In ancient Greece, the word for “cook,” “butcher,” and “priest” was the same–mageiros–and the word shares an etymological root with “magic”.

  • from Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by Michael Pollan

Cebu’s Only Hearse

From the archives of The New York Times comes this curious piece, published on May 1, 1904, titled “Cebu’s Only Hearse”.

If we can believe the account, there was, in 1904, exactly one hearse in the entire island of Cebu to transport the dead to their graves, and the service was such a privilege that everyone was dying (literally) to get it.  Those lucky enough, the article claims, are “enrolled at once among the aristocracy” (posthumously, naturally, but we’re guessing it was never too late to join the upper crust even when you were about to enter lower ground).

The story is obviously apocryphal because it also says that the hearse’s “native driver” cherished his position so much that he “would not exchange his job for that of Civil Governor, or any other, except that of a drum major.”  That’s when you know the article probably was written in jest.  Because everyone wants to be Governor, right? No?

Travel writing


(In March of 2005, I wrote this column about travel writing for SunStar Cebu.  I wonder how much has changed since.)

You could be scampering on the beach, being chased by a mad dog whose urine-marked territory you had the bad fortune of crossing, but in the eyes of a travel writer you are one happy tourist. You are “sashaying in the powdery-white sand, communing with the forces of nature.”

That’s travel writing. It is among the most optimistic professions on earth.

Food is not simply delicious, it is “delectable,” and when it is not, it is “exotic.” Mountains (“verdant”) and waters (“azure”) are not simply there; they “beckon.” Which is somewhat of a sore point because all my life I’ve been watching them but they have never beckoned. Perhaps they are partial to travel writers because of the PR possibilities.

And every other God-forsaken place that everyone else is avoiding is never deserted; it is simply “unexplored.” Virgin. In this country alone, I must have read of a hundred or so different “paradises on earth,” and I am distressed at the thought of so many original sins.

The scenes are always “breathtaking.” I’ve seen “breathtaking” on every other piece of travel writing that I’m beginning to wonder if people should be traveling at all when they’re suffering from perpetual shortness of breath. Maybe you should rest awhile.

Imagine if we all thought like travel writers. I tried. I “sojourned” to our old house (excuse me, “hideaway”) in the south for a Holy Week “getaway” and I looked at everything from the eyes of a travel writer.

“Are we there yet?” my wife, who had never been there, asked.

“No. The place is nestled…well, tucked away in a charming, powdery-white sand beach with a captivating view of Tañon Strait.”

“Is there a place where we can stop to find a clean restroom?”

“You’ll have to be patient.”

“There are no clean restrooms?”

“Let’s just say,” I said, remembering to look at everything from the eyes of a travel writer, “a clean restroom is the south national road’s best-kept secret.”

It was not easy being a travel writer, even for a trip. I had to strain it a bit when I explained that the trisikad drivers causing the slow traffic were actually “hospitable locals with a ready smile” inviting us to “take in the lush greenery” you get a sideways glance of when you shake your head to complain. Or that those aging smoke-belching buses really evoked a sort of “old-world charm” that’s impossible to shake off, even if one desperately wanted to.

We finally found a restroom. I checked it out first, and found that the lavatory had a busted pipe, and the bathroom floor was flooded. As my wife entered, I told her: “By the way, as you go in, you will catch a fantastic view of cascading waters, and the rising waters will cool your weary feet.”  (Pablo John Garcia, “Breakfast at Noon”, SunStar Cebu March 2005)







The evening we arrived in Kyoto, it snowed.


The streets were empty.  The parked bicycles gathered snow.


In the morning, the snow had stopped, but covered the temple roofs.


And traced the lines and circles of Zen gardens everywhere.


And we were hungry


for some ramen.

Kyoto, February 2012



Taal, 5 June 2013

If any Juan can fly . . .


My tweet last week about Cebu Pacific’s free walking tour of the Mactan Cebu International Airport tarmac provoked some angry reactions from friends who at one time or another must have had participated in it.

It turns out it’s not an “add-on service”, as I tweeted (It’s not?), but normal boarding procedure for Cebu Pacific passengers

So since I’m always optimistic about the airline that carries the name of my province and since we can’t sue to have our province’s name removed (we can’t?), I’d like to suggest some slogans for our dear Cebu Pacific, to reflect the mood of the times.  Especially the mood of my angry friends who keep taking part in that walking tour.

Anyway, “Now any Juan can fly.”  is getting a bit old, and overtaken by PAL’s “You’re not just any Juan, you’re my PAL”.

So here are a few suggestions.

1. If any Juan can fly, then surely they can walk.

2.  Cebu Pacific. We walk the walk.

3. At Cebu Pacific, we walk the extra mile.

4. The ancient truth still holds. A journey of a thousand miles begins with. . .

5. Not every Juan is Tamad.

6. We may not be Asia’s first. But no other airline makes you feel how it was back then.

7. Now every Juan can fly. Just not immediately.

Liberty’s Behind

To test the power of a monument or a statue as a symbol, photograph it from behind. Do not give it a face.

Deny it the personality it should have by now outgrown.

See if it moves you.

(New York, 2009)

Impeachment trial causes riot at taxi stand

A riot erupted at the taxi stand of one of the bigger malls in Cebu today, resulting from confusion as to who should get the next cab first.

A man who was second in line insisted that he should go first, citing the House prosecution panel’s preferred order of trial, and explaining that this would, moreover, produce reform in the administration of taxi lines at malls.

The woman who was first in line refused to budge, saying that this violated due process and “fare play”.

The mall manager intervened, ruling that the the woman should get the cab, but a member of the mall’s board of directors insisted that the question should be put to a vote.  The board sustained the mall manager’s ruling.

This should have settled the question but another man, who was seventh in line insisted that he should get the next cab after the man who was second in line.

Trouble ensued when the third, fourth, fifth and sixth in line protested.

Mall management has enlisted the services of their janitorial services department to settle the dispute.  The latter have now taken to calling themselves “janitor-judges”.

Image: Idea go /

It’s now

The blog has a new name.

Originally, the blog was based on “Breakfast at Noon”, a regular column (OK, my editors then thought I was really stretching the definition of “regular”) which first came out in early 1998 when Cebu Daily News first saw print.  In 2004, the column moved to SunStar Cebu and ran until 2005, when I had to stop writing and start running.

Recently, I found out that sometime in 2006, an American author published a book with the title “Breakfast at Noon” and had taken the domain  To avoid confusion, this blog is now known as

Which is just as well, since the original meaning behind the title 14 years ago has been lost. Nobody my age really wakes up at noon anymore, even if we wanted to.  Age is an alarm clock and it doesn’t have a snooze button.

What changed my mind about CJ Corona

Image: suphakit73 /

I thought I would never change my views on the impeachment of CJ Corona.

I had refused to sign the complaint (or that paper which they assured us would soon be attached to the complaint they assured us was already there), and I thought that was that. No to impeachment.  Not the daily barrage of reports in print, on radio and broadcast could move me.

Then the text messages came.  From numbers my phone book did not recognize (nor would anybody else’s, I would concede). From 09158868540, 09158868607, 09276145226, 09163012628, 09173443057, and a few others,.  All anonymous, to be sure, but didn’t the truth sometimes reveal itself anonymously, like in a jungle, for instance, by way of a marsupial-like creature that can get from here to there with the flick of a finger? (That was what I was told, not anonymously by a marsupial, but then I was also told that the truth sometimes revealed itself non-exclusively by way of a non-marsupial.)

The text messages, which have kept coming despite my recent conversion, all reveal one thing: That CJ Corona is evil, and that all institutions of government, and the social fabric itself, would crumble if he is not convicted.

I suspect the text messages are just being modest and that it reasonably may be inferred that the non-conviction of CJ Corona would accelerate the Mayan Calendar, so that the world would end if CJ Corona is not convicted, or on December 21, whichever came first.

Ever since my epiphany, and I embraced the truth contained in these text messages from unknown numbers, I have felt an unusual peace with myself.  I have also reaped some unintended benefits:

1. I learned that my cell number was entered in a “U.K. international lottery” and I had won 1 million GBP, and that I could get it by simply giving up some minor personal data like credit card numbers.

2.  My number even won, I learned, in a local lottery, because it was apparently entered by someone who wanted me to win 1 million pesos, which I did. I just have to deposit 10,000 pesos to the account of this wonderful bearer of good news.

3.  It turns out I don’t have to take all my doctor-prescribed medicines. Some unknown number sent me a text message of this herbal pill that cured everything. I just had to buy an introductory pack for 9,000 pesos.

And there’s a lot more.  Who knew that the Anti-Corona texters would change my life forever?


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