Friday, June 30, 2006


That’s interesting; I’ve been acknowledged as a bridge blogger.

A friend’s email mentioned in passing his coming across a blurb on Global Voices about the entry I posted regarding SM’s unfair return/refund policy. Not knowing a thing about this outfit and unwilling to wait for my friend to send me that blurb’s URL, I just googled Global Voices and here’s what I discovered:

It’s a non-profit global citizens’ media project, sponsored by and launched from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. The founding members and website grew out of a Harvard conference held last December of 2004.

It has a global team of regional blogger-editors who seek out, aggregate and track conversations among bloggers. And with about eight and a half million bloggers making blogosphere a noisy place, their task is to pick-out from this noise what they refer to as “bridge bloggers.” They are, supposedly, bloggers who can make a bridge between two languages, or two cultures while talking about their country or region to a global audience.

Global Voices’ ambitious mission is to become the definitive guide to the most interesting conversations, information, and ideas appearing around the world on various forms of participatory media such as blogs, podcasts, photo sharing sites, and videoblogs. Dr. Ethan Zuckerman who was inspired by the bloggers and their stories set up Global Voices.

The other entries by Filipino bridge bloggers picked-out by Global Visions for June are:

Free Ride (Citizen on Mars)
Indian Doctors in RP Hospitals (Mongster's Nest)
Sex in Advertising (Touched by an Angel)
Last Fling of Summer (Village Idiot Savant)
Just What We Needed (Another Hundred Years Hence)
With Education Quality is Important (Surreal Existence)
Independence Day (Manila Rat)
KFC's Trans-Fats (Parallel Universes)

On the Net:

Global Voices Speak Through Blogs
By Clark Boyd, technology correspondent for BBC



posted by Señor Enrique at 10:12 PM | 8 comments


What a find!

I was going through the list of previous entries at Blogkadahan when I came across Jardine Davies’ entry, When Corporations Lie? This is a highly recommended read.

Jardine is well-versed with our local culture as consumers, as well as with our rights as such. I posted a comment on his entry to make mention of the hidden defect issue with my HP laptop unit, as well as about SM’s unfair return/refund policy I had encountered. The following was his response:

There are laws that protect the Filipino consumers. It doesn't matter whether we have a similar government or independent agency tasked to pursue customer complaints... what we need is a complete change in attitude towards our rights as consumers.

We all need to be more assertive about what we paid for. It's not about laws, but culture. The law will adjust to men. We just need to start complaining to the authorities and not just to our peers.

And a good place to start to lodge a consumer complaint is by calling the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) hotline at 751-3330. You may also send your complaint via email at

If you wish to file your complaint in person the address to go to is:

Department of Consumer Complaints
12th Floor
Trafalgar Plaza Building
105 H.V. de la Costa Street
Salcedo Village, Makati City

You may also file your complaints via hard copy as long as you send them three copies each of your cover letter and all supporting documents (copy of receipt, previous correspondence with merchant and/or manufacturer, and etc.) Address the envelope to the attention of Ms. Emma C. Asusano, Director. Better you send it through LBC Express in which you can even track its delivery online.

To increase awareness on consumer rights and responsibilities, DTI conducts a series of awareness seminars on consumer rights and responsibilities, as well as various laws affecting consumers such as the Consumer Act and the Price Act. It also produces and disseminates flyers, leaflets, posters and other information materials.
You may also check out DTI's complete consumer protection services online.

We grew up in a non-litigious, docile culture and we, as a people, would rather walk away from a confrontation with a merchant or service provider or landlord, although sorely aggrieved. But Jardine is right — as consumers, we must now adopt a completely different attitude that is more in sync with the global community; that is, become more assertive when it comes to our rights as consumers, as well as become more demanding in getting what we paid for with our hard-earned money.



posted by Señor Enrique at 2:02 AM | 8 comments

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Featured Artist: ENRIQUE TABUENA

Out of courtesy, I'd usually first ask the artists and photographers for their permissions prior to posting their works on my site. However, in this case with Enrique (Eric) Tabuena — since he didn’t include his email address on his profile at Tabuena Art Central nor allow comments on his entries — I’m just going ahead with it because he has a solo exhibition coming up soon and I’d like you all to know about it.

His show, Woman is in the Details, features 35 artworks from his new collection of oil on canvas paintings. It will be held at Galerie Astra at LRI Business Plaza in Bel-Air 2, Makati from July 7 to July 21.

I first heard of, or should I say from Eric when he posted a comment on one of my blog entries a while back. I’ve become a regular visitor to his site ever since; always enchanted by his paintings. Last week, planning to feature one of his works, but not knowing that much about him, I googled E. Tabuena and came across Tata Botata’s blogsite entry about him.

Eric Tabuena happened to be the art director to whom Tata Botata, a graphic artist, once reported to. Tata was surprised to have discovered that his boss at the agency has a blogsite. He then went on to discuss Eric’s techniques with his artworks, as well as give him credit for having encouraged him to start his T-shirt designing business.

Having gone to a number of art exhibitions — which showcased some of our upcoming local artists — at SM Megamall’s Artwalk, as well as those over at Edsa Shangri-la Plaza mall, I must admit nothing has captured my imagination as much as Eric Tabuena’s artworks.

Two of my favorites are Sambulat (featured above) and Magic Flute. Both I find cerebral. Engaging.

One the Net: Hiraya Gallery: Enrique Tabuena



posted by Señor Enrique at 8:59 AM | 5 comments

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


When I was a kid, every now and then on a Saturday, my father would wake me up very early to take me along with him to Blumentritt public market. It was just the two of us.

Immediately upon arriving, before buying a single item, we would first head on over to the prepared food stalls for a palabok and puto breakfast. But getting to our favorite food counter would sometimes require the skills one would use when playing patintero. You see, we had to pass through a stretch of other food merchants whose help would grab people -- their way of coaxing customers to check out what they had to offer. It was annoying but part of the whole experience.

My father was a good shopper and wasn’t embarrassed to haggle every now and then. But with the vendors we bought from regularly, I noticed he never would bargain with. I guess, since he had gotten to know them, he was sort of embarrassed to ask for any cut in price. Perhaps, this is the reason why an aunt avoided getting too familiar with the public market vendors; afraid she might end up paying more at times.

The meat and seafood section at Blumentritt, as I remember it back then was always wet and sometimes muddy as well. My father would usually leave me near the entrance to it where a classmate (at Bonifacio Elementary School) and his mother sold calamansi on the street. There were times my father took a long time to do all his meat and fish purchases that he would often return to find me and my friend aggressively beckoning people to buy calamansi from us — without the grabbing part, of course, as done over at the food stalls.

As a joke, my father would say, "Since you looked just like a seasoned pro hawking calamansi out there perhaps, I should get you a spot next to your friend's so you could peddle onion and garlic on weekends to earn your keep." It would amuse him furthermore whenever I would ask in return, "But who would go with you to the movies after work today and to the racetrack tomorrow afternoon?"

The foodstuff we bought on those Saturday mornings were usually for the entire weekend so, by the time we were done, we’d end up with quite a handful to bring back with us. But as a special treat, my father always hired a kalesa to bring us home, which I absolutely enjoyed. I loved western movies and TV shows at that time and the kalesa was the closest to horseback riding that I could experience.

Nowadays, I would sometimes do the marketing myself over at Blumentritt and much like my father, get too embarrased to bargain with vendors I've gotten to know. But finding a kalesa is not as easy as back in those days.

* * *

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!




posted by Señor Enrique at 11:22 PM | 9 comments

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Bernie J., other than keeping his readers up to date with mobile gadgetry and computing innovations, would sometimes post insightful commentaries about human frailties as in his Social Engineering 101.

Supposedly, social engineering is nothing more than the art or science of deception, or as Bernie has plainly defined it, a scam. He illustrated a few examples of which such as shoulder surfing, dugo-dugo, phishing, and Nigerian email to name a few. Although you may already know about some of the modus operandi involved, it wouldn’t hurt to find out more about the others.

In response, I posted a comment and made mention of a recent incident—which was just as insidious as those he had outlined—in which I was the intended victim. I wasn’t sure, however, if this would be classified as social engineering, but to me, it surely reeks of it.

What happened was I received a series of lengthy text messages from an anonymous sender. Hiding behind a prepaid Globe SIM card, the sender went on to lambaste my sister; even accusing her of certain wrongdoings—which borders on criminality—in the company that she manages, but owned by a cousin.

The sender also accused her of spreading vile rumors about me. In other words, he was trying to win my confidence by revealing acts of betrayal perpetrated by my sister. Obviously, this anonymous sender was trying to manipulate me into getting just as angry as he/she was with my sister.

My immediate response was to reply with the following message:

I forgive you. And in so doing, I free myself from the bond I might have with you through hatred, anger, resentment, or fear. In the process, I also keep the power and continue to enjoy the freedom that only forgiveness can bring. I refuse to allow you to hurt me or control me. I forgive for myself.

Every time I would receive any more messages from this person, I would resend this same exact message of forgiveness. Shortly thereafter, it stopped coming.

My sister was very appreciative of my response, as well as when I didn’t dignify any of those rumors she supposedly fabricated against me. I only made mention of this whole thing to her so as to give her a head’s up about someone harboring a great deal of animosity against us.

In our brief discussion about this matter, we decided to let it go at that and not even waste any time trying to figure out who the culprit was.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:53 AM | 9 comments

Sunday, June 25, 2006


A friend inquired about my current favorite OPM or original Pilipino Music, in which I replied Ako’y Sayo by First Circle (click on the title of the song to hear its streaming version, as well as for its complete lyrics).

First time I heard it, I was reminded of a songwriting workshop I took one summer in New York. The instructor was Sheila Davis, author of the book, The Craft of Lyric Writing. This song, Ako’y Sayo truly exemplifies her mantra, which is essentially all about clarity and specificity.

Moreover, Sheila argued that to hook the audience into listening to your entire song, the first verse of it alone should immediately depict the who, what and where elements — as in the following example:

Ikaw na ang may sabi, na ako'y mahal mo rin
At sinabi mo ang pag-ibig mo'y di magbabago
Ngunit bakit sa tuwing ako'y lumalapit ika'y lumalayo?
Puso'y laging nasasaktan pag may kasama kang iba

Accordingly, the first verse reveals the characters as two lovers. And although they've already once expressed their love for one another, the girl somehow seems mysteriously elusive. Interestingly, mentioning this conflict early in the story further holds the listener into sticking around to hear the rest of this lonesome tale.

Sheila also encouraged her students to make use of alliteration other than the usual rhyming of the final syllables. This is supposedly to add spice or avoid redundancy and predictability to the overall structure of your song — as in this fourth verse:

At kung di ka makita, makikiusap ka'y bathala
Na ika'y hanapin at sabihin ipaalala sa iyo
Ang nakalimutang sumpaan
Na ako'y sa 'yo at ika'y akin lamang

And most important of all, and here’s the clincher, the overall cadence of your lyrics should reflect the melody. Hence in the following line:

Ikaw na ang may sabi, na ako'y mahal mo rin

If it were to be spoken, you'll notice that its cadence does not stray too far from that of the melody; thus, a pure blending of the lyrics with the melody; making it naturally easy to sing, as well as sonically more pleasing.

This should also explain — when Paul McCartney had the melody but not yet the lyrics and title for the Beatle song, Yesterday — why he used ham and eggs for the tune's first line.

Audio streaming courtesy of Tristan Café’s Filipino Online Radio Station

* * *

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!



posted by Señor Enrique at 9:46 AM | 12 comments

Saturday, June 24, 2006


This picture was taken one night after having dinner with balikbayan friends over at Aristocrat Restaurant at Roxas Boulevard.

I took it with my phonecam and while tweaking the picture (with Picasa, Google’s free image editor) the other night, a particular memory from my teenage years while living in New York City suddenly dawned on me.

With nothing better to do one summer, my friend Murphy suggested that I sign up for a class at Herbert Bergoff Studios down in Manhattan’s West Village. Murphy is about six years my senior and someone other friends my age and I would run to if we had any question pertaining to dating, clubs, trendy stuff and whatnot. In short, he was our designated big brother.

Herbert Bergoff Studio, otherwise known as HB Studio, is a legendary school for aspiring stage actors. Murphy highlighted it as a cool place to meet other young people who came from various parts of America and Canada to attend the school's summer workshops. I had no desire to learn the craft of acting, but the speech classes interested me so, I signed up.

Towards the end of that summer, my instructor gave me a pat on the back for doing well and predicted by the final week of the class that any trace of foreign accent in my speech would be completely erased. Hence, I could be mistaken as American born altogether. Although I finished the workshop in its entirety during that summer, I chose to continue speaking with my usual Filipino accent.

In New York’s highly competitive business arena, there are those who may find even a slight trace of a foreign accent a disadvantage, unless of course, you’re Henry Kissinger or Arnold the governor. I did, however, compensate by constantly developing my vocabulary and being mindful of proper grammar. Even New York's men in blue (NYPD) would wave off minor traffic offenses when you communicate with them with a slightly above average choice of words (but without being disconcerting, of course).

And as I got older, although I process and articulate my thoughts quicker and more coherently in English than in Tagalog, the cadence of my speech still denotes my being a Filipino. I prefer it that way. Somehow I consider my speech a significant aspect of my identity in which I had no intention of letting go as I had regrettably once done with my name.


This entry was inspired by myepinoy’s recent and evocative blog post, which features a picture of a button that says, “I am a Filipino."

Highly Recommended Reading:

Culture in the Nationalist Struggle: A Sense of National Identity
By Manuel L. Quezon, Jr.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:35 AM | 13 comments

Thursday, June 22, 2006


My nephew stopped by after school the other day depressed. He said he failed at the tryout to become a member of his high school’s badminton varsity team. I told him that from this point forward he could either improve his game at an even higher level, or end up a mere weekend player like most enthusiasts of this sport.

Reminded him that Michael Jordan also failed at his first high school varsity tryout. But he didn’t give up. Instead, he turned it into a challenge and practiced at a ferocious level. The following year he made it as a varsity player and the rest, as they say, is history.

Superb athletes come a dime a dozen, but those with a formidable will to win are rare and few. You can spot the latter kind by the passion and intensity they bring into their game. Dwayne Wade of Miami Heat recently demonstrated those qualities; becoming this year's NBA championship MVP.

As for the even younger professional athletes, Rafael Nadal also exemplifies this will to win. He’s currently the world's No. 2 male tennis player and was the first player since Boris Becker to reach this ranking in his teenage years. He had also become a master of the clay court for having clinched a record setting 60-match winning streak while playing on it.

Although my chances of catching him on TV are somewhat sporadic and far in between, from what I had seen so far, this young man definitely brings a certain level of excitement to the game much like what Bjorn Borg, a teenage prodigy, had done in the past. Borg became the World No. 1 tennis player for the years 1979 and 1980. His reign was cut short when he suddenly went on an 8-year hiatus.

Anyway, my nephew promised that he will keep practicing to become better prepared for the next tryout. I suggested for him to keep developing his form and style. His searing smashes and stealthy drop shops may be surefire winning shots, but he lacks litheness in his movements; at times looking awkward and brusque when executing his basic forehand and backhand strokes.

I praised him for not missing any of his private lessons last summer, which demonstrated how much he loves the sport. Hopefully, he will soon realize the merits of developing his techniques, because among other things, having those would make him a more graceful and exciting player to watch.

Photo credit:


posted by Señor Enrique at 7:35 PM | 13 comments

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Badly needing to replace my pitifully worn out slippers, I decided to head over to SM San Lazaro one late morning about a month ago. I would usually go to Robinson’s Ermita—for their oftentimes discount offering—but on this particular occasion, SM San Lazaro was a much closer drive from where I just played a game of badminton.

I was excited. I was finally buying a pair of Merrell slippers which I had been longing for some time. Although they cost more than those offered by Adidas, Nike, and Outland, these Merrell slippers come with Vibram soles and apparently better made. They’re very comfortable and the snug fit would also make them ideal for short distance driving. And with the local wet season upon us, I could wear these out in the rain, which I wouldn’t with the leather slippers.

Most importantly, my experience of having previously owned a pair of Merrell sandals assures me that the dye used by this shoe company wouldn’t bleed and darken the soles of my feet. The few pairs of Adidas slippers I had owned in the past did this, which was rather embarrassing. I had to actually go for extra foot spa sessions just to have the stain effectively rubbed off my feet.

Anyway, I immediately slipped on my newly-purchased Merrells right after paying with my credit card. However, after about a few minutes of walking around the mall, I noticed that with the right pair, the strip that goes between my toes was situated a bit too forward and was beginning to hurt the inner sides of my big toe and the one next to it. Afraid that it would rub my skin raw, I turned back to have them replaced. I was disappointed when told they had no other pair available with my size. The perky saleslady was even more disappointed when I opted to just return them instead of settling for a different less-favorite style.

At the customer service counter, I was dumbfounded when told that in lieu of a refund, SM gives a gift certificate bearing the same amount, but expires within 30 days if left unused. Any intelligent consumer will immediately find such policy ludicrous and totally unacceptable.

When I asked to speak to a manager, she replied that she was, in fact, the manager. She then pointed to a framed poster-sized print of their return/refund policy, which was hanging for all those in line to see. I commended the alluded legalese of its content, as well as for their choice of frame for the print itself. But then again, questioned why a copy of which was not placed just as distinctly at every cashier counter for every customer to see and read before making a purchase; not afterward at the customer service counter (located in some obscure corner of the selling floor) should a problem arise with any purchased merchandise.

I even suggested, since the sale was made with my credit card, that it would be simpler to void the sale rather than go through the hassle of issuing a gift certificate, which quite possibly, I might just throw inside my desk drawer and forget altogether. I also mentioned my failure to find merit in handing over P2300.00 to SM without getting anything back for it. The manager merely smirked and remained adamant.

Exasperated, I pulled out my cellphone and advised her rather calmly that if she insisted to refuse in purging this purchase from my credit card, I will call my bank and report that SM has charged my credit card for a non-existent merchandise. Instantaneously, she called her superiors and within ten minutes, I was walking out of SM Department Store a non-victim; holding a slip to prove that the earlier sale that was charged on my credit card had been voided. I then headed downstairs to Toby's sport shop that also carries Merrell footwear and got what I wanted.

This incident left me wondering how many unsuspecting Filipino consumers had been had by SM’s devious policy. Would anyone really succumb to it? In the States, other than established laws, the Better Business Bureau and various consumer advocacy groups regularly monitor consumer complaints. The country is also abundant with enterprising attorneys who are always ready to jump into the fray with class action suits.

Now, some might say, “Sorry, Eric, but this is the Philippines.” To which I will reply, “Too bad, my credit card is issued by a multinational company and therefore, assured by its universal policy of protecting its card holders.”

In essence, the credit card company can hold its remittance to the retailer until the complaint by the card holder regarding that particular purchase has been fully resolved. And should some time had already elapsed and the retailer had already been paid by the credit card company, the credit card company, at its option, may suspend its further affliliation with the retailer until the dispute has been completely resolved. Such suspension may raise a red flag among potential customers and become a source of embarrassment for the retailer.

During the few years since having moved back to live in Metro Manila, there were other consumer issues, although less significant, I’ve encountered. But just the same, the merchants’ policies were seemingly disadvantageous to the customers. So far, in all, I’ve managed to persuade the store managers to listen and accept my points of view.

Incidentally, remember my problems with my laptop? Had Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Valley Store been indifferent to my complaints, my other option was to seek assistance from MasterCard to resolve the dispute. I had after all used it to facilitate the purchase. It is for the same reason that I plan to use my credit card as soon as I am ready to buy the Canon digital camera which I have in mind.

My point here is, for the most part, Metro Manila merchants protect their integrity by providing great products and services; however, there are those, as in any part of the world, unscrupulous proprietors who lurk behind their glitzy facade. Therefore, the use of a credit card can provide extra protection.


posted by Señor Enrique at 9:01 AM | 26 comments

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Without my laptop again for almost two weeks—this time, HP main office had to borrow it to verify my complaints—I was back to resorting to the newspapers when keeping abreast with some current events.

What got me excited one day last week was coming across a print ad in the Philippine Inquirer featuring Canon’s EOS digital camera

There’s a project I’ve relegated to the backburner due to my lack of a better camera to work with. The Canon SLR film camera I've been using no longer seems to cut the grade. It's cumbersome, too. The film has to be developed and the prints scanned; whereas with a digital camera, all I have to do is hook it up to my laptop and the pictures are ready to be tweaked and published. And now that this Canon EOS 5D is available locally for purchase, acquiring one may finally breathe life into this project.

Adhering to a personal rule of thumb, especially with high-priced acquisitions, I started looking around for an Item I own with similar value as this Canon digital camera. Also, it has to be something I haven’t used in at least a year. The intention is to liquidate it in order to raise the cash for this new camera.

Surely, I could just use my credit card and rush off to a nearest Canon retailer; however, I strictly use the only credit card I have for emergencies, and pay off the entire balance when the bill comes.

You see, I’ve learned the hard way (while living in New York) how a piece of plastic could lead to spontaneous shopping sprees and constant insignificant partying. I was young and frivolous then. And may I add, not expecting to live beyond 30 and therefore, didn’t have to worry about any outstanding debts. Oh my, was I wrong!

But carrying a substantial personal debt has always been deeply entrenched into the American psyche. In a recent New York Times article alone, The American Way of Debt, author Jackson Lears claims “The fattest nation on earth is also the greediest consumer of global resources and now is borrowing more than ever to satisfy its appetites.” He then goes on to illustrate the large core of truth in his indictment.

Actually, to agree with him, I need not go any farther from my own family circle to exemplify his argument.

Just the other day, while speaking to one of my brothers over the phone, I was astonished to hear the dilemma his eldest son had gone through recently. Not satisfied with their beautiful home in a tree-lined street in Teaneck, New Jersey, his son decided to buy a much bigger house with a sprawling lawn. Not only is the new house an extra sixty miles farther away from Manhattan where he commutes to work everyday, he now has to pay an additional $200 a month for someone to clean and maintain his lawn.

Supposedly, the most troubling aspect was his making the purchase for a new house without the current one having been sold beforehand. But then again, how could he sell it without having a new house to move into; a catch-22 scenario, indeed. So, for four months, he was paying off two hefty mortgages and had to borrow money from his parents to pull it through. Thus, my nephew was no longer representing the glamorous ethos of self-gratification, but instead personifying a middle-class American homeowner seriously burdened by both his possessions and obligations.

American Consumer Credit Counseling figures also attest to the country’s alarming trend of consumers owing soaring debts and having no savings to speak of. And that many are filing for bankruptcy at record rates. Unarguably, Americans are indeed bathing in red ink; as consumers their combined credit totals to an astronomical $1.7 trillion.

Personally, it took some years for me to correct the course of my financial affairs. I even sought professional guidance to help me with devising sensible budgeting and saving schemes, as well as making more clarified distinctions between personal desires and needs.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned and have been applying since then is first disposing off an item I already own prior to making a new purchase. For example, before buying a new necktie, I must first eliminate one from my tie rack. As for taming my urge for instant gratification, I would save for those things I want instead of buying them immediately with a credit card.

When I purchased my laptop and upgraded my Nokia 3310 to a 6630, I sold some jewelry beforehand. When the credit card bills arrived, I had the cash to pay off entirely the total amount due. I don’t particularly like wearing or collecting jewelry, but have received some as gifts from my family through the years; which they’d rather give me instead of gift certificates that expire or tend to be forgotten.

By the way, I once won from a drunken bet a vintage watch. I find it ostentatious and therefore, would rarely wear it. I handed it over to my nephew the other day to have it cleaned by a professional. I also asked him to take it to a watch dealer in Glorietta for appraisal. If sold, I might just be able to afford that Canon digital camera and some of its nifty accessories.
Hmm, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


posted by Señor Enrique at 10:18 AM | 17 comments

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Most definitely, amongst your worldly possessions there's at least one item that seems so quirky only you can appreciate its existence, or as a sage would say, it speaks only to you.

For me, it’s a pair of Camper shoes. I love them, although they make me look like I just walked out of some bowling alley without returning the borrowed shoes.

The first time I ever saw a pair was about four years ago when my nephew came back from Milan sporting a pair. I immediately liked them and assumed they were made in Italy. But much to my surprise, I was told they are a product of the island of Majorca, about 150 miles from Barcelona.

That following spring, upscale New York stores such as Barneys and Bloomingdale’s started carrying them. But they came with a steep price, especially for casual shoes — ranging from as much as 150 to 200 dollars a pair. Yet, upon closer inspection, one can appreciate the superb quality of the leather and the excellent workmanship involved, which justify their price tags.

To save a few bucks, my nephew promised to get me a pair when he went back to Europe that following autumn. However, when I went to Manila before then, I was thrilled to have discovered a Camper shoe store in Robinson’s Malate. They had quite a selection of styles marked down at 40 percent off their regular prices so, I immediately grabbed a pair.

In Manila, I would at times wear my Campers when playing badminton, although they're a tad heavier than gum-soled badminton shoes. However, they’re perfect for hardwood floor courts like those at Peregrine’s (located in the university belt area). But I must admit they're not nearly as comfortable as those made with Vibram soles usually found in Nike and Merrell sneakers.

If it is indeed true that shoes reveal something about the man wearing them — besides being mistaken as a bowling shoe bandit — my pair of Campers might hint my sometimes non-conformist nature — a major liability, especially in Manila’s clannish culture (wherein the finer styling of Tod, Ferragamo and Gucci are highly favored).

But much to my delight, the other day, I came across an article about the history of this shoemaker, which after reading it, made me appreciate even more so the only pair I own. Moreover, I no longer feel such a weird loner whenever I put on these quirky shoes.

The article goes on t say that the current owner of Camper, Lorenzo Fluxá, is a fourth-generation shoemaker and comes from a long line of shoe innovators. Supposedly, his grandfather hauled from England some machinery that modernized the family's shoe factory. When it was his turn to take over the family shoe business, Lorenzo found that he liked the shoe business, but was bored stiff by the company's usual product line.

Meanwhile, his urbane friends from mainland Spain kept asking him where he bought his slip-ons, which are basically espadrille-style footwear fashioned after old peasant shoes (in which islanders would cobble together from cast-off canvas and recycled rubber). Sensing an opportunity, he asked his father to help him launch his own line of casual shoes.

Although they would be a far cry from the family's established brand of dress shoes, Lottuse, Lorenzo's initial production of his new line of casual shoes went ahead; guided, though reluctantly, by his father. Consequently, their longtime loyal retailers were resistant; perplexed as how to exactly sell this new line of shoes designed after the local farmer shoes. Incidentally, Camper means peasant in Catalan.

Nonetheless, when the craze for blue jeans and slinky casual clothing hit the now dictator-less Spain, Lorenzo once again knocked on their doors and this time, successfully convinced those retailers to carry Campers. Sales instantaneously took off.

The design team at Camper would argue that the outside detailing of their shoes is not so important since they tend to get scuffed up anyway. They think that wearing them should feel like having a funny conversation with one’s self. It's a notion reflected in the soles of the shoes, which Lorenzo believes to be the soul of the shoes. Try saying that to Manolo.

In fact, they’ve even gone so far as to register many of their soles as trademarks, which they see as investments for themselves. Previous productions even had poems or messages stamped on the bottom (Hispanic causing panic, for example). A company that refuses to take itself seriously, its designers, in certain styles, will purposely not match the right with the left shoe. Surely, this was Camper’s way of demonstrating its wit. Now, I wonder if one of those stamped messages was borrowed from Chevy Chase’s - ‘70s Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update segment - headline: “General Francisco Franco is still seriously dead!”

As if to underscore its culture of weirdness, Camper employees were known to count the number of Camper customers on the island by examining footprints on the beaches of Majorca. The company also boasts that some of their employees came from various parts of the world. Shubhankar Ray, moved to Majorca from London last year with his wife and small child to work at Camper. This year's design interns came from Japan and Scandinavia, among other places. Then there's Kim Fabio, who grew up in the Caribbean and spent 10 years at Converse before moving to Majorca last year. If not by the weirdness, these people were definitely attracted by Camper’s old-economy attitude of unwillingness to compromise, as well as by its product line that reflects a strong sense of itself and rich in local character.

For more than a decade now, this peculiar footwear company has been quietly raking in more sales in its native Spain than any other casual-shoe brand. Now the company is going global, adding new stores in London, Milan, New York, Paris, and Taiwan. This explains a store in Manila.

Last year, more than 3 million pairs of shoes were sold, which brought in about $120 million in revenues. The industry's leading trade publication, Footwear News, named Camper "fashion brand of the year," and all kinds of celebrities — from Woody Allen to Rosie O'Donnell to Robert Redford to Bruce Willis — were soon seen kicking around in these unique footwear. Hence, Camper has become globally chic.

Although neither the largest shoe company in the world nor the most visible, it is arguably the most eccentric and, for the moment at least, the hottest shoe company on Earth.

I wish Camper a long existence. Way back during the '70s, a Canadian shoe company, Roots, conveyed the same sort of weirdness with their sandals called Earth shoes. I had a pair, but never got used to walking with shoes whose back part (heels) were lower than the toe part. I didn't know whether I was going forward or backward. I eventually gave them away, because I was already confused enough during that era and had no need for anything else that would only further discombobulate me.

Read the complete article, The Shoes from Spain by Ron Lieber.


posted by Señor Enrique at 7:36 AM | 13 comments

Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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