Bondage Queens and Aerial Dreams: Kinbaku, Art, and the Dance of Controversy

A kinbaku art performance from Joyen Santos

A kinbaku art performance from Joyen Santos

When you see the flashy marquee of “Bottoms” and the leggy girls strutting the street in barely-there miniskirts, you know you’re on P. Burgos Street.

Welcome to Manila’s own little Patpong. Burgos Street is Makati’s alleyway of sleaze. Middle-aged Joes, sweating in the heat of the night, loiter about ogling the nubile chicas. The garish signs of the nightclubs blur into a frenzy of neon come-ons.

I’m in the area looking to see a little bondage. Not that I’ll be stopping at Burgos Street. I’m on my way to a different neighborhood, one with a touch more class…. Continue reading

Wonderful Miagao, Iloilo: How a Town Captured My Heart

A dance-drama is the centerpiece of the Salakayan Festival of Miagao, Iloilo

A dance-drama is the centerpiece of the Salakayan Festival of Miagao, Iloilo

I’ve encountered many rural townships on my travels around the Philippines, hidden jewels such as Calubian, Leyte or New Israel, North Cotabato. Each place is wonderful in its own way. For me, Miagao, Iloilo is just a bit more special, for beyond the quiet facade, it has unexpected, eclectic delights to offer.

I last visited Miagao a year ago, during their Salakayan Festival. The town’s biggest festival, Salakayan takes its name from a word that means “to attack.” Its highlight is the colorful re-enactment of a historic 1754 battle between the townsfolk and Moro raiders….

Read the full version of my article here.

The Jagannath Rides Again: A Reverie on the Festival of the Chariots at Venice Beach

Hare Krishna dancers at the Festival of the Chariots

Hare Krishna dancers at the Festival of the Chariots

Here’s to you, LA: land of sex, drugs, and dirty bank rolls. The sun always shines here, an ever-radiant diety showering its rays on the limos, the low-riders, the skate punks, and the bus-riding plebes. I’ve been one of the walking wish-I-was-dead for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve lost my breath cursing every excruciating minute of the public transport crawl.

Gods don’t ride the bus. They do, apparently, ride chariots. Even in New Age-y Cali, the gods are married to their old traditions. Picture the venerable Kwannon lounging in a stretch limo, or holy Ganesha joyriding in a Hummer. Doesn’t seem right, now, does it? When Lord Jagannath comes to town, it’s only square that he does so on a towering chariot bedecked with flowery wreaths and brilliant colors. Continue reading

Uncommon Espresso: Third Wave Coffee in Manila

Yardstick Coffee's Project Y brewed espresso

Yardstick Coffee’s Project Y brewed espresso

Afters Espresso

Afters Espresso

“Uncommon Espresso” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, June 2014.

The aroma is tantalizing—laden with rich earthy tones and the trace of a floral bouquet. I am ingesting the scent of Ethiopian coffee beans as I’m preparing to decide which single-origin drip coffee to try at Afters Espresso & Desserts (map). The Kenyan coffee cherries give off fruity notes (hint of lemon, perhaps), while the Brazilian beans have a nutty fragrance.

I select the Yirgacheffe, whose beans are hand-picked by coffee growers on a mountain farm in Ethiopia. I don’t know them, but I know they’re doing something right. The Yirgacheffe is exquisite, with a delicate piquancy reminiscent of tea.

Yet it’s not solely about the brew—the way they serve the coffee is significant. A cup is heated and a filter affixed on top. Coffee is decanted and left to drip. This is repeated, and the filter removed. The result is black and pure, without sugar or cream. Simple preparation, but elegant.  Continue reading

Creative Nooks: Encountering Manila Live Painting and Flow Arts Events

Live painting by Takako Sono

Live painting by Takako Sono

“Creative Nooks” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, Nov 2014.

Pink Panda (map), a stylish Southeast Asian diner, lies steps away from the nonstop buzz of Makati Ave’s restaurant row. Stepping within, I discover a vibrant space lit with bright flourescents tinged with a sensual crimson glow. Taped to a wall is a sheet of paper marked with some odd turns of phrase: “Music is the key.” “Mechanical lobster.” “Obama in a bikini.” Working alongside, a man in an ascot is applying his paintbrush to a figure that we can soon recognize to be—you guessed it, Obama in a bikini.

Welcome to the 1st VS MODE Manila Tournament, one of Piaget Martelino’s live painting events. Continue reading

Mati—Making Waves: Discovering Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental

Skimboarding the waves at Amihan, Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental

Skimboarding the waves at Amihan, Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental


“Mati—Making Waves” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, July 2014.

The afternoon is on its last rays of sun as I saunter across the gentle sands of Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental. The Amihan strip is haunted by a cabal of young surfers who have a faraway look in their eyes and a board in their hands. Each one is staring intently at the waves. Suddenly one makes a break for it, darting into the swell of water to glide upon its surface for a magical moment before it crashes ashore.

Meet the skimboarders of Amihan Sa Dahican. Young men, and a couple of women, some of ’em below drinking age. They frequently gather here seeking that glorious rush.

Dahican is an alluring stretch of beachfront along the southeastern coast of Mindanao, Philippines. It’s the prime attraction in Mati, a lovely small city in the province of Davao Oriental. Despite a fair number of resorts lying along its sandy strip, Dahican still feels rugged and untamed. Perhaps the endlessly pounding surf takes some gloss off its allure, though that’s exactly what brings the skimboarders to Amihan. Continue reading

Mati SummerFrolic: Dahican Beach Party 2014

Mati Summerfrolic sign at Dahican Beach

Mati Summerfrolic at Dahican Beach

I have an article coming out soon about Mati City as a summer destination. Here’s a little preview highlighting Dahican Beach and the Mati SummerFrolic 2014 party (that only gets a brief mention in my piece).

Mati City is located in Davao Oriental in southeastern Mindanao, Philippines. You can get there by flying to Davao City and then taking a bus to Mati. The coastline in this area is beautiful. At Mati, you’ll encounter Dahican Beach, a stretch of coast that gets excellent waves. You’ll see many local skim boarders hanging out there, in the area known as Amihan. Continue reading

Character, Culture, and Chinese Dumplings: A visit to a Taipei art park and a famed food street

Taipei art park "Huashan 1914" at night

Taipei art park “Huashan 1914” at night

“Character, Culture, and Chinese Dumplings” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, November 2013.

Huashan 1914 Creative Park / 華山1914文創園區 (map)

A cluster of aged buildings in Taipei’s central government district, Huashan 1914 Creative Park has become a hotbed of commerce and culture ranging from the sophisticated to the avant-garde of the streets. It’s come a long way from its origins as a winery erected by the Japanese a hundred years ago during Taiwan’s colonial period (1895-1945).

Today, the weatherbeaten walls of the colonial-style buildings evoke a richness of character that lends a haunted elegance to the delapidation upon display. Despite the cracked brickwork, the paint-stripped concrete, the corroded metal supports, and the splashes of graffiti, the area feels grime-free—indeed it’s almost genteel. Continue reading

Remembering Leyte, a Year Before the Super Typhoon

Seascape at Calubian

Seascape at Calubian — Photo by Oz Mendoza

It has been over 100 days since the Eastern Visayas province of Leyte was hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan). The devastation it brought was shocking, especially to those of us who have ties to Leyte, Samar, and other severely affected parts of the Philippines.

This is my small tribute to Leyte, along with a gallery of images showcasing its beautiful landscape from the year before the storm struck. Continue reading

High Art Rises From Beijing’s Industrial Ashes

Outdoor sculpture in 798 Art Zone, Dashanzi District, Beijing

Outdoor sculpture in 798 Art Zone

An alleyway in 798 Art Zone

An alleyway in 798 Art Zone

“High Art Rises From Beijing’s Industrial Ashes” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, August 2013.

When asked to think about “art and fashion,” what normally comes to mind? “Art” is likely to spark a memory of a famous painting or sculpture, or some timeless piece of graphic art such as Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. “Fashion” might bring up images of sleek runway shows or poised women in Prada strutting down New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Less likely to come to mind are visions of corroding machinery, rusty metal pipes, and towering smokestacks.

Yet such views abound in the streets and alleyways of Beijing’s most vibrant art and fashion district, Dashanzi—home to the refurbished factory spaces of 751 D-Park and 798 Art Zone. Here, post-apocalyptic grunge meets hipster contemporary in a fascinating fusion of artistic reinvention, engineered solution, and good old-fashioned Chinese pragmatism. Continue reading