Rizal, Cobain, Starbucks, Sasquatch: Misadventures in Seattle (Part Two of Three)

“I’m from Manila.” “Oh, nice. Manny Pacquiao.”
by | May 26, 2016


Time flies fast when you’re all spaced out.

By the time I finished strolling around the Space Needle complex, taking in the sights that didn’t ask for an admission fee, it was already past three.

My acid reflux was starting up. I looked for a nearby Subway, but no such luck. A drizzle fell. I had no umbrella. I ducked past the dinosaur fountains and into the food court of the Seattle Children’s Museum.

Beware the Burgers

My eyes fell on one that was called Quincy’s Real Charbroiled Burgers. I tested my luck on the fact that it rhymed with my name—Wincy. Yet I questioned the need to insert “real” on the sub-header. Did the UFOs kidnap all the cows?


Charbroiled burger, meet my gut.

As was typical with most American fast food joints, everything was supersized and extra greasy. I jest not: The Pepsi cup could be used as a tabo for bathing back home. The inside of my cheeks felt slick like a tar pit. I was only halfway through my cheeseburger until my innards conceded. Holy American portions, Batman! Needless to say, I suddenly missed the humble Yum With Cheese back home.


I have seen things that’ll turn you American.

Walking Through Grunge

After that forgettable lunch, I was off to the Experience Music Project Museum for the Nirvana exhibit.

The halls were massive. My neck cricked when I looked up the ceiling. On a video wall, a Beck concert played out. I went to the ticket booth to pay up. Upon skimming through the brochure, I learned that the rock ‘n roll exhibits were just one part of the tour. The museum was mecca for all things pop culture! There were exhibits dedicated to science fiction and horror films as well. I licked my lips.

The good thing was it was a Friday afternoon. There wasn’t much of a crowd. Save for a few senior citizens, I had the museum to my own. Hey, maybe Seattle is a sleepy town after all.

The first thing that caught my attention was this pillar made of guitars. I’ve never seen so many guitars on display since my days of going to Hard Rock Café in Makati.  I took so many photos of it that I wasn’t able to pay much attention to Jimi Hendrix’s outfits on display. What a shame.


A tornado of guitars!

Then I was off to the true purpose of my trip— the exhibit about the Grunge Era, the Seattle Sound. Below is a plaque that encapsulates the accidental fame the city gained in 1992. It was funny to learn how the music industry of the early ‘90s perked up its ears to this backwater city—one that prided itself for its logging industry more than anything else. Apparently, the locals back then could only shrug in disbelief.


All grunged out.

I learned that all those bands we knew in the early ‘90s (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains) were just the tip of the iceberg. Seattle had a whole community of musicians that nobody knew about. I suddenly remembered my twenties, days when I played bass for bands in dingy bars along Anonas and meeting the most interesting people.


Yep, this one smelled like teen spirit.

Then there was this. The sweater that changed fashion forever. One that became the uniform of smart-talking slackers the world all over. The one Kurt Cobain wore. I felt like I was having a Damascan moment until a bored tour guide told me that it was a replica. If they had the real thing on display, underpaid employees would’ve stolen it. That made a whole lot of sense.. A trade secret, folks: The real artifacts are stashed away in private!


The In Utero statue.

And then this! The angel sculpture from Nirvana’s In Utero. I was surprised to see that it was bigger than I imagined it to be. The opening riff from “Heart-Shaped Box” suddenly played out in my head.

After going through a maze of Grunge Era memorabilia (one that strangely included Dave Grohl’s report card), I exited the halls through an escalator. I chatted up an employee, who was going through the motions in the Information Booth. He sported hipster glasses and a Charles Manson beard.

“Great exhibit about the Grunge Era, man,” I said.

“Thanks. Where you from, dude?”

“I’m from Manila.”

“Oh, nice. Manny Pacquiao.”

I smiled. “Manila isn’t all Manny Pacquaio.”

He smiled too. “And Seattle isn’t all Kurt Cobain.”

He told me about everyday life in Seattle, a topic I got more excited about than the exhibit I had just been to. He said the job market in the city was tough. Most of the people live in the mountains surrounding the city and they take the funicular to work. He also told me to try out Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts before I leave. They shot a scene from the movie Singles there.

A Hall Of Horrors

The music fan in me had his fill. By that time, the horror fan in me was raring to see the Can’t Look Away: The Lure Of Horror Film exhibit on the basement level.

On my way there, I was greeted by a souvenir shop that touted all things horror, from to action figures to books to DVDs. I had to crack a smile. Only in America would you see stores so specialized.

Traveller’s tip, folks: If you find a souvenir that you know you’d lose interest in a year from then, just take a snapshot of it on your iPhone. Saves you money, saves you space. I took one of Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise.


Caption this… Spooks ‘R Us.

It turns out the gallery was much darker than the last one, with red lights punctuating glass cases containing various Halloweeniana. Strains of Bernard Hermann piped in from the walls. Suddenly, I was eleven again, my nose buried in a Stephen King novel.


The Psychology of Horror 101.

Now, I’ve always been a horror fan since watching Magandang Gabi Bayan episodes when I was a kid. I also just came from directing my first film—a horror film. A pilgrimage to the greats this truly was.

In one corner was the latex mask from The Creature From The Black Lagoon. On another was Freddy Krueger’s glove.  But one that topped off my list was this:


Here’s Johnny!

The axe prop used by Jack Nicholson in The Shining! A tick on my bucket list.

All was good. I was tired. I wanted to lie down in my hotel bed. Seattle had to wait for now.

Want to read more adventures in the Emerald City? Stay tuned for Part Three! You can also read the part one here.

Like a butterfly testing out flowers, Wincy Aquino Ong flits from one career to another. In his twenties, he played in bands, directed music videos and movies, and wrote commercial jingles. Nowadays, at 33, he is a copywriter for Stratworks and is married to the painter Cj de Silva. His next dream destination is Florence, Italy, the heart of the Renaissance.

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