Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel Roldan

Bangkok Tourism 101

DAVAO City — Lately I visited Bangkok, the “City of Life”.  It looks like Manila where the old and new cultures collide but with a different touch and ambiance of exotic Asia where Westerners are lured to discover.  It is indeed a city busting with life because it is the center of trade and commerce and a prime tourist destination in Asia.  Despite of the heated political climate obtaining in Thailand lately, where a regime is replaced by another through both violent and non-violent uprising just like our EDSA revolt,Bangkok is still a magnet for tourists.

I think Davao and Cagayan de Oro can learn much from Bangkok because  unlike Manila and Cebu, they have immense potential for tourism, infrastructure and industrial development.  I do not claim to be an expert in urban development. But I am a keen observer of things, people and situation so that I can share my observations to others who have the “K” and power to accomplish things.  The people from the University of the Philippines, Asian Institute of Management and Development Academy of  the Philippines, etc., must have such collective expertise to turn around our sleepy economy into a robust one if they can just learn to work together as a team.  Of course they cannot move without the political will of the government to keep this team going.

I arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport on an evening flight from Manila in August 22. I had to attend a week-long regional workshop on engaging the UN Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review at Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok sponsored by Save the Children Sweden. I would not delve much about the workshop but on what I observe there that makes the city a prime tourism destination in Asian region.  Here are some of the features of Bangkok that are interesting:

Suvarnabhumi International Airport (photo courtesy of

First is the airport. They say that first impression lasts. Air and sea ports are the first “line of sight” of any visitor. As a rule of thumb, they must be impressive to attract visitors to discover what lies behind the gold linings of the ports. Bangkok Airport may not be grand as the Hong Kong International or the Paris International which I also visited some years ago but definitely it’s one of the best in Asia.  Our NAIA pales in comparison with Suvarnabhumi in terms of its overall design and amenities.  Our Davao International Airport looks like a tiny wing of its multi-layered and multi-faceted airport. One can literally waste his time in the mess of boutiques and stores selling souvenirs and duty-free gift items. The airport also offers luxury restaurants, gyms, games area, internet stalls, clinics, chapels and prayer rooms.

Bangkok's Sky Train (photo by nicanor gabunada)

The second point of interest is the efficient railway system. Bangkok airport is connected to the center of the city by two railway airport links aside from the usual public taxi and airport limousine which are appropriate for those with big luggage but are quite expensive.  The traffic condition of Bangkok is terrible, to say the least, so travel organizers prefer the railway system for traffic-sensitive and budget conscious visitors.  One railway is the non-stop Airport Express from the airport to Makkasan station in the East and the City Line which is heading to the Phayathai station to the West.  It took me about 40 minutes to reach Phayathai for a fare of 40 Baht (around Php 60). From these stations you can transfer to the elevated Sky Train, also called the BTS to skirt the heavy traffic below and to proceed to any places in the city at no time at all.  Our traffic congestion in Manila, Cebu and eventually Davao will surely ease with such an efficient railway system.

The third point of interest is the lodging and function amenities like hotels and convention halls. Visitors come because they want ease, peace and fun. I was booked at Room 411 of Holiday Inn Bangkok which is just a stone throw away from the ravaging BTS railway but I could not hear any roar and thunder as it passed by.  The place was cozy yet homely, a great place to rest from all the day’s work and worry. Our workshop venue was at the Presidential I and II suites of the adjacent Intercontinental Hotel.  If you take pride of Marco Polo and Insular Waterfront as the best that Davao can give, you might change your mind if you would see the Intercontinental at973 Ploenchit Road and other plush hotels in their category in Bangkok.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok (photo courtesy of 

The fourth is people and places of interest.  For those who are more culturally-inclined, they can visit many religious and cultural sites where distinct Thai arts are displayed and dances and songs performed. No wonder Bangkok is also called the “City of Temples” because of its numerous Buddhist shrines and images found even in the city’s busiest streets. There is one fronting the street from the Intercontinental complete with priests and dancers in ethnic costumes doing their thing almost 7/24. If you are lucky you can get a glimpse of the royal life of the revered King and Queen of Thailand doing their ceremonial functions in one of the state’s offices in Bangkok. Those who love outdoors can try the Koh Samui’s crystal waters of the Amari Palm Reef and other resorts to have a good tan. Shopping complexes selling hi-end i-Pods, 4G cell phones to second hand “ukay-ukay” are everywhere.  Just make it sure you get the “best” of those fake gadgets for your money and not get skin rashes from those fancy clothes sold in the “bangketa”.

Street Food in Bangkok (photo courtesy of

The fifth is food.  If I am right, Buddhism, the prominent religion of Thailand like Christianity, has no food restrictions. Authentic Thai restaurants like the Kum Poon and dumpling king Din Tai Fung located at the 7th floor of the Central World Plaza have a small stove and wok or pot on each table where customers can fry and boil their dishes as they wish.  Thai food is usually spicy but visitors can always have a choice of their usual fare of burgers, spaghetti, salad and long array of Chinese dishes.  For curiosity, I tried a pack of two sticks of ball-shaped street-made “longanisa” for 20 Baht near the Siam Train station. And lo and behold, it tastes exactly like the ‘longanisa” of the barbecue shanties at Magallanes and Claveria streets of Davao.  The only exception is that the pack of Bangkok “longanisa” is not complete without shreds of cabbage and 10 pairs of raw “siling labuyo” which you ought to eat with your meal.  What a hot experience indeed. Chow!


(This article first appeared on September 02, 2011 was published 2 at Mindanao Gold Star Daily ( Emmanuel Roldan’s column Davao’s Peak . The author can be reached via email at:


About Emmanuel Roldan:

Emi is my kababayan from Padada, Davao del Sur. We went to the same high school and were altar boys and choir members in our parish church. Today, is a news editor/columnist of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily – a member of the Sunstar Group. Aside from being a journalist, he is also a development worker and a human rights advocate having served in various organizations engaged in human rights protection and development work. At work and at play, Emi was able to nurture his childhood love for music. He still plays mean tunes on his guitar and sings very well.



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Cooking time: 15 mins
Servings: 3-4

Pasta with Tuna and Capers


  • 250 grams pasta, cooked al dente
  • ¼ cup virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsps. Butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsps. Anchovy fillets
  • 4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cans tuna in brine or vegetable oil, drained
  • 3 tbsps. Capers plus 2 tbsps. Caper juice
  • Small handful of fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Few slices of lemons


Over medium heat, sauté garlic and anchovies together in the oil and butter. Let anchovies melt into the oil but do not allow garlic to brown. Add chopped tomatoes and capers and cook for 2 minutes. Next add your tuna and juice of capers and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes more. Toss in your pasta and mix together. Should the mixture look too dry, you may sprinkle some water from your cooked pasta. Season with ground black pepper and lastly sprinkle with parsley. Transfer to serving plate and garnish with lemon slices.



About Myra Portillo:

Myra was a top-notch key accounts specialist at ABS-CBN Integrated Sales and Marketing until her early retirement in 2001. During our days at ABS-CBN, we look forward to lunches and small parties where we get to taste some of her recipes.  After her retirement, she re-“discovered” her love for paintings and the crafts. Her watercolor artworks are so nice that a lot of her friends have encouraged her to put a one-woman exhibit. But to date, we haven’t been able to convince her. In fact, when I encouraged her to contribute to this blogsite, I mentioned her paintings, but instead she opted to share with us one of her cooking secrets — her yummy pasta with tuna and capers.




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A question of distance

This quiz should be easy, since I provided the choices for you to choose from. If you think the correct answer is not among the choices provided, you may type-in the correct answer.

But the real challenge, is if you can tell me where in Davao del Sur is the beachfront I am referring to.

Now, here is the question:



Three months ago, I travelled from Padada to a beachfront somewhere in Davao del Sur. On the first day I travelled one half of the distance. On day two, I travelled one-third of the remaining distance. On day three, I travelled three-quarters of the remaining distance. On the fourth day, I travelled one half of the remaining distance. On the fifth day, I was left with 5 kilometers left to travel. How far is it from that beachfront to Padada in total?


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Doctor-Patient Jokes 1

Doctor And Patient

NANAY   :      Hala oi! mga pila kaha ka sako dok kay palit na ko hardware? Karon dayon aron mauga na ugma.

ANAK:     Nay oi! pakauwaw ra man ka! sagulan pa gani ug balas!

 DOCTOR: ayaw kalimti ang hollow block ha!!


Bungi Gitahi sa Doctor.  Tapos Gitistingan  pagpa-pronounce.



DOCTOR: naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! MITAMOOT….


PATIENT:  Kung doktor ka, paano mo sasabihin sa pasyente mo na hindi na magtatagal ang buhay nya?

DOCTOR: Ganito… Makulay! Makulay! Ang buhay! Ang buhay! Makulay ang buhay sa kabilang buhay!


A mental patient singing while lying in a hospital bed, after a song dumapa siya.

DOCTOR: O ngano ka nibaliktad??
PATIENT:  Ignorante ka ba??? Side B na man!!!


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Bato Bato Pik

Rock, Paper, Scissors is Bato Bato Pik

When we were kids, this is the game we played to determine who will go first inside a dark room or who will get the last piece of candy. When playing team sports (like tigso, softball, or basketball), we used it to group ourselves into opposing teams (one group consists of all the losers and the other group, all the winners). I had three grade school classmates who were very good at winning the Rock-Paper Scissors game: Henry Lovitos, Reynaldo Idea and James Asahan. They claimed there is a secret behind their winning streak. I always thought it was sheer luck. And of course, we broke their streak when we pitted them against one another!

It is a simple game with many names and variations. During my childhood days, we call it sambara, although we also call it jack–en-poy because of the chant we use while playing it.  In Manila, they call it bato, bato pik. In English, they call it Rock-Paper-Scissors or RPS for short.


How Bato Bato Pik is played

This is a game where two opponents toss out hand gestures. The opposing players move their fists up and down three times while shouting a pre-agreed chant. The fists come down each time a word is said. Fists should not touch each other; the motion being performed entirely up and down in the air in front of each other.

There are 3 chants I know:

Jack en poy./  hole hole hoy. / sinong matalo, syang unggoy./

Bato,/  bato, / pik!/


One,/  two,/  three!/


The players make the gesture after uttering the last word of the chant.  There are three gestures to choose from:

  • Rock – a closed fist.
  • Paper – a flat, open hand
  • Scissors – index and middle fingers extended.

You win, lose or draw depending on what gesture you used versus your opponent. Rock wins over scissors; scissors wins over paper; and, paper wins over rock. Tossing same gestures results in a tie, and you have to try again. Most of the time, it is a best of three (2/3) game; the first to win two games, wins.


A Bato bato Pik Society and World Championships!

I thought rock-paper-scissors is  one of our indigenous games and only us Pinoys play it.  I was wrong.  I chanced upon an article which talked about the game, including real tips at how to win it.  That caught my curiosity so I did a bit of research on the subject. The new insights I learned about the game surprised me:

  1. The game dates back to the days of the Chinese Han Dynasty(206 BCE – 220 CE), and was called The Gestures.  In 18th century Japan it was called Jan-ken-pon. Could this be why we also call this game Jack-en-Poy?  Was it the Japanese who brought to the Philippines this game or the Chinese who has traded with our ancestors way before the Japanese and the Europeans came?
  2. In 2005, an RPS win secured auction house Christie’s a 10 million deal. Here is the story as narrated by Telegraph, a UK publication (

A Japanese art collector who could not decide whether to sell his Impressionist paintings through Christie’s or rival auction house Sotheby’s instructed them to play the game against each other.

Christie’s consulted its employees on strategies and, on the advice of the director’s 11-year-old daughters, chose scissors.

The little girls, keen fans of the game, explained that “everybody expects you to choose rock”.

As predicted, Sotheby’s went for the open palm in a bid to beat the expected clenched fist, and lost the deal

  1. There is a Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships. There is a cash prize involved. It is held in Toronto, Canada and attracts competitors from countries as distant as Norway, Australia, and Singapore.  The World Champions are Bob Cooper of the UK in 2006, Andrea Farina of USA in 2007, Monica Martinez of Canada in 2008 and Tim Conrad of USA in 2009.

The 2010 world championships was cancelled because of the passing of Wojek Smallsoa, the then Chairman of the World RPS Society Steering Committee and the acknowledged “Father of the modern RPS.  The 2011 championships will be held this November.

  1. The US version of the tournament, the USARPS Championships has a big sponsor in beer company Anheuser-Busch. It features tournaments in bars all over the US of A. The regional winners eventually compete in Las Vegas for a $50,000 prize.
  2. There is a World Rock Paper Scissors Society and it has a website ( This is the group that sanctions the World Championships described above. And there are various Rock, Paper and Scissors Groups and Pages on Facebook!
  3. There are mobile apps on RPS. I was testing a blackberry tablet this afternoon and I browsed through the apps installed in the unit and one of apps was rocks, paper, and scissors!  Similar apps are also available on Facebook.
  1. An article written by Natalie Wolchover for Live ) gave the  following tips on how to win in Rock-Paper-Scissors:
    • Inexperienced RPS players tend to lead with a Rock (so use paper against them during the first toss)
    • Experienced players won’t lead with Rock (so use scissors to win or tie)
    • People don’t come out with the same throw three times in a row.
    • Gesture over and over with the move that you want your opponent to play next. Unconsciously, your opponent will often accept your suggestion.
    • Announcing your next move is a good trick. Because your opponent will think you will not.(so use the gesture that will beat the move you announced)
    • People try to come back from a loss or tie by throwing the move that would have beaten his last one.

It has been decades since I have seen Henry, Rey and James. I could have told them that I have finally cracked their secrets. But better yet, I could pit their Rock-Paper-Scissors skills versus a computer program; or versus mobile apps.  But if they are already abroad and near North America, maybe I could encourage them to join the world tournament?

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Of Horses and Horsefighting

Two stallions in a horsefight during a city-wide thanksgiving festival
A 1950s photograph of a relative proudly atop his most prized possession at that time -his horse.
Horse Ownership: A status symbol
Ownership of a horse  especially among the lumads and upland farmers in my part of Mindanao is some form of a status symbol. Wealth and stature is judged by the number and quality of horses a man owns.  Horses are not only primary means of transport used to carry  people and crops to the lowlands, but as medium of exchange in lieu of money. Horses are given to a bride  as  a dowry; offered to an aggrieved family to settle blood debts;  and, as gifts to cement various forms of peace settlements among warring families.

And of course, the worthier horses are those which won more fights in horsefighting events.

 Fiestas and Festivals Features Horsefighting 

Horse fighting are featured events in  annual fiestas, thanksgiving festivals and during celebrations by locals to honor a special guest. I have been to some of these events, and they are very much like cockfights in terms of the betting that goes around;  and like the present day Universal Fighting Contests in the degree of brutality between combatants.

Two stallions in a horsefight during a city-wide thanksgiving festival

Briefly, this is how it goes. The organizers build  an enclosed pen.  A mare that is in heat is tethered in the  pen.  It ignites the sexual desire of two stallions and will lead to a fight to determine which between the two of them will become the female’s partner. During such fights the horses push, shove, head-but, bite, and kick each other to submission.  A stallion loses the fight if it runs out of the pre-defined ring drawn within the enclosed pen or,  if his owner will throw the towel to prevent further harm to his horse.  In some cases, the organizers allow the victorious stallion to mate the mare.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people watch the horse fights.  Children climb trees for a better view of the festival. There is a lot of shouting and jeering from the crowd.  Bet taking precedes the fight very much like what happens in a cockpit arena.

Before horsefighting was outlawed by the Animal Welfare Act of 2009, various festivals in Mindanao have horse fighting as one of their featured events: the  Lemlunay Festival of the T’bolis in South Cotabato;  the Dorong Festival in Digos Davao del Sur;  during several fiestas in North Cotabato; and,  during the Kadayawan Festival in Davao City to name a few I am familiar with.  Now, some local governments have stopped the events during fiestas, but some enthusiasts are still holding such events insisting  that it is part of their culture and even complaining that  it should be allowed since cockfighting is legal in this country.

I have not watched horsefighting  in the past several years. The last one was in 2004 during the Kadayawan festival and I am sharing with you a short video that I took of that event.

Horsefighting during Kadayawan 2004



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