Last-minute Halloween costume ideas with your suit that doesn’t involve James Bond

We’re suckers for any occasion that expects us to suit up, and Halloween gives us an excuse to get a little bit more creative than usual. Like any practical man though, we’d rather not spend a fortune on an elaborate get up, especially if it’s only for this year’s Halloween night out and maybe a nephew’s costume party a few months down the road. Read on for costume recommendations you can build with clothes you already own, with a few finishing touches you can add here and there.

1. Clark Kent, just before he transforms into Superman

Suit Costume Superman

Image from Superman (1978 film)

Bare Necessities:
White dress shirt, tucked in but unbuttoned to the lowest you can go
Superman shirt
Gray or navy trousers

Complete the look with:
Superman’s signature coifed side part
Square-frame glasses
Necktie, left undone


2. Patrick Bateman of American Psycho

Suit Costume American PsychoSuit Costume American Psycho 2Images from American Psycho (2000 film)

Bare Necessities:
Pinstripe suit
Light blue dress shirt
Red necktie
Clear white PVC raincoat

Complete the look with:
Medium-length slicked back hair
Toy axe, so you don’t actually hurt anyone
Red face paint for blood splotches

Creepy, obnoxious grin

3. The Joker of Suicide Squad or The Dark Knight

Suit Costume Joker DuoImages from Suicide Squad (2016 film) promotional photos, and The Dark Knight (2008 film)

Whichever Joker you choose:
Bare Necessities:
Temporary green hair color
Face paint or make up in the following colors: white, black, and red

Jared Leto’s Joker of Suicide Squad
Black tuxedo
White dress shirt
White waist coat
White bowtie

Complete the look with:
Toy gun

Heath Ledger’s Joker of The Dark Knight
Printed purple shirt
Purple trousers, better if in print that mismatches your shirt
Green vest
Printed green tie

Complete the look with:
Disheveled long hair

Crazy eyes
Your own Harley Quinn or Batman, or why not both?

4. Tony Stark

Suit Costume Iron Man 2Suit Costume Iron Man

Images from Captain America: Civil War (2016 film)

Bare Necessities:
Charcoal 3-piece suit
White dress shirt
Red necktie
Iron Man’s Hand Repulsor

Complete the look with:
Tony’s moustache, goatee, and jawline scruff
Sunglasses with light lenses

Your sarcasm

5. Sherlock Holmes

Suit Costume Sherlock HolmesImage by FameFlynet

Bare Necessities:
Dark brown suit
White dress shirt
Dark brown overcoat

Complete the look with:
Leather gloves
Deerstalker cap

Spectacular airconditioning at your Halloween party’s venue

6. Teddy Flood of Westworld

Suit Costume Teddy Flood Westworld

Image from Westworld (2016 series)

Bare Necessities:
Cowboy hat
Grey textured coat and vest
Striped dress shirt
Grey or dark wash jeans
Brown leather or suede boots

Complete the look with:
Handgun holster, preferably in leather
Toy handgun

Short term memory loss

7. Jay Gatsby

Suit Costume Great Gatsby

Image from The Great Gatsby (2013 film)

Bare Necessities:
White or beige suit
Brown vest
Light blue dress shirt
Yellow necktie
Warm colored pocket square
Your most posh cufflinks

Complete the look with:
Coifed side part
A cane

Absurd amounts of disposable income and hopeless romanticism


The Definitive All-Season Haircut Guide

Illustrations by Lee Caces
Graphics by Gene Exaltacion

A truly good look is timeless. There’s something to be said for trends, but when it comes to hairstyles, that shouldn’t preclude the classic, the practical, and the versatile. Here are some handsome hairstyles that are suitable for any occasion.

1. Tapered Buzz Cut

Buzz Cut IG

Following the fleeting fixation with long hairstyles like the top knot and the man bun, men are once again opting for very short hairstyles. The shortest, of course, is the buzz cut–timeless, practical, simple. Put a modern spin on it by keeping it very slightly longer on top, and have it taper all around for a smooth, even fade.

As seen on Brad Pitt, Drake, Derek Ramsay


Tell your barber to shave your head, using number two clippers for the top, and gradually fading down to zero on the sides and back. Then have it cleaned up and detailed with a razor.

Maintain it by visiting the barber a little more often to keep it clean and even. Apart from that, this style really doesn’t need much maintenance at all.


2. High & Tight

High & Tight Left Web

Consider this the modern, more refined version of the faux hawk–great for men who are after the practicality of a short hairstyle, but don’t have the shapely noggin for a buzz cut. It can do a lot to make an older man look young, and a young man look sportier.

As seen on Ryan Reynolds, Zayn Malik, Tony Labrusca


Tell your barber to take a clipper to the sides and back, leaving it longer on top with a little extra length in front. Fading the sides will also keep this from looking too much like a standard crew cut.

Maintain it by moderating your use of product. This is the kind of hairstyle that works well with just as little pomade for a neat look, or without any at all for a laid back look.


3. Classic Side Part

Classic Side Part IG

This is your standard medium-length hairstyle–easy to wear, easy to style, and appropriate for the office and the weekend. It’s also the kind of cut to keep for the long-haul– a timeless and versatile look you can ask your barber for again and again without it ever going out of style.

As seen on George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, Ian Veneracion

side part

Tell your barber to give you a scissor cut, keeping it textured on top, and shorter and layered on the sides.

Maintain it by moderating the shampoo. This kind of hairstyle doesn’t work if your hair is too dry, so be frugal with your shampoo. Thrice a week or every other day should be enough, depending on how much product you use. You can also opt to use dry shampoo on the days you’re not washing your hair.


4. Old School Wave

Old School Wave

This one comes straight out of the 1920s–the clean, coiffed, distinguished look that you might know best fro Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. It’s a medium-length hairstyle, slicked back at an angle, and it works to add a little retro flourish to your look while keeping with the times.

As seen on Leonardo DiCaprio, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jericho Rosales


Tell your barber to keep it long and layered–that’s the key. Then have him taper down the sides, still keeping them at medium length. Make sure he refrains from using clippers for this haircut–your barber should just stick to scissors and shears.

Maintain it by letting it rest as often as possible. It’s a relatively long and full hairstyle that tends to involve using a lot of product. Make it a point to wash and rinse regularly.


5. Messy Pompadour

Pomp Left Web

One of the options that works well for men with curly hair or straight but thick hair is to keep it long and thick in the front and short everywhere else, simulating a very casual pompadour when brushed up and combed well. This can also be styled as a more disheveled, creative-class look by using a matte-finish styling product.

As seen on James Franco, Bruno Mars, James Reid


Tell your barber to leave as much volume, length, and texture in the front, tapering towards the back, and keeping it short with scissors on the sides.

Maintain it by using a blow dryer occasionally. It will help you maintain the brushed-up volume in front. Too much warm air could damage your mane, though, so it’s best to also use conditioner at the mid to ends of your hair strands after you shampoo.


6. Long & Layered

Long & Layered Left Web

It takes a lot of courage (not to mention the right kind of hair) to try and pull off a long hairstyle. If your hair is naturally curly or wavy and of the right thickness and volume, long hair might just work to add character to your look. Just make sure you’re ready for the maintenance!

As seen on Kit Harrington, Adam Driver, Luke Landrigan


Tell your barber to keep the baseline low–up to your shoulders if your hair is long enough–and the layers long, so there’s enough weight for everything to fall properly.

Maintain it by using conditioner after you shampoo to prevent your hair from drying. You’ll also need to visit your barber at least every 2 months to trim any awkward cowlicks, and to maintain your mane’s shape.


Let your barber know which cut you’d like to try. Book your next barbershop appointment at your preferred Felipe and Sons branch here.


This article originally appeared in Compass: A Style Premier for the Modern Man, November 2016 with minor edits by the Felipe and Sons team


The Difference Draft Beer Makes

  Presented by


Understand the difference between the tap and the bottle when it comes to serving and appraising good beer

You may have heard the words “draft beer.” Perhaps you’ve heard them uttered by that insufferable 20-something who definitely shouldn’t have been at your favourite bar. Or maybe you read it on a menu, the one time you decided to consider your options instead of just immediately ordering a Pale Pilsen by default. Draft beer is becoming more and more popular in upscale bars and pubs of Metro Manila, but what is it, exactly? And more importantly, what makes it so different from the beer we’re already accustomed to?

The immediate difference is simple:  draft beer–or draught beer, if you’re talking to a Brit–is served on tap, drawn straight from a barrel or cask. This type of beer is stored, poured, and served there-and-then by bars with draft lines; as opposed to the type of beer we’re more used to, which is bottled and distributed, served individually or by the bucket.

It certainly seems simple, but when you consider what that means to people who are really serious about their beer, it makes all the difference because of one critical factor:  freshness. Draft beer is served fresh, which means you can easily distinguish its distinct flavours and notes; appreciate its subtleties and nuances; understand the fullness of its flavour. It’s also easier for beer connoisseurs to evaluate the color and aroma of the beer, because it can be immediately served in a clear glass. Some even insist on appreciating your draft beer as you would fine wine–by swirling it, and sniffing it before actually drinking it to taste. Whether or not this is something you could do when you’re out at a bar is entirely up to you.

But what can be said for certain about draft beer is that its recent return to the fore has sparked something of a revolution among discerning beer drinkers who are on the lookout for more distinct flavours and a unique drinking experience. If you would like to count yourself among these discerning drinkers, San Miguel is a good name to start with. The San Miguel Lifestyle Brews are familiar flavours: San Miguel Super Dry, San Miguel Premium All-Malt, and Cerveza Negra. On tap, these beverages take on a new dimension. Begin your discovery of draft beer with any of these excellent brews.

SMLB online2 writeup

Now available at The Keg (Fort Strip), The Sugar Factory (Shangri-la BGC), Snaps Sports Bar (Sofitel), Buffalo Wild Wings (Conrad, Glorietta, Estancia, Uptown Mall), Bugsy’s (BGC and Makati), Brick and Mortar (Fort Strip), Balkan (BGC), Z-Hostel (Makati), Dillingers (Greenbelt) and Mike and Jeni’s Gastropub (Marikina)

This article first appeared in Compass: A Style Premier for the Modern Man, November 2016


Man of the Hour: Joe Camacam


Interview by Kolleen Feria
Photography by Jonas Tamayo and Thurees Obenza

We at Felipe and Sons have always believed in local talent. Just as our stores are mancaves to Filipino gentlemen, they are also spaces for our barbers and tailors to continuously develop their craft and thrive with it. As one of our best barbers sets out for new endeavours, we sit down with Joe Camacam for an exit interview.

What’s next for you?
May offer sa’kin to be an educator in the industry, and syempre, I’ll still be cutting hair. Ngayon umiikot-ikot ako to learn as much as I can about the barbershop industry. Tinitingnan ko pa tsaka pinag-iisipan. 

Last time we sat down with you for an interview, you mentioned there was more to do with women’s hair.
At that time, pa-start pa lang ako ulit with men’s hair. I was a barber first before I was a stylist, and then in Felipe and Sons I went back to my roots as a barber. Throughout my time in Felipe [and Sons], I also learned about the details of shaving. Mas na-enhance talaga ako sa barbering. Natagpuan ko dito ‘yung pagiging barbero ko. Felipe [and Sons] gave me a real platform to explore men’s style. I built a client base that’s dominantly male, so even if I miss coloring and highlighting women’s hair, I now feel more challenged to apply those techniques to men’s hair. I feel like here, men are still afraid to try new things, and as a barber, I feel like that’s my challenge now–How do I make my clients trust me to try a new cut, a new color?


Do you think that’s the limitation of the barbershop industry that salons have an edge over?
Initially, yes. ‘Yun kasi talaga ang main difference ng barbershop sa salon, but now I believe there’s a way to introduce and integrate color into barbershops without necessarily losing the masculine edge. Kailangan lang talaga well trained din yung mga barbers. Filipino barbers also need to have pride in what we do. Dati akala ko pag barbero ka, barbero ka lang, but now I see the craftsmanship and expertise involved. Kailangan din siguro magkaroon ng school for barbers dito sa Pilipinas so we don’t hesitate to call ourselves professionals.

What’s your dream project then for men’s hair and color?
[I want to try] Hair art, colored in ash grey. Ash grey is actually a very difficult color to achieve. If I get to do that well, mafu-fulfill ako kasi konti lang nakakagawa nu’n.


What will you miss most about Felipe and Sons?
The events! My favorite memory here is Déjà Vu. I interacted with not just barbershop clients but even haberdashery guests. I met and talked to Jensen and the Flips. I felt like I was also a guest during the event.

Can you give some words of advice to other barbers?
Just the barbers of Felipe and Sons or pati ‘yung iba?

To both!
For those who are in Felipe and Sons, especially the new ones, I encourage them to stay and practice their craft. It really takes a while to master barbering, even if one already came from another barbershop or salon. [I also advise them to] Build their network. Being at Felipe and Sons has brought a lot of opportunities to me, so [I would tell them to] just be open.

For the barbers in other shops, keep researching para matapatan nila ‘yung mga nasa Felipe [and Sons]. Joke lang! Pwera biro, kailangan talaga hindi lang isa o dalawang gupit ‘yung magaling sila. They have to research about different styles so when their clients go to them and ask them,“Kaya mo ba ‘tong style na ‘to?” they can confidently say yes. Confident sila na competent sila.


, ,

Man of the Hour: AJ Dee

Interviewed by Kolleen Feria
Photography by Jonas Tamayo and Andrei Suleik

If you follow celebrity-fashion blogger, AJ Dee, you’ve probably already seen several of his Instagram posts from Norway. It’s almost been half a month since AJ left the Philippines to be with his family, but right before he flew across the continent, we caught up with The Filo Dapper for a quick chat.

Are you excited?
I’m still tired, actually. I’m about to attend a charity event today, and I haven’t even finished packing. It’s bittersweet because I’m leaving everything behind here but I also feel like I’m finally going home to my family.


What are your plans for The Filo Dapper when you get to Norway?
My goal is to get big in Europe. The reason I started my blog is because I knew I was going to migrate to Norway, and I was looking for something that could replace acting. It was a blessing in disguise because I never would have thought I could be a successful blogger had I not planned on moving.

I had many apprehensions before I started blogging—I knew I wasn’t good at writing, I didn’t know much about photography, but one day I decided to just go for it. Now that I’m fairly established as a blogger, I want to use what I learned here in the Philippines to build The Filo Dapper up again, but this time, in Europe.

What’s the most valuable take away from your time in the Philippines?
To be true to myself. It’s hard to create something you’re not really interested in. In a larger scale, I want to continue what I’m doing here with a different environment and a different audience, and I think my style will translate well in Europe.

What would you say The Filo Dapper’s impact was to local men’s fashion?
I believe The Filo Dapper showed many Filipino men that it’s still possible to wear suits despite our climate, and it gave men an alternative to streetwear. It brought back the idea of looking dapper, and that well-tailored clothing doesn’t need to be stiff or old fashioned.


But just as you said, many are still sceptical about suits just because it can get so hot here. How would you advise men to be dapper without wearing a suit?
The idea of dapper is looking sharp and neat, so it isn’t a suit per se that makes a man dapper. You can wear jeans and a clean white shirt, and exude dapper. It’s all about how you carry yourself, and the attention you put to details such as fit, or even scent.

Any parting words?
Don’t be afraid to try doing something out of your comfort zone. It’s cheesy, but it works. I was hesitant before starting my blog, but I went for it anyway. You will only know your capabilities once you’ve put yourself out there.



The Last Typewriter Men

Words and Photography by Shirin Bhandari

For the third time in a month the letter “F” fell off my keyboard, “D” was in close suite. I tried to patch it up but the industrial glue burned into the plastic key making it worthless. I was left with a white rubber stub. The surly technician inside a nearby shopping mall raised his eyebrows with the botched up work. “You’re better off upgrading to a new laptop instead of replacing the entire panel!” he said.

Our gadgets constantly change and fall apart, we lose memory and speed- it becomes obsolete over such a short period of time.

Is there something so wrong with becoming attached to an old (5 years) piece of equipment? I fear change.

“You’ll never have that problem with a typewriter – picture an Underwood; some are over a 100 years old. For a writer, which computer can last that long?” my father would say. Good point. He is a textile engineer and I’ve been surrounded by mechanical machinery, nuts and bolts all my life. It could become a decent back-up for work. The closest I’ve come to a typewriter since the 1990’s is the pathetic typing sound application installed on my computer.


V. Avena & Sons–probably the last typewriter store in Manila

“There’s a quaint store along España across the roundabout probably the last typewriter store in Manila.”

I took heed to the advice and set out early on the hopes of finding the place and dodging the metro’s epic traffic jams. España is a road constructed in 1913. Named after Spain- they colonized the Philippines for over 300 years. With the current 8 lanes – it has become a thoroughly used route in Metro Manila.


Rows and rows of typewriters were on display.

The heat was unforgiving despite arriving a little after 9 in the morning. The bustling road was filled with colourful and noisy jeepneys. A tall and sturdy elderly gentleman opened the clear glass door. He had locked it from the inside -a smart thing to do in such a large city. “May I help you?” he said in a soft voice. Rows and rows of typewriters from various decades were on display. “I’d like to purchase one,” as I pointed to a shelf across the room. He led me to a large desk. A brass ornament lay on the table, etched into the dark metal read the name of Mr. Ramon Avena. He sat down in a swivel chair next to a flat screen TV playing the latest NBA playoffs.

Behind him a man worked patiently on a Deco period Underwood along a well ventilated terrace. Mr. Avena let me walk around the store. His family owns the low-rise building and lets out the remaining rooms to tenants. His parents established a sporting goods store in the mid 1930’s on the other side of town now known as Recto, before shifting to typewriters in 1939. They moved to España in the 1960’s. Ramon learned the trade as a child. His father, Mr. Vicente Avena, was an accomplished sportsman and played center- representing the Philippine basketball team in the 1920’s Far Eastern Olympics.


Mr. Avena’s father was a remarkable basketball player in the 1920’s

On the floor leading to the terrace lay a grave yard of typewriters. Each with a paper note of the date and owner neatly placed on the top carriage. There is a long line of repairs and restorations for people willing to wait. A medium-sized notebook showed Mr. Avena’s handwritten list of clients, including a few famous personalities. The business has survived the Japanese occupation and a World War. Every typewriter brought to the store has a personal history, a story-some hold onto it as a memento of a loved one who has passed.


Long line of typewriters waiting to be maintained and repaired.


Names of clients are personally handwritten into a medium sized notebook.

The smell of paint thinner and oil filled the air. The recycled parts of cannibalized typewriters from every brand conceivable were placed in well-organized glass bottles. Wide metal filing cabinets carried an abundance of steel, rollers, spools and keys. “I have kept everything.” Mr. Avena exclaimed as he pulled out the drawer with small wooden compartments that held each letter of the alphabet.


Spare parts are collected into clear glass bottles.


Each part is kept in well-organized compartments.

The onset of the 20th century brought businesses and writers to the typewriter. You put more thought before typing as you would now-with fewer distractions. Ideas are printed and translated into ink.

We may be in the computer age but V. Avena & Sons was never drawn to upgrade. “I need technicians I can trust.” His faithful assistant, Nemecio Matalang, has been with him since 1972. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except for Sundays, V. Avena & Sons has remained open for the past 70 years. A lot has changed since then- where the Government, Universities, offices and factories would constantly call for their services. At present about two typewriters are repaired a day and if luck would have it- one sold a week.

Ironically despite the store name, Ramon who is now in his 80’s is the only son among 4 siblings. Sadly no member of the family has any interest to continue the trade. “It is what it is, I kept my promise the day my father died-I will continue like he did until my time comes. Life is about holding on to your word and having integrity.”

Nemecio Matalang, Mr. Avena’s faithful assistant, has been with him since 1972 . “I need technicians I can trust,” says Mr. Ravena.

Nemecio Matalang, Mr. Avena’s faithful assistant, has been with him since 1972 . “I need technicians I can trust,” says Mr. Avena.

The second floor of the store is his private sanctuary. His withered hands gestured to random clippings and photographs against the wall. Another office held basketball memorabilia of his late father. It smelled like an old woolen sweater with moth balls-but somewhat comforting. As if time has stood still.

Mr. Ramon Avena

Mr. Ramon Avena

“I have no regrets, this is where I started and all of this will end with me.
The typewriter is my life.”

Long before we had email inboxes there were high piles of paper stacked with impulsively written letters made on heavy metal contraptions.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Mr. Avena took out two typewriters for me to try, both in mint condition, restored meticulously. A short blank piece of paper was in the roll with a line of “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” It is an English phrase that contains all the letters of the alphabet. Instinctively I copied it over and over again to get the feel of the keys. You see each word hit the paper. The clickety clacking sounds are mesmerizing–as one would be entranced with watching a record spin.

The QWERTY keyboard layout was developed to help keys from jamming. It became so successful with the 1878 Remington that it has remained in use with standard electronic keyboards to this day.

About 1-2 typewriters are repaired each day.

About 1-2 typewriters are repaired each day.

Three hours later I was still in the store. Where did the time go? Close to lunch break a group of men arrived in a tricycle (Philippine auto rickshaw) from the local barangay (town hall). They lugged in a large electronic typewriter used to fill government forms. “I’ll see what we can do,” Mr. Avena said as he handed them a receipt.

Regardless, I settled with an antique Remington Monarch. I didn’t have enough money and gave a partial deposit. Mr. Avena was kind enough to oblige.

It was also a valid excuse to come back and spend time to listen to his ramblings.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“You know some people have everything. But are they happy? Do they have what money can’t buy? You made a good choice.” Mr. Avena smiled as he walked with me towards the door.


V. Avena and Sons
2282 España Street, Sampaloc, Manila


Felipe and Sons x The Filo Dapper present:


A first for both our brands.
We collaborate on a suit collection with both classics elements, and playful ones.
We’re not ones to shy away from color or some patterns here and there, but we understand, of course,
everything has to be wearable no matter the season.

Be dapper.


primero-4 primero-5-1 primero-5 primero-6 primero-7 primero-8 primero-9

The Primero Collection launches for public on Saturday, 28 May 2016 in Felipe and Sons stores.

Photography by: Chio Gonzalez
Assisted by: Chissai Bautista and Jobert Eugenio
Art Director: Jonas Tamayo and Nikki Dy
Models: AJ Dee and Brent Javier
Hair & Make-up by: Leslie Espinosa
Styling by: Kolleen Feria and AJ Dee

The Basics Collection

Introducing Felipe and Sons’s first ever shirt collection. It’s everything a man’s closet should be–straight to the point, fool-proof, and dapper. Always dapper. We tailor according to your measurements, so you get that perfect fit every time.

We’ve got your wardrobe covered.

lookbook-p1 lookbook-p2 lookbook-p3 lookbook-p4 lookbook-p5 lookbook-p6 lookbook-p7 lookbook-p8 lookbook-p9 lookbook-p9a1 lookbook-p9a2

The Basics Collection will be available in both Makati and Ortigas branches on Friday, 20 May 2016.

Photography by Cyrus Panganiban (Dark Horse Studio)
Hair and Make Up by Leslie Espinosa
Models: Kenn Bosch and Jeremy Blake


The Unwritten History of The Philippines

Words by Troy Bernardo
Images by Jordan Jacinto

Back when the planet was young — the air, much denser and the water, thinner– there stood a vast continent which, today, could only be found in myths, the New Age section of bookstores, and, according to W. Scott-Elliott, the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The continent, which also went by the name Mu or the Motherland (of Mu), was believed to contain an ancient civilization, Lemuria, which existed prior to and during the time of Atlantis, some 14,000 years ago. Scott-Elliott’s book, “The Story of Atlantis and Lost Lemuria,” dated the latter to about one million-years-old; its cataclysmic sinking, 10BC.

Why the continent, which allegedly had 7 rivers, 7 mountains, and 7 Subcontinents – thus, it was also called the 7 Blessed Isles, the 7 Islands of the Blest, the Land of the Mother and the Womb of the Planet — vanished could be blamed on volcanic eruptions, plate tectonics, or simply, geological change. Though this event may seem incredibly dramatic, it isn’t that far-fetched. As recently as December 26, 2004, an earthquake triggered a series of tsunamis that killed more than 225,000 people in eleven countries.

The exact location of Lemuria is unknown. Scott-Elliott believed that it existed “largely in the Southern Pacific Ocean, between North America and Asia/Australia.” Rudolf Steiner, author of “Cosmic Memory: Prehistory of Man and Earth,” placed its location in the “south of Asia, and extended approximately from Ceylon to Madagascar, including what is today southern Asia and parts of Africa.” Crystalinks.com, a website dedicated to Lemuria, wrote that its location is linked with the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Some non-traditional historians like Prof. Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago, believe that Philippine history can be traced back to Lemuria, which occupied the Pacific and Indian oceans, encompassing the islands of Hawai’i, the Philippines, and everything in between.


Another non-traditional historian, Bong de la Torre, makes an even bolder claim. Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak on the island of Mindanao, is what was left of Lemurian civilization.

Interestingly enough, they could be right.

Before Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães, a.k.a. Ferdinand Magellan, re-discovered The Philippines back in March 1521, the country was just a nameless archipelago, a collection of islands, where various tribes and communities lived. The center of trade, for example, was the Kingdom of Butuan, which was Indianized like the Kingdom of Tondo.

Mindoro, which was called Ma-i by Chinese traders, was a popular trade route. Could Mindoro’s residents have been called Ma-ian?
The island province of Siquijor was called Isla del Fuego, or Island of Fire, by the Spaniards; because, of its huge population of fireflies, according to Esteban Rodriguez, who led the Legazpi Expedition in 1565.

When the Spanish colonizers came, they created a country out of the archipelago; named it after then King Philip II, a.k.a. Philip the Prudent; and, then replaced the deeply spiritual nature of the islanders with Catholicism.

That was the gist of Philippine history according to the Spaniards.


The Lemurian Connection


According to Argonza, spiritually advanced beings populated one of Mu’s 7 Subcontinents, the one called Maharloka.

There, a deep spirituality combined with the mastery of combat made for a powerful, awakened society. The words Mahar or Maha, meaning Great, and lekha, which in Sanskrit meant Creation or Effort, after all, when combined, meant Noble Creation or The Great Land.

After the Great Flood, only the mountain tops of the 7 Blessed Isles were left in what would later be modern-day Indonesia: Borneo, Celebes, Java, New Guinea, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra.

The highest peak on the 7th Blessed Isle, Maharloka, was believed to have been called Apo, which could be found on the archipelago that would later be renamed the Philippines. This could be a reason why Filipinos have a penchant for faith healing, shamanism, superstition, and other cosmic, esoteric, mystic and spiritual pursuits. This was also probably why religion managed to firmly entrench itself in the population. We were already predisposed to the spiritual.

The symbol of Mu, also known as Sunda or the legendary Lemuria, is 8 rays radiating from a circle, which might as well be the same 8 rays that emanate from sun on the Philippine national flag today.

The Lemurian alphabet closely resembles Baybayin, the ancient Philippine alphabet.

That is the gist of our unwritten history according to non-traditional historians.

According to Argonza, an Initiate of the Brotherhood of Light, who calls himself “a sociologist, economist, development specialist by profession, while spiritual teaching (+ healing, messenger, writer),” because of Maharloka’s connection to the divine, the isle was known to be a cosmic portal, its citizens trained in the gathering of sacred knowledge, the manipulation of energies, and the passing on of divine wisdom to affect collective consciousness of the planet.”

These tasks had been passed on to the archipelago’s shamans, tribal spiritual leaders called babaylans, who were then demonized by the Roman Catholic Church, calling them aswang. Babaylans were outlawed, gathered, and sent into exile to the island of — you guessed it — Siquijor.

Siquijor, or Isla del Fuego, could’ve been a metaphor for the fires of Hell.

Not all Catholics, however, were against the highly advanced spiritual consciousness of the archipelago. When the Jesuits first came to the country back in 1581, many of them were said to have had links with the local shamans; so much so that when they were expelled after 187 years of work in the country, many Jesuits remained hidden in the mountains, leading ascetic, spiritual lives. Hiding from the law, they became reclusive hermits, which explains why the ermitanyo in popular Filipino culture, were always depicted as tall, white, bearded men.

Whatever may, or may not be, the truth about the stories above, non-traditional historians wish that these won’t get lost in a sea of barber tales. In fact, they are hopeful that the stories encourage all of us not just to question what is fed to us by history books, but more importantly, to embrace whatever memories they awaken.

The King of the Road

Words by Shirin Bhandari
Photography by Josef Gadista

The stainless steel horse would vibrate from left to right, up and down. The springs below the hooves were raised at a certain angle so it would give the illusion of trotting. The horse was placed top and centre on a colourful and highly ornamented hood.

Traffic in Manila was scarce when I was a child and for once as the signal turned red- one could look forward to staring at the kitschy and brightly designed Jeepneys. Each vehicle unique with its own streamers and colours; sometimes even with a full steed of horses.

The word Sarao has become synonymous with the Jeepney.

The word Sarao has become synonymous with the Jeepney.

The Jeepney is a popular mode of public transportation in the Philippines. It was originally constructed from the left over Willy U.S. Military jeeps from World War II.  As the U.S. troops started to pull out from the Philippines at the end of the war, the remaining surplus Jeeps were either sold or given to the locals as gifts. They were stripped down and altered, painted with vibrant hues and ornaments. The back was reconstructed with parallel benches to accommodate more passengers. People are made to sit facing each other in close proximity with their knees touching. The running joke is the Jeepney combines the root word “jeep” and “knee”-hence the name. But the true origin is from the word “jitney” which is an American slang for a nickel fare or a small bus that picks up and discharges passengers over a regular route which was popular before and during the war.

The unextended jeeps were called “owners” and are not used for commercial purposes.

The word Sarao has become synonymous with the vehicle. The company was first established in 1953 as a small automotive shop.  Entrepreneur Leonardo Sarao from Cavite earned a living as a kalesa (horse carriage) driver before becoming a mechanic.  He incorporated the airiness of the kalesa into the design of his jeep. Since the Philippines is a tropical country- the open sides serve well for cross ventilation- keeping passengers cool, when air-conditioning was still a luxury.

Sarao Motors incorporated the design of the kalesa into its Jeepneys to provide airiness and cross ventilation.

Sarao Motors incorporated the design of the kalesa into its Jeepneys to provide airiness and cross ventilation.

Other forms of transportation were virtually destroyed during the second World War and the country was left with little alternatives. The jeepney became the most used and popular form of public transportation in the Philippines next to the bus. It is an inexpensive way to get people around. The government acknowledged their importance and began to issue special licenses to drivers and regulated their use, routes and fares.

The Sarao company outnumbered other manufacturers by 7 to one. The Jeepney became a symbol of Philippine pop culture in the early 1960s. The specialized Sarao vehicle was exhibited at the 1964 New York World’s Fair- Philippine Pavilion. It then travelled from Manila to London in 1971 and throughout Europe to promote Philippine tourism and industry. A custom made Jeepney was manufactured by Sarao in 1981 for Pope John Paul II, for his first visit to the Philippines.

The Sarao Motors factory serves as a museum for Jeepneys from various decades.

The Sarao Motors factory serves as a museum for Jeepneys from various decades.

Sarao Motors is located south of the capital in Las Piñas City. The vast lot still holds original pieces of various Jeepney designs. However the once active factory has become more of a museum. It has seen better days. Upon entering, there are rows and rows of parked Jeepneys from various decades. Majority are in mint and pristine condition- some go as far back as 1955. Others remain incomplete with bare steel bodies; as if time has stood still.

Due to the rising costs of production the company had to downsize in October 2000. Mr. Sarao died a year later at the age of 80.

On the left is a Jeepney commissioned by Hennessy for their campaign Hennessy King of the Road

The once bustling factory with over 350 employees has been reduced to a crew of 50. The collection department is the only section that is currently in operation. Sarao has tried to resume operations in a smaller scale; concentrating more on commissioned work.  The average output is 40 units per year, a far cry from their production when the company was at its peak.

There is no concrete program for the local automotive industry in the Philippines. It is unfortunate that foreign brands have taken the lead. The government has neither passed a law to protect Sarao’s design. Other manufacturers have reconstructed the original pattern with their own modifications- using cheaper materials and engines. The look varies in each region of the Philippines. The length, size and seating capacity has evolved through the years; however none can come close to the beauty of a Sarao.

The company is currently managed and supervised by Mr. Edgardo Sarao, the fourth son of the  legendary mechanic and entrepreneur.  It was through the grace of his father’s commitment and hard work that he decided to continue the legacy.

Mr. Edgardo Sarao poses beside a vintage 1955 Sarao Jeepney.

Mr. Edgardo Sarao poses beside a vintage 1955 Sarao Jeepney.

The lack of infrastructure and other modes of transit still make the iconic Philippine Jeepney relevant. “They’re here to stay. What other alternative do we have?” Mr. Edgardo Sarao quips. “Now that our LRT-MRT (train system) is constantly under repair, a Jeepney can always take minor routes around the metropolis and provinces. Without it, mobilizing the masses will be a monumental task. People still need a cheap form of public transportation.”

The company is in talks with local and foreign companies for a joint venture- looking to source the next generation of environmentally friendly Electric Vehicles.

“How do you see your future?” I ask.

The portly Mr. Sarao smiles as his eyes go into a small squint.
“We have high hopes- the entire work shop in itself is a museum, all that nostalgia.
It would be nice to have a Jeepney themed restaurant…Who knows?” he says with a laugh.

If luck would have it- the gears might just shift into the right direction and the Sarao name will be great again.