This new article was written by my dear friend, Mel Torre, for my website’s Bio page 🙂

 

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion says so famously that it is writ on the cover of a book. Indeed, story has the power to teach, inspire, spark dreams, make meaning out of nothing and even preserve civilizations.

Perhaps that is why humankind has always been gifted with those who know how to tell a good yarn, be it through the written word or through images and song.

A few decades ago, Raz de la Torre was one such boy dreaming of telling his own stories. At the time, he thought it would be through a news anchor’s baritone, American-accented twang. This dream sparked a journey that led him through a degree in Broadcast Communication at the University of the Philippines and later on, after a few diversions like a stab at law school, through a Master’s Degree in Filmmaking at the London Film School.

“There was a call for applications to a writing workshop for ABS-CBN to be facilitated by THE Ricky Lee,” Raz recalls now about he was ultimately led to his now thriving career. He impishly adds, “I used that as my justification for my LOA from Law School to my mom and decided to apply. I was fortunate to be chosen as part of the first batch of 30 people from a field of almost 10,000 applicants.”

Destiny nodded in approval as Raz, straight out of the gate, was immediately hired for Star Cinema’s Concept Development Group. Thus began the early years of Raz’s writing and directing career. He still considers “A Very Special Love,” a rom-com from this period that birthed the John Lloyd Cruz-Sarah Geronimo tandem and two eventual sequels, as his biggest contribution to mainstream pop culture.

Those years became the breeding ground for his current landmark post as resident director for Maalaala Mo Kaya, itself an institution as Asia’s longest-running drama anthology at 27 years strong.

“I am deeply passionate about MMK because I see it as the teleserye of the Filipino people, an on-air chronicle of how Filipinos live,” says Raz. MMK has honed and showcased Raz’s craft, giving him a platform to tell a kaleidoscope of stories, from his love stories to family dramas, social dramas and more advocacy-forward episodes. It has also become his touchstone to the Pinoy thespian, ranging from respected veterans like Nora Aunor, Joel Torre, Gina Pareño, Coney Reyes and more to young stars like Julia Barretto, Enchong Dee, Zaijian Jaranilla, and Janella Salvador.

To this day, his life of storytelling, which also includes being Executive Producer for ANC and NCCA’s docu-series Dayaw and creating personally-produced documentaries, gives him that elusive high. “The feeling of creating something that resonates with people is unlike any other,” Raz says. “When I direct, write, or produce something that creates an emotional response from audiences, that changes their mind about an issue, or influences them to take action… I am overwhelmed by the sense of fulfilment.”

In his own way, Raz keeps chasing that high. Also a passionate educator, he has been a Senior Lecturer at UP Diliman since 2012 teaching Videography, Documentary, Producing, Screenwriting.

Perhaps what makes Raz a compelling storyteller is that he understands that a good story is about more than just a good bare-bones plot or rich characters, essential though these may be.

“Directing is not just about framing beautiful shots, orchestrating impressive scenes, or directing actors,” Raz shares. “The most admirable directors are those who tell stories because they are motivated by things larger than themselves. I want to be that kind of a director.”

This article was written by my best friend, Cheryl Ingles, for the Bio page of this website. It was first published here back in 2011, when this website first went online 🙂

***

Only a few dare to actually follow their dreams. Raz did exactly that when he left law school to pursue a career in filmmaking. While the UP College of Law lost a potential lawyer, the entertainment industry gained a talented scriptwriter and director. And although he could have tried his luck in London, where he attended film school, Raz came back to further develop his already burgeoning (and award-winning!) career, and perhaps help steer the local industry in the direction he’s always envisioned for it. One could say that maybe, based on his body of work, he’s done all there is to do in and for Philippine television and cinema, but the fact of the matter is: he’s only just begun.

RAZ DE LA TORRE is, without question, an efficient multi-tasker. And a high-achieving one at that.

He is a film and TV director. He is the screenwriter behind several record-breaking blockbuster Filipino movies. He produces documentaries for a cable news channel. He just recently finished his MA in Filmmaking at the London Film School — with distinction.

And as if the various hats he balances on his head weren’t plenty enough, Raz just put on another and now teaches scriptwriting as well.

We meet a super achiever, and the first question we often ask is, “How did he do it?” Raz’s success story is unlike your usual rags-to-riches tale. However, similar to the films he’s written and/or directed, it certainly is not plain; not lacking in conflict or drama, and even has its due share of comic moments. Maybe it was by being an only child that Raz was initially able to develop his creativity and independence. Having no siblings to grow up with, Raz as a child had more than enough space to let his imagination fly and learned early on to devise his own ways to keep himself entertained.

There are a lot of stereotypes commonly attributed to only children: spoiled, selfish, bratty, not least among them. Raz, perhaps in an effort to veer away from these labels, grew up honing the values of hard work, self-discipline, focus and passion to do everything excellently.

In high school, he trained for the track and field sport varsity team, and was also honored as one of the top 10 most outstanding students – in the city! In college, he’d never miss a party, but he would compensate by pulling all-nighters while still getting the topmost marks in his production classes. To this day, Raz applies the same commitment to excellence and hard work in every endeavor he undertakes.

Looking at Raz’s portfolio, the first thing one would notice is the variation, a myriad of projects using different media: local and international films, print, entertainment and current affairs programs for television. Raz lends his storytelling flair not only in works of fiction, but in real-life features as well. He just recently worked as an executive producer and headwriter in a cable news channel.

Apart from words, Raz also uses his training in Production Design, Lighting and Camera Operation to tell the world his stories. A potent ingredient to Raz’s success is his love for life and his unceasing quest for inspiration, for fresh ideas, for remarkable new stories to share. He pays attention to things most people would usually ignore. He could come up with the best tales from a sundry of sources: from people-watching in other countries or scouring sidewalk bazaars in Quiapo, from conversations with good friends and strangers alike. Raz’s talent as an artist lies not only in telling stories, but in finding them; in seeing connections between seemingly disjointed elements, in bringing the extraordinary out of the mundane. Maybe it was out of allowing himself to be exposed to so much that he was able to come up with the most interesting characters: Sam Milby as an American embassy consul looking for his birth parents in You Are The One. He created a a 32-year old virgin who had to teach sex education in Tuksó; a magazine Editorial Assistant in Sarah Geronimo and a snobbish rich kid out of John Lloyd Cruz in A Very Special Love.

In 2011, two weeks before receiving his MA with Distinction in Filmmaking from the London Film School and the London Metropolitan University, Raz’s feature film directorial debut, Won’t Last A Day Without You, screened in 120 theatres all over the Philippines, earning PhP20 Million on its opening day. Furthermore, Raz is now a contract director for Star Cinema, the Philippines’ biggest film production company, and a regular director for Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK), Asia’s longest running drama anthology.

Needless to say, that boy, the only child, has come a long way and is now an accomplished writer-producer-director-teacher — in essence, a strong, talented visionary who knows how to seize opportunities as they come. In one of his interviews, Raz explains, “The world is too complex to know what is possible and what isn’t.” And we hold our breath as Raz whips up his next surprise.

The detour for Raz dela Torre

By Mr. Fu

TV and movie director Raz dela Torre’s childhood dream was to be a news anchor like his idol, the late Angelo Castro Jr. of “World Tonight” fame (ay, ako gusto noon maging Loren Legarda!). However, he discovered his passion for directing while studying Broadcast Communication at the University of the Philippines. (Ako ata iba na-discover ko sa sarili ko nu’ng nasa college ako!)

Raz dela Torre

Raz dela Torre

“I discovered I had a confident command of how to tell stories using images and sound. For my thesis, my partner and I produced a documentary about reporters covering the AFP-MILF war and the Abu Sayaff hostage crises. Directing became a logical career path because as a director, I provided the vision that everyone in the production rallied behind. My dream of becoming the next Angelo Castro Jr. evolved,” Raz recalled. (Saan kaya ako dadalhin ng evolution ko?!)

After graduation, he took several workshops under multi-awarded writer Ricky Lee. (Ay ako kay Ricky… Reyes! Mother Ricky!) He eventually became a member of Star Cinema’s Concept Development Group and contributed screenplays to Star Cinema movies “You Are The One” starring Toni Gonzaga and Sam Milby, and “A Very Special Love” topbilled by Sarah Geronimo and John Lloyd Cruz. (Gawan mo nga ako ng screenplay ng buhay ko!)

Raz felt he needed to learn other things to get closer to his dream of directing. He left the country to earn his Masters with Distinction in Filmmaking at the London Film School.(Sana ma-achieve ko rin ’yung with distinction!) Upon his return in 2011, ABS-CBN bosses Malou Santos and Olive Lamasan tapped him to be one of the resident directors of “Maalaala Mo Kaya.” (Ay idirek mo life ko sa ‘MMK,’ isip na’ko ng title!)

“It’s really flattering, but it’s also challenging. There’s a legacy you have to live up to. When people think of ‘MMK,’ it’s a gold standard. But you have to remember that so much of that pressure rests on us directors, in being able to draw these memorable performances out of them. Same with the pressure to give justice to the larger-than-life stories of our letter senders.” Raz said.

He has done almost 70 “MMK” stories. One of his special episodes is with superstar Nora Aunor. (Ay, next time si super.. sireyna raw po!)

“The feeling of creating something that resonates with people is unlike any other. Many times I’ve found myself envying doctors who save other people’s lives. But then I reflect about my own work and realize that while I’m not able to cure illnesses, I am able to to touch lives with my creations. I may not be able to heal bodies, but help heal the soul.” (Ay, papa-check-up po ako sayo, direk!)

The 38-year-old University of the Philippines lecturer promises to continue his commitment in producing excellent and relevant masterpieces. (Gusto ko na ng commitment!)

“In ‘MMK,’ I tend to get the heavy drama stories, and the cute, kilig love stories which I love doing. But I’d like to do even more socially relevant themes that reflect my own personal advocacies. There are so many stories out there that still need to be told.” (The Untold Story of FU? Pwede po ba?! Push!)

 

(MR.FU hosts 0n 91. 5 Win Radio, 9am-12nn, Mondays to Fridays and 9pm to 12mn, Saturdays. Twitter/IG: @mrfu_mayganon. FB: MR.FU the Star DJ. Youtube: WTFu. For Fu artworks: IG: @republic.art and FB: Republic Art Gallery)

I have a theory.

I believe every person in the Philippines has seen an episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya. That’s why every one of us, #lakingMMK!

Hehe, so maybe I exaggerate. Siguro one out of every two people of the population with a television set? 😉

Anyways, Merry Christmas, MMK!!!  Every single episode I direct since that first story in 2011 (Make-up starring Carl John Barrameda, Carl John Barrameda, Maliksi Morales and Maliksi Morales) always make me feel honored to be trusted with the responsibility of bringing to life the stories of our letter senders.

But aside from these generous everyday people brave enough to write “Dear Charo..,” the true gems of this almost 24-year old show are the staff and crew and actors who continue to uphold the legacy that makes MMK the popular archive of the contemporary Filipino life.

For the rare chance of being made a part of that, and for the wonderful company of my colleagues who not only grew up with but also grew old in the show (#tandangMMK), THANK YOUUUU!!! (Ang babait ninyo!)

You make me grateful and proud that I am also #lakingMMK 😀

IMG_6041Photo by @annguimbangunan (MMK Hatid-Sundo 2014 December 17)

My super belated post. Not sure if this really is the Top TEN films that made a mark on me, but without thinking too long, this is the ten that came up. When posting the “Top 10 movies that stuck with you” was all the rage, I didn’t have to think long for my Top 3. It was immediately decided. Got too busy to busy to post mine and only got reminded again now that Jurassic World’s trailer is out (wow!).

1) My Best Friend’s Wedding
2) Aladdin
3) Jurassic Park
4) The Usual Suspects
5) Cutting Edge
6) The End of the Affair
7) Aswang
8) The History Boys
9) Shake, Rattle & Roll II
10) Dancer in the Dark

It’s obvious that most of these films came out when I was a kid or in High School – so they really stuck with me, obviously.

One notable movie also stuck with me, but for the wrong reasons. My best friend in grade school, Amado and I snuck out of Zobel during school hours to go to ATC (Alabang Twin Cinema pa, I think). It was an “unofficial” cut cause it was actually Fair week in Zobel, so we didn’t really have classes that day, but I still felt like such a rebel riding the jeep out of AAV to watch a movie during school hours cause it was my first time to leave school premises alone.

We had extra money, so we decided to watch a movie. We saw “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” which I enjoyed immensely. But it was more memorable cause halfway through the movie, a grown up man sat two seats away to my left and started pleasuring himself… TO RICK MORANIS LOOKING FOR HIS SHRUNKEN KIDS, WTF?!? I was too scared to acknowledge him or tell Amado about it, so I tried my best to ignore him and focused on Rick Moranis’ extreme close ups until the stranger probably got so offended no on was paying him attention and eventually left.

Round up (with spoilers!):
1) My Best Friend’s Wedding – I’m a Julia Roberts fan… still am. Notting Hill is a close 11. Best romcom anti-heroine ever. Possibly her most charming film… I will always stop to watch this movie through when I catch it on TV.

My Best Friend's Wedding - The moment passes you by

 

2) I memorized the Aladdin soundtrack weeks before the movie even came out. It was the same for Beauty and The Beast. But I didn’t fantasize being Beast, or Belle, or Gaston, like I did with Aladdin. It worth noting that among the slew of Disney hits, this was the one that featured a male HUMAN lead (so no, it still trumps Lion King). Kaya siguro it resonated a lot with me. I still feel slightly pasaway when I watch Aladdin. Sarap remembering how I dreamed that I, too, was a diamond in the rough. (Big bonus watching Lea Salonga perform it on television in the Oscars)

Aladdin

 

3) Jurassic Park defines the Cinema Experience for me. Watching it was MAGIC, and how wonderful it was. I was in AWE of the dinosaurs. I was totally with the characters jumping from my seat, getting scared witless, and in total relief when they finally got on that chopper in the end (and intrigued what it could mean when I saw those pterodactyls flying alongside). I saw it four (or five times ata) in the cinema. I was in High School then, so you know that meant much (gastos!). I bought the cassette tape soundtrack even and until now, I still have the main theme memorized – tanana-na-na… tanana-na-na… (which is the same strains used in the Jurassic World trailer, in case you didn’t know). It wasn’t ET or Jaws or Indiana Jones that made me a fan of Spielberg. It was this movie.

Jurassic Park

4) Keyser Soze! I saw The Usual Suspects either with Search In or LSYC friends back in High School… but I certainly remember it was the second to the last or the LFS in ATC. This movie stands out as the one that first made me aware of brilliant Plot Twists as a potent narrative device. How great twists can be when done right. This is also the first time that an actor made a mark on me for his performance so much that I took note of his name – Kevin Spacey, who was unknown to me until then.

The Usual Suspects

 

5) I believe Cutting Edge is the first movie that I saw on my own. I didn’t know anything about it when I decided to buy a ticket to its screening. I was waiting for my Tita to pick me up and had more than two hours to spare, so I watched. I was drawn to it cause of Moira Kelly’s profile on the poster (gorgeously staring at DB Sweeney on the right of the poster). I may have been in Grade 6. And wow, how I fell in love (though I doubt I knew how that truly felt back then). I believe it was the first time I felt kilig, and kilig from a movie. Ang cute ni Moira Kelly! She came to my consciousness ahead of Winona Ryder and always believed Winona looked like her, and not the other way around. That scene when she decided she will do the pamchenko routine in the end – during the routine itself!!! – because she’s learned to trust DB’s character na – classic! Toe pick!

Cutting Edge

The End of the Affair6) The End of the Affair was… wow, bigat, heart-wrenching. It was a profound experience watching this back when I was in college. Betrayal story times two. And how brilliant is it to turn an affair on its head by making the lover act like the possessive partner, and to have God as the third party? One of my most favourite films of all time. And again, that movie that made me take note of an actor and her performance. This time, the great Julianne Moore. Remember that scene when she was on her knees, praying after the bomb dropped, and SOON AS she whispered her desperate bargain to God, Ralph Fiennes calls out from behind her. The camera tracks to the right and reveals Ralph, alive. GOOSEBUMPS! every. f*cking. time.

 

7) AswangI loved horror and fantasy Pinoy films when I was a kid. Aswang had the best ensemble you can ever gather in a Pinoy horror film – Janice de Belen, Manilyn Reynes, Aiza Seguerra, Berting Labra, Joey Marquez, Mary Walter, and of course, Lilia Cuntapay. Because of this film, I fantasized about aswang adventures when visiting new places (here, it was a town called Talisay). How the movie started with a straight up murder-massacre but eventually evolve into a small town horror story is genius – complete with Tiktiks, Shape Shifters, Manananggal… as well as tips on how to prevent an aswang from getting back to her house before sunrise. Obviously, the only effective way to kill it, duh! The Peque-Lore(-Don Escudero) team at their very best!

 

The History Boys8) The History Boys perfectly illustrates the straightforward emotional complexity that theatre manages to capture despite the constraints it suffers compared to film. Which is possibly why the emotions are intensely magnified when it was effectively translated to film (and successful effectiveness is not always assured). I’ve always believed film to be the more comfortable medium for such stories. While most of my contemporaries would cite “Dead Poets Society” (which I also loved) as their definitive teenage coming of age story, I was always more partial to The History Boys. There was a subtle element of darkness to to the story and the character relationships seemed more dangerously real. Take note na rin that this coming of age film came out when I was in my mid-twenties na. Late bloomer ako, hehe…

 

9) Shake, Rattle & Roll II is a feast. The best trilogy in Pinoy Cinema, I think. The mix of the stories are perfect, as well as its casting (again with Janice de Belen and Manilyn Reynes, but this time with Carmina Villaroel, Eric Quizon, Joey Marquez, Vangie Labalan, Ana Roces, Richard Gomez and Rez Cortez). I have so much more to say about how I love it, but this trailer is just so perfect I’d let it do the talking. (Don’t you just love it when trailers that show all the best bits, but the movie’s so great that you don’t mind anymore?)

 

Dancer in the Dark10) When I first saw Dancer in the Dark, it was heartbreaking. I thought it would be hard to watch it again. I’ve only seen it less than 5 times even though I have the DVD. But I remember much of it vividly. The first time I got so impressed by Lars Von Trier. One of the films that proved to me how truly powerful films can be, and the vast potential it has in telling stories. Again, what I said about performances. This time, Bjork! Who’d’ve thunk? I’m thinking about watching it again now, and already my heart is breaking remembering Bjork’s performance and that tragic ending.

 

How lucky am I to be working in this industry I belong to? For the precious opportunity to make the same mark on other people with the films or episodes I write or direct 🙂

A friend of mine posted a link to this amusing cartoon from Oatmeal.com, with a message relating it to the passage of the Cybercrime Law. When my friend mentioned that the Cybercrime Law “does not serve the interest of the people, but serves to protect the interest of the big companies who own copyrights to artists’ works,” it somehow felt wrong to me. He said that the Cybercrime Law was not “protecting the artist’s intellectual property by being ‘anti-piracy.’” I was against the Cybercrime Act’s passage too, but something about his statement felt incongruous with my sentiments, so I clicked on the link to see the website.

The cartoon basically says big music publishers’ (like EMI) control and share of the revenues from sales have greatly diminished over the years, relinquishing more of it over to the musicians. It proceeds to say that we should push for a more direct interaction between the consumers and the musicians, where every cent we spend buying music goes to the artist. I agreed, specially on the last point, but it also pushed me to distill my stand on the Cybercrime Law.

Because of the current online landscape, I thought, aren’t musicians already capacitated to make the self-preserving choice to make their music directly accessible (allowing them to dictate their own terms for remuneration, keeping for themselves the entire “retail” price)? Di ba parang, was it Radiohead who tried this? This is a real question by the way. An impression of how it is now, as opposed to an informed insight into the workings of the music industry.

My point being, piracy happens because the musicians sign off the rights to the music publishers, giving the publishers the rights which they invoke against unpaid sharing/downloads. Simply put, if they didn’t sign off these rights, there wouldn’t be ‘piracy’ to begin with. Part of what they sign up for when they sell the rights to their music is the benefit of advertising and promotion, which is what forces them to this (often) oppressive setup. Much as I agree that getting 23¢ out of an 18$ retail price in exchange for publicity & promotion seems grossly unfair, it doesn’t follow that piracy in itself is justified.

I guess what I’m ultimately driving at is… I don’t see this Oatmeal editorial as anti-piracy exactly. And I while I also am against the passing of the current draft of the Cybercrime Law, I don’t believe that its protection of copyright infringement is among its biggest flaws.

Sadly kase, music, in these terms, is not all art but also commerce. It shouldn’t stop us from lobbying for increased royalties for the true artists, but we should be careful not to become unwitting accomplices of copyright infringement. The setup alluded to by the cartoon should rightly draw attention to the unjust capitalist bullying that happens between big Music Publishers and hard-working artists. Or in parallel cases, between Film Distributors and actors/writers/producers. (Oddly enough, this is coming from someone who doesn’t own the copyright to his scripts!)

I welcome what torrents and filesharing have done in making music and films easily accessible, but I’m not going to say that getting them for free was something I had a right to.

Ako personally, in the case of my self-produced short films, I made them without any intention of making money out of them, so I make them available on my website. If someone made it available through torrents, I wouldn’t mind it being shared by everyone, so more people can watch it. Kaya nga I didn’t go shopping for producers, offering its copyright in exchange for funding. I made it without any intention of getting back the money that I spent shooting and editing and shopping for the food that acted as compensation for those who worked pro-bono (or in some instances, the hugely discounted talent fees I paid my actors). So yes, please, go on and share it all you want – for free, too!

But when friends find out that I wrote or directed a certain movie for a film company and ask if I can give them a torrent, it’s not entirely flattering. Kase a part of me wants them to pay for the movie as they watch it in the cinema or buy the DVD, cause sad to say, while I also consider it my art, it is also how I make a living. In a way, especially for those who are not fans of Pinoy films, what they seem to say is, “You’re my friend so I’ll watch your film, but I don’t appreciate your work enough to pay for it” – unlike how they might, say, brave the long lines at the cinemas on the first day of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

In a way kase, patronage of music and films, and other forms of entertainment and art, is in huge part measured by sales, and my currency as a commercial scriptwriter or director is partly based on the public patronage of my work. This is how I’m able to demand a reasonable compensation for my art.

So again, while I am against the current draft of the Cybercrime Law, I hope the protection it gives against copyright infringement survives. Strike down the parts that constitute double convictions resulting from the distinction between libel and online libel; the violation on equal protection rights of those considered as Information and Communication Technolgy (ICT) users; the relaxation of the Constitutional requirements for surveillance thus violating rights to privacy of communication; and most importantly, the “takedown provision” that empower the DOJ to be the one-stop shop on all online matters, minus the requirement of a fair trial or conviction. But that of copyright infringement, let’s be careful about that.

It really all boils down to… sana next time, support me by watching my films in the movie house ;)

#reviseCybercrimeLaw

#pleasewatchmyfilmsintheCinemas

On this week’s Flashback Fridays is a photo from Won’t Last A Day Without You‘s mascot scene.

Ah yes… the mascot scene.

This was part of the montage where, after Andrew threatens to report George to the KBP, George is forced to help Andrew get back with Melissa. The purpose of which is to provide the com part of the Rom-Com, and narratively, to drive home the point of how Andrew, despite his charms, is blatantly clueless about what it is like to romance a woman. His girlfriend, no less!

The moment I read this sequence on the script revision, I was really disappointed. If I were being completely honest, I just felt that this kind of scene was tired and cliché. That we were going to make a character don a costume was not all bad, per se. In the same way that a leading lady hopping on to the male consort, piggy back style, is not all bad. That, or a character running after his love interest as he or she leaves aboard a departing bus.

Such a scene, like “the mascot scene”, is most certainly not bad in itself. In fact, they’re usually really effective in delivering the comedy and romance that audiences not only expect, but crave for in the genre.

What made it bad, and what disappointed me about it is how, when taken in the context of the past films made by Star Cinema, it just came off as, like I said, tired. Old. Rehashed. Thus, clichéd. In the same way that those Korean scenes are tired and clichéd.

The first time I remember seeing “the mascot scene” was in Direk Joyce Bernal’s Til There Was You, when Judy Ann’s character put on a costume for a children’s party. Part of the many odd jobs she took on to make ends meet. It was certainly hilarious, and surprising, and even poignant! Well done, surely.

The next time I saw it, it was a little closer to home. In the penultimate sequence of Direk Cathy Garcia’s You Are the One, Sam Milby’s Will Derby drove through the Manila traffic in a desperate attempt to stop Toni Gonzaga’s Sally Malasmas. Simultaneously, he wondered how to get her to forgive him after he practically pushed her away. He drove by a lechon stall (rotisserie) and a bulb lit up. As the film closed, we saw Will dresse in a pink (like the one below) pig (although below’s is a bear) costume, asking Sally to forgive him, and hoping to convince her by virtue of his “pagpapakababoy” right then.

A third time I remember seeing “the mascot scene” was in Direk Ruel Bayani’s Paano Na Kaya? Yet again, a little bit close to WLADWY as it also starred Gerald Anderson. Thankfully, it wasn’t him who was wearing the costume, but the lovely Kim Chiu.

So yeah, I was well aware of how many times Star Cinema has resorted to this. Making it worse is the fact that it was used in one of my films (though I wash my hands off it. I didn’t write the mascot scene in You Are The One, and wouldn’t have allowed it printed on any paper if I had a say in it), and that it was used in another film where one of my lead stars was a part of.

It was disappointing because this was precisely why critics tended to feel like mainstream cinema is lazy and a sell out, and times like that, I shared that sentiment. I, too, agreed that there must have been another way to make the audiences feel kilig, without resorting to the same old recycled sequences. As a writer, I’ve always challenged myself that way. It’s hard enough to churn out love stories or romantic comedies with a fresh perspective or a new message to impart. We don’t help our case when we do it with the same, familiar gestures. As writers & filmmakers, we have to take it upon ourselves to innovate the genre.

Unfortunately, being the new director that I was, I was sort of bullied into shooting the scene anyway. I guess I didn’t have the confidence to demand a rewrite (and not when we were already behind schedule) when all of the bosses have unanimously agreed that this “mascot scene” was necessary and perfect the way it was. It just proves how challenging and frustrating it is to work in mainstream cinema sometimes.

In the end, I did my best to keep the scene without making it look and feel tired. Thankfully, there was enough in the written script to use so the scene remained relevant and not merely functional. I tried to make myself like the scene, tried to enjoy it myself, so the audiences would also find appreciation for the scene’s reinvention or re-imagining. Whether through the blocking, the element of surprise, the farcical mounting and its awkward resolution, I blindly hoped for success.

Truth be told, this turned out to be one of the most fun scenes we shot. Sarah was really game in putting on the costume. Lots of credit to her because that damn thing really smelled! We were laughing all day while we were doing that sequence. The awkwardness of making prim and conservative Sa walk around with this ginormous, heavy costume created a light atmosphere. She couldn’t help her giggles as she kept getting off balance. It was so infectious that even Ge couldn’t help but goof around while she was in it. In fact, the final cut of this scene that made it to the movie, where Sarah almost fell over as Gerald rushed and dragged her towards the ladder was as real as it could ever be.

In the end, I think we did succeed. The levity of the moment seeped through and I’ve had many people tell me it’s one of their most remembered and enjoyed scene in the movie.

So anyways, below is a BTS photo of us shooting my mascot scene. Sa was already wearing the Carebear costume while I gave her & Ge final instructions before taking the shot.

If anything, at least I got to do my own version of this “classic” Pinoy rom-com eksena… “the Mascot Scene” :)

#philminginthePhilippines blog two days ago. I’ve tweeted it already when a friend pointed out that it’d be better sounding if it were “Flashback Fridays”. I can’t believe I missed that one! Yeah, of course it’s better alliterative that way!

So it’s now “Flashback Fridays”. Since I’ve always liked taking tons of pictures of everything I do (I probably got that from my mom who still does it, to this day), I decided to reminisce on past productions I worked on by tweeting behind-the-scenes photos, stills or even videos.

My maiden Flashback Friday photo comes from my first ever publicity photo shoot as a director on my biggest project to date, Won’t Last A Day Without You. Here’s the dish about this picture.

T’was about a month or so before our playdate. We were rushing the remaining sequences in the radio booth, our main location. To get their job done with little interruption, promo went to our location at the Semicon building along Marcos Highway to shoot the publicity photos for use in the poster and other PR purposes. I previously saw the promo’s peg for the poster and found it cute.

I didn’t think there would be any issue about it until I heard my staff and some people from promo talking about their anxiety about possible objections coming from Mommy D, Sa’s mom. I found out that in the past, Mommy D had been reputed to be super conservative. Since this photo required Ge to pose like he was stealing a kiss from Sa, a hair line away from touching skin, they all expected Mommy D to automatically disallow it.

Surprisingly, they got that shot without any objection. The promo people emerged from the shoot with wide smiles saying even they were surprised that Ge’s face came as close as it did to Sa’s. It’s the photo that eventually made it to the poster. I’m quite happy as it was distinctive and original, at least as far as I know (kudos to Sir Roxy, Mico & the entire team!). And even though Mommy D took me to one side at one point to confide and sumbong her displeasure over the photo shoot sched being sprung on them on short notice, preventing them time from getting a preferred stylist, make up artist and better costumes, in the end, it was a very good day.

Even for me, who was never that comfortable having my picture taken while other people watched. I had fun, despite the awkwardness, nervousness and humiliatingly frigid expressions. Who could blame me when I’s beside this effortlessly charming lass and towering hunk!?! No disrespect to my colleagues, but I really felt like a PA beside Sarah & Gerald, ika nga 🙂 The photographer and promo people teased me for giving them the same smile and pose in all the pictures, while Sa & Ge, being the veterans that they were, managed to have fun and play around. The chemistry was palpable even then. The chemistry was always there. It was nice to see them just be at ease and fool around with each other, like real genuine friends. I found it in me to enjoy it eventually. Their energy and ebullience was infectious. Prior to me joining them, the two even managed to ‘interview’ me for the Sasa & Gege show.

Enjoy our first ever #FlashbackFriday photo. One of WLADWY photos that never made it out – Ge fooling around, at Sa’s & my expense!

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Working in film and television here in the Philippines, or perhaps in the particular network and film company I belong to, it is not uncommon to hear about people talk about the most important thing one needs to get by. Some would say it’s hard work. I’ve heard others say it’s pakisama (good personal relations). Some even say it’s all ‘chika‘ (the appearance of good personal relations). I’ve come to realize that for me, that thing is respect.

I take it further to conclude that it is ‘respect’ you need as currency to succeed and survive with your wits about you. The best way for you to secure the space and opportunity to express your creativity is to be respectful every time, and in every way. Respect is where all all virtues spring, in my mind.

If you respect your own artistry, you strive for excellence, to be the best in the role you play. You are critical not only of your colleagues but most importantly, of yourself. You improve, you innovate.

If you respect the craft, you are diligent and prepared. You look back at the history of this industry, learn from it, and seek to elevate its standards.

If you respect your co-workers, you are efficient, punctual and professional. You collaborate with your colleagues. You show humility when they know better, embrace their criticisms, and take their suggestions even at the expense of your ego. You acknowledge their earnestness and good work.

If you respect your employers, you are generous and accommodating of their insights. You make productive use of your time at work and align your creativity with their vision. You embrace their criticisms and dig through it so it helps you and your work get better.

And if after you are given all possible excuses to dispense with it you still manage to hang on to that respect, then that’s when you earn integrity.

It was only very recently that I came to fully realize how paramount this virtue is for me.

Last Sunday, after a very long day in production that started with a pull out at 3AM the day before, we were down to our last sequence for the day. The sun had begun cresting. The lighting and art department had started setting up the next location. My AD and I were already blocking the scene. One of the actors was already on stand by, ridding himself of sleep since his last sequence was taken at 3PM the day before.

Then, my executive producer and our associate producer came to me saying that one of our lead actors was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t picking up his phone either. After various attempts, which included our AP making calls to both the actor’s manager and father (!), they finally got in touch with him and found out that he was already halfway back to Manila. We were on location in a province.

To be honest, I was sort of relieved that we got to pack up a bit earlier. I was bummed that we were going to drop one sequence (I hate it when we don’t get all the work done), but I was exhausted, and an early reprieve was certainly welcome.

What I really felt bad about at the time was making the other actor wait 15 hours for nothing. Because I was afraid he would feel like we didn’t respect him enough simply because he wasn’t as big an actor as the other one – he who had gone missing. The actor knew it wasn’t the production’s fault, but I took responsibility for that. Worse, I found out that this other actor (the one who waited) had a flight to Cebu that he had to cancel because we had scheduled his remaining sequence last. There was nothing else left to do but apologize for the inconvenience and promise that we’ll make it up by trying our best to finish early the next shooting day.

It was only in hindsight that I felt the full impact of that situation. I’m proud to say I always roll with the punches and manage quite well under the worst circumstances. I realized how disrespectful it was to the entire team – the actors, staff and crew. And it was then that I felt really offended.

The second shooting day came. The producers talked to AWOL actor and he went out of his way to speak to me. He apologized and said that he knew it was completely inexcusable and that it was totally wrong of him to have gone without anybody’s leave. I really wasn’t bothered much by it anymore cause there was just so much work to be done and it was simply my nature to focus on the job at hand.

Furthermore, I never really liked creating or nurturing tension on the set. If I allowed myself to wallow in the disappointment and elected to act aloof and distant from my actor, it would’ve only gotten in the way of our communication, consequently affecting both our work. How was I to effectively relay to him my vision and elicit the perfomance I wanted if I was more preoccupied with making him feel guilty or remorseful for what he had done? Not that he didn’t deserve it. In fact, he needed to know and feel how offended I was. But in a film set, it is imperative that you work as a team, be united in vision. Otherwise, the entire process breaks down and you end up producing a material with confused core.

When asked for the reason why he did what he did, AWOL actor told the other staff that it was because he felt sick and couldn’t carry on any further. I was told he did express that to them during production. He even asked his driver to inquire how many sequences were left before that last sequence for the day that included him (we were down to our last three). Then he apparently left to get some breakfast. He told told some other drivers, I think, but fell short of actually telling any one of the staff that he was leaving for good.

That second day went by smoothly and with very few hiccups to speak of. The atmosphere was fun despite being a very emotional episode. I was very happy with all of my actors’ performances, most especially AWOL actors’. We even managed to wrap by 5.40AM when we had aimed for 6AM, and with a lengthy rain delay at that.

Yesterday, a day after wrapping production, I called the actor’s manager to express my disappointment. For the record, that actor did apologize to me, and I have forgiven him. I actually enjoyed working with him and was impressed by his talent and over-all attitude while on the set. He’s a very jolly and amiable person and I really wouldn’t mind working with him again. Whether it was him making up for his transgression, I never knew for sure, but the producers attest to his talent, good reputation, and work ethic – at least prior to that turn of events during the first day.

But I still had to express how deeply offended I was because of what he did. Precisely because this actor wasn’t known to be anything like that. In fact, he was liked by the people in the show. That only lead me to conjure all sorts of reasons why he’d do that in my set. I took it personally. I told the manager, I don’t know if it was because he didn’t know me, or because I was younger than his previous directors that he thought he could get away with it with me.

Whatever it was, I just hope he realizes the consequence of those actions. Not so much for what I thought – I can get over that and I’d like to think that I’m professional enough to work with him again if I had to, without using this as reason for making things difficult for him the next time. I think I’ve proven that during the second day.

Even more important, I hope he realizes the impression he creates on other people. All it takes is one simple, seemingly negligible act of disrespect like this to unravel all those years of hard work and good reputation. I was telling the manager about how even the much senior actors who had been released and was making their way home already that day heard about what happened. Even they were asking the staff if they managed to get hold of AWOL actor. I’ve never been treated that way by any of my actors, and I’ve worked with veteran senior actors as well as younger superstars. None of them ever used my youth as excuse to undermine my authority.

Honestly, it’s not easy to show respect in a stressful and hectic job like ours. That’s why I made an effort to relay all this. Because it hit me that it’s most painful when after all that you do to try and be respectful of others, you still end up getting disrespected like that. There are a million personal stories I can recount about disrespect in our line of work, which is why I feel I have to be most conscious about my own conduct. I must never let the mien of my co-workers and the state of affairs in this industry be an excuse. That’s why like I said, I’ve chosen to move past that and forgive that actor. I chose to not allow this one instance to define his character.

That’s how I’ve come to realize that aside from respect, I must strive for compassion – which is surely much harder to exercise than the former. I am sure time will inevitably come when I will lose control and offend someone in this industry, as this actor had done to me. When that happens, I can only hope that my colleagues will choose to look back and have faith on all my good days when I treated them with the kind of respect we all deserve.

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I spent about three crucial, unforgettable life-changing years in London as a result of my decision to take up my Masters there back in 2008. There’s never a day I don’t remember how fun it was, never a day I don’t wonder how my friends are doing.

Even now, I still find myself wondering whether I should just pack up and return there and make good use of my work visa to relive my adventures as a Pinoy student in London. Of course, with the goal of replacing ‘student’ with ‘professional filmmaker’.

I don’t regret being here in Manila. I just can’t help these thoughts whenever there’s a lull at work — times like this. Back in London, there was literally no lull. Life there was much faster, busier, and in many ways, harder. Especially when you’re a foreign student like I was. With everything there being so expensive and… well, foreign… I had to dispense with many of the comforts I am used to here back home. From big things like living in a home that did not require my paying rent, to simple things like having my own car or driver or not having to worry about making up my own bed. Routinary things like commuting, doing the laundry, and having sandwiches for lunch to save on the expense and not because you’re on a strict diet, suddenly get replete with profundity. Yet it’s precisely because of all that that London has grown that close to my heart.

But more than the City itself, the weather, the people, the accent, the lifestyle, the culture, and the thrill of living in a historic but modern capital like London, it is the experience of actually making films there that I miss the most. That, and the friends I made while at LFS.

My Term 4 Unit in the set that George built, Mike lit and I shot.
The entire staff and crew on Wrap Day. I was camera operator that term.
A couple of hours after the previous photo. Somewhere in China Town. Or Soho. The alcohol made me forget.

I’m waxing nostalgic cause I stumbled upon this video while browsing through my alma mater’s website.
This was shot back in December 2012. I didn’t know they’d put it up already. It was a day or two before our graduation ceremony. Some of the alumni were invited back to the school to record testimonials of their experiences while studying at the London Film School. It reminded me of what a blast it was to be a student in London. Wait. Make that, a student making films in London. I really doubt it could get any more fun than that. I recount my reasons for saying so in the clip below:

I remember writing in the Kwentong Peyups article I contributed to the University of the Philippines’ centennial celebration how I was conscious of representing the Philippines while I was at LFS. It was what pushed me to be at my best.

Oddly, even though I am now back to being a Pinoy filmmaker in the Philippines, one among so many others, I feel like I still carry with me a lot of what I said in that video. Even if I’m no longer a foreigner in the UK, the reversion to being back home revived some of the experiences and emotions I felt while I was in London. That awkward feeling of being an outsider at the beginning. The drive to earn my peers’ respect and earn my place through merit and hard work. Though I’m back to all things familiar, I’m reminded all the more of the values I learned while at LFS. Values of discipline, humility and openness. Perhaps because being a screenwriter making his way to directing mirrored the struggles of an Asian student in a big, western city.

My time in London reminds me of the precious opportunity I was given to represent my country. To build the image of a Pinoy filmmaker in London. Now that I’m back, I’m given an opportunity to represent LFS in Manila.

DIRECTOR
Starring Vina Morales, Gina Pareño, Boots Anson-Roa, Mark Gil
ABS-CBN – Maalaala Mo Kaya / HD / approx. 60 mins / Television Anthology Episode
25 February 2012

When I came back in 2010 to semi-permanently re-settle in Manila after a couple of years in London, I set up a new blog to chronicle the progress of my graduation film, Tuksó.

It had two main purposes. I wanted to start the habit of writing about my my profession, and I wanted to build material for my graduation journal – the final requirement for my MA in Filmmaking.

That went quite well for a while. Despite the rigors of writing, directing and producing a 35mm all at the same time, for the first time, I managed to write some insightful posts (to my mind at least).

I only looped in a handful of friends to the existence of the blog. Mostly my friends from school and some others in the Philippines who cared to know how my project was doing. Come journal time, it served me well and became the salvation of my crammed final paper which I wrote in the span of two days amid partying in London. When I got my final evaluation a month after, it was confirmed that I was to graduate with Distinction.

Now, I’m back in the Philippines for good. I have been for a year now in fact but it seems like I’m only embracing it now.

My 2011 was all devoted to reestablishing myself in the local film and television landscape. My last engagement was back in 2008, when my A Very Special Love screenplay was produced for the big screen. After that, I had a minor exposure in the 21st Gawad CCP (Independent Film & Video Festival) when my short documentary, The Filipino Student’s Guide on How To Be Invisible in London, won the 3rd Prize.

Other than that, it was all about sending resumés and getting the attention of my former bosses in Star Cinema.

It worked out for me. I got my first ever project for the ABS-CBN News Channel – a two-part documentary called The Business of Energy that looked at successful sustainable practices in different sectors of the society. I also got a ‘script doctoring’ stint for Star Cinema, resulting in my latest screenplay credit, My Cactus Heart.

 

 

Most importantly, these efforts yielded my directing break.

I was given the opportunity to direct an episode for MMK, or Maalaala Mo Kaya, the longest-running drama anthology in Asia for the biggest television company, my home network, ABS-CBN. It was my first time to direct a drama for television, a chance made even more special by the fact that it was for this titan of a show which I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid. Despite the jitters you’d expect from this gargantuan break, that episode entitled Make-Up, about twin brothers who had a falling out because one was gay, topped the weekend ratings that week and led to an even bigger break.

After the Creative Head and Managing Director of Star Cinema watched that MMK episode, I was called in for a meeting. At the time, they’ve already approached me for the renewal of my writing contract. They also wanted my real return to writing via the third of the Laida-Miggy film franchise that I had started in ’08. We had started meeting on it, in fact. A huge project indeed.

But that meeting turned out to be for an even bigger project, personally at least.

In that meeting with Inang, she offered my first feature film directing project.

It was a mere nine days since my MMK episode’s airing (amid preparations for another MMK episode that eventually featured Direk Laurice Guillen and was entitled Tumba-Tumba). It was a Monday. The following days, I frantically attended preprod meetings to finalize the script. On Friday of that same week, I met my lead actress for the first time for her look test.

Six days after, it was a meeting with both my leads-to-be for the story conference.

And finally, two weeks after my meeting with Inang on August 8, with only two script drafts, we broke production.

Three quick short months after, amid hordes of fans and audience’s screams, I was walking down the red carpet beside Sarah Geronimo & Gerald Anderson for the premiere of Won’t Last A Day Without You.


The next day, the film opened in over 120 cinemas over the Philippines, earning PhP20 million on its first day.

***

That summed up my 2011 – certainly a year of many, many, many firsts. And as my dearest friends know, I’m one of the most sentimental people ever. And for someone as self-indulgent and emotional as me, firsts are most important. Tangentially, it contributes to the drive to make myself better, and to reinvent. I’m sure to make milestones out of molehills, and it excites me to no end to embark on another year of filmmaking, if only to see what new firsts will be coming my way.

In light of that, I wanted to make a commitment to remember and be grateful for these anticipated milestones I expect to come my way, if I may be bold and presumptuous. I wanted to relaunch my blog to be a… well, a log of all my experiences working in the film industry. I want it to chiefly be a record of all my feats and failures, a repository of my thoughts and sentiments on what it is like to work in this field I’ve chosen.

As I’m about to embark on another film project, and because I just recently signed up for a screenwriting workshop, and because I’m also working on another episode in MMK (for which I’m about to sign up as one of its regular directors), it feels like the best time to make this renewed commitment to blogging. It may be a little late to be posting an opening blog two months after the year’s commencement, but I wanted to make sure that it mattered when I did.

What finally pushed me, I think, is this new-found confidence and feeling of finally finding rooting in this industry. It took a while before I got here, but I’m here now.

So do watch out for more posts in this space as I try to make it an online journal of what it is like to be a filmmaker in the Philippines.

Here’s to the year that I expect 2012 will become.

Cheers!

This week, I shot my second MMK episode to air within one month. A great opportunity that rarely comes from the show for someone who hasn’t even officially signed on for them yet. I say that not with arrogance but with the humility and gratitude for being so privileged.

When we first met for this, it wasn’t even scheduled for airing yet at the time. A couple of creative meetings after (I should remember to blog about the MMK process), we got all set up for the shoot. I was preoccupied with a scriptwriting workshop (which I must again remember to write about!) that I hadn’t notice I haven’t received any confirmation of details regarding the upcoming shoot. The day before the originally scheduled first shooting day, a Wednesday morning, we had another ocular trip. It was only then that I was told we can’t finish the preps on time and that we’ll have to postpone it for Saturday or the following Monday. Because my workshop was going to end that Saturday, I told them Monday was better for me. They agreed to work around my schedule, but with a surprise reminder that we will be airing the following Saturday. Three days after our second day.

That week has come. We just wrapped our second day of shooting at 6 this morning, Thursday. I’m scheduled to edit the episode later tonight. We’re so rushed that our teaser, which aired last Saturday, didn’t have any clip from the actual episode (I haven’t seen it until now). To help speed up the process, I asked production to send me the pre-edit of our first day materials.

It’s the most pressure I’ve ever felt while shooting for MMK. Even more than I felt while shooting my first ever episode (“Make-Up“). I think this is borne out of the little amount of time we had for preparation, and I’ve always believed that half of a film (or episode) is done before the actual production.

Among the challenges included not having seen the main location, where in we were to tape ten sequences. I had to think of my shots on the set. And because it was our last location, I was really exhausted by then, physically and mentally.

One problem that I never encountered in my past TV shoots which became a source of a lot of stress was getting so much behind schedule that I lost daylight for one of the key locations. It was that main location, the main character’s house. And as I mentioned, because it was our last, it left me no more room to make it up.

As a consequence, many of the scenes that were exterior had to be relocated inside. Some that had to be exterior, I had to cheat and shoot night for day. We didn’t have enough equipment to pull off a successful cheat. We tried, but we could only do so much because the location was in the countryside where the surrounding view consisted mostly of open space.

My opening sequence was also sacrificed. It was intended to establish not only the characters’ space but also the underlying milieu that bore impact on the main character’s journey. Because of delays, I lost all opportunity to get a wide shot of it, whether night or day.

I struggled to maintain continuity in the main location and the succeeding sequences that had been shot in other locations during the day.

I can’t say that we successfully solved our problems during production. At least not against my usual standards. But we certainly did our best and I’m still hoping it comes together well. I’d hate to fail in giving justice to such a wonderful story, and such wonderful performances from my actors!

It just goes to show how demanding television is as a medium, what with its demand to air materials. It’s not really over yet, nor is it time to think the worst is past. I haven’t seen all of the materials yet, but I’m feeling really good about it despite all those challenges. Makes me look forward to see how well we rose to the challenge – and hopefully, I learn enough from this to get better in dealing with the same problems in the future.

Do watch out for MMK on ABS-CBN. Airing this Saturday, February 25, 1930PM!

Last Tuesday, I flooded my friends’ twitter- and news-feeds with unfiltered reactions on the unfolding impeachment trial. It began with me on the fence, my mind saying there should be a conviction, but in my gut, the feeling of uncertainty if it would be the fair outcome for all.

When Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s turn at the podium came, I tweeted:

Sen Miriam goes academic and technical again. Not always welcome, but certainly enlightening and necessary at this point.

The following day, my friend Rey posted this reply to my tweet:

but in hindsight, hindi na’ko bilib. even if it was practically a done deal by the time enrile read his decision, sa kanya ko talaga inangkla kung tama ba’yung impeachment court o hindi.

I answered:

None of the things Sen Miriam elaborated invalidated or contradicted JPE’s naman. In fact, if I remember correctly, the Sen Pres’s summary was rooted in if not merely echoing the proclamations of Sens Miriam & Joker. Only Sen Miriam expressed it academically in such colourful language, and stuck to a prudent adherence that resulted in her vote to acquit. And twas much too verbose in the latter part cause she lost the necessary focus in the end. Still, if you dig through her’s & Arroyo’s speeches (as well as the exceptions in Sens Enrile & Pia… even Villar!) you’d mine nuggets of legal wisdom exposing the political nature of the the majority decision. It also highlighted, I thought, the weaknesses of the young & non-lawyers in the Senate acting as Judges. Kaya the road to being a judge is long & hard – kase it requires wisdom… And fairness!

I love JPE’s sobriety and ability to mix political and legal tenets in justifying his decision to convict – but even his speech makes an obvious acknowledgment that his decision was partly if not mostly based on merits not proven by the prosecution within the impeachment. Good for us that we rid ourselves of a ethically suspect CJ, but I wonder about the politicalising of what ought to be a sacrosanct recourse that is the impeachment. I thought we still were much too liberal in our observance. Conveniently so for our president and all of GMA’s enemies. That PNoy used the entire government to purge the Judiciary of his enemies was not disproved. This only proved it true & made it successful nga, if anything. So what now of equality of the three branches of the government? It’s almost back to Edsa Dos.

Rey replied:

it’s remarkable how jpe, while not invalidating miriam’s points, arrived at the opposite conclusion. miriam may have been a victim of her own brilliant legal mind and experience to acknowledge what is obvious to a “plain, legally untrained, but reasonable mind” (osmena). i thought she was going there when she expounded on what it means that the impeachment court is also “quasi-political.” pati ako na-enlighten sa term niya. “quasi-political” allowed for liberallity, not her exacting “very high standards” honed from years as an rtc judge and soon-to-be international criminal court judge (which she unnecessarily emphasized over and over again.)

that the constitution calls for the senate to be the impeachment court, and not a different body of learned lawyers, means we should not only tolerate non-lawyers sitting as senator judges, but actually celebrate it. that it is good that a lito lapid, a mere high school graduate’s simplest understanding of the proceedings is given equal weight to that of jpe (who never harped that in his 40-year career as criminal & corporate lawyer has not lost a single case).

for all its supposed liberality, i don’t think it went as far as becoming a mock trial with a fixed outcome, as some camps accuse. questionable evidence and testimony were called out. that pnoy used the entire government was not proved, either. in the first place, an impeachment trial is a function of our government, and it will have to arise when one or two branches of government feels the need to question a co-equal branch. the fact that this was done through the process is a healthy sign, incomparable to the padlocking of the legislative and judicial buildings when marcos declared martial law. equality does not mean idle tolerance of another’s incompetence. that the judiciary and the senate did not let malacanang have its way without giving cj a fighting chance is a good sign.

the whole proceedings disgusted me with how lawyers could wield technicalities to justify a wrong, but in the end, i gained a newfound respect for them and the beauty of the law. especially its function in a democratic set-up, where the welfare of the people takes precedence, and it is their will that makes the powerful but intangible dimension in an impeachment proceeding. it is not as much about “the ruin of a life” (defensor-santiago) as much as it is about the official’s burden to prove to his people his fitness to hold a public post.

The funny thing is despite the amusement I find in Sen. Miriam’s demeanor and hysterics, I don’t actually think it’s becoming of a Senator-Justice, in the same way that it is disappointing for the Prosecution to be lazy and subpar, in the same way it is unthinkable for the defense to be calling a witness hostile to their case and have no control of the defendant’s testimony which became his own undoing. But after the dust has settled, Sen. Miriam’s points remain valid. I am unconvinced the liberality taken in the other Sen-Judges’ contradicting decision is enough to overturn her arguments. I said:

Ako naman, I try to always remember that impeachment is THE most extreme recourse, thus the requirement for MOST exacting standards. I call for the exact opposite nga. PRUDENCE and DILIGENCE in favor of LIBERALITY.

Because it is already enshrined in the nature of an impeachment that Senators and Congressmen, who are not necessarily trained legally, are able to act as judges, then we must be most careful and critical of the judicial proceedings. As it rests, the judgment will be INHERENTLY POLITICAL – because the judges are not trained in the judiciary. They will be required to interpret laws and hear legal arguments when their function is to make them. And not all of them even have the competency to do that, let alone act as a judge. That alone sufficiently covers the quasi-political nature of the Impeachment proceeding. That’s why it has been mentioned by Miriam or Enrile I think that they must aspire to conduct it like a criminal proceeding akin to a court of law. Because we should at the very least make it as judicious as possible in conducting the proceedings.

I agree that it should be celebrated that a politician like Lapid can be made equal to a brilliant legal mind like Enrile. Kaya nga what would then justify this as an exercise in democracy, and not a day at the circus, is the EXACTING conduct of the proceedings – so that even a simple man like Lapid can be made to grasp the results of the proceedings without partiality.

Even now, I am frustrated that the prosecution was not able to definitively assail the claim of good faith by the defense. I felt that that’s what was necessary in deciding once and for all when the declaration of SALN, or failure thereof, constitutes culpability as defined by the articles of impeachment. Like you, I needed the CJ to prove his fitness to hold his position. Beyond all doubt. And this was the chance, I thought. But none of it was conclusive – and the legal questions remained unanswered, except upon the liberal interpretation of the senator judges. And this is to be the basis of future Impeachment proceedings? Therein lies the danger. It should’ve been based on judicial principles.

Yes, I too didn’t believe that he acted in good faith. But this is not a mere domestic argument where uncanny instinct, like Sen Lacson’s, is all that you rely on. You must prove it to beyond all doubt, regardless of how obvious it seems. Why? Because this is a Chief Justice we are trying to impeach. Someone who, as much as a corrupt president had a hand in his appointment, was also subjected to strict scrutiny by various commissions and agencies of the government before he was arrived at the topmost position of the Judiciary, and brings with him years of experience and qualification. Let’s flip the case of Delsa Flores. If you can be this liberal in the interpretation of the law in application to a case against a Chief Justice, then what more for an ordinary person? That’s the dangerous implication I fear for our judiciary.

Ako rin naman, I also wouldn’t go as far as saying it was a MOCK trial, but I still feel that many of the judges’ decision were not credible, sound or competent. Which could be mean to read, again, that it was mostly political. I’m not privy to the goings on behind the Senates’ closed doors to make a comfortable conclusive judgement on that, but that I will not be able to admonish those who would interpret it as such.

I disagree that PNoy’s use of the government machinery to push for this impeachment was not proved. I think that’s precisely what the Sen-Judges meant, especially Enrile, when they harshly called out the hastily prepared impeachment at the Congress, and the inefficient prosecution, as well as the drop of the other articles of impeachment. Because it is known that the Palace pushed for it. In fact, the palace itself had admitted at some point that it had prepared this impeachment.

Maybe it was not comparable to the situations during Martial Law, but it is leads dangerously to the path of disproportionate power distribution that reflects the situation back in Marcos’ regime. When it was the executive who was able to impress and act on its desires despite the haste and subversion of the necessary processes.

Between the errors in interpreting the Impeachment as quasi-political versus quasi-judicial, I would always choose to err on the latter. Someone said it yesterday, and it does ring true. The end does not justify the means, sabi nga paulit ulit (though the senators sometimes use it erroneously to justify some of their uninformed conclusions). People like me wouldn’t be discomfited by the decision if all the players in this impeachment proceeding, from the filing to the litigation to the judgement, all acted with diligence and prudence. Naturally, the burden is higher for the prosecution – it is to be expected! In saying all this, it’s not the technicalities that I defend, but the pressure on the prosecution to do its job in proving the guilt of the CJ – and not in the court of public opinion, but in the Impeachment. Because it was not impossible to do so! They simply needed to exercise, again, prudence and diligence. Because it is precisely the abuse of power, of the system, and of the consenting bystanders we are preventing above all. It is not justice when it is done at the expense of anyone – even a criminal.

Rey concluded by saying:

heto na lang… all your concerns were practically raised by jpe. they did not escape his scrutinizing legal mind. and weighing everything, he still found it PRUDENT to convict.

because the chief justice’s very words (arguments and justifications) were found unacceptable. and enrile, choosing between upholding “quasi-judicial” standards and “forming sound social policy,” thought it best to overlook IMPORTANT lacks from the side of the prosecution (let’s not forget he pointed out mistakes from the defense – perhaps borne out of the confidence that the persecution weren’t really performing up to par), so he may focus on the forest rather than the trees.

I agree that we must not get lost in the details in our search for truth and pursuit of justice. That’s why I’m able to accept the Senate’s decision for the most part. Because they echoed my sentiment against abuses of power.

So I tried to leave it at that even if I didn’t agree with my friend that JPE’s choice was between upholding judicial standards and forming social policy. In this particular case, it is careless to interpret that the former is diametric to the other. In fact, one might even argue that it is so parallel to each other that to compromise judicial standards is to institute an unsound social policy – a society at the whimsical mercy of politics and personalities. Rule of law, from which judicial standards spring, seek to maintain social order and equality.

I also didn’t agree that JPE’s decision to convict was an act of prudence. Quite the opposite. It was political – though I acknowledge it seemed borne out of wisdom, careful academic scrutiny, and good intention. (What did they say about the road to hell again?)

But a couple of days after, I still felt ill at ease about the results of the impeachment. I kept wondering, isn’t it precisely the folly of seeing the trees for the forest when we choose to justify a flawed judgement. Again, I am reminded: the end does not justify the means. Good intentions paving roads don’t always lead you to St. Peter’s doorstep.

So today, I tweeted:

Still haunted by the possible bill of attainder implication of the recent impeachment. I hope history’ll be kind & prove our politics wiser.

My friend Lea asked what I meant. In crafting my answer, it helped me articulate and put a shape to this nagging feeling. In my admittedly insufficiently informed understanding of the law, I feebly explained:

Bill of attainder? If I remember correctly, it’s like when Congress then Senate passes a law that makes a crime out of something that was previously legal. Meaning, in this case, the articles of impeachment does not explicitly define an erroneous declaration of the SALN as an Impeachable offense. Especially when the law provides as remedy for it a mere “correction” – begging the question, how come we are now impeaching a CJ because of an error? Our Senator-Judges in majority have decided to make a fresh interpretation that when you’re a CJ, a mere correction is not enough. You must be IMPEACHED, whereas that was not what the Constitution, or any law, explicitly said before.

The dangerous implication is that, in theory, an ‘innocent’ person was suddenly convicted for an act that NO ONE could’ve known was a CRIME after all because previously, nothing in the law said that it was a crime, much less, an impeachable offense – the gravest category of sin for a public official.

The ‘innocent’ adjective there is arguable – because we don’t really know for sure if the CJ was innocent. And therein lies my biggest discomfort about the outcome. In my own lay interpretation of the proceedings, the evidence, the news features and articles, I actually do think it’s incredulous for him to have amassed US$2.4. And when he didn’t declare it, to me, it did make him suspect of corruption or some wrong doing.

But that’s exactly what the impeachment proceeding and the Prosecution must have ascertained or clarified for me. Did that money came from wrong-doing? The answer would then put a context to Corona’s admission of the undeclared dollar account. Meaning, they should’ve tried finding out the reasons and motivation for hiding such huge dollar accounts. Whether he hid it because that wealth was acquired through an abuse of his power as a public official (BAD FAITH), or whether he simply chose not to declare it because he had the right not to declare it under the FCDU Law (GOOD FAITH). Like what I said in my previous tweets / posts, my frustration is that Corona’s claim of GOOD FAITH was not conclusively or definitively assailed. I agree that it sounds like a “palusot” – but they did not prove it to be truly palusot.

If they proved that Corona acted in bad faith because the source of that money was illegal – then yes! I agree WITHOUT ANY DOUBT that his choice to interpret the FDCU law in his favour, which he uses to justify the concealment of dollar accounts, was in fact a willful act of omission that sought to hide his corruption or abuse of power. That would then elevate this omission to something tantamount to an IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE.

Kase, even me, I’m thinking, if I were public official now, and I had dollar accounts, and I had the right not to declare it, I would CONSIDER not declaring them. Not because I’ve been engaged in illegal activities, but mostly because I’d cling on to what little privacy I am legally allowed to hang on to considering that a career in public office already requires us to divest ourselves of most if not all of that privacy. And we all have a right to privacy. And I would want to keep private some of the affairs that do not impact on my function or life as a public officer because that knowledge of my private affairs can be used both a) to achieve transparency that would ensure my credibility & trustworthiness, and b) as ammunition for political enemies who wish to do me wrong. Because it is a fact that in politics, you gain enemies even if you do nothing wrong. Heroes and villains are interchangeable roles. It is but the nature of politics.

If marijuana was legal, so far as it is used for medical purposes… Then someone who had the prescription for marijuana took hits not because he or she was in pain, but in celebration of another friend’s finding out that his cancer has gone to remission, who himself had a marijuana prescription. Absent, then, of the medical precondition allowing for legal use of the organic drug, will these people be deemed guilty of a crime? Because they used it socially, for fun, instead of for the alleviation of pain? Guilty, even if they have been accorded the right to procure and use it? Guilty, and deserving of the punishment in its maximum?

Of course, that’s a very elementary way of putting it, nowhere close to mirroring the complex history and implications of an impeachment. But I use that analogy only to emphasize how such judicial principle could apply to a civilian. For if this is to be done to an honorable Chief Justice, how could it apply to a mere Delsa Flores (the clerk of court who was impeached). People have been making mention of Ms Flores without due reflection if her fate was service of justice. Perhaps, as what may have happened with CJ Corona, she too was inequitably punished?

Kase what happened just now is that, in effect, what they’re saying is, because Corona admitted to hiding it, that makes him guilty of an IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE. I think they are forgetting that a run-of-the-mill offense and an impeachable offense are two separate things, so far separated as to be on opposite sides of the Pacific. Because an impeachment would not only remove you from your current public office, but bar you from holding another one. In Corona’s case, the impeachment doesn’t only stain his reputation and record as a public servant, it has a damning effect of discrediting his life work in its entirety.

Sure, if proven to have made an omission, then correct it, punish him EQUITABLY for that omission, then make sure that NO public official can make the same omission or CLAIM to have merely been neglectful in the inaccurate declaration of their SALNs.

How to do that last bit?

I wonder if, perhaps, much as it would mean keeping the CJ in his position as head of the Supreme Court because of this ‘omission,’ the Impeachment should’ve resulted in an acquittal because that is what was JUST for CJ. And then, it could’ve proceeded to a) an amendment of that Constitutional provision (a complicated process as it requires a ConCon of course), b) an amendment of the relevant laws like the SALN law, or c) new legislation that explicitly states that henceforth, all public officials must NOW declare ALL their assets, including their foreign currency accounts, despite the FCDU law.

This is what Senators Joker, Bongbong & Miriam were saying, I think, in so many words. I wonder more in more if they were the wiser.

JPE eloquently defended upholding the spirit of the law. I am most certainly all for that, but I feel that upholding the spirit of the law applies both in protecting the aggrieved and the accused. That we can dispense of the proof requirement in an impeachment proceeding because it is quasi-political does not mean we should, in my opinion. I’m afraid that when judges decided to convict on a case where they admit to the prosecution’s failure to convict beyond doubt, with evidence whose procurement is possibly extra-legal and authenticity unproved, they in effect tipped the balance of power in favour of a ruling majority. In this case, in favour of the Executive that controls the Legislative branch because of partisan politics. What would then prevent them from persecuting other perceived enemies who may simply be on the wrong side of the fence but may be innocent of the charges being hurled against them? I’m afraid that’s what the bill of attainder gives way to. It’s the kind of lopsided balance of power that gave way to a dictatorship in the past.

To me, when the judges allowed that, it raised doubts about their discernment & probity. In this case against Corona, I did not think it was impossible to lodge a confident impeachment complaint and present a credible, determinative case. To convict based on a deficient case is to, as they say, “open the floodgates” to other problems impacting on our democracy which the Judges also needed to look out for. If only the court was composed of more JPE’s, Miriams, Jokers, Lady Cayetanos and less of the other ones, then perhaps it would’ve been a healthier, more comprehensive debate that resulted in a more credible decision.

Since I am not a lawyer, there must be a million and one ways my view on the matter has been skewed by my peculiar biases and inadequate study of the issues. Mine is a civilian, possibly short-sighted expression of thoughts I can’t help saying because I remain bothered by it. On this, I want nothing more than for someone to help me understand that all my fears are for naught. This being another impeachment, it resurrects many unresolved issues from Edsa Dos. Much as I remain proud of having supported the protests in 2002, in hindsight, after it divided the nation and extra-constitutionally installed a new leader who amassed so much power that she was able to corrupt the elections in such massive scale, I don’t think I’d be as tolerant about any relaxation on the rule of law.

Below is a copy of the Cinema Evaluation Board’s comments when it granted our film “Grade B,” which entitles movie companies a 65% rebate on the amusement tax levied on their productions.

Film Development Council of the Philippines
CINEMA EVALUATION BOARD
Summation of CEB members’ comments on
“WON’T LAST A DAY WITHOUT YOU”
Grade: B
ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc. / Viva Communications, Inc.

WON’T LAST A DAY WITHOUT YOU is yet another light and fluffy youth romance film starring Sarah Geronimo for the Star-Viva partnership. It garners a ‘B’ nevertheless despite “the very thin storyline” because newbie Director Raz Dela Torre successfully and deftly delivers an interesting, entertaining and charming film.

Dela Torre’s direction is “competent and adequately confident for a new director; he has good pacing and he has respectful treatment of the individual capabilities of his cast.” “Despite the simple, almost simplistic material, the Director is able to pull it off.” The movie is “very well done; the comedy flows freely and nicely.”

“The story, while formulaic, has that cheery, youthful appeal and the characters are realistic enough.” The family of the pa-forma father Pablo (perfectly played by the engaging Joey de Leon), abandoned by his wife, is such a refreshing change from the picture-perfect families other scriptwriters might be tempted to create. Pablo’s “rocker” persona and his ability to bond with his three daughters are notable.

Screenplay is “good, with creative and resourceful handling of essentially soap opera material.” The characters of George, Pablo and DJ Ram are endearing and very believable.

Editing is “brisk and emphatic without being annoyingly so.” The film has “good pacing, but some scenes seem to be telegraphed” while other scenes could have been shorter. The cinematography and production design are good and “glossy as usual.” The musical score is “very intrusive in a lot of parts.” The music, “though effective, calls attention to itself.” The sound is “very competently done and properly disciplined, though the dubbing in some parts could have been more accurate.”

“The principal cast is very good; they are true to the characters they are playing.” While some Board members wrote that there is “strong chemistry” between the two leads, it is Sarah Geronimo who gets the praises from the Board.

Here are the comments about her: “Sarah is cute and convincing.” “Sarah continues to impress with her fresh, bubbly performance; she fits her character to a ‘T.’ “ “Sarah is an effective actor; you can see the emotions clearly on her face — sans dialogue — whether she is anxious, joyful, thrilled, tormented, anticipating or in pain.” In this film, “Sarah is as cooky as Goldie Hawn and as winsome as Meg Ryan. As an actress and comedienne, she has improved a 110%!”

However, having said all that, the reviewers thought that Sarah can leave behind her usual cute and perky characters. She might be typecast in this role forever. She’s been there and done that so many times before. But since this is a formula that has won for her and her producers a number of box office hits in the past, perhaps her studios are reluctant to break the mold and make her tackle meatier roles. “Sarah is good, but she should be given more challenging roles.” “Sarah is effortless and delightful as DJ Heidi/ George but there is the danger that she may outgrow these roles soon.”

Then, there is great support from John Lapus and Joey de Leon. “John Lapus is very effective and his quiet moments show his sensitive feel for the role.” “John is restrained here and is different from his previous films.” Meanwhile, “Joey de Leon is a joy to watch.” “Joey is perfect for the role.”  “Sarah, Joey and John keep the movie afloat.”

Finally, the following are more comments about the film:
“It is a kilig film, so the main actors try to be cute.”
“The film is juvenile but fun.”
“The film is a light hearted romance best when not shown in February because it is
less self-conscious.”
“It’s so light, I’m floating…it shows an unpretentious depiction of people falling in
love.”
“The direction is surprisingly impressive, considering the director is practically
unknown.”
“There is the novel use of behind-the scenes radio drama segueing into a reality show
in real time.”
“The plot is hackneyed…what could have been a commentary on reality radio turns
into a run-of-the-mill comedy.”
“Excellent climax that highlight the power of radio!”
“Film’s ending and the play-up of the Pinoy’s amusing penchant as usiseros are much
appreciated.”

###

Another feature on “Won’t Last A Day Without You” starring Gerald Anderson & Sarah Geronimo. This time, in the November issue of Summit Media’s Yes! Magazine. Again, it features photos from Sa & Ge’s first shooting day together.

“Won’t Last A Day Without You” in cinemas on November 30, 2011!

This is from the November issue of STAR STUDIO. Some behind the scene photos from Gerald & Sarah’s first day of shooting together. Back then, the working title of the movie was “I Just Fall In Love Again” – as we were still hoping to use the song from Anne Murray / The Carpenters as the movie’s theme.

Thanks to my cousins for the scan!

This version of the theme song performed by the Popstar Princess, Sarah Geronimo, is the music video-trailer for Star Cinema’s “Won’t Last A Day Without You.” In cinemas this 23rd of November, starring Sarah Geronimo & Gerald Anderson, directed by Raz de la Torre.

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The final poster of my latest work! Please go and watch this coming November 23 🙂

Yesterday, there was a forecast of a coming typhoon. So I was told.

But our first day of shooting was blessed with a very lenient weather, despite that. There was a threat by way of a drizzle (which felt like globules preluding a heavy downpour), but that inclement weather never did come. Sure it was humid and the air was still, but I couldn’t really ask for a better first day of shoot.

We had an early call at 2PM and was at the set by 3.30PM. It was quite slow for a a shooting day, but the atmosphere was considerably light and was not at all stressful. I was less nervous yesterday than I was on my first day at MMK, shooting my first television project. My first 35mm shoot for my short, Tuksó, was both tiring and stressful.

In huge contrast, yesterday just sped by. I was less concerned about my ego and the ego of my colleagues, which is such a huge burden off anyone on his first day. Thanks to very supportive unit departments and supportive crew, I really felt at ease during the entire shoot. Perhaps there were moments when I was too conscious of how slow we were, but that was all certainly all self-imposed. It was also great to hang out and ‘reunite,’ so to speak, with Direk Cathy’s erstwhile resident DP, Noel Teehankee, who did his first mainstream photography job with You Got Me! and carried on photographing the rest of Direk Cathy’s hits.

Maybe it also helped that our first location was our actress’ actual home.

We closed one sequence with 1000ft, shooting for almost 10 hours. A little slow, yes, but not bad at all. Especially since during the days leading to the break of our production, all I kept hearing were horror stories of how many other productions threw away their first day footage. Knock on wood, but I can confidently say that there’ll be no waste or tapon in the stuff we shot yesterday. Besides, while I haven’t completely gelled with the crew yet, there were no altercations and bickering on set. Chill lang talaga, which is how I like my set. Fun! Cause that’s how movie-making out to be, yeah?

That prayer at the start of the day really worked. Let’s cross our fingers for the coming weeks, especially today, when I shoot our lead actress for the first time 🙂

Only in the Philippines.

Or maybe, also in China and other Oriental societies.

No wonder Star Cinema made an entire movie out of it.

Today, we break for the production of Sarah Geronimo and Gerald Anderson’s new movie. As of yesterday, there’s only a fourth of the sequence treatment, and five sequences fully scripted.

Last Saturday, we had a creative meeting with the head of the Creative Department to ‘fix’ the then-existing full sequence treatment. In that discussion, we ended up changing the plot and readjusting characterizations of the two lead characters.

Immediately after, we had a production meeting where we were to finalize details of the first day of shoot three days after. When we were meeting that Saturday, I was pointing out that if it truly was necessary to shoot on Tuesday (today), I’d be more than willing to adapt and roll with the punches. But I couldn’t help but point out how ludicrous it was to do so when only one of the lead actors was available, none of the supporting characters had been cast, the main set hadn’t been built, there were two friggin’ days left to prepare, AND NO SCRIPT YET!!!!

The reason for all the rush is because in our company, we can only start filming on certain days. Why? Because of Feng Shui. The Feng Shui on the first day of your production supposedly determines the success of the rest of the shoot and the box office performance. And of course, there’s no arguing with that. Never mind that the production isn’t ready, and we already have a play date on October. We can’t mess up with Feng Shui, so naturally, I’ve no choice but to concede.

I asked if it were possible to shoot without the lead actors on the first day of shoot. I thought, well, it’s still possible anyway. Since I already started helping out with the writing of the film so we can run things along and speed up the preparation, I was confident that I will be keeping the first three sequences that I’ve co-written with the original writer.

But no, we never shoot the first day without the lead characters, they said.

Alright then.

Their solution was to have the scriptwriter submit whatever she can finish by Sunday evening. The creative team will meet the following day and agree on what sequences can be shot for Tuesday.

When we met yesterday, Monday, everyone was happy with the first few sequences and agreed that we can shoot one particular sequence that had the lead actress in it and three main supporting characters. These support characters could be confidently cast within the day since  I have already pr-eapproved the short list and go-sees had been scheduled already. Although the biggest support character in the film who was also needed in that identified sequence for the first day of shoot had not been cast, we already devised a contingency so that filming can still proceed.

Go-see went well and we were able to cast two support characters.

And then I get told that the lead actress had a cut-off time of 4 in the afternoon. We were scheduled to grind in the evening as all the scenes were night effects. And by the way… early yesterday, I was told that the DP had resigned.

That first day of shoot has come. Today, we break the production of my first full length, 35mm film.

Thankfully, all those problems were resolved.

After scrambling to decide on what sequence to shoot, they went with my original idea of shooting the first sequence that had a cameo appearance of a recognizable young actress, but didn’t have any of the two leads. Thankfully, cameo actress I liked was green-lighted by the Managing Director, and she was also available for today’s shoot.

They found a DP to substitute for the originally commissioned DP. Someone I haven’t worked with but with whom I was quite familiar.

Locations were locked last night. It even turned out that our cameo actress owned the town house that we were shooting at – as luck would have it. Permission was granted instantaneously.

Just now, I received photos of the car to be used for tonight’s sequences. I had some comments and production manager will work on it, but otherwise, we already have a good back up.

So, all is set. This is it! I guess Feng Shui really works 🙂

PS – Running late. Off to attend to the look test of the male lead in a few. Lunch, shower and clothes in 30 minutes!

When I was in college, my friends and I had very little time to watch TV. We were too busy having fun. When we did, it was usually from my VCR recordings of shows like Felicity, Ally McBeal and Friends. We were series junkies even before DVD season releases and Tivo were fashionable. But these shows we watched were all US-produced. We weren’t fans of local TV.

Back then, I wasn’t a big fan of local cinema either. The few times that we did go out to watch a Filipino film was after a considerable amount of positive word-of-mouth, and only then. (On one occasion, it was for a flash of nostalgia – when we watched Gimik The Reunion, hehe…)

As such, I never really took it against my friends when they tell me they don’t watch local films after my telling them about how I worked as a screenwriter for Star Cinema. Star Cinema may be the biggest, most profitable film production company in the country, but that held little weight to most of my friends who grew up watching Small Wonder, Beverly Hills 90210 and Doogie Howser, M.D. and watched movies like The Breakfast Club, Home Alone and Cutting Edge. In fact, I’d even say that I was mostly anxious about letting them know that I wrote Pinoy romantic comedies.

Despite that prejudice against local entertainment, one local show that always did impress me was Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK). It was a weekly anthology that featured real-life stories from “letter senders,” most of which were sob-fests depicting domestic drama and human tragedies. Each episode’s title is an object. A reference to a symbolic element in the story, usually a metaphor to its theme. I’ve heard that when the idea for this show was first pitched in a conference room 19 years ago, Ma’am Charo Santos (Madam President, CSC, ABS-CBN top honcho at the moment) picked up a paper clip from the table and went on to say something along the lines of, “Each object has story. Like this paper clip…” (The very first episode was titled, “Rubber Shoes” starring Romnick Sarmienta.)

I like MMK it because it is effective. I love it because it is supposedly real. (There’s been an undying impression and lingering doubt from some people as regards the authenticity of the stories. Once and for all, save for artistic license and a handful of research lapses, let it be said that yes, the stories and characters are all real.) It is the extra-ordinariness of the characters and stories that make it stand out for me. And when those are real, the emotions they evoke are real.

Ten years after graduating from college, I was given the opportunity to direct an episode for this legendary show. Needless to say, this is a milestone for me. It is to be my first ever directing project to be aired on Philippine free TV. And it is for no less than this 18-year old monumental show – the longest running Philippine drama anthology. If I never get to direct for this show or for television in general (knock on wood!), I’d still be forever part of this institution.

This Saturday, July 30, 7.30PM, Maalaala Mo Kaya. Starring Carl John Barrameda, Maliksi Morales, Jake Roxas, Aleck Bovick, Regine Angeles. Written by Benson Logronio, and directed by Raz de la Torre.

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(Trailer)

After being “out of (professional) commission” for so long, and almost a full year since we wrapped the production of my first 35mm film, yesterday, 5PM at the 9501 (14th Floor of ELJ Communications Center) we had the VIP Premiere of our 2-part documentary, “The Business of Energy” – a joint advocacy project of the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

While other projects have come my way since my last script was produced and screened in the cinemas, this is my first big professional project after finishing my MA at the LFS.

This project is a first on so many levels. It’s my first time working on television, my first time to air on cable TV, my first time to work as executive producer and headwriter for news & current affairs. I was learning on the job, but I got through all of it thanks to my more experienced friends who have been working in the TV industry for years now who generously shared their nuggets of wisdom and trade secrets.

If I may say so myself, it’s an enlightening documentary on how we can all take part in the campaign for Sustainable Energy and the mitigation of Climate Change. Specifically, it looks at the “Philippines’ efforts… by looking into ventures in energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

Here it is. I’m proud to present…
[iframe id=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/ra64PvVULQA” mode=”normal”]

Executive Producer & Headwriter – Raz De La Torre
Associate Producers – Patrick Pascual & Rely De Guzman
Writers / Producers – Jekki Pascual & BJ Ramos

Tonight on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC):
“THE BUSINESS OF ENERGY”

A 2-part documentary on the campaign for sustainable energy and climate change. An advocacy project of the ANC and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Narrated by Guillermo Luz of the Ayala Foundation.

• Part 1: SWITCH – Wed, June 22, 10.30PM
• Part 2: SOURCE – Thu, June 23, 10.30PM

Back-to-back replays:
• Sat, June 25, 2PM
• Sun, June 26, 6PM

I am, for the record, a Catholic. Having said that, there are many things that I criticize the church for despite my religious faith. (more…)

It’s nevertheless unconscionable, but I appreciate this. It really did exemplify the prodigious burden of self-restraint, which should only be traded for the most urgent of reasons. I wish they would’ve left out “in the absence of government presence of mind” though. While evidently true, the crux of the matter is, during the coverage, for reasons I wouldn’t have the temerity to declare on their behalf, self-censorship was overruled by lack of media presence of mind.

This is probably the biggest most important entry I’ll be posting on this blog. So far at least. Even now, I’m reluctant to say anything about it cause I’m superstitious and would really hate to jinx it. But because no one else knows outside the work place (except for three other people – my mom, Tita Gina and my close friend who’s doing another project for me), I decided writing about it would open the floodgates and ease off some of my excitement. Besides, I haven’t written anything on this blog for ages. I’m pretty sure no one reads this blog consistently anymore. But anyway, here it is:

Ladies and gentlemen… I will be directing my first feature film within this month of August.

And this is how the story goes…

After a pretty successful stint directing for Maalaala Mo Kaya or MMK, which is a drama anthology for ABS-CBN (a leading television network in the Philippines), I was in high spirits. It was a challenging first project that paid off handsomely with high ratings (which reminds me that I should write about that soon).

At the time I was also having talks for the third installment of Star Cinema’s Laida-Miggy franchise (of which I can proudly claim to be the progenitor). The company’s head for creatives approached me to ask if I’d be willing to apprentice to the director during its filming as well as write its screenplay. I was ecstatic to be back working on a project that was dear to me so I immediately said yes. Back then, they had slated it for a November play date, which meant shooting was to start in a few weeks.

Shooting for MMK took up much of my time that I had to put off the writing of the screenplay for that. When I eventually got in touch with the creative manager to ask for an extension, I was told that the project was to be pushed to next year’s Valentine play date.

I welcomed that development since I was very much caught up with the television experience with MMK. After our episode aired on July 30 though, I was back to doing nothing. Much as I welcomed the respite, I was restless and wanted to carry on working. Knowing that the Laida-Miggy threequel had been pushed back, I was curious about my apprenticeship. I was actually more excited about that than the screenplay. If my apprenticeship were locked with that project, then I’ll have to wait a bit longer before my apprenticeship begins, since filming will surely start only in the last quarter of the year.

Anxious to keep my momentum going, I asked the creative manager on the status of the John Lloyd-Sarah project. I figured, if I did have some lull time before the apprenticeship, then I might as well get on with my long-postponed trip to London and NYC. Of course, I was still hoping that instead of waiting for the threequel, they would instead deploy me sooner on a different project. The creative manager quickly consulted with the creatives head and asked that I give them until the following week to discuss the plan for me.

Come Monday the following week, I was back at Star Cinema waiting for my boss. When she finally came, she told me that there was indeed a plan, and she asked if I’d be willing to direct the Sarah and Gerald in their second film together. I casually said yes. She clarified that this was an urgent project that they were hoping to shoot within the month, for a definite play date within the year.

It was only then that I started feeling the lump on my head after being aggressively hit with the news. I was being offered to direct.

Now.
In a few days.
For release this year.

And then my boss started detailing their offer for an exclusive contract.

I quickly gathered my composure and shared my thoughts on those, airing my concerns and soon arriving at possibly mutually beneficial terms for both me and Star Cinema…

So there it is.

I’m claiming it but I’m not counting chicks either.

This might really be it. It’s my turn to direct, and I’m. All. Ready.

Sabi ko nga, “Me already.” Ako na!

I recently read a friend’s blog post about her frustrations from last year, and it elicited this email letter which I immediately wrote and sent to her. She recently replied expressing her appreciation, saying how it succeeded in making her feel she’s not alone and adding howit read like a blog addressed only to her. So I decided to post it here so I can share it to few dear friends who visit this blog. Maybe it’ll do to you what it did to me and my friend – comfort and empower me with the feeling that I’m not alone in my frustrations.

Hey, I just read your last three blog posts. I haven’t been religiously blogrolling, or blogging for that matter, thus the delay.

I wish I was there so we can have coffee and chat… I feel bad that (at least in your 2009 entry), you’re feeling increasingly frustrated. Sana lang it’s all better now, with that volunteer work, and with your little boy going to daycare (if pushed through with it) to give you more time.


I kinda share your conundrum about why some people are able to adapt more and let go easier. Although I’m here now sa Pinas, I kinda wonder a lot about that as well when I’m in London.

I really see a lot of promise in staying in London, but somehow, I can’t fully embrace the thought and I still feel like home is where my career ought to be. It’s not really a problem, if you think about it, but I feel like it shouldn’t be the case. It’s as if I wouldn’t be exploiting the opportunities available to me if I opt for that. I get an impression that a Pinas career would not be ambitious enough, or at least, not commensurate to the time and financial investment I made on my studies.

I have this feeling na if I stay in London, the climb is steeper and harder kase I’ll be starting at the bottom with nothing but my education to back me up. Therefore, the climb will take longer. Nevertheless, the excitement, the city, the culture, the enrichment I get while there… It’s just too tempting. And the fact that I can start on a blank slate and have a do over, wow. But can I still afford to do that at 30? I promised myself na taking time to study for 2 years abroad would be my last luho – and then I’d be all focused on being a responsible adult na. Earn a decent living that won’t be subsidized by my inherited luxuries. I want to completely, genuinely fend for myself na.

And then, to add to that, there’s this feeling na if I go back naman to the Philippines, I can simply pick up from where I left off. I was doing well already and was just starting to really make significant strides in my career when I left. Now, armed with new knowledge, I can carry on doing that. These steps I was about to take could now extend to crazy leaps. But then, I also end up thinking that that’s only possible because Pinas is such a small pond. Or, perhaps more accurately, Pinas does not offer the possibilities London and the world offers. Furthermore, I always feel like I’m regressing when I’m home. I’m really happy here and I enjoy the luxury, the lifestyle, the comfort of having a solid support system, my own home, and most importantly, the company of my family and friends… but I also feel like I’m back to old horizons. Parang lumiliit na naman yung mundo ko and it shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t, right? Di ba dapat palaki ng palaki ang mundo mo? I feel like I’m falling off the wagon. The wagon that’s laboriously taking me to a more difficult but ultimately more fulfilling path.

It’s a paradox I face whenever I’m home for too long. The paradox that while home makes me happy and feel I’m back where I belong, at home, it’s harder to get what I want. Perhaps coming home to things that make me feel secure means I’m also coming home to all my insecurities. So while I have a career to return to, I don’t feel half as empowered as I do when I’m in London, even if realistically, objectively, and internally, I feel like it’s twice as hard in London to get to where I’ve gotten to back in the Philippines, and harder twofold getting to where I want to be in life.

Suffice it to say that I crave for the best of both worlds, but I feel like I’m being immature wanting that every time reality sets in and the issues of practicality and feasibility of both paths are stacked up against each other. Sana nga ganon kadali na I can be here in Manila when I want, and London when I need to be there.

That’s why I emailed. So much of what you wrote, especially in your post “My 2009”, reflected my sentiments. You also mentioned how you wonder why it’s so hard to find friends who share your pains. Why you can’t embrace your new life the way other friends have, like lots of our other friends there who seem to be content and flourishing in their new plots. I know we’re not exactly on the same boat. I’m just about to sail, whereas you’ve been on that journey. You’re now on the other shore. I’m just walking up the plank of my rickety banca, and from here, I can see that on board, taking the boat with me, is fear. I fear making the wrong decision and being trapped in it, whereas you speak of feeling trapped in it already, even if ultimately, you have the choice to go back.

While it’s not exactly the same as what you’re going through, I suppose we share the same feeling of frustration and uncertainty. The same feeling of being in a tug-of-war. You feel like your hands are tied, when they’re really not… but it might as well be, given the choices you end up making and continue to make. Yun yon e. You don’t want to renege on the choice you made cause it’s like you admit to making a mistake – that all this time spent after committing to that choice has been for naught. That, or it would be like admitting you’re weak – because you weren’t brave, and strong, and steadfast enough to hold on to the choice you made. That maybe, the rewards of the sacrifice have simply yet to come, but you’ve grown tired of waiting and have decided to give up. That’s never easy to admit, is it? Not for us. At least, that’s what I understand you to be going through. The difference is that with me, I’m just about to commit to a choice. With my studies due to finish soon, an ultimatum hangs. I need to ruminate and be sure of my next steps. I don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want to be made to feel weak. I don’t want to wait too long for my reward. I don’t want to ever give up.

I hope that even though it’s depressing, it makes you feel better that thousands of miles away from you, a dear, dear friend shares your agony. Even if it doesn’t exactly do that, at least you can relish the thought that your writings have helped someone contemplate and articulate his own dilemmas. Making a sheet of paper or a computer screen throw back your thoughts at you is always a great way to hear what your heart and mind have to say amid an awful din of cynical feelings. It’s even better when you have a trusted friend listening with you.

Loveya!

Raz.

Just came back from our post production house in Makati. They did a final presentation of the online edit – and yes, it is finally done! I had some minor comments, all quickly addressed, some they will fix internally. It’s my producer’s first time to see this version of the online edit which included the major fixes I employed over the previous sessions. Together with our post prod supervisor, we also all saw for the first time the film with its title cards. Looks really legit now!

So that means we are officially done with the online edit 🙂

It’s just the audio post left now, which will take maybe a week or two, at most.

I’m giddy with excitement!

How lame is this production blog, huh?

My last post was five weeks ago! The good thing is that I have a great excuse. As promised, I’ll be on the other side when you next hear from me. So here I am, waving from the other side of the river. We made it!

I’ve been meaning to post numerous blogs about what happened between this blog post and the last. It’s just that it’s been a struggle wading through the tasks for the shoot (which naturally left NO ROOM at all for blogging) and then eventually, with the post production. So many things happened that made me want to write and share urgently (as means of release and even therapy), but I didn’t want to preempt talking about any step of the process cause I might completely forget or overlook writing about the other stages of making this film.

Instead, I’ll just give you an update. It’ll be like the list of things that I need to write about next so I don’t forget.

Soon after the ‘final call’, we turned over for the first time. It was four days of shooting, with occasional visits to our post production house for the telecine transfer. Those four days alone merit an exclusive blog, with all its ups and downs. I still can’t believe I survived it whenever I think about it.

We immediately went to the offline edit. We didn’t even have time to get copies of the rushes for me to review. Our editors took the liberty of selecting the good takes and assembling the sequences.

After fine tuning the cut (that took a bit of time – but still quite fast by normal standards), we submitted a final offline. We waited for scanning to finish and then it was on to the colour grade. My DP sat in on the second session to validate some of my decisions and instructions to our colorist as well as make some suggestions himself.

By the time we were doing the online edit, we’ve already been pushed back from our original deadline. Between the grade and the online, we slowed down considerably because of some administrative and organizational hiccups. Some of the materials I needed took time to acquire. We had to go back to the negative repeatedly, which then extended the online. Then there was a really problematic part of the film. It was an in camera problem during capture as opposed to a problem in the transfer. Just one section from the entire rushes, but it was also among our most important shots. We really stressed thinking about that and taking time to find ways on how to find an acceptable remedy.

During our last sit down with my online artist, they presented the best solution they could think of. I laughed when I first saw what they did, but it was out of extreme amusement. I thought it was genius what they came up with. Now, there are only minor adjustments left to be make, all of which, I’m confident, don’t need any more changes on the cuts nor the effects. I’m proud to say that we only have one online presentation left.

It won’t be long before we go to audio post. Throughout the post production process, I’ve been coordinating with my friend who I’ve signed up to help out to perfect the musical score. That’s also taking a lot of time and effort, but we’re slowly but surely getting there. That should just be in time for when we start mixing and fixing the audio.

Before you know it, the final cut. Maybe in 7 to 10 days?

Maybe I’ll get more blogging done until then. I actually have more time in my hands. Time from the film post production, that is. I am actually busy winding down my stay here in Manila. I’m trying to squeeze in some vacation time away from the film production and seeing as much of my friends. I also booked a trip to the beach despite the end of summer and the start of La Niña. Not a great time to be doing so, but I haven’t had the time to do it in the previous weeks.

I also promised myself to work on the school’s journal requirement during these weeks. Ha! Good luck on that.

Lots of progress. And lots more to make.

Wish me well.

Early in the morning, my producer texted me that we needed to go to our post production house to close the deal with them.

Talking to this post prod house was one of the first things that I did when I arrived. They’re the best in the business (in the Philippines) and I was really hoping that despite that, we’d be able to make them take pity on us and give us a good deal for colour grading. I would never even dare think of approaching them if not upon the suggestion of a good friend of mine who worked for this post house’s sister company (which is, incidentally, a film production company competing with my former employer).

My friend did some ringing up and I ended up talking to no less than the head of operations. He was very friendly and very nice. Made me feel at ease right off. He asked me to pitch the story over the phone and then gave me assurances that he’ll give us a generous quote. Within an hour of that conversation, I was talking to the head of sales and we were making arrangements for a meeting.

After my producer and I met with the head of sales for the first time, we received a quote from them. She gave us two options – one that packaged film processing, telecine, offline edit, colour grading and dub out of the final format, and another that excluded the offline edit. Both prices were still quite expensive relative to the size of our coffers. My producer, being more experienced than I, assured me that it’s actually still quite cheap. She tried to check how much a lesser known post prod house would charge us, and it ended up being more expensive than this quote given to us. Needless to say, I was happy with it. I gave the green light and said that we’ll be doing the entire post production with them.

Following yesterday’s production meeting, my producer contacted the post prod house to close the deal, but not before asking for further discounts – just for the heck of it. Lo and behold, the post house slashed a further 16% of the original, already-cheap-quote for the full post production package.

Woot!

So we went to the post house and finalized the deal. We gave them a copy of the second draft and they clarified some things regarding the creative requirements of the project. They also gave us some reminders regarding the time table and asked who our sound recordists would be (it turned out that they have an existing relationship with the company doing our sound – and they’re quite happy working with them). Within one hour, the meeting was done and we were all walking away feeling quite optimistic with the partnership.

On our way there, however, my producer told me about the lack of response from this corporation we were approaching for sponsorship. She said that it might be worth trying that I contacted the contact person myself, since he was acting sycophantically during our meeting. This guy hasn’t been responding to her texts, apparently, and she’s been trying for four days already. She gave me his number and I texted him while we were on the road.

As my producer had hoped, he replied.

He said that their company still felt like the packages we created for them were too expensive.

I was deflated. I was hoping that they would at least talk to us about it rather than categorically make a decision over text.

I replied courteously, saying that if they still wanted to discuss it, they need only to tell us and we’ll make time for it. Though to be quite honest, I think that ship has sailed.

There it is. Our best hope for funding is gone. They would’ve covered for about 50% of our expenditures, had that been successful.

So yeah. It is a bittersweet day. Talk about peaks and lows (as the masthead declared).

I hope I had enough enthusiasm at this moment to dwell on the good instead of the bad, but right now, I can’t help but wish that if we truly can’t have it all, I’d rather we lost where we won and won where we lost.

1 Day To Go Before DAY ONE

These last three days are whizzing by so quickly I feel like throwing up. Yesterday (Sunday), I had the key members of the production team come over for a lunch meeting here at home. We went through all the departments’ concerns for the last time before we started grinding. I slept late last night so that I’d be up early with little sleep for my meeting with the entire post production team this morning. Together with my Post Production Supervisor, Director of Photography and Producer, we met with the staff from the post production house and the sound people.

After a quick stop at the bank, I dropped off my producer and picked up three of our regularly contracted builders to help my Production Designer in his preparation for tomorrow’s shoot. We went to the location and I gave the PD, Location Manager and Production Manager last minute instructions. It also gave me an opportunity me to brush up on some of my plans for the sequences scheduled for tomorrow and quickly come up with solutions to problems that I just started realizing then. Finally, I went home and wrote in my blog. (More on all of these recent events in my succeeding blogs…)

After the Fuji people come by to hand me the cans of negative for tomorrow, I will go to my bedroom, sink into my mattress and wake up invigorated for my next day’s shoot. That’s why I wanted to have little sleep last night. I wanted to be so tired it would overcome my brain’s penchant for stressful over-thinking. I want to have a good, satisfying visit to the land of nod.

Checking in for the last time!

3 Days To Go Before DAY ONE

Today, I finished my shot list for Day 1.

Today, I met our new PM, real eager, really diligent and really committed.

Today, I also had my story con with two my lead actresses.

It’s a tiring but productive day. In a few hours, we will have our first full production meeting with ALL the staff and crew, our last before Day One.

There’s no knowing what’s in store every new day, so let me relish this one before it ends :)

4 Days To Go Before DAY ONE

Last night, my producer texted me saying that our Production Manager had finally decided to drop out of the project completely.

Earlier in the day, the PM, getting support from our AD, talked to our producer, lobbying to push our grind date to one week after the original date (which is only four days from now), and scheduling some of the days after May 10. This was at around 2 in the morning, after our three-hour production meeting. The PM and AD thought that five days to prepare were not enough, and they also wanted to buy me time to prepare more. My producer called me at around 3.30AM to ask me what I thought about it.

I told her that my biggest concern in aiming for the last week of April to the first week of May was because I wanted to shoot before the elections on May 10. I was concerned that the volatile political climate might develop into the crisis that many are anticipating because of the uncertainty and insecurity of the first automated national elections. I didn’t want the production to be caught in the midst of that possible turmoil, so I thought finishing the shoot before that would at least protect and relax the status of the film. The post-production, which would be confined in the four walls of the editing suite, is more likely to be immune from all that.
My other concern, upon hearing this new proposal, was the availability of all the cast and crew who signed up to help the film. It’s been a tremendous struggle getting actors and syncing everyone’s availability. I reckoned getting everyone to agree on new dates – after the elections! – would run into the same problems we did before. Still, I told my producer that if everyone can get all the schedules synchronized again, then I’d be okay with it. That burden wouldn’t fall on my shoulders after all. It’s the PM and Location Manager and Talent Coordinator who will deal with that.

Before putting down the phone, I told my producer that I’m okay with the new plan if they can guarantee it will be sorted out. I assured them that five days were enough for me to prepare. I said that if I felt like it wasn’t, I’d be the first to tell the whole staff that it is indeed too soon. Still, much as I would still rather avoid shooting after the elections, I wouldn’t rally an army to charge into battle after they have expressed valid anxieties. So I tried to look at the bright side and thought that at least I’d be able to get more time to prepare – as the director, that is. For one, I’ve yet to finish my shot list… (Blogging around isn’t really helping, is it?).

If any thing, the only thing that bothered me is why it wasn’t brought up during the production meeting while I was there. We went through all the trouble of outlining tasks, setting deadlines and finalizing schedules only to be faced with this radical suggestion that threatened to disregard all that work only a few hours before.
When I woke up the following morning, I read a text from my producer saying that our TC was also against the idea of postponing the shoot. Like what I said, she didn’t think it would be that easy getting people to say yes to new dates. In retrospect, I also thought that such last minute changes would also seem very unprofessional and ran the risk of some of my staff and actors bailing out on the project completely. I said I was fine with the original schedule anyway, so it’s just business as usual.

Later that evening, that’s when my producer texted me to tell me that our PM has finally dropped out of the project completely. My producer assured me that the PM has found a replacement and that they were in fact meeting that very moment to turn over the work load properly and comprehensively. This was the same PM who’s been MIA the previous weeks and had promised to make it up here onwards.

I felt de-boned. I expressed my disappointment to my producer, saying that I can understand that the PM was busy and this was probably the best thing to do, but she could’ve been honest about it and we could’ve already accommodated this major watershed during the production meeting. We could’ve invited the replacement PM into our third meeting so she could have been thoroughly introduced to and updated on the status of the project.
All this, with only four days left before Day One. It’s like paddling a boat with a hole in the hull, with the shore in sight. If I paddled faster and frantically, maybe I’ll make it to land safe and dry.

6 Days To Go before DAY ONE

With less than a week to go before Day 1 of the shoot, I’m overwhelmed with the all-too-familiar agitation of the previous weeks.

NEW ROUND OF MARKETING

In my desperation, I texted our consultant for ideas on who to approach for more funding and what new strategy we can pursue to address this huge hiccup (of not having money as we go into production). She gave me four pieces of advice: 1) write and send out letters asking for cash sponsorship; 2) ask my former boss if the company can lend me film equipment; 3) review the budget and cut down on the professional fees; 4) shift to video.

They all make sense, but I’m disinclined to follow any of them. I’m probably being stubborn, and stupid, but I feel like those aren’t real options. Except maybe for the last one.

First, I think it’s a late to be sending out letters soliciting cash donations to the production. While it’s probably the fastest and most viable way of amassing money, it also requires a lot of time and personal effort, things I can’t afford at this point in time. If I wanted to go this route, I should’ve started it much earlier or scheduled my shoot much later. Because it’s asking money from private individuals, I will need to approach people I know personally, or I will at least need to make a list of potential donors from which a marketing team can work on. Like I said, I don’t have time to do that this late in the game.

I’m even less hopeful about asking my former employer to sponsor our equipment this close to the production. It’s too short a notice, with only six days before the first shooting day. Neither is it likely that the equipment is free as they surely have ongoing productions, this being the middle of a business year (and fresh off the long Holy Week holidays). This was also something that needed earlier consideration. I’m a bit miffed that we didn’t pursue this before. I admit I didn’t take this up myself but that was because I was prioritizing other prospects – like approaching corporations and organizations. I was hoping that our consultant could have made inquiries on my behalf instead of just sending names and numbers my way, expecting me to do all the work. I guess it’s the natural consequence of a small production like this. They expect me as the producer, writer and director to do everything, which is simply not possible.

About bringing down the budget by cutting down professional fees, we were already conscious about this going into pre-production. All the people we approached with promises of talent fees already reduced their normal rates in consideration of the production. Most of their fees have actually been further reduced from the rates they first asked for. I think it’s unfair to further reduce their rates after they’ve already put in work for the film.

SHIFTING FROM FILM TO HD

That leaves one last viable suggestion from our production consultant:

That we shift from shooting on 35mm to shooting on HD.

I’m not sure I’d be happy doing that, not after all this planning. Like I keep saying, it’s too drastic a decision this close to the shoot. Besides, all it really does its cut down on the budget but it still doesn’t solve the problem that there isn’t any budget to begin with. Or so I’d like to think.

I don’t really want to dwell on this too much cause I know that all things considered, shifting to HD isn’t all too bad. It does make a lot of sense. All that’s really stopping me from doing this is my insistence to shoot on 35mm. It’s purely personal and selfish, but I’m not reneging on that.

So instead of taking any of those suggestions, I’m trying to be optimistic about finding funding within the next 4 weekdays prior to the shoot. I thought I was done with all the marketing woes that pervaded preprod weeks -1 and -2, but here I am writing letters and making calls again. Whereas it took time away from my revisions before, it’s now distracting me from completing my shot list (yet here I am writing a blog instead of doing real work for the film, haha!).

Stupid, I know. But I don’t want to compromise this film’s ambition. So instead of cutting corners or taking the easy way out, I’m choosing the rougher path lit by a flickering torch. It’s inauspicious, but I’m choosing to have faith that it will all work out.

CASTING SNAG

Because of all the setbacks from the production, like securing locations, we’ve moved back a lot of the scheduled meetings. We were supposed to have our story conference last Saturday but we moved it to yesterday, which has since then been moved to an indefinite date.

We also planned a production meeting with all the staff and crew, but since there remains uncertainty regarding the locations, we decided to push that back too.

Thankfully, most of the parts have been cast. The only parts left are nly bit players and one major part – it just happens to be the male lead’s. Although this character’s scenes are scheduled for only one day and on Day 3, which is one week after the first shooting day, it’s still a cause for concern. Hopefully, I come up with a brilliant casting idea within the day.

FRIENDS

It’s a good thing my friends are there for support. In my clamber out of this terrible pit I find myself in, numerous pals have come to my aid, giving me leads to new companies and agencies I hope to hit up, some even asking around on my behalf.

***

I hope this optimism and blind faith does me some good. Only six more days to go. I can hear the clock ticking down resoundingly.

Right after the auditions held in our primary location today, we had a production meeting. It was the first time we were able to meet with our Production Manager cause she skipped last Monday’s meeting. Also present were my producer, Assistant Director and Location Manager.

I was actually content with the kids that turned up for the auditions. Although only fifteen students came, some of them showed enough potential and we were optimistic we could cast some of them for significant parts in the film. There are lots of bit parts that needed to be filled and it was to our advantage if they all came from the school where we were going to shoot. It would take care of problems regarding costumes.

That optimism was quickly doused during the prod meeting.

I immediately called attention to the fact that out of the 40 students we were expecting (I was even told it might reach 50), only 15 arrived. I didn’t mind that they were that few. In fact, I don’t think we had time or we would have been able to accommodate 50. I didn’t expect all of them to come, but I didn’t think they would not even reach half the expected number.

It made me concerned about the coming shoot. I’ve been hot on my staff’s case about securing these students’ commitment because I already anticipated that they might lose interest and decide to not show up. That it’s already happening this early is a really bad sign. Our Location Manager was in charge of all this, and whenever I would ask her if she’s confident about these kids, she would always say yes. I know it’s beyond her official function, but I entrusted it to her because she was the one who gathered their names and contact details while location hunting.

I stressed the importance of securing enough talents on the day of the shoot. At the moment, everything is hinged on that because even if we the principal cast members were there, we wouldn’t be able to create a credible school scene with only a handful of students.

As we carried on to review the shooting breakdown, more problems arose. In trying to work out a more efficient schedule, I discussed the possibility of adding a third day on our school location. Our LM said it depended on whether we could afford it. When asked how much that would be, she said that they haven’t confirmed it with the Division Superintendent yet.

I was surprised cause I was under the impression that that there were only two more locations that we needed to secure. It was only today it became clear that we haven’t secured our main location – our location for two of our four shooting days. With only one week left, and with the person who can give us permission still missing in action, things are looking dire.

My producer and I spent the remainder of the meeting lecturing them about the seriousness of our dilemma. We rescheduled Day 1 of our shoot which was originally locked on April 24, Saturday. We sorted out scheduling conflicts with our actors as we figured out viable alternative dates. We also reset the major production meeting that included the post production people. We tried to come up with better strategies for securing bit players, particularly the students.

I was ready to pull my hair out.

I felt really bad being so hard on my Location Manager, but I needed to get my point across. To be fair to her, she was inexperienced in this job, and a lot of her tasks were not really incumbent on a location manager. It was primarily the Production Manager’s responsibility, but because our PM has been missing in action, my Producer and LM have been covering for her.

So we closed that meeting with me feeling slightly more optimistic… only to come home and find out that we have been declined by our last hope for sponsorship. Our production accountant forwarded to me and my producer an email from the government agency we were contacting. In it, they simply said that they have terminated the subsidy program we were applying for, and that they can instead offer help in processing work permits and like documents.

Talk about a knock out.

Thank you God, for giving me a break.

Today, my London account was credited with £1,342.81!

That’s how much money I lost to fraudulent direct debits from my account. How that happened in the first place, I still don’t know, but I’m sure glad I found out before it got much worse.

Last Sunday, on my way to church with my cousins, I received an overseas call from my London bank’s collections department because it appeared my account had been overdrawn. I couldn’t believe it because I left it with enough money and I never used my debit card since coming back to the Philippines more than one month ago. I asked what the last transactions were, and none of them sounded familiar. She mentioned mobile phone accounts (notice the plural) and cable subscriptions, among other things. My heart raced as it dawned on my that these were not mine. Identity theft and account-hacking is quite common in the UK. I can now count myself as one of the victims.

It’s a good thing that I left London with not much money in my ATM. I spent a huge amount paying for advanced rent on my room to cover for the months that I’d be here in the Philippines shooting my grad film. Besides, all money I had, I had to take and add to my film’s production budget. As a result, I left just enough money to keep my account’s required maintaining balance.

Because of that, it allowed my account to be completely overdrawn (read: zero balance) because of these automatic, unauthorized direct debits.

I asked the collections agent what I ought to do since this was clearly a cause for alarm – those transactions were definitely not by me and I wanted to stop it before more money got taken. She advised me to contact my bank.

The accounts specialists were helpful right off. They blocked these fraudulent direct debits that had been going on since August 2008.

August 2008! That’s two years now! Just three months within my arrival in the UK! My friend who met up with me last Sunday evening asked how much money I lost. I didn’t want to alarm her any further, so I said just a couple of hundred quid. Well, the truth is it’s almost a hundred thousand pesos. It really is partly my fault for not being vigilant enough in scrutinizing every item in my account summary every month. Though to my defense, it was really difficult to detect cause they were small amounts that just accumulated over two years (some debits were as huge as £50 at a time). I guess I just never noticed because I use that same account’s debit card for all my transactions. I almost never bring cash when I’m in London, and that makes it harder to monitor the spending and the balance after every card debit.

The bank people said that they’ll start an investigation. When I asked, they said I didn’t have to contact these companies who made direct debits anymore. If all went well, I could expect to see that money deposited back into my account by Tuesday, after two working days. They also made me call a security company for consultation and to help me regarding my problem. This company, Red24, gave me tips on how to increase security protocols for my bank accounts. However, when I asked if they’re optimistic about me getting my money back, they said that there’s no guarantee. At best, I’d get it back in no time. At worst, I would have to take it to court and find ways to prove that I really didn’t make these transactions – something that looked extremely difficult as it seemed like I’ve been a victim of identity cloning (for all these direct debits to be happening consistently and over a long period of time). After that, there really wasn’t anything else to do but to be stressed, and wait.

I avoided checking my account cause I didn’t want to be disappointed, but today, I finally did… and there it was – my money back! I really didn’t expect it to be resolved that quickly, and efficiently – though I’m crazy glad that it was.

It’s a rough way to learn a lesson, but well worth it. I’m just thankful for the break!

Something to lift my spirit up amid the chaos of grad film preprod 🙂

Early in the morning, my producer texted me that we needed to go to our post production house to close the deal with them.

Talking to this post prod house was one of the first things that I did when I arrived. They’re the best in the business (in the Philippines) and I was really hoping that despite that, we’d be able to make them take pity on us and give us a good deal for colour grading. I would never even dare think of approaching them if not upon the suggestion of a good friend of mine who worked for this post house’s sister company (which is, incidentally, a film production company competing with my former employer).

My friend did some ringing up and I ended up talking to no less than the head of operations. He was very friendly and very nice. Made me feel at ease right off. He asked me to pitch the story over the phone and then gave me assurances that he’ll give us a generous quote. Within an hour of that conversation, I was talking to the head of sales and we were making arrangements for a meeting.

After my producer and I met with the head of sales for the first time, we received a quote from them. She gave us two options – one that packaged film processing, telecine, offline edit, colour grading and dub out of the final format, and another that excluded the offline edit. Both prices were still quite expensive relative to the size of our coffers. My producer, being more experienced than I, assured me that it’s actually still quite cheap. She tried to check how much a lesser known post prod house would charge us, and it ended up being more expensive than this quote given to us. Needless to say, I was happy with it. I gave the green light and said that we’ll be doing the entire post production with them.

Following yesterday’s production meeting, my producer contacted the post prod house to close the deal, but not before asking for further discounts – just for the heck of it. Lo and behold, the post house slashed a further 16% of the original, already-cheap-quote for the full post production package.

Woot!

So we went to the post house and finalized the deal. We gave them a copy of the second draft and they clarified some things regarding the creative requirements of the project. They also gave us some reminders regarding the time table and asked who our sound recordists would be (it turned out that they have an existing relationship with the company doing our sound – and they’re quite happy working with them). Within one hour, the meeting was done and we were all walking away feeling quite optimistic with the partnership.

On our way there, however, my producer told me about the lack of response from this corporation we were approaching for sponsorship. She said that it might be worth trying that I contacted the contact person myself, since he was acting sycophantically during our meeting. This guy hasn’t been responding to her texts, apparently, and she’s been trying for four days already. She gave me his number and I texted him while we were on the road.

As my producer had hoped, he replied.

He said that their company still felt like the packages we created for them were too expensive.

I was deflated. I was hoping that they would at least talk to us about it rather than categorically make a decision over text.

I replied courteously, saying that if they still wanted to discuss it, they need only to tell us and we’ll make time for it. Though to be quite honest, I think that ship has sailed.

There it is. Our best hope for funding is gone. They would’ve covered for about 50% of our expenditures, had that been successful.

So yeah. It is a bittersweet day. Talk about peaks and lows (as the masthead declared).

I hope I had enough enthusiasm at this moment to dwell on the good instead of the bad, but right now, I can’t help but wish that if we truly can’t have it all, I’d rather we lost where we won and won where we lost.

I should know better than to write impulsively (but then what’s the use of an online journal?  baka pang-twitter lang talaga ako, haha).

Last night, despite the frustration and lingering strain of my financial catastrophe, the universe seemed to have made it up (not entirely, mind you) by gifting me with a productive production meeting with my staff and crew.

It was a huge boost amid all the uncertainties, insecurity attacks and personal problems that have plagued me in the last few days. Not all the members of the staff were there, but it was attended by our producer, production designer, post production supervisor, location manager, our art director and our continuity supervisor who got promoted to assistant director. I only met the last two for the first time last night.

The meeting was quite productive. My producer has been giving me regular updates on the development, but I’m always reacting to her questions and texts, and they come sporadically, so it was refreshing to have a sweep of all the major developments so far. Of course, with that came a run down of things that we have yet to accomplish and existing problems, but that all kept us on our toes and aware of the need for urgency. For example:

  • We have completed most of the cast, except for the three main characters. Kumusta naman, yung main pa, hahaha… Our talent coordinator have been working hardest on that but these actors, they’re just so hard to nab. Getting straight and definite answers was a challenge that our top picks all said no at the expense of time. It definitely stretched my knowledge of local showbusiness. I had to keep up to date in order to know who my options are. It was also an exercise in resourcefulness. I ended up thinking out of the box and considering people who I would never consider for the parts in the script.
  • All the locations, save for one, have been locked. That was what the location manager thought, until questions about logistics started to arise and it became apparent that there were still a couple of details that needed ironing regarding some of the locations. Like the street for one of the bar scenes. It is located in a busy area and although we are shooting in the evening to late at night, we have a long scene at the façade of the bar, and traffic will definitely be a problem. She said there are no rerouting options – but what we really needed is to know if it is possible and if not, what our alternative plan will be.
  • My very organized production designer had anticipated most of the requirements and his biggest consideration now is wardrobe. The expenses will definitely get bloated if we ended up planting actors among the extras that we will be getting from the location itself. When he raised that, I suggested that he come up with a costing projection that would allow us to know how much more expensive it would be if we went with more planted actors or if we just assigned speaking roles to the extras (which was less reliable considering we have less control on acting talent than wardrobe). It was the same thing I said about some of the problems regarding location, where we are unable to close deals on certain locations because our LM was not sure how she would respond to the locations’ concerns. It was a crash course on production management, but the crew are slowly getting the hang of it.
  • We also discussed some production design issues with regard to the locations. We had to fake many of the rooms in the school we’re shooting at to function as per the script’s requirement. The PD also brought attention on the last scene, a very crucial one, and said that there’s no viable option for it in the school. That added one more problem for our location manager to resolve, but it’s good that we caught it early on. I was already aware of it during my writing, but I keep forgetting to raise it. That scenario proves how important it is that you have a good team who do their jobs well and with genuine dedication – because those who do will be your asset in making sure you don’t miss out on anything important. Only then do I get the space to focus on my own job as director.
  • Preproduction has been so overwhelming that we tend to overlook post during meetings. I asked our producer if she already sealed the deal with our post production sponsor. She said she’ll do it tomorrow (which is today – update on this later). When the meeting was done, I asked our post production supervisor if he had any concerns and if there was anything he could start working on. It’s a good thing that he has a lot of initiative. He said he already asked our producer about some of his worries. He updated her about his correspondence with the film stock companies, and the two of them were able to talk about details for the sound recording. It was only on our way to meet another friend who agreed to be second AD for us that I remembered to have him take charge of finalizing the stock requirement for the shoot. He agreed to coordinate with our DP on that, soon as our DP visits the locations. Our post prod super even took on some of the minor tasks, like coordinating with our college org to sign up some volunteers to act as PA’s.
  • Our LM mentioned that one of our friends from work was interested in helping out, whether as script continuity or editor. Our script continuity was there with us, so I told our LM that that position’s been filled but our friend is welcome to help out in other ways. That’s when our producer and the original script con thought that since we’re still looking for an AD, our original script con can fill up that job and our friend could come on board as the new script continuity. That worked out quite well. I had a good feeling about our new AD upon our first meeting, so that’s one problem resolved quickly and quite unexpectedly. My new AD immediately proceeded to taking down notes during the meeting and promised to do her breakdown of the script the following day. That’s such a relief because I’ve been scheduling that in my schedule, now I can delegate it and I can focus on other things that only I can do as the director.
  • We proceeded to do a scene-by-scene of the script. It gave me the chance to see how many bit players were required and therefore gave me the production team a picture of the challenges that would arise during the shoot. Like making full use of the volunteer extras, how many would be required per scene, how much more needed to be signed up, etc. How many of many of my friends will I have to ask to come? It also gave me the chance to discuss some of my vision for the scenes as well as my ideas for other aspects of production – like production design. We raised issues of nudity for the actors (“we might show the curve of the thigh…”), possible use of body doubles (“you mean we have that as an option?”), and make up (“does make up of a bruise rub off easily when scrubbed?”).
  • Having listed down the things that have yet to be accomplished in the different departments, we were able to set deadlines for them and impress upon everyone the need for utmost urgency. By Friday of this week, April 16, we hope to lock location and casting. We’ve planned for an ocular visit with the DP, PD and other staff on Wednesday or Thursday, a reading with one of our possible leads on Wednesday evening, casting of bit parts for the student on Friday, set dates for fitting (wardrobe), reading/rehearsals with actors, and most importantly, we have now specific dates for the shoot. Pending schedule availability of the main actors, we will more or less be pushing through with shooting on these dates.
  • Marketing. We have yet to meet with this company we’re targeting after sending a sponsorship package. We have yet to send the requirements for this other organization who might provide us subsidies for some of the production expenses. I have yet to get the production allowance from the school. We have no money. Period. That ought to say it all.

Despite a run down of so many problems, I realized that I actually do have a great team behind me. The amount of work to be done is unbelievable even though this is a short film of modest proportions (maybe not so modest, but still a far cry from a full-length project). It was exciting to be in the middle of all that. Going by that, it sorta confirms that I’m in a place where I ought to be.

I should know better than to write impulsively (but then what’s the use of an online journal?  baka pang-twitter lang talaga ako, haha).

Last night, despite the frustration and lingering strain of my financial catastrophe, the universe seemed to have made it up (not entirely, mind you) by gifting me with a productive production meeting with my staff and crew.

It was a huge boost amid all the uncertainties, insecurity attacks and personal problems that have plagued me in the last few days. Not all the members of the staff were there, but it was attended by our producer, production designer, post production supervisor, location manager, our art director and our continuity supervisor who got promoted to assistant director. I only met the last two for the first time last night.

The meeting was quite productive. My producer has been giving me regular updates on the development, but I’m always reacting to her questions and texts, and they come sporadically, so it was refreshing to have a sweep of all the major developments so far. Of course, with that came a run down of things that we have yet to accomplish and existing problems, but that all kept us on our toes and aware of the need for urgency. For example:

  • We have completed most of the cast, except for the three main characters. Kumusta naman, yung main pa, hahaha… Our talent coordinator have been working hardest on that but these actors, they’re just so hard to nab. Getting straight and definite answers was a challenge that our top picks all said no at the expense of time. It definitely stretched my knowledge of local showbusiness. I had to keep up to date in order to know who my options are. It was also an exercise in resourcefulness. I ended up thinking out of the box and considering people who I would never consider for the parts in the script.

 

  • All the locations, save for one, have been locked. That was what the location manager thought, until questions about logistics started to arise and it became apparent that there were still a couple of details that needed ironing regarding some of the locations. Like the street for one of the bar scenes. It is located in a busy area and although we are shooting in the evening to late at night, we have a long scene at the façade of the bar, and traffic will definitely be a problem. She said there are no rerouting options – but what we really needed is to know if it is possible and if not, what our alternative plan will be. 
  • My very organized production designer had anticipated most of the requirements and his biggest consideration now is wardrobe. The expenses will definitely get bloated if we ended up planting actors among the extras that we will be getting from the location itself. When he raised that, I suggested that he come up with a costing projection that would allow us to know how much more expensive it would be if we went with more planted actors or if we just assigned speaking roles to the extras (which was less reliable considering we have less control on acting talent than wardrobe). It was the same thing I said about some of the problems regarding location, where we are unable to close deals on certain locations because our LM was not sure how she would respond to the locations’ concerns. It was a crash course on production management, but the crew are slowly getting the hang of it. 
  • We also discussed some production design issues with regard to the locations. We had to fake many of the rooms in the school we’re shooting at to function as per the script’s requirement. The PD also brought attention on the last scene, a very crucial one, and said that there’s no viable option for it in the school. That added one more problem for our location manager to resolve, but it’s good that we caught it early on. I was already aware of it during my writing, but I keep forgetting to raise it. That scenario proves how important it is that you have a good team who do their jobs well and with genuine dedication – because those who do will be your asset in making sure you don’t miss out on anything important. Only then do I get the space to focus on my own job as director. 
  • Preproduction has been so overwhelming that we tend to overlook post during meetings. I asked our producer if she already sealed the deal with our post production sponsor. She said she’ll do it tomorrow (which is today – update on this later). When the meeting was done, I asked our post production supervisor if he had any concerns and if there was anything he could start working on. It’s a good thing that he has a lot of initiative. He said he already asked our producer about some of his worries. He updated her about his correspondence with the film stock companies, and the two of them were able to talk about details for the sound recording. It was only on our way to meet another friend who agreed to be second AD for us that I remembered to have him take charge of finalizing the stock requirement for the shoot. He agreed to coordinate with our DP on that, soon as our DP visits the locations. Our post prod super even took on some of the minor tasks, like coordinating with our college org to sign up some volunteers to act as PA’s. 
  • Our LM mentioned that one of our friends from work was interested in helping out, whether as script continuity or editor. Our script continuity was there with us, so I told our LM that that position’s been filled but our friend is welcome to help out in other ways. That’s when our producer and the original script con thought that since we’re still looking for an AD, our original script con can fill up that job and our friend could come on board as the new script continuity. That worked out quite well. I had a good feeling about our new AD upon our first meeting, so that’s one problem resolved quickly and quite unexpectedly. My new AD immediately proceeded to taking down notes during the meeting and promised to do her breakdown of the script the following day. That’s such a relief because I’ve been scheduling that in my schedule, now I can delegate it and I can focus on other things that only I can do as the director. 
  • We proceeded to do a scene-by-scene of the script. It gave me the chance to see how many bit players were required and therefore gave me the production team a picture of the challenges that would arise during the shoot. Like making full use of the volunteer extras, how many would be required per scene, how much more needed to be signed up, etc. How many of many of my friends will I have to ask to come? It also gave me the chance to discuss some of my vision for the scenes as well as my ideas for other aspects of production – like production design. We raised issues of nudity for the actors (“we might show the curve of the thigh…”), possible use of body doubles (“you mean we have that as an option?”), and make up (“does make up of a bruise rub off easily when scrubbed?”). 
  • Having listed down the things that have yet to be accomplished in the different departments, we were able to set deadlines for them and impress upon everyone the need for utmost urgency. By Friday of this week, April 16, we hope to lock location and casting. We’ve planned for an ocular visit with the DP, PD and other staff on Wednesday or Thursday, a reading with one of our possible leads on Wednesday evening, casting of bit parts for the student on Friday, set dates for fitting (wardrobe), reading/rehearsals with actors, and most importantly, we have now specific dates for the shoot. Pending schedule availability of the main actors, we will more or less be pushing through with shooting on these dates. 
  • Marketing. We have yet to meet with this company we’re targeting after sending a sponsorship package. We have yet to send the requirements for this other organization who might provide us subsidies for some of the production expenses. I have yet to get the production allowance from the school. We have no money. Period. That ought to say it all.

 

Despite a run down of so many problems, I realized that I actually do have a great team behind me. The amount of work to be done is unbelievable even though this is a short film of modest proportions (maybe not so modest, but still a far cry from a full-length project). It was exciting to be in the middle of all that. Going by that, it sorta confirms that I’m in a place where I ought to be.

As if my problems weren’t enough, I got a call from my London bank last night saying that my account is a few hundred quid overdrawn. I haven’t even used my debit card for one month now!

I tried to clear things up and, long story short, I found out that my account has been consistently haemorrhaging money for a more than a year now, paying up fraudulent transactions I didn’t make.

As if my problems weren’t enough.

All that money lost could’ve financed a fifth of my budget, at least. The budget that I have yet to complete. This is just the worst time to be worrying about this. The universe just made it personal! At least that’s how it feels. When you’re making a film, the line between professional and personal life disappears. Everything is personal.

As if my problems weren’t enough, I got a call from my London bank last night saying that my account is a few hundred quid overdrawn. I haven’t even used my debit card for one month now!

I tried to clear things up and, long story short, I found out that my account has been consistently haemorrhaging money for a more than a year now, paying up fraudulent transactions I didn’t make.

As if my problems weren’t enough.

All that money lost could’ve financed a fifth of my budget, at least. The budget that I have yet to complete. This is just the worst time to be worrying about this. The universe just made it personal! At least that’s how it feels. When you’re making a film, the line between professional and personal life disappears. Everything is personal.

This week has been full of writing – half of which wasn’t really for the script. In an almost frenetic way, I’ve been busy drafting marketing letters and sponsorship proposals to send out to so many people and companies. Our producer and accountant have been providing a great deal of help, but most of the work still falls on my shoulder. I was quite adamant that I do NOT get credited as producer (which is why I tried to settle the issue of finding one – or two for that matter – early on), but considering how much time I’ve been spending on producing tasks, I think I will have to get credited for that, too.

It didn’t help that this was a long weekend and offices were shutting down as early as Thursday afternoon. Still, I rushed and managed to get everything finished and sent out by then. The new script draft, I already finished last Tuesday. All of a sudden, I found myself with nothing really urgent to do this weekend. Thus the time to write this.

This should normally be a welcome respite from all the stress of writing – which I’ve always believed to be one of the most stressful things in the world. This should normally be the time that I recharge; the time when the powers that be should be reading the stuff I’ve written and I bask in the tentative relief that it is now out of my hands. In this case, the onus to read and analyze and criticize the new script are on my tutors and heads of departments. The proposals that need to be polished or deliberated and approved are on my production staff and the companies and organizations to which we’ve sent them.

Then I remember that despite the break I get as producer and writer, I’m slated to direct this as well – in less than two weeks! And I remember that in the midst of all this brainstorming and consultations and writing and sending letters and proposals, I should already be making my storyboard and shot lists, discussing my plans with the production designer and the DP. Breaking down the script with my AD. Rehearsing with my actors. Preparing.

That’s when I also remember that despite the decent job I’ve been doing as producer, it’s been taking me away from my primary role as the director. This is why long before this project even began, I was already opening myself to the idea of directing another writer’s script. Yet here I am now, not only writing the film I’m directing, but also producing in fact.

I have a great deal of respect for writer-producer-directors, but that’s not my cup of tea. I think I would even enjoy doing each separately. But for now, I’d much rather stick to one specific job. And right now, it’s definitely not producing.

The email to which I’ve attached the new draft of my script bore the request for my producers to give me feedback AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

It was unfair for me to be so demanding considering that I was the one who was far behind schedule, but if we wanted to seriously make up for lost time, I needed them to read it quickly and let me know if there was anything urgent for me to fix. I wanted the opportunity to tweak it a bit before we send it out to the other heads of department for their own respective production breakdowns. (Besides, the draft’s delivery wouldn’t be delayed if I wasn’t sharing producing jobs with them).

I sent the email in the morning. By afternoon, my very diligent line producer had texted me this long message:

Raz, re draft 2, structure n pacing is better. Storytelling is mor cohesive n d writing is mor polishd. Nice opening scene, it captures atention agad, ilike d ending scene as well. Draft 2 delvs on issues more kaya mas informativ na, lyk ung scene ng 2 main characters. Lessbitplayers wc is always a gud thing n funnier ung dialogs. We get a clearer perspectiv on protagonist’s upbringing din. D chaptering device is a nice touch.I dfntly like draft2 better than draft1. Shoot na tayo!:-)

The next day, my mentor (who was also the film’s production consultant) woke me up (at 4.30 in the afternoon) to tell me that ‘okay na.’ She just had one very minor suggestion and said that everything else was good. She concluded by saying na ‘ang galing na talagang magsulat ng mga tinuruan’ nya – which I took to mean as an approval 😉

Second draft, baby! Ha!

I recently wrote about my struggle to complete this second draft. What I deliberately left out in that entry, in an attempt to avoid sounding arrogant or lazy, was that a huge part of why I was going around in circles, the reason I was resisting revision, was because I felt like the story was intact – and that the scenes I wrote were all integral, justified, and well-constructed.

The various comments on that draft were all welcome, of course, and I did have plans to incorporate new ideas that came about as a result of my various consultations.

However, I still felt like the draft didn’t need any real revision. I felt like it just needed some adjustments – concision and restructuring, as I summarized in my blog. Things that could be addressed as we got into rehearsals and on the set during production. I couldn’t come out and say that though because despite that confidence in the material, I thought: I can’t possibly go into production with a first draft!

To be fair though, that first draft went through a lot of personal and internal brainstorming. This wasn’t like back at work when a storyline or script or treatment was due for delivery after a couple of days or weeks of contemplation. This story has been in my head for quite a while, and I really have put in the work required. I’m a huge crusader of research – and even before I typed the first sequence of the script, I’ve gathered loads of it. That’s why during the writing of the second draft, I was in constant argument with myself whenever I was about to change a sequence from the old draft. I kept saying the script was already as perfect as it could possibly be.

That being said, the second draft did allow me to come up with fresh innovations that wouldn’t have been discovered if I allowed my self to be defeated by complacency. Cause really, that’s all it was. True, I didn’t really make any drastic change in the second draft. But I also had to acknowledge that no draft could be perfect (I’ve read articles where producers made mention of a script that was perfect – I don’t buy it). What my personal experience has taught me is that the key is acknowledging when a draft perfectly captured all that needed to be said and shown – and having the openness, confidence and optimism that even when you decide that it’s time to leave the pages, it can only get better henceforth.

Well, sana nga maayos na ‘to and they’re not just rushing their comments because I was rushing them, hehe… Perhaps I really do know how to write na, and efficiently, after all those years of toiling in my previous company.

***

After getting that initial round of feedback, I finally had the courage to send it out to my professional confidantes – the close knit of friends whose opinions about my writing I genuinely value.

I had lunch with one of them later in the afternoon. After perfunctory hi’s, she said she just read my script – and she started laughing. She said it was very funny. The remaining time waiting for our other friend to arrive, we spent talking about the actors I was eyeing to play the parts in the script.

So I also took that as a good sign 🙂

***

I’m quite pumped by the positive feedback thus far. I just hope I’m able to carry it over to the shoot and that all the other preprod snags that we’ve been running into won’t get in the way of this alright script. Once, I told my friend that I’m quite confident with the material. I’m not saying it’s earth shattering, but I know that it’s worth watching.

The script’s alright. I just hope the director doesn’t mess it up!

This week has been full of writing – half of which wasn’t really for the script. In an almost frenetic way, I’ve been busy drafting marketing letters and sponsorship proposals to send out to so many people and companies. Our producer and accountant have been providing a great deal of help, but most of the work still falls on my shoulder. I was quite adamant that I do NOT get credited as producer (which is why I tried to settle the issue of finding one – or two for that matter – early on), but considering how much time I’ve been spending on producing tasks, I think I will have to get credited for that, too.

It didn’t help that this was a long weekend and offices were shutting down as early as Thursday afternoon. Still, I rushed and managed to get everything finished and sent out by then. The new script draft, I already finished last Tuesday. All of a sudden, I found myself with nothing really urgent to do this weekend. Thus the time to write this.

This should normally be a welcome respite from all the stress of writing – which I’ve always believed to be one of the most stressful things in the world. This should normally be the time that I recharge; the time when the powers that be should be reading the stuff I’ve written and I bask in the tentative relief that it is now out of my hands. In this case, the onus to read and analyze and criticize the new script are on my tutors and heads of departments. The proposals that need to be polished or deliberated and approved are on my production staff and the companies and organizations to which we’ve sent them.

Then I remember that despite the break I get as producer and writer, I’m slated to direct this as well – in less than two weeks! And I remember that in the midst of all this brainstorming and consultations and writing and sending letters and proposals, I should already be making my storyboard and shot lists, discussing my plans with the production designer and the DP. Breaking down the script with my AD. Rehearsing with my actors. Preparing.

That’s when I also remember that despite the decent job I’ve been doing as producer, it’s been taking me away from my primary role as the director. This is why long before this project even began, I was already opening myself to the idea of directing another writer’s script. Yet here I am now, not only writing the film I’m directing, but also producing in fact.

I have a great deal of respect for writer-producer-directors, but that’s not my cup of tea. I think I would even enjoy doing each separately. But for now, I’d much rather stick to one specific job. And right now, it’s definitely not producing.

The email to which I’ve attached the new draft of my script bore the request for my producers to give me feedback AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

It was unfair for me to be so demanding considering that I was the one who was far behind schedule, but if we wanted to seriously make up for lost time, I needed them to read it quickly and let me know if there was anything urgent for me to fix. I wanted the opportunity to tweak it a bit before we send it out to the other heads of department for their own respective production breakdowns. (Besides, the draft’s delivery wouldn’t be delayed if I wasn’t sharing producing jobs with them).

I sent the email in the morning. By afternoon, my very diligent line producer had texted me this long message:

Raz, re draft 2, structure n pacing is better. Storytelling is mor cohesive n d writing is mor polishd. Nice opening scene, it captures atention agad, ilike d ending scene as well. Draft 2 delvs on issues more kaya mas informativ na, lyk ung scene ng 2 main characters. Lessbitplayers wc is always a gud thing n funnier ung dialogs. We get a clearer perspectiv on protagonist’s upbringing din. D chaptering device is a nice touch.I dfntly like draft2 better than draft1. Shoot na tayo!:-)

The next day, my mentor (who was also the film’s production consultant) woke me up (at 4.30 in the afternoon) to tell me that ‘okay na.‘ She just had one very minor suggestion and said that everything else was good. She concluded by saying na ‘ang galing na talagang magsulat ng mga tinuruan‘ nya – which I took to mean as an approval 😉

Second draft, baby! Ha!

I recently wrote about my struggle to complete this second draft. What I deliberately left out in that entry, in an attempt to avoid sounding arrogant or lazy, was that a huge part of why I was going around in circles, the reason I was resisting revision, was because I felt like the story was intact – and that the scenes I wrote were all integral, justified, and well-constructed.

The various comments on that draft were all welcome, of course, and I did have plans to incorporate new ideas that came about as a result of my various consultations.

However, I still felt like the draft didn’t need any real revision. I felt like it just needed some adjustments – concision and restructuring, as I summarized in my blog. Things that could be addressed as we got into rehearsals and on the set during production. I couldn’t come out and say that though because despite that confidence in the material, I thought: I can’t possibly go into production with a first draft!

To be fair though, that first draft went through a lot of personal and internal brainstorming. This wasn’t like back at work when a storyline or script or treatment was due for delivery after a couple of days or weeks of contemplation. This story has been in my head for quite a while, and I really have put in the work required. I’m a huge crusader of research – and even before I typed the first sequence of the script, I’ve gathered loads of it. That’s why during the writing of the second draft, I was in constant argument with myself whenever I was about to change a sequence from the old draft. I kept saying the script was already as perfect as it could possibly be.

That being said, the second draft did allow me to come up with fresh innovations that wouldn’t have been discovered if I allowed my self to be defeated by complacency. Cause really, that’s all it was. True, I didn’t really make any drastic change in the second draft. But I also had to acknowledge that no draft could be perfect (I’ve read articles where producers made mention of a script that was perfect – I don’t buy it). What my personal experience has taught me is that the key is acknowledging when a draft perfectly captured all that needed to be said and shown – and having the openness, confidence and optimism that even when you decide that it’s time to leave the pages, it can only get better henceforth.

Well, sana nga maayos na ‘to and they’re not just rushing their comments because I was rushing them, hehe… Perhaps I really do know how to write na, and efficiently, after all those years of toiling in my previous company.

***

After getting that initial round of feedback, I finally had the courage to send it out to my professional confidantes – the close knit of friends whose opinions about my writing I genuinely value.

I had lunch with one of them later in the afternoon. After perfunctory hi’s, she said she just read my script – and she started laughing. She said it was very funny. The remaining time waiting for our other friend to arrive, we spent talking about the actors I was eyeing to play the parts in the script.

So I also took that as a good sign 🙂

***

I’m quite pumped by the positive feedback thus far. I just hope I’m able to carry it over to the shoot and that all the other preprod snags that we’ve been running into won’t get in the way of this alright script. Once, I told my friend that I’m quite confident with the material. I’m not saying it’s earth shattering, but I know that it’s worth watching.

The script’s alright. I just hope the director doesn’t mess it up!

Barcelona is instantly my most favourite city. So far, at least.

When I first decided to go to Spain for a holiday, it was on a whim. It was sometime during the spring of last year after my trip with the Bajentings. It was my first time to stay in London for the holidays and so I had a lot of time on my hands. Instead of seeing more of the city though, I ended up going overseas.

I first entertained the thought when I heard that the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra was playing in London. I read about them long ago and was terribly impressed. That they were in London seemed too great an opportunity to pass, so I immediately looked for tickets. My close friends Nep and Tisay happened to have a stint helping the catering for their London show and they told me it’s been fully booked long before. I felt so bad missing the chance that I surfed the net and found out that they’re also having shows in Madrid and Barcelona and a few other European cities.

It was then that I started considering flying to Barcelona just in time to catch their show. It seemed outrageous at the time, but thanks to the internet, I was able to build up a solid itinerary and canvass options for airfare and lodging. Before I knew it, I was impulse buying tickets and making online reservations for a weeklong stay in Barcino.

I was sort of nervous about that because it was to be my first ever solo trip to a country that didn’t speak English primarily. I sorta knew how to speak Spanish, but it’s been so long since Span 1 & 2 with Sra. Carmen and Maita that I didn’t really trust myself to survive. Besides, I was heading for Catalunya!

The morning of my flight to Barcelona, I took a long detour to Stanford at Covent Garden, one of my favourite stores in London now, and bought myself an Encounter guide (back when it only had Barcelona, NY, Rome and Paris) and a Spanish phrasebook…and then I was off.

That turned out to be one of my most memorable and perhaps my most favourite trip ever. Barcelona had everything I was interested in – a beach, a vibrant arts scene, museums worth visiting, a mix of people comparable to London’s, grrrrrreeeaaat food, and a couple of friends who were grrrrrreeeaaat guardians (shoutout to Wil and Lola!). That I was there for six long days, by myself, made for a relaxed holiday with neither the pressure of dragging myself out of the hotel to follow someone else’s itinerary nor the annoyances or conflicts of a travel companion’s divergent whims.

I loved Barcelona so much that even after my camera got stolen on my first trip (please don’t tell my Mom), I still had fond memories of the city. Hey, at least I had the full Barna experience, yeah? The pictures posted in this album were taken during my second trip last summer, right before classes at LFS started 🙂

Did I mention how much I love Barcelona?

After a very busy term 5, I decided to fly to Poland to attend Camerimage. Mike had already left ahead of me, and I was really looking to get away in preparation for the coming end of term critiques.

I had an amazing time in spite of the freezing cold. I was able to watch Up In The Air before its worldwide theatrical release (and ahead of all the Oscar buzz it got; I got bummed missing Sketches of Frank Gehry). I got to attend workshops conducted by Oliver Stapleton, Don McAlpine and Tony Willis. I got to play around with the latest Arri’s and 3D cameras. They don’t lie when they say that the atmosphere in the city is electrified round about the end of November til early December. I had an amazing time despite not having a pass for the entire festival. I had so much fun I didn’t even bother taking that many pictures even though I managed to lug around my camera everywhere we went. I’m already looking forward to coming back next year.

The pictures I took and uploaded here don’t even capture half of the experience. You’d think the city was this empty shell of post-war buildings badly needing repainting. What it really is, during Camerimage, is a swarm of enthusiastic, like-minded brothers who have nothing but utmost love and appreciation for movies and movie-lovers.

Last year, desperate to grab the first chance to step on French soil, I took the long way en route to visiting my Mom. This was back in May during the spring bank holiday. We didn’t have a class that Friday and I didn’t need to be back at school until Tuesday, so I decided to fly to Paris and from there take the night train to Bologna (which was also a first) to see my Mom.

Aside from seeing the Eiffel Tower (typical?) and watching the French Open, the trip was on the whole underwhelming, though by no means Paris’s fault. After all, I was only there for 25 hours, which simply wasn’t enough. The dearth of interesting pictures from the trip is proof of that (due in part to the fact that I couldn’t find a shop that sold a 35mm roll of film! I was incredulous at this new order of things. There wasn’t any film being sold within the 1km radius of the most visited paid monument in the world.)

At the very least, that stopover only whet my appetite for a full, genuine Parisian experience the next time the opportunity presents itself.

Barcelona is instantly my most favourite city. So far, at least.

When I first decided to go to Spain for a holiday, it was on a whim. It was sometime during the spring of last year after my trip with the Bajentings. It was my first time to stay in London for the holidays and so I had a lot of time on my hands. Instead of seeing more of the city though, I ended up going overseas.

I first entertained the thought when I heard that the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra was playing in London. I read about them long ago and was terribly impressed. That they were in London seemed too great an opportunity to pass, so I immediately looked for tickets. My close friends Nep and Tisay happened to have a stint helping the catering for their London show and they told me it’s been fully booked long before. I felt so bad missing the chance that I surfed the net and found out that they’re also having shows in Madrid and Barcelona and a few other European cities.

It was then that I started considering flying to Barcelona just in time to catch their show. It seemed outrageous at the time, but thanks to the internet, I was able to build up a solid itinerary and canvass options for airfare and lodging. Before I knew it, I was impulse buying tickets and making online reservations for a weeklong stay in Barcino.

I was sort of nervous about that because it was to be my first ever solo trip to a country that didn’t speak English primarily. I sorta knew how to speak Spanish, but it’s been so long since Span 1 & 2 with Sra. Carmen and Maita that I didn’t really trust myself to survive. Besides, I was heading for Catalunya!

The morning of my flight to Barcelona, I took a long detour to Stanford at Covent Garden, one of my favourite stores in London now, and bought myself an Encounter guide (back when it only had Barcelona, NY, Rome and Paris) and a Spanish phrasebook…and then I was off.

That turned out to be one of my most memorable and perhaps my most favourite trip ever. Barcelona had everything I was interested in – a beach, a vibrant arts scene, museums worth visiting, a mix of people comparable to London’s, grrrrrreeeaaat food, and a couple of friends who were grrrrrreeeaaat guardians (shoutout to Wil and Lola!). That I was there for six long days, by myself, made for a relaxed holiday with neither the pressure of dragging myself out of the hotel to follow someone else’s itinerary nor the annoyances or conflicts of a travel companion’s divergent whims.

I loved Barcelona so much that even after my camera got stolen on my first trip (please don’t tell my Mom), I still had fond memories of the city. Hey, at least I had the full Barna experience, yeah? The pictures posted in this album were taken during my second trip last summer, right before classes at LFS started 🙂

Did I mention how much I love Barcelona?

 

 

 

01-06.12.2009

After a very busy term 5, I decided to fly to Poland to attend Camerimage. Mike had already left ahead of me, and I was really looking to get away in preparation for the coming end of term critiques.

I had an amazing time in spite of the freezing cold. I was able to watch Up In The Air before its worldwide theatrical release (and ahead of all the Oscar buzz it got; I got bummed missing Sketches of Frank Gehry). I got to attend workshops conducted by Oliver Stapleton, Don McAlpine and Tony Willis. I got to play around with the latest Arri’s and 3D cameras. They don’t lie when they say that the atmosphere in the city is electrified round about the end of November til early December. I had an amazing time despite not having a pass for the entire festival. I had so much fun I didn’t even bother taking that many pictures even though I managed to lug around my camera everywhere we went. I’m already looking forward to coming back next year.

The pictures I took and uploaded here don’t even capture half of the experience. You’d think the city was this empty shell of post-war buildings badly needing repainting. What it really is, during Camerimage, is a swarm of enthusiastic, like-minded brothers who have nothing but utmost love and appreciation for movies and movie-lovers.

 

 

 

So this blog that I’m supposed to be maintaining is turning out to be a dud. In a good way, though.

The past few weeks have been very busy for me. Top most priority for me, in particular, was to finish the new draft of the script that I put off in favor of other pre-production concerns. I promise to write more about those. Here and now, I am celebrating the completion of the second draft.

I finished the script’s first draft on the first week of February. That too was delayed since I was worried sick about laying the ground work for the film (pre-preprod, if you like). It’s been two whole months before I was able to finish this new draft. All the meetings, emailing, calling, and marketing has left me with little to no time for anything else, much less writing. Perils of an independent production. Not discredit my team, but when you haven’t got all the necessary people for the necessary roles, all the work and worrying really falls on the progenitor of the project.

It wasn’t like I didn’t pay enough attention to this revision. It’s been constantly in my mind in fact, but I struggled with the how of it.

For starters, I gathered feedback and suggestions from people I trust (many thanks to them who responded!). After making a list of those that I thought were useful or applicable to the direction I wanted to take the new draft, I tried writing from scratch for the second draft, which is my usual process. It had always done me good in the past, allowing me to birth new ideas that enhanced while not necessarily discarding those from the earlier draft. This time around though, it wasn’t working. I kept coming back to the old scenes and structure that I wrote.

CONCISION

Either I wasn’t as open-minded as I thought I was or my writing was a little rusty.

I was my biggest obstacle. I kept arguing myself out of any significant changes that I started considering.

Should I take out this backstory? Do I really need that scene? Maybe that character is redundant?

Whenever I was stripping away elements from the first draft, I always found reasons to keep them. I remembered my meeting with the directing instructor back at LFS. We went through each of draft one’s scenes and discussed the purpose for it. He had very good words for the entire draft. While he did say that it was on the long side, he didn’t think any of it was superfluous.

Other friends who commented on draft one had questions or wanted clarifications, but none of them thought it was overlong or boring either. If any, their questions almost implied that they wanted more scenes, not less. Optimistic, I took that as a sign that I was successful in creating an engaging story, sympathetic characters, and a credible story world.

For practical purposes, making the second draft longer than its predecessor was out of the question. We already are buckling down the projected expenses, so there wasn’t any room for more setups and more stock requirement. Quite the contrary.

RESTRUCTURING

Since I was failing miserably at slashing scenes, my other strategy was to probe for a new structure that might serve the film better.

I created four major units for the story and allotted five sequences for each to force myself to bring the total sequences down to 20 (from 29).

There were some brilliant suggestions that our directing instructor threw my way back in London. I started with that – and was quite hopeful. But soon after, I was back to the old chronology and story structure. While it did allow for some deft condensing of scenes, the length remained the same. It was apparent that condensing only reduced the ordinal number of sequences. I was still retaining all the story elements from the previous draft. Every time I tried to let some of them go, I always felt like I was compromising one of the key intentions I had for the film.

SECOND DRAFT

In the end, I managed a nifty 25 sequences in 28 pages.

Not much difference, I agree. The story did not change drastically either. I was, however, able to add new elements that I hope magnifies the theme. I cleaned up some of the dialogues and effected significant adjustments in characterizations.

I had hoped the change would be more drastic, but what I came to realize in the end is maybe it didn’t really need a major revision of the story. I ended up embracing the fact that the story is already exactly how I wanted it to be. It was tailored quite deliberately even though it was just a first draft. It sounds a bit self-eulogizing, but it was perhaps a result of having thought about this story long and hard before I even started writing the script. Perhaps my years of writing scripts is paying off in making me more efficient.

Or maybe I’m just being lazy and trying to convince myself of my mediocrity.

Whatever the case may be, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding won’t be out of the oven until July – when the film meets its first critics at LFS’s Cinema A. Until then, you’ll have to trust my word that the second draft is good 😉

So this blog that I’m supposed to be maintaining is turning out to be a dud. In a good way, though.

The past few weeks have been very busy for me. Top most priority for me, in particular, was to finish the new draft of the script that I put off in favor of other pre-production concerns. I promise to write more about those. Here and now, I am celebrating the completion of the second draft.

I finished the script’s first draft on the first week of February. That too was delayed since I was worried sick about laying the ground work for the film (pre-preprod, if you like). It’s been two whole months before I was able to finish this new draft. All the meetings, emailing, calling, and marketing has left me with little to no time for anything else, much less writing. Perils of an independent production. Not discredit my team, but when you haven’t got all the necessary people for the necessary roles, all the work and worrying really falls on the progenitor of the project.

It wasn’t like I didn’t pay enough attention to this revision. It’s been constantly in my mind in fact, but I struggled with the how of it.

For starters, I gathered feedback and suggestions from people I trust (many thanks to them who responded!). After making a list of those that I thought were useful or applicable to the direction I wanted to take the new draft, I tried writing from scratch for the second draft, which is my usual process. It had always done me good in the past, allowing me to birth new ideas that enhanced while not necessarily discarding those from the earlier draft. This time around though, it wasn’t working. I kept coming back to the old scenes and structure that I wrote.

CONCISION

Either I wasn’t as open-minded as I thought I was or my writing was a little rusty.

I was my biggest obstacle. I kept arguing myself out of any significant changes that I started considering.

Should I take out this backstory? Do I really need that scene? Maybe that character is redundant?

Whenever I was stripping away elements from the first draft, I always found reasons to keep them. I remembered my meeting with the directing instructor back at LFS. We went through each of draft one’s scenes and discussed the purpose for it. He had very good words for the entire draft. While he did say that it was on the long side, he didn’t think any of it was superfluous.

Other friends who commented on draft one had questions or wanted clarifications, but none of them thought it was overlong or boring either. If any, their questions almost implied that they wanted more scenes, not less. Optimistic, I took that as a sign that I was successful in creating an engaging story, sympathetic characters, and a credible story world.

For practical purposes, making the second draft longer than its predecessor was out of the question. We already are buckling down the projected expenses, so there wasn’t any room for more setups and more stock requirement. Quite the contrary.

RESTRUCTURING

Since I was failing miserably at slashing scenes, my other strategy was to probe for a new structure that might serve the film better.

I created four major units for the story and allotted five sequences for each to force myself to bring the total sequences down to 20 (from 29).

There were some brilliant suggestions that our directing instructor threw my way back in London. I started with that – and was quite hopeful. But soon after, I was back to the old chronology and story structure. While it did allow for some deft condensing of scenes, the length remained the same. It was apparent that condensing only reduced the ordinal number of sequences. I was still retaining all the story elements from the previous draft. Every time I tried to let some of them go, I always felt like I was compromising one of the key intentions I had for the film.

SECOND DRAFT

In the end, I managed a nifty 25 sequences in 28 pages.

Not much difference, I agree. The story did not change drastically either. I was, however, able to add new elements that I hope magnifies the theme. I cleaned up some of the dialogues and effected significant adjustments in characterizations.

I had hoped the change would be more drastic, but what I came to realize in the end is maybe it didn’t really need a major revision of the story. I ended up embracing the fact that the story is already exactly how I wanted it to be. It was tailored quite deliberately even though it was just a first draft. It sounds a bit self-eulogizing, but it was perhaps a result of having thought about this story long and hard before I even started writing the script. Perhaps my years of writing scripts is paying off in making me more efficient.

Or maybe I’m just being lazy and trying to convince myself of my mediocrity.

Whatever the case may be, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding won’t be out of the oven until July – when the film meets its first critics at LFS’s Cinema A. Until then, you’ll have to trust my word that the second draft is good 😉

It’s been a few months since I last blogged. My last post, excluding those photo-journals that I uploaded about my travels, was in December. I picked up the pen again because I wanted to document an exciting chapter.

This post proclaims my decision to take on the onerous pursuit of maintaining a blog detailing the progress of my short film.

Funny that upon reaching this milestone, I find myself back in the humid, tropical landscape of my homeland. I arrived in Manila midnight of last Sunday, March 7, 2010, to start the pre-production for my graduation project at LFS.

I am starting this online diary despite my perennial profession of how I find writing extremely laborious as I find two major benefits to be had in doing so.

First, I wanted to make sure that I log everything that happens during the making of the film. For documentation and as an aid to the journal requirement the LFS requires from us before graduation. It will be easier for me to go back to the tedious writing of the journal if the hard part of remembering can been set aside.

The second, more important goal is to give me a virtual scream room to vent anxieties and frustrations I am sure to come across making this film. I haven’t been home for a full week and I’ve already screamed myself hoarse, so I’m quite sure there will be more to come.

Unlike the previous blog that I kept, expect me to be less conscious of my writing here. I imagine the whole process to be like emotional dialysis, where I’ll be able to transfer everything I’m feeling at the moment, without regard for form or judgment from people who might read it.

So if I’m incoherent, offensive, maudlin, self-absorbed, embarrassingly proud, grossly unfair, grammatically gruesome, orthographically negligent or literarily substandard, you will have to pardon me and take it as part of the package. I am aspiring to be a filmmaker after all.

It’s been a few months since I last blogged. My last post, excluding those photo-journals that I uploaded about my travels, was in December. I picked up the pen again because I wanted to document an exciting chapter.

This post proclaims my decision to take on the onerous pursuit of maintaining a blog detailing the progress of my short film.

Funny that upon reaching this milestone, I find myself back in the humid, tropical landscape of my homeland. I arrived in Manila midnight of last Sunday, March 7, 2010, to start the pre-production for my graduation project at LFS.

I am starting this online diary despite my perennial profession of how I find writing extremely laborious as I find two major benefits to be had in doing so.

First, I wanted to make sure that I log everything that happens during the making of the film. For documentation and as an aid to the journal requirement the LFS requires from us before graduation. It will be easier for me to go back to the tedious writing of the journal if the hard part of remembering can been set aside.

The second, more important goal is to give me a virtual scream room to vent anxieties and frustrations I am sure to come across making this film. I haven’t been home for a full week and I’ve already screamed myself hoarse, so I’m quite sure there will be more to come.

Unlike the previous blog that I kept, expect me to be less conscious of my writing here. I imagine the whole process to be like emotional dialysis, where I’ll be able to transfer everything I’m feeling at the moment, without regard for form or judgment from people who might read it.

So if I’m incoherent, offensive, maudlin, self-absorbed, embarrassingly proud, grossly unfair, grammatically gruesome, orthographically negligent or literarily substandard, you will have to pardon me and take it as part of the package. I am aspiring to be a filmmaker after all.

I recently tweeted about the “TOUCH ME NOT” screening in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (a copy of which I’ve uploaded in my blog before, as featured in the National Gallery website). Most short film entries were around ten minutes in length, whereas mine was only a few seconds over 3 minutes. It put my term 2 film at a disadvantage from a competition perspective but that was alright cause what I was really after was the opportunity to have the screened in a public venue back home in the Philippines.

(Here’s the link again: Touch Me Not in the National Gallery website)

I felt bad that I was going to miss its screening by a few days as I was scheduled to fly to Manila only three days after. I invited my good friend, Mahal, who composed the soundtrack along with her band Kireida, to watch at the CCP, but she had a previously set appointment. My lead actress and very close friend Nep was already in the Philippines for the Christmas holiday so I also told her to go and invite people whom she missed showing the film (she already saw it in the National Gallery last year).

I was therefore annoyed after finding out that the schedule was moved to two hours earlier without prior notice. My aunt and my assistant who went all the way to CCP missed it by an hour, and Nep, who braved the horrendous Christmas rush, missed it altogether.

Thankfully, it was balanced by some real good news.

I actually also submitted my Term 3 documentary, “THE FILIPINO STUDENT’S GUIDE ON HOW TO BE INVISIBLE IN LONDON,” in the same competition. For those who might have seen it at LFS or whom I asked for feedback during its development stage, this was the film about three girls who came to London on student visas.

I’m very proud to share that it won third prize in the 21st CCP Independent Film and Video Competition held last December 8 to 11, 2009. The ‘Gawad CCP’ distinguishes itself as the longest-running film and video competition in the Philippines, open to works in 16mm and 35mm format for film and DVD and MiniDV formats for video.

Upon sending a copy of the film to the CCP Media Arts, I concurrently asked the three subjects if they were fine with the film getting screened in a huge venue. When I first asked them to be the focus of the documentary, I assured them that if they were not comfortable with it being showed beyond the privacy of the school, we would honor that. In response, one of the girls said she preferred that the documentary not be screened in the festival, so I emailed CCP to request that they not screen it anymore and they obliged.

I thought that meant they would pull it out of the competition as well since the Gawad CCP rules stipulate that CCP would acquire rights to screen the film upon its entry and include it in the CCP’s film archives. Apparently, they still showed it to the judges even if it was not in exhibition during the festival week and even ended up winning 3rd place. The competition also reserves the right not to award recognition if it felt that none of the entries deserved it, so it had a very discriminating and exclusive profile to me.

The official announcement from the Cultural Center of the Philippines is posted in the CCP official website. Chrissy, the LFS Librarian-slash-festival coordinator triumphed the achievement by blogging about it in the London Film School’s news blog. It was a little embarrassing to see news about our humble documentary above Duncan Jones’s big win at the British Independent Film Awards for “MOON,” but that was very much welcome. Seeing my name on the LFS blog… I can die now! Haha!

Mad props to 166/3D for their contributions, and to the three girls for generously sharing their time, insights and sentiments in this documentary film. Congratulations to us 🙂

I recently tweeted about the “TOUCH ME NOT” screening in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (a copy of which I’ve uploaded in my blog before, as featured in the National Gallery website). Most short film entries were around ten minutes in length, whereas mine was only a few seconds over 3 minutes. It put my term 2 film at a disadvantage from a competition perspective but that was alright cause what I was really after was the opportunity to have the screened in a public venue back home in the Philippines.

(Here’s the link again: Touch Me Not in the National Gallery website)

I felt bad that I was going to miss its screening by a few days as I was scheduled to fly to Manila only three days after. I invited my good friend, Mahal, who composed the soundtrack along with her band Kireida, to watch at the CCP, but she had a previously set appointment. My lead actress and very close friend Nep was already in the Philippines for the Christmas holiday so I also told her to go and invite people whom she missed showing the film (she already saw it in the National Gallery last year).

I was therefore annoyed after finding out that the schedule was moved to two hours earlier without prior notice. My aunt and my assistant who went all the way to CCP missed it by an hour, and Nep, who braved the horrendous Christmas rush, missed it altogether.

Thankfully, it was balanced by some real good news.

I actually also submitted my Term 3 documentary, “THE FILIPINO STUDENT’S GUIDE ON HOW TO BE INVISIBLE IN LONDON,” in the same competition. For those who might have seen it at LFS or whom I asked for feedback during its development stage, this was the film about three girls who came to London on student visas.

I’m very proud to share that it won third prize in the 21st CCP Independent Film and Video Competition held last December 8 to 11, 2009. The ‘Gawad CCP’ distinguishes itself as the longest-running film and video competition in the Philippines, open to works in 16mm and 35mm format for film and DVD and MiniDV formats for video.

Upon sending a copy of the film to the CCP Media Arts, I concurrently asked the three subjects if they were fine with the film getting screened in a huge venue. When I first asked them to be the focus of the documentary, I assured them that if they were not comfortable with it being showed beyond the privacy of the school, we would honor that. In response, one of the girls said she preferred that the documentary not be screened in the festival, so I emailed CCP to request that they not screen it anymore and they obliged.

I thought that meant they would pull it out of the competition as well since the Gawad CCP rules stipulate that CCP would acquire rights to screen the film upon its entry and include it in the CCP’s film archives. Apparently, they still showed it to the judges even if it was not in exhibition during the festival week and even ended up winning 3rd place. The competition also reserves the right not to award recognition if it felt that none of the entries deserved it, so it had a very discriminating and exclusive profile to me.

The official announcement from the Cultural Center of the Philippines is posted in the CCP official website. Chrissy, the LFS Librarian-slash-festival coordinator triumphed the achievement by blogging about it in the London Film School’s news blog. It was a little embarrassing to see news about our humble documentary above Duncan Jones’s big win at the British Independent Film Awards for “MOON,” but that was very much welcome. Seeing my name on the LFS blog… I can die now! Haha!

Mad props to 166/3D for their contributions, and to the three girls for generously sharing their time, insights and sentiments in this documentary film. Congratulations to us 🙂

The November issue of “PREVIEW.” Thanks to Mel for the article, and to Kar and Jane for the scans.

The November issue of “PREVIEW.” Thanks to Mel for the article, and to Kar and Jane for the scans.

(Click on photo to enlarge and read the article)

It’s now been a couple of months since I went to Venice this summer. I meant to upload the pictures earlier, but since I didn’t take a lot of photographs, I had hoped to post it along with the pictures from my friends who were there for the Venice Film Festival. I didn’t receive the reinforcements I had hoped and only remembered about the pictures I took now. So here they are!

I wasn’t too keen to go back to Venice just yet since I was just there a few months earlier. It was only when Mike and George started talking about going to the Festival to watch George Romero’s new film that I thought, maybe I should go as well. I then learned that a close friend of mine who line produced the film ENGKWENTRO by Pepe Diokno was also going. That finally helped me decide, so I cut my summer holiday a few weeks early, made hasty arrangements and flew back to Venezia two days after landing in London.

I’m really glad I decided to go back. I got to see the red carpet screening of my friends’ film, and it ended up winning the Orrizonti Award for Best Film, as well as the Luigi De Laurentis Award for Best Debut Film. Thanks to Miss Amor, I got to celebrate with the filmmakers and was allowed access to some of the glamorous green rooms and victory dinners. Had I not been as shy as I was, I would also have taken the chance to have my picture taken with Ang Lee, Colin Firth, Diane Kruger, Omar Sharif, Jared Leto, and Tom Ford.

Even better than the Venice Film Festival experience, the first major film festival I’ve ever been to, was the chance to hang out with Mike and George. It would’ve been even better if I arrived earlier but because of the last minute bookings, I only got to spend one night and the following morning with those two. It’s so great seeing close friends from LFS outside London.

So here are the handful of pictures that I took. Nothing exciting really, but they help me remember the wonderful time I spent revisiting Venezia.

It’s now been a couple of months since I went to Venice this summer. I meant to upload the pictures earlier, but since I didn’t take a lot of photographs, I had hoped to post it along with the pictures from my friends who were there for the Venice Film Festival. I didn’t receive the reinforcements I had hoped and only remembered about the pictures I took now. So here they are!

I wasn’t too keen to go back to Venice just yet since I was just there a few months earlier. It was only when Mike and George started talking about going to the Festival to watch George Romero’s new film that I thought, maybe I should go as well. I then learned that a close friend of mine who line produced the film ENGKWENTRO by Pepe Diokno was also going. That finally helped me decide, so I cut my summer holiday a few weeks early, made hasty arrangements and flew back to Venezia two days after landing in London.

I’m really glad I decided to go back. I got to see the red carpet screening of my friends’ film, and it ended up winning the Orrizonti Award for Best Film, as well as the Luigi De Laurentis Award for Best Debut Film. Thanks to Miss Amor, I got to celebrate with the filmmakers and was allowed access to some of the glamorous green rooms and victory dinners. Had I not been as shy as I was, I would also have taken the chance to have my picture taken with Ang Lee, Colin Firth, Diane Kruger, Omar Sharif, Jared Leto, and Tom Ford.

Even better than the Venice Film Festival experience, the first major film festival I’ve ever been to, was the chance to hang out with Mike and George. It would’ve been even better if I arrived earlier but because of the last minute bookings, I only got to spend one night and the following morning with those two. It’s so great seeing close friends from LFS outside London.

So here are the handful of pictures that I took. Nothing exciting really, but they help me remember the wonderful time I spent revisiting Venezia.

 

 

 

This has been a long time coming. I stumbled upon it by accident and got a bit nostalgic. I can’t believe I’m just one term away from my grad term!

This has been a long time coming. I stumbled upon it by accident and got a bit nostalgic. I can’t believe I’m just one term away from my grad term!

(Watch it in full-screen mode!)


To read the accompanying blurb and put proper context to this film, go to the National Gallery website.

Coming home is always a treat. A luxury nowadays, to be honest. And was I in need of some spoiling this last summer. Fourth term at LFS was my busiest ever, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, that also meant I was exhausted by the end of it, thus the desire to be back in my own house, sleeping in my own bed, away from the mundane nuances of everyday life in London.

Aside from that, my other urgent reasons were the weddings of two of my closest friends. The funny thing, however, is that one got married at the start of August, and the other on the first week of September. Almost exactly one month apart. So that meant, they forced my vacation at home to extend to the length that it did. Almost a full six weeks! That forced me to decline some invitations from my friends to travel with them during the summer break, something that I would’ve loved to do.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I was sorry for having spent that much time back home. It was great to be back hanging out with friends and family. And how so much have changed. People getting married, having babies, new jobs… I shouldn’t be surprised since the last time I was on vacation in the Philippines was last Christmas (excepting the “one night only” incident of flying in for another close friend’s wedding).

So this is what my summer vacation was like. Crazy fun. Two weddings, a side trip to Macau (pictures of which I’ve previously uploaded), two premiere nights, an insane party, one couchsurfer, two new godsons, dozens of new friends, and reconnections with many treasured ones.

*Oooh, thanks to my friends who gave me copies of their pictures, some of which are in this album (thanks Mark, Olive & Chelle).

 

 

Coming home is always a treat. A luxury nowadays, to be honest. And was I in need of some spoiling this last summer. Fourth term at LFS was my busiest ever, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, that also meant I was exhausted by the end of it, thus the desire to be back in my own house, sleeping in my own bed, away from the mundane nuances of everyday life in London.

Aside from that, my other urgent reasons were the weddings of two of my closest friends. The funny thing, however, is that one got married at the start of August, and the other on the first week of September. Almost exactly one month apart. So that meant, they forced my vacation at home to extend to the length that it did. Almost a full six weeks! That forced me to decline some invitations from my friends to travel with them during the summer break, something that I would’ve loved to do.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I was sorry for having spent that much time back home. It was great to be back hanging out with friends and family. And how so much have changed. People getting married, having babies, new jobs… I shouldn’t be surprised since the last time I was on vacation in the Philippines was last Christmas (excepting the “one night only” incident of flying in for another close friend’s wedding).

So this is what my summer vacation was like. Crazy fun. Two weddings, a side trip to Macau (pictures of which I’ve previously uploaded), two premiere nights, an insane party, one couchsurfer, two new godsons, dozens of new friends, and reconnections with many treasured ones.

*Oooh, thanks to my friends who gave me copies of their pictures, some of which are in this album (thanks Mark, Olive & Chelle).

 

 

Last year, desperate to grab the first chance to step on French soil, I took the long way en route to visiting my Mom. This was back in May during the spring bank holiday. We didn’t have a class that Friday and I didn’t need to be back at school until Tuesday, so I decided to fly to Paris and from there take the night train to Bologna (which was also a first) to see my Mom.

Aside from seeing the Eiffel Tower (typical?) and watching the French Open, the trip was on the whole underwhelming, though by no means Paris’s fault. After all, I was only there for 25 hours, which simply wasn’t enough. The dearth of interesting pictures from the trip is proof of that (due in part to the fact that I couldn’t find a shop that sold a 35mm roll of film! I was incredulous at this new order of things. There wasn’t any film being sold within the 1km radius of the most visited paid monument in the world.)

At the very least, that stopover only whet my appetite for a full, genuine Parisian experience the next time the opportunity presents itself.

Our last two days saw us traveling back to where we started as our return flight to London was also to leave from Marrakech. We kind of hesitated whether or not it was worth getting off Casablanca since our research told us that there really wasn’t much to see there. Initially, we had intended to get off there on our way to Fes, but our train ticket didn’t allow for it. In the end, we decided to stop over on our return to Marrakech.I’m glad we did. Thanks to our guide books (I bought a DK Eyewitness Travel, which was quite good!), we were able to decide on where we’d have lunch and which sights we were going to see. I lobbied for a visit to the Hassan II Mosque. It is the second largest religious building in the world and I also read that it is the only mosque in Morocco that allowed tourists to go in.

We arrived in Casablanca just in time for lunch and with just enough time to taxi to the mosque and catch the guided tour. Casablanca itself, aside from its antiquated popularity brought on by the Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman film, is really not much of a draw. It’s the country’s financial capital (comparable to our Makati), but it doesn’t really look impressively modern. Nevertheless, I was mighty glad we made that stop. The mosque was simply breathtaking and on its own made that layover worthwhile.

After two days in Marrakech, we woke up early the next day to catch the train to Fes. I’ve always loved train rides so I actually looked forward to it even though we were effectively ‘wasting’ our day just traveling to Fes.There is a robust rivalry that exists between Fes and Marrakech. We first learned about it from one of our taxi drivers in Marrakech, but even if he hadn’t mentioned it, we were bound to find out. When we got to Fes, the tour guides and locals we met often boasted of the bounties and beauty of Fes, almost always at the expense of Marrakech. In many ways, though, I have to admit it was well deserved.

Off the bat, Fes struck me as more conservative compared to Marrakech. Perhaps it was partly due to its repute as the spiritual or religious capital of Morocco. Also, people here spoke less English compared to the people in Marrakech.

Unfortunately, we only had a day to experience the entire city, which was evidently ludicrous. We arrived there at night and had to leave two mornings after. With Marrakech, I felt like I’ve become friends with. With Fes, I felt like I was merely introduced. Fes is so rich with culture and mystery that I’ve already resolved to come back to get to know her better.

Not like I needed any more convincing. Morocco had me at hello.

Africa had always been a place I wanted to visit (along with South America). I was never interested in going to the US or Australia, but I promised myself Africa. During the spring break before this current summer term, I decided to not go home and stay put in London to see more of the city. That, of course, didn’t happen as I ended up spending half the time somewhere else.

Duke and Carol had mentioned their plan to go to Morocco to me sometime before. With no definite plans for my holiday, I decided to invite myself to their vacation. Buti na lang, mabait ang Bajentings 🙂 Aside from buying myself roundtrip tickets to Marrakech, I left everything up to Duke & Carol. Tisay, another close Pinay friend here in London, told me how much she loved Morocco and shared insights on what we could do on our trip. She suggested that we stay in a riyadh and even offered me her contacts (which I then forwarded to Carol, the lazy oaf that I am).

We flew to Morocco during the Easter holiday. Duke and Carol took the early flight to Marrakech while I decided to take the afternoon flight so I’d have time to submit my make-or-break paper requirement in school. As usual, I was sleepless the night before I flying. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get a wink of sleep on the plane ride to Marrakech. It was just too exciting, and I didn’t even know why. I knew so little about Morocco that I couldn’t help but ask the man sitting beside me on the plane what Morocco was like. He was an English businessman who’s been there a couple of times before. He simply said the country was ‘something.’

I first stepped on African soil late afternoon of April 7. It only took a whiff of Moroccan air to experience for myself the enigma of this country. It truly was something.

My now Dubai-based great friend Laida linked this blog entry in her postrecently. I liked it cause it provoked me to think, especially since I’ve always loved traveling and I’ve been having a fair share of it lately.Ako? Hindi. I was never a backpacker and never will be one, I think. I can be pretty koboy (cowboy) if needed, but I wouldn’t easily give up comforts if it is accessible and affordable naman. I don’t find shame in admitting I like taking photos, but despite being touristy in that sense, I revel in the interaction with the locals and being shown around by one. That’s the immersion I crave and aspire for in each of my travels – which, if the article is to believe, is surprisingly not present in the backpacking culture after all (at least not always).

What Babakoto (the blog owners) says in the article is that ‘backpackers’ don’t refer to what it used to anymore. The term, and its accompanying identifiers (i.e., among other things, the backpack) has come to mean a superficial lifestyle detached from the simpler meaning it used to have – that they are people who travel with their backpacks in search of adventures and in pursuit of unplanned experiences.

“Backpackers” now refer to a community of people with a particular look, custom and conduct. (Babakoto writes about this in detail. Take time to read it, it’s an entertaining observational account). Let me say early on that I take exception to that (and the coming) generalization. Nevertheless, based on my encounters, I do tend to agree with most of what was written. That description tends to be true for most Western backpackers I’ve come across in most of my trips, though they are admittedly far less annoying than the average tourist-tourist. I’m particularly peeved when the latter (the tourist-tourists) make no effort to speak the language, speaking louder in their same un-understandable English when lost in translation, and act as if they’re clients with the locals providing services. I have to say that most backpackers do behave better than that, though not always less colonially.

Even more interesting to me is that it’s also true for many Pinoy backpackers I’ve encountered. Ilang beses na nakakasabay ko sa mga local biyahe ko yung backpackers na alam na alam yung pupuntahan nila. They have inside knowledge of the locale: the language, customs, where to go, eat, drink, and snatch the best quality drugs. They too find satisfaction in not being the average bakasyonista (vacationer). They’ve been here before, or at the very least, they’re not here for shallow reasons like seeing tourist attractions. They do shun the cursory trip to the hanging coffins, Chocolate Hills, henna tattoo stall or Burnham Park. Yet frequently, they are still regarded as outsiders. A much friendlier bunch who discriminate less, perhaps, but outsiders nonetheless. In the article, Babakoto wrote:

“…in the unfortunate situation that (they) have to take a local bus, (they) seclude (themselves) as much as possible from the local people by wearing (their) Rayban sunglasses and putting the earphones of (their) iPod in (their) ears. Subsequently (they) sink unashamed in (their) seat, and put (their) feet with coal black soles, at the arm rest of the seat in front of (them).”

It’s funny because that image is so vivid, whether talking about foreign or local backpackers. It is this lack of discretion, however welcomed and knowledgeable about the locals the backpacker is, that makes him no different from the average tourist. The fact that he stands out makes him an outsider, and the sad part of it is however he thinks otherwise, he still is.

All this, of course, is arguable. One might also say that my agreement with the article is a reaction to non-inclusion, especially since there seems to be an existing condescension backpackers have toward other kinds of travelers. However, I find validity infered by the Babakoto article. It is indeed curious that while backpackers celebrate the value of travel and discovery, it seems quite ironic that they make great effort in maintaining exclusivity and the subscription to an image, to the extent that they often miss out on an undeniably important aspect of travel: the ‘nuanced understanding’ of cultures, places, and people previously unknown.

Once I took an online quiz once which concluded that I’m a ‘leisure traveler.’ I suppose that’s true. Di ako backpacker-cool! I don’t belong to that community. Pero okay lang naman.

That’s not to say that I’m any better, but I do aspire for experiences that transcend that of an outsider. I don’t always succeed. In fact, often times, I fail miserably. After all, it’s hard not getting overwhelmed by sights, sounds and people that confront you for the first time. I remember how in Camiguin, we befriended a local who owned a very modest videoke-bar-sari-sari store. We kept coming back to her place to drink and enjoy the videoke. We truly felt welcome and liked. By that virtue, one could think that he’s a cut better than the average turista, but all we truly were was an inconvenience – keeping her up past her normal closing (and sleeping) time. However she enjoyed our singing and genial gestures, we were outsiders and her time with us was a an aberration in her life.

What I can say is I definitely try to transcend being an outsider and find fulfillment in a genuine immersion. On another occasion naman, while sharing bottles of beer with our tour guides in Batanes, I remember them telling me and my friends:

“E iba naman kayo, syempre. Quality tourists kayo e.”

Quality nga, tourists pa rin! And there I thought we were being backpacker-ish na. Still, I guess that’s a step closer to the kind of interaction I aspire for. What I’m really saying is that being a backpacker does not guarantee that you’re better than an average tourist – not in that respect. It doesn’t really matter how you prefer to go about your journeys, but it would sure be great if however you do it, you come out changed and inspired by it. That’s the one aspect that doesn’t always survive in all of it e. Whether it changes you by galvanizing you to change something in the community you visit or the one you belong to, making you less of a bigot, or simply making you more understanding of those who are, what would be most ideal is that you change. Otherwise, we squander the privilege travel affords – connecting with and learning from people and experiences.

I’ve always been proud of my house because it successfully evolved into a genuine home. It feels lived in and comfortable. It reflects my personality and makes me feel safe. If I were to share my thoughts on being a home owner, I’d say those are the things one should strive for more than the aesthetics.When I went home last Christmas, Ais asked me if it would be possible for them to feature the house in her show. How on earth could I refuse my travel-birthday-buddy cum interior designer? 🙂 Naturally, I texted her a big ‘Yes!’ My only apprehension was that the house might not be dressed up for television. It was to be her first feature role on TV (her TV debut came a few months earlier, when Proudly Filipina used my house as a set for spiels and their interview with Agot). Aissa’s crew came over in the afternoon (of my birthday) when my house is at its glorious best. They shot this episode of HOUSE LIFE hosted by Tessa Prieto-Valdez and aired it on January 5, 2009. The stunning segment host you’ll see in the clip below is my good, great friend, Aissa Gonzalez.

I miss being home. More so now because it’s spring break and I’m supposed to be relaxing and recharging, yet much as I love my little room here on Bravington Road, it’s a far cry from Tierra de la Torre (the nickname I’ve dubbed my house – I’m schmaltzy that way). I miss my bed, lutong bahay, the warm sunshine through my bedroom windows, the cool afternoon breeze in the balcony, my DVDs, my books, the cool wooden floors of my room, the cool Vigan tiles, my car, and Tita Heide’s reliable company.

Aissa put it best: It’s my little oasis in the city.

Pardon the self-indulgence… Couldn’t resist sharing my dear, dear friend’s wedding to her dear, dear man. Ended up taking loads of pictures (the ones here aren’t even half of it) as an attempt to maximize my one night only visit back home.I’m glad to be part of this celebration. Teta’s the first to wed among theCouncil, and I just couldn’t fathom the idea of not being there to celebrate the happiest day of her life. She kicks off a year of weddings in the barkada… Lex & Pat, and Concep & Dodie, and quite possibly, Joni & Poch within the coming months.

The funnest part was GENUINELY surprising Kristel. I managed to successfully keep my attendance a secret… The sad part was it only made me miss home more. I kept hoping I didn’t have to fly back so soon. Oh, and that yet again, we failed to complete the Council (miss you Jean!).

After the wedding, we left the couple to enjoy consummating their marriage (we’re all pretending it’s their first carnal encounter, hehe)… while the rest of the Council and our entourage continued the celebrations at Red Box. Sabi nga ni Kristel, I went home for her wedding, and karaoke. Haha!

Congrats and best wishes, Aberillas! Teta, I love you so, so much! Thanks to the Council and their better halves. Thanks to my beloved Batch Sherlyn for sleeping over and Norms for watching You Changed My Life (again) with me, and to both for having breakfast with me at Tierra de la Torre. Lex, can’t wait to come back home for you!

The last term had been unbelievably hectic for me that it took me quite a while before I was able to relish the fact that I have been given the Box Office Entertainment screenwriting award from the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Foundation. I was actually in class last March 13 when messages from friends started pouring in congratulating me after they heard the news on TV. I haven’t even seen an episode of SNN (Showbiz News Ngayon or Showbiz News Now – the Pinoy E! News) until my cousin Grace forwarded me the link to the following video (zip forward to 04.18s for the actual announcement!)

The first time I ever skirted an award was back in 2007, when the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) nominated me and my co-writers Van and Carmi for our YOU ARE THE ONE screenplay. I knew we wouldn’t win since we were up against the likes of Direk Joey Reyes who was also nominated for Kasal Kasali Kasalo. Nevertheless, I decided to attend the ceremony. I figured it might be the only chance I’ll have to be nominated for an award. That wasn’t a self-deprecating thought. At that point, Star Cinema had been relegating me to romance-comedies and frankly, that’s not usually the route that leads you to an acceptance speech.

I also wanted to go since Direk Cathy said she was attending. It was also her first time to be nominated, you see, so we were both quite excited at the thought of experiencing what it was like. On the day of the 2007 Star Awards for Movies, my good friend Norman graciously agreed to attend the ceremony at the UP Theater with me. We were actually late as Laida and I met up in Town Center earlier. She even helped me pick out the purple outfit I wore to the event, since I didn’t have time go home and change.

It was an extraordinary experience attending that. It felt to me like my membership in the mainstream filmmaking community had somehow been legitimized. Prior to that, I had only moved within the back rooms of Star Cinema, Cinemalaya and a small corner of the independent movement. Norms and I soaked up the unique privilege of seeing so many people from the industry in one place. We were amused by the kind of characters they were, how they spoke, how they moved, and how an awarding ceremony was like. When the event finally ended, we took pictures for posterity.

With this recent award, I have to say that I did have an inkling that it might come. Or maybe, ‘I hoped it would’ puts it more accurately. A VERY SPECIAL LOVE was the Nth incarnation of a story I wrote for John Lloyd and Sarah whose working title was “If The Shoe Fits.” I kinda knew I was on to something special because it was instantly approved when I first pitched it. I enjoyed writing the script so much that I felt its huge potential to be a blockbuster early on. The big bosses’ reaction to the script confirmed that too. Knowing that it would be helmed by my long-time collaborator Direk Cathy whose metier was the rom-com also assured me of its success.

That’s why I also felt really bad that I was going to miss the shoot for A VERY SPECIAL LOVE. I had already moved to London by the time they started that I didn’t get to go to any shooting day. I usually try to be on location as often as I can because it’s a great opportunity to learn and feel all glitzy, what with popular stars within arm’s length. This was a particularly special case, however, because as I’ve written before, AVSL was to be my first time to be credited as a solo writer.

A VERY SPECIAL LOVE eventually realized all the hopes and expectations I and Star Cinema had for it. It broke box office records to become the third highest grossing local movie of all time. Its sequel, YOU CHANGED MY LIFE, eventually became THE highest grossing local movie ever.

I was familiar with the awards from the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Foundation, but I also knew that our film faced tough competition from another Star Cinema film. I used to excitedly think about the prospect of AVSL winning all the Box Office Entertainment awards, but since it was becoming more and more likely that we wouldn’t, I honestly forgot about it. I guess it helped that I was preoccupied with school work.

Thus the utter surprise when texts about the award came. Soon, Facebook messages from friends also came in (thanks to Norms, Batch Sherlyn, Kristel, Ritz, Kris B, Tia, Mars, Rosa, JDV, Natz, Joyce, Mahal, Thesa, Shi, Peachy, Concep, Aimee, Jacque, Caye, and RR). My friend Lara who is based in Japan and the namesake of Sarah Geronimo’s character in the movie even saw the SNN episode on TFC.

I am finally starting to wrap my mind around the idea that I have just received my FIRST award as a screenwright. The ecstasy is slowly creeping in as well, especially since it’s spring break and there’s really nothing much to do here but think about what has been happening in the world while I’ve been recluse at LFS.

Perhaps, even more exciting for me now, is finding out that A VERY SPECIAL LOVE also reaped nominations from THIS year’s STAR AWARDS for Movies, comprised of movie, director, movie actor, cinematographer, editor, production designer, musical scorer, sound engineer and…! Original movie screenplay of the year 🙂

The prospect of winning is, to be quite honest, exhilarating. I’m not even going to hazard an estimate of my chances. I just want to enjoy and share this excitement with my friends! After all, what really makes me happy is when I get acknowledgment from the people who matter to me 🙂

Once you’ve been tagged, write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.Choose 25 people to be tagged, including those who tagged you.

Lemme just say that this is really hard. I blog about myself so much I think I’m running out of new interesting things to say about myself. That’s why a lot of what I write here I ripped off from those who tagged me 🙂

***

1. Despite vowing to learn how to cook here in London, I now survive on meals out and microwave meals (I am eating one right now e, hehe). I am therefore renewing my vow to cook for when I settle back in the Philippines. I promise to make use of my show kitchen na.

2. I make bad first impressions. I’m extremely shy and insecure with strangers, which for some reason leads people to think I’m aloof. It takes a while before I warm up new acquaintances, but I eventually do. I’ve become really close friends with lots of people who first hated me when they first met me.

3. I’m allergic to seafood (especially shell fish). Ironically, my mom craved for talangka (small crabs) during her pregnancy.

4. I’m godfather to so many kids, I’ve lost count. My first godson was my cousin. I was just 3 years old then. I don’t know why the priest allowed that but it was legit. My name was on my cousin’s baptismal certificate. With the others, it was because I was often the alternative to my Dad, who used to be the mayor of his hometown. They either couldn’t get hold of my dad or already had him as a principal sponsor in their weddings, so they I was the next choice for their child’s godfather. Honestly, I’ve lost track of them. I don’t think I’m exaggerating in estimating I’ve more than 50 godsons & goddaughters. My close friends need not worry though… yung inaanak ko nang may isip na ko, I remember very well 🙂

5. Asked to choose between being deaf, mute, or blind, I’d choose to be mute. That’s not an informed decision ha. I reserve the right to change my mind on that.

6. I enjoy road trips with friends and cousins, especially them spontaneous ones. I particularly love it when the company I have stay up with me (singing along songs or having tired conversations of the same things).

7. I NEVER say no to videoke (that’s ‘karaoke’ to those not from the Philippines).

8. Generally, I’d rather sleep than eat. Takaw-tulog ako. I can sleep 14 hours straight, although I also stay up long hours. I’ve always said that it would be perfect if days had 36 hours in them, cause I’m comfortable staying up 24 hours straight, but also need half a day to recharge.

9. I’m more sentimental than I care to admit. I can cry watching movies and MMK episodes, listening to country songs, and reading novels.

10. Sometimes, I wake myself up crying because of a dream, then fall back to sleep again. Just last night, I woke myself up laughing. As in, I was chuckling out loud.

11. I love the outdoors. I’m very physically active, and able, but not really very fit. How to explain that? Hmmm… Imagine this: I’d be sprinting all over one moment, outrunning everyone, working all the muscles in my body, being all flexible, strong and impressive. And then my muscles would be cramping for minutes.

12. I don’t think I ever regretted anything in my life. That sounds like I’m waxing philosophical, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I really think there isn’t any. Many things in my life didn’t go according to plan, choices I made that weren’t the best or the right one after all, but I always survive them and get changed by them, and often in a good way (so I’d like to think). Like when I studied law. Someone told me that I could’ve started my movie career much earlier if I hadn’t, but then I wouldn’t have met three of my closest friends and go to that Fellowship program in Singapore. I hope that qualifies me as a glass-half-full kinda guy.

13. I get embarrassed by people embarrassing themselves. I have to turn away, close my eyes, block my ears, turn the TV off, or flee the room altogether.

14. Writing isn’t something I particularly like. I kinda just stumbled upon it. I was never the go-to scriptwriter (or director, for that matter) back in high school and college. The only reason I worked and trained as a writer in a film company is because it was the only opening available when I was looking for a job (after filing for my leave in Law School).

15. I was in Law school for one year and half a sem. I filed for LOA a few weeks after midterms. Until now, I don’t think Tia, my seatmate and close friend, has forgiven me for my abrupt decision.

16. I’m an only child with a million cousins and friends.

17. I realize I don’t have a singular, definitive, personal hero, the way others look up to Barack Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, or Tony Meloto (or whoever). I really admire them and aspire for lofty goals like what they’ve achieved, but also feel distant (detached?) from them. I’m more inclined to look up to friends or people I know or with whom I have access. The good thing about that is it releases me from inhibitions in setting goals. It inspires me to just work hard and expect a pay off because I have ordinary people like me for paragon.

18. Picking up from 17… my parents are significantly flawed individuals, but I take a lot after them and I’m mighty proud of them.

19. My sensibilities are extremely pop, and that embarrasses me to no end. It was only in college when my taste evolved and occasionally went off the middle of the road – thanks to cooler and more sophisticated friends. Naks!

20. I’ve been told that I was a Viennese poet who wrote sonnets in my past life.

21. Nothing disappoints me more than friends disappointing me. I’m really patient with friends, because I know I require a lot of patience. My loyalty’s rock solid, but the trust I repose is fragile.

22. I am thinking of adopting a child within the next coupla years.

23. Over the years, I’ve owned and lost 4 Nokia 8910’s; a couple more mobile phones of various models; a Pentax camera; dozens of wallets, spectacles and sunglasses; 3 ipods; a Mac powerbook; and my Rav 4. My Rav 4 was stolen when I was still living in Katipunan, and my laptop was in it (among many other things).

24. I have never been on a date. There might have been occasions when I did but didn’t know that I was in one.

25. I sign my signature upside down – and that’s really because my Mom has a propensity for forgery.

In eighteen years. EIGHTEEN YEARS!

An extreme weather event.

Where I live, it’s -3ºC here in Maida Vale. Generally 1º in Central London. Winds up to 9mph.

All bus services are suspended. Major delays and suspension of certain parts of the underground.

Freezing temperatures with snow the heaviest and worst it’s been in nearly two decades.

Well and good if I had nothing to do for the day. I’d probably stay in, snuggle, then go out and frolic in winter wonderland outside later on. It’s something else when you have to walk to the tube or bus station to get to school.

I imagine this to be akin to the irksome floods during or after heavy downpours there back home. The only difference is, knowing the streets so well, I’d probably find myself a way around the flooded areas.

Here, I don’t have personal means of transport. Snow is everywhere, not just where the drainage and the sewage system are crap. Worst of all, it is literally FREEZING. Arguably, that’s worse than being wet. Maybe not, since with snow, you manage to stay dry. Then again, at least in the Philippines, the temperatures never reach the negatives.

BBC’s Breakfast advises that we forget about the internet today as hopes of getting updates on the transport situation are dashed by the heavy traffic. As expected, since everyone’s eager to find alternatives to their usual routes to school and work.

Friends will have to bear with me. The wonder of seeing snow has yet to wear off. Though right now, I really wish I was at home (and not have to go to school).

It was Sunday, my fifth day in Italy, and Mom had scheduled another trip.

Frankly, I was already exhausted by then. This was to be our third straight day of sight seeing and I haven’t really had enough rest from the preceding two days. It was, however, Roma. Where the Vatican was. One of the most ancient cities in the world. Perhaps it’s most historically preserved.

I could’ve asked for a day of respite, but I wouldn’t pass up on the opportunity to hear Sunday mass at heart of the Catholic faith now, would I? Besides, my Mom had deftly orchestrated it so she could grant me my request to hear mass in Rome, which I remember now as the only specific thing I asked from her.

And so in spite of stiff calves and travel-weary souls, we ditched the car and took the train to la capitale di Italia.

Rome was… overwhelming. I believe it’s a city that will exceed anyone’s expectation. Every corner was worth exploring, every street seemed to be a trove of historical treasures. A few hours there was enough to make a mark on you, but not nearly enough for to give justice to your visit. I vowed to return and just get carelessly lost in this intricate and fascinating city.

After a being pleasantly saturated by Italy the previous days, my Mom and I decided to rest on my sixth day in Italy. That gave us renewed energy for the following day, when Luigi decided to take me across the Italian border to the Lugano, a lovely, quiet town in Switzerland. I would’ve wanted to explore more of Italy but Luigi wanted me to see another country.Lugano is perhaps not uniquely representative of the Swiss culture. Being so close to Italy, it is significantly influenced by its southern neighbor. For one, many people here speaks Italian as well. Nevertheless, the difference between Lugano and the towns and cities of Italy are notable. Lugano felt… calmer. Then again, anything put beside anything Italian would always look calmer! (I do say that with much affection Ü ). Besides, it was refreshing to see the Alps and be introduced to Switzerland.

After having lunch and roaming the streets of Lugano, we took a short drive back to Italia and in a couple of hours found ourselves at the fashion capital of the world, Milano.

Though it is richest city in the most developed region of Italy, Milano paled a bit in comparison to the other cities I’ve been – not that I’ve been to so many or explored them extensively. Based on what I’ve read and my Mom and Luigi’s impression of this city, what makes Milan alluring is really the posh and modern lifestyle of its dwellers. It is therefore more urban than the most of Italy, and in that sense, it is a lot like London.

My mom, as expected, took me to the most iconic of Milano’s tourist stops. The Duomo. Just long enough for a picture, actually. I didn’t even get to go inside. We actually spent a longer time in the LV shop on Via Montenapoleone (where my Mom bought me an iPhone case to remember Milano by – so no complaints).

I chalked it up as another teaser and promised to go back. Then it was back to good ol’ Bologna.

I spent a total of ten days in Italy. As my stay there came to a close, I spent most of it in Bologna, where it all began.My Mom and I spent New Year’s eve at her place. She actually managed to squeeze in some work in the day, leaving me in her apartment to sleep in and catch some much needed rest. I woke up in the afternoon but went immediately back to bed after having a terrible migraine attack (a nasty prelude to something great).

Later that evening, my mom and I had dinner, a pretty uneventful New Year’s eve celebration. She was in bed by 9PM, and I spent the rest of the night surfing the net. I took a shower 15 minutes before midnight, just in time to dress in some decent clothes and wake my mom up to greet her a happy new year. She woke up, returned my greeting with a kiss, and fell right back to sleep. For my part, I slipped back into my pyjamas and hit the sack.

The following day, I realized why I had that migraine. I woke up with everything blanketed in snow.

My first white Christmas!

It totally compensated for the lackluster night previous 🙂

We then visited Santuario di Madonna di San Luca in the afternoon, had a coffee date with Tita Lina (Mom’s best friend) in the evening, and was treated to dinner and a movie (Natale in Rio) by Luca later still that night.

I left in the afternoon the following day, January 2.

It was tiring indeed, but oh-so-worth it. I couldn’t have thought up a better way of saying goodbye to Bologna, and the rest of Italia.

Here’s an absorbed, albeit very long conversation I had with Chrissie.I read the book and she watched the film, and this discussion sprung from it. I thought it was worth sharing, especially to those who have similar or contrasting thoughts about the story. I just think it’s mighty precious when something stirs you up the way this story did me and Chrissie, though you probably will have to have an insight on topic for you to appreciate this.

Warning to those who haven’t seen or read Revolutionary Road. The following transcript contains materials which might be considered spoilers 🙂

rzfdtwr
Btw, I finished RRoad last night
My off hand thought right now is that it’s mighty hard to make this into a film.

Chrissie
“finished”?
YOU WATCHED IT OFF THE INTERNET NO?

rzfdtwr
NO!

Chrissie
OH THE BOOK YOU MEAN
It’s like the most depressing thing ever no?
How’d you find the book?

rzfdtwr
Haha, well, I thoroughly enjoyed it. If enjoy can be even be said.
I’m so impressed by Yates. Ang galing nya magsulat. And I”m not just jumping on the bandwagon here. Sobrang galing nya mag articulate ng thoughts, considering how internal so much of this story is.

Chrissie
I can’t chime in because I haven’t read it. Hehe.
Well ni-thank naman ni Kate sa Yates sa kanyang speech. Haha.

rzfdtwr
And these characters, they’re so vivid on paper!

Chrissie
Totoo?

rzfdtwr
I loved it, but like I said, I imagine it to be mighty hard to translate into film.

Chrissie
Well, hindi ko tuloy majudge ang performances ni Kate and Leo … if they gave justice to the characters. But they were both so … hatable and likeable at the same time.

rzfdtwr
Kasi nga, I find it so internal, the setting so bleak and unfilmic. Feeling ko nga, if not for the fact na it’s a period piece, malamang, ang boring nito on film e.

Chrissie
Eh diba specialty ni Mendes ang suburbian setting?

rzfdtwr
Kasi it’s all house, office, occasional bars, ganyan.

Chrissie
So looks-wise, its very pretty and polished.

rzfdtwr
Haha, yeah… but even the story’s not that colorful kasi.

Chrissie
Exactly.

rzfdtwr
It’s so domestic, TOO much even.

Chrissie
Ang monotone ng story.

rzfdtwr
Di katulad ng Am Beauty. The characters at least are more quirky.

Chrissie
It’s like one whole movie about the disintegration of a marriage. Walang mga peaks and lows. Puro lows.

rzfdtwr
And even the turn of events. Dito, sobrang real lang talaga. There’s the point of admiration.

Chrissie
When you see the movie, we’ll have this discussion again. Kasi magkaiba tayo ng perspectives from which we are judging RR.
Well, you know na how I feel about the movie.
I didn’t LOVE it

rzfdtwr
I LOVE the book. But now pa lang, I can already safely say na making a movie out of this might not be a great idea.
At least, not in the context of a Kate-Leo-Sam movie.

Chrissie
feeling ko lang talaga naghanap sila ng performance movie, alam mo yon?

rzfdtwr
Shempre there’s that whole business of a long awaited reunion di ba.

Chrissie
Like “let’s see, what would be the total opposite of titanic? where we can show off our acting chops?”

rzfdtwr
If for that, yes. I guess that justifies it. Cause yeah, these characters are so layered and complex.

Chrissie
Despicable ba si Frank Wheeler sa book?

rzfdtwr
Hmmm… Not exactly. They’re both neurotic e.
Pathetic is more like it, sa book.
Kasi, he has aspirations, pero it is just revealed that he’s nowhere near his delusions of himself.

Chrissie
Kasi I couldn’t bring myself to despise him sa movie. Hahaha.
Sobrang naawa ako sa kanya.
And kay April. Pero foul talaga ang ginawa nya sa end.

rzfdtwr
Hmmm… Sa book, hindi foul.

Chrissie
Si April?

rzfdtwr
At least in my opinion. I think, they’re victims of their complexities.
Kasi ang coward ni Frank. Si April naman, ang lofty ng demands.
Though they both fed each other those things.
Shet, I feel so scholarly discussing this, hahahaha…

Chrissie
Hahaha.

rzfdtwr
But anyway, that’s my take on it.

Chrissie
It’s almost like I had to pick a side.

rzfdtwr
You can’t help but e.
You’ll really try.

Chrissie
But they both make good points.
Pero natamaan ako sa sinabi ni April
NAKS.

rzfdtwr
Which?

Chrissie
Kasi tama naman si Frank na, “I have the backbone to not run away from my responsibilities…” chorva.
Pero nung sinabi ni April na “It takes backbone to lead the life you want”, sobrang natamaan ako.
HAHAHA.

rzfdtwr
But you know what, the truth is, it’s as much for him as for her.

Chrissie
I know.

rzfdtwr
And he what he fails to embrace is the fact na there is cowardice playing into the whole dynamics. Tapos, his refusal to acknowledge it, parang pride na hindi.
But whatever it is, the end result is, he ends up compounding the problem by leading April on with false hopes.
ON her part kasi, she thinks he just needs the space, the push, taking his time. E hindi naman pala.
So may treachery, kung tutuusin.
She naman can’t find the compassion to see how demanding it all is.
And siguro nga, she’s being a bit selfish not giving him the least credit he deserves man lang.

Chrissie
Wow, treachery.
I think she was super selfish.

rzfdtwr
But then, it’s chicken and egg. You don’t know who started it all.
Isipin mo ha, he lulled her in with a promise of all this.
Then when it degenerates, he doesn’t man up naman.

Chrissie
Maganda ang to follow your dreams, pero if you have kids and all na … parang you have to adjust rin naman. Which is not to say you should abandon your dreams.

rzfdtwr
ZACTLY! Kasi, hindi naman impossible ang sinasabi ni April e.

Chrissie
Hindi nga.

rzfdtwr
Isipin mo, at the core of it is Frank’s insecurity kung may patutunguhan ba if ever yung ‘dream’ kuno. Kasi he doesn’t really have any thing concrete to aim for.

Chrissie
E kasi nga he’s the “man”! May presssure! If they go to Europe, April will work for the both of them. Haller, nakaka-emasculate.
Whereas if he stayed, e di may promotion pa sha. Haha.

rzfdtwr
Yeah… That’s her concession.
Ewan ko how it was in the movie, but here in the book, may factor kasi talaga na he presented himself a certain way to her e. SO alam mo yon, may false promise?

Chrissie
Ah, oo.

rzfdtwr
And not confronting it, and hiding from it (kasi nga ang emasculating), it’s him not being TRULY man enough.
Kasi di ba, as a couple, kung talagang walang hope na pala yon dahil sa di mo kaya… sabihin mo na lang.
Cause in the end, you just end up leading her on all the more. She’ll never abandon that desire or hope.

Chrissie
Hehe. Oo.

rzfdtwr
Even si Frank e. It’s, sige, let’s POSTPONE. Not really, ‘di ko na yan kaya e.’

Chrissie
Both naman sila at fault.
I guess I just felt for Frank more.

rzfdtwr
Yeah, I can see why. And I did feel for him too.

Chrissie
Kasi … I don’t like it if you just give up. “Give up”, because things didn’t go your way.

rzfdtwr
Pero naisip ko lang, he never did try to solve the core problem of that situation.

Chrissie
Hindi ko alam if the dialogue is the same sa movie though.
Feeling ko kasi walang mas hurtful to a guy than saying na he’s “not a man”. And April would say that to Frank a LOT of times.

rzfdtwr
Hmmm… that part in the trailer where he says, he didn’t run from his responsibility, wala sa book yon.

Chrissie
TOTOO?

rzfdtwr
Hmm, no. Not that way.

Chrissie
Yun kasi ang dating sa akin ni Frank. Like, he’s weak and all but he’s trying.

rzfdtwr
Ahhh… Yes, I see why you see that.
Me naman, ang nakikita ko there is a misplaced sense of what’s strong and not. Parang, to be really strong, you’d own up and set things right for the whole family.
And that includes calibrating their expectations especially if it’s starting to corrode the foundations na. The fact that they continue to go by expectations set long before and you’ve long abandoned pala, as head of the family.

Chrissie
So you’re saying na the shit would not have gone down if Frank had just said from the start na “I don’t want to go to Paris”

rzfdtwr
Yeah, because the truth is, he didn’t. At least sa book, yun ang nadeduce ko.

Chrissie
E kasi naman si April eh.

rzfdtwr
HAHAHA

Chrissie
Parang … how can you say ‘no’ to her?
Alam mo yon?

rzfdtwr
True, true… Pero yun nga e, chicken and egg. He never set her in her proper place kasi.

Chrissie
Shempre you want to make her happy and she had so much hope and happiness when she broached the subject. And I think Frank REALLY did want to do it.
Like, “Game, let’s do this!”

rzfdtwr
Yun na nga… ang pleaser nya.
And in the end, he makes false promises he never really truly felt he can live up to.

Chrissie
Tapos later on nag-flip-flop na sha

rzfdtwr
There I think therein lies his biggest mistake.
For her naman, I just think she’s a tough nut. Her ways, ganyan.
Pero, I’m not sure she can be blamed, because that’s precisely what Frank fell in love with sa kanya.

Chrissie
She’s mejo … not motherly.
And hindi sha compassionate.
Like, she’s compassionate when it’s convenient for her.

rzfdtwr
But the difference is this: She never wanted to be in that setup with a child. Na may anak, I mean. And she was honest about it.
And even wanted to do something about it (I’m not moralizing here a…)

Chrissie
But what did she want them to do about it? Get rid of the kids? E nanjan na yan eh

rzfdtwr
Hmmm…I’m not naman espousing abortion ano… pero in the context of their culture and society, that was an option.
Kumbaga, si Frank, nung nag-no sya, it’s not on moral grounds kasi.
Which would’ve been more acceptable.
I mean… dun, makikita na natin na maling match ito to begin with.

Chrissie
But I mean, yung moving to the city, having a second kid. It’s not like April did not have a hand in making those decision.
Tapos ngayon she’s saying na “OOPS, I hate this life pala.”
AY to the suburbs pala.
So si Frank parang, “Ah.. okay … sige…”Kamusta naman yon?

rzfdtwr
Sa book kasi, it’s more like, they settled into that life na because nothing was taking it to another place anyway. There was no move from Frank’s part, at any point, to revive plans that they’d take according to who they believed they were.
So dun mo nakikita all the more na Frank was really being a coward all that time. Na he was all talk but can’t really back his words up with real action.
And he kept playing at it, condescending and all while they lived on RRoad. SO that keeps the hope in April alive.
Kaya ang pungent ng false promise sa akin.

Chrissie
Hindi naman ganyan si Leo e
HAHAHA.

rzfdtwr
HAHAHAHAHAHA
So lumabas din.

Chrissie
Basta ang “vulnerable” kasi ni Leo.

rzfdtwr
Hahaha… you just can’t imagine Leo being all that.

Chrissie
Tapos ang galing ni Kate.
Kasi one minute I love her, tas the next, parang “ANOBA STOP BADGERING HIM!”
Dapat basahin ko siguro yung book.

rzfdtwr
While reading the book, I kept picturing their FACES! Grabe. Perfect sila!
But not because they’re weak and/or evil. But you just know na kayang kaya nila to.

Chrissie
Hahaha. Tapos when Leo cries, he cries like a little boy. Yung nagcu-crumple talaga yung face? Tapos hindi papogi at all.
Hindi sila papogi at paganda.

rzfdtwr
I can imagine that from the book. Saka that feeling of, hmmm… I’m all that, dun sa mga moments ni Frank when he’s starting to regain his sense of old self. It’s so Leo.

Chrissie
Basta, may part sa movie where Leo
ESTE Frank
tells April na “You love me, and that’s the point”
Tapos sabi ni April “No, that’s not the point. Because I LOATHE you..
GRABE. Sobrang naiyak si Leo
I mean, si Frank
HAHAHAHA

rzfdtwr
Hahaha… yeah, there’s that part in the book too. Pero abridged na ata yan.

Chrissie
Nainis ako kay Kate non.

rzfdtwr
Hahaha… me too.

Chrissie
Na parang “O, ba’t di mo na sha love? Because he won’t move you guys to Paris?!”
HAHAHA
OIST, teka mag-internet lecture na kami
SOrry to be abrupt. HAHA.

rzfdtwr
Hahahaha, sure. I can’t wait to watch the movie.

Chrissie
Let me know when you do! Yung performances nila ay worth the price of admission. Regardless of whether you like the movie or not. Haha.
So I guess Team April Wheeler ka. Hahaha.

rzfdtwr
Di naman.

Chrissie
Team Frank Wheeler ako.

rzfdtwr
Hahaha… Team Kate.

Chrissie
Or maybe Team Leo.

rzfdtwr
HAHAHAHAHA

Chrissie
HAHAHAHA

rzfdtwr
Osha. I’m posting this conversation in my blog, by the way, hahahaha… Seeya! Hi to Karkar

Chrissie
Hello rin daw sa iyo.

rzfdtwr
Go study!

 

And I guess it’s apparent that it’s really just two fans raving lengthily about their favorite actors, hiding behind the pretense of an informed, spirited discussion.

Let this simply serve as an indirect endorsement of the book and the film then 🙂

UPDATE:

This was taken in the evening of the European premiere of Revolutionary Road in Leicester Square. Kate & Leo themselves were there (without Sam Mendes) last Sunday (18.01.2009). As much as I’m tempted to lie and say that I did see them (no one will know any better anyway), the truth is mass finished at 7.30PM that when I got there, the red carpet entry was done.

Still, I consider it a personal milestone to be in the same country and breathing space at the same time as them two 🙂

Flew back home to the Philippines last December 6, 2008 to spend a couple of days there. Aside from some personal matters to attend to, my main reason was to catch a whiff of the holiday spirit, Pinoy style. Iba pa rin talaga ang Pasko sa Pinas, ika nga ng isang kanta.Despite not being more aggressive in inviting friends, I got to spend one night with them during the party at my house. And this time, I remembered to take pictures (though there were still some who left without snapshots). Thanks to Sherlyn for those, and thanks to my dear friends and family who braved the Christmas rush and terrible traffic to go to my house in QC. It was a great, fun night, I’m glad I got to celebrate Christmas, my homecoming, and my birthday with close friends. Sayang lang nakaalis na mommy ko non (she left the country two weeks before I arrived).

Here are some of the photos from the party, plus some on my birthday itself, when Aissa and her crew came over to shoot for her show.

I flew out of Manila on December 23 and arrived in Rome on the 24th. By the time my Mom and her friend Luigi met me at Bologna’s airport, it was already past noon.It was my first time to spend Christmas with my Mom in Italy. The hysteria of my homecoming in the Philippines didn’t prepare me for this immediately succeeding trip, and so I was quite in a daze when I got to my Mom’s house. I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until later that evening, when my excited mom drove me to Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore as an aperitivo for the Christmas Eve celebration. We walked along her favorite favorite streets (meaning, her favorite shops), and had hot chocolate in her favorite bar.

All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by everything Italian – the land, the people, the weather, the culture, the lifestyle, and my Mom blending ever so effortlessly in all of it. It’s so amusing to see her shaken out of it whenever my presence reminds her that unlike the mother, the son is a tourist.

Since we didn’t have big plans for Noche Buena, my mom offered to take me to a Christmas Eve mass. She called her best friend in Bologna, TIta Lina, and they attended the Christmas Mass with me. It was a big deal since my Mom herself proclaims that she doesn’t go to Mass (she insists she likes praying on her own – mas personal daw kasi). It was an added bonus to find out that the Mass was being celebrated in Tagalog. It seemed like the whole Filipino community of Bologna was in that church that night.

After that, Noche Buena was spent over a modest meal of sandwiches, but my Mom and I stayed up for a few hours talking as Christmas Day got off to a mellow start.

The next day, we woke up at noon and went to her friend Luigi’s house in the outskirts of Bologna. We celebrated a bona fide Italian Christmas with Luigi and his family.

Ahhh… La vita é bella 🙂

Buon Natale!

Italy celebrates the feast of Santo Stefano on December 26. Because it is an official holiday, families’ Christmas celebrations usually spill over to this day, but Luigi generously spent it driving and accompanying me and my Mom to the bewitching city of Venezia.I didn’t know what my itinerary was when I arrived in Italy (neither did my mom, I think), but the moment we stepped on Cannaregio, I immediately thought it will be impossible to top the charming islands that comprise Veneto’s capital.

Despite it being a holiday, there were many tourists that day, but not annoyingly so. In fact, it was a lovely day to be walking the streets and exploring the canals of Venice as it was both sunny and cool, busy but not crazy, the shops closed, but the place not empty. It was indeed a charming contradiction of the old and commercial. I promised myself I’d go back and spend a few more days and nights there – hopefully, to celebrate Carnevale as well 🙂

(You may have to click on the picture to enlarge it if you’re interested in reading it though.)

GROWING UP TO GROWN UP

 

My first semester in UP, I remember how one of my blockmates was reprimanded in Comm 1 class for her wrong grammar, and how we were then sternly reminded that we ought to speak in proper English. E nung hayskul pa naman, ‘I spoke medyo mixed, like ganito.’ Taglish kumbaga. Shet, ibang level to!

A couple of meetings after, we had to write an essay on adolescence. To make matters worse, our professor, Neil Garcia, required us to read our essays in front of the class. When my turn came, I stood in front, shaking. It wasn’t simply nerves as I’ve spoken in public countless times before. I think I was terrified they’d judge me on my thoughts on the subject. As evinced by the same tentativeness in my Taglish, I realized that before college – before UP – I had reached puberty without really growing up.


Baduy Day in Neil Garcia’s class. The same spot where I stood in front of the class,
trembling uncontrollably as I read them my essay on adolesence.


Note the distinction between UP and college. In my mind, UP is unlike other colleges. It’s the microcosm of Philippine society. It couldn’t be truer than in the Diliman campus, my alma mater. After sitting through my first ever class in the wrong classroom, I realized how naïve and unprepared I was for the real world. No wonder I trembled during that recitation. UP had yet to teach me what adolescence was about.


theCouncil reenacting our first day in UP. PH306. Maling klasrum!


To be fair, it wasn’t all UP. It was a confluence of many factors. Less than two years before my college life commenced, my father died. Being an only child whose mother worked overseas, I was sheltered, pampered, and suddenly, I had no choice but to be independent. The decision to move to a new city, a new place, all on my own took that rite of passage to another dimension. UP was my chance to live independently in the real world.

As if I missed out on high school, I rushed through all of life’s lessons during my stay in UP. I learned to treasure every hump and bump I encountered along the way: my first failing mark (P.E. lang naman). Crashing my car. Singing, dancing and acting on stage. Losing my virginity. Falling in love. Getting hazed applying for an org. Getting drunk as a skunk and passing out. Smoking a joint and passing out. Smoking. Making out in my RAV and getting flashlighted by the UPDP. Voting. Ousting a President. Impressing professors, infuriating even more.


Batchmates ko sa hazing (wala lang si Angge).

All those experiences, mundane and profound, carried with them lessons big and small. Ngayon, alam ko nang tumba na ko sa limang baso ng rhum-coke. Na ang uno sa mabait na professor ay mas mababa sa dos ng magaling na mentor. Na pwedeng lumusot sa anumang uri ng gusot. Every exploit was invaluable, and UP did it by introducing me to people of every possible vocation and tradition, in the skin of my professors and classmates, the visiting lecturers, staff members, orgmates and friends. Sina Manang fishball sa Mass Comm, Ate Xerox sa Lib, Manong Guard sa may entrance, Kuya Bantay sa AS, at Sir Pulis na nang-flashlight sa kin.

I soaked it all in, excitedly, and even grudgingly at times. I started to love my country even more. UP made me cherish my identity as a Filipino not only because my education was paid for by my fellow countrymen’s hard earned taxes (though that remains a huge part of it) but because of the pride instilled in me by simply surrounding me with greatness. Greatness in both the excellence of the alumni whose footsteps I follow (pa’nong hindi kung yung prof mo sa BC 121 ay unang Pilipina lang namang nagtrabaho sa BBC?) and the nobleness I recognized in the non-academic members of our community. It made greatness not only a possibility but also a responsibility.

In short, UP was the manger on which the real me was birthed. In being comfortable with all kinds of people, I came to better comprehend what the real world is like, and I learned to be proud and comfortable with who I was. I nurtured a deeper sense of empathy and a more profound identification of my place and role in the society. If you’d met me in high school, you probably wouldn’t think I’d end up as a movie scriptwriter whose currency, apart from imagination, is skill in interacting and empathizing with people. Who would’ve thought all that could be done in just 500 hectares of land? Sa UP lang!


The 2001 Graduates, with my Mom 🙂

Since then, no matter where I went, I was assured of who I am and confident of what I could be. Like when I was a Freshman representing the Philippines in a youth forum in Japan. Or when I was traveling all over Mindanao making a documentary on issues faced by journalists covering war and terrorism. Or as a Fellowship student in Singapore. Even now, as I pursue further studies here in Great Britain, I’m mindful of how I represent myself as well as the Filipino people. Such awareness drives me to be the best version of myself. I owe it to my country, my alma mater, and myself. UP ata to. Matapang, matalino. Walang takot kahit kanino.

Kaya ngayon, pag recitation, di na ko nanginginig. At dahil nasa London, syempre proper English!

So anong kwentong Peyups ko, exactly? Is it how UP was the scene of my adolescence, or how it made me value my being Filipino? Or is it how it taught me to survive in the real world?

Baka magalit pa professors ko, sabihin para kong hindi taga-UP. Let me sum up this way, then (and in straight English):

It was in UP that I grew up to be a Filipino who is grounded in the realities of the world.

Lusot ba?

***

I composed this the weekend before the start of our second term at LFS. I originally called it, “A U.P.-Grown Grown Up on Growing Up” – a sort of word play which I didn’t really expect to be adapted as its title upon publication. I had some time in my hands and wanted to contribute to my Alma Mater’s celebration of its centennial.

I honestly thought this wouldn’t get published because I didn’t feel like it was what Campaigns & Grey wanted for the series. You’d notice I wasn’t very specific about the experiences I recounted in the article. It’s more like an abbreviation how my UP life was kasi. I’ve read a lot of the articles published, including my friends’. They, however, wrote of specific life episodes while they were still studying in the campus. I realized my article wasn’t like that after I made my friend Jean read it, which was after I had emailed the article. I thought of writing a new one but never got around to doing it. Classes started and I got busy. I figured, I can always post it in my blog anyway. That’s why I was surprised when I was woken up by Norman’s text (at 7AM on Saturday!), saying “Yours is today’s Kwentong Peyups! Congrats Ü”

Thanks to my cousin Majah who took a picture of the article to send to me. There it was…

100 Kwentong Peyups
Growing Up To Grown Up

Raz Sobida de la Torre
BA Broadcast Communication
97-18393 U.P. Diliman

I’m glad they printed this anyway. Among the reasons for my apprehension in leaving the country to study in London this year is the thought of missing out on all the festivities. Seryoso, sobra kong bad trip na wala ako sa Pinas para sa Centennial Lecture Series (though I was lucky enough to attend Sheila Coronel’s during my summer vacation there), Homecomings, and the UP Pep Squad’s defense of its title, among other things. This certainly helps make up for my absence 🙂

Like always, I did my morning rituals while watching the show Breakfast. One eye on the telly and the other on the mirror. I miss Umagang Kay Ganda and Alas-Singko Y Media but I don’t have TFC, so I have to settle with BBC One. I caught this feature on the world’s first ever wave farm. The Pelamis wave machine, a gigantic, segmented phallic structure that floats off the coast of a town called Agucadora in Portugal, was launched just recently. Its aim is to harness power from the Atlantic’s powerful waves. I thought that with the rising oil prices and the Philippines’ huge dependency on crude oil, and considering our long coastline (longer than the States!), this is a viable alternative power source our national government could pursue (if it hasn’t).

I remembered this instance a few years back when the Philippine Daily Inquirer featured two photos on top of each other on its front page. I was immediately drawn to the first one on the top half of the newspaper because it was unmistakably familiar. When I read the caption, it confirmed that it was a picture of the Caliraya Lake in Cavinti, Laguna, my dad’s birthplace. On the photo, you could see a man walking in the shallow part of the lake, which was smack in the middle of the lake bed because the water levels were extraordinarily low that time of the year.

When I scanned further, I noticed that the second photo below featured the power plant in Tiwi, Albay. I found it amusing because Tiwi is where my barkada/thesis partner Joni Mosatalla hails from naman. Kaya nga pala mura ang kuryente sa kanila. Rates were subsidized because the plant was within Tiwi’s territory.

That PDI issue featured both our home towns on the front page because both were sites of alternative power sources. The hot springs of Tiwi generate geothermal power, while the man-made Caliraya lake provides hydroelectric power.

In all my years of friendship with Joni, preluded by all 4-years of college in UP (including an intense adventure making our thesis on our senior year), it was the first time that this curious coincidence of our towns being cradles of alternative power generation was brought to my attention. You’d think it would’ve come up at least once. Joni and I always joke about how there seems to be nothing left to talk about when we’re with each other, and yet there we found this one, perhaps insignificant, detail that we’ve managed to overlook.

It’s nice to be proven wrong. Comforting to be surprised by incidents like that, when you realize that with great, genuine friends, you’ll never run of out of things to talk about. True, some of them are most likely to be not new, but I never find myself bored. In fact, I often find myself listening to stories that Joni’s told me previously (and not just once, on most occasions!) I’d listen intently and wait for her to finish before letting an impish grin escape and breaking to her that I already know all about it. It has actually become a running joke that whenever she starts telling me something, Joni would always introduce a story with, “Sabihin mo kung nakwento ko na to sa yo ha?”

Once, during an an impromptu getaway to Puerto Galera with Mark and Forsyth, after realizing there’s no new story to share, Joni and I even took to asking each other unlikely, thought-up questions. Tipong, “If you could only among the people you had flings and almost-romances, excluding actual exes, who would you want to ultimately end up with?” Cheesy, I know, but until now, that evening by the beach remains to be one of our funnest, most memorable conversations. And it was about a barrage of nonsense that we found sense in.

Come to think of it, even presence alone suffices. I’m glad there’s a select circle of people like Joni with whom I’m able to bear silences. It’s a luxury I take for granted but am eternally thankful for. These friends generously sate my desire for conversations as much as my need for comfortable, pressure-free tranquility. Either way, in the pleasure of their company. This I think is why I’m friends with my friends, why I see myself being friends with them long into the future.

***

I think the Portuguese may be on to something with their pioneering venture. Alternative is the way to go. The Bangui Wind Farm that supplies power to the Luzon grid is enough proof of this. There’s potential in ethanol, but as Time Magazine’s feature has revealed, the environmental cost of cultivating corn and sugar cane farms for this could just be as damaging as burning oil.

Perhaps wave power is really the wave of the future.

This is a actually a response to Rey’s post in his blog, “Anong Bastos sa Pagsuot ng Flag?”I started to compose a reply, but like Norms, felt embarrassed that its length made it look more like a post on its own. So I decided to publish my reply here.(Of course, among friends like Rey and the people who responded in his blog, we know better than to think that this constitutes picking a fight – as other people are inclined to intuit. I guess it is simply a natural consequence of keeping an opinionated company like the one I have).

Going back to the object that inspired Rey’s post, lemme just say: I love that jacket. The one Adidas released a few months back, brainchild of a Filipino designer working in the Adidas HQ (in Germany I think). Nandito pa lang ako sa UK, nabalitaan ko na tungkol dyan sa Internet. Nagpabili nga ako para ipadala sa kin dito, pero ubos na sya nang magpatanong ako.

Having said that, I must say, I agree with the law (the Philippine Flag Code). I know that tailoring the flag into a shirt or a jacket does not necessarily constitute disrespect. The tricky part, however, is knowing the clear, definite line that tells us when we’ve gone too far. Kumbaga, when do you start to say that it is? Disrespectful already, that is?

I’d also be wary in arguing under the banner of “freedom of expression.” I think we all agree that the flag deserves no less than utmost respect. I find it a bit incongruous if we are to defend our manner of ‘expression’ as a form of respect, as in the case of that jacket. Being asked to preserve the proper form and depiction of the flag is not the same as preventing someone from expressing his respect for it. One might even say that adhering to the prescribed formalities constitutes part of that deference.

Whereas on the flip side, abrogating that law could eventually allow for underwear and swim suits to be adorned with three stars and the sun, and that might be in bad taste. Some of our Kabayan might even take offense in it. (Liberal naman ang panlasa ko sa ganyang bagay, pero kahit ako, medyo mababastusan kung magkaron ng Pinoy counterpart yung Union Jack swimming trunks).

Moreso with the National Anthem. I think enough argument against the amount of liberty we previously gave to the singing of “Lupang Hinirang” can be found in the tragedy that Jennifer Bautista was.

I can perfectly see why Rey thinks the way he does (after all, I’m still bummed that I didn’t get to buy that jacket. At kung meron ako non at hinuli ako ng pulis… I’d argue the same thing – that I am not wearing it as a sign of disrespect. Quite the contrary). But should none of my points fly, I guess I’d be content making my case by saying that I’m simply a stickler for traditions. I believe there are things that must not be compromised in favor the human spirit’s predilections.

My bursting-at-the seams summer holiday-slash-Pinas homecoming (depending on which side of the globe you’d like to see it), last 22 August to 04 September 2008. Celebrating momentous occasions and touching base with the important people in my life 🙂 Best to let the photographs speak for themselves.

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I first met Manong Gilbert Perez while working on the script of the Piolo-Regine movie. Carmi, Van and I were co-writing with Emman to flesh out a story he conceptualized. I liked working with Manong, and truth be told, I was kind of awestruck whenever we met with him. His reputation precedes him. Besides, it felt to me like a huge privilege to work with an established director like him while I was just breaking into the movie industry.

Manong was quite easy to work with, though the whole process wasn’t exactly devoid of bumps. In the end, that script was passed over for another story. Eventually, our team was dropped from that project altogether. About a year or so later, the Piolo-Regine project became “Paano Kita Iibigin.”

The next time I met Manong was when I was brought in to help out in “Supah Papalicious.” While our previous encounter sailed smoothly enough, writing for this movie was more turbulent. Coming in late in the project, smack in the middle of production, my participation was naturally wrought with problems, creative and otherwise. It culminated in a rather painful misunderstanding. The worst part of it was that though it involved me and Manong, it didn’t really happen between us. Suffice it to say that he felt bad about things I did, and I felt bad about how he reacted, but we never discussed it between us. It was a huge issue for me, but the other people involved in the Vhong-Makisig movie thought that it wasn’t as big as I’m imagining it to be. Maybe that truly was the case. Manong, after all, is known to be as temperamental as he was talented. Perhaps its the Catholic virtue of guilt nagging at me, but I still hoped to eventually get the chance to talk to him.

Today, I learned that Manong has passed away a few nights ago.

I feel bad that I was never given the chance to clear things with him. To tell him that despite the unfortunate circumstances, I still deem it a privilege to work have worked with him.

In his passing, he joins Galo Ador, Jr., another genius of a writer with whom I wrote Agent X44. Another loss in ABS’s roster of talents.

Rest in peace, Manong!

Since the time it started to matter, most people have always thought I was independent. Perhaps it was an inevitable conclusion my friends arrived at considering my personal circumstances.I was born in Lipa, but in my toddler years, we lived in Cubao, Quezon City. (Perhaps that’s the reason why I was drawn to QC later in life). When I was around 4, we moved to San Pedro, Laguna, a suburb at the perimeter of Metro Manila. My mom left to work in Italy when I was only a year old, while my dad ventured into a small enterprise selling ready to wear clothes (RTW). He even named the business after me, which is the reason why as a child, my dad’s friends had taken to calling me “Raz Marketing.” (“Aba, ang laki na ni Raz Marketing a!” “Ano, Raz Marketing, ilan taon ka na?”…). The business flourished and dad was encouraged to open another one – a small vulcanizing shop that later expanded to selling tires as well. That’s where our tire business got its name – Port Area Tire Center.

Both my parents found successes in their ventures, but it also meant their only child was growing up mainly in the company of helpers and immediate relatives. I usually got to see my dad early in the morning before going to school and on weekends. My mom, on the other hand, flew back from Italy on a yearly basis – either in May, for her birthday on May 2, or in December, for a sweep of my birthday, Christmas, New Year, their wedding anniversary on January 10, and my dad’s birthday on January 12.

My dad eventually moved his business to Muntinlupa which was much closer to our house in San Pedro. When I was 8, he ran for an elective post in his hometown in Cavinti, Laguna. (I remember joining the campaign sortie, tricked by my dad’s friends into shouting, “Vote Allan de la Torre! Walang asawa, walang anak!”). He was elected municipal councilor. That meant he didn’t only have the business to run in Muntinlupa, he had to go back to Cavinti every Friday for the sessions with the Municipal Council.

That setup lasted till my early teen-age years as my dad eventually ran for Mayor and won. In high school, I went home to my aunt and a helper.

In junior year, my father died. My mom started going home more often than she did before – around twice a year. Not long after that, I left home for college. I rented a condo in Katipunan. Our home in Muntinlupa was left to the care of the helpers, until eventually, they were let go for practical purposes.

The solitary nature of my living condition led most people to think I was a fine example of how it was to be independent. It was flattering to some extent. It accorded me confidence that seemed to go hand in hand with independence.

The truth is I’ve always doubted whether I was really being independent or if I was just faking it. After all, I was never really without any kind of support. Even when I was living in QC by myself, I didn’t have to do my own laundry, even if laundromats already proliferated then. I never had to go pay my own bills. I had regular visits from people from home. I never suffered the burden of financing my own lifestyle. Even though I did my own share of cleaning the condo, driving my self to school, going out and occasionally cooking (microwaving) my own meals, I was, in fact, still dependent on my mom and my home support group.

Even when I started working, that setup remained the same. Even when I moved into my very own house, that was still the case.

It really wasn’t until I moved here to London that I felt really independent. I do everything here myself, and there’s no one to run to when I need help. Even if I needed it, here in London, I can’t really depend on anyone. I do have a few friends here, but they too struggle to keep the gears of their daily lives well oiled, and I’m too aware of that to add my concerns onto their plates.

Here, I feel what it’s like to spend my own money and not have it replenished by benefactors. I feel what it’s like to be sick and not have anyone to call so they can bring me medicine. I feel what it’s like to come home without any food to eat, and have no choice but to sleep hungry or go out again to buy something from the nearest grocery. Here, I get to know what it’s like to live by myself, and just live with it.

I can’t help but give myself credit for how well I’m able to handle it all. I guess I really had no reason to doubt myself before. If there one thing my personal circumstances taught me, it was how to be emotionally tough to survive this chapter in my life. Nep, my friend who moved here two years before me, said that she cried herself out in her first month. I’m proud to say that despite feeling the urge numerous times, I haven’t shed a tear. I’ve managed to stave off any bubbling miasma of depression or despair.

I realize there are two ways one can be independent. I’m finally learning how it is to be independent in the practical sense. Now I can proudly and confidently own up to the virtue, considering I’ve been independent in the other sense all my life.

***

Maligayang araw ng kalayaan, Pilipinas!

This trip to Bicol was one of my last out of town trips before I left for London. We were originally aiming to get all the Manila-based Council members to go, but Concep was also going to Legaspi the following weekend and Jean found out that she was already dilated despite only being 7 months along (she’s given birth to a baby boy last June 5 – Council’s first baby!). In the end, it was just me, Alexa and Joni who went.We decided to fly in to Legaspi instead of taking a 12-hour bus ride. We arrived early Saturday and was met by Joni’s sister Joan and brother-in-law Neil at Bicol’s pride, Bigg’s. After breakfast, we took a quick side-trip to Cagsawa. That was really for Alexa who was the only one who hasn’t been there. Unfortunately, we only got to see the majestic Mayon for a few minutes as clouds quickly covered it up. (Malas kasi si Alexa – everytime nililingon nya yung Mayon, natatakpan). What’s most striking though is how much the surrounding areas have changed. Upon getting there, we were greeted by kids who hawked pictures of both the Cagsawa ruins from decades before, when more of the buried church’s tower was intact, as well as pictures of the devastation caused by the typhoon Milenyo. It’s tragic how badly affected the area was, but it’s amazing, almost miraculous, how the flash floods from Mayon seemed to avoid the Cagsawa ruin itself.

We went to Tiwi right after our quick detour and had lunch at Joni’s house. After a quick nap, we cooled down with the famous DJ’s halo-halo. Our agenda for the afternoon was Corangon Island off the coast of Tiwi. It was a small sand bar (smaller than the white beach sand bar of Camiguin, in fact) at the point where the tides seem to converge from different directions, which I suspected was the reason why that sand bar existed in the middle of the sea even though it was considerably far from the mainland shore.

The local government of Tiwi is very protective of the sand bar that they actually prohibit visits to Corangon. We were lucky to be with Joni’s mom and sister who were well-connected in Tiwi. After asking permission from the baranggay council, we spent the rest of the afternoon on Corangon. It didn’t have any structure at all so we had to bring our own umbrella and picnic mats, plus our afternoon merienda (snacks) of course. We had a great time despite the searing heat of the summer sun. The beach was lovely, and from the island, we had a beautiful view of the Mayon (well, beautiful if not for Alexa’s malas, which kept the volcano hidden behind clouds all day).

Later that afternoon, we attended Mass in Tiwi (which meant that I heard it in Bicolano). After which, I drove the Mosatallas’ family car to Tabaco to have dinner in a local videoke bar/restaurant with Lex and Joni. We retired at around 10PM only to wake up three hours later for our Donsol trip. We had to leave really early since the butandings were in the province of Sorsogon, while Tiwi was actually in Albay.

Chauffeured by Joni’s cousin Kuya Jake, we made it to the Butanding Visitors’ Center in Baranggay Dancalan at 7AM. Joni’s Bicolana alindog failed to get the registration fee waived, but we didn’t mind. Though there were only three of us to split the cost, we gladly forked out around P4000 for the registration and the boat and equipment rental. We were that confident every cent would be worth it. After all, our primary agenda was to see the butandings.

The outrigger boat took us to the middle of the ocean as our BIOman (Butanding Interaction Officer) ran us through a quick orientation. His most important reminder: Don’t panic! After drilling that in our heads, we put on our floater vests and were no sooner on the lookout for the whale sharks.

Within ten minutes of being at sea, our Bioman rallied us to the edge of the boat for what was to be our first encounter. At his signal, the four of us jumped off the boat at the same time, submerged our masked faces underwater and frantically scanned the dark depths for the gentle giants.

And there it was… our first butanding.

He was swimming in our direction a couple of feet below us. It was a magnificent sight, and it was an incredible feeling to be in its presence. Interestingly, like John Rae said of his experience, I wasn’t scared, which was what I expected to be. Instead, I felt I overwhelmed and in awe of… it. Or perhaps, overwhelmed and in awe of the moment – that we were swimming along side this extraordinary creature. The butanding was massive, yet unbelievably gentle. It was about 8 to 9 meters, our Bioman later told us. It was huge enough to gobble us up, but we excitedly swam with it, matching its pace and swimming right on top of it for a few minutes.

The butandings may frequent Donsol, but tourists are not always assured of an encounter. Our Bioman told us how some tourists spend all day at sea and go home without seeing a single one. So even though the interaction officers aim for exclusive encounters for every boat, they sometimes resort to sharing a butanding to ensure that all the tourists go home satisfied.

That’s what made that encounter truly special. Not only was it our first, it was also the only time in the trip when we had a butanding all to ourselves. Our next encounters were all shared with the other foreign and local tourists.

I remember in 2003, when I first visited Donsol, there used to be this life-sized replica of a whale shark at the Butanding Visitors’ Center. I didn’t quite trust its accuracy, thinking it was probably an impressionistic version thought up by the locals. The spray-painted patterns on the butanding model made it look, well, artificial. Our Bioman eventually told us that aside from the size, these patterns were how they distinguished one butanding from the other. In reality, the patterns on the butanding pretty much looked as it did on the model, though the real-life butanding looked so much better of course. With its imposing size and contrastingly mild demeanor, it just felt surreal to be in the water with them. I think my exact sound bite was, “unreal.” Something about the silence while swimming with a butanding underwater made it seem like a solemn affair.

On our third encounter, I decided to take off my life vest so I could swim freely. That was perhaps my best encounter, as I was able to swim with the butanding for what felt like forever (which in reality was probably only around 10 minutes). Our Bioman, Alexa, Joni, and I started out swimming with the other tourists, and by the end of it, I was by myself. I would’ve gone on tirelessly had the butanding not decided to swim deeper and out of sight. It was calming swimming with the butanding. It didn’t even occur to me how far from the boat I was, and how deep the water was.

Since the whale sharks swam so close to us, we had to resist the urge to just reach out and touch them. We truly were tempted, but we never attempted. At the end part of our 7th encounter, our Bioman gave us a treat. He took Alexa and Joni’s hand and made them touch our 7th butanding. Syempre, I followed suit 🙂 (For those going there, I wouldn’t advise you do the same though…)

Our 8th encounter was the biggest butanding we met, I think. More than 12 meters, our Bioman said. In total, we had 10 encounters in three and a half hours, which was pretty good. Exceptional even, our Bioman said. Despite having 10 encounters, however, we actually met just nine butandings. Our last two encounters were with the same butanding called “Lambing.” He seemed to be the most comfortable in swimming with humans. He swam undauntedly and really close to the surface. So close that we had to struggle to avoid kicking him. I was afraid that if I kicked one of them, they’d hate us humans and migrate to Australia, denying us Pinoys of the privilege of swimming with them. (Our Bioman said that there are also sightings in Australia, but tourists there can’t swim with them. They only get to see the whale sharks from helicopters).

I think the only time I ever felt scared was on our last encounter, when we jumped right in front of Lambing. That would’ve been okay since that already happened a few times before. What made that 10th encounter different was Lambing was feeding on planktons at the time, and so he had his huge mouth wide open, and swimming toward us. I had to let go of Lex as I scrambled to steer clear of its path. Luckily, he didn’t suck us in. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if we didn’t get out of the way. Certainly his mouth was big enough to swallow my feeble body. I actually wondered if he would’ve choked on me if that happened.

We enjoyed the butandings so much that we decided to stay in Donsol instead of heading back to Legaspi. We found a reasonably priced homestay lodging along the main road. There we met some European backpackers and lunched and dined on home cooked meals. Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk around town. Donsol was busy preparing for the Butanding Festival the following week. There was in fact a basketball tournament and carnival (read: perya) rides and games at the town plaza. We sampled those in the evening, after we went firefly watching in the river.

That whole Bicol trip was special. Swimming with the butandings, in particular, was just magical. Profound. Priceless. Miss Maya and Sid Lucero said something similar when swam with the whale sharks during the filming of Donsol (directed by my friend Adolf). You can’t help but be humbled by how a creature this great could be so gentle. I’m glad I insisted on going to Donsol before leaving the Philippines. I kept telling Alexa and Joni that we had to go there soon, afraid that Mount Isarog & Mayon’s eruptions would affect the biodiversity in that area and drive away these welcome visitors. I would’ve tragically regretted it if that happened without me ever experiencing how it was like to swim with the butanding.

It’s been a month since I moved to London, and thankfully, things are just fine. As with any uprooting, foremost on my agenda was to find a dwelling place. I was fortunate to have a place I could call my own waiting for me when I arrived in London. Thanks to Nep, my close friend and orgmate from college, I didn’t have to bunk in with friends or friends of friends and spend my first few days going around town looking for a place to rent. Two days before my scheduled arrival, Nep secured for me this small flat that came with a bed, a telly (TV if I were writing this back in Manila), a closet, a desk, a bedside table, and a personal sink. Despite the cramped size, I loved my new flat, and for a fair number of reasons.

For starters, the rent is cheap. See, the whole city of London is divided into six different zones. The higher the zone is in ordinal number, the more expensive the real estate and rental prices. Imagine the whole Metro Manila being one city, and Makati being Zone 1. Mandaluyong & QC would then be Zone 2. Manila & San Juan Zone 3, Taguig & Pasay Zone 4, etc… They even distinguish travel from one Zone to the other, such that travel within Zone 1 is more expensive than travel within and between the other Zones. My house, which is number 86 in Bravington Road, is in Zone 2. It’s right smack at the point where Shirland Road meets Bravington Road to form a ‘T’. Even if that puts me in a considerably posh location, I only pay £85 for rent. (By the way, that’s £85 a week!). That’s expensive in Manila standards, yes, but here in London, that’s almost a steal.

Since I live in Zone 2, my house is not that far away from my school. From my house, there is a bus stop about four blocks away from which I can take the number 6. It would take me all the way to Strand St at Westminster, and from where I get off, it’s just a 10-minute walk to my school. LFS is located in the corner of Shelton and Langley in Covent Garden, right at the heart of Zone 1. The forty-five minute bus ride would make it seem far, but it’s really the traffic and number of bus stops that makes it so. And considering that it’s just one bus ride, I’d say that’s still pretty convenient.

Another great thing about my house’s location is that it’s also just one bus ride away from Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington – which I like comparing to Timog and Morato in QC. When I’m in the mood for fast food, a movie, or just lazing around, I walk three blocks from my house and take the number 28 bus to go to either place.

Just like New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and other highly urbanized cities, most Londoners commute around town using the train system. Here, they call it the Tube (MRT at LRT sa aten). At times when I’m running late for class, I swap number 6 for 28 and alight at Notting Hill so I can take the tube. It’s a more complicated way of getting to school, but it’s faster since there are frequent trips and the Covent Garden tube station is just one street corner away from LFS.

I already said that my room is small, and I’m not being modest. It’s probably less than 10 square meters. Like I also said, the bed’s provided already (dapat lang!). There’s also a small desk by the foot of the bed, but because the space is so cramped, I can’t really put the chair there and use the damn table as intended. I use it for charging my laptop and keeping all the other school stuff, since there are shelves above it rin naman. I also used that small spot for my shoes.

There’s a small window by the bed, right above the bedside table, which has a decent enough view of the outside. Good thing there’s a tree outside so there’s some foliage and color adding to the view. I think my neighbor’s a pre-school or children’s center of sorts, but I haven’t seen any kids since I arrived. There’s also a small sink inside, so I can do minor dish washing and hygiene rituals without having to go out of my room.

Nevertheless, I consider myself lucky to afford a room all to myself. I am able to enjoy enough privacy, even if I have to go out of my room to use the communal kitchen (with its communal fridge and freezer) and share the shower and toilet with some of the other tenants. But I don’t mind that – especially since the shower and toilet is just outside my door. So it’s like I own it, nakikigamit lang yung iba, hehe. The only thing I can really complain about is not having enough closet space for my clothes and shoes.

The best part about the house is that some Filipinos are renting the other rooms. In fact, the house’s caretaker/landlady, Tita Josie, is also Pinoy. I didn’t think this would matter in choosing where I would live, but now I can’t imagine living in a place where I didn’t have any Kabayan. It’s refreshing and uplifting to run into someone and greet them with words that roll of my tongue more organically. Quite a number of times, I’ve even benefited received free meals from them, even though they know nothing about me other than I’m also Pinoy. Just this afternoon nga, Tita Josie took me to this birthday party she was invited to. Nakakatouch, though essentially nag-gate crash ako. I enjoyed it immensely even if I was the only non-Ilocano there (which meant I understood nothing of their conversations).

Actually, maraming Pinoy sa London. Sobrang dami, but I still haven’t found me friends like the ones I have back home.

Up until the morning of April 28, Monday last week, I wasn’t sure if my plan to go overseas was pushing through. I was initially intending to leave earlier, but all the effort I put in informing Star about my schedule so we could accommodate both my personal plans and the production timetable for the John-Lloyd-Sarah project was rendered futile (and quite expected, really).Since September of last year when I submitted the third draft of this script and its development eventually put on hold, I’ve been asking for the management’s feedback so I could start working on the new draft. When the project was yet again greenlighted in March, I already had plans to leave for Europe. I told them about that, trying my best not to sigh in frustration and ask why they’re only making me work on the revisions now, six months after I submitted the last draft. When we had our feedback meeting, it was almost a little over a full month from April 28. I was hoping to write more than one draft so no more significant revisions would be required. Despite the little time we had left, all sorts of delays came to play, including more than 2 weeks of our time wasted on developing an entirely new story which was ultimately chucked for my old one. In the end, I was given only two weeks to write one new draft.

Naturally, the writing got in the way of my preparations for my trip. I guess it was wishful thinking on my part for my bosses and colleagues to take that into consideration. I had to juggle writing and running last-minute errands like shopping for supplies, settling my personal accounts like my home cable, mobile phone, and internet.

I finally submitted the fourth draft of that script on Saturday, April 26. (One good thing that came out of all the setbacks was it allowed me to attend my good friend Duke’s wedding in Batulao/Tagaytay.)

People in the office wanted to meet with me the following Tuesday, April 29, so I can personally hear from them the management’s feedback on that fourth draft. I told them I’d try my best to make it, but it was unlikely that I’d make it.

By Monday evening, I told them that it was really not possible for me to go to Star anymore. They asked why, and I texted that it was because I was scheduled to fly out of Manila then. The following day, Tuesday, I managed to have my flight moved to Wednesday morning instead. I told Star about this, but also said that despite the change in schedule, I still won’t be able to meet with them since I’ll be needing the free time to fix things for my departure. They called me that same day to ask if I could instead write my “vision” and “theme” for the script so they could use it for the Creative Meeting on Friday. I explained it to them over the phone, but they still insisted that I write “in my own words” what my vision and theme was.

Now let me just say that I don’t really know what else I have to do to spell out what my vision for the story is. I don’t discount that I may not be successful in making the script reflect our intentions, but that’s a different matter all together. But to ask me for my ‘vision’ and ‘theme’? How insulting is that!? (And as one friend of mine pointed out, how lazy!) The script has been submitted for their perusal. At the very first page of this new draft, I even intro’d the script with a statement of its theme, a blurb of sorts, stating what I intended to be the movie’s theme. And need I mention that we’ve been meeting and discussing this project since last year? Haven’t we discussed the characters, the story, the theme, and the intentions in so many words? Then again, I guess insulting the writer is something they don’t really care about.

The worst part about this whole incident is I wasn’t able to submit this “vision-slash-theme” by Friday. I landed on Heathrow Wednesday evening, and the following day, I already attended classes. I hadn’t settled in properly. I didn’t have my own phone line yet, so I only relied on my roaming. I received a call from Star but I was commuting at that time and didn’t realized it was them until I got home. Besides, I was already refraining from using my roaming cause I’m close to exceeding my phone account’s credit limit. If I got my account frozen, I’d be helpless out here. I eventually got my phone’s WAP working and checked my email from there. I saw an email from Star asking how I was and reminding me of the “vision” I owed them. It was already past the deadline by then, so all I was able to do was apologize and explain why I couldn’t submit it on time.

I’ve been feeling guilty about my failure to submit that “vision” and “theme.” Yet as if self-flagellation wasn’t enough, I got this email from Star saying they understand my situation, but at the same time said that my failure to submit my “vision” had “a lot of repercussions on the project timetable.” They reminded me that we still needed to grind by May 8. Because of that, I’d have to settle once and for all whether I can still commit to doing the revisions from where I am now and correspond via email, or if I’d consent to bringing in a new writer to the project. They even gave an ultimatum: If they did not hear from me by Sunday, 11PM Manila, they’d be forced to bring in a new writer. All those were boldfaced, italicized and underlined – now if that wasn’t a threat, I don’t know what is.

I only got to read that email Sunday, 9PM UK time. That was 4AM, Manila time.

I swear, this job of writing for movies (for Star? I don’t really know how much I can generalize) can be really cruel.

That evening before I left, I already brought up the issue of bringing a new writer. I volunteered to discuss it with them since their calls were usually only about the deadlines. Since I anticipated that my hectic schedule, the distance, time difference, and practical difficulty of my situation could possibly compromise my commitments to the project, I told them that even if I don’t want to, I know that it would be more convenient for the project to bring in a new writer.

Of course, I expressed my apprehension despite indirectly agreeing to that recourse. After all, this material, this story, this script, has been mine entirely. I researched it, pitched, developed, wrote the script, reworked the story, re-researched, rewrote the script, got it approved… all by myself. I got little to no help doing all that – of couse, by this, I don’t mean to discount the help from our director, the CA and my boss – I say this in the context of not having any co-writer. But yeah, no help in all four drafts of the script that got us to this stage when the management has finally committed to making the movie. And again, I stress that even when the project was put on hold in September last year, I insisted on getting the feedback from the management so I could start revising it, or at least mull over how I’d go about doing that. I think it’s just natural and justified that I expect and hope to retain ownership after all that.

However, I’m now left with no choice but to relinquish the fruit of my labor. Not only that. Despite trying my best to be worth my salt writing for this and all the other movie projects I’ve been involved with, it now seems like it’s my own fault!

And here I thought my effort in avoiding this situation would prevent the tables from getting turned on me. I thought wrong. What makes it more depressing is this would’ve been a milestone for me as it was to be my first solo credit. Still, I’ve been easing myself into foregoing that career high point for later. Especially since recently, my boss unabashedly declared sans apology that writers are usually the first casualties in binds like this. I suppose it was foolish to expect my concern to take precedence over other concerns in the project. Plus I do admit to having my share of deficiencies. But to be made to feel like I screwed myself over is just going too far. After all the diligence and dedication I invested in my work and this project in particular, this is what I get?

How’s that for cruelty.

In the earlier Finals episode of this season’s American Idol, the contestants had to recount their most embarrassing moments. When I heard Ramiele’s, which involved going up to her crush’s home to give him her picture and getting laughed at, I was in stitches (I think that’s when I first liked her, cause she had both the voice and personality – now if only she chose better songs…).That made me stop and think of what answer I’d give if asked the same question. I couldn’t think of one. Not because I didn’t have any, but because most of the most humiliating scenes in my life happened when I was young. I’m now able to reminisce about them, share them with my friends, laugh at myself, and chalk it up to the things that made my childhood and puberty interesting and fun. Nevertheless, I was inspired to rummage through my cobwebbed memory so I’d be ready with an answer when asked for my very own embarrassing moment.

Still I couldn’t find any. But soon after watching that episode, I was given one.

Last March 2, which was a Sunday, my good comrade Chrissie and I went to Makati to take the TOEFL. As usual when I’m scheduled to do something important the following day, I wasn’t able to get proper sleep the night before. The test required us to be in De La Costa by 8AM, and at 4AM that Sunday, I was just about to go to sleep. Rather than run the risk of oversleeping and wasting my precious 6G’s because of tardiness. Obviously, this part of the story is intended to lay the predicate that I was sleepless that day.

(I’m not sure which details I have the liberty to discuss, so I’ll try to be as vague as possible without sacrificing content).

There was a short orientation before the internet-based exam proper. We were basically told that there were to be 4 parts, that we were to bring NOTHING inside the exam room, that the whole exam is timed, and that we were to follow instructions that would be flashed on the screen. We were also to be provided pencils and scratch paper, which we could be replenished upon request (they were to take and shred the used up paper).

I was called in before Chrissie was (we were called in successively and not at the same time, so we started at different times). They took a picture of me for the records and made me log my name and the time. We were to log in and out every time we left the exam room.

The first part of the exam proper tested our reading skills. Naturally, we were asked to read a passage for this. I read the article and tried to remember all the details for the exam part later. After finishing the article, I saw that there was a lot of time left. So I re-read the article. I noticed the scratch paper they provided and started taking down notes for to help me in the question and answer part later. I took little time doing this so there were still a few minutes left. I remembered seeing a Korean girl waiting with us in the anteroom, so I thought it was just fair that they allotted more time than necessary. After all, this was an internationally standardized test, and English-speaking Filipinos obviously had an advantage. We couldn’t expect all examinees to be quick readers like me!

After taking down notes, I still had a few minutes left. I slouched on my seat, relaxed and stared at the monitor while I waited for the questions.

The clock counted down to zero, and then a message appeared:

“Your time for answering the questions is over.”

If the exam moderators were to review the CCTV footage, they would’ve seen the stunned, horrified look that accompanied the sudden upright jerk of my body as I sat up straight and mouthed,

“What questions!?!?!!”

Only then did I realize that I wasn’t fast or advanced. I was just being stupid. The Korean girl who spoke little English probably sailed through the first part of the reading exam while I was to score a big, fat zero.

I was embarrassed, though since everyone was busy answering the exams, no one could possibly have seen me idling around, tapping my fingers on the desk as I stared at the computer. Aside from the moderators, that is. They were probably snickering and wondering why I refused to answer the test but were restricted from approaching me to offer a friendly coax or say, “The exam won’t answer itself, Sir. You have to do your part.”

I did not dare request a do over or ask them if I there’s any way they can invalidate that first part so I can salvage my test score, though I was very much tempted to approach them and explain what happened. I figured, if they thought I was pulling their leg, all I had to do is make them look at their records to see that I had NO ANSWER whatsoever and argue, “Who in their right mind would leave their TOEFL exam answer sheet blank!? Tanga na lang ang gagawa non, no!”

I realized I’d be answering my own question and admitting my stupidity in one fell swoop, so I kept silent and continued the exam instead. This was a four/five hour exam, mind you, and I was only at the first part. When the second part of the reading exam started and the second article came on, that’s the only time I noticed this little button at the upper right corner of the screen labeled “next.” (“Ahhh… pipindutin ko pala dapat yon.”) When I pressed the button, the first question came on, and guess what? The article that we were required to read was still there, and was never taken off the screen. There was no need to memorize details or take down notes for that part pala. (Anakngteteng.)

Naturally, the incident dampened my spirit for the rest of the exam. I felt tremendous pressure to ace all the remaining parts and the other exams. Still, even with that motivation, I felt like this was a hopeless campaign.

Sabi nga, be careful what you ask for. Finally, I have a new embarrassing moment to recount. It was more like a blonde moment, some people would say, but I see it as the worst possible kind of embarrassment – the one that embarrasses you even when no one else witnessed it.

I’m only able to recount this now because I feel redeemed. Kumbaga, may pambawi na.

I just got my TOEFL scores last week.

It goes like this kasi: They score you for each exam: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Your scaled score falls within certain levels: HIGH, INTERMEDIATE or LOW for the reading and listening parts; GOOD, FAIR, LIMITED, or WEAK for the speaking and writing parts.

The levels of my Listening, Speaking and Writing skills were all good. Naturally, the clincher was the Reading exam score. When I looked at my score, it was… (drumroll…) High Level!

I didn’t know kung matatawa ako o maiiyak sa tuwa. It wasn’t like I was precluded from taking the exam all over again if I failed it, but I just felt anxious over the prospect of my ego taking a beating and coughing up 6 thousand bucks for it all over again.

Syempre, my scaled score in reading was the lowest in the HIGH range. I guess it was too much to ask to be in the upper range, but I still couldn’t believe it. Either my indomitable spirit carried me through and yielded me enough points to compensate for my big fat ZERO on the first part of the Reading exam, or the test moderators previewed the CCTV tapes of the exam proper and commiserated after seeing in my face what I can only imagine as the definitive look of shock.

Back in 2006, I was inspired to list down some indelible memories from childhood and high school. I enjoyed blogging that (They Try To Tell Us We’re Toyang…). I realized this time is more fitting, since we just recently celebrated our 10th anniversary since graduating from De La Salle Zobel. I was reminded of it after seeing pictures from the batch reunion (which I missed). A late celebration, actually, cause we were officially 10 last year, 2007.So anyway, I remembered some other high school memories and decided to list them down again. I hope to remember more in the coming days 🙂

  1. Speedo gym bags. Doc Martens. Girbaud Stone-washed pants. Tag Heuer Watches. Ilan sa mga nausong mahal na bagay nung high school ako. I can’t believe naki-uso ako at namilit sa magulang ko na bilhan ako ng lahat ng yan. To my credit, lahat yan buhay at nagagamit ko pa (with the exception pala of my Doc Martens’ shoes, na after 13 years, last year, ay nag-rot na ang leather). The investment is paying off.
  • We had to memorize the English and Metric systems for our Earth Science class. To help us, our teacher made us listen to and memorize this song called “English To Metric Conversion Song.” I think she even made us sing in front of the class, in groups or one by one ata, to make sure that we really did memorize it.It was quite effective! I remember during exams, most of us would be singing it in hushed voices or in our heads. Until now, naaalala ko pa yung first two lines ng second stanza… pero hanggang dun lang. Pero alam ko pa ang tono!

    “Just multiply inches by two-point-five-four, and then you’ll get centimeters
    The feet multiplied by point-three-O-five, will give you equivalent meters…”

    Thanks to John Rae, who sang the whole song to me during our Sinulog vacation, nakumpleto ko na ang lyrics nito 🙂

  • During our foundation week celebrations, laging merong perya rides na hina-hire ang school namin. Nung fourth year kami, kung saan most of the Student Council officers ay galing sa class namin, nagka-trahedya.Yung caterpillar na open maging sa grade school kids, nag-malfunction. It went out of control, making the operator panic and leave the ride, causing it to derail and throwing the kids out of their seats. In fact, there was one casualty. The young girl died. The incident made it to primetime news even. That was our school. After that, ilang school din ang nagbawal nang mag-rides during their school fairs. (And an arts building was presently erected and named after the young girl).
  • I think I found UPCAT the most difficult. Dahil right minus wrong daw, unlike the quarterly exams in high school, hindi ako nagtangkang punuan at hulaan yung unshaded items na hindi ko natapos.Ateneo had the most difficult Math exam. Ang DLSU naman, may essay pa. I think the essay during my time was about Bonifacio or something.
  • Come graduation time, nagsisimula nang maghingian ng write-ups ang mga tao sa isa’t isa. Ang nakagawian na simula pa noon ay ang mag-pass-around ng cattleya fillers at doon mo pasusulatin ang ka-close mo ng write up nila for you, which was in part an excuse to boost our adolescent egos. Ang format, tipong ganito:“Raz… Raz de la Torre… Paborito ni Mr. Elloso… Madalas naiiwan sa Gate 3… Cebu/Bohol memories!…” And so on and so forth.

    Lahat ng tao, ganyan ang format. Ewan ba kung bakit walang ni isang matino at coherent paragraph na write up.

  • When we were in first year, isa sa mga nauso in our class was to write novels. It was our childish attempts at writing literature. I remember trying to write a suspense/horror story. Pero among those written, pinaka-hit yung pornographic story written by DA (na Dr. Roberto Emilio Datiles na ngayon). I think it was a hit not only because it was risqué, but because the characters were all based on people in the class.
  • Naturally, Intrams ang isa sa favorite events ko in the year. My favorite sports were volleyball and track and field. I remember, madalas kami maging finalist in the inter-class volleyball game, and a few times, kame yung overall champs sa track and field.
  • Another favorite event was the cheering competition. Intrams ulet. My batch was champion when were Juniors. In our Senior year, we were only second place. I can vividly remember, yung opening ng routine that year was danced to the tune of Superman’s overture. And there was this huge “S” sign that served as background. I thought that was a kick-ass performance from our cheer dancers, and honestly thought we were robbed of a victory.
  • Isang important aspect ng local school culture ay kung saang gate ka nagpapasundo pag dismissal. I think the coolest people waited sa back gate, sa Gate 3. Shempre, dun din kasi ako, hehe…I loved hanging out sa Gate 3 even if it was a long walk to the canteen (where we usually had afterschool hours merienda bonbons, funwiches, and black gulaman).
  • Ang class adviser namin nung Seniors kame ay si Mrs. Telen (who now acts as the Alumni liaison). She was also the Physics Lecture teacher. She’s really brilliant and all, but being her advisory class, I must say, wala ako masyadong natutunan sa kanya. Kasi naman, homeroom spilled over to her class, and homeroom concerns became top of the agenda.Sa lahat ng homeroom concerns, ang madalas on top of the agenda ay ang Cup Collecting. This was an activity she assigned to the whole batch. Basically, what we did was collect plastic Coke cups. It was stacked on top of each other, and then measured and then converted to points, and the points were added to our Physics grade, I think.

    It was a normal thing to see Senior students (the boys in barong pa) going around the canteen collecting used cups from tables. Weird talaga.

  • Another high school tradition (which I think during our generation, ended in our batch) was the INITIATION. Ang principle is this: The Seniors are paired off with a Freshman and they initiate the younger counterpart. The Seniors get to bid on the Freshmen they like, and for the rest, they get assigned.The two batches’ lunch and recess schedules were synched so that the Seniors would get a chance to bully the Freshmen, who are required to act as their slaves. I was lucky mabait yung “master” ko. She basically made me sit to hang out with them, occasionally asking me to buy her lunch (with her money shempre). That was for one whole week, which culminated in a big parade on the fifth day. All the freshmen were made to wear costumes. My master made me dress up as a mummy. Simple lang, kung tutuusin, not that expensive pa, pero di pala ganon kadali.

    Buti na lang, gumana ang creativity ko. Instead of using rolls of tissue paper, which was too weak to use for the whole day, I opted for the paper used in cash registries. So I walked around as a mummy, tapos natago ko pa yung mukha ko (so it wasn’t as embarrassing!).

    When as Seniors, it was our turn to initiate the Freshman na, nakakainis cause the School admin realized it wasn’t a genial practice to prey on the innocent Freshmen. So Initiation became a kapatiran activity, nawala na yung aspect ng pambubully. I became good friends with my “neophyte” and her barkada. Nakakafrustrate lang kase di kami nakaganti!

  • The closer we got to graduating from High School, the more courageous we were in traveling and gimmicking out of town.For Jacky’s debut, we decided to do an overnight stay in our island in Cavinti, Laguna. It was fun cause we all slept in one room, with electricity provided by a generator lang. Later in the evening syempre, we shut the generator off, and we wore ourselves out to sleep by exchanging stories and scaring ourselves with the big bugs.

    That same summer, I spent a weekend vacation naman sa Baguio resthouse ni Janis. Then we followed it up by another trip to our house in Cavinti. Both occasions, Janis and I were with her brother and our classmates Kristine and Rose.

  • If the Seniors and Juniors had the JS Prom, the younger ones had the FS Night (Freshmen-Sophomore Night). It was smaller in scale of course. It was held in the school gymnasium lang.I remember going both times. Pero ang mas naalala ko was this incident where Paul, our valedictorian, danced like he just discovered music, at sa sobrang excitement ay tumilapon yung takong ng shiny leather shoes nya.
  • Aside from passing notes, my classmates and I communicated with each other from across the room using the sign language. Not the complicated type ha, letter by letter. Kaya until now, alam ko pa how to sign all 26 letters of the alphabet.
  • Mr. Lozada, our Vice Principal then, usually talked at our Wednesday general assemblies. When we were in Grade School, he warmed up the audience by asking us to sing, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…”Ewan ko ba kay Mr. Lozada, perhaps we were perpetually young in his eyes, pero even in HS, he made us sing that. So kahit disi-sais na kame, we’re singing, “If you’re happy and you know it stomp your feet…” (Sabay padyak ng paa sa concrete floor ng gym).
  • One of the classic scenes sa class namin: Habang pinapagalitan kami ng mortal nemesis namin sa Faculty na si Mr. Elloso, nakita nya si Clems (na Atty. Jill na ngayon) na nangingiti. Naturally, he was pissed. So he asks her,MR. ELLOSO: Ms. Sabitsana, ba’t ka tumatawa?
    CLEMS: Wala po.
    MR. ELLOSO: Alam mo ba kung saan napupunta ang mga taong tumatawa ng walang dahilan?
    CLEMS: (barely audible) “Sa mental?”

    Buti na lang di narinig ni Mr. Elloso.

  • Our Work Ed classes were either all boys or all girls, where two classes were merged. Our teacher naman there was named Mr. Pacheco. He was a small, very quiet man na Fil-Chinese. Because he was too kind, us guys took his class for granted. That was the time na either sobrang ingay namin, or we did other things instead of listening to his lectures.Isang beses, sobrang nagalit si Mr. Pacheco. There was one guy from the other class na sobrang gulo at ingay. Sa sobrang puno ni Mr. Pacheco, he threw a chalk at the guy. Pulang pula na ang maputla nyang mukha sa galit. Nice statement sana, kaso, di tumama yung chalk sa target nya.
  • For P.E., our teacher Mr. Satorre taught us dances. Ang pinakanaa-alala ko, Chacha.He’d go, “one-two-cha-cha-cha. One-two-pose!”

    Kala namin nung una, strike a pose, cause when he demonstrates it, he stops. Yun pala, hinto. Pose. PAUSE!

  • Mang Bravo was one of the most popular personalities in our school. He was the messenger. He’d usually knock on our front door to hand a note for the teacher to read out loud.One time during our Freshman year, Mang Bravo arrived during our Math class and handed our Math teacher, Mrs. Apostol, a note. On her way to get the note, she slipped. Parang sa cartoon, she literally flew up and landed on her butt. At that time, I was slouched on my seat, tipong ang nakikita ko lang e yung ulo ng classmate ko in front of me, then the blackboard. Nagulat ako cause Mrs. Apostol suddenly disappeared from my line of sight.

    Out of courtesy, the class held their giggles in.

    Buti na lang her fall was cushioned by her butt. So she stood up, and pointed at the slippery spot. “Ah, eh… basa. Basa diyan.”

    Uhmmm… yeah, we can see that.

  • Most of the people in our class, I was classmates with for four straight years. I entered the class kasi when we were Freshman.We did have a pseudo-classmate from another class, however, by virtue of her undying love for our valedictorian Paul. May isang beses, during our field trip, she even rode on our bus instead of her class’. Itago na lang natin sya sa intials na JA.

    Later in the day, the guys in the class started calling Paul “tokwa.” Out of curiosity, someone finally asked. “Ba’t ba tokwa si Paul?”

    Then Emir says, “Kasi may baboy na siya.”

    And everyone burst into laughter.

    (JRae, thanks for reminding me of this. Hilarious! And mean.)

Ahhh…. high school life. Ten years! Those were the days 😉

After travelling by air, land and sea, we finally stepped on Siquijor soil. The fast ferry ride from Dumaguete to the Siquijor port was the worst I can remember. We were seated at the very back part of the boat, where the air conditioning unit was (either that or it was the engine itself that was roasting our calves from under our seat). I knew it was a bad sign that the cabin crew were handing out small plastics that could serve as a barf bag. Thankfully, I didn’t find a need for it.The weather was scary. It was drizzling and there were menacing clouds over the island. Literally! Parang yung island lang ang merong dark clouds. It didn’t look that bad before we got to Siquijor. Para tuloy ni-re-reinforce nya yung mystery ng island. Krizelle of Coco Grove welcomed us and commented, “Maalon!” in her sympathetic Visayan tone. She had with her a small blackboard with a cute, colorful welcome (Welcome, Raz, Norman and Suzan). May GMA7 pa sa blackboard, palibhasa it was our friend from GMA7 who helped us book in Coco Grove.

Darkness raced to envelop the sky as we drove from the port to the resort in San Juan. I noticed the eerie quietness of the province, but convinced myself that it was probably the weather and the Manileño impressions of Siquijor as an island of aswangs. Naturally, that was a running joke among us throughout our stay there.

We were booked in Royal Palm 1, a room good for a family of four. On the ground floor was mini bar, sala/living room set, a small wardrobe with a full body mirror, the bathroom with toilet and bath, and a bed good for two (four if pinilit). On the small loft were the air conditioning unit and two single beds, which Norman and Tutei took. Already, naglolokohan na kami about flying creatures visiting us later in the evening.

Everything in Coco Grove was great. Service was great. The people, the beach (wasn’t powder fine but it was white), the restaurant, the clientele (which were mostly Europeans). The gardens were beautifully landscaped. The rooms were paired in stand-alone nipa huts, spaced just far enough to give everyone privacy. There was a spa, and a bar open till midnight, though we didn’t make full use of that. Two swimming pools, a marine sanctuary and a dive shop (also didn’t get to snorkel). The restaurant had its own French chef and everything in the menu was great. The fruit drinks were all fresh. The staff were all pretty and friendly. All things considered, the lack of a television set in the room was made up for.

The next day, Saturday, after breakfast, we rented two habal-habal (hubble-hubbles, according to Lonely Planet – more commonly known as motorcycles) and went to the neighboring town of Lazi. I drove a yellow habal and Tutei rode with me. Norman rode on another one with our tour guide.

Our first stop was a century-old Balete tree. I would never have imagined being interested in seeing a tree as part of my itinerary, but that tree was majestic, you can’t help but feel humbled beside it. Then we took a photo op at this point in Lazi where you get to see a panoramic view of the west side of the island.

Our next stop was the Lazi town proper, where we got to explore another century-old structure. A convent which now services the town as a school.
Right in front of it is the Saint Isidore parish church, made of lime stone and beautifully time-worn.

After taking a few more pictures, we headed for our intended destination: The Cambugahay Falls. We climbed down 135 steps to the falls, took a dip and customarily took photos with the photogenic triplets that comprised the popular tourist destination. It was simply rejuvinating.

On our way back, we were all dripping wet (except si Manong driver ni Norman). Siquijor’s roads are paved but less sophisticated compared to Camiguin’s. There were also less vehicles on the roads, but it allowed us to soak in the beauty of the island. Lazi could very well have read “Lazy,” but in a good way. It wasn’t just quiet, it was almost serene.

In the evening, we sampled more of the Coco Grove restaurant’s sumptuous dishes. Afterwards, we headed to the direction of the loud music pumping from the nearby basketball court. We were already given a heads up by one of the staff about Saturdays leading to the fiesta being disco nights, and truth be told, we were all looking forward to it. It gave us another agenda for the trip. Siquijor is beautiful but really, there wasn’t much to do.

We got cold feed during first trip to the basketball court. We were intimidated by the crowd from afar. The lack of a crowd, that is. We didn’t want to stick out in a sparse crowd of locals who probably knew each other by name. We decided to go back and considered opting for the videoke bar instead. That intimidated us too after we heard a couple singing a duet. The videoke bar looked like it was a private residence having a private party.

We hung out in the hotel’s lobby and killed time by talking to boyfriends overseas (Tutei), picking on a hermit crab (me), fantasizing about the foreign guests in the hotel (Norman) and dodging huuuuggge salamanders (all three of us).

When three Czech guests of the hotel passed us on their way to the basketball court, we decided to give it another shot. Thankfully. Cause soon as we got to the basketball court, watching the locals dance to a weird mix of old disco songs of yester-decades, present day hip hop hits, local rap songs (mostly from Andrew E), and ballroom tunes, proved too tempting to resist. We paid the entrance fee, ordered ourselves a London gin, bottles of Sprite and Coke, and little packets of Ding Dong, and after biding our time waiting for the perfect moment, ultimately debuted on the dance floor. Tutei and I reminisced on old 90’s dance steps while Norman was by himself on the table, left alone so he can muster the courage to approach and introduce himself to the Czechs (kudos cause he eventually did!).

The next day, Sunday, was spent entirely in Coco Grove. We lounged by the pool area. I read a book while sipping fresh pineapple shakes. Tutei and Norman drank cocktail drinks by the pool bar. Later, we went to the beach and took some more pictures. By late afternoon, we all signed up for a massage in the resort’s spa. We capped the evening by having dinner on the beach, underneath the stars, with torches lighting our delicious meals.

Early the next day, we left Siquijor for Dumaguete, where we bought pasalubongs from Sans Rival cafe. It’s almost unbelievable how differently the island and the sky looked the day we arrived and that day of our departure. It was a perfect metaphor to how much our impression of Siquijor changed from dark and mysterious to bright and paradisal.

My friends’ reaction makes it more apparent how many Filipinos are truly passionate about the current issues in the country. Kaya nga I felt compelled to write that entry. Somehow, I know my inhibition from participating in public protests possibly belies the concern and immense love I have for the Philippines.Hold back, I definitely did. Precisely because I appreciate Lozada’s exposés and respect him for it. Like him, I am against corruption. I wish for us a better brand of politics and, however difficult, I sanguinely dream to see Pinas pull itself out of its rut. But when Lozada starts to act the way he does, when he uses the public stage no just to tell the truth about the anomalous ZTE deal but to ask the public if they will forgive him for his past indiscretions, he too makes it personal. I can expect that from his detractors, the Goliaths of Philippine politics, but not from a “probinsyanong intsik” version of David. It may be inconsequential to ask forgiveness from the public for his past extra-marital affairs (which I’ve seen him do on television) in the context of his explosive disclosure, but if he’s using this opportunity as atonement, that too qualifies as an agenda – and that blurs the distinction between him and the politicians he loves to implicate. Siguro nga, he didn’t set out to have his axe ground. But when he starts with those antics, I can’t help but think that he may have a small one he didn’t realize needed sharpening after all.

That’s what led me to differentiate him from Ms Ocampo, and in turn use that as a parallelism to why I do not respond to today’s call for mass demonstrations the way I proudly did during EDSA Dos. Because that’s where I see myself right now: caught between the dilemma of a desire to rid the government of corruption and traditional politics, and fear of the swarm of shady interest groups lurking in the periphery as they await their chance to grab power for themselves. Maybe other people are just made of tougher things, but I can’t imagine going to a rally endorsed by Binay who until now, despite his vehement stand against corruption in GMA’s administration, refuses to acknowledge his staunch ally’s. A rally where (former nemeses) yellows sit side by side oranges.

I advocate the rule of law even if the political climate does not seem conducive for it. Some people understandably see that as futile, perhaps a misplaced repose of optimism. I personally see it as an enlightened stand, a firm refusal to be used by ANYONE, and faith in the framers of the Constitution. I just think THAT ox is alive and kicking. And I hope to see that ox ram down not just the corruption of THIS government, but corruption – period. Corruption in general. I’m just wary of being means to someone’s selfish end.

I spent the February 15 to 18 post-Valentine weekend river rafting and pigging out in Cagayan de Oro, with a side trip to Bukidnon. In effect, I was chaperone to Council Couples Alexa and Pat, and Concep and Dodie.We stayed at the Pearlmont Inn at Limketkai Drive in CDO. On our first night, we tried the Chicken Ati-Atihan at the Cucina de Oro, a few steps away from where we stayed.

The following day, Saturday, was solely devoted to rafting on the Cagayan River. It is easily one of the best adventures I’ve ever done! We’re already talking about going to Chico River to try rafting there. We almost didn’t mind the sun burn and aching muscles (salamat sa spa ng Pearlmont).

The next day, we hired a cab for PhP2,500 bucks and headed to the neighboring province of Bukidnon. Thanks to Miss Maya, we were able to get to our next destination: the Del Monte Golf Club, where we feasted on the best steaks I’ve ever tasted. (A thousand bucks for the porterhouse was well worth it). That afternoon, we went to the town’s historic church and heard mass in Bisaya. Afterwhich, straight to pasalubong-shopping na. Specifically, pastel and chicharon!

For dinner, we tried Pearlmont’s “Stuffed-Roasted Chicken” (as if lunch’s 300g of beef was not enough). Dodie’s cousin joined us, and later took us videoke-ing at M2 at Limketkai (which at PhP150 per hour room another steal).

Cagayan de Oro is fast becoming one of my favorite places in the country. Even if the traffic’s bad. All in all, a great post-Valentine weekend… Even if sunog ang limbs ko at bitak bitak ang face ko ngayon! 🙂

Here’s why I’m not quite stirred by the political hooplah involving star whistleblower Jun Lozada:I hate any form of grandstanding.

I acknowledge that Jun Lozada is on the side of truth. What I don’t appreciate how he keeps on appealing to emotion and popularity. Self-references as a mere “probinsyanong intsik.” Engaging in an interview on national television dressed in an undergarment then calling attention to how meekly he is dressed compared to the uniformed people with whom he is engaged in a debate. Declaring statements inflamed with self-importance, like “I didn’t know my coming out to tell the truth will save the country’s soul.” Doing rounds, making appearances, delivering speeches, and quoting Jose Rizal in interviews and opportunely referring to the national hero as his idol.

I am tempted to call them stunts, but I don’t want to be unfair to Mr. Lozada. Having said that, it’s hard to not suspect him of consciously doing these things with the intention to efface himself. In an instant, Mr. Lozada morphed from a sniveling witness to a master showman wielding humor and self-deprecating comments to capitalize on public sentiment anxious for change. In my eyes, that’s what spells the difference between genuine and false humility.

This is where Clarissa Ocampo comes in.

Miss Ocampo came out as a witness because she was privy to something important. She simply had something to say, so she came forth, said it, and left the people to weigh her revelations on their own. And that was it. Clarissa Ocampo wasn’t all over the place campaigning for public support like Lozada does nowadays. I seem to remember her indulging requests for appearances but not in a manner that sought recognition as a hero or a savior. Not the way Lozada strikes me. His actions reek of an agenda to hoist himself onto a moral pedestal to earn credibility for his testimonies.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in what Lozada says. I believe that the ZTE deal was anomalous, that Abalos was out to protect his PhP130M commission, that his escort out of the NAIA airport was an attempt to keep him out of the Senate’s reach (though I wouldn’t really join in calling it “kidnapping”). I believe in the value of Lozada’s testimony and how crucial it is in ridding our country of this culture of corruption.

Even so, I believe a careful scrutiny of the messenger is still in order. No, I am not out to shoot Lozada, but neither will I blindly follow the call of Lozada, Joey de Venecia and those from the opposition whose motives are unclear and possibly mixed with selfish ones. Greed, as generally recognized, is the root of corruption. This is why a whiff of greed evokes extraordinary discretion on my part, enough to keep me in the sidelines, far from the hysteria in Binay’s front yard.

What I advocate is a fair assessment of the veracity of these witnesses’ revelations, and a resort to the appropriate legal action that conforms to the rule of law. Yes, people power has been ensconced in the constitution, but so were other legal remedies such as “impeachment.” The political minority and other interest groups lobby for a street protest saying that the administration control of the congress makes it impossible for the a proper resolution of this controversy. So when will an impeachment, as provided in the constitution, be the proper recourse? When it’s convenient for them? Perhaps what they really want is for work to be cut out for them.

I continue to believe in the spirit of EDSA Dos and am grateful that it resulted in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada. And yes, I believe that President Gloria Arroyo is much better president than he was, though she’s obviously far from perfect. But like before, I still would’ve preferred the impeachment proceeding to an extrajudicial ouster of Estrada. I welcome the windfall of our mass protest in 2001 but admit that it was essentially a shortcut. That we allowed it then, I believe, is what drives certain politicians now to clamor for a wrest of power from the present government.

I understand how unfathomable it would seem, especially for hardliners, to hear how I can like EITHER Estrada or Arroyo. But I stress again: this opinion piece is about Jun Lozada and Edsa Dos, and today’s call for rallies.

Back in 2001, I don’t remember being ‘called’ by anyone to go to Edsa. I think it’s because back then, ordinary people like us took the lead, and organized blocks followed. Not necessarily the case now. While I recognize this time that many untarnished figures who I look to as moral beacons are beckoning ordinary people like us to join the rally, beside them I see the likes of Erap, Joe and Joey de Venecia.

We should’ve heeded that nagging feeling back in Edsa Dos, when we wondered why traditional and quasi-politicians like Chavit Singson, Bong Revilla and Nora Aunor shared the stage with Chief Justice Davide and those others whom we trusted as sincerely echoing our sentiments, when we wondered why GMA only showed up for the oath-taking. But I own up to that, I helped ushering a GMA into the presidency, I share the blame. I just don’t want to contribute to another wrong. I want to determine if this indeed is the right way to go – an extrajudicial route to enact changes once again. Who fills in the void afterwards is a serious concern that needs as much deliberation. We should learn from the Estrada turnover to GMA in 2001. Doesn’t it prove that people power is not only an extrication, but an installation of another figure, and that it can be just as bad, if not worse? Sino ulit sisihin natin pag nangyari yon? Discernment is my mantra for now.

It’s not simply about lack of an alternative to a present evil, but a refusal to be manipulated by another one.

I was already made into a pawn when I participated in EDSA Dos. I’m not falling for that again. Fool me twice, shame on me. It would take much more than people with shady credentials and blatant agenda to coax me into heeding a call that could ultimately sweep someone else less deserving and more deleterious into power.

Thank you, Mr. Lozada, for telling us what you know. You have definitely earned your place in history. But can you please stop with the antics now?

Been thinking of a fitting homage to one of the best memories I have of Zobel. Kinda weird thinking of a person as a memory, but that’s how Brother Felix Mason will be to many people now. Since graduating from Zobel in ’97, and with no younger siblings left in the campus, I never had a chance to see him again. Thanks to Chad’s, my highschool classmate, status message, I found out that Brother Felix recently passed away. Further googling confirmed it was just a few days ago, possibly yesterday, February the 6th. It was skin cancer that got the old man, and it happened at Napa Valley in California where he spent his remaining days in retirement.

The past few years, I’ve wondered whatever happened to Brother Felix. I’ve hoped against the grim thought of him being dead, but that wasn’t exactly unthinkable. After all, he already looked way beyond his sixties when I was barely in my teens. He was this very tall, balding, bespectacled white American who was usually dressed in his white clerical clothing distinctive of most La Salle brothers. His speech was naturally accented, which tended to make him appear more foreign than he already was, but he would always pepper it with Tagalog terms. It amused us whenever he’d tell us how ‘pogi’ we were. (Or maybe ako lang yon, haha, the compliment-deprived kid that I was!).

Back when I was still studying in Zobel, he seemed to know all the students’ names. I remember blogging how he was the first person to ever call me Razmatazz. That’s the thing I remember most about him, and I think it serves as a beautiful metaphor for his relationship to me and the hundreds (thousands?) of kids whose lives he touched. Being known to him in that special way, having this previously unheard of pet name from someone, made me feel like I was unique. That was his thing, you see. To me at least. He had this way of making a person, a kid, feel special. One of a kind.

When it was someone’s birthday, he made it a point to summon that student to his office. Remembering now, I realize I actually looked forward to Mang Bravo (the school messenger, another bald man, pero Pinoy) arriving in our class with a small colored piece of paper, and the teacher reading it then announcing that I am wanted in Brother Felix’s office. At times it served as a public reminder that it was actually my birthday. For a few seconds, with everyone’s eyes on me and some of my classmates whispering birthday greetings (sometimes, the teacher even made the whole class sing a song before letting me go), I’d feel like it was indeed my special day.

In his office, Brother Felix would make me choose from a bunch of small cards with religious images of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Virgin Mary or the saints. (I just learned they were called stampitas). It was to be his gift to me. After I make my choice, he’d tell me the stories behind my selection. He’d say why the image of the child Jesus preaching in the temple was a perfect choice for me, or what virtue my Saint of choice personified. Sometimes, he even made me stay long enough so I’d go out just in time for recess or lunch.

It was also Brother Felix who taught me how to play Cribbage. That was at a point in my student life when hanging out in his office became a past time for me. At first, it was an excuse to stay in an air conditioned room during the heat of lunch time. Then it became an escape from having to mingle with the other students. I was that shy when I was in grade school, contrary to what some of my friends today think (promise, di ako bibo noon, haha). In his presence, I felt welcomed. I also remember this small nondescript box Brother Felix kept on his desk. When you opened it, you’d find a small card with a note asking, “Curious, aren’t you?” He was a jokester and a smart-ass that way.

Brother Felix’s warmth, kindness and ebullience ismissed. He was loved. And he was one of a kind.

Pinatos ko na ren tong questionnaire survey na to :)Maligayang sentenaryo, UP! Ang galing mo!

1. Student number?
97-18393

2. College?
College of Mass Communication. Diliman Campus.

3. Ano ang course mo?
BA Broadcast Communication

4. Nag-shift ka ba o na-kickout?
I stuck to it. Broad Comm through and through.

5. Saan ka kumuha ng UPCAT?
BA (College of Business Administration) Building. Ako ang pinakaunang dumating – at 4AM ata. I slept sa car and when I woke up, kehaba na ng pila. Balewala, haha :))

6. Favorite GE subject?
Most of my first year subjects: Comm 1, Soc Sci 1, Kas 1. STS din, kase I only had to go for the attendance.


7. Favorite PE?
Bowling! At kahit baku-bako ang lanes sa Alumni Center, madalas isa ko sa pinakamataas ang score. Oh, and wall climbing! Fun din ang aking PEs na dinrop: Fencing at archery.

8. Saan ka nag-aabang ng hot guy/girl sa UP?
Hmmm… that was never a hobby, interestingly.


9. Favorite prof(s)
Ma’am Rose Feliciano – BC 101 (Radio Production)
Ma’am Evelyn David – BC 121 (TV Production) and BC130 (Program Planning and Development)
Señora Carmen and Maita de Ventanilla (Span 1&2, French 1&2)
Ariandne Morta (Italian 10)

10. Pinaka-ayaw na GE subject.
Com 2. By virtue of our professor. I used to sleep through Soc Sci 2 pero that was because it was an 8.30AM class.

11. Kumuha ka ba ng Wed or Sat classes?
Never took Saturday classes. Wednesdays kase dun lang available yung gusto kong professors. But even when I didn’t have a class, I went on all weekdays… for tambay.

12. Nakapag-field trip ka ba?
Yes. For class projects, pero none of those official class ones, like sa PI 100. My thesis was like a field-trip all over Mindanao.

13. Naging CS ka na ba or US sa UP?
Yup! First sem ko. Then I went over to the dark side. My average usually made it, but I was not qualified for CS/US na dahil sa ROTC (I only went during my first sem, freshman year).

14. Ano ang Org/Frat/Soro mo?
Broad Ass! The UP-CMC Broadcasting Association.

15. Saan ka tumatambay palagi?
Mass Comm Veranda. Sa old green Rav4 ko, wherever I could park it.

16. Dorm, Boarding house, o Bahay?
I rented room 604 in Loyola Heights Condominium sa Esteban Abada in Katips. Stayed there all 4 years of undergrad, all 2 years of law school… Until na-carnapan ako.

17. Kung walang UPCAT test at malaya kang nakapili ng kurso mo sa UP, ano yun?
On the UPCAT form, Broadcast Communication was the one that appealed to me the most. I was lucky to get into my first choice of course and campus.

18. Sino ang pinaka-una mong nakilala sa UP?
Aside from my HS classmate na si Kristel na blockmate ko ren, si Concep Mendoza. Within the same hour, in the wrong classroom, Alexa Porto, Joni Mosatalla and Mark Carballo – original six ng Council. (Peace, Forsyth, Jean! Hehe)

19. First play na napanood mo sa UP?
Hmmm…. I dunno. First movie na lang sa FC: “Total Eclipse” about Rimbaud and Verlaine, starring Leonardo diCaprio and some guy whose last name was Thewlis (the guy who played Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movies)

20. Name the 5 most conyo orgs in UP
Most people think Broad Ass is coño, though hindi naman talaga. I didn’t care much about the others.

21. Name 5 of the coolest orgs/frats/soro in UP.
Broad Ass. Of the others, I’d’ve loved to be part of UP Pep Squad – not really because I can cheerdance – cool lang talaga sila.

22. May frat/soro bang nag-recruit sa yo?
Yeah.

23. Saan ka madalas mag-lunch?
All over UP. Casaa, Beach House, SC, Mang Jimmy’s! Chocolate Kiss, Chateau Verde. Madalas outside the campus… Sa Katips. SM North. El Pueblo… haha!

24. Masaya ba sa UP?
Pinakamasaya sa UP.


25. Nakasama ka na ba sa rally?
Yup! Erap Resign! And eventually, EDSA Dos – which happened on the week we were doing most of the key interviews for our thesis. The day we interviewed Angelo Reyes, kinabukasan, nag-step down sya sa pagiging AFP Chief of Staff.

26. Ilang beses ka bumoto sa Student Council
All times.

27. Name at least 5 leftist groups in UP
Stand UP, LFS, atbp.

28. Pinangarap mo rin bang mag-laude nung freshman ka?
Not so much pinangarap as in-expect. Haha angas! In the end, summa…bit lang. Hehe.

29. Kanino ka pinaka-patay sa UP?
Hmmm… Some person I used to see in Starbucks 🙂

30. Kung di ka UP, anong school ka?
La Salle siguro, cause most of my Zobel classmates went there. But I was gung ho on going to UP. I didn’t have a specific reason… I was just drawn to it. Now, I can’t imagine myself having gone somewhere else.

Of my few accomplishments in life, I count being an iskoin the University of the Philippines among those I am unapologetically proud of. However trivial it may sound, I consider passing the UPCAT, surviving life in its Diliman campus, and ultimately obtaining my degree from UP as accomplishments. That’s why I was excited to be at the country’s premiere state university yesternight for the kick-off celebration of UP’s centennial.

I arrived a little past 6PM, with the academic oval clad in darkness, save for the makeshift stage set up in front of the Oblation shrine. Despite that, the atmosphere was thick with excitement, with every corner busting at the seams with people both young and old. I suspect, every one of them a proud Iskolar ng Bayan.

As I made my way to where the centennial cauldron was, I bumped into Thess and Trisha, friends I made during my short stint with Dulaang UP. While sitting on the gutter waiting for the program to start, we noticed a cluster of torches inching its way to the Quezon Hall at the left side of the acad oval, in front of the College of Music. Apparently, I got there just in time for the lighting of thecauldron. Within minutes, the torch bearers were marching in front of us, supposedly led by Fernando Javier, who at 100 is the oldest known UP Alumnus. We kept suspecting every gray-haired grandpa as Mr. Javier. Today’s paper confirmed that I actually managed to take a picture of him 🙂 (He’s the oldest looking bloke near the torch in the picture below.) He was accompanied by other luminaries. I managed to get a glimpse of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, fellow Asser Direk Maryo J. de los Reyes, and Richard Gomez. President Emerlinda Roman, the 100th torch bearer and first female president of the UP system, delivered a brief welcome and proceeded to the lighting the cauldron. The university suddenly lit up and the crowd broke into wild cheers. Trees along the acad oval were decorated with lights, as if Christmas has been extended. Then, the jubilation smoothly segued to the singing of the UP Naming Mahal. I sang along, glad to realize that I haven’t forgotten the words. And after throwing our fists up in honor of our Alma Mater, the UP Pep Squad performed in the midst of the throng.


I lost Thess and Tricia in the frenzy, but at least it allowed me to take more pictures of the momentous event. Soon after, I finally met up with my date for the evening. Olive found me waiting right beside the centennial cauldron, ruining most people’s pictures by refusing to leave my spot 🙂

Afterwards, we joined the hundreds of people in watching the free show at the ampitheatre behind Quezon Hall, where the university graduation is yearly held. Choral groups from different UP units performed. Even Ryan Cayabyab sang a composition entitled “Salamat Sa ‘Yo UP,” which he penned with another UPIS alum. Ultimately, though, I think most of the spectators were really waiting to see for more routines from the UP Pep Squad, and they did not disappoint. There was another heartfelt singing of the UP Naming Mahal, and then the evening culminated with a spectacular fireworks display which felt like it would go on forever.

Sabi ng ang friend ko, I was on a high daw that evening. I couldn’t help it. Celebrating with all that pomp and being surrounded with all that greatness… not since my graduation did UP’s imprint on me feel that tangible. How can one not be in awe of the glorious legacy of UP? What more if you are actually part of it? 🙂

Mabuhay ang UP!

UP, Ang Galing Mo!

 

(Click on the pictures for the full resolution, especially for the fireworks 🙂 I uploaded the rest of the photos in my Multiply site.)

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danny Lim, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and company (including Bishop Labayen, Father Robert Reyes, Bibeth Orteza, etc.) just declared that they are finally vacating the Manila Peninsula’s premises. In so doing, he claims that it is not to signify defeat or surrender, but to avoid further endangering the lives of civilian and media men who have been holed up with them in the hotel. This, following the PNP’s forceful entry into the hotel lobby, with APC tanks ramming into the barricaded main entrance.

I woke up to news and images of Manila Peninsula’s lobby barricaded from the inside, with soldiers with red armbands scattered throughout the hotel, and media people seemingly trapped inside. By then, I learned that there was a 3PM ultimatum given by the Philippine National Police (PNP) for them to surrender. A warrant has been subsequently issued for Senator Trillanes and his group’s arrest. The hour has come and gone unheeded, and it was then that PNP came in with APCs and the Special Action Force (SAF). Warning shots were fired (apparently from the side of the police) and tear gas thrown in. Soon after, the PNP forces entered into the hotel with tanks.

Being an ordinary civilian watching the events unfold on television, it appears to me that the ultimatum was intended to be the peaceful way out for them. Senator Trillanes ignored this call. His lawyers gave a statement questioning the legality of the warrant, in effect justifying their decision to stand their ground. Meanwhile, media men, hotel staff, hotel patrons and other civilians were kept inside with them.

NOW, Senator Trillanes’s group sends the message that they never intended to inflict violence, and that it was clearly the government who caused the situation to escalate. The Senator also proffers that this is the last resort left for them, saying, among other things, that the administration has continuously denied his mandate from the 11 Million people who voted him into the Senate. Father Robert Reyes (the Running Priest) goes on to say that they were actually preparing to leave the hotel when tear gas was thrown into the hotel lobby. They were only prevented from doing so because of concern for the health of the people in their entourage. Then we hear Atty. JV Bautista saying that this has gone out of hand, with the media becoming peripheral casualty.

Talk about Monday morning quarterback-ing. I just find it hard to rally behind Sen. Trillanes’s cause when there seems to be a disconnect between his actions and his words.

I myself condemn the PNP’s attempts to curtail press freedom and confiscate file footage taken during the mutiny (if indeed these reports are accurate). However, these points are distinct and separate from the crux of the mutiny.

I just find it amusing that the mutineers have suddenly withdrawn from defending the principles behind their cause in favor of appealing to mass sympathy and support. Suddenly, they have taken the position of being victims in this particular situation, conveniently glossing over the fact that they unnecessarily took over the Manila Peninsula, subsequently (and intentionally?) disrupting peace and order. Who, then, is truly to blame in putting civilians and media men’s lives in peril?

I’d probably be more prepared to lend validity to Sen. Trillanes’s actions had they not taken this messianic stance of being the nation’s saviors while completely disregarding the error of the means by which they choose to achieve their proclaimed righteous goals. He may be a senator, and I respect that (even though I am not among the 11 Million members of the electorate whom he constantly uses as shield to legitimize his actions). I just thought that being a member of the legislature, it was also incumbent upon him to respect the rule of law and refrain from resorting to extra-judicial means.

Is he a senator, or is he a revolutionary? He seems to be both, depending on when it is most convenient to his public image.

Lest you forget where you really stand, you simply cannot have a foot on either side of the border.

Ever since I heard about it winning the 2004 (?) Tony Award for best musical, I’ve looked forward to watching AVENUE Q. Two weeks ago, thanks to Atlantis Production, I finally got to see the play at the Carlos P. Romulo Theatre, RCBC Plaza Makati with my close friends Judy, Norman, Rey, Erica and Pinky.Initially, it was just the idea of seeing puppets dominate the stage with the puppeteers singing beside them that got me interested in the play. I thought that was a brilliant idea. It was only later that I realized that the whole production was in fact a musical parody of Sesame Street, a childhood staple for me and most of my friends (alongside Batibot!). Maybe that’s the reason why I was instantly curious about the production. After downloading some Avenue Q songs off Limewire, I was officially hooked.

Aside from the not-so-subtle allusions to Cookie Monster and Ernie and Bert, the songs are what I love most about it. I even Amazon-ed a copy of the CD. From the opening tune, “What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?” to others exploring the theme of looking for one’s purpose in life, it literally spoke to my generation. I remember back in college, when my batchmates and I had to fend off constant criticisms from media practitioners and fresh grads about our course not being as relevant as it was before. The song could’ve very well sung, “What do you do with a B.A. in Broad Comm?”

There were also the songs about unrequited love, political correctness, and reminiscence over college days. Among those I loved most are “Fantasies Come True” and “There’s A Fine, Fine Line.”

I guess you’ll never know ’til you reach the top
If it was worth the uphill climb
There’s a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time

Sigh. Napapatingin nga ko ke Rey while the song was being performed as I knew he was going through something similar as Kate Monster was going through.

Oh, and “Mix Tape”! Especially since as a kid, I was in the habit of making mix tapes, albeit for my own personal pleasure. That quirk was carried on to college, although thanks to technology, I upgraded to ripping and burning CD tracks instead, making soundtracks to my out-of-town trips with friends. I fed on the satisfaction borne out of hearing a van-ful of friends bouncing or sighing “awww….” in chorus as we listened to and sung along songs that appealed to our generation, whether because they made us wax nostalgia or because they were current hits at the time.

Ahhh, those college days…

No surprise I also loved *loved* Avenue Q’s penultimate anthem “I Wish I Could Go Back To College.”

I wish I could go back to college
Life was so simple back then
What would I give
To go back and live
In a dorm with a meal plan ahead

I wish I could go back to college
In college, you know who you are
You sit in the quad and think, “Oh my god,
I am totally gonna go far”

How do I go back to college?
I don’t know who I am anymore
I wanna go back to my room
and find a message in dry-erase pen on the door

I wish I could just drop a class
Or get into a play
Or change my major
Or fuck my T.A.
I need an academic advisor to point the way!

We could be…
sitting in a computer lab
4A.M. before the final paper is due
Cursing the world cause I didn’t start sooner
And see the rest of the class there, too!…

I wish I had taken more pictures…

I swear, it’s like the words were written with my own pen. A blog entry unto itself can be written about this.

It wasn’t the first time I got fascinated by a musical that I haven’t seen. Like most kids my age at the time, I bought the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Miss Saigon. (Tape pa nga non e, later na lang nung mas matanda ako bumili ng CD). Even if it was about Vietnam, kahit I had to settle piecing the story together through the songs (unlike the CD sleeve, the tape didn’t have the plot synopsis), the fact a Filipina was playing Kim was enough. For a generation of kids, Lea Salonga instantly became the local artist to look up to. I no longer get surprised when I hear a song from that CD and see other Gen X-ers singing along with the same familiarity.

I remember back in college when news of Miss Saigon playing its final season in Broadway. I wanted so much to catch Lea in it that I even planned on going to New York to see it. Unfortunately, the day I applied for a visa was the same day the Visiting Forces Agreement was being deliberated on in the Senate. As in, while I was lined up to enter the US Embassy in Roxas Boulevard, there was a protest rally outside (this eventually became my inspiration for one of the scenes in YOU ARE THE ONE, starring Toni Gonzaga and Sam Milby). No wonder from almost 100 percent visa application approvals the day before, it dropped to 5 percent the following day. And I was among the casualty.

Of course, that turned out to be a blessing since the production was brought to Manila a few years after, with Lea playing Kim. I got to watch the show after all. Thrice! Once for free, and another time with my Mom, on Christmas Eve, with Lea and the rest of cast treating the audience to a special, surprise treat: A slew of Christmas carols sung by the cast and crew themselves! That was definitely one of my most memorable Christmases.

Then there’s Rent. I stumbled into this musical by accident. Back when the Tower Records store in Glorietta 3 was the biggest record store there was, I used to scour through its merchandise looking for CDs that were erstwhile unavailable to us Pinoys. While looking through the section that had the Original Broadway Cast recordings, I was drawn to the Rent CD. I bought it on a whim and instantly fell in love. At the time, it had been a few years since it won the Tony Award for best musical. Soon after, I heard about the plans to stage it here in Manila. My friend Hannah even encouraged me to audition for it, considering it had a very hip, almost R&B-inspired; libretto. I didn’t think I had the performing chops to boost the desire, so I settled for being an audience. I got to see it twice in the Music Museum. That was really something, what with some foreign audiences saying that our cast was even better than Broadway’s!

Back to Atlantis’s AVENUE Q. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed. I don’t know if it was because I hyped it much too much in my head. On the positive side, I did love Rachel Alejandro (but then, I’ve always loved her). But even my friends who didn’t know much about her thought that her portrayal of Kate Monster and Lucy The Slut was impressive. I thought so too. Especially when she was doing Lucy, whose character called for the grunting, belting style of singing that was closer to Rachel’s professional singing style. Joel Trinidad, who played Trekkie, Nicky, and one half of the hilarious Bad Idea Bears tandem (one of the show’s few surprises, considering I knew most of what to expect from the production) was just… Wow. Galeng!

Frenchie Dy, playing Christmas Eve, was okay. Well, okay, she was quite good. Although there were times when she did drop her character’s Japanese accent, as in her solo number, “The More You Ruv Someone,” which was otherwise laudable if not for her tendency to sound like her normal self while hitting those high notes, instead of Christmas Eve with her idiosyncratic R-L speech defect.

Now, Rycharde Everly as Brian was a definite miscast. He didn’t have the comic timing required by his character. Sayang pa naman some of his punch lines, flying way overhead in a total miss, with nary a hit. Felix Rivera playing the lead character Princeton was… nothing spectacular. I thought he lacked the lovable, matinee idol dimension to the character, though he was great at playing Rod, Nicky’s gay Republican roommate. With Aiza Seguerra, I’m torn. I love her singing voice, so it’s hard for me to diss her as Gary Coleman. She has a great recording voice but the stage didn’t give it justice. She wasn’t able to fill the shoes of her character, either. She had much potential in the part, but she was awkward and unrealized. I was close to burying myself in embarrassment as she sang “Schadenfreude,” supposedly her character’s moment to shine, but sadly turned into a failure. It was like Aiza wanted the audience to know how Schadenfreude really felt – happiness in the misfortune of others.

As a member of the paying audience, I get to say all that. I just want to qualify my right to critique the play. Lalo na since some of friends know that I actually auditioned for the play.

This was a few months back, in June ata. My friends and I have been planning on it, but I didn’t realize when the audition was until the night before the actual day. As a result, I wasn’t able to prepare, emotionally and otherwise. The next day, I grabbed all the music sheets in my house and picked up Pinky and Norman, who both agreed to join me in my humiliation. I only decided on what to sing on the ride to Makati, after Pinky suggested “something from Rent.” I finally zeroed in on “I’ll Cover You.”

When I got there and saw the number of people lined up for the auditions, rehearsing and reviewing their pieces, I knew there and then that I had no chance. I just didn’t have the guts to do it. But I soldiered on. Only because I didn’t want to quit after setting out to do it, and because I wanted to chalk it up as one of those things I got to do before I died.

Pinky was the first to sing. She sang, “Where Is Love” from Oliver. We could hear her from the anteroom and she sounded perfect. At sa lagay na yon, she kept claiming she didn’t have enough sleep and that she sounded hoarse! I was already panicking at this stage. I started to realize singing a song which was a duet by two men whose voices were of different pitches was not the best idea. Oh, and I didn’t even have the song memorized. Jeez!

My turn was up. When I got inside the room, I was overwhelmed. Bobby Garcia, Chari Arespacochaga and another guy were the ones holding the auditions. I handed the sheet to the assistant, who in turn gave it to the pianist, and I stepped on the X mark. “This is Raz de la Torre.”

“What are you singing?”

“I’ll Cover You from Rent? I don’t have it memorized so I’ll be reading from this.”

The moment those words were out of my mouth, I knew I was headed for disaster. Tanga! Why did I have to call attention to that? I already knew that was a no-no, did I really have to make them more conscious of it?

Well, anyway, I proceeded to singing. My first note was off, and my voice was quivering. But I think I recovered naman. When the shift from the first male voice to the next came, I managed to hold the fort – the transition was fine. Now, at this point, as I was singing, I distinctly remember hating both Bobby and Chari. Throughout my song, Bobby had looked indifferent, but Chari… Chari looked mean and scathing, though both were actually silent the whole time. Except at one point when Chari whispered something to Bobby. Maybe that’s where my “scathing” remark comes from.

They allowed me to sing through two stanzas until the end of the first chorus, and I did it with considerable aplomb, something I didn’t expect to muster while auditioning, and after a nerve-wracking, confidence-shattering wait outside!

Bobby thanked me. And I stopped. And then, he said, “Nice voice. Very good.” And bowed to look at the next resume on his table. I turned around and walked away.

I didn’t even notice Norman’s audition anymore, as I was just thankful mine wasn’t as disastrous as I expected it to be. I never knew what a tall order it was to be an amateur performing in front of professionals. The only time I auditioned for a play was in college, and that wasn’t half as intimidating as the time I did for Avenue Q. So to get a compliment after wallowing in self-doubt and thoughts of “what am I thinking!?” ranked way up there, as if Chari herself had broken into a smile and said, “That’s it, Raz! You’re our Princeton!”

So all in all, and put in that context, I felt the Atlantis Production did an okay job. The material was great to begin with, so once they got the puppeteering nailed down, I guess they got it made. Besides, seeing and hearing those wonderful songs performed onstage was reward enough. Now, if only someone would risk (re)staging Les Miserables, Jekyll & Hide, The Civil War, Into The Woods, Monty Python’s Spamalot, Wicked, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Hairspray, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Drowsy Chaperone, and A Chorus Line.

Bobby, Chari?

As the SIF-ASEAN Student Fellowship I attended in 2002 came to an end, the Fellows agreed on a pact to meet again in Singapore five years after. The date, 20th July 2007. In short: 20.07.2007.At first, I thought it wasn’t a very good idea to have a reunion that soon. I reasoned some of us may still be studying then, or just finished college and are just starting to work. I thought it might be better to wait for our 10th year. That way, we’d all be established in our respective careers and better disposed to covering the expenses for the reunion. But it had already been agreed upon, so I shut up and just looked forward to that fateful day.

About a year ago, my Kabayans and I thought of jump starting the preparation for the reunion. We wanted to make sure more people can go, so we thought of ways to maybe market money and subsidize the lodging and transportation costs. However, most of us were busy with our jobs and whatever plans we eventually fell through.

Early this year, the Fellows started talking about the upcoming reunion. Talks of holding the reunion in Genting Highlands in Malaysia, but we eventually decided on holding it in Singapore. Always, the priority being making it convenient for the most number of people.


I was so excited. There were even requests from some of the Fellows for me to bring the old videothat I made so we can view it again in the reunion. While burning a DVD copy of that video, I thought, why not make another one? I had more than 10 hours worth of footage from the Fellowship. Surely, there were lots of clips they haven’t seen that they’d love to see. I kept putting it off because I was busy with work, and by the time I gathered the old tapes from the Fellowship so I can at long last start editing a new video, I only had a week left before the reunion.
Previewing the tapes took most time. I salvaged around six tapes, around 8 hours worth. Going through that wouldn’t normally take that long since I can breeze through it by speeding the playback. But when you’re reviewing footage that contained precious memories, you can’t help but sit back and watch. Countless times, I laughed myself silly watching and reminiscing those days. Memories that have taken refuge at the back end of my mind suddenly came rushing to fore.

Two days before my flight to Singapore, I started editing this music video. I wanted it to be a fitting tribute to the 5th anniversary and first official reunion of the SIF-ASEAN Student Fellowship Batch 2002. Back then, I had all the time in the world to make sure that the “Seasons of Love” music video I was preparing came out exactly as I intended it to be. I was able to make sure all the important events that were caught on tape edited into the final cut. I made sure all the Fellows had a few seconds of exposure. With only two days left, I just didn’t have that same luxury anymore. I worked for two days, rushing to make sure I made it to the reunion. I finished at 5.30AM on July 21, and I had to dash to the airport by 6AM if I were to make my 8AM flight (I got to the airport at 6.30AM, almost didn’t make it!).

When I got to Singapore, the Fellows were engaged in the Singapore Heritage Race, fashioned after the Amazing Race. Some of the Fellows arrived earlier than the agreed upon date, and have had their fill of Singapore. I didn’t want to go to Su Lynn’s house (our generous Singaporean host) by myself, so I decided to do my shopping at Orchard. I went to the spots I frequented back when I was still studying in the Lion Cit: Kinokuniya, Borders, Raffles City, Citylink Mall.

It was already evening when I finally met up with the Fellows. I got to Vivo City (the spanking new mall at Habour Front) a little past 9PM. I felt a little nervous as I walked toward the restaurant… I didn’t know what to expect. When entered Marcher, I was awashed with delight to see so many Fellows in one place, and so many whom I haven’t seen for a very long time. Duong (who came with his girlfriend, Phuong), Lum, Cynthia, Vippy, Danny, Joel, Ivy, Man, Ben, Hang, OPS, Jeffrey, Dat, Su Lynn, and my Kabayans, Duke, Richard, Kenneth and Natz. Of course, Gerald was reliably there to shepherd his erstwhile flock, all of us now older though not necessarily grown up 😉 The very pregnant Claudia arrived a few moments later with her husband and our adopted batchmate Kevin.I had so much fun catching up and goofing around with the Fellows. The faux-marketplace theme of Marcher added to the festive atmosphere. One might think it wasn’t much of a reunion considering we didn’t even reach half of our batch’s total number, but gathering 22 people at one place is no mean feat. And having that many number of people sitting together to honor and commemorate an experience that we all hold dearly in our hearts is just overwhelming. Euphoric.

We went to Fong Seng, one of our former hang outs during our Fellowship days located at the outskirts of NUH. We continued to exchange updates over roti prata and teh tarik. We relayed news about our other Kabayans who couldn’t make it, learned who among them just recently tied the knot, became parents or are expecting, relocated, and graduated. What they’re doing and how fat their paychecks are now. We also exchanging contact details. Riza joined us at Fong Seng, bringing our number to 23.After long drawn goodbyes to those who had to go home because of other obligations (Joel, Kevin, Claudia, and Vippy had to go home, Cynthia had an early flight the following morning), we went to Su Lynn’s house. We nestled in the basement and feasted on the snacks we brought from our respective countries. Someone took out a bottle of vodka, but no one seemed brave enough to initiate the drinking. It seemed like only a few of us were genuinely excited about the vodka.

They clamored for the long awaited viewing of the Seasons of Love video. Riza preempted my surprise a bit when he asked if I was showing a new one. We set up the laptop and waxed nostalgic as we watch that old video projected onto the expansive white wall of Su Lynn’s basement. It’s like viewing it again for the first time the way everyone laughed and cheered as familiar clips were played. 

Then, I took out the other DVD I brought and played the video I recently edited, the one I almost didn’t finish in time. Unlike the previous one, we watched this new video more solemnly. Perhaps it was because it was fresh to them, because of the new clips I included in it. Or maybe it was because it included clips of our parting, footage of fellows crying as we said our goodbyes five years ago. I’ve always loved the song “Your Home Is In My Heart” by Boyz II Men, from the soundtrack of the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” Over the years, I never got the chance to make use of it. I finally did with this new video. 

I relished the irony of being in Singapore, reunited five years after, huddled as we watched our younger selves crying, waving our hands as we bade farewell and depressed at the probability of never seeing each other again. It’s like we were spitting on the notion of goodbye. 

Warmed up, we finally mustered enough courage to tipple the vodka. After offering Gerald the ceremonial first sip, we started passing around the shot glass. At first, it was just OPS, Man, Kenneth, Lum, Dat, Duke and Richard who were game. Due to our insistence, we eventually managed to bring most of the others into the circle. Dat intiated drinking games which we initially thought too corny but went along with anyway. We finished the entire first bottle before long.Late in the evening, we succeeded in bringing everyone in our drinking games. Su Lynn generously offered us another bottle of vodka from her father’s bar. She also brought left over chicken to add to the the junk we’ve been feasting on. W

e had a blast! Especially when Dat kept losing most rounds of the games he’s supposed to be the master of 🙂Even Riza whose religion disallowed him from downing the penalty vodka shot (he drank water intead, though he still seemed drunker than most by the time we finished). Duong fell asleep early in the game, clearly unused to the drinking. Others who we were initially reluctant were unable to resist our prodding. Even Duke who was scheduled to fly out in a few hours got wasted a bit more than he intended.We were all drunk or tipsy when we finally retired. We took our places on Su Lynn’s vodka stained carpet (sorry again, Su Lynn) and started snoring.

When I woke up the next day, we had gathered at the poolside to chat. As they took orders for their lunch, I said a temporary goodbye to head off to Orchard and change since I didn’t have time to bring extra clothes the previous night. After a quick shower, however, I dozed off and woke up late in the afternoon. I learned that most of the Fellows have left by then. And that was that, an abrupt end to a surprisingly wild but sentimental weekend.

This is a new, re-edited cut of the video, with some footage that were not included in the version I premiered during the reunion drinking session. Five months in Singapore summed up in a five-minute song to celebrate five years of friendship.


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYFBvTbGEbk]
The footage may be rusty and dated, but the sentiments remain as fresh as ever.Now looking forward to our revitalized pact to meet again in three years: 20th October 2010. In short…

AN OPEN LETTER TO MISS MALU FERNANDEZDear Ms. Malu Fernandez,

I was waiting in my dentist’s receiving room a few months ago when I read your article in the June 2007 issue of People Asia. I remember feeling incensed by the way you denigrated your fellow Filipinos and the pompous way you name-dropped Malone, Vuitton, the places you’ve been to and the *more* famous people with whom you hobnob. However, I was alone at that time and thought it would be inappropriate to direct my indignation to the unsuspecting receptionist in front of me.

I have completely forgotten about it until today, when I read my friend’s blog entry about your article. It was only then that I read the wealth of literature written about you and your article, and realized how much it has rocked the blogosphere and the massive campaign that had since been launched seeking for your firing or resignation (in a parallel universe, I’d probably even applaud the impact you’ve created).

What I say here may never reach your expensive computer screen (my blog’s no People Asia after all), but I will say it anyway, to add fuel to the already raging inferno borne of the outrage over your… existence.

Following her recollections of her trip to Boracay and Greece, Malu Fernandez goes on to write this about her layover in UAE (the whole article is at the bottom of this blog):

“However I forgot that the hub was in Dubai and the majority of the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) were stationed there. The duty-free shop was overrun with Filipino workers selling cell phones and perfume. Meanwhile, I wanted to slash my wrist at the thought of being trapped in a plane with all of them. Of course, everyone in the economy class was yelled at for having overweight hand-carries. Mine was 17kg (ssshhhh!!!).

“While I was on the plane (where the seats were so small I had bruises on my legs), my only consolation was the entertainment on the small flat screen in front of me. But it was busted, so I heaved a sigh, popped my sleeping pills and dozed off to the sounds of gum chewing and endless yelling of “HOY! Kumusta ka na? At taga san ka? Domestic helper ka rin ba?” Translation: “Hey there? Where are you from? Are you a domestic helper as well?” I thought I had died and God had sent me to my very own private hell.”

“On my way back, I had to bravely take the economy flight once more. This time I had already resigned myself to being trapped like a sardine in a sardine can with all these OFWs smelling of AXE and Charlie cologne while Jo Malone evaporated into thin air.”

Many people have called you a bigot, accused you of being insensitive, elitist… even a pig (and most of them were quite literal with the last).

If I were one of your unfortunate friends, I probably would’ve advised you to pack up and fly back to Greece, wait it out, then come back when the dust has cleared. You see, this could have easily have blown over had it not been for your callous response:

“As I type this, I’d like you to know that it’s not about whining, complaining and bitching but just stating the facts. Just recently, I wrote a funny article in my magazine column and my friends thought it was hilarious. It was humorous and quite tongue-in-cheek, or at least I thought so, until the magazine got a few e-mails from people who didn’t get the meaning of my acerbic wit. The bottom line was just that I had offended the reader’s socioeconomic background. If any of these people actually read anything thicker then a magazine they would find it very funny. Most people don’t get the fact that they need bitches like me to shake up their world, otherwise their lives would be boring and mediocre.”

“Although it may sound elitist to you the fact is this country is built on the foundation of haves, have-nots and wannabes. One group will never get the culture of the other. Although I could mention that it is easier to understand someone who has a lower socioeconomic background that would entail a whole other page and frankly I don’t want to be someone to bridge the gap between socioeconomic classes. I leave that to the politicians in my family who believe they can actually help. Now I seriously ask you, am I being a diva or are people around me just lacking in common sense? Perhaps it’s a little of both!

You seriously ask us if you’re just being a diva or if we are simply lacking in common sense. Allow me to find an answer by being explaining why I was particularly offended by your writing.

I thought it was mighty arrogant of you to disparage the OFWs in that flight simply because they were behaving opposed to how you would, or because they reeked of cheap perfumes. The way you doggedly pointed out their nationalities, you clearly wanted to dissociate yourself from them because they were Filipinos, yet in the same paragraph, you unwittingly state the obvious. That you are, alas, no different from them. A Filipino who fly coach and a transgressor of International Civil Aviation carry-on luggage policies.

“Of course, everyone in the economy class was for having overweight hand carries. Mine was 17kg.”

And no, the parenthetical “ssshhhh!!!” does not make it cute.

***

Let me just say that I’d probably be the first to cringe when made witness to a fellow Filipino making an ass of him- or herself. I even admit to being embarrassed by the same airline behavior you, Miss Fernandez, had proudly written about.

There’s a gazillion of things we Filipinos should not be proud of, a gazillion things more we should change in ourselves. I admit to that, and I’d even gladly engage in a debate on how that can and must be done. But surely you can tell this wouldn’t be the proper context for that?

Perhaps what sets you apart from me and the other Filipinos you have angered is that we will never blatantly look down on our kabayan. You, however, denounce your own for no better reason than raising their voices in an airplane, getting excited about going home, and not having enough money to afford the scent you wear.

I may, at times, be embarrassed by what they do, but I will never be ashamed of who they are. For I, too, am Filipino. To deny them is to deny myself.

If only by virtue of our shared nationality, you will never see me writing about that kind of experience and having it published for the world to see in a vain attempt to elicit cheap laughs, aggrandize my image and affirm my social status. As one blogger points out,

There is a line between being hilariously offensive, and being just offensive, and it’s not a thin one. We know it for what it is, and we know it’s best to keep such thoughts to ourselves or shared only with others of similar disposition. It’s called tact.

Tact. On tact vis-á-vis humor, you might learn a little something from Jessica Zafra.

***

When you reacted to the emails your magazine has received, let me correct your thinking that your readers simply didn’t get your “acerbic wit.” The fact that your friends laugh and appreciate the condemned parts of your article does not mean our sense of humor is amiss. To us, it simply means those friends of yours are as mean-spirited and insensitive as the writer. And if you need us to legitimize our standing to give an opinion, let me say then that many of us do read those sheets of paper bound together in the spine and sandwiched by hard backs. (What are they again? Books! They’re thicker than magazines, right?)

Furthermore, in case you can’t do the math, the countless emails and blog entries reacting to your article translates to the countless people who have taken offense. I hope that makes it clear that we don’t need a bitch like you (bitch! finally, something we agree on!)to shake up our world. If it is wit and humor we crave, we will find it in people who can do it with taste, and the humility to boot.

You, on the other hand, should take a refresher course on journalism.

If you insist that your wit is an acquired taste exclusive only to those who belong to your niche, might I suggest, then, that the next time you write something that may be construed as unpalatable, consider instead writing a newsletter with exclusive circulation to those who share your celebrated humor. And don’t delude yourself into thinking everyone who belongs in your stratum, the “haves,” think the way you do. I have met a few of them and thankfully, they’re not all like you and your friends. I noticed that the only ones who brandish their lifestyle and write in the self-important manner as you have done in your article are those who are insecure of their status as the “haves.” In your own words, the “wannabes.”

Finally, in the same manner you expect us to accept your short-sighted defense, we also expect you to just recognize the new lows to which you have sunk in our bourgeois and peasant eyes. Do not think you can just brush off your readers’ opinions. You see, for us, it’s not as simple as putting down the magazine either. Readers pay for the whole magazine, and your inclusion as a columnist is not something we can avoid. As much as we’d like to ban you from writing, the power is not ours. It’s your editors’ and employers’ (hint, hint!). Ranting and throwing rotten tomatoes your way is our only recourse. (Maybe we should try the latter?)

Now if you can’t take the heat of your own undoing, you should think twice about getting published. You see, that, too, is what journalism is about. Responsibility and accountability.

I hope all that proves that we don’t lack common sense. That’s not to say that you’re just being a diva though. Divas, at least, have something to show for it apart from their wealth. Simply put, what it makes you is rude.

We get it, Miss Fernandez. You’re the one who doesn’t.

To those who just read my letter, be fair to Miss Malu Fernandez.
Read the article yourself. (Click on it to see the larger picture):

 

When I missed my scheduled flight to Tagbilaran last Holy Week, I made a vow that I will make it to Bohol within the year. I’ve been meaning to go back for so long. After all, the last time I was there was in 1997. My mom treated me and my two high school best friends, Ronald and Jayson, to a trip to Cebu. We stayed at the Plantation Bay Hotel in Mactan Island, though the primary agenda of that trip was for me to see this small beach front property my mom bought the previous year (which she eventually sold).It was very memorable as it was my first time to fly with friends, my first time to go on vacation with friends outside Luzon. We had a blast exploring Cebu (we saw the Magellan Cross, Fort San Pedro, and went to this spot overlooking the Queen City), and Bohol (we saw a cave and made a quick trip to, where else, the Chocolate Hills).

Bohol had since developed into the major tourist destination that it is now. The Chocolate Hills had always been a draw, but after the Bohol Beach Club opened, its popularity was bolstered, consequently reintroducing the island as a beach destination rivaling Boracay and Cebu. Soon after, it also started gaining reputation as a premiere dive spot.

I finally got my wish to revisit Bohol last month, when I accompanied my friend Jean on her birthday vacation. We went with her friends Cris and Poch who, like her, have recently taken up diving as a sport and were raring to see the bounty of Bohol’s marine life. Before going there, I checked out Laida’s pictures and took note of the places she went to. Particularly, the Bohol Bee Farm. Skeeter also told me to make sure I ate at the place.

Jean, Poch and I arrived in Tagbilaran on July 14, a little before lunch. This was after our flight was delayed for three hours. Normally, I wouldn’t have any problem sleeping on the uncomfortable seats of the old domestic airport’s waiting area. I am, after all, particularly talented in sleeping anywhere. Seeing, however, that the airport was heaving with vacationers that Saturday, I decided to read instead.

Since I didn’t sleep the night before, as common to most of my travels, I was just about ready to expire when we arrived at the Dumaluan Beach Resort a little before noon. We blew off the couple of hours of waiting by playing cards and having lunch (overpriced and remarkably insipid). When we were finally allowed into our rooms, I settled in by catching up on sleep.

The sun was gone when Jean woke me up. I joined them at Dumaluan’s in-house restaurant where Poch and Cris, who arrived from Cebu in the afternoon, were waiting. After dining on grilled food, Cris and Poch had a few rounds of beer while Jean and I had coffee at the Bohol Beach Club. When we got back to the resort, Cris and Poch had gone to bed. Jean, too, was tired so she left me alone with my book at the resort’s reception area and hit the sack.

It was close to midnight when I finished reading. I was still bubbling with energy, so I decided to check out the party at the rooftop. It seemed exclusive so I turned to go back when this group of friendly manongs called out to me and asked me to take a shot of the alcohol they were drinking. I gladly obliged. Soon, I was part of their circle, drinking more of the bahalina, which, mixed with Coke, comes off as a dark-colored version of lambanog (coconut wine) more akin to red wine or vinegar, as lambanog is to vodka. I was drawn into a spirited exchange. I with anecdotes on writing movies, they with their politics, the Sandugo Festival, and the famous Boholanos in show business.

Suddenly, a group of Koreans staying at the Bohol Beach Club started screaming. We looked toward the direction they were pointing and saw the nipa roof of the Bohol Beach Club Clubhouse in flames. My newfound friends scrambled to rouse the resort’s guards from sleep. I ran toward the clubhouse to see how I could help.

Some of the resort’s employees had started hand-shoveling sand to the burning roof. I told them to look for fire extinguishers, realizing that none of them thought of that first. When they found them, they were all reluctant to use it, as if taking it from its encasement was sacrilegious enough. One of the manongs I was drinking with (forgive me, I forget their names) climbed on to the wall and made use of the extinguisher.

The fire was growing bigger. While the fire extinguisher helped quell some of it, the gust of wind that came with the discharge also spread the fire all over the highly flammable nipa roof. I was looking for more extinguishers when I saw the fire hose at the back. I opened it and asked one of the employees to take the hose all the way to the side nearest to the burning roof. When I turned the valve, it had no supply of water. I noticed that the pool was just a few meters away, so I told them to fetch pails and draw water from the pool. Someone took heed and got a chafing dish from the clubhouse’s buffet table. The others followed suit and started fetching water from the pool, using all sorts of improvised containers, and splashing water on the nipa roof.

It still wasn’t helping. I asked if they’ve contacted the fire department. They said that the one in Panglao has been dispatched. I used my mobile to call 117. I was afraid the operator would hang up on me considering our emergency wasn’t in Manila, but he accommodated the call and asked for details. After I hung up, he even called me again to confirm that they’ve contacted other fire departments, including the one from Tagbilaran. I also texted Adrian Ayalin and Anna Puod, my friends from ABS-CBN News. Puod responded and vehemently asked me to stay at the beach where I’d be near the water. She said she’s covered so many stories involving fires and people who tried to go back in and got trapped inside.

Then a truck with a water tank mounted on its back came rushing in from the beach club’s side entrance. We were relieved. Curiously, though, it continued toward the beach in an apparent road rage. I thought, perhaps they needed to siphon water from the beach. A few meters before plunging to the ocean, it got stuck on the dry edge of the sandy shore. When we asked the driver that was all about, we found out that the truck’s brakes failed. Stuck, we left the truck full of water by the beach, too far from the clubhouse to render any kind of help.

Finally, the fire trucks arrived. They hosed the burning roof down but the fire was already out of control. The ceiling beams started glowing red, threatening to give out. Two resort employees decided to break into the kitchen where the fire seemed to have started. He started dragging out the huge gas tanks inside. I told them to let the firemen take care of it, that the kitchen might cave in and trap them inside, but they were stubborn. Either that or they didn’t understand my Tagalog. Since they wouldn’t listen to reason, I told them to at least cover their mouths and noses with damp cloth lest they pass out inside the burning kitchen. They continued collecting the huge gas tanks. I knew it was stupid to go in with them, so I decided to wait by the kitchen door and dragged the tanks they’ve collected further away to a safer area, hoping to hasten the process as they proceeded to saving the other tanks.

This went on for a few more hours. The firemen contained the blaze though much damage had already been done.

What I found most curious is that the firemen let those employees risk their lives by going into the kitchen when they should be taking charge of the whole situation. One of them even approached me and asked if all the tanks had been saved (to which I answered yes, since at that time, the two valiant employees had hauled off all the gas tanks from the kitchen). Thankfully, there weren’t any casualties. And good thing Jean and I had the chance to lounge around the clubhouse before it was rendered unusable by the inferno.

Having had enough adventure to last me a week, I decided to skip the scheduled trip to Balicasag, an island off Panglao. Jean, Cris and Poch went scuba diving morning ’til afternoon. When I woke up, they were preparing to go Tagbilaran to grant my request to go to Mass. We went to the Cathedral in front of the Bohol Capitol. Though I didn’t understand a word of the ceremony, I thought it was a refreshing experience. I always enjoy hearing mass in local dialects (I’ve also heard it in Bicol and Cuyunon).

We had dinner at a grill restaurant and a night cap at Bo’s Coffee, still near the capitol. We then rented a small jeep that took us back to the resort.

It was Jean’s birthday the next day, Monday, July 16. We woke up really early so we could finish our sweep of the customary tourist sights in Bohol.

After a quick breakfast at Jollibee in Tagbilaran, we headed to Carmen to see the Chocolate Hills. It hasn’t changed since the last time I saw it, so it wasn’t that cool for me as it was for my travel buddies. I was, however, amused by the recent innovation at the viewing deck. There were photographers stationed there, hawking their services and printing photos for the exorbitant amount of PhP50 per 4R photo. We had our own cameras of course, but what amused me was that they were so adept in taking a particular kind of photo. Try hard as we might, we just couldn’t get it right. We ended up asking the photographer to take our pictures. This is how mine came out:

The weekend I flew to Bohol to see the Chocolate Hills.

Soon as we got out of the viewing compound in Carmen, it started raining hard. We passed by the beautiful man-made forest shared by the towns Carmen and Bilar. We pulled over to take a quick picture with the beautiful mahoganies, then went on our way. We stopped by Carmen to see a hanging bridge suspended over the Loboc River, but decided to keep dry in our rented SUV and go straight to Loboc for lunch.

It was still raining when we hopped on the floating restaurant at the Loboc River. But instead of ruining our cruise upstream, the rain actually enhanced our experience at the beautiful, historic river. The view seemed more raw, more virginal. It was, to me, the best thing about Bohol.

There was an old man playing folk songs on the boat. The food was nothing to rave about, but then the food was really just an excuse to ride the boat. On our way upstream, we would pass by some kids playing by the riverbanks. Some of them would even jump from coconut trees or swing from a vine and free fall into the river, much like the WOW Philippines commercial that featured Regine Velasquez and those animated postcards. Some of these kids would even swim toward, our under our boat. Some went on board at the side. Without being asked, the tourists handed out food to the kids.

Our upstream cruise ends at the base of the rapids, where a rondalla-like band composed of adolescent Boholanos welcomed us by playing novelty songs, complete with dance numbers pa! The tourists took turns taking pictures with them and donating different amounts of money to their can. It was such an uplifting experience that on our way back, the tourists on our boat were all in a genial mood, waving to other tourists on board the oncoming floating restaurants.

After the Loboc River cruise, we bought a few souvenirs and stopped by a shop that had tarsiers in its backyard. We had our photos taken. We were particularly careful not to scare the tarsier with our cameras’ flashes. I voiced out my desire to have a photo with the tarsier on my shoulder. To my surprise, the shop’s owner took the tarsier and asked me to walk a little further away from the plant it was previously perched on. She put the little guy on my shoulder. I realized she asked me to walk away so I that it wouldn’t jump back to its home. I asked if I could have another picture with the tarsier, and she generously granted my request. And I thought they were protective of their primate ambassadors. Here’s that last photo:


After that, we made a few quick stops to two churches, the Loboc Church and the Baclayon Church in Tagbilaran, the second oldest church in the Philippines and the oldest one made of coral. We passed by one last souvenir shop and had our photos taken at the monument at Tagbilaran commemorating the blood compact between Datu Sikatuna and Miguel López de Legazpi.

We intended to have dinner at the Bohol Bee Farm that evening, but I was exhausted by our lightning tour of Bohol. My quick nap lasted till midnight, while Jean, Cris and Poch spent the rest of the day playing cards. We left early Tuesday morning, July 17. It was a really fun trip, with just the right amount contrast, an ample mix of fun, culture, and surprise.

But I’ll have to go back again. I’ve yet to go dine at the Bee Farm. And as proven by my last trip there, Bohol will always be worth another visit 🙂

I’ve always loved “The Simpsons.” Its irreverence, its wit, everything! It’s one of the few shows that never gets old. To me, at least. Just like “Friends” (as opposed to “Seinfeld” and “Sex and the City,” both of which I enjoy watching as well).

I just watched the movie last night. I loved it, but also thought it could’ve been better.

This, on the other hand, is me getting Simpsonized!…

http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/content/walkcycle/lake.swf?aid=3079574

I know it doesn’t look a lot like me. And that I cheated by putting on sunglasses.

This one may be closer. As a disclaimer, let me just say that it’s really hard to be realistic with this when you’re the one making your own avatar. It’s tough choosing which eyes or hair best looks like yours. I can’t tell if I’m really being accurate, or if I’m actually trying to improve my 2D version, haha!

This is the best I came up with —>


Next weekend, July 20, I’ll be off to Singapore to fulfill a pact with 56 friends from all over Southeast Asia.

Five years ago, in Singapore, I attended a Student Fellowship program that brought together 2 Bruneians, 5 Cambodians, 9 Indonesians, 2 Laos, 5 Malaysians, 2 Myanmese, 12 Singaporeans, 5 Thais, 6 Vietnamese and 9 Pinoys. We spent five months in the Lion City, supposedly studying, but that was really just an excuse to be put on a regular stipend and have fun. Thanks to the generosity of the Singapore International Foundation (SIF).

One of the best-est friends I picked up from that Fellowship is Duong, a Vietnamese. He recently posted in his blog the speech I wrote and delivered during the ASEAN Nite, which is also the closing program. He even posted some of the pictures from the Fellowship (check out Duong’s blog here).

I can’t believe it’s been five years! I can’t wait to see all of these crazy guys again 🙂


I woke up Tuesday afternoon unable to open my right eye. It was like it was glued shut, and all attempts to open it only caused more pain. I immediately suspected a scratch in my cornea. I went to the bathroom and rinsed my eye clean. I managed to open eventually and keeping it opened was just as painful as when it was closed. It was bloodshot but there was no visible scratch or infection. I was worried it might lead to further complication, especially since my dog, Mutt Li, almost lost his sight recently because of an infection in his right eye. Like master, like hound!

After a phone call to my Mom and tita, I had the driver bring me all the way to Muntinlupa (from my Quezon City home) for an appointment with my Mom’s eye doctor. It was already 5:30 in the afternoon. I had to rush to make it by 6PM. Throughout the ride, I had to keep my eyes closed to ease the pain. Keeping only the right eye closed would’ve been enough, but having one eye abnormally closed and the other open, and sustaining it, only gave me a headache.

I met my mom at the lobby of the Muntinlupa Medical Center. Upon seeing me, she quickly offered her diagnosis. “Sore eyes lang yan!”

My Mom likes doing that, and it never fails to annoy me. Whenever I have a head ache, a muscle pain, or even a sprain, she has this habit of offering her services, proclaiming herself a good “hilot” and believing she can take the place of a legit chiropractor. I’d indulge her of course. I usually feel a little better, but the feeling of being pooh-poohed prevails. Then there are those times when she would offer me seafood, and I’d have to constantly remind her of my allergy. Her ready response would always be, “Unti-untiin mo kasi, kaya di nawawala yan e.” Like it was that simple e, no? Like hives breaking out and constricting air passages were that easy to ignore.

As soon as we got to the doctor, my Mom told him about the pain in my eye. Of course, she also offered her personal assessment. “Sabi ko nga, sore eyes lang yan e.” The doctor saying that it is indeed prevalent this season only encouraged her. When it finally occurred to them to ask me, the patient, I told him of how I woke up with the pain in my right eye, the redness that had subsided, and the persisting pain in my eye. He made me sit on this contraption and he looked at my eye up close.

After the check up, he said that there was indeed, a scratch in my eye. He put an ointment in my eye and asked me to keep it closed as he taped a bandage over it. I was to keep the eye patch on for 24 hours. He also prescribed two eye drops to be instilled for one week. I still don’t know how I scratched my cornea in my sleep. I’m just glad it’s nothing worse than a scratch. (Call me king of freak. Pus in my throat, hole in my shin, and now, a scratch in my eye! Typical Raz.)

Of course, like an itch that needed scratching, I wasn’t able to resist the opportunity to tell my mom “I told you so.” She graciously acknowledged her error in front of the doctor naman. “Tama lang pala talaga na pinilit niyang magpatingin, ano, doc?” Haha! Vindicated! That’ll teach her not to downplay her son’s complaints!

I’ve taken the eye patch off, and it’s not as painful as it was the first day. No more cause for worry. I was just disappointed I was not made to wear the typical eye patch pirates wore. It would’ve been cool to have an excuse to go around town with one. Have that itch scratched. Haha!


I remember when I was a child and I was confined in the hospital. My aunt rushed me to the emergency room after I started feeling pain at the side of my stomach. The doctors diagnosed me as a candidate for an appendectomy. I was put on dextrose and prepped for the operation. They prohibited me from eating anything, although I snuck an occasional cracker when no one was looking. Of course that only made things worse. When they found out, the nurses simply reset my fasting time back to zero, rendering useless the previous hours I have spent in hunger.
After almost two days of being starved, my dad arrived and talked to the doctor. He got into an argument and decided to check me out of the hospital, convinced I was in no need for any kind of operation. That proved to be a wise decision on my father’s part. I still have my appendix now and it never did pose any kind of problem to my health after that.

I haven’t been confined to the hospital since then. Until recently.

***

For quite some time, nights spent drinking and videoke-ing with my friends were capped by attacks of the flu. I’ve always believed it resulted from the bad combination of alcohol and my amateur singing. By the end of these parties, my throat would always be left feeling as if it’s been mercilessly scratched. I took it as a tell tale sign of my flawed singing style, nothing more.

However,

a few months ago, after drinking all night with my friends, I fell ill once again. I had a fever and my throat felt sore. I figured it was another bout with the flu. Thanks to an sms consultation with my doctor-friend (thanks, Ayees!), I got suggestions for medicine that could help. After a few days though, I had yet to fully recover. That’s when I decided to go to St. Luke’s Medical Center to have my throat personally checked.(CRINGE ALERT HENCEFORTH!)
Dr. Jurilla, my doctor, checked my ears, nose and mouth. He said my pharynx was swollen and there was pus behind my left tonsil. He suspected that its recurrence was because of an over-abundance of streptococci bacteria in my throat. He diagnosed me with chronic pharyngitis then gave me a prescription for antibiotics and tips for prevent

ion. The pain in my throat subsided after a week of medication, but just a little over a week after, I felt pain developing in my throat once again.When I went went back to

Dr. Jurilla for another check up, he was surprised, saying that the antibiotics should’ve kept me immuned from pharyngitis for another month. The fact that it recurred this soon could mean that the bacteria may not only be in my throat but in my bloodstream as well. He gave me a prescription for a week’s worth of stronger antibiotics and requested for some blood tests. 

Upon showing him the results a week after, his suspicions were confirmed. He said the CBC results were okay, but that there was indeed an extraordinarily high presence of streptococci in my blood. He suggested I seriously consider a tonsilectomy. Otherwise, I should expect continued pharyngitis attacks. Worse, it made me susceptible to urinary tract infections and rheumatic heart diseases. A particular vacation in Boracay back in 2003 suddenly came to mind. I was with my high school classmates when I started having problems peeing. If not for the canabis they brought, I don’t think I would’ve survived. (The urinary tract problem didn’t stop me from going on the banana boat, by the way. Fun before health!) 

My mom wanted a second opinon on the matter, but I didn’t need any more convincing. I got myself checked in at St. Luke’s on April 20, a Friday. Sometime in the afternoon, a seminarian came over to pray with me. He assured me that someone was diligently, vigilantly offering prayers for me. He kept asking if I was nervous, and I said I wasn’t. That made me stop and reevaluate my emotions, though. I honestly thought it was not big deal prior to that, but when a priest-to-be starts volunteering words of comfort, you can’t help but think whether you should actually be worried. 

Kai, Hiyas and Chrissie visited me that evening though it didn’t look like there was anything wrong with me. Norman dropped by, too. They stayed till around midnight, just before the nurses put me on dextrose and asked me to fast on both solids and liquids. 

The following morning, they woke me up at 8AM, made me strip naked under my patient’s gown, and brought me to the operating room. Some nurses prepped me, checking my temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate, and asking me questions about possible allergies, among others. The anaesthesiologist came over and assured me I wouldn’t feel anything because of the general anaesthesia. 

After waiting for about an hour, they took me to the the room where the tonsilectomy was to be performed. The anaesthesiologist inserted a long stick through my nostrils. He mentioned how there seemed to be an obstruction inside, and I told him about my being diagnosed with a deviated septum. He then sprayed something to decongest my nasal passages and airway. Finally, they told me they’re already putting me under general anaesthesia and put a mask on me. They asked me if I felt any kind of pain. There was a pinching sensation in my left arm, so I started pointing at it with my right hand…Then I felt cold, and I was shivering uncontrollably. I heard faint sounds. Kind, reassuring voices. I realized the voices were talking to me. “Mr. de la Torre… Okay na po! Tapos na…”

I opened my eyes and saw that I was back in the prep room. I had an oxygen mask on, and my throat felt sore. I had a difficult time breathing. But it was the shivering that affected me the most. One of the women attending to me brought heat pads and put it under me to help with the cold.They were right. I didn’t feel a thing. It was like a blip in time. Complete, total black out. I was in a dreamless sleep.

Back in the prep room, I caught up with the trauma my throat underwent. I had a difficult time breathing. I couldn’t swallow my own saliva, which had started accumulating in my throat making it difficult for me to breathe. I tried to cough it out, but any kind of pressure on my throat was unbearable. It was painful, uncomfortable and frustrating. Not even the oxygen mask was helping me breathe anymore. I was close to choking, so I forced myself to expel the thick liquid in my throat. The nurse gave me tissue. When I spat on it, it was full of blood. It wasn’t just saliva after all.

The next two days was full of pain, blood-spitting and extreme hunger. I had to cough out the blood that accumulated in my throat at least once every hour if I were to breathe easily. That meant I had to endure excruciating pain every time. Meanwhile, the doctor allowed me to eat vanilla ice cream a few hours after the operation, but even that wasn’t smooth or cold enough for the wound in my throat. I eventually felt okay enough to eat the cold treat, but it did nothing for my hunger. If it werent for the dextrose, I would’ve probably died of malnourishment. I also couldn’t speak as loud as before. I had separate visits from Jean and Chris, and Joni and Norman, and they all had to strain to understand what I said.

A priest came to give me communion the following day, Sunday. Oh, how I prayed to God to take away the pain!

I checked out two days after the operation, on a Monday morning. While recovering at home, I subsisted on a diet of ice cream, porridge and soups. I never felt hungrier in my life.

At least it’s almost over now. It didn’t seem to affect my voice. My uvula has reduced from its swollen size. I say it’s almostover because my sense of taste remains distorted. Except when I’m eating something very sweet, everything I eat tastes like there’s a missing ingredient. Nothing tastes like it should. Dr. Jurilla says everything will be back to normal in three months.***


When I went back to my doctor for a follow up consultation, he said I was doing okay. He gladly told me that the results from the biopsy showed that the infection in my tonsils wasn’t cancerous. I didn’t even know I was at risk for cancer. It was only then that I realized that despite the simplicity of the operation, it was, in fact, a big deal. And to think I told my Mom I wouldn’t mind if she went home and just left me with our helper. I’m glad she insisted on staying. Her exact words were, “Aba, e di na ‘ko aalis dito!”

When I was a child and my dad fought with my doctor for almost giving me an appendectomy, I felt how protective he was of me. This time, my visit to the hospital became a rare bonding opportunity for me and my mom. Having spent most of her life in Italy, this was the first time my Mom got to accompany me in my hospital stay. And I did have a fair share of hospital visits growing up. My mom stayed with me throughout. She even endured sleeping on the small, barely-cushioned bench beside my bed. She later told me that after I said that I was sure I wanted the operation, she arranged for the operation to be held while she was in the country. My Mom wanted to be beside me when I went under the knife.
 

Despite everything I felt and went through, I actually enjoyed that episode of my life. I never really thought I’d hear me self say that, but I really did. After all, it’s always good to feel loved and cared for by people you value.

This is rather late in the offing, but I’m posting it anyway.

LABADA (“The Laundry”), the first short film I made outside school, is going to be screened this week on Cinekatipunan with Dang Bagas’s PARA SA KABATAAN (“For The Youth”). It will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, June 5, 5PM at Mag:net Cafe along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

Mag:net has regular screenings and the good thing about it is it’s free. They have a website that is regularly updated with their schedules, not just for Cinekatipunan, but for poetry readings, musical performances and even stand-up comic acts.

http://www.magnet.com.ph/#katip

It’ll be like an anniversary for my little film. Almost exactly a year ago (in July), LABADA was screened in the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. I’m back to the old times when I was running around, contacting all my friends to go watch it. Interestingly, tomorrow will be the first time some of LABADA’s cast and crew members will be seeing the film.

Finally! An Ayala mall in QC!


Though this makes me sound embarrassingly shallow, I have to admit I’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive. This photo shows my first visit to TriNoma, taken on the fourth floor of the mall, at the garden outside the Cinemas. I’m writing this entry as Joni and I sit through the trailers before the 10.30PM screening of ‘Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End.’ Needless to mention, the first movie I’m watching here. If you haven’t figured out by now, I take my firsts very seriously. I’m sentimental that way 🙂

I must say, the place is worth the wait. Take note, though. It’s not fully operational yet. Most of the shops are still under construction and the whole place smells of cement. The cinema’s quite big, almost twice the size of Greenbelt 3’s Cinema 1, I think. I actually like my cinemas smaller and more intimate, but at least I won’t have to wait two hours for the next screening or settle for bad seats whenever I go there to catch a big movie. That’s usually the problem I have with screenings that are booked out so quickly.

The mall has the great location! Right at the center of the triangle formed by Edsa, North, and Mindanao Avenues in Quezon City (thus the name, TriNoma, which stands for “Triangle North of Manila”). It was a good idea to shape it as such and make its impressive facade point toward the North Ave.-Mindanao Ave. intersection and its back on Edsa, where most cars will be coming from. It cleverly sidesteps the traffic and is an easy 10-minute drive from my Tierra Pura house. Five minutes if coming from Mother Ignacia where I work. For commuters, you will be happy to know that it has conveniently appendaged itself to the MRT North Avenue Station, the way the Ayala Station ushers commuters right smack into SM Makati. I just hope traffic remains free flowing. For the Ayalas to find a lot big enough for a project as big as this and situate it beside an older, more established competition, is quite a feat.

The architecture’s also praiseworthy. It had the distinguished look of Ayala’s newer malls. I read complaints in one blog about it being full of beams and pillars, but I didn’t think it was anything to raise an alarm about. Plus the fact that it looks and feels more like a park than a mall compensates for that. Lots of trees, plants and fountains were incorporated in the landscape. In that sense, it’s a lot like GB3. Even better, if you can believe that. A lot of nooks and pocket parks that will encourage you to just sit down and lounge amidst the greenery. The place is still confusing because it’s new and unfamiliar, but I’m giving myself a couple of visits more and I’ll have it nailed in my head.

The mall part, on the other hand, is more reminiscent of Glorietta. Both because of the atrium that serves as the activity center, and the nature of the the shops waiting to be opened, most obviously catering to the same market as Glorietta.Oh, and as if interiors, geography and accessibility is not enough, they’re even going to have a Krispy Kreme and a Cold Rock there!

My excitement over this mall’s opening probably stems from the fact that I grew up in the South (of Metro Manila, that is). Since I spent most of my pre-university years in Alabang, the mall of choice for us was Alabang Town Center (ATC, a brilliant redefition of the acronym that used to stand for Alabang Twin Cinemas). I’ve always thought that it was the best mall in the country. I still remember how my classmates and I would hang out, watch a movie, or kill time at Glico’s after Saturday meetings for class projects or extra-curricular activities.

Since I made QC my home a year and a half ago, I rarely got to hang out at the ATC anymore. Actually, I started spending less time in the South after I started studying in UP Diliman. I only find myself back there when I visit our house in Muntinlupa and have some time to spare. So now, if I wanted to go hang out or shop in a place with a similar ambiance as Town’s, I would have to go all the way to Makati. I never really wondered why it took this long for the Ayalas to build a mall in QC, considering the Sys have the SM City there. Well, I’m just glad TriNoma’s open na. I swear, if you put blinders on and just block from view the heavy traffic along EDSA, and the SM across the street, you’d actually feel like you’re in Alabang. Ah, home sweet home…

Or maybe OA lang talaga ko. I’m sentimental that way 🙂

This picture on the right:
Still taken at the garden outside the Cinemas. Sarap tambayan. I swear, kundi lang konti pa ang tao at bagong bukas pa lang yung place, di ako magpapapicture ng ganito sa mall, hahaha… Feeling ko tuloy nagde-day-off ako.

The weekend before the Labor Day celebration, Karmela, Chrissie and I flew to Masbate to do a little R&R.; When I said yes to joining this vacation with my Law School blockmates, I wasn’t quite sure I’ll be free. I decided to risk it because it was to be my first trip with them, the CCs (Cosmic Comrades. Don’t ask). Plus I was really desperate to make the most of the summer season. I did go to Boracay last April prior to this particular trip, but that was far from relaxing. Truth be told, most of the vacations I take are not. That’s why this particular out-of-towner was a stand out. It was a much welcome breather from the stress of work. I’ve been praying for a break these past few months cause I haven’t really had one since the onslaught that was “You Got Me!,” and already, I’m working on a new project. I do know how to count my blessings so I’m not really complaining. Work in Star Cinema is hard to come by, and I know better than to act up when blessed with an opportunity to write.

We flew in Saturday morning, April 28, via Asian Spirit. After landing on Masbate soil, Karmela took us to Jollibee for quick mid-morning snacks, then we did some last minute shopping. We then took a trike to the wharf where her parents were waiting for us in their private pump boat. We sailed for about an hour and finally arrived at the Franco’s provincial rest house. It’s situated on a beach in Baranggay Titong, Masbate City (I think. Kar, you’ll have to correct me on the city, hehe…).

It was such a beautiful house. Just a few steps away from the sea. Kar’s Mom said that when the tide is high, the water could even lap the house’s front wall. After setting camp in the guest room, we proceeded to the terrace (which they referred to as the ‘balkon’) and spent the time waiting for lunch to be served by playing with the Francos’ Boston Terriers, Chessy and Blackie. That was to be our routine for the next few days. We would wake up, feast on cuisines prepared by Kar’s parents and relatives, watch a DVD (among those I got to watch/rewatch: “28 Days Later,” “Shaun Of The Dead,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Chungking Express”), hang out, sleep again, wake up again, read, hang out, have dinner. I didn’t mention breakfast cause I managed to oversleep every day and wake up just in time for lunch.

The following day, Sunday, we got to watch the locals engage in what seemed to be a favorite past time. Sabong (cockfighting). It was such a crude setup. They didn’t even have a formal cockpit for the roosters. The men who had money betting on the clashing poultry formed a circle around them and served as cockpit boundaries. Kar’s dad even bet on a few roosters and won.

Later that afternoon, the three of us took to the beach for the first time. We got Kar’s inflatable raft and tested our rowing skills. Chrissie and I hogged the raft that first day, while Kar enjoyed swimming with her cousin Ai-Ai, who also served as our tourist guide. There was also a bamboo raft with make shift benches and nipa roofing propped on it. When we got tired from rowing against the oncoming waves, we stationed on that bamboo raft and bathed in the sun. Later, upon my return in Manila, I found out from my doctor that I wasn’t supposed to do anything physical a week after my operation. I just had a tonsilectomy so my throat was not in tiptop condition yet. That still didn’t stop me from enjoying our stay there. In fact, I managed to munch on a local treat they called “molido.” It’s a sweet pastry-like thing that reminded me of nougat. Other than that, however, mine was a diet of soup, pancit bihon, and vanilla ice cream.

After showering, the three of us lolled in the balkon, watching the locals enjoy the lazy Sunday afternoon. Kids frolicked on the sand as the women and the teen-agers chatted while partaking of halo-halo bought from the small stand set up beside the Francos’ house. The rest of the men who were not busy making meals out of the cockfights’ casualties were still engaged in the sport.

Watching all that was very therapeutic. Everything was so simple. Looking around, everyone seemed so happy, here in this barrio which did not even have electricity and needed to tap into the Francos’ generator in order a light bulb and a television set work. Kar, Chrissie and I had a ball just watching kids wrestle and tumble on the rough sand. I actually intended to make this a working vacation for me. I even brought my laptop with me. But that sweet moment, I thought, “To hell with my deadline.” I decided to just soak up the idyllic Masbate atmosphere and leave the rest of the world behind.

The next day, Monday, I spent the afternoon reading on the bamboo raft while Karmela had a go on the inflatable raft with Chrissie. They actually did well, rowing much further to the open sea than Chrissie and I did the previous day. I think it was because Chrissie was more confident after having tried it with me that Sunday. That, or she just trusted Karkar more. Meanwhile, I managed to read more than two-thirds of “Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.” Karmela and Chrissie got back from rowing and we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon strolling along the countryside, with Ai-Ai leading the way.

Tuesday was Labor Day, the day we were to fly back to Manila. We all woke up early despite my not having enough sleep. I was up late finishing the rest of the fifth Harry Potter book. Karmela’s parents joined us on the trip back. At the Masbate city proper, we ran into a Labor Day parade led by a militant party list group (Akbayan? Bayan Muna?) and heard roving cars announcing Ping Lacson’s visit to the province later that afternoon. Then, at the airport, we managed to catch a glimpse of Kiko Pangilinan who was also just arriving for a campaign sortie. It was like after being detached for a good three days, we were being reminded that it was election season in the real world. And that quickly, I knew, we were back to the same stressful days from which I longed to be saved.

Thanks again, Karkar, for your family’s warm hospitality! I really enjoyed myself in Masbate. Hiyas, too bad you weren’t able to go with us. Below are our pictures from that trip. Enjoy! Hope we could do it again sometime 🙂

 



W
hat follows is a text exchange among theCouncil barkada after our despedida dinner for Kristel and Forsyth. Something that I’d like to think is a testament to our friendship.

LEXIE:
“Council, thanks 4 tonight. Ang pangit ko ksi wen i got h0me naiyak ako. I realized… dat we are at a crossroad wer our life choices take us in different directi0ns…dat this myt b d last tym,or 1 of d rare tyms, dat we hav d freedom todrink 300-peso beers or have 3am coffee together…dat im so thankful for d past 10 years of having u in my life…and watevr d next 10 yrs wud be, i knw ul b ther, in body or in spirit, 2 make it as crazy,noisy, and surprising as it has always been. Yun lang. Senti moment over. Ang masasabi ko lang… “Tang-ina ang cute nya talaga!” And that is d end of that chapter. Ü”



KRISTETA:
“Lex, iba ang effect ng cherry beer sayo.Ü but seriously, we’ll always be crazy and happy together. The council members arent my friends. You’re family. You’re home. And people always go back to that. Ü i love u all. And please dont get used to being without me.Ü”

RAZ:
“HAHAHAHA… I love that. I agree Lexie. I’m so tired but I spent the whole drive home staring out the window, playing in my head different scenarios that would make things different. But it’s inescapable. Not naman ominous, just a matter of fact. Teta, you asked before why I never made kulit about Bali. As much as I hate it that we won’t be complete, it’s so negligible and not even half as tragic as you being gone. We are growing older nga. It’s been a great decade with you. Not that it’s ending we just have to adaf with the times, learn to share the crazy and happy times from overseas. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!”

LEXIE:
“Amen, Raz. I LOVE U GUYS. Forevr. Period. No pickle-mindedness ther. (obviously,jean isnt included in dis txt blast.Bt i lover her too!ü -Evil Lexie signing out)”

KRISTETA:
“Im gna miss u real bad. That msg was so sad and sweet. I swear im gna burst on tuesday.”



That Tuesday, the night Kristel left, after we made her believe Lex and I were going to send her off and surprised her when we showed up with Concep, Jean and Joni as well…

KRISTETA:
“U guys are unbelievable. Thank you! THANK YOU. For tonight, for ten yrs and twenty and thirty. I love u and miss u all so much. You are the best. All 7 of u.Ü”
TITA EN, KRISTEL’S MOM:

“Jst left d airport.She came out pa and spnt 15mins mor wd us.Ü Thanks 2 d council 4 d heartwarming snd off.Ü i love d way u love each othr.B blessed evn mor.Ü”

I do love the way we love each other. That’s why it really pains me to have two more of the barkada leave (Mark has been living in Indonesia for more than two years now, Kristel just left for Chicago last May 15, and Forsyth’s relocating to Cebu starting May 28). Only five of us will be left in Manila by June.

It’s a good thing we love each other in such a way that distance in time and space is not made to matter much.

In my circle of friends, a lot has been said about my good friend Sherlyn’s recent decision to relocate to Boracay.

I’m not really that sure about what prompted her to make that decision. When I tell of her story to other friends, I tell them it was actually I who felt the urge to relocate and lead a relatively gypcyan life. My contract with Star Cinema was to end last January. I was then still involved with “You Got Me!” which was to be released by the end of February. Though I was just a signature away from a 3-picture deal with Star, that still meant that starting March, I’d be without a day job, and off a monthly salary.

Since I’ve always wanted to gallivant all over the country (around the globe, if resources allowed it), I thought this was the best time for me to do so. However, it would’ve been irresponsible of me to just get up and leave without careful regard for my finances. So in trying to reconcile my bohemian urges and my sense of accountability, I hatched a plan to become a responsible drifter.

It was simple. I was to move to a particular locale, take up a job that was more transitory in nature, fly back to Manila for occasional meetings with Star Cinema, then move on to another place when I’ve had my fill. It didn’t matter to me the kind of job I’d land. That was, in fact, what made the plan most alluring. The element of surprise. Each stop meant a chance to start on a clean slate, learn a new skill, get acquainted with a new place, and meet new people. I may have to part with certain luxuries staying in Manila would’ve guaranteed, like my house, my car, a potentially bigger salary… But in my head, this was me walking the talk. The uncertainty the end of my contract with Star Cinema brought ushered in the break to do something I’ve always longed to do. This was me making lemonade out of lemons.

I shared this inspired plan with Sherlyn, who was then taking haircutting classes from the Center of Aesthetic Arts. She immediately caught on and was soon conspiring in my grand plan. Her classes were to end in March, which meant she’d be a competent and qualified stylist by then. She would work in salons (as there’s never a dearth of beauty centers wherever you go) while I worked as a waiter, a University instructor, a bell hop, an English tutor or whatever job opportunity was presented. Sherlyn thought this would be to her advantage anyway since struggling to be a stylist in Manila would’ve only relegated her to a junior stylists’ job, with little opportunity to hone her skills in hair cutting. She upped her chances of actually cutting hair by going with me to the provinces. What, with her experience and education? On top of all that, we’d be together. We planned on sharing a room so we can split the rent. We thought about the adventures that lay ahead of us. We talked about how the hardships would be easier to bear, and the experiences more exciting, with a friend sharing the journey.

And so it was agreed.

Sherlyn asked a friend of hers who had an uncle working as a divemaster in Boracay to ask if there were any openings in a salon. She had almost forgotten about it when her friend broke to her news that his uncle had already found a job for her. Things happened so fast. By the end of March, Sherlyn was already making plans to relocate to Boracay for at least three months.

Meanwhile, I was stuck in Manila. I who deemed himself the progenitor of the idea in the first place. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I was actually assigned to a new film project as part of my 3-picture contract, sooner than most fledging writers might expect. Of course I’m thankful for the opportunity to write again. Still, I’m somehow disappointed that my grand plan had to be postponed yet again, while Sherlyn is now in Boracay, carrying out the plan we dreamed up together.

Many of my friends dream of dropping everything and traveling aimlessly. And at least once, we all thought of just disappearing from our life and getting the chance to start anew. A writer-friend of mine told me once that it’s particularly common among writers. Perhaps it’s the desire for new, authentic experiences untarnished and unburdened by connections we keep and backgrounds we have. It’s not as easy as one might think, as Sherlyn would attest. Sherlyn had thought of cutting her trip short after finding out she may have been hasty in her decision to work in Boracay. But she rallied on, and soon found that giving up would’ve been the easy way out. Now, everything’s starting to work out for the better. She’s found a new job and a new place in which to stay. She’s earning a decent wage, and she’s met new friends.

Sherlyn deserves a lot of credit for even trying this out, what more sticking to it? I just hope I’d have the courage to hold on resolutely when my turn to live out this dream comes.

Norman had a belated housewarming party at his condo. It was more than half-a-year late.

I almost didn’t make it as I came from another party with my barkada.

Norman revealed that the reason he’s having this party despite the fact that he was planning on eventually moving to a cheaper place is because he just got a roommate. It was sort of imposed on him by his neighbors. This guy, who used to rent a room above Norman’s, got evicted and was in urgent need of a new place to stay. The neighbors volunteered Norman, knowing full well that he had his place all to himself.

In a last ditch effort to lay claim to his personal space, Norms threw a party. He may not be able to host one once his roommate moves in, after all.

Interesting how we require certain stimuli before doing what needs to be done. It’s not like we don’t know what must be done. We just love procrastinating until we’re backed into a corner with all other choices eliminated. So now, Norman’s place is clean, livable, and broken in… as if prepped solely for the purpose of welcoming his new roommate. At least he got to own it for one night 🙂

Last Holy Week, I was supposed to go to Bohol with Laida and her sister, Kaye. I arrived at the domestic airport 30 minutes late and missed my flight. Although Laida came in later than I did, Kaye was there on time. Apparently, though, Cebu Pacific overbooked the flight (or prematurely gave away the seats to chance passengers). As a result, Laida and Kaye got left behind, too, but they managed to secure seats in the next flight (as well as one-way ticket to any destination in the Visayas. Dang! Kainggit!). Meanwhile, I was left alone to risk getting on as a chance passenger for the same 11AM flight. And even if I succeeded in doing so, I would’ve had to pay an additional P3000. That was just outside my budget, so I grudgingly gave up my long anticipated R&R; in Bohol.

On my way home, I kept thinking about how to salvage my Holy Week plans. It was going to be one of the longest holidays ever (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the weekend, plus the Bataan Day/Day of Valor celebration = FIVE FREAKIN’ DAYS!), and I didn’t want to spend it quietly in my Quezon City home.

I started contacting friends who might have alternative plans to offer me. Norman was going home to Gapan, Nueva Ecija. While I’m sure he would’ve welcomed me, I didn’t want to be a burdensome houseguest who needed looking after when he intended to go home and relax. Skeeter and some of her friends were going to Caramoan in Bicol, but she wasn’t sure there are available tickets for the bus commute. They booked theirs much earlier. I knew that was going to be my biggest obstacle. It was Thursday morning, and everyone with plans to get out of Manila are now flooding the bus stations and airports.

My last chance for escape relied on Sherlyn who was scheduled to go to Boracay that same day. She was going to take a Negros Navigation ship to Caticlan. She wasn’t going there for vacation, though. She was moving there for good. Good for three months, at least. I wasn’t too excited about Boracay because I’ve been there countless times before. Then, I thought, the ship was a much cheaper alternative. There’s also bound to be room in it. And I remember loving the experience the first time I went on one. More importantly, I’d be spending it with Sherlyn who’ll be gone for at least three months. Spending the long vacation with her would at least compensate for her long absence.

I called Sherlyn up and asked for Negros Navigation’s number. I hastily made arrangements to reroute my Tagbilaran-Manila return ticket to Kalibo-Manila instead (it was a miracle I succeeded considering the circumstances). Once done, I headed for the Manila North Harbor, met up with Sherlyn, and was soon on my way to a long vacation in Boracay.

Although the novelty of my trip to Boracay had worn off, the fact that it was Sherlyn’s first time made it interesting. We had a blast roaming around the ship during our 13-hour sail. Once we got to Boracay, my first order of business was to find considerably cheap and decent accommodations. It was Holy Week, after all. The peak of the peak season. The worst time to be going to Boracay without prior arrangements. Nevertheless, thanks to a newly-met acquaintance named Kuya Bong, I was able to find a room at the Boracay Peninsula. It was quite expensive for the quality of room and service they offered that I ended up transferring to La Carmela the following day.

Sherlyn hoped to spend her first few days going around the island as a tourist, but her boss asked her to work immediately. Hers was a 9 to 9 job, with attendant meal breaks. Left alone, I spent most hours of the day in the hotel. I wasn’t too keen on roaming around the island in the day. It was just too hot and I’ve seen almost everything there is to see anyway. It rained occasionally, but getting caught in a downpour while having a stroll didn’t make going out any more enticing for me.

Sherlyn decided to sleep in my hotel room after getting off work to keep me company. She’d wake me up early in the morning so we can avail of our complimentary breakfast. Then, she’d go to work while I went back to my room to sleep or channel surf. She’d return around noon so we can eat lunch. She’d then go back to work while I went back to my room to sleep or channel surf. Finally, she’d return after work. After sleeping the entire day, I’d have enough energy to get my ass of the bed and experience Bora. We went around, had dinner, coffee, dessert, and partied around enough to keep us contented. I also visited the Mandala Spa for the first time.

We got on the ship on Thursday afternoon and arrived at Boracay Friday morning. I left Boracay on Tuesday morning. It was one of the longest vacations I had in recent years. All in all, it was the holiday I had wished for. Rest and relaxation with the right amount of partying to spice it up. Compared to my other trips, it was quite uneventful, until I remembered what made me decide to go there in the first place.

As Sherlyn was sending me off at the Cagban port in Boracay the morning I was leaving, she welled up and unabashedly said she was sad. She realized she wouldn’t have a friend there anymore. I suddenly felt for her. Unlike her, I was going back to my normal life. With my departure, her last link to her former life would be gone. I was going back home, she had just officially left it. We had another picture taken. I promised her I’d be back, wished her well, and finally locked in a tight embrace.

That’s when it hit me that I was sending her off much as she was sending me off.

 

I’m posting this for my cousins who’ve been requesting a copy of our pictures.

For better-resolution copies, download and view it from the “La Vie Boheme” set of my Flickr account:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/70478183@N00/sets/

Hope you like it!

 

Yesterday was the fourth Pacquiao fight I’ve followed, at panalo na naman!I watched the fight in Batangas, during the blessing of our house in Lipa. The celebration was interrupted when the male attendees and a handful of the f

emales flocked in front of the television to watch Manny bring down Jorge Solis. Another Mexican thrown in the heap of Pacman’s conquests.At first, Solis’s unbeaten record intimidated me. But after the first round, I was confident enough to bet on which round Manny might knock out Solis. Jean bet on the seventh after I gambled on the sixth. We agreed that the winner was to be treated to an ice cream from Cold Rock.

None of us won, as Manny ended the fight on the eigth round.

I’m not one to sour grape over losing out on a Cold Rock cup, but what really irked me was the outcome’s preemption. Like Manny’s second bout against Morales, I received news of his victory even before the fight was over (on television, as I was watching it on free TV). Unlike before though, none of my friends sent the spoiler over text. I guess they’ve learned courtesy and restrained themselves. This time, it my mom’s friend’s driver who eagerly told me and Jean that the fight was to end on the eighth.

Jean rolled her eyes and I gritted my teeth in frustration.It didn’t help that Pacquiao wasn’t the showman he usually is. The first few rounds were spent leisurely as he sized up the much taller Solis. Pacquiao obviously struggled in getting through Solis’s far reach. It kept him at bay effectively that even I thought a knock out might be improbable. Pacquiao waited until a headbutt on the sixth round filled his eyes with blood before turning up the heat. Soon, the Manny we knew checked in, sending Solis down on the canvass for the first time on the eighth round. More than a minute before the bell rang, Solis was down on the floor once again and the fight was officially over.

Despite the disappointments, it was still a hearty victory for Manny and the rest of his Kabayans. He remains to be one of the best Boxing icons the world. More importantly, he continues to be among the most inspiring Filipinos of this generation.


Congratulations Manny! Mabuhay ka! Mabuhay ang Pinoy!


A bus I saw along Tomas Morato Avenue. When traveling, Dominion is the bus line to beat. You can’t possibly find a better means of transportation than this. Heaven sent na, guarded by angel pa.

This article was written by my dear friend, Jean. Actually, 1Lt Jean Alia Yasin Robles. She works as Operations Chief of the the AFP Public Information Office.

I edited it for her (precariously delaying me from my own deadline). I rarely write anything about current affairs, so I’m posting it here. I thought it refreshing to read an article like this about the Satur Ocampo incident. Maybe you’d see what I mean and think so, too.

*****

JUSTICE AT INUPACAN

Aling Rosa (not her real name) had lost hope in ever seeing her son again. She was proven wrong one Sunday morning when they had their unexpected reunion in Inopacan, Leyte. Only this time, it was not the lively fifteen-year old Pedro who greeted her, but his skeletal remains. She immediately knew it was Pedro. She could still remember the shirt and trousers he wore the last time she saw him twenty-one years ago, before he disappeared with his friends, accused by the CPP- NPA of being government spies. She was near hysteria when the PNP forensics showed her the broken skull and ribs of her son. It only implied the pain he experienced in the hands of the insurgents. Her Pedro would have been a father to her grandchildren by now.

Pedro’s disappearance in the late 1980’s happened at the time when the Communist Party of the Philippines was conducting a massive campaign to get rid of suspected infiltrators in their ranks. They were then experiencing tactical losses due to the government’s intensified drive against insurgency. Kampanyang Ahos in Mindanao resulted to the death of 800 suspected deep penetration agents (DPAs) and the arrest of 1,500 others. In Southern Tagalog, around 100 CPP-NPA elements were killed by their comrades. In Leyte, “Operation Linis” was implemented, resulting to the death of more than 400 persons. All in all, more than 1,500 people were brutally murdered by the CPP-NPA. This operation did not only include party members but also innocent civilians who were uncooperative with the movement.

Aling Rosa suspects that her son had been recruited by the CPP-NPA, later becoming a casualty of their purging operations following accusations of being a government spy. Former members of the CPP-NPA who have surrendered to the AFP corroborate her suspicion, citing the communist party’s continuing recruitment of minors as young as twelve years old, in complete disregard of International Humanitarian Laws. Apparently, these children are brainwashed to hate the government and taught to fire guns and kill soldiers and policemen.

Despite their loss, there is consolation for the relatives of these victims. Last March 6, 2007, Judge Ephrem Abando of the Regional Trial Court of Hilongos, Leyte issued a warrant of arrest to Jose Maria Sison, Satur Ocampo, et. al. for charges of multiple murder of the fifteen people identified among the 67 skeletal remains unearthed at Mt. Sapang Dako, Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte. Finallly, Aling Rosa can look forward to finding justice for the death of her beloved Pedro.

The defendants raised two major issues in their counter-affidavit. First, Satur Ocampo denied that he was in Leyte at that time of the killings, saying that he was then being held in maximum security detention. However, testimonies from witnesses were submitted to the court alleging Ocampo’s presence in Leyte. He was supposedly there to oversee the implementation of OPLAN Venereal Disease, which the killings of suspected DPAs) and to directly order the execution of at least one of the victims. One of the witnesses even said that Central Committee member Satur Ocampo personally came to Southern Leyte sometime in 1985 to meet with CPP Regional Committee members on the implementation of the CPP directive. The witness maintains that he saw Satur Ocampo give orders to Exusperado Lloren in 1985 to execute in his presence a certain Juanita Aviola, one of the identified bodies from the mass grave in Leyte.

Furthermore, a review of newspaper archives from that year in fact shows that Ocampo escaped from government custody during the National Press Club elections on May 5, 1985, and that he was a fugitive of the law until 1987, when he was finally taken back in custody. It was during this period of flight between 1985 and 1987 that the time of killings was established.

In their counter-affidavit, the defendants also invoked the prescription period for murder cases since the crime happened more than 20 years ago. Jose Ma. Sison even went as far as accusing Judge Abando of ignorance of Philippine laws in his article, “Charge of Multiple Murder in Leyte Is A Patent Lie.” However, the Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the period of prescription of an offense commences from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities and their agents. Furthermore, the term prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippines as in the case of Sison who has resided in the Netherlands since 1986. As such, the court found that prescription as grounds for dismissal of the case is unavailing to the accused since the gravesite at Inopacan, Leyte was discovered and unearthed only on August 26, 2006.

In his interviews to the media, Ocampo accused the government of fabricating the mass grave, claiming that the military dug up the graves and planted the skeletal remains. However, material evidences submitted by PNP forensic experts disprove his contention. Combined with sworn testimonies executed by relatives of the victims, former ranking members of the CPP-NPA in Southern Leyte who participated in the abduction of the victims, and former ranking members of the CPP-NPA Regional Committee of Leyte who attested to the Central Committee directive for the investigation and execution of suspected infiltrators and informers within CPP-NPA ranks, Judge Abando found enough probable cause in the murder charges, resulting in the issuance of the aforementioned arrest warrant.

In a video uploaded in a public internet site, Ocampo claimed that the charge was merely employed to derail the electoral campaign of progressive party list groups. In response, the State prosecutor pointed out that the charge had been under the court’s consideration for six months since the third quarter of 2006. After the discovery of the gravesite, the case was initiated via a complaint filed by the relatives of the victims in September 2006, which was later filed before the Leyte Provincial Prosecutor’s Office on October 17, 2006. Hence, the allegation of the case being politically motivated is unfounded.

Ocampo also supplements their defense by saying that they can no longer be charged with crimes connected with rebellion occurring before 1986, invoking the general amnesty issued by the Aquino Administration. However, Sison and Ocampo never expressed intention to avail of such amnesty, having failed the filing appropriate applications required by the said presidential order.

Pursuant to the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the various defendants in the case, including Sison and Ocampo, were issued and served subpoenas asking for their counter-affidavits and including those from their witnesses. Satur Ocampo submitted his counter-affidavit denying his involvement in the alleged series of killings. Thus, their right to due process and the rule of law, as guaranteed by our Constitution, was respected and upheld, contrary to allegations coming from the accused.

It has been more than twenty years since relatives and loved ones lost the victims found in the Inupacan mass grave. But with the issuance of these arrest warrants, hope may not be lost. Aling Rosa finally has reason to believe there may be no prescription for justice after all.

It’s been five years since I attended the SIF-ASEAN Student Fellowship. Along with 56 other participants from all over Southeast Asia, we spent five months studying, attending seminars, organizing activities, bonding, fighting, having fun together. Mostly having fun together. Writing about it will require a new entry altogether.

This is the video I edited using footage I took during the entire fellowship. I set it against the musical backdrop of “Seasons of Love” from RENT, one of my all-time favorite musicals. I premiered the video during the fellowship’s send off program.

I unearthed the footage and recaptured it in honor of our pact to have a reunion on 20/07/2007. Hopefully, these guys will be inspired to make good on that promise.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we3tdV0Qeos]

Looking forward to seeing these guys again.

Star Cinema‘s post-Valentine presentationStarring Toni Gonzaga and Sam Milby
And introducing Zanjoe Marudo


YOU GOT ME!


Directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina
Showing on February 28 in over 150 theatres nationwide

watch the trailer:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpJy-9K4XYI]


Love will catch you…
when you find the courage to fall.

Took this inside a taxi cab in Hong Kong. If you want to become a gentleman, you now know who to contact for help.

I didn’t think clovers were also indigenous to the Philippines. And I didn’t know they were this small. I found lots growing in my garden. Naaliw ako. I’ve yet to find four-leafed ones, though. Who’d have thunk, no?

Reiko is my second dog. A pomeranian. The only female dog among my pets. My friends’ unanimous favorite. The most malambing.

She died on January 07 this year, a Sunday, while I was out of town in Ilocos. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.


Before today, I didn’t know that Currimao is actually a town in Ilocos Norte, and that its name is spelled that way. I’m here now with Olive, Toffer, Athan (all seated) and Bing (in red, lying down).

This Sunday is a milestone of sorts cause it’s the farthest I’ve gone north of the Philippines. We’re staying in Laoag (special thanks to our gracious hostess, Bing). We went also went to Batac and Paoay earlier in the day 🙂


In transit to Laoag aboard a Maria De Leon bus, with Mama O, Toffer and Athan. It’s 22:22 hours on that clock, which means there’s still eight hours to go before arrival, and my seat won’t recline. It’s probably my unsteady hands, but the discomfort makes things look like they’re leaping out of their actual places.

This is going to be a sleepless night.


Mel and Niño’s first dance. They got married in the Church on the Hill in Batulao, Batangas last December 21, 2007, with the reception held at the Taal Vista Resort. Among Batch Ninety-Eight, Sherlyn, Nan (with Jasper in tow), Angelico, Joni, Grace and I were able to make it. Seven of us, so quorum! Nandon rin si Rey, Mica and Nonie.

Mel and Niño were actually first wed in New York. They lived there for a few years before coming back here to celebrate their marriage with their Pinoy friends and relatives. Now, they’re based in California. In fact, they’re back in Cali as of press time.

Mel is my first Mistah, my first Broad Ass batchmate, to get married. When we made their wedding video, we referred to their story as a fairytale. High school crush kase ni Mel si Niño, and since getting together, di na naghiwalay yang dalawa. Parang nowadays, that’s a rarity na e, yung relationships na ganon katagal, na sinu-survive ang long distance, at nagkakatuluyan. Seeing the two of them together, you wouldn’t doubt that they’re in it for the long haul. You’d think they’re polar opposites, but you can feel that they were meant for each other. In an uncanny way, they even look alike.

Congrats and best wishes to my beloved batchmate and our first batchmate-in-law! 🙂


My salubong entourage – cousins Jane and Meanne, and Mistahs Sherlyn and Nan. Happy 27th! Soon after this, we picked up Melody, my other cousin, and traveled all the way to Cavinti, Laguna to go to Mass (as per tradition, sa December 16 lang ako nagsi-simbang gabi, ang opening salvo ng Misa de Gallo).

A far cry from the humdrum reception last year (which spawned a melodramatic blog entry).

The party followed the night after 🙂


One of my favorite things to do. Reading in bookstores. Usually, I actually bring my own book and read it there. Usually isn’t that often though. I get to do it only when I’m window shopping in malls, or waiting for a movie screening.

There’s something about the atmosphere inside bookstores that just inspires me. I think it’s because I get encouraged by the people’s shared desire to read. They’re there because they want to read, or they want to find a book they’d want to read. Thus, the usually solitary act of reading becomes a communal one. One of the few times I get to feel social without having to say anything to the people around me.

This picture was taken in Fully Booked at the Mall of Asia.


Si Manny Pacquiao ang tumapos!

I was not a big boxing fan until I caught Manny’s first fight with Morales. Prior to that, all I knew of Manny was that he defeated Barreira and that it was a major surprise, and a major upset at that. I remember he won an HBO poll declaring him the ‘upset of the year’ (or something like that).

When the first installment of this legendary trilogy with Morales was shown, we were in the farthest corner of Zambales making an occular inspection of a resort. Sa channel 9 pa nga palabas non. Everyone was enjoying the beach, but I was inside, watching the fight intently. I remember cringing at every punch he received, his face drenched with blood oozing from the cut on his brow. Manny finished all twelve rounds despite the injury resulting from their headbutt, but he lost the match.

By his second fight, I’ve become a bona fide Pacquiao fan. I stayed home and watched it on TV. I remember being upset by a text message that preempted the result, but Manny’s victory was still as sweet as it could be. He did not disappoint. I kept telling my friend why it was such a momentous occasion for me. Sabi ko, I’m so proud to have found the boxing idol for my generation. While our parents had the likes of Ilorde, or Espinosa, kami, tayo, may Pacquiao. And what an idol he is. He is an icon not only of the sport, but more importantly of patriotism, faith and humility.

Larios then came over and was sideswept. Nadagdagan lang lalo ang paghanga ko, at pag-idolo kay Manny.

And finally, this. The grand finale of one of the greatest boxing trilogies ever.

Pacquiao versus Morales.

The people’s champ made early progress, dominating the first round with both power and speed.

By the second, Pacquiao had Morales on his knee. The Pinoy worked up and down, to the body and to the head, choosing his punches and executing them beautifully. The Mexican put up a good fight, but with punches that came in clumps, the round was definitely ours.

Manny was obviously pumped up, starting the third round with seemingly unstoppable momentum. Morales bravely tried to make it up, throwing great punches of his own, but paling in comparison to Pacquiao’s powerful attacks. It was total carnage. After being downed the first time in the round, Morales looked hopeless. Less than twenty seconds before the bell, Manny concluded the match, not only winning the fight, but winning it by TKO… on the third round! The Pacman floored El Terrible. The only fighter to do so, and he did it twice.

Ang sarap ng pakiramdam. Pacquiao graciously shared the victory with all of us, and indeed, it was ours. Panahong ganito, ang sarap maging Pilipino.

Sana hindi lang ngayon. Sana, laging alalahanin ng bawat Pinoy ang dangal ng lahing kayumanggi.

Mabuhay ka Manny! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang Pilipino!


I was a few meters from home when a friend of mine called me up to tell me they got into an accident somewhere along EDSA. This was last Wednesday ng madaling araw, after we watched the taping of Rockista at Music Museum. I dropped off my driver at home, changed cars, then went straight to where my friends were at. Sherlyn, who was sleeping over at Tierra that night, was kind enough to accompany me.

Eto yung naabutan namen.

Buti na lang, yung dalawang friends ko, dun nakasakay sa upright na kotse. No one was injured, not even the guy whose car was upturned.

This happened at around 3A on Wednesday, on the Pasay bound lane a little after the Buendia MRT station. We jammed the traffic nga e cause they had to squeeze through the 2 remaining fenced bus lanes. News reporters for ABS and GMA arrived to cover the accident. At yung ABS reporter pa, orgmate namen nung college.

It turns out, the guy who was driving the upturned car hit the concrete divisions along EDSA, flipped over, then hit my friend’s car from behind. I’m just glad my friends are okay. And hopefully, the guy will pay for all the damages.


My favorite dessert drink is back! 🙂 Coffee Bean’s Dulce de Leche. I remember, last year ata, the Morato crew took a polaroid shot of me para sa “Customer of the Week” pin up nila. I had to fill out an info card about myself, and I wrote this as my favorite drink.

Shortly after that, they pulled out the drink from the menu na.

No hard feelings 🙂 Basta it’s back. I just hope it’s back for good!


To show support for Princess in the Colt45 Rockista search, Sherlyn thought up this brilliant gimmick of wearing tiaras. She bought them in Divisoria. Aakalain mo nga na customized cause it says ‘Princess’ on it 🙂 I got one myself, pero I wore it on my arm.

Sadly though, bottom three na naman si Ces this week.

That’s Rey and Adrian “Disaster Diva” Ayalin in the picture, by the way. Taken at Grilla in Greenhills Promenade.


The view from the full glass window of our room in Astoria’s quite impressive. Somehow, it helps in relieving the stress of writing. The last time I was here, it was to rush a script for the Piolo-Regine project. After numerous drafts, the project was shelved (it’s back in development again, but with another team).

Now, I’m rushing another script, and it’s even tighter than the Piolo-Reg and my last project.

Iniisip ko na lang, ‘At least, may project!’ 🙂


The Assers came in full force (at least compared to the rest) during the first taping of the Rockista search held at Teatrino in Greenhills. All for our bet, fellow Asser, Princess. We obviously set the trend cause the other contestants started bringing in their own pàla in the succeeding episodes. Ces was undeniably the best that night. She’s been at the bottom three since then, but the judges themselves say that she’s totally redeemed herself.

Sherlyn, trying to outdo Pinoy Dream Academy’s Joan with her own version of the Whitney Houston original, “All At Once.” At Music Match Morato, with my cousins ulet.

To immortalize Sherlyn’s make up for the night, I took this photo. We were supposed to go to the Rockista Bar Tour, but we only ended up having coffee at Baang.

This, on the other hand, was my first time to watch a movie at the Imax Cinema. T’was taken on 1 July 2006. We watched SUPERMAN. It was also my first time to go to, and watch a movie, at the SM Mall of Asia. I remember it was a Friday evening cause I was watching MMK on TV when Norms called and told me he had compli tickets. Free snacks! But there were only four parts in 3D. Loved the film, still 🙂

Singing with my cousins and Joni at Music Match in Tomas Morato. Okay pala don. Cheap but the facilities are good naman. At least may kapalit na IO KTV sa ELJ!

Raz style. This is me playing poker with my high school classmates and some their plus 1s. Taken during very-pregnant Ella’s baby shower, in their Southwoods home. Master of the house, Dean, was smitten by my phone. He was doing test shots with it, and this is one of more unglamorous photos that came out. Dean and I were the last two players standing, by the way. We decided to call it a tie and split the pot 🙂

These are my three cousins during their first IMAX experience. We watched ‘T-Rex Back To The Cretaceous.’

Please support our good friend,
PRINCESS

one of the 11 finalists in COLT45’s ROCKISTA search on MTV.

 

Watch it on MTV, Mondays, 8PM. Starting October 23.
Replays on Wednesdays, 12 Noon and Tuesdays, 11PM.

Here’s a behind the scenes clip from the last taping:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgmOOr98nAc]

Watch the (original) full trailer of Star Cinema‘s
“You Are The One”
Starring Sam Milby & Toni Gonzaga
Showing on August 30, 2006

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua9vGey5uL4]

Love can’t be denied…

You can also support the movie by voting for its theme song’s video on MYX!

Simply type:
myx(space)vote(space)songtitle and send to 2366!

Thanks!

Today is officially the start of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

I used to dread the length of time I was made to wait for the results to come out, and now, it’s actually here, and I’m part of it.

During the Sinetaktakan last week, when all the film makers involved were asked to discuss their films and the peripheral issues attached to independent filmmaking, I mentioned how nervous (nerbyous, ika nga, to better underscore my emotions) I felt about the coming week. We were asked to rate our films. I gave my own film a 9, saying that I subtracted a point because I was forced to edit out some of the scenes and sequences in order to meet the 20-minute maximum running time the competition rules imposed.

However, I clarified that how I rated “Labada” shouldn’t be confused with an objective evaluation of my film. Most people would agree that any creative work can never be evaluated objectively. It’s just not possible to quantify the merits of a creative output. I told the audience that with only a week left before the festival, the jitters are worse than ever.

The moderator told us first-timers that based on last year’s festival, we’d probably be on automatic pilot mode once the festival starts. The deluge of emotions and the flurry of the events almost guarantee we won’t even know what hit us.

It was a welcome thought.

Now that the day has come, I’m not sure how to describe what I’m feeling. There’s a part of me that’s excited about the good things that may be in store for me and my film. And there’s another part that can’t wait to see all of this over and done with.

Cinemalaya seems to imply a liberation of sorts. I’ve yet to see what it will do for me.

Originally written on 11 April of this year.

I’m still reeling from the excitement.

A few hours ago, I was in the process of reading and cleaning my email inbox. After deleting countless egroup digests, an email that started this way, popped up:

April 11, 2006

MR. RAZ DE LA TORRE
# 38 Kalye Emerald, Tierra Pura VI
Tandang Sora, Quezon City

Dear Mr. de la Torre,

I was instantly curious about the formal salutation and eerily precise address…

In behalf of the Cinemalaya 2006 Organizing Committee, I would like to inform you that your entry to the Short Feature category…

I called out to the high heavens even before I reached the end of the email. I was ecstatic. I didn’t need to finish the email, and it wasn’t after jumping up and down for a good ten minutes did I actually finish reading it. I was hugging Sherlyn, a close friend who happened to be reading my email over my shoulder at that time (a pet peeve I managed to let slide this one time). The email, as it turns out, came from the Competition Director of this year’s Cinemalaya. It bore the news of my short film “Labada” making it to the Cinemalaya’s Short Feature category’s finalists.

It is such an unbelievable feeling.

You wish it would happen. You pray for it to happen. You go over and over the circumstances that could make it happen… but when it does, you still can’t believe it’s happening. Being a finalist makes me feel like I’ve already won. I used to think that when Oscar nominees say that during the red carpet interviews, it’s just a load of bull. Now I realize they probably mean it, if my own incredulity is any indication.

When I submitted “Labada” as an entry to the Cinemalaya short feature category at the beginning of the year, I kept it to myself and a few members of the crew who worked with me. I’m terribly insecure about things like this and I wanted to shield myself from the potential disappointment of not making it as a finalist. After all, my fears were founded. Last year’s Cinemalaya festival, which produced wonderful works like Mansyon (short feature best picture), Pepot Artista (full-length feature best picture), Big Time and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, was groundbreaking. It opened the eyes of many film buffs to the local independent cinema. As a result, more aspiring filmmakers were inspired to venture in independent film making. Myself included. I figured this year’s competition would lure more films. It’s like opening the floodgates.

The truth is, I had confidence in my short digital film. I always tell my friends that as long as I am entertained by my own work, I consider myself accomplished. I usually think this way about the storylines I submit to Star Cinema. Nevermind if the core group (the elite circle of power-wielders in the company) doesn’t find my storyline good enough. Long as I’m happy with it, the pain of rejection becomes more bearable.

That’s also true for “Labada.” However, I felt that in Cinemalaya, it’s just not enough that you like your work. The competition committee must like it too. And considering the subjective nature of film viewing, and the number of entries they must have received (36 short films this year, I heard, unless I’m mistaken), I couldn’t help but think there’s bound to be 10 other films better than mine. I believe in the wealth of undiscovered, unrecognized talent out there, and despite my desire to be included in their ranks, as most struggling artists are usually predisposed, I just didn’t believe in myself enough.

Thus my reaction to the email that I just received.

* * *

Almost three months after receiving that email, I’m still reeling from the excitement.

In an effort not to preempt the news and jinx my good fortune, I put the publication of this entry on the back burner. I finally managed to write about it after the press conference last July 5. That, and a few newspaper articles that featured my name as finalist, finally legitimized the deal. I just submitted the miniDV copies for the Jury. Prior to that, I kept going back to the ‘cutting board,’ desperately figuring out other ways to improve the film before finally leaving it at the mercy of the viewing public. I’m done with the washing, it’s time to hang it out to dry.

The excitement has been laced with an anxiety borne by the thought that no one might watch it, or conversely, that people might and wonder why Labada was included. God knows I’ve felt that way about a lot of films featured in various festivals (last year’s Cinemalaya included). Anticipating being at the receiving end of all those criticisms scares the hell out of me. I can’t help but feel personal about it. Like my film, I feel like I, too, have been hung out to dry.

It’s a realm of emotions I’m willing to tread, however frightening it might be. I just comfort myself that if all else fails, I at least have my own sense of fulfillment to retreat to.

Watch the trailer of
Raz de la Torre’s “LABADA”


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmuSgjqKkSA]

The Cinemalaya 2006 Schedule for the Short Feature Finalists

SHORTS PROGRAM A:
1. 10:25 ng Gabi
2. Gee-Gee at Waterina
3. Kwarto
4. Labada by Raz de la Torre
5. No Passport Needed

SCHEDULE FOR PROGRAM A: (which includes Labada)

Tues, July 18 – 12:45pm (CCP Main Theater)
Weds, July 19 – 9:00pm (CCP Main Theater)
Thurs, July 20 – 9:00pm (Multi-Purpose Hall)
Fri, July 21 – 6:15pm (CCP Little Theater)
Sat, July 22 – 12:45pm (CCP Little Theater)

SHORTS PROGRAM B:
1. Orasyon
2. Parang Pelikula
3. Putot
4. Puwang by Anna Isabelle Matutina
5. Sa Silaw

SCHEDULE FOR SHORTS PROGRAM B: (which includes Puwang)

Tues, July 18 – 3:30pm (CCP Main Theatre)
Weds, July 19 – 6:15pm (CCP Little Theatre)
Fri, July 21 – 9:00pm (Multi-Purpose Hall)
Sat, July 22 – 9:00pm (CCP Main Theatre)
Sun, July 23 – 12:45pm (CCP Little Theatre)

Su Doku is my latest obsession. It is a game that involves filling in a 9×9 grid with numbers so that every row, column and 3×3 box contains numbers 1-9.

I was first introduced to it last December by my Singaporean friend Ben when we went on a trip to Sagada with Richard and Gerald, another friend from Singapore. As we were about to leave the Dangwa terminal, Ben whipped out his copy of the Straits Times (a Singaporean newspaper) and started working on the Su Doku. I was curious. He told me it’s the latest craze in Singapore. Gerald got a piece of paper, copied the puzzle from the Straits, and started working on it as well. Both figured it’ll be a great way to kill time during the long drive to Mountain Province. I wasn’t instantly interested. I would much rather take in the sceneries. Later on, they couldn’t take anymore of the puzzle and decided to sleep through the rest of the bus ride.

We got to Sagada late into the afternoon. We spent the first night resting in preparation for the hectic day that followed. After breakfast, we immediately headed to the big falls, known as Bumod’oc to the locals. I started getting cramps on our trek back from the falls. I fell behind the others just to keep my legs from giving out and collapsing altogether. I wanted to beg off the Sumaguing adventure but I didn’t want the group to feel like I was being a kill joy so I sucked it up and went with them anyway. The cramps started acting up again, but I managed. As if the first wasn’t torture enough, they insisted in going to the Sumaguing caves that same day. I originally scheduled a more relaxed, scenic trip to a spot overlooking the Sagada Rice Terraces. That meant we only had to sit, chill, take pictures and enjoy the view. But they wanted the caves, so I caved in. We barely made the cut off time for the cave excursions (sayang). That’s no mean feat, considering we had to descend from from the top of a mountain to get to Bumod’oc, hike back up again going home (the whole episode was like reverse mountain climbing, which was much harder!), go back down again, this time for the caves, then finally climb back up from underground.

After our dinner at The Yoghurt House (where we had lunch earlier, and where we were to have breakfast the next day), we went back home. The inexistent night life, languid pace and distance of the inn from the town center kept us indoors as early as 7PM. With nothing much to do (the television was being hogged by another group of people who outnumbered us), Richard and I looked for clean sheets of paper and started working on the Su Doku as well.

The fulfillment brought about by filling the boxes with the right numbers is very addictive. I never finished the puzzle (we had to leave the following day), but I’ve always been curious if I could.

A month or so ago, I saw in Newsbreak (the magazine) a notice saying they were going to feature Su Doku in their bimonthly issue. Sometime at the beginning of June, I saw a similar notice in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It wasn’t until this week that I decided to check out the Su Doku puzzles. Now, it’s one of the first things I look for when I read the papers. I’m proud to say that since I started answering the puzzles four days ago, I haven’t failed at completing the boxes correctly. The Newsbreak Su Doku’s are much harder though. I tried two of them and both times, I’ve been stumped. But I haven’t given up.

I just feel so accomplished cause I never, ever, complete crossword puzzles. (I’ve to cut me self some slack though, crosswords are harder). Finally, I’ve succeeded in finishing a puzzle featured in a daily. For a difficulty rating of three stars, I’m now able to solve a puzzle in as quick as five minutes. Pretty good, I think.

 

Last week, after watching “The Lakehouse” (starring Sandra and the ageing Keanu) and dropping off Che, I met up with my friend Jarell and decided to have a round of beers in Kalye Juan (Tomas Morato). We were sharing work angsts. He was contemplating leaving his job in Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK), and he wanted to unload on someone lest he commit to a decision with nary a thought and end up regretting it. I gladly obliged, and took the opportunity to unload some of the work baggage that’s been weighing down my shoulders. Indeed, misery loves company. And San Mig Light.

Jarell has been working for MMK for almost as long as I’ve been with Star Cinema. He started as a researcher, and now works as the show’s head researcher. It doesn’t sound like it’s a big step up, but it actually is. For weeks now, he’s been feeling a little stifled by the work load and the erratic and unstable income. He tried consoling himself by looking ahead, by exploring the possibilities in store for him, only to be disappointed cause there might be none. He looked at his seniors who, in Jarell’s words, blew off their youth in this same job he’s holding. It took them years to get where they are now, resident writers for MMK. He looks at them and sees how sucked out and wasted they are, and Jarell’s suddenly not too sure if all this is truly worth it.

I asked him what his options are if he was to leave MMK. He’s thinking about leaving for the Middle East to work in a hotel. His relatives tell him that he only needs to train for six months after which they are sure to find a job for him. It’s not like Jarell has been dying to get into the hotel industry, but the hefty pay check the job promises to reward him will at least provide him the security he’s been looking for. Being passionate about your job just isn’t enough. He’d love to stick around as a writer, but right now, it’s just not sensible to do so.

Our conversation corroborated the prevalent restlessness symptomatic of kids my age. Even friends with fatter salaries in other jobs don’t feel like they’re getting enough. Imagine how much worse it is for us who try to live off creative writing. Jarell thinks I’m lucky cause my mom’s well-to-do and there to supplement the unbelievably low compensation writers like me in the Philippines get. But what of the future, when my life’s completely my own and there isn’t my mom’s wealth to rely on anymore?

In writing, there isn’t a ladder you can climb up, unlike in corporations. There are no rungs to step or hold on to to pull yourself higher. We’re not assured of salary increases every X number of months of service. Rarely are we given the statutory benefits most employees get.

In writing, it’s just about you and your work. Years of writing can improve one’s craft, but it doesn’t guarantee an increase in one’s value. Companies (in this case, TV stations or film outfits) may hold you in a particular esteem, but in the end, it’s still about your work. If they don’t like what you hand to them on your deadline, you’re asked to revise or put out of commission altogether. It takes a lot of laborious years to build on a good name, but it only takes one bad draft to be of ill-repute.

In writing, there are no tangible standards for excellence. One cannot be guaranteed a promotion after writing for a certain number of years, or after being published, or after a film you wrote grosses over a hundred million in the box office. For starters, there isn’t a higher position to promote a writer to. But more importantly, excellence can’t be measured because the whole business of writing, of creation, is subjective.

I feel restless because of the uncertainty. Or perhaps because I’ve always thought that good things come to those who are patient, to those who deserve it. This epiphany about the nature of writing as a profession tells me that you don’t always get what you deserve. I want to do everything I can so I can remain in the industry, scribbling and imagining and creating until my dying breath. But it isn’t all up to me, much as I want to be the one in complete control.

On top of that, I want to feel secure. I want to be assured that pursuing this passion will yield to a bright and fulfilled future. That I’ll be okay for as long as I work hard and believe in my capabilities. But it isn’t all up to me, much as I want it to be.

Jarell admitted that even if he ended up leaving his job, he would still want to return to it. There is still nothing he would rather do than write. He just wants to earn enough so he can focus on what he loves doing in the future.

All of a sudden, our conversation was interrupted by this commotion. A guy whose mouth was bleeding came running down from the bar above Kalye Juan. He was shouting for help, asking the men on the ground floor to block the door and not let his pursuers out. In a few seconds, four other guys appeared. Apparently, they were in an altercation upstairs. Something about the guy with the bleeding mouth being maangas. The ladies from both groups desperately tried to keep them off each other, but the four guys were too inebriated to listen to reason. The girls asked the security guard from the bar we were in to intervene, but the guard said,

Di po sa amin yan, di ako pwedeng basta makialam.


The customers on the other table immediately fled the scene, afraid they might get involved. I told Jarell to stay put, sure that they wouldn’t involve us unless we did anything stupid to call attention to ourselves. So Jarell and I just sat there to watch the ongoing ruckus.

The bleeding guy, in a major blunder, decided to take refuge inside Kalye Juan, where we were drinking (I was thinking, kundi ka ba naman tanga, e di lalo kang na-corner. Dapat nagtatatakbo ka na lang o nag-taxi paalis.) Naturally, the drunken quartet tried to follow him inside. All the Kalye Juan waiters retreated to their kitchen. The girl who was with the bleeding guy stayed outside Kalye Juan, inserted her arm through the door handles to keep it shut, and tearfully begged the drunken quartet to have mercy on her friend. The drunken quartet was relentless. It was a glass door, so they could see their target with his tail between his legs, wailing,

Tama na, please! Sorry na nga e…
(comment to self: “Ang yabang yabang kanina, titiklop din pala.“)

They were less than a meter away from Jarell and me, who were still lounging on our chairs.


At this point, some of the other original customers from Kalye Juan had started goading the bar’s security guard (the same one who washed his hands off of any obligation to get involved) to do something about the disturbance. His earlier excuse had been rendered inadmissible since they were actually inside Kalye Juan already. He was duty bound to protect the bars customers and employees. The guard reluctantly took his gun from its holster. But one of the guys saw him and started shouting at the guard,

Ano, ipuputok mo yan? Ipuputok mo yan!? Sige nga! Sige, iputok mo!


The guard just backed off. Obviously, the guard wasn’t a believer of sticks and stones hurting the quartet’s bones, cause words were enough to hurt him. I then noticed one of the guys pick up an empty glass from the table nearest to them. That’s when I finally asked Jarell that we better steer clear of any flying shards or ricocheting bullets. Things were getting out of hand.

The exchange of shouts lasted for a few more minutes before being capped by one of the quartet throwing the glass at the guy when glass doors opened wide enough to allow his hand inside. The glass shattered to pieces, but fortunately hurt no one. And then, the quartet was gone.

The bleeding guy lingered inside the bar for a few more minutes before emerging. By then, the rest of the customers who witnessed the hoopla (us included) were just already talking about how the policemen are always too late the hero. And then there was the security guard! Talk about being useless! We rarely see security guards in action, but I’ve always had faith in them. This would’ve been the best time to show his wares, to finally get some piece of the action, to live up to his sworn duty. But he just backed off. Probably more afraid of hurting the our tormentors than potentially getting their innocent patrons hurt.

Which only proves my point that there is no real security in this world. Whether it be in our careers, our future, or in bar brawls. We can only do so much, and the rest, faith will have to account for.

 

 

 

Don’t you wish there was a counter
where you could do just that?

A new ranch to park my thoughts in.

Last Saturday evening, in my desire to make the long weekend my own, I asked three of my friends if they would be interested in going on an impromptu road trip with me. Luckily, they were all game. After rounding up our P388-per-head consumable account in I.O. KTV, Norman, Che and I picked up Anya and some personal stuff, and we headed to Laguna.

It was a tiring drive, however quick it was. We got to our destination in less than three hours. I was looking forward to sleeping, to having the serene Majayjay bounties cradle me to sleep. But such was the beauty of the small town’s attractions that I couldn’t resist staying up, even if I’ve been there before (it was my second time and I don’t think it will be my last). For 60 bucks per person, and an additional P200 for a cottage, we were pulled out of the personal ruts we were all stuck in. Each person in our clique was complaining of either boredom, stress or frustration. Our spur-of-the-moment decision to leave the city was paying off.

Soon, Che was in the water making up for the summer that slipped by (“Tapos na ang summer, di man lang ako nakapag-beach!”). I’m sure it more than made up for sandy shores she missed frolicking in. We asked the kind manangs of the resort to buy us lunch from the town market, which they kindly agreed to do. I laid my weary body down the picnic table, but the babbling brook just would’t let me sleep. I got up, put on my surf shorts, and joined Che in the water.

The water was so cold that I decided to wade in it for a while. It was so pristine it washed way everything we wished to be rid of. I hopped from rock to rock until I was underneath the bridge that connected the parking lot to the other side of the stream, where our cottage was. I thought, maybe I should work myself out a bit. Perhaps sweating it out would enable my body to stand the icy temperature of the water. I picked a spot where the sun could shine on me and relaxed.

Che got enticed and went over to where I was. In my head, I started thinking about how tragic it would be if she slipped on one of the rocks and cracked her skull. I watched keenly and guided her on which trail was the safest.

Then, it was Norman’s turn to join in. Anya was more interested in sleeping, so we just let her be. After a few minutes of camera whoring, Norman followed to where Che and I were. It wasn’t long before he, too, was in the water.

The water was more bearable by then, but I still couldn’t get myself to just swim in. Maybe if I just jumped in, it’d be easier for me. Great idea, I thought.

I walked back to our cottage where Anya was sleeping. It was a bit elevated, providing the necessary height for my jump. I asked Che to swim toward the area I was targeting to jump in to check how deep the water was. The water was a little above her waist from where she was standing, but she said the area right in front of her was deeper. Perfect. That was to be the contact point.

After feigning a few times, off I leapt, like a cannonball, legs tucked in, knees almost to my chin.

It was effective.

Despite the big splash, I didn’t feel the cold at all. Instead, what I felt was this terrible pain on both my shins. So painful that I had to hold on to Che, unintentionally dragging her with me. When I surfaced, Che was harping about how she almost fell and drowned. And all I could say was, “Tumama ako.

I haven’t even seen my leg yet but I kept telling Che that it was deep. She wanted to see how bad it was. I took a quick peek and saw that it was bad. I told her she won’t be able to take it. She insisted. When I showed her, she had to cover her mouth in incredulity. Right below my knee, above my shin, was this gaping wound. It was pasty white, like how your skin looks when you’ve accidentally shaved off a part of it. Only this was much bigger. Like a portion of my flesh was scooped out. The gentle current was dragging away some of the torn flesh. I thought I even saw the bone at the center of the laceration. It was that big and that deep.

With a limp, I forced my self to get out of the water to fetch my toiletry bag. I fished out a bottle of betadyne and used it to clean the wound. Anya was woken up by the commotion. Upon seeing my wound, then bleeding profusely, she took a small block of ice meant for the Coke, wrapped it in my sarong, and told me to apply it on my swollen wound. Norman and Che asked the resort staff for some first aid materials, and came back with box of gauze and masking tape.

There was a moment before jumping off when I thought, “This could turn ugly.” And it did.

I didn’t want to spoil the fun by rushing everyone so I can get some medical attention, so I tried to bear the pain. We even had lunch first, feasting on a plate of grilled liempo, eating with our bare hands. (Sobrang sarap niya, Che was craving for that liempo the other night). But I was afraid the injury will get infected if not attended to immediately. It was so painful my leg started to throb. I had to require help in changing into dry clothes.

We left Majayjay a little past noon. We drove all the way to Santa Cruz, Laguna, the provincial capitol, to look for a hospital where they could stitch up my wound. I was convinced I needed one or two stitches, though everyone else thought a simple disinfecting was enough.

I wanted to admit myself to the provincial hospital (past experiences had taught me government hospitals still have the best doctors). After one of the doctors finished attending to a mother whose baby might have been suffering from dengue, she confirmed that I might need one stitch, and that they’ll have to inject ATS (which I later learned meant, Anti-Tetanus… something). She said I just had to sign up and wait for my turn, which may take a while because there were a lot of other patients. When I looked around, there were patients on wheelchairs, with bandages on their heads, with tubes running from their wrists. One was even on a gas tank. I felt diminished by my trifling concern (Malayo sa bituka! Samantalang yung iba, dine-dengue na). The doctor said it may take an hour or so, but at least it’s free. All I had to pay for was the meds.

I looked at Che, who mirrored the defeated look on my face. Then the doctor offered another option. There were a few private hospitals on the same street where the provincial was. There were probably less patients, but I’d have to spend a bit more. I decided to do that instead.

right in front of the provincial hospital.We drove out of the provincial hospital and looked for one of the hospitals the doctor mentioned. “Holy Family,” she said. We drove back and forth only to realize that it was.

When I walked into the emergency room, it was empty. It looked like the hospital was closed for the day. The congenial security guard had to call for the nurse, who eventually called for the doctor. It took him just one look before declaring that I’d need three stitches.

Now, I have this horrendous, frankenstein-like beauty mark on my leg. I still can’t walk in a normal pace, and I have to take this capsule every six hours for seven days. That’s what I get for not following my gut.

At least I’m bound to remember this trip for eternity. I need only to look at my shin to be reminded of my tragic out-of-town trip that Independence day weekend of ’06.

Hay, Majayjay…

Norms did this personality assessment test of sorts on us last week. It’s the kind where you’re asked questions and your answers are supposed to reflect aspects of your personality. I’ve always been a sucker for those stuff so I gladly obliged.

It’s pretty simple. The three questions:

1) What’s your favorite animal, and why?

2) Which animal is for you, okay lang? The one you have no strong feelings for? Yung wala lang? Why?

3) Which animal do you hate, and why?

We were supposed to support our answers by enumerating the traits of that animal that we answered to a particular question.

The first was easy. I answered “Horse.” They’ve always been one of my favorite animals. It was a toss up between a horse and a dolphin.

For the second question, I answered “Dogs.” I actually have three dogs: Mutt Li, Reiko, and Mecca (I have a new, fourth one, but I haven’t met her – Nixa). I love them to bits. Primarily because they’re mine. Because I chose them to be my pets. I’ve had more dogs as pets than any other animal, but in general, as animals, I don’t have strong feelings for dogs. Sila yung ‘wala lang.’

The third question was for me, the toughest. Of the gazzillions of animals that existed, it was hard to pick one that I hated the most. Then I remembered this trip to Palawan I had with my friends.

It was in October of 2004. A send-off gimmick for one of our good friends, Ayie, who was leaving for the States for good. Another friend of ours, Joey, is originally from Puerto Princesa, so she invited us over and made us stay in her home for free. She took on the role of our personal tour guide as well.

We went island hopping in Honda Bay (where the famous Dos Palmas island resort is located), visited favorite local destinations in the outskirts of PPrincesa, and checked out the night life (which in PP meant singing with DOMs and giggly girls in a sleazy videoke bar). Of course, there was the perfunctory drinking session till the wee hours of the morning. Half of our group was inebriated beyond recognition. Yung hostess nga namin, si Joey, nung tulugan na, panay

ang dasal. “Lord… Thank you for the sweet watermelons… Thank you for my friends… I pray we won’t have hang over tomorrow…”

And then we went to St. Paul Cave, the subterranean river national park that was declared a World Heritage Site. It was a good 3-hour drive north of PPrincesa. I’ve done the boat tour of the dark cave before, and the novelty of the boatman’s spiels and jokes do wear out (pang-one time, big-time lang), so I, along with two other friends, decided to stay in the picnic area and wait for the first timers to return instead, surrounded by humongous monitor lizards and scavenging monkeys.

I was so tired from the night before that I decided to take a nap on the picnic bench while my two other friends munched on the snacks we brought. Slowly, I fell into the land of Nod. I

haven’t even started snoring when I was jolted out of sleep by a sudden motion above my head, accompanied by frantic shrieks from my friends.

I shot up and jumped on the table, paranoid and afraid that one of the bayawaks had bitten my leg without me realizing it. I was fine (if you don’t count my almost heart-attack). It was then that my friends started pointing at the woods. When I looked, they were actually pointing to the monkey who ran up our picnic table and stole some of the food that we brought – right in front of my friends! As in, hindi man lang natakot. Walang kahiya-hiya, naglulundag siya papunta sa mesa namin, tumalon sa ibabaw ng natutulog kong katawan, at ninakaw ang pagkain sa gitna ng magkatapat at nagkwe-kwentuhan kong mga kaibigan. Ganon ka garapal.

I was so pissed. Not because of the loss, but because I was still shaking and my heart was beating so fast. I felt scared, and one-upped! We kept shouting at the monkey and the rest of his posse, trying to shoo them away, but they just stared right back at us, undaunted. I threw something at them, which sent them scurrying off. But it wasn’t long before they were back, surveying our perimeter and eyeing our picnic basket.

So finally, I had an answer to the last question. The animal I hated the most: Monkey.

 

I said I liked horses the most because they’re intelligent and regal. I also think they’re strong and loyal. Profound even, if that makes sense. They just have that impression on me. Come to think of it, those are the same traits I like in dolphins.

Norman said the animal we like the most represents how we think people see us. I guess, in effect, it means it’s how we hope people see us. Going a step further, I guess it’s how we think of ourselves.

I fell silent after he said what that first question meant. It was kinda embarrassing to unintentionally disclose that I think of myself as intelligent, regal, and profound.

Although I believe it, on a certain level. On the intelligent part, I think I’ve reason to think that I am naman. Lagi ngang biruan namin ng kaibigan ko… Pumasa kaya ako ng UPCAT! Pero yung “regal” at “profound,” parang… OA na ata. Feeling na. Feeling deep. Feeling royalty pa.

The second question tells us how people actually see us. Sabi lang naman yan ni Norman. I chose dogs because, “I like them a lot, but they’re everywhere. They’ve lost their novelty. Parang… taken for granted.” They’re lovable, smart, loyal, reliable… but every other household has one. You go to middle class neighborhoods and you’d see them roaming around. Every member of a breed looks the same. Unless they’re temperamental, they’re all deemed cute. Kumbaga, unless you’re its master, you won’t be able to recognize the individuality of one dog from the other. Kaya nga nababale-wala.

That that’s how people saw me made me think. And it actually stung. Precisely because I feel taken for granted in a lot of ways. Maybe it’s because I don

‘t have siblings of my own, but I really put a lot of weight on my relationships with friends. Mom ko na lang kasama ko, medyo estranged pa ko sa mga kamag-anak ko. E matampuhin pa ko. Tipong, sana maaalala ako ng kaibigan ko, sana gawin niya to sa kin, pero wala naman akong gagawin para mangyari yon. I’d remember the times they’d look for me because they needed me, and only then. Kahit alam kong di sadya, I put a lot of meaning in actions and events. Not like I’m maudlin, but I admit to being sentimental, though not necessarily expressive. Silent cries for attention. I’m a paradox that way. I usually get over those mild KSP attacks by thinking it’s all in my head. OA lang ako at maisip. Most of the time, it really is the case, after all. Such rationalization usually pulls me through.

That my answer to the second question affirms that people do

take me for granted depressed me.

Maybe it’s karma. That’s how I see dogs because that’s how I am with my own dogs. I do take them for granted. There’re days when the only time I get to pet Mutt Li, Reiko and Mecca is when I arrive home from work, if at all, and only because their roofed bedspace is strategically located in front of my garage. Kung hindi pa siguro, baka nga di ko pa sila maaalala. I even feel – no, I know for a fact – they’re closer to my helper. They just look out to me when I I go to my car to leave. But when Dora, my helper, comes out to open the gate for me, they’d bark their lungs off for attention. If it really were karma, isn’t it a little hyperbolic a retribution?

Finally, the Monkey. I know that they’re man’s closest relative. They’re intelligent and clever, but I hate them the most because like Darth Vader, it’s like they turned to the dark side. Like they’re using they’re intelligence for selfis

h reasons. They’re rude and shrewd. Stubborn and unpredictable. Loud, annoying. You know how some kids look like they’re small adults? Well monkeys are like small lolo’s. At least all the other animals look like animals. Monkeys look like they’re bad effigies of human beings. Man when disproportionate and mentally regressed. Freaky. Freaks.

 

Then Norman said, they represent who we really are.

Ayun na. That’s when I knew all this was bullshit. Napaisip-isip pa ko. Nadepress-depress pa ko. Pucha.

Ako, unggoy!?

I just told my boss that I never fancied myself a writer. Not in high school, not in college, not even when I was already in Star Cinema, training to be one. When I dropped out of Law School, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wouldn’t be happy making my life revolve around laws and cases, and that I wanted to make films.

I applied to Star Cinema because a few months before I dropped out of UP Law, I received an email from the UP Film Center egroups announcing an opening for its Concept Development Group (CDG). I didn’t know what the job entailed. Like I said, all I knew was I wanted to be in the film industry. I jumped at the first opportunity that came my way. It didn’t even matter to me that it was Star. I wasn’t conscious of which production outfit did which film, or which of them was the best. An opportunity was being dangled like a carrot on a stick, and like a horse, I galloped onwards. Almost blindly, one could say.

After inquiring about the opening, I sent them my resume. I was asked to come in for an interview, but since it was the midterm season in Law then, my schedule was exaggeratedly hectic and I ended up missing my appointment. I didn’t even call in to tell them I wasn’t coming anymore.

A few months after, I was beside myself with regret, remembering that missed opportunity and hoping I had at least called them to explain why I couldn’t come. I feared if I tried applying again, they’ll remember my rude non-appearance and instantly reject me. I shared this to Lea, a friend of mine. When she heard the name of the person who sent the email to the UPFC egroups, she said the girl was her friend. It felt to me like divine intervention, and asked Lea to call the girl to ask if Star was still looking for CDG members. A few minutes after, Guia Gonzales of Star Cinema Creative Department called me on my mobile and asked me if I was still interested. Naturally, I said yes. An interview with the Star’s Creative Manager was scheduled. I was requested to bring a sample storyline. A few weeks after, I was hired.

That was two years and four months ago. And here I am, still in Star Cinema, still training to be a writer. Still clueless as ever. When I got accepted, I didn’t even know the first thing about screenwriting. They told me that as a CDG member, I’d be expected to develop storylines that will be submitted to the management for evaluation. If it were deemed good enough, they were to produce it. In exchange, I’d be compensated on a monthly basis. It was the best deal an aspiring screenwriter could ask for in the Philippines. Star Cinema had the best studio system in the industry, and the setup they offered sure beats having to hone your skill independently, on a freelance basis, without any assurance of a commercial film company investing on any of the scripts you might eventually finish. What Star offered was training, connections, experience, and to a certain degree, security. The deal had its downside. I was well aware of that, and that gave me enough comfort. I thought, knowing what I was getting into would be enough to shield me from possible frustrations of having corporate people dictate what kinds of stories you should develop.

Needless to say, it was harder than I thought.

For the record, none of the projects I was involved with has been published (produced, that is). I’ve helped in quite a few story and script developments, but most of those have been shelved or dropped. There’s one script that I helped co-write and is now in the process of being shot, but somewhere along the script’s development, a script doctor was called in and all that was left in our original work is the story. All the lines that I wrote have been ‘revised.’

That is perhaps the reason why I’ve always been frustrated when asked about my job. My career. It’s because nothing seems to be happening.

So imagine the euphoria I felt when I was told that I’d be working on my first solo-writing project. It’s officially part of the training, and it didn’t really mean I was necessarily ready for the task, but it was in effect saying they’re finally risking it, and I’m the lucky one on whom they’ve decided to bestow the honor.

It was for what turned out to be a fast-track project, which in Star Cinema means double the pressure in half the time. I was to develop both the story and the script within two months following the storyline’s approval. Most veteran screenwriters are probably given at least a month to write a script, but with all the things that we needed to accomplish (including storyline revisions, sequence treatment submission and revisions, research, and creative meetings to discuss feedback from the power wielders), I was to be given only given two weeks to write the first draft of the script.

A few days after my submission, I got a call from our creative director. She said that we needed to meet soon because there were a lot of concerns regarding my first draft. It sounded like it was less than satisfactory, and that it would entail a lot of work to have it ready in time for the target grind date (start of film production).

After going through what they perceived were the problems in the script, she told me they’re bringing in reinforcements to work on the second draft of the script. Two of my colleagues are now working on it, and they are to submit their draft tomorrow. And by the sound of it, aside from the story, none of my first draft can or will be salvaged. I am to come back in on the third draft.

I remember a few summers ago, when my friends and I were on vacation in Puerto Galera. We were swimming in the beach as the sun was setting. The waves were particularly wilder and stronger at that time. We were all enjoying, playing with the gigantic waves, which at times rose higher than the tallest guy in our group. One by one they retreated back to the beach, until I was the only one left playing with the crashing waves. I was still having fun. Suddenly, a wave crashed over me, its crest falling intentionally at the back of my head, pushing me earthbound, pressing my face on the sandy ground and dragging me all the way to the shore. I couldn’t breathe for what felt like an hour. When I got back up, gasping for air, I felt betrayed and embarrassed beyond words (my friends didn’t seem to notice).

The feeling is not much different from what I felt last week, when I was told about the plan of action regarding the script I’ve been developing. Like when a rug had been pulled from under your feet, I felt betrayed and embarrassed. Luckily, my boss is very nurturing and encouraging that she allows me to vent my frustrations (even if unsolicited). After owning up to my shortcomings, I told her I’ve been feeling stifled by this writing experience. I felt like I’m made to learn the lessons belatedly, instead of being prepared for it. It didn’t help that we were being rushed to meet the target grind date (which by the way is supposed to be next week, May 2). My exact words: “It’s like the situation is made ripe for me to foul up. Then naturally I do. And then that’s when I’m taught and told how I should’ve done it, or how Star would’ve preferred it.”

I’m still feeling disoriented by these setbacks, but I’m trying my darndest best to take things constructively. It was then that I confessed to my boss, the creative director, more than two years since they hired me to become a writer, that I never fancied myself as one.

I don’t how much training one needs to be a writer. What I fear is that it might be something that cannot be taught. I’m feeling the pangs of frustration sink in, afraid there’s no amount of training that can solve the problems they find in my script. Afraid that the only thing waiting to be realized is that screeenwriting isn’t for me after all.

I forget who among my friends pointed this out. Si Norman ata. But it made me think…

“One, two, three
Asawa ni Marie
Araw-gabi
Walang panty”

And so? Di ba nga, asawa ni Marie? Ba’t magkaka-panty?

Ang tagal akong nangating isulat to. Recent events kept me busy the whole first quarter of the year. Thankfully, my schedule’s starting to lighten up, giving me time to finally write this.At first, I had difficulty remembering noteworthy anecdotes from high school. Karamihan kasi sa naisip ko, funny incidents involving other classmates. I was reluctant listing them down cause they weren’t my stories to tell. So I tried hard to remember my own personal stories from high school.

Then it started coming. First, in trickles, then nagsunod-sunod na. Ngayon, di ko na mapigilan. Akala ko pa naman, naipon na lahat ng kahihiyan ko nung kabataan ko (na by the way e unti-unti pang nadadagdagan). Hanggang high school pala, dala ko pa! Some things never change, ika nga.

I guess I should find consolation in the fact that I found my childhood recollections wonderful therapy. Malamang ganon din sa high school. Ang nakakatakot lang, I can no longer use childhood innocence as instant excuse for my shame. At this point, batang matanda na. May wisyo at sense of kahihiyan. May isip na, kaya wala nang lusot. Ika nga ng Eraserheads sa dulo ng isa nilang kanta: “We’re not… to