Street Vending is still a way of life in the Philippines especially in the older parts of the city of Manila, In 2002-2010, a drive was spearheaded by the Metro Manila Development Authority under the leadership of Bayani Fernando to clear the roads from street vendors to open little used roadways to vehicular traffic. The initiative was largely successful albeit difficult for that agency then. During the presidency of Noy-noy Aquino however, the same MMDA, the agency tasked to make and keep the metro beautiful, orderly and running smoothly largely failed. Hence, the return of vendors in the streets.
Street vending is a source of income and livelihood for many. Despite the challenges they pose, transient buyers still patronize them for their convenience, best selling wares and foodstuffs and relatively low prices.
I walked the street near the Quaipo church to do some window shopping ; ) but mainly to document the activity using my Fujifilm X-T10 with an XF 35mm f/1.4 lens attached. Most of the images were shot with an aperture of 1.4 at around ISO 640 between 1/20th to about 1/100th of a second.
The Fujinon XF 35mm F/1.4 R is a fixed-focal length large aperture (prime) lens that produces smooth Bokeh (out of focus backgrounds), very sharp and saturated images. AF is a bit behind with newer Fujinon lenses in terms of manners but is nonetheless reliable. When using a bigger AF point (known as group AF on some DSLR's), focusing is fast and accurate despite the rather rough and somewhat noisy AF motor. The build quality (all metal) appears reassuring and looks great with the metal rangefinder squared edged hood reminicent of Leica lens hoods. It's a perfect match for classic styled cameras like the X-T10 and Fuji's rangefinder-styled bodies. All the rings (aperture and manual focus) are properly dampened to the touch and feel premium. Size is compact and weight balances well with the X-T10.
Here's my report:
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This is a tall claim but San Sebastian Church in Manila City is the only known church built using pre-fabricated steel. It is also the only steel church/ temple building in Asia. Competed in 1891, it is the the second second all steel stucture in the world after the Eiffel Tower of Paris. French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel himself was assumed to have been involved in the construction but this was never confirmed.
Said to have been inspired by the famed Gothic Burgos Cathedral in Burgos, Spain, The plan was to build a fire and earthquake-resistant structure made entirely of steel. The design fused Earthquake Baroque with the Neo-Gothic.
Sadly, the steel structure has been stricken by corrosion being built near the Manila Bay. In 1998, it was placed on the biennial watchlist of the 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund, It is currently in the tentative List for the World Heritage List. UNESCO
Many Filipinos have heard of San Sebastian Church but from people I know not many have even visited or seen it in person despite living in Metro Manila. So I set out to photograph the church at noon during the past Holy Week to get a more detailed glimpse of the church and its interiors. All photographs were shot with a Nikon 24mm 1.8G using a full frame DSLR.
I heard they have a paid tour... I'll do that next time to supplement the images I have so far.
As promised, I am finally doing a blog post on Chinatown! I went down there on Feb. 7, the day before Chinese New Year. The place to my surprise was already in a celebratory mood then. Ongpin Street was closed to motorists because of the deluge of people most of whom appear to be from the locality/ vicinity but some were obviously not local... tourists.
Chinese Lunar new year celebrations aren't complete without good luck charms. Luck to the Buddhist-Chinese generally follow certain themes/ characteristics: something red, round, sticky and sweet to name a few. Hence, you see plants, fruits, cakes, pasties and candy on street-sides and in front of doorways having one or more of them in form.
We were there to dine in a restaurant I had read in the morning daily but I suppose that article and prior experience dining in the area had set my expectations too high for Mami or egg-noodle soup and Siopao or steamed pork buns. That was the first time I was let down dining in this area. Theya're not however bad but not exemplary either.
Here are the sights as we walked to and from where we parked and ate. We also stopped by a mini Chinese grocery to pick up sun-dried peanuts and Tikoy or Nian Gao.
The following images were shot with the new Nikkor 24mm 1.8G ED lens and a DSLR. Shooting with a lens this wide on a full frame camera, the challenge was finding a focal point and achieving subject isolation. Otherwise, the lens is stellar in sharpness and in the way it renders color!
In the past, Quiapo was the premiere shopping district back in 50's-60's. Today, even if the area is trumped by gleaming malls and fashionable shopping districts, Quaipo is still a sprawling shopping haven where you perhaps get the best bargains for everything from electronics to flip-flops.
If you can look beyond the street stalls and vendors that crowd the streets particularly during the Christmas holidays, there is actually order to the madness. Just like modern shopping districts and malls the actual stores (not makeshift stalls and vendors) are organized by product category. You have a street that caters to the restaurant and food industry: Orosco St. Hidalgo St. is where you find almost every photography and videography equipment and accessory you can imagine. For Eyeglasses and optical supply, head to Paterno St. Interestingly, top brands like Cartier are available too and are kept in special retail areas/ rooms of the shops. There are also streets for audio, dental supply, tarps, furniture, industrial equipment among many others I have yet to see. Be warned that even if the stores offer authentic wares they are usually gray market goods (no warranty or only store warranties are offered).
No shopping destination is complete without good food. If you're not in the mood to shop, this a place where you can kiss your diet goodbye. Some of the tastiest traditional Chinese cuisine are alive and well here. For instance, Donbei is a hole In the wall restaurant that serves steaming-hot mouth-watering dumplings.
The area in front of Quiapo church is also renowned for its fortune tellers. Fortune tellers are known to start by mentioning unspoken specifics about your past to establish their credibility (and they suprisingly do) before they even start with the good (and bad) stuff coming your way. Count me out.
I still visit the place maybe twice a year for hard to find photography stuff so expect the gallery to be updated over time.
Here are scenes around the area of Plaza Miranda in front of Quaipo Church last December.
I visited Paco Wet and Dry Public Market in old Manila in search of exotic ingredients. Before I share my short visit there let me first share the historic background of Paco:
"Paco is a working class district that started out as Little Tokyo during the Spanish era, Japanese and American planes combated in a dogfight showdown after the Pearl Harbor attacks and the run-up to the invasion of Manila by the Japanese. It's also the location of the mysterious circular cemetery now simply called Paco Park, the first burial site of the national hero - Jose Rizal, after he was executed by the Spanish, now used as venue for chamber music symphony concerts. Paco Market, another of the city's major wet-dry public market, has one of the most frenzied, colorful, and interesting market scenes in the city with it's boisterous ambulant vendors, busy Chinese owned stalls, and hawker market. The district specializes in furniture and hardware items." - Wikitravel.org
I need an interesting historical write-up of the area to compensate for yet again a quick and dirty shoot (maybe a 5-minute walk through of mainly the meat/pork section at noon). My first visit to the place at noon was a quieter affair compared to my early morning trip when the place was bustling with buyers, sellers, street vendors, trikes and jeepneys snaking to and from the market area. There are plenty to see and buy in the center of the market that you wouldn't normally find in your favorite grocery or "organic" flee market. For one, everything (meaning all parts of an animal and greens that grow in the Philippines) looks fresh! You can tell because greens are not half-dead and meats don't smell (really) as they do in some grocery stands. You'll find hard-to-find parts as well.. no I'm not taking about your Ford... but hands, feet, toes... You name it. They have it. Oddly enough, they call some food stuff different over there. For instance, what looked like "kalamay" or "biko" (sticky rice dessert) is called "bibingka" (rice cake)... Maybe they belong to same family of desserts.
If you plan to go there wear water-resistant shoes or at least a pair you don't care soiling. They call it a wet market because even if you're indoors the floor, counters, people's hands, money and yes the meat, if you can call toes that, are soaked in water and other colourful liquids. No fancy accessories and bags please. If you're shooting like me it's better to do so with a companion.
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The blog is about the Philippines... the less photographed side of it. My hope is that as I develop the series, the story I tell about trivial life in the country resonates with its readers.