wanderlust: rome

rome. magnificent rome. bella italia. where do i start?


ive been to rome and venice in 2006, joining brillante mendoza in presenting his 2nd film, KALELDO, to that year’s rome international film festival. it would be my first time outside asia, having only travelled to hong kong the year before because of mendoza’s first film as well, MASAHISTA, which was screened there.  we travelled with producer, ferdie lapuz, and actress, cherry pie picache. staying for around 4 days, we were in rome for 3 days, saw the vatican, and a day in venice plus visiting murano island. needless to say it was a very short stay and we were just skimming over what we could discover and see in italy.


this year, carlo and i worked on production design for bradley liew’s first feature film, SINGING IN GRAVEYARDS. a gorgeous portrait of an aging impersonator, joey “pepe” smith, who performs in bars as aging rockstar, joey “pepe” smith. i say gorgeous because the range of emotions we got from pepe smith’s non-acting acting is sublime and the environment (including our design work on the sets) captured on anamorphic lenses on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio is breathtaking. char. bradley claims he did not grade larry manda’s camera work. this film was included in the critic’s week section of the 73rd venice international film festival this year, which was why bradley, bianca balbuena (brad’s co-writer, producer, & girlfriend), mickey (sound design), tracy, (executive producer), and carlo and myself (production designers) plus pepe smith flew to italy to attend the festival.


we finally got our screening schedules and the film was gonna be premiering towards the latter half of the festival. our visas granted us around 15 days to be in italy so carlo and i decided to max out that opportunity and see more of italy so we flew to rome and milan first before heading to venice for the festival.

after 10 years, im finally back in rome!


rome was monumental and grand and delicate and massive and really the superpower history books said it was during the age of empires and gladiators and eating off grapes from the hands of slaves. while we stayed 2.5 days in rome and saw a lot of stuff, we still missed out on other sights and exhibits in the city. our milan hosts reckon we needed maybe 7 days to explore more of rome and i think i agree with him.


the altar of the fatherland. only got to see this from afar before. it’s sooooo big. everything is big in rome. you can imagine what the great caesars wanted to impose on humanity back in the day for what rome represented.


im loving the landscape of rome. those trees in the far distance evoke memories from childhood storybooks and pictures from encyclopedia, now real and alive and tangible. no wonder artists drew like that. id probably say the same when i get to visit japan. lol. walking around laurel trees, it was strangely amusing to smell them and be reminded of home and adobo. i think i will plant laurel trees in my home. and cypress. and this pine thing. and olive trees if i can find it in mindanao. awesome to see them mixed with calachuchi and calamansi bushes and talisay. i think i need a bigger piece of land.


umm, this painting was gorgeous. hi kuya 😉 we probably followed this guy from here in the vatican museum all the way to the sistine chapel. then we lost him. then he passed by us again while we were having dinner near the pantheon. choz. he nodded at us and we would have invited him over for pasta had he not walked so fast. see, we’re not stalkers. lol


a detail of a wall painting of raphael (one of the ninja turles) in the vatican museum. that’s him in the black hat looking at us from the corner.


every inch in the vatican museum is art. the church is the biggest patron of the arts, evident here in every room of the museum. i do wonder how nudity got to be so taboo when a lot of the depictions in art in the most holy of places are in the nude. paintings and sculpture of men and women all naked, loved by popes and the clergy. on display.

no pics of the sistine chapel, pinagbabawal. there were a few who defied and stole some photos but carlo and i felt we were too enthralled by michelangelo’s frescoes to bother taking photos. a lot of times, we felt photos do not give justice to the masterpieces on display, esp the frescoes in the sistine chapel. we stayed maybe an hour just looking up. gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.


the tapestries in this room is grabe na! dako kaayu!


mosaic detail on the floor.


a marble sculpture of laocoon and his sons, excavated in rome and now on permanent display at the vatican museum. gorgeous! according to google/wikipedia, this is in the hellenistic baroque style. char.


wandered into a music shop near our airbnb in rome. always fascinated by shops in europe, they carry a lot of items despite its size. sa pilipinas, it would have to be some big franchise shop to carry this much varied merchandise in good condition. even the 2nd hand shops in cubao dont carry this kind of working, usable condition of merch.



this time i got to see the colosseo up close and personal. chos. ancient rome is crazy, i tell you, to build such a massive building where people battled and died all in the name of entertainment. bloody thirsty masses watching and deciding the lives of slaves and warriors. hmmm, how very pilipinas lang now. never knew we became so blood thirsty, thrilled of the numbers of dead people popping up in the streets of manila. and how we ridicule and humiliate and curse at people on social media. wow. like the ancient romans? in my lifetime? but going back, maganda. pero masakit. the church with its riches despite the massive poor struggling to make ends meet. the relics of a mighty stadium reminds us of a brutal past. and we dont really learn from it.


the oculus at the pantheon. i wasnt able to visit this in 2006 and this turned out to be absolutely one of my favorites in rome. i was surprised with the interiors, with the different colored marble sculptures and niches and that impressive hole in the ceiling.


ang olive oil sa italy. bow. i heard a little about the olive oil mafia in italy, where the version we have commercially available isnt pure olive oil anymore. and only one family is supposedly controlling the olive oil industry. while in florence, our host told us not to use the cheap olive oil and instead use his stock of a slightly higher priced olive oil for our pasta. granted masarap nga. pero yung sinasabi niyang cheap oil ay isa na sa mahaling brand available sa pinas (bertolli). so ano nalang kaya yung mahalin sa kanila? wohoo. coconut oil nalang.

IMG_6280.jpg#gwapulis. in the vatican museum.


local art in the neighborhood. diba kalorks. instant beauty everywhere. ingani ilang street art. atoa kay struggling but getting there. nothing wrong with mmda art really and sometimes i like that, ako ay engineer ako ay nurse thing. we need more subversive art though. lol.


one cannot be in italia without eating gelato. the difference is that gelatos in italy are not as sweet as we have in manila. big difference for me kay dili kaayu ko tig-kaon ug ice cream. a bit cheaper also in italy. 150 to 200 pesos up per cone. mahal diay gihapon. haha


thankfully they finished renovating/fixing the trevi fountain, one of the most gorgeous sights in rome, made more famous because making wishes at this fountain is 86% more effective than in other fountains. i made that up.

i did throw my coins back in 2006 (not in 2005 as i originally thought). and here i am back in italy. dreams come true, especially when you work for it and aim for it and save up for it and everything else in between.


for more pics, check out my facebook photodump album for rome. cheers and leave me a comment here in my blog if you like this sort of thing. char.

up next: milan, dahlin’, milan.

art & design, filmmaking, musings, travel

wanderlust: rome


venezia by slippers

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venezia by slippers

it was gonna be our last day at ludovisi palace on via veneto. since ferdie was still sick and coughing all night i couldnt get back to sleep after 5am so i decided to start packing, ready for checkout. didnt realize that the small luggage i brought would not be enough to keep all my stuff in. went back to sleep and waited for breakfast.

met dante down the lobby at around 8.30 and they were packed as well. aside from checking out, we were getting ready to leave for venezia. we got tickets the day before and were scheduled to board the train at around 10am.

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venice is exactly 4 hours away from rome via eurostar. supposedly the fastest train in europe, i believe it’s around the same speed as our mrt lines running across edsa. but of course this is cleaner and seats are numbered, upholstered etc. on the pic to your left is dante and me. pie is seated across the aisle, next to her italian military guy stranger hehe

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one thing we forgot was to buy lunch. and by 2pm we were really hungry. of course the italians who were seated beside us had started eating their baon pastriamis (sandwiches) and we could only stare.


ive said before italy has a lot of graffiti. at the railway to venezia we pass by tunnels and wall fences covered with the same kind of graffiti, words stylized written all over. interesting to note, they follow a particular style and is unique to its US counterpart. the window view also gave us a peak of the famous italian countryside. greens, olive trees and italian villas scattered all over. very beautiful

we arrived at venice by 3.30pm. famished and tired, we decided to buy a map first, change our ticket schedule for the next day’s trip to a later time, and get a hotel. i was amazed that stepping out of the terminal one is already greeted with a view of venetian chapels and its canals. very picturesque ! we’re finally in venice !

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cherry pie picache and me

if rome were manila, venezia would be boracay ! lots of young tourists and the air is very festive. there is a particular energy hovering over the crowd and the streets. venice is a group of islets connected with foot bridges. there are no cars traversing through venice. to travel, one takes the ferry or water taxis that cruise through its canals or simply walk. everybody in venice walks !

from the train station we started walking east and hoping to find a good enough but cheap hotel. we were offered by a stranger earlier to bunk in at their family hotel for 70 euros a night (3beds shared bathroom). apparently there wasnt anything else cheaper than that so we detoured to hotel leonardo, which turned out to be a cozy place to stay, found in the inner streets of venice.

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for the last 3 days of airtravel and going around rome ive been wearing my shoes and closefriends know that i am not akin to wearing shoes all the time ! so in venice, despite protests of the fact that nobody wears them in italy, i wore my beachwalk (not havaianas!) flipflops on the streets of venezia. coolness !

hungry we found a little shop that sold big pizza slices for 2euros. not bad, and thank God it tasted great as well. dante and pie then had gelato (ice cream) and sat on benches facing the street for some people watching. since im lactose intolerant i was wary of eating gelato so i opted for yoghurt, which was ok but too sweet for my taste.

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we then started walking down south en route to the piazza san marco, which is supposed to be a major destination for venezia. we took our time enjoying the sights of the place, the crowd, the streets of venice, its architecture and the shops, ice cream and the gondolas.

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my dad told me i had to ride the gondola, and i would have if it werent so friggin expensive ! 80euros is pretty steep for a ride on a boat, even if it was in venice. besides i would probably have to eat my slippers for dinner if i were to take the famous romantic boat ride. unfortunately the gondola drivers dont sing opera as well while you go and it’s better to take the trip when youre with a loved one. ill save the ride for the next time im in venice.

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it was only when we were in venice that we realized its culture and history were full of masquerading and the theater. the shops of venice sold a lot of masks of varying degrees of simplicity and intricate, exuberant design. they were absolutely fantastic and i wished i could have bought at least one of the lavishly decorated ones. i decided to just get the bare, white ones as souvenirs.

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nearing the piazza san marco we came across this bridge at dusk and were overwhelmed by the magnificent view of the canals at sunset. everywhere we looked lovers began pulling their partners close, got googoo-eyed and started kissing on the bridge. it was really romantic and wonderful and to be awed by the beauty of venice would just put you under its spell. unfortunate for us 3 loveless beings, we couldnt help but bask in the magnificent view and lament on being single in venice. *sigh*

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finally we got to piazza san marco and it was a sight to marvel at. the square was surrounded by tall venetian architecture and flanked by the basilica at one end. there were cafes open that night and string quintets on each cafe. when one band started playing the crowd moved to that cafe and the other bands would stop playing. as soon as they finish a song or two, the band in the other cafe started playing and the crowd would move towards them. sometimes theyd play a crowd pleaser but a lot of times theyd play romantic songs and some couples would start dancing to it.


we sat in one of the cafes al fresco and the band started playing il mundo, which is my parents’ love theme. so i got that on video. we then ordered beer and wine just to get into the feel and mood, basking in the moment of being in venice and the emotions that surround us. when the bill came we were not only charge our drinks but music as well. good thing there were 3 of us because if it were just me and my beer, it would have cost me around 25euros ! yikes.

we slowly walked back to our hotel, stopping by a few more shops along the way. there were less people on the streets and the night air was colder than in rome. a lot of armani and versace shops and other clothing boutiques around. i love how italians dress up, theyre not sloppy dressers for one thing. most of their clothes are tailorfit and sharp. very casual but very clean, unlike americans and their hiphop style or excessively sexy, almost-nothing-there clothing. of course the weather also affords them to dress up in layers, that way you can dress up in cotton, wool and other fabrics. colors are also limited to dark tones. blacks and greys, deep reds and dark blues, natural shades of hide, nothing bright. and dont get me started on the shoes! casual or dress shoes, leather or suede, panalo siya! very sleek and fit. love it !

nearing the hotel we started to get hungry so we stopped over a nearby restaurant at around 10pm and ordered pasta. i had spaghetti al ragu (meat sauce) and it tasted great. nothing fancy, puttanesca was expensive and the last time i had that in rome didnt thrill me that much. their water were bottled in glass, not plastic and sold like coke litro. and it came in naturale or sparkling haha. olive oil is in abundance of course in italy because olive trees grow everywhere, like utot-utot in the pilipinas ! haha

our hotel room is small, with a bigbed for two and an extra bed, which i took. airconditioning is non-existent at this part of the world and we had to close the windows lest we freeze to death during the night. tomorrow we head off to murano and check out the now dying art of glassblowing.

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bridge near the train station

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album cover for benjamin in venice ost

buona serra ! to be continued


rome the second time around


bed and breakfast takes on a totally different course, pinoy style. since ferdie lapuz, the producer, still couldnt get up to tackle the streets, i was “forced” to eat his breakfast serving for him, and this i did gladly. served every morning at the ludivisi palace were bacon and eggs, various kinds of bread and fruit, yoghurt and spread. no rice? hehe

pie dante and me outside the bar we went to at our first night in roma

marcus aurelius at the background

we emerged from the ludivisi palace refreshed and ready to take on rome. jerry, our tour guide met us at the door and led us to the bus stop. we had to make a stop at the festival venue to get ferdie lapuz the producer registered as he was unable to do that earlier. there we met up with the flammini sisters, april and jasmine who tagged along and were our tour guides as well around rome.

me and pie at the festival





afterwards we went down barberini and into the subways of roma. now, the subways can be a terrifying place for tourists. not your alice-in-wonderland type of scary. more like oliver-twist scary. you see, if there were any real form of organized crime, this is where you’d find it amongst the gypsies. they actually have a school on how to pickpocket ! and to think quasimodo fell in love with esmeralda! love is indeed blind for good measure, us tourists of rome got our taste of just that. when cherry pie was about to enter the train she locked on eye-to-eye with one lady who was also getting in the train. at that split second she knew something was wrong and checked her bag. her wallet was gone. she rushed to the lady inside the train (we already got in and were totally clueless to what just happened) and slapped her arm, saying “why are you getting my wallet?!” the wallet dropped out from under the lady’s (apparently a gypsy) poncho. the traindoors have already closed and we were inside the train with the gypsy and the crowd looking at us. the gypsy woman was just muttering under her breath and at the next stop, got off.


it was that easy. even the police couldnt do anything with them gypsies. jerry says there have been warnings enough for everybody and if you get robbed, you get admonished instead. cherry pie was distraught after what happened. at the end of the car, this boy gypsy was playing his musical instrument and begging when suddenly this old romano guy started scolding the boy in italian, blaming his people for what just happened to us. incidentally the old guy has been a train driver for 30 years and is frustrated that these things always occuring on his trains.


we got out of the subway and headed to another part of town by bus to see 3 other basilicas. one of them is san giovanni, which is the largest and is the main basilica in rome.

san giovanni (st.john’s basilica)

st.ignatius loyola inside san giovanni


then we went to 2 other basilicas the names of which ive forgotten. outside the basilica there was a program of some sort, with the kids making a huge circle and waving around bolts of white cloth. one of the churches we went to had a lot of deaf tourists. they were in groups and there was just a lot of them and it was interesting.

we also saw this piazza, huge structure with the statue of marcus aurellius (gladiator) erected in the middle of the square. astig ! then we got castanets, which i didnt like.


the pizza in italy, i must say is amazing! i loved it ! and sharap sharap. it’s very common to them, like pandesal to us or even bananaque. when you order from the big franchise pizza restos in the philippines, you get a uniformly sized pizza with equally measured ingredients toppings etc and everytime you eat it it tastes the same. in italy, it’s like they just threw the toppings on the crust, popped it into the oven (literally) and presto ! authentic italian pizza ! and sometimes you eat it like a sandwich by flipping slice A over onto slice B. ha !


it’s not groundbreaking but i like the pizzas here than what we get from shakeys. the pizzas we had were priced at 4euros each whole pizza (the size of a regular plate) and a bottle of water. that amounts to… php 252 (water cost php 100-120). astig !

the italian family and their pizzas


we headed back to the termini to purchase tickets for the train to venice. there were electronic portals at the entrance where you make you transaction buying tickets on the touchscreen. very hightech, very… 1st world ! haha. and the termini also had bookshops and perfumeries, lots of gelato (ice cream) lots of cafes (cappuccino). reading material was challenging coz most of them were in italian. wanted to buy the paper or get a book but how can you read when all you can understand is buonjiorno? and that is something i learned from watching roberto bernini in la vita e bella (life is beautiful). “Buonjiorno, princepesa.”


walking around rome, you’d find a lot of churches on every corner. 1 here, 1 there. and 1 populated by the filipino community. we got to check out the group there and were greeted by “uy si cherry pie picache yan o!” some of the pinoys were practicing sinkil for some performance. others were just loitering around. we got to have our rosary souvenirs blessed by the pinoy priest there. astig ! pinoy in rome!



it didnt look that big but maybe because i was only seeing it at one side. it was already late in the afternoon and we didnt get to go inside it unfortunately. wanted to come back in the day but wa na oras so it was the best that we could do. someday ill be back, maximus, and ill come see you. astig !

pic of the coliseum


ferdie pie boyet dante and me at the st.peter’s square
when it got dark we took a few more buses to outside the center of rome and visited nene flammini and her husband. throughout the course of the day we were making requests to the flammini sisters on what we wanted to eat at dinner. april told us her mom makes great lasagna and i was excited. cherry pie expressed she wanted salad so that’s gonna be on the menu. what we didnt expect was tita nene’s beef steak. sobra sarap pinoy style ! haha. haskang pagkalami esp parisan sa kan-on gikan thailand. panalo ! the lasagna was heavenly but the beefsteak took home the prize.

and it was another 30 minutes before we got home to veneto. and it’s gonna be another great day tomorrow coz we’re going to venice ! ciao !

to be continued.


roma at night. roma by bus


i did sleep well enough on the eve of our trip to rome. ive prepacked early in the day and decided to buy a few more socks for the trip. although i was excited for italy and made notes to see the sistine chapel and fontana de trevi, i really didnt know what to expect. or at least decided not to expect so much and be disappointed in the end. we were supposed to be in italy for four days and thank God the last minute our booking was changed and we got an extra day, which of course made me extra happy.

the check-in at the international airport was uneventful. we had tv coverage from both network stations and apparently i was seen in “startalk” by a friend, telling me he saw me behind cherry pie while i was on the phone. i was talking to mommy lolet at that time. cheerful!

the first leg of the trip was a 13 hour flight to amsterdam. oh yeah i got to see the netherlands but only from the plane window. and i didnt even get to step on actual soil. after 16 hours of flying and going back 6hours in the day, we finally made it to rome at midnight. the city was pretty deserted but the city was magnificent in lights. whole blocks of residences, graffiti on the walls, people walking ( ! ) over bridges and under streetlight (fixed in the middle of the street), i still couldnt make out what i was seeing. roman drivers are crazy ! they drive in small cars and go really fast through small streets and alleys. crazy! i feared we’d crash into some statue or a century-old building any time soon.


finally we parked into ludivisi palace, a four-star hotel in via veneto. a small bed and breakfast hotel but pretty steep at 360 euros a night (festival took care of that). i bunked in with the producer who was sick since we left the philippines. probably a combination of hyperacidity, gas, food poisoning and cargo pressure etchos.

cherry pie picache dante mendoza and me at cafe de paris

the air was chilly, like a crisp baguio evening and we celebrated our first night in rome with beer at a nearby bar in via veneto filled with guys in tailored suits and women with prada written all over them. crazy to be in rome .

via veneto in the morning

the day after we proceeded to the festival venue to register, get our little IDs and our bag of goodies (books, festival material). via Veneto, we later find out, is probably the most expensive street in rome. said to be the most beautiful street in the world, it is littered with bars cafes and expensive clothing shops including the famous cafe de paris, a glitzy, paparazzi nightmare for the elite stars in the 50s including sophia loren and them italian directors.



there was a free shuttle bus that hurtles through rome, passing by piazza manila (where a bust of jose rizal is found) all the way to the festival venue and back every 10 minutes.

ferdie, dante, pie and myself at the festival

this year’s Rome International Film Festival is the first ever. italy only had the venice IFF for the last 50 years or so and critics have been saying it’s about time Rome had his. big-budgeted ang rome IFF, wanting to be as prestigious as its venice counterpart along with toronto and cannes in paris.

onstage, dante m cherry pie picache ferdie lapuz and benjamin padero

KALELDO was included in the EXTRA! section of the festival. another filipino film was selected, ALA POBRE ALA VERDE. KALELDO got to have 5 screenings in the festival, including its first during the gala opening of the festival.

at the roma termini after lunch and a bit of shopping

met with our tour guide, jerry, a pinoy organist in st.peter church during pope john paul ii’s time and a friend of cherry pie’s. we walked around rome and saw st.peter’s in the afternoon but the line was long and crazy so we decided to just take photos and go see it on tuesday. we then trekked to other sights in rome, bought rosaries in the nearby shops and ate pasta and pizza in some restaurant near the terminal station. i got some postcards i meant to send out via mail. snail mail? what is that?

goofing off in the hotel

had to go back early to the hotel to prepare for the evening’s gala. world premiere of KALELDO ! walked down the red carpet where nicole kidman and sean connery earlier that day also walked on.


viewers stayed at the end of the film for the Q&A portion. they were very supportive and they loved the film, made reference to other films and directors like kievslowsky’s and praised performances of cherry pie and the photography. met with some of the pinoys who watched the movie after the screening and it’s a nice feeling.


me with jakob, festival organizer, cherry pie and dante m; red carpet behind us

afterwards it was late and there were no more parties so we just celebrated with wine along with a filipina and her norwegian husband. stalked the theater where nicole kidman was still in but she didnt come out until hours later and we were bored from waiting. took pictures around the venue and didnt stop laughing until we got back to the hotel.



the producer was still sick when we got in so i had to play caregiver yet again and boss him around to eat and take water and apply hot towels on his stomach to ease his suffering, all the while encouraging him to burp and fart while i covered myself under the sheets to escape the poisonous gas circulating our room ! haha

and another night has ended. to be continued!