Monday, 4 December 2006
Keeping Up Appearances
It looks like a normal sandwich bar but what's that on the right? Pinakbet! Pancit! Suman!
It doesn't take a Sherlock to deduce that Kabayan Cafe at Victoria is a Flipinoy store. All the possible cliches about immigrant Filipinos are packed in this very cozy eatery in Central London. I came for a quick fix of kare kare with rice. It wasn't the best kare kare I've tasted (my Dutch friend actually makes the best one this side of the Pacific) but like quickie sex, it was rejuvenating anyways and more importantly made me forget my homesickness. Fortunately, the dessert of pichi-pichi was melt-in-my-mouth multi-orgasmic goodness. I was a bit disappointed that lechon paksiw was not on the day's menu. As I drank my coffee a caucasian couple walked in and took a long time deciding what to have. I think their eyes lingered on a bowl of pinakbet, not quite sure if it was meant to be a toasted sandwich filling.
The kare kare wasn't exactly photogenic (what Pinoy dish involving entrails does?) but here's my yummy dessert.
After lunch, I walked to Hyde Park to catch Damien Hirst's murderme exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. Hirst has apparently amassed an art collection estimated at £100Mish. This I wanted to see as this was a 'modern' art collection.
The gallery was packed. I'm not sure about how modern art is valued but some of the pieces were really thought-provoking. He only showed 60 works, including 2 Andy Warhols and a Francis Bacon worth $10Mish. Oddly, no one was standing guard over the Warhols and the Bacon and I could pretty much poke them with my fingers if I was looking for fame, and legal trouble. In contrast, an installation involving blue neon lights shaped as a coffin had two! men standing watch with walkie talkies ready to strangle anyone who came too close.
There were some works that my naive and simple mind could not comprehend, such as Lambie's double mattress painted blue and stuck on the wall or Emin's red sleeping bag. I could probably try to bend space-time and understand why one of the small Warhols cost $3.5M but to pay more than £10,000 on a pair of old sneakers, leave it on the floor and call it art?
As I did a second round of the exhibition, a homeless guy came in and startled the bajeeezus out of me. 'Stop!' he said 'you're going to ruin the art' and pointed to the floor. I looked down and saw a leaf. The junkie was right, the leaf was art. Nature made it and it was priceless. I took it home with me.
Admittedly, I did enjoy the exhibition. There were some very powerful Koons installations and a couple of Banksys which I wanted to see. (In fact, I have an 'original' Banksy which I acquired by luck. I never knew I had it until recently while looking at pictures of my ex.)
Some of my favourites from the exhibition:
Don Brown's Yoko XIII. Quite sexy me thinks.
Banksy's The napalmed girl from Vietnam with.....one has to see it in actual size of 6m x 5m...
Sarah Lucas' Chicken Knickers......not quite sure what to make of this....
Angus Fairhurst's Pieta. I really wish I had done this myself! Hmm, nothing's stopping me from doing my own version.....
After the Serpentine Gallery I headed off to Kensington Palace Green. I was not really keen on going to London with the bad weather but I got a call from the consul that my humble presence at the traditional Ambassador's Christmas merienda would be much appreciated.
There is an exhibition of Mario Testino portraits of Diana at Kensington Palace but I had no time to see it....
I came on time unlike the rest of the invited Pinoys (who still do Spanish Time!) and took the opportunity to touch base with the consuls. I told them them off for not returning my greeting during evil hobbit President GMA's visit in London. Nevermind the fact that I was on the other side of the fence shouting displeasure at GMA (Liar! Cheater! Hello Garci! I think were my choice chants.) Why didn't you come in to meet her, asked one of the newer consuls and I said something along the lines of Eeww, I'd rather join the masses on the streets. Manong Ed, another consul, surprised me by dropping some very honest comments about the evil hobbit. Turns out he is leaving the embassy soon to return to Baguio and do some freelance writing. I congratulated him for his 30th Palanca literary prize this year. (Okinnana, manong pitik-pitikem laeng diay Palanca.) He can probably write on toilet paper and it will still win a prize. Aspiring writers will now breathe a sigh of relief that he will no longer be joining the Palancas but judging in it instead.
The Ambassador came in and we spoke in Ilocano. We talked about how typhoons seem to be coming very late into the year these times. He was about to start the "When I was growing up in Baguio..." bit but I just had to stop him. Not only will I succumb into more homesickness but I will probably start ranting about how we fucked up the environment. (Those fat cats in congress fart too much hot air into the atmosphere.) A moment's silence was given for those who lost their lives in this year's typhoon-related calamities.
Okey. Let me now tell on others. First off, my hesitation to come to this party was due to my phobia of fugly people. At society events like these, there are a fair number of undesirables who show up making it look like a pagtitipon ng mga laman-lupa (the gathering of Sauron's army). I will not elaborate on this.
Alexandra called me up while I was shamelessly skimming the chicharon flakes off the palabok to tell me she was lost. I told her it was number 10 Palace Green. The Ambassador's wife corrected me by saying we were actually on 9A. I had just sent her to the Norwegian ambassador's residence. Well, I guess if she rang the bell on number 10 and the people there led her to the kitchen to wash the dishes she'll soon realise she went to the wrong place. Thirty minutes later she said she was still lost and was now apparently in front of lots of motorcycles. I told her she was in the Indian High Commission (number 9) and we were in 9 frigging A. And then I realised how both of us were lacking common sense. There are three huuuuugge blinking parols on the window and a big ass Philippine flag on the roof ok! How could you possibly not find the correct address!
Three parols on the bay window. Obvious ba na pinoy nakatira dito?
Merienda: Palabok, tokwa't baboy, lumpia, sapin-sapin. I did my bit to help promote healthy eating by taking all the chicharon.
In previous visits, I never paid much attention to this painting. I was reviewing the visitor book when the signature caught my eye. Bloody Hell, I was right in front of a 1882 painting by Felix Hidalgo! Looks to be in good condition. I'm going to reconvene The Nashman's 11, I want to nick this painting. Hidalgo's La Parisienne went for $370K at Sotheby's recently.
Incidentally, the Philippine Embassy is located on the most expensive street in Europe, also called Billionaire's row A big chunk is occupied by Kensington Palace, Lady Diana's former apartment. Mittal, the world's third richest, lives on this stret in a small house he acquired for £50M. It only has 18 bedrooms. However, like all houses in this Crown Estate, he only has a lease. Another billionaire, Russian oligarch Blavatnik, has two homes. The rest of the mansions are occupied by embassies.
Next year, our £1-or-something a year 99-year lease ends. I have never really asked anyone why this was given practically for free by the British Royals because we were never a colony (well, they did occupy Manila for two years I think before Spain regained it). I have opined many times that we were a poor country pretending to be rich by locating the embassy here. Walking home and taking note of who else lives in this kilometre strip, the answer finally came to me. Since this is a royal borough, everything a royal needed had to be easily procured. There's the Russian embassy for caviar, if the royals wanted sushi they can wake up the Japanese embassy chef, if they wanted curry or to borrow cash the Indian High Commission could send some, if they wanted protection the brave Gurkhas came out of the Nepalese embassy, oil could be requested from the Saudi and Kuwaiti embassies, and to clean up all the mess and keep the royal secrets who else but the Philippines can provide the best service. I found it odd though that the Chinese were not given a mansion on this street to house their ambassador. Surely, the royals sometimes crave for spicy szechuan fried chicken and require a dry cleaning and laundry service?
at 10:44 p.m.