Saturday, December 18, 2010


“Yes, I walked the red light district”.

“Nude girls danced on my lap”.

“I get to be intimate with some of them too”.

That’s my storyline if I got asked about the seamy side of the countries I’ve travelled to.

The truth however is I am not really into gaudy red houses. Except that one night at Bangkok’s infamous Patpong district for curiosity’s sake and I thought it was more like a curio carnival and would not be coming back.

I would rather spend my free times walking around and shooting. My favorite past time abroad is something like WAT-ching in Thailand or exploring the mystery of Phnom Penh’s Happy Pizza or walking fast and furious in Kuala Lumpur. No girly bars please.

Recently though, a close encounter with go-go girls which I actually enjoyed happened in San Jose. Kuya R drove straight to a gentlemen’s club after picking me at the Sunnyvale train station. He paid $15 for each of us, ordered 2 bottles of non-alcoholic beer, and positioned ourselves along the center stage with $1 bills on the ready. I t was still 5 pm and we were the only patrons at that time. But boy, how the girls danced. It was uninhibited total performance with amazing acrobatics on the pole. Kuya R would place a couple of dollars on the table and they would come and spread and get so close I can smell them. It was no striptease. It was all the way throughout.

That night and the lies we made to cover our deed might have been one reason why Kuya R decided to drive me and go church hunting the next day. THAT was the striptease.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a renowned arts colony where noted actor Clint Eastwood once served as mayor. We drove slowly: Kuya R looking for the street signs and I admiring the neat streets and cute stores and genteel houses. The striptease that it was involved 2 u-turns until finally an uphill drive which first revealed the bell tower, then a grove of trees, until finally a centuries old church. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo’s billing as the most beautiful of the California Missions is just.

There’s more coming. We were on the road again after a quick lunch of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Monterey's Fisherman’s Wharf. The striptease brought us to another u-turn, a right and another u-turn, a left and another u-turn, until finally a parked school bus and a town square straight out of a Wild West movie. Mission San Juan Bautista, the largest of the California Missions and the setting of Alfred Hitchcock’s "Vertigo", is indeed a sprawl.

But really, this striptease started much earlier in San Francisco’s Mission Dolores with Oyet mentioning an old church around the neighborhood as he ticked off the churches we will be going to then finding a photo of that old church in a bookstore in Fort Mason and me deciding that it is a must-see-and-shoot church then Oyet and Jack and me walking along Mission Street and stopping in Clarion Alley for some photos and at a marker declaring the original location of the church and passing a Methodist / Protestant / Lutheran (?) church under renovation and shooting a Jewish synagogue across the street then the Basilica until finally the old Mission Dolores church.

PHOTOS EXPLAINED (from top to bottom): [1] The mission church of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was started to be erected in 1793 some 22 years after the mission was moved to its present site. It was the headquarters of the California Mission chain from 1770 until 1803. Raiding French pirates ravaged the mission in 1818 and it has been in ruins until 1884 when restoration work started. The remains of the legendary missionary priest Fr. Junipero Serra is interred in the mission. [2] Mission San Jose Bautista’s first church was built a year after the mission’s foundation in 1797. The present church was started to be built in 1803 until 1812. It was damaged during the 1906 earthquake and restored from 1949 until 1950. [3] The Mission de San Francisco de Asis was established in 1776 and, through the years, became to be known as Mission Dolores after the stream which supplied it with water. It is the 6th mission to be established by the legendary missionary Fr. Junipero Serra and the most northerly of the 21 California Missions founded by the Spaniards. Beside the mission is the Basilica Dolores (building on the right) that was built in 1918 over the ruins of a parish church which collapsed during the 1906 earthquake.

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