ll be putting together an album of those photos once I’ve organized them.

If you missed the last newsletter where I documented the evolution of the graffiti of a wall over three years, check it out here. Here’s a list of my past newsletters.

Hope you enjoy this month’s dispatch. Please forward this to friends of yours who may be interested, and ask them to subscribe too!

Always Fresh



roadside bike repair stall in Shanghai 
video length: 11 seconds

handmade rice krispie stall, Shanghai, China
video length: 13 seconds

This month’s addition to my ongoing series of various street side grottoes in the Philippines. 


street side grotto, Philippines

People often ask me where I find them. They’re actually everywhere, hidden in random nooks and crannies.

This was taken near Banawe, Quezon City, March 2016
Here’s a zoomed out view where I shot the grotto above.


street side grotto

Makati, March 2016


Makati, Philippines

Makati, Philippines



photos from the run up to the Philippine elections 2016

I like her clever visual pun on “lima” being the word for 5, and then drawing a hand with all five fingers on it. Most of the campaign signs I’ve seen weren’t that creative.


Philippines photos from the run up to the Philippine elections 2016

Only in the Philippines:


coconuts falling warning sign

And only in China… (Here are more photos of weird products I spotted in Shanghai.)

Oba Mao T-shirt (Obama + Mao Zedong)

Oba Mao T-shirt (Obama + Mao Zedong)

No dispatch is complete without an addition to my collection of Philippine graffiti:



That one was shot in Quezon City, on the corner of Roces and Tuason Streets.
Zoomed out view:



This one was shot along Hemady Street in New Manila.

graffiti new manila, Philippines
graffiti, new manila, Philippines

This one of a flying horse was shot in San Juan. The 3D perspective is really good.

graffiti- Philippines

Animals hanging out on the street:

cat Philippines

You wouldn’t want to mess with this one in a cockfight:


I spotted a bunch of monkeys randomly hanging out by the side of the highway outside Subic in January. I fired off some shots, but none were any good as I was too far and could not reverse. I went back to Subic this April and was able to get a few good shots.

There was also an enterprising monkey who was eating chips. Take a look at the 8 second video clip here.

Subic, Philippines

Subic, Philippines


This theater was built in the 1930s. See more of my Shanghai photos in my blog post.

Cathay Theatre- built in the 1930s

Cathay Theatre- built in the 1930s

I shot this in January on the road to Tagaytay. It was a mansion in the middle of nowhere. No other houses around.

big mansion in the middle of nowhere in tagaytay 2

Mandatory cheesy touristy shot of Pudong, Shanghai:

Pudong, Shanghai

Pudong, Shanghai

Street Key Duplicator:

Shanghai is ultramodern in many ways, yet still has a lot of old school tradesmen doing business on the street, as you can see from the rice krispie baker and bike repairman video clips I put above.

This street key duplicator stall reminded me of the numerous such street stalls here in the Philippines:

key duplicator street stall

Above: Shanghai, China | Below: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines (both taken April 2016)

key duplicator

These rides have messages:

truck with mud flap that says God gave me you
Thanks God sign on a jeepney
tricycle with an anime character


So this guy has a Twilight hoodie…

guy on a motorcycle with a Twilight jacket
Shanghai, China
guy selling bottles of pink stuff
san juan slaughterhouse window with green stripe

From top to bottom:
Roxas Boulevard, Manila, April 2016
Shanghai, China, April 2016
Banawe, Quezon City, March 2016
San Juan, Metro Manila, February 2016

From the Web

I thought this article in the March 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine asking whether staged photographs can tell the truth was pretty timely.

As it’s easier to create manipulated images with software and post them online, more and more people who aren’t used to internet staples like memes and satire websites encounter such images for the first time and take them as gospel truth, get enraged, or scared, and reproduce their misinterpretation elsewhere.

I like how this article explains that manipulated/ processed/ staged images aren’t necessarily “fake”, but subject to different meanings depending on the context of the shoot, and anyway, aren’t all photos “staged” somehow when you choose what to exclude out of the frame?

Here is the link to this great article.


Blast From The Past:

may 2010 elections

photo taken on National Election Day six years ago (2010)

Stamp of the Day:

pacquiao-stamp low res

This dispatch’s featured stamp is this Manny Pacquiao stamp issued in 2015, in honor of his being elected into the Philippine senate a couple of days ago.

Visit my Stamp Library for more.

Friendly Reminder: Punk’s Not Dead.

punk's not dead on house Fairview, Quezon City, Philippines


Photographed last month outside a house in Fairview, Quezon City.

punk's not dead on house

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May 072016

I was in Shanghai for a few days this April. Wherever I go, I try to document the local graffiti and street art, but strangely, I didn’t see any this trip.

Skip to: Trades | A Shanghai Minute | People | Weird Products of China | Architecture | Transportation | Pay Phones | Maps

Shanghai, China

Pudong, Shanghai, China

Despite the ultramodern steel and glass structures multiplying by the hundreds every year, Shanghai still has a lot of vendors that ply their crafts and wares on the street.

The key duplicator stall in my A Shanghai Minute section below wouldn’t look out of place at all where I live in the Philippines.

Here are two short video clips of such old school tradesmen:

Roadside bicycle repair: 11 seconds

Rice Krispie maker: 13 seconds

A Shanghai minute

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13 photos


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10 photos

The majority of the tourists I met used their mobile phones to take photos. Death knell for the camera industry?

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7 photos

Products of China

China is not currently known as the factory of the world for nothing. Here are some strange Made in China products that you won’t find anywhere else. Like this mini electric fan. It comes in both lightning and micro USB ports and can plug in your iOS or Android devices.


5 photos – Click thumbnails to zoom in

Shanghai architecture

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16 photos


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9 photos

Most of the scooters I saw in Shanghai of the electric variety. They’re either e-bikes or full sized scooters fitted with 48v batteries. Made the streets much quieter than a typical street in Taipei City for example, where most people ride petrol based scooters.

4 seconds

Pay Phones

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4 photos

Click here to see more photos from my trip on Flickr.

map showing my route to shanghai

My route to Shanghai.

 Posted by on May 7, 2016
May 062016

I’ve scuba dived with Arizona Dive Shop in Subic Bay a few times already. I first dove with them in 2015 and went on day trips to dive with them in January and April 2016.The area where you will board your boat is a small distance away from the hotel, so there’s a little moving platform that takes you to the “floating bar” where the boat is parked near.

Arizona Dive Shop, Subic, Philippines

Arizona Dive Shop, Subic, Philippines

Here are some clips of the dive sites I went to in January and April:


From Wikipedia:

LST (Landing Ship, Tank) This is one of the large LSTs that litter the floor of Subic Bay. She was scuttled in 1946 in the middle of Subic Bay between the southern tip of the runway and Grande Island.

02 minutes 33 seconds

02 minutes 23 seconds

San Quentin:

From Wikipedia:

San Quentin: During the Spanish–American War in 1898, the Spanish scuttled their San Quintín (now often referred to as the San Quentin) in the hope of blocking the passage between Grande Island and Chiquita Islands near the mouth of Subic Bay.

02 minutes 44 seconds


01 minute 23 seconds

These underwater videos were taken with my trusty Faux-Pro, an SJCam SJ4000 camera. Click here to view the other scuba diving videos I uploaded.

On the ride home in January, I spotted some monkeys randomly hanging out on the side of the highway in Subic. I wasn’t able to get good shots because I had already driven past them and just hurriedly snapped a few out the window. It was also inconvenient to reverse the car on the highway.

I was prepared for them in April though, watching out for them as I left the beach area.

video runtime: 12 seconds

Click to enlarge:

They didn’t seem to mind being photographed. Although one eventually hissed at me and I took it as my cue to leave.

video runtime: 4 secs.

There was one enterprising fellow who snacked on chips while the rest of his buddies made do with chewing leaves.

video runtime: 8 secs.

Other photos from the trip. Click to enlarge:

Other clips from the trip:

first video runtime 13 seconds | second video runtime 20 seconds

According to Google Maps, Subic is 128 kilometers away from me.

map to subic

May 042016

Sinulog is an annual cultural/ religious festival held in Cebu, Philippines. It’s held in honor of Santo Nino, the baby Jesus. (more on Wikipedia)

There were dancers and drummers. Click to watch the 2 second video clips:

There were a lot of floats and a parade of Catholic Church related historical memorabilia:

There was a also parade of assorted characters including the Grim Reaper warning against global warming and drugs, huge Pacquiao and Mayweather effigies, and the cast of Star Wars and the baby Jesus. (The festival happened around the time The Force Awakens was showing.)

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

According to Google Maps, Cebu is 847 kilometers away by car from me. I took a plane there.


Dec 292015

topics: evolution of 1 wall over 3 years, ice truck & vintage biscuit tin typography, etc

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Newsletter #3!

Lundi, 28 Decembre 2015

Dear Friends,

In this month’s newsletter, I show you guys a short video of the evolution of the graffiti on a wall I’ve photographed for three years now.

I also photographed ice trucks, a new addition to my street side grotto series, and vintage biscuit tins on a wall this month.

This month’s web link is about a 78 year old woman who’s one of the last few photographers working with a huge Polaroid camera. She just recently retired.

Extras for this month’s newsletter is a how-to video on melting chocolate, and adding GPS metadata to your photographs.

For those who didn’t receive it, you can view my first newsletter here, it explains why I started this.

Hope you enjoy this month’s dispatch. Please forward this to friends of yours who may be interested, and ask them to subscribe too!

Feel free to write back with comments or photo requests.

Took the photo below on Christmas day.


Always Fresh


Evolution of a wall

 *|YOUTUBE:[$vid=YcW3d2V9Wkc, $ratings=N, $views=N]|*

In this 2 minute 33 second video, I show you guys photographs I took of graffiti on a wall on a side street of Aurora Boulevard, San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines.

This is a series of seven (7) photographs showing how the wall has changed throughout different points in time from 2013- 2015.

Click here to see larger versions of the following photos on my website:
evolution of a wall

Ice Trucks

This December is unseasonably hot and sunny. I decided to start a new photo series shooting ice trucks. 

I love the typography on these trucks and how they try to design these embellishments on the lettering to evoke coolness.


This month’s addition to my  ongoing series of various street side grottoes in the Philippines.

I shot this in Matimyas St., Manila, Philippines.

Since people often ask where I shoot these, here is the zoomed out view of where I shot the grotto:


3 dimensional biscuit tins with vintage on a wall, shot in San Juan, Philippines

panorama view

From the Web

Elsa Dorfman, 78, has been shooting portraits for over 30 years. She posseses one of the six existing Polaroid 20×24 cameras in the world, which weighs 240 lbs.

Read and watch a video about her here.


Past Work:


Stamp of the Day:

1985 stamp of a 1918 Cleveland, U.S.A. motorbike

Centenaire de l’invention de la Motocyclette

Visit my Stamp Library for more.

December Extras:


I try to make DIY chocolate covered potato chips in this 5 minute 14 second video.

If you don’t have a GPS module for your camera, and it’s not connected to the Internet in any way, you can still easily add location data to the photo’s metadata.You can easily tag your photos manually with whatever software that allows location tagging, but what if you shot a lot of photos? Like when you travel?I show you guys in this 11 minute 41 second video how to geotag automatically and easily with GPS4cam. (requires a smartphone – iOS or Android)

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Dec 162015

small rural store

Sagada, Philippines March 2015

small town stalls 02

small town stalls 01

Dec 102015

waiting shed 3

Batangas, Philippines, March 2015

waiting shed 1

Dec 052015

roosters in cages 2
Makati, December 2014

rooster in front of its cage
Manila, October 2013

rooster in the grass
Manila, October 2013

Nov 302015
I used be awed by crazy ideas and say “I wish I thought of that” or “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Then slowly sometime in my mid 20s my mindset shifted to, “I thought of that but it’s never gonna work.”
I think one of the invisible shifts to adulthood happens when upon hearing a seemingly outlandish business idea, one no longer asks “Why didn’t I think of that?!” in wonder anymore, but instead mutters, “That’s a stupid idea, how does that work?”. From there, it’s only a short hop, skip, and jump away to “That would never work, now get off my lawn!”
I briefly reached that point for a short while a few years ago. But I made an active decision to reverse course before I fully morphed into a know-it-all griper.
I know it’s hard. When you’re as old as I am, you have had so much experience and have seen so much failure, you get good at recognizing certain behaviors, practices, or markets as difficult, pointless, and disadvantageous. That’s fine because such experience-based heuristics (whether firsthand or observed) are important. Otherwise everything new you face will mean you starting from zero each time, calculating whether it’s worth entering or not.


I shot this in 2008. When you’ve turned into a “That’s never gonna work” person, you end up like that packet on the floor.

However, that doesn’t mean we should wall ourselves off from all seemingly silly or stupid ideas. Innovation happens when disparate ideas converge, and often one or most of these ideas are seen as silly or too difficult with little upside to even bother trying. We may not be interested in personally pursuing these opportunities or methods. Oftentimes, we aren’t wrong in recognizing that these may not work where we are, at this particular moment in time.
But it’s still good to be aware of what else is happening outside our bubble, what is succeeding in markets elsewhere, because it helps bring some freshness into whatever we are working on. We can adapt bits of those that may work in our milieu, or combine different ones. And even if fully 100% of them are inapplicable where we are, it keeps us from turning into a cranky old “that’s never gonna work” coot by injecting some whimsy into our lives at least.I’d like to share with you some uncommon business ideas I’ve encountered the past few months:

Chat app stickers, bad “cluttered” design, and feature cramming

This article contrasts how one of South Korea’s top mobile messaging app would look to people raised on American style design language. I’m not American, but most of the software and websites I frequent are, and I’m used to the spare, minimalist ethos mentioned in the article.
When I lived in Taiwan briefly in the mid 00s, I could not handle seeing how their typical websites looked like 90s Geocities pages, and these were supposedly big, commercial, top websites. Remember, this was already during the web 2.0 neat-and-clean design phase of the Internet. I remembered getting dizzy looking at the home pages of their popular blogging platforms, and then slinking back to my beloved Blogger, whose simple orange and white design didn’t try to scream at my eyes with a thousand different stimuli. I’m telling you, Xanga looked liked a clean, minimalist standard-bearer compared to those.
I was aware that this crazy style is also how things are done in Japanese and South Korean websites, because I’ve seen Taiwanese view sites from those countries too. I assumed maybe it’s just because the CJK countries had non-Roman systems of writing, so perhaps that’s how they adapted to displaying text and information online. I also attributed the high rate of eyeglass wearing children in Taiwan to this crammed-with-words website design.

For example, see these two screenshots below. It makes me feel I don’t know where to look first.

These 2015 versions are actually already less cluttered from when I first encountered them in the mid 00s.

Compared to what I’m used to seeing:

I finally learned the real reason from this article, and it’s not a conspiracy by optical shops and eyeglass manufacturers to create generations of nearsighted East Asian children after all. It’s because they had very fast Internet early on that there was no need to “save” bandwidth by limiting what’s onscreen.

“…American mobile design is fetishistically minimalist. Silicon Valley applauds itself for good taste in this regard, but this aesthetic has sprung up partly in response to a deficiency: Americans have learned to strip out bandwidth-guzzling elements because they slow down loading times. Korean designers, lacking such bandwidth restraints, can stuff their apps full of all the information and widgets they like. …

This trans-Pacific gap in bandwidth is so pronounced that Korean developers often have to strip down their software if they want to take it stateside.” (source)

Another software the article references is Band, a Korean mobile messaging app that has so many features that Koreans are used to using within one app, but confused Americans.

“Even when Korean firms don’t encounter technological issues, the design gulch can confound their attempts to lure American customers. In 2014, Doyon Kim was tasked with taking Band, a South Korean mobile-messaging app, to Silicon Valley. Band lets friends chat, plan outings, share video files, split bills and even conduct informal polls about where to go to dinner. Doyon Kim says that the sheer number of Band’s functions confused users who were not accustomed to performing all of those tasks within a single app.
“As a newcomer in the United States, products have to have one strong feature to market,” he said. “Band had so many features and functionalities, that when people saw the product, they didn’t really get it.” (source)

Indeed, isn’t the cardinal rule of building software or web platforms American-style is to focus on one or two core capabilities and then branch out from there? But even when branching out, an app is supposed to have one featured strength, not be everything but the kitchen sink.

The thing in this article that struck me the most was the $1 to $2 virtual sticker packs that Koreans purchase for Line and KakaoTalk. I first read about those in some other article about Line, but I thought that was just hype because I could not conceive of anyone willingly parting with their money for a virtual good that does not even serve any purpose.

It’s not even like virtual gold or virtual lives/ power-ups in video games. These are just stickers that do nothing and look horrifying:

line mascot

Line (messaging app) mascot

I live in a country where many middle class employed people only have a daily meal budget of $6 (and even more have meal budgets of $0 to $2), so I really could not fathom anyone paying such amounts for imaginary stickers. Even moneyed people I know here who have a lot of disposable income for gadgets, fashion, or Steam games, have never purchased sticker packs and thought that was a pointless waste of money.

But apparently they’re a thing. I don’t know if the tough life here in a third world tropical paradise suck the whimsy out of us, or we just have a scarcity mindset, or American influenced design appetites evoke a visceral disgust in me at such cutesy icons, garish color schemes and cluttered feature panes, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this.

Look at the difference between the crazed colors of the first two screenshots below compared to WhatsApp.

Now that your eyes are now open to this possibility, talented designers, go jump in this market by creating your own sticker packs! Hawk them in one of those all-in-one mobile messaging slash market slash ticketmaster slash file sharing slash polling apps.

(Read source article)

Lingerie Empires and Plastic Recycling

This is one of my favorite articles of 2015. I love reading about two super different things coming together by chance. And what can be more different than how some random Chinese cornered the market on sexy underwear in an obscure corner of Egypt?

First came the sexy undies.

The lingerie vendor who pioneered the small Chinese community in Asyut, Egypt, landed in Egypt by chance. He chose that place on a map, thinking it’s the most populous city in Upper Egypt and he’d do better than Cairo, since he’ll be the first Chinese guy there. He wasn’t even right, it is Luxor.

He landed with pearls, neckties, and underwear, not because of any market research but because those were the only things that fit his suitcase. The first two things didn’t sell well. Apparently Egyptians don’t care for pearls or wear neckties over their traditional clothing. But lingerie was a huge hit!

Soon, he started importing more, and even set up factories there. Many of the lingerie sellers are concentrated in Upper Egypt, the most conservative part of that country.

Alot of these enterprising Chinese lingerie dealers show up not knowing the language, and when the writer visited the home of one of the vendors, he didn’t see any Chinese-Arabic dictionary, phrasebook, or language textbook. The sellers may barely know Arabic or English, but they do know the most important phrases for doing business in their field, “I have this in a wider size.” and “beautiful bride”.

They just showed up, tried to see what works, and then did it. They also gained their buyers’ trust by not meddling in their affairs or having all these preconceived notions about their religion.


(Read source article)

Then, spotting an opportunity and seizing it.

The pioneers I mentioned above are also the ones who established the first plastic bottle recycling facility in Upper Egypt.

“In Cairo and northern Egypt, the network of Chinese lingerie importers and producers quickly grew, and eventually Lin and Chen rented a storefront in Asyut. They invited a relative and a friend to open the two other shops in town. While Lin and Chen were building their small lingerie empire, they noticed that there was a lot of garbage sitting in open piles around Asyut. They were not the first people to make this observation. But they were the first to respond by importing a polyethylene-terephthalate bottle-flake washing production line, which is manufactured in Jiangsu province, and which allows an entrepreneur to grind up plastic bottles, wash and dry the regrind at high temperatures, and sell it as recycled material.” (source) (emphasis mine)

“Here in Egypt, home to eighty-five million people, where Western development workers and billions of dollars of foreign aid have poured in for decades, the first plastic-recycling center in the south is a thriving business that employs thirty people, reimburses others for reducing landfill waste, and earns a significant profit. So why was it established by two lingerie-fuelled Chinese migrants, one of them illiterate and the other with a fifth-grade education?” (source) (emphasis mine)

The article also contrasts the success of the lingerie dealers with investors and businessmen who tried to create industrial/ factory zones in Egypt because they were unaware of how things on the ground work. The zone planners were thinking from a distant, top down angle, and failed to consider local features like women only working half the day, so the factories find it hard to be profitable.

Most importantly, the biggest entrepreneurial lesson I learned here is that the successful ones don’t seek to meddle or impose their values or “change” the system, but see the market and their operating milieu for what it is, and adapt to it. From there, just by their presence as “others”, they have already made changes. And their profits in fact allow them to reinvest into bigger ventures like the full stack plastic recycling plant.

(Read source article.)

Instagram Shops in the Philippines

Even before Instagram “monetized” by putting ads on users’ feeds, people have been monetizing their own Instagram accounts by putting photos of things related to their business- whether the actual product, or lifestyle photos depicting the usage of said product.

There have been Instagram accounts selling pets, drugs, and more pedestrian fare such as jewelry, shoes, and apparel.

The accepted best practice of selling through Instagram is not just posting the photos of your products on your account, but to use it as a brand building exercise with seductive lifestyle photos, one or two pictures of the actual merchandise, some other helpful content that add “value” to your readers, and then hopefully they will be attracted to your brand and go to your website, an e commerce site, or store to buy your product.

There’s a burgeoning cottage industry of Instagram sellers in my country now, and the way they do things is a reversal of these supposed “best practices”.

I remember when Multiply still existed, I couldn’t figure out why so many Filipinos would use it to put up online stores when it’s so unsuited for ecommerce. I could only chalk it up to masochism.

It’s similar to the way I feel about selling on Instagram. Most posts are ephemeral, there’s no rating/ feedback mechanism, no searching through archives, there’s no organized method of presenting your wares, let alone an index, there’s no check out method, inquiries are done through the phone (captioned on the picture) because most sellers note that they have turned off notifications.

Ijust learned about this method of selling recently. I buy and sell things online, but on sites made for selling. My friend was the one who told me about this and I couldn’t believe that there’s this hidden ecosystem of Instagram players.

When she explained to me how it works, I could not wrap my head around it. Why would anyone choose to buy and sell on this platform, in this incredibly roundabout manner, when there are other robust e commerce sites now in the Philippines? At least back in 2007 when selling on Multiply was all the rage, we could say that there weren’t as many online selling platforms then.

She tackled each of my questions one by one.

For feedbacks/ ratings, the seller requests the buyers to take photos of them using the product, and then tag the seller. The seller will thenrepost it, showing a positive feedback. (Reposting/ “regramming” apps– yet another mini cottage industry spawned by Instagram.)

I asked, but there’s no easy way of seeing the aggregate positive/ negative feedback on each seller the way ratings are posted beside usernames on eBay. She said, well, sometimes sellers take a combined photo of a bunch of their shipping waybills and post that. I’m like, no… that doesn’t count.

She also added that the follower count also is a signifier of buyer confidence. I rebutted that follower counts can be easily bought. You can have hundreds of thousands of bot followers for $5!

And she said, well it doesn’t bother buyers like her, and neither do they bother apparently thousands of others. I had nothing to say to that. If the market accepts it, and people sell and buy, as inefficient as I may think it is, who am I to say “that’s not the right way!”

Ifound out from her that most of these Instagram sellers are private. You have to follow them, and you start seeing their wares after they accept you. I could understand the desire for privacy, what with the shakedown-happy government here, but how does that aid your buyers in discovery?


a seller whose private account has 50,000 followers (November 2015 screenshot)

It turns out that to get around the problem of discovery, the sellers came up with the concept of #S4S or Shoutouts for Shoutouts. In exchange for Store A tagging Store B and posting a photo of Store B’s wares, Store B will tag Store A’s account name, and Store B will also post a photo of Store A’s merch on the former’s Instagram account.


The account marked in red is Store A. Green is Store B. In these pictures, you can see Store A tagged B in a “shoutout”. The product in the photo is also from Store B. Store B will do the same with Store A.

These Instagram sellers will also only accept these quid pro quo “shoutout” arrangements from sellers with a minimum number of followers (say a few thousands). Which to me doesn’t make much sense, because you could buy followers so easily, but that’s how they roll.

Note all this is temporary, the Shoutout for Shoutouts last for around a day, then the seller will delete the shoutouts and corresponding advertisements for the other Instagram accounts and then the cycle begins anew a day after.


In this photo, the products inside the green marker are ads for other stores that Store A “shouted out”. Store A’s own products are the ones marked in red.

To me, this sounds tedious and cumbersome. But it apparently works for that market. And they’re making money.

This was an eye opener. To make money, I learned I have to listen and eat my whatever “best social media practices” theory I have previously learned. I can keep asking why won’t they use the other just as easy to use online selling platforms based in the Philippines, but if what they’re doing makes money, if Instagram is where their buyers prefer to scroll and browse, even if the process sounds inefficient and convoluted to me, who’s wrong and who’s right?

This applies for every other business practice out there too.

There are theories and case studies and papers on what people say is the “correct” practice, and there’s what actually works. And what works is not imposing what you feel is “right” based on some “I know better” notion (once again, refer to article the lingerie sellers in section #2 and how they managed to gain a foothold and customers’ trust in the most unlikely place.)

Japanese cuddle cafes

I live in the third world where people sell their bodies to survive- whether in the flesh trade, the “hospitality” trade (girls get commissions from the bar when you buy them drinks), manual labor, paid for peanuts freelance outsourcing work so the first world can live a four hour workweek lifestyle and never have to encounter dick pics and beheading videos in their social media feeds.

The “love industry” staples mentioned in this link are nothing new to me.

(the segment on the cuddling starts at 5:53)

I’ve met both customers and service providers. However, through an informal poll of random people I asked, not a single person has ever thought that cuddle cafes are a good value for money, are something that would be viable as a business, or forget feasibility, something that would even catch on short term!

I thought I had heard of almost every permutation of the flesh trade, and through the years I have learned to not judge because it’s not my place to say what’s wrong. It makes money, and unless I have some brighter idea for people to feed themselves (now, not 10 years away when people are dead), I have no right to impose whatever Western liberal standard of “right or wrong” I learned or read.

When I put those tainted prejudices aside, I see the bigger picture and can get the sense of what sells, what doesn’t sell, why certain services sell, what is “attractive” to what markets, etc.

However, cuddle cafes were never something that I’d thought would make inroads in this industry. Either this is a flash in the pan, or it could be a harbinger of future trends to come. Maybe this will only be a hit in certain cosmopolitan pockets where there’s a lot of lonely singles. Who knows. But hey, it’s still good to learn something new each day. Now go hug someone.

(link to source)

Nov 302015

I show you 8 kinds of yummy dumplings, and a fresh batch of my street side grotto and graffiti photos, APEC stamp, & 2 extra videos in this email – View Mailchimp archive

Past Issues


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Newsletter #2!

Mercredi, 28 Novembre 2015

Dear Friends,

Thank you once again for reading. Thanks to those who wrote to me too with comments and feedback on last month’s first ever newsletter.

This month’s newsletter features my overview of eight different kinds of dumplings, two new additions to my Street Side Grotto series, one new addition to House of Soda, and two graffiti captures.

I also link to Doug Menuez’s Fearless Genius photo project documenting the rise of Silicon Valley.

For those who didn’t receive it, you can view my first newsletter here.

Hope you enjoy this month’s dispatch. Please forward this to friends of yours who may be interested, and ask them to subscribe too!

Always Fresh


In this 5 minute video, I show you guys eight different kinds of dumplings.

00:07 Steamed Dumplings (??) – flavor: leeks/ scallion/ kutchay (??)
00:28 Xiao Long Bao/ Xiao Long Tang Bao (????)
1:03 Pan Fried Dumplings (??)
01:41 Pot stickers/ Kuo Tieh (??)
02:10 Wontons/ wantons (??/ ??)
02:58 Siomai (??) – flavor:  shark’s fin (??)
03:45 Hakaw/ Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (??)
04:10 Rice Rolls/ Cheong Fan (??)

This month’s additions to my ongoing series of various street side grottoes in the Philippines. 


People often ask me where I find them. They’re actually everywhere, hidden in random nooks and crannies.

The two above were shot last week in San Juan near a Mormon temple.

I shot zoomed out views to show where I found them:


This month’s addition to my ongoing series of Coca Cola houses in the Philippines :


I almost thought November will pass without a good graffiti capture. I was mistaken.

The photo above was shot in 9 de Pebrero Street.
The one below was shot in the area being widened in Santolan. It was on the wall of a demolished structure.
graffiti-on-road-being-widened-near-Santolan---3zoomed out version of where I shot the graffiti above

From the Web

I love this essay on Doug Menuez’s Fearless Genius photo series about the early days of Silicon Valley.

I also like that Doug Menuez is trying to use Silicon Valley’s own tools to bring his photo project to life:

“I am trying to create, trying to take this record I have and make it a compelling educational or entertainment body of work. We’re trying to make a new model?—?we have a core story and then a documentary around it, a book and an exhibit. We’re combining video and sound around the stills, but all of these expressions of the core story get distributed to different channels and different revenue streams.”